Crowley stared down at the little card in his hand, blinking stupidly at it. It had appeared in a little vanilla-scented puff of smoke on his desk a couple of minutes ago, but that wasn’t the most confusing thing about it. The words were written in Aziraphale’s careful script and therefore perfectly legible, but he couldn’t make sense of what he was reading.
My dearest Crowley,
You are invited to a seduction. Please come to dinner at my bookshop this evening. Wear the kind of clothes you would like to be seduced in.
Crowley read the little note again, then again, but it still didn't make any sense to him. Invited to a seduction? What on earth was that about?
He grabbed his mobile and dialed Aziraphale’s number, planning to ask if Aziraphale was alright, or if he’d bumped his head. Maybe this was a coded distress signal of some sort? Crowley had no idea, but he knew one thing for sure: it couldn’t possibly be what it seemed like on the surface. Crowley had been a lovestruck fool for six thousand years, little more than a pine tree in sunglasses, but Aziraphale had never seemed to notice, much less reciprocate his feelings. Crowley had finally given up hope of ever winning the angel’s heart when Aziraphale had given him the holy water and said he went too fast for him. He’d accepted that his role was to love Aziraphale from afar, forever unrequited. He could cope with that. He had been for fifty years.
It had been much easier to do so over the last three months, since Armageddon had been averted. Aziraphale had finally acknowledged that they were friends, and Crowley had been overjoyed. With heaven and hell off their backs they were free to do as they pleased, and it apparently pleased them to spend a great deal of time together. In fact, the months since they’d thumbed their noses as their respective head offices had been the happiest of Crowley’s entire existence. Crowley was able to bask in the warmth of Aziraphale without fear of recrimination. Even so, he knew that the love he felt, raw and pure and almost desperate, was one-sided. Aziraphale loved him, sure, in that he was an angel and loved all living things. But it was not what Crowley wanted, what he craved. It could never be. He’d learned long ago to take whatever scraps he could get when it came to Aziraphale’s affections, and to be happy with them. The last six months had been a feast, compared to the last six thousand years.
The phone rang and rang in his ear until Crowley finally disconnected the call, his brow knotted with confusion edging into worry. Should he go to the bookshop and check on Aziraphale? He’d been invited, after all, so his presence wouldn’t be unexpected - although Crowley still didn’t understand what for. Going to the bookshop would answer that question. And at any rate, he’d feel better if he just went over to the bookshop and made sure everything was alright. Maybe he and Aziraphale could have a good laugh at the misunderstanding, then spend the evening sharing a couple of bottles of wine and chatting. That would be nice.
Crowley hesitated for a moment, wondering if perhaps the note were literal. What if Aziraphale was actually seeking to seduce him? What if it wasn't a coded message at all, but was instead just what it said it was?
No, he decided, laughing at himself a little. That was ludicrous. This was more likely some elaborate joke, but there was still the chance Aziraphale needed his help.
Mind made up, Crowley grabbed his jacket from where it hung on the throne and dashed out the door.
There was a parking spot miraculously open in front of the bookshop, just like it always was, and Crowley pulled the Bentley into it as quickly as he could. The closer he got to Aziraphale, the more his heart pounded in his ears. His nerves were jangling as he bounded up to the bookshop door, and he paused for only a moment before letting himself in.
“Aziraphale?” he called out, looking around the shop. Nothing seemed out of place, but that didn’t settle his nerves.
“Crowley? Is that you?” he heard from the back of the shop, then a snowy-blond head appeared from behind a door. Aziraphale smiled brilliantly, then revealed his whole self from behind the door that had been hiding him. “Oh, good. You came. You got my note, I take it?”
“Yeah, I got it. What the hell was it about?”
“It was an invitation to a seduction,” Aziraphale explained simply, with a smile.
“Yes, thank you, I can read, but I don’t know what that means.”
“Just what it says, dear. I intend to seduce you tonight. Long overdue, don’t you think?”
Crowley’s brain froze. It couldn’t be. Could it? He must be hearing things.
Aziraphale beamed. “Yes. I’d very much like to seduce you, if you’re amenable. I take your presence to mean that you are amenable?”
“I - I think so?” Crowley said in a somewhat squeaky voice, still confused, his mind racing a hundred miles a minute.
Aziraphale brought his hands together in front of him, still smiling. “Oh, good. Should we get started then?”
Get started? How the hell did one ‘get started’ on a seduction? If that was even what this genuinely was. Crowley didn’t think Aziraphale would set out to play a prank on him, but perhaps he’d misunderstood the meaning of the word or something. Yes, that must be it, Crowley decided. This was a misunderstanding.
“Listen, angel. I think --”
Aziraphale’s face fell. “Oh, no, you’re not changing your mind, are you?”
“No, no. I’m just not sure we’re on the same page. I think there may be a misunderstanding. Do you know what ‘seduce’ means?”
“To win over, to attract, to entice, particularly into sexual congress. And that’s my goal. I aim to persuade you into making love with me tonight. Hopefully not just tonight, but many, many nights in the future.”
“Ngk,” said Crowley, because his brain had stopped working.
“Are you agreeable?” Aziraphale asked politely, as if he were asking about getting dinner together, or something equally bland.
Crowley still wasn’t able to form words, so he nodded.
“Excellent!” Aziraphale crowed, bouncing a little on the balls of his feet. “That’s most excellent. I’m so very glad to hear it.”
Some words finally made their way out of Crowley’s mouth. “What, er, what do you want me to do?”
“Would you come upstairs with me?”
“There’s an upstairs?”
Aziraphale grinned brightly. “I miracled it together just for this. There’s a lovely bedroom with a fireplace and small dining table that’s perfectly designed for this very evening.”
“Yeah, sure, of course. Bedroom. Sure, yeah.” Crowley had never been hysterical in his entire six thousand years of life, but he felt it bubbling inside him now.
Aziraphale seemed to notice. “Are you alright, dear?” he asked with a worried look.
“Yeah, no, I’m fine. Just fine. It’s a lot to take in, that’s all.”
“Would you prefer not to do this? To go on as we have been?”
Crowley shook his head vigorously. “No. Fuck no. I very much want to do this. Very, very much.”
Aziraphale smiled again. “Jolly good. Shall we adjourn upstairs, then?”
He beckoned for Crowley to follow him, passing through the familiar back room to a stairwell that had never been there on any of his previous visits over the last two hundred years. Aziraphale gave him a reassuring smile before he started up the stairs as Crowley followed, returning his smile uncertainly.
The stairwell opened to a large room and Crowley looked around, eyes wide behind his glasses. As Aziraphale had said, it looked like the fusion of a bedroom, dining room, and a library. Despite being so big, it was very cozy, and lit entirely with firelight and candles. The walls were lined with bookshelves, except on the left hand side, where a fire burned in a stately fireplace. In front of the fireplace was a small, linen-draped table set for two, with a single rosebud in a vase and two silver domes covering plates. Beside the table sat an ice bucket with a bottle of champagne chilling, and rose petals were scattered on the floor. Crowley’s gaze was drawn to a huge, four-poster bed in the opposite corner. It was covered in a plush, dark blue duvet and piled high with pillows. Like the floor, the bed was scattered with red rose petals.
“Do you like it?”
Crowley tore his eyes away from the bed to look at Aziraphale. He was smiling brightly, his eyes twinkling with excitement.
“I’m - I’m speechless,” he admitted.
“Oh, good,” Aziraphale said, sounding chuffed. “Might I ask a favor of you?”
Crowley nodded. “Yeah, angel. Anything.”
“Would you mind terribly taking off your glasses? I do so love your eyes.”
Wordlessly, Crowley reached up and removed his sunglasses, folding them and tucking them into his pocket. When he looked back at Aziraphale, the angel was smiling.
“Thank you, dear.”
Aziraphale gestured to the table. “Join me for dinner?”
“Uh, yeah. Sure.”
He followed Aziraphale over to the table in front of the fireplace, taking the seat that Aziraphale indicated.
Darling. The word echoed in Crowley’s brain.
“Er, yes. Please.”
Aziraphale smiled placidly as he worked the cork out of the green bottle, making a happy little exclamation when it popped. Still smiling, he reached for Crowley’s glass and filled it, then filled his own. Once the bottle was back in the bucket, he removed the silver domes with a flourish, revealing their plates.
“Crepes,” Aziraphale explained as he took his seat, his smile still bright. “To commemorate 1793, and your brave rescue of me.”
“It wasn’t all that brave,” Crowley protested in a mumble.
“On the contrary, my dear. You put yourself into harm’s way by rescuing me, an angel. As you said at the time, your lot didn’t send rude notes. I can’t even begin to think of what may have happened if you’d been caught.”
Crowley didn’t like the way Aziraphale suddenly looked worried. So he hastened to reassure him, “It’s fine, angel. They never caught me, and we don’t have to worry about them anymore.”
“Nevertheless, my dear, that day remains prominent in my memories, the way you were there for me - the way you have always been there for me.”
He didn't realize he had covered Aziraphale’s hand with his own until Aziraphale’s eyes darted down to where they touched. Crowley followed his gaze and moved to retract his hand, but Aziraphale’s fingers captured his.
“Don’t, my dear. I want to touch you. That’s the whole point of this evening.”
Crowley was still awash in that feeling of unreality, his mind unable to make sense of the evening. “It is?”
“Oh, yes. My hope is that, after tonight, we’ll both feel free to touch each other anytime we want, as much as we want.”
“But I want to touch you all the time,” Crowley blurted, then cursed himself internally, flushing.
Aziraphale’s smile grew. “I’m very pleased to know that. I want to touch you all the time, too.”
Crowley couldn’t comprehend that. He simply couldn’t. He withdrew his hand from Aziraphale’s and pinched himself, to make sure he was actually awake.
“What are you doing?”
“I pinched myself.”
Aziraphale’s blue eyes were full of mirth. “Did you feel it?”
Crowley nodded, still nonplussed. “Yes. It hurt.”
“So do you believe this is real now?”
“I suppose it must be, although I still can’t make sense of it.”
“What can I do to help you make sense of it, as you say?”
“I honestly don’t know,” Crowley replied.
Aziraphale took his napkin and unfolded it, laying it on his lap. “Well, I do hope you’ll settle into the idea soon, but I suppose I understand if it takes you a while. The habits of six thousand years can be hard to break.”
“Yeah. You can say that again.”
Aziraphale smiled and reached for his champagne glass. “Shall we toast, my love?”
The words ‘my love’ clanged around in Crowley’s brain. He’d never called him that before, either. Holy shit.
Aziraphale was still looking at him expectantly. Crowley shook himself out of his stupor, grabbing his glass and raising it. “Yes. Absolutely. A toast. To what?”
“To us,” Aziraphale said. “To freedom, and to finally getting to go after what we’ve both wanted for millenia.”
Wait, did that mean…?
No time to think. Aziraphale was waiting, glass raised. “Um, here, here.”
They clinked glasses while Crowley’s mind spun. If Aziraphale had meant what he’d said during his toast, he’d been wanting to do this for thousands of years - just like Crowley. This wasn’t a new feeling. Could it be true? Holy shit.
Aziraphale swallowed his sip of champagne and smiled at Crowley. “Please do eat, Crowley. I know you don’t like to eat much, but I do hope you’ll try a little, so I’m not dining alone,” he teased. Then his smile turned mischievous. “Besides, I’d like if you kept up your strength. I have plans for you tonight, you know.” He winked.
Crowley nearly spat his champagne in shock, and Aziraphale giggled. Once he’d regained control of himself, he picked up his fork and started to eat, mind still a whirl of questions, steadfastly ignoring the sounds Aziraphale was making as he ate - and his cock’s reaction to them under the table. That wasn’t too taxing, really, since he’d had thousands of years of practice ignoring Aziraphale’s little noises and the effect they had on him.
“How are you finding the crepes?” Aziraphale asked politely.
“The crepes are delicious. I have questions,” he blurted again.
Aziraphale smiled. “Yes, I imagined you would. Go ahead. Ask all the questions you’d like, and I’ll answer them honestly.”
Several questions battled with each other for priority, and Crowley paused to sort them out.
“Alright. First, I need to ask again - are you serious? Is this a prank of some sort?”
Aziraphale’s smile didn’t waver, in fact, it grew softer. “No, my darling, this is not a prank and yes, I’m very serious. I’ve been wanting to do this with you, to tell you how I felt - to show you how I felt - for a very, very long time.”
“Oh, for ages. I couldn’t pinpoint an exact time, really. I was intrigued by you from the start, of course, when we met in Eden. As the years passed, I grew more and more fond of you. I looked forward to the times we’d run into each other, and missed you when we were apart. I started intentionally seeking you out during the Roman Empire, but it wasn't until the Middle Ages that I realized the depth of my feelings for you.”
It was burning in Crowley’s brain to ask him how he felt, to make him say those words, but he bit it back. No matter what his answer would have been, Crowley wasn’t sure he could handle it.
“What made you decide to do this now?”
“Well, it was really the first opportunity. I couldn’t have done something like this before Armageddon, you know as well as I do that had heaven or hell found out, they would have destroyed both of us. So that’s why: fear for our safety. After Armageddon, I kept looking for an opportunity to tell you, a way to tell you, but none of my subtle signals seemed to be getting through. I did try to let on that I was mad about you, dear,” he said in a voice that was almost chastising.
Crowley racked his brain, mentally reviewing the last three months. They had spent a great deal of time together, yes, growing closer than they ever had, and Aziraphale had initiated most of their time together. Now that he was thinking about it, there had been some lingering looks that he hadn’t paid attention to at the time, figuring they meant nothing. Had he been oblivious?
“I - I had no idea,” he admitted.
“It’s alright, darling.”
“What made you decide on now?”
“Honestly, my dear, I simply couldn’t wait another day to start this part of my life with you. I’ve wanted you so long… I just couldn’t wait another day.”
“What - what made you think I’d be... amenable, as you said?”
Aziraphale gave him a look that clearly said, come now, dear.
Crowley felt himself flush. “What? It’s a fair question.”
“It’s a very silly question, but I suppose I could see why you’d ask. My dear, you’ve been broadcasting your feelings for me for quite a long time, even when I wasn’t willing to look at them too closely. I did my best not to think about it, knowing there was never any hope for us. But over the last couple of centuries, it’s become harder and harder to ignore. And since Adam was born, you’ve been practically shouting it at me.”
Crowley ducked his head, painfully embarrassed. “I’m sorry,” he mumbled.
“Why? I’m not.”
“S’embarassing. Demons aren’t supposed to… to feel that way.”
“No, but you’ve never been a very good demon, have you? Please don’t beat yourself up, dear. Even if I hadn’t been able to figure it out from your words and deeds, I’d have known anyway. Angels can sense these things.”
Crowley was still embarrassed and wouldn’t meet Aziraphale’s eye. He’d thought he’d been so covert, he’d thought he’d kept his emotions close to the vest. Sure, he’d slipped up a little on the day of Armageddon, when he’d practically begged Aziraphale to run away with him, revealing more than he’d meant to, but that could easily be brushed aside as friendship. Or so he’d thought. Apparently not.
Aziraphale reached across and covered Crowley’s hand with his own. “Please don’t be embarrassed, my love. Knowing you felt something for me made me unspeakably happy. It still does, and I feel the same towards you. I always have. You were never alone in your feelings, although I expect you may have thought you were.”
“Yeah, I thought I was,” Crowley muttered, staring at their joined hands. The sense of unreality was fading, and it was starting to sink in that this was real, that this was happening.
Raising his eyes to Aziraphale, he asked, “What do you want from me?”
Aziraphale smiled gently and squeezed his hand, then released it. “I’m glad you asked that, dear. The answer is simple, but simultaneously complex.”
“Give me the simple answer first.”
“Very well. Simply put, I want everything.”
“Yes. Everything you’re willing to give me of yourself. The good, the bad, the ugly. I want it all.”
Crowley wanted to tell him that he’d given himself to Aziraphale millenia ago, that every cell in his body, every beat of his heart, belonged to Aziraphale, but held back. He wanted to see what Aziraphale said first and besides, it seemed Aziraphale already knew that.
“The more detailed answer is that I want what I’ve been denied for six thousand years: I want to be with you, in every sense of the word. I want to be able to touch you, to kiss you, anytime I desire. I want to be the thing in your life that brings you the most joy. I want to hold you in my arms - and to be held by you. I want people to look at the two of us when we’re out together and think, ‘aren’t they a handsome couple?’, and have them be right. I want to wake you with breakfast in bed after you’ve slept the night away and I want to spend evenings reading with your head in my lap. And I want to be able to tell the world that I belong to you - with you - forever. To summarize, I want what the humans call a marriage.”
“A marriage!” Crowley sputtered, shocked again.
“Yes, my darling. Someday, I want to be your husband, and I want you to be mine. But marriage can wait. We have plenty of time. For now, I just want to be your partner, your friend, your lover, your everything. Because you’re everything to me, Crowley. Absolutely everything.”
Crowley was speechless, his eyes wide and his jaw slightly lax. Had he just heard properly?
“I don’t… I don’t know what to say.”
“Say you’ll be mine, my love. That’s all I need.”
Crowley wrestled with himself over what to say, but only for a moment. With the biggest ‘fuck it’ of his life, he decided to bare his soul.
“I am yours, angel. I have been for ages. And apparently, you knew it.”
Aziraphale beamed. “I knew, but it feels absolutely heavenly to hear you say my feelings are returned.”
“I mean, of course I return these feelings but… I don’t think you understand the magnitude. There’s no way you could possibly feel the same way I feel about you. Absolutely no way.”
“What makes you say so?”
“Because of the depth of what I feel. It’s…”
“Ineffable?” Aziraphale asked with a cheeky grin.
Crowley huffed a laugh. “Yeah. That’s one word for it.”
Aziraphale reached across and took his hand again. “Haven’t I made it obvious that I love you, too?”
Crowley made a sound bereft of consonants, those words hitting him in the center of the chest. Despite all the things he’d said, Crowley still hadn’t expected Aziraphale to say that.
“You - you love me?”
Aziraphale chuckled indulgently. “Yes, my darling. I love you with a fierceness that frightens me, with a purity that other angels only dream of. I love you wholly, completely, with every cell of my body. I love you with a depth that’s unfathomable, and a breadth that’s as far as the east is from the west. I love you, Crowley. I just love you.”
Crowley’s mouth worked soundlessly, Aziraphale’s words rattling in his brain, trying to settle in. In his wildest dreams, he had never imagined a declaration like that. It was almost impossible to believe. Aziraphale loved him. Aziraphale loved him?
Aziraphale squeezed his hand. “You don’t have to say it, darling. I know. I know.”
Crowley felt as if he should say it. It felt like he was cheating Aziraphale by not speaking aloud how he felt. But the words stuck in his throat.
Aziraphale raised the hand he held and kissed the back of it. The touch of his lips sent shockwaves up Crowley's arm and directly into his brain.
“How are you so calm?” Crowley asked, his eyes wide. “I feel as if I’m about to vibrate to fucking pieces.”
“My dear, I’ve spent so long hiding this, repressing it, that once I resolved to actually do something about it, I’ve felt a great sense of peace. Do you feel the same? Even a little?”
Crowley wasn’t sure how the hell he was feeling at the moment. His brain and emotions were jumbled, and his mouth worked soundlessly before he shut it and nodded.
“Can I ask you to fulfill a fantasy of mine?” Aziraphale asked. “A daydream I’ve had for many centuries.”
“What is it?” Crowley asked, even though it was unnecessary. There was nothing he’d deny Aziraphale, nothing at all.
“Would you dance with me?”
Crowley blinked. “Here? Now?”
“Yes. Here and now.”
“But you haven’t finished eating.”
“I find I’ve lost my appetite. Will you?”
“There’s no music,” he pointed out.
Aziraphale raised his free hand and snapped: At once, soft strains of music filled the room. Crowley recognized the song as being by the Velvet Underground. He barely had a moment to think of the implications of that before Aziraphale asked again.
“Dance with me, my love? I so want to hold you.”
Crowley nodded. “Yeah, of course, angel.”
Aziraphale lay his napkin across his full plate, smiling brightly, and got to his feet, his hand still holding Crowley’s. Crowley lay his napkin to the side and got to his feet as well. Aziraphale led him a few steps away from the table, towards the bed, and turned to face him.
Crowley swallowed hard. “I - I have to tell you, angel, I haven’t danced in many years. And I don’t think I’ve slow danced since the nineteenth century.”
“I’m not expecting anything formal. Just put your arms around me,” Aziraphale answered, draping his arms over Crowley’s shoulders. Crowley did as instructed and lay his hands gently on Aziraphale’s hips. Christ, they were so close, they’d never been this close before. This close, he could smell Aziraphale’s scent - old books and musk and something sweet. It was intoxicating, and Crowley felt a bit drunk.
Slowly, they started swaying in time with the music. Crowley studied Aziraphale’s face, taking in his blue-grey eyes, his cotton curls, the little upturned nose, the smiling pink lips. He was - and always had been - the most beautiful creature that Crowley had ever seen, and his heart overflowed with love.
“Aziraphale,” he said, almost a whisper.
“Yes, my darling?
“Say it again.”
Aziraphale grinned. “What, that I love you?”
Crowley closed his eyes and let those words wash over him. “Yes.”
“I’ll tell you as many times as you need, Crowley, until you believe me. I love you so much.”
“I may never be able to believe it.”
“Then I’ll just make it my business to prove it so thoroughly, you have no choice but to believe it.”
“Even if I believe it, I’ll never understand it.”
“You don’t have to understand, my love. Ineffable things are rarely meant to be understood.”
“Say it again.”
Aziraphale smiled gently. “I love you, Crowley. I’m utterly in love with you, and all I want is to spend the next six thousand years by your side.”
Crowley closed his eyes on an exhale, letting the words wash over him. It was everything he’d never dared to dream of. Aziraphale loved him. They were holding each other, swaying to soft music - slow dancing, just like any other couple. And that’s what they were, what Aziraphale wanted them to be. A couple. Husbands, someday. Ineffable husbands. Crowley had never dreamt of that, solely because he’d spent millenia thinking it could never be an option. But apparently it was, and he’d never wanted anything so much in his life.
“Oh, my darling,” he heard, then was aware of Aziraphale pulling him closer, so their bodies were flush. Aziraphale’s face buried in his shoulder, his arms wrapping more snugly around Crowley, and Crowley was frozen for only a moment before he sank into the embrace, tucking his arms around Aziraphale’s waist and nuzzling into his sweet-smelling neck.
“I love you,” Aziraphale said, the sound muffled by Crowley’s shoulder. “I love you so much, my dear. I will never be able to express it adequately.”
Crowley raised his head to look at Aziraphale, and Aziraphale followed suit, so they were looking at each other, faces inches apart. Aziraphale’s lips were curved into a smile, and Crowley loved him so much he ached.
“This is really real,” he marveled, barely more than a whisper. “I’m here, holding you in my arms, and you love me.”
“It’s very real, and I do love you. More than anything.”
Crowley swallowed. “I - I love you, too, angel. I love you so much it frightens me. And I have for a long, long time.”
Aziraphale beamed. “Will you always love me?”
He nodded. “I can’t imagine ever feeling any other way. Loving you is all I know.”
“It’s all I know, too. All I ever want to know. Crowley?”
“Can I kiss you now? I’ve been waiting thousands of years to kiss you.”
Crowley wet his lips instinctively, his eyes flickering down to Aziraphale’s mouth. “Yeah. I’d - I’d like that.”
Aziraphale’s eyes darted between his eyes and lips for several tense seconds and Crowley thought for a moment that he’d changed his mind. Then Aziraphale breathed ‘darling’, closed his eyes, and leaned in. Crowley closed his own eyes and met him halfway.