[acsalva_art] The way he’s flirting with the camera I can’t breathe I’m scrolling through the comments now instead of actually watching because I might literally melt he’s so gorgeous *fans self*
[rapunzel713] He’s so hot and for what??? I would do anything to be that microphone. Seriously ANYTHING just tell me what I need to do.
[Oniria_Creation] hnnnhhhhhhh I always clean my phone before I come to bed because I know I’m going to end up licking the screen when I watch him XD
[KissMyAsthma] HE’S BRAIDED HIS HAIR OMG HE’S SO GORGEOUS!!!
[Hwyaden_ddu] Y’all just thirsting over him but seriously Crowley if you ever read this thank you so much for these videos they have actually saved my life, your videos are the only thing that helps me get to sleep. I’ve had a really tough year and I am so grateful to you for making these videos for us xxx
[JoyAndOtherStories] Holy shit I didn’t think it was possible for him to get any hotter!!! How are none of you talking about the EYELINER?? Right that’s it I’m dead now bye x
Crowley stopped reading the comments at that point. He considered liking the one comment he’d read that said he’d actually helped someone, but decided not to. Then he would feel obligated to read all of the other comments to find any similar messages, and he didn’t think he could face it.
Crowley wasn’t naive, he knew that his ASMR channel on YouTube, Serpent of Sleep, only had such a large following because (although he couldn’t quite understand it) people found him attractive. In all honesty, in the early days, he’d even played up to it. He still did to some extent, making an effort to look good in the videos, donning his demon costume (and, in this last video, as had been noted by one of his fans, black eyeliner) and pretending to tempt his viewers to do various things as part of his Let me tempt you series. He closed the video and idly scrolled through his channel.
Let me tempt you to stay up late [10.7M views]
Let me tempt you to a spot of lunch [9.8M views]
Let me tempt you to take a break [12.6M views]
He had once dropped the ‘tempt you’ and had posted Let me take care of you, which had so far amassed 58.5 million views. That’s what this was all about, wasn’t it? That’s how this whole phenomenon had started. People were lonely and wanted to feel as though someone was there with them, that someone actually cared about them. People were expected to absorb and process so much new information every single day, dealing with stress from each and every direction, all in isolation... it was no wonder people had trouble switching off and getting to sleep. Crowley felt a little pulse of satisfaction each time he saw that he had helped someone, but recently he had started to feel jaded about the whole thing. If ASMR, the actual autonomous sensory meridian response, had evolved as a feeling to encourage closeness and connection among social primates, then wasn’t it sad that he was doing all of this sat in a dark, empty room, talking to a camera and a microphone? That in his work, he never actually spoke to anyone at all?
Truth be told, Crowley was lonely too.
He closed YouTube and pressed the icon on his phone for the browser, which opened to the last tab he had been viewing, the website for Eden’s Springs, London’s first real life ASMR spa. More specifically, their job vacancies page. Crowley’s heart rate picked up just thinking about it. As much as he thought he wanted to move on to something where he would actually have the opportunity to interact with people, after so long hiding away in his tiny dark studio, the thought actually made him nervous. So Crowley did the logical thing, he filled in the form on the website detailing his preferred ASMR triggers and booked himself an appointment as a client. This would give him the opportunity to find out more about what actually happened there before deciding whether or not he should apply for the advertised job of ‘ASMR therapist’.
Eden’s Springs was much like Crowley had imagined. Perhaps that was thanks to the copious photos on their website, the owner clearly wanting people to know what to expect in order to help them feel more comfortable. That made sense, after all, their clientele almost certainly consisted primarily of people who were used to experiencing ASMR at 2am while snuggled up alone in bed, rather than somewhere unfamiliar. Crowley had arrived early, and the receptionist softly asked him to take a seat by the window. The reception area was bright white and sparsely decorated aside from a few houseplants and candles, with tranquil music playing quietly in the background. It should have been peaceful, but Crowley’s heart was fluttering in his chest and he had to try very hard not to fidget. Could he actually see himself coming to work in a place like this?
“Mr Crowley?” The receptionist interrupted his thoughts, maintaining the same gentle tone as before. “You can go through now. Room 3, it’s just down the corridor, second on the right.”
“Thanks,” Crowley whispered in response, feeling silly but finding the atmosphere of the place prevented him from speaking any louder. He tread carefully to keep his footsteps quiet as his shoes made contact with the faux-wood floor, proceeding down the corridor until he reached a door with an embossed gold 3 on it. He hesitated for a second, wondering whether to knock. He couldn’t, could he? You couldn’t go around knocking doors in an ASMR spa. Although, you couldn’t exactly go around opening doors without alerting whoever was inside to your presence either, could you? Although the receptionist had said he could go through now...
The result of this internal struggle was the weakest, most pathetic knock to have happened in the entire history of doors. It sounded something like a moth flying into a kitchen window chasing the light. There was next to no chance anyone inside the room would have actually heard it, but Crowley decided to go for it anyway and opened the door, stepping through and quickly, but quietly, closing it behind him.
The room contrasted starkly with the bright, spacious reception area. It was small and dimly lit, the whole room bathed in a soft, red glow. Crowley remembered being asked on the form he had filled in for his favourite colour, and appreciated the attention to detail. There was a... surface, not quite a couch, not quite a bed, although it did look soft, pushed up against one of the walls and covered with blankets and pillows. There was a table next to the bed (Crowley decided to go with that as a description), with a wooden box on top of it. That was all Crowley was able to take in of the contents of the room in the brief seconds after he entered before he became entirely distracted by the other person in the room. The fluttering in his chest intensified.
“Hello,” spoke the softest voice to have ever spoken, “my name is Aziraphale. What would you like me to call you?”
Crowley swallowed, making a conscious effort to ensure his mouth didn’t hang open but entirely unable to restrain himself from staring. He felt like an absolute hypocrite but fucking hell this man was gorgeous.
Oh no. Oh no no no no no.
“It’s lovely to meet you Crowley,” Aziraphale whispered. “Would you like to sit down?”
Aziraphale gestured to the bed, and Crowley nodded dumbly, tentatively sitting on the edge of it. Aziraphale sat beside him and smiled, the kind of smile that made Crowley feel like someone had reached down his throat and was pulling his intestines out through his mouth.
This is supposed to be relaxing. Hnnnnnnhhhhh. Crowley swallowed again and took a deep breath.
“It’s all right to be nervous,” Aziraphale whispered reassuringly. “Have you never done this before?”
Crowley’s mind became a whirlwind of thoughts, and he tried not to think about how closely they mirrored some of the comments he’d read on his own YouTube channel. He’s so fucking gorgeous... those eyes, that smile, oh God his hair... that voice! Crowley ended up just shaking his head in response to the question he’d been asked.
“Well, I have the information you filled in for us about the triggers you enjoy, but if there’s anything I suggest or do that you don’t want to happen, just tell me straight away, all right?”
Crowley again offered a non-verbal response to this question, quite proud of himself that he even managed to nod. As well as creating ASMR videos, Crowley did, of course, watch videos made by other ASMRtists, primarily for research, but occasionally for the same reasons other people watched them, helping to stave off his loneliness or to allow him to switch off enough to fall asleep. Perhaps it was because he was used to the person in the video interacting with him without the expectation of any response that he found himself completely unable to speak to Aziraphale. Yes, that was probably it.
“Good. I’d like to start by brushing your hair.”
Oh no... Suddenly everything Crowley had written on that goddamned form on the website came rushing back to him. Shitshitshitshitshit! Aziraphale reached into the box on the table and withdrew a hairbrush.
“Could you take your hair down for me, please? Or would you prefer for me to do it?” Aziraphale whispered. Crowley nodded, which Aziraphale apparently interpreted as an affirmative response to his second question, which of course he did, because Crowley had frozen and made no move to remove his hair tie himself. Aziraphale smiled again, although that isn’t quite accurate... Aziraphale didn’t seem to ever stop smiling, but sometimes that smile would broaden, the corners of his eyes crinkling, and Crowley would have all of the breath sucked out of him instantaneously. How was he ever going to survive this?
Without adequate chance for Crowley to prepare (were such a feat even possible), Aziraphale’s hands (his beautiful hands) were in Crowley’s hair, extraordinarily slowly and carefully pulling it free from his hair tie. Aziraphale held the small black band out to him, and Crowley didn’t say a word, plucking it from his grasp and taking the utmost care not to touch Aziraphale’s fingers in the process, slipping it around his wrist.
“You have lovely hair, my dear,” Aziraphale murmured softly, running his fingers through it a few times.
Aziraphale tilted his head and smiled fondly, separating a section of Crowley’s hair and then taking the brush to it, slowly and delicately drawing it through the strands. The combination of the feather light touch of Aziraphale’s hand, the sensation of the brush sweeping rhythmically through his hair and the soothing swooshing sound that accompanied it set Crowley’s scalp tingling immediately, travelling lower, shifting into a prickling sensation skittering over his nape. His eyes fluttered closed and he sighed, letting his head droop down.
“Does that feel good?”
Oh for God’s sake...
Crowley prayed that Aziraphale wouldn’t say anything else. With his eyes closed it was just about possible for Crowley to focus on the sensation of having his hair brushed without thinking too much about the nature (the gentle, soft, gorgeous nature) of the person actually doing the brushing. Crowley could do this. It would be fine. Just as long as Aziraphale didn’t say anyth--
“Your hair is incredibly soft, it feels wonderful. Thank you for letting me do this for you.”
Fucking hell. The tingles spread all over Crowley’s scalp like icy tendrils, this time shooting all the way down his spine and leaving him with a warm glow all over. He was soon broken out of his trance though, although gave no outward indication of it, when he realised Aziraphale was just saying what he had been trained to say. The same things Crowley said in his videos, and the same thing he would be saying to actual people if he ended up working here. Rather than make people feel you were willing to take care of them, you needed to make them believe you wanted to. Part of him wished he’d been able to hold onto that fantasy for more than a couple of seconds.
Crowley’s instinct was to tell Aziraphale to drop the act, that he didn’t need to pretend to want to be doing this and that it was anything more than a job, but he didn’t want to make him feel uncomfortable. Besides, if Aziraphale stopped playing a role, then what the hell would this actually be? Crowley sighed heavily, hoping it sounded like a response indicative of relaxation rather than over-thinking.
“Could you shuffle around slightly please, my dear, so I can get to the back?”
Crowley complied without saying a word, shifting so that he was sitting on the edge of the bed at an angle, with his back towards Aziraphale. At least now even if he opened his eyes he wouldn’t actually have to look at him. The thought of the comments on Crowley’s videos popped into his mind again.
I am such a fucking hypocrite.
Aziraphale rested another section of hair in his hand and began running the brush through it, again and again and again, taking exceptional care to maintain a steady rhythm with his strokes. After a few minutes, pressure against his shoulder blade alerted Crowley to the fact he had been gradually leaning back, and was now actually leaning against Aziraphale. He gasped quietly and hunched forward.
“I’m sorry!” he hissed quietly.
“Don’t worry,” Aziraphale reassured him. “It’s not uncommon for clients to become sleepy. This is supposed to be relaxing, after all.”
Right, sleepy, because that was what Crowley was feeling, sure. He wondered whether Aziraphale really believed that’s what had happened, or whether it was just another thing he had been trained to say to make sure he didn’t make his clients feel awkward about their behaviour.
“Thanks,” Crowley mumbled. This may have supposed to have been relaxing but every muscle in his body felt tense. Aziraphale continued thoroughly brushing his hair in silence, and Crowley did eventually feel himself relax, being lulled further and further into a trance with each sweep of the brush. Crowley couldn’t have guessed how much time passed before he heard Aziraphale carefully place the brush back in the box before carding his fingers through Crowley’s hair.
“Would you like me to braid your hair for you?”
Oh God what if he’s just working through everything I wrote on that form? Oh shit I wrote the thing with the feathers! Fuuuuck!
It was unlikely that Aziraphale actually confidently interpreted this response as an affirmative. It was more likely that he proceeded because Crowley had, like some special variety of idiot, written ‘hair brushing and braiding’ on that fucking form. Regardless, Crowley was now experiencing the sensation of Aziraphale’s strong but delicate fingers rubbing against his scalp as he took more time than necessary to separate a section of Crowley’s hair into three even strands to create the braid. Aziraphale lightly tugged on Crowley’s hair as he moved each strand into position, and Crowley shivered, painfully aware that his chances of surviving this experience were diminishing rapidly.
Crowley felt Aziraphale take hold of the braid firmly in one hand, his right hand then appearing in Crowley’s field of vision beside his waist. Crowley wasn’t sure what he was expected to do, racking his brain until he finally realised that Aziraphale just wanted him to give him the hair tie. Crowley pulled it off his wrist and placed it in Aziraphale’s palm, the tips of his fingers brushing against Aziraphale’s skin and sending sparks of electricity shooting up his arm.
“Thank you, Crowley.”
That was only the second time Aziraphale had actually used Crowley’s name, and the sound of his own name in Aziraphale’s voice made Crowley’s stomach flip upside down. That was something you could never get with a video. Well, not never, Crowley was aware of some of his counterparts who recorded bespoke videos for their fans, with a steep price tag attached, which was something that had never appealed to Crowley. The thought of it actually made him feel quite sad, knowing that so many people were feeling so isolated that they would pay a stranger to record a video as if they were speaking to them just so they wouldn’t feel so alone. What did that say about the state of modern society?
Crowley had been so distracted by his thoughts that he had barely registered the sensation of Aziraphale fastening his hair tie in place. Crowley realised he should probably shuffle back around to face him, and when he did so, he was confronted once again with Aziraphale’s heart-stopping smile.
“It looks very nice,” Aziraphale whispered.
“Praising your own work,” Crowley responded reflexively, the most words he’d actually managed to say to Aziraphale, and they were stupid, stupid, stupid words. He groaned internally and chided himself for not just keeping his mouth shut. Aziraphale’s smile grew even more, and the sound of him chuckling softly hit Crowley like a punch to the gut. A pleasant punch in the gut, mind.
“Yes, I suppose I am. It’s not exactly craftsmanship, I’m afraid, but I do believe anything would look good on you.”
“Would you like me to paint your nails now?”
Crowley decided it would be best to not even attempt to form words, or sounds of any nature, and reverted to the relative safety of simply nodding in response. Aziraphale pulled a smaller box out of the one on the table, this one silver, and opened it up on his lap, revealing an assortment of nail polish bottles.
“What colour would you like?” he asked softly.
“Black,” Crowley mumbled in response, and, undoubtedly in accordance with his training, Aziraphale praised his choice.
“Perfect, that will go nicely with your lovely ensemble.”
Crowley felt another prickle of discomfort at how artificial this all was. He was quite certain someone like Aziraphale (dressed in a smart light blue shirt with a brown waistcoat and an honest-to-God tartan bowtie) wouldn’t praise Crowley’s skin-tight black jeans and T-shirt and his choice of black nail polish in real life. This place was advertised as a ‘real life ASMR experience’, but nothing could be further from the truth. Nothing about this was real. Crowley squeezed his eyes tightly shut, blinking back the tears that threatened to spill. Why the fuck was this so overwhelming? Perhaps because it was just so quiet (Crowley was pretty sure the room had been soundproofed), tranquil and intimate, and as such, far removed from the experience of most days spent living in London.
“Are you all right, Crowley?”
“Do you not want me to do this? We can do something else?”
“No, please. I’m fine,” Crowley managed, holding his hand out towards Aziraphale to indicate for him to proceed. Aziraphale’s smile faltered for a second, but he extracted the black nail polish and placed it on the table, before fastening the lid on the box and placing it safely back inside the larger box. Aziraphale unscrewed the lid on the small bottle and then took Crowley’s offered hand gently in his. When Aziraphale began meticulously painting his nails, Crowley’s skin tingled again in response to his touch.
Oh God his hands... Seriously, how is this man even real? Maybe he’s not real. Maybe I’m dreaming. This whole experience seems like the kind of ridiculous thing my subconscious would create.
Although, in reality, Crowley knew his mind could never have conjured up someone like Aziraphale. Aziraphale embodied a kind of perfection that was the sum of parts Crowley would never have been clever or creative enough to think to put together.
“This colour suits you,” Aziraphale whispered, applying gentle pressure beneath the tip of the finger he was working on.
“Black like my soul,” Crowley blurted out, forgetting he’d decided to keep his mouth shut. He winced, glad Aziraphale’s attention was fully focused on painting his nails, but was relieved when Aziraphale chuckled softly again. Crowley decided that making a fool of himself was worth it if it meant he got to hear more of that heavenly sound.
“I’m sure nothing could be further from the truth. I don’t doubt that you’re a very nice man.”
“I’m not nice,” Crowley hissed, a little louder than felt comfortable in these surroundings. Aziraphale looked up at him then, his serene expression wavering again.
“I’m sorry, Crowley. Would you prefer if I didn’t speak to you?”
“What?” Crowley challenged, his heart feeling like it was being crushed as he took in the uncertainty in Aziraphale’s eyes. He hated himself for making Aziraphale feel like he’d done something wrong. Aziraphale was perfect, a thought that probably should remain in Crowley’s mind, but... “No. No, you’re perfect. I mean, this is perfect. I’m just... I’m just stuck in my own head, sorry.”
“Then I’m doing a poor job of helping you to relax.”
“No! Stop that! Why are you...?”
“I’m making it worse, aren’t I? I’m so sorry, I should go and see if one of the other therapists is available...” Aziraphale replaced the cap on the nail varnish and moved as if about to stand up. Crowley reached out to stop him, his hand hovering just above Aziraphale’s arm. He couldn’t actually make contact with him, he had signed a conditions of service document at the reception desk that expressly prohibited clients from touching the staff.
“Please don’t leave! I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to make you feel uncomfortable.”
“Oh no, you haven’t, not at all, of course not!” Aziraphale objected quietly.
“Why did you think I would prefer someone else?”
“You just don’t seem to be very relaxed.”
“Granted, yeah, but that can’t be that unusual? Surely most people you get here are completely stressed out, you can’t expect that to disappear just like that. You’re good at your job but you’re not a miracle worker.”
“You... you think I’m good at this?”
“You’re incredible,” Crowley admitted, spurred on by a desperate need to restore Aziraphale’s confidence. Even in the dim, red light of the room, Crowley could discern the way Aziraphale’s cheeks became faintly tinted in response to that.
“Oh... oh, thank you.”
“I can’t imagine why you’d think otherwise.”
“I’m not sure I should say.”
“Go on, please tell me,” Crowley whispered softly, reversing their roles as was so easy for him to do, determined to get Aziraphale to feel relaxed.
“Well, I’m afraid I’m feeling rather nervous.”
“Why? Have you not been doing this long?”
“Oh no, it’s not that. It’s just... I know who you are. I recognise you. From your videos, I mean.”
At that, Crowley felt the blood rush to his own cheeks. He hadn’t even considered that possibility. Oh God this was bad. Really bad. Mortifying.
“Oh goodness, you look horrified. I really am terribly sorry, I wasn’t sure whether I should say.”
“S’ok. M’just embarrassed.”
“You shouldn’t be! Your videos are wonderful!”
“Nhhh.” Crowley shook his head.
“You’re just being modest. You don’t get to have nine hundred thousand subscribers if you...”
“You know how many subscribers I have?”
“Oh. Oh dear. I... well, yes. I am a rather big fan of your work. I’m sorry, that’s why I’ve been so nervous. I’ve been afraid I would do something to make you feel uncomfortable.”
Crowley wasn’t really sure how he should feel about that, but what he was actually feeling in response to learning that Aziraphale was a fan of his was something quite different from feeling uncomfortable. Aziraphale was wringing his hands together anxiously in his lap, and all Crowley could think about was helping him to relax.
“Aziraphale, please don’t be nervous because of me. You’ve been doing a wonderful job. When you were brushing my hair I experienced the most intense ASMR of my life.”
Aziraphale laughed breathlessly. “You can’t mean that.”
“I do. I wouldn’t say it if it weren’t true.” It was indeed true, and Crowley feared he might spend the rest of his life chasing that feeling but never being able to experience it again. “Everything’s fine. Please carry on, you can’t leave me with just three nails painted.” Crowley held his hand out towards Aziraphale again.
“Ah, no, I suppose I can’t,” Aziraphale smiled bashfully, tentatively taking Crowley’s hand again and returning to his task, keeping his gaze intently focused on Crowley’s hand. “Crowley... may I ask you, what made you decide to book an appointment here?” Aziraphale paused, and realisation flashed over his features. “Oh... oh... are you...? We have a job vacancy.”
“Astutely deduced, Aziraphale,” Crowley grinned.
“Are you thinking of applying?” The way Aziraphale’s voice lifted with excitement set butterflies loose in Crowley’s stomach.
“Possibly. Wanted to get a better idea what it’s all about.”
“I do hope I haven’t put you off.”
“Of course not. Do you like working here?”
“Yes I do, very much.”
“Great. Maybe you could tell me about it?” Crowley whispered, watching the blush creep over Aziraphale’s cheeks again, something warm stirring inside Crowley’s gut. Aziraphale nodded and proceeded to tell Crowley more about the spa, continuing to speak in soft, hushed tones, while he painted the rest of his nails. Crowley found it a little difficult to concentrate on what Aziraphale was actually saying, his eyes flicking between Aziraphale’s warm, inviting eyes, his plush lips, his strong but delicate hands, his fluffy blonde curls...
If I applied for the job and got it, I’d get to work with Aziraphale.
“There we are, all done,” Aziraphale announced softly.
“Thanks, they look great.”
“You’re being very kind to me.”
“So are you.”
“I’m just doing my job, Crowley.”
Right, of course. Crowley’s heart grew a little heavier in his chest. He’d actually started to relax, to feel as though this was real, that they had dropped some of the pretence and had actually been having a real conversation. But no, of course, Aziraphale was still just doing his job.
“They’ll dry quite quickly, but try not to touch them for a few minutes. Are you happy to lie down for a while?”
Crowley shuffled backwards and pulled his legs up onto the bed, using his elbows to move himself into a comfortable position, wary of getting nail polish on the fabric of the bed. Aziraphale returned the black nail polish to the box, then picked up one of the blankets, draping it over Crowley’s legs.
“Are you comfortable?”
“Extremely, thank you.”
Crowley couldn’t help put grin in response to the beaming smile Aziraphale gave him. He was so fucking adorable, it shouldn’t be legal. Crowley kept his head tilted up so he could watch what Aziraphale was doing. He reached into the box on the table once again, and this time retrieved a long, white feather. Crowley’s eyes widened. How could he have been stupid enough to put that on the form? Oh yes, because it had never occurred to him that he might actually be attracted to the person using the feather, and in fairness, it wasn’t as though Crowley found himself attracted to many people. Aziraphale was just... divine.
“You like feathers?” Aziraphale asked softly. Crowley decided it was best to start formulating a potential escape plan in case it was needed, so although he wasn’t particularly comfortable doing so, he decided to lie.
“M’not sure. Thought I should put a range of things on the form, you know, get a better idea of different things. Yeah.”
“Well, let’s try it and see.”
Crowley moved to grab one of the pillows from the side of the bed, stopping abruptly when he remembered the nail polish might still be tacky.
“Oh, of course, let me do that for you,” Aziraphale whispered, lifting up one of the pillows and settling it behind Crowley’s head. Crowley leaned his head back onto it and smiled.
Aziraphale shuffled up the bed so that he was sitting right beside Crowley, his leg pressed up against Crowley’s arm. Aziraphale brought his hand to Crowley’s face and began lightly trailing the feather firstly over his forehead, then down and across his cheeks. Crowley watched him for a moment, captivated by Aziraphale’s expression of serene concentration and the way all of his attention was focused on him. It quickly became overwhelming, and Crowley closed his eyes, sighing as Aziraphale swept the feather over his neck and then down his arm. Crowley’s skin prickled in response.
“Does that feel good for you, Crowley?” Aziraphale murmured softly, his voice a low rumble, and in response to those words the tingling Crowley had been experiencing rapidly morphed into something else, his heart picking up its rhythm and the tingles coalescing deep in Crowley’s abdomen. He opened his eyes and abruptly shifted up onto his elbows.
“You want me to stop?” Aziraphale asked, and Crowley’s heart ached once again as he saw the disappointment in Aziraphale’s eyes. He desperately didn’t want him to feel like he had done something wrong, but Crowley couldn’t possibly let him continue, not when it was making him feeling like this, it just wouldn’t be appropriate, so he nodded. “All right, I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be sorry,” Crowley rushed to say. “It’s fine. Like I said, I wasn’t sure about that one really.”
“All right. Is there anything in particular you would like to try?”
“Do you have a specialty? Something you’re particularly known for?”
“Actually, yes...” Aziraphale replied, a little uncertainty tainting his voice. Crowley smiled and nodded, encouraging him to continue. “I read to people.”
“Oh, really? That makes sense, you’ve got an amazing voice for it.”
Crowley wondered if he could ever pay Aziraphale so many compliments that he would become immune to the effect of them, because once again Aziraphale blushed, dipped his head and smiled, looking at Crowley through his eyelashes.
“Thank you. It is rather popular. Here people tend to bring something with them they’d like me to read, but online I mostly read short stories or poetry, and I’ve also created videos reading some of the classics. In multiple parts, of course.”
Crowley’s eyes widened like a child who had woken up, thrown back the curtains and seen a thick blanket of snow on the ground. Aziraphale made videos. Aziraphale made videos. Aziraphale. Aziraphale made videos. Holy shit. Holy fucking shit. How had Crowley never stumbled across those?
“They don’t get anywhere near as many views as your videos do, of course, but...”
“What’s your channel name?” Crowley asked eagerly.
For fuck’s sake, rein it in!
“It’s ok, sorry, you don’t have to tell me.”
“No, I don’t mind. I’m just surprised you’d be interested.”
“You really have no idea how good you are, do you?”
That particular compliment earned Crowley not just a blush and a bashful gaze, but Aziraphale actually drew the corner of his bottom lip into his mouth, his teeth biting down gently on it, and Crowley momentarily forgot how to breathe.
“Angelic Whispers,” Aziraphale said quickly, his voice somehow even quieter than it had been before.
“Oh, well now, that’s very apt,” Crowley grinned, committing it to memory. Now he couldn’t wait to get into bed tonight. The lines across Aziraphale’s forehead deepened, and Crowley swallowed hard, afraid he’d offended him. “Please read something for me,” Crowley tempted softly, and Aziraphale visibly relaxed, quietly rummaging around in the box for a moment before retrieving a book.
Crowley lay his head back on the pillow and took a deep breath, wriggling slightly to get more comfortable on the bed. Aziraphale, who was still sitting pressed up against Crowley’s arm, opened the book on his lap and began to read. From the style of the language, Crowley assumed it was something by Shakespeare, and despite having very little comprehension of the meaning of it, Crowley would have been quite satisfied to listen to Aziraphale reading all day and all night, which he knew might actually happen once he found Aziraphale’s YouTube channel.
Crowley zoned out completely, losing himself in the sound of Aziraphale’s voice, but was drawn back to reality sometime later as he shivered involuntarily in response to Aziraphale threading his fingers through his hair.
“Do you like this?”
“I love it,” Crowley breathed, not daring to open his eyes no matter how much he might have wanted to see any effect his words had on Aziraphale. Crowley’s shoulders lifted as he breathed in deeply, sinking down against the bed. This was beyond relaxing. How long had it been since someone had actually sat this close to him, not counting being squashed up against strangers on the Tube? Crowley could barely remember. He could remember, however, how long it had been since someone had tenderly stroked his hair like this. It had been forever. No one had ever touched him like this. No one had ever wanted this kind of intimacy with Crowley.
“Crowley, are you all right?”
“What? Shit!” Crowley propped himself up on his elbows and wiped at his eyes. He hadn’t even noticed. “I’m so sorry!” he hissed.
“Don’t be sorry, it happens quite regularly,” Aziraphale reassured him, his hand now resting still in Crowley’s hair, just above his nape. It felt exquisite.
“People switch off from all of the distractions of everyday life in here. Sometimes that can bring up emotions that are normally suppressed.”
“I don’t think I can do this.”
“I understand,” Aziraphale said softly, closing the book and withdrawing his hand from Crowley’s hair. Crowley’s scalp tingled, and he missed the touch immediately. He could easily become addicted to it.
“No, I mean, I don’t think I can apply for this job. I don’t think I could do this... having to deal with people like me crying and stuff.”
“Why were you crying?”
“I don’t know really. I guess I’m just lonely,” Crowley confessed, lifting his hands and staring at his nails. “I’ve actually been for a manicure before just because I wanted someone to pay attention to me for a while, that’s so sad, isn’t it? I spend my days in a dark room on my own talking to a microphone and a camera. ASMR is meant to be a response to connection, right? But I never actually connect with anyone.”
“Is that why you thought about working here?”
“Yeah, but I really don’t think I could do it. I don’t think I’m actually very good with people. That’s what the videos are for, I guess, gives people a way to have some kind of connection without all the anxiety of having to actually deal with people in real life.”
“I do hope I haven’t made you feel anxious.”
“No, not at all! You’ve made me feel... better than I have in a long time. Thank you, Aziraphale. It just got a bit much. Sorry.”
“Please don’t apologise,” Aziraphale said softly, placing the book back in the box. “We still have some time, is there anything else you would like to do?”
“Can we just talk for a bit?”
“Of course. What would you like to talk about?”
“How did you get into this?”
“Ah... well. I’m sure you’ve heard of ‘unintentional ASMR’.”
Crowley grinned. “Yeah.”
“I used to do quite a bit of public speaking as part of my job, and I was alerted to the fact that a recording of one of my presentations had garnered quite a lot of interest online. Apparently people were listening to it to help them to fall asleep. I must admit I was rather offended at first,” Aziraphale chuckled, “but then I learnt more about the phenomenon and realised it was something I had experienced myself, I’d just never really thought about it. I’ve always had a passion for literature, so I started making recordings of myself reading books. It seemed like a good way to give more people access to the classics, as well as offering them a way to relax.”
“That’s a lovely thing to do.”
“Thank you. I found I rather enjoyed it, and now I get paid to do it here.”
“We should do a collaboration,” Crowley’s mouth decided to say without any input from his brain.
“I’m sorry?” Aziraphale’s eyebrows knitted together.
“You know, sometimes ASMRtists team up and create a video together. We could do that.” Crowley felt like he was trying to claw his way out of a hole that just got deeper and deeper the more he struggled. “Or not. Sorry if that’s stupid, I just...”
“It’s not stupid, and yes, I have seen things like that, but isn’t that normally something people do to introduce themselves to a new audience for mutual benefit?”
“You already have an enormous following, Crowley. My channel is tiny in comparison, I don’t see what you could hope to gain.”
“I’d get to work with you,” Crowley murmured softly, and Aziraphale once again glanced away bashfully in response.
“Oh, Crowley that really is very kind, but I couldn’t possibly...”
“It’s ok if you don’t want to do it,” Crowley interjected. “I understand, sorry. I shouldn’t have asked. Just a stupid idea.”
Crowley’s eyes followed the bob of Aziraphale’s Adam’s apple as he swallowed. Shit, he’d made him feel uncomfortable again. Crowley really needed to work on creating some kind of filter between his brain and his mouth. Aziraphale stared down into his lap, fidgeting with his hands again, and Crowley wished he could reach out and take them in his own, or draw Aziraphale into a hug, or stroke his hair, but he wasn’t allowed to.
“It’s not a stupid idea. I would love to do that. If you’re absolutely sure you don’t mind. You really don’t have to be so kind to me. I would hate to reduce the quality of your...”
“Aziraphale, don’t. I absolutely want to. It’s going to be brilliant.”
Aziraphale beamed at him, then reached into the box and withdrew a pen. He pulled Crowley’s hand towards him, cupping it with one of his own and writing on his palm with the other. It tickled slightly, but it was also incredibly intimate, and Crowley shivered, mentally adding a new ASMR trigger to his list. Crowley wondered whether that was actually why the pen was in the box in the first place. When Aziraphale released his hand, Crowley gazed down at it, and holy shit Aziraphale had just given him his phone number.
“Call me, if you like, so we can talk about it.”
Crowley swallowed to try to clear the lump forming in his throat. “Yeah, I will. I definitely will.”
“I’ll look forward to it,” Aziraphale smiled sweetly. “For now, I’m very sorry to say that our time is up.”
“How do you know?” Crowley asked, genuinely interested, and Aziraphale twisted the box around on the table, revealing a clock that was very discreetly embedded in the bottom corner of it.
“I hope you’ve had a somewhat relaxing time.”
“It’s been brilliant, thank you. Thank you for being so patient with me. I’ll... I’ll be in touch.”
Aziraphale gave him one last beaming smile and Crowley’s heart fluttered wildly.
“Take care, Crowley. See you soon, I hope.”
“You too. It was nice to meet you. Bye.”
Crowley resisted the urge to open YouTube until he got home, then tucked his legs up underneath him on the sofa, pulled a blanket over his lap and opened the app. He pressed the search box, ready to search for Angelic Whispers, then paused, realising there was something else he wanted to see before he opened Aziraphale’s channel: had Aziraphale ever commented on any of his videos? After longer than Crowley would have cared to admit of scrolling through comments (focusing only on the usernames and not actually reading the comments themselves, although the emojis stood out, and there were a hell of a lot of water droplets), Crowley got the answer to his question. Yes. It was dated two months ago.
[Angelic Whispers]: Crowley, I have watched all of your videos and they are absolutely wonderful. You are extraordinarily talented, and the time, care and attention you put into each of them is evident. Every time you speak it is very clear how kind you are, much you care about people and how dedicated you are to your fans. Please accept my most sincere gratitude for the amazing work that you do.