“I never knew you could come up here,” Aziraphale says. “The view really is – quite something.”
Crowley, who has been distracted by Aziraphale managing to eat newspapered chips as if savouring the opening gambit at a Michelin restaurant, glances up and sees, as if for the first time, what Aziraphale is looking at.
It’s late evening in midsummer and, from the roof of Crowley’s building, the London skyline is a glorious silhouette against the evening sky, all pink and gold. It is, he has to admit, impressive.
“Well,” he says, “you’re not really meant to come up here. They’re not, I mean. But I thought you might like it.”
Aziraphale smiles at him.
In the days since the apocalypse that wasn’t, evenings like this have gone from quasi-regular occasions to commonplace ones. They have become tourists in a city that’s suddenly rediscovered it’s alive, whether in Brick Lane where Aziraphale bobs excitedly as he orders rich-tasting curries, or risking an urban shortage of strawberry fool as one blond angel conducts a systematic survey of dessert trolleys from Mayfair to Westminster via the capital’s great hotels.
Crowley has watched Aziraphale over espresso cups in Covent Garden and infuriatingly fragile teacups in Ladbroke Grove and from around the rim of wine-carrying containers in all points West, East, and in-between, and never found words to describe the view. They’ve finished up long evenings in sticky post-theatre Portuguese bars and bickered about the right way round Seven Dials. Aziraphale has firmed up his views on polenta and made friends with every artisanal hipster in town.
Crowley has watched him eat shortbread while listening to Big Ben sound out the evening.
There is still a London, and there is still an angel in it. Sometimes they both seem as if they’re his.
There have been mornings too, where they’ve gone with the mudlarkers and the metal-detecting weirdness aficionados (not with, Crowley would hasten to explain, just alongside) down the Thames to the best coffee and astonishingly sweet-sharp roast chestnuts, sold with doughnuts and scalding coffee from a pop-up kiosk now roughly the colour of mud. Aziraphale wore a creme caramel coat and raised his eyes heavenward as if in silent gratitude, and Crowley experienced and resisted the urge to flick out his tongue and lick burnt sugar from the angel’s mouth.
In all this time, no crumb has passed the demon’s lips.
It isn't as if nothing appeals. On the contrary, Crowley has cultivated particular culinary tastes of his own over the years: certainly, they tend to revolve around Turkish coffee thick enough to stand unaided, but he's indulged in more than his fair share of black olives and baklava, couscous and ouzo. If Aziraphale were to look in Crowley's bedside drawer, he would find slightly less than a quarter of a Green and Black's dark chocolate bar, nibbled down very gradually over the course of several weeks. Crowley does eat when the fancy takes him, which is more than occasionally. It's just that he's never, in six millennia of knocking about with him to one degree or another, eaten with Aziraphale.
Aziraphale would point it out, once upon a time. "Aren't you eating, dear?" "Won't you join me?" "Can I tempt you to a spot of Eton Mess?" Over the years, though, even these little entreaties have fallen away, as if Aziraphale has resigned himself to the idea that Crowley doesn't eat at all. The ‘we’ in ‘we had crepes’ is now an honorific. What Aziraphale doesn't seem to realise is that, when Crowley is sitting opposite the angel in a restaurant, chin propped in his palm while Aziraphale transports cheesecake to mouth with evident relish, he is nourishing himself, albeit not in the way one expects. Watching Aziraphale eat is a sensory experience in and of itself, topped only by the joy of providing (or best of all, inventing) something he then visibly enjoys. Crowley can barely keep a lid on what his face is doing as it is; he's sure he couldn't contain himself at all if he were to partake of the comestibles too.
Have you seen him, he wants to ask the waiter, have you actually seen him – no, don’t look, cover your face with a snowy white napkin, if you meet his gaze I shall be forced to enucleate you.
Aziraphale is willing to share his food but Crowley won’t share watching Aziraphale.
Crowley knows how he looks – astonishing hair, post-Camden clobber, the inference tired clubber’s eyes beneath the shades, and a lazily swaggering walk that’s (still) a bit like a snake unused to the novelty of legs, for all the great length of them. He gets that he attracts the glances, especially when he slithers into Claridge’s and orders six espresso martinis to Aziraphale’s one Sunday lunch (extra dauphinoise, extra carrots, cream of spinach). What Crowley does not get, what renders him incapable of getting the limits of the swarming clever idiots by whom and with whom and occasionally (via possession) in whom he’s spent the past six millennia, is that humans do not stare at Aziraphale when he eats.
The angel, of course, has excellent table manners. He doesn’t make loud gusts of appreciative noise – Crowley used to think he did. He used to think Aziraphale was embarrassingly loud when he ate, that this was the closest an angel could get to a sex noise. But after careful contemplation amounting to scrutiny and not letting even the sommelier approach the table, he realised that Aziraphale’s noises were discreet and infrequent but that he (poor hellhound in leggier form), had become so trained on the angel’s slightest sound that even the tiny half-murmur with which Aziraphale greets the first taste of April asparagus (a sound further muffled by the dab of lips with napkin) crashed down Crowley’s spine with indecent eroticism.
He knows it isn't exactly a healthy preoccupation. He knows this. On the other hand, he is, after all, a demon. Even without the Hellish higher-ups in the picture, Crowley still feels it's unrealistic for anyone to expect an upright and commendable approach to life from him. He's known demons be fixated on child murder and car crashes: in the grand scheme of things, it isn't hurting anyone if Crowley spends more time than he should thinking about what to feed his angel next.
Not that Aziraphale is his. He isn't anyone else's, either. Anyone trying to lay claim to Aziraphale would have a fight from Crowley on their hands before they knew where they were.
Look, it's complicated.
The thing about Aziraphale is quite simply this: Crowley can never have enough of him. God, Satan, everyone knows he's tried. Crowley has spent centuries glutting himself on the sight of him only to be empty again days later, wondering whether it's too soon to show his face in the bookshop. Aziraphale drifts from brasserie to bar in his quest to indulge in the best of human culinary expertise; Crowley follows after, because he knows Aziraphale will be there.1 It isn't enough, but it's something, and the only thing Crowley can ever expect.
The sunset catches Aziraphale's hair, lending it an unaccustomed rose-gold hue, and Crowley lets himself admire it for a moment. Aziraphale looks rapt, the corners of his mouth upturned. Crowley can think of more than one painting he resembles; he's always suspected Aziraphale of having served as the muse (unwitting or otherwise) for several of art's great angel-obsessives. Not that he was ever painted with £7.50's2 worth of Mr Speedy's finest half-eaten in his lap, but Crowley thinks there could be something in it.
"Had enough yet?" Crowley asks, because he himself isn't sure he can take any more. Another second, and Aziraphale By Sunset might take its place alongside Aziraphale Eating as one of his Achilles' heels, and Crowley knows the stories -- one of those is dangerous enough; two is a death sentence.
“Mmm? Mm.” Aziraphale sweeps invisible vinegar from his lips. “Oh, I suppose so.” He shivers, unexpectedly, and Crowley feels the answering and immediate impulse to spread his wings, extend one across the angel. The demon ignores the impulse, but not the shiver.
“You can’t be cold, surely.”
“It is breezy. Although you don’t think so.” Aziraphale looks slightly reproachfully and in several stages at Crowley’s forearms (the way he looks at any bit of Crowley).
Crowley considers it. He doesn’t think so. Demons run warm, after all.
“Is that why you’re always in nineteen layers?”
Aziraphale protests. “Four.” Crowley smiles. “What?”
“We can go inside,” Crowley says, and rejoices. Aziraphale’s face clears.
“I can see how the aspidistra is faring.”
“Flying fine,” Crowley promises him brightly, holding out his arm. “Help you down the ladder?”
It’s self-indulgent, he knows. The ladder that leads down from the uppermost part of the roof is treacherous at the best of times, a serious trip hazard when it’s rained, and really impossible to ameliorate with any kind of communal approach. Aziraphale, who came up that way, knows this. But he takes Crowley’s arm anyway, and Crowley allows himself a moment’s self-congratulation as he leads Aziraphale towards the trapdoor on the far side of the building.
“Go on then,” Crowley says when they reach it. “You first. I’ll help you down.”
He doesn’t so much help as superfluously touch as Aziraphale clambers down the ladder to the landing. When Crowley follows after, he feels his heart list oddly to the left as Aziraphale’s hands brush his hips, then settle on his waist in a well-meant gesture of guidance.3
“Thanks,” he says, and imagines the angel looks a little pink when he ducks his head and then raises it again, telling Crowley not to mention it.
Crowley hadn’t had an aspidistra. Not before that day. When he had come back to the flat, after the Ritz and the nightingale and Green Park and a tipsy Aziraphale saying owlish and funny things about the literary notions of Hatchard’s, he had found it, nascent and verdant in what had been a totally empty container. In a plant pot intended as a terrifying reminder to houseplants yet unpulped what kind of unmarked ceramic grave awaited anything less than a MGM triffid circa 1936.
Aziraphale had used the pot for an aspidistra.
It had immediately flourished.
Something had happened to the plants. Aziraphale had happened. They’d stopped trembling. They were still verdant. They were still luscious and luxurious and worth an entire greenhouse at Kew (or at least the florist’s concession at Liberty’s). But, since Aziraphale, they’d started to flower.
Whether or not it's readily visible, behind his sunglasses, Crowley finds himself side-eyeing that metaphor very hard.
And yet the plants go on blooming.
Aziraphale is pleased by this, exclaiming over side-shoots and praising new leaf-buds as he makes his way around the flat, choosing to ignore Crowley’s constant reversal of the let-there-be-light optatives he sings out in any given corner of Crowley’s modishly gloomy, line-free, slablike vault of a lair. Crowley objects to the affectionate triumph Aziraphale invests in the flowers, like he objects to any affection the angel misdirects away from Crowley and Things Crowley Can Get For Him, but he’s not really surprised Aziraphale’s become such an evangelist for domestic horticulture in the sleek city flat of Anthony J Crowley. Ever since the world didn’t end and they weren’t successfully murdered by their respective occult line managers in the least favourable PDRs of all time, the flat has, unmistakeably, begun to feel a little like Aziraphale’s.
After all, he’s spent the night there.
In the general scheme of things, Aziraphale doesn't tend to sleep. As such, 'spending the night' has something of a different meaning for him than it might for a human: Aziraphale spends the night in his bookshop flat to avoid unwanted entanglements with the insalubrious types who emerge, blinking, into Soho in darkness, but he doesn't go to bed. Strictly speaking, he doesn't have a bed at all, although there is a well-loved chaise longue onto which Crowley has, over the course of several years, piled a frankly astonishing number of cushions. After the failed apocalypse, though -- after the long journey back from darkest Oxfordshire in a bus that smelled of stale chips and frustration -- at that point, Aziraphale very much felt he needed to spend the night somewhere and, moreover, he needed to lie down.
It isn't a need that comes over him often. Aziraphale is more than fond of his creature comforts -- one reason the cavernous sparsity of Crowley's flat seemed so alien to him at first. But occasionally, a sort of heaviness creeps in, urging him down like gravity. It was evident from the look on Crowley's face when they entered the flat that he, too, felt the inevitable pull. And so they'd gone in silence to Crowley's bedroom, with its pristine king bed and fifty-nine pillows, and in silence they'd got into it (or rather, onto it. Aziraphale hadn't liked to untuck the counterpane).4 Aziraphale had stared at the ceiling for a long time, then pulled himself up on his elbow to say something, only to find that Crowley had gone to sleep.
Since then, he's discovered that Crowley actually sleeps a lot. Not, he supposes, in human terms -- it certainly isn't regular, cyclical, as it is for them. But it's frequent: an hour here, three days there. He seems even to have indulged in it so much that he actually gets tired in the evenings, which Aziraphale can't quite understand. It's such a very vulnerable thing to do, to shut oneself off from the world like that. It makes Aziraphale feel protective in a way he can't define. It's entirely possible that he's spending more time with Crowley (he tells himself) because, now that he knows Crowley does it, he feels almost guilty about leaving him to sleep unguarded.
Now, as Crowley opens the flat with a wave of his hand (Hell forbid Crowley should bother himself with anything so mundane and boring as a key ) Aziraphale looks around with some satisfaction at the little jungle of plants all flourishing so sweetly. Crowley clocks the direction of his gaze and bumps their shoulders together in a way that's probably meant to be admonishment, but feels altogether too companionable for that.
"Looking on your works?" Crowley doesn't look at him as he speaks, slinking off ahead, and Aziraphale cannot help but follow the mesmerising motion of his hips as he walks. How Crowley navigates London unmolested is beyond him; it can only be demonic magic.
"Yes, but hardly despairing, dear boy."
"They're happy," Crowley acknowledges. "S'long as they don't get complacent, we'll all get along."
Crowley grins back over one pointy shoulder, clicks his fingers. A chunk of one wall is surprised to find it’s become a television screen – something of an upgrade, a “gift” from Adam. “What do you want to drink?” he asks, strolling in the direction of the kitchen (Aziraphale puts disapproving little speech marks around the term, given its inoperation in the traditional sense), and swallowing a yawn which does odd things to Aziraphale’s chest. The demon calls back: “Choose a show. What do you want?”
Aziraphale is instantly panicked. Television-watching never goes well. The plots are complicated and over-stimulating; he’s sure the colours give him a headache, and Crowley gets infuriated and won’t answer any of his questions. Aziraphale does try not to get distracted, but in six thousand years of human experience, it is likely that most new faces will remind him of someone, and he can hardly be expected to use the websites himself. “White,” he answers, hearkening back to Crowley’s first question and determinedly ignoring what’s happened since (something of a personal manifesto).
Crowley is yawning again as he comes back, bottle of white, two glasses, and a squat, scarlet-orange – “Oh, have they come back?” Aziraphale asks delightedly, and Crowley transfigures him (smiling, crooked) a second Negroni. Aziraphale beams at him roughly like Judy Garland in any musical of the 1940s, and they sit (Aziraphale in straightforward relation to the sofa, Crowley as though furniture is a vague and insulting insult). He leans, sprawls, and eventually comes to rest with his hip not far from the angel’s knee. He yawns.
“What’re we watching? Not the news,” he adds, urgently.
“No, no. But I did check – nothing.”
“The breather breathes on.”
“Yes, dear. Everything’s fine.”
“I know it’s fine,” Crowley snaps.
“But it is fine.”
“Then stop saying so!”
Aziraphale sighs, Crowley regrets. Then the angel, uncharacteristically (he thinks) but less uncharacteristically as of late, reaches out and rests a gentle hand on Crowley’s arm. Crowley looks up and is idiot enough to think that his glasses and his demonic wiles can do anything whatsoever to conceal the expression on his face. Aziraphale, in his turn, looks both tremulous, and kind.
“Why don’t we give Fleabag another go?”
Two episodes later, Crowley is asleep. Aziraphale only notices it when he reaches the bottom of his glass and looks up furtively to see whether Crowley, too, would have a top-up, only to see the demon's eyes closed, the blue-green light from the television screen alternately highlighting and shadowing the planes and angles of his face. His posture hasn't changed at all from the quasi-horizontal lean he affects when relaxing, and yet the stillness of sleep sits oddly on him, Aziraphale thinks. It makes Aziraphale feel anxious, as if he should shake Crowley awake just to be sure he still can.
"Don't be a fool," he chides himself under his breath, and leans forward to turn the television off. (He's informed there's a way of doing this using the remote control, and also something about voice commands, but Aziraphale prefers to manually flick the switch and be sure of things).5 He can only imagine how cantankerous Crowley would be if woken unexpectedly, and Aziraphale has had too much wine to deal with that just at the moment. He presses his lips together and tries to crush the niggling, unsettled feeling out of the pit of his stomach.
It would be simple enough to put Crowley to bed -- barely even a miracle, really. But if Aziraphale does that, and stays out here himself, he won't be able to see the subtle rise and fall of Crowley's chest as it shifts with his breath, or the way his eyelashes flicker. Does he dream? Can he? The uncertainty of dreams has always frightened Aziraphale. Of course, one might be blessed by a passing angel, but what about the converse? If he were human, he thinks, the openness of it would worry him.
No, Aziraphale decides, if Crowley is to be tucked up in his bed, Aziraphale will simply have to go with him. Crowley's bedroom, like the rest of the flat, is devoid of anything comfortable, but Aziraphale can produce a suitable armchair without much effort, and a book to read. Satisfied with his decision, Aziraphale concentrates on returning the booze in his body to the bottles whence it came, and moves Crowley to the bedroom with a thought.
Crowley stirs, but only when Aziraphale removes his shoes (thoughts 2 and 3) and mentally whisks round the bedsheets to check no dirt remains. He doesn’t open his eyes, though, and Aziraphale is able to settle into his new chair (which turns out, after a second, not to be wingbacked, and thus affords a pleasant view of the bed) and into his new novel. The latter is of a kind which would usually earn him rebarbative commentary from Crowley, who hates Aziraphale reading in his presence.
An hour in, Aziraphale cannot concentrate. Of course, there’s nothing to stop him going home, back to the bookshop, for a soothing nocturnal trawl through the Sotheby’s website, or across town to Hyde Park, or down to Vauxhall and the ultimate prospect of the New Covent Garden market. It’s just that Crowley might be offended, and they did have vague plans for breakfast (or, rather, during a commercial break, Crowley had said “look, shut up about kedgeree, angel; I’ll take you for some tomorrow, just concentrate!”).
It’s just that he never sees Crowley this peaceful.
He doesn’t mean to stare. It is simply a fact that, as circumstances would have it, staring at Crowley is more engaging than Aziraphale’s paperback, or the thought of a walk, or the idea of (say it quietly) using the time to exercise (Aziraphale had idly, without conviction, floated the idea that he ought perhaps to do something to counter all the Danish pastries.7 Obviously reducing his consumption was not an option, but he was getting rather round. Crowley, without sparing him a glance, had declared it a ridiculous notion; Aziraphale now wants to prove him wrong, but not quite enough to actually do anything about it). Not that looking at a peaceful Crowley leaves Aziraphale feeling especially peaceful. In fact, it leaves him feeling agitated, wistful, yearning – even jittery. All four are emotional valences which would usually see him reaching for a snack.
It’s very obvious Crowley doesn’t eat, he thinks fretfully, looking at the long, narrow lines of his body, in that endless sprawl across the big, expensive bed. He looks as if he's been daubed there in acrylics. Quite unaware of Crowley's own opinions on the subject of Aziraphale and his place in art history, Aziraphale has always thought of Crowley as the definite inspiration (unwitting or otherwise, though Crowley is always essentially witting ) behind most of the unfairly gorgeous demons ever committed to stone or parchment -- where ‘demon’ is a general artistic and aesthetic portmanteau for lust, cheekbones, and a basic hard-wired ability to look sexy even (perhaps ‘especially’) when sleeping.8
Aziraphale stares intently at Crowley for another minute then feels it’s really the right time to get out of his chair. He heads towards the kitchen (“kitchen”), not in any real hope but because it’s an automatic reflex when he’s worried in the middle of the night, and because perhaps by inwardly disparaging Crowley’s stupid sink and egregious lack of pan drawers, he can distract himself from all the more problematic thoughts circling his head. He’s double-dipped into the most problematic of these thoughts, the one that’s been an above-water thought since 1941 and a bloody kraken of an underwater yearning for years before, 9 and he could really go for some carbs.
Aziraphale is aware that he has a tendency to, as the Americans put it, eat his feelings. He doesn’t at all see why this is anything other than a tip-top coping mechanism, having been engaging in it for several millennia to generally good effect. He shouldn’t, as an angel, want to sully his temple with three quarters of a tube of ready salted Pringles (and the final quarter half an hour later after much self-delusion, obviously) but it somehow always seems less of a sin than letting himself indulge in the Other Thought, that particular treacherous craving which has crept across his mind for years.
Crowley does not, of course, have any Pringles.10 He does have bread, miraculously not out of date, or at least not actually developing its own ecosystem. Aziraphale dutifully extracts two slices and toasts them under the grill, while trying not to let his mind wander back to the long sprawl of Crowley’s body or the way he smiles when he thinks Aziraphale can’t see him.11 He’s thought about Crowley like this for long enough that it’s become a part of him, but all this recent nuisance with preventing the apocalypse has rather stirred it all up to the surface, like muck in a garden pond. Aziraphale miserably applies half a block of butter to his toast and eats it without cutting it up, truly an indication that he’s distracted.
It’s when he puts the butter back that he finds something worse to distract him. Not being as tall as Crowley, he hadn’t given the fridge’s top shelf any thought - he’d just seen the butter among the Perrier and the wine and the tonic and the lemons, straight ahead, and reached. Certainly it’s odd that there was butter and bread at all, but it doesn’t yet seem remarkable. Perhaps Crowley had planned to tempt someone with some toast (this seems perfectly plausible to Aziraphale; Crowley with hot buttery sourdough would constitute a major temptation, an irresistible wile). It’s even possible that Adam popped it in there, a child’s attempt at the shopping list (Aziraphale wonders if he himself placed it there, in thought, but knows that if he had, he’d have miracled some jam or possibly some potted shrimp).
But none of this would explain the top shelf.
Aziraphale levitates an astonished six inches to inspect it. There, incredulously (and it takes a lot for angels to be incredulous, their native natures being inevitably quite the opposite), he finds seven boxes from the Selfridge Food Hall, another two from Harrod’s and another one from - his heart spasms - that little cafe near Tite Street, where he has eaten so often and Crowley, he thought, never.
He must confess that few of the foods are precisely what he would have chosen, excluding the rich banana cheesecake from Chelsea which he knows will just make him cry if he thinks of it for too long. But the rest – olives, shrimp, some sort of complicated smokey thing, jackfruit, crabmeat, and more – these are Crowley. There are preferences here, choices and inclinations which Aziraphale wot not of, and above all there are signs Crowley eats. With care and deliberation. From some of the same places the angel so enjoys.
But he only does so without Aziraphale.
Aziraphale remembers a Sienese merchant’s wife hurling missiles from her balcony during the heatwave of 1563. She’d found her husband Giacamo in bed with their manservant Lando, and was accordingly pelting every item from that bed, excluding the man and the manservant, into the courtyard, while violently weeping. Bolster, bedsheet, pillow and counterpane flew through the air and into the dust, while Aziraphale slipped the lovers a thousand ducats and suggested Venice, and arranged for Maddalena’s steady childhood friend Luca to make a surprise visit from his Tuscan estate. Aziraphale had sat beside her on the balcony, stroked the hair that had painters circling like vultures, privately sighed over the page’s cheekbones, and made small talk about how crowded the city was becoming these days. Below them, the remaining servants (those not fleeing north in their employer’s embrace) shook out and refolded everything she’d thrown.
Now, gazing at the illuminated boxes with handwritten labels, modish string, and a wide array of comestibles unshared, Aziraphale feels rather inclined to do some throwing, himself.
It would be the act of a madman to storm in and wake Crowley up to demand answers. Aziraphale knows this, but has to squeeze his hands very firmly into fists for a long moment while he forces himself to picture how it would look. The memory of that Italian summer still at the forefront of his mind, Aziraphale pictures himself inexplicably in sixteenth century dress as he mentally traverses the flat and bursts into Crowley's room, jolting him from slumber with a cry of rage. Demon, Aziraphale imagines himself shouting, there is cake from Fortnum and Mason's in your fridge. You have been to Selfridge's Food Hall without me. Explain this betrayal at once.
Even in his mind, Aziraphale is shrill, unsteady, and generally ridiculous. He cannot try to take Crowley to task for buying food. But the feeling now expanding within Aziraphale's ribcage doesn't feel ridiculous. It feels like a pain, even if it's one Aziraphale would be at a loss to explain in words that wouldn't sound absurd.
Why don't you want to eat with me? No, hardly better. Why are you eating in secret? That sounds like someone about to perform an intervention and advise an eating disorder recovery clinic. Aziraphale sighs. He doesn't like to admit it, but it seems there's very little he can do about his irrational bad mood but fume. Saying anything to Crowley would only serve to make him look unhinged.
Aziraphale is firm and resolute on this matter, right until the very moment Crowley emerges, yawning, from the bedroom some five hours later. Aziraphale has a(nother) book in his hand, but it has done very little to distract him from his fuming, mental rending of garments, and deep-seated introspective despair. When Crowley pads in, barefoot and with his jeans barely clinging to his hips, Aziraphale means to say good morning, but somehow what comes out is, in an excruciating schoolmatronly tone, "I didn't know you liked moussaka."
“Ngk?” asks Crowley, as if Aziraphale’s speaking madness which it would be exhausting to translate, and waves a vague hand that summons a sleek black shell of plastic from a cupboard. Said shell, in fact a coffee machine devoid of buttons, capsules, or power source, in turn produces two espressi, one of which turns out to be loose-leaf tea. Aziraphale has seen this done plenty of times, had in fact only ignored said cupboard last night because he wanted refined starch and not caffeine, but now enacts a further pantomime of betrayal, vaguely windmilling with one arm while pointing the other in a manner last seen in William Macready.
“And what else have you got?” he demands. “A chocolate fountain? Slabs of Argentine beef? An orange grove? Birthday cake?” He is beginning to suspect that Crowley might have been responsible for the Highbury Spanikopita Famine of ‘08, but decides, after a moment’s reverberating anger, that the suspicion is beneath him. As is flinging open the fridge door and pointing dramatically at the tub of marinated prawns, but that is an urge he’s less able to restrain.
Crowley's eyes, without the customary dark glasses, are still bleary with sleep; they follow the direction of Aziraphale's outstretched arm with a slowness Aziraphale finds excruciating. A languid serpentine blink, and then, "Prawns?"
How dare he, Aziraphale thinks to himself, how dare he say unto me: 'prawns' as if innocent!
"Prawns!" repeats Aziraphale accusingly.
Crowley looks at him for another moment, then rubs one hand over his face and hisses. "Prawns. Look, angel, I can't think straight before I've had my coffee, you know that. Maybe you'll make sense in a minute, if you'll just --"
"I am making," Aziraphale declares, "perfectly good sense already." The anger is coursing fiercely through him now, reinvigorated by Crowley's gall in pretending not to understand the issue. "There is food in your fridge, Crowley! There is a lot of food in your fridge,12 from all sorts of places we've gone together, and I've never seen you eat anything more than a cocktail olive -- and then only because it happened to be in my martini!"
"You don't like them," Crowley points out helpfully.
"That," says Aziraphale tartly, "is not the point."
Crowley regards him for a moment -- the look on his face makes Aziraphale want to smack it, an urge unbecoming of an angel but surely understandable under the circumstances -- and then asks, "What is the point, then?"
He still sounds tired, but something about the way he looks at Aziraphale makes the brunt of the rage dissolve instantaneously, sliding into a sort of dull regret or resignation. Aziraphale presses his lips together and then says, much more quietly, "I just don't understand why, if you do actually eat after all -- for pleasure -- why you'd rather do it alone than with me."
Ah, thinks Crowley, because he’s still pre-caffeinated, and thus the ah has to be a placeholder for all sorts of more interesting thoughts, about Aziraphale and his stupid hair and the fact that there’s a butter-knife and breadknife drying beside a plate on the draining-board, even though Crowley has always owned a dishwasher and never (for example) a red tartan tea-towel. Or the fact that he woke up to see a not-wingbacked chair by his bedside, and the tea-towel’s big woolly brother rumpled on the seat, and yet another of Aziraphale’s boring books about ageing humans failing to get their rocks off on a university campus. Almost - and pre-rising, pre-slinking, pre-very-careful arranging of both hair and jeans to make himself look like he gave a fuck about neither, this had been a comforting, wonderful thought – as if Aziraphale had been keeping watch.
All in all, it's a shame that the angel has chosen this moment to discover his stores.
Crowley can't pretend not to know why Aziraphale is upset. On the face of it, it would be very easy to behave as if the angel were being ridiculous (gaslighting: one of Crowley's most devilish inventions) but he doesn't think he has the heart to carry on with it for long. He has, after all, conducted a very deliberate act of subterfuge over the course of several centuries: he would go to lunch somewhere with Aziraphale, pay dedicated attention to every bite consumed, and commit to memory the precise expressions that crossed Aziraphale's face as he marvelled and forked and savoured and swallowed. He would listen to the angel praise whatever it was, detailing the precise elements of the thing that made it, in culinary terms, sing. When offered anything of his own, Crowley would demur.
And then, when Aziraphale was safely back in his bookshop, on those occasions when it had been most horrendously difficult to bear, when Crowley had resisted with the greatest difficulty leaning across the table and swallowing the cake off the fork, and the cake off the plate, and the expression off the face of the angel via a kiss tasting of pistachio and lemon, or chocolate and rose, or the rich and agonising difficulty of loving one feathery bastard for six thousand all-consuming years, Crowley would double back. He’d double on himself, usually while the staff were still shouting about the tip and pouring champagne, and get himself something in a takeaway box. The contents of said box would then be consumed very slowly, furtively, in the sanctity 13 of his own flat, where he could use it as a means of dwelling more on the thought of the angel, rather than simply being distracted by it.
It was, very definitely, a deliberate decision on Crowley's part. A series of deliberate decisions, even. He's just somehow never expected to be found out.
"It's not like I was eating with anyone else, angel," Crowley says eventually.
Aziraphale sucks in an outraged breath and gives it the full dowager in nightgown, conveying both that he had never imagined Crowley could do such a thing but also, interestingly, that he’d murder whoever it was if he had .
"But why," he asks tightly, after he's very visibly gathered himself up like a pencil pleat curtain. He pauses, looking at Crowley with the exact plaintive expression Crowley has spent a hundred lifetimes trying to avoid because it is, once seen, utterly irresistible. Everything in Crowley yearns to respond, even the parts which are supposedly geared towards causing widespread perturbation and despair, or at least mischief and aggravation. Crowley, with a great effort of will, looks away.
Aziraphale, damn him, notices at once. His voice rises sharply in pitch. "Don't look away from me like that, dear. It's a simple enough question."14
It isn't, though. It isn't, and both of them know it. There is no simple reason for Crowley to have spent centuries watching Aziraphale eat and then eating the same things later, in secret, on his own; and, Crowley thinks, neither is there any good explanation for Aziraphale's apparent distress at the thought of Crowley partaking in these little luxuries with someone else. It's only food, after all, except that, once again, of course it isn't.
Crowley tries his best to assume an insouciant, devil-may-care (but probably doesn’t!!) attitude, which mostly consists of cocking one hip even further to one side than usual.15 "Felt like it, all right?" For all its inadequacies as a response, at least it's true.
“But what,” Aziraphale starts, and oh Satan , if he’s going to do The Voice as well. Crowley mentally slithers his way into a sort of writhing sub-pile of mildly sulphurous agony. “What would be so terrible – so terrible about eating with me?”
“I can’t – eat – when you’re eating too.” He’s furious with Aziraphale for not understanding. And now he’s looked at him again, and it’s dreadful. His stupid fucking hair. His mouth. How his eyes go when he’s just ordered carbonara, not sad and stumped like this, but, “I can’t - the same – ”
“But I don’t understand,” is the bewildered reply. “Have you got - is this - Crowley, have you got some sort of thing about – “ the angel is looking genuinely panicked, and also anxiously raking Crowley’s torso, much in the same way that Crowley thinks about raking Aziraphale’s torso, only Crowley wants to do it with not just his eyes but his fingers and possibly also a dripping forkful of overly expensive wine-soaked coulis that Aziraphale will then taste off his own skin, via Crowley’s tongue. The sudden vision of fucking Aziraphale across the Langham Hotel’s dessert trolley makes it rather difficult to respond with composure.
“I do not have a thing about food,” he grinds out, seething. “I have a thing about you. And food. And private.” Bad to worse. “I like to eat in private! Is that okay? Your lot are always eating in private. Don’t get an invite to that, do I? Transubstantiation. Weird churchy cannibalism. This is my body, which bit of it, arm of Jesus? Leg of Jesus? Eye of newt and toe of frog –” Aziraphale, as Crowley knew he would, stops his ears against the blasphemy.
“A Selfridge’s wiener schnitzel is not a theological issue, Crowley!”
“It would be for some,” Crowley roars back, “it’s kosher!”
Aziraphale breathes. Deeply. Shuts the fridge door again, because of the ozone layer, and because the waft of garlic is making him feel peckish. “This isn’t theology, Crowley. It’s not about sides. It’s us. Personal.” Aziraphale nudges the word out like he’s a bit scared of it and would prefer the stakes not to get above ankle-height. Crowley’s just starting to make appalled faces into the silence when Aziraphale, quarantining his anguished gaze elsewhere like he does when he’s trying to remind himself of something cruel and (Crowley knows) telling himself it’d be a jolly good thing if he bucked up and was tough and didn’t get all silly about it, says in an anguished quaver, “I know I’m very greedy, but –”
“No, nonono, no, no, no, stop,” Crowley insists, advancing in self-disembowelling anguish because he cannot cope with that: Aziraphale’s self-recrimination is worse than someone brandishing holy water or casually chucking Chick Tracts around, because at least in those situations he has a healthy demonic desire to run. Whenever Aziraphale’s in self-loathing distress, Crowley finds it almost impossible to stay at arm’s length. And this mess is of his infernal making.
He doesn’t actually touch the angel (he’s doing a sort of frenetic shifting dance that’s like the burn of a hot church floor, though without anything like the excuse), but he hovers, slouchy and stricken, and protests. The tone of the angel’s voice is exactly like the one from the I-need-to-do-something-about-those-Danish-pastries discussion, a complete waste of ten minutes of their eternal lives together that he’s never prepared to revisit, because Aziraphale has only fucking improved on what heaven gave him, and Crowley would no more change an inch of him than he would join the Countryside Alliance. 16
Crowley stares at the angel’s sad, flustered face, and feels all the fight in him sink downwards like candied lemon in an under-floured cake. 17 Six thousand years spent deftly avoiding romantic humiliation, undone by prawns, moussaka, cheesecake and a Food Hall binge.
And because the angel looks upset.
He draws a breath.
“The thing is, angel,” he hears himself saying, as if from a great distance, “I get how you are about food, I do, because that’s —" (enormous sigh) “—that’s how I am about you. Except I can’t buy you in Selfridges and then eat you with too much cream, so one does what one must and all that. You see?”
Aziraphale is blinking at him as if he’s grown a second head — Crowley knows, because it’s happened before. There doesn’t seem much call for it now, however.
Eventually Aziraphale says faintly, “I’m afraid I don’t,” and Crowley mentally stabs himself.
“You’re going to make me say it again?”
“You haven’t said it once,” Aziraphale says, sounding equal parts confused and distressed now. “You don’t want to eat food with me, even though you do actually want to eat it at home, because you —“
“Because,” Crowley says, exasperated and panicking more than a little and hoping it doesn’t show, “when I see you eating I’m too busy looking at you to concentrate on anything else, except possibly only looking at you. And then when you’ve gone, I buy the food so I can think about you more, on my own, sometimes to bebop.” He is, he thinks, actually blushing now, which shouldn’t even be possible. “I have the meal again.” Aziraphale has stopped speaking. Crowley vaguely thinks he might have stopped breathing. “Now, will you do me a favour and promise never to bring this up again, before I have to go and discorporate myself somewhere? Seems a shame after everything we’ve gone through.”
“No,” says Aziraphale quietly.
Crowley narrows his eyes. “No?”
“No, Crowley,” repeats the angel. Crowley fancies he can almost hear the wheels turning in Aziraphale’s head, which is alarming, to say the least. “If you’re saying — I could be entirely wrong, of course, but if you’re saying what I think you’re saying, I’m afraid I can’t possibly just never mention it again.”
Don’t say it, Crowley cautions himself frantically. Don’t say it, don’t say it —
“What do you think I’m saying?”
For the first time since this hellish conversation began, Aziraphale looks at him directly, clear-eyed, brave. Crowley can barely stand it.
“For complicated reasons of your own,” Aziraphale says, “you can’t or won’t eat with me because you like me — too much?”
“I didn’t say it was too much.”
“Too much to eat with me.”
“Too much just to eat with you. When you’re – eating. And – so on.”
“I – my dear,” says the angel, and holds up a hand as if Crowley were about to interrupt him, which he isn’t, having run out of anything to say and also sanity several sentences ago, “forgive me if I’m missing something, and this need only be a momentary tangent, but – as you assure me this is not a slur on my table etiquette, what’s so very remarkable about the way I eat?”
Crowley feels more than a bit helpless. It isn’t, he thinks frantically, anything about the way Aziraphale eats so much as it’s the fact of Aziraphale eating — Aziraphale indulging, even. The blissful expression that crosses Aziraphale’s face when they’re out at a particularly good restaurant is just a more frequently and publicly seen picture than the way the angel’s brows knit together, for example, when he’s having his back kneaded expertly at the Not A Brothel across the street, something Crowley witnessed once inadvertently and has suffered over ever since. Or the way Aziraphale smiles to himself contentedly when he’s especially carried away by a piece of music (and the fucking abominable things he does with his hands). It’s Aziraphale enjoying himself, in visceral ways, which Crowley can’t stand, but trying to express this —
“Look,” he says, strangled, “Better if I just show you, angel.”
He opens the fridge, and takes out a box. Clicks his fingers and lifts a fork. Sets the box on the dining table, seats himself and holds out the fork, the handle towards Aziraphale.
Aziraphale looks at the fork in silence, but draws up a chair, and takes the fork. Crowley can’t help leaning in.
“What do you want me to do -“
“This is a very odd fetish to -“
“It’s not just about the food, angel, please. Just. It’s you - enjoying. Things.” Crowley is aware his voice has got high and tight.
Aziraphale’s cheeks match the cherry red of his lips. “I don’t see what’s so enjoyable about watching me eat cheesecake at eight o’clock in the morning – oh, I say.”
Crowley has flipped the lid open. Aziraphale looks enchanted. “The smell! Crowley, my dear, I quite -– what on Earth are you looking at?”
“You. You do this – when you. Your eyes get huge. Genuinely illuminated. Whenever you’re sad you look like I’ll never see it again, and then. Go on, have a bite.”
“I’m not a performing monkey. Although these bananas do look –" Aziraphale hesitates, fork poised over the cream and fruit, and Crowley forces himself to sit back in his seat. Aziraphale has licked his lips with the furthermost tip of his perfect, celestial tongue. Crowley imagines those white teeth savouring his flesh. That tongue on his skin. Aziraphale’s fingertips twitch. “Oh, very well.”
He knows this isn’t normal. God, Crowley knows. But as Aziraphale delicately cuts off an edge of cheesecake with the side of his fork and transports it carefully to his mouth, both of them are, Crowley notes giddily, wearing the same expression. Aziraphale looks anticipatory, rapt. So does Crowley.
The cheesecake hits its mark, and Aziraphale makes a sound that wouldn’t be out of place in Amsterdam’s red light district, were the girls better actresses. Crowley tries and fails not to bite his lip. Aziraphale has closed his eyes, long eyelashes feathering against his cheekbones. Crowley is now free to look at his mouth, with its perfect Cupid’s bow and beautifully curved underlip. So far, so several centuries familiar.
Then Aziraphale opens his eyes and looks at Crowley.
“This,” he observes, “is astonishing.”
“I can see that,” Crowley says. “You look like you’re enjoying it.”
“I am,” Aziraphale confirms. There’s a flush across his cheekbones now, pink and high.
You’re so good at enjoying yourself, Crowley thinks desperately. You’re so good at pleasure.
Aziraphale tastes another mouthful. Swallows. He looks almost contemplative. “I wish you’d join me.”
The suggestion licks over Crowley’s body like tongues of hellfire. “I can’t,” he says, automatic. “Like I said —“
“Like you said,” Aziraphale echoes, carefully, “you’re frightened to. But you don’t have to be. I’m with you.” He cuts off a sliver of cheesecake and spears it with the fork, then holds it out. “Here. Try.”
Aziraphale’s pupils, Crowley notes dazedly, have gone wide and dark. His breathing has quickened, a match to Crowley’s own.
“You’re much better at this,” Crowley says, or starts to, but it all gets sort of lost in the way that Aziraphale is looking at him.
“Try,” Aziraphale prompts him, except now it’s the most velvet-clad order Crowley has ever heard.
The demon writhes. But he’d need a miracle not to obey.
He leans forward, closes his eyes, and tastes.
“Oh, well done, my dear,” Aziraphale says, while Crowley’s eyes are still shut. “Delicious, isn’t it? Will you have another, darling?”
Crowley manages to open his eyes.
He’s frightened, thinks Aziraphale, the notion rapid and excited in his mind. He’s been frightened. I hadn’t noticed. He’s frightened of - what? Me? Himself. Sensation. He thinks that if we share a pudding he’ll go up like straw (oh dear, terribly mixed metaphors). I didn’t know. And it’s not - it’s not only food. I see it now.
“Pleasure isn’t something one is good at, Crowley,” he says gently, just as Crowley’s accepted another mouthful. “It’s something one allows oneself. Enjoys. Not something to achieve.”
That’s what he says . What he’s thinking, of course, is rather more complex. It’s a motion, as of wings beating, hovering initially over a manicurist’s in Covent Garden, gliding past the Opera House — though that, of course, is pleasure too — and circling towards the Turkish baths in Wardour Street, the skilful gentleman masseur in Rupert Street (not Rupert Court, darling, the one with the fluffy towels — I’d tell him what to do to you; no, better still, I’d learn); to all the places in London, even only in Aziraphale’s interesting, interested little corner of it, where Crowley might find pleasure joyfully, willingly obtained. And thence, of course — though Aziraphale has never approached it from the air, he can image very readily – to his bookshop. To that particular roof, and the particular small bedroom beneath, and the blanket-topped, cushion-crowded bed where —
His thoughts stutter and run out. Temporarily.
On the opposite side of the table, Crowley is looking at him with eyes gone soft and dark. He’s waiting, Aziraphale recognises suddenly. Afraid, yes, and uncertain, but believing on some level that Aziraphale can be trusted to; that Aziraphale will know what comes next. Aziraphale has no real idea at all, but the thought still makes his chest ache sweetly, the protective urge rising. For Crowley — Crowley — to look at him like that, as if he would obey any order Aziraphale issued —
“Are you enjoying that, Crowley?” he asks.
A flush creeps up from the collar of Crowley’s shirt, up his neck. Aziraphale watches its progress with interest. He wonders if Crowley would flush like that if Aziraphale were to kiss him, there at the notch of his collarbone, and the thought makes Aziraphale’s own pulse quicken.
Crowley opens his mouth, but no sound emerges. Aziraphale can’t remember ever having seen him dumbstruck. He leans across the table and, buoyed up by the look on Crowley’s face, lays his fingers on Crowley’s narrow wrist.
“You know,” he says, “I like to see you enjoy yourself, too, darling.”
Crowley of course doesn’t need to have a pulse, but he does, and it’s rapid. He can’t say anything. Not even a collection of vowels. The angel is talking. “There are lots of ways to go about it. You don’t have to do it in secret.”
Aziraphale swirls his index finger around the delicate skin of Crowley’s veins. Crowley’s eyes are the colour of turmeric. Aziraphale could wish them never covered again. When Crowley clears his throat, Aziraphale can’t help it if his own lips tremble. Six thousand years, and now – not with an Apocalypse but a portion of dessert.
“I won’t learn the gavotte,” Crowley says, as ungracious as he can muster.
“No, darling,” Aziraphale replies, gentle but firm, and Crowley swallows. “After all, it’s a half-century out of date.18 But as I said, there are lots of ways. Lots of ways – it’s not just food.” He lifts his fork, cuts delicately through cream and fruit and sugar and biscuit, and poises the selected sliver in the air, so Crowley must lean towards him. He sees all the yearning trepidation on his demon’s face.
He was made to serve, Aziraphale thinks, all love and all-commanding. He only asked questions. We can decide the answers together .
“My darling,” he breathes, reverent, as Crowley leans in and obeys and eats the cake from off the fork with the same stupefied, exasperated longing and fear with which he’s done everything for the past six thousand years. “My beloved –”
“What did you –?” Crowley asks, suddenly, with a mouth full of cream. He sounds drunk. “Angel?”
Aziraphale finds he feels no panic. Crowley realises the cheesecake is no longer on the table. He stares. Turns. The cheesecake is once again on the sideboard, re-boxed, and ready for replacement in the fridge. The fork is no longer in Aziraphale’s hand. Crowley glances from his hand to his face, and is unable to look away.
“Beloved,” the angel says again, and pulls him across the table.
When Crowley has pictured this moment -- and he has pictured it, dozens, hundreds, thousands of times -- it has never been like this. In his fantasies, all the trappings of the world around them drop away, everything narrowing down to Aziraphale's gentle hands, his pink lips parting. His body, gradually revealed to Crowley's starved gaze. Aziraphale has golden hair on his forearms with freckles scattered amidst it, and Crowley has thought about this fact at least once a day since he first discovered it, before London as a concept had ever been thought of. When Crowley has pictured Aziraphale kissing him, he has imagined it as a benediction after which the rest of the universe would cease to exist, leaving nothing but Aziraphale's coveted mouth on his.
The reality is rather different. For one thing, there is a table between them. Crowley has one bony elbow propped on it, and it is less than comfortable. The edge of it is digging into Crowley's stomach. By rights, every part of Crowley's body should be protesting the angle it's tilted at. But Aziraphale has his hands fisted in the front of Crowley's shirt, and his blue eyes are shining, and Crowley finds all at once that he's been right in one aspect: faced with the prospect of Aziraphale, finally, kissing him, nothing else matters. Nothing else matters, in the world, at all.
"My dear," Aziraphale says, barely a breath. They're close enough that his face is a blur; Crowley can feel the warmth of his skin, the vibration of his voice in the air between them. He swallows, and lets himself lift his hands to cup Aziraphale's face. Somehow, Crowley can tell that Aziraphale is asking for permission -- and that he will ask only once.
"Yes," he says, and is alarmed to hear his voice shake on the word. His hands, too, he realises, are shaking; his breath is coming fast at the dizzying idea of being allowed, encouraged, to taste the fruit of this particular forbidden tree. "Aziraphale, angel, I--"
Aziraphale kisses him like a whisper, a suggestion of touch. His lips brush Crowley's too delicately for the demon to feel their texture or warmth, but the thought of it, the fact of it, sets heat skittering down Crowley's spine. Every hair on his body seems to stand on end, and he can't bite back a soft sound in the back of his throat. Then Aziraphale kisses him again, a firm pressure, and Crowley's lips part involuntarily, seeking.
It isn't obvious to him whether or not Aziraphale has ever done this before. It almost doesn't matter.19 He has never kissed Crowley before, and every careful, exploratory kiss is bestowed as if the angel is tasting a new delicacy, little sipping kisses that make Crowley's lips tingle and his breathing go short. When, at last, Aziraphale's tongue brushes his, it's so overwhelming that Crowley actually breaks away, stunned by sensation, the pressure in his chest too massive to ignore.
"Aziraphale," he says again, ragged.
“Quite,” agrees Aziraphale, and makes the table disappear.
Crowley stumbles like an idiot on legs, and Aziraphale swoops (not a technical swoop, but suggestive of it) to catch him, marvel at him, look down between their bodies once and briefly but in a manner which has Crowley rethinking many basic principles, and then surges forward to kiss him until Crowley is backed against the kitchen door.
The angel tastes of the dessert they’ve been sharing, and Elysium, and tea. He has one hand, luxuriously, in Crowley’s hair and one pinning his shoulder to the door. He touches Crowley as though he can’t believe he has him.
Aziraphale kisses his mouth, his jaw, his neck, his throat, all of them as if deciding which he likes best, then chooses to return to his lips again, and Crowley is a ruined demon and a wreck of a man. His tongue is quite decisively in Crowley’s mouth now and Crowley can hear himself moaning.
This isn’t the point of being a demon, he thinks frantically. It isn’t supposed to be him making helpless sounds into an angel’s mouth, while that angel has their bodies pressed full length together and is systematically taking Crowley apart, tongue first. And yet, if this isn’t the point of Crowley’s existence, he can’t think what is. There’s no Hell to chase him any more, no assignations or assignments, just Aziraphale and his hands and the scent of his skin, and that mouth which has always looked so lusciously and temptingly pink, making Crowley feel all sorts of hitherto undiscovered things. If this is what sex is like, he thinks he can understand why humans get themselves into so much bloody trouble over it.
Crowley’s human form, indeed, seems to be more au fait with all this than the rest of him is, which seems unfair. His hands come up instinctively to Aziraphale’s hair, and Aziraphale shivers in a way that sets Crowley’s heart (and, apparently, genitalia) a-flutter. It’s an interesting sensation, certainly; he’s never paid much attention to that part of his corporation, but now Aziraphale is fairly devouring Crowley’s mouth and he fancies he can feel it everywhere. Aziraphale, he realises, with a heady thrill, is hard against Crowley’s thigh. Crowley wants, in an inchoate and primal way; he can only hope his body will be able to lead him in this, too.
In the event, it seems it won’t have to. Aziraphale, more decisive like this —with his eyes too bright and his chest heaving — than Crowley has ever known him, pulls back after a moment and looks him over, a slow up-and-down drag as if he’s eyeing up something delicious. It’s suddenly all Crowley can do to stay upright.
“I find,” the angel says slowly, “that bed is a more comfortable place for making love,” and waits. Crowley wonders if he’s meant to say something – there is a tiny, tiny alarm ringing somewhere, but for once Crowley’s Bad Shit Radar is set to silent, nowhere even close to vibrate – and while he’s trying to muster some fucking phonics, Aziraphale just smiles.
“Dearest,” he says kindly, “You need to move, so we can open the door. Or not,” he adds brightly, a second later, because the better option, apparently, was moving the fucking walls, and a disoriented and gaping Crowley is lying on his own bed, with Aziraphale propped above him and to one side, looking – the glorious bastard – as though he’s done something desperately clever. Crowley, meanwhile, just feels desperate. It isn’t, he knows, a question of body-swap, nobody’s snuck in and replaced Aziraphale with some debonair and sex-positive madman, this is all him, all angel, apparently with as great a passion for kissing as for decadent cheesecake. Possibly even, Crowley thinks (averting his dazzled eyes from the thought as he once did from the face of the Almighty) for Crowley.
"Isn't this better," Aziraphale says. He's smiling, practically beaming, and the tone of his voice makes it closer to a purr than anything else. He sounds indecent, and Crowley suddenly very desperately wants to see what he looks like when he's like this -- what he looks like everywhere.
He has seen the angel without his clothes before, but that was many many centuries ago, and under radically different circumstances. Now, he's afraid his voice is trembling slightly as he tugs at Aziraphale's sleeve (the sleeve of his jacket, under which there is at least one other sleeve, because Aziraphale cannot even sit in a flat without minimum three layers of clothing, possibly four or five).
"Can you," he manages, swallowing hard, "could you -- I mean it's a bit --"
Astonishingly, the look on Aziraphale's infuriatingly lovely face goes from indecent to obscene, and he dips his head briefly to bestow upon Crowley a kiss which feels like a reward for good behaviour, in the best and most frustrating way.
"I thought you might like to do it for me," he says, with affected primness. Crowley feels the hiss rising out of his throat.
"Mind the coat, dear boy," Aziraphale says, as Crowley sets upon it in something close to a frenzy.
He doesn't mean to be rough, honestly. If anything, he feels unusually soft and helpless, laid low by the feelings Aziraphale has dredged up in him and the way everything else has become secondary to his desire to feel Aziraphale's hands on him; to peel Aziraphale out of his forty-five piece suit and touch his skin. But his fingers are shaking as he shoves the blazer off Aziraphale's shoulders, and then begins on the bow-tie, and Aziraphale is doing very little to help.20 Aziraphale has slept in these clothes, after all – although not slept – a few hours ago they were in here together, but Crowley was on the bed and Aziraphale in the chair. He suddenly needs to know.
“Did you sit there while I slept?”
Aziraphale confirms it, intervenes to remove the loosened tie from Crowley’s fingertips and set it aside. He kisses Crowley’s fingertips as he does so, and Crowley is viscerally reminded of the interlude with the pudding, and shudders. “You’re extremely beautiful when you’re asleep,” Aziraphale continues, and Crowley avoids eye contact by moving to his waistcoat buttons.
“Eyes not open, always an improvement.”
"Crowley." Aziraphale sounds actually pained, to the extent that Crowley almost looks back at him even before Aziraphale takes him by the cheek and gently turns his face. Crowley, thus corralled, has no choice but to look back at him, into Aziraphale's cerulean eyes, and feel immensely conscious of his own yellow ones, the mark of the beast for which he's spent centuries having to make careful allowance. 21
"That isn't what I meant," Aziraphale says. "Your eyes are beautiful. They're like set amber. I've always loved them." As if to demonstrate, he leans in and kisses Crowley's eyelids, like a blessing.
Crowley isn't sure if it's something about Aziraphale's angelic nature, or just Aziraphale himself, but he finds, to his immense surprise, that he believes this. When he opens his eyes again, Aziraphale is smiling down at him, looking impossibly soft and gentle and with his shirt open at the collar, an absolutely ruinous state of affairs. Crowley breathes out hard and asks, "Do you need to always be dressed like you're preparing for a polar expedition? Only your buttons are driving me mental, angel."
“They’re exquisite buttons. I’ve had them since 1861. I don’t believe in –” he pauses, with pardonable pride, “ – fast fashion.”
“What have you been reading,” Crowley murmurs, and Aziraphale undoes his waistcoat and shirt himself.
"The Guardian," he says curtly. "But I don't want to talk about the state of the world just now, darling. Can we -- did you particularly want to undress me one button at a time, or --"
"Satan's sake," Crowley mutters, strangled and a bit desperate, and the next moment, every last scrap of cloth is gone.
Above him, Aziraphale laughs breathlessly, and then glances around the room a bit, Crowley notes, before his eyes covertly slide down Crowley's body. "Was that on purpose, dear? Because I hope you know where my suit is. I've had it --"
"Since Princess Alice’s wedding, I know, I know ,” Crowley growls breathlessly. "It wasn't exactly on purpose, but I happen to know it's all folded on my sofa, so if you would be a dear --"
"Of course," Aziraphale says, and kisses him again. "Oh, my darling. You look…"
However he looks, apparently Aziraphale has no words to articulate it. Instead, he simply shifts over, pushing one plump thigh between Crowley's wiry legs, and Crowley sucks in a breath, overwhelmed by the feeling of his own long body bare against the angel's, all their skin uncovered and pressed together. Aziraphale echoes this with a devout little murmur, and takes Crowley by the thigh, holding him close.
This is it, thinks the angel. Aziraphale has daydreamed about it since he learned of the mechanism, with particular and vivid fantasies for the past two thousand years (for the last seventy or so there’s been the complication of having confronted the contents of his heart, and not just of his trousers, plus-fours, or hose). Crowley -- infuriating, impossible, beautiful Crowley -- is beneath him on the bed, and Aziraphale's pulse is thundering with it.
If pressed to it, Aziraphale might have guessed Crowley to be a talker in bed, all sinful silver tongue, but the reality does not bear this out. On the contrary, Crowley is silent but for the hitching of his breath, his head tipped back and the first suggestion of sweat beginning to shine in the hollow of his throat. Moved by instinct, Aziraphale ducks his head to taste it, thinking giddily that Crowley will soon glow like that all over, his pale skin faintly salt under Aziraphale's tongue.
Aziraphale finds the thought inspirational, opening his mouth, tasting, and the effect on Crowley is instantaneous. His hand goes immediately to Aziraphale's hair, back arching, and Aziraphale hears him bite back a curse.
"Oh, fuck," Crowley grits out a minute later, apparently no longer capable of holding his tongue. "That's -- angel?"
"Do you like that?" Aziraphale's own voice is lower than is customary. The question is redundant, and he doesn't allow Crowley the opportunity to answer it, leaning up instead to kiss his open mouth, pressing his thumb to the damp place on Crowley's neck where the beginnings of a bruise have formed. Crowley kisses back immediately, desperately.
Like this, it's only natural to move -- to grip Crowley's thigh more firmly and rock against him, incremental motions that Crowley mirrors, whimpering in the back of his throat. His cock is hard against Aziraphale's lower stomach, caught between their bodies, and Aziraphale wonders whether Crowley has ever been touched like this, when he's stiff and straining for it; if anyone has ever loved him as he deserves to be loved.
Selfishly, uncharitably, Aziraphale hopes not. He wants to learn Crowley, like an undiscovered country, with his hands and lips and tongue, and he wants no thought in the demon's mind of anyone else but him.
"Can you," Crowley says; "I --"
He breaks off, and Aziraphale takes a moment to look at him: his slender shoulders and long neck and nipples pink and peaked amid a dark scattering of hair, awaiting Aziraphale's mouth.
"Anything," Aziraphale promises, and ducks his head to deliver a scrape of teeth, a hint of tongue that sets Crowley gasping once more. "I will give you anything I can, my love."
Crowley nearly says can you explain why it’s like this , except that if the answer is theological or “because you’re in love with me”, he wants nothing to do with it, he may be abject and desperate but this better not be The Ineffable Plan, he won’t be in some witch’s Filofax, he won’t be the patsy or the decision or the chosen one of anyone but Aziraphale, who owns him, it seems, body and still-AWOL-soul. But Aziraphale’s said anything and since Crowley’s had one constant thought about this (in defiance of his laissez-faire, his self-control, and his art-buying habits), he makes his request. Aziraphale knows it before it’s passed his lips.
“Fuck me,” asks Crowley.
“Oh, certainly,” Aziraphale smiles, and the way he says it makes Crowley start shivering again.
In a breathless, helpless way, he expects Aziraphale's fingers, smoothing down his flank and thighs. He expects Aziraphale's hand tracing a path from knee to hip and then curving around his cock so that Crowley bites his lip and jolts, pushing himself into Aziraphale's fist. What he doesn't expect is the way Aziraphale touches him so curiously, so avidly, with his mouth, kissing down the ladder of Crowley's ribs to the shallow of his navel, then scraping his teeth ticklishly down the spur of one hipbone.
"You're not – doing it," Crowley says breathlessly, sounding a bit aggrieved.
Aziraphale, unperturbed, spreads Crowley's thighs two-handed and kisses the soft inside of one, then looks up at him, flushed to the roots of his hair.
"Crowley," he says, "I am doing this at my own pace. After all these years, you can't expect me not to take the time to taste every bit of you."
As if in demonstration, he closes his eyes, rubs his cheek against Crowley's prick, and then kisses it. Kisses it. Crowley wishes Heaven could see this, every last fucking one of the bastards, because he's never been so proud in his life,22 even if Aziraphale's pace -- and Aziraphale's damnable patience -- are bound to kill him. Evidently he doesn’t believe in fast sex, either.
"Would it be awful," Crowley says, strained, "if I asked you to move things along?”
Aziraphale draws back slightly, looks soft-eyed and concerned. “Darling, do you not want me to blow you? You must say – I want you to be enthusiastic about anything we do together,” he starts, and Crowley thinks Oh No . Oh God, no, Heaven and Satan, he is going to be earnest at me while just lying there by my cock, he is doing the furrowed brow that I love about sucking my cock, and thus says, tersely but truly, “Yes, yes, I’m very enthusiastic, only we do not have an infinite amount of time!” He’s squirming, helplessly.
"On the contrary, darling," Aziraphale says, "we've got all the time in the world. Had you forgotten?"
At this, he smirks -- technically a perfectly sweet and ordinary angelic smile, but very clearly a smirk in smiles' clothing, to Crowley's mind -- and presses the flat of his tongue to the tip of Crowley's cock.
It's a long time since Crowley was last discorporated, but he feels that Aziraphale has underestimated the very real possibility of that happening here, what with his stupid pink mouth stretched around Crowley's dick and the look on his face, which Crowley recognises from some of London's finer dining establishments, usually from just before the dessert course. Aziraphale's brows are drawn together, as if he's concentrating, savouring, and it's all Crowley can do to keep himself passably still, especially when the angel, with dedicated slowness, lowers his head until Crowley can feel the ridges of his soft palate, the clutch of his throat. Crowley is trembling, and if Aziraphale thinks he can go on languidly sucking Crowley's cock like this and escape any injury to either or both of them, he has, Crowley thinks frantically, another thing coming.23
"Aziraphale," Crowley manages. He's panting, so the word emerges only as a vague approximation, but it will do. His hand flutters against Aziraphale's shoulder, then his neck; when he pushes his fingers into Aziraphale's hair, the angel purrs around him and presses into the touch like a housecat, which is so ruinous a sight, Crowley has to close his eyes a moment.
"Aziraphale," he repeats, mustering all his strength, "You're making me do this, you know you are. You're -- look, please, there, magic word: please come up here and fuck me before I. Before."
Aziraphale, thank everything, lifts his head. His mouth is wet, kissed rose-pink, and Crowley has to struggle not to whimper like an imbecile at the vision he makes.
"Before you die of old age?" he prompts, and laughs. "My darling. You're beautiful. All right."
Crowley is so grateful, he could cry. He's more grateful than a demon has any right to be when Aziraphale resettles himself in Crowley's arms, parting his thighs and lowering his head to kiss him with lips that taste of salt and Crowley's own desperation. Then Aziraphale's slender hand is between Crowley's legs, and Crowley draws in a breath, feeling his body flush with heat, every part of him aching to take Aziraphale inside. He’s stunned suddenly by the possibility that they need – that they will definitely need – Aziraphale felt enormous against him and, eagerness notwithstanding, the fact remains they’re totally unprepared. “Angel,” he begins, and is so horrified by the need in his own voice he doesn’t trust it again. Aziraphale mutters something guttural which is uncharacteristic but at least shows he’s similarly affected. Then, however, Crowley realises what he’s said.
Outraged, but also even more hopelessly aroused, he tugs at the angel’s hair. “Did you jussst – wass that an incantation?” Oh, fuck, he’s hissing. Of all the times. Aziraphale laughs.
“You can’t expect me to go into Boots. My dear.”
"I don't know what to expect any more with you," Crowley gasps, then: "Oh -- oh, fuck, are you--?"
"Deep breath," Aziraphale tells him, and Crowley's body, as if attuned to Aziraphale's every whim, obeys, relaxing, unclenching to let Aziraphale in.
Like this, with Aziraphale on top of him and inside him and cradled between his thighs, Crowley is conscious of every inch of his body, every nerve alight to Aziraphale's proximity. Aziraphale is breathing hard, but slowly, as if to steady himself, holding very still. His eyes are closed, and his expression is somewhere between joy and despair, brows drawn together and lips parted.
"Aziraphale," Crowley gets out, his voice soft and ragged, "you can -- I mean, I think you're s'posed to --"
"All right," Aziraphale whispers, without opening his eyes, and gathers Crowley up, hefting his thigh, spreading him wider. "All right, darling."
When he starts to move -- to move properly; to draw his hips back and forth; to, astonishingly, fuck Crowley -- it's so good, it's almost frightening. Crowley feels lit up, the drag of Aziraphale's cock setting little fires inside him, but the sensation in his body is matched by an answering one somewhere deeper, somewhere Crowley can't usually reach. It's a feeling like an ache in his chest, behind his ribcage: the heady and wrecking knowledge that this is Aziraphale, his angel, his alpha and omega, moving in and out of him like breath. This is Aziraphale, and Crowley can barely comprehend it.
Most astonishing (miraculous, Crowley thinks, because this is apparently what has become of him), there’s every indication Aziraphale feels the same. Crowley doesn’t understand why they ever had separate bodies, not because — and he starts to laugh a little bit, even now at the thought — not because he wants to be a sort of four-winged copulating many-limbed mystery with the angel until the end of days, despite what the statue might suggest, but because they seem to do this so perfectly. As if this is their beginning, not just their destination. Aziraphale catches his eye and smiles, flushed, as if they’re having the same, perfect, ridiculous thought, and then Aziraphale stops looking like a tartan-loving cherub and fucks back into him like the definitively occult life-wrecker he’s become, and Crowley shoves his face into his neck and moans. Aziraphale puts a hand to his hair, scruffs the beech-red shine of it, now hot and damp beneath with sweat, and groans at the shudder going through Crowley. It’s all getting rather frenetic, but apparently Aziraphale has no intention of ceasing to surprise him. He tightens his grip on Crowley’s hips, says "hold on, darling," and rolls them.
It makes perfect sense, now that Crowley thinks about it, that Aziraphale is strong enough to manipulate the two of them, entwined as they are, like this. He has an inch or two on the angel, height-wise, but Crowley's lanky form has never actually encountered a muscle; Aziraphale is rather softer, the result of his penchant for dessert, but there's a density to him which is lacking in Crowley, a certain sturdiness. Still, Crowley has never felt that strength enacted upon him physically like this, and the sensation of being flipped, as if he weighs nothing, takes him by surprise and makes his stomach swoop. It's like falling, at first, but then Aziraphale's hands are firm on his hips and the uncertainty disappears; Aziraphale has him. In this position, Crowley feels impossibly, beautifully full of him, and his mouth opens involuntarily, soundless and shocked by the feeling.
"Crowley?" Aziraphale, beneath him, is soft-eyed and sex-flushed, his hair disarranged where Crowley's hands have carded helplessly through it. It's a sight Crowley never expected to see and, when Aziraphale's hands slip to the small of his back and then settle on his arse, gently guiding, Crowley thinks he might expire from the very fact of it: Aziraphale, Our Angel of Perpetual Indulgence, indulging himself finally in Crowley as if it's the pinnacle of his earthly existence.
"Come on, love," Aziraphale coaxes, gently. "Move for me -- yes, like that -- oh, Crowley, look at you."
Aziraphale's hand settles almost reverently on Crowley's cock, hard and curving upwards towards his navel. When he strokes, slow and firmly, Crowley has to bite back a cry as being altogether too revealing and undignified for a demon, but he can't help the way his hips buck forward helplessly, seeking as much of Aziraphale as he can get. Aziraphale shifts slightly, draws him closer, bracketing him with arms and legs, raising him a little higher, and higher, and kissing him rapturously when he sinks back down. They move together more tightly, Aziraphale’s hands on him; one stroking, the other on his arse, possessive. The pleasure of it has Crowley swearing and begging; he doesn’t understand his own words. Aziraphale’s breathing is more and more ragged; after a few minutes, he leans in and buries his face in Crowley’s chest, kisses the heat and the sweat of him, and his hand moves faster, not letting up for a second.. Crowley puts his shaking hand in Aziraphale’s curls, and Aziraphale lifts his face. Crowley looks down, half-blind with pleasure and terrified of experiencing this moment alone, but Aziraphale’s there, flushed and looking up at him with unmistakeable love. Crowley sees him watching and goes still.
“My angel,” breathes Aziraphale, and Crowley falls apart.
It's only sex, Aziraphale will think dazedly, when the sound of Crowley's breathless shouts have stopped reverberating in the little room,24 but somehow, with Crowley, there's no only about it at all. He recognises the exact moment Crowley is overcome by it, his body going taut and still, back arched like a bowstring as the pleasure of it ripples through him. Aziraphale, he thinks, has the most astonishingly perfect vantage point he could ever have wished for, looking up at Crowley all clean lines and desperation, the latter shifting fluidly into surrender.
"Darling," Aziraphale breathes. He's still moving, can't seem to stop, and as his vision begins to blur, he thinks -- imagines - he can see the shapes of Crowley's dark wings, just flickering at the periphery of the mortal plane. Crowley is gasping through it, the shock of wet heat on Aziraphale's stomach almost an afterthought, and Aziraphale clutches at him as he comes, as if Crowley is the only thing anchoring him to existence.
Crowley wakes in the afternoon. The sheets are crisper than he remembers, the duvet above him heavier and smelling slightly of lavender and spring air. The angel is beside him, one arm holding Crowley against his body in a possessive fashion that implies that Crowley is henceforth as much his property as this ridiculous John Lewis - possibly even Laura Ashley - maelstrom of green gingham that’s suddenly redecorated his bed.25
The angel is asleep. He looks happy. He is snoring slightly. His hair is very blond in the streaming sunlight, and he is wearing unimpeachable white and strawberry-striped pyjamas.
Crowley is naked and has a bite-mark on his shoulder. He appears to be sharing Aziraphale’s pillow while being spooned.
Crowley wonders what his chances are of recovering some dignity. Of restoring himself to that bad eminence of insouciant and lackadaisical superiority, of popping the sunglasses back on and pretending that his body, soul, and refrigerator are not in thrall to the creature who has also added an 1880s washstand to his side of the bed.
As if to solve the conundrum, the angel wakes up. The placid smile he apparently wears in sleep becomes a far warmer one on encountering Crowley, and he curls closer into him, threading his other arm beneath his head.
Crowley realises too late that he is, himself, smiling like an idiot.
"Good morning," Aziraphale says, and Crowley is destroyed once more by the realisation that he has, apparently, shattered Aziraphale's sense of time with sex.
"Look at the sun, angel," Crowley says, trying to sound critical instead of just painfully fond. "It must be half past two. Can tell you don't sleep very often, if it throws you like this."
Aziraphale only smiles at him some more and then stretches, elaborately, like a child in a Victorian lithograph. "Well, I'm not used to it. But the idea of doing it with you here rather appealed. And you'd worn me out somewhat."
A suggestion of a blush steals across Aziraphale's cheekbones, which Crowley thinks is, quite frankly, rich of him, given the way he behaved earlier. Not that Crowley has any complaints.
Well -- perhaps one complaint. Something niggles at the back of his mind, rising upwards like a deep water fish surfacing. For a minute, Crowley can't place it.
"Tiring business, this sex malarkey," Crowley agrees, and Aziraphale laughs, then leans up and kisses him.
"Yes, but worth it, I find. Don't you agree?"
Ah. There it is.
"You find," Crowley repeats. "You said that earlier, when we were -- you know. You said you find it's better to fuck in bed. When've you been finding?"
"I most certainly did not say fuck," says Aziraphale primly. Crowley rolls his eyes.
"Evasive," he accuses. "You don't -- d'you do this a lot?"
Aziraphale gives this serious thought. “It depends how you define ‘a lot’, darling.” He contemplates the ceiling. “Not by human standards.” The hint of a smile. “Certainly not compared to the nineteenth century.”
Were he not still inexplicably pinned by the angel’s forearm, Crowley would hit the ceiling. As it is, he lurches a bit, and Aziraphale, all sweetness and light, tenses his arm without altering his expression the slightest iota. Crowley finds that he can't even sit up.
"Don't be jealous," Aziraphale chides. "It doesn't compare, you know."
“I’m not jealousss,” Crowley insists. He lies there in silence for a moment, jealously. “You didn’t even like me eating without you.”
“I minded because you had refused to eat with me.”
“But that’sss not. You thought I didn’t want?”
Aziraphale’s quiet. “In all honesty, I wasn’t sure you could. You turned me down so decisively. And then, when I was so terribly in love with you, I didn’t like to test it. You shouldn’t test things to destruction.”
“And so you consoled yourself with hundreds of mortal men.”
“Not hundreds , no,” Aziraphale says judiciously, certain reminiscences of Portland Place and fourteenth-century Florence filing quickly past his eyes.26 Crowley growls his disapproval but cannot quite manage to pursue it.
He has a more pressing question. “When on earth did you think I turned you down?”
“You wouldn’t eat oysters with me.”
“I wouldn’t eat….” Crowley blinks at him. His eyes are once more like set amber, and Aziraphale loves him desperately. “Rome?”
“They’re an aphrodisiac! I intended it as a seduction scene!”
“You were going to have your wicked way with me via oysters?” A genuine smile plays across his lips. “And instead it was cheesecake.”
“It wouldn’t have been wicked,” Aziraphale clarifies, and gathers Crowley into his arms. “Except that I knew myself so little. Crowley – you did hear me say that nothing else compares?”
Crowley stretches his arms around Aziraphale, and basks. “Not clearly. Probably best you say it again.”
“It doesn’t compare.” He smiles. “I think it’s rather romantic.”
“Stop it,” Crowley says warningly. “ Angel. ”
“My being your fir –”
“Enough,” says Crowley, terribly, and shuts him up the best way he knows how. Aziraphale emerges undaunted, but terribly flushed.
“Beloved. What did you say the time was?”
“About three o’clock, now. Why?”
Aziraphale runs a gentle thumb across Crowley’s underlip. “Let me tempt you to some afternoon tea.”
Crowley kisses his thumb. “Temptation accomplished.”
1Aziraphale also drifts from masseuse to massage parlour, but Crowley knows never to follow him there (unless he really needs rescuing from a brothel, at least according to Crowley’s definition of “needs”), because a) you can’t wear sunglasses on a massage table, b) Crowley taking off clothes tends to prompt a lot of questions about sigils, and c) if watching Aziraphale toast and butter crumpets is an agonising and inexhaustible fetish, Crowley assumes that the sight of Aziraphale deshabillé and sweetly groaning would do to him what holy water did to Ligur, much more enjoyably but with no less destructive qualities. That, or he’d have to kill the massage therapist. [ return to text ]
2£7.50 for chip-shop chips, and that's cheap in London these days. £7.50! [ return to text ]
3 Ostensibly.[ return to text ]
4Crowley has never thought of anything on this bed as a counterpane and would resist the charge. He buys all his bedlinen (for a Crowleian definition of ‘buys’) from Japan, via an outlandishly expensive series of middlemen (whom Crowley enjoys inching towards bankruptcy, see previous parentheses re: definition of ‘buys’), and then performs small demonic miracles to soften them to his satisfaction, because sometimes things that are expensive are worse.[ return to text ]
5 The television only has a switch because Aziraphale has leaned forwards to find one. [ return to text ]
6 Accordingly, almost any kind of novel will earn him rebarbative commentary from the demon. This one is a mid-century paperback which starts off as a comedy of manners about the thwarted desires of the wistful middle-aged (as pictured on the book-jacket) but descends into astonishing gay pornography sixty pages in. Crowley has only ever seen the cover. Crowley would be stunned. [ return to text ]
7And the crumpets. And the Franzbrotchen. And the mochi. And the hamantaschen. And the gulab jamun.
[ return to text ]
8 Crowley has told/begged Aziraphale to stop using the word “sexy”, but then he has never heard Aziraphale apply it to him.
[ return to text ]
9An awful lot of years. The number of years, in fact, that you get if you add 1941 to 4004, then subtract both a week for creation and the number of days it took for Eve to bite the apple. [ return to text ]
10Aziraphale suspects them of having been Crowley's doing in the first place. [ return to text ]
11Aziraphale, an Englishman by naturalisation and habit, likes his toast done on one side. [ return to text ]
12In better form, Crowley would query this: not only is one shelf far from “a lot” by anyone’s standards, but Aziraphale’s fridge (and larder, and pantry) looks at any given moment like harvest festival in an especially bucolic Breton village, albeit one with excellent rail links to Paris. [ return to text ]
13Or, rather, profanity. [ return to text ]
14Azipharale has a particular knack for pronouncing, when it suits him, an innocuous word like "dear" in such a way that it might as well have been "you bitch." [ return to text ]
15No mean feat. [ return to text ]
16Partly because Crowley avoids charities, partly because Crowley avoids country, and partly because the Countryside Alliance are prats. [ return to text ]
17They’d eaten it (Aziraphale had eaten it) in Chelsea, in the cafe close to Tite Street. Aziraphale had explained to Crowley what the error was, and how it spoiled a cake, but still eaten three slices because the cafe was run by a charity. The location and the sugar rush had made the angel talk about Wilde even more fervently and nostalgically than usual, and that afternoon Crowley had gone back to the cafe, bought the rest of the stupid sponge with a disguised fifty quid note, then gone home and read De Profundis while getting sadder and sadder and sadder. From this the reader may deduce two things: one, ethereal beings can get maudlin drunk on food as well as alcohol; and two, Crowley’s devilish, uncharitable principles melt like lemon sorbet where the angelic embodiment of sorbet’s concerned. [ return to text ]
18A half-century since Aziraphale had accepted that fact. [ return to text ]
19All right, it absolutely does.[ return to text ]
20 Specifically, he's just lying there glowing a bit and looking gorgeous, which is actively unhelpful, if anything. [ return to text ]
21The abuse of the word "cerulean" by romance novelists the world over is Crowley's doing, but there really is no other term to accurately describe Aziraphale's eyes, especially not when he’s not only gazing tenderly at Crowley, but has also subtly adjusted the lighting in the room.[ return to text ]
22 He is, of course, feeling many other things beside pride, chief among them the desire to very rudely fuck Aziraphale's mouth. [ return to text ]
23Another another thing.[ return to text ]
24The plants are agog.[ return to text ]
25Songs 1:15–16.[ return to text ]
26And twentieth-century Soho, and several members of the Royal Family. And Auden. [ return to text ]