It isn’t sudden. Nothing about them is sudden.
But there are still moments, Aziraphale thinks, where it feels like it’s happening all at once. A particular evening in 1941 comes to mind, even though of course it all started long before then. That was just the night when he realized he couldn’t hide anymore, not even from himself. It was all too many, too much—too many feelings tearing through him, wrecking him, too much yearning and aching and wanting. Good God, no wonder the humans were in need of constant solace, if they traveled through their lives wanting this desperately.
Aziraphale’s existence has, for the most part, been markedly lacking in want. He lives in a world he loves: there is good wine and good food and good company to be had. He’s settled into a routine he likes, he has his books, he has his ethereal duties, he is an angel, created by the hand of God, who smiled when She did it. He should be able to resist acting on this one thing. In fact, his side came up with the very idea of not acting on desires, thereby to secure greater happiness in the future. Not acting on this is a very angelic thing to do.
He’s starting to worry that he’s not a very good angel.
Another case in point: for someone who has spent much of their ethereal career telling people not to be afraid, Aziraphale is terrified.
Angels, unlike demons (with one notable exception), have spectacular imaginations. They have to, they helped build the cosmos. (They didn’t get input on everything, of course. There’s still a heavenly office pool devoted to betting on why the Almighty decided to make platypuses Like That. As angels do not use currency, no one is quite sure what the stakes are, but Aziraphale’s not-money is on “because She thought it would be fun”, and he is entirely correct.)
Even Aziraphale’s spectacular imagination cannot conjure up a world without Crowley, and that is why he is afraid. He never wants to inhabit a world he cannot imagine clearly enough to plan for.
But he is too afraid to say even that. It comes out instead as you go too fast.
And then the Apocalypse happens, and doesn’t.
And then they change, and change back, and toast the world at the Ritz, their world, and that’s when Aziraphale’s done resisting. He doesn’t even properly decide; he just knows. It’s always about choices, Crowley likes to say. Yes, Crowley does infernal work, engineering situations which make it that much easier to choose the path of garden-variety human nastiness, but it still comes down to the humans themselves. No bigger proponent of free will than Anthony J. Crowley, as evidenced by the fact that he’s just been there loving Aziraphale for lo these thousands of years, waiting for the angel to make a blessed choice.
“I have a delightful bottle of port back at the shop,” Aziraphale says, “if you’re not ready to end our little celebration quite yet.”
So now he’s got Crowley in the back room, on the couch that has stealthily been getting longer as the years have passed and is now so long that Crowley can unfold all of his deliciously long limbs and still have room to spare. Aziraphale pours the port, hands Crowley a glass, and sits down in his regular chair. He immediately thinks this may have been a mistake.
Crowley is lounging—there’s really no other way to put it—with one arm slung up on the back of the couch and the other draped across the armrest, crystal glass dangling from his fingertips. Lord, Aziraphale thinks, does he know? Can he tell that the last wall Aziraphale had built up in his mind has come tumbling down? The clink of their champagne flutes at the Ritz might as well have been the trumpets of Jericho.
Crowley toes off his shoes and swings his legs up onto the sofa. “What is it, angel?”
“What on earth do you mean? Of course I’m looking at you. We’re—” he makes a vague gesture with the hand that’s holding the wine glass, “—here, together, you know, visiting. Of course I’m looking at you.” Damn, he’s repeating himself.
“I’ve seen you eye cakes with less interest.”
Aziraphale swallows. Suddenly all he can look at are Crowley’s wrists. Very strange things, wrists. Bony, hinge-y, but so important. Damned nuisance when they don’t work right. And so delicate. And sensitive.
He sets down the wineglass.
Surely Crowley knows, now. He must.
But Aziraphale thinks back on the millennia they’ve known each other, on the arguments—the ones that weren’t even the slightest bit fun—on the yearning and the aching and the wanting, and, well.
Best not take the chance.
“Crowley—” he starts. What is there to say? He has to say something. “Crowley.” It comes out as a sigh.
He can’t do this from across the room.
In a moment he’s sitting at the end of the sofa next to Crowley’s feet. Crowley drains his glass, sets it down.
They have spent most of history sitting at restaurant tables together or sharing park benches. Logically, Aziraphale knows that they have sat this close before, but they never share the sofa. It’s not what they do.
Suddenly all Aziraphale can think of is being pushed up against a wall at a corporate training facility in Tadfield. To have Crowley’s hands on him, to have Crowley that close again—
His skin feels odd, almost itchy.
“Were you saying…?”
For the love of Creation, Crowley’s eyes are lovely. Aziraphale can’t hold his gaze, God only knows what would happen. He glances down at Crowley’s feet instead, snug in soft black socks. There’s skin under those socks, delicate as the skin of Crowley’s wrists, and beautiful clever bones, and ankles, Lord, Aziraphale had a good time with the Victorians for a variety of reasons, and one of them was the proper appreciation of ankles. He stops himself before he can think too much about Crowley’s toes, because that will surely lead to remembering Sister Mary Loquacious’ appreciation of Adam’s toesie-woesies, and this is the absolute wrong moment to giggle for no apparent reason.
“I was saying…” Aziraphale starts. He reaches slowly for Crowley’s feet, drawing them into his lap. Crowley goes still, the way only beings of their kind can, like he could stay that way for all eternity while the world raged around him, if he had to. Aziraphale skims one finger up Crowley’s foot to the top of his sock, then rubs the pad of his thumb along where the soft wool ends and the warm skin begins.
Crowley, he notices, has stopped breathing.
Aziraphale meets his eyes now. “Draw thou me after thee,” he says. “We shall run.” Crowley sits up, leans toward him. “Wherever you want to go.”
They both exhale. Crowley’s smile begins first; Aziraphale’s isn’t far behind. And then they’re both collapsing into the sofa, laughter spilling out of them, the result of nerves and joy and utter, profound relief.
“All the versions of Song of Songs,” Crowley says, once he’s gotten his breath back, “including the original, which you know by heart, and you go with Wycliffe?”
“I like how it sounds,” Aziraphale answers. “You of all people should know that sometimes you just do things for the aesthetic.”
That sets Crowley off on another round of laughter. Aziraphale can’t help but notice the gorgeous line of his neck as he tips his head back.
“Excuse me,” Aziraphale says, standing and divesting himself of his jacket. “I feel a bit—it’s a bit warm.” He lays the jacket carefully over his regular chair and sits back down, applying himself to rolling up his sleeves. He feels Crowley shift on the sofa next to him and glances over to find his friend—lover?—studying him rather intently.
“You know,” Crowley drawls, “’s been a long time since I’ve been Upstairs, until today, and it struck me as very—well, it bears little resemblance to what you’ve got here. Not comfortable, is it, heaven?”
“Hell isn’t very cozy either.”
“Well, nah, but you expect that, don’t you? It’s hell. Heaven, though—but of course, you haven’t spent much time up there either, recently.”
“No indeed.” Aziraphale finishes with his sleeves and leans back. Crowley is still staring at his forearms. “The current board of archangels favors the minimalist approach, I believe. Don’t put much stock in earthly comforts, that lot. Gabriel doesn’t understand sushi, for the love of—well.”
“Funny thing is,” Crowley says, “I’m the one who came up with the open plan office.”
Aziraphale snorts. “Wonder if Upstairs would change the layout if they knew that.” Oddly, he doubts it. “But why do you ask? About heaven and all?”
“It’s just,” Crowley starts, slowly reaching for Aziraphale’s hand, “you like your comforts, angel.” He takes Aziraphale’s hand in his own, turns it palm-up, and begins tracing his fingers across it.
Aziraphale nearly blacks out.
It’s just a hand, he thinks. You absolutely cannot discorporate just because the fantastically beautiful demon you’ve been in love with for thousands of years is touching your hand.
“Um,” Aziraphale starts. His eyes close without his permission, which only makes it worse—better? He feels Crowley’s fingers trace their way down to his wrist. “Fuck.”
“In the good sense or the bad sense?”
“In the very best sense.”
And that’s when Crowley kisses Aziraphale’s wrist and Aziraphale properly loses his mind.
“Creation, angel, how long’s it been?”
“Since—uh—since what?” Breathing is becoming difficult and it’s not even something Aziraphale technically needs to do.
“Since someone touched you, you fool.”
“We shook hands on the park bench when we changed back.”
“Not like that. I know you—I know your pleasures extend beyond food and wine and books.”
“Not very far beyond them. My instructions were more toward encouraging humans to make love to each other, rather than doing it myself. I mean, I have, but not—for official purposes. And—oh, bless them, but they come and go so quickly, compared to us. It’ll break your heart, if you let it.”
“Forget sex, then. When was the last time someone—”
Aziraphale scrubs a hand across his eyes. “Since someone hugged me? I don’t know. When was the last time it was socially acceptable for men to embrace each other in public?”
“Well, how long’s it been for you?”
“Shouldn’t matter as much for me, I’m not a literal being of love.”
“First of all, that’s bollocks and you know it. Second of all…” Aziraphale gently extracts his wrist from Crowley’s grasp and takes Crowley’s hand in his own. “Answer the question.” He presses a kiss to Crowley’s wrist and watches the change in Crowley's expression with immense satisfaction.
“Ngk,” is all Crowley manages.
“I’ll take that to mean too damn long, then.” He plants another kiss on Crowley’s palm.
“Wait,” Crowley manages. Is he panting? He might be panting. “I want—”
Darling. So that’s a thing that’s happening now.
“Let me take care of you.”
“Crowley, you’ve been taking care of me for thousands of years. Saving me from guillotines and German spies and hellfire—”
“Aziraphale,” Crowley says, bringing his hands to the angel’s face. “Listen to me. I—I saw how they treat you, Upstairs, it’s cold and it’s empty and they don’t—they don’t understand, why is it so goddamn hard for them to understand—”
“My dear, blasphemy—”
“I mean it. I wanted to punch Gabriel in his smug little face. How dare he.”
Aziraphale brings his hands up to meet Crowley’s. “You’re sweet, my dear.” Crowley squirms, but in a way that suggests he doesn’t exactly dislike that Aziraphale’s saying nice things about him. “And the board of archangels is indeed spectacularly wrong about many things, but—they are as they are. I can only wish them the best, and deal with them as I must, which I suppose will be a lot less often now—”
“If you could hear yourself,” Crowley says. “You’re ten times the angel any of them is. But the thought of you, Up There, in that empty coldness, angel, it makes me want to…”
“Go on,” Aziraphale says. “Tell me everything you want to…”
“It makes me want to wrap myself around you and kiss every inch of your perfect body until you feel warm and safe and as far from heaven as—no, sorry, not as far from—”
“Shh.” Aziraphale combs his fingers through Crowley’s hair, relishing the resulting shiver, before leaning in and pressing his lips to Crowley’s. “I sat down under his shadow,” he whispers, “yea, he whom I desired, and his fruit was sweet to my taste.”
“I swear to someone, angel—”
And they’re kissing again, with tongue, with teeth, pulling at each other’s clothes in an effort to get nearer, closer, to wrap themselves in one another. When they’re both stripped down to undershirt and boxers, Crowley leans Aziraphale back until he’s stretched out on the sofa, and Crowley drapes his long body on top of him.
The noise Aziraphale makes is positively obscene.
Crowley rests his head in the crook of Aziraphale’s neck, pressing a kiss there once he settles in. One of Aziraphale’s hands twines itself through Crowley’s hair; Crowley’s hands go roaming over Aziraphale’s body, learning it by touch, and reminding Aziraphale what it feels like to be held, to be comforted, to be safe.
“In my little bed I sought him by nights, whom my soul loveth,” Aziraphale murmurs. “I sought him, and I found not. The watchmen that keep the city found me. Whether ye saw him, whom my soul loveth? A little while when I had passed them, I found him.”
Crowley gives a contented sigh. “Someday you’ll have to tell me how they managed to slip that one into the canon.”
“It’s about love, my dear.”
“Simple as that?”
Crowley winds his arms around Aziraphale’s torso and squeezes. The embrace feels better than any other earthly pleasure Aziraphale can imagine at the moment.
“We did it, angel.”
“I need you to know that it’s likely I will fall asleep on top of you, and that it’s also likely I will sleep for a week. ’S been a stressful decade.”
“As you wish, my dear. There's really nowhere in creation I'd rather be.”