(Because - as has rightfully been pointed out - the angel needs his cuddles, too.)
“Nnnnh?” The sprawl of limbs dozing on the sofa shifted, resolving into six feet of lazy demon.
“Can you help me with this?” Rising up on his toes, Aziraphale gestured with the book in his hand. “I can’t quite reach the top shelf.”
“Don’t you have a stool or something?”
“It’s on the other side of the shop, and you’re right here.”
With another groan, Crowley rolled off the sofa in a strange, almost fluid motion, and sauntered across the room. “Where does it go?”
“Just there.” He pointed again as Crowley took the book, glaring at the top shelf. It was, in reality, slightly too high for either of them to reach.
Crowley stretched, standing on his own toes, one hand resting on Aziraphale’s shoulder for balance, until he could just barely get the corner of the book into the gap between two others, and shoved it hard into place.
“There. If that broke the thing, s’not my fault.”
“No, I wouldn’t dream of…thank you, my dear.”
“Mmmh.” Crowley gave Aziraphale a half-grin before wandering back towards his favorite resting spot.
Behind his back, Aziraphale pressed his own hand to where his shoulder still burned with lovely heat.
“Crowley? I think I could use a hand again.”
“Are you serious?” he groaned. “You going to tell me you can’t reach your own mugs now?”
Aziraphale glanced at the cupboard again. It did look too low for that, didn’t it? “Of course not. I…I think I should reorganize my wine. I need you to hold some bottles for me.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“Some of those wine bottles haven’t moved in over a century. Why would you need to do this now?”
“That…” He felt a flash of embarrassment, quickly turned it into indignation. “That’s hardly any of your concern, now is it? You come to my shop, day after day, just to lounge about. This isn’t one of your – your ancient temples, you can’t just laze around while the human worshippers fan you and feed you peeled grapes…”
A shadow fell across Aziraphale, and he turned to see Crowley, leaning against the doorway to the little kitchen, lopsided grin on his face. “That’s a very elaborate fantasy you’ve concocted.”
Aziraphale pressed his lips together and turned back to the wine, grabbing a few bottles at random. “It’s not a – a fantasy. I know what you used to get up to in Egypt. And Greece. And a dozen other snake-worshipping cultures.”
“I was hardly—oof.” He grabbed the bottle of red that Aziraphale had all but thrust into his stomach, long fingers dragging across the back of Aziraphale’s hand, leaving behind a trail of fireworks.
“Good. That.” Aziraphale cleared his throat, staring at a row of champagne bottles. “That should go in the, er, Italian section. Tuscany.”
“You going to arrange them geographically now?”
“Of course! Region, then year, then type of grape. Perfectly logical. These are from, um, Piedmont.” He held out two more bottles.
Shrugging, Crowley put the first on the table and reached out. Aziraphale stood perfectly still, so that he couldn’t miss Crowley’s smallest finger brushing against his thumb in passing.
“Now what are you doing?”
“What does it look like? I’m – I’m sweeping under the sofa. Kindly move those – those pipe cleaners you call legs.”
“You never sweep.”
“That’s entirely untrue.” Aziraphale reached as far as his arm would go, vaguely sliding the brush from side to side. Shuffled a little to the left, until his shoulder bumped up against Crowley’s calf, fire bursting through him again.
“Sorry,” Crowley mumbled, and in an instant the legs were gone, neatly folded up beneath him.
Blast. Aziraphale glanced up with feigned concern. “You better not be putting your boots on…ah.” Crowley wiggled his toes, covered in a black snakeskin sock that was a little too skin-tight and convincing. With a grin and a shrug, the demon curled in on himself again, neatly out of the way, and turned his attention back to his mobile phone.
“Right. Well. Good.” Aziraphale ducked his head, and scrubbed hard at the floor.
“Crowley, help me move this chair.”
“Crowley, hold this ladder while I climb.”
“Crowley, hand me that cloth, I dropped it again.”
“Crowley, come over here, I need your hands again.”
“Are you going to pay me for all this work?”
“Nonsense. I’m exploiting you, like any good capitalist.” He pressed his hands down on the cover of the book, sharp scent of glue filling the air. “Come along, I can’t actually go over there to get you.”
Another string of garbled syllables, and once again Crowley stood at his shoulder. “What are you doing this time?”
“I’m rebinding this book. The glue sets overnight, so I need you to hold it while I get something heavy to put on top.”
“Um.” A long pause. “I can get something heavy for you.”
“No, I need you to hold this.”
Another pause, this time the silence tinged with suspicion. “Don’t you have a – a press or something?”
Aziraphale kept his eyes firmly forward, away from Crowley. “Will you just…stop asking foolish questions and do as you’re asked?”
Two hands slapped down onto the cover, perfectly between Aziraphale’s without touching either of them. He could feel the warmth of Crowley’s shoulder, so tantalizingly close.
“Well?” Crowley finally prompted. “Aren’t you going to move?”
“No.” He swallowed. “Not when you’re holding it wrong. Look. You need to be here, in front of the book.”
“Yeah. Where you’re standing.” Aziraphale could feel the look Crowley shot through his glasses.
“Oh, fine.” Removing his hands, Aziraphale stepped back and to the side, letting the demon take his place. “No, not like that! Honestly, my dear fellow, you need to pay more attention.”
Before he could think better of it, Aziraphale’s hands shot out, carefully encircling Crowley’s waist, just above the hips. “Center yourself,” he said, nudging to the left as his arms soaked in wave after wave of heat. Not enough. “And a little closer.” An infinitesimal push, enough to bring his chest almost, almost against Crowley’s back. He ached for it, that last bit of space.
Well. There was one option.
“Good. Now. Just need to position your hands correctly.”
Leaning forward, Aziraphale placed his hands on the backs of Crowley’s, pressing against his back. His feet shifted, and now his chin rested on that black-clad shoulder, and his legs bracketed Crowley’s, his arms rested against Crowley’s…
Every part of them, together.
With his eyes closed, everything else fell away, except for Crowley, his presence fluttering under Aziraphale’s skin like a second heartbeat. He drank it in, more and more, trying to fill every empty space inside himself, but it wasn’t enough, it would never be enough—
In an instant, he was back in the shop, stumbling away. “Yes. That. That should…I’ll…”
Aziraphale spun and hurried away, closing his ears to the worry in Crowley’s voice.
“Crowley? Can you—”
“I…” Aziraphale tried to muster up his indignation again, but after the bookbinding fiasco, it was impossible. “Of course. I’ll just…”
“Nope, I need your help.”
He turned, slowly, to where the long shape of his companion sprawled across the sofa, one foot over the arm, the other dangling off the side, hands folded behind his head.
“What…what do you need.”
Crowley lifted one hand and pointed to a shelf behind the sofa. “That one.”
“I…” Aziraphale moved closer, trying to see what he was pointing at. “You want a book?”
“Mmmh. Right there.”
Frowning, he took a few more steps. “Isn’t that a dictionary?”
“Nnh? No, not that one, that one.” The finger didn’t move.
“Why…why can’t you…?”
With a snort, Crowley dropped his hand, tucked it behind his head again. “Sprained my back doing all your chores. I’m out of commission. I need a book to entertain me during my long convalescence.”
“And what happened to your clever little telephone?”
“You…you finished it?”
“Yup. Browsed the whole internet. Found the end. Lousy twist in the last chapter.”
From the tilt of his head, Aziraphale could tell that Crowley’s eyes were shut, lost in the perverse joy of his silly claims. That should have made this easier, but he still hesitated as he leaned across the sofa, rested his hand on the back. His arms passed over the top of Crowley’s head by several centimeters.
“Did you mean…this one?” His fingers hovered over a likely tome.
“Hmm. Nope. Further down.”
A step to the side, knees coming close to where Crowley’s leg carelessly hung, as if it were too much work to pull it onto the sofa with the rest of him. “This one?”
“One shelf down.”
He bent even lower, until his stomach hovered, just above—
Crowley struck, fast as a serpent, his lazy sprawl suddenly a flurry of motion as arms and legs grappled Aziraphale, constricted, twisted around to slam him into the sofa cushions, to lie there with Crowley straddling his middle, hands pressing down on his shoulders.
Aziraphale’s heart fluttered so that he could hardly breathe.
“Good. Now. What do you want?”
“I…” Aziraphale shook his head. “I don’t…”
“Yes. You do.” One hand shot up and ripped his glasses off, tossing them aside, then pressed down again on the angel’s chest. Golden eyes bore into him. “Bless it, Aziraphale, all day you’ve asked me to do everything except for – whatever it is you need! Just tell me!”
“I…” He pressed his eyes shut, trying to ignore the way his skin burned, electrified, alive. “I can’t. It’s…it’s foolish. It’s too much…”
“Angel.” Softer now, so soft it could break his heart. “Nothing will ever be too much. Just ask.”
“I can’t help you if you don’t ask.”
With an effort, Aziraphale managed to press one trembling hand against his eyes. Tried hard to steady himself. “Crowley. I…I don’t know how to explain it. I feel…cold. Empty. Alone, even with you here. Like something inside me just…died, and left me hollow…”
The weight shifted, easing off his shoulders, and when he looked, Crowley was sitting up. Further away.
“Do you…did Heaven do something to you? When you left?”
“No.” How his voice shook! “No, I – I thought that at first, but…in truth…it’s been coming on…for simply ages.” The shop grew misty, and Aziraphale closed his eyes again. “A little worse every time I – I felt my superiors’ disappointment. Every time I failed at a task. Every…every time I visited Heaven and realized…I didn’t belong.” He tried to rub his eyes again and found they were wet. “No…no this isn’t anything but…my own…inadequacy.”
“Don’t say that.”
“It’s true! I’m not…not strong they way you are.” His hand reached out, grasping, and found Crowley’s, wrapping gently around his fingers. It surged through him again, warmth, strength, solidity. Everything Aziraphale lacked. “I can feel it in you. It’s beautiful. And I want – want to drink it in, fill myself, but I’m bottomless, I just take, and take, and it’s not enough. It will never be enough!” He pulled his hand away, ready to flee from the sofa, to hide from his shame. Ready for his only friend to pull away in disgust at his selfishness, his greed.
Instead, Crowley lowered himself, stretching his long body across Aziraphale, head tucked under his chin, hands resting on his arms. “Is this better?”
It swept through him again and again, with every beat of Crowley’s heart. Not just heat. Something that Aziraphale had been lacking, craving, for more centuries than the Earth had existed.
A sob escaped him, pitiful, even as he drank it all in, greedily, more than he ever deserved, possessive arms twisting around Crowley as if to pull him into Aziraphale’s chest.
“S’alright,” Crowley murmured, and his hand pressed against the curve of Aziraphale’s cheek, brilliant as starlight. “How’s this? Any different?”
“Yes, it’s…” There was no hope he’d ever be able to control his voice again. “It’s stronger when…ah…when we touch…directly.”
And just like that, the weight on his chest vanished, leaving him empty and cold again.
Aziraphale sat up, trying to wipe his eyes dry, humiliated by the loss of composure. “If you want to leave,” he managed, blinking them clear, “I won’t…”
Crowley stood before him, jacket and tie discarded, fingers flicking down the buttons of his black shirt.
“What on Earth are you doing?”
“You said touching directly, right? Skin to skin?”
“You…you can’t be serious.” A different sort of heat began to race into his cheeks.
“Nrg.” Crowley shrugged, rolling the shirt off his shoulders as he did. “If it helps you…”
“No, my dear – you don’t understand. I want more than – than you could ever give me. I’d – I’d drain you entirely if I could.”
“I’d like to see you try.” He pulled off the last layer, a blac vest, then bent forward, resting a hand on Aziraphale’s shoulder. “Besides. Everything I have is yours. Our side, remember?”
Aziraphale bowed his head, fists clenched in his lap. “You…can’t mean that…”
“Angel.” He felt the warm press of Crowley’s forehead against his own. “I’ve never meant anything more in my life.”
Slowly, slowly, Aziraphale tugged at his bowtie, trying to remember how to loosen it.
Moonlight filtered in through the bookshop windows.
Crowley lay on the floor, Aziraphale curled up against his bare chest, arms around his shoulders, one leg hooked over his knees – clinging to him like a lifeline even in sleep. Some of the strain was finally starting to leak out of his furrowed brow, though he was still a long way from looking like himself.
The fingers of one hand ran through Aziraphale’s curls, carefully, rhythmically. Crowley had never seen the angel sleep before, but as soon as he’d started carefully scratching at his scalp, those blue eyes had begun to drift shut. Maybe it was just a coincidence, but if there was even a chance that this was helping him rest, Crowley would be damned, blessed, and cast into the void before he’d even consider stopping.
Everywhere they touched – which was just about everywhere – Crowley could feel something, an energy buzzing off Aziraphale’s skin. He’d felt it before, many times, but never this distinctly; it curled into him, whether he wanted it or not, flowing through his veins, keeping his heart beating.
“Y’know,” he whispered, slightly worried that the motion of the air would be enough to waken the angel. “You really shouldn’t have worried. Steal my strength? Ridiculous.”
Aziraphale shifted, just a little, pulling himself closer.
“I don’t have a blessed ounce of strength of my own. Or warmth. Solidity? Give me a break.”
A cloud must have moved out of the way; the moonlight suddenly grew brighter, and the pale angel seemed almost to glow in the silver light. Ethereal beauty.
“No. Whatever I’ve got, whatever’s kept me going, for thousands of years – it all comes from you.”
His angel shivered, just faintly, and Crowley quickly miracled up a thick blanket, wrapping it around both of them. Aziraphale sighed, fingers kneading and relaxing across Crowley’s skin.
“So you see, s’not a problem if you need it all. It’s already yours. Everything I have. Everything I am. Yours.”
Crowley was wrong for two reasons.
First, the warmth they felt hadn’t begun in Aziraphale, any more than it had in Crowley. It was a different kind of force, generated by their proximity to each other, and flowing constantly from one to the other, an eternal cycle. The strength belonged to both of them, and neither of them.
Second, of course, it would never run out. After all, love is increased – never diminished – by being shared.
720 notes · View notes