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The Ineffable Temptations of Oysters

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Ostrea
Ebria Baiano veni 
modo concha Lucrino: 
Nobile nunc sitio luxuriosa garum.

I'm just arrived from Baiae,
An oyster drunk from Lake Lucrine:
But wanton though I am,
I still crave your noble sauce.

 

* * *

 

The day that they first dined on oysters together, it had been a particularly bustling kind of Sunday in Ancient Rome. 

 The city that afternoon had pulsed with gladiatorial fervour. The sun was high, so the wine bars were overspilled with merrymakers. Slaves and senators alike had jostled angrily for passage through the busy, cobbled streets and merchants, peddling fine goods from across the empire, had clamoured ardently for the attentions of passers by. 

Crowley drank in the glorious stench of lust, greed and corruption. 

“More wine, my dear?” Aziraphale said, lightly. 

“Lovely day for it,” Crowley replied. 

 

Reclining lazily opposite his Heavenly counterpart in the opulent courtyard of Gaius Petronius, Crowley was moved to ponder what quite had come over Aziraphale to invite him here. Why certainly, they had always maintained a specific kind of camaraderie whenever they had crossed paths over the last several thousand years, but to go so far as to invite him to supper . . .   

Well, Crowley thought. That really was a turn up for the books. 

 “ - it’s all to do with the grapes, you see,” Aziraphale was saying as he poured. “They grow in the sandier soils, and hence become marvellously light and aromatic.”

Crowley graciously accepted the wine that was proffered, pausing before his first sip to raise the cup in cheers to his drinking companion. Aziraphale returned the gesture with a twinkling smile, then they both drank deeply.

“So, Angel,” Crowley smiled teasingly over his wine. “I notice you seem to have become something of an expert in the Earthly pleasures of wine this last millennia.” 

 The angel blushed and smiled sheepishly, “Oh, I’d hardly call myself an expert. Just an enthusiast, really. Besides, you know how that new saying goes: When in Rome, . . . ” He shot Crowley a hopeful look, then continued. “It’s simply that I seem to have an awful lot of spare time to myself these last few centuries. Lots of spare time that I, well, to confess, mostly seem to spend sampling the finer produce of the local Italian vineyards.”

 Crowley smiled wryly, “Ah, yes. Of course, I see! Trying to drown out the drudgery of eternity in a sea of alcohol, is that it, Angel?” 

 A thoughtful cloud seemed to briefly cross Aziraphale’s face. “Oh no, Crowley. I think that’s not it at all,” he said. Then that quizzical expression gave way and he smiled serenely. “In fact, I think - I think I might be rather enjoying myself!”

 From behind his dark glasses, Crowley stared at him then. No, for the first time, really saw him. Over the years, he had certainly met a lot of pinch-faced, joyless old buggers up in Heaven. He knew Heaven’s type! They were all pomp and pomposity, all full of and thou shalts and thou shalt nots. But here, in a lavish courtyard, warmed by sunshine, appetite and fine wine, Aziraphale looked almost . . . mischievous. 

 No, more than that. 

 He looked alive.

 It was all just a little bit disturbing.  

 Because Crowley found himself slightly at a loss about what exactly to say right then, he simply swirled his wine and asked mildly, “So tell me about this shellfish thing Petronius does that’s so good you have us coming all this way across town for it.”

 “Oh my dear, you just wait until you try them! They’re my latest, most favourite discovery. I think you’ll find them devilishly delicious!”

 As if summoned, at that very moment two young men approached their table with two shimmering silver plates - one that was piled high with stoney-looking shells and another, which was laid out with a few delicate bottles and bowls. Crowley noted with wry amusement how the angel’s face lit up with bright, boyish glee at the arrival. His dazzling smile shone across at Crowley as the laden plates were set down between them. Petronius' boys dutifully shucked the oyster shells right there at the table and Crowley watched with interest as the fused halves of the rough shell were pulled back, top separating from bottom, to reveal the slippery, grey flesh within. 

 “Doesn’t look like much,” said Crowley. 

 “Well yes, they are admittedly rather ugly things,” Aziraphale conceded. “But that’s about their only flaw, I’m afraid.”

 With deft, elegant fingers, he set about sprinkling a touch of pepper, a spoon of vinegar and a small droplet of white wine into an open shell before elegantly tipping the whole lot into his mouth.

 “Oh Crowley,” he breathed, grinning radiantly. “It’s like nothing else I’ve had since the start of creation! What clever beasts these humans are!”

 On reflection, thought Crowley, he sort of knew even back then. 

 

* * *

 

On a later occasion (practically two millennia later, indeed), Crowley and Aziraphale had strolled side-by-side along a wind-blasted stretch of Kentish coastline, enjoying immensely the elegant promenade of a Victorian seaside town. It was a late-19th-century kind of day and the shore was a patchwork of candy-striped bathing suits, brightly coloured bustle dresses and elegant lacy umbrellas. 

 That day, Crowley had needed to pop over to Whitstable for a light temptation. It had taken the form of a quiet whisper in the ear of a postcard salesman to suggest that perhaps his cards weren’t selling so well because the ladies depicted thereon were all in a modest state of dress

 

 When he had, by chance, mentioned the excursion the week before to Aziraphale (they’d met for lunch to discuss the invention of County Cricket and work out whose side was to blame), the angel’s ears had pricked up and an eager look had broken out, seemingly unbidden, on his soft face. 

 “Oh!” He had said, with barely contained excitement. “Oh! What a frightful coincidence! I was, myself, planning a trip to Whitstable just the other morning! I’ve read that the oyster parlours there are some of the finest in Europe!”

 When Crowley had lightly suggested that maybe Aziraphale could, as per their usual agreement, just slip that little temptation in while he was there and save him the time and bother, the angel had suddenly become terribly affronted. 

 “Oh goodness me, no! Certainly not! I shan’t be tarnishing my one holiday of the year by involving myself in your lot ’s sordid business,” he admonished.  

 “Alright, alright!” snapped Crowley, a little taken aback, “Hell, it’s just a couple of bawdy postcards! I wasn’t asking you to tonguefuck an archbishop or something!”

 Aziraphale stared. He raised an arch eyebrow. 

 “Tongue, erm -”

 “It’s an expression,” sighed Crowley. 

 “Well, putting that firmly aside . . .  What I was going to suggest, however, is that if you wished for some company while you are down there, then, well,” Aziophale looked up at him, almost hopefully, “I must say I would be very much obliged.”

 

So there they were, having somehow seemingly agreed to go on holiday together. A working holiday, admittedly, but a holiday nonetheless. Aziraphale seemed keen to make the most of it and had toured them around a number of quaint little places, remarking at the craftsmanship on display in shop windows, or the unique rustic charm of that little cottage. As they strolled, Aziraphale provided a running commentary on the various fashions of the passers by. 

 “I am just so terribly pleased that we have finally arrived at a century that truly understands the value of a good bit of tailoring. I mean, would you just look at that! Truly delightful!” 

 Crowley considered that Aziraphale himself was looking most refined in his pale morning frock coat and light-colored trousers. His waistcoat was embroidered with spun-gold and his high-collared shirt was finished with an elegant bow. A ribboned top-hat perched on his blond head, making him look really rather dashing.

 “There are just sometimes that I am concerned, my dear, about what comes next. You know, now that humanity has finally reached the pinnacle of sartorial excellence,” he finished, sounding a touch disappointed. 

 “May I remind you, you said the same thing about togas.” 

 “And for a good many centuries I was proven right! I mean, good gracious, we lived through the era of jerkins, Crowley! Jerkins!” He shook his head disdainfully, “What on Earth were the poor boys thinking?”

 “I really can’t understand why you were so down on the Medieval period. I, personally, was quite partial to a good suit of armour.”

 “Well, yes. They did have that going for them, admittedly.”

 “And it wasn’t all bad these last few centuries,” offered Crowley. “I seem to remember you quite enjoying the court of Louis XIV.” 

 “Well, it wasn’t so much that I approved of the style, it was more that I admired the effort,” Aziraphale smiled wanly. “I do worry sometimes that we’re about to reach another period of drudgery. I know the season’s fashions, dear boy. And their fashion is to change.” 

 “So spare me some of your insight, then, Angel. What do you think comes next in the fashions of man?” 

 Aziraphale considered for a moment, “I assume whatever it is, it’ll have something to do with hats,” he replied. “They’re currently cultivating a great taste for hats. It’s my guess they’ll go the way of the ruff and just keep getting bigger and bigger until the whole darn thing becomes completely impractical.”

 Crowley chuckled at this, long and low, to which Aziraphale shot him a curious, unplaceable look. 

  

When they finally stopped for oysters at the place of Aziraphale’s choosing, Crowley was curious to find that it was an establishment which seemed to meet none of the angel’s usual requirements for refinement and finesse. The oyster parlour was dark and a bit grubby with low ceilings and crumbling brick walls. It had a very homely feel about it, however, and outside the parlour, by the seafront, stood a few large, weatherbeaten old barrels, surrounded by tall wooden stools. 

 It was here, perched seemingly on the edge of the world, with the great expanse of sea and sky before them, that they ate their first Whitstable natives. The waves seemed to have calmed for them. The sound of their lapping was most soothing and the calls of gulls overhead was also a particularly nice touch. 

 The oysters arrived on a platter of smashed ice with an accompanying selection of bright, yellow lemons, sprigs of fresh, green parsley and a dusky, rose-coloured vinegar. They were served by a plain but pretty young girl with rosy cheeks and curls, who swilled out the brine and plied the oyster knife with expert precision.

 Aziraphale dressed his oyster eagerly and Crowley followed in his lead. Before eating, Aziraphale raised his oyster shell in mock-cheers, which Crowley reciprocated. Then they tipped the shell up, and drank. 

 Crowley, in truth, even after all the years of dining on them, had never become particularly moved by the charms of oysters. He found the vinegar too tart and the textures too slippery. What he saw in oysters was, in fact, what Aziraphale saw. 

 Which was to say, what he saw in Aziraphale. 

 Upon eating, the angel’s eyes would do this delighted little crinkle and his smile would become utterly resplendent. Then he would turn that delighted smile on Crowley. Bathe him in it.  

 “Well, I will confess, Crowley, over the millennia I certainly have dined upon some very delightful things. Dear friend, I have supped on oysters everywhere from Hamburg to Mesopotamia. But I must say that these really, truly are the most divine in all creation!”

 For this, Crowley thought amused, he could partake in a thousand oyster suppers.

 

When Aziraphale had finally exhausted his ability to talk about the unique flavour profiles of various shellfish, talk turned inevitably to business. 

 “So what’s your side working on at the moment, then?” Asked Crowley.

 “Oh,” Aziraphale frowned. “I’m really not sure I’m completely at liberty to say.”

 “Oh go on!” Crowley goaded, playfully, “I’ll tell you about mine.”

 Aziraphale’s face twinged with the expression of someone about to do something delightfully naughty while knowing full well they shouldn’t. “Well,” he said, leaning in conspiratorially. “There is a little something I’ve heard about, which is causing quite the buzz around head office. It’s something called the, ah - the vacuum cleaner! I’m not sure what it’s all about, myself, but they’re all getting terribly excited about it upstairs.” 

 “Oh, right,” Crowley deadpanned. “Sounds fascinating.”

 “So,” Aziraphale prompted. “What’s new down below ?”

 “Yeah, my lot are working on something at the moment. I think it’s called a ‘drinking straw’. Goes like this: you stick it in your drink, see? And it sort of sucks up the liquid towards your mouth.”

 “Why, whatever could be wrong with that?”

 “Well, nothing right away, but in a century or two,” he flicked a careless gesture at the ocean beyond. “The whole bloody place is going to be full of them! Can’t move for the things. It’s one of those slow-burner kind of evils.”

 “Oh how frightful!”

 “Well, quite.” 

 Aziraphale looked out at the sea and a worried expression seemed to creep over his soft features. “Look, Crowley. I really do think we ought to tread lightly. I mean, I do sometimes wonder what our superiors would really make of us . . .   You know - ”

 “What?”

 “You know,” he shot Crowley a peevish look. 

 “Angel!”

 “Of us, well -- Fraternising.

 Crowley laughed. He couldn’t help it, the sound just came bubbling up out of him. Aziraphale looked at him, appalled.

 Adopting his most teasing smirk, Crowley leaned in to his companion. “Is that what we’re doing, Angel? Fraternising?”

 Aziraphale gave him a cross little look which seemed eloquently to say, ‘you know exactly what I mean and should be taking it a bit more bloody seriously, thank you very much’.

 Recovering himself, Crowley fixed Aziraphale with a piercing gaze from behind his lowered dark glasses. 

 “It’s not so much that I think they’d mind it necessarily,” he began. “Nah, not really. I’m sure they’d just look at it as us, you know, keeping an eye on each other.”

 “Keeping an eye?”

 “Yeah, you know. They’d assume it was covert operations. Corporate espionage. That kind of thing.” 

 This did slightly take the edge of Aziraphale’s worried expression, but he continued, “It’s just that when I really give myself time to think about it, I must say the whole thing does just make me awfully nervous.” 

 His brow was furrowed with deep, thoughtful concern. The expression was so lost and plaintive. It made Crowley want to reach out across the table and - -  

 He shook himself. 

“Well,” said Crowley, decisively. “Best you don’t allow yourself to think about it too long, then. And I’ve got just the thing for that!” 

 

They had moved to a cosy seaside tavern as the wind picked up. Like the parlour, it had low-beamed ceilings and was entirely lit by hanging oil lamps. For so ramshackled a place, they actually kept a magnificent cellar. This was, in part, owing to the fact that the French, who are famous for their refined palates, regularly crossed the Channel to Whitstable for much the same reason as drew Aziraphale. Thus fine oysters passed to France, fine wine passed to this establishment and finally, Crowley passed the fine wine to Aziraphale. It was all rather neat, really. 

 They had ordered another plate of oysters and were now sat side-by-side, taking in the quaint seaside tavern as though it were some kind of theatrical experience. Over their first bottle, they commentated with jest at how the old sailery types, who looked like their ancestors were made of barnacles, put on such shows of back-slapping bravado. Over the second, they narrated a blossoming romance that seemed to be playing out between a sandy-haired lad and a freckled girl, who were tucked away in a private booth in the far corner. By the third bottle, they were sniggering wickedly about how the landlady looked exactly halfway between a brothel madame and a herring. 

 Somewhere over the course of yet another bottle, Crowley noticed Aziraphale fiddling distractedly with the discarded oyster shells. He would pick one up and hold it in his pale, elegant fingers, then search through the rest, trying each in turn until he found one that fit just right. Then he would lay the completed shell to the side with such care and reverence. Crowley couldn’t help but watch with amused fascination.  

 “Hey, Angel,” said Crowley.

Aziraphale looked up, his eyes shimmering and his smile clumsy. 

 “Hm?” he said. 

 “What’cha doing?”

 “Oh,” Aziraphale smiled dotingly at his work. “I’m putting all the shells back together.”

 He said it like it was the most natural and logical thing in the world. It captured Crowley’s interest no end. 

 “And dare I ask why?”

“Oh, well, I hadn’t really thought about it,” said Aziraphale smiling soppily. “I suppose it’s because they were made together, you know. Of the same stuff,” he picked up a shell. “Then they grew together, and fused together,” he joined it with its partner. “I suppose it’s because they belong together. You know. The up and the down.”

 And then, Oh, Lord! 

 There was suddenly something there, Crowley realised. 

 At some point, it had settled hot and heavy, knotted in the very pit of his stomach. Had it settled there a long time ago? He wasn’t sure, but what he knew was he, at that moment, felt a wave of surging panic rising inside of him. He began to feel giddy, caught between wanting to giggle and wanting to scream to High Heaven. 

 Because in that moment, he knew with an ardent certainty that he and Aziraphale would fit together. 

 Two opposing halves of one perfect whole. 

 That they completed each other utterly. The knowledge of that floored him, undid him. Left him with a helpless, falling kind of feeling. 

 “Plus it’s very satisfying to make the bumps line up,” finished Aziraphale, so adorably oblivious. So angelically innocent.  

 ‘This is a bloody mess,’ thought Crowley. This thing between them was now, more certainly than ever, in open defiance of God the Great and Glorious and all her bloody ineffable bloody plans. He swallowed down a painful lump in his throat and resolved that when he got back, what he really needed was a good, long holiday. 

 

*  *  *

 

A little more than a century and one averted apocalypse later, Crowley and Aziraphale resolved to take in a celebratory lunch at a bustling oyster bar in Borough Market. The traders, with their tented stalls, were busy packing down for the day. All around was the smell of good food and the warm, bright evening had brought locals and tourists alike to throng busily through the paved streets. In truth, Crowley felt blessed. Blessed just to be sharing a table with Aziraphale, basking in the afterglow of the rapture now that there was no rapture left. 

There was something a touch nostalgic about this place too, with the outside set with large barrel tables and high wooden stools. These barrels were in by far better nick that the last lot, however, being as they were landlocked and far from the corrupting influences of the sea breeze. 

Aziraphale must have also been tending towards the nostalgic, because as the plate was laid out (crushed ice shimmering in the late afternoon sunlight, oysters already open and glistening, a shalott-infused vinegar nestled in between six open shells), he was clearly in the mood to reminisce.

“Do you remember when we first dined on oysters back in Rome?” He asked, smiling beautifically across at Crowley.

“How could I forget?” Crowley replied. “Those Romans definitely knew their way around a good oyster.”

“You might be curious to learn that just the other day, I came across a rather fascinating translation of Marcus Apicius’ cookbook.” 

“De re coquinaria?”

“Oh, you know of it?”

 “Of course I know it,” said Crowley, a touch despairingly. “Boring git wouldn’t shut up about it! Ruined several perfectly good orgies.” 

“Indeed?” Said Aziraphale, archly. 

 “Utterly!” Cowley replied, “How can a poor demon be expected to spread lustful thoughts with that appalling old duffer spouting off about cooking techniques left, right and centre? That was a difficult few years in Ancient Rome, I’ll tell you.” 

“Well, regardless,” continued Aziraphale, primly. “When I discovered this translation, I found myself quite wrapped up in what he had to say about oysters.”

“Oh yes?”

“Yes,” Aziraphale gave him a conspiratorial look and leaned in. “According to Apicus, they supposedly have potent aphrodisiac qualities.” 

Crowley abruptly coughed up his wine.

 Exactly what had Aziraphale just said?

 Aziraphale, seemingly entirely oblivious to his companion’s surprise and discomfort continued, “I thought it rather fascinating! I do say, the wisdom of the ancients truly knows no bounds!”

 Still choking, Crowley struggled to regain his composure. He chanced a glance up at his companion and found that Aziraphale was looking across at him with gentle concern. 

 “Then it made me ponder,” the angel continued, levelly. “How curious it is that we have been meeting for oysters all these centuries and never even once - well, discussed any stirrings of lustful attraction.”

 Crowley looked at Aziraphale, completely astonished. His friend still carried himself with a serene venire of calm impassivity, sitting up primly, all straight and proper. But if Crowley was right, there was something else there, too - Something searching? Something hopeful? 

 Something mischievous

 But he couldn’t be absolutely sure, so he snidely replied, “If I’ve ever felt the stirrings of lustful attraction, it’ll be in spite of those bloody ugly things, not because of them.”

 Aziraphale chuckled, deep and low, “Oh but my dear, we both know appearances can be terribly deceiving,” He twirled one of the shells in his elegant fingers. “A shimmering, angelic centre, nestled in a course, dark shell. You know, something rather rings a bell about that.”

 “Hey!” Said Crowley. 

 “But more to the point,” Aziraphale smiled, a little wistfully. “I bring it up because I think if this recent brush with apocalypse has shown me anything, it’s the great value of human life and human experience. Now, in the aftermath, I am moved to find myself a touch curious about what motivates human wants, what excites human desires.” This final point was punctuated with an arch raise of an eyebrow, and a searching gaze. 

 Crowley suddenly became very uneasy under the angel’s stare, and chose that moment to show great interest in examining the arrangement of lemon to the side of his plate. 

 “I mean, curiosity is one thing," he said, guardedly. "But, we’re not - built like them. We don’t share the same biological drives . . .  our desires are not buffeted about on the whims of shellfish!”

 “Oh indeed, dear Crowley,” said Aziraphale, pointedly. ”If we desire, if we want for something, or someone - then it is entirely because we choose it.”

 He still looked as placid and peaceful as a swan on still water, but Crowley detected something just beneath the surface. He couldn’t put his finger on it and this was all quickly becoming far too personal and too candid for him to bear. 

 Crowley attempted to fight down his rising panic with a weakly charming smile, “So,” he intoned, sardonically. “It’s taken you all these millennia to become even the slightest bit curious about the mortal temptations of the flesh?”

 “Well, to be perfectly frank, old friend, it’s taken me quite a while to pluck up the courage to ask if you might share in my curiosity.” 

 Crowley stared. 

 Properly stared. 

 Aziraphale’s face was open and honest. 

 It was hopeful and shy. 

 It was bright with emotion.

 Realisation slid into place suddenly, all the pieces suddenly shifting and lining up. 

This was . . .   this was bloody miraculous.  

 Crowley’s brow furrowed in stunned confusion. “Angel, if you’re suggesting what I think you’re suggesting,” he began. 

 Then, still unbelieving, he steeled himself. The reality of what Aziraphale had said resonated like a musical symphony in his ear. Confess, it seemed to hum. He felt sharp with barely contained emotion. His body was vibrating, taut like the string of a harp.

He worried at any moment, if he weren't careful, he might just snap. 

 “If you’re suggesting what I think you’re suggesting, then I think there's something I need you to understand,” Crowley slowly removed his dark glasses to meet the angel’s eyes, real honest emotion burning there. “This would be far more than just a curiosity for me.” He sighed raggedly. “You see, I am most terribly fond of you, Angel. And I - I can’t imagine what it might do to me if I allowed myself to -” His voice trembled and faltered. 

At this, Aziraphale reached across the table and took Crowley’s hand in his own. Angelic fingers traced feather-light circles at his wrist. 

 “Oh, my dear boy,” he whispered. It sounded reverent, like a prayer. “You really ought to have said something sooner.”

 At the first press of those fingers, liquid relief washed over Crowley.

 Something wretched inside him broke and undid. 

 So, there was something there! There had been from the beginning. And Aziraphale knew! He bloody knew, with the same certainty as Crowley, that there was something there between them, drawing them together, fusing them together. Two fitting parts of one whole. 

And it had only taken six bloody millennia and one averted apocalypse for one of them to be bold enough to say it. 

He looked across at Aziraphale shining there in the late afternoon sun, emboldened by the end of days. Stepping out at last from the shadow of heaven's judgement. His brave and resplendent angel, who had dared to say what Crowley could not.  

Those words echoed - you should have said something sooner - he had surely must've tried to at some point, hadn't he? 

 “Never really came up, did it?” Said Crowley. “It’s not something you can just drop into polite conversation, is it?”

 Aziraphale smiled then, warm but also slightly sly, eyes glittering with mischievous energy. “My dear friend, what on Earth do you think all this has been about?“

He favoured him then with a smile that held the kind of dazzling radiance only normally afforded to a source of light. Crowley felt giddy. 

“I did get it right, didn’t I?” said Aziraphale. “I was so dreadfully nervous I might say the wrong thing!”

Crowley laughed. “You’re an angel! I don’t even know if you can say the wrong thing!”

 “Oh, in that case then, may I suggest that we adjourn to my bookshop? I have a rather wicked Chinon Rouge that has been making eyes at me for quite some time.”

 That, Crowley thought, was one of the better ideas he had ever heard. 

 

* * *

Suffice to say, their journey back to Soho largely consisted of Aziraphale explaining patiently to Crowley why one hundred and thirty miles per hour was not an acceptable number of miles per hour at which to be driving around the congested streets of central London. 

 * * *

 

As the door of Aziraphale’s flat clicked shut behind them, the incredible intimacy of the situation seemed to dawn on them both. Crowley, suddenly at a loss for how to stand, nervously twisted his fingers into his belt loops, his seemingly relaxed posture doing little to disguise the dizzying flood of thoughts and feelings that threatened to overwhelm him. Aziraphale, meanwhile, removed and neatly hung his jacket, pausing distractedly for a moment to smooth the creases, before turning to his friend. 

Honest uncertainty was written in every line of that soft face. Now that they had finally given each other permission to touch, neither knew quite where to begin. Eternity stretched between them, tension strung tight, vibrating like the sting of a bow. 

It was Aziraphale who found the nerve to cross the divide first. Tentatively, experimentally, he stepped forward, and gently brought a hand up to cup the side of Crowley’s face, fingertips lacing through tendrils of fiery red hair. The fluttered lightly at his cheekbone, delicate as the brush of tiny wings. Crowley, for his part, leaned into the touch, turning his cheek to meet it with a low hum of appreciation. He watched as Aziraphale’s breath caught and his eyes fluttered gently closed. 

Then, the angel leaned forward and pressed a feather-soft kiss onto Crowley’s mouth.

 The first touch of those lips was so breath-takingly light, Crowley almost couldn’t fathom it. The kiss was exquisitely gentle, achingly slow and heart-stoppingly tender. But it also sent a shivering thrill through his spine. He felt Aziraphale release his lips, drawing back ever so slightly. A small, blissful sigh escaped. The breath was a warm, flickering sensation against his cheek.  

 It was all too much for Crowley to bear! So, he surged forward, claiming the last space between them to capture Aziraphale’s lips in a deep and searing kiss. 

And Aziraphale went with it. His hands stroked Crowley’s hair along the back of his neck, smoothing those coppery waves. He exhaled against that kiss, lips parting. The angel’s mouth opened for him, warm and inviting. Everything melted together in a flood of dizzying sensation. 

Aziraphale pulled back. He opened his eyes and met Crowley’s intense gaze with a complete openness. His eyes were sparklingly blue, a deep ocean of raw emotion shining there. 

 “Crowley,” Aziraphale whispered. 

 It sounded like heaven to Crowley! So sweet and delicate as to barely be believed. 

 And it made him hungry. 

 After that, it was desperate. 

 Crowley’s hands found themselves at Azirphale’s waist, anchoring him there. Their bodies pressed close. Fingers dragged against cloth. 

 Crowley could feel his breath quickening, his heart beating perilously fast. Aziraphale had dropped his head to Crowley’s shoulder, and was trailing slow, deliberate, open-mouthed kisses up the side of his neck. This was a revelation, thought Crowley. The effect of Aziraphale’s body against his own was far more intoxicating than any amount of fine wine. 

Giddy with want, Crowley unhitched Aziraphale’s shirt from his trousers and pulled it up to reveal a trail of soft flesh beneath. His fingers reverently grazed the naval, eliciting a sigh from Aziraphale’s lips. Aziraphale was all soft curves where Crowley was hard angles. He was light and supple where Crowley was rough and dark. It drove Crowley bloody wild. 

He worked with heady determination at the buttons on Aziraphale’s waistcoat, then his undershirt, prising each one loose in turn. When the angel was exposed from collar to navel, Crowley tore his own shirt off as well. Then he buried himself in the warm hollow of Aziraphale’s neck, kissing the soft flesh there. Aziraphale moaned softly. 

And then, Crowley realised with a jolt of surprise that Aziraphale’s length was pressed against his thigh, hot and hard and oh so ready. Crowley gave out a ragged moan of want and rocked his hips against that sinful heat. Aziraphale gasped against Crowley’s throat, then kissed a hot trail upwards.

“Dear boy,” whispered Aziraphale, the words were warm breath against the sensitive shell of Crowley’s ear. “I do think that we might, perhaps, be more comfortable in the bedroom.”

That was, of course, completely fine by Crowley. He felt like his legs might have given way at any moment anyway. So he allowed Aziraphale to take his hand and lead him into the bedroom, which like everywhere else in the flat, was stacked high with piles upon piles of books. In the midst of the chaotic labyrinth of ancient texts, there was Aziraphale’s bed, looking just about as soft and inviting as Aziraphale himself. 

Aziraphale reclined back onto it, staring up with a look that read awe and adoration as Crowley crawled over him, his body moving with a fluid, serpentine grace. He leant down to capture Aziraphale’s lips with his own, and felt, with a sharp shock of pleasure, as the angel’s hips rose to meet his. Oh God! 

“Angel,” said Crowley, jerking back suddenly, cheeks flushing hot. “I --, I’ve never before . . .  Have you?”

 Aziraphale met his gaze, dark eyes shimmering with emotion. “No, never - ,” he admitted. “But, Crowley, I feel I might die if you to stop!”

 Crowley choked back a moan, low in his throat. 

 Then, he dipped his head, and set about covering every inch of the angel’s soft skin with tongue and teeth and warm, rough hands. He trailed his fingertips along his chest and down to his hips. Aziraphale was completely falling into his touch, threading his hands through Crowley’s firey hair, tiny hisses and exhalations parting from his soft lips. 

 What delighted Crowley utterly was that there was something so brazenly sinful about every little sound the angel made. 

 When Crowley nuzzled his navel, Aziraphale let out a guttural moan. The sound shot straight to Crowley’s groin.  

 “Crowley . . .   please.” 

The tone was low and urgent and there was something in those eyes, desperate, pleading, bright with emotion. Something fearful too, but under all of it, that gaze was laden with deep, unabashed care

 Crowley wasn’t waiting any longer. He hooked his fingers into Aziraphale’s trousers and pulled them right the way down. Underwear followed. Aziraphale’s cock lay taut against his belly, plump and inviting, looking just about as delicious as anything Crowley had ever seen in all creation.

 Experimentally, he dipped his head to lick the tip. 

 This elicited a desperate, shuddering gasp from Aziraphale. 

 “Oh, Crowley . . .  Oh! Good gracious, yes!

 Encouraged, Crowley, smiling adoringly, took the whole head into his mouth. He suctioned up with a quick sweep of his tongue, drawing a small, elated noise from Aziraphale. He moved then, mouth sliding up and down the shaft. Aziraphale wound his hands into Crowley’s thick hair, the muscles in his legs straining and quivering. When Crowley dragged his wicked tongue along the underside of Aziraphale’s cock, the angel let out a sobbing moan. 

 “Crowley, I want -”  

 The tone was low and urgent, sending electric shivers creeping up Crowley’s spine. 

 “Crowley - I need you.

 Aziraphale was looking down at him with a question burning in those deep blue eyes. 

 Crowley pressed a kiss to Aziraphale’s inner thigh. “Where, love? Where do you need me?” He murmured against that beautiful skin. 

 “I need you to be inside me, Crowley.”

 His voice was stained with want. Crowley felt something inside him break, he was close to coming undone.

 “Are you sure about this, Angel?” He asked, tentatively. 

 “My dear boy,” smiled Aziraphale. “I’ve never been so certain of anything in all existence.”

 The air lit up as a minor miracle fizzled at the edges of reality around him, and then a slippery wetness coated Crowley’s fingers ( God, he hoped Aziraphale hadn’t had to run that one past head office). 

 Maneuvering himself to sit in between Aziraphale’s parted thighs, Crowley gently found the angel’s entrance. He circled the hole tenderly with his fingers, coating the outside with slick wetness, then he carefully pushed inside. 

 Aziraphale opened easily for him. Soon, his fingers moved easily in and out, eliciting contented gasps from the angel below him. 

 “Crowley, please,” he whimpered. “I’m ready for you, I need you.”

Crowley did not need telling twice. He shucked off the last of his clothes, slicked his cock with his still-wet fingers, then he aligned their hips and, tentatively, pressed forward.

“Fuck!” Crowley gasped, as the angel’s warmth engulfed him.  

He had been right, they simply fit. Sliding into Aziraphale was sliding into midsummer sunshine. It was being immersed in crashing waves of pleasure. He was hot and tight and oh! So perfect. It was unlike anything Crowley had ever experienced. Ever imagined.  

Crowley,” breathed Aziraphale, reverant and tender. 

Oh God! It was too much. Choking back a sobbing moan, Crowley angled their hips again and began to move. He rocked and rutted against that splendid heat. 

At first, he tried to maintain some semblance of eye contact but had soon surrendered once a smooth rhythm of their hips had been found. Then, he dropped his forehead to Aziraphale’s shoulder, murmuring an indecipherable litany of profanities against that sweet collarbone. Waves of liquid heat washed over him, prickling his skin. It was like bathing in soothing hellfire. 

 Their bodies moved together, slick from perspiration. Aziraphale’s arm had snaked around his waist, pulling them closer. He bucked his hips up against Crowley’s, causing a tight knot of tension to grow inside Crowley. It built in sharp, delirious bursts of pleasure. 

 “Aziraphale . . . I - I can't -” 

It was all too much! He couldn’t hold back any longer. That tight knot of pleasure deep inside him unravelled and poured out. He came, hot and moaning, spilling himself inside Aziraphale with shuddering little thrusts. The angel bucked and writhed beneath him, his own cock pulsing, coating Crowley’s stomach in pearls of warm, sticky wetness. 

After, they both lay, fused together in the searing heat of afterglow, Crowley’s dark form still protectively covering Aziraphale’s soft, beautiful flesh. They rested like that for several long, lovely moments. As the waves of pleasure subsided and calmed, Crowley shifted into position next to Aziraphale, gathering the angel up in his arms. 

 Crowley felt as if he was basking, warm and sedate, in the shallows of a great tidal pool, bathed in God The Almighty’s own most radiant light. 

 Blessed. He felt positively blessed. 

 “Crowley?” Aziraphale murmured sleepily. His voice feathered at Crowley’s throat, soft and light, as if tiny wings were fluttering at the skin there.

 “Hm?”

 “Love you.”

 The voice was soft and heavy with sleep, but it was the sweetest Crowley had ever heard. He wrapped Aziraphale tightly in his arms, buried his face in the angel’s soft hair. 

 “Love you too, Angel,” he said. 

 Aziraphale was a warm, comfortable weight in his arms and he fell deeply, contentedly asleep to the feeling of another heartbeat slowing and relaxing alongside his own. Their bodies aligned perfectly, fused together, just two opposing halves of one perfect whole.