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Better Groomed

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It’s not a thing. It’s just a thing they do sometimes.

‘Don’t get your feathers in a bunch about it,’ Crowley says, in the midst of some argument they’re having about something (Scotland, possibly).

‘Yes, well,’ Aziraphale purses his lips and stands up straighter before continuing to argue.

While Aziraphale makes some salient point or another, Crowley whips off his glasses and peers into the nether-space that keeps their wings out of sight. They are rumpled, now Crowley looks. Aziraphale’s posture is slightly cramped from it. Crowley sighs expansively. ‘Look at them. When was the last time you groomed them?’

Aziraphale recovers rapidly from the switch in topics. ‘Probably the last time you—anyway, it’s not just a matter of the Jacobites…’

‘That’s much too long,’ Crowley interrupts. ‘Come on.’

He slides like liquid from the couch to the floor, patting the spot on the rug between his spread thighs. Aziraphale rolls his eyes but complies, the discussion abandoned. He tugs his bowtie off and unbuttons his shirt before hanging both neatly on the back of his chair. He takes a deep breath and lets his wings unfurl on this plane of existence. He gives them a single lop-sided flap, bouncing on the balls of his feet, then seats himself between Crowley’s legs.

Crowley runs his hands along the ridges of the wings, and Aziraphale shivers. His shoulders rise and fall as he begins to acclimatise to Crowley’s firm, long strokes. Crowley shrugs and frees his own set (his shirt has conveniently forgotten it had buttons or stitching). After all, he can’t take the high ground if he doesn’t stretch himself once in a while. He digs his fingers into Aziraphale’s wings, first the right and then the left, combing through the thick feathers and feeling the warmth radiating in the fragile skin underneath them.

‘Angel, you’ve got to take better care of these,’ Crowley plucks an errant feather, tossing it in the direction of Aziraphale’s lap. ‘They’re a wreck.’

‘Angels do not care for appearances,’ Aziraphale says, primly. That’s an outrageous lie: Crowley must be rubbing off on him in that respect, at least. ‘Besides, why not give you the opportunity to do something benevolent, my dear?

Crowley mutters wordlessly, half at Aziraphale’s self-righteousness and half at the scruffiness of his wings. Aziraphale sees this as an act of kindness, a glimpse of the selflessness that Aziraphale nurtures in him. A gentle thwarting. But Crowley sees it for what it is: temptation. Aziraphale is caving to vanity and indulgence, his two greatest weaknesses.

There’s a third weakness, the one that they share: intimacy. Angels and demons are solitary by nature. Angels understand love in a generalised sort of way, although they can’t stand to be around each other long. Crowley considers himself personally responsible for the concept of lust, but demons can’t stand being around people either. Companionship and affection are Earthly idiosyncrasies. Angels don’t touch, especially not other angels’ wings. Demons don’t like to acknowledge they have wings, too sore a reminder of what they have lost. But things are different on Earth (as Crowley and Aziraphale are always insisting to Management).

The problem is, angels don’t take proper care of themselves, and there’s no reason Crowley should have to put up with it. Unkempt wings are unsightly, and they make his angel insufferably irritable. So Crowley’s doing it—this thing they do sometimes—for his own benefit, really.

Crowley cards out the loose fluff near the roots. Tufts float to the floor like snow. If Crowley swept all the angel-down together, he could make the softest pillow in the world (but, well, that would be weird). In the back of Crowley’s mind, this first began as a thank-you to the wing for sheltering him from the first rain. He vaguely expects it to be a little damp when he runs his hands through it, six thousand years later.

Crowley straightens to appraise his work, wings arc around Aziraphale’s like a shadow. His hands fit in the space between, shaping Aziraphale’s wings to match his own, neater pair. Up close, there are speckles in the white feathers like spilt cocoa.

(Crowley’s wings have a copperish sheen. But you wouldn’t know, without being up close).

For the undersides of the wings, rather than turning Aziraphale this way and that, it’s easier for Crowley to burrow his hands deep into the plumage and drag. Aziraphale groans, half disgruntled and half pleased, as Crowley works by touch to make everything align better. He makes a nonspecific noise of satisfaction when Crowley’s fingers glide through without catching.

The the inner-middles of Aziraphale’s wings are chronically messy. Crowley clicks his tongue, driving his fingers through the squat feathers until they sit flat. Sometimes, if Crowley’s in a mood, Aziraphale will ask him for a grooming and Crowley will snap and snarl at the feathers like he does at his plants. But today, the bad mood had begun as Aziraphale’s: some disgruntlement or another with Upstairs that inevitably gets his feathers in a twist. Crowley can’t fix Upstairs (though he’s got a list of suggestions), but he can fix this.

He dislodges a crooked tip feather, tucking it away in his pocket. Not for anything sinister, though angel wings might fetch a good price in the right places. No, this one is just his. Just to have.

He should be finished after tidying the tips. But he works his way back up, making sure the feathers are settled, all the way back to the joints in Aziraphale’s shoulder blades. He drives his thumbs into the flesh there, easing away the tension. His fingertips work along the shoulders, digging into the knots. His touch works up Aziraphale’s spine to the neck, circling in the wisps of hair at the base of Aziraphale’s skull. Nowhere near the wings, anymore, but if asked Crowley could rattle off an excuse about strengthening muscles that carry the wings (his own distinctive posture notwithstanding).

Aziraphale purrs.

So no excuses, then.

Aziraphale, if he were facing Crowley, might smile that unbearably smug smile and say something about Crowley being benevolent. Crowley might smile his terribly wicked smile and say something about Aziraphale being decadent. They’ve had that conversation plenty, but one of them or the other will notice when Aziraphale’s wings are a mess, and Crowley will hiss ‘Come here’ again.

Aziraphale slouches with a contented sigh. He slumps back into Crowley’s lap, head tucked under Crowley’s chin. Crowley feels the deep hum in Aziraphale’s chest. His wings are curled forward, leaving Crowley with nowhere to put his arms but draped around Aziraphale’s shoulders. His hands rest slack in front of Aziraphale’s chest. Aziraphale reaches for them, tracing over Crowley’s knuckles, following the long lines of his fingers. It’s not quite holding hands, but it’s close enough that Crowley is hyper-aware of how a twitch of his fingertip brings him into contact with Aziraphale’s palm. Centuries of not quite, of accidental brushes and incidental companionship. Crowley knows the feeling like an old friend (or, not friends. Something else).

He used to be so good at this sort of thing. At turning something innocent into something sinful. Maybe it all just glances off the angel, like water off a duck’s back.

He’s thinking about ducks when Aziraphale sinks lower, weight resting between Crowley’s hips. Against Crowley’s groin.

‘We really must do this again sometime,’ Aziraphale murmurs.

‘Ngk,’ Crowley responds.

It’s remarkable how, after so long on this Earth, there are still things that are new. There’s so much stuff on this planet Crowley has yet to try for the first time. Like cronuts. Aziraphale loves cronuts, and trying new things. Crowley is a creature of familiarity, with his ansaphone and twelve pairs of the same sunglasses. He’s not actually sure what a cronut is, but Aziraphale did invite him out for one last winter.

So, first times. This is the first time Aziraphale has pressed his warm, solid weight back against Crowley, against the hard unmistakeable effect this is having on Crowley. It’s very much not the first time Crowley has been hard while grooming Aziraphale’s wings, or thinking about Aziraphale. But this is suddenly becoming the place beyond not quite, this is it. This is Aziraphale’s fingers digging into his thighs and squeezing with unequivocal intent. This is oh, this is very new, Aziraphale arching to nuzzle Crowley’s throat, his breath on Crowley’s skin. And Crowley is still insisting to himself that there’s some outstanding chance of of plausible deniability—a fig leaf, if you will, very funny—when Aziraphale’s lips brush Crowley’s throat and Crowley’s entire world is a white-hot electric rush of heat.

It’s barely a kiss, more a gentle trail of Aziraphale’s mouth over gooseflesh, damp and plush and all the more filthy for its softness. Aziraphale nuzzles up to Crowley’s jaw with intent, and Crowley’s neck twists to meet him, their noses bumping. Aziraphale sighs into Crowley’s mouth. The glimpse of his eyes that Crowley catches through lowered lashes shows pupils blown wide, black eclipsing hazel.

Crowley’s lips part, and he wants to ask (he always wants to ask questions, is the problem)—why this time? Why not all the other times, all the times Crowley has desperately, achingly wanted this? Aziraphale has to know, to have known, because he talks about sensing love. But maybe for demons it’s not love, maybe it’s something else that makes Aziraphale pull Crowley with all the gravity of a neutron star. Maybe Aziraphale has no idea at all, that Crowley has always—

Aziraphale kisses him.

Crowley makes an embarrassingly needy noise that gets muffled by Aziraphale’s lips. Aziraphale smiles slightly (Crowley feels it) before he darts in for more. It’s tricky, at this angle, their kisses short and shallow like each one is stolen, like at any moment it would be easier to stop. Crowley doesn’t like that idea (Crowley likes the idea of unhinging his jaw and sticking his forked tongue down Aziraphale’s throat). He scrapes his teeth over the swell of Aziraphale’s bottom lip, and it’s Aziraphale’s tongue that flicks out. Aziraphale has stretched his arm back to rake Crowley’s hair, nails scritching in his scalp and pulling him closer. Crowley gasps and Aziraphale gasps too.

Crowley rolls his hips sinuously and Aziraphale makes the happy sort of hum he does when things work out his way. Crowley can’t do much with his hands, which is probably for the best, but he scratches through the fluff on Aziraphale’s chest. Aziraphale wriggles in delight, surging against his mouth, and decides at that moment to turn around. The process involves a lot of elbows (wings are like four extra elbows) and Crowley clicking his tongue and muttering ‘N—tsk—ah—you’re going to ruin them...’ while Aziraphale settles in his lap, the right way round this time.

Crowley is so busy righting the newly displaced feathers that he doesn’t immediately notice Aziraphale’s expression. It’s fond, almost unbearably so: it probably would be unbearable if Aziraphale wasn’t half-naked and sitting in his lap (Crowley will overlook a lot of things for that).

‘Are you satisfied?’ Aziraphale asks when Crowley glares at him.

‘Oh, not nearly,’ Crowley snarls, and kisses him properly. This time there’s a lot of tongue and teeth involved, and even better than that, there’s Aziraphale’s deep moan that Crowley feels resonating through his chest where they’re pressed together. Aziraphale is pulling Crowley’s hair just hard enough to sting and it’s making Crowley smirk (you wicked angel, he wants to say), making Crowley shiver. Aziraphale rocks in Crowley’s lap and there’s a whoomph like the air being sucked out of the room: Crowley’s wings, beating unprompted.

Aziraphale laughs at him.

‘Bastard,’ Crowley murmurs, hitching Aziraphale up in his lap and getting his hands wherever he can.

‘Yes,’ Aziraphale agrees. Or maybe he’s responding to the way Crowley’s hand is sliding along his thigh to cup the bulge in his trousers, since he repeats: ‘Yes.’

Crowley splays his fingers as wide as he can to squeeze, to feel how Aziraphale’s just as hard as Crowley is. Aziraphale whimpers beautifully and he bucks forward, seeking more pressure. His nosies turn frustrated and his nails dig little half-circles in Crowley’s shoulders.

After all, Crowley is all about forbidden pleasures.

‘Oh, fuck it,’ Aziraphale whispers, and Crowley’s eyebrows shoot upwards while Aziraphale’s trousers are miraculously elsewhere (they will later be found behind a shelf of 11th-century Chinese essays). So Crowley is now holding Aziraphale’s naked cock in his hand, and Crowley’s mouth latches onto Aziraphale’s collarbone because if he doesn’t he’s going to say something ridiculous. Aziraphale writhes in Crowley’s grip until he’s found the rhythm he likes, Crowley stroking and twisting. Aziraphale’s pulse quickens under Crowley’s tongue and he sucks very gently, as if he can draw the taste of Aziraphale into his mouth and keep it there.

Aziraphale scrabbles from Crowley’s shoulders down to his chest, tweaking one nipple rather sharply.

Ouch,’ Crowley says, and Aziraphale bleats a garbled apology (Crowley suspects he doesn’t mean it, but it doesn’t matter.) Aziraphale’s fingers are finding their way down Crowley’s waist to the trail of hair at his navel, and by a convenient miracle Crowley is now naked (Crowley’s trousers are never found). So nothing is there to stop Aziraphale’s fingers wrapping around Crowley’s cock. Crowley moans at the obscene finesse of Aziraphale’s touch. He mouths at Aziraphale’s throat, like Aziraphale had done to him when this all started (like he can hide how desperately he wants this). Their wrists brush as they try to find a rhythm to work each other, Crowley constantly on the edge of distraction trying to touch Aziraphale while being stroked himself. They’ve spent six thousand years in these bodies, six thousand years to learn how they work (for Aziraphale’s hands to get rough and warm, for Crowley’s to drag delicately over velvet skin) and Crowley thinks that this? This is has to be the best thing they’ve tried.

The sounds coming out of Aziraphale are the same ones he makes when Crowley grooms his wings. Which means. Well, it means—has this always been erotic for the angel?

Crowley opens his mouth to ask and Aziraphale kisses him again (which is about the best answer, anyway). Crowley flicks his tongue and twists his wrist and it makes Aziraphale shudder, grip almost painfully tight on Crowley’s cock. Aziraphale breaks the kiss to glance down and see how it’s affecting Crowley, and well, Crowley’s always liked to be admired.

Aziraphale’s wings fold around Crowley like a cocoon, so the world is only the two of them. Their foreheads rest together, both of them breathless. A ‘yes’ that is more hiss than word slips out of Crowley.

He’s close already, and he knows Aziraphale must be the same by the way his thighs clench around Crowley’s hips, the quickening rhythm and the clumsiness of his hand. The air smells like salt and sunshine and Aziraphale.

Crowley writhes and shudders, making a sound he’d never admit was a whimper (it’s a whimper). Everything turns bright behind his eyelids, not the crisp white of Above but the colour of paper and feathers and Aziraphale’s favourite coat. He cries out when he comes and Aziraphale catches the sound in his mouth, another kiss, short ones littering Crowley’s scrunched-up gasping face. Aziraphale doesn’t stop touching him, and Crowley is all sensitive and slippery and wants to slither off, but more than that he wants to see Aziraphale’s face when he comes.

‘That’s it,’ Crowley murmurs, and Aziraphale smiles between gasps. ‘That’sss my angel.’

It just slips out, in the formless beginnings of Crowley’s afterglow, and it must work for Aziraphale. The angel (his angel) bucks into his grip with a very un-angelic snarl. Crowley keeps stroking him as Aziraphale keeps shivering, to hold onto this moment for as long as he can. Finally Aziraphale lets out the smallest ‘oh,’ and collapses into Crowley’s lap.

The couch has thoughtfully restyled itself as a nest of pillows and blankets. The pair of them curl up in it, still embracing, already half-asleep. Crowley hooks his limbs around Aziraphale, checking his wings are neatly tucked away before nuzzling Aziraphale’s hair. Aziraphale’s lips brush Crowley’s throat again: it’s the last thing Crowley notices before drifting off.

The sunlight wakes him, and for a while he just basks before stretching, all of his joints popping loudly enough to rouse Aziraphale. Aziraphale yawns, smacking his lips and rolling bodily onto Crowley’s chest. Crowley blinks at the freckles on Aziraphale’s shoulders and wonders if he’s ever seen them before.

He was the one tempting the angel, at some point. It's possible that Crowley is, instead, utterly thwarted.

It was autumn, in the garden, when the apples were ripe. It’s autumn now, and sometime in the last six thousand autumns, this thing became a thing they do.

‘What actually is a cronut?’ Crowley asks.

‘Oh, my dear,’ Aziraphale’s wings ruffle happily. ‘Let me take you to breakfast.’