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an arrangement of sorts

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Aziraphale set the bottle of wine down in front of Crowley; it produced a dull thudding noise against the wooden table. Crowley lifted his sunglasses off, regarding the bottle with wide eyes, specifically the date. He whistled low, impressed, then said “What’s the occasion, angel?”

Aziraphale chucked. “Don’t play dumb, my dear.”

Crowley pulled a face, mentally flipping though every important date he could think of; there were a lot of them, but none of them were todays. “I’m at a loss,” he admitted.

The dull ache of hurt flickered through Aziraphale for a moment, but he quickly disregarded it. They hadn’t exactly discussed this prior, and they hadn’t made an enormous deal out of the date on the day of in the first place. Besides, the calendar had changed since then. Even without that in mind, Crowley was so sparsely affectionate, it was as though he sometimes forgot about them all together.

“Think again,” Aziraphale prompted. “Anything you and I did in particular around this time?”

A pensive look crossed over Crowley’s face for a long moment, and then it seemed to click. He sat up a little straighter in his seat and snapped his finger in recognition. “Ah!” he said softly, a smug smile on his face. “Our anniversary.”

Aziraphale smiled and sat down next to him; he almost reached out and took his hand, but he thought better of it. If Crowley had gone all this time without initiating, he must not be a fan. “A very special occassion, indeed.”

They looked at each other for a moment, and then Crowley looked away more hurriedly than he’d like, clearing his throat and replacing his sunglasses in an almost self conscious manner. “How kind of you to think we should celebrate.”

“Of course we should celebrate,” Aziraphale said warmly; he reached out and picked the wine bottle back up. “A thousand years is a long time.”

“Yes, I suppose it is,” Crowley said. He watched him open the wine, and then stood dumbly to fetch two glasses.

“Oh, don’t,” Aziraphale said, and the glasses were on the table where they hadn't been a moment ago. “Sit down, my dear. Enjoy yourself.”

Aziraphale had hoped it was a strong enough hint to make Crowley comfortable, but when he sat back down he still left a fairly large gap of space between them. Aziraphale sighed, trying to make it a happy sound, as he poured him his glass.

“Cheers,” Aziraphale said, holding his glass up as Crowley had already been going in for his first sip.

“Oh, er—” he hastily raised his glass up, clinking it against the angel’s. “Cheers.”

They both took a sip; Aziraphale made a comment about the quality of the wine and how it had aged. Crowley agreed blindly with a curt nod of his head.

He took another sip, then a small smile settled on his lips. “Feels a little silly.”

“What does, dear boy?” Aziraphale asked.

Crowley held the glass up. “This,” he admitted. “Celebrating the anniversary of our little… arrangement.”

Aziraphale chuckled. “If you call it that, sure. Feels silly, then.”

He took another sip while Crowley stared at him. “What else would I call it?”

“Call it what it is, my dear,” Aziraphale prompted, secretly hoping to hear Crowley say the words himself.

Crowley was silent for a moment. “A… partnership?”

Aziraphale laughed a little harder. “Certainly,” he said, amused.

Crowley frowned. “What am I not getting?”

Aziraphale shook his head. “Nothing, my dear. We’re celebrating our arrangement, that’s all.”

“Why did you say it like that?” Crowley asked skeptically, his tone hinting strongly at his frustration.

Aziraphale blinked. “Like what?”

“Sarcastically,” Crowley said. “Like our arrangement isn’t an arrangement.”

Aziraphale stared at him for a very long moment, reeling. He opened his mouth, and then quickly closed it, trying to pick his words carefully. “Crowley?”

“Yes?” the demon in question answered, eager for an answer.

“What do you think our arrangement is?”

Crowley blinked for the first time in a while. He sat back, a little surprised. “It’s…”

He thought about it; it was hard to explain. “It’s a partnership.”

“Of what sort?” Aziraphale pressed.

Crowley grew very agitated. “You know…” he made a vague gesture with his free hand.

“What does—” Aziraphale mimicked the gesture, “—mean?”

“You know,” Crowley hissed, frustrated. “It’s… it’s a pact. Something to ensure neither of our employers get suspicious… you’re discreetly doing your thing, I’m discreetly doing mine, but neither of us are really doing anything when we’re together because we’re…”

Aziraphale perked up; maybe this hadn’t been a misunderstanding after all. Maybe he really would get to hear Crowley say it. Maybe he’d even get to hold his hand. “Yes?”

Crowley looked away from him. “… just friends.”

Aziraphale sucked in a breath of air so sharply, it made Crowley jump a little bit. Before he could inquire, Aziraphale set his glass sternly on the table and looked at him sharply. “Crowley.”

“What?!” Crowley asked, unsure of what he’d done to make him so upset. All he’d said was that they were friends, and wasn’t that the unfortunate truth?

“Are we not—?” Aziraphale cut himself off, an odd mix of hurt and confusion on his face. Tentatively but firmly, he reached forward and took Crowley’s free hand in his. It inspired a light flush on his cheeks, just has Aziraphale had always expected it would.

“The drawing up of those papers?” he asked. “The words we exchanged before signing, the fact that we celebrated afterwards? That was just… a business deal to you?”

Crowley blinked again, and Aziraphale couldn’t stand not seeing what his eyes always managed to betray. He reached up with his free hand and took his sunglasses off, gently; that look of adoration was still set in Crowley’s wide eyes, and yet…

“What was it to you?” Crowley asked, and he seemed to be genuinely dumbfounded.

Aziraphale sat back sadly, letting go on Crowley’s hand. He didn’t catch the way it twitched as he pulled away, almost chasing after the small bit of intimacy. “Oh, dear…”

What?” Crowley asked, brow furrowing in frustration. “Spit it out, angel.”

Aziraphale made an embarrassed little noise that he tried to pass off as a laugh, then sat back up, folding his hands in his lap. “Excuse me,” he said sheepishly. “I’ve made quite the mistake.”

The frustration washed off Crowley’s face in a instant, replaced for a split second with an odd sadness, but then even that washed away, leaving him looking confused.

Aziraphale continued. “See, my dear boy, I thought… well, put simply, I thought we’d gotten married.”

Crowley dropped his wine glass on the floor; it shattered spectacularly.

Aziraphale jumped, both at the sound of the glass breaking and the splash of wine that had still been inside. Crowley didn’t react at all, staring straight ahead, unblinking. “Married.”

“Oh, dear,” Aziraphale muttered quietly, peering down at the stain that was seeping into the carpet. That was good wine. “Crowley—”

“Married,” Crowley repeated, expression unwavering.

“Yes,” Aziraphale said, sitting back up. “What a misunderstanding, I must say, I—”

Married,” Crowley repeated again, and Aziraphale frowned.

“My dear,” he said, then thought better of it; probably best to stop calling him that, now. “Crowley, if I—”

“You thought we were married ,” Crowley said, clearly struggling. “ Usssss?

Aziraphale frowned. “I apologize, but you must admit, it was a little more formal than most business partnerships I’ve ever witnessed.”

Crowley didn’t answer him; his mind seemed to have wandered far away. Aziraphale waited for a moment, then prompted him. “Crowley?”

No response; he was still staring wide eyed and unblinking at some fixed point just past Aziraphale. He tried again. “Crowley .”

He looked to him, then; made sickening eye contact, and an insurmountable amount of emotions flitted over his face. Aziraphale withered with guilt, and opened his mouth to apologize again, when Crowley suddenly spoke.

“You mean to tell me,” he said slowly, “that I could’ve been snogging you since 1020?”

Aziraphale blinked, startled. Crowley didn’t look away from him. “I… suppose?”

The wine glass was suddenly back in Crowley’s hand, the wine that had been seeping a dreadful stain into the carpet hardly getting a chance to settle back into its spot before Crowley tossed it back and drank it as quickly as he could. Wordlessly, he reached across the table and took Aziraphale’s abandoned glass, downing that one too. He sat still, frazzled; Aziraphale wasn’t quite sure what to say to him, so he stayed silent.

“Why didn’t you say something?” Crowley finally croaked.

“Well, I thought you knew,” Aziraphale insisted.

“We’ve never kissed!” Crowley exclaimed, looking at him, pained. “We’ve never hugged! We’ve never done anything! Certainly, couples—they should at least hold hands before they get married!”

“I didn’t think you liked anything like that,” Aziraphale admitted. “You never initiated.”

“I didn’t know it was an option!” Crowley said. “I’ve been suffering in silence for thousands of years and come to find out I could’ve kissed you on our wedding night! Which I mistook for a fucking business agreement!”

There was a beat, then Aziraphale asked softly, “Thousands of years?”

“Oh!” Crowley exclaimed, frustrated and embarrassed. He stood and paced to the other side of the room. “You’re a right bastard, you are, angel.”

Aziraphale bristled. “Well, did you think I held your hand on the battlefield for a laugh?” he asked. “And I’m still waiting on that wedding night kiss, by the way.”

Crowley gave him a startled look, as though he had just remembered how few people he’d kissed. They stared at each other for a moment; Crowley felt oddly vulnerable, and not just because he didn’t have his shades.

Finally, Aziraphale reached over and took the wine bottle, refilling both of the glasses calmly. “Come sit back down, my dear,” he said. “We’re celebrating, after all.”

Crowley slunk back over to the couch, sitting down next to Aziraphale and leaving no sliver of space between them.