Crowley took a deep breath.
Then another. And another.
Then realised that it'd probably be better if he let some of that air out as well, rather than trying to blow himself up like a cheap party balloon at a child's birthday party.
He let his head fall back wincing as it hit the hard wood of the high-backed chair he was sitting on. Clearing his throat, he opened his mouth, then shut it again. Then huffed.
There, it was out. Couldn't take it back again. Nuh-uh.
"I think I'll discorporate soon if I don't do something about this," he admitted, feeling that with the initial question out, it was easier to continue. "God, buckle up, because no way in Heaven or Hell can I do this without brainstorming." Crowley made a face. Aziraphale deserved full sentence confessions, not the blubbering mess Crowley was on a good day.
"Angel, I-" Crowley stopped. "I have to tell you something, angel, so please don't interrupt me." Crowley shook his head. "Not the best thing to start out by making demands, but he'll interrupt and then I'll lose steam and-"
Crowley sat forward, folding his hands on the table. "God, hear me out. I want to tell one of your principalities that I like him. A lot. I want to tell him that I've grown fond of him - no wait, that's what Aziraphale would say. 'Fond'," he muttered, almost ending the word on a hard noise - almost sharp enough to come out as a t rather than the soft d it was.
"And it's not right, issit?" he turned his head to side-eye the ceiling and beyond. "I mean, I'm fond of him, how can I not be, after so many thousand years? I mean, he was interesting when we first met, and then he just kept being 'him' and nice and not smiting me or even telling me to bugger off back to hell."
Crowley sighed and put his head down on his folded hands. "He's not just familiar to me, steady as a rock, he is the only rock in my stream, God. Do you understand? If I fuck this up, it'll get weird between us and I can't risk his friendship."
Crowley leaned back, stared up at the ceiling. Then he got up, the chair skittering back a foot or two. Heading for the plant room, he grabbed the mister, trying to breathe evenly, trying to get his mind to focus again.
Misting the plants didn't help much. He didn't even feel like yelling at them, settling instead for a half-hearted glare. "I have to do this right," he muttered to himself. Then he raised his head as he left the plant room again, closing the door behind him. The plants didn't need to see him like this.
He leaned back against the revolving door and closed his eyes. "I want to tell him, want to take him out for dinners, curl up on the couch with him." Crowley opened his eyes again, staring unseeingly at the ceiling. "God? I want to kiss him. Is that okay?" Crowley had, over the years, wondered if he might discorporate from Aziraphale's grace if he did kiss him. Or maybe he'd just discorporate if Aziraphale kissed him, end of sentence.
Dropping his phone on the bedside, he dragged himself into the bed, under the covers, willing his clothes to become his black silk pyjamas. Several more covers manifested themselves over his still form. 
"I can't even reach out to touch his hand when we're dining out," Crowley muttered into the pillow, "how the Heavens am I going to tell him how I feel?"
Rolling over, staring up at the ceiling, squirming into the fluffy darkness of blankets threatening to swallow him up, Crowley closed his eyes. "He just sat there, like he always does. Having his desert, God. Why would you make him such a temptation? I thought that was for Hell to do - you shouldn't have created such a principality, you know. He's far too... scrumptious."
And maybe someone else would see, would come along and try to take him?
Crowley growled, feeling the heaviness of dread in the pit of his stomach.
"I was so close to saying it," Crowley muttered, partly to himself, partly aimed at the ceiling. "But he was nattering on about the wine and the cheeses and before I knew it, we were past the point of 'Hi, angel, have I ever told you that I love you more than anything in the world?'"
It just wouldn't have fit in anywhere between the cheese and the tiramisu. So that plan had tanked. Couldn't tell the angel out in public. He briefly considered the park, but he knew Aziraphale would get sidetracked by people or sellers of ice cream and he himself would just be jibbering about ducks, because given any way out, he would take it. Emergency exit? Crowley would take it, definitely.
No, he'd need a venue where nothing and no one could interrupt them, where there was nothing that Crowley himself could use as an excuse.
Time to paint himself into a corner with slow drying paint.
Of course driving to Soho was one thing, entering the bookshop was a whole other kettle of fish, though. Crowley stared at the sign above the door, unblinkingly, like a snake charmed to stillness.
Finally he shook himself. What was he, a demon or a coward? When he put his hand on the door handle, he wondered if perhaps he was a demonic coward or a cowardly demon.
"Crowley!" Aziraphale was stretching up to put a couple of books in place, halfway turned to the doorway already. "How lovely to see you."
Crowley stuttered to a halt.
"Whatever brings you here? Not that you have to have a reason, you're always welcome here." Aziraphale put the other books he was holding down on a small table and came forward as if to embrace Crowley.
Who in turn was stuck staring, because Aziraphale wasn't wearing his usual waistcoat and shirt. Well, the shirt was there, but the waistcoat was not - and his sleeves were undone and rolled up at least twice!
Aziraphale frowned, but took Crowley by the elbow and gently lead him towards the back of the shop, snapping his fingers to lock the door.
Crowley heard the click and knew there was no turning back now. Like some poor sod being led to the hangman's noose. No way back now, door locked, demon trapped.
"Come along, my dear, you look like you've seen a ghost. Is everything alright?" Aziraphale asked, looking more than a little worried.
This was not what Crowley had aimed for at all! He didn't want the angel to worry, he needed him nicely relaxed and ready to listen to him!
"Angel, need to talk to you about something, erm, important, something very important," Crowley managed to get out.
"Oh?" Aziraphale's face was that familiar, expectant look. "I was just thinking about you, my friend, and I have something to share with you as well - though please, go ahead."
Crowley let Aziraphale lead him to the couch, but before the angel could take his customary seat in the chair, Crowley's hand shot out to grab ahold of the rolled up sleeve. A tug, and Aziraphale seemed to get the idea. At least he sat down next to him, hands in his lap, attention fully on Crowley.
This was possibly one of the things that Crowley had not taken into account.
Aziraphale's undivided attention.
He was beginning to understand how a rabbit felt in the headlights of an oncoming car. Or a moth throwing itself to its death against a lit candle.
"Angel, I-" Crowley shut his mouth, almost audibly.
"Yes, my dear?" Aziraphale encouraged. And that damned frown line was back - right between his eyes.
"I need you to listen to me," Crowley managed to get out.
"Yes?" Aziraphale's hand twitched where it was currently holding down his other hand in his lap. Like he wanted to reach out - and Crowley was, for a moment, mesmerized by it.
"Aziraphale," Crowley tried again, "angel, I need to tell you-" He trailed off. Looked up, then hurriedly back down at his own hands, like claws on his knees. Aziraphale's eyes were as blue as ever, his face as understanding as always.
And Crowley was as cowardly as ever, wasn't he? Rock the boat, sure, but not enough to capsize it, right?
Aziraphale reached out and put his hand on Crowley's. It was so warm, soft. A few calluses here and there, from writing - and it fascinated Crowley. The angel could easily do away with them, but he chose not to.
And Crowley loved it. Loved that the angel would let his human vessel have knicks from paper cuts, calluses from writing - wear and tear.
"Crowley, dearest," Aziraphale said, putting his hand on Crowley's.
Crowley just stared down at it. Perfectly shaped fingernails.
Aziraphale sighed, took Crowley's hand in both his and tugged it into his own lap. "Crowley, please, whatever it is you wish to tell me, know that I love you deeply and nothing you say or do will change this."
Crowley just stared at their hands, not comprehending anything. Had the angel just said-?
"Crowley, please say something…" Aziraphale squeezed his hand and Crowley squeaked a little.
There was so much he'd planned to say before Aziraphale had been the one to bring up the l-word. "You're… stars, sun, my-"
"Oh, Crowley." Aziraphale reached out for him and pulled him in close, pressing Crowley's head lightly to his shoulder.
Crowley opened his mouth to argue, but all that came out was a small whimper. His glasses were digging into the bridge of his nose and he managed to reach up and pull them off, dropping them off to the side of the couch somewhere. It didn't matter where, nothing mattered.
"No, give me a moment, you bastard angel," Crowley finally managed to mutter. "I had this all planned out."
"What, my dearest?" Aziraphale asked so quietly that Crowley barely heard.
"If you're smiling, you horrible principality-" Crowley warned, trying to gather his tattered wits.
"You'll what, my darling demon?" Aziraphale replied, a small chuckle escaping him.
Crowley pulled back, sliding his hands up to grab at Aziraphale's shirt. And of course there was a soft smile on the angel's mouth, even with the worried crease at the corners of his eyes.
"I'll,-" Crowley tried. "I'll- urgh." Challenged like this he was a bit lost, but he refused to back down. He pulled hard on his grip on Aziraphale's shirt, yanking him forward. Without a second thought , he pressed his mouth to Aziraphale's.
Aziraphale sat stock still for a moment, then his hands slid up Crowley's arms and one cradled the side of his head, while the other carded through his hair to cup the back of his head. Gently, as if Crowley was an animal easily spooked, he guided Crowley's head at an angle, fitting his lips over Crowley's to deepen the kiss.
Crowley moaned, fisting his hands even harder in Aziraphale's shirt, probably warping it, creasing it, perhaps even, dared he consider it, pulling it at the seams.
Aziraphale gentled the kiss and Crowley finally realised what they were doing, and that his interest was obviously more than welcome, even encouraged. A wordless moan escaped him as he broke the kiss, pressing his lips to the corner of Aziraphale's mouth.
His whole being was vibrating with it, all this tension that he had held back for what felt like six thousand years. "Aziraphale, I need you to listen to me, even if I'm not that good with words." Because he'd planned it out, he knew what he wanted to say. But he'd been completely and utterly derailed by the one creature in all of eternity who was as big a bastard as he was.
"I need you to understand that I have been in love with you for so long, possibly longer than I'm even aware of." Crowley swallowed, his mouth dry as the desert outside the Garden of Eden. "You are my sun, my moon, the stars I navigate by. I have no wish to exist in this world if you are not by my side."
"How dare you say that you are not good with words?" Aziraphale all but whispered, lips moving softly against the corner of Crowley's, a soft, warm breath of exhalation caressing his cheek.
"But I'm not," Crowley argued hotly. "I've wanted to say this for so long."
"And I couldn't let you while we were still hiding our friendship from Heaven and Hell," Aziraphale said, his voice horrifyingly wet. "I can now, I will now, I want you to know that you are not alone."
Crowley felt the hot tear run along the tip of his nose where it was pressed against Aziraphale's cheek. He felt it run against his lightly parted lips, and he tasted the salt. He felt the mild panic as he realised that Aziraphale was actually crying. "Please, don't cry," he begged, trying to pull back.
Aziraphale's hand on the back of his head held him in place. "They are tears of joy, Crowley. If you knew for how long I've wanted to hear you say something like this, and even then, my fantasies have nothing on reality, nothing on this."
Crowley drew in a ragged breath. "You must know that I'd do anything for you angel, anything. And for no one else."
"I'd hoped so dearly," Aziraphale whispered, "because I very much feel the same way. And I had decided to tell you tonight as well," he added the latter with a small happy chuckle. He slid one hand down over Crowley's shoulder and back to cup one shoulder blade, applying just enough pressure to let Crowley know that he should come a little closer. Which Crowley did, ignoring the small needy mumble that escaped him as he let Aziraphale pull him in even closer. They settled on the couch and he kicked his shoes off, curling up against the angel.
"I had so much planned, how and what to say," Crowley admitted, face buried against the side of Aziraphale's neck.
"We have all the time in the world, my dear, one word at a time. I want to hear them all, cherish them all."
Crowley closed his eyes. He didn't look up, didn't speak to Her, but for the first time in aeons, he allowed himself a small, silent 'thank you'.
1It had, more or less, been why Crowley had fallen, back then. Too many questions.Return to text
2God mostly always listened. She just chose to tune most of it out. But for the train wreck purpose, She always tuned in to Crowley to see what he'd be complaining about this time.Return to text
3They knew better than not to. When Crowley was in a 'mood' like this, coddling and swaddling him in darkness and softness was always the best thing to do.Return to text
4Had Crowley been a computer program on an old windows machine, the user would have been staring at an enternally spinning hourglass. Return to text
5Second thoughts were not Crowley's speciality. Third and fourth, yes, because he was ever so good at third and fourth guessing himself.Return to text