“So, what are you in the mood for now?” Crowley asks, slouched in that casual way he slouches, in perfect complement to the carefree way he saunters about to do everything else.
Aziraphale straightens in his chair upon noticing it, because that’s how it’s always worked between them. In nearly every way that Crowley is loose, Aziraphale tightens to cancel it. In every way that Crowley is bad, Aziraphale tries to be good. Over the centuries, that precedent has extended itself, absurdly, to posture. Aziraphale prides himself on his place near the immaculate end of that spectrum, firmly opposite Crowley, as he is on most matters.
Still, Aziraphale gazes at him in that barely-hidden, all-consuming way he’s gazed at Crowley for the last six thousand years, and in the moment, those feelings trample his precarious control. “I really shouldn’t say. It’s… awkward.”
“Awkward? Now I must know, Aziraphale. What is it?” Crowley presses, a devilish smile playing at his mouth. “You know I’d never deny you a single thing as long as it didn’t inconvenience me in the slightest.”
“And even then—” Aziraphale starts, then shuts his mouth, lips pressed together tightly. Crowley’s never enjoyed his selflessness and soft spots discussed aloud, and Aziraphale doesn’t imagine he’ll miraculously start enjoying it today.
Still, Crowley admits, “And even then,” with nothing more than a pointed look, unwilling on some deeply stubborn, hellish level to speak on it further.
Despite his best efforts, Aziraphale loves him on a level much deeper than that, which is exactly why, even firmly (sometimes loosely) planted on opposite sides of God’s Plan—Heaven versus Hell, Angel versus Demon—he’s still here, right where he absolutely knows he shouldn’t be but is no matter what: Beside Crowley on a park bench, or like now, at a table perpetually set for two.
Crepes with the enemy.
“You won’t understand it,” Aziraphale says. “I barely understand it myself.”
“It can’t be more baffling than that outfit you’ve got on,” Crowley assures him, an unmistakable edge of fondness in his voice.
“You’d be surprised,” Aziraphale argues, and Crowley leans forward to prop his chin on his fist.
“You’ve been nothing short of completely predictable for centuries now,” Crowley says, and Aziraphale bristles at the suggestion. He thought Crowley fancied him for the balance he provided to their relationship, but it seems that only one of them operating with wild irrationality and unpredictability fails to meet Crowley’s standard for entertainment. Aziraphale is downright flustered, until Crowley clears his throat, calling for his eyes. Aziraphale meets his gaze, reluctantly, his earthly vessel betraying him with a quiet gasp at the sincerity on Crowley’s face. “I didn’t mean it a bad thing, angel. Promise.”
“You’re probably lying,” Aziraphale accuses anyway, petulant.
“That is my nature,” Crowley notes. “Let’s see if you can abandon yours for a blissful half second. Surprise me.”
Be selfish. Crowley’s tempting him to do something because he wants it, not because it’s what he should do.
It’s not Aziraphale’s nature.
“It-It’s—You’ll think it’s dreadfully human,” Aziraphale says, unable to hold Crowley’s eyes for much longer. As if he could actually meet them, what with the glasses Crowley rarely removes in public blocking the way. Though Aziraphale likes to see his beautiful, serpent eyes, it would be too much to look at them now, like this, with these particular words on the tip of his tongue.
It isn’t something they do. It isn’t something Aziraphale should want to do. They are not of this planet or these bodies they inhabit, but the impending doom of Armageddon has Aziraphale’s mind frazzled, uncertain of their future in ways his immortality shielded him from worrying over before.
“And is it?” Crowley asks, “Dreadfully human?”
Aziraphale answers, a whisper from his trembling lips, “Yes,” then, stammering through, fishing for the appropriate words to describe inappropriate urges. “On occasion, I feel a very strange, uh—a very peculiar, um, a desire, you could call it—”
“Just spit it out, for Heaven’s sake,” Crowley blurts, then makes an exaggerated gagging sound upon having blurted it.
For Heaven’s sake.
Aziraphale fights an errant giggle, then swallows it down, his bravery lodging in his windpipe and unable to make it back out, until it does. “I want to reach out and—”
“ And!? ” Crowley prompts in dramatic fashion, though Aziraphale barely paused for breath.
“Touch your hand, Crowley! To place my hand over yours, or something like that. It’s called—hand-holding. It’s what I’m in the mood for.”
“You’ve been up here too long, Aziraphale,” Crowley says, vaguely disturbed yet adequately curious. Aziraphale knows him far beyond well enough to predict which will win out.
“Down here,” Aziraphale corrects, “No longer than you.”
If Crowley weren’t attached to Earth or, at the very least, partial to the life they lead on it, he wouldn’t be helping Aziraphale in saving it. He has no room to throw stones.
Obviously not listening with the intention of replying, Crowley holds up the hand in question as if examining it will reveal some reason a person, or Angel of Heaven, might wish to hold it. “What’s the point of it?”
“I-I don’t exactly know entirely,” Aziraphale says. He indulges in quite a few humanly things that feel nice, but do seem rather pointless in the grand scheme of things. Nice suits, regardless what Crowley says of his outfits. Delicious food from every continent. Good books that can create distant worlds and evoke exotic places without having to go anywhere at all. “What’s the point of your habitual napping?”
“Touché,” Crowley nods.
For celestial beings, the existence of a point is largely debatable. In the eyes of many, the product of humanity is as inconsequential as humanity itself. For Aziraphale, there’s always been more meaning and beauty to Earth and its people, but, like Crowley, he’s lived here, blended in (sometimes poorly) among it all. “Perhaps there isn’t one, for us. I can’t explain it. It’s…”
“Ineffable?” Crowley supplies, and Aziraphale startles at the sudden, foreign sensation of Crowley doing exactly as Aziraphale said he wished to do. Crowley’s hand is overtop his on the table, fingers curling around and slotting between.
Aziraphale’s smile seems to spread over his entire face as he curls his own fingers around Crowley’s in return. Unable to quell the joy he feels, he says, happiness bubbling inside him, “Why, yes! Ineffable, my dear!”
The hand-holding is such a simple, hesitant gesture, but it feels more grand than anything Aziraphale thought possible to experience in all his existence. Crowley’s hand is surprisingly smooth, predictably hot to the touch. As the initial novelty dissipates, a heightened peace settles in its wake, much like the peace that washes over him by simply sitting with Crowley in the first place. Aziraphale knew beforehand that they didn’t need this to be whole, but it’s nice just the same. Another little indulgence. He can’t decide exactly why they waited so long to try it, even as he recognizes his own role in why they hadn’t.
Nothing inspires quite like the end of the world.
“You like it, angel?” Crowley asks, lingering confusion in his voice, but warm, always. He still holds Aziraphale’s hand atop the table, thumb brushing over the back of it in gentle, occasional circles that make Aziraphale’s heart flutter in his chest.
“You don’t?” Aziraphale asks. He sips his tea with his free hand, hiding his eyes and soft smile in his cup as he waits for an answer.
Crowley says, well within the bounds of his nature, regardless of what he insists, “If you like it, I do.”