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these three remain

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faith, hope, and love
but the greatest of these is love

 


 

Aziraphale had never slept so late and, when he slept at all, he was always up before sunrise. It’s really not that he considers sleeping a waste so much as he simply has better things he could be doing.

Not now, of course. Not here.

Here is the beach house. They’ve been at the beach house for three days. Aziraphale has slept well into the morning on each of them.

The first two, honestly, all they did was sleep. Crowley would sometimes get up and come back with something to eat, or some fruit cut up on a plate. He’d ask little questions — you feeling alright? want anything to drink?

No, Aziraphale would answer. No, I’m fine.

Crowley’s stopped asking those things. On the third day, Aziraphale sits up in bed, confused about where he is and what’s happening. At the foot of bed sits Crowley, eating some fruit — oranges, it seems — wearing loose black pants and no shirt while looking at his phone.

Aziraphale frowns. “What time is it?”

“Nearly lunch.” Crowley doesn’t look up as he offers Aziraphale some fruit. “Thought we might go find some place to eat.”

“Of course.” Aziraphale looks at the orange. “Where did you get this? It’s October.”

Crowley shrugs. Finally looks up. “You hungry?”

“I could be.”

“Wonderful.” He leans in and pulls Aziraphale close, kissing his forehead. “Let’s go, before it rains.”

 


 

The house in Syros is quite separate from others, away from some of the more congested areas of the island, with a strip of beach that Aziraphale can’t see anyone on for miles in either direction. He’s learned, very quickly, that October is not the best time to visit. It doesn’t rain often, the island is rather rocky and dry, but when it does it pours, in fits and bursts, and then clears up.

It’s in one of these clear parts that Crowley takes him a little ways up the road and they stop in at a very lovely little tavern. They’re the only ones there, which excites the bored looking server who offers them house wine and to meet the chef. They spend the afternoon eating mollusks and drinking wine and drinking wine and drinking wine. Crowley slaps more Euros than is strictly necessary on the table and kisses the chef on either cheek while Aziraphale leans against the wall outside and looks up at the clouds rolling in.

“Fancy a swim?” Crowley asks.

Aziraphale turns and pulls him in, kissing him expansively against the wall. “I fancy you.

“Oh angel, angel, angel.” Crowley takes Aziraphale’s chin between his fingers. “You’ve got no idea what you do to me.”

“I think I’ve some clue.”

“Come on,” Crowley murmurs. “Just a dip. Won’t be an hour.”

“It’s always more than whatever you’re promising, where you’re concerned.”

“And?” Crowley asks. “That’s a bad thing?”

Aziraphale shivers. “No,” he says. “Not at all.”

He agrees to go swimming, objecting loudly when Crowley just starts shucking off his clothes and walking straight into the water.

“There’s no one around, angel. Not for miles and miles and miles and miles and—” Aziraphale kisses him, lets Crowley reach out and undo the buttons of his shirt. “You just need to relax, yeah? S’why we’re here, isn’t it? Helped stop the end times, earned ourselves a vacation.”

Aziraphale sighs as Crowley steps back, completely nude, and wades into the water. He glances about, assumes that if no one is watching it’s more to do with Crowley’s magic than anything else, and just...goes for it.

It isn’t frigid because he doesn’t expect it to be. Learned a few tricks like that over the years.

“Knew you could do it.” Crowley swims up to him and pulls him in further. “Just get out here and let go.”

Aziraphale does feel a little stiff. He lets himself move out a little further, sink down a little deeper, until he’s level with Crowley and can finally kiss him.

“Better?” Aziraphale asks, and Crowley grins.

“Yeah. Much.”

They stay like that for a while, until a wave comes and pushes them apart. Aziraphale turns to reach for him, to bring them close again, and sees the quick flash of angry fluorescent. He looks up, so sure there will be a ceiling above him that he’s shocked there isn’t. The stench of Hell fills his nostrils, and it shouldn’t be there, he knows that. He was fine, he’s been fine so it’s not completely logical, what’s been happening to him —

“Hey.” Crowley is suddenly there. “You’re going somewhere. Where’re you going?”

“I—”

“Should we get out? Go back to the house?”

“No. No I’m fine.

But he’s already gone. He’s already ventured out, ventured away, left Crowley far behind. The ocean is quiet and the water is very still. It is all of these things because he expects it to be.

He should get out. He should get out of the water.

“Aziraphale—” Crowley calls after him, but he’s already moving. The ocean is moving. The sound of waves crashing against the shore tears through him and he lands on his pile of clothes with a groan. Crowley is right behind him, snapping his fingers and summoning a blanket from the house, wrapping it around Aziraphale’s shoulders. “Were you there again?” Aziraphale nods. Crowley moves to sit under the blanket with him. “S’alright,” he says. “Probably should have thought about that one.”

“It’s not your fault. I’m very sorry—”

Crowley nudges him. “Don’t apologize to me, angel. Not for that. Not ever.”

“...Crowley.”

“You and I...we don’t owe each other apologies. Not anymore.” He offers his hand to Aziraphale, who takes it, and stands, pulling him up. “Let’s go inside. S’cold out there.”

 


 

Inside, Crowley chucks their clothes in a basket and goes into the bathroom to turn on the shower.

“Is this alright?” he asks, and Aziraphale nods. “Great.” He grins, pulling Aziraphale under the shower head with him. There’s soap and shampoo, other little things Aziraphale’s never been too familiar with. He remembers bath houses, of course, and he’s certainly showered, but it’s always been a necessity, or something to just. Do.

For Crowley, it is obviously something to enjoy. He takes soap and a loofah and starts to clean Aziraphale’s body. Slowly, reverently. Aziraphale immediately wants to melt, leaning against the shower wall with a groan as Crowley’s warm, slick hands move over his chest, down his stomach and toward his cock.

“Look at me,” Crowley says, and Aziraphale does. “We’re here to let go. So just…” He curls his fingers around Aziraphale’s cock and begins to stroke him. “Let go.

Aziraphale moans, thrusting eagerly into Crowley’s hand. The water spilling over them both is warm and clean and good. He gasps Crowley’s name, brings his hands up behind Crowley’s head and pulls him in, warm lips sliding together. “Please.

“I know,” Crowley says soothingly. “You’ll get what you want, don’t worry.” Crowley angles his head and kisses Aziraphale’s neck while Aziraphale wraps his arms around Crowley and holds him closer. They haven’t touched each other this way since they arrived, since several days before Crowley even suggested it. The sudden blitz of feelings had eased into an absolute terror on Aziraphale’s part that they were going to be discorporated by either side at any moment.

He still remembers walking down the cramp, humid hallways of Hell, still remembers the look on Michael’s face when they walked in and Aziraphale was alive. And he’s well aware of the effects of Hellfire on an angel. It was...oh Lord what was his name? Nazrifael, a very sweet, very good angel who’d made the mistake of...making mistakes. Aziraphale had not been able to look, had not been able to watch a fellow principality be burnt away.

Crowley had said it felt like going home. Aziraphale cannot tell if he’s lying for their collective benefit or not.

“Hey.” Crowley nips his ear and Aziraphale is pulled back to the moment. He’s very close, and Crowley’s hand feels so very good. “I’m here,” he says. “Be here with me. Not up there or downstairs, just...right here.” He turns his head and looks, really looks, at Aziraphale as he picks up his pace. Aziraphale wants to fall apart, he absolutely wants Crowley to ruin him, but isn’t that a given? Won’t their natures simply take care of that on their own?

Aziraphale comes just as Crowley kisses him. He can feel Crowley’s erection pressed against his thigh, and moves one hand down to reciprocate, but Crowley draws back.

“Bed,” he murmurs, and Aziraphale nods. They fumble out of the shower, Crowley’s hands constantly on him, Aziraphale not wanting to step too far away.

“Crowley the windows—” They’re floor to ceiling, look out on the sea, and are currently wide open.

“Don’t care.” They crawl over one another to get into bed and Crowley starts kissing him hungrily. Aziraphale arches against him, suddenly aware that Crowley aims to be inside him, something they haven’t done before, something he very much wants now. He’s hard again, an easy thing to do, when Crowley starts to open him up, stretching him carefully.

Aziraphale moans and Crowley asks, “This is good, right? This is okay?”

“Yes, yes.”

By the time Crowley is actually fucking him, Aziraphale is mostly just noises. Mostly soft sounds that pitch up into moans. He hooks one leg around Crowley’s waist and draws him in, trying to get more and more and more.

Fuck, you feel good.” Crowley picks up his pace and Aziraphale laughs.

“Learn something new everything day, do you?”

Crowley kisses him. “Is this how it feels? With me? All the time, I—” He takes a breath. “It’s so much.”

“I know. Really, I do.”

Crowley drops his head to Aziraphale’s shoulder and moans. “I love you. I love you and it kills me that you—”

Aziraphale reaches for his face, brings him close to kiss him. “Nothing is your fault. I love you and nothing is your fault.”

Crowley nods, draws out and thrusts into Aziraphale, hard.

Aziraphale cries out, drags his nails over Crowley’s shoulder. “Just like that,” he pleads. “Oh, just like that.”

“Again?”

“Yes, yes, again.”

Crowley does the same, does it over and over until Aziraphale feels his climax ripped from him, coming without being touched this time, as Crowley thrusts faster, a few more times, and spills into him with a shout.

“Azir...Aziraphale. Fuck.” They stay like that for a while, until Crowley draws out and rolls to his back. “Fuck me,” he mutters.

Aziraphale glances at him. “Later, maybe. Could do with a good rest, you know.”

Crowley laughs, stretching out and wrapping an arm around Aziraphale’s waist. “Yeah,” he says. “A good rest.”

 


 

Aziraphale wakes one morning with a start, once again not quite sure of where he is. There are things leftover from sleep still clinging to him, thoughts and sounds. The tub. Hastur’s toad. The sound of demons laughing and squawking as Michael had poured the holy water.

He gets out of bed and sees the doors leading outside are open, and Crowley is coming up from the beach, toweling his hair dry and grinning. He takes the steps two at a time and laughs.

Amazing, this place. We’ve been sleeping on it.”

“Have we?” He lets Crowley pull him close and kiss him. “You’re wet.

“Oh am I?” Crowley pulls back with a grin and starts moving Aziraphale back towards the bed. Aziraphale goes, falling into the cool white sheets again with a groan. Crowley pushes up his nightshirt and starts planting wet, open-mouthed kisses on his chest. “Heard you dreaming last night,” he murmurs, as his hand slips below the waistband of Aziraphale’s pajama bottoms.

“What?”

“Dreaming,” Crowley says. “Can I suck you off? Really want your cock in my—” Aziraphale pulls back. “What the—”

“I don’t dream,” he snaps.

Crowley sighs very heavily and moves to sit on the edge of the bed. “Are you sure?”

“Do you dream?”

Crowley shrugs. “When I want to.”

“Well I don’t. I’ve never wanted to, and I’ve no intention of starting now.” Aziraphale moves away from Crowley, getting out of bed and righting his night clothes. “I’m an angel, Crowley. I don’t need to dream.”

“I don’t think anyone needs to dream, angel.” Crowley scrubs a hand over his face. “I’m sorry,” he says. “I must have just...I was wrong, I guess.”

“Yes. You were.” Aziraphale starts unbuttoning his nightclothes, but they just won’t come off. Frustrated, he miracles his clothes for the day in their place. “I’m...I need to take a walk. Alone,” he adds.

Crowley nods. “Sure. Whatever you need.”

 


 

I am better than this, he thinks. I am stronger than this.

Aziraphale had not realized this body could panic. He had not realized this body could hold tension in muscles he wasn’t entirely aware he had. He was not aware it could stop breathing, because he was hardly aware of his breath in the first place. When he’s far away enough from the house he drops onto the beach and digs his hands deep into the wet sand and gasps into the universe.

He feels like he’s being discorporated. He feels like something is pulling him out of his body and away. Tubs and hellfire and Michael’s clean white shirt and the slimy walls of Hell. He digs deeper, draws out memories he wishes he could have scrubbed from his mind, his heart, his essence. They were going to burn Crowley away, destroy him like he had never mattered.

And Heaven was going to do the same to Aziraphale, wipe him away like he had never existed.

He had watched Nazrifael burn. He had watched her scorched from Heaven like she had never mattered, and for what? What was her crime? Existing? Wanting something?

Asking questions?

“Was this part of it all, too, then?” he asks, gaze tipping upwards. “Because I can’t think straight. I can’t look at the world or You or anything anymore without wondering why it didn’t all just burn.” He looks out, out at the sea, this great beast of a thing that could swallow him, could consume him.

Aziraphale has been discorporated only once. It was 1916. He took a bullet to the back, distracted as he was by a boy stumbling into the trench holding his guts in his hands. Crowley had been somewhere else. Forging documents, trying to get as many people out of harm’s way. Aziraphale had asked him, “Where’s the evil in that?”

“Abandoning your country in their greatest hour of need, angel? Don’t you know the Queen hates traitors?” But there’d been no bite to it. Crowley hated war, he’d always made that very clear. Aziraphale understood that it happened, sometimes. He had been trained to. That they disagreed fundamentally on whether war should have existed or not was proof they really were opposites. Aziraphale wished he had Crowley’s pessimism. It would have made all this more tolerable, in some way. To have hope, and then to watch as a boy’s body was torn in two — that made it worse, somehow.

But he had been discorporated. Shot in the back and brought low by an enemy gunner. Aziraphale had always thought that, should this happen, he’d of course say Her name. He’d reach out for Her, ask for another chance.

Instead, he’d wished for Crowley. Crowley would have held him. Crowley would have tried to help.

Aziraphale bled out, begging for a demon’s touch.

On a beach in the most beautiful place in the world, he sobs and asks for an answer to a question he can’t form — because he is afraid.

“Look at me,” he mutters. “Really am a pathetic excuse for an angel.”

The tide is coming in. Aziraphale stands on trembling legs and pats the sand off his slacks. He wishes he’d been kinder to Crowley. He was dreaming the night before, dreaming about the things he’d been dreaming of. Dreams frightened him. Dreams were terrifying concepts. Dreams were things that were not real, but put such a fear in him he swore they could be.

And his dreams are painfully detailed. Raw stenches that fill his nose, claws that scratch and hands that choke. Crowley was right, and Aziraphale had been awful to him. He walks faster down the length of the beach, back to their little house on the coast and sees Crowley standing in the waves. Aziraphale comes to stand beside him, and takes his hand.

“I shouldn’t have snapped at you.” Crowley shrugs. “Crowley, I’m trying to make amends here.”

“Angel, you don’t need to make amends. I told you the other day, you’ve got nothing to be sorry for.”

Aziraphale sighs. “Don’t you think about it? Don’t you ever think about how close we were?”

Crowley nods. “All the time,” he says. “I don’t know, maybe it’s selfish, but that’s me, right? Demon and everything? Supposed to be selfish about things like this.”

“Things like what?

Crowley turns to him. “If the world hadn’t nearly ended, do you think you and I would be here? Right now?”

“I…”

“Because I was never going to tell you. I’ve been in love with you for six thousand years, and I was just going to keep that to myself until the world burned out from under me.”

Crowley.” Aziraphale wants to say no. He wants to believe they’d have sorted each other out. But something tells him that just wouldn’t have been the case. Something tells him that they are such marvelous disasters, it took the bloody Apocalypse for them to decide this needed to happen.

Something did end. And something else began.

Aziraphale wraps Crowley in his arms and feels him do the same. They hold one another as the sea water swells up, crashing against them, soaking Aziraphale’s slacks, but there’s nothing to worry about, really. Crowley is sturdy, even when he’s making play that he’s not. Crowley is a rock, even as he pretends to be a tower crumbling away.

“How about we get lunch?” Crowley asks, and Aziraphale laughs into his neck.

“I thought you’d never ask.”

 


 

They spend a few days after that going between the bed and the beach. When they aren’t swimming, they’re fucking, and Aziraphale luxuriates in the feel of Crowley lowering himself onto his cock, fucking himself open while Aziraphale grasps his hips in either hand and fills him.

Crowley braces himself with his hands on the wall, moaning so loud Aziraphale is fairly certain their neighbors three miles down the beach will hear. He doesn’t do anything to stop it. Every sound Crowley makes is nectar on Aziraphale’s tongue. He swallows it down and fills him up, spilling into Crowley before forcing him onto his back and putting his tongue at Crowley’s hole to draw everything out of him. He is in love, he is in lovehe is in love.

The world is not ending. They are not on fire. They are alive and left alone and together.

And then he wakes up one morning and Crowley is in the tub.

The tub is a plain white thing that overlooks the sea. The windows in front of it open out, exposing it to the world beyond. It’s a beautiful thing, really. Gorgeously designed, ludicrously sized, considering it’s for one person to bathe in. Aziraphale wakes up feeling satisfied from the night before, and fully intends on having Crowley any way he wants him this morning — but Crowley’s in the tub, and Aziraphale can’t even move.

“Look who’s awake,” Crowley calls, leaning over the side. “Get in with me, we can both fit.”

Aziraphale feels a knot grow in his throat. It balloons until he’s struggling to speak around it.

“I...I don’t think so.”

Crowley raises a brow. Aziraphale looks away. Water sloshes onto the floor.

“Suit yourself,” he calls. There’s the sound of Crowley bathing himself, followed by, a minute later: “Oh, shit.” More water, spilling everywhere, and it’s going to leave such a mess, Aziraphale thinks, as he twists the bedsheet in his hand tighter and tighter, until it starts to tear. “Aziraphale—” Crowley falls down by the side of the bed, reaching for him. He’s naked and wet and Aziraphale doesn’t know what to say, what to do that will make this better.

He is very carefully working on not coming undone, and that Crowley should bear witness to this doesn’t make it better.

“Aziraphale. I didn’t think. I’m an idiot, I’m such an idiot, and I should have known, because I can feel it—”

Aziraphale frowns. “Feel what?” he asks, painfully aware of the thinness of his voice, how it sounds like a creature separate from him.

Crowley glances down. “Your breaking point,” he says. “You’re...walking the edge of it, and I can sense it.”

“I don’t understand.”

Crowley sighs. “It’s the same as...as you, sensing love. I know when people are on the verge of something foolish, or something violent, or something heartbreaking. I can feel the little cracks in the facade and yours are...Aziraphale, they’re everywhere.”

Aziraphale looks at the bedsheet in his hands. “They shouldn’t be. They should...they should be shored up by now. It’s been months.”

“But you...your foundation—”

“I don’t want to discuss it,” Aziraphale says, pushing him aside and getting up. With a snap, he’s changed, and he’s walking away.

“Aziraphale, please—”

Aziraphale rounds on him. “How dare you accuse me of...of being—” He swallows.”Of being broken. I’m not meant to be this way, I am a soldier of heaven.”

“You hate being a soldier, don’t throw that in my face now.”

“Put some bloody clothes on,” Aziraphale snarls. “And don’t ever talk to me about my breaking point again. So I’m...so I’ve struggled. So I’ve had a nightmare here and there—”

“I knew it—”

“Now is not the time, Crowley.” Aziraphale starts walking away, down the stairs and out to the beach. Crowley follows him, tugging on his jeans and nearly tripping down one of the steps.

“Aziraphale, wait.” Crowley grabs his arm, pulls him so they’re facing. “You shouldn’t run from this. You shouldn’t hide.”

“There is nothing to hide from.”

“I brought you here so this could happen, Aziraphale. So you could let go—”

“And how do you know what I need? Now, of all times? You’ve spent how many years pretending you feel nothing for me, pretending that this was an impossibility, and suddenly you know me? Suddenly I’m no longer a mystery to you? Suddenly you have the answers?”

“Yes!” Crowley shouts. “Yes, because no one has ever known you better than me. And no one’s ever known me as well as you! You intuit me, you know what I need before I even have to say it, and now, now I get to do this for you, and you’re pushing me away.” Crowley reaches up, takes Aziraphale’s face in his hands. “Please don’t,” he says. “Please let me take care of you. Let me help you through this.”

“There is no this.”

“You’re angry,” Crowley says. “And you’re scared. You’re frightened of what’s happened, of what it makes you feel.” Crowley pulls him closer. “It’s not going to happen to you, Aziraphale.”

“What? What could I possibly—”

Crowley kisses him. Aziraphale is helpless and angry. He’s afraid.

“Aziraphale.” He pulls back. “You are not going to Fall.”

 


 

The sea splits.

Aziraphale!

Aziraphale walks into the water and does not look back. There’s no way Crowley can follow him. No way he can go where Aziraphale has gone now.

The sea closes.

The water is everywhere.

He is alone.

 


 

The fear is there. There fear has always been there.

But Crowley spoke its name and now it is trying to claw its way out of Aziraphale’s chest.

You are not going to Fall.

“You don’t know that,” he says. Sea water is in his lungs, but he doesn’t want to drown, and so he won’t.

Aziraphale hadn’t wanted to bleed out on the battlefield, either, but the shock was very real, and he had been very busy wondering why Crowley couldn’t sense that something terrible and awful and stupid had happened to him. So busy wondering why Crowley wasn’t there, why Crowley didn’t know that he needed help, before realizing — Crowley wasn’t his keeper. He wasn’t then, and he isn’t now.

But Crowley has always made play at it, and Aziraphale has always just accepted it.

Fear, he realizes, is a demon all its own. Aziraphale is afraid of Falling. He is afraid of being cast out for reasons he doesn’t fully understand. Why was it so bad that he wanted to protect this world? God had made it, why was it so bad, then, that he should defend it?

He wants to ask Her, but She’s never around, and he has it on good authority, nothing gets you in more trouble with Heaven than asking questions.

“Just one,” he murmurs. “I only...I only have one.”

The sea doesn’t answer. There are fish down here, but Aziraphale is quite certain his essence is enough to terrify everything else away.

He sits at the bottom of Aegean Sea, and speaks the only question he dares ask to a passing school of fish.

“Why did you let me get so lost?”

No. Wrong question. Aziraphale wasn’t lost before the end of the world. He is now. Even after finding Crowley, taking Crowley to his bed, loving Crowley — he is lost completely. But that isn’t Her fault.

“Why did you let me wander so far?”

Yes, the better question. Because he had. He has. He’s in Greece, he’s not really anywhere anymore. He’s not of Heaven, and he’s certainly not of Hell. His only constant, for six thousand years, has been Crowley, who had sensed his cracks before Aziraphale had and whisked him away somewhere beautiful

So that he might at least fall apart with a view.

 


 

Aziraphale reappears on the beach, and Crowley lunges for him.

“What the fuck?” he shouts. “What the actual fuck, Aziraphale? You can’t just split the bloody sea apart and walk into it. You complete fucking—”

Aziraphale kisses him. Yanks him in by the belt loops of his jeans and kisses him, open-mouthed and filthy, right there on the beach.

When he pulls back, Crowley’s expression is stunned.

“I—”

“I’m falling apart,” Aziraphale murmurs, and Crowley softens.

“Oh, angel. Angel, angel, angel.” Crowley wraps his arms around him, and Aziraphale goes boneless in his embrace.

“I’m...I feel very lost.”

“I understand.”

“And I’m afraid.”

Crowley nods. “I know.”

“Is this what you felt? Is this what it was like?” Aziraphale draws back. He feels so small in Crowley’s arms.

“In some ways. In others, not so much.” Crowley takes his face in his hands. “You’re heartbroken, Aziraphale She disappointed you. They disappointed you. You are…” Crowley laughs. “Fuck, you are so good, it’s a miracle I can stand to be near you. I mean you may as well consecrate the ground you decide to stand on.

“You made them doubt themselves. Of course they wanted you gone.”

“But your lot—”

“Forget my lot. You were so good to me, you walked into Hell for me, and I will never stop loving you for it. But your greatest gift to us both was giving them reason to doubt something at all. And they’ll be doubting forever.” Crowley brushes the damp hair from his forehead. “The most ineffable thing about this world is you and me, angel. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

 


 

“Did it hurt?” Aziraphale asks.

Crowley moans softly, arching his back and Aziraphale presses further into him. “Are you joking?”

“No,” Aziraphale says.

Crowley opens his eyes. Reaches up and cups his cheek. “Yes,” he says. “It hurt like…well.” He kisses the corner of Aziraphale’s mouth, and Aziraphale rolls his hips, drawing out and thrusting back in deeper. “Fuck.

“Are you angry that I’m afraid of it?”

“No. Falling wouldn’t suit you,” Crowley manages, as they get into a rhythm. “Wouldn’t, ah. Wouldn’t be your style.”

“I could,” Aziraphale says. He’s dreamed about it. Dreamed about it just the other night, while Crowley had watched him sleep. It’d be a very good question for scholars these days. Do angels dream? Aziraphale certainly does.

“You won’t,” Crowley says. “You love Her too much.”

Aziraphale kisses him. Presses his mouth to Crowley’s ear and whispers, “I do think I love you more.”

Crowley comes.

Aziraphale doesn’t Fall.

 


 

And after that —

After that, he allows himself to break.

Sometimes he is sitting on the beach, filled with rage. Crowley gives him space, comes close when he needs it. Other days he is trembling, standing in the kitchen and gripping the counter so hard it cracks under his fingers. Crowley helps him through that, too.

It will, he assumes, take time to pass. It will take time to move on. It will take time to let go.

In the afternoons, they make love for hours. Aziraphale learns to appreciate the sound of the sea along Crowley’s moans of pleasure, learns to breathe in time to the crashing of the waves. Learns to draw out every feeling, every touch and every moment. There is pain, still. He assumes it will be there so long as he exists. Crowley tells him as much.

“Shouldn’t be this hard,” Aziraphale mutters, after he’s woken up from a nightmare, one where he is Falling and Crowley is reaching, and there are eons between them. “It shouldn’t be this hard.

“Everything is hard,” Crowley says. “Absolutely fucking everything. But this is easy. Remember that. Being here is easy.”

“Being here.”

“Yeah.” Crowley draws him back into bed, kisses his arms and chest and up his neck. Threads his fingers through Aziraphale’s curls. “Here. With you. And you being with me. Got six thousand years of practice with that, don’t we?”

Aziraphale smiles at him, so blessed and so endeared. He lets Crowley curl up into the crook of his arm, kisses the top of his head. The world did not end. He did not Fall. Crowley is still here. Time to thank God, he supposes, for small miracles. Even though they are anything but.

“Yes,” he says, and closes his eyes, hoping beyond hope that he will dream of something good. “I suppose we do.”