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Two Serpents Meet in a Bar

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"Come here often?"

The man with sleek black hair and grey skin turned to Crowley. Cool, amused blue eyes gave him an unmistakable once-over; Crowley admired the ridges of scales framing his human-like features.

"Often enough to know that you don't belong here." The curl of his lips would not have been out of a place on a demon busy with a sexual temptation. "I can see well into the infrared. Your heat signature is *very* interesting."

"So is yours, mate." Crowley swung around to face the bar. "So what would you suggest for a glass of the best?" He nodded to the dark, syrupy-looking liqueur that filled the man's rectangular tumbler.

"Oh, not this. I've never met anyone who wasn't Cardassian who could stomach kanarr. That's my species name, by the way, Cardassian. And you may call me Garak."

Not "My name is", but "You may call me." Crowley grinned and let a hint of serpent tongue push between his teeth. "Most people call me Crowley." He stuck out a hand.

Garak the Cardassian was evidently familiar with the custom; he shook once, quite formally. His body temperature, Crowley noticed, was about the same as the temperature of the bar.

The bar was a busy place, filled with sapients of all sorts and conditions. Who knew non-earthly life was so diverse? Certainly not Aziraphale, who had been dubious about this field trip right along.

He turned back to see the barkeep, a short man with enormous ears and teeth that a demon might envy, place what looked like an ordinary wine glass in front of him. The wine, however, was green. A striking emerald green, with a sprinkling of what looked like pollen on the surface.

"Bajoran wine, from the people on the nearest planet," Garak said. "One of their better vintages, in my opinion. They make rather good spirits, for such a religious people."

Crowley picked up the wine glass and considered it. The bouquet was enticing, rich and fruity. He swirled it around and watched the little golden grains ride the surface. He supposed they ought to be there, if his friend hadn't objected. Unless his friend was trying to poison him, in which case, good luck. Garak did have the sort of face that suited an amiable poisoner.

"I think you'll find," Garak said, lifting his own glass, "that it pleases what humans like to call 'the reptile brain'." He lifted a significant eyebrow.

Taking the hint, Crowley slid a serpentine tongue into the glass. Oh...! Oh, that was *divine*. The pollen or whatever it was tasted like miniscule crystals of honey and pepper fused; the fruity savor of the wine, which he couldn't help but call "green", tasted like... like the fruit in Eden, the apple that had fallen from Adam's hand.

"Oh, that'sss niiiccccce." He tried to make his tongue assume a more human shape as it swept his lips for traces of flavor. "Thanksss for the recommendation, friend Garak."

"You're welcome. So what brings you to Deep Space Nine?" Garak's lids drooped in a thoroughly reptilian way.

"On a bit of a holiday. Hoping a friend of mine will join me. I gave him the, er, coordinates, told him he could catch up here." He sipped the wine and had to smother a moan; it was almost as ecstatic an experience on human tastebuds.

"What a coincidence," Garak said, as if this were the best news he'd heard all year. "As it happens, I'm also on holiday from my home planet and planning to meet a dear friend here... a very dear friend." Innuendos curled around the words like, well, like snakes around a warm rock. "Perhaps the four of us might have dinner together, if the timing is fortunate."

Crowley smiled politely and was about to demur when he felt an unmistakable aura approaching. He turned as if someone had called him, and there was Aziraphale, zig-zagging through the crowds and edging around the gaming tables as if he had spent his whole life in bars and casinos on out-of-the-way space stations. He was dressed in a curious mix of Earth fashions of the last four or five centuries, topped by a long forest-green coat and a soft maroon cap.

"Crowley! There you are, my dear. I'm so sorry I'm late, I--" The angel broke off, looking in confusion at Garak. "I'm sorry, I--"

"Garak," said Crowley, with a gesture, "this is my very good friend Aziraphale."

Aziraphale drew himself up, pulling the cap from his head, and extended his hand. "How do you do, Mr Garak?"

Garak took the angel's hand and was not the least bit formal; his grip lingered, and so did his gaze. "Just Garak, please. Plain, simple Garak."

Aziraphale nodded, perhaps too many times, and ran his hand through his rumpled curls when Garak released it. His eyes sought Crowley's, confused and beseeching.

"I ran into Garak at the bar here, and he recommended this *incredible* wine. Have a sip?" He tilted his glass toward the angel.

It was a very intimate thing to do, and he wasn't sure if Aziraphale would take the bait. But after searching his face for a moment, Aziraphale leaned forward and let Crowley tip the glass to his lips, as if giving him Communion. Crowley noted that Garak was watching them with undisguised interest.

Aziraphale's lips parted, and there was just a flicker of his tongue, quite human-looking, as he sipped, then savored. Two spots of scarlet appeared on his cheeks, spreading as he swallowed.

"That *is* remarkable." His voice came out half an octave deeper than usual, with shimmering overtones that Crowley wondered if Garak could hear. Perhaps he could, to judge from the way he tilted his head.

"Garak was wondering if we'd like to have dinner with him and his friend, if his friend shows up soon."

Garak turned, quickly, to look away from them and over his shoulder, and Crowley just knew that his "friend" was approaching. He quickly drank the rest of his wine and tried to keep scales from bursting out all over.

The person who fetched up beside Garak was Earth-human, male, and quite good-looking, with the skin tone of a Middle Eastern native, thick black hair, and large, warm brown eyes. He was wearing the same sort of uniform as a great many people on the station. "Garak," he said, in what still registered to Crowley as a cultured British accent.

"Julian, my dear boy." Garak kept him waiting a moment while he emptied his glass. "These are my new friends Crowley and Aziraphale. They're not from around here... but they might like to have dinner with us."

"Of course. A pleasure to meet you." He shook hands with both the angel and the demon. "Do you like Klingon food?"

Crowley looked at Aziraphale. Aziraphale looked at Crowley. "I--I don't know," the angel said, "but I'd be delighted to try."

"Follow us, then," said Garak, slipping off the bar stool. As they walked away, Garak slipped an arm around Julian’s waist, and Julian tilted his head attentively to Garak.

"This way, angel," Crowley said. Aziraphale hesitated only a moment before linking his arm with Crowley's, and off they went.