None of them could tell if it was a demon thing, or a Crowley thing.
Crowley himself had been the first to notice. He was, after all, pretty well seated to know what the hell was happening with himself ; and though he did his own fair share of introspection (a most unhealthy share for demons, actually, because a demon wasn't supposed to question his motives and righteousness all the time, because, well, demon,) he had to admit that it had been quite a surprise, the first time it happened, and he had still no idea what he was supposed to make of it.
Now, it would probably be safe to assume that this purposely vague introduction was enough of vague introducing, and that we can now move to the heart of the matter.
That is to say, How It Was Discovered Just How Sensitive To Sap Crowley Really Is, And How Aziraphale Almost Didn't Use That Knowledge Too Many Times But Not Quite.
It happened the first time after the Near Apocalypse, Or Whatever That Was Supposed To Be.
Crowley was helping Aziraphale rebuilding his precious bookshop, and trying to find himself a reason for doing so while glaring at books covers to order themselves alphabetically. Unfortunately, the book covers, who had been cows in their previous lives, were unimpressed. Paper would probably have felt a little something akin to fear from deep within their vegetal fibers, but animals were, however, much more resilient, and these particular covers were especially accustomed to Aziraphale, which left Crowley to pretty useless glaring indeed.
« Dear, it won't work on them, and besides, I don't actually want them looking like a magazine picture. »
Of course, he knew that. Six millenias, and Aziraphale still refused any kind of logical order in his realm. Style and cleanliness were apparently also banished.
« How you can bear this mess is beyond me. Should I get some more dust on these shelves to make you feel at home ? Should I bring one or two hobos in here to complete the whole experience ? Since apparently even the rather tame alphabetical order is too much for you, how about I just throw the books on the shelves and we keep it that way ? I'm sure nobody will tell the difference. »
Aziraphale tutted at him.
« I'll have you know that these books were, in fact, ordered, and not randomly thrown at shelves- »
« Could have fooled me. »
« AND, that order was much more intuitive than your cold » he air-quoted « Aesssssthetic. »
Crowley decided to ignore the mocking.
« What, pray tell, is more intuitive than the alphabetical index ? »
« Well I'll have you know that the alphabet changes according to language, so it's really not intuitive to begin with. »
« This is the dumbest argument against alphabet indexing I've ever heard, angel. »
« Crowley dear, I love you but please, do shut up, and put the books where they used to be. »
If Crowley's hands shaked a bit at the idle remark (Crowley dear), if his heart skipped an unecessary beat (I love you), and if his knees felt the tiniest weak for a blink of time, well it was nobody's business, and Crowley himself would ignore it.
The thing was, it happened again.
They were drunk. Well, duh. It was a lazy evening, and they had always gotten hammered together, and if they had started doing it more lately, well who was to judge ? Neither of them were hearing from their hierarchy anyway.
So, they were drunk on quite excellent bourbon (which sometimes became italian wine, or rather daring whisky), and they were sitting on their favorite bench, right in front of the currently empty duck pond. The ducks were smarter than them and considerably more asleep, but it was a lovely pond anyway, and the dry wind of autumn was making the trees sings.
Well, that's how Aziraphale described it, anyway. With considerable effort.
« You... Ssssssuch a ssssap, angel. Sssssssssssinging treesss. That isss, that issss so, sssssssoooo cheesy. »
Aziraphale giggled, his head lolling toward Crowley's shoulder.
« It's poetry. Poetry is good. It's, it's nice. »
Aziraphale's head landed on Crowley's collarbone, and the demon automatically adjusted so that the angel could set himself more comfortably.
« This 's nice... too. » he kept going, trying to focus. « The pond an' the... the... »
« Ducks ? » Crowley offered.
« Yes. Ducks. And the night, an' wind. And you, here. With me. Nice. I wan' it to... last. Long. Forever maybe. Yes. You will ? Stay with me. And the ducks. Forever ? »
Crowley felt the weakness spread through the warm, friendly alcoholic haze.
He felt his insides melt into warm pudding, his legs go like jelly, his eyes close and something akin to a purr threatening to rip through his chest.
It was weird, it was warm, and completely uncalled for. He wanted to panic, but he was too drunk for even that.
« Yessssssssss, okay », he said instead, relishing Aziraphale's content drunken sigh.
He felt like he was made of sleepy kittens.
This was not, in fact, a recommended state for a demon.
But well, being Crowley wasn't a recommended state for a demon either.
He thought nothing of it the next morning, because, well, one was prone to do, say, or experience weird things while drunk, and who was Crowley to say he'd experienced them all ? It could be just a side effect he never had felt before.
A small part of his brain was muttering yeah, right, but by now Crowley was pretty good at ignoring it.
But it kept happening.
Each time he saw Aziraphale, the angel would find a way, a turn of phrase, to say something incredibly cheesy and embarassing, like it was perfectly normal and casual endearment between them. And each and every time, Crowley would get the melty feeling thing.
Crowley, dear, you know how important you are to me, don't you ?
I'm really glad we get to spend eternity together like this.
I'm always free for you, you know that.
It was getting ridiculous, and Crowley had nobody to talk to about it.
They really needed to have new friends.
Crowley was in his flat, immensely bored. Sprawled on his couch, he was pondering about mischief he could make to distract himself, and to keep pretending he was a bad little demon. The fact that his superiors were completely ignoring him (he had called, invoqued, emailed. He got automatic answers, or a really bored secretary on one occasion, so he knew Hell hadn't vanished, but it seemed like they wanted nothing to do with him) made him really uneasy, and he needed some sense of normalcy. He could invent some kind of ashtray made of a slightly sticky plastic, for example, which would be impossible to clean, and sell them to pubs, for example.
The idea didn't seem that entertaining, though, so he filled it for later.
He just needed to busy himself with something... usual.
Lately, he had done nothing but to hang with Aziraphale, which wasn't in his little books of habits the past centuries. They had gone from « once every century or so » to staying together to raise a sodding child, for someone's sake, and it wasn't even the right one ! And since then, they were all but glued at the hip. Why he was still around by now, he didn't know.
And well. There was the... melty feely thing.
Oh, it was never good to think about the melty feely thing, because just thinking about it now had Crowley feeling warm and fuzzy.
He felt anxious and confused about it, yes, partly angry that it was happening, but there was no denying it : considering how Aziraphale's overly friendly quips made him feel was a sure way to remember these exact overly friendly quips and thus always summoned the melty feely thing again.
Now, Crowly prided himself on not being an idiot. He knew exactly what it meant for him to feel like everything was kittens and warm chocolate around the angel (and he wasn't even supposed to like the blasted things, but nobody in Hell needed to know that the Original Tempter liked chocolate and kittens.)
The problem was, that because he also wasn't an idiot, he knew that the angel was supposed to love everything, anyway. Okay, so he didn't love the customers, and could be a very efficient if subtle passive-aggressive bastard to them (Crowley had recently been the very entertained observer of such a scene and he would gladly pay to see it happen again), but it was the principe of the thing. Plus, Aziraphale would never believe that he, Crowley, would be able to... sod it, love him.
Even thinking the word « love » was enough for Crowley to want to scratch his face off in embarassment.
« I » he said out loud, « am completely screwed. »
He knew. He definitely had to know.
He dropped way too many cheesy lines, at way too many precise timing, not to know.
When Crowley was drinking tea, and he strangely had to compliment how soft his hands looked while still being on topic, and tea mysteriously started dripping down Crowley's slack chin.
Or when they were at the park, already huddling close on the bench because of the cold (and well, Crowley was cold-blooded anyway, so), Aziraphale would notice how poetic and romantic the scenery was, and how glad he was that Crowley was here with him, so that Crowley could do nothing but feel himself melt and slouch even more on Aziraphale's shoulder.
At the restaurant, at the Ritz, on the phone, when Crowley was being grouchy, right after he did a mischief, there nothing, no time safe from soft affectionate words.
Crowley stared at the angel in such occasions (he was unable to glare), trying to see on Aziraphale's face some sign, some hint that he knew what he was doing and did it on purpose. But there was never anything else than the quiet, peaceful smile that he was used to.
He had to know, though. Crowley was an expert in manipulation, and he could damn well see when he was manipulated. Apparently the angel found a weakness he didn't even know he had : a complete loss of control of his body when he heard ridiculous lines. Well played for the angel, but it was definitely a violation of the Arrangement as they understood it.
They were sitting in the back of the bookshop, having a stand off.
Well, Crowley was having a stand off, Aziraphale was having tea.
It had been going on for a while, ever since Crowley recovered from hearing Aziraphale calling him the dearest soul to his heart. Which had also taken quite a while.
It seemed that Aziraphale's cup never emptied, and that he also did not judge necessary to feel the urge to pee that often went along with too much tea.
This was getting ridiculous. He had to say something.
« Angel, this is getting ridiculous. »
Aziraphale looked up to him, his warm smile firmly in place.
« What is, dear ? »
« You know what is. You're doing it on purpose. »
Aziraphale arched an eyebrow.
The dusty old bastard could really be way too much of a jerk for an angel.
Crowley's knee started jumping up and down nervously.
« Don't do that face to me. You're transparent to me, angel. »
Aziraphale looked down to his cup, failing to hide the widening of his smile. His whole face seemed to say « as you to me, Crowley dear. »
« I sure don't know what you mean », he said instead.
Crowley huffed. He was trying to make him say it.
No demon would never, ever, willingly mention something close to affectionnate words, unless they added a lot of cursing and mockery. It was simply not done.
But well. He was desesperate.
« You and your.... » he waved, looking away, « your damn... lovey dovey stuff... That spills. Out of your mouth, into my ears. I know you're doing it on purpose, okay, I know it. »
He forced himself to look back to Aziraphale, who was looking back, calm, quiet, and dusty.
« Ah, that. » he replied simply, « Well, yes. I usually do speak on purpose. »
« Okay, so you admitted it, you had a good fun, now stop doing it. »
« Why ? »
« Why ? » Crowley spluttered, « Well, because, you know what it does ! »
« Yes, it voices my affection to you. I believe love should be expressed as long as it's felt. »
There it was again.
Crowley tried to fight the melting, the butterflies, the side of his brain singing Aziraphale loves me, he just said so, Aziraphale loves me, but how could he ? Aziraphale wouldn't lie on such a touchy subject. He had to mean it. For a few seconds, Crowley couldn't help but bask in the perfect knowledge that he was loved, and that he was loved by Aziraphale, of all possible beings, loved by that slightly pudgy, dusty, understyled bastard of an angel.
And then, he remembered once again that it was Azirapahle's job to love.
That helped repelling the fuzzyness a bit.
He managed straightening up.
« Okay, no really, you have to stop doing that. »
Aziraphale pursed his lips, seeming confused. The bastard.
« I don't see why. »
« Because it's misleading ! »
Crowley was emphatically not blushing.
« You say these things, and... It sounds like you fancy me, as in, really fancy me. »
« Yes ? »
Aziraphale looked like he was facing a really, really obscure book, the kind of book who possibly tried to prove that God didn't exist.
« But... »
Crowley didn't know where to go from this.
He finished miserably : « but you don't. »
« I think I'm the best judge of that. »
He lowered his cup onto the small table between them, and reached to take Crowley's hand. It was smooth, long and thin, and exactly at room temperature. He softly ran his thumb on the skin. Crowley held his breath to avoid whimpering. Not that he was the whimpering type. Just, better be safe, was all.
« Crowley. »
Aziraphale's clear eyes were unrelenting, and Crowley had no choice but to stare back.
« Crowley, my dear. »
Not gulping. If he gulped, he was over.
« Crowley, love. »
And there went the no gulping internal rule.
Aziraphale lifted one hand to stroke Crowley's cheek. Crowley couldn't help his eyes fluttering shut.
He could hear the appreciative hum from the angel, and let himself press back into the caress a little. His heart was ready to pound itself out of his ribcage.
« Crowley. »
Aziraphale's voice had dropped to a whisper, seeming to contract space around them into a small, comfy bubble. There was nothing but them, nothing but this warm, papery hand on Crowley's cheek, and this voice, and this smell.
« I do love you, much sincerely. »
« But well. Yes, I admit I had a bit of fun, seeing what harmless bits of words did to your balance. »
Crowley would have snarked back, but well. He was a bit of a puddle at the moment.
The sun was setting, letting a warm orange glow slowly gliding into a dusty bookshop.
Inside, a middle aged librarian was peacefully reading a long forgotten book, comfortably seated in an old armchair.
There was nothing unusual about it, except, maybe, if you counted the green snake snuggly wrapped around said librarian. Its asleep head rested on Aziraphale's shoulder, and sometimes, the angel would stroke it and whisper some loving words.
He really didn't mind that Crowley couldn't handle his human form after a bit too much of cuddling. It was very comfortable to read, after all. But he hoped that the demon would get a bit more control after a while, because there were many, many ways to share a couch with a human-shaped being while reading, and he wanted to try them all.
But for now, it seemed that love completely negated Crowley's demonic powers, which was, in any case, useful to know.
For his part, Crowley hoped that Aziraphale would soon grow tired of making him weak-legged in public.