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the garden and the storm

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Tell me, angel. Where did it start for you?

For Crowley, it has always begun with the sea. 

In The Beginning. The sky opened. There had been a divide, before, the waters of Earth, of Eden, and the scream of space, that place there where Crowley had pulled fire and light into nebula, once, back before light was called light, back before Crowley was called Crowley. A split. And then the rain came, joining them forever, rainwater making the garden grow and stretch and grow. The rain would have been brightcold on Crowley’s serpent-skin. It would have been, if it wasn’t for the arch of an angel’s wing.

Crowley had stepped closer before Aziraphale raised his wing. He remembers this. (Please, God, let him have forgotten). He couldn’t help it. It felt right. It was only a moment before. They stood like that, there in the yawning dawn of all things, so close Crowley could feel the steam of heat between them from their strange new human-like bodies, until the rain slowed. 

It’s so tender, this thing I have for you. I didn’t know anything could be so tender. I want to take care of you, I want to watch you eat. I want to listen to you talk about the weather. I want to brush that smokecurl hair out of your eyes. What is this soft thing I become, what am I when I’m with you? (It’s better than anything I’ve ever been.)

2020. The South Downs. The sea is just there, past the cloudwhite cliff-face. They’ve been here months, very nearly settled into a routine of things in the cottage. The same dance, a new setting. A sense of something that should be safety, should be joy, but it’s but a new ache instead. Well. The same ache, with less chaos surrounding it. Armageddon’s been deferred, now there’s only the raw-red desperate thing that always lived under Crowley’s surface, as muted as he could make it, strange and many-armed and ravenous. There is only this now, this and the everyday act of trying to tame it. Don’t let him see. Please, please. He’ll leave. (He should.) 

Crowley makes his way to the sea most mornings. The expanse of it, the closest thing to eternity on earth. Stands for hours at the edge sometimes, hands shoved in his pockets, elbows out like wings behind, this pile of ash-burnt sticks he is.

More and more often, he walks in. 

The cold of it like a healing thing, something close at least, nothing of hellfire here. Lets it cling to his clothes, lets it make a heavy thing of him, submerge. The sand comes soft around him, and then the salt. The waves lap, and then they swallow. 

It’s not quiet. The shuffling tinkle of the rush of sand, carried to and fro in the waves. Billions of pieces that had been stone once, yes, and stardust too, worn to this, dashed to fragments of themselves. Quartz and mica. Feldspar, from the center of the earth. Cliffside and statue and living things too, microscopic ones, too small to matter, the only things that matter, the fact of matter itself. Caught there between his toes, his eyelashes. He lets it in his lungs sometimes. It won’t harm him, he doesn’t let it get that far, he just likes the salt, the burn of it. What else came from clay? What else had been lovely once? What else had been pure, had thought it was eternal, integral to this creation, before time and chance and choice wore it down to merest grain? 

Aziraphale wonders, when he goes. He might worry, too, which is a sick, sorry thought. Don’t mind me, don’t let this wretch I am drag you down. Please, I can’t bear it. Let me leave you whole. You won’t erode like stone, not if I don’t let this flood of me break into you.

*****

It’s not love, this thing Crowley has for the sea. It’s messier, knotted, like almost everything he’s felt since he fell. It gives him something like the space he needs, sometimes.

Now that space is an aching thing. The stars he made are long-dead now. Their echoes still torment him, bright up there. 

The sea, though. Nearly endless. The closest thing you can get to eternity on earth. 

Something nearly big enough to hold what I have for you, angel. I am this churning thing, this contradiction you’ve made of me. A demon who does miracles, a demon brimming with a goldleaf love for you. An expanse of suffocation and impossible life. 

The ocean is hungry things and an undying cycle: migration and this innate, unnamed force. No matter how far I travel, no matter what wonders I seek or who I crash into, it’s you at the center, you I return to. So many sea-creatures do it, they must. Come back to the place where they were truly created. The only constant, the only truth. (I’ve made a home out of you. Landfall, an island in the sea of me, the eye of my storm. I can’t ask it of you. I never could.)

Because you are the sky. Light and clean and good, yes, but also because you there with your passions, your hunger and your faltering gusts. You catch the light of the sun and she shines so much brighter for you, that close star I made, once.

Is it a relief? Something close to peace? 

Have I ever known peace? Yes. A cool night, a warm bookshop, the cottage here, when I’m drunk enough to mute this agony. Lamplight, the rustle of turning pages. The smell of light sweat, ozone. His steady breath, the sound of sipped cocoa.  

That wasn’t peace, either, it’s frantic longing and an ache deeper than soul, barely contained, housed in a fraying fleshthing and a crooked smile. 

But it’s close.

The sea is something else. A stirring. The way it never settles. Feels like something’s getting done, because an infinite amount of things are, always, beneath the surface. When Crowley’s in the midst of it, he gets to be choiceless.

(Floating almost feels like flying, if you’re lost enough. If you close your eyes.)

He remembers what it felt like, the wind tripping past his wings in the stretch of space, the stars he made there. Remembering is part of the curse of it.

Here beneath the sea, he can soar. Can push the silksalt water around his body and glide, plunge until the pressure clutches him in its fist, an inhuman plummet, and then, then, fuck, Crowley can rise and rise and rise and rise until his head breaks the surface and his lungs remember how good it feels to breathe. 

He does that less. It’s a bitter ache. He prefers to sink. Get lost in the creatures there, the lovely stranger wonders of them. There’s so much life where no one goes. So much emptiness, too.

Crowley has known whales the size of islands. He’s perched on saltpaper-spine, clung with thighs and flat palms to this giant of the expanse, let them drag him down deep into the cold on their mythic bodies. He’s slipped through underwater forests of lion’s mane jellyfish, their hundred-foot tentacles shimmering red and fine like his own mane of hair. 

Crowley’s witnessed the sharp pain of the recent death humanity has committed to the earth, he’s watched it all, he’s watched ancient things choke. And then too, Crowley’s known coral that hasn’t faded since it first grew there. He visits again and again, to watch it blossoming, impossibly lovely, even this far from the sun. 

Some ancient tortoises know his fingerprints, deep there in Eastern waters. He who comes to fight the gulls off the youngest ones sometimes, once in a generation, no more, with sunset-blaze hair in the shallows, keeping away the teeth. Those infants had been the size of his palms, once, and now they’re half a century, broad as his wingspan, now he can sprawl on their shells and let them laze him through the reef. Something like solace, something like torment, how they linger together. All the more agony when they die, when their shells are all that’s left, when a predator comes at last. 

(Aches all the more when you’ve held onto it this long. Better not to ask. Better not to know.)

And then there’s the ghost ships. The shipwrecks. The violent crash, the sea-sacrifice. The hubris of humanity to try and ride a wild thing, She would punish them for it, She always did.

Crowley’s been saving shipwrecked-sailors since he failed to that first flood. On hard sea-crossings, hallowed ones too. It’s defying Her Plan, head office let him get away with it even if it meant a saving thing, anyway. He spun it right, they didn’t care. But it wasn’t about defying God, not in a demonic way. Crowley drags lost souls onto land. He asks the ocean to give them back, and it does, and when he doesn’t he goes in himself, clawed fingers in sodden shirts, demon-strong arms around flailing, fragile human bodies. He lets them forget. Lets them remember sometimes too, but never his face. Lets them believe what they want, all that matters is that finally, finally he can see to someone’s saving. 

(And yes, when he watches waterlogged eyes see sky again, there’s something like reverence in their gaze. Digs its nails into the scars of him. Fiercely, pathetically—he likes it.)

*****

Another dawn. He returns to the cottage, already dripped-dry in the sleepy sun. He can feel Aziraphale before he sees him. That pinkgold love of his, rosy-fingered, reaching out, curling around Crowley’s heart before he opens the door, and then there he is. Each time, the tenderness of it nearly stops Crowley in the doorway. He has to gather himself, rearrange his face into something he can wear, please don’t see the way you undo me. Please don’t see how I want you.

And then Aziraphale turns to greet him with a quick smile like the sunrise, soft fingers still turning pages, but it’s enough, that glance, that there you are, home again. 

This is more than Crowley deserves. This is more than he ever thought he’d have.

“Morning, angel.”

Pull yourself together, don’t spoil it.

“Good morning, dear. Did you have a nice night out on the town?”

“Can’t complain.” 

A dart of concern, so quick Crowley would have missed it if he blinked (he never does, around Aziraphale. Can’t miss anything. Might be important).

“I’m working on a vegetable gratin for lunch, those potatoes are looking lovely.”

“Going to use the zucchini too? Those have come on well.”

“I was, dear! You’re terribly good at it. Whatever it is you’re doing, you’re marvelous with them, quite the gardener.”

The ache pangs through Crowley like a stone thrown into a lake. He was, once, quite the gardener. He had been all growing things, once, before the fall, before the drowning of the root at the seed.

He makes a non-committal noise and heads out to tend to the garden until the sun comes to high noon. The shade of the cottage is a welcome thing, gently humid, away from things that burn, and Aziraphale’s at the kitchen counter in just a rolled-sleeve Oxford shirt, clinging slightly in the heat. He turns and gives that warm smile, and Crowley doesn’t have to miracle himself to stay upright in the wake of it, but only because he’s had practice.

“You’d tell me,” Aziraphale says, his smile faltering slightly, “if there’s anything you need to talk about?”

“Of course, angel,” Crowley says, too forcefully, and slinks into their sofa. It’s so tired to run so hard all the time. This want of you, never-ending. Makes me ragged. The sea lifts it, a bit.

He doesn’t wait for nightfall tonight. He heads out to the shoreline the moment Aziraphale has finished eating. 

*****

The sea is like the sky sometimes. If you’re not paying attention. If you want it badly enough. Nearly endless. If you go deep enough, things begin to make their own light.

He sinks that deep these days. To the comet-cold heart of it. Fangteeth and enormous worms. Vampire squid and viperfish. Cruel-seeming creatures, ancient and not of this world (very of this world). Crowley burrows on the bottom of things and the million-ton pressure of the sea presses into him. The trenches, beneath the abyssal zone. Hadalpelagic: the Hades-place of the ocean. Unseen. Hell-ish. Nothing that can survive on the bottom makes its way to the surface in the same shape. It becomes something else.

It’s as close to an equilibrium as he can get on earth. This wretch of him. This cavernous thing, this strange, ever-submerged spiny screaming glory of what he will never let himself say.

Crowley feels less monstrous, housing it, when he’s caught in the tide of the sea.

*****

You want to talk? Let’s talk about open water. The space between stars. A sky full of stars and sea full of creatures but that’s just what the eye goes to. It’s nearly all emptiness. Dark matter. And within that hopelessness, that scream of void, there’s him. Created to be an agent of the divine, wrath and ruin in the shape of a blessing. Look at him instead, oh. Peeling potatoes there, carefully. Clumsily. Brilliant and stubborn and impossibly soft in the loveliest ways. There’s a terrifying expanse of night, a drowning at the center of this planet. There are vile and vicious things, airless and impartial and full of teeth. And somehow, there’s him, too. 

*****

The sea sinks into his skin, and Crowley murmurs a litany into the night-black water.

It rained after we parted ways in the wood there, in Wessex, 537 AD. Do you remember, angel? And when we found each other again, a year later, you in rusting armor, I still playing at villainy. You were so much more pliant to the arrangement then. It was the first time you brought it up yourself. Spun it like you tired of travel, like you wanted to spend a little more time in a place at once, and that was true, I know it, but I had to believe there was more to it too. 

There, in the crying crash of a summer storm. You asked me if I was still interested. I had armor on, it wasn’t enough to keep you from piercing my heart, that vestigial part of me you have always owned. We bonded ourselves together, that day. Beneath the spread of the birch and wisteria, the petal-soft fragrance of wet soil.

And then Hamlet, angel, angel, do you remember? The light in your eyes when you saw me. The rain that came after, you and I met beneath a shop-awning, you an embarrassment in your soaked doublet, oh, you were furious until I dried you with a breath. We watched the storm crash through a half-made London, your eyes ethereal in the lightning, rainwater trickling over the bow of your lip, pooling there in the hollow of your throat. You drew close, as if for warmth, or maybe just a leftover instinct from that last time we sheltered from the rain, from the time after that. Then, you left me there, slick and damp, your absence a physical ache, a pull at my blood, a nagging at my bones. 

It has always been this. Everything I am, begging me to follow you into the storm. 

Do you, do you remember. I do. The wash of this. That’s what water does, it erodes over time. This love of you, it’s shaped me into something else. I open and this thing I have for you rushes in like a tide, eager and saltbright and powerful. It happened slow, over millennia, but it’s never not been happening, not since I met you.

The first time there was holy water between us. There in the thermos between your thighs. You gave me two blessed things: the water, and your trust. I can’t have you destroying yourself, you told me. Did you think about it too? What the world would be with only one of us in it? You broke such rules for me, rules as old as scripture. I asked you to, and you did. 

What have I made of you? 

What have you made of me?

*****

Sometimes, there’s something of a salve to the sea. The kinship. Takes some of the pressure off, to scream this want into the gills of enormous creatures, to snap at sharks, to push at Crowley’s body on all sides with this powerful, ever-shifting creation. A choiceless agony, somehow it helps him breathe. 

Tonight, there’s only cruel memory here. Filling his lungs and scouring his eyes. The souls from shipwrecks he couldn’t save. Old bones and thin fins, sunk to slowly become sand. And his failures. Crowley has been alloted that he will never be enough. Never good enough, never right enough, no matter what he does. The sea, impassive, impartial. It can’t only feel like healing, not when this want has only grown a thousand times since they moved to the cottage, when it’s threatening to climb out of his throat. 

Crowley dredges himself to the shore as the dawn creeps in, his body water-weak and sodden. Sand in his eyes, his flesh half-frozen and salt-slick, and he looks up from his knees to find the angel there.

“So this is where you go.”

Aziraphale is standing in the heaven-haze fog of morning. A gentle mist rises from the water. Tiny insects there, fish nipping at the surface. Here in the morning, the sea and sky sink close. The line between them a blurring, misty thing, and Aziraphale crouches, extends a hand, and pulls Crowley’s soaking self to rise.

“Aziraphale, I.” 

Crowley can’t get any farther. Wet and shivering, the cold sinking in sudden in the wake of this radiant thing. Crowley spends his nights in the sea submerged in this tearing, enormous love, it’s a jolt to try and force himself back together into something calm and impassive in the face of its source so soon. Shitfuckingheavenfirefuckit. You were never supposed to see me like this. Is it spilling over, it is, isn’t it. The wreck you make of me. The shipwreck splinters, the starving beast in the center of the whirlpools, the neverending stirrings in the sand. There’s no way, no way to dam himself up so quick. 

They’re standing so close now. Aziraphale’s hand is cozy-warm and dry, Crowley’s a bony, frigid, near lifeless thing in it. I can’t let you drown in this. He looks up and his breath catches. The angel’s expression is a strange one, closer to unfathomable than ever, as if there’s many warring things beneath its surface. There’s tenderness there, plain enough for Crowley to spot it, for it to twist at the hungry thing inside him, he’s tender toward everything, it doesn’t mean anything, hush, and a question. Perhaps many, but the one Aziraphale places into the world, oh, is one Crowley never expected.

“Would you show me?”

“What?”

“Where you go, when you go.” Aziraphale’s voice is steady, a mooring thing , but oh, what is it anchored to? He means this. He’s been thinking of this, this unthinkable breach. “I’d like to know what you like about it.” Their hands are still pressed together, and the angel’s is not as steady as Crowley first thought. Now that he’s breathing warmth back into himself, he can see Aziraphale’s is trembling, not as much as his own, but trembling nonetheless. 

You can’t come, you can’t see this great sorrow of me, this grief I carry, the way it’s tangled in this love for you. Because that’s a part of it, the ways in which I’m a torrid, tangled mess. The way I fell, the way I am never enough, the yellowrot plague of me. I can’t, I can’t, I’ll drown you, I never will. 

“You don’t have to worry about keeping me from discorporating,” Aziraphale continues, misunderstanding entirely, “I can handle myself.”

“It’s not that,” Crowley manages, although it’s a part of it, the danger there. The depths are full of hungry things, and you, my love, are a feast. 

“Then what?” Aziraphale asks, his brows furrowing.

“It’s—it’s dark!” Crowley growls desperately. “It’s strange, and it can be frightening, and there’s creatures there, and I—I don’t want you to think differently of me—” This truth skims so close to the surface Aziraphale seems to believe it, although it’s not the depths that are terrifying in their enormity, it’s me and this cavernous want I am for you.

“My dear, I would never—”

“You might.” This wrenches out of Crowley’s throat ragged, and Aziraphale goes quiet. They stare at each other like that, eggshell-blue met with serpent-sick yellow, what if I swallow you whole? I was made to. I was, I could, I can’t, I can’t do this. I am eel-bone and chasm. I belong in the abyssal, as close to Hell as you can get on earth, as far from Heaven. I can’t belong with you. (And yet all I want is for you to hold me. I would never hurt you. I was made to, and yet I don’t know how. I am only here to take care of you, as best I can, I know that now.)

“Crowley, I—” but he stops, open-mouthed, something teetering on his tongue there, and then he closes it.

“What?” 

It’s confusion, it’s frustration, it’s probably bordering on annoyance, the fret-glut of sentiment brimming in Aziraphale’s mouth, and Crowley aches. How can I take this away from you? How can I make this better? I’ve done this, I’ve fucked it all up again. Can’t tell you, can’t keep from telling you. 

(Maybe I need to leave.)

(Maybe this was a mistake, to think I could come this close with you. How could I live with you and have you not see it? Of course you’d know. This was the only lie I ever told you. I can’t hide anything else at all from you. I don’t have room. This one takes up all of me.)

“It’s all right, angel, never mind.” All right, I’ll do this one. My treat. I’ll carry it, you don’t have to fill this quiet. You don’t have to say it if you don’t want to. I should leave you, let you grow on your own, let you flourish, oh. How would you have blossomed by now if I wasn’t a sick-salt curl around your throat? Fuck.

Crowley pulls his hand away from Aziraphale’s and walks them back to the cottage. The dawn is silkgold soft. Their footsteps crunch along the path, Aziraphale doesn’t try to speak again, and Crowley remembers that he is freezing.

*****

Crowley snaps his fingers to dry himself once they reach the garden, it’s too chilly for him to have dried even in the emerging sun, and oh, can’t spill salt here where there are growing things. 

The next days roll past like they’ve been scripted, the lie of it, the unspoken weight. Crowley tosses some sort of banter over his shoulder and Aziraphale doesn’t say anything else, but settles himself among his books. Crowley spends the days in their garden, clawing at the weeds, snapping at the bulbs and asking them, asking them to bloom. 

Aziraphale is there in the mornings. The first time, he waited back in the cottage, but he was there, with a cup of coffee. He makes terrible coffee. Crowley drinks it like he’s dying of thirst. (You made this, crushed the beans there, boiled the water and carved out the minutes, you crafted an awful alchemy here but you did it nonetheless, for me). Then, he’s at the shoreline with a towel to hand over, fluffy and clean.

“I don’t need—” Crowley starts.

“I know,” says the angel, and holds it out anyway. Crowley takes it, wraps it around himself. Tries not to breathe in too deep. It’s just a towel. God, get your shit together.

*****

I want you like a waterfall. A constant, churning thing. Waterfalls keep going at night, you don’t think about it, angel, no one does. I did, in the forests of Wessex, for days after we parted. Armor rusting, this new thing we forged, me alone beneath birch, watching water crest and crash. That kind of majesty. It’s not there to be stared at. It’s there, everpresent, moved by a force as old as this earth, nearly as old as us. Running and crashing over riverrock. There is always the cliff of it, the fall. The place where land becomes air and there’s a tumbling over. Where the river is rearranged, irrevocably, and when it comes to crash at the base it’s never the same again. And that goes and goes, without pause. Some days it might slow, but it doesn’t stop. And some days it thunders like a live thing. Something I could drown in. 

Freshwater, a cleansing. Still filled with muck.

*****

The seventh day dawns. The soil’s gone dry, it’s been a strangely long week of no rain. 

Crowley wrenches the snake-green hose from the garden wall, lets it irrigate the soil there. He’s covered in mud, gnats and flecks of chlorophyll. He was a gardener, once. Of galaxies and void, of hydrogen and comets and firelight too. He flew through the universe gleaming on void-black wings that had made their own light. He made constellations out of the echoes of his wake, stardust and quill, and watched them grow, expand, crash, erupt. 

The soil outside the cottage is rich, even now, even in the absence of rain. (Things want to grow here. Oh, how they want to grow.)

He doesn’t return inside before heading out to the ocean this night. There’s a breaking point coming. The night is clear in the absence of cloud, the salt-spill of stars there, a continuous universe, unbroken as their reflections slip into the sea. Crowley wants to kiss him. Under it. Everywhere, a need as centering as a wound. I can’t go on like this, and I can’t let you see me. He walks in quick, demondark silhouette ripples, and then nothing, no bubbles, no trace of air, just the pressing black. It’s getting worse, to come so close, my binary star, my fucking estuary. The place where salt meets fresh. Brackish. A blurry, deadly, uncrossable line. The nod of sharks. The brush of eel against his eel-skin hair, bone and teeth and wet, wet hunger. He doesn’t let himself float, clings to the sand this time, climbs the earth upside-down, into the quietest, most monstrous depths. Where lost things go. The place of unimaginable agony, the pressure, the crash in the wake of something so enormous and encompassing. Where I belong. You’ll hate me or I’ll ruin you. I can’t wait around to find out which will come first.

Crowley lets himself cling to an enormous ray, its wings ghosting him along the sea-floor, lifting the sand there. He watches the strange mating of the pufferfish, the patterns one makes in the sand and the other finds something meaningful in, something enough to say yes, whatever it is I leave on this earth, I want it to be with you. He watches great octopi contort into a fist of themselves, and then expand out to their tangled fullest. He screams there, into the abyss of the earth, listens to the shriek lost in the ever-creaking shiver of the sea. No one answers. 

He looks up, when day is near to breaking. He’s wandered closer to the coast now, the coral shelf, the place where life becomes more palatable for the rest of the world, safer things, storybook. There for Crowley to spoil. The sky shimmers through the ripples. The stars are still there. An angel too. And Crowley knows he can’t stay any longer.

Aziraphale is there again when he breaches the surface. How haven’t I scared you off yet? Please, I have to leave, I don’t know what you want from me, I can never give it (please, let me give it. I’ll give you anything, anything you like, I’ll hang the stars again, I’ll swallow the entire ocean. Please don’t ask me to, because I won’t be able to stop.)

“Crowley,” he says at last. This dawn is a heavy one. The dew of the night hasn’t let go. The mist is cloud-thick along the banks of the South Downs, sky and sea, inextricable. Crowley has the ocean in his skin, his hair, his mouth, and the angel stands there with cloudstuff hair and wing-white hands, outstretched. “Please tell me the truth.”

Which one? That I’m a dragging thing, a monster? That you’ve always been too good to me? That I’m terrified I’ll spoil you, that I’ll get you smited, cast out? You’ve always been too good for Heaven but nowhere on this earth is good enough for you, least of all, oh, least of all this drenching dredge of me. There’s too much to say, when did it become this much, I can’t spill over, I can’t let you drown.

And then again, it all comes down to those three words. They’re not enough, but they’re clawing at me, trying to get to you. They always have been. They’re hungrier now. 

“You think of me as pure, don’t you? Innocent?” Aziraphale goes on when he sees Crowley’s not going to speak. “You think of me as—as better than you.”

“You are,” Crowley croaks. 

“I am not!” Aziraphale actually stamps his foot here in the sand, makes a little cloud out of it. He turns and begins stomping his way up to the cottage. He hasn’t brought a towel this time, and Crowley’s shivering again, clothes clinging to him like soaked skin. Far in the distance, he can taste lightning, can hear the rumble of the sky gathering the sea up to it. The brewing of a storm. 

Aziraphale stops and spins right at their garden-wall, the entrance to the cottage. Perhaps he doesn’t want to bring this inside with him. Perhaps this is where it will end, but when Aziraphale looks to him again, that question is there in his eyes, and it’s not telling him to leave. 

“I’m not. Better than you. I’m here, Crowley, here in this life we’ve made. I’m here and I chose this. Not because you tempted me, but because I wanted to be here, I want it more than anything!” He falters, his fists clenching, brow furrowed and distraught. “More than—almost anything.” Aziraphale gathers himself again, and oh, Crowley knows that look, of shutting a door that you didn’t mean to open, of putting yourself back together in a hurry to go on, what are you doing with a look like that, then, what’s behind that part of you? (Could it, oh, could it be—no, no, don’t even ask.) 

“Angel,” Crowley says quietly, through sea-blue lips and brows dripping with saltwater. He doesn’t even know what he’ll say next, it’s alright, you don’t have to, I’ll go. Don’t worry about me. Fine. Right then. He just wants to take care of this too, to make the torment wracked that angel-frame dissipate, even if it means leaving, but Aziraphale is already shaking his head. 

“Don’t interrupt, please!” he beseeches, and at this Crowley has to close his mouth. There’s nothing you ask of me that I won’t do, and you knew that, didn’t you, oh, fuck. “I have spent centuries tempting for you, not because you persuaded me, but because I liked our Arrangement, because it worked, and because—because I wanted to work with you! I wanted to see you! And oh, Crowley, don’t look at me like that,” because the guilt has risen again like a sea of bile, what have I done to you, “because you, you have spent millennia blessing.” Aziraphale’s warm hand goes to his shattered shell-point chin, tilts it up, makes Crowley look into those eyes, fierce and unapologetic and beckoning, a sea of their own. “I know you have. And I know you started it before we began. The flood, the children. Those Moses couldn’t get to in time. Battlegrounds and Pompeii and shipwrecks, everywhere you could, Crowley, I know! I am not so holy and you, you know I know you’re good. You’re so good,” he says, his voice breaking. Aziraphale’s palms are fluttering over his chest now, his throat, his cheeks, featherwing-light, not knowing where to land, and the creature inside Crowley aches to meet it, come here, touch me. Fuck, I can’t. Please, please, please. “I know you’re not only good, but no one is! No one in Heaven is, and I’m not, you know I’m not. So please, please. Don’t go where I can’t follow you.” Aziraphale’s eyes are wet with saltwater of their own, threatening to spill over. “Don’t leave me here. Don’t retreat into the sea, into yourself, I need you here with me, I want you here with me! I have known you since the earth was new, and nothing about you could frighten me off. I know you, Crowley, and I love you, and I want to know the parts of you you haven’t shared with me yet.”

The world keeps turning, hurtling through void and vapor. The sun keeps rising, nudging away the night. A storm gathers, out to sea there, and the space between the angel and the demon expands, threatening, threatening to shrink. Aziraphale’s hands have settled, there on Crowley’s soaked jacket collar. They’re hot as the sun, and he hasn’t pulled them away.

“You can take it back.” This is the first thing Crowley says when he remembers how to speak, a frail creak of a thing, an offering he has to make, can’t consider the alternative, no, please, no. He’s gone some kind of numb, his soaked skin and the want of it so badly, his body and his heart begging him to break, the monstrous want sobbing in his belly. “I—it’s a lot of emotions, I know, I get it, I know I haven’t been the easiest to live with. You can take it back.”

“I love you.” 

Aziraphale says it again. He says it unblinking, untrembling. He stands with their cottage behind him, their garden in the spread between, the place of soil where Crowley has been growing things and Aziraphale coaxes them into fire and water and makes them into something nourishing and delicious. (Well, sometimes. Sometimes it’s just barely edible, and sometimes it’s terrible, and that’s a joy too, they get to play now, they get to make little messes and mistakes, and Aziraphale wants this, wants to share this life, like this, oh, fuck.)

“I love you,” Aziraphale says for a third time, “and, to be clear, I am in love with you. And I don’t want to take it back.”

“Angel,” Crowley says. His voice is a sea-stung stutter, brimming, threatening to overflow. I can’t , he thinks one last helpless time, and it must show on his face, in the shallow sink of his shoulders beneath his sodden jacket, how stalwartly he doesn’t want to give in and how desperately he wants to, he is only this, encompassing, there’s nothing left to hide it with, because Aziraphale seizes him by his lapels and pins him to the garden wall. He lifts him as gently and easily as Crowley once did, months ago when the world was ending, and it’s ending here again, oh, everything Crowley’s ever known, gathered there in fistfulls of fabric. Crowley’s pressed into the stone they nudged there themselves, together, minor miracles and straining muscle, a shade for the things they would plant, the things growing even now. 

A garden wall. An angel, and a demon, and an oncoming storm. There is no one else here left to tempt, or to save. There is only this.

Aziraphale’s face is a breath from his, wretched and wanting, contorted into an unasked question, and Crowley realizes with a shattering that it is the same question that’s been howling in his own body for millennia. His mouth falls open and all of his starved, frantic want rushes into his expression, a burst dam, a crash of tide. He can feel it, Aziraphale’s body is pressed to his, stomach to stomach, angel-knuckles firm against his collarbones, only cloth between their hips, and he lets it all come into his face, lets the veil fall, lets the flood of this want rise unhindered. Aziraphale gives a sound like a sob at the sight of it, and kisses him. 

Oh fuck, Aziraphale kisses him. 

This is—this is really happening. Crowley thinks abruptly that he needs to not be numb anymore, who knows how long we have before you come to your senses, before I do, before one of us pulls away, but Aziraphale kisses him hungry , with a rising swell to mirror his own, and oh, fuck, you fucking mean it, don’t you. Shit, fucking damn it, you want me, you—you love me—

“I love you, Aziraphale,” Crowley says, shoving him away to get the breath to say it, but close enough that the words still spill directly into Aziraphale’s spitwet mouth and he curls it into a smile as he drinks those words down. “Fuck, I hope you know. That’s what this is, that’s what this was, I just haven’t wanted to make a ruin of this, but I love you, I’ve wanted you, I’ve been fucking screaming it into the sea just so I can survive sharing a space with you without saying it, I love you, I love you, angel, and I’ve been terrified that my love will bring you down with me.”

Aziraphale flings his arms around Crowley’s shoulders now, presses their foreheads together, Crowley’s wet hair getting in his eyes. Their bodies are still flush together, Crowley’s still-damp clothes making a mess of Aziraphale’s beloved outfit, the angel must know it and he pushes them even harder together.

“Nothing in this world is perfect. We know that. We didn’t save it because it was all good, and it didn’t get saved because Adam is perfect, or because he wants the world to be. Come on, love. If there’s anything I’ve learned from this, it’s that it’s all right, to be in this messy middle place. The place where you and I can meet. Not hellish, not holy, not human, we’re—we’re not any of those things, really, not anymore, and I’m so grateful for it.” His face spreads into a daybreak of a smile, and suddenly the wanting thing in Crowley doesn’t feel monstrous anymore, not when it gets to bask in something so fiercely, gently beautiful. His hands go to the curves of the angel’s waist, they fit so right there. They’re cold and Aziraphale’s aureate-warm, but he doesn’t flinch, his smile broadens, spreads to his eyes and shines there. He brushes their lips together, feathersoft, and Crowley’s eyes flutter closed. “Crowley,” the angel breathes, and Crowley can hear the smile sunbright in his voice. “We’re on our own side.”

Crowley’s eyes fly open, snake pupils spilling to the edges, covering the white places, and Aziraphale’s smile softens.

“Oh, love,” he murmurs, “can we? Would you want this? I’d like it, if you would. If we could be together. I can’t bear going on like this, you know. I’ve wanted to be with you for so, so achingly long. I spent so long terrified that your side would destroy you—”

“—and I spent so long knowing it would be worth it if they did. Whatever I could have of you, I’d take it,” Crowley says hoarsely.

“That’s selfish,” Aziraphale insists, but he does it between kisses, which he’s pressing into the slope of Crowley’s cheek, the line of his jaw. “But I was being selfish too. You can’t fault me, though, I can’t lose you.” Oh. “And it doesn’t matter now, we’ve done the worst we could do, we’re united in this and if we’re going to be on our own side, I’d like to be together in it, please—”

Crowley stems the flow of words. He cradles Aziraphale’s head in his hand, slips his thigh between the angel’s, and dips him deep into a kiss. I’d thought you’d taste like ozone and freshwater, like holy things too good for me, but this—this here on your mouth, it’s just soft-chapped skin and your terrible coffee. Lavender and thyme from the teacake you’ve been working on. Black sesame from those marvels of macarons you made yesterday. Yes, through my glasses, I watched the lines of your arms flex, your hands squeeze white-knuckled as you coaxed the mixture onto silpat, offered them to me, the nut-mellow sweet-bitter taste of them melting on my tongue, it’s here, on you, that and a whiff of ocean-spray, too. There’s holiness here, but it’s all yours, your own, and your hungry mouth is kissing me back with it. 

“I love you, angel.” Crowley has them bent in a swoon, Aziraphale looking up at him kiss-dazed and grinning, angelsoft hands tangled in his winedark waves. And I’ll take whatever you offer me. Just know I’ll give you, fuck , it feels good to say it. I’ll give you anything I have to give. All of me, anything, whatever I can. It’s yours. If you like.”

“Please,” Aziraphale murmurs into his mouth, his voice a wreck of wet breath, “please, please, please, I want that, I want you, all of you, I’ve wanted you…”

Crowley grins, want curling hot and fierce in him, finally welcome.

“You have?” He lets the hand on Aziraphale’s waist slip beneath one layer of fabric, then, at Aziraphale’s nod, the next. His hip is soft there, a plush curve that fits just right in Crowley’s palm and Crowley’s smile broadens, he can’t help it, I get this? Oh fuck, please. Yes. God, I never dared to hope.

“Yes, of course I have, there were others,” he murmurs, answering this particular question before Crowley decided whether or not he wants to ask it, “but they were just a taste, you know, a sampling, it was fine but I wanted you, oh, I thought of you…”

“Same,” Crowley growls, and he can’t help but take Aziraphale’s lip between his teeth, tugging at the soft flesh there, mine, but he’s grinning as he does it. “Same, same for me. You can say you liked it, I don’t mind, as long as we’re here now.”

“We are very much here now,” Aziraphale gasps into his mouth, clinging to him harder. “You’re all I want, always, please, I want you so badly, darling, I don’t want to wait anymore. Not if you don’t.”

Crowley purrs low, deep in the back of his throat. 

“Tell me what you want.” He lets one hand twine in cloudspun hair, anchoring it, and Aziraphale smiles as he does. The other hand is still set on that hip, a thumb pressing into the flesh there, a promise. Crowley’s achingly hard already, but he’s utterly determined to focus on Aziraphale. “Tell me what you like. Tell me,” and here he leans to press his mouth to the soft arc of angel-throat he’s been desperate to kiss since he learned what it meant to do so. He feels Aziraphale’s moan berth beneath his lips a moment before he hears it, oh, I want to learn everything this body wants. I’m going to give it all to you, every time you want it. “Tell me what you’ve wanted me to do to you. Tell me what you thought about, when you thought about me.”

“Crowley,” Aziraphale whispers, and when Crowley looks up Aziraphale’s rose-cheeked and half-mortified, but his hands have only tightened their grip, his pupils blown and his lips parted, eager. 

“If you like,” Crowley adds. “Whatever you want, I’m not going too fast for you ever again, I bloody promise you that.” He presses a kiss to the side of Aziraphale’s face, the temple there, the place where those wondrous white whorls begin. “Come on, love, shall we go inside?” 

“No,” Aziraphale says, soft but insistent, rome-apple red now, tugging him in place. “No, I—can we stay here?”

“Here?” Crowley asks, lightly confused, but, well. Here, the moon, the bottom of the sea. Wherever you like, fuck, there’s nowhere I wouldn’t go for you.

“I’ll make it so no one sees, but Crowley, Crowley, I’ve wanted you since the garden, didn’t let myself think it until millennia later, but for our first time—that is, not that I’m assuming there will be more—”

“There will be, if you want there to be,” Crowley hears himself say reassuringly, he’s busy processing the utter revelation of this, the revolution, his world remaking, you’ve wanted me since the garden, the garden, oh, and you want me now, you want me still, you want me again and again.

“Well, alright then,” Aziraphale says, anxious but heartened by this, and Crowley gazes at him, impossibly fond, “then if we are to do this, to begin this, I would very much like to have you here, in the shade of this garden we’ve made together.”

“God, yes, love. I mean, fuck.” Better keep Her out of this, don’t want her peeking in, smiting. (She hasn’t yet. What does that make this?) Crowley takes a steadying breath. “Er. Let me, though? Make it so no one sees.” Aziraphale gazes at him through salt-white lashes, shell-pink lips parting in a smile, and understands.

“Would you, my dear?” He doesn’t need to ask, but he knows, he knows Crowley aches to be an answer.

Let me make this miracle for us. Oh, please. You know I love my little schemes, our alternative rendezvous, you know, perhaps better than I do, how badly I’ve wanted to be the hero of the story. Gilgamesh and Moses and goddamn James Bond. Our last plot belonged to us both, you, in my body, bathed in a wash of holy water. The one before that a wreck, but ours, and it worked, it fucking didn’t and then it did. The world’s not at stake anymore, not more than it ever is, so let me give us this. I want all our schemes to be soft now, our own secrets. I’ll plot and plan entire blueprints, the measure of making you smile.

Crowley snaps his fingers, and the drape of dawn is theirs. Their cottage, cozy and sure. Their garden, rustling and fragrant in the pinkgrey aurora-air.

There is no blanket, no apple-tree, no rose petals. No gold here, no anchors, no ichor, no sulfur.

There is, instead, sky-white trousers kneeling there in the grass, unafraid of stain. A black jacket peeled off still-wet skin. Aziraphale’s hands come up to bring warmth where the depths had stolen it away, to bring blood flowing hot and wanting in the veins, the tributaries of Crowley’s being.  

There’s an angel’s cumulus curls, nestling into dewdamp grass. A heavenly body, pulling Crowley by the collar to kiss him, there among the flowers. Crowley snaps his fingers and it’s soft where they are, and Aziraphale beams at him, there are thorns here, scratching things, but nothing’s going to harm you. The vegetable patch close by, the herbs too, and they’re pieced together, discovering each other, rolling at the foot of the expanse of petals Crowley has planted. Roll over whatever you like, angel. There’s nothing here now that I can’t regrow. Take it all. But Aziraphale doesn’t, any flowers he crushes spring up like new when he moves away. Oh, dear. They love you too. Forsythia, honeysuckle, tufts of globe amaranth. Oxeye daisies and thornapple. Aster too, yes, and apple-red carnations. (Crowley has been aching.)

“Tell me what you want.”

“I want your gardener hands on me, love, those tender healing things.”

Oh.

Crowley kisses him. He kisses him and kisses him, and it’s all he’d ever need, kissing like they’re allowed to do this at last, like there’s nothing left for them to do but this, always. Aziraphale kissing him back, mouth open, biting, wet and wanting for him, so much of what Crowley hated in himself mirrored back at him, made exquisite in Aziraphale’s fierce and certain hunger.

Crowley moves his mouth to that shore-soft throat, delicate in the stubble there, and Aziraphale keens into him, pressing his hips up. He lets his teeth graze that collar-bone.

“I’ve wanted to do this for so long,” he tells it, dragging the tip of his tongue there. Aziraphale arches his back off the soil, scratches his nails up Crowley’s shirt, down his skinny-spine back.

“Do it again.”

Crowley does, his hands running up the angel’s waist now, learning the hills and valleys, reverent, wanting. Show me how to swim in you.

“Crowley,” Aziraphale murmurs, “Crowley, Crowley.”

“Angel,” Crowley says, soft as a prayer, and they both pause when he does, hearing it for perhaps the first time.

Oh, because you always were, but it means something different now, now with your mouth on me, now with your want between my legs, now with those words, those three, out in the world, here in this story of ours. 

Aziraphale eyes widen, his entire face cracking into a smile like sunbreak through stormclouds on the sea and fuck, angel. It’s been an awfully long storm.

“Angel,” Crowley’s exalting it now, breathing it between kisses pressed everywhere he can get to of that smile, “angel, angel, what can I give you, angel, my love, I’m yours.”

He props himself up on his palms, their legs intertwined, a bit of soil tangled in the white curls already and Aziraphale is grinning at him, squirming beneath him.

“Would you—get your mouth on me?”

“Fuck, yes.” Crowley hisses it nearly before Aziraphale’s gotten the words out, a hard kiss on the lips and then he’s fumbling with the buttons of that fucking waistcoat. Aziraphale chuckles slightly at his eagerness but he’s arching his back up all the same, the fact of his cock hard and thrilling through his trousers. “How long have I—oh, Aziraphale.” 

“Please,” the angel whispers, when he’s laid bare. “Now.” Shirt left undone and trousers still round one of his ankles, but there he is, pink and cream angeldown, all curves and thin hair and goldleaf stretchmarks, the angel-mark like lightning on his thighs and stomach, all the more so in the hearth-light of the early morning. So gloriously soft, except where he’s gloriously not, and when Crowley takes his cock into his mouth, Aziraphale makes a sound so rough with want and fierce with relief that Crowley could have come from it alone.

“Fuck.” Aziraphale’s voice cracks. Crowley swallows him slow, moaning at the sheer fucking respite of it, at the salt there, the press of the head opening his throat. He holds the angel at his root, fingers nestled in the star-silver hair, steady for me. I’m not missing a damned moment. Again and again he moves, reveling in this, the roll of this flesh beneath his lips, eager hips coming to meet him.

Aziraphale’s hand comes to thread in his hair, stroking his curls, massaging his scalp. The second one joins it soon, petting him, pushing his drying locks out of his eyes. 

I’ve fucking dreamt of you like this on my tongue, rockpools and oystersalt. I want to taste the caverns of you, the wet places where you go tight.

“Fuck,” Aziraphale says again, hissing, and Crowley feels it, those soft hands. It’s only a gentle pressure, but he doesn’t misunderstand and he gives a desperate moan around Aziraphale’s cock and nods as best he can as the angel uses his hands to adjust Crowley’s pace. “That’s right, like this, if you please. And you can press your lips tighter—ah, not so—yes, there, there, love, that’s it. Oh fuck, that’s it. You feel so good, Crowley, oh, I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to know if you would and you do, better than anything…” He keeps his hands in Crowley’s hair, still guiding but more clinging to him than anything, and Crowley would stay here forever, I don’t need to breathe, I don’t need anything at all, just this, please. “Crowley,” Aziraphale manages, between the wonderful furrow-rough sounds he’s making, “would you get your fingers in me, please?” 

These fingers? These sea-spine bony things I wrap around myself? Fuck, you want this. These parts of me too, okay, okay. Here.

He gasps around the swell of Aziraphale’s cock, two slick fingers eased in like the angel’s been waiting for it, and he’s tight and bearing down already, crying out.

“Oh, yes, yes. More, please, deeper, oh, Crowley.” Aziraphale’s hands make a mess of his hair, hips making ruts in the soil. “Curl your fingers, um, up, please —ohh, yes, ah, just like that, you’re so good, fuck, that is marvelous, I love your fingers in me, I love your mouth on me, I can’t believe you’ve got your mouth on my cock, oh, Crowley, you have no idea.” 

Oh, you love this. Oh, God, I couldn’t have dared to hope. I get to give this to you, do I? This is good for you, what I can give? Then you’re going to get it, angel. Crowley is lost in this, absolutely fucking found in it, Aziraphale’s sun-hot cock against his tongue, his ass tight and wanting around his fingers. 

“Darling,” Aziraphale says, and he pulls on Crowley’s hair different this time, makes him raise his head. “Oh, I want to taste you too, you know that, right? I want everything, absolutely everything we can do together, but now, now, here, I just need you. Would you fuck me, please? I want you to fuck me.”

“Angel,” Crowley says, that old word cast as a new name, held in his mouth most wonderfully salt-wet and swollen, and Aziraphale brings him up into a kiss. 

He raises his hand to cup Aziraphale’s cheek and the angel nuzzles into it without looking away. It’s soft as peach-flesh and it fits warm in his palm, nothing burning, nothing geyser-hot, just want, just him. Aziraphale turns his head and presses his lips into the inside of Crowley’s wrist, mouthing there at the veins, tongue to the flow of him. 

“Fuck me, Crowley,” the angel murmurs into the underside of his wrist. 

“Yes, please.” His voice is hoarse with want, a helpless grin on his lips. A breeze carries the scent of the sea, the incoming storm and the damp of the garden, and here, Aziraphale’s lips wet at his crux.

“Can I get on top of you? At first, at least?”

“Yeah, God, yeah. Whatever you want.”

Crowley shifts them, clambers out from between Aziraphale’s legs. His elbow knocks the angel in the chest as he goes, his sudden sorry swiftly kissed away as Aziraphale presses his shoulders into the soft embrace of soil, the sway of stems, shrugging off the rest of his own clothes as he does.

Aziraphale gets Crowley’s shirt off, this whalebone ribcage, panting for breath, I want everything you’ll give me. He goes right to the belt buckle then, unlatches it with a hand deft enough to suggest he’s thought about this before, and then his scrabbling hungry hands are on Crowley’s cold-toothed zip and then it’s off, off his thighs and the rest of him, the grass tickling his bare skin there. 

“You’re so handsome,” Aziraphale breathes, so earnest in his pupil-blown bright desire Crowley couldn’t fight him on it, even though his first instinct is to do just that. Aziraphale traces his knuckles down Crowley’s jaw, his throat, the sides of his stomach, the sweep of his thighs. “Look at you, love. Fuck, I’m not going to be able to get enough.”

“You better not.” 

Aziraphale kisses him, open-mouthed, and utterly filthy, moving his hand slick over Crowley’s cock, oh fuck, and then he gets one leg over the slim hull of Crowley’s hips.

What does a wave feel the moment before it crests? A heavy stormcloud in the desert, laden with ages of great gathered pressure from so many bodies of water, what does it feel before the first release?

Aziraphale lowers himself onto him and they cry out together, a wordless, frantic, worship. A break of breath to the surface, a rising thing. The angel has his knees on either side of Crowley’s hips, his hands splayed on Crowley’s bare chest, take everything, put your hands on heart of me, and Crowley holds his waist tight as he moves, lets Aziraphale take what he wants.

Let’s make a mist of this, let me rise into the cloudstuff of you. Evaporate me, remake me, turn me into the atoms of myself, what makes me, my barest bones, dewdrop and stardust and the love of you. When you release me, I’ll be something else entirely. Not drowning, but a nourishing thing, the start of a season, rainwater that makes gardens grow. 

“Crowley, Crowley, you feel so good, oh, my darling.” His lips parted, brows knit together, strain in the shape of his shoulders, those hot-plush pillow thighs. His hair would almost be a blur blending in the clouds behind him, if not for the blades of grass there, the pollen from the aster Crowley’s nourished from seed. He goes slow, careful at first, taking Crowley into him in increments, and then with a determined groan he buries Crowley inside him, his thighs flush on Crowley’s lap, his body arched far enough forward that Crowley can grab his chin and kiss him, and he does. They stay like that, nose to nose, small kisses and this gentle current building between them until Aziraphale has worked himself sufficiently open.

“Would you get on top of me now, darling?” Aziraphale murmurs. “I want you to take me hard now. Please.” 

It’s smoother this time, more urgent, Aziraphale back against the soil and Crowley between his thighs. There’s mud on their backs, grassstains and pieces of petal. Crowley enters him, hungry and reverent too. Aziraphale cants his hips up, digs his heels into Crowley’s back and pulls him in to the hilt. 

“How’s this?” Crowley’s anxietybrain is still humming, how’s this, please, let me be good for you. Whatever you need. Whatever you like. But Aziraphale’s face is open, the want of him laid bare in his breath, in his hard cock rutting against Crowley’s stomach, fingers tight-laced again in Crowley’s hair. 

“Fucking exquisite, honestly,” Aziraphale says, his voice hoarse, and this is so near-ridiculous and so Aziraphale that Crowley relaxes a bit, pressing a kiss into Aziraphale’s shipwreck-smile. “You can go harder now.”

Crowley does, watching the angel carefully as he does. The way his breath catches, the way he grins when Crowley thrusts in just so (he does it right there, again and again, the angel nodding as he does). The seabreeze teases stray leaves into Crowley’s hair, Aziraphale leaves them there, there’s pollen in his own, pebbles too. 

He’s so swept up watching Aziraphale get fucked it almost catches him by surprise when he realizes he has to slow his pace, his arousal pooling so hot and aching, so long-since ready.

Thunder crashes, shakes through the chalk-white cliffs of the South Downs. The storm is here. The heavy-held skies open, the deluge begins, then pours and pours. They don’t think about stopping. There are no wings, nothing to keep them from the rain. They get wet. Soaked. 

“Oh, my dear,” Aziraphale breathes. “Touch me.” 

Crowley kisses him again, then lets his fingers touch him, everywhere he can reach. The damp-cobweb curls, the welcoming cheek, the wet, wanting mouth. The rainpool-hollows of his throat, the slick planes of his chest, the swell of his belly, the touch of him making Crowley move harder, faster on instinct, pulling out nearly all the way and then fucking hard back in, and by the time Crowley wraps his hand around Aziraphale’s cock, he’s going helplessly quick again, especially with the angel drawing him in.

“Fuck, that’s it, right there.” Aziraphale arches his back, moaning, swallowing rainwater, writhing spectacularly as Crowley fucks into his ass, angel-hair all damp with mud. “I can’t believe I get this, I can’t believe you wanted this too.”

“I’ve wanted you, angel.” Aziraphale’s cock feels so impossibly good in his hand, and Crowley’s fucking him so deep now, they’re making a dent in the flowerbed.

“Oh, you tilled the soil once,” Aziraphale gasps, pulling his thighs back, letting Crowley in as deep as he can go, “you, you, you made story out of sky, you made a garden grow in the desert and you’re doing it again, love, you do it to me every damn day, remaking me, and I—fuck, oh, fuck— I want all of you, all the time. Touch me, take me, I don’t want to be without you, I don’t want to know who I am without you. You’re so good, you’re so good, please, give me everything, don’t keep anything from me again, darling.”

“I won’t,” Crowley growls, and Aziraphale’s so wet now, so open, he’s going so hard and so fast but the angel’s not breaking, no, he’s pulling him in even harder, his face fucked-out and desperate and overflowing with sheer fucking pleasure. “It’s yours, angel. Fuck, you know it’s all yours.” His voice is a wreck. He leans forward, pressing even deeper still, and Aziraphale cries out, squirming, yes, please, yes, there. “You know you remake me too.” 

Crowley is on his knees, the heavens open, the earth pressing up to him, and he is worshipping the only being he has ever believed in. 

“Oh, Crowley, harder now, please, I’m going to— please—”

Aziraphale comes with a waterfall of a moan, open-mouthed and still and silent before the crash, and then he’s shaking, crying out, impossibly tight and spilling over, pulsing between their bodies. 

“Angel,” Crowley murmurs, “I want to make you do that every day.” Something like a prayer.

“Please,” Aziraphale whispers, still trembling, raindrops gathered on his eyelashes, the divot beneath his lip. Crowley licks that one off, goes to pull out of him, but Aziraphale holds him still. “Please,” he says again, pressing his hips up.

“You don’t—”

“I want you to.”

“Oh, fuck. Fuck, okay.” 

Aziraphale pulls his hips higher still and whines wonderfully when Crowley begins to move again. Deep, loving, blissed-out thrusts as the rain makes messes of them both.

Oh, well. Would you look at that. Look at him, there in the soil, here with me and loving this. There’s nothing monstrous here at all. The depths of this want, that’s a magnificent thing, after all, isn’t it. A fucking miracle. Not one of Hers, our own. Our own.

Crowley’s close now, the angel still tight and hot around him.

“Crowley,” he says, whispers it into the spit of space between them. “I love you.”

“Oh,” Crowley answers. “You make me feel better than I ever did when I was holy.”

He doesn’t mean to say it, never even let himself think it, but he places it in the air there and they both know it’s true.

“Whatever this is,” Aziraphale says, arcing up into his thrusts, here in the clatter of the storm, “it’s so much better.”

Crowley nods, his eyes shut tight now but he nods very hard. Aziraphale’s hands come to touch his cheek, his tattoo, his straining arms, his rainwet chest, before they reach into his hair and tug, and he murmurs soft words as he takes Crowley’s cock deep into him. 

“I love you, fuck, you magnificent, handsome, brilliant fucking creature. You feel so good, my love. This, oh, this, I promise. It’s just the beginning.”

Crowley comes deep inside the angel, thrusting hard and reckless. He does it with a desperate sound wrenched from the very caverns of him, an overflow, a relief, a goddamn flood, and Aziraphale takes it all, kissing the sound from his mouth, pressing up to take it into himself as deep as he can. 

When he pulls out at last, he’s never seen Aziraphale so pleased. The angel is beaming at him, and he only has a minute to see it before Aziraphale flings his arms around him, pulling their slick, sticky bodies into an embrace. They roll in the soil there, through their garden, over and over, as the waters rise and cover the earth, as everything Crowley planted unfurls, drinks at last, and blooms.

*****

“I can’t very well show you the sea now,” Crowley says. They’re in bed, dry in the hearth-light. Aziraphale had never ventured into the bed before, but now he’s propped up against the pillows like he’ll never leave, Crowley curled in his arms and his fingers carding through the autumn-red hair so, so deliciously. 

“Why’s that, my dear?” 

“It’s changed, now! Everything is, I mean.” Crowley leans up, just enough to look the angel in the eyes. What a terrible angle, right up his nose. I love it. I want all these damn terrible angles. “It’s all undone, remade.”

“Oh,” Aziraphale says softly. “That.”

“Well, yeah.”

“So, in the best possible way, then?”

“Ngk. I mean. Yeah.”

He gets his hand beneath Crowley’s chin, tilts it up to him. 

“I still can’t believe I get to kiss you,” Crowley murmurs, and then he does. 

“I know, darling,” Aziraphale says when he pulls away at last. “Me neither. And I know what you mean, too. And you don’t have to show me anything, but I’ll go wherever you’d like to take me, you know that. You make me love the world more, when you’re in it. And now I get to love you in it? Oh,” another kiss here, “show me this universe, wherever you like. We might be very old, but it’s all going to be new when I see it hand in hand with you, love.”

Crowley shifts, pushes back, wants to look him in the eye for this.

“Seriously, Aziraphale.” Here they are, in their cottage, the cheergold glow of it. Lavender and basil from the garden in the kitchen. Eiderdown and creaking bookshelves. “I was drowning, and you brought me back to dry land. You, a harbor. You coax the shipwreck out of me. Take my sodden pieces, please, warm me at the hearth of you.” How are we in a place now where I get to say this out loud? I can’t help it.

“Oh, my dear.” An impossibly honest, open smile. The press of a warm hand. “You must know you saved me too.”

*****

They do go to the sea. On warm afternoons, in ridiculous one-pieces. They don’t go to the depths, they won’t for a long while, not until the chill of Crowley’s sojourns is an echo of the loud love they have now. For now, it’s throat-deep at most. They let the salt swirl sure around them, minnows at their ankles, sand between their toes. They bask in it, there’s nothing with teeth that can get to them there, together in the never-rest of sea. They splash each other, smiling the fool-grins of lovers. They float sometimes, gazing at the sky, the stars they know are there, their fingers entwined with each other. They towel each other off, go home, pluck the fresh things from the garden, get deliciously drunk, and dive into the other’s arms.  

*****

Tell me, love, where does it end?

It doesn’t. 

Oh, darling, let me spoil it for you. Let me turn to where the last pages of the book should be, where there’s only an eternity for us to fill with this, with picnics and crêpes and new bowties (still tartan) and a terribly dashing pair of leather trousers on an utterly smitten demon (they don’t usually stay on very long, Aziraphale makes sure of that). A denim jacket too, decked out in patches from the places they’ve held each other in love (Aziraphale has to get him a fresh one every season, they keep running out of room. He keeps them all.) Weekend trips to Alpha Centauri and the Pleiades and the reefs by the Raja Ampat islands too. Secret stolen kisses on the cobblestones of Rome, trailing behind tour groups and giggling into each other’s mouths at all the bits the guide gets wrong. Feeding each other oysters and apples and sourdough too (they’ve begun their own starter. It’s flourishing, Crowley makes sure of that). Afternoons of soft miracles nudged at the neighbors. Anniversaries packed with the schemes one disaster demon never tires of. (Meet me at the place where you couldn’t stop talking about their moussaka, where you kissed me on the boat back, wrapped in a blanket, in the warmth of my arms and the sunset. I’ve got something else for you there. New memories to make.) 

Two heroes, at the middle of the story, with so much love left to tell. Sailing together across the wreck of sea, a harbor of each other, then a homecoming, hand-in-hand. There is a garden, and love there. Always in bloom.