Aziraphale had done everything to the best of his ability, if he could say so himself.
He had decorated the cottage that they shared for a few months now, with strings of tinsel and yuletide garlands hanging off of the railing of the staircase, the walls, the chimney column. Crowley had brought in a massive tree and had decorated it as well, before excusing himself to go tend to his greenhouse (which he innocuously called "Eden", and Aziraphale could only laugh at his bravado).
This was his plan all along. Have Crowley away from the house as much as possible so he could get some work done. If it were up to the demon, he'd just decorate the whole place with large, clunky space heaters and have the skin boil off their physical corporations. But Aziraphale had a Vision-with-a-capital-V, and in no way could he be dissuaded.
It wasn't difficult to translate into reality, of course, and Crowley's negotiations with the decorations simplified things.
"For Satan's sake, angel, not the Nativity," he had said, as Aziraphale pulled out a worn box full of figurines, and the angel held the figure of the infant Jesus swaddled in blankets. "I'm serious. I'm going to burn the manger as soon as I see that on the mantle."
"Oh, don't act like you wouldn't do the same if I put up some cheeky Christmas baubles on the tree."
But he had relented with the more festive, less directly-religious traditions of the season, like the abundance of the color red and buying gifts. Crowley had excused it away as him just looking at the side of corporate greed that these traditions usually hid, but Aziraphale was fine with it. If they were well-meaning, informed actions, then he could stomach it down.
And this plan was another well-meaning one. Aziraphale quickly went to the covered foyer in the back of the house, with a direct passageway to the greenhouse. He tapped on the glass door, which he found fogged up from the comfortable heat that Crowley had verbally threatened the walls of the greenhouse to emanate 24/7. "Dear, where are you?"
"Here, angel." A hand shot up from behind a huge aloe vera plant that was growing quite fantastically. Immediately after, Aziraphale saw Crowley's head bob up from between the leaves, his now-shoulder-length hair tied in a ponytail at the back of his head. His sunglasses, perpetually on his nose, was already sliding off the bridge. "How's decorating?"
"Nearly done, dear." The angel smiled innocently, leaning against the doorframe to the greenhouse. "Eden looks very nice."
"Doesn't it?" Crowley grinned proudly, puffing his chest out and placing his hands, which were in a pair of rubber gloves in a hideous yellow and covered in dirt, on his hips. "I'm proud, to be honest."
"As you should be." Aziraphale hummed, trying to weasel in an excuse for the first phase of his plan to work. "Come into the kitchen?"
"Hang on, angel, just a few more things I need to repot, and I'm done."
He pouted, crossing his arms. "It's mulled wine."
Crowley, who had been in the middle of bending over to resume his work, paused. "...what kind?"
"The one that you like." Aziraphale smiled cheekily now. They had gone for a vacation around Europe, and the angel had secretly bought some of the wine he had tasted during a festival that Crowley seemed to enjoy quite a lot. "From Villány."
"Sour cherry wine?!" The demon shot up, apron full of soil but he didn't seem to take mind. He all but shoved it off his body, snapping the gloves off from his hands as he hurried off into the kitchen. "Why didn't you invite me in sooner, angel?!"
"Well, that was just too easy," Aziraphale mumbled as soon as Crowley was out of earshot. He could imagine the demon already by the table, ladling in a few deciliters of mulled wine into his mug, and the angel paused to savor that image. He wanted to join him, so, so badly, but there was a Vision to be executed.
He closed the door to the greenhouse, then started snapping his fingers. "Off to work."
By the time he was finished, Aziraphale literally patted himself on the back.
The greenhouse was now one-hundred percent more festive than it usually was. He had replaced all the lights in the corners with a warmer tone, and all around the walls were fresh evergreen garlands, strung with fairy lights that weren't too harsh that it would dry the plants out (not that Aziraphale would let them, memos from Heaven about frivolous miracles be damned). There were also shiny Christmas decorations hung from random plants as well, baubles shining as the light hit them and bathing the surfaces it hit with a colorful, mosaic glow. Aziraphale made the center of Eden, which was a classy fountain that spewed water all day and night, even more Christmas-y as well, making the cherub with Aziraphale's likeness, with a snake curling around its leg, wear a tiny Santa hat.
Last but not the least, Aziraphale hung mistletoe -- and he hung them everywhere. He hung them on the center of the garden, hung them over an intersection where the two paths meet, hung them in corners and hung them heavily over the doorframe into the garden. He had read somewhere that being under a mistletoe usually invited a kiss, as was Christmas tradition. And it was often (and, dare he say, over-) used for a romantic trope in all of the romance novels he had read that were set in the same season.
The Guardian of the Eastern Gate sounded like a title given to a formidable, incredibly brave and fearless being, but Aziraphale was anything but. The angel was emotional, first and foremost; he openly cried during sad movies and beautiful theater performances, or even on such trivial things as a small child giving a bit of food for a stray cat.
Recently, the angel had been filled with one emotion -- love. And it wasn't the type of love that angels would usually have, because their very nature is to love -- love the world and love humanity as they are God's beloved creations. But this time, Aziraphale felt love, and it wasn't from Up Above, but from Deep Within. It filled him with warmth, but in a different way; God's love was felt all around, but this one felt like it was pointed, directed to something... or someone, in particular.
That someone was Crowley.
After the Apocalypse-That-Wasn't, Crowley and Aziraphale had both called it quits and had moved away from their official place of residence from London and into a shared cottage in the South Downs. This, for them, was a common ground; a place where neither Heaven nor Hell could influence, could break into. It was modest, and homey, and cozy. Aziraphale had an enormous library that he kept to most days on the first floor, and Crowley had an expansive garden (which he constructed a greenhouse around) in the back of the house. They'd cook meals, and drink, and relax and read and tend to plants in Eden. It was all well and good, because their Arrangement, for centuries only a verbal agreement that would come up on a case-by-case basis, had finally come into fruition. It was their side; their piece of solitude on Earth.
But Aziraphale had only now realized that the feeling of warmth that woke him up every morning and embraced him to sleep every night wasn't just regular feelings of contentment, but a developing set of emotions toward the person he shared residence with. He and Crowley still kept to separate bedrooms in the house, as they had agreed to still keep some privacy for each other's sanity.
But often, after a night of wine and reading by the fireplace in comfortable silence, and after the demon had mumbled a groggy 'good night' before retiring to his bedroom, Aziraphale would find himself not quite able to close his own bedroom door. He lingered in the hallway, hand on the doorknob, eyes on the sleek black door directly on the other side, thinking whether or not he should knock and step in, or do the opposite and invite Crowley into his own bed. The angel didn't know why, but there was a deep, innate instinct to pull Crowley close, and not let go.
"Sounds like love," Anathema had said on a Skype call one November afternoon, as he relayed his plights through the screen while Crowley was out getting bread.
And Aziraphale thought that that must be it. The young witch explained to him that love made someone want the universe to go exactly as the object of their affections wanted it to go, and Aziraphale thought the world of Crowley. She said that loving a person was like having a spark light a candle, and Aziraphale felt like a roaring campfire. Anathema told him that it would be beneficial for the both of them if Aziraphale aired out his feelings...
...but he wasn't the confrontational type. And so he devised this little ruse to try and confess. As subtly as he could.
A kiss under the mistletoe, he decided, was a great place to start.
Excited and nervous at the same time, he breathed in deeply and exhaled slowly, before calling out. "Crowley, dear? Come here one second, I want to show you something."
Crowley took one good look at the changed Aziraphale had made. The angel expected him to shower him with compliments as usual, or tease him lightly for a job well done.
He didn't expect Crowley to scream at the top of his lungs as if he had just been kicked in the bollocks.
"No, no, no, no!" He hissed angrily, pacing frantically and trying to take it all in. "What in the seven circles of hell is this?! "
The flare of hope that had been burning brightly inside Aziraphale's chest had suddenly flickered. Did he do something wrong? "I-I--"
" YOU!" The demon yelled accusatorily, and Aziraphale jumped from where he was standing, thinking that Crowley would be charging at him. But the demon was pointing at the mistletoe that the angel took ages to plan out to hang, and glared at it enough for the surrounding plants to shiver out of pure fear. "WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE?!"
Aziraphale tried opening his mouth to explain, but Crowley was already busy jumping up and down, grabbing at the mistletoe and yanking them forcefully out of where they hung. The angel looked on as leaves were pulled and other Christmas decorations were torn down in the process, collateral damage to the chaos that Hurrican Crowley was over mistletoe.
"Stop, stop!" He cried out, as the shiny baubles started dropping and breaking into little tiny fragments around Crowley's feet. He held onto the demon's arm, clamping him down. "What are you --"
"Mistletoe is parasitic!" Crowley yelped, and Aziraphale could see pure panic and anxiety in the demon's serpentine eyes. "I don't know how they got here, there must've been a patch where I missed, and --"
Aziraphale by now had paled. "Parasitic...?"
"Yes, angel. Satan, how am I so stupid?!" Crowley hissed, stomping in frustration as he yanked another bunch of mistletoe from overhead. "How could I have missed it?! Stupid, stupid -- "
Crowley turned around when he heard a sniffle. It was barely audible, but he felt more than heard it. The demon stopped trying to tear down decorations and turned around, because Aziraphale had gone stock still. Tears were freely flowing down his face, and his hands had dropped from holding onto Crowley's sleeve to fidgeting on his sweater.
An angel and a demon stood in the middle of a vast garden named Eden. They both were thinking: "Somehow, I fucked up."
Crowley was the first to approach, taking a small step forward, hand outstretched. "Angel...?"
"-Sorry," was all that broke out from Aziraphale's pained sobs, and his hands came up to angrily wipe at the tears. His face was already blotchy and red from crying, and the demon's heart clenched painfully at the sight. "I'm so, so sorry -- "
"It was me," Aziraphale confessed, and he shut his eyes, not wanting to see the look of hate that was surely on Crowley's face. "I-I put the mistletoe around."
"What? Why would you do that?"
"Because I was trying to be romantic!" The angel yelled out, pent-up frustration and daily agonizing of will-he, won't-he culminating in a kettle boiling over, the whistle angrily blowing. Aziraphale had had it with the hiding, with tiptoeing around Crowley.
He knew that he needed to walk on eggshells because this new lease on life on Earth with each other was a field full of landmines, but he was just so, so tired of getting everything wrong.
"It's Christmas, and it's cozy, and I want to be warm and together, and I wanted to make you happy and content, and k-kiss under the mistletoe, and --"
Aziraphale wanted to run. He stepped back, hands clammy as he furiously tried to wipe his sweaty palms on his trousers. "I-I have to, I have to leave --"
But before he could finish his sentence, Crowley held him fast, hands holding his arms together almost painfully. "Angel."
Crowley shushed him softly, then pulled him into a warm hug. Aziraphale practically melted, burying his face onto Crowley's chest as he tried (and failed) to stop his sobs. The demon just held him close, one arm wrapped around the angel's body while his hand brushed the curls on top of the angel's head.
They stayed like that for a while, two beings in Eden holding each other close, mumbling garbled apologies onto the other's clothes or hair, and humming a little melodic tune from a decade long-forgotten until their breaths evened out and they finally calmed down.
When Aziraphale finally peeled himself off of Crowley's chest, the demon just smiled at him. "All's forgiven, angel. Help me put back the decorations?"
Aziraphale just returned the smile before picking up the remains of a large bauble, snapping the pieces back together.
They made quick work, with Crowley taking the North and West walls of Eden, and Aziraphale restoring the South and the East. In no time, holiday garlands and tinsel and lights covered more ground in the greenhouse. It was warm, and it was colorful, and it was festive. Just as Aziraphale had imagined.
Well, except for one aspect.
"All done on your end, dear?" Aziraphale asked, checking the walls one last time before he deemed himself satisfied with his work. When no answer from Crowley came except for a few moments of shuffling shoes, he turned around. "Crowley?"
The demon was standing right behind him, smiling, arm outstretched between them. Aziraphale looked up to see the demon was holding what looked to be mistletoe, and he blinked, confused.
"Plastic," Crowley explained sheepishly. "Less harmful to the plants in Eden, I should say."
"Ah," Aziraphale said, nodding.
They stood in silence for a while, just regarding each other, the distance between them, the flimsy plastic ornament dangling in the air.
No one spoke a word, but they didn't need to. It was like the universe nudged them into each other's spaces. All it took was a few paces, and a couple of solid resolves.
Aziraphale would retell it as the moment he stepped up courageously, while Crowley would correct him, saying he was the one who made the first move. Specifics aside, the matter was that an angel and a demon shared a kiss in Eden, under a plastic mistletoe that hung on the air.
It was their first, but it definitely wasn't their last.