It was three in the morning, and a demon was driving ninety miles an hour through central London. Thankfully, the hour ensured a significant lack of other vehicles on the road, not that Crowley would have cared one way or another. His hands shook as he gripped the steering wheel far tighter than was necessary, and the only thought in his mind was reaching a certain angel’s bookshop as quickly as possible.
It had been nearly a year since the Armageddon-That-Wasn’t, and Crowley and Aziraphale had quickly reached a new normal. The events of the past eleven years had brought them closer than they had ever been before, and as a result they began to spend far more time together. It was nice; they had been each other’s only constant for so long, yet there had always been a barrier between them, the threat of one or both of their sides finding out about the Arrangement constantly looming over their heads. However, now that their respective head offices seemed at least temporarily content to leave them alone, that barrier was gone. They were free to spend as much time together as they pleased, and spend time they did. Of course, with that obstacle gone there was no denying that there was something unspoken between them, something that lay just under the surface of “best friends.”
The night the two of them spent at Crowley’s apartment post-Armagedidn’t was the first time it became apparent. True, that night it was overshadowed by their deciphering of Agnes’ prophecy, but it didn’t disappear. Once the imminent danger of the wrath of Heaven and Hell was gone, it became much harder to ignore. It was there as they toasted, to the world . It was there whenever they sat next to each other-- not as close as lovers but too close for friends. It was there whenever Aziraphale insisted Crowley try some of whatever he was eating, and proceeded to feed it to him rather than just letting him take some. It was there when Crowley would show up to the bookshop just for the sake of being there, only to crash on the couch for a nap. It was there when he would wake up from said nap with a blanket that had not previously been there draped around his shoulders. It was there in every accidental brush of skin, in every glance that lasted just a little bit too long. It permeated the air, as though daring one of them to finally acknowledge it. Neither of them ever did.
Perhaps, Crowley mused as he made a turn so quick it would have taken a small miracle for the Bentley to not completely topple over, it was because neither of them truly knew what exactly it was they would be acknowledging. This of course, was a lie Crowley told himself rather frequently, in the hopes that one day he might actually believe it. He knew what it was that hung in the air, at least from his perspective, but for the sake of not ruining everything he and Aziraphale had, he constantly pushed it aside. After all, what good would it do to force himself to accept that he was completely and irreversibly in love with the angel? Surely Aziraphale didn’t love him back, at least not in the way Crowley loved him. And that was fine. It would have to be fine. Right now, however, the lie was not so much a denial of emotions as recognition that love, and whether it was reciprocated or not, was really not his current priority. Regardless of feelings, he just needed to see Aziraphale.
The angel was fortunate that sleep had never really appealed to him. While he and Crowley had adopted many of the same human habits over the thousands of years, sleep had always been one of Crowley’s. Of course, once sleep becomes a habit, you can’t very well just stop doing it, which is why Crowley simply couldn’t avoid the nightmares that plagued him after the events of Almostgeddon. Oddly enough, the dreams never focused on Armageddon itself, only ever what came after. The world burning. The last remains of humankind lying dead or dying. Aziraphale, forced to fight alongside the angels, flaming sword in hand, blue eyes betraying his unhappiness, but also his awareness that he simply had no other choice.
Sometimes, they were worse. He would dream that they had successfully stopped Armageddon, but that their attempts to fool Heaven and Hell with the body swap had failed. In Heaven he watched, still bound to the chair, as a struggling Aziraphale was dragged before the pillar of hellfire. Gabriel gave him a cold smile, one that distinctly said you didn’t really think you would get away with this, did you? and Crowley would wake with a start before he was forced to watch the angel die. In Hell, Crowley slowly but surely stepped towards the bath of holy water, as the legions of hell cackled and jeered at him. Strangely, he did not fear his death as much as he thought he would, but the sight of Aziraphale, tears flowing freely as he was forced to watch Crowley go to his death, was too much for him to bear.
As horrible as they were, something kept Crowley from ever telling Aziraphale about them. Thankfully, after about a month or so, they began to fade away, becoming less and less frequent, until Crowley felt it was safe to say that they were gone for good.
That is, until he had woken up in a panic at 2:39 in the morning, his whole body tense with adrenaline from the worst nightmare yet. He had been back in Heaven, wrists bound to a chair, staring down at Aziraphale’s golden ring on his hand. Then, suddenly, it was gone. As the ring disappeared Crowley realized with a start that he was back in his own body. His head snapped up to see a group of angels staring down at him, and he saw, with horror, that Aziraphale was among them. He wasn’t tied up, nor was there any sign of the hellfire pillar Crowley was so used to seeing in this dream. No, instead off to the side stood the archangel Michael, slowly but surely filling a bathtub with what had to be the holiest of holy water. He looked back at Aziraphale, silently pleading for an explanation, but was met only with the same icy disapproval that resided on the faces of the other angels. He wanted to say something, to scream at Aziraphale, not to plead for his life but to ask what the hell Heaven had done to him. No words came out. He watched as the angel’s face shifted from disapproval to an even colder disgust. In that moment Crowley was certain, more certain than he had ever been, that the angel wanted nothing more than to see him dead.
When he awoke, the feeling of dread twisted his stomach in knots. He knew that wasn’t his Aziraphale, his Aziraphale was in his bookshop, probably making a cup of tea or reorganizing his collection of misprint bibles. He was okay, there was no reason for him not to be. Yet the feeling persisted. Crowley tossed and turned, trying to get back to sleep before finally flinging the covers across the room and getting out of bed. With a snap of his fingers he was dressed, and before he knew what he was doing he was speeding down the road to Aziraphale’s shop. He didn’t care what hour of the night it was, he needed to see him. Logically, he knew that nothing was wrong, but he needed that terrifying, hateful version of the angel put out of his mind forever. And besides, it wasn’t like Aziraphale slept anyway.
When Crowley finally reached the bookshop it didn’t even occur to him to knock. The drive hadn’t made him feel any more relaxed, and he nearly ran into a bookshelf as he entered, his glasses making it difficult for his eyes to adjust to the complete darkness.
“Angel?” he called out, trying to hide the tremor in his voice as he took a couple, more cautious steps into the shop. “It’s, uh, it’s me.”
“Crowley?” the answer came from somewhere in the darkness, its confusion apparent even without the visual aid of its owner’s face. Then, the bookshop’s soft, golden lights flickered on, revealing a puzzled-looking Aziraphale standing about ten feet away from the demon. In that instant, relief washed over Crowley. Everything about Aziraphale, illuminated in that peaceful, amber light was the exact opposite of the horrible, cold mockery he had seen in his dream. His face, which in the dream had been all hard lines and uncaring glares, was soft and inviting. His eyes, just as piercingly blue, but with so much more life, so much more kindness behind them. His lips-- Crowley did not allow himself to finish that thought.
“My dear, whatever are you doing here at this hour?” Aziraphale asked, breaking the silence.
In that moment Crowley made a decision. A relief and adrenaline fueled decision, but a decision nonetheless. Weird, unspoken somethings be damned , he needed to be close to Aziraphale, now. Physical contact, at least of the purposeful sort, wasn’t really something they did , but more than once Crowley had nearly lost the angel for good, and then he had been forced by his own brain to live out scenarios in which they were torn apart, over and over again in new and horrible ways. If there was ever a time to break from routine, this was it. After all, there was Aziraphale. And he was real, and he was solid, and he was himself, and Crowley felt the need that had pushed him to come here still burning in the pit of his stomach.
Wordlessly, he closed the gap between him and Aziraphale in only a few steps. They were nearly chest-to-chest, and the angel looked up at him, questions written all over his face. Without stopping to think, Crowley wrapped his arms around Aziraphale, burying his face in the angel’s neck. Surprise caused the angel to tense up initially, but within a few seconds he relaxed into the embrace, arms finding their way around Crowley’s waist. As the warmth of Aziraphale’s body surrounded him, something inside Crowley shattered. Without warning, the tears started to come. Before Aziraphale had fully registered what was happening, Crowley was shaking with sobs. After a minute, the angel spoke.
“Crowley,” he said softly, pulling back from the embrace to look at the demon, but not letting go of him. “What’s wrong?”
Crowley’s breathing was beginning to steady, but his voice still shook as he spoke.
“Had-- had a nightmare, angel.” His cheeks burned bright red; admitting the reason out loud made it sound so stupid. Aziraphale removed his arms from Crowley’s waist, and for one horrible second the demon thought he was going to laugh at him for driving all the way here just because of a bad dream. But instead Aziraphale took him by the hand, and led him to the couch. He sat down, motioning for Crowley to join him. He did so, only dimly registering that even after they both sat down, Aziraphale kept his hand intertwined with Crowley’s.
“Do you want to talk about it?” the angel looked at him, and the genuine concern on his face made Crowley feel strangely warm inside. As his embarrassment dissolved, the words began to spill out of him almost uncontrollably. He told Aziraphale everything. Not just about the most recent nightmare, but about all of them.
“This one was the worst though,” Crowley tried not to shudder at the memory. “We were in Heaven, but you weren’t... you weren’t you. You were one of them, no different than Gabriel or Uriel or Sandalphon. You looked at me and all you saw was the enemy. All you saw was someone you wanted dead. I mean-- fuck, it hurt to be dragged away from you. It hurt to watch you be dragged away from me. But this was worse. This angel... it’d be an insult to even call it you. Everything that’s good about you, everything that’s kind about you, everything I love about you, Go-- Sata-- someone , angel, all the little things that make you special were just gone .”
Fuck. Had he said love? Shit. He hadn’t meant to say that. Maybe Aziraphale hadn’t heard it. He glanced at the angel. He had heard it. And now that Crowley had made eye contact, he couldn’t look away. The angel’s face was unreadable, a mixture of emotions that Crowley couldn’t quite place. That unspoken thing, now spoken, now demanded to be addressed. It seemed that it wouldn’t allow itself to be pushed aside any longer. Still, that didn’t stop Crowley from trying to do exactly that.
“...so, that’s why I came here, why I had to come here,” he pressed on, breaking eye contact and staring into his lap. “I just-- I needed to see the real you.”
“Well, I’m here, dear,” Aziraphale tilted Crowley’s chin up, using his other hand to gently remove his sunglasses. “For as long as you need me.”
“Aziraphale...” Crowley barely whispered it. Slowly, cautiously, he brought a hand up to cradle the angel’s face.
This time, it was Aziraphale that closed the gap between them. Before Crowley could take any further action the angel was kissing him. It was a good thing the demon didn’t actually need to breathe, because in that moment, he forgot how. It took him a couple seconds to even realize that he should probably be kissing back, but once he did he wasted no time, sliding one hand around the back of Aziraphale’s neck and using the other to grab the angel’s waist. They were pretty much as physically close as they could be, but that didn’t stop Crowley from attempting to pull Aziraphale yet closer.
A first kiss, if it happens to be 6000 years in the making, is bound to last quite a while. Perhaps longer still, if the two beings engaged in said kiss have no biological need for oxygen. And yet even longer, if those two beings are immortal and therefore have a perception of time distinctly different from that of humans. All this to say that when the angel and the demon finally broke apart, the first rays of daylight could be seen through the bookshop’s curtains. They were rather sprawled across the couch now, Aziraphale all but on top of Crowley, Crowley’s hands in Aziraphale’s hair.
“For the record,” Aziraphale said, still a bit flustered, “I love you too.”
“Yeah, kinda figured that one out, angel,” Crowley couldn’t help the grin that spread across his face. They stayed like that for a while, just looking at each other, neither seeming to want to move from where they had ended up. That 6000-year dance that began all the way back in Eden, spanning everything from oysters in Rome to books saved from a church bombing to you go too fast for me, Crowley , this was its culmination. Even if they didn't know or didn’t understand it at the time, they knew now, as sure as anything, that this was the moment their 6000 years together had been leading up to. Once, they thought that the day after the Notpocalypse would be the very first day of the rest of their lives. Now, they were certain they had been wrong, for it was this day, nearly a year later, that their new lives were truly beginning.
Aziraphale’s head was resting on Crowley’s chest, as the demon played absentmindedly with his hair. They had lost all track of how long they had been lying there, as Aziraphale found himself quite preoccupied with kissing every inch of exposed skin he could find, and honestly, how was Crowley supposed to keep track of time when there had been an angel brushing his lips against his wrist, his collarbone, the shell of his ear? Crowley would have been perfectly happy to lie there for eternity, but he could sense that Aziraphale was growing restless. As wonderful as this was, to be able to simply lie here, together, after so many hundreds of years feeling resigned to their fate of “hereditary enemies,” the demon could tell that his angel ( his angel, finally) was still worried about him, and he could feel the question coming even before Aziraphale lifted his head up to look at him.
“Do you think--uh, well, would sleeping with me help, my dear?” Aziraphale asked, propping himself up on Crowley’s chest. The demon’s eyes widened.
“W--would, I’m sorry, would sleeping with you help what ?” Crowley spluttered.
“The nightmares, dear. You know sleeping isn’t normally something I do, but perhaps if we were to share a bed, if I were there if the nightmares wake you up...” Aziraphale trailed off.
“ Oh -- I mean, yes. I’d love that, angel. I just-- I thought--” Crowley stopped when he saw the playful smile that was beginning to grow on Aziraphale’s face. “You bastard! You know exactly what I thought-- you know exactly what you said!” he exclaimed indignantly, heat rising in his cheeks.
“Well, my dear, to be entirely honest, I was rather hoping we could do both,” Aziraphale grinned even wider. He leaned down, pressing a kiss to the demon’s forehead, then on his cheek, then his jaw. When he reached his neck and lingered there, Crowley found that all thoughts of going to sleep left his mind rather quickly.
“Both--both sounds good to me,” Crowley managed to get out, before an involuntary, “Holy fuck , angel-- where the heaven did you learn to do that?”
Aziraphale looked up at him, and there was a wickedness in his eyes. Nothing like the cold, repulsed look of the angel from his nightmare; it was as though a fire had been lit in Aziraphale. When their eyes met, Crowley could feel that same fire take hold in his chest. He was burning-- with love, yes, but also with something else entirely. Something that demanded an Effort be made. Something that insisted that they relocate to the nearest bed as quickly as possible-- and sure enough, they soon found themselves in Aziraphale’s bedroom. Whether or not Aziraphale had even had a bedroom before this moment was of no concern to either of them. Crowley pulled the angel into a searing kiss, and, perhaps unsurprisingly, there was a distinct lack of coherent thoughts for quite some time after that.
It was ten o’clock at night, and an angel and a demon were curled up in bed together. It had been several days since they had first fallen into it, and they hadn’t left since, save for Crowley occasionally getting up to make tea for Aziraphale. He told the demon every time that it was quite alright, that one of them could miracle it or that he could make his own, but Crowley insisted. He knew Aziraphale preferred tea made the human way, and he liked being able to do something for the angel, even if it was only a small favor. Plus, he’d be lying to himself if he said he didn’t look forward to the way Aziraphale’s whole face lit up every time he reentered the room.
The angel was, by nature, a being of love, and Crowley had gotten used to the overarching, detached love Aziraphale radiated over the years. But this was something new. Something that had once been hidden, but was now out in the open. Aziraphale had always loved Crowley, in that all-encompassing angel way, but now the love was focused. No longer was it that he loved Crowley because he loved all things; now it was that he was in love with Crowley, because he was Crowley. It was a love that had taken 6000 years to come to the surface, and now it shone out of Aziraphale like the sun. It was nice, Crowley thought, to have a visual reminder that the love he felt was matched by the angel, both in intensity and depth. As though he could read his mind, Aziraphale gave Crowley’s hand a squeeze.
“I do love you my dear,” he said, pressing a kiss to Crowley’s shoulder. “But if we don’t get out of this bed soon--”
Crowley grinned and shifted so he was facing Aziraphale. This dance was a new one, but they had grown into it rather quickly; they had gone through these motions quite a few times since they had first gotten into bed. Aziraphale would find some new excuse for them to have to get up, Crowley would shoot it down with a little too much ease, and in bed they would remain. “What? What’s going to happen if we don’t get up? We stopped Armageddon, we got Heaven and Hell to leave us alone... between those two things alone, I'd say we deserve this. Plus, the way I see it, we’ve got all the time in the world, sweetheart.”
“Maybe you do, darling, but I for one have a bookshop to run,” Aziraphale said in a weak attempt at sounding put out. It was all Crowley could do not to laugh.
“Please, angel, we both know the fewer books you sell the happier you’ll be,” Crowley said, “and I can think of no better way to avoid selling books than by not even bothering to open the store.”
“Perhaps you’re right,” Aziraphale said, not even bothering to try to further his point. Instead he pulled Crowley close, burying his head in the crook of his neck. Crowley felt like his heart was going to burst. Being on the receiving end of this much love was overwhelming, to the point where it almost hurt.
“What did I ever do to deserve you?” he murmured.
“My dear, you didn’t need to do anything,” Aziraphale said into his neck. “Honestly, whether I knew it or not, I think I’ve always been yours.”
Crowley’s breath caught in his throat. “How long?” he asked. How much time have we wasted?
The angel pulled back slightly to look at him. He was all blue eyes and soft golden curls-- absolutely radiant. “Since Eden, I think. Back then I was rather determined to be exactly what Heaven expected of me, so anything I felt would have been buried as deep down as I could force it. Frankly, it wasn’t until you saved those books for me that I truly recognized that what I felt for you was love. But looking back on the Beginning, on Eden, I think I’d be lying if I said there was nothing there.”
Crowley’s eyes were wide. “Since Eden, angel?”
Aziraphale nodded. “And you, dearest?”
“Eden,” Crowley breathed. “Angel, I’ve loved you since we met in that stupid garden and it’s only grown since. You mean to tell me we’ve wasted six thousand years-- what, just-- just pining ? You mean we could have been doing all of this--” he gestured at their intertwined bodies, “six thousand years ago?”
Aziraphale giggled. “Well, at the very least since 1941. When you saved those books for me... that was the moment I could no longer deny what I felt for you.” He paused, considering. “Goodness, we have been rather foolish, haven’t we? Then again, I suppose all that waiting is simply part of the whole ineff--”
“Angel, one more word about ineffability and I swear to somebody I will push you off this bed.”
“You wouldn’t dare,” Aziraphale grinned. “Not when we have six thousand years of catching up to do.”
The dreams don’t go away. They’re not as frequent, but Crowley still bolts upright in the middle of the night, fear coursing white-hot through his veins, head spinning as he tries to ground himself in reality. However, he no longer has to face those nights alone. Before he can even think to reach out for Aziraphale the angel is there beside him, holding his hand or pulling him into an embrace or pressing kisses to every inch of his skin. Aziraphale will gently wipe the tears from Crowley’s eyes, and listen if he wants to talk, or simply hold him if he doesn’t.
Sometimes the angel notices the dreams before Crowley wakes up, and miracles a replacement: whatever you would like best. On those occasions Crowley wakes with a smile on his face, almost always telling the angel that he had been dreaming about him. It isn’t perfect, but Aziraphale is always there , and he loves him, and that’s all that Crowley could ask for.
Slowly but surely the two start to build a proper life together. More and more plants find their way into Aziraphale’s bookshop as Crowley spends less and less time in his flat, and soon enough the place has become a tribute to their love, vines intertwining with bookshelves as easily and as naturally as Crowley’s hand fits in Aziraphale’s.
Many years ago, Aziraphale had told Crowley he went too fast for him, yet when Crowley gets down on one knee and proposes to him only a month after they had gotten together, Aziraphale can hardly wait for him to finish speaking before he nods furiously and pulls Crowley up to kiss him. Though they both delight in being able to refer to the other as “my husband” (and occasionally, in Aziraphale’s case, “my wife” or "my spouse," depending on the day), they know that the matching rings they now wear symbolize more than a simple human tradition.
We’re on our side. We’re on our side. We’re on our side, forever.