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i open the door (and you run through)

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there's a look in your eyes when you're hungry for me
it's a beautiful knife cutting right where the fear should be

pang, caroline polachek



690 AD - Calakmul

 

Deep in the Yucatan, stone pyramids rise above a dense jungle. The Mayans, miles more sophisticated and vibrant than any society dreary Europe currently has on offer, have dedicated every structure to their god, marking them all out with the glyph of the snake-head Kaan that signifies their kingdom’s domain. 

Crowley has been sent to convince the Divine Lords of the Snake, rulers of the Calakmul nation-state, that picking up the simmering war with their rival, the nearby city of Tikal, will result in nothing but blessings and prosperity. 

The assignment is almost absurdly easy— all he needs to do is give a priest a quick flash of his yellow eyes, and suddenly he’s got oodles of befrocked and befeathered elites hanging on his every word. A couple gentle suggestions here, a few well-placed questions there, and within less than two days of Crowley’s arrival, the great guardian of Calakmul, Jaguar Paw, has come up with the brilliant, unique, showstopping and totally original idea that a new battle with the imperious bastards over in Tikal would do well to put their ruler Sky Rain in his place. 

The guardians of the city graciously offer Crowley lodgings in a cavernous hall inside one of the great pyramids. It’s so luxurious as to make him uncomfortable— he’d gotten more than enough of the good old being-worshipped-as-a-god thing back in Egypt a thousand years before— so he gracefully declines, and finds a spacious but modest room in a stone apartment block on the edge of the marketplace. 

He can’t say he’s surprised, the next morning, to look out the window and spot a telltale flash of pale hair bobbing and weaving amongst the bodies in the aisle below. The whole rivalry between Calakmul and Tikal is the classic kind of two-sided endeavor that both Head Offices simply love to stake claims on, using them as proxy battles for their own eternally-ongoing petty squabble. 

Aziraphale is newly arrived to the city, with orders to coax the ambassador from Tikal, installed in the palace since the last truce, into talking down Jaguar Paw from his warmongering stance and maintaining the peace. In other words, he’s here to unravel all of Crowley’s hard work, as usual.

It’s natural, then, and quite sensible in the way of their adversarial relationship, for Crowley to send a messenger boy down from his apartment to deliver a note, in the beautiful logographic script of the locals, to the strange, pale man in the white loincloth, with instructions to meet in an hour’s time to discuss business. 

So now Crowley and Aziraphale find themselves seated on a stone bench in a lush courtyard, partaking in the local delicacy— a drink called chocolate, dark rich liquid topped with bitter foam.

They exchange pleasantries, catch each other up on the last few decades of business, discuss the vibrant city they’ve found themselves in. After Aziraphale takes the time to express his delight at the novel refreshment, the topic of conversation circles around to Crowley’s proposal from the century prior. 

“But, see, if I’d agreed to your absurd idea,” Aziraphale is saying smugly, “I’d probably be huddled around a fire in Mercia right now. Instead, I’m here, enjoying this beautiful city and all of its wonderful sights.” 

Crowley scowls. “Could’ve been the other way around, though. If we did it, if we actually did it,” he says, “there’d be— I dunno. Rules. Ways to figure out who does what, to make it fair. We could, y’know, flip a coin.” 

Aziraphale looks at him with guarded interest over the lip of his mug, then takes a long, luxurious sip in silence. Crowley’s stomach does something interesting, watching the angel’s bared throat flex as he swallows it down. 

“Where’ll they send you next, eh?” Crowley asks. “Kievan Rus? The Shetlands? Somewhere dreary and awful, no doubt, so wouldn’t it be nice if you could just stay here, instead? They haven’t got chocolate anywhere else yet, you know.” He punctuates this temptation with a raise of an eyebrow, and Aziraphale pouts. It’s dreadfully adorable. 

“I’m sure it wouldn’t be that bad.”

“It would be, and you know it. They hardly ever do right by you, Aziraphale. Wouldn’t you rather have your pick of destinations, while I take care of your work?”

“Crowley, you must know I simply can’t disobey orders like that. I’m an angel, and I have my duties. There’ll be no use in arguing this further.” Aziraphale stands up from their stone bench, still clutching his earthenware mug. 

Hardly thinking, Crowley stands up too, and then reaches out, taking Aziraphale’s free hand in his. “What’s the point of any of this,” he says, impassioned, “if we can’t make it easier on each other? Angel, please, you know I’m right!” 

“What I know isn’t—” Aziraphale begins, but he breaks off, looking at Crowley; and then down at Crowley’s hand, so gentle, grasping his own— Crowley knows curiosity when he sees it, he can feel it humming beneath the angel’s skin, the desire to see this through, to find out what might be waiting on the other side.

It’s so close, so near to the surface, if Crowley could just draw it out, but how— he wants— he wants—

The selfish beast of his burned soul wants to wrench agreement out of Aziraphale, wants to tempt him tirelessly until every word of Heaven’s mandate is erased, and they can write their own story atop it together, a palimpsest of precious opportunity.

And there’s something smaller, something green and struggling beneath the ash, that wants to shelter and nurture, wants to put everything he’s got into growing this strange thing between them from the ground up, natural and sun-seeking as any leaf in Eden.

“Oh— Crowley,” says Aziraphale, and the tremble in his voice is a powerfully dangerous thing, far more intoxicatingly new and delicious than the heady taste of the dark drink in his cup. Here in the land of the feathered snake, Crowley has no need for the dark glasses he began wearing half a millennia back, so it’s with bare eyes that he meets the rise of Aziraphale’s gaze again. The angel’s eyes, greener than usual in this lush land, seem to be asking Crowley a question. 

(Or is Crowley the one who sees his own question, reflected back at him?)

Then, so light as to be unreal, there’s a soft brush of Aziraphale’s thumb over the back of Crowley’s hand, and Crowley is all at once driven by something surging up inside him, drawn forward in one smooth motion.

Aziraphale’s mouth is hot and pliant beneath Crowley’s, falling open for him like a flower in the sun, and Crowley moans softly, lost in it, the lingering notes of bitter chocolate mixing with the clear taste of summer air, sunlight, altitude. His tongue nimbly swipes across Aziraphale’s teeth, reveling in their alignment, their perfect spread synecdoche for the exquisiteness of each and every part of the angel. 

Crowley’s hand frees itself from Aziraphale’s to come around to the back of his head, tilting him to gain better purchase, seeking that perfect angle, and Aziraphale’s freed hand clutches in turn at Crowley’s side, warm fingers pressing in at Crowley’s bare waist, grasping for purchase. 

As they’re drawn closer together, bodies nearly meeting, Crowley’s hips jerk forward of their own volition— and that’s when it all goes wrong. Because Aziraphale can feel Crowley’s hardness, obvious underneath the scrap of feathered black he wears around his waist, in accordance with the style of the local elites. And Crowley can’t help but make a wordless noise at the press of Aziraphale’s own effort— fuck, Crowley’s always wondered, but now he knows the angel makes one— against Crowley's upper thigh.

With a crash, Aziraphale’s mug hits to the ground, shattering on the stone floor and sending hot, frothy chocolate across his white sandals. He’s flinching back, eyes gone wide. Crowley is frozen, lost.

“I— I can’t—” Aziraphale stammers, “I’m sorry—” His eyes have gone grey and murky; they’re the ocean floor, now, instead of the glittering surface. 

He spits out some excuse, something relating to his assignment, but Crowley is so horribly upset with himself he’s not even listening anymore. He watches Aziraphale go with a red face and a roiling stomach, and only when the angel is well and truly gone does Crowley allow a long, low hiss to escape from between his teeth. 

He leaves the courtyard; he heads east through the city, stalks right out of the gates and into the dense jungle beyond. The calls of the street hawkers and the bells of the temples fade into the distance, until there’s only birdcalls and the breeze.

What the Hell is he doing? Is he moping?

It’s an unacceptable state of things. Demons do not mope. They dissemble, they procrastinate, they lie, they lash out— but they do not wallow unproductively in their own feelings like wretched heartsick humans. 

And certainly, demons absolutely do not take angels by the hand and lean in to kiss them. That much he knows for sure. 

Well, it’s a two way street, obviously. He can’t possibly bear all of the blame for what happened, can he? Aziraphale was trying to make Crowley work for it, even if he was hardly aware of it himself, the oblivious bastard. And Crowley had played right into it, hypnotized by the way Aziraphale looked at him, the tremble of desire in his voice— in his own twisty, devious way he was simply begging to be touched, with skin that soft and eyes that shining. 

The cruelest part of Crowley, the scorched part of his soul that hit the pool of boiling sulfur first and suffered the harshest burns, whispers in low tones that he should do something awful, something truly demonic, to disabuse Aziraphale of the notion that he, Crowley, is worthy of love at all. 

He’s long risen above that kind of instinctive awfulness, however. He got that rot that out of his system before he even made his way up to Eden— not that he’d had much of it to begin with, really. Not that most demons even do. Stupid, unfair stereotypes — alright, alright, he’s getting off track.

The point is, it simply won’t do to be horrid. He enjoys Aziraphale’s company immensely, that much he’ll cop to, however pathetic it makes him feel. He accepted that simple fact around the time he tried his first oyster back in Rome. 

But Crowley imagines that if he continues to lean into the wretched star-crossed-ness of it all, lets himself really wallow in it, it he’ll come to start believing it’d have been better had he not met Aziraphale at all. And that is a state of things that he can’t possibly countenance letting come to pass. Meeting Aziraphale is the best thing that’s ever happened to him— to ever regret it, or want it undone, would be a ruthless betrayal of himself.

Meanwhile, the more he lets this— this issue of his run unchecked, the more danger Aziraphale will be put in, the more tempted he’ll be. And Crowley knows how Aziraphale gets when he believes he’s in danger of doing wrong. He starts to fret and moan and clam right up like a pitcher plant, battening down the sharp edges of himself that Crowley so delights in, in order to try and shape himself back into a perfect, obedient angel. 

No, no. Crowley’s got to keep things on the level. He’s got to fix this, and fast. Because if he doesn’t, they’ll both be miserable, neither of them will be any fun to be around whatsoever, and then what’ll be the point of getting this whole Arrangement off the ground? 

Crowley has, by now, gone further into the jungle than he planned to, walking blindly, mumbling under his breath as his mind moves a thousand miles per hour, seeking out every corner and border of his situation. Vines and gnarled roots tangle around his bare feet, soles growing automatically scaly in protection. He stops underneath a kapok tree, his sinuous back coming to bear on the broad spread of its gray trunk, and leans against it.

This feeling he’s got is terribly off-brand, is what it is, and he knows it. Hardly properly infernal at all and, mind you, it’s not properly heavenly either, like some kind of leftover remnant of before. He tries to redirect it all into something more appropriately demonic. Rage usually does the trick. 

“Come on,” he screams out into the rustling green. “Come on, you poisonous, paralyzed wretch, you rotten, senile starveling! Why’ve you done this to me? I’ve already been tested, and failed! You know that! What more is there for me to learn? What is this supposed to prove to you? If he looks at me like that one more time I’ll— I don’t know that I can—” 

He chokes off, sinking down against the tree, until he’s sprawled at its base. The labored sound of his own breathing weaves itself into the gentle caws of the jays and the sigh of the crickets, the trickle of a stream from somewhere nearby. 

God doesn’t respond, but it’s not as if he’s ever expected Her to, so he doesn’t mind. What actually does upset him is how even after howling himself hoarse, he’s still somehow hard beneath his loincloth, harder than he was back in that courtyard with Aziraphale pressed close. 

He could get himself off, right here amidst the trees. He could fuck his hand to thoughts of Aziraphale’s lips on his, the angel’s hand warm at his waist, that generous, unseen swell under the white cloth, rubbing up for just a moment against him. He could imagine what it looks like, the angel’s cock, how it would harden and leak under his fingertips, twitch as he licks a long stripe up its length; how he’d swallow down the hot holy pulse of it and then beg to do it all again—

Fuck— no. Fuck.

There’s got to be a better way. 

Crowley isn’t afraid of a bit of work. No, he can certainly dedicate himself to a long-term project when the obligation arises. In fact, he revels in the idea of giving himself a new job to do— maybe if it hadn’t been so damn easy to get his gig over with back in town, he wouldn’t have had time to linger over drinks with an angel in the first place.

(He knows he would’ve found the time no matter what, but look, don’t remind him.)

Crowley presses his hands to the earth, wraps his hands around the roots of the tree. He closes his eyes, takes a deep breath, and sinks into himself. 

It’s dark, where he lands. Neat, though, very well-kept, and he knows his way around. 

Navigating through the hallways of his soul, he finds an empty space. He doesn’t know what used to stand there before, but there’s nothing now. With a simple, immaterial motion, he fills it— in an instant, there’s a door, standing tall. Heavy, wide, purpose-built. Another invisible, nonexistent movement, and the door is fitted with a lock. 

Just as he shifts his form in the physical realm, so too can he manipulate the structure of his interior, command its matter through the simple application of imagination. Satisfied with the door and lock, he fills the space beyond it for the first time. Inside, he carefully places the taste of Aziraphale’s mouth, the touch of his hands, the look in his eyes. 

Then Crowley closes the door, and locks it. 

When he opens his eyes again, his body is no longer desperate for what it should not want, and the absence is sheer relief, resolving quickly back into a habitual, easy confidence. He’s fixing this, he can make it right.

He finds Aziraphale again easily, once evening falls and he’s back in the city. The angel is ensconced deep inside a shrine on the main square, being shown a gorgeously illuminated codex by a proud acolyte. Crowley lingers near the entryway until Aziraphale notices him with a start, bids the acolyte to wait while he sees what the strange man with the yellow eyes (who he definitely hasn’t met before, who he doesn’t know at all) wants with him. 

“M’sorry. It won’t happen again, angel. Promise.” 

“Quite right,” says Aziraphale tightly, somehow managing to look completely buttoned up, despite the expansive gleam of his bare chest and arms in the firelight. “Though I suppose you could be lying, you serpent,” the angel goes on, his pout fully weaponized now. 

“I’m not, okay?” snaps Crowley. The door holds fast; he feels none of that inexorable pull that had drawn his mouth to Aziraphale’s just hours earlier. Maybe this is how everyone manages it. It’s so simple, he can’t believe he didn’t think of it sooner.

“Very well,” sighs Aziraphale, the fight seemingly gone out of him. Crowley knows how he feels— it’s so tiring to be at odds. They’ve really only got each other, and they both know it. “I’ll— I won’t mention it again.” 

“Sure. Yeah. Great.” 

Aziraphale looks Crowley up and down now, searching and intent, and Crowley wonders if the angel can sense the change in him. And, if so, how much of a relief it must be to not feel the pressure of the demon’s desperate affection bearing down on him down any longer. 

“I’ve thought about what you said, Crowley,” Aziraphale says quietly. “What you asked.”

“You— you did?” 

Aziraphale nods, lips pursed. “I— well. It seems, upon reflection, that you’ve put quite a bit of thought into your whole... scheme. I suppose it’d be an awful disservice to your hard work to not put the concept through its paces.”

“Great,” says Crowley, grinning now, “brilliant, knew you’d come around.” 

“I haven’t come around,” volleys Aziraphale, “I’m merely practicing the virtue of tolerance. And respect. And open-mindedness.” 

Crowley smirks. “Right,” he says, “got it in one,” and Aziraphale seems to be holding back a smile of his own. It’s wonderful. Everything as it should be. And it’ll stay that way, as long as the door holds. 

Which it will. Crowley will make sure of it.

***

1327 AD - Northern Italy 

Really, they aren’t meant to be showing up in the same place and working against each other anymore, the Arrangement should see to that and let one of them laze about at home. But thanks to a spot of bureaucratic confusion Downstairs, Crowley’s destination gets changed on him mid-course, and he finds himself on his way to Lombardy instead of Languedoc.

Aziraphale had arrived at the abbey up the mountain two days prior, and when he comes down into the village to seek out a heartier meal than the monks have on offer, he naturally runs into Crowley lingering outside the inn. 

So— here they both are, and none the worse for wear. 

(Well, except for the incident with the horse. Crowley healed his corporation’s bruises with a wave of his hand upon dismounting, but injuries to his dignity cannot be undone with a miracle, no matter how strong.)

It’s been a few centuries now since he’s spent any time with Aziraphale outside of London. He’s all but forgotten how beautiful the angel can look in the brighter light of lower latitudes, in the sun of another kingdom.

But, ah— no, there’ll be none of that today. Working on long-practiced instinct, Crowley takes those pesky thoughts and swats them away, to land safely behind his locked door. His heart settles to a reasonable, businesslike pace, as they enter the inn and flow easily into conversation.

Trying to keep track of the different sects and heresies of greater Christendom had begun to give Crowley an awful headache ages back, so he’d more or less given up. It doesn’t really tend to matter in his line of work, anyway. 

However, Aziraphale has taken it upon himself to try and elucidate for Crowley the finer points of the multi-variable equation that is the region’s array of doctrines. Crowley is humoring him, since he has a sneaking suspicion the lecture is as much for Aziraphale’s benefit as his own— it’s a lot to keep track of, and Aziraphale doesn’t seem very confident he has it all correct in advance of disputation he’s due to attend the next day.

“So, hang on,” says Crowley, “all they wanted was equality between men and women, and the equal distribution of property, yeah? Doesn’t sound so bad to me, honest.” 

Aziraphale sighs heavily. “Yes,” he says, “but they killed people, Crowley. I think they— or was that the Fraticelli— no, that’s right, the Dulcinians were definitely the ones who did the pillaging—”

“Oh, come on. Everyone’s doing a bit of that these days, here and there! It’s all the rage. I mean,” Crowley says, trying to rile the angel up, “look, what exactly is the point in traveling hundreds of miles to hash it all out? So some of these monks want to be ridiculously poor, why not just let ‘em?” 

“I don’t have any control over these things,” Aziraphale says, making a pained expression. “Just my responsibilities, as it were. It’s simply, you know…” 

“Don’t you dare say it,” Crowley grumbles. 

“I wasn’t going to, my dear,” the angel assures him, though as always, Crowley doesn’t quite believe him. Aziraphale’s instinctual retreat to parroting the party line is one of his most reliable habits. And it’s reassuring, in a way, every time he falls back on ineffability or the inherent superiority of his side— it gives Crowley something to snipe at, sharpen his fangs on, stand in opposition to. It doesn’t do him well to forget who he is. Who they are. 

And, most importantly, it proves to Crowley that what he’s done is working. Aziraphale is no closer to being touched by Crowley’s locked-away love than he was when the door first swung closed.

Crowley is proud of himself, he really is. He’s the very model of a modern demon. He can look at Aziraphale without going weak at the knees; he can trade banter for days on end, share drinks and meals and even, on a particularly cold night in Bavaria a couple hundred years before, a tiny bed in a ramshackle inn. All without breaking a sweat, without losing his cool, without going back on the promise he made to himself deep in the Mayan jungle centuries ago.

The door holds fast because he imagines that it does, because he imagines that it is strong enough to keep it all in. The expert craftsmanship of Crowley’s inner sanctum is to be admired, he knows— it’s too bad there’s no one, angel or demon or human, with the power to witness it and recognize it for the masterwork it is. 

(He’ll try, a few centuries later, to get the concept across to da Vinci, without much success. Psychological architecture, however seemingly natural a concept to a demon with near-infinite control over his state of internal arrangement, is perhaps a bit too abstract for a human, even a genius like Leo.) 

Crowley watches, intent but perfectly untroubled, as Aziraphale partakes of the inn’s hearty fare. He admires how even the simplest of meals can bring the angel delight; but— and here’s the winning bit— admiration is all there is. It’s exactly what he wanted, this breezy absence. He hardly remembers anymore, what it felt like to be so possessed by stupidity as to reach for Aziraphale in the warm air of a Calakmul courtyard.

There is a rumor, going around the abbey, that two monks were caught together in the night. He’s heard about it from the girls in the inn, heard that one of the poor blokes plead demonic interference, possession, temptation, in order to escape the consequences. 

Well, ha. No demon involved—they don’t need him for things like that, never have—but the threat of the aftermath is only too real. Excommunication, death. The penalties of sin. Heretics, across this land are burned at the stake, for daring to declare that there might be a different way. 

“I’d better be off,” Aziraphale is saying, setting the empty wine bottle down on the table. “I ought to make an appearance at Vespers tonight, get to know the rest of the travelers who’ve arrived for the event.” 

He bids Crowley good night at the doorway of the inn. “Be safe, angel,” says Crowley. “Don’t go too overboard with the holiness. You’d be surprised how many of them up there want nothing to do with the real stuff at all.” 

Aziraphale rolls his eyes peevishly, but then he smiles kindly, waves a gentle goodbye, and that’s enough to give Crowley more to stow away behind his door.

Spending time with Aziraphale is enormously pleasurable, which is the whole blessed point. But still, Crowley sometimes wishes he could beg him out loud to stop, stop being so wonderful, so ridiculous, so perfectly imperfect, so easy to dream of. Images of Aziraphale stick to the folds of his brain like burrs in his socks after a beachside wander, insistent and seemingly purpose-built by the Almighty Herself to annoy the living daylights out of him, send him itching inconvenient all over, outside and in, for just a glimpse of linen-white hair, a flash of gold on a soft finger, the corners of a wide smile rounding pink cheeks. 

He can spend hours picking Aziraphale out of his mind, wrapping it all up and locking it away, only for more stubborn images to push their way through the ground, like so many snowdrops in winter, white and defiant. 

That night, he stretches out on the thin straw mattress of his room, comforted by knowing that just up the mountainside the angel murmurs prayers in a dark chapel, and will likely spend the scant hours until the next office reading by the light of his own halo. 

He is glad Aziraphale doesn’t sleep; he is glad the angel has never dreamed. Dreaming brings danger, in the form of visions of things that can never be, stirring desire, drawing temptation up out of the dark. No, better for Aziraphale to stay awake, alert, forever conscious and knowing full well the state of things, how and where they stand. 

Leave the dreaming to the demon and he will spend nights and weeks and years lost in the private halls of his own interior, checking the door for cracks, the lock for rust and wear. Making sure it’s all up to code; making sure they’re both safe from what’s held inside.

***

 

Crowley thinks he does a bang up job of it, this whole door business. Certainly, the fact that Aziraphale is always so surprised to see him when he shows up means he’s doing something right. Cause and effect have been summarily, safely severed.

But it’s not a hermetic seal, not really. Things kept behind locked doors are not vanished; they are not gone entirely. They still exert gravity from behind their barrier— don’t objects orbit around a black hole just like they orbit a sun? 

(Sure, there are universal laws regarding the harsher ending awaiting those doomed trajectories, but Crowley’s steel-trap optimism won’t allow contemplation of that. He’s smart. He’s good at this. It’ll all work out.)

There’s a close call, though, in 1941. He thinks he might have overdone it a bit with the books, because as he walks away, he can hear something ringing out from behind the door inside of him, leaking out through the cracks.

He hopes Aziraphale doesn’t notice. 

He hopes, desperately, that Aziraphale doesn’t hear the swell of the violins as well.  

“Don’t go unscrewing the cap,” says the angel twenty-six years later, handing over a tartan thermos, filled to the brim with something wholly unspeakable, and Crowley is grateful, of course he is. But there’s a plea in Aziraphale’s eyes he hasn’t seen in centuries, a green glint of half-buried desire, and when Aziraphale lets himself speak, tentatively, of someday, Crowley knows he’s in trouble. That there might be a time— closer, perhaps, than he would’ve let himself believe— when the angel might let him, might want them to be more than they are, than what they’ve been— it’s dangerous, for a demon to hope like that. 

No— it’ll never happen. The bloody world will end, before that ever happens.

 

***

 

Well, you saw this coming.

Once upon a time, the world fails to end. 

And a few weeks later, Crowley, gainfully unemployed and with plenty of time to sit and think about his life up to that point, is struck with an idea. 

Well, idea doesn’t really do it justice. It feels like getting hit on the head with an anvil, like in one of those old American cartoons. Like something huge and massive has fallen out of the sky and flattened him fully, pasted him to the ground in some comical pose. 

He’s sitting next to Aziraphale on a bench in St. James’ Park when it happens. The angel is happily scribbling away at the crossword while Crowley scrolls through headlines, not really reading any of them at all. Out of the corner of his eye, Crowley watches Aziraphale scratch with a perfect fingernail at the tip of his perfect nose, and feels a familiar itch deep inside. 

Then, midway through the instinctive, ongoing process of taking that thought, that soap-bubble of natural affection, and making it go away, he stops himself. 

Hold on. He doesn’t have to do that anymore… does he? 

I could open the door.

“Sorry?” says Aziraphale, looking up from the paper. 

Has he said that out loud? Shit. “Oh. Er— nothing. Just— maybe, ah— let’s— go grab some coffee?” His mouth is horrendously dry.

Aziraphale smiles indulgently. “Of course,” he says, folding up his paper and stowing it with only the barest hint of a miracle inside his coat. “We’ve been sitting for a bit, I should’ve noticed you getting restless.” 

They wander back through the city, into a cafe where the girl behind the counter greets them by name and knows their order off the top of her head, and as Crowley watches Aziraphale pay for their drinks, smiling so brightly at the girl she blushes, he’s still thinking about his big idea.

This is Crowley’s problem— he’s always been too damn curious for his own good. Once he gets an idea in his head, something stupid and dangerous like What if I teamed up with an angel to stop Armageddon? or How fast can I go in this massive car down Oxford Street? he simply cannot let it go until he sees it through to the other end. 

So now, as he probes at that secret place inside the long hallway of his heart, the dark door behind which he’s stowed over a thousand of years of pent-up longing, the question he knows he wouldn’t be able to rest until he answers is: What if I let myself feel it all? 

Because doling it out, bit by bit, feels utterly pointless. He wants to go fast, and he can. He must, even. The plaster had best be ripped off without so much as a by-your-leave, before he loses his nerve.

As they sit side by side in the cafe, the handspans of dead air between them suddenly seem to Crowley like something thick, solid, and horrible. Something pointless and hopelessly outdated, something so, so old . Not old like his beloved car, or his precious antiques— it’s old like a useless phonebook from decades ago, obsolete as a floppy disk.

There is no nostalgia factor in the distance separating them, no redeeming value. It can’t be admired for its historical significance or educational importance. It’s a fucking relic, is what it is, has been for weeks.

Crowley can reach out now, he knows. He can tear down what he’s built up. And he wants to, suddenly, so very badly. 

More than anything, he wants to.



***

 

He manages to put it off until they aren’t in a public place, at least, and thank Someone for that. 

That evening, they retire to the bookshop. Aziraphale hums to himself as he mixes himself a mug of cocoa, and Crowley takes up his usual position on the sofa.

He points himself towards Aziraphale, his bony knees and his jutting chin and his long fingers falling into alignment, forming the edges of a well-known sigil that he’s always stayed just short of completing.  

But now— oh, now— he reaches inside, and he opens the door. 

It’s not a physical motion. Crowley doesn’t move an inch, just continues to stare at the back of Aziraphale’s head as the angel finishes fussing with his mug.

But then Aziraphale—and Crowley hadn’t really known what to expect, but he had not been expecting this— Aziraphale nearly leaps into the air, his whole body thrown into a spasm at the sudden change in the air.

His mug of cocoa falls to the ground and shatters; just like it had done more than a millennium before, in a city long since lost to the vines and trees. 

“Oh, my —! What—” Aziraphale stammers, spinning around, hand fluttering to his heart as he stares, gaping, towards Crowley, his perfect mouth a perfect pink O. “Crowley, where is that— do you feel that?”

Crowley feels it. He feels every atom of it, surging up through him and out like a tsunami, fathoms deep. It’s so intense he can’t speak, he can’t move. His tongue is leaden, weighed down with want; his limbs are anchors, iron-heavy.

Aziraphale is beginning to look overwhelmed, like he’s about to cry, and Crowley has never been able to handle that, not ever, and he normally would toss off some kind of quip or quote to shore up the silence, cheer up his best friend, but he can’t find the words.

Finally, it’s his wretched curiosity that manages to loosen his mouth.

“Tell me,” he says. “Tell me what you feel. What do you— what do you see, how does it look—?”

Aziraphale breathes, “There’s so much of it— so much, Crowley, so much love, it’s everywhere— it’s— I can’t even find the edges of it, it just goes on and on—!” 

“Does it?” 

“It’s yours,” says Aziraphale, “oh, my goodness, Crowley— it’s all yours—” And he’s closing his eyes, the ones in his head, but Crowley can sense all of the angel’s other eyes opening wide, seeking out with ethereal grace and pure curiosity the shape of this strange flood, learning its color and its composition and all its hidden depths, coming to the surface at last. 

Eyes still closed, Aziraphale says, very quietly: “How— how long have you—?” 

“A long time, angel,” says Crowley, voice breaking. “Long, long time.” He can feel it coming off him in great waves; he wonders if Aziraphale is hearing the roar of the surf and the crash of the crests, the door splintering to pieces and all its parts getting carried away, far away.

Love, as it turns out, is like water, it is a heavy thing. If he’d ever learned the real weight of it, he doubts he could have held it all back for so long. It’s good, then, that he’s only finding out now.

Of course, like many of his genius ideas, it seems that this one has come around like a boomerang to kick him in the face. His vision’s going all blurry and his ears are ringing; the sound of a thousand bells, a million heartbeats all at once. He didn’t know it would feel like this— it’s a bit much (that’s the understatement of the millennium).  

If he doesn’t touch Aziraphale right this instant, he might die. 

But at the same time, just the thought of a light brush of the angel’s skin against his is enough to send him shaking into panic. 

Ah, too late. His body’s made his choice for him. He launches himself off the sofa, staggers forward as if drunk, crosses the room to Aziraphale on shaking legs and gathers the angel into his arms. It’s the only thing that matters, he’s thinking, it’s the only thing that’s ever mattered, how have I gone this long without remembering that? How could I have possibly held it all back?

In amongst the flood there’s a burst of pride, a tiny rush of Damn, I’m good, marveling at the long-lasting edifice he’d created— but it’s swept away as soon as Aziraphale’s hands come to bear on his back, and he can’t think of anything else but their shape on him. 

“My dear,” says Aziraphale in Crowley’s ear, and Crowley knows he calls everyone that, but the words have only ever been just outlines. Now that Crowley has all the color in the world at his disposal, pouring out from him in kaleidoscopic bursts, he can fill in Aziraphale’s endearment with the depth of his own feeling, know its affection, intensely meant, always meant. 

He gets his hands on the angel’s face, sees his own fingers shaking. The wave is still pouring out of him, threatening to overwhelm, but Aziraphale lays his own broad fingers over Crowley’s, and that grounds him, gives him the strength he needs to press in for a hungry, desperate kiss. 

For the first time since the seventh century he’s got Aziraphale’s mouth against his, and it could be a dream, for how good it feels. Every swipe of Aziraphale’s tongue against his is unreal, all-consuming. The taste of him was the first thing Crowley ever locked away; he never has to lose it again.

They kiss for ages and ages, standing there in each others’ arms, until Crowley starts to feel something wet on the side of his face and realizes, with a horrible jerk of shame, the first negative emotion he’s felt all night, that he’s started to cry. 

Aziraphale seems to sense the jolt, and he draws back just an inch, enough for Crowley to see that it’s not just him— there are tears brimming in Aziraphale’s eyes too. Oh. Well, that makes him feel better, just a bit. He leans forward and presses his forehead against Aziraphale’s, closes his eyes so he can listen to the sound of their breathing, matching each other in fevered pants of disbelief and happiness.

It’s all rather lovely.

And then Crowley suddenly feels something electric, a shock to his system that sends his whole body into motion, and his eyes spring open. He looks down to realize Aziraphale’s got a hand palming at his cock, straining hard against his jeans.

“Nngh— what the fuck—” 

“Crowley, could it be possible you’ve failed to notice that you’ve got a raging erection?” 

He feels that surge of shame again, multiplied a hundredfold. This was supposed to be about love, grand gestures, the grandest of them all, a cinematic embrace worthy of a Best Picture winner’s denouement— and here he is, mucking it up with a stiff prick.

If sex were to happen— which, well, the possibility had certainly crossed his mind, if only in the kind of abstract, removed way that the closed door had allowed for— he’d want it to come after some kind of speech, right, a bit of declamation to set it all up. Crowley values presentation; and right now it seems like things are about to tip outside the lines.

But Aziraphale has an eager look in his eyes, now gray and glinting, where tears have been replaced with a steely resolve. Shit— it could be now or never.

Crowley gulps, and stammers out a report of syllabic misfires, but before he can actually produce any actual words, he’s suddenly horizontal on the floor of the bookshop. 

With Aziraphale on top of him.

(After over two hundred years of existing quietly as hardwood planks, the floor is rather surprised to have unexpectedly developed, in one particular corner, the thick plushness of an expensive mattress and the soft texture of Egyptian cotton sheets. But it’ll get over it. Probably.)

“Listen,” says Crowley quickly, as Aziraphale noses into the tender junction of his neck and jaw, pressing delicate kisses to his skin, “listen, you ought to know, I really didn’t plan this far ahead— if you don’t want to, right now, we don’t have to— I mean I really just— I only wanted you to understand how I—” 

Aziraphale shuts Crowley up by getting a hand up under his t-shirt, and then skating his fingers across one of Crowley’s nipples, soft at first and then rougher, sending sparks up into his throat and downwards, too. 

The stimulation crowds out all logical thought. “Right. Well. Yes,” mumbles Crowley. “Er, noted.” 

“I think, at this juncture, it would be prudent if we set about removing our clothes,” says Aziraphale.

“Clothes,” Crowley says, his hands tangling in Aziraphale’s curls. It’s like sifting through sunlight.

“And once we’ve achieved our pleasure, we can have a more extensive conversation regarding the, well— situation.”

“Pleasure… situation…” Crowley manages, as Aziraphale begins to loosen his bowtie.

And, look— say what you like about the angel, but he’s not one to stray from a plan of action once decided on. Crowley, all his usual lines of thought more or less blocked, is more than happy to let Aziraphale set the agenda. 

Beginning with the clothes— Crowley’s, pseudo-corporeal as they are, are gone in an instant, leaving him free to assist Aziraphale with his own.

Crowley studiously attacks the buttons down Aziraphale’s shirt-front, revealing inches of pale skin he hasn’t had the chance to see in centuries. 

(And if he had, no doubt, he would’ve taken whatever thoughts stirred in him at the sight and hidden them promptly away. 

Not anymore, though.)

“It feels so marvelous, Crowley, you have no idea—” 

“What— undoing your shirt?” Crowley says stupidly. 

“No, you idiot,” says Aziraphale, “the love, I can feel it coming off you now, wave after wave, it’s tremendous, my dear, simply overwhelming—”  

“Right. That. Forgot.” (He’s kidding, of course. Can’t forget a thing like that, when it’s taking up every inch of your body, a long-delayed occupation of every cell, every nerve.)

The shirt comes off, and Crowley tries next for the fly of Aziraphale’s expertly tailored trousers, but he’s interrupted— Aziraphale knocks him back, teeth catching on his bottom lip in a fierce kiss. They move together like that, Crowley losing himself again in the hot slide of their mouths, the feeling of Aziraphale’s expansive thigh pressing solidly between his own skinny legs, and then— oh, fuck— there’s a hand on his cock, a soft palm curling around it, a thumb gently moving over the tip of him.

His back arches as he ruts up into the angel’s touch, his mouth dragging against Aziraphale’s soft cheek as the sheer goodness of it rocks him from top to bottom. It’s unbearable; it’s everything. He could live in it, would live in it— but, also, it’s not quite his top priority. 

“No, c’mon,” whines Crowley, cursing his angel’s eagerness to please (and oh, his angel? that’s new). He wants it, yes, sure, alright, his body wants it, desperately so, but there are things beyond his body, old wants held in trust behind the door that are now crowding out every other desire. He gets a hand to Aziraphale’s chest, pushes him ever so gently back. “Get to me later— hold on, I want to—” 

“Are you sure—?” 

“Don’t ask me that. Fuck, ‘course I’m sure. Let me taste you, please.” 

Aziraphale lets him go, and oh, that too-close cliffhanger of an angry, lingering throb is something he really doesn’t mind at all, wouldn’t you know it. 

It seems like hours but it must really be only seconds later that Aziraphale’s trousers have finally fallen away. Crowley takes just a moment to admire the work of art that is Aziraphale’s cock, wide and upright and gorgeous as the rest of him, before leaning down hungrily and taking him into his mouth. 

Aziraphale’s hands tug at Crowley’s hair, and Crowley moans around the marvelous weight of the angel on his tongue, working on some unholy instinct as he takes him further, deeper.  

Fuck,” breathes Aziraphale, and Crowley nearly chokes, hearing the curse his own mouth has managed to wring out of the angel’s. It’s an accomplishment, to be sure, one that makes Crowley’s whole body thrill in perverse delight, but he’s still got work to do. 

When Aziraphale comes he cries out, one hand slipping down to Crowley’s shoulder to dig, with a shocking thrill, into the skin there. Crowley drinks Aziraphale down, savoring the sweet-salt for not nearly long enough before Aziraphale’s hauling his head up back to his, kissing him again and again.

Aziraphale’s agenda does not seem to include such petty line items as “waiting,” because seconds later, he’s hard again against Crowley’s thigh as they kiss, as the double-taste of Aziraphale mixes like a cocktail on Crowley’s tongue. 

Crowley ventures to swipe his fingers down against Aziraphale’s cock, feeling the velvet warmth, all that very human heat so very close to the surface. Aziraphale shudders into him at the touch, and then breaks his mouth from Crowley’s, head back to look him intently in the eye. Aziraphale’s eyes have gone a gentle blue, calm yet more desirous than ever. Those eyes drink in the outpouring of Crowley’s love, endlessly capacious. A reservoir that will never be full, meeting a river that will never stop flowing. 

Crowley clears his throat. “You wanna, um?” 

“Yes, Crowley, I want to um.” 

“You know what I mean.”

Aziraphale, infuriatingly, quirks an eyebrow. 

“Have I got to spell it out?” groans Crowley. 

“Well, I do love to read.” 

Crowley leans in, pressing the side of his face to Aziraphale’s, his mouth brushing the angel’s ear as his eyes squeeze shut, as if that can stop the flush he knows is crawling up his cheeks as he whispers: “Can you just— take me, have me, Aziraphale, oh—” and Aziraphale runs a too-light, teasing touch up his begging, leaking cock and he hisses, “ fuck me, please, angel, or I’ll discorporate.” 

“You’ll do no such thing,” says Aziraphale. “Not on my watch.” 

A slight rearrangement, urgent yet leisurely. Crowley watches Aziraphale miracle slickness onto his fingers and he knows his own eyes must be yellow to the edges, pupils blown-out black, and yet he can’t find the shame for it that’s usually so conveniently at hand. (Must have been swept away with the remains of the door.)

“Nnh— you— you’ve done this before,” Crowley gasps, his legs tensing with pleasure as Aziraphale works him open, his motions practiced and expert.

Aziraphale’s head tilts up at him, a small frown appearing as his fingers slow. “Oh,” he says, and it looks like he’s about to start apologizing, an unconscionable thought.

Crowley quickly deflects: “No, no, s’fine, really, I’m— well, look, at least one of us is competent— it’s, ah. Better than our usual track record, honestly.” 

At that, Aziraphale grins, a blinding, gorgeous thing like the sun off a mirror, and Crowley lets the light pass into him and through him, unbounded by any barrier, inside or out.

Another finger admits itself, pressing deeper, wrenching a cry from Crowley’s lips. He knows he could help Aziraphale out, imagine himself wide and ready, but the feeling of excess at his hole, the brilliant too-muchness shading into dire not-enoughness, is achingly wonderful, more than he would’ve known to desire.

“Please,” Crowley says, and he barely knows what he’s asking for at this point, Aziraphale is closer than he’s ever been, three fingers now deep inside him but Crowley wants more, he’s always wanted more, even when he made himself forget. He wants Aziraphale to live inside him and he wants to live inside Aziraphale and he wants them to be the same , indivisible, in the way they’ve always been, really, but now there are ways to show it, prove it, make it a material thing. 

Well, that’s all rather nonsensical and he knows it, but luckily it seems Aziraphale has chosen to forgo his frequent strategy of willful obliviousness in exchange for his lesser-used but still-adept skill of effortless translation (all those codices, manuscripts, worked on for months in this very room, one language to the next, though he never could get the hang of French). 

Aziraphale’s touch withdraws, and Crowley is horribly empty for just a moment— but only a moment, because then his breath is catching as Aziraphale presses into him, thick and lovely and pausing for just a moment, cautious, as he bottoms out. 

“Does that feel—”

“Feels fucking incredible, obviously,” Crowley croaks.

Really, “incredible” is hardly scratching the surface. If asked, Crowley wouldn’t even know how to describe what it feels like, the sensation of Aziraphale starting to move, slow at first, and then— yes, yes—  faster. He’d probably need to spend hours in the bookshop, squinting down at dusty old first editions for appropriately florid adjectives and still, in the end, coming up utterly empty-handed. 

Aziraphale’s in him and on him and around him and the endless flow of his own pent-up longing has wrapped them both up in something warm and inevitable and secure. He was kissing an angel, sucking an angel, and now he’s getting—Heaven and Hell preserve him— fucked by an angel, thrust into with such affection and expertise and, oh yes, ridiculous angelic strength.

There are tears again, Crowley can feel their ungainly trails down his face, but as soon as he takes notice, an involuntary wince, Aziraphale’s hand comes up to caress them away. Crowley leans into the touch, writhing just a bit underneath Aziraphale (snake, remember?) and as he squirms there’s the marvelous friction of the angel’s stomach brushing against his cock. He cries out, going for angel but ending up with more of just a drawn-out vowel. 

Without losing his rhythm, Aziraphale reaches in between them, gets a hand around Crowley and starts doing something tremendous with his fingers, making Crowley hiss and roll and clench, which in turn sends Aziraphale shaking, and then all at once, he’s spending inside of Crowley, hot and wet and wonderful. 

Crowley, oh—!” 

And hearing his own name, dropping from Aziraphale’s lips at his moment of ecstasy— well, that does it for him, it really does, and Crowley comes too, all over the angel’s hands, every inch of him lost in bliss.

It all goes white and blue and gold for just a bit, the whole world angel-colored, and when Crowley blinks back to reality, Aziraphale is curled around him, a warm arm draped over Crowley’s scrawny chest like it had been formed, way back in the Beginning, to fit right there forever. 

A ridiculous thought. Unbefitting of a demon. Still a bit out of it, Crowley’s halfway to tossing the thought behind the door when he remembers that there is no door anymore. 

Oh. Right. Yeah.

“Mmm,” says Crowley, “hi.” 

“Hello, you.”

It seems the agenda is still in play, the one with “conversation” coming last on the list. Aziraphale rolls off Crowley and props himself up on one elbow, unbearably cute. Crowley, still more or less boneless, must make do with simply flopping his head to the side. His mind, too, is still a bit mushy— but if Aziraphale wants to talk, well then, they’ll talk. 

Aziraphale asks, “Why now?” 

Crowley blinks. “Um. Well, no time like the present, right? If not now, when? S’what whatshisface always said, the old rabbi—” 

“But if I’d known, ” insists Aziraphale, “I might have said something, done something, far sooner, oh, Crowley, dearest—”

“You wouldn’t have,” Crowley says, helplessly. “You couldn’t have. That was the whole point. ” 

“I just don’t understand—” Aziraphale tries, confusion and passion warring in his voice. Apparently his capacity to work up a strop is undaunted by, er, intimacy. “ Why would you keep it all locked away like that? Keep it all to yourself?”

“Why do you think,” says Crowley, rather more flatly than he means to, so he clears his throat and tries again, mumbling,  “It terrified me,” he says, “and it would’ve terrified you too, if you’d been able to feel the half of it. I needed you to feel safe, is all. I need you to be safe, I needed you around me. I didn’t want you to run.”

“Darling, I would never have—”

“Don’t,” warns Crowley, “you don’t have to pretend.”

“I— but it must have hurt you so badly, Crowley, I can only imagine—” 

“It didn’t. I swear on my life, angel, it didn’t. It was easy, because I was doing it for your sake. It was the only thing I could do.” He has it in him, finally, to sit up just a bit, and he does so now, trying to make his case. Seems a bit redundant to him, after they’ve already gotten all up in each other’s bits, but he supposes Aziraphale’s always needed a bit of verbal massage to sway him, on top of any acts or demonstrations, and now is no different. “Without that— door, without that protection, I would’ve fucked it all up a long time ago. I would’ve lost you.”

Aziraphale’s mouth is a thin line, and Crowley wants desperately to kiss it back into redness, into fullness and bloom. But he waits while Aziraphale thinks, processes. 

The angel's eyes dart to one side, then the other, and then back to Crowley. (They do not look up, though. They haven’t looked up for a while now, might never again.)

“I see,” says Aziraphale, and Crowley knows they’ll talk more later, that they’ll spend uncomfortable but necessary hours parsing out all of the choices they made for each other over the years, seeing some moments in harsh new light, seeing others in the gentle glow of retrospective romance. It’ll be a project, for sure— but Crowley, as you know, isn’t afraid of a bit of hard work.

For now, Aziraphale appears to accept Crowley’s mumbled, maudlin explanation. A good thing, too, because it really is the best Crowley can do right now, under the circumstances.

“You… you won’t put it back again, will you? That— ah. The door.” It seems, impossibly, to be a genuine fear. 

“You tell me,” says Crowley, and reaches out, pulls Aziraphale back over to him. He comes to Crowley's side again willingly, lets his head be guided to rest atop Crowley’s heart. 

Crowley breathes, and lets it all flow out through him. No door, no boundary, no barrier.

“Ah,” says Aziraphale, an impossibly relieved grin lighting up his face, “of course not.”

“Of course not,” Crowley repeats, and holds Aziraphale close, and lets himself love. 

 

 

***