As expected, the bookshop was displaying more holiday cheer and goodwill toward men than Crowley thought was strictly necessary.
A large Christmas fir glared at him through the dusty window; it suffered from the sort of glass balls that made Crowley feel like he was being watched, and it was trimmed with so many lights the blinding glow could've been used to signal a passing ship. Aziraphale's usual welcome mat -- a sedate rectangle of tan carpet that was muddy and worn from years of performing its intended function -- had been replaced by a red and green affair that advised Crowley, in large and jovial letters, to sleep in Heavenly peace. A Salvation Army fellow lurked in Crowley's path, flanked by a puddle leftover from an earlier spot of rain and the red donation kettle waiting patiently at his elbow. His bell tinkled a bit too merrily, and he favoured Crowley a hopeful smile.
Crowley dropped a shilling slug into the kettle and pushed inside the bookshop with a wet scrape.
"I saw that," Aziraphale chided, from the depths of the back room.
"Saw what?" Crowley asked, as the door closed with a sigh. He coughed, and the Salvo's stash of railway tokens shifted back into coins. Foreign coins, with a somewhat depressing exchange rate. "I've no idea what you're on about."
"I'm sure," Aziraphale murmured, peering into the bookshop proper. He was dressed in a tired pair of chinos and an ice-blue cardigan that, to Crowley's horror, was knitted with snowflakes. "I'd almost given up on you."
Crowley paused at the counter, and frowned at the copy of A Christmas Carol lying next to the till. "Are you quite well?" Its mouldy exterior suggested it was a first edition. Bloody thing was probably signed. "It looks like you nearly sold something."
"You said seven," Aziraphale insisted, dismissing the book with a wave. "Seven." Crowley didn't bother checking his watch; he was well aware that seven had come and gone some forty-five minutes ago. "The cocoa is stone cold."
"Shame, that," Crowley replied, producing a large, unlabelled bottle from inside his jacket. It was green and shaped vaguely like a jug. "We'll need to settle for this, then."
Aziraphale almost smiled. "I suppose," he said finally. His voice was tart, but he allowed himself to be nudged into the back room. "Shall I put on some tea?"
"If you like," Crowley said, setting the bottle on the table. "I think this will go better with cocoa."
"I've already told you, the cocoa is cold."
Crowley snapped his fingers. "Not any more."
The second cup went down smoother than the first, mainly because the second was mostly Irish Cream.
"Well," Aziraphale said, wrapping his hands around his mug. "This is quite good."
Crowley nodded and poured himself another. A miniature soapstone Nativity watched the proceedings from a cluttered bookshelf against the far wall; it was only slightly less dusty than everything else in the back room, and the Magi towered over the squat manger, and act that should've been in direct conflict with their short statures. Crowley frowned at the lone livestock representative -- he supposed it was a sheep; cows just weren't that lumpy -- and it immediately acquired a drunken lean.
"It ought to be good," Crowley said finally. "It's fresh."
"Fresh?" Aziraphale narrowed his eyes -- first at Crowley, then at the bottle. "What do you mean, fresh?"
"I mean, it's fresh," Crowley replied, waving his hands. "Home-made, and that. Bottled just today."
"Oh, for -- I don't know, angel," Crowley said shortly. "Some Irish farmer. I didn't catch his name." He dropped another tot into Aziraphale's mug. "Just drink it."
Aziraphale tutted. "Stealing? On Christmas Eve? That's low, my dear. Even for you."
"I didn't steal it," Crowley insisted, in the aggrieved tone of someone who wasn't actually guilty, for a change. "I left him a chicken. That's barter."
"Your chicken, or someone else's?"
Crowley paused; he didn't recall ever having owned a chicken. Not once, in six thousand years. The closest he'd come had been during his third stint in Babylon, when he'd looked after a little place that -- in spite of what Aziraphale had wanted to believe at the time -- had not actually been a house of ill repute. One of his dancing girls had kept a goose, until Crowley had put an end to its habit of honking at all hours by having it roasted in a delightful date sauce. Geese were messy, noisy, and horribly smelly, and in Crowley's opinion, chickens weren't much better.
"Well?" Aziraphale pressed.
"Does it matter?" Crowley asked, drumming his fingers on the table. "Does it?"
"Yes," Aziraphale said firmly. "If it was someone else's chicken, it wasn't yours to give. You simply robbed Peter to pay Paul."
"I made the bloody chicken," Crowley said, snapping his fingers. A chicken promptly appeared to prove his point; it was fat and white, and it managed one good cluck before Aziraphale waved it away. "I made it, which means it was mine to give."
"I suppose, I suppose," Aziraphale conceded. He looked somewhat smug. "More cocoa?"
"Oh, all right," Crowley muttered. "I'm hungry now, I'll have you know."
"We don't get hungry."
Crowley sighed. "Well, I could eat."
It was the sort of chicken tikka masala Crowley preferred: thick, spicy, and heavy on the tomato. The restaurant Aziraphale mentioned had sounded a bit dingy and suspect over the phone, but the food was wonderful -- possibly because Crowley assumed anything he ate would be wonderful -- and they'd offered to deliver before Crowley had really suggested it.
"I must say, I'm rather surprised," Aziraphale said, pausing with a bit of potato halfway to his mouth. "I rather didn't think they'd be open."
Crowley shrugged. "I didn't think they'd be closed." They might've been before Crowley phoned; he didn't bother to dwell on it. Holidays were fine, if you went in for that kind of thing, but Crowley didn't, which meant there was no reason for a holiday to separate him from a good meal. "Humans need to eat." He speared a sliver of chicken with his fork. "You never did tell me -- what happened with that book?"
"Which book?" Aziraphale asked, from behind his cocoa.
"The one you very nearly sold," Crowley said. "Dickens, I think it was. Looked a breath away from falling apart." The masala really was quite good, although another dash of coconut wouldn't have hurt anything. "Who wanted it?"
"Oh, some woman."
Crowley shook his head. "You'll have that, about half the time," he noted flatly.
"Awfully showy, this one," Aziraphale said, with a slight frown. "Diamonds and a floor-length fur."
Crowley waved more cocoa into his mug, and Aziraphale's phonograph warbled Noels to itself from its perch atop an overturned box. In the company of muted strings and horns, a wistful soprano begged unnamed merry gentlemen to rest on not dismay. Crowley poked at his rice and did his level best to ignore her.
"She needed a Christmas present, for her husband," Aziraphale explained. "An Oxford professor, she said. Several times. He lectures on English Literature."
Aziraphale's mouth twitched. "Apparently, he's rather fond of Dickens. Has quite the collection."
"How did you run her off, then?" Crowley asked. "Quote her double what she paid for that fur?"
"In a manner of speaking," Aziraphale said slowly. "One could say my asking price was a bit high, but the book in question is extremely valuable. It's an original printing from 1843, when it was still known as A Christmas Carol in Prose, Being a Ghost Story of Christmas." Crowley nodded, but Aziraphale looked slightly hunted. "It's illustrated," he added urgently. "Illustrated."
"Well, she made it quite clear that money was no object," Aziraphale continued. "So then I... well, I didn't actually say it -- that would've been a lie, you understand -- but I may have hinted -- hinted! -- that this particular copy was cursed."
Crowley snorted. "You're still using that old line?" Laughter curled around his words, and Aziraphale favoured him with what he supposed was meant to be a hard look. It was horribly soft around the edges, which only made Crowley snort again. "I've told you that's no good. Superstition went out of fashion nearly a century ago."
"Humans really are funny creatures," Crowley said. "Time was, a spot of the old evil eye had them hiding under their beds. Now, nothing phases them. They go looking for cursed things to put in their curio cabinets." Pausing, he drew his finger around the rim of his mug. "Was she put off in the least?"
"Not at all," Aziraphale admitted. "She scarcely blinked, now that you mention it. We went around a bit more," he added, fiddling with his napkin, "but she finally decided her husband would rather a new dressing gown and a bottle of scotch."
"Decided?" Crowley asked. He smiled. "All on her own?"
"Yes," Aziraphale replied, a bit too quickly. "Pass the bottle."
"You remember the first one?"
"Of course, of course."
"You know, it's funny -- all this fuss in December, when he was born in April."
"What kept you, earlier?" Aziraphale asked. "You did say seven."
"Oh, that," Crowley said slowly. Aziraphale's obsession with punctuality bordered on absurd. It wasn't like he needed to worry about waste. "Traffic."
"Really, my dear." Aziraphale hefted his fork and wagged it accusingly. "If you'd rather not tell me, just say so. Don't lie."
"Who says I'm lying?"
"I do," Aziraphale insisted. He tipped more Irish Cream into his cocoa, and the bottle met the rim of his mug with a sharp clink. "You've never bothered with traffic before."
"It's happened once or twice," Crowley grumbled. On the whole, traffic was something other people needed to worry about, but holidays had a way of disrupting the unnatural order of things. "It's hard to avoid, when every street is stopped in both directions," he added, gesturing expansively. "I picked what looked like the shortest tailback. Twenty minutes in, I realised I was in the wrong queue."
"Shame," Aziraphale said lightly. The phonograph caught a scratch in the record, and Crowley winced as the wistful soprano missed the high note in O Holy Night several times in rapid succession. Aziraphale righted it with a cough. "Dare I ask where you wound up?"
"Burlington Arcade," Crowley replied, reaching for the Irish Cream. "I should've brought you along for the ride." He smiled. "You would've hated it."
Aziraphale's fork twitched between his fingers. "That bad?"
Crowley hadn't planned to stay, but a parking slot had opened up at just the right time, and he rather enjoyed a good spot of chaos. Particularly when it involved rich people squabbling for leftovers like dogs. The noise had been deafening -- shouts and screams coupled with frantic footsteps, all slicing through the Arcade's normally sedate and posh façade as it echoed between the polished floor and glazed and vaulted ceiling. Tired fathers had pulled wad after wad of pound notes from their pockets, while mothers had wielded their gigantic, boxy prams like rubber-wheeled siege-engines and Beadles had scurried to and fro, tailcoats flapping as they chased after sobbing, sticky-fingered children.
"It was absolute mayhem," Crowley continued. Leaning back in his chair, he paused to bask in the satisfaction that came from having humans do his job for him. "A bit like old times, really. I haven't seen that much deviance and desperation since the First Crusade."
Aziraphale huffed. "You needn't be so proud of yourself."
"Oh, I'm not," Crowley admitted. "I didn't complain about the commendation, on account of those dreadful uniforms, but it didn't take all that much," he added, turning his mug between his hands. "Back then, the Church was fairly looking for a reason to go to war."
"I meant the Arcade," Aziraphale said sharply. "All those people--"
"--squandering their hard-earned money and stepping on one another's faces?"
Crowley shrugged. "That wasn't me, either."
"Of course it was," Aziraphale argued. "You tempt people."
"Only when they need it," Crowley countered, "and believe me, they don't need my help when it comes to avarice and greed." He drained his mug and set it on the table with a thump. "They never have."
The phonograph skipped again, dwelling on a particularly emphatic bit from the violin section. With each pass, it cut off just as the music swelled toward what Crowley assumed would be a climatic moment if they ever got there, and the needle hissed loudly as it caught and jumped. After a full minute, Aziraphale pushed away from the table and wandered over, humming to himself as he sorted through his collection of records.
"You can't tell me those uniforms weren't dreadful," Crowley said finally.
"The uniforms were fine," Aziraphale replied, settling for an excitable tenor in the Pavarotti mold. "You made a dreadful milites Christi."
"So did you, angel. So did you."
"You hate Ireland."
For the first time that evening, Crowley blinked. "What?"
"This." Aziraphale lifted the bottle, which was nearly half empty. Inside, the Irish Cream sloshed around softly. "You said you stole it from an Irish farmer."
"We've already been through this," Crowley said wearily. He didn't want to have the chicken conversation again. "I bartered it," he insisted. "Bartered."
"Yes, yes," Aziraphale conceded. "You bartered it from -- in your own words -- 'some Irish farmer,' which implies you were in Ireland at some point today."
Crowley blinked again. "And?"
"You hate Ireland," Aziraphale said, setting the bottle down for effect. He did so a bit too sharply, and cocoa lapped over the side of his mug. "You said as much."
"Oh?" Crowley asked. "And what did I say, exactly?"
"I hate this place," Aziraphale recited, in a fair impression of Crowley's disaffected near-drawl. "It's boggy and wet and miserable, and I can't understand a word these people are saying."
"Well, that much is true," Crowley said slowly. He didn't remember this exchange at all, although he had to admit, it rather sounded like something he'd say, and not just because Aziraphale had stolen his voice. "Anything else?"
"I hate it, and I'll be damned if I ever set foot here again."
"I already am damned," Crowley said, with a twisted smile. "When was this?"
Aziraphale paused thoughtfully. "1846. When you tried to stop me from ending the Potato Famine."
"I didn't try to stop you," Crowley said shortly. If he was the sort of demon that did things properly, he would have, but he couldn't stomach watching people starve to death. "I simply asked you not to be so showy about it." Temptation was one thing, but skeletal children with hollow cheeks and empty eyes were something else entirely. "There you were, going on about water moulds before oomycetes had properly been discovered. My side was asking questions I didn't want to answer."
"I suppose I was flashing about," Aziraphale admitted.
"If you'd been any more obvious, you'd have dug up your flaming sword."
Aziraphale smiled, and waved more cocoa into their mugs. "You still haven't told me -- what were you doing in Ireland today?"
"Business," Crowley said neutrally.
"Oh?" Aziraphale asked, and Crowley avoided his pointedly arched eyebrow by dint of busying himself with the Irish Cream. "What sort of business."
"Let's just say St Stephen's Day will be fairly quiet," Crowley replied. Any scheduled wren processions would be taking place without accompaniment; due to a few mild manifestations, there wasn't a flute, fiddle, tin whistle, or harmonica to be found on the island, and if Crowley had planned things right, there wouldn't be until well after Epiphany. All things considered, Crowley thought the whole thing smacked of public service, but Dagon had insisted that come the twenty-sixth, a small army of young boys would be bloody furious. "Nothing you need to worry about."
"I always worry."
Aziraphale traded the excitable tenor for a church choir of apparently Biblical proportions, and lit a fire in a neat, flagstone hearth Crowley didn't think had been there before Aziraphale had decided it should be.
"I still say, it wasn't misdirection," Aziraphale said, prodding the fire with a poker that looked far too old to be brand new. "It certainly wasn't done maliciously."
"But it was done," Crowley countered. He tidied away the remains of the chicken tikka masala with a wave. "And I still say, my side doesn't own the market on malicious."
"It was easier," Aziraphale said, in the tired tone common to those doing precisely what he was doing: rehashing an incredibly old argument. "The pagans had been holding winter festivals for hundreds of years, most of which were concerned with the birth or rebirth of a deity." Sighing, he sat and reached for his cocoa. "They were having a hard enough time adjusting to the new religion. This just helped the transition along."
"Exactly my point," Crowley said, raising his mug. "It was a marriage of convenience."
Aziraphale frowned. "How so?"
"The Church took the pagans' holidays away, right? Said their celebrations were evil and wicked and an abomination. The pagans rebelled, so the Church returned one of the holidays, after filing down the serial number and slapping on a new coat of paint." Crowley paused to sip his cocoa. "Meanwhile, the Church set a new date for one of the most significant events in its history."
"That's not what happened," Aziraphale insisted. "That's not what happened, at all. The Church didn't just decide to set a new date. You're forgetting -- the Church didn't really have a date to begin with."
Crowley hadn't forgotten. He privately missed the old Church; it was easier to manipulate a large group of people when they were split into small and distant factions weakened by bickering, suspicion, and an inability to communicate in a timely fashion.
"The birth of Christ is covered in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke," Aziraphale continued. "Neither mention an exact date, which is probably for the best, since they were also unable to agree on the year." The church choir began their take on Silent Night; Crowley supposed Aziraphale found that fitting. "Matthew cites the reign of King Herod" -- they both winced -- "and Luke cites the Census of Quirinius which, if the historians are correct, creates a discrepancy of nearly ten years."
"You must have a point," Crowley said darkly. "I'm sure you'll find it if you try."
"My point is, the Church didn't set or reset the date of Christmas with a particular agenda in mind," Aziraphale said, snatching up the Irish Cream in a way that suggested he planned to hold it for ransom. "They didn't know when Christ was born any more that the pagans did. When Sextus Julius Africanus mentioned the twenty-fifth of December in his Chronographiai, they simply went with it." As far as the choir was concerned, all was calm and bright. "Personally, I think they were relieved that someone had finally picked one."
"A date that, coincidentally, fit in with the pagan habit of winter merry-making."
Aziraphale sighed. "The connection was there, so the Church put it to use."
"Like I said, it was a marriage of convenience."
"Yes, well," Aziraphale said fussily. "My version sounds better."
"I'm just positive it was March, and I ought to know."
"It was April, or have you forgotten the shepherds? They never went out until April. If it'd been March, we wouldn't have been knee-deep in sheep pats."
"Perhaps the shepherds started early. It was unusually warm that year."
"What was the name of that inn you owned?
"I'm sure I don't remember."
"I understand they still call it Yule, in some places."
The tiramisu was exquisite. After another bite, Crowley decided Aziraphale had missed his calling. He'd gone heavy on the rum, light on the coffee, and the mascarpone was nearly perfect. Crowley wondered if he could convince Aziraphale to close the bookshop and open a bakery. Less people would try to make off with his precious books, and creating the food from raw firmament would cut down on expenses.
"Sorry," Aziraphale murmured. "What was that?"
"I said, the still call it Yule, in some places."
Aziraphale tilted his head. Chocolate stained the corner of his mouth. "Where?"
"Scandinavia," Crowley said, after another bite of tiramisu. "Norway, and that." It really was delicious. "Nice place, Norway."
"If memory serves, it was cold," Aziraphale said tightly. "Cold, and exceedingly violent."
"It's come up a bit, since the last time you were there," Crowley noted, making a circular gesture with his fork. "You haven't been back, have you?"
"I've never had a reason." Aziraphale took a long sip of his cocoa and reached for the bottle. "Like I said, it was cold and exceedingly violent. It's also the reason I dislike fur, sailing, and salted fish."
Crowley considered this over more tiramisu, and decided Aziraphale had the right of it. Norway hadn't been all that bad for him, but he could've done without the endless supply of salted fish.
"Do people still eat that?" he asked finally. "Salted fish, I mean."
"Anchovies would qualify."
"I suppose they would," Crowley agreed slowly, "but no one actually eats them." His cocoa had gone cold, and he warmed it with a sniff. "I rather enjoyed Norway."
Aziraphale thinned his mouth. "I'm sure you did. You spent ten years as the royal advisor to King Haakon."
"Whereas you spent seven sailing the North Sea in a boat shaped like a dragon."
"Don't remind me," Aziraphale said crossly. "I was on an assignment." He pushed away from the table and headed for the fire, which had quietly begun to die. "Granted, it was a lousy assignment, but it was an assignment, just the same."
"During which you burned three monasteries, pillaged countless fishing villages, and married some girl you picked up on a raid."
Aziraphale hefted the poker, and made a valiant attempt at a murderous look. "I caused a minimal amount of damage, all things considered, and you leave Beyla out of this." He subjected the fire to a particularly forceful jab. "If I remember correctly, you've been married at least thirteen times."
"Twelve," Crowley corrected. "Twelve times in six thousand years, and they were all political matches."
"And mine wasn't?" Aziraphale asked, returning to the table. "It's not like I had a choice in the matter. Eirik found her in Novgorod, and he as good as forced her on me," he explained. "Said it was past time I settled down and started a family, and refusing him would've attracted unwanted attention."
"It's funny, really, how we both ended up on the wrong end of things."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, I went to court and you went to sea, when it should've been the other way around."
Aziraphale waved him off. "We had jobs to do."
"Did you manage yours?"
Crowley smiled. "Don't feel bad. I didn't manage mine, either."
"All I'm saying is, you're not meant to like Christmas."
Crowley shrugged. "What's not to like?"
"Well," Aziraphale began, "your side has never held with that sort of thing." He pursed his lips and searched for his next words somewhere over Crowley's shoulder. "You know, the spirit of the season. Goodwill toward men, and everything else."
"That's the problem with you, angel," Crowley said, reaching for his mug. It was empty, and after a moment's thought, he abandoned all pretence and filled it with Irish Cream. "Your body is here, but your brain is stuck in a Norman Rockwell painting. Christmas is about the giving and receiving of material goods, and it has been for years."
"You think so?" Aziraphale asked quietly.
"I know so," Crowley replied. "Times have changed. Humans have changed." Pausing, he swallowed a finger of Irish Cream, then shook his head. "Scratch that last bit," he said, waving his free hand. "Humans haven't changed at all. They've always been selfish and grabby. They've just stopped trying to hide it."
Aziraphale shook his head slowly. "They haven't always been."
"Yes, they have," Crowley insisted. "Selfish and grabby, all the way back to the beginning." He leaned forward and pointed a finger at Aziraphale. "You can believe what you like about what happened in the Garden -- she'd have taken that apple eventually. All I did was move things along."
"Oh, no. Don't you try to slither out of that after all this time," Aziraphale said. "She wouldn't have touched that tree, if you hadn't put doubt in her mind. God told her not."
"He's told humans lots of things over the years," Crowley argued. "If they were really listening, they wouldn't shave, work on Sunday, eat shrimp, have hamburgers on Fridays, or get tattoos," he added, ticking each off on his fingers. "Like I said, you can believe what you like, but it didn't take much. I certainly didn't twist her arm."
"I'm telling you, they've never needed my help when it comes to avarice and greed," Crowley continued. "Selfish and grabby, and if you want my opinion, they also enjoy being miserable. They must," he added quickly, before Aziraphale could cut him off. "Otherwise, they wouldn't go out of their way to make themselves miserable."
Aziraphale shifted in his chair. "Yes, well."
"Look. Right now, some poor sod is standing in Crockett & Jones--"
"-- he can't be all that poor if he's in Crockett & Jones."
"If you like," Crowley went on, tipping a bit more Irish Cream into Aziraphale's mug. "He may have money to burn, for all I know. The point is, he's standing in Crockett & Jones on Christmas Eve, but other, more industrious shoppers who didn't leave things to the last minute have already picked the place clean."
"So, he's trying to decide between a tin of burgundy shoe polish his Uncle Milton won't like, and a pair of ugly, overpriced loafers that are four sizes too large," Crowley said triumphantly. "It's Christmas Eve, and the shop lady's checking her watch, and he'd got to pick something, because Uncle Milton is due at his flat at half-eight on Christmas morning, and the beautiful part is, he did this to himself. I didn't have to lift a finger."
"Or, he could do something sensible," Aziraphale argued. "He could try Marks and Spencers."
"Which, by this time, has also been picked clean," Crowley countered. "He'll spend an hour waffling over things like argyle socks and tie pins shaped like animals. He'll even give serious consideration to a pink leather handbag that Uncle Milton will consider an insult, then throw up his hands and admit defeat."
Aziraphale drained his mug and set it aside with a thump. "He could always get a gift cheque."
"I rather hope he does," Crowley said with a smile. "Best thing I ever invented, really."
"Think about it," Crowley said. "Just think about it. This fellow will feel better, because he bought something, and he'll feel better straight through until Christmas morning, when Uncle Milton hands him a neatly wrapped box, and he hands Uncle Milton an envelope." Leaning back, he gestured widely. "And, the amount is right there on the cheque, so Uncle Milton will know exactly how much this poor sod thinks he's worth."
Aziraphale looked stricken. "That's terrible."
Abandoned to its own devices, the fire had burned low, its embers hissing as they started to cool. After a brief moment of silence, the phonograph found the next groove, and the church choir launched into an alarmingly rousing rendition of Carol of the Bells.
"What are we listening to?" Crowley asked warily.
Aziraphale narrowed his eyes at the phonograph. "The Mormon Tabernacle Choir, I believe."
"Good music is good music," Aziraphale said simply. "Odd ducks, the Mormons, but I'm fairly certain they mean well."
Crowley decided to leave that alone. He turned his attention to the bottle instead, which was now woefully empty. He snapped his fingers, and it became a miniature Nativity, similar to the one he'd been ignoring all evening. He snapped again, and again, and again, and it changed into a shepherd's crook, a bough of holly, then a large and loudly wrapped present.
"What are you doing?" Aziraphale asked cautiously.
"Nothing," Crowley replied, as the present shifted into an evergreen wreath trimmed with a bow. "Finding my holiday spirit."
Aziraphale laughed. "You haven't got any, remember?"
The wreath twisted into another present, then a red candle with a long, yellow flame. Then came a ridiculously tiny fir, followed shortly by a sprig of mistletoe.
"Funny thing, mistletoe," Crowley said quietly. "It's a parasite, and it's poisonous, yet people hang it in doorways, hoping it will make people kiss them."
Crowley twitched his finger, and the mistletoe lifted off the table. Aziraphale watched it closely, smiling as it paused over Crowley's head.
"My dear, is that an invitation?"
"I suppose," Crowley replied lightly. "If you refuse, I've wasted a perfectly good bottle of alcohol."
The kiss was soft, careful, and in Crowley's opinion, far too brief. The clock chimed midnight; Crowley left the mistletoe where it was.
"I didn't get you anything," Crowley admitted.
Aziraphale smiled. "I have something for you, but I'm just sure you'll hate it."
"Oh? What is it?"
"A gift cheque," Aziraphale said easily, lacing his fingers through Crowley's. "For one pound fifty."