Aziraphale paced around his bookshop, still shaken from the angels’ visit. In a few hours, the world was set to come to an end, and Crowley wasn’t speaking to him. He supposed the demon was on his way to Alpha Centauri at this very moment. Am I ever going to see him again? What if that’s it? The last time I’m ever going to see him and I wasted it... He pushed the thoughts out of his head. There was no time for this. He was going to follow through on what he had said to Uriel; he was going to talk to a higher power. Surely an audience with God herself would bring a stop to all this. Surely. Aziraphale knew what he had to do, knew the standard procedures, and, most importantly, knew how little time he had to pull this off. And yet... he found himself drifting to the back room, where, from behind several stacks of books, he pulled a small wooden box. Opening the lid, he sank into his armchair, and one by one he began to pull out the contents.
“Angel, since when do you keep up to date with technology?”
“My dear, you know I’m fully capable of paying attention to such things should I choose to. But don’t expect me to make a habit of it. Someone just so happened to leave this in my shop, and it seemed... interesting.”
“Interesting? D’you even know how to use it?”
“Do you need me to prove it to you, my dear?”
“If I didn’t know better, angel, I’d say you were trying to tempt me into a photoshoot!”
Photograph after photograph, all of them of Crowley. Crowley, sprawled out on Aziraphale’s sofa. Crowley, toasting the camera with an entire bottle of wine. A close-up of Crowley’s snake tattoo, just a hint of his jawline visible at the bottom of the photo. Crowley, glasses off, eyes shining, a genuine smile on his face. Aziraphale couldn’t help but linger on that one. That was him, that was the real Crowley, the one that Aziraphale was certain only he had ever had the privilege of knowing. However much he protested whenever Aziraphale brought it up, the truth was he was so kind, and so good, at least to Aziraphale, and--
Aziraphale felt tears begin to well up in his eyes. Crowley was always so good to him, and all Aziraphale had ever done was push him away. Every time Crowley tried to get closer, Aziraphale had gotten nervous, had gotten selfish, refused to reciprocate. Even the photos he was reminiscing on-- the only reason he had them was because of selfish cowardice.
“Angel, where’d you put those photos from last week? I’d like to see how they turned out.”
“The photos? Oh, my dear, I’m so sorry. I’m afraid I’ve rather misplaced them. I assure you, I’ll let you know if they every turn up again.”
He never did let Crowley know. The truth was, he’d never misplaced them at all, but what if he had shown them to Crowley and Crowley had asked to keep them? It would be showing far too much of Aziraphale’s hand for him to refuse-- Crowley would surely start asking questions. Why would Aziraphale want to keep a bunch of pictures of Crowley? Well, because Aziraphale was in love with him, and Aziraphale was terrified for him, and Aziraphale knew that there was every chance he might lose him permanently sooner than he’d like to think about, especially since he’d given him the holy water. If Crowley ever... if ever he was gone for good, Aziraphale wanted something to remember him by. Something that reminded him of what they had, once upon a time. Something to remind him, for the remainder of his existence, to be better.
Crowley couldn’t know about any of that, though. So, Aziraphale lied. And so the photos remained with the angel, hidden in a wooden box in the back of his bookshop. And here they were still, as Aziraphale looked through them for what he was sure would be the last time. He couldn’t help the tears coming once they had started, and it was all he could do to stop his body shaking with sobs. The world was ending-- this was the last time he’d ever get to see Crowley’s smile, and it wasn’t even real. Just a frozen image, so beautiful and yet so incomparable to the real thing. After a while (not long, but longer that he’d like to admit), Aziraphale tore himself from the photos. With or without Crowley, he was still going to try to stop Armageddon, and in order to do that he needed to take action. He put the photos back in the box, closed the lid, and set it on the desk. It was time he talked to that higher power.
The end of the world came and went, an angel and a demon tricked their respective head offices, a nightingale sang in Berkeley Square, and finally Aziraphale was able to return to his beloved bookshop. He inspected every last inch, thrilled to find that Crowley had been right, and that aside from Adam’s... additions, everything had been returned just the way it was.
Eventually he made his way into the back room, and his heart skipped a beat when he saw the box of photos still sitting there. He hurried over, opening the box, and breathing a sigh of relief when he saw the contents were untouched. It wasn’t that he thought Adam would have changed something about them, but what if Crowley had noticed the box during his brief stint in Aziraphale’s body and decided to take a look inside? Thankfully, the photos were entirely undisturbed, and Aziraphale’s secret remained just that.
He was a few seconds away from tucking the box back into its hiding place when a thought struck him. He and Crowley were free . They didn’t need to hide anymore, they didn’t need to pretend that they weren’t friends, there was no longer a chance that Aziraphale would lose Crowley for good. He stared down at the box as the realization dawned on him. I don’t need these anymore. I’ve got the real thing. For good this time.
In a matter of moments he had resolved that he needed to go see Crowley immediately, and give him the photos. It had been mere hours since he had last seen Crowley, and yet... this needed to be immediate. He couldn’t quite put his finger on why, but this needed to happen now . He closed his eyes, opening them seconds later to find himself right outside Crowley’s door.
Before he could knock, he heard Crowley’s voice through the door.
“Come in, angel. Door’s unlocked.”
Aziraphale stepped inside. His heart, which technically didn’t even need to be beating at all, had annoyingly decided to start racing. He walked down the hall, entering Crowley’s study just as the demon rounded the corner and did the same. Aziraphale almost dropped the box. Crowley was wearing nothing but a towel, slung low around his hips, and God, he was stunning . Aziraphale couldn’t help but think of abandoning his plan entirely in favor of dropping to his knees and all but begging Crowley to have his way with him. But Crowley was speaking, and Aziraphale forced himself to snap out of it.
“Caught me mid-shower,” Crowley was saying. With a click of his fingers, he was dressed, and Aziraphale let out a breath he hadn’t noticed he’d been holding. “Normally would’ve made you wait, but I could feel the anxiety radiating off you from a mile away. Everything alright?”
Aziraphale glanced down at the box, then back at Crowley. Why was he so nervous?
“I-- well, you see...” Aziraphale started, or rather tried to start.
“It’s alright, angel. Whatever it is, you can tell me. I mean, we’ve already been through the end of the world, so how bad could it be?”
Aziraphale took a deep breath. Nothing for it now...
“These are-- this-- this is for you,” he thrust the box into Crowley’s hands. “I’ve had them for quite some time, my dear, and I’m awfully sorry I kept them from you, it’s just...”
He hesitated, not knowing how to justify the fact that he had kept the photos without revealing entirely too much about how he felt about Crowley. Crowley, for his part, looked like he hadn’t been paying very close attention since the angel had handed him the box. He was looking through the photos, recognition and confusion mingling on his face. After a long moment he looked up.
“You’ve been keeping these from me since...what, 1980?” It wasn’t an accusation; it was merely an attempt to understand.
“Well, you see, my dear...” Aziraphale, coming to the realization that there was no way he was getting out of this one, decided to soldier on. “I’m afraid it’s rather embarrassing, but at the time, I wasn’t sure what would become of our... friendship. At any moment Heaven or Hell could have chosen to observe us more closely, and you had the holy water... before all this business with the end of the world that was the closest I was to losing you for good, or at least I felt like it was. So I decided that if at any point we had to stop associating for our own safety, or if you...” he couldn’t bring himself to say it. “I merely wanted something that reminded me of the good times we had. Something that, well... something that reminded me of you, even if we were apart.”
Crowley had a look on his face that Aziraphale couldn’t quite place. It was somewhere between stunned and... something else.
After a minute he choked out, “Why now?”
Aziraphale looked at him, puzzled.
“Why give them to me now?” Crowley reiterated.
“Well... I-- er,” Aziraphale was at a loss for words. He knew why he didn’t feel the need to keep the photos around anymore, but to say it out loud was another thing entirely. To admit, for all the world to hear, that he was choosing earth, choosing Crowley , for good-- he wasn’t sure he could do it. And yet, Crowley was right there , and he was all sharp angles and fiery hair, and he was beautiful , and Aziraphale was tired of going slow. He had been going slow for 6000 years, had made Crowley slow his pace for him, and the truth of the matter was, he didn’t want to do it any longer. He was in love with Crowley, and it was high time he told him so. It wasn’t fair, he knew it wasn’t fair to spring this on him now after thousands of years of pushing him away, but he just couldn’t continue like this. He took a deep breath, and continued.
“Well, I left them out before I was discorporated, and when I finally returned to my bookshop and saw them there, it occurred to me that I didn’t need them anymore. I kept them because at the time, I was scared I might lose you for good, but now I find that possibility highly unlikely. We faced down Heaven and Hell for the sake of the earth, but my dear, I’d be lying if I said I wasn't doing it for you as well,” he was rambling now, but it was too late, he couldn’t stop the words now that he had started. “We may have chosen humanity, but I was also choosing you. You mean so very much to me, my dear-- I’m, well, I’m terribly in love with you, I’m afraid, and I’d rather like to think that I won’t be away from you long enough to need those photos ever again. That is... if-- if you’ll have me. I know I’ve been making you go slow for quite some time now, I really would understand if-- well, if you no longer...”
He faltered. The thought that Crowley might have gotten tired of waiting, might have moved on had been plaguing him for quite some time, but he couldn’t bring himself to actually say it out loud. He glanced nervously at Crowley. The demon’s glasses had slid down his nose, his mouth open, a complete caricature of shock. The box of polaroids lay entirely forgotten on his desk.
“Aziraphale...” he said, sounding strangled. He stepped towards the angel. They were nearly chest to chest now.
Aziraphale looked up at him, the lack of a need for oxygen making no difference to how breathless he felt. He opened his mouth, feeling the need to say something to fill the silence, perhaps to apologize for thrusting this all on Crowley out of nowhere, to reassure him that it was okay if he didn’t have feelings for him anymore, that he understood, really he did-- but he never got the chance. Because Crowley’s mouth was on his, and Crowley was kissing him, and Crowley was kissing him . Aziraphale was momentarily frozen in shock, and then suddenly he was grabbing Crowley’s shirt with one hand and taking hold of Crowley’s waist with the other, pulling him closer, closer, closer. And Crowley was winding his hands into Aziraphale’s curls, and oh, to hell with Eden. This, here, in Crowley’s embrace, this was paradise.
Crowley gave a slight tug on Aziraphale’s hair, and the angel couldn’t help the soft moan that escaped his lips. And, oh, good lord, apparently that was all the invitation Crowley needed to deepen the kiss, slipping his tongue into Aziraphale’s mouth. Aziraphale’s hands slid down, almost instinctively, grabbing Crowley’s ass. Crowley positively gasped at that, nipping at Aziraphale’s bottom lip. Then they were moving back, back until Aziraphale’s back was pressed against the wall.
Briefly, the angel’s thoughts flew back to a similar moment only a few days prior, when Crowley had pushed him up against a different wall and Aziraphale had thought about doing exactly this. At the time, they had been interrupted, and either way there had been an Antichrist to find and an apocalypse to avert, but now they were free, free, free . They were on their own side, and for all the other, far more significant things that that meant, all Aziraphale could currently process was that it meant Crowley could push him up against any wall he came across and do any number of filthy things to him any time either of them pleased.
When they finally broke apart, Aziraphale reached up, gently removing Crowley’s glasses. Crowley looked dazed, and Aziraphale was sure the expression mirrored his own.
“So,” Aziraphale said, not being able to help the smile that was growing on his face, “I take it you still...?”
“Yeah, angel,” Crowley was smiling, too, “I never stopped. I don’t know if I could, even if I wanted to. But believe me, I never, never wanted to.”
Aziraphale felt a wave of guilt. After all the times he’d forced distance between them, Crowley had never once wanted to stop loving him?
“Oh, my dear-- my dearest,” Aziraphale brought a hand up, stroking Crowley’s cheek with his thumb. “I’m-- I’m so sorry. All these years, all I’ve done is push you away, and you-- you just keep on being good to me! I don’t deserve it, Crowley, I simply don’t-- and, and not only that but you love me , you still love me after all I’ve done to you... how is that fair?”
“Angel, you were scared. How can I fault you for that?” Crowley placed his hand over Aziraphale’s, curling his fingers over the angel’s. “Oh, it hurt, angel. Of course it hurt. But like I said-- I never wanted to stop. As angry as it made me sometimes, as frustrating as it was to have you constantly holding me at arms’ length, I’ve known since the goddamn garden that there was no one else in the whole bloody universe for me. If you decided we would only ever be friends, I would have been content, as long as I was by your side. If you decided to cut me off completely, as much as it would have destroyed me, I would have done it, knowing it was what you wanted. Maybe that makes me an idiot, but I don’t know that I particularly care. Aziraphale, I love you. I’m in love with you. And I don’t ever plan on stopping.”
And, oh , that was it for Aziraphale. Entirely overwhelmed by Crowley’s words, it was all he could do to stop himself crying. Instead, he tilted his head up, and kissed Crowley for the second time. Crowley melted into the kiss, hands cradling Aziraphale’s face tenderly, reverently.
They remained like that for quite some time, though the kiss quickly turned from sweet to heated and needy. When they finally broke apart, Aziraphale looked at Crowley, lips parted and swollen, eyes entirely yellow, and marveled at the demon’s ability to consistently take his breath away.
“You’re absolutely gorgeous, you know that?” he couldn’t stop himself saying.
“Look who’s talking, angel,” Crowley replied, smirking. “D’you know how long I’ve wanted this? How long I’ve wanted you ?”
He dropped his head down to Aziraphale’s neck, trailing kisses and bites down as far as he could before meeting with Aziraphale’s collar and bowtie.
“Can I?” he asked, reaching up to the offending clothing items, his intentions absolutely clear.
“Perhaps,” Aziraphale said, voice low, “we should... relocate .”
Crowley looked at him, eyes wide, before nodding fervently, grabbing Aziraphale’s hand, and pulling him towards the bedroom.
Later, when everything was moonlight-soft and sleep-heavy, Aziraphale found himself settled comfortably in Crowley’s bed. It wasn’t the first time he had been in it, after all, he hadn’t had anywhere else to go after Armageddon didn’t happen, and though he usually wasn’t one for sleeping, after the chaos of the day he had been absolutely exhausted. That night, he had remained resolutely on the right side on the bed, trying very hard not to think about Crowley, only a foot or so away on the left, trying not to think about how easy it would be to reach across that space and touch him, hold him, anything.
Now, Crowley was sprawled unashamedly, unreservedly across his chest, his arms curled around him, and Aziraphale couldn’t be happier. He carded a hand through Crowley’s hair, heart swelling. Crowley, only half-conscious, responded by nuzzling his head into the crook of Aziraphale’s neck, sighing contentedly. This is us, Aziraphale thought to himself. This is our future; just you and me, together. No more hiding, no more lying. You’re my whole world, and I never have to pretend that that isn’t the case ever again.
“I love you.”
Crowley looked up, golden eyes shining in the subdued light. His hair was an unmitigated disaster, and Aziraphale could see lingering evidence of the marks he had left across the demon’s neck and collarbone.
“That’s good to hear,” Crowley said, a sleepy grin spreading across his face, “seeing as I love you too.”
Aziraphale laughed, bringing his arms to gently wrap around Crowley’s waist. Holding, being held. I could stay here forever, really I could. I would, you know. If you asked. I’d do it in a heartbeat. Just this, just us, for all eternity.
“Forever, angel?” Crowley murmured. “Is that a promise?”
Aziraphale blushed. He hadn’t realized he’d said that out loud.
“If you wanted, dearest,” Aziraphale said, pressing a kiss to the top of Crowley’s head.
“Maybe not in this bed alone,” Crowley said, grinning, “I think we’d get a bit bored. But I will gladly spend forever with you, angel. That’s all I’ve ever wanted.”
“Ask and ye shall receive, my love,” Aziraphale giggled, peppering kisses all over Crowley’s face. They cuddled close as sleep overtook them, each comforted both by the presence of the other, and by the knowledge that they had many, many more nights like this to look forward to.