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The warmth of You

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When Crowley finally told Aziraphale that he loved him, he meant it with everything in his entire being. It had been six thousand years, and throughout the millennia Crowley had found himself increasingly drawn to the angel, the two seeming to share an orbit with each other – round and round they would go, passing by, each aware of the other’s influence and the apparently inevitable way the distance between them would lessen with every meeting. It was disconcerting, being drawn to the angel. Crowley wasn’t entirely sure he liked it. Perhaps this is why they would only meet very rarely, in the beginning. But as the years passed and he came to know the angel better, very rarely became occasionally, which became every other decade. Soon, they were meeting every other year, and then month. As the apocalypse approached, the angel and the demon met more and more frequently, and each time Crowley felt himself be pulled just a little bit further into the angel’s orbit.

He wondered occasionally if Aziraphale felt this off balance around him. He wondered if they were ever destined to collide, and what would happen if they did.

Crowley could still remember the surge of surprise and something not-unlike awe he had felt when Aziraphale, high on the wall of Eden, had admitted to giving away the sword the Almighty had gifted him. The wonder, the admiration, and the strange feeling that seemed to grow within him with every meeting with the angel soon became commonplace. Simply a result of spending time with Aziraphale, he had thought. It made him feel all warm. Loved, almost. Or something.

That was disconcerting, too. He hadn’t felt this way since- well.

Crowley did his best not to pay it any mind. This was probably a mistake because, ignored, the problem only took hold within him. By the time the end of the world was bearing down on them, the way he felt when around Aziraphale had grown well beyond his control. He could feel himself slipping. The joy, the warmth that the angel brought into the demon’s life – it was the worst kind of addiction. Crowley’s heart would lift simply from spending a meal talking with the angel. Aziraphale’s sparkling eyes, his impish smile, his wit, his softness, his kindness. His love, for everything the world had to offer, including (maybe?) Crowley?

It was almost too much for the demon to bear.

He didn’t need to question what had happened to him – he knew. He’d seen it happen to humans, time and time again. But falling in love with Aziraphale had never been part of the plan – Great, Ineffable, or otherwise, he was sure. He would have been content to ignore it – to continue ignoring it – if it weren’t for the almost apocalypse. If it weren’t for the way, on the bus ride home after a very long day of saving the world, Aziraphale had twined their hands together without a word. If it weren’t for the way the angel had squeezed his hand, just firmly enough for Crowley to be sure it was intentional. Aziraphale had glanced at Crowley out of the corner of his eye, long pale lashes failing to hide the angel’s less than covert gaze as he checked for the demon’s reaction.

Crowley had let loose a breath of air he hadn’t really needed to take in the first place and did his best to look casual as he leaned closer against Aziraphale. The angel was always so warm, as though the light of Heaven had been baked into his very being upon creation, and Crowley was a cold-blooded serpent, still, below it all. He couldn’t help but want to bask in Aziraphale’s heat, couldn’t help but be drawn to his love and light and, he thought, the way the angel was simply good, not just below it all but all the way through.

For the first time since they had met, all that time ago, Crowley had felt like their orbits were changing, finally coming together – he had thought, slightly panicked, that a collision might actually be possible. Wanted, even? His hand had been warmed, fingers tangled with the angel’s, and he could feel the heat radiating all down his side where the two were pressed together. His heart had stumbled, jumped, soared in his chest. He would tell Aziraphale how he felt, the demon had decided – once they got home. But for now, in that moment, Crowley had simply closed his eyes behind his glasses and squeezed the angel’s hand in his, gently.

The warmth and light of the angel’s love had swept over Crowley like a wave. Beside him, Aziraphale smiled.

 


 

 

The problem with love, Crowley thought later on – much later, after Heaven and Hell had been fooled and after dining at the Ritz and after hushed breath shared in darkness, soft touches and presses of lips and those three terrifying words had been shared, had been gasped, had been proclaimed, and then even later – the problem with love, Crowley decided, was that it tended to cloud your view, a bit. Tended to hide things that should, really, have been obvious.

Perhaps this is why both Aziraphale and Crowley were utterly blindsided by Aziraphale Falling.

It was different to the way Crowley had Fallen. He’d plummeted from Above, had fallen until there was nowhere further Down to go. Metaphorically speaking, of course. Hell isn’t deep below the earth’s surface, no more than Heaven is hidden by a bit of inconsistent cloud cover. No, Hell isn’t really a location, as such. It’s more of a state of being – and it was a state that Aziraphale had, one Tuesday afternoon, simply slipped into.

Being earthbound, it wasn’t so much that Aziraphale was cast out, that he had been taken from Heaven – it was more than Heaven had been taken from Aziraphale.

It happened one drizzly afternoon a few months after the world didn’t end. Aziraphale had rather conveniently forgotten to swap the sign to ‘Open’ for the day, and so the demon and angel had spent a lazy afternoon puttering around the shop.

Well, Aziraphale had puttered. Crowley had slunk over to the couch and flopped down on it to nap. The demon had woken when the Principality had decided to join him, and with a bit of manoeuvring, Aziraphale was laying back against the arm of the couch with Crowley between his legs, splayed flat over the angel like a demonic blanket.

“Mmmm,” Crowley sighed, once more basking in the warmth his angel provided. It was incredible, the way the angel simply radiated heat, and comfort, and love. Aziraphale had a book in hand but he had ignored it in favour of running one hand through Crowley’s hair. The demon tipped his head back, and without needing to ask was gifted a kiss – the angel bit gently at Crowley’s bottom lip and sighed as he pulled back, smiling.

“You really are so beautiful,” Aziraphale murmured quietly, his heavenly blue eyes overflowing with affection, “and I love you – more than anything.”

 

Later, Crowley would think back to these softly spoken words, so full of love, and he would remember the heat of Aziraphale beneath him and the just-after-dawn pale blue of his eyes and the demon would be overcome with rage and sorrow and guilt.

 

But for now, the demon simply startled, as Aziraphale jerked underneath him – as though he had a sudden painful cramp in his back.

“Angel?” Crowley asked and Aziraphale gave him a reassuring smile.

“I’m sorry my dear, I don’t- I- oh,” the angel was abruptly struggling where he lay on the couch, and Crowley scrambled to jump up from between his legs, coming to stand beside him as the angel tried and failed to sit up.

“Aziraphale? What’s wrong?”

“It’s- Crowley, it’s my wings,” Aziraphale’s voice was tight with pain and he half lay, half sat on the couch. His pale blue gaze was quickly growing panicked and before Crowley could do anything to ignore the sinking in his stomach and offer some kind of comfort, the angel’s face contorted in agony so acute it made the demon nauseous to look at it.

“Oh God. I can- it’s going. My Grace, I can feel it. I can feel Her leaving me.” Aziraphale cried, his wings manifesting without his compliance. The pearlescent feathers were glowing, but it wasn’t the light of heaven that lit them – the edge of each feather was burning a fiery, ember bright red. As Crowley watched, horror struck and frozen, the feathers ignited.

 

Aziraphale screamed.

“Oh God, Crowley, please, it hurts, Lord it hurts, please, please-” Aziraphale sobbed, falling with a thud from the couch to the floor of the bookshop where he writhed against the pain. Crowley fell to his knees, hands outstretched but not touching the falling angel, unsure what to do. Aziraphale yelled again, his hands reaching desperately back to try and grasp at his wings, fingers scratching deeply at them, loosing feathers and blood alike, scrambling to get a good grip – to tear them off, Crowley realised suddenly, memories clamouring in his head. Images of his fellow demons doing the same in their desperation to escape the agony of falling from Heaven. The screams that ripped from their throats even as they ripped their own wings from their deforming bodies and, later, when the screams had subsided, their sobs of anguish ringing through his ears as his fellow demons realised exactly what they had done to escape their burning wings. Realised what they had lost.

Crowley grasps Aziraphale’s hands without thinking and the angel shrieks, the contact too much and a torture all its own. Aziraphale struggles to free his hands, which continue to reach up to tear at his wings – but Crowley holds him fast, because he can’t- he can’t let him. Aziraphale loves flying, has always loved flying, he can’t let him-

“Aziraphale, please-” Crowley begs, his own voice breaking on a sob, but the Falling angel can’t hear beyond his pain.

“Make it stop, make it stop,” Aziraphale is chanting, his voice cracked and broken. Blood streams from his face, the Grace inside being purged taking its toll on the mortal form that houses him. Tears dilute the blood streaming from his eyes and Crowley swallows back another rush of nausea because Oh God please, not his eyes. If you have any kind of mercy left in you, please not his eyes.

Perhaps She was still listening, because Aziraphale’s screams stop suddenly, his voice cutting out with a cry as the last of his feathers darken. The once-angel lies on the floor of his bookshop, his body wracked with breathless sobs. Crowley’s grip gentles, and Aziraphale’s hands are soft and cool in his – after a moment they grip back, the newly fallen angel desperately seeking an anchor. Crowley tries to ignore the blood under the neatly manicured fingernails, and clutches back, relieved that at least Aziraphale is no longer fighting to free himself from his burning wings. Crowley understands that it is too late to escape the pain. Aziraphale will soon come to understand this, as well.

But for now, Crowley lies down next to Aziraphale, and swears to himself that he will be there for his angel – because in this moment he thinks that, demonic or ethereal or mortal, Aziraphale will always be his angel.

That’s the problem with love.

And so as the two demons hold hands and cry together, Crowley swears himself to his fallen angel and waits for Aziraphale to come back to himself. To come back to him. Their hands are cold where they lay clasped between them.

 


 

It takes some getting used to, Aziraphale being Fallen. Some things change – others do not.

He still loves his books and still reads more than anyone Crowley has ever known, obsessing over his latest collected text and spending hours restoring the spines of centuries old tomes on subjects so obscure even Crowley has trouble keeping up.

He still likes to feed the ducks in St James’ Park, and he still smiles at new couples walking past them, hand in hand. The knowing glint in his eye as he smiles at the couples is new, but Crowley thinks that maybe that had started to shine before Aziraphale Fell anyway, right after the apocalypse was averted and they had- well, actually he doesn’t want to think about what might have caused that perceptive spark.

(Thoughts of Aziraphale panting, grinding against him and crying out in rapture as the two of them come together and then come together pass through Crowley’s mind unbidden and he pushes them far, far away. That hasn’t changed either – Aziraphale still calls out Crowley’s name as he climaxes, still sounds as though he’d forsake everything and everyone for just one touch of Crowley’s hand and maybe that was the issue, maybe this is all because of-

Crowley pushes the thoughts far, far away. For once, he’s going to leave it bloody well alone).

 

Aziraphale eats about the same amount that he used to, and his favourites are still his favourites – but Crowley suspects that his pleasure in food has become more visceral. It seems like it’s not just about the experience of taste and textures, anymore. It’s about filling a hole, it’s about eating for the pleasure of eating, it’s about-

Gluttony whispers a voice in Crowley’s head as he watches Aziraphale lick his lips after swallowing down a piece of apple crumble, the cream and ice-cream melting against the heat of the desert. The smell of cinnamon is sweet in the air and Aziraphale smiles happily at him across the table. Aziraphale has always enjoyed indulging in good food, and this, at least, has not changed, Crowley tells himself. The way Crowley feels about it might have, but the way Aziraphale eats is, technically, still the same: neat and precise, savouring every bite. The way he gives a little sigh of contentment, eyes closed, after a good meal is still the same. Even that ridiculous little wiggle he does when he’s about to try something new- that’s still the same.

Maybe it was always about gluttony, Crowley thinks, desperately.

Maybe he’s just trying to make excuses.

 

Another change is Aziraphale’s eyes.

At first, Crowley thinks that the Almighty had shown mercy, had heard his plea. When Aziraphale finally sits up off the floor after Falling, and wipes the blood from his face, his eyes seem unchanged. It’s not until almost a month later, when the ex-Principality is glaring a particularly persistent customer from his shop that Crowley notices – he has two pupils and two irises sharing each eyeball. They’re still the same shade of near-dawn pale blue. But when the newly minted demon leans into negative feelings (emotions he has always had, Aziraphale assures Crowley, even if he’d never acknowledged or acted on them before) his eyes sort of – split, like a cell in mitosis, and then suddenly there’s two sets of eyes in one pair. Perhaps the worst thing about this is that Aziraphale doesn’t seem to mind.

“Now we match,” he says, and he sends a poorly practiced wink at Crowley, one eyelid blinking down to hide two blue irises and deeply dark pupils.

Crowley wants to cry, but forces himself to smile, instead – it feels weak and wobbly on his face, but Aziraphale doesn’t notice the tension around his mouth.

“Not to mention,” Aziraphale continues with a smile that is slightly more smirk than it used to be, “it’s coming in very handy for protecting my first editions from too keen customers. That Wilde collector the other day was falling all over my books – and then one look at my eyes and he fell all over himself to leave!” Aziraphale giggles and that, too, is the same. Small mercies.

There hasn’t been a single purchase in the bookshop since Aziraphale had fallen.

 

The worst change for the angel is, of course, Aziraphale’s wings. The once pearlescent sheen of his feathers has darkened to a deep grey, the colour of the London sky before heavy rain. They’re not as black as Crowley’s own pitch shaded wings, but they’re a far cry from the snowy white they once were. Aziraphale does seem to mind this change, and he keeps his wings hidden away, only bringing them out when the pain gets too much.

They’re sitting on their bed one evening as Crowley gently straightens the damaged feathers. Aziraphale had been snappy and the tension in his back and shoulders was visible from across the room, but Crowley had still needed to cajole and prod and annoy before Aziraphale had agreed to let him tend to his burnt-up wings. He hasn’t looked at them since seeing them that first time, the morning after he Fell, and he faces away from the mirror hanging on the wall as Crowley ever so carefully pushes a pinion feather back into place. It doesn’t matter how much care he takes – Aziraphale still winces in pain as the charred feather shifts.

“Does it ever stop hurting?” the fallen angel asks, soft and slightly desperate. Crowley pauses, his hands hovering over the darkened wings of his lover. He briefly considers lying, then decides not to add to the pile, and so he tells the truth.

“No. It fades, a bit. But no, angel. Not in my experience.”

Aziraphale is quiet for a moment before he pulls away, tucking his wings in and leaving the bed.

“I wish you’d let me rip them off,” he says, his voice soft and bitter. He doesn’t look at the mirror or at Crowley as he leaves the room, and Crowley doesn’t offer to groom his wings for him for a long time after.

 


 

The wings might be the hardest change for Aziraphale – well, other than the utter absence of the love and light and warmth of heaven – but for Crowley it’s… Well.

It’s the absence of love, and light, and the warmth of heaven.

 

Aziraphale’s hands are cool, now. The heat that once poured from his angel has been doused, and the light that shone through those loving, celestial blue eyes has dimmed. The love in them has not, and that’s sometimes worse.

Crowley holds Aziraphale at night and feels sick with guilt. He swore that he would always be there for his angel, and he will be. Aziraphale Fell because of him. Crowley knows this, deep in his bones. He knows it in the same way he knew that Armageddon had to be stopped. In the same way he knows that he is the most despicable being to ever be willed into existence.

If he hadn’t lost faith in Her years before, he would have now. She made a mistake with him, Crowley has thought in the past. He wonders now if it was a mistake. If she wasn’t just a cruel, jealous, spiteful bitch and didn’t just enjoy torturing him for the fun of it.

She had created Hell, after all. What kind of maniac did that? Worse, She had let Aziraphale Fall, knowing what that would mean. What that would do – not just to the angel, but to Crowley.

 

He desperately tries to blame Her, but – as it always has – Crowley’s hate turns inwards more often than not.

Like now, for example. He’s not sleeping. Aziraphale is.

(Just one more thing that has changed).

Aziraphale’s head rests on his chest. He is cool and soft where he presses against Crowley, and the demon shivers slightly beneath the ex-Principality’s weight.

He misses the warmth Aziraphale used to carry within him.

God and Satan both, but he’s the worst kind of fool.

Aziraphale has fallen, and Crowley’s orbit had been misaligned. He feels like he’s spinning, wild and out of control, but there’s no collision imminent here. Just the wide, lonely expanse of space. No stars to light his way or to warm him. Just the black, and endless cold.

Six thousand years. Six thousand years, and he hadn’t worked it out. That was the problem with love, Crowley thought. It tended to hide things that should, really, have been obvious.

 

It had taken Crowley a few months after Aziraphale’s Fall to realise he wasn’t drawn to the fallen angel anymore, and a few weeks after that to realise it had never been Aziraphale he’d been drawn to in the first place.

It wasn’t about Aziraphale’s sparkling eyes, his smile, his wit, his softness, his kindness. It never had been.

It had only ever been about what Crowley had been missing.

 

The demon doesn’t realise he’s going to sob until he does, and Aziraphale shifts his head, slowly lifting away from his slumber at the sound.

“Crowley?” Aziraphale murmurs, dazed with the sleep he’s only recently started indulging in.

The demon swallows his sorrow, bitter and choking, and rubs a hand against Aziraphale’s back. He traces the shape of the burnt wings, hidden on a different plane, beyond sight but not beyond his touch, and commits himself to the promise he made on a dusty bookshop floor.

“It’s fine, angel. Just a bad dream. Go back to sleep.”

“Mmkay. Love you,” Aziraphale says, pressing a kiss to Crowley’s bare chest. Crowley closes his eyes in the darkness and hates himself, even as he opens his mouth to lie.

 

“Yeah, angel. Love you too.”