"You can stay at my place, if you like."
All things considered, it had been downright decent of Crowley to offer to let Aziraphale stay at his flat, and no amount of blustering deflection or affected nonchalance would convince Aziraphale otherwise.
Given how unpleasant and frankly upsetting their last encounter before the angel's inconvenient discorporation had been, he could not help but feel that Crowley would have been well within his rights to simply let Aziraphale muddle along by himself and try to find his own place to spend the night.
But no, once again Crowley had proven himself to be a genuinely good and kind individual. Offering Aziraphale a place to stay even when they both knew that it could easily land them in even more trouble with their respective superiors… even if they were on their 'own side' now.
Still, despite all that had happened, even the fear of what might occur tomorrow or the memory of his bookshop's destruction could do little to dampen the flicker of hope igniting in Aziraphale's chest, which all but sang that he might earn Crowley's forgiveness for the way he had treated his dearest friend over the past few days.
A bus pulled up and Aziraphale started as he meant to go on, sitting himself next to Crowley rather than behind or in front or across the aisle as he had done numerous times in the past, his fingers barely brushing Crowley's.
It was the smallest of gestures, and perhaps if they had not known one another as long as they had it would not have seemed significant at all. However, Crowley's eyebrows rose in mild surprise and Aziraphale noted with pleasure the barely-there fond tilt to the demon's lips as he acknowledged the angel's presence next to him. It was an expression that left the angel feeling warmed and prompted a soft smile of his own, a smile that brightened significantly when Crowley moved his hand and let their fingers entwine in a definite hold rather than just a touch.
He could have left it at that, simply basked in their closeness and continued their journey in companionable silence. Aziraphale knew though, that he should try to atone and so when Crowley discreetly offered him the wine bottle again, he accepted it with quiet thanks, took a couple of fortifying gulps (ignoring Crowley's teasing remark that he was being greedy), and tilted his head a little closer to his friend in order to speak quietly.
"Crowley, I wanted to apologise."
He was graced with a frown and a quizzical, speculative glance over the rim of the demon's ever-present sunglasses, serpent eyes bright and glowing with curiosity under the muted lights of the bus. "What for?"
Aziraphale let go of Crowley's hand in order to twist the wine bottle he held anxiously, his own voice just shy of wretched as he replied. "For- well for being such a complete- such an utter fool, for not listening to you, for- for well everything really! Quite honestly, I have acted the most monumental ass these past few days and I- well I can only apologise and thank you for not giving up on me- or on the humans."
Crowley had snorted then, a restrained little noise of amusement in the back of his throat at the way Aziraphale had insulted himself, but his hands were gentle as he removed the wine bottle from Aziraphale's stranglehold. "Steady on, you'll break it." He offered the angel a flash of a grin, sincere and friendly despite those too sharp canines. "Angel, I appreciate the apology, but it's not needed. It all worked out all right in the end, yeah? And to be honest -and you know how much I hate that- I could have acted better as well, so I'd say we're even."
"You say you hate it but you're more honest than I am a lot of the time," Aziraphale grumbled, a little put out that he no longer had the wine bottle to take his nervousness out on and so had resorted to wringing his hands absently instead. "And- and just how could you have acted better?"
"I was pushy, I didn't explain myself properly, and I didn't listen to you either. I didn't stop to consider what you might lose if you did relent and leave with me." Crowley took a quick swig of the wine and continued. "I put you in an impossible position. If we had done things my way then none of this would be here now-" here Crowley waved the bottle in a vague gesture of everything that lay beyond the bus windows in the evening gloom. "Not only that but you could- probably would have Fallen."
"And what about you?"
"You were in as bad a position as I. You could have been destroyed. I remember, you told me Hell had found out about the mix up with the Antichrist and you asked me to run away with you and I refused."
"You were doing the right thing-"
"But it didn't work."
"I never said it wasn't the stupid thing." Another grin, one that had Aziraphale huffing and smacking lightly at the demon's arm.
"Do be serious, dear! I'm trying to tell you that I was wrong, and that you deserve an apology. I'm trying to thank you for staying despite the danger."
"We were both wrong about a lot of things, and you deserve an apology as much as I do. Once again we cancel each other out, now stop fretting." Crowley's voice held an air of finality for all it was still unfailingly kind.
There was another huff from the angel as he wiggled in his seat, clearly not entirely happy with Crowley's apparent blasé attitude about what Aziraphale felt was a very serious matter.
"For what it's worth," Crowley added voice just a shade quieter. "I forgive you, even though I never really blamed you."
"Oh now you're just using my own words against me." Anyone else could have mistaken the angel's tone for irritated, were it not for the amusement that brightened his eyes and coloured his cheeks. "And… I forgive you too, though there's really nothing to forgive."
"Glad we're finally on the same page then." Crowley smirked and gave a sort of triumphant salute with the wine bottle before draining it of the last dregs, much to Aziraphale's chagrin.
The remainder of the bus journey back to London was a quiet affair, the pair spoke little but Aziraphale had often found that words were not necessary where Crowley was concerned. He could not be entirely sure if this was due to having known one another for six thousand years, or if it was due to some other reason completely. What Aziraphale was sure of though was that he was incredibly grateful that there was a bus to be quiet on at all. That there was Tadfield, and London, that there were humans, and animals, and wonderful food and drink, music, books (his heart twinged just a little at that thought), the entire world, and many more tomorrows to enjoy them all in.
There was Crowley…
And there so easily could not have been.
At some point over the course of the bus ride, the events of the day must have caught up to the demon and he had fallen into a doze, his head lolling until it had come to rest on Aziraphale's shoulder. He had not woken nor moved him.
Aziraphale felt drained himself, but he had never been one for sleep, besides which he was fairly certain his own experiences must pale in comparison to what Crowley had had to contend with over the past few hours. Crowley had told him what had happened as they were sitting on the bench waiting for the bus, his voice had been carefully casual, but Aziraphale could tell it had not been easy.
Crowley had faced Hastur and Ligur in his flat, killing Ligur with the holy water Aziraphale had given him decades ago, and trapping Hastur. He had entered the burning bookshop to try to find Aziraphale only to reach the bleak (if incorrect) conclusion that he was gone and that Hell must have been the one to start the blaze thus destroying him. He'd gotten drunk, then upon realising Aziraphale was in fact very much alive (if sans a body), had driven his beloved Bentley through the blazing inferno that was the M25 with only his own sheer force of will keeping the car together and himself from discorporating. He had stopped time and created an entirely new plane of existence for himself, Aziraphale, and Adam just to give them a chance to speak before it was too late, and then he had been willing to face Satan himself with naught but a tyre iron for a weapon.
"You really are quite remarkable you know," Aziraphale murmured to his companion, voice barely above a whisper. He knew that if Crowley were to wake and hear those words, he would become embarrassed, and when he was embarrassed Crowley had a rather endearing propensity to hiss, but as charming as Aziraphale found this quirk, he was not cruel enough to try to embarrass Crowley on purpose whilst he was so tired.
Very remarkable really, and very dear to Aziraphale…
To realise just how dear was a somewhat troubling thought. It was not a new thought by any means, but until this point, it had been one that the angel had done his best to lock away and ignore for their own safety. Now though, Aziraphale could ignore it no longer. Heaven and Hell would not just let them off after they had essentially committed treason, they would come for them both, their retribution would be terrible and swift, of this he was sure. Were it only his own existence in jeopardy, Aziraphale probably would not have felt quite so bad, but Crowley was in danger as well and the thought of anything happening to the demon was simply unconscionable.
Carefully, so as not to wake Crowley, Aziraphale leant his cheek gently against the top of the demon's head, brow furrowed in thought.
When alle is ʃayed and all is done, ye must chooʃe your faces wisely, for soon enouff ye will be playing with fyre.
Agnes had not steered any of them wrong so far, even if her words could be difficult to decipher at times. If this last prophecy was truly for them, she must know how they could face their former superiors and survive.
As the bus hit a small pot-hole and jostled its occupants, Aziraphale turned slightly to glare out the window as if admonishing the bus, or the road, for its' carelessness.
It was then that the angel caught a glimpse of his and Crowley's reflection against the dark of the night beyond and the patina of the lights both in the bus and beside the road. The slight distortion of their image almost made it appear as if he and Crowley were one entity rather than two.
"Pity I can't inhabit yours…”
" Wha'sssup, angel?" Soft and slurred, Crowley was barely awake from the bump in the road and Aziraphale's quiet exclamation.
"Nothing, nothing, try to get some more rest. I'll tell you when we get to London."
"Hm, good, thanksss."
Biddable enough for now, Crowley did as Aziraphale suggested and fell quiet once more, though this time Aziraphale was a little flustered to find the demon had turned his head to nuzzle into his neck.
Best not to think on it too much, Aziraphale resolved, trying to will away his blush and the warm, tingling sensation that had settled quite comfortably in his chest.
Instead, Aziraphale would think more on Agnes' prophecy and the inspired, but somewhat mad idea that had just begun to take root in his mind.
If it worked then they may just be able to survive both Heaven and Hell's wrath after all.
Crowley's flat was in Mayfair and would have rightfully earned the descriptors 'palatial', 'luxurious', or 'sumptuous' in any estate agents' spiel, were it not for the startlingly minimalist way Crowley had chosen to furnish the place. Oh, to be sure all the items within those four walls were the finest quality and likely cost more than any honest mortal could afford, as was the demon's wont. However, there was just so much space and so little to ornament that blank canvas of varying shades of white and grey with that Aziraphale was reminded strongly of Heaven. It was a comparison that left the angel feeling rather uneasy.
"- All I'm saying is that you should have woken me up," Crowley protested from the kitchen doorway. The clinking of a teaspoon in a china mug sounded more forceful than necessary given the demon's agitation. "What if another one of them had appeared on the bus while I was sleeping?"
Crowley had forgone his sunglasses once they had stepped inside his flat, his yellow eyes now glared with baleful meaning at the vaguely Ligur-shaped stain on his office floor that Aziraphale insisted on cleaning up himself.
"I would have woken you then," Aziraphale replied blithely, ignoring Crowley's pique in favour of focusing on the task at hand.
Crowley had been irritable once they reached London and he had woken up properly, complaining to the angel that he should not have allowed him to fall asleep. His mood had not improved one bit when upon entering the flat, Aziraphale had all but shoved him away from the scene of Ligur's demise and refused to let him anywhere near his own office until he could be sure not a drop of holy water remained.
"By which time you could have already been destroyed."
"You know I am rather offended that you're so quick to assume I couldn't hold my own against a demon for a few moments. After all, I've been dealing with you quite successfully for several millennia now."
"Don't act stupid, Aziraphale, doesn't suit you." Crowley grumbled, clearly in no mood to be teased.
Crowley stalked over to where Aziraphale crouched, and the angel noted his friend's normally loose-limbed swagger had tightened into something tense and purposeful as he glanced up to watch him approach. Had Aziraphale not known any better he may have described the demon's movements as predatory, but his expression spoke volumes, Crowley was feeling hunted and on edge.
For all his bristling and prickly attitude, Crowley still stopped obediently when Aziraphale raised a hand to keep the demon at bay as he finished miracling away the remains of Ligur and the holy water that had killed him.
Waving a hand over the spot on the floor, Aziraphale closed his eyes briefly, testing the air for any traces of the holy water that could still be present and pose a threat to Crowley.
Satisfied nothing remained; the angel straightened and accepted the mug of cocoa Crowley had kindly prepared for him despite his annoyance at Aziraphale's apparent careless attitude.
"Crowley, I really don't think we've anything to fear. At least not tonight. Heaven and Hell will certainly want to punish us for this, but right now, they will be 'licking their wounds' so to speak. I imagine there were angels and demons aplenty spoiling for a fight today, and now that there won't be one, our superiors will have their hands tied dealing with them."
"I'd rather not rely on assumptions if it's all the same to you," Crowley hissed the words, but they lacked the heat Aziraphale would have expected if the demon was truly vexed with him. "Look I-"
Aziraphale blinked innocently at Crowley over the rim of his mug as his friend cut himself off with a soft utterance that the angel could not quite make out, but that sounded displeased.
Crowley turned on his heel, walked a few paces, and turned back again, running a hand agitatedly through his already mussed hair.
"- I thought I'd lost you today. Really lost you. Not just discorporated, but completely destroyed. So you'll have to excuse me if I seem a little on edge. I'd rather be overly vigilant than-" Crowley huffed, hissed, and made an aborted gesture like he might grasp at Aziraphale's arms but thought better of it at the last moment, his irises had expanded to usurp the whites of his eyes entirely as the angel had noticed often happened when his friend was particularly stressed. They flicked over Aziraphale's face as if searching for something before the demon sagged slightly and finished his sentence in a voice just a touch hoarse. "I'd just rather be overly vigilant than risk going through that again, alright?"
"Oh, Crowley..." Aziraphale's brows knit in worry over the torment he could sense in Crowley's mind. He wasted no time in setting aside his drink in favour of reaching out one hand, still warm from where it had been curled around the mug, to cup Crowley's cheek in reassurance.
Crowley intercepted the motion, catching Aziraphale's hand gently between both of his own.
"Just… humour me, angel, please."
"Very well, if it will make you feel better."
"It will." Crowley's thumb brushed over Aziraphale's knuckles before he seemed to come back to himself and let go of the angel's hand and cleared his throat pointedly, his irises retracting to a more human shape as he did so despite a pale flush that had settled high on his cheeks.
"You wanted to tell me something? -On the bus I mean. Was still half-asleep but you mentioned telling me something once we got to London, so-" Crowley nodded once, waved in a vague 'carry on' gesture and made his way back into the lounge as Aziraphale retrieved his cocoa.
"Yes, yes that's right." The angel bustled over to the sofa, his own cheeks feeling rather flushed and the hand Crowley had held quite pleasantly warm, warmth that had little to do with the mug he held, Aziraphale was quite sure. "It has to do with Agnes Nutter's final prophecy."
Crowley did not settle himself immediately on the sofa as Aziraphale did. Instead, he circled it slowly, eyes unblinking and roving from Aziraphale himself to every corner of the room.
He had done this before, Aziraphale recalled, his memory flitting back over several of their historical meetings. Until now the angel had just chalked this up to an odd little personality quirk, or something snake-y in Crowley's makeup that, much like his eyes, the wily demon just could not shake.
Cautious. His mind supplied suddenly. Protective!
Many a time they had met during their Arrangement, Crowley had done this and Aziraphale realised now it was not merely some idiosyncrasy; Crowley had been looking out for danger each and every time. His attitude following the bus journey when he had let his fatigue lower his defences enough to sleep despite that perceived danger just proved it.
On Crowley's second measured circuit of the sofa, Aziraphale reached out and caught the demon's sleeve. "Crowley, sit down and let me explain. You'll make me dizzy circling like that."
Voice soft and smile reassuring, the angel caught Crowley's gaze and tried to convey with his eyes: I understand. Please believe we're safe for now.
Crowley huffed, but after giving the room one last lingering appraisal, he joined Aziraphale on the sofa and gave the angel his full attention.
"Heaven and Hell will want to make examples of us for what we did," Aziraphale began without preamble. "And to be perfectly honest I can't see Hell just demoting you to paperwork for a century or making you walk the Hellhounds. I don't think even trying to entreat Her to make me Fall will satisfy Heaven either. I really do think they'll want to… pull out the big guns for this. They're going to want to destroy us completely. They can't risk any other subordinates ever trying to disobey as we did."
"Holy water and hellfire it is then." Crowley muttered.
"So, what revelation did you have regarding Agnes' prophecy?"
"She said we would have to 'choose our faces wisely'. I rather think she may have been speaking literally."
"Hellfire won't hurt you, and holy water won't do a thing to me. My dear, I do believe Agnes thinks we should swap places! 'Choose your faces wisely' we need to swap bodies."
"Right, yeah, 'course, great. How precisely are we going to do that? I thought we'd established you trying to inhabit my body would just end… messily… for the both of us. Incompatibility 'n all that. "
"Yes, me trying to inhabit your body while you're still in it would be a complete disaster I'm sure, but if we attempt to posses one another at the exact same time, it shouldn't be much different to how I possessed Madame Tracy earlier today. Our essences will simply trade places as it were, mine into your corporation and yours into mine."
"Right, good, and you're sure that doing this won't cause-" Crowley paused and mimed an explosion, his face a picture of distaste as he clearly imagined such an outcome in graphic detail.
"My dear boy, I'm not sure of anything, but this has to be worth a try does it not? Think about it, even if we do end up-" Aziraphale nodded as Crowley grimaced and repeated his mime. "Yes, that. We're really in no worse a position than if we're caught by our superiors unawares: At least this way things end on our terms."
Crowley wrinkled his nose. "Bit of a bleak outlook either way. You're right though, I think. We might as well give it a shot."
"The old college try." Aziraphale chimed in needlessly and Crowley could tell from the way the angel was drumming his fingers in a staccato rhythm against his thighs that he was feeling apprehensive about his idea even though he had tried to adopt a matter-of-fact manner.
"So… how are we going to do this then?" Crowley crossed an ankle over his knee and leant back, spreading his arms over the back of the sofa in a cavalier fashion, hoping to convey a relaxed air to the worried angel so that in turn he might feel calmer himself.
"Oh well- I presume it would be like possession-"
"You'll have to talk me through it, angel. I've never actually possessed anyone before."
"Truly? I rather thought your people were all for that sort of thing."
"Yeah well, always seemed a bit cliché and trite, the whole demonic possession lark. 'Course it was very de rigueur back when humanity was young, but it never sat well with me. I like the whole free-will gig too much to take that away from someone by controlling them."
Aziraphale was wearing a satisfied little smile following this speech, all hints of nervousness suddenly gone, and Crowley just knew this meant he was about to accuse him of being nice or kind, a good soul, or some such rubbish, so continued in a hurried ramble.
"Plus I've always been a bit more attuned to the ol' serpent form y'know. Didn't really want to risk taking control of another body only to forget my human-demon self and find myself stuck or something awful like that. Speaking of… just hoping I don't wind up getting myself stuck in your corporation, I mean it's- well it's-"
"I know, it's soft, probably not really to your taste," Aziraphale mumbled giving Crowley's lanky form a once over.
Crowley frowned at the interruption and carried on heedlessly. "I was going to say it's beautiful but that I'm pretty attached to the one I've got so would prefer to get it back, thanksss."
"Oh! Oh well, thank you."
It was only as Crowley noted the blush and the truly radiant smile lighting Aziraphale's face that his words caught up to him, and the demon turned his head from the sight, coughing awkwardly.
"Yeah well, don't go smiling like that while you're wearing my face. Give the whole bloody game away."
"Oh, yes, right, of course."
Aziraphale then schooled his features into such a stoic expression that was so foreign on the affable angel's face that Crowley could not help but bark a laugh at the change, his embarrassment momentarily forgotten.
"'S about right. So- mutual possession. Care to try?"
"Yes, yes, the thing is, this was a lot simpler with Madame Tracy because I was discorporated at the time. I really didn't have much of a choice but to find a receptive body. Now I'm back in my own corporation however-"
"You think it's going to be a bit more difficult? Your essence isn't going to want to give the body up?"
"Something like that, yes."
"Well as I said, you're more the expert in this department, not me. If we can't figure out a way to do this I'd say we're royally fu-"
"- Point taken, thank you."
Crowley smirked at the interruption, but his expression quickly morphed into one of surprise, as Aziraphale determinedly drained the last of his cocoa, set the mug on the floor, then turned bodily towards him and held his hands either side of Crowley's face, where they wavered a little hesitantly not quite touching the demon's skin.
"I think- I'm wondering if it's a little bit like being stuck in a darkened room. One would know there is a destination one needs to get to just ahead, but it cannot be seen. You would need to feel your way across the room to reach the other side wouldn't you."
It was a statement not a question, but Crowley nodded mutely all the same, swallowing thickly.
"When I needed a body before I could easily see where I needed to go because I had no body of my own to anchor me. Now I do so- I need to feel, to tether myself so I can let go of the body I'm in and go to yours instead."
"Like a life-line to pull you in?" Crowley frowned, thinking he may have caught the thread of Aziraphale's thoughts.
"Yes- yes that might be a better analogy."
Aziraphale shuffled minutely closer and Crowley noticed from his peripheral vision the angel's fingers wiggling in anticipation, much as they did before he began one of his terrible magic tricks.
"We'll have to do this at the same time mind. If we do it one at a time, I don't think it will work."
"Right so I-" Crowley swallowed again, hands rising to mimic Aziraphale's either side of the angel's face.
"Yes. I think- I think if we close our eyes and concentrate on each other. Think of each other and imagine it happening it should. That's sort of what I did when possessing Madame Tracy anyway. I imagined it happening and it did. After all, the Quartermaster said angels couldn't possess people but-"
"Aziraphale," Crowley murmured. "Let's give it a try shall we?"
Aziraphale's eyes fluttered closed at the same moment he felt Crowley's hands cup his cheeks. They were cool against his flushed skin and in turn Aziraphale could feel jut of Crowley's cheekbones and angle of his jaw beneath his own palms.
It was… pleasant, the angel mused and a smile came unbidden to his lips in spite of his lingering nervousness.
"For what it's worth," Crowley mumbled, his voice sounding rather distant and his thumbs caressing Aziraphale's cheeks in a way that quite stole his corporation's breath. "If this does go all pear shaped, you should know that spending time with you has made these last six thousand years pretty bearable."
"The feeling is quite mutual, dear."
Aziraphale concentrated as hard as he could on the demon- his demon- his friend in front of him and imagined them trading places, his corporation, the world around him, reality all beginning to feel insubstantial and far away.
Opening one's eyes to find one's own face staring back at you had to rank quite high on a list of disconcerting life experiences, Aziraphale thought a little numbly as he stared at himself- or rather Crowley in shock. Especially disconcerting considering that said face was wearing an expression that Aziraphale very rarely allowed himself to show: Quiet awe, surprise, and something… something dare he say ineffable, but that the angel would hesitantly describe as fond or impressed, perhaps even smug.
It was an expression Aziraphale had caught the demon wearing on occasion when they interacted and the angel had never quite understood why Crowley would look at him that way.
"It worked!" It shouldn't have shocked him to hear his words exclaimed in the demon's own cadence given that he was clearly no longer inside his own body, but Aziraphale still felt himself (or rather himself that was Crowley), start a little at the sound.
"Well, this is a first for the history books." Crowley drawled back with Aziraphale's voice, and his face morphed from something indescribable into an appearance the angel was all too familiar with seeing; a mischievous, sharp smirk that widened into a truly devilish grin.
Ah, well that could be a problem.
"Yes, yes, but you're still you. I mean, you're- we're still too much like ourselves."
As if to highlight his point, Aziraphale removed his hands from where they still rested against Crowley's - his corporations' - cheeks and leant back waving demonstratively first at Crowley's relaxed and lounging posture, then at his own prim-and-proper straight-backed deportment.
Crowley let his eyes rove over Aziraphale in his body and made a considering little noise. "Yeah, got a point there. It's all well and good looking the part physically, but if you toddle off like that and run into the likes of Hastur or Beelzebub, they're gonna know straight away something ain't right."
"The same could be said for you. I would never sit like that."
There had always been a small, private part of Aziraphale that had found Crowley's bearing to be just a little scandalous. His body language had always exuded more self-assurance and confidence than Aziraphale could ever hope to muster, but there was something a bit more to it than that. The angel had shied away from the thought when it had first struck him back in Paris in 1793, but there was no escaping the fact that he had thought it: Crowley simply looked like temptation personified when he lounged the way he did. Now to see Crowley sitting like that in his body, it unfortunately turned from temptation to just plain mortifying.
Crowley snorted. "Nothin' wrong with the way I sit, angel. You just don't let yourself relax."
"I don't speak like that either," Aziraphale added with a touch of petulance before continuing, "and whether I let myself relax or not is beside the point; you said it yourself, if we act like ourselves around our superiors they'll notice immediately, even if they're not usually the brightest buttons in the box."
"Is that a negative critique of Heaven's denizens I'm hearing there? Colour me impressed, Aziraphale."
The angel flushed and wiggled in his embarrassment, an odd sight for Crowley to witness his own body doing before Aziraphale ducked his head and mumbled. "Not a negative critique so much as an unfortunate truth I've come to observe over time."
Crowley, quite gratifyingly, cackled.
"No, no you're right; they're not the brightest buttons, any of them, which will make it all the worse if they do catch us out."
Crowley regarded Aziraphale for a moment before seeming to come to a decision; he smacked a palm to the arm to the sofa resolutely then pushed himself to stand, holding his other hand out for Aziraphale to take to pull him up beside him. "Come on then, we're going to have to practice this charade. We've known each other six thousand years, give it a few hours and we'll have the hang of it, because I'll be damned… again, if I let any of those idiots trip us at the finish line."
"How do you walk like that anyway?"
"The whole- the whole swaying thing, the swagger you have."
"All in the hipsss. It's a sssnake thing." Crowley smirked and demonstrated with Aziraphale's body.
"Oh for goodness sake, that looks- I look ridiculous doing that, don't. And- and how does that make even a lick of sense? Snakes don't have hips!"
"This one does."
"I swear you've got more leg than necessary."
"Feeling a bit put-out that I'm finding this easier than you are, hm?"
Crowley was teasing to try to lighten the mood, Aziraphale could tell, but the sad fact remained that he'd hit the nail on the head with that remark. Crowley did seem to find this whole body-swap business easier than him, and they both knew deep down that if Aziraphale didn't manage to successfully pass as the demon at the crucial moment, then it could spell the end for them both.
"I must confess, for all my love of theatre, I've always been utterly rubbish at acting."
"Tried it did you?"
Aziraphale attempted to manoeuvre what Crowley had jokingly deemed his 'demon suit' into an acceptable saunter once more, and only managed a handful of steps before knocking his knee on the coffee table in a graceless stumble that had Crowley gently catching him by the elbow.
"Yes, once or twice," Aziraphale grumbled. "Shakespeare was ever so kind, bless him, but in the end explained that my 'role as an audience member far outshone my abilities on the stage itself'."
"Well, at least he was honest and didn't let me continue making a complete fool of myself."
"If it's any consolation, you're definitely getting better. You haven't face-planted onto the floor for a good hour now."
Aziraphale glowered and Crowley couldn't help but grin in response. "There, see? That's definitely an expression I'd make."
"I know you're just trying to cheer me up, but it won't stop me worrying you know. If I can't become an acceptable you they'll figure us out and destroy us for sure, Crowley."
"Believe me; I'm well aware of that. You're being too hard on yourself though. You've only been in my body a couple of hours now and the fact you're standing upright at all on those drain-pipes of mine is nothing short of a miracle. Took me ages to get used to it when I first got that body."
Aziraphale smiled despite himself and gave Crowley's borrowed arm a friendly pat. "If I weren't afraid of offending you again I'd certainly start telling you how nice and kind you're being at the moment."
"Oh no, by all means go ahead," Crowley smiled beatifically with Aziraphale's face before adopting his tone and mannerisms with enviable accuracy, touching a palm to his chest and looking very holier-than-thou. "I'm an angel, I am nice."
"Now you're just mocking me," Aziraphale sighed, but there was a telltale flicker of amusement in his gaze.
"The thing is angel. You've got yourself so worked up about this body-swap and fooling our head-offices business that you're not relaxing. Just like I said."
"You do realise that telling someone who's anxious that they need to relax has never once worked in all of creation, yes?"
"I know," Crowley held up his hands placatingly before setting them on Aziraphale's shoulders. "All I'm saying is that while you're agonising over the details your mind isn't going to be able to let your new body move naturally. You're holding yourself tense and that's why you can't get the walk right and keep tripping, I used to do exactly the same."
"What do you suggest then?" Aziraphale didn't pout, he was in a demon's body and demons did not pout, but it was a near thing.
"How about a tour?"
"A tour of the flat. 'S far as I can remember you've never visited me here, let me show you around and take your mind off things for a few minutes."
"I'm not sure that will work as much as you think it will…"
Aziraphale was thus treated to his own face staring at him in a way that was openly imploring and ever so soft, blue eyes widening in a way he had only ever witnessed in the most beseeching and beguiling of creatures (notably cats and dogs, he recalled), that were begging for a treat or extra fuss.
"I- oh come now I do not look like that."
"Oh you do, you really do."
Aziraphale spluttered, half-formed denials on Crowley's forked tongue, but he didn't have a chance to argue his point as the demon in angel's 'clothing' slung a companionable arm 'round his shoulder and led him away from the lounge. "C'mon, let me show you around, we'll start with my plants, no coddling them mind."
Crowley's flat, minimalist as it was, did house some interesting items along with the truly luscious and verdantly beautiful plants Crowley had mentioned.
Aziraphale had wanted to spend a little longer admiring them, but Crowley had only allowed him a few minutes before steering the angel away, mumbling that said plants would get too big for their boots… or pots if given too much praise.
The angel mused over that statement for a moment, and was considering questioning Crowley on what he meant by it, and just how he achieved such wonderful results with his plants, when he caught sight of the statue on the way out of the room.
A stately stone eagle stood sentry just beyond the door, wings outspread and impressive despite how it was cast in shadow.
The statue reminded Aziraphale strongly of the lecterns often found in churches, but why on Earth would Crowley have something so reminiscent of a religious artefact in his flat? Kind or not, his friend was a demon, and should naturally balk at such things.
"Crowley, what is-?"
"Oh nothing, just- you know, thought it made a nice statement piece-"
Crowley attempted to redirect Aziraphale's attention without success and made quite a remarkable impression of the angel by flapping his hands and bustling over to try to intercept Aziraphale from getting a closer look.
Aziraphale in Crowley's body naturally had longer legs and his bigger stride brought him close to the statue before Crowley could guide him elsewhere.
Up close Aziraphale could see the fine details clearer, even given the dim lighting of this corner. He had been correct; this was definitely a statue from a church. This close to it, Aziraphale could sense the barest traces of holy energy about it still. There was something achingly familiar about it too.
"Crowley what in the world?-"
Aziraphale ran his hands over the sculpture, picking out the relief of the feathers and the cool rasp of the stone at his fingertips. There was something else too. The energy from this figure had diminished that much was true, but it was still undeniably a relic from a church and upon close inspection, Aziraphale could also see that the back and wings of the eagle were blackened, damaged, by fire perhaps.
The realisation struck suddenly, of just why this eagle conjured up a whiff of nostalgia in him.
A church. A demon and an angel. Nazis. A bomb. And some miraculously unscathed books flickered before his mind's eye.
"Gracious, Crowley is this-?"
"Yeah- yep. It's from that church. 1941."
"Souvenir." Crowley replied shortly, a palm resting on Aziraphale's back as he attempted to turn the angel away from the relic to no avail. Aziraphale was transfixed.
Crowley groaned, a frustrated little growl in the back of Aziraphale's corporations' throat that, despite different vocal chords, sounded very Crowley.
"I hadn't seen you in years. Ever since that- the whole holy water debacle. I just wanted a- a sort of memento I suppose, in case it all went tits up again. In case I- you know I went and said something stupid and mucked it up-"
"In case you mucked it up? Crowley our little… disagreement was hardly your fault. I misjudged things entirely."
Crowley levelled him with a flat look.
"Well alright, it wasn't only your fault. We both could have communicated better that day I think."
"Seems to be a bit of a running thing with us; misunderstanding in communication."
"Hm well, I like to think we'll get better with time."
"Six thousand years not quite long enough?" Crowley quipped.
"Well we've hardly spent a great deal of time together in those six thousand years have we? We've had the Arrangement of course, but we haven't really been able to spend days or weeks or months together very often due to- well the whole 'opposite sides' thing."
"Are you saying you'd like to?" There was something just a touch incredulous and almost painfully hopeful in Crowley's tone. Almost as if he couldn't quite believe Aziraphale might want to spend anymore time together once all this was over and done with, and Aziraphale felt another spike of hot guilt in his stomach at the reminder that, especially over the past few days, he had been a rather horrible friend.
"I would." Aziraphale replied resolutely. "Providing we survive what Heaven and Hell have in store for us, I'd like nothing better than to actually spend some time with you without all the… the subterfuge and worry. None of the Arrangement nonsense. Just the two of us."
A slow, warm, curl of a smile appeared on Crowley's lips, that looked quite at home on his angelic façade and Aziraphale felt his own lips lift in response. "Well, maybe I'll take you up on that offer of a picnic after all then."
"Oh, I definitely think The Ritz is in order first after the week we've just had."
"Fair enough. Ritz, then picnic. Hell, then I might even drag you off on a road-trip or something. You definitely need to see more of the world than Soho this century. You've been cooped up in London too long."
"Only if you promise to attempt to stick to the speed-limits. Otherwise I might just have to insist on driving instead." Aziraphale finally turned away from the stone eagle and made his way back the way they had come, trying to tamp down the blooming affection he could feel growing within him. They weren't out of the woods just yet.
"You can't drive," Crowley blustered, following just a pace or two behind. "You don't even know how to drive!"
"Apparently neither do you," Aziraphale drawled.
"Cheeky bastard. And here I was about to offer to teach you."
And there it was again, that expanding, buoyant, joyous bubble of tenderness that filled the angel with a tremulous but shimmering vision of what might be. Dangerous perhaps, foolish, but Aziraphale couldn't help it. Just one more hurdle and he and Crowley might be able to have this. Spend time together without any concern of being found out by their superiors, take up silly little hobbies, travel, Crowley might actually really offer to teach him to drive. It wasn't something the angel had ever considered wanting to learn before, but now that there was even the smallest possibility of it becoming reality, Aziraphale found the idea strangely tempting.
They made their way back to the lounge and carried on through, Crowley showing off his kitchen, his office, and even his bedroom, chattering on about his various belongings and how modern living really was something to embrace.
("Please, for Someone's sake at least let me buy you a proper smart phone, angel.")
He even hinted, voice just a touch too casual for it to be an after-thought that Aziraphale could stay at his flat for as long as he wished, what with the bookshop gone and Aziraphale now without anywhere else to go.
And it was as Aziraphale stepped forward to clasp Crowley's hands and ramble his heartfelt thanks that he realised that the demon had been correct. Taking his mind off the body-swap really had helped him move more naturally. He hadn't tripped even once during this impromptu little tour of the flat.
He was grateful, for this and of the offer of somewhere to stay long-term. So grateful in fact, that as they passed yet another more interesting statue, Aziraphale felt magnanimous enough not to remark upon the very suggestive nature of it. Although, his amused smirk may have given him away somewhat as Crowley went rather red in the face and muttered something about it being artistic-license, nothing more than that!
My apologies for taking so long over this chapter, but I've been plagued with ye olde writer's block, not to mention I'm suffering with a horrible cold this week, ugh!
This fic really has gotten away from me it seems. It was supposed to be a tiny little one shot, but instead it's suddenly 3 chapters long and still a bit more to go! I hope you lovely folks reading this don't mind too much.
As always, this is un-Beta'd so please do feel free to point out any glaring grammar mistakes that might be lurking in here.
Hope you enjoyed it!