Chapter 1: A Curse
Crowley was, by all means, a very good witch. One of the very best in fact. He had made a name for himself very early in his career as having the shortest apprenticeship of any known witch and going immediately after to serve under the royal family. They all called him the Red Witch and word quickly spread of his talents. High ranking witches always held a unique dramatic title and he did always enjoy dramatics.
Over the years he built quite the reputation, feeding into all the rumors of his power, but very few had actually seen him. He was never seen outside the castle, save for the summer festival, where he would march alongside the rest of the royal family. He used to go out more, but as his reputation grew so was kept quite busy and did not enjoy his many admirers desperately trying to get his attention. He had no interest in taking on an apprentice either, far too many young people thinking magic was a matter of cute tricks and instant cures(Sure he used cute tricks and made instant cures, but that was beside the point). It was more nuanced than that and he had so much work to do usually that he didn't have time to explain to some child the deep ethics of spell-casting.
The Royal family did keep him on his toes too. When the queen suffered two miscarriages, Crowley was expected to fix her infertility. He worked steadily for two months to create a fertility potion and within the year she gave birth to a bright eyed baby boy. When the King fell ill under mysterious circumstances, Crowley was able to find out that he was poisoned and tracked the very person who poisoned him. When the kingdom was threatened, he had to cast a plague against the enemy soldiers. Crowley was allowed his own research of course, he had a special interest in herbology, but if something was requested from the family, that became his priority.
He didn't like to be bothered when he worked so he normally kept a tight schedule of when people were allowed to bother him, royal family included. He also knew he had made quite a few enemies over the years so he was very careful to keep up strong wards around his laboratory and his personal chambers. So it came as quite a shock to poor Crowley when he was brought his dinner and in the first bite felt like he was melting into the floorboards. He was normally so careful, but he had been so caught up in scribbling in his notes for a new brewing method, that he completely forgot to check his food. It was a very simple curse too, which made it all the more embarrassing.
He opened his eyes to find that he was now a serpent.
He knew who the offender was too. Duke Hastur of the West Lands had an ongoing rivalry with Crowley that began after Crowley supposedly stole Hastur's apprenticeship. Hastur had never seriously been considered of course, he was more a common man who could do parlor tricks than a real witch, but he seemed to find comfort in blaming his woes on Crowley.
In the present time, Crowley found himself slithering around the room in frustration. He heard his door open and saw the servant who brought him his food holding a large box. Of course. He had been so preoccupied he didn't even notice that Hastur's loyal servant, Ligur was the one serving him. Ligur smiled and crouched to look closely at Crowley.
"Finally. The Red Witch will do his final trick and disappear. No one will even know what happened, 'cept for me and the Duke." And then Ligur picked him up and shoved him into the box, his whole body being twisted painfully. "Hastur wants to have the honor of cutting you up himself, so we're going on a trip."
Crowley would never admit to it, but Hastur had done a very good job on the curse it seemed. If done correctly, it was nearly impossible to break, so he would just have to wait until it worked it's way out of his system in a few days. He wasn't sure if he had that long.
They traveled for quite some time, Crowley wasn't sure how much time, but he could see through the slits in the box that the sun was setting and with all the shaking, Ligur had been running in short bursts and walking.
Crowley had spent this time scheming. He had a plan, sort of. 'Ligurr' He hissed. 'Ligur, I'm thirsssty,' The shaking stopped, some shuffling, and then the box opened. Ligur stared at him.
"Why should I care?"
'If I die of dehydration, your lord and sssavior can't kill me.'
"Alright, stay here and I'll be back."
Crowley listened for the sound of Ligur leaving and as soon as he thought he was in the clear, he slithered out. Taking a quick second to look at his surroundings, Crowley realized that he was in an alleyway and it was almost dark.
He couldn't really tell how far into the city he was as he was currently trying his best to slither in the shadows and get away. Navigating as a serpent was making it a little tricky, as he had obviously never had to before, but to make things worse he was also trying very hard not to be seen. It was becoming more apparent that he was in the poorer districts on the outskirts of the city, and there was a lot of foot traffic, so his main goal became not spooking anyone as they might think he was venomous(Was he? He didn't know), and to not get accidentally stepped on. His scales were black, but his underbelly was a bright rusty red color, so he could only hope that he was blending into the shadows well. Slithering was very tiresome work and he had to add sleeping to his agenda once he was safer.
"Damn it, Crowley!" He heard in the distance. So rest would have to wait, he needed to get away as quickly as possible, and he really wished he had legs. "Out of my way! OUT!" He hear Ligur's voice getting closer. "Crowley, I'll kill you myself!"
He was slithering faster, as fast as he could make his long body go, all concern for being seen was gone(He was practically daring someone to try stepping on him right now. His focus was on getting away as fast as he could. He heard the sound of bodies being shoved behind him. Ligur was getting close. He heard a scream and then a shattering noise; felt a sharp pain in his side. Someone had thrown a glass object at him and he had cut himself on the shards. Shit. He slithered faster, opening the wound on his belly more, and no doubt leaving a trail of his own blood.
"I'll find you, you sneaky little bastard," Ligur called out.
It hurt too much. He couldn't do this. If he was to be brought to Hastur and killed so be it. He twisted himself into a tight coil and accepted his end. The loss of blood made everything blur around him. And then something was touching his head. Crowley prepared himself for the pain of being grabbed by Ligur, but was met instead with soft pets along his body.
"Oh you poor dear, I'll get you fixed right up." A soft pleasant voice said above him, too far for his snake eyes to process. Gentle soft hands scooped him up so carefully and placed into a basket. "Let's go home darling."
Crowley must have blacked out. He was becoming more aware of himself as he looked around and found that he was in a small cottage. Sunlight streamed in through the windows, illuminating the entire room. It looked like a kitchen. The walls were covered with shelves and the shelved were filled with little glass bottles, ancient books, and tiny jars. There was a furnace in the corner and a large basin beside it. A small counter top and so many cupboards. With a quick glance behind him and he the door to another room and a small window shelf beside it filled with more books. Crowley knew this set up. This was a witches cottage if he'd ever seen one. Hopefully a kind witch.
Crowley's whole body felt tight and too cold. His belly burned with hunger. He had too leave, hide in the woods until the curse wears off, and then he could go home. Go home and send a little curse of his own back to Hastur. Maybe a curse to make all of Hastur's skin rot, or to constantly reek of poop, or maybe turn him into a frog. Frog Stew was a common meal in the West Lands.
"Oh dear, you're awake!" A voice said behind him, walking into the room and circling around the table Crowley was spread out on. The voice belonged to a very interesting looking man who happened to be only half dressed, wiping sweat from his brow. His hair was a mess of white-blond curls, he was clearly well fed but underneath the softness Crowley could still see hard muscle, and his skin was just a little suntanned. In a different situation, where Crowley was not trapped in the body of a snake, he would think the man was beautiful.
'Who are you?' Crowley hissed, flicking his tongue. The air tasted of magic and something slightly sweeter.
"How rude of me! My name is Aziraphale, and I am a witch. Do you have a name?" Aziraphale didn't look sinister, in fact he looked almost , not that Crowley could admit that.
'Am I sssuppossed too?' He wasn't going to admit that he, the Red Witch, had been turned into a snake and kidnapped. That would destroy his reputation.
"I suppose not. I've never spoken to a snake before. Would you like one?" Aziraphale was giving him a very soft pleasant smile that made him feel dizzy.
'Do I want what? A sssnake?'
"No, my dear, would you like a name?" Aziraphale asked as he started shuffling around the kitchen, gathering bottles in his arms and moving them to the counter-top.
'It couldn't hurt I ssuppossse,'
"Well then. How about Draco?"
"Okay, then. Betelgeuse? Dante? Damien?" Aziraphale listed off names as he continued pouring things into a bowl on the counter.
'Thossse are all terrible.' Crowley would laugh if he could.
"Don't be mean, little one," He opened a cupboard, pulled out a bowl, and filled it with the mixture he had just made. He set the bowl in front of Crowley. "Drink this. It's a potion I made, it will heal those cuts on your body." He wrung his hands nervously as he watched Crowley lean forward and start drinking. "Do feel better yet?" Better was not the right word. Crowley could feel his skin knitting back together and it hurt. A lot.
'I feel like shit.'
"I didn't know animals could swear."
'Doesss it offend you?' Crowley hissed in the cheekiest tone he could summon.
"Not at all, my dear," Aziraphale laughed, and Crowley couldn't help but think that he had a nice laugh. "What do you think about Crawly? For your name?" Crowley wished he could smile, because Aziraphale was so close and he didn't even realize it, but he sounded so proud to say it.
'I love it.'
"Crawly it is!" Aziraphale cheered as he began petting Crowley's head. Crowley couldn't help leaning into the touch as it warmed his scales. "Are you feeling better now, Crawly? You slept a very long time." long sleep was a side effect of the curse, as the body tried to work it out of the system took a lot.
'How long exssactly?'
"Well it's nearly noon now, and you slept through the night so-,"
'Where are we?' If Aziraphale lived in the city, then Ligur might hunt him down. Crowley's useless snake eyes couldn't see what was outside of the windows, but it didn't smell like the city.
"This is my cottage. We are in the Whispering Woods just outside of the city. I don't know if that means anything to you, Crawly, seeing as you are a snake."
'I know where that isss.'
"Lovely." Aziraphale continued petting him, gently scratching along his spine. "If I may, why were you in the city?" Crowley barely heard him as his mind was all fuzzy with the sensation on his scales. "Are you hungry, I bought some fresh lamb while I was in the city. I cooked some this morning."
'Food ssoundsss niccce,' Crowley hummed as best as a snake can hum.
"Alright Crawly, give me a few minutes." And then the petting stopped. Cupboards were opened and closed and then a plate of cooked lamb slices was set in front of him. Aziraphale looked like he wanted to say something, but was interrupted by a loud knock on the door. "Excuse me." Aziraphale left the room to answer the door. Crowley slithered off the table to follow, food forgotten. His mind filled with images of Ligur bursting in and hurting this sweet man, Aziraphale didn't deserve that. He stopped behind Aziraphale's leg and twisted himself around it. "Don't worry Crawly, just let me talk." Aziraphale said just before opening the door. Crowley was right to worry, as a very angry and very tired looking Ligur stood there.
"Hello sir. Have you seen an injured snake around?" Ligur asked. "He's quite large, black, orange belly, big cuts all over."
"Oh dear, I'm afraid I haven't. Is he your pet?"
"Yes, and I'm very worrie-," Ligur looked down and made eye contact with Crowley, who pulled back to strike. "Who is this?"
"Oh, you mean Crawly?" Aziraphale asked, carefully pulling Crowley off his leg and letting him coil around his shoulders. "He's my familiar! You see I am a simple gardening witch and Crawly here helps me and takes care of pests. He's been my faithful companion for many years now, haven't you, Crawly?" Crowley looked directly at Ligur and nodded.
"How do I know this isn't the snake I was looking for?" Ligur asked.
"You said the one you want is hurt, but as you can see Crawly is perfectly fine." Aziraphale put his hand on the door, ready to close it. Ligur, having never been very bright, bought his lie and seemed satisfied. "Now if you are done calling me a thief and a liar, I have work to do."
"My apologies, have a day." Aziraphale closed and locked the door.
"Did he just tell me to 'have a day'?" Aziraphale laughed. "Are you alright darling? I didn't like that man's aura."
'I am much better now. That iss an evil man,' Crowley twisted tighter around Aziraphale, careful not to hurt him, but taking comfort in his body heat.
"I know dear. I won't let him hurt you, Crawly." They returned to the kitchen where Aziraphale pulled out a book from the shelf and sat at the table. "Would you like to lay on the table to eat?" Crowley tightened ever so slightly around him. "Okay." Aziraphale took a slice of meat off the plate and held it up for Crowley to eat. Crowley swallowed it whole, quickly realizing how hungry he was. Aziraphale fed him while he read, occasionally stroking his his tail. There was plenty of sun coming in and warming his skin, and with a full belly he felt drowsy. He found himself drifting off.
Three days past with Crowley living in the cottage. He watched Aziraphale go through his day, finding the man kind of endearing. His routine was mostly the same. Prepare food in the morning, eat a very big breakfast that he shared with the snake, gardening until noon, then studying for several hours(he would read out loud for Crowley, which was so sickeningly thoughful), and finally baking bread until night fall when he would wash up, eat, and then go to sleep. After Aziraphale fell asleep, Crowley would hunt and eat the little mice and squirrels around. The garden was full of herbs, flowers, and other plants that made for good potions and spellwork. Aziraphale really struggled with garden care, Crowley had noticed, and being very passionate about herbology, he assisted as best he could, explaining away his knowledge by saying he was a garden snake. Crowley found that he really enjoyed Aziraphale's company, but after three days, the curse should have worn off, and Crowley was feeling anxious. Surely Hastur hadn't messed up such a simple curse that it wouldn't wear off. He couldn't cure himself without limbs, and asking Aziraphale for help would only cause trouble.
On the morning of the fourth day, While Crowley watched Aziraphale cook from the window sill, he had a thought. Aziraphale was a self taught witch with very simple skills, all his books were beginner to intermmediate level witchcraft, and although he studied hard, Crowley had seen his notes that described his failures. Aziraphale had prepared a simple healing potion to seal up his wounds when he first got there, but if not tempered just right, some healing potions can have strange side effects.
'Azzziraphale?' He said, stretching himself across the window just a little more.
"Yes, Crawly?" Aziraphale spared him a quick glance and then continued cooking.
'What did you give me to heal my woundsss?'
"A quick-healing potion made from rosemary and sage. Why? Are you feeling alright?" Aziraphale looked so sincere and worried that Crowley couldn't help but feel bad for being the reason for such a look.
'I'm fine, jusst curiousss.' Crowley replied, despite the feeling in the pit of his stomach.
"I don't like that potion very much, it tends to prolong curses and cause stomach upset. But you were hurting and needed something quick for you." Aziraphale left his pan for a second to give Crowley a few pets before returning to it. "A very good thing you aren't cursed isn't it?"
'Yess, a good thing,' Crowley would puke if he knew how. 'Out of reptilian curiosssity, how much longer do the curssesss lasst?'
"Not sure, maybe twice as long." Aziraphale mumbled as he slid hot scramble on to two plates. "Although I didn't boil it before hand so maybe longer or shorter. I haven't quite figured out how those things relate."
'Why haven't you gotten a teacher?' Crowley asked. He wished he could tell Aziraphale how they relate, tell him how to properly temper a potion under a full moon so that it was the most powerful, but he couldn't. Too many unaswerable questions.
"I'm a very bad witch, Crawly." Aziraphale huffed as he set the plates down on the table. "I have tried to earn an apprenticeship with four different witches and they all turned me away. I'm no good." He scooped Crowley up and set him down at the table, before sitting down himself. "You know why I named you Crawly?" He asked around a mouthful of scramble. "It's kind of embarrassing, but there is this witch I've heard of, the Red Witch, and he is supposed to be the most talented witch in all the lands. I named you after him. You see, his real name is Crowley, and it's my dream to be taught by him. He is supposed to be beautiful and kind and so powerful. He would never take me as a student though. I'm getting old and I don't have much talent besides." For a brief moment Crowley thought 'That Red Witch is a fool to not want you,' then he remembered himself. He was the red witch and he had refused so many young pupils for not being good enough, so Aziraphale's worry wasn't unrealistic. But Aziraphale had such a strong thirst for knowledge and worked so hard, and he was so good at grasping complex concepts, Crowley felt like maybe teaching wouldn't be so bad. Aziraphale's big sad puppy eyes may have also swayed his opinion.
'I'm sure the Red Witch would be lucky to have you,' He told Aziraphale before gulping down his food.
"Oh." Aziraphale whispered, looking away to hide the barely there smile. "Well, thank you, Crawly." And Crowley was for once thankful for his snake form as he was sure that if he were human he would be a blushing mess after seeing the look on his face. "I meant to ask you this earlier, but you can feel free to say no. Would you-, nevermind."
"Oh no, it's silly, and I don't want to be a bother."
'Azziraphale, I am a ssnake.'
"Well, when that man came to my door, I told him you were my familiar. I know that familiars are a rare practice these days, but I was wondering if you would like to actually be mine." Aziraphale wasn't looking at him, eyes glued to his plate. Crowley wished he could hug him, just hold him until he didn't worry anymore. "You haven't left me at all, and I know it's probably just because I'm feeding you, but I thought maybe you liked me at least a little. I've never met a snake before, so I'm not sure. You can still stay if you say no. Oh you can leave too! I hope you haven't felt like you needed to stay. You are more than welcome to leave, I won't blame you." It hadn't even occurred to Crowley that he could leave. He hadn't even thought about breaking his curse, and for a brief moment he wondered if Aziraphale had made him forgetful, but shook the thought away. Aziraphale had just been so generous and kind and interesting that he had just stuck around. The least he could do is act as a familiar until the curse went away. Once he was human again, he would thank Aziraphale for everything, take him as a student, and find him a proper familiar.
'You mean I wassn't already your familiar?' He tried to joke. And maybe he could give Aziraphale some pointers while he was pretending to be his familiar.
"Thank you, Crawly." Aziraphale huffed, and before Crowley could process it, he leaned down and pressed a kiss on to the top of his head. Oh no. Crowley was in trouble. His head felt warm where Aziraphale's lips had been. "Now, we have a garden to fix."
Two more days flew by, Crowley now acting as a familiar and properly assisting in Aziraphale's studies. But today Crowley had spent much of the day wrapped around Aziraphale, soaking up the sun(and Aziraphale's attention). When noon came around, he found himself excited to nap in the window while Aziraphale read out loud. They went inside and Crowley took his place in the window. Aziraphale did not stay in the kitchen though, instead he moved to the main room and out of Crowley's sight. Crowley, obviously upset at this, slithered into the other room to see what was going on.
Aziraphale was sitting on his bed in the midst of pulling on a very nice woven tunic.
'Are you not stdd-ssstu- st- reading today?' Crowley asked, stumbling over his words as he was getting too cold on the cool stone floor.
"Did I forget to tell you?" Aziraphale dampened a rag with the pitcher by his bed and used it to clean away the sweat from his face and neck. "I have to go into town today. You can come if you like, but I figured you'd like to rest and sunbathe here."
'I'd like to come with, please.'
"Of course," Aziraphale came to him and picked him up and then deposited him on to the window again. "You need to warm yourself up, Crawly. Wait here while I get ready."
Aziraphale didn't take long to get ready, he dissappeared back into the kitchen, and come back out with a basket covered with a cloth. He ducked down so that Crowley could wrap himself around his shoulders.
'How far is town?' Crowley asked as he made himself comfortable.
"It's roughly an hour walk. Is that alright?"
They got into town within an hour, but Aziraphale only stopped to purchase some stew from a street vendor and kept going. Crowley barely noticed. He had never seen this part of the city before. He rarely left the castle grounds, gotten accustomed to the life of a nobleman, so to see the crowded streets was fascinating. He could tell that Aziraphale was walking slowly so that his terrible snake eyes could take it all in. Aziraphale was always very thoughtful.
Finally after another hour walking through the city, they stopped at an inn. The tavern inside was milling with people and every table they passed was full. In the very back, the darkest corner, a woman stood up to greet them. She was young, but in the shadows Crowley could not make out many features. He though maybe she had glasses, but he wasn't even sure of that.
"Aziraphale, it's lovely to see you. I already ordered the drinks." She said coming close to kiss Aziraphale's cheek and then handing him a rather large bag of coins."Don't spend it all at once." Aziraphale tucked the bag away. They sat down on opposite sides of the table, and with a flick of her wrist, the woman lit the candle on the table. She was beautiful, Crowley thought, with long brown hair that was pinned away from her face and falling against her shoulders in soft waves, and she had big eyes(And yes large frames) and a high cheekbones. Crowley was hissing before he even realized it. "Who is this little guy?"
"How rude of me, my dear. This is Crawly. He is my familiar." Aziraphale stroked his head fondly so that he would settle down against his shoulders. Crowley was pouting. He thought Aziraphale only called him pet names. "I brought everything you need and a little gift too." He slid the basket across the table.
"A familiar. How very old fashioned of you." She said as she pulled the cloth away. "Oh you shouldn't have!" Crowley watched her pull out a loaf of bread, flicking his tongue to taste the smell of wheat in the air. He let out another more purposeful hiss. "Crawly doesn't like me." She said as she looked through the basket.
'She's weird,' Crowley huffed in Aziraphale's ear.
"Anathema isn't weird, Crawly. She's just another witch." Aziraphale explained. "She is visiting from the East Village. She and I have been friends for a very long time, and she has assisted me with learning witchcraft."
"Barely." Anathema corrected. "I have just given him some of my old books. I come from a long line of witches so I didn't need them." Anathema continued to examine the contents of the basket. "Aziraphale has sold me the best ingredients for a project I'm working on too. Now how did you two meet?" Anathema looked like she knew something. Crowley pulled himself closer to Aziraphale.
"I found the poor dear injured and he seemed to take a liking to me so he stuck around. He helps me around the house and if I'm honest, it's nice to have someone to talk to." That made Crowley feel quite proud. This girl wasn't around to help Aziraphale like he needed, not like Crowley was. "I must ask how-,"
"Shh," Anathema said suddenly, pulling Aziraphale(and by extension, Crowley) down. Crowley would bite her if he wasn't currently being cradled to Aziraphale's chest. "Don't look now, but the Sheriff just waltzed in." What was wrong with the sheriff? The entire tavern had gone silent, he noticed, and the floorboards creaked as the newcomer walked across them.
"I'd like your finest wine, none of the swill you lot drink." The man said to the barkeeper.
They stayed crouched, but Anathema did reach to put out the candle on the table. Crowley could feel all of Aziraphale's muscles tense. He wished he could hold his hand. He settled for gently rubbing his nose against his ear. He heard the sound of a cup hitting the counter.
"Taxes are to be collected tomorrow. You better be prepared." The sheriff told the barkeep. After a few more seconds where the only noise was the man louding gulping down his wine, he left.
"What a dickhead." Anathema said as she sat up straight and re-lit the candle. Aziraphale sat up too, but he was still so tense. "I have half a mind to curse his lips shut, but he'd probably go crying to that slimy bastard at the capitol to fix it." Crowley felt himself about to strike at her, but Aziraphale beat him to it.
"Anathema!" Aziraphale hissed through clenched teeth. "The Red Witch isn't some lap dog, he's a good witch!"
"Isn't there lap dog though? When my village sent messages to him about the sickness running through our village, we got a letter back saying he was too busy, but when the king's cousin down with a little rash, he has all the time in the world." Anathema snapped. Crowley had never heard about any plague in the East. "I've seen him turn away children desperate to learn the trade, desperate to help their starving family. I've watched his demonstrations at the festival as he hugs and kisses all the royal guards to give them his blessing. No blessings for the people, but the corrupt-,"
"Ana, you've never accepted any students. Besides you could get arrested for talking like that."
"I don't care. Let them try."
They spent most of the evening with Anathema in that tavern, but Aziraphale never fully relaxed. Eventually Anathema paid for the drinks and gave Aziraphale one last hug and kiss, a kiss to the top of Crowley's head and bid them goodnight. "I'll be here for another week so don't be stranger," She had said before leaving them to find her room. Aziraphale sighed and exited the inn, but as soon as they got outside all the tension was back.
"Shitshitshit!" Aziraphale whispered as they were met by a tall man in very nice silver cloak.
"Aziraphale! Fancy meeting you here." The man said, and Crowley recognized his voice from earlier. The sheriff. He realized he had met this man before, probably seen him at every royal event. Anathema was right about him being a dickhead. Gabriel had tried to befriend him, and when Crowley saw that it was simply a power play and brushed him off, he framed him for treason. They had to order a truth serum from a third party to keep him from being beheaded. Anathema should have cursed him.
"Gabriel, did you wait here for me?" Aziraphale asked, a strange chill to his voice that Crowley hadn't heard before. Aziraphale was scared.
"Please! You aren't that special." Gabriel remarked. "But I am glad I ran into you. What is that filthy vermin on you?" Crowley had no qualms about biting him. Gabriel was obviously no friend of Aziraphale's, and would probably reward him with more little forehead kisses.
"This is my familiar, Crawly." And Aziraphale said it with such pride that Crowley would blush if he could.
"Familiar? Still pretending to be a witch then?" Gabriel remarked with a sneer. "Remember when you blew up that fruit stand? Ha! Maybe find a new hobby."
"I didn't blow up that fruit stand, you did! I told you not to mess with that potion."
"Well you gave it to me."
"You took it out of my bag! You stole it!"
"Don't take that tone with me! I'll have you arrested for threatening my life." Gabriel was taller than Aziraphale and he seemed to be straightening up to make himself more threatening. Crowley was hissing again, he couldn't help it. He could feel Aziraphale shaking. How dare Gabriel threaten Aziraphale, when he was nothing but kind and thoughtful. "Tell your little pet to calm down."
'I'll kill you.' Crowley snapped his jaw as a warning. He took satisfaction in the way Gabriel recoiled.
"He's not my pet. He is my familiar. We are partners." Despite the wobble in his voice, Aziraphale was starting to sound a little confident.
"No. He is a snake that sticks around because you feed him. It's disgraceful." Gabriel's whole face was wrinkled with disgust as he backed away. "I need to go, but well speak again. Soon." The 'without the scary snake' was implied. And he left.
Aziraphale did reward him with lots of pets and forehead kisses. He mumbled about not having to give up his wages because of Crawly, and Crowley wasn't really sure what he meant but was glad nonetheless.
By the time they got home, the moon was high above, lighting the way. Aziraphale's feet dragged against the floor as he got inside. Crowley left his shoulders as soon as they exited the town, not wanting to tire Aziraphale even more. Crowley didn't feel hungry even after slithering his fastest for an hour. He just wanted to sit(Lay?) and process, and maybe just enjoy listening to Aziraphale talk in his sleep(He would only murmer a word or two at a time, but it was so endearing).
His plans were interrupted however, by a sharp pain in his stomach that began to spread through his whole body. He curled in on himself as he felt his scales being pulled apart. He tried to scream, tried to call to Aziraphale, but his jaw felt like it was wired shut. His spine was being ripped apart, vertabrae cracking and grinding, his lungs growing so quick his ribs were straining and snapping open. He couldn't breathe. It was too much. He blacked out from the pain at some point.
Crowley opened his eyes, the pain receding as quickly as it came, and felt raw all over. He was still curled up on the floor, it looked like he had only passed out for a few minutes, and the floor under him felt much colder. Then he realized a few things all at once. His hands were tightly gripping his own hair, and he had hands again! And hair! He was a man again. He was also very naked. His vision was much better now, colors more vibrant, and everything much clearer. Seeing through snake eyes was like looking through frosted glass. It was still very dark, but Aziraphale hadn't closed the curtains so the moon was filling the room with soft white light.
He had nearly forgotten about Aziraphale in all this. He was sitting next to the bed and he could finally see Aziraphale, really see him. He was so beautiful, more beautiful than Crowley could imagine. His hair was a mess of white-blond curls that would fall maybe to his shoulders if he stood up, and his face was soft looking, friendly. His eyelashes were so long and his nose was- Crowley wanted to kiss the tip of that nose. He wanted to kiss that entire face. Aziraphale smiled a little in his sleep, just a little quirk to the corner of his lips, and then whispered "Crawly, dear," and Crowley felt himself turning red all over.
That helped him remember his predicament. He was a naked man who Aziraphale had never seen before when he should be a snake.
He stood finally, feeling wobbly on his legs now, and went to the kitchen. The whole cottage was a lot smaller now that he wasn't slithering on the floor. He pulled out every book he could find on shapeshifting and got to work.
Chapter 2: Festival
Crowley must balance his duties as the royal witch and his duties as Aziraphale's familiar. He isn't good at it.
I really struggled with this chapter, and thought about deleting it and starting over, but decided against it. I hope it's okay for you guys.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Aziraphale wasn't, by any definition, a good witch. He had tried for a very long time to learn, but without a teacher to help him, he couldn't grasp more complicated spellwork. Anathema had tried to help, but she was the only witch within miles of her own village, and she was so busy. Crawly helped a lot, surprisingly enough. Aziraphale didn't think he would have been that much help being a snake and all, but Crawly seemed to retain a lot of the things Aziraphale read aloud(sometimes things he didn’t remember ever reading), and was able to recite it to him whenever he needed. He supposed that was the whole point of familiars, but if familiars were all this helpful, he couldn't imagine how they went out of practice.
Crawly was helpful for more than just reciting potion ingredients and old latin though. He had proved that when Gabriel cornered him. A few years back, Aziraphale had accidently(Completely on purpose) spilled some wine on one of the tacky silver robes Gabriel always wore when he was in the midst of yelling at a young seamstress for not being able to pay the taxes. Gabriel had felt so offended by the blunder that he had given a violent tongue lashing to Aziraphale long enough that the seamstress could run off. Gabriel has had a problem with him ever since.
Gabriel isn't very subtle about being drunk on power, loves showing it off whenever possible, and after that first incident, he decided that Aziraphale would be the object of his constant ridicule. When Gabriel found out that Aziraphale was not a 'real' witch, he demanded everything he grew and half of all his baked goods.
Aziraphale wasn't in the city more than once or twice a week usually, and Gabriel luckily couldn't find where he lived, so he was able to avoid him usually. He was terrified when Gabriel had talked to him outside the tavern, he had just sold off most of his dried herbs to Anathemam and had nothing to offer him in return for being left alone. And then Crawly scared him away.
He really didn’t deserve that snake.
He decided he would never go into town without Crawly by his side, and that maybe he could go into town a lot more often. He liked his little cottage in the woods. He did. But he missed people so much. He missed talking and laughing and pats on the shoulder. For six months Gabriel had nearly made him completely broke, taking everything he had(He had a feeling that his wares were being resold. Gabriel seemed to enjoy having more than enough money.), before he stopped going into town all together. Anathema helped. She had advertised his business to the magical community throughout her travels and now he got plenty of business. He didn't stopped baking after that, he still found that kneading could cure any troublesome thoughts from his day. A loaf of fresh baked with every large order also helped his reputation quite a bit. All his magical exchanges were quick and quiet though.
Aziraphale hadn't realized how lonely he was until Crawly stuck around and reminded him of what friendship was.
Having Crawly to talk to had definitely made him so much happier than he realized. He had always possessed the ability to speak to animals, but they rarely liked to stop and chat, and he completely expected Crawly to leave once he was healed. He didn't leave though. Crawly stayed and ate with him and gardened with him(Who knew snakes knew so much about gardening?) and sunbathed while he read his spell books out loud. Aziraphale had read up a lot on the care and keeping of snakes so that the poor little guy didn't get sick or hurt. Snakes could eat eggs and meat, needing to spend long hours in the sun, and to hunt. Aziraphale only fed Crawly eggs and meat, let him rest in the windows, and he was sure that his vermon problem had gone down a whole lot. His book didn't mention anything about snakes liking affection, but Crawly seemed to enjoy affection a lot. Aziraphale liked giving it, wanting the snake to know how grateful he was of his company.
In the present time, Aziraphale woke up and it was clearly a little later in the day then he would like, and Crawly, who normally laid by the bed until he got up to make breakfast, was not there. His mind flashed to that poacher that came by the day after he found Crawly, but he found the serpent curled up on a book on his table. Aziraphale didn't remember taking that book out, or any of the other books scattered across his table, but Crawly obviously couldn't have done it, so he must have. How careless. There was something different about Crawly now too, a shift in the air around him maybe. His pupils looked a little rounder too. Strange. Must be all the badly executed magic in the air.
Aziraphale put away all the books, feeling more confused as they seemed to all be about animal magic and when was he reading about animal magic? Finally he slid Crawly off the last book(Not that Aziraphale ever told him, but Crawly was not a light snake. It was a struggle.) and saw that it was open to the chapter on shifting. Animal shape shifting was in the league of magic that was just barely too complicated for Aziraphale. Very weird, but he was very tired last night. He must have just forgotten to put everything away. He put it back on the shelf and started pulling out what he needed for breakfast. Anathema had gifted him an enchanted icebox to keep his food fresher for longer and not a day went by that he wasn't grateful.
The smell of food cooking seemed to wake Crawly from his rest and he slowly stretched himself a little more across the table towards Aziraphale.
"Are you toassting bread?" Crawly asked.
"I am. My own homemade stuff too."
"Can I have ssome?"
"No. Snakes can't digest bread. You'll get sick." Aziraphale didn't want Crawly to think he was mad so he reach back from the stove and petted him. The snake pouted.
"When are we going back into town? Are you going to the ssummer fesstival?"
"How did you know about the festival Crawly?" Aziraphale didn't remember mentioning it, but he did want to see the parade. He had always been too busy to see it before, but now he made sure he could go and cleared his schedule. He'd finally see the Red Witch in person. He was getting warm just thinking about it.
"Overheard ssomeone yessterday in the tavern."
"I'll only go if you come with me. You'll love the parade. The Red Witch will be there with the royal family." Aziraphale noticed Crawly tense, but he was sure he was being ridiculous. Could snakes even be tense? "I hope I'll get to meet him. Do you think he is everything people say he is?"
"Who knows." Crawly says flippantly.
"Do you think he'll like me?"
"Anathema would slap me for wanting this. She seems to think I'm desperate for approval from authority figures. I just want to meet him though, maybe ask some questions." Aziraphale started plating food as he talked. "Do you think he's as pretty as everyone says?"
"Azziraphale. I am a snake."
"I'm sorry, dear." Aziraphale laughed. He was being stupid, asking a snake those questions.
There was a rather impressive community of twelve witches, a non-coven, who aided the nobility and worked with the kingdom, but few witches ever set foot in the poor outer districts. This meant that Aziraphale's skills were in heavy demand in the height of summer and winter. He often had to send off package after package with potions and powders to heal soil and wounds. There were large owls in the forest who helped him, but they only ever came when he called and left when the work was done. Coworkers but never friends. Now that Aziraphale had a familiar he hoped that he could do more for the people.
Crawly had decided he should ride a broomstick to avoid the long walk to town, to which he replied: "I don't know how," He was embarrassed, of course, but Crawly had just wrapped himself around his shoulders and nuzzled his nose against Aziraphale's cheek to comfort him. "Thank you, my dear."
"Don't you have a broom?" Crawly asked.
"And I know you have the enchantment in one of those books. If we start now it'll be ready by the festival!"
"Okay. You're rather bossy for a snake."
The broom Aziraphale had, turned out to be all wrong. It was very old and the handle was too thin and dried out. Crawly had suggested that he take care of the garden while Aziraphale made a proper broomstick. He started by bringing in a large elm branch and carving it away into a proper handle. Crawly seemed really interested in watching him weave and tie straw to the handle, and then after nearly a day and a half it was ready for enchantment. Crawly helped with this too. Aziraphale opened the book and Crawly told him what was needed. Together they stayed up for another day and night brewing the thick paste that needed to be made. Finally after thoroughly covering the broom it had to dry under the waxing moon. Crawly even walked(slithered?) along his side to the nearby creek to cleanse it.
Strangely, Crawly slid into a tree as soon as they arrived. Aziraphale had slipped off his boots and waded into the cold water. Looking up he could see Crawly in the branches, maybe napping(snakes don't have eyelids apparently). He scrubbed away the dried mixture, which flaked away pretty easily under the cool water. As Aziraphale muttered the incantation, the broom began to glow a soft blue all around. It was finally done.
Aziraphale set the broom by Crawly's tree and stripped off his wet clothes, hanging them on the branches.
"Do snakes swim?" Aziraphale asked in the general direction of Crawly. The snake had dissapeared in the foliage at some point. "It feels pretty nice in here, I'd love it if you joined me."
"Issn't it cold?" Crawly asked, little head peeking out from the leaves, then immediately retreating.
"Well yes. I think it feels nice though. It's been quite warm lately."
"You're... Naked." Crawly sounded strange.
"Well yes. You're always naked, Dear Boy, I didn't think you were-,"
"No!" Aziraphale really wished he didn't have to look up so far to talk to Crawly. His neck hurt. "I didn't mean to offend, Crawly. I suppose my body would be rather unappealing to look at for you. I'm so sorry. Forgive me?" Crawly slithered down on to the lower branches.
"I'm ssorry, Azz-Azzzira- Az-ir-aphale." Crawly slid out of the tree completely and came to the very edge of the water. "I don't thhink you are unappealing. I've never sswam before. I'm sscared. Just a little bit."
"Oh. Would you like to rest on my shoulders?" Aziraphale was waist deep in the water, but he started to walk to the shore, which seemed to spook Crawly.
"I-I uh, shit! Ssstay there!" Without further explanation, Crawly darted under the water. Aziraphale watched, trying to track the long line of him under the slightly murky water. He felt something on his leg and reached down to pull the snake up.
"How was it?" Aziraphale asked, twisting his body so Crawly could hang across his arms.
"So... Would you be angry if I-," Aziraphale's whole body began to fall back, and before Crawly could prepare, they were underwater. As quick as they went in they popped out again. Aziraphale was laughing.
"Bastard." The snake snipped, but his eyes looked affectionate.
"You are stuck with me." Aziraphale gave him a little peck to hopefully get some forgiveness.
"Damn, I hope sso."
Crowley was going to cry. Or laugh. Or detransform and ruin everything. He hadn't meant for it to get this far. He meant to help Aziraphale, reveal his true identity, and then have a lovely Autumn wedding and live happily ever after. He didn't intend to see Aziraphale naked, accidentally body shame him, and then spend the rest of the afternoon on his bare shoulders. He was being an idiot. The longer he waited, the worse it would be to explain, but Aziraphale adored 'Crawly'.
What if he didn't care for Crowley at all.
Shapeshifting was very simple as it turns out, but rather draining. Crowley was struggling to keep up the charade. He was struggling to keep up with his work, but he didn't want to make Aziraphale think he was lazy. Every night after Aziraphale fell asleep, he would shift back into a human and eat as much of Aziraphale's food as he thought he could get away with, desperate for enough food to keep his human body going. Not to mention he was so tired of unseasoned meat and eggs.
The broom wasn't strictly necessary(Another lost tradition), but Crowley knew that the walk took a toll on Aziraphale. The enchantment gave the broom a sort of half-sentience, and oftentimes they had an attitude, which made it tricky to learn how to ride. Of course Aziraphale's broom didn't dare catch an attitude, Crowley made sure of it. While the enchantment set during the night, Crowley told the broom to behave properly or he'd cast it into the fire place. It had seemed to understand.
Crowley had somehow managed to spend the afternoon on Aziraphale's bare shoulders without bursting into flames, which especially proved difficult after hearing Aziraphale breaking into loud genuine laughter. "You spend plenty of time on my bare shoulders!" Aziraphale had pointed out when he had mentioned it. It was true. Aziraphale often walked around and went about his day half dressed, as the weather was getting very warm. But this was different! Sure the water was too murky to see anything untoward, but Aziraphale was naked. Crowley felt bad that he was violating Aziraphale's privacy like this, but he had insisted, and Crowley couldn't say no to him. It wasn't sexual, either, Crowley was just embarrassed.
Finally, as the sun began to set, Aziraphale pulled on his dried clothes(While Crowley once again hid in the tree) and they went home. Crowley had strangely started thinking of Aziraphale's little two room cottage as home and he wasn't sure when that had started. He needed to stop. After the festival, everything would be different. They’d meet for real and Aziraphale would learn under him at the castle.
The festival scared him a bit. He had no idea how he would be there as Aziraphale's familiar and as the Red Witch. How could he? He was probably in a lot of trouble with the royal family too. If they came to his chambers seeking his service and he was gone this long with no notice, he might be beheaded. That was an exaggeration, of course, but he would be punished.
Aziraphale was excited. They spent the days leading up to the festival learning to fly. It was terrifying at first, but Crawly had whispered comforting words in his ear.
He had stepped into a large clearing, not far from his home, and read the instructions over and over. With Crawly on his shoulders, his held the broom tightly called out the magic words "voyages sécuritaires" and his feet slowly left the ground. Aziraphale looked down and screamed.
They were only maybe four feet off the ground, but it was enough to make Aziraphale dizzy. Soon after the screaming came the tears and nervous little hiccups. Crawly tried so hard to comfort him, but as they rose higher, the tears came quicker.
"Talk to the thing, it will listen to you," Crawly told him. Aziraphale had forgotten about that. This was supposed to be a shared connection between a witch and his broom.
"H-hey," He choked out. "Hello, broom. Could you please go lower?" They stop rising altogether, staying still twenty feet in the air. "Thank you, dear. Can you lower us down?" They quickly dropped down so fast that Aziraphale thought he might die. He was screaming again, loud enough that he didn't notice that they stopped only two feet from the ground. Crawly nudged him until he opened his eyes. "Broom-Broomstick? Are you- Do you want to -or uh, would you please go up a bit. Just a bit.” They slowly inched upwards until they could see above the trees. Aziraphale’s knuckles were white from gripping so hard.
They spent most of the day just going up and down, until Aziraphale could simply tilt the handle and the broomstick would go.
The next day went a little smoother, and then the next found Aziraphale flying from the clearing to his house. Finally on the morning of the festival, he felt comfortable flying there. And if Aziraphale cried a bit, well that was between him and Crawly.
“Little Broomstick, we must go into town today. I hope you don’t mind.” Aziraphale had told it that morning.
Crawly had been mostly silent as of late, which Aziraphale found strange seeing as Crawly seemed excited to go only a few days ago. The only thing the little serpent had said to him that morning was “We should leave early to avoid the crowd.” He was right. After a breakfast of jam toast and eggs they were off.
The ride there did not take nearly as long as walking, maybe a half hour, which was a relief to Aziraphale and Crawly both, since the festival was closer to the castle then the outer villages. When they arrived, Sun having barely risen, there was already a small crowd gathered as well as many vendors. The air was filled with the smell of delicious fresh baked goods.
They had landed near the tents for the royal parade were set up. There was a rope and guards around it, keeping the family and the entourage safe. Aziraphale wondered which tent the Red witch was in right now, no doubt getting ready to dazzle the crowd.
“Do you think I’ll meet the Red Witch, Crawly?” Aziraphale asked, biting his lip. Crawly let out a little hiss. “I’m so excited to meet him, Crawly. Maybe he is looking for students after all.” He joked.
“You never know.” Crawly assured.
Crowley wasn’t sure about this. Aziraphale, sweet angel that he was, seemed excited to meet him. Crowley wanted desperately to meet Aziraphale too. He wanted to hold his hand and- well none of that mattered right now. He needed to get away and find his tent. As long as Aziraphale stayed here and Crowley escaped his guards, he could meet him, for real.
“Azziraphale, I’m going to get a meal in before the crowd gets too big,” Crowley said, unraveling himself from Aziraphale’s neck.
“Okay, just be careful. Don’t forget about me.”
‘I could never.’ He thought to himself.
“I’ll be back before you know it.” Aziraphale leaned down so he could slither off. After almost three weeks of being a snake Crowley had no issue making his way discreetly into his tent.
He made sure no one was around, and slipped back into his human form. It hurt. It always hurt. Shifting wasn’t like breaking a curse, thankfully, where a curse felt like being ripped apart and reshaped, shifting was like peeling a sunburn. Just shedding his false form.
He felt very strange, standing naked in the middle of the tent by himself, so he quickly searched for his costume. Hanging by the folding screen was a stunning ensemble, and he really had forgotten what the wealthy wore because this was too much. A silk tunic is a soft creamy white color with olive color hose, bright red wool stockings, and a deep purple velvet cloak with fur along the edges and a silver chain closure. Although it was rather cool now, later on it would get much too hot for all this. He tossed aside the stockings, he hated the itchy wool on his legs, and pulled on the tunic. It was soft and light and rested on his skin nicely. The hose hugged his legs well and laced up easily with a snap of his fingers. He never wore shoes, liked the look of dancing barefoot in the streets, despite the risk of injury.
He looked for another trunk and found what he needed. Another snap and it popped open revealing stunning gold jewelry. He slipped on bracelets and rings, earrings all along one ear and a gold snake that wrapped around the other. He also put gold bands on his ankles, and a single chain around his neck.
He felt strange. This is what he normally wore and now it felt so alien.
He also felt absolutely ravenous. He wasn’t lying about needing a meal. He wasn’t feeling up to anymore summoning. He hadn’t felt this depleted in a very long time.
He stepped out of his tent and looked around for a servant. Lucky for him the queen’s handmaiden was walking by.
“Mary!” He called a little too loudly. It had been so long since he’d spoken as himself. She startled, and then smiled at him.
“Master Crowley! We thought you ran off. I told them you hadn’t though, known you would pop up like you always do.” She laughed, nearly dropping the garments she was holding.
“Hope I didn’t miss too much.” He mused, trying his best to hide how tired he was. “Anyway, I haven’t had a proper meal in a very long time. Would you fetch me something to eat?”
“Of course, Master. You sit tight and I’ll be back in two shakes of a lamb’s tail.” And she ran off. He retreated back into his tent.
He sat in his chair and ignored the groans of his stomach until the flap was opened and Mary Loquacious was bringing in a tray of the most delicious food he’d ever scene.
“I cannot thank you enough.” He said, taking the tray from her and digging in. Never had bread and jam tasted so damn good.
“I’ll be off, but don’t disappear, alright?”
Aziraphale was getting anxious. More people were gathering by the minute. Vendors had started opening up to everyone too. Crawly was still missing. Aziraphale hoped that he was safe and out of the way. The broom buzzed in his hand to comfort him. He felt a tapping on his shoulder.
“Anathema?” He asked as he looked at her. She had her hair pinned up and was adorned in a very expensive looking embroidered dress. “Where did you get that?”
“Madame Tracy gave it to me as a gift, said something about solidarity among witches. She isn’t much of a witch, but I do love the dress.”
“She runs the tavern and the inn where you’re staying.” Aziraphale pointed out. “She’s a good enough witch to support her business.”
“All she can do is little forecasts on the future. Doesn’t take much to know that Gabriel is raising taxes.”
“She told me it would rain and it did one time.”
“Aziraphale, this is england. It’s always raining.”
“Not today. She is always summoned when it’s time to plan the festival. She told me so.”
“Fine. She is very good at one thing. A witch should be good at a great many things, I think. I am proficient in thirty-eight different types of witchcraft, not including potion work.”
“And you speak twelve languages, I know. Not everyone needs to learn a million skills. She is good at non magic things and one very important type of magic, that you cannot perform I might add.”
“Fine. I can’t see the future or the past, but she is also a scammer.”
“She is a strong woman, who does what she needs to support herself.”
“I know I am.”
“Don’t look so smug.”
“I’m not smug. I am right. Would you like to get some food?”
“You know I would. I’m buying.”
“How very kind of you.” Anathema looped their arms together, but Aziraphale didn’t move. “What’s wrong?”
“Crawly. He ran off- slithered off, and I don’t want him to think I left him.”
“He’s much smarter than you give him credit for.”
Crowley was sure that he would find Aziraphale when he looked out, but the crowd had gotten quite big. He wanted so badly to meet Aziraphale too. “Do you think he’s beautiful?” Aziraphale’s inquiry made him blush all over now that he could. He hoped Aziraphale found him beautiful. Red hair and freckles were only beautiful to some, and others saw it as a dirty trait. Traits of the working man.
Aziraphale was perfect, at least by Crowley’s standards. Soft and strong and sweet and smart and cute and funny and weirdly sexy in a soft way? And maybe Crowley’s standards had changed a bit to be centered around Aziraphale, but as previously mentioned, Aziraphale was perfect.
Crowley had always thought of himself as attractive, despite the societal stigma of his coloring, but for once his reputation scared him. He didn’t want to be a world renowned witch, he wanted to be a nobody who could talk to a beautiful man without having the weight of all the expectations that came with his name.
He just wanted to be Crowley. A good witch who happened to be madly in love with another very good witch.
What if Aziraphale was disappointed in the real him. What if he couldn’t be the beautiful talented fantastical person Aziraphale wanted-no- deserved. Aziraphale deserved someone who was much better than him. Someone who Anathema would approve of, and would lend their talents to the people and not be locked up in the dungeons for weeks experimenting until they were so worn out they let themselves get cursed.
“We’re ready for ya, Master Crowley.” Mary Loquacious said, popping her head in and disturbing his thoughts. “You look stunning by the way.”
He marched at the front, cape haphazardly slung over one shoulder. He danced to the beat of the tambourine he conjured, tapping his feet and moving along without a care for anyone but the one face he actually wanted to see. He looked for that mess of white curls, but he couldn’t find him anywhere.
Aziraphale watched the off beat dancing of THE Red Witch as he ate the last bite of his meat pie. Crowley was a- He was a dork. Crowley was dancing in front of the royal family with such confidence and gusto and wow he really was as beautiful as everyone said. Moreso actually. There were literally flowers sprouting from the ground where he stepped.
Aziraphale felt himself blushing. Crowley was stunning. His head was covered in a mess of red curls and braids, and his smile was wide and bright. He wore very nice clothes that flattered his long thin frame and gold jewelry that sparkled against his skin. He was more beautiful than Aziraphale could have ever dreamed of.
He tried to shove his way closer. See the man up close. There were three rows of people in front of him. Then Anathema was pulling him further away.
“Gabriel is here and Michael and Sandalphon.” She said, pulling him into an alleyway. “We should go.”
“What about Crawly? He’ll be so upset if I’m not where he expects me to be. What if he’s hurt somewhere?”
“He’s probably sunbathing and lost track of time. We can track him down later. Gabriel will try to hurt you here. We’re too far into the city for anyone who cares to protect you.”
“Crawly scares Gabriel. If we can just find him-,”
“Aziraphale, listen to me.” Anathema sighed. “If you want a chance to meet the Red Witch, you shouldn’t do it while Gabriel is searching for you. His favorite punishment has always been humiliation.”
“Ana, I’ll be okay, but I need to find Crawly.” Aziraphale said.
“Fine. stay here. I’ll track down your snake.” Anathema huffed as she ran off.
Crowley was upset. The sun was high in the sky now, and they had circled back around to the start. He was upset and he really wanted some alcohol. If he couldn’t find Aziraphale, he could at least find the nearest tavern. With a nod to the guards he walked into town. Finding a tavern wasn’t hard. Nothing brought a community together like a good drink.
Crowley ordered rum and two hours and three empty glasses later, he was feeling more drunk than buzzed. He paid for the drinks, leaving a large tip for the handsome barkeep, and stumbled out. He really, really needed to find Aziraphale.
Lucky for him, standing right across the street was Aziraphale surrounded by three men. No. Two men and a woman. That wasn’t-That wasn’t right. Aziraphale looked scared.
Crowley straightened his cloak and stepped towards them. He recognized those people. Gabriel the sheriff, Michael one of the royal guards, and Sandalphon, the most self righteous royal scholar Crowley had ever met.
“Hulloo,” Crowley said a little louder than he intended. “Whatsa- what is this?” Wow, Crowley did not expect to be taller than Aziraphale, he’d only seen him laying in bed when he was human. Furthermore, he didn’t know how to react to the wide blue eyes that were staring at him. He really needed to sober up.
“Master Crowley, I must say it’s an honor to see you again.” Gabriel said. “This is Aziraphale, he likes to play at witchcraft.”
“Hello, I am - I’m Aziraphale. It’s absolutely lovely to meet you- I mean- It’s an honor. You’re-,”
Crowley made a waving gesture to make him stop so he could concentrate on purging the alcohol from his body. “Uuhhh-,”
“Even the Red Witch can tell how incompetent you are.” Sandalphon laughed, shoving Aziraphale by the shoulder. Aziraphale was red, eyes teary. Oh shit.
“No, I never said that.” Crowley insisted. Aziraphale wouldn’t look at him now, those perfect blue eyes now glued to the ground.
“I really need to go-,” Aziraphale mumbled, but Gabriel grabbed his arm and squeezed.
“Come on, don’t you want to talk to your fellow witch. Tell him all about your work. Go on, Aziraphale, tell the Red Witch about your craft.” Gabriel was laughing, hand still gripping his arm so tight.
“Gabriel, that is quite enough. Let go of him.” Crowley growled, shoving him away. “Are you okay, Aziraphale?”
“I- I should go,” Aziraphale said as he ran off.
Aziraphale was horrified. Anathema had been right all along. They were all rich snobs. He was so ashamed of himself. Of course Crowley wouldn’t like him. He ran into an alleyway, hoping that Gabriel wouldn’t follow.
The broom seemed to give off a comforting warmth. It did make him feel better. He needed to find Crawly and get out as soon as possible. Maybe never come back again. He didn’t need the Red Witch to teach him, he didn’t need anyone.
“Aziraphale?” He heard. He looked up to see Anathema walking to him. “Are you okay?”
“No I- I need to go home, Ana. Have you found Crawly?”
“Well, yes I did.”
“And? Where is he?” As if he was summoned, Crawly came slithering on to his leg. “Crawly! Dearest, where have you been?”
“Busy, don’t want to talk about it. Can we go home?”
This fic has been a bit of a challenge for me. I have a really bad phobia of snakes, but I did a bunch of research so that Crowley's snake form was at least a little accurate. Also I have a lisp so normally speak Crowley's words out loud to figure out what slurs and what trips me up to say. I really hope this was good and I'll have more out soon!
Chapter 3: Mistakes are made
Self indulgent nonsense. Crowley meets Anathema, Aziraphale meets Crowley for real, and mistakes are made
This is a long one, so strap in lads!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Aziraphale seemed heartbroken on the flight home, very quiet and very reserved. Crowley had sat on his shoulders and listened to him sniffle, all while feeling like dogshit for doing this to him. He should have just told him. He shouldn’t have tried to any elaborate plots to have Aziraphale fall in love with him. He had ruined everything. Now he had to live with his own mistake. First, he needed to see what the damage was.
“Did you watch the parade?” Crowley asked as soon as they were inside.
“I did.” Aziraphale sighed. “Where were you? I needed you, and I thought that if I had you, Gabriel would stay away, but then you left and I- you left me! You horrible little serpent!” Aziraphale looked near to tears, eyes wide and sad. Crowley wanted to cry too.
“I’m so ssorry, Aziraphale.” Crowley was lowered to the ground and watched Aziraphale flop down onto the bed. “What about the Red Witch? Did- did you ssee him?”
“Oh, Crawly, he was beautiful. More beautiful than I could have imagined.” Aziraphale mumbled against the pillow. Crowley wished he could help. He probably would’ve if it weren’t for the way his head was spinning. “He’s got this gorgeous red hair and that voice is- and he’s got freckles! So many freckles on his perfect cheeks! And it’s all hopeless because he doesn’t even like me!”
“Who says he doesn’t like you?” Crowley asked. How had he messed up so badly? How could he fix this?
“He well- He’s buds with Gabriel of all people, and you should have seen it! Oh Crawly, he must be laughing at me. I can never go back into town. Maybe I should move closer to Anathema and-,” A long sigh. “He was laughing at me. He doesn’t want to teach me. Why did I even hope?” Where did all this come from?
“Azzziraphale!” Crowley hissed. “He would be lucky to have you! How dare he even think of laughing at you! I bet he was simply stunned by your clear natural talent. He should be-,” Wait a second.
Aziraphale yawned and threw off his boots, before burying himself in the covers. “Crawly, I wish I could just crawl into a hole and never come out again.” Another long yawn. “Goodnight Crawly, have a good long rest. I need to sleep before I die from embarrassment."
Crowley waited an hour and a half for Aziraphale to fall asleep, then he finally transformed back to his real self. It felt worse now. He had lied to Aziraphale, had kept lying, and why? For his shitty reputation? Well, he really fucked that up. Aziraphale thought he was poking fun, when he was only trying to help.
And he wanted to help Aziraphale, but he was also so damn selfish. He really just wanted to spend time with him. Aziraphale was so warm and kind and loving and smart. Crowley just wanted to bask in that a little longer. That was very selfish of him. And now everything was ruined. He would have to come clean. Aziraphale would freak out and tell everyone. Crowley would never work again. Aziraphale would never get the recognition he deserves.
Crowley looked at Aziraphale’s sleeping body as he conjured a sleeping gown to cover himself. He should just leave. He would rest, write a letter to explain everything, and then run off and live in the mountains; wither away alone like he deserved. First he really needed to eat and maybe find that creek to bathe himself.
He made a quick meal of bread and salted meat and ate as he thought of what to do.
And then he heard a strange tapping at the window. Someone was standing in front of it.
He knew that girl, although she looked different now that he didn’t have snake eyes. Anathema. He quickly ducked under the table to get out of her sight. Maybe he was very lucky and she hadn’t noticed him.
“Crowley, come on!” She whispered, barely audible through the glass. “I saw you already.” Shit. that answered that, he supposed. He sat up and hesitantly left the house, shivering in the chill wind that always came with nightfall. It would rain soon.
“What?” He asked, his voice a little wobbly.
“I think I deserve an explanation.” She demanded, eyes bright with fury behind those thick frames. “What the hell are you doing? Posing as a snake to amuse yourself? Make fun of a witch who desperately wants your approval?”
“NO! It’s a big misunderstanding.” He couldn’t have her think that he was trying to hurt Aziraphale. Not when Aziraphale already thinks that. “Let’s go for a walk and I’ll explain.” And they did.
They walked into the woods while Crowley described the curse and getting hurt and every other ridiculous thing he’d gone through (All while enduring the rough tree roots and sharp rocks on his bare feet and continuing to shiver). She kept quiet for most of it, nodding and occasionally shoving him lightheartedly. When he was done, they were near the creek and Anathema had stopped for a drink. She sat on a log and pulled out a canteen to fill.
“Please sit down, Red Witch.” She snipped. He hesitated, but eventually sat down next to her. “Why are you still here?”
“I can’t- I don’t want to mess this up. He doesn’t like me and I don’t know how to fix it.”
“I’ve heard that talking to people generally works.” Anathema rolled her eyes at him. “You can’t keep this up. You just plan on being a snake forever? Eat all his food and pine away for him all night?”
“That’s not- well I- wsdf- How’d you even know it was me?” Crowley was thankful for the darkness hiding how red he had gotten.
“Aziraphale had asked me to track you down at the festival, not you-you, but Crawly. I had my suspicions about you already, not many animals willingly become familiars, and he had just found one in the streets! I followed you into the tavern, and my tracking spell lead me directly to you. My tracking spells have never been wrong.”
“Yeah, seems like it. Are you going to tell him?”
“Maybe. Haven’t decided yet. Whiskey?” She offered her canteen. He gave her a questioning look, but took the container and managed a big gulp. It burned delightfully in his throat.
“Yeah, tastes best when you use rain water, but a creek is nearly as good.” She took the drink from his hands and took a swig. “Basic transformation spell, even Aziraphale can do it. Haven’t you ever tried?”
“Never needed to.” He shrugged. “Please don’t tell him. I- I can’t- I’ve never had a friend like him. I’ve always been this wild amazing prodigy, but people are scared of me. I know they are. Even Aziraphale is scared of me now, or maybe at least he’s- fuck- I messed up so bad. I was a little tipsy and I couldn’t get my mouth and my brain to work together. He thought I was making fun of him. I barely even said anything and I fucked it up.” Anathema was giving him that look again, like she knew more than she was letting on.
“Are you-? It doesn’t matter. Talk to him. Tell him the truth. Let him decide if he will hate you forever.” Anathema took another long drink. “Also he could never be scared of you. Gabriel? Sure. But he isn’t all that scared of dumbasses who get themselves cursed.”
“I didn’t intend to get cursed.” He huffed. He was still a tad embarrassed about the whole thing. “I still haven’t had a chance to get back at Hastur for that.”
“That is something you could do with him. He loves a good vengeance.” Anathema laughed with her whole chest, thick frames sliding down her nose.
“I don’t want to involve him.”
“Trust me, you absolutely should.” She was still laughing, but he wasn’t sure what was funny. “I’m serious, he can be an angry vengeful thing if he so chooses. It’s quite the sight.”
“I feel like there is a story here.”
“For another time. I am going to walk you home, and you are going to tell Aziraphale.” She stood up and leant him a hand to pull him up. He hadn’t realized it until then, but shifting was taking a toll on his body, and he felt like his body had been stuffed into a too small box and his muscles ached for a good stretch. “You also need a good meal and to stop shifting. You’re going to do permanent damage. I am leaving tomorrow to go home. Please do not make me stay any longer to have to break Aziraphale's heart."
Anathema walked him home, threatened that she would return, and then disappeared among the trees. He wished she wasn’t right, but he knew that she was. He needed to end this nonsense. But maybe not just yet.
Aziraphale woke not long after sunrise, warm rays peeking from the curtains, and felt that Crawly was wrapped around him. Strange. Crawly never seemed to sleep with him. Maybe he had gotten cold. Aziraphale had read about reptiles getting cold, but Crawley never had seemed to need him at night. He had also read that snakes only eat once a week, and Crawly always ate with him, so he wasn’t sure about how accurate that book was.
He wasn’t sure if he should get up, without eyelids it was impossible to tell if Crawly was asleep, and he didn’t want to disturb him. With the loud stomach growl, he decided he needed to eat, and slowly stood up, securing Crawly to him. The snake seemed to nuzzle even closer. Maybe Crawly was still upset. Aziraphale had been rather harsh last night.
“Crawly, dearest, are you awake?” He cooed softly, petting his little snake’s head.
“Nggh, yeah,” Crawly mumbled.
“I need to make breakfast, but I can put on a fire if you’re cold.”
“Noooo,” Crawly tightened around him, letting out a long sad hiss.
“Are you okay?”
“Azziraphale, can- Can I assk something?”
“Of course, little one.”
“Would you be upset if I lied to you? If I lied a lot?” The snake tightened even more.
“Crawly-,” Aziraphale gasped. “-you’re- hurting m-ee,” Crawly’s eyes went big as he loosened from Aziraphale and dropped to the floor.
“I’m sso sssorry,” Crawly cried, voice filled with sorrow. “I-I- I’m-,”
“Crawly? What’s wrong? I’m fine now.” Aziraphale reached down and let Crawly wrap around his arm and shoulder. He gently pressed a kiss to the snake’s head.
“I hurt you.”
“I’m okay.” He cooed. “Now, what’s all this about lying? Are you in trouble?”
“I don’t know, maybe. But Aziraphale-,” Crawly stopped and laid his head down. “Nevermind. Forget about it. I need to leave.”
“Today. I need to help a friend, but I’ll be back.”
“Okay, anything I can help with?”
“Afraid not, Azzzira-Azz-,”
“Maybe you should call me something else? A nickname that you could say easier?” Aziraphale was changing the subject. He would be so lonely without his familiar.
“How about Angel?” Crawly hissed affectionately.
“Where did that come from?”
“Well, if it’s easier on you, dear. Besides, I gave you a name. It only makes sense that you give me one too.”
Crowley was such a mess. He hadn’t meant to upset Aziraphale. And he definitely didn’t mean to call him what he called him in his dreams. Angel. His Angel. At least he left out the possessiveness. He did need to leave though.
He needed to think and figure out how to tell Aziraphale without completely ruining their relationship. He needed space away from big sad eyes that seemed to tear up at the thought of him leaving. Needed to escape Anathema’s (rather reasonable)demands of telling the truth.
So he ran.
Slithered really. Deep into the woods, until he thought he was far enough away that transforming wouldn’t be a problem. Then, on tired legs, he ran some more, getting lost and turned around in the woods. Finally after hours he found himself in the outskirts of town, throwing a halfhearted illusion over himself to blend into the shadows. He stole a tunic and stockings that hung from someone’s window, and tried to conjure some money in return. He passed out with the effort of it all.
Crowley woke to the smell of salt and the sight of Anathema above him, frowning.
“So you what? Got drunk after I left and decided to steal from a miller?”
“M’not drunk.” He said, still a little sleepy. “Just very drained. Tried to leave money and it was too much. I over-,”
“You overdid it! Of course you did. You can’t just shift for days at a time and expect to be fine.” She helped him sit upright.”You need to take a break for awhile. Don’t use magic unless it’s life or death. I’m supposed to be halfway home by now, so don’t make me drag your ass back to Aziraphale.”
“I don’t- I can’t go back to him until I have a plan.”
“Or!” Anathema said, handing him a potion to drink. Her expression was hard, unforgiving. “You could just talk to him.” Crowley drank the potion. “Think about the whole thing only reversed. What would you want him to do?”
“Well, obviously I’d want to know, but I’ve-,”
“Nope. No excuses.” She made a strange waving motion and his cloak from the parade appeared. “You’re cold. Put this on.”
“You’re too nice to me, Ana.” He threw the cloak over his shoulders and secured it, feeling grateful for the barrier between himself and the wind. Then he had a thought. “Did you steal this from me?”
“Don’t call me that. Only Aziraphale and my mother can call me that. And maybe I did, you don't have any protections keeping me from conjuring your things." To make a point she made a little waving motion and a pair of gold earrings appeared in her hand and then vanished. She had a too big grin on her face. " Besides I’m not doing this for free. You are going to do something for me in return for my charity.”
“Is it charity if I have to repay you? You did just admit theft,” Crowley sat up a little straighter.
“Alright, time to go. It’s been weird enough sitting in someone’s yard for this long, and they are starting to stare.” Anathema stood up and offered her hand to help him up, not bothering to acknowledge what he said. “You’re spooking the commoners.” Sure enough, when Crowley looked to the house, he saw two older women and their five kids watching from the back door. He dusted the dirt off his clothes and looked up to see Anathema already walking away.
“I would love a good meal right now.” He walked alongside her as they left the miller’s property and headed to the nearest tavern. He must have slept a good long time. It looked to be mid evening. Crowley must have gotten lost on his way into town because none of it looked familiar. They went into the tavern, got a table and sat down. “What is it you need of me?”
“Well, I need you to find something for me. I have an object that needs to go back to its owner, but I need to get home soon. You are going to track it’s owner for me and return it.” anathema had a very unkind smile on her lips. “The exercise will be good for your recovering body. Stretch your human limbs and all.”
“You just said I shouldn’t use magic.”
“I’ll cast it, you just have to follow it.”
“Fine. But I can't tonight."
"Get a room then," And that was that. Anathema had a very commanding way about her and it both terrified Crowley and earned his utmost respect.
Anathema paid for his meal, gave him a gold ring, and left him with an uneasy feeling in the pit of his stomach. After eating, he looked at the ring. It was a simple silver band with two words carved into it. They were in another language, welsh maybe. The tracking spell was a good one, hard to cast, but very easy to follow appearing like a red string tied to the ring when you put it on, and leading to its owner. He would rest for the night and then follow it.
This lead to another problem. He didn’t have anywhere to sleep. He had a lot of enemies and he really didn’t want to bother with an assassination attempt. Inns weren’t known for being all that secure. It really was a hassle, and he only felt more valid in his paranoia after Hastur's little trick. He needed an ally.
His ex-sister-in-law lived not far from here, if he remembered correctly(Which he might not. He wasn't very sure where he was, if he was honest), but they haven't spoken since the birth of his nephew. The sun had already set by the time he got to their doorstep, and he wasn’t expecting to find a young boy with a mop of blond curls running in front of him and then into the house. It was much too late for children to be out, he thought.
He knocked on the door and it swung open to reveal Deirdre herself in a dressing gown, looking tired and a little surprised.
“Anthony?” She asked. “What are you doing here? Are witches collecting debts now?”
“No, Deirdre, and may I say you look lovely as ever.”
“You may not. It’s quite late and I must make sure Adam goes to bed.” Deirdre tightened the gown around herself as a rather cold burst of wind hit them.
“Well, you see. I am currently unable to use my magic and I need a safe place to stay. You are the closest thing I have to family so-,”
“We don’t have the room, I’m afraid. Arthur doesn’t make much as a doctor, not with you lot running around.” Yeah, witches weren't too popular with Doctors (And most non-witches who thought they were stealing their jobs), but the truth was magic was better as a last resort than a catch-all solution for things.
“I just need a pillow and a spot by the fire and I’ll be fine.”
Deirdre opened the door a little wider as way of answer. He stepped inside, nodding to Deirdre as he slid past her. The fireplace was lit and both Arthur and Adam were sitting by it for warmth.
“Arthur, you remember Anthony, yes?” Deirdre asked, locking the door and slipping behind Crowley to stand next to her husband. Arthur wrinkled his brow.
“Aren’t you the Red Witch?” Adam asked as he stood and approached Crowley. "You don't look very magical." Crowley ignored that.
“Well yes, but most people call me Crowley.”
“Well, why are you here?” Adam asked.
“That’s a good question actually. Why are you here?” Arthur asked, looking more confused as he lit his pipe. “Can you do some magic for us?” Crowley sighed. This would be a very long night.
Despite meeting Arthur on a few occasions after Deirdre married him, and long after Crowley’s awful brother went missing, Arthur didn’t remember Crowley at all. Adam didn’t remember him, not really. He knew him as the Red Witch and had seen him at some of his public appearances, but he didn’t know him. Crowley had last seen him as an infant so it was really no surprise.
They made small talk for a while, until finally their grandfather clock chimed midnight, when Deirdre shooed everyone to bed, tossing Crowley a pillow before closing the bedroom door. He curled up by the fire, using his cloak as a blanket, and fell asleep.
In the morning he was able to conjure some of his money from the castle(Anathema would strangle him for using his magic, he was sure) and left it for them as a parting gift. He left the household, slipped the ring on his finger, and began to follow the string.
Aziraphale felt lonely like he hadn’t felt in weeks. It was silly, of course. Crawly would be back. Aziraphale had lived by himself nearly his whole life. He could survive without company for awhile.
Now that he wasn’t exhausted and nervous, he realized he had been ridiculous the other night. Crawly was allowed to leave, Crowley wasn’t trying to hurt him, and he couldn’t expect others to stand up to the man tormenting him.
In fact the more he played that short interaction over in his head, the more he realized how kind Crowley had been. In his moment of distress, Aziraphale had assumed Crowley would join in the bullying, but his words hadn’t seemed unkind. He missed his little snake, but he did need this time to think alone.
Crowley walked all through the morning, going through town, down a street towards some farms, and then deep into the woods. Soon the sun was high in the sky and he had nothing to do but talk to himself.
“Hello, Aziraphale, my beautiful Angel, I am your familiar.”
“Angel, I am Crawly. I am also the man of your dreams.”
“Why yes, Deidre, we are to be married in the fall.”
“True love’s kiss magicked away the curse, now we can run away together! No, that's too dumb even for me...”
He went through a clearing, rested his legs, and braided flowers into his hair.
“My Angel, didn’t you need some tender love in your life?”
“Aziraphale, I must say, you look ravishing today and I am quite hungry.”
“No I don’t think it’s fair to say I took advantage. I only wanted to help. Anathema, you aren't being fair about this1”
He rested by a stream, drinking and washing his face.
“Hello, sir, i heard you were looking for a man to sweep you off your feet.”
“I was cursed, but your beautiful smile cured me.”
“I brought you a gift. It is my heart.”
“Absolutely ridiculous! He’d never go for someone like me!”
He dropped the ring in a mud puddle and spent nearly two hours trying to find it.
“I heard you fell ill with a deficiency of love and attention. I am very qualified to- Really Crowley? That is the worst one yet!”
“Aziraphale I’m afraid I was Crawly all along. Wanna get married?”
“Angel, please don’t hate me. I want to teach you everything!”
“No, Anathema, I don’t think I’ll need your permission when I’m pursuing a matter of heart!”
It began to rain and Crowley had to make a shelter out of his cloak and some branches. When it became apparent that the rain would not stop, he continued on his path.
“Angel, run away with me. We can live under the stars and never worry about a thing!”
“Anathema, I must tell you now. Aziraphale proposed!”
“Yes, you’re Majesty, I am retiring to live with my husband in scotland.”
Finally he reached a familiar little cottage. The string lead directly inside. He would kill Anathema for this. How had he not noticed the pathways were the same? He thought about running, but before he could, the door flew open and Aziraphale was staring at him.
Shit. He wasn’t ready! He looked like a drowned rat!
Aziraphale hadn’t accomplished much in the past two days. He felt more than a little lost. Not because of Crawly per se, but a general sense of loss that came with loneliness and encounters with Gabriel. The day before he was so sad about his little snake leaving that he mostly pouted all day, but after a good long think he felt a little more secure, but still sad nonetheless. And then today he had still been upset and it had been too rainy for him to attend to the garden, leaving him with nothing to do but read(not that he minded a good read during a rainy day usually). He had been lost in thought and hadn’t realised that the rain had finally let up a little, and when he did notice he ran out to work only to find Crowley.
Aziraphale couldn’t help but stare. The Red Witch himself was standing in front of his house. He was as beautiful as ever, if not looking a little exhausted and wet. Damp red curls that were braided away from his face with white orchids peeking out, water sliding down his sharp cheeks perfectly, and lips parted just barely. He wore the same (tacky in Aziraphale’s opinion) cloak from the parade around his shoulders, which now must have been twice as heavy as it was so waterlogged, the hem caked with dirt and mud.
“May I help you sir?” Aziraphale finally managed, going down on one knee into the mud. He heard the witch step forward and hands gently pull him up. The Red Witch was quite tall, he noticed. Aziraphale’s throat had gone dry.
“Formality isn’t necessary, Ang- I uh- my good-good sir,” Crowley said, a strange twist now sitting on his lips. “I have come to return something of yours.” He held out Aziraphale’s ring. He had lost it so long ago, he had nearly forgotten about it.
“Oh thank you! You really didn’t have to, my dear- Um- sorry- your honor.” He sounded ridiculous, Crowley would laugh at him, surely.
“I did though. It looks like it’s very special to you. Let me,” And then Crowley was gently holding his hand and putting the ring on his finger. “There, right where it should be.” Aziraphale felt like his whole body was vibrating.
“Would you like to come in?” He managed. “I am a bit of a witch myself, and I could clean up your cloak!” He regretted that as soon as he said it. He wasn’t sure if he could clean that giant expensive looking thing. And what if Crowley wanted to talk about witch things he didn’t know about?
“That would be amazing, Aziraphale.” Crowley sighed, shoulders drooping a little. He must be tired from the walk over.
“You.. remember me..?” Aziraphale’s heart stopped as Crowley walked into his cottage.
“Well of course. I wish we could’ve met properly, but a face like yours makes an imprint you see.” Crowley explained, pulling off his cloak and placing it in Aziraphale’s arms. He was making fun. He must be.
“You don’t need to be mean about it.” Aziraphale huffed, taking the absolutely ridiculous cloak and going into the kitchen and laying it out on the table. He turned around and found himself bumping into Crowley’s body.
“I am sorry if I offended you. I really am. Please forgive me. I can’t stand Gabriel or his friends, and I couldn’t bare the way they treated you.” Crowley wasn’t looking at him and he really wished he would. Aziraphale noticed that he smelled like the rain. And why was Crowley standing so close- “I- I’m afraid I- well damn it all- I’ve got to-,” Aziraphale reached up and brushed a loose curl back, feeling brave, and putting a halt on whatever he was trying to say.
“You can- well if want to- You are welcome to stay for supper. I have some soup cooking. And I make my own bread. I live quite a way from town, so you must be tired.” Aziraphale took a step back from him and went to find a way to pull mud out of cloth. He reached up to pull out a book, but Crowley stopped him.
“I can tell you how to do it. If you like?” He offered, and when Aziraphale looked back he saw that he was trying to look nonchalant about it.
“If you don’t feel confident in my abilities you can do it.” That came out a bit more aggressive than intended, but Aziraphale was tired. He missed his familiar and something about Crowley made him feel warm and twisty inside. Especially the idea of being taught by him.
“Well, right now I’m not supposed to use any magic. Doctor’s orders. But I do have complete faith in your skills. I just wanted you to know I could help. If you need it.” Crowley did look nervous. And cold. very cold. Aziraphale closed his eyes and murmured a conjuring spell and then he had his special occasion clothes in his arms. He hadn’t worn them in ages, and they would definitely fit strange, but hopefully they would be good enough for nobility.
“Go change out of your wet clothes before you get sick.” Aziraphale said as he handed the clothes to Crowley. Their fingers brushed just barely and then Crowley disappeared into the other room. Aziraphale needed to think. And fast.
The Red Witch, his idol, the royal witch himself, had shown up to his house. Crowley was nice. Maybe he had been nice the whole time. Aziraphale was so turned around and scared at the festival, but maybe Crowley was trying to help then. Aziraphale was so embarrassed.
He pulled out a book on household magic and searched for something to fix the cloak. No spells for drying, but there was one for pulling mud out. It was actually quite simple, just tedious, as he could only clean the muck from small sections at a time.
He was nearly done when Crowley came back in wearing his clothes. It was both so endearing and quite comical. His white tunic hung strangely on his shoulders, nearly slipping off one shoulder, and the trousers were two short by nearly three inches. Aziraphale couldn’t help but smile at him.
“I hope they are okay. They are the nicest clothes I own.”
“They are more than okay, Aziraphale. You are too kind.” Crowley was giving him a very soft look and all his insides felt like mush. He was having such a hard time processing all this. He could almost believe Crowley had some kind of charm to make him so enchanting, but Crowley had said he couldn’t use his magic at the moment, so it seemed he was just naturally this magnetic.
“No, it is you who is so kind. You have come all the way here just to-,”
“Enough of that. I was doing a favor for Anathema, who couldn’t bring it herself. She’s the one you should shower in praise, not me.”
“Well, it was still very kind of you.” Aziraphale continued to pull out the mud while Crowley watched silently. Finally, when it looked clean enough, Aziraphale hung it by the fireplace. “Can I get you anything while your things dry? A drink? I have some wine I’ve been saving for company.”
“That would be divine, Aziraphale.” Crowley said as he curled himself into a ball by the fire. He looked much like a sleepy cat. Aziraphale’s stomach made another little twist. He shook it off as he went to pour the wine. He came back to see Crowley finger-combing the braids out of his hair, flower petals falling to the floor around him. He slowed his movements and sent Aziraphale a small smile.
“I hope it’s alright. I can’t afford much, honestly.” Aziraphale said as he gave Crowley a cup.
“S’fine, Angel.” Crowley said as he took a drink. Aziraphale’s eyes went big. That was- flirting? Maybe? It sounded so much like what Crawly had said.
“What did you just call me?”
“Well you are so kind to me and- I well- gjhf- This shirt has wings embroidered on it, and- it- I didn’t mean anything by it.”
“Well, yeah. Course not.” Aziraphale was glad that it was getting dark, because he was a little pink. He took a drink of his wine. “I don’t mind it. The nickname.”
Crowley was burning up inside. Wearing Aziraphale’s clothes, getting to talk to Aziraphale, flirting with Aziraphale. It was so much. Too much, maybe. He was feeling overwhelmed, but he didn’t want to leave either. He wanted to absorb every bit of Aziraphale's attention until he burns up with it.
He was startled by a crack of thunder and then it was raining again. Crowley watched as Aziraphale huffed and proceeded secured all the windows and doors.
“Are you alright?” Aziraphale asked, and as if by magic(and maybe it was) there was a hot cup of tea in his hand. “Do storms make you nervous?”
“No, just startled is all. Thinking about my way home.” It really would be a long walk. He'd be so cold, and he wouldn't arrive home until morning probably. Maybe he could stay with Deirdre again, that is if he doesn't get lost. Crowley had an awful sense of direction.
“You’re not going out in that! It’s much too late. You can stay here. I insist.” And how could Crowley say no to that? With Aziraphale’s big pleading eyes-
“If you absolutely insist. Just toss me a pillow and I’ll be-,”
“Absolutely not! You can take my bed.”
“Nope. I can fall asleep anywhere, Angel-Aziraphale, and you need the cushioning to support your spine.” Oh he should not have said that. Aziraphale’s eyebrows reached his hairline.
“How did you know about my-?”
“Just a guess. Most witches are bent over books all day, and you bake and garden too so I’m sure you have to be hurting.” He was an idiot and any second now Aziraphale would call him out. He’d have to walk home in the rain and it would take him all night to get back to the castle.
“I’m sure you are used to soft beds, I can spend one night on the floor.” Aziraphale was worrying his bottom lip and Crowley had to take a sip of his wine to distract himself from it. He set his glass down and stood up, stepping into Aziraphale’s personal space. He placed a hand on his cheek.
“Angel, I couldn’t bare to cause you more pain than I already have. Please just let me have a pillow and I’ll be okay.”
“Alright, Crowley, but if you are uncomfortable, please let me know.”
“Now, are you hungry? I hope you like vegetable stew,”
Turns out, the food Aziraphale doesn’t make for snakes is really good. The stew warms him in a pleasant way and he didn’t even realize how starved he felt until he had a bowl in front of him. When he looks up from his own food he is greeted by the amazing sight of a happy Aziraphale savoring his own food. Eyelids closed and spoon sliding out of his mouth. Crowley took another long sip of his wine.
Aziraphale made soft little noises of contentment when he eats, wraps his lips so nicely around the spoon and his tongue just barely peeks out, and how had he never noticed this before? Aziraphale’s tongue came out and licked broth from his lips and Crowley briefly thought of jumping across the table and smothering him in kisses. He needed to break the silence before he scared Aziraphale with his desires.
“So, you’re a witch then?” Well that was probably the dumbest thing to say.
“Yeah. I mean I’m not very good or anything. Not nearly as talented as you, but I certainly try.”
“Who did you learn under?” Crowley pressed on.
“Well actually I’m self taught. No one wants me as their student. I’m old and rather inept at most things that take any kind of skill.”
“That is simply not true. You have plenty of skill. The garden looked well cared for, those books are sorted alphabetically, not to mention that this stew is so good. And you can't be any older than me.” Crowley meant every word of it of course, but he really hadn’t meant to say it. He couldn’t say that he also knew that Aziraphale was a quick study and with a little guidance could be amazing, of course.
“Well my familiar helps quite a bit with most things. And none of that is magic.”
“I disagree. Gardening is a skill that requires long hours of concentration and dedication. That is magic. You have so many books in your home, rare magic books that don’t even have proper labels, and they are alphabetized, magic. And cooking is magical, that stew was witchcraft. You have talent, Angel.”
“You- well,” And Crowley had never seen Aziraphale speechless like this. There was a strange look in those big blue eyes. A softness. “Thank you,” He said so quietly. Crowley was again struck with how desperately he wanted to kiss him.
“All true. You are incredible.” Crowley stood up and looked into Aziraphale’s eyes. “You should stop doubting yourself.” And because he was an idiot, he added “And didn’t you say you had a familiar? That’s the sign of a good witch. Hard to come by a good familiar.”
Aziraphale’s soft eyes turned sad. “Yes, but he had to run-slither off. He’s a very good familiar, helps me a lot. I get quite lonely out here, and it’s nice to talk to someone, even if he is a snake.” Crowley’s chest ached with guilt. He was the reason for that look.
“I’m sure he had good reason to scamper off. What’s he like?”
“He’s lovely. He- his name is-,” Aziraphale looked down and took a little shuffle back. “I- he’s called Crawly. See, I am an admirer of your work. He likes the name I think and he’s the smartest little snake I’ve ever met. I love him dearly. He has helped me tend the garden and I’m pretty sure he has eaten all of the little pests. He’s funny too. He doesn’t try to be, but he is a little silly. He doesn’t realize how big he is and he gets stuck sometimes.”
Crowley blushed. He did get stuck on occasion, tangle himself around things on accident and have to call Aziraphale for help.
Furthermore Aziraphale loved him. Well, snake him at least. How could he possibly make him love the real him. He needed to try at least.
“He sounds- nice.” He said, trying to process any of the things Aziraphale had just said.
“He’s adorable. I really do love and appreciate everything he does.” Aziraphale said. “I’m afraid I’m quite tired. If you don’t mind, I’ll be going to bed.”
The storm had gotten quite severe outside, and Crowley was thankful he had stayed. The windows creaked and the shutters banged and the wind whistled violently. He once again disregarded Anathema’s advice to not use magic, and spelled the windows sealed to prevent leaks. Aziraphale was asleep, fell asleep very quickly actually, and was practically purring in his bed. Crowley wanted to sleep, but his mind was racing. How could he sleep when he kept thinking about his day.
He was going to curse Anathema when he got back. Curse her smug glasses into her smug face and maybe give her a bald spot, he hadn’t decided yet. She would probably laugh at him if she was here. Laugh at him as he desperately wished he was laying in the bed next to Aziraphale, curled around him. He thought briefly of shifting into a snake, but that was a bad idea for quite a few reasons. Still, the urge to cross the small distance and warm himself on Aziraphale did not go away.
He let out a sigh as he tightened the quilt around him. It smelled like Aziraphale, like spices and yeast, hints of fresh rosemary. He took a bigger whiff. It would be so nice to always be like this. Another pang of guilt hit him. If he had just been honest, he would have had a chance.
He sat up and scooted closer to the fire as another boom of thunder filled the air.
“Can’t sleep?” Aziraphale asked behind him. He sounded like he was still half asleep. “You can still take the bed if you like. I have a hard time sleeping during storms anyway.”
“I’m very tired, just lost in thought, I suppose.” Crowley said. “I’m still not taking your bed, so you can stop asking me.”
“I didn’t mean to offend, my lord, I just-,”
“Please call me Crowley,” Hearing that from Aziraphale made him feel very dizzy and he was already drowning in his own self despair that he couldn’t handle that.
“Oh, I’m sorry.” Shit. Now he sounded upset.
“I’m not Gabriel. You don’t need to apologize for existing. You didn’t offend me and you don’t need to be sorry.”
“Don’t you dare apologize for apologizing, Angel.”
“Okay.” He heard Aziraphale stand up and step towards him. “Since we are both up and the fire is still going, I could make some tea.”
“That would be-,” Crowley had a thought, and before he could really process it he said “Would you like to come back with me? You could learn some more complicated magic and I could really use the help. I can’t even use my magic right now, but- well you don’t have to, of course- I just- You’re talented and very sweet- and I don’t want to-,” He really hoped Aziraphale would shut him up but he was silent. And had he really just said that he thought he was sweet? “Well, I’m not asking because I think you are sweet! I just think you are. But you’re very talented, attractiveness aside-,”
“I’d love to.” Aziraphale finally said. Crowley felt happy for a second and then- “But I can’t.”
“With my familiar gone, I can’t just run off. And I have my garden to worry about so-,” Of course. Aziraphale was waiting for him to come home. He could hear Anathema in his head saying ‘tell him! Tell him! Tell him!’ but he just couldn’t.
“Okay.” He tried not to sound as heartbroken as he felt. “You could come with me tomorrow though. No pressure to stay or anything, just let me show you around my workspace.” He prepared himself for more rejection. He should have stopped. Aziraphale wasn’t interested. Of course he’d say no. Crowley didn’t have a chance.
“That sounds lovely. I can take you into town on my broom! It really cuts travel time.”
“I would love that.”
After tea and a little more chatting Crowley eventually fell asleep, equal parts excited and worried for tomorrow.
Aziraphale woke up early, and was surprised to see the lump in front of the fireplace. He had forgotten that Crowley was there and the sight of him, asleep in a tight little ball, was so very endearing. He hadn’t expected Crowley to be so charming in a dorky sort of way. The storm had turned into a soft drizzle now, and Aziraphale thought about how lovely it would be to fly in. He always loved mild stormy weather. Oh and Crowley would be flying with him, arms wrapped around his waist and thighs pressed to his chin resting on his shoulder- Oh no. He could not afford to think about this with someone who just offered to hire him.
That was another dizzying thought. Crowley had asked him to come with him to the city. It was Aziraphale’s dream, of course, but he never thought it would happen. Crawly was still gone and Aziraphale would feel just awful if he wasn’t home when his little serpent returned. Still, the offer had been so enticing, that he couldn’t refuse to just stop by. He’d be home by sunset and Crawly wouldn’t have to wonder where he was. He couldn’t wait to tell him about all of this.
Crowley began to stir, unfurling himself out of the little heap he had gotten himself into. Aziraphale smiled at how much it reminded him of Crawly slowly stretching after a nap.
“Good morning, Crowley.” He whispered. It felt much too early to be loud.
“Good morning, Aziraphale. Sleep well?” Crowley mumbled, his voice still rough from sleep.
“Oh yes, after a warm cup of tea and the sounds of rain, I fell right asleep.” Aziraphale felt his chest fill with affection as Crowley sat up and looked at him. His hair was a mess of red curls and his eyes- How had Aziraphale not noticed? Crowley had the most beautiful golden eyes, they seemed to almost sparkle. “How-how did you sleep?” He needed to distract himself. The sleepy soft smile that Crowley gave him did not help.
“So well, Angel. Like a log or a- well- something that’s sleeps good,” Crowley laughed. “OH! Like a kitten! I slept like a cat in the sun.” His cheeks were rosy still and he looked very handsome still bundled up in the quilt. Aziraphale was in trouble.
“I’m-uh- so glad.” His throat was very dry. “Would you like breakfast? I make my own bread.”
“That sounds divine.”
Crowley had sat at the table with the quilt still wrapped around him, Aziraphale’s too big clothes all wrinkled now. Aziraphale cooked up some eggs, warmed some cured beef, and toasted bread. set the table. Crowley immediately began to dig in, making little pleased noises. Aziraphale started to eat too, needing a distraction from that.
The flight to town was long and near unbearable. Crowley hadn't even hesitated to slide his arms around Aziraphale's waist before they went up. Crowley whispered directions in his ear so he could be heard over the wind, his arms would tightening just barely around Aziraphale’s waist, and that pet name. Aziraphale was practically vibrating out of his skin by the time they landed in front of the palace, his broom mirroring his nervous energy. He couldn’t even take in how stunning the outside was as Crowley grabbed his hand, tangling their fingers together, and dragging him into the castle. Aziraphale didn’t know how to process that either.
They walked very quickly through the castle, descending down countless stairs, until they arrived at a very impressive set of double doors. Crowley threw one open and pulled him inside. Aziraphale still could not catch his breath. The room was huge, walls were lined with bookshelves twice as tall as him and completely filled with thick leather bound books. He was sure his jaw was on the floor. Books aside, their was also tables and countertops covered in equipment he could only dream of using. Big cabinets sat in between two bookshelves, no doubt holding important ingredients and containers, not to mention the huge fireplace that held a huge cauldron that could probably hold Aziraphale and Crowley at the same time.
“You like it?” Crowley asked casually as if he hadn’t seen the absolute awe in Aziraphale’s face. He pulled their hands apart, much to Aziraphale’s dismay.
“I-well- yeah- it’s amazing!” Aziraphale whispered despite himself. He went to the nearest shelf and ran his fingers along the spines of the books.
“You can look at them, y’know? Pull one out and read through it.” Crowley was behind him now, that same casual tone as if he wasn’t showing Aziraphale the most impressive collection of books he’d ever seen. “In fact, you can borrow any of ‘em. You are welcome here anytime.”
“You-You can’t mean that!” Aziraphale turned to look at him. His eyes were glossy.
“Oh I do, Angel. You have been nothing but a saint to me in my time of need. Help yourself. I’ll change the wards to let you in. My library is now yours.”
Aziraphale didn’t even think about it. Not really. He didn’t think about how he barely knew this man or that they were in what was probably intended as a crypt at some point. He didn’t think about any of it.
He grabbed Crowley’s face in both his hands, briefly thinking of how soft his skin was, and then pressed their lips together.
This was very self indulgent and kind of a nightmare to edit so I apologize if there are mistakes/repetition. I plan on editing everything after its all finished! Please comment and tell me what you think!