They never talked about it.
Not during the Great Flood, when Crowley was horrified at the prospect of letting children drown; not in Rome, when Aziraphale took a disgruntled and out-of-place Crowley to lunch and helped him blend in better with the locals; not even when they saw each other again in Sussex, wearing suits of armor too heavy and clumsy for what they felt they should be doing, working away in damp places just for the sake of cancelling each other out.
They carried on not talking about it through the centuries, before and after coming up with their Arrangement. They studiously avoided addressing small acts, gestures and looks that carried a deeper meaning than words ever could.
Crowley knew all too well why he kept coming back, pushing and prodding and insisting to be by Aziraphale’s side; and he also knew that the angel knew.
They simply avoided ever mentioning it out loud.
Not a word about the 80 or so years they spent apart during the nineteenth century over a stupid fight, nothing to say about Crowley enduring the burn of consecrated ground on the night they got reunited, and definitely not one peep about “You go too fast for me, Crowley”.
In fact, aside from one tartan thermos of Holy Water changing hands, both angel and demon were all too happy to pretend that entire encounter didn’t happen.
Then Apocalypse came knocking.
Eleven years in close quarters, while simultaneously selling their bosses the idea that the other was none the wiser, took a toll on them both, and on their relationship— which they didn’t have.
No sir, no relationship to speak of. They had an Arrangement, and even that was something they’d deny to the face of their peers. It was stressful times all around, culminating with some of the worst things they’d ever said to each other –the fight at the bandstand was something Crowley thought he’d live to regret without Aziraphale, especially after failing to convince the angel to run away with him and then finding the bookshop up in flames.
That was definitely the worst hour in Crowley’s long existence; and it’s saying something, considering he was a creature from Hell.
It took more than a hasty reunion and a confused happy ending of sorts to shake the dreadful feeling of wrongness that had pervaded the demon when he’d rushed head-first into the flames and couldn’t find Aziraphale.
In 6000 years, they’d always been able to find each other, sense the other’s presence in one way or the other, but for those panicked minutes the angel was gone, and when that sunk in, just as Crowley got blown back by a spray of water because why not make his day completely miserable, the demon felt a fear and a despair worse than whatever Hell or Heaven could ever inflict upon him— the prospect of the rest of time without Aziraphale, however short that would turn out to be with Armageddon on the horizon.
He had hidden away in a dark pub, to drink however much he could of his sorrows away and either waste to nothing or wait for the so called ‘War’ to start so he could take as many of those bastards as he could down into oblivion with him, but that didn’t have to happen. Aziraphale came back to him.
Even after all the horrible words they said to each other, his angel came back to find him.
Crowley would have probably needed more time to adjust from the emotional whiplash, but time was the one thing they didn’t have in adverting Armageddon, so he just toughed it out –he would deal. Eventually. The important thing was, first and foremost, to go back to Aziraphale.
“Wherever you are, I’ll come to you!”
It should have been scary how much he meant that, but it wasn’t. It was pure, simple truth.
There was nothing Crowley wouldn’t have done for Aziraphale, and that was it. A statement of fact, proven all the more right when the demon stopped Time itself to give a small reprieve and a precious handful of seconds to the boy who would decide the fate of the world.
Reality still didn’t feel completely back until they were on a bumpy bus ride back towards London, but by that point Crowley was okay with shelving that one particular spell of suffering with all the others and move on –he had been tired, they still had to figure out a way to weasel out of their respective Head Offices’ retribution and, honestly, he had just needed one good night’s sleep.
To top it all off, just as Apocalypse didn’t happen, Heaven and Hell’s punishment was no match for Agnes Nutter’s prophetic gift and their combined smarts, and they ended up dining at the Ritz, still together and finally free.
In stories like the novels and books Aziraphale cherished so much; that would usually be the bit where things change.
They did finally have free reign to indulge in each other’s company without having to look over their shoulders, without having to pretend not to know each other, and to speak to one another just because they felt like it; but at the end of it all, things weren’t that much different.
They still didn’t talk about it.
Thing that suited Crowley just fine: Aziraphale already did for him more than he was due, what with caring about him as much as the angel did for all creatures, big and small, if not slightly more. The angel had gone as far as finally calling him a friend, his best friend, even– despite Crowley being a demon; so he had resigned himself long ago to taking what he could get, and not be so greedy about it.
It was just a little hard not to be, because demons and Capitals Sins are sort of a thing, but even so, Crowley tried. So he was fine with not talking about it, if Aziraphale wouldn’t.
“It” being all the things that went unsaid between them, the shared looks after promising to make a dull tragedy famous, the breath of relief at being broken out of the Bastille, the silent awe at being handed a thermos of Holy Water after having the worst type of fight about it…
In short, “it” encompassed the height and weight of Crowley’s feelings for Aziraphale, which could not possibly be more embarrassingly obvious than they were, and the angel also maybe feeling some type of way about the demon— just maybe.
Crowley hadn’t let himself hope for a long time, but six millennia is a good long while to know a person; and the demon could recognize the glimmer of affection when Aziraphale clinked glasses with him and they cheered “To the World”.
That being said, the angel did not take things any further, and Crowley was already counting his blessings, pun not intended; so even if nothing ever changed and his feelings went through eternity unnoticed and unrequited, the demon could be okay with that.
What he was most definitely not okay with was seeing angels sniff around a certain street in Soho, one particular, suspiciously deserted evening.
Damn it, had his act not been convincing enough? The two hadn’t noticed him yet and, to be fair, they seemed to be steering clear of the bookshop, as if they were truly and properly afraid of it but still curious to spy on the Angel who was immune to Hellfire.
Well now, that just wouldn’t do.
“Did sssssomeone not get the memo?” he asked, casually slinking up behind the two to surprise them.
Uriel and Sandalphon jumped and turned –and no matter how powerful or tough they both were, Crowley would forever be able to say he scared them, if only for one moment.
“Demon filth.” Sandalphon addressed him with disgust.
Crowley scoffed behind his glasses –he had to be very careful in playing this, lest he got a thorough smiting there and then– hands in his pockets and all.
“Come on, what is this, the Old Testament? Talk like you eat, man.”
“I do not eat.”
“Yeah, I can tell.” Sandalphon could have probably done with ingesting some sweets. Crowley had seen chemical waste less acidic than the angel before him. “Either way…” he drew a breath through his nose, “Aren’t you two chuckleheads a bit… out of your turf?”
“I’d be careful, if I were you.” Uriel rounded up behind him before Crowley could even berate himself for letting it happen –there was no worse place to be than between two pissed off angels who couldn’t take their anger out on their intended target. “We can’t touch Aziraphale, but no one said anything about ridding the Earth of demonic scum.”
Crowley felt his fangs elongate in his mouth.
“Did Michael not tell you of my pleasant little bath show?” he hissed, as dangerously as he could make it while turning his head from one angel to the other, “I thought you lot were stepping off Earth permanently, leave me and my… hereditary enemy to our own devices.”
Uriel and Sandalphon closed in on him.
“You may be immune to Holy Water, but that alone doesn’t make you invincible.”
“Maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t…” Crowley puffed up his chest while trying not to overdo it –angels like those could smell fear, and ‘fake it until you make it’ could only take him so far. “Ask yourselves: do you feel lucky?”
Sandalphon struck first.
“If ‘lucky’ is killing you, then I don’t need to be. Hurting you will do just fine.”
The punch knocked Crowley into Uriel, and the other Archangel struck him in the back, making him fall on his hands and knees.
Shit. This was bad.
He had two frustrated angels on him who were perfectly fine with venting out their anger on the first unsuspecting target, still way too close to Aziraphale’s bookshop.
“Who knows…” Uriel whispered, kneeling at his side, “Even if you’re invincible, maybe we can make you wish you weren’t.”
So this was personal.
On some level it was understandable: as far as Heaven and Hell knew, Crowley and Aziraphale had somehow corrupted each other enough to be immune to their respective means of obliteration, so Uriel and Sandalphon were probably not acting entirely on their own accord; the whole Host was bound to be terrified of an angel who defied the Great Plan without Falling and gained some sort of ‘superpower’ on top of it.
That they would try and pry the secret of Aziraphale’s immunity, or at least make sure that the Principality had no intentions of ever returning to Heaven to wage war against it, was… not unlikely.
That they would use Crowley as a rebound for their pent up malice and enjoy knocking him about? Eh, it was less surprising than the demon cared to admit. He had, after all, also been at fault in averting Armageddon, so there were probably more than a few angels wishing they could get their hands on him.
Michael’s absence was telling in and of itself, though –it made the demon wonder exactly how convincing Aziraphale had been in scaring the pants off Hell’s High Command.
A harder hit, this time to his face and knocking his sunglasses off his face, brought Crowley back to the here and now— namely, to the two pissed heavenly warriors seemingly dead-set on seeing him suffer.
The ‘invincibility’ story would only hold up so far against reality, so he needed to get his head in the game and give back as good as he got.
Fire. He needed anything with a spark of fire –Hellfire wasn’t as hard to make as Holy Water, one only needed a flame and enough demonic power to fuel it…
A little demonic miracle blew out the lamp post closest to them, and Crowley shot out his arm to catch the shower of sparks and turn it into a spray of Hellfire to throw at his assailants. It was a desperate maneuver, but it got Uriel and Sandalphon to step back and away, if only to dodge utter obliviation.
Compared to them, Crowley was just a lowly fiend, never made to level entire towns or command legions, but he was a million ways more imaginative than any angel or demon, and if there was one thing he knew how to do, it was playing dirty.
He could do this. He could tough it out enough to make them decide it all was more trouble than it was worth and back off permanently.
He could do this. For Aziraphale, he could.
Aziraphale was in the middle of re-cataloguing some new entries in his ever growing book collection when a lamp-post the next street over blew out. He could feel Crowley’s presence close by and shook his head affectionately at whatever mischief the other was up to –not having to put up a disapproving front any longer, the angel could confess a small, private amusement to his demon’s antics.
The days following the Apocalypse-that-wasn’t were nothing short of pure bliss— they were finally free of all expectations and able to just be, to exist as two individuals rather than cogs in a machine they hadn’t consented being a part of… and still Aziraphale was too much of a coward to say it.
After all, they never talked about it.
To be completely fair, that was largely his fault. Angels can sense Love, after all, and Crowley never seemed to try too hard to hide his… affections for him. Problem was, Aziraphale never knew exactly how deep said affections went; he had spent so long convinced that the demon wasn’t even capable of them, and thus wasted centuries trying to identify the source of a feeling that was actually right under his nose.
It took blowing up a church for him to finally admit to himself what he already knew.
And then it nearly took the end of the world for the angel to admit to himself that he did not want to spend his life without Crowley anymore.
So why was saying it so bloody hard?
He hadn’t balked when he refused to join the Heavenly Host in battle. He hadn’t balked when they were facing off Satan himself. And yet, his nerves frayed and gave out whenever Crowley would look at him behind his sunglasses, the barest hint of a smile he never let himself fully have ghosting over his lips.
Crowley was so tentative in expressing his fondness— as if he was still scared of not being allowed to feel it, as if he was scared it would be met with punishment or, worse, denial still.
Aziraphale felt rotten every time he thought about it –it was his fault, after all.
Over the centuries, he had often drawn a line between them, with things like “I am an angel, you are a demon, we’re hereditary enemies” or, worse and more recently, “Friends? We’re not friends!” and the worst lie of them all, “I don’t even like you!”
The angel sighed. Clearly, his mind was in no fit condition to reorganize books anymore, so he let the volumes rest where they were and moved over to make himself some hot cocoa.
Crowley’s presence was still close by— he’d probably come over soon. The thought made Aziraphale smile over the rim of his mug. It didn’t matter how far apart they were or what was happening: Crowley would always, eventually, come to him.
He closed his eyes to focus on the demon’s presence, to try and guess where exactly he was…
The smile fell off his mouth just as the cup did from his hand, shattering on the floor and splashing chocolate all over the floorboards.
Something was very wrong. Crowley’s presence was not the only one there.
Aziraphale didn’t even grab his coat before shooting out of the bookshop.
Shit, he could not do this.
He had narrowly avoided being turned into a pillar of salt —though someone would be very confused about what the fuck happened to their car— but not all his dodges had been so lucky: Uriel and Sandalphon were relentless, and they were not going to stop.
Crowley had to expend energy emptying the whole neighborhood through demonic intervention, because he knew the two angels wouldn’t have cared about any humans caught in the crossfire of their petty assault. He was bleeding from places he didn’t think his corporation could bleed from, running on fumes, and feeling his control slipping by the moment.
He had managed to land a few lucky shots, leaving the two Archangels singed in places; then there had been the one moment when he managed to make them hit each other by placing himself between them and then unfurl his wings to take flight at the last second.
That particular tactic came back to bite him in the arse when Sandalphon took flight after him and managed to grab one of his wings tight enough to get leverage, flicking him right back down towards the London pavement. The only reason he didn’t discorporate on impact was probably because he had seen superhero movies where such a thing happened and was survived by the protagonist, and he imagined himself as such, in that particular moment.
Still… he needed to get away –this went past petty revenge and into outright torture.
“I’d have thought a demon immune to Holy water would put up more of a fight.”
Uriel sneered at him as he picked himself up and leaned against a wall, trying to look less affected by his numerous wounds than he actually was.
“It does make one wonder whether you two abominations are actually as untouchable as you’d like everyone to think.”
That was the line. Crowley didn’t wait for Sandalphon to finish speaking in his irritating little nasal voice: he broke in a wicked chuckle, allowing the blood to wet the sound and ramping up the whole demonic hiss up to the max.
“How… adorable.” He said mockingly, “Think about it. Sure, you two grunts can dish out a beating and I can take it. I’d still much rather take my chances against you winged gits than try and face off whatever Aziraphale would do, if sufficiently pissed off.”
“I thought you two were… how do the humans say it nowadays? ‘Bffs’?”
Crowley didn’t bite.
“Yeah. Sure, of course… But you can be someone’s friend and still be very, very aware that you shouldn’t mess with them. Ever. You know?” he tried not to make it obvious that he was leaning against the brick wall behind him, to swallow down the blood still in his mouth. “So go ahead. Do your worst. I don’t fear you.”
In a moment of weakness, Crowley’s thoughts went out to Aziraphale, hoping the angel would find him before he discorporated, so he could at least confess his feelings before he died.
How curious, he thought he could almost see Aziraphale appear in the alleyway he had crash-landed in, an explosion of light and Righteous Fury, booming at the scene with an unusually authoritative voice:
“What is going on here?!”
But that couldn’t be his Aziraphale: it almost hurt to look at him— them, there were way too many eyes and a halo that was more of a crown than an actual halo, and everything was just light…
Sandalphon and Uriel were, suddenly, nowhere to be seen.
Crowley was distantly aware of words having been exchanged for the last few seconds, but couldn’t register them for the life of him because yes, this really was Aziraphale, the blinding light was receding and the angel’s worried face replaced the fluctuating visage that had been there prior, now all but kneeling by his side.
Aziraphale was here. He was fine. He could close his eyes.
There was just one thing he promised himself he’d do, before that.
“Crowley!” his angel was calling him, “Crowley, my dear… what have they done? What in the world happened to you?”
The feeling of drying blood pulled at his lips a little as Crowley smiled at the feeling of Aziraphale touching a careful hand to his forehead; and consciousness started to slip from him while he expended the last of his strength to lean into his angel’s touch.
“Love me or leave me, angel, I’m too tired for anything else.”
His vision faded before he could see Aziraphale’s reaction, but the hands still holding him were a comfort: it was nice not to be refused, as he felt himself let go.
After all, Aziraphale was here, everything would be just fine.
He did close his eyes.