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There was something strange inside him, like needles, like rat's teeth, ants in his bone marrow. He couldn't shake it off for the life of him whilst he was walking towards Aziraphale's bookshop. He didn't even take the Bentley, and it was the strangest thing that had happened to him in centuries, even stranger than avoiding an apocalypse that could have wiped out the human race. London was crisp around him, autumn well settled between the pebbles on the streets, the colours of the trees melting into one another in a never-ending ceremony.

Hands in his pockets, a scornful expression on his face, Crowley sulked his way into the dimly lit bookshop when Aziraphale looked like he was waiting for him. That eased Crowley's sour mood a bit; Aziraphale's smile was a balm on a broken wrist. He colonized a chair that smelled just like dust; he blew on it, making it smelling of lemon.

(not his chair; just a chair.)

Aziraphale frowned. “Don't mess with my furniture, dear.”

“Wasn't. 'm just improving.”

“Well, don't improve anything else. Everything is as perfect as it already is, thank you.”

“Yeah, yeah, whatever.” He plopped onto the chair, crossed his legs under his bum. Aziraphale started closing the shop. “I think the shop could use some, you know, actual light. Feels like a mole hole here,” he added, voice full of spikes.

“Yes, but that would encourage people to come in, and we don't want that.”

“No, we don't.”

Crowley looked out of the window and found out that the world wasn't collapsing on itself. So what was the turmoil that, like a desert wind, was storming inside him, blending his bones into each other?

Aziraphale joined him, not before leaning over to steal a kiss.

Tell me you love me, a bug in Crowley's brain hissed in a shrill, hysteric voice, one more apt for child stars from black and white movies, tell me you love me more than you love your books, your shop, your entire existence. Tell me I'm the centre of your universe as you are of mine.

But he didn't. He simply sat down on the other armchair, a mustard coloured thing that hadn't ever dared fade, trembling under Crowley's violent threats. Aziraphale reached out for Crowley's hand, an open invite to hold it, and Crowley promptly did, never one to let go of temptations.

And that was it for the evening, it seemed. Time clocking away in the distance, even if Crowley never cared much for time. (he cared for the signs of its passage, fur sunsets and dawns and blossoms and wrinkles on his friends' faces. He had always tried to not look at the wrinkles, which smelt of dust and mould.)

But he cared for time now that it was shrinking his skin. He tapped on the armrests, bounced first one leg then the other and then both at the same time in the span of twenty-two seconds, shifted on his bum until he found the most uncomfortable position.

(he did not belong there. This was not his place.)

At some point, Aziraphale noticed.

(something, in Crowley's brain, started hissing like a caged miasma; Why aren't you looking at me all the time? Why do I always have to make myself so fucking visible, skinless, for you to really see me? Why don't I live in your pupils the same way you live in mine?)

“Is there something troubling you, love? You seem a little on edge.”

“I'm fine,” Crowley spat, tense, his frayed tongue starting to drip venom over his chapped lips. (he didn't like it. It wasn't fair.) “I'm just cold. You know I'm cranky when I'm cold.”

“Usually not like this, dearest.”

Aziraphale had a book on his lap that Crowley wished it would burn. He wanted that lap just for himself, to colonize it, to rewrite its code so it would accept only him. He was jealous of his bookshop, of everything Aziraphale kept inside, on his tables, under his lamps and mugs; Crowley wanted to be a battered old copy of his favourite novel, touched with white gloves and the most joyful smile on his face, kept and enjoyed and oh so precious.

“When you're just cranky you eat all my biscuits to annoy me.”

“Not in the mood for sugar today.”

He should fold himself and disappear.

“Love, it's not just -”

Why? Why? Why? Why don't you know? Why do I have to talk? Please, please, fucking please, open me and read me and not make me talk ever again. I don't want to talk.

“If you know me so damn well why are you asking me? You should already know what I feel, as it seems you know every-fucking-thing!”

Nervous electricity crackling around his hair, Crowley tried to get up, but Aziraphale stopped him before he could do (and be) anything, taking his wrist in his hand. That touch alone calmed him down immediately, even though blue and orange sparks still exploded in his stomach. He lowered his eyes, meeting Aziraphale's. He said nothing, waiting (hoping) for Aziraphale to talk, to forgive him, or maybe skinning him alive for daring be so hateful, horrid, putrid.

“Love, would you like -”

“I'd like to get the fuck out of this rat cage,” he snapped in spite of himself, shark teeth strangling him. Aziraphale's eyes were warm despite everything, despite Crowley. Love me, love me, love me.

“You sound exhausted, love, and I've been told my thighs are a really comfortable spot to rest on. Would you like to give them a chance?”

With a wet, heavy sigh, Crowley launched himself on his angel's lap, landing over the cold and hardcover of the book Aziraphale was reading. He groaned and miracled it away in the worst bookshelf in the bookshop; before he could miracle the glasses in the Bentley he simply threw them to the floor, uncaring.

“You could have told me earlier you wanted something else from our afternoon, darling,” Aziraphale murmured as he kissed his cheek, voice soothing and interlaced with emeralds, soft on his cold skin. Crowley would like a necklace made out of it, two thousand rings for every minute of every day. “You know I'd give you anything.”

Nestling his head under Aziraphale's chin, Crowley grumbled something like “Didn't want to,” that made his angel laugh. It was a yellow, vibrating thing, his laughter, and Crowley would find himself missing it during starless nights.

“Silly serpent. How was your concert, love?” Aziraphale asked as he tucked a strand of hair behind Crowley's ear, “You didn't tell me anything. I take it you didn't like it?”

Crowley could not conjure anything up about the past week's concert he had waited for for six months. Felt-like skull, dark and stormy, wool and cotton on his tongue. “It was all right,” he mumbled, rocking a bit on Aziraphale's lap. “I had fun.”

“I'm happy to hear that, my love.”

A soft duvet of silence between them, little kisses like pink sugar candies, fresh mint and June strawberries, Aziraphale's soft mouth up and down his neck. Against his embarrassment, a sharp “Oh” escaped from Crowley when he kissed his ear, and he felt Aziraphale smile.

“Would you like to have another bit of fun now?” he asked, voice low and huskier. “To cheer you up a little.”

There were a lot of wishes echoing in the back of his head, fuzzy and tart. Crowley nipped his neck. “You get worked up really fast, angel.”

With his hands under Crowley's shirt, Aziraphale chuckled. “It's rather easy, with such a breathtaking creature on my lap.” A kiss upon a kiss upon another kiss. “Is there something you particularly desire, love?” A kiss upon a kiss upon another kiss.

Give me everything. I'll give you everything, my bones, my eyes, each and every one of my veins. “You decide, please, angel.”

“Oh,” Aziraphale smirked – Crowley could not see him but he could hear the cheeky curve in his voice. “We're talking about needs, then.”

Holes, canyons, dry waterfalls. “Don't tease,” Crowley whined. “'s not fair.”

Aziraphale smiled, nuzzling his neck. It was wonderful, almost unnerving, how physically affectionate Aziraphale found himself to be. It was something forbidden in Heaven, he had explained one time, when he got a bit flustered as Crowley had pointed the subtle changes out, and something he had to learn all by himself. He had spent centuries unlearning what Heaven told him; he had been afraid, at first, to the point of crying when he someone touched him.

“I'm not.” Aziraphale started to rocking against Crowley, hands slithering down and inside his thighs, massaging and kneading, tantalizing. “Would you like to be good for me? Would you like to show me how much of a good boy you can be for me?”

Crowley shivered. He remembered the scorching embarrassment he had felt the day he confessed to Aziraphale how much he loved to be praised. It wasn't fit for a demon but, oh, how much he craved it. (is it your legacy, Mother? Is it how I would remember You forever? Leaving me hungry for Your voice, how much You bathed me in compliments as You did with all of your children. You left me with a hole.)

“Yes, please, angel.”

Aziraphale's smile was so sweet it was almost scorching, like caramel just out of the pot. “My good, polite pet. I'm so lucky.”

Crowley looked at him, waiting, worrying at his lips. He wanted to be banned from his own head, he wanted to be beaten to death, to have all his limbs ripped apart and fed to ravens. “Please,” he begged again, on the verge of a cliff.

“I want you kneeling on the bed, bottom up, clothes off. You are to wait for me as still as possible,” he said almost nonchalantly, used to the thrill of the power Crowley gave him.

He took Crowley's chin in hand, kissed him briefly. “I know my good boy will do everything I ask him because he's the most obedient pet in the world.”

“It's not hard, everyone can do that,” he grumbled, eyes heavy and mouth dry.

The grip on his chin tightened a bit and Crowley bit down a moan, ashamed to be turned on by such a small gesture. (but Crowley was all about small gestures, hidden touches, dry daisy petals with hand-written letters, absent-minded but meaningful strokes, waking up next to the love of his existence.) “I don't care about what other people can or can't do. Staying still is hard for you, that's why you make me so proud when you're completely motionless just to make me happy.”

He pushed his thumb through Crowley's slightly parted lips. Crowley moaned, but didn't do anything else, didn't suck it even if he was dying to, already obeying Aziraphale's orders.

“My sweet darling,” Aziraphale praised, “can I have a kiss before you head upstairs?”

Crowley chuckled and gave him just an innocent peck on the lips. “This is a kiss,” he teased as Aziraphale frowned, outraged. He knew what that look meant, and wiggled expectingly; a broad hand behind the neck, Aziraphale pushed him into a rough kiss, hungry and deep and bottomless, licking and biting along the chin and jawline. Crowley welcomed everything gladly, heat blooming in his stomach. Please, please, please, something cantillated. (was it his heart, his liver, his joke of a soul? Didn't matter.)

“Once a tempter, always a tempter,” Aziraphale breathed into the kiss, hands gliding down Crowley's back to his buttocks, squeezing them to fish sharp moans out Crowley's mouth.

“You've been doing squats, I see,” Aziraphale said, delighted. Crowley squirmed a bit as Aziraphale kneaded the meat of his arse and thighs.

“You appreciated the last time.”

“Indeed. My lovely pet, working so hard just to please me.”

He felt like he should make some witty remarks, joke a bit, but he was tired and empty and just wanted Aziraphale to fill every cutting corner of his useless body. He vaguely nodded.

Aziraphale lifted him up, arms around his waist. He always lifted Crowley as if he was weightless, and Crowley found it arousing every single time. “Now,” Aziraphale said, “I'm going to put you down”, and he gently did, “and you're going to run to the bedroom and wait for me.” He kissed Crowley's hand. “I'm going to make myself a cup of tea and check on your aftercare kit.”

The thought upset Crowley. He didn't want that. He didn't deserve that. “I don't need a -”

“If you're going to say you don't need – or deserve because it's what you'd like to say,” so Aziraphale looked at him and actually saw him, after all, “aftercare, I'm going to end the scene. There's already a lecture in store for you, by the way.”

“Can I wear that cute uniform I've bought last month when you'll get all reprimend-y?”, Crowley grinned, trying to mask the thing tightening his throat. (he didn't know what that thing was, if it was lust or fright or alarm or gratitude. Didn't matter.) “The skirt is really short.”

“You cannot.”

As Crowley squirmed again, feeling chastised but not in a fun way, Aziraphale softened a bit. He kissed Crowley gently as he held his hands. “I'm not angry, my love, just a bit worried.”

“Your lectures are not funny, I don't like them.”

“Lectures are not supposed to be funny. I'll take you somewhere fun after, though, if you are very, very good during the lecture. Not in the way you're thinking about being good, brat.”

Crowley laughed a bit.

Aziraphale kissed and bit Crowley's wrist. “Now go,” he ordered, smacking Crowley's bum. “Be a good boy and wait for me.”

I've always waited for you, Crowley thought as he climbed the stairs, thunder between his lungs.

 

*

 

The room was warm and the sheets pleasantly cool under his cheeks and knees; there wasn't music, as Aziraphale didn't tell him to put something on, so he was just in the company of his beating heart, his electric breath. Wrists crossed over the small of his back, Crowley shifted a bit, incapable of maintaining the same position for more than a few minutes when Aziraphale wasn't there with him. He bit his lip, ashamed of himself: it wasn't the first time they did that, it had been months, wasn't he supposed to be already perfect for his angel? He regained position, stiff and proper, even parted his legs a little. He thought it would be a nice way to welcome his angel, open and inviting. He also thought to miracle himself wet and loose, but then remembered how much Aziraphale loved to prepare him, maddening slowly, taking him apart piece by piece, second by second. He moaned (Aziraphale's finger inside him, working him open, his soft words on the nape of his neck, the other of his angel's hand on his hip) and warmness pooled in his stomach, between his legs. He didn't even know if Aziraphale wanted a cunt or a cock today. Should he have waited to know? Had he been wrong to assume? But in the past few days Aziraphale had complimented him about how welcoming his cunt just before eating him out, just before starting fucking him in earnest. His head started hurting, his eyes burning. Where was Aziraphale? He wanted him so much, he needed him, his hands, the gentle push of his belly against his back – but he did not deserve anything gentle, anything soft. The world was ringing again, splinters of bones cutting through his intestines. He felt, once again, restless, his body shivering. He scratched his arms, killing the ants that were digging into his skin, then he remembered he was to stay still. Aziraphale said so. So he closed his eyes shut, his wrists again crossed behind his back, knees apart. Be good, he ordered himself, be good and maybe he will let you live.

“My perfect raven,” Aziraphale said, at some point in the years Crowley spent kneeling. “You did so well, I'm so proud of you.”

And with just that, just a few too scorchingly sweet words, Crowley started crying; he had absolutely fucking not being good. “I'm sorry, angel, I wasn't still all the time like you asked, I'm so sorry...”, he whined, voice wet, hating himself for that – he could be able to just apologise for his behaviour without that sorry tone of voice, without all that need to be immediately forgiven. Aziraphale put his hand on the small of Crowley's back, slowly circling his dimples.

“It's all right, darling.” His voice was soft, full of feathers. He planted a kiss on the nape of Crowley's neck. “You're on the bed, you're kneeling, and you didn't move since I was in the room, and I came here long before you noticed.”

“No, it's not all right, I didn't do well, I'm -” I'm a failure, he wanted to say, but Aziraphale showed him plenty of times how much he hated it when Crowley said that, so he just bit his lips, feeling guilty about daring to think about something Aziraphale despised. But, oh, how much he wanted to say it out loud, to make amends once again.

“Do you feel like you should be punished, Crowley?”

“Yes!”, he almost cried. He was feeling useless, broken, he couldn't even follow the simplest of instruction, how stupid he was, how irremediable? “You should – you should punish me, spank me, whip me, I didn't do well, you -” you should break me, he begged, break me and put me back again.

(he did not belong here. He should vanish into thin air, leave Aziraphale alone.)

“Well, sweetling, I think you're not.”

“But I -”

“Crowley.” His voice was suddenly stern.“You were as obedient as you could be. That's fine to me. So it's fine to you too.”

“Yes, angel,” Crowley surrendered.

“Good to see we're on the same page,” Aziraphale smiled as he climbed on the bed; his weight was real behind Crowley, sure and safe. He stroked one of his thighs. “Do you want to rest your face on the pillow? I don't think it's going to be very comfortable for you otherwise.”

“I'm fine like this. Thank you,” he remembered to add a second too late for him to be a proper sub like the one he should be by now.

“Well, as you wish, my love.” A kiss for each of his dimple. “Now, I don't want to hear another word from you until I say otherwise, and I want you to spread your wings, darling. It's been too long since the last time.”

Crowley loved his wings, how shiny and well-kept they were, and what it meant to show them to Aziraphale, who would fuss over them, praising him for how well he took care of them, how good he was. Crowley whimpered as his wings unfurled, casting a shadow over him. A little cloud escaped Aziraphale's mouth, soft and lavender, so pleased.

“Wonderful, love, simply wonderful. Let me worship you properly, my love.”

No, no, no. He didn't want to be worshipped, he wanted to scream until his throat bled, he wanted Aziraphale to rip his feathers off and eat them. He hated every single one of the wanton moans Aziraphale got out of him as he slowly stroked his wings, from the semiplumes near his scapulae to the last of the secondaries. This wasn't what he submitted to Aziraphale for, this was just fucking cuddling, he was being treated exactly like a pet, a sick puppy. But he could not articulate his desires now, he should not even talk, as Aziraphale ordered. But Aziraphale was not being the dominant he should be. So Crowley felt entitled to disobey.

“Angel, please,” he just whined because words are always hard and in that moment was even harder. He was rewarded by a quick swat on the arse.

“I think I've told you not to speak, Crowley,” Aziraphale said, stern and cold, then another swat. “Two words, two slaps.”

Crowley's confusion aggravated the storm: why did Aziraphale not understand? Why did he not see and hear the thunders and roars? Why was he kissing his back, between his shoulder blades, why was he stroking his hips? Crowley hated him, then hated himself for hating him. Aziraphale had already shown his abilities with whips and paddles, why was he not using them, when Crowley needed to be stripped off his skin as soon as possible?

Crowley decided to play. “Didn't even feel them. You're losing your touch, angel.”

Ah, yes, he had cracked the code: Aziraphale spanked him for each word with increasing strength, hot and not fucking enough. “Are we feeling bratty, darling?”

“Yeah, because you're being a damn lousy -” but he was cut short by a particularly harsh blow that, he was sure, made Aziraphale's hand sting too. Yes, yes, that was it, the ache he was searching for; the voices down to torn whispers, the storm scattered in dark grey clouds.

They had indulged in brat tamer play before, Crowley's mouth free to run as he pleased until he would face consequences he knew and wished for, so he hoped Aziraphale would not see through him, now. His heart was beating so fast he was afraid London could hear it, and make fun of him, of his disgusting nature.

“Crowley, this is your last warning before something you'd find really unpleasant -”

“Oh yeah? Will you make me do the dishes?”

“Crowley.”

His name, once again as hard as steel, made him want to puke. He liked pet names during a scene – but he had pushed Aziraphale to the limit. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.

“What has gotten into you?”

Crowley did not reply. Aziraphale wasn't angry, but Crowley needed him to be lost in a destructive rage he would use to annihilate him.

“Answer me, please.”

Why please? Why was he asking him, instead of barking orders? He remembered a man he had submitted to, after their St. James Park fight, that had fucked him until he bled and Crowley had cried with relief and gratitude. The man, big and burly (black eyes, black hair), was used to be served and obeyed, and Crowley had done both gladly.

“Because you're a shitty fucking dom, I'll just join a random fucking dungeon the next time I want a decent beating.”

Crowley pictured his blind-white rage as Aziraphale sharply inhaled. He hoped to be hauled over his knees and spanked for hours, slapped in the face, spat on, walked on like the waste of space he was.

“Look at me, Crowley.”

The thunders blinded him. No, no, no, no, no, no.

“I can't, you said I have to be absolutely still. I'm just obeying your stupid orders.”

No, no, no, no, no, no. What the fuck was wrong with him?

“Now I'm ordering you to look at me.”

No, no, no, no, no, no.

“No.”

What the fuck was wrong with Aziraphale?

“I'd like to see your face, please.”

“Tough luck. If you're not going to fuck me leave me alone, I have a dildo I've been wanting to try for weeks anyway.”

He did not, he just wanted Aziraphale to confirm his fears. If he couldn't do anything else (why could he not? Why? Did he not love him enough? Was Crowley too much for him? There was a a storm in the pit of his stomach, and he wanted Aziraphale to mute it, to scare the thunders out, be the most terrifying Principality the universe had ever seen and cast the voices out. But could he say something like that? It was too heavy a responsibility, and too frightening. What if he drove him out instead? Who the fuck needed that kind of entity near them? Not Aziraphale for sure.) the only thing left was

“Crowley -”

“Stop fucking pestering me, Aziraphale.” His eyes hurt, his head spun.

Aziraphale, once again, let out a rusted sigh that exploded like a bullet, shards crawling under Crowley's skin. He snapped his fingers twice, and Crowley found himself sprawled on his back, wrists tied behind his back, wings back in their own plane of existence. Aziraphale was still fully clothed, hard lines on his forearms and around his mouth; there was just air between Crowley's naked body and his hands, between his defenceless vulva and Aziraphale's trousers. It was usually arousing, the imbalance, the idea of being a piece of paper in Aziraphale's hands, but now there was no space in his body to be aroused by anything. He was, for lack of better words, sad, and terrified, and dead set on destroying himself.

“What are you after, Crowley? There's a whip already dipped in holy water that is just waiting for you, if you want.”

“Yeah, maybe you can make things interesting again.”

Aziraphale lowered his head, his lips just a wings' flutter away from Crowley's. “Colour, dear. I need to be sure.”

Crowley gritted his teeth and smirked, fangs sharper than before. “Fucking forest green, Aziraphale.”

Aziraphale waited a couple of seconds before slapping him. “I'm very disappointed in you, Crowley,” no, no, no, no, “I thought I was heading to a pleasant evening with my sweet boy, not this wretched pest.”

Crowley hated disappointing him, and the thorns of it chained his throat; he wanted to crawl and beg for forgiveness, and Aziraphale would give it to him, would kiss him until it was all right again. But now, now he could not anything of the sort, only blood and pain would make everything all right again. Maybe. (no, because you are not allowed to be forgiven.)

“A good master has good pets,” he stated, matter-of-factly.

Aziraphale, with a scoff, carded his hand through his hair, scratched his scalp for a blessed second, then pulled so hard Crowley knew there was a drop of angelic strength, ringing and pulsing faintly in the air like tiny copper bells. He swallowed his dread as he watched his angel's eyes darken. “You know better than question my authority here, demon.”

“Yeah? And why's that?”

Aziraphale smiled seraphically as he snapped his fingers to gag Crowley and bless the bounds around Crowley's wrists. Ah, yes, yes, yes. “I'm not going to waste my precious time arguing with such a rotten boy. There's a whip I already talked about you can argue with, if you so desire, or the new tawse. Maybe you need an old school punishment since you're behaving like a child.”

Alarmed rumbling vibrated around the gag ball as Crowley stared at his angel rummaging through their toy box. He didn't really like the tawse, because it was too sharp, but mainly because it was for actual punishments. And yet, it meant he had fucking finally accomplished what he achingly needed: a cleansing. Good fucking job, asshole.

Aziraphale manhandled him in position, kneeling as he was before, legs spread and a warm hand on the nape of his neck. “I want you to take fifteen for me. Tap your foot once for green, twice for yellow, thrice for red, darling. I'm not angry and I won't be if you safeword out, my love, ” Aziraphale whispered, once again too good for him.

(he finally had Aziraphale as he wanted him, and now it was too much; his brain was damaged beyond repair.)

Crowley moved his foot once and Aziraphale kissed his neck. “Good, good boy. You're being so good, my precious. I love you.”

Tears started running down his face just after the first blow, his arse already tender from the previous spanking. “What a pitiful demon,” Aziraphale tutted, and he was right, what a ludicrous creature Crowley was – but, oh, Aziraphale was concentrated exclusively on him now, no books and no customers and no cups of tea. The thunders subsided to cracking bolts in the distance, as Aziraphale beat him, going from the arse cheeks to the inside of his thighs, his body on fire screaming hallelujah.

Legs like jelly, shivering and buckling, he sharply became aware he was being held on his knees by Aziraphale's forearm around his waist, and that his own arousal was slithering down his thighs, traitor as it was.

“What a pitiful, shameful demon you are. What would other beasts like you say about you getting all hot and bothered by a heavenly smiting?”

Crowley was well over his breaking point when he, again, tapped his foot once after Aziraphale asked permission to touch him and then fuck him; even just another kiss (smoke in his eyes, rust in his joints) would be too overwhelming but he bit down the gag when Aziraphale opened him swiftly (but not harshly, and never without kindness) with his fingers, and he shut his eyes when he felt Aziraphale's cock inside, his hips slapping cruelly against his sensitive skin. It hurt, but Crowley's head was empty and sweet, his pain jumping around like a frog, croaking Stop, stop, stop, but no one was there to listen to it.

“How open you are for me, demon,” Aziraphale panted, cracking open with liquid desire. Crowley had always prided himself in how his body was welcoming for his angel, as his whole being always had been throughout the entire span of their existence, shared or not, the delectable curves of Aziraphale's hips matched with the sharp lines of Crowley's. He had always theorized that God made them in the exact moment, in the same breath from the same wish. Aziraphale had spent countless hours praising the shape of his calves, the prominence of his collarbones. Crowley would always squirm and whimper under the weight of such compliments, that devotion he knew all too well, for it mirrored its own. Days and centuries and molten seconds spent in each other's arms, just exploring and mapping each other's skin.

The sobs, scissoring through his organs, were now too hard and painful to keep inside, and he let them out, ricocheting against the gag ball and trembling in his throat and between his teeth. Aziraphale didn't stop his thrusts; he took pride in being able to take Crowley's self-control away, and loved watching him dissolving into a puddle of hoarse needs, and Crowley had already been in such a state that he needed that peace only Aziraphale could bring him. His darling was such a raw creature, all valleys and canyons.

Crowley soldiered through Aziraphale's merciless pounding, his skull full of spikes, and closed his eyes when Aziraphale came and melt over his back, planting slow and lazy kisses on his shoulders, sticky and saccharine. As soon as the first kiss land, Crowley was freed from his bonds. Aziraphale's heart, akin to a rabbit's, hammered against his spine, breath heavy and laboured. Crowley's knees gave up.

“My wonderful darling, always taking me by surprise...” Aziraphale murmured, wordcrumbs sinking under Crowley's skin, “I'd like a little warning before the next time you need a rough handling, though.”

“'m sorry, angel,” Crowley replied, trying to give his words a little edge, “ssssorry, sorry...”

“You're forgiven. Turn around now, please, I'd like to see your handsome face, my love.”

Hard hands turned gentle (he liked the world gentle and kind, because only that way he could spice things up, be naughty and free, otherwise it was just misery on top of misery, and that would make him the same as the other scumbags he despised) helped him standing up, massaged his jaw and wrists. Keep it together, the voice hissed, do not dare show him anything. You got what you wanted, you ungrateful viper.

“Yeah,” he hiccuped as Aziraphale kissed the dry streak of tears on his cheeks, “got a real handsome snot here just for you, angel.”

Aziraphale chuckled as he cradled his face between his hands and kissed him and kissed him and kissed him. Crowley tried to lose himself in the kisses, he forced himself to be quiet. The world felt damp, heavy on his chest.

“Would you care for a warm bath, dear? I've just bought that shampoo you love.”

Crowley nodded, exhausted, curled up against Aziraphale like a nervous comma. He let himself be carried to the bathtub and lowered into the water. He looked down at his knobbly knees and hated them.

“I hope you enjoyed it,” Aziraphale carefully said. “You're always so good for me, my love,” he praised him, as he always did, as he combed through his hair with careful fingers. Crowley shivered and closed his eyes, deciding it was better for him to just let Aziraphale wash him and solely slipping into unconsciousness, so it would go away, whatever it meant, whichever of the deadly diseases living inside him was at work to destroy him from inside.

(Aziraphale was kissing his neck and Crowley realized: this is not for me. I don't belong here, this is too good for me.)

Sleep never cured anything, but it could make it less cruel, so it was almost the same for him - it was enough for now, for at the moment everything was too loud and bright. He let himself be boneless against Aziraphale's chest, biting down every sound until it bled.

 

*

 

Aziraphale would always keep him for a few days after a scene that intense, usually hidden under his desk or in the back of the shop. Crowley usually didn't mind; he liked to be fed morsels of fruit and focaccia from time to time as Aziraphale read and scared customers off with the most polite smile; and he would kiss the pain of his limbs away, so that Crowley could stay all day with his head on Aziraphale's lap. There would be nothing sexual during those days, just warm clouds in their throats, and Crowley liked that type of intimacy; not that he didn't like sex, but he liked that they could be near each other without obligations, without expectations.

At the moment, Crowley was kneeling at Aziraphale's feet, his bottom still hot and aching, nervous since he woke up, squirming and fidgeting. He should not be there – he should not be anywhere but in Hell; but he was tired and scared, he did not want to get up and run away, even if it was what he should do.

“Are you not comfortable, love?” Aziraphale asked, scratching his ear. “Do you want to stretch a bit? We can go on the sofa, if you want.”

He shook his head. “'s okay here.”

“If you say so, love.” A loving hand on his head. Crowley sniffled, scrunching his nose up. He buried his head in Aziraphale's thighs, trying to forget about himself. “Any idea about dinner?”

“Thai, maybe,” Crowley mumbled, “if it's okay with you.”

“More than okay. Thank you for your input, love.”

“Don't thank me for something so trivial,” he snapped, without looking up – Aziraphale's thighs were too comfortable to do that, “I'm not a human child.”

“I know, love,” Aziraphale replied, slightly taken aback, still petting him – cuddles Crowley, as pissed he could be, did not get away from, “but you've been extremely shy these past two days.”

“And?”

“And when you're like this it's not easy to hear more than one grumbled word from you. Moreover, you know how I like to be gentler than usual with you, after nights like yesterday, and that includes a bit of coddling.”

“Yeah, yeah, I know,” Crowley grumbled. (how good Aziraphale was to make him forget what a filthy animal he was.)

“Do I have His Majesty's permission to continue, then?”, Aziraphale asked, sweet teasing between the words. He scratched Crowley under the chin and Crowley purred, giggling for a second.

(you don't belong here, nasty beast.)

“You have.”

(how dare you.)

“Praise be.”

 

*

 

Aziraphale had decided the shop needed a little three days holiday, so he had closed it; he also decided they would spend the whole holiday in bed, eating and making love. (“Please say fuck like a normal person, angel, I need you to fuck me, not to make love to me. Ew.” “Keep making fun of me and I won't even hold your hand once.”)

It had been three days lived underwater, amniotic and quiet. Crowley had hidden himself in the most remote corner in his head. His hunger (Love me love me love me love me love me love me) had been silenced two or three times as Aziraphale kissed him and fucked him achingly sweet, slow, considerate. (that, too, was confusing; Aziraphale had forgo his own pleasure in favour of Crowley's every little desire and unsaid request and kink, which was Crowley's usual style of topping. It wasn't like he was going to complain too much about it, being a bit of a pillow princess, but – that was how he did things.) Crowley cried just once, but it happened from time to time because Crowley was a big softie. (“I'm going to discorporate you in your sleep, angel.”)

The storm threatened to take over him almost all the time but Crowley was used to bite his sorrows down; he pushed the lesser of the evils over the edge for just long enough to ask Aziraphale for a cuddle, a hug, permission to give him a blowjob. It was important he was not the one initiating anything, he had to give Aziraphale two options to choose from because, if Aziraphale used his free will, he felt less guilty about having needs.

Aziraphale was reading, his back propped against the bedpost, one hand holding the book and one lost in Crowley's hair. Crowley, his head against his chest, was listening to something on the phone he had lost track of and the song of Aziraphale's beating heart. He remembered the first time he had heard it, one lost night in a small village in Korea in the 17th century, drinking sweet rice punch, eating these little rice cake dumplings with dried flowers on, and they were sharing slightly drunk kisses when Aziraphale, under his breath, recited, “Against the dark, our fierce desire would flare too bright for sight, so must we tame our blinding fire and bank it for the night,” and kissed him on the neck one last time, but for long enough for Crowley to listen to the most human part of Aziraphale's body.

“Love, would you like to go out for a bit? It's going to be one of the last warm evenings of the season. Just a walk in the park, maybe a treat. How does it sound?”

Crowley's heart started pounding in his chest: it sounded horrible. He did not want to detach himself from Aziraphale, but Aziraphale wanted to go out, so he too wanted to go out.

“Sure thing, angel. D'you want to pop by Cafe Nero?”, he proposed, hoping he would say yes because he really, really wanted a coffee. Aziraphale was good at a lot of things but his coffee was downright terrible.

“Sure thing, love.” He left a kiss on Crowley's nose before rising up from the bed. He started walking towards the bathroom but then stopped, and turned around to look at Crowley with a playful gleam in his eyes. “What about a shower first? We really should take a shower. But, you know, water is very scarce on Earth.”

Crowley smirked. “Oh, yeah, the responsible thing should be to take one very quick shower together. To save water, obviously.”

“Obviously, dear,” Aziraphale smiled and wiggled to the bathroom. Crowley quickly jumped up and followed him, laughing.

 

They got coffee and ice cream. Hand in hand, they wondered whether getting Italian or Polish for dinner and argued about the most faithful adaptation of Sherlock Holmes stories and Aziraphale had his little dramatic pouting moment as he lamented the lack of decent movies about Dorian Gray.

“Never liked Dorian Gray, posh little prick.”

“That's what you always say about Oscar, too.”

“Well, yeah, precisely because you call him just Oscar, like he was your best friend.”

“Aw, someone is jealous,” Aziraphale teased him in a singsong voice, pressing a finger on his cheek. “You're cute when you're jealous.”

“You can't say a demon he's cute.”

“I surely do when I find a cute demon.”

Crowley chuckled and brought Aziraphale's wrist to his lips, brushing a light kiss on the back of his hand. “Your plan is ruining my reputation for good, eh?”

“As if you had one to begin with.”

They settled on a Polish dinner and Crowley proposed to cook for them to regain his position as the white knight of the couple. He wanted to go back to their usual roles because life tended to be easier when the roles were settled in stone.

“Thank you, but I'd like to cook for us tonight. You've been so good these last few days, I'd like to give you something back.”

Crowley blinked, staring at him. He had lost everything in one moment, he was no more of use to Aziraphale. The thunders came back louder than before bringing storms of venom.

“Yeah, okay, good,” he curtly replied, unfastening their hands. He started to walk faster, then the mere existence of Aziraphale stopped him, because his body ached. Aziraphale caught up with him, brow furrowed.

“... love, are you all right? Did you change your mind about dinner? We can change the menu, of course, I'll cook you whatever you like.”

This is wrong, his brain shrieked, you're meant to be of service, to bend yourself to what he wants, not him. This is wrong, you're wrong. “No, I didn't, Polish is okay. There's a store nearby but we have to hurry, I think it's about to close.”

The street under him wasn't grey any more, the humans around him lost their faces. It was like being cast away from the only safe place he had had since frolicking with Eve in the Garden, talking about the cute angel he had met.

“It's still early, dear, we have still time. Could you please tell me what annoyed you?”

“Nothing annoyed me, angel, I'm right as rain.”

“You're not -”

And with that, with the slight hesitation in Aziraphale's voice, Crowley cracked. He sobbed out loud, his throat exploding. He tried to shy away from Aziraphale, hoping the earth would crack open and swallow him whole, but Aziraphale grabbed his arm to force him to look at him. “Love, what's happening?”

He tried to stop himself before he could explode, but it was too hard; he could not stop crying, his ribcage trembling, brittle and unsafe.

“Love? Love, what's wrong?” Aziraphale asked, alarmed, and Crowley realized he was wailing and he was scratching his own arms; they burned, and Aziraphale took his wrists to prevent him to further hurt himself.

Bad” Crowley sobbed, shattered, shame so blistering hot he was about to catch on fire, go out with a soundless, ash-less boom – and it would be the only just way for everything to end.“I'm sorry, I'm bad, I'm sorry...”

Aziraphale stopped time, but the world didn't stop from exploding. His knees were buckling, their kneecaps threatening to roll away, leaving him a puddle of sorry toothpicks.

“Love, there's only us now, could you explain what -”

“I'm – 'm bad” he hiccuped, the air, heavy and thick, shrinking around him. “'m bad, this – bad, bad...”

Aziraphale frowned and Crowley got shot in the heart. “You're not – Crowley, what did you do?”

“Don't hate me,” he begged, “don't hate me, please...”

“I – why should I hate you, my darling? I don't understand -”

“'m bad, I tricked you, I – don't hate me, please, don't cast me away, I'm so sorry,” Crowley hysterically babbled, scared of touching Aziraphale yet craving to; but love was not his place.

“Baby, sweetheart, I need you to calm down, please -”

Crowley broke down, his heart exploded, his skin opened up and all the reeking goo oozed out. Please don't push me away I don't have anywhere to go I love you please please let me stay here even if this is not my place please I love you -

“Why don't you love me? What do I have to do for you to love me?” Crowley choked out, his body shrinking around his too-sharp bones that would puncture it and finally free Aziraphale for his presence.

Shit, fuck, shit, his brain hissed, hysterical, what are you doing? What the fuck are you doing? Fuck, shit, fucking fuck, you should be grateful for all the time he had wasted on you during the millennia.

Aziraphale was looking at him but everything was beating so fast he could not read his face and that sent him into a deeper, more desperate panic that meshed into a strange kind of wet pain, spiking his blood with shreds of melting bronze. He decided to bite down every other word to avoid any further fuck-ups; he begged for Aziraphale to pin him down onto the world.

(he realised he was floating around, that he needed something to weigh him down on the floor, that he needed some kind of smaller space to exist into. As much as he loved London, it felt like the worst place to live now, too big and bright and the air was saturated with rage and sorrow, a miasma stuck on his skin.)

“Can I touch you, dear?”

Crowley, his arms locked around his thunderous stomach, gave the littlest, most exhausted nod. Aziraphale held him cautiously, giving him just enough space to wriggle out his embrace. Crowley sighed, thankful for Aziraphale drawing the exact amount of space he wished for.

“How can I show you how much I love you?”

His voice sounded so wounded and yet so caring. Crowley's brain was so full it short-circuited, a low buzz ricocheting in his skull.

“Dunno...”, Crowley whined. “I'm sorry...”

“I wasn't really disappointed in you the other day, you know that, right?” Aziraphale took Crowley's face in his hands, scanning his eyes behind the sunglasses to detect any crack, fault, hole. “We don't have to play that kind of scenes, love, in they affect you this much. And I'm never really angry with you when we play, either, I would never hit you out of rage, you know that, right?”

Crowley had been rather jealous of how Aziraphale could easily detect love; he had never been able to – until now, that was, as the waves of pure, unadulterated affection from Aziraphale hit him in the chest, sticky-sweet. (Crowley was good with detecting lies; and there was no trace of them.)

“I know, it's – I don't what this is, I...”

He couldn't say anything else. Aziraphale stroked his cheekbones with his thumbs. He stood there in silence for a bit, inhaling and exhaling. Crowley, on edge, hoped to be touched like that forever. “Can I take you somewhere? I'm going to restart time and then teleport us there. Are you okay with that?”

Another small nod, and Aziraphale snapped his fingers twice in quick succession. Crowley closed his eyes and, when he opened them up again, he realised they were surrounded by rose bushes, fruit trees, tall sunflowers with thick stalks about to go to sleep.

For a moment, his heart was filled with a liquid, fresh joy that brought new tears to his eyes; it looked so much like the Garden.

“What's this, angel?”

Aziraphale took his hands and kissed their backs.“I've had this cottage for a few decades now,” he said, mouth hidden by Crowley's hands. “I thought it was about time you had your personal garden.”

“Where are we?”, he asked, full of bubbling wonder. It was perfect, so much more than he deserved - and still Aziraphale gave him another of those heartwarming miracles of his, one that was not from his powers but from his soul.

“Near Eastbourne,” Aziraphale smiled, softly. Crowley loved him so achingly much. “I thought you would be more curious about why.”

Crowley bit his lips and shifted a bit from foot to foot, unable to stay still. He wanted to express how tired he was, but he couldn't, it wasn't fair. “I don't think you're going to smite me here,” he grinned, not looking at him. “Other than that, dunno. I have the feeling you're going to tell me in a sec, though.” Aziraphale kissed his forehead.

“We're going to stay there for a while. I – I want us to discuss a bit about everything you said. And what you meant when you said you tricked me, and I don't want any distraction of which London is choke-full. I hope you're fine with it.”

Why was he like that? Why was he able to stretch his patience so much? Crowley felt his soul sizzling. “You don't have to ask for consent for everything, y'know.”

“I'm just asking if you're going to collaborate with me. I really need you to, but just if you want to. I'm not going to force you into anything.”

He did not want to. “Can I scare the plants first?”

Aziraphale sighed. “You can. I'm going to make tea, then. I'd like you in the living room with me in half an hour, please. It's not an order before you say anything.”

Crowley wanted to tease him, wanted to banter for a little bit more; but he was tired. He did not want to. So he simply thanked Aziraphale and accepted a kiss on his cheek. He was going to scratch his throat screaming to the plants long enough to be truly exhausted and tame the storm. He hoped, at least.