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I Was Born To Love You

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    Things have changed… For all that the non-apocalypse is very hazily remembered on the whole, as much as Aziraphale can remember it, well…

 

    Of course, it isn’t all the apocalypse itself. It’s the past eleven years and how it made them closer than ever. How it felt to meet-- clandestinely!-- once a week or even more. To get a discreet telephone call summoning him to a rendezvous, to drop a note through the mail slot of a posh flat and wait breathlessly at a cafe table, a park bench…

 

    He’d always anticipated meeting Crowley with more… pleasure, than he knows he ought to have. But over the past eleven years, well… There was something so romantic about it all, not in the hearts and flowers sense, but the drama of it, the hushed whispers, the overcoats… the intrigue and the danger and the secrecy and all right, maybe a bit in the hearts and flowers sense, sometimes, because the lunches sometimes veered from the strictly professional… sometimes they had an extra glass of wine or… more.

 

    They never dared… They’d never… He wouldn’t have dreamt of thinking Crowley could, but he has…

 

    He has fragments of memory. A dove. Something naked and afraid in a pair of golden eyes. A hand holding so tight to his, tighter… The words he’d spoken, the words they had both spoken, how he’d felt…

 

    He doesn’t know if he could call it hope, precisely. He likes having a precise word for everything, but there just aren’t any precise words for his own feelings, not where Crowley is concerned. Those have always been murky and best un-defined, but now…

 

    But it’s been weeks, and they haven’t… They haven’t done anything. He’s not sure what they would do, doesn’t know if Crowley remembers those same moments, remembers the words they haven’t discussed having spoken, remembers… how close they’d come or how right they’d felt, together. He doesn’t know, for that matter, what Crowley thinks about intimacy. Would he rather pretend not to have feelings of an intimate nature? What about physical intimacy? There is a common belief that demons are lustful, but it isn’t necessarily so-- no moreso than angels, and very few angels have been driven by lust.

 

    There is something he feels, sometimes, when they are very near each other, when he notices things about Crowley, which is not sexual in the least, and yet there is no word more precise than Lust for what he feels. It’s a hunger, a burning need, a desire. It’s a desperate, clawing, blinding thing inside of him that says More, more, more!, that says Crowley!, that says Oh, yes, please!, it just hasn’t… it hasn’t got anything to do with sex.

 

    He wouldn’t say no to sex, he doesn’t think. He would be very happy to, if it pleased Crowley. But he doesn’t crave it. He feels a building pressure and he craves release, but it’s not to do with his body, it’s to do with who they are, what they are. He wants touch, he wants words passed honestly and fervently and sweetly between them, he wants to speak some things he doesn’t think he ever did get to speak, even when they thought it was the end of the line.

 

    He wants to say ‘oh, what you do to me’, he wants to say ‘I am sorry, for so much’, he wants to say ‘I love you, and have done’... he just wishes he could figure out where they stand.

 

    Crowley is picking him up for lunch. They haven’t really stopped meeting regularly-- if anything, more frequently, since avoiding global destruction. Crowley likes taking him to rather nicer places than he normally goes to. High teas, expensive dinners… He wishes he could take it for granted that this was courtship, but Crowley just likes those things, those are the places he takes himself. He’s flash, he’s…

 

    He’s outside, there’s a spot where no one else has parked for the past eleven years, visible from Aziraphale’s window, and that’s where Crowley is parked.

 

    Aziraphale heads out to meet him. He’s dressed, he thinks, for wherever Crowley wants to take him. Crowley will doubtless try to tell him tartan isn’t stylish, but this tartan most certainly is. Pale stone with black and the barest hint of sky blue, a bit bold. A bit more adventurous than he normally dresses. An unimpeachably tailored three-piece suit, well-constructed shoulders, a flattering level of fit… Tie and pocket square matched to that thread of sky blue. Cufflinks…

 

    The cufflinks, he’s never actually worn before. Crowley had bought them for himself, somewhere around the turn of the last century, delicate golden snakes. He’d immediately lost them in some foolish wager, and he’d laughed the whole thing off, and Aziraphale had wound up in possession of them, only for Crowley to shrug and say he didn’t particularly care if he ever did get them back, as they really didn’t go with anything he wore. Which was true, he’d favored silver at the time, it was more flattering to his coloring.

 

    He waits for a not-so-stinging remark about the tartan, when he steps out the door to see Crowley waiting by the front of the shop. He’s got one foot resting casually on the bench outside, and--

 

    Oh.

 

    Gone are the boots he’s favored the past… oh, twenty years now, at least, if not forty, it’s all a bit fuzzy. The dark snakeskin mule loafer… He’d worn those for a bit, yes, it was close to forty years ago, before ankle boots had become all the rage and then he’d just decided he liked them and so they would be Cool if he said so. But the mules…

 

    The low cut of them. The silky, dark trouser sock that clings, as obscenely as hose ever did. Perhaps moreso. Aziraphale does remember when hose was the norm, Crowley had worn heels then, he’d had calves you could sink your teeth into, if you were one for that. Which Aziraphale always told himself he wasn’t, the times they’d seen each other then. It seemed sexual and rather decadent.

 

    He’s sure his calves are still as perfect as they ever were, as they always were. He’d spent a few centuries trying to woo painters into immortalizing him, and when they did do, his legs were very nice. Now, though, it’s his ankles which catch the eye.

 

    Those thin trouser socks really do leave little to the imagination.

 

    “Shall we?”

 

    “Er. Yes.”

 

    The break of his trousers hide his ankle again, when he takes his foot from the bench. Aziraphale wants to ask if he would be so kind as to put it back on display, but it’s not the sort of thing you ask a person.

 

    They look an odd pair, he supposes. While Aziraphale does believe his own suit is very nice, there’s a difference between proper and stylish in the way he prefers to be, and the kind of cool that Crowley possesses. The shoes are so deep a wine red as to be nearly black, the Italian-cut suit is the same. The black shirt he wears is open at the collar, just enough, and all that dark makes the column of his throat seem white. Pale and exquisitely sculpted as a marble statue.

 

    There is a marble statue, Aziraphale thinks, somewhere in France, that he’d sat for. He’d been very pleased with it, but Aziraphale had seen it, and the sculptor was skilled, but… he could never capture the full grace and beauty of him.

 

    There is a tie stuffed into his pocket, the deep red silky tongue of it lolling out at one hip. To be worn if there is a dress code demanding one and vanished if there isn’t, Aziraphale imagines. The designer sunglasses, heavier tortoiseshell upper rims, thin wire under, effortless chic. The driving gloves, Crowley’s second favorite pair, but the pair that goes best with his suit. He remembers Crowley insisting that his first pair was Cool, that Aziraphale simply didn’t understand. He’d probably die to be caught in public in them today, they’re comparatively very un-chic. But these…

 

    Burgundy leather, hugging and conforming to those terribly well-formed hands. The cut out at the back which shows off the flex of tendon and delicate bone, the little holes over the knuckles. Aziraphale finds those little openings so curiously attractive. Little places where a gloved hand could still be kissed, and skin felt…

 

    Of course, first he would have to know if Crowley even wanted his hand kissed. He can’t say it’s ever seemed likely. Held, perhaps-- certainly in the past it had been nothing at all to hold hands, and it hadn’t been all that long, between hand-holding falling out of vogue for platonic male companions, and the un-end of the world, but it had felt like an eternity, and it had felt so like coming home, to feel Crowley’s hand in his.

 

    Blasphemous, to say that a demon’s hand feels like home, and yet…

 

    Crowley opens the passenger side door-- he often had done before, though certainly he never hastened to reach it ahead of Aziraphale if it was not convenient to do so. This time, though, he offers a gallant hand, and Aziraphale accepts it with murmured thanks, with a curious swooping, swirling feeling inside him.

 

    The restaurant is in Mayfair, and it is… oh, it’s Crowley. Not the flash and stylish A.J. Crowley-the-supposed-human-of-wealth-and-taste, but Crowley… A quiet table for two that feels as if it’s in a garden. He doesn’t need a tie, though it’s possible others do. Aziraphale is rather glad for it, for the continued view of his neck, the delicately-carved dip of his collarbones and the hollow of his throat. The slightest little shadowed glimpse of chest.

 

    It’s only when they reach their table that Crowley even bothers drawing off his driving gloves, and Aziraphale is captured by the sight of it. His hands, pale, long-fingered, deft… He takes the banquette side of their table and leaves Aziraphale a very comfortable chair-- though he’d have sat down in thin air and not fallen, distracted as he is by the removal of those gloves. How deliberate Crowley seems to make each minute movement as he strips them off and folds them together, and yet how careless. The tug of each finger in turn and then the slow and easy slide, wine dark leather soft against pale white skin...

 

    He puts a hand on Aziraphale’s menu before Aziraphale can open it, shaking his head. “Allow me?”

 

    Aziraphale raises his eyebrows, but surrenders his menu. Crowley relaxes, crossing one… finely formed ankle over the opposite knee. He orders them each a pre-lunch cocktail, a bit of a change-up from the usual routine of wine, wine, and more wine, but Aziraphale certainly isn’t complaining when he tastes his-- nor does he complain when Crowley insists he taste his as well.

 

    “Come on, it’s passionfruit.” He says.

 

    Aziraphale has spent six thousand years never developing an opinion on passionfruit one way or the other, but while he’s quite content with his own very bright and refreshing little something, he could commit to some rather positive feelings on passionfruit.

 

    It’s difficult to remain at a discreet angle for ankle-viewing once the soup course arrives. Crowley has opted for some sort of complicated looking plate with not very much on it, instead, but the soup is very nice, rich and creamy and worth not being able to ogle to his heart’s content.

 

    Not that he likes to call it ‘ogling’.

 

    Anyway, Crowley uncrosses his legs after a while to be able to lean cross the table, offering a taste for a taste. Aziraphale’s soup is earthy, complex… pumpkin and chestnut mushroom, and just a hint of something… It feels luxurious going down his throat, it feels like comfort, but a very rich comfort. Crowley leans in, rather than reaching out, and so Aziraphale presents a spoonful, watching the way Crowley’s tongue wraps around it first, then his lips. The way he can just make out the flutter of his lashes behind his dark glasses, close as they are. The pleased hum.

 

    “You’ll like this.” Crowley says, holding out his own fork. His plate is some sort of arrangement of cheese and fruit and things, swirls of olive oil.

 

    Aziraphale does like it-- it’s almost not even flavor, it’s the rich feel of the fat on his tongue, the cheese so mild he can taste the nuance of the olive oil, the almost-sweetness of it. The burst of texture, creamy and soft, ripe for exploring… The feeling of being watched just as keenly as he had watched.

 

    “Yes, it’s very nice.” He nods. The soup is more his speed, on the whole, but the cheese had been a very pleasant little flashbang of hedonism.

 

    “I’m glad. I like-- That is, I want-- I’d thought you’d like the place.”

 

    “It’s a lovely place, dear. Incidentally, what is the damage on a bill like this?”

 

    “Mine to worry about.”

 

    “Oh, really, now.”

 

    “I can’t treat a very old friend, after everything we’ve been through?” He asks, and he is…

 

    Fond?

 

    He does wish he could see his eyes. Wishes he could be sure. He remembers Crowley treating him to the Ritz a couple of times in a row-- somewhere over the past eleven years, they’d stopped keeping strict track of who owed whom and who paid when… and somewhere over the past eleven years, Crowley had taken up paying rather more often than not.

 

    He’d paid the last time, and the time before that, and Aziraphale had… He’d wanted to say so badly… Now that we’ve survived this, what do you say? Darling, I love you. Did you know I’ve always found you rather too wonderful for my own good? He couldn’t say any of it.

 

    He’d wanted to say ‘you’re my everything’, and he hadn’t. He’d thought about it, he’d thought about it, he’d thought… so many things he could have said. He’d thought ‘here’s to us’ and ‘my dear boy we’ve done it’ and ‘spend eternity with me’... a million things. A million things he just couldn’t say…

 

    He finishes his soup, still going over and over all the things he still isn’t sure he could put voice to.

 

    “Trust me to order for you?” Crowley asks.

 

    “I did give up my menu, didn’t I?” He smiles.

 

    “Pasta.” A grin, as he slouches in his seat a moment. His foot nudges Aziraphale’s as a result of the slouch, and Aziraphale can’t help it, the sudden thought of the low cut of the shoes he’s worn in place of the last forty years’ customary boots, the sudden thought of his ankles. The delicacy of tendon and bone, the shape of him… The thought that, were he a bolder being himself, he might… he might find himself tracing out the shape of that ankle.

 

    “Hm?”

 

    “I said ‘pasta’. Seemed like maybe today you’d be in the mood for a really excellent pasta. They only do really excellent here. With a truffle sauce?” Rather than pulling back, he merely lets his foot rest against Aziraphale’s.

 

    “Oh…” Aziraphale nods. “Sounds divine, yes.”

 

    Does it mean something? It would, for most people. People nowadays…

 

    But does it, for them? The first meal they ate together, the two of them, he thinks Crowley’s legs had been across his somewhere. It hadn’t meant anything then. Crowley had fed him by hand, too, it had been more of a joke than anything. A line about temptation, and a fig and some honey and they’d… They’d just laughed about it.

 

    He’d just let him, and then they’d sort of shoved at each other’s shoulders a bit and laughed. It wasn’t… there’d been no great tension to it, to any of it, not that he recalls.

 

    “Do you want a side? Well… not that, I expect… Oh, not that, with what you’re having… Wilted greens in a truffle vinaigrette? Keep the overall flavor profile, but it’s a lot of truffle…”

 

    “I’m sure soup and pasta will be plenty.”

 

    “Oh, well, you’ll want room for dessert.” Crowley nods, matter-of-fact. And it’s not as if he won’t have room-- he’ll have as much room as he likes. But if the trend of the last couple millennia continue, he’ll be eating several more bites of Crowley’s dinner than he relinquishes of his own, and half his dessert besides. He’s sure the wilted greens are very nice, but they don’t quite tempt.

 

    Dessert does tempt.

 

    Crowley summons a waiter, turning a charming smile on him and keeping hold of his menu.

 

    “We’re going to reserve this for dessert, but… the hand-rolled fresh pasta for my charming companion, and I’ll have the chicken breast in madeira sauce. Whatever wines the chef recommends to pair, and, ah… oh, we’ll get the chips as well.”

 

    “Will we?”

 

    “Well, you like chips, don’t you?” He shrugs, as the waiter shimmers off to put the order in.

 

    “With pasta?”

 

    “I’ll eat them myself if you don’t want them.” Crowley says, but he won’t, Aziraphale knows him. He always orders them and he always eats three, and then he’s done.

 

    “And since when am I your charming companion?”

 

    “Since year one.”

 

    “I’ve never been charming.”

 

    “Fine, my fussy, self-righteous, pain-in-the-arse companion. But, my companion.” He nods.

 

    “Since year one.” Aziraphale smiles down at the table, and nervously plucks at the napkin resting in his lap. “I’m not self-righteous, by the way, righteous is part of the job description.”

 

    “You are. A bit, you are.” Crowley grins. “Nobody’s perfect.”

 

    “Well. Somebody’s perfect.” He sniffs.

 

    “Why thank you, angel.”

 

    “You know I didn’t mean you, you’re a perfect menace, that’s what you are. And… my companion. Since year one. My-- very charming companion.”

 

    “Oh, a perfect menace, am I?” He leans forward, though his foot doesn’t move from its spot against Aziraphale’s. “And when’s the last time I menaced you?”

 

    “You menace me regularly, dear boy. For sport.”

 

    “I don’t think it counts as proper menacing if we’re talking about those wrestling matches we used to take turns throwing. Though I do miss those days sometimes…”

 

    “Oh, I don’t, not the wrestling. I never did care for wrestling…”

 

    “You did, you got into it. You played your part to the hilt. Had a spiel and everything for when you were on top. Had one for when you weren’t, too.”

 

    “You were always too rough. There was no call for it, when it was your turn anyway.”

 

    “Oh. I liked it a bit-- I mean, I wanted it to be convincing. I wouldn’t have minded you getting rough with me, I didn’t know you-- I mean, it wasn’t ever enough to hurt you, was it? You’d have said.”

 

    “I did say. I said ‘not so bally hard’, every time if I recall.”

 

    “Sorry.” Crowley flushes-- which is rather curious, as he doesn’t have to. “You could have-- Er. Well, but it didn’t really hurt you, did it?”

 

    “You didn’t do any real damage, I suppose. Oh, it was ages ago, you mustn’t fret about it now. I certainly haven’t held it against you, I only just remembered because it came up-- I forgave you for it, of course!” He reaches out, his hand covering Crowley’s, where it rests beside his silverware. “Of course I did, every time, immediately!”

 

    Crowley’s hand turns over beneath his own, to hold back. The smile he aims down at their joined hands is soft, Aziraphale doesn’t need to be able to see his eyes to read it.

 

    “We used to hold hands all up and down creation, didn’t we? We used to hold hands whenever we met.”

 

    “We did. It was nice, I thought.”

 

    “A wicked thought.” He glances up, but the grin is uncertain.

 

    “Perhaps it was. Perhaps it still is. I am not wholly insusceptible to an expert tempter.” Aziraphale squeezes Crowley’s hand once, brief, gentle. “I… I have heard, erm… That is, I have read, that-- that people nowadays, they really do starve themselves of touch. I wonder if the same is true of… of beings of our nature.”

 

    “Natures, don’t you mean?”

 

    “I don’t think I do.” He bites his lip. “I think I mean our nature. Yours and mine.”

 

    Crowley squeezes back. The waiter arrives with their wine.

 

    “Special occasion?” He asks.

 

    “Oh, no, not really.” Aziraphale demurs.

 

    At the same time, Crowley pastes on his most charming smile. “Well, yes.”

 

    They look at each other. They both laugh.

 

    “Just the first day of the rest of our lives.” Crowley lifts his glass. “But it’s been the first day of the rest of our lives every day these past couple of weeks.”

 

    “Just think. You’ll wake up in the morning and it will be the first day of the rest of our lives again.” Aziraphale lifts his own. “Cheers.”

 

    “Cheers, angel.”

 

    The waiter has scurried politely off, leaving them to it, Aziraphale suddenly finds himself aware of the man’s absence, of the fact that he’s been gazing rather soppily into Crowley’s sunglasses for a rather long moment.

 

    “Oh, dear, I’m afraid we’ve given that waiter the wrong idea…”

 

    “You-- you are?”

 

    “Well…” He sets his glass down, and takes a moment to gently straighten a wrinkle out of the tablecloth. Is it not the wrong idea? Was this… Had Crowley meant for this to be… Are they on a date? “We’ve certainly given him an idea… Erm, I mean, I am aware of the-- the general idea that I always give people.”

 

    “You know the idea you give people?”

 

    “My dear boy, you don’t think I’m this flaming all by coincidence? It has been my cultivated persona for a very, very, very long time.”

 

    “Oh.” Crowley similarly straights at the tablecloth on his side of the table. “A cultivated persona. Not-- Right, yes. Of course. Of course it is. Just… just thought it was how you-- I just thought maybe-- maybe you didn’t know.”

 

    “Of course I know. Believe you me, if I didn’t know, there are plenty of people ready to relieve me of my innocence in the matter.”

 

    “Who’s trying to relieve you of your innocence?” He looks up sharply.

 

    “I don’t know, lots of people. People who shout ‘poof’ at strangers on the street, those people.”

 

    “Oh.” Crowley slumps back into his seat with a deeply relieved sigh. “Well, imagine they get a bit of comeuppance.”

 

    “I don’t use my ethereal powers to punish people for being rude to me. However… I may occasionally grant divine revelations on tolerance. Or orchestrate a bit of instant karma. People have to know it’s not all right to accost someone! I do mean, all very well for someone to come after me, I can take care of myself. But lessons need to be learned sometimes. What did you think?”

 

    “Nothing you couldn’t take care of, just… Nothing, nothing. I don’t mind, you know. Waiters thinking things. I don’t mind if we… I’ve missed it, the hand-holding.” He looks away.

 

    “Oh, dear, so have I.”

 

    “We could do. Keep… seeing each other the way we have. But with-- with hand-holding.”

 

    “Oh, yes. The clandestine meetings. The whispered conversations…”

 

    “The park. The museum.” Crowley relaxes into a grin. “The Ritz.”

 

    “You know what we haven’t done in an age? We haven’t been to the theatre.”

 

    “I took you to the cinema in seventy-one.”

 

    “It was abysmal, dear. We can certainly go if you prefer it to a real show, but I’ll pick the film next time. Seventy-one… that was that awful period of time you wanted to convince the world you liked martinis, I had to watch you make the most terrible face every time you drank one.”

 

    “All right, all right…”

 

    “You like a nice, full-bodied red. Although, I will admit, that passionfruit cocktail you had me try…”

 

    “Yeah, that was nice.”

 

    “That was very nice.”

 

    “I don’t suppose it… matters.”

 

    “I think it matters. I’m not going to order you a martini you hate but you think it looks cool, when I know what you like.”

 

    “No, that does matter. I mean-- you and I, and… clandestine. I mean… no one’s talked to you. No one’s talked to me. Maybe we just…” He drums his hands on the table. “Meet. And no one cares if we do.”

 

    “Oh.” Aziraphale smiles softly, and reaches out to take Crowley’s hand again. “Well, it doesn’t have to be clandestine, of course. But I do like the park. And the museum.”

 

    “And the Ritz?”

 

    “And the Ritz. And here. For very special occasions, I expect.”

 

    “Like the first day of the rest of our lives?”

 

    “Like that.”

 

    It seems all too soon when the food does arrive. He’d never have imagined thinking that, not when it promises to be so good, and yet he could have whiled away an hour simply sitting in this lovely place, holding Crowley’s hand. Talking, not talking, sipping at the wine…

 

    The chips reach them first, and as predicted, Crowley doesn’t bother with more than a couple before pushing the plate towards Aziraphale with a little smile.

 

    “Go on.” He says.

 

    “Sometimes I think you just like to see me eat.” Aziraphale sighs. And it’s a joke, except…

 

    Crowley does not blush, because for him, it is a somewhat more voluntary action. A way of communicating when his eyes can’t, that something has pleased him, or that he would rather not be embarrassed further if it can be helped. He merely holds very, very still. He forgets to breathe, for a moment, not that it matters much.

 

    “I like to see you enjoy things.” He says at last, tone careful. “I mean, I like to tempt you into things. Just harmless ones, but…”

 

    “It’s all right if you do. I mean-- harmless ones.”

 

    “Chips are harmless enough, I hope?”

 

    “Oh, I’m sure.”

 

    Crowley picks up another, which is surprise enough in and of itself before he holds it out. Aziraphale allows himself a delicate blush of his own, as he leans in to let himself be fed. Some little bit of tension seems to bleed out of Crowley when he does, the worry of whether this crossed some line, but something else in him goes even further taut.

 

    Aziraphale takes his time chewing, swallowing. Making note of the crispness, the salt, the slight bit of oil, more mindful than he normally bothers to be-- but then, he’s often more mindful of the pleasure of eating, in Crowley’s company. Whenever he thinks he might enjoy something home on his own, he winds up leaving it abandoned after a nibble. Even when he is preoccupied with other business, when he dines with Crowley, he enjoys the food.

 

    He dabs his napkin delicately to his lips, although it’s not really necessary. It gives him a fraction of a moment more to try and collect himself.

 

    “Thank you, dear.” He says mildly, not meeting Crowley’s gaze again. It makes him too off-balance, trying to hold it when he can’t quite see his eyes. Perhaps, at home, privately, they could…

 

    Oh, he doesn’t know what he’s thinking… why would they?

 

    When their main courses arrive, it’s a welcome distraction from this new idea. The idea that there really is something to it, if Crowley feeds him. That it would be different from what it once was, so very long ago.

 

    He wouldn’t say no to recreating the experience… lounging someplace comfortable and warm, legs a tangle, a plate between them, a couple of glasses of wine… The way Crowley had dragged the fig through honey and asked ‘now doesn’t that look tempting’, and whatever else he’d said that had struck them both as quite a bit funnier, but…

 

    But it isn’t funny when he imagines doing it now. When he imagines those same words, seductive rather than playful. When he imagines drawing the moment out… imagines Crowley’s gaze intense upon him. And then, to return the favor, because Crowley does like a little taste of this or that, and he would… he would open his mouth to a little something. He would let Aziraphale offer him nourishment disguised as novelty.

 

    Well, ‘nourishment’, neither of them needs to be nourished. But the idea of caring for him, of feeding him, of doing things for him… Of holding him with one hand in his hair, to bring the cup to his lip, and…

 

    “Is the pasta that good?” Crowley asks, very attentive, and Aziraphale has no idea, but he has just let out a rather indecent moan, hasn’t he?

 

    “Yes, er, yes. Very. Would you like--?”

 

    “Well, if you insist. A small taste. But you’ll try mine.”

 

    “Of course.” Aziraphale nods. He holds out his very curated forkful first, careful, watches Crowley consider it on his tongue before chewing. He does wish he could see his eyes… to see what he thinks of the feel of it, soft but with just enough to bite into, and the sharpness of the parmesan curl against the earthiness of the wild mushroom, the almost musky undertone to the sauce… It really is very good, he’s almost sorry the moan hadn’t been properly for the pasta.

 

    “Mm.” Crowley nods thoughtfully, before swallowing. “See, I know what I’m doing, when it comes to reading desires.”

 

    “Oh?” Aziraphale nearly drops his fork.

 

    “Well… after six thousand years, I’m not exactly firing shots off in the dark when it comes to you… Suppose it’s not the same as reading human minds, but you know… they always want things, and you vibrate on a different sort of a plane, it’s-- Guess I just know what you like.”

 

    “Ah.”

 

    He’s relieved. He thinks.

 

    “You’ll like this, as well.” He offers his own carefully composed bite.

 

    There’s a duxelle, it doesn’t argue with the overall palate of Aziraphale’s own dinner, which helps. The madeira sauce is very nice, not too peppery, a fine complement to the roast chicken and duxelle… nothing overpowers, the flavors sing in harmony, it’s just that bit of something that the chicken needs in order to attain the heights of perfection.

 

    “You might need another taste to be sure, of course.” Crowley adds, once he’s finished. “Allow me.”

 

    Aziraphale does.

 

    He allows rather a lot, by the time they’ve finished, but then, making room for dessert is really not very different from sobering up. And Crowley has mentioned something about ‘Chocolate Sensation’-- for two, he’d said. With a burnt honey ice cream.

 

    He orders two glasses of champagne, as well, to come with dessert.

 

    “Perhaps you ought to come around to this side.” He suggests, on their waiter’s disappearance-- this time with the menu they won’t need any longer.

 

    “You want to switch seats?”

 

    Crowley sighs. “No, I mean… come and sit by me on the banquette.”

 

    “Oh. Oh.” Aziraphale looks about with a nervous grin. The restaurant is full, but no one needs to notice the two of them, do they? “Er, yes, when it gets here. I will.”

 

    “Good. Good.” Crowley nods. “Yeah.”

 

    There’s a thrill he can’t define at the idea. Crowley hasn’t said why he’s made the invite. They might each hold their own spoons, free hands together… They might not each hold their own spoons.

 

    Once the waiter has come and gone again, Aziraphale makes his move, bringing his champagne flute around the table, to sit pressed tight against Crowley.

 

    “Aziraphale…” Crowley begins, lifting his own glass. He stops, and finding no other words, merely holds his glass out.

 

    “My dear Crowley.” Aziraphale nods, and it seems the vibrations when their glasses clink travel through him and make something in him lighter, before he even tastes his first sip.

 

    He is close enough to make out just a bit beyond the sunglasses, in the moment’s pause before Crowley’s arm links through his own.

 

    Oh, he is giddy. He is every bubble in his glass, he is light, he is…

 

    He is happier than he thinks angels were ever meant to be, and yet he thinks it must be proof, proof that they were right to do as they’d done, that their stopping the end of the world-- or… meaning to-- was part of the Plan, because he could never be rewarded with such a human happiness as this, if he had not done precisely as he was meant to have. He could never be allowed to be this blissfully alive to the moment if it were Wrong to be. He…

 

    He wouldn’t be permitted to love Crowley, if it were not permissible for him to do so.

 

    “Dessert?” Crowley asks, and he sounds as lost as Aziraphale feels, and as delighted.

 

    “Oh, please.” He sighs.

 

    He doesn’t know half of what he’s feeling, it’s so unlike anything else. Six thousand years on earth had given him no frame of reference for the sparks Crowley ignites in him now. The curious Lust-not-Lust. The pleasure that uncurls in him, languid and sweet, as the ice cream melts on his tongue, the tastes of caramelized chocolate and honey and a hint of cognac…

 

    It feels so unfinished, to rise from the table, to separate. It feels as if he ought to…

 

    He hardly knows.

 

    No.

 

    He knows.

 

    He ought to be in Crowley’s arms, or Crowley in his. He ought to be tasting the very last hints of all those things on Crowley’s tongue, he ought to be kissing his throat as if it were the only way he might be permitted to tell him he is beautiful… He ought to be holding Crowley’s ankle in his hand and he ought to be…

 

    They ought to be home. For all of this. Someone’s home.

 

    Crowley pays the bill, and offers his arm, and it feels so Right to take it.

 

    “Suppose I ought…” Crowley says, and he stands just a little straighter-- after a brief shudder-- as he sobers himself. And Aziraphale doesn’t have to do the same, but he does.

 

    He lays his head against Crowley’s shoulder, only to find they’ve reached the Bentley. He straightens, embarrassed, but Crowley just opens his door and flashes him an awkward smile, before pulling on his driving gloves.

 

    “Do you want music for the drive?” He asks. It feels like such an inane question, when he weighs it against all the things he feels, and yet once he begins with those, where will he stop?

 

    “If you like. Of course it’s always a gamble, but you might find something.”

 

    He finds Rachmaninov. He’s rather hoping for the Piano Concert no. 2, but what he gets is Rachmaninov’s Seaside Rendezvous.

 

    Well… it isn’t so bad.

 

    It’s actually…

 

    It’s rather nice.

 

    “You’ll come up, of course?” He asks. There’s no ‘of course’ about it-- sometimes Crowley comes into the shop when he drops him off, but he doesn’t really come up. Except… Today, Aziraphale rather desperately hopes.

 

    “I wouldn’t mind a cup of something, or… I mean, not that I’d need a cup of something, to want to come up. I’d come up. Anytime.”

 

    “Oh, good.”

 

    “Aziraphale…” Crowley pulls into his customary spot, and turns to face him. He removes his glasses, one gloved hand rests on Aziraphale’s arm. “Does one of us know what we’re doing?”

 

    “If you have to ask me, I’m afraid not.”

 

    “Oh. That’s all right, then.”

 

    “Is it?”

 

    “Well… as long as it’s us. We’ve muddled through worse.”

 

    “Come inside.” He covers Crowley’s hand with his own. “I would very much like you to.”