You can stay at my place, if you like.
Aziraphale has now actually faced Hell and worse, and yet, he thinks, as he watches Crowley unlock the door with a flick of a fingertip, that nothing will ever inspire in him such a surge of fear and wonder as that cautious, careful invitation. In the moment, he had hardly known how to respond. Oh, he has been to Crowley’s flat before, of course, a couple of times for drinks, once to meet him for the opera, but Crowley had always been carefully guarded: doors closed, cabinets shut, everything that could possibly be interpreted as personal squirreled away. Never stay at my place. Never stay with me. Never stay.
Tonight, he can see immediately that the place is a wreck. There is a mess of something black and sticky on the carpet, at the threshold. More tellingly, every door is open; one room is filled with a mass of glossy papers which have spilled into the hall, showing planets and nebulas, and in another, he can see a veritable Eden, a forest of verdant and towering plants. Past that, down another hall, a statue that – oh dear.
Aziraphale blinks. For a moment he wonders if he’s hallucinating, or if he’s accidentally performed some minor miracle or manifestation, but no, it’s part of the furniture; Crowley breezes past it with only the briefest of glances (though the angel does notice that the tips of his ears turn pink). He heads towards the kitchen.
“Nightcap?” he says airily.
“Oh, I, I shouldn’t,” says Aziraphale, who is still lightheaded over the statue. Does he see that every day –?
“We’re a bit past shouldn’t, angel,” says the demon dryly. “What do you want?”
Goodness gracious. He can’t possibly answer that.
“Don’t say crepes,” Crowley drawls, watching him. “Haven’t got any of those. Although, perhaps in the morning we could –”
“No, it’s, I’m,” says Aziraphale, nervously. The words In the morning have conjured up a wealth of emotion inside him. Many hours span the distance between now and then.
“All right,” says the demon curiously.
“All right,” he echoes. He feels quite faint as the other comes back into the room. “I’m… I’m sorry,” he adds, trying to smile. “I’m quite tired, I think.”
“Sure,” says Crowley. “Rough night.”
Night has the same effect as in the morning. “Ah,” he says. “Yes.”
“You can have the bed, of course,” Crowley says, turning away, setting his fingertips on the back of the white leather sofa.
“Oh,” says Aziraphale, looking at the bedroom door. “Oh, I…”
There is a long, queer pause. Crowley is moving away from the angel, who feels the blood beating in his throat, his cheeks. So human, these little responses, over which he has shockingly little control.
“Surely it’s big enough for two,” he says lightly.
Crowley goes utterly still. Aziraphale’s pulse accelerates. Heat and shame and a strange, nameless need are all crashing over him. A mistake, a mistake, something chants in his ear. A mistake –
The demon turns, slowly, oh, so slowly, and takes off his sunglasses. Aziraphale swallows as he meets Crowley’s narrow yellow eyes, and takes a step back, involuntarily, at the fire in their depths. The movement is futile; he is as helpless as a cornered mouse before an advancing snake, for the demon is already coming towards him, his usual swagger even more pronounced, lanky, all leg and swing of the hip.
“I only meant,” he begins, panicked, as the other stalks towards him.
“I heard you,” says Crowley, and his voice is an octave too low.
“I didn’t mean –”
“Of course you didn’t,” Crowley says, still in that dark velvety voice, and Aziraphale aches.
The demon stops. They are inches apart. Aziraphale wants to flee, but there is nowhere to go.
Then the demon lifts a hand and touches the pads of his fingers to the angel’s lips.
It is the most intimate thing that has ever happened to him. He doesn’t dare breathe. He doesn’t dare look away. In this moment, he doesn’t even know what he is hoping for.
“I have always,” says Crowley, and now his voice is hoarse. Then he stops, closing his eyes, as if he can’t bear to see Aziraphale’s reaction to whatever he has to say. The angel waits, breathless.
A tic twitches in the demon’s jaw. For several long minutes, it is the only thing in the room that moves.
“One word,” he says at last, eyes still closed. His voice cracks a little. “One word from you, and I’ll let it go, I’ll never mention it again, we can pretend that we never – almost –”
The actual, palpable pain in his voice is too much. Aziraphale catches at his hand and presses his whole mouth against the fingers, the knuckles, so familiar and yet, in so many ways, utterly unknown. “Crowley,” he says against the skin, desperate. Like prayer. “Ask me again.”
The eyes blink open.
“What I want,” the angel clarifies. “It’s.” He clears his throat. “Um.”
For a long, long moment, they look at each other.
“Please,” says Aziraphale weakly. “I can’t – You must know, surely you must know –”
But the end of his sentence is lost, because Crowley is kissing him savagely, turning him so that Aziraphale is backed against the sofa, pinning him there with his whole (slender, insubstantial) weight. He tastes like smoke and some unfamiliar spice and a little bit like the wine they had shared, all the way back to London, cheap by their standards and brassy and burnt. Aziraphale makes a noise not unlike a squeak and Crowley groans – his body is shaking – Aziraphale skims his hands down the demon’s arms and Crowley tightens his grip in the angel’s coat and they are kissing, kissing, God, it could have been like this all along.
“Do you have any idea,” Crowley says into his mouth, furiously, “how long,” and then he surges and Aziraphale tastes that spice again, God, the legends of the lotus eaters have never made more sense to him.
“I know, I know,” he pants, “a thousand years,” and the demon laughs high and wild.
“Only a thousand,” he says, “I wish,” and his mouth is blistering hot on Aziraphale’s throat, his jaw. “But you –”
“Eighty,” says Aziraphale honestly.
Hands grow still on his chest. “Eighty,” Crowley repeats.
“1941,” says Aziraphale, slightly strangled as Crowley rocks into him, “The bomb,” and then, gasping, as he is pressed back inexorably against the sofa: “The books.”
The demon laughs again, still incredulous. “And then you knew,” he says, and leaves it open, a question.
“That I loved you.” Aziraphale only just manages to whisper it, but it’s worth it: the next kiss isn’t savage but slow, slow.
“For you,” the demon breathes into his mouth. “All the books of the wide world.”
Aziraphale has the tips of his fingers brushing against the chest hair visible in the deep V of Crowley’s shirt. It is just starting to dawn on him that he has seen Crowley in every imaginable item of clothing: celestial robes, battered armor, pansied slops, Victorian overcoats. He has never seriously considered the notion that, underneath, this entity is wearing a suit of flesh and bone, just like the angel himself, with all of its attendant quirks and, and, and, capabilities – oh, it’s no use, he can’t seem to think about it, his brain keeps skittering away. (This might, of course, be due to the fact that Crowley is still kissing him, and in fact has not stopped.)
“I, I,” he tries to say, protesting, and Crowley says, raggedly,
“Please don’t change your mind.”
“About this?” says Aziraphale, horrified, and Crowley makes a sound like he hurts, and something about it reminds Aziraphale of his own voice, friends, we’re not friends – It’s over –
“Oh no,” he breathes, cupping Crowley’s face in his hands, “My dear – I’m sorry, I’m so sorry,” and Crowley looks at him, sly, yellow light slanting through the shades of his long lashes.
“Make it up to me,” he murmurs.
A touch, feather-light, skims across Aziraphale’s own chest, and the angel suddenly realizes that his own waistcoat is hanging open, his shirt is three quarters of the way to being fully unbuttoned. He has no idea when that happened. Really, the serpent is very good.
“I’ll try,” he promises, and closes his eyes briefly as Crowley touches his lips again, one finger this time, hushing.
The sensation disappears. Aziraphale opens his eyes in time to see his associate snap his fingers, and the room around them shifts, empty of everything now but a stark chrome lamp and a bed, wide and white as wings. They both look at it. The reality of what is about to happen sweeps through the angel like a tide, and he sits on the edge of the duvet, trembling.
A weight settles next to him. Their fingers intertwine.
“Yes?” says Crowley, tentatively.
“Oh, my dear,” says Aziraphale, heart in his throat. “Yes.”