Crowley visits exactly one week after the almost-Apocalypse. He swaggers into the bookshop, and he smirks at Aziraphale, and it could almost be normal, almost, almost, if his hands weren’t trembling. If he could look Aziraphale in the eye.
“My dear,” Aziraphale says. “Is something the matter?”
Crowley perches on the arm of the sofa closest the door, and Aziraphale gets the impression he’s prepared to bolt at the first opportunity. “Can we be together now?” Crowley asks abruptly, quickly, eyes on the ceiling, hands clenched into tight fists. He swallows. “I don’t know how to go slow, but I will. Once I hear you say you don’t want it, I’ll go slow, I’ll stop. But. But I have to know. Do you want. Am I…?” He exhales. Drags his eyes to meet Aziraphale’s gaze head on. “Can we be together now?”
Aziraphale opens his mouth. Closes it. Opens it again. He is, as ever, rather swept away by Crowley’s bravery. This ability he has, this willingness to do things even while terribly frightened. To say the things that matter most, the words Aziraphale always chokes on.
Crowley stands, eyes on the door, and Aziraphale realizes he’s leaving, leaving, already waving his words away, mumbling about meeting for lunch in a few days.
“Yes,” Aziraphale gasps out, and it stops Crowley leaving, thank humanity, but he realizes he needs to say more, surely Crowley deserves more. “Yes,” he says again. More words come to mind but he can’t translate them into speech, can’t make himself process his thoughts. He groans.
“Yes,” Aziraphale says. “Together. Yes.”
“Oh,” Crowley says, breathless, wide-eyed.
He approaches Aziraphale carefully, and it strikes Aziraphale that some kind of touch is probably appropriate in a moment like this; a soft touch, maybe a caress on the cheek or a gentle hand in Crowley’s hair. He takes a deep breath, a bracing thing, full of book dust and energy and Crowley, and reaches out, but almost immediately he loses his nerve; ends up clapping Crowley on the shoulder, far more forcefully than he’d imagined. Crowley staggers back, almost tumbles over.
Aziraphale sinks down into his armchair. Covers his eyes. Perhaps Crowley will leave after all.
He doesn’t. He doesn’t mention Aziraphale’s inability to form sentences. Doesn’t mention the Gabriel-like unpleasant shoulder clap. “You want to be together now,” he says, as if he’s testing the words. As if he’s asking for confirmation.
Crowley looks at him. “Yes,” he repeats, then, “Can I tempt you to a walk in the park?”
Aziraphale breathes; he’s flooded with relief; he’s back on solid ground. “Yes,” he says. “Yes.”
It nags at him. Thing are different, now, but also much the same: Crowley still drops by the bookshop every evening. They still drink together, dine together. The biggest change brought on by their new understanding is in Crowley himself: he seems more settled, less restless. Happier. He seems happier.
They still don’t touch. They don’t touch, but sometimes Crowley looks at him with something like heat, something like longing, and Aziraphale doesn’t understand why Crowley doesn’t reach out, doesn’t kiss him.
It takes over three months for Aziraphale to remember that he can kiss Crowley. That maybe Crowley deserves to know that Aziraphale is willing to be brave for him. The realization takes his breath away: he needs to be brave in order to show Crowley how much he is valued. Loved. How awful, how unthinkable, that Crowley might not realize how much he’s loved. Something must be done.
The plan is this: he’ll take Crowley to see a film, something modern and edgy. Then they’ll go to that hole-in-the-wall Italian restaurant Crowley favors. Finally, he’ll ask Crowley to drive them back to the bookshop, where he’ll pour champagne and offer dessert, which he knows Crowley will decline. Then the kiss. First to the hand, and if that is well-received, the lips.
It all goes well, perfectly according to plan, until they make it back to the bookshop and Crowley smiles, genuine, radiant, and Aziraphale blurts out, “I miss you so much.”
“I’m right here, angel.”
“I know,” Aziraphale says helplessly, hands fluttering, and Crowley sways forward, presses their lips together and - oh. “Oh,” he says, opens his mouth, breathes Crowley in; he can’t believe he gets to do this, gets to open himself up to this, gets to be gentle, gets to cup Crowley’s cheeks, gets to run fingers through his hair.
“Aziraphale,” Crowley murmurs.
“Oh!” Aziraphale says, pulling himself back, yanking his hands away. “I was supposed to kiss you first! I was going to show you– I had a plan!”
“A plan,” Crowley repeats, looking dazed, then smirks in that soft way of his. “Should we pretend this didn’t happen? So you can make the first move?”
But Aziraphale doesn’t like the sound of that either. “No,” he says, with a long-suffering sigh. “But you must let me say ‘I love you’ first.”
“Oh,” Crowley says, wide-eyed. Hushed. “Yeah?”
“And you are absolutely forbidden from proposing. You must let me– you deserve to be–”
Crowley cuts him off with another kiss.