The truth is, Crowley has never said the exact words in his mind. He hasn’t been following the demon routine strictly for a couple of centuries now and he could admit that there are things he loves. He loves drinking wine. He loves driving, and to be precise he loves driving his car, loves holding the steering wheel in his hands and putting the pedal down, speeding up until the old Bentley starts grumbling disapprovingly.
But he still can’t wrap his mind around what he feels for Aziraphale. He doesn’t want to think that perhaps it had started way before he has become chummy with the humans, so disregarding the concept of love was just a matter of habit at this point. Perhaps, he’s been shoving it so far back into the corners of his being that he doesn’t know what else is there to do with it.
It was comfortable like this, though. It rarely made itself known save for the unnerving pang he felt sometimes when he looked at Aziraphale, while the latter was immersed in something, not paying attention to Crowley himself. But Crowley has since learned to bat it away the way he has mastered the art of batting away the endless swarm of flies every time he was in close proximity to Beelzebub.
It was fine.
It was fine until Armageddon almost happened a week ago and then it didn’t.
It was fine until the moment, if he hadn’t gone completely delusional, he heard Aziraphale say that he loved him.
They’re sitting at the sodding St. James Park, on the sodding bench, in front of the sodding lake with the sodding ducks. And Aziraphale just said, amidst everything else “I love you, Crowley”, like it was so easy for him.
Crowley realises that he sat up straighter and he can’t make himself look at Aziraphale. He suddenly can’t recall what they were talking about before and why they were here in the first place, and he just wants to run.
Fleeing is his first instinct, and he can’t think of any way out of this except for hauling arse. Or perhaps Satan could decide it’s time for Heaven versus Hell showdown: part 2 and another demonic child is about to fall into his lap any second now.
He waited for another moment. No Antichrist baby in his lap yet.
“Bollocks,” he mutters, not tearing his eyes away from the water surface. Aziraphale sighs audibly.
“I’m sorry, Crowley,” he sighs again, “I shouldn’t have said that. I know it’s... I know I might’ve ruined everything.”
Crowley finally tears his gaze from the lake, turning his head slightly to look at Aziraphale, who is sulking, looking down and nervously rubbing his thighs with his palms. He looks extremely miserable and that is precisely how Crowley feels right now, too, but seeing the angel like this also untangles something in him he hasn’t had the chance to name yet. Or just never wanted to name it, because once it has a name, then it’s acknowledged, then it’s a problem.
“Please, say something,” it’s a small plea and Crowley doesn’t even have the time to think if he has ever even heard Aziraphale sound like this because Aziraphale is looking back at him and now he’s unable to break the eye contact.
And he knows that Aziraphale knows he’s looking right at him despite the sunglasses.
Aziraphale is looking at him in a way that Crowley briefly considers tempting the nearby police officer to discorporate his own body.
“Angel,” he croaks and Aziraphale blinks. He wants to reach out, badly, even though he doesn’t completely understand this urge to stretch out his arm and hold Aziraphale’s hand in his; to squeeze it, to absorb some of its warmth, to lace their fingers together, it’s familiar in its unfamiliarity because prior to that he has never allowed it sink that far.
After all, once he slept through the good chunk of the century to avoid confronting it.
Suddenly, he has an idea and like most times in his life, he doesn’t spend time pondering if it’s a good one; he’s just thankful for the distraction.
“Let’s go,” he says fast, standing up abruptly. Aziraphale’s eyes widen, following Crowley’s erratic movement. “C’mon, angel, I gotta show you something,” he urges him to stand up with his hands and when Aziraphale does, still visibly confused, questions obviously not working their way through his mouth, Crowley grabs him just above the wrist, where the skin is covered by the jacket and starts dragging him behind, making his way to the car.
The drive to Crowley’s apartment takes no more than 5 minutes but he is too well aware of how Aziraphale’s looking at him even if his own eyes are glued to the road. This time.
They’re at the place in no time and as Crowley moves quickly to his destination, he knows that Aziraphale is wary because, well. He still has no idea what Crowley’s got in mind for him.
A bleak shadow of regret washes over him but he crumples it down, because he has to be a complete and utter fool to think that there’s a way out of this at this point.
He is standing in front of The Safe with his arms crossed on his chest. Aziraphale approaches softly a moment later, coming to a halt beside him.
“Crowley?” the confusion in his voice is still as evident. Crowley takes off his sunglasses, putting them into the pocket of his jacket and now with the corner of his eye he can see that Aziraphale is looking right at him.
“This is where I kept it,” he begins. The safe is still opened and as empty as he left it just over a week ago. He didn’t see the point in doing anything with it now. Or perhaps he has spent way too much time staring at the bloody Mona Lisa sketch that’s been covering the safe, that he just needs the reassurance that the blasted thermos is gone for good.
“Kept what, exactly?” Aziraphale asks gently, not taking eyes off Crowley.
“The thermos with the- with the stuff,” Crowley looks down, poking the hardwood floor with the tip of his boot. He feels vulnerable in a way that makes him want to cringe. “I had it ordered that same night, when you- when you gave it to me. The safe was moved around since then but I don’t think I ever opened it until, well,” he gestured vaguely with his hand. “You know.”
They touched upon the way the last few hours before The Armageddon That Never Was escalated for each of them very briefly.
“Went out of my way, trying to get it. Bugged you, planned a bloody heist. Probably wasn’t that easy for you to get it then, and I just,” he trails off, shrugging slightly.
Crowley wouldn’t say that the reason why he brought Aziraphale here was to have some in-depth discussion about that.
He wishes he knew why he did it. He wishes some speck of thought would guide him what to do next.
Aziraphale shifts a little and now he is standing in front of Crowley.
“Why are you showing me this, Crowley?” it’s still gentle and the angel could be too insightful sometimes, for which at this precise moment Crowley feels kind of grateful. Not that he wants to.
He is not looking at Aziraphale’s face as his head is still slightly bowed, but Crowley is looking at his hands, that are laced between one another in front of him, the thumb of his left hand rubbing circles into the palm of the right one.
“I don’t have the faintest idea,” he uncrosses his arms and lets them dangle uselessly at his sides and wants to sigh and to laugh at himself and he wants to hold Aziraphale’s hands in his.
“Well,” Crowley lifts his head when Aziraphale starts speaking, “I am glad you felt like you could confide in me like this,” they’ve been holding eye contact for this long but then he looks down briefly and back at Crowley and he feels something pull sharply at his insides, “I appreciate it greatly.”
Please, Crowley thinks, I must be so transparent, angel, it’s all laid out on the surface, please, quit being so daft.
“I see that it might’ve been some kind of response to what I had said earlier,” Aziraphale looks down again and this time holds it there, “concerning my feelings for you and, as I just said, I appreciate it greatly and I’m—”
“Angel,” Crowley interrupts him because he is about to explode, just about to turn into a pile of demon goo here and there, “shut up.” He takes a little step forward, putting his hands on Aziraphale’s shoulders. “For the love of G— just shut up.”
Their faces are so close that Crowley hears Aziraphale’s throat working as he swallows nervously and he can’t tell which one of them is gasping for air and who has stopped breathing altogether.
Crowley’s had six millennia on him but he’s on the verge of losing the last remains of any possible self-awareness he had and the downfall in question has happened just within an hour.
He feels like a dam that’s about to crack under the water’s pressure.
“I... want to kiss you,” and he’s lost it. “Can I kiss you?” Aziraphale inhales sharply and with it away goes the first crack in the dam and Crowley’s looking into the blue eyes, not even trying to lie to himself that he’s overly keen on the dam metaphor.
But it works way too well, because...
“How can I answer you,” Aziraphale shakes his head lightly, “if you did just tell me to shut up?” and he laughs softly, breathing out, and Crowley’s mind is going into whirlwind.
He only realises that he was also smiling when he puts his mouth on Aziraphale’s and there goes the second crack, and the third and the fourth, as the kiss grows from a shy one to Aziraphale parting his lips and letting him in.
Crowley doesn’t need to breathe but he’s engulfed and he’s going to suffocate as it’s pouring out of him in crushing waves; one of his hands is on the side of Aziraphale’s face now, holding him closer, probably trying to make the current flow in the right direction.
There’s no right or wrong now, perhaps. The dam’s broken.
They part shortly and they’re both out of breath with absolutely no need for it.
“Feels rather enjoyable, doesn’t it,” is what Aziraphale says after a short pause and Crowley doesn’t understand how he could he sink even lower and why does it feel so good. He laughs and presses his forehead against Aziraphale’s and he must be smiling like a madman because he’s overwhelmed with how immersed he is in everything Aziraphale is.
He wants to say something, still wants to try and put some words to this, but he feels lightheaded and all he can do is stare into the blues of the angel’s eyes and grin.
“Quite worth the wait, wouldn’t you say so?” Aziraphale is smiling too; he puts his hand over Crowley’s that’s still resting on his own face and the other has made its way on Crowley’s side, his thumb drawing circles through the light layer of clothing.
“Can’t say if I’ve been waiting for a week or a couple of thousand years or more,” Crowley tries to put it as lightheartedly as he can but the way Aziraphale’s eyes widen just slightly doesn’t escape him, “it all feels the same right now.”
“So much for going too fast,” his smile is on a sad side and Crowley wants to tell him all about how terrified he was of losing him forever, how at some point a week ago he felt so hopeless that things were out of his reach, that he was sure he was too late and he wasn’t able to save him that time. Crowley is used to shoving his constant guilt at the back of his mind but that time it almost tipped him over the edge; it almost crushed him then, it would have certainly done so, had he not heard Aziraphale’s voice at the bloody pub.
Coming to terms that Aziraphale’s constant presence in his life was something that was essential for him was no easy feat as well and the thought, that one day he again may come close to losing it terrified him even now, as it passed briefly through his mind.
“You... I couldn’t possibly explain well enough for you to understand,” Crowley tugs at Aziraphale’s hand that’s covering his. They keep speaking in half-sentences and unspoken words and Crowley is ready to pray to whomever just to be sure that Aziraphale gets at least something out of what he’s trying to convey.
“I understand,” his hand made its way under the fabric of the shirt now, softly stroking the bare skin, “in my own way, of course, but I do.”
Crowley doesn’t even want to think for how long they’ve been standing like this. He doesn’t care.
“I love you,” he says and it’s like a riptide again washing him away. He closes his eyes and wraps his arms around Aziraphale’s frame, holding him as tightly as he can. He loves him. “I love you,” he says again.
“I love you too, dearest,” is what Aziraphale says and Crowley thought that it would lift the weight off him just a little, but he feels crushed again, but it feels so good and he doesn’t understand it.
“I love you,” he opens his eyes and the sun’s rays are streaming into the window right behind Aziraphale’s head and he’s glowing, “I love you,” he gives him a chaste kiss on the lips and then another on the cheek, “I love you,” he wants to laugh and scream, and he’s holding him closer again, burying his head in the crook of Aziraphale’s neck and inhaling the well too familiar scent of him.
“Crowley,” it’s always that particular way that he says his name that sends a dull ache down his insides and it never once felt bad, “darling,” he grabs him by the shoulders and puts a little distance between them.
Crowley feels sloshed.
“There’s somewhere we got to go,” Aziraphale kisses him once, then takes one of Crowley’s hands in his and lifts it up to his lips, planting a small kiss on his knuckles. Crowley just has enough might to lift an eyebrow at him in question. “I believe a certain angel, who’s infatuated with you and with whom you may just be as equally infatuated, has a certain bottle of red he’s kept for a special occasion at his bookstore and he really wants to share.”
They laugh softly in unison and Crowley only just notices how flushed Aziraphale is; the tide’s not stopping and he just wants to keep kissing him.
The drive to the bookstore is short but keeping eyes on the road is even harder now, and this time Aziraphale doesn’t say a word. Crowley feels like a stupid protagonist of one of the stupidly annoying romantic films.
The thought that he was the one who helped the humans invent the particular genre of “annoying romantic films” pops in his head once but he bats it away, turning his eyes off the windshield to the passenger’s seat, where Aziraphale is still looking at the road, but the smile on his face is a little giveaway.
He loves him.