Chapter 1: We drink
The plan — not the Great Plan or the Ineffable Plan, more like the Sunday night plan — was to drink themselves into an earthly stupor, then sober up and do it all over again. And then again once more, because why not?
By Monday morning, neither of them had given a thought to stopping. For one thing, it was pleasant to spend so long in each other's company with nowhere to go and nothing in particular to do. Their successive rounds of drunkeness, punctuated each time by jarring sobriety, were like a kind of therapy.*
They both needed to relax their thinking after all the dreadful things that hadn't happened to them over the past several days.
For one thing, Aziphale hadn't been killed in flames at his bookshop; he'd been only temporarily discorporated. And he hadn't been killed in flames that second time, either — Upstairs with Gabriel sneering at him — because that time he hadn't in fact been Aziraphale. And then Crowley, who was really Aziraphale, had taken a cold bath in Hell and nothing had gone wrong there either.
Well, almost nothing. His singular complaint was that the towel Michael had miracled for him had smelled a bit off. As if it had been used just before him by someone else, somewhere in the world, who had just stepped out of the shower and had no idea why their towel had suddenly vanished into the aether.**
And one other thing hadn't happened: The end of the world.
"We could call it the ApocaWasn't," Aziraphale suggested. In his drunkeness, the room was spinning nicely and he liked that effect. He kept seeing Crowley's face as it came 'round again.
"We shouldn't." Crowley still had sense left to form part of a logical argument. "Only works by opposite. If ApocaWas was a word."
"No, my dear, I said the ApocaWASN'T." Aziraphale thought that by leaning forward and saying it louder, the sense of his argument would come through.
"It's lips." Crowley pointed to his own, then Aziraphale's. "ApocaLIPS."
Any outside observer with one wit of intelligence would have noticed three things. 1) That the angel and the demon both loved each other, 2) that they had each been terribly frightened at the idea of losing what they had, and 3) that they were drinking copiously to avoid thinking or speaking about either of the first two things.
On the morning of the third day, in a moment of sobriety, the demon rested his head in hands and sighed.
"I'll have to go back to my place and water th- yell at the plants." Crowley corrected himself.***
Aziraphale, who had been nearly passed out drunk a moment ago, now sat up and sobered himself. "I wish you'd be kinder to them."
"I know you do."
They'd covered this ground before. No sense rehashing an argument that always ended in stalemate, which in this case meant mutual annoyance. But today, apparently, Aziraphale felt newly empowered to advocate for things.
"You've said it yourself several times. We're on the same side. Perhaps our side tries very hard to avoid plant cruelty."
Crowley — sprawled out across the new, very comfortable couch Adam had miracled into existence for them — inclined his head towards Aziraphale and smiled at him, a bit wickedly.
"What about animal cruelty? Should our side take a stand against that, too? Because I've talked to some vegans lately and I'm sure they'd enjoy chatting with you about your food choices."
Aziraphale frowned, then changed the subject. "I'll go back with you. You can see to the plants and then..." His words trailed off. Something shifted in the way Crowley looked at him just then. It caught his attention, and Aziraphale got distracted.
Aziraphale caught the thread of it again. "Keep drinking."
"Of course." Crowley's sunglasses were back on and his eyes were hidden, his expression unreadable. If he'd been disappointed by the angel's answer, Aziraphale wouldn't have noticed.
* The kind definitely not recommended by your doctor.
** The towel had belonged to Olivia A. Wordsworth, of Boston, Massachusetts, and she had used the term "into thin air," but since Aziraphale was the one tipsily explaining it to Crowley, he went with "aether" instead.
*** Often he simply watered them, without employing intimidation tactics, but he enjoyed the mildly stricken look on Aziraphale's face whenever he mentioned how he kept his potted plants in a state of agitated terror.
Chapter 2: We question
It was almost noon when they left the bookshop and emerged into bright, unforgiving sunshine. Aziraphale, lacking sunglasses, winced against the intensity of the light.
As his eyesight adjusted, he could see that it wasn't only the bookshop that Adam had fixed. Several nearby buildings sported small repairs that they'd needed for ages. And there was now a toy shop that hadn't existed last week. The front window displayed a mix of old things and new: gaming consoles and robotics kits, model airplanes and wooden swords.
"Adam took some liberties with the neighborhood, I see," Aziraphale said.
"You still have a neighborhood," Crowley pointed out. Out of old habit, he scanned the pavement, the road, and nearby cars, to make sure they weren't being watched or followed. Satisfied, he got into the Bentley.
From the passenger side, Aziraphale gazed at him in that brazen, appreciative way that Crowley always noticed, but never commented on. It would have annoyed him, except that it didn't at all.
Aziraphale had always gazed at him. Crowley supposed it was an angel thing. And he wasn't entirely wrong. In the beginning, there had been a solemn, steady gaze of trust and kind regards. That came standard; all the angels were good at it.* Since then, Aziraphale had mastered several different sub-disciplines of gazing.
There was the lingering gaze of liking someone very much while preferring not to talk about it. Only a handful of angels could do that one consistently well. Aziraphale could have taught lessons. The sidelong gaze was more advanced and a relatively recent addition to his repertoire. He had acquired it quite accidentally. That one was always trying to become a quick, furtive glance. It failed and became a gaze whenever Aziraphale wasn't able to tear his eyes away fast enough.
And then there was the last one: The roving gaze of extreme aesthetic appreciation, sizing Crowley up and down and all over. Other angels didn't do that one. Not ever.
That one felt like a sin in the same way eating food sometimes felt sinful.
It wasn't that Aziraphale couldn't help himself. Even before the Apocalyse didn't happen, he'd stopped trying to conform to every Heavenly expectation. Sometimes finding a way to be yourself felt more important than sticking to the absolute letter of all the rules. And if a certain behavior — like gazing appreciatively at a fellow being — was vital to who you were, as a person, could it really be bad? And if it didn't bring any harm to anyone, and probably no one else noticed,** was it worth the effort it would take to refrain from gazing?
"I wonder..." Aziraphale was working out a thought, piece by piece. Little things were nagging at him, and with so much drinking he'd been able to ignore them. Now those little things all started fitting themselves together.
"How do you think we fooled them so well?"
"Hmm?" Crowley was driving. He kept his eyes on the road, but he was listening. "What are you getting at?"
"Angels dragged you to Heaven and they didn't notice anything demony about you. And the agents of Hell didn't recoil after laying hands on an angel. Isn't that strange?"
"So...." Crowley frowned, trying to stop his mind from getting stuck on Aziraphale's 'laying hands on an angel' choice of wording.
"I'm saying what if they weren't wrong? What if we are different now. Not an angel and a demon anymore, but something else?"
"No." Crowley's slitted eyes flashed yellow over the top of his sunglasses. "You're an angel, I'm a demon. Not like the rest of them, but that's not new."
"Obviously. You've never been the same as the other ones." He flicked a hand dismissively as he actively repressed the memory of Gabriel talking at him.
Crowley paused. His voice much gentler, "What's bothering you, angel?"
"Nothing. Oh, I don't know." Aziraphale sighed.
"Feeling lost without Heaven telling you what to do?"
"It's not that. God knows I won't miss all the paperwork. It's just a feeling. Unsettled, I think. As if something's still not resolved..."
Crowley looked at Arizaphale for a longish moment. This was a safe choice, literally, because they had arrived and he'd already parked the car. It was also a safe choice figuratively, because with shades on, Crowley's eyes couldn't be seen betraying any of the ridiculous, hopeful things he felt.
"I'm sure I'll get over it, whatever it is," Aziraphale added, with as much good cheer as he could muster.
"Come on up and have a drink," Crowley said, very softly. "We can talk about it. Maybe figure it out together..."
* Not Gabriel.
** Everyone noticed.
Chapter 3: We remember
This is because I just wanted to write about the statue. You know the one.
He liked the way it felt to stand quietly in Crowley's flat and breathe. The air was good, like standing in the middle of a garden. Minimalist decor and the perpetual duskiness of the place reminded him of visiting a temple at night, a long time ago, at the edge of the desert. The Mayfair flat kept its roots in antiquity, even though so much of it was modern.
Aziraphale wandered the place, sipping a nice full-bodied red, and giving Crowley some space to deal with the houseplants. By the time Crowley came back to him, he was standing at the end of the hallway, staring at the sculpture of an angel and a demon locked together in hand-to-hand combat.
"That old thing." Crowley waved his hand dismissively, as if it were something meaningless he'd forgotten about — as if it weren't mounted on a plinth under dramatic lighting in his otherwise sparsely decorated flat.
"I'm still not sure they're wrestling."
Crowley frowned at it. "Did I ever tell you about this one?"
"I don't believe you did. No."
In fact, the last time Aziraphale had inquired about the sculpture, Crowley had simply pointed out that the demon was winning. Aziraphale, wholly unimpressed, had replied that the demon was certainly doing something to the angel.
Crowley conceded that the sculptor may have gotten carried away in a flight of carnal fancy. And then he'd changed the subject, so Aziraphale had never learned anything more about it. Until today.
"It was Florence, in the early 15s," Crowley said. "I was supposed to pop over there and kill a few people. Start a war."
Aziraphale took his last sip of wine, then looked down woefully at the empty glass. It filled itself again at the slightest wave of Crowley's hand. Aziraphale beamed in delight and gratitude.
"So I suggested to Beelzebub that a war of ideas would be more suitable to the times. After all: High Renaissance. Sophistication was in. If we wanted to keep up with the enemy we'd have to do better than bludgeoning and throat cutting."
"Ah," said Aziraphale. "So you tricked them."
Crowley grinned. "They gave me a large stipend to pose as a wealthy patron of the arts. I was to 'undermine piety through a series of blasphemous sculptural commissions.' That's how I phrased it in the report."
He pointed at the sculpture. "This was the only one that turned out well from an artistic standpoint."
"Well, the composition is balanced. And they're both very, er... chiseled... in their physiques."
Crowley laughed. "That's not why I have it."
"You always did seem to enjoy playing your own side for fools," Aziraphale said.
"And you didn't always appreciate that as much as I wanted you to."
Something in Crowley's tone of voice filled Aziraphale with nervousness and pleasure and hopefulness, all thrown together. It was intoxicating and it made him feel bolder.* Perhaps he would say something about the thoughts he'd been harboring.
"You know, Crowley, I-"
"You should have been there, angel-"
They both started speaking at the same.
Aziraphale took it as an easy way out. He kept quiet and nodded for Crowley to continue.
"I would have taken you to all the feasts and banquets. Gardens full of lights and sculptures. You would have liked it. And it was such a relief to see the place again without all the plagues."
"You know, a feast wouldn't be the worst thing right about now," Aziraphale said.
* Or more likely, that was the wine.
Chapter 4: We eat, we drink again
Aziraphale chose a thick curry. It was spicy and sweet, with fried potatoes and perfectly tender pieces of roast meat that fell apart with one bite. Even the rice was done just right.
Meanwhile, Crowley kept the wine flowing.
By the time they'd finished eating, intoxication was setting in for both of them.
Rather than using any of the furniture as intended, they sat side by side on the floor and leaned against the side of Crowley's sofa. Empty food containers were scattered around them, since no one had bothered to miracle them elsewhere.
Their conversation had meandered along. Presently, they were discussing the merits of defying stupid orders.
"But when did you know?" Crowley asked.
"You mean that Heaven's run by a bunch of useless hypocrites?"
Arizaphale's mind was foggy with alcohol. He didn't quite realize the blasphemy of what he'd said. When that realization hit him a moment later, he pressed his hand to his lips, too late to silence himself. He hadn't meant God, after all, just the majority of the archangels.
"You said it that time, not me." Crowley grinned. "But when did you know you were going to... saunter downwards with the rest of us."
"Saunter, no!" Aziraphale protested. "M'still an angel. 'Said so yourself."
"Six thousand years ago you wouldn't have been. Not after what you did. Back then they were really throwing the book at people."
"What book? The Good Book?"
"Mm. Dunno what kind of book. Big one."
"We'll find it," Aziraphale said. "Need the right book dealer is all."
"What? No! It's not about books." Crowley brought them back to the topic at hand. "You," he pointed at Aziraphale's chest, until his hand was so close he was pressing the angel's shirt with his finger.* "You said no to a direct order. What I want to know is, when did you realize you had the courage to do it?"
"Oh," said Aziraphale. "Not until afterwards."
"But also, on some other level, I think I always knew I would someday."
"Always?" Crowley looked genuinely impressed.
"Ever since I gave away the sword. But I didn't like thinking about it."
"Mm, best not to think about uncomfortable truths."
"Exactly. Topic of which, there's something else I always knew. Knew it by 1700 at least. But," he said, "It. Was. Wrong." He wagged his finger sternly and glared in judgment at the empty space in front of him, as if chastising a much smaller, invisible, past Aziraphale.
"Some of the best things are the wrong things, I've always said."
"I was about to say that. Sort of."
"Oh? That's different of you." Crowley shrugged. The wine was really kicking in. Words sounded far away and floaty.
"You saved my books and I thought maybe I wasn't the one who was wrong. About things."
"Mm," said Crowley. He wasn't really following the conversation a hundred percent.**
"After all, how could love be wrong?"
"Love?" Crowley echoed.
"Love you," Aziraphale said. Then he touched Crowley's nose and said "boop."
"Hang on, sober up a minute."
* Jacket, tie, and vest had come off a while ago, for better range of motion while drunk and gesturing about things.
** He also wasn't following the conversation at fifty percent.
Chapter 5: We breathe
A brief warning: This chapter will reference sexual feelings and so, if you prefer to avoid the thought of it entirely with this pairing, be advised.
"What was that?" Crowley asked, now that both of them were sober.
Aziraphale opened his mouth, then shut it again right away.
"You said 'love you' and then literally booped my nose." Crowley really was going to need an explanation for that one.
The words came out in a rush. "Well, I apologize; I was very drunk a second ago. But I do love you. So there."
Aziraphale sighed with relief. He assumed that he could say it once and that would be the end of it, over and done with. No more need for mentioning feelings.
He didn't expect Crowley to have follow up questions.
"What kind of love?"
Uncertain at first, Aziraphale looked at him for clarification.
"What do your books say about it?" Crowley asked.
"Oh!" What kind of love. Of course. Mountains of books had been written on the careful consideration of exactly that question.
"A good point," Aziraphale said. "Small word, but several significant meanings. Also, varied interpretations, hierarchies, and other methods of categorization." He had read about all of them. Thinking about their conceptual differences set his mind at ease.
Crowley was playing this more coolly than he felt. In reality his nerves screeched and clawed at him like a bag of very angry cats.*
Aziraphale also felt a twinge of anxiety. So many different formulations of love were swirling through his head. He knew which ones he felt. But what if telling Crowley all of them was the wrong thing to do? What if Crowley couldn't understand or, even worse, got angry about some of them?
There was a very real likelihood that this was going to hurt an awful lot. And despite what some of the churches said about finding grace through suffering, Aziraphale had always preferred to stumble across it in other ways. Grace without any suffering at all.
But Crowley was waiting for him to say something, so he set his worries aside for the time being and started off with the broadest, simplest one.
"What kind. Well, there's the big one, of course: agape," he said, using the Latin pronunciation and not the Greek. "But that's what I'm supposed to feel about all God's works." He touched Crowley's shoulder. "As they say in Heaven, I agape you."
Crowley looked stricken.
"Sorry. Old angel joke. It isn't actually funny."
"Really isn't," Crowley agreed.
Part of him had always feared that Aziraphale loved him — Crowley — with the exact same all encompassing benevolence that angels were supposed to feel for every rabbit and duck and blade of grass in the universe. But no. If he wasn't special somehow — special and important — would Aziraphale even be here right now? In his flat? Telling him about love and smiling at him like that?
He didn't think so. He wasn't sure.
In the silence that followed, Aziraphale looked down at his hands, fiddled with his ring, and thought about last Friday and the things he'd said at the gazebo.
"There's philia," he said, naming another of the loves. "I know I've hurt you by saying otherwise, but you are my dearest friend. I've loved you as my friend for so long, I can't even remember what it felt like before."
"Oh," said Crowley. "It's all right. You don't need to worry. The world was ending. We all said things."
It was easier to deflect, to wave it away and minimize. But he felt so relieved by Aziraphale's affirmation.
"Well. That's good." Aziraphale smiled, and nervously pressed on with his confession. "There are, you know, other types of love that have been written about rather extensively. In literature, in treatises on moral philosophy, and in both religious and secular writings-"
Crowley thought he understood where things were headed. "Let's stop and not do all the definitions of all the types. Just the relevant ones; that was fine."
"Oh." Aziraphale's smile faded.
"Back to drinking and blasphemy?" He conjured a fresh pair of stemless wine glasses and offered one to Aziraphale.
Aziraphale looked at it and considered his options. Crowley was offering an easy way out, but if he took it, he still wouldn't know anything more than he did right now.
There was really only one thing he could do. He accepted the glass from Crowley, and then he set it aside.
"No," he said. "Not yet. I haven't finished with all the relevant ones."
"Oh." Crowley looked at him and then made his own glass disappear. He was trying to read the angel's expression, hoping to guess what might come next, so he could be ready for whatever it was.
Anxiety and fear. He saw those first. Demons had a talent for those. And there was something else — a worn-in look. Tired. Old. Like resignation. Like-
Crowley knew. He hadn't even dared to hope, but now he knew. That quiet ache of how much it hurt to love someone — Aziraphale felt it just the same.
As soon as he figured it out, he believed it. The angel's words simply confirmed it as fact.
"The best word for it is romantic love."
As he spoke, Aziraphale still looked worried. Because of course he'd been oblivious to the quiet epiphany that was, figuratively speaking, running through the streets and setting fires in Crowley's brain.
"What I mean is, I'm in love with you." Aziraphale picked up his wine glass and took a gulping drink. He set it down again. And they looked at each other.
Crowley's throat was suddenly too dry for words. He thought about reaching for Aziraphale's hand and squeezing it tightly, trying to communciate wordlessly that 'Yes, I have that, too! For you. My angel. What's wrong with us?' and 'Isn't it wonderful!?'
But instead he just sat there, staring at Aziraphale's stupid, beautiful face and making a strangled sound somewhere low in his throat that went like, "Abhgghhl."
Aziraphale just kept talking. "The last one is... well, it's been recent and unexpected..." He smiled, partly amused at himself, part nerves clanging inside him like alarms.
Clever epiphanies aside, Crowley was entirely unprepared for what was coming next.
When Aziraphale said 'the last one,' Crowley assumed he was referring to the last type of love he'd just listed, romantic love, which was momentous enough on its own. But what Aziraphale really meant was the last one he was about to say.
The angel carried on with his confession. "You see," he said, "if I'm being completely honest, there's a bit of eros there, too."
He paused and took a breath.
"Though it's really only a little, very small part of the whole. I didn't even know angels could feel that sort of thing. So it's been... educational."
Aziraphale smiled too brightly, as he sometimes did when he was feeling very anxious indeed. And then he waited.
Crowley had gone very still beside him. At this point, he wasn't even capable of breathing. He was just staring, eyes wide, vision lost from thought as if both had vanished into an infinite void.
Watching him, Aziraphale was filled with a terrible dread. He felt a sudden urge to freeze the moment and wipe away Crowley's memory of the past ten minutes.
Instead he frowned and muttered to himself, "Oh, no. I shouldn't have."
At that, Crowley seemed to come unstuck. He drew a sudden breath, then coughed as the air hit his lungs. He was wracked with it for a moment, doubled up, shaking and coughing, until he caught the rhythm of it again.
"Yeah," he said, straightening up and looking Aziraphale square in the eyes. "You were saying?"
"Are you all right?"
Crowley's lips twitched as he stifled the smallest of smiles. He leaned back against the sofa and shut his eyes.
"Oh, we're going to have fun, the two of us."
Aziraphale's eyebrows lifted.
This time, Crowley did take his hand.
"I'm in love with you, too, by the way. I have been forever." He grinned. "Even in my wildest dreams, I never dared to hope the eros stuff would be mutual. So that's a pleasant surprise."
"Oh. Is it?" Aziraphale's eyes had gone wide. "I thought... demons aren't supposed to feel that either."
"Right. We're not." His glass full of wine popped back into existence by demonic miracle, and he took a long drink. "You aren't the only one who's out of your element with that one. But don't worry, I'm sure we'll figure it out."
"I'm not saying I wanted to do anything about it. It's simply... that I love you and..." Aziraphale let his words trail off. He couldn't help it, he was beaming, unabashedly happy, as he looked at Crowley.
When he leaned in closer, he was met with a kiss that tasted like red wine, a hint of curry, and something else that was difficult to explain, but was both absolutley divine and completely wicked.
* He blamed Hastur for the fact that he knew what that felt like. (Hastur, of course, not having understood that when Crowley explained the concluding steps of a plan by saying 'and then we really let the cat out of the bag,' it had only been a figure of speech.**)
** No cats were permanently harmed by the incident, Crowley made sure of it.