Over the course of their long and leisurely meal, Crowley finds himself shifting, turning toward the angel, swooning toward him as though caught on his every smiling word.
He could blame the drink, but he knows that isn't the reason.
If Aziraphale notices it, he doesn't seem to mind, anyway. He still laughs and talks and savors his food as though it's the most delightful thing he's ever encountered, same as every other time they have lunch together. Or dinner. Or just a quick nibble at that new patisserie, you know, the one with the tulips in the windows, and apparently they have the most scrumptious pain au chocolat, oh, would Crowley like to come along?
Always, Crowley never says. Anywhere. I'd go anywhere with you, as long as you were happy, as long as we were together. It's never been safe to say, too many eyes, too many ears, possibly including those tulips in the windows. And for other reasons. In the last twenty-four hours, the eyes and ears have already seen and heard enough to doom them ten times over, but even with that ancient threat no longer a concern, there's still the other thing. Seven words that play endlessly in Crowley's head in moments like this. The memory of a flask in his unbelieving hands, still warm from where the angel had held it.
At one point there's a lull, and Crowley wants to fill it with everything he's feeling, but there's so much of that as to overspill the space between them, swelling it up, pushing them apart. He doesn't think he can survive that again. So it's a careless little quirk of the eyebrows, and a crooked grin, and a neutral topic. His voice stripped of all the longing, the adoration, keeping all that inside where it's long since made its home. "A rubber duck, though, really? All the forces of Hell glaring you down and you ask for a rubber duck?"
Aziraphale gives one of his sparkle-eyed little grins over the rim of his champagne flute. "You had something of a reputation which it was my duty to uphold, no? A little bit of that unflappable style you do so like to cultivate."
"Oh, well," Crowley manages.
"And I knew you would have been brave, no matter what they might have done to you." Aziraphale's round face slips, just for a moment, and when the smile returns, it's different. "So I had to do it in your place."
Crowley makes a few noises, working his way up to a bluster that would avoid having to actually acknowledge the compliment. Neutral topic, blast it.
The angel lays one hand on Crowley's forearm, and all bluster stops dead.
Crowley looks across the table at Aziraphale, into eyes which crinkle in the sweet, fond way that he craves like humans crave air. He's gone centuries without seeing that look in the past, and yet — twice in one day. It had been silent the first time, a response to Crowley's calling him a bastard (which was true enough, but also a safer thing to call him than others Crowley could think of).
"I had to keep you safe," Aziraphale says now.
A waiter passes by on the way to another table. All around them, other diners talk and laugh and clink their silverware. And at their table nothing is happening, except that hand on Crowley's arm. He barely breathes, staring at the angel from the hidden world behind his sunglasses, and the hand doesn't move. It isn't pulled away.
Not too fast, Crowley thinks woozily. Can't move too fast. Can't leave you behind again, not now, not when you're maybe finally starting to catch up —
"Yeah, well," he drawls, propping his chin up on his other hand (but careful to not move his right arm and risk dislodging the angel's touch) — "I mean, I've managed to keep this corporation in pretty good condition so far, yeah? Be a shame to have something happen to it right at the end like that."
Aziraphale's brows draw together. "I wish you wouldn't make light of it. If we had been wrong... if either of us had misjudged..."
"We didn't, angel." His voice is softer than he'd meant it to be. "We're both here now."
"Yes. We finally are."
There's something in that statement which makes Crowley's heart flutter a little. To cover for it, he shifts in his chair, letting his limbs swing loose and sprawled again. The movement slips him away from Aziraphale's hand. Dropping back from even that small point of contact is nearly painful, but at least the angel seems unperturbed. He even regains some of that look around his eyes as he takes another sip of his drink.
It's a look Crowley refuses to give a name to, because he cannot let himself get that far ahead.
They finish. Crowley pays. They stroll outside into the early evening dim, and Aziraphale suggests a walk together, and Crowley agrees. Anything to make you happy, he doesn't say, anything that lets me stay with you.
In the park, he looks down the path and sees the ghost of every conversation they've had here. Centuries of talking and planning, of arguments, of social calls between two entities who should never have been social at all. It's all the past here, the air is thick with it, but Crowley wants the future. His future, if he could dare dream. Walking beside him, chattering about ducks. There aren't any ducks, though, not at this hour. They've all gone home to their little duck families.
Crowley stops by the railing, looking over the still water. He thinks of home, and of going back to his flat, alone, leaving comfort and warmth behind like a blanket folded up and left on Aziraphale's couch at the end of the evening. Of everything he can't take with him because it isn't his.
"Sorry. Just." Crowley stifles a sigh. "Wanted to take a moment." He's waited through so many already; what's one more?
I go too fast —
But he's interrupted. Feet not just dragging the brakes but slammed down, entire weight, thoughts tumbled to a heap in the front of his mind by the sudden inertia, sorry about that, hope everyone was wearing a seatbelt.
Aziraphale has taken his arm.
The angel's hands wind around, warm and gentle, snugging up around Crowley's arm so that he has to step closer, up right next to Crowley, and Crowley is turning again, swooning, yearning toward him —
Aziraphale is looking at him with that expression again. His lips curl up fondly. His eyes are crinkled, so soft that they're melting, that Crowley is melting. Three times. The sweet round perfect face has been turned like this to Crowley three times today, and he drinks in the sight and the knowledge both, even as he drowns.
Crowley's mouth barely moves. "Aziraphale?"
"I just wanted you to know that..." Aziraphale's face goes uncertain then, his eyes skittering away as he continues. "Well. I want you to take as long as you need. But..."
Crowley feels him breathe in, deep, can actually feel the plump body shift beside his own. He swallows a ragged breath in the instant before the angel turns his eyes back to him, no longer uncertain.
"I'm ready now," Aziraphale says, through lips that quiver just a little bit. "If I haven't fallen too far behind."
There isn't any possible way Aziraphale can be saying what Crowley thinks he's saying, because Crowley is not currently dreaming. Or maybe he is. Maybe he'll wake up and none of this will have happened at all — this evening, the apocalypse, the last eleven years. Is it still 1967, the flask newly stored in his safe, his heart newly shattered to bits? More likely than this being real, surely.
But the angel's touch is soft and vital in a way his dreams never have been. And when he reaches up his free hand to pull off his sunglasses, the world shifts clearly back into its true colors, just as he expects. The sunglasses go into a pocket. He wants very much right now to be able to look at Aziraphale unimpeded.
"Crowley?" Aziraphale's voice shakes, and Crowley realizes he hasn't answered him yet.
"I could never leave you behind." He unwinds one of the angel's hands from his arm. Presses it, beneath his own hand, against his own chest. "Couldn't go to Alpha Centauri without you, could I? Couldn't go anywhere else. Not anywhere that mattered."
He is staring into Aziraphale's eyes, so he can't miss how they widen. Can't miss them film over with tears.
"'S it okay if I kiss you, angel?"
He's afraid to ask, because this isn't just going fast; by their standards, it's strapping himself to a rocket and lighting the fuse. But so many other impossible things have happened in the last few days that he is willing to gamble, risk everything, for just one more.
Aziraphale's eyes go even wider, so much that Crowley can see whites all around them, even in this light. His hands, one on Crowley's arm and the other held against Crowley's chest, both spasm.
Crowley waits. Crowley has been waiting.
And — there it is. One more time. Aziraphale's face relaxes into that same expression, the one Crowley is starting to think might mean adoration, the one that might mean joy. Round cheeks flushing, eyes bright enough that Crowley can barely stand to look at them, and lips curled up, looking so soft and so tender that Crowley is already leaning toward them as they part to answer him.
"Yes," Aziraphale breathes, and his mouth is the sweetest thing Crowley has ever tasted.
Crowley slides his arm around the broad waist, pulling the beloved form in closer. His other hand looses Aziraphale's in order to complete the circuit. He thinks he may never want to stop holding his angel. He thinks it might kill him to try.
Aziraphale's hands brush his cheeks, tangle gently in his hair. He sighs into the kiss.
There isn't much in the way of conscious thought for a while after that.
Eventually Crowley breaks off, not because he wants to, but because he never wants to. But if he flies off into the stratosphere now — if he doesn't stop to check that Aziraphale is with him, still with him, keeping up at last —
Aziraphale's eyes are closed, face still tilted up. Mouth soft, hanging ever so slightly open. He doesn't move, just murmurs back. "Yes?"
"You..." Crowley swallows thickly. "You set the pace. However fast or slow you like. All right?"
The angel's response is immediate, though it doesn't come in the form of words. Instead the hands in Crowley's hair guide him down with a gentle pressure which he succumbs to gladly. Crowley's lips find Aziraphale's again, settling in like forever. Like home.
When Aziraphale's voice answers at last, it's barely above a whisper. "Put your foot down, then, dearest. I want to see where we go."