He leaves the shop only after the street lamps blink on, the electric hum and steady light illuminating his path. The wavering, unpredictable flicker of kerosene lamps have long been replaced on Old Compton Street, and with them went the hazy, maudlin quality he used to associate with walks back from Aziraphale’s. All is straightforward now, constant. Crowley leaves only after Aziraphale puts down his wineglass and disentangles their limbs, after he throws on a dressing gown and perches over the new acquisitions laid out on his desk, says something about cataloguing. Crowley presses a kiss to Aziraphale’s temple, it’s late, I’ll leave you to it, and some nights that’s all there is, another kiss light as the snowy feathers hidden behind his angel’s shoulders and then Crowley departs into the lamp-speckled night, and other nights Aziraphale might linger, might whisper I can conjure a bed upstairs, but Crowley just smiles into Aziraphale’s hand on his cheek, says you have work to do, I don’t want to distract you, and then leaves him at his desk in the company of paper and ink, and stories about other people.
Aziraphale is a master of small tasks, Crowley thinks: cataloguing, inventory, book auctions, searching bibliographies for lost works to add to his collection. The daily tasks occupy him too: the mundanity of tea making or stirring Crowley’s heavily creamed coffee with a small espresso spoon, warming forgotten beverages with divinely heated hands, stacking tea-stained papers in precarious piles on his desk, washing mugs in the sink. He’s preoccupied after lovemaking. Other tasks require his attention, and Crowley won’t consume all his time. He has more of it now than he ever has, and so he checks his greedy impulses, fights the want, the need, to steal Aziraphale away for his and only his use. Crowley’s a dragon, Aziraphale his hoard, and that’s not okay and Crowley knows it.
So he squeezes Aziraphale’s hand, not-so-idly strokes his pinky ring for just a moment, and then leaves. You see, he hopes Aziraphale hears him screaming inside his own head, I want you just the right amount. Given the chance I wouldn’t just curl up on you like you’re a hot rock in the sun. I wouldn’t coil around you to keep you here with me. I wouldn’t devour you whole if you wanted to leave.
His flat is a study in minimalism. His closet curated. But Crowley wants Aziraphale like Aziraphale wants old books. Crowley searches the bibliographies of Aziraphale’s spine for missing records, spreads his thighs and kisses his indexes in the hope there’s more of him tucked away somewhere, checks the footnotes of his arches for pieces forgotten to time. Let me have all of you, let me collect you, store you away safe, mine.
Crowley could drive home if he sobered up, but he walks instead, like he did before the Bentley, before there were even cars. Those nights when Crowley would don a top hat and pull himself away from a drunken dinner - no kisses in those days, no reassuringly weighted limbs over his own hollow ones - pull himself away before he gave away how gone he was, before he scared Aziraphale away with worshipful-like veneration unfitting of a demon. And the light of the gas lamps would oscillate in the night breeze like a barely-there memory of Before, star creation and burning gases, and Crowley would go home to lonely Mayfair, mind back at the shop with Aziraphale and his small tasks. And so he does now, as centuries past.
They’re unmatched in this devotion, and Crowley is thankful for it; Aziraphale has his tasks, small and large, his distractions and entertainments, Godly duties not forsaken even after he abandoned Heaven proper. He’s not consumed like Crowley, and that’s a mercy.
This is a punishment, Crowley thinks as he opens the door to his flat, throws his sunglasses on a table, saunters to the bedroom as if not mourning the absence of Aziraphale’s hands on his skin, slumps onto his bereft bed. This kind of want that leaves a sucking wound in his chest where his soul would be if he had one, a blackhole whenever he’s without Aziraphale; it can only be a punishment. Angels love in the general sense; they love all of God’s creation. Aziraphale loves him, Crowley knows, but he also loves Adam and Warlock and sushi and antique shops and Wilde first editions and evenings at the Royal Opera House, and Crowley thinks he remembers the feel of this general sort of love, a universal contentedness because there was always something to adore, always company in his affections. Now Crowley loves in the specific sense; Aziraphale and then everything else after. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, and Aziraphale is both the foundation and the peak.
He should sleep. He will sleep. But only once his heart quiets, after the adrenaline of being wrapped up in celestial light seeps out of him and the smell of antique iron gall ink has filtered out of his nerves. Ink-stained fingers had unbuttoned his vest earlier, and Crowley had brought Aziraphale’s epistolary-hand to his mouth, kissed the sooty smudge on the side of his palm. Who are you writing? You used to write me.
Little notes sent by errand boys, all signed Yours, A. Nothing worthy of Aziraphale’s collection, no poetry or declarations, no underpinnings of yearning. They were never Napoleon and Josephine, Woolf and Sackville-West, or Wilde and Douglas. There was nothing of De Profundis in their prose. Messages were limited to The Arrangement, meeting places and times, the occasional invite to tea or drinks. But Yours was always there at the end, penned in a meticulous script that once copied bibles, and Crowley would run his finger over the dried ink and remember that Aziraphale had chosen that word, and perhaps that meant something. And then he’d dismiss the notion entirely and burn the note, eviscerate the evidence of fraternization because he couldn’t risk Aziraphale’s safety, not for all the would-be love notes he’d like to hoard.
I wish you’d write me again.
He closes his eyes, considers undressing, considers a world where this ache doesn’t exist and he can sleep alone peacefully.
A knock at the door shakes him, and not just anyone’s - airy, a tapped out melody of some obscure, Baroque composer Crowley has forgotten - a knock that’s struck his door for at least three centuries.
The door is too far away, and for a panicked moment as he hurdles towards it Crowley thinks that it’s all finally caught up with them. Heaven and Hell figured out the duplicity and they’ve come, and this would be the end of it all, a last goodbye before, before - no, he couldn’t contemplate the maelstrom of Hellfire he’d been forced into, and how it would cut through Aziraphale, and so he tosses the door open, ready for the end, for a last kiss he’s been preparing for since the first, but Aziraphale is calm and smiling on the other side. No danger, not now.
“Miss me already, angel?” Hands in his pockets, shoulders slanted haphazardly against the doorframe. Look how relaxed I am.
“You’re a little shaken. Did I startle you?” Aziraphale pushes gently by him, closes the door, pecks him on the cheek, just a graze, a greeting from a time past when it was customary, when Crowley would obsess over the length and force of it, dissect every action for an alternative meaning, and Crowley thinks of the two of us, you’re the tempter; you always have been. Aziraphale shrugs off his jacket and lays it folded over a chair.
“Just surprised. Did I forget something? I thought you had cataloguing.”
“You’re always so quick to leave, my dear.” His voice is uncertain, appraising, and Crowley doesn’t like that, doesn’t like the slight waver in his tone despite the gentle smile; it’s the stuttering of a kerosene lamp buffeted by the wind, knocked about, seeking the stability of calm weather.
“Don’t want to crowd you.” Because how I could crowd you, if you let me. You have no idea, angel. You have no idea how enthralled I am by you. I’d crowd you into a corner. I’d never leave. I’d stay by your side until you realized just how beneath you I am. You’d be smothered by my depths. I’d run us into the ground before our time, drag you under with me. Let me stretch this out. Let me pretend I’m good enough for just a little longer. Give me more time before you catch on.
“You never could, you must know that.” Aziraphale fidgets with his ring, mouth drawn in a line, secret-keeping.
“You’ve got work to do. Those books can’t not sell themselves,” Crowley smirks, easy, so very easy, so nonchalant. Aziraphale walks into what passes for the sitting room, extends his hand to Crowley’s and guides them both to the sofa.
Aziraphale reaching for him, his hand offering company and solace and love, and it’s these little gestures that undo Crowley the most, these moments he can store in a hoard for private use. Gather them up like spring flowers, dry them, press them into pages, preserve them for a winter without Aziraphale.
“I do believe you don’t understand how important you are to me.” His eyes are an unknowable blue, usually so transparent and open, shallow water now darkened with ocean currents.
“Angel - ”
“No, dearest. It’s my turn.” And Crowley hushes. “You flit in and out like you don’t want to be a bother. It’s like you think you’re imposing on me.” Aziraphale threads their fingers together. “I need you to know nothing could be further from the truth. You’re never an imposition. You never were before Tadfield, and you certainly aren’t now.”
Crowley sighs, looks at him sidelong. “You don’t think you’re being a little melodramatic, making something out of nothing?” Don’t pull these threads, I might unravel.
“I knew you’d dismiss this.” Aziraphale tightens his grip on Crowley’s hand, sits up a little straighter. “I believe you’re under the impression I’m not as committed to us as you are. I’d like to remedy that.”
Crowley’s throat constricts. “Oh?”
“I’m rather fed up with you absconding every night. I can tell you’d prefer to stay. I feel as though you’re running a timer when we’re together and once it goes off, you’re up and away.”
“Aziraphale - ”
“I had an idea.” He’s standing again, leading Crowley to the bedroom, to his enormous bed they’ve only shared once, the very first time, because Crowley can’t very well slink out of his own flat when he’s sure Aziraphale’s had enough of him.
“You’re being ridiculous,” Crowley finally manages, sitting on the edge next to Aziraphale.
A raise of an eyebrow, a challenge, and he’s not a kindly bookshop clerk from Soho but an angel once tasked with guarding Eden, righteous and angry, sanctimonious. “Then it’s me? You don’t want to spend time with me? Crowley, I don’t think that’s it at all, but say the word, and I’ll leave. I’ll know you’re lying, but I’ll leave.”
How could you even say that? “Of course it’s not you.”
Aziraphale softens, squeezes his hand, and Crowley’s briefly back on an Oxfordshire bus bound for London, sitting what should be uncomfortably close to an angel radiating divinity, but he was so very comfortable, content against the reassuring warmth of Aziraphale’s shoulder as he slouched down in the seat. And Aziraphale’s hand slipped in his somewhere around Uxbridge, and sometime later they were in the lift up to his flat, and Aziraphale’s hand was still entwined with his, and he realized as he pressed Aziraphale against the door of the lift that his angel knows how to kiss, and that thought was everything all at once, and Crowley wanted to ask him who he’s kissed and how often and when was his last and every other question in between because not knowing something so fundamental about him makes the omnipresent emptiness in his chest worse somehow. I want to know you completely. Tell me everything, and you’re perfect in every action, I know already. Fill me up with all of it. I’ll tell you the good bits about me, if you want to hear them, the parts you can accept, and I’ll leave the rest, and maybe we can make a go of it.
“So my idea, and please don’t dismiss it offhand - ” Aziraphale settles back against the pillows, “I think you should possess me.”
“That’s a terrible idea,” Crowley says flatly.
“Just listen - ”
“Whatever happened to we’d probably explode?”
“Yes, I rather thought about that.” Aziraphale shifts, reaches for Crowley again, and of course Crowley comes, lets himself be draped lazily across him, curls up close, face pressed into Aziraphale’s neck. Savour it. “I’m confident that if we didn’t explode when swapping, we won’t now.”
“Fairly. It’s the same mechanics in principle.”
“And why are we doing this? What does this accomplish?” Crowley forces a grin despite the fight or flight taking hold. “Kinky bastard - you can just admit it. No use couching it in some sort of bonding exercise.”
“Don’t be so flippant, my dear, and give me some credit, will you? You know how intimate it is.” Aziraphale dips down and kisses him carefully, kisses him like he’s made of glass and might shatter around him, and the deference of it is disquieting. “You need to know how I feel about you, and my words haven’t convinced you yet.”
Not like I feel about you, angel. It was painful, this pounding in his chest, this insatiable need to be with him, to have him always, and whatever feelings glowed in Aziraphale’s pure, angelic heart, it wasn’t this demonic Hell pit of greed that sunk Crowley’s. Bound for the fourth circle, he was.
But Aziraphale’s eyes are so very earnest, pleading in a way Crowley had never been able to resist. It was calculated, Crowley knew, this overwrought sincerity; the wide eyes, the slightly foppish head tilt, the press of gentle fingers against a bony wrist. Aziraphale’s eyes implore save me, dear, do this for me. You’ve never been able to refuse me, and he’s right, even if Crowley can see through the act.
“Alright,” Crowley sighs, shaking his head slightly, “if you insist.”
Aziraphale kisses him again, urgent this time, and Crowley spreads out atop of him, sharp hips cushioned by soft flesh as if they were made this way, designed to balance each other, and Crowley lines their bodies up, pushes close. “Be still,” he whispers into Aziraphale’s mouth. “Tell me if you don’t like it, and I’ll stop.” And Aziraphale nods, eyes clouded with something resembling lust that spurs Crowley on.
He leans into him, presses their foreheads together, sinks down just a little, testing the water, testing Aziraphale’s reaction - he gives way so easily, so open and wanting, and gasps so prettily at the intrusion - and then Crowley slides into him, his corporeal body wisped temporarily away without its essence to ground it, so that only Aziraphale remains on the bed with Crowley dissolved inside him.
Aziraphale is warm; he’s a hot bath that makes the world outside him seem cold, the sort of bath that almost hurts initially in the temperature change, the contrast of cool skin to hot water, and Crowley’s suddenly aware of the coolness of the air on Aziraphale’s fingertips, and he wants nothing more than to immerse himself fully. He shelters in further, cocooned amidst a light and heat that should burn, he thinks. He’s holy, consecrated ground, and it should blister his very essence, but somehow doesn’t. Instead he’s wrapped up in something very like the phantom sensation of the Heavenly Host, something Crowley can only recall the memory of, but here nestled in Aziraphale, it rocks through him again, steady as the light from a modern street lamp, unwavering
And he can feel Aziraphale as he’s filled, an immediate, overwhelming sense of glut and excess that evens out to satiation and completion as Crowley adjusts in, finds space for himself without forcing Aziraphale out of his own corporeal body. It’s a balancing act, an anxious push and pull of the celestial and the occult, and after several moments Aziraphale sighs, lovely and breathless, and Crowley pockets the sound away for later to be pressed as a flower too. He simultaneously invades and is invaded, and it’s as if he’s in an echo chamber, recursive and infinite as the sensations loop around him.
At once it’s altogether too much - too bright and warm and gracious, too Aziraphale - and Crowley thinks that if he stays a second longer he’ll risk never leaving, that he might just burrow into Aziraphale’s chest, tunnel past his aorta and into his ventricles, stay encased there like some hostile parasite slowly killing its host; a demon feeding on angelic energy, a fucking succubus. Crowley reels back, tries to pull out and -
He can’t. It’s like Aziraphale has clenched up around him, like he’s shut the doors and the windows and Crowley is trapped in him.
“Stay. Please, for once, just stay.” Aziraphale whispers, and it’s like he’s whispering it too. He can feel the words lovingly lilt off a shared tongue.
Crowley doesn’t dare take control of Aziraphale’s body, but he knows Aziraphale can understand him when he thinks I don’t want to hurt you, angel.
Something akin to violence ripples through Aziraphale at the word angel: a tightened chest, so taut it throbs like Crowley’s need for proximity to him; a weightless, nervous stomach; a firing of electrical synapses laden with a memory of long fingers against a pale cheek, an embrace, then a breathless cry of angel angel angel as human bodies met.
“It’s alright, dearest. Stay, I have so much to show you.”
Crowley gives his assent, stuck in the pulses of that synapse, rendered mute and still by the need Aziraphale felt in the memory. I could stay in this thought forever, stay wrapped up in Aziraphale’s desire for him. His own fingers had caressed Aziraphale’s cheek, except now it’s his cheek, and Aziraphale (and him, both of them, together) were brimming with want and love, and as perfect as it is to feel Aziraphale shudder, feel him made breathless by a tender touch, this recurrent desire is too much to process, so he slips away from the memory and focuses on the rise and fall of Aziraphale’s chest instead.
Aziraphale breathes deeply, his pulse more relaxed than Crowley’s has ever been. He operates at a lower frequency, a more modest resonance, and it’s calming here, Crowley thinks; his body doesn’t have the sudden urge to move and twitch, to distract itself from its own painful synapses, and he leans into the soft folds of his occipital lobe and the world seems brighter here, full of colour Crowley’s not sure he’s appreciated before.
He feels Aziraphale shift and he travels with him, a passenger. Aziraphale presses his face into Crowley’s pillow, inhales and something strikes him excitedly: scents that don’t belong to his bed, surely, fragrances that he’s certain aren’t remotely related to him. His body wash, yeah, but also cardamom and cedar and ash, and it smells good, not to him necessarily - it seems at once too intimate and yet foreign to Crowley - but Aziraphale likes it. His angel’s pulse quickens just a lick, his olfactory nerves alight, and neurons fire somewhere in the back of his temporal lobe and with it come memories of the taste of salty skin, his hands (not his own, he realizes, feeling Aziraphale’s ring over his pinky) clutched red hair, the frantic press of a lithe body against his, the smack of a lift door against his head as that body pinned him close, and that smell - that smell that surely doesn’t belong to him, Crowley thinks - was overwhelming as they kissed again and again, and somewhere in Aziraphale’s mind as Crowley clumsily bit his lip was a plea, a prayer, please Crowley please.
He wants to say something snide; he wants to joke about bottling his scent for a Christmas gift, but Aziraphale’s occipital lobe is snug, and he’d rather stay there than bait him.
“You can take over whenever you wish,” Aziraphale tells him.
No, I’m content here, angel and Aziraphale convulses inwardly again at the name, a sear across his basal ganglia that radiates out to his temporal lobe, and Crowley would have smiled, if he had the ability to do so. Like that? Aziraphale laughs.
An image of himself seizes him: cropped hair, Grecian attire, a summer himation worn carelessly, incorrectly over his shoulders, and Crowley remembers this day - some time shortly before the Peloponnesian War in a garden in the Collytus suburb of Athens, an impromptu picnic at Aziraphale’s insistence, expensive wine from Chios, thrown together fruits and olives from Aziraphale’s pantry - a simple, only somewhat drunken affair.
But that’s not how he looked, Crowley knows, not really. Aziraphale’s memory has shaved away the hard edges of his crooked nose, lessened the deepest of the lines around his eyes, transformed his thinness into something more athletic. A Hollywood recasting.
“Oh, stop that. It’s you through and through,” Aziraphale says.
Crowley knows better but doesn’t argue. Instead he sits uncomfortably behind Aziraphale’s eyes and watches himself as he topped up Aziraphale’s cup and laughed at something he’d said, then, “You like this pricey stuff, but I swear that cheap swill from Naxos was better, angel.”
A sick twinge bloomed in then-Aziraphale’s stomach, a brief flare of need at the word angel, and Crowley thinks this must have been the first time he’d used the nickname, though he’d been thinking of him as that for at least a millennia prior. It was a dull ache, blunt and ignorable, but there nonetheless, and Crowley feels Aziraphale’s cheeks redden in the memory. How had he missed that, he wonders, as then-Aziraphale spluttered just a bit and hid it with a cough.
That ache is painted all over his hippocampus, sketched out on the surface tissue and moulded deep into the grey matter, and it would have taken Crowley’s breath away if Aziraphale wasn’t breathing evenly for him. It’s hidden in memories old and new, imbued in the cortexes that lead in and out of his frontal lobe; it spirals around the chemical systems that feed the brain - serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine - and with every wash of one comes a flood of want that Crowley recognizes and would have mistaken for his own.
His hippocampus is sparked with it, with disjointed images linked only by that underlying pain: a graze of a hand, quickly pulled away as if burned; a glimpse of skin too elegant to be his own, surely, at a Roman bath; a trailing French gown Crowley vaguely recalls wearing, sweeping along a marble floor with a grace he’s never possessed; a private box at the Vienna State Opera, and Aziraphale wasn’t listening to Brahms’ Symphony No. 2, but to the staccato of Crowley’s breathing. He feels the rhythm of then-Aziraphale’s own breath as he matched Crowley’s, watches as Aziraphale’s line of sight wandered from the stage to a long-fingered hand wrapped around the railing of the balcony, and the longing of it all almost pours out of him, a divine surge of melancholy that leaves the blackhole in Crowley’s own chest throbbing in sympathy.
“Starting to understand?” And Crowley can only press further into Aziraphale’s warmth to insulate himself from the surrounding cold.
This far into his temporal lobe is all shades of grey, scattered musings and idle thoughts long forgotten, and Crowley could lounge here, he thinks, set up shop somewhere between the construction of the Bordeaux Cathedral and a ritual baptism in the Jordan River, but the synapses flickering are of Aziraphale alone, sitting on the floor of his shop, the hard wood of his desk wedged behind his back. Crowley feels the shake of his hands, one still clutching a carpet bag of historic books pulled from the wreckage of a bombed church. And oh how his hands shook; the vibration up their shared arms radiated to their elbows, and Crowley follows as Aziraphale rubbed his face with a trembling knuckle. Wet cheeks, weak breath, and the thoughts that crossed his mind, that travelled so fleetingly over his Broca’s area that they barely register with Crowley, were shameful and desperate; guilt-ridden curses at the Almighty, orisons for understanding why God would cause him this kind of pain without possible relief.
Why are you doing this?
“Don’t you see? You’re not alone in it.”
It’s punishment. It’s from Falling. I don’t know why it would affect you like this. It shouldn’t be possible for him to sound so broken; he has no voice to speak with, but still it’s torn apart.
“No.” Aziraphale lifts his hand as if he wishes to reach out to Crowley, to hold him as he has so many times before, and in the absence of his body, Aziraphale instead squeezes the side of his own thigh, sinks his thumb and fingers into his flesh. “I do believe it’s a human universal, this terrible love sensation. Quite different than the divine sort. Hurts a number, but it’s quite balmed when you’re around.”
Crowley wants to disappear inside him. Fill in all the gaps. Patch the holes this wretched ache has dug into his angel. There aren’t words for the feeling, for the realization that perhaps they could heal each other’s wounds together like this, but speaking seems redundant when they are so close that Aziraphale can feel his essence spread thin in him, and he in turn can feel Aziraphale feeling him, and on and on and on like that in a circle.
He swims in him, rides the waves of his veins, wades through delicate muscles, and when Aziraphale stretches languidly out, flexing still ink-stained fingers above him, Crowley takes hold for just a moment, barely a second, and feels the finesse of digits that craft penned script more beautiful than the contents of the National Gallery. A calligrapher's hand able to render even the dullest notes artful, all signed Yours, A. with a swirled tail that redoubles in on itself.
You used to write me.
A tingle in the tips of his fingers, muscle memory from centuries of note passing; a flourished, serpentine C, lovingly written with the sort of care he used to take with the initialis of an illuminated manuscript, and Crowley can almost feel the burnish of the vellum against his palm, sense the drag of a quill nib against it, watch as the C took shape with a single, painstaking stroke. He exhaled as Aziraphale, pulled back and examined his work, sharp blue eyes searching for a quaver, a tremble in the ink that might betray him. But it was a smooth river, wet-black that made his neurons spark long-ago memories of a slithering body transforming into a human one, cascading black robes flowing over the edge of a wall like ink from his nib, and he moved down the page.
And sometime later, sometime after letters had been made impractical, Aziraphale still sat at his desk and dipped quill in ink, an epistolary baptism, and curved a C with practiced ease. The quill flirted across the vellum, and Crowley feels the minute twist and flick of Aziraphale’s wrist with each word.
Scarcely wished to leave the park today. Lovely fruit plate, better wine, better still company. A pause, a stuttered hand, an uncharacteristic blot of ink marred the paper. Never have been good with my own words. More comfortable with scriptorium. Not much room for poetry there. Not much scope. Your vistas are too grand for me. Crowley sighed and it’s Aziraphale’s breath on his lips, Aziraphale’s hand that tapped the quill on the desk in frustration. Won’t you stay next time? Come inside, have another drink. Have enough so that you’ll stay the night. I can make a bed for you upstairs. I can try to sleep, if you’d let me. Aziraphale almost pushed the paper away, an anxious roll of fingers on his desk, and then he flipped the vellum over, damp ink smudging the surface, and he wrote so quickly Crowley’s shaken with the abandon of it.
I want to take off your sunglasses. They’re beastly things, hiding your eyes. I want to strip you bare so that I can see what’s going on behind those lenses, what it is you’re thinking when I plead with you to stay. Would your eyes show it? I want to take them off in the park so that I can see you in the sunlight instead of the dim light of the bookshop. I want to see what colour your eyes shine in the day, how the sun reflects in them, how the sun is made dark by them. It’s been so long. I want to reach across a picnic blanket and touch the side of your face, and it would be so casual as if it wasn’t the world to me, and I would slip the frames off your nose. I want to see your expression when I do this, what your eyes could tell me that your mouth refuses.
He dropped the quill, splattered ink across the bottom of the page, and sat back in his chair, temple aching. And Crowley can feel his pulse in his writing wrist, hummingbird wings, as he opened a drawer and stashed the wet letter away. Aziraphale didn’t look, and so Crowley doesn’t see the contents, but he knows from a thousand other memories of evenings just like this one, spent bent heartsick over his desk fumbling with words that wouldn’t come, that there’s a collection, a hoard, an archive of never-sent love letters to match the ashes of those Crowley once burned.
“I still write to you. I just haven’t posted in a while.” Crowley spreads into Aziraphale’s fingers again, up his knuckles and into his palm, across life and love lines, and takes hold of his wrist. He feels the creak of it, stiff with too many words, written and unwritten alike, too many fastidious reproductions; dotting the i’s, crossing the t’s, and Aziraphale gasps at the intrusion, leans into it, let’s Crowley rotate his wrist, crack the tight joints. “Forgive me for hiding them, and I’ll forgive you for leaving every night.”
Crowley has no eyes to close, no sunglasses to hide behind, no place to creep away to when he’s wrapped up in Aziraphale, so he says yes, angel and Aziraphale’s whole body seems to ignite around him, bonfires and fireworks and a Heavenly pyre, and Crowley clings to him for warmth. The ache he’d always supposed lived in his chest isn’t contained just there, he realizes; it’s in his very being, braided into his essence like Aziraphale is. He’s quite chestless now, and the desperate, visceral hurt is still there, but when he’s entwined with Aziraphale like this, it’s faint, a muted star light years away. The sort of ache you can live with, the sort of ache that acts as a reminder of what caused it, and oh, what caused it is perfect and beautiful and worth the pain.
They lay quietly together for how long Crowley’s unsure, nestled in a mutual understanding that left Aziraphale, and through him Crowley, rather breathless.
Aziraphale stretches again and smooths his fingers over the pillowcase, and the satin texture Crowley’s so accustomed to feels foreign on the soft pads of Aziraphale’s fingers. “Bit slippery,” he says, “I’d forgotten that.”
Aziraphale’s fingers had glided across the pillowcase that first night after Tadfield, and Crowley feels the memory of them, clammy and trembling, scrambling for purchase on unfamiliar sheets, nails finally digging into the side of the headboard as Crowley had tilted Aziraphale’s hips up for better access, face settled between his thighs.
The pleasure of it vibrates through him; electrical impulses jolt between neurons in Aziraphale’s hypothalamus, illuminating his circuitry like strands of faerie lights, like the street lamps outside the bookshop, and Crowley slips further into the memory, feels how Aziraphale’s thighs quivered at the press of his own lips, hears the puff of his own breath and how it stuttered across Aziraphale’s body and how Aziraphale’s ears were tuned to it, how they listened for every hitch and sigh, memorizing the little noises he made for future use. Aziraphale had arched his back as Crowley took him in his mouth, and the memory of it is exquisite, the awkward curve of his spine as the heat and slick enveloped him, and the vision itself is so well-worn, Crowley realizes, something shelved at the surface for quick access, something Aziraphale returns to again and again, and that knowledge is the world to Crowley. He tucks it away near the surface of his own memory too.
Crowley feels a familiar yet unfamiliar flutter, a pleasant sort of twinge that he knows well in his own body but not here in this one, and Aziraphale is half-hard and gaining. He’s suddenly aware of the thickening girth between his legs, heavier than his own, an ideal weight, so reassuringly real in his hand, he’s thought before when palming it. It settles against his thigh, twitches in interest at the memory of Crowley’s tongue.
He had lapped him, inexperienced and desperate to please, and Crowley can’t bear the image painted across Aziraphale’s mind of his too-eager lips, wanton and innocent in equal measures, slurping, what little pride he had gone entirely as he fit as much of Aziraphale’s cock in his mouth as he could manage. It’s garish, he thinks, the clumsiness of it, the gluttony of it, and his face was too hollow, his nose too jagged, his body all points and concave angles, and how Aziraphale wanted him, he has no idea.
But dear Satan or God or who-the-fuck-ever, Aziraphale wanted him then as he wants him now, with a sort of fervency that Crowley only understands from his own reciprocal need. Aziraphale had bit his hand to keep from moaning that night, and Crowley feels the clench of teeth on his fleshy palm, the muffled sob stifled in his throat, and it’s certainly not the technique that caused the cry - because there was none, Crowley knows; he knew it at the time to some degree, but he truly knows it now as he feels the erratic, overzealous suck of his own mouth - it’s Aziraphale’s sheer desire for him, the devastating confirmation that Crowley wanted him back that made Aziraphale call for him like that.
His heavy cock is pressed awkwardly in his pants, and Aziraphale shifts slightly to alleviate the pressure, but the drag of his thighs ripples over both him and Crowley, his thalamus alight, and Aziraphale sighs so beautifully.
Can I? Crowley whispers without a voice.
“Of course, my dear.”
I knew you were a kinky bastard. And Aziraphale laughs a little.
He takes control gradually, letting Aziraphale adjust. He delves into his precentral gyrus, burrows in deep and unfurls there like he’s freeing his wings, and Aziraphale welcomes him gladly, spread open and accommodating. He rolls himself out over the muscles and into the nerves, across his skeletal system until he’s threaded through him, ubiquitous, everywhere all at once. Crowley flexes his hand, wiggles his fingers.
“I can still talk, I see.” Aziraphale’s voice is thick, sated.
Be a shame not to hear you.
“I feel quite full. Overflowing, I think.”
Good or bad?
“Good. Just,” he pauses, and Crowley shuffles through his mind with him for the right word - bursting, stuffed, gorged, impregnated - then finally, “replete.” And how full he is; Crowley shares every nerve ending, every inch of skin. A full-body kiss.
You can take the wheel at any time.
“Always so considerate.” A trace of a laugh, a smile in his voice.
You may want to reconsider giving me cheek in your current position. Crowley presses his thighs together and Aziraphale almost squeaks.
He’s overdressed, Crowley thinks. If he had his way, Aziraphale would just go without clothes, and he remembers the days of togas and tunics, breezy cotton robes and stolen glances at shapely calves and voluptuous thighs. Now there’s far too many layers on him: the waistcoat and the button-down, an undershirt, gartered socks and fussy trousers, and as he slips the last of them off, pushing the trousers down with fingers rendered unfamiliar in his use of them, he grazes his brief-covered erection purposefully, and Aziraphale almost shivers around him, unmoving in his captured body, but still a wash of please yes please.
He adores everything about Aziraphale’s body. From the Latin adōrāre: to plead with, appeal to, address, to beg, entreat, to pray to, venerate, to do homage or obeisance to, to reverence. A religious word, too devout for him to use, but how true it was as he looks down at Aziraphale’s holy body, feels it all around him as his own. Adorations were trite paintings sanctioned by churches across the centuries, which now hang in galleries where bored children skip past them on school trips, and they were quite undeserving of such a resonant title, Crowley thinks; Adoration of the Magi, of the Kings, of the Golden Calf, of the Christ Child, of the Mystic Lamb, all bores; shame there was no Adoration of the Beautiful Blonde Angel Who’s All Mine, but Crowley doesn’t need an artist for such a feat.
He’d kiss Aziraphale if he could. He’d topple over him and press him into the mattress and kiss him until both their lips were numb. But, Crowley realizes with some comfort, there’s time enough for that, so instead he tugs at the waistband of his briefs, slides them down his legs at a peculiar angle; he’s undressed Aziraphale enough times to know the weight of his thighs, the shift of his calf, but from this vantage he’s ungainly, clumsy like it’s their first time.
They’d knocked into the bed and tumbled back, that first night after Tadfield, and Aziraphale’s sure fingers had Crowley totally bare while Crowley’s jittering ones hadn’t yet unbuttoned Aziraphale’s waistcoat, and Crowley can feel the glow of affection Aziraphale had in that moment, a tenderness that really should embarrass him, but Crowley twists into that feeling, into the memory that caused it. Aziraphale’s steady hands met Crowley’s, helped him finish with the buttons and shrug his waistcoat off along with his shirt, and they kissed again, and it’s like Aziraphale wanted to protect him, Crowley now realizes from within him, wanted to offer him some comfort when their very existence seemed so uncertain in the face of a vengeful Heaven and Hell. I’ve got you, I’ve got you, Aziraphale had recited like a mantra, laying Crowley back on the bed as he pushed down his own trousers.
Crowley teases for only a moment, rubbing circles into the side of Aziraphale’s inner thigh, so close without touching, and Aziraphale almost whimpers. His cock is already leaking, spurred by memories and images flicking across his temporal lobe, and Crowley takes them in as briefly as Aziraphale does, hand finally wrapping around the root of Aziraphale’s heavy cock in consideration of himself as much as his angel. A shared sob, relief tinged with more need.
And the thoughts that skip across Aziraphale’s mind are avaricious, and Crowley’s very essence shudders in sympathy: a kiss, wet and rough, and one of them bit the other’s lip - it’s hard to tell who when they’re mixed up like this - and Aziraphale, Crowley thinks it’s Aziraphale anyway, moaned into his mouth; the snap of hips, the smack of flesh on flesh, so undeniably human a sound, and Aziraphale watched Crowley’s knuckles pale as his slim fingers gripped the edge of the settee in the back room of the bookshop, anchoring himself as his hips jolted forward with each of Aziraphale’s thrusts; a wanton expression across his own face that should make Crowley cringe, but Aziraphale’s body tingles in remembrance of it, in covetousness, in anticipation of seeing it again, and the words come-hither rub against his Broca’s area.
Crowley knows how Aziraphale likes to be touched, knows that he wants long, slow strokes by a tight hand, that a little friction is better than none at all, and that the flare of his tip is sensitive, the slit even more so, and that too much touching there will only make him pivot his hips away, a breathless laugh on his lips as he admonishes, “Be gentle, my dear.” Crowley knows that his nipples are a little oversensitive too, and that brushing them with the deftest of touches will make Aziraphale moan, but that anything firmer than a caress will make him bat Crowley’s hand. He knows that his balls go taut before he comes, and that a soft squeeze to one can unravel him completely, and that grazing the receptive patch of skin just behind them makes his hips buck.
Crowley knows all this, has stored it away like he might have saved a lock of Aziraphale’s hair centuries prior if he’d been given the chance, but now his expert hands are foreign as he touches Aziraphale, the familiar curves of his body rendered exotic by the difference in Aziraphale’s hands, the length and thickness of his fingers, the distribution of weight across his palm. The angle is off and every stroke seems mistimed; he can’t quite sync with Aziraphale’s pulse, can’t find the usual tempo that makes Aziraphale’s fingers clutch Crowley’s back and the balls of his feet arch. It’s a stumbling expedition, a strange cartography of an uncanny body.
But oh, how Aziraphale is sensitive, reactive in a way that his own body simply isn’t. He vibrates with every stroke, his synapses flash and shock with every passing glance against the underside of his head. Crowley slips the blunt of his thumb up and over his tip, just a whisper across his slit, and the pleasure of it radiates up and down him, through his cortexes and across the nerves along his spine, and Crowley’s hand stutters before finding its rhythm again.
Aziraphale’s mind has quieted for the first time since Crowley pushed inside of him God-only-knows how long ago. The memories of his temporal lobe recede as Aziraphale centres solely in the now, and his frontal lobe lies in near dormancy, having given away so much of its control to Crowley. His parietal lobe erupts only in its sensory stimulations, and even then it all seems filtered through Crowley as a conduit, and Aziraphale can only ride it out as Crowley simultaneously takes from him and gives to him, and Crowley feels all of this, feels all of Aziraphale’s need and want and aching, and he leans into Aziraphale’s slick, perfect hand, speeding up a little, until Aziraphale teeters the line between just enough and too much.
If it was his body, Crowley would have moved faster. He would have jerked up and down gracelessly, would have needed it all and right now, and it would have been finished, but in Aziraphale’s body, he wants it slow and deliberate, wants to experience each stroke, revel in the zap of every nerve cell electrifying, tunnel into the overwhelming knowledge that Aziraphale wants it all with him.
“Crowley, Crowley, Crowley.” A litany, a psalm for a demon.
Angel. His angel. His fucking perfect angel who let him have this. Fuck, angel.
“Would you - ”
Aziraphale doesn’t need to finish; Crowley anticipates it in the desires of Aziraphale’s nerve endings and he reaches down with his free hand, cups his balls, rolls them delicately, almost squeezes them, and Aziraphale moans, and so does Crowley.
Crowley feels Aziraphale try to buck up, trying to grind further into the touch, and Crowley gives in and cants his hips into his hand, into that soft massage, because who was he to deny Aziraphale anything when his body shook for it so sincerely.
He caresses the underside of his head again; maintains his tempo and rubs gently under the proud, thick jut, but he can scarcely manage to stay composed when Aziraphale’s body thrums with indulgence. He’s dripping steadily now - fuck, you’re a sight, angel - and he slicks his cock with it, his gaze downwards at Aziraphale’s form, the new vantage point letting him see cherished contours made new: the circumference of his stomach, the parabolas of his sides, the upward curvature of his cock. Divine mathematics.
A momentary taste of grief, of absence, creeps into the corner of Aziraphale’s consciousness, and Crowley would have paused to examine it, to rectify it, but the reason is suddenly so clear, so obvious - Aziraphale wants to see him, wants to watch him in this moment just as Crowley watches with wonder as he controls Aziraphale’s body.
A meteor shower of images flit across Aziraphale’s mind: Crowley’s face, the sharp ledge of his cheekbones and the angle of his nose; a cascade of long red hair, worn at a length it hasn’t seen in millennia; a prominent hip bone and tapered cock, flushed amidst short red curls; golden eyes, a little dilated.
“Sorry to embarrass you, my dear. I rather miss you.”
Never been closer, angel.
“Yes, but I miss seeing you. You’re quite dashing, you know.”
They’re not memories, these images, but imaginings; artworks of Aziraphale’s own creation, apocryphal poetics, ones buried in the deepest regions of his amygdala, and Crowley can’t stand the look of them. It’s too intimate, these glimpses of how Aziraphale sees him - almost handsome in that light, and far too good, borderline heroic - Aziraphale sees him in brighter colours and warmer temperatures, bathed in a sort of radiance that is suspiciously Heavenly, and Crowley can’t accept it, can’t let that vision of himself play out in front of him because if he did, if he did -
Well. He’d almost be enough for Aziraphale, if that version of him was true, and oh how terrifying that is, how it aches.
So he somehow manages to divert himself, to redirect the images so that they show only for Aziraphale, and instead he lets the Aziraphale’s feelings hum through him, and those feelings are everything - Aziraphale is so in love that Crowley thinks that alone might send them both over. His hand quickens and Aziraphale is calling out - or is it him through Aziraphale’s lips - and for a brief moment it’s like Falling all over again, an unyielding descent into the unknown. But he’s wrapped up in the holy light, and here it’s not Falling, it’s a leap of faith.
They’re like a hall of mirrors in that moment, love and pain reflected in each other ad infinitum. A recursive tangle of souls, intertwined like lovers’ limbs, and the pleasure of it is supernatural, cyclical.
Laboured breathing, a shift of legs on satin, ink-stained fingers miracle away the mess.
Does this count as exploding? Crowley manages sometime later, and Aziraphale, bone-tired, smiles.
He cedes control, and now it’s Aziraphale struggling to catch his breath, wiping his damp brow, fluffing a pillow. It’s Aziraphale who collects his (their) tired body and sprawls out under Crowley’s sheets.
“You’ll stay, my dear?”
It’s my flat.
A not altogether dissatisfied hmph. “You know very well what I mean.”
He does. Crowley disappears into Aziraphale’s breathing, past his bronci and through his bronchioles; the reassuring steadiness of the rise and fall of his chest rocks him, and Crowley could stay here forever between his breaths, could find space for them both, now that he’s given the chance. I’ll stay as long as you want me here.
“I’d miss your face before long, I’m afraid.”
I’ll stay with you after, too.
Aziraphale closes his eyes and Crowley’s world goes dark aside from the incandescent sparks of neurons flashing along the roadways of neurotransmitter networks, and it’s something akin to the street lamps along Old Compton Street. These lead inward though, guiding the way to secret stores of memories of just the two of them, and Crowley follows the path home.