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Cold-Blooded

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Large, fat flakes fall gently upon the rooftop corner of A.Z. Fell & Co. It’s not quite twilight, but the curtains of the antique bookstore are already drawn. Although the shop is shut up tight, it’s clear that someone is home: warm lights glow from the upper apartment, and a curl of woodsmoke unfurls from the chimney. A hand-written sign, made out with delicate, curving scrawl in the window proclaims: “We are most definitely closed.”

This is because the principality Aziraphale has much more important things to do on this evening. He must look after his darling, demon husband. 

“Oh, you poor dear!” Aziraphale frets, adjusting the heat-pack upon Crowley’s head. “Is it not yet enough?”

Crowley, for his part, is looking snug . He is seated in the most plush armchair of the house, with a heating pad underneath and above him. Not that you can see either. The long, lithe man is wrapped in a mountain of blankets and quilts. 

“Mmm’fine, Angel!” Crowley replies. It’s not at all convincing: his body gives a pathetic little shiver, and it sets all the blankets and pillows shaking. He even gives a tiny, hushed sneeze. 

“You’re certainly not!” Aziraphale cries. He flutters around the room, lighting more candles and checking the fireplace. “Do you think I should add on another log?--” 

Crowley snorts disapprovingly. “Silly thing, fireplace , to have in a bookshop .” 

This is a bit rich; for the Crowley-burrito, sitting astride Aziraphale’s chair, is easily the silliest thing in the room. Each one of his clawed feet is adorned with several pairs of Aziraphale’s hand-knitted, best woolen socks, and he’s got a scarf (or two) wrapped around his long, skinny, neck. He’s so completely enmeshed in soft, heavy warmth that only his ginger head and his pointed, freckled nose poke out from the ensemble.

Tutting, Aziraphale returns with yet another blanket. He tucks this one—excessively soft, and patterned with Crowley’s favorite stars and constellations--tightly under his husband’s sharp chin. 

“Hush, fiend. ” he says, voice warm with affection. “We’re perfectly safe here.” 

Crowley rolls his slitted, serpentine eyes. “I was never worried about discorperating, Angel.” he replies. His thin lips quirk a thin, careful smile. “I was worried about You. Us. Not being together.” Even after all this time, Crowley still shivers at the thought of being separated. Aziraphale feels a passionate burst of affection.

“Not possible!” Aziraphale presses a kiss against Crowley’s forehead. 

He lurches back in alarm. 

“GOOD LORD!” Crowley jumps in his blankets. “Crowley, my love! You’re practically burning!” 

Around teatime, Crowley had admitted to Aziraphale that he was feeling a bit chilly. As this was a cause for major concern, the angel had closed up his shop immediately, and he’d set about caring for Crowley in every way imaginable. He’d massaging his feet with warming oils, and layered on his finest, flannel pajamas, and adjusted his chair so that he might nap in a bright pool of afternoon sunlight, directly in full-blast of the space-heater. But, Heaven take him!, Aziraphale hadn’t yet even thought that Crowley might be getting sick! 

“Oh, HEAVENS , you’ve taken ill!” 

Something flashes across Crowley’s eyes. Apprehension? Embarrassment?. He opens his mouth, but Aziraphale shushes him. 

“No need to explain! And, no, no, don’t get up! I’ll go put the kettle on.” Rising at once, Aziraphale marches off towards the kitchen. 

Aziraphale hums to himself while his hands fiddle with loose-leaf sachets. Do demons get sick?! He doesn’t know. In all the thousands of years they’ve known each other, this is the first year that they’ve... lived together. Intentionally, under one roof (the nanny-and-gardener gig doesn’t count). This novel thought still makes Aziraphale’s heart bloom with affection. After so many centuries of heartbreak and pining, the angel could never have imagined that it would be this good: that’ he’d actually get to inhabit the same dwelling, the same bed, as his dear, beloved Crowley. And he is forever, still learning something about his husband, day by day. The depth of his eyes, for example. The taste of his kiss. The fact that he licks his dry eyeballs and molts his old skin. 

(Aziraphale shudders. Well, yes. He loves Crowley. So he will put up with the more unsavory, ‘demony’ things.

The angel stirs a bit of milk and several, generous dollops of honey into the pot. Before such domesticities, Aziraphale may have suspected that Crowley ate ashes or flies or some such. (How could he know?! He had hardly ever seen the man do much more than drink a glass of wine in his presence! ) But, as it turns out, Crowley likes his things sweet. Very sweet. He can hardly keep his hands off the toffee (not to mention, Aziraphale’s strawberry crepes). 

“Crowley, darling!” Aziraphale says, walking over with steaming tea-tray. “Let me help you with this! And, after? How about I draw a nice bath. Won’t that be just warm and delightful?” He smiles at the demon. 

For a moment, Crowley looks as though he might protest. Aziraphale can tell, something’s there: he’s known Crowley for so long, now. Long enough that he knows just from the stubborn slant of his jaw, the slight flex of muscle near his temple, that he is bothered. But, then: it must resolve. For that strange twinkle returns to his eyes again, and Crowley seems to melt, relaxes, gives in.  With a tired nod of acceptance, Crowley declares: “Temptation accomplished...my angel. ” 

Aziraphale positively wiggles with relief. He sighs, and sinks down onto the footrest. “That’s it, dear boy!” He croons, tilting the mug to Crowley’s tin, lovely lips. “I’ll look after you. Don’t you fret. We’ll get you all fixed-up in no time!” 

*

But it seems that one night’s rest is not enough; because, when Aziraphale awakens with the next bright, frosty morning, Crowley cannot even manage his human form. In what Aziraphale can only guess is pure desperation, Crowley has shifted into his more habitable snake corporation, and has wrapped himself all around the warm angel, covering his body inch by scaled inch.

“Goodness!” Aziraphale breathes in surprise, feeling the sleepy snake constrict around him. “Crowley, this situation seems…” he pets Crowley fretfully, “ Much worse than I thought! Are you well, my dear boy?” 

The large, crimson-and-black python yawns lazily in his response. 

Oh!” Aziraphale brightens. “Shall I look at your nodes?! Good idea! Perhaps your tonsils are swollen!” He rolls over a bit, shifting so that he can see Crowley’s wedge-like head properly under his hands. He strokes soft, delicate fingers down the serpent’s smooth sides, tilting his head to offer some sunlight.  

“Open up, you.” Aziraphale commands gently. 

Crowley obeys. 

“I—” Aziraphale pauses then, feeling uncertain. He gazes into the purple-pink gullet of the enormous creature, taking in the glottis and venom canal.  After a moment, he allows Crowley’s serpentine mouth to sink shut of his own accord. 

“I’m sorry,” he says, shaking his head sadly. ‘I must admit, dear: I don’t know what I’m looking for!” 

Crowley stares at him, unblinking (as all serpents do). 

“But, perhaps—” Aziraphale hesitates—”if you could manage your human form? I do believe that I could assess your illness much better!” That gleam returns to Crowley’s eyes again. (Aziraphale really does not know what to make of it.) Then the snake shakes his head, rejecting the offer.  “Really?” Aziraphale says in surprise. He sits back on his haunches, scrunching his nose. “Well! At least you can still hear me, you wiley serpent.” 

He tickles his fingers down Crowley’s long back, and Crowley simply purrs with affection. 

“Right, then!” Aziraphale decides aloud. He’s forming a plan. “Then, my dear boy: you must not leave my side. Not even a moment! I will have to keep a close watch over you, day and night, in order to make sure that your condition does not become most dire!” (Perhaps this statement could go without saying; for Crowley has entwined his snake body all along Aziraphale’s plush, pillowy form, and he seems to have no intention of moving. In fact, Aziraphale’s not at all sure that he could, if needed, extract the serpent). 

“However, would you mind shifting a little? If you could manage to wrap around my limbs, for example—” 

A sleepy, sluggish Crowley slithers around and over the curves of Aziraphale’s body. He moves from where the angel’s joints and hinges might pivot, and instead hangs his long, heavy weight over Aziraphale’s warm, softer edges. 

“Very good!” Aziraphale praises, and reaches for his long, sky-blue undershirt. “Now, careful with your head! Maybe, you ought to?-- That’s it!-- ” In what must look a bit like an awkward, solo dance, he dresses himself. 

Aziraphale admires his handiwork in the floor-length mirror. It’s not much different than usual, in his estimation: a soft, stodgy bookshop owner, round where his husband is sharp, plush where his husband is flat. Just as Crowley tends towards skin-tight leather-blacks, Aziraphale too has his favorites: softened, tanned, corduroy slacks; blue-and-white shirts, paired with a fine, embroidered vest. Favorably, for this situation, he has plenty of room in his clothes for his new, scaley addition. In fact, in the way that the giant serpent has slithered down his chest and settled comfortably over his shoulder and forearm, it rather gives the illusion that Aziraphale has a particularly defined, powerful bicep. (He doesn’t hate that.) 

“Comfortable, my love?” 

Crowley flicks his tongue, feather-light, out to touch Aziraphale. The flutter against his clothed skin makes him giggle. “Just so!” Aziraphale says. And Crowley pops his head from out of his sleeve. 

The angel is not going out and about, so he doesn’t need to add his favorite, floor-length coat or good walking shoes. Instead, for today, he slips into a fluffy, tartan pair of slippers. Crowley makes a soft, hissing sound of disapproval. “I still have standards!” Aziraphale snips. The pair of them walk towards the doorway, warm and entwined together. “Best cheek on the books, then.” 

*

It’s less difficult than Aziraphale had anticipated, tending the shop with Crowley wrapped all around him. The day is quiet and lovely, the snow is pristine, and Crowley feels like a warm, weighted blanket over his shoulders. Aziraphale still doesn’t dare open the storefront for shopping hours (best not disturb his poor, chilled snake husband!) As he leafs through records and updates tables, Aziraphale cannot help but feel as though he is wrapped up in a perpetual, angelic hug. He delights in it. 

*

The next days go much in the following manner: 

Aziraphale awakens, greeted by snow on the chilled windowpane, and wrapped up in the warm embrace of python-Crowley. 

After a bit of cooing and pleading, Aziraphale gives up trying to convince a corporal shift. He then allows Crowley to cover him like a Christmas tree, adorning himself with the familiar set of snake-husband-clothing. 

They make tea. Aziraphale brings the kettle to boil, and Crowley helpfully tastes the surrounding air. He informs Aziraphale when the tea is ready by giving his wrist a soft, circular squeeze. 

They eat toast, eggs and bacon with tea. Sometimes, chocolate biscuits are in order. Crowley pokes his snout out from Aziraphale’s shirt sleeve into the air just long enough to swallow a red-hot, hard-boiled egg. Then, he dives back into his shelter with contented humming. 

Aziraphale walks up and down the rows of books. He pulls one or two off of the shelf, speaking and laughing as if they are friends. He tells each book how he’s been thinking of them, and Crowley watches with his chin on Aziraphale’s shoulder, golden eyes tracing each movement

Someone inevitably bangs on the door of the shop, and Aziraphale stubbornly ignores them. If they keep banging, a pile of wet, slushy snowfall miraculously falls from the rooftop onto their heads. 

More tea. 

Aziraphale balances the financial record books, even though every page is already up to date. He writes letters to several new and aspiring authors, often providing them with helpful tips and encouragement. They range from “pip-pip!” to “don’t you dare stop writing, you darling thing, the world needs so much more good words in it!”

Noontime and dinner are an entertaining affair. Crowley is sustained by his morning ritual of the whole, hard-boiled egg and sweet, milky tea, and so he does his best instead to distract Aziraphale from dutifully eating his tasteful dinner. (This is a most difficult task, but if anyone is up for it, it is the demon Crowley, and his wiles.)

More tea, and with reading. 

Bathtime is near the end of the day, and it’s the time Crowley finds his very favorite. In the tropical, steamy heat of the bathroom, Crowley finally musters the strength to shift into his human form for a few hours. As his voice is far too weak and out-of-use for talking, Aziraphale sings to him, or reads story as he scrubs his head and feet. Crowley sighs into the steaming-hot bubble bath as Aziraphale’s fingers work through his curly, red ringlets, and he listens to the rhythmic, musical sound of his voice until he is sleeping. 

Finally, Aziraphale tucks Crowley into bed. He adds an extra hot water-bottle or two near their feet, and he fetches him the electric blankets. Aziraphale holds his husband desperately close to his chest, making sure that he won’t catch a chill in the night. 

*

A fortnight goes by, and Aziraphale and Crowley have settled into their new, winter pattern. The angel finds himself comfortable, even with all the silence; for there is nothing so homey and good as dwelling in the company of one’s sleepy, sated husband. Whatever Crowley needs, however long it takes, it is no matter: Aziraphale is content to be a warm, safe shelter during this winter.

Thus, Aziraphale finds it disorienting when, one morning, he awakens with a very human Crowley pressed up against him. And not trembling. 

“Crowley?” Aziraphale asks, rubbing sleep from his heavy eyes. “Are you feeling better, my love?” 

Searching for Crowley’s face, he presses both hands up against his cheekbones. “Yessss,” Crowley says, voice clinging to serpentine. “Thank you, Azsssiraphale.” In the early morning, he feels the demon smile softly and sadly. 

Shaking the grogginess from his head, Aziraphale cups Crowley’s face with his hands. “What is it?” Aziraphale asks his husband, disquieted. “There’s something you need to tell me?” 

Crowley’s eyes flick down, nervous. 

When Crowley eventually nods, Aziraphale presses his forehead gently against him.

“Go ahead, dear one. I’m listening.” 

He watches Crowley’s prominent apple slide up and down in his throat. Then—

“I’m warm-blooded.” 

Aziraphale looks up, matching Crowley’s gaze. 

“You what?” 

“I’m warm-blooded, Angel.” Crowley bites his lip, looking sheepish. “I—I haven’t been sick.” 

Aziraphale just stares, not putting it together. 

“But…” His mind works slowly in the early morning. “I thought you were a demon? Something about ‘being partly-reptilian? And all that cold air—”

“--No, no, Angel!” Crowley interrupts. He lifts his gaze to meet Aziraphale’s, and in those golden depths, he looks dejected. “I only told you that so you’d hold me!” 

Only soft breathing can be heard between them. 

“Oh?” 

“I’m sorry!” Crowley gasps, wringing his black-painted fingers morosely.

“I know it wasn’t honest! I know it was deceitful, and wiley! B-but you took such good care of me! I sleep so well when you give me a bath, and read to me like that! And then, so, when you thought I had a fever, I just sort of rolled with it! And then, we carried on, and I—” 

Crowley’s outburst is silenced as Aziraphale presses his lips against his. 

After a moment of disbelieving shock, Crowley gives in, with a grateful, happy little sob. He entwines his fingers in Aziraphale’s hair, and they stay that way, kissing fiercely for a long moment. 

Finally, Crowley breaks them apart. “I’m sorry.” He pants, eyes liquid and vulnerable. 

“Oh, my love.” Aziraphale says reverently, holding him. “You don’t have to deceive me to get me to hold you.” He rubs his soft nose against Crowley’s sharp one. “I love you today. I’ll love you tomorrow. I’ve loved you forever, and I’ll love you always.”

Crowley sighs, as if this reality is too good for him to truly believe in.  

“And, love: I’m an angel. It’s what we do. I want to take care of you! I want to serve you! There’s literally nothing more I'd rather do, or want you to ask of me!”  He kisses the tip of Crowley’s warm nose. "Really." 

Returned to his human form, Crowley can blink. He does, slowly. His eyes are wide and star-struck. “You’re...you're not mad?” he whispers. 

“No!" 

“And…” Crowley is smiling now. He fidgets with the electric blankets. “And. You’ll carry me, maybe? Again? I mean, with you, close up to you, sometimes?” 

Aziraphale’s arms wrap around Crowley’s waist. He draws him closer beneath the warm bedsheets.

“My darling.” he sighs, pulling him so close that their bodies tangle. “Anytime. All the time. Please. Simply: ask me.”  

Crowley sighs with warmth and pleasure and delight. 

*

The snow falls. The fireplace crackles. And an angel and a demon snuggle close together. Wrapped up in the warmth of devotion and love. 

*



 

THE END