“Oh goodness me, look at you. Why, I haven’t seen plants this lovely since Eden!”
Crowley looked up from the fridge. It was the second night after the world didn’t end, and Aziraphale was still in his flat. On the first night, Crowley collapsed into bed and blacked out for a solid 36 hours. He remembered Aziraphale sitting beside him and running his fingers through Crowley’s hair, but he was also not entirely sure that wasn’t a hallucination. Regardless, Aziraphale wasn’t in bed when Crowley woke up, and the thought of Aziraphale wandering aimlessly around Crowley’s sparse flat didn't sit well with him. He was grabbing a bottle of wine for them to share when he heard Aziraphale’s soft coo of delight from—
The Plant Room.
His eyes narrowed to slits almost as thin as his pupils.
Aziraphale’s voice continued. “And such color! He must love you very much.”
Crowley scowled and made a beeline down the hall, ready to put a stop to Aziraphale’s coddling before the plants got any Ideas.
“Is that terror I feel? Oh dear. Well, I suppose Crowley’s way of showing love isn’t quite conventional. Tell you a secret? I’ve seen how Crowley behaves around things he truly dislikes.”
Crowley ground his teeth.
“Like snow and eggplant and true cruelty. He avoids these things. Something to keep in mind the next time he does…whatever he does. Though I’ll be having a word with him. You catch more fleas with jelly, or whatever that human saying is.”
“His actions often speak louder than his protests. He hates it when I say this, but he really is a nice person. A kind person. I’m not sure he fully understands what I mean when I tell him that. How it’s one of the highest compliments I can give.”
Crowley faltered, then stuttered to a halt completely when Aziraphale murmured, “Of course, there are many compliments I could give Crowley. I’ve just been so blinded by my own fear…”
Footsteps replaced Aziraphale’s words – he was walking around the room, speaking to each plant.
“He’s a good person. Deep in his core, under the swagger and the quips, there’s a light that's survived hellfire and time. He cares, so much that he bleeds with it, and I never realized how detached Heaven had become until I saw Crowley’s passion. It…frightened me, sometimes. Like you, it would make me tremble, and I would flee. I held a flaming sword once, but he is fire incarnate. He is the blazing inferno blackening everything in his path, and he is the steady flames in the hearth that warms the weary bones.”
At the moment, Crowley looked like he was made of ice. Somewhere between passion and inferno he slumped against the wall. His hands began to shake.
“I didn’t know what to do in the face of all that. I sometimes wondered what in Heaven’s name he saw in me. I must seem quite dim to him sometimes – in more ways than one.”
You idiot, Crowley thought. You damn fool. You’re brighter than any of them. You make the sun look dark.
“I asked him once why he Fell. When the intensity of his attention thrilled and bewildered me. What part of him did She find lacking? This mad, beautiful, stunning creature, I thought, why would anyone send him away?”
Crowley stopped breathing.
“The look on his face! I’ve never regretted anything faster than that question, but he waved away my bumbling attempts to take it back. He told me he asked questions. But you know, it's occurred to me, in light of all this, that that isn’t the full truth.”
Crowley didn't want to hear this. He wanted to cover his ears. He wanted to tell Aziraphale to shut up. He wanted to run back to his bed and pretend this was another dream. Crowley didn't think he could bear to hear Aziraphale list all the reasons why he, not God, thinks Crowley deserved to Fall.
But he’d never been able to put himself first where Aziraphale was concerned. So he stayed, and his uncovered eyes turned fully yellow with fear. It didn't occur to him to summon his sunglasses from the bedroom.
“Heaven is so structured,” Aziraphale explained. “I used to find that comforting. And in my own moments of doubt, I clung to that comfort. Everyone has a part in the Ineffable Plan. No matter how senseless or muddled or confusing, She’s already got it all planned out, a road map of the universe, and it will all make sense in the end.”
Aziraphale sighed. His voice was full of shame when he whispered, “I accepted so much in the name of that blasted Plan. I turned away from so much. But not Crowley.”
Stop, Crowley mouthed. His voice is shriveled and useless.
“Crowley can’t stand injustice. It makes him an awful demon – but don’t tell him I said that, he’d take it as an insult.” Aziraphale chuckled. “But you see, Crowley has never turned away from anything, no matter how painful it is. He relies on his eyes and heart to tell him what is right. And if he decides that it’s not, he confronts it. Demands to see the map. He seeks truth over comfort every time. He…refuses to take it on faith alone.”
Aziraphale was silent. Crowley’s hands were clenched with enough force to break a human's bones. He felt like he was outside of himself, in another pocket of frozen time.
“Why is knowledge so terrible? Why must these children drown? Why must the world end now?” Aziraphale whispered. He sounded so terribly sad. “No, Crowley says. No, that’s not right. It’s not fair to the dolphins and the whales and the gorillas. It’s not fair to the humans. Why test them if the outcome is fixed? No, he says. No, I do not accept this. No. I will not turn away.”
Aziraphale took a shaky breath. Crowley’s eyes were burning.
“I love that about him. I…I love him.”
Crowley’s legs gave out, and he dropped gracelessly to the floor. He didn't even notice, but Aziraphale did. He was out of the room in a second, and when he saw Crowley, his face turned as white as his wings.
“Crowley? How…how long have you been there?”
Crowley looked up. He felt like someone ran him over with his own Bentley.
“You love me?” he whispered. His voice sounded dazed and wondrous and so very small. He didn't care.
Aziraphale opened and closed his mouth once before acceptance straightened his spine and smoothed the lines from his forehead. Crowley was mesmerized.
“I…yes. Yes, I do.” When Crowley kept staring at him, Aziraphale sighed and sat down beside him. “You doubt me. I don’t blame you. I’ve been…very slow.” He bit his lip. “Please—
“Don’t you dare,” Crowley hissed.
Crowley seized his angel’s hand. “Don’t you dare ask for forgiveness. Like loving you is a trial.”
Aziraphale’s mouth formed a small o, and Crowley realized this was the first time he’d admitted any of this out loud. He swallowed, and squeezed Aziraphale’s hand.
There was only one answer that mattered to Crowley, and it was in Aziraphale’s widened eyes.
After a moment or a millennia, Crowley wasn’t counting, Aziraphale squeezed back. “It must have been very hard,” he whispered.
Crowley raised an eyebrow. “You just monologued to my plants about how you like that sort of thing.”
The tension was broken under Aziraphale’s laughter, and Crowley beamed. Somewhere outside reality his wings unfurled to their full height and were trembling with joy. He remembered to have a heart again just so it could beat wildly against his chest.
“It’s worth it, angel. You’re worth it. And I have never questioned that.”
For a wild moment, Crowley thought Aziraphale was about to cry. Then his knuckles brushed across Crowley’s cheek and Crowley stopped thinking at all.
“I’d like to kiss you now,” said Aziraphale. His smile shone like a miracle. “May I?”
Crowley nodded, and this time, when he reached out, Aziraphale met him halfway. When Aziraphale tilted his jaw just so, Crowley was unafraid to melt into the angel’s arms and give himself over completely.
After all, there was one thing he’d always take on faith.