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A Thousand Sandwiches

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Crowley was misting his plants. He had been misting his plants for nearly half an hour. He had a lot of plants and some not inconsiderable unresolved aggression.

 

“We could be lusher,” he muttered, misting furiously. The plants trembled. “Stop that. You’ll rattle your leaves off. Lusher and glossy. I want to see my face in these leaves.” The plants stopped trembling and only exuded a moist sort of anguish. “Glossy!” Crowley insisted brandishing the mister. He made for the kitchen to refill the mister, and as he moved from room to room, he became aware of a gentle but insistent tapping at the front door.

 

Crowley stalked to the front door and threw it open, “What is it?”

 

Aziraphale was behind the door, smiling rather nervously and holding up a picnic hamper. A little of Crowley’s misting-related irritation ebbed away at the sight of Aziraphale. Crowley stepped back from the threshold automatically to let Aziraphale into the flat, “Oh, it’s you.”

 

“Hello!” chirped Aziraphale, evidently about to launch into an explanation of the hamper.

 

“How did you find my flat? You’ve never been here before,” Crowley interrupted.

 

Aziraphale smiled a slightly puzzled smile, “You leave traces, don’t you, dear.” He shut his eyes and inhaled deeply as if he were assessing the bouquet of a very nice glass of wine, “I followed them.”

 

“You smelled me?”

 

“Something like that! Can’t you find me, if you like?”

 

He could actually, but somehow he didn’t quite like to admit it. Crowley shrugged, “I always check the bookshop. You never go anywhere.”

 

“Yes, well. Speaking of the bookshop, someone tried to put a leaflet in the window, and I was going to incinerate it, but I saw that it was for,” Aziraphale dug in his pocket for the leaflet and thrust it at Crowley proudly, “this!”

 

Crowley groaned softly, “Not Hamlet.”

 

“Hamlet!” Aziraphale beamed. “Remember when we went and saw it?”

 

“I hated it!” Crowley reminded him.

 

“You said it wasn’t funny,” Aziraphale laughed at the recollection.

 

“It isn’t! Tragedy’s boring; who wants to see everyone die? And you only liked it because you fancied the actor who played Hamlet.”

 

A little flicker of annoyance passed over Aziraphale’s face, but he brushed it away quite quickly, “Bit young for me, wasn’t he, dear? Anyway, moot point now. You will come with me, won’t you, Crowley?”

 

“Hamlet in the park, too. That’s just silly, that is. It’s all. Glorious out. Sunny skies, birds chirping, flowers. Sitting there doing nothing because they're flowers and can't move. All that. It’s beautiful. No one’s in the mood for gloom when it’s lovely and hot out.”

 

“The play begins at dusk, so,” Aziraphale hefted the hamper, “That’s what this is for! A little picnic supper to pass the time first, mmm? I’ve got your favourite.”

 

Crowley raised an eyebrow, “My favourite?”

 

“Me,” declared Aziraphale smugly. “Will you come?”

 

“All right then. Bully.”

 

 

“This is lovely,” Aziraphale, squeezed Crowley’s elbow as they ambled through the park. “Where do you think?”

 

“The little hill near the lake,” Crowley suggested, thinking of Aziraphale throwing scraps to the ducks.

 

“Perfect,” Aziraphale agreed. They settled themselves in the shade of a willow that overlooked the lake and Aziraphale began to unpack the hamper. First out of it was a bottle of elderflower cordial, clammy with condensation.

 

Aziraphale poured a glass for himself and a glass for Crowley, “There you are, my dear.”

 

“Cheers, Angel,” Crowley tapped his glass to Aziraphale’s. They sipped in unison, Aziraphale looking down into his glass with a bashful expression that made Crowley feel bashful as well. The cordial was heavenly, cool and sweet, and Crowley felt much less performatively cross the instant it tingled over his tongue. He reached past Aziraphale’s busy hands into the hamper and tugged away a handful of grapes. “What’re you so happy about today, anyway?” Crowley tossed a grape into the air and tried to catch it in his mouth. He had to miracle it in at the last second, but at least it didn’t go in the dirt, he reasoned.

 

“Just feeling. Generally fond of the world and its inhabitants,” Aziraphale answered, still arranging the food. “In the mood to spread goodwill.”

 

“Generally fond,” Crowley leaned back on his elbows and tried another grape.

 

“I’m allowed. Sandwich?”

 

“Thanks,” Crowley accepted the sandwich and took a big bite, “Holy shit.”

 

“I know,” Aziraphale bit into his own sandwich, waggling back and forth happily. “My grocer’s been stocking this fantastic truffle spread. I’m putting it on everything.”

 

“I hope you’ve got a thousand sandwiches in there, Aziraphale, ‘cos that’s how many I’m going to eat.”

 

“Oh that can be arranged,” said Aziraphale through a mouthful of his own sandwich. “What is a truffle anyway?”

 

“It’s a sort of fungus,” Crowley licked his fingers with relish. “It grows underground, and there’re pigs that dig it up.”

 

“Nevertheless,” Aziraphale offered Crowley another sandwich. Crowley accepted it with gratitude, and it disappeared as quickly as the first one had.

 

When they’d pulled the same vanishing act with three more sandwiches, the bowl of grapes, nearly all the cordial, half a dozen chocolate biscuits, and a fat wedge of angel cake a piece, Aziraphale unbuttoned his waistcoat and eased onto his side next to Crowley.

 

“That was divine,” Crowley rolled onto his back, pillowing his head on his folded arms. “Well done, Angel.”

 

“Oh don’t mention it,” Aziraphale reached into his jacket and took out a little blue enamel case.

 

Crowley smiled at the sight of it, “Still got that, have you?”

 

“It was a gift from a friend,” Aziraphale sat up and opened the case, “so I’ve taken rather special care of it.”

 

Crowley watched, grateful for his shades and wondering if they at all dimmed the glow of overwhelming affection he was certain must be pouring out of him. Aziraphale took the daintiest joint Crowley had ever seen out of the case and patted his breast pocket for his lighter.

 

“Let me, Angel,” said Crowley, about to click his fingers.

 

“Never mind, I have it,” Aziraphale produced a sleek golden lighter and lit his joint, then delicately blew a stream of smoke away from Crowley’s face.

 

“That’s pretty,” said Crowley, holding his hand out for the lighter and receiving the joint instead. “Luxurious. Looks like something Beyonce would have.”

 

“Beyonce,” Aziraphale repeated uncertainly, “That name sounds familiar. One of our lot or your lot?”

 

Crowley grinned, “Your lot.” He sat up and brought the joint to his lips, “When in Rome, I suppose.” He tried a hit, but it had gone out.

 

“Oh, let me help you, my dear,” Aziraphale reached toward Crowley with a familiar glint in his eye.

 

Crowley flinched back, “Aziraphale, no! I’m begging you, please don’t do this; we were having such a nice-”

 

But it was too late. There was a whisper of cloth and a rush of wind and a stream of brightly coloured silk went flying past his face. “Oh goodness!” Aziraphale crowed, “Look what you had in your ear!” He waved the string of handkerchiefs at Crowley.

 

“For the love of fuck,” Crowley growled through his teeth.

 

Aziraphale beamed and drew a deck of cards from the pocket his cigarette case had come out of. He fanned them and held them out toward Crowley, “Pick a card.”

 

Crowley knocked his hand away, “Get those away from me! This is so embarrassing. I don’t love you anymore.”

 

Aziraphale froze, though his silly grin didn’t fade in the slightest, “What?”

 

Crowley’s face blazed hot, but he tried to brazen it out, “I will not be a party to this, Aziraphale. I told you before, and I meant it!”

 

“You love me!” Aziraphale sang, throwing the cards into the air like confetti and clasping his hands together.

 

“No!” Crowley miracled the cards away before they fell to the ground. “That is the wrong thing to take away from this moment.”

 

“Be still, my heart,” Aziraphale clutched his chest, pretending to swoon.

 

Crowley clicked his fingers to light the joint and finally took a hit on it, “I’ll just wait til you’re finished, then.”

 

Aziraphale took the joint from him, “This is momentous for you. In love with a magician; did you ever imagine this life for yourself, Crowley?”

 

“I’ll go home if you don’t stop bullying me; I swear I will.”

 

Aziraphale sighed, still smiling rather giddily, “Oh, you’re no fun.”

 

“Fun,” huffed Crowley, trying not to smile as Aziraphale hugged him. “As if there’s anything at all entertaining about your stupid card tr-”

 

“Everything all right here, gents?” interrupted a gruff voice from behind Crowley. He looked over his shoulder to find a uniformed policeman looming over them.

 

Aziraphale tried to conceal his joint under his cordial glass, but it continued to smolder pungently, “Oh yes! Ticketty boo!”

 

“Sorry to break up your date here, but we have had complaints of someone in the area ah consuming illicit substances on the premises.”

 

“You don’t say,” said Crowley, stretching lazily. “Some people will do anything in public.”

 

“Would you move that glass for me please, sir?” said the policeman sternly to Aziraphale.

 

The joint was gone of course when he did. “Your sleight of hand is really getting better,” said Crowley, winking at Aziraphale over the top of his shades.  

 

“What’s that, now?” said the policeman suspiciously.

 

“Crowley!” hissed Aziraphale. “Stop it!”

 

Crowley clicked his fingers and the policeman went sort of blankly placid.

 

“Crowley!”

 

“Make up your mind, Angel. Do you want me to help or don’t you?”

 

“I only meant you should stop unhelping!” Aziraphale looked up at the policeman, “You find you’ve not been inconvenienced in the least. Everything is fine here.” He paused, considering, “You perhaps would like to reevaluate your career choice. It seems that bolstering the property rights of the powerful is not your cup of tea after all, and you’d prefer…” Aziraphale trailed off and looked at Crowley.

 

“Gardening,” suggested Crowley.

 

“Exactly,” Aziraphale nodded. “You’ve an unslakable passion for community gardens. Toddle off now, dear.”

 

The policeman blinked and shook his head, looking confused between Aziraphale and Crowley, “Thank you again, gentlemen. Have a pleasant evening.”

 

Crowley waved, “Same to you, dude.”

 

The policeman tipped his helmet to them and toddled off.

 

“Have we learnt our lesson about magic tricks, then?”

 

Aziraphale glared, “No.”

 

“Nothing to be done with you, Angel; you’re a stubborn one.”

 

Aziraphale began to pack away the remains of their picnic rather fretfully, “Will you still see Hamlet with me?”

 

Crowley raised his shades, taken aback, “Well sure I will. If you still.” He cringed under a sudden prickle of embarrassment, “Have I been an ass today?”

 

Aziraphale waved the question away, “Don’t be silly; I like you that way. But I was meaning to cheer you up today, and it doesn’t seem to be working. If you’d rather be left alone for the present, that’s all right. But it’s tricky to say sometimes, and I’m afraid this time, you’ve got to tell me one way or the other.”

 

Crowley cringed harder and briefly contemplated transforming and slithering away to be embarrassed under a nice, flat rock or similar, “How’d you know I. Wanted cheering up?”

 

Aziraphale shrugged, “Just a hunch. Much good it’s done us.”

 

Crowley pushed his shades back down over his eyes. There was a treacherous tingle starting in the corners of them, “I’m sorry, Angel. I don’t mean to be. Whatever this is.”

 

Aziraphale shook his head, “This isn’t about me, Crowley. Or at least it wasn’t meant to be.” He reached for Crowley’s hand and pressed it between both of his own like a sort of worry stone while he thought what to say next, “What would you like? Do you know? Or would you like me to think of something else to try?”

 

“I don’t think I’m up for Hamlet,” Crowley confessed. “Sorry. Daddy issues and that. I don’t really fancy a haunting tonight. That okay?”

 

“Of course. We can go another time. It’s one of the most popular plays ever written for some reason or other,” Aziraphale waggled his eyebrows meaningly, and Crowley laughed. “Perhaps a nightcap back at the bookshop? Or a nice cocoa? Or. What’s it called?” He made a very specific hand gesture, “Hand work? That’s not quite it.”

 

Crowley pressed his lips together, “It’s called a handjob, Angel.”

 

“That’s the chap!” agreed Aziraphale cheerfully. “Wouldn’t that be nice?”

 

Crowley turned his head and grinned into his shoulder for a moment, “I’m really fucking in love with you.”

 

“Hmm?” Aziraphale leaned in and cupped an ear with his hand. “Didn’t catch that, dear.”

 

“Maybe a walk?” Crowley said louder.

 

“Sounds scrumptious,” Aziraphale rose and lifted the basket into the crook of one elbow, then offered Crowley his hand, “Shall we?”

 

Crowley took Aziraphale’s hand and let himself be hoisted onto his feet. There was quite a beautiful bit of twilight falling over the park. Hand in hand, Aziraphale and Crowley walked into it.