It was not the first time they had kissed.
No, the first time had been in Egypt. Crowley and Aziraphale had both been assigned to stay in the same area, and they met rather frequently. The standard human greeting at the time involved people rubbing their noses together, so, in order to blend in and pass as human, it was a greeting in which both of them participated. Aziraphale had run into Crowley at the market one evening and had gone for the standard greeting, nothing they hadn’t done dozens of times before. But something felt different this time; when their noses had touched, in a moment that was half instinct and half what-the-hell, Crowley had leaned in further and quickly pecked Aziraphale on the lips. Aziraphale blinked and backed up, blushing furiously as Crowley laughed.
The next time they had kissed had been in Persia. They had known each other for thousands of years, and they both had come to the inevitable conclusion that they couldn’t be enemies forever. They weren’t quite friends, not yet, but they were getting there. Normally they greeted each other with a quick kiss on the cheek, the normal greeting for men of unequal rank for this time and place. But the next time they had met, neither of them said anything about it when Crowley kissed Aziraphale on the lips instead of the usual kiss on the cheek, saying to the angel for the first time: We are equals, I am not below you nor you above me, we are friends.
When they lived in Rome, well- that was when it got hard to keep track. People greeted each other with various kisses, each with its own rules and nuances that had to be followed. One was the osculum, a chaste kiss on the hand or cheek, or among close friends- kisses on the neck or eyelids. There was the basium, a closed-mouthed kiss that friends and relatives would use as a greeting. And then there was the suavium, a deep kiss that involved a bit more effort from both parties. Whenever they happened to meet, it would always be with a basium like that in Persia. Quick, chaste, and then over. Nothing more. They never talked about it, that had become an unspoken rule. Never talk about what happened with anyone, lest their respective head offices be watching in those moments.
Until, one night, that began to change.
They were in Aziraphale’s villa, where he had earned himself some high-position in the court and therefore had earned the household to go with it. Crowley had been lounging on a sofa next to Aziraphale, very happy and very drunk, and watching Aziraphale rant about his last conversation with Gabriel.
“And then!” Aziraphale leaned forward, almost spilling his wine, “He told me that I was being ridiculous by staying here and living some place. He said,” Aziraphale sat up straight, imitating the archangel, “Aziraphale, what need have you for… material possessions. You’re an angel if you want something you can just miracle it up. There is no need to go and…buy things like a human.” Aziraphale huffed, irritated. “As if I’m going to Fall for something as little as owning a villa.” He glanced at Crowley sheepishly, “Sorry, sensitive subject I’m sure.”
Crowley waved his hand in front of him. “It’s fine angel. Besides, you’d never Fall. You’re too… good.”
Aziraphale stared at him, his eyes wide (Crowley would later see that same face when he saved a bag full of books from the wreckage of a church). Suddenly, Aziraphale leaned forward, taking Crowley’s face in his hands and kissing him.
It wasn’t like other kisses they had shared, chaste and quick and gone in an instant, it was deep and long- or, it would have been had Crowley not been so surprised that he fell off the couch. When he had recovered from his initial shock, he surged forward and kissed Aziraphale with the fervor of thousands of years of longing, and was happily surprised when Aziraphale kissed him back with a similar passion, leaning into Crowley’s every touch.
They continued greeting each other with soft kisses to the lips, eyelids, neck, as long as they could, until the empire fell and they could get away with it no longer.
When Crowley first saw Aziraphale in the new group who called themselves Christians he was elated. Crowley ran to Aziraphale, forgetting anyone else was there (and not caring even if there was), and embraced the angel, pulling him close before kissing him. Aziraphale stayed with him for a moment, let himself be held, before he pulled away, his cheeks flushed pink.
“Wrong culture, my dear.” Aziraphale said as he stepped away, looking slightly embarrassed.
From then on, as long as it was allowed, they would exchange what Crowley refused to call Holy Kisses, lest he risk discorporation each time their lips met; and Aziraphale always indulged him, laughing against his lips as they greeted each other hello and good bye. Crowley stayed with them as long as he could, grateful for any excuse to let the angel’s lips touch his.
Times changed, and the kisses which they had shared so frequently as a greeting became so much more in what they meant. The next time Crowley and Aziraphale had met had been at a royal ball. Aziraphale was a knight, while Crowley a mere courtier. Crowley, wrapped up in the ideas and dramas of court romances (although he would never admit to that) had, upon meeting Aziraphale, dropped to one knee and kissed his hand, fervently, reverently, trying to show Aziraphale everything he felt. Whether the angel had understood what he meant would forever be a mystery, because when Crowley stood up Aziraphale said nothing about it, had only smiled and invited Crowley to dine with him that evening.
During the time of King Arthur, knights would greet each other with a kiss, mimicking the Holy Kisses once shared by the disciples. Aziraphale may have left when he met the Black Knight for the first time, but he returned the next evening. By some miracle (demonic or angelic, neither cold say) they were alone. Aziraphale had removed his helmet and Crowley had done the same. Aziraphale was silent as he greeted him with a chaste kiss on the lips, the first one in centuries, and Crowley had felt as if he were going to discorporate, melting against the angel’s lips. They had gone back to the tent where Crowley had made camp, each of them removing their armor and embracing in a way they hadn’t since Rome ruled the world.
Times had changed again, and anything that appeared to be love between two men was punishable by death. After millennia of being able to embrace and kiss, of learning to love, they could no longer, for fear of discorporation. It seemed that Aziraphale had taken their ideas about “boundaries” to heart, because the next time they had met he had been stiff and uncomfortable. Had sat an appropriate and far too distance amount of space away from Crowley. Crowley hadn’t known how to act or what to say, and he didn’t have the right words (Aziraphale had always been better with words than he was), and he couldn’t show Aziraphale, he couldn’t even try. That day the world had felt cold, and Crowley had wanted more than anything to be back in Rome.
Centuries passed and while Crowley saw Aziraphale more often than in the past, they were still distant with each other, holding themselves out at arm’s length. It was 1980’s and the clubs in Soho were raging and the people were angry- no, defiant. In a spur of the moment decision Crowley picked Aziraphale up from the bookshop and took him to the nearest club. Aziraphale got drunk and Crowley even more so, they danced (not what one might call good dancing, but they made an effort) and when a slow song came on, Crowley wrapped his arms around Aziraphale’s waist and leaned in and then stopped, Aziraphale’s “you go too fast for me, Crowley” from decades before ringing through his head. But the voice left quickly as Aziraphale met him halfway for a soft kiss before pulling away, blushing. They spent the rest of the night dancing and drinking, never quite letting the other get out of reach.
Then it was the end of the world. Crowley had almost managed to get the words out as he pleaded “we could go off together” and really meant “don’t leave me,” had begged “we’re on our side” and had meant “I don’t want to be in a world without you.” And Aziraphale had said no. Had said there was no “their side.” Crowley had come back, had pleaded for the angel to come with him, and once again Aziraphale said no. Crowley had gotten angry and left- despite his every instinct telling him to fight harder, to convince Aziraphale. Crowley had decided to try one last time, and found the bookshop in flames and Aziraphale was gone. Not simply not there but truly gone, and Crowley had wept and cursed and he had never gotten to say it. So he left and got drunk. What else was there to do? Aziraphale was gone, it was the end of the world and Aziraphale was gone. Until he wasn’t, and Crowley knew nothing other than that he had to find his angel.
It was the very first day of the rest of their lives. Aziraphale had taken Crowley’s hand on the bus, entwining their fingers as if were something they did every day. The bus that was going to Oxford had taken them right outside Crowley’s flat, and Aziraphale kept holding his hand as they walked inside and Crowley was so tempted to say it now, but they had other things to worry about. Heaven and Hell were still after them, and they had a prophesy to discern. They had figured it out, eventually, but that night Crowley needed to rest. He knew Aziraphale didn’t normally sleep, but the angel followed him to his bedroom anyways. They didn’t speak as Aziraphale laid down on the bed next to him, as Crowley kissed the top of the angel’s head and pulled him close, breathing him in as Crowley tried desperately to dislodge the scent of burning books from his memory.
They walked back to the bookshop after dinner at the Ritz. The end of the world had happened-or rather, hadn’t happened, and they were there and they were alive and they were together. Aziraphale took them to the back room and pulled out a rather nice bottle of wine. Crowley had taken off his glasses, leaning against Aziraphale’s desk. He had to say it, he had to say it now.
“Yes?” Aziraphale set down his glass of wine.
“There’s nobody watching over us anymore. Heaven, Hell, nobody, we’re free for the time being. They can’t control us anymore, we don’t have to follow orders, we don’t have to follow ridiculous rules.” Crowley was rambling and Aziraphale knew it, he stepped forwards, taking Crowley’s hands in his. Crowley closed his eyes, taking a deep breath before exhaling and starting over.
It was then, in the back room of Aziraphale’s new-yet-old bookshop that Crowley did the hardest thing he had done in six thousand years.
He said it. He finally said it.
He looked down, not wanting to see Aziraphale’s reaction.
“Oh, Crowley.” Aziraphale whispered, and Crowley looked up, meeting Aziraphale’s eyes. Aziraphale crossed the brief distance between them, placed a hand on Crowley’s face, and kissed him.
It was not the first time they had kissed. It was millennia of longing and love, it was a joke in Egypt, a greeting in Persia, and it was a drunken night in Rome where they let themselves be more. It was a kiss on the hand in a ball, a stolen kiss in a tent, and centuries of heartache at not being able to touch. It was a dance at a nightclub where it was the first time they had kissed in centuries. It was “we’re on our side” and it was years and years of never being able to say it and finally, finally, being able to get the words out.
They stayed like that for a long time, coming together and letting themselves feel what they hadn’t let themselves feel in centuries. Jackets were thrown on the ground and wings were spread, wrapped around them in a protective dome.
Aziraphale pulled away first, leaning his forehead against Crowley’s.
“Oh, my dear, I love you too.”
Crowley was silent for a moment before he surged forward, capturing the angel’s lips again. After all, they had a lot of time to make up for, and eternity to do it.