Crowley is not good with words. He has never been.
He’s wondered, at times, whether that was another facet he’d lost. Like his Grace. Had he been a wordsmith once, able to construe the exact meaning of the abstract thoughts flitting through his mind?
He can’t ever know. He’s only known one Angel since his Fall and Aziraphale has always been a weaver of words, able to wax poetic at the drop of a hat.
Well. Whether it’s an Angelic trait or not is of little consequence. What matters is that Crowley can’t spin a sentence worth a damn, not when it counts. Not when he needs to.
Aziraphale bids him goodnight in front of the bookshop, uttered with a deliberate kiss to Crowley’s cheek and a meaningful if flustered smile, and all of Crowley’s thoughts screech to a halt as he realises he needs to say the words. Finally, at last.
‘Oh,’ Aziraphale breathes, as if in surprise. As if he didn’t realise what he was doing. He meets Crowley’s eyes, biting his lower lip.
This, this is what Aziraphale does. Six thousand years of ingrained habits don’t disappear overnight and this is Aziraphale sending his little signal, hinting he wants Crowley to make the first move like always; letting him know he finally has permission.
Fuck, supplies Crowley brain pathetically. Useless.
‘Nngh,’ provides his mouth, even more futile. ‘Yeah, err … g-g’night. You, too. Mnh.’
Aziraphale gives him a smile, full of gentle mirth and doe-eyed adoration, like he finds Crowley endearing. He retreats into his bookshop, leaving Crowley agape.
Fifteen minutes later, Crowley stumbles into his flat in a daze, downs a bottle of wine in one go, and then flops onto his throne. All right. Time for damage control.
The ball is in his court now. Aziraphale has made that clear. Yes, you may, he’s basically said. I’m waiting.
Bastard, Crowley grumbles to himself but the word nestles softly in his mind. Fond.
Crowley swings his legs up onto the red marble tabletop, crossing his ankles as he ponders how to go forward. Words are no good, he’d bungle that right up. Aziraphale deserves to hear the full depth of Crowley’s … feelings, his lips curl in a sneer, mortified to even think it. He doesn’t doubt Aziraphale already knows, but the rock needs a push to go rolling down the mountainside, as it were.
He looks down at his hands, idly gripping the burnished armrests. Talking is Aziraphale’s forte, not Crowley’s. He has always been one on the move, acting on impulses and wants. He’s good with his hands.
Crowley raises them, considering his protruding knuckles, the long fingers, coarse palms. Slim, almost weak-looking, but he’s done so much with them. Spread mischief on Earth. Delivered the Antichrist. Built entire galaxies and held Aziraphale’s hand at the end of the world.
Same damn hands, Crowley thinks, swallowing. He makes up his mind.
Aziraphale looks surprised when Crowley shows up on his doorstep the next morning. His expression immediately melts into a warm smile; it’s not a new thing, but Crowley is struck by the lack of tension that used to accompany Aziraphale’s welcomes. Right. Aziraphale’s affection is given readily now, without frightened looks stolen over his shoulder. Crowley would have to get used to that.
‘Angel,’ he begins, voice tight. ‘I … unh. Got something to show you. Something I made. Come with me?’
‘Right away?’ Aziraphale asks, raising his eyebrows.
‘Is that - d’you have something else on?’
‘Oh, no, no, I’m quite happily retired,’ the Angel chuckles. ‘Where are we going?’
‘…Somewhere far away.’
Aziraphale’s lips twitch in a quizzical smile, but he steps outside without further questions. Quiet, implicit trust.
Crowley drives them out of London, driving south for nearly an hour until the looming buildings disappear and sprawling, green countryside stretches out around them. He waits until they’re in the middle of a field, with not a human in sight, before he tells Aziraphale where he is taking him.
The Angel widens his eyes. Again, he doesn’t press; just steps forward and manifests his wings, waiting expectantly. Crowley does the same, and with a deep breath, dares to take Aziraphale’s hand.
He lets the world fall away.
They are not bound to the limitations of human bodies* - and now that they are no longer tethered to Heaven and Hell or forced to restrain their miracles, off they fly into the cosmos, faster than the speed of thought, the swirl of distant stars blurring past them.
(* The unforgiving void of space is no environment for either their corporations or the clothes on them. Luckily for one Demon and his Angel, this fact simply doesn’t occur.)
Aziraphale’s hand clasped firmly in his, Crowley leads him away from the beautiful blue rock they call home, soon leaving behind the whole system because he didn’t have a hand in creating any of those. The handprints Crowley left on the Universe are much older, far beyond the creation of Time, when the very concept of humanity had been but a distant speck in Her plan.
‘Something you made, you said,’ Aziraphale says* then. ‘Are you taking me to Alpha Centauri?’
(* Astute observers may note that sound does not travel through the vacuum of space. However, supernatural beings have been communicating since long before any material medium existed, and here, they revert to such communication**.
** Aziraphale moves his mouth anyway, purely out of human habit.)
The question catches Crowley off-guard. He side-eyes Aziraphale, hesitating. ‘Did you wanna see it?’
‘I have been curious,’ Aziraphale admits. ‘Ever since … that day.’
‘All right.’ Alpha Centauri is hardly the grandest thing in the Universe, but it is one of Crowley’s and he figures a quick detour won’t hurt.
So they take a right - well, relative to their bodies and present direction - and Crowley leads Aziraphale by the hand to the small star system, their world’s closest neighbour.
Stars were made to be appreciated from a distance, Crowley has always thought so. He’d argue that the Earth is the best seat to view them, but doubtless, there are some that warrant a closer look to comprehend their full beauty.
He brings Aziraphale close enough for the Angel to tell apart the binary pair, Rigil Kentaurus and Toliman; and far enough for Aziraphale to spy Proxima Centauri, the oft-forgotten third wheel in this system, hanging back like a shy voyeur to its partners’ intimate dance.
‘I thought they were one,’ Aziraphale murmurs, his wide eyes locked on the two larger suns, ‘when we first approached.’
‘So did the humans, for the longest time,’ says Crowley. ‘They orbit each other so closely, you can’t tell them apart from far. Caught in each other’s gravity, for always.’
‘I never knew,’ Aziraphale murmurs. ‘They are beautiful, Crowley. There is something incredibly poetic about them. If …’ Here, Aziraphale’s grip tightens around Crowley’s fingers, ‘if things had come to this end, I think I should’ve liked it here…’
Crowley swallows, Aziraphale’s words sinking into him like the heat of a solar flare. If this is the direction Aziraphale’s thoughts are already taking, then perhaps Crowley is going about this correctly.
‘Is this the first one you ever created?’ Aziraphale asks then, turning curious eyes on him.
‘Nope,’ says Crowley with a snort. ‘I fumbled that one and it ended up being, err, something else. Thought I was in for a demotion, but She liked it. A weird one, Her, to be honest.’
Aziraphale is pursing his lips, appearing to be stifling a laugh from the way his eyes are crinkling. ‘Will you show me?’
‘You want to see my first accident?’ Crowley wrinkles his nose.
‘You said it received the stamp of approval. I’m sure it’s just lovely. Besides,’ Aziraphale adds, ‘I would love to see anything you made, especially your first.’
Crowley averts his eyes, feeling that heatwave wash over him again. Clearing his throat, he nods his head. ‘Yeah, all right. Sure. It’s a couple galaxies over, not that far. Best to keep a safe distance, though.’
‘Oh? Why?’ Aziraphale asks as they take flight once more, the stars whizzing past them like endless showers of meteors.
Crowley doesn’t reply, but he doesn’t have to. He flies them both right into the middle of the galaxy, a spiral-armed behemoth held together at the centre by a super-massive —
‘Is that a black hole?’ Aziraphale gasps, gripping Crowley’s arm with both hands.
‘Angel.’ Crowley arches an eyebrow, quirking his mouth in a teasing smile. ‘You’ve heard of black holes?’
Aziraphale spares him a withering glare. ‘I am knowledgeable, you know.’
‘On bloody astronomy?’
Aziraphale huffs. ‘Well, what do you imagine I read?’
‘I don’t imagine, I know you have trashy porn hidden between those Heyers,’ Crowley smirks. ‘Figured you were interested in a different kind of black hole.’
Aziraphale swats his bicep, not holding back his strength. Crowley bursts out laughing even as he is sent careening to the side for nearly a kilometre.
With a sniff and wrinkle of his nose that looks more adorable than it should, Aziraphale turns back to the gargantuan void ahead of them. He is staring at the glowing halo of its photon ring when Crowley drifts back to his side. They are a few light-years away from the black hole, but Crowley can almost feel the pull of its gravity, the gaping jaws of its event horizon.
‘So this is the product of your first project?’
‘Was trying to make a star, really. Basic, y’know? But…’
Crowley groans, pinching the bridge of his nose. ‘I got saddled with this junior. The little shit spilt starstuff fucking everywhere and I tripped on them and my bloody star collapsed in on itself -’
‘And it became a black hole,’ finishes Aziraphale, not even hiding his grin.
‘She found a use for ’em, though. Huge fucking gravity wells keeping whole-ass galaxies together, who knew.’
Aziraphale laughs. ‘That doesn’t surprise me.’ He looks warmly at Crowley. ‘You do have a knack for being wonderful without meaning to.’
Crowley begins to splutter, his tongue suddenly too big for his mouth.
Still chuckling, Aziraphale loops his arm through Crowley’s, leaning against his side. Their wings meet in a messy cascade of feathers, brushing over each other. Crowley shivers, aware that Aziraphale can probably feel his reaction.
‘Thank you for indulging me, my dear. Now, how about you take me to see what you actually set out to?’
‘Right,’ Crowley mumbles, trying to gather his thoughts. Aziraphale returns to holding just his hand, putting space between them so they can resume flying. Crowley resists the urge to yank the Angel back into his arms and turns them around, heading to his original destination.
Crowley keeps his gaze on Aziraphale’s expression as they approach, watching the wonder that dawns on his countenance when the elysian blur of passing celestial bodies fades in their periphery, replaced by the rose-gold haze of a colossal cloud. It stretches on ahead of them for light-years, even farther than their otherworldly eyes can see. The streaks of reddish-gold are tinted with hues of blue and speckled with clusters of brilliant stars, twinkling through dust webs battered and bent into shape by unceasing interstellar winds.
But Crowley has eyes only for the Angel by his side, watching the play of lavender lights on his face. They throw into sharp relief the upturn of his nose, but softens him in every other way. Aziraphale’s blue eyes twinkle with the reflection of a million stars, and Crowley’s breath catches in his throat when he turns, the curve of his cheeks even rounder above his awestruck smile.
‘The Orion?’ Aziraphale’s voice is hushed.
‘Yeah,’ Crowley smiles back gently, still caught up in Aziraphale’s expression. ‘I’ve made many nebulae, but this one's my favourite.’
‘It’s beautiful,’ Aziraphale whispers. ‘I am at a loss for words. It … it’s simply enchanting, Crowley!’
‘Always liked making nebulae,’ admits Crowley, somewhat bashfully. He looks ahead, easily locating the Three Sisters. ‘Especially ones like this. Not just the colours. ‘’S just … all that dust and gas, they’re changing, y’know? Making new stars and systems.’
‘I do know,’ Aziraphale nods, drifting closer to Crowley so that their sides are touching again. ‘And so those new stars will become another one of your creations.’
Crowley blinks. ‘What? Nah, I don’t think I can take credit for those. Bit belated.’
‘Nonsense,’ says Aziraphale firmly. ‘You created their … well, their mother, in a sense, didn’t you? One that keeps on giving, propelling life forward. Of course, they are yours.’
Heart in his throat, Crowley looks at Aziraphale, who has tilted his face towards him.
Someone help him, Aziraphale looks gorgeous. He is fucking radiant in the light of this nebula Crowley had once made, glowing in soft pinks and golds and blues, his gentle eyes reflecting all of it back at Crowley.
Aziraphale had looked like this once before, bathed in the magenta lights of Soho inside Crowley’s car. He looks just as beautiful now as he did back then - perhaps even more beautiful, now that they are finally travelling at the same speed.
‘Thank you, Crowley, for showing me,’ Aziraphale says very softly. ‘I know all this is just a glimpse, but I feel like I've learnt so much about you. All these bits and pieces that were hidden from me before.’
Slowly, Crowley turns until they are facing each other. His tongue feels like sandpaper in his mouth, so dry he feels like he has been parched for years. The moment is here at last.
‘Glad you feel that way,’ he begins haltingly. ‘I showed you these 'cause - well, I figured it’d be easier to tell you that way. Always been rubbish with words.’
At that, concern sparks on Aziraphale’s face. ‘What is it, my dear?’
‘You know, that black hole I showed you back there … I mentioned the gravity well. It - it pulls in everything. Even light. Twisting time. Once you get close enough, there is no turning back.’
‘What are you saying?’
‘I’m saying … that’s how I feel about you.’
Aziraphale goes still. He doesn't reply, silent and waiting.
Now that he’s started, Crowley finds himself stumbling forward, tripping over the words to get them out while he can. ‘In a way, ’s like - ’s like Alpha Centauri. Those binary stars, always in each other’s orbits, forever until they burn out. Symbiotic, almost…’
‘The past six thousand years, it became like that for me. With you.’
Aziraphale is even closer now, wings aloft and silhouetted against the shining backdrop of the nebula.
‘Oh, my dear…’ he whispers, and Crowley knows that Aziraphale gets it. He understands Crowley’s piss poor analogies of these celestial bodies as he struggles to voice everything he’s had to bury, deeper and deeper with every unspoken ‘no’ from Aziraphale in the past.
But now, at long last, he’s saying the opposite.
‘And the nebula?’ Aziraphale prompts softly.
Crowley takes a deep breath. ‘’S what I’m most proud of. Thought for aeons that it would always be the most beautiful thing I’d know.’
‘But?’ Aziraphale is almost smiling, so close that if breath existed here, Crowley would feel his on his lips.
‘But then, up on that wall, I saw you.’
There is a small beat. Then Aziraphale whispers something like ‘Oh’, but it’s lost because he has closed that meagre, aching distance between them, sealing their lips in a kiss that burns hotter than the cores of Crowley’s stars, the exploding hearts of his supernovae.
Crowley pulls him close, crushing Aziraphale to him, and nearly shakes apart with sheer relief and joy. He buries his hand in Aziraphale’s soft hair, grips him close around the waist, and thinks that he can stay right here, kissing Aziraphale until the Universe and all it holds burn out and die. And even then, Aziraphale will continue to shine, forever Crowley’s light holding the darkness at bay.
He whines in protest when Aziraphale pulls away, minutes or eternities later for all Crowley knows. The brilliant smile Aziraphale gives almost makes up for their interrupted kiss.
‘Oh, darling,’ he sighs and Crowley’s entire being thrills at the endearment. ‘How long have you been planning this? To make this grand gesture to win my heart?’ His eyes are crinkling with mirth again.
‘I do everything in style,’ Crowley grumbles, tightening his arms around Aziraphale. ‘Gotta be on brand.’
‘Of course,’ Aziraphale chuckles, running the backs of his fingers down Crowley’s cheek. ‘I’m afraid I’m not one for dramatics -’
Crowley gives a bark of disbelieving laughter, all too clearly remembering gold brocaded jackets in dingy jail cells and shady book dealings in doomed churches, but Aziraphale speaks over him, no doubt aware of Crowley’s thoughts,
‘- and therefore, I shall keep my reply as succinct and simple as possible.’
‘Oh?’ Crowley raises an eyebrow. ‘And what’s that?’
With a smile that outshines the rose-glow of the nebula at his back, Aziraphale tilts his face up for another kiss.
‘I love you, too.’