Crowley was in pain. Not the acceptable kind either. Not anything human, like loss or doubt or a stubbed toe. Living on earth more than made up for those inconveniences. No, what Crowley was feeling was ethereal.
The day after the bodyswap Crowley had awoken with the most vicious pain in his right wing. He’d tried to stretch it, coax it, relax it, all to no avail. So, of course, he went back to bed. Surely it would be gone by morning. Unfortunately, a month later, the dull throb of his wing still hadn’t left.
Now he was in bed, a mass of pillows and feathers and limbs and despair, hoping and (though he would never admit it) praying that the pain would go away.
The demon’s yellow eyes darted back and forth across the ceiling as he shifted his position slightly. His wing protested, drawing tears to his eyes. As soon as this passed, he swore, he would miracle every chronic illness out of existence. Eternal damnation was one thing. But this? Living at the mercy of a feathered appendage? This was truly Hell.
For Crowley, being a human was easy. He had complete control. He chose what he looked like, whether or not he drank or slept, and he could heal any injury with a snap of his fingers. Even if his human body died, he could just get a new one. No problem.
It was the heavenly bits that he hated. There were parts of him left over from The Fall that he couldn’t control. They whispered to him at night. Do you have someone to love you? Are you worthy of it? *******, will you ever be loved again?
For a while he tried to cover it up with temptations. He dressed as a harlot in the 1600s and paraded about town, tempting married men away from their wives and getting commendation after commendation from downstairs. This worked for a while. She loved the feeling of being wanted, of being needed , by other creatures. But these flings never lasted. Crowley always left with a wave of her fingers and a blown kiss. She was a demon after all.
Everyone knew demons and love went together like angels and dancing. It just wasn’t done.
She got tired of the old routine anyway, switching to tempting orphan boys into petty theft somewhere in the 1800s. And he hadn’t even thought about going back since.
The other piece of Heaven left in Crowley was his wings. Not just any demon got to keep their wings. Most demons to come out of the fall had smouldering nubs where their wings used to be. Crowley had suffered a bad tan in comparison.
The problem was this: wings needed to be groomed. This wasn’t an issue in Heaven. In Heaven, angels would gather in their ranks and preen each other. It was supposed to have been a bonding ritual or something, to ensure loyalty within the heavenly hosts. Which worked, until Lucifer’s squad started spreading rumors and doubt during preening. Which, of course, Crowley was apart of.
When Crowley first fell he had expected to be able to at least preen with the other demons. As soon as they found out he’d kept his wings, however, they’d shunned him. He volunteered to be the first on Earth, just to get away from the cackles and jeers of the other demons. It was a welcome break.
This meant that he was now alone with no one to help him preen. So he tried to do it himself. He’d light candles and listen to music and stretch and reach and try. But he could never quite do it. Couldn’t reach that one spot . That loose-but-not-quite feather. The knot of muscles. Preening was a two angel job, and Crowley didn’t even have one.
So eventually he stopped trying. Gave in to the discomfort. Accepted it as a part of life. Humans had quickly discovered alcohol, which helped considerably, as did sleep, which soon became his favorite pastime. But lately it had been keeping him up all night.
There was no escape, just the facts: he had fallen, and this was a punishment for his transgressions.
He tried readjusting himself again.
You deserve this. You chose to fall, you get to suffer the consequences. Sorry excuse for a being.
He was now wrapped up like a pretzel, searching for any source of relief.
Look at yourself. It’s like you wanted to be a snake. You don’t even-
The doorbell rang.
That didn’t make any sense. No one ever rang the doorbell.
It rang again, with a certain polite aggression.
Crowley sat up, cringed at the pins and needles rushing through his wing, and swung himself out of bed. He shambled to the front hall like a man twice his body’s apparent age, and opened the door.
“Crowley! I’d tried calling but that was weeks ago and you never responded, so I-”
Aziraphale paused as he assessed the man-shaped creature in front of him. His shoulders were hunched. Big, black, unruly wings forked from from his back like branches from a tree, some feathery leaves threatening to fall, and others threatening not to, and some just along for the ride. His jawline was covered in the ungroomed beginnings of a beard, and his hair clearly hadn’t been styled or cut in what was, for Crowley, too long. There were deep bags under his yellow eyes, which, Aziraphale noticed with a shock, he could actually see. Crowley had really let himself go.
“Ngk,” Crowley grunted, moving to the side of his hallway, “erm. Would you like to come in?”
But the angel had already stepped inside.
Within moments there was a kettle on, and Aziraphale had summoned two mugs from who knows where, and some tea that smelled like cinnamon, maybe?
“Dearest, what happened to you? I’ve been so concerned, you know, I wondered if Hell had changed their mind and wanted to try again. Or worse.” The angel’s eyes glittered with worry.
Crowley watched with a lazy smile as Aziraphale prattled on.
“I am so very glad you’re alright. You really did have me in a tizzy.”
Crowley smirked at that. The world may constantly be in motion, but some things never changed.
The kettle whistled. Aziraphale removed it from the stovetop and led Crowley into the sitting room.
“Well, it’s not very comfortable, is it?” Aziraphale commented, frowning at the minimalistic furnishings.
“It’s stylish,” Crowley conceded, still watching as his angel chose a chair to sit on. An ugly black piece of plastic that Crowley had purchased for the important features of it being nonfunctioning and overpriced.
Aziraphale frowned again as he set his mug down on a sleek black slab of a table. It wasn’t an expression Crowley particularly liked on the angel, but it would do.
“Are you going to sit?” Aziraphale asked.
“Nah. I think I’m better up here,” Crowley stated, trying not to fidget with his feathers. His wing was threatening him with another shock if he moved the wrong way.
“Alright. Now, Crowley, why haven’t you been answering my messages?”
“Shit.” He hadn’t turned on the ansaphone since he’d caught Hastur in it. A month ago. “I forgot about that. Listen angel, I really am sorry. I’ve been, er, under the weather lately. Saving the world really takes it out of a demon and all that. So I’ve been-” he winced. There it was, he’d flexed his wing instinctively and it wasn’t happy about it. “-resting,” he croaked. The wing began pulsing steady waves of dull pain. Crowley sat down on his couch.
Aziraphale narrowed his eyes.
“Crowley…” he began, slowly putting the pieces together. He stared directly into the mass that was the demon’s wings. “When is the last time you had a good preening?”
Crowley cringed again, this time not from physical pain.
“Heaven, I ‘spect.”
“Oh.” It took the angel a moment for the implication to settle in. “Oh! Oh, dear boy, I am so terribly sorry! If I had known-”
“No, no, no. Don’t worry about me. I fell, I get to deal with the repercussions,” he recited. “This is my, er…” he reached for a better idiom, then settled. “My cross to bear. I’ll be fine.”
“Crowley, I can’t believe you!” Aziraphale stood up from his seat. “Wing grooming is a necessary part in the routine of celestial beings. Without it your wings and self esteem will deteriorate.”
“Mhm.” Crowley shrugged noncommittally. “It’s nothing for you to worry about.”
“It most certainly is. You are very important to me and I will not stand for you just letting yourself go like this!” The angel gestured broadly at Crowley’s wings before marching over to the couch Crowley had sprawled across and demanding, “Turn around.”
“You heard me.”
“Mmph.” Crowley knew the angel better than to try to resist any longer. He draped himself over the couch so his wings were facing the angel.
“Do you mind taking your shirt off-”
Before the words had left his mouth Crowley had grabbed a hold of his grey v-neck and made a show of tugging at it, miracling it into the other room.
“Mind the right one, would you?” Crowley muttered into a pillow.
“Of course, dear.”
Aziraphale ran his fingers expertly through Crowley’s ragged wings. It was the best feeling Crowley could remember ever feeling in his whole long life.
“Oh, Crowley. Your poor, poor, beautiful wings.”
Crowley was glad for the pillow obstructing his face.
“I just wish you’d have told me sooner.” His gentle fingers were deeply submerged into years of abandoned feathers. A little nip here, a tug there, and suddenly it wasn’t as itchy anymore. Crowley felt like he could breathe easier, which was a ridiculous notion as he didn’t breathe normally.
“You’re so tense, love. Try to relax for me. Yeah, that’s it.”
Crowley’s wings were quivering. It had been millennia since anyone had cared enough to even touch them.
Aziraphale was slowly but surely unravelling thousands of years of imperfections, letting them float harmlessly through the air of the flat.
The angel moved on to the right wing. He gently stroked for a few moments to get an idea of what he was working with, before digging his fingers into the area Crowley had been avoiding for the past month.
Aziraphale’s fingers left the demon’s wings immediately.
“No, s’alright. Just a bit more gentle. Please.”
The fingers were back, softer this time. Crowley let out a long sigh. It felt like Aziraphale was some sort of great sculptor and he was only the clay, meant to be shaped into whatever the angel willed. Something better. Something good. Beautiful, even.
There were a few moments of blissful silence where Crowley was positive he was floating. It shouldn’t have been possible to feel that amazing.
“I’m so sorry,” Aziraphale’s voice was so soft Crowley could barely hear it. The demon swivelled his head to view his angel. There were tears welling in his eyes.
Aziraphale avoided the demon’s gaze, focusing instead on the knot of muscle he was slowly loosening. “You’ve suffered through so much. And I never even noticed. Didn’t think to ask “how’re Crowley’s wings?” Just assumed, I suppose, that you had someone else to do them for you, but I should have been there. I should have seen.” The tears were on his cheeks now.
“S’not your fault.” Crowley’s voice had taken on a dreamy quality. He was distracted by the miracles being worked on his- “Ow” -wings.
Another “sorry.” Even softer this time. “I never meant to hurt you. Please,” his voice and his fingers were shaking, “please forgive me.”
“Angel.” Crowley had to suppress a chuckle. A demon forgiving an angel. What was the state of creation? “You’ve done nothing wrong. All I needed was someone to-” love me. “-care.” He tentatively flexed his left wing. It felt free. For the first time since The Fall. “You care. That’s enough,” he finished.
He could feel Aziraphale calming behind him.
“Well, of course I do. I owe everything to you.” He tenderly kneaded at the sore, feathery muscles. “You’re my world, Crowley.”
Crowley’s human heart was at his throat. His wings stiffened. His heart raced.
“Please relax, dear.”
“Right.” Crowley made the conscious effort to release the tension from his wings. Then, “How do you mean? World.”
He could hear a smile in his angel’s voice as he began, “Oh, well, I realized in the month since I’ve seen you how empty the world was without you. Sure, we saved the world, but you’re really what made it worth saving.”
Crowley was falling again. But this time, instead of fire and brimstone, the only fate awaiting him was the warmth and careful touch of Aziraphale’s fingers as they combed out his feathers.
The angel had taken to a rhythmic rubbing that was the only thing the demon could focus on.
Crowley inhaled deeply. Unnecessary, but calming. “Your world…”
And then, there it was.
The answer to the questions plaguing him since The Fall.
He’s right here, with his hands in your feathers. Simply radiating adoration. Working at erasing the remnants of 6 millennia of self hatred and failure. And succeeding.
“Of course.” Crowley felt Aziraphale’s weight shift for a moment. Finished with Crowley’s wings, the angel leaned forward and placed a kiss right between the demon’s shoulder blades before sitting up and situating himself at the end of the couch. “And how do you feel?”
Crowley sat up and stretched his wings. He was comfortable. For the first time in a long time. And it was good.
He leaned back into the couch and placed a foot on Aziraphale’s thigh, observing carefully every detail.
Aziraphale was down to his waistcoat. Weird, how naked he looked. His cloud colored hair haloed his head beautifully. And his eyes. He was watching Crowley. Waiting for something. Waiting.
“They feel a lot better, thanks.”
“No, not your wings,” Aziraphale tilted his head like Brother Francis had whenever Warlock was being particularly naughty. “How are you ?”
“Ah. I’m fine, angel. Little sore, but I’ll heal.”
The angel nodded, then looked back around the room. “Really, how do you stand it in here?”
Crowley slid further down the couch so that both his feet could settle comfortably on Aziraphale’s thighs. “You get used to it.”
They sat like that for a while. Aziraphale had, unsurprisingly, brought a book, and started paging through it, stroking Crowley’s ankle with a free hand.
His world. What made Earth worth saving. He’d said it like it was a given. Like, ‘of course, I don’t want to live without you. Of course, you’re my everything’.
Crowley studied the angel. He researched his eyelashes and catalogued the hair around his ears.
What was Crowley without him?
A depressed heap in a lonely bed.
Just another disgraced demon.
But with him…
He was good.
Demons did not fall in love.
But that didn’t mean they could not.
“You’re my world, too.”