“Crowley,” he said one evening. “Do you think I’m...soft?”
They were both a little drunk--tipsy, but not wasted, sitting on the couch in the backroom of his shop. It had been a week, give or take, from the Armageddon’t, and things had started to change. It was slow; it still felt like old days, but condensed, all at once.
It wasn’t the first time Crowley had crashed on his couch, for example, but he’d never done it four nights in a row before. Lunch together everyday, a walk in the park where they fed the ducks for the hell of it instead of as a cover. Getting drunk enough that Crowley would take off his glasses, and Aziraphale would watch his yellow eyes as he sat upside down off the side of Aziraphale’s couch, his feet on the cushions and his head on the floor, talking about things Aziraphale knew he never would if he were sober and seated upright. It wasn’t new, exactly, but it felt different now. Now that heaven and hell weren’t breathing down their necks. Now that they were able to admit that this was more than just a business arrangement.
“Yeah, o’ course,” Crowley replied immediately, swirling the wine in the bottom of his glass. He was draped over the back of Azirahale’s couch--right side up--in the way he always was, taking up far more space than was strictly necessary. Aziraphale had tried it once, when the shop was closed and he was alone. He found it entirely uncomfortable.
“Oh,” said Aziraphale. It was resolute and quiet. That was that, then. No different on earth than in heaven.
“Of course,” Crowley continued. “You’re an angel. You’re s’posed to be soft. Spreading love and good will and all that.”
“Angels aren’t supposed to be soft,” Aziraphale replied, voice a little harsher than it needed to be. “Angels are supposed to be… strong, and just. Powerful. Beautiful ...”
“Ethereal?” suggested Crowley with just a hint of sarcasm.
“Angel.” Crowley sounded a bit annoyed. “You are all those things.”
“You can’t be strong and beautiful and soft,” Aziraphale argued.
“‘Course you can. You do it all the time.”
Aziraphale shook his head.
“Crowley, you’re drunk.”
“Well, yeah, but that doesn’t make what I’m saying any less true. You’re exactly what an angel is supposed to be.”
“Crowley….” he trailed off. He sighed. “I can see how you could think that. I’m the only angel you know.” His voice sounded so forlorn.
“That isn't… Angel--” Crowley sighed. He pulled his sunglasses off and pinched the bridge of his nose, but didn’t look directly at Aziraphale.
“I’m just going to--” Crowley made a face, squeezing one eye shut as he sobered himself up. Aziraphale shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “Alright, Angel,” he said, finally turning to look Aziraphale in the eye. “What brought this on?”
His gaze was so intense. It burrowed its way deep into Aziraphale every time, seeing not through him, but into him. He wished Crowley would let him see those eyes more often. He was almost glad he didn’t.
“It’s just, in the days before Armageddon--or not-Armageddon as it was, the archangel Gabriel said something to me. He asked me what I was. He wanted a ‘lean, mean, fighting machine.’” He gave a pained laugh. “And I realized that I’m not any of those things, Crowley. I’m just ... soft.”
“Gabriel,” Crowley growled, like the name itself was holy venom. “Always been a bastard. And not the type worth knowing. But all that is over, Angel. Why is it still bothering you now?”
“It’s just…” Aziraphale hesitated. His gaze darted away from Crowley’s. “If heaven thinks soft is bad, I can’t imagine what it means to hell. To you.”
“Angel.” He sounded scandalized at first, like he took joy in the angel’s predicament. “Is that what this is about? You’re worried I don’t like you for being you? ”
“Forget it,” Aziraphale murmured, half hoping he would and half hoping he wouldn’t. But Crowley must have seen it in his eyes, because in that moment his entire demeanor changed from carefree and teasing, to a deep, dark bewilderment.
“I don’t forget things.”
Aziraphale could feel Crowley’s weight shift and then he was standing in front of him, over him. He looked up and Crowley was again looking him in the eye.
“Is that what you’re afraid of, Angel?”
And looking up at Crowley, he should have been afraid. He wanted to be afraid. Under the mercy of the intense yellow stare of a fallen angel, pinned back to the couch by sheer force of gaze alone. But he wasn’t.
Crowley crouched down so that his eyes were level with Aziraphale’s, demeanor changing yet again. His voice had never been so soft.
“Angel?” he insisted.
“Yes!” he finally admitted, angry and flustered, throwing his crossed arms down into his lap. “It is, alright?”
And the way Crowley said it that time was like a Latin prayer. So awed, so deep and ancient, something you couldn’t question even if you didn’t know the meaning of it yourself. Aziraphale went slack as Crowley gently urged his knees apart so he could move in closer. His gaze begged for the angel’s trust. Kneeling on the ground, his hands on Aziraphale’s knees, his head just between them. He looked like he was praying. He looked like he was--
He looked up at Aziraphale with such reverence that he tensed on instinct. It was all too precarious to let go, to let it come tumbling down. You go too fast for me, Crowley, played over and over in his head, still true after all these years. He wasn’t ready. He could never be ready. Not for the way the demon looked at him like he was the only thing that mattered in the world. Not for the risk that it all might fall apart and there would be nothing. But faster , his heart whispered. Faster, faster, until your nails are biting into his back from hanging on too tight.
“Crowley.” It came out choked. His hand reached out and Crowley was there, holding it like it was something precious, pressing kisses to the top of it in a way that was both fierce and gentle. Crowley reached for his other hand, kissing the palm, pressing them together and doing it all over again.
“Yes,” he whispered, cradling Aziraphale’s hands, palms down, in his own. He looked up at him, sad and adoring. How could snake eyes be so adoring? “Oh my angel. You are so soft.”
Aziraphale shook his head. In protest? In awe? He couldn’t know.
“So soft,” he repeated, smiling. “Your skin is soft.” He kissed each of Aziraphale’s thumbs. “Your body. Soft and warm. ‘ve always wanted to rest my head on your shoulder, on your lap, on your stomach.” He brought his lips to Aziraphale’s index fingers. “Like… like a crème brûlée. Sweet and soft and--they’re not supposed to be warm, are they? But I like them warm. I like you warm.” He moved to Aziraphale’s middle fingers.
“Soft. You have so much joy, angel. That smile when you drag me to a new restaurant, or when you find a new one for yourself. When you see a family on the street, when you find a new book, when you see a flower bloom. When you eat crêpes, Aziraphale. You look so happy it’s obscene.” He kissed his ring fingers, running his lips up and down them with a whisper of a breath.
“Soft, he continued. “Giving Adam and Eve your sword. Warning that couple and their children of the Great Flood--I know you did it. Saving little ducklings from the storm drain last April. Selling one of your books, every once in a great while, giving it away, really, to someone you think deserves it. Soft for humanity, for the world. So soft that you couldn’t let it go.” He kissed each of Aziraphale’s pinky nails and then looked up at him. There were tears brimming in Aziraphale’s eyes. He couldn’t take this. It was too much. He didn’t deserve it.
He tried to look away, but it only lasted for a moment. He could feel Crowley’s gaze dragging him back in, patient, gentle, all the things demons weren’t supposed to be, yet he was. Crowley’s lips curled upwards into a smile when their eyes met again.
“Aziraphale,” he whispered with the utmost reverence. “Angel. Being soft means you’re brave. Because the world is cruel, and you know that. But you’ve never been cruel back. But at the same time...you don’t let it walk all over you. Being soft, that’s a choice you make every day, whether you know it or not. Soft, and oh so strong.”
Brave. The word tasted funny on Aziraphale’s lips.
“Can I?” Crowley whispered. Aziraphale nodded without knowing what he meant. Crowley rose to his feet and made a move to climb up onto his lap, one arm on the back of the couch behind Aziraphale’s head, knee pressed beside his own. Aziraphale’s heart crawled up into his throat. At the last moment Crowley hesitated though, and sat down next to him instead. Aziriphale let go of the breath he hadn’t noticed he was holding, a strange disappointment washing over him. He pulled his legs back together and made a move to brush the wrinkles out of his clothes. The moment was over then, the beautiful--
And then Crowley’s left hand was on his right elbow, and he was pulling him towards himself.
“C’mon, Angel,” he murmured. And Aziraphale somehow knew, and for a single moment didn’t second guess himself, and pulled himself onto Crowley’s lap as the demon’s hand fell from Aziriphale’s elbow to his waist.
“Yes,” Crowley whispered, cupping his face with one hand. He was so close. Their faces were so close together, and Aziraphale’s heart was beating so very fast that if he was human he was sure he would have exploded. He balanced precariously, unsure of where to put his weight now that he was he was there, unsure of where his legs were supposed to go, so unsure of what this was, if he was meant to be here.
Crowley nudged his legs further apart so that Aziraphale was straddling him.
“Relax,” he whispered, with a tilt of his head. “Be...soft.”
And Aziraphale melted. He wrapped his hands around Crowley’s shoulder as the demon brought both hands up to cup his face. His thumbs brushed over Aziraphale’s cheeks, cradling him gently like precious glass. His eyes told Aziraphale that he had never expected to be here either. It was all too much but he couldn’t pull his gaze away. One hand slipped up and into Crowley’s stupid, perfect hair, threading its fingers through it, pulling just to ground himself.
“Aziriphale,” Crowley whispered. A prayer, a plea, a praise all into one. “You’re--”
“I love you,” Aziraphale blurted before he could think, before Crowley could say it first, before Crowley could take back the things he’d already said. “I love you so very much.”
Before even a breath could escape Crowley’s awe-slacked lips in response, Aziraphale kissed him.
It wasn’t a chaste kiss. He dove in with the passion of six thousand years. Crowley’s response was gentle at first, as if he was afraid he would scare the angel away. But then Aziraphale tilted his head and Crowley let himself go, wrapping his arms around the angel’s waist and pulling him closer. Both of Aziraphale’s hands were in his hair, clinging desperately, holding Crowley against him. There were no thoughts, no thoughts, just feelings. Aziraphale pulled back for a moment, leaving the demon straining against him, gasping.
“What about all those other things you said I was?” Aziraphale pleaded, voice hoarse.
“Oh,” Crowley was panting but tried to collect himself. He failed. “Yes, Angel. God, Aziraphale, you’re powerful.” He didn’t even seem to notice that he’d evoked the wrong deity. “You’re--you stopped the apocalypse. You’ve stopped wars, you’ve lead revolutions. Your words, your fingers, they speak things into being, miraculously and of your own accord. You--” he paused, his eyes pleading with Aziraphale for a moment. He couldn’t not give in. Heart still racing, he pulled Crowley back in for a single kiss, then kept his hands in Crowley’s hair so their foreheads were touching even after their lips had parted.
“Powerful. Look what you do to me, angel. You destroy me. You pick me back up again.”
They were kissing again without knowing who had leaned in first. Crowley’s hands began to wander, up and down Aziraphale’s sides. His hands slipped under his jacket and for the first time Aziraphale regretted how many layers of clothing he wore. His mind was swimming.
“Keep going,” he urged, please.
“You are ethereal.” Crowley was ready this time. “Too perfect for this world. Far too perfect for heaven. You make mistakes, angel. You’re an absolute idiot. But that’s what makes you perfect. You--”
Their lips crashed together again as Aziraphale cut him off and Crowley pulled Aziraphale’s hips flush against his in a sharp gesture from where his hands had settled in the small of Aziraphale’s back.
“More,” Aziraphale panted against his lips.
“Beautiful. So beautiful. Your eyes and your nose and your lips--I want to kiss them all every day for the rest of eternity. Your body--soft, warm, perfect. Your blessed clothing choices, so stupid but so beautiful. I want to tear it all off, but I could never. Your smile, Angel, the way you look at me--”
Aziraphale was pushing him down the couch in a desperate slide. His hands came loose from Crowley’s hair as he scrambled to hold onto the back of the cushions, but Crowley yanked him down on top of him. He caught himself on the armrest. For a moment they were both still, Aziraphale looking down at Crowley pinned beneath him, their bodies flush. His hair was a mess. His lips were swollen and his pupils were blown. Aziraphale’s heart skipped a beat at the love, the trust in Crowley’s eyes. A demon pinned beneath an angel. Holy love, not retribution.
“Let me see your wings, angel,” Crowley whispered.
The only other sound was their breathing as his wings fanned out with a soft flutter. His heart was thudding in his chest. He squeezed his eyes shut and leaned forward to press his forehead against Crowley’s.
“Angel,” he breathed. It wasn’t an endearment. It was a recognition of what he was. He reached up, even from his awkward angle, reverently stroking the tip of Aziraphale’s wing. “Beautiful. Ethereal.”
Aziraphale stopped trying. He couldn’t hold back the tears that were already leaking down his cheeks. He collapsed on Crowley’s chest and the demon’s arms reached up to cradle him, arms around the base of his wings.
“I’m sorry,” Aziraphale choked out.
“No,” Crowley replied, one hand coming up to stroke the angel’s hair. “Never.”
Time passed slowly as Crowley stroked his back and wings soothingly. He couldn’t tell how long it was before Crowley spoke.
“Maybe heaven says angels aren’t supposed to be soft,” he said. Then, with an implication he would deny for the rest of eternity, “Demons aren’t supposed to be either.”
Aziraphale gave a choked laugh into Crowley’s shoulder which was now damp with tears.
Then Crowley voiced what he’d been telling him the whole time, suddenly timid, a quiet whisper into Aziraphale’s wing. “Aziraphale... I love you too.”