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A Shifting Spectrum of Grey

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The funny thing about unspoken arrangements was that the rules always seemed to shift over time. When Crowley and Aziraphale had started, it was strictly professional, and incredibly rare. Their planned stalemates were only for the worst assignments – the long, drawn-out messes guaranteed to make both of them miserable. And they didn’t cover for each other, ever. That was a line too far and they knew, by unspoken agreement, that such a thing would always be out of the question.

And then, one day, it wasn’t – although Aziraphale could never quite pinpoint when that day was. First they couldn’t cover for each other, and then they could. But only for small jobs – simple temptations and minor moments of divine inspiration. Nothing serious. And they sometimes went out for dinner after a job, but they never visited socially. 

A few decades later, middling temptations and minor miracles were on the table. A dozen souls here and there, a few local community leaders. They could talk politics, and books, and music. House calls were fine, but only on occasion. There was no corrupting priests, no saving murderers, and certainly no heart-to-hearts.

By the time they were dividing up cities between them, and staying long into the night, well… The thing was, there wasn’t even a moment you could point to when it had happened. There was just a shifting spectrum of grey, never quite addressed, leading from ‘there’ to ‘here’ without any break, or pause, or turn, or transformation. They never needed to reassess things, because everything worked, and they never needed to clarify, because every step had just flowed seamlessly from the one before it.

And so Aziraphale was blindsided when, one summer night in 1815, it all very suddenly changed.

It was after one of those long, wonderful evenings that they were allowed now, by their unspoken arrangement: dinner at one of Aziraphale’s favorite restaurants (“Honestly? I’d come here just for this Bordeaux”), and then an opera (“The Queen of the Night was excellent – I’d buy back my soul for that voice!”), and then a long walk back through the park (“Marvelous weather tonight, you sure you didn’t miracle it?”). It had been a perfect evening, Aziraphale thought. Just perfect. He’d almost hated to say goodbye–

And then Crowley had kissed him and said that he loved him – and Aziraphale had barely had time to pull away and slam the door behind him, before the solid ground that they’d built over the last millennium gave out beneath his feet.

The worst part, Aziraphale thought, was that it didn’t make any sense.

It hadn’t followed from anything – and that was how things worked between them. That was how it had always worked, from the very beginning. Why change it? Why change it now?

Aziraphale was pacing. He’d been pacing for about a solid week, in fact; he’d started as soon as Crowley had left.

Well, almost as soon as Crowley had left. First, he’d spent a couple of hours sitting with his back against the door in a near panic, and then he’d tried to calm his nerves with some tea. Then he’d started pacing.

One foot in front of the other – back and forth, and never really going anywhere. The two of them had always had something rather like that, too, Aziraphale thought. It was safe and it was undefined. They never had to worry about anything, because they hadn’t been going anywhere. They’d just been killing time, and enjoying themselves – and why would Crowley have to ruin it all like that? What was his motive? Six thousand years of friendship down the tubes in an instant

…But no, that isn’t quite right, is it, he realized. They’d barely been friends for a thousand years, and if he was being honest, they’d only been close friends for maybe a couple hundred. And there had to have been other lines crossed before, hadn’t there? He remembered the early days, the terse words and empty threats. Uncompromised virtue and unrepentant vice, and nothing between them at all. He’d have been as horrified then to see himself in recent years as he was now at this new development – except he never had been before, somehow.

Raise the temperature slowly; boil the frog.

And the thing about unspoken arrangements was… they weren’t really arrangements at all.

Aziraphale laughed, even though there was nothing funny at all about any of it, and slumped into an armchair in his study.

So, very well then. He’d been played, obviously. But the question still remained: Why? What could Crowley have possibly gotten out of this?

There was the kiss, of course. Crowley had said a bizarre and unlikely thing, Aziraphale had been distracted, and Crowley had gotten a kiss out of it.

But no – that was both too obvious and too simple-minded. Crowley could kiss anyone, and Aziraphale knew better than to think he had any skills or features which set him apart in that area. And anyway, why say that he loved him? That was the real crux of it – the kiss had been unexpected, but they’d kissed before, when social custom had required it. If all Crowley wanted to do was distract him, he could have said any damn thing. Why love?

Crowley didn’t actually love him, of course. A demon loving an angel – the very thought was absurd. So why lie about it? Why pick the one thing that would turn everything on its head, and make Aziraphale suddenly question every single bloody interaction they’d ever had?

A millennium ago, he would have assumed that that was the whole point – that Crowley was doing this purely because of the meltdown he knew it would give Aziraphale. But to his credit, Aziraphale dispensed with that notion almost immediately. Crowley could be obnoxious and irreverent and petty, but one thing which he was definitely not was cruel. He wouldn’t toy with Aziraphale like that – not for this.

…And so what would he toy with you for? came the obvious next thought. You’re already friends. You already have the Arrangement. What else do you have that a demon could possibly want?

It hit him rather suddenly, and with complete clarity. Love was out of the question, that much was certain. But lust…

Ah. So this had been a seduction after all, then – just not one of the cosmic, moral sort that he’d originally suspected.

Aziraphale groaned, and planted his face firmly in his hands. Oh, he was so stupid. He thought back through the centuries, and yes – Crowley had always been looking at him, hadn’t he. Always eyeing him. Sizing him up, he’d thought, back when they were enemies, but maybe… well, clearly not.

And he’d thought that they were friends…

No, that thought was nonsense, and Aziraphale shoved it away almost forcefully. He and Crowley were friends, and maybe that hadn’t been Crowley’s original motive, but that didn’t change the objective reality of what they’d built over the years. You couldn’t just fake that, not for this long. And this recent development didn’t need to change anything. He’d just have to tell Crowley how he felt, firmly put an end to his apparent advances, and that would be that. They’d carry on as they had before, probably. Hopefully.

He tried the words on in his mind, and they felt awkward and wrong.

So, Crowley, I’ve recently realized that you’ve been trying to seduce me, and I’d just like to make it clear that I have absolutely no interest in– in–

Aziraphale could picture it clearly – uncomfortably clearly: Crowley pressing him into a wall somewhere, savaging his mouth and neck with biting kisses. Crowley bending him over a table, panting into his ear. Fingers twisting into hair; skin slapping against skin; stifled moans. It would be brutal, no doubt, and passionate, and–


Aziraphale swallowed, hard.

He’d always assumed that he had no interest in sex. Angels didn’t, generally speaking. And– well, he’d certainly never indulged before, had never even really fantasized about such things… But now that he knew that Crowley wanted him that way…

A whole host of possibilities suddenly unfolded before him.

Could he– Well, obviously he could, but should he really– Wouldn’t it be improper to–

But sex wouldn’t be the first human pleasure he’d indulged in, and he couldn’t really see what harm could come from it. And Crowley… Well, Crowley was a demon, yes, but in a way, that made it even less of a problem, since the only angelic body he’d be defiling would be his own. And he… he trusted Crowley, too. Crowley wouldn’t take advantage of him, wouldn’t force him into more than he was comfortable with, surely.

And…. he wouldn’t have to worry about their friendship collapsing if he went ahead and met Crowley halfway, either. No need for an awkward rejection if he just…


Aziraphale got up and made himself some cocoa. Clearly, he had a lot to think about before he saw the demon again.

Crowley, for his part, had spent the past few weeks feeling like an idiot. He hadn’t thought that a kiss would be pushing it – not when they’d been heading in that direction since Shakespeare or before – but he honestly should have known better. This was Aziraphale, for G– for someone’s sake. The angel got skittish about hand-holding; of course a kiss had been too much.

But all but disappearing forthislong was bad sign, even for Aziraphale. Crowley had spent the time cycling through a horrible mix of denial, self-doubt, and mostly inwardly-directed frustration. By the time his tenth calling card had gone unreturned, he was completely convinced that he’d made a horrible misstep, and was hellbent on figuring out exactly what it was and fixing it as soon as possible.

Three weeks was more than just skittishness. Aziraphale wouldn’t have spent three full weeks holed up in his bookstore and dodging his calls just because Crowley had been a bit too forwards after an especially nice date. For Aziraphale to be avoiding him to this extent didn’t just mean that the kiss had been unexpected – clearly, it meant that the kiss had been unwanted. Completely unwanted, at that.

Well… if Aziraphale didn’t want to kiss him, then that was fine. Crowley didn’t need to kiss Aziraphale, and he’d certainly avoid doing so again if it made the angel this uncomfortable. It was Aziraphale’s company that he really wanted – Aziraphale’s smile as they left the opera together, his laughter when they joked, that look of utter bliss as he indulged in a bite of whatever it was they’d ordered for dessert. He wanted to make the angel happy, not just go through the motions of some human romance because they were expected.

So, no kissing then. And maybe no hand-holding either, just to be on the safe side? Done, and done.

But how did he communicate that to Aziraphale without making the whole situation even more awkward?

He practiced the possible words under his breath on the way over to Aziraphale’s bookshop: “Heeeeey, Aziraphale, sorry about before, won’t happen again, take you to dinner? No, too flippant, dress it up a little… um… I just wanted to humbly apologize for– humbly? What the everloving… Aziraphale. I’m sorry I kissed you, and it won’t happen again unless you want it to, but no expectations there, I just really like being around you and oh my god I sound like a desperate ass.”

No magical phrasing presented itself to Crowley before he arrived, which was as expected as it was frustrating. It was always like this – no matter how much time he thought about what he was going to say, or obsessed about the myriad ways a conversation might go, it always just came down to him winging it in the end.

Well, nothing for it but to push forwards.

He knocked on the door.

Crowley didn’t expect an answer, since he hadn’t gotten one in nearly a month – the knock was meant more as a warning than anything else. He set to miracling the lock without really even waiting, and was quite startled when the door swung open of its own accord.

“Crowley,” said Aziraphale, and he was smiling. “Oh, perfect timing – I was just about to call on you.”

The last of Crowley’s desperate attempts at phrasings evaporated from his mind. “R-really?” he said, and then coughed, and quickly schooled his features into something less surprised and hopefully less revealing. “I– well, um. Perfect timing, then.” 

Fuck, wait, he literally just said ‘perfect timing’, Crowley screamed within his own mind, as soon as the words left his mouth.

But Aziraphale only smiled and said “Certainly so, dear,” and then added, with a gesture, “Do come in?”

Crowley nodded, and awkwardly made his way inside. The bookstore was the same as it had always been, although Aziraphale had clearly made some recent additions – three new volumes were prominently displayed on one of the central shelves.

When Aziraphale saw Crowley glancing at them, he spoke excitedly, “Oh, I haven’t had a chance to tell you about those, have I?”

Crowley shook his head. “…I don’t think so?”

“Oh, well – I was finally able to pick up copies of the Judas Bible and the Place-makers Bible! And the Wife-Beater’s Bible, of course, but strictly speaking, that one was a buy-back. You remember that dreadful customer I had a decade or two ago? Twisted my arm until I was forced to sell, just to keep up appearances?”

Crowley nodded. 

“Well,” continued Aziraphale, “it turns out that his idiot son recently inherited his entire collection. I was able to buy back my book as well as the two others. All I need now is the Standing Fishes Bible, and I’ll have a complete set!”

“It, uh… It sounds like you’ve been busy, lately,” said Crowley, lamely, and then instantly regretted it as Aziraphale’s face fell.

“Ah… I, um,” he stuttered. “I suppose that… well.”

There was an awkward silence.

“I just wanted to say that I’m–” Crowley finally blurted, at the same time as Aziraphale said, “Would you like to go to the Wiltons–?”

They both paused.

“Oh, I’m terribly sorry,” said Aziraphale. “What did you want to say?”

“Oh,” said Crowley, floundering. “Um, no– it’s nothing. What did…?”

“I just thought… maybe we could go for dinner? Oysters are only in season for a little while longer, and…”

“I’d love to,” Crowley said, perhaps too quickly.

“Excellent!” said Aziraphale, and the smile was back, radiant as anything. And, well… if that was how Aziraphale wanted to play things, then Crowley certainly wasn’t going to object.

It was an easy walk over to Wiltons, and, surprising Crowley tremendously, it was an even easier dinner. He ordered wine and very little else for himself, as usual, and as usual Aziraphale compensated by ordering most of the available menu. But, far from the carefully neutral meeting which Crowley had expected – given the kiss, given the silence, and given everything else – Aziraphale was as warm and friendly as ever. More so, in fact – it typically took the better part of an evening and a good deal more alcohol for the angel to be this free with his affections.

Aziraphale had thoughts about a recent production at the Theatre Royal, and was eager to compare notes if Crowley had seen it. He had a hilarious update on his most recent blessing. He wanted to know how Crowley’s latest scheme had panned out – said outright that he hoped it had gone off the way Crowley thought it would, even.

It wasn’t merely that Aziraphale was pretending that the last few weeks hadn’t happened, as Crowley had assumed back in the bookshop. It was like Aziraphale was actively trying to compensate for them.

And that was… hmm.

On the one hand, Crowley was a firm believer in letting sleeping dogs lie – whenever Aziraphale had chosen to repress something in the past, Crowley found it had worked best to simply let him. But on the other hand, this screw-up was his, not Aziraphale’s, and the thought that Aziraphale might think otherwise made something in Crowley’s gut twitch uncomfortably.

By the time Aziraphale had polished off the last of his dessert, Crowley had made up his mind – he’d apologize, he’d explain, and then, hopefully, they’d go back to pretending that nothing had happened. But only after he had clarified things a little bit with Aziraphale, and convinced him that whatever this was, it was thoroughly unnecessary. It was a sound plan all around, the only flaw in it being that Crowley had no idea how exactly he was supposed to clarify things – but he was honestly no worse off in that respect than he had been when he’d knocked on Aziraphale’s door earlier that day.

Drinks back at the bookshop failed to afford the necessary inspiration for the task, but they did inspire the courage, and after a good deal more alcohol than was really wise for a serious conversation, Crowley seized the moment.

“Aziraphale,” he said, and in his rush to affect confidence, it came out somewhat harsher than he’d intended, “I think maybe we should talk. About– about what happened after the opera.”

“Ah,” said Aziraphale. He paused for a moment, then drained his glass. “Yes. To, um– To tell the truth, I’d been hoping to talk about that too.”

Then, before Crowley had a chance to say much of anything, Aziraphale set his glass down rather firmly on the table, and made a quite deliberate move into the demon’s personal space.

“R-right,” said Crowley, and he tried not to sound as thrown as he felt. “Well, look – I just wanted to make it absolutely clear that…” Aziraphale was very near to him now, practically pressed up against him. Crowley felt himself trailing off, floundering. “Um, angel…?”

“I figured it out,” said Aziraphale, and maybe Crowley was just imagining it, but it seemed almost like there was a tremor in his voice, a hint of uncertainty, although his posture betrayed nothing of the kind. “All the, um. The outings. The social calls? I’ll admit that I’ve been quite slow on picking up on it, but I see what you were doing now, Crowley.”

“You– uh…?” asked Crowley, suddenly not at all sure of what was going on.

“And… and I’ve made up my mind,” said Aziraphale. And then before Crowley had a chance to ask what Aziraphale had made up his mind about, the angel was kissing him.

It wasn’t like their first kiss had been, not even remotely. That kiss had been short and sweet – barely a peck – just a tender moment stolen before they parted. This kiss, though… Aziraphale kissed him with purpose, rough and open-mouthed, with an almost frantic edge to it. Crowley could only ride along, letting himself be swept up in it like a wave.

But– no. This didn’t make any sense – not when Aziraphale had…?

When Aziraphale pulled away slightly for breath, Crowley pulled all the way away. “Um, Aziraphale? What–?”

Aziraphale made a vague and annoyed sound in the back of his throat. “Oh, really, Crowley, there’s no need for that. I said I made up my mind, and I mean it. ”


“Well,” said Aziraphale. “The– um. The kissing, of course. And what comes after it. It seems entirely reasonable that we should, so there’s no need to be coy about it.”

“The…” Crowley started, feeling very stupid and incredibly lost. “The kissing?”

“And what comes after it,” Aziraphale hastily added, like he was worried that Crowley hadn’t heard the first time. “I’d be perfectly amenable.”

“Okay… uh,” said Crowley, carefully extracting himself and scooting just a bit away from Aziraphale – just to give him some space, surely they should be having this conversation with a little more space between them, maybe? “Not that I’m not– I mean, um. Well, when I kissed you before… and the thing is, I actually planned to say that I didn’t– Or, well, I did, but if you didn’t… that is…”

He was babbling, which was bad, and Aziraphale was looking at him funny, which was worse. Crowley swallowed, hard, and then mumbled out, “It’s just a bit of sudden a change, is all. Given how we left things.”

“Ah,” said Aziraphale, and then he looked away, and Crowley saw a very distinct blush coloring his cheeks, which was somehow even more unexpected than the kiss had been. “Yes, you did take me somewhat off-guard, I’ll admit. But I did some thinking and, well. Humans certainly seem to enjoy it.”

“Kissing?” asked Crowley, and his voice came out a little bit too high.

“Sex,” said Aziraphale simply, and his tone was steady, although he was still looking at some fascinating piece of the floor. “It’s… well. I haven’t before, of course, so you’ll forgive me for my inexperience. But I don’t see anything inherently sinful in… finding pleasure, with another person. And I do enjoy your company tremendously. So, yes – that is to say, I’ve thought about it, and I’d be more than willing to try that. With you.”

“You want… to have sex?” asked Crowley, and the words felt sort of ridiculous and unreal. “With me?”

Aziraphale nodded. “You’ve, um. You’ve done it before, haven’t you? With humans, I mean?”

Crowley had, of course, once, just to get a taste of it. Well, twice, actually, but that was only because humans insisted on having multiple types of anatomy – and the fact that he’d only ever bothered to sample the commonest two pretty accurately described how much he’d liked it.

It was… okay, he supposed? He hadn’t hated it, certainly. Could even sort of see why humans chased after it the way they did, if he extrapolated. But it wasn’t… Well, it just wasn’t his sort of thing, and he was fine with that.

It had honestly never occurred to Crowley that Aziraphale might have been nursing some sort of interest of his own. He knew that angels could, of course. Some even did – the nephilim, in particular, had a bit of a reputation for it. But Aziraphale had always been so fussy, so wary of even platonic physical contact. The whole ‘ways of the flesh’ thing sounded pretty far from his speed, for multiple reasons.

Except… now that Crowley thought about it, it did actually make some level of sense. Aziraphale had always delighted in humans, and he’d indulged in most other human passions over the years. He was cautious, yes, and at times extremely inhibited… but also something of a sensualist. Crowley thought back to the way that Aziraphale had lapped up oysters for dinner that evening, and the sounds he’d made as he polished off his dessert – it seemed bizarrely obvious in hindsight.

“Crowley?” Aziraphale prompted, and Crowley realized that he’d let the pause stretch on too long.

He swallowed hard, and then abruptly and forcibly came to a decision – which was, screw it, if Aziraphale was into that, then he could certainly be, too.

“Yeah, I have,” said Crowley, meeting Aziraphale’s gaze. “And, uh. If you’re sure that you…?”

“I am.”

“Then… I’d be happy to share that with you.”

“Oh, excellent,” said Aziraphale, and a layer of tension that Crowley hadn’t even noticed seemed to lift from his shoulders. “I have a flat upstairs, you know, and it has a bed and everything. So if you’d like, we could…?”

“Go upstairs and put the Pope in Rome?”

Aziraphale scoffed. “Put the Devil in Hell is the better euphemism, I should think.”

“You can’t have me both in hell and in your bed, angel,” said Crowley, and then before he had time to start having second thoughts he added, “Lead on?”

They were kissing again almost as soon as the bedroom door shut behind them, and it was so easy that Crowley relaxed almost to the point of forgetting what they’d come up here to do. Kissing Aziraphale was… well, divine would be too much of a cliché, he supposed, but what else could he call it? He pulled the angel close to him – marveled at how perfectly they fit together… and then Aziraphale’s fingers twisted up in his hair as he did something exceptionally clever with his tongue, and oh dear Satan, Crowley was lost, so incredibly lost for him.

When he hit the edge of the bed, Crowley startled and tripped, almost bringing Aziraphale with him as he tumbled backwards onto the bedding.

“Oh dear, are you…?” asked Aziraphale.

“M’fine, angel,” said Crowley, and then he couldn’t say anything more because Aziraphale was kissing him again, and...

Oh – this was different. This was very different.

Lying on his back like this, the solid weight of Aziraphale pressing him into the sheets, Crowley was suddenly intensely aware of where this was all leading. Aziraphale was still lavishing his mouth with kisses, but his hands were roaming now, and there was – Satan, Crowley could feel the outline of a cock through Aziraphale’s trousers, pressing hard into his thigh as the angel moved against him.

“Crowley…” Aziraphale whispered into his ear. “I think… I think perhaps we are wearing entirely too much clothing.”

Oh. Right. Clothing.

Crowley snapped, and their clothes vanished in an instant. Aziraphale burst out laughing.

“Well, I suppose that’s one way to do it,” Aziraphale said. “My, you’re eager.” They kissed again, long and passionate, and then Aziraphale reached between their bodies to… to…

Crowley abruptly manifested the first genitals that sprang to mind, and didn’t even fully realize what he’d selected until Aziraphale pulled back slightly.

“O-Oh,” said Aziraphale. “I didn’t expect…”

“I can switch it if you don’t like it,” Crowley said quickly.

“No, no–” said Aziraphale. “I, um. Whatever you feel comfortable with is fine. Should I…?”

“Whatever you like,” said Crowley, and meant it, despite the nerves. He was quickly realizing that he didn’t have the first clue what he was doing with any of this, but he’d always fancied himself a quick study. And there were some things he must have picked up from those few times before, surely? Some technique, or even just the basic mechanics of it – a memory of what came next, of what to do with these parts.

Aziraphale’s hands were tracing his inner thighs with a curiosity that Crowley was used to seeing applied to a dessert or to a painting, but never to him. His fingers dipped close, ghosting over Crowley’s newly formed labia, and Crowley gasped, suddenly unable to recall anything at all from before – anything he’d done, anything that had ever been done to him.

“Do you… do you like that?” asked Aziraphale on a breath.

Crowley nodded immediately, although in truth he wasn’t exactly sure. It was so much, almost too much – a rush of sensation that he wasn’t used to feeling and didn’t have the slightest clue how to process. He had vague recollections – a breath in his ear, a woman’s voice telling him to relax, just relax – just let it happen naturally, your body knows what to do… But this was different. This was Aziraphale, and he couldn’t afford to be hesitating like this, not when the angel had asked him for something this intimate. Not when Aziraphale finally seemed to openly want him.

He pulled Aziraphale close and kissed him, and it did feel natural. It felt right, and he let that carry him forward as he began to explore Aziraphale’s body with his own hands. He trailed his fingers down over Aziraphale’s sides, and then along the angel’s plump thighs – down, then upwards again, towards the full cock which Aziraphale currently sported. He wrapped a hand around it, tentatively, and Aziraphale gasped into his mouth, the hand he had on Crowley’s own effort stuttering in response.

Crowley smiled. Maybe this corporation didn’t have the instincts of a proper human, but he could do this. He tightened his grip, and stroked with a confidence he wished he had.

Crowley,” Aziraphale whined, and his own fingers worked in response, the gentle touches becoming firmer, heavier. He slipped downwards, inwards– “Oh god, Crowley, you’re so wet…”

“Am I?” said Crowley, and immediately felt like an idiot for asking. But Aziraphale clearly took it for flirting rather than as an honest question, because he gasped again, and kissed him, sliding his fingers even deeper.

Crowley quickened has own strokes in response, and Aziraphale’s body tensed, his back arching in pleasure, before he pulled away. “Ah– wait…! Crowley, oh– Crowley if you keep doing that, I’ll…”

“Come?” said Crowley. “Right here, right like this? Just from my hand?” He moved his hand again, just slightly, and Aziraphale physically grabbed his arm to stop him.

“Don’t you want–” the angel started, his voice breathy and wrecked. “Oh, Crowley, I’m so close. If you want me to– That is, if we’re going to–”

“Do you want that, angel?” he asked, his own voice barely a whisper in Aziraphale’s ear. “Do you want to take me? Make love to me?”

“Yes…” gasped Aziraphale. “Oh, please, Crowley…!”

Crowley took a deep and steadying breath, and then guided Aziraphale into himself.

Too late, Crowley realized that he’d never actually done this – that he’d only ever been on the other side of the equation with these parts, and that he had no idea at all what to do now Aziraphale was buried deep inside of him. But then Aziraphale began to move, and nothing else seemed to matter.

He gasped out the angel’s name, arching his own back into the mattress, and Aziraphale took him, thrusting into him, fucking him into the bed. Crowley kissed him – on his mouth, on his collar, his chest – and was almost surprised when he realized that he was close too, that his own body was responding in kind.

“Crowley…” moaned Aziraphale. “Oh, Crowley, I’m going to…!”

Crowley’s orgasm hit him like a run-away carriage – he tumbled into it head over heels, his body tensing and spasming around where they were joined. Aziraphale followed him almost immediately, spilling into him with a strangled moan, and then collapsing boneless on top of him.

They lay there for a while, a tangle of limbs, both catching their breaths. Crowley marveled at Aziraphale’s soft curves, the way his breast rose and fell in the afterglow, the incredible look of contentment on his face. He ran his fingers through the angel’s hair, and Aziraphale sighed deep against him.

“Oh god, I love you so much,” he mumbled into Aziraphale’s skin. Aziraphale tensed immediately, which should have been a warning, but Crowley was too pleasantly blurry at the moment to worry. “Or, right, sorry. Satan, not God. Or, well. Somebody. Whatever.”

Aziraphale pulled away from him slightly. “You really shouldn’t say that.”

“Sure, right – no blaspheming after fornication,” said Crowley, vaguely. “I love you, angel; ignore the rest.”

Aziraphale pulled away completely, then, a sharp movement that shattered Crowley out of the post-orgasmic fog. “Crowley. Don’t.”

“…Sorry?” asked Crowley, sitting up slightly. “Don’t what?”

“Don’t say that you love me, Crowley,” said Aziraphale, and it was the firmness in his voice which really did it – the hard and final way that he said the words. “Please never say it again.”

It was like the floor had dropped out from under them.

“Why shouldn’t I say I love you?” he asked, carefully. Aziraphale rolled his eyes, and Crowley suddenly felt very small.

“Well, it’s ridiculous, for a start,” Aziraphale said. “And honestly, rather insulting.”

“Insulting,” Crowley repeated, his face slack with shock.

“Well, yes, obviously!” Aziraphale snapped. “What sort of idiot do you take me for, Crowley?”

“Why… why is it insulting, Aziraphale?” he said, and he could feel himself spinning out as he did so. Unquestioned assumptions stopped short, smashing into each other in a line. He looked up at Aziraphale and met his gaze – saw the frustration and annoyance and hurt there, but for the life of him couldn’t understand why.

Aziraphale must have seen his searching confusion, because he sighed, and then clarified. “Look, just – you don’t need to say that sort of thing anymore. And frankly, you didn’t need to in the first place. I rather wish you hadn’t, to tell the truth. It’s a needless complication, and we ought to be able to sleep together just fine without either of us having to pretend this is something it isn’t.”

“…I’m sorry,” said Crowley, almost tripping over his words, but not sure of what else he could say. There were pieces sliding quickly, horribly into place, too fast for him to keep up with them. It was like he’d just been socked in the stomach, but so hard that he hadn’t noticed yet.

“Yes, well,” said Aziraphale, still rather huffily. “I forgive you. Just please don’t do it again, will you?”

“I won’t,” Crowley said immediately, numb.

“Good,” said Aziraphale. “I’m glad we cleared that up.”

They sat like that for an awkward moment, and the seconds dragged on like years.

“Should I…” started Crowley, finally. He hated the way his voice sounded – tight, and vulnerable; ready to fall apart. He coughed, and tried again. “Can I uh… stay the night?”

Aziraphale looked at him like he’d never even considered that, and Crowley instantly regretted asking with every fiber of his being.

“Oh,” Aziraphale said. “Yes, of course. I’m sorry, dear, I didn’t realize how late it had gotten. Of course you can stay.”

The relief was instantaneous. Crowley was still reeling, and still trying to assemble the pieces in his mind – but this was something. This was good. He could work with this. They’d sleep together tonight, and then they could talk it out in the morning. Maybe over breakfast? Crepes – they could go for crepes and then talk it out, and everything would be fine.

“You can take the bed, of course,” continued Aziraphale, and Crowley’s blood ran cold. “It’s not like I was really planning to sleep anyway.”

“Oh,” said Crowley, stupidly. “Right.”

Aziraphale didn’t bother dressing the human way, miracling his clothes on with a snap instead, and Crowley, lying there in a pile of the angel’s dirty linens, suddenly felt very naked, and very alone.

“This really was an excellent idea, dear boy,” Aziraphale said, from somewhere far away. “I wouldn’t mind if we did it again sometime?”

Crowley nodded, vaguely. “Sometime. ’Course.” 

“Wonderful,” said Aziraphale. “Well, I should really be getting back to my books…”

“…Right,” said Crowley, to Aziraphale’s already retreating back.

The door to the flat closed rather unceremoniously behind him, and then the angel was gone.

Aziraphale wasn’t really sure what he’d been expecting to feel afterwards. Regretful, probably, or at least vaguely defiled. The reality, however, was anything but – he practically floated all the next day. There wasn’t any pain, or awkwardness; there was none of that tight and uncomfortable feeling he got whenever he misstepped with Crowley and needed to back off from him for a decade or two. If anything, it was like a missing piece had finally slid into place. It was like… coming home.

The way humans talked about sex, and especially about casual sex, had clearly never given him the proper sense of it. He’d always assumed the main draw was the physical pleasure of the act, and indeed, that had certainly been a nice aspect of the experience. But as he thought back to the night before, Aziraphale found himself lingering on other things – wonderful things that far outweighed the physical release he’d experienced. He hadn’t realized how incredible it would feel to be held – to be kissed. And he’d never even imagined that Crowley might run his fingers through his hair, or linger against him in the afterglow. It was… well, it had been beautiful, and if that was what sex was like, then it was no wonder that humans loved it so much.

Crowley had slipped out in the early morning without a word, which was a pity, since Aziraphale had rather hoped that they could go to breakfast together. But, overall, things were looking very good indeed. Aziraphale had spent weeks tying himself in knots over this, agonizing about whether or not he’d actually have it in him to give Crowley what he wanted, and now that he knew that he could, and that he even enjoyed doing so, it was like a weight had lifted form his shoulders. He caught himself actually whistling as he reorganized his books, and couldn’t help but marvel at the whole situation. He was going to get to keep Crowley as a friend, and he’d discovered a new hobby at the same time, and Crowley shared that hobby and might even enjoy spending time with him more because of it – it was the absolute best of all worlds.

Of course, the fantastic mood couldn’t last forever, and it wasn’t long before Aziraphale received an assignment from up above. That awful Napoleon fellow was apparently back again, and with war looming inevitably on the horizon, Heaven had given him a long list of dreadfully tedious political nudgings to perform. Worse, Crowley seemed to have gotten relatively busy himself – and presumably with something which couldn’t be pawned off via the Arrangement, since he had fallen almost completely out of touch since spending the night.

Days became a weeks. Weeks became well over a month. And as the time since Aziraphale had last seen Crowley stretched, doubt began to settle in.

Perhaps now that Crowley had gotten what he’d wanted, he’d have no use for Aziraphale anymore.

Perhaps he was disappointed by Aziraphale’s lack of skill, or experience.

Perhaps after the awkward, bumbling way that Aziraphale had run off at the end, Crowley had decided that he simply wasn’t worth the trouble.

All of these worries were stupid, and most of them were completely illogical, but beating them back was a losing battle. For every ridiculous and anxiety-induced idea that Aziraphale cut down, two more sprang up in its place. Everything had seemed so wonderful the morning after that Aziraphale had barely even considered what it all meant, but now that he had time to dwell on it, it seemed as though he could think of little else.

By the time his France-related assignments had wrapped up, Aziraphale was at least as nervous as he’d been the first time. He was desperate to see Crowley again, of course – more so even than would be usual for the time that they had recently spent apart. But the awkwardness of the situation gnawed at him. How was he supposed to act around Crowley now? He couldn’t act the same as always, could he? Not when they’d done something so... intimate. But if he acted different, wouldn’t that make things just as strange between them?

It’s only Crowley, Aziraphale reminded himself again and again. He’s obviously dealt with these sorts of things in the past, and he’s never once held your inexperience or awkwardness against you. Stop blowing things out of proportion, for heaven’s sake.

And sure enough, when they finally met up again, things did seem perfectly normal. They went out for dinner, and then retreated back to the bookshop for drinks as per usual. Conversation flowed as easily as it always had. There was just... Well, something about Crowley just seemed the slightest bit off. There was a tension in his shoulders that hadn’t been there before – an avoidance in his gaze.

Or, maybe that was just Aziraphale reading into things, like always. Maybe that was his own anxiety getting the better of him. Surely Crowley was acting exactly as he always had, and Aziraphale was simply projecting.

He buried the worry – or at least, he tried to – and set about quietly working himself up to eventually asking Crowley if he’d like a repeat of their last time together. It shouldn’t have been nearly as hard a thing to ask as it apparently was, given that they’d already done it once, and they’d both enjoyed it. Yet, whenever Aziraphale tried, the words seemed to stick in his throat.

There was a lull in conversation, eventually. But before Aziraphale had a chance to take advantage of it, Crowley did so instead.

“So...” he said, rather carefully. “About... about the last time we met up...”

“Ah, um. Yes. Of course,” said Aziraphale. “If you mean about how we–?”

Crowley cut him off with a nod, and then bit his lip, glanced away, and said nothing more. The pause stretched awkwardly.

“Well...” said Aziraphale, cautiously. “If you wanted...”

“I want to apologize,” Crowley said, into his wineglass, which was not at all what Aziraphale had been expecting. “About what I said, before. After we. Um.”

“Oh,” said Aziraphale. “You mean... when you said that you...?”

Crowley nodded sharply. “I... mistook the nature of our relationship, and that was on me. It won’t happen again. I promise.”

“Apology accepted,” said Aziraphale, because that seemed like the sort of thing he was supposed to say in this situation. “And I don’t fault you for it, truly. If anything, I should have been clearer on boundaries from the start.”

Demons tempted; demons manipulated – and Crowley did both, because it was his nature, but never to intentionally hurt Aziraphale. If lying to him had gotten Aziraphale into bed once, then it was no wonder Crowley had tried it again. It wasn’t Crowley’s fault, and it honestly wasn’t even one of the myriad things Aziraphale had been senselessly obsessing about these recent weeks.

Crowley nodded again, and Aziraphale waited for the obvious follow-up proposition. It never came — instead, Crowley stiffly poured himself another drink, and then fixed his gaze at some fascinating point on the table, and let the silence stretch.

After several long moments, Aziraphale gave an awkward cough, and attempted to broach the subject himself.

“So...” he said, carefully. “I don’t suppose that you’d be interested in having another go at it?”

“Having another...?” The look Crowley was giving him was just shy of incredulous, and something twisted uncomfortably in Aziraphale’s gut. “Are you serious?”

Unfortunately, it seemed that none of Aziraphale’s obsessing about this possible reaction had done anything to actually prepare him for it.

“Well, I’m sorry if it wasn’t what you hoped, but I’m not sure what you expected,” he stuttered out, finally, feeling like an idiot. “I told you I was new at it. But I’ll only get better with experience, and there are certainly worse ways to pass an evening. You seemed to think so before, anyway.”

Crowley paused, studying Aziraphale like there was some hidden meaning to his words. 

“Aziraphale...” he said, slowly. “Are you seriously suggesting that we...”

Abruptly, Crowley abandoned whatever he was going to say, and drained his wineglass in a single go. Then he turned back to Aziraphale, and fixed him with a far more pointed look. 

“No, you know what, scratch that — What are you suggesting here?” he snapped.

“Beg your pardon?” said Aziraphale. 

“This isn’t exactly easy for me,” said Crowley, roughly. “Whatever miscommunication we had before, I’m sure you can understand that. So I’d appreciate if you not beat around the bush here and just say what you want.”

Oh, thought Aziraphale. Oh dear, I’ve misjudged.

Crowley was still twisted up over having made Aziraphale uncomfortable; he’d said as much earlier. This wasn’t him being hesitant because of Aziraphale’s inexperience as a lover. This was him protecting Aziraphale’s feelings — making the boundaries explicit so that he wouldn’t overstep again, even though it went against his instincts as a demon.

It was kind — more than kind, it was sweet. That sort of care and friendship was exactly why he’d trusted Crowley with this in the first place, and he must have been entirely too caught up in his own head to have assumed something different.

Warmth blossomed in Aziraphale’s chest, and he smiled, and tried again.

“I’m sorry, Crowley,” he said. “You’re right, of course — it’s better to be clear about it.”

He paused, searching for the right words. “I... Well, I enjoyed our last encounter tremendously. And it seemed as though you did as well?”

Crowley gave something that looked vaguely like a nod.

“So,” said Aziraphale, “what I’m trying to say, I suppose, is that... Well, we could do it again, if you’d like. Even make a habit of it.”

“As... as a casual thing?” asked Crowley.

Aziraphale nodded. “Exactly.”

Crowley gave him a long, unreadable look. “Do you want that, angel?” he asked, finally.

“I’d love nothing more,” Aziraphale said.

Crowley swallowed; hesitated. For a moment, it seemed almost like he was going to turn Aziraphale down. Then something shifted. A nod, just the barest of gestures, and Crowley seemed to steel himself — although Aziraphale hadn’t the foggiest idea against what. 

“Alright then,” he said. “Flat upstairs?”

Aziraphale nodded, and Crowley set his wineglass down and headed up without another word. Aziraphale floundered for a moment — he meant to suggest it more in the general sense, not to go at it immediately, with a full half bottle of Bordeaux still left on the table between them. But, if that was what Crowley wanted... if he considered the easy conversation done for the night...

Aziraphale followed Crowley up the stairs.

Crowley shut the door behind them, and then removed their clothes with a snap of his fingers, which, if Aziraphale was being honest, was a little fast for him. But he supposed it had been a good few weeks since their last encounter; he couldn’t exactly fault the demon for being impatient. 

He kissed Crowley instead of commenting on it, and he felt Crowley melt into his embrace, kissing him like it was everything he’d ever wanted... and then felt him suddenly stiffen and pull away.

“Crowley...?” asked Aziraphale, and it was only then that he looked down and realized that Crowley hadn’t made any sort of an effort yet. He glanced back up at Crowley, questioningly.

Crowley colored at the once-over, a vibrant blush spreading all the way down to his chest. “You don’t mean to tell me you always have one?”

“Well, no,” said Aziraphale. “Or... well, it does help the clothes to fit correctly. But in this sort of situation, it seems rather essential.”

Crowley sat down roughly on the bed, and made a vague gesture at his nethers. An erection sprung into being, much to Aziraphale’s surprise.

“Oh,” he said. “That’s um. That’s a different one from last time.”

Crowley shrugged, and glanced away. “Seemed like the better way to go.”

And that was rather cryptic, but then it was Crowley, after all. “...Should I change mine then?” Aziraphale asked, after an awkward pause.

Crowley gave him a hard look. “What, so fornication and lust are fine by you, but you draw the line at sodomy? Seriously, angel?”

“Well, no—” Aziraphale stuttered. “I just thought that... I mean, it seemed like maybe you had a preference...”

Crowley sprawled back onto the bed proper, and gave Aziraphale a charged look, baring his neck the way an animal might bare his teeth. “You want to know my preference, angel?” he asked, slowly. “My preference is that you just fuck me if you’re going to fuck me.”

Aziraphale suddenly found that his mouth was very dry.

“Crowley...” he said, as he climbed on top of the bed. And then, before he could say anything more, Crowley pulled him into another passionate kiss, and wrapped his legs around him.

Aziraphale gasped, rutting against Crowley — the demon’s erection hard against own.

“You like that?” Crowley whispered into his ear, his breath hot.

God yes,” Aziraphale breathed out, and kissed him again. “Oh, that feels...”

Crowley made a sound rather like a scoff, and snaked a hand between them. At the first touch of Crowley’s hand to his cock, Aziraphale saw stars, and he didn’t even realize what Crowley was doing, how Crowley was adjusting them, until he felt the puckered skin of Crowley’s entrance against his tip.

“Wait,” Aziraphale ground out. “Crowley aren’t we— Ah, isn’t this a bit too fast?” He’d heard that one needed prep in order to do it this way, or else it could hurt. And the last thing in the world he wanted was to hurt Crowley, especially not with this.

“No need,” said Crowley, and thrust his hips, breaching himself on the head of Aziraphale’s cock.

Aziraphale moaned. Crowley was hot and tight and wonderful... and yet, also wet, and surprisingly relaxed, almost like he’d been expertly worked open earlier.

The moan became an astonished laugh. “Did you really waste an entire miracle? On this?

And then Crowley thrust against him and said, “Move already, for fuck’s sake,” and Aziraphale decided not to worry about it, or basically anything else. He wrapped a hand around Crowley’s cock, stroking him as they made love, and lost himself in the sensation that surrounded him.

Crowley’s head was thrown back against the pillows, and his eyes were squeezed tight. “Ah... Aziraphale—” he gasped. “Angel, angel I—” And then his eyes went wide, and he slapped a hand over his mouth to stifle a moan as he came, and as Aziraphale came inside of him.

The world came back to Aziraphale in bits and pieces. He sighed contentedly against Crowley, and planted a kiss on his neck. “Oh, Crowley...” he murmured. “That was incredible. You were... oh, my dear, if you could only see yourself...”

He pulled a washcloth off of the bedside table (or possibly out of the ether), and cleaned them up, peppering kisses all along Crowley’s chest as he did so.

“Angel...” said Crowley, distantly, waiving away the cloth. “Don’t— don’t bother, just...”

Aziraphale kissed him on the lips then, and Crowley kissed him back, slipping his arms around him into an easy embrace. It was like that first kiss, almost. Soft, and sweet, and tender. Aziraphale hummed contentedly against Crowley’s mouth, and basked in the afterglow. 

And then all of a sudden, Crowley seemed to come back to himself. Before Aziraphale even knew what was happening, he was up off the bed like a shot, and dressing quickly like he had somewhere to be. 


“Right,” said Crowley, and something in his voice was strained. “Guess I should be going then.” He seemed to be almost carefully avoiding looking at Aziraphale.

“Crowley, um...” Aziraphale started. He reached out to him, and Crowley jerked away as though he’d been burned, fumbling a button on his shirt.

“What, angel?” Crowley said, sharply, and Aziraphale suddenly realized that he was not entirely sure what he’d meant to say. That wonderful warm feeling of seconds before was slipping away like sand.

“...Leaving so soon?” he tried. It felt wrong in his mouth. “I mean, well. You could certainly take the bed again, if you wanted?”

Crowley winced. “Yeah, no. Better not.”

“Because... our employers might catch us?” Aziraphale hazarded, and Crowley made a noise that was maybe a sigh, and maybe a scoff.

“Sure,” Crowley said. “Let’s go with that.”

Aziraphale got up too, and set about to collecting his own clothes, but Crowley was fully dressed and heading for the door before he’d even gotten his shirt done up again.

“Crowley...?” Aziraphale called after him, and Crowley didn’t so much pause as freeze.

“...Yes, angel?” he asked after a moment’s hesitation.

There was something Aziraphale should say here; something he was missing in all of this. But the questions stuck in his throat. “This was very nice,” he said at last, even though he knew that that was the wrong thing. “Thank you for... Well, thank you.”

They stood there for a beat in the darkness. Crowley’s throat worked, silently.

“...Anytime,” he said, finally, and then left, closing the door roughly behind him.

It happened all the time, now. Crowley would ask Aziraphale to dinner, or a play, or a symphony, and like clockwork, they’d wind up in the flat above Aziraphale’s bookstore before the evening was over. Or, they’d take a walk in St. James’s Park, and quickly end up “taking a walk in St. James’s Park.” Or, Aziraphale would come by his place to talk about some aspect of the Arrangement, and would end up fucking Crowley into the mattress. 

Neither of them ever stayed the night. Neither of them made any romantic overtures beyond the normal, friendly associations of two normal, friendly, millennia-old enemies-turned-confidants. And Crowley gritted his teeth, and bit his tongue, and counted his blessings.

You wouldn’t want him to love you anyway, he told himself, with some frequency. Not really. He’s an angel – loving you would probably lead to his Fall. And Aziraphale wouldn’t do well Down Below, that’s for sure. Much better that he doesn’t, really. Safer that way.

Crowley suspected that this was somewhat too selfless a line of thought for a demon to have, but since he was lying anyway, he supposed it didn’t matter.

In many ways, things were the same as they always were. They still talked freely about all sorts of things. They still enjoyed each other’s company whenever they could find the time. And also, sometimes, Aziraphale came by and fucked him, and used him like a thing, and left him aching over what he now knew that he could never have. It was fine. Totally fine.

Anyway, Crowley didn’t exactly hate the sex. It was messy, of course, and sometimes a bit uncomfortable, but the physical feeling of orgasm was nicer than he’d remembered it being. And since practice improved any skill, Crowley was certainly getting better at bringing both of them to climax, which he supposed was also rather nice, in a ‘sense of pride in his abilities’ sort of way. He still didn’t particularly love sex, and he doubted that he ever would, but it had clearly grown on him.

And it wasn’t as though he liked the food at most of the restaurants he took Aziraphale to either, to be honest. It wasn’t about that – it was about spending time together, and giving Aziraphale something that Crowley knew he would enjoy. In fact, arguably, sex could even be read as an improvement from that perspective: judging from how often it happened, Aziraphale clearly loved it tremendously, and making love was far more intimate than a play, or a candlelit dinner.

But he looks you in the eye when you have dinner, his traitorous mind supplied. He smiles at you.

Crowley tamped the feelings down forcefully and repeatedly.

The truth was, it didn’t matter how he felt about it, because Aziraphale had never been his – not really. Demon, angel – it was simple math; he’d beaten the odds almost impossibly just by being Aziraphale’s friend. Wanting more was stupid, and hurting when he inevitably didn’t get it was his own god-blessed fault.

It was just another exchange. It was another arrangement, just like the first... except instead of trading in favors, and in friendship loosely disguised as favors, they were trading in sex, and not disguising it as anything. And yes, maybe it hurt sometimes. Maybe the longer this thing between them went on – the more times Aziraphale touched him, and the more times Aziraphale left – the more Crowley couldn’t stand it. Maybe a part of him wanted to roll it all back, and return to what they’d been before, back when Aziraphale was oblivious and he was naive.

But the sad truth was, he’d rather have Aziraphale like this than not at all. And so he plastered on a smile and ignored it.

Something was wrong. Aziraphale couldn’t quite put his finger on exactly what it was, but it was only growing with time, festering like an open wound. Crowley’s entire affect had shifted. He was sharper around the edges, somehow — spoiling for a fight half of the time, and sullen and reclusive the other half. There was a tension in the way he held himself, an increasing forcefulness to his every action.

Crowley never initiated the sex between them, but whenever Aziraphale did, he came at it with a punishing enthusiasm, bringing them both to orgasm as quickly as possible, and then leaving as soon as they’d finished. It was as physically nice a sensation as it had ever been, but there was also an edge to it — a growing frustration on Crowley’s part, and a lingering unease on Aziraphale’s. Aziraphale had improved at intercourse, he was sure. And yet, increasingly, everything about Crowley’s bearing reeked of dissatisfaction.

Aziraphale wondered if perhaps it was because he let as much time go between their encounters as he did these days. The pace they’d set when things had started had turned out to be quite unsustainable, and Aziraphale had assumed that Crowley would prefer genuine enthusiasm on Aziraphale’s part over frequency. But that could very well have been naive.

It all came to a head sometime in the 1860s. Crowley had offered to cover for him, and had apparently had a terrifyingly close call with Hell. Aziraphale didn’t know all the details, but whatever happened had left Crowley pale and worn in a way that Aziraphale hadn’t seen for over a century.

Drinking together had always cheered Crowley up in the past, and so Aziraphale mentioned in passing that he had recently picked up few bottles of Beaujolais nouvea, in the hope that that might help take Crowley’s mind off of things. It somewhat worked — Crowley went for the invitation immediately, and he did look a good deal better once they’d spent the better part of the evening unwinding and talking about other things. But there was still something very lost and hurting about him, and Aziraphale couldn’t stand seeing Crowley so obviously in pain. And so... he did the only thing that came to mind, and offered Crowley his body, as well.

The change was immediate — Crowley’s entire affect went from open and friendly to shut-off and completely cold in the blink of an eye.

“Only if you want to, of course,” said Aziraphale quickly, in a hurried attempt at backtracking.

Crowley gave him a long, hard look filled with... something, and then drained the rest of the bottle in front of him and ground out, “...Fucking sure. This might as well happen, why not.”

“Only if you want to,” Aziraphale said again, and Crowley laughed, a brutal and wounded sound.

Want to?” said Crowley. “Of course I want to. Demon, right? Why wouldn’t I want to.”

And then, before Aziraphale had a chance to and ask what was going on,  Crowley was on him and kissing him.

It was a much rougher kiss than usual – so rough, in fact, that it was barely even pleasant. Crowley bit at Aziraphale’s lip, forcing his tongue into his mouth, and when Aziraphale winced and drew back, Crowley palmed him through his trousers and drew a gasp out of him instead.

Just as abruptly as he’d started the kiss, Crowley ended it. He drew away slightly, but only enough so that he could undo Aziraphale’s trousers. Aziraphale reached out to undress Crowley in kind, and Crowley batted his hands away and sunk to his knees.

“Crowley...?” Aziraphale asked between breaths.

Crowley didn’t say anything, and instead grabbed Aziraphale’s barely freed length and licked – a single long stroke all the way from the based of his shaft to the head. Aziraphale stifled a moan, and reached for Crowley again, only to be rebuffed in the same manner as before.

This didn’t feel right at all. He’d meant this to be for Crowley, to help him – and yet everything about Crowley was sharper than before. Crowley looked hurt, and angry, and desperate, all rolled into one, and he hadn’t even taken off his jacket, let alone his clothes. Aziraphale felt dreadfully wrong-footed, with no idea what he had done wrong here, or how he could possibly fix it.

“Crowley–” he tried again, and it was exceedingly difficult to form a coherent sentence when Crowley’s mouth and hand were both still on his cock, “...Are you sure that you– I mean, if something’s wrong, dear, maybe we should, ah... If you want to– to talk about this–?”

“Shut up,” Crowley hissed. “Just shut up.” And then he took Aziraphale all the way into his mouth, swallowing him until he was all but gagging on it.

Aziraphale saw white, and couldn’t have said anything more even if he tried. He gripped the arm of his sofa hard, like it was his only anchor-point, and tried, desperately tried, not to come, not to thrust into Crowley’s mouth, not to say any of the utter nonsense that he felt just on the tip of his tongue. The part of him screaming that this was wrong and a bad idea didn’t so much fall silent as it was drowned out by roaring static. 

The world was a scattershot mess of pinpoint sensations: Crowley’s tongue against the head of his cock. Crowley’s hand on his right thigh – fingers digging into Aziraphale, five bright points of pain. The rough fabric of the sofa arm against his palm. The image of Crowley’s head bobbing up and down between his thighs.

He couldn’t move – couldn’t think. It was like drowning, and as Aziraphale felt himself nearing orgasm, it was all he could do to gasp and try to warn Crowley off of him as best he could.

Crowley ignored him, and continued to move against him at a punishing pace. In no time at all, Aziraphale was coming, spilling down Crowley’s throat with a strangled cry.

Crowley swallowed, then choked – coughing roughly as he pulled off of Aziraphale’s softening cock. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, and pinned Aziraphale with a long, hard look as the angel desperately tried to pull himself back together.

And then, quite suddenly, Crowley got up and turned to go.

“Wait,” said Aziraphale, fumbling as he tried to stand. “Don’t you want me to...?”

“Forget it,” said Crowley, harshly — and then he teleported out of the bookshop with a snap of his fingers. 

Aziraphale sat alone in his bookshop for a long time after Crowley had gone.

He didn’t understand what had happened, or why it felt like everything was suddenly going so wrong. He couldn’t even count the number of times they’d had sex now, and Crowley had never simply... serviced him like that, without even looking at him, or letting him reciprocate. Everything felt off-balance. It was like that night after the opera all over again, in a way – doubts and anxieties swirling like an angry cloud, and no answer anywhere in sight.

And when they met up in the park barely a week later, Crowley blindsided Aziraphale yet again by asking him for the unthinkable.

“Out of the question,” snapped Aziraphale, shoving the scrap of paper back at Crowley.

“Why not?” asked Crowley, far more casually than the situation warranted.

“It would destroy you,” said Aziraphale, horrified. “I’m not bringing you a suicide pill, Crowley.”

“Not what I want it for – just insurance.” He said it like he actually believed that that was comforting, and handed the note back to Aziraphale, slightly more forcefully this time.

“I’m not an idiot, Crowley,” said Aziraphale, a little desperately. “Do you know what trouble I’d be in– if they knew I’d been… fraternizing? It’s completely out of the question!”

“…Fraternizing?!” Crowley spat, and there was venom in his tone.

“Well, whatever you wish to call it,” Aziraphale stuttered out, and they were talking about far more than just the holy water now, but it was too late to back down. “I do not think there is any point to discussing it further.”

“I have lots of other people to fraternize with, angel,” said Crowley, and the words cut Aziraphale like a knife.

“Oh, of course you do,” he said, and if he didn’t manage to hide his surprise, at least he was fairly sure he hid the pain. He was in too deep to show weakness. He was in too deep, period, and why was he only having that revelation now, christ.

“I don’t need you.”

There was a pit in the bottom of Aziraphale’s stomach, and whatever stupid lie he’d shouted in response came out on autopilot. He couldn’t be here. He had to– he needed–

He managed to keep his step brisk and mostly steady as he strode off, but he wasn’t nearly naive enough to think that it helped. He was running away. Crowley no doubt knew that he was running away – probably saw the tremor in his stride, his white-knuckled fists before he hid them in his pockets. Aziraphale was three blocks away or more before Crowley’s words stopped ringing in his ears, but he still felt the demon’s phantom eyes on his back – a silent judgement as he fled.

I don’t need you.

And the feeling is mutual… obviously!

Aziraphale played back his own words in his mind, hating every moment of it. Pathetic, that’s what it was. And if even he could see it, then– then–

Crowley could see right through him. Crowley could catalogue his every failing and weakness; Crowley could dissect him with a single well-timed word. Surely he heard the quaver in Aziraphale’s voice – surely he’d pieced together what it meant. Aziraphale imagined Crowley laughing at him, and then, worse, he imagined Crowley not even deigning to do that.

The walk back to the bookshop was very long, and the silent years that followed were longer.

It didn’t take long for Crowley to try to patch things up, between them.

It wasn’t as though he wasn’t angry at Aziraphale – he was furious, and far more hurt than he dared show. The holy water hadn’t been that big of an ask. It hadn’t. And for Aziraphale to dismiss him out of hand, to dismiss decades of– of whatever the hell it was they were doing–


Satan, but he was a fool. It wasn’t as though he hadn’t known where he’d stood with Aziraphale – he was horribly, painfully, aware of the difference between them on this point. But they’d been sleeping together for decades, now, and even if Aziraphale would never love him, he’d at least thought that they were friends.

Except the thing was that, deep down, Crowley knew that Aziraphale hadn’t meant it. They’d been close for long enough that Aziraphale couldn’t have meant what he’d said, not really... and the same was true for what he’d said to Aziraphale. They needed each other. They always had. And a part of Crowley hated having to always be the one to reach out with the olive branch, hated Aziraphale’s stubborn pride and senseless devotion to Heaven – but he loved the angel too much to let a stupid fight drive them apart. So, he fumed for a bare few weeks, and then he let it go.

The bookstore was closed the first time he swung by, and the second, which was not surprising. But it was also closed the tenth and eleventh times he tried, which was both surprising and somewhat concerning. He took to frequenting places he might accidentally run into the angel – the park, the opera house, the restaurants he knew Aziraphale adored – and... nothing. It was like Aziraphale had completely disappeared.

At first Crowley figured that the angel had left town – except when he reached out to his occasional human contacts to see if anyone had heard where the angel might have gone, he learned that Aziraphale was apparently still in London, and still operating his bookstore as before. People had seen him at the most recent opera premiere; restaurant owners swore he was still a regular. More than that, Aziraphale’s share of miracles was still clearly getting done – just always out of sight from wherever Crowley happened to be.

There was a pit at the bottom of Crowley’s stomach. He’d never suspected that Aziraphale was able to shield his presence in this way, and even now had only the vaguest sense of what combination of miracles he must have been using to achieve the result. More than that, Crowley had never suspected that Aziraphale would have it in him to try.

A month passed.

Six months.

Crowley waited, hoping against hope for a sign, for just a moment of attention – any assurance that this, like the spats before, was temporary – that his angel was still his. Aziraphale avoided him expertly, moving about London like a ghost, always out-of-synch with Crowley no matter how much Crowley tried to alter his own routine.

A year.

Two years, and Crowley stopped hoping. Aziraphale was never going to apologize, that much had been obvious. But worse than that, Crowley realized that Aziraphale was never going to give him the chance to do so himself, either. And he would have, too – that was the part that hurt the most. It didn’t matter that he still thought he had been in the right, he’d take it all back, grovel on hands and knees and beg for forgiveness if it just meant that Aziraphale would talk to him again.

By the time the third year rolled around, Crowley couldn’t take it anymore. He showed up outside Aziraphale’s bookshop one last time – and when, inevitably, it lead to nothing at all, Crowley hid from the world, and went to sleep.

It had been a full decade before Aziraphale had tried to reach out to Crowley again, and when he finally did, the demon was nowhere to be found. Aziraphale told himself that he was relieved by that – that he was glad for the lack of temptation. He told himself the same thing when he went looking for Crowley again only a few years later, and again, when he tried a third, fourth, and fifth time.

The problem was that Aziraphale was lonely, and desperately so. He was an angel, and he didn’t need constant contact with others the way that humans did, not strictly speaking. But then, he didn’t need food or air, either, and he’d grown very accustomed to both over the years.

It was in the little things, Aziraphale found. It was walking in St. James’s Park, and feeding the ducks in silence. It was the excitement of having just seen or learned something amazing, and the hollow realization that he had no one to tell it to. It was eating at restaurants by himself, and going home afterwards to mull over his books, and drink alone.

Aziraphale distracted himself as best he could. There were a million things to keep him busy, what with the pace of technology, and the rising political tensions virtually everywhere – and yet none of it mattered.

Living like this was like missing a limb, and in a horrible moment of clarity, Aziraphale wondered if that was how Crowley had felt while Aziraphale had been actively avoiding him – if maybe it was that, rather than simply the holy water debate, that had chased the demon away for good.

There was no use dwelling on it. What was done was done, and anyway, no matter what Aziraphale felt, it was better for them to stay apart. Better that they stopped... whatever it was that they had been doing. Crowley had plenty of options when it came to lovers, and at least as many when it came to friends – people who were better at socializing than Aziraphale was, and no doubt came with less risk attached. He couldn’t fault Crowley for that, and he absolutely would not obsess over the choices he’d made and the things he could have done differently to keep the demon by his side.

When Aziraphale joined the the Hundred Guineas Club a couple of decades later, it was mostly on a whim, albeit an uncomfortably desperate one. He wanted someone to talk to. He wanted something to do. And he had a vague hope that one of the men here might catch him “in the rebound”, as they said now, and take his mind off of certain things and feelings which he could not afford to name.

It didn’t take long before he’d caught the eye of someone – of several someones, in fact, and it seemed as though courtship had gotten a good deal faster since he last bothered to pay attention to it. They were such lovely people – many of them kind, most of them intelligent, all of them beautiful. It wasn’t hard to fall into bed with them at all. Except...

Damn it all, but none of the sex mattered either.

Aziraphale didn’t know what to think, at first. The slide of bodies against bodies; all those dreadful fluids... had never been like this before. Every time Crowley and him had made love in the past, it had felt beautiful. It had felt right. And now, Aziraphale just felt... nothing.

It wasn’t due to any lack of skill on his partner’s part, that much was clear. Physically speaking, sex was as satisfying as it had always been. They’d kissed, they’d spoken – they’d even held each other afterwards, which Aziraphale and Crowley had mostly not, especially towards the end of things. And even so, Aziraphale had found himself eagerly awaiting the entire thing being over so that he could get back to doing literally anything else.

His experience with the next partner was much the same, as was his experience with the one after that. In fact, if anything, it only got worse. There was a gnawing unease that only grew with time – some piece of the puzzle that was always just out of his reach. The men he slept with enjoyed it, and that meant that he should be, too. And he had in the past, he knew he had, so what was wrong now?

Aziraphale found himself increasingly dreading sex. He felt wrong about it – like a performer, or a liar, or worse. The anxiety fed onto itself in a negative feedback loop. He was the problem here, clearly. He was broken, somehow. Had he always been?

...Had he been even when he was with Crowley?

Don’t think about it, he told himself over and over and over again. For God’s sake, don’t start thinking about you and Crowley in the past. Don’t think about Crowley at all.

Once, just once, Aziraphale let himself slip. He was with one of the humans from the club – a lovely gentleman, with kind eyes and soft hands, who loved Catullus, and knew the Song of Solomon by heart, and had helped teach Aziraphale how to dance. He was beautiful in the moonlight, and he whispered silly promises and unearned praise into Aziraphale’s ear. The light fell just so, and for a single moment, Aziraphale imagined golden eyes instead of deep brown, and a different, lighter voice in his ear – and then he came on a shattered gasp, thinking about Crowley instead of the beautiful human in his arms.

The missing puzzle piece slid into place... And Aziraphale fled the room with a snap of his fingers.

Guilt twisted his gut, a searing nausea – and it wasn’t even over the gentleman that he’d left so abruptly, and what he must think. No, it was far worse. Aziraphale was far, far worse than that, and he wasn’t sure whether he wanted to vomit, or to cry.

Because the thing that had done it, the thing that had pushed him over the edge? It wasn’t thoughts of Crowley’s mouth, or clever fingers, or tight, wonderful heat. It wasn’t even the thought of lying together with him in the afterglow, of kissing like they had so many times before. It was a mental invention, a fantasy of something that had never happened, and never would.

It was the thought of Crowley telling him that he loved him, whispering it desperately into his ear the way the man had done, and meaning it.

“Oh,” he said quietly, naked and alone in the cold bookshop flat that he had transported himself to – a flat that he had not entered in over sixty years. “...Oh, dear.”

It was almost a month before Aziraphale left the bookshop after that, and a year and a half before he returned to the Hundred Guineas Club.

And it was only three days after that that Crowley showed up.

Aziraphale wasn’t sure what to do, at first, and hadn’t even the slightest idea what to say. It had been.... lord, it had been almost a century, and there Crowley was – fashionable as always, slouching as easily as ever against a brand new black car, which he had parked very illegally, halfway over the club’s flower bed.

He glanced up when he saw Aziraphale, and gave a sort of half-nod that Aziraphale had no idea whatsoever how to interpret. Aziraphale swallowed, hard, and suddenly found himself completely unable to say anything at all.

“Hi, angel,” said Crowley, soft and just a little bit rough around the edges like always – like they’d been apart for a few weeks rather than a few decades.

“...Crowley,” Aziraphale said, although it came out more like a breath than a word.

“Heard you were yukking it up with the humans,” Crowley said, glancing away. “Figured I’d check in.”

“You... um...” Aziraphale started. Crowley look back at him, and oh, he’d forgotten what it was like to be pinned by those eyes – piercing and golden in the night. “...You have a new car, I see?” he finished, lamely. And good lord, what was he doing?

Crowley just nodded. “Bentley Speed Six. Best car on the market right now.”

“Yes,” said Aziraphale. “I, um. I suppose so.”

There was an awkward silence, and when Crowley turned to look away, Aziraphale had the horrible feeling that he was going to turn away for good – that this was the end, and if he didn’t act now, if he didn’t do something, say something, then Crowley would just get back in his Bentley and drive out of Aziraphale’s life again, and never come back.

“...Do you think you could give me a ride?” he blurted, and his voice came out nothing at all like Crowley’s – all falling apart at the seams, where the demon’s was cool and collected. “Just, um. Just to the bookshop?”

Another pause. Aziraphale worried his lip.

“...Right,” said Crowley, finally. “Hop in.”

Aziraphale nodded, quickly, and then hurried over to the passenger seat, like he was worried that Crowley would change his mind. He needn’t have, though – Crowley waited several seconds before climbing back in after him, and even then, he just sat there, hands on the wheel, like he wanted to say something, and couldn’t start the car until he’d managed it.

“Aziraphale...” he said, finally, and Aziraphale’s control shattered.

They were kissing before Aziraphale was even consciously aware that he had moved – desperately kissing, kissing like they’d been denying themselves for a century or more. Crowley gasped into his mouth, and Aziraphale pulled him close, and kissed him harder.

“Oh, bloody heaven,” said Crowley, as he pulled away momentarily for breath. “Oh Satan, angel, I’ve–“

“I’ve missed you,” gasped Aziraphale, like it was a horrid confession. In a way, it was.

“–so much. Oh, Aziraphale– You’ve no idea how much I’ve missed–”

They kissed, and kissed, and somewhere along the line Aziraphale ended up practically on top of Crowley, straddling him in the driver’s seat. There was an awkward fumbling with belts and trousers, and then a gasp in his ear when he took Crowley’s length in hand. Crowley grabbed him, hard – and Aziraphale leaned into the touch, desperate for it.

“What...” Crowley panted into his ear. “...What do you want, angel? Take anything you– anything you want...”

And for the first time since they’d fought, Aziraphale knew exactly what he wanted. He needed Crowley, now – needed to feel him – needed Crowley to take him, claim him, make him his in a way that no one else had ever dared. He manifested a cunt, and then before he had any time to think, he plunged himself down onto Crowley’s waiting cock, impaling himself with a strangled moan.

Crowley’s eyes went wide and he gasped, his head thrown back in shock or ecstasy. He jerked his hips – barely perceptible, but Aziraphale whimpered at the sensation, at the feeling of fullness. And then Aziraphale started to move himself, taking Crowley’s cock in earnest.

It was too much – too many feelings, too much sensation. Aziraphale could feel himself coming apart, shattering like glass on the feeling of Crowley buried deep inside of him.

“Crowley,” Aziraphale moaned as he rode him. “Oh, please, I’m—Oh, Crowley...”

“Anything,” Crowley breathed. “Anything, angel, I–” And then he bit his own lip, hard, and whatever else he was going to say was lost in a muffled cry as he came.

Aziraphale followed him, tightening and spasming around him, and sobbing into his shoulder. Yours, he thought, almost hysterically. I’m yours, Crowley.

And for a single beautiful moment, he was.

Slowly, they came back to themselves. Aziraphale felt broken into a million pieces and put back together clumsily, with bits of spackle and glue. There was a mess dripping down his thighs, and a gear-shaft digging into his side. He groaned, and shifted, pulling himself off of Crowley’s softening cock, and clumsily back to his side of the car, without looking at him, and, as best he could, without thinking too hard about any of it.

“...So,” said Crowley, after a moment, his tone carefully light. “Um. That was a thing.”

Aziraphale swallowed, and nodded. “I, uh. I apologize for my lack of... That is, I... I know that you usually prefer to...”

He had no idea what he was saying, and hopefully, that meant that neither did Crowley. So he gestured vaguely, and hoped that Crowley wouldn’t ask.

And he didn’t, for all of about thirty seconds.

“…Do you want to talk–” Crowley started.

“There’s nothing to talk about,” Aziraphale said, quickly, and as firmly as he could manage.

Crowley flinched just a little bit, barely perceptible in the darkness. “Right,” he said. “Sorry. Shouldn’t have, uh. Shouldn’t have assumed.”

God, what was Aziraphale doing?

Here Crowley was, back in his life for less than a day – less than a conversation, even – and he’d laid up with him like a cat in heat. In a parked car... in public, no less. Anyone could have walked by and seen them. The humans from the club, or Aziraphale’s bosses, or Crowley’s bosses... and if they had, if it had all gone... pear shaped...

He coughed, and then miracled his and Crowley’s clothes back into their proper order.

“I really did miss you, angel,” Crowley said, quietly, and Aziraphale felt it like a stab to the gut.

“Maybe...” Aziraphale started, “Well. Maybe we could go back to…?”

Go back to what? his mind demanded. Go back to him using you for meaningless, casual sex that you were delusional enough to think was just sex for you? Go back to pretending that that’s what you want out of this – that that’s what you want to have with Crowley at all?

Crowley gave him a long, searching look. “...Do you want that?”

Aziraphale’s thoughts flitted through the years, and he knew that it would kill him to try to go back to the way things were. He knew it would kill him to not. There was no good solution – no exit out of this, because the thing that he wanted from Crowley wasn’t sex at all, it was–

No. He still couldn’t fully admit that, not even in the privacy of his own mind. If he even so much as thought it, it would be all over.

Instead, he nodded, roughly. “If you’d be... amenable to that sort of relationship, again... then, yes. Very much so.”

Crowley nodded. “Alright, angel.”

Then he put the car into gear, and they drove back to Aziraphale’s bookshop, both carefully ignoring the decades between them.

The next day, Crowley invited him to dinner. A few days later, he showed up at the bookshop door in the morning, with a bag of fresh croissants from the bakery down the block. The day after that, they fed the ducks together in Saint James’s Park.

Within a month, it was almost as though they’d never fought.

...Except, of course, that Aziraphale knew it couldn’t last, this time around. He was a powder keg of emotions, a ticking time bomb counting down an ever-diminishing resolve. It was only a matter of time before he slipped up – before the ruse shattered, and Crowley saw exactly how pathetic he really was.

But he had Crowley now, in a way, and that would have to be enough. Aziraphale was determined to savor it, committing every moment, every touch to memory – filing bits and pieces of Crowley away like precious first editions, all in preparation for the day it fell apart.

And it would. Because one day, he’d stop being able to lie to himself. One day, he’d ask for too much. He’d try to push Crowley into sharing something that the demon simply did not have to give… and then Crowley would leave him.

Crowley had quickly gotten into the habit of driving Aziraphale places – to lunch, to the bookshop, to a blessing or tempting site for work – almost any excuse was sufficient. They never had a repeat of that one frantic night in 1926 (which was just as well, because almost anywhere else was more comfortable for that sort of activity), but the worst of whatever had passed between them in those silent decades was clearly behind them, and Aziraphale had always taken him up on his offers for rides without hesitation.

So in 1941, after the bomb had fallen on the Church, Crowley had tossed off a “Lift home?” without really even thinking about it, fully expecting the angel to follow him. When he got to the car, he was somewhat startled to realize that Aziraphale hadn’t, and was in fact standing exactly where Crowley had left him, staring off somewhere into the middle distance with an unreadable expression on his face.

“Angel?” he called. “Oi, Aziraphale – you coming?”

Aziraphale startled, like he was suddenly remembering where he was, and then something very tender passed over his features, followed immediately by something strangely guilty. “Oh– yes, of course.”

Aziraphale moved through the rubble like it had snuck up on him, and then clambered awkwardly into the passenger seat. He seemed shaken – more so than could be attributed to mere exhaustion. Crowley hesitated before starting the car.

“…Are you ok?” he asked.

Aziraphale nodded, sharply. “Quite.”

“Alright…” Crowley said, although he wasn’t particularly convinced. He put the car in gear, and headed in the direction of Aziraphale’s bookshop.

Crowley knew the way by heart, of course. He could drive to Aziraphale’s from anywhere in London without having to even think about the route. Ordinarily, this meant that he had more of his attention available for whatever conversation he was having with Aziraphale, but tonight the angel stayed oddly quiet through the entire drive home.

Crowley tried to make conversation a couple of times – Aziraphale responded only with non-committal ‘hmms’, and made a very strange expression, like he couldn’t decide whether to stare at Crowley, or to stare at anywhere other than at Crowley. 

They arrived at the bookstore too soon, and Crowley sighed inwardly as Aziraphale got out of the car. He was missing something here. Something had happened this night – something had given Aziraphale that strange, lost look, and Crowley had no idea what it was, or how he could fix it. And now, Aziraphale would head inside, and the next time they met, it would be like it had never happened – they’d both bury it, like they always did. He wished, not for the first time, that he could read Aziraphale even half as well as Aziraphale could read him.

“Crowley?” Aziraphale asked, and Crowley glanced up at him, surprised. “I– I don’t suppose you’d like to come in?”

Ah. Now this Crowley recognized – the way the angel blushed ever so slightly, the upwards lilt of his tone as he asked. 

“Of course, angel,” he replied, voice warm and full (he hoped) of promise. If Aziraphale wanted sex, Crowley could easily provide that – and if sex could banish the sudden distance between them, then so much the better.

Aziraphale’s hands were shaking as he fiddled with the lock, almost dropping the keys. It wasn’t like him at all. Crowley miracled the door open, and Aziraphale startled.

“Oh– uh– thank you,” he stuttered.

Crowley smiled at him, unsure of what else to do. “Barely even counts, at this point,” he said, and tried for a casual shrug. “After you?”

As soon as they were in the bookshop, Aziraphale busied himself with nothing – taking Crowley’s hat, haphazardly clearing the sofa. He didn’t even bother with the books that Crowley had saved, leaving them on the floor in his bag instead of putting them back in their places on his shelves.

After the third time that Aziraphale asked if he needed anything, Crowley put a finger to the angel’s lips, and beckoned to the space on the sofa besides him. “I’m fine, honestly, angel. Just sit down and relax, yeah? It’s been a night.”

Aziraphale let out a soft chuckle, like there was some hidden meaning in something Crowley had said. “Yes, it uh– it certainly has been that.” Crowley tensed, the anxiety from the car ride clawing its way back into his stomach, but then Aziraphale sat down, finally, and some of the nervous energy he’d been carrying all the way since the church seemed to dissipate as he did so.

They’d done it in the bookshop proper before. On this very couch, even, and with increasing frequency since their make-up after that stupid fight over the holy water. Crowley reached out, and brushed Aziraphale’s cheek in what he hoped was the right way to get him to smile, to lean into the touch – it had been well over a century, and yet Crowley still felt like he was just guessing blindly most of the time when it came to this.

Aziraphale did, in fact, lean into the touch, but something still clouded his features, too. “Crowley…” he started.

Crowley shushed him, and leaned in, kissing him gently. He poured everything he had into the kiss – silent years and unspoken words, and about as much seduction as he’d ever managed. Not too much, but hopefully not too little either. Aziraphale gasped into his mouth, then sighed as Crowley held him, and Crowley desperately willed for this to be enough to banish that new, strained look that the angel suddenly carried.

There were fingers in his hair, and Crowley moved his own hands to Aziraphale’s chest, undoing the first couple of buttons of his waistcoat.

“Wait, Crowley…” said Aziraphale, pulling away suddenly.

“What is it, angel?” Crowley asked, and he tried his best to keep his tone from betraying him. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing’s wrong,” lied Aziraphale, and Crowley’s heart sunk.

He moved his fingers away from Aziraphale’s vest, hands up and away from him, as nonthreatening as he knew how to be.

“…Crowley, I–” Aziraphale started, and then abruptly stopped, biting his lip and looking away.

“Yes…?” Crowley prompted. No response.

What little confidence Crowley had had when he’d entered the bookshop was long gone – he was drifting, without any firm social cues to anchor him.

Look at me, he wanted to say. Please, Aziraphale – just tell me what I did wrong here, don’t turn away and shut me out and never talk about this, please I–

“Do you… not want to sleep together?” he asked instead.

Something strained flashed across Aziraphale’s face, and when he answered it was halting and hesitant. “I– I think, maybe… um. I think we’d better not.”

Crowley swallowed; nodded. “…Would you– would you like for me to leave?” he asked.

Aziraphale was silent for a long moment. “No,” he said, finally. “That’s the last thing that I want.”

They sat like that, silently, neither of them moving, and the seconds ticked by like hours. Crowley didn’t know what to do, what to say. There were words on his tongue, yes – but only forbidden words. Words Aziraphale didn’t want to hear.

“Could I maybe…” Aziraphale started, after minutes or millennia, and Crowley nearly jumped at the sound. “Would you mind terribly if…”

“Yes?” prompted Crowley, too loudly and far too eagerly – and then he winced internally as Aziraphale seemed to shy away from the idea.

“Never mind,” said Aziraphale. “It’s– It was a foolish thought. I’m perfectly happy to just– Are you sure I can’t get you anything, dear boy, some wine perhaps, or–”

Crowley caught his hand before he could get up from the couch again. “Aziraphale,” he said, on a breath. “Just tell me what you want.”

“I–” Aziraphale faltered, and Crowley forced a smile.

“Worst thing I can say is no, right?”

Aziraphale laughed, then – a soft and strangely hurt chuckle that Crowley had no idea how to even begin to interpret. “That, um. Well.” And then all of a sudden he seemed to lose his nerve completely, jerking his hand out of Crowley’s grasp and staring intently at some very interesting part of the floor.

“Or… not?” hazarded Crowley. “You don’t, um– have to tell me. If you don’t want to. Uh… Maybe I should just–?” Leave you alone; get out of your hair; un-ask the question–

“–Stay the night. Please?” asked Aziraphale, suddenly, his voice almost breaking on it. “I mean, not for– just. I’d like to, um. I’d just very much like to stay with you, without the, uh… the sex part. If it’s not too much trouble?”

“Of course,” said Crowley, and then he ran Aziraphale’s words by again, because why on Earth would he have needed to be so hesitant just to ask for that?

“And… and can I… can you maybe…” Aziraphale was rapidly trailing off, so quiet by the end that Crowley almost didn’t catch the last two words, “…hold me…?”

“Of course,” Crowley said again, and awkwardly shifted closer, bringing the angel into a clumsy embrace. The tension seemed to immediately drain from Aziraphale’s body, and he leaned into Crowley, sighing.

“…Thank you,” said Aziraphale, so soft that Crowley barely heard it, and for the life of him, Crowley didn’t understand what was going on at all.

When had he ever given the impression that he was opposed to cuddling? They’d done far more than cuddle before, hadn’t they? Crowley had been perfectly fine with all of that, even the bits that he didn’t much care for, so why had Aziraphale seemed so sure that he’d deny him this?

He didn’t ask – it would be stupid to ruin the moment. Instead, he held his angel closer, and let his fingers trail through his hair. Aziraphale practically melted at that, tightening his hold on Crowley’s shoulder even as he went boneless against him. Crowley let his hands wander aimlessly and without intention – a slow circle of his thumb where it lay on Aziraphale’s arm; a warm breath and a smile against the curve of his neck.

They stayed like that – a platonic tangle of limbs – for a long time. Hours, probably. Slowly, Crowley felt himself drifting off, the anxious energy of the night fading away into nothing. It had been a long time since he’d slept, and changing the flight of that bomb had taken more out of him than he’d realized. Aziraphale was warm in his arms, and smelled like books, and ash, and home... Crowley’s eyes fluttered, and closed, as he buried himself in the feeling of what was almost but never quite his.

And as sleep overtook him, Crowley imagined that he felt Aziraphale kiss his forehead, and whisper words of love.

Things changed, after the church. Aziraphale had known what was coming the instant that he had given in, and he’d steeled himself against inevitable rejection. Now that he’d admitted to himself that he was, in fact, hopelessly and foolishly in love, there was no way that he could possibly hide it – and of course, there was no way that Crowley would still want him after he knew. So, that was the end of things – and Aziraphale had resigned himself to it.

Except, bizarrely, the end never actually came.

Crowley still made regular social calls. They still went out for dinner, and traded favors for the Arrangement. They still even slept together, sometimes – and strangest of all, Crowley now routinely stayed the night.

Maybe Aziraphale was better at hiding it than he thought he’d be, and Crowley hadn’t noticed. Or maybe Crowley had noticed, but simply didn’t care. Maybe the sex was just that good.

It didn’t particularly matter – Aziraphale would take what he could get, for as long as he could get it. If he were a better person, he’d worry that he was making Crowley uncomfortable, and that the demon was staying out of pity. But Aziraphale knew by now that although he was many things, good, in the non-angelic lower-case-g sense, was not really one of them. And besides, if this was pity, then it was only a matter of time until it ran out.

Days passed, then weeks, then years, and still, Crowley stayed. He stayed even when he caught Aziraphale staring at him. He stayed even when Aziraphale fought with him about stupid little things that meant everything and nothing at all. 

Finally, a few decades later, Aziraphale went so far as to try to rip the bandage off himself, once and for all. He’d given Crowley the holy water he’d asked for – the last thing he had to give that Crowley wanted. And then, just to make the point, he’d turned Crowley down for sex, and instead had gone so far as to ask him out on a real date, which they both knew perfectly well would never happen – and still Crowley had stayed.

Aziraphale found himself slowly forced to admit that Crowley wasn’t going to leave him – not for this, and likely not for anything. Even if he blurted out his love in as many words, and even if he did everything but, Crowley would still be his colleague, and his partner, and his friend.

The pressure dissipated, and things got easier. Aziraphale stopped hesitating when they kissed, and began to look forwards to every meeting – both sexual and friendly – in a way that he hadn’t quite since the start of things. The talked freely now, and held each other, sometimes long into the night. It was a prelude to lovemaking, and an epilogue – and although it was lightyears away from what Aziraphale truly wanted, he counted his blessings, because he knew that it was still so much more than what he deserved.

“So, tell me about your… past conquests,” Aziraphale said one night, as they lay together afterwards.

Conquests,” Crowley said the word like it was a foul taste in his mouth. “You’re really going to call them that?”

The truth was, the word choice had been deliberately vulgar on Aziraphale’s part, designed to camouflage the sincerity of the question, and to make it more palatable. He was… well, he was curious. Crowley had no reason to recount his past sexual exploits, and it was probably an inappropriate question to even ask. But Crowley wouldn’t storm out because of it – certainly not if Aziraphale made it sound like idle curiosity. At worst, the demon simply wouldn’t answer. And Aziraphale burned with the knowledge that Crowley had been with other people, whereas for him there had been no one before Crowley. It was just one more in a long series of advantages Crowley had on him, and he desperately wanted to equalize the field somehow, even now – to be able to pretend that he and Crowley were toying with each other, instead of Crowley just toying with him.

“Well?” Aziraphale prompted.

Crowley sighed, and then was silent for a long time. But just when Aziraphale had given up on an answer and was beginning to drift off to sleep, he spoke: “There was– there was a woman… in Samaria. A prostitute. She… smelled like lilies. We spent the night together, and… it cost one yearling lamb.”

It was so very different from what Aziraphale had been expecting, both in terms of substance and delivery. Crowley spoke haltingly, hesitant. His breaths had gotten carefully shallow, and the hand which had been playing with Aziraphale’s hair had stilled.

“Oh,” said Aziraphale, and he tried desperately to keep his tone casual – to sound disinterested when in fact he was dying to know more.

“And… and then there was Rome.”

“Rome?” asked Aziraphale, as though a million scenarios weren’t already pouring through his head. The bath houses, perhaps? The temple whores? Had he tempted an emperor, bedded one of the great philosophers?

“There was an… older man. Well… not older, obviously – he just thought he was. He… mentored me. For two years. But…”

But…? Crowley let his voice trailed off, and Aziraphale could have died from the strain it took not to prompt him and just wait, impassive.

“…He only… we only had sex the once. At the beginning of it.”

“What?” Aziraphale said, surprised – and he said it too loudly, too enthusiastically, too obvious to hide his rapt attention. He winced at his own misstep, but Crowley didn’t seem to notice.

Instead, Crowley shrugged. “Just, never really cared to, I guess. It was alright. But… nothing special? I liked exchanging letters with him when he was still alive, though.”

“Oh,” said Aziraphale, and if the Samaritan prostitute had been unexpected, then he didn’t even know what this was. He waited for Crowley to continue, but Crowley said nothing. After a few moments, he went back to playing with Aziraphale’s hair.

“…And?” Aziraphale prompted, finally; stupidly.

Crowley’s hand in his hair stilled again. “That’s it,” he said, simply, and Aziraphale was so shocked that he pulled away to look at him.


Crowley half nodded, half shrugged – there was not a hint of deceit, not an ounce of teasing in his features. Aziraphale swallowed.

“You’d only… you’d only had sex with two other people, before me. Ever?”

Crowley nodded.

“And you only ever did it–“

“Once with each of them, yeah,” Crowley nodded. He wasn’t looking at Aziraphale.

“What about–“ Aziraphale was flailing, “What about temptations? Didn’t you ever… I don’t know, deflower someone? Seduce someone into sin?”

“I’m not an incubus,” said Crowley, sounding positively affronted. “Satan below, do you think we all do that?”

“Well…” said Aziraphale, and the truth was, he didn’t know what he thought. “I suppose... I suppose I just sort of assumed.”

Crowley sighed, and turned away from him. “...Wish you wouldn’t,” he said, so softly that Aziraphale barely heard him.

“Sorry?” asked Aziraphale. Crowley shrugged against him in the darkness.

“Sometimes it’s like... just because I’m a demon...” He sighed again, cutting off whatever he was going to say. “Forget it, angel.”

“No, go on,” said Aziraphale quickly. “What about the fact that you’re...?”

Crowley hesitated. “I just...” He paused, searching for words. “...You can be very cruel, sometimes, Aziraphale.”

“...Oh,” said Aziraphale, because he wasn’t sure what else to say to that. “How, um. How so?”

“Just because I’m a demon, it doesn’t mean I feel things any less, you know?” continued Crowley. “You say these things sometimes and it’s like... it’s like you think I’d do this with just anyone.”

“And... you wouldn’t,” Aziraphale said slowly.

“Of course not,” said Crowley, and he seemed to curl in on himself.

“But, I—” Aziraphale started, “Well it’s just that... You said you did, didn’t you? Back in the 1860s. Lots of other people to...?”

“...I was mad and I was lying,” mumbled Crowley. “I thought you knew that.”

“Oh,” said Aziraphale, again, and then before he could think better of it, he blurted, “So was I, you know.”

“Yeah?” asked Crowley.

“Of course,” said Aziraphale. “I’ve always needed you, Crowley. I—” He bit off the confession almost by habit. “...You’re my best friend.”

“Right,” said Crowley into the darkness. “...Same.”

Raising the Antichrist and averting the apocalypse turned out to be trying in ways that Crowley had never anticipated.

When he and Aziraphale had shown up for work at the Dowling estate, both Mr. and Mrs. Dowling had assumed that they were a couple. “Oh, lovely that you kept your name, Ms. Ashtoreth,” Mrs. Dowling had even said, at one point. “It’s so brave of you to break from tradition.”

Crowley had carefully corrected her, which helped nothing, since Mrs. Dowling had apparently seen them kiss more than once after work, and also would have noticed “the way his dear husband looked at him” from a mile away. She gave them off every Valentine’s day, and Aziraphale, always one for indulging in sloth when he knew he could get away with it, resolutely refused to help him convince her otherwise.

“Oh, is it really that bad?” Aziraphale said, when Crowley asked. “Being ‘married’ to me, I mean?”

And that was rather the problem: it wasn’t bad being ‘married’ to Aziraphale at all. In fact, quite the contrary – it was everything that Crowley had ever wanted, and it was so close to and so far away from the truth. They were still sleeping together, and going out to dinner, and meeting at concert halls and museums. They called each other pet names. They knew all of each other’s habits. The were raising a child together, for fucks sake – and yet, somehow, none of it was real.

It was torturous. Crowley had to constantly stop himself from sliding fully into the role, and loving Aziraphale like he’d always wanted to. Once, he’d bought him flowers on a whim, and had to dump them half a block later when he remembered that Aziraphale wouldn’t want them. Another time, he’d started to tell Aziraphale how much he loved him over breakfast, and had to last-minute course-correct the sentence into a declaration of how very much he loved the coffee he’d been drinking. Every day, he had to bite back his feelings, and smile, and pretend... and all the while, just to add insult to injury, Mrs. Dowling was making casual comments about how lucky he was that his husband loved him so much.

Six years later, finally, Warlock outgrew his nanny, and both Crowley and Aziraphale resigned, returning shortly thereafter as two tutors. Crowley, having been burned once, took a male-looking form for the job, specifically so that this time, no one would make assumptions. 

Except blast it all, Mrs. Dowling was very supportive of all that, it turned out, and she went ahead and assumed again anyway.

“It’s no business of mine, of course,” she said in her dreadful American drawl when the subject of ‘Mr. Cortese’ came up. “Whatever you two do in your own bedroom is fine by me. And by my husband too — he’s really only fiscally conservative. No problem by us, at all.”

And because Aziraphale was a right bastard, he’d left it to Crowley to correct them that time, too.

All told, by the time another five years had taken their toll, Crowley was not even surprised to learn that they’d been raising the wrong boy the whole time – it was basically the only thing left that could possibly go wrong.

Midway through the drive back from the former hospital, Aziraphale turned to him quite casually and said, “There’s a very peculiar feeling to this whole area. I’m astonished you can’t feel it.”

Crowley sniffed. “I don’t feel anything out of the ordinary.”

“But it’s everywhere,” he insisted. “All over here. Love. Flashes of love.”

And Satan, but Crowley hated Aziraphale sometimes. Because it wasn’t enough that they were still doing whatever the fuck this was — it wasn’t enough that Aziraphale had halfway rubbed it into his face for eleven full years, and had thrown him absolute scraps for the century before that, all while giving him those god-blessed puppy-eyes about it the whole time. No, he had to drag it up and make a thing of it now.

Oh, yes, flashes of love, Crowley... You wouldn’t happen to know where all this love is coming from, would you, Crowley? I mean, you’re not still hung up on that, are you? You couldn’t possibly still be pining for me after all this time, because that would just be incredibly pathetic. Anyway, not like you can back out of this conversation while we’re busy searching for the Antichrist, so...

Bless Aziraphale to heaven and back. Bless him off a fucking cliff.

Crowley’s grip tightened on the steering wheel.

“You’re being ridiculous,” he said, tersely, eyes on the road, and mind all the way back to a late summer night in 1815, after a very specific production of The Magic Flute. “The last thing we need right now is–”

And then, thank someone, a bicycle hit his car.

Somewhere between the bandstand and his shop, Aziraphale saw it.

Crowley’s words still echoed in his mind, and the ghosts of his own still lingered in his throat. 

Go off… together…

It was like looking at one of those pictures that was both two faces, and a vase – both a lady at her vanity, and also a skull.

Crowley didn’t love him. Crowley was a demon, and demons didn’t love. Crowley was using him for casual sex. The thing they were having was casual sex.

Go off… together…

Crowley couldn’t love him. That was a basic, foundational truth upon which Aziraphale had built every interaction, every moment of intimacy. Crowley didn’t and couldn’t love him, and never would. But if he could, though. If he did

Go off… together…

A shift in the light, a change in perspective, and the world turned out from under him.

Aziraphale stood there, frozen, unable to remember how to breath. Because… because Crowley had never said that he didn’t love him, not once. And nothing in how he acted, nothing in what he did said had said that either.

Crowley took him to shows, because he wanted to be with him. Crowley went to restaurants with him, because even if he didn’t much care for the food, he enjoyed the company. Crowley met him on top of buses instead of just calling him with updates, because he wanted the excuse to chat in person.

And there was always such care in his actions, too. They debated philosophy and theology and art all the time, and Crowley would never pull his punches, but would also never shoot to kill. Crowley brought him chocolates, and plied him with wine... and also left the moment that Aziraphale so much as hinted that he was busy. He did hundred little favors, with no expectation whatsoever of anything in return, and... 

Good lord.

It was him, Aziraphale, who had always been holding back, wasn’t it? He’d been the first one to outright propose sex. He’d been the one to insist on it being casual. He’d cut Crowley off for decades, over a stupid spat, and then, when Crowley had somehow forgiven him for it, he’d told him that they had nothing to discuss.

And even after everything – after all that Aziraphale had asked of him, after all his indecision, and hesitance, and neediness – even after all of that, Crowley had trusted him, first with raising the Antichrist, and then with finding him. And when even that had failed, Crowley had called him up, and told him... and told him...

Even if this all ends up in a puddle of burning goo we can... go off... together...

The realization was wonderful, and terrible – and Aziraphale felt almost like he could fly away right there – like maybe if he sprinted back, he’d catch Crowley before he left and they really could run away, and be together for real, except...

Except they couldn’t, could they.

He’d said what he’d said to Crowley because he was scared and hurt, yes. But, he’d also said it because some of it was true. They couldn’t run off to Alpha Centauri, not when Earth still hung in the balance. Aziraphale knew he could still stop this, if he could only just talk to the right people, and get the Witchfinder Army to the boy in time. And what sort of an angel would he be if he didn’t? If he gave in to temptation and fled, just because there was suddenly a very real chance that Crowley was– that Crowley–

“...Two hundred years,” Aziraphale choked out, finally, to no one at all. “Oh, I’m the worst sort of fool, aren’t I.”

And then he shoved the realization down and headed back to his shop, his pace brisker, and his heart crumbling to pieces.

Because the world was ending, and they were out of time.

“You can stay at my place… if you like,” Crowley said, after then end.

They were together again, and Aziraphale was alive (don’t reach out to him to check, Crowley, don’t be a needy idiot), and everything fit without any of it really making sense. Crowley smiled, offered. Prayed.

“I– I don’t think my side would like that,” Aziraphale said softly. And Crowley heard (or, hoped he heard) something in what he didn’t say – not a firm no, not an ‘I would prefer a hotel’ or a ‘that’s very kind, but I think I can manage on my own.’

…Not even ‘you go too fast for me.’

It was like the two of them were standing on the very edge of something – a precipice, though Crowley wasn’t sure what sort. He should have been terrified of a misstep, consumed with the tension of the possibilities before them… But right then, he was too tired to feel afraid, and for that he was endlessly grateful.

“You don’t have a side anymore,” he said, and if the words he’d been keeping in his heart for these last couple hundred years crept out in his tone, then that was fine – he was well passed hiding. “Neither of us do. We’re on our own side.”

They boarded the bus in silence, and as they sat down, Aziraphale took his hand. It meant nothing (they’d held hands so many times before). It meant everything (Crowley had been afraid they’d never get the chance again).

“Are, um. Are you alright, dear?” Aziraphale asked him, once they were on their way.

Crowley approximated a casual shrug. “Much as I can be. Are you?

Aziraphale nodded. “I– I think so, yes.”

Silence then, and Crowley gazed out the window.

“And... are we?” asked Aziraphale, quietly, after a moment. “Alright, I mean.”

Crowley hesitated. “I don’t know angel,” he said, eventually. “You tell me.”

Aziraphale’s grip on his hand tightened in answer. “I... very much want us to be. And... and I’m sorry, for everything. All those terrible things I said...”

Crowley waived it off. “Forget it. I’m, uh. I’m sorry too.”

“Whatever for!” cried Aziraphale. “You didn’t–”

“I did,” said Crowley. “I pushed you. I shouldn’t have.”

“Crowley, no,” said Aziraphale, and something in his voice made Crowley turn to look at him again. “You were right about Heaven. You were right about me. And when you asked me to run away with you, I was scared, yes – But don’t you see? I was scared because of how much I wanted to.”

“...Did you really?” Crowley asked, letting his thumb play ever so slightly against Aziraphale’s hand.

Goodness yes. Crowley, a part of me was willing to even leave behind humanity to do it. And I couldn’t, but– but I wanted to. And I told you that I–” Aziraphale bit at his lip, and glanced away.

“Angel?” asked Crowley, gently.

Aziraphale closed his eyes for a moment; breathed. And then turned back to him with a renewed determination. “...What can I do to fix this?” he asked. “What can I to– to make things between us the way that they were?”

“Nothing,” said Crowley – then instantly regretted it when he saw Aziraphale’s face fall. “No– not like that, I just mean... You don’t have to do anything, angel. I’m not mad at you. And I want to be what we were again, too. Just... just let me back in, yeah?”

Aziraphale nodded, hesitantly, and then gave his hand another squeeze.

The rest of the ride passed in silence, and yet...

Somehow, despite the exhaustion, despite the pain, Crowley could feel a smile creeping onto his face, and a warmth spreading through his chest. Aziraphale smiled back, his hand never wavering against Crowley’s own. It was careful, timid. But it was also real, and solid... and almost like love.

As soon as the door closed behind Aziraphale, Crowley was on him – kissing him, pressing him up against the wall, awkwardly fumbling with their clothes.

In the sudden heat of it all, it took a moment for Aziraphale to gather himself enough to say anything. Finally, he broke away from the kiss, panting. “Crowley… Crowley, wait… hang on a second–”

“Oh come on, angel…” Crowley hissed into his ear. “You know you want it.” A hand snaked down into his trousers and palmed him through his pants, and with a sharp intake of breath, Aziraphale physically pushed him away.

“No, Crowley, stop… I’m being serious.”

Crowley pulled back, less reluctant than he was simply confused. “…What? I thought that we…?“

Aziraphale sighed, and slumped against the wall. “Hang on, hang on– Just let me get my thoughts together.”

Crowley waited, shifting awkwardly from foot to foot. 

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, but was probably only a few seconds, Aziraphale started. “Crowley… I need to ask you something, and it may sound stupid but… well, it’s incredibly important. To me, that is.”

“Ask,” said Crowley, and he made a gesture which was probably meant to convey “whatever you like” but which in fact conveyed “I am half undressed, and in front of you, and also very willing, and can’t really see why you’re wasting time asking questions given any of that.”

“Back that one night after the opera…” continued Aziraphale. “When you… when you said that you loved me…”

“Oh hell, are you still on that?” Crowley interrupted impatiently. “I said I was sorry–”

“–no!” said Aziraphale quickly. “That’s– well, that wasn’t what I meant at all. I just… I wanted to know just… why you said it. Is all.” He could feel his own voice trailing off, the determination he’d had back in the bus falling away to nothing.

Crowley hesitated. And then he sighed, and seemed just... let go of something.

“I said it because I meant it, angel,” he said. “I told you that I loved you because I did.”

“And do you...” Aziraphale started, even though he was terrified of the answer. “Do you still? After everything?”

They hung in the balance for a moment – suspended between two points, neither of them daring to breathe.

“...Yeah,” said Crowley, finally, and his voice cracked on it. “Yeah, I do.”

Aziraphale felt the words with his entire body – they drew a gasp out of his lips without him even consciously realizing it, and he grasped at Crowley, almost desperately, steading himself against the revelation. “Oh, Crowley...” He felt giddy – a sudden surge of vertigo above a dizzying, wonderful height. “Crowley, it’s the same for– I mean, I’m–”

The words seemed to all run into each other, and all of a sudden, Aziraphale could hardly get any of them out at all.

“...Angel?” asked Crowley, with a heartbreaking hesitance, and Aziraphale would not, could not lose his nerve now.

“I love you too,” he blurted, finally. “God, Crowley – I’m so in love with you, it’s like I’ve been losing my mind over it–”

And then he kissed Crowley again, or perhaps Crowley kissed him. It didn’t seem to matter. He pulled Crowley close, tangled his fingers into his hair – and Crowley made a desperate sound into his mouth, and melted into the kiss.

“Crowley...” Aziraphale breathed into his ear, and Crowley gasped as he kissed down his neck. It was perfect – it was beautiful. It was everything they’d had that first time and orders of magnitude more. And this time, Aziraphale could do things right, could give Crowley everything he ever wanted and more. This time it would finally be real.

He kissed Crowley, and trailed a hand downwards, until it met... nothing.

Aziraphale pulled back slightly. He was sure that Crowley had been maintaining some sort of effort before – he’d felt it when Crowley had ground against him. But now there was nothing there at all.

“Crowley...?” he asked, carefully. “Is something wrong? I thought that you...?”

“Oh!” said Crowley, like he’d completely forgotten. “Right, we were... sex. Um, hang on just a mo’...”

He closed his eyes in a moment of concentration, and the erection miraculously and instantaneously reappeared.

“Sorry about that,” Crowley said, moved to kiss him again as though nothing had happened.

Aziraphale stopped him. “Wait, wait – Crowley...”

“What now?” he said, impatiently, and his entire bearing was uncomfortably familiar. There was an anxiousness to it, like Crowley was pushing himself through something without actually enjoying it at all. They were here, they were together, they loved each other... and Crowley already seemed like he was halfway out the door.

Something curdled in Aziraphale’s gut as he thought back through all the times they’d been together, and every time he’d seen that look. He’d thought that Crowley was using him – that the hurried way they’d done things in the past was because that was all Crowley that had wanted. But if Crowley loved him, if this had all been a misunderstanding, then that couldn’t have been it at all. And if Crowley hadn’t been rushing through sex because he disliked Aziraphale, then...

Aziraphale took a breath, and backed away, just a hair. Just enough to give Crowley a little bit of space.  “Crowley, do you, um… do you actually want to have sex with me?” he asked, carefully. “Did you ever want to have sex with me?”

Crowley narrowed his eyes in suspicion. “This is a trick question, isn’t it.”

“No,” said Aziraphale. “It isn’t. I just… I’m beginning to suspect that I may have been being incredibly foolish.”

Crowley gave him another long look, like he was trying to suss out some secret ulterior motive. But apparently, he found nothing, because after a moment he shrugged and answered. “Eh. Doesn’t really do much for me. But, whatever – you wanted it.”

Aziraphale hesitated a moment, and Crowley blanched.

“You did want it, right?”

Aziraphale bit his lip. “Well, um... You see...”

“...Angel, are you telling me that you didn’t want it?

This was rapidly becoming a conversion which Aziraphale was not even remotely prepared for, but at this point, he supposed there was no going back.

He took a breath.

“Well...” Aziraphale started. “I didn’t not want it. Exactly. I mean, it was nice?”

“Nice?” asked Crowley, in a way that sounded not entirely like a question.

“I thought... I thought you wanted to, and I didn’t want to lose you as a friend, you see,” Aziraphale said. “But then– Well, we did it together, and it was wonderful. I– I got to hold you and kiss you, and, well. The actual intercourse I can take or leave, I suppose, but it was so lovely to just be with you, and. My dear, it was just that I never got to have that with you when we weren’t making love. But if sex isn’t what you want, then we don’t need to! I’d never want you to be making yourself uncomfortable for my sake, not for this.”

There was a very long pause.

“You– You’ve been letting me fuck you… all this time… because you wanted a cuddle?!” Crowley voice was a strangled croak, and Aziraphale thought he looked… oh dear, he looked horrified.

“Well, yes,” said Aziraphale, and then immediately tried to correct as Crowley noticeably paled. “I mean, no! I mean... Oh, I don’t know, Crowley – I’m terribly sorry.”

You’re sorry?!” said Crowley. “I’m the one who– who– Oh, Satan, I need to sit down for this.”

He dropped down heavily into a sofa which had been on the other side of the living room a second ago, and placed his head in his hands. After a moment, Aziraphale joined him.

“Crowley...?” he asked, after a pause.

“...I’ve fucked it all up, haven’t I,” said Crowley, and whatever Aziraphale had been expecting him to say it wasn’t that.

‘What?” he asked. “No – Crowley you haven’t done anything of the kind. Why would you say that?”

Crowley looked away. “I thought that was all you wanted from me,” he said, finally. “And I didn’t love it, but... but I loved you, yeah? And now you tell me that I was practically taking advantage of you–”

“I said no such thing,” said Aziraphale, gently, but firmly. “Crowley, look at me.”

He did, and the pain clearly visible on his face almost broke Aziraphale’s heart in two.

“Crowley...” he said. “Can we start again?”

“What do you mean?” asked Crowley.

“I mean...” said Aziraphale. “I want to... court you. Properly. If I could?”

Crowley gave him a look that seemed to question why he would possibly want to, but he nodded. “...Yeah, I’d... I’d like that, angel,” he said, eventually.

“Can you tell me what you want?” asked Aziraphale. “What you actually want, not what you think I want you to say.”

Crowley hesitated. “I... want you to be happy.”

“Well, excellent,” said Aziraphale, and he absolutely didn’t roll his eyes, although a part of him was tempted to. “And what would make me very happy right now, I think, is having a significantly better sense of what you would like out of all this. So...?”

Crowley fidgeted with his keys, not quite looking at him. “...I don’t want to scare you off, though.”

Aziraphale sighed. “I very much doubt that you could, Crowley. Just... name something. Anything at all. The worst thing I can say it no – and if I don’t want something, I swear I’ll tell you from now on.”

And that seemed to do it, because Crowley edged a little bit closer to him, and said, with as much confidence as he seemed able to muster, “I... want to hold your hand.”

“Of course,” said Aziraphale, and he took Crowley’s hand gently into his own.

“In public,” Crowley added, and then squared his jaw like it was a challenge.

“Well, yes, of course,” Aziraphale replied, and Crowley’s eyes widened. “What else?”

“I want to kiss you?” he said, like it was a question. “Just, randomly – not as a lead up to anything else. I want to kiss you goodnight, or good morning. Or just... just because.”

“I’d love that, Crowley,” Aziraphale said, smiling. “What else?”

“I... want to do things for you. Take you places.”

Aziraphale threaded their fingers together. “And would you like if I did the same? Made us reservations, took you to shows? Brought you flowers?”

Crowley nodded, and Aziraphale’s smile grew.

“What else?”

Crowley gulped. “I’d like to... stay with you? Sleep in your bed, while you read. Wake up next to you. Make you breakfast.”

Aziraphale nodded. “That would be wonderful, Crowley. What else?”

Crowley blinked at him. “What else? Satan, I didn’t think I’d get this far. Um, I– I want us to move in together.”

Aziraphale nodded.

“Into a proper house, with an actual picket fence?” Crowley pressed. “Fuck off to the country somewhere, just you and me?”

“A cottage would be rather nice,” Aziraphale agreed, and Crowley’s anxiousness finally shattered completely. He laughed, and then Aziraphale laughed, and then they were laughing together, and holding each other, and everything was almost completely right again.

 Aziraphale brought their clasped hands to his lips, and kissed Crowley gently, and Crowley looked at him like he’d given him the world.

“Can we really have this?” he asked. “After everything, do I really get to keep you?”

“Well,” said Aziraphale, “technically there is still the matter of our employers...”

“Fuck ‘em,” said Crowley. “You have a plan, yeah?”

Aziraphale nodded. “It is rather risky, though.”

Crowley laughed again, and then kissed him, like that was all that mattered. In a way, it rather was.

“Afterwards,” said Aziraphale, between kisses, “we should talk more.”

“Afterwards,” said Crowley, “I should finally take you on a proper date.”

And there would be an ‘afterwards’ — Aziraphale was sure of it. They’d muddle their way through this like they’d always done before. They had so much reason to now.