It’s raining outside.
Crowley and Aziraphale are in the bookshop, nine months after Armageddon didn’t happen, and they are doing precisely nothing.
During the past few hours they have drunk, laughed a lot, argued for a while about some stupid movie, discussed at the length the pros and cons of line dancing. But now? Now, silence.
Well, to be fair, Crowley is not doing nothing.
He is, in fact, pretending not to be staring at Aziraphale. Which is not really a novelty.
He pretends not to be looking at his eyes, and his hands, and the way he looks back at him— openly, nakedly, unabashedly.
And though it is surely a noble, practiced hobby of his, after a while he gives it up.
Ends up just staring at him for too long, because honestly who the fuck cares by now. On top of that, he is also (slightly) drunk. He ought to be allowed.
Aziraphale doesn’t look away, and eventually he smiles, and Crowley gets this butterfly thing in his stomach. Also not a novelty.
He lets it fly there, he lets himself feel the longing.
“Do you ever imagine the future?” Aziraphale asks, and Crowley takes a second to register the question.
“I am sorry, what?”
“The future. Do you ever imagine it?”
Crowley shrugs. “What is there to imagine, angel?”
Aziraphale points a finger at him, moving slightly forward in his fancy chair. “See, that’s what I used to think! What is there to imagine? Everything is just an overflowing stream of present instants that I am going to experience exactly as I have been experiencing them for the past six thousand years!”
Crowley waits for the rest of the sentence. It doesn’t come.
“And it’s wrong! There is quite a lot to imagine. Things change. Experiencing time like that gives you no perspective.”
Crowley sits straighter on the couch, confused and drunk and confused and very much in love and also confused.
“Where is this— where is this coming from?”
Aziraphale sighs, and shakes his head, wiggling his nose. “It’s just. It’s just, Armageddon.”
A bit of silence.
“Yes,” Crowley says, encouraging.
“I had no concept of future before Armageddon. Then I suddenly did.”
Aziraphale’s eyes widen, and he urges forward to get a better look of Crowley. “It is a lot,” he says, accompanying the words with his hands, somewhere between desperate and offended.
Crowley contemplates sobering up just to deal with this, but he is afraid if he did that Aziraphale would do it, too, and that would complicate matters. So he doesn’t.
“Listen,” he begins, with great effort, “everything is as it was before. Same world, same jewellery, same ducks, same old bickering. ’S going to be fine.”
“Oh, dearest, but I know that,” Aziraphale says, and Crowley lets himself fall deeper into the couch.
“What’s the problem, then?”
“The problem is. The problem is that I don’t know how it’s going to be, I just know it is. I know it’s going to be fine, but is it going to be red or yellow?”
Crowley can’t help it: he laughs. First, very quietly. Then, not so much.
Aziraphale frowns. “Don’t laugh at me! This is serious.”
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I really didn’t— I didn’t mean to.”
Aziraphale sides-eyes him. It’s not my fault you are funny, angel, Crowley thinks.
“Then take this seriously,” Aziraphale goes.
“Fine, okay, let’s start over. You are upset because you can’t predict the future.”
Aziraphale puts his hands forward, moves them slowly to the sides. Says: “No. It’s not that.”
He puts his hands down. “I am fine with not predicting the future. I just spend a lot of time imagining it, now. And I wanted to know whether you imagine it too.”
Crowley shrugs. “I don’t try to… predict the rise and fall of nations, if that’s what you mean.”
“No, I don’t mean that.”
Aziraphale looks almost sad. Crowley feels the urge to do… something, anything, to get to him, comfort him, love him in a way that will fit him in the right places.
He has always felt that, with Aziraphale.
If he doesn’t consider all of the years they have spent apart, all of the hurt they have both felt (he doesn’t blame Aziraphale for that, he never has, and he has learnt not to blame himself, either) he knows that Aziraphale has always made him feel cared for, understood and healed, exactly when he needed protection, and he knows that Aziraphale has always teased him, always challenged him, always criticised him, precisely when his stubbornness required unapologetic disapproval.
He tries to do the same for him, but it never feels enough.
“Ask me something. About the future,” Crowley says, and Aziraphale lights up, just a little.
“Yeah. Maybe we can… figure it out together.”
Aziraphale smiles, relaxes. “Well, then. What do you imagine London will be like, in three centuries?”
Crowley covers his eyes with his hands, balancing his arms on his knees, and really, really tries to. “Ennnhhggg,” he says, “I don’t know, filled with flying cars?”
Aziraphale just looks at him.
“I am sorry,” Crowley goes, eventually. “I just can’t do it. I don’t know what to expect.”
“I am not asking you to be accurate. Just tell me what you wish for,” Aziraphale bursts out, and his eyes are almost. They are almost.
Crowley can tell there’s something more to this, but he can’t figure out what, or why.
This is ridiculous. Aziraphale must know what Crowley wishes for. He must know, there’s no way he hasn’t felt it, deduced it, in some unconscious way accepted it. Absolutely no way.
But he looks at him now, and Crowley doesn’t know what to tell him, because Aziraphale seems utterly lost.
A second too long goes by, and Aziraphale tries to recompose himself.
He looks away. He is about to change the subject, and Crowley can feel it, he can almost hear the words he is gonna say to safely get out of this inconvenient conversation, but then— but then, at the last moment, Aziraphale looks back up.
“If it’s easier,” he says, quietly, “imagine me and you.”
Oh, that I do, Crowley thinks, but he doesn’t say it. He keeps staring at Aziraphale.
“What do you mean?” he asks, eventually.
“Well, if it’s. If it’s hard to imagine what the future will look like for this world, tell me what you think me and you will look like, in a century or two. What you want us to look like, if you will.”
Crowley can’t believe it. He just can’t believe he has to find a decent, honest answer to this question that isn’t oh I want us to get married in a small cottage while I complaint all the time as if it wasn’t my idea to vow in front of a God that has disowned me that I will love you forever just so I can introduce you as my husband to strangers we will both long outlive.
He just can’t fucking believe it.
“Well, I imagine you will still be wearing that bloody coat,” Crowley tries, with a shaky smile, and Aziraphale sighs.
“Please, Crowley. Answer the question.”
“Why?” Crowley asks, suddenly scared, “what do you want us to look like?”
Aziraphale takes a breath, glances behind him, then to his sides, as if looking for reassurance from something that is not there. “Well, obviously I want us to be happy. And, preferably, together.”
Crowley heart, though it shouldn’t, skips a beat.
“Happy,” he says, slowly, “together.”
“I mean I don’t want to. I don’t want to be separated from you. I don’t want centuries, decades, or even years, to get in the way of me and you,” Aziraphale says, and Crowley smiles. He feels his whole body shivering, and he feels a tear peering out from his eyes, and he smiles.
“Well, that’s rather good then, isn’t it.”
The tear has run free. He doesn’t try to do anything about it. He isn’t even bothered by it.
“I suppose it is.”
And, again, for a while there’s silence.
Crowley closes his eyes, at some point. He thinks he might fall asleep, and he thinks he might have to get up and tell Aziraphale he’ll come back tomorrow, and he is already thinking of how many times he is going to replay this conversation in his head, and oh he is never gonna get Aziraphale’s voices right, he never gets it right— when he hears his angel getting up from his chair, and sit beside him, on the couch.
When he finally opens his eyes, Aziraphale is looking at him.
“Crowley,” he starts, very slow, very scared, “what do you imagine, when you imagine you and me?”
Crowley swallows, tries to breathe. Suddenly he is terrified to have been found out. He doesn’t think Aziraphale would have approached him with such a forward question if it were the case, but how else would he say it, if he found out? Is there a gentle way to come about this kind of things? Is there any treatment kinder than silence?
“The usual, angel,” he says, and his voice is so fragile, he can hear himself say anywhere you want to go. "You don’t have to worry about anything.”
“It’s not about worry, Crowley.”
“And what is it about, then?”
Aziraphale keeps looking at him— no, staring at him, and Crowley doesn’t know what to do, at all. He doesn’t know if he should move, talk, try to comfort him, ask him if anything is wrong, if he should simply apologise and leave.
But, then, before he can do anything, Aziraphale moves forward. Crowley can’t for the life of him imagine why.
He watches Aziraphale taking off his glasses with the surprise and wonder of an old man who had forgotten what the sky used to look like.
“Look at me, okay? Just look at me. So you will know it’s real,” Aziraphale says, and Crowley nods, unable to do anything else.
Then Aziraphale, inexplicably, closes his own eyes, and starts talking.
“I have been trying to imagine a future you are not in, and it doesn’t work. I cannot see myself— Crowley, I cannot see myself loving anybody but you. I am aware of the irony of that, and I know I am an angel and I am supposed to love everything, but not like that, Crowley. I can only love you like that. It wouldn’t work with anything, anyone else.”
Crowley’s brain shortcuts, and if part of him is glad Aziraphale has his eyes closed, part of him is absolutely furious he cannot look at him and he cannot ask him to touch him without saying it out loud and oh fuck oh my god hell incarnate heaven’s sake jesus christ oh my god. How stupid, how absolutely idiotic they have both been.
“And I imagine, I imagine us. Me and you. And I imagine us quite closer than we are now. I want us to be closer, and I couldn’t go on without saying it. I couldn’t. And I think. I have been spending quite a lot of time thinking about this, but I think you might. I think you just might— and I don’t want to presume anything, and this must be all very new to you, but I think you might—“
“Angel,” Crowley says, and Aziraphale stops talking. “This is not at all new to me.”
Aziraphale frowns, with this genuine wonder that makes Crowley smile in the mids of all the relentless shaking.
“What do you mean this is not new to you? What isn’t?”
“The imagining,” he says. “The declaration, that’s new, brand new, absolutely unprecedented, but the imaging, that’s. That’s not new to me. At all.”
“What does that mean?”
“Aziraphale, for fuck’s sake, open your eyes.”
“I am scared,” Aziraphale says, and Crowley laughs. He just laughs, genuinely laughs, no, mind you, he starts giggling, and Aziraphale’s eyebrows rise up.
“Are you laughing?” he asks, almost outraged, and Crowley thinks I love you so much it’s unfair.
“Aziraphale, please, open your eyes.”
“No, I am scared.”
“I won’t tell you unless you open them. I’ve been waiting six thousand years, angel. I’ll wait for how long it takes, but you have got to open your eyes at some point.”
And it’s like a revelation. It’s real, it’s real, it’s real. God heaven hell whoever’s up there and thinks this unthinkable: it’s real.
“I do love you,” he says, and if he had just knew. How easy and soul-shattering it would be.
“Good,” Aziraphale says, stupidly, and Crowley laughs again.
“You are ridiculously beautiful”, Crowley says, without thinking, and Aziraphale gets red. Red. The reddest of reds. Crowley didn’t know he could.
“Sorry,” he adds, smiling, and Aziraphale gives him this look he has been giving him for the past six millennia, this look that so clearly says oh, good lord, shut up that Crowley can almost hear him say it.
“Why didn’t you tell me?”, Aziraphale asks instead, and Crowley wants to move, he wants to stop talking, but he is almost afraid to break the spell, to do something, anything wrong.
“That you are ridiculously beautiful? Oh, I assumed you knew.”
Aziraphale smiles, like a teenager, and Crowley smiles, like a child who just won at his favorite game, and Aziraphale tries to get all indignant but he fails miserably, and through the burning cheeks and the shaky voice, he just ends up saying: “Not that.”
“I didn’t tell you because I didn’t think you would ever feel the same,” Crowley allows, gently, “because I didn’t want to go too fast for you.”
“Oh, I am sorry for saying that,” Aziraphale goes, “though, at the time, I meant it, but it was not. I didn’t know, Crowley, I just didn’t know.”
“It’s okay,” Crowley says.
“What now?” Aziraphale asks.
“You said you wanted us to be closer. Closer how?”
They are both sitting on the very small couch, facing each other, and they can barely see the rest of the room. The lights are dimmed, the rain falls relentlessly outside of the bookshop.
The day is irrelevant, the world hasn’t ended, the future is uncertain.
Aziraphale raises from the couch, and walks a few steps away. Crowley watches him fumble with the turntable. Eventually, a classical piece starts playing. It’s Schubert.
Aziraphale comes back, looks at him, bows down.
Crowley doesn’t even have the voice to tell him not to.
“Would you dance with me?” he asks, holding out his hand.
“Angels don’t dance,” Crowley says.
“Well, I do.”
“And I don’t. Not to this kind of song.”
“Oh shut up. You do. We do. In fact, we will.”
He doesn’t know how to do it. He really doesn’t know how.
But he takes Aziraphale’s hand, because after all his options are limited, and for a moment Aziraphale just holds it.
Then, unexpectedly, he lets it go, and like he had been waiting to do it for centuries, he takes a step closer, and puts his arms around Crowley’s neck.
For a moment Crowley stays perfectly still, looking at Aziraphale, wide-eyed.
As if they had a will of their own, Crowley’s hands start moving, and he stares at them, he stares at the way they land, gently, on Aziraphale’s waist. He stares at the way they caress his skin, and when they tighten their grip on Aziraphale’s back, he moves forward with them.
“You are allowed to touch me, you know,” Aziraphale whispers, and Crowley takes a deep breath.
He rests his forehead against Aziraphale’s. Closes his eyes. Feels the music.
Aziraphale’s breath touches the skin just above his mouth, and that’s when he can’t hold it anymore.
His right hand goes up, runs through Aziraphale’s curls, unabashedly, and with the other hand he cups Aziraphale’s cheek, his thumb stroking gently up and down, up and down.
Aziraphale urges forward, and with a gentleness that almost brings Crowley to tears, he kisses the edge of his mouth.
“I am sorry for all the time we have lost,” he says, and Crowley takes the last step, buries his face into Aziraphale’s neck, hugs him so tightly he is afraid it might hurt him.
“Every time I go to bed,” he starts, and he is surprised he has it in him to talk, to tell him this, “I imagine you are there with me. I have spent so many centuries painting a version of you that would want me like this that I almost became fond of the pain, and the melancholy, and the hurt. I have imagined the house we would build together, I have imagined the fights over food and books and people and cars, I have imagined not walking alone, having you by my side all those times I thought I couldn’t, and shouldn’t. But I never thought of telling you. I am sorry, I never thought of telling you.”
Aziraphale takes Crowley’s face in between his hands, angles it so that they are looking at each other. “Oh, dearest,” he says, “you know, I think maybe I was wrong. Maybe you did tell me. I just wouldn’t listen.”
Crowley doesn’t know what to say, so he doesn’t say anything.
He moves forward and kisses him.
It’s slow, and new, and clumsy and Crowley can’t even tell if he likes it, because he is too preoccupied to love, and love, and love.
They break apart and Aziraphale, Crowley thinks, looks happy. Impossibly, almost unrealistically happy.
“Do you want to,” Crowley starts, “do you want to do this kind of things?”
“I want to be with you,” Aziraphale tells him. “I really don’t care about the details.”
“Okay,” Crowley starts, relieved, and he can feel himself smiling, and he doesn’t care, he genuinely does not care.
“Happy, together?” Aziraphale asks, and Crowley has a second revelation. Not that he hadn’t ever thought about it before, but he looks at Aziraphale now and he knows neither Heaven nor Hell have the faintest idea as to what being alive feels like.
Crowley, unexpectedly, lets Aziraphale go, moves a step back, holds out a hand.
Aziraphale stares at it, rolls his eyes.
“You are unbelievable,” he says, but he takes it, and he drags Crowley into his arms again, and they almost fall, and Crowley is laughing, and Aziraphale is telling him that they are truly terrible dancers, and their hands are everywhere, and outside is raining, and the music is still playing, and they are happy.