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An Invitation To Ruin

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Crowley was putting the kettle on for tea, perhaps their last ever tea together, when Aziraphale came up behind him. Nothing remarkable about that, really, but what did bring him up short was when the angel laid a hand on his shoulder, pressed his face right up against the back of Crowley's neck and inhaled, deeply.

"Can I help you?"

Instead of answering, the angel did it again, sending an unsettling shiver down Crowley's spine. He slipped out from between his sniff-happy friend and the stove and went to the cupboard where he kept the tea. It sat on the top shelf, just out reach for his slightly-shorter companion so that he would always need Crowley's help to get it. Didn't *need* his help, Crowley supposed, could always miracle it down but the angel always did ask and Crowley always was pleased to be of service.

"You said," the angel started. Then he shook his head. "Never mind."

Crowley slouched back against the counter and crossed his arms. "What I say?"

"It's silly, I'm being silly. You'll make fun of me."

"Course I won't. And of course you are. Why do you think I keep you around?"

With a sigh, but also a terribly fond smile, Aziraphale said, "It is a mystery for the ages."

"You alright?"

"As well as can be expected, I suppose, considering I may never see you again after tonight." The angel seemed to be attempting to affect a nonchalant tone, but he was rubbish at it. Part of his charm, in Crowley's opinion.

"C'mon we'll muddle through. We must. Have so far, haven't we?"

The water in the kettle began to heat, audibly. Not enough to produce a whistle, but that rushing, rolling sound it gets when it's taken enough of the flame to get going.

"We might," the angel agreed, but his heart was clearly not in it.

"So. What did I say? You simply must tell me."

"Fine," Aziraphale said huffily. "It's only that for some reason I just remembered the time when you said you knew how I smelled."

"'Course I do."

"And well, I'd got to thinking about, well," the angel swallowed. His eyes darted to the kettle, which should've been nowhere near boiling (Crowley knew his kettle). Suddenly, suspiciously, the kettle gave an enthusiastic whistle. "Would you look at that! Water's ready."

Crowley gave him a dubious look but continued with the process of making tea. Silence did its dirty work and before long the angel blurted out, "They might forgive me, you know, forgiveness being one of my side's things, but yours?"

"Not so forgiving, no." Crowley swirled the boiling water around the teapot to heat it, dumped it in the sink, then added the bags and drowned them before fitting on the lid. He swaddled it in a tea towel and turned back to his increasingly agitated angel.

"They'll probably destroy you."

"Holy water mostly likely," Crowley said with successfully affected nonchalance.

"Destroy you forever," the angel said, twisting his hands together. "And I'll never get to see you again. Or, or smell you again, or anything with you ever again."

"Cheer up, they might destroy you too." Crowley got down the teacups from the same tall cabinet.

"And you see, I realized I'd never paid much attention to your scent. I could recall it, vaguely. I could probably pick your scarf out of a pile of them. But I wanted to be sure of it. Fix it in my mind, you see."

"I see. And have you?"

"I believe I have."

"Good for you. Don't want to take another whiff to be sure?" Crowley said with a hint of a teasing smile.

"You said you wouldn't tease me."

"Oh, I don't think I ever promised you that." Crowley poured them their tea and carried it past Aziraphale, into the living room with several severe, square couches and chairs that looked terribly modern and uncomfortable but, somehow, were exquisitely suited to lounging. He took a seat on the best couch and set the tea on the coffee table with a clink. When the angel hovered uncomfortably, Crowley patted the cushion beside him. "Sit."

The angel obeyed.

Crowley wasn't normally one who was ill at ease with awkward silences. It was in his nature to derive perverse pleasure from the discomfort they brought, but as was ever the case, his curiosity got the better of him, so he asked, "What do I smell like, anyway?"

"To me?" Aziraphale sipped his tea.

"No, to the fellow over there, yes to you." Crowley took his own sip. "Silly angel."

The silly angel took another sip, then set down his tea and leaned back, folding his hands in his lap. "Well, there's always a trace of sulfur in there somewhere."

"That's to be expected."

"Quite. But also, leather? Not book leather, but expensive shoes, I suppose? Or gloves?"

"All right."

"Burnt sugar. Like a crème they brûléed just a touch too long."

Crowley sprawled against the couch, letting his spine go liquid and his arm settle along the back of it. The angel's warmth was close enough to be felt through the fine fabric of Crowley's shirt, and leaned back as he was, Crowley got a good view of how close his fingers were to the back of the angel's neck, all those soft little springy yellow curls and a strip of bare skin above his snug, starched collar. "The sort you're too polite to send back?"

"Sometimes the bitter and the sweet, they work together better than one might expect, you know?"

"If you say so. What else do I smell like?"

"Well, it's more of a taste, really, at least I feel it on my tongue when I smell you because of course, I haven't tasted you." He darted a glance at Crowley.

Despite the impenetrability of Crowley glasses, he felt like he'd been caught staring. "Of course you haven't."

"It's, well, I suppose it's like electricity."

"I," Crowley cleared his throat. "I taste like electricity, do I?"

"Well as I said, I feel it—"

"On your tongue, yes."

"Why do you suppose I haven't?"

"Haven't what? Tasted me?"

"Yes," Aziraphale said evenly, as if he wasn't…and of course he wasn't. He couldn't be, Crowley thought.

"I don't believe that's a question I can answer," Crowley finally replied.

"May I?"

"May you what?"

"May I taste you?" his angel asked.

The air in Crowley's lungs took leave of him all at once. Memories he hadn't given a good look at in ages resurfaced. Memories he'd quite ably buried, thank you very much and he sat up abruptly, leaning forward and propping his elbows on his knees. He set his sunglasses on the table, then pressed his face into his palms and gave it a good scrub. After a sidelong glance at Aziraphale who sat there patiently watching him, he asked, "What am I supposed to do with a question like that, hmm?"

"Say no. Or yes."

Crowley sat back once more and sent a deflecting leer Aziraphale's way. "What part of me do you want to taste?"

"That's—that's not what I mean and you know it." The blush that graced the angel's cheeks then snagged Crowley's curiosity like barbed wire.

"What *do* you mean?"

"Oh, I don't know, a kiss I suppose?" Aziraphale took another sip of tea, but his casual tone was belied by the tremulous clatter he made when he set the teacup back in its saucer. Were his hands shaking? "I'm sure I'd be rubbish at it, since I haven't really, you know…"

"Haven't ever? One might find that difficult to believe." And one might, on couple of levels. First, the idea that nobody, in all the thousands of years those lips had been, had ever thought to kiss them was ludicrous. Second, and more important, there was the unfortunate fact that Crowley himself happened to possess the crystalline memory of kissing those lips, even if Aziraphale did not. It wasn't as though Crowley found himself lost in those memories, precisely, but the long-buried things did make themselves known to him as Aziraphale continued to fiddle nervously with his teaspoon, avoiding Crowley's scrutinizing gaze.

Of course, when the angel finally looked up at him shyly and said in a soft voice, "Please," other memories stumbled forth to join their compatriots. Other times, when the angel's 'please' wasn't nearly so gentle. Times when that 'please' was a command that fell upon Crowley with the strength of a command from God Herself.

"That," Crowley let out a sigh. "That isn't such a wise idea, I think."

"No?"

"Probably not."

"Does that mean that you don't want to?"

"No, I mean, what does it matter?"

"Matters a great deal to me." Aziraphale narrowed his eyes at Crowley. "There's something you're not telling me."

"What? Why would you—that's silly. That's you being silly again."

"Is it?"

"Yes. Clearly. And beside that, what would be the point?"

"Of you and I kissing?" the angel asked. "Well for one, I'd know what you taste like. For another, you'd know what I taste like."

Those last four words rolling off his angel's tongue, 'what I taste like', dragged through Crowley's recollection like some great net that scooped dolphins and garbage alike, along with millions of wriggling silvery fish, dumping memory after memory indiscriminately upon the deck of his consciousness. It was a lot to wade through, and not the most conducive to finding and keeping his mental footing, so it wasn't precisely on purpose that Crowley snapped, "Oh, I know what you taste like."

Aziraphale frowned.

"That was a lie," Crowley added.

"No," Aziraphale said thoughtfully. "It wasn't."

Crowley started to deny it, then stopped and instead rose and headed to the kitchen. He paced a bit, stripped off his jacket, unbuttoned his cuffs and rolled up his sleeves. Thankfully, at no point did the angel follow and he had the space and time necessary to collect himself before he opened a bottle of Rioja and returned with it and a pair of wine glasses. This conversation, if must be had, and Crowley wasn't convinced it must, would be best paired with something stronger than tea. He gave Aziraphale a generous pour and himself an immoderate one, draining half before meeting that inquisitive blue gaze once more. "What?"

"You know what I taste like," the angel stated. Not a question.

"Is this *really* how you want to spend your last night on earth? Relitigating ancient," he gestured, searching for a remotely suitable yet suitably vague word. "Ancientness," was the best he came up with.

"Not really. To be honest, I'd rather be kissing you."

"Stop," Crowley snapped far more sharply than he meant to. He softened his voice and said, not quite pleading but not quite not either, "Would you stop?"

"It isn't as though there are rules against it," the angel offered. "Or that you'd care if there were, but more important, I have a question." He swirled his wine in his glass and took a sip. "When was it, exactly, you tasted me, Crowley? And why is it I don't remember?"

"That right there, that's two questions."

"I suppose it is. And I suppose there's one way you could stop me asking them."

"You're impossible," Crowley growled, draining his glass and refilling it. "I don't suppose you'd trust me if I told you you're better off not knowing?"

"Well, as you're so fond of saying, now you simply must tell me."

"Ohhh," Crowley said on a long sigh that went a little shaky on the end. "Oh, angel. And we'd been doing so well."

"Do you really want to take whatever this is to the grave?"

"Morbid much?" Crowley tried, but Aziraphale just fixed him with a stern look and fine. Fine. "Fine! You win. Second question first, answer is…I don't know? I could hazard a guess, but your colleagues work in mysterious, shitty ways for their own shitty reasons and I'm not exactly on a need to know basis, being what I am and all."

"All right."

"They relieved you of those memories. To what end, I cannot say with absolute certainty, and that is the truth."

"What memories, Crowley?"

"It wasn't as if…the first time at least, it wasn't as though I meant to, you know? It wasn't as if I set out to seduce you or despoil you or, you know," he waved a hand. "Otherwise."

Aziraphale's gaze was quite intent, then. He blinked thoughtfully and fidgeted with his glass. "But you did? Otherwise?"

Blowing out a shaky breath, Crowley considered his options but really, what was he even thinking, imagining he could deny his angel what he wanted, and right now what his angel wanted, or at least thought he wanted, was the truth. "I did."

The angel thought about this for a while and finally said, "First time? There were others?"

"Oh yes."

"How many?"

"Lost count."

"Just—just kissing?"

"Oh no."

"Am I meant to drag the truth from you two words at a time? Or would you perhaps be willing to just tell me what happened?" the angel asked with more than an edge of impatience.

"In the garden, when we met."

"I remember."

"You don't is the point. We'd—we'd encountered one another. You thought me a serpent. You were kind to me. You spoke to me and I—" his words failed him once more.

"Go on." Aziraphale laid a hand on his bare forearm and Crowley didn't have the strength to push it away. From that single point of flesh to flesh contact sang a sweetly familiar, exquisitely sharp ache.

Crowley stared at it for several moments before confessing, "It hurts when you do that, you know?"

"Do what?"

"Touch me."

Aziraphale yanked back his hand and looked ever so guilty. "Really?"

Crowley nodded. "Bit like walking on consecrated ground. A fraction of that. A small one, really."

His angel looked pained. "Every time? Why didn't you tell me? Why would you let me hurt you?"

"It's not, it's barely…look, it isn't as if you and I go skin to skin all that often. What would be the point in enlightening you?"

"Oh Crowley." The angel gave him a devastatingly soft look.

"In any event." Crowley cleared his throat. "You thought I was just another serpent and you were kind to me anyway. You were curious, I suppose, and you touched me."

"I hurt you."

"I'm a demon, darling. In the time after the fall but before the garden, I enjoyed torture beyond measure. This wasn't that."

"You…enjoyed it?"

"Not really. Figure of speech. My point is, this was early days, and I was new to the whole flesh thing, and when you touched me it hurt, but it also felt…"

"What?"

"I don't know that I can put it into words. But I liked it."

"Oh."

"Truth was, I wasn't really thinking. Just feeling. Got carried away. Wanted more. Discovered a serpent wasn't all I could be. And you were so…"

"What?"

"So soft," Crowley said, lost for a moment in the memory. "And warm. And close, and these bodies, you know. It isn't as if they don't enjoy the same thing humans do. You and your cakes. The ear is pleased by music. The foot takes comfort in a well-fitted shoe. That sort of thing. And, well, I don't suppose either of us knew any better. Wasn't like those rules'd been written yet."

"What happened next?" The angel breathed, as if he didn't dare raise his voice above a whisper.

Crowley shrugged. "We…got close."

"How close?"

Crowley forced himself to face Aziraphale's piercing gaze. "Very. Close."

"Oh. Oh! Oh? So not just kissing then."

"No."

"Was it…was it good?"

"Was it good," Crowley echoed. "No. It was…it was more than that. In any event, I—"

"How good?"

"In any event, it became clear you thought I was one of you lot. I disabused you of that notion."

"Why?"

"Not entirely sure. Seemed like the right thing to do."

"But you're supposed to do the wrong thing."

"Always been shit at following orders, you know that as well as anyone."

"I suppose," Aziraphale said.

"It didn't go particularly well after that, let's just leave it there, and I slithered away because that's what I do. And the next time I saw you…it was all gone. It was as if you'd never met me."

Aziraphale slumped back on the couch and cradled his wine in both hands. After a sip, he said simply, "That's awful."

"I tried to avoid you, after that, but it was just you and I and the chattering apes, and they weren't any fun to talk with. Eventually, you and I crossed paths." He refilled with the last of the bottle and recklessly magicked a second from the cabinet, popped the cork with a gesture, then topped up Aziraphale. "You were helplessly friendly. This time I didn't disabuse you of the notion I was one of your brethren, and for a while that was pleasant enough, it should have *been* enough, but you—oh, I was tempted by you. And I'm *weak*. And you, you didn't know any better. And the body you wore was as human-ish as mine. Eventually you yielded, or maybe I did. Bit of a blur. What matters is you and I got close again. And yes," he added in a bitter tone. "It was good, very good, and this time I managed not pitch a fit over some innocent question of yours, and instead we slept together. Beside each other." He sighed wistfully. "And in the morning, you were gone." He finished his glass and refilled it.

All the wine was beginning to do its thing to Crowley, and he heard the softened edges of his words as he continued. "Went to find you, and there you were, fresh as the day you arrived, none of my marks upon your flesh, none of my kisses sullying your recollection, just that stupid, friendly smile as you introduced yourself to me and told me how very pleased you were that you weren't alone any longer. And so I kissed you again, and you loved it. I fucked you again and marked you again, right up against the stone of the Eastern gate, and you fucking *loved* it."

Aziraphale gulped. "I…did?"

"Oh yes," Crowley said, fixing Aziraphale with heated gaze. "But I was a coward, you see. So then I ran away and didn't come back until the next day and sure enough," he imitated the angel's innocent timbre, "'Oh hello, I'm Aziraphale, nice to meet you, how do you do?'" He scowled. "And I'd quite enough of that, thanks, so I fucked off into the underbrush and was determined to stay as far away from you as demonly possible when I stumbled across that smarmy purple-eyed prick."

"Gabriel?" Aziraphale said in shock.

"The very same. Invited me to keep ruining you if I liked, but I should know that it wouldn't stick. They wouldn't let it. That if the point was to drag you down to my level with my sinful ways it was futile, and I was better off hewing to my original mission."

"You're telling me the archangel Gabriel himself…that he *knew*?"

"Told me you must be too naive and simple to make breaking you any fun. Told me if I wanted a challenge, I was welcome to give him a try."

"He *what*?"

"Smug twat. Prolly got off on the idea of telling me no. Proving how much holier he was than," Crowley gestured at Aziraphale, "well, than you."

"Did you…"

"Ew. No. Gross. Rather jam my erection in a meat grinder. Told him as much."

"Good."

"Give me *some* credit."

"He is awfully handsome."

"Awfully being the operative word. In any event, I invited him to fuck off and rededicated myself to the whole apple thing. But the apes were stubborn bastards and the perfection of the garden bored me to tears, and there you were, brave, lonely little soldier at the Eastern gate. Lonely and friendly, and so soft. I knew exactly where you were. *I* didn't forget. And so, one day, as was my wont, I yielded to temptation and I found you. And found you. And found you and found you again and every time, *every* god damned time you gave me fresh delight and wonderment and—"

Crowley ignored the quaver in his voice and spat out, "And love. Every time, you loved me, and then they took it away, because that's what they do, isn't it? That's what She does. Take away love when you prove yourself unworthy and I," he made a sound of disgust, "I wasn't even in the same galaxy as worthy of you. But I took your love anyway, just because I could. Because I'm a selfish bastard. So *yes* I know how you taste and how you fuck and how you scream when I'm inside you. Happy?"

Aziraphale went quite still and simply looked at Crowley with so much sympathy it made Crowley's fingers itch with the desire to claw his stupid eyes out.

"Say something, angel."

"That's fucked up, Crowley."

"Oh, piss off, it's in my nature, isn't it?"

"No. That's not what I mean."

"What do you mean, then?"

"What they did to you. It was, it was cruel."

"Did it to my," he hiccupped, "myself, didn't I?"

"It was cruel," Aziraphale insisted.

"Wellll," he drawled, "Not like my side's got a monopoly on that, is it?"

"It isn't," the angel said softly. "It really isn't." He took another sip of wine. "So. Finish the story."

Crowley scoffed. "What more could you possibly want from me?"

Aziraphale said gently, "You must've stopped. Must've done before we left the garden, because I remember that, and everything that came after. So why did you stop? Finding me, as it were."

"Dunno. Got bored I guess."

"I don't believe you."

"Believe what you like," muttered Crowley, not bothering with his glass and just upending the bottle for a series of throat punishing swallows. "Not like it matters," he said after wiping his mouth on his sleeve.

"It matters to me."

Crowley sighed and stared at Aziraphale's unreadable face. And sighed again. And finally gave the angel an exasperated "*Fine*. I could tell Eve was getting close, I could taste it, any day now, I thought. Me an' you, it'd been maybe two or three days since our last first meeting? Fucking you quick was all well an' good but the way you looked at me when you remembered me? When you were happy to see m'face? Thaaat was the good shit. Worth holdin' off on sucking your lovely cock for a few days to get another couple hits of that, I'll tell you that much."

Aziraphale flushed quite pink.

"And it is, y'know. Quite lovely. And don't get me started about your rear end."

"Yes, well. That's, thank you."

Crowley grinned slyly. "And you're not rubbish at kissing either, just so you know. Anyway. Aaaanyway, I'd been putting off the inevitable shag for a day or three so as to enjoy the pleasure of your familiarity and I realized how close Eve was to yielding to temptation. It occurred to me that once the stupid rules got broken because of course they would, what else are rules even *for*, that it'd all be over, y'know? Prolly wouldn't see you again. You might, you know, big trouble, very disappointed, bad angel, no heaven for you." He wagged his finger in Aziraphale's face. "Might even toss you out for being a shit angel. And then you'd know. You'd know what a selfish bastard I was. Know I'd lied to you, pretended to be your friend. Wasn't, y'know. Wasn't pretend. But you wouldn't see it that way. I was certain."

He continued, "So there you were, with that sweet face, and those innocent touches that burned so good. And that, that," he reached out and clumsily cupped his angel's cheek, dragged his thumb over that honeytrap of a mouth. "That *fucking* mouth of yours. All you knew were kisses, that day, since," he hiccupped, "since 'parently snoggin' doesn't reboot the old noggin, not sinful enough for old Goddy Woddy. Needed to pop that cherry or suck you till you sobbed or, on one memorable occasion, let you rub off on my thigh while you kissed me with the kisses of your mouth," he sighed. "Sweeter than all the wine in the world, I'll tell you that much. Point is, if I made you spill, the next morning you'd be gone. So I just kissed you raw and kept on kissing."

Aziraphale's breathing was shallow and rapid, eyes dark enough only a thin rim of blue remained. He took the bottle from Crowley's hand and drank, then handed it back. "Go on," he said, voice rougher than Crowley could remember it being in eons.

"Yeah. So. Anyway, those last couple days, I'd been careful. Stopped you when you got too close. Even when you begged, and oh did you beg. Didn't even understand what you were begging for, didn't even know what it was you wanted, you just wanted. No clue what that body of yours could do, what I could to it. You just *wanted*. You just wanted *me*. You just wanted to love more of me and I wouldn't let you because I was selfish, but oh, there were kisses."

He swallowed hard. Couldn't meet his angel's eyes as he continued. "Ticking clock, though. Ticking apple tree, so I took you to a field that was just lousy with wildflowers and laid you down and did everything, just *everything* to this body of yours. Taught you how to make me scream. Filled myself up with you, over and over, until neither one of us could move. You passed out cold and I left you like that, sticky and sun-drenched and so lovely I couldn't stand the sight of you. I left. Next day, barely a nudge and she bit. And, well, you know the rest." He made a semi-graceful, sloppy-wristed 'and so on' gesture and flopped back against the couch with a huff.

Aziraphale exhaled and flopped back against the couch as well. "All this time," he said to the ceiling.

"I'm sorry."

"What for?"

"Oh," Crowley sighed deeply. "I don't know. I just am. Take your pick."

The apartment was near silent. Appliances in the kitchen whispered their hums. In the distance, outdoor sounds ghosted their way past, but all Crowley really heard was Aziraphale's steady breathing and, if he strained himself, the angel's heartbeat. The former was deep and measured. The latter nearly vibrated, like a rabbit's. Crowley let his head loll to the side and took in the angel, whose eyes were closed and whose lips were slightly parted.

Crowley opened his suddenly dry mouth to speak and the click from the parting of his lips was loud enough that the angel opened his eyes and focused with laser-like precision on those lips. Without shifting his focus, Aziraphale said, "So what you're saying is that I can kiss you."

"What?"

Still not looking away from Crowley's mouth, the angel sat up and turned to him, placing a hand on a portion of his thigh that could best be described as 'familiar'. Crowley's head swam and he gritted out, "Hold on." With a wince and a grunt, he deinebriated himself, splitting hangover compressed into a handful of seconds that distracted him from the *hand* on his *thigh*, but when he came through the other side, blindingly sober, it was *still there*. Possibly even higher.

"Okay, *what*?" Crowley repeated.

"These kisses you've been talking about sound lovely."

"*That's* your takeaway?"

"So they weren't lovely?"

"No! They were spectacular. They were—we're *really* good at kissing."

"Sounds like it." Aziraphale nodded patiently.

Crowley's voice rose an octave, maybe an octave and a half. "Are you patronizing me?"

Edging ever closer, the angel said. "You said snogging doesn't reboot the old noggin, did you not?"

Crowley leaned back from the angel's dangerously close lips. "Hold on."

"And for the record, it isn't as though I haven't spent in the last six thousand years."

The room's sound cut out entirely in that moment, as all the demon could hear was the roaring pound of his own heartbeat. In a voice that was as polite and even as it could be, he asked, "Would you mind saying that again?"

"If I'm not mistaken, you said spending, climaxing," he made cheery little air quotes, "as it were, was what would erase my memory of you, back when we were," he segued into a vague gesture, like turning an enormous doorknob, "shagging like mad in the garden."

"Shagging like mad?" Crowley imitated the gesture in bewilderment.

"Yes, well, I know there are ruder gestures but I'm not going to make them," he said primly.

"Please do," Crowley couldn't help saying.

Aziraphale ignored him. "What I'm saying is, if that's what you're worrying about, me forgetting you or forgetting everything because of an ejaculation, I have. Ejaculated, that is."

"You—you have, have you?"

"Stop looking at me like that, it's like you said. These bodies we have, it isn't as though they don't enjoy the same things humans do. With the cake and the well-made shoe and the," and here, he made a commendably rude and more or less accurate gesture.

"Excuse me. I thought onanism was a sin. No, pretty sure it is. And although it's actually harder to stop them doing it, I've led a few souls down that path myself."

After clearing his throat, Aziraphale twiddled his thumbs and said, almost too quietly to hear, "I can attest to that fact personally."

"Alright, who the fuck *are* you, and what have you done with my angel?"

"Like you've never."

"I'm a demon! Of course I wank."

"Anyway, what I'm wasting, what we're wasting isn't exactly seed, in the strictest sense, so I figure it doesn't really count."

"You figure that, do you? How often would you say you figure yourself?"

"I don't keep track. I don't know. Stop looking at me like that."

"I will not."

"And even *if* my slate's wiped, you said it yourself. Tomorrow, likelier than not, you and I will be toast. Well, me toast, probably, hellfire seems the likeliest method. And you melted in holy water, like that green witch."

Crowley couldn't help but smile fondly. "I ever tell you I had the *biggest* crush on her. Wore out three Betamax tapes when they released it, brilliant invention, videotape. I'll get you my pretty, indeed."

"That piece of information is not one you have failed to disclose to me at length, no. But my point is—"

"Your point is what?" Crowley said, sharpening once more. "Let's fuck, and if you forget me who cares because we'll both be ash?"

"Well, I thought we might start with a light snog and see where that takes us."

"In my experience, it takes us to fucking." The last few words went a little ragged and he scooted away from Aziraphale until he was just out of reach. "And if we're both ash, sure, why the heaven not, excellent point. But if you survive, and I'm not a part of you anymore?" He took a swig then shook his head. "Nope. Nuh-uh. I can't go for that. No can do."

"All these years, you never wanted to?"

"Don't be fucking daft," he growled. "Don't be an asshole, Aziraphale. Don't do that."

The angel pouted for an fraction of a second before something apparently dawned on him, dropping his jaw and widening those baby-blues. "So *that's* what Antwerp was about."

"I don't know what you're talking about."

"With the mead. At Het Steen."

"Drafty old shithole of a palace, that one. And okay, fine."

"You—"

"No, *you*. Were obliterated. They've made laws about that, you know?"

"I tried again after I sobered up."

Crowley waved his hand. "You were—you were tired."

Aziraphale caught the hand in both of his and held it. "You were scared. Of this. That's why you said no."

Crowley extricated his hand from Aziraphale's grasp. "You don't know, angel."

"That's my point, I—"

"No! You *don't* know what it is to lose you. If you did, you would not ask it of me." He didn't mean for his voice to break but really, who did?

Aziraphale leaned back and said, "I apologize."

"You've nothing to—"

"I do and you can't stop me." He scooted closer, but this time, it held no threat. Instead, he laid his head on Crowley's shoulder and sat quietly with him, their pointless breaths falling into sync.

His angel's scent flooded his awareness, and Crowley didn't intend to press his face to the crown of golden curls and breathe in until his lungs threatened to burst, but somehow it ended up happening anyway.

"Once or twice a decade, is the answer." Aziraphale said.

"Hmm?" He nuzzled the angel's hair and breathed again, memorizing each molecule of his scent.

"You asked earlier. Went nearly a century once. Your fault I didn't make it. The hose. Always had a weakness for well-turned calves."

Fully aware that his resistance was dissolving, transubstantiating into so much smoke, Crowley said, fondly, "Don't be an asshole."

Aziraphale answered by laying a hand on the demon's chest.

Crowley didn't pray, exactly. More like he let go. He whispered in a cracked voice, "Only kissing."

Aziraphale lifted his head and got close, very close. "Only kissing."

"Swear it."

The angel got closer still, nose bumping Crowley's like it always did when they first figured this out. A nervous chuckle, which happened most times, then forehead to forehead which was rare but one of Crowley's favorites. "I will not," Aziraphale whispered. "But don't worry, I have it on the highest authority that we're *really* good at this."

"Shut up, you," Crowley started to say, but before the second word formed, Aziraphale was on him, pressing their lips together fervently, messily, hungrily. The couch rose up to meet his back, and atop him settled the welcome, squirming weight of his angel, all limbs and tongue and enthusiasm, and one juicy thigh wedging between Crowley's. It wasn't what you would call languorous. Teeth clanked, and as Aziraphale slowly but surely rocked against him, Crowley tried to tear his mouth away long enough to implore, "Just kissing."

Only then, the Angel's mouth fell upon his throat and patient fingers began to work the topmost of Crowley's shirt buttons. Then the next. Then those fingers tugged roughly on the neck of his black undershirt which gave way with less of a rip and more of a blinking out of existence. Against the dark patch of hair above Crowley's so-called heart bloomed an open-mouthed kiss. "Just kissing," Aziraphale said against him.

When he laid his hand on the angel's head, he intended to pull him up, he really did. Only, those fingers kept being clever, button after button, until his shirt was fully parted. Could've directed him back up to Crowley's mouth then, but the angel was doing such lovely exploratory things down there, all hot breath and teeth and tongue. The demon tried tugging upward once, he really did, but that only resulted in Aziraphale redirecting to one of his nipples and lavishing it with kiss after kiss. A hand fell upon Crowley's thigh, this time less familiar and more what one might call intimate. Then, a last second detour out to his hip.

After a gasp, the angel curled his fingers over Crowley's hipbones and said, reverently, "*These*." He tugged at Crowley's waistband and inched the low-slung slacks lower still, revealing more of the trail of hair on his belly, then the top of the thick nest above the root of his prick. The demon opened his mouth to call a time out, but before he could, Aziraphale *sucked* on his hipbone and the whole of him arched upward in supplication.

He'd barely had time to come down when the angel mouthed his way to the other one, saying against his quivering stomach, "These things. You're so cruel to me with them. It's unholy."

Crowley laughed. His fingers threaded through the angel's lambswool-soft locks, not directing or even resisting because there wasn't anywhere he'd rather have that clever, curious mouth. Worship, that's what his friend was doing. Wasn't any other word for it, but what were words, really? Who needed them when his slacks kept creeping lower, then joined his undershirt in the realm of the no-longer-here? What was the point of speaking when Aziraphale reverently palmed his thighs and coaxed them further asunder, easing one leg off the couch so Crowley's foot came to rest on the floor.

The angel's mouth came away from his skin for just long enough to make Crowley lift his head and look down. He found those fathomless blues fixed on his face and bore witness to the loveliest little smile. "Only kissing," the angel promised.

"I'm glad you're not a better liar," Crowley rasped before dropping his head back to the cushion.

Some part of the angel drew close to the arc of flesh that strained against the bonds of premium, off-black, modal boxer-briefs and then, light as a feather, fingertips skimmed the length. Past it, then, and down, until the electric points of contact found the seam between his cheeks and the angel's palm cradled his aching balls. Lips upon his belly, the hot point of a tongue dipping into his navel, tightening his stomach in a choked laugh. That errant hand abandoning his most private places for a trip up the back of his thigh to the crook of his knee, the one still on the couch, pressing it up, further still until it all but met his chest. "Stay," the angel said, in a voice that was petal-soft yet somehow as commanding as any that'd ever come from the almighty.

Aziraphale sat back on his heels then and with painfully deliberate care, removed article after article of clothing, starting with that fucking bow tie while he drank in sight of Crowley's wanton form. Drank it in like a bone-dry gully drinks a river. Like being swallowed whole by lightening, it was, and Crowley surrendered to it, with pleasure.

Once bared to the waist, the angel dragged his palms down his thighs, as if to dry his sweaty hands. Crowley wasn't really inclined toward perspiration, even in the depths of hellfire. Over the millennia, though, one couldn't help but notice that Aziraphale could be, well, moist. Prone to dabbing at his beaded forehead with a fine handkerchief. Helplessly damp at times, curls gathering and coiling as the humidity rose, hairline drizzling fat drops of sweat that slinked down his skin like syrup. Made him smell briny, like the ocean. While Crowley had been guilty, on occasion, of standing at Aziraphale's side then taking a half step back, just enough to gaze at the back of his neck (when it wasn't obscured by the fashion of the time), he'd never been so gauche as to press his whole face there and inhale (at least not in the years since that last hurrah in the garden). Not even when the normally golden locks there plastered themselves darkly to his slick skin, probably tasting like an oyster. Didn't need to, though. Crowley's sense of smell was snake-sharp.

Aziraphale wiped his hands along the fabric of his trousers again, then dispensed with them entirely between one breath and the next. The modesty of his bleach-white cotton boxers remained, Crowley noted with disappointment, but that emotion was smothered in its crib when the angel settled atop him, belly to belly, face to neck, Crowley's thighs adjusting to cradle the angel's hips. He brought a hand to Aziraphale's head, lazily petting the curve of his skull, down to his hairline to twiddle idly with the curls.

Against him pressed a thick, rigid, insistent reminder of where, in his experience, snogging tended to lead them. But it held no urgency for him, nor did his own similarly trapped engorgement. Rather, it was the syncopation of their breaths that held him entranced. He traced lingering, looping paths across the angel's shoulder blades.

In a drowsy, gossamer-smooth voice, the angel said, "Up against the Eastern gate? Really?"

Crowley chuckled. "Got a bit carried away."

"Easy enough to do, I imagine."

"The easiest."

"I imagine," Aziraphale started. "I have imagined."

He kissed the top of the angel's head. "What've you imagined, hmm?"

The whisper was a long time coming, but when it did, it poured into Crowley's ear with realm of possibilities behind it. "You," said his angel. Then, "Us. This." A nearly imperceptible shift of weight, and two thin layers of fabric were no more. "Invite me," he insisted, with another, far more perceptible shift of his hips. "Invite me in, please."

"I did tell you this is where kissing would lead us, didn't I?"

Aziraphale propped himself up enough to fix Crowley with an exasperated pout. "Congratulations to you for being right. Well done."

"You certain about this?"

"It'll be fine. It will. We will."

"You don't know that," Crowley insisted.

"Have faith. Have mine." Aziraphale pressed a gentle kiss to his lips.

"I'm scared," Crowley admitted.

Another kiss, then, words like honey in his ear, "I'm here. I'm right here." A hand, wet now not with sweat but sweet-scented oil, eased all the way down between them. "Invite me," then teeth against his ear as one slippery finger skimmed his entrance.

One breath, just one breath of hesitation as Crowley let all the reasons why not pound what remained of his rational mind. Let them do their worst. They did not stand a chance. On the very end of his exhalation he said, simply, "Come."

The thick, relentless heat of it kissed right up against him, hard and slick. He shuddered and shifted his hips, wrapping one leg around his friend's waist. "Oh," the angel said, in the exact same tone he always used when a waiter laid down a particularly tempting plate.

"Come *on*, you," Crowley implored, not willing to saunter this time. He opened his mouth to issue a more sternly worded order, but then, finally, gentle pressure teased his entrance. Ever so delicately, the angel nudged, his cock slipping against Crowley without the faintest danger of penetration. As if they had all God damned day, and now that Crowley was here, waiting wasn't something he was prepared to do for another fucking second. He grabbed for the angel's rear end with both hands and urged him forward with a frankly whiny, "Come onnn."

"Patience," said the blasted sadist with a smile as he shifted forward and brought his mouth down to smother the words with a tender kiss. That movement, combined with a sharp, insistent, knowing lift of Crowley's hips and the swollen tip pierced him, blood-hot, smooth as a knife, pinching ever so deliciously as it popped its way past the vice-tight threshold.

All the air inside the angel fled, at once, in a choked gasp that Crowley fed upon with hungry kisses. "There you go," he murmured. "That's it."

Aziraphale's forehead thunked against Crowley's, his soft, panting breaths falling upon the demon's lips. "My word," came the astonished whisper.

Crowley softened his grip on the yielding flesh of the angel's buttocks and stroked, soothingly, exploring the swell and dip between as Aziraphale trembled above. Tracing the inviting cleft with a single finger, he waited, feeling his friend's breath fall into sync with his once more, savoring the catch in it that came in response to the slightest internal flutter. "That's it, I've got you," he reassured.

"Oh, oh that's," breathed the angel, head dropping alongside Crowley's until they were cheek to cheek. "That's," he pressed again, finally, blessedly, sinking deeper, deeper still, high-pitched little whimpers gusting against Crowley's neck until he settled, root-deep.

"It is," Crowley agreed, drifting a hand up the small of the angel's back, skimming it along the magnificent arc of his spine until it came to rest upon the dewy nape of his neck.

"I'm inside you."

"That is the general idea."

"I'm *inside* you," he said with fresh delight.

"You're welcome to stay as long as you like."

The angel brought him a kiss, tender and lingering on Crowley's lips. Another on his cheek, then lifted his head and graced him with a bright, wild grin. "More."

"All of it. Go on, take it, it's yours. Been yours from the start."

Experimentally, the angel retreated, an inch maybe two but returned to him, grindingly deep, as though magnetized. Again, he eased out just enough to snap back in, jolting Crowley into the couch cushions and knocking a gasp from his throat. Again, this time with a rough urgency that tumbled into another thrust, then another until Crowley had to dig in with teeth and nails, heels cantilevering into the backs of Aziraphale's knees, just to hold on.

It wasn't pleasure he felt inside as his friend drove ever deeper, mercilessly, at least not pleasure alone. There was a softening, a melting, a blurring of his self as he sought to pull the angel closer, closer still, fill himself to tips of his fingers, the core of his very soul, if a demon could be said to have one.

"I'm inside you," Aziraphale exulted, tremulous voice resonating in the depths of Crowley's being.

Something in Crowley untethered and then there was no more 'between' the two of them, there was no more 'the two of them', only one. Only union. Only the swirl of his angel's love throughout his own.

There was no fear. No universe around him, nor yearning within. No want, no thought. Only bliss. And within that bliss, the smallest possible pinprick of pain. Because buried deep inside this thing they were was the knowledge that it wasn't endless. They clung closer, gathering every spark of love in an ever-tightening grip, trying to draw this moment into a single irreducible point, like a dying star. But sometimes stars don't die, they explode, and in the supernova that followed, they felt themselves ripped asunder.

Crowley found himself no longer just energy, light and spirit but a body, earthly flesh suffocating him with the realities of gravity and time. The world seemed to spin around him, up becoming down, the ground rising to meet his elbows and knees. He drew breath, steadying himself against the soft cushions, as well as the angular body that heaved its own breath beneath him. Pinning him to reality as well were a pair of straining thighs that hugged his hips and between those thighs, where his cock was buried, the hot, clinging depths of another's corporeal form.

He opened his eyes to meet a pair that weren't blue so much as flame-colored with slit pupils and lids that blinked rapidly in what looked like bewilderment. A pair of lips that used to belong to Crowley said, in a shaky croak, "Oh dear."

The lips of the body Crowley currently occupied spread into a grin. "Hello. This your doing?"

"I don't—I'm—not on purpose. Ohhh," Aziraphale sighed, but it didn't stay a sigh, it sunk into a groan as he clenched around Crowley and shuddered. "Y-you're inside me."

"I am," he replied with a gentle rock of his hips.

"Oh this is lovely as well."

"Not bothered by the body swap, are we?"

"Later, we'll sort it out later." He pawed clumsily at Crowley's back until he found the swell of his backside and grabbed hold. "I want you to move, I want, I want you to—oh!"

Crowley moved. He didn't know how to deny his angel anything, so he moved above him, within him, relishing the absurd faces of pleasure his former vessel made with every thrust. "That's it," he crooned as the body beneath his clutched and arched and begged so very sweetly.

"I—you're—that's—I'm gonna—"

"Yes," Crowley snarled, plunging home. "Give it. *Mine*."

Aziraphale cried out, then went silent and tight as a bow string before quaking beneath and around Crowley as he spilled uncontrollably. The demon tumbled onward, over that edge as well and joined his friend in the abyss. Breath tore into them, great heaving gasps of it, odd since neither truly *needed* oxygen in the strictest sense but these bodies hungered for it anyway.

"That," Aziraphale panted. "That was."

"It was indeed," Crowley agreed, dropping his head to the chest that currently held the angel.

"I mean *really*." With a grunt, he shifted, or tried to, nudging up against the demon's limp form to little effect. "You're—well I suppose I'm heavy."

Crowley shifted halfway off his friend and nestled into the valley between the couch cushions and the bony, deliciously sweat-slicked body. He dragged a lick all the way up Aziraphale's neck, savoring the salt and the flickering pulse beneath his tongue.

"Did we," Aziraphale started. "Before I mean, did this occur when you and I—when we—"

"Shagged?"

"Made love."

"If you insist. And no, dear. The switching part is new."

Aziraphale reached up and held his hand at arm's length, examining it. "Your fingers are so long."

"Mm," Crowley agreed, nosing at his cheek then pressing a kiss to the corner of his mouth.

The angel turned away, not from the kiss but toward the dark curtains on the far side of the living room. Light spilled around the edges. "The sun," he whispered cautiously. "It's come up."

"Does that," Crowley said, pressing another kiss to his chin.

"It's tomorrow, and I'm not…I haven't. I know you, Crowley."

"You are me, a bit."

"No, I mean, I haven't forgotten you. What you were afraid of, it didn't happen, we're going to be alright."

"Aside from the part where our comrades are probably on their way now to destroy us."

Aziraphale scoffed in a manner that seemed deeply *wrong* coming from what used to be Crowley's mouth, but it was deeply adorable all the same and Crowley had no choice but to kiss that mouth again. That mouth yielded to his and they distracted themselves for a while with more kissing, which they really were *quite* good at.

Just as things were creeping toward round two, his angel paused and pushed at Crowley's shoulder, separating them enough to speak. "Wait."

Crowley, whose inclination to follow orders came and went, nipped at his lower lip and dove in for more kisses.

"No, I mean it," Aziraphale insisted, holding Crowley back with more force.

With a sigh, Crowley fell back against the couch cushions and contented himself with a hand on the angel's sharp hip, fingertips tempting the base of his shaft with soft little strokes.

"Would you," the angel swatted his hand away, "that's very distracting. I've got an idea."

"Have you now," Crowley purred.

"Not like that."

"Any way you like," Crowley said, wandering his touch crotchward once more. "I'm very accommodating."

"About the *trial*," Aziraphale snapped, clutching the errant fingers. "About survival."

That sobered Crowley up and he lifted his head. "Go on."

Aziraphale slipped off the couch, swaying as he rose to his feet. The lean length of him wobbled, limbs looser, center of gravity not where the angel was used to it, but with a steadying breath the angel straightened up his spine and drew Crowley's old body into an erect posture and made his way toward the kitchen. "Where's the thermos?"

"Pardon?" Crowley called, sitting up.

"The thermos with your suicide juice."

"The holy water you mean? Used that on some of them they sent after me. I think it's in the kitchen, same cupboard as the teacups."

The angel headed in that direction and a few moments later, his even-toned "Have you got any left?" came from Crowley's kitchen.

"I dunno. Probably a splash or two, why?"

A clatter, then Aziraphale returned, wearing oven mitts (and nothing else) and carrying the familiar plaid thermos in one hand and a shot glass in the other. Slowly, he unscrewed the top and with deliberate care, he tipped it over and poured enough out enough to fill the shot glass, waiting as the last few drops joined their poisonous friends, then slowed to a stop. Just as carefully, he rescrewed the top, removed the gloves and sat beside Crowley on the couch, folding his hands in his lap.

With a sick plunge of his stomach, Crowley realized exactly what it was Aziraphale had in mind. He turned and stared at the face he was accustomed to seeing flipped, in the mirror, something slightly off about it as it was, opposite him. More than slightly off when the angel's microexpressions flitted their way across it.

"If I'm right," Aziraphale began.

"If you're so certain you're right, what's with the oven mitts?"

"I didn't say I was certain," he admonished. Then, with a quaver, "And if I am wrong, I didn't want to just...disappear on you like that. You said you didn't like it when it happened in the garden and I—I didn't want to do that to you."

"Rather dissolve to my face?"

"No. I won't, I don't think. This isn't our end. It can't be. I believe." He turned to Crowley and fixed his yellow eyes upon him. "Believe with me."

"So you're giving me the opportunity to wish you farewell.

"No," the angel insisted, taking both of Crowley's hands in his own. "*Believe* with me."

Crowley seized Aziraphale's face with both hands and kissed him viciously. Then, he tore himself away and sat forward, rubbing his hands together, eyes fixed on the innocent looking little glass. "All right, so, if somehow my lot don't see through this and take you, you're the one who—"

With no preamble, Aziraphale reached out and stuck a finger straight in the shot glass. Crowley cringed away, holding his breath and waiting for the worst. The worst stayed where it was, and the angel simply blinked at his finger, sitting there quite innocuously in the inch or so of holy water.

Loudly, Crowley exhaled. As he watched in horrified fascination, Aziraphale picked up the wet finger, which by all rights should be a sizzling stub, and licked it, pondering for a moment, then pronouncing a non-commital, "Hmm. A bit musty. Are you absolutely certain this is holy water?"

"Yes. When I decanted it, I made sure to leave a mouthful in there, just in case."

Aziraphale frowned at him.

Crowley smiled softly, his lips curling into a shape he'd seen on the angel's face a thousand times, a shape that felt familiar to the muscles he was steering. He looked down at his hands, fingers shorter, palms wider, on the back of them the lightest dusting of golden hair. He was *in* the angel's body, and at the edges of his awareness lingered traces of the soul that now sat before him. He was himself, this body was not his own, and yet there was a third truth he could sense. A slight blending of their essences. A softening of their edges. An inoculation perhaps. Or a stain. Or all of it. As he watched, Aziraphale dipped his finger again.

Swift enough to avoid protest, Crowley caught the angel's hand, captured the risky digit and drew it into his mouth.

Aziraphale's eyes went very, very wide and he yelped, but Crowley held fast, both hands on his wrist now and sucked it clean. Then sucked a little more for good measure.

"Are you mad?" the angel whispered.

With a pop, Crowley released the finger. "No more than you."

His friend gave him a wild little look of daring, then picked up the shot glass and knocked it back. Crowley's breath stuttered, but all Aziraphale did was smile and licked his lips. Then frowned a little and wiped his mouth. "Like I said. Musty."

Crowley plucked the shot glass from his grasp and plunged his tongue into it, licking out the last traces of consecrated H20. No conflagration. Just wetness on the tip of his tongue. He dropped the glass on the floor, listening to it roll away as he fell upon Aziraphale, pushing him to his back once more and kissing him with abandon.

"No more," the angel said with a laugh. "We must prepare ourselves."

Crowley knew just where on that throat to suck to stutter the angel's breath and he did so without mercy until he got one last squeak. "One more," he insisted. "One more kiss."

"One," Aziraphale said primly. "But then we need to focus."

It *was* one kiss, technically, since for the forty-five seconds it lasted, Crowley's lips never abandoned the angel's but the important thing was the currently-lanky bastard didn't combust.

"That's quite enough," Aziraphale admonished, with no real heat. Then thoughtfully, he added, "Wait. So we know the holy water won't hurt us, won't hurt me when they take me, but what if the hellfire—"

"Come *on*," Crowley groaned. "You really think after all this, after *all* of this," he gestured wildly, trying to encompass time and space and the known universe, as well as the entirety of their history, "that that's gonna be what trips us up?"

"But. But I don't want to lose you."

Crowley seized the angel's head with both hands and kissed his forehead, then his mouth, then pressed their foreheads together and said, fiercely, "Have faith."

"Well. Hmm. When you put it like that."

Another kiss to the angel's forehead, this time with a loud smack, and Crowley stood, taking a moment to get his bearings, stretching his arms overhead with a groan, then twisting left and right a few times before giving his belly a few slaps for good measure. "All right then. Allons-y!"

"Yes," Aziraphale said glumly, "I suppose we must get dressed."

"Clothes are bullshit, by the way."

"Liar. You love fashion."

"All right, *your* clothes are bullshit."

"They are not. They're very well made."

"Bow tie," Crowley grumbled, plucking the offending object from the floor. "You miracled away half our clothes last night, you know. No trousers as far as the eye can see."

With a wave, both their outfits were neatly pressed, folded and stacked on the arm of the couch. Aziraphale took the darker stack and gestured magnanimously at the starchy pile that remained. The angel's clothes were well made and well cut, but not at all built for slouching or a remotely comfortable neck area. After they dressed, the angel fussed with Crowley's outfit, tugging and tucking everything until it was just so and finishing with peck on the lips.

He took Crowley by the hand and led him to the full-length mirror near the entryway and they stood side by side, taking in themselves and each other, moving their faces experimentally. "That's fucking weird, that is," Crowley muttered, then cleared his throat and repeated in a more angelic voice, "My goodness, this is ever so odd."

"I don't sound like that."

"You kind of do." Crowley squared his shoulders and lifted his chin. "Hello, my name is Aziraphale and I've got a stick of righteousness all the way up my bum. How do you do?"

The angel elbowed him, then attempted a slouch. "What's all this then?" he asked in Crowley's voice.

"Less shoulder," Crowley said, laying hands on him and making a couple adjustments. "More hip."

"Oh yes." The angel looked down and cupped his hipbones with a grin. "These."

"Those." Crowley came up behind his friend, covering the angel's hands with his own and pressing flush against his back, coaxing his hips to and fro and swaying with him until they loosened with a familiar glide. "There we go."

"You are ever so wobbly," the angel said, returning to his own posh diction.

"Mm-hmm," Crowley said, distractedly, pressing his face right up against the back of the angel's neck and inhaling deeply, consuming a scent so familiar he'd never really taken notice of it, like a fish takes no notice of the sea. Sulphur, yes, and leather and bittersweet caramel. "I smell nice."

"Told you," the angel said, slipping back into Crowley's brogue.

"Shall we?" he asked, nodding to the front door.

"I suppose so," Aziraphale said with an insouciant sigh.

Hand in hand, they headed out into the crisp, bright morning.