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Strange Bedfellows

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Aziraphale looks around at Crowley's flat.

It occurs to him that it is strange, perhaps, that he and Crowley have been friends for as long as they have and yet he'd never been to Crowley's place. (Best friends, he remembers Crowley saying, which would've warmed Aziraphale's heart if he'd been in a body that possessed a heart at that point. It still does warm his heart, thinking back on it.) He hadn't even known where Crowley's place was before the Apocalypse-That-Wasn't, and isn't sure if or when he ever would have found out without an apocalypse. Had it been some kind of secret? Or had it simply never occurred to Aziraphale to ask?

(You had mentioned your place, Aziraphale said, after lunch at the Ritz. Crowley scoffed, saying that the bookshop was fine and there really wasn't any need--but Aziraphale cut him off, saying yes, well, I know there's no need, but what if I want to? Crowley went still and quiet, and Aziraphale became aware of something strange crystallizing, metaphorically speaking, in the space between them. I mean, Aziraphale said, we're friends, aren't we? and Crowley looked at him and smiled and Aziraphale felt like he was back on solid ground again.)

So here they are, getting together at Crowley's flat instead of at the park, like they usually do, or at the bookshop, like they had during the Not-Quite-Apocalypse. He certainly prefers the bookshop to this place. The room with the plants is nice, at least, but the rest of it feels somehow simultaneously too austere and too ornate--dark rooms of bare stone full of things that feel more like trophies than furniture. Crowley's place has never seen a bare surface it didn't like; Aziraphale's place has never seen a bare surface, full stop.

Crowley turns round, his hands spread, a look of practiced indifference on his face. "It's not much, but it's home," he says, shrugging.

"It's not not much! It's very much indeed. It's--" Aziraphale pauses, grasping for something nice to say about Crowley's home that wouldn't be a lie. He's never been good at lying. It makes him nervous. Perhaps he can say something about the natural light?

"--homey?" Crowley offers. He's completely straight-faced, but Aziraphale can't shake the feeling that there's a joke he's not getting.

Aziraphale tries again. "I like your plants. They're very...leafy. Very green."

Crowley grins, and while Aziraphale is still fairly certain he's not getting the joke, he smiles back anyway, because it's Crowley.

He edges back into the room with the plants, trying to imagine what this place might have been like if he'd needed to--if he'd gotten to--take Crowley up on the offer of staying at his place. More lights, for one thing. Some color. Some clutter. Some warmth. Maybe it might have even felt lived in, someday.

There's some kind of spiky art piece at the end of the hallway adjoining the plant room, and it catches Aziraphale's eye. Crowley hasn't taken him down that hallway yet. As he draws closer, he sees that it's a statue of two angels, one with a set of dark wings, one with a set of light. They seem to be wrestling, and the dark one seems to be winning.

Aziraphale raises a scandalized hand to his chest and inhales sharply. "My goodness!"

Crowley has come up behind him and nudges him with an elbow; it's ever-so-gentle, but Aziraphale yelps and jumps regardless. "Keep your chin up," Crowley says to him, with what might be a wink behind his dark glasses. "You never know, light may yet prevail."

"You don't believe that," Aziraphale says, but Crowley only shrugs mysteriously.

There are two doors at the end of the corridor, one on either side of the, um, statue. One is open, and in the large room beyond it Aziraphale can see crates, boxes, suitcases--the detritus of a series of lifetimes lived, if Aziraphale has to guess. (What life he lived that required a wood-chipper, Aziraphale does not know and is too afraid to ask.) The other door is closed, which piques Aziraphale's curiosity.

"Ooh," he says, "What's in here?"

Crowley shrugs again. "Bedroom." Notably, he does not push this door open for Aziraphale.

Aziraphale is taken aback. "But you don't need to sleep!"

"And you don't need to eat, but that doesn't mean you don't want to." As Aziraphale splutters, Crowley gives him a surprised look. "C'mon, Angel, you mean to tell me that you don't have a bedroom? You don't have a bed? You seem like you'd love an expensive mattress and a set of high thread-count sheets."

Aziraphale shakes his head.

"A good dressing gown and a pair of fuzzy slippers?"

"Well, that's different, you can wear those to--" Aziraphale waves his hands irritably. "--you know, putter about the place. There's too much to do to spend time unconscious."

"Too much puttering to do?" Crowley asks, a note of pointed amusement in his voice.

Aziraphale scowls, as deeply as he can, but it doesn't stick. It feels impossible to be mad at Crowley for very long; the time they'd spent at odds during the End-Times-That-Didn't-Really-End-Anything had been both interminable and unbearable.

"You know, humans say that a good bed at the end of a long day feels heavenly." Crowley waggles his eyebrows.

Aziraphale thinks about the last few times he's been in heaven. "What, you mean sparse and echo-y and full of unpleasant angels?"

"I think they're thinking more of soft clouds and relaxing," Crowley says carefully. Then he pauses, sighs, and pushes the bedroom door open. "Okay, come on. You'll thank me for this."

After the rest of the flat, Aziraphale is unsure of what to expect from the bedroom. It turns out to be a smallish space, filled by what seems like more bed than one being could ever possibly need. The bed frame is made of dark wood, with intricate details carved into the bedposts and the headboard. There's a mountain of pillows at the head of the bed, and the sheets are a deep blood-red. Dark curtains are pulled most of the way closed across the same big windows that every other room on this side of the building has.

Like the rest of Crowley's place, it's a little bit intimidating. Aziraphale can only assume that was the intent.

Crowley walks over to the bed and sits on it. As with every place he's ever sat, he lounges, immediately at ease and a little bit...devilish. He pats the bed next to him, beckoning Aziraphale, who is safely ensconced in the doorway, into the bedroom and onto the bed.

"You don't have to--I've sat on a bed before," Aziraphale says. He's aware of how peevish he sounds, but can't bring himself to stop.

"Not one this nice you haven't." Crowley pats it again. "Come on, Aziraphale, be the unpleasant angel in my heavenly bed."

Aziraphale purses his lips, trying and not succeeding to hide his smile. "You're incorrigible," he says, moving out of the doorway and into the bedroom.

"Surely you're not just realizing that now," Crowley says, giving him a look that Aziraphale is choosing to interpret as 'fond'.

Aziraphale isn't going to respond to that. "And if you want an unpleasant angel, you'll have to look elsewhere. I'm a perfectly pleasant angel." He goes around the side of the bed opposite where Crowley is sitting; he might as well get the full bed experience.

Crowley twists in his seat to watch Aziraphale as he approaches the bed. "Ehhh, that's fine. Not sure a heavenly bed is quite right for me anyway."

Aziraphale sits down gingerly on the edge of the bed. The mattress dips under his weight, but apart from the unexpected movement, it is rather pleasant. It's softer than anything else in the flat, that's for certain. He puts a hand down and feels the sheets, and, ooh, they're quite nice as well.

Out of the corner of his eye, he can see Crowley waggling his eyebrows again, which he is going to pointedly ignore.

"Go ahead," Crowley says, "Lie down. Give it a go."

Aziraphale leans over and fastidiously unties his shoes and removes them, setting them neatly beside the bed before swinging his legs up onto the mattress and then reclining into the nest of pillows. His head sinks into the pillows and then keeps sinking; when he finally comes to a stop, two pillows shift to cover his face.

"What do you think?" Crowley asks. His voice sounds, understandably, muffled.

Aziraphale folds his hands over his ribcage, closes his eyes. He takes a deep breath in through his nose, holds it for a moment, then lets it out through his mouth, letting his body relax as he breathes out. It would be pure hyperbole to say that several millennia-worth of tension seeps out of his shoulders, but he does think about how close they'd come to the end of everything and how good it was to be here, still, after the End Times, with Crowley.

"I think," he says into the pillow that's fallen on his face, "That I shall stay here for a little while longer."

"Nice, isn't it?" The mattress shifts, presumably because Crowley is also lying down. Aziraphale can't blame him.

"I am certainly beginning to see the appeal."

"There's a reason why sloth is such a popular sin."

Aziraphale makes a sound that's half splutter, half laugh, because it's true but he wants to argue, just on principle. Instead of arguing, he says, "I need to get one of these, make some space in one of the back rooms at the bookshop, lie down from time to time."

"You're welcome to borrow mine," Crowley says, that practiced indifference in his voice again.

Aziraphale pokes his head up out of the mountain of pillows to see what Crowley means. "What, drag it out of here to the bookshop and drag it back when I'm done? To be quite honest, I'm not sure how you got it in here in the first place. I can only assume a miracle was involved, since the mattress is almost certainly wider than the door--"

"No! No. It stays here. But...so could you." Crowley pauses, still staring at the ceiling, like he's waiting for Aziraphale to say something, but Aziraphale is too flabbergasted to say anything at all. In the silence that's hanging there, Crowley continues, "From time to time. As you'd like."

"What if I want to lie down but you aren't at home?" Aziraphale asks, like that's the only problem he can see with that arrangement.

"You could have your own key."

That thing, whatever it is, yawns strange between them again. "And you could have a key to the bookshop," Aziraphale says, heading it off, whatever it is. He won't stand for anything ruining the relationship he and Crowley have cultivated over all these years, simply won't stand for it at all. Not even Almost-Armageddon could ruin it, so he certainly won't allow this to.

Crowley laughs in disbelief, rolling over on the bed to face Aziraphale. "You'd do that? Give me a key to the bookshop? I know how much that place means to you."

"Of course," Aziraphale says, because of course. "We're--" The word he thinks of first is friends, but that doesn't seem like nearly enough. Best friends, then, but that also feels somehow insufficient, after everything. The closest thing he can think of is: "--on the same side."

The smile that Crowley smiles at him is a little surprised and terribly, terribly fond. "Indeed we are, Angel. Indeed we are."

Aziraphale scoots closer to Crowley, close enough to nudge him with an elbow. "You weren't even going to show me this room," he says, "and now here we are, sharing a bed."

Crowley laughs. "An angel and a demon, very strange bedfellows."

"Oh, I don't know," Aziraphale says. He's looking at Crowley's face, and his heart feels full to bursting. "Maybe not so strange." He reaches out, feeling foolish, feeling brave, and takes Crowley's hand.

Crowley makes an exasperated noise and rolls his eyes but, Aziraphale notes, he doesn't move away and he doesn't let go. If anything, he holds on tighter. Aziraphale smiles--maybe not so strange after all.