“Crowley, my love, just talk to me, please!”
He can’t. He hears the words, he comprehends them, but he can’t understand. He can’t… really hear them as words, just sound, just noise, when will the noise end, can’t it just stop, please, just no more noise. He can’t breathe through the noise. His diaphragm just isn’t having it, won’t pull down through the denseness making up his gut. When had that gotten so heavy? It was like stone, like molten rock had filled him up and burned everything to pieces, then cooled into a solid pit of, of nothing, there is nothing there, nothing shouldn’t take up so much space, shouldn’t be so heavy, so important, something is important and all he wants to do is suck in air to take up the space but he can’t he can’t he can’t—
A hand presses to his chest, and he gasps and recoils, pulls back into empty air and pain as his head and back hit the ground. But then there’s a hand there, too, shoving under the back of his skull and pulling him up again, and he doesn’t like it, he doesn’t like this, because the noise is still there, even sharper now, and louder, and how is he supposed to hear through noise this loud? He can’t, he can’t hear anything else, it’s all just noise and his diaphragm is working now but that hand on his chest is so loud he can’t really feel the air coming in and that’s worse that’s worse that’s so much worse he can’t
no no no no nonononononononotheycan’tbeheretheycan’tbehereit’stooclosethat’stooclosetohimtheycan’tbeherenononoplease
His vision kicks in, and it’s too bright, like coming out of a dark cave, even though his eyes have been open for ages, they haven’t been seeing anything and now there’s too much, and he can’t understand, it’s all oversaturated and he can’t—they can’t they can’t be here nonononono. He grasps at the hand on his chest, finds the wrist and digs his nails in, yanking at the arm. He doesn’t know what he’s going to do. Anything, anything, if it makes them leave, if it makes them stop being here, they can’t be here, and the colors are still far too deep but he has to push through them, has to see, has to get rid of them, now now now, and he looks up past the grey and brown towards the violet eyes and—
It’s not grey. That color isn’t… grey. Or brown. It’s… cream? With, with blue underneath, blue, that’s not… that’s not right, it’s supposed to be grey, or maybe brown, they don’t wear cream? He can’t understand, he, he can’t, he’s—he can’t, he can’t take this, he doesn’t know what to do, please, he just wants to know what to do
“…please, darling, look at me!”
He can’t, he can’t look away, but—but he heard. He heard words and not just noise, and, and he can’t, can’t not.
These eyes are blue. The eyes are blue. They’re not—they’re not. They’re not here. It’s not—it wasn’t them, it wasn’t, they’re not here. They’re not—
“Aziraph…” he pants out, and he can’t hear himself over the noise, and he can’t look at those eyes anymore, but he can’t feel the rock of his belly anymore, and he can’t feel the heavenly power resonating in his skull anymore.
“Crowley, yes, yes, dear, it’s me. You’re fine, love, you’re alright. You’re safe.”
He can’t… he can’t… can’t understand, he can’t, and he wants to, so bad, but it’s not happening. He feels himself shudder, and his fingers clench on the wrist—Aziraphale’s wrist, Aziraphale’s—urgently holding onto the steadiness. He can’t keep himself anchored.
A hand glances over his own, barely touching, too hesitant and too light, too fast, no, don’t go
He catches that second wrist with one hand, desperate and clinging. And then he sits there for a long moment, because it isn’t helping, it’s not pulling him back the way he needs it to, but he can’t let go, he can’t possibly let go.
“Crowley?” The noise is still there, static sharpening every edge of sound, but he can hear now. “Can… can I hold you? Will that help?”
Yes. Yes, yes yes yes, it will, it will, he needs to tell him yes. He can’t. His diaphragm won’t push hard enough. His head is too heavy, too full, and he is shaking too hard, he can’t nod, either. He has to tell him. He can’t. He can’t do anything. No, nono he has to, has to say yes, has to make the angel know. He tugs, ever so slightly, on the wrists in his hands.
“Is that… Crowley…?”
No, no, this has to work, this has to work, he can’t. He pulls harder, farther, and he can’t make a word, but apparently he can manage sound, because something breaks out of his chest, something keening and broken and wailing. And Aziraphale comes to him.
An arm presses into his waist, pulling him forward, and another folds around the back of his ribcage and latches onto the opposite shoulder. He tucks his arms into his chest as Aziraphale tucks him into his chest, settling his head into the dip of his neck, shielding his eyes into clear darkness and breathing from cotton fabric. The noise is still making everything worse, but Aziraphale’s voice has broken through, isn’t made painful by it anymore. He can feel the vibrations in his throat, his chin, his chest, as the angel speaks reassurances, hushed and gentle, so gentle he wants to cry for it, wants everything in the world to be so comforting.
He can’t cry. The shuddering is as powerful as a sob, anyway, and the sounds that won’t stop now are close enough. Aziraphale pulls him closer, wraps him in tighter, and the hand on his shoulder grips with a pressure strong enough to hold him down, hold him in, hold him still. He can breathe again.
He twists his wrists between their chests so that his fingers can curl into Aziraphale’s shirt. It’s all he can do himself. It’s more than he could do alone.
“Angel,” he murmurs after a while, when each breath feels less like a surge and more like a rhythm.
“I’m right here.” The thumb of the hand on his waist is brushing little circles onto his back. “Are you alright?”
He nods, easily now, all the muscles of his body a little too loose, but better than the strain of earlier. He leaves his head tucked in a little deeper than before. “Thank you.”
Aziraphale’s arms clutch him a little tighter. He turns his head to press a long kiss to the side of his skull, lips lingering there as his breath trickles through his hair. “I was so scared,” he whispers. “When you didn’t answer the door, I was—I thought…” He tangles his fingers tighter in Aziraphale’s shirt, pulls him as close as he can manage. “I love you.”
He breathes in through the fabric of his shirt, blue and cream and easy. “I love you, too.” The hand on his waist takes over from the thumb, working in bigger loops that are as soothing for one as the other. “I’m sorry. Sorry I scared you.”
“It’s not your fault.” He says it so easily. So fluently, it must be true. He presses another kiss above his ear. “Do you… do you mind if we stay here, for a little? If I keep holding you?”
He doesn’t answer properly. But he burrows his head farther into the space between his neck and his chin and their chests, and he holds on a little tighter than he could. Aziraphale breathes out the last of his tension through his hair, and bundles him in just the littlest bit closer. The littlest bit safer. The littlest bit more anchored.
They're not here. They're not, and they never were, it's just him and Aziraphale, and that's all that matters. It's okay. They're both safe.
He can hear again.