Things almost went back to normal. Adjusted for averted apocalypses, maybe. They went to lunch, they went to shows, and they drank heavily, because there was a lot to process and alcohol was as good a method as any.
Crowley only left Aziraphale alone at the bookshop to sleep and water his plants.
He was perfectly aware he was being ridiculous. He was a demon, so it wasn’t as though he could be more traumatized than he already was from Falling, thank you, but he had the strangest feeling that if he didn’t keep an eye on Aziraphale, if he didn’t make sure he and his beloved bookshop were in one piece, well—perhaps they’d both disappear from the earth again.
Aziraphale could mostly take care of himself. It was only that sometimes he was very stupid indeed, and did things he shouldn’t, like pop over to Shanghai in the middle of a bloody Communist revolution just because he had to have jianbing from that particular streetcart.
Crowley liked that about him, but conceded that it made him quite a bit of trouble, sometimes.
So he lurked in Aziraphale’s shop as the days melted from summer to autumn, and some part of him felt the turning of the seasons as his serpent form did, and then one day he decided that the sunshine in that window display wasn’t going to soak up itself, and coiled up in his serpent form to have a nice warming nap.
He was aware of some tourists giving Aziraphale a bit of trouble by wanting to purchase some books, though he’d suggested before that Aziraphale might purchase some decoy books that he wouldn’t mind selling. The problem was that Aziraphale took his suggestion to heart, and then became unreasonably attached to the decoy books as well, and Crowley threw up his hands in outraged frustration.
“Look, Mummy, look at this snake statue!”
“Please don’t touch, darling, it’s probably very breakable—”
Crowley opened his eyes, looked at the snot-nosed brat, and let out one admittedly theatrical hiss.
The woman and the child both screamed; the woman threatened to call the authorities on the way out, and Crowley prepared himself for a tongue-lashing.
Only no tongue-lashing was forthcoming. Instead, Aziraphale was looking at him as though he’d hung the moon. “My dear,” he breathed. “That was—that was marvelous, absolutely brilliant—”
And then, evidently having run out of words, he bussed Crowley on top of his head. It was warm and felt a little odd via his scales—he’d never had a human or a human-shaped being dole out affection to his serpent form before, strangely enough.
“You didn’t mind?” Crowley asked later, back in human form.
“They ran out of the shop as though they were—well, on fire,” Aziraphale said, looking delighted; where it really counted, he was such a bastard and Crowley adored him for it.
“So,” Crowley said. “You wouldn’t mind if I did it again?”
“My dear,” Aziraphale said, beaming. “You’re welcome every day, if you like.”
He became quite adept at frightening off persistent customers. Aziraphale favored him with a smile, a stroke of soft fingertips down his spine, and a kiss pressed to his head, every time he did so. He felt pride, which was obviously acceptable because he was very good at what he did, and he was still a demon, after all.
Combining sloth and pride on a regular basis wasn’t bad for a day’s work—not that Crowley was really on the clock anymore, as it were, but old habits died hard.
As the weather turned colder, the window display became a less desirable spot for a nap. At least, that was what he told himself, when Aziraphale ran one absent-minded, affectionate fingertip down his scales, and said, “Oh, you poor thing, it’s getting colder, isn’t it?”
He was prepared for all manner of indignities, except for the basket on Aziraphale’s desk, lined with warm, soft cloth, not too far from the radiator.
It was rather nice to keep an eye on Aziraphale as he read or worked at his desk. He did a tidy business restoring book bindings and the like—bafflingly, he enjoyed doing it by hand, no miracles involved. He also took the time to read said books, so it was a real two birds with one stone situation.
“Oh dear, look at this cracked binding, we can’t have that,” Aziraphale murmured to Crowley, or perhaps just himself. Crowley didn’t much mind either way, as long as he could listen.
Some people didn’t come to the shop for books.
Crowley would have fallen over laughing if he’d been in human form when the odd “businessman” tried to intimidate Aziraphale into selling his shop. They’d never come back, and they’d have nightmares they couldn’t recall about wings with a hundred eyes, all staring at them in judgement and finding them wanting. Crowley couldn’t have done it better himself.
“Well, really,” Aziraphale huffed when Crowley told him so. But his mouth twitched in a smile that Crowley thought was just for him, so he probably wasn’t all that offended.
Then there were the people who came for Aziraphale, and that was about when Crowley began to suspect he was going to have a problem.
He’d gone weeks, months, decades between seeing Aziraphale before, and it wasn’t as if he didn’t know perfectly well that sometimes humans were drawn to Aziraphale’s ethereal nature, just as they were drawn to Crowley’s occult one. But it was far different to see it every blessed day, up close and personal.
“Really, my dear,” Aziraphale tutted one day after he’d frightened a frisky widow out of the shop. “She’s just lonely.”
She could be lonely as she liked, but without groping his angel—that was Crowley’s point.
That he coveted Aziraphale had long since ceased to be a secret to himself; that he loved him—well, that was only slightly more recently acknowledged but much more problematic.
For instance, he was going to strangle this youth with an exceedingly stupid hair style if he didn’t get out of Aziraphale’s space. Aziraphale was allowing the gentle touches to his sleeve, to his hand, but he wasn’t comfortable with it. Which was not to say that Aziraphale was anything like a virgin—he had indulged in pleasures of the flesh, but apparently preferred them solo. Something to do with not getting attached to spring blossoms or some such.
So Crowley did the only thing he could do, really—he slithered his way out of his basket, onto Aziraphale’s arm, then coiled around his shoulders and stared the spotty bugger straight in the eye.
He was the bloody Serpent of Eden, and he wasn’t going to stand for this kind of flagrant trespassing.
The boy almost wet himself on his way out of the shop, and Aziraphale said, “Was that necessary?”
Crowley answered by flicking his forked tongue against Aziraphale’s cheek; he tasted like honey and the lingering scent of ozone.
Aziraphale took to letting Crowley curl around his shoulders like a shawl. It was warmer for them both and very convenient. In the evenings, he resumed human form and they went to dinner, and returned to the bookshop more often than not for drinks.
One night, while quite drunk, Aziraphale said, “Do you know, I miss you when you’re not a snake.”
Crowley made a scoffing noise. “Rude,” he said. He was sure it was, even if he couldn’t articulate it at the moment.
“No, I mean—you’re very warm. I like having you close,” Aziraphale said, and hiccupped.
“Can fix that,” Crowley said, and crawled across the chesterfield to drape himself over Aziraphale.
Aziraphale went still underneath him, and then took in one shuddering breath.
“Alright, angel?” Crowley asked. There was some negotiation of limbs, and then Aziraphale went sort of pliant under him, and let out the kind of sigh that could tempt a priest.
“S’good,” Aziraphale mumbled. And he was right, it was—however much Crowley enjoyed coiling around Aziraphale’s shoulders as a snake, there was something even better about this, about fitting the sharp edges of his human body into Aziraphale’s softness.
They fell asleep like that, and when Crowley woke sometime before dawn, Aziraphale was still asleep. He thought about getting up, but Aziraphale was warm and it was still dark and cozy, and bugger going home at this hour, anyway.
The plants would live, if they knew what was good for them.
He ought to have guessed what happened next. Aziraphale, after all, had a long track record of hoarding things he liked: books, cases of wine, snuffboxes (why), and now, apparently, Crowley. And he didn’t exactly beat around the bush, either—the next time they had entirely too much single malt scotch, Aziraphale said the sofa wasn’t all that comfortable, and do come to bed, dear.
The bed was soft and Aziraphale was softer, and it was warm and dark in the bedroom. He could see snow falling outside, and he thought that he was exactly where he should be, really.
“Comfortable?” he asked Aziraphale.
“Mmm,” Aziraphale said, and stroked Crowley’s nape with gentle hands, just as he would with Crowley’s serpent form.
Crowley himself was immensely comfortable. He was draped all over Aziraphale, and basked in the warmth of his body and the knowledge that as long as he had one thigh between Aziraphale’s, nobody else was going to muscle their way in.
He essentially stopped going back to his own flat, after that. Why go home when he could while away the winter draped over Aziraphale in one form or another?
Winter became spring, and Crowley scared off tourists and discouraged anyone from getting handsy with Aziraphale. It was all, he thought, going rather better than expected.
And then came the day when the daffodils were starting to bloom and Aziraphale said, “My dear, I wonder if I might ask you for a favor?”
“What’s that?” Crowley said sleepily. He was spending a rare day in human form about the shop, which mostly consisted of dozing in a chair with his sunglasses still on.
“Well,” Aziraphale began, and then stopped. “The thing is—oh, please don’t take this the wrong way, it’s just—I’d like an hour to myself tonight.”
Crowley felt his eyebrows go up. “You want some privacy?” he asked, incredulous.
“If it’s all the same to you, yes.”
It was most certainly not all the same to Crowley, and he couldn’t deny that he felt wrongfooted, and maybe even—hurt.
Which Aziraphale, of course, picked up on. “It’s nothing to do with you!” he said hurriedly. “It’s just—the flowers are blooming. Animals are being born. You know.”
“I really don’t think I do,” Crowley said, both fascinated and mystified.
Aziraphale all but ground his teeth. “The earth all around us is making new life.”
“Only in this hemisphere,” Crowley felt obliged to point out.
“And I can feel it. All of it,” Aziraphale said meaningfully.
Crowley let his sunglasses slide down his nose. “It almost sounds as if you’re trying to tell me you’re desperate for a wank.”
“Because I am!” Aziraphale snapped.
Crowley’s thought processes screeched entirely to a halt.
They restarted slowly. “Every spring?” he asked, trying for smooth and failing utterly.
“Yes,” Aziraphale said. His cheeks were pink.
“So you’re just going to—“ Crowley gestured upstairs, “—and then…” he gestured vaguely in the direction of Aziraphale’s groin.
“Yes,” Aziraphale said, his tone now very clipped.
In the moment that Crowley most desired to be cool, he could only croak out, “Need a hand?”
“I’m perfectly capable of managing on my—” Aziraphale stopped. And then he licked his lips. “When you say hand—”
“It’s our Arrangement, isn’t it? Lend a hand when needed?” Crowley said, and he wasn’t trying to tempt, but heaven if it didn’t come out that way.
“I don’t—I prefer to do it alone, I just get so attached, you know—”
“Get attached, angel,” Crowley said, and stood up from his chair to crowd Aziraphale against the wall. “I’m not going anywhere.”
Aziraphale’s lips were parted and Crowley could feel his breath coming a bit faster.
“And in the spirit of the occasion, I don’t see any need to limit myself to lending a hand, as it were,” Crowley murmured into Aziraphale’s ear. “Say the word, angel. I’m told I have a very talented tongue.”
He licked Aziraphale’s ear the way he’d thought about for six thousand years, and Aziraphale made a noise like a kettle coming to boil.
He heard a noise behind him, and when he turned to look, the bookshop’s sign had been turned to Closed.
“I accept,” Aziraphale said breathlessly.
He took off Aziraphale’s trousers the old-fashioned way, to discover that Aziraphale had not selected a cock when making this particular Effort. He wondered if it was indeed Aziraphale’s preference, or if it was something about the season that prompted it. Crowley settled for raising an eyebrow at him, and Aziraphale flushed pink.
“If one is going to—that is to say, it seems a waste to muck about with a refractory period if one can—”
“Infallible logic,” Crowley agreed, and nearly got sidetracked by the idea of his angel rubbing several out on a regular basis every spring. “How long has it been since you’ve—allowed someone to help you out like this?”
“Oh,” Aziraphale sighed as Crowley made himself comfortable between Aziraphale’s thighs. “Quite a while. After the whole bit with the nephilim—not that I contributed, I assure you—it made sense to lay low, and then, well, humans’ time is so short on earth—”
“So I’ve a bit to make up for, is what I’m hearing,” Crowley said. “What’s your pleasure, angel? Three times? Four?”
“Until I can’t, anymore,” Aziraphale said, his chin tipped up in challenge.
Crowley kissed Aziraphale’s thigh and looked up at him. “Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
Forget never leaving Aziraphale’s shop; he was never going to leave Aziraphale’s thighs. Crowley was just going to settle right there, his hands full of heaving, writhing angel, and make him come so hard that he never thought of letting anyone else lend him a hand, or anything else.
At present, Aziraphale was riding his tongue with abandon, and Crowley had never been so thankful that he didn’t actually need to breathe. He didn’t see how it could ever be a sin to wring these noises out of Aziraphale, to make him feel good. Weren’t human beings in the Almighty’s image? Weren’t they made for this pleasure?
It was like the apple; if Crowley weren’t meant to make Aziraphale’s thighs tremble, if Crowley weren’t meant to kiss and lick and suck his pretty clit until he shrieked, if Crowley weren’t meant to lick into his dripping cunt and then finger him to another orgasm, well—why make it possible at all?
“You need a breather, angel?” he asked as Aziraphale panted beneath him.
“Mmm,” Aziraphale said, which Crowley mentally translated into, Yes, we’ll see the dessert menu.
“Tell me what you want,” Crowley coaxed. “Anything you want—anything at all.”
“Kiss me,” Aziraphale said softly.
Crowley inhaled sharply. And then he closed his eyes, and pressed his lips to Aziraphale’s, and kissed him, and kissed him, and kissed him, and there was no way this could be wrong, there was no way this could be against the Ineffable Plan or any other, because Aziraphale just melted in his arms like he was meant to be there, like they were always meant to be here, together.
It was some time later, when Aziraphale had evidently had his fill of kisses, at least for now, that he said diffidently, “There’s something else I’d like.”
“Name it,” Crowley said, his voice rough.
“Only if you’d like to,” Aziraphale hastily assured him. And then he looked down Crowley’s body meaningfully.
Crowley surprised himself by actually being a bit disappointed, somehow. “Of course,” he said. If Aziraphale wanted Crowley to fuck him, of course he would. “It would be my pleasure.”
Aziraphale peered at him. “Are you alright?”
“Of course I am,” Crowley said automatically. He wanted this, Aziraphale wanted this, and if this was all Aziraphale wanted from him, then—
“It’s just that you look upset,” Aziraphale said, his brow furrowing.
“Nothing of the sort,” Crowley said brusquely. “I promised you a helping hand, didn’t I? Those are the terms of our Arrangement.”
“Do we even have one, anymore?” Aziraphale asked, voice achingly gentle and just a bit unsure. “You said we were on our own side, now.”
“We are. I am,” Crowley said, desperate to make sure Aziraphale knew that. “And of course our Arrangement still stands. Just because I’m not receiving orders anymore doesn’t mean I’m not going to help. When you need it.”
Aziraphale smiled at him, still soft but so sweet. “I’ve never doubted that, my dear. Not for a moment. It’s just that—I think the terms of our Arrangement might need some renegotiation.”
Crowley stared at him. “Such as?”
Aziraphale actually cleared his throat, as though he were starting a debate over dinner. “Our previous agreement included a spot of—tacit non-interference, would you say?”
Crowley nodded slowly. “That’s about the right of it.”
“I’m afraid that doesn’t suit me, anymore.”
Crowley looked at him helplessly. “I suppose not? It’s not as though we’ve assignments to carry out—”
“Crowley,” Aziraphale interrupted. “Interfere with me. All of the time.”
Crowley’s mouth worked but no sound came out for a moment. “I—”
“Don’t leave me.”
“Never,” Crowley agreed fervently. “Angel, I’ll never—”
“Best if you move your plants into the shop, don’t you think?” Aziraphale said, and then had the absolute nerve to give Crowley that self-satisfied little smile of his, when he felt that he had quite justly carried the day.
“Alright,” Crowley said hoarsely.
“Shall we shake on it?”
“I had something more traditional in mind,” Crowley said, and sealed it with a kiss.
Sometime later, Aziraphale said, “So about that intercourse—”
“Nobody calls it that, angel, not a one,” Crowley groaned.
Aziraphale bit his lip. “So is that a no?”
“It is absolutely not a no,” Crowley said. “Besides, didn’t I promise to give you what you wanted, until you were done?”
“Yes,” Aziraphale said, and gasped as Crowley pushed in.
He settled on his elbows over Aziraphale and brought their faces close. “Are you done yet?”
“Oh my dear,” Aziraphale murmured. “I’ll never, I—oh—”
Most of the plants went in the flat above the bookshop, on the grounds that they might make the shop too inviting.
But Aziraphale did add one thing to the shop, just next to his barely used cash register. It was some kind of stand, made of a large, forked branch.
“Didn’t think you went in for modern decor,” Crowley said slowly.
“Oh, it’s not,” Aziraphale said. “That is to say—I thought you might like it. To, er, keep me company.”
“You just want me to lounge on that as a snake and stare at anyone who even thinks about buying anything,” Crowley said, and he was honestly very touched.
“Well,” Aziraphale said, which meant that was absolutely what he intended.
“I don’t recall agreeing to unpaid labor.”
“Perhaps,” Aziraphale said, “you’d care to—renegotiate.”
Crowley let his sunglasses slide down his nose. “Prepare yourself, angel. My arguments are liable to be lengthy and—vigorous.”
Aziraphale actually tittered and led the way upstairs, and they never did open the shop on that day.
The shop was open, for a given value of open—it is dusty, poorly organized, and dark. There is an enormous, live snake that is not in a terrarium. The owner was very knowledgeable and amenable as we discussed the book in question, the rare book market, and Victorian bindings, until I actually attempted to buy the book. Upon which he became totally unreasonable, refused to sell, and did nothing to stop the snake from entering my personal space. I considered calling the authorities, but decided not to waste any more of my time.
ONE STAR, and omg if I could give lower then I WOULD, they deserve ZERO STARS. Rude as f@(k guy tried to TAKE THE BOOK OUT OF MY HAND when I went to pay for it, saying I was going to have to save money anyhow! NEVER shop there, I don't know how they stay in business.
UPDATED TO ADD: Okay maybe they deserve ONE STAR because two days later I had to find a new flat because mine was INFESTED WITH MICE, so it's just as well I didn't get that (WAY OVERPRICED) first edition of Matthew Arnold even if it was signed
the book collection is first rate but i got bit by a snake there would consider going back