Aziraphale nibbled on the toffee popcorn Crowley had bought him. His friend had a knack for knowing just what kind of thing would bring a smile to his face, and today that thing had been toffee popcorn and a walk through the London Zoo. "This is nice," he said happily.
Crowley smiled indulgently, yellow eyes shaded against the summer sun by his glasses. "Suppose," he agreed laconically. Now, Aziraphale knew good and well that the demon was enjoying himself, but somehow he never seemed able to express his nicer emotions. Aziraphale thought it must be quite lonely, to never be able to ask for a hug, to have one's hand held, or to reach out for comfort. Somehow he'd never quite been able to bring himself to offer it to his friend, either. But he'd discovered that if he let on that he needed comfort, well...well then, Crowley would come slouching to his aid. In so doing, he in turn received the joy of companionship and a friendly face. Rather neat bit of work, if the angel did say so himself. One must employ sneaky means if one were to get the taciturn demon to accept succor.
"Bit hot," Aziraphale said, blotting at his forehead with his spotless hanky, "What say we go in the reptile house and get out of the sun?"
"Could do," Crowley agreed, and as they entered the gloom of the reptile house a frosty glass of lemonade appeared in his hand. "Thirsty?"
"Oh," Aziraphale said happily, taking a greedy gulp, "how nice."
"I'm a demon, I don't do nice," Crowley corrected.
"Of course, foolish slip of the tongue," Aziraphale agreed, dimpling in his effort not to smile.
"Stop it," Crowley growled.
"...my...face...?" The angel actually reached up and touched his face, as if he might be able to divine by feel alone what was the matter. "What's wrong with it?"
"It's doing that thing again," Crowley growled, looking grumpy.
Aziraphale peered in the glass of a nearby case, "Oh. It's called smiling."
"I know what it's called," Crowley flared with annoyance.
"Grumpy guts," Aziraphale said cheerily, and popped a piece of toffee popcorn in Crowley's mouth as it hung open indignantly. "There, isn't that better?"
"You're insufferable," the demon harrumphed.
"I'm fond of you too." They strolled in silence, peering into the cases, with their spooky blue and red lighting. Aziraphale stopped next to one case and gazed at the occupant, "How very handsome."
Crowley crowded up behind him, "Who? Him?" His tone dripped scorn. "He's a grass snake!"
Lips twitching, the angel read the placard, "Emerald tree boa," he mused, "I don't think he's a grass snake, Dear." Muttering to himself, Crowley stalked off, the very picture of a moody toddler needing a nap. "What's that?" Aziraphale called, trotting after him, sipping his drink.
"I said that's a pitiful excuse for a snake. If you want to see a really beautiful snake I cou--"
"Hmm?" the angel popped a handful of popcorn in his mouth, eyes guileless.
"Nothing. C'mon, lots to see. Move your arse."
"I see you haven't lost your nannying ways," Aziraphale giggled.
That night he had retired to the backroom of his bookshop and stoked up the fire. While he didn't need it and it was hardly the weather to justify one, Aziraphale had a suspicion he'd need to keep the room warm. Pouring himself a cocoa, the angel settled into his armchair to read. As always, he lost himself in a book, nearly forgetting about his expected visitor. However, he was pulled from the pages when he heard an insistent tapping at the window. Pretending to be distracted, he finally put the book aside, "Whatever could that be?" he asked loudly. "Oh! It is a tapping at my window." Crossing the room, he assumed a puzzled look, "Who could it be on this late night?" Raising the sash, the angel regarded his visitor in astonishment. "My gracious! it is a snake!"
The sinuous form coiled erect outside his window raised a triangular head almost inquiringly, and the angel stepped back. "Do you wish to come in?" Like a stray rainbow, the slender, muscular body of the brilliantly coloured snake poured itself over the sill and lowered to the floor. In the dancing light of the flames, the scales glimmered with beautiful jewel tones. The snake curled like a ribbon across the floor and settled itself on the hearth rug. "Aren't you a handsome fellow?" Aziraphale cooed. It was no lie, truly this snake was very handsome indeed. "I've never seen such a beautiful snake in all my very long life." Preening, the snake regarded him with unblinking eyes as bright and black as drops of oil. "How remiss of me! Would you like something to drink? Water is all I can give you, I suppose." A bowl appeared in front of his visitor, and Aziraphale seated himself. "Don't be shy."
Ignoring the water, the snake slid across the floor, firelight almost hypnotic on it's scales. Aziraphale sat back, patting his leg, "Up you come then." In moments he found himself with a lap-full of snake. Putting a cautious hand on the slim form, he petted. Soon the snake appeared half asleep on his lap, tongue occasionally flickering out, fast as lightening, as if tasting the currents of air. Aziraphale picked up his book and resumed reading, but this time aloud. It was quite nice, he discovered, having a companion in the evenings. Even if said companion was silent. Eventually he reached the end of the book, and it was only as he set it down that he chanced to look up and see the light of dawn staining the sky. "It's morning!" The snake roused itself, also looking toward the window. Turning its head, the snake's er, shoulders, almost seemed to droop. Slithering to the floor, he moved toward the window. "Time to go?" Aziraphale asked, deflated. He'd been thinking of making breakfast. Not that he kept any mice in, but he was sure he could summon something. Raising the sash, he paused, "Will I, er, see you again?" The snake, of course, didn't answer, merely glanced back at him before moving swiftly away. Aziraphale watched him go, biting his lip, before he closed the window and moved toward the kitchen. Loneliness, he'd often found, was somewhat assuaged by food.
Later that afternoon--much restored by an abundant breakfast--Aziraphale was once more absorbed in a book when he received another visitor. This one was clad in all black, rather than gorgeous scales, and arrived on two legs. "How do you feel about lunch, Angel?"
"I love it second only to breakfast," he said solemnly.
"Can I tempt you to sushi?"
"You're very good at temptation," Aziraphale said moments later, standing at the hostess stand of the finest sushi restaurant Japan had to offer. He smiled at the hostess, "Two please."
"It's sushi, not eternal damnation, you'll be fine."
"Advice which will be comforting as the flames of hell lick my toes, I'm sure." Crowley smirked at him and Aziraphale twinkled back. They feasted happily, until at last he sat back, replete. "I had a most interesting visitor last night." "Oh?" Crowley gazed across the crowded restaurant. "Mm," Aziraphale leaned his chin on his hand, "A beeeauutiful snake."
Crowley stilled, not looking at him. "Ah?"
"Yes. Striking, truly. Not sure I've ever seen a finer specimen." A faint flush rode the demon's cheeks. "Hope I'll see him again," the angel mused. He paid the check, waving away Crowley's objection. "Must get some mice or something, in case he pops by. I'd hate to appear inhospitable."
"I--he--er, it probably prefers biscuits."
"Do you think?"
Crowley avoided his eyes, "Mm."
That night, and for the three following, the snake appeared. They developed quite the routine. Aziraphale would offer him water and biscuits, and the snake would consume said biscuits before curling up in the angel's lap like a house cat. They went through a book each night. Aziraphale found himself quite happy to stroke the smooth, muscled coils of the snake as he read aloud, sharing his favourite books with the nightly visitor. "I could get used to this," he said at one point, and the snake looked up at him. "Gets lonely, here by myself."
The snake didn't answer, of course, and he resumed reading. The next morning, as he raised the sash, Aziraphale hesitated. Just before the snake slithered over the sill, he spoke, "I hope to see you later today...Crowley." In the first instance of clumsiness he'd displayed, the snake tumbled off the sill and landed with an audible splat on the pavement. Aziraphale hung out the window, "Are you alright, Dear?" The snake didn't answer, but took off, moving like a fast-flowing river, until he was out of sight. The angel sighed wistfully, and stared after him. "I hope I haven't ruined things," he said softly, before closing the window.
For two days there was neither Crowley nor snake to brighten Aziraphale's days or nights. Restless, he considered closing shop and simply taking a jaunt abroad. He'd obviously played his hand too soon. Maybe the demon needed a little time to himself and then they could at least resume their old way of going on.
"I got greedy," Aziraphale reflected sadly, picking at his sandwich.
"No you didn't," Crowley disagreed, appearing suddenly in the room., "I did."
The demon seemed ill at ease, shoving his hands in his pockets and glancing around the familiar room as if he'd never seen it before.
"I was afraid I'd scared you off," Aziraphale said, resisting reaching for his friend's hand. He rubbed his hands nervously together, anxious. Then Crowley's words penetrated, "What did you mean, you'd been greedy?"
Crowley finally looked at him, "I wanted to be able to spend time with you...touch you...but I was too scared to admit it, so I disguised myself and let you befriend me and then when you asked me to return I ran away." He seemed ashamed, "I couldn't admit to you aloud that I needed the comfort of your presence and so I lied to you."
"I knew it was you," the angel said gently.
Crowley closed his eyes, "I know you did. I told myself you didn't, but you're an appalling actor." With a sudden flash of humour, he added, "Don't know how you ever convinced Hell you were me."
"There was a lot on the line," Aziraphale said.
"More than now, I suppose," Crowley agreed morosely.
"Your friendship is very precious to me," Aziraphale told him gently. "I should have said before."
"I don't want your friendship," Crowley said, then corrected himself, agitated, "Or...not just your friendship." He looked at Azirphale, seeming tormented, "I want more than that, always have..."
Aziraphale stepped close, "Take off your glasses, Crowley."
The demon licked his lips, "Why?"
Aziraphale reached up and removed them himself, "Because I want to look into your eyes when I tell you I love you."
Crowley's eyes went bright as stars, glimmering with tears, "Angel..."
Aziraphale cupped his face, "I miss you when you're not here and I want you with me always."
Tears spilled over Crowley's lashes and rolled freely down his face, "Angel..."
Aziraphale leaned in and kissed him gently, letting his lips speak silent words of love until he felt Crowley's breath catch wetly and then his lips were moving against the angel's and his arms had come around him, holding tight. When they finally parted he was breathing roughly, and his hands were fisted tightly in Aziraphale's jacket. "I love you too, Angel," he rasped, face glowing. "I have for years...centuries."
"I missed having you here with me to touch and talk to and read books with," Aziraphale confessed softly, running a tender hand through Crowley's hair. He smiled as the demon's eyes drifted closed and he leaned into his touch. "I'd like you to stay all night with me." He went pink as those yellow eyes flew wide. "As yourself."
"Bloody hell....Angel," Crowley said, shocked.
"No promises," Aziraphale said primly, pursing his lips. He peeped up at the demon, twinkling, "but I'd quite like to see how you fit on my lap as you are now."
"Talk about temptation," the demon muttered, and kissed him.