Fandom: Good Omens
Original Story: Of Coffee and Sadism, by emerald_embers
Summary: Four times Crowley avoided flirting with Aziraphale, and one time he failed miserably. In which coffee is relevant, but English weather is not.
Contrary to ethereal gossip, neither Heaven nor Hell had laid claim to the creation of dreams. As for nightmares, both sides were certain that they were of human devising.
Why Crowley should have found his earthly shell so plagued with both varieties, he hadn't the faintest idea. At first, he'd filed a complaint with Maintenance: hadn't they properly wiped the thing, like clearing a secondhand hard drive of unwanted files? Unfortunately, he'd ended up spending so much time on explaining what a hard drive was—or, rather, would be—that he hadn't got the problem sorted in the end.
His second mistake, of course, had been asking Aziraphale about it.
"Good gracious, no," said the angel, entirely too serenely. "I hardly sleep as it is."
"So you have no idea what I'm talking about," replied Crowley, flatly.
Aziraphale shook his head, with a hint of something resembling wistfulness.
"They must be fascinating experiences, dreams. How do you find them?"
"Annoying," Crowley said, idly plucking a bit of lint off his cuff.
"Surely that's not all," Aziraphale chided, snatching his cup. "More tea?"
"There's one thing, for starters," Crowley said, jabbing his finger in the air. "Mine seem to have got it all wrong. You're the one partial to cocoa and coffee; you only bother with the tea when I'm about, because I'm the only one who bloody drinks it!" He indicated Aziraphale's cold, half-drunk cup of Earl Grey, almost accusingly.
The angel frowned at him, briefly chewing his lower lip. Whether in guilt or concern, Crowley couldn't tell. It was intriguing, though—and strangely endearing. He shoved the thought aside, concentrating on the task at hand.
"Perhaps. What else have your dreams got wrong?"
"In this case, it was a dream, singular." Crowley ticked the items off on one hand. "Drink preferences, ambiance of favorite haunts, your complete lack of corruptibility—which I think my subconscious put there to torture me, just so you know—"
Aziraphale stiffened. "I beg your pardon?"
"—the things you say, the things I say," Crowley barreled on, completely ignoring him. "Social dynamics. Behavior. Appearances. Personal history."
Aziraphale looked as if he ought to have dropped Crowley's teacup long ago.
"Yeah," Crowley said, steeling himself for the showstopper. He was nothing if not blunt; you could only hang around a beater-around-the-bush like Aziraphale for so long and not come to prefer frankness. "There was this phenomenally weird bit at the end where we had—um—been close. You know. Before it all went belly-up."
"There were beta tests," muttered Aziraphale, darkly. "The participants aren't supposed to remember. One of many reasons I opted out."
"Yes, well—I'm sure I would've remembered something like that," Crowley snapped. "I'll never get the image of Gabriel sporting breasts out of my head, mark my words."
The teacup hit Aziraphale's dusty wooden table with a sickening crash.
"I'm sure I'd have remembered something like that, too," said the angel, his tone in full-blown worry mode. "And now I won't be getting it out of my head, either, thank you very much. Are you sure you haven't been eating cheese after 7:00 PM?"
"Unless copious amounts of your red French swill count as cheese, then no—I haven't. What year was that awful stuff, anyway? It hasn't been a great decade for Bordeaux."
"One can always hope," Aziraphale sighed, pottering off to the kitchenette for a dustpan. "Shall I avoid it next time, then? What about your Riesling, how's it been?"
"Fair to good, getting better," Crowley said. "It'll be cracking by '99, just you watch."
"I'll keep that in mind," said Aziraphale, returning to sweep up the mess. "Shall I pick up some of that next time, or is it a bring-your-own night, every man for himself?"
Crowley bit his lip. "Nah, I'll pick it up this time. Even some Bordeaux, if you like."
"I wouldn't worry about your dreams," Aziraphale said reasonably, dumping the shards in the nearest bin, which was next to the climate-controlled shelves on which he kept his Bible collection. "They're irrational, unpredictable biological exhaust."
"Dream," Crowley insisted again, rising to peruse the shelves, remembering something else. "One inexplicable dream with a whole load of mystifying nonsense in it. I mean, you even claimed you had basically co-authored the Bible."
Aziraphale just stared at him.
"Don't be ridiculous. I'd never take credit, even in part, for such drek."
"I know!" exclaimed Crowley, waving both hands in exasperation. "I mean, even I realize that your interest is strictly editorial, typos and flub-ups and whatnot."
"And as for the...um, sex bits, well, the human body is prone to all sorts—"
"I am not drunk enough to be having this conversation," Crowley announced, heading for the front. The last thing he needed was the angel skating too close to the truth.
"How about that wine, then?" Aziraphale asked. "I've got nothing on this evening."
God, yes, Crowley thought, then dug his fingernails into his palms.
"I, er—no, better not. Got some work to attend to, et cetera."
"Coffee?" asked Aziraphale, hopefully. "Tomorrow? We'll lay your ghosts to rest."
"Fine," Crowley sighed, his hand already on the doorknob.
The trouble wasn't so much that he'd had the dream. All other continuity errors aside, the difficulty lay in what the unfortuitous vision had made him want.
"I did what?" Aziraphale asked, frowning at the steaming mug Crowley plonked down in front of him. He plucked at the tea-bag's dangling tag with mild distaste.
"You heard me," Crowley said, taking a seat across from him. The chairs were padded, both bottom and back, which ought to make Aziraphale happy. "You transmuted a perfectly respectable cappuccino into some standard, breakfast-grade Assam."
"Surely not," sighed Aziraphale, surreptitiously passing his hand over the mug. Its contents went from dark, translucent gold to milky, frothy tan dusted liberally with Belgian chocolate shavings. "I would at least have made sure it was some manner of single-estate affair, you know—Mangalam, Meleng, Dooja..."
"And then I started nattering on about our 'to-do lists,' whatever the hell that means," muttered Crowley, dismally, regarding his espresso con panna with suspicion. He wasn't going to give up as quickly as Aziraphale had, that's for sure. If he'd drunk the stuff in a dream, then he could surely attempt stomaching it in real life. Couldn't he?
Aziraphale snorted, already working his way through the layer of froth and chocolate.
"Can't recall the last time I kept one of those, to be honest."
"I mean, I keep a diary, but it has nothing to do with—well, work, which is kind of a moot point these days, wouldn't you agree?" Crowley took a tentative sip of his espresso and felt his tastebuds recoil in disgust. "That boy's doing double-time for all of us. Hastur and Ligur must be beside themselves with boredom. I'm surprised we haven't seen an outbreak of convent fires in the greater metropolitan area."
"I've had none of Gabriel's infamous communiqués," Aziraphale said. "Life goes on."
"And do you really have plans to write a best-selling book?" Crowley asked.
Aziraphale considered this for a moment, then shrugged. "It's true the world's fictional discourse could use some raising, but I'm not sure I'd be the one to do it."
Crowley hid his smile behind another sip of the vile stuff he'd ordered. The dollop of sweet cream really didn't improve it any, even though much had melted in.
"Because writing bad poetry in secret is more your speed, isn't it?"
Aziraphale went pink, disguising the source of his chagrin with an undignified slurp.
"I haven't the foggiest idea what you're talking about."
Dimly, Crowley realized that he must be grinning like a loon. He cleared his throat and rectified the situation by downing was was left of the blasted espresso. His stomach wouldn't be thanking him later, but at least for now he'd look appropriately dour.
"So, you see: it all goes down like a lead balloon. You love a good cappuccino, and I can barely swallow this stuff without my system sending me a very stern note."
"That was rather more information than I needed."
"Hey, you're the one who called me tone-deaf!"
Aziraphale blinked. "I...?"
"Yes," Crowley said, relishing the angel's consternation. "Apparently my ambition is to join some kind of metal band, to which you promptly responded with some bollocks about my not being able to carry a tune in a bucket."
"The choir was just devastated when we lost you," Aziraphale said, looking as if he might cry. "Nobody else could carry off First Chair Tenor. Michael ruined us."
"I think he'd be perfect for voicing one of those dashing Disney villain-types."
Aziraphale nearly choked on his cappuccino. Rare, to see laughter discompose him.
"I think this has worked a treat," he said, straightening up.
"How so?" Crowley asked, shoving aside his cup. He already felt queasy.
"You're smiling again."
"It's something I do regularly?"
"No, my dear," said Aziraphale, clucking his tongue. "It's something you do all too rarely. You worry too much. It's...nice to see you enjoying yourself, is all."
"At least I don't dither," Crowley murmured, staring at his fingers splayed against the glassy tabletop. If he let his hand slide slightly forward, he'd be able to touch...
"There, now," Aziraphale said, rising and patting him on the shoulder. "Let's be off."
What, no dessert? Crowley wanted to ask, but he followed the angel out into the sunshine. If Aziraphale fancied a bit of a stroll, Crowley was too far gone to deny him.
"You'd mentioned something about behavior," said Aziraphale, conversationally. He stuck one hand in his pocket, withdrawing the crust of bread he'd saved from the café. He offered it to Crowley before leaning forward on the bridge's railing.
"Well, I meant just generally," Crowely said, stalling. He broke the bread in pieces and scattered them on the water below. About five different species of duck glided over to consume the feast, tilting their small, sleek heads upward in expectation.
Aziraphale sighed. "I dislike seeing you so troubled," he murmured in a low voice.
It sent shivers down Crowley's spine. "Shoo!" he said to the ducks. "No more left."
"Actually," said Aziraphale, producing another crust from his pocket.
Crowley let his forehead rest against his wrists, watching Aziraphale toss the bread bit by bit. The ducks had grown fairly rowdy by now, shoving and flapping to get at the morsels. Truth be told, Aziraphale was better at causing a commotion than he was.
"It's like I felt obliged to actively cause people inconveniences every five seconds," Crowley muttered. "Mobile phone malfunction, pickpocketing in the till queue, random acts of indecency. I mean, that kind of stuff takes effort. I have better things to do when I'm walking down the street or in the middle of buying drinks, you know? And those are just distasteful, not my speed at all." I'd rather choke down another espresso than watch random people suck face.
Aziraphale was giving him that glazed-over look of utter bewilderment.
"By random acts of indecency, do you mean—"
"PDA," Crowley cut in, completely unwilling to face Aziraphale's amazing facility with terms as expicit as sex. "They were snogging to bring the house down."
"Really, my dear, I think your dream might have been trying to tell you something."
Crowley seized up, his eyes frozen straight ahead on the palace. "Oh?"
"Some kind of...well, frustration," said Aziraphale, gently. "As I said, the body—"
"Still not drunk enough!"
"I'm sorry," Aziraphale murmured. "I won't mention it again."
"And you were all prudish," sneered Crowley, before he could stop himself. "That's not you. That academic levity of yours, if I had even a fraction of it—"
"Crowley?" asked Aziraphale, his tone laced with concern.
"Yes?" If he could just die now, or vanish, any second now...
Aziraphale's hand fell on his shoulder, warm and unexpected, smelling faintly of rye.
"I didn't intend for this to upset you," he said. "We can go home for now, if you like."
Home, Crowley thought, vibrating under the slight tightening of Aziraphale's fingers. Where's that, exactly? And do you mean my place or yours?
"I wouldn't dream of putting a fly in somebody's coffee!" he blurted instead. Except for the part where I sort of did dream it, which is ten kinds of ironic.
Aziraphale let go of him, then patted the spot he'd been squeezing a moment before.
"Of course you wouldn't, my dear. Dreadful creatures, flies."
So much for loving all of Creation, Crowley thought, concealing another smile.
"Gabriel," said Aziraphale, blinking stupidly at his wine glass. "Breasts."
"I know, right?" Crowley slurred, reaching for the Gewürtzaminer with unsteady fingers. "S'bloody ridiculous. If anybody, I'd have expected...dunno, Michael, maybe."
"The great git," Aziraphale muttered, holding out his glass for a refill. "S'true."
Crowley paused in the midst of his task, trying to focus on the angel's face.
"Michael," said Aziraphale, waving a hand for Crowley to continue. "Breasts."
"No kidding," Crowley murmured, finishing the top-up on his glass before moving on to Aziraphale's. "Thought you sssaid nobody could remember."
"Hah! 'M talking about Arh—Archangels, here," said Aziraphale, accepting the glass. "Michael brad—bragged about it for decades before somebody made him shut it."
Crowley sank back into his seat and took a long, fascinated swig of his wine.
"Who made him..." He waved his hand, struggling for words. "You know. Thing."
"Uriel," Aziraphale said, then made a sound curiously akin to a giggle. "Right hook."
Crowley whistled, swilling the wine in his glass. "Yowch."
"And she'd have good reason," said Aziraphale, piously.
Always did wonder about her choice of body, Crowley thought hazily. The androgynous, small-chested thing suddenly made a lot more sense.
"Anyway, s'what I heard," continued Aziraphale, his pupils dilating. "Was too busy with...um...to have witnef—witnessed it firsthand."
Crowley tilted his head, in hopes it might stop spinning. "Busy with what?"
"Books," said Aziraphale, whimsically. "Fountain pens. Accountancy. Pot plants."
No wonder I love you, Crowley thought, slipping even further into a daze.
"Guess I was stuck on tech—nol—ogy," he said, slowing his speech to get it right.
"And a good job, too," Aziraphale said, reaching across the table to pat his wrist.
Crowley flinched slightly, wrapping both hands tightly around his glass.
"S'it cold in here?" Aziraphale wondered out loud, fixing large, sympathetic eyes on Crowley. "Could've sworn I shut the windows, but let me go check..."
Crowley spent several tortured seconds sitting alone with his half-empty wine glass, listening to the sound of Aziraphale colliding softly with nearly everything in his path as he made his way around the bookshop. On the one hand, they seemed to have wrapped all of his issues up nicely, and had even got in a few choice digs at some of their more irritating (former) co-workers. On the other, Crowley was aware that they had opened up an entirely new can of worms. Personal history indeed.
"There," said Aziraphale, catching himself for a moment on the back of Crowley's chair as he stumbled past. "All toasty now, or at least it should be."
He set a hand on Crowley's shoulder, in exactly the same spot as when they'd been on the bridge. His fingers curled again, continuing the uncanny replay. What Crowley did wrong was turn his head up to look at Aziraphale, just as the ducks had done to him.
Aziraphale's eyes softened, losing their drunken cast.
"You mean an awful lot to me, you know," he said, each word painfully clear.
Unwittingly, Crowley had covered Aziraphale's hand with his own. And was squeezing right back. Panic seized him when he realized what was coming next.
"Yesss," he said, helplessly, and drew the angel down for a kiss.
Gewürtzaminer, being a white wine of considerable sweetness, definitely fit the bill. Aziraphale's mouth held no hint of bitterness, as it might have done if they'd been drinking a red. On trying to rise, he found himself lifted, tugged inexorably to his feet by Aziraphale's urgent fingers at his elbows. The glass toppled, no doubt dousing the entire table. Crowley closed his eyes and pressed into the embrace.
"'M too drunk to be doing this," he murmured against Aziraphale's lips.
"Then we ought to sober up," said Aziraphale, and deepened the kiss.
It had taken a lot of doing, and fairly awkward doing, at that, but Crowley had managed to convince Aziraphale that they were better off calling a time-out, straightening things up, and heading over to his place instead. Failing temptation, persuasiveness, at least, had always been his strong suit. Crowley had never found the impulse to breathe so unbelievably painful. His skin still prickled with the heat of contact, and the tight, restless flare in his chest had spread to every last inch of him.
It had not been the best thing to dwell on whilst cleaning up broken glass.
It hadn't helped, either, that Aziraphale had found every excuse to touch him as they wrapped up the tidying and made a hasty retreat out the bookshop's back door and around front to the car. Even the slightest brush of Aziraphale's hand against Crowley's arm or his wrist had made him start, and those questioning fingers against the side of his thigh had made the drive from Soho to Mayfair seem a small eternity. Fortunately, their mutual distraction had meant that Aziraphale hadn't even had the presence of mind to chide him for doing 40 in zones that were signposted 20 or under.
Bad enough, too, that he'd dropped the keys four times trying to get his front door open. Aziraphale had finally taken them off of him and managed it in two attempts.
And as for how they'd got from there to where they were now—that is, in Crowley's bed and mostly undressed—Crowley hadn't the faintest. There had probably been a lot of stumbling and swearing involved. At the moment, all Crowley could register was Aziraphale's warm breath as it trailed from his neck down to his chest, leaving open-mouthed kisses and half-breathed words wherever it went: So beautiful and Ah, Crowley and There's nothing to be ashamed of, my dear.
As Aziraphale's lips brushed the tip of his erection and parted slightly to taste it, Crowley could only think that he'd got bloody well past the point of being ashamed and into the region of losing his mind. Aziraphale. Doing this. To him.
Aziraphale's hands steadied Crowley's hips with the same gentle pressure they'd applied at his shoulder, stroking and kneading and urging him to thrust at an achingly perfect pace. Twenty seconds and he was done for, shuddering to pieces. The sheer joy of it wrung a sob from him, and Aziraphale clutched at him tighter. Angel.
"Here," Aziraphale murmured, already sliding up the length of Crowley's spent, shivering body. "Shhh, I'm here." His eyes were wide again, too bright, but it wasn't on account of the alcohol, which they'd mostly purged from their systems anyway.
Crowley hauled him down for another kiss and fumbled awkwardly between them, finding Aziraphale just as hard as he'd been moments ago. Risking such boldness was well worth the broken sound that his touch wrung from the angel's throat.
"Oh. Crowley, I—"
"Shhh," Crowley mimicked, at least partly teasing now that his mind had begun to clear. Aziraphale didn't taste strictly of wine anymore, which Crowley found bizarrely fascinating. He hadn't even had time to worry over whether Aziraphale would find him as revolting as he found espresso, but, fortunately, that didn't seem to be the case. And judging by the way Aziraphale was thrusting into his hand, he wasn't going to last long, either. The demon felt his skin flush with uninvited pride, and drew back from the kiss to watch as Aziraphale tensed and came with Crowley's name on his lips.
If he'd been worried about the profound loneliness with which he'd awakened from the dream, he knew now that he had no reason to be. Aziraphale had wanted him, too.
"You also said I was good at it," said Crowley, lazily miracling away the mess as Aziraphale slumped and tried to catch his breath. "In my dream, I mean."
"Good...at what?" Aziraphale asked, his voice muffled against Crowley's neck.
"This. You know. In bed."
"Oh," said Aziraphale, sounding vaguely sleepy. He kissed Crowley's ear. "Yes."
Crowley was intensely glad that Aziraphale couldn't see his blushing.
Got one thing right, I suppose, he thought, letting his eyes drift shut.