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and i just want to love you, to love you, to love you well

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Aziraphale is still getting used to being in his own body again when he and Crowley stumble into the demon’s flat somewhere well past one in the morning. While he’s very grateful for Madam Tracy’s hospitality, there’s nothing quite like being back in one’s own corporation, well-worn and comfortable after thousands of years of breaking it in — like a favorite pair of shoes. He’s still feeling a bit wrong-footed but after the day he and Crowley have had, it’s to be expected. Nothing a strong drink and a few chocolate biscuits won’t fix.

 

He sways on his feet, standing in the entryway to Crowley’s study and staring at the puddle of holy water and melted demon simmering on the floor. At the moment, he can’t be sure if his imbalance is from the stress of discorporation and an averted apocalypse or simply from the horrid images currently flashing in front of his eyes. He’d spent so long fretting over what might happen to Crowley once he was in possession of a heavenly weapon like holy water and now here he stands, staring at the evidence.

 

One wrong move and the puddle at Aziraphale’s feet could have been Crowley.

 

His stomach heaves and he shuts his eyes briefly, pressing his fingertips to his mouth in an effort to quell the sudden bout of nausea. From the other end of the flat, he can hear Crowley rummaging around in the kitchen fetching wine and glasses for them. Aziraphale clings to the sound of his voice as he mutters irritably to himself, drawing strength from the auditory proof that Crowley is perfectly safe. They both are. For now.

 

He evaporates the demonic remains and the holy water with a snap of his fingers. And then he sets about cleansing the whole study just in case, walking every inch of it and muttering incantations under his breath. He tidies up as he goes, gathering the papers strewn about on the floor like confetti. Strange, considering Crowley usually keeps all of his things in such pristine condition and frequently takes great joy in mocking Aziraphale’s magpie ways.

 

Tutting to himself, Aziraphale shuffles the papers neatly and drops them onto Crowley’s desk. His eyes fall absently to the page on top of the pile and he stops short, staring at the star system known as Alpha Centauri. We can run away together. Aziraphale goes cold, realizing with a pang that the uncharactertistic clutter is the result of Crowley searching frantically for an escape.

 

All this research and then he’d simply…stayed.

 

“Angel?”

 

He starts at the sound of Crowley’s voice, glancing up to find him lounging insouciantly in the doorway. Crowley holds a bottle of wine in one hand and two glasses in the other. Wedged beneath his arm is a package of Aziraphale’s favorite biscuits. He’d shed his jacket somewhere between the kitchen and the study, the sleeves of his henley pushed up his forearms. Wearing a slight frown, he peers at Aziraphale over the rim of his sunglasses.

 

“All right?”

 

Mustering up a weak smile, Aziraphale says, “Oh…dandy. Just tidying up.”

 

Crowley glances around, sniffing the air. “Smells like you in here now. All…holy.”

 

“Oh.” Aziraphale feels his cheeks heat. He hadn’t even thought about how the use of his magic in a demonic space might affect Crowley. “I do apologize-”

 

“No, s’fine.” Crowley makes a show of inspecting the spot where the puddle used to be, peering at the shiny floor grimly. “Doesn’t smell like melted demon anymore. I’d call that a step up.”

 

“Indeed.” Aziraphale drops his gaze to the page on Alpha Centauri once more, spotting a note scribbled in Crowley’s hand in the margin. Transport books?? His heart swells in his chest and he bites his lip, overcome with a wave of fondness strong enough to sway him on his feet again. He grips the edge of the desk to keep himself upright. When he looks up again, Crowley is watching him warily. “You said you were going to leave.”

 

If it had been anyone but Crowley — anyone Aziraphale had not spent six thousand years learning like a favorite book — then he might have missed the subtle stiffening of his spine or the flex of his fingers around the neck of the wine bottle. But Aziraphale knows Crowley backwards and forwards, the way an academic knows his life’s work. He sees everything — the tightening of his jaw, the slight lift of his brows, the muscle that ticks in his cheek. And so he isn’t surprised when Crowley affects a nonchalant shrug and asks, “When?”

 

Willing to let him pretend ignorance for now, Aziraphale says, “In the street. When we were-” He drops his gaze again, studying Crowley’s handwriting in the margin of the paper. Aziraphale had already refused to leave with him and he’d still been planning to have him along, making plans to bring all of his books too. “You said you were leaving.”

 

“Told you.” Crowley sniffs, glancing away. “Stuff happened.”

 

“Yes.” Aziraphale fidgets, tugging at the sleeve of his coat and smoothing out an imaginary wrinkle. “I remember.”

 

He hadn’t been able to see Crowley’s face but the anguish in his voice had been enough of a clue all on its own. It’s been hours since then and Crowley has certainly managed to pull himself together admirably but Aziraphale hasn’t forgotten what Crowley sounded like when the demon had thought him lost for good. He doesn’t think he ever will.

 

He lifts his chin, feeling unexpectedly brave at the memory. “But that didn’t really change things, did it? You were planning to go without me anyway.” With a blush, he amends, “That is, I assume you meant I was your best friend and not Ligur-”

 

Crowley makes a face, nose wrinkled and mouth exasperated as he snaps tiredly, “Ligur, seriously? Course I meant you, numpty.” Under his breath, he mutters, “Hell knows why sometimes.”

 

“Yes, I quite agree.” Aziraphale clasps his hands together, a futile attempt to still his fidgeting. “I was hardly behaving like a friend at the time. I wouldn’t have blamed you if you had gone.”

 

Crowley sighs, scrubbing a hand over his cheek. “I was never gonna leave without you, angel. Would’ve dragged you kicking and screaming if I had to. Fuck knows what those bastards would’ve done to you if they’d actually succeeded in bringing about Armageddon.”

 

Aziraphale wobbles again, dangerously unsteady on his feet, but this time he hasn’t the energy to cling to the nearest available surface until the world rights itself beneath him again. His knees buckle and he sinks down, right into the throne behind Crowley’s desk. His eyes sting and his face feels hot and it’s been so long that it takes him a moment to realize he’s about to cry. Swallowing past the lump in his throat, he whispers, “I don’t deserve you, Crowley.”

 

Crowley makes an alarmed noise and drops all his efforts at being aloof, crossing the space between them the way he always does when he knows Aziraphale needs him. What is a simple office space compared to the continents and oceans Crowley has crossed for him before? The wine glasses clatter as he deposits them on the desk, the bottle of wine thunks heavily against the wood, and the package of biscuits winds up somewhere by their feet. Neither of them pays any mind as Crowley drops to his knees in front of Aziraphale and curls his hand over the angel’s thigh.

 

“Hey,” he says, and his voice is gentle but slightly panicked. “Angel, it’s fine. We’re fine.”

 

He shakes his head, sniffling. “No, I was awful to you.”

 

Crowley’s grip on him tightens. “It was a stressful few days for everybody. Neither of us were at our best, yeah? It’s forgotten. Look at me.” He strokes his thumb soothingly over Aziraphale’s leg and waits for him to glance up warily. When he sees Aziraphale’s tear-filled eyes, he groans. “Don’t — don’t cry. You know I’m useless when you cry, angel.”

 

Aziraphale chokes out a wet laugh and says, “Yes, I know.” He sniffles. “You’re my best friend too, Crowley.”

 

With a tired smile, Crowley nods. “I know.” He looks away suddenly and Aziraphale blinks the tears from his eyes, watching with concern as that tiny smile fades. “I’ve always been able to feel you, angel. Out there in the world somewhere, doing your good deeds.” His lip curls and he shakes his head. When he speaks again, his voice is almost as unsteady as it had been in that pub. “And all of a sudden it just…disappeared. Like a light going out.” He sighs and it comes out more like a hiss as he grits his teeth. He looks up then, his mouth a grim, angry line. “You scared the heaven out of me, Aziraphale. Don’t ever let me catch you with those fucking candles again, got it?”

 

Lips pursed tightly together, Aziraphale nods and blinks back another wave of tears. “Yes, darling.”

 

Crowley’s eyes widen at the endearment and Aziraphale can see it even through his dark lenses. His mouth goes slack for a moment before he snaps it shut again and firms it into a tight line. He sniffs and when he speaks, his voice is a soft rasp. “Did you know, Hastur’s trademark is setting fire to things. Regular pyromaniac, he is. S’like his calling card.”

 

Aziraphale frowns, puzzled by the sudden change in subject but willing to go with it. “Oh?”

 

“Hmm.” Crowley doesn’t look at him, staring somewhere far off and to the right. His face betrays nothing of his thoughts, a blank mask that does little to put Aziraphale at ease. “And right before I drove to the bookshop and found it in flames, I’d just succeeded in royally pissing him off.”

 

With a sharp inhale, Aziraphale feels his world tilt again and this time, there is nothing to hang onto. “You thought-”

 

Crowley finally looks up and his mouth quivers so dangerously that Aziraphale can only stare, longing to brush his thumb over his lips to quell their trembling. “Yeah. Thought I’d killed you.”

 

“Oh, my dear Crowley. Of course you didn’t.” He lifts a shaking hand and when Crowley nods hesitantly, he slips the sunglasses from his eyes. The fear and adoration shining in equal measure through Crowley’s naked gaze is breathtaking. Aziraphale swallows but the lump in his throat won’t leave this time. “Quite the opposite, really.” He breathes in deeply, forcing the confession past his numb lips. “With you I’ve always felt terribly…safe.”

 

Crowley doesn’t take the compliment in the spirit in which it was intended, sighing wretchedly instead. “You’ve never been safe with me, Aziraphale. That’s the bloody point. I was so busy pushing you I didn’t stop to think what might happen if anyone actually found out-”

 

“You were right to push me.” Aziraphale strokes a gentle hand over Crowley’s sharp cheekbone, watching fondly as he shudders at the contact. “In fact, I wish I’d listened to you centuries ago.”

 

Crowley shakes his head, swallowing. “I could’ve gotten you killed, angel. Or worse, disgraced.”

 

“It would have been worth it.” Aziraphale smiles tearfully when Crowley lifts his head to stare at him, lips parted in stunned silence. “Crowley, I-”

 

Crowley shakes his head again, squeezing his eyes shut tight. “Don’t,” he says, his voice strangled and desperate. “Not unless you mean it.”

 

“I always meant it, Crowley,” Aziraphale promises. “Even when I was too afraid to say it.”

 

Crowley breathes out shakily, a sigh that turns into a quiet, disbelieving laugh. His eyes crinkle at the corners and Aziraphale can see that elusive dimple in his cheek as he presses a gentle, reverent kiss to his palm. He pauses briefly to nose at Aziraphale’s fingertips, dragging his hot mouth over the angel’s palm and stopping at the inside of his wrist to press another lingering kiss just over the erratic pulse there. And when he turns his head and leans up on his knees, Aziraphale meets him halfway.

 

They sink into each other with ease, as though they’ve had thousands of years of practice instead of longing in silence and trying not to touch too often. Crowley is warm and trembling against him, his mouth carrying a searing heat the likes of which Aziraphale has never known in the stark coldness of heaven. He still smells faintly of brimstone and burning rubber and when Aziraphale lifts a hand to cradle his cheek, he feels stubble and the smudge of ash beneath his fingertips.

 

And it’s perfect. Better than any fantasy Aziraphale has managed to conjure over the years because it’s real and Crowley wants him and Crowley loves him. Crowley had sat in a pub determined to drink himself into oblivion instead of facing the end of the world without Aziraphale. Crowley had driven a burning car through the M25 because Aziraphale had asked him to. Crowley had stopped time because the idea of never talking to Aziraphale again had frightened him more than even Satan’s fury.

 

Still kneeling before him, Crowley curls his fingers tightly around the back of Aziraphale’s neck and arches closer as though terrified of losing him even now. Lost in his kiss, Aziraphale makes a silent promise. Before Crowley and the Almighty herself, he vows that with whatever time they have left, he’ll make certain Crowley feels every bit as loved and cared for as he has always made Aziraphale feel.

 

Without breaking their kiss, Crowley rises sinuously to his feet and almost slithers into the chair until he’s straddling Aziraphale’s lap. His lanky legs bracket Aziraphale in, knees digging into his hips. He barely weighs anything at all, a slight weight against Aziraphale’s thighs and oh, he adores it. Wants to cradle his fragile, darling demon in his arms and keep him safe and happy always.

 

“Crowley,” he breathes, trembling. “I love you. I love you so-”

 

“Shh.” Crowley strokes his knuckles tenderly over his cheek, his eyes half-lidded and gleaming golden in the soft light filtering in from the corridor. “I know, angel.”

 

Aziraphale huffs out a shaky laugh into the hollow of Crowley’s cheek. “Long before I did, I’m sure.”

 

“Nah. Figured it out eventually though.” Crowley licks his lips and Aziraphale stares, following the movement of his tongue with interest. “And…uh, you know, don’t you?”

 

Aziraphale blinks and it takes him a moment to stop staring at Crowley’s mouth and realize just what he’s referring to. And then he smiles brightly, thinking of a revelation in the middle of a ruined church. “It’s as you say, my dear. I figured it out eventually.”

 

Crowley laughs and when he leans in again, they’re both grinning like fools. Fools in love, Aziraphale thinks dizzily, and curls his fingers into the soft material of Crowley’s black shirt. Crowley drapes his arms over Aziraphale’s shoulders, leaning heavily into his chest — kissing him and kissing him and kissing him until Aziraphale feels like crying again.

 

They stay there, curled around one another and trading soft, wondrous kisses for a short eternity before Crowley finally drops his head to Aziraphale’s shoulder and shudders. “Been imagining this for thousands of years,” he grumbles, ignoring Aziraphale’s surprised little noise. “And when it finally happens, I’m too knackered to even take you to bed.” He groans, equal parts frustration and exhaustion. “Want to ravish you.”

 

A little thrill shoots down Aziraphale’s spine at the idea of Crowley leading him to bed. Of being ravished. He wriggles a bit in his seat, pressing a kiss to Crowley’s snake tattoo in apology when the demon whimpers miserably. He clears his throat, silently telling his corporation to behave itself.

 

“Not to worry,” he says, stroking a hand over Crowley’s back. He can feel the notches of his spine over his thin shirt and thinks fleetingly again of how fragile Crowley is beneath all that bluster and the prickly words. “Plenty of time.”

 

“Is there?” Crowley hides his face in the crook of Aziraphale’s neck, defeat in his tired voice. “You and I both know they’re coming for us, angel.”

 

Aziraphale thinks of the prophecy tucked away in his pocket and says with confidence, “Then we’ll be ready. Trust me, my dear.”

 

Though he would probably deny it to Satan himself, Crowley nuzzles at Aziraphale’s ear and mutters, “Always have.”

 

Wishing he could say the same but knowing deep down that there were very early days when he’d wondered when the demon Crawley would turn against him, Aziraphale doesn’t try to lie. He can only try to be better now, to trust Crowley as implicitly as he had always trusted Aziraphale. It isn’t much but at the moment, it’s all he has to offer.

 

Clearing his throat softly, he ventures, “We could… move somewhere more comfortable if you’d prefer to sleep.”

 

Instead of actually replying, Crowley makes a hissing noise Aziraphale assumes must mean move at your own risk.

 

He huffs, settling in as best he can in Crowley’s straight-backed throne. “Yes, yes,” he says, tutting. “All right. No need to be dramatic.”

 

Crowley mumbles something that might possibly be insulting and settles more firmly against him, his fingers stroking the hair at the nape of Aziraphale’s neck. And Aziraphale sits completely still beneath him, marveling at the feel of Crowley’s fingers in his hair and Crowley’s warm breath against his neck. This is happening. He is holding Crowley and unafraid of the consequences. If this truly is his last night alive, he must admit it’s a rather marvelous end to things.

 

“Crowley?”

 

“Hmm?”

 

“Earlier, you said…you said it smells like me in here.”

 

“Yeah…”

 

Aziraphale bites his lip, turning over the question that’s been on his mind since Crowley had mentioned it days ago. “What do I smell like to you?” Crowley had mentioned that he smelled holy and Aziraphale cannot help worrying that perhaps it pains Crowley, like stepping into that church in 1941 had burnt his poor feet. “Does it…hurt you?”

 

“Hm, course not.” Crowley slurs, a hiss slipping into his words. He must be nearly asleep by now. “S’just you. Sort of…bookish and soft. Like, dunno, sunshine in a dusty library. An’ cocoa.”

 

Knowing Crowley would never admit such a thing out loud if he were even a bit more awake at the moment, Aziraphale swallows back a radiant smile and closes his eyes. “Oh,” he breathes, inexplicably relieved. “Good.”

 

He wraps Crowley tighter in his embrace and as he settles in to wait for dawn, Crowley turns his face into his neck and breathes him in one last time. “Home,” he whispers. “You smell like home.”

 

Aziraphale feels his fragile human heart swell. “Sleep, darling.” He smooths his palm over Crowley’s back, pressing a firm kiss into his fiery hair. “I’ll still be here when you wake.”

 

He holds vigil for the remaining hours until daybreak, a demon asleep in his lap and a scrap of ancient paper burning a hole in his pocket. By the time the sun rises over Mayfair, slanting in through the windows in warm yellow stripes, Crowley is just beginning to stir.

 

It’s the first day of the rest of their lives and as Crowley lifts his head to blink at him sleepily, Aziraphale is loathe to break the hush of dawn. But he’s been waiting hours for Crowley to wake up, sitting in the dark and missing him despite holding him as close as their human bodies will allow. In a giddy whisper, he says, “Good morning.”

 

Crowley grunts.

 

Undeterred, he confides, “My dear, I do believe I have a plan. How do you feel about… Oh, what do the humans call it?” He beams. “Roleplay, I believe.”

 

Suddenly far more awake, Crowley offers him a slow smirk and drawls, “Got a safeword?”

 

Blinking, Aziraphale begins, “What-”

 

“I’ll explain later, angel.” Crowley slides gracefully from his lap, his swagger returned, but there’s no concealing the hint of pink in his cheeks. He stretches lazily, yawning. Aziraphale doesn’t bother trying not to stare. “Think I can manage some crepes if you’re hungry. Then you can tell me all about your clever plan.”

 

“Oh. Yes.” He’d been so wrapped up in the prophecy and well, Crowley that he’d entirely forgotten to eat a thing last night. “I am a bit peckish.”

 

“Right. I’ll just-” Crowley jerks a thumb over his shoulder, already beginning to retreat.

 

“Darling?”

 

Crowley pauses mid-step at the endearment and he lifts a hand to adjust his glasses, realizing belatedly that he had allowed Aziraphale to take them off last night. Right before they had kissed. Crowley stares and Aziraphale takes great delight in watching the previous night return to him all at once. Running a hand through his rumpled hair, Crowley mutters under his breath, “Not a dream, then.” He clears his throat, straightening from his usual slouch. Slowly, he says, “You and I - we…”

 

“Yes.”

 

“And you’re…” He squints at Aziraphale, possibly looking for some hint of angelic guilt. “All right?”

 

Aziraphale smiles serenely. “For the most part. Though there is one thing that could do with improving, if you’ll indulge me.”

 

Crowley’s reply is immediate. “Course. What?”

 

He arches an eyebrow expectantly. “I haven’t much experience in the matter, but I’ve come to understand most lovers exchange a certain type of greeting upon waking together.”

 

Mouth dropping open, Crowley stutters. “Ngk. Oh.”

 

And then he’s there, crouching in front of Aziraphale again and crushing those chocolate biscuits he’d dropped last night. For the second time in his very long life, Aziraphale couldn’t care less about the fate of a few biscuits because Crowley is wrapping his strong, slender hand around the back of his neck and swooping in to kiss him heatedly. He licks into Aziraphale’s mouth with that talented tongue and the angel is silently grateful he’s already sitting because his knees go utterly weak.

 

They part slowly, reluctantly. Their noses brush and when Aziraphale blinks open his eyes, Crowley’s gaze is fixed on him. In the morning light, his eyes are a soft amber and his red hair seems to glow. Voice a low murmur, he asks roughly, “Better?”

 

Overwhelmed and wanting, Aziraphale buries his face in Crowley’s neck. Lanky arms wrap tight around him. Recalling Crowley’s soft, sleepy confession the night before, he breathes in with a tremulous smile. Leather and brimstone and potting soil. “It’s very good to be home.”