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Dust Shalt Thou Eat

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Genesis 3:14  And the Lord God said unto the serpent: "Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle and above every beast of the field.  Upon thy belly thou shalt go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life.    King James Bible

 

At their celebratory dinner at the Ritz, Crowley ordered the Beef Wellington.  It was theoretically a dish for two, and Crowley, as usual, let Aziraphale maintain the polite fiction that they were going to share it.  The waiter brought two plates, one of which remained unused.  While Aziraphale ate, the demon slowly drank his way through most of a bottle of a very nice red and nodded appreciatively as the angel described the flavor combinations.  This was how he had always shared meals with Aziraphale and Crowley didn't resent it in the least. 

Crowley was endlessly fascinated by how much enjoyment the angel got from his food, and after a few thousand years, he'd acquired enough expertise by proxy that he could talk reasonably well about all of the various flavor combinations.  Talking about food delighted Aziraphale, and Crowley was happy to indulge him.  He paid attention so that he could learn precisely what the angel liked to eat.   He took pleasure in ordering for him from time to time.  When out and about, Crowley enjoyed picking up little surprise treats for Aziraphale.  Crowley had an excellent sense of smell, and he'd made a study of what smells corresponded to the flavors the angel liked best.  Nowadays, he could sniff out an excellent bakery or takeaway place from four blocks away.  With Armageddon in the rear view mirror, Crowley planned to start making daily use of his skill.  He could spend the rest of eternity bringing good foods to his angel.    

Tonight, however, Crowley planned to change the normal progression of their evening.  He did not rush Aziraphale through the appetizers or the soup or the main course.  Crowley did not fail to bask in the rays of nearly physical warmth that the angel exuded as he made an unabashed and sensual exploration of each dish.   But, yet, tonight Crowley was looking forward to when the angel was ready to be done with eating.  There was, as of just yesterday, a new dimension of pleasure that he could now make available to his angel, and he was eager to explore it.

Aziraphale was thoroughly enjoying the way the crispy layered pastry cracked against the roof of his mouth to release the complex pate over his tongue.  He let those flavors mingle just the right amount before he allowed his teeth to slowly sink into the butter-soft beef, releasing the acidity and the deep umami flavors to wash the pate towards the back of his mouth.  He slowly rolled his tongue around his mouth to capture every flavor nuance and then swallowed reverently before making a noise of appreciation that was, he knew, very nearly indecent.  Aziraphale knew exactly how demonstrative he could be before he would upset the staff at the Ritz, and he went right up to that line, because he was with Crowley, and he always wanted to show his appreciation of Crowley's meal selections as fully as he possibly could. 

Aziraphale would not skimp or rush through his enjoyment of everything his demon could offer him.  Even tonight.  Especially tonight.  There was so much to enjoy.  Not just the excellent food and the music, but also the newly safe intimacies, the brushing of fingertips, the pleasure of laying his hand atop Crowley's to emphasize a point in a story.  

What hadn't changed was the comforting familiarity of how they talked together.  Neither had ever found a better conversational partner, and conversation, whether bickering or debating or telling stories, was one thing they could both enjoy equally well.   Tonight was a night for stories.  Even though the pair of them had not been apart for more than twelve hours at a time over the past few days, tonight's stories were as grand and dramatic as the stories they had shared at dinners enjoyed after centuries apart.  There was suspense and terror and humor and pathos and all of it was sweetened by the sure knowledge that all stories ended here, with the two of them, safe, together, and free at last.

When the waiter brought the dessert menu, Crowley took it, perused, and set it facedown on the table.  

"What if," said Crowley, "What if we did something a little special tonight?"

"Your taste is impeccable, my dear," said Aziraphale.  "I trust your choices completely."

"I mean, what would humans do on a night like this?"

"What do humans typically do after they defect from their warring sides, stop Armageddon, and escape the retribution of immortals?" said Aziraphale.  He was teasing, because he could see that Crowley was starting to work himself up a bit. 

"Angel.  Stop.  I mean."  The demon drummed his fingers on the table.  "What I mean is... Humans wouldn't just go out to dinner and go home.  They'd make a night of it.  What I'm saying is, we could stay the night here.  Get a room."

Aziraphale closed his eyes and took a breath to help him adjust to the new and amazing reality that he now inhabited.  But the pause seemed to frighten Crowley, so he began to rapidly fill the air with words, "It's okay, if you don't want.... I'm happy with whatever you want to do... I just thought... special night... but.... I mean.... I know you must be very anxious to check up on the book shop.... so another time then, no worries."  

Aziraphale nodded to himself and then a slow smile crept across his lips. "Yes," he said, "That will do nicely.  Tell them to send dessert up to the room."  He reached for the dessert menu.  "I'll pick."

When the waiter returned, Aziraphale pointed to a few things on the dessert menu.  Then Crowley pointed to a few things on the wine list, whispered in the man's ear, and handed him a card.  Aziraphale folded his hands in his lap as the dishes were cleared away.  Crowley motioned for another refill for their wine glasses.   As the waitstaff left, Crowley leaned forward, caught Aziraphale's eye, and launched a story.  Aziraphale picked up his wine glass and tilted it to his lips, timing his sips carefully so that he could laugh at all the right moments.  Crowley was describing the crazy human that he had gotten directions from on his way to the airbase.  It was an uproarious tale, the way Crowley was telling it.  Later on, the angel knew, this story might be told again, and there might be another dimension to it.  After 6000 years, they both knew that every true story contained multitudes.  The demon expertly spun the story into what it should be for the occasion, and Aziraphale was shaking with mirth by the end.    

The waiter brought back the card and handed it and a room card to Crowley, bending to whisper in his ear again.  The demon nodded.  The waiter left.

"Is it really okay?"  Crowley sucked in his upper lip. 

"It's perfect," said the angel.  He put his hand, soft and warm, over the demon's.  "Shall we, then?"

"Might be," said Crowley, "Might be a couple minutes before they get everything set up."

"We'll walk slowly."

Crowley nodded.  He stood up, and the angel followed, lacing their fingers together.  Crowley looked around at an entire roomful of humans who seemed completely unaware of the fact that the most exquisite creature on the planet was holding his hand in public.  Forks were clinking gently on plates, a piano was playing, and there was low conversation.  None of it stopped.  It just kept on, and there was Aziraphale, smiling at him and holding his hand in the way that lovers do. 

And now the angel was leaning against him and whispering into his ear. 

"How slowly were you planning to walk, darling?", said Aziraphale.  There was a smile playing about at the edge of his lips.    

"This is really all right with you Angel?", said Crowley, as they reached the hall.

"I'd have been rather offended if you hadn't gotten us a room," answered Aziraphale.  He was happy.  He was excited.  He was looking forward to being able to share things that he had never been able to share with Crowley before now.  And Crowley was looking tentative and starting to pull his hand away.  

Aziraphale refused to relinquish the demon's hand and gave a slight tug to pull him closer to him as he placed a kiss on his lips, right there in the crowded hall.  Crowley pressed into the kiss, twisting their intertwined fingers together and bringing his other hand up to cup Aziraphale's cheek.  The angel opened his lips and Crowley sucked on his lower lip and then slipped his tongue into the angel's mouth.  Aziraphale leaned back against the wall and let the demon explore his mouth.  One of his hands was pinned against his leg by Crowley, but he circled the other one around the small of the demon's back and pulled their bodies together.  

There was a sound behind Crowley and it startled them both.  Aziraphale opened his eyes and spotted a concierge standing right there.  The concierge raised an eyebrow, and the angel quickly disentangled himself while Crowley adjusted his sunglasses and then his clothes.  

"We were just heading to our room," said Aziraphale.  

"Will you need help finding it?"  

"Thank you, no, we were just heading to the elevators now." said Aziraphale. "Got a bit turned around."  Then to the hall at large he said "So sorry."  As he tried to step past Crowley, the demon took his hand, more chastely, but in defiance of dozens of sets of narrowed eyes.  The people turned away quickly as he gazed at them from behind his sunglasses.  There was a bit of a crowd at the elevator bank, but they ended up getting an elevator all to themselves anyway.  

There was no reason at all not to steal a kiss in the elevator, and so they did, pressing their bodies together for the all too short ride.  They tumbled into a hall, and Crowley pulled a card out of his back pocket, scanned the sign on the wall, and lead them down a long corridor and around a corner.  

Crowley didn't bother to use the key card, but the door opened as they approached.  "It's not big," he said, pulling the angel inside, "but it's very private."