It should not be a surprise that they argue about the past. They have more past between them than any creatures living on Earth. Their corporations have carried them through six thousand years. They are going to have baggage. They are going to have scars.
They don’t talk about them often. There are unspoken rules - about which subjects they are both comfortable with and which fall into the category of ‘for difficult conversations only’. They do not cross those lines unless absolutely necessary. Tonight, however, Aziraphale had pushed too far He'd pushed for touch when he should have given Crowley space, prodded for information when he should have given his friend time. He’d messed up.
Six thousand years apart and only eight months free, Aziraphale is not always sure where the lines lie. So, when he asks about a scar and brushes fingers across a mark on Crowley’s skin, all the old defence systems get activated. Crowley lashes out, showing a little too much demon - a little too much fang. And Aziraphale lets himself be chased away, stung by the apparent lack of trust.
The reaction, on both sides, is a massive overcompensation and they both know it - but six thousand years of habit is hard to break. So, they spend the evening sitting at opposite ends of their opulent hotel suite, licking their wounds, when they could have been together. The room feels emptier, somehow. Vienna, outside, that little bit colder.
They don’t make up until well past midnight.
It is Crowley who bridges the gap, eventually - appearing at the angel’s side as Aziraphale distracts himself at the ostentatious grand piano. There is whiskey on her breath and a glass grasped between her long fingers.
Aziraphale accepts the drink as the demon holds it out - a peace offering, between two creatures who have seen enough of war to know when to raise a white flag.
“Listen… I shouldn’t have shouted.”
“I shouldn’t have pushed,” Aziraphale replies.
“Yes, me too.”
There is more, after that - after Crowley sits down on the piano bench and listens to him play a while. The explanation that spans a myriad of traumas.
“I don’t want the memories that those scars stand for,” Crowley mutters, somewhere near the end of it. “I hate that they’re just there, in my head - that I’m constantly having to step around them, to find things. They’re ugly. And it’s one thing, having that all going on where you can’t see, but when it bleeds out…”
“I have scars too,” Aziraphale reminds his friend, quietly.
She shakes her head.
“Not like these.”
Aziraphale exhales. There are no words big enough for the point he wants to make. So, his fingers move to unbutton his shirt, instead.
“Look.” He pushes the fabric aside and points to a bullet wound, evidence of a battle he should never have been a part of. “They told me to let two hundred humans walk into an ambush, that day, and I obeyed.”
Crowley watches, silent, eyes the same colour as the amber in her glass.
“And here,” the angel continues, unbuttoning his trousers and sliding them down to reveal a dark line across his right thigh. “A battle that I helped instigate. Seventy dead. Countless injured.”
Aziraphale runs a hand up to his ribs, to a long-healed burn.
“And this. From the fire where I was allowed to save one, from a family of five.” His mouth twists, despite his attempt at neutrality. “Heaven let me choose. They said I’d 'earned the right to pick'.”
A tear slides down into the crease of Crowley’s nose. She doesn’t wipe it away.
“Do you still love me?” Aziraphale asks.
The demon tilts her head, a familiar ‘oh, come on’ in the crease of her brow - a grimace built of angles.
“Don’t be thick,” she whispers, hoarsely.
They watch one another for a moment. Then, Aziraphale reaches out and Crowley leans in.
They hold one another tightly for five minutes, the angel breathing in the aftershave clinging to his best friend’s neck. Neroli and bergamot, mixed with the delicate cedar smoke of her skin. Aziraphale feels incredibly grateful. Indescribably relieved.
“There is ugliness in both of us,” he whispers, eventually, “but there is good, too.”
Crowley stiffens and tries to pull away, but Aziraphale holds her tighter.
“Not like that, dear. Not Heaven’s idea of ‘good’ and ‘evil’. I just mean…” he pulls his head back, to look into the demon’s eyes. “There is humanity in us. There must be. That’s why we were put here. I know it is.”
His friend gives a half laugh, something disbelieving but also deeply fond.
“And regardless,” Aziraphale continues. “I love you.”
He lets Crowley pull back, after that - lets her sit up, still wrapped in the silk gown she'd been wearing for the theatre, earlier that evening. Up this close, Aziraphale can see the soft skin where she’d shaved away all traces of body hair, the human way. Can see the smudge of makeup under her eyes. Crowley, grounded in this world by choice. His demon. His friend. So very beautiful.
“Kiss me, won’t you?” His demon whispers.
It’s an old phrase - something a bit out of the last century. Crowley doesn’t slip up that way often but, when she does, it always send a thrill up Aziraphale’s spine. In those moments, he is suddenly aware of the age of her - the age of them - and the enormity of what they’ve shared together.
He kisses Crowley, submitting to the rush of it. The demon’s mouth is soft and warm, the pressure in it slightly desperate. It’s lovely. It’s perfect. As Crowley’s fingers curl into his hair, a low noise escapes Aziraphale’s throat and he feels his friend smile.
“You're such a tart…”
He exhales a laugh.
They kiss again, bodies curving into one another, errant elbows bumping against the piano and causing keys to cry out, asynchronously.
“Are we friends again, then?” Crowley asks, breaking apart after a minute or two.
“Mm.” She licks her lip, glances sideways, and the angel sees that familiar spark of mischief in her best friend’s eyes. “Hey. Come here…”
Taking his hand, she pulls him from the bench and leads him around to the flat shelf of the piano.
“Always wanted to do this,” she murmurs, grinning as Aziraphale complies and lifts her up onto it, stepping into the welcoming space between her thighs.
The angel cannot help but smile.
“Of course you have…”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“You’re so flash, Crowley.”
The demons laughs, loud and delighted, head tilted back as Aziraphale works kisses down her collarbone.
“You love it.”
“I do,” Aziraphale admits, into her skin. “I really do.”
The piano is miraculously sturdy. It lasts them all the way to morning.