The angel didn’t think he could be more explicit.
Aziraphale’s hand sat rather obviously upon the table between them. It braced itself against the tablecloth, splayed under the soft lighting, the ridges of his knuckles, the finely manicured nails, the thumb which brushed back and forth in a rhythm so slow as to be almost unnoticeable, all of it beckoning in a way that said, our own side. It sounded like touch me. Like take my hand.
But, for the first time he could remember in almost six millenia, Crowley didn't seem to be paying attention. The glasses made it difficult to tell (as they always did), but unless Crowley was performing some truly extraordinary feats, there was no way he was able to focus on the window over Aziraphale’s shoulder and whatever might be lying on the table at the same time.
Over the next three courses (the figs and a salad and the chicken, thanks so much) he inched his hand further towards the demon in gentle increments, though Crowley cruelly spared it not even the slightest glance. Crowley's gaze was focused on Aziraphale's face, or on the couple behind them that kept getting into tiny spats over every little thing, or the way the afternoon light glinted off the grand piano in the corner. Not even a fraction of a second spared for the offering between them.
At first, Aziraphale was only confused. Had Crowley simply not noticed? But this confusion rapidly morphed into miffed, and would have plunged straight into indignation if cooler thoughts hadn’t prevailed to provide a reason for Crowley’s reticince. A reason that might have had something to do with an argument, and a bandstand.
Hm. And the few thousand years of keeping him at arm’s length before that might also factor in somewhere.
Oh dear. He was going to have to get creative.
Crowley, for his part, thinks he’s doing very well indeed.
His own hands, which he has stopped many a time from reaching for Aziraphale's (or from ghosting over the angel's knee in the Bentley, or from brushing a golden curl from his face, or from smoothing down the lapels of Aziraphale's coat) are well practiced in the art of not being allowed to do what they wanted, and when they are not reaching for a fork, or gently curled around a wine glass, they are resting, almost demurely, at his sides. If they twitch every time Aziraphale’s thumb strokes against that damned tablecloth, that’s their own business and they had best resolve it quickly.
His eyes, however, have never learned their place.
Thank someone for the glasses, because at least he doesn’t have to suffer the indignation of Aziraphale wondering why Crowley can't stop staring at the hand on the table between them. He's tried all manner of tricks that have served him well over the past few hundred years: looking only into Aziraphale's eyes, watching how the light strikes the piano in the corner, glaring every once in a while at the couple behind them (now they're bickering over which fork to use, and with a quick twist of reality they're too busy enjoying the best salad either of them have ever eaten to try and cut into each other with clipped tones and hushed barbs). But again and again those treacherous eyes of his will drift downward, and before he can even realize what is happening Crowley is cataloging the lines of Aziraphale's fingers, a cartographer tracking the tributaries of veins beneath the skin, the valleys and hills of knuckles, the -
No. Focus on his eyes. There is a lilt in Aziraphale's voice, as if he's asked a question, and Crowley nods politely, in the manner of anyone who has dragged themselves out of their own thoughts and tried to catch up on a conversation to which they were, at best, only marginally paying attention.
It's not Aziraphale's fault. He doesn't even realize he's doing it, just like he doesn't realize what it does to Crowley when he fixes that wide, beatific smile upon him. (Like the sun shining at the bottom of the sea, like a torch in a cave that’s known nothing but darkness.) Crowley can still hear we're not friends , can still hear himself screaming for Aziraphale over the roar of a bookshop fire that's been erased from everyone but him and he knows that if Aziraphale notices his staring, or worse, if he took the hand Aziraphale doesn't know he's offering, it would be you go too fast for me and goodnight, Crowley. He can control himself. He can be good , because the alternative is no Aziraphale at all, and the idea of being alone right now feels a bit like the way your stomach drops out when you’re teetering on the edge of a precipice before a black and bottomless abyss.
So no reaching, no looking, and Aziraphale will stay beside him and prattle on about the most wonderful, nonsense things.
Until dessert arrives.
Crowley had ordered nothing but scotch, because he is operating under the mistaken assumption that all of this might be a little more manageable if he could just put a bit of a haze around the edges of his thoughts. Aziraphale had, predictably, ordered a lavish confection topped with ice cream, and upon its arrival welcomes it with one of those delighted sort of wiggles of his that makes Crowley want to roll his eyes and bite down on the inside of his cheek simultaneously. Aziraphale eagerly tucks in to his dessert, making sounds that should be illegal in polite company and are not improving Crowley’s circumstances in the least bit. He takes a sip of his Glenmorangie that is too much, and tries to concentrate on the smooth burn all the way down his throat.
"How's your drink? Aziraphale asks. Crowley drops his gaze from the glass to see Aziraphale staring at him, and it prickles the back of his neck to see him stare so intently.
"It's fine.” A wary reply. Aziraphale has that tone, the one that means he is about to ask for something without just coming out and stating it, and Crowley is already running a diagnostic, trying to guess at what Aziraphale wants. More dessert? A drink of his own? "Pretty amazing, actually," he continues, to give himself more time, because the angel is giving him no clues he can recognize. He’s looking at Crowley much the same way he did back at the hospital-that-was-not-a-hospital, when Crowley had shoved him against the wall.
“Could I try?” Aziraphale looks like he’s made a decision. There is steel in his eyes and a set line to his jaw, and Crowley doesn’t know what is going on at all .
“Sure?” He extends his arm towards the angel, casually offering him the glass, only to find Aziraphale is - Aziraphale is…
Aziraphale is kissing him.
There's a moment where Crowley doesn't know what to do, should he be moving, should he say something, what is he supposed to do with his hands (they flail at the periphery of his awareness, untethered). The few cells left with enough conscious thought to salvage the situation take over and then he is kissing back, moving his lips against Aziraphale's, tasting the buttery, flaky crust of the pie, the warm slide of the vanilla ice cream, learning how it mingles with the spice and cream of the scotch. It's heavenly. Aziraphale smells like heaven too, and like brimstone and holy water, like starlight and oak, and Crowley has the absurd desire to crawl inside his heart and live there, where it's warm and safe and he can feel the love pressing in on him for the rest of time.
Is this our own side ?
“It is rather good, at that," Aziraphale mumbles into his mouth.
Later, Crowley will wonder if Aziraphale is still talking about the drink. Now, there is a high pitched noise going off in his head, and Aziraphale has retreated back into the sphere of his own seat (Crowley's hands try to grab after him, keep him here, close, before they remember what isn't allowed), saying something to Crowley but the words sound like they’re coming at him from underwater. Refraction. Or something like that.
“What?” Crowley mumbles, when his voice decides to try functioning again.
“Are you alright?” a pink flush sits high on Aziraphale’s cheeks. Crowley imagines is a pale imitation of his own. “I didn’t - I just thought that -” Aziraphale’s hands begin twitching in front of him, and Crowley reaches through six millenia of conditioning to trap one of them in both of his. Aziraphale’s hand is warm, and soft, and relaxes the moment it comes in contact with Crowley’s.
“Yes.” Crowley cannot stand to look at Aziraphale’s face now, and focuses on their joined hands. “Of course I’m fine, angel. Never… never been better. But -”
“My dear, I think this is a conversation for the bookshop, don’t you?” Crowley closes his eyes and nods fervently, miracling the bill paid and the table cleared.
Aziraphale will find the rest of his dessert waiting for him at home, and the ice cream wouldn’t dare to melt.
That’s later, though.
Now, and angel and a demon stroll out of the Ritz, hand in hand. Crowley wears a certain look familiar only to someone who has not only been granted a stay of execution, but been pardoned entirely and handed one of those big novelty checks for ten million or so on their way out the prison gates. And Aziraphale? Well.
Aziraphale looks like he's finally stepped through a door he's been holding open for several thousand years, and, inside, found everything he ever wanted.