Chapter 1: Intruder
Thebes, Egypt 14th Century BCE
Firelight danced off the gleaming gold that adorned Crawley’s neck and fingers. The dazzling specks flickered across the massive bedchamber as though it were the demon’s personal collection of stars. His yellow slitted eyes remained cast out of the large open window at the far side of the room. He itched for any kind of breeze to ease his suffering and brushed aside the damp, auburn strands of hair that clung to his throat and down his back. The sweltering desert air had not ceased despite the late hour.
Crawley sent out a flicker of power, dissipating the sweat for the fourth time already that night, before grabbing his goblet of wine. He glanced around the room. His eyes traced over his golden treasures, his scrolls of wealth, and his lavish furnishings.
The demon let his head loll back, and he stared at the ceiling. He’d hoped being made into a god would’ve been at least a bit more entertaining. He got to glare at people with his serpentine eyes, which was always good for a laugh. They gave him whatever he wanted: food, drinks, company if he really wanted it, but he hadn’t accepted anyone into his bed, yet. More for lack of interest than anything.
“Since when did becoming a god become so utterly boring,” he groaned into the quiet room.
He missed walking through the crowds, unknown and free to partake in any diabolical schemes he wished. He missed watching the humans cause their own mischief and mayhem; palace life didn’t have much of that as any chaos was solved with a good old fashion head cutting. However, if he was being honest with himself, which happened on the rarest of occasions, what he missed the most was an angelic presence around intent on thwarting his nefarious wiles. He liked the challenge. He liked the idea of keeping score to see who bested the other in the end.
Crawley sighed at his own stupid sentimentality. It was better, easier without the angel around. It was easier to ignore the swelling sensations inside his chest when he met those blue eyes. The same blue that dazzled the Earth from the starry sky above. He groaned again and let his head fall forward. If he didn’t know any better, he’d say he was depressed without the wiggling ball of light to annoy him. He shuttered at the very undemonic idea.
Shouts echoed out into the evening air, snagging the demon from his thoughts. Crawley quirked an eyebrow and rose from his seat. He meandered over to the open window, eager for a distraction. Anything to relieve him from his miserable boredom.
“Intruder! Intruder,” shouted one of the guards.
Crawley sneered at the idea of scaring whatever dumb bastard had decided to try and sneak into the palace at night. He couldn’t quite see who they had spotted. His room did face the front path leading to the entrance of the stone palace, but the firelight and the statues surrounding the sandy courtyard obscured his view. Down below, at least a dozen guards hurried into sight, each wielding a gleaming Khopesh and a torch. The scimitar-like swords could decapitate a man with ease.
More shouts echoed out as the palace guards seemed to gather around a lone figure, standing peacefully at the center of the road.
Crawley leaned out the window, trying to get a better look. He didn’t know of any known enemies willing to walk into the palace unarmed, alone, and think they would get themselves anything except killed. He groaned in frustration, unable to see the miserable idiot. They’d probably kill him before even thinking to bring him before one of their gods.
The demon turned from the window but paused as a small worry ebbed into his mind. Something about it all didn’t sit well with him. It made him want to slither down there and get a good look before anything unfortunate happened. Crawley shrugged the notion away. He was too irritated to care about soft feelings, that was for–
“A priest! It’s a priest of the heathen god,” shouted another man.
Crawley lunged out the window before he could think about it. Even if he was mistaken, even if it wasn’t really the bouncing ball of heavenly light, he had to be sure.
His wings of shadowed wrath fanned out, allowing him to glide safely to the dusty ground. The guards hadn’t noticed him yet. However, the so-called priest had and, in fact, despite the late hour, their eyes had locked on to one another before his feet had ever touched the ground. It probably had something to do with the golden glow of his gaze.
“Bring him to my chambers.” Crawley hissed out, possibly instilling a bit of menace into his words. He dissolved his wings, not wishing to cause any more chaos than necessary. Things could get out of hand if he revealed too much of his demonic nature. Not that he’d learned that the hard way, at least too many times.
The guards flinched but lowered their weapons and bowed as soon as they spotted him looming nearby. The bravest of them stepped forward and bowed once more. “You wish us to escort the prisoner to your chambers, my lord?”
Crawley glowered at the man as though he had made a grave error. “My guessst,” he hissed, clicking his tongue after the words.
The man’s eyes widened. “Oh. Guest, of-of course, my lord.” He sheathed his weapon and ordered his men to comply.
Crawley rolled his eyes, then started walking back to his room. He was more annoyed than ever at his new title. Before he could’ve sauntered up without any more than a ‘Hiya,’ and now he had to deal with the bloody formalities. He didn’t need them getting any funny ideas about discorporating him. They were already doing that enough with their own people and their slaves.
He glanced back at the not-so priest, but, in fact, angel. Though he supposed, he could be a priest if he really wanted that responsibility, yet the angel seemed more keen to help from the sidelines like Crawley usually did. Aziraphale had an escort of four guards, leading him in a small procession behind their fake god. They would have to wait until he dismissed the humans before they could speak freely. And, judging by the pensive look etched into the angel’s face, something was troubling him deeply.
Crawley couldn’t remember the last time they had spoken. It had been a few centuries at least. But they never seemed at odds with one another, even if their head offices thought that was exactly what they were supposed to be doing. Aziraphale didn’t seem to mind that Crawley was a demon. It surprised him. Ever since that day on the wall, when Aziraphale had shielded him from the rain, the angel had continued to surprise him over and over again. With kindness.
By the time they had made it back to his room and dismissed everyone, the demon was drumming his fingers on the arm of his chair. He had ordered the servants to bring them a bit of fruit and some wine first. He knew Aziraphale would want something to eat, or at least it would help them relax. Crawley realized it was the first time he had invited Aziraphale into his room. Their settings previously had always been more public. Accidentally bumping into one another in shops or at some sort of gathering. This new location, free from prying eyes, free from listening ears, seemed almost intimate.
“So, um, hello.” Aziraphale gave him a small wave. His eyes flitted over the room, eyeing his few golden serpent statues and the assortment of golden weapons displayed on the walls. He appeared to avoid looking over at the massive bed on the far side of the room despite its luxuriousness or inviting pillows.
Crawley smirked, then relaxed back in the lavish throne. “So, what brings you here?”
The angel snapped his gaze back to him. His hands fidgeted at the hem of his clothes. He wore long robes of neutral beiges and browns. They were the earthy tones of a traveler, one seeking knowledge, not riches. “Oh, well. Duty calls as-as it were.”
Crawley raised an eyebrow. Something was definitely bothering him. “Come on. I can tell something’s wrong.”
“It’s, um, well…” He studied his wringing hands as though they’d manifest the answer for him.
The servants arrived then, bearing massive fruit trays and a few bottles of wine. Crawley snarled at them to leave after they had arranged the food on a golden table along one of the walls. He wasn’t usually so hostile with the humans, but he wanted to get to the root of the angel’s anxiety, and he sure as hell wouldn’t say anything with them around. If anything, Aziraphale would let the humans be a distraction. He’d probably try to bless them or ease their suffering, which was fine; he was an angel after all, but Aziraphale tended to forget his own troubles at the appearance of another’s misfortune.
The angel scurried over to the table, eager for wine and a platter of grapes. Crawley let out a heavy sigh and strolled over next to him. He grabbed his own cup. Aziraphale seemed unwilling to spill his worries without Crawley dragging it out of him. He decided to try the sympathy card. “You know, I can’t help if you don’t say anything. I assume that’s why you’re here? Something gone all pear-shaped? Or did you just miss me?” He winked as Aziraphale pursued his lips.
The angel huffed out a breath before taking a sip of his wine. “The day I miss you, or your sarcastic remarks, is the day the world ends.”
“So, in a few thousand years, then? I can wait.”
Aziraphale rolled his eyes and took another long swig of wine. “How have you been?”
Bloody formalities. Crawley groaned but poured his own cup of wine in defeat. “Bored out of mind, that’s how I’ve been. You can’t believe how bloody awful it’s been pretending to be a god. I can’t do a damn thing without someone kneeling or bowing or wanting to slaughter a whole bunch of innocent people in my honor. Quite frankly, it’s annoying, and I’m getting tired of it.”
“Oh, really?” Aziraphale set down his plate, which was Crawley’s next clue that something was wrong. “Well, I do say there has been a lot going on in Asia recently. I heard the Chinese have invented a new drink. It’s a process where one boils tea leaves. We could go and try it; it would only be a few months of travel.”
Crawley studied his wine, processing the angel’s words. He swirled the cup, then gulped down a large mouthful of the dark liquid. “You want us to go on a trip together?”
Aziraphale nodded with an all-too-obvious smile plastered on his face.
“Well, I just told–”
“You told me an excuse, Aziraphale. I want the truth.”
Aziraphale set down his glass and adjusted his robes. “Odd thing for a demon to want.”
Crawley rolled his eyes, then set down his own cup. He’d have to corner him to get specifics apparently. “Quit deflecting and just answer me.”
“Very well. I, um, well.” He puffed out another breath, appearing to gain some resolve. “Things are afoot and well, while I can’t say outright what it is, I can say that Southeast Asia is quite lovely this time of year and I think you should go there, or anywhere really, just not… anywhere in Egypt.”
Crawley drummed his fingers on the tables. “So, you want me to leave, and you can’t tell me why?”
Aziraphale nodded, looking a bit more grim.
“And why exactly would I do that?”
“Because I,” the angel paused. He seemed unsure himself, but it didn’t seem to stop his resolve. “Please, it really is frightfully important that you leave. I really do wish I could say what is going on, but if word got out that I’d warned you, well, let’s just say it would mean a lot of trouble, possibly for us both.”
“This wouldn’t have anything to do with the pharaoh’s second son, would it?”
Aziraphale tensed, snapping his gaze to Crawley’s hard stare. “Please, I really shouldn’t be talking about it. I beg you, just listen to me.”
“Oh, begging me now, are you? Fine, if you can’t tell me what’s going on, then tell me why?”
Aziraphale blinked at him. His eyes had softened with a concerning worry. “Why?”
“Why are you telling me to leave?”
Aziraphale swallowed and glanced at the floor. His shoulders had sagged and appeared almost to tremble under the weight of Crawley’s gaze. “I…I don’t want anything to happen to you.”
Crawley stiffened at that oozing warmth, the kindness that seeped from him like tree sap. It clung to everything, no matter how hard he tried to free himself from its sappy grip. “So, let me see if I have this right, you want me to leave Egypt for a reason which you cannot say so that I will be, what? Safe?”
Aziraphale nodded, then picked up his goblet once more and downed the contents.
Crawley blew out a deep breath. It was a lot to process. Over the last couple of millennia, they had been civil with one another, possibly something close to friendly, but they had stayed out of each other’s way respectfully. They hadn’t drawn swords or wrath against the other, but it seemed more like a civil understanding than anything else. It didn’t seem like a trick; he doubted the angel would do something like that. However, the whole idea of the warning, if that’s what it was, and leaving for unknown reasons didn’t sit well with him.
“Look,” Crawley said. “Not that I don’t appreciate the, er, warning if that’s what it is. But, for starters, I’m not running and hiding like some dog with my tail between my legs just because it might be dangerous. And two, I was ordered to stay here, which may or may not have to do with the pharaoh and one of his sons, so whether I wanted to or not, which I don’t, I can’t just up and leave.”
Aziraphale stilled as he continued to stare at his empty glass. The tremble in his shoulders increased. “Even after I begged you… you still refuse.”
“Why? It’s not like, like we’re friends or something, are we? It’s just, you know, a mutual understanding.”
Aziraphale turned away from him, the stomped for the door. “Fine, have your way, fiend. Get yourself killed for all I care.”
“Just discorporated at worst.” Crawley rolled his shoulders at the melodramatic angel.
“Not this time.” Aziraphale glanced at him once more. The fear storming behind his eyes made Crawley shudder. He slammed the door behind him, leaving Crawley alone in silence once again. Maybe, he should’ve listened to the angel after all.
Chapter 2: Festival of Flowers
Three nights had passed since the angel had darkened his door, and for three nights, Crawley found himself pacing around his room until the sand in the courtyard glinted with the orange dawn. Something gnashed and gnawed its way through him. The foreign sensation made wine unbearable, food appear revolting, and any sort of flat surface undeniably uncomfortable. He hated the wretched feeling and, of course, it was the angel’s fault, well probably.
Crawley sighed as he circled the room again. He glanced outside at the shadows stretching across the courtyard. That morning a thought had come to him, an idea of what might be causing his frustrating new sensation. He had spent the better part of the day rationalizing the notion away, but time and time again, it came back like an itch.
Or, like the urge to drink a horrible wine, one that always left a bitter aftertaste. But what the hell, it was wine after all? Nope, nope, still disgusting.
He groaned, flopping on the bed. Crawley, the oldest Tempter from the Garden, was sulking. He realized it now, though the sulking part was just a symptom from his new horrible feeling: guilt. That had to be it.
“Why? Why in the bloody Heaven do I feel guilty? Demons don’t feel this-this, this thing, this feeling to make it all better. I like making things a disaster, or I used to. I still do, with humans.” Humans, he paused. But, the nasty, gut-churning feeling wasn’t from humans. Aziraphale wasn’t human. Maybe, it made him an exception? Could an angel be an exception to Crawley’s nefarious…ness?
He shuddered at the thought; he didn’t think so. However, Crawley bit his lip as his brain suppled a reasonable yet outrageous reality. Aziraphale—not just any angel—did seem like an exception. He hadn’t ever tried to smite or harm Crawley. They mostly made some small talk, shared a bottle of wine, but tended to let the other work in relative peace.
Crawley snatched a pillow and pressed it to his face, letting out groaning, hissing, exasperated snake noises. He had to patch things up with the angel. And, already with that thought, the tightening in his chest relaxed a fraction.
He jumped up from the bed and miracled his hair smooth and free of sweat. He donned himself in a clean skirt wrap and belt of golden and black thread. Most of his jewelry he left on the table. It had felt too gaudy the last time he’d spoken with Aziraphale, while he’d worn simple robes of undyed linen.
Crawley still couldn’t believe what he was doing, but if it made the infuriating feeling go away so he could get some blasted sleep, then it would be worth it. He threw open his door and sauntered down the hall. Any attendant that tried to follow or ask what they could bring him got a threatening hiss to go away.
The pharaoh had ordered quarters for Aziraphale after he had been told by his guards that he was a guest to their supposed snake god. Crawley was grateful that the angel had accepted to take up residence there, even a temporary one.
He strolled up to the door and knocked. “Aziraphale, it’s me.” Crawley waited several seconds, then Aziraphale peeked open the door.
The angel wasn’t quite glaring, but it was close enough. “Yes?”
Crawley tried to hide the deepening pang of guilt as he met Aziraphale’s eyes. It almost certainly meant that the angel was the culprit of the newfound sensation without a shadow of a doubt. So, why did he feel bad and not Aziraphale? Blasted, stupid… Crawley coughed, attempting to mask his frustration. He needed to make peace with him again. “There’s, um, a festival going on tonight. I could, I mean, if you want, I could show you around. There’s always wine there and usually lots of food, honey cakes too.”
Aziraphale narrowed his eyes but didn’t slam the door.
Crawley knew the angel would give in, at the very least, to probably talk him out of staying once more. But wine and the promise of food had always dragged him out into the open if they needed to talk.
“Very well. Lead the way, I suppose.” Aziraphale straightened and stepped out into the massive hall, closing the door behind him. “I guess there is a reason they picked you to tempt in the first place.”
Crawley smirked at the joke. It felt a little odd, yet in a good way. He didn’t really smile or smirk unless Aziraphale was around, maybe it wouldn’t be too bad if that one particular angel was an exception to the rules of his life. “Let’s start with a drink, shall we?”
They made their way to the market. Crawley had to use a bit of magic to make himself not so noticeable. He didn’t want to be invisible per se, just unrecognizable as the pretend snake god of all of Egypt. He had already dealt with enough bowing and groveling to last him a lifetime, an immortal one. Crawley led them to a small shop that served wine and sweet things that he knew Aziraphale would enjoy, and perhaps, it would make him more amiable toward Crawley’s previous reaction.
The shop had an assortment of small tables with two to four chairs. There was a circular platform at the center of the room, which was clear of entertainers for the time. They had to squeeze their way inside, but miraculously found a table near the far wall. Crawley was not going to let some chattering humans ruin his chance to smooth things over with Aziraphale.
He gestured to the angel to sit. Aziraphale sniffed at the misuse of magic, but still sat in one of the chairs. Crawley winced as his stomach knotted tighter; his guilt was not subsiding fast enough. What would it take? He had never traversed down such a twisted path, and he’d never imagined he’d have to for that matter. Like hell, he knew how to make it end.
He froze as he sat down, realizing there was a part of him hoping for forgiveness from the angel. That was too much. He never wanted that, needed that; he was a demon after all. Unforgiveable, part of the job description.
Two cups of wine were set in front of them. Crawley snapped from his thoughts and glanced at the angel.
Aziraphale was eyeing his cup as though he expected it to do a trick. He obviously had something on his mind.
Crawley repressed a groan. “Look, I am…things were.” He snatched up his cup and downed the entire drink. “Our last conversation did not go well, and that was not my intention.”
Aziraphale straightened in his chair, then picked up his cup, taking a sip of the wine. He seemed to be intent on ignoring him, which did not bode well for the serpent.
Crawley waved down the server for another round. He was going to need more wine if he had any hope of surviving the night.
“The wine is quite good.” The angel let out a contented sigh but still didn’t meet his eyes.
Crawley raised an eyebrow. Perhaps that was close to an acceptance of his not-apology. “Good, good. Yeah, alright.”
The other patrons in the wine house cheered as a young woman stepped up to the platform. The performer held a lyre in one hand and smiled at the crowd. She wore a linen robe with beaded jewelry around her neck and wrists.
“So, what are they celebrating?”
Crawley blinked and turned his gaze back to Aziraphale. “What? Oh, well, you know, something about fish, or good crops, or something.”
Aziraphale chuckled and took another sip of wine. “It sounds like you have no idea. Do those white flowers have anything to do with it?”
Crawley glanced around, noticing many of the humans carrying around white lotus blossoms or roses. He leaned over to the table next to them and asked a woman about the flowers.
She smirked and handed it to him. “I think you’ll need it more than I do.” She winked at him. “Give it to someone special.” She turned back to her conversation before he could ask any more. Though, she seemed to be near intoxicated and probably not in the best state for a conversation.
The demon eyed the lotus like she had just spit in his hand. His nose wrinkled, then he thrust it at Aziraphale. “Here, I’m sure you like them more than I do.”
Aziraphale stared at the flower, then slowly plucked it from his grasp. He glanced around, eyeing the other humans. Many of them had them pinned to a sash or resting somewhere in their hair. He tucked it above one of his ears. The large blossom shimmered resting in the curls of his equally pure white locks like it had been made in its image.
Crawley felt his cheek tinge with heat as he gazed at the angel. “It…it suits you.”
“Oh? You think so? Thank you.”
The heat in the demon’s face burned brighter. Then, something he remembered surfaced in his mind. He glanced around. Flowers, singing, couples dancing just outside in the streets. He closed his eyes, listening to the performer as she sang.
The song was one he’d heard many times of Isis and Osiris. It was at the core a love story between two gods. He didn’t pay attention to it most of the time when they told the tale, but he knew the basic idea. Osiris was chosen to rule the people of Egypt. One of his brothers got jealous and chopped him into little pieces, then his lover, Isis, took the time to put him back together again and make him whole.
He shivered at the thought.
“Something wrong?” Aziraphale gazed at him with curiosity and worry lingered behind his eyes.
Crawley tried to ignore the flower caught in his hair. “Nothing really, just thinking about the song.”
Aziraphale nodded, then glanced at the performer. “It is quite romantic. The thought of loving someone so much that you would be willing to put them back together, no matter how long it took. To love someone, even if they are broken.”
Crawley blushed up to the tips of his ears. It made him think…think of something he would never admit. He coughed, then took another sip of his refilled wine cup. “Yeah, whatever makes the humans happy.”
“Is it just for them?”
Crawley sputtered, and his eyes snapped to the angel. “What do you mean by that?”
Aziraphale stared at his drink. “Nothing. I didn’t mean anything by it.”
Crawley worked his jaw, thinking. Maybe it was the wine, but more than that, he knew he didn’t want to spend the next three nights worrying about it with possible guilt piled on top. “You can tell me, you know if something’s bothering you.” He glanced back at his wine as Aziraphale tried to meet his stare. He really needed a better way to hide his eyes.
“I, um, well, oh. I don’t know. It sounds a bit selfish, I think.”
Crawley huffed out a laugh. “Who better to know about that than a demon?”
“I suppose,” Aziraphale said and tapped his fingers on the edge of his cup. “I, well, if I’m being honest, it kind of sounds nice.”
“Well, you know, the whole,” he flicked his hand for emphasis. “Someone who would be willing to love that much. That much patience, no matter,” he swallowed, and his voice hitched, “no matter how broken they might be.”
Crawley shifted in his chair. He was fairly sure the angel was talking about himself, yet it sounded more like he was talking about a Fallen angel, whether he knew it or not. He took a sip of wine. “Yeah, well, anything is possible, right? If…if that’s something you want, who knows what the Almighty has planned.”
“Oh! I mean, I didn’t necessarily mean for me.” He forced out a chuckle. “Why, why would you think that?”
“Do you not want someone to love you like that?” Crawley couldn’t keep his gaze away that time. He wanted to see.
Aziraphale met his eyes, and this time, they didn’t break away. They stared at one another as though waiting for the other to say something, to interrupt the moment with a joke or some sort of jest.
Aziraphale licked his lips and asked, “Do…do you think that would be a bad thing?”
The demon hesitated. His mind emptied of all words, leaving him blank, exposed. He wanted to release his wings and shroud himself in darkness. He trembled as a word finally came to him, and he spat it out before realizing what he had said. “No.”
Aziraphale broke the stare first, apparently finding the performer’s lyre playing much more interesting than their conversation. However, they weren’t done talking yet. “What about you?”
Crawley raised an eyebrow. “What about me?”
“Do demons ever want…love?”
Crawley shivered and gulped down his second glass. “No, demons don’t.” And, he could’ve sworn Aziraphale’s shoulders sagged. Maybe he was tired. Crawley, at least, was definitely ready for a different topic. “But,” he added on a whim. “I guess I’ve never been like other demons.”
Aziraphale snapped his gaze back over to him and his hand knocked over his cup in the process. Wine poured over the edge of the table and splattered on the floor.
The angel jumped from his seat. “Oh, oh, dear. How clumsy of me.” He fussed over the spilled wine, but only managed to make it splash across the table even more. Aziraphale huffed, appearing quite frazzled, then knocked the cup over again.
Crawley felt his lips curve into a smile, and he laughed. It felt good, something he wasn’t used to feeling.
Aziraphale pursed his lips. “It’s not funny.”
For some reason, that only made Crawley laugh even harder.
The angel covered his mouth with a hand. “Oh, stop it, you.” But he had started laughing too.
They giggled for a good minute before miracling away the mess. Crawley placed a hand on his chest. The tightening in his ribcage had chipped away as they spoke. He hoped it would allow him to sleep that night, but then again, he wasn’t entirely sure he wanted to sleep.
“So,” he eyed the giggling angel. “Want to get out of here?”
Aziraphale flushed but continued smiling. “Yes, I think I would.”
Chapter 3: Honey Cakes
Sorry, it has been a little while since my last update. I have been sick and on the mend. I'm doing better now, so I hope to update much more regularly. Thank you everyone for the wonderful comments and kudos!!! You are all so wonderful!! Thank you so much for your support. :)
Twilight muted the world, calling forth torchlight and a smatter of stars in the sky. Crawley glanced around as they exited the tiny inn. Music flowed through the air in waves as heavy as the chattering humans.
Speaking of humans, Crawley grimaced as they packed themselves into the streets, continually bumping into him with their shoulders and baskets. Even the children came close to colliding into him before he had a chance to ease into the thoroughfare.
He glanced back, catching sight of a fidgeting angel. “This way.” Crawley grasped Aziraphale’s hand. He didn’t want them to have to try and shout for each other over the crowds.
They snaked through the throng of people. Some danced in groups near small stages, while others paused in front of stalls ogling the many wears for the festival. The scent of fresh honey cakes soon filled the air, and Crawley knew their next stop.
He tugged Aziraphale forward and was only half surprised when he didn’t feel much resistance. Though, the angel could probably smell the heavenly scent of cakes in the air as well. They paused at the stall, and he released Aziraphale’s hand. Crawley shoved a few coins at the man before snatching one of the larger cakes from the rack. He turned, holding out the cake wrapped in linen to the angel. “Still warm.” He blinked as he met Aziraphale’s gaze. His brows had bunched together, and he was doing that thing with his hands when he was nervous. “What?”
“Nothing. Sorry. Is…is this for me?”
“Well, sure as hell, not for me.” He thrust it forward again. “You want it, don’t you?”
Aziraphale blinked and chewed at his lip, then nodded. “I do, but we should share it.”
Crawley scrunched up his nose. “Why would we do that?”
Aziraphale glanced around them, nodding at the humans. “It’s what they seemed to be doing. They appear to be enjoying the exchange.”
Crawley followed his gaze to the surrounding small groups. The humans seemed to have paired off together with their sweets, and Aziraphale was right, none of them were eating alone. Maybe that was why the cake was so big, meant to be shared and all. He opened his mouth to protest. Crawley didn’t like sharing things, especially with humans, well most humans. Kids were okay sometimes. But, right then, Aziraphale was giving him a very human look. One Crawley had seen on kids more often than not. It was a pleading look that did odd things in the pit of his stomach, similar to what it had been doing the last few days.
“Dammit,” he snarled under his breath. More guilt . Damn the humans and damn Aziraphale for bringing out that hideous feeling. He never really hated anything, but that blasted-it-all feeling was making him consider starting a list and adding guilt to the top of it in big, bold, underlined, highlighted, stoplight-red letters.
“Oh, um, if you’d rather not, I suppose I understand.”
Crawley clutched his chest as though he expected to find the shaft of an arrow embedded there. “I didn’t say that.” He shoved the cake into Aziraphale’s hands, then took the angel by the arm, weaving them through the crowd to a spot set up with rows of tables and chairs. It was still crowded, save for one table suddenly free of drunk celebrators. It had a view, sort of, a sliver of the Nile was visible from between some of the buildings. Parts of it glimmered from firelight or shimmered from the rising moon.
Crawley and Aziraphale sat, and the demon averted his gaze. It wasn’t that he minded sharing the cake, they had shared food before, but somehow it seemed different.
Aziraphale sat the cake between them on the table, removing the thin linen wrapping. He produced cutlery, probably from some miraculous and well-hidden pocket, and started dividing up the honey-soaked sweet.
Crawley glanced back at him. A thought had snuck into his mind that he hadn’t realized had been nagging at him that whole evening. “You came back with Moses, didn’t you? You were a part of the caravan that returned.”
Aziraphale hesitated, then miracled the knife away and stared at the dessert. “Yes. I have orders to assist in what is to come.” He took a slice and nibbled.
“And what is that, exactly?” Crawley poked at one of the slices, still unsure if he wanted to eat.
Aziraphale rolled his eyes, taking another bite. “Oh, you know, I can’t say. You know we shouldn’t even be having this conversation.”
“There’s a lot of things we shouldn’t be doing.” Crawley lifted a bit of cake to his lips and took a bite, all while leveling his gaze at the angel.
“Point taken. But, still, this is…bigger than that.”
Crawley almost choked on the cake. “Bigger than us not acting like hereditary enemies?”
The angel nodded, setting down his slice.
“Fuck. Well, then.” He drummed his fingers on the wooden table. Things were much worse than he’d imagined if that were true, not that he thought Aziraphale would lie. But, if his boss made it sound more terrible than it was, then Aziraphale would’ve probably believed it to be so. He needed a plan. Something crazy enough to work while they skimmed the line of horribly painful and agonizing failure. “Alright, fine. Then, don’t tell me.”
Aziraphale’s lips parted as though he wanted to correct him, to tell him everything, give him everything.
Dammit, he thought. Come on. I know you’re clever enough for this. “It’s not like I can hear you over these crowds anyway. It’s not like it has anything to do with…an angel? Just one angel?” He raised an eyebrow at Aziraphale.
He blinked at Crawley.
“Or, you know, more than one angel, possibly?”
Aziraphale squirmed in his seat, then blinked again. His gaze snapped to the demon, then he picked up the cake and took one deliberate bite, staring at him.
That was a bit odd. But, at least the angel seemed to be on board with the whole saying things while not saying things bit.
“Okay, so not one angel,” he nodded at Aziraphale, “but multiple angels here?”
Oh, fuck, yes! Well, not the bit about more than one angelic being there to smite him, but they were getting somewhere. “Okay, okay. So, what? Two of them?”
“Fuck, four of them?”
Crawley raked his hands through his hair. Four…at least four fucking angels. He froze. “Are they here now?”
“So, it’s just you, right now?”
One bite. He picked up another slice as he finished the previous mouthful of cake.
“Okay, okay. But why?” Crawley rubbed his hands together. He was going to have to get creative. He had to think outside the box. He had to guess why a bunch of angels was going to come to the city. And he had to reason out what they were planning, perhaps to a certain red-headed demon. He tensed. “Do they know that I’m here?”
One hesitant bite.
So, probably. Maybe not him specifically, but a demon in general. “Are they after me?”
No bites, but a slightly relaxed look in the angel’s eyes.
“Okay, so not after me. But, after something, I bet. Probably has to do with Moses.” A bite. “Probably, maybe even the Pharaoh.” Another bite. “What about another someone else?” Bite. “The humans.” Nibble. “Some humans?” Nibble. “Specific humans?” Bite. “Okay, so they are here for Moses, the Pharaoh, and specific humans and…” The words died in his mouth. Specific humans were never a good thing. If Noah and his lot had taught him anything, it was that God narrowing in on a particular group of humans was most definitely a bad thing.
He stared at Aziraphale, and as if the angel could read the question etched into his features, took another slow bite of cake. His lip trembled as he chewed. Crawley swallowed down the lump of dread that burrowed into his throat. So, they were going to kill a lot of people, and if he wasn’t careful, at least one demon along with them.
Crawley grabbed a slice as though part of him hoped to use it as an olive branch. He knew what Aziraphale wanted. He knew he should tear out of there like some crazy, snaky god, and never look back. But, Hell had ordered him there, specifically, to cause all the mischief he could muster. To…
He paused, mulling it over. They had ordered him to play the part of the Egyptian snake god, for at least the next year, and to remain as a guard against any angelic presence. It was a death sentence. “Shitshit shit !” No wonder Hastur had volunteered to fuck off to Australia, the bastard. Crawley would bet his blackened wings that hell already knew what was going on, and he was also sure they weren’t going to warn him about it. He slammed his hands on the table, tossing his cake aside. It wasn’t like he could leave; Hell would know, and that would be that. And if he were there when Heaven’s angels showed up, then he’d be lucky if all they did was discorporate him.
A hand covered his, snapping him from his drowning thoughts of certain doom.
Aziraphale was looking at him. His gaze held no triumph, no sense of ‘so sorry, old chap, it was fun while it lasted,’ but something that made him feel as though he wasn’t so much being saved from his drowning misery, but that he wouldn’t be alone as he drifted further down.
The angel squeezed his hand. “We’ll find a way out of this.”
We? Crawley blinked at him, then stared back at their hands. They could…figure it out together? That seemed odd. “Why?” He hadn’t realized he’d said the words aloud until Aziraphale shifted in his seat.
“What do you mean? Why wouldn’t we find a way out of this…this mess? I’m not going to leave you to…well.” His features scrunched up as though his thoughts confused him.
Because, quite frankly, they confused the hell out of Crawley. “You don’t have to do anything, Aziraphale. We…well, we’ve had a good run, but I guess time’s up and all.”
“No!” He stood up fast enough to topple his chair behind him. “Crawley, I’m not letting you just… Really, you can’t expect me to just…” He glanced down as though only then realizing he still gripped Crawley’s hand, but he couldn’t let it go.
The demon gave his hand a gentle squeeze. “Don’t do this to yourself, angel. Not for a demon. It’s not worth it.”
He stood, releasing Aziraphale’s hand and sauntered off into the night.