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The 21st Century, In Which They Finally Work It Out

Chapter Text

Crowley is, he would estimate, two inches from Aziraphale's mouth when he realizes that he has royally fucked up.

While the background noise of the Ritz is continuing on as if nobody has just completely whiffed it, cutlery clinking and conversation flowing, there is a silence and stillness around Aziraphale, an alert tension and alarm that means he is not, in any way, looking forward to what is about to happen. Crowley uses the last of his inertia moving forward and dives right, brushing his lips against Aziraphale's cheek instead. It's warm and soft and gone far too soon. Crowley is retreating before he can ruin things further, his back pressed against the elaborately carved dining chair, pretending to resume an interest in his steak.

"The Donmar's As You Like It starts next week," Crowley says, picking up his knife and fork again and biting back the urge to hiss into his words. He is not emotional, so there is no reason to hiss. He did not just kiss the cheek of an angel he has incredibly embarrassing feelings for. He did not just kiss that angel's cheek because the angel so clearly did not want to be kissed properly on his mouth. Everything is fine.

Aziraphale doesn't respond immediately, causing another wave of anxiety in his dining partner. "You always did like the funny ones," the angel says finally. "I'll be near the Seven Dials tomorrow anyway for an appraisal. Should I pick up some tickets?"

"No need, I've got a connection." Crowley puts a bite of immaculately rare steak in his mouth and chews, tasting nothing. Perhaps Aziraphale is willing to overlook his mistake and pretend it never happened? "Do you have a preference between Monday or Tuesday evening?"

"Tuesday, if you don't mind." Aziraphale sounds serene and mild in the way that means he is overcoming something that is preventing him from being serene or mild. After a few sips of his wine, Crowley thinks he looks a little calmer. Maybe they're past it now.

"Tuesday it is."

**

The reason Crowley thought he could get away with a quick peck wasn't the recently averted apocalypse. It wasn't that, or the thousands of years shared on earth running into each other and occasionally running toward each other, back and forth across the globe.

Crowley thought he could get away with it because he and Aziraphale had been holding hands for just over a month now.

Not a month without breaks, obviously. It was little moments. Always unspoken. It had started at a particularly nice restaurant on the Grecian island of Hydra, carved out of the rock of the island and overlooking the sunset, with two half-finished plates of fresh seafood and several empty glasses of champagne. Crowley had emptied his third flute and set it back down on the table, fingers curled around the stem, and was watching the ripples of the Myrtoan Sea when he felt Aziraphale's hand rest on top of his.

Crowley had glanced left and right behind his glasses, looking for whatever was going on that Aziraphale was trying to get his attention about. Nothing. The server to his left was taking a drink order from some already drunk French tourists in knockoff sunglasses. To his right, an Italian couple were trying to get their young child to finish something on his plate. Behind him, he sensed the general upcoming sin of a man about to cheat on his wife with his assistant, but that wasn't anything particularly noteworthy, or even anything Crowley had had anything to do with.

So Crowley had looked back to Aziraphale's hand, still there, somewhat... damp. He had flicked his eyes up to Aziraphale's face and, there, that was what was going on. Aziraphale was going on. Aziraphale was staring out at the water, the setting sun, a rare tension around his mouth like he was trying to brave something out. He was trying to look casual. He was trying to look like he hadn't just put his hand on top of Crowley's and left it there for the complete sake of it.

Crowley felt his face flare up, and his other, untouched hand curled on his leg until he was nearly digging crescents into his thigh through his tailored slacks. He looked back out at the water, too, because that was apparently what they were doing. That was what one did when one's best friend and longtime ... something else... put their hand on yours.

"Thélete perissóteri sampánia?" the server asked at Crowley's shoulder, making them both jump out of their skin hard enough to nearly discorporate. Aziraphale's hand was gone, fluttering instead over the empty champagne flutes that the server was gesturing to. How long had she been there? How long had they been sitting like that?

"Naí," Aziraphale confirmed tightly, smiling with too much teeth. "Efcharistó."

Chapter Text

It had happened again several meetings later. Crowley had become a master at the art of casually leaving his hand on the table, near an immaculately polished fork or perhaps the stem of a wineglass, or just on the table, sometimes nervously tapping and other times perfectly still.

His hand had gone ignored at Club Gascon, and again at the Araki, where Aziraphale had set down his chopsticks several times for no obvious reason before glancing into a middle distance and picking them right back up.

It wasn't until they were walking back from Barrafina, having parked the Bentley several blocks off, that Crowley had found his hand held, then squeezed, and then held much more faintly, as if perhaps the squeeze had been too much and it all had to be dialed back. Crowley had nearly tripped on the pavement as they crossed the street, too shocked to make any attempt to open his hand and wind it around Aziraphale's in some sort of mutual fashion. Aziraphale's palm had not been not quite so damp this time, still very soft, and when Crowley had looked to the right and sneaked a glance, the angel was gesturing across Old Compton Street and talking about a little barber shop that had apparently used to be there. Crowley had listened, and concentrated on the feeling of Aziraphale's warm hand. When they made it to the car, Crowley was wishing he had parked further on.

**

Several weeks of this. Several weeks of occasional, spontaneous physical contact that have left Crowley overwhelmed and desperate to know why it happened then and not other times. Not more often. Not constantly. He had once even considered grasping Aziraphale's hand, over a shared bottle of¬†Ch√Ęteau P√©trus Pomerol¬†- Crowley does not recall the year - back at the bookshop, but his brain told him that this was lunacy and he must not ruin such a pleasant evening with what must surely be a one-sided lustful desire to constantly be¬†touching.

Angels do not want that kind of thing. Crowley should know; he was an angel once. And Aziraphale still is, recent events notwithstanding, recent events perhaps removing him from work expectations but doing nothing to change Aziraphale's general makeup, his general inclination toward good wine and good crêpes, general goodness all around, and what Crowley wants, has been thinking about for some time now, is not exactly good.

Not that demons are inclined toward much lust. Sure, Crowley has seduced the occasional human in order to accomplish larger evils later on. He's lured perhaps a dozen or so into his bed, or their own, and pleased just as many. This wasn't so different from his other work: pretending to be a human craving revolution, or craving money out of a bank, or, one memorable time, craving some very priceless art out of the Louvre. (He'd had to act less for that one.)

The point is, it was an act to get followers, that's what it was for a demon - except with this, Crowley's not pretending to be a human, he's just craving nonetheless, although what he wants isn't exactly clear. It hasn't been for centuries. Crowley has just known he wants to be around Aziraphale, to make him happy, to celebrate bookshop openings and later save said books from Nazis, normal friend things. And sometimes a flicker of something else, but surely that had just been the evil in him. The demon trying to pull down something so pleasant and Good to his level. And wouldn't seducing an angel be one of his biggest accomplishments yet?

Crowley doesn't want to do it for the mission. Crowley doesn't want it as an accomplishment. Crowley just wants... he wants.

**

Tuesday rolls around, as it is known to do. The Donmar Warehouse puts on a very good show, as it is also known to do. Rosalind is disguised as Ganymede for the first time when Aziraphale places his hand on the small arm rest, fingers curled up in a nervous drumming beat for a moment before finally coming to rest. Crowley takes several seconds to look at Aziraphale sidelong: he is focused on the stage, a little too focused, that forced expression of calm that he has come to have in these recent moments. He is waiting. Crowley's heart leaps up in his throat for a moment as he makes himself focus back on the play, on Celia-now-Aliena delivering her lines. Crowley stretches, nearly writhes for a moment, having a good long reshuffling of limbs in his little seat before settling back down, his hand just happening to also end up on that arm rest. He can feel the tiny light hairs on the backs of Aziraphale's fingers. He can feel the warm softness that is now deliciously familiar. Crowley presses his lips together tightly, fighting back any kind of bigger reaction that may spook his angel. On the stage, the Arcadian Forest of Arden continues on as if nothing is amiss.

**

It is never discussed. Crowley knows better than to rock the boat on that front - there have been many times in their friendship when things only got along as smoothly as they did because Aziraphale was not pressed to actually put it to words. Several times their work arrangement grew complicated and convoluted, and Aziraphale was left holding the bag, sometimes literally. Very few times was anything more interesting than legal tender or perhaps precious jewels in said bag, but it was clear that Aziraphale felt more strain in these times than Crowley ever did when he had to go and do something particularly good, something particularly helpful and pure, for Aziraphale.

Did Crowley throw a fit before and after these duties? Of course. But it was for show, and they both knew it. Crowley's lack of reluctance to help humans thrive was one of the many things that could never be directly addressed.

 **

Crowley does not read books, but he is very fond of his mobile phone, which he both had a hand in and which he utilizes to keep track of general chaos and drama. It has served to be a very helpful tool during his visits to the bookshop; simply wandering through and pawing at this tome or that often leads to Aziraphale making concerned sounds and muttering about the strength of book spines after several decades or centuries in sub-par conditions. With his mobile phone, Crowley can keep himself entertained during shop hours without manhandling the merchandise and sending Aziraphale into any kind of tizzy.

Aziraphale is happiest when he is not selling any books. When he just gets to have them, when he gets to sit among them, doing light inventory and perhaps dusting shelves. When these tasks are done, he often joins Crowley on the impressively comfortable couch by one of the better windows. Crowley is fond of this tradition. Crowley will read about whatever nonsense the mayor of London has said lately, or what happened on Big Brother, and Aziraphale can sit beside him with much better posture and read ancient Roman poetry, or a Russian novel, or whatever it is this week.

Aziraphale is not dusting today - he is updating signage. All of it is in perfectly neat cursive lettering, in lightly glittering ink. The parchment is thick enough it may be able to, ironically, serve as a paperweight. Crowley scrolls through an article - someone off of Love Island has tweeted that... oh, it doesn't matter. Crowley taps back and looks for something more juicy. The couch dips as Aziraphale joins him, small book in his hand, and Crowley gives an acknowledging grunt right before he feels the angel's knee brush his.

It's. It's still very close.

In fact, now that Crowley can peer past his phone and to their legs, it looks like Aziraphale's legs are spread uncommonly widely. The last person to ever 'manspread', as it were, is taking a comfortable position on his own couch and taking up a solid half of it. Who would have guessed. Crowley observes this for a moment longer, finally determining that Aziraphale had perhaps aimed for a convenient brush or touch but miscalculated, and maybe even meant for it to be a lasting connection, as with these hand escapades they've been going through recently. This is the next step? It seems possible.

Doing what Crowley would say is a very convincing yawn, the demon arches his back, resettles until he's facing a little further from the window now, and his knee comes to rest against Aziraphale's in front of the center of the couch. Not pushing, probably not pressing, really, just. Touching.

Aziraphale does nothing. Well, he turns a page. He does nothing in relation to the knee. He doesn't look particularly nervous or tense, or if he does it's much less than it has been in previous instances. Crowley looks back to the text on his mobile, not actually reading, just feeling the light pressure through the fabric of his trousers and deciding that he has no idea what's going on and that he should just accept it and continue to act on his best guesses.

Who knows. Aziraphale might not even mean any of this romantically.

Chapter Text

They're in Paris, at Le Cinq, when Crowley forgets himself. It's been just over two months now and the demon has gotten to memorize the exact shape of Aziraphale's hand in his, the gentle curve of each fitting into each other on well-ironed tablecloths all across England and the continent. Their hands are just so enjoined when Crowley, mostly concentrating on the dessert coffee that has just been placed in front of him, lifts his thumb and absently runs it over the backs of Aziraphale's fingers.

It feels so pleasant. Like sitting in front of a hearth after fresh snowfall. Like the very nice dessert coffee going past his lips and down his throat, almost catching as he realizes just what in the nine circles of Hell he is doing right bloody now. As he reaches out with his senses to detect just how badly he has shattered his angel, he feels no panicking stillness, no pregnant silence, but instead a... discombobulated sort of feeling. Aziraphale is blinking down at his own coffee, untouched, raising a hesitant hand toward the handle before clearly deciding that the trembling may be too much. He sets his hand back in his lap instead.

"Is this alright?" Crowley asks his coffee, hand slowed to almost stillness. It's the first either of them has said anything about it.

"Yes," Aziraphale says, almost alarmingly quickly. Crowley swallows another mouthful of coffee and sets it down on the small china plate, focusing on the feeling of Aziraphale's fingers under his thumb. Crowley can't quite look Aziraphale in the eye as he does it, and instead looks out the window, to the Parisian traffic, where everything is normal, where humans are being humans, emotional and physical and often touching each other's hands or even other parts of each other's bodies and never thinking nearly this hard about it.

There is a soft clink and when Crowley peeks over, Aziraphale has finally picked up his own mug, sipping, looking like he is quelling a giddy sort of feeling that might spill over. Crowley instantly feels a responding sort of giddiness and quashes it down, twice, three times for good measure, to prove to himself that none of this is so dangerous or precious as part of him seems to want to believe. He even squeezes Aziraphale's hand gently before resuming the slow pattern of his thumb. It's fine. They're both fine.

**

It becomes part of their routine. They go on walks and Aziraphale will take his available hand - Crowley no longer has any use for his jacket pockets - and Aziraphale will stroke along his fingers on occasion as they walk to wherever it is they are going. And, because they are both quite old-fashioned in many ways, they often just go on walks to take in the fresh air. Which is more opportunities for hand-holding.

It's late one night when a pair of drunks are singing their way out of a closing pub, happily stumbling and taking the piss out of each other. They are a cheerful, if off-key, chorus start of several football songs behind them. Crowley just barely detects the impending impact before it happens. In a sharp motion, he uses his grip on Aziraphale's hand to pull him a full step closer, out of the way of one of the drunks who has lost his footing and stumbled forward.

"Oh fuck," the young man laughs, grabbing the signpost next to him for balance and looking at the pair. "Sorry! Sorry."

"It's quite alright," Aziraphale assures him, only a touch startled.

The drunk man behind them pipes up: "Ben, you twat, don't knock into people."

"I didn't. And I said I was sorry." The man, who is apparently Ben, smiles goofily and holds up a hand. "Have a good night, eh?"

"Yes," Crowley agrees, now shoulder to shoulder with Aziraphale as they continue walking. If Crowley ends up using a brief sort of miracle to ensure neither of them have hangovers tomorrow, that act could be argued as beneficial to either side.

Aziraphale stays close for the rest of the walk back. Their shoulders not only brush each other but brush repeatedly, through the thick fabrics of their coats. Their conversation on the Age of Enlightenment has completely vanished.

Aziraphale takes a funny sort of intake of air as his hand squirms and resettles so he can... loosely wrap his fingers around Crowley's wrist. The hairs on the back of Crowley's neck stand up as the angel brushes his thumb up further, up to the spot above Crowley's inner wrist. It rests there at first, finding a comfortable position, before very lightly stroking up and down. A whisper of a touch.

When Crowley deliberately misses their turn left and they have to walk around the block to get back to the door to Crowley's flat, Aziraphale says nothing. It's possible he didn't even notice.

**

Angels have no reason to self-pleasure; they get no urge to do so. Demons are occasionally known to do it, but it is generally done more as an offense to the Almighty than out of any carnal urge.

But when Crowley is back in the safety of his flat, the smell of Aziraphale still in his nose, he has a wank for what is probably the first time since the 1980s.

Chapter Text

This is bad, Crowley thinks. This is very bad and I am in a lot of trouble.

The demon sits up from his couch, looking at the state of himself - trousers at his ankles, shirt rucked up and ruined with his own ... mess. He couldn't even make it to the bed. Desperate git. He waves his clothing off, walking to the shower and putting his face in the spray for several moments to try to snap himself out of this. He can still feel little ghost touches on his wrist. He can still see the image he created on the couch, of Aziraphale pulling him closer, of them wrapping themselves around each other and kissing desperately.

Teenagers. Teenagers think like this. Hormonal and single-minded and horrendously emotional.

Lathering up his hair, Crowley tries to think of this pragmatically. Wrapping around each other? Kissing? That's not really much of anything, is it? Has he gone native enough to get pangs of romance but not think of their fairly inevitable conclusion?

Rinsing, turning his back to the spray, Crowley leans against he artisan-crafted tiles and tries to summon what it might look like. Aziraphale, in his bedroom. Aziraphale, in his arms, wanton. Aziraphale, removing his clothes, and...

Crowley doesn't think he's seen Aziraphale naked since the ninth century.

He has a vague memory. Soft, certainly. Downy gold hairs. He'd be blushing and - Crowley's throat bobs - vulnerable, nervous, certainly new to this sort of thing, and so Crowley would have to be gentle and slow, not like he's done before but he could manage, and - if he got it right, Aziraphale would breathe quicker, clutch at his arms, maybe ask him to -

Crowley lets out a soft breath, forehead pressing against the tile as his erection rises back up.

- maybe ask him to do something, or ask him to do something more, and Crowley would make him feel so good and so cared for and Aziraphale would moan and sigh, a mix of needy and happy -

Crowley swallows, resigned, and reaches down to touch himself again.

- and may even say his name in lust, "Crowley," a sort of wondering tone as Crowley showed him what his corporeal body could do and feel like, very slowly, until Aziraphale was ready for something else, until he was asking -

Crowley grips himself tighter and bites his lip, jerking his hand faster as the image clarifies in his mind. It's going to be over in no time at all, he can already tell, and it's a good thing demons don't feel ashamed, definitely don't feel ashamed.

- "Crowley, please..." -

Crowley lets out a choked noise and comes across the tile, a messy spatter of white fluid that's blocked from the spray by his trembling body. He shivers a little and moves to the side, letting it be washed away, using his free hand to scrape at his face. His head doesn't feel clearer. His wrist still has that ghost of a touch.

**

He needs some work travel to clear his head. There's an American senator who could benefit from some serious food poisoning to prevent him from attending some key fundraising events and some very important votes on the floor. Crowley, who lives to serve, provides said American senator with said food poisoning. As a server. In an greasy spoon diner in the west of Louisiana.

("Looks cold," the senator had grumbled, leaning back in the too-small booth as the plate of bacon and grits was set down. Crowley had smiled as he wondered what cold food looks like, but he knew he wasn't getting a tip, and that's not what he was here for anyway.)

Work done - volunteer work done? Neither he nor Aziraphale have quite pinned down what their work is, nowadays, with no tasking or monitoring from Above or Below - he takes a long stroll and ends up treating himself to a manicure.

"He's very old-fashioned," Crowley explains to Latisha, as she works on his cuticles.

Latisha nods. "He go to church?"

Crowley makes an exaggerated face and rolls his eyes behind his glasses. "He practically lives there."

"Mm." She tilts her head to swing an errant braid back behind her shoulder.

"He grew up in it, though." Crowley props up his chin as he looks out the window. "His family hates me, by the way."

"But you've been friends for a long time? So he doesn't care what his family thinks."

"Well, he's never wanted to be caught spending time with me, but to be fair, they'd've... kicked him out, probably."

Latisha makes a quiet disapproving hum as she sets Crowley's hand in the bowl of water to rinse.

"I don't mind being a dirty secret, of - I mean, just as friends, you know, we haven't-"

"Right."

"Right." Crowley sighs, deflating a little. "I'm still not even sure if he's keen."

"What's that British for?"

"Hm?"

"Keen."

"Oh. I don't know if he's... interested. Innnn..." Crowley un-props his chin so he can wave vaguely. Latisha nods in understanding.

"Maybe he's just quiet about it." She lifts an eyebrow as she gestures for his other hand, which Crowley provides. Back to cuticles. "There's a lot of church-going folk around here that love God but get wild on Saturdays, you know what I mean?"

"My friend absolutely does not get wild," Crowley says defensively.

Latisha does not look entirely convinced. "You said you've known each other since you were little?"

"From the very beginning."

"And he just cut his family off?" Latisha shrugs.

"Yes. We both did."

"They were, like. Toxic."

"Yes, toxic." Bizarrely fitting word choice, considering the recent four... anyway. "But he's still the same old him, even without them looming over his every move. Stuffy. Traditional."

"But you said he's been making little moves."

"Very little moves," Crowley emphasizes.

Latisha makes a quiet knowing sound that Crowley can't quite translate from Mortal. He narrows his eyes behind his glasses, waiting for a clearer interpretation, but none is forthcoming.

"I'm just worried," Crowley says, slightly irritated that he's got to apparently provide more intel for an interpretation, "that I'm going through this slow dance waiting for it to work up to the shag of the ages, and in reality, he's just interested in physical contact for the first time in his life. Maybe he even thinks he might want something more raunchy, but once we get to the snogging-with-tongue stage he's going to go, you know, 'Oh, right, that's it, that's exactly just past the line of what I feel interested in, thanks very much, let's go have a cappuccino and pretend this never happened.'"

Latisha's nose is wrinkled to the extreme.

"What?"

"First physical contact? They don't hug in his house?"

Crowley sneers. "They wouldn't be caught dead hugging in that house."

Latisha gives a long-suffering sigh, taking Crowley's one hand out of the water bowl so she can place in the other. "Very toxic."

**

If there is a change in tone after that, it is almost definitely on Crowley. Their next first rendezvous is at the Tate; they are waltzing through the permanent collection and admiring a particularly stormy Turner when Aziraphale actually turns to look at Crowley, really look at him, and tilt his head.

"Is everything... quite alright, my dear?"

My dear. Of course he has to use little phrases like that. Has for ages, too, doesn't mean anything. "A little tired of all these boats nearly sinking," Crowley says instead, jerking his chin toward the canvas.

"You only care for portraits," Aziraphale accuses, not for the first time.

"Not true. I just don't have your love of Constable and you get terse about it."

Aziraphale gives a brief sigh and lifts his eyebrow, which encompasses the decades-long tiff they've had about serene 19th century English landscapes, and turns to walk to the next piece.

"We can skip the Gordon room," Crowley says, in a desperate bid to win back a good mood.

Aziraphale takes the offer with a surprised blink and tilts his head. "Did you have any preference for where to get a drink after?"

Crowley knows that Aziraphale finds the cafe here charming, and Crowley also knows that Aziraphale knows that Crowley does not find it very charming. This is an offer back. Almost a reward for the generous offer to skip the creepy modernist room. "I'd be just as happy having a sip of something back at the bookshop," Crowley says, before he can think about it too much and worry about what could happen. Aziraphale just nods, and turns again - not miffed this time - and walks on to another landscape.

Chapter Text

Back at the shop, Aziraphale pours something beautifully dark.

"What're we having?" Crowley asks, settling into his usual spot on the sofa.

"Tenuta dell'Ornellaia," Aziraphale says, with a touch of reverence. He pours generously into both glasses, handing one over.

Crowley smells it. "Smells like merlot."

"It is also that, yes." Aziraphale smiles with a mix of - anxiety? Fondness? - of things. A mix of things. He sets the bottle down on the coffee table in front of the sofa, and then sits down on the sofa, not the desk chair across from Crowley's spot, not at all the regular spot when they sit down for a glass of something. Crowley plays it cool and sniffs his Tenuta whatsit and smells... berries? Tobacco? It's nice. It's very nice.

"This is very nice," Crowley admits.

Aziraphale has brought his glass up to his nose, inhaling slowly with eyes lowered. Crowley gives him a few moments, but finally has to chuckle. Aziraphale looks over. "What?"

"You." Crowley shrugs. "Ever since humans figured out how to rot grapes and things just so, you've been so on board."

Aziraphale chuckles, nodding in acquiescence, and almost immediately gets a far-eyed look of remembering. "It used to be such simpler times," he murmurs. "The only beer worth drinking was sold by women in tall hats. The only wine worth drinking was from the south of the continent."

"You still don't touch Californian wine," Crowley accuses fondly.

"I've tried it," Aziraphale counters. His attention is back on his glass. The first sip is clearly an experience. "It just. Doesn't compare."

Crowley lets him have that one. He's mostly right, anyway. Tasting his own glass, he blinks several times, eyebrows lifting at all the subtle notes he can't usually detect. He doesn't have the refined palate Aziraphale does and never has. If it weren't for the angel's influence, Crowley would probably indulge in Monster Munch far more often.

"You like it?"

"It's lovely," Crowley says honestly. "I don't know how you find these things. Alright, I do, it's by obsessive dedication and a nearly endless budget."

Aziraphale smiles into his glass, contented.

"You ever worry you've gone too native?"

"Hm?" Aziraphale looks over at him as the demon hides his expression behind his glass.

"Just," Crowley shrugs. "The food, the drink. The music. It's not bad, mind you. I don't..." He gestures in the air. "I'm sort of professionally acquainted with gluttony and all that, I'm not saying it's that. It's just."

"Human," Aziraphale provides.

"Yeah." Crowley glances sideways. Aziraphale catches it but sighs.

"Take those things off, we're indoors."

Crowley shrugs and picks his glasses up by one of the arms, leaning forward to set them down on the coffee table with a click. When he leans back and glances at Aziraphale with a bare face to see if he's satisfied, Aziraphale looks a little nervous. Crowley's face heats as he thinks about The Hands recently.

"I suppose it is." Aziraphale says, and swirls his wine very gently in its glass. "I certainly can't pretend anymore that I'm. Like the other angels. I have been working down here nonstop for an awfully long time."

"But you've always been different," Crowley says, before he can worry that this might be an upsetting thing to hear. He swallows. "When we met, I mean. Your sword missing and all. You think Gabriel ever would have thought to help someone that the Almighty just cast out?"

Aziraphale's expression is conflicted as he looks away. "We can never know, I suppose. Nobody else was there. Just you and I."

"And we know what I did," Crowley mutters. The room is silent for a few moments as they drink, and glance about the dimly lit shelves. Crowley thinks back to how simple everything seemed back then, in his mind. The boss hadn't allowed any leeway. So surely the other side had been in the right. Surely it was all that obvious.

"Nothing would have happened if you hadn't...." Aziraphale's throat bobs as he looks over. "I mean, if someone hadn't convinced them. Maybe they would have gotten to it regardless, without any help, over time."

"Humans do make a lot of their own trouble," Crowley agrees. He still doesn't feel completely over that one, on reflection.

"They were just in a little... box. In Plato's Cave. Except there never would have been a Plato to come up with any hypothetical caves, because..." Aziraphale sighs. "The more you look back on things, the more you suspect everything that went 'wrong' went as it absolutely had to, inevitably, and must surely have been part of any halfway sensible plan."

Crowley grunts in assent.

"What was your freelance project in America?"

"Just blocking another backwards bill." Crowley settles back further into the comfort of the sofa, tilting the glass up to his lips and letting the flavors rest on his tongue a bit longer. "I'm sure they'll propose an identical one in a few months."

"But you'll be there," Aziraphale says, and something in his tone makes Crowley look over. The angel is smiling. "In a few months. To block it again."

Crowley isn't quite sure how to deal with the look he's getting right now. Aziraphale looks proud of him. Openly fond. "I just gave an old racist some gastrointestinal trouble, really."

"You've always preferred chaos over proper violence."

"It's much more flash."

"Mmhmm." Aziraphale smiles down at his glass again before emptying it. He scoots up a bit on the sofa to reach the bottle and pour himself a second glass, and when he scoots back, he is noticeably closer to Crowley's side. Crowley blinks. Aziraphale is taking the smallest sip from his glass, looking forward thoughtfully.

Crowley stretches his arms out. Cracks a few joints. His right hand comes back to his chest, holding his wine glass. His left arm is now stretched along the back of the sofa.

A few moments pass. When Aziraphale leans back, uncharacteristically shedding his perfect posture to lay against the back of the couch, tucked up against Crowley's side, he looks... content. "Perhaps," he agrees finally, picking up an old thread of conversation that Crowley struggles to rejoin. "I have been down here a long time, but I also don't think I would have stayed down here so long if I wasn't... already a touch suited for it."

"Makes sense," Crowley murmurs. The top of Aziraphale's head is right up near his nose. He can smell his shampoo. Aziraphale's body is warm and achingly soft against his side, leg pressed gently against his. He's itching to bring his left arm in, to hold Aziraphale in order to prevent this from stopping from any reason.

"Humans have really made the best of their lot down here, I think. Several mistakes and stumblings, of course."

"Some of them their fault, some of them..." Crowley clears his throat. He could nuzzle Aziraphale from this position. Nose to the crown of his head. He wants to. "Some of them. Perhaps a bit orchestrated and not really their fault."

"Yes, quite." Aziraphale sounds a little faraway. Crowley wonders if the angel feels equally overwhelmed.

After a moment of deep calculation and planning, Crowley steels himself and lets his hand fall casually lower. His forearm drapes across Aziraphale's shoulders and his fingertips brush Aziraphale's upper arm. The fabric of his white collared shirt is smooth and inviting. Unable to stop himself, Crowley's fingers start one of the slow, winding patterns that he's done on the back of Aziraphale's hand several times now.

Aziraphale's body is tense at first, then relaxed again, and then there is a gentle gust of breath against Crowley's chest. Aziraphale has moved ever so minutely, tucked into him further. Cheek to his shirt.

Crowley's heart is hammering.

"I booked us something," he says with no preamble.

Aziraphale doesn't make any sound or movement, but the surprise is evident in the air nonetheless. Then, "Oh?"

"Just a short holiday. From our freelance work." Because my nail technician said a traditional person is probably waiting on a proper date.

"Freelance work," Aziraphale echoes thoughtfully. "You know, I think I like that term."

"Yeah?" Crowley feels his chest loosen a little, some of the terror ebbing. "It's better t-"

"Where are we going?"

"Finland." Crowley clears his throat again. His whole corporeal body feels unusually locked up and uncooperative. "To the north. Just a weekend." Shite, he forgot to ask. "If you want."

"It sounds lovely."

Chapter Text

Crowley doesn't know precisely where to go from here. He hasn't actually booked it yet. Something in the back of his mind was sure Aziraphale wouldn't want to go. Perhaps the angel wouldn't want to leave London, or his bookshop, or go on holiday with Crowley in general. But he's tucked up against Crowley's side, saying yes.

The demon drains his glass and then realizes he'd have to lean forward to put it back on the coffee table, dislodging - absolutely not. Crowley flicks his fingers instead, miracling them empty. Aziraphale either doesn't notice or chooses not to comment.

Aziraphale's bicep feels soft and yielding under his fingertips. Crowley continues the pattern. After what might be a minute, maybe only a few seconds, Aziraphale shifts again, until his hip is just brushing Crowley's and the length of their bodies are flush. Now sitting a little taller, Aziraphale's head brushes Crowley's nose and Crowley breathes in an involuntary shuddering breath that he just barely manages to keep silent.

Aziraphale is not drinking his wine. He is just. Pressed to him. Crowley can feel his body heating up like it's answering some kind of silent call. He chews his lip a moment, weighing risk and reward and desire, before lifting his hand from Aziraphale's arm to his hair. The pads of his fingers splay ever so lightly, waiting for a new stiffness, a tension, but instead there is a small strange noise from the angel that he has not heard before. Something like surprise. Crowley strokes Aziraphale's scalp, wondering why he wants so badly to make that sound happen again. Or a new sound. He wants Aziraphale to be a puddle in his arms, a puddle that does nothing but lean against him and make sounds.

"Can I confess something to you, Crowley?" He sounds so relaxed.

Crowley feels his face begin to practically burn up with heat. "Yess," he says, only hissing just the slightest amount and grimacing as he catches himself.

Aziraphale doesn't seem to notice. Or mind. "I've known for quite a while that I was... different, somehow. From the other angels. And I think I've spent my whole existence pretending I wasn't at least quite so different, and that I didn't notice, hoping that other people wouldn't notice either. Or at least not point it out."

"Oh," Crowley says, because that is what one says when they do not have anything more substantial.

"And," Aziraphale tilts his head into Crowley's touch, causing a new tremor in Crowley, "it's become second nature to play a role. I think you know I have always loved... the mission, if not the methods."

"Yes, of course." They weren't so different there.

"What I'm trying to get at, my dear, is - I've, you know, had very critical eyes on me for a very long time. And I haven't always known where they were or how much they were paying attention, but I certainly don't have to tell you how unforgiving they can be if they decide you aren't the right sort."

Crowley's brows come together. "You were really worried they might...?"

"Decide I should Fall?" Aziraphale laughs shortly. "Of course. From the sword to the... I mean, I spoke up, you know, about that flood. You remember the flood, of course."

"I do."

"I asked if we really needed to - maybe it could just be a really awful storm? Lots of intimidating lightning, and thunder, and...?"

"They never like constructive criticism up there," Crowley remembers aloud.

"Right. So." Aziraphale clears his throat. "One learns the boundaries and stays within them. One comes up with plausible deniability for the oddities. Eating food, keeping a shop, all this can be excused away under, you know, staying incognito. But."

Crowley waits for the angel to continue, but he does not. The conversation has been handed over tacitly, and Crowley needs a moment of reflection before the other shoe drops. His hand stops in place. "If they caught you with me," he murmurs.

"There'd be no explaining it." Aziraphale's voice is almost a whisper. "You, you could - you could tell your side you were seducing me. Or recruiting me."

"But there's no bringing a demon back up, so the only reason for you to consort with me was because. You wanted to." Crowley looks down at the top of Aziraphale's head. "You've really been scared of..?"

"The Apocalypse was dreadful, of course, but it was a lovely excuse to work with you, and, you know, pretend I was spying on your work." Aziraphale sighs, deflating a little. "It felt mostly safe."

Safe. Crowley mulls this over, resuming the winding little pattern over Aziraphale's ear, to the nape of his neck. It seems to make him melt just a touch, as he had been before. "And do you feel safe now, angel?"

Aziraphale's voice sounds terribly, awfully small. "I'm trying."

Something in Crowley's chest tightens painfully. All this anxiety, this dancing around things, this unspoken game - Aziraphale hasn't been worried about reading Crowley wrong or PDA or anything so trivial, he's still trying to convince himself he's not being watched and potentially judged into Hell. "Darling."

Aziraphale sighs and turns into him more, cheek pressed deliberately against Crowley's shirt now. He can feel the soft warmth emanating through the fabric. "I never knew I'd be such a mess if I got free of it all... but I am. And I, I mean, if I'm very honest... with how much your side bungles things up, and could never keep track of you, I'm not quite sure why you've been..."

Crowley's eyes widen. "Tense?"

"Yes, that."

Really? "Because I've been trying not to push, angel." Crowley's voice rises a little in incredulity. "I'm not afraid of Hell, I'm afraid of hurting you."

Aziraphale pulls away at that, so quickly, dislodging Crowley's hand and almost nose to nose with him as he looks up at the demon. His eyes aren't wet, but they are certainly red-rimmed, and his expression is painfully open. "...you're serious, aren't you?"

Crowley's mouth opens and remains so for a few moments, and then he moves on to sputtering. "I - am I serious, of course I'm se- Aziraphale, you must know by now how I feel about you, that..." Aziraphale's face is so close to his. "...that, you know."

"Yes."

"And on top of that, that I..."

"Yes."

"So you know what I, what I want, and you know that if I tried for it and blew it between us, or upset you somehow, I'd fling myself off of Kilimanjaro."

Aziraphale's eyes soften. "You couldn't upset me."

Crowley snorts. "A demon couldn't upset you. A demon couldn't want something that might upset you."

"I don't think you want anything I'd find upsetting, Crowley." Aziraphale's voice is steadier, now, more confident. Has he gotten closer? "I'm rather surprised you don't know that."

"You're very-"

"Try me."

Crowley's pulled up short. "Pardon?"

Aziraphale's lips press together a moment, nerves and then smiling, almost mischievous. "Let's hear it. I'd like to know what you've been thinking about that you think I'd be so against."

"I don't know you'd be against it." Without anything to do now, Crowley's hand feels completely at sea. He fidgets with it over Aziraphale's shoulder, eyes tracking somewhere on the top of a bookshelf. "I've just known you a long time, and you... you would have told me, I think, if you'd ever gotten up to anything."

"You never 'got up to anything' for any reason other than work, I don't believe, and yet here you are." Aziraphale ducks his head at this, finally hit by a moment of shyness. "Is it. Is it safe to say that we're each other's... firsts?"

Crowley wets his lips, feeling extremely cornered for a reason he can't quite pin down. "Well, I." He clears his throat, a little embarrassed when Aziraphale flushes and smiles as if he's answered. "Hard to answer something that vague," he says finally.

"It's all right if you can't say it yet." Aziraphale sits up a little straighter, not moving away from Crowley as he does so. His eyes flit over Crowley's face several times, as if seeing it for the first time, or perhaps memorizing it. When his eyes lower slightly, Crowley realizes what's about to happen.

And Crowley cannot move, cannot move even minutely, as Aziraphale draws himself up, head tilted just so, eyes closing and brushing his lips to Crowley's.

Chapter Text

When Crowley had kissed his cheek in the restaurant, it had been a fleeting moment. The barest touch before retreating again. It had all been so laden with panic that Crowley could barely remember the feeling of Aziraphale's skin over his own fear.

Aziraphale's kiss now is nothing like that - it is delicate but lasting, several gentle seconds where Crowley feels the burning, acidic turmoil in his gut become soothed. The tension in his limbs wisps away as if it were brushed away by a soft wind. Aziraphale's lashes are fanned across his cheeks and soon Crowley's eyes close too, drawn in by the overwhelming feeling of this display. Warmth feels like it's radiating between them, kindled by something unseen.

At last, Aziraphale pulls back. But he does not tuck himself back against Crowley's chest, nor does he lean away and back to lean against the sofa. Instead, he remains close, eyes on Crowley's face. His expression is of adoration and not a little wonder. Crowley can barely stand to be the focus of it.

"Angel."

"Does it always feel like that?" Aziraphale asks softly.

Crowley's throat tightens, and he brings his arm back across Aziraphale's shoulders, needing him close. He can only shake his head.

"I knew it would be lovely, but." Aziraphale's mouth curves into a shy smile, a little excited, almost as he looks when he discovers a new delicacy. "I suppose it varies depending on who you share it with, so I shouldn't be surprised-"

"Angel." Crowley has to stop him talking. Aziraphale lets himself be pulled in again, this time pressing a chaste kiss to Crowley's cheek, then bringing his hand up between them to cup Crowley's face. Crowley feels like the light welling up in him is about to burst him apart. "Please."

"I don't suppose you want to do it again?" Aziraphale's eyes are warm and hopeful. Crowley trembles and tilts his head down, pressing his mouth fervently to Aziraphale's, twice, once more, with as much emphatic feeling as he can put behind a closed-mouth kiss. When Aziraphale's hand on his cheek passes further back, palm brushing the sensitive skin of his ear and cupping the back of his head, Crowley can't help it. He makes a desperate little sound, low and breathy, a distinct point of lust in what has until now been something very pure.

The light between them doesn't ebb. Aziraphale only presses against him tighter, curious now, and Crowley kisses his lips several times before moving down to his neck. Aziraphale, thank... someone... tilts his head up to allow it. Crowley is desperate now; he feels he is in the final seconds of being able to stand not knowing what exactly this is going to be, what this could be.

With all the finesse he can muster from several tens of centuries of seduction, he brushes his lips down the column of Aziraphale's neck, breathes hotly on it, and feels Aziraphale's body go still as he traces a tendon upward with the very tip of his tongue.

"Oh," Aziraphale says, only barely. It sounds like he has no breath in his lungs.

That could be promising. Crowley feels the angel's hand curl at the nape of his neck, scratching very slightly, and he tamps down his own flare of desire as he searches out more within Aziraphale. He presses a light kiss underneath Aziraphale's ear, then another just a touch lower. When his tongue seeks out Aziraphale's pulse, licking a rough figure eight across it, Aziraphale shudders beneath him, absolutely shudders, and Crowley has his answer and cannot handle it. He groans and pulls Aziraphale even more tightly to him, straightening enough to recapture Aziraphale's open mouth and kiss it deeply, properly, with all the need he'd been holding back with an iron grip. Crowley can taste dark wine. Aziraphale's hand at the back of his neck clutches at him desperately, but he can't seem to do much more.

Which is fine. Crowley draws his teeth across Aziraphale's lower lip, scraping just the tiniest bit, and when Aziraphale's eyes flutter shut and he moans, Crowley drinks in the reaction and craves more. It's the best thing he's ever seen and heard and he needs it to keep happening.

"Yeah?" Crowley asks, throaty.

Aziraphale nods several times, face flushed. "Yes," he says emphatically. The confirmation alone feels incredible. That light inside Crowley feels white hot and cool to the touch all at once. Familiar and beautiful. Aziraphale is beautiful. Crowley kisses him again, tugging Aziraphale's lower lip again and delighted at the angel's answering moan.

Crowley can feel himself getting hard. In between Aziraphale's little utterances, he is breathing just a touch raggedly, and Crowley's ears are honed in on that sound, hungry for it. Aziraphale seems like he needs more air, and Crowley wants anything but for one of them to need any kind of break, so he kisses back down his neck, dragging the edge of his teeth along the soft flesh before he can stop himself.

"Crowley," Aziraphale says urgently. Crowley stops, just in case, but Aziraphale is already scrabbling for a better grip on Crowley's head, now with both hands, pulling him closer. "Again, please?"

Crowley can translate the hesitance in that question - Is it all right to ask like this? "I'll give you whatever you want," Crowley promises against his throat, pressing another kiss there for punctuation. Aziraphale's head falls back above him. "Anything."

Aziraphale says something in response, but it's lost in the soft gasp. Crowley scrapes his teeth across Aziraphale's neck again, slower, egged on by Aziraphale's fingers trying to get some kind of grip on Crowley's hair. He should have left it long, he thinks regretfully, and nuzzles the angel's jawline. Maybe he'll grow it out. Maybe... he imagines Aziraphale's grip firm at his scalp, directing him exactly where he wants him, and groans, indulging in a soft bite.

"Oh." Aziraphale's reaction is unambiguously positive this time. The blunt nails against Crowley's neck press delicately, almost politely.

(Does he know?)

Crowley squeezes him tightly across the shoulders. Aziraphale understands and digs in more firmly, making him hiss. Crowley can't stand it. He wants Aziraphale on the floor, on a scattering of sofa cushions... against the wall. He doesn't care. Crowley moves up and flicks his tongue over Aziraphale's ear, earning a new sharp cry of arousal, and it's not until he's done it a second time that he realizes it's gone dark and forked.

Crowley only hesitates for a moment. Aziraphale has seen all his forms, including what he looks like when he isn't concentrating on Passing. It's not a problem. It can't be.

"Crowley," Aziraphale says entreatingly, already impatient.

Crowley shuts his eyes against a sudden wave of arousal. Aziraphale wants more; he wants more now. "'Zira," he says back, soothing, and goes back to what the angel wanted, delicate teeth on his throat. Crowley can feel the pulse there and it's rabbiting. He can't keep himself from getting riled up further from that knowledge. He sets about giving the angel a love bite.

"I - I rather feel like I'm about to discorporate," Aziraphale stutters. Crowley can feel the vibrations under his tongue. Aziraphale is about to say something more when Crowley sucks gently on the patch of skin. The angel's cry pitches down into a moan, breathy and needy, and his nails dig more firmly into Crowley's scalp in a desperate bid to reciprocate. "C-Crowley, that's..."

"Nn?" Crowley asks, letting go and licking the bright pink patch he's made.

"Does it feel warm in here?"

In a smooth motion borne more out of luck than strength, Crowley hauls Aziraphale into his lap, arranging him until the angel is straddling him, knees up against the back of the sofa and close in his lap. Before Aziraphale can speak, Crowley is pushing Aziraphale's jacket off his shoulders, holding him steady with one hand and using the other to tug the jacket the rest of the way free so he can toss it on the far arm of the sofa. Crowley's own jacket, far less of a beloved antique, is just vanished away with an impatient snap. "Sss'that better?"

Aziraphale's distracted from the sudden swirl of activity by Crowley's tongue. "Oh, my dear."

Crowley keeps one hand planted at the small of Aziraphale's back but looks away, not entirely able to pretend he doesn't have an enormous tell.

"Does that mean you're just as worked up as I am?"

Crowley flushes. "Bassssically," he mumbles, finally looking up to meet Aziraphale's eyes. The pupils are still dark and huge, and he looks ravished and gloriously happy. Actually, in this light, Crowley can see the faint pink marks on his neck, and the dim light of the bookshop sconces bouncing off the spots that are freshly licked. Crowley shudders and grips Aziraphale's soft thighs on either side of him, waiting for some kind of permission to get back to... something. Somehow having to look up to see Aziraphale, having his soft warmth on all sides of him, is much more overwhelming than he expected it would be. When he wets his lips and begins kneading gently, Aziraphale's eyes lid and he swallows, bending down just enough to capture Crowley's mouth again.

Aziraphale indulges in several moments of inelegant but extremely earnest kissing. "Crowley," Aziraphale breathes, finally pulling away.

Crowley shivers and feels injured when his attempt to resume the kiss is denied. He tucks his face into Aziraphale's chest instead, breathing in his scent. Aziraphale's breaths are heavy and erratic underneath his waistcoat and shirt, and Crowley presses his forehead to the angel's breastbone to feel it better.

"Crowley," Aziraphale says again, trying to get his attention. Crowley realizes his hands are still kneading Aziraphale's thighs, but further up this time, nearly to his hips. His thumbs are - they're close -

Chapter Text

"Angel," he acknowledges. Are they stopping?

Aziraphale seems hesitant. "Finland."

Fuck. "...Finland," he echoes uncertainly, between pants.

"This is very," Aziraphale says, and Crowley already knows where this is going: it's very good, but.

"This isn't where you want to,"

"Right."

A heavy feeling is settling into Crowley's gut. "You'd rather it be,"

"Yes, a little more..."

Crowley swallows and releases his grip on the angel, not quite able to stop pressing his forehead to the warm softness of his shirt. Aziraphale's hands have come to rest on his shoulders, tender, slowing things down.

"I do hope it's all right." Aziraphale sounds a little regretful, which soothes Crowley just a touch. At least he didn't completely want to stop either.

"It'sss..." Crowley closes his mouth and swallows, focusing on his shape and the details of it. It takes a few seconds. "It's fine." He lifts his head a little, dislodging the connection there. Forcing himself to be honest, he adds, "I'm just happy you... like this sort of thing."

Aziraphale's voice is warm. "It's nothing like what I've thought about, but it's jolly wonderful. Better, even."

Thought about? Crowley blinks several times up at Aziraphale, who seems to slowly realize what he's said. The angel looks away and swallows, perhaps embarrassed, and shuffles back to get to his feet. Crowley feels the loss very keenly but realizes what feels strange, what feels like it hasn't changed. "Could you, um."

"Yes?" Aziraphale looks at Crowley as the other man rises to his feet as well.

Crowley tilts his head a little, finally lifting a finger to tap at his own chest. "Switch it off, now?" The bright-warm hot-cool feeling is still there, celestial and sparkly. "It's not, um, randy, exactly, but. It's sort of distracting."

Aziraphale looks at Crowley's fingertip, and then up at Crowley's face, confusion giving way to some understanding that then leads to an expression that Crowley can't quite puzzle out. "Oh," he says, which does not reveal much either.

Crowley works his jaw a moment, retrieving his glasses from the table and putting them back on. He is trying to will down a very stubborn erection, with the object of his affection about a step away, and his whole body feels... glittery. "Please?" He tries.

"Oh, it's not-" Aziraphale begins gesturing with both his hands, then to himself, either unable or unwilling to clarify further. "It's, I haven't consciously,"

Crowley's eyes widen a little. "You just..." Did this by accident?

"Well." Aziraphale smiles. Crowley finally dials in a little better: he's... pleased, perhaps, but also nervous about how Crowley will react. "We. Would be more accurate."

"I didn't do anything, angel. I don't even know what this is."

"You do, you just - it's been a while since you could -" Aziraphale flutters a few more gestures and clears his throat. "As, as a demon, I don't believe you sense love around you, as you once did, but. Apparently if it's a, a mutual connection you are a part of, it is... still possible, possibly, for you to... do so." He twists his hands together, looking to the side.

Crowley thinks back to what Aziraphale had said earlier tonight: It's all right if you can't say it yet. And here he is without a real chance, the deed done for him. By him. Subconsciously? Something. Crowley looks down at his corporeal self, where it feels like warm pleasant fluttering is happening in his rib cage, almost lighter than the rest of him, like a helium balloon.

Now would be an awful time to have any kind of panic attack.

"This really feels like your sort of thing," he grouses without much effort to sound convincing.

"So! How, ah," Aziraphale is trying to change the subject. Bless him. Crowley doesn't deserve him. "How are we getting to Finland?"

Finland! Finland. Right. Crowley sniffs and smooths his shirt out, taking a breath and snapping his jacket back on. "Jet," he drawls. "Is four alright for you?"

"A jet?"

"You've hated flying ever since they started recycling the air." Crowley waves his hand dismissively. "Just a little one. Someone's playing at the O2 right now who owes me a favor."

"Oh. Right. All right." Aziraphale smiles, beams, really, and bounces on his toes a few times. Crowley remembers his jacket on the sofa, and picks it up and hands it out for him. Their fingers brush and Crowley feels a weird bubbling spark. Has that been there the whole time, and he just didn't...? "And four is fine. I can be packed by four."

"A few warm outfits," Crowley says, pushing a hand through his hair and squinting out the back room's little window. Dark, not raining. The drive back should be alright, other than the emotional turmoil. "But it'll mostly be... well, you'll see."

"I'm looking forward to it."

Something about the way Aziraphale says that - it's not sexual or even particularly romantic, just. Happy. Aziraphale sounds quietly, carefully, deeply happy.

Crowley looks at him wordlessly for several long moments before propelling himself out the door and towards the car. Before he can say or do anything too stupid.

He's holding his breath as he crosses the street and slithers into the safety of the Bentley.

"Fuck."

He takes a deep, calming breath. Another. He sounds like a one-man lamaze class as his knuckles go pale on the steering wheel. The warm feeling in his body is still there and it's still... bright, somehow, still shifting and pulsing and still all at once. But if he just keeps breathing and focuses on what he's doing, he won't panic.

Crowley starts the car. He is halfway across London when he realizes what song is playing. He growls and jabs the eject button on the console, only to find that it's actually, genuinely, on the radio.

"Bloody Hell," he grouses, and leaves it alone. His erection has finally subsided, and he is left with a heady mix of tumultuous feelings. He should be overjoyed that Aziraphale really has been pushing toward something physical, that it turns out he likes it...

...Crowley speeds past 3 red lights thinking about the bookshop sconce lights bouncing off of the wet marks on Aziraphale's neck.

High speed, but you know you're in safe hands 
Ooh, in the dark we make a brighter light

"Give it a resssssst," Crowley hisses under his breath, yanking the wheel left and onto his street. He's barely parked and gotten the keys out before he's stepping out, slamming the door behind him, booking it up to his flat and miracling the door open and then shut behind him.

The plants, used to terrifying entrances but somewhat put off by the unusual mood in the air, flicker their leaves with a note of curiosity tingeing their usual fear.

"Don't, just don't." Crowley throws his keys onto a side table and looks for the nearest weapon - a small pair of pruning shears - and holds them up with a look of dark promise. "No comments. No tittering. And certainly no gossip."

The shears glint menacingly.

"I am - I am experiencing reciprocation. And it is fine. I am handling it fine."

Nobody who is fine, Crowley realizes, says so out loud with absolutely no prompting, let alone do they say it twice. He squeezes the handle on the shears once before setting them back down and stalking to his bedroom.

He fires up his laptop, booking the hotel with the use of a very heavy credit card and a particularly strong miracle. Crowley then sends an email to one of the UK's more popular rappers, informing them that their jet will be commandeered for the next handful of days. (He's an understanding chap, it probably won't matter.)

Jobs done, he looks to his closet, thinks about it, and decides to just pull out his matching luggage and open it, reminding him to fill it later. From there he can dig out the electric blanket from the top shelf, wrestling it out of its plastic zip bag, laying it out on the bed, and plugging it in to start up.

The jittery glowy feeling isn't gone, but it's not... as overwhelming, now. Maybe it's because he's further away. Maybe it's because he's becoming used to it.

A mutual connection you are part of.

This glittery spritzy bubbly feeling feels like... not like Heaven did, exactly. Heaven didn't feel so personal. It didn't warm him up from the inside like this. But there's something about the lifting quality? The glowy burning that never overheats? The something-ness of it. It's deeply reminiscent, and Crowley sits on the edge of the bed and spends several minutes telling himself that this isn't Upstairs crawling around inside of him. It's Aziraphale, existing where he's practically always existed. Aziraphale, on some kind of celestial cans-on-a-string between the two of them, unconsciously sending him... emotional white noise. Emotional warmth. Emotions.

"Right," Crowley says, no longer able to deal with it.

He sets his glasses on the nightstand, strips off his clothing, and turns into an extremely large red-bellied black snake.

Carefully, Crowley slithers onto the bed and onto the comforting warmth of the electric blanket. His long belly soaks up the warmth, already setting him at ease. He yawns his mouth open widely, tasting the air, seeing how he feels.

The tingling has not gone away.

Hell. It was worth a go.

Crowley curls into a loose loop, resting his chin on his own body and settling in for the night. It's tense, then fretful, then manageable, and then it's perhaps a mix of the blanket and the comfortable scales and the gentle internal hum that send him off to sleep.

Chapter Text

Crowley's mobile beeps with a few messages sometime in the early morning, but he perseveres through it and continues to sleep until about ten til noon.

The electric blanket powered off automatically some time in the night, so the bed is relatively cool when he lifts his head and inspects his surroundings. Immaculate bedroom. One laptop and one mobile phone on desk. Two matching luggage bags open on floor. Right.

He slithers to the floor, stretches a little, then changes back into his limbed form so he can do a much more lanky and productive stretch. He smacks the morning taste out of his mouth, checking himself in the mirror and holding still a moment to see if that sparkly glittery business is still going on inside.

Just barely, yes. Like a freshly-opened can of soda in the next room over, but feeling the bubbles instead of hearing them. (Maybe not soda. Maybe some other carbonated beverage? Seltzer. This doesn't have any kind of syrupy feeling to it. Perhaps one of those fruit and berry-flavored whatsists that have gotten so popular recently.)

Has it settled in him somehow? No longer an invader or a recent meal disagreeing with him and causing his stomach to roll, but seeped now into his bones and shifting from within? He scrunches his nose and looks in the mirror. He looks the same.

Aziraphale kissed him. They snogged, they got a little handsy, and the angel wasn't put off. He liked it. He likes Crowley. More than likes, if these bubbles mean what Aziraphale says they do.

Part of Crowley wants to stand in front of the mirror for another hour, trying to figure out more exactly what it is, how it's changed him. Part of him feels like he's been scoured out delicately like a grimy casserole dish that had been left for too long, all the burnt carbon bits now rinsed cleanly away. At the exact same time, in the exact same corporeal body, he feels like he hasn't changed a single iota. It takes about twenty seconds for him to realize that he's not going to get any further on this navel-gazing and he needs to get moving.

"Right." A few outfits' worth of clothes into the luggage, and then over to the pantry, where he picks out what lovely bottles will be rolled up and protected in said clothes. There's a Chateau Petrus Pomerol that he's been saving for something big, and a Penfolds Grange he'd forgotten about... should he bring a white? "Don't be ridiculous," he mutters to himself, bundling it all together and checking the clock. He has enough time to water and inflict terror on his victims.

"Look sharp," Crowley snaps toward the hallway, grabbing his watering can like a weapon and stalking over. "Feeding comes early this week, but don't get soft, you're going to be on your own for days and I want that time spent sorting out your-"

Crowley had more of that sentence prepared, but it falls away as he stands in the doorway and gazes at several dozen softly budding plants.

They are trembling appropriately, but as far as he can tell, each potted plant has at least one brand new, delicate bud visible from the front. The rubber plants have vibrant red, thin buds extending. The philodendrons have small, orchid-like growths toward their center, with with pale green exteriors, milky white inner walls, and hopeful little white protrusions reaching outward. One's outer shell is actually a striking cinnabar.

"What's going on?" Crowley squeaks indignantly. The plants quiver, unable to provide an acceptable answer. "Overnight? I've had some of you decades, and you've never..."

The demon looks from plant to plant, making sure each one is appropriately aware of his dissatisfaction, but as he backs up and takes in the room as a whole he can't help but feel this might be his doing. The soft grass greens, the gentle whites, the bursts of red. All this new color. It looks like he feels inside. Like something surprising and new that's perhaps always been possible, if, if-

"I don't have time today," Crowley growls, interrupting his train of thought and beginning on the delicate process of sprinkling exactly the right amount of water in each pot. "Ruminate while I'm gone. Think about your outburst. Feel lucky I'm as kind as I am."

Crowley grumbles further as he finishes locking up the flat, as he takes his luggage down the stairs and puts it into the back of the Bentley, and as he speeds across town to Aziraphale's bookshop. The sign says it is closed, and the door is locked, so he miracles it open and lets himself in, shutting and locking it behind him before he shouts to the upstairs:

"Angel?"

There is a distinct thump, and then something rolling across the floor. "Crowley!" Aziraphale shouts excitedly from upstairs. "I'm nearly ready."

Crowley's eyes narrow behind his glasses as he looks up at the ceiling. "Right," he calls back uncertainly, and stalks around the books for a few loops until Aziraphale is trotting down the stairs, wearing a very soft, sand-colored cabled jumper that Crowley has not seen before. He is carrying one large, garish tartan suitcase, fingers drumming nervously over the handle. His cheeks are a little flushed, mouth quirked with a bit of hopeful uncertainty.

"Got everything you need?" Crowley drawls.

Aziraphale shrugs. "Oh, this and that. A warm hat, gloves... Clos de Tart, a Vega Sicilia Unico..."

"I packed all reds, too."

Aziraphale breaks out into a smile. "Are we still on schedule?"

Crowley shrugs. "It's our plane, for now, they'll take off when we say." He turns for the door and starts walking, and Aziraphale scuttles to catch up and walk beside him. This makes it much easier for Crowley to pluck the suitcase out of his hands, carrying it instead. (Aziraphale does mumble something about it, but it's not very clear.) Aziraphale holds the door for him and then locks up the shop while Crowley wrestles the case into the back of the Bentley with the other two.

The two cases on the left, he would say, look like they are ready to be launched into space. The case on the right looks like it's ready to be thrown into a fire for crimes against fashion. But, today is not a day for picking every fight.

"I checked the weather, and it's supposed to be quite nice over there right now." Aziraphale looks chipper as he crosses the street, nodding a thanks as Crowley gets his door for him. The bubbling feeling in Crowley's stomach feels like it pops louder, more colorfully, and Crowley has to stifle a reaction as he carefully shuts the door as Aziraphale gets his feet in.

The drive over is quiet, which Crowley is pretty sure is because Crowley is scared to turn the radio on and Aziraphale is trying not to comment on his driving.

"Oh, that's-" Aziraphale looks back at the small Japanese-manufactured car they just passed. "Oh. Well."

"I didn't clip them," Crowley reassures brusquely. "And we're nearly there."

But it's taking too long. Aziraphale smells like freshly-cut grass and his new aftershave. The bubbles are on full blast, but then thankfully subside, merging into something like a warm cocoa tilting back and forth in the safety a high-walled mug. That's less distracting to Crowley while he drives, but it's still maddeningly unfamiliar and familiar all at once. He miracles the Bentley past two cars in the left lane so he can make a turn without waiting for the light to change.

"Easy, my dear. As you said, the plane won't take off without us."

"Don't call me that," Crowley says without thinking, a little desperately. He can almost feel Aziraphale's brows climbing up his forehead in surprise, his gaze on him before the angel looks back to the road.

"I'm sorry."

"No, don't. I'm." Crowley swallows as he takes another turn, finally getting to really hit the gas pedal for a few kilometres. He feels a bit better. "It's just. A lot." He scrunches his nose as he feels the 'white noise' change again. It's bloody mercurial, is what it is, and if it's like this forever Crowley may actually go mad.

"Is it," Aziraphale begins hesitantly, seeming to struggle to find the words. "...do you still... feel..."

"Yes, angel."

"Ah." Aziraphale sounds like he understands what Crowley's going through, if not personally, because he sounds a little... sorry? Regretful? As Crowley careens onto the airfield, over some grass to the carpark area, he feels a bizarre dropping feeling as the bubbles slowly vanish away as is they have simply stopped existing. There's a fraction of relief to it, but it's overcast by the alarm of the disappearance. Crowley throws the car into park and stares forward, then to his left.

"--what--?"

"I just," Aziraphale looks embarrassed as he gestures in front of him, fiddling with the seat belt strap across his chest before miming some kind of 'holding back' motion. "I mean, I've done it quite often, before, when I wasn't sure if."

Crowley reaches blindly to get the keys out of the ignition, tries again, and gives up. "You can turn it off?"

"No," Aziraphale says emphatically, and in that moment Crowley is sure that he has tried. That he has tried several times, very hard. "No, it's still - it just, you know, doesn't..." He mimes again, as if he's in some sort of invisible bubble that is preventing anything from getting out.

So Aziraphale's feelings just aren't reaching Crowley. They do still... exist.

Crowley swallows and looks back at the windscreen. "Can you, er."

"Hm?"

"Can you still feel... me?"

Aziraphale doesn't answer at first. "Yes," he confirms finally, which makes Crowley's stomach flip in a mix of scared but excited that he's been getting strangely accustomed to lately. "But I don't - I've never... it's very different, up close."

The demon lowers his voice. "What d'you mean?"

"Just, that." Aziraphale looks toward the airfield building a few metres off. "Nearly all the love I ever feel or observe is... humans loving other humans, of course, or humans loving things. So, your, I mean, that is to say, when a feeling is directed at me, it's comparatively quite... up close and fuzzy, out of focus..." His face is tinged pink at the tops of his cheek and the tips of his ears, and Crowley realizes with complete devastation that it is charming beyond words. Aziraphale's hand hovers over his seatbelt, and then he looks toward the key in the ignition. Crowley obediently cuts the engine and removes the keys - Aziraphale nods and begins unbuckling himself. "So, um, for the longest time, I could only assume it was a platonic sort of, um. Feeling."

"You didn't want to assume," Crowley finishes, somehow completely sure.

Aziraphale doesn't say anything, but he does something between a head tilt and a nod, and then blinks several times as he looks over at Crowley through his lashes. Crowley feels a weird rising feeling in his chest, all his own, and is trying to work out if he should lean over and kiss him when he looks past Aziraphale's shoulder and sees two figures in the distance. "What?" Aziraphale asks, and looks as well. "Ah. They'll be here for our luggage, I suspect."

"Yes," Crowley confirms, and unbuckles himself and slithers out of the car before he can do anything stupid. He walks around to the boot, unlocking it and flinging it open.

"Mr. Crowley," the first man says with a respectful nod, and Crowley grunts and gestures to the boot. The first man takes the first two suitcases. The second man takes the third, and then Crowley's keys.

"Not a scratch on her," Crowley hisses in the second man's ear. "Not a scuff. Not a scrape."

"Crowley," Aziraphale admonishes, taking his hand in a moment of extremely unfair power play that renders the demon completely useless. He can only follow alongside Aziraphale toward the single jet on the tarmac. "I assume this is for us?"

"Yes, Mr. Fell." The first man falls in line one the angel's other side and lifts his chin up toward it. "We are ready to go wheels-up in as little as ten minutes."

"You could make it five," Crowley grouses, mostly desperate to see if he can get his voice to work while Aziraphale strokes his fingers like this.

"Ten minutes sounds absolutely lovely," Aziraphale says with an unusual amount of firmness. Crowley detects a note of gentle scolding in the next hand-squeeze.

The two men lead them to the removable stairs and carefully deposit their luggage underneath some empty seats as Crowley and Aziraphale take in the interior of the jet. It's much smaller than a commercial airliner, but with more spacious seating. Several rows are actually arranged train style, with two rows facing another over a small adjustable table with power sockets of every kind. Crowley hangs back and lets Aziraphale pick a spot as the flight attendant comes out from the cockpit.

"Mr. Crowley, Mr. Fell. My name is Martha. The flight will be nonstop and about five hours." She smiles. "But it may be a bit less, as our pilot has said there are some very favorable northeast winds with us today! Do you need anything before we take off? Otherwise, I'll begin getting refreshments ready once we're up and level."

"We're just fine, miss. Thank you." Aziraphale continues smiling back at her until she's back into the cockpit.

Crowley eyes Aziraphale sidelong. "Didn't you used to wait until we were up in the air?"

Aziraphale shrugs bashfully. "I've found if I start a little before boarding, the crew are less caught unawares by it, they seem to worry less about if it's dangerous."

"You could always just help them into worrying less," Crowley points out, and continues as Aziraphale opens his mouth to reply: "But you'd rather not mess with their grey matter if you don't have to. Yes, you're right, I should have remembered."

Aziraphale nods and selects the train-styled row nearest where their luggage has been deposited. As he buckles in, adjusting the strap to his comfort and looking out the aisle, Crowley takes the moment to look at the angel's new jumper, the way his slacks stretch across his thighs, and the sensible walking boots that Crowley has only ever seen in particularly disagreeable London weather. "You really should be kinder to them," Aziraphale says as the two men disembark.

Crowley would normally have a response for this, but right now he does not. He realizes he is just standing in the aisle, looking at his travel partner instead of sitting down and buckling up. "Sorry," he mumbles instead, finally dropping down next to him and fiddling with the belt. Up ahead of them, the engine begins to whirr softly, then roar to life.

Chapter Text

Martha comes over with a tasteful basket of snacks. Crowley gestures for Aziraphale to pick first, and he smiles brightly at the woman as he selects some pretzels.

"Anything to drink, sirs?" Martha looks between the two of them. "We have soft drinks, sparkling water, flat water, wine, beer..."

"Sparkling would be lovely, thank you." Aziraphale beams at her.

"Flat for me." Crowley nods at her and she walks back to the front of the plane.

"See, you're already finding your manners a bit." Aziraphale lifts his hand to the armrest between them and gives Crowley a brief pat.

Crowley feels less... tumultuous than he did in the car, but he also feels vaguely lacking. He scrunches his nose and slouches a little further into his seat. "She's fine," he says, trying to reason out his ruder behavior earlier.

Aziraphale cants his head patiently and looks down at his small packet of pretzels, finding the notch to tear at. "You just didn't like those two gentlemen from earlier because they interrupted a moment."

That. Was exactly it, actually. Crowley has a moment of stunned silence.

"Most humans are just doing their best," Aziraphale continues, as if Crowley's silence is normal. "They aren't always very sure of themselves, or in quite the right direction, but. They do try."

Crowley thinks of Latisha, patiently listening to him whinge at her while she did her job. He also thinks about her nephew's picture that was tacked up at her workstation. He had cancer, for which there had been a donations jar and a brief note explaining the details. Crowley had left several large bills, and also swung by the hospital parking lot for a quick miracle.

But one does not say these things.

"...what I should expect?"

Crowley looks over. "Sorry?"

Aziraphale's expression is gentle. Something about the angel's patience with him lately is a little overwhelming. "I said, should I wait until we've arrived at our destination, or would you give me a hint as to what to expect?"

"I don't know, you sort of like surprises." Crowley lifts a shoulder in a slight shrug. "There's not a bunch of activities planned, or anything."

Aziraphale exhales as if he's just lowered into a perfectly hot bath. "Thank goodness."

Martha comes by with their drinks. Aziraphale leans back so she can set them both down. "Can I get you anything else right now?"

"No," Crowley says, adding "thank you." and watching Aziraphale's body language practically glow with contentment.

"Not for me either, thank you so much." Aziraphale holds up his sparkling cup and smiles back at her as she walks back to the front.

Crowley braves it. "Would you mind turning it back on?"

Aziraphale blinks, looking genuinely surprised. "I'm sorry?"

Crowley keeps his eyes on the window, watching the clouds beneath them. "If it's all the same to you, I mean."

"I- I thought you..."

"It's just distracting." Crowley rubs at his nose and tries for some level of casual affect. "But, y'know, now that I'm not driving or anything. S'fine."

"Ah." Aziraphale nods, clearly trying to respect Crowley's rubbish attempt at remaining low-key, and takes a nibble of his first pretzel. Slowly, like a trickle becoming a brook, Crowley feels a welling up in him of... colored light, or perhaps the tiny little pops in Aziraphale's sparkling water. They expand to fill the space they're given, reaching all the niches in him, until he's taking a slow, deep breath and stretching out and sitting upright again in his chair. As if to make room for a bit more of them.

Crowley takes a few moments to acclimate. The feeling still has an inherent sort of movement to it, a shifting, but it's not making him feel so dislodged or unbalanced as before. It seems calmer. Or maybe he's just adjusted better. Peeking over behind his glasses, he can see the angel snatching glances, trying to gauge his reaction. "It's fine," he says, and then rethinks that: "It's good, actually. I just... it's good."

He has no idea how to say what it actually is. How it's overwhelming and feels like it can't be real but is very clearly inside him, at this moment, at any given moment that Aziraphale is not actively concentrating on keeping it back like an ethereal floodgate. He tries for a few moments, even opening his mouth to begin various sentences, before giving up and looking back out the window. With one hand, he sips at his water. With the other, he blindly feels out the armrest again, and he does not have to wait long for the answering hand to cover his, warm and soft and completely understanding.

**

They touch down just a hair before half past six, which is apparently almost record-breaking. Aziraphale pretends to be quite surprised by this news as Martha tells it to them, and Crowley joins in with at least a mild "oh, you must have a good pilot" as they unload their luggage and look for the parked rentals.

Finland's air is cold, which Crowley knew it would be, but it is also very clear, which he was hoping it would be. He doesn't rush Aziraphale from his several moments of looking around appreciatively at all the conifers and whatnot.

The rental car is not Crowley's Bentley, but it is also by far the most expensive car in the rental space, or indeed in several kilometres in any direction. The demon hustles the attendant along in the paperwork process before rejoining Aziraphale outside and opening his door for him.

"I knew it'd be this one," Aziraphale says, tucking himself in.

Crowley eases the luggage into the boot before settling into the driver's seat, and beginning to fiddle with the seat before just snapping impatiently and righting it all. "Whoever drove this last must have been a jockey," he mutters.

Aziraphale chuckles and does not seem nearly so impatient. "Do we have dinner reservations?" he asks.

"No," Crowley admits.

"Good." Aziraphale notes Crowley's surprise. "So we don't need to rush. We can just..." He shrugs. Crowley feels a happy sort of tumble in the swirl of light inside him.

"I'm gonna kiss you," Crowley says slowly, "if you want me to, that is - and then, and then I'm gonna ask you to turn it off again until we get to the lodge. Because I may crash this da- this blessed thing before we ever get there."

"Oh." Aziraphale blinks several times, expressionless, and then breaks into another, different sort of happy beaming face that makes Crowley's stomach flip independently of any celestial presence of love within him. The demon leans forward, and waits until the angel leans in a bit as well, and they brush their lips together over the sleek black console. It feels delicate. Careful. Breathing in, Crowley can smell Aziraphale fully, can remember how he felt on the sofa pressed against him -

Crowley pulls back a few inches and Aziraphale is still there, eyes gently shut and a nervous flush on his cheeks. Crowley steels himself, squirms further so he can land a brief one on Aziraphale's cheek, and then straightens back up in his driver's seat.

The brook slows to a trickle as he revs the engine. By the time he's pulling out of the carpark, it's almost completely gone, leaving an empty bed in its wake that still sparkles depending on the angle from which you view it. Crowley hits the gas.

It's quiet for almost a minute.

"I thought we agreed you didn't need to rush," Aziraphale says finally, after Crowley has used a sidewalk to avoid a light for the second time.

"We're nearly there."

"Yes, but-" Aziraphale winces as a blur of a woman with a pram passes by his vision. "I'd like to get there in one piece. Where is 'there', again?"

"Just a nice sort of hotel," Crowley says, finding himself very suddenly desperate to downplay it. Perhaps Aziraphale won't like the idea at all. "A change of scenery, a good view."

"I think you mentioned a 'lodge', earlier."

"Sort of a lodge. Not - it's got all the amenities, angel, don't worry."

"I trust you," Aziraphale assures him.

"Modern comforts, rustic view. All these Christmassy sort of trees around here that you seem to like." He gestures at them with one hand, which causes Aziraphale to make an aborted movement to grab that hand and put it back on the wheel.

"And we're nearly there?" He sounds a bit strained.

"Yes, it's just this turn and then down out of town a couple kilometres..." Crowley leans on the turn, courteously braking a little as he takes it for the angel's benefit, who does not seem nearly appreciative enough of said courtesy, really, if Crowley were asked. Then it's a nice long stretch of flat nothing on either side, almost no cars, until the town is tiny in the rear view mirror, then nearly gone entirely, and a large wood-paneled building shows up ahead of them.

"That'll be it," Aziraphale says, pointing as his voice wavers.

"Yes," Crowley says, squinting and already starting to compare it to the pictures online. It better be good. He parks, takes the keys out, and has his hand on the door before he remembers. "You -" He fumbles for the words, somehow incapable of asking directly.

"Yes?" Aziraphale says, waiting for more for several seconds before he realizes. "Ah, yes, of..." He clears his throat, and nods, and as Crowley gets out and walks around to get Aziraphale's door, a candle flickers deep within him, dim at first and then soft, gentle, not bright or blinding but somehow reaching every part of him. He closes Aziraphale's door once he gets out, gets his luggage, and looks around - no attendant. "I'm happy to carry my own," Aziraphale assures him, getting the tartan monstrosity with one hand and shutting the boot with the other. "Shall we check in?"

Of course that's what they do next. Crowley wonders if he's been standing still for too long or something, ruminating on the candle. "Right." He leads the way to the lobby, where there are several professionally-taken and professionally-printed and professionally-mounted photos of the surprise, which does go quite a long way to ruining said surprise, but. Crowley had never planned that aspect of this very well, and Aziraphale seems anything but displeased.

"Oh," Aziraphale says softly, standing in the entryway and looking at the array of photos.

"I'll go," Crowley says, and gestures over to the concierge's desk.

Aziraphale nods, although Crowley would bet the angel has no idea what he just said. Crowley stands behind him as Aziraphale turns a little in place, now taking in a new wall of framed photographs. Finally, Crowley turns and goes to the desk, where a young man is smiling patiently at him.

"It's a lovely view," he man acknowledges, in a faint accent.

"Better be," Crowley mutters as he pulls out his wallet, and then winces. On the back of his hand is the ghost of the pat from Aziraphale earlier. "Anyway." He pushes his shoulders back and produces his ID and credit card. "Not... to be rude, but can you do this quickly?"

The man doesn't answer at first, sliding the card and typing in something from his ID. His eyebrows lift almost imperceptibly, then a crease forms between them. "So, Mr. Crowley... am I saying that correctly?"

"You are," Crowley says, sensing a problem and suppressing a hiss. His angel has specifically coached him, today, within the last few hours, about being nicer to humans.

"You - you have accommodations, don't worry, we have just had to move you to another lodge further in, I'm afraid. The previous guests at the one you requested-"

"Booked," Crowley interjects. "Very different from requested. Booked."

The man, now a shade paler, nods. "I'm afraid there was a spill on the carpet, and not wanting to give you an unclean room, we have had to move your reservation, as we could not get the steam cleaner over there until tomorrow."

"There's a spill? This is a spill issue?"

"Yes," the man says very apologetically.

"There's someone coming to come steam clean it up?"

"Yes, but not until tomorrow. I'm very-"

Crowley draws his fingers upward from the ground and snaps. "So here's what happened."

The man stares vacantly at him a moment, then blinks. "...something happened?"

"The regular cleaning crew got it out. Clever bunch. You don't need to bring anyone round."

"Oh," the man says, accepting this immediately and very fascinated by it.

"So you can cancel that bloke. You can move us back into that lodge. That lodge is fine." Crowley taps his finger against the corner of the computer monitor sticking up from the concierge desk.

"It's fine," the man agrees, and then looks down to his computer. "Sir, please let me adjust some things, your... your room is fine and I can move you back into it."

"And you can cancel that cleaning," Crowley reminds him. "Don't need him interrupting."

Aziraphale wanders up to his shoulder, looking strangely shy and quiet.

"Everything alright?" Crowley asks.

"It's lovely," Aziraphale says in a very soft voice.

"Mr. Crowley, and Mr. Fell," the man says, sliding two copper colored, antique-styled keys across the desk. "I do apologize for that delay."

"It's fine," Crowley assures him magnanimously, and takes both keys, handing one to Aziraphale. "Lodge four, yeah?"

"Yes." The man smiles, the vacant quality to his look almost completely faded now. "Please enjoy your stay, and enjoy the lights!"

"We will." Crowley turns to Aziraphale. "Shall we?"

Chapter Text

Outside behind the main building, the snow is more accumulated, puffy and light and almost cresting past their boots. They are each given a small 'sleigh' to man, where their luggage goes in the front and they are to stand at the back and kick off.

(Crowley was only just willing to put up with this twee aspect of the lodge, but the angel looks incandescent about the prospect.)

Hm.

Crowley takes a moment to look at his sled, and then Aziraphale's, and toward the long trek to Lodge 4: strategically chosen for its superior layout and position on the edge of the property, away from others.

"Angel," he says, looking at his small sleigh and seeing Aziraphale's hesitant expression out of the corner of his eye.

"I was really quite looking forward to-"

"No, no, I can do better." Crowley gives a cursory look around before snapping at his sleigh. It extends until it's a better size; enough room for three suitcases, and a matching tartan seat and wool blanket in the middle. "Eh?"

Aziraphale's eyes widen and he breaks out into a delighted giggle. Crowley sets his hand on his hip and waits as Aziraphale moves his suitcase over to Crowley's improved sleigh and steps in and gets settled.

"All ready?"

"Tickety boo," Aziraphale chirps. The back of his head is a fluffy platinum halo with a few flecks of snow, looking from side to side as he smooths the tartan blanket over his thighs. Crowley takes a deep breath, feeling the gentle candle feeling in him give a soft crackle, like a log settling in a hearth.

The first kick off is a little lackluster, as Crowley is but one human-shaped entity and not several dogs pulling from the front. Crowley snaps once more, smoothing out the bottoms of the runners. At the second kick off, the sleigh actually takes up a bit of speed, and Crowley can't suppress his grin when Aziraphale lets out a delighted little 'whoop' with a fist in the air.

The air is sharp and cold on his cheeks, but it's not bothersome - Crowley assumes Aziraphale, too, is simply choosing not to feel discomforted by the weather. There aren't any trees until quite a ways off, and the mostly untouched snowfall they're pushing through makes Crowley feel like he's in some sort of idyllic snow globe. Aziraphale's head keeps turning, taking everything in. On the right, several almost identical lodges spaced generously from each other. On the left, a white expanse, shrubbery and hills in the distance, the sun setting behind it and casting delicate shadows on the snow.

"Is that us?" Aziraphale asks, raising his voice over the wind a bit and pointing forward. The lodge at the edge of the property is a bit bigger and is by far the most remote.

"That's us," Crowley confirms, feeling another weird flip in his gut. It's as if part of him never expected them to get here. His anxiety roils for a few seconds, but it's soon overrun by a competing warmth, a now-familiar spark and glow that reaches from his chest to his fingertips. Crowley's fingers flex against the handlebar of the sleigh.

"It's lovely," Aziraphale says. From Crowley's angle, he can just see the apple of Aziraphale's cheek risen in a huge smile.

Crowley lets the sleigh slow down a few metres from the front door, and hops off with a quick gesture for Aziraphale to stay where he is.

"Crowley?"

"Just let me," Crowley mumbles, and bends over the sleigh, grabbing his suitcases before stopping in place. "You're not cold?"

Aziraphale's nose is just inches from his - his blue eyes are wide and bright, curious and anticipatory. "No," Aziraphale confirms uncertainly.

Crowley swallows. "Good. Just wait here, I'll sort it out." He hauls his suitcases off, treads up the stairs, and skips the key altogether, tapping his foot instead and miracling the door to unlock and swing open. Crowley steps in, kicks it shut again behind him to keep the cold out, and drops the suitcases down unceremoniously just past the door mat.

It looks like the photos. Thank Hea- thank someone. Crowley begins scouring the first room, decorated with an eye for rustic minimalism - exposed wooden beams, a thick burgundy rug. A small sitting area, with cozy arm chairs and a love seat. A writing desk with a telephone and stationery.

No stains. Crowley opens the door on the left, which turns out to be the water closet. The intricate tile on the walls is a soft blue, shifting in hue from left to right. Crowley scowls at the tub, which has jets but is only large enough for one, and snaps to double its size before shutting the door again and moving to the final room.

It's just like the photos online. The warmth from the setting sun is filtering through the glass half-dome, casting gentle light on the plush king sized bed that is stacked high with warm blankets. Crowley finds himself distracted with the view. There is a veritable lake of untouched snow ahead, followed by a gentle sprinkling of conifers. Crowley squints at them, evaluating, before pointing toward a scraggly looking copse on the left hand size and gesturing impatiently until the least impressive of the bunch thickens and raises up about three feet. Much better.

Crowley glances up, through the glass dome, to the open sky. Perhaps this was too much. Perhaps his nail technician meant for him to suggest a picnic or a romantic film.

Too late for that now.

Crowley clears his throat several times and looks to the floor. There, by the left side of the bed, is a large berry colored stain ruining a large patch of the thick cream rug. He snaps at it, wicking what he is sure is a cheap Merlot out of the fabric and into nothingness. "Was that so hard?" he mutters, and trots back toward the door.

He stops halfway, looks to the sitting area again, and miracles a small cheese board onto the coffee table. Some grapes. Some cured meats. Nothing too much.

When Crowley opens the front door again, Aziraphale is still in his seat as instructed, hands on his knees and tilting his head to one side.

"Checking for yetis?" The angel asks, eyebrows rising.

"Wrong continent for yetis." Crowley hops down the stairs, grabbing Aziraphale's suitcase and reaching out for Aziraphale's hand. Aziraphale takes it, rising carefully out of the sleigh and stepping back into the powdery snow.

"Back you go," Aziraphale encourages the sleigh, snapping upwards. Obediently, the sleigh shrinks back down, seat and blanket disappearing as if they were never there.

Crowley leads the way back into the lodge, holding the door for Aziraphale and setting his suitcase down next to the other two. At first he doesn't realize Aziraphale has frozen in place, but upon shutting the door and just barely clearing the angel's shoulder, it's very clear that there's a moment of shock happening.

"Oh," Aziraphale says after a long while. Crowley exhales.

"It's all right, then?"

"It - it looked quite, quite simple from the outside, but. It's very cozy."

Cozy is a very good word in the angel's book. Crowley knows this. Aziraphale is a creature of comforts. "It's half logs out there, but the glass might've given it away that it was a little more modern than just-" Crowley stops mid-sentence as Aziraphale suddenly rushes to the far door, throwing it open and looking at the bedroom with the glass walls, like a half-igloo. The sun has continued setting, as it is known to do, and is now casting some warmer colors across the snowy expanse outside.

"Oh, Crowley."

Crowley swallows and looks down, overwhelmed, as he feels the flicker of light turn into a bright swell in his chest.

"It's-" Aziraphale steps inside, circling around a few times until he stops facing Crowley. "Those photographs in the lobby don't do it justice."

"The northern lights aren't even out, yet," Crowley points out lamely.

"No, but-" Aziraphale bounces a moment on his toes, shock melting into happiness and contentment as he steps forward and embraces Crowley without warning. The angel's sleeves, brushing against Crowley's neck, are chilled and lightly dusted with snow, causing a chill to run up Crowley's spine. "Oh, my dear, it's absolutely lovely."

Crowley wraps his arms around Aziraphale's middle, squeezing hesitantly. They've very rarely done this. It feels. Particularly nice. "Are - are you hungry? There's some nibbles out on the coffee tab-"

"I'm not hungry," Aziraphale interrupts.

Crowley pulls back so he can show Aziraphale, purely by expression, how unlike him that sounds.

Aziraphale laughs. "I'm not," he insists, forearms staying comfortably draped over Crowley's shoulders. One hand comes to gently brush at the back of Crowley's neck, and he trembles. "As much as I love a good meal - and I'm sure you've picked out something excellent - I did not come to Finland with you for the cabbage rolls and viili."

"It's brie, actually." Crowley's voice lowers an octave as the angel leans in closer, head tilted up ever so slightly. "Some goat cheese as well... it... it'll be fine. If we leave it."

Aziraphale's eyes twinkle a little and Crowley feels roman candle sparks in his chest. "Let's leave it."

The angel moves first. He uses his soft touch behind Crowley's head to nudge him forward, pressing their lips together. It's soft at first, building a little more urgency, searching, as Crowley tightens his grip on Aziraphale's hips to pull him bodily closer until they're both nearly breathless with it. Aziraphale's free hand finds Crowley's jaw, encouraging him to open his mouth for a deeper kiss, thumb stroking gently over Crowley's cheek.

If the demon makes any kind of desperate sound at this moment, Aziraphale is too kind to point it out or ever mention it.

"Want you," Crowley breathes, shaking a little as they pull back for a moment. Aziraphale lets go of him to take his glasses delicately by both arms, folding them and putting them in Crowley's front jacket pocket. Crowley's sure they're going to be crushed between them in a few moments, but Aziraphale is already curling his fingers around the lapels, nudging it off Crowley's shoulders. This involves letting go of Aziraphale, which turns out to be much more difficult than he would have expected.

"You were right," Aziraphale says, laying Crowley's jacket across the top of the dresser. "When we were fighting. In the bandstand."

"The bandstand," Crowley echoes, struggling to keep up. Aziraphale has an air of purpose to him that's rarely seen, and when the angel takes Crowley's face in his hands, it's with the same kind of deep seriousness.

"Yes, the bandstand." He steps in close again, eyes fluttering closed as he presses his forehead to Crowley's. Crowley sees the feeling on Aziraphale's face first, a fragile sort of tenderness. Something like a bloom that's barely opened, could be easily trampled before it got a chance to...

"Aziraphale." He can feel it, now. Soft earth. Little sprouts reaching upwards toward light.

"We are on the same side," Aziraphale breathes between them. His voice is so soft. "Humanity's side. O-our side." When Crowley puts his hands back on Aziraphale's hips, he realizes that those hands are trembling. "I think we have been for quite some time, actually."

"Angel, look at me."

Aziraphale's eyes open and lift up, locking on his. Crowley feels a sudden fear to say it, as if what's been obvious for who-knows-how-long might break this spell, but there's no denying what he's feeling, a sensation like young vines rising upwards and twining around his bones. Making a home there. Crowley swallows.

"I love you, darling."

Aziraphale's eyes are damp. He's laughing through it, smiling sheepishly. Crowley presses his forehead into Aziraphale's, nudging him back an inch. His cheek feels wet and he realizes he must be crying too.

"I've waited ages to be sure that wouldn't send you running for the hills. I- I didn't want to give you up for anything, even for a chance at-"

"At this?" Aziraphale supplies, tilting his head just enough to gesture toward the lodge, the setting sun out beyond the glass.

"At, yes, at whatever you'd want, at..." Crowley loses his thread, tilting his head instead and squeezing Aziraphale's middle while he presses a kiss to his cheek. "Whatever you want," he repeats instead. "Whatever you want."

Aziraphale's thumbs brush over his cheeks, drying them. "I want you to make love to me. Please."

Chapter Text

Crowley shudders and leans into one of Aziraphale's hands. "Yes," he says, almost out of breath. He inhales shakily. Where did all this adrenaline come from? "I-"

He doesn't get to finish that sentence. Aziraphale pulls him in, kissing him again, mouth open to him - he tastes warm and soft and so good, like he smells, like something Crowley can't define and can't get enough of. He doesn't realize how much he's pressing himself bodily into the angel until they both have to stop, the backs of Aziraphale's legs up against the foot of the bed now.

"Let me," Crowley says, and Aziraphale understands. The angel lets Crowley pull his jumper off, revealing a crisp white collared shirt. Crowley leans in and kisses Aziraphale's cheek, jaw, down his neck as he works the first two buttons open.

"I- I think I need to sit," Aziraphale admits unsteadily.

Crowley hums an acknowledgement, letting go and watching as Aziraphale more or less drops down onto the edge of his bed. His blond hair is slightly rumpled, and the open buttons reveal a light sprinkling of downy platinum hairs. Aziraphale's mouth is pink and wet, slightly open, curving into a shy smile as Crowley nudges his shoulder to encourage him to lay down. Aziraphale goes easily, making a soft noise when Crowley follows after him and straddles his hips.

"Oh my."

"Scoot back," Crowley says, biting back a predatory rise of... something... as he watches Aziraphale scrabble back to the pillows, hurried, eyes bright and clearly impatient for Crowley to come after him. Crowley does, and Aziraphale's satisfaction is evident on his face. "You like when I'm on top of you like thisss?"

"Yes," Aziraphale responds instantly. Something about how unreserved he is about it makes Crowley tremble, giving in and bending over him to press his mouth urgently to his. He feels Aziraphale arch his body up, trying to make more contact. Fuck.

"I'm only going to cheat on shoes and socks." Crowley props himself up on one hand, using the other to snap until they're barefoot. "Gonna do the rest properly." He's already ducking down to nuzzle at the exposed chest hair when he feels Aziraphale's hands come back to him, on his neck, he feels like he's burning up - the angel's short nails are digging into the soft skin there, like they did on the sofa at the bookshop, making Crowley moan.

"Is... should I press harder? Tell me." Aziraphale's breath is coming in shorter bursts as Crowley begins undoing buttons more impatiently, revealing more gorgeously soft skin. Crowley swallows as the last button finally comes loose, letting him push the sides of the shirt aside - Aziraphale is gorgeous, pale and generously shaped. His chest, the lovely curve of his stomach, all of it rises and falls as Aziraphale pants and waits for Crowley to continue.

Crowley's already forgotten what Aziraphale asked. He ducks in, pressing his lips to Aziraphale's breastbone, nuzzling the soft hairs there and feeling his cock twitch in his trousers. Aziraphale's making soft little sounds now with every exhalation, little needful sounds, and Crowley can't quite handle that. He kisses downward, to Aziraphale's stomach, sinking his teeth in just shy of starting to cause any pain.

"Crowley," Aziraphale whimpers.

"Sssssssssorry." Crowley kisses it better, surprised when the fingers at his neck dig in harder and drag outward. Oh, he thinks, comprehending, and bites again, hearing Aziraphale let out a reedy sigh. Crowley does it again, still very softly, down to the side, again, to the soft swell of Aziraphale's hip. The skin is thicker here, and Crowley feels his heart leap in his chest a little - those vines, warm light blooming from behind them - as he drags his teeth slowly, drawing out a desperate and slightly impatient moan, and finally he bites there, letting his teeth sink in just enough. When he lets go, pulls back a little, he finally notices Aziraphale's trousers; he's hard, squirming under Crowley's gaze. Crowley swallows and bends down on his elbows and knees, eyes flickering up to meet Aziraphale's for confirmation - Yes, Aziraphale's saying, yes, of course, please.

Crowley draws in a shaky breath. Aziraphale's fingertips slide up the nape of his neck, to his scalp, petting rather nervously as Crowley starts tugging at the button of Aziraphale's - "What about you?" the angel asks, throwing him off.

"Gnnk?"

Aziraphale lets go of him to gesture downward at Crowley's own body. "You haven't-"

"I'm trying to take care of you, angel."

"Yes, but I-" Aziraphale's breath hitches as his tone shifts dangerously close to the tone that means I'm quite sure I'm right. "I'm about to be quite exposed, and you're - that is, I would like-"

Crowley huffs impatiently, rising up onto his knees and working his waistcoat open with very little finesse. He tosses it over his shoulder, hearing it crumple on the floor, already pulling his shirt over his head and throwing it as well. When he looks down to see if Aziraphale's satisfied, his expression is unexpected - hungry, wondering, pupils huge, mouth slightly open as he reaches upward to touch hesitantly at Crowley's ribs. Aziraphale's hands feel so perfect on him.

"I'm not the one that could have wrecked ancient Greece if he'd've had a mind to," Crowley grumbles, chin tucked in as his eyes rake over Aziraphale's torso.

Aziraphale looks decadently contented as he continues to touch. "Perhaps not," he says, sounding dismissive, "but your silhouette is very much in fashion now." He bites his lip, the flush on his cheeks actually darkening further as he adds: "And I've always been quite fond of it."

Crowley's not aware of any way to deal with a compliment like that. "I've never had sssomeone be so eager to detour me away from their cock," he says instead. But Aziraphale doesn't look thrown, even by the crude language. Instead, his brows come together in a soft pout as his hand stops on Crowley's hip.

"They didn't even have the decency to appreciate you?" the angel asks, perturbed.

Crowley's frozen a moment, feeling strangely caught out and exposed as he kneels over Aziraphale. "... it was work," he says finally.

"Well, temptation or no, they were quite foolish not to enjoy all this." Aziraphale's fingertips reach up to skim his collarbone, shoulder, down his arm to his hand, which he squeezes. "You're lovely, you know."

Crowley feels his throat tighten. He looks away, to the desk in the corner.

"Dearest." Aziraphale's voice is so tender now. "Come here."

Crowley can't disobey. He bends down again, nuzzling into the safety of Aziraphale's neck, where he can't see. Aziraphale pets down his back, his sides, the pads of his fingertips tilting until it's gentle nails raking up and down his spine. Crowley shudders.

"Would you kiss me?"

He's happy for the transition. Crowley moves up and kisses the corner of Aziraphale's mouth, licking his way inside. Aziraphale's arms are still in their sleeves, but when he pulls Crowley down to press against them, their bare chests are - Crowley growls and nips at Aziraphale's lower lip, carefully, feeling Aziraphale's body shudder beneath him and unable to hold back a rough thrust of his hips downward.

"Cr- mm." Aziraphale's silenced with another kiss, and licks Crowley's tongue with his soft pink one. Crowley feels his skin practically burning as Aziraphale's hands move down his hips, cupping his arse and squeezing.

"Fuck," Crowley mutters into his mouth. Aziraphale is already kneading, stroking, making it harder and harder for Crowley not to just grind against Aziraphale and come in his trousers. "What - we have to - did you want me to -"

"Inside me," Aziraphale says breathlessly. "Please."

"Love you," Crowley says, because he can. He kisses down Aziraphale's chest, getting distracted with the idea of toying with his nipples before firmly deciding that that he will do that next time. Next time. The idea that there will almost definitely be a next time is overwhelming in itself. He licks along Aziraphale's rib, shuddering, finally moving down enough that Aziraphale has to let go of his arse (he seems sad to lose it).

Crowley drags his tongue along the trail of pale hairs rising up to Aziraphale's belly button, just above that tight tent of fabric. Aziraphale's soft moan transitions into heavier breathing as Crowley finally opens his trousers, pulling everything down slowly and watching Aziraphale's small, thick cock rise up and smack against the softness of his belly.

"Angel."

Aziraphale squirms as much as he can with the trousers bunched at his thighs. "I'm worried if you.. if you stimulate me there, right now, I won't even make it to the final act."

Crowley's mouth is watering. His fingers are digging into the bunched fabric, the downy hairs on Aziraphale's thighs. "You don't have to be hard to get -" He rewords mid-sentence. "For me to take you."

"Yes, but I very much want my first orgasm to be together with you," Aziraphale says in a long breath, panting still and a little confused when Crowley tears his gaze away from his erection to stare at him. "That is to say." He wets his lips nervously. "I don't expect us to... to be perfectly timed, together, just..."

"You've never come?"

Aziraphale looks both caught out and exasperated. "I hardly-" He's still flushed and panting, pupils leaving bare rims of bright blue as he looks up to the glass ceiling. "Perhaps we can put our judgmental comments aside for-"

Crowley growls and mutters into the folds of soft trousers he's clutching. He's not mad at Aziraphale, he just - it's hard to talk right now. "Not judging, jusssst..." He takes in a slow, hissing breath and lets himself nuzzle the exposed inches of thigh, even softer than he'd hoped, impossibly warm. Aziraphale seems to understand his sentiment, petting his head and quieting down, waiting as Crowley collects himself. "No judging at all. Sssurprised. Sss'fine." He flicks his tongue out, tasting the air, allowing his form to be at its peak strangeness. Aziraphale's expression doesn't change an iota when he does it. Of course it doesn't. Aziraphale doesn't mind, Aziraphale loves him. Crowley feels like he's being warmed from the inside. "Beautiful," Crowley mutters, finally rising up into a kneeling position to wrestle Aziraphale's clothing the rest of the way off. "I want to ssuck you later."

Aziraphale lets out a meaningful gust of air.

Crowley bends down and gently spreads Aziraphale's knees as far apart as they'll comfortably rest, getting in the middle of them and - no. Aziraphale will want him naked as well. Crowley's hands flutter to his own button fly, brows coming together as he eases the zipper past what is possibly the most sensitive and desperate erection he has ever had. Aziraphale begins to say something, then stops, and simply watches as Crowley's jet black boxer briefs are exposed, the completely indecent outline of his erection clear in the last light of the sunset.

"Oh, my dear."

Crowley swallows, tasting the air again in a nervous tic, as he hooks his thumbs at his hips and begins to push it all down. He keeps his eyes on Aziraphale's expression, wanton and focused, eyebrows lifting a little when Crowley's erection finally bounces free and hangs heavy between his legs. "I'll go slow," Crowley promises, knowing it probably looks a little intimidating to someone with no experience.

"I'm not sure I want you to," Aziraphale admits breathlessly, making Crowley's heart slam against his chest.

"You can't ssssay things like that," he gets out, scrambling onto his stomach and fighting the clothes off in what is probably not as graceful a move as earlier. "I have to-" I have to do right by you. "Get some pillows."

Aziraphale makes a confused noise, but as Crowley begins nipping and biting up one of his inner thighs, moving ever inward, he seems to get the picture - from Crowley's point of view, the plush curves of Aziraphale's legs and stomach shift a little as he reaches and grabs two of the expensively dense pillows, passing them downward to Crowley - one escapes the angel's grip and drops onto his stomach, making him twitch and curl inward instantly. The sound Aziraphale makes is almost pained, a moan petering out into a low cry as his hips arch upward into the gentle weight and contact.

"Ssssensitive," Crowley murmurs, waiting until Aziraphale shoves it inelegantly off of himself. There is a small damp spot in the centre which Crowley very much wants to lick. He shoves down the impulse and tugs Aziraphale's hips upward instead, finding that just one pillow is more than sufficient to get his hips up. Crowley taps him until he lays back down, perfectly positioned now. Crowley gets a little lost staring at the picture he makes, red-cheeked and panting with his knees spread open. His cock is more than a handful, but not by much, darker toward the tip and with a few beads of-

"If you touch it, I'll almost definitely come," Aziraphale warns.

"That's not a very horrible result," Crowley argues in a hungry tone.

"I want you to fuck me, Crowley."

Crowley goes still.

Aziraphale is still panting, shifting against the sheets, the pillow, every tiny movement casting gorgeous shadows, causing the fading light to bounce off the beads of sweat on his forehead as if light had no other purpose at all. "Crowley," he says, entreating.

"Say it again," Crowley says softly.

A beat. "Crowley, I want you to fuck me." Crowley feels himself twitch and pulse at the words. "Crowley. I love you and I want you to f- ohhh, yes, good, yes."

Crowley's thumbs are spreading Aziraphale's cheeks apart, letting him get a good look at the flushed, untouched skin there before flickering his tongue out and beginning to taste him. Aziraphale's thick, perfect thighs tense on either side of his face, and everything shifts - Aziraphale is tilting his hips up, giving him even more room, and Crowley digs his fingers into the plush warmth and licks wetly over Aziraphale's opening.

"Yes," Aziraphale whines above him. He sounds affected. He sounds needy. Crowley presses his hips resolutely into the soft sheets, giving himself some pressure but no movement as he tastes the salty clean skin and feels it twitch under his attentions. Crowley breathes in, can smell nothing but that sweat, but his angel, it's perfect - he braves it and presses his tongue inward, encouraging Aziraphale to open to him, surprised at how quickly he gets his wish. His tongue is slimmer in this shape but its length must surely be worth the trade, right? He experiments, pressing in just the barest touch past the ring of muscle, listens to the increasingly loud, consistently encouraging noises, and travels in further. Plush warm walls, that same clean taste, and then Aziraphale's hand is on the back of his head.

"Nnggg," Crowley says very clearly.

"Please," Aziraphale begs, and Crowley understands. He breathes in through his nose and begins to fuck Aziraphale with his tongue, in and out in as much as a rhythm as he can work out, mouth falling open further when Aziraphale's nails begin to dig in and scratch. Crowley tries to reach deeper, egged on, and lets out a soft cry against the angel's skin when the longer hair at the front is grabbed and pulled, drawing him in even closer. "Darling, it's marvelous, please, please get me ready, I-"

Crowley's shaking as he pulls back, enough to get his breath back and his hands free, but not far that Aziraphale's hands are dislodged. "Yes, all right," he pants, scrambling onto his knees and nearly losing his balance as he does so. He tries to remember what he used last, what he's used to - he snaps some expensive oil onto his hand, already warm, and plants a messy kiss on Aziraphale's knee. "Breathe."

Aziraphale's laugh is a brief gust of air, shaky, eyes lidded as Crowley nudges his fingertips back toward Aziraphale's entrance. "I'll be fine, dear, it's..." Crowley watches as the angel's eyes lid further, close entirely, mouth opening slowly and remaining so. Crowley keeps pressing that one finger against the ring of muscle, strokes there, circles, eyes locked on Aziraphale's body as he heaves in air and lets it out and begin to consciously relax. "Oh," Aziraphale adds, as if to say I understand now, and with another few breaths Crowley's finger can nudge in, just a little, and then further.

"Tell me if I rush," Crowley murmurs, and presses the full length of his finger in. Aziraphale gasps. The walls of his body constrict a little, not lax but not pushing at him either - when he wiggles the tip of his finger, curls it, Aziraphale makes a sound Crowley is unable to categorize and plants his heels on the bed, pushing up a little. "Shh, hold still."

"It's good," Aziraphale counters, laughing again in a moment of fleeting embarrassment.

"It can hurt, if," Crowley swallows as Aziraphale's erection twitches in time with the curl of Crowley's finger, leaving the hint of a wet smear across Aziraphale's stomach.  "If. If." He forgot what he was going to say.

"Well, it isn't. Hurting, that is." Aziraphale's throat bobs as Crowley begins to pump in and out, very slowly. "Oh dear me."

Crowley looks down at his hand, at where his body is joining the angel's. "Say it again," he asks, brushing his cheek against Aziraphale's knee.

"I love you." It's instantaneous. Crowley feels almost wounded by the impact of it, the bright unrelenting truth of the words. "Crowley, I love you. I..." Aziraphale's hand passes over his face as he lets out an unsteady breath, hips canting up again. Crowley reaches as deeply as he can, trying to figure out what did it. "I love you. I love you. You feel wonderful. I think I can take another."

"Another," Crowley echoes, and shifts a little on the bed, drawing his finger back out and adding a second. As expected, Aziraphale's expression twinges in discomfort, but after a moment of patience Crowley can get in without pressing too much. He works the lubricant around as much as he can, easing the entry, only halfway inside him when Aziraphale pushes his head back and lets out a slow sigh. "Good?"

"Yes. A third?"

"I just started."

"You don't need to be so-"

"I do, angel," Crowley's voice cracks a little as he says it, fingers drawing almost all the way out before thrusting back in. Aziraphale's whole body jumps, tense now and clutching at the bedsheets, a little in discomfort but mostly surprise, arousal, sending it like a shock through Crowley as well. "Fuck."

"A third," Aziraphale insists again.

"A third. A third." Crowley swallows and uses his free hand to snap still more lubricant onto his fingers, onto his free hand so he can begin covering his cock with it as well. Aziraphale plants his feet again, pushing himself up onto his elbows now and watching as Crowley strokes himself, has to stop as Aziraphale's eyes go huger and rounder from watching him. "Breathe," Crowley insists, and Aziraphale does as Crowley presses a third finger in, almost feeling the breaching, stretching feeling himself as he goes. "You've got it," he encourages, feeling the muscles tighten around him and clench a little. The second knuckle, all the way in. Aziraphale drags his forearm across his brow, swiping at the beads of sweat there. "Fuck, you're gorgeousss."

Aziraphale makes some kind of acknowledging sound, almost silent, as Crowley begins to rock his hand back and forth, barely thrusting, gently moving inside him. "You f-feel so..." His eyes flutter shut again, lashes fanned across his cheeks, almost pale green in the light. "You feel perfect."

"I love you," Crowley says without really being able to stop himself, thrusting for a few moments before he sees a wondrous, glorious brightness beginning to grow in Aziraphale's expression and body language, and he has to slow down and stop. "We. We can either take a break to calm down a bit, or,"

"We've waited long enough."

Crowley meets his eyes. They stare at each other for a long second, stretching out in the space between them, the expanse of snow outside, in all directions. If time was in fact altered in some way, it was a complete accident. "Right," Crowley says, finally, and moves up until he's pulling out very slowly and then lining himself up as soon as there's room. "Just, keep focusing on relaxing at first, it's really mostly at first that it feels so-"

"I've read books, dear."

Crowley sputters a little and bends down, leaning on one elbow so he can quiet Aziraphale with a kiss. Aziraphale allows it, lips brushing his, the air between them hot and damp as Crowley feels the flat plane of his stomach brush against the curve of Aziraphale's, his rigid cock, twitching from even that faint contact and making Crowley shut his eyes, sit up straighter, concentrating on the feeling of the head of his cock pressing thick and hard against Aziraphale's entrance. Crowley's breath hitches. It feels warm, it feels slick, more than enough lubricant on both of them, and Aziraphale's entrance is fluttering just a little, gripping at the tip of Crowley as soon as he starts to push in to that perfect soft warmth.

"Crowley," Aziraphale gasps. Crowley is momentarily transported back to his shower. Then to his bedroom 30 years ago, 200 years ago, every time he imagined Aziraphale saying his name with that reverence. He's here now. Aziraphale is saying it. He grits his teeth and pushes deeper, feeling the build-up of pressure and heat threaten to take him too soon. Aziraphale's arms scrabble at him, wrapping around his shoulders, the cotton of the sleeves sticking from both their sweat.

"Love you," Crowley tells him.

"I love you too," Aziraphale replies breathlessly. His eyes look wet. He's smiling. "Don't stop."

Crowley doesn't. He pushes further, seating himself, gasping at how tightly Aziraphale is holding him in place, how perfect he feels.

"Does," Aziraphale sounds far away. "Does it always... feel...?"

"It's never felt like this," Crowley promises. Aziraphale's arms squeeze him tighter, and Crowley keeps his eyes shut, getting his legs bent and spread just so, pulling out just a few inches so he can press back in, testing. Aziraphale makes a reedy sound but holds still. Crowley presses his nose to Aziraphale's collarbone, breathing in his scent, rubbing his cheek against the soft hairs there as he begins a slow rhythm. Aziraphale works with him, breathing in and out in careful huffs, making a soft warning noise that any more would be too much right now. "I've got you," he promises, keeping himself steady through sheer willpower as he feels the sweat of Aziraphale's thighs brush against his hips. "Never," he repeats, pressing an open-mouthed kiss to the closest skin. "Never, never." Aziraphale's cock, so wet now with its own precome, becomes trapped tightly between their stomachs as Crowley shifts his position and tries another thrust.

"Yes," Aziraphale confirms, and Crowley can feel his head tilt back, can hear the quiet sound of the pillow underneath his head as he presses backwards into it. "My dear, yes, it's exactly-"

What he wanted. Crowley feels a tremor run through him, making his hips jerk just a touch out of rhythm, and he bites his lip and wills himself into a moment of stillness, centering himself, before continuing. His fingers curl into his palms on the sheets, making fists as he tries to keep moving steadily and not miss a single one of Aziraphale's noises. The angel's getting louder now, sleeves dragging against Crowley's shoulder blades as he tries for better purchase, legs coming up slowly. "Are, are you-"

"I don't know," Aziraphale almost wails, and Crowley whimpers and kisses his neck. "I don't know, it still hurts a bit but don't stop, it's good, it's perfect, I've wanted so much, I, it's, Crowley, darling," Aziraphale's body feels even warmer, hot, and Crowley's soaking it up as he presses himself more determinedly to every inch of skin that he can as he keeps moving. It's still slow, it's still gentle, but apparently it's right, because Aziraphale's voice keeps pitching upward. "Darling, oh,"

Crowley knows Aziraphale's voice is going to be what undoes him. "M'not gonna lassst," he whimpers, more desperately than he meant to. Aziraphale's arms tighten further around him, bringing him in close, and the angle is awkward like this, but he won't stop for anything, practically feeling Aziraphale's pulse under his own skin as it rises upward - "'Ziraphale..."

"I am," Aziraphale says suddenly, with complete certainty. "Oh, goodness, this - Crowley, I love you, I love you-"

Crowley is out of will. He thrusts in, as deep as he can go, feeling the rise of perfect warmth climb up his spine, into his bones, tendrils, soft green new vines with little blooms of flickering light, soft speckled moss, it's in his chest, his lungs, he's breathing in the smell of green growing things as he comes inside Aziraphale, hearing the angel's answering cry as his whole body tightens around Crowley as if to crush him. Aziraphale is coming too, Crowley realizes, and looks up and pulls back just enough to catch the look of shock and ecstasy on the angel's face, staring up into the middle distance as his body is wracked with it. Crowley can't stop moving. He feels the Aziraphale's body shuddering beneath him, the wet spurts between their stomachs, and Aziraphale's body gripping him so perfectly as Aziraphale rides out his orgasm.

Aziraphale's hands seek him out, uncoordinated, finally coming to rest in his hair. They stroke slowly, still shaking, as Crowley slows and finally stops moving, laying down exhausted on top of Aziraphale's body. He can't possibly move. He refuses to pull out of him. Crowley hasn't had the waves continue like this before, had them hit him so hard, and there's still that strange and almost indescribable feeling of brightness, of hopeful new growing things, and all he can do is press his face into Aziraphale's chest and try to get some oxygen. He rises and falls with Aziraphale's breaths.

It's becoming quiet. Still. Aziraphale is no longer panting. Crowley still feels his blood running hot, too fast, but he's getting pulled into a compelling urge to sleep. This moment is perfect and he's going to miss it.

"Love you," he says again, into Aziraphale's chest hair.

"That was nothing like I expected," Aziraphale says in a breathless laugh, continuing to pet his hair. "Also, of course, I love you too."

"Nothing?" Crowley asks, still not moving.

"Well, most everything that happened was something I expected, or at least knew of..." Aziraphale goes quiet a moment and Crowley realizes, with not a small amount of satisfaction, that he's quieting a yawn. "But nearly everything felt differently from how I expected it to feel." A beat. "Does that make any sense?"

"Yes." Crowley makes an unhappy sound when one of Aziraphale's hands pulls away from him. There's a snapping sound, and the sticky mess between them is gone. "Mmph." The hand comes back. "Mmm."

"It's not unusual to be quite tired after such a thing, right?"

"Right."

"But it's rude to...?"

"M'gonna fall asleep too," Crowley admits.

"Oh." Aziraphale is smiling, Crowley can hear it. He likes that he can hear it, even in just that one word, that one sound, and that is his final thought before he nods off.

**

Hours later, when they have both woken up again and curled up in a tangle of limbs and wings, the stars are out and the lights are dancing overhead.

Aziraphale is watching them with awed reverence. His head is tilted up, lips parted slightly as he watches the streaks of green light pass overhead like mist over a brook. Crowley watches him, the way the light is softly brightening his face and chest, his wing that is over top Crowley's own wing. Crowley's wing is reflecting some of the green, and some other trick of the light must be drawing out the purples, making it look positively iridescent instead of flat black. Aziraphale's is cast in color, cream instead of white, with flecks of fawn. It must be the lights.

"Crowley, my dear, we came all this way to see one of the loveliest things, and you're not even watching."

"I'm looking," Crowley promises against Aziraphale's shoulder. Aziraphale's eyes are locked upwards, fascinated, as Crowley studies him further. "I'm looking."