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A Secret About A Secret

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“A picture is a secret about a secret, the more it tells you the less you know.”

Dust motes floated in the air, catching the failing light in the stillness of the late evening. Aziraphale was aimlessly unpacking boxes - which consisted more of him removing the lids, peering inside, sighing, and then moving on to the next box. He couldn’t seem to settle or focus.

“For heaven’s sake,” he muttered to himself. He’d only called London home for a few hundred years, and yet here he was, acting bereft.

It wasn’t as if they couldn’t go back. They would go back… eventually… After Heaven and Hell had turned their attention elsewhere. His bookshop was still there, in the capable hands of Anathema. If anything, she might make it a profitable venture. He quailed at the thought.

She had, at the very least, promised not to sell any of his books, and he had, as a precaution, packed up his most valuable editions and brought them south in the move. It had only taken twenty or so boxes… Which meant that Crowley and his cottage now looked quite a bit like the bookshop.

It should make him feel at home, but he merely felt… adrift .

They’d arrived in the sleepy little village and their cottage only three days ago; three days of Aziraphale rattling around… And three days of no Crowley, who had given the place a once-over, grunted in reluctant acceptance, and disappeared inside his room.

Where he was still asleep.

Without the demon’s constant larger-than-life presence to push back against, Aziraphale was at a loss. He didn’t want to perturb his friend but also, it was hard to focus on anything when he kept getting distracted by worry. How long was it normal to nap?

He wasn’t sure, never having taken up the habit himself and never having shared space like this with Crowley before. The demon had taken countless catnaps on Aziraphale’s couch, but never more than a few hours. But every time Aziraphale had peeked in on the prone figure under his black duvet, there had been no sign of life other than the subtle rise and fall of Crowley’s breathing. 

He was beginning to think Crowley’s flippant excuse for his years of absence back in forty-one of I was taking a nap hadn’t been an exaggeration. Aziraphale didn’t know what he’d do if Crowley slept the better part of a century again. Once had been more than enough.

Another box. Another lid. Another flurry of dust particles. Another sigh- 

Except this time, he didn’t replace the lid. He didn’t recognise the contents of this particular box. It was filled with files. He pulled out the first one and flipped open the cover: investment statements. Crowley . He slid it back into its place, then paused.

The rest of the files were identical, except for one at the very back of the box. It was less of a folder than a portfolio. While some of the files looked incredibly old, this one obviously predated all of them by a significant amount. It was made of brown leather - worn and scuffed with years of handling.

But what was more intriguing was the emotion clinging to it. In the gloaming, it practically glowed with feeling against the indifference surrounding the box’s other contents.

Curiosity getting the better of him, Aziraphale lifted the portfolio carefully, holding it by its edges as if it were an immensely valuable book. His fingers tingled - anger and frustration and sadness… a plethora of emotions, but at the heart of it… a longing; a yearning

“How curious,” he mumbled.

All these emotions tasted of Crowley. Aziraphale would recognise the demon’s particular signature anywhere, but the range of emotion was something he wasn’t used to experiencing from Crowley. It didn’t surprise Aziraphale that he was capable of feeling such things, but holding the evidence, as it were, in his own hands… that was something else entirely.

Aziraphale sank onto the couch next to the stack of boxes and opened the portfolio up on his lap. It held a thick collection of loose pieces of paper of various sizes and colours and ages. Crowley must have been collecting these for a very long time. Aziraphale turned the top sheet over - cheap, modern printer paper - and sucked in a breath.

On the stark white paper, in soft grey pencil, was an immaculate rendering of an ear. There was nothing remarkable about the ear except for the loving detail the artist had put into the drawing - and the artist had literally put love into every delicate line. The curve of the of the helix… the roundness of the earlobe… the hint of feathery curls surrounding and grounding the ear, reminding the viewer that this ear… this ear belonged to someone. Aziraphale’s fingers hovered over the oversized sketch, feeling the love radiating from the page.

Towards the bottom right of the sheet, Crowley had signed his name - a strange, looping version that looked more like the mark on his face than anything resembling the letters that composed the two syllables of his name - and dated it; just a few weeks before the apocalypse-that-hadn’t.

This ear belonged to someone that Crowley loved .

Aziraphale wasn’t sure how to feel about that so he turned the page quickly - the strange, unsettled wobble in his chest contrasted with the tingle that travelled up his arm as he touched the paper. So much love … 

The next drawing was on nicer paper - almost buttery in texture and a pleasing off-white shade - and showed the back of a neck: precisely rendered short hairs along the hairline and a gentle slope until hidden by a collar.

The lines of this piece were looser, full of expression. Aziraphale could tell that less time had been spent on it, both with his eyes and with his extrasensory abilities. This had been drawn to idly pass the time.

He noted the date: last year. Apparently, Crowley wasn’t in the habit of drawing often, or at least he didn’t save his work often. If the former were true, it would explain why Aziraphale had never known he’d had this hidden talent.

He turned the next few pages - similar studies, showing the graceful bow of necks from various angles. After that first drawing’s intensity, these were a relief. Then he paused and flipped back through the studies.

They were the same neck, but dated months - even years - apart.

That disconcerting feeling was back, squeezing around Aziraphale’s heart. He’d known - heavens, he’d been told by Crowley, himself - that the demon had other people he spent time with. Why did this feel like a revelation, then; that Crowley had someone in his life that commanded such careful, dedicated attention? Why did these drawings feel like a betrayal?

He went faster through the pages, now feeling like he was prying but unable to stop himself.

A set of shoulders and an arm, adoration etched into each fold of the rolled up sleeve… 

Legs crossed at the knee, an almost religious fervour in the modelling showing the solidity of the body under the slacks…

A hand holding a pen lightly with dexterous fingers, the crosshatching containing a surprising  undercurrent of bitter frustration…

Aziraphale turned sheet after sheet, barely registering with his eyes what he could feel with his senses: painful, unrequited, angry, confused, ardent, passionate lovelove love . Countless details, going back years and then decades.

His heart pounded in his chest and he stopped at a drawing - gestural and almost aggressive in its bold lines. The date in the corner read 1862 .

Aziraphale’s heart stuttered. Not just because of the pain that the particular date brought to the forefront of his mind, but because of the drawing itself.

There was that ear, framed by that pale hair - ill-advised sideburns… that hand, raised to obscure the silhouette of a face, but unable to hide the wrinkles at the corners of the hidden eye… and a ring-

The feeling went out of Aziraphale’s hands and the portfolio tumbled to the floor, spilling its secrets - No, singular… its secret . - out across the surface. Aziraphale’s own face looked up at him like looking in a shattered mirror; one that reflected back memory as well as light. 

That was his chin and those were his eyes; his hands and mouth. He was captured in bits and slivers and pieces… over and over again in a hundred different expressions, over thousands of years. It was him. It was him .

Something large and horrible pushed up underneath his ribs, compressing his heart and making it difficult to breath. He named it in his mind: hope . But he kept it trapped, afraid of letting it fly free; afraid of the damage it could do. He couldn’t ever remember feeling like this; like his human body was insufficient to hold the emotions within. The skin between his shoulders itched. His throat ached. His eyes burned.

He dropped to his knees, accidentally landing on a few of the drawings. His hands dug through the sheets of their own accord, without paying heed to their wellbeing. The paper crumpled under his hands as he searched, graphite and charcoal smearing. There would be no hiding this. If he was wrong… if he had allowed himself once again to cling to something ephemeral… 

He found the drawing. It’d been hidden amongst others far older, but it wasn’t nearly as old. The hurt in it was too fresh. He held it in shaking hands. It burned, both physically and psychically. He wasn’t just feeling his own desperation, his own longing, his own painful heartbreak… He was feeling Crowley’s .

He remembered the moment Crowley had captured with perfect clarity. He couldn’t recall what had been said, but he remembered how he had felt as he handed over his favourite thermos and the fraught hours leading up to that precise second, as he decided to trust a demon - not just with holy water, but with his heart. 

In fact, it had never been about the holy water; never about Heaven or Hell finding out.

It had been about the value of a life - Crowley’s life - and Aziraphale’s realisation that he could not - would not and could not - continue living his own without knowing that Crowley continued to burn brightly… irresistibly somewhere in the world. He’d been an angel of the Lord and it had terrified him that he’d somehow, somewhere along the line, began to live his life for someone that wasn’t G-d - and a demon , nonetheless… 

1967 .

Aziraphale stared at the shine Crowley had captured in his wide, pleading eyes. He remembered taking in Crowley’s face there in the Bentley, in the neon lights of Soho, assuming it would be the last time he’d see his friend. He’d felt his heart tearing as he tried to pull back, to love Crowely less, to prepare himself for the hurt he feared was to come… He’d barely held it together after turning Crowley’s innocuous offer down and nearly fleeing. Each step away had been utter agony because he’d left a tender part of himself with the demon. He’d given it to Crowley long before he’d even been aware of surrendering it.

Aziraphale was drawn from the past by a noise at the back of the cottage. He jumped, startled to find himself in 2019, in southern England, rather than sixties London. He blinked tears from his eyes and looked in horror at what he’d done: tear drops stained the portrait in his hands, the pages on the ground were wrinkled and torn, and everything was hopelessly out of order.

There was another noise. A door opening. 

There was nothing for it. He scrabbled at the sheets, gathering them together as best as he could, and arranged them back inside the portfolio. He stood, heart in his throat, feeling like a child caught doing something naughty. 

Hadn’t he, though? He’d opened something that ought not have been his to open; pried open a part of Crowley that the demon hadn’t elected to share… not freely. Guilt washed over him.

Crowley walked out of the hallway, arms stretched high above his head. His black silk pajama top rode up, revealing a sliver of red-tan skin, a trail of dark auburn hair, and the jut of his hip bones. Aziraphale looked away, cheeks heating. 

“You know…,” Crowley said through a jaw cracking yawn. “I can feel you fretting.”

Aziraphale shut the portfolio - the snap of the closing cover sounded like a gunshot in the still room - and shoved it back in its box.

“I’m sorry, what? Fretting? Not me…” He nearly dropped the lid, fingers clumsy. He attempted to adopt an air of nonchalance. “Just tidying up… Did I wake you? Wait…”

Fretting … And yes, you did. All that worrying… as good as shouting. What’s got your waistcoat in a twist, angel?,” Crowley drawled, sauntering towards the kitchen. “We have any biscuits? The ones I like? Dipped in dark chocolate?”

Aziraphale trailed after Crowley, bemused.

“Can you really?” Aziraphale asked, a bit in awe, from the doorway, watching as Crowley rifled through the cupboards. It was another revelation; that Crowley could sense him. He’d always assumed it to be a one-way street; part of his ethereal nature. “Feel me fretting, that is?”

He walked over and plucked the box of chocolate biscuits he’d bought for Crowley from the top shelf, handing them to the demon. Their fingers brushed and Aziraphale snatched his hand away as quickly as possible. He rubbed them on his slacks, as though he could erase the sensation of the contact.

Crowley blinked down at him and frowned.

“Truly? No,” the demon admitted, sounding disappointed in his own limited empathic abilities. He opened the box and popped a biscuit, whole, into his mouth. “But after six thousand years… one picks up a few things… rhythms… moods…”

He spoke around the food in his mouth and Aziraphale found himself torn between chiding his manners and smiling at him fondly.

“So?” Crowley prompted, planting a hand on the counter and leaning closer to him. Aziraphale’s smile wavered as Crowley waggled the sleeve of biscuits in offering. “Care to share what’s on your mind?”

Aziraphale held up a hand and shook his head, unsure if he was turning down the food or the question. Crowley raised an eyebrow and hummed skeptically before pushing away and sprawling himself in one of the chairs at the kitchen table. Aziraphale didn’t know that could possibly be comfortable, but the demon made it look practically elegant.

“Do you want some cocoa?” he asked, trying to soften the rejection and distract from his uncharacteristic… well… everything

Like how he couldn’t quite get himself to look at Crowley.

“Do you want some cocoa?” That same skeptical, questioning tone. Aziraphale could feel Crowley’s eyes on him. How had he never noticed the pressure the demon’s gaze exerted? How had he missed the careful observation that those drawings would have required?

“No… I want-” He met those golden yellow eyes and swallowed. Words were failing him. He walked gingerly towards Crowley. 

The moment felt precariously balanced. He could turn away, make cocoa, and they could slip back into what they did best. It’d be so easy and comfortable. But now that Aziraphale knew … He couldn’t turn his back on this. He gripped the back of the chair opposite Crowley and felt slightly more stable.

“Why have you been sleeping since we got here?” he blurted out. Crowley blinked up at him, his face a careful, blank mask.

“Because I was tired, angel… Don’t you ever get tired?” Aziraphale wanted to say that he did; that sometimes he felt worn thin by time and circumstance. He felt tired right now. Crowley didn’t give him a chance to answer. “And before you ask, no. You don’t tire me. The damned apocalypse did me in and I needed to… reboot, as it were. I’ve honestly never tired of you, maddening as you can be.”

Crowley accompanied the insult with a lopsided, charming grin and Aziraphale let out a breath he hadn’t realised he’d been holding. It wasn’t what he’d been worried about - at least not consciously - but it was still a relief. He slid into the chair and smoothed his hands absently over his trousers.

“That- That wasn’t what you were going to ask, was it?” Crowley began, uncertainly. Aziraphale shook his head. “Regardless, I’m sorry if I worried you.”

A smile spread across Aziraphale’s face, independently.

“I appreciate that, Crowley…” He trailed off, words failing him again. The ease of their normal conversation abandoning him when he needed it most.

His eyes darted from Crowley’s eyes, to his mouth, to the V of the neckline of his pajamas, then back up to Crowley’s gaze. He couldn’t help but picture the drawings he’d been looking at just minutes ago, unintentionally comparing what Crolwey’s deft hands had captured to the demon’s own beauty. He felt humbled and unworthy next to such a creature. Crowley had found art in Aziraphale’s human form, but Crowley himself, was art - the way he held himself and moved and even dressed.

The mirth had drained from Crowley’s face and Aziraphale realised that he hadn’t said anything in excess of a minute.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen you at a loss for words, angel,” Crowley said somberly, not a hint of the usual teasing in his tone. Something shuttered passed behind the demon’s eyes. He was pulling away; putting up a wall.

No...

Aziraphale opened his mouth to say something- anything … but nothing came out, so he reached. He couldn’t let Crowley retreat behind his flipancy. He didn’t want that anymore.

He touched Crowley’s brow - one of the worry wrinkles on his forehead - trying to smooth it away; the gesture almost like a benediction. It elicited a small flinch, like Aziraphale’s fingers contained a slight electrical current. He didn’t know if it was a reaction of displeasure or surprise, either way, now that he’d crossed the distance between them, he couldn’t seem to draw himself away. His thumb grazed over heated skin like brush strokes: over the faintly red eyebrow, the crow’s feet, the jut of cheekbone… 

He could feel the thud of Crowley’s pulse in his temple. Aziraphale’s throat closed with emotion. Too much time had passed to talk now and Crowley hadn’t moved away. His eyes were focused and intense and utterly unreadable, so Aziraphale continued, sweeping his thumb over to the shell of Crowley’s ear,  

He didn’t think he’d ever touched Crowley like this. There’d been the occasional hand to the arm… back… shoulder… They’d shaken hands countless times. But in all the millennia they’d known each other, Aziraphale didn’t think they’d ever even hugged.

Six thousand years; hundreds of them with The Arrangement, the last dozen seeing each other nearly every day… 

When was the last time he’d been hugged? Had he ever?

When’s the last time he’d even been touched ? How about Crowley? He knew Crowley had been the last person to touch him, but for the life of him, he couldn’t recall. Their business-like handshake as they swapped appearances hardly counted.

Aziraphale ran the pad of his thumb down along the ridge of Crowley’s helix, then took the lobe between it and forefinger, tugging lightly, feeling the give of the flesh. He longed to be able to describe the feeling that the heat of Crowley’s skin elicited in him; the painful fragility of the flesh and the tenuousness of their connection now that the apocalypse had been averted.

He trailed his pinky along Crowley’s jaw, followed by ring, middle, and pointer fingers, defining the line he knew so well with his touch. He’d traced it countless times with his eyes, but this… this rendered the sharpness new again; tactile and immediate. He could imagine doing this everyday for another six thousand years and never growing tired of it. 

The demon exhaled in surprise, his eyes widening fractionally. Aziraphale was close enough to feel the breath against his cheek.

“Ange-” Crowley croaked, choking before finishing the familiar appellation.

Once again, Aziraphale gripped Crowley between thumb and forefinger, holding onto the demon’s - his best friend’s; his only friend’s - distinctive chin.

Crowley made a strangled sound that could have been the second syllable, but Aziraphale would never know, because Crowley collapsed towards him, swallowing the noise as he pressed his mouth against Aziraphale’s.

All the air went out of the room. Aziraphale’s lungs were replaced by vacuum, as if the hope he’d held captive for so long was collapsing in on itself like a dying star.

Crowley was kissing him - chaste and breathless and dry - but definitely kissing him in a way Aziraphale had never been kissed before. He’d been on the receiving end of passionate kisses, lustful kisses, kisses full of unrequited love, and he’d always been bemused and curious but ultimately removed from the emotions the other party was experiencing.

This though- this … This barest brush of Crowley’s mouth against shook him to his core. He felt his grace quaver at the center of his being, electric ripples shooting along his nerves. He gasped, feeling like he was drowning. Crowley started to draw away but Aziraphale followed him, pushing his forehead against Crowley’s and screwing his eyes shut.

It didn’t make much of a difference. The sun had set and the kitchen was awash in shadow. His hands groped blindly for Crowley’s, grasping at them desperately. He couldn’t bear to be parted from him.

“I didn’t know,” he panted against Crowley’s lips. “I didn’t know , Crowley…”

He drew Crowley’s hands up and kissed each knuckle.

“The drawings… you could have told me…” he whispered between kisses, brushing his lips against hot skin. “You could have told me .”

“I couldn’t…” Crowley shook his head, hair sweeping over Aziraphale’s brow. “I thought… I could show… but I never could…”

“Show me now…” Aziraphale rasped, tugging on Crowley’s hands, uncertain what he wanted… what he needed; only aware that he had to be so much closer but unable to put the necessity into words. 

He didn’t need to. Crowley made a low, painful whine and was suddenly on him - long legs to either side of the chair, stradling Aziraphale’s lap - kissing him as if it were more important than breathing. Aziraphale didn’t have time to think. He didn’t need to think. His hands went to Crowley’s slim hips - cool silk sliding like water over the warm skin underneath - and pulled him in. He marvelled at how practiced the manoeuvre felt, Crowley slotting against him like they’d been made to do this.

Why had they not been doing this since day one; how had they not? Crowley should have crowded close under Aziraphale’s wing on the Wall of Eden and kissed him then and there; kissed him and never stopped kissing him.

He slipped his palms up under Crowley’s top, fingers dipping into the twin dimples on his lower back… up the ridges of Crowley’s spine… and coming to rest on the wings of his scapula.

The demon was so slight. He felt fragile in Aziraphale’s arms so he held Crowley tighter - elbows against ribs; forearms either side of his spine. This had the effect of forcing Crowley flush against Aziraphale. They broke apart, sharing harsh breaths.

“You’re-” Aziraphale couldn’t say it. Crowley was… aroused . The evidence was pushed against the swell of Aziraphale’s stomach.

“So’re you,” Crowley uttered in an utterly wrecked voice, grinding down so that Aziraphale’s insides clenched. He rolled his hips up to meet the demon, seeking more pressure and friction. That was new … Crowley kissed his way along Aziraphale’s jaw to whisper in his ear. “I’m begging you… angel… please …”

Aziraphale didn’t even know what Crowley was asking for but he’d give it to him. He’d give Crowely anything he wanted. Aziraphale turned his head and captured the rest of Crowley’s begging with the guilty, sinking feeling that he’d let Crowley down for so long… all those offers over the years. It’d been him, Aziraphale, that had held them back from this. He was filled with overwhelming mortification at his utter obliviousness.

His grip on Crowley turned fierce.

“I’m so sorry …” He dragged his fingers down Crowley’s back, digging into flesh as if he could get to the spirit beneath; the fundamental elements of which Crowley was composed. If he could gain access, maybe he could figure out how to make amends. “I’m so-”

Crowley cupped Aziraphale’s face and shushed him.

“Show me.” It wasn’t a request. It was a demand. In the darkness of their kitchen, Crowley’s eyes caught the scant light, reflecting like a cat’s. There was a challenge there.

Aziraphale let his hands slip lower, under the elastic band of Crowley’s pajama pants, finding nothing between him and the smooth round swell of the demon’s rear. He gripped hard and shifted, standing up. Crowley huffed out in surprise, grabbing Aziraphale’s shoulders for balance and wrapping impossibly long legs around his hips. Crowley was so light; so insubstantial.

For a second, all that Aziraphale could do was bury his face in Crowley’s neck and breathe him in; the reality of him in his arms. Crowley’s arms encircled his neck, returning Aziraphale’s ardour. He placed lingering, tender kisses to the side of Aziraphale’s head. In each of them, one thing resonated: I love you. I love you. I love you.

If the emotion hadn’t already been so evident in Crowley’s drawings, it would have brought Aziraphale to his knees. As it was, he staggered - not with the weight of the demon, but the weight of feeling - towards the hallway. 

Crowley’s fingers were in his hair - tugging, demanding - pulling Aziraphale up into another kiss. This time, Aziraphale was able to wrap his head around it and savour the feeling of Crowley’s hot mouth on his own. He was past the shock and disbelief. He angled his head, a boldness overcoming him.

Aziraphale stopped in the doorway to Crowley’s room, pushing him against the jamb, and licking along the seam of his lips. Crowley moaned, opening to him. Aziraphale could feel the demon offering himself and it was terrifying, the trust Crowley so freely gave to him. This, as in everything else, Crowley had one speed.

For the first time since meeting Crowley, Aziraphale was prepared to match his speed. They were hurtling towards something - inevitable, ineffable - and he was ready. He pulled them away from the support of the doorway and stepped into Crowley’s room. They were both breathing heavily, sharing small, fleeting kisses that were more brushes of lips against skin - incidental and aimless - than proper kisses. Neither of them could bear the slightest separation.

Aziraphale walked until his shins hit the edge of the mattress. He kneeled on it and lowered Crowley so that he was sprawled on his back. The room was dim. The sun had set, reducing the demon to his tonal greys. Everything about him was dark, except for his eyes. They captivated Aziraphale. They almost glowed, a pale white-gold ring around pupils as deep and endless as the sky. Aziraphale thought that he could even see the sparkle of something like far-off constellations, but the illusion was there and gone between one blink and the next.

“You’re stronger than you look…” Crowley breathed into the dark, running his hands over Aziraphale’s shoulders and down his arms. He could tell Crowley was doing it for the thrill of the novelty as much as for the pleasure of it. Aziraphale still blushed. “My angel…”

Crowley’s hands fell open and vulnerable on the bed next to his head. His face mirrored his body language, a small, pleased smile quirking up the corners of his mouth.

“My angel… ” he repeated in awe.

Aziraphale was struck dumb once again. He was Crowley’s. He leaned forward, planting his palms near Crowley’s shoulders.

Yours ,” he murmured, pressing a firm kiss to Crowley’s mouth. “Yours… yours… yours… my demon…”

He kissed a different part of Crowley with each repetition: the tip of his nose, the corner of his eye, the hollow of his neck…

Mine …” He finished with a long, lingering kiss to Crowley’s bared sternum.

Yours …” Crowley sighed, tipping his head back. Without looking, Aziraphale could tell Crowley had closed his eyes. His fingers were in Aziraphale’s hair without demand.

Aziraphale balanced on his knees between Crowley’s spread legs and spanned the demon’s ribcage with his hands. Even the thin silk was too much distance between them. He plucked at the shirt’s buttons, urgency suddenly back, feeling like he was unwrapping a present of which he was undeserving.

No , he reminded himself. It wasn’t about deserving. It was about choice . Crowley had chosen him, just as he had chosen Crowley. They might be of angelic and demonic stock, but this… this was utterly human.

Unfastened, the fabric slithered to pool at Crowley’s sides. His long torso was pale against the contrast of the black silk. Aziraphale placed his hands in the same position he’d had them earlier, fingers lined up with the delineations of the demon’s ribs. He let the unnatural heat of Crowley’s skin radiate into his palms, feeling the steady thrum of his heartbeat. It was like he was filled with a flickering remnant of the fires of Hell. 

It was Crowley’s life force; everything Crowley was composed of - his grace, his love, his… ineffability . Aziraphale found he preferred it to the cold, brightness of Heaven.

 

Aziraphale curled over and pressed his mouth to the pulse in Crowley’s throat, tasting the fire-smoke sweat tang that lingered on skin. He trailed his lips down, licking into the hollow dip above Crowley’s clavicle, and then further down, sparse chest hair scratching at his lips. He rubbed his cheek against the sensation, lingering at Crowley’s breast and the wild pounding of a human heart.

Further… and further…

Down and down…

The silk of Crowley’s pajamas was damp over the swell of the demon’s erection. Aziraphale exhaled in surprise and deep contentment; there was no rush… no fear… He wanted to stay in this state forever. A dozen scenarios ran through his mind: mouthing at Crowley through the fabric, slipping a hand to circle his fingers around his length, skipping over the straining flesh altogether and continuing his way down Crowley’s impossibly long legs…  

Angel… ” Crowley pleaded, fingers carding through Aziraphale’s hair lightly. Aziraphale could feel the trembling restraint in Crowley’s shaking hands. He arched under Aziraphale’s ministrations, and Aziraphale, unable to say no anymore, gave himself to Crowley.

He skimmed his hands down Crowley’s sides, hooking his fingers into the waistband of the silk pajama bottoms. Crowley lifted his hips, uncharacteristically quiescent and compliant. Aziraphale liked him like this.

“I like you,” he muttered, not holding back anymore.

He liked him like this… He liked him in all his ways - stubborn and angry and recalcitrant and sullen and wry… He loved him… He loved him… 

“I love you,” he whispered, pushing his forehead against the jut of Crowley’s hipbone. His voice was barely louder than an exhale but the confession sounded as loud as if he’d shouted it in the dark stillness of the room.

Crowley cupped the back of Aziraphale’s head, touch so tender that it gave Aziraphale the courage to look up. Crowley’s eyes glittered and shone like they were lit from within, twin golden stars in the night.

“I know…” he breathed in response. “I was… I thought…”

Crowley trailed off and Aziraphale knew what he was saying so loudly with his silence: fear. Fear that Aziraphale wasn’t ready yet; that Aziraphale didn’t feel the same; that… 

That Crowley was alone with his pain and longing and waiting. Aziraphale wrapped his fingers around the base of Crowley’s cock and kissed the hollow above his hip as the demon arched, gasping.

“I love you,” Aziraphale repeated, turning his face and ghosting his mouth over the head. 

He didn’t know exactly what he was doing - he had plenty of theoretical knowledge, but no practical - but by the noises Crowley was making; the way the demon was tugging gently on his hair; the uptick in his breathing. It made Aziraphale feel… powerful .

“I love you… you beautiful demon…” He lapped the flat of his tongue from his fist, up the underside - feeling the vein pulse, and sealing his mouth over the head. The taste was tangy and slightly bitter. He sucked lightly and Crowley bucked.

Ohh angel… ” Crowley moaned, fingers tightening in Aziraphale’s hair. “ ‘Ziraphale … careful- I-”

Aziraphale slowly sank down, tucking his lips carefully over his teeth. It drew a long, drawn-out whine from the back of Crowley’s throat, and then-

Az- ira- ” Crowley pulled roughly at his head, trying to pull him off. Aziraphale pushed down at Crowley’s hip, gently stroked - once down… up - and hummed. “- PHALE!

The vein under Aziraphale’s tongue swelled and that bitter taste thickened. Oh! Aziraphale swallowed, relishing the experience: the pain of having his hair pulled, the lack of oxygen, but most of all, the way Crowley curled towards him, keening as he came.

Aziraphale wanted more of this, in every way possible. He wanted to take Crowley apart with his hands and mouth and all the other ways that he’d only read about; wicked, wanton ways.

Crowley collapsed, panting. His fingers went lax and fell onto the mattress next to his hips. Aziraphale pulled off with an obscene pop that made him blush even after what he’d just done. He glanced up at Crowley.

The moon had risen to a point that it’s rays angled through the window, palely liming Crowley. His head was tipped back, eyes closed and mouth open. He looked like a martyr in the throes of ecstasy.

Beautiful ,” Aziraphale whispered.

“Don’t-” Crowley began, but Aziraphale ran his hand up the demon’s torso to lightly rest over Crowley’s throat. He felt Crowley swallow under his palm. He crawled up to look down directly into Crowley’s eyes.

“Beautiful,” he insisted firmly.

Crowley grimaced but didn’t protest. 

“I can’t believe…” he trailed off, looking vulnerable for a moment. Then he plucked at Aziraphale’s cardigan. “I can’t believe you’re still dressed.”

Aziraphale knew that wasn’t what Crowley had been going to say, but he let the demon keep his secrets for now. There would be time enough. They had the rest of their lives. He wasn’t going to let another six thousand years go by like the last six thousand.

“I got rather distracted,” he retorted playfully, almost flirtatiously, liking the way the bare honesty tasted on his tongue. He grinned, happy and content in a way he rarely experienced.

Crowley’s eyes widened and he slowly returned the smile.

“Get up here,” the demon demanded, hauling on his lapels. Aziraphale laughed and let himself be manhandled up in a rough kiss. When they parted, there was a familiar look in Crowley’s eye; one that had never bode well for Aziraphale before. “Your turn.”

Somehow, he thought this time might be different. He thought that everything might be different from now on.

“Do your worst, my demon,” he muttered fondly, pressing another chaste kiss to the corner of Crowley’s mouth. “Or your best. Whichever one you decide.”

Crowley groaned at Aziraphale’s gentle teasing, but it didn’t stop him from pushing the soft, grey cardigan from Aziraphale’s shoulders and kissing him, long and slow.

Utterly different, but unchanged in all the important ways.