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Seas and Stars, Doves and Crows - or How to Love Another

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I. If you’ll be my star, I’ll be your sky

“Come into the sky with me,” said Aziraphale one night.

Crowley looked surprised. It wasn’t a drunken request; they’d spent the night in, just talking, no fancy dinner or fine wine. They’d been telling stories of adventures they’d had through the ages without each other - on pirate ships, in royal courts, in battles told about in myth and legend - infinitely improved now in the telling, in the companionship. And when he’d felt so full of food and music and love he thought he’d burst, Aziraphale had leaned forward in his chair and voiced the thought that had spun within his mind for weeks now.

“The sky?” repeated Crowley.

Aziraphale nodded. “When were you last there?”

The expression that crossed Crowley’s brow held a million unsaid things within it; it held memories not nearly plumbed in these lighthearted evening conversations. “It’s… been a long time.”

Aziraphale smiled and rose to his feet, crossing the room to pull Crowley up as well. “There’s nothing stopping us, is there?”

Crowley swallowed. “Guess not. Not now.”

Slowly, ever so slowly, Aziraphale’s mind had been wrapping itself around the idea of freedom. The idea that he could simply do things, that he wasn’t beholden to orders from above, that his own heart might be a guide for him. It had started the night he’d worked up the dizzying courage to hold Crowley in his arms, to press soft kisses to his lips, to tell him the words that had survived on his tongue despite decades of trying to swallow them. In the months that had followed it had come in the form of a million little benedictions that kept his cocoa warm, kept his books free of dust and his clothes of stains - frivolous miracles - and a million little gifts he was learning, shyly, to give to Crowley after so long of Crowley giving to him. And now Aziraphale was feeling adventurous.

He pulled Crowley out onto the street. They wouldn’t be seen; it was late enough at night that no one was out, and if someone happened to glance through a window and see two figures ascending on black and white wings into the night sky, they’d assume they were dreaming, anyway.

“Ready?” he whispered.

Crowley looked down at Aziraphale’s hands. Ran his thumb over the heel of one palm, softly, fondly. Aziraphale ducked his head and looked up to see Crowley’s eyes.

“It’s really been millenia,” Crowley said quietly.

“If you don’t want to…”

“No,” said Crowley. He smiled a slow, secret smile, and Aziraphale was reminded that the demon was still getting used to freedom too. “No, I want to.”

Aziraphale squeezed his fingers. “There’s so much to explore.”

Black wings burst from Crowley’s back in a wide, majestic sweep - starting pointing downward before flaring up, feathers spread apart. A moment later Aziraphale’s own wings tumbled out in a shower of white. They clutched each other tight and shut their eyes in unison, remembering, after so long grounded, how to fling themselves aloft again.

Crowley rose first. Aziraphale was pulled up by his hands, and caught himself on his own wings a moment later. The air blistered by them as they rocketed upward, chill December mists wrapping around them, damp clouds clinging to their clothes - and then, with another almighty flap, they were beyond them. The air thinned as they moved out toward space.

“What do you want to do?” asked Crowley. “I could show you around.”

Aziraphale hovered feather-light on the air and flung his arms around Crowley, ear against his heart to feel it beating in his chest. “I would love that.”

“Look.” Crowley gently guided Aziraphale’s face up toward the stars. “See that cluster there? I built those.”

Aziraphale’s first instinct was to smile at the revelation, to tell Crowley they were beautiful, and continue embracing him here in the trembling wisps of atmosphere that still surrounded them. His first instinct was to bask in the awe of Crowley showing him the cosmos, making them a gift to him, as he did with everything. But tonight Aziraphale was feeling adventurous. And so instead he clutched Crowley’s hands tighter again, and with a stroke of his wings pulled them even higher.

“Let’s go,” he said.

Surprise on Crowley’s face again. “Right now? Really?”

“Why not?”

And the surprise was replaced, just like that, with a smile wide enough to fit the universe within it. Replaced with a delight Aziraphale rarely saw on Crowley, an unabashed, zealous enthusiasm, devoid of any derision. His wings spread wider, his head tilted up - silvery light shone on his face, streaming through his red hair. Aziraphale followed him up until the air vanished beneath them.

They grew as they flew. Leaving the constraints of their human shapes behind, they expanded, wings unfurling to span planets, arms reaching across solar systems as they held each other. The stars swirled around them, stirring like eddies of sparkling dust as the two of them swept past. Brilliant colors burst through the cosmos - galaxies, nebulae, showers of cosmic light in stunning formations.

Finally they stopped amidst the brightness. Aziraphale gaped around.

“Isn’t it marvelous?” Crowley breathed.

Aziraphale stared at him. Little star fragments gathered around his fingers, clung to the edges of his midnight-black feathers. He had never seen the demon look so radiant before. And he wanted more of it, so much more.

He let go of Crowley’s hands and retreated to an arm’s length away.

“Crowley,” he said, “I want to see you make a star.”

This time the shock was only momentary. The uncertainty, the hesitation, flitted over Crowley’s face and then was swallowed. Aziraphale held no real doubt that Crowley could still create if he wanted to - yes, he’d been held down to Earth by Hell all these years, but did an eternal being ever really forget? Could anyone who’d ever built the universe forget it?

Aziraphale watched. He paid rapt attention as Crowley lifted his hands, brows knitted suddenly in concentration, and spread his fingers as though feeling for something invisible in the air around them. As though reaching for the strings of a harp whose music was light instead of sound. He shut his eyes for a moment, as though listening. His breaths seemed to Aziraphale in time with the thrumming of some cosmic instrument - or perhaps the rising and falling of his chest in that moment was the thing setting the rhythm of the universe.

Then Crowley brought his palms together, the sound like a clap of thunder, and light flared out from them. And Crowley’s eyes, golden, serpent’s eyes with no irises around them, opened to behold the brilliance of the thing he’d created.

Aziraphale was speechless. The star born in Crowley’s hands held within it a million colors, a million musical notes, a billion words whispered in impossible harmony - but that wasn’t what held Aziraphale’s attention. He couldn’t tear his gaze from Crowley’s face. His expression, eyes entirely fixed on the star, as though for a moment he’d forgotten Aziraphale was there at all. Aziraphale had thought he knew all the expressions of love Crowley was capable of - his soft glances, his gentle smiles, his adoring eyes when the two of them were twined together - but this, this utter, tender reverence as he cradled the newborn star in his arms, was wholly new. It was the look of an artist, of an inventor, almost of a father. Aziraphale felt overwhelmed by it.

This is where you belong, he wanted to say suddenly. Fly away from me, spread your wings to infinity, shower the cosmos with your light. Let me watch you. Never land, never ground yourself again, you wonderful, glorious soul.

But then Crowley’s eyes lifted to him again. And somehow, the joy that thrummed palpable through his whole form seemed to swell even further. Crowley moved forward, taking Aziraphale by the hands once more, pulling them up to wrap around the star along with his. So they held it together.

“Give it a name,” Crowley said.

Aziraphale’s eyes widened. “Me?”

Crowley laughed, and his laughter was music, it was art. “Why not?”

The principality Aziraphale had never created a single star. He hadn’t built any of the universe at all - he’d been crafted as a warrior, not an artist. He had no skill for such a thing. But Crowley’s face was open and expectant, his hands wide and offering.

“You would let me…” Aziraphale whispered.

Crowley grinned encouragement. “Go on.”

At first Aziraphale’s mind was blank. He’d never given anything a name before. But when he looked back up into Crowley’s eyes, and thought that it must be named something that honored its creator, the answer came to him without any effort at all.

“Hamlet,” he said.

Crowley’s smile could have fueled a whole new universe of creation. When he flung his arms up, and the star - Hamlet - swirled into position in the night sky above them, Aziraphale couldn’t stop himself from pitching himself once more into the demon’s embrace.

“You’re so much greater than me,” Aziraphale breathed, as Crowley’s arms lowered and curled around him. “You’re so far beyond me. I’m amazed you chose to love me, my dear.”

Crowley tilted Aziraphale’s head up and kissed him, slow and gentle, with starlight-dusted lips. “Angel. How could I choose anything else?”

 

II. If you’ll be my boat, I’ll be your sea

They descended together from the sky, at last, and back towards the curve of the Earth. Crowley’s heart hummed with a long-forgotten sensation; not just the joy of creating, but of sharing his creations. He held Aziraphale’s hand tight as their wings brought them down over the Atlantic.

He felt lighter, more buoyant, than he’d felt since he couldn’t remember when.

“Angel,” he said, “what would you say to some sailing?”

Aziraphale perked up. Crowley had taken Aziraphale on plenty of sailing trips through the centuries - mostly under elaborate pretenses, though there had been a few times, during lulls in the stringency of the War, when they’d simply gone out for pleasure. Crowley had loved watching Aziraphale enjoy the decks of ships, the wind in his curls, the fresh-caught fish. But Aziraphale had always insisted that they stow away on human vessels then. And keep miracles to a minimum, to avoid detection.

That wouldn’t be necessary anymore. They were free now. As they sank toward the wide expanse of black-blue water, Crowley miracled into existence a sailboat big enough for the two of them, and they landed on it perfectly dry.

“It’s a beautiful night for it,” said Aziraphale. “So peaceful.”

Crowley smiled at him. The angel’s face was still flushed with the exertion of their miraculous flight, and his hair still sparkled dimly with starlight. It only made him more of a vision here on the Earth’s surface. Crowley still had trouble believing, sometimes, that Aziraphale was really his - that the angel he’d fallen for six thousand years ago had, at last, reached out to catch him. Had held him and kept him and promised him his heart. But every day he grew more and more sure that it wasn’t a dream.

“Anywhere on Earth you haven’t been, angel?” asked Crowley, taking hold of the tiller. “Anywhere you’d like to see tonight?”

Aziraphale gazed out over the open water. His eyes shone, and when he spoke his voice was breathless with excitement. “I hear Atlantis exists now.”

“Yeah, I’ve heard that.” Crowley could have choked on the love that flooded through him at the sight of Aziraphale’s eyes. He grinned instead, and with a little miracle the sailboat was skimming south, sending a spray of saltwater out in its wake.

Aziraphale’s eyes widened. “Crowley!”

“Too fast?”

The angel shook his head and leaned out of the boat, trailing his hand down into the water, watching a smaller wake appear at the contact of his hand. “No - it’s wonderful!”

Crowley sat back in the boat. His eyes feasted on Aziraphale. He would be content to stay here forever, keeping this tiny craft moving, keeping the world bent around his angel’s desires. He loved the miracles Aziraphale was beginning to cast with more confidence in their new reality, but often he still enjoyed doing everything for him, simply observing his delight. An angel’s delight was a glorious thing to behold.

They moved south and the water grew warmer, smoother. Aziraphale sat up again. “Slower, now?”

Crowley slowed the boat down until they were drifting, no longer yanked through the waves. Aziraphale leaned out over the rich swells. With a cry, he pointed out a distant break in the water’s surface - a group of dolphins leaping through the air.

“Let’s go!” he urged, and the boat sped up again, chasing the dolphins over the horizon.

One of the greatest pleasures in Crowley’s life was watching Aziraphale forget himself, watching him shed any pretense of powerlessness and act as an angel, as though he was as unused to Earth as he’d been in Eden. When they reached the dolphins, he had the chance to see it - Aziraphale jumped from the boat, eyes alight, and landed on the water as though his feet had struck sand.

“Hello!” Aziraphale said, holding out his hands to one of the dolphins. “And what’s your name?”

The dolphin squeaked something in reply.

“Oh, it’s lovely to meet you, I’m honored.”

He loved so many things, so many silly, tiny things, his angel. Crowley had never understood what was so wonderful about the foods Aziraphale obsessed over or the poetry he spent his days reading, but he didn’t really want to understand, either. He just wanted to watch the light in Aziraphale’s eyes. These little pleasures dotted thick and fast through Crowley’s life were not unlike stars.

Go out and see the world, he wanted to say. Go drown yourself in the million things that fascinate you. Let yourself go from everything that’s tried to define you - I want to see you free, Aziraphale. I want to release you from Heaven at last.

But Aziraphale looked back at him. Still seated in the boat. And nothing could compare to how his features melted when they traveled over Crowley’s face.

“Oh, my dear,” he said, “I’m having all the fun. Come out here with me!”

Crowley shook his head, a fond smile on his lips. “Can’t walk on water, angel. But I like watching you.”

Aziraphale giggled. He walked back toward the boat over the waves, his shoes still dry, his holiness keeping him just above the water’s surface. He reached the edge and took Crowley’s hands.

“Come now,” he said. “Don’t be silly.”

Crowley frowned. “What are you -”

Aziraphale pulled him to his feet. Gently he tugged his wrists, encouraging him, urging him to step over the boat’s side. “I’ll take care of you, Crowley. You ought to know that.”

Something close to fear closed around Crowley’s stomach. His arms, his chest tingled as Aziraphale tugged again, still insistent. His feet turned numb. But Aziraphale looked so sure, so effortlessly confident in his own ability to keep Crowley above the waves, and Crowley plumbed the depths of his heart and could find no doubt of his angel there. He stepped over onto the water.

It was solid and soft beneath his shoes. Crowley didn’t look down - he had eyes only for Aziraphale.

“You see,” Aziraphale murmured, his hands traveling up to caress Crowley’s face, to kiss him on each cheek, each eyelid. To kiss his lips, softly, so softly it was almost unbearable. “It’s all a question of trust, dear boy.”

Crowley sighed and leaned forward, his head falling onto Aziraphale’s shoulder. He couldn’t help it. The love of an angel was overwhelming; it filled him, almost breaking him apart, then surrounded him and held him together. Aziraphale’s hands didn’t let him go. They kept him afloat.

“You’re incredible,” Crowley mumbled. “You love so much, angel. I still can’t believe you let me in your life.”

Aziraphale held him tighter. “Dearest, my life would be empty without you.”

Then he pulled back, and took Crowley’s hand, and drew him out toward the dolphins. That glorious smile lighting him up again. “Come on. The water feels nice, doesn’t it? Let’s walk the rest of the way to Atlantis.”

And Crowley followed.

 

III. If you’ll be mine, I’ll be yours

The bookshop welcomed them back at last as the sun began to brush the horizon of London. They shook the last of the saltwater and stardust from their shoes, still holding each other, flushed and grinning and with adventure singing in their ears. Aziraphale gazed around at his familiar shelves and thought that they had never seemed so bright, so inviting, so much like home. Crowley gazed around and thought the same.

“We should do it all again sometime,” Crowley said as they collapsed into armchairs. “Next time I’ll take you somewhere else in the universe. There’s a million places I saw when I was creating.”

“Oh, and I could show you so many places on Earth,” said Aziraphale. “So many restaurants and theaters in a million different cities, so much you’ve missed…”

“That’s it.” Crowley grinned. “You’ll make sure I never miss anything again.”

“We have endless catching up to do.”

Soft music, classical, played in the background as they talked. It was the same easy and comfortable kind of conversation they’d always had, but there was a difference in it tonight, a new quality this dawn - they had both seen greater parts of each other in the sky and in the sea. They had both fallen even more in love. And slowly the realization of it settled over both of them, so that the talking petered out, and at last they simply sat staring at each other, unsure how to put such a truth into words.

They had both, though they didn’t know it - or perhaps they did, love after all has greater mysteries - been fear-stricken by it, a little. They had both wanted instinctively to retreat. Six thousand years is a long time to know someone, but it isn’t nearly long enough to know them completely. Six billion years is not long enough to love someone completely. To touch every atom of another’s soul is a process that will never be finished. But no one who is truly in love would want it to be.

Aziraphale was lost in Crowley’s eyes. He’d long fancied himself rather apt with words, but he could think of none appropriate to this moment. All he could do was hope the depth of his feeling came through in his face. Crowley was drowning in Aziraphale’s light, and, though he’d never cared particularly for writing, he thought in that moment he could have penned reams of poetry about Aziraphale’s lips - penned them just by looking at them, and then penned ten times more at the privilege of a kiss.

“Crowley,” breathed in a voice soft and certain as the beat of a heart, was the first word to break the silence.

Crowley rose, his movements like the traveling of glaciers, slow not with hesitation but with endless, unmovable purpose. He stepped toward Aziraphale like a planet orbiting toward its sun.

Both of them, tonight, had pulled back for a moment in the face of new love. But they knew this pattern well, by now. They knew that for every step they took away, they would bring each other closer, come crashing back together in the long run. They would explore, and they would discover, and they would never truly leave each other behind. They would lift each other up, and they would return for each other, and nothing, nothing in the universe, could stop them from moving in harmony.

Aziraphale smiled up at his love. Crowley held out his hand; the invitation was a simple one. An invitation for them to share something new, and be something new, and begin the process of falling in love all over again. Take the same adventure one last time. It was an invitation that held within it stars and waves and plays and lunches and drinks and books and wings extended. To the tune of the music that was swelling from some inexplicable place in the shop, almost as though it played from their own chests and rose to their emotions. Miraculous.

“Angel,” Crowley said, “let’s dance.”