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In a book, a story has a beginning, a middle, and an end. When the last ink has spilled, and the page continues on white and blank, it is over. Finished. Done. All that remains is the closing of the book - when one, with a sense of finality, presses the hard front and back together, sealing words and ink within.

Life is not like stories, or books.

You might, perhaps, go on an adventure. Defeat your enemies. Maybe even fall in love. But unlike the stories, there is no neatly printed “happily ever after,” and the book does not close; rather, life simply…goes on. 

After the world had definitively not ended, and Aziraphale and Crowley had, against all odds, avoided destruction at the hands of their respective employers - they’d gone to lunch. There, they’d shared a lovely meal while talking and laughing, their hands resting on the table, a delicate two inches apart. 

They’d finished the meal and strolled out to the Bentley which waited, as if summoned, one tire carelessly perched on the curb. 

Crowley had driven Aziraphale home. 

Outside Aziraphale’s shop, a heavy, awkward silence had descended on the vehicle. Crowley’s fingers were drumming a nervous rhythm on the wheel; and Aziraphale, crushed beneath the impossible weight of six thousand years worth of unspoken sentiment, felt as though a vise was constricting his chest. Because after all that time, how did one even begin going about saying - saying -

At the time, he couldn’t think it, let alone say it.

The angel had stammered, filling the rigid silence with shallow, vague promises.

They’d talk on the phone. Really, they should do lunch again. When? Soon. Very soon. 

After, the silence had, impossibly, grown heavier. Aziraphale, manicured fingers curling over his knees, had looked to Crowley, wanting from the demon something he didn’t know how to begin to ask for.

Because Crowley had said it already - through actions, admittedly, more often than words. But perhaps - maybe that would be enough. It needn’t be anything grand. Something - anything that Aziraphale might use to drag himself out of these depths, to draw in just one single breath of air; enough to wrap-his mind around how to set about feeling out the shape of the words on his lips.

Crowley’s fingers squeezed the steering wheel, and Aziraphale had watched his knuckles pale in the dim light. 

Crowley had tilted his head, a carefree smile pasted crudely on his face and said, “Sure angel. Lunch sounds great.”

Aziraphale exited the car.

Crowley drove away.

And that was that.

The last period, black as a bullet, has marked the text. The rest of the page is white and blank.

It has been two weeks since Aziraphale got out of Crowley’s car. The story has ended, and yet, inexplicably, life goes on.

Crowley hasn’t visited. And he’s yet to call. Aziraphale sometimes worries, fear tickling the back of his mind as he painstakingly re-orders the bookshop Adam resurrected, that something could have happened to him. That Heaven or Hell have gone after him. 

After the initial spike of fear, the worry usually fades. 

Nothing has happened to Crowley. 

Aziraphale can’t explain how he knows. But he does. It’s a feeling as sure and solid as the leather-bound book in his palms. He would know if something had happened to Crowley. He’s sure of it.

And so what if Crowley simply doesn’t want to visit? 

They spent eleven years in each other’s near constant company. If anything, Crowley probably just needs some time to himself. Perhaps just a bit of…well, you know - a break.

A break. 

It’s not a nice word, and Aziraphale turns it over in his mind as he finishes up the reorganization of his carefully cared for Wilde first editions. 

He continues thinking about it as he selects a book for the evening and a bottle of wine to accompany it.

By the time he’s settled, it’s dark. A few candles burn, illuminating the shop in a soft, warm glow; and Aziraphale is curled on his old, lumpy couch, a glass of wine in one hand and a tragically neglected open book in the other.

Aziraphale’s glasses have slipped down his nose, and they pinch his skin as he stares contemplatively into the flickering candlelight. 

A break. Is that what Crowley wants? Time apart?

In the car, Aziraphale had given Crowley a chance to do - say something - anything. And it makes Aziraphale wonder, his stomach flipping uncomfortably at the thought, if it means there is actually nothing to say? Aziraphale has never been the most talented at reading between the lines which exist outside of books, and it’s possible he’s misunderstood.

Friendship, too, is a type of love.

And his friendship with Crowley, something that he can finally openly admit to, is precious to Aziraphale. A treasure more coveted than even his first edition Wildes - and that is saying something.

And if friendship is all that he can have? Well. He’ll take it. A million times over, he’ll take it. And he will cherish it, even long after time slows, and the universe gradually darkens.

Of this, Aziraphale is sure.

He’s always moved slowly, as the world around him, parting like a river around stone, hurtles, unceasing. 

It took the better part of three millennium to begin to even think of Crowley as a friend, nevermind actually saying it. And it took nearly a full six for Aziraphale to realize, as he stood in a ruined, blackened church, that friendship was alarmingly inadequate to describe the feeling blooming verdant and vibrant somewhere deep within his ribcage.

The book has slid onto the couch. Heaving a long, slow breath, Aziraphale closes his eyes. Tipping his head back, he takes an equally long, slow sip of wine.

Two weeks.

In the grand scheme of things, it’s a blip. Nothing.

Truly, the last eleven years were an aberration. For the better part of six thousand years, Aziraphale was lucky if he encountered Crowley a few times within the same decade. And though rare, it wasn’t unheard of for a century to pass without their meeting. 

And it’s not like Crowley is likely to disappear for a century now. He had agreed to lunch. Soon-ish. So really, it’s silly to feel so out of sorts after barely two weeks without Crowley’s company, Aziraphale thinks. 

And yet-

Sipping his wine isn’t good enough. Not for these series of thoughts. Tilting his head back, Aziraphale swallows down the rest of the glass. A glance at the bottle and the glass fills again.

He’s gotten used to having Crowley around. The last eleven years have rather spoiled him, he supposes.

Another glass of wine is emptied and refilled.

It’s just - 

After six thousand years of slowly built trust, of rescues and secret meetings, of -

Aziraphale swallows down another glass.

After six thousand years spent falling in love-

And there it is.

Another glass goes down.

When you’ve only just - only just - finally been able to admit to friendship. How on earth does one go about admitting to - no, asking for more?

The fifth glass goes down much easier than the fourth. And the sixth even easier still.

Aziraphale is not one to overindulge in alcohol.

Except for when the occasion really calls for it.

And this one does.

Because - because -

He wants Crowley. He wants his companionship. He wants him here, now. He wants Crowley - he wants. He wants-

Another glass of wine. By now he’s lost count.

Because Crowley is not here. Aziraphale could call him. He could, but - but. Aziraphale is in no state. Probably. And besides, Crowley cannot come. Not tonight, at least. Maybe never. Crowley drove off, after all. Maybe Aziraphale has waited too long. Maybe he’s gone too slow.

And this thought is painful enough to warrant another drink. Or three.

He’s drunk his way through a Chateau Pontet Bordeaux red blend, an Albert Mann pinot noir, the Monsanto Chianti Classico Riserva, and half of the crystal encased Glenglassaugh whiskey by this point, and he’s fine. He is. Really. Even if the room has begun to sway around him.

Aziraphale frowns at the undulating bookshelves. 

Awfully rude of them to move. 

He sets his drink aside - or, he tries to. It tips off the table, tumbling onto the carpeted floor. 

Aziraphale sits up, swaying. “S’rude of you, too,” he slurs, waggling an admonishing finger at the overturned glass. 

When it doesn’t reply, Aziraphale huffs a breath and stands. 

This time, the entire bookshop sways, and Aziraphale clutches at the couch. The candles on the table flicker.

He should sober up, he knows - but, well, it’s just that he doesn’t particularly want to. 

The shop is dark and quiet, and he is still very much alone. 

Holding the couch for support, Aziraphale shuffles toward the abandoned glass. If he were sober, he might think to use a miracle to draw the glass into his open palm. Sober, he would also be perfectly able to pick up the glass in the first place.

He is as far from sober as Pluto is from the sun.

Tongue between his lips, he bends, reaching. 

He misses.

Unbalanced, he stumbles. Fortunately, he catches himself on the coffee table. Unfortunately, the table is where Aziraphale arranged his candles set. And when he falls, his hand presses over hot flame.

His palm, covering the pale, wax laden candle, has doused the flame. It takes him a moment to register the pain.

Aziraphale yanks back with a gasp, and his elbow knocks the table as he moves. Another candle wobbles, and he’s far too drunk to even consider catching it before it drops to the floor. 

Even after three bottles of wine and a half bottle of whiskey, Aziraphale is cognizant enough to recognize that this is very much not good.

Pressing his throbbing palm against the table, he points an accusing finger at the flame curling up from his carpet. 

“No.”

In all fairness, if the angel weren’t, as they say - drunk out of his mind - this actually might have worked. The universe, like a certain red-headed demon, does generally speaking, have a hard time denying Aziraphale. 

But he is drunk, and as such, Aziraphale’s words carry considerably less weight. And as Aziraphale stands there, frowning and swaying, the fire carries stubbornly on.

Pursing his lips, Aziraphale blinks down at the fire, and wonders if he’s honestly going to have to sober up for this.

Look,” he says, and hiccups. “M’too - I’ve had wine, you stupid fire. And the - the - precis…” he trails off, frowning. “The precis… the accuracy I’d need to put you out requires sobr- it needs less wine.”

Sitting down on the table, he folds a leg over his knee. “You see. I’m fine. I am, I am. But why’do I have to be sober right now? Dearest, I’m - I’m coping. So if you could just,” Aziraphale says, waving his burnt hand conversationally, “stop?

The flame flickers, as if in consideration.

Aziraphale sways a bit where he’s sitting on the low coffee table and blinks, waiting.

The fire leaps to climb one leg of his mahogany end table. 

Aziraphale gasps, affronted. “I asked you nicely!” 

Rolling his shoulders, he shakes out his hands. “You’re - you - you will not like me sober.”

He’s just closing his eyes and sucking in a breath to force out the alcohol, when the distinct pop of forcibly displaced air interrupts his concentration. 

He nearly falls off the table when the bookshop door slams open. It ricochets off the wall with a terrible bang, and Crowley catches it as he strides purposefully into the bookshop. 

Aziraphale blinks, admittedly still very drunkenly, but - are the demon’s edges, well…a bit indistinct?

“Crowley?” Aziraphale stares, trying to force his wine laden thoughts into some semblance of order. Because it’s been two weeks. And now Crowley’s here - kicking in his door? And his edges are…fuzzy? Why is he fuzzy?

Crowley takes one look at the fire eating Aziraphale’s end table and rug, and lips curling, cuts the air with a snap. 

Aziraphale watches with smug satisfaction as the flames wither and snuff out.

“Got what you - what you deserved,” he sniffs, staring down his nose at the blackened remains.

“Aziraphale.”

At which point, Aziraphale realizes abruptly, and with no small amount of panic, that the very reason for his current inebriation is stalking into his shop, onto his blackened carpet.

“Uh, what the actual fuck?” And then Crowley is circling, grinding snake-skinned shoes over stubbornly flickering embers. “Are you trying to burn all this down? Again? Can’t imagine Adam will reset everything twice.”

“How’d you - I mean,” Aziraphale says, blinking slowly and trying to follow Crowley’s rapid movements. He always did move so quickly. 

The thought sobers him enough to ask, “Why are you here, Crowley?”

Crowley whips around; his shoe is still grinding into the carpet. “Wha - why, why am I here? I am here because my ‘Aziraphale is being a dumbass’ senses were tingling. There I was, minding my own business all the way in bloody Rome, and they started going off like anything!”

Aziraphale, looking up at him, narrows his eyes and sways. “Rome? What were you - um no wait, hold on - your what?

“You heard me,” Crowley hisses, circling around to stomp out another ember. “Stubborn gits - and yeah, it’s a real sense. Cultivated it myself a while ago because-” he stops and gestures pointedly at the carpet. 

“Had to partially sacrifice one of the other senses to manage it, mind you - and no I’m not telling you which one and -”

Aziraphale hiccups.

Glasses gleaming in the remaining candlelight, Crowley slowly turns his head. 

And here, Aziraphale is presented with a choice.

Choice 1: Remain drunk off his socks and use his masterful acting abilities to act as though he hasn’t just drunk his way through the better part of his good wines while pining after the demon who has just broken down his door.

Or -

Choice 2: Sober up. Immediately. And face down all that has gone unsaid between them without an ounce of alcohol in his system.

Carefully clutching at the table, Aziraphale lifts the fallen glass. By the time it’s at his lips, it’s full. 

Holding Crowley’s gaze, he takes a long sip. Sitting very steadily on the table, he tilts his head and blinks innocently up at the demon. 

“Can I help you?”

The glasses are off, and Crowley’s nostrils flare as he looks Aziraphale up and down, and then at the bottles scattered about the room.

“Angel,” Crowley says, and his lips are twitching, reluctantly shrugging off concern in favor of something intrigued, curving, and dangerous. “Are you sloshed?

“What? No, no. ‘Course not,” Aziraphale says, and sips at the wine. As he lowers it, the glass wobbles; red wine splashes the carpet.

“Doing a good job wrecking your carpet.”

“M’getting a new one anyway,” Aziraphale answers, trying valiantly for nonchalance. “This one’s too burnt for my tastes.”

“Hadn’t noticed,” Crowley mutters and viciously stomps out another rebellious ember on the blackened floor.

Aziraphale tips back the remainder of the wine. And then he’s pursuing his lips, peering speculatively up at the demon. 

He doesn’t look as though he’s been attacked by their enemies. Perhaps he simply did want space. A break. From him. 

Aziraphale frowns at the glass until it’s nearly overflowing with wine. After taking a leisurely sip, he smacks his lips, and turns a slow, measuring look on the demon. 

“You look well. Considering you disappeared. And left me. Again.”

Crowley, who is snarling something at the carpet as he stomps out a final stubborn spark of flame, glances sharply up. The skin creases between his brows as he steps over the charred portion of carpet.

And now he’s circling Aziraphale.

“Now hold on,” he hisses, tilting his head, and there’s an exposed tremble to his lips. “In the car, you said, you said -” 

Aziraphale twisting to follow Crowley, sways.

Crowley stops. Pinching the bridge of his nose, he grinds out, “sober up.”

“Nothing to sober-”

“There is, and I’m not having this conversation while you’re drunk.”

“M’not. Drunk.”

Angel.

“Crowley,” Aziraphale smiles, and takes another sip.

“I’ll sober you myself,” Crowley threatens, and circles closer, glaring in a way that Aziraphale imagines is meant to be threatening.

“You’ll not,” Aziraphale says, clutching at his wine.

Oh I will,” Crowley says, hand lifting, fingers already pressing together.

Aziraphale lifts a staying hand. 

Don’t-” 

Miraculously, Crowley doesn’t. 

His fingers are pressed together - ready to snap. But he’s stopped. His yellow gaze is focused on Aziraphale’s raised hand.

Stalking closer, his nostrils flare. And then he’s sinking down onto blackened carpet, kneeling before the angel.

Aziraphale clutches the wine against his chest. 

Crowley ignores it, instead reaching for Aziraphale’s outstretched hand. Running cool fingers over Aziraphale’s knuckles, he turns his palm up. The skin at the center glistens, dark red. Pockets of flesh have puckered, already beginning to blister. 

Crowley’s fingers, careful and gentle, brush a line around the burn.

When Aziraphale shivers, Crowley jerks back, as if he were the one burnt.

“Hurts?” Crowley asks, soft and tentative as the candles flickering in the dark.

It does hurt. But not terribly. 

Dizzy with wine, Aziraphale can think only of how he now he misses the touch. How he’s missed it. Between six thousand years of denial and self-restraint, and now the last two weeks’ separation, it’s almost too much.

When Aziraphale whispers, “it hurts,” he’s not speaking of his hand.

Crowley hears the pain in Aziraphale’s voice. Aziraphale sees it in the stiffening of his shoulders, the downturned corners of his lips. In a moment, Crowley is sliding his hand beneath Aziraphale’s, lifting it to his lips.

For an impossible second, Aziraphale thinks Crowley will kiss it.

Lashes brushing his cheeks, Crowley draws a slow breath. He exhales, and where his breath brushes Aziraphale’s skin, burned, reddened flesh cools, then begins healing over. 

“There,” Crowley murmurs. Dark lashes flutter and lift, and Aziraphale is wholly unprepared for the wide, golden eyes that are now upon him.

Beneath those eyes, he feels laid bare, and Aziraphale suddenly wishes he’d taken the earlier opportunity to sober himself. Now, with his face flushed, his hand in Crowley’s, and his open palm so close to those lips, he’s not entirely sure he could survive it sober. In fact, it’s doubtful he’ll survive it drunk. 

He’s stammering, overwhelmed by the touch and yet unwilling to remove himself from it; he says, voice too loud in the quiet shop, “Glad you’re not still fuzzy!”

A single dark brow arches.

“…fuzzy?”

He’s still holding Aziraphale’s hand.

“You were, you know - all around the edges. Fuzzy, I mean.” 

Aziraphale attempts to demonstrate with his non-Crowley-occupied hand, and wine sloshes over the rim of his glass. It lands on his rug with a splat.

Oh dear.

Crowley, whose gaze has followed the wine’s path from cup to carpet, huffs a breath. “Tell me. That time you found me in Spain. After the Inquisition. Was I as bad as this?”

Aziraphale makes a noise which might have been mistaken for the sound one makes when blowing raspberry - except angels, of course, don’t blow raspberries - so clearly this was something else.

“Worse,” Aziraphale says, and adds, “Don’t change the subject.” He sets the wine aside to wipe the spittle from his lips.

Crowley’s expression wavers, torn between mirth and something else that lingers, inexorable and far more somber. 

Aziraphale can’t look away from it.

“Well, you know,” Crowley says, and he seems to have forgotten that he is holding Aziraphale’s hand, because as he licks his lips and glances away, his thumb strikes up a fumbling dance over Aziraphale’s knuckles. “It’s just, miracling a jump from Rome to London in one go isn’t easy on the physical form. Body got a bit wobbly for a second there, but it’s alright now.”

Crowley’s throat bobs as he swallows and he adds, “Ideally would have done it in a few hops. But, you know, what with our recent business with above and below. Didn’t, uh, want to risk showing up late to the party.”

There’s something distinctly vulnerable in the trembling pitch of Crowley’s voice, the stiffened slant of his shoulders, the fumbling path his thumb is rubbing into Aziraphale’s hand.

It’s Aziraphale’s glance at their hands which draws Crowley’s attention to his unconscious act. The second the demon realizes what he’s doing, his hand snaps open, releasing Aziraphale’s.

He’s gone a bit pale; and as he rocks back, physically drawing away from Aziraphale, the stricken look on his face is all the motivation Aziraphale needs to miracle himself sober. 

Sparing himself from the more immediate pains of humiliation was one thing. Crowley’s suffering, however, is something else entirely; Aziraphale would go through infinite humiliations before numbing himself with drinks while Crowley suffers alone.

“-didn’t realize, angel. That jump took a lot out of me. Must be more tired than I thought-” 

The excuses spill from Crowley’s lips as he kneels on ruined carpet, like a criminal pleading before a judge.

Wincing at the taste of soured wine on his tongue, Aziraphale scoots to the edge of the table. He’s not sure if he should reach for Crowley, so he settles for a tentative touch to his arm.

“Crowley,” Aziraphale says, and it’s more question than statement.

“Sobered up, did you?” Crowley says, dragging a wary hand down his face. 

“Crowley, what’s got you in this state?” Aziraphale asks, and leaning forward, runs his hands over each of Crowley’s arms to make sure they are all there. “Is it the jump? Is it still affecting you?”

Sober, the realization of the true magnitude of the feat that Crowley had performed is striking him anew. It is no simple task to transport oneself across a city. To jump across countries with a single miracle is, frankly, a herculean task.

Concerned about the strain such a feat might entail, Aziraphale presses a hand beneath Crowley’s chin. “Do you feel tired? Fatigued?”

Crowley, at the touch, sinks from his heels back to his knees. His lips part as he gazes up.

Beneath Aziraphale’s concerned gaze, Crowley seems to remember himself. Roughly clearing his throat, he shakes his head. “Don’t worry about it. I’m fine.”

Aziraphale draws his hand back. Pressing his lips together, he blinks, and he’s alarmed to find his eyes are uncommonly damp. “Crowley. That you - you sensed when I was in need of you? And jumped your way across several countries? And all to help me? It’s all just - well,” Aziraphale stops, trailing off.

Crowley is staring up at him, a crease like a frown between his brows. 

“M’yeah, well of course,” he says, like it’s the most obvious thing in the world.

Aziraphale stares down at him, the impossible weight of six thousand years of almosts and maybes upon his shoulders. 

“Rome,” Aziraphale finally manages. “You left. Were gone for weeks. Why Rome?”

“The way you were acting after the Ritz. Thought you might want some breathing room.”

“Oh Crowley-”

“And,” Crowley presses on, “I was looking for something.”

“What?”

Crowley looks up. In the soft light of the candles, he looks washed out, pale. 

Aziraphale reaches out, brushing tentative fingers over his sleeve - and then Crowley is ducking his head. His shoulders rise and fall, and a muscle twitches in his jaw.

Wordlessly, Crowley reaches into a pocket within his blazer. When he draws out his hand, something small and golden dangles from his finger.

“Here,” he says, voice catching.

Crowley drops it in Aziraphale’s open palm, and he’s unwilling to meet the angel’s eyes.

Crowley is silent as Aziraphale turns it over with a finger. It’s gold - still warm from Crowley’s pocket. The ring is in the form of a snake - because of course it is, and the thought is a fond one. The golden snake’s long body wraps in a circle several times over, and eventually climbs over itself to swallow its own tail.

“Ouroboros,” Aziraphale says, inspecting it.

“M’yep,” Crowley answers, clearing his throat.

“It’s old. Ancient,” Aziraphale says, turning the jewelry over again in his palm. He can feel it’s age, a resonant pressure against his skin. “Ouroboros,” he muses, then adds, “used to signify the cyclical nature of life; wholeness; eternity.”

“That’s the one.”

Aziraphale glances up. “Why Rome? As opposed to Egypt, Greece, India?”

Crowley shrugs. “Saw one that I liked when I was there.”

“You saw this one,” Aziraphale clarifies.

This has Crowley shrugging again. “Yeah, I mean. It’s got a nice look to it.”

“And when was this?”

Crowley is muttering under his breath, but Aziraphale is sure he hears a forty in there somewhere.

“I’m sorry, did you say 40 A.D?” Aziraphale gapes. “All this time you’ve been in Rome trying to unearth a centuries old ring? It’s been weeks, Crowley! I’ve missed you!”

“Yeah, well I-” Crowley stops. “You missed me?” he asks, soft as a sigh.

The sound of it - Crowley’s disbelief; his quiet wonder - it actually makes something hurt in Aziraphale’s chest. That Crowley doesn’t even know how much Aziraphale has missed him, is evidence of how long Aziraphale has gone on saying far, far too little.

Of course I missed you,” Aziraphale breathes, hardly more than a whisper.

Oh,” Crowley says. And then he’s blinking, clearing his eyes. Pressing his lips together, he visibly steadies himself. “You like it then? The ring?”

“I do,” Aziraphale answers, slipping it onto his hand. “You’ve finally done it,” he jokes, “gotten me to give up my singularly winged aesthetic.”

“I, er - there’s a reason.”

Aziraphale looks up from adjusting the ring on his finger. 

“And what’s that?”

“It’s, uh, well-” Crowley says, his voice going nervous and high, “a bit of a symbol? You could say?”

“A symbol?”

“Yeah. You know, with the eternity bit and all that.”

Aziraphale has a moment to be glad he is no longer drunk, because even while perfectly sober, he seems to have lost control of some of his faculties; his mouth has fallen open.

“Oh?”

“No, no wait.” Crowley is straightening, scrambling to correct. “It’s not to pressure you, or anything of the like. In fact, the opposite.” And here, he takes a breath. 

“I wanted you to have it,” Crowley says, golden eyes bright as the candles around them. “So every time you look at it, you know. Well. I mean, you have me. You know that, right? Forever - or, er, so long as you want me,” Crowley says and swallows.

And I’ve got no expectations, angel. I would spend eternity doing nothing more than sharing the occasional lunch, if that’s what you wanted. What I’m trying to say is - go slow. Slow as you need. Anything you have to give is enough. I’ll take it. I’m thrilled to take it. It’s more than enough.”

Kneeling, Crowley looks up, head tilted back. His smooth neck is bared, and Aziraphale can see where the pulse he doesn’t strictly need, jumps, racing beneath his skin.

Aziraphale reaches for him. Fingers steadier than they have any right to be, caress the edges of Crowley’s blazer.

Hands dangling at his sides, Crowley watches him; But for the parting of his lips, the demon is still as stone.

His utter stillness nearly makes Aziraphale stop - until he realizes what Crowley is doing. He’s waiting; giving Aziraphale a chance to change his mind - to pull back.

Heart in his throat, Aziraphale slides off the coffee table’s edge. Kneeling on the floor, his legs bump Crowley’s, and the demon’s knees press against his, bony and warm.

His hands slide up Crowley’s blazer. He stops at the edge of the pointed lapels, hesitating a moment, fingers twisting nervously in the fabric.

Crowley’s voice is gentle, and Aziraphale’s name is on his lips, a benediction and a promise.

“Aziraphale- ” This is fine. This is enough.

It’s enough to make Aziraphale feel entirely foolish for having feared this step. After all, it’s not as though he’s doing any of this alone. Crowley is with him. And that will always be enough.

Aziraphale lifts his hands. Careful fingers cup beneath Crowley’s jaw. And when Aziraphale’s thumbs paint reverent lines along his skin, Crowley’s chest heaves and the breath leaves him in a rush.

“Alright?”

Perfect,” and Crowley’s voice is a soft, wrecked thing. “But angel, you don’t - you don’t have to.”

“I want to,” Aziraphale assures him, as he traces Crowley’s skin. He’s brushing the demon’s neck, and then his exploring fingers are tangling in Crowley’s hair.

“May I kiss you?” 

Crowley trembles at the question. Golden gaze half-lidded, he manages a hoarse, “Please.”

Aziraphale leans in, thumbs stroking his jaw. Their noses brush. 

The kiss is gentle, easy; the meeting of softly trembling lips.

Aziraphale pulls back for a breath, only to immediately think better of it; and presses their lips together again.

Crowley makes a soft, shuddering sound.

When Aziraphale pulls back, he notices Crowley’s hands. Fingers splayed and white knuckles stark against black fabric, he holds tight to his own legs, as though they are an anchor. 

“You can touch me, Crowley.”

“Are you-”

Interrupting him with a kiss, Aziraphale says, “please, darling,” and it’s a sigh against his lips.

Crowley doesn’t deny him.

First, it’s the gentle slide of fingers over Aziraphale’s hands. Then a trailing touch up his arms. And finally, warm palms cradle his face.

And there, for a long while, they stay. 

In the bookshop, illuminated by warm candlelight, they press together, each exploring the other with careful lips and a reverent touch. 

By the time they think to move off Aziraphale’s thrice ruined rug, the candles have burned low. Aziraphale stands first, holding a hand out for Crowley. 

They’ll move to the couch, or perhaps Aziraphale’s seldom used bedroom. It doesn’t matter, so long as they go together.

Before following Aziraphale, Crowley stoops to grab Aziraphale’s long forgotten book. Still open, it rests where, hours ago, it had fallen to the floor. Holding it up, he moves to snap it closed. 

Aziraphale stops him with a touch.

“Ah. Leave it open, dear. Please.”

“Right. Sure.”

The book is left open upon the table, ink marked pages free and waiting.

As Aziraphale takes Crowley’s hand, the demon bends, and with a breath, douses the candles’ soft glow.