Crowley, as a demon, was very familiar with the human emotion of lust.
Over the centuries he’d tempted thousands into it. He’d driven righteous men to depravity and virtuous women to wickedness, invented fetishes that had never been considered before, and his mind held a very lengthy catalogue of all the ways human bodies could find pleasure in one another. In his reports to Home Office, he’d taken credit for introducing scores of vices when, actually, humans had come up with that all by themselves, but Crowley had been right there over their shoulders urging them on, and it was only right he’d take some of the praise. He’d seen things that would make even Madam Tracy blush, and the wallpaper in her boudoir catch fire.
In short, Crowley had extensive knowledge of even the most sordid intricacies of sex. It just happened to be… theoretical.
There was plenty of sex in hell, of course. The Boss looked favourably upon it, or down on it, as they said Below, as a Satan-friendly recreational activity that kept His followers busy, distracted, and properly entertained, and improved team spirit and cooperation while keeping pesky feelings to a minimum. Demon sex was messy, as it was bound to happen when parties involved had wildly different proportions or lacked the same amount of scaled wings, forked tongues and, occasionally, tentacles. It involved rubbing something against something else until something happened, and carried a non-zero chance of your partner forgetting themselves and ending up skewered on a fang that really shouldn’t have been there. No, thank you. Crowley was a snob, and sex in Hell was about as emotionally fulfilling as a fast-food burger when all you craved was a lovingly home-cooked dinner. There was a reason he never showed up to any of the orgies*.
Heaven, unsurprisingly, didn’t have orgies. Crowley suspected they didn’t have sex at all; he hadn’t been Upstairs in a while, but couldn’t imagine it on the list of Gabriel-approved activities. Besides, celestial forms made of light made it hard to touch somebody unless you really, really focused.
There were advantages to a human body, Aziraphale said.
Aziraphale had been on Earth for six thousand years. And he loved humanity, with all himself, and perhaps Crowley should have expected this, should have guessed—
“Really?” he said. So, perhaps he wasn’t good at handling surprise. “You… really?”
“These are the bodies the Almighty gave us,” said Aziraphale, conveniently forgetting that it certainly hadn’t been God who’d sent Crowley up to Earth. “She would want us to celebrate them.”
And celebrate, apparently, he did. Aziraphale liked fancy wines and gourmet foods and the kind of music he referred to as ‘pleasure to the senses’, and Crowley really should have known he’d be a bloody hedonist.
He came to this realisation by degrees.
There was a week between the time he decided he was going to kiss Aziraphale, definitely, for real, and the day he managed to work up the nerve to actually try it. He’d thought about it, idly, for however many years, pictured this moment in detail, then erased it and started the fantasy anew, but he was going to do it tonight, and his hands were shaking and the air felt far too warm.
Luckily, he’d brought wine. He poured them both a glass, to be polite, and then another one to steady his nerves, and then another one. Maybe, he thought, this wasn’t such a good idea. Maybe he should reconsider for now, and make a better plan for the next time…
Aziraphale caught his eyes. “What is it?”
“What’s what?” Crowley said. Tried to say. It came out a bit slurred. If he leaned in, would that work? It seemed to work on the telly, but Crowley feared he’d just bump into Aziraphale’s nose.
Aziraphale, meanwhile, was looking at him oddly. “It’s just… I saw you looking, and…”
“‘m not looking at you,” Crowley lied, still staring.
Aziraphale kept looking at him, in that way he had that made Crowley feel like he was reading into his soul. He thought that perhaps he ought to look away, just to be safe, but Aziraphale’s eyes were nice and lit up his whole face when he smiled, like he was doing now, and then he put his hand on Crowley’s shoulder and the touch felt like sparks over his clothes.
“Crowley?” he said, and there was a bit of a question there. Crowley cleared his throat.
And then Aziraphale leaned in and kissed him.
There were, thankfully, no choirs of angels, but it was a strange experience all the same. He hadn’t known what to expect. Humans seemed to like this well enough, but Crowley wasn’t sure he understood the appeal of pressing his lips against someone else’s, and… opening his mouth, like they were doing now, but… maybe not quite like this. Too much? Maybe he’d opened it too much. Aziraphale laughed softly, and Crowley felt it as he heard it, the breath of air against his skin, the slight vibrations of Aziraphale’s chest. Aziraphale’s hand moved from his shoulder to the back of his neck, just resting there lightly, and then his other hand came up to cradle Crowley’s cheek and Crowley thought that perhaps he’d forgotten how to breathe. There was a pressure in his chest, like squeezing from the inside, and his human heart was beating so loud he could feel in his throat.
When Aziraphale pulled back, Crowley made a sound. It was strange, and needy, and kind of pathetic, but he didn’t mind. But he couldn’t quite look Aziraphale in the eyes for a moment or two.
“You’ve done that before.”
“Well, of course.”
Aziraphale sounded surprised he’d even asked. Crowley turned sharply to stare at him, all embarrassment forgotten. “With — humans?”
“Yes? We live around humans. You’re around humans all the time!”
“But I haven’t been kissing humans!” Although that was probably obvious. He wiped the corner of his mouth, discreetly. “Is it always like that?” he said. “Wet? And… all those other things.” The closeness, and the feelings of their breaths mingling together, and that strange shivery feeling from Aziraphale’s touch on his face, the back of his neck. “Like…” he couldn’t explain it. He cleared his throat. “Nice?”
He saw Aziraphale staring at him with a look of inexplicable fondness in his eyes, and the feeling in his chest seemed to be getting worse. It was like something growing inside him, tingling and warm.
“Very nice,” he agreed. “I didn’t think nice was something you went in for.”
Crowley thought about it. “Maybe I’m trying new things,” he said, and Aziraphale gave him another of those small bright smiles, and he realised that they were sitting entirely too close, and there were many advantages to that.
There were plenty more kisses after that first one, and soon enough Crowley got the hang of it because if there was one thing a snake was good at that was using his tongue. Along with kissing came a whole array of interesting touches, light brushes of fingers and lips and tongue on his jaw and chest and his neck, which he’d never thought of as a particularly interesting body part, but even demons live and learn.
Weeks passed. Things went on as they always had, except without the end of the world looming nigh and with far less few calls from the bosses, and a lot more time spent tagging along with Aziraphale to fancy little restaurants and dusty antiquities stores. He still amused himself causing a few rounds of mayhem, which usually gained an eyeroll and a half-hearted scolding, which still didn’t compare to the one he received the first time he managed to persuade Aziraphale to watch television with him.
“Why would you watch something like this? That is so…”
“Fun?” Crowley stole a peanut from Aziraphale’s bowl and weighted it in his hand. It didn’t look at all appetising. “Millions of people seem to think so.”
“Stupid! It… promotes stupid behaviours, and rude attitudes, and frankly the worst kind of outdated thinking.”
“That’s reality TV for you, angel. I got a commendation for it. I still get thank-you emails from the producer guy in Los Angeles.” He snapped his fingers, and the video on the screen changed. “That wasn’t actually what we’re going to watch.”
Watching television was another thing they’d never done before, since it involved Aziraphale visiting Crowley’s flat. Crowley owned three different televisions, only one of which he’d ever actually used, but the other development in their relationship meant that sometimes they didn’t pay any mind to the television at all. Crowley had known what snogging was, of course (something liable to get humans in real trouble with very little effort, and thus something every demon worth his cursed fire should take an interest in) but he’d never understood why humans kept doing it until the revelation came to him on his leather sofa or, occasionally, in the backseat of his Bentley.
There were more touches. Laughter and trembling breaths, and hands running under his clothes and against his skin, and his hands on Aziraphale’s body, and sweet sounds in Aziraphale’s throat and it was all because of him. Heartbeats and warm skin, human bodies and human instincts, and odd sparks flickering under his skin that left him shivering.
Was that how humans felt all the time? It was a wonder they could get anything done at all. Crowley had crashed his car twice in three months because he’d been too distracted thinking about weaknesses of the flesh, as it were. The second time Aziraphale had been in the car with him, smiling up at him and wearing his fussy shirt open at the collar, and Crowley had smiled back and accidentally hit a cab in the process.
“Shut up,” he told Aziraphale, immediately. “Not a word.”
Aziraphale, the traitor, hid a laugh behind his hand. “Of course, dear.”
That evening Aziraphale sat him down on the rickety velvet sofa in the room above his bookshop, and took his face between his hands and held still so he could kiss him.
They’d got good at this, or rather Crowley had, since Aziraphale had been surprisingly good to begin with, and he scuttled back against the cushions, chest rising and falling quick in time with Aziraphale’s lips kissing the underside of his jaw. Crowley closed his eyes, glasses long since discarded, and ran his hands over Aziraphale’s waistcoat, feeling the shape of his shoulders underneath. He thought about Aziraphale’s stupid shirt in his car, opened at the collar.
With his eyes still closed, he whispered, “Can you take this off?”
He could picture Aziraphale’s reaction, his bright eyes crinkled with amusement. “The waistcoat?” he asked. “Or the shirt, too?”
The shirt, he meant to say. Everything. But it was hard to speak the words, when it was something he wanted this much. He felt awkward, fumbling like Aziraphale with his magic tricks, except Aziraphale didn’t let wayward coins and dead doves stop him.
It was just a body. He’d seen Aziraphale wearing far less clothing over the centuries. He’d worn that body, and he knew perfectly well what it looked like. He just didn’t know how it’d feel like pressed against his own, skin to skin, under his lips and the palms of his hands.
“This is so stupid,” he moaned, feeling very much so.
He opened his eyes and saw Aziraphale looking at him with barely concealed amusement. “It’s a bit stupid, yes.”
“Thank you, angel. Look, demons don’t… we don’t really do clothes in Hell. I mean, they’re more like rags, usually. And when you need to get on with it, they just disappear in a snap of fingers.”
There was a pause. They looked at each other, Crowley’s words hanging in the air between them.
Then, “Well,” said Aziraphale. “You could do that now.”
And then, when Crowley didn’t move, “Lay down.”
He did, slowly, sliding down and turning around to lay his body across the length of the cushions. The sofa was surprisingly comfortable, for all that it looked like it was about to break down under them.
Under his silent gaze, Aziraphale began unbuttoning his waistcoat, folding it next to his discarded jacket. “The shirt, too?”
Crowley nodded. He watched Aziraphale’s fingers move in silence, undoing one button after the other. He pushed that perfectly pressed shirt off his shoulders, revealing, of course, a vest. It was white and sleeveless with a round neck, and if Crowley had thought the rest of Aziraphale’s get-up was fussy, this was even worse.
He laughed under his breath, and realised that he was staring. Aziraphale’s face was open and smiling, and he loved looking at him.
“Now,” said Aziraphale. “What did you say? A snap of fingers?”
He snapped his fingers, and Crowley’s clothes disappeared. Not all of them, which was somehow both relieving and disappointing, but his outer layers were gone, magically folded on a shelf somewhere he was not inclined to care about. His jacket and shirt and necktie, and his trousers too. Even his bloody shoes. There wasn’t much skin exposed, not really, but all of it was tingling under Aziraphale’s eyes. He’d never been so aware of his physical form before.
“You know, they made me strip when I was in Hell,” said Aziraphale. He grinned. “I made Michael get me a towel, did I tell you that?”
He had, and Crowley opened his mouth to say so, but Aziraphale kissed him before he could speak. Aziraphale’s hands were on his shoulders, which was normal, but there was a whole lot of skin on display that had been covered before, and Crowley leaned into the contact. Aziraphale kissed his neck and he shifted into it, a strange sound leaving his throat.
“You know, I’ve thought about this before,” Aziraphale said. “For years. Centuries.”
Something felt tight inside his chest, tying it up in knots. A sound rose in his throat, a low, stupid growl, and he reached out to touch, to—
Aziraphale pulled back. “No need,” he said. “Just stay still, dear, I’ve got it.”
“That doesn’t seem very fair.”
“Well,” said Aziraphale, looking very amused. “Since we’ve established one of us know what he’s doing…”
“Oh, that’s definitely unfair!” Crowley said. “I know what you’re doing, I’ve attended orgies.”
“Yes, but you didn’t actually do anything there.”
Aziraphale was staring down at him, seraphic and wide-eyed with innocence, and when their eyes met they both burst out laughing. The sound filled the space between them, warm and welcoming like the little nooks of Aziraphale’s shop, and Crowley’s chest was shaking with small snickers as Aziraphale laid his cheek there, over his heart.
Aziraphale’s hands were at his sides, skimming past his hips.
“What kind of orgies?”
“Oh, the usual,” said Crowley, immediately. “Lots of Renaissance cardinals. Satanists.” He cleared his throat. “Yuppies on cocaine. Things like that.”
Aziraphale hummed. Crowley liked the feeling of that mouth on his chest, those hands running down his sides and pushing up his black singlet over his stomach, pushes his pants down his hips.
He said, “No one ever did this.”
“Not to me, no” said Crowley. “You can keep doing that, if you want.”
He craned his neck he could watch.
Crowley had, of course, got off by himself before. It was something that came* with having a human body, on those few occasions when it became enough of a distraction that he just dealt with it himself, quickly and methodically, and then forgot entirely about that particular bodily function for a decade or two. It was nothing at all like getting off in Hell, where everywhere was too crowded and hot and the smell despair hung thick in the air, and when the frenzy struck every frantic rut became a desperate attempt to one-up the demon next to you.
This was something else entirely. He let Aziraphale run his mouth and hands down his body, touching lightly, always smiling, and he couldn’t tear his eyes off him.
“’s that good?” Aziraphale said, when he pulled back a bit from between his legs, looking at him through hooded eyes, and Crowley had to swallow before he could reply.
“Yeah,” he said, slightly stunned, and he let Aziraphale manoeuvre them around, lead Crowley’s hands to touch his body.
When they were done, Aziraphale pulled back from their kiss and said, “Would you like a glass of wine?”
It took Crowley all of two seconds to recover. He sat up. Then, “Is it another thing you learned around humans? Offering refreshments to your…” he stuttered around the word, “…human lovers?”
That was a silly word, ‘lover’. Very quaint, very human, sort of charming. Although, of course, that was not what he and Aziraphale were. They were friends, and that was worth far more.
Aziraphale looked as though he was thinking about how to answer. Eventually, he said, “Did you ever met Petronius?”
“Really? The one with the oysters?”
Aziraphale’s mouth opened in surprise. Then he smiled. “You remember,” he said. He looked thrilled, radiant, and Crowley thought that his body couldn’t possibly be strong enough to hold all the emotions he felt looking at that smile.
“Anyway,” Aziraphale went on. “The Petronius I’m thinking about was a relation of his. Gaius Petronius, the writer. He hosted the most exquisite dinners.”
“And what, you had sex with him?”
“Well. Everyone had sex with everyone else at those dinners. You know how it is,” said Aziraphale. “Start with a poetry reading and end up quite debauched. Anyway. He always had excellent wine.”
Later, as he accepted the glass of wine Aziraphale just poured him, Crowley reflected on his words. Poetry readings. He’d been around in ancient Rome, too, and he doubted those had been the kind of poems you’d want to recite in public.
That got Crowley asking questions. Aziraphale, it turned out, owned literature of all sorts, including the kind that was far from being mistaken for virtuous. He preferred prose to poems, but still had entire shelves dedicated to poetry, and a quick glance through the books there made Crowley’s eyes go very wide. It wasn’t the poetry itself but the fact that Aziraphale owned it, collected in well-loved leather-bound volumes that sat right in the middle of his chaotic little bookshop, where he sat comfortably in his warm whites and pale beiges. He skimmed through the pages and he thought about Aziraphale’s voice reading to him, and then he thoughts about some of those things, that they hadn’t yet done but might do together at some point, and then he had to snap the book closed and go take a walk.
Aziraphale also owned books with illustrations that might have been tastefully described as erotic, and objectively described as depraved. They were intricate and obscene and most likely not anatomically possible, and some featured mythological creatures that wouldn’t have been out of place in Hell. He also had plenty of books with very flimsy plots and vivid descriptions, about young men and women finding themselves in tricky situations that could only be resolved by someone getting fucked.
Crowley poked at one of the books. The cover said: Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure. “That’s…”
“It’s literature,” said Aziraphale.
Aziraphale laughed. Crowley glared at him, very half-heartedly. “What?”
“You,” said Aziraphale, “sound just like Gabriel.”
Crowley’s mouth opened slack in outrage. Thoroughly offended, he left the shop and didn’t return until dinner.
As a rule, Aziraphale hardly ever slept.
It was a tragedy, thought Crowley, who regarded sleep as one of the greatest human inventions. Aziraphale owned a very large, very comfortable bed with the kind of mattress one could sink into, with a canopy and a veritable mountain of pillows. Crowley liked it better than his own bed and ended up sleeping there more often than not, while Aziraphale turned page after page and often read through the whole night. Crowley appreciated the closeness, and he liked to fall asleep with his head next to Aziraphale’s hip, Aziraphale’s hand absent-mindedly running through his hair.
Once he woke up like this in the dark hours before dawn, hissing softly as he emerged from sleep. He caught a glimpse of Aziraphale’s silly beige shirt, a page of his book about some kind of Amazonian butterfly. Boring, boring, boring, he thought, with a burst of affection that almost overwhelmed him. Then he saw the piece of paper between the pages.
“What is that?”
“What’s what? Good morning to you,” Aziraphale said. Then he saw where he was looking. “Ah. It’ a bookmark,” he said, very primly.
“That is not a—”
“It’s a card, that I use as a bookmark.”
“That’s a naked man,” Crowley said, just to point out the obvious. “Naked and… bound and… with a gag…”
“It’s…” Crowley squinted. “Is that a photograph? Aziraphale. Did you take that?”
Still in the same even, prim tone, Aziraphale said, “I was in the room when it was taken.”
He closed his book, deliberately leaving the photograph pressed between the pages, and put it on the nightstand. Then he turned on his side, facing Crowley.
“So,” he said.
“So,” Crowley agreed. “That looked pretty interesting.”
Crowley leaned up, to kiss the corner of that small smile on his face. It was a quiet moment, when nothing else on Earth mattered except for this room and the two of them in it, and Crowley had to turn his head and look away before too much of his thoughts showed on his face.
“So, the photograph,” he prompted.
“It was taken in the Victorian era. In a brothel.”
“Oh,” said Crowley. “A den of iniquity. How nice.”
“At the time, I patronised a gentlemen’s club—”
“Oh, that’s how they called it?”
Aziraphale huffed. “Really, darling?” He pushed down on his shoulder, pressing him against the pillows, and Crowley fell quiet.
He went on, “They liked to frequent brothels. Sometimes I’d go along,” Aziraphale said, “out of friendship. Habit. It was something to do on a weeknight.”
“Right,” Crowley agreed. There was a laugh threatening to bubble its way out of his chest, and he kissed Aziraphale again instead. He felt dizzy, warm against the sheets, close enough to smell the scent of Aziraphale’s skin, see the flicker of his lashes. Kissing slowly, pressing up against each other, and talking about brothels as one did.
“So, there were plenty of places where a man could go and pay and get someone to tie him up and his arse with a switch.”
Crowley coughed. That wasn’t something he’d been expecting. “What?” He croaked.
“Yes, it was quite popular. I do wonder why they went out of style,” he mused. “And that is where the photograph came from.”
“What, you’d tag along?” Crowley asked. It was surreal, to be here with Aziraphale and have this conversation, and enticing in a way he’d come to recognise came from the most human part of himself, his body’s reactions and deep-seated instincts. He shifted in place, feeling warm. His mouth found Aziraphale’s again and he pressed his hips up against his body, enjoying the friction of it.
“Did you go with them?” he asked again. “Did you all get… spanked by Victorian prostitutes?”
That got Aziraphale to laugh. “Well, one of the men would be tied up in a swing. Blindfolded. Gagged, sometimes.” His lips brushed Crowley’s as he spoke, while he went on telling his brothel story in his polite voice while his hand kept Crowley’s shoulder pinned to the mattress and he rubbed his cock against his hip through his clothes like… well, not like you’d expect an angel to do.
“And, after that, then the others would take their turn with him. No prostitutes necessary.”
Crowley croaked. His throat felt very dry. “Take their turns?”
He tried picturing it. Hell dealt in the non-sexual kind of torture for the most part, but he’d seen the other kind on Earth. He knew some humans seemed to enjoy it, and he thought about all the things he’d seen over the centuries, and pictured Aziraphale in the middle of it. Aziraphale’s voice in his ear, perfectly pleasant, pressed down against him like that, made it sound enticing.
He said, “What happened after that?”
“Well, they’d hit him. Paddles, switches. Swat his arse until it turned red and stinging. Then they’d open him up with grease and penetrate him.” Aziraphale paused. He found Crowley’s eyes and said, “I know we’ve not done that yet but I promise, dear, it does feel good—” just as Crowley rolled his eyes and said, “I’ve been on Earth forever, I know about fucking—”
“Congratulations,” Aziraphale said, dryly, and Crowley snorted a laugh into the crook of his neck.
Afterwards, Aziraphale slid his hand down between their bodies and made them both come like that, and Crowley thought that perhaps there was some educational value in all his books and photographs and parties with humans of ill repute. He was feeling dizzy and pleasantly content, and it was dark outside still, and so he turned on his side and closed his eyes again.
“You really reading a book about butterflies?” he said some time later, from the edges of sleep.
There was the rustling sound of a page being turned.
And then, before he forgot. “That picture… were you ever, you know, the one who,” he mumbled the words against his pillow. “Tied up and… with the switch and… everything.”
He thought he heard Aziraphale laugh.
“Once or twice,” he said. “It was…”
“Something to do on a weeknight?” He pictured the photograph, except it was Aziraphale in it, and he thought that truly there was still a lot to learn about life on Earth.
And then he turned against his pillow, and he slept.
* He received invites at least a few times a year. It was a very popular tradition in Hell to celebrate appointments, promotions, and important recurrences with either a spot of torture or a good orgy, and sometimes the attendants didn’t know which of the two it was supposed to be until they found themselves tied up to the rack. ↑