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Crowley had been rooting. He shouldn't have been - but, demonic proclivities pulsed through his veins. Aziraphale was out at the front of the shop ardently not parting with anything. He could hear some humans taking umbrage at a bookseller refusing to sell them books.

Tourists. None of the local humans still operated under the misconception that the book shop was an actual shop . They still came sometimes - the unconscious draw of an angel pulled them inside.

(the draw of a human-shaped being that looked like Aziraphale caused a few repeat visitors. Crowley kept an unblinking eye on those ones.)

The tourists remained agitated. Crowley smirked. He'd seen the yelp reviews - he'd written four of them. Aziraphale had been put out when Crowley had shown him the description of "the fussy git who seemed to think he was running a display."

("I...I am not fussy - or a a a - I merely wish for my collection to stay in safekeeping until suitable buyers can be found."

He'd been very huffy. Crowley had enjoyed it immensely. All those ruffled feathers and fluttery hands.)

But for now Crowley was bored and unsupervised and the shop wasn't his but it was Aziraphale's and he was looking for a bit of trouble, and he quite liked the idea of the flush on the angel's cheeks when he got caught rummaging in his desk. Maybe he'd get a scolding, bit of righteous angelic ire. The thought of that sent something sharp and dangerous down his spine, straightened it out for half a second.

So he was looking for trouble. Or at least a cigarette.

They had both quit. They both had stashes that weren't secret.

They didn't have secrets.

In retrospect the desk drawer might have been locked, but Crowley had assumed it wouldn't be and so it wasn't. He'd already rifled through the Rolodex and reordered it. He'd moved everything on the desk three inches to the left. Two chess pieces were shoved inside his jean pockets, the turret of a white rook sticking out.

He'd turned the lamp off, unscrewed the bulb.

(the anticipation of the exasperated sigh this was going to entice was fucking delicious. the wave of it rolled through his nervous system setting off sparks. he breathed deeply.)

He knew better than to touch the reconstruction work. He was a demon up to mischief but he wasn't a fucking idiot. He wanted to rile Aziraphale up, not get thrown out for the evening. though he was very much open to being thrown around . They hadn't broached it yet. Or anything close to it.

He'd tried.

Siidewinded right up to it.

(once. only once. they'd stood on the bookshop steps deciding where to lunch. he'd reached his index finger out and pushed it between Aziraphale's pointer and middle, drawn it down until their fingerprints aligned, ridges against whorls.

and pressed.

too hard. too fast.

Aziraphale had pulled away. slowly, but away.

they hadn't spoken of it.)

The drawer itself was stuck - he pulled. It jammed. He pulled again. It collapsed outwards and downwards, spilling pens and old coins to the floor. The gloves were part of the overflow. 

He frowned.

Crowley hadn't seen these before. The gloves were well worn, but cared for. The leather was buttery, expensive. old fashioned. Exactly to Aziraphale's taste. but not, Azirapahale's. He knew every article of clothing the angel owned. (he had imagined being invited inside them to worship the skin beneath more than once.)

They weren't the gloves Aziraphale used for restorative work. The white cotton ones, spotlessly clean, that he used to caress yellowing pages, to sew spines back together, to delicately trace ancient lines.

(three, twelve, twenty-two occasions Crowley had bitten down hard enough to draw blood, to cover the words in cruor and stick them to the roof of his mouth. i'm ancient. i'm in need of your repair.

Crowley had a very specific fantasy that involved being laid out on Aziraphale's creaking wooden bed and being handled like an antiquity - the rarest of manuscripts, all frayed edges and disassembled seams. falling apart.

though - Crowley worried, even in fantasy, even in intangible reverie - that Aziraphale would run white gloved fingers down this spine and come away with ash and ichor, the knobs of his vertebrae bleeding dirt, despair.

would anything protect Aziraphale from the oil slick lurking beneath his skin?

would the angel put him back together again or see no way to reconstruction?

he wouldn't be forgiven.

what was the point of repair?)

Crowley curled down to retrieve the gloves from the floor, held them in his hands. Driving gloves. Driving gloves. Why would Aziraphale have these? Crowley was the one that got them where they needed to go. These...these couldn't be Aziraphale's. Heat started to flare in his chest, pulse out through his veins. 

His heart hammered. 

Not Aziraphale's. Not Aziraphale's. Not Aziraphale's.

A human's.

But - he could smell Aziraphale all over them. What fucking human had run hands over his angel.

(not his though. not his. and that was the point wasn't it. it wasn't even his place to be upset. and he wasn't. demons don't get upset when the object of their...their lust was already claimed. so what. a human got in front of him.

humans died.

he'd wait.

he'd been waiting.

his heart ached and ached and ached.)

What fucking human had been in here?

Their fucking gloves in Aziraphale's drawer, like they belonged, like the human belonged (did they belong to Aziraphale? did Aziraphale belong to them? where did a demon fit in the space between.)

He was blinded, suddenly, violently with the vision of some faceless mortal - here, in the back of the shop, in the place Crowley considered to be his. Leather sheathed hands gripping Aziraphale's head, his hair, while the angel knelt in supplication, in service.

He burned.

What the fuck had he been doing? What had he been waiting for?

Is this what Aziraphale wanted? Fleeting, transient, limited lives?

Not permanent. Not forever. Not Crowley.

(he'd been waiting

he'd been a fool)

Demons weren't shaped to hold this heated embarrassment that was burning his face, curling his fingers into fists - it transmuted to rage, to destruction.

He needed someone else to burn.

(his heart was a closed fist. it was ready to punch through his sternum.

he wanted his ribs to splinter. he wanted the bones to crack and puncture the membrane holding his heart safe, wanted marrow and blood to spill inside the cavity. he wanted to drown inside his own shell.

his heart only worked because he expected it to.

what was one more expectation to adjust?)

Crowley was out of the backroom before he realised he was moving, hissing and spitting and baring his fangs.

"Out out - get out of the fucking shop he's not going to let you have anything. Don't fucking touch his things."

The tourists’ faces stilled and glazed, dropped the books they had.

"Crowley!" Aziraphale's voice was surprised, shocked. "Let go of them."

He hadn't put his hands on them, he'd balled them into fists. Demonic power coursing through him, it was seeping through his skin and greasing over every person in the shop. He didn't need to lay hands on them, he never had. They just needed to fucking leave. They sludged passed him to the door.

(he was certain in that moment that they could see what he was.

he was certain Aziraphale could see it too.

no point hiding it, he was a horror.)

He held the gloves ups, turned his face towards the floor unable to meet the angel's face - "Whose are these?" The words were quiet, a deadly deathly thing.

He looked up. He could see it when it happened - when a secret cracked open to ooze into the room.

"They're mine."

A lie a lie a lie it had to be.

"They're driving gloves. You don't know how to drive."

"I - " Aziraphale looked - abashed. Crowley didn't know what to do with it - "I can drive."

It was worse, somehow. Worse than hearing "they're my lover's", worse than hearing "I want a human's offering, not yours." 

His whole body was burning. He could feel the atoms in his corporation vibrating, pulling apart from each other, breaking their bonds. Everything was breaking. He was broken. "You lied to me".

The angel had the gall to look affronted "I...I merely didn't mention it."

"For sixty years?"

The air sucked out of the room, his lungs.

"I withheld a piece of myself."

A piece - a piece .

"Don't you fucking dare , angel"

A piece - he'd been held at arms length for 6000 years. A fucking piece . He couldn't listen to it, not now. Not now, not when he's burning in the bookshop. Not when he could combust and ash them both.

He couldn't explain it, the betrayal - he'd thought, foolishly, stupidly, that there were no lies, no secrets.

He'd thought, foolishly, stupidly, that he had some small purpose.

He turned on his heel, desperate to leave. Desperate. Always desperate.

(he wasn't a horror. he was tragedy.)

"I can't be here."

"Crowley. Please. Don't - don't go. I’m sorry."

He stopped. Unmoving. He knew it - he was sure - if he left now he wouldn't be back, not until the fault lines of hurt settled and sealed. A gaping wound.

Would he ever return?

Crowley dug into this pocket and pulled out the car keys - the rook tumbled to the floor, rolled towards the angel. Crowley followed its trail.

He shoved the keys against Aziraphale's chest, felt the scrambling of the angel's fingers as he tried to catch them. Felt them close around his own and hold on, his index finger gripping Crowley's pinkie. He dragged his nails down Aziraphale's front and pulled away, slowly.

"You drive."

"Crowley. You're being ridiculous - why ?"

He couldn't stop the hiss as he flared and struck out - "Because I don't know where the fuck we're going."

He paused. He stalled. He sagged. "You don't need me."

(it sounded a lot like want )

He dropped the gloves on the stand by the door. He stalked out of the bookshop, Aziraphale on his heels.

The Bentley dutifully opened without the keys. They settled with deep unease inside.

"Where do you want to go?"

Crowley looked at him. Held his tongue still. (held his heart still, too.) Saw the browned and aged leather on the angel’s hands and burrowed deeper in the seat. Stayed silent.

"I’ll just - drive then, shall I. See where we end up."

Aziraphale started the car. He checked his mirrors. He indicated. He pulled out. Slowly. Legally. Adhering to all the rules.

Crowley sat in a seat that wasn't his and tangled his legs to keep from instinctively accelerating.

The angle was all wrong. He hated this perspective. The Bentley groaned at the imposition of being asked to drive the limit. It begged to go faster. He knotted himself up further.

They drove and drove and drove until the city was behind them, greenery in front. The day dissolved around them.

He felt weighed down, pressed into his seat. The silence in the car was oppressive. A burden on them both.

Aziraphale cracked through it. "The church. 1941."

"What about it?"

"You offered me a lift home, after you saved me, again. We hadn't spoken in so long. It was the first time I'd seen the Bentley - you were so pleased. So excited to show off. You were - happy. I couldn't take it away."

"Could have told me any time after."

"Crowley. I couldn't...i couldn't give you what you wanted, even though I felt - " Aziraphale broke off. "You were happy."

Crowley stared out through the windscreen, arms crossed tightly, holding his bones close.

"When?"

"I don't - "

"When did you learn to drive, Aziraphale?"

"Oh. 1923. Gabriel sent me America - some fools errand of a blessing. It was...vast. And he was monitoring my miracles. So I learned to drive. And I hated it." He smiled sadly. "But I thought the gloves suited me."

"They're really yours?" Crowley inclined his head slightly toward the steering wheel.

Aziraphale flexed his grip, confusion deepening lines on his face "Who else's would they be?"

Crowley slouched further, hugged himself tighter. "Just..someone's. I dunno."

Aziraphale parted his lips, appeared to be on the brink of speaking as realization bloomed across his features. He missed a gear shifting - stalled out the car and jumped them both in their seats. The engine quieted as his voice filled the emptying space.

"A human. You thought they belonged to...that I've been..." Aziraphale's face tightened, his face a story that Crowley couldn't read.

The car restarted, and Aziraphale eased it to the side of the road. Parked. Composed himself.

"I was sent to guard them, to love them. But not...not like that . It wouldn't be right."

"Yeah, well. The last being that loved me threw me into a flaming pit of sulphur, angel."

He watched Aziraphale out of the corner of his eye - watched his ribcage expand, contract, the exhale carried the words -

" She isn't the last being to love you."

Crowley's breath stuttered and stopped.

Aziraphale smiled, a small and tentative thing. "You're all that i have. You are the only being that I have ever loved for myself. And I was afraid."

(his heart was a closed fist. he unfurled his fingers.)

His head tipped back against as he stared at the roof of the car, open mouthed as words fell out. “Thought you didn’t want me.”

“You’re all I’ve ever wanted.”

Crowley opened his door, untangled his limbs to free himself from the space. He circled the car to the driver's door, freed Aziraphale too.

He crowded slowly into angelic space, stopped before they touched. Waited.

Aziraphale raised a hand to the center of Crowley's chest. 

Pushed.

A step.

To move him.

To open the back door of the car.

To pull Crowley inside with him, onto him. Legs astride angelic thighs. Angelic hands on his jacket lapels.

"I thought - "

"You thought I was - enamoured with some human." Aziraphale paused - "They are wondrous creatures. She made them beautifully. They are nothing compared to you."

" Angel - blasphemous, She'll hear."

"Let her. She shouldn't have let you go. I won't repeat her mistakes. I'm sorry that I made you wait. I'm sorry."

Crowley surged to kiss the words from the angel's mouth, he consumed the words inside himself, gobbled them down and feasted.

Aziraphale rose to meet him, he felt hands climb up his spine, notch after notch until they summited where his wings connected. Aziraphale reached into the ether and stroked. "Christ - angel, Jesus ."

"Too much?"

"Never."

Firm, slow circles against the base of his wings. His hips started to match the movement.

He drew his hands down Aziraphale's arms, pulled them from his back. Inspected them - spotless, no blood, no ichor, no ash.

He paused. He stilled. He stopped all movement. Pressed his forehead against Aziraphale's, nose to nose. "I love you."

Aziraphale's hands traced along his waist until they reached his belt buckle.

"Yes?"

"You don't have to."

"Crowley."

"Yes."

Aziraphale started to remove the gloves - Crowley caught his wrist.

"Leave them, if you want. They suit you."

The angel smiled at him "I can leave them - if you want"

The fire that had burned him through, sparked again - he wanted suddenly, fiercely, to be in Aziraphale's hands, to scent the gloves with himself. It felt filthy and wanton.

He wanted.

And was wanted.

"Leave 'em."

Aziraphale slid the belt from the buckle, eased down the zip. Crowley reached to mirror the action, fingers on Aziraphale's trouser buttons - and was softly batted away. "I would like, if you would permit it, to focus on you, my love."

"You don't want to - "

"I do, most assuredly I do. Later."

(later - like there was more than just now. 

later - like there would be more. 

later - like there was a future.)

Aziraphale slid a hand between fabric and skin, dipped down - and paused.

"Were you hoping for - "

Aziraphale kissed him "You. I was only hoping for you." - and kissed him again, deeply, with intent. The angel's fingers started to move.

(Crowley wasn't laid out on a creaking wooden bed being stitched back together. he was being taken apart, piece by piece.

he rocked into Aziraphale's hand. his spine dismantled.

he was being undone. he tensed, afraid suddenly that he'd never be put back to rights, that he'd be left to scatter to the wind - and Aziraphale, Aziraphale pulled him closer and whispered love into his ear and touched him with such care and promise and he felt unworthy but safe. and wanted.

the grain of the leather against him, the friction, the delicate fucking care of the angel beneath him as Aziraphale pushed inside, slowly, slowly, slowly.

safe. wanted.

Aziraphale touched and circled and pressed and loved -

and he came apart at the seams, Aziraphale's name falling from his mouth, fire banking in his veins.

Crowley kissed him until he lost sense of time, of self, until Aziraphale slowed and eased back, his hand still between Crowley's legs, a ghosting touch.

he was being held upright by a hand at the base of his back.

safe. wanted.)

Aziraphale withdrew, stripped the gloves off to discard on the seat beside them, rezipped and buckled him.

"Think I've probably ruined them, angel."

"My dear, you've failed to ruin anything. You're quite a terrible demon really." The love was thrumming from the angel, he could feel it all across his skin, raising goose flesh.

"Perhaps you could drive us home though."

Crowley laughed.

He felt safe. Wanted.

(his heart was an open hand. Aziraphale took it.)