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Because I missed you (and I like it when you bite)

Chapter Text

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.
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**
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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.

Chapter Text

London was, if nothing else, quite full of the strange and unusual, so when Aziraphale got it into his mind to go looking for an exotic pet shop, he did not have to look very far. One rainy morning, he bundled up under his favorite tartan umbrella and paid a visit to the specialty pet emporium that was just at the far edge of walking distance from his shop.

Before long, he was stopping in every few days.

At first, Aziraphale merely observed the snakes in the shop, learning more about them. The staff got to know him through his frequent visits, and if they thought he seemed like an unlikely type for a snake enthusiast, they wisely kept that comment to themselves. Their visitor, even if he dressed strangely and seemed out of place, was wonderful with all the animals they stocked and asked interesting questions, and the staff came to enjoy and look forward to his visits.

To be honest, the effect of having an angel hanging around your shop – even if the owners were unaware of his heavenly origin – could be felt everywhere. The most argumentative of the budgies soon stopped fighting and began to coo over each other with great contentment, and the fighting fish stopped fighting all together and became downright docile. In the rabbit warren there was a veritable population explosion as the bucks and does began to look at each other with fresh appreciation, and the ferrets, always a bit demonically-influenced if truth be told, stopped their mischievous ways and became somehow more biddable and sweet.

After a few weeks, when it became clear that Aziraphale was really rather serious about purchasing a snake companion, they offered to let him visit with several of the available options in a private room in the back.

The first snake the staff brought him was lovely and docile, had already taken a liking to Aziraphale on his previous visits, and responded delightfully when he held the snake in his hands. It was obliging, sweet, and tractable, not in the least bit fussy about its food, and absolutely, utterly not what the angel was looking for at all.

The next was a mid-sized boa who Aziraphale was initially quite enamored of – she was a lovely, rosy brown and pink snake who was somewhat reserved, but with encouragement warmed up to Aziraphale’s touch. They spent quite a while together before Aziraphale reluctantly decided that she was going to end up much larger than his small bookshop could really handle. He placed her gently back in her glass enclosure and headed back out to the floor.

“I’m sorry, dear sir,” he called to the staff person assisting him, “but do you have anything else? Perhaps a little smaller? And possibly more … er, challenging?”

The sales person made an odd face. “Well,” he said slowly, “we’ve got one other – but he’s a bit of a problem child.”

Aziraphale’s eyes brightened with interest. “Oh my, that sounds interesting! Do bring him in, would you?”

A few minutes later the staffer brought in a third vivarium in which was coiled a bright, flashy, surly looking king snake who took one look at Aziraphale, huffed in disgust, and curled in on himself on the bottom of his cage.

The angel felt a flash of immediate warmth and recognition.

“Oh, look at you, you cranky little devil” the angel cooed, leaning forward to tap gently on the glass. He reached in for the snake, who immediately hissed at him in an appalling manner, bit him on the fleshy pad of his thumb, and then, seeming a little ashamed, coiled around the angel’s arm in a somewhat conciliatory manner.

Aziraphale knew in a single heartbeat – this was undoubtedly his snake.
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**
.
Several hundred pounds lighter, Aziraphale returned home with his new friend, two large books on snake care, a large glass vivarium, a warming pad, a large water bowl the snake could soak in, and an alarming quantity of frozen mice to feed him. He settled his new friend in on a small table in the back room, turned on the heating pad, and began discussing with the snake what they should name him.

“I think you look a bit like a Frederick,” he said to his new friend. A sudden burst of inspiration lit up his face with what could almost be described as a mischievous grin. “But perhaps a middle name? Perhaps… Crawley? After all, he’s not using it anymore.”

The snake hissed at him, unimpressed.

Aziraphale made a mental note to never, ever mention the middle name to Crowley when he woke up, but the name made him smile and made him miss his friend less, and so it stuck.

Angel and snake settled in nicely to their new life in the shop. Aziraphale was quite taken with his new friend and spent hours reading about him, and ultimately reading to him, which the snake seemed to regard with utter disdain, but which made Aziraphale feel calm and soothed. He was careful to handle Frederick regularly, often allowing him to coil up in his lap or even drape around his shoulders while he was sitting in his armchair, which Frederick Crawley allowed and indeed seemed to even enjoy. And the angel did, eventually, get used to feeding him a frozen mouse once every week or two, which his snake friend often turned his nose up at but could usually be sweet-talked into eating.

Most pleasingly, the snake had a delightful habit of rearing up and hissing at bookstore customers on the days when Aziraphale carried his glass enclosure out into the front room while he worked. This turned out to be an excellent way to frightening off all but the most intrepid shoppers, leaving Aziraphale even more time to enjoy his own collection in peace.

All in all, Aziraphale was quite happy to have the company, and if the angel loved the snake a little more than the snake loved him, this, Aziraphale thought with some centuries-worth of perspective, was just how it went with serpents, wasn’t it?

Chapter Text

Aziraphale kept a close eye on his sleeping demon while summer turned into fall, and then became winter. Crowley continued to sleep deeply, and Aziraphale pulled the blankets back up when he kicked them off, fluffed his pillows in as unobtrusive a way as he could manage, and generally maintained the heat at a level he had now learned, from his snake books, was necessary for Crowley’s wellbeing.

Frederick Crawley, for his part, didn’t relish winter at all, and seemed to spend most of his time coiled in some way around Aziraphale, at least as much as the angel would allow. He was a clever snake, well-versed in how to get what he wanted from the angel by appealing to his better nature. All Frederick had to do was shiver pathetically or look a little bit droopy and he was almost guaranteed to get picked up (barely tolerable), cooed over (outright annoying), and then deposited in a pocket, shoulder, neck, or lap for some petting (now this was more like it).

He had also quickly perfected the art of issuing a firm warning glare or a light nip to a sensitive area when Aziraphale so much as thought of getting up to move, after the snake had gotten comfortable. For the most part, the angel gave in to his wishes, resulting in one slightly spoiled little snake.

They were both quite pleased with this arrangement.

It was exactly one such evening – the angel sitting on the couch with a book and a cup of cocoa, the snake curled up in the pocket of his favorite tartan cardigan – when Aziraphale suddenly, finally, heard movement upstairs.

That is, he heard a large thud of someone falling out of bed, followed by a few choice swear words, after which came the clomping of heavy boots coming down the stairs from the flat.

“Aziraphale?” Crowley called groggily. “You in here?”

“In the back!” Aziraphale answered, and soon enough there was Crowley, rumpled and mussed, stretching in the door frame with his eyes still half closed. His black sweater slipped up slightly and Aziraphale caught a small glimpse of very white skin, before averting his eyes politely.

“Angel!!” Crowley cried jovially. “Now that was a good sleep. How long’s it been?”

“About eleven months.”

“Right! Good!” He stretched again. “I feel much, much better. So – got a drink for me?”

Aziraphale popped a nice Burgundy and two large glasses into creation and pointed Crowley to the other end of the couch. He poured each of them a generous drink and handed one across.

“Welcome back to the living, my friend!” the angel said.

Crowley leaned in to clink glasses, and then stopped suddenly, startled.

The demon sniffed the air suspiciously in a gesture that reminded Aziraphale just a bit too much of how the demon had acted the night of the hellhound’s naming. His pulse immediately skyrocketed.

“What?” Aziraphale asked insistently. “What is it? Something infernal?”

Crowley furrowed his brow. “I don’t mean to alarm you, Aziraphale, but I think there’s some kind of snake in here. Like the real kind.” He got up and began looking around more carefully. “Don’t move. I’ll find it. Got a shovel?”

“Oh, I forgot!” Aziraphale laughed. “Not to worry, that’s just Frederick.”

Crowley froze for a long moment and then slowly sat back down. He leaned forward intently, elbows on knees, looking all pointy and concerned.
“Frederick?”

“Goodness, where are my manners?” Aziraphale wriggled happily, then reached into his pocket and pulled out his coiled friend. “Meet Frederick. He’s been living in the bookshop with me for the past six months or so.”

Frederick, for his part, was not particularly happy to be removed from the warm pocket where he’d been napping, and he glanced up in irritation to see what was going on and who he should bite for it. When he was met with the demon, leaning forward and peering at him with a large pair of golden eyes of his own, both of them startled backwards.

“You got a SNAKE?!” Crowley asked, incredulous.

Aziraphale tutted. “Now, now,” he said reasonably, “you can’t be anti-snake, you’re partially a snake yourself.”

Crowley and Frederick continued to size each other up; neither was impressed. Aziraphale watched as each of them seemed to stretch out their vertebrae one by one until they were at full height, and he wondered if they were about to come to blows. He quickly laid what he hoped was a comforting hand on each of them – his right hand covering the snake’s coils, his left hand on Crowley’s shoulder.

Crowley took a breath and sat back, looking thoroughly confused. “Ok then, I’ll bite. Why did you get a snake?”

Aziraphale spent a moment trying to find the right words.

“Well,” he said finally, “I was surprised to find myself a little lonely, after a couple months had passed. Then one morning a magazine arrived by mistake about reptiles and I started reading it, and they sounded like good company. And, well, I was missing you and there was no one to talk to, really, so I … so I just went to the pet shop and got a companion. You know. For the bookshop. To guard over things.”

Crowley’s face appeared to be reddening at an alarming pace. He opened and closed him mouth several times before he could continue to speak.

“You – of all the – what on earth –” he took a breath and changed tactics. “You missed me.”

“Well, yes – I did! Is that so wrong?”

“You missed me,” Crowley repeated, “so you went and got yourself a pet.”

“I really don’t see what’s so terrible about that.”

Crowley stood up and gave Aziraphale his best offended look. “You replaced me with a snake? Some little reptile in a jar is just exactly the same thing as ME, your arch enemy and best friend of six thousand years?”

Aziraphale looked at his friend, bemused. And then, unable to resist a small bit of mischief of his own, he turned to the snake in his lap and patted him lovingly. “Don’t listen to him, Frederick,” he cooed in a sing-song voice, petting him in an exaggerated fashion. “He doesn’t understand what a very good and clever boy you are. Sweet little snakey! Flashy little cranky pants –”

Crowley made a sound that was more an indistinct collection of outraged syllables than words. “Stop that RIGHT NOW!”

Then he noticed the slight grin on Aziraphale’s face and a light dawned.

“You’re winding me up, aren’t you?” he asked.

“Only a little,” Aziraphale admitted. “But you do have to admit, he is a nice little fellow, right?” Aziraphale held the snake up with both hands and pointed him directly at the demon. “Crowley, meet Frederick. Frederick, meet Crowley. You two will need to learn to get along.”

They glared at each other, unmoved.

Crowley flopped back on the couch and waved an arm disgustedly. “Aziraphale, if you know anything about it, you must know that snakes don’t tend to like other snakes very much. Can you please put him away for a bit before one of has to eat the other?”

“Really, Crowley,” Aziraphale huffed, but he did walk over and apologetically return Frederick to his container. He straightened his jacket and sat down looking a bit prim. Then, in spite of himself, he offered a tentative smile. “All that aside, it is good to see you again, my dear!”

Crowley sniffed. “Oh yes, yes, I can see that,” he said dryly, taking a large sip of his wine. “Just wasting away here without me, weren’t you?”

Aziraphale looked affronted. “I’ll have you know I missed you a great deal! It’s really quite dull around here when you’re not around.”

“Ever hear of talking to a human being?”

“Oh please. Of course I talked to other people.” Aziraphale looked down a bit. “It’s not the same as talking to you.”

“But a snake is a perfect replica, is it?” Crowley sounded infantile, even to his own ears.

“Crowley,” Aziraphale said firmly, “you’re being ridiculous. Now drink your wine and stop sulking.”

Crowley stood unsteadily, only to discover he’d emptied the first bottle. He concentrated long enough to produce a second bottle out of thin air and poured himself a full glass – and then downed it in one long, tortuous swallow. He wiped the back of his hand across his mouth with no regard for manners, and then teetered around to peer at Aziraphale judgmentally.

“No, no,” he drawled, throwing his arms out. “I get it! I do. You replaced me with a – “ he sneered the word out “a pet. That’s just fine, in fact – “

“Crowley, my dear fellow…”

“—in fact the next time you’re away on business for a month or two,” an increasingly intoxicated Crowley continued, “I won’t miss you a’tall. I’ll just go out and get myself a – a-- “ he paused for a moment to fumble for the right thought – “I’ll just get myself a big old seagull to keep me company. See how you like it.”

“Crowley!” Aziraphale gasped.

“Yep,” Crowley continued, as he turned slowly and dramatically in a circle, surveying the whole room as if it held an invisible audience of his peers. He took another long swing directly from the bottle this time, warming to his subject. “A big old white, fluffy bird. Squawky, screeching ball of feathers, nattering on all day about this and that.” He stopped and fixed Aziraphale with a dark glare that was made only slightly less effective by the way his eyes wouldn’t stay quite on target. “That’ll totally do the trick.”

Aziraphale pursed his lips. “Oh, for Heaven’s sake,” he murmured in distaste. “You’re drunk.”

Crowley took another long swig. “Not drunk enough.”

Aziraphale bundled his friend into a coat and showed him to the door. “I think it’s time you go home and check on your plants.”

Crowley took the bottle with him.

Chapter Text

Crowley didn’t resurface for several days. Arizaphale honestly couldn’t say which was more likely – that the demon was still lost in his righteous indignation or that he was mired in embarrassment about the whole thing. Either way, Aziraphale was more than content to let it sit until Crowley decided one way or the other.

Aziraphale, for his part, wasn’t angry at Crowley, not as such, but he was quite offended by the seagull comparison and a bit put out that the first thing his friend – who he’d genuinely missed! – decided to do after sleeping for nearly a year was work himself up into a strop over nothing and then stop speaking to him.

“I don’t look like a bird, do I?” he asked Frederick while he peered into the small, ornate mirror he kept hanging on the wall near his desk. He tried to pat down a few random white-blond curls that were insisting on sticking up in all directions (not unlike feathers, his rebellious brain pointed out) and tried to reassure himself that there was nothing seagull-like about his face.

Frederick hissed in support from his perch in a basket on the angel’s desk. The snake wasn’t sure what kind of creature his new owner was but as far as he could tell he was some sort of oversized white mouse. The thought made Frederick hungry, and he made a mental note to take an exploratory bite of the angel sometime soon and see if he tasted good.

“And I don’t screech or squawk or ‘natter on’ all the time!” Aziraphale announced to the room. “That was hitting a bit below the belt.”

Frederick honestly couldn’t see what all the fuss was about, and he didn't understand half of what the large mouse-like creature was always nattering on about. He settled in for a nap beneath the desk lamp without comment.

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The phone rang the next morning.

Aziraphale knew who was calling – truly, no one else ever called him -- but he let his less virtuous side take the lead.

“A.Z. Fell Bookshop,” he answered professionally. “How can I help you?”

A beat of silence.

“Since when do you answer the phone that way?”

“Oh, Crowley, is that you?”

“You knew it was me. No one else ever calls you.”

Aziraphale frowned at the phone. “Well, one never knows,” he said a tad less pleasantly. “Did you need something?”

“Yes, well – “ Crowley sounded unsure of himself. “Spot of lunch?”

Aziraphale considered it but it felt just a little too easy, skimming over everything this way.

“Let me just check my diary,” he said airily.

“You don’t have a diary.”

“In fact, I do!” Aziraphale made a loud show of flipping the pages of a large 19th century novel on his desk. “Hrm,” he said, with exquisite politeness. “I seem to be busy today. My apologies! Maybe next time.”

And without another word, he hung up.

.

Crowley stared at the phone, eyebrows raised, for a solid minute before he put it down. Crowley had never been hung up on before, not by anyone. It was a novel and unexpected sensation. He didn’t like it, but a part of him had to admire the angel’s pluck in doing so.

Fine, he thought, the angel wanted to be a little frosty about this one. It seemed he was going to have to try a different approach.

--

Crowley made it all the way to dinner time before he tried again. This time he came by the shop in person, knocked politely instead of letting himself in to demonstrate that he was on his best behavior, and was greeted by a surprised looking Aziraphale who had the snake in his hand.

Crowley did his best to ignore that fact.

“Yes?” Aziraphale said, not yet moving aside to let the demon into the shop.

“Look, I overreacted, I’m aware,” Crowley said, talking fast in case the door got shut in his face. It seemed unlikely but he wouldn’t put it past the angel after this morning. “Acted like a prat. Complete idiot.” He paused and his voice became beseeching. “Please come to dinner.”

Aziraphale made him wait a moment, then sighed. “Oh all right, then,” he said, still a tad reluctant. “Come in. You’ll have to wait while I put Frederick to rights.”

Crowley followed him into the shop, watching silently as Aziraphale checked the heating pad beneath the snake’s glass case, adjusted his water and bedding material, and then gently placed the snake back into his container with a friendly little boop on the nose for good measure. Frederick flicked a tongue at him insouciantly and slithered off into the paper towel roll he liked to hide in.

The angel, Crowley had to admit, did seem to genuinely care for that pathetic little excuse for a reptile. Strange.

Fifteen minutes later they were seated at one of their favorite Italian restaurants, making awkward conversation and avoiding the elephant in the room.

And what’s more, Crowley thought, it seemed like Aziraphale was quietly baiting him. He appeared to be slipping the word “bird” into conversation a lot more often than would be normal.

“Oh, you know – big lunch. I guess I’m just eating like a bird tonight.”

“Well, I did always like to get a birds’ eye view, you know.”

“You know what they say – a bird in the hand is worth two in the –”

“—Aziraphale,” Crowley cut in finally, leaning forward and putting a hand over one of Aziraphale’s to make him stop. The angel blinked at him in surprise but didn’t move his hand away. “I’m sorry I compared you to a seagull, I really am. Please stop with the pointed comments.”

Aziraphale flushed. “I don’t know what you mean.”

“You do.” Crowley insisted. “And you’re right. I was an arse the other night, and I apologize. I didn’t mean it. I just … got jealous.”

Aziraphale’s expression morphed from stand-offish into curious. “Jealous of a tiny pet snake?”

“Well I didn’t say it wasn’t ridiculous,” Crowley muttered. “Just threw me for a loop, finding you with another snake around the house. Wasn’t expecting it.”

“Crowley,” Aziraphale said softly, “I don’t think of you primarily as a snake, you know. You are much more to me than that. No pet could ever take your place in my affections.”

“I am difficult to replace,” Crowley agreed lightly, signaling for the check so that they could go home to the shop.

Aziraphale continued, his voice mild. “You know, my dear, I took quite good care of you while you were out. Watched over you, scanned the neighborhood for supernatural threats, fixed your blankets. Warded the shop, even, which took not a small amount of concentration and effort.”

Crowley frowned a little, unsure where this was going.

“Happy to do all of it, of course, my dear; didn’t mind at all.” Aziraphale said in a distracted manner, as he laboriously calculated a ridiculously high tip for each person working that evening. “But then you woke up and immediately picked a fight with me and stormed off for three days?” He stood up, tip concluded. “I didn’t really expect you to be grateful. But I had rather hoped you’d just be pleased to see me, is all.”

Aziraphale headed out of the restaurant, and Crowley followed behind, unable to come up with any words at all.
.
**

Why am I so bad at this, Crowley thought later that night. Why can’t I just open my mouth and speak when I need to, when it matters? Bloody feelings. Feelings were rubbish.
He couldn’t help it, he had to pick up the phone, even though it was nearly two a.m.

“I was, you know,” he said, when Aziraphale answered.

To his credit, the angel didn't pretend to not know who was calling this time.

“You were what?” The angel sounded tired.

“Pleased to see you. When I woke up. More than pleased. First thought in my head, actually, was ‘I wonder where Aziraphale is.’ Came right down to find you.” He paused. “Bloody hell – what I mean is -- I missed you too.”

“Ah, then,” Aziraphale said, and the demon could hear the smile he was suddenly wearing. “That’s good to know.”

Crowley smiled back, despite the fact that no one could see it. Better that way, wouldn’t want just anyone to see a demon being all sappy on the phone. Crowley took a moment to thank the universe that there are no hidden cameras watching him. He had a reputation to uphold.

“See you tomorrow, then?” he finally said.

“Yes, of course, my dear. Come by anytime.”

Chapter Text


A long ago conversation, in St. James Park, 1862:
.
AZIRAPHALE: Do you know what trouble I’d get into if they knew I’d been fraternizing?
CROWLEY: Fraternizing?
AZIRAPHALE: Whatever you wish to call it. I do not think there is any point in discussing it further.
CROWLEY: I have lots of other people to fraternize with, Angel.
AZIRAPHALE: Of course you do.
CROWLEY: I don’t need you.
AZIRAPHALE: The feeling is mutual. Obviously.
CROWLEY: Obviously.

.
.
Crowley had a niggling sense that there was something else he needed to do to make things up to Aziraphale. Not that Aziraphale was still upset with him, but he didn’t want anything to linger or fester between them. He tossed and turned that night as he tried to get to sleep.

It came to him in a sudden flash of insight.

“Oh, no, come on,” he cried out to no one in particular. “No, no, no, no. Really? No.”

He had to make some kind of peace with Frederick the snake.

Considering how Frederick appeared to be there to stay and was likely to live for the next decade or so, he could hardly refuse to be in the same room with the creature for all of that time. There were times in the past when he might have stayed away that long, but that was before – before the apocalypse threatened, before their friendship deepened into something that neither of them yet understood, before they found themselves on no one’s side but each others.

He sighed and flopped over dramatically in the bed, not liking this turn of events at all. But as long as he knew what he had to do, he thought he could probably sleep for a few hours.

--

Aziraphale heard the tinkle of the front door opening early the next morning and looked up to find Crowley, wandering into the shop with two things in his hands – a bag that looked like it was from the bakery down the street, and a very large and heavy-looking shopping bag that looked like it might be full of bricks from the way it was dragging towards the floor. He set that one down with a clunk and handed the bakery bag to Aziraphale.

“Brought some breakfast,” the demon said. “Wasn’t sure what you’d be in the mood for , so I got one of each of the muffins.”

“Oooo,” Aziraphale said with a grin and a delighted little wiggle of his shoulders, “that’s just sinful.” He led the way into the back room. “Come on back, I’ll make some tea.”

They sat down comfortably and made short work of at least half the muffins, paired with a lovely Earl Gray in fussy bone china cups thin enough to see the light through.

“So,” Crowley said, trying to be casual about it. “Where’s my little alter ego?”

Aziraphale looked up, confused. “Frederick, you mean? He’s right in there,” he said, gesturing to a woven rush basket sitting on one end of the table in front of them. “It’s one of his favorite spots.”

Crowley steeled himself to make the most selfless gesture he had ever made in his life.

“Well,” he said, “let’s see the little bugger, then. I didn’t get a good look at him the other evening.”

“Really?” The angel looked a little wary. “You want to see him?”

“Sure,” Crowley said. “Why not?”

“You’re not going to eat him, are you?”

Crowley scoffed. “That was a joke!” Seeing the look on the angel’s face, he spread his hands out in sincerity. “Of course not! Come on, hand him over.”

Aziraphale looked oddly hopeful as he reached into the basket to pull out his little friend.

Crowley pulled his sunglasses off and accepted the snake gingerly, taking his time in inspecting him tip to tail. If nothing else, he approved of his color scheme, all black with red accents. “King snake?” he asked.

“I believe so. Californian, they said.”

“Ah, an American,” Crowley sniffed, “I might’ve known.”

“Try petting him,” Aziraphale offered.

Crowley hesitated for a moment, feeling ridiculous, then slowly began to move one finger down the snake’s back, sliding dryly over his soft, cool scales.

He had to admit, it felt rather nice.

Frederick, waking from a deep sleep, opened a wary eye at the sensation of someone touching him. It was the large snake-eyed creature he’d met briefly the other evening. He flicked his tongue out at Crowley a few times, scenting, trying to discover if this creature was, in fact, a snake or something else. For some reason, he just couldn’t get a read on it. In some ways, this golden-eyed, black and red stranger smelled and felt a lot like the angel did to him – there was a vague taste of feathers to both of them, overlaid with a hint of something similar to sulfur that was unique to Crowley, but then there was a general feeling of snake-ness to him too. It was confusing. Frederick did not like to be confused. It made him sleepy.

“I think he’s starting to like you, a little,” Aziraphale noted.

“Angel, how can you really have a pet, though?” Crowley asked. “What if we have to go away for a bit? A job, or … or a holiday? You can’t just take him everywhere with you all the time.”

Aziraphale stood, looking pleased with himself. “Oh, no,” he said, “I’ve already thought of that.” He dug around under his desk and produced – Crowley truly couldn’t believe it – a small leather carrying case for a snake, complete with a utterly incongruous tartan handle. It had windows and a small heating unit in the bottom. “He’s totally portable. Where we go, he can go.”

“You defy belief,” Crowley snarked, but he was smiling, Aziraphale thought, so that was all right.
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“While you’re up, angel, grab the big bag I left by the front door, please?” Crowley called. He carefully put the snake back in his basket for a moment as Aziraphale passed him the bag. “I brought him – well you – well him. I brought something.”

Aziraphale had the most expressive face, Crowley thought; he’d never seen anything like it. His smiles were the most delighted smiles he’d ever seen, his sadness the most profound, and his very infrequent rages were incredibly intimidating. Right now, Crowley was being treated to one of his favorites of the angel’s expressions -– a combination he called curious-delighted-anticipatory. He couldn’t get enough of that one and had spent a lot of time in the last millennia trying to make it appear with various surprises and thoughtful gifts.

“What is it?” the angel breathed, sitting down beside him.

Crowley reached into the bag and pulled out an immense piece of rock, beautiful blue shale, smooth but not slippery, with a shallow indentation across the top that made it almost but not quite a bowl. He laid it on the couch between them.

“It’s a sunning rock,” Crowley said, feeling suddenly self-conscious. “Put it in the windowsill and he’ll be able to sit in it and get nice and warm. He’ll love it.”

I’m sorry¸ the gesture said, and I will try to do better, and just maybe, I love you.

When he looked up again, Aziraphale was looking at him with an intensity and softness that made him nervous. “It’s lovely, and a lovely gesture.” he said. “Thank you.” And softer. “You didn’t have to, you know.”

Crowley cleared his throat, thrown as always by these loving looks from his angel. “I know. But I wanted to do something for you. And you seem so thrilled with him, and I just …”

Aziraphale leaned in and before Crowley could think to stop it, the angel had planted a soft kiss on his lips. It was chaste and gentle, but contained an intensity that made Crowley’s heart stutter to a stop for a moment. He was stiff for a beat or two, not sure how to respond, then he melted into the warmth and incrementally returned it, head spinning.

They broke apart, both a little breathless, and ended up leaning forehead to forehead for a moment. Aziraphale’s hands were on his upper arms, squeezing softly. He tried to ignore how wonderful the angel smelled, like parchment and green grass and ink.

Funny, Crowley thought, how in all things, his soft, fussy, practical-minded angel was always the braver of the two of them, to finally breach this gap.

Aziraphale gave him one last squeeze and then released him. Crowley tried to recover his faculties as the angel happily went about setting up the rock in the sunny windowsill and carried Frederick over to try it out. For his part, the snake seemed quite pleased and curled up contentedly in the sunbeam.

Aziraphale returned and sat down closer to Crowley than he had before.

Crowley took a long and curious look at Aziraphale – his clever, surprising angel – and took it all in a series of glimpses like photographs. Aziraphale’s rumpled hair, even more askew than usual. The flash of rose in his cheeks. His hands just slightly aflutter with nerves or excitement. The look of shy but wondrous happiness on his face. It was a sight that fed a part of him which he never knew was starving, and he tucked it away for further study, later.

“If I’d known that all I had to do was bring you a big rock,” Crowley drawled in amusement, “I would’ve done so ages ago.”

“Oh, do shut up,” Aziraphale said, beaming, and leaned in to kiss him again.

Crowley shut up.

“I think I could get used to this, my dear,” Aziraphale said when they next came up for air. They leaned back on the sofa, shoulders and knees touching, and Aziraphale reached out and almost shyly laid his hand on top of Crowley’s.

Crowley waited a beat, then turned his hand palm up beneath the angel’s and twined their fingers together.

“The feeling is mutual, obviously” Crowley said softly, echoing an old conversation but in the most gentle of tones.

“Obviously,” repeated Aziraphale, and his voice was like a benediction.
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THE END

Chapter Text

The adventures of Crowley, Aziraphale, and Frederick continue at the link above!