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Human Affection

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“Crowley, that is abs’lutely absurd. Stop making things up.”

“M’not!” He tried to pour another glass, but nothing came out of the bottle. Not even after Crowley shook it and slapped the bottom. Had to be another somewhere, right? “I know these things. Know humans. Better’n anyone.” There. Next to the sofa leg, a bottle with a bit of red wine left.

Wait, where was his glass? Shrugging, Crowley tipped the bottle straight into his mouth.

“Not better than me,” Aziraphale protested. He plucked a nearly-full bottle from the desk beside his chair. Bastard was probably hoarding them.

“Much better’n you.” Crowley tossed his glasses onto the arm of the sofa and leaned forward eagerly. This had just gotten serious; his pride was at stake now. “Look, blessin’s easy. Just gotta show up, whoop, hi there, Mister Farmer. God loves you, have some fish.”

“What does a farmer need with fish?” Aziraphale poured himself a glass, slowly, as if it might explode.

“Uhhh, fertilizer.” He’d read that somewhere.

“Only, you said Mister Farmer, so that’s his name.” The angel swirled his glass, watching the wine cling to the edges. “Might not be a farmer. Could be a fissure-man. Could work in the Aquarius.”

“Point is. For temptations, you have ta…have ta know the people. What they want. What they like. So you learn things. Simple as that.”

Aziraphale took a long drink of wine, smacking his lips happily. “Wait. You never tempted humans to…do that. I’m quite certain.”

“Are you?”

“I’m sure you’d have mentioned it.”

“Neeeuuuugh,” Crowley tossed himself into a dramatic sprawl. “Fine. No. But. They do talk to me about…courtship habits. S’true. And you don’t even like talkin’ to them, anyway!”

“Perhaps.” He wriggled in his chair, slouching deeper into the cushions. “But I do read. A’stensively.”

Crowley wrinkled his nose. “Obstentily?”

“Egstenilly.”

“Abstentally?”

“Exten…I read a great deal!”

“Ha!” Crowley stabbed a triumphant finger towards Aziraphale. Then tried to remember his point. “Ha-ha! You read, but you don’…don’ read the right books. Gotta read th’ naughty ones. Th’ones Heaven don’ like.”

“I have read plenty that Heaven disproved of.” He took another prim sip, looking far too pleased with himself.

“Ooooooh. Have you? Did you? Do you?” Crowley slid off the sofa and sauntered towards Aziraphale’s chair. Only the treacherous table somehow got in his way. He flipped over it in a suave, James Bond sort of way and gracefully landed in a face-first sprawl.

“M’dear, are you alright?”

“Meant to do that.” He struggled up onto his elbows. “Cuz’m surprised. Angel reads the…the scantilating books? With the covers like…” He waved a hand and promptly fell again.

“Haven’t the first idea what you mean,” Aziraphale sniffed. “But. I happen to know. Humans do not, in fact, just kiss all over everywhere, as you so crudely put it.”

“Do, too. Everywhere. Eeeeeeeee’rywhere. Name a part, lips go there.”

“No, no, no.” Aziraphale waved his hand, sloshing deep red wine that took one look at his pristine white sleeve and quickly crawled shamefully back into the glass. “They have…certain areas. Erroneous zones.”

“Don’ think tha’s right.” With a bit of squirming, Crowley got close enough to grab the chair, hooking his arms over the armrest by Aziraphale’s elbow, pulling himself up. “Ergonomic zones?”

“Erogenous!” Aziraphale beamed, even as he turned pink. “Oh. Yes. But. Kiss there and it feels, er. Stimulating. Everywhere else is…not.”

“S’that so?” Aziraphale’s hand was resting right there. Grinning, Crowley snatched it up and kissed the back of it. Well. Nearly. Thumb is technically part of the hand.

“Crowley!” The angel jerked his hand free. “What’s that s’posed to prove?”

“You din’ like it?”

Aziraphale squinted at the wet spot covering half his thumb. “I don’ think there’s meant to be nearly this much s’liva, my dear fellow.” He wiped his hand on his trousers. “Really!”

“Oh, you thin’ you’re so clever. Clever Angel.” He held out his own hand, waving his fingers. “Why don’ you try it, O Angel of the Clever…Brains?” That one would need some work.

“I will!” Aziraphale set his glass down and took Crowley’s hand, studying it like an ancient tome, turning it this way and that with a light touch. He bent over the palm, lowering his lips until the warm breath pooled in the center of Crowley’s hand. Then he pulled back. “There.”

“Wha’? Tha’s not – y’didn’ touch me!”

“Did so!”

“Your nose maybe. Gotta be the lips, or s’not a kiss.”

“Snot kiss? Really, Crowley—”

“No – no! Is. Not. A. Kiss.” He tried to tug his hand back, but the soft grip was surprisingly strong. “S’all about the lips. Wha’ they teach you in those books?”

“S’perfectly acceptable. Kisses on the palm, light as a breath—”

“Light as a breath. Not a breath. It’s a wossname. Same-ilie.”

“Simile?”

“S’what I said. You gotta use the lips or it don’ count.”

“Are you certain? I could just…” He lifted Crowley’s palm again, bringing his lips to hover within a hairsbreadth of Crowley’s skin. Warm breath caressed the lines of his palm, sending a strange tingle up his wrist and arm.

Crowley shoved his hand into Aziraphale’s face, mashing his lips. “Mwah-mwah. Now it’s kissing!”

“Crmphy!” Aziraphale batted at him, tilting back in his seat.  “Stop that! You ridiculous serpent!”

“Noooo! Kiss me again!” Leaning over the armrest with a wicked grin, Crowley chased after him, trying to push his hand against Aziraphale’s mouth again. Somehow his hand wound up sliding across the angel’s cheek instead.

“Ah!” Aziraphale pressed his hand to Crowley’s, holding it in place. “See? That – that’s good. Right there. Feels…pleasant.”

“Does?” Crowley moved his fingers a little, stroking his thumb across Aziraphale’s cheekbone. It was almost as soft as his hands.

“Hmmm. Does indeed.”

This was good. The way his hand fit perfectly around the curve of Azirpahale’s cheek, the way the skin bent and pulled under his touch as Aziraphale smiled, bringing a matching smile across Crowley’s face, the way Aziraphale’s fingers laced between his. He’d have to remember this, try it again some time.

“It’s all to do with, er, nerve endings, I think. E’strodinarily sensitive there. So when you…you touch them…”

“Shooosh.” Crowley cupped both of Aziraphale’s cheeks and pressed, pushing until the angel’s mouth looked like a fish’s. “Too many words!”

“We ah ah-oo-ing,” Aziraphale pointed out, though he didn’t try to push the hands away.

“Fine. ‘Nuff arguin’. Time for an eggsper…exteri…time for science.”

“Crowley, if you slobber on me again…”

“Nah, s’fine.” He propped his elbows on the armrest again. “Look. Whazz – what’s one of th’places you’re s’posed to kiss? The error zones.”

“Oh. Ah.” Aziraphale rubbed his nose, suddenly not looking so cocky after all. “Mouth, obviously. Er. Neck. Wrist. Thigh, near the—”

“Wrist!” Crowley reached for Aziraphale’s hand, tugging it towards him, hooking a thumb over the sleeve to pull it back a bit. Blue veins cutting across pale skin. “How’s this feel?”

He popped his lips a few times to make sure they were dry, then pressed them into that small bit of exposed flesh. It was…salty, a little rougher than expected. Still soft, though. Was that Aziraphale’s pulse fluttering against his lips? He tried it again, a little to the side, and again, exploring, mapping out the tastes and textures, feeling Aziraphale’s fingers flex and curl in response.

When he tilted is head to look up, Aziraphale’s eyes were closed and his face quite pink.

“Good?”

“Oh! Er. Ah. Y-yes.” Aziraphale extricated his hand and tugged the sleeve back into place. “Obviously. It’s – it’s meant to feel good. But it was. Er. Yes.”

“Ha! An’ you said I can’t kiss!”

“Never said that,” he objected.

“Oh.” Crowley rocked back on his heels, running a hand through his hair. “Wha’ were we arguing about?”

“You – you said humans like being kissed anywhere, and that simply isn’t true. Some areas are – are sensitive to that sort of – of touch, an’ others…er…look, no human enjoys,” he waved his hand vaguely, “ah…being kissed behind the knee, for ‘zample.”

“Don’ they?” Crowley slithered across the armrest with his most mischievous grin. Or tried to. It usually didn’t take this long. Gravity seemed to be working against him today. “You sure ‘bout that?”

“I’m sure they would have mentioned it.”

“Hmmm. But as we ‘stablished already, you don’ talk to humans. So maybe they have. Maybe they talk abou’ it all the time, an’ you jus’ don’ know!”

Aziraphale narrowed his eyes. “But you do talk to them. Have they? Mentioned it?”

“Euh. I mean…” Crowley waved his hand, trying not to look like someone who knew less about kissing than he did marine biology. “S’in the music, innit? Always talkin’ ‘bout kissin’…diff’rent places…Or movies!” He nodded, more confident. “Happened in a movie. James Bond.” Or someone else? He was sure one of those action stars had done something along those lines, and really, wasn’t James Bond usually right about these sorts of things?

“Did he? Did it?” Aziraphale surged to his feet, tottered, fell back into the chair. “I think you’re lying.”

“Naaaaaah. I don’ lie…”

“Oh-ho! Oh-hoho!” Aziraphale blinked, waiting for his train of thought to return to the station. “Ah. Right.” He stood again, more carefully this time, and with a wave of his hand was suddenly wearing much shorter trousers, a very familiar pair that had gone out of style over two centuries before. “Yes. Now. Now we shall see.”

“See wha…?” Crowley’s mind was largely occupied with reconstructing the rest of the outfit that had nearly gotten Aziraphale executed in 1793. He hadn’t had much time to appreciate it in the dungeon, but it had been a sight. The jacket. The lacy sleeves. Did Aziraphale still have those shoes?

“See if…if…if kissing th’back of th’knee feels as good as th’wrist. For science.”

Crowley nodded along, trying to remember how the lace cravat had been knotted, until Aziraphale’s words worked their way into his brain. “Wai’ – wai’ – wai’ jus’ a minnnit.” He tried to meet the angel’s eyes. “You wan’ me to kiss…yer leg?”

“Well, I can’t very well kiss it myself, see?” Aziraphale bent one knee as high as he could, bending over to reach it, while the other leg wobbled, making Crowley imagine an intoxicated flamingo. Sure enough, Aziraphale lost his balance and fell into the chair a second time. “S’no good. You have to do it.”

“Nnnnnnh.” Crowley dragged himself around to kneel in front of Aziraphale, lifting his leg as if to help him out of his shoes. “Where…here?” His fingers ran uncertainly along the bare calf.

“No – no, higher. Back of the knee.” But Crowley could feel the way Aziraphale tried not to wiggle and squirm as his soft fingers traced across the soft curve of flesh.

“Angel…are you…ticklish?” Now there was an interesting field to study. He slid his other hand up Aziraphale’s leg, fingers moving more purposefully.

“Don’ know what you – stop! Stop!” Aziraphale kicked and twisted, sliding across his chair as he struggled to escape. “You – you monster!” Oh, but that laugh.

“Jus’ admit I’m right an’ I’ll stop.”

“Never!” All at once, Aziraphale launched himself from the chair, moving far too quickly, knocking Crowley flat to the ground. He pinned the demon, one arm across his shoulders, legs straddling his hips. “Angels never surrender, Foul Field! Er, Fiend!” His free hand tugged up the side of Crowley’s black shirt and fingers darted up and down his ribs and stomach.

“No!” Crowley laughed, struggled, tried to push free. “You – you bastard!”

“I know all your weaknesses!” Aziraphale released his shoulder, and now both hands joined the attack, nearly discorporating Crowley on the spot. “Give up!”

“Aaaah,” Crowley managed, a terrifying battle cry, as his back arched and his fingers struggled to reach Aziraphale’s knees again. The bookshop echoed with combined laughter. At last he managed to twist and squirm free, belly-crawling across the floor.

“Get back here! M’not finished with you!” Aziraphale shuffled after him, on hands and knees, as Crowley rolled behind a bookshelf.

“Do your worst, bastard!”

“I shall! Wretched…wretch! You’ll rue the day I, er, you…ah…you’ll rue so much.”

Aziraphale might be ridiculously strong, but Crowley was far more maneuverable. He darted out, wriggling under the angel’s stomach, pulling himself free just as the angel collapsed onto the ground. Crowley grabbed his leg in triumph, fingers strumming around the knee like a first-time guitar player and, when Aziraphale was completely off his guard, leaned over and pressed his lips to the inside bend of Aziraphale’s knee.

“There. How you like that?”

“Oh.” Aziraphale pushed himself up and twisted, trying to face Crowley. There were tears in the corner of his eye, and still a flush on his cheeks. “Ah. Yes. I can see that…tha’s not unpleasant after all.”

“It isn’t?” Crowley tried again, just to be sure, giving the knee the same attention he’d paid Aziraphale’s wrist. It was softer, for certain; the hairs of his leg kept brushing Crowley’s lips, but that wasn’t unpleasant either, nor was the way Aziraphale squirmed and kicked under his ministrations.

“Ah – ah! No. It…Wait!” Crowley released him, and Aziraphale turned around, settling properly to sit with his legs crossed, hands resting on his knees. “It felt…diff’rent. Not bad, though. Like tickling, only…only less. Gentler? Quite intrik…entreeg…int’resting.” He frowned at his leg as if it had betrayed him. “Though why a spot like that there of all places…”

“Humans’re weird.” Crowley reminded him. “Their bodies, double weird.”

Aziraphale nodded sagely. “Yes. S’pose you’re right.” With a groan, he toppled over, lying on his back, arms spread to the side. “You are right. Don’t understand humans at all.”

“Pfft. No one does. They don’ make sense. Trust me. M’the expert.” He slithered closer, shifting into serpent form, sliding up Aziraphale’s body to coil on his stomach. “Ssssssseriousssly. Why kisssss at all?”

“It was enjoyable,” Aziraphale conceded, as brilliant flames of red and gold and white began to flick up his body, engulfing them both. “Very…exciting, but peaceful.”

“Sssssss,” Crowley hissed happily, sinking into the core of Aziraphale’s being, the center of the six interlocking flaming rings that bobbed gently towards the center of the shop. “It’ssssss fun, but…why lipsss? Sssslimy. Full of germs.”

“You think they ever bite by accident?” A hundred eyes – blue and green and gold – blinked into being, watching as Crowley’s flesh melted away, leaving only a red-black shadow, expanding as it twisted and turned back on itself eternally.

“I’m ssssure of it,” Crowley laughed, finding a size that fit comfortably in Aziraphale’s fires. They warmed him from the inside out, a sense of contentedness filled with bubbles of joy. “Never ssssay, but…you know humanssss. Probably enjoy the biting, too.”

“That can’t possibly be true.” Four wings shook into reality, wrapped around Crowley, enveloping him in feathers of pure fire. He let little smoky tendrils of himself weave among them.

“Bet you it issss.” Crowley chuckled, drifting off to sleep as Aziraphale filled his mind. “Don’t even try to undersssstand them. Humansssss. The Almighty’ssss mosssst bizarre creation.”

“On that we agree.” The voice echoed all through Crowley, gentle waves lapping at his thoughts. “Still. We could try the kissing again. I think it has potential.”

“Or tickling? That’ssssss fun, too.”

“Yes, dear.” A jolt of electricity shot through Crowley, teasing its way from one corner of his being to the next, lulling him into deep sleep. “Anything you like.”