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Don't Judge a Book By Its Cover

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If one were to look at the Principality Aziraphale, former guardian of the Eastern Gate of Eden and angel of God, one would assume based on his attire and general manner that he liked to read serious books by authors like Dickens and Milton and Kant.  That was not, to be fair, entirely incorrect.  Aziraphale did enjoy Dickens and Milton and Kant, and of course he had signed first additions of as many of their books as he could manage to obtain. 

Like almost any bookworm, though, Aziraphale had his guilty pleasures.  They weren’t truly guilty, in all honesty— Aziraphale firmly believed in the practice of not shaming people for what they liked to read so long as it wasn’t hurting anyone.  He also bristled at the notion that some books are inherently more or less valuable because of some superficial qualities. 

But still, if Crowley ever found out about the types of books he liked to read sometimes, Aziraphale suspected his best friend would tease him for at least a decade. 

The thing was, Aziraphale liked to read trashy romance novels— the more cliche and contrived the better, although he always put the book down if he felt that the relationship wasn’t healthy and loving in time for a satisfying happy ending. 

Aziraphale had always identified at least a little bit with the LGBTQ community, even though the human concepts of gender and sexuality didn’t specifically apply to him.[1]  He understood the feeling of not quite belonging in some people’s idea of normal, after all, and he had never had a problem with being perceived as gay or queer. Setting up his home and base of operations in Soho had been a conscious choice. 

So, sometime around the late 1990s when he had stumbled across the growing sub-genre of trashy queer romance, Aziraphale had been utterly delighted.  He had quickly grown attached to one particular series, a fourteen book long saga called the Lover Boys Chronicles about the plain, ordinary Steven Smith and his epic, sprawling romance and resulting adventures with the handsome, charming Calum. 

It was a bit shallow, to be sure, and some of the plot lines were flimsy, and the writing in books seven and eight most definitely left something to be desired, and the purple prose during the more sensual scenes was rather egregious, but Aziraphale did quite enjoy them when he needed a bit of comforting familiarity.  He would be lying if he said he didn’t sometimes imagine himself in Steven’s place, and a certain red-haired demon in Calum’s.  Another of Aziraphale’s rather guilty pleasures was imagining that certain demon sweeping him off his feet, dazzling him with grand displays of affection before proclaiming his love for all the world to know. 

That could never happen, of course— Crowley wasn’t exactly one for grand displays, not to mention the consequences they would endure from Heaven and Hell if they were ever caught truly fraternizing.  So his daydreams stayed daydreams. 

Aziraphale would also be lying to himself if he said that he didn’t sometimes get a little zing of something deep in his gut when he studied the covers of his favorite romance books.  In typical fashion, the cover models on each of the fourteen books were stripped to the waist or otherwise rather scantily clad with their chests bared, and while their faces were always covered (cut off, or hidden, or engaged in a passionate embrace) it was all too easy for Aziraphale to... imagine. 

After all, while he was strong, with wiry muscles and a firm-looking chest and relatively well-defined abs, the Calum on the cover of each book wasn’t ridiculously built like some other romantic leads.  As much as Aziraphale tried not to dwell on the thought it was all too easy to imagine Crowley’s sharp lines and angles instead of Calum’s, although he never allowed himself to think that way about the cover of book thirteen, the cover where Calum and Steven were... well. 

 

 

And then a baby was born, and Aziraphale was pulled into a hair-brained scheme to stop the Apocalypse, and he didn’t have much time to think about romance novels for a good long while.  


“Aziraphale,” Crowley said hoarsely, licking his lips.  His eyes were wide and uncovered, shining golden in the warm light of the bookshop’s back room, and he looked a little sick to his stomach. 

Aziraphale studied him carefully over the rim of his wine glass, and then set it down on the table after a moment of consideration.  He could practically taste the love rolling off Crowley in waves, so he had an inkling of what was to come.  It had been almost a year since Armageddon, after all, and while they had had an understanding for quite some time about how they felt for each other, a true confession was six thousand years coming.  Aziraphale had been trying to gather his courage to say what he wanted for months, but it seemed as though Crowley was determined to beat him.  Aziraphale couldn’t find it in himself to mind in the slightest, not as giddy happiness welled in his heart. 

“Yes, Crowley, dear?” he said softly.  He and Crowley were sitting next to each other on his couch, their legs pressed together, and Aziraphale slowly placed his palm face up on his thigh. 

Crowley let out a shuddering breath and set his own glass down with a clatter after chugging its contents, and then with trembling fingers he took Aziraphale’s hand.  Aziraphale smiled encouragingly and squeezed his sweaty palm. 

“Aziraphale,” Crowley said again, and this time he didn’t sound quite as scared.  “I’m in love with you.” 

Aziraphale beamed, so brightly he was sure it glowed.  “Oh, my Crowley,” he said in delight.  “I’m in love with you too.  Quite head over heels, have been for a while.” 

Crowley gave him a tentative, hopeful smile.  “So’ve I.”  He inhaled slowly, his fingers still clinging tightly to Aziraphale’s.  “Angel, can I—” 

“Please,” Aziraphale replied breathlessly, shifting closer, and Crowley kissed him. 

Their first kiss was really quite nice, as first kisses went— Crowley’s lips were soft and gentle, his kiss sweet and so full of love it made Aziraphale’s heart ache. 

They parted for just a moment but remained nose to nose, breath mingling in the space between them, and Crowley grinned nervously.  “Yeah?” 

“Yeah,” Aziraphale murmured, and then brought his hands up to cup Crowley’s face, one of them sliding around to carefully tangle in the curls of Crowley’s long hair. 

Crowley whimpered quietly and Aziraphale kissed him again, this time a little bit urgent.  Crowley pressed against him, one hand resting on his thigh while the other fumbled with his bow tie.  Aziraphale slipped his tongue into Crowley’s mouth and Crowley moaned, his fingers clenching in the fabric of Aziraphale’s slacks. 

Aziraphale gently bit his bottom lip before pulling away to study his love.  Crowley’s eyes were entirely golden, his pupils wide with excitement, and his face was flushed red.  His lips were perfectly kiss-bitten, mouth slightly open, and Aziraphale just barely resisted the urge to dive right back in. 

He had waited centuries, after all, he could wait a few moments more.  Besides, there was more that he wanted to try now that they had finally admitted their feelings for real, provided Crowley was amenable.  “Crowley, I—” he started.  “That is, would you be interested in...?” 

Crowley nodded eagerly.  “I hadn’t ever been sure if angels liked— or, if you liked—” 

Aziraphale gently smoothed a flyaway strand of hair out of Crowley’s face.  “I’ve ever only felt that way about you, dearest,” he said honestly.  “But, my, I do rather feel strongly.” 

“Aziraphale,” Crowley said seriously, even though there was a smile in his beautiful eyes and on his perfect lips.  “I would like to know you.  In a Biblical sense.” 

Aziraphale smiled.  “That sounds delightful,” he said, brushing his thumb over Crowley’s cheekbone.  “Would you like to know me on this couch, or would you like to go upstairs to my bed?” 

Crowley licked his lips, eyeing Aziraphale hungrily.  “Let’s go to bed, angel,” he suggested, getting up and offering Aziraphale a hand. 

Aziraphale took the offer and Crowley pulled him up, kissing him quickly as he did so.  Aziraphale giggled, overwhelmed with affection, and Crowley grinned happily back.  “Shall we?” he said, gesturing grandly to the staircase that led to Aziraphale’s small flat above the bookshop. 

Aziraphale laced their fingers together and led them up the stairs.  “We shall.” 

It took no more than a quick miracle to clear Aziraphale’s bedroom of any accumulated dust, and then Aziraphale let Crowley pull him down to sit on the bed together.  Crowley swallowed hard, his eyes fixed on Aziraphale’s loosened bow tie.  “May I?” he asked, and Aziraphale nodded quickly. 

Crowley reached out and very gently undid his tie, folding it and setting it aside.  “Fuck,” he said quietly, reaching out and slowly undoing the buttons on Aziraphale’s waistcoat.  “Angel, you have no idea how much I’ve fantasized about this.” 

Aziraphale chuckled.  “I think I can imagine.”  

When Crowley finished unbuttoning his waistcoat he shrugged it off, and then pulled his demon into a heated kiss while pushing at his black jacket.  Crowley accommodatingly wormed out of his jacket, shedding his tie a moment later before fumbling with the buttons of Aziraphale’s shirt. 

They kissed until Aziraphale had shed his button-up, and parted just so that Crowley could tug off his own shirt.  Aziraphale smiled, taking a moment to admire his demon shirtless. 

“Like what you see, angel?” Crowley said with a smirk, very clearly admiring him back.  Aziraphale nodded fervently.  Crowley had such nice arms and shoulders, wiry and muscular without being overly built, and a nice firm chest, and relatively well-defined abs, and— 

“Wait,” Aziraphale whispered, gently skimming his fingertips over Crowley’s chest, and the demon shivered slightly.  “I know these abs.” 

And he did.  Even if they were a bit less shiny than he was used to. 

“Uh,” Crowley said, looking utterly baffled.  “Yeah, they’re mine?  I’ve had this corporation for six thousand years, I’m sure you’ve seen me shirtless before.” 

Aziraphale kissed him quickly before scrambling off the bed.  “I’ll be right back, darling,” he promised, already halfway out the bedroom door.  “Don’t move!” 

“What?” he heard Crowley say, but he was already halfway down the stairs.  Aziraphale returned to the bedroom a few moments later with a book clutched in his hand, and Crowley groaned out loud.  “Really, angel?” he complained, flopping back on the tartan bedspread and covering his face with a pillow.  “Of all times, now isn’t the best to start a new novel.” 

Aziraphale more or less ignored him, rejoining him on the bed and carefully holding the book up to Crowley’s torso.  “I knew it!” he whispered triumphantly. 

Crowley lifted the pillow and peeked out at him.  “Knew what?” 

Wordlessly, Aziraphale handed him the book— part eleven of the Lover Boys Chronicles, the cover a photo of two shirtless men arm and arm as they struggled through a storm.  And, although his face was covered by a convenient cloak hood, the man meant to represent the romantic lead Calum looked very familiar.  Specifically, his abs looked very familiar. 

Crowley glanced down at the book and immediately blushed pink before looking back up at Aziraphale with a sheepish smile.  “I had no idea you read this kind of stuff,” he said. 

Aziraphale carefully lay down next to him on the bed, rolling so that they were face to face and chest to chest.  “That is you, isn’t it?” he confirmed. 

Crowley nodded slowly, a fond smile on his face.  “Ah, the 90s,” he murmured.  “What a wild time.  I had some temptation quotas for Lust to fill, figured I might as well help out when the author I... inspired was looking for a cover model.  Never thought you’d read this, though.” 

Aziraphale smiled tentatively back, eyes never leaving Crowley’s.  “I like them quite a bit,” he admitted.  “The whole series.  Both as a trashy romance and as books with queer characters who get a happy ending.  And, I will admit, sometimes I did rather imagine you doing some of the things to me that Calum and Steven do together...” 

Crowley whistled.  “Wow, angel,” he said with a teasing grin.  “Even that part in book twelve when they fuck in the—” 

“Yes,” Aziraphale interrupted, blushing.  “Yes, that.  And also the nice things, the kissing and the cuddling and the, ah, grand romantic gestures.  But yes.” 

Crowley’s grin turned sharp and ravenous.  “I would love nothing more than to do all of those things with you, angel,” he breathed.  “Right now, though, I know which one I want to focus on.” 

In one smooth movement he rolled over on top of Aziraphale, straddling his hips.  Aziraphale’s breath caught in his throat, and then he smiled widely and rested his hands on Crowley’s hips.  “Please do, love.” 

Crowley grinned, and then leaned in to kiss him even as he fumbled with Aziraphale’s belt. 

The book, of course, was set to the side for the time being.  

 

 

 

(A good while later, when Crowley and Aziraphale were both sated and sleepy, Crowley picked up the book again and started to flip through it. 

“What are you doing, dearest?” Aziraphale murmured, tracing absent hearts and stars on Crowley’s bare chest. 

Crowley gave him a soft smile.  “Research,” he replied.  “Gotta figure out all your fantasies so I can fulfill as many as possible.  What are the odds, really, that you’d get a book crush on the one character I’d ever been the cover model for?” 

Aziraphale squawked indignantly.  “Book crush!” 

Crowley kissed the top of his head.  “Angel, c’mon,” he said with a fond, teasing grin.  “Haven’t you ever fantasized about, hm, licking Calum’s abs, or tenderly caressing his muscular arms, or sucking his—?” 

“Only because I imagined you in his place, dearest,” Aziraphale whispered, and placed a sloppy kiss on Crowley’s shoulder. 

Crowley exhaled shakily, blushing up to the roots of his hair.  “O-oh?” 

Aziraphale smiled coyly.  “Why don’t you put that down, darling,” he suggested slyly.  “After all, there’s no need to do research when I’m sitting right here.  I’d be more than happy to tell you.” 

Crowley placed the book aside, slid down in bed to be nose to nose with Aziraphale.  “You make a very good point.” 

Aziraphale smiled, and kissed him, and thanked Earth for how extraordinarily lucky he was to have such a wonderful demon to love)


 

Crowley-romantic and Crowley-sexual weren’t widely recognized orientations, to say the least.[return to text]