As the days began to grow hotter, it occurred to Crowley that a freedom from Hell also translated to a freedom of dress code. Which was why, on a particularly hot day, he decided to forego his typical black palette entirely. He was deciding between a pastel floral and a vivid floral sundress, trying to figure out which one Aziraphale would like best when his brain stumbled on a third option.
He cursed under his breath and threw both dresses on the bed. What an awful idea. It was ridiculous.
...Aziraphale would love it.
Crowley knew that Aziraphale knew that he loved him (or, at least he hoped he did, because if he didn’t know by now then saying the words wouldn’t help anyway,) but he never tired of finding new ways to show him. And this, as terribly foolish of an idea as it probably was, and as silly as it would make him feel, was something that he knew would delight Aziraphale, and thought of Aziraphale’s smile was enough to make him want to do it.
With a face red as red as those plastic cups that the media liked to portray students drinking alcohol from (he'd been watching a lot of teen movies lately,) he snapped his fingers to dress himself and headed out of the bedroom before he could change his mind.
As he descended the stairs in his new sundress, Aziraphale took no notice, too absorbed in some book. Crowley was a little offended. Here he was, wearing a completely tartan sundress (in Aziraphale's own personal tartan, no less,) and the angel couldn't even be bothered to look up. In his mind, he had imagined this going differently. In his mind, he was the leading lady of aforementioned teen movies coming down the stairs while her date waited, starstruck, below. A regular Cinderella at the ball moment. Except Aziraphale wasn’t playing his part. He cleared his throat loudly and pointedly when he reached the bottom of the stairs and finally got the desired result.
--And instantly regretted every single decision he had ever made while Aziraphale stared at him soundlessly.
He was about to go running back up the stairs when Aziraphale stood and tossed (yes, tossed) his book aside before crossing the room in just a handful of quick strides. For the first time in the six thousand plus years that they had known each other, it was Aziraphale who shoved Crowley up against a wall. Crowley didn’t even have time to get a word in before Aziraphale had grabbed his face with both hands and began kissing him soundly enough that Crowley forgot his own name.
“Ehhh… Yooooouuuuu...” Crowley droned when they broke apart.
Aziraphale raised an eyebrow. “Yes, dear?”
“Yooouuu… ehhhh… youuu- you- you-” He cleared his throat. “You threw your book.”
Aziraphale looked back to where the book had landed, miraculously unharmed, on the couch. “It landed on the couch,” he stated obviously and more than just a little defensively.
Crowley chuckled. “Still.”
“...Perhaps I should go check to see if it’s okay.”
“You know it is, Angel, as if I’d ever let anything bad happen to your books.”
Aziraphale’s eyes crinkled knowingly. “Of course not,” he said fondly.
“Although, I do have to wonder…” Crowley grinned mischievously. “Say there was a trolley and its brakes were out.”
Aziraphale looked at him warily. “Yes?”
“The trolley is going to crash, but the track splits in two, and you are standing by the little lever thing, yeah? And on one track was your entire book collection, and on the other track was me-”
“Why wouldn’t you just step off the tracks?”
“That’s not really the point, Angel, and- mph!”
Aziraphale had put a finger to his lips. “Is now really the time for outlandish moral dilemmas and thought experiments?” he asked, before once again kissing Crowley quite thoroughly, and the demon decided that no, it was not.
Finally, they broke apart, gasping and panting into each other’s open mouths.
"You.” Aziraphale’s voice was rough as he breathed harshly against Crowley’s neck. “It’s not even a question. I’d save you, every time.”
“Aziraphale-” Crowley choked out.
“But as soon as you’re safe, I’m dragging you around the world to help me build a new collection.”
Crowley needed to express just how mutual the sentiment was, but Aziraphale had slid to his knees and began languidly placing kisses up his thigh and he found that language was only just barely in his grasp.
“I would-” he choked out trying to make his mouth cooperate. “You. You over- oh, fuck- my plants. The-th-the Da Vinci sketchesss- shit! Even the- even the Bentley- ngh- I swear it! Oh, Angel! Please!”
“My dear,” Aziraphale said conversationally as he hiked up Crowley’s dress. “You are sounding far too coherent.” And that was all the warning Crowley got before Aziraphale swallowed him down to the base on the first go.
It was embarrassing how quickly Crowley fell apart after that.
As he came down from his orgasm, he felt Aziraphale shaking against his leg and thought he must be right at his own edge. A quick look, however, proved that assumption to be false.
"Oi!" he cried. "Are you laughing down there?!"
Aziraphale looked up to reveal that yes, he was , and Crowley scowled.
“What’s so bloody funny?!”
“Darling.” Aziraphale said, leaning his cheek against Crowley’s thigh as a smile spread across his face. “You’re wearing tartan.” He laughed again.
Crowley couldn’t help chuckling in response. “Yeah, well,” he said awkwardly, casting his gaze to the side as he felt his face heat up. “I thought you’d like it,” he mumbled softly.
“Oh, Crowley.” Aziraphale stood, dabbing gently at his lips with a handkerchief as though he had just finished a fine meal and not successfully sucked Crowley’s brain out through his dick. “I very much do . ” He stood and brushed his hands over a few wrinkles that had appeared in Crowley’s sundress. “And though it goes without saying, I love you, too.”
Crowley blushed even deeper. “Cool,” he choked out, eloquent as ever.
If Aziraphale continued to look at him as though he had placed the stars in the sky (and, to be fair, he done several) then Crowley was certain he might discorporate. Or explode. Whichever love struck fools in a teen movie might be more wont to do.
Thankfully, Aziraphale seemed to sense his discomfort and decide to take pity on him. “Now, go get yourself cleaned, up my love, I’m afraid we have some errands to run.”
Crowley’s nose scrunched in confusion. “Errands?” Just last night, Aziraphale had talked about how much he had been looking forward to spending the entire day reading a new book he had just acquired.
“Yes, dear,” Aziraphale said with a smile. “The errand of strolling around town so that all of our neighbors may see my lovely partner.”
“Angel,” Crowley groaned in exasperation.
“Please?” Aziraphale asked, fixing him with that look that Crowley couldn’t say no to.
“...Fine,” Crowley relented. “But only because-“
“Only because you love me, dear, I know.” Aziraphale smiled smugly, and Crowley wondered how it could be that he was still falling deeper and deeper in love with this angel even after six thousand years.
As they were passing by the bakery, Crowley made a discovery. It was as he was looking at Aziraphale fondly and wiping some pastry filling off of his nose. Aziraphale looked back at him with such love that Crowley could feel it warming his very core and he realized that this— this was what Aziraphale meant when he told Crowley that he was certain of his love, regardless of whether or not he could speak it.
He wondered if this was how Aziraphale felt with every miracle that Crowley threw his way, every last minute dinner reservation the Crowley managed to snag, every indulgence that Crowley offered him. If so, then Aziraphale was right— the words were unnecessary.
“Aziraphale?” Crowley said.
Aziraphale finished licking the crumbs off of his fingers, doing little to mask his disappointment over the disappearance of his treat (even if the place that it had disappeared to was his own stomach) and looked up at Crowley. “Yes, dear?”
Crowley, who had come to expect Aziraphale’s moods even better than he could expect his own, pulled the fruit tart he had asked the baker to box up separately while Aziraphale was distracted trying to choose between a danish and an eclair, and opened it proudly as he presented it to his angel. “Got this for ya.”
Aziraphale’s face lit up as he accepted the tart. “Crowley!” he gushed. “You didn’t have to do that.”
Crowley smiled, warmth continuing to expand in his chest. “ I know.”
Nothing much changed. Crowley did as he had always done, performing little acts of devotion just for the sake of seeing Aziraphale smile.Only now, he did it with the confidence that the message got through, loud, clear, and with no room for interpretation.
But still, it did little to ease his desperation to give voice to the feeling.
Even when he wasn’t speaking, the syllables lingered on his lips, waiting, just waiting , to be breathed into existence. To show their devotion.
And, then, one day, they just… slipped through. Unhindered. Unsullied. Unbroken.
“I love you, Angel.”
He didn’t even realize it at first. It felt so natural, so easy. Standing at the bottom of the mountain, surmounting it had seemed an impossible task. But the final step to the top was just that— one more step.
And when he did realize it, when he looked over to see his angel beaming at him proudly, he also realized that, for as much as he had thought it would matter, it actually felt just like every other time that he conveyed his love for Aziraphale.
Love wasn’t about grand declarations, or statements shouted from the rooftops. Love was an understanding between two people, an emotion given and received freely without fear, without judgement.
That was what their love had always been.
They never did figure out what happened. Why Crowley had been unable to say the words one day, and then let them slip out so effortlessly the next. Aziraphale would eventually come to describe it as 'ineffable,' to which Crowley would wrinkle his nose and promise to stop saying the words again-- a ludicrously empty threat since it had never been Aziraphale who needed to hear the words, but rather Crowley who needed to say them.
Secretly, Crowley had his suspicions. The black whatever-it-was was born from the void where Her love had been. For it to be gone must have meant that the hole had been filled. How lucky was he, then, to be loved by the only angel who could replace God's love?
If Aziraphale had known that Crowley thought that way, he would have insisted that it was the opposite. That it was Crowley's infinite capacity to love that had flooded the abyss.
Perhaps it was a little bit of both.
In the end, though, it wasn’t really about speaking the words. Sure, he could tell Aziraphale that he loved him when he got up in the morning, however, he found that he much preferred to bring Aziraphale a warm cup of tea at just the perfect temperature, made exactly to Aziraphale's liking while he read one of his books in the morning, treasuring the delighted look and grateful kiss it earned him.
But for the times when it did slip out, urged by a great swell of affection and adoration, it was nice to not have the words turn to rot on his tongue. Like when he was lying, drunk, across Aziraphale’s lap, debating (entirely with himself) the nuances of living, and matters of the heart. “What even is love, anyway? Like, what is it? What isss it? What. Is. Love?”
And Aziraphale, equally drunk and without missing a beat replied, “Baby don’t hurt me,” not even understanding the reference he was making but having spent enough time around his demon to have heard it so many times that he could parrot it back.
Crowley just stared up at Aziraphale, his eyes shining both from the alcohol and realization of ‘ oh my Somebody, I love this silly angel so fucking much ’ that had the tendency to slam into him like a truck when he was least expecting it. All he could do then was whisper out a stunned ‘I love you,’ his fingers gently lifting to prod the angel in the face as though making sure he was real, until Aziraphale, laughing, swatted his hand away.
But whether either of them said it or not, they knew.
After all, there is an endless list of ways to say 'I love you.’