It all began because Aziraphale got lonely. It was never a good idea to let an angel get lonely, but particularly when the angel was Aziraphale. When Aziraphale was lonely, he was prone to making poor decisions, seeking company in the most unsuitable of places, and on one memorable occasion, getting downright dejected.
On the day in question, Aziraphale was startled to receive a rather unusual piece of post – somehow a copy of the periodical Reptiles Enthusiast appeared in his letter box, clearly gone astray from its intended recipient. He would normally have blamed Crowley for somehow fending this missive his way, but he was well aware that Crowley was taking one of his longer-than-usual, once-a-century naps right now, so it couldn’t have been his doing.
But, being at loose ends, the angel sat down to flip through it, ended up getting pulled in to an article about myths and misconceptions about snakes, and was surprised to discover all kinds of things he had not previously known.
Two hours later, having read the entire thing cover to cover two times, Aziraphale headed out on a whim to visit the local pet shop.
Two months prior
“I’m sorry, Aziraphale, I’m just so exhausted,” Crowley moaned one evening as he lounged on the sofa in the shop. “I think I’m going to need to take a nap.”
Aziraphale turned to look closely at his friend. “Well, that’s no problem, my dear – nap away, you don’t have to let me know whenever you want to sleep!”
“No, I don’t mean a nap, I mean a NAP. Like, a been-building-up-for-the-last-few-decades kind of a nap. it might take a while.” Crowley said, looking unsure of himself. “I didn’t want to not let you know this time.”
Ah, that explained things. The last time Crowley had napped for an extended period, he’d slept away most of the 19th century, and Aziraphale, with no forewarning, had been at first worried senseless about what had happened to his friend and then utterly irate with him when the demon returned. Crowley still had to suppress a flinch when thinking about the chilly, angry reaction he got from the angel when he returned. It was months before Aziraphale stopped glaring balefully at him whenever they met.
“Yes, I appreciate that,” Aziraphale said rather shortly, obviously having a flashback of his own to the same experience. He tried to shake off his tension, but his voice retained a bit of that irritated school marm tone. “How long will you be gone? And – will it be safe? Where will you be? What if Hell comes looking for you again? Have you actually considered any of these things?”
Crowley sat up and tried not to react to the obvious baiting. “I have, actually,” he said. “Not a century, for sure. Might be a – “ he looked down, feeling a little unsure of his reception. “Might be a year.”
“A year!!” Aziraphale exclaimed, wringing his hands. “Oh dear! Must it be so long?”
“Better than the last time,” Crowley said, which the angel had to admit was true. “As for safety, I was thinking – well I thought – you see –”
Aziraphale frowned, concerned. It wasn’t like Crowley to not just spit out his thoughts. “What is it, Crowley? Please just speak your mind.”
“I was wondering if -- well, that is – I thought maybe I could sleep here.”
Aziraphale’s mind went blank, then went in a hundred different directions at once, with three major thoughts arising to the top of the fray. One, he was absurdly touched that the demon wanted to hibernate in his home, that this was his safe place. Two, it was hardly like he used his own bed. As a rule, Aziraphale didn’t sleep, and if he did it was a short nap bent over a book in an arm chair once every few months. He'd never really miss the use of his bedroom, even if it was tied up for a year.
Three, he was surprised by the vulnerability of the request, and by the warm rush it created in him in response. It wasn’t like Crowley to admit that he needed anyone for anything.
He must have thought too long, because suddenly Crowley was on his feet and heading for the door. “Nevermind, angel, stupid idea,” he snarled as he swung out onto the street.
Aziraphale shook his head clear and hurried after him, just in time to catch him by the sleeve as he reached the Bentley.
“My dear,” he said, “I’m sorry! You just took me by surprise.” Crowley turned around to look at him, a raw and miserable look in his eyes. “Truth is – well, I’d be delighted to be your guardian while you sleep!”
Crowley scoffed. “It’s not that I need a guardian, angel,” he said sharply, fooling absolutely no one. “It’s just that you have a softer bed, and it’s warmer here, and then you wouldn’t have to come all the way over to the apartment if you wanted to check up on me.”
Aziraphale smiled softly. “That’s very thoughtful of you, my friend. Thank you. You’re very welcome to stay.”
And thus it was that a day or two later, Crowley appeared with a pile of thick blankets, mumbled his greetings to Aziraphale, and went upstairs. When the angel checked on him later, he was curled under what must be at least five pounds of blankets, sunglasses on the nightstand, fast asleep.
Aziraphale mentally increased the heat in the bedroom by ten degrees, shut the door quietly, and got on with his day.
It didn’t bother him at first, missing Crowley, because he got such a little buzz of happiness whenever he peeked in on him.
Crowley, to his credit, was good at sleep. He napped like the Olympic champion of napping; unaware of anything and everything around him.
Aziraphale watched him sleeping more than he probably should, at first, then slowly backed away and tried to bury himself in his books.
He began to frequent his favorite bakeries a little more often, not just stopping in for a quick hello and a bag of goodies to take away, but sitting down at a table to spend an hour or two and chatting with the proprietors in ways he hadn't in many years. As a result, he came to know a truly amazing amount of information about each and every employee's families, friends, academic careers, hobbies, foibles, and dreams. It began to be a bit hard to keep it all straight. Wherever he sought company, he was welcomed with opened arms. But in the end, it was really just not the same.
He had just begun to realize this when the Reptile magazine arrived. And that was when everything went just ever-so-slightly off the rails.