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Gently Play Your Heartstrings

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“What?” burst out Cowley. “You never!”

He was looking at the angel with that particular mixture of shock and glee that never failed to make Aziraphale feel both uncomfortable and smug.

Although these days it tended more towards the latter than the former.

“I have so,” said Aziraphale, taking another sip of cocoa. Crowley continued to goggle at him. He sighed.

“I’m an angel, dear boy. I’m built to love. Why would physical intimacy give me pause?”

“I’ve seen it,” said Crowley. “It always seemed...messy.”

Crowley rather enjoyed having a human body--humanish, anyway. There were always interesting things to feel, to consume, to put on, to take off. But sex had never really seemed worth the effort when he could just lie on a pile of furs and drink wine instead. Or a pile of cushions and cocoa that was really mostly brandy.

Plus there were the fluids. Crowley drew the line at swapping fluids. It was unhygienic.

“It can be quite enjoyable, if you’re fond of each other,” answered Aziraphale. He wriggled to ensconce himself further into the overstuffed armchair. “And you know I always like giving people what they need.”

Aiziraphale had indeed enjoyed his intimate encounters with humans. They were rare, to be sure, but cherished. There had been a dozen or so all told. He thought of them fondly...that lovely young man in Rome, that prickly but really very sweet woman in Tintagel, that absolutely delightful person he had met at his club sometime during Victoria’s reign.

Each one had been a little lost, needing a little extra love and a gentle nudge, a small reminder they were all perfect in God’s eyes. And Aziraphale had been delighted to assist. He’d always had a soft spot for the ones a little broken but entirely redeemable.

“Can’t imagine being that fond of anyone,” muttered Crowley into his own cocoa. He looked baffled.

“Can’t you?” Aizraphale replied, twinkling over the top of his own mug. He so rarely got to discomfit Crowley these days.

After the Apoca-wasn’t, something had settled between them, that ever present tension between their natures bleeding out into something more comfortable. So much so that when Crowley wandered into the bookshop with the key to a rental cottage on a rubber duck keychain and a proposal for a holiday in the South Downs, the angel had come along like it was the most natural thing in the world.

Which it was. One goes on holiday with one’s loved ones. One also gently needles one’s loved ones when one gets the chance.

Crowley’s scowl turned into something more considering as he caught the twinkle. He unfolded himself from his cushion mountain and bent over the angel.

“Well,” he said, with the air of someone imparting a great favor. “Maybe one person.”

“What a lucky person,” said Aziraphale. He set down his mug in favor of cupping Crowley’s face and stroking a thumb along the sharp line of his cheekbone. Crowley had mostly given up wearing glasses when there weren’t any humans around, and Aziraphale found he liked getting see Crowley’s whole expression. Especially when the angel tugged him down to press a soft kiss to his lips. Crowley always looked surprised.

Crowley liked being kissed. It had come as a surprise to him, considering his opinion on fluid swapping, but it’s not like he was kissing a human.

It was only Aziraphale. It was only ever Aziraphale. Aziraphale, who looked like a comfortable sofa come to life by some arcane accident, who lit up the entire room when he was excited about something.

It started after the Armeged-didn’t. It started after both Heaven and Hell wrote them off as lost causes, as something outside and between and uncontrollable. After they both realized they only thing they were really sure of was each other.

They didn’t know what to do with that surety, but they could at least stop pretending otherwise. Crowley began slumping against Aziraphale when they sat on the tatty couch in the back of the shop. Aziraphale began tucking an arm around him, a half conscious echo of sheltering the demon back at the walls of Eden. And Aziraphale, when given license to show affection, will show as much as he possibly can, started pressing gentle absent minded kisses to his surprisingly cuddly friend. And Crowley, when given license to be shown affection, turned out to be a helpless sponge for love.

And now Crowley kissed him back, folding his improbably long legs into the chair on either side of Aziraphale. The chair expanded slightly to make room for the lapful of demon Aziraphale suddenly had. Miraculous.

“Let’s try it,” said Crowley. “What the hell.”

“Physical intimacy?” said Aziraphale. Crowley rolled his eyes.

“No, angel, turning into ducks. Yes, ‘physical intimacy’.”

Aziraphale could hear the quotes drop into place with the overpronounced consonants.

“Well there’s no need to be rude--”

“You started this conversation, I’m just trying to be open-minded,” said Crowley. “If you don’t want to--”

He started to pull away, but Aziraphale laced his fingers at the small of Crowley’s spine and refused to let him up.

“There’s no one I’m fonder of than you,” said the angel. Crowley looked up past his shoulder with a long suffering expression, but his cheeks were pinker than the brandy cocoa warranted.

“Crowley,” Aziraphale. He unlaced his fingers to take his friend’s jaw in hand and look him in the eyes. “I want what you want.”

Crowley’s chin dipped further into his hand, as much pressing into the caress as avoiding any more eye contact.

“I want to be with you,” muttered the demon, and what could Aziraphale do after that statement but kiss him again.

There was nothing rushed, nothing urgent about Aziraphale’s kisses. They luxuriated in softness, they lulled into relaxation. Crowley couldn’t help but unwind, to sag against his best friend and take the pleasure of simply being loved.

“Let me know if you want me to stop,” whispered the angel. His fingertips ghosted over Crowley’s shirt buttons. “Or if you want something more, or something different.”

“Gnh,” said Crowley. “I mean, keep going. All good here.”

Aziraphale laughed into their kiss and undid the buttons on Crowley’s shirt. He undressed Crowley like he was a gift, or some precious holy thing. Slowly, with reverence. Crowley found himself feeling like treacle, like melted wax. Warm and soft and pliable.

He also found himself lying on the mountain of cushions again with no clear idea of how they got there. But Aziraphale was trailing warm hands over him, the feel of skin on skin all along his side.

The angel must have miracled away his own clothes, the sneaky bastard.

“Lovely,” said Aziraphale. “Look at you. Isn’t this nice.”

“Mm,” said Crowley, because really, what could you say to that piece of inanity. “How’s the next bit go?”

Aziraphale pursed his lips.

“Oh, relax,” he said. “We have all the time in the world. There’s no rush.”

“Angel if I get anymore relaxed, I’ll start sprouting feathers.”

“Go ahead, dear, I don’t mind.”

“Hmph,” said Crowley, and flopped over onto his stomach. Aziraphale’s hands continued their path up and down and over his skin. Crowley could feel everything melting away. He didn’t realize that his wings materialized until he felt Aziraphale’s hands stroke the short feathers at the base of them.

“May I?” asked the angel.

“Yuh huh,” slurred Crowley. He recognized, somewhere far away, that this was an absolutely unpardonable showing of vulnerability, but he couldn’t bring himself to care. It had been so long.

Permission granted, Aziraphale did what he’d wanted to do since that stupid day at the Tadfield airbase. He buried his fingers in Crowley’s plumage. Because Lord almighty, Crowley’s wings were beautiful.

To a casual eye, a human eye, they were black, but they weren’t really. Not anymore than Aziraphale’s own were white.

Crowley’s wings were the color of the far heavens, the spaces between the stars, both every color and no color at once. Here and there dotted with the faint dark neon oilslick glow found in nebulae, there and here spotted with flashing gold or white or blue.

Aziraphale hadn’t known Crowley Before, didn’t know what he had done to Fall, didn’t know what he had been made to do, to love, to create. And it didn’t matter, not really. But the angel had only ever seen colors like Crowley’s wings in the vast deep stellar spaces, so he had a fair guess.

He preened, indulging himself in the soft crisp feel of it. He knew Crowley would never admit to anything so undignified as a groan, so the angel said nothing in response to noises he made.

Aziraphale stroked through the feathers, combing, settling, tweaking the occasional out of place piece back in line. Crowley’s wings were better groomed than most angels’ to be honest, but there’s always places one can’t quite reach on one’s own.

Crowley himself kept puddling further in Mt. Cushion, his breath evening out. Whatever internal spring kept him tense and fidgety and moving had finally released.

When his plumage was all straightened and shining--well, much after it was straightened and shining, to be honest--Aziraphale gave the feathers one last loving stroke and lay down next to Crowley.


“Hush, my dear. Just rest.”

Crowley had fallen very nearly all the way asleep, drifting somewhere in warm pink clouds of relaxation. Aziraphale gathered him up and held him close and he fell all the way.


When he woke, it was to the smell of tea. He slitted his eyes open to look at Aziraphale.

“Angel. Did you miracle yourself some tea?”

Aziraphale smiled, his eyes crinkling up in the way Crowley would murder someone before admitting he loved.

Well. Severely inconvenience someone anyway.

“I didn’t want to disturb you.”

“Such altruism.” Crowley levered himself up off the floor and Aziraphale, and helped the angel up. Someone had also miracled both their clothes back on.

“Not that I’m complaining, mind,” Crowley said, stretching, “but I don’t think that’s quite how sex works.”

Aziraphale blinked at him.

“Sex? I never said anything about sex.”

“Oh come off it, angel, we had a whole conversation about--”

“Physical intimacy. Of which sex is a type. Technically. If you want to be reductive about it.”

Aziraphale took a prim sip of his tea and looked out the window while Crowley stared at him. The angel felt Crowley building towards a conclusion and let him work himself into a smug state.

“So you’re saying that you haven’t actually--”

“Oh I’ve had sex,” said Aziraphale. “It was fine. Pleasant, really.”

Crowley deflated, robbed of what he thought would last a whole week’s worth of teasing.

“A nice accompaniment to intimacy, if your tastes run that way.”

“Oh,” said Crowley. “So did yours not...I mean, with me...not...”

“Do yours?” Aziraphale raised an eyebrow. “Run that way, I mean? For anyone?”

“Well. No. But--”

“My dear boy. I told you. I like to give people what they need.”

Crowley came to stand with him and stare out the window.

“What they need for what?” muttered Crowley, sounding baffled again. His little finger brushed Aziraphale’s, and the angel turned his palm to link them.

“What they need to feel loved, of course,” he said. He could practically feel Crowley turn pink again. “Shall we go to that tea shop again today? I wanted to try the Battenberg.”

Crowley cleared his throat.

“Sure, angel. Whatever you like.”