I think about you, though
everywhere I go,
I’ve done everything
and I’ve been everywhere, you know.
Aziraphale only realized it after the Not-Pocalypse, how little he and Crowley had shared of themselves. How blood-boiling terror of their respective sides kept them carefully sequestered, compartmentalized; a part of each other’s lives—perhaps the very best part—but also, not.
He recognized it the first time he stepped foot in Crowley’s apartment and didn’t feel a sense of unease crawling under his skin. It wasn’t the sterile, slightly menacing decor, softened only by the gorgeous yet quivering houseplants—it was that, every other time he’d been there, Aziraphale had been terrified of what his side would do if they caught him. Or worse yet (because it was always worse; Aziraphale hadn’t been the one to ask for a sucide pill), what Crowley’s side would do.
It was about self-preservation, yes—but it was also about preserving the other. One’s own downfall was frightening enough, but to cause the downfall of one’s best friend? It didn’t bear thinking about.
So they never met long enough to draw attention; never gathered at a place where coincidence wasn’t a feasible defense.
Oh, yes, I was just out to see Hamlet, you know, as Shakespeare is one of ours—and that dreadful serpent was there, so I had to stick close to him, didn’t I, to make sure he didn’t cause any trouble.
Yes, the demon and I are around each other quite a lot, you see, because he’s influencing the Anti-Christ, and if I don’t also influence the Anti-Christ, the world will be lost, won’t it?
Sometimes he gave those excuses. Sometimes he didn’t have to, because the higher-ups didn’t ask—but he formed them all the same, every time. And if that’s what Aziraphale had to tell Heaven, he couldn’t imagine what memos Crowley had to send to Hell.
It was a lot of work, all that. A lot of background noise. A finger of unease always trailing up his spine every time he saw his dear friend—a sense of dread that made him cut short their meetings and turn down Crowley’s lunch invites.
So when all of that resistance went away, vanished like so much smoke in the wind, it was a little difficult to know exactly how to cope.
And suddenly Aziraphale found himself thinking of other things—things that had been so out of the question before, he never would have dared dream of them.
(Alright, perhaps he had dreamed of them once or twice, but he would never admit it.)
It was all very confusing. And to make matters worse, Crowley didn’t seem to be experiencing any of it. He was as languid and unruffled as ever, his feet tossed over that ridiculous chair, his head tilted back, sunglasses dangling loosely from his ears.
“Did you know,” he was saying, his words a little slurred from the half-empty bottle of wine he held by the neck. Aziraphale had politely declined to partake. “That humans have got all their books and magazines and things on these little electronic bricks now? Your whole book shop, stored on some little computer disk.”
Aziraphale jerked himself from his thoughts and shuddered. “Hardly. You can’t store signed first editions on a computer disk.”
“I’m just saying—” Crowley righted himself and pulled off his sunglasses, tossing them carelessly over his shoulder. The lenses didn’t dare crack. “Er—what was I saying?”
“I don’t know,” Aziraphale said airily, trying to ignore how the sight of Crowley’s yellow slitted eyes sent—as they always did—a shiver up his spine. “Trying to make me feel old, I expect.”
“We are old, angel,” Crowley slurred. “Sometimes my limbs are so bloody heavy with it.”
“Yes,” Aziraphale said primly. “Well. Perhaps you could try stretching.”
Then he imagined the stretching and regretted ever saying such a thing.
He almost swallowed his tongue when Crowley actually started stretching, raising his arms over his head and straightening his long legs. Then the demon settled back in, just as slouched as before, looking like an insouciant prince on a glittering throne.
“We should go on holiday or something,” Crowley said with a careless gesture. “You know—to the beach or the country. Somewhere like Tadfield.” He made a face. “Except, not Tadfield. In fact, the farther from Tadfield, the better.”
Aziraphale was quite speechless. Surely this was just drunken rambling. Surely Crowley didn’t understand what he had asked, or the possible implications of it. And maybe there weren’t implications—friends could go on holiday together, couldn’t they? If only he could figure out that electronic searching machine, then he could look it up.
Crowley was staring at him expectantly.
“That sounds lovely,” Aziraphale said finally. “Let’s talk about it tomorrow.”
But the next day, when Crowley showed up for tea bleary-eyed and hungover, he didn’t mention the subject again.
“I’ve been thinking,” Aziraphale said one day over lunch, which they’d had delivered to the book shop. The food was as hot and fresh as if they’d picked it up directly from the restaurant’s kitchen window. “There are a great many things I’ve never considered trying.”
Crowley looked up, his eyebrows raising past his sunglasses. Aziraphale really hated Crowley’s habit of leaving them on even when they were alone. “Such as?”
“Well,” Aziraphale felt his unnecessary heartbeat flutter in his chest. “Lots of things. One has to walk a narrow line when one works directly for the Almighty.”
Crowley’s face was impassive. “I suppose.”
Annoyance slipped into Aziraphale’s voice. “I mean—do you have any ideas?”
Now Crowley paused. “Ideas?”
Aziraphale huffed an impatient laugh. “You are a tempter, are you not? I rather thought you’d give me some direction.”
Crowley leaned back, his arms slipping from the table to rest in his lap. “Er—okay. Well, what do you want to do? That’s the secret to good tempting. You can’t plant false desires; you have to stoke the ones that already exist.”
Aziraphale was thinking of one very specific desire, which he was more than willing to have Crowley stoke—but he didn’t want to bring it up so indelicately. He believed in social etiquette. Crowley didn’t, which is why Aziraphale hoped Crowley would take the hint and be the one to say it.
But it wasn’t like he could expect Crowley to jump straight to, How about going to bed with me?
But couldn’t he, though? It would be ever so much easier.
“Well,” Aziraphale said, pretending to consider seriously. “What about—sex?”
Aziraphale’s cheeks flamed, and he was gratified to hear Crowley choke on his wine.
“Sex?” Crowley repeated once he’d cleared his throat.
“Yes,” Aziraphale said, embarrassment making his voice sharp. “You have heard of it, I assume? Hell’s greatest tempter must know about sex.”
Crowley looked pleased at the compliment, which hadn’t been Aziraphale’s intention. “I don’t know about ‘greatest’—“
Something in Aziraphale’s voice must have told Crowley that this subject was more serious than it seemed at first glance.
“I just didn’t expect…” Crowley trailed off, and Aziraphale cursed the infernal sunglasses, again. Couldn’t tell a damned thing through them. “You seem—er, that is, it takes a bit of an effort, and you never seemed interested—”
“Well, now I am!” Aziraphale said, much too sharply. “Is that quite alright with you? Or are you being terribly hypocritical?”
“No!” Crowley reassured hurriedly. But underneath the glasses, his cheeks looked rather flush. “I only—that is to say—I’m very supportive! If it’s what you want, I mean. As long as it’s definitely what you want.”
Aziraphale stared at him. “What do you mean?”
“Well, it’s not necessary, see,” Crowley explained patiently. “You might be looking around and thinking—well, everyone else does it, maybe I should too—and I’m just telling you, you don’t have to.”
This was the opposite of tempting! This was—compassionate support!
Aziraphale suddenly felt very tired.
“Thank you for the concern, dear,” he said, slumping rather wiltedly.
Aziraphale looked up. Crowley had finally taken off his glasses, and his luminous yellow eyes were wide and concerned. Aziraphale swallowed.
“I’m sorry,” Crowley said sincerely. “I don’t know how, but I think I’ve done the wrong thing. Haven’t I?”
“No, no, dear,” Aziraphale assured him. His annoyance melted away, because he realized it wasn’t fair. Asking Crowley to do the heavy lifting wasn’t right. “I’m just a bit tetchy today.”
“We’ve been—that is.” Crowley cleared his throat. “I know we’ve been spending a lot of time together lately. Perhaps too much? Do you need some time alone?”
“No!” Aziraphale exclaimed, perhaps too vehemently. Then, in a more measured voice, he said, “It’s nothing to do with you. I don’t want you to go.”
Which was and wasn’t true. It had everything to do with Crowley, but Aziraphale definitely didn’t want him to go.
“Okay,” Crowley said.
So he stayed the rest of the night. There was no further mention of sex.
“Oh, so how’s it going?”
Aziraphale looked up from his book. Crowley was staring at him rather expectantly. “Sorry, how’s what going?”
“The—you know. The quest for…” Crowley trailed off and made a vague sort of gesture. Aziraphale shouldn’t have reasonably been able to understand said gesture, but it should be emphasized that they’d been friends for 6,000 years.
“Oh,” Aziraphale said, then again, more strongly: “Oh. Erm.”
“Are you still looking? For a...companion, I mean.”
Are you offering? It was on the tip of Aziraphale’s tongue, but he left it there, unsaid.
“I suppose,” Aziraphale said slowly, unwilling to walk back on the stubborn conviction he’d displayed a few weeks ago.
“Met anyone—I mean to say, have you felt any…”
It was nice to see Crowley flailing around just as much as Aziraphale on this topic.
“A few,” Aziraphale said vaguely.
He stared down at his book, feeling satisfied with himself. He’d covered that over very well.
Then he realized how quiet Crowley had gotten.
He looked up. The demon was sitting up straight on the couch, his feet planted on the floor, arms draped over his thighs. He was staring off into the distance—Aziraphale didn’t think Crowley was even breathing. Neither of them needed to, of course, but not breathing garnered suspicion, so they’d both gotten used to doing it.
“My dear, are you alright?” Aziraphale asked with genuine concern.
“Fine,” Crowley answered automatically, but a sheen of not-fine hung over his very being.
Since the Not-Pocalypse, Aziraphale had experienced many moments of latent terror. It lurked beneath his subconscious, erupting like lava at the most innocuous moments. When he was preparing a cup of tea and the steam hit his skin and he remembered The Adversary himself bursting from the ground with the stench of sulfur and sin; when he tucked himself into a bath with his favorite fizzy bomb and he remembered the tub full of holy water that could have dissolved his best friend alive. The humans called it trauma, and it appeared angels weren’t immune to it.
Aziraphale settled next to Crowley on the couch. “There there, dear,” he said, patting Crowley’s knee gently. “Everything’s all right now, isn’t it?”
Crowley looked up at him, his face blank and confused. “What?”
“Well, it’s all fine now, isn’t it?” he said reassuringly. “The Apocalypse came and went and you and I are still here, together.”
“Right,” Crowley said, low in his throat. He shook his head, as if he were waking up from a long slumber. Longer, perhaps, than the 19th century. “Everything’s fine.”
“I should meet them.”
Crowley said it quite abruptly, apropos of nothing.
“Meet who, dear?”
“The person you’re—seeing.”
Aziraphale froze in the act of drinking from his wine glass, then resumed, sipping long enough to give himself time to think. “Oh, I see.”
“You’ve been going off on your own a lot lately, so I assume you’ve found...someone.” Crowley continued on, with the air of one who had something to say and wouldn’t stop until he’d said it all. “And I want to meet them, because—er, that’s what best friends do. They support each other’s—well, I don’t know if it’s a relationship, or if it’s undefined, but—I would like to be a part of it. Not the relationship, obviously, just—that part of your life.”
Crowley had pushed his sunglasses up into his copper hair, and his eyes met Aziraphale’s beseechingly.
“Well, I…” Aziraphale began.
This was his moment, he knew. Time to come clean.
There isn’t anyone else, you idiot, because it was only ever you, but you didn’t say anything when I asked, and now I’m just trying to keep hold of my pride—which is a sin, of course, but an understandable one.
Only Crowley was so flighty. They’d had a fight once and hadn’t spoken again for 100 years. And while those kinds of gaps were normal in the past, back when Heaven and Hell were an ever-present, invisible barrier between them—it was different now. Aziraphale wasn’t sure he could survive it if Crowley just took off without any warning, or any word on when he’d be back.
So maybe let Crowley believe he was dating someone. Get a little space between the truth of the matter—that Aziraphale was hopelessly, desperately in love with his best friend.
“I’ll ask him,” Aziraphale said airily, trying to hide his utter panic at having to materialize a false boyfriend.
Crowley suddenly looked like he might throw up. “Oh, okay. So you are—okay. Great. Let’s do lunch.”
“The Ritz?” Aziraphale suggested out of habit.
“No,” Crowley said, so sharply Aziraphale stared at him. “Not the Ritz. Please, Aziraphale.”
Crowley didn’t do two things very often: Say please, and say Aziraphale’s name.
“Okay,” Aziraphale said uncertainly. “I’ll set something up, don’t you worry.”
Crowley looked like he wasn’t planning on taking that advice.
“No, no, there you go, dear—just there…”
Aziraphale had his eyes screwed shut, a wrinkle of concentration creasing his brow. A person flickered in and out of existence at his elbow, but it kept materializing wrong. First no nose, then no mouth or ears, and then bald as a baby—which was an absolutely fine look, just not Aziraphale’s type. Not that Aziraphale had a type. Or he did, but it was very, very specific and irreplicable.
And of course, the angelic vision reappeared with bright coppery hair. It was down past his shoulders and wavy, which was the hairstyle Aziraphale had liked best on Crowley. In fact, every part of the mirage looked a bit like Crowley, though tilted slightly, as if you were looking at the demon through a smudged window.
The mirage turned to him and smiled, showing rather pointed incisors.
He sighed. It would have to do.
He had finally settled on drinks at the book shop. Aziraphale didn’t want to risk the mirage catching human attention, and he didn’t think he could hold it in shape for the hours it took to eat a decent three-course meal.
(It didn’t occur to Aziraphale that he could eat dinner well enough without three courses. In fact, many things didn’t occur to Aziraphale—but all of them would later, when he was examining the wreckage.)
The mirage walked well enough, but it couldn’t speak or touch anything—Aziraphale would have to distract Crowley so the demon didn’t notice.
A knock sounded on the door.
“Okay...Powley. No.” Aziraphale’s brow scrunched in thought. “Paul. Okay, Paul, showtime.”
Paul smiled guilelessly.
Aziraphale answered the door, his heart thundering in his ears. He had a slight headache from maintaining the mirage. It took quite a lot of effort to control two people’s bodily movements.
“Crowley,” Aziraphale said warmly.
Crowley looked the way a man might look in front of a firing squad—desperately scared but trying very hard to be brave.
The demon’s eyes ghosted over Aziraphale and then looked over the angel’s shoulder.
“This is Paul,” Aziraphale introduced, panting slightly.
“Nice to meet you, Paul,” Crowley said, pushing past Aziraphale and holding out his hand. Paul stared down at it, and then looked back up at Crowley.
“Er. He’s a bit shy,” Aziraphale said, then added quickly, “Come, let’s get you a drink.”
“Nothing for me tonight,” Crowley said, and Aziraphale’s heart plummeted into his shoes. Crowley was easier to distract when he drank wine.
“Are you quite sure, old friend? I have some delicious Richebourg in the back—let me and Paul get you some—”
“No, thank you,” Crowley said firmly. Then he took a deep breath and turned to the mirage. “So, Paul, tell me a bit about yourself.”
“Oh, he’s in...ah—chartered accountancy.” Aziraphale cast around wildly for more details. “Met on the bus, didn’t we? You know, I quite like the bus now, Crowley. It’s such a lovely way to talk to people. All sorts, you know?”
“Aziraphale,” Crowley chided softly. “I’d like to get to know your...Paul.”
He sounded so earnest that Aziraphale’s heart nearly broke.
And abruptly, he wondered why he was going through with this daft plan. To what end? Fooling his dearest friend? His friend who was, even now, trying to take the weirdness of the situation in stride and make a sincere effort?
Paul flickered. Luckily Crowley was looking away. Then he flickered again, and this time Crowley wasn’t.
“What in Heaven’s name—!” Crowley exclaimed, shoving his way between Aziraphale and the faulty angelic vision. “Angel, I hate to tell you—but I think your friend isn’t who he says!”
Aziraphale sighed. He snapped his fingers, and the pressure behind his eyes suddenly lifted. Paul blinked out of existence, never to be seen or heard from again.
A tremor ran through Crowley’s back as the demon stared at the place where the mirage had been.
“I should explain,” Aziraphale said nervously, twirling his pinky ring round and round on his finger. “I should definitely explain. Crowley—”
“That was one of yours,” Crowley said, his back still turned, his voice hoarse.
“Ah, yes. Please, dear, just let me—”
And then Crowley was turning around and pulling off his sunglasses, and there was anger in every line of his face and every muscle of his body, and his slitted eyes glittered with something that looked suspiciously like tears.
“Why?” Crowley hissed.
“It’s quite—it’s very stupid,” Azirephale stuttered. “I know—that is to say—” Crowley’s reaction had Aziraphale tongue-tied. He’d expected anger, surely, because that is how people reacted when you tricked them. But this was something else altogether.
“Why did you do this to me?” Crowley hissed, his voice trembling.
And Aziraphale realized he had gone much farther than he meant to. That somehow, he had wounded Crowley, and deeply. Perhaps irreparably.
“Please, just let me—I mean to say…”
And with that, Crowley marched through the door and slammed it behind him.
Aziraphale chased him outside, shouting, “Please, please don’t go like this!”
Passerby stared at him from the sidewalk, and he knew what they were thinking: how funny, a public lovers’ quarrel. And what did they know, the idiots?
(Rather a lot, considering that’s exactly what it was.)
He caught up to Crowley as the demon jerked open the door of his Bentley.
“Please,” Aziraphale said again, holding a stitch in his side. “I’ve made a terrible mistake. Please don’t leave.”
“Do you have any idea,” Crowley seethed, eyes wide, pupils dilated black with rage, “how miserable I’ve been? Did it even occur to you?”
Despite having begged Crowley to stop, Aziraphale now found himself speechless.
“And for what?” Crowley raged on. “What is this game you’re playing? What’s the point of it?”
Pride is a sin, but an understandable one.
What an idiot Aziraphale had been.
“If you wanted me to leave you be, all you needed to do was say!”
This shocked Aziraphale into speaking. “Leave me be? What do you mean?”
“I should have realized you were hinting it,” Crowley said, passing a hand over his eyes. “With all the talk of—seeing other people, and everything. I should have known it, and that’s my fault. But you didn’t have to do this. Don’t you see that?”
“No, I think you’ve got it all wrong—”
“Don’t worry, angel,” The demon said, a riot of agony on his face. “Point bloody taken.”
And before Aziraphale could say another word, Crowley folded himself into his Bentley and took off, the screeching tires leaving a trail of smoke in their wake.
When they had realized they’d been influencing the wrong child for five years, and then had spent all that time blundering about trying to find the right child—Aziraphale had felt unbearably incompetent. The very world hung in the balance, and here he was, messing it all up.
That feeling was nothing compared to what he felt now.
Because they’d finally found it, hadn’t they? Peace, or some version of it. No more Heaven, no more Hell, no more Apocalypse—just the two of them together, their days stretching on and on into the endless sunlight.
So why, on God’s good earth, had it not been enough? Why had he initiated his own form of nuclear war? Why had he ruined everything?
It was all very simple, really. He had been scared.
Only now—far too late—he realized he had not been the only one who was afraid. The two of them were stepping into a new world together, and neither knew how to proceed. Crowley had tried to take Aziraphale’s cues, but those cues had been so garbled and confusing, the demon had gotten entirely the wrong message. In fact, he’d gotten such an opposite message that it would be funny—if it weren’t so devastating.
Aziraphale stared miserably down at his glass of bourbon. He knew what came next, because he knew what Crowley did in situations like these. Aziraphale had seen it over and over again across the millennia.
He was so very good at leaving. He left hairstyles and clothes and places and people. Perhaps, if Aziraphale dug down deep—and it was painful to do so but he owed it to his friend, if not to himself—he knew it was part of the reason it was so damned difficult to tell Crowley the truth. The old issue of pace.
You go too fast for me, Crowley.
That was true, of course. But it didn’t justify Aziraphale strapping a brick to the gas pedal and tearing out the braking system. You shouldn’t make people leave you just because you thought they eventually might.
And he’d hurt Crowley. He hadn’t meant to—hadn’t even believed he could—but the truth had been plain as day on the demon’s face.
“Oh, what have I done,” he said miserably into his bourbon. It stared in silent judgment.
The bourbon didn't tell him so, but Aziraphale knew he had to fix it.
“Crowley! Open up right this instant! Crowley! I won’t stop until you open. This. Door!” Aziraphale punctuated each word with a hard knock. “The Bentley is still out front—I know you’re here!”
Finally, the door swung inward, revealing a very tired and grumpy-looking demon. His hair was mussed and slightly damp, his eyes were suspiciously swollen, and he was barefoot and shirtless.
Aziraphale was quite distracted by the shirtless part.
“What now?” Crowley ground out, but he stepped back from the door so Aziraphale could come inside.
“I—um—” Focus, Aziraphale!
“Can we not do this?” Crowley said, and he sounded exhausted. “This part isn’t any more fun than the last part.”
“What are you talking about?”
“The part where you fret and apologize and ask me if we’re still friends. We are. Okay? Now please, just go. I need space.”
A flood of warmth filled Aziraphale, bringing along with it hope. The damage hadn’t been too great; things weren’t too far gone to be repaired.
“No,” he said gently. “I’m not leaving until we sort this out.”
A sort of desperate look came into Crowley’s eyes. “But we have sorted it. Don’t you see? We each know where the other stands.”
“I don’t think we do,” Aziraphale corrected. “I need to tell you—”
Crowley lunged forward suddenly and gripped Aziraphale’s hands, so tightly that the demon’s knuckles turned white at the edges. His hands were very cold, and also shaking. “I can’t—I don’t want—please don’t say it out loud.”
“Oh, you fool,” Aziraphale chided himself softly, clutching Crowley’s hands in return. “I didn’t realize. All this time, and I never knew.”
Crowley’s hands withdrew with reptilian speed. He backed away from the door with the panicked look of a cornered animal.
“Stop that,” Aziraphale said firmly. “Really, Crowley. Your head takes you to such dark places. If you just listen for a moment, you’ll see you’ve got it all wrong.”
The panic didn’t leave Crowley’s eyes, but he also didn’t move. He stood frozen, as though Aziraphale were the snake and Crowley the prey.
“I didn’t realize how you felt,” Aziraphale said again. “But I suppose you don’t know how I feel, so we’re on even footing. The things I did were foolish, but they weren’t an elaborate way to put you off. You must stop thinking that.”
“Protecting myself, I suppose,” Aziraphale admitted. He caught Crowley’s eyes and held them. “I brought up something that I rather thought you’d take as an invitation, and you didn’t. And I was embarrassed at having mentioned it. I would have let it go, really, but you kept asking about it.” He held up a hand to forestall Crowley’s interruption. “It was my decision to lie, I know. I don’t blame you for that.”
“I should bloody well hope not,” Crowley snapped, but there was no real bite to it.
“I think you love me,” Aziraphale said, and Crowley’s face went white. “I think you have for a long time. And you should know I—”
“God damn it! ” Aziraphale shouted, and then gasped when he realized what he’d said. He stood shock still for a moment, afraid a lightning bolt would surely strike him where he stood. But it didn’t.
So he went on. “Stupid, foul, serpent fiend! I demand you get back here this instant!”
The front door slammed, and Aziraphale realized Crowley hadn’t disappeared—he’d simply stopped time.
(You might be thinking that angels can’t use their powers on other angels. They can, in fact; they just consider it rude to do so. Crowley, for obvious reasons, was beyond caring about etiquette.)
Aziraphale ran to the large floor-to-ceiling window in Crowley’s atrium. The humid smell of fresh-turned soil greeted his nose as he pushed his way past the lush plants to peer out the window. He looked down just in time to see Crowley burst from the apartment’s entrance, running full speed for the Bentley.
And Aziraphale knew, in the way you just knew your closest friend sometimes, that if Crowley made it to the car, he would be lost. Anathema and Newt would be long disintegrated in their graves by the time Aziraphale found Crowley again—and that was if he ever found him again, at all.
So Aziraphale performed a miracle. The glass in front of his nose disappeared, leaving only the open London air and an eight-floor drop. His wings burst from the celestial plane where he kept them hidden, and Aziraphale jumped.
If anyone had been watching, they would have seen something very peculiar, indeed; a man-shaped creature plummeting downward, white wings as tall as horses beating gracefully on either side of him. But of course, no one was looking.
He touched down between Crowley and the Bentley, the landing rather bumpy and fumbling. He was out of practice.
“Angel,” Crowley hissed, looking shocked. “Put those away! What are you thinking?”
“I think I’m in love with an utterly ridiculous demon, and it’s exhausting.”
Crowley fell back a step. Aziraphale advanced.
“Yes,” he said forcefully, wings still held aloft, a shadow of righteous fury in their outline. “If you would just get out of your own way and listen for one single second, you would know that’s what I meant to tell you. I love you, Crowley. Very much.”
“I—that’s—I mean.” Crowley stopped, and he didn’t look like he intended to go on.
“I’m terribly sorry,” Aziraphale said, and the furious spell was broken as he tucked his wings back into the celestial plane. “I know I made a mess of things.”
“‘S’alright, angel,” Crowley said automatically, as though he didn’t mean to say it—as though forgiving Aziraphale was so instinctive that it bypassed his brain entirely.
“It really isn’t, though,” Aziraphale insisted. “I know that. You just seem so—so—”
“Hellish?” Crowley filled in bitterly.
“Worldly,” Aziraphale corrected. “You outpace me at every turn, you know. It’s hard to understand what you see in me. Just a silly angel with his books and his 180-year-old coat and his penchant for sweets.”
But as he listed all of that, he saw it clear enough in Crowley’s eyes—a longing so deep and full it had carried itself over centuries. He thought of the way Crowley had rescued Agnes Nutter’s precious prophecy book from the burning shop; how soft and gentle his voice had been when he reminded Aziraphale that the shop had burned down. How once, a long time ago, Crowley had kept a few books from being blown to shreds in an awful bombing.
Crowley understood. He knew exactly who Aziraphale was, and the demon was still standing here, looking desperate to take up some small corner of Aziraphale’s life.
It was hard for Crowley to say it, Aziraphale knew. He understood Crowley’s circumstances all too well; felt endless sorrow over the loveless world Crowley had been thrown into by mistake. But Aziraphale didn’t need to hear it said aloud—he knew it as surely as he knew the Almighty had Her Ineffable Plan.
So, it was all out in the open now, and all they had to do—was act.
And yet, neither of them moved. After 6,000 years of careful distance, of furtive glances and deeply concealed feelings, it was difficult to find directness now.
“Oh, for Heaven’s sake,” Crowley muttered. Then he grabbed the lapels of Aziraphale’s coat, pulled him around, fetched him up against the Bentley—and kissed him.
Some things are anticipated to such a degree that the real thing can never measure up. Like children who wish to be grown—only to realize that adulthood mostly means paying taxes and pondering one’s mortality.
This, thankfully, was not at all like that.
It was a bit fumbling, given that they were both somewhat rusty (or, in one case, factory-new), but a sigh shuddered from one to the other, and Aziraphale knew he had never tasted anything as hot or as sweet as Crowley’s mouth on his. It was like a massive pressure released; some behemoth dam breaking against the most cleansing flood.
“I love you,” Aziraphale whispered against his beloved’s lips, his hands caressing Crowley’s high, lovely cheeks. Now that he had said it, he didn’t think he could stop saying it. “Goodness, I love you so much.”
“I—I—” Crowley took a shuddering breath. “Me too.”
Aziraphale patted his cheek sympathetically. “A very good effort, dear. We’ll get there. But do kiss me again.”
That, Crowley had no trouble with.
Surprisingly, their earthly lives didn’t change much after that. It turned out that nearly everyone they knew—from the server at the Ritz to the Them to Anathema and Newt—had already assumed as much, and thus required no adjustment at all.
It almost made Aziraphale feel foolish, except that he couldn’t bring himself to feel negatively about any of it. Everyone had their own path—their own timing—and if his and Crowley’s was longer and more winding than others, so be it. It had brought them here, past the end of the world and into the rest of their very long lives, together.
And for that, he could only be grateful.
Oh, and Crowley finally answered the veiled proposition that had started all of this in the first place. It didn’t take hardly any tempting at all. In fact, Aziraphale became quite the tempter himself.
And they actually did take a holiday together. It was, thankfully, not in Tadfield.
I'd be appalled if I saw you ever try to be a saint,
I wouldn’t fall for someone I thought couldn’t misbehave,
but I want you to know that I’ve had no love like your love