“I’m afraid it’s quite impossible for us to part with the first printing of Nostradamus’s collected prophecies for ten pounds,” Aziraphale said, somehow managing to keep a smile on his face. The sharply-dressed businessman in front of him could easily afford to pay a hundred times that, and it still wouldn’t have been anything approaching a fair price. He tapped the glass counter protecting the book in question and cleared his throat. “It’s--”
“Look at it! It’s grimy, moth-eaten, and falling apart!” the man protested, rolling his eyes. Aziraphale realized with a start that the man reminded him rather strongly of Gabriel. Heaven help him--such an uncharitable thought. Though after a moment’s reflection, Aziraphale couldn’t tell which of them he was being uncharitable towards. “I’d be doing you a favor, taking it off your hands.”
“The only other copy in existence,” Aziraphale said, letting a trace of saccharine infuse his tone, “while quite admittedly in better condition--though with a far less interesting provenance, which has its own value to a discerning collector--recently went for fifty thousand pounds at auction.”
“It’s not even in English.” The man smiled triumphantly, as if he’d scored some sort of victory.
“Yes.” Maybe it was Gabriel, here on Earth to test him. “It’s in French. The language in which it was originally written. Because it’s a first printing of the original collection of--”
Aziraphale took a deep breath and counted to ten. He didn’t feel at all bad about being irritated with Crowley, at least--he was supposed to be irritated with demons. Well, not irritated. Filled with a profound, righteous anger. Irritation was at least a good place to start, though. Maybe he’d catch Crowley using one of his signed first editions as a coaster again and it would come naturally.
Crowley leaned conspiratorially on the counter, that half-slouch, half-lounge he did that was so profoundly, righteously irritating, on top of making his black silk shirt gape open half-way to his navel. Aziraphale sighed. God forgive him for spending so many centuries being frustrated at every turn by a demon who couldn’t even master buttons.
Crowley tilted his face and slid his glasses down his nose just enough that Aziraphale could see his eyes, which was at least a distraction from the way Crowley’s shirt revealed more of the smooth pale skin beneath it with every breath he took. The golden irises had such a fascinating pattern to them, and they caught the light in the most brilliant way. The times Aziraphale might have lost himself in them, if their owner hadn’t been such an incorrigible nuisance...
“Not your Porsche in the no-parking zone, is it?” Crowley asked, a smirk pulling up one edge of his mouth. “Got enforcement out there ready to tow, it looked like. Heard one of them talking about firing up the new crusher and seeing how it works on--”
The bell above the front door practically came off its mount with the force of the customer bolting from the shop, shouting about how he’d only been a minute.
“Really?” Aziraphale asked.
Crowley nudged his glasses back up and straightened until he was almost standing under his own power again, and the smirk turned into a self-satisfied smile. “It was clearly posted, angel. How is it my fault if someone comes along and decides to enforce the rules?”
“I meant manifesting inside the shop,” Aziraphale said firmly. “If I’ve asked you once, I’ve asked you a million times--use the front door like everyone else. And you can’t honestly think I’d be pleased at you driving away my customers by manipulating your infernal meter maids--”
“My meter maids?” Crowley’s eyebrows climbed, and he laughed. “Your meter maids. If anyone’s out here ginning up complicated rules with no point except to make things difficult for everyone and then swooping down from on high to punish people for breaking them with absolutely no regard for whether or not it even matters, it’s certainly not my lot. And I’m hardly everyone else, now, am I?”
Aziraphale refused to acknowledge the last question. “Whoever’s meter maids they are, I’m sure they had no help at all spotting the infraction, hmm?”
“We-ell.” Crowley shrugged eloquently, and Aziraphale wondered why he even bothered wearing a shirt in the first place. “Maybe they did, maybe they didn’t. Who’s to say, these days?”
“You mean, besides you?”
Crowley pouted at him, and Aziraphale shifted uncomfortably, a thin thread of guilt winding around him before he caught himself.
“Stop that,” the angel scolded, glaring. A half dozen millennia of exposure to Crowley’s wiles, and he still fell for them. It was ridiculous--a slight quiver of that bottom lip, and suddenly Aziraphale was right back to raising a wing and sheltering a demon from the very storm he’d just precipitated. Just because Crowley was mildly sympathetic, just because Crowley tried to reassure him every so often when the angel had doubts, it didn’t mean Aziraphale always had to take the comfort offered. There was a price tag attached, after all.
Crowley scoffed, and the pout turned into something closer to a sulk. “And here I come all this way because I found something and thought of you…”
Aziraphale braced himself for another round of teasing and coaxing and smoothing down ruffled feathers, with the demon pretending to be more offended than he was just so Aziraphale would be stuck placating him and forget all about the manifesting in the shop and the driving away of customers and the summoning of parking enforcement. And whatever Crowley might insinuate, Aziraphale knew demonic handiwork when he saw it; parking enforcement was definitely the brainchild of Hell. Instead, Crowley produced a bottle of Macallan-Glenlivet, and he handed it over with nothing more than a sly smile.
Aziraphale saw the year on the bottle and beamed at him. “Oh! Wherever did you get--”
“And of course, there was this, too.” Crowley held up a large package wrapped in butcher paper and tied with a string, then placed it gently on the counter. “Last but not least and all.”
Aziraphale turned to what was clearly a book, the whisky momentarily forgotten.
“You shouldn’t have,” he breathed, untying the string and carefully unwrapping it. Two layers of butcher paper, with a layer of wax paper in between, and the book itself sheathed in linen; whoever had wrapped it hadn’t been taking any chances. The smell of aged vellum and ink made Aziraphale want to stop and bask in it for a moment, but more than that he wanted to know what it was Crowley had discovered, what Crowley had thought he might want. Aziraphale pulled back the linen, then blinked at the cover. Six thousand years, and he kept falling for it. Profound, righteous irritation didn’t even begin to cover it. “You shouldn’t have.”
The Historia de duobus amantibus sat on the countertop like a reproach. A pristine, intact, first edition, five-hundred-year-old reproach. Aziraphale was surprised to find he had enough profound, righteous irritation left over to be cross with himself for wanting to run his bare hands over the cover and spine like a philistine.
“No need to thank me,” Crowley said, buffing his nails on his shirt and grinning. “Very few things in this world that I see and simply know you need them, I’d never forgive myself if I didn’t--”
The demon’s grin got even wider. “The moment I laid eyes on the illustrations, I thought--”
“Crowley.” At least Aziraphale could still manage to put some degree of command into his voice, for all that Crowley would never mind it. The angel was at least in good company, there; if neither God nor the Dukes of Hell could compel obedience in Crowley, Aziraphale could hardly take it personally.
“Mmm?” Crowley gave him the most innocent look Aziraphale had ever seen on a demon, which was of course undermined by both the fact that he was seeing it on a demon and also the fact that he could feel that grin still lurking about the edges of Crowley’s lips.
“This is pornography, Crowley.”
“No!” Crowley stepped back, an absolute portrait of feigned shock. “Amanti means love. Right up your alley, an old book about love. Nothing better for a book-loving angel than an old book about love.”
“You remember those dozen-odd times we met in Rome and its immediate environs?” Aziraphale asked.
“Did we?” Crowley spread his hands. “Such a long time ago, really can’t recall.”
“You spent three centuries speaking Latin, you know damn well what the title means.”
“I really don’t know what you’re on about, angel,” Crowley said primly, which was simply headache-inducing given how little his jeans left to the imagination and how ferociously his jacket was clinging to his back. Spending the last fifty years perfecting the art of being technically decent but still showing off every last contour and curve surely should have left that tone of offended propriety as available to the demon as an appeal to God. “It was written by a pope.”
Aziraphale pinched the bridge of his nose. If Crowley put half as much effort into any of his infernal shenanigans as he put into tormenting Aziraphale, there’d be no hope for humanity. Which was a thought, Aziraphale supposed. He should probably try to bear up under Crowley’s persecution with better grace, if it was a necessary sacrifice to keep him away from the vulnerable and easily-swayed.
Crowley huffed and ran his fingers through his hair, then let the pretense drop. “Fine. I know better than to argue with you, after all this time.” He leaned forward and reached for the book. “There’s still the scotch, at least, if you don’t want the--”
Aziraphale had snatched the book off the counter and retreated with it before he quite knew what he was doing.
Crowley held out his hand expectantly. “Come now. If you don’t want it, give it back--I’ll not have you burning it or something because it offends your sensibilities.”
“Burning it!” Aziraphale gasped, clutching the book to his chest.
“I’ll just put it back where I found it,” Crowley said, ignoring his outburst. “No muss, no fuss, and at least it’ll have a chance at going to someone who does want it. Plenty of traffic at that little bookstall, and the woman running it reminded me a bit of you--only sends things to be pulped if they haven’t moved after five years or so.”
“Pulped!” Aziraphale cried, his eyes going wide.
“Mmm.” Crowley nodded and wiggled the fingers of his still-extended, waiting hand. “Just pretend that’s what became of it, and don’t worry your pretty little head about anyone reading it and getting tempted into anything fun.” He paused, then brightened and snapped his fingers. “Actually, never mind. It’d bother you, I know it would. Some gift, worrying about people out there lusting or even giving each other--or, Heaven forbid, themselves--a few moments of pleasure when you could have prevented it. I’ll fob it off on Hastur. Probably his doing anyway, what with it being a pope and all, and even you can’t go around worrying about what demons are getting up to in their free time. Come on, hand it over.”
“Hastur!” Aziraphale stared at him in horror. “Crowley, how could you?”
“What?” Crowley asked, brows knitting. “It’s not like I’m sure he’s illiterate, and besides, even if the rumors are true and he can’t read, that’s what the illustrations are for. This edition had some rather good ones, I thought. Very accurate but still, you know, tasteful.”
“You are an absolute menace,” Aziraphale growled, sweeping past him toward the conservation room. The book cradled in his arms seemed, for all its inappropriate subject matter, almost blemish-free. That Crowley could speak so blithely of leaving it lying around in a squalid pit waiting to be pulped or, worse yet, handing it over to a demon whose personal hygiene would be improved by a quick dip in burning sulfur was unconscionable.
Aziraphale pulled on a pair of cotton gloves and extricated the book from its wrapping, then carefully turned it over in his hands. Extraordinarily blemish-free, for its age.
“Beautiful,” he breathed.
“Does that mean I’m forgiven?” Crowley asked from the doorway. Aziraphale looked up from the book and found him leaning against the jamb, bottle of scotch in the crook of one arm.
Aziraphale glowered at him. Crowley didn’t look any more contrite than he had after the incident with the M25 mysteriously changing shape as it was built, or the time he’d turned up with the original manuscript for Lady Chatterley’s Lover and asked Aziraphale if he could ‘move it’ for him.
“Look, I know you’re implacably opposed to actually selling anything or turning any kind of profit, but you are, technically speaking, the proprietor of a bookshop, and this is, technically speaking, a book,” Crowley had said, waving the thing around like it was a remaindered copy of The Pelican Brief. It had been the first time in ages that Aziraphale had honestly wanted to throttle him. “The guy I got it off of swore on his mother’s grave it was worth twice what he owed me, which means there should be room for a tidy commission for you, too, yeah?”
The carefully boxed manuscript sat on the shelf just off to his left like a blood-stained shirt, there to remind him of Crowley’s misdeeds. The demon had left it behind in a fit of pique when Aziraphale had refused to help him profit from whatever tawdry scheme he’d been involved in. It was as if Crowley was on a personal mission to ruin priceless and irreplaceable works of art. There was no telling what damage he’d wrought that Aziraphale didn’t know about, all the books he’d come across whilst unsupervised and used as doorstops or ripped up for fire-lighters, and Aziraphale shuddered.
“The book is beautiful,” Aziraphale said evenly. “You are appalling.”
Crowley stretched out against the doorframe, absently crossing one ankle over the other as he unscrewed the bottle’s cap. There was a careless grace to it that looked perfectly natural on the demon, elevating it to something more than a precarious balancing act. Aziraphale bit back a sigh at the way Crowley’s shirt rode up over one hip, the careless tuck so shallow that even that slight lean had exposed a crescent-moon of bare flesh. It was like Crowley went out of his way to remind Aziraphale of how boneless he was, of that serpentine flexibility that somehow carried through no matter what Crowley was passing himself off as.
There’d been a time when Aziraphale had suspected Crowley’s influence on the Kama Sutra and scoffed that mortal, human bodies simply weren’t capable of some of the poses described in and drawn on the pages.
“Surely Burton’s got it all wrong,” Aziraphale had said, shaking his head over the translation. Not that his Sanskrit was even close to good enough to say for certain, but it had seemed so improbable. He’d watched Crowley closely, waiting for some telltale smirk or that look he got when he was too pleased with himself by half or had a secret he desperately wanted to boast about. Convincing half of England to go out and make fornication a proper hobby by publishing an itemized list of all the impossible things they could manage if only they practiced it hard enough was precisely the sort of thing Crowley would think was clever. “Or maybe someone’s having him on. There’s no way humans could pull this off, and even if they did, it wouldn’t be any fun.”
Aziraphale’s eyes fell on the copy of the Kama Sutra that Crowley had presented him with some decades later like it was the settling of a bet that Aziraphale didn’t remember making. Unlike Burton’s translation, with its elegant, idealized line drawings, this one was fully illustrated with actual photographs of people executing the positions and maneuvers.
“I’m sure you’ll notice, angel,” Crowley had said at the time, “that not a single one of them is me.”
Aziraphale bit back a sigh at the memory. And they weren’t--not a single one. It hadn’t been until after Aziraphale had finished the book that it occurred to him that Crowley had tricked him into reading a sex manual. He glanced at Crowley, who’d conjured up a pair of tumblers and was filling them with the sort of concentration more generally reserved for defusing bombs, and chastised himself for letting the demon get the better of him. He’d even been mildly disappointed that none of them had been Crowley, which was just, well.
“Surely I’m not all that appalling,” Crowley said mildly. He joined Aziraphale at the table and handed him an over-full glass. “You put up with me, after all.”
Aziraphale sucked at his teeth and held his hand under the glass in case any of the whisky sloshed over the edge, shooting Crowley a dirty look. “Crowley, the books! Honestly. I’m not sure why I do--you’ll be the death of my entire collection one of these days.”
He sipped aggressively at the excess, if only to make it safer to handle around the rarities and wonders shelved around them. The whisky was such a good vintage. It deserved to be drunk slowly, appreciated, and here he was, slurping at it like some lout because Crowley had picked here and now to forget how to pour liquor.
“Oh, please,” Crowley scoffed, folding himself into the overstuffed armchair that Aziraphale only kept around so that he could occasionally indulge himself in the pleasure of falling asleep while reading.
He slouched back over one cushy paisley arm and draped a leg over the other, and he looked one wrong move away from slipping right off the cushion and landing on the floor. It was typical--Crowley’d never met a piece of furniture he didn’t want to at least try pouring himself over, or using in some unapproved and not quite proper fashion, and Aziraphale had yet to see a mere chair defeat him--but Aziraphale couldn’t help but think of a few choice illustrations in some of the books that Crowley kept giving him. Crowley was wearing a bit more in the way of clothes, yes, but then it wasn’t as if those clothes left Aziraphale much in suspense as to what was under them.
Aziraphale smiled fondly as Crowley very determinedly arranged himself into the most aggressive lounge the chair could physically contain, then looked away before a blush could rise to his cheeks. Crowley would never let him live it down, flushing at an ink-and-parchment act of coitus, and God help him if Crowley ever suspected there was more to it than that. That Aziraphale had gone this long without Crowley having anything to tut at him over was a miracle in and of itself, given the way Crowley…
“I’m older than the entire library put together. Where’s my white-glove treatment?” Crowley kicked his foot irritably and hooked one elbow over the arm of the chair, then used it to pull himself into an even more purposeful slump. Black silk parted to reveal his sharp collarbones. “Then again, you can spill anything you like on me without hurting much, so I suppose--”
“Crowley,” Aziraphale said softly.
“Yes, yes, I know,” Crowley said, his lip curling. “Be careful.” He drank down half the scotch in one go. “Don’t worry, I promise not to--”
He broke off when he caught Aziraphale’s look, then pushed himself halfway upright and straightened his jacket self-consciously before slipping into a preemptive sulk.
“What is it?” he asked after a moment, staring resolutely at the drink in his hands as if it suddenly contained a copy of the Great Plan. “What have I done now?”
Aziraphale wasn’t in the habit of keeping track of the jetsam Crowley left in his wake. There was simply too much of it--coats gone a bit out of style, too many pairs of sunglasses to count, a mint’s worth of spare change. But around all that, mixed in with it, were the bottles of fine wine left behind after a night of drinking, the box of Aziraphale’s favorite chocolates abandoned after only eating a single piece, the books. Aziraphale didn’t have to examine the shelves to remember the books. Crowley had, in one way or another, always made a bit of a production out of the books.
“You realize you’ve given me forty works of pornography in the past two hundred years?” Aziraphale asked.
Crowley puffed out his cheeks and looked around the room, then shook his head with an exaggerated frown.
“Forty? No. Seems excessive, forty. And whatever I might have left here--which certainly wasn’t forty books all told, never mind all of it being pornography--at least some of that was on consignment and definitely was not a gift, so...” Crowley licked his lips and swirled the scotch in his glass. “Was there a point in there somewhere, angel?”
Aziraphale turned in his chair. “It just occurs to me that I’ve given you quite a few opportunities to tempt me. That’s all.”
Probably more even than the two-score he’d tallied up, interleaved with his own innocuous acquisitions and the odd windfall that customers had brought in, hoping to sell. There’d surely been some titles too obscure for him to recognize for what they were, tomes he’d simply smiled at and thanked Crowley for without opening, then slipped onto the shelves none the wiser and with all the best intentions of inspecting them later, books that Crowley had then… what? Gone home and gloated over? Not with the way he was shifting in his seat now, restless and jittery and going pink at the cheeks.
There was no trace of victory in his expression, in the way his lips twitched or his face tilted. He almost seemed to be steeling himself.
Then Crowley managed a rictus of a smile and raised his glass stiffly. “Me, tempt you? That’s a laugh. You know what passes for a reprimand over something like that? Off-books temptation of an angel I’m supposed to be thwarting covertly. Not worth it, I assure you.” He swallowed the last of the scotch--gulped it, really. “You’re perfectly safe. I’m about as much of a threat to your virtue as, ah.”
He stopped as Aziraphale pulled his gloves off slowly and set them aside, and Aziraphale wished he could see around those damn glasses, but he’d swear Crowley’s eyes never left his hands. Then again, it would be easier not to guess. Aziraphale crossed the room--it was a small room, tiny once it had been lined with shelves and had a desk and armchair wedged into it, Crowley had never been far from him in this room--and knelt next to the chair, and Crowley went still as a statue.
“You never particularly struck me as wanting the white-glove treatment,” Aziraphale said quietly. He took Crowley’s glasses off gently, like he was opening a book whose binding might give way at any moment. Crowley’s breath caught in his chest, and his knuckles had gone white where he clutched at the arm of the chair, but the pupils of those golden eyes were focused on Aziraphale’s lips and almost completely round.
“Well, you know, sometimes it’s nice to--” Crowley swallowed thickly, and Aziraphale watched his throat bob. “Ah. Feel as if.”
Aziraphale rested his fingertips on that last sliver of skin that Crowley’s shirt revealed, tracing the line of unbuttoned cloth up his chest to his collarbone, then continued to his throat. Crowley didn’t move, with the exception of his eyelids flickering closed when Aziraphale reached up until he could curl his palm around the back of Crowley’s neck. When Aziraphale’s fingers dug into his hair, Crowley’s mouth fell open slightly, and the quiet whimper he couldn’t quite choke back made Aziraphale want to tear off his clothes and find out what other sounds he’d make when Aziraphale touched him.
“You’re too good at this,” Aziraphale had told him once, after overseeing the dissolution of a monastery that had turned into nothing more holy than the average village. The monks and the nuns--every last one of them--had paired off and committed sins of the flesh with one another.
“Thought the charge was to be fruitful and multiply.” Crowley hadn’t shown even the smallest crumb of remorse. “You lot change your mind on that, have you?”
“Not people who’ve taken vows of celibacy,” Aziraphale reminded him. “How in Heaven’s name did you even do it? All of them!”
Crowley had smiled that infuriating smug smile, the one he used when he seemed determined to show Aziraphale every last one of his teeth, and beckoned him closer. “The trick, angel, is you just find something they already desperately want to do and sort of nudge them into it. That’s where everyone else tends to foul up. Whole bags full of priests, and everybody tries to get them to lust after this maid or that widow or the handsome man working in the garden. Which is fine, if you somehow wind up with a bunch of priests already looking to lust after someone.”
Which had been, from where Aziraphale was standing, precisely what they’d gotten. Crowley’d shaken his head and laughed, and Aziraphale knew there was something to it that he was missing.
“Maybe half of them, it was simple lust. But this one wanted children more than she wanted to keep her vows, and this one wanted dominion over someone and found it in his lover, and that one over there needed someone to admire his beauty before it faded.” Crowley’s gaze had fallen on one particular couple, and he’d turned away.
“And them?” Aziraphale asked. “What did they want?”
Crowley shrugged. “Kindness, angel. Someone to be gentle with, who’d be gentle with them in return.”
“That’s not a sin!” Aziraphale hadn’t been sure who he was protesting to, or even what precisely it was that he was protesting. It had always been that way with Crowley, hadn’t it? How much of this age-old dance of theirs had been Crowley asking the wrong sorts of questions, and how much of it had been Crowley simply providing a willing audience for all the things Aziraphale couldn’t say to anyone else?
“Never said it was,” Crowley’d said quietly. “But then, that’s not my call, is it?”
Frustrating, irritating, infuriating demon. How had Aziraphale never realized?
He rubbed his thumb over the base of Crowley’s skull, gently, and the demon half-sprawled in his overstuffed chair in his comfortable bookshop hissed softly.
“I could put the gloves back on, if you like,” Aziraphale offered.
“Ngh.” Crowley’s eyes snapped back open, and he stared at Aziraphale like the angel might bite him. “No need to bother on my account, really.”
Aziraphale took the empty glass from him and set it aside, then curled his fingers around Crowley’s wrist. “You’ve been teasing me.”
“I haven’t been,” Crowley said, and there was no hint of irony or venom or defiance in his voice. When Aziraphale’s fingertips dug into his scalp, Crowley exhaled and pushed into it, his back arching and his shirt gaping open.
What had it started with, Aziraphale thought? Petronius. A complete Satyricon, in the cramped script of a scribe who knew the price of parchment. Well-thumbed but also well-cared for. Crowley had given it to him right after he’d opened the shop, an offhanded thing that he’d covered by saying he was moving rooms and didn’t have the space for it anymore.
“You have,” Aziraphale murmured, shaking his head. He’d been such an idiot. “All this time.”
“You started it,” Crowley told him, eyes flashing. He went to turn his head, to argue the point, and Aziraphale let his fist close in that copper hair. It was just long enough to get a grip on these days, and Crowley gasped.
“I most certainly didn’t.” Aziraphale rubbed a small circle over the delicate skin on the interior of Crowley’s wrist, fingertips tracing the veins throbbing just under the surface.
Crowley laughed quietly, and his eyes turned up, looking to the ceiling, the moulding, anywhere but Aziraphale’s face.
“All I had to say was that I’d never had oysters, angel, and there you were suddenly so eager to show me what it was like.” He tensed in Aziraphale’s hands. “What I’d been missing.”
“I didn’t mean--”
“No, of course you didn’t,” Crowley said. There was a bitterness in his voice that made Aziraphale ache. “You never meant it.” He looked away. “Tempt you. If I had all eternity to practice, if I dedicated the rest of my life to it, I’d never develop half the facility you’ve got when you’re not even trying.”
“That’s not fair,” Aziraphale said. Crowley was so, so close. Aziraphale only had to lean forward, ever so slightly, and he could have whatever he wanted.
“No, it isn’t,” Crowley spat. “You’re not even using it for anything--”
Aziraphale leaned forward, ever so slightly, and kissed him. Crowley’s free hand clawed at Aziraphale’s collar, and for a terrible moment, he thought maybe Crowley had changed his mind. That this had been an exercise, that Crowley had never meant to go through with it, that Crowley had never thought Aziraphale would succumb and now found himself in the middle of something he regretted initiating. That Crowley was asking him to stop, now that Aziraphale had finally realized what it was he needed. Then Crowley’s fingers dug into the fabric and found purchase, and Aziraphale found himself hauled upward, pulled half into the chair even as Crowley twisted and surged down to meet him, the demon’s mouth opening against Aziraphale’s in a searing kiss.
Aziraphale let go of Crowley’s wrist and tugged his shirt all the way open, slipped his hand over bare skin until he found the dip of Crowley’s spine, and pulled him closer. Crowley’s other hand found a fistful of Aziraphale’s waistcoat and returned the gesture, as if Crowley was trying to slide out of the chair and down into his lap even as Aziraphale was trying to find his way up to meet him.
After a few more moments at cross purposes, Aziraphale broke away and tried to catch his breath. Crowley watched him, hands still knotted in Aziraphale’s clothes, and the tension building in him was electric. Aziraphale licked his lips and smiled.
“We’re not both of us going to fit in that chair,” he said, tugging Crowley around so they were at least fully facing each other, Crowley’s long legs spread out on either side of Aziraphale’s chest. He reached up and eased Crowley’s shirt and jacket off his shoulders, hands finding muscles normally languid now tense and corded. Aziraphale tossed the clothes back and drank his fill of the sight. “So beautiful.”
“I thought I was appalling,” Crowley murmured, his eyes going down to the buttons on Aziraphale’s shirt.
“Mmm. You’re both,” Aziraphale told him, reaching up from his waist to cup his cheek. “All at once and far too much, usually.” Aziraphale took a small breath, steadying himself. “You can, you know. If you want.”
Crowley leaned down so quickly it was almost a lunge, like a striking serpent, fingers too deft and too quick plucking open Aziraphale’s waistcoat, then his shirt, then yanking his tie loose and pulling it off. He slipped from the seat then, finally, sliding down not to the floor but to straddle Aziraphale’s thighs. Crowley’s hands were cool on Aziraphale’s skin, cool and too hot at the same time, fingers digging into flesh when he pulled the angel up against him and held on. He tucked his face against Aziraphale’s hair and stayed there for a long while, just breathing and letting Aziraphale stroke his back.
“Come upstairs with me, Crowley,” Aziraphale said, eventually, when he thought he might lose his nerve if he didn’t. It was so good like this. He could have stayed like this forever, just kneeling there on the floor in this close little room with Crowley in his lap and clinging to him like he’d never let go. So good like this, but it might be better if only they had room for him to get Crowley out of those jeans, room for him to ease Crowley down onto the too-large, too-soft bed, room for him to find out how Crowley might arch or moan or sigh when Aziraphale did something more than simply touch him.
Crowley’s arms tightened around him. “You just don’t want the books to see.”
Aziraphale laughed and nuzzled Crowley’s shoulder. Utterly ridiculous creature. “Given what half of them are and where you undoubtedly got them, I’m sure they’ve seen a great deal more than I have any intention of doing on a first go.”
“First go?” Crowley asked, not loosening his grip.
“You can’t possibly imagine I want to give you up after just the once.” Crowley shivered against him, and Aziraphale kissed his throat. He’d tried to keep himself from collecting too many vices over the ages, but Crowley knew perfectly well how deep they ran when he yielded. “I will, if that’s all you want from me, but--”
“No.” Flat and firm and instant, and punctuated by a spasm of Crowley’s fingers against Aziraphale’s skin. “That’s not all I want.”
Aziraphale relaxed and smiled. “Then come upstairs with me. Please.”
This time Crowley did let go, let go and began the awkward process of disentangling himself from Aziraphale without tripping over or treading on their discarded clothing. When they’d finally managed it, Crowley looked down at the angel on his knees, and Aziraphale was left breathless by the longing on Crowley’s face. Crowley held out his hand, and Aziraphale let the demon help him up.