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In Other Words, Baby, Kiss Me

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1 – Cheek

It was about two weeks after the apocalypse-that-wasn't that it happened the first time. They were in the park, as usual, Aziraphale sitting on the right side of the bench, tossing bread crumbs into the water, while Crowley slouched on the left. Crowley supposed they didn't really need to meet in the park anymore, given that their meetings were no longer particularly clandestine, but after so many years, it was practically force of habit.

Besides, the ducks would probably miss them.

Aziraphale threw the last handful of crumbs to the small crowd of ducks gathered in front of them and tucked his bag away. There was a flurry of feathers and splashing water as the ducks fought for a mouthful.

Crowley was rather enjoying the whole spectacle when a mother and eight ducklings came swimming up to the edge of the crowd.

Aziraphale's blue eyes grew wide in faint horror. "Crowley, have you got any more bread?"

Crowley held out his empty hands. "Already gave it away."

Aziraphale looked crestfallen. "Oh." He turned to the ducks. "But they're just babies."

He slid his gaze back to Crowley, eyes wide and pleading.

Over six millennia, Crowley had come to realize that there were very few constants in the whole of existence. One was that people throughout all of human history were capable of great good or great evil all on their own without any supernatural nudging whatsoever.

Another was that when Aziraphale gave him that look, Crowley was utterly incapable of telling him no.

He rolled his eyes. "Oh, all right," he groused, and refilled Aziraphale's bag with a wave of his hand. Refilled it with the good bread, too; these were growing ducklings, after all.

Aziraphale beamed at him and went about tossing bits of bread at the baby ducks, who all quacked delightedly at the bounty.

The bread lasted another fifteen minutes—Crowley only topped it off once—and then Aziraphale tucked the empty bag in his pocket. "I do suppose that's plenty."

Crowley gestured at the other benches filled with people also feeding ducks. "If anything, they're in danger of eating too much."

"Oh, hush, they'll be fine." Aziraphale stood and brushed the crumbs off his jacket and vest. "I suppose I ought get back to the shop."

He said it in the tone of voice that meant he would only get back to the shop if there was literally nothing else they could do to pass the time. Fortunately, Crowley was very good at finding other things to do.

He rolled up off the bench. "Oh, come on. Why don't we grab a bite to eat before you go back? There's a new place just a few streets over. Five stars on Yelp."

Aziraphale's brow furrowed. "Yelp?"

Crowley sighed. "A website? Internet reviews? Come on, angel, just one thing from this century, that's all I'm asking. You won't even get a mobile!"

Aziraphale made a face like Crowley had suggested they pick the soggy bread out of the water for a snack. "I don't need a mobile. The only people who call me are you and my customers and I should like to keep it that way. Come on, let's try this new Yelp place. Oh, do you know if they have a good wine list?"

"It's not a Yelp place, it's a restaurant. Just an ordinary restaurant. And I don't know about their wine list."

"Surely they do," Aziraphale said, and then he kissed Crowley on the cheek. "Thank you for the bread, my dear."

Crowley's brain made a noise not unlike a food processor attempting to process a dozen aluminum cans. Six thousand years they'd known each other, and Aziraphale had never once in their immortal lives kissed him.

The fact of which seemed lost on the angel, because he took Crowley's arm and directed them toward the nearest street. "Now, which way is the Yelp place?"

 

2 - Hand

Aziraphale never brought up the kiss, so Crowley decided it was best not to think about it. Likely nothing but an expression of gratitude. A very nice expression of gratitude, certainly, but it didn't mean anything more.

Things settled back to normal, or at least what passed for normal for two immortal beings who were at something of a loss, given that they'd forsaken their respective sides and were now managing on their own. For his own part, since he no longer had to worry quite so much about anybody looking over his shoulder, Crowley spent a lot more time at Aziraphale's bookshop. Well, to be perfectly frank, he spent a lot more time with Aziraphale, which necessitated being at the bookshop at least a few days a week.

Not that Crowley minded. The shop was warm and cozy and fairly quiet (he was a snake; he appreciated all those qualities), considering how hard Aziraphale worked not to have any customers. It meant Crowley could spend some time napping on the couch while Aziraphale read whatever new old book he'd gotten in.

This was perfectly fine with Crowley, except for when he was gone for two days and came back to find Aziraphale in exactly the same spot as he'd been when Crowley had left. The only sign anything had changed was that the left side of the book was now much thicker than the right.

"Have you even moved in forty-eight hours?" Crowley asked.

Aziraphale didn't answer. He didn't so much as twitch to show he'd heard anything.

Crowley poked his shoulder.

Aziraphale startled and whirled on him, one hand raised, and Crowley swore he saw his entire life flash before his eyes. Impressive, considering how many thousands of years that was.

Aziraphale's eyes widened in recognition and he dropped his hand. "Crowley! Good Lord, you gave me a start. I thought you were someone else."

Crowley gaped at him. "Did you almost miracle me away?"

"You gave me a start," Aziraphale repeated, his cheeks pinking a little.

"Is this how you handle customers?" Crowley grinned; he couldn't help it. "Someone comes up on you when you're reading and you miracle them off to hell only knows where? No wonder your shop's so quiet."

Aziraphale drew himself up a bit straighter. "One must always be vigilant when one is guarding the world against the forces of darkness."

Forces of darkness, honestly. Crowley was the only damned force of darkness in the entire city and he practically had a key to the bookshop. Not that he needed one. "Or when one is in the middle of reading and doesn't want to be interrupted?"

Aziraphale turned back to his book, and the pink in his cheeks got a little darker. "I'm nearly finished."

"You haven't moved in two days, angel," Crowley pointed out. "Maybe come outside and walk for a bit? We'll pick up some ice cream in the park. Or maybe go to that sushi place you like."

Aziraphale blinked. "Has it really been two days?"

"Would I lie to you?"

Aziraphale opened his mouth—probably to instinctively say yes—but then closed it as though he were reconsidering the statement. "I do lose track of time with the books."

Crowley gestured to the door. "Come on, let's go."

Aziraphale worried his lip, considering, and then his gaze slid back to the book. "Just give me an hour, and I'll be finished."

Crowley raised an eyebrow. "You won't try to miracle me away again when I come to get you?"

"It was a mistake," Aziraphale said testily. "You startled me. And you are never going to let that go, are you?"

"Not for the next hundred years, at least." Crowley patted his shoulder. "I'll be back in an hour, then, and I'm prepared to drag you outside if necessary."

Aziraphale caught his hand. "It won't be necessary." He pressed a quick kiss to Crowley's knuckles before he let go. "Thank you for your concern, my dear. If you'd like to wait around, feel free to make yourself some tea."

The only reason Crowley didn't jerk his hand away was because he was too stunned to do it. It tingled where Aziraphale's lips had touched him, and he couldn't figure if it was all in his head or if there was something actually magic about being kissed by an angel. No, must've been in his head. His cheek hadn't tingled when Aziraphale had kissed him there. Had it? He couldn't remember. He'd been too shocked to pay attention.

Aziraphale went back to his book, and Crowley went in search of something a lot stronger than tea to drink.

 

3 – Temple

By the time Aziraphale finished with his book, Crowley had made it through two bottles of wine by himself and was starting on a third. Aziraphale's only comment was a slightly irritable, "Do be good enough not to drink your way through my entire wine cellar, my dear."

"'M not good," Crowley reminded him. His hand was still tingling, although that may have had more to do with the alcohol now. He hoped it did. "'M a demon. Very bad."

Aziraphale sighed and hauled him upright. "Can you walk, or do you need to sober up a bit first?"

"Fine, 'm fine, don't—" His legs did not go where he intended to put them, and Crowley nearly veered into one of the bookshelves. Would have, if Aziraphale had not had an iron grip on his arm. "Second thought, I'm gonna sober up."

"A sound plan," Aziraphale said dryly.

Crowley sobered up just enough that walking wasn't such a dicey proposition and he could make it out of the bookshop without help; he was positive if he knocked over even one of the shelves, Aziraphale would miracle him out to an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean without even a second thought. Or Antarctica. Oh, he hoped not Antarctica; he hated cold.

"If I knocked over one of your shelves, would you send me to Antarctica or a deserted island in the middle of the Pacific?" Crowley asked, curious, while Aziraphale locked the front door.

"Really, Crowley, don't be ridiculous." Aziraphale slid the key into his pocket and a sharp look in Crowley's direction. "If you knocked over one of my shelves, I wouldn't speak to you for at least a decade. Three, if they were some of my rarer books."

Oh. That was far worse. And from the look on Aziraphale's face, he damn well knew it.

Crowley cleared his throat. "Well, at least it's not never."

"Oh, please." Aziraphale scoffed. "I wouldn't want to punish myself as well. Come along, I believe you mentioned sushi?"

Aziraphale was already a half-dozen steps down the sidewalk before Crowley stopped being frozen enough to catch up with him.

He'd known the "I'll never talk to you again" threat had been born of desperation, although that hadn't made it any less effective. Crowley could conceive of some pretty awful things, but the only thing that he really, truly couldn't handle was the idea of being cut off from Aziraphale completely.

He'd suspected—hoped?—Aziraphale might feel the same way about that, but it was one thing to suspect it and another thing to have it confirmed so simply while they were walking to dinner.

He'd been trying to slow down for the past half a century, even though he wasn't built to go slow and a glacier would probably outpace Aziraphale. But somehow, he hadn't been prepared for...well, for whatever the hell it was Aziraphale was doing.

They shared dinner, during which Crowley mostly drank sake and watched Aziraphale eat sushi, although he did have a few bites whenever Aziraphale pushed a piece on him with a "Crowley, this one, you simply have to try it."

Crowley was positive he did not get half the enjoyment out of the sushi that Aziraphale did, but he got a great deal of enjoyment out of the excited smile Aziraphale gave him each time.

Dinner, as it often did, transitioned back into drinking in the bookshop, and even though Crowley had had a head start on that, Aziraphale did an excellent job of getting caught up. They made a sizable dent in Aziraphale's wine collection, and Crowley was back to where he'd been before dinner in no time at all.

"So what's that new book?" Crowley asked. "New old book?"

Aziraphale blinked and peered curiously at Crowley, like he was trying to make his wine-soaked brain cling to the words. "What books?"

"Not books, the book." Crowley waved his hand at the desk and lounged deeper into his chair. "Book you were reading. Reading for two days without moving. Must be a good book."

"Oh! Oh. Er." Aziraphale cleared his throat, and Crowley was ninety percent sure his cheeks were turning red. "Nothing! I mean, obviously it's not nothing, it's a book, but it's not a book you'd be interested in. Since you don't read."

True though that was, Aziraphale was protesting far too much for the book to be that innocent. Crowley would make an exception for something that made his angel blush like that. "Oh, I dunno. Maybe I should get into reading. I need a new hobby."

"Well, if you must know, it's a collection of poems."

"Wha?" Crowley half-lifted his head from the back of the chair. He hadn't expected that. "Poems?"

"Yes." Aziraphale refilled his wine glass. "One I've spent quite some time looking for, and I'm very happy to finally have it in hand. If you're interested, I could read you a few."

Crowley made a face. "Ugh, no poetry. I need something stronger than wine for that."

"You did ask," Aziraphale reminded him.

"Ehhh." Crowley dropped his head back on the chair and groaned. "Ugh, I should probably go. 'S late. Is it late? Feels like 's late."

"It's not that late," Aziraphale said, and then paused. "Oh, dear. Never mind, I suppose it is."

Crowley wiped his face. "How'd it get late?"

Aziraphale swallowed half his glass of wine. "I think sometime between bottles three and four. You don't... need to go. If you don't want to."

Crowley rolled his head to the side so he could see Aziraphale better. Rolled, because lifting his head from the back of the chair currently took more effort than he could expend. "Huh?"

"You don't have to go," Aziraphale repeated. "You can stay here."

"Nnng." Crowley tried to haul himself up, but he was very drunk and the chair was very comfortable. "'S a good idea. Staying here."

"You ought to move to the couch. It can't be comfortable to sleep like that."

"Pfffft, what do you know about sleeping?" Of the two of them, Crowley definitely had more experience in that area. "I'll be fine."

Aziraphale huffed, and a split second later, Crowley went from lounging on a chair to lying flat on a couch. His head banged into the arm of it, and he hissed.

"Sorry, sorry." Aziraphale was immediately hovering over him. "Probably shouldn't have tried that after three and a half bottles of wine."

Crowley rubbed the back of his head and waved him off. "'S fine, 'm fine. Bump on the head isn't gonna discop...disker...isn't gonna kill me."

"I should hope not," Aziraphale said, but he quit fussing so much.

Crowley closed his eyes and sighed. The couch was more comfortable than the chair. He probably should sober up before going to sleep, but he wasn't sure he wanted to make the effort.

He burrowed into the couch instead. "Don't suppose you could miracle me a blanket?"

"Oh, honestly," Aziraphale muttered, and then a large, fluffy blanket settled over him.

Crowley made an inarticulate noise that he hoped conveyed thank you. "Wake me when I need to leave."

"Just go to sleep, Crowley."

Lips pressed against his temple, but Crowley was already close enough to sleep that he thought it was a dream.

 

4 – Head

Crowley did not spend much time in his snake form as a general rule, what with the whole "trying to appear mostly human" thing. Giant snakes in the middle of London tended to attract attention that he didn't usually want to attract.

However, it was occasionally enjoyable to change it up a bit, and the bookshop had a couple of windows that warmed the floor nicely and made it a good place to curl up. Plus, there were...extra benefits to being a snake.

"Oh, my God!" a shrill voice exclaimed from somewhere behind him, a voice Crowley recognized as belonging to a woman who'd spent the better part of the morning complaining loudly about the cost of Aziraphale's books. "Ronnie, honey, will you look at that? I've never seen such a lifelike snake statue! It's huge!"

"Oh, Janice, don't—" Another woman's voice, sounding very put-upon. "Don't touch it. It's probably an antique."

Well, she wasn't wrong.

"I wonder if it's for sale?" Janice said, her voice much closer now. "It'd look lovely in the dining room. Although he's probably asking a hundred pounds or something else exorbitant—"

Crowley slowly raised his head from where it had been resting on his body, flicking out his tongue and hissing before he yawned as wide as he could.

Both women screamed and fled the shop, the bell jingling cheerily as the door slammed shut.

Crowley set his head back down, quite satisfied with himself.

Aziraphale came out of the back room with a stack of books and sighed in relief. "Oh, thank God, I thought they'd never leave."

"Can't believe she thought I was only worth a hundred pounds," Crowley said. Well, hissed, really; it's not like a snake mouth was very good for human languages.

"I can't believe she thought you were a statue at all." Aziraphale sounded horrified at the thought. "You're much too lovely to be anything but real."

While Crowley was attempting to sort how he felt about that, Aziraphale ran a hand down his back and dropped a kiss onto the top of his head. "Thank you for getting rid of them, my dear."

When Aziraphale walked away, Crowley shoved his head under one of the coils of his body and was privately very, very grateful that snakes couldn't blush.

 

5 – Mouth (technically) +1 – Mouth (definitely)

"Absolutely not," Crowley said.

"Don't be such a spoilsport." Aziraphale put a record on the gramophone. "Come on, stand up!"

Crowley stayed right where he was. "I thought you refused to learn anything else after the gavotte went out of style."

Aziraphale flicked his hand dismissively. "Everything comes back into fashion eventually, and when the gavotte is rediscovered, I will be ready. Until then, I decided to learn something new. Thought I might find another dance I liked."

Crowley heaved a sigh. "And so you decided to try ballroom dancing?"

"Well, I can't very well do ballet," Aziraphale said, as if there weren't dozens of other dances in existence. "Come on, get up. The dance needs a partner."

"I'm not dancing with you!"

Aziraphale widened his eyes. "Oh, please, Crowley? I need to practice."

Dammit. Crowley wondered how long he could put off the inevitable.

Aziraphale's pleading eyes somehow got even larger.

Crowley groaned and shoved himself off the couch. "You know I'm not a good dancer, angel."

"That's quite all right." Aziraphale grabbed Crowley's wrist and snapped his fingers, clearing a space on the bookshop floor. "I'll teach you." He smiled as though he were astoundingly pleased with himself. "The instructor says I've gotten quite good."

Crowley raised his eyebrows in an effort to convey his extreme skepticism about that, and then let Aziraphale maneuver him into position, a position that involved one hand on Aziraphale's shoulder and the other holding his hand, while Aziraphale settled his other hand at Crowley's waist.

The gramophone started playing a waltz, and Aziraphale counted them in.

The dance lesson went about as well as Crowley had expected for a demon who couldn't dance and an angel whose last real go of it had been some one hundred years before, which was to say there was a great deal of treading on feet and even more spectacularly colorful language every time a foot was trod on.

"No, no, you go the other way—"

"You told me to go right!"

"And then left! Here, let me—ow!"

Crowley jerked his foot back, stumbled, and thankfully righted himself before he and Aziraphale both went tumbling to the floor.

"I told you I'm not a good dancer," he said defensively.

Aziraphale pressed his lips together, like he was trying very hard not to laugh. "You're getting better. You only stepped on my foot twice that last round."

Crowley gave him a flat look.

"I mean it!" Aziraphale said earnestly. "You're doing very well."

"I thought angels weren't supposed to lie."

Aziraphale's cheeks turned pink. "I am not. I am very proud of your progress."

Crowley scoffed and was about to say something else, but then Aziraphale leaned in and kissed the corner of his mouth.

Crowley froze. The other kisses he'd been able to write off or ignore or chalk up to some other reason, but this one...

His hopes, which he'd done a damned good job of reeling in since the 1960s, suddenly shot through the roof.

"Aziraphale," he started, but it came out croaky and hoarse and Crowley found out he didn't actually have the words for the rest of what he wanted to say.

The smile Aziraphale had been suppressing faded entirely, and his blue eyes took on a slightly guarded look. "I'm terribly sorry. It seems I may have misread the situation."

Crowley felt like he must have lost the thread of the plot somewhere. "Misread the—what are you talking about?"

"Well, I...that is to say, after, well, everything..." Aziraphale took a deep breath. "I was attempting to make my intentions known. To court you, as it were."

This was the same angel who had, roughly fifty years ago, told Crowley he was going too fast when Crowley had been spending the better part of the last six millennia just working up the nerve to maybe hold his hand.

Crowley opened his mouth. Closed it. Attempted to put his thoughts in order. Failed tremendously and so tried again. "You are trying to date me?"

"Court you," Aziraphale said stubbornly. "I don't like the term 'dating.' It's too impermanent. Are you telling me you don't want that?"

Crowley was going to cry. "Angel, I've been trying to court you for six thousand years."

"What?" Aziraphale's eyes went huge. "Six thousand...since the garden?!"

"Yes, since the garden!" Crowley not-quite-shouted, a little desperately. "Ever since you were fretting about giving away your flaming sword. How did you not know?"

Crowley did not feel he'd been very subtle. Hamlet, for somebody's sake. Only a demon struggling with an embarrassingly massive crush would have agreed to make Hamlet a success.

"I knew!" Aziraphale argued. "Or at least, I suspected. I just...didn't realize it had been quite that long. I thought it was a bit more recent than that."

Crowley was almost afraid to find out what "recent" meant. "How recent?"

"Er..."

"Aziraphale."

Aziraphale did not answer for a worryingly long time. "1941," he finally admitted.

"1941?!" Crowley exclaimed.

"It was the books!" Aziraphale's cheeks turned very pink, like he was admitting an embarrassing, long-held secret. "You saved my books in the church with the Nazis."

Crowley remembered, as that particular incident was burned into his mind and onto his feet. It had taken nearly two days for him to be able to walk without limping. "Why the books?"

The hand at his waist tightened a little, and Aziraphale bit his lip. "Because there was no reason for you to save them. With everything else, it could have been because I was doing you a favor, or because the paperwork for my discorporation would be absolute hell to deal with—"

Crowley snorted.

"—or because it was easier to have me here or any number of things. But that time..." Aziraphale trailed off and looked him straight in the eye. "You came into a church after we hadn't spoken in almost a century and you...saved my books. For no other reason than they were important to me."

It was true. Obviously it was true; the entire reason Crowley had been in that church in the first place, burning his feet off, was because otherwise Aziraphale was going to get himself discorporated and then Crowley would either have not seen him for several more decades (if Heaven was particularly slow about getting him another body) or ever again (if they decided to send someone else to Earth in his place). Neither was an acceptable outcome.

And if the books had been destroyed, Aziraphale would've been devastated, and that was not an acceptable outcome, either.

But there was a difference between knowing why you'd done something, and having the person you'd done it for look at you with the knowledge that they knew why you'd done it, too. It made him feel like he'd been suddenly thrust out into the sun after spending most of his life safely hidden behind a wall.

"Why the sword?" Aziraphale asked quietly.

"Aziraphale, there are ten million angels in Heaven and not a single one of them would have given away a flaming sword to help the humans. I was sure I was going to be stuck with one of them. Instead..." Crowley shrugged helplessly. "I got you."

The edges of his lips twitched up, and Aziraphale pressed them together and ducked his head, like he was trying to hide the smile. "I see."

They were still standing close together, in the same position as they'd been when they started dancing. It was very easy for Crowley to lean forward and trace his nose along Aziraphale's hairline, his breath barely ruffling the soft white strands.

And then Aziraphale looked up at him, and since they were already so close, it was even easier to close the distance and kiss him properly.

If pressed by a very determined inquisitor, Crowley would admit that he had spent an inordinate amount of time over the past several hundred years thinking about what it would be like to kiss Aziraphale. He'd hoped it would be nice, but he'd thought most likely it would feel a bit like walking on consecrated ground, only with his face. Painful, but almost definitely worth it.

That was not what it felt like. There was a slight tingle in his lips, but that could have either been because he was kissing an ethereal being or because he was kissing Aziraphale after centuries of wanting to and not a single part of his body knew how to react properly to that.

No, he felt...settled, like after six thousand years of pinging around on the Earth, he'd finally slotted into his proper place. Like his soul had been straining toward its counterpoint all this time, and now that Crowley's conscious mind had finally not only recognized it, but done something about it, it was taking a well-deserved break.

"Oh," Aziraphale said softly. "That was very nice."

Crowley arched an eyebrow. "Just very nice?"

"Fine, better than nice," Aziraphale said. "Although I confess, I half-thought there might be a bolt of lightning. Since, you know, er..."

He inclined his head upward as if to say angel, demon, probably not supposed to be kissing, which was a fair point. They both looked at the ceiling of the bookshop.

Thankfully, nothing continued to happen.

"No lightning," Crowley said. "Suppose we got lucky?"

"It's possible," Aziraphale said. "Although somehow I doubt the Almighty missed that."

"We could always test it again," Crowley suggested. "Just to make sure."

Aziraphale smiled so brightly it made his whole chest ache. "Well, yes. That sounds like a very good idea."

(There was still no lightning the second time. Or third. By the fourth, Crowley was reasonably sure they were in the clear.

They tested it a few more times anyway, just to be certain.)