For longer than he can even begin to recall anymore, Crowley has criticized humanity for it’s infuriating and stagnant repetition. He enjoyed humans as a whole, would even venture to say he cared about them occasionally, if pressed. But every century brought the same sins and jealousies and greed, which resulted in the same wars and betrayals and tragedy, all wrapped up in a new regime, a shiny new empire that would inevitably fall.
He often complained to Aziraphale about it, moaning about how his ingenuity was wasted on humanity, and how despite his best and most creative attempts, his temptations only ever resulted in the same old shit. Once, during one of these impromptu venting sessions, Aziraphale had nodded sympathetically and said: “History is doomed to repeat itself, my dear.” Unsurprisingly, it caught on.
However, in those same rare moments of honesty where he might be coerced into expressing his fondness for humanity, he could also admit to himself that as far as repetition is concerned, humans had nothing on the celestial beings currently intoxicating themselves in Aziraphale’s bookshop. Same as they had been a fortnight ago, and a fortnight before that, and several millennia before that.
It started with Crowley making a fool of himself, as he was wont do to. All that business with the apocalypse had unequivocally proven that he was rather less adept at his job, and at existence in general, than he pretended to be.
He’d brought Aziraphale a plant. Rather, he’d returned to Aziraphale the plant that he’d accidentally miracled into existence last week. They’d been at Crowley’s flat, drinking wine and watching Britain’s Got Talent, a program Crowley only tolerated because Aziraphale enjoyed it so much. The angel certainly didn’t need to know that Crowley had sent roughly four thousand texts voting for Aziraphale’s favorite group, face burning with shame as he watched Aziraphale carefully send in his single, legal vote; and then proceeded to send another five thousand anyway when the margins got a bit too slim for comfort. That was between him and God, and She wasn’t saying anything.
Aziraphale had been on the edge of his seat, quite literally, and grabbed Crowley’s hand euphorically when the winner was announced. A pot of perfect white gardenias materialized in his overexcitement, a detail that escaped Aziraphale’s notice entirely, and that Crowley only distantly observed, what with all his energy focused on Aziraphale’s warm fingers enclosed in his.
Now, he’s sat across from Aziraphale in the back room, intently studying his hand clasped tight around a bottle of Merlot. He’d brought the plant over, intending to give it to Aziraphale with a harmless and painstakingly pre-determined speech. He’d prepared several options:
“I thought this might brighten up the dust mites,” followed by a good humored laugh and eye roll from the angel.
Or, a safe: “It doesn’t really go with my other plants, you know.”
Or: “You brought this into the world, it’s your responsibility now, angel.”
Or, the pathetic and prohibited option: “Hello, I’m painfully in love with you and wanted to do something nice so here you are, have a nice day.”
Instead, he’d ended up saying something along the lines of: “Um. This is for you, because…hrfhgk.” He couldn’t quite be sure of the last part; he’d blacked it out as soon as he said it. Whatever it was, Aziraphale had blushed and looked nearly on the verge of tears when he’d accepted with a slightly breathless, “Thank you, my dear.”
Four awkward and booze-ridden hours later, Crowley is sprawled on Aziraphale’s couch, Aziraphale reclined in the armchair across from him, and it’s no good. The more he drinks, the harder it becomes to forget Aziraphale’s face when he handed over the plant, or how his hands had stroked over the leaves and petals so reverently, the way he carefully placed it in a sunny corner of the shop. Crowley’s been staring at his plump, neat fingers for the better part of an hour while Aziraphale recounts some story from the eighteenth century. He stopped listening ten minutes ago. He’s fascinated by his hands, picturing how they might feel on his face, or spread over his ribs. He’d worship those hands, if Aziraphale would let him. Worship is as foreign to him now as the warmth of Heaven, but with Aziraphale he covets, he feels an ancient desire to exalt spread through his to his core. He wants to idolize the swell of his lips, venerate the curve of his belly, the crook of his shoulder. He loved God, once, but it wasn’t enough. Perhaps if he’d loved Her with even a fragment of the way he loves Aziraphale, if he’d worshipped Her the way he worships the tendrils of Aziraphale’s curls, or the light in his smile, he’d never have fallen.
He swallows, forcibly dragging his thoughts back to a safer place. He has a tendency to think out loud, as evidenced by the way he talks to his plants, and it’s especially bad when he’s been drinking. His plants have unfortunately witnessed many a drunken rambling. (Despite everything, he is exceedingly thankful to the Almighty for not giving them the power of speech).
“Are you alright, my dear?”
Aziraphale’s voice breaks through the haze. His expression is mildly concerned when Crowley manages to drag his gaze up to his face. “You’re muttering quite a lot.”
Shit. Out loud, then.
“Sorry. What about?” Crowley asks dazedly.
“Well,” Aziraphale begins, leaning forward to pluck the wine bottle from Crowley’s grasp. “A bit about hands, and God, and - falling.”
“’S nothing,” Crowley mumbles. He’s thankful he had the foresight to keep his glasses on; Aziraphale’s stare is piercing. “Did you sober up?”
“Just a tad,” Aziraphale admits. “You seem… a bit agitated.”
“‘M fine, Ziraphale,” Crowley slurs.
Distantly, he thinks that he should probably sober up as well. It’s too risky, given his current mental state, and the fact that he’s still perseverating on Aziraphale’s hands, which are resting anxiously on the armrests of his chair.
“D’you ever think about it?” is what happens instead, words spilling from his throat against his will.
“Think about what?”
“‘Bout… If I were. If we’d still, if we would… y’know.”
“Crowley, dear, you’re not making sense.”
He closes his eyes, groaning when the room spins. He gestures at nothing in particular in his frustration. “If I were an angel. Would we still… y’know. Friends.”
Aziraphale snorts. It surprises him enough to open his eyes and loll his head around to glare at Aziraphale, chuckling to himself.
“Oh, Crowley,” says Aziraphale, affectionately and full of mirth. “You wouldn’t even know me if we were still in Heaven, dear boy.”
“What?” Crowley squawks, pulling himself up with significant difficulty to face Aziraphale head on. “And why not? What in Heaven are you on about?”
He can’t explain why he’s so defensive. Aziraphale didn’t know him in Heaven, and they are still here. Still friends, still together. It was just a hypothetical question. Truthfully, he can’t even conceive of an existence where he didn’t know him at all, and the thought that Aziraphale apparently can twists unpleasantly in his gut.
“Well, you were quite a few leagues above my class, Crowley. Archangels typically don’t, ah - socialize with Principalities, you know.”
Crowley feels his mouth gaping but is too far gone to do anything about it. “You knew?”
Aziraphale smiles, patient and gentle.
“Darling… of course I knew. You were radiant,” Aziraphale beams. All the breath leaves Crowley in a rush. “It was impossible not to know you, everywhere you went shimmered red and gold. When you fell, you took all the light of Heaven with you.”
“Aziraphale,” Crowley croaks.
“Lucifer may have been the Morningstar, but no angel ever shone the way you did. I knew you the moment I saw you in Eden,” Aziraphale continues, with no apparent regard for Crowley’s sanity. “Even in your human form, even as a serpent. I’d have to be blind not to.”
“But you didn’t - you never said - “ Crowley stammers. He can’t get the words out, has nearly stopped breathing entirely.
“You’d been through so much, and made yourself anew,” Aziraphale explains with a shrug. “And you never mentioned it. I didn’t want to bring up unpleasant memories.”
He shakes his head. His memories of Heaven aren’t unpleasant, per se. Not the early ones. They are dull, most of them, full of monotonous duties and rules and endless prayer. The only days worth remembering are the first, when he blinked awake into existence, bursting with purpose. Purpose to create and build for his Almighty, his greatest and only love. Once all that was done, it was eons of brilliant color slowly fading to grey, of numbness, everything blurring together until he couldn’t remember the point of any of it. Until Lucifer started asking questions, the very same ones he hadn’t yet dared speak out loud, and ignited the long extinguished fire in him, gave him purpose again.
Aziraphale’s voice is trembly. Without warning, he leans forward and takes Crowley’s hands between his own, immediately turning his brain to static. Only it’s the kind of static that’s reserved just for him, three words repeating on an endless loop for all eternity. God’s final torment, tailor made just for Crowley.
I love you, he thinks in the garden, sudden and unexpected, and the vice around his soul loosens. He hasn’t felt love since he was cut off from it’s source, since Heaven cast him out along with the remainder of his grace, and the shock of it nearly sends him over the edge of the wall. He teaches himself to breathe that day, when the human heart in his chest beats too fast for his body to catch up.
I love you, he thinks on the peak of a mountain, Aziraphale rigid beside him as they watch the world drown. “Come away, my dear,” Aziraphale says, pulling him down the mountain. “You don’t need to watch this.” The great boat bobs in the distance, and for the first time the regret that’s suffocated him since his fall eases, just a little.
I love you, he thinks in the dim light of the popina, watching blue eyes shine as their cups clink together. His mouth curls into a smile, the first one he can remember in a few centuries.
I love you, he thinks in the pit of The Globe. Aziraphale beams brighter than any sun he’s ever seen.
I love you, he thinks when Aziraphale says his name like a prayer in a dark cell in Paris.
I love you, he thinks when Aziraphale storms away without a backwards glance. The note burns, and his heart is racing, fear and regret still palpable in the air.
I love you, he thinks in a doomed church in London, skin burning as he wills Aziraphale’s books not to. I love you, he thinks when Aziraphale saves him, and tells him he’s kind, and again when Aziraphale’s fingers brush against his. He still burns when he staggers home hours later.
I love you, he thinks as Aziraphale climbs out of the Bentley, Crowley’s hands clenched tight around the salvation he’s gifted him, sealed away in a tartan thermos, a last ditch effort to beg Crowley to keep his unspoken promise.
I love you, he thinks, again and again before the worlds ends, terrified that it’s spilling out of him like an overfilled dam, that he’ll burst one day and drown them both in it.
I love you, he thinks in a gazebo in the dying light of day, Aziraphale’s rejection ringing in his ears.
I love you, he thinks on the floor a burning bookshop, as the world ends ahead of schedule.
I love you.
I love you.
I love you.
He thinks too much.
“I love you.”
Aziraphale goes still, and says nothing while Crowley’s heart rabbits in his throat. His mouth feels like cement, but his lips are parted, so he must have said it out loud. His vision swims, blurring Aziraphale’s expression, and it might be tears that are swimming in his eyes but he refuses to blink. Before he can make sense of anything Aziraphale’s hands tighten, and he knows by the heavy weight in his stomach that the words are out there, hanging in the air around them.
“Crowley,” Aziraphale says finally. He can’t interpret anything from his voice, and his face is still a blur. “I… I need you to sober up, please.”
Hell. He’s in Hell. This is all a terrible joke, nothing conceived on earth could torture him like this. His throat makes a horrible ragged sound that he can’t recall ever making before.
He blinks. His cheeks are wet, and now he can see clearly that Aziraphale is frowning. Aziraphale leans closer. He releases Crowley’s hands, removes his sunglasses and cradles his face between his own.
“I need you to sober up, my dear. Quickly, please.”
He closes his eyes and obeys, sinking dread nestling in his bones. Aziraphale is too kind to let him down when there’s a chance he might not remember, when he might repeat and embarrass himself at a later date. Clarity returns to him in with a sharp throb in his skull; he keeps his eyes screwed shut. Aziraphale’s thumbs stroke over his cheeks so gently he can’t stand it.
“Crowley. Look at me.”
He does, with a massive effort deserving of some kind of award.
“Say it again.”
Aziraphale’s eyes are wet too, he realizes. He swallows hard, touches Aziraphale’s hands on his face. They slide down his arms to grip at his elbows, and his fingers curl in the fabric of Aziraphale’s coat.
“I love you,” he repeats quietly.
They’ve done this dance as long as humanity has existed. Crowley lays himself bare, from the smallest gesture to an explicit confession: Aziraphale pulls back, avoiding him for centuries at a time. Humanity prospers, humanity falls. Lather, rinse, repeat. Somedays, the tiny bud of hope he allows to reside in his chest blooms when Aziraphale smiles at him, or when he catches Aziraphale watching him when he thinks Crowley isn’t looking. It flowers, full and bright, and lets him think that maybe something has changed. He’s felt it more since they escaped the apocalypse. Aziraphale has been more reachable, like that sky high wall he’d built has finally started to crumble under Crowley’s incessant hands. Even so, his chest aches as he watches the way Aziraphale’s face changes, blind in his panic, unable to read the face he’s studied for six thousand years. He could sooner predict when the next supernova will occur in the Andromeda galaxy than he could guess what Aziraphale is thinking right now.
“Crowley,” Aziraphale utters, whisper soft. “Can I kiss you?”
His frail human heart literally shuts down. He’s kept it beating for so long, and now his vessel will die because of four blessed words.
“Can I kiss you?” Aziraphale repeats, patient as ever. Abruptly his heart starts beating again, ratcheting up to what has to be an unhealthy speed, and takes his breath away.
“Yes,” Crowley answers, desperation thick in his voice. “Yes, you never need to ask that again - “
Aziraphale’s mouth shuts him up. His hands are still on his face as he presses soft, barely there kisses to his lips. Crowley’s skin feels too tight; he does his best to kiss back but he’s falling apart in Aziraphale’s hands.
“Angel,” he whispers when Aziraphale pulls away slightly. “Angel…”
Crowley kisses him, and when Aziraphale guides his face to slot their lips together he says it again, over and over and over.
Eventually Aziraphale’s hands travel lower, stopping when he reaches his hips. Without breaking the kiss he tugs, until Crowley gets the message and clambers off the couch and into Aziraphale’s lap. Aziraphale locks his arms around Crowley’s waist, and Crowley makes a truly embarrassing sound when he feels Aziraphale’s tongue flick over his bottom lip.
“Crowley,” Aziraphale pants when they break apart. “Crowley you - you must know that I love you too. Forgive me for not saying so already, I only… I wanted you to know how I loved you.”
Crowley doesn’t speak, probably couldn’t even if he tried. Aziraphale is looking at him in a way that he’s seen so many times, but only now recognizes for what it is. He shudders when Aziraphale strokes a hand over his cheek.
“I am in love with you, Crowley,” he continues. He must have some sense that it’s exactly what Crowley needs to hear, or perhaps Crowley is just broadcasting it for anyone to see. He can hear the relief in his voice, the same as he felt, like learning to breathe again.
“I need you to understand that, that it’s not just the imperative way I love all of God’s creation. It’s just for you.” Aziraphale’s hand trails down, cupping Crowley’s neck, easing the tremor in his throat with his thumb. “I’ve known it for a very long time, though it took much too long for me to acknowledge what it was.”
He presses a soft kiss to Crowley’s eyelids, then his cheeks. Crowley tangles his hands in his hair and leans forward, forehead against Aziraphale’s. His hands are restless, greedily carding through the soft curls before settling on his neck. Aziraphale just smiles, eyes closed and face tipped up to Crowley’s, like he’s basking in his warmth, though it’s Crowley with serpent blood.
“You don’t need to speak, darling. I know,” Aziraphale says softly, eyes still closed.
Crowley exhales hard, wants to burrow in Aziraphale’s chest, to rest in the place where he’s known better than he knows himself.
“Can I - “ Crowley starts, clears his throat. His hands travel down Aziraphale’s chest, hovering at his waist, hoping he’s still traveling on whatever wavelength Crowley is projecting his thoughts and desires onto.
“Please,” Aziraphale sighs, leaning up to press their mouths together.
Crowley touches his hips as Aziraphale takes over the kiss, slowly licking into Crowley’s mouth in a way far more sinful than any of Crowley’s temptations. He manages to get his hands under Aziraphale’s coat and trace the skin underneath, and Aziraphale makes a low, desperate sound that he wants to hear everyday.
He’s warm all over, nerve endings firing fast enough to make his head spin, sharply tugging behind his navel. He’s only felt this a few times, and never with anyone else. Aziraphale’s hands wander to his neckline, and his mouth follows, tracing soft kisses along his jaw down to his collarbone.
“Lovely,” Aziraphale murmurs. “You’re so beautiful, Crowley.”
Thunder crackles to life outside, and a lightbulb shatters somewhere in the bookshop. Crowley moans, an undignified sound that he has no control over. Aziraphale’s tongue swipes over his pulse point, and he flushes with a very sudden and annoyingly human self consciousness.
“Aziraphale,” he says, flushing harder when he hears how high and strangled his voice has gone. “Aziraphale I haven’t - I’ve never - “
Aziraphale leans back to look at him. He cups Crowley’s face in his hands gently.
“It’s alright, dear,” he says, smiling and holding Crowley like a fragile, precious thing. “Shall we stop, take things slower?”
His voice is still unreasonably shaky, but he takes back a little control to be as emphatic as he can. He leans down and presses his lips to Aziraphale’s skin, to the first place he can reach, which ends up being the divot between his nose and mouth. He works his way over to his lips, tasting the sweet wine on his tongue, shivering when Aziraphale makes that noise again.
“No,” Crowley repeats against his mouth. He kisses him again and scoots back, toying with the buttons of his waistcoat. “Just thought you ought to know all the facts, before we... you know, in case - “
“There is nothing you could say to make me change my mind, Crowley,” Aziraphale interrupts firmly. “Put that ridiculous thought out of your mind.”
“It’s not ridiculous,” Crowley argues, hands stilling on Aziraphale’s waist. “I’m a demon, remember? This is textbook corruption, angel, forgive me for having some hangups about - about this.”
“‘Corruption’ insinuates that I don’t want this, that I don’t want you,” Aziraphale says. “And I do, Crowley. Very, very much.”
Crowley swallows again, eyes falling shut of their own accord. Aziraphale tips his head up with a finger under his chin.
“Unless... you’re worried I’m the one corrupting you.”
Crowley’s eyes snap open. Aziraphale has that particularly devious grin on his face, the one he typically adores but at this moment would like to wipe off his face.
“Now who’s being ridiculous,” Crowley mutters, pulling Aziraphale in by his lapels and kissing the smirk off his face.
Several minutes later finds them panting, pulling and yanking at various items of clothing. Aziraphale laughs softly in his mouth when Crowley’s legs get tangled up removing his pants. Crowley bites his lip in retaliation, but it just makes Aziraphale groan and pull him closer. They get as far as Aziraphale’s trousers before Crowley lets loose a frustrated growl, unwilling to part long enough for them to take off the last bits the human way.
“Sod this,” he mutters, snapping his fingers and ridding them both of their undergarments.
Aziraphale gasps when Crowley settles back in his lap and they slide together. Crowley groans and sinks his teeth into Aziraphale’s shoulder, the warm expanse of Aziraphale’s skin beneath him better than he imagined. He melts into Aziraphale, already nearly out of his mind, and it takes several tries for Aziraphale’s voice to register.
“Crowley? Are you alright, sweetheart?”
Sweetheart. Damn him and his terms of endearment, far too loving for someone like him, turning his very blood to molten gold.
“Yes,” Crowley responds. “Sorry.”
Slowly he lifts his head; Aziraphale’s eyes are everywhere, fingers painting a pattern only he can see over Crowley’s torso.
“Don’t apologize,” says Aziraphale, reaching to brush Crowley’s hair from his forehead. “I just wanted to get a good look at you.”
“It’s nothing you haven’t seen before,” Crowley says, though he’s similarly entranced with Aziraphale’s body, unable to stop his hands from running over the swell of his hips.
“Not true,” Aziraphale shakes his head. “Do you know, I think you’re impossibly more beautiful now than you were in Heaven.”
Crowley whimpers. He’s not proud of it.
“Angel, you can’t just - I’m - “
“Shhh,” Aziraphale hushes him.
He kisses Crowley, and then without warning his hand closes around him. Crowley jerks, chokes out Aziraphale’s name and breathes harshly into his mouth. Aziraphale does something and then his hand is slick, sliding and twisting in a way that makes Crowley squirm.
“Angel, fuck,” he gasps, muscles in his thighs tensing, hips thrusting helplessly.
“You’re doing wonderful, darling,” Aziraphale says, drawing a long moan from Crowley’s throat. He crushes their mouths together to drown it out, but Aziraphale keeps going, intent on watching him come apart. “Seeing you like this… I wish you knew, I wish you could see - “
He stops, cut off by a sharp moan when Crowley slumps further forward and ruts against his cock. His eyes flutter, and Crowley spends a long moment memorizing the sounds he makes.
“I do see, angel,” he breathes, lips ghosting over Aziraphale’s.
Aziraphale comes back to himself and kisses back. His own hips move, picking up the pace with soft little cries and exhalations of Crowley’s name. Crowley buries his hands in his hair again as they rock together, feeling himself hurtle closer to the edge, heat flaring in his veins and pooling tight in his abdomen.
It’s too much, and not enough. He wants more. His mouth finds Aziraphale’s, then his jaw, trailing down to flick a tongue against a nipple.
“Crowley,” Aziraphale cries.
“Aziraphale, I need - “
“I know,” he says breathlessly, because of course he does. His hand tightens, and it doesn’t matter what Crowley needs, he’s too far gone now anyway. “I know, darling. Next time, we’ll take our time,” Aziraphale promises.
“Next time,” Aziraphale continues, Crowley writing in his grip. “I’ll draw out these lovely little sounds every way I can, every way you want, and tell you how perfect you are - “
Crowley comes with a shout, and while he’s hovering the closest he’s been to Heaven since his fall, he’s vaguely aware of Aziraphale following suit. He feels the evidence spill hot between them, and hears his own name repeated over and over like a prayer. His head lolls forward onto Aziraphale’s shoulder as they ride it out, pressing open mouthed kisses to his neck. He’s limp in Aziraphale’s arms, which are looped around his waist, fingers grazing the small of his back absently.
Slowly his senses return to him, and he realizes that the electricity is shot from lightning storm that’s stopped just as suddenly as it started. The smell of roses drifts into the room. Later they’ll discover the garden of them that has manifested in the aisles and shelves of the bookshop behind them, red, pink, and yellow enveloping every square inch. He twitches his fingers lazily, tickling Aziraphale’s jaw, and the lights flicker back to life.
“Really, my dear,” Aziraphale whispers fondly, lips pressing against his hair.
I love you, he thinks, curled around him in the dim light of their refuge, with the scent of roses in the air.
“I know,” Aziraphale answers.