“Anthony J. Crowley, you are hereby sentenced to six weeks community service for your misconduct, the serving of which is to be determined at the discretion of the Board of Administrators. Dismissed.”
Six weeks community service. Not all that bad, considering he had fully intended to burn the school’s entire administrative center to the ground, had skipped class to complete his plan (not that he went all that often anyway), and had been caught chain smoking cigarettes in the girl’s bathroom afterwards. Not bad at all.
And he actually had to complete the service this time, or he would be shipped off to military school by the System, capital-S, functionally an orphan of the state since his mother had left with his baby sister, his only contact with her the checks she still occasionally sent. His father left him mostly well-enough alone, disappearing for long stretches at a time only to stumble through the door after one of his benders to sleep it off. Crowley tried to stay out of the house whenever his father was home. It was safer that way, less risk of saying the wrong thing and getting a heavy fist to the face for it. The older he got, the better he got at navigating those mine-field conversations with his father, and he prided himself on this ability, this skill in smooth-talking anyone. Or, nearly anyone, anyway.
They lived in a cramped, three-room house that had begun to slouch into the earth the way old and unkempt buildings are wont to do. The outside walls used to be white, but they were caked in enough grime to appear more of a vaguely-grey brown now. The house was preceded by a concrete porch, white, rusted bars like shards of bone jutting out into a railing and columns, doing nothing to make the structure more inviting.
He had tried so hard to fill it with something , growing a veritable forest in the shabby little home he ostensibly shared with his father, surrounding himself with life to beat back the heavy feeling of death that seemed to crowd his every step, a shadow he couldn’t get out from under.
Crowley was widely known in school— in town even— as a trouble-maker. A bit rough around the edges, bad home-life— you know the type — gossiped the neighbors, eyeing him sharply as he ripped around on his motorcycle, ignoring all traffic laws and generally causing as much disturbance as possible. He would show up to class stinking of whiskey, or that sour, sharp mixture of marijuana and tobacco, if he bothered showing up at all. All the teachers hated him, and that was exactly how he wanted it.
Fucking perfect town in fucking perfect fucking middle America. How much worse could it get? Crowley didn’t want to consider it. So he drank, and he smoked, and he drove as fast as he could, chasing the racing of his pulse that reminded him You’re alive you’re alive you’re alive . He knew he was more of the live-fast-die-young type. So, might as well live as fast as possible, right? It was fine. As long as he thought about it as little as possible, it would be fine.
Nothing else could touch him.
There was a new kid at school, a city kid, rich as sin, and everyone was talking about it. Crowley, of course, didn’t care one whit about some shiny-faced newbie, shoes polished within an inch of their lives and tie done up tight, collar crisp and hair unsuccessfully plastered down, with an overwhelming masculine scent that didn’t fit his soft, round face, his pudgy body wrapped in so many layers you couldn’t even be sure how much of his padding was clothing and how much was flesh. He was shockingly… nice , to everyone . It was disturbing . No one was that nice, that naive and disgustingly friendly . Clearly he was hiding something, Crowley reasoned. There was no other possible explanation.
Crowley didn’t talk to him, the first few days of school, when summer hadn’t quite let go yet, the air thick as molasses and just as sweet. He saw him, bustling around between his classes, books clutched tight to his chest and cheeks flushed with the stifling heat. But he never even took off his jacket. Something to hide , Crowley reminded himself, idly leaning against a wall plastered with posters exclaiming “Knowledge is Power!” “Run for Student Assembly!” and sign-ups for the fall play, Hamlet , again . He watched as the new kid weaved his way through the halls, murmuring polite “excuse me!”s and “oh, so sorry, pardon me”s like someone’s Nan. Crowley itched for a cigarette.
What was it about him? Crowley didn’t know, but he couldn’t stop watching him. He was so friendly, his good intentions almost seemed to leak out of him, beaming out of his face, especially when he smiled. That bright, white-toothed smile. Crowley wanted to bloody it, crack those teeth against his knuckles until this feeling that itched under his skin dissipated. He knew it wouldn’t help though. Nothing helped. He wanted , with a strange intensity he didn’t know what to do with, wanted to muss that hair, release the curls that the humidity tugged one by one from the case of his pungent hair gel, tear off a few layers, stain those white, white slacks with motor oil, with grass, with sin. Anything.
He went home, accelerating around each bend, leaning just far enough to feel the knife-edge of a possibility of crashing, the hem of his jeans nearly brushing the asphalt as he tore around corners, trying to drive out of the feeling in his head.
He pushed open the front door of his house, leaning over the threshold, listening intently for any hint of his father, snoring away or slamming around the kitchenette. Nothing. He was safe.
He flicked off his sunglasses and wandered around the living room with the fold-out couch he slept on, watering the plants that lined the four walls and covered every horizontal surface. No photos, no trinkets, just verdant green things. He flopped down onto the creaking old couch when he had finished his rounds, idly plucking at the stuffing that spilled from the far left corner of the seat cushion. He closed his eyes, leaning back, gangly legs thrown recklessly out in front of himself, and considered what he should do with the hours he had before the fucking community service. A nap would probably do him good.
--- --- ---
Of-fucking- course this new kid was doing community service after school, and for a moment Crowley was intruiged, trying to figure out what this cream-puff rich kid could have possibly done to be sentenced to community service. But it turned out he just liked it. He was there completely of his own volition, looking excited about the prospect of picking up garbage for an hour after school every day, or scrubbing pots in the back of the kitchen, a fucking angelic fucking smile on his face.
“Hello!” he waved, smiling brightly at Crowley as he slunk into the room, hands in his pockets and sunglasses firmly on. “I don’t think we’ve met… I’m Aziraphale. I know, strange name, religious parents and all.”
Crowley said nothing, staring at him considerately behind dark lenses for just a beat too long, hoping for a reaction of discomfort from the tightly-buttoned boy in front of him. He didn’t get one, just the same placid smile.
“Crowley,” he drawled, offering a black-nailed hand to shake. It was a mistake. The kid, Aziraphale, grabbed it firmly in his own little pudgy thing, shaking it in a smooth, practiced, polite motion, holding just a second after the shake before releasing. Crowley was light-headed. Stupid. His palms were so soft, so far from the rough scratch of calluses Crowley knew his own hands carried. Stupid.
“All right boys, we’re not here to socialize, let’s get to work.”
--- --- ---
Aziraphale didn’t ask him about his glasses until the third day.
“So, the, um, shades?” he hedged, not looking at Crowley. Which was sensible, considering that they were both trying to collect as much trash as possible before leaning over to scoop it all up, and there was quite a bit of it, considering fucking high schoolers couldn’t give less of a shit about where they threw their garbage.
Crowley didn’t answer. What could he say, that eye contact made him uncomfortable? Too real. That it helped with hangovers, or hiding eyes bloodshot and heavy with a high? True, but he didn’t want to scare this particular innocent away. At least not just yet.
“Looks cool,” he quipped.
“Do you really wear them all the time?”
Crowley didn’t answer, but out of the corner of his eye he could just see the blond pause for a moment, waiting for a response, before nodding his head, so easily accepting that none was forthcoming. Warmth bloomed in Crowley’s chest. Stupid.
--- --- ---
And so it went, for two weeks. Crowley strolled into community service a fashionable five minutes late, Aziraphale said hello, and they went ahead with their respective tasks in near silence. This was fine, as far as Crowley was concerned. He did not need any further temptation when it came to Aziraphale, of that he was certain.
But then, Aziraphale made a mistake. A big one. One that shattered into a thousand tiny shards on the hard kitchen floor at his feet. He didn’t move for eight entire seconds, just staring where the huge glass display piece had been in his hands. And then he looked up, at Crowley, with such fear in his eyes, though fear of what Crowley couldn’t be sure. It wasn’t as though Aziraphale was serving a sentence like him or anything, and dropping something could happen to anyone. But he looked desperate, on the verge of tears, and of course, Crowley couldn’t help himself.
When their warden (well, not really a warden, just the kitchen manager, who was overseeing their work today) came back and demanded, “What’s this?” in her most authoritative voice (which she had been working on for years and thought was pretty good if she did say so herself) after she saw the hastily swept up shards in an otherwise empty trash bin, Crowley immediately spoke up.
“Yeah, that was my bad. Fucking thing just slipped right out of my hands.”
She frowned at him, deeply suspicious.
“That’ll be another week for language and gross neglect, young man.”
But when the woman had trundled her way out of the kitchen, Aziraphale had looked at him in such open admiration that Crowley couldn’t even bring himself to look directly at him, like he was the sun. Too bright even with the sunglasses.
“You didn’t have to do that.”
“Yeah, well, ‘s fine. Wouldn’t want the goody-two-shoes to get into trouble, would we?” Crowley muttered, keeping his eyes down.
“Thank you.” Aziraphale reached out to touch his arm, to get his attention and convey his honesty, face earnest in a way that made Crowley’s insides twist and his fingers twitch, aching for a cigarette, or the throttle of his bike.
But it was worth it.
--- --- ---
Aziraphale didn’t show up the next Thursday. Crowley shrugged it off-- it wasn’t as though the blond was required to be here like he was. He could do as he pleased. But then he missed the next day too, and Crowley didn’t see him around school when he showed up. He told himself his attendance had absolutely nothing to do with trying to locate a certain curly-haired someone. Nothing at all. Couldn’t have too many absences, right? Maybe Aziraphale was just sick. Yes, that made the most sense.
But then on Monday, Aziraphale was there, and his eyes were red-rimmed and puffy, and he wouldn’t look Crowley in the eye. Crowley knew he shouldn’t say anything, knew the polite thing to do would be to pretend he couldn’t see the clear distress on his face. But Crowley was never one for doing the polite thing.
“So, what’s got you all bent out of shape, then?” Crowley nudged him with an elbow as they stood side-by-side at the industrial sink in the school kitchen, fruitlessly trying to scrub out stains older than they were.
Aziraphale jerked, and Crowley didn’t know if he was surprised by the nudge or the broken silence. “Er,” a rough, gravelly sound. He cleared his throat, tried again, “It’s nothing.”
“Clearly it’s not nothing if I’m asking you about it.”
Aziraphale turned to him, eyebrows pinching in what on anyone else’s face would be a scowl, but on him just looked a little confused, and terrifyingly cute. Cute! Crowley internally slapped himself. Get a fucking grip, man.
“I mean you don’t have to tell me, but you probably should,” Crowley mused. “After all, who am I gonna tell? I’m probably the lowest-stakes interaction you have on any given day.”
Aziraphale looked away, down at the industrial-sized pot in his soaped-up hands, biting his lip as his brow relaxed. “I had a… death. In the family.” He sniffed wetly, and his voice cracked sharply as he continued, “my-- my dog, Gloria. She--” but he got no further, as Crowley couldn’t contain his bark of laughter.
“Your dog?! You’re telling me you missed two days of school for your dog? Oh, that’s just too rich!” Crowley exclaimed, shoulders shaking as he tried to suppress his guffaws, abruptly going sour in his mouth when he looked back over at Aziraphale, saw tears slipping down his round face, scrunched up as if he was in pain.
“Wait, hey, no, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean--”
“Yes you did! I knew I shouldn’t’ve told you! You’re so-- so-- mean !” Aziraphale clearly struggled with even that weak insult, quickly pulling his hands out of the sudsy water and drying them hastily before angrily wiping the tears off his face.
“No, listen, hey, I’m sorry, I’m really sorry, Aziraphale, I didn’t think--” shut the fuck up Crowley, what did you do, what did you fucking do, you fucked this up, you ruined it and now he’ll never speak to you again .
“No! I don’t care! I.. I.. I hate you!” and he was gone, the metal kitchen door swinging behind him. Crowley, elbow deep in suds, was frozen, surprised in the worst way. Well, that didn’t go very well, did it? Like a lead fucking balloon.
--- --- ---
The worst part was that he couldn’t stop thinking about it. People had said worse to him before; hell, his own father had said worse to him, and he had said much worse himself, but the interaction with Aziraphale kept echoing around in his head, that soft round face crumpled in grief.
Maybe he should… do something. Make a gesture of some kind. Show that he was actually sorry. But what could he do? It wasn’t like he was going to go out and get Aziraphale a new dog, he barely even knew him! Why did he care so much about that naive idiot anyway? This was stupid, this whole thing was stupid.
And so he went to the liquor store, the one where they knew him and never bothered with ID, and he drank half a fifth of whiskey out of a paper bag in the parking lot before deciding, fuck it , and hopping on his bike, determined to find Aziraphale whether he wanted him to or not.
How fortunate then, that just as he was pulling out of the lot, a fluff of white blond hair caught his eye.
“Hey! Hey ‘Ziraphale!” he slurred, jumping off his bike, barely remembering to set the kickstand.
The blond head stopped moving, and turned slow and careful, like he was expecting to be hit. Crowley grimaced, and swigged from the bagged bottle he still gripped in his left hand. Fucking stupid.
“Anthony.” Aziraphale greeted, coldly.
And that hurt, somehow. Aziraphale had never called him that before. Crowley wasn’t even sure how he knew Crowley’s Christian name, but he supposed, schools had lots of records, he could have found it easily. Still, there was a reason Crowley didn’t go by his first name, the name his parents had slapped him with, a name with countless copies far back in his family tree. He frowned, pushing out his lower lip into a pout.
“Hey, hey I jus’ wanned to say I w’s sorry , iss all. I didn’ mean to-- to hurt y’r feelings ,” He gesticulated a bit too much, throwing his arms around his sides as if he wasn’t quite familiar with how to use them.
“Are you… are you drunk ?! And you’re driving?! Crowley-!”
And there he was, back to the right name. Maybe he understood, in some way. Or maybe he just forgot himself.
“No, no, ‘s fine I do it all the time, don’ worry about it, angel.”
“Angel? What-” Aziraphale was staring at him, eyes wide as dinner plates.
Crowley immediately realized what he had said and fought the urge to vomit. He felt himself flush straight to his ears, and mumbled something about his hair looking like a halo, and how he was always doing good things, but when he looked down, something else caught his eye.
“You already godda new one?” He lurched forward, desperate for some distraction from this conversation. Aziraphale was stiff, pulled back on the soft blue leash in his hand, as if to keep the little corgi away from Crowley and his whiskey breath and grabbing bony fingers.
“No, y’re right, sorry, I’ll jus-” he gestured vaguely behind him towards his bike.
Aziraphale seemed conflicted, but Crowley was ready to leave this fucking interaction and try to drink until he forgot all about it. He should still have enough whiskey left for it. He swished the bottle in his left hand, to check the volume, accidentally drawing Aziraphale’s attention to it.
“I don’t think that’s a very good idea, Crowley.” Aziraphale spoke softly, as if he wasn’t sure how Crowley might react.
“Well, I’m th’ King ‘f bad ideas, so.” Crowley punctuated his statement with a swig from the bottle, relishing the dizziness of throwing his head back to swallow and the burn he could feel all the way down his esophagus.
“Let me at least walk you home?” Aziraphale up at him, eyes soft like Crowley had never seen before. Maybe this was how pity looked on him. Crowley hoped it wasn’t.
Crowley deliberated, swaying a little from side to side as he thought. It wasn’t that much of a walk, and he could always get his bike tomorrow. But there was a twisting in his gut at the thought of Aziraphale seeing where he lived. He couldn’t forget the blond was a city kid, had more money than God, and Crowley was poorer than poor, and his house looked it.
“Yeah, alright,” he heard himself saying, though the hand not wrapped around the neck of the bottle clenched into a fist. Control yourself .
They made their way down the cracked sidewalks, Crowley swinging his legs around like his hips weren’t quite in their sockets, and Aziraphale pulling along the new dog, Virtue. Stupid name for a dog , thought Crowley, but then again Aziraphale had said his parents were religious freaks. It wasn’t a very long walk, but they had just gotten started, maybe a block away from the parking lot, when Aziraphale suddenly said, “I don’t mind, you know.”
Crowley frowned, trying to figure out what the hell he was talking about, a task made more difficult by the fog of alcohol in his head, which in turn relaxed and terrified him. He was afraid he would say something he shouldn’t. Not something he didn’t mean, but something he meant too much . Just barely dusk wasn’t really the best time for confessions, in Crowley’s opinion.
“Mind wha’?” he prompted, utterly unable to conjure Aziraphale’s meaning.
“If you… call me that. Angel.”
“Oh.” Crowley had no idea how to respond to that, felt his heartbeat climbing into his throat as he tried to make sense of the world, which had started to tip concerningly to the left. Aziraphale grabbed his arm, righting him, and he realized that perhaps he had had a touch too much to drink, because the world hadn’t in fact tilted, he had just started to list sideways, a bit. But then, Aziraphale didn’t let go. He held on, one arm wrapped through Crowley’s, one holding the lead for Virtue. What a sight they must have been: gangly, sharp, all-black Crowley and short, soft, beige-and-white Aziraphale, stumbling down the sidewalk arm in arm like a couple of drunkards kicked out of a bar for having a bit too much, led by a tiny corgi.
“Wh’sky?” Crowley offered, bringing his arm around with the neck still clutched tight in his fist.
“No, thank you,” Aziraphale responded politely. Ever a goody two-shoes , thought Crowley. What I wouldn’t give to see him give in, live a little . But he shrugged, and took another swig.
Once they reached the corner of Crowley’s street, he quickly disentangled himself, muttering a quick “well, thanks,” and attempting his typical swagger down the street, though he looked more like a strange marionnette than anything else. Halfway to his house, Crowley turned around, finding Aziraphale still standing on the corner, watching him with a soft concerned frown on his face. He threw a halfhearted salute back to him, turned back around, and didn’t look back again, just threw himself into his house and down onto the old couch. God, what the fuck was he doing .
The next week was… normal. Really normal. Too normal. Crowley saw Aziraphale from afar as he moved between classes, and they silently did community service in the afternoon. It wasn’t uncomfortable, sitting in silence with Aziraphale. In fact, Crowley found he quite liked it. Aziraphale was soothing, soft spoken, soft tempered, all around soft. He fit against Crowley’s hard edges in a way that made the world seem to back up, a bit. Made him feel less like he was being hunted for every thing he did, less like he was racing through life, careening towards an early and violent death. Crowley didn’t want to look at that too closely.
--- --- ---
But that Friday, the fourth week of his now-seven-week sentence, something changed. Crowley had no idea what it was, but there was something different . Aziraphale came and found him during lunch hour, plopped down next to him with a lunch tray. Crowley was startled.
“How-- how did you find me?” he asked. He was barely even on school property, lounging against a short cement wall behind a shed on the far end of the soccer fields. He liked it here, and came often. He could smoke and no one would bother him.
Aziraphale didn’t even deign to answer, just crossed his ankles and tucked in to the shitty cafeteria food the school served as if it were fine dining. Crowley was transfixed.
“Would you like to come over?” Aziraphale suddenly asked, the question so unexpected Crowley felt like he’d been sucker-punched.
“Sure,” He wheezed, covering it up with a drag on the cigarette pinched between his fingers. Aziraphale smiled.
--- --- ---
They walked to Aziraphale’s house, after community service, the blond pulling along an ancient-looking bicycle, complete with basket and horn. Crowley kept shooting nervous looks at him, but Aziraphale seemed perfectly calm. Crowley’s heart was racing.
They stopped in front of a huge, white, looming monstrosity of a building. Aziraphale carefully locked his bike to the black metal fencing that surrounded the property, green lush grass and not a weed in sight. It was almost creepy, how well-kept it was.
“Here we are,” Aziraphale announced, unnecessarily, pushing the unlocked door open into a wide foyer, complete with the kind of sweeping staircase Crowley had seen in fancy period films and not much else. Suddenly, he felt self-conscious. He shouldn’t touch anything, probably. Wouldn’t want to rub off on all this pristine white-ness. He swallowed nervously.
“Hello? Mom? Gabriel? Michael? Uriel?” Aziraphale called, voice not quite echoing, but Crowley thought it should’ve. He really wasn’t joking about the religious nuttery.
“Aziraphale!” A man who looked to be about thirty was standing at the top of the stairs, in a slick grey suit, arms spread and a wide smile on his face that Crowley found weirdly… fake.
“Hello Gabriel,” Aziraphale smiled thinly, gesturing quickly to Crowley, “this is Crowley, he’s my friend from school.” Crowley nodded in greeting, shoving his hands uncomfortably into his pockets.
“Great! So glad you’re making friends, Aziraphale.”
“Yep, okay, we’re going to my room, bye!” the blond had ducked his head down, flushed with embarrassment, and pushed Crowley around to the right, walking him through an offshoot of the foyer and avoiding the stairs entirely.
“Have fun, little brother!” Gabriel called after them, an edge of mockery to his tone that made Crowley’s hackles rise.
“Sorry, about him. He’s, well. You know. Oldest sibling and all that.” Aziraphale was still red, still pushing Crowley along through long hall after long hall.
“Seemed like a bit of a dick, if you ask me.” Crowley muttered. Aziraphale hid a smile.
--- --- ---
After what seemed like half a mile’s walk through the house, they reached a plain, white-painted door. Aziraphale pushed it open and gestured inside. “My room.”
Crowley was stunned. This one room was more than twice the size of his entire house. It looked like Aziraphale lived in one of those old-fashioned libraries. There were books filling the floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, even one of those fancy sliding ladders for the higher-up ones. There was a whole set of furniture, couches and little tables and huge ornate armchairs stacked with even more books.
“You live in the library?” Crowley couldn’t help but tease, stepping carefully inside as though worried he might knock over one of the stacks of books scattered around, some as tall as he was. There was a bed shoved into the far corner, next to a window, gold metal frame, and the softest looking duvet Crowley had ever seen, but he made his way to one of the couches, flopping down onto it in a facsimile of coolness.
“Well, I do like books quite a lot, and I didn’t want to have to share my room with any of my siblings, so…” he trailed off, gesturing vaguely around the room.
“‘S nice. So… what did you wanna do?” Crowley asked.
They ended up watching a movie, though Crowley couldn’t have said what it was about if his life depended on it. They had wandered into the fucking home-theatre Aziraphale had, because of course he did, and sat on one of the couches in front of the big screen. And then they stayed there for nearly two hours, in the dark, and Crowley couldn’t control his thoughts. They were right next to each other, and sure, they did this all the time during community service, but now they were alone . And Aziraphale had invited him here . That had to mean something right? Friendship, you dumbass , Crowley told himself, but Aziraphale’s hand, placed carefully on the couch between them, whispered at him that maybe it was something else.
--- --- ---
After that, Aziraphale started sitting with him. Every day.
Crowley would smoke cigarettes, and Aziraphale would eat. And they would talk about nothing, for a whole entire blessed hour. And then Aziraphale would go to class, and Crowley would do whatever the fuck he wanted (sometimes even go to class).
And it was fine. Better than fine. It was good .
And Crowley was so afraid that it would end, that he would fuck it all up and then never get to speak to Aziraphale again. Aziraphale who didn’t mind when he called him angel, who ate absolute garbage food with such care, such relish . God, he hated him. But then, no, that wasn’t right at all. Not even close.
--- --- ---
Right around the second-to-last week of his community service, Crowley was feeling reckless. He had done the Right Thing so many times because of Aziraphale, going to class sober and even turning in homework and he knew they were friends at the very least, and it was high time he made his move, if he was ever going to.
So after community service, on a Friday night that was unseasonably warm for mid October, he decided fuck it , and took the leap. Just don’t think about it , and it’ll be fine. What’s the worst that could-- no, probably best not to think about that.
“Hey angel,” Crowley crooned, pulling up close on his bike, hair slicked back and cigarette tucked behind his ear, just over the arm of sunglasses, “Hop on, lemme take you for a spin.”
“I’m not sure that’s the best idea...” Aziraphale flushed, an adorable pink high on his cheeks, and kept his hands tight around his school bag.
“C’mon, Aziraphale, it’s just a little ride. I promise I won’t speed, how’s that? We can even have a picnic, look” he cajoled, holding up a grocery store bag with some bread, two apples, and two bars of chocolate. He also had wine, and a joint stored in his pocket, but Aziraphale didn’t need to know about that yet.
The soft blond looked left, right, left again, running his fingers nervously over the leather of his bag and looking for all the world as if he was worried about getting caught. By who, Crowley wasn’t sure.
Eventually though, he nodded, and threw a leg over the bike, tucking himself up behind Crowley and wrapping both arms tight around his middle. He was so soft , and warm and Crowley really needed to stop thinking about it right this fucking second before he could consider how close they were, how he could feel Aziraphale’s breathing against the side of his neck, little puffs of air brushing past the back of his ear. Fuck.
Crowley resisted the urge to open the throttle, and instead pulled leisurely out of the school lot.
One perk (the only perk, if you asked Crowley) about living in the middle of fucking Nowheresville small town America, was all the secret, wide-open places one could go to cause trouble. And he knew just the one he wanted.
They rolled to a stop off the side of a road, closer to the edge of town than the center, and Crowley kicked down the stand. Grabbing the grocery bag, he led Aziraphale into the tall wheat field that bordered the road, pushing through the golden stalks until he reached what he was looking for: the six-foot wide clear patch he had flattened down for just this purpose after lunch earlier today.
“Here we are!” He gestured grandly, tossing down the plastic bag and himself, laying out on the ground and stretching his arms up behind his head, staring at the sky which was just starting to darken. He was reminded of the last time he had been alone with Aziraphale under a darkening sky—their walk to his house, whiskey fuelling him to what he never would have done otherwise.
Crowley’s heart was beating an erratic rhythm against his ribs. He needed to get this right. He patted the ground at his side, and heard Aziraphale consider for a moment, before sitting cross-legged next to him, hands folded primly in his lap. “Is this…?”
Crowley had no idea what he was going to say, and it seemed Aziraphale had no intention of finishing the question, let it slip away into the stalks of wheat that surrounded them.
Crowley sat up, pulling the bag over to him and removing the contents one-by-one, laying out the meager spread, and twisting off the cap of the cheapest red wine he could find in the store. He took a swig, and offered the bottle to Aziraphale, who, surprisingly, took it and took a tentative sip. He made a face, and Crowley couldn’t stop his laughter.
“Don’t like it, angel?”
Aziraphale grimaced and shook his head.
“That’s alright, more for me.” Crowley said, even as he put the bottle to the side. He passed one of the apples to Aziraphale, and half the bread.
They ate in silence for a bit, the sky darkening to a bruise-sweet purple.
Crowley pulled out the joint, lit up. As he exhaled, Aziraphale turned towards him, a confused look on his face.
“That doesn’t smell like a cigarette.”
“That would be because it’s not. Wanna try it?” Crowley offered, having melted back onto the ground, propped on his elbows with his legs stretched out.
Crowley wasn’t expecting Aziraphale to pluck the joint from between his fingers, taking a determined puff before hacking out a long series of coughs.
Crowley smiled lazily, already feeling the high seep into his brain, softening his thoughts.
“Mmm, happens to everyone.” He took the joint back, took a lazy drag, exhaling up towards the emerging stars, pulling off his sunglasses to see them better, those tiny little pinpricks of light so very far away.
To his surprise, the blond reached for the burning bit of paper and herb again, taking a much more careful inhale this time around, and doing his best to stifle the coughing.
They stayed there, in silence, watching the sky slowly saturate with dark, a tentative spill of blue ink that started in the east and slowly crept across the arc of the sky, as the sun sank past the edge of the horizon and left everything with a soft, almost surreal feeling. Aziraphale started humming something, voice a soft tenor that crawled right up under Crowley’s skin, unfurling in his chest until it filled him completely, until his entire body hummed in tune, like his whole self was harmonizing along with the angelic bastard next to him. They were still passing the joint back and forth, relaxed and each feeling the sluggish rush of their high.
“Oh! Chocolate!” Crowley remembered, sitting up a bit too fast and laughing at the way the world swirled around as his blood redistributed itself. He rummaged around in the semi-dark for the grocery bag, pulling out one of the bars and hungrily tearing open the wrapper. He took a bite, and then went to pass the bar to Aziraphale, but mis-judged the distance a bit, and ended up whacking him in the chest with his hand.
The blond let out a helpless giggle. And then another. And then he tipped backwards, laughing like he couldn’t control it, and didn’t even want to. Crowley was dizzy with his high and those bright peals of sound. He had thought the humming was magic, but this , oh this was something else entirely. It was sweeter than the chocolate still coating his tongue, and he wanted more than anything to taste it.
So he did.
He leaned over, and pushed the smallest of kisses into Aziraphale’s laughing mouth. He didn’t stop his giggles, but he reached for Crowley’s shirt, clutched him close.
When he had calmed himself, sighing sweetly with a wide wide smile on his face, stars reflected back from those electric blue eyes, he pressed his own chaste kiss to Crowley’s lips. He relaxed back onto the ground, murmuring, “I’ve never done that before.”
Crowley didn’t move, didn’t breathe, afraid anything he did would ruin the moment, suspended and stuck, happy to wait forever if he had to.
Aziraphale leaned back up, slowly, slowly, and pressed the softest of kisses to Crowley’s lips. Chaste kinds of kisses. The kinds of kisses first kisses were meant to be. And he kept kissing him again, and again, the coming and going of his mouth morphing slowly into pressing their lips together, moving them like he was whispering a secret into Crowley’s mouth. And Crowley was kissing back, as slowly and softly as he could, so as not to scare him off.
When Aziraphale had got his fill of kisses, he lay back again, released his vice grip on Crowley’s shirt, the fabric stretched and wrinkled, leaving a map of where his hands had been. He sighed, sounding satisfied, content, and Crowley’s heart was pounding; you’re alive you’re alive you’re alive.
He lay back too, and Aziraphale reached for his hand, twining their fingers together. His heart was so full he was worried he might cry. It ached , ached like the burn of the first cigarette he had ever smoked, ached like skinned knees and bruised knuckles, like a split lip you couldn’t help pushing at with your tongue. The stars above them were beautiful, and Crowley couldn’t resist reaching up with his other hand and pointing, “you see that there? That’s Cassiopeia, and the myth goes that she had a daughter, who she thought was more beautiful than anyone else…”
--- --- ---
Crowley had barely closed the door to the bathroom in his own house behind him before he was tearing at his trousers, gripping his cock with one hand while the other raced up to cover his mouth, tracing the path of Aziraphale’s lips over his own, physically holding back the pathetic whimpering sounds involuntarily slipping out. He worked himself frantically, trousers still clinging to his hips, pushed just enough out of the way for him to get at himself, tugging harshly with a dry hand, and it chafed terribly but he was so goddamn close it didn’t even matter.
Aziraphale had kissed him, and not just once either.
He bit down on a knuckle as he spilled over his fist, hips kicking forward uselessly and head thumping back into the door. He was so fucked. They hadn’t even done anything more than kissing, and Crowley really thought he was past the age of getting so worked up over nothing more than a few soft presses of lips. He hadn’t even used his tongue, for chrissakes. Pathetic. Just kissing and Crowley could barely keep it in his pants. He looked down at his hand with vague disgust, the viscous pearly fluid sliding casually towards his wrist and offering no advice at all. Fuck.
The thing was, they hadn’t talked about it. Crowley spent the whole weekend thinking about it, jerked off probably more than was reasonable, and panicked about the possibilities awaiting him on Monday. But when he showed up for lunch, and met Aziraphale by their normal spot past the soccer fields, the blond just tilted his head up, squinting into the sun, and offered a soft smile.
Crowley was so anxious it felt like his nervous energy was spilling out of him in waves, pushing up against Aziraphale like ripples in a pool around a rock. But, that made sense, he supposed—rocks were only moved by water after years and years ; he remembered that much from ninth-grade geology.
He grunted a non-committal hello and fiddled with a cigarette, not wanting to light it yet, but hoping it might serve to calm his nerves at least a little. He couldn’t help looking at Aziraphale’s mouth as he ate. Soft, pink lips closing around his plastic fork, hiding those straight white teeth, locking away the wet curl of his tongue. Couldn’t help but remember how they felt, imagine how they might feel now. The same? Different? In what way? He wanted to know, but the possibility of rejection was too real, too sharp and close in the harshness of the noon-bright sun.
Maybe it was just the weed , he reasoned. He probably wouldn’t have done it otherwise . Maybe he even regretted it. What if he felt Crowley had forced himself on him? But no, he had kissed him back, initiated, even. Hadn’t he?
Aziraphale had begun his usual babbling, oblivious to Crowley’s internal struggle as he bemoaned Mr. Harrison’s interpretation of Ethan Frome , something about pickles and red decorative dishes?  But Crowley was not listening, barely managed to string together three words during the entire lunch hour. At this point it was just embarrassing .
 He should have been paying attention, because he would have realized that Aziraphale was very pointedly discussing the only instance of sexual symbolism the damn book had to offer. Might have cleared a few things up for him, in terms of Aziraphale’s intentions.
All too soon, the hour was over, and they still hadn’t talked about it, hadn’t so much as referenced their—Crowley forced himself to call it what he so desperately wanted it to be—date. And now Aziraphale had to go to class, and he wasn’t moving , he was just staring at Crowley intently, biting his lip. His eyes begged Crowley for something, but he didn’t know what, didn’t want to overstep a boundary. If dusk wasn’t good for confessions, noon was even worse.
“Er, I’ll uh, see you around, then. I guess.” Crowley cleared his throat, biting back a possibly hysterical nervous laugh.
“Crowley, I--” Aziraphale was reaching for his sleeve, and Crowley absolutely was not going to deal with this right now.
He stood up, abruptly, brushing off his jeans and announcing a falsely-cheery, “Bye!” before loping across the empty soccer field in the direction of the school lot. He needed to leave , needed to go home and get absolutely fucked up . He was so fucking stupid , and he couldn’t even deal with the consequences. He just knew that he couldn’t afford to lose Aziraphale. Which was stupid. They were barely friends, he didn’t even really know him. And here he had gone and pinned his fucking heart on that stupid, soft, open face, like an absolute idiot , and he didn’t even have the balls to admit it. Stupid.
--- --- ---
When Crowley got home, nearly vibrating through his skin with tension, he didn’t see the old, beat-up Volvo parked haphazardly on the street in front of his house, couldn’t think about anything but the destructive urge racing through his blood. He needed to break something, to scream or punch or hurt . He had stopped at the liquor store on his way, had picked up enough booze to fuel a 4th of July barbeque, and he was determined to drink until he passed out. Hopefully he wouldn’t wake up until next week.
He slammed the door open, stomping his way inside, throwing the liquor store bag onto the couch and himself right behind it. He had just managed to twist the top off a bottle of cheap, shitty liquor when he heard it. Slow, heavy steps, in the room next door. His blood turned to ice, then near instantly back to fire. Perfect. He could start a fight, like this.
“‘S that you, Anthony?” his father slurred through the wall between them. Crowley didn’t answer immediately, trying to gauge whether or not his father might come out and face him, give him the opportunity to push his luck.
Fortunately (or unfortunately, rather, but Crowley was in a mood), his father did exactly that, lumbering into the sitting room, looking grizzled and worn down, bloodshot eyes squinting at him from under heavy, dark brows, thick lips twisted in a permanent grimace on his grey-stubbled face.
“Who the fuck else would it be?” Crowley muttered, not even trying to hide the bottle in his hand. His father’s eyes tracked to it, a spark of hunger igniting there, before it was eclipsed with irritation.
“An’ what the fuck’s that you’ve got there, Anthony? Because if ’s what I think it is, you know the rules.” Crowley could feel his face pulling into a smirk, lips curling until he was nearly snarling, baring his teeth at his father, knew he was just making it worse for himself. But he wanted it, deserved it even.
The first crack of fist against flesh always surprised him, somehow. Red and white spots bloomed in front of his eyes, and he tasted blood, knew his sunglasses were broken. He didn’t care.
He fought back, scratching and kicking and throwing his own punches, but his father was so much bigger than him, so much stronger, had plenty of practice winning fights. Crowley fought until he didn’t care anymore, until he could feel the pain leaching across his skin, the first bruises already darkening, blood thick and metallic on his tongue.
Live fast, die faster. Right?
--- --- ---
The next day Crowley rolled up to school in his usual style, worn leather jacket, black jeans, black sunglasses, slick hair. But he moved carefully, cautiously, like he had rehearsed all of his movements beforehand and was practicing moving slow, so unlike his usual whip-crack self.
His sunglasses and jacket hid enough of the damage, his own split knuckles easy to excuse. He was meant to be a trouble-maker, after all, and the only person who might genuinely care, or bother to ask, he was avoiding like the plague.
--- --- ---
It worked for two days, better than Crowley had anticipated, to be honest. But, on Thursday Aziraphale cornered him in a hallway between classes and grabbed his wrist harshly, going to pull him somewhere they could talk. Crowley flinched hard and let out a noise, unable to stop himself, and Aziraphale dropped his grip like he had touched a hot coal.
Crowley dropped his head, avoiding Aziraphale’s eyes, which turned out to be a mistake, because his new sunglasses slipped down his swollen nose and revealed the impressive black eye he was currently sporting. Crowley knew immediately when the blond had seen it, stumbling backwards with a gasp of surprise and horror.
“Crowley! What-- What happened ? Are you alright? Who did this to you?” Aziraphale was fluttering his hands, flapping them at his sides before twisting them sharply together, fingers white with the strain.
“Aw, it’s nothing, angel, don’t worry about it.” Crowley still wouldn’t meet his eyes, was tugging on the bottom of his jacket, pulling the fabric taut from shoulder to hip, then switched to fiddling with the zipper, trying desperately to think of a way to get out of this conversation before it went somewhere he couldn’t handle, couldn’t talk his way out of. “You should see the other guy,” he joked weakly, wanting so badly to brush it off as nothing, just another stupid schoolyard fight.
“No! You need to-- you need… have you been looked at? By a doctor or something?” Aziraphale sounded so worried , so sad for him. It made his chest ache beneath the bruising, made him clench his hands into fists to feel the split skin protest, threatening to open again, to pull apart and drip blood down between his fingers, warm and metallic and red; to let his pain run out into a steady drip-drip-drip onto the shitty linoleum-tiled floor of the hall. But he forced himself to relax his hands, to look at Aziraphale and assure him, “It’s fine, Aziraphale. I said don’t worry about it. I’m fine.” He grit his teeth around the lie, maintaining eye contact. That was important, when you were lying.
Aziraphale didn’t believe him, he could see it. But he had manners, and there was nothing he could do, so he dropped it. Let Crowley keep his secrets, for just a little longer. It wasn’t as though he was entitled to them.
--- --- ---
They still had lunch together, for some reason. Aziraphale still came to him every day, and every day he would sit and talk and Crowley would curl up or stretch out and smoke and sometimes talk back. It was nice. It was normal. It was fine. But it wasn’t enough .
--- --- ---
Aziraphale had invited him over again, said that his whole family was off on some boating trip for the weekend but he ‘always got too seasick’ and had begged off. Crowley had no idea what to do with himself. It seemed unaccountably rude to show up drunk, or high, like he wanted to, numbed out enough to keep things platonic, maintain their tentative status quo.
So he showed up sober, flask full of vodka tucked into the waistband of his jeans and another joint in his pocket. He could hope, right?
Aziraphale’s house was enormous. Crowley was sure he would never stop feeling overwhelmed by that imposing façade, a feeling only intensified by the pristine white entryway, the endless halls full of rooms he might never see.
But Aziraphale’s room wasn’t like that. His room was a shrine to comforts, made Crowley feel like he had been let into Aziraphale’s personal sanctuary, and his stomach tightened at the thought of that much trust being put into him.
“Pick your poison?” Crowley held out both hands, one palm cradling the joint, the other balancing the full flask. Aziraphale seemed to consider for a moment, but his eyes were on Crowley’s face, not his hands.
“Won’t it… smell?” he gestured cautiously towards the joint, and Crowley felt his heart rate pick up. C’mon, you’re better than this, he told himself, he probably just hates drinking.
He waved towards the only window in the room, the window next to Aziraphale’s bed. “We can smoke out the window, if it makes you feel better?” And then they would be on his bed and and and… he mentally cut himself off.
“Alright.” Aziraphale nodded agreeably.
So they kicked off their shoes, crawled onto his bed, shoving aside his cloud of a duvet and kneeling next to the window, carefully passing the joint back and forth, blowing smoke out the window and making sure none of the ash fell on the crisp white sheets.
They were probably three-quarters of the way through the joint, Crowley’s head spinning pleasantly, before he had an idea.
“Hey. Hey, Aziraphale. Wanna try something?” They had both slouched from their knees, more lounging against the sill, legs touching shin to shin.
Aziraphale made a vaguely curious noise, and Crowley smiled. He could feel it was a soft smile, probably disgustingly soppy-looking but he was high, and he didn’t care.
“You ever heard of shotgunning?”
The blond shook his head fast, then paused and blinked hard, eyes unfocused. Crowley knew the feeling. Like your brain was liquid, sloshing around, any sharp movement causing waves of not-necessarily-unpleasant disorientation.
“You gotta… Hmm… I’ll just show you, ‘s harder to explain. You inhale, ok?” Aziraphale nodded, more carefully this time.
Crowley took a long drag from the joint, holding it in his lungs and gesturing for Aziraphale to lean forward. He looked confused but did as he was bid, and reacted with a gasp to Crowley sealing their mouths together. Which was fortunate, because Crowley could let the sharp inhale pull the smoke between them, out of his lungs and into Aziraphale’s. Aziraphale pulled away first, separating their mouths with a soft sound and staring at Crowley’s mouth as he let the smoke they had shared escape in a thin stream.
“That was…” he licked his lips, “nice.”
Crowley laughed, pulling on the joint again; it was nearly finished anyway. He was surprised when Aziraphale grabbed his shirt, pulled him in and sealed their mouths together again, stealing the smoke out of his lungs.
He was buzzing, felt this high like static in his fingers, across his tongue. Tingly. Delicious. He stubbed out the butt of the joint, flicked it out of the window, and flopped onto his back, sprawling on the end of Aziraphale’s bed. Aziraphale lay down as well, though he grabbed a pillow before stretching out cautiously next to him, moving like he wasn’t exactly sure where his limbs were or where they were going, but he was determined to make it there. It was funny, and Crowley laughed, which made Aziraphale laugh, which just made the whole thing funnier and they shook with laughter until they were utterly out of breath, lying next to each other, heads towards the window and feet hanging off the side of the bed.
The room was spinning, just a touch too fast for Crowley’s taste. “Might’ve… might’ve overdone it, with that one, there.” His voice sounded shockingly normal, but Aziraphale’s response sounded like it was coming from underwater, “I think… I think the room is spinning.”
Suddenly, he reached over and grabbed onto Crowley’s arm, giving himself an anchor as his brain swirled the view in front of him into a pulsing, wavy mess. They sat like that, for awhile, just waiting it out. Crowley’s tolerance was higher, of course, but as soon as he consciously noticed that Aziraphale was still gripping his arm, his brain went into overdrive thinking about all the other, different ways they could be touching and simultaneously trying to make his brain shut the fuck up so he could just enjoy it. And then Aziraphale started… petting him? So softly, so carefully, gently pulling his hand up, bringing it down and brushing along his arm, before starting again.
“You know,” he started, “you are quite soft.”
Crowley felt all the blood in his body rush to his face, couldn’t make his tongue say a goddamn thing, body completely frozen as Aziraphale stroked along his arm.
“I think you don’t think you’re very soft. But you are. Soft.” Rambling. Still high, definitely.
After a minute, Crowley’s brain freed up his tongue, and he found himself saying, “Nah, you’re the soft one. You’ve got, you know, soft. Softness. You’re soft.” Fucking great job, Crowley, really explained that so well .
“Soft.” Aziraphale repeated, then giggled. “Soft. Doesn’t sound like a real word anymore, huh? Sooofffttt.” He petted Crowley’s arm again, but instead of lifting off when he reached his wrist, he let his hand slip down into Crowley’s, linking their fingers together like he had done in the field, under the stars.
“Hey,” Aziraphale sat up, tugged his hand until he sat up too. “Lemme show you something.” He stood, pulling Crowley along with him. They stumbled through the halls, Aziraphale obviously with a destination in mind, Crowley just marveling at the sheer size of his house. He pulled them to a stop in front of a dark, oak door, and pushed it open with just his fingertips, like he was nervous about what might lurk behind it.
But it was just a… bedroom? A perfectly normal, boring, drab grey bedroom with a drab grey bed and drab grey curtains. It was drab. And grey.
“Okay….” Crowley said, the question unvoiced but implicit. The fuck?
“It’s.. this is.. Gabriel’s room .” Aziraphale leaned close, whispered it like someone might overhear.
“Huh.” Crowley ran an appraising eye over the plain little room, and his eye caught on a glimmer of metal from the closer nightstand. He let go of Aziraphale’s hand (reluctantly) and swayed casually into the room, though Aziraphale stayed hovering in the doorway.
The metal bit was a placard. He picked it up, looked at it for half a second before bursting into laughter.
“He… fucking…. He has a name plate? On his bedside table? Who fucking does that? Doesn’t he live here?” He turned back to Aziraphale, holding out the placard and waiting for that smile to bloom across his face.
“He keeps both his diplomas here too.” Aziraphale said, pointing at the framed documents, hanging directly across from the bed, as if Gabriel was making sure they were the last thing he saw before going to sleep. What an ass. No family photos, but he did have a framed headshot, which was just ridiculous . Who fucking did that? Giant fucking assholes, that’s who.
“Bit of a narcissist, is he?” Crowley asked, pointing at the headshot. Aziraphale giggled. Crowley felt like he had gulped too much hot coffee, warmth spreading from his stomach and pulse racing in his throat.
They wandered around the house, peeking into other rooms, Crowley cracking rude jokes and Aziraphale trying not to laugh. It was fun , and Crowley couldn’t think of the last time he had enjoyed himself like this, had felt like there was not a single other place on the goddamn Earth that he would rather be than right here. With Aziraphale.
--- --- ---
Nothing else happened that night. Crowley and Aziraphale stayed up late, watched three movies in a row, and then they trekked back to Aziraphale’s room, where Crowley passed out on a soft, plush tartan sofa while the blond readied himself for bed.
He woke to bright sunlight and Aziraphale patiently waiting, a book in one hand and a cup of coffee at his elbow, still steaming. He yawned, stretched out each of his limbs in turn, and gratefully accepted the hot mug as Aziraphale offered it to him, gulping the beverage down black.
“I should probably…” He started, motioning towards the door with an elbow. Aziraphale just smiled, and nodded, as if to say, “Whatever you like.” Which was, frankly, rude. Though Crowley supposed he couldn’t have known that Crowley wanted to stay more than anything. He was just being polite.
So Crowley went home, or at least, left Aziraphale’s, and floated through the rest of the weekend. He mostly stayed away from home, just in case his father was still kicking around, and he drove and drove, feeling the wind tearing at his hair, his clothes, and he felt… alive . Felt like he wanted to be that way, too.
--- --- ---
They were just friends, which was fine. Crowley could accept that. He could . And if they happened to kiss sometimes, mostly when they were high, well, sometimes friends just did that. Right? They were always closed-mouth kisses anyway, except if they were shotgunning, which they were rather adept at by Thanksgiving break, so it basically didn’t count as real kissing. It was fine.
Posting two chapters this week yay!
Crowley didn’t have community service anymore, and there was no way in hell he would be volunteering for it, even if it meant an extra hour with Aziraphale. It was almost worth it, but then he thought about scraping week-old mystery casserole out of an unending stack of eternally-stained dishes, and the unpleasant surprise of picking up what one thought was an empty wrapper only to find out it was in fact filled with rotting food. Nope. Not worth it. It wasn’t like he needed an excuse to hang out with Aziraphale anyway. They were friends. Actual, real friends.
Crowley became a near-constant satellite to Aziraphale’s house, caught in tight orbit with the blond, whose gravity felt stronger than the sun. Crowley privately imagined them as a binary star system, two celestial bodies so close, so intrinsically linked that they became nearly indistinguishable, melting together into a singular source of brightness, throwing out flares and collapsing ever inward, each pass pulling them in closer together, an inexorable draw like water sliding down glass, or like a magnet collecting iron filaments. The unified collecting the dispersed, centering them, orienting them to a steady north.
Aziraphale had still never been to his house, and honestly Crowley was perfectly content to keep it that way. But then Aziraphale had to go and ask him about it, and what was Crowley going to do? Lie to his face? Well. He definitely could have. Probably should have, all things considered, but when Aziraphale had looked at him over lunch, big blue eyes bright in the sun and asked him, so innocently, “How come we never go to your house, Crowley? You’ve been to mine so many times, I want to see where you live.”
And Crowley knew it wasn’t fair to him, that he was purposely keeping this part of his life hidden, but he didn’t want Aziraphale to see that. To see it and know how little Crowley had, how incredibly fucked up his family was. To pity him. He wanted to stay like this, just as they were, knowing Aziraphale without Aziraphale knowing him.
“Aw, you wouldn’t wanna see my house, angel.” He shrugged in feigned nonchalance, “it’s nowhere near as nice as yours.”
“Oh, but, you know I don’t care about that. I haven’t even seen it up close, ever.” He looked so fucking earnest , so sincere , and Crowley was so weak for him.
“Yeah alright, maybe we can go to mine sometime.” Noncommittal agreement, perfect.
Aziraphale frowned at him, and Crowley momentarily considered regretting how well the blond knew him, but decided it wasn’t worth the effort. Best laid plans, or whatever.
“Fine. Next week, then.” Hopefully he could milk that for awhile, until he came up with a better excuse.
Aziraphale smiled that smug little smile at him, and Crowley resented how his knees went watery and he had to police his expression away from pathetically obvious adoration. It was messy business, being… well. He supposed he had to admit that he was in love with Aziraphale. His best and only friend. It wasn’t much of a revelation, but it was the first time he had used those words for it. Love. Has any other word caused so much suffering? What a fucking cliché thought. He must be going soft. He scoffed at himself. Shut the fuck up, sop.
What Crowley had not anticipated, unfortunately, was how badly Aziraphale apparently wanted to see his house. He was quite determined. He asked every day, at least twice, and by the following Wednesday, Crowley was fucking over it .
“Fine!” He threw his hands up in the air, in defeat and exasperation, “We can fucking go to my house! I don’t know why you’re so determined to see my shitty little three-room hovel but whatever , Aziraphale.”
He had the decency to look chagrined, at least. But it did nothing to dim his excitement, and he… well, he wiggled with delight. It was almost worth it, just to see that. Almost.
But that was just his fucking luck, wasn’t it? His dad would be home the one time he decided to bring someone over.
He very nearly turned his bike around, senses begging him for the sound of screeching tires and the smell of burning rubber, wanting nothing more than to escape, get away. But Aziraphale was determined to visit, and it was bound to happen eventually. Maybe his dad would be asleep, wouldn’t even notice they were there.
Crowley steeled himself as they pulled up, shame welling in him as he looked over the house, at its slumped middle, like a worn stair. At the rust and the ugly twists of painted metal, at the raw concrete and ripped screen door. He couldn’t look at Aziraphale’s face, but he had to warn him, he knew.
“My dad…” he started, stopped. Cleared his throat, tried again, “he’s uh, he’s not, er, a very nice guy.” He swallowed, daring to make eye contact over his sunglasses, willing Aziraphale to understand , not to ask questions.
He had a very serious expression on his face, hard in a way Crowley definitely wasn’t used to. He nodded. Crowley’s gut clenched . Best get it over with.
He walked up the porch, Aziraphale trailing close behind him, and opened the door cautiously, sticking his head in and listening for a moment before he pushed the door the rest of the way open, sweeping his arm out as he sarcastically announced, “Home sweet home.”
Aziraphale gasped, and for a moment Crowley was drowning, his brain screaming at him Now he knows, how pathetic you are, you aren’t worthy of him and he knows it and he’s going to leave and why would he ever want to be friends with you, after seeing how you live. Like an animal, like an impoverished curr. Impoverished curr? Aziraphale must be rubbing off on him.
But Aziraphale’s face was slack with… with… awe? Crowley was immensely confused, until the blond stepped past him, into the room Crowley lived in, and made a beeline for the nearest cluster of potted greenery.
“Crowley! Are these yours? They’re so lovely! You must take such great care of them, they’re so green .” He was petting the broad leaves of a squat little fiddle leaf fig, smiling that beaming, lovely smile. Abruptly, Crowley was jealous. Of his own fucking plants . Unbelievable .
Aziraphale was still talking, “I don’t know anything about plants, but these are so lovely. Lovely things.” He was still stroking the leaves.
“Stop that, you’ll make the other ones jealous.” Crowley was mostly joking, but Aziraphale seemed to take him to heart, and spent the next ten minutes greeting and complimenting every plant in the room. Which was not an insignificant number of plants. Crowley applauded his tenacity.
When he had finished with the last, tiny succulent, resting next to the thread-bare couch Crowley slept on, he turned with a radiant look on his face. Crowley wanted desperately to kiss him.
“Well, if I knew you’d like the plants so much, I might have had you over sooner.” Crowley lied, but it was a nice thought, and he thought Aziraphale might appreciate it.
Which was, of course, exactly the moment Crowley’s father decided to make an appearance. He stumbled out of his room, wearing a robe that had certainly seen better days, and probably not much else. Crowley didn’t care enough to look, and honestly, didn’t want to know.
His eyes were bleary and glassy, a look Crowley knew well, and dreaded with every fiber of his being at this moment. He very slowly took a step backwards and slightly to the side, putting as much of his own body in between his father and Aziraphale as possible.
“Oh? Who’s this?” He was squinting over Crowley’s shoulder at Aziraphale, clearly sizing him up. When neither of them moved to respond, his gaze hardened.
“Anthony. Introduce me to your little friend .” He attempted a smile, but it came out as a cruel sneer, stained yellow teeth doing nothing to hold back the overwhelming stench of whiskey that rushed from his mouth as he spoke.
Crowley was wound tight as a spring, held his nervous energy in the curve of his spine, the set of his shoulders. All three of the rooms occupants could feel his anxiety. No, scratch that. All 72 of the room’s occupants could feel it. Crowley could have sworn he saw the foliage closest to him start to shiver, but it was probably just him, shaking. Fear, and anger, and a writhing, twisting, itching feeling. He wanted to run, to hide, to move .
“This is Aziraphale. We know each other from--”
“Azira-what now? What kind of fucking name is that?”
Crowley couldn’t help his flinch. Aziraphale probably saw it, was probably putting the pieces together, would probably figure it out and then he would pity him, and Crowley would never be able to talk to him again. Fuck .
“It’s a religious thing.” Crowley said, silently begging Aziraphale not to say anything.
His father scoffed derisively. “Religion’s just the… the... What’s the fucking saying?” He paused for a moment, cuffed a hand roughly over his stubbled chin, “Doesn’t matter. Religion’s for idiots.”
Aziraphale stayed thankfully silent, but Crowley couldn’t risk turning around to see his face.
“Right, well. We were just leaving, so--” Crowley was fully prepared to bolt, tense as a rabbit, shoulders relaxed but in a forced sort of way, like he was making an effort to keep them unacquainted with his ears.
“Well don’t let me stop you, Anthony. You and your little friend have fun.” He sneered again, face twisting in an ugly approximation of a parental smile, and made his slow, shuffling way into the kitchenette.
Crowley still didn’t look at Aziraphale, just walked right back out the front door, hoping the blond would get the hint and follow him. They got back on his bike, and this time Crowley didn’t hold himself back, tearing out into the street. His throat was burning, and there was pressure building up behind his eyes that he was not at all prepared to deal with.
Aziraphale didn’t say a word, arms wound tight around Crowley, cheek resting on the back of his neck as they sped through the early-evening emptiness. This was usually Crowley’s favorite time of year: fall fully settled, air crisp and sharp, leaves a blur of color. He hated every fucking thing about it, at the moment.
Crowley pulled up sharply in front of Aziraphale’s house, waited for him to get off the bike. He still couldn’t look at him, couldn’t speak. His hands were gripping the bike’s handles hard enough to hide their shaking, white knuckled with tension.
“Crowley, I--” Aziraphale started, so quiet, so soft against his shoulder.
“Don’t.” Crowley cut him off, voice hard. Almost hard enough to cover the rough quality to it, the suggestion of cracking that single word carried.
Aziraphale ignored him. “I’m sorry Crowley, I didn’t know--”
“Well, now you do. So, if you would be so kind.” He released his death grip on the throttle, gesturing up towards Aziraphale’s white monstrosity of a house, a clear dismissal.
“I really think we should--” Aziraphale still wasn’t moving.
“If you don’t get off this bike in the next ten seconds--” Crowley didn’t finish the threat. What could he say? He couldn’t guarantee Aziraphale’s safety? That was true but then he would have to admit that he was about to do something dangerous, something irresponsible and stupid. Which was also true, but Aziraphale probably wouldn’t let him go if he said that. He needed to go , and go fast , fast and reckless and skating just along that sweet razor-sharp edge between living and dying.
“Just, come inside. Please.”
For once, Crowley had no problem resisting that gentle, entreating voice.
There was a certain finality to that.
Aziraphale’s arms around him loosened, and he leaned to the side, carefully bringing his leg over the seat until he was standing next to the bike. Crowley could feel his eyes burning into him, could feel his pity .
He yanked on the throttle, the bike lurching forward, zero to sixty miles an hour in just under five seconds, fast enough that when his tears finally spilled over, they tracked nearly parallel to his sunglasses, streaking back into his hair.
Warning for a motorcycle crash.
He didn’t know how long he had been driving. He didn’t know where he was. It was dark out, and he didn’t recognize any of the houses flashing past. It didn’t matter. Nothing mattered, right now. He pushed the bike onward, faster, faster, hurtling along the road until he felt weightless, the short yellow stripes that divided the lanes warping into one long streak, looking nowhere but the horizon, the wind rushing past his ears and drowning out everything. There was a curve in the road ahead, but he didn’t bother decelerating. Either he would make it or he wouldn’t, and he didn’t care either way.
Road signs flashed as he passed by them, too fast to read, too fast to be anything more than a reflective square of brightness approaching, receding, approaching. The curve had a speed limit attached: 35 mph; Crowley glanced at his speedometer: 80. If he dropped to 65 he could probably still make it.
He leaned into the turn, felt his bike slip, felt the loss of traction underneath the wheels and had time to think I’m an idiot before he skidded out of control. His left hip and elbow cracked against the pavement, bike sliding out away from him as his momentum carried him forward, grit catching at his clothes, embedding itself in his skin. He slid for longer than he thought he would, and when he stopped, he lay still. For a minute, three, fifteen, he didn’t know. He wasn’t confused, didn’t think he had hit his head. The stars just looked so beautiful, way out here in the middle of nowhere, and he was reminded of the last time he had looked up at them, lying down on the ground, soft fingers twined with his own. There was no one around, nothing familiar in this stretch of road, and Crowley lay there, crying up at the wide, starry sky, until it occurred to him that perhaps lying down in the road was not the best idea, and he should probably check on his bike.
He sat up, feeling the stretch and pull of raw skin all along his left side, felt that his elbow was split open, his jeans and shirt shredded from the friction of the road. Not too much blood though. He stood up carefully, limping towards his bike a good twenty yards ahead of him. It was alright. A bit dinged up, sure, the left mirror was hanging by a thread and the paint had been nearly completely stripped from the left side, but it would still ride. He wasn’t stranded.
He heaved the bike onto its wheels, walked it around to check that nothing had been knocked off kilter, and cautiously got back on, pulling around, going back. Going home.
--- --- ---
His father didn’t ask him about it, probably didn’t even notice the ripped shirt, the scratched-up bike, dried blood stiffening his jeans to cardboard. It was fine, he didn’t want him to. If he was honest with himself, he felt… good. Better than he had all day, in fact. Maybe even better than he had all month. His pulse was thrumming under his skin, the ache of road rash a sharp reminder you’re alive you’re alive you’re alive . It hurt, but it was good.
He took a long, burning shower, carefully washing out as much of the grit as he could. He curled himself onto his right side on his fold-out couch bed, looked around at his plants, felt nothing but the sting of his side and the heavy clouded weight of sleep pulling on him.
--- --- ---
He had known there was a possibility that Aziraphale would not show up for their usual lunch routine. He had been rather harsh yesterday, after all. But he wasn’t expecting how much it would hurt , how much he found himself wanting to cry again. He felt like he should have cried himself out by this point, and all this outpouring of emotion was not doing wonders for his tough guy persona. But he hurt. His body hurt, his head hurt, his heart hurt. Fuck.
So he waited twenty minutes, until he was sure Aziraphale wasn’t just late, and then he went home, caution he couldn’t quite shake forcing him to drive slow, but at least he wasn’t following traffic laws. That would have been too far.
His father had fucked off again, leaving Crowley with the house to himself and enough liquor to host a frat party. Well, best get started .
“Cheers.” He lifted a bottle of vodka in mock toast to the empty room, voice bitter and dull. He took a deep pull, gagging as the cheap liquor hit the back of his throat, eyes watering as he coughed, chasing the burn with more. Numb, numb, numb.
Two hours later, he was hammered. And not in the fun way either, but in the maudlin, slurring way, swaying around the room, yelling at the plants about their shortcomings, and if those shortcomings happened to revolve around an inability to talk about things, to face feelings that plants didn’t actually have, well. That was between him and the plants, wasn’t it.
The soft, cautious knock at the front door startled him, and he jerked to his feet from where he had melted into the couch, flinging the half-empty vodka bottle across the room and spilling an arc of the astringent smelling liquid on the floor. His stomach dropped to his knees—he was too drunk not to start a fight if his father walked in. But his father wouldn’t have knocked, would he, and certainly not softly. His stomach dropped lower, and he thought it shouldn’t be possible to feel so nauseous with his stomach all the way at his feet.
He stumbled up to the door, intending to just peek around the edge of it, but instead found himself flinging it open wide.
“An’ whadda you want?” He slurred, aiming for righteous anger and landing more on the side of tired, and bitter, and very, very drunk.
Aziraphale looked so small, standing there on the porch, shoulders held close, elbows tucked in, looking down; like he was trying to make himself smaller, even more nonthreatening. Crowley hated looking at it.
The blond cleared his throat, still staring intently at his shoes. “I wanted to… apologize. For, er, well, you know.”
“Do I?” There was a cruel edge to his voice, and Crowley regretted asking the question immediately. Of course he fucking knew, and he certainly didn’t want to listen to Aziraphale struggling to put it into words, which he would undoubtledly want to sound polite . “Nevermind.”
“Is, uh, is he here?” Aziraphale paused, looking around Crowley into the house.
“Nah. Left again.” Crowley shrugged, tried not to wince at Aziraphale visibly relaxing.
“Can I, um. Can I come in?” Aziraphale looked up at him through his lashes, like he was scared Crowley might say no and didn’t want to face that rejection directly.
Crowley stepped to the side, gesturing much too broadly for Aziraphale to enter.
“Thank you.” He carefully stepped inside, and Crowley let the door slam itself shut behind him.
“I’m sorry I wasn’t at lunch today, I… well, I suppose I don’t have much of an excuse really. I was worried you wouldn’t be there, after… after yesterday, and so I… I didn’t go. I’m sorry. And I’m sorry about how we left off yesterday, and I just wanted to tell you–”
Crowley lifted a hand to cut him off, not wanting to hear the rest of his doubtlessly placating sentence.
Aziraphale wouldn’t let him. “No, let me finish. I wanted to say that I didn’t mean to push you like that about going to your house, we can just always go to my house, I don’t care really, and I would never want to make you uncomfortable and you should have just told me, I would never hold anything like that against you and I thought you knew that, and then I started thinking that maybe I haven’t really been the most forthright with you, and I – ” He ran out of steam and stopped, staring up at Crowley, his brow pinched together in that stupid puppy-dog way he had, biting his lip, and Crowley was not at all fortified against this. “And I just wanted to make sure you knew that I… I care about you. And your well-being.”
Well, that was fucking unexpected, and he was certainly much too drunk to be dealing with it right now. He was just staring at Aziraphale dumbly, probably looking confused as hell. Aziraphale swallowed, looked back down at his shoes, standing in the middle of the vodka streak Crowley had made throwing the bottle earlier.
“Hey – ” Crowley’s voice cracked embarrassingly. He tried again, “Of course I.. of course I knew that. Know that.” But had he, really? He had wanted to know that, but how could he know he wasn’t just projecting? “And you know I – ” he couldn’t say it, drunk or not, but Aziraphale seemed to understand.
The blond stuck out a hand, awkwardly. “Friends?”
Crowley cautiously lifted his hand to meet it, a handshake like they hadn’t shared since they had met in community service, just two months feeling like an entire lifetime ago. “Sure.”
They stood there for a second, staring at each other, caught in a strange bubble of deja vu. Crowley broke it, looking away, towards the couch. “Erm, can I uh, get you anything?” What the fuck? Are you a 50’s housewife? Pull yourself together!
He tried to counter his words by flopping down onto the left side of the couch, which spit out a chunk of stuffing in protest. “I’ve got… well, whiskey, and vodka, and err some Fireball around here somewhere? Or, maybe just water?”
Aziraphale carefully sat next to him, hands on his knees, the picture of prim and proper. “I’ve never tried vodka… is it terrible?” He wasn’t virginal when it came to alcohol, not by any means, but he definitely didn’t have the vast wealth of experience Crowley did, and tended to defer to him on such matters.
“Pretty terrible, but it def’nitely gets the job done,” Crowley answered vaguely, scanning the room, trying to locate the half-full bottle he had thrown. Ah! There it was, miraculously right-side up, in the pot of the fiddler leaf fig Aziraphale had admired yesterday. He slouched to his feet, spine bent into a sitting position as long as physically possible, snatched up the bottle, and threw himself back down. He offered it to Aziraphale, who took it and sipped.
Crowley had to laugh at the face he made, but Aziraphale ignored him, brought the bottle back up to his lips and took a deep swallow.
“Careful, there,” Crowley laughed, “‘S strong stuff.”
Aziraphale wiped his mouth on his sleeve, offering the bottle back to Crowley, who took a sizeable sip of his own, and then handed it back, their fingers brushing and sending a warm surge up his arm, catching around his split elbow and leaving it vaguely aching.
They sat drinking in companionable enough silence, Aziraphale doing his best to catch up to Crowley’s level of intoxication. They slumped, lower and lower, sliding towards the indented center of the couch and each other, until they were shoulder-to-shoulder.
“Di’jou know,” Crowley found himself saying without his brain’s permission, “that I h’ve a little baby sister somewh’re? Pr’bably doesn’t even know I exs- es- am around.”
“Oh?” Aziraphale rolled his head around, turning his face toward Crowley. “What’s her name?”
“Dunno. Called her Bee. She w’s jus’ a baby when Mom left.” He realized that might be a little too close to certain sensitive subjects, but Aziraphale just looked at him with such profound empathy, like he really understood .
“I’m so sorry.” Aziraphale’s eyes were welling up, and that was absolutely not going to be allowed to happen.
“No, no don’ be sad, ‘s fine, I don’ even think about them anymore.” The lie was bitter on Crowley’s tongue, but he would’ve said anything to get that sad look off Aziraphale’s face. Anything at all.
“You know, I don’t think I’ve ever been this drunk before.” Aziraphale said, through a hiccup. “Feels… funny. Not like weed. I like weed. Makes things feel good. This is more like, like, I’m not driving.” He giggled. “I can’t drive.”
Crowley looked at him, felt the affection bleeding out of his expression, didn’t care. Aziraphale was sitting there, right next to him, pressed all along his un-bruised side, and it felt right . Sandwiched between an ache on one side and longing on the other. Balanced.
His cheeks were flushed with alcohol, he was still dressed like a tiny lawyer, or an old-timey accountant maybe, and Crowley loved him. Loved every fucking part of him, from his stupid curly hair to his always-shiny shoes. The bastard.
He realized Aziraphale was looking back at him, had no idea how long he’d been staring. Probably too long for friends, but Aziraphale didn’t look upset. No, he looked… he looked nervous. And hungry . Crowley felt like an over-full balloon, like he would drift away if he broke eye contact, like Aziraphale was the tether keeping him in orbit. Not holding him down but... anchoring him, keeping him steady.
Aziraphale moved first, Crowley was absolutely sure of it, but it didn’t matter because suddenly they were kissing, and not like before. These were open-mouthed kisses, hungry and messy and divine . He licked into Aziraphale’s mouth, tasted cheap vodka and Aziraphale , and suddenly breathing was stupid, Crowley had no idea why he bothered with it. This was so much better .
He twisted, trying to get closer, but was pulled up short, his scraped-up skin protesting the strain. He wanted to ignore it, would have ignored it, if Aziraphale hadn’t chosen that moment to bring his hands up to Crowley’s flanks, and Crowley couldn’t stop himself from lurching away from the contact against his abraded flesh.
Aziraphale pulled back, deliciously flushed, lips swollen and wet, and Crowley just wanted to go back to kissing him again, but he was looking at him with confused hurt, asking, “Crowley? What’s wrong?”
“‘S nothing, angel.” He tried to reel Aziraphale back in, but he resisted, frowning at Crowley’s side, pulling so gently at the hem of his shirt until he could see the red, angry, bruise-flecked skin of his side. Aziraphale gasped, looked up sharply.
“What happened?” his face, previously so soft and open with desire, was closed now, horrified.
“Crashed m’ bike, don’ worry about it, I’m fine.” Crowley wasn’t ready for this moment to be over, desperately wanted to get back to pressing their mouths together, ignoring the rest of the world in favor of that warm, wet distraction.
“When?” Aziraphale’s voice was rising with panic. “Was it yesterday?”
Crowley’s hesitation was answer enough.
All the color had drained out of the blond’s face, he looked like he was torn between tears and vomiting, and Crowley was getting whiplash.
“Was it… was it on purpose?” Aziraphale whispered, looking so, so afraid.
“No! Of course not! I wouldn’t – ” but that wasn’t really true, was it. Sure, he hadn’t meant to crash, but he hadn’t exactly done the most to stop himself either. Not that he could explain that to Aziraphale. There were things he definitely wouldn’t understand, and Crowley’s occasional forays into reckless self destruction were at the top of that list.
But the worst part, the part that made Crowley feel like the floor had dropped out from under him, was the look on Aziraphale’s face. He didn’t believe him. He thought… thought Crowley had pushed him away, refused to look at him or talk to him, and then had gone and tried to off himself. It was unbearable. That he would think that, that he would look at Crowley with such grief in his eyes, such betrayal. It hurt . A lot more than crashing his stupid fucking bike had.
“No, no, Aziraphale, listen, I promise, I promise ,” he grabbed Aziraphale’s face, did his very best to focus on it, brain feeling rather like it was floating in one of those big glass jars scientists used to preserve specimens of interest, vodka-soaked as opposed to marinating in formaldehyde or whatever it was called. He stared hard at those hurt blue eyes, willed the blond to understand how serious Crowley was. Dead serious. “I won’t. I would never.” leave you like that . It went unsaid, but Crowley hoped he heard it anyway, hoped he knew.
He leaned forward, cautiously, maintaining eye contact until Aziraphale’s eyes were too close, had blurred into a soft blue smudge, before he let his own eyes slide closed, pressed their foreheads together a second before he kissed Aziraphale again, closed-mouth, didn’t want to push it, just held himself there, waiting for Aziraphale to respond, kiss him back or pull away or something . And with a sigh that sounded suspiciously close to a sob, he did, opening his mouth wide, inviting Crowley in.
Skated his fingers up along his side, feeling for the edges of the road rash, skimming, soft, barely there brushes. Tender. Fuck . Crowley leaned in to him, easing him back, until they were awkwardly bent sideways on the couch, feet still facing forwards but mostly horizontal on the cushions as they kissed hungrily. Crowley was half-lying on Aziraphale, resisting the urge to squirm against him, soft plush thing that he was.
Aziraphale’s hand had finished its exploration of Crowley’s road rash, drifted down to his hip, fingers catching on his belt loops. Crowley shifted, intending to lean further over Aziraphale, whose hand slipped off his hip and brushed across the front of his jeans. Crowley groaned into his mouth and Aziraphale froze, pulling his tongue back into his mouth and bringing his hands back to himself. Crowley pulled away slightly, confused, and saw the stricken look on the blond’s face.
“What? Wha’s wrong?” What did I do? He tried to keep the hurt out of his voice, wasn’t sure he succeeded.
Aziraphale was shifting away from him on the couch, extricating himself from under Crowley, who took the hint and backed off until they were both seated on their separate couch cushions, still close, but no longer touching. Aziraphale was looking down at his hands, twisted together in his lap.
“I’ve never…” he cleared his throat, “never--”
Crowley felt a flood of horror wash over him, a moment’s sobriety finally shocking him into realization of what he had been doing, what he had wanted to do. Panic exploded in his chest, and he threw himself backwards, away from Aziraphale, immediately overflowing with apologies, “Oh God, fuck, I’m so sorry. I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have… we’re drunk. I didn’t mean to – Fuck, Aziraphale I’m so sorry, please, please forgive me, I wasn’t thinking.”
Aziraphale looked surprised, but the expression quickly melted into one of such despondency that Crowley found himself biting his tongue.
“That wasn’t what I… oh. Well, yes, I suppose you’re right… We are a bit – I think... I think I should… I should go.” He looked at Crowley, and there was something almost like hope there, but Crowley couldn’t risk doing something wrong again so he did nothing at all, and watched Aziraphale get to his feet and find his wobbly way to the door.
“I’ll, um. I’ll see you tomorrow?” He had one hand against the door frame, and his fingers were gripping it so tightly Crowley was surprised the old wood wasn’t creaking under his grip.
He just nodded, throat completely closed up.
Aziraphale walked out the door, Crowley staring helplessly after him, hands open, palm-up on his lap. What did I do? How did that go so fucking wrong? He was too drunk to chase after Aziraphale, too drunk to try and coax an explanation from him. They were right fucking back where they had started, only this time Crowley was the one trying to figure out what had gone wrong. What the fuck .
He spent the whole next day panicking. Should he even go to lunch? Seemed rude not to, considering not showing up for their lunch was the whole reason Aziraphale had come over yesterday to apologize. But was he ready to talk about any of this? No, not at all, especially not sober and in broad fucking daylight.
He spent the entire drive to school flickering rapidly between bravery and cowardice, his brain struggling to reconcile the two, desperately begging him Not now!! And knowing the reality that It has to happen eventually . He was a mess by the time he got to the soccer field, ten minutes before classes even got out for lunch break, smoked three cigarettes down to the filter while he waited, anxious energy spilling over into twitching, sharp movements, running his hands through his hair over and over, adjusting his sunglasses, tapping his fingers against the low cement wall he was leaning pseudo-casually against.
A blond head of curls appeared on the other side of the soccer field, and Crowley felt his heart clench in his chest, an ache expanding beneath his ribs, chills racing down the length of his arms. His hands were shaking. Is this what a heart attack feels like? He willed himself to be still, to be calm and cool and collected, with little to no success.
He waited for Aziraphale to sit down next to him, waited for him to make the first move, make any move. The blond was looking down at the tray he had balanced on his lap, ostensibly planning what to eat first, when he said, voice ground down and uncertain, “Crowley, I think… I think we need to talk.”
Crowley was definitely having a heart attack now. Or a stroke. Or something. His body had gone haywire, blood rushing all around, he could hear it in his head and feel his fingers warming up, throbbing. Was he breathing? He wasn’t sure.
Before Aziraphale could say anything more, Crowley was talking, words spilling out of his mouth before he could stop them, “I’m so sorry about yesterday, we were drunk, or at least, I was really drunk and I totally understand if you don’t want to – ” Crowley cut himself off. Better to let Aziraphale explain himself. It was silent for a moment, Crowley’s heart pounding so hard he was absolutely sure Aziraphale could hear it.
“Crowley, what… um, what are we?”
Crowley choked, managed to squeak out, “Friends?”
“We’re not…” he paused, visibly collected himself, “Not anything more? Than friends?”
Crowley definitely wasn’t breathing now, didn’t even want to know what his face looked like, was so glad Aziraphale was still staring down into the mystery meat of the day as if it held the script for this conversation and he wasn’t ready to go off book yet.
“Do you… do you want to be? More than friends?” He tried to keep his tone neutral, failed spectacularly.
Aziraphale bit his lip, nodded shyly, still looking down, and Crowley was busy having some sort of medical emergency, he was dying, he was absolutely sure of it and fuck if this wasn’t the best day of his entire life. He was so overwhelmed he forgot that Aziraphale wasn’t looking at him, couldn’t see his face, and he should probably give some sort of verbal response, but he couldn’t make his face do anything other than stare, awestruck, mouth hanging open like an idiot. He probably looked like he’d lost his fucking mind, but to be fair, that felt pretty accurate.
“Crowley?” Aziraphale finally looked up, took in the stunned expression not at all disguised by Crowley’s sunglasses, and whispered, “Is that… okay?”
“Yeah.” Crowley’s voice cracked horribly, embarrassingly. “Yeah, that’s okay.”
Aziraphale’s face lit up, a cautiously affectionate smile blooming as Crowley watched helplessly, feeling rather like he might pass out, actually. What now? Crowley had no idea where he was meant to go from here, no frame of reference to rely on. Sure, he had hooked up with a few people, here and there, but he had never felt like this about any of them, was pretty sure sex with Aziraphale, if they ever even got that far, would actually kill him. Which reminded him…
“So... yesterday. What, uh, what happened there?”
Aziraphale blushed furiously, and Crowley felt warm all over.
“I’ve never… you know, been with anyone before.” He licked his lips. “And I didn’t want it to be just… just a fling, or something, and I panicked. I – I’m sorry for running out like that.”
“So it wasn’t… I didn’t – ”
“No! No, it wasn’t your fault at all! I just, well, I got nervous because… because I like you.” Said with all the grace of a fumbling middle schooler, that emphasis on “ like ” to indicate a crush. Cute.
“So you wouldn’t be opposed , necessarily, to… doing that. Kind of thing.” With me . Crowley didn’t want to scare him off, but he had to know .
“Not... not right away. But… definitely not opposed.” His cheeks were pink, and Crowley wanted to kiss him, immediately and for as long as possible. And he realized, perhaps now he could. There was not a single goddamn reason why he shouldn’t at least try.
“Can I kiss you?” he asked instead, had barely gotten the words out before Aziraphale tackled him, pressed himself all along Crowley’s front, arms looped around his neck, on his tip-toes to reach Crowley’s mouth.
They kissed, sweet, lingering kisses that had Crowley’s toes curling. Aziraphale kissed him like he couldn’t possibly get enough of Crowley’s mouth, slipping seamlessly from shy, innocent presses of lips to sloppy, wet, demanding kisses, his tongue licking at Crowley’s, at his teeth, the roof of his mouth.
Crowley pulled away, breathless, joked, “Sure you haven’t done this before, angel?”
He was rewarded with a charming blush, with Aziraphale, eyes still locked on Crowley’s mouth, saying, “I read a lot of books,” before diving back in, pulling Crowley’s lower lip into his mouth, the tip of his tongue nudging at it curiously, before releasing him, kissing the lip in delicious, soft presses. Crowley didn’t know what to do with any part of his body.
And then Aziraphale tilted his head to the side, just a bit, and oh that was – yes, Crowley could definitely keep doing this. He probably made an embarrassing noise but to be honest he could not be fucking bothered, nothing mattered more than getting Aziraphale closer .
Crowley knew it was cliché, but he wanted to know every part of that soft mouth, a peach-sweet secret just for him to tease out in the slick sounds of their kissing, in the soft pleased noises Aziraphale slipped behind his teeth as they met, parted, met again. Crowley didn’t know if he was dizzier from lack of oxygen or the stunning proximity they were inhabiting.
The bell signalling the end of the lunch hour startled them both, and they pulled apart, a silvery strand of saliva stretching between their mouths for a moment. Aziraphale looked… well he looked downright cherubic, if angels were walking around with their mouths pink and swollen, wet and utterly enticing. His hair had fluffed up, and he was deliciously flushed.
“Uhm. I’ll uh, I’ll see you later?” Crowley offered, but didn’t release his hold from around Aziraphale’s waist.
“Yeah. Yes. Later.” Aziraphale looked a bit dazed, gaze still locked on Crowley’s mouth. He licked his lips, tongue darting out in a brief, enticing flicker of pink, and rocked up to press them together into one last quick kiss. He broke away, bringing an arm down from around Crowley’s neck to wipe his mouth.
Crowley watched him go, trotting quickly across the soccer field (so as not to be late to class, if Crowley knew him, which he did), head still spinning with the dizzying change in their relationship. Aziraphale looked back twice as he walked away, and Crowley could feel a blush climbing his face, spreading across his cheeks, warmth expanding in his chest.
--- --- ---
Well god-fucking-damn. Crowley had driven home in a fog, was now lying on his couch staring at the ceiling, a stupid fucking smile he couldn’t possibly suppress on his face. He and Aziraphale were… dating? Fuck if that didn’t make his stomach do all sorts of ridiculous things, didn’t make his whole body fizz with ecstatic anticipation.
Aziraphale liked him. He felt high, felt like he should have been hearing birdsong, or romantic swells of violins. He felt like a lit match, throbbing and bright and hungry. He needed to calm down, just a bit.
He let a hand drift down, groped himself through his jeans, thought about Aziraphale’s incredible tongue and his adorable fucking face. Fuck , this was not going to take long at all. He couldn’t resist teasing himself though, just a bit, wondered what Aziraphale might try, if he were here. He would probably be all old-fashioned about it, but Crowley didn’t really feel much like constructing an entire romantic scenario in his head, at the moment. He would definitely be doing that later, at length, but right now what he needed was release.
He rubbed himself through the rough material for a few moments, decided he didn’t want to have to wash these jeans yet, and yanked his belt open, pushing the denim down to his knees, cock springing up as it was freed from its fabric prison, straining against the front of his soft black boxers. He shoved a hand under the waistband, curling it around himself and pulling, twisting just a bit at the end, letting his head drop back, letting his mind wander around fluffy blond curls, blunt tipped fingers, the thick curve of a thigh pressed against him. Fuck . It was an embarrassingly short amount of time later that he was curling up, belly tight as he grunted, coming in quick, hot pulses over his fist.
He panted for a few seconds, then heaved himself up and waddled, jeans still around his knees, to the kitchen to clean himself off. He glanced up at the cheap wall clock, he still had at least an hour before he could reasonably show up at Aziraphale’s door. Plenty of time.
Of course, he ended up wasting forty minutes messing with his hair and trying on different combinations of shirts and jeans, ended up wearing the same ones he was wearing originally, with a slightly nicer shirt, one of two button-ups that he owned. He was not about to fuck this up. He should have made a plan, but now there wasn’t time, and he’d just have to wing it.
He pulled up to Aziraphale’s house at five pm exactly, straightened his jacket, checked his hair for the thousandth time in the still-functional right hand mirror, took a deep breath, and walked up to knock on the imposing front door.
It swung open on his second knock, a square, scowling face he had never seen before staring up at him.
“Erm, hello. Is Aziraphale home?” He flashed a tight, polite smile.
Crowley knew Aziraphale was the youngest in his rather large family, but this squat little character looked to be about twelve, though he must have been closer to twenty-five.
“Sandalphon? Who is it?” A slightly more familiar voice, Crowley thought it might be Uriel, who he had seen once or twice before when wandering through the house with Aziraphale.
“Dunno. I think Aziraphale’s boyfriend is here to see him.” Sandalphon sneered, and Crowley revised his pity at the terrible name. Fuck this guy.
“Oh. I’ll go get him, then.” He could hear Uriel’s retreating steps, and he resisted the urge to smooth a hand over his hair, or pull out a cigarette, something to fidget with.
Crowley and Sandalphon looked at each other in silence for an extremely uncomfortable fifty three seconds, Crowley regretting deeply that he and Aziraphale hadn’t agreed on a time to meet earlier—would’ve avoided all this awkwardness.
Sandalphon spoke at last, distaste clear on his face, and Crowley wanted to knock his teeth in. Unfortunate that so many of Aziraphale’s siblings were complete assholes. “So, you’re the flash bastard Aziraphale won’t shut up about, eh? You deflowered him yet?”
“Y- What?” Crowley was so shocked he didn’t even have time to blush, appalled at the little weasel’s audacity.
“You know, popped his cherry? We had our suspicions Aziraphale was bit of a queer. Wouldn’t have thought you’d be his type though.” His mouth twisted into a snarl, or the worst attempt at a smile Crowley had ever seen.
Crowley’s mouth dropped open. What the fuck?
Fortunately, he was saved from having to formulate a response by Uriel returning, Aziraphale in tow.
As soon as the blond came into his eyeline, he forgot all about the squat little asshole in front of him. He didn’t look any different than he had at lunch, just a few hours ago, but now Crowley was finally allowed to appreciate it.
“Hi.” Aziraphale said shyly, stepping around Sandalphon and pulling the door closed behind him, a derisive scoff following them out.
“Hi.” Crowley responded, openly staring at him, glad for his sunglasses. He looked radiant. Fuck .
“So, where are we going?” Aziraphale was smiling up at him, guileless, and Crowley wanted to devour him.
“Dunno. Thought maybe we could get dinner?” Crowley shoved his hands into his pockets, rocked back onto his heels.
“Like a date?” He sounded excited, grabbed one of Crowley’s arms and started pulling him towards his bike parked on the street.
“Uh. Yeah, like a– like a date.” He fumbled, cursed his sluggish brain and the nerves coursing through him. He and Aziraphale ate together all the time, this wasn’t anything new . But you’re dating now, that changes things, doesn’t it? He didn’t know, and the overwhelming newness of it all did absolutely fucking nothing to help him calm down.
--- --- ---
They went to the least terrible restaurant Crowley could afford in town, a shitty family-owned diner, complete with burnt coffee and exhausted waitresses in stained aprons.
Once they had settled into the sticky vinyl seats of a booth, menus propped open in front of them, Crowley spoke. “So… I met Sandalphon today.” He waited for a response, but Aziraphale just hummed vaguely, eyes tracking across the menu.
Crowley tried again. “Wasn’t a very nice conversation.” Aziraphale looked up at that, fear momentarily flickering across his expression.
“Oh?” The nonchalance was forced, terribly so.
“Yeah. Was kind of a dick about you, to be honest.”
Azirphale put his menu down, closing it very carefully, keeping his eyes on his hands as he asked, “What did he say?” He seemed to be expecting something, resigned to it, and Crowley was suddenly flooded with such abrupt and intense rage that his hands clenched around the menu, distorting the laminated sheets.
“Oh, nothing in particular.” Crowley lied, “Must’ve been an experience, growing up with that many siblings.”
“Yes, well, being the youngest was certainly a trial. Mom was always so busy and there were so many of us besides, the older ones were pretty much left responsible for me. Gabriel might be the closest thing I have to a father figure.” He huffed a self-deprecating laugh.
“Better than what I’ve got.” Crowley offered, before realizing he’d dropped them into dangerous and uncharted conversational territory. This was meant to be their first real date, he didn’t want to talk about their respective family traumas.
“Did you decide what you wanted?” he deflected, pointing at Aziraphale’s menu, still folded closed beneath his hands.
“Oh. I was thinking I might try one of their sandwiches? I’ve never been here before. Did you have any recommendations?”
“Sandwich sounds good, I think I might get a burger.”
It was awkward for a few seconds, the way it never was between them. Aziraphale fiddled with his fork, turning it onto its sides and was he avoiding eye contact? Crowley was still trying to figure it out when their waitress shuffled up to the booth, flipped open her notepad with nicotine-stained fingers, and offered them a tired smile. “Can I get you boys anything to drink?”
“Oh, could I please get an iced tea?” Aziraphale answered, with his usual sunny smile, at the same time that Crowley grunted, “Coffee.” She nodded, jotted down their orders, and shuffled away.
“So.” Crowley tapped his fingers on the formica table top, nervous. He wished he could smoke in here, or that he had brought along a flask, could self-soothe a bit. Why is this suddenly so awkward, come on Crowley, this is Aziraphale, just talk to him.
He stuttered through a few false starts before managing, “Any sports you’re following?” What kind of dumb fucking question is that Crowley, you know him, he doesn’t know a single thing about sports. He wanted to kick himself.
Aziraphale just smiled at him shyly from across the table. “Oh no, I don’t know much about sports I’m afraid, more of a bookworm, me.”
Crowley was mentally screaming, brain desperately casting about for something, anything they could talk about. He knew Aziraphale so well, they had shared quite a bit of time together since the year had begun, how was it even possible for him to be struggling so much to just make basic fucking conversation? Because Aziraphale is always talking . But then, why wasn’t he now? Crowley didn’t think he looked particularly nervous or stressed. Just… contented, calm. Maybe they didn’t need to talk. Maybe just sitting with him was enough, and if they needed to talk, it would just… happen. Naturally.
Crowley heaved a deep breath, forced his shoulders to relax and his fingers to stop their frenetic tapping, slouching back into the booth and allowing his legs to sprawl out as they pleased. It only took a minute of forced casualness for their silence to become the comfortable thing it usually was, Aziraphale smiling at him softly from across the table. Fake it ‘til you make it, eh?
They ordered their food, chatted idly about a paper Aziraphale was writing that debated whether or not Catcher in the Rye could truly be considered a bildungsroman. Crowley had no idea what that meant, but it didn’t matter, Aziraphale was excited about it so he was interested.
The food was exceptionally average, which did nothing to stop Aziraphale’s careful enjoyment. Crowley had finished his burger in about ten seconds, but Aziraphale was still carefully savoring each bite of his sandwich, eyes closing with each new mouthful. Crowley thought he had absolutely no right going around looking like that sitting in a terrible diner in a terrible town under terrible lighting, soft and round and deliciously pink. The food had been fine, but Crowley would rather have tasted him.
Aziraphale underestimated the size of the last bite, didn’t quite open his mouth enough to fit the stack of bread and meat and mayo into it. Normally, Crowley would make fun of him for cramming his mouth over-full, usually so polite in his culinary habits, but his entire attention was diverted to a bit of mayo, a few crumbs still clinging just at the corner of Aziraphale’s mouth.
He stared at it for a few seconds as Aziraphale chewed carefully, utterly captivated.
“You’ve got – here, let me just…” Crowley leaned over the table, reached out, brushed the offending crumbs away with his thumb. All the air left their booth in a rush, the casual camaraderie they usually shared abruptly full of electricity, cloying and tense like a humid day in August.
They made it back to Aziraphale’s house in a haze, tension thick enough to taste between them, sparks arcing with every casual brush of their hands as they walked quickly through the wide white halls, Aziraphale setting the pace as though his need was just as sharp and urgent as Crowley’s, anticipation building with every step that brought them closer to Aziraphale’s room, to his bed, or maybe one of his couches, or honestly at this point Crowley would even be satisfied with the back of the door.
Aziraphale didn’t hesitate once they reached his room, walked Crowley right over to his bed, sat down and pulled Crowley to him, pushing his sunglasses out of the way and tilting his head up to ask for a kiss. Of course Crowley obliged, tucking himself in between Aziraphale’s legs, hands resting on his shoulders, coming up slowly to cup his face. They were together now, this was allowed , and Crowley couldn’t help but feel giddy with it.
He tried to be polite when they kissed, hands slow and careful and always above the waist. There was plenty there for him to grip and squeeze and explore. Aziraphale had no such compunctions it seemed, brushing his hands up the backs of Crowley’s thighs, over his shoulders, rucking up his shirt to run curious fingers over the trail of hair between his belly button and the waist of his jeans, tickling. He gripped Crowley’s hip bones, the curve of them fitting so well into Aziraphale’s soft hands, the bruise over his left side smarting under the possessive weight of those fingers, but Aziraphale kept his hands moving, brushing over Crowley’s biceps, his face, all the while making the most exquisite noises against his mouth. Crowley was losing his mind.
He pulled away, reluctantly, smearing open lips down Aziraphale’s throat, kissing and nosing up the left side, just lightly brushing, trying to catch his breath. He didn’t notice the sudden tension in Aziraphale’s frame, the newly desperate hitch in the noises he was making. He leaned forward, one knee on the bed, between Aziraphale’s thighs, easing them both over to horizontal.
“Alright?” Crowley had to check, pulling back and looking carefully at Aziraphale’s face, flushed and warm against the cool white of the sheets.
“Y-yes, yes, yeah, s’ good.” Aziraphale stuttered, clutching at Crowley’s sleeves, pulling him in closer. Crowley obliged, pushed them both back so he could get his knees up on the bed, cautiously lowering his weight onto the blond and mouthing along his throat, just the barest suggestion of his teeth pressing into that smooth perfect skin.
“No – no marks.” Aziraphale panted, grip on Crowley’s shoulders belying his admonishing tone, hips pushing up against him in short abortive rolls.
Crowley just growled in response, unwilling to separate his mouth from Aziraphale for more than a moment. He wormed his way downwards, looking up for permission and receiving an eager nod before releasing the top three buttons of Aziraphale’s shirt, pulling aside the collar and biting along his collarbone, as far down his chest as he could reach, leaving small purple bruises over the swell above his left nipple.
“You’re always so covered up, I’ve got plenty of options,” he murmured against the skin, thumbing open another button for better access, teeth brushing teasingly over the peaked nub before closing around it, soothing the sting of his bite with soft dry presses of his lips. Aziraphale suddenly tensed, arched against him, a short high cry issuing from his lips.
Crowley pulled back, surprised, watched as a damp patch formed and spread across the front of those pale, probably tailored trousers, felt his gut tighten with arousal at the sight.
“Did… Did you just – ?” Aziraphale blushed and brought his hands up to hide his face, embarrassed.
“S-sorry! It– I didn’t mean... I didn’t even want to–” he mumbled against his palms. Crowley felt a rush of horror, what have you done Crowley, he said he didn’t want to do that kind of thing right away, how can you expect him to stick around if you can’t even– Aziraphale had peeked through his fingers at Crowley’s abrupt stillness, and he must have been doing something with his face, because Aziraphale was suddenly full of reassurances, pulling his hands away from his own face to pet up along Crowley’s sides, careful over the road-rash.
“No, wait, Crowley that isn’t what I meant, I wanted… well I just wasn’t expecting to…” he looked down at his crotch, probably starting to feel uncomfortably sticky, and made a frustrated noise. “I just wanted…” his voice lowered, nearly a whisper, “I just wanted to kiss you more.” And then, in an actual whisper, “I didn’t know it would feel like that.”
Crowley was feeling a bit overwhelmed. He had flipped so quickly from aroused to horrified to apologetic and now his body was trying to get him back to aroused again, and his brain was absolutely not having it. He slid back from Aziraphale, stood just long enough to get around his knees and lie down next to him on the bed, propped up on his side, still close, but no longer pressed so tightly together.
“I’m – I’m sorry. Aziraphale. I didn’t – I wouldn’t – We don’t have to…” He was struggling, mumbling down towards the sheets, wouldn’t look Aziraphale in the eye, felt so terribly vulnerable without the protective layer of his sunglasses.
“No, I know Crowley. I know you would never make me... I – I trust you.”
That was too much, and Crowley had to swallow a few times and blink hard to stop himself from crying like an idiot. He was so fucking weak for this boy. It was embarrassing .
“Did you still want to – ?” Crowley shifted closer, “with the, the kissing, I mean.”
Aziraphale nodded, but paused for a moment, eyes flicking down to his ruined trousers. “Uh. I think I might… might change clothes, though. If you don’t mind.”
“Not at all.” Crowley waved a hand, obligingly turned his face into the duvet to give Aziraphale some privacy as he stripped off the offending garments, making a few noises of disgust and dismay at the mess. Crowley had to bury his laugh in the soft white cotton, tucking his head in and inhaling the scent of Aziraphale that stuck to the fabric, feeling… well, feeling something . He was a bit unsure what it was, at the moment, but it was good, felt light and full and oh, maybe... he was just… happy? Blissfully happy, like everything was absolutely right in the world. It felt nearly foreign, like he had stolen it, like someone would notice it was missing and come around to snatch it back away from him. Best to ignore that thought, bask as long as he could.
Their shared daily ritual of lunch hour had transformed itself. It was no longer a time for chatting, Aziraphale eating whatever garbage the cafeteria was handing out that day and Crowley smoking cigarettes to distract himself from such an unintentionally enticing display, and had become instead an opportunity for the two of them to get rather intimately acquainted with each other’s mouths, and necks, and ears. There was a lot there to investigate.
More than once, they got a bit carried away and had to stop abruptly, had to separate themselves and cool down for a minute or two, pink-faced, lips bruised and sore from kissing, trousers uncomfortably tight. It was torture . But it was so, so good .
It turned out Aziraphale had exceptionally sensitive ears, a fact Crowley exploited mercilessly.
He had discovered it after their first week of dating, when he had brought his hands up to trace over Aziraphale’s temples as they kissed, brushed over the shell of his ears, tugged a bit on one earlobe while sucking on Aziraphale’s lip, and he had made such a noise , fuck . Crowley wanted to hear it again, so he replaced his hands with his mouth, gently traced the very tip of his tongue around the edge of Aziraphale’s ear, pulled the lobe between his teeth and tugged just a bit, and Aziraphale melted against him, clutching at his shoulders and gasping out “Crowley, Crowley, Crowley ,” his name sounding so sweet in that mouth. By the time Crowley released his ear and sat back, putting a few inches of space between them, they were both flushed, panting, and overwhelmed.
“So. Um. Sensitive ears?” He couldn’t help but ask, the suggestive smirk on his face somewhat ruined by his swollen lips and bright, flushed cheeks.
“I suppose so,” Aziraphale answered, still trying to catch his breath, his flush creeping down past the stiff line of his collar, ears as red as his mouth. They both glanced down at his crotch, at the obscene tent that had formed and was taking its sweet time in calming back down. Crowley wanted nothing more than to bury his face in it. Oh, he was so fucked .
Aziraphale gave just as good as he got, very thoroughly took his revenge when he found out that Crowley had a particular weakness for being bitten, and hard . He wanted marks , and after token hesitation, Aziraphale was only too happy to oblige. He didn’t want to hurt Crowley— he had protested, in the beginning—but the sounds Crowley made when Aziraphale sank his teeth into the side of his neck very quickly brought the blond around.
The purple smudges ringed Crowley’s throat like some sort of terribly unfashionable necklace, bruises distinctly mouth-shaped, clear semi-circles of tooth-marks impressed into the soft flesh. He peacocked them around proudly, and sure, maybe no one would know they were from Aziraphale—it wasn’t as though they were holding hands while they walked through the halls, their only time together spent sequestered away in some secret corner of campus where they wouldn’t be disturbed or seen—but Crowley didn’t care, because he knew whose mouth had put them there, had marked him up like a possession. And he loved it, wished the bruises would never fade, poked at them when they started to heal, just to feel that ache for a little longer, remind himself that Aziraphale wanted him. It was intoxicating.
But it was also so goddamn frustrating . Three weeks on, and they saw each other every single day. They could make out for hours, hands skidding and gripping, shifting and grabbing with greedy fingers, and it had only gone beyond that just the once. Crowley would never push Aziraphale to do anything he didn’t want to but fuck . Kissing him was blissful, unquestionably, but the sexual tension was starting to get to him in ways he hadn’t anticipated. It didn’t matter how much he masturbated when Aziraphale wasn’t around, how desperately he tried to purge his body of the impulse to ravage the thoroughly buttoned-up blond, as soon as Crowley saw him again all his efforts went out the fucking window and he was right back where he had started. He was on edge constantly, sharp and bright and it nearly hurt how desperately he wanted Aziraphale, but he saved all his self control for their time together, spent all the rest giving in to any impulse which might soothe his racing mind, if only for a moment.
Which is how he had wound up where he was right now, the sharp biting air of a November evening a welcome sting against his face, veins just starting to feel thick and sluggish with alcohol, two towns over, standing at the edge of a quarry, and thinking Huh. For bragging rights? Taking a step closer, leaning over to check the drop, he was interrupted by an abrupt blare of sound, a tri-colored light flashing in the semi-dark. Cops. Fuck.
“Please step away from the quarry.” A crackling loud speaker, a voice that expected obedience. Crowley mentally shrugged and stepped back from the edge, turned himself around, hiding the flask he was holding under the back of his jacket.
“I’m gonna have to ask you to come with me to the station, son.” A tall, ugly blond man was stepping out around the cruiser door, flashlight in one hand, the other resting near his holstered weapon.
“What? Why? ‘M not doin’ anything illegal.” Crowley put on his best innocent face, showed off wide, guileless eyes.
The cop looked at him incredulously, eyes narrowed. “This is private property here, and I got reports of someone matching your description driving like a maniac. I’ll just bring you in, call your parents, and they can come get you, hm? No harm done.”
A chill crawled slowly up Crowley’s spine. Call his parents?
“Now, if you resist me, I’ll have to use force, and neither of us wants that, right? Just come with me, and nothing bad is gonna happen to you.” The officer flashed a crooked, toothy smile Crowley assumed was meant to be comforting, but ended up feeling more like a threat.
He resisted the urge to shift his weight between his feet, tucked the flask into the back of his jeans before shoving his hands nonchalantly into his pockets. “Yeah, alright then.” As long as they didn’t handcuff him it didn’t go on his record, right? It wasn’t official, he wasn’t in real trouble. Yet , a traitorous part of his mind suggested.
“Can you tell me your name, son?”
“Anthony.” He said it quietly, bitten off at the end like he hoped the officer might not hear it.
“Alright, Anthony. Would you happen to be carrying any weapons; guns, knives, anything I should know about?”
Crowley thought of the flask pressed against his lower back, burning against his skin. “No.”
As he made his way over towards the flashing lights of the car, he realized something and stopped short. “My bike?”
“You can come back and get your bike later,” the officer assured him, opening the rear door of the cruiser and guiding Crowley in with a hand between his shoulder blades.
--- --- ---
The ride to the station was quiet, Crowley idly looking around the back of the car and then focusing his gaze out the window, watching trees and houses slip by, lights flickering on, families sitting down to dinner.
The station smelled like cigarettes and instant coffee and the way old laundry did sometimes, like sweat crusting on a forgotten shirt. Crowley sat obediently, waited with more patience than he had shown for anyone but Aziraphale in years. He absolutely could not afford to fuck this up.
A second officer joined the first one, a bright young-looking thing, smooth brown hair pulled back into a high pony-tail. She introduced herself as Sandy, told Crowley her partner’s name was Mark.
“Can you tell us what you were doing out there, Anthony?”
Crowley made careful, steady eye contact. “Just went for a drive, thought I’d check out the old quarry.”
“Mmhm. Do you have someone we can call to come and pick you up?” She offered him a smile, warm and broadcasting: you’re safe with me, you can tell me anything . It made Crowley’s skin crawl.
“Well there’s– there’s my dad.” He offered, knew there was no way around it.
“And can you give us a number for him? So we can call and let him know you’re here?”
“Oh he– he travels. For work. Yeah. Won’t be home for awhile probably, and it’s just me and him, so.” He shrugged, prayed they would let him go without tracking down his father first.
“I see. And there’s no one else?” Crowley kept himself still, refused to give them the satisfaction of seeing him shift nervously.
“Ah, no. Just us. Me and my dad.”
“Okay, well, unfortunately we can’t let you leave the station until we can contact someone to come and pick you up.”
“Oh.” Crowley’s heart sank. “Wait! There’s uh, there’s my cousin! Yeah, I can call him, and he can– he can come pick me up, right?”
Sandy smiled, “Sure, hon. Just give us the number and we can call him right now, how’s that?”
“Oh, uh– can… can I call him? Instead? I don’t want him to freak out or anything, you know.”
Her smile turned slightly brittle, but she nodded, led him over to a bank of phones along one wall of the station, gave him a quarter. He dialled, held his breath as the line rang, an authoritative “You’ve reached the Holiers’ residence, may I ask who’s calling?” Crowley didn’t recognize the voice, but that didn’t surprise him.
“Yeah, hey, it’s uh, Crowley? Listen, is Aziraphale there? I really need to talk to him.”
There was a long pause, a shuffling sound, and then a blessedly clear, “Hello?” and Crowley had never felt such intense relief in his life.
“Hey. Aziraphale. Listen, uh, do you think you could bring Gabriel or something and come get me? I’m at the, um, Cobston police station and they won’t let me leave without an adult relative.”
“Cobston?... Police station!?... Crowley, we aren’t even related!”
“I know, I know, but please, Aziraphale? They can’t reach my dad. I really... I need your help here.”
A prissy huff, so very Aziraphale. “Fine. I suppose I’ll see you soon, then.” And a click.
It took him a long time to get to the police station, and Crowley was helpless to do anything but watch the plastic wall clock as the minutes ticked by, Mark and Sandy thankfully leaving him well enough alone. He watched as ten, twenty, thirty-five, forty minutes crawled by before a familiar face walked in, eyes searching.
“Crowley!” He rushed over, grabbed Crowley’s face in his hands, turning him this way and that as though checking for injuries, palpably angry but still so worried for him.
“Uh, hey Aziraphale. Gabriel.” He nodded at the man standing close behind the blond, still wearing that fake smile and still dressed in that slick grey suit, a large wool coat folded over one arm.
“Crowley.” The greeting was exceedingly neutral in tone, but Crowley got the distinct feeling Gabriel was disappointed in him, and irritated about being dragged out here to rescue him.
Gabriel dealt with Sandy and Mark, signing whatever paperwork they needed with a flourish before tucking Crowley under his arm, pulling him along to the exit like one might a disobedient dog. Appropriate, for pretending to be a relative picking up an unruly youngster from the police, Crowley supposed, but it felt distinctly threatening.
Not three minutes into their drive back home, Crowley realized his bike was still at the quarry, and broke the tense silence to ask Gabriel very politely if he wouldn’t mind turning around to bring him to it. Gabriel’s hands flexed on the steering wheel, but he said nothing, just turned the car around and kept on.
It was completely dark outside by now, and so quiet inside Gabriel’s car, Crowley felt like he was suffocating. All he could hear was the road under the tires, the occasional tick of Gabriel’s turn signal, the carefully calm, controlled breathing from the front seat. He wanted to say something, anything, but he knew Aziraphale was mad at him and he didn’t want to start a fight in front of Gabriel. That would be far too embarrassing for both of them.
They pulled up to the quarry, the headlights of the car slicing through the dark, showing off the scratched-up left side of the bike in painful detail, the duct-tape holding the left-hand mirror in place, shadows harsh and exaggerated in the bright wash of light. Crowley got out, walked hesitantly over to the passenger side door, waited for Aziraphale to roll down the window enough to hear him.
“Thank you for– well. Thanks. I’ll uh, I’ll talk to you later?” Hesitant, stumbling, wanting so desperately to have not fucked this up beyond repair.
The blond said nothing, just made an “I’m angry with you” face that Crowley wasn’t all that unfamiliar with, though usually he could manage to talk his way out of it. But not right now. Not with Gabriel sitting right there, listening to every word. Crowley nodded, stepped away from the car, heard more than saw it pull away, tires crunching over gravel as he mounted his bike. Well fuck .
Crowley didn’t even bother to pretend he was planning to drive home. No, he was going to go straight to Aziraphale’s house, was going to sneak around the back and hopefully be able to figure out which window led to his room so he could throw rocks at it like a stupid rom-com or something.
It was surprising that he hadn’t done something like that already, hadn’t snuck over to Aziraphale’s house to see him, but they’d been friends long enough before they’d started dating that Crowley sleeping over had become almost commonplace, and there was really no reason to be so secretive about it if he wanted to stay the night (which he had in fact done since they had started dating, still carefully leaving Aziraphale alone in his bed and contenting himself with a nearby couch). Besides, Aziraphale had told Crowley that he didn’t want to tell his family, wasn’t ready to come out yet, and that was fine by him. They were still tiptoeing around, still feeling out the edges of this thing they had, and Crowley hadn’t wanted to be the one to push it, but now he’d gone and forced his own hand.
--- --- ---
Aziraphale’s house (mansion) was the same looming white monstrosity in the dark, paint so stark and clean it almost seemed to fluoresce in the night, as though it absorbed sunlight during the day and glowed in the dark. It was fucking creepy, if Crowley was being honest.
He carefully picked his way onto the property, scrambling over the black wrought-iron fence and running in a crouch over the perfectly kept grass, already stiff with early frost, past a tiny greenhouse that he had never noticed before. He and Aziraphale should go there sometime, he thought to himself, have another picnic maybe. He reached the corner of the house, stared up at the no-less imposing back side of it with a twinge of anxiety. What if Aziraphale refused to see him? What if he accidentally picked the wrong window, and got one of his siblings instead?
He slunk around the structure, picked the window he was pretty sure was Aziraphale’s, and risked throwing a tiny pebble at the dark glass. It pinged off and Crowley waited a moment. No response. He tried again, a slightly larger pebble this time, one that made a satisfying clicking noise as it bounced away. If Aziraphale was in his room, it would definitely get his attention.
The window was roughly thrown open, a familiar blond head poking out into the dark and glaring downwards. “What do you want, Crowley?” he whispered harshly, clearly angry but mindful of his siblings and the late hour.
“We gotta talk, Aziraphale. Can I come up?”
“No you most certainly can not .”
“Please, just for a minute, I promise, and then I’ll leave.”
Crowley could see Aziraphale wavering. He had learned not to press his advantage in times like these; it was better to wait for the blond to talk himself into it.
“Fine.” His head disappeared back into the room.
Crowley clambered up, the window-sill just above his head from the ground, high enough that he had to jump slightly to get a good grip on the frame, and then wiggle himself up and over it rather un-gracefully.
By the time he had pulled himself through, rolled off Aziraphale’s bed, and dusted himself off, Aziraphale was standing in front of him in the middle of the room, arms crossed over his pajama-clad chest and a scowl on his face. Crowley tried very hard not to categorize it as cute.
“What do you want, Crowley? I am very angry with you right now.”
“I just wanted to apologize, you know, and– er, to thank you again for getting me out of that whole mess. I really, uh, really owe you one.”
Aziraphale sighed, sounding exhausted. “I worry about you, Crowley, you know I do, and then you go and do things like this, call me up at 9 PM to say you’re in a police station in a town thirty minutes away, and what am I supposed to think?”
“I– I’m sorry. I said I was sorry.” He dropped his chin, chastised, “I don’t know what else you want from me.”
“What were you even doing out there, and how on Earth did the police get involved?”
“I was just driving around, thought I might go take a look at the old quarry, heard it was pretty cool.” He kicked the ground lightly, digging the toe of one boot into one of the carpets Aziraphale had scattered around the room.
“Are you lying to me right now Crowley?” His arms were still crossed tightly over his chest, but his face had softened a bit and he looked more tired than angry.
Crowley’s head shot up at that. “No! I’m not– I wouldn’t.” But he could see that Aziraphale didn’t believe him, wasn’t satisfied with his answer. He dropped his gaze again, muttered, “You wouldn’t understand” towards his feet, regretting the words even as he gave voice to them. Fucking nighttime, making Crowley feel safe, making him act stupid and vulnerable. He should have planned out this conversation in advance, but he had just been so desperate to get to Aziraphale and apologize before this turned into an actual fight, and now he was paying for it.
“I might, if you try and explain it to me.”
Crowley cuffed a hand through his hair, resisting the urge to pull, to make himself focus with just a tiny bit of pain. He swallowed.
“Sometimes it just… I just feel like I’m going so fast , and I can’t even try to stop myself. Like nothing I do matters at all because I can’t… I can’t change anything. It’s just so frustrating , and no one seems to fucking care . And sometimes I just get like, like this itch under my skin and I have to do dumb shit, like drinking too much or driving too fast or starting fights.”
Aziraphale was silent, and Crowley refused to look at him, didn’t want to see dawning understanding becoming disgust, becoming pity . His heart was racing, reminded him you’re alive you’re alive you’re alive with each beat; and, not for the first time, he wished it would just shut up for a bit.
“I know it’s stupid, and it’s reckless, but I never planned to– I mean, I never thought I’d live to see my twenties anyway, and sometimes… sometimes doing dangerous, stupid shit makes me feel like it actually matters , like we’re not all just put here to die. Like maybe there’s something out there worth living for, and if I just throw myself at it hard enough, maybe I’ll be able to reach it.”
Aziraphale made a small, hurt noise, and Crowley wanted to go to him, to pull him in close and take the words back, pull them out like splinters, fix the hurt he could see on that lovely soft face.
“I- I’m sorry, Aziraphale. I’m just a fuck-up. I know I am, and I know… I know you don’t understand that. And it’s okay, really, but you asked, and that’s the best truth I can offer you.”
“Crowley…” he sounded on the verge of tears, and Crowley’s heart squeezed in his chest, his lungs compressing down to the size of fists. No, no, no, no, look what you’ve done ! It’s all fucked up now, you fucked it up and you can’t take it back .
Crowley felt his arms reaching out to comfort before he thought better of it, pulled them down to his sides, hands balled into fists, kept the mess that he was to himself.
“So, uh, I guess I’ll just–” his voice was rough, his own tears threatening, bleeding through into his words. He cleared his throat, jerked his thumb over his shoulder towards the window behind him. “I’ll just go, then.” He made to turn around but was stopped by a harsh, desperate grip at his elbow, wide blue eyes brimming with tears staring at him beseechingly.
“Please. Please don’t.”
And that was enough. That would always be enough.
“I won’t. Not ever.” He wasn’t talking about just tonight, hoped Aziraphale knew that. He continued, so, so quiet, “Not unless you ask me to.” It was nearly midnight, after all. The appropriate time for confessions, for admitting the kinds of things that one told themselves they might never say.
“Would you do something for me?”
“Anything, angel.” He knew he sounded pathetic, didn’t even care.
“Anytime you feel… like that. Please. Just come– I’ll help you, please just don’t… don’t run away from me. ”
Crowley dropped his gaze to the floor, could feel his fingernails digging into the flesh of his hands as his fists tightened at his sides. “I can’t… I can’t promise that. I– I’ll try, but I can’t… It’s not–”
“Just try for me. Please.”
“Aziraphale– You can’t... You can’t fix me. I’m not– I’m just a fucked up person, okay? I’ve been like this my whole life. God knows I wish you could fix it, but you can’t, you just fucking can’t .”
“Crowley, that’s not– I don’t want to fix you. I just– I just want you to be safe.”
God, but it hurt to hear him sound like that, like he knew he was powerless, like he was standing up single-handedly to fight an entire storm system, knew it was impossible but was so determined to try. For him. For Crowley, notorious disaster that he was. No one had wanted that for him, not in his whole entire goddamn life. No one had been willing to stick around long enough to try.
He could feel his face folding, cheeks pulling up and brows pulling down, trying to squeeze his eyes shut tight enough to stop the tears that wanted to spill over onto his cheeks. The hot drip of them felt like lighter fluid, like he was combustible, the slightest spark a threat to his very soul. It hurt .
“Crowley…” Aziraphale had stepped towards him, wrapped him in lovely soft arms and squeezed until Crowley was worried he might crack a rib, but it felt right. Satisfied that itch. He dropped his head to Aziraphale’s shoulder, let himself be held, just a bit, huffing out wet breaths and trying so hard not to cry all over Aziraphale’s doubtlessly expensive pajamas.
Crowley stepped away after a minute, the sheer overwhelming tenderness of the gesture too much for him. “Aziraphale…” He didn’t know what he was going to say, but it didn’t matter anyway, because Aziraphale had grabbed his face in those warm hands and pulled them back together until he could kiss Crowley, kiss his lips and his nose and the tears from his cheeks. It was just so fucking much , Crowley didn’t think his body was built to handle it. His entire chest ached, like his squeezed lungs and heart had expanded to over-full, threatening to crack open his ribcage and keep going, expose the very softest parts of him to air.
His palms ached, too, that ache like when you’ve been holding your breath too long, and he brought them up to hold Aziraphale, to tie himself to that softness. It felt like breathing again, like finally breaking the surface of the sea to see the sky. Fuck .
The kisses had been soft, sweet, but as soon as Crowley brought his hands up they became hungry, gasping things. Aziraphale immediately started pushing him backwards, towards the bed, shoving at his jacket with grabby hands, couldn’t seem to keep himself from running his palms over any part of Crowley he could reach. It felt good, felt like being known . Fucking sop .
It was a familiar enough dance, by now, but there was an unexpected edge of urgency to Aziraphale’s movements, like he had a destination in mind. Not that Crowley minded, no, not at all , but he didn’t want the blond to feel like he had to do this now, had to offer himself up to prove something to Crowley.
“Az-” He was cut off with a kiss, “Aziraphale, we don’t–” another kiss, “We don’t have to do this right now.”
“I want to.” His blue eyes blazed in the dark of the room, serious, and so, so sincere.
Well, who was Crowley to deny him?
Aziraphale waited for him to clumsily step out of his boots before pushing him back onto the bed, crawling over him, cupping his face in those soft hands, kissing and kissing and kissing . It was so good, Crowley managed to forget for a moment that Aziraphale wanted more. But then Aziraphale’s hips dropped down, and a high pitched groan was pushed into his mouth, too loud for the time of night.
“Shh, shh.” Crowley hated that he had to say it, wanted nothing more than for Aziraphale to be as loud as possible, wanted him shouting with it. His hands slid down, carefully, grabbed at the swell of Aziraphale’s backside, dug his fingers in and pulled down towards his own straining hips, as best he could with four layers of clothing between them.
Aziraphale made another noise, more like a whimper, high and soft, still offered up like a gift into Crowley’s mouth. He drank it up hungrily, ground them together, as though if he could only get them close enough they might meld into one.
Aziraphale shifted slightly backwards, hands reaching between his own legs, tugging at the button and zip of Crowley’s jeans.
“Let me– let me see you.” Crowley couldn’t help his groan at that, couldn’t help the way his spine arched up, hips flexing underneath the body seated over top of him.
Aziraphale pulled his cock out reverently, tested the heft of it against his palm, made a cautious loose circle around it and gave a tentative stroke, wide eyes flickering up to look at Crowley’s face as he did so, tightening his fist and moving with a bit more purpose when he received an encouraging nod. Crowley dropped his head back to the bed and groaned, tried to trap the noise inside his mouth before it could get too far away from him. His own hands scrambled for the front of Aziraphale’s soft sleep trousers, untied them and went to get his hands under the waistband, met with no resistance at all from the blond in his lap.
“ Fuck , Aziraphale.” Aziraphale just nodded in agreement, panting already, cheeks a delectable pink visible even in the dark, eyes wild and locked on Crowley’s dick sliding in and out of his fist.
Crowley finally got a good look at Aziraphale, his wrist holding the pajamas out of the way, exposing the delightfully flushed curve of his cock, just peeking out of its foreskin, a bead of fluid swelling at the tip as Crowley adjusted his grip.
Aziraphale whimpered again, couldn’t seem to stop himself from making broken, high pitched noises as both their hands worked steadily, and it was uncomfortably dry but it didn’t matter because it was Aziraphale and he was touching him. Shit, but it was so good. So much better than anything else he had tried, anything he could have thought up himself.
“Fuck, Aziraphale, fff- Oh Christ. Fuck me. Please fuck me.”
Aziraphale’s hand stopped, and so Crowley’s hand stopped, and they stared at each other for a tense second. Crowley opened his mouth to take it back, but Aziraphale preempted his spluttering, a curious look on his face.
“But… but we’re both boys?” Crowley wanted to scream with frustration, how did he not know , how was he so fucking innocent .
“I’ll show you, I can show you, can I show you?” he was begging, already stupid with it, lost in thoughts of configuration and preparation and and and …
Aziraphale sat back, shifting out of Crowley’s lap and releasing his hold on Crowley’s cock.
“Please.” He sounded intrigued, like this particular act had never even occurred to him, and Crowley couldn’t get his jeans off fast enough, wiggling around on the bed like a maniac, struggling with the tight material. Jesus fucking Christ why did he wear these things?!
Aziraphale couldn’t help but laugh at the sight, and Crowley wasted a second feeling embarrassed before realizing how utterly ridiculous he must’ve looked and joining in, finally managing to kick the damn things off into the dark of the room.
He rearranged himself on the bed until his back was propped against the veritable mountain of pillows Aziraphale kept, knees up and opened wide, hips pushed forward obscenely, baring himself to the room.
Azirapahale shuffled up, settled himself between Crowley’s feet, still fully clothed, began to run his hands softly up and down Crowley’s legs, palms cupping his sharp kneecaps and then trailing gently down to caress the jut of his ankle, circling back and around over and over.
Crowley brought a hand down between his legs, couldn’t help but grip himself for a moment, giving a few good strokes before he let his hand slip lower, watching as Aziraphale’s eyes widened, looking equal parts aroused and mortified at the sight of Crowley touching himself here, two fingers gliding across his tightly furled opening, just the barest suggestion of pressure, rubbing between his cheeks.
“Oh, damn.” Crowley’s fingers paused. “Uh, hey Aziraphale you wouldn’t happen to have any, um, any, uh, lube around here would you?” Crowley choked out, ridiculous that he was sitting here in front of Aziraphale, fingers up against his own asshole, and couldn’t manage to say the word lube without verbally stumbling around it.
But Aziraphale didn’t seem perturbed, eagerly scooted to the edge of the bed to rummage through a tiny chest of drawers he kept next to it, balancing precariously atop a stack of books, because of course it was.
“Ah!” he made a triumphant noise, tossing the little bottle to Crowley, who looked at it with no small amount of surprise. The bottle was new, but it had definitely been used, and Crowley needed a minute to make room for that in his brain, the thought of Aziraphale using this on himself, touching himself and, fuck, what if he had thought about Crowley while he did it?
“You… you have lube.” Really fantastic observation there, Crowley, you’re doing so great with the whole communication thing .
Aziraphale blushed violently, settled himself back between Crowley’s legs for optimal viewing, wouldn’t meet Crowley’s eyes when he nodded, looking rather guilty. “I– well if you must know I was having some trouble with, uhm, chafing, and all the books said to get lube for it so I did and–” Crowley couldn’t help his laugh at that, the idea of Aziraphale masturbating so furiously and so often he chafed, consulting some ancient dusty tome on how best to ease his way.
“And?” he couldn’t help prompting, if only to see that blush darken and spread, staining his ears and his neck a delicious pink.
“It… it helped.”
Another helpless laugh, and Crowley was sure he’d never laughed while propped open for someone like this, had to compensate for the sudden surge of self-consciousness by dumping way too much lube on his fingers and shoving them back between his legs.
He kept his eyes closed, head tilted back, knew he wouldn’t be able to handle watching Aziraphale watch him. Even the thought alone made his cock twitch against his stomach. He would take this slow, he decided, give Aziraphale a real show.
He traced the pads of his two fingers over himself, hypnotic circles just to get his body used to the feeling, that always-unfamiliar pressure. The sensation wasn’t new to Crowley, but it had been awhile since he had last done this, with himself or anyone else.
With each pass of his fingers he pressed a little harder, dipped the tip of one finger in just a little bit further, until it sank in up to the first knuckle and he decided he’d had enough of teasing himself, even if it was for Aziraphale’s benefit.
Aziraphale sucked in a gasp as Crowley’s finger pushed in deeper, most of the way to the second knuckle before pulling back out, collecting the lube spread around his hole and easing in again, further still. Aziraphale’s hands had stopped their gentle tracing of Crowley’s shins and had shifted to grip at his knees, as though worried Crowley might snap them closed, deprive him of the sight of Crowley fingering himself open. For him .
Crowley couldn’t help the groan that slid out of him as he pressed a second finger in alongside the first, the same pattern of carefully increasing the depth, the stretch pleasant and strange but easier like this. Once he had gotten two fingers buried to the hilt inside himself, wrist bent awkwardly and hand just starting to cramp, he risked opening his eyes.
Aziraphale was enraptured, the flush of arousal creeping down past the collar of his pajamas, eyes bright and locked firmly on Crowley’s hand between his legs, one of his own hands having abandoned its post on Crowley’s knee in order to tug gently at his cock, hand moving unmistakably within his pajamas, like he couldn’t help himself.
“Oh fuck .” Crowley whispered, with feeling. “I’m almost– hah – ready, and then you can– oh holy shit .” Aziraphale had moved his other hand from Crowley’s knee and was using it to trace where Crowley was stretched around his own fingers, the same way he had done in the beginning to acclimate himself.
“Christ, if you keep that up I’ll come, I swear I will.” Crowley was whimpering now, sounded utterly wrecked as Aziraphale kept up the soft brushing of his fingers. Crowley managed to cram a third finger in himself, decided that was quite enough of that, and pushed Aziraphale backwards, until he could clamber over on top of him and straddle his hips.
He reached with greedy fingers back towards Aziraphale’s cock, then paused for a moment and dropped his head. “Ugh. Condom. We should use a condom.”
He looked back up at Aziraphale, hair riotous, lips bitten and pink, and he wanted nothing more than to kiss him again, would have if it wasn’t for the stricken look on his face.
“Oh. I, uhm. I don’t… have any. I thought...?” He sounded hurt and for a second Crowley was confused, dazedly trying to figure out why Aziraphale would be upset about using a– oh right. Monogamy.
“Oh. No, that’s not– It’s fine. I just meant for the, er, mess. But I’m not… I mean I haven’t… it’s just you.” Not the most eloquent, but to be fair, most of the blood in his body did not care that he was trying to think, and refused to divert itself back up to his brain.
“Well, you can’t get pregnant, so I didn’t think we…” Aziraphale paused for a second, seemed to reconsider. “Can you?”
Crowley burst into laughter, crumpling forward against the blond’s pajama-clad chest.
“Nope. Absolutely zero risk of pregnancy here,” he managed to get out between gusts of breathless snickers that were probably too loud, but he couldn’t help it.
Aziraphale sighed in relief, sending Crowley into another fit of giggles. He would have kept laughing too, if he hadn’t felt Aziraphale’s cock brush against the inside of his thigh, the small smear of wetness it left behind throwing him back into arousal at a speed that nearly gave him whiplash. “Right, yes. Fucking.”
He grabbed the lube again, slicked himself and Aziraphale over, then looked up, locking eyes with the blond.
“Good? Yes? Ready?” He was breathless with both laughter and arousal—and wasn’t that a new feeling—but he couldn’t focus on it, crouched over the curve of Aziraphale’s dick as he was, reaching a hand to position it against himself. He shuddered at the feeling, that broad, blunt head nudging up against him.
Aziraphale just nodded, brought his hands up in a vice grip around Crowley’s hips as he sank slowly downwards. Crowley hoped it would leave bruises.
It took a bit of maneuvering, they’d got the angle wrong in the beginning and had to adjust, but oh , once Crowley had sunk down to the hilt, could feel the soft material of Aziraphale’s pajamas against the undersides of his thighs, that was it.
He began to rock, slowly, not quite fucking himself down onto Aziraphale but riding him, rolling his hips forward and back, one hand on the center of Aziraphale’s chest to balance himself, trying so hard to keep quiet despite the liquid fire his blood had become, the molten glass feeling in his gut, the heat and press of Aziraphale thick inside him.
Aziraphale reached down between them with still-curious fingers, down to where Crowley had opened so beautifully for him, stretched tight and smooth.
“Does it– does it hurt?” he asked, eyes wide, looking nearly afraid.
Crowley shook his head, body trembling, eyes squeezing shut as Aziraphale traced over his rim, the sensitive skin sparking with the feeling. “ Fuck . No, ‘s– feels good. Really good.”
“But it’s so tight .” He sounded wondrous. Fuck .
“Nghh.” Words were hard.
Crowley adjusted his knees, crouched over Aziraphale, the change in angle making his whole body flush with pleasure, finally lifting himself up, body clenching against the loss, before he slid back down again.
“ Fuck , you feel so good, angel.” He began fucking Aziraphale in earnest, bouncing enough to make the bed squeak underneath them, springs compressing with every drop of Crowley’s hips.
It wasn’t very long before Aziraphale started whispering urgently, pushing his hips up to meet Crowley with every downstroke.
“Crowley. Crowley I think I’m… I think I’m about to–”
Just the thought of it sent a shiver down Crowley’s spine, and he dropped down harder, faster, rocking them together until the frame of the bed began to sway as it squeaked, both of them utterly uncaring of the absolute racket the damn thing was making. He leaned himself forward, panting encouragement to the body beneath him, urging Aziraphale onward, begging him to come. Aziraphale’s grip on him shifted, forced Crowley to lean back and suddenly his spine was straightening as though he had been shocked.
“Oh, fuck! ” That was the ticket, Aziraphale’s fat cock rubbing against his insides so perfectly , stretching him wide, the head just nudging his prostate in the best way. He was definitely being too loud, but he did not fucking care at all anymore. His hand rushed to his cock, not gripping, just holding it between his thumb and two fingers, gently pulling the skin over and around the tip, massaging the leaking head.
Aziraphale made a high whining noise when he came, his attempts to stem the sound resulting in something that sounded vaguely like a broken kettle whistle, choppy squeaks interspersed with near-silent gulps of air. His hips rolled against Crowley as he bore it, shaking and curling forward, the soft swell of his stomach juddering under his pajama shirt, now damp with sweat.
Crowley rode him through it and rolled off as soon as the tension had left Aziraphale’s body, as soon as the hands on his hips relaxed their grip. Immediately lying back, he pulled his knees up and apart, shoved three fingers into himself and started fucking them in roughly, his other hand vicing around his dick, and he couldn’t get the angle right like this but he was so close, he just needed… he needed....
Aziraphale had turned onto his side, eyes rapt on Crowley, chest still heaving with exertion. He reached a hand cautiously over Crowley’s hip, moving down, towards his thighs, slipping inwards as he went. “Can I–?” Crowley released a punched-out noise, coming hard before Aziraphale’s fingers had even fully crept between his legs.
They lay there a minute, both still panting, mess of the bed be damned, until Crowley had collected himself enough to roll halfway onto his side and press a kiss to Aziraphale’s lips, tender and soft like he would normally never let himself be, the way he was just for Aziraphale.
“So…” started Crowley, not wanting to break the silence but feeling like he had to say something , “that was….”
“Mmm.” Aziraphale had tucked his head under Crowley’s chin and was softly dragging his fingers along Crowley’s sides under his shirt, newly streaked with come. He glowed with contentment. “We should do that again.”
“What? Now?” Crowley couldn’t keep the incredulity out of his voice, wondering what kind of monster he’d unleashed here.
“No, not now,” Crowley could practically feel him blush, “but definitely again.” Aziraphale sounded so… blissful, body relaxed and loose on top of Crowley, didn’t appear to mind the sticky mess both of them were quickly cooling into.
If Crowley were honest with himself, he didn’t particularly mind either. He rather liked being marked by Aziraphale, especially in this way. His overfull heart was slowing in his chest, and he brought his arms up around Aziraphale, tucking them in close together. He would have to leave soon, he knew; he couldn’t stay forever no matter how much he might want to, but for now, this was enough.
It wasn’t until the fourth time they had sex that Crowley noticed it.
Aziraphale categorically refused to remove his shirt. It only took him so long to notice because they stayed mostly clothed when they fucked, as teenagers are wont to do, too desperate to bother with actually disrobing any significant amount beyond what was necessary to gain access to the relevant parts. So how could Crowley have noticed that Aziraphale didn’t take his shirt off? He hadn’t taken his off either, the first two times, and it wasn’t until his hands slipped under the blond’s undershirt as they kissed, pulling it up with clear intent, only to have them gently pulled away, that he realized anything was amiss.
He looked up at Aziraphale, the question clear on his face. Aziraphale just blushed, held Crowley’s hands away from him and muttered some bullshit excuse Crowley couldn’t even be bothered to listen to, it was so clearly a lie.
“Aziraphale. You’re a terrible liar. What’s actually wrong?” But Aziraphale refused to elaborate, and they were halfway undressed already, so Crowley decided to stow the conversation away for another time.
“Another time” ended up being six days and two unsuccessful attempts to disrobe Aziraphale later, both of them rumpled and flushed from yet another hour of furiously kissing on Aziraphale’s bed, at-home-siblings be damned.
“Why won’t you let me take your shirt off?” Crowley asked it very quietly, tucked it into the intimate space between them as they pulled apart for air, close enough together that he could feel his own breath rebounding back at him off Aziraphale’s face.
“What? That’s not– I haven’t–” Aziraphale was immediately defensive, spluttering, hands yanked away from Crowley to tug downwards on his fully-buttoned shirt, as though trying to cover up even more of himself.
“Aziraphale. Please, just tell me.” Was he self-conscious about something? Did he have some sort of scarring? Maybe a skin condition? Or did he just not want to be vulnerable like that, even around Crowley? Crowley tried not to let the last thought hurt.
“I’m… I’m…” Azirphale was struggling, still pulling on his shirt, though Crowley noticed he wasn’t just pulling it down, but also away from himself. “I’m soft .”
“I don’t understand.” Crowley knew he was soft, why the fuck else did Aziraphale think he wanted to get his shirt off so badly?
“It’s– I’m soft and you’re… you’re not. You’re... you and you look –” Aziraphale stopped, tried to bury his head in Crowley’s bony chest.
Aziraphale sighed, sounding frustrated. “You’re, you know, attractive . You–” But Crowley didn’t let him finish.
“You think you aren’t attractive?” He couldn’t help sounding dumbfounded. How could Aziraphale not see how utterly perfect everything about him was? How could he not see how Crowley adored every goddamn part of him?
Aziraphale didn’t answer, and Crowley felt like he had been kicked in the chest. A feeling he was not all-together unfamiliar with, in fact. “But… but you are . I don’t understand, how can you not– You’re so … you’re, you’re everything . I– rgh!” Crowley let out a small shout of frustration, irritated that he couldn’t articulate himself the way he wanted to.
“Please let me, just let me show you, Aziraphale. I want to show you.”
Aziraphale pulled his head back from Crowley’s chest, face twisted in such incertainty it made Crowley feel like a fucking idiot for not having noticed this, for not having addressed it sooner and impressed upon the blond how utterly gone on him Crowley was, how much he absolutely adored that softness.
“I’ll go slow. I promise. Please, Aziraphale, let me do this for you.”
Aziraphale still looked uncertain, but he bit his lip and nodded slightly, didn’t pull away as Crowley lifted the very edge of his shirt, pulling it up just high enough to expose his belly-button, the delicious roll of fat that rested above the waist of his trousers. It was dusted with the softest of downy blonde hair, a fair few purple stretch marks providing delicious contrast against cream-pale skin. Crowley was so pathetically in love.
He wiggled his way down the bed, pushed Aziraphale onto his back and crouched over his knees, bent low so his nose just brushed along the exposed skin of his belly, nuzzling into him, hands coming up to stroke along his sides. He wanted to pinch, tug, bite at that lush roll, but that would have to wait for later.
“God, you’re so fucking hot.” Crowley gripped his hips, the overflow fitting so perfectly into his long-fingered hands, that flesh that spilled over the waist of his pants just an inch or two, gave Crowley something to lust after, something to fantasize about having tucked between his own thighs.
“Crowley,” he said in a whine, “You’re embarrassing me.”
“What? No, you don’t understand, you’re… you’re perfect .” Said with such reverence it approached blasphemy, “I just, I see this, see you , and I know you’re– that you– Ugh. You deserve to feel good.” Hedonism had never looked so delicious.
Aziraphale was blushing, squirming, uncomfortable under such blazing attention, under the bright adoration clear on Crowley’s face as he parted those decadent thighs, settled himself between them, hands clutching at their thick heft greedily, so full of wanting.
“Crowley…” Aziraphale tried to bring his hands up, to cover himself back up with the shirt, to hide away.
“Just let me, please, I just…” muffled into the softness of his belly, the round plush curve of it against his mouth, “let me show you angel, please.” He carefully pulled Aziraphale’s hands up and away, holding them down against the bed for a moment to clearly express stay , before pressing himself back up against Aziraphale, leaning in close, offering him a conciliatory kiss as he undid the bottom three buttons of his shirt, parting it for just an inch more access to Aziraphale’s skin.
He slid back down, couldn’t resist pausing for a minute above Aziraphale’s belly button, offering up a mischievous eyebrow to the blond before descending to blow a rather loud raspberry against him.
“Crowley!” Aziraphale’s hands flew up to pull Crowley away from him and stop the ticklish feeling, curling his knees up and unintentionally highlighting the delicious crease of his full stomach. Crowley buried his face in it, laughing at Aziraphale’s offended spluttering above him.
“Okay, I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist, I’ll be serious now.” He pulled Aziraphale’s hands away from his hair, kissed each of his wrists reverently before holding them down against the mattress again as he pressed soft kisses to Aziraphale’s stomach, soothing and hungry in equal measure. A smile still pulled at the edges of his lips, unsuppressable.
“God, I don’t even know where to start,” he muttered, pulling back a bit to just survey, trying to think of the best way to communicate to Aziraphale how incredible he was, how much Crowley wanted him.
He ran careful hands up to Aziraphale’s chest, cupping his shoulders before sliding his hands back down and resting his palms over the swell of each side, sighing softly. “You’ve got such broad shoulders, did you know?” He didn’t wait for a response, “I hope you know how much I love your shoulders, how strong they are. I bet you could throw me without even breaking a sweat.”
“Crowley…” Aziraphale sounded embarrassed again, was shaking his head back and forth against the pillows, trying fruitlessly to hide his scarlet face.
“And your chest, too, you hide yourself too much with all those layers, but I suppose I might never leave you alone if you didn’t.” That wasn’t true, not really, though Crowley would certainly relish the opportunity to see Aziraphale in his shirt-sleeves, out and about, looking tempting as anything.
He let his hands slip downwards, to Aziraphale’s sides, gripped the extra flesh on his ribs with greedy fingers. “God and your stomach, your sides, lush thing that you are. You’d be the envy of any painter, or sculptor, I’m sure of it. Just look at you, luxurious little thing.” He couldn’t help baring his teeth, licking his lips obscenely, wanting so badly to bite that soft pale skin, leave his own bruises alongside the dark lines of Aziraphale’s stretch marks.
Aziraphale had stopped trying to hide his face, was just staring at Crowley now, cheeks still flushed and getting darker with every word, but he seemed resigned to the attention. That was an improvement, at least.
Crowley brought his hands down to cup Aziraphale’s hips where they spilled over, just barely kneading at the flesh, unable to resist. “These hips, fuck, you have no idea what they do to me. Just, no idea Aziraphale.” He started to rock down against the blond, could feel an answering hardness pressing back against him, was delighted to know Aziraphale wasn’t just submitting to this as an indulgence to Crowley.
He kept up the soft rhythm of his hips, brought his hands down to Aziraphale’s thighs, hefted them up and hitched them around his own bony waist. “Your thighs, these thighs , Aziraphale.” He couldn’t help an indulgent moan as he grabbed at them, flesh giving under his hands, too thick to fit in a handful and everything Crowley wanted. “They’re so… God, they’re so good you have no idea. I think about your thighs constantly , Aziraphale. All the time. Fuck.” He was getting a bit carried away, he had to admit, but Aziraphale had started to push himself up against him, using those thighs to lift his hips and press them together.
“Crowley…” he was breathing fast, hands still obediently at his sides as he tried to get himself closer, arching his spine and pressing himself against the thin frame tucked between his legs.
Crowley started to slowly unbutton the rest of Aziraphale’s shirt, from the bottom, careful, kissing each exposed triangle of skin as the buttons released one by one, until Aziraphale was bare-chested beneath him, still rolling their hips together.
“Can we… like this?” Crowley dropped to one elbow, his weight pressing Aziraphale down into the bed, spine curving to accommodate the fullness of him and keep their hips pressed tight together, friction just this side of unbearable.
“Yes, yes– Crowley–” Aziraphale brought his hands up, clutched at Crowley’s back, keening the way he did when he was close. Crowley tucked his chin in, pressed hungry kisses along Aziraphale’s throat, the padded line of his collarbones, muffled the adoring nonsense that wanted to spill out of his mouth.
Aziraphale came first, surprising both of them. Crowley immediately shifted to the side, straddling one of those plush thighs instead and grinding down against it with renewed fervor. It only took a minute more, Aziraphale’s hands drawing encouraging lines up and down his flanks, before he was curling over, panting out a weak approximation of Aziraphale’s name.
Crowley didn’t roll away though, just slumped over the blond as he caught his breath, vaguely worried he hadn’t managed to make it clear how badly he wanted every part of Aziraphale that he could have, how every bit of him appealed to Crowley in a visceral sort of way that he had no control over. Probably part of the whole being in love thing.
Aziraphale pressed a kiss to the side of his hair, started gently nudging him sideways and off his lap in order to close his shirt over himself. Crowley made a sad sound, still too dazed with post-coital bliss to elaborate any further than that, tucking his arms up under the open shirt to prevent its closure and worming his way even closer against the blond.
“Crowley, come on, budge up and let me– it’s… it’s cold in here.” That wasn’t true, and Crowley just resisted Aziraphale’s soft pushing more pointedly in response, cuddling up to his chest and muttering, “I’ll keep you plenty warm,” into his neck, fully prepared to take a nice nap just like this, sticky pants be damned.
“Crowley, be reasonable here, we both have to– to get up eventually, and preferably soon, before–” he looked down at his crotch, “ this crusts up and ruins these trousers.”
“Mmm. Don’ wanna. Comfy.”
“Crowley.” A monumental sigh, and then Crowley was being quite unceremoniously thrown off Aziraphale’s lap.
“Hey!” Crowley spluttered, then a sly grin crept over his face, “told ya you could throw me.”
“You’re ridiculous.” But he said it with a smile, and that had to count for something, right?
--- --- ---
By the time Christmas break rolled around, Crowley and Aziraphale had settled quite comfortably into a rhythm. They couldn’t sit out by the soccer field anymore, unless they wanted to freeze to death in the snow, so they would find some quiet, warm corner of campus to wile away the lunch hour, chatting, trading soft kisses and laughing at stupid jokes. They would almost always go to Aziraphale’s house and watch a movie, or lounge around his room while Aziraphale read a book, or make out on his bed, maybe even fuck if none of his siblings were too close-by.
It was good . Crowley had never been so warmly content in his entire goddamn life and he knew there was no way it could last. It must have been some sort of cosmic mistake, right? He wasn’t meant to experience happiness like this, wasn’t meant to feel so comfortable , so buoyant and in love . That was for other people, people like Aziraphale. Not Crowley. But hey, gift horse and all that.
So he didn’t hesitate when Aziraphale asked him if he wanted to come over for Christmas dinner, some big to-do that the Holiers put on every year. It wasn’t as though Crowley and his dad had any plans. He probably wouldn’t even be around anyway, so what was the harm? It was important to Aziraphale, a big holiday dinner where he could meet the whole family, and how could he refuse that? So he agreed.
That was his first mistake.
--- --- ---
Christmas eve dawned cold and bright and quiet. A solid eight inches of snowfall had accumulated over the past week, and the holiday meant the snowplow only came by twice, very early in the morning and again at night. It also meant that Crowley was freezing. He had forgotten to load up the ancient wood stove shoved in the corner of his father’s room before going to bed, and it had burned down sometime in the night, leaving the house about as warm as a goddamn icebox. The uncontrollable waves of shivers were what woke Crowley up, and his teeth immediately started chattering away, jaw aching as though he had been clenching his teeth against it all night. Maybe he had.
But none of that mattered. Today was Important, with a capital-I. He was going to have dinner with Aziraphale’s entire family, all eleven of his siblings plus his mother and who knew what other family might be there, and it was absolutely imperative that he not fuck it up.
He shook himself to standing, keeping his threadbare blanket wrapped tight over his entire body while he shuffled into his father’s vacant room to restart the wood stove. Damn old house and its lack of central heating. Once he had the fire going again, he could go back to bed. It wasn’t as though he had any other plans for the day. Aziraphale would probably be busy, helping with cooking or whatever other pre-Christmas traditions his huge family had, so Crowley was on his own until dinner.
Around 4 PM Crowley finally rolled himself out of his blanket cocoon on the sofa and went to get ready. He shuffled through his dad’s closet, looking for anything that might sort-of fit him that wasn’t full of holes, and that didn’t smell of either vomit or cigarettes. He managed to find one shoddy jacket on the far left, moth eaten and dusty, a faded slate grey. It would have to do. He threw on the second of his button-up shirts, the wrinkly off-white of it clashing terribly with the jacket, but he really had no other options; and his nicest, loosest pair of jeans. He surveyed himself in the mirror, winced at the terrible fit of the jacket and the mismatch of colors, slicked his hair down to the side, making a face at how much he looked like a poorly dressed church choir boy or something, and steeled himself for the inevitable awkwardness of a family dinner with his boyfriend.
Driving a motorcycle in the snow was a nightmare, but he couldn’t very well walk all the way to Aziraphale’s, so he threw on his warmest jacket—too short in the sleeves and his constant companion in the winter months—grabbed Aziraphale’s gift, and slowly made his way through the snowy silence of the streets, dark in that way that only winter is, when night arrives much too early and falls like a thick wool blanket, muffling everything.
His fingers were completely numb by the time he reached Aziraphale’s house, lit up like the very definition of Christmas cheer, strings of lights wrapping around the entire façade, terrible little plastic lawn ornaments of reindeer and the Nativity scene set up in the front yard, nearly buried in the thick layer of snow.
He paused before knocking on the front door, took a few deep, freezing breaths of night air to clear his mind and calm him down, remind him to stay on his very best behaviour, regardless of any jabs Aziraphale’s family might make at him. Par for the course at a family dinner, as far as Crowley was concerned. He only vaguely remembered his own family’s Christmas dinners before his mother left, and they always ended in tears and usually at least one thrown object. So. Couldn’t be worse than that, right?
Gabriel answered the door, wearing a very nice suit, grey as usual, but with little white accents and a pin-straight tie done up tight around his neck.
“Ah, Crowley. Come on in, I’ll have someone tell Aziraphale you’re here.” At this he threw a vague glance behind him, probably looking for a sibling to do his bidding. “I can take–” He paused, frowning at the strange shape of Crowley’s jacket, wrapped as it was around Aziraphale’s gift.
“Oh, uh, I think I’ll just um, go and put this in Aziraphale’s room? If that’s alright?”
Gabriel’s smile didn’t waver, but a muscle in his cheek twitched and Crowley resisted the urge to flinch in response. “Sure.” He swept an arm to his side, gesturing the way towards Aziraphale’s room as though Crowley hadn’t been here hundreds of times.
“Er, thanks. Happy, uh, happy Christmas.” Crowley stuttered, fast walking his way to Aziraphale’s room, palms already sweating after just one harmless sibling interaction. Fuck, this was going to be a long night.
He offered a perfunctory knock as he was opening Aziraphale’s door and was unsurprised to find the blond all dressed up, seated in a chair and reading some thick leather-bound book.
Aziraphale looked up, smile brightening his whole face, “Crowley! You made it!”
“‘Course I did. Wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
The smile softened, and Aziraphale lay the book to the side carefully before getting to his feet and making his way across the room towards Crowley, throwing his arms around his neck when he reached him and planting a loud kiss on his lips.
“I missed you.”
“Missed me? It’s barely been two days, angel.”
“I know, but still.” Another kiss, softer and sweeter this time. “I did.”
Crowley could feel himself blushing, still unaccustomed to Aziraphale’s particular brand of freely offered affection, even after nearly two months of dating him.
“Hey, I got you something.” He hefted the jacket-wrapped bundle in his arms, and Aziraphale pulled away, clapping his hands together in delight.
“Oh! You shouldn’t have! I got you something as well, but I thought we might wait until after dinner to do the gift-giving?”
“Fine by me.”
Aziraphale beamed, waited for Crowley to deposit the gift on the ground before taking his hand, pulling him back in for another kiss.
“Dinner should be ready soon, we should go out and mingle.”
“Mingle? I thought it was a family dinner, don’t you all do enough mingling living together?”
“Well yes, but you know what I mean.”
They made their way—no longer holding hands but close enough to brush shoulders nearly every step—to the dining room; an expansive wood-panelled monstrosity Crowley had never seen before, with a table long enough to seat at least twenty and incredibly ostentatious place settings, complete with name cards for each plate. Most of the siblings were there already, not yet seated but drifting around the room, every last one of them dressed to the nines. Did these people just use this as an excuse to break out their formal wear? Crowley felt incredibly inadequate in his too-large suit jacket and his wrinkled off-white shirt. He didn’t even own a tie, probably should have asked to borrow one from Aziraphale, but it was too late now.
Someone rang an honest-to-God dinner bell , as if this was some sort of fancy murder-mystery and they were all about to be told that their host couldn’t make it, unfortunately, but that they should all enjoy the meal because it might be their last. Crowley shook off the ominous thought, but quickly realized once everyone had seated themselves—after much shuffling of napkins and settling of skirts and jackets—that the seat at the head of the table was in fact empty. He nudged Aziraphale, thankfully seated next to him, and nodded towards the empty plate. “Who’s missing?”
“Oh.” Aziraphale sighed, shoulders dropping slightly. “I thought she might make it this year.”
“Mom. She’s always so busy, and invariably scheduled for the worst possible shifts. I can’t remember the last time she made it to a family dinner like this.”
“Oh.” The disappointment in Aziraphale’s voice made Crowley’s chest twinge with sympathy. Absent parents were something he was quite intimately familiar with, as they both knew by now. “What does she do?”
“Oh, this and that. She runs her own consulting business on the side and that takes up a lot of her time, but she formally trained as a doctor, and since she’s a specialist she’s basically always on call. She has more degrees than everyone at this table combined.”
That sounded like an exaggeration, but at this point Crowley couldn’t be sure. This family was weird as hell.
“Ah.” Crowley reached for the crystal wine glass he assumed went with his plate, managed to bring it to his lips and take an incautious swallow before he recognized the ten sets of eyes glaring at him. Oops .
Gabriel, on the right hand side of the empty head of the table, cleared his throat and reached for the hands of the siblings next to and across from him. “I’ll say Grace.” They all linked hands, and everyone save Crowley bowed their heads and closed their eyes. Ah yes, how could he forget? Religion and all its trappings.
“Thank you God for your everlasting bounty. We kneel in awe of your Grace, and thank you for the nourishment we use here today to sustain ourselves and shore up against the influence of Evil.” He paused, and Crowley started to let go of the hands on either side of him, but Aziraphale tightened his grip and Gabriel continued, “Thank you for this bread, and this wine, and the miracles that have allowed each of us to come together today in exaltation of your most holy Gifts. We thank you for these victuals which we are about to enjoy, and we are eternally grateful to You for bestowing upon us that of which we are not worthy.” Another dramatic pause, then, “We humbly ask you to shield us from Evil and deliver us to salvation, amen.”
Well, that was a bit of a thing . Crowley had never heard such a dramatic performance made out of saying grace, nearly scoffed at the ostentation of the little speech, but he murmured a respectful “amen” along with the rest of them, before a woman dressed as a chef, puffy white hat and all, entered the dining room from what Crowley assumed to be the kitchen, carrying platters overflowing with food. Enough to feed thirty, forty people, and here they were, a humble thirteen, watching a veritable feast lay itself before them. Crowley probably looked stunned, couldn’t help but gape at the sheer volume of food that had been made for the occasion. He could have fed himself off of this meal alone for weeks .
There was the soft clattering of silverware as each person served themselves a bit of what was in front of them, before passing the platter or bowl along until everyone had heaped their plates to overflowing. Crowley looked down at his place setting, hesitating when he saw that there were three differently-sized forks and two spoons, along with two knives and a set of some sort of tiny forked utensils he had never seen before. He had no idea which to use, snuck a glance at Aziraphale and followed his lead, picked up the middle-sized fork to dig in. Who needed more than one fork anyway? It was just ridiculous.
It was quiet for a few minutes as everyone tucked into the meal, and then one of the siblings Crowley still didn’t recognize cleared his throat and dabbed over his mouth with his napkin. “So. Aziraphale. Heard you got some acceptance letters already.”
Aziraphale just smiled politely and nodded, mouth still full of some sort of delicious sauce-soaked meat Crowley had never tasted before (though that wasn’t necessarily saying much). He carefully finished the mouthful, bringing his own napkin up to his mouth and it suddenly occurred to Crowley that Aziraphale’s food behaviours were probably learned. Were in fact probably drilled into his head from a very young age by some aging marm with a vendetta against children. He shuddered to think of it. And of his own manners, heinous as he knew they were. Yeesh .
He tuned back in to the conversation just in time to hear Aziraphale finish whatever sentence he had been in the middle of with, “–but most of them don’t send out their acceptances until quite a bit later in the year, not everyone does rolling admissions after all, and I was sort of holding out hope for Brown.”
“Brown? What happened to Yale? You know the family legacy there is important, Aziraphale. If you won’t even consider it, why bother with any of the other Ivies? It seems to me like you aren’t taking into account how the rest of the family might feel.” The man settled his napkin back over his lap, not even looking at Aziraphale as he spoke.
Crowley could see Aziraphale’s lip twitching, knew the blond wanted to press his lips together the way he did when he was upset or angry, could see him fighting the reflex.
“I am thinking about the family.” Aziraphale finally managed to spit out, the words barely squeezing past his clenched teeth. “Just because I don’t want to go to Yale doesn’t mean anything. It’s my choice, isn’t it?”
No one responded.
“What are you planning to study?” Another unfamiliar sibling asked after an uncomfortable few moments, decked out in a lush green evening gown, curls pinned in some incomprehensibly complicated fashion, huge heavy earrings catching the light in the most distracting way.
“Oh, well, I thought I might do a double major.” This met with several curious and appraising glances. “I was thinking I might study theology–” a chorus of approving hums– “and literature.” Silence.
“What on earth could you want to study literature for, Aziraphale?” That was Uriel, seated at the far end of the table from Crowley, dwarfed next to the broad shoulders of Gabriel. “What could you possibly do with a useless major like that?”
“Oh, well, uh, I like reading a lot, so I just thought…” he swallowed, and even sitting right next to him Crowley could barely hear his next words. “I thought it could be… fun.”
“Fun? Fun doesn’t pay the bills, Aziraphale. You can’t just leach off the family forever, you know. You’re going to have to get a real job eventually.”
“Well, I thought I might… I thought I might open a bookshop, someday, maybe…” he trailed off, swirling his fork through the remains of the sauce on his plate.
“A bookshop?” Uriel’s sounded incredulous, disdainful. “That’s a bit pointless, isn’t it?”
Aziraphale said nothing, just stared down at his plate.
“Perhaps he can go back for a law degree, I’ve heard reading-heavy majors help with law school.” Green Dress suggested, and turned expectantly to look at Aziraphale, who was still staring down at his plate.
“That’s a great suggestion, Cassiel. Always nice to have more lawyers in the family.” Gabriel chimed in, nodding approvingly.
“Yeah, maybe.” Aziraphale’s jaw was tight, and Crowley had to bite his tongue to stop himself from saying something inappropriate, from coming to Aziraphale’s defense in front of his family.
He hadn’t prepared himself for this. He had assumed any vitriol would be aimed at him, the outsider, but to see Aziraphale’s own family dismiss his interests like that? To dismiss him ? Crowley brought his left hand under the table, clenching it into a useless, angry fist on his thigh. He wanted to say something, could feel his chest burning with it, but he knew firsthand how much Aziraphale would not want that right now. It would only make things worse. He needed to keep his damn mouth shut.
“Well that’s settled then. And what does your friend plan to do?” Cassiel asked, and Crowley was immediately thrown into panic. Plans? He didn’t have any plans. He didn’t know what he’d be doing a few months from now, forget the future .
Aziraphale glanced over at Crowley, didn’t seem to understand the stricken look on his face, grabbed at Crowley’s hand where it was still tightly fisted on his thigh, wiggling his fingers in until their hands were linked. “Actually, Crowley is my boy friend.”
There was a ringing silence, not even the scrape of tines on porcelain as every sibling froze at once, expressions ranging from shock to horror to some sort of fucking sadisitic glee.
And if Crowley thought he had been panicking before, well now he was no longer physically attached to his body, forced out by the pounding rush of terror that filled him to the brim, overflowing in too-quick breaths. Did Aziraphale really choose this fucking moment to come out to his whole family? This one!?
Silence reigned for a whole six seconds, and Crowley had the hysterical thought that he could hear the perfect synchronization of everyone’s watches as they ticked along inaudibly.
“I knew it!” Sandalphon crowed from somewhere on the other side of Aziraphale, voice vindictive and proud.
“Sandalphon! That’s enough.” Gabriel, voice booming and authoritative, almost too loud after the heavy silence that had preceded it. “We will be talking about this.” He glanced around the table, eyes serious and blazing, with anger or authority Crowley couldn’t tell, “ Later .”
“Oh, no, I think we should talk about this now .” Sandalphon was grinning, and the cruel lilt in his voice was all too familiar to Crowley.
Another sibling spoke up from beside Sandalphon, “I’m sure it’s just a phase, nothing to worry about, he’ll grow out of it.”
Aziraphale made a noise of protest, and Crowley wanted to sink straight into the very nicely polished floor. You need to shut up , haven’t you learned not to fight them by now?
“It is not a phase, I know what I want.” Please shut up, please , Aziraphale you’ll just make it worse . But of course he didn’t, lovely, stupid idiot that he was. “I’m not a child anymore! Just because I’m the youngest doesn’t mean you can boss me around for the rest of my life! I’m practically an adult and I’m perfectly capable of making my own decisions. I don’t need your permission. I don’t need anyone’s permission.” Crowley had never heard Aziraphale talk like this, never heard him so angry and righteous. It was kinda hot, if he was being honest. Not the time, Crowley, get your mind out of the fucking gutter.
It was silent again, a tense sort of silence rather than a shocked one, and Crowley decided now was as good a time as any to get away from this whole mess of a subject. If no one else was going to say something, he might as well try to salvage the situation.
“Well, uh-” twelve pairs of eyes swiveled to him, and he wanted to shrink into nothing. “I thought I might stick around here a bit, after graduation. Help with the, uh, the family business.” If Crowley had learned anything in the past seventeen years, it was this: when in doubt; smile, nod, lie through your teeth, and hope no one catches on.
It was a bit of a non-sequitur, but the relief at the change in subject was palpable around the table, tension easing just a tiny bit.
“Oh? What business might that be?” Asked a new sibling, long dark hair pulled back into a neat braid at their nape, bowtie a stunning blue that matched their eyes precisely.
“My dad’s a…” Crowley fumbled for a moment. His father wasn’t employed at all, as far as he knew, but it wasn’t like he could tell Aziraphale’s family that he was a career alcoholic and they barely had enough money to feed themselves. “He’s a mechanic. Yeah. He’s uh, got a shop in the next town over, and I thought I might help out there for a bit, until I figure my sh– self out.”
There was another heavy silence, and Crowley could feel their judgement. Rude bastards. Not everyone went and got a fucking Ivy League education, and it wasn’t like it was his fault that he came from a family so poor that he wouldn’t be able to afford to go to college even if he wanted to. Which he didn’t. But still. At least he’d successfully diverted their attention away from Aziraphale, who was still gripping his hand tightly underneath the table.
“That’s… nice .” Blue-Bowtie finally said, their smile a painfully forced thing.
Everyone went back to eating, or at the very least staring at their plates, smaller conversations starting up as the meal dragged on.
Aziraphale’s hand stayed linked in Crowley’s, making it much harder for him to eat properly, with only his non-dominant hand free, but he refused to let go, and Crowley supposed that was fair enough.
“I’m sorry.” Aziraphale nearly whispered to him, a private conversation in the middle of the crowded table.
“Nothin’ to be sorry for.” Crowley responded, with much more bravado than he actually felt, and gave Aziraphale’s hand a reassuring squeeze.
Dinner continued at an agonizing pace, and just when Crowley thought they might be free, the chef came back in from the kitchen, carrying a huge tray of desserts. He steeled himself for another painful half-hour of stilted, mine-field conversations; but to his immense relief, it seemed that dessert was more of a do-it-yourself type deal, left on the table as some of the suit-wearing siblings started talking about going to the smoking room (because of course Aziraphale’s family had a smoking room), for cigars and port; and the more dress-inclined siblings fixed themselves plates of dessert to carry over to a more comfortable room, probably with a roaring fireplace. Pretentious as it fucking gets.
Aziraphale’s hand in his pulled him to his feet, barely sparing a glance towards the decadent spread of pastries and cakes and sweets, and a vague feeling of unease crawled up Crowley’s spine at the sight of Aziraphale turning down dessert. They left the room unnoticed, and Crowley couldn’t help the massive sigh he released as soon as they were out of earshot, shoulders slumping and a sudden feeling of exhaustion overwhelming him.
“You alright?” Aziraphale asked, and he looked just as exhausted, face lined as though he had aged forty years in the last two hours.
“I should be asking you that question.” Crowley deflected, but it was true. He would be fine, had been through much worse, and it wasn’t as though he was the one who had come out to his family and gotten a less-than-stellar reception.
“I have a bottle or two of really nice wine in my room, if you’re interested. Stole it right out of the cellar.” Now this was more familiar territory.
“Thank fucking God, yes .”