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Lovers Accustomed to Tragedy

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It starts the way most things do; unplanned and, later, uninhibited. In all, a completely unmitigated disaster placed in the lap of the infernal entity least likely to handle it with grace.

Here’s what Crowley knows; it’s June 2000, he’s with his best friend, and he can’t be arsed to check the time. There was wine. Good, full-bodied, red wine that Crowley couldn’t even pretend to remember the name of, followed by a smooth, aged whiskey that was no longer in production, and finished out by more red wine. Crowley looks at his glass, a quarter of the wine still accounted for, and is struck by how alike to blood the color of the wine is. He realizes that he’s waxing poetic about the color of his drink and takes a deep breath. He kills the rest of the glass and takes a mental and visual inventory of the damage caused by several solid hours of consuming libations. Crowley is sprawled out haphazardly on the floor of the bookshop surrounded by a smattering of empty bottles, wine and whiskey alike. He turns his head (which turns out to be a horrible idea) and catches a glimpse of himself reflected in his sun glasses. He realizes in quick turn, that he took off his sunglasses at some point without realizing it and that he looks profoundly comfortable here. Something about seeing that look on his own features both soothes him and makes him want to run for the hills in tandem. Luckily, he’s too drunk to dwell on that fact for too long.

Aziraphale is half sitting and half laying on his chaise lounge holding a wine glass at a precarious angle. Coming back to reality from his trip into his own drunken stupor, Crowley finds his friend where he left him; gesticulating wildly while recounting some 19th century anecdote told to him in a club. Crowley had been asleep during the time. With time, he’s come to regret his century-long rest more and more. Not that anything particularly interesting happened during the 19th century (not that Crowley will admit to himself), but because during his blessed nap it seemed to allow Aziraphale to develop the ability to bond with humans. Before that they had both agreed steadfastly to not involve themselves too closely with their charges. Humans’ life spans were so terribly short and any interaction beyond those required by their respective head offices seemed disingenuous. They couldn’t explain their true nature to humans and, even if they could, there was the remarkable difference in their allotted time on Earth. Why set yourself up for that kind of heartache? That had gone on swimmingly for millenia but then he had to go off and indulge in a 100-year long sleep (he would not call it a sulk, despite what some Angels may say) and woke up to a paradigm shift. Not only did Aziraphale make friends with humans now (he even joined a whole bloody club and learned to dance the Gavotte of all things), but he had long, lasting bonds with them. Bonds that included laughing and drinking and, eventually, crushing grief. Crowley was almost certain that some of these social companionships may have gone outside of the bounds of just socialization but, fortuitously, both his sober and sloshed minds agreed that the answer to that question could only bring about madness. Crowley didn’t want his worst fears confirmed thank you very much; and he’d learned the hard way the price of asking too many questions. Although he certainly participated in his fair share of bad decision making, he’d learned (over centuries of making the same mistake over and over and over again) that sometimes ambiguity was merciful.

Crowley refocuses again, realizing that he’s gone down another path of drunken musing, when he clocks that he can no longer hear the comforting tenor of Aziraphale’s rambling. In its stead is a weighted silence followed, quickly, by the realization that Aziraphale is staring at him rather pointedly and with an undercurrent of something the more refined part of Crowley’s brain will refer to as “intent”. More colloquially, Lust. There’s another word, an awful, terrifying and, worst-of-all, four-lettered word (beginning with L, just to clarify) that would sum the whole expression up well, but Crowley is a demon and isn’t given to such flights of fancy (or at least that’s what he tells himself). What he does admit is that he’s too fastidious and has come too far in his limitless existence to allow this thread of thought to go on any further. Unfortunately, his mind comes on a bit too late to catch up with his body, which is twisting and flailing to gain purchase to stand up. Crowley finds that he’s had quite enough of his body going rogue and slurs something about sobering up into the thick, warm air of the bookshop. After considerable effort, a staggering headache lasting all of about four seconds, and the bitter taste of alcohol purging itself from his bloodsteam, he finds himself standing solidly in the middle of the bookstore’s back room. He turns to look at Aziraphale and finds that, unfortunately, the Angel has not followed suit. In fact, Aziraphale is still looking at him with something akin to veneration, still clearly intoxicated having completely missed the “sober up, we’re in the danger zone” memo.

Still reeling from too much liquor, he takes in Aziraphales rumpled image. His hair is a wreck from running his hands through it, there’s a pink flush on his nose, cheekbones, neck, and continuing to parts unknown below the (blasted, infernal) cover of his buttoned-to-the-top oxford shirt. His coat was lost hours ago, hung precariously from the coat stand, and he’s rolled his shirt sleeves up to his elbows. In short, it’s a good look. Crowley’s seen Aziraphale in any number of styles throughout the millennia. He’s been around him when it was stylish to be covered head-to-toe, he’s been there in centuries past when group bathing was done outdoors. But this version, drunk, happy, rambling, and looking at Crowley with such intensity is doing Things to him that he can’t quite parse out. Even sober. The wave of panic/pleasure hits him so hard that he, bewildered for a second, wonders if he’d just imagined sobering up. He’s wondering if, in reality, he’s still lying on the floor surrounded by the detritus of his own imbibing when he senses movement. Before he can really calculate what’s happening he’s staring into steel blue eyes. Soft, sturdy, perfectly manicured hands are reaching out for his forearms to anchor themselves. He watches Aziraphale’s mouth open and close a few times; as if he’s trying to find the words to express himself but coming up empty. Crowley spares a moment to balk at the absurdity of the entity who has read everything worth reading not knowing the right words before he realizes that Aziraphale has begun speaking.

“…I don’t. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do, really. But I can’t stop thinking that it should’ve been you.”

“Wha?” replies Crowley. He immediately wants to kick himself for not paying closer attention to what’s actually going on and for replying with a fraction of a word to, what had seemed from the brief time Crowley was actually listening, be a heartfelt and important statement.

“Sorry,” Crowley restarts. “What should I have been?” He hears the lie blatantly in his own voice.

Aziraphale stares at him imploringly, willing him to be on the same page. When Crowley’s mind fails to bring up what the Angel had said, Aziraphale takes one last, long look and steps back.

“I rather think that I’ve had too much,” he slurs. He steps back, and Crowley can sense him trying to sober himself. He realizes belatedly that he’s closed his eyes but isn’t sure quite when it happened. As it turns out, the Angel’s close proximity is as effective as, roughly, three-to-four bottles of startingly fragrant red. As Aziraphale makes to enter the entrance area of the bookshop a wild, unstoppable urge comes over Crowley to get the Angel back in his personal space. He reaches out a long arm and closes his hand around Aziraphale’s shoulder. Aziraphale turns around questioningly and is stopped in his tracks by the look on Crowley’s face (just what that expression looked like, Crowley won’t learn until many years later).

In a small, choked voice Crowley hears himself say, “Forgive me”, although, even upon revisiting the scene, he will not know if he was saying it to Aziraphale or himself. The last thought before his brain goes offline is that he’s made a decision that will make or break him.

What happens is that his lips fall onto Aziraphale’s. His left hand comes up to the Angel’s neck, thumb sweeping across his cheekbone. His skin is soft, warm from the alcohol (or Crowley’s own ministrations, who’s to say?), and he swears he can feel light radiating just from the simple touch. His lips, a previously disregarded body part, are on fire; not hellfire, not divine flames, but overwhelming, consuming, flickers and flames of want, of desire. Crowley has tempted thousands of humans into this act, has kissed, licked, fucked, and sucked humans who fell under his spell. Never once has it felt this good. A kiss has no right to redefine the verb for you and part of Crowley is outraged because of it.

For one solitary minute the outside world comes to a grinding halt and all that they can feel is each other. Crowley’s heart, mostly for show (or so he thought), is beating against his ribcage attempting an escape from its prison and he almost strokes out entirely (if that was something Demon biology was given to doing) when he feels Aziraphale’s hand tangle in his hair. His lips are moving against Crowley’s now and Aziraphale’s other hand has found purchase on his waist, radiating heat through his whole abdomen. Crowley is floating, he’s ethereal, he’s made real again, he’s slowly realizing that he’s cocked up a 6,000-year friendship; the only spot of light in his dreary, dreadful, boring existence, on a whim. Crowley’s usually lightning quick mind ignores, or refuses to process, that Aziraphale seems equally affected by his actions and has been enthusiastically returning his sentiment. In an instant he jumps back, takes in the horrified expression on the Angel’s face, mutters out some syllables that will need to suffice as an apology, and wills himself back to his own home.

When he comes to, he’s sitting on the floor of his kitchen, open wine bottle in hand, taking large gulps at a time. He spends a scant few seconds reminding himself that drinking wine as if the world was ending (a thought he’d later laugh aloud at when he recalls) was part of what got him into this situation in the first place. Crowley stands and, again, takes stock of the situation. He’s left his shoes, coat, and sunglasses at Aziraphale’s and he’s standing in just his socks looking to all the world as if his world has fallen out from underneath him. He supposes that he looks as he should at that moment. For centuries Aziraphale has been his due North; someone whom he could rely on, who knew him, the real him and accepted him anyway. Seeing that look in Aziraphale’s eyes tonight, having the fleeting thought that his feelings may be returned was intoxicating, and it went to his head faster than any champagne. Even if all Aziraphale wanted was a physical connection, Crowley would’ve given it freely. He’d taken any part of the Angel he was willing to give, even if it killed him.

Crowley walked slowly to his en suite and took a long, hard look at himself in the mirror. He cursed the snake’s eyes that met his and reminded himself for the umpteenth time that there was no way Aziraphale would feel the same way. How could he when he had such a constant, obvious reminder of just what he was allowing in his life. With the wine bottle dangling from his fingers he willed the shower to start, steam quickly filling the small room. He sat in the shower for what may have been 30 or 300 minutes. During what he resolutely will not call sulking (Demons do not sulk), Crowley came to a decision. It was easier to avoid these types of mishaps when there was space between he and the Angel. In millenia past, there could be decades or centuries that elapsed without encountering one another. While he doubts he could make it a decade, some space is exactly what the doctor ordered, so to speak. Undoubtedly Aziraphale will require some time to deal with Crowley’s outburst and sudden subsequent departure and Crowley could use some time to get these impulses out and come back to the Angel calm and collected (and less likely to pounce on him, he supposes). With that thought in mind, he scrubs himself clean, miracles himself dry, and wanders out for a shouting session with his plants. Time to get back to normal, or some semblance of it.

---

Crowley is in New Orleans. It’s Mardi Gras, it’s loud, he’s drunk, and he hasn’t seen Aziraphale in eight months. He left a note for the Angel a couple of days after The Night (which had been awarded capital letters in Crowley’s mind) while he knew Aziraphale would be out saying he had some business to attend to and may be out of reach for a while. It was a coward's move but so was running away in the first place. As far as he's concerned, he can double down on cowardly moves and they cancel each other out. He doesn't think about that logic too closely. Crowley decided he needed a marked change of pace and went to the United States. The US is somewhere Aziraphale had mentioned, on a number of occasions since The Arrangement has been in place, he would never go. On any grave Crowley would swear this had nothing to do with his travel destination. On every grave Crowley would be found lying should he have been taken to task.

Since he embarked several months back he’s spent time in Los Angeles, Albuquerque, several rousing weeks in Miami, three solid months in New York, and has now found himself enjoying the debauchery and revelry of the American South on Fat Tuesday. Crowley has a tumbler full of excellent bourbon in his left hand, his head is swimming from alcohol and weed and Satan knows what else and he’s loving the feeling of bodies rubbing against him from all angles. He has his right arm hooked around the waist of a woman who he didn’t even have to use infernal power to tempt. She’s tall, waif thin, and has long curly blonde hair. Her eyes are the kind of dark blue that you can barely differentiate from the pupil and she’s moving her body like there are fall less people around and far fewer pieces of fabric between them. Unlike his usual charges, Crowley has spent a short amount of time getting to know her. Her name is Linda and she’s from Vermont. She’s here with her friends to let off some steam but she lost them several hours ago. She’s been a philosophy major for six years, is a perpetual student, and loves to read and to argue and has a shockingly diverse repertoire of classic literature under her belt. She’s breathtaking in her simplicity and Crowley is fixated. There were easier targets, but Crowley could not look away from this one woman and was too blitzed to think too hard about why. When he takes her back to her hotel room she invites him inside. He kisses her passionately and she answers by pulling him down on top of her on the plush bed and wrapping her legs around him. The act itself is over rather quickly. Crowley never gains real pleasure from these encounters but seeing her asleep on his chest afterwards makes him wonder why he chose her specifically; if it was something about her wit, her even tone, her ice blonde hair and ocean eyes came a little too close to…something…for him to ignore. In his panic Crowley reenacts his former disappearing act and is long gone by the time Linda wakes up. Crowley spends another few months roaming aimlessly around the US before he tires of the scenery and the inside of his own head. He isn’t ready to face the music, so to speak, but he’s ready to take the next step.

Still riding high on running away from his problems, Crowley finds himself back in London by April because of course he does. London is his chosen home on Earth and it always calls him back like a beacon. As spring rolls around it’s like the world is blooming to life again. He’s been frequenting the club circuit and has been making a name for himself Downstairs. He’s gone completely into character as a playboy and has found himself a type, claiming souls for the damned one after another. Not wanting a repeat of New Orleans, he focuses primarily on men. Crowley has long figured that he fell somewhere along the middle of the continuum, Kinsey-speaking, but prefers the way men look so it’s not a hardship. His last several conquests have bore a striking resemblance to one another; short, dark-haired, suave men who look just delectable on his stylish-but-uncomfortable couch. Now living in Mayfair, he has constant access to wealthy, attractive men who are just chomping at the bit for a roll in the hay with a tall, dark, handsome stranger who isn’t looking for strings. In June he gets a commendation from Hell for single-handedly damning close to 50 human souls just through Lust alone. When he reads the commendation, he opens a bottle of Kentucky bourbon (some habits die hard) and drinks himself to sleep. He wakes to the sound of his phone ringing. Annoyed and feeling his stomach roil in protest, he jumps up to grab the phone before thinking better of it. He doesn’t give out his phone number to anyone, and the only person who has it is the last person (Angel) he really wants to talk to. That’s not strictly true. Crowley has been running from how much he wants to speak to Aziraphale for the better part of a year now, but he can’t. He can’t bear to see the distant look he imagines will be in those steely eyes. He doesn’t want to feel like they’re back at the wall in Eden. He doesn’t want to confirm that he’s irreparably broken the only thing he ever did since the Fall that was remotely good. He lets the call go to his ancient answering machine.

Suddenly, he hears Aziraphale’s voice. The message is less than 30 seconds in length, but it stabs so directly into Crowley’s core that he has to check for a physical wound.

“Hi. I don’t- I don’t know why I keep calling. I keep hoping that you’ll pick up. I don’t know what to do anymore.”

Aziraphale hangs up after a sigh. Crowley walks over to the machine and starts playing the messages. He hadn’t even thought to listen to them beforehand, assuming that Aziraphale didn’t want to speak with him.

“Crowley, we need to talk. Please call me immediately.”

“Where are you?”

“I got your note. Please be safe. Dinner when you get back?”

“I can help, you know. It’s not like you to be so secretive about work.”

"I know you haven't been discorporated or killed because I would know. I would feel it my dear. Please call or come by."

“Does this have to do with that night? I’ve been over it repeatedly, but I can’t figure out what went wrong.”

“I’m so sorry and I miss you.”

There are numerous others. Some where the Angel is just rambling about his day, about an indignant customer who he had to sell a book to because he just wouldn’t leave, about a couple he saw walking in St. James Park. A year in Aziraphale’s life is just laid out before him and he feels a familiar sense of regret he hasn’t had since his last disappearing act in the 19th century. Unfortunately, Crowley is given to bouts of stubbornness and his mind, never a forgiving resource, reminds him that Aziraphale would only be angry if he were to go back now. Yes, he decides, it’d be best to wait out the Angel’s wrath. He’ll seek him out in another few weeks and then they'll find a way to get back to the way things were.

Crowley's sense of time is not stellar on the best of days but his evasive tendencies could (and have) won him awards Downstairs. He spends an indeterminate amount of time wallowing in his poor life choices and working his way through his, admittedly vast, collection of rare liquors while leaving his flat and interacting with anyone increasingly less. Crowley sleeps regularly, burns through the entire run of Golden Girls several times, refuses to even consider eating anything (as it brings back memories), and spends a lot of time reinventing his "look". Gone is the short feathered hair he'd been sporting for the last few years. It's been replaced with shoulder length hellfire waves that fall artfully tousled because he wills them to be. He's given up on the power suits for the moment and finds himself favoring ripped black jeans and band t-shirts. His large aviator glasses have been replaced by a less ostentatious pair. When he deigns to look at a calender, during a rare venture out, he realizes that he's wiled away another six months. It's been almost two years since he spoke to Aziraphale. When he looks at his reflection in the shop window, he doesn't recognize himself.

He can't bring himself to stop by the bookshop, but he's desperate for even a glimpse of his Angel so he takes to lurking. He's quite good at lurking, as most Demons are, so he finds himself in Soho almost daily. He watches Aziraphale come and go. He watches him greet people and run off customers and drink by himself staring at the back room of his shop. Crowley can't bring himself to wonder too long why the Angel stares at it forlornly. Sometimes, as he's learned, ambiguity is a mercy. Around the three-year mark since The Night, something new happens. Crowley is staring. No, let's rephrase that. Crowley is glaring at Aziraphale from his perch on a fifth floor balcony on the opposing street. He picked the location for its view inside the window of the shop and has used a minor miracle to make his presence difficult to detect. The same woman has come by A. Z. Fell and Co. for four days straight. She is short, heavy set, and beautiful. She wears large thick rimmed glasses, has thick, long auburn hair, and a contagious laugh. He won't learn her name. He could, easily, but he won't. He doesn't spend too much time asking himself why. The first two visits were short, only standing out because each time she left with a book. Aziraphale was fastidious about not selling his merchandise, so for one customer to walk out with two purchases back-to-back? Unheard of. Crowley was angry and, despite himself, intrigued.

He keeps watching over the next few weeks. When she stops leaving with books he feels himself sigh in relief. She's just a persistent customer, nothing more. But then, on her 17th visit (still only two purchases), something is different. She comes bearing a box of chocolates. They're Belgian, excellent quality, Aziraphale's favorite. Crowley should know, he'd introduced the Angel to these particular chocolates himself (a minor temptation that, somehow, never made it into an official ledger). He was so gobsmacked about the chocolates that he failed to take in the woman's appearance. Usually, she stuck to jeans with over-sized sweaters or, Sa- Go-, Somebody-forbid, flannel. Tonight, though, she had on a black dress; fitted in the bodice and flowing outward around the ample thighs. She still had her customary combat boots on (earning an eye roll from the Demon), and her hair was in perfectly tousled curls. She was radiant and Crowley hates her. Crowley's been around humanity long enough to pick up on signals. Hell (no pun intended), Crowley has tempted literally thousands of humans into sins of the flesh. He knows what it looks like when someone is looking to...partake. She knocks at the door, looking around nervously, and smiles a brilliant, face-splitting smile when Aziraphale opens the door. This isn't what catches Crowley's eye. In that moment, not a single person could compare to Aziraphale. He smiles just as brightly. In all of the millennia that Crowley has known the Angel, he's only seen that smile turn toward him and it makes him nauseous that someone else is on the receiving end. It hits him then, like a ton of bricks, that he's brought this upon himself for the second time in the world's history. The first was that infernal, blasted 100-year nap he took instead of communicating. Unfortunately, the fates are not as kind to him this time. Instead of sleeping through losing his best friend (read: love of his life), he's going to watch it eyes-wide-open. He watches as Aziraphale greets her, kisses her cheek (she blushes deep enough to be seen from five stories up and a half a block away), and he hears Aziraphale say her name. Gabrielle. He hates it (it's perfect). Of course she'd have a name akin to a bloody archfuckingangel. It's just another reminder of how far from God's grace Crowley is; and how far from Aziraphale's love he'll always be. He sees Aziraphale take her hand and lead her into the bookshop. Figuring he's seen enough for the night he stands to leave.

When he reaches street level he can't help but take one last look into the bookshop from the street. Don't have it said that Anthony J. Crowley isn't a masochist. They're dancing. The girl, Gabrielle, has her head laid on Aziraphale's shoulder, one of her hands is on the back of his neck and the other is encased in his own. Aziraphale's other hand is low on her back. Just high enough to be gentlemanly, just low enough to show desire. Crowley should know, he invented the subtle "lower-back-to-ass-grab". He stands there, dumbfounded for too long. Just before he has the sense to move along, he makes eye contact with the Angel through the window. Aziraphale's face goes through a complex series of emotions; shock, unbridled happiness, confusion, anger, and resignation are the only ones that Crowley can clearly define. All he knows for sure in that moment is that he's been found out. Any minute now the Angel is going to come out into the street and give him a self-righteous lecture about his disappearing act and how he's a terrible friend. Or, he's going to come out and smite him where he stands; for tempting an Angel, for being a coward, for low-key stalking him, for 6,000 years worth of wiles, for all of it. What actually happens is neither of those things, and markedly worse. Aziraphale makes one last determined look at Crowley and then turns his head in, resting against the Gabrielle's. He turns them away from the window, guiding them where Crowley can no longer see. Once the shock wears off, Crowley goes home feeling emptier than he did upon waking from a thousand lightyear dive into sulfur. He sits on his couch for 25 minutes before he grabs his things and head's to the main entrance to his home office. Crowley had never been a ladder-climbing Demon. He was content to hang back on Earth and wile his time away with petty temptations. He feels a sudden, deep, abiding drive to take on some new assignments, and that's just what he does. It doesn't count as cowardice, Crowley rationalizes, if it's about work. He manages to hide the bitter taste the lie leaves in his mouth with a shot of warm sake. He supposes there are worse places to end up, as he looks out over the blinding lights of Toyko.

---

Two years into Crowley's Brand New Life (as he's taken to referring to it in his own mind), he inadvertently winds up back in London. He's confident that his old ways are behind him and that he's truly, once-and-for-all, kicked his near-obsession with a certain Angel who shall remain pointedly nameless. He's been tasked with corrupting a priest and roll his eyes at the simplicity. Either way, he figures, it'll be nice to see the city again and he should be in and out in a week or so, maximum. His sources tell him that the priest is conducting a funeral service at Brompton Cemetery so he dresses in his customary black and heads toward the service. Nowadays, he's wearing a trendy half man-bun, half free-flowing hair style and has chosen a suit so ordinary that he'll pass unnoticed. When he walks towards the service he immediately feels a prickling sensation at the back of his neck. Figuring that it's just the creeping feeling of being in a familiar place after so long, he categorically ignores his bodily reaction and moves forward. It isn't until he's joined the mourners that he understands the gravity of the situation he's in. Like an funeral, there's a casket and flowers and mourners. Unlike most funerals, he recognizes the name and a face in the crowd. There's a slate grey stone, polished and clean cut, reading "Gabrielle Adams, 1976-2005, Loving Wife and Daughter". Panic starts to well under the surface as he looks around the crowd. His eyes land on a familiar form. Toward the left of the front line of mourners is a man with white-blond hair in clothing that is both far too dark and far too outdated. His face is hung low and he's standing close to a woman who bares strikingly similar features to the dearly departed. Crowley turns abruptly to make a retreat and runs directly into an older woman. The woman exclaims at Crowley's poor manners but he pushes on through. He doesn't see a pair of steel blue eyes, brimming with unshed tears, stare him down as he walks out of the cemetery.

In his panic, Crowley forgets that he can just, kind of, be somewhere else if he needs to. Transportation isn't really an issue for the ethereal or the occult. Either way, he hopes that the Bentley is safe where he stored it. When he arrives at his Mayfair storage unit he's relieved to find that his car is in perfect condition (not that it'd dare to be any other way). He stares for a time at the sleek lines and grieves deeply for the simplicity of his old life. Finally, he gets behind the wheel and begins to drive. It's many hours before he stops to rest. He finds himself in a dive bar in Somebody-knows-where drinking cheap whiskey and lamenting his poor life choices. When the bell above the front door rings Crowley doesn't think to look up. When a very distinctly Angel-shaped being sits across from him, Crowley isn't entirely sure if this is real life or if he's finally devolved into madness. He looks blankly at Aziraphale and takes in the changes. It's been years since he just looked his fill at the Angel up close. Whether this is reality dealing him another crushing blow, or his own mind playing dirty tricks on him, he isn't sure. He doesn't need to wait long to find out. Before Crowley can figure out a means of escape (or confirm whether he's started hallucinating), a strong hand shoots out to grab his arm roughly. It's only now he realizes that he started to get up from his chair. Crowley sits back down heavily and finally makes eye contact with the Angel. What he sees floors him. The look on Aziraphale's face is not one of a Soho bookshop owner. It's not one of a benevolent servant of God. It's the raw, cutting, fire of an avenging Angel. The being sitting before him is not his millennia-long companion, but is a Soldier of the Lord. His face, once a spot of comfort for Crowley in a storm of his own self-hatred and self-loathing, is all hard lines and harsh glare. Crowley supposes that he deserves this, considering he's been an absentee prick for over five years. Aziraphale releases his arm, curls his hand into a fist and Crowley is sure that he's going to hit him. Instead, Aziraphale lowers his fist roughly to the table, only slightly shaking the empty bottles there. When he finally speaks, his tone is clipped and cold. Crowley supposes he deserves this as well.

"I would say it's good to see you, my dear, but I can't quite muster the energy to lie." Aziraphale says without looking away from Crowley.

Crowley opens his mouth to respond, without a blessed clue what he's going to say, when Aziraphale holds up a hand in a placating gesture.

"I'm not here socially. As I see it, we still have an Arrangement." Aziraphale lets out a controlled sigh and continues. "I have some things to attend to and I wanted to invoke my side of the Arrangement and request a favor. Consider this penance for the stunt you pulled about Edinburgh."

Crowley almost smiles at the mention of his past foibles.  Then he remembers where he is and why he's here and who he's here with. The smile retreats back to whence it came.

"What do you need?" Crowley croaks out. His voice is thick, rough, and unsued. He can't remember how long it's been since he had a proper conversation. He doesn't dwell on that thought too long to preserve what little is left of his sanity.

Aziraphale hands him a piece of paper detailing what needs to be done. It's in Aziraphale's distinct, loopy, script and Crowley's chest constricts. Aziraphale looks at him directly. He looks the same, but tired. Exhausted really. He looks like someone who has been carrying a burden for quite some time. It hits Crowley that he doesn't know anything about the Angel's life as it is right now. It also hits him that Aziraphale may well have lost a lover. At the very least a friend

"Are you okay?" Crowley asks weakly.

"I find that I'm profoundly lonely," Aziraphale says honestly. Heartbreakingly honest. "And it would have been nice to lean on a friend."

Before he can say anything, Aziraphale is gone. Crowley isn't over anything to do with the Angel, he realizes abruptly. You can run from your life, but evidently not from your feelings. Not from your soul. Crowley loves the Angel with everything that his damned, wreck of a heart has to offer.

Crowley takes care of Aziraphale's business. He buys a bottle of 1945 Mouton Rothschild, a box of Aziraphale's favorite Belgian chocolates, and a First Edition copy of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (an old inside joke from Before) and sends the gifts to the bookshop. He leaves with little fanfare on his next assignment. He doesn't intend to return to London. Perhaps it's best to let the past die, Crowley thinks to himself. A dangerous thought for an immortal being.

---

It's 2007 and of course he's back in London. He follows instructions to meet with two of his list favorite coworkers outside of the city. In the past couple of years, Crowley has maintained a frankly praise-worthy work ethic and has made a name for himself Downstairs. Although his work on the M25 is unlikely to be outdone, he's completed every assignment with flying colors. He's received commendation after commendation. He's spent nearly the last 11 months in a complete stupor from alcohol and whatever else he can put in his body to forget about Before. When he meets Hastur and Ligur he realizes that all of his pomp and circumstance has come at a price. Some may say it's the ultimate price. The Antichrist has been born and he's going to be responsible for bringing about The End Times. Crowley has to laugh, as Bohemian Rhapsody blares from the Bentley's speakers and he's screaming obscenities at himself. Of course he'd bring about his own demise. It's been his MO since before he was damned. In a haze he drops the infant off with an alarmingly pleasant Satanic nun and, in true Crowley fashion (he regrets even thinking of himself in the third-person), gets absolutely hosed. Through some demonic intervention, his Mayfair flat has been untouched since he initially left. He looks around and is haunted by the past for what feels like the billionth time just today. He sits down on his unforgivably (hah!) uncomfortable couch, pulls out his phone and does something that he should've done nearly eight years ago. Aziraphale picks up on the third ring.

"It's me. We need to talk." He says trying to sound sober and unaffected. To his eternal relief, he pulls it off.

"I rather think we do. I assume this is about," Aziraphale responds. His voice isn't the cold, detached timbre it was just a few years ago. But it wouldn't be categorized as warm either. Before he can complete the thought Crowley interrupts.

"Armageddon." There's silence on the other line for a beat. Aziraphale recovers quickly (from what, Crowley isn't sure) and indicates that Crowley should meet him at St. James Park the next day around noon. They hang up and Crowley just stares at his phone in disbelief. He trudges to his bedroom, still pristine with a king sized bed and dark navy blue silk sheets, and collapses. No matter how tired he is, sleep eludes him that night.

Crowley arrives at St. James Park and heads to their customary bench at 11:30AM. He figures that will give him some time to deal with where he is and why he's there and who he's about to see before he actually has to face any of those details. He should've known that the universe wouldn't be so kind. He sees him too late; the old beige horsehair coat, the waist coat and ill-fitting pants and tartan. He's so in love in fucking hurts.

This time, however, Aziraphale seems much happier to see him. He wouldn't say happy exactly, but at least mildly pleased. They sit down and, in moments, it's like no time passed. They discuss Armageddon, Crowley is shocked by Aziraphale's insistence that he cannot disobey Heaven. He shouldn't be, but he'd forgotten how stubborn the Angel was. Eventually, he's able to tempt (hah!) Aziraphale into lunch. He's shocked when Aziraphale invites him back for a nightcap. He shouldn't be shocked that they get completely pissed in the bookshop. Their time apart has been a blip on the eternity (to-date) long journey so he can't figure out why he's so shocked. Maybe I'm different, Crowley muses to himself. Sprawled out on the floor staring at his reflection in his sunglasses, he also muses that some things don't change. He's been rambling some complete bullshit about dolphins and whales and gorillas and he distinctly remembers yelling the word "Eternity!" in a less than pleasing tone. He should've sobered up. He might have already once. Either way, he's right back where he started and the irony is not lost on Crowley. It's not lost on Aziraphale either, if the look he's giving Crowley is anything to go by.

Crowley stands up, sure that he's going to sober up for good this time. Before he can, Aziraphale levers himself up out of his chair and stalks towards Crowley with purpose. He stops a few feet from where Crowley stands, sways for a moment, and then stands his ground. He's sturdy and strong and steadfast and Crowley wants him in every way you can want someone.

"Why did you leave? I've spent years, my dear, replaying that night, trying to figure out what I did wrong, " Aziraphale slurs a moment and looks utterly miserable. Crowley is so distracted by the look on Aziraphale's face that he almost misses what he said. When it catches up with him he has to reevaluate the last several years of his life.

"'Ziraphale, you did nothing wrong. S'me. I did wrong. M'sorry. M'so so sssorry." He's inadvertently hissing, the sibilant tone an old friend of his during times of imbibing or anxiety. This situation seems to check both boxes.

Aziraphale fixes him with a confused stare which throws Crowley for a loop for the umpteenth time this evening. "What did you do wrong?" Aziraphale asks. His tone is ambiguous and Crowley has the distinct feeling that his answer is a test that he doesn't have a hope in any of the 9 realms of coming up with the answer to.

"I wasn't drunk, Angel. I'd sobered up, for the most part at least. M'sorry I took advantage like that. I know you didn't want that. I hate myself for it, for cocking it up after so long." Crowley can't look at Aziraphale. He doesn't want to see it confirmed. He doesn't want to deal with the pitying glance or the damned angelic forgiveness. Right now he wants to leave, but that's what got him in trouble the first (dozen) time(s) around so he does the last thing he wants to do and looks up. Aziraphale's face is guarded but hopeful and Crowley has no Earthly clue what to do with that. Suddenly, it feels like he's missed something rather obvious.

Aziraphale steps closer which effectively puts an end to all thought processes on Crowley's part. "My dear boy, I've spent the last years thinking you regretted it. That you were disgusted, repulsed or worse. I thought you were angry with me." Crowley's mind is falling to pieces and he's pretty sure his human form is about to shake apart. What a conversation that'd be with Home Office. A great deal of paperwork indeed. He uses the power at his disposal to focus enough to get a single thought out. It's an effort.

"I'eed to sober up. This's important." He slurs out and with a herculean force of will, purges the alcohol from his system for the possibly (definitely) second time that evening. He notices, with relief, that Aziraphale follows suit. Then, finally, they're both sober and honest and standing in front of each other. Crowley has never been more scared.

"Okay," he says carefully. "I think we need to be really clear here. Because I can't take another month without you in my life." Crowley had planned to continue on, but is quickly silenced by Aziraphale in his personal space. He's reminded of a night, so similar, just several years earlier. Aziraphale's hand comes up to Crowley's neck and sits there for a moment. He slowly tilts Crowley's face so that they're looking at one another eye-to-eye. 

"Crowley, I had been wanting you to do that since 1941. I was scared, and for that I apologize. When you jumped back you looked horrified. I thought you were disgusted with me." Aziraphale's voice is soft and quiet. Crowley hates it. In an instant he's taken Aziraphale's face in his hands and is looking into his eyes directly. Deeply. Honestly. For possible the first time since Eden.

"I have always wanted that. Since you told me you gave away your blessed flaming sword. I thought I tempted you Angel. I couldn't handle the thought that I'd be the reason you Fell. I thought you'd hate me, that you'd smite me on the spot. I'm so sorry." Crowley hasn't blinked and hasn't stopped looking into those steel blue eyes. What he sees in them bowls him over yet again. Aziraphale damn near lights up with love and warmth and affection and Crowley is overwhelmed. But, he's not going to run this time. He picks his voice back up from where it's dropped into the ether and finishes his statement,

"Angel, I don't know if we can stop Armageddon. These may be The End Times, but I'll be damned (hah!) if the world goes out without me having you." He clears his throat. "If you'll still have me, that is."

That's the last thing Crowley gets to say for some time as he finds himself with a armful, and mouthful, of extremely enthusiastic Angel. Crowley had rationalized that he built up that kiss in his mind over the years, assuming that it wasn't nearly as good in reality as he'd imagined. That's how he finds himself shocked, again, that his entire body is a live wire and Aziraphale is the fuse. It's a mere kiss and Crowley feels like he may well levitate. He finally joins the party and grabs Aziraphale by the back of the neck with one hand, his fingers teasing into baby soft blonde strands, and the other finds itself low on his back. Just a few more centimeters and it'd be indecent. His lips, on the other hand, are being complete devoured by an aggressively passionate Angel. Crowley revises the last 6,000 years of data slightly and confirms a previously-held fear. He is definitely not the first being to receive Aziraphale like this. Before, this knowledge would've derailed him, but now, with the Angel warm and wanting in his arms, he can't bring himself to care. Everything that happened before, everything that lead to this, was just practice. Luckily, it appears that Aziraphale is similarly overwhelmed. He's starting to make cut-off whimpers and moans into Crowley's mouth and he's drinking the damn sounds like a starving man because he is. He has been starving for this attention, for this love, since the beginning of time. He rakes a hand through Aziraphales hair and pulls his head back to gain access to his neck. He takes a deep inhale right below Aziraphale's ear; it's earthy and sweet. Not disparate from a park after a spring rain, but with a musky undertone that's all Aziraphale and speak to power and command. Crowley uses his extremely talented, very much not 100% human tongue to taste the spot (for consensus sake). As soon as his tongue makes contact, Aziraphale makes a choked off noise in his throat and Crowley can feel it. He's rock hard in a second and slowly losing his grip.

"Angel," Aziraphale kisses the side of his mouth.

"Ah- Angel!" Aziraphale makes eye contact and Crowley receives another wash or arousal. The blue in his eyes is barely visible against the dark black of the pupil. He's flushed and panting and Crowley wants everything.

"Angel, how far d'you want this to go?" Crowley asks. His voice sounds wrecked which he supposes is reasonable.

Aziraphale seems to consider for a second and Crowley's stomach drops out. If he pushes him away now, he's not sure he'll be able to go back. He isn't sure what he'd do, having been able to taste what he's wanted for eternity and then having it taken away. Twice in his very, very long life might just be too much. He thinks briefly of the holy water in his safe and shivers.

"My dear Demon. You beautiful, wicked thing. I want whatever you can give me. I want everything." And with that, the last of Crowley's self-control snaps like a twig. He takes both of Aziraphale's hands in his and backs up him against the closest shelf. He gives a half a thought to make sure the thing is bolted to the floor before he descends on Aziraphale with renewed vigor. He slots his mouth against the Angel's and licks against his bottom lip asking for entry. Once granted he traces the Angel's soft palate with his tongue, learns that shape of his teeth, and lays a sharp bite to his lower lip earning him the first full moan out of the Angel. After, he has a single-minded focus to make Aziraphale make that sound as many times as possible. For tonight, for a week, possibly forever.

Not to be outdone, Aziraphale tangles a hand in Crowley's hair and pulls. Crowley let's out a filthy whine and presses his entire body against Aziraphale's, hip to chest.

"What do you want Angel, please," Crowley begs against Aziraphale's throat as the Angel mouths at the space below his ear. "Tell me you have a bedroom or a bed or we can go to my place-"

Before he can finish he finds himself in a small room in the flat above the shop. Although the furniture screams of centuries past, there's a remarkably large, modern bed in the center of the room. It's adorned with navy blue silk sheets and more pillows than any sane person should own. Crowley realizes that Aziraphale miracled it into existence for him. And, having never been inside the Demon's bedroom, had accurately predicted exactly what Crowley would want. He looked at Aziraphale in disbelief. The Angel walked over to the nightstand and pulled out a First Edition of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and, with a look bordering on too fond, murmured, "Don't think I don't know you inside and out as well, my dear." Crowley is close to tears. Or screaming. He isn't sure which. Luckily he doesn't have to decide as he's being pulled toward the bed by Aziraphale. The Angel makes to remove his clothing and Crowley stops him.

"Wait. Let me. I've thought about this for centuries. Ever since you started wearing clothes with so many damned buttons." Crowley takes his time removing Aziraphale's clothes. He kisses every inch of newly revealed skin. He gets the waistcoat and (somehow also tartan) bowtie off without issue, miracling both way, well, somewhere. He gets the first three buttons of Aziraphale's shirt unbuttoned before he realizes that the panting breaths of desire have morphed into something that sounds, and tastes, a bit more like fear. He looks up and sees that the Angel isn't looking at him, but rather staring resolutely at the ceiling.

"What is it Angel? You have to talk to me, I'm clearly not good at reading your thoughts so you have to let me know what you're thinking." Belatedly, Crowley realized that perhaps he should've checked in sooner.

Aziraphale looks guilty as he stares down the length of his torso at Crowley. His hair is a complete wreck, red curls a riot from Aziraphale's hands. His eyes are burning amber over the yellow and looking at the Angel with such depth that his breath is momentarily halted.

"It's just. You're- Look, I haven't really," Aziraphale continues to stutter half thoughts.

"I know you've done this before, Angel. I've heard about the 19th century" Crowley tries not to hiss it out, but ultimately fails. "Not to mention your most recent lover."

Aziraphale sighs loudly and fixes Crowley with a look. Actually, Crowley has been referring to that as The Look for quite some time within the confines of his own head.

"My dear, I'm not some blushing virgin, you're correct. But, while I did love those I went to bed with, I was not in love with them. Not like this. Not irreparably for better or for much worse."

Crowley's voice is hoarse when he chokes out, "Sounds like wedding vows." An ill-timed joke but he was a Demon after all.

Aziraphale reaches down a hand and cups Crowley's cheek, "Yes. They rather do."

For the millionth time in Somebody knows how long, Crowley's brain short circuits. Aziraphale continues, 

"Doing this with you is momentous. It's everything. You're everything. And you, my dear, are temptation incarnate. You're beautiful. I'm not. I'm afraid of your reaction when there are no barriers left."

Crowley is dumbfounded. He thinks it may just be better to assume him extremely dumb and go from there because he seems to be tragically, consistently, behind the 8-ball.

"You're not beautiful?" Crowley says, disbelieving. Aziraphale looks stricken for a moment, but then decides to stare Crowley down. Challenging him to argue. Luckily, Crowley loves a good fight. And this one he'll win.

"You're ssstunning Aziraphale. I've been dreaming of getting you out of your clothes since Eden." Crowley looks directly at his Angel. Yes, his Angel.

"I started to think that the world was markedly against me because, it seemed, with each passing year you put on more bloody clothes instead of less." Crowley is openly leering now, although he thinks that he could be forgiven (hah!) considering the circumstances.

Aziraphale looks shocked and enthralled. "You think that? I mean- You could have anyone. Or any human. And have, as I hear it. Why me?"

Crowley thinks for a moment. "You see me. You know me. And after you knew me, you still saw me. If I'm going to face down the end of the world, I want it to be with you. And if we lose, I want to know that I had you in all of the ways that count. I want to know that your beauty touched me. That I can touch you in return." He feels woefully underprepared to wax poetic, but it seems that the sentiment had it's intended effect. Aziraphale looks like he might fall apart at the seams and is giving him that blinding, face-splitting smile. He's momentarily brought back to a fifth floor balcony and his stomach drops out. He should be sure that this isn't a rebound. That he isn't taking advantage. Aziraphale picks up on his change in mood and lifts Crowley's face to look at him again.

"What is it my dear?" He's nervous, Crowley can tell. He's expecting him to bolt. He kicks himself posthumously for his abhorrent behavior.

"How are you? After losing Gabrielle?" He asks. His voice is small and resigned.

Aziraphale looks at him for a long time. "I thought about that night so many times. Seeing you through the window was a shock, my dear. I knew how that must look to you and I regret that I didn't clarify at the time. While Gabrielle was a darling woman, what we had did not go beyond the physical. She was sick and wanted good company in her last months. I was lonely and wanted company. She didn't expect me to love her. I did, in a way. But it was simple. I could go on loving you and not having you and she had companionship before she died. Yes, I'm sad, but I'm not grieving in the way you think."

Crowley is almost in tears. This is not how this was supposed to go and he was not supposed to be crying and how had he gotten it so wrong? In an instant he's back on Aziraphale and kissing him within an inch of his life. The Angel's tongue is damn near killing him and he wants desperately to feel that tongue on other parts of his human anatomy. On the tail end of that thought, he remembers that he wanted to get his mouth on the Angel and the thought overwhelms him. He redoubles his effort and puts his hand on the fourth button, looking to Aziraphale for consent. With a brief nod, Crowley takes his chances and rips the shirt clean off. Aziraphale's undignified squawk of surprise is music to his ears. While leveling the Angel with a toothy grin, perhaps a tad too smug, he notes that the Angel has inched his hands off of Crowley and around his own middle. 

"Oh no you don't. I want to see all of you Angel." Crowley growls. The depth of the statement seems to make it into Aziraphale's head and he swears he can see the Angel's eyes dilate further. With a snap of his fingers the rest of their clothes are gone and Aziraphale is distracted from his self-conscious hiding by miles of pale, lithe body in front of him. He places his hands at Crowley's neck and slowly starts to trail them down, pressing in against his collar bone and eventually brushing his nipples. Crowley lets out a truly indecent noise and feels his cock throb painfully, reminding him that he hasn't done anything to relieve it. As if drawn by Crowley's own thoughts, Aziraphale looks down between them and sees Crowley's stiff cock jutting out from the V of his hips. Tentatively, Aziraphale reaches out to run his knuckles along the underside of Crowley's cock. A loud moan sounds in the room and, if pressed, neither would admit to having made the sound. They'd both be found lying if taken to task.

"Angel, for G-, for Sa-, agh for Somebody's sake touch me" Crowley starts begging. He doesn't care that he sounds pathetic. He doesn't care that he's begging and two seconds from rubbing off against the Angel's leg like a dog in heat. He just needs that touch on him. Right now. Or, not to be dramatic, but he may actually discorporate.

"Yes, my dear, whatever you want." Aziraphale lets on on a moan. He closes his hand around Crowley's cock and slowly starts to move. He drags his thump through the wet slit which yields another broken sound from the Demon. Aziraphale starts tugging on his cock in earnest and Crowley is struck by the knowledge that, if he isn't careful, this momentous occasion is going to be over rather quickly.

"Azira-, 'Zira, Aziraphale!" He yells. The Angel abruptly stops and Crowley chuckles for a moment at the startled look on his face. Crowley looks at him, smiles, and says, 

"Sorry love, but if you keep going like that, this is going to be over soon. After 6,000 years of wanting you, I'd like for you to be inside me before I come."

Aziraphale's expression would be respectfully explained as gobsmacked. "You want me to- fuck" Aziraphale says. Shocked at the Angel's curse, and honestly a little more turned on for it, Crowley maneuvers them so that Aziraphale is laying on top of him. He makes a show of spreading his legs indecently wide.

"Yessss Angel. I've be dreaming of you fucking me for centuries. Do you think you can?" He knew. He knew that the best way to get action out of the Angel was to question his ability. Or in this case motivation. No sooner had the words left Crowley's mouth he was being kissed within an inch of his life and there was a slick finger massaging his entrance. Crowley has done this hundreds of times. He's been fucked. He's fucked. But right now, he's fucked  because Aziraphale is speaking filthy nonsense to him and there's a second finger entering him, and he feels for all the world is literally ending, like he may just fly apart entirely just from a little fingering.

"Is this what you wanted you filthy thing? Can you imagine if they could see you now? Spread out and begging for an Angel's cock. What do you think they'd say, my dear?" Aziraphale breathes into his ear. Crowley must stop underestimating the Angel. He'd make a mental note if there was any higher order functioning online.

"Bless, yes Angel. Don't stop. Don't stop talking." He groans out.

"I couldn't stop if I wanted to my dear. Look at you. Beautiful and wanton and everything. I could touch you forever. Someday I'll keep you right here, beneath me while I make you come again and again and again just to see that look on your face. You're priceless dear boy." Aziraphale rambles. Crowley is leaving his body. He wonders, briefly, if Demons can actually ascend. If so, that's what's happening because he definitely might be floating. He's brought back to reality by the, at this point three fingers, that had been consistently driving him to the brink of orgasm for the past 20 minutes. 

"Are you ready dearest?" Aziraphale asked, looking at him with the deepest fondness.

"Please" Crowley croaked out. His throat was dry and he felt incredible. Soon, the blunt head of the Angel's cock was pressing against him. He closed his eyes for a moment. He always liked this part; the initial stretch. He loved the burn, loved feeling his body accept another. The fact that this was Aziraphale, his Angel, was blowing his mind. He could come just from this he was sure.

Once Aziraphale was in him to the hilt, the Angel let out a helpless sound. Crowley reached up and smother the sound under his own lips, kissing him passionately. He murmured, "I know" between kisses and followed up with, "Please Angel. Please, I need you."

Aziraphale grabbed Crowley's wrists and pinned them above his head. Crowley's eyes nearly rolled back in his head at the display of dominance. Aziraphale began to rock into him slowly, picking up speed. Before he knew it, he was being pounded with long, deep thrusts and Aziraphale was hitting his prostate on almost every thrust. The Angel was talking nonsense again, or at least that's what he thought until he realized that the nonsense was coming from his own mouth. Crowley was never much of a talker in bed so he hadn't thought to pay attention. When he used a half a brain cell to listen he realized what he was saying, 

"Angel, I love you, yes, please, I need you. I love you," on repeat. Aziraphale's face radiated pure joy as he moaned and began to thrust into Crowley more quickly. Crowley became distinctly nonverbal after that, with only a peppered "please", or "yes", and in one memorable second, "Oh God" (this will be held over Crowley's head for many years to come).

"My dear, are you close? I'm not sure, ah- how much longer I can last." Aziraphale said a few moments later. He released one of Crowley's hands so that he could lift his thigh over his shoulder. This allowed him to thrust deeper.

Crowley screamed as he came, hot ropes of come painting his stomach and, shockingly, chest. 

"Beautiful, so beautiful Crowley. I love you, I-" Aziraphale said as he thrust a few more times finally coming deep inside of the Demon.

They both came down panting. Aziraphale gently rolled to the side, miracling he and Crowley clean save for Crowley's chest. After a moment, Aziraphale leaned over and starting to clean Crowley's spend off of his chest with his tongue. Despite having just come, Crowley was damn certain he would again just at the thought. Finally, rational thought came back and he remembered a few things:

1. He had said "I love you"

2. Aziraphale had also said "I love you"

3. Humans had indicated that the statement didn't count when said during the throes of passion.

Feeling bold, Crowley grabbed Aziraphale's hand and brought it to his lips. When he was sure that he had the Angel's attention, he said, "I mean it, you know. I do love you. For whatever it's worth, I do."

Aziraphale's eyes were shining bright. If they were a little brighter and touch wetter than before no one mentioned it.

"I love you, my dear. Have done for some time now."

Crowley remembered a fourth thing, belatedly. Followed by a fifth and sixth.

4. Crowley was a Demon

5. Aziraphale was an Angel

6. Lust was punishable by Heaven

Suddenly Crowley was sitting bolt upright. "Angel, show me your wings. Show them to me right now." he said with an air of barely restrained panic. Shocked and concerned over the change in mood, Aziraphale sat backwards asking, "Crowley, why?"

"Just show me. Please, Angel" he said desperately. Aziraphale released his wings. They were broad, pure white, and stunning. Crowley fingered his way over them, paying special attention to the primaries. Finally, once a thorough inspection was completed, he looked at Aziraphale dumbfounded.

"How? I mean, I'm glad, but how?" Crowley said without completing a thought.

"It's love, my dear. Suffice it to say that while Lust is a sin, Love is not. The latter somewhat cancels out the former." He touched Crowley's face. "I could never Fall for showing my love for you. What I feel for you is as pure as the love I feel for the world, but more. You're everything to me."

Aziraphale slowly enclosed them both in his wings, bright white, warm, and comforting. Crowley laid his head on his Angel's chest and let himself be comforted.

"This is going to be an uphill battle, Angel. But it just might work." Crowley didn't know if he was talking about the end of the world, about them, or about something else entirely. For Aziraphale, the answer would be the same regardless.

"Whatever it is, come what may. I have you." Crowley had just enough sense of mind to squeak out, "Yeah, you do" before falling silent and, eventually falling into his first dreamless sleep in seven years.

---

As it turns out, they faced down Satan himself. Armageddon was a comedy of errors and the key was an 11-year-old boy who loved his home enough to eschew the infernal for it. Aziraphale felt humbled by humanity again. Crowley felt shock and pride.

On the bus back to London, he gathered the Angel close to him and whispered sweet nothings as his Angel shook. When they got to Crowley's flat, which had again lain dormant for over a decade, he sat Aziraphale down on the suddenly far more comfortable couch and went to the kitchen to get them a drink. Upon coming back he saw Aziraphale looking at him with a puzzling look on his face.

Slowly, Aziraphale stood and removed the glasses from Crowley's hand and placed them on the table. 

"I never dreamed we'd have forever," the Angel started. "And I know we have to face a trial tomorrow, but when we get back, and we will, never leave my side. Be with me always. I'm incomplete without you my dear."

Shocked and awed by the Angel again, Crowley fell back on his tried and true sarcasm. "Sounds like wedding vows, Angel."

"I certainly do hope so." Aziraphale responded looking radiant.

And when they both walked out of Heaven and Hell as free agents, respectively, they met on a bench in St. James Park. They held hands and, if anyone had been paying attention, they would've seen their faces change.

If anyone had been looking they would've seen a tall, red-haired, devilishly handsome man drop to his knees and pull out a ring.

If anyone had been looking they would've seen a blond-haired, proper gentleman swipe at a tear before pulling out a ring of his own.

If they'd caught anyone watching, they'd both have denied the entire thing.

They both would've been found lying if taken to task.