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Keep Your Enemies Closer

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“Broke up, did they?” Crowley feigned nonchalance at the news from their barkeeper mutual friend that Aziraphale’s pretty little brat of a boyfriend was gone. Truly, it was a relief. What did an angel have in common with a river spirit, anyway?

“Yes. Poor Aziraphale, he was pretty despondent earlier. Had two whole bottles of wine before he miracled himself out of here.”

Aziraphale was the one broken up? That didn’t track, he’d been contemplating dumping the twerp for weeks. “He say where he was going?”

“Home, he said, to take the longest bath of his life.”

Something in that struck a wrong note for Crowley. Longest bath? Aziraphale didn’t care much for baths, he’d dropped too many books into them. He’d heard the phrase “longest bath” - in a book, in a movie, somewhere - describing a suicide.

Surely not. There were easier ways for Aziraphale to discorporate and trot on up to heaven if he wanted to. But if he wanted to be dramatic about it …

If he didn’t intend to come BACK …

“Excuse me,” Crowley said, and left his glass unfinished.

*****

“Aziraphale?” No answer in the shop. “Aziraphale!” No answer upstairs. But the water was running in the bath. He heard a faint “Ow.” Desperate for his friend - his only friend - to not abandon him on Earth, in the messiest possible way, he burst into the bathroom.

Aziraphale stared at him from above a ton of bubbles, looking decidedly corporeal and not in the process of changing that, though there was a razor on the side of the tub.

Crowley spun around, facing the open door into the bedroom. “So! I! Heard the news. Down at. From Harold. You’re not planning on offing yourself, are you.” He didn’t mean for it to come out sounding disappointed.

“Whatever would I discorporate for, on purpose? Wait, over Kevin? Good gracious no, of course not. What a peculiar notion.”

“You DO have a razor there.” He gestured over his shoulder with a flap of the hand.

“Well if you must know,” Aziraphale said, shifting in the tub with a squeak against the porcelain, “I was shaving my legs.”

“Oh.” Beat. “Why?”

“To remove the hair.”

Now Aziraphale was baiting him. He gave up being embarrassed and turned around. “Ok smart ass, but why?”

He shrugged. “I didn’t analyze the impulse very closely. If I’d known it would have the effect of summoning you into my bathroom, I’d have chosen different timing.” What that timing would have entailed, he didn’t say.

“No, why shave at all, like a human? Why not just miracle yourself smooth as a porpoise if it pleases you?”

“It’s the process. I thought it might be therapeutic. Women are known to change their hair after a breakup. I don’t have much hair up here to change, but, well, this is still hair.” He bent his knee to lift it out of the water and beyond the reach of the bubbles.

“Seven hells, angel, you’ve gone and made a bloody wreck of yourself!”

“It looks rather worse than it is, in the water.”

“Do you need some help?”

“No, thank you.” He lifted his foot clear of the bath as well, revealing more nicks that bled in pink bubbly rivulets down his shin and calf. “Ok it does look rather terrible with the blood and everything.”

“You’ve made your knee into a soapy Golgotha!”

“Now you’re being dramatic.”

“Look, if you want to shave your legs or your butt or whatever, that’s fine, but this is closer to what I thought might actually be going on.”

“What, with this little plastic disposable Gillette? I like to think I’m a tad sturdier than that.” Aziraphale put his leg down into the water, which assured it wasn’t going to get any better. “You really were worried about me.”

“I haven’t saved your ass a half dozen times the last six millennia for funsies, you know.”

Aziraphale half smiled. “No, I suppose I didn’t.” After a thoughtful pause, he said, “Do you actually want to help?”

Crowley shrugged. “Sure. I can add it to the list of things Hell would hate me for if they knew. Had an angel under a knife and didn’t hurt him, in fact, made sure he was all safe and sound. They’d love that.” He took the razor. “I’m going to go get a bowl, be back in a moment. Dry off, we don’t need the bath.”

When Crowley came back with a bowl (from the kitchen) and shaving soap (out of thin air, he didn’t trust Aziraphale to have anything decent on hand), Aziraphale was mostly dry, the tub was draining (slightly pink), and the angel had an enormous towel wrapped around his whole body up to his armpits.

Crowley looked him up and down. “Seriously?”

Aziraphale huffed irritably (and bled on the floor.) “I see nothing wrong with my linens.”

“You do know there’s exactly zero point to modesty with us, right? And when did you get so concerned about it anyway? Come on, stop pretending to be British.” He climbed up onto the bed, setting the bowl of hot water on the bedside table.

Aziraphale let out a bone deep sigh, put the towel across the bed and climbed up on it. “You’re right, of course. And it’s not like it’s the first time you’ve seen me in the altogether. Not even the first time this century.”

He smiled warmly - maybe even hotly - at Aziraphale. “And the century’s young. Turning out to be a good one.” Crowley pulled Aziraphale’s leg into his lap and gently touched the tip of his finger to each of the tiny nicks, healing each one. Beelzebub would have an aneurysm if they knew.

He spread the shaving soap over the angel’s calf where hair yet remained, and drew the razor over it. He pretended not to notice the sharp intake of breath from his friend that was not pain. “So. You’re a free man again.”

“Yes, so it seems.”

“You seem sad about it. But I thought you were going to break up with him anyway.”

“Oh, I knew it was headed that way. I just thought he was more attached to me than he was.”

“So he broke up with you before you could dump him? Is this is a pride thing?”

“I’m allowed an ego,” Aziraphale said, quietly defensive.

“I didn’t say it was unjustified.” He finished up with that leg - it had been all but finished anyway - and Aziraphale shifted around to offer him the other.

“I suppose,” Aziraphale said, “it would smart less if he hadn’t left me for someone … prettier.”

“Prettier than you? Impossible.” He pretended it was necessary to cradle the back of Aziraphale’s knee in order to shave his shin.

“You know what I mean.”

He actually sounded serious, so Crowley looked up at him. “If you’re talking about your lack of an hourglass figure - “

“I’m fat, you can say it, it’s not an insult. Just a fact. It’s not a dirty word, and it’s not exactly news to me. Or recent.”

“My darling angel, you can be fat and be beautiful and desirable and perfect all at the same time.” Aziraphale started to look away from him; Crowley grabbed his jaw and brought his gaze back around. “Listen, you stubborn, many-winged, ox-headed wheel of eyes. The only people who want you to be other than you are, are people who want something from you. Take it from a demon.”

He went back to shaving. Draw the razor across soft, pink flesh, through lemongrass scented soap, shake it in the bowl of hot water, draw up another stripe. It was a little hypnotic, and coming to a close too quickly.

“What did I say? Repeat it back to me.”

Aziraphale spoke carefully. “Anyone who wants me to be anything other than what I am … wants something from me.”

“There you go. Don’t forget it.”

Aziraphale put a hand on Crowley’s hand, stilling him. “I just figured something out.”

“Do tell.”

“You were afraid I was discorporating myself … because you were afraid I was abandoning you here. I won’t. I pr-”

“Let’s leave those depths unplumbed.” He finished shaving the shin, calf, ankle, and knee. “Did you want your thighs shaved too?” There wasn’t much point, as the hair under Crowley’s hand as he rested it on the inside of Aziraphale’s thigh was thin and soft and white.

“No, I don’t think that’s necessary.” But he could see Aziraphale had considered it anyway.

“Get what you wanted out of this?”

Now he smiled for real. “No. But I got something else out of it.”

Crowley grinned back at him. “Good.”

“Crowley.”

“Yes?”

“Do you want something from me?”

His voice was soft and vulnerable. Crowley sat up ramrod straight. “What? And be your rebound from Kevin the Damp? No I don’t think so, not at all. You get all the moping out of your system and if you still want to have this conversation, we’ll talk.”

He put the razor and bowl aside. “But if you want me to stay a little longer, as your friend, you really ought to put some pants on. I’m the one s’posed to be doing the tempting round here after all. You want me to do your wings? Shaved wings supposed to be the hot new look in Purgatory.”

That got the guffaw he was wanting. “No.” He leaned forward until his forehead touched Crowley’s. “Thank you. I know you don’t like me to say it but thank you.”

Crowley sighed. He’d allow it. “You’re welcome, angel.”