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The 21st Century, In Which They Finally Work It Out

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Crowley is, he would estimate, two inches from Aziraphale's mouth when he realizes that he has royally fucked up.

While the background noise of the Ritz is continuing on as if nobody has just completely whiffed it, cutlery clinking and conversation flowing, there is a silence and stillness around Aziraphale, an alert tension and alarm that means he is not, in any way, looking forward to what is about to happen. Crowley uses the last of his inertia moving forward and dives right, brushing his lips against Aziraphale's cheek instead. It's warm and soft and gone far too soon. Crowley is retreating before he can ruin things further, his back pressed against the elaborately carved dining chair, pretending to resume an interest in his steak.

"The Donmar's As You Like It starts next week," Crowley says, picking up his knife and fork again and biting back the urge to hiss into his words. He is not emotional, so there is no reason to hiss. He did not just kiss the cheek of an angel he has incredibly embarrassing feelings for. He did not just kiss that angel's cheek because the angel so clearly did not want to be kissed properly on his mouth. Everything is fine.

Aziraphale doesn't respond immediately, causing another wave of anxiety in his dining partner. "You always did like the funny ones," the angel says finally. "I'll be near the Seven Dials tomorrow anyway for an appraisal. Should I pick up some tickets?"

"No need, I've got a connection." Crowley puts a bite of immaculately rare steak in his mouth and chews, tasting nothing. Perhaps Aziraphale is willing to overlook his mistake and pretend it never happened? "Do you have a preference between Monday or Tuesday evening?"

"Tuesday, if you don't mind." Aziraphale sounds serene and mild in the way that means he is overcoming something that is preventing him from being serene or mild. After a few sips of his wine, Crowley thinks he looks a little calmer. Maybe they're past it now.

"Tuesday it is."

**

The reason Crowley thought he could get away with a quick peck wasn't the recently averted apocalypse. It wasn't that, or the thousands of years shared on earth running into each other and occasionally running toward each other, back and forth across the globe.

Crowley thought he could get away with it because he and Aziraphale had been holding hands for just over a month now.

Not a month without breaks, obviously. It was little moments. Always unspoken. It had started at a particularly nice restaurant on the Grecian island of Hydra, carved out of the rock of the island and overlooking the sunset, with two half-finished plates of fresh seafood and several empty glasses of champagne. Crowley had emptied his third flute and set it back down on the table, fingers curled around the stem, and was watching the ripples of the Myrtoan Sea when he felt Aziraphale's hand rest on top of his.

Crowley had glanced left and right behind his glasses, looking for whatever was going on that Aziraphale was trying to get his attention about. Nothing. The server to his left was taking a drink order from some already drunk French tourists in knockoff sunglasses. To his right, an Italian couple were trying to get their young child to finish something on his plate. Behind him, he sensed the general upcoming sin of a man about to cheat on his wife with his assistant, but that wasn't anything particularly noteworthy, or even anything Crowley had had anything to do with.

So Crowley had looked back to Aziraphale's hand, still there, somewhat... damp. He had flicked his eyes up to Aziraphale's face and, there, that was what was going on. Aziraphale was going on. Aziraphale was staring out at the water, the setting sun, a rare tension around his mouth like he was trying to brave something out. He was trying to look casual. He was trying to look like he hadn't just put his hand on top of Crowley's and left it there for the complete sake of it.

Crowley felt his face flare up, and his other, untouched hand curled on his leg until he was nearly digging crescents into his thigh through his tailored slacks. He looked back out at the water, too, because that was apparently what they were doing. That was what one did when one's best friend and longtime ... something else... put their hand on yours.

"Thélete perissóteri sampánia?" the server asked at Crowley's shoulder, making them both jump out of their skin hard enough to nearly discorporate. Aziraphale's hand was gone, fluttering instead over the empty champagne flutes that the server was gesturing to. How long had she been there? How long had they been sitting like that?

"Naí," Aziraphale confirmed tightly, smiling with too much teeth. "Efcharistó."