Aziraphale and Crowley had recently developed a tradition on Saturday mornings.
The past winter had been particularly cold and bitter, and Crowley often had a bit of an issue keeping warm. His cold-blooded origins weren’t helped by his lanky form and bony extremities, so he enjoyed spending his nights snuggled up against his space-heater of an angel. Tucking his face in the soft crook of his neck, pressing his cold toes against Azirphale's shins and smirking at the halfhearted whining that the action elicited.
One morning, Aziraphale woke to very peculiar sensation. He felt almost swaddled. A gentle pressure and weight enveloped him, drawing a pleasant feeling from his chest that warmed him to his very core.
He opened his eyes to find a large serpentine head resting on his sternum, still dead to the world, with an incredibly peaceful expression on his face. Crowley had shifted forms (likely without waking, Aziraphale surmises) and successfully coiled himself around Aziraphale’s entire body, the end of his tail brushing against his ankles as it swung lazily back and forth. The warmth in Aziraphale’s chest grows. He can feel the love radiating off of the sleeping serpent, and does his best ensure that he feels the same in return, extending his contented aura outward and brushing his thumb gently over the snake’s head.
But then Crowley wakes and the lazy Saturday morning spell is broken. The serpent’s eyes open in surprise, and suddenly they’re peering out of Crowley’s human face instead. He’s lying flush on Aziraphale’s front, his arms and legs wrapped soundly around him. Aziraphale would find himself endeared by the blush rising on the demon’s cheeks if it weren’t for his absolutely shamefaced expression.
“Sssorry, I didn’t mean to–”
Aziraphale rests his hand on Crowley’s face, running his thumb across his cheek before carding his fingers back through his hair. Crowley closes his eyes, sighing pleasantly at the sensation.
“Don’t apologize, my love.”
Crowley rests his cheeks against Aziraphale’s chest, still looking somewhat crestfallen. He focuses on the steady thump-thump of his angel’s human heart. “But I–”
“You have nothing to apologize for.”
“Surely you’d rather not cuddle with a reptile.”
“I think you’re underestimating what a good cuddler you are in your serpentine form.”
Crowley tilts his head to better see Aziraphale, a look of quiet awe on his face. He's still sleepy at this point in the morning, his expressions open and honest in a way that they usually aren't. So Aziraphale can read the fears written clear as day in the downturned corners of his mouth and his tilted brow. The fears that he doesn’t deserve this, that Aziraphale is simply humoring him, is too good for him, that he’ll misstep in his usual demonic way and Aziraphale will leave him and that’s just the way the world is meant to be.
Aziraphale kisses the doubt right off of Crowley’s face.
Slowly but surely, Crowley allows himself to become comfortable sleeping coiled around Aziraphale in his serpentine form. On Saturdays, Aziraphale would leave the shop closed until the late afternoon so that he and Crowley could bask in the sunlight that streamed in through the front window and onto his well-loved sofa. (He knew that Crowley was particularly fond of the way that the golden light warmed his scales. On the rare occasion that Aziraphale woke first, he loved watching the serpent sleep, tracing his fingers along his spine. He rarely saw him so relaxed.)
This random Saturday morning in March, while rainy and dreary, should have been like all the others. Except for the fact that it wasn’t.
Anathema Device knew that Crowley and Aziraphale were not… people, per se.
Their auras were tinged with something pearlescent and odd-looking that her eyes could never manage to focus on long enough to truly see what it was. Not to mention the odd little magic tricks they would perform now and again, under the impression that Anathema wouldn’t notice that there always happened to be a tray of fresh tea and little sandwiches on the coffee table whenever she and Newt would pop in for a visit. (She did notice.)
Not long after the failed Armageddon, Anathema had come across an unfamiliar contact in her cellphone saved under the name of “A.Z. Fell and Co.” Upon calling the number, Aziraphale feigned ignorance as to how the number came to be in her possession but nonetheless invited her to stop by the shop anytime if she’d like to take a peek at his extensive library.
And thus, Anathema and Newt had a very odd new friend.
Whenever they were in London they’d stop by the shop, knocking on the door if it happened to be closed. (Anathema learned very quickly that the shop wasn’t for the purpose of selling books so much as storing them, but after a few trial runs to ensure that she was trustworthy, Aziraphale was more than happy to let her borrow to her heart’s content.) While bumbling and awkward at times, the man was sweet as all get-out and knew his books well enough to debate them to the earth’s end. Eventually, Anathema was dragging Newt into the city at least once a week to accompany her and discuss Aziraphale’s vast collection of literature, so it really should have only been a matter a time until they ran into his red-headed companion.
Except Anathema was fairly certain that Crowley was avoiding the bookshop whenever she and Newt were there.
In fact, she was absolutely certain. Mainly because she once spotted him out the front window of the shop over Aziraphale’s shoulder as he ranted passionately about Oscar Wilde’s Garden of Eros. Crowley stopped in his tracks when he spotted the young couple on Aziraphale’s couch and slumped his shoulders dramatically, making an exasperated expression before turning on his heel and marching briskly away, vaguely resembling a child throwing a tantrum. So, yeah. Anathema could say with confidence that Crowley was avoiding them.
It all came to a head on a rainy morning in March.
Anathema and Newt had plans to be back in Tadfield in the early afternoon for Pepper’s birthday party, but Anathema had accumulated a rather large hoard of finished books and felt too guilty to hold onto them for any longer. She figured that Aziraphale didn’t really seem the type for a lie in and that popping in and out around ten in the morning shouldn’t be too much of an inconvenience.
Perhaps she should’ve thought that through.
Anathema can immediately tell that something is off. She’s holding a stack of books up to her chin so Newt knocks heavily on the door, knowing that Aziraphale sometimes can’t hear from his back room, but the door swings open easily under his knuckles. They exchange a look. Aziraphale generally does whatever he can to keep people out of his shop At All Costs, and leaving the door unlocked is… out of character, to say the least.
Anathema worries her lip between her teeth as she steps past Newt, quieting his stuttered protests with a quirked eyebrow in his direction as she nudges the door open further with her shoulder. Surely, if something was wrong, Aziraphale wouldn’t mind them letting themselves in. She looks back towards his desk, as they often find him wrapped up in his notes and annotations, but his chair sits empty. She’s only distantly aware of Newt following her timidly into the store until she hears a strangled gasp.
She whirls around and follows Newt’s wide-eyed gaze before squeaking in shock at the sight.
Aziraphale is laid out on the couch, seemingly asleep. This is not shocking.
What is shocking, however, is the giant black snake coiled around him from head to toe.
It appears to be sleeping as well, resting its large head on Aziraphale’s chest, slung over his shoulders and wrapped around his torso, winding around his right leg with its tail curled at his ankle.
“What the– I mean, well I can tell that it’s– But, I–” Newt whispers, struggling to form proper sentences. “What the fuck is this? Is he a witch? Is this a witch thing?”
“I mean, maybe,” Anathema hisses back. The snake, which doesn’t look like anything she’d imagine is native to the UK, is bigger and heftier than anything she’s seen in a zoo. The longer Anathema looks at it, she realizes that it’s giving off an aura of its own, intertwining with Aziraphale’s until one is indistinguishable from the other.
“Has he been, like, cursed or something?” A look of realization passes over Newt’s face, and he gapes anew. “Oh my god, is he dead?!”
Anathema narrows her eyes, studying the man carefully for the rise and fall of his chest. “I don’t think so.” She steps forward to look more closely, but her movement startles Newt and he throws his arm out, instinctually wanting to put himself between Anathema and the snake.
But all he succeeds in doing is sending her very impressive stack of books to the floor with a large crash.
A couple of things happen at once.
Aziraphale starts awake, clutching at the large serpent, still sluggish from sleep as he slurs, “Wha’s goin’ on?” Simultaneously, the snake’s eyes fly open, a brilliant gold hue, as it rears up protectively over Aziraphale, hissing in surprise and ready to strike against its perceived attackers. As people with just an inkling of self-preservation, Anathema and Newt scurry backward, but Anathema trips over one of the fallen books, taking Newt down with her when she scrambles to steady herself on his arm.
Anathema stills as she sees something peculiar in the snake’s eyes. It’s a startlingly human expression that looks almost like recognition before transforming into something akin to embarrassment. And then the snake is gone.
And a red-headed gentleman is in its place, staring back at them with the same golden, serpentine eyes. Crowley.
What the fuck.
Unfortunately, the sudden appearance of a grown man on the couch sends (a still very sleepy) Aziraphale careening off of the couch and onto the floor with a pathetic sounding oof, from where he finally spots Anathema and Newt.
“Oh, lord. Crowley, dear, did you lock the door when you came in last night?”
Crowley sits stock still on the couch, his voice thin as he deadpans, “Obviousssly not, angel.”
They all sit there staring at each for a moment that feels like an eternity. It's somewhat unbearable.
Anathema regains her voice first, tentatively venturing, “So, you’re a snake?”
Aziraphale winces. Crowley maintains a carefully blank expression as he says, “Uh-huh.”
Something occurs to Anathema. Between the strange auras and generally peculiar behavior, it wouldn’t be the craziest conclusion to draw. “Are you Aziraphale’s familiar?”
“As in a familiar to a witch? You think that I’m a witch?” Aziraphale asks with an odd look on his face, as though he'd eaten something that didn't quite agree with him.
Anathema nods hesitantly.
Crowley sputters and then absolutely cackles. Aziraphale shoots him a thoroughly unimpressed look and he laughs even harder, tears of mirth gathering in his eyes. Eventually, he stops wheezing and wipes at his face. “Oh, that was really good. Thank you for that, I’ll never let him forget that one. A witch. Ha!”
“So,” Newt furrows his brow, “If you’re not a witch and a familiar, what are you two?”
Aziraphale exhales, looking rather chagrined.
“You know, I thought you said they knew?” Crowley asks, raising one eyebrow.
“Well, I thought it was fairly obvious.”
“It’s not actually–Hey!” Newt attempts to interject, only to be cut off when Anathema elbows him in the side. It makes her feel slightly guilty, but she has a desperate need to be in control right now.
Aziraphale and Crowley exchange a look, seemingly have an entire conversation in a few moments consisting of solely quirked eyebrows and tilted heads, each man wearing a combination of sheepishness and exasperation, until they appear to reach an agreement.
“Get up off the floor, angel,” Crowley tugs Aziraphale up off the floor to sit next to him on the sofa, before looking to Newt and Anathema. “Alright, kiddies, pull up a chair.”
They scramble upwards, not particularly interested in disobeying the unknown supernatural entities, no matter how many times they’ve shared tea.
“Well,” Aziraphale clasps his hands together, suddenly smiling pleasantly. “In the beginning, in the Garden, there was– Well, he was a wily old Serpent and I was technically on apple tree duty. And I–” He cuts himself off as Crowley sighs and pinches the bridge of his nose.
“I love you, angel, but you do this every time,” Aziraphale opens his mouth to protest but Crowley turns to their guests. “Anathema. Newton. This is Aziraphale, Principality and Guardian of the Eastern Gate. He is an angel in the literal sense. My name is Crowley. I am a demon, also in the literal sense. Any questions?”
It’s painfully quiet for a moment.
Newt chuckles uncomfortably. Anathema shoots him an incredulous look. He stops. She needs to process this.
“So you’re, like, the snake? From the Garden of Eden?”
“And you’re an angel? Halo? Wings? Harp?”
“Wings, yes. The halo and the harp are a bit of a stereotype, my dear.”
“And you guys are,” She searches for the right word, “Partners?”
Crowley snorts at her dumbstruck expression. “Yup.”
“Well, that’s…” Newt weighs his words, “Bizarre.”
“I suppose so, Mr. Pulsifer,” Aziraphale says, more to Crowley than Newt as he takes the demon’s hand, smiling sweetly at him. Crowley smiles back before averting his gaze to downward, clearly attempting to contain a much bigger grin. “Now was there something you two needed, barging in here on a Saturday morning?”
“Oh!” Anathema hops on from her chair to gather the books from the floor as she abashedly explains. “I was hoping to return these to you because we have to be a Pepper’s birthday party this afternoon, she’s a friend of Adam’s. We’re really sorry for intruding, but your door was unlocked, and that was so unlike you that we were a bit concerned.”
“Ah,” Aziraphale’s expression softens at that. “Well, I understand my dear, an honest mistake. Do pass our regards along to young Miss Pepper.”
“Of course! And would it be alright if we stopped back in tomorrow? I just finished The Cloud Atlas and I’d really love to discuss it with you.” She smiles hopefully, if somewhat sheepish.
“That would be delightful, Anathema.”
As they're making their way out of the shop, Anathema pauses and turns back for a moment. “And I’d love to see you around sometime, Mr. Crowley. Maybe we could all get to know each other better.”
Crowley quickly masks his surprise, settling on a carefully neutral expression, but Anathema can read the contentment in his aura. “Why, yes, Miss Device, I think that would be lovely.”
Perhaps now they would have two very odd new friends.
Once they’re sat in Dick Turpin once again, on their way back to Tadfield, Newt asks Anathema, “So, that all really happened right?”
“Your book club buddy is an angel.”
“And his boyfriend is a demon.”
“Right. Just checking.”