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how do i love thee? (oh, darling, in all the ways)

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Demons don’t feel love. Everyone in Heaven knows this, from the highest Seraphim down to the lowliest guardian. Demons have fallen from Her favor, from Her light and Her love, and therefore demons can never feel love for anyone, ever again. Everyone knows this.

Aziraphale knows differently.

He’s willing to concede that the average demon may not be able to feel love - or at least has perverted the feeling into something dark and ugly - but he also knows that Crowley is no average demon. He doesn’t know if it’s because Crowley still remembers some of his angelic roots, or if it’s because he’s turned so far away from Hell, but Crowley is markedly different from his fellow fallen. Because Crowley loves.

Oh, Crowley will never admit that he loves, but Aziraphale can feel it coming from him in waves. Crowley loves his car, of course, with a fierceness that still takes Aziraphale by surprise. He loves his plants (and loves terrorizing them). He loves a good bottle of booze, an evening at the opera, the ducks at St. James. When he first holds little Warlock Dowling, tiny hand curling around one of his fingers, he loves so quickly and so intensely that Aziraphale’s still surprised that nothing spontaneously lit on fire that day.

And perhaps most surprisingly, he loves Aziraphale.

He loves Aziraphale in so many ways, in ways that Aziraphale, himself a being of pure love, is not entirely sure he understands. Wonder, and delight, and fear, and fondness; Crowley’s love is flavored in so many different ways that Aziraphale can hardly keep track. He feels it wrap around him like a warm blanket, like sunshine that suffuses down to his very soul. It makes him feel safe, feel cherished and wanted.

Crowley’s love, and the way he makes Aziraphale feel, is a gift. And Aziraphale wants to give him the same. There’s only one problem.

Demons can feel love for others, Crowley is living proof of that. But they can’t feel love directed at them. This was ripped from them when they fell.

Aziraphale’s tried, of course. He’s tried to project all the love he feels for Crowley to him throughout the years; he knows it works because he’s seen the spillover affecting humans around them (and wasn’t that a fun time, explaining what had suddenly happened to all those people in the park one day?), but it’s clear that none of the emotion is reaching Crowley.

Aziraphale hates it, hates that he can’t share this one thing with the one he loves more than anything, but Crowley insists that he doesn’t mind. He knows how much Aziraphale loves him, he says, and he doesn’t need to feel the actual emotion when he’s got Aziraphale proving it, over and over. But Aziraphale wishes he could do something more.

And then one day it happens.

They’re walking through St. James and Aziraphale is talking about a new restaurant he wants to take Crowley to. He’s waxing rhapsodic about their creme brulee, and he can feel affection rolling off Crowley in waves, and he’s so full of love, himself, that he reaches out and takes Crowley’s hand, twining their fingers together and squeezing gently.

And Crowley bursts into tears.

Aziraphale’s convinced, at first, that he’s done something wrong. Why else would Crowley be crying so hard he can hardly catch his breath, his chest heaving and his shoulders shaking? He buries his face in his free hand, tears leaking out from behind his fingers, and Aziraphale feels cold at the thought that he’d done something to cause Crowley such distress.

But Crowley’s still holding his hand, his nails digging into Aziraphale’s skin when Aziraphale tries to let go, and after a second he manages to grab Aziraphale with his free hand, pulling him into a full-body hug. This is almost worse, the way Aziraphale can feel him shaking, now, but then he realizes that he can also hear him. Hear what he’s whispering over and over into Aziraphale’s shoulder.

“…so beautiful, never felt anything like this before, didn’t know it could feel like this-”

“Didn’t know what could feel like this?” Aziraphale asks, confused.

Crowley pulls back to look down at him, his eyes shining with tears. “Love,” he says, smiling shakily. “I shouldn’t be able to, but I can feel how you love me, and it’s warm and beautiful and, and-” He shakes his head in exasperation when he can’t find the right words. “Angel, is this how you really feel? I never really knew-”

Aziraphale reaches up to cup Crowley’s cheek, feeling him shiver under his hand. “I’ve loved you for so long, dearest,” he murmurs. “I’ve wanted to show you, for so long.”

Crowley leans forward, resting his forehead against Aziraphale’s, and Aziraphale can feel love being returned to him. He wants to stand there forever, basking in the emotion like a cat in the sun.

“I know, now,” he says, his voice suspiciously hoarse. “Angel, I know now.”