Crowley slithered through the doorway and into Aziraphale's field of vision in a way that meant he desperately wanted to be seen. Aziraphale looked. And paused. And looked again.
"Good heavens, Crowley! You're in public! Did you forget to get dressed?"
"I am dressed," Crowley said, sticking out a tight-hosed, black-clad leg. He admired his own ankle in a manner that was alarmingly covetous. "It's supposed to look like this." He twirled to show off his tight-fitted doublet.
"You're practically naked. And unashamed!"
"Hey, if you've got it –"
Aziraphale looked up from the scandalous expanse of shin and, well, upper shin and fixed on Crowley's face. "What," he inquired alarmed, "is that? Are you fitting in by mimicking the French disease?"
"It's the latest in facial hair," Crowley said proudly. "I thought I'd try it out. It's very fashionable for the young men of today, you know."
"They have an excuse, not being thousands of years old," Aziraphale said. "Good God, I need something fortifying." He dug around under a precariously heaped up mountain of parchment until he found his bottle of Rhenish wine. "Too early for you?"
"Nah. I'll save you from drinking alone. I'm here to save you from yourself in fact – look at you, you're dressed like it's still 1399. You're wearing a blessed houppelande."
"There's nothing wrong with a houppelande," Aziraphale said defensively, huddling further into the depths of his cosy, floor-length woolen robe. "They're comfy and warm."
"Fashion does not have anything to do with comfy and warm. You need a make-over," Crowley said, swigging down his wine and lifting a hand, fingers ready to snap.
"Don't you dare! This is a well-cared for –"
" – antique."
"-loved piece of clothing. I will not have you transmute it with raw bits of firmament."
Crowley heaved a dramatic and unnecessary sigh that sounded far too pleased with itself. Aziraphale wondered exactly what trap had been laid for him to wander into.
"Oh. Well. If you won't let me do it I'll have to take you to meet my seamstress over in Southwark. She works magic with needle and thread – not actual magic-magic, but you know –" He waggled his leg at Aziraphale again.
"Stop that, it's very distract- irritating. I don't think my people would want me hanging around Southwark, it has a bad reputation."
"Precisely why you should be there, ministering to all the lost little lambs, getting new clothes as an act of charity to a destitute seamstress, checking out who can be redeemed in the new playhouses and pubs going up – "
"New theatres," Aziraphale said rather wistfully. He did like dinner and a good play. Crowley was smiling his I've-got-a-fish-on-the-hook smile, so Aziraphale gamely put up a little more resistance. "I didn't know you patronized human craftspeople," he said, adjusting his hat, which predated the houppelande by some decades.
"Oh, yes," Crowley said, towing him out the door. "I pat them on the head, say 'Look at you, aren't you clever,' teach them amusing tricks, all very patronizing."
"You're a terrible, terrible person, you know."
"Thanks," Crowley beamed.
* * *
"It's gentrification," Crowley said, shrugging. "We can make a detour if you like." He made a sharp turn down between two houses and through a yard where a dispirited girl was plucking a still-struggling chicken. "How's this for the authenticity of human misery?" he said, nimbly hopping over what was clearly not a pile of dog dirt and leading the way down a grimy street.
"Eww," Aziraphale replied, holding the skirts of his houppelande up well-clear of the filth. "What's that building with the flashy paint job?"
"Aha. And that one beside it?"
"Another brothel. We can come back this evening if you want to pay them a visit, professional or otherwise."
"Really, Crowley," Aziraphale said mildly. "I'm just as ancient and worldly-wise as you; you can't embarrass me."
Crowley stopped dead in the middle of the filthy street and just pulled his dark spectacles slightly down his nose with one finger, the better to give Aziraphale a full-force sceptical look. Aziraphale stood his ground, looking every inch an angel of the world.*
"Right," Crowley said. "Come on then, oh streetwise one, if you've had enough of the local tour it's time to get you looking fit to be seen with a demon of the modern age."
He brought them back to what now looked to Aziraphale like an extremely upmarket part of Southwark in comparison to where they'd been, and knocked on the door of a fairly respectable looking small house.
"Mistress Starling! It's your favourite customer!"
He shoved the door open and dragged Aziraphale in to the middle of a badly-lit room. A middle-aged woman and two younger women put down the cloth they'd been sewing and made perfunctory curtseys.
"Master Crowley," the eldest said.
"Here he is, just as bad as I told you," Crowley said, shoving Aziraphale forwards. "Fix him."
"Steady on," Aziraphale said. "You've been talking behind my back?"
"I haven't seen anything this bad for a long time, sir," Mistress Starling said, looking Aziraphale up and down. "But I can help your friend."
"Oh, we're not friends," Aziraphale started.
"Yes, we are. Drop all your other customers, I'm paying double. Just send word with one of the girls when it's ready, and it'd better be quick."
"Don't be so rude, Crowley," Aziraphale said.
"Oh, Master Crowley can be rude as he likes," Mistress Starling said. "He pays on time and in gold."
Crowley shoved Aziraphale gently towards them. "You get yourself measured and fixed up, Aziraphale. Honestly, it's just embarrassing even to look at you. When you look like you belong in this century we can go to a play at the Rose, all right?"
"Together?" Aziraphale said. It sounded rather nice.
"I wouldn't let you wander round here by yourself. Who knows what you'd get up to? You'd better say yes – that Shakespeare fellow, he's the writer of the moment, you know. Very modern, very funny. Ladies, angel, adieu, if you'll pardon my French."
He swept out, leaving Aziraphale alone with the women, who circled him like short, somewhat malnourished tigresses.
"Three yards?" one of them said.
"It's got to be fashionable, padded, like," the other young woman said. "Better add another half yard at least."
"Now, girls, we're not skimping," Mistress Starling said. "Padded, a few extra yards for a matching cape, it'll take at least –"
Aziraphale backed away. "Madam," he said, "Er, I didn't bring any fabric and I really don't know how much it will cost or where I should buy it –"
"Don't you worry, Master Aziraphale," she said as the younger women blocked his escape. "Master Crowley brought it all around last week. Jane, get that silk out for Master Aziraphale."
The youngest woman went into the back of the house and returned with a large parcel in her arms. She put it on the table and unwrapped the dark outer layer of cloth to reveal a bright shining silver silk, and under it the soft sheen of more silk in a beautiful blue. She opened the silks out in a great, glistening pile that caught what dim light there was in the room and gave it back with a soft shine.
"Oh," Aziraphale said softly, looking at the beautiful, extravagant glory heaped up on the table.
"He said it'd bring out the colour of your eyes," Jane giggled.
"Don't you get familiar with persons above your station," Mistress Starling said as Jane blushed and curtseyed in apology. "Is it to your liking, sir?"
"Yes," Aziraphale breathed, thinking of Crowley giving him such a gift. He had a warm feeling inside at the thought of it all.
"Then let's get you measured proper, Master Aziraphale. You really can't go round like that these days, it's like something the queen's grandfather would of wore."
"Yes," Aziraphale said, smiling cherubically** at them all. "I need to look good for the theatre."
* * * * * * * * * *