Warnings: This is probably medium to high PG-13 because of groping. Also, if you are a fan of Jesus Christ, you might want to turn off your imagination towards the end.
Author's Note: Here it is, my magnum opus, my first Crowley/Aziraphale fic. Actually it's my first Good Omens fic, period, besides that weird Disc crossover points downward. Anyhoo, I had read Margaret Atwood before I started this, so it's a little more serious that I had hoped, especially in the middle, but hopefully that doesn't ruin it. I'm also not too pleased with my characterization of Aziraphale. If anyone has any tips, please let me know; hopefully the next one will be better. Oh, and this took my a freakin' week to write. By hand. My hands hurt like the shizz.
Disclaimer: Neither Crowley nor Aziraphale belong to me; they both below to the marvy shebang team that is Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. Any damage done to them herein, however, is my fault. I am merely following the crowd. (Crowd: "SHAG! SHAG! SHAG! SHAG!")
Of Bridges and Loopholes
When Aziraphale enters his back room, Crowley is sitting at his desk, leafing disinterestedly through a history of deep-sea fishing, with his feet up on the desk.
Aziraphale runs down his list of possible comments and settles on, "Get your feet off my desk, please."
Crowley looks up—presumably, Aziraphale thinks, watching his own reflection in Crowley's shades—and grins. "Good morning to you, too," he says, and removes his feet from the desk.
"What are you doing here so early?" Aziraphale asks. He's being rude, he knows, but he has some sorting to do that he has really been looking forward to, and he had been counting on solitude. The bookshop wasn't open, and the door was locked. A lock wouldn't make any difference to Crowley, however, and the "Sorry, we're closed" sign probably just made him laugh. So Aziraphale is irritated. It is not a state of being he is comfortable with; it is certainly not charitable.
(It might be helpful at this juncture to point out that Aziraphale is not a morning person.)
Crowley is studying him. Those damned glasses! Aziraphale thinks. He's impossible to read! I'm all right at reading body language, but he's had so many different bodies, he can control it—
Not completely, though, Aziraphale realizes. He's been human for thousands of years; it becomes unconscious eventually, the tensing of certain muscles. And right now Crowley's shoulders, usually relaxed to the point of exaggeration, are stiff and clenched. Something is Up.
As he realizes this, Aziraphale feels oddly elated. It is a small triumph—or rather, a leveling of the playing field, which is far better in any case. He feels like swaggering but resists the urge.
Crowley is still silent, thinking, measuring him, or possibly measuring himself. Finally he says, "The apartment building burned down."
Aziraphale stares. Then he says, "Hmm." He is somewhat offended. Surely Crowley does not believe him to be that gullible.
Crowley studies his fingernails at length. Then he says, "Actually, that was a lie."
"Yes," agrees Aziraphale. Of course it was.
"But I did burn something," Crowley continues. "Or—I'm going to."
"Hmm," says Aziraphale. He can't think of anything else to say. Why is Crowley telling him this? Is he supposed to thwart it? Is that all this is about?
"A bridge," says Crowley. Then he adds, mostly to himself, "I'm going to burn a bridge."
"Arson," says Aziraphale in a mildly disapproving voice, hoping to get a clue as to what Crowley is going on about.
Crowley watches him through his sunglasses. Aziraphale's eyes water. Something is happening here that he doesn't understand at all. He wonders what he should do and then, suddenly, decides not to think about it. His mouth opens, and out of it comes, in a brisk tone, "Well, if you expect me to do something about it, my dear, I'm afraid I shall have to disappoint you. I'm far too busy today." He turns to the nearest shelf and rifles through the books busily, feeling as though he has passed some sort of test.
Crowley grins hugely. His teeth are not white, because teeth are not naturally white; instead they are perfectly ivory-coloured and glistening. If one is close enough to the demon—Aziraphale knows, because he has been close enough in the past—it is noticeable that his canines are just slightly sharper than normal. He keeps them that way on purpose, the angel is certain of it. Vanity, thinks Aziraphale. Or job description. They seem to blur together for both of us.
"Some would say," says Crowley slowly, "some would say that you have to do something about it. I mean, it is your job, after all."
"Well, now," says Aziraphale, and leaves it at that. What else is there to say?
There is a pause, during which Aziraphale can feel Crowley's eyes on the back of his neck. Then the demon says, some of the old smirk back in his voice, "Angel, are you aware that you are wearing a housecoat?"
Aziraphale looks shocked. "No! Am I?" He stares at his terry-cloth-covered arm in horror.
"Are you… all right, angel?" asks Crowley, looking suddenly nervous.
"Of course I know I'm wearing a housecoat!" Aziraphale snaps. "What kind of a question is that? And what is your point, please?"
"Well… it's tartan," says Crowley, recovering quickly. "I don't even know where you would have found something like that."
"I like tartan," says Aziraphale mildly.
"And it's got a duck on the pocket," Crowley points out.
"Yes? What've you got against ducks?"
"It's a yellow duck."
"Have you ever seen a yellow duck in all of your existence?" Crowley asks. "You haven't, have you?"
"Grinning animals sewn on pockets are not meant to be realistic, Crowley."
"What've you got a housecoat for, anyway?" Crowley asks curiously.
Aziraphale sighs and mutters something.
"I was trying to sleep," the angels snaps, glaring at him. "You spend so much time doing it! I was—"
"Tempted?" Crowley asks, grinning.
"Curious," says Aziraphale firmly. "Though I'm not entirely sure that that's any different. I didn't like it, in any case. It seems like a waste of time. Nearly slothful. But I'd gotten myself a bed and so forth, so I just use it for reading. It's quite comfortable, I'll say that for it."
"So the coat is part of the whole… ensemble?" Crowley says, interested despite himself.
"Well, yes. After all, if someone came to the door, it would be rather inappropriate for me to greet them in flagrante et cetera, wouldn't it?"
Crowley chokes. "What, you read—?"
The angel sighs. "In a nightshirt, Crowley, but it's the principle. Really, that gets tiresome, you know."
Crowley flushes, an angry diluted-blood colour. "I haven't the faintest idea what you're talking about, angel," he says, and opens the book on deep-sea fishing again, pretending to be engrossed.
He looks ridiculous when he blushes, thinks Aziraphale absently, but keeps it to himself, because surely if he said it aloud Crowley would come up with some sort of sarcastic remark about the angel's own frequently red face in self-defence, and Aziraphale is not at all certain that he would respond to this in a properly angelic manner. Hitting Crowley in the nose, for example, is becoming an increasingly attractive option.
Crowley is still staring intently at his book. He does not appear to have noticed that the book is upside down. Aziraphale notices, of course, but chooses to ignore it. He pulls a chair over to the desk directly across from Crowley and sits down on it, brushing imaginary dust particles off of the offending tartan housecoat. Then he gently pulls the book down from the demon's face and tries to catch his eye through the shades. "I didn't know you were interested in the philosophy of tuna fishing, my dear," he says, trying with reasonable success to sound more patient than he feels.
Crowley yanks the book out of the angel's hands and buries his nose in it again. Aziraphale's eyes narrow for a moment, and then his face smoothes out into an expression of utter peace. He stands up slowly, walks around the desk, snatches the book out of Crowley's hands, closes it with a dusty thump, and whacks the demon smartly on the head with it.
Aziraphale glides over to a nearby bookshelf, placing the book reverentially with its fellows, and returns to his seat. He smiles beatifically at Crowley, who is gingerly prodding at the lump forming on the back of his head, and says dreamily, "It's unhealthy for one suppress one's emotions, don't you think, my dear?"
Crowley glares. "What was that for?" he demands.
In a flash, Aziraphale switches from an expression of nearly-drugged bliss to one of barely-contained rage. "You are being ridiculous. You came here for a reason. Tell me what you want or leave, but if you must sulk, do it in privacy!" He realizes he is shouting. He really needs to alphabetize something.
"Oh, what is it?" snaps the angel, and immediately regrets it; Crowley cringes slightly and looks away, with an expression that Aziraphale can't quite decipher and isn't at all comfortable with. It's not the sort of expression a demon should wear, he feels; it isn't nearly as hard and invulnerable as he's used to. He sighs and says, "Crowley…?" There is no response. "I'm sorry, but you've got to talk to me. I'm not going to ask again, my dear," he adds sternly.
Crowley squeezes his eyes shut so tightly that the muscles in his forehead twitch and shakes his head twice, violently; he pause, then shakes his head vehemently back and forth, gradually slowing until the motion of his head is barely visible. As Crowley stares at the insides of his eyelids, Aziraphale notices how small he looks, because there is some sense of ease and comfortable power that Crowley usually projects that's quite gone now.
Aziraphale exhales once, hard, feeling put-upon, and stands up. He makes a helpless shrugging gesture to say, What can I do? (This is for his own benefit, because he's beginning to feel guilty for snapping, and besides, who else is there to see?) Taking long steps away from the uncomfortable silence that is his desk, the angel reaches the relative safety of a bookshelf across the room, and he breathes in the familiar smell of worn pages and residential mould. This is safety; this is sanity, he thinks. The sheer, enjoyable orderliness of words in their proper places calms him down considerably, although he had not been aware that he was tense, nearly frightened.
Then he freezes, because from behind him comes a growl of frustration, and Crowley stands up uncertainly. Aziraphale hears him muttering, "I knew I should've gotten drunk before I came here," and then the demon is standing next to him, at a respectful distance with leaves much more space between them than there usually is.
Aziraphale looks at him warily. "Yes?" he says. His voice seems very loud and alone in all of this silence.
Crowley opens his mouth, tries to speak, closes it, clears his throat, tries again. "Could I… see your hand, please?"
Aziraphale stares. Whatever he had been expecting, this was not it. Nevertheless, he offers his left hand to the demon in the shaking position, at elbow height, fingers extended and relaxed.
Crowley takes the angel's hand and begins gently manipulating it. He pushes the thumb and second, third, and fourth fingers into a loose fist, leaving only the first finger extended. He eyes it then, cautiously, for all the world as if it's prey that he's about to lose, that is about to skitter away and leave him forlorn and hungry.
It's hypnotic, and Aziraphale gazes, transfixed at Crowley as he stares at the angel's hand, lifts it up, lowers it again, lifts it again, attempts to stare it down, and then, finally, guides it gently to his face and puts his lips to it.
The angel sags visibly with relief; he's not entirely sure why, but he feels as one might feel when, instead of the expected news of terminal cancer, one receives a diagnosis of mild flu. Whatever he had been expecting, it wasn't this—it was significantly worse.
Crowley's lips are hot against his fingertip, and the demon looks as though he's in pain. "Crowley?" Aziraphale ventures softly, but he shouldn't have said anything: Crowley screws up his face, as if he's about to cry or scream or both, and bites down on Aziraphale's finger, hard, surely much harder than intended.
Aziraphale feels sharp canines break his skin, and he is suddenly furious. Crowley, he decides, is still acting like a damned fool. (The fact that he technically is on is, in Aziraphale's opinion, irrelevant at this time.) He snatches his hand back, clutching it protectively, glaring at Crowley, who looks terrified. After inspecting his finger, which is bleeding sluggishly, he wipes the blood off it and sucks on the wound for a few moments. Then he mentally shakes himself, regaining his senses, and heals it. He inspects it again, finding it satisfactory, and turns his full attention to Crowley.
The demon is standing in the middle of the room, looking decidedly twitchy; his head jerks slightly back and forth, as if he's looking for an escape route, and Aziraphale can see that his hands are trembling. He cowers at Aziraphale's attention and attempts to speak: "I'm sss—sss—I'm ssso ss—angel—sss—"
Aziraphale finds himself, to his own surprise, closing the distance between them, looking at Crowley impassively, and then reaching out and snatching Crowley's sunglasses off of his face. He watches himself, with a mixture of horror and satisfaction, as he snaps the shades in half, along the bridge, and hands them back to Crowley, who looks terrified and tired and far more vulnerable with his eyes exposed.
Then Aziraphale hears himself say: "If we are going to do this, we are going to do it properly."
As Crowley feels his teeth piercing the angel's skin, he knows he's lost it, whatever it was he was trying to find. But damn it, why did Aziraphale have to say anything? It was too much; he didn't want to hear anything just then, just the silence and his lips on Aziraphale, any part of Aziraphale, and the angel not pulling away—if that moment could have just gone on indefinitely, he would've been all right. But Aziraphale said something that actually sounded concerned (not that Crowley is in any state to appreciate that fact at the moment), and the peace was broken; Crowley panicked and bit down.
Now he watches, horrified, as Aziraphale snatches his hand back, his expression quickly shifting (from what? Crowley still isn't sure) to fury. Not just annoyance, which is not unusual, but fury, at him. This hurts; but while his mind is attempting to register this information, his body, well aware that it is most likely in for an angelic arse-kicking, tenses up and begins quickly and efficiently scanning the room for a possible escape route. In the meantime, the rest of Crowley is able to continue watching Aziraphale and feeding pertinent information to his adrenal glands. (The human body is a remarkable thing. Sometimes.)
As sensible as this system is, Crowley wishes he didn't have to see the expression on Aziraphale's face as it shifts smoothly from fury to a horribly blank stare. Somehow this is the most frightening thing Crowley has ever seen; the human face was not made to be let so slack.
As the angel looks at him impassively, he finds himself babbling, "I'm sss—sss—I'm ssso ss—angel—sss—"
But suddenly Aziraphale steps towards him, reaches out, grabs his sunglasses off his face, and snaps them neatly in half, leaving Crowley feeling completely naked and vulnerable. He feels the pieces of his shades being pushed into his hand, and then Aziraphale says to him, in a tone that brooks no argument, "If we are going to do this, we are going to do it properly."
Crowley stares at him. "What…?" he says hoarsely.
To the demon's great relief, life flows back into Aziraphale's face, and the angel smiles, a bit nervously. "Excuse me a moment," he says, and fairly runs into another room. As mysterious noises emanate from beyond the doorway, Crowley is overcome by a wave of anxiety and awkwardness bordering on panic. Where the he—damn—did that come from? he wonders incredulously, putting his hands up to his face and feeling the plastic of his sunglasses melting from the intense heat emanating from his red cheeks.
Just then Aziraphale scurries back into the room, looking quite flushed himself, and carrying… a tea tray? Crowley watches, puzzled, as the angel dumps the tray unceremoniously on the table behind himself, hastily pours out two cups of tea, and hands one to him. Then the angel leans against the desk and sips his tea nervously, looking at the ceiling somewhere above Crowley's head.
Crowley stares stupidly at his own cup. Aziraphale, seeing this, sighs impatiently and tosses his half-empty cup into a corner of the room, where it makes a very satisfying crash. Then he seizes Crowley's cup and chucks it over his shoulder to join his own.
Crowley finds his voice at last. "Why are you breaking china, angel?" he sputters.
"Quickest way," replies Aziraphale briefly, and adds, "I'd offer you a scone, but I have to say that you don't seem very quick on the uptake today, my dear."
The angel looks at Crowley in a calculating sort of way then, the sort of look one might expect to see in war when the weapons master is trying to figure out how to aim the catapult properly. Then, suddenly, Aziraphale is right in front of him, scant millimetres from his face, pushing him back against a bookshelf, and somehow the angel has managed to start kissing him.
Admittedly, it's not a very good kiss at first—it's too eager, a bit painful, in fact—but slowly Aziraphale seems to grasp the fact that the point is not to inhale or eat the subject's face, and then it gets better. Crowley is completely at a loss, so he just relaxes back into the bookshelf and opens his mouth a bit. He registers the fact that the angel's mouth does, in fact, taste of cocoa with mild interest.
He is vaguely surprised at how hot Aziraphale's lips are; then he is extremely surprised to find his mouth twice as full of tongue as it usually is. He opens his mouth wider and makes a muffled sort of noise as the angel's tongue eagerly explores his tonsils.
He is irritated at that, actually. He regards it as his duty to provoke noises in other people. And why is he pressed up against the bookshelf? This really is not at all how he expected things would go.
Then he doesn't care anymore, because there are hands all over him, fluttering over his arms, back, stomach, and thighs, and generally making coherent thought impossible. His mouth is free now, because Aziraphale has moved on to his neck, his ear, his collarbone. Crowley's head rolls back, and he stares at the ceiling in disbelief. No answers from that direction; he could just ask Aziraphale what exactly he thinks he's playing at, but then the angel would have to stop what he's doing, which would be a really, really bad idea.
Aziraphale runs his tongue along Crowley's collarbone and up his neck to his jaw, and Crowley's head snaps forward; he can't help but emit, quietly, a sound somewhere between a hiss and a moan. He cricks his neck painfully sideways so he can bury his nose in the angel's hair, something he has always been tempted to do. Inhaling the scent of cocoa (what does he do, bathe in the stuff?), he suddenly feels weak: Aziraphale's hands are sliding slowly down his back, the tips of his fingers already creeping into his panst, and the angel is kissing the corner of his mouth, his breath hot and fast, and pressing against him and unquestionably making an effort—
—and, with a final bite of his bottom lip, he draws back from Crowley, looking for all the world as if he has been licking stamps for the last five minutes instead of swapping saliva with a demon. He looks at Crowley for a moment and then says brightly, "Well, that was a first step."
Crowley stares at him, completely stunned. Then he, or possibly the heat in his pants, protests: "Wh—why did you stop?" He winces; he's practically whining.
Aziraphale grins. He actually grins. In all the time Crowley has known the angel, he has never seen an actual grin on his face, but this is definitely a grin, with all that that entails: glee, mirth, and a generous helping of mischievousness. "It's a loophole," Aziraphale says calmly.
After toying with the idea of screaming in fury at the top of his voice, Crowley settles for asking, in as cold a voice as he can muster, "And what does that mean?"
Aziraphale raises an eyebrow. "You really don't know what a loophole is, my dear?" It is a modern term, I was sure you were on top of those—"
"I know what a bloody loophole is, you daft angel!" Crowley says hoarsely. "What I want to know is, what does that have to do with—" He gestures helplessly. "—all of that? And why did you throw tea at me?" he demands as an afterthought.
Aziraphale makes a "hmm" sort of noise. He says slowly, "I suppose I can tell you…"
"Oh, tell me what?" Crowley snaps.
"No need to take that tone with me, my dear," says the angel mildly. "As I was about to say… Generally speaking, it is advisable under holy law to have some sort of formal meeting with someone, perhaps over food or a movie, before one proceeds to…" He waves his hand vaguely in the air, searching for the words. "… feel them up. And you were taking ages," Aziraphale adds.
Part of Crowley protests that no, he wasn't; part of him is really wishing for some sunglasses; yet another part of him is urging him loudly to go into his customary casual slouch to save face. His legs decide to obey, but his upper body is a bit behind, so his knees buckle, and he slips down onto the floor, bumping his head on the bookshelf on the way down.
"Oh dear. Would you like a chair?" says Aziraphale worriedly, helping the demon to his feet and guiding him to a chair. Crowley slumps down into it gratefully, and the angel sits on the desk a few feet away, one leg propped up on a chair. Crowley finds his eyes drawn irresistibly towards what he fervently hops the angel does not call his "privates", and is quite disappointed when it turns out that there are pants underneath that hideous housecoat.
After an embarrassingly long time, fragments of what Aziraphale said a moment ago filter down into his brain and jump up and down, waving their arms. "Wait a moment," he says slowly. "What do you mean, it's 'generally advisable' to have some food with someone before you explore each other's tonsils? 'Advisable under holy law'? Come off it, angel! I haven't been to heaven in six thousand years, but I do remember what it's like up there!"
"Well, a few things have changed since then…"
"Oh, really?" says Crowley, exasperated. "Have they? Have they? Let me ask you, then, angel, why didn't you just stuff a biscuit in my mouth and drag me by my hair to bed?"
"Oh, no," says Aziraphale, "I couldn't have done that!"
Crowley nods smugly.
"… the Rules say that has to wait until after dessert on the third date," the angel continues. He adds, "And close your mouth, Crowley, there's a good demon. You look like a fish. It doesn't suit you."
Closing his mouth, Crowley peers at Aziraphale helplessly. There is a momentary pause as Crowley attempts to catch a grip on reality. Finally he manages to say, "But, angel… what happened to the old 'holy union in matrimony, procreation, fwah fwah fwah' line? I mean, it was always like that! I remember He was very strict about it! What—?"
The angel sighs. "It was all changed in the early seventies. It was a bit of an embarrassment, to tell the truth, and even most angels don't know about the new rules, let alone humans… Anyway, he eased up quite a bit back then. I suppose he wanted to move with the times, at least in private. Of course, a lot of it had to do with his son. Jesus really enjoyed the seventies."
Trying and failing not to think about that last sentence, Crowley asks, "How do you know about it, then? The new Rules, I mean. How did you get told about them?"
A tiny smile flickers on Aziraphale's lips. "As I said… he really enjoyed the seventies."
Crowley freezes. Then he blanches, swallow, and starts coughing violently. Aziraphale leans over to whack him on the back. Eventually, once he can breathe nearly normally again, he squeaks out, "What—you don't mean—you didn't really—that was a joke, right?"
"Of course it was," replies the angel, smiling serenely.
Crowley has never seen Jesus Christ in person, but he has of course seen pictures. He has a sudden urge to go and really destroy some stained-glass windows.
"Well, now," says Aziraphale, suddenly brisk, "this has been lovely, my dear, but I really do have some alphabetizing to do, and I think perhaps you had better go so I can finish up before dinner tonight. You can be a bit distracting, you know," he adds, patting Crowley on the shoulder in a comradely fashion as he gets up and moves towards a bookcase.
Somewhere within pleasant fantasies involving a mallet and quite a lot of expensive glass, this reaches Crowley. "Huh? What's this?" he says suspiciously. "What's this about dinner?"
Aziraphale turns around and leans against the bookshelf, crossing his arms and shaking his head pityingly. "Have you been listening at all?" he asks. "Listen closely, please, Crowley. This was number one. If we go to dinner tonight, that'll be two. Then, barring emergencies, I would assume we can have dinner again the night after, or possibly lunch. Either way, that makes three. Then we can have dessert. Then we can do… other things. You understand?"
Certain bits of Crowley are declaring emphatically that they do. Attempting to maintain some semblance of his normal casual demeanour, although aware that he is probably beyond hope in this respect, he clears his throat and says, "I don't see why we have to have dinner twice more before we… um… I mean, we've had dinner lots of times before. What's the point in waiting?" Wait. That didn't come out right…
Aziraphale answers him, in a serious tone that is slightly ruined by a smile that is nearly a smirk, "Well, you never did this before, did you?" He waggles his bitten finger. "These things must be done properly."
"And what if I don't want to go to dinner with you tonight?" says Crowley snidely. Now he's just trying to annoy, but at this point he feels it's warranted.
Aziraphale merely raises an eyebrow at him. Then, suddenly, Crowley's chair falls over, but he is no longer in it; he's on the desk, and Aziraphale is on top of him, his foot hooked on Crowley's ankle and his lips jumping from mouth to neck to ear to chest. Somehow Crowley's shirt is unbuttoned, and Aziraphale is concentrating very hard on his left nipple, his hands creeping slowly downwards, pressing himself into Crowley in the most maddening way—
—and then Aziraphale gets up, brushes himself off, and says cheerfully, "I should be done at around seven o'clock. Will you be picking me up?"
Crowley stares at the ceiling for a moment. Then he sits up, buttons his shirt, and says, trying to breathe normally, "Yeah… yeah, all right. I'll… I'll come then, I suppose."
"Good," says Aziraphale, and then turns to the bookshelf.
Crowley glares at the angel's back. "I'll be going, then," he says.
"Hmm? Oh… yes," says Aziraphale vaguely, flipping through an elderly gardening manual. "See you."
He actually has to push the hiss back down his throat. "All right, I'm going home," he says again. Then, as he walks through the door into the main shop, he mutters, "To wank."
There is a choking noise from behind him.
"And stop that sniggering, you… angel!" Crowley snaps, raising his voice. "It's not very holy, you know!"
He stalks out the door and scurries into his Bentley. Gently, he bangs his head against the steering wheel, once. Then he turns on the key in the ignition, stomps on the gas, and drives home very, very fast.
Still chuckling, Aziraphale wipes the tears from his eyes. That, he thinks, was easily the most entertaining conversation I've had in five hundred years.
Well… mostly conversation, he admits. Partly, at least.
He puts the gardening book back on the shelf. His gaze falls on Crowley's dep-sea fishing book, and he wonders idly whether it should be filed under D or F, or if he should just sell it on eBay—er, give it to a charity.
Something is wrong, he realizes suddenly. He looks downward and frowns. That's not supposed to happen without his permission. After all, it's been six thousand years—surely he can wait another thirty-six hours.
He clears his throat, for the look of the thing.
"What I need," he announces to the empty room, "is a shower. A nice, cold shower."
And he walks briskly out.