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An Object At Rest

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Crowley can usually tell the difference between a two to twelve hour nap and something a bit more substantial. Something which necessitates shaking several layers of dust off of himself and then taking five minutes to reacquaint himself with complex concepts, like gravity, blood circulation, and legs.

Which is why it's a surprise when he wakes up clean, but still with the vague sense that his legs may not cooperate if he does anything more complicated than roll over. He tries anyway, and ends up very confused when both a blanket and a large book slide off his back and hit the bed next to him.

What the Hell? Who's been putting stuff on him?

"Oh," Aziraphale says from the doorway. He's holding a mug of tea that's gently steaming, looking oddly fluffy and strangely relaxed. He's wearing a thick cardigan, and no shoes, small glasses half pushed down. He gives the impression of a man who should be comfortably folded into an armchair in front of a fire somewhere, maybe reading a story to a small child, not pottering around Crowley's chilly, minimalist flat in his socks. "You're awake, splendid."

"M'wha?" Crowley manages, because this is all very confusing and unexpected. Since he definitely remembers leaving Aziraphale at the bookshop, before he came back his flat for a well-deserved nap. He squints at the angel for a second to make absolutely sure he's not some sort of dream figment that he's accidentally constructed in the real world. Because, much as he hates to admit it, it wouldn't be the first time.

Aziraphale remains resolutely solid, even under a careful mental poking, so he's definitely real. The angel smiles like everything is perfectly normal, then wanders into Crowley's bedroom like he belongs, collects the book and the blanket, before setting them both with his glasses on the table next to the bed. Which Crowley now apparently owns. So the unexpected this morning now includes both Aziraphale and furniture.

"I hoped you would be soon." Aziraphale and his shoeless feet are now right beside Crowley's bed. He smells of tea, and marmalade, and ever so slightly like the sixteenth century, which suggests he's been at the bibles again, or maybe the Historia Animalium, Crowley knows how entertaining he finds the picture of the elephant. "You seemed more restless than usual this morning."

Aziraphale says that like it's normal too, as if he waits for Crowley to wake up all the time. Crowley has never woken up and found Aziraphale in his flat. This is officially the first time. In fact the only time Aziraphale has even been to his flat was just after Armageddon failed to happen. They'd both come back here, exhausted, filthy, and utterly convinced they were going to be killed, before drinking their way through Crowley's expensive whisky, and then quietly panicking for as long as it took to come up with the frankly insane but ultimately brilliant plan to thwart Heaven and Hell. The whole night had been the culmination of eleven years of frankly unacceptable stress and misery, and there hadn't really been time for a guided tour. So waking up now to find the angel suddenly and effectively making himself at home is a lot to take in.

Crowley doesn't know whether to be affronted that he missed it, or weirdly touched, or maybe worried he'd fallen into an alternate universe where they lived together. Which, honestly, is not entirely out of the realms of possibility.

"I'm sorry did you use me as a book rest while I was sleeping?" Crowley asks, because his brain suddenly decides that's the most important question he needs answered right now.

Aziraphale gives a disappointed sigh, as if he'd expected better than annoyance, and bewilderment, as if Crowley is the one being unreasonable here.

"I asked you several times whether you objected, and you didn't," Aziraphale explains.

"I was asleep," Crowley protests, because he thinks that's a fair excuse.

"That's never stopped you before," Aziraphale points out.

Crowley grumbles a complaint, but Aziraphale has a point, he has been known to object to things in his sleep before. But he's not going to admit to that. It'd only encourage Aziraphale to continue getting away with things. Satan's tits the angel gets away with enough already. Granted mostly because Crowley flagrantly lets him - but it's the principle of the thing.

Which reminds him of another thing he's annoyed about.

"And you dusted me, didn't you? I've told you before I have a system. I set an alarm."

Aziraphale's mouth does that twisty thing that says he thinks Crowley's just finding things to complain about now. When this is genuinely very important. How is he supposed to know how long he'd slept if Aziraphale is dusting him? How the hell is he not waking up when Aziraphale is dusting him? It was supposed to be a nap.

"Yes, you did," Aziraphale says firmly. "And when it went off you reached out, picked it up, and promptly threw it at the wall."

Crowley looks up, where there is indeed a dent in the wall, and underneath it a little collection of what used to be expensive electronics, and shattered pieces of plastic. He suspects Aziraphale left them there to make a point. Very well, point made.

"Perhaps I wasn't feeling well-rested yet. But it helps, the dust, it lets me know how long I've been napping for."

Aziraphale gives him a look, as if he'd been waiting for this point of the conversation and intends to make it count.

"Forty three days," he says helpfully. "Since I came looking for you at least."

Which is...ok, a lot, that's significantly longer than he'd meant to. No wonder the angel came to check on him.

"Right, so, overslept a bit, have you been here the whole time?" Crowley has to ask, however unlikely that sounds in his head.

"Not the whole time. I've also been keeping the shop open for several hours every day, and I occasionally stopped in the bakery round the corner, the one that does those delicious almond croissants." Aziraphale stops talking to smile, eyebrows quirking up, because of course he's going to get distracted by pastries, pastries never make him cross. "I was going to save you one, but you'd been asleep far longer than expected." He says it as if he's peeved about it. As if the angel wandered about his flat oozing loneliness like a nineteenth century heroine, wearing no shoes, eating sad croissants, and mourning his passing, rather than just, oh, I don't know, waking Crowley up.

"So you ate it?" Crowley says, because, right, croissants, croissants are important, of course.

"I ate several of them," Aziraphale admits without a shred of guilt. "It's been more than a month. I've also been watering your plants, and seeing to your mail. Honestly, it'd been barely any time since...well since the way things ended, or didn't end, I suppose. So when I didn't see you for a week naturally I worried, and came here. Only to find you quite comfortable and dead to the world. Which, of course, I was very relieved by, and also a little miffed. You could have told me."

Crowley stares at him in confusion for a second, because he doesn't get mail here, so he's not sure what Aziraphale is talking about. Does Aziraphale know where his mail actually goes? That's a worrying thought. There are a few subscriptions he'd rather not admit to, if he's being honest.

Though, yes, he probably deserves an explanation, or an apology, about the extended nap.

"I wasn't going to sleep longer than a week, that's why I set the alarm," he says, which is almost an apology, close enough to an apology, apology-adjacent. Because he does feel a little guilty. "I didn't want you to worry." He still remembers the fallout from his angry depression nap that lasted half a century. Honestly, if he'd known Aziraphale would actually miss him he would have paid a street urchin to come and prod him awake after a year or two.

He pushes himself into a sitting position, because it feels weird to be having this much of a conversation with the angel while he's mostly horizonal, and in his pyjamas.

In his pyjamas...?

The arm he'd used to lever himself upright, hand now flattened in the sheets, is wearing a black sleeve with little classic cars all over it. Which is definitely not what Crowley went to sleep in. He very distinctly remembers miracling himself into the slate grey with red trim pyjamas before he went to sleep. Why is he wearing different pyjamas. Did Aziraphale undress him? The thought bounces around in his head for a minute and manages not to hit a single other thought. Purely through obstinate force of will.

"Did you change my pyjamas?" Crowley somehow doesn't sound half as scandalised as he feels, like that's a normal sort of question you'd ask your best friend, who you're also not so secretly in love with.

Aziraphale's expression at least has the decency to look ashamed.

"Ah, yes, there was a mishap, with my hot chocolate - lukewarm at that point, I promise. But miracling you clean didn't seem good enough, and you looked so comfortable. I swear there was no inappropriate metaphysical touching, or physical touching. I simply swapped the material like for like, with something I thought you'd appreciate. I then swore never to bring beverages with me to the bed again."

Aziraphale pointedly, and rather embarrassedly, sets down the tea he's still holding on the table next to the bed. Crowley watches him do it. Aziraphale watches Crowley watch him do it.

Crowley can't help his pout of annoyance though, because, yes, alright fine, they're actually very nice pyjamas, and he's absolutely keeping them. But it's the principle of the thing. Aziraphale can't be pouring beverages on him while he's sleeping, and them reconstructing his clothing for him atom by atom while he's unconscious. More importantly, Crowley really shouldn't be the sort of demon that should be able to sleep through that.

Though - hang on a minute, bring to the bed again? Exactly how many times has the angel happily sat next to him in bed drinking hot chocolate and reading anyway. Forty three days is - forty three possible nights.

"Bring to the - have you been -" In my bed every night? If blinking had come naturally to him he feels like this would have been an appropriate moment to utilise it. "Have you been sitting next to me reading every night?"

"Not every night, I have spent several nights doing inventory, and one restocking the shelves by the door, and I mean you can't really blame me, your living area can't exactly be called inviting. And to be perfectly honest, it seemed terribly impolite to go poking around your flat willy-nilly."

"But sitting next to my vulnerable sleeping body was fine?" Crowley can't quite shake the irritation from his voice, and the worst part is that he knows it's hiding hurt. Aziraphale could have just woken him for Satan's sake. He likes to think he's better company when he's awake.

"Really, Crowley, you were perfectly safe, I was here."

Which is - all the air escapes from Crowley in one long wheezing breath. At the way Aziraphale throws that out so casually. The assumption that of course he'd protect Crowley while he was sleeping, and of course Crowley would let him. Because alright, yes, it's true, and his body's smart enough to know it, to trust Aziraphale without bothering to check in with his brain. It's probably why the bloody thing just laid there, content to let the angel dust him, and change his pyjamas, and throw beverages and probably also crumbs on him. It'd be more annoying if it wasn't all so bloody telling.

"And you seemed to appreciate the company," Aziraphale adds, like he hasn't just emotionally gutted Crowley in a way he's still trying to recover from. "I was quite prepared for you to wake up and kick me out, or object to me invading your personal space in some way, but you didn't - and perhaps I was a touch annoyed at being left effectively alone so soon after Armageddon was thwarted, and yes, I may have used you as a book rest once or twice. But it's not as if you didn't occasionally return the favour with - with an arm, or a leg."

Oh, Satan's balls, he's been insinuating himself onto Aziraphale hasn't he? Worse, he's been attempting to cuddle while unconscious. When he's in no position to make sure it doesn't come across as desperate and obvious. Which is vaguely horrifying. Aziraphale seems oddly fine about that too though. How did Crowley apparently miss the angel not only moving in with him, but also apparently happily sharing his bed?

"Angel, did you move in while I was sleeping?" Crowley can't help asking really, he thinks he means it as a joke, but there's more than a little honest curiosity. Also, just a touch of genuine annoyance, because the angel has clearly been here long enough to relax, to make himself comfortable, to make Crowley's cold, empty space feel partly his own. And it all happened while Crowley was asleep. It's the most progress Aziraphale has made in their whole relationship, and Crowley had to bloody sleep through it.

Aziraphale blinks at him, opens his mouth, ready to defend himself.

"Don't be silly, I simply brought a few things, to occupy me while I was here."

Crowley knows that facial expression, he is intimately familiar with its ability to convince people it isn't lying through its pretty mouth.

"Is my expensive minimalist fridge full of snacks?" he asks.

"Define 'full,'" Aziraphale says cautiously. In that tone of voice that means he's stalling as long as possible because he knows the answer isn't going to go well for him.

Crowley scrunches his mouth, and tips his head back and forth, while he considers it,

"More than an entire shelf," he decides.

"An entire shelf is not full," Aziraphale protests. "Honestly, that's a ridiculous definition." Which is a definite yes. Aziraphale has filled his fridge with food. Crowley's fridge is not for food. His fridge is for alcohol and spare cash - and occasionally, yes, things he's picked up for Aziraphale, usually cheesecake.

"How many books did you bring with you?" Because that's usually a good indicator of whether Aziraphale has dug in somewhere to stay for a spell.

Aziraphale's forehead pinches in and he looks frustrated, as if he hadn't expected to have to give an account of himself today, and doesn't like it one bit.

"You know how quickly I read." Which isn't a direct answer, it's an excuse, it's a wheedling little excuse and Crowley's not having it.

"Is it more than forty?" he asks.

Aziraphale sighs. "It's not significantly more than forty," he admits, then looks uncomfortable. "Honestly, Crowley, I didn't intend all of this, but I was worried about you, and it's been a month. Then there was the weather. I don't care how attached you are to your minimalist aesthetic, your bedding was insufficient. It's almost November for Heaven's sake and you were covered in a sheet. I was worried about you."

Ah, so the blanket on him hadn't been for Aziraphale it had been for him. Or perhaps for both of them - though Crowley's going to quietly slide that thought aside rather than think about it too much right now.

"And then it seemed easier to just remain, in case you woke, so I could explain." Aziraphale seems to deflate all at once. "And here I am, a month later. Yes, I think you've made your point, perhaps it was impossibly rude of me insert myself into your space while you were unable to give permission. I should never have -"

Which, no, that's exactly the opposite of what Crowley wanted.

"Not what I meant, not what I meant at all. Angel will you sit down." Because the angel looming over him while Crowley is in his pyjamas isn't quite giving him the level of gravitas he wants right now, but mostly he wants Aziraphale somewhere he can't start pacing, or worse decide he's been unconscionably rude and insist on leaving.

Crowley reaches over and takes hold of his wrist - all warm fine skin over bone - encourages him to settle on the bed next to him. And he's pleased to discover that the angel doesn't need an awful lot of encouraging. That side of the bed is probably used to him by now - which is an interesting thought.

"Aziraphale, if you wanted to stay over, if you just wanted to come for a visit, or a drink, all you had to do was ask." All he's ever had to do was ask. It's not like Crowley would have said no to him. Crowley never says no, not and means it. Not with Aziraphale. How could Aziraphale not know that by now?

"You've never really invited me into your...well your personal space," Aziraphale says quietly, as if it's something he'd noticed, something that he read things into that Crowley had never meant.

"Because my personal space was never that inviting, truth be told. There are no comfortable couches, or throw pillows or squeaky leather wingback chairs." Not that Crowley wouldn't have installed them, somehow, somewhere if Aziraphale had seemed inclined to visit. "But that doesn't mean I didn't want you to come over, that I haven't - always angel, you were always welcome, for as long as you want. But I took the fact that you never asked, that you always politely declined every time I suggested something more my side of town, to mean that you didn't want to. That you had no interest in returning the favour."

Aziraphale finally regards him seriously from the other side of the bed.

"No, never, it was simply easier that way. If you were the one to seek me out, the one to make overtures, well that made sense, information gathering and all that. Insinuating yourself, that always felt appropriately demonic, something that could be explained away. There was no good excuse for me just visit you. And even after everything I couldn't find a way to take that step, until I did, and perhaps the fact that you were asleep made me brave. Continued to make me brave, which is why, I confess, I didn't try overly hard to wake you." The angel winces obviously, hands folding together and squeezing. "Which sounds terrible now I actually say it out loud. Worse than terrible. I owe you an apology, I believe."

Crowley rejects that notion with a noise and a nudge of shoulder.

"No, no, angel, come on, you don't exactly have the monopoly on refusing to acknowledge you're doing something stupid, because it's easier that way than admitting to yourself how stupid you're being."

Aziraphale blinks down at him.

"Did you just call me stupid twice?" he asks, but he sounds amused.

"I called us both stupid," Crowley points out. "And I think we've spent so long finding loopholes, and making excuses, and constructing elaborate scenarios to spend time together, that it's become something of a habit. But I'm good with the fact that you're here, with the fact that you've been here. You've always been welcome. It just - it would have been nice to be awake for it. To be able to show you around a bit, watch you attempt to use my ridiculously complicated coffee maker, eat your croissants, share the last of my three hundred year old whisky. It would have been - I would have liked that." He stops before he says anything too embarrassing, spills too much in the way of feelings. Decides he'll go for peeved as a facial expression instead.

Still Aziraphale seems to know him far too well, or maybe he's gotten too used to his glasses hiding all the expressions he doesn't want to share. Because the angel's own face is shading into guilt again, and Crowley can see the moment he decides he's going to apologise some more, that he's going to make this a huge thing and he doesn't want that.

"But, if my complete inattention is what it took to get you here with no shoes on, looking like you own the place, then so be it," Crowley tells him. "Mi casa es su casa."

Since Aziraphale has already made himself comfortable, and has a beverage, they've probably already skipped passed the coffee and apartment tour. What comes after that? It's not like Crowley has guests very often, or ever really. He knows a few thousand customs for guests, from different countries and eras, but none of them really apply to the two of them. He knows that he wants Aziraphale to stay, and he figures the best way to do that is to be exactly who he's always been.

He pushes himself up properly and folds his arms.

"And since you now have the pleasure of my company, awake and ready to be a gracious host, what do you want to do?"

"Really, I couldn't," Aziraphale protests. "I've been quite selfish this whole time -"

"Nope, come on. You've made me feel welcome at the bookshop for going on two hundred years now, even when I was an occasionally belligerent and often drunken guest." Ignoring the fact that Aziraphale could be a very drunk and belligerent host. "And now I'm awake so you get to decide."

Aziraphale's hands slide in his lap for a moment, as if he wants to touch a book that isn't there.

"Oh, well, I could read you something?" he suggests tentatively. "If you wanted me to?"

Crowley raises an eyebrow at him. "Angel, are you actually encouraging me to stay in my bed for the rest of the day? When I've been in it pushing two months already?"

Aziraphale seems happy to do exactly that.

"Only if you want me to, of course, it's just there were so many times I wished you were awake so I could share my thoughts with you, or listen to your opinions, and your disapproving noises, and occasionally your scathing retorts -"

Crowley makes a rude noise.

"Well I'd be an ungracious host if I didn't continue to be accommodating to my guests wouldn't I." He pointedly slithers back down into the pillows, one arm curled around the back of one. "And I do know how much you love your books, and talking, and talking about books. Consider me your appreciative audience."

Aziraphale smiles, and it's genuine, all teeth and enthusiasm, and it belongs entirely to Crowley.

"Your choice then, what are you in the mood for, my dear?"

"Well I've been playing dead for more than a month, while you haunt my flat, so how about a good old-fashioned ghost story, body parts in the walls and all that. But only if you do the noises, and appropriate voices on the spooky parts."

Aziraphale holds a hand out, and a slim volume obediently appears in it, he sets it on his lap and flicks through the first few pages.

Crowley carefully slithers closer. Aziraphale lifts an arm, and he thinks they're both pretending that's not, as casual gestures go, pretty fucking monumental. But there's no way Crowley can refuse the invitation. He settles himself against the familiar and exquisitely new warmth of Aziraphale's side, one silken arm casually draping over his wide thighs. Aziraphale's own arm settles round his back, fingers wrapping round the hard curve of Crowley's shoulder.

It's like Crowley's entire body exhales, surrenders, and accepts it all.

"And feel free to add in some gory details," he mutters into Aziraphale's cardigan. "The old stuff always skimped on those." That makes Aziraphale laugh, a rumble of sensation that he feels through his chest, and it goes straight into Crowley's box of new experiences he's going to hoard forever. He's perfectly content to stay here until the angel wants to move him.

After all, it's not like anyone's watching any more.

They can stay here as long as they like.