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like a prayer for which no words exist

Chapter Text

There are places [1] Crowley likes to go when it all gets to be a little much, like a snake seeking a hole for refuge from a storm. That Aziraphale is the storm is surprising, or maybe not surprising at all. These places are holy - lowercase h - in that they are undisturbed, protected, and treasured. A reprieve. An indrawn breath before drowning. They are places Crowley goes that Aziraphale does not visit. That’s not to say that the angel doesn’t know where they are, simply that he does not go where Crowley does not ask for him.

[1] A rooftop garden in New York City. A cozy nook inside St. Paul’s. A patch of red dirt outside Tuscon, Arizona. An old iron bench just outside Kensington Gardens. The bosom of Eden.The edge of the World. Others, dozens maybe, that Crowley knows by feel and not name.

He’s in New York two days after the Apocolypse-That-Wasn’t, high up in a humid class cage full of shivering plants that know both fear and reverence. The Orchids have become fussy in his absence refusing to stand straight out of pure defiance. The English Ivy, the oldest, grows thick and lovely in creeping vines along the ceiling and walls. It almost seems to sigh at Crowley as he brandishes a pair of shears menacingly at the disobedient Orchids.

“Not you as well,” Crowley sneers, shaking the shears at the wall, “I won’t hear it.”

In the corner a Snake Plant shakes almost fondly. Crowley hisses, terrible yellow eyes drawn into slits, and it stops moving, its tall leaves stretching skyward as if in surrender. Crowley clicks his tongue and goes back to fussing with the Orchids.

“Don’t know why I even bother. I should just bin the lot of you.”

He does not. Crowley has known these plants for a long time. He takes a seat on the floor amongst empty pots and potting soil, dirt on his hands and smudged along a sharp cheekbone because he allows it to be. There’s something satisfying about the mess. He wonders, vaguely and quite without meaning to, if that is how She feels about Her Creation. Crowley snarls and kicks out at the leg of a table. It wobbles, the pots atop it shuddering with the force, before going still.

An impossible Honeysuckle bush in the opposite corner blooms for him, sickly sweet in her smell. The orchids finally stand upright, maybe sensing the shift in their Master’s mood or maybe just tired of being contrary. Crowley is no longer looking at them, however. His eyes have drifted up, through the English Ivy curling sweetly along the ceiling, where gray skies hang fat and heavy in the sky. The rain starts first as a light pat and, as Crowley watches, works its way to a torrent. Between this and the overwhelming smell of sweet Earth, Crowley can almost fall asleep.

It’s tempting, and Crowley does love temptations. A hundred year nap after The-End-That-Almost-Was feels well deserved, but Aziraphale gets dreadfully worried if Crowley is gone for too long. He’s startled by a creeping vine tangling around his ankle. He shakes his leg. “Off with you, you annoying little bugger.”

The vine squeezes once before letting go and all at once Crowley misses Aziraphale so dearly it makes his stomach ache. In a wild fit of temper he reaches for an empty pot to throw and smashes it against the wall.

smash

Then another-

smash

And another-

smash smash smash

Until he is left empty and the wall of Ivy is bruised.

Crowley moves then, shaking, standing to shove the table aside with less care than it deserves, cutting his feet open upon broken terra cotta. He rests a hand, gently now, on the Ivy and pulls away green fingers like he’d made it bleed. He puts his hand to the wall again, burying his hand amongst the leaves and pushes . “Dreadfully sorry old chap.” Crowley says and feels the Ivy pulsate around his fingers. [2]

[2] Long ago Aziraphale had given Crowley a little cutting of Ivy from the side of his bookshoppe. “Perhaps you can take up gardening,” the angel said wryly. The Ivy had pulsed in Crowley’s hand then as well, like it was trying to hold him.

Crowley untangled his fingers from the Ivy and it shivers once before stilling. He moves the table back into place and waves a hand dismissively at the floor, clearing the pots. The storm outside rages on and he paces, leaving bloody footprints along the concrete. The garden suddenly feels stifling and Crowley leaves without a word, letting the door clap closed behind him.

His place in Mayfair is bitterly cold when he lands. The rain in America had soaked him down to his bones, and the accompanying rain here is nothing short of depressing. Crowley drops his jacket in a puddle at the door, rolling his shoulders. In his shadow, along the wall, his wings tremble from the cold.  He drapes himself over the couch and turns his space heater on with a snap. The little machine wheezes and coughs a moment before turning on. It’ll be awhile before the room is warm enough to drive the chill from him but for now this is the best he can manage.

Not even a minute later there comes a polite but insistent knocking from the front door. Crowley groans, slinging an arm over his eyes. He knows the longer he makes Aziraphale wait [3] the worse it will be, but he can’t make himself answer the door. Crowley waves his hand, instead, and hears the front door click open.

[3] Who could it be but Aziraphale? No other being would bother knocking.

There’s a shuffling from the entry hall as Crowley imagines Aziraphale hanging up his coat and then doing the same with Crowley’s. He can almost see the wrinkled nose and furrowed brow that the angel would make seeing it there on the floor.

“What do you want, angel?” Crowley asks before Aziraphale is even properly in the room.

“Hullo my dear,” Aziraphale sounds cheery but also awfully worried, “I hadn’t seen you since - well, since-” Since they’d swapped bodies back; since Crowley had turned tail and ran from St. James’s Park like the Devil himself had been on his heels. “And I thought I might pop over for a bit, yeah? I brought a bottle of Chateau Haut-Brion from the cellar.”

Crowley sniffs a little and finally drags his arm from his eyes. Aziraphale looked windswept and a little damp, standing in the doorway with a bottle of needlessly expensive wine. Aziraphale smiles [4] and holds up the bottle.

[4] It was a vulnerable and easily broken smile, something Crowley felt wholly undeserving of.

Crowley makes himself sit up. “Uh, yeah, okay.” He sounds a bit stupid.

“I’ll get some glasses,” Aziraphale says and furrows his brow, “You’re awfully soaked my dear, maybe you should change clothes.”

The little space heater must be working overtime, Crowley feels a touch too warm and tugs at his collar. “I don’t need you to mother me,” he says without heat.

“Someone has to,” Aziraphale counters, not unkindly, and goes to find the wine glasses.

They stay up too late and drink too much wine. Aziraphale says it’s a celebration, that they’d prevented the World from ending. And certainly they had. The World, but not Crowley’s world. No. That had ended when Aziraphale had put his hand in Crowley’s and squeezed. When he had held on for a touch too long afterward and Crowley felt seen . It had felt too much like a promise. Crowley had never been good with those. And yet, it was hard to feel shattered with Aziraphale at his side now even if he did feel entirely undeserving of the attention.

Aziraphale’s necktie is askew and his hair fluffed from running his fingers through it too many times. He’s got his head tilted back in a laugh, more free than Crowley has seen him in centuries. His smile, when he turns it on Crowley, is beatific and absolutely sloshed.

“My dear,” Aziraphale says, loud and merry, “whatever are you staring at?”

You , Crowley thinks, You, blessed you . What he says is, “Your hair looks ridiculous. A proper bird’s nest.”

“My hair?” Aziraphale runs a hand through it again, tugging lightly at the front. “You think my hair looks ridiculous?”

“Utterly.”

“You- your hair is ridiculous!”

“That so, angel?”

“That’s so!”

“Hm.” Crowley brings his wine glass up to hide his smile.

“Don’t laugh at me,” Aziraphale cries petulantly, shooting forward to press a finger against Crowley’s lips as if to silence him.

Crash

Crowley jerks back, his wine glass on the floor in pieces, wine seeping down into the granite leaving stains like blood.

“Oh dear,” Aziraphale exclaims, “Oh my dear I’m so sorry.”

Crowley can barely hear him over the loud thump of his own heart. “That’s-” He clears his throat, “That’s quite alright.”

“I’ve ruined it, haven’t I?”

“Nothing a minor miracle can’t take care of.” Crowley’s going for nonchalant but he can’t look Aziraphale in his eyes.

“No I mean-“ Aziraphale’s weight shifts, the couch creaking below him, “Well I suppose I mean this, you and I?”

“I haven’t the faintest idea what you’re on about.”

“Crowley you won’t even look at me.”

Crowley does, just to be contrary. Aziraphale looks incredibly pained and sad. It’s reminiscent of another time, when Aziraphale had sat in the front of his Bentley and said “ you go too fast for me, Crowley.” “Honestly angel,” Crowley says and this time the lie burns , “I haven’t the foggiest what you’re going on about.”

Aziraphale’s mouth works, gaping like a fish out of water before closing. He frowns, lips pursed in a thin line, his face stony. “You’re right, of course, my dear boy,” He stands and makes a minor show of dusting off his slacks. Aziraphale is at once alarmingly sober. “I’ve got- I have business to attend to, back at the shop, so unfortunately I must take my leave.”

“Are you sure?”

“More so than you.” Aziraphale waves his hand and the mess on the floor clears itself. “Goodnight my dear.”

“Night,” Crowley echoes hollowly.

When Aziraphale leaves Crowley drops back onto his couch, like a marionette with its strings cut.

Crowley spends the next three days in the Sonoran Desert. It’s a place that feels both like birth and death, something that used to breathe life and now works so hard to sustain it. He remembers Eden [5] and can think of nothing else.

[5] At night he sits and stares upward at the stars, more than he can see even on the clearest night in London, his wings spread wide and high. The desert does not sleep around him, creeping scorpions and roaming serpents give him a wide berth but he can feel them. He feels more, here, than any other place he knows.

He could stay here forever, unbothered by humanity or the creatures around him. Just himself and the cacti and the stars. He used to spend centuries alone- invisible -but now it only takes a few days for the familiar ache to settle.

He’d come here to be away from Aziraphale, but he misses him just as deeply as if he’d stayed in London. Crowley slumps over the arm of a small saguaro, lets the pins press into his hands like tiny daggers just to feel something other than this constant ache.

The plant is unbothered by him, resolutely silent when he wails his despair.  A group of pronghorn dart away, startled by the sudden noise. A sidewinder slips between his feet and flicks a tongue upward in irritation.

Crowley rips the needles out of his palms with his teeth, digging into flesh and drawing blood. Deep dark red, the same color as wine splashed across his granite. He wants to go home. He wants to see Aziraphale. For the first time in a long time those both seem like different goals.

Aziraphale finds him two days later in St. James’s Park, splayed under a tree and hiding from the swollen dark rain clouds hanging pregnant in the sky. “Budge up,” Aziraphale says, taking a seat on the ground next to him. The air smells charged, like it’s waiting for lightning. Crowley grunts and slithers over closer to the trunk so Aziraphale can come further under the leaves.

They say nothing for a while. Crowley is used to companionable silences but this doesn’t feel like one. [6] Finally Crowley says, “I’m sorry.”

[6] This feels like they’re both choking on words they don’t know how to say and it’s left them speechless.

Aziraphale looks down at him, eyes wide with surprise, “My dear boy, whatever are you sorry for?”

‘Whatever I’ve done to make you seem so sad’ Crowley thinks. Crowley shrugs a shoulder sending a beetle scampering. “For last week I s’pose, I must’ve done something awful to make you leave in such a rush.”

“Ah,” Aziraphale looks away, his cheeks flushing a delicious pink, “I ought apologize myself for that, leaving in such a huff was very ill mannered of me. I was quite drunk.”

“S’fine.”

Aziraphale clears his throat, “Well, I suppose that’s settled.” His eyes find Crowley’s eyes again, even through the dark glass of his Valentinos and he smiles. “Lunch?”

They end up in Soho at a tapas place called Barrafinna. Aziraphale adores the tapas, Crowley is more in favor of the sherry. Crowley feels more at ease during lunch, like he had dining with Aziraphale in the days before the Apocolypse-That-Could-Have-Been and soon enough he’s letting Aziraphale tempt him into tiny bites from his plate. Twice Aziraphale feeds him with his fingers and Crowley’s ears nearly set to flame from burning. It’s all he can do not to bolt out the door.

Aziraphale dabs at his mouth with a napkin, making a pleased noise as he does. “Utterly scrumptious. Are uh, are you going to finish that my dear?”

Crowley shakes his head and pushes his dessert plate across the table.

“Ah, thank you.”

Crowley hums, chin resting in the palm of his hand. ‘I missed you’ he thinks, and then shakes himself for being silly because he’d only been gone a few days.

Aziraphale chews with his eyes closed, face scrunched up in something close to bliss. Underneath the table, Crowley squeezes his own knee with his free hand because suddenly he’d very much like to reach across the table and touch .

“Good?” Crowley asks, just for something so say, only so he doesn’t say anything stupid.

“Marvelous,” Aziraphale says and dabs at his mouth, “my dear you do always know the best places.”

“I could take you to more, now that the world is saved and all.”

“I would like that very much.” Aziraphale’s eyes are bright and his face is warm with something , but Crowley doesn’t dare try to read into it. Can’t allow himself to hope .

Crowley coughs and curls his hand over his mouth. “Well then, home now angel?”

Aziraphale goes uncomfortably quiet. “I thought,” he says carefully, “today might be a rather nice day for a drive.”

“Angel, it’s raining.”

“Not too bad, no,” Aziraphale says, “you can drive slow.”

“Well-”

“Come on Crowley, anywhere you want to go.”

Crowley closes his eyes and bites down on his tongue. He wants - he wants - “Alright,” he says, undone, “I’ll settle up.”

Aziraphale is already in the car by the time Crowley has settled the bill and made his way outside. He has a kind of vague knowledge that he may have left an outrageous tip, despite never having ever tipped before, but he can’t quite think straight at the moment. He feels a bit dreamy, if he’s honest.

The Bentley drives for him, mostly. Crowley’s a bit preoccupied with the way Aziraphale has his hands folded in his lap, the soft curve of his mouth, the gentle swell of his chest to pay attention to the road. Aziraphale is looking out the window at the falling rain and passing buildings. Crowley’s hand twitches on the wheel. What would Aziraphale say if he tried to take his hand? Crowley forces his focus back on the road and tightens his grip on the wheel.

The steady thrum of the Bentley’s windscreen wipers and the soft croon of Freddie Mercury’s voice fill the otherwise companionable silence in the cab. Aziraphale taps his fingers along with the tune [7], humming along like he almost knows the words. He might. Aziraphale has heard these songs almost as many times as Crowley has.

[7] It is a tune that may or may not have been inspired by a certain night with a certain musician, Crowley cannot confirm nor deny this. ( I can serenade and gently play on your heart strings / Be your Valentino just for you)

Crowley likes driving. He has for a hundred years. The focus of it, the ease. It’s like flying without the fear of falling and he does it now mindlessly, easing between lanes and creating spaces where there was none before. He slows down only when he sees Aziraphale’s knuckles turn white, when his mouth gets pinched in the way that means he’s about to be cross with him.

“Alright there angel?”

“I don’t see why you have to go so fast , my dear,” Aziraphale’s hand clenches in his lap when Crowley takes a turn at a speed unsuitable for both the weather and road conditions, “why are you in such a hurry?”

Is it really a hurry when it takes six millennia to get here? The Bentley slows further, without Crowley’s say so, until they’re moving at a sedate pace with the cars next to them. “Don’t know any other way to go, angel,” Crowley says almost absently.

Aziraphale turns his head and looks , really looks, like he’s trying to see inside of Crowley. Crowley squirms, snake-like, under his stare until it becomes too much and Crowley makes himself focus on the road.

“Where are we going, Crowley?” Aziraphale asks.

“Anywhere. Wherever I stop. Anywhere is good enough as long as you’re beside me.”

Aziraphale inhales sharply. He seems tremendously far away, sitting on the other side of the cab. Crowley grips the steering wheel so tight his knuckles turn white. He shouldn’t have- He should have been more careful about saying-

“Yes,” Aziraphale says and he sounds breathless , “Yes, alright.”

Crowley’s ears feel a bit pink. He drums his fingers along the steering wheel absently just for something to do.

It’s night by the time Crowley decides to stop the Bentley, somewhere south of Edinburgh. They’d stopped for dinner in Manchester and Aziraphale didn’t complain when they’d gotten back in the car and kept driving. He turns into a field, the Bentley whispering over the grass and not leaving tire tracks. He parks and the car goes blessedly silent.

It’s dark out here with nothing but the moon and stars for light, but Crowley can see just fine. Aziraphale is breathing easy and slow beside him. Crowley is staring and Aziraphale is staring right back and he can’t bring himself to break first.

Aziraphale clears his throat, “Well…”

“Well?” Crowley prompts, the corner of his lips tilting up. He leans forward against the wheel, all long limbed and loose.

Aziraphale’s hands twist in his lap, “Yes, well…” he trails off again and sighs. Before Crowley can cut in he picks back up again. “It’s very beautiful here, and the moon is so lovely and full tonight. It’s not often we get to see the stars.”

“I know,” Crowley hums. “This is one of mine, you know? I picked it for the stars and the smell of sweet grass. The wildflowers bloom madly in late spring.”

“You will have to bring me to see them, my dear,” Aziraphale smiles, “perhaps a picnic.”

Oh, I love you, Crowley thinks, heart hammering in his chest. I do love you. He hopes he looks more put together than he feels. Demons can’t love but Crowley is sick of being told what he can and cannot do. “Yes,” Crowley says past the lump in his throat, “I’ll make deviled eggs and you can make those damned cress sandwiches you’re so fond of.”

“Of course,” Aziraphale says, “and we’ll have wine, maybe a cake as well.” He pauses for a moment. “Crowley,” He says slowly, “what did you mean this place is one of yours? You don’t mean- Crowley, my dear boy, is this one of your hiding spots?”

“I don’t use this one often but yes.”

“And you brought me here.”

“Yes.”

“With you.”

“Yes angel, do keep up.”

Aziraphale’s face softens, like it did a week again in St. James’s Park. The way he says “oh Crowley ”, his eyes misty with tears, has Crowley half out of his skin. He can’t run away this time. Where would he go? Crowley buries his shaking hands in his lap and tries to bear it.

Aziraphale reaches across the cab - inches and millennia between them - and cradles Crowley’s jaw in his hand. Crowley sucks in a wet breath and blows it out, trembling.

“Crowley,” Aziraphale says again. His other hand finds Crowley’s and grips firm, steady. “You make me ever so happy.”

“Angel I-“

Dearest ,” Aziraphale leans in, close and closer, “how I love you.” Whispered, reverent, like a prayer.

Crowley closes his eyes tight against the welling of tears. “ Aziraphale .” He feels Aziraphale’s fingers drift up to his sunglasses, freezing there in question. “Yeah.” Aziraphale takes his sunglasses off and drags a thumb tenderly under his eye. Crowley opens his eyes. His chest aches, open and raw, at the warmth in Aziraphale’s face.

“Oh love,” Aziraphale murmurs, wiping an errant tear from Crowley’s cheek, “I’m sorry it took so long.”

“No,” Crowley breathes, “ no , Aziraphale I-“ he squeezes Aziraphale’s hand hard, “Angel I’ll ruin you.”

“Nonsense,” Aziraphale presses their foreheads together. They’re sharing breath and Crowley’s barely breathing. “You couldn’t if you tried. 

“I love you,” Crowley gasps and it hurts , “I love you, I love you, I love you-“ Aziraphale closes the space between them, capturing the words with his mouth.

Kissing Aziraphale is- It’s everything Crowley has been wanting since the Garden, when Aziraphale had shielded him with his wing from the first rain. It’s centuries of temptations and clandestine meetings, of lunches and wine and boxes of chocolate. Aziraphale is warm and steady and Crowley goes soft under him, opening himself to the one being in Creation he’s ever had concrete faith in.

When Aziraphale pulls away Crowley can’t help but chase after that mouth, his hand coming up to clutch at the lapel of Aziraphale’s jacket.

“I’m here love,” Aziraphale says, thumbing along his jaw, “you have me. For as long as you like.”

“Long as I like?” Crowley says thickly, his cheeks burning, “How’s eternity sound?”

“I’d like that,” Aziraphale says, eyes crinkling as he smiles.

Crowley breathes through the molten feeling in his chest. Aziraphale’s love feels like basking in the sun after spending eternity underground, blinding in its intensity. He laces their fingers together in his lap. Aziraphale presses his lips to Crowley’s temple and again to the thin skin under his eye.

They spend the night at a small hotel in Edinburgh, Crowley sprawled half across Aziraphale’s chest most of the night with Aziraphale’s hand in his hair. The drive back to London the next day is spent mostly in silence, their hands clasped securely in the narrow space between them. Aziraphale brings Crowley’s hand up to kiss his knuckles, rubbing the back of his hand with his thumb.

A month later they’re in New York City, Crowley opening the door to a rooftop greenhouse. Inside are impossible plants, flowers that quake in their pots when Crowley lets the door slam shut. There’s a handsome English Ivy that seems to wave hello from the ceiling. Aziraphale touches the creeping vines and smiles at Crowley.

“Lovely,” Aziraphale says, “Really beautiful.”

“Oh hush,” Crowley says, “you give them an inch and they’ll take a mile.”

“Nothing wrong with a little bit of positive reinforcement. You seem to enjoy it, as I recall.”

“Shut up,” Crowley whines, the tips of his ears going pink.

Aziraphale steps in to hold Crowley’s face in his hands. His fingers trace at Crowley’s ears. “Precious boy,” He says, leaning in to kiss his sharp cheekbone.

Across the room a Rose bush blooms, beautiful pink and red petals opening and releasing a sweet smell. A pot of green Carnations turn toward them. Above, that old English Ivy gently ripples.  

Crowley drops his head to Aziraphale’s collar, sighing softly. Aziraphale slides his hands up into Crowley’s hair, twirling dark red locks between his fingers. “I like this,” Aziraphale says, “I’m glad you decided to show me.”

“I like you.” Crowley says, punctuating it with a kiss to Aziraphale’s neck. He looks up to glare at his plants, “Don’t get any ideas, I’ll still bin the lot of you.”

Aziraphale laughs. “You won’t.”

He doesn’t.

Chapter Text

Two days after the Apocolypse-That-Wasn’t Aziraphale finds himself nestled in the corner of his newly reconstituted bookshoppe, settled low in his soft leather reading chair. He holds a book in his hand gifted to him a century ago by Crowley. It was a copy of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz that Aziraphale had read enough he’d had to recover the paperback in leather. It was typically kept at his bedside or under lock and key in the shop, out of sight and certainly not for sale. On the table at his elbow his tea has long gone cold. It’s been drizzling all morning, a soft patter in the background, light enough to turn to white noise. Aziraphale sighs and puts the book down, using his thumb to hold his place. He doesn’t know why he’s pretending, he hasn’t read a word in over two hours. He’s been too busy thinking about Crowley. [1]

[1] That seems to be his default state these days; thinking about Crowley.

Aziraphale finds a scrap piece of paper and slides it into his book. He reaches for his tea and it’s warm again with just a thought. He holds the cup with both hands for something to do. He wonders where Crowley ran off to. He’d been in such a hurry the other day, finding an excuse to run off just moments after they’d switched back to their proper bodies. Aziraphale has a sinking suspicion he’d disappeared to one of his secret places. It wouldn’t be hard to find Crowley if he wanted to, but that feels like a terrible breach of trust.

There are places Crowley goes, when the world gets to be too much. [2] Aziraphale has never stepped foot - or wing - inside one of these sacred places. Aziraphale has never needed something like that, or he has but it’s the same as the place he lives. His shop, his flat, is his own sacred place.

[2] Heaven and Hell might have a bit to do with it, he supposes. Heaven is vast and achingly empty, so Aziraphale craves his tight cramped space that he can share with someone who cares about him. Hell is overcrowded and everything is forcibly shared, that Crowley would want something of his own is no wonder.

He’d never realized before just how much time Crowley spent in his shop, winding about the book shelves or napping on the couch in the back room. Aziraphale can feel his absence like a physical thing. He feels cold all over and the tea does nothing to warm him up.

Outside the rain gains more strength, loud enough for Aziraphale to notice. He frets with his tea for a moment before deciding to open a bottle of wine. The old armchair groans when he lifts himself out of it. His knees pop, more because he thinks they should than any actual need from his body. He potters about in his wine closet, running a hand absently over the labels.

He has his hand over the bottle of 1941 Haut-Brion when he’s suddenly aware that Crowley is back in London. He wonders what it is about himself that he has this almost sixth sense about where Crowley is. He wonders if Crowley has something similar, based on all the times Crowley’s showed up to save him from inconvenient discorporation.

‘I should check on him’ , Aziraphale thinks, ‘ just to be sure .’ [3] He grabs the bottle of 1941 and heads out the door. He doesn’t think about the rain until he’s already got the door locked behind himself. He could go back and grab an umbrella but he decides to brave the rain and makes his way over to Crowley’s flat in Mayfair.

[3] He’s not particularly worried that something might be wrong with his friend, but he’s not not worried either.

Aziraphale raps at the door with the back of his knuckles. He’s not entirely surprised when the door clicks open without Crowley on the other side to greet him. He steps inside the flat and hangs up his coat. Crowley’s own black coat is a puddle on the floor and Aziraphale wrinkles his nose in something akin to fondness, hanging that up for him as well.

He finds Crowley in his sitting room, sprawled indelicately across his stylish but uncomfortable couch with his arm over his eyes. “What do you want, angel?” Crowley asks, feigning annoyance. There’s a kind of lethal beauty to Crowley like this, a venomous snake curled up in a tree, lax but not harmless.

“Hullo my dear. I hadn’t seen you since- well, since-” He remembers Crowley’s hand in his own, the lithe delicate fingers wrapped around his own short thick ones. The weight of it. The warmth. Aziraphale had held on, perhaps a moment too long, after the swap back. [4] And then Crowley was ripping his hand away, mumbling excuses and running from St. James’s Park like the Devil himself was on his heels. “And I thought I might pop over for a bit, yeah? I brought a bottle of Chateau Haut-Brion from the cellar.”

[4] There were a lot of things he’d wanted to say then. Things he hadn’t been brave enough to before. Things that were easier to say now without the weight of Heaven on his shoulders.

Crowley sniffs a little at the promise of expensive wine and lets his arm fall away from his eyes. Crowley looks up at him, mouth pressed flat. He holds up the bottle of wine and smiles tentatively.

Crowley sits up fully, his shirt clinging to him. He looks like the rain has soaked him through. “Uh, yeah, okay.” His cheeks are a bit flush, likely from the heat pouring from mighty little space heater. It’s an attractive look.

“I’ll get some glasses,” Aziraphale says and then furrows his brow, “You’re awfully soaked my dear, maybe you should change clothes.”

Crowley tugs at his collar. “I don’t need you to mother me.” He sounds somewhere between fond and petulant.

“Someone has to,” Aziraphale counters and steps out of the room to find the wine glasses. He finds the corkscrew and wine glasses in Crowley’s kitchen, bringing them back into the sitting room.

Crowley is fully dry, likely an infernal miracle. Aziraphale pours their wine and toasts in celebration. “To the World,” He says and hears Crowley echo him as they touch their glasses together.

They stay up too late and break into Crowley’s wine reserves. Aziraphale laughs at a story Crowley’s been telling him about a time in the 15th century when he’d met Leonardo Da Vinci and the contents of some of his private journals. He grins at Crowley, pleasantly drunk and lazy. Crowley is looking back, his eyes unguarded and soft. Aziraphale’s heart thuds in his chest. “My dear, whatever are you staring at?” He asks, perhaps a touch too loud.

“Your hair looks ridiculous. A proper bird’s nest.”

“My hair?” Aziraphale tugs at the front, feeling for why Crowley thinks it might look off. “You think my hair looks ridiculous?” Crowley’s own hair is perfect, as always, and Aziraphale wants to bury his hands in it. He has since Mesopotamia. For some reason he doesn’t think Crowley would appreciate him saying so.

“Utterly.” Crowley says, amused. He’s beautifully drunk, teasing, leaning in close.

“You- your hair is ridiculous!”

“That so, angel?”

“That’s so!”

“Hm.” Crowley brings up his wine glass to hide that lovely smile and Aziraphale lurches.

“Don’t laugh at me,” Aziraphale shoots forward to press a finger against Crowley’s lips.

Crash

Crowley jerks back, putting distance between them again. His wine glass is shattered on the floor, wine seeping into the dark granite.

“Oh dear,” Aziraphale exclaims, putting his own glass down gently, “Oh my dear I’m so sorry.” He’s not sure that he’s talking about spilled wine.

Crowley looks shaken. “That’s-” He clears his throat, “That’s quite alright.”

It isn’t. It hasn’t been since St. James’s Park. Aziraphale’s chest aches and he desperately wants to take Crowley’s hands in his own. “I’ve ruined it, haven’t I?”

“Nothing a minor miracle can’t take care of.” Crowley says, staring down at the ground.

“No I mean-” Aziraphale shifts, leaning in close again, “Well I suppose I mean this, you and I?” His heart is somewhere in his throat and he tries to breathe through it.

“I haven’t the faintest idea what you’re on about.”

“Crowley you won’t even look at me.”

Crowley does, but his face is carefully neutral and his eyes are guarded again. “Honestly angel, I haven’t the foggiest what you’re going on about.”

He’s lying , and that hurts more than anything. Aziraphale had thought they were past lying to each other. He doesn’t know what to say. ‘ Why don’t you trust me? ’ He thinks, ‘ Why do you seem so far away? ’ Finally he settles on hurt. “You’re right, of course, my dear boy,” He stands and runs his hands over his slacks like he’s dusting himself off. He feels sober, despite the fact he has not miracled himself to be. “I’ve got- I have business to attend to, back at the shop, so unfortunately I must take my leave.”

“Are you sure?”

“More so than you.” Aziraphale waves his hand to clear the mess on the floor. “Goodnight my dear.”

“Night,” Crowley echoes.

Aziraphale takes his coat and leaves. He pretends, walking home, that the wetness on his cheeks is just from the rain.

Crowley disappears again, after that.

Aziraphale spends the next three days wandering his shop aimlessly. He opens the shop on the second day for two hours before he gets annoyed and closes back down. He tries to take inventory and finds himself getting distracted. His eyes will catch on stray sunlight streaming across the couch in his back room and find himself missing Crowley so ardently his stomach begins to ache.

When Crowley returns it takes everything in Aziraphale not to seek him out immediately. He takes himself out for sushi and on one night to the theater. He tries to fill his time with his favorite books, though the Wizard of Oz has been put away for the moment. He thumbs through his Oscar Wilde’s almost restlessly until he can’t take it anymore.

He tracks down Crowley in St. James’s Park. It’s set to rain again, the clouds hanging dark and moody in the sky above. Crowley’s sprawled out under a tree. “Budge up,” Aziraphale says, taking a seat on the ground next to him. He supposes any grass stains will be worth the moment. The air between them is charged with static. Crowley grunts and slithers closer to the trunk so Aziraphale can come further under the cover of leaves.

They’re both silent for a while. Aziraphale has a hundred things he wants to say, but can’t seem to find the words. Surprisingly it’s Crowley that breaks the silence first. “I’m sorry.” He says quietly.

Aziraphale looks down at him, shocked, “My dear boy, whatever are you sorry for?”

Crowley shrugs uncomfortably. “For last week I s’pose, I must’ve done something awful to make you leave in such a rush.”

Aziraphale feels his cheeks heat in embarrassment. “Ah,” He says, “I ought apologize myself for that, leaving in such a huff was very ill mannered of me.”

“S’fine.”

Is it? ’ Aziraphale thinks. ‘ Are we? ’ What he says is “Well, I suppose that’s settled.” He finds Crowley’s eyes through the dark lens of his glasses and smiles despite himself. “Lunch?”

Crowley grins.

They end up at a lovely little tapas place called Barrafinna. Crowley orders enough for the two of them and then lets Aziraphale have it all. Crowley is more at ease at lunch and it’s easy to tempt him into taking bites from his plate. Aziraphale offers a couple bites from his own fingers to see Crowley’s ears turn red.

Aziraphale dabs at his mouth with a napkin, humming pleasantly. “Utterly scrumptious. Are uh, are you going to finish that my dear?”

Crowley shakes his head and pushes his dessert plate across the table with a fond curl of his lips.

“Ah, thank you.”

Crowley hums, his chin resting in the palm of his hand. He looks distant but lovely, always so lovely. Aziraphale closes his eyes to chew because if he looks at Crowley for a moment longer he might just blurt out his feelings right here at the table.

“Good?” Crowley asks.

“Marvelous,” Aziraphale says, dabbing at his mouth with his napkin, “my dear you do always know the best places.”

“I could take you to more, now that the world is saved and all.”

I love you. ’ “I would like that very much.” Aziraphale drops his hands to his lap to hide their trembling.

Crowley coughs and curls his hand over his mouth, looking away. “Well then, home now angel?”

Aziraphale’s insides jerk, like the moment in a dream when you start to fall. He wants nothing more than to stay in Crowley’s company like this, forever. He takes a short breath and says carefully, “I thought today might be a rather nice day for a drive.”

“Angel, it’s raining.”

“Not to bad, no,” He feels like he’s begging. He shouldn’t be begging. “You can drive slow.”

“Well-”

“Come on Crowley, anywhere you want to go.”

Crowley closes his eyes. He looks utterly undone and Aziraphale wants to reach across the table and take his face in his hands. Wants to stroke those sharp cheekbones and kiss his brow. “Alright,” Crowley says and he’s practically breathless, “I’ll settle up.”

Aziraphale waits for him in the Bentley, thrumming with nervous energy. Crowley seems a bit dazed when he gets into the car. His hands are on the wheel but he’s not really moving them, the Bentley sliding neatly around traffic anyway. Aziraphale keeps his eyes on the passing buildings and steady stream of rain. He keeps his hands folded primly in his lap. He doesn’t trust himself not to reach across the cab and take one of Crowley’s in his own if he doesn’t.

The radio plays, filling the air between them. Aziraphale taps his fingers and hums vaguely along with the song playing. He knows the words, sort of, but mostly he knows the tune from hearing Crowley hum it so often.

Fields roll by. Crowley seems more in charge of the vehicle now, steadily ramping up the speed despite the rain and wet roads. He grips his own hands, white knuckled, and presses his lips thin. This moment, all of these moments, mean nothing if Crowley discorporates the both of them.

“Alright there angel?”

“I don’t see why you have to go so fast , my dear,” Aziraphale complains, clenching his own hand tighter through a rough curve, “why are you in such a hurry?”

The Bentley slows. “Don’t know any other way to go, angel,” Crowley says softly, almost absently. He’s not- They’re not talking about the drive anymore.

Aziraphale turns to look at him. Crowley fidgets under his gaze, turning his head to watch the road. He wants to know, he has to know-

“Where are we going, Crowley?” They’re not talking about the drive anymore.

“Anywhere. Wherever I stop. Anywhere is good enough as long as you’re beside me.”

Oh , and that’s- that’s what Aziraphale has wanted to hear for centuries. He inhales sharply and a shock of love suffuses through him like a lightning bolt. Crowley’s knuckles go white on the steering wheel and his shoulders tense up around his ears. He looks like he’s waiting for a death sentence.

“Yes,” Aziraphale says breathlessly, “Yes, alright.”

Crowley’s ears turn an endearing shade of pink and it’s all Aziraphale can do not to touch him.

They stop in Manchester for dinner and Aziraphale didn’t complain when they got back in the Bentley and continued driving north. Crowley turns the Bentley into a field somewhere south of Edinburgh, the car seeming to float over the grass and not leave tire tracks. He parks and the car goes blessedly silent.

There is no light around for miles save the moon and stars. Crowley looks ever so handsome backlit by starlight. He looks softer here, less sharp lines and more boneless. Aziraphale can’t help but stare, but it’s alright because Crowley is staring right back.

Aziraphale clears his throat, “Well…” He trails off. He’s quite forgotten what he meant to say.

“Well?” Crowley asks, the corner of his lips tilting up. He leans forward against the wheel. A lock of hair falls over his forehead. He looks quietly amused and smitten and Aziraphale wants .

“Yes, well…” He sighs. It feels important and he wants to do this right. He can see Crowley about to open his mouth so he barrels on, just to fill the quiet. “It’s very beautiful here, and the moon is so lovely and full tonight. It’s not often we get to see the stars.”

“I know,” Crowley hums. “This is one of mine, you know? I picked it for the stars and the smell of sweet grass. The wildflowers bloom madly in late spring.”

“You will have to bring me to see them, my dear,” Aziraphale smiles, “perhaps a picnic.”

Crowley’s hands tense back up again. “Yes,” He says, his throat working like he’s trying to get the words out past a lump, “I’ll make devilled eggs and you can make those damned cress sandwiches you’re so fond of.”

“Of course; and we’ll have wine, maybe a cake as well.” The thought hits him late. This is one of mine, you know? Crowley can’t mean, well, he can’t mean that- “Crowley,” He says slowly, “what did you mean this place is one of yours? You don’t mean-” He can’t be wrong, please don’t let him be wrong. “Crowley, my dear boy, is this one of your hiding spots?”

“I don’t use this one often but yes.”

“And you brought me here.”

“Yes.”

“With you.”

“Yes angel, do keep up.”

Aziraphale’s heart opens like a bloom. The intensity for which he years for Crowley magnifies ten fold at the way he sees Crowley’s hands begin to tremble. His eyes go rather misty as he says “oh Crowley .” Crowley tries to bury his shaking hands in his lap.

Aziraphale reaches across the cab - a lifetime of almosts in between them - and cradles Crowley’s jaw in his hand. Crowley sucks in a wet breath and blows it out trembling.

“Crowley,” Aziraphale finds Crowley’s hand with his own and grips him firmly, “You make me ever so happy.”

“Angel I-"

Aziraphale won’t allow any protest. “ Dearest ,” Aziraphale leans in, close as he dares and then closer still, “how I love you.” He used to pray like this, soft and reverential. Now it is only a tone he dares use for Crowley, a prayer he knows will be answered.

Aziraphale .” Crowley gasps. Aziraphale can’t stand not seeing his eyes anymore. He needs- he has to know . He lets his fingers drift up to Crowley’s sunglasses and waits, needing permission to remove that last barrier between them. “Yeah.” Aziraphale removes his sunglasses with a tenderness he rarely displays. Crowley’s eyelashes are wet with unshed tears and Aziraphale drags his thumb tenderly under his eye. Crowley’s eyes open, completely vulnerable and trusting and still afraid.

“Oh love,” Aziraphale murmurs - he can’t stop himself, now that he’s said the words - as he wipes away a tear rolling down Crowley’s cheek. “I’m sorry it took so long.”

“No,” Crowley breathes, “ no , Aziraphale I-” he squeezes Aziraphale’s hand hard, “Angel I’ll ruin you.”

“Nonsense,” Aziraphale says because it’s true. He presses their foreheads together. Crowley’s breath is shaky but Aziraphale is steady and sure. He’s never been more sure of anything in his existence. “You couldn’t if you tried.”

“I love you,” Crowley gasps, “I love you, I love you, I love you-” And Aziraphale breaks, pressing their mouths together to secure the words between their lips.

Kissing Crowley is everything. It’s millennia of feigned fights and soft bickering, of being treated to dining and wine and everything in between. Aziraphale has loved all of Crowley for hundreds of years, but he has the suspicion Crowley has waited longer, so much longer. ‘ Thank you ,’ He thinks, ‘ Thank you for waiting for me. ’ Crowley goes pliant and soft under him, opening himself to Aziraphale like he has over and over for thousands of years. This time Aziraphale won’t let him fall, this time Aziraphale will be there to catch him.

When Aziraphale pulls away Crowley chases after his mouth, bony hand darting up to clutch at the lapel of his jacket to keep him close. It’s endearing and heartbreaking.

“I’m here love,” Aziraphale says, running his thumb along Crowley’s jaw, “you have me. For as long as you like.”

“Long as I like?” Crowley’s cheeks are burning and he sounds lovestruck, “How’s eternity sound?”

Darling boy, my only one. “I’d like that,” Aziraphale smiles and his heart yearns.

Crowley breathes and laces their fingers together. Crowley’s love feels like a torrent of rain after a draught, all consuming and unstoppable. Aziraphale wants to keep him like this, forever. He presses his lips to Crowley’s temple and then again to the thin skin under his eye. ‘ I want to keep him, please let me keep him.

They spend the night in a charming little hotel in Edinburgh, Crowley clinging to Aziraphale’s chest and Aziraphale’s hands in his hair. The drive back to London the next day in spent in companionable silence, their hands clasped together between them. Aziraphale kisses Crowley’s knuckles and runs a thumb over the back of his hand just because he can.

When they make it back to the bookshoppe Crowley sprawls out across the couch in the back room like he belongs there. And he does, belong there. Aziraphale finds his copy of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and shuffles Crowley around until he can sit and let Crowley place that lovely head of his in his lap. He wonders if Crowley will let him read it to him some time. Time being something that they have much of now, all the time in the World.

A month later they’re in New York City. Crowley opens the door to a lovely rooftop garden. Some of the plants here shouldn’t be here, a couple are even extinct. When Crowley lets the door slam shut behind them the flowers shake in their pot. Above them and crawling along the walls is a handsome English Ivy that seems to wave hello. Aziraphale recognizes it after a moment as the same kind that used to grow along the side of his shop and he smiles at Crowley, touching the creeping vines.

“Lovely,” He says, “Really beautiful.”

“Oh hush,” Crowley says, “you give them an inch and they’ll take a mile.”

“Nothing wrong with a little bit of positive reinforcement. You seem to enjoy it, as I recall.”

“Shut up,” Crowley whines, the tips of his ears turning that charming shade of pink.

Aziraphale steps in close to hold Crowley’s face in his hands. He lets his fingers dance along the little blush on his ears. “Precious boy,” He says, pressing a kiss to a sharp cheekbone.

Across the room an attractive Rose bush bloom, pink and red petals opening and letting out a soothing sweet aroma. A pot of green carnations turn toward them. Above, that old English Ivy ripples.

Crowley ducks his head to hide it against Aziraphale’s collar bone, sighing softly. Aziraphale reaches his hands back to play with Crowley’s hair. It’s something he’s found himself doing more of lately, twirling dark red locks between his fingers while he reads or drinks his tea. “I like this,” Aziraphale says, meaning many things, “I’m glad you decided to show me.” He’s happy, and proud, and very much in love.

“I like you,” Crowley says, kissing Aziraphale’s neck like a punctuation. He looks up to glare at his plants. “Don’t get any ideas, I’ll still bin the lot of you.”

Aziraphale laughs. “You won’t.”

He’s right.