Grading on a scale that goes from “uncomfortable designer sofa” to “very uncomfortable designer sofa”, Crowley's sofa is incredibly extremely utterly uncomfortable.
Crowley is trying to slouch, but he's just falling down - the back is too short to hold on to, the seat is covered in very slippery leather, and the cushion ends in a sharp edge. He shuffles in search of an unreachable balance while Aziraphale sits at the other end, more still and stiff than usual, and eyes him.
“If you want to lie down, I don't mind moving,” Aziraphale tells him. “Or you can rest your feet in my lap. Or your head in my lap. It would be the first time in a while, but definitely not the first time altogether.”
“No, it wouldn't be,” says Crowley. “Come to think of it: there's also a bed in this flat, you know?”
“I thought so, given your fondness of sleeping...” Aziraphale smiles, the way one does when teasing a friend. “Just one? Not that I mind, of course.”
A part of Crowley's brain is trying to make sense of what Aziraphale is saying. Most of it is trying to stay awake long enough to remember the basic layout of the flat.
“There are three, actually. Maybe you'd like your own... But wasn’t virtue ever-something ... ever-vigilant? ”
“Virtue must be ever-vigilant indeed, and that is why I think that I could use some rest after all the excitement of the past few days; and I believe that, as we shared most of that excitement, I'd rather share the bed with you,” says Aziraphale, as calmly as if he was pointing out that oh, Fortnum & Mason is finally selling their new Christmas tea. “Of course, if you 'd prefer not to...”
When Crowley moved into this flat, he chose his bedroom according to a very simple rule: which one would Aziraphale like best? At first, he didn't dare to hope that Aziraphale was in love with him. When Crowley realised that Aziraphale might return his feelings, he didn't dare to hope that he would choose him over Heaven. So, the bedroom was just a stand-in for Aziraphale — for a dream of Aziraphale in his life. And now it feels like two universes are colliding. If he weren't too tired, he'd think back to a supernova he built a long time ago.
But Crowley is not just too tired. He's beyond tired. He's exhausted and then some.
He shrugs, looks at Aziraphale, smiles as much as his weariness allows, and says, “Oh, well. This way.”
Aziraphale is as tired as Crowley. They almost hold on to each other as they stagger down the corridor.
Crowley opens the door, and with a gesture, he turns the cool clothes that he's kept on since he stopped time at Tadfield into even cooler black silk pyjamas.
It takes him a minute to realise that Aziraphale is looking around for somewhere to put his clothes — the way humans do. He miracles a valet stand while he falls on the bed and rolls under the sheet.
Aziraphale carefully takes off his coat, his vest, his bowtie, hanging every item on the stand with the utmost care, as if he were consulting one of his rarest books. He sits on the bed to untie his shoelaces, and takes off both shoes and socks. He stops for a minute, as if considering something, then takes off his trousers as well, and hangs them neatly on the stand with the rest of his clothes.
Finally, he cracks his neck and gets under the sheet on the other side of the bed. He draws a deep breath, as if he were cleaning his lungs from the chaos of the past week.
“Do you remember the last time we shared a bed?” he asks, absentmindedly.
In another time and place, Crowley would try to read between the lines of a question like this one. But here there are no more blurred lines that hide false modesty. There's just the two of them, six millennia of shared history, and standing together, side by side, in the face of Armageddon, of Heaven and Hell. Sharing a bed seems nothing of consequence.
“Dunno. We stopped around the same time as the humans did? It no longer felt... right. We were undercover, going native — we mimicked all their etiquette,” he answers, still a bit insecure but deeply honest — as always.
“So, you say... when they invented central heating here.”
“Yes. Clever humans, as always,” says Crowley, with that special smile that he reserves for the beauty of human ingenuity.
“But they no longer need to share a bed for warmth. Suddenly, each one of them had their own. Wanted their own,” says Aziraphale. He sounds as if he were remembering something painful, almost a sin.
Crowley is losing himself in his memories too.
“Well, the ladies of the East End couldn't afford a bed, so they kept on sharing.”
“And the ladies of Chelsea took that as proof that the ladies of the East End were less than human beings,” retorts Aziraphale, getting more maudlin.
“Do you know, I filed the whole thing as my job?” says Crowley. “Though they didn't get the beauty of it, Downstairs. Actually, Satan did. ‘They will forget that they have each other,’ he said. I couldn't have put it better myself.”
“But... it wasn't you, was it?”
“Nah. Humans invented it, I pretended that it was my occult influence.” He rolls his eyes. “Story of my life. Though, sharing helped my job sometimes. You can't imagine what two men can call each other just because they can't agree if they should leave the bedroom window open or closed.”
Aziraphale tries not to laugh, but he giggles anyway.
“I was at that inn too, and I think that all of Kent heard their argument anyway.”
“I did a good... well, a bad job, if I can say so myself.”
“You just said it, so clearly you can; but don't wait for me to approve.”
“Fine, I'll just take the satisfaction of a bad job well done. But all in all, the whole bedsharing custom was probably better for your lot.”
Aziraphale has the bitter smile of someone who's just seen his world collapse in a week.
“Sandalphon was head over heels about that change of customs. ‘They won't waste time with each other. They'll devote themselves to Heaven, as they should.’ He almost praised me in front of Gabriel.”
“But you didn't agree with him.”
“Not at all. Of course, I didn't speak up.” He smiles softly. “I trusted them to know better. Maybe I was just afraid. Maybe a coward. Story of my life , to borrow your phrase.”
Crowley can sense where the conversation is going.
“Angel, all of that... it's over.”
He immediately regrets his choice of words.
“‘ It's over.’ It's what I told you at the bandstand, isn't it?” asks Aziraphale. It sounds as if he's about to cry, but he just sighs. “I was trying to be a good angel, and I was a terrible...”
“...shut it. What was that you said too? ‘I forgive you’ ? Same. I forgive you.” He glances at Aziraphale for a moment, hoping not to see tears in his eyes. “For what the forgiveness of a demon is worth,” he says, trying to make light of the situation.
“ Your forgiveness is everything that matters to me, right now,” blurts out Aziraphale. He draws a deep breath. “I'm hoping for Hers, as always,” he says, and it's not a trite prayer: it's simple, honest, and thoughtful. His voice is graver when he adds, “But your forgiveness — without that, I would be lost. You saw this coming: our side.”
Crowley moves his right hand a bit closer the Aziraphale's left hand. Aziraphale moves his left hand a bit closer to Crowley's right hand, until they touch.
Each one of them draws strength from that simple contact. It's no longer an Arrangement, it's a bond: their side .
Almost out of the blue, Crowley asks, “Do you remember that night in Rome? With those guys we met at Petronius'?”
Aziraphale smiles, just as Crowley had hoped.
“The pissing contest , which ended with another... contest? I do, just as I remember that you cheated .”
“Is it my fault that I can... adapt my body to the circumstances?”
“It is when you cheat at who's got the longest... one,” reproaches him Aziraphale — though his laugh makes it less of a scolding than a playful teasing.
“Don't tell me you didn't enjoy the night. The baths.”
“Never said I didn't. Actually, that was our whole point, wasn't it? Sharing the warmth of the baths, being close to each other, be they friends or strangers. It was nice.”
Crowley sighs. He's afraid of spoiling the night with a rant, but he can't keep silent anymore.
“I hate that word, you know?”
“ Nice. I hate it. I've watched human beings long enough to know it's an excuse. We’ve got a lot of nice people, Downstairs. They're polite. Don't make waves. Ever. Until they're in a pond of boiling sulfur with a few nice boats that they can never reach, and if they do, they're thrown overboard as soon as they're in. Then, trust me, they do make waves.”
He notices that Aziraphale is staring at him. He feels a pang of guilt — he’s told him too much. Just knowing the horrors of Hell is feeling some of its eternal pain, and nobody should ask a friend to carry such a burden.
He splutters, “I'm sorry. Demon. You know. Not... nice. I got used to ideas you probably shouldn't get used to.”
“Maybe,” says Aziraphale, calmly. “But I believe that you do have a point. Michael writes all those columns celebrating obedience in the Celestial Observer , but when you look at the humans in our files... there aren't many people who said ‘yes sir.’ But there are more than a few who said...” He draws a deep breath, as if he were about to dive into a deep pool, “Well, actually a lot who said, ‘fuck you.’ ”
Crowley stares at him.
“You just said fuck.”
Aziraphale smiles. “Maybe I'm less nice than you thought.”
“I never thought you were nice . Ever. I remember seeing you on the battlefield during our... Glorious Revolution.” He says Glorious Revolution in a mocking tone that doesn’t hide a lifetime of pain. He goes on. “You almost cut down Dagon without batting an eyelid.”
Aziraphale wonders if Crowley is actually admiring the ruthless violence that he used on demons like him. The thought almost hurts.
“I do remember, although I'd rather forget.” He looks at his one friend, his only comrade in arms. “Crowley, I won't cut you down. Ever. And I bat my eyelids a lot more these days.”
Crowley is smiling, placidly. “So you know that you do that.”
Aziraphale smiles in turn. “As much as I know that you don't, you serpent,” he jokes.
“Well, I'm not nice, am I?”
They laugh. It's good to be close, to speak openly and freely of anything that is, and ever has been, in Heaven, in Hell, or on Earth.
Their hands are not just brushing anymore. Their fingers are almost intertwined.
Crowley raises an eyebrow, stares at Aziraphale, and he says, “Do you know what you are? You are kind . Giving away your sword on a whim.”
“It was not a whim. She was cold,” says Aziraphale, and he sounds as if he were repeating a silly rhyme to a child.
“Fine. But you shielded me from the rain too. That was very kind. Helping the enemy. I've never even thanked you for it.”
“You were about to do the same. I saw you raising your wing.”
“Maybe I did. So what? You don't tell my boss, I won't tell yours.”
“I won't,” says Aziraphale, smiling. “And I think that Gabriel already knows. They seemed to know all about the two of us...”
He suddenly remembers Uriel's quip about your boyfriend in the dark glasses. Your boyfriend. They said it as if it were a swearword.
He wonders what kind of angels can hate love.
He wonders what that kind of angels can do to them. To Crowley. To him, too.
His smile fades.
“I'm afraid,” he says, before even noticing the words that he's uttered.
Crowley knows that comfort is not his strong suit — demons are more versed in despair. But he's been with Aziraphale since the beginning, he's studied him for centuries, almost worshipped every detail he could glance at, from his blue eyes to his very soul.
“We can make it,” he whispers. “We have a plan, right? We swap...”
“What if they see through it?”
“But what if...?”
Crowley holds Aziraphale's hand in his. He speaks calmly, or as calmly as he can. He fixes his gaze on Aziraphale. He looks into those blue eyes that he’s loved since the first time they met, and tries to smile.
“Then we had six thousand years, angel. Six thousand. Together, more or less. But six thousand years — from the very beginning. Then we averted Armageddon. Well, we tried to help to avert it. And we have tonight. That is a lot, angel.” He tries to put on a playful smile. “And we still have to settle the issue: when was the last time we shared a bed?”
“I actually know when it was.” He turns his head and moves his eyes from Crowley to the ceiling. “It was 1793. The boat from France.”
Crowley still holds his hand. He asks a question that has haunted him for more than two hundred years.
“What happened after that? You started avoiding me. Every time we met, you were a bit more distant. We spent centuries buying each other lunch, dinner and on a few occasions even pudding. Then we didn't, until the Ritz, eleven years ago.”
Aziraphale's voice is flat. “As you were saying: it wasn't proper anymore. Social mores changed. I felt that we had to keep on being respectable.”
“ Respectable. That's even worse than nice,” comments Crowley.
“I suppose so. Was it terrible to be my... whatever we were at the time? When I talked about fraternising.”
“I told you, I forgive you. But I don't think you were ever respectable . You tempted a demon with oysters, angel. What happened, really? ”
Aziraphale has been haunted by the answer for as long as Crowley's been haunted by the question. He finally confesses. “I realised that I had gone too far. When you said... what was it? ‘if my people hear that I rescued an angel, I'd be the one in trouble, and my lot don't send rude notes’. That's what you said. I tried to put it in the back of my mind, but something broke. I knew that I almost killed you just because I wanted to have lunch with you.”
“I thought it was for the crêpes,” says Crowley. He already knows the answer, he's known it since he's seen Aziraphale in that cell.
Aziraphale feels sick, as if he wanted to throw up two centuries of guilt.
“I was counting on you to come and save me,” he says. “The strongly worded note for frivolous miracles was a lie.”
Crowley bats his eyelids — only once, that's enough. His eyes are still fixed on Aziraphale, on each and every detail of his profile.
“Have you ever considered that I knew that it was a lie, that I knew exactly what I was doing, and that it was fine by me? That I wanted to do it?”
“Have you ever considered that I wanted to protect you?” asks Aziraphale. He sounds like he's pleading for mercy.
“Principality Aziraphale, Angel of the Eastern Gate, protecting a demon. That's a lot.”
Aziraphale tries to fight back his tears by holding on to an old platitude.
“You were in the Garden. You're my responsibility.”
“Is that all? I was in the Garden? ”
Aziraphale realises that he can’t tiptoe around this matter — or maybe he simply doesn’t want to.
“At first, it was just that. But it didn't take long for us to become friends, did it? And something else...”
Crowley already knows what comes after that. It's what he's wanted to hear for centuries, for millennia — and now he's terrified of it.
“Please save me the embarrassment,” he murmurs, almost a prayer to — he doesn't know Who — Someone.
But Aziraphale doesn't stop. He doesn't hide anymore. He feels like someone who has nothing to lose.
“I love you.”
Crowley tries to deflect. “Of course, you're an angel. You love. That's what you do.”
Aziraphale turns on his side — not just his head, as before, but his whole body. He looks at Crowley — his gaze is sweet and unflinching. His voice is soft, yet deeply serious.
“Crowley. I'd love you even if I were not an angel. I am in love with you.”
Crowley feels as if a jigsaw puzzle of six thousand pieces finally comes together into the most beautiful image, and he too is no longer afraid — he feels that everything is just the way it was meant to be. He understands what Aziraphale meant by Ineffable Plan.
He turns on his side to face his angel.
“I know that you love me. I know that you are in love with me. And I love you, and I am in love with you, angel — Aziraphale.”
“I know. It took me a long time to realise that it was not just a game you were playing to tempt me — may She forgive me for assuming that...”
Crowley nods lightly. “I am a demon. You had a point.”
“...anyway, it took me too long,” goes on Aziraphale. “I realised it when I saw you walking down the aisle of that church. And I never even properly thanked you for saving those books.”
He smiles, and it's as if he radiated a soft light. Just a few days ago, Crowley would have been afraid of that light. Not anymore. He's just staring in awe.
“Driving you back was enough of a reward,” he says.
Aziraphale's angelic halo is not fully shining anymore, but something's still glimmering in his eyes. “Not so much, my dear. You do like driving, as a rule, regardless of whoever is sitting in the passenger seat.”
“But you've never liked my driving style,” retorts Crowley.
“To be fair, you go a bit...”
Crowley enjoys watching Aziraphale blushing. Then he decides to rescue him from his embarrassment.
“That night in the Bentley — that's when I realised that you loved me.”
“Was it because I proposed that picnic?” asks Aziraphale, coyly.
Crowley's smile doesn't manage to hide the pain of his memory.
“I'm an expert in what makes people suffer. Watching the ones you love putting themselves in harm's way, without being able to save them if push comes to shove, just trusting them - that's torture.”
Aziraphale sighs. He doesn't really know what to say, so he goes for one of his little sermons. For the first time in six millennia, it's one that Crowley wishes would never stop.
“It’s interesting, in a way, isn’t it? We've been in love with each other for a few centuries, and we need an Apocalypse to confess. This is one of those times when I don't just enjoy living among humanity, I'm honoured to share their world. They have more sense than all the Angelic Hosts, and that includes me — and you too, my dear. It's their mortality, you know? They prefer to make a mistake than to do nothing at all. It turns out that you did the right thing with the apple, in the end.”
“So, it makes sense that...”
Crowley can't bring himself to finish the sentence. He couldn't bear to see Aziraphale cry now. But it's Aziraphale who goes on where he left.
“...that we end up doing something only when, in a few hours, we might be destroyed forever? Yes. I suppose it does make sense. I suppose that our side is humanity's side. For better or for worse.”
“As they say.”
Crowley brings Aziraphale's hand to his lips, and he kisses the angel's ring.
Aziraphale closes his eyes and smiles, as if he were savouring the most delicious meal that's ever been prepared.
Then, as casually as if he were asking for the dessert menu, he says, “Have you ever... shared your bed — or anything, as far as I know a bed is traditional but not a strict requirement — with a human being...”
“Are you asking if I ever had sex ? A few times. But... I don't know.”
“What do you mean by I don't know? Were you drunk, or something else?”
“At least one time, I was drunk. But what I don't know is how much I was sharing. It was more like ordering a pint in the same pub. It was not like holding your hand, here. If it makes sense.”
“It does. And, in case you’re wondering, I tried it, although only once. A dear fellow at the Club in Portland's Place, whose lover had left him in the most cruel way; I thought it might have consoled him.”
“Did it work?”
“Up to a point. I hope you're not...”
“Jealous? Nah. Don't worry. But don't start beaming either, and I mean it literally. I need to sleep. We need to sleep.” He pauses, looks at Aziraphale the way Aziraphale has often looked at him — he gives the angel a once-over. “Eventually,” he adds.
Aziraphale takes a moment to savour that last word. “Eventually,” he repeats.
Crowley sighs. “Well, I love you. I've gone native , and I've shared this journey it with you. And I think you're very handsome, you know?”
“That's a most human compliment. I'm incredibly flattered,” says Aziraphale, batting his eyelids and smiling even more. “I might mention that I find you exceedingly attractive; although I guess that you already know that. And I love you, not least because you've taken me on our side — on humanity's side, and...”
He pauses. Aziraphale feels that, in six thousand years, he's never been more honest than tonight, and closer to anyone. Maybe not even to Her. Or maybe he's never been closer to Her.
He's definitely closer to Crowley — he's in his arms.
Then their lips are one with each others'.
The glimmer that was in Aziraphale’s eyes is now in Crowley’s eyes too.
Crowley breaks away from the kiss for a moment.
“Angel, my love,” he says. “I think you should get out of that shirt before you have to miracle it back together it later.”