“Stop it with the flower languages,” Crowley said, “before I beat you over the head with a stem of each of them.”
Aziraphale tried to process that and came up with nothing.
Crowley waited as the angel got to his feet, and then stood back and made a choppy gesture at the door.
Why yes, of course he was. He followed Crowley into the apartment and immediately noted with a burst of hope that each of his vases were lined up on the kitchen island, each flower looking well cared for. None of them appeared to have been fed to the garbage disposal for mulch.
“Did you know that white carnations are said to repel snakes?” Crowley asked. “Thanksss for not including those in one of these little telegrams.”
“You’re welcome?” Aziraphale said, feeling unsure of what to say or do.
They stared at each other awkwardly for a few moments, until Crowley motioned Aziraphale to have a seat at one of the stools at the kitchen counter. When Aziraphale sat, he moved to the other side of the open counter and leaned against it, facing the angel, arms loosely crossed. His body language, Aziraphale noted, was guarded and his face was unreadable. He wished, achingly, that he could reach over and pull the demon’s glasses off, but he knew better than to try.
“You wanted to talk to me?” Crowley said coolly.
Right then, Aziraphale breathed. Get on with the pleading.
“I did, my dear. There are so many things I want to tell you. But first and foremost, I want you to know that you’re right, of course. My not telling you when I found Adam was a profound betrayal, and not confessing to it sooner was foolish and self-serving. I should have told you then what I’d done.”
“Why didn’t you?”
“I suppose,” the angel said, “that I wasn’t sure you’d forgive me.”
The demon made a neutral noise and Aziraphale felt his stomach clench.
“If it matters, though,” he added carefully, “I didn’t. Run off to heaven with the information, I mean. Share it with them instead of you.”
Crowley raised an eyebrow. “Oh?”
“No. I lied to them too,” Aziraphale said, and immediately flushed. “Not that that puts me in any better light, but still. I told them I had no idea where the boy was. And then I came home and spoke to the Metatron, hoping he would take on the work of killing the boy instead of us – which of course went over like, what was it? A lead balloon. And immediately after that didn’t work I called you. To tell you. You remember, I called when Hastur and Ligur were with you. Told you I had found him, but you cut me off.”
Crowley thought this over for a moment, and found a dim memory of hearing the words through the phone line before he stopped the angel mid-sentence. His attention, he had to admit, had been elsewhere at the time.
“You didn’t want to kill him,” he said slowly.
“I didn’t want either of us to kill him!” Aziraphale protested. “It would have been disastrous, even if it worked. Imagine the retribution if it had been you who did it!”
Crowley stared at him, one eyebrow raised.
Aziraphale laid his hands flat on the counter in front of him, beseechingly. “Crowley,” he said, voice nearly broken. “In the end, you were the only one I told. You were the only being in the universe I chose to trust with the information. You must know that.”
Crowley swallowed hard and appeared to consider this. “Still took you a long way round to actually do so.”
“It did. I’m so sorry. I failed you in so many ways back then,” Aziraphale said quietly. “I’m still failing you now. I want to be better for you.”
“Angel…” Crowley groaned, his voice more gentle.
They sat quietly for a few minutes before something occurred to Aziraphale.
“Oh!” the angel said, snapping and making a large notepad appear in front of him. “This is for you.”
Crowley unbent himself from his current position and walked around to sit on the stool next to Aziraphale, who found himself almost knocked over with a rush of longing at the demon’s proximity. Crowley’s face was still guarded when he looked up, but he let his glasses slip down a little so the angel could see his eyes for the first time. They looked red and tired, and there were dark circles beneath them. It made his chest ache to see them.
Crowley gave the notepad a cursory examination. It was crammed full of tiny writing, elaborate and neat, and appeared to be a numbered list that went on for an unfathomable number of pages.
“What is this?” he asked, not yet prepared to dive in and read it.
“It’s a list,” Aziraphale said. He cleared his throat. “Of everything I can ever remember lying to you about.”
Crowley blinked at him. “Excuse me?”
Aziraphale blushed a little. “Starts at the very beginning, right after the garden,” he said. “I’ve believe most everything is accounted for.”
“Why would you think I would want this?” Crowley growled.
“Because!” Aziraphale cried. “Because I have spent too much time bending the truth! It’s become a terrible and shameful habit. I spent days making this list, Crowley, looking back over each and every interaction I can remember between us. I’m sorry there are so many! I don’t know how to help with that, but I thought perhaps the act of admitting to all of them might, I don’t know, have meaning. Show remorse. Help, somehow.”
Crowley blinked a few more times at him and then trailed a finger down the page to a random entry. “Item 3: Mesopotamia – told Crowley I liked the date wine he brought me. I did not care for it.”
Aziraphale nodded. “It was wretched,” he said quietly.
Crowley snorted and flipped a couple pages.
“Item 31: Jerusalem - Pretended I had not noticed that Crowley was present at the wedding when I ran into him;” Crowley read aloud. “Actually noticed him immediately.”
Crowley looked up. “This is hardly earth-shattering stuff, angel.”
Aziraphale shrugged. “I wanted to be thorough.”
Crowley grimaced and continued to read at random.
Item 40: Wessex: Told Crowley I had not missed him since I last saw him. Actually missed him terribly.
Item 51: Dublin: Told Crowley I did not know where the last of the ale had gone. Drank it while he was out and hid the flagon.
Item 78:Dublin: Told Crowley I didn’t undo his temptation with the clan chief. Very much did. He seemed to know it anyway. But still.
Item 87: London: acted like I walked in front of the carriage on purpose to thwart an evil plan. Actually just distracted by hand pie. Nearly died if not for Crowley’s intervention. Denied it vociferously.
Item 123: Moscow: Denied my feelings.
Item 175: Berlin: Denied my feelings.
Item 223: London: Denied my feelings.
Item 256: London: Denied my feelings.
Item 289: London: Denied my feelings.
Crowley put the pages down and rubbed the bridge of his nose. Aziraphale, heart wide open and aching, simply watched him.
“Aziraphale,” Crowley said, bemused. “This has to be the most humiliating list of misdeeds anyone has ever put together in the history of the world. Why would you do this to yourself, expose six thousand years of embarrassing moments and mistakes?”
“Because I love you,” Aziraphale said. “And if I can’t mortify myself to you, then who? Besides, I don’t mind humbling myself for you. Not if there’s any chance that doing so might make you understand that I love you so desperately, and that I will do anything for you. Including change.”
Crowley huffed out a whoof of air and wordlessly pulled Aziraphale off his stool towards where the demon was seated, until the angel was standing between his legs. He wrapped his arms around him so tightly that the angel could barely breathe. Not that he needed to. Aziraphale, stunned, simply allowed it for a moment, before bending his head forward to rest his forehead against Crowley’s.
“My love,” he whispered.
“Yeah, I know,” Crowley mumbled back. “Love you too. Still mad at you, but I love you.”
They clung to each other, unmoving, for quite some time, and when Crowley finally pulled back to look Aziraphale in the face, both their eyes and cheeks were wet.
“Forgive me, love,” Aziraphale said, reaching up to gently brush a piece of hair back out of Crowley’s forehead. Crowley leaned into the touch a little, and Aziraphale felt glad he could still offer comfort to the demon. “Eventually, I mean. I know it might take some time.”
“You have to be honest with me,” Crowley said gruffly. “From here on out, I mean.”
“I plan to be,” Aziraphale said. “I will. I do.”
Aziraphale kissed him gently and then drew back and carefully pulled Crowley’s hands off his shoulders so the demon was no longer touching him. Crowley watched in confusion as the angel concentrated for a moment and began to emit a diffuse, golden glow. His brow furrowed as he tried to understand what he was seeing. He didn’t realize until the angel began to speak; his voice was richer and with layers of echoes and it took the demon a moment to realize that the bloody idiot was speaking Enochian. The language of angels. Of making and unmaking, creation and destruction. Of oaths, serious oaths with life and death consequences.
“By the word of the ancient and the timeless, I bind myself to –”
Crowley grabbed Aziraphale by the shoulders and shook him, hard, then snatched his hands back as the golden light stung him. “What are you doing, you absolute fool?” he snarled, shaking out his fingertips. “Stop that right now! Have you lost your mind?”
Aziraphale blinked but did let the last of the light go for the moment. “I was going to make a vow to you that I wouldn’t lie again.”
Crowley rolled his eyes. “Aziraphale you were making a holy, binding oath.”
“Yes, that’s the general idea,” Aziraphale said, slowly, as if speaking to a child.
“An oath that would destroy you if you broke it.”
“Well, technically, yes,” Aziraphale said. “But I just won’t break it. Not ever.”
Crowley shook him again, just for good measure, and then gripped him tightly by the shoulders. “You can’t PROMISE to never lie to me again EVER in your life with a binding oath that will reduce you to CINDERS, you bleeding idiot. Do you think I want to watch you burn to ashes some morning simply because you politely tell me that the brand of tea I picked up at the market is just fine when actually you hate it and you’re too sleepy to realize the consequences?”
“Or, alternatively, do you think I actually want to hear the truth from you every single time you actually don’t like one of my shirts, or have you tell me exactly what’s got you in a snit every single time you’re in a bad mood when maybe you’d rather just tell me it’s nothing? IS THAT WORTH DYING OVER?”
Aziraphale blinked again, and then visibly crumbled. “Oh my dear,” he sniffled. “I’m… I was just… I would do, for you. If it helped.”
Crowley scowled at him a moment longer, then gave up and kissed him hard, full on the mouth, one hand coiling around to grab him by the hair and pull. Aziraphale melted into the kiss, tasting salt and whiskey and smoke.
“Just do better,” Crowley said, when they finally broke apart. “No one tells the truth all the time. But if we’re going to be married, I need to know that you won’t hide the big things from me. We’re in this together.”
“Together,” Aziraphale repeats. “Until the very end. I promise.”
“Let’s go home, angel,” Crowley said, and Aziraphale beamed at him with a watery smile so bright it was almost painful.
“Please,” Aziraphale said. “Gather your things and let’s go.”
Crowley pulled random clothing into a bag, snapped his fingers to send most of the flowers directly to the shop, and laced his hand together with Aziraphale’s as they head towards the door.
“Oh, hang on,” he said at the door. “Forgot something.” He turned back to the kitchen and Aziraphale watched as he picked up the notepad and tucked it into the top of his bag.
“Forgot my reading material,” he said with a wry grin. “You didn’t think I was going to leave that behind, did you?”
Aziraphale sighed. “Oh, no, I was pretty sure you wouldn’t.”
“Oh yes, I’m going to pore over this one,” Crowley said, teasingly. “Might even memorize some sections of it. Arrange a dramatic recitation or an interpretative dance.” He bumped a hip lightly against Aziraphale, who blushed even further than he already had. “Might even put my favorite ones on a tee shirt.”
“Yes, yes,” Aziraphale said, blithely. “I’m sure I deserve that. Go ahead, my dear.”
Crowley pulled the door closed behind him with a definitive click as they headed out into the snow.