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Reviews of AZ Fell and Co Antiquarian and Unusual Books (Part 2)

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Chapter 1: Derek J

 

I’m a simple guy who likes simple jokes. If there’s a whoopee cushion I plant it. I will call you up to ask if your refrigerator is running and then tell you to go catch it. (Actually that one died out so thoroughly it’s actually capable of a comeback now!). Yes, I’m a dad and yes, I have a t-shirt that says Dad Jokes? I Think You Mean Rad Jokes! which I wear un-ironically every Saturday. All of which is just to say that my wife was well prepared for my stupidity when I walked into Fell’s.

I? I was not.

You see the bibles when you walk in? The ones to the left? Let them be. Don’t even look at them. Definitely don’t pick out the fanciest one you can find and absolutely don’t walk up to the owner with it held in your pudgy little fingers, grinning like a loon, cheerfully asking whether this should be in the fiction section. Just don’t. Mark my words you’ll regret it. Though your wife won’t. She’ll get a great old laugh out of it all.

In conclusion: it’s quite possible that mama did raise a fool and he just got his ass verbally whooped by a guy in a bowtie.
____________

Aziraphale was an uncommonly pleasant being by nature. Yes, he was an angel, but he was also blessed with the temperament of a fussy, anxious, unbearably sweet person. This was not to say that he couldn’t be bothered or riled up. And there was nothing Crowley liked quite as much as seeing him riled up. Generally, the riling up was done after the shop was closed and Crowley could make full use of his hands and tongue, but there was the occasional customer who said or did something that made Aziraphale’s wrath peek out from behind his tartan bowtie and it was magnificent. An enormous turn-on, yes, but also just thoroughly enjoyable to watch.


Crowley was aware of a somewhat popular Yelp! Page for the shop which he skimmed now and then but didn’t tell his angel about, partially because Aziraphale might become overly concerned with his reviews and partially because he didn’t want to have Aziraphale on Yelp wreaking havoc with reviews of all of this favorite restaurants and shops, adding details that he couldn’t possibly know about. He loved his angel fiercely and Aziraphale’s sweetness and tendency to over-share just a bit would cause trouble on the web. The angel was bustling about his shop when the bell on the door rang. Crowley hadn’t quite settled into his spot in the back corner with the CRV set and a Golden Girls marathon and he looked up, interested, as the man noticed the Bibles and made a beeline for them.


The couple was American, but this was London and tourists were common. The Bibles weren’t Aziraphale’s most prized books, but they were still close to his heart and as the man selected an older edition with lovingly restored covers and grinned at his wife, who looked resigned but not unhappy. Crowley leaned against the end of a shelf and flicked his tongue out, tasting the air. It tasted like mischief.


“Excuse me sir,” the American said, and his wife rolled her eyes, clearly used to whatever he was about to begin.


Aziraphale looked up, perfectly pleasant until he saw the Bible in the man’s hands. He was going to inform the man that the Bible was not for sale, Crowley was sure of it. The angel was going to tell him in the way the English had perfected--polite enough to cut with a heap of condescension--that there had been an error, his tone implying that the error was entirely on the fault of the potential customer. But then the man spoke again and Crowley’s eyes widened behind his glasses before he flopped himself into a chair to watch the theatrics.


“Shouldn’t this be in the fiction section?”


Aziraphale was a warrior of heaven and had once carried a flaming sword in the great war between Heaven and Hell, but if you’d never seen him wreathed in light and bearing down with the might of the Almighty behind him, his frustration would look to you a bit like a disgruntled pigeon, puffed large with a tight little mouth, manicured fingers clutching whatever he happened to be carrying at the moment.


“I beg your pardon?” the angel replied. The fluffing was already beginning--his hair took on a little more volume and in his surprise, Aziraphale stood up a little straighter, eyes narrowing minutely.


The man only grinned at him and as Aziraphale opened his mouth, Crowley fell a little more in love with him.


“Are you aware of how many thousands of years it took for all of this to be recorded? Collecting the stories which had been told by word of mouth and passed from generation to generation, originally from the mouths of prophets or the Almighty herself?”
The grin faded somewhat from the man’s face, but his wife looked delighted and she took a chair near Crowley’s to watch the show, glancing at him momentarily to confirm that yes, he was just as entertained as she was.
“After years of oral tradition, getting the stories written down in ink on parchment of papyrus, finding a way to keep that book safe and protected because every letter, every line was done by hand, every picture painted with brushes made from eyelashes, is that humorous to you? Do you trivialize the process of illumination by monks and sisters while they were under attack all the time, having within their walls some of the most valuable materials known to the human world? Or perhaps the idea of carrying a book of the Lord’s word in secret to keep it safe is all a game to you, is that it? The idea that humans could care so much about the records of their people that they would die for it? Or perhaps the concept of Gutenburg’s letters painstakingly lined up on press after press just to make a single page when the book contained hundreds, perhaps that is where you find humor?”


Crowley couldn’t see his own face, but if he could, he would have recognized the pleased, lovesick expression as the same one Aziraphale wore when Crowley brought him a particularly nice box of chocolates. What an incredible being he’d fallen in love with. What an incredible, indescribably beautiful angel. In his pocket there was a little box, currently empty, into which he would place a gold band once he’d found the perfect one. Marriage was a human practice, but it would delight Aziraphale to be proposed to, romanced, primped and spoiled and dressed in his finest suit to tell Crowley that he would indeed spend eternity with him. If he did agree, of course. There was a pit in where Crowley’s gut should be that whispered Aziraphale would never agree, that he’d come to his senses and see that he’d partnered himself with a demon not worth the sand beneath his feet. Aziraphale spent a good amount of time praising him, reassuring him that he was worthy and beloved, but six thousand years of reminders that he was damned were not so easily washed away.


In his musings, he’d missed a solid three minutes of his angel’s tirade. The American woman was laughing, muffling the sound with her hand pressed to her mouth, but her shoulders shook with mirth.
Aziraphale was winding down by that point, but still had plenty to say about truth and knowledge and the respect that each and every volume deserved. By the time he was finished, the angel had snatched the book from the man’s hands, given him a thorough dressing-down, and looked as though he was going to go into a lecture about something else when the man’s wife took him by the elbow.


“So sorry to bother you,” she said politely, though she couldn’t keep the grin from her face. “I’ll take him out of your shop.”


Still chuckling, she lead her husband out of the bookshop as Aziraphale skimmed his hands over the Bible, examining it for any damage before he carried it lovingly back to the shelf and nestled it among its fellows.

 


“The nerve,” mutteres Aziraphale, looking very much like a disgruntled pigeon. Crowley stood and sauntered over, running a hand down the angel’s spine.


“You certainly gave him a lot to think about.”


Aziraphale nodded and huffed a bit more, then bustled off into the back room to make himself a cup of tea. Crowley trailed after him, just happy to watch his angel.

Chapter Text

Shout-out to Mr. Fell for being the only decent bloke in this city. I’ve popped in and out of his store for years—including before I started transitioning. So he knew my dead name, dead look, whole shebang and I was definitely nervous to play the ‘You know me, but this is what’s changed and are you gonna throw a fit about it?’ game.

 

You know what he said? “Oh, Rose! What a lovely choice. Crowley dear, why aren’t you growing any roses? Some white ones would look splendid next to my Henredon chair.”

 

That’s it. He just went straight into dragging his partner for not giving him roses. So hey, Mom? Next time you’re snooping through my social media why don’t you explain to all these nice people why the 50+yo book seller accepts me in ways you won’t. Don’t go telling me age is an excuse or that you’re ‘Stuck in your ways.’ I’ve watched Fell dress in the same damn clothes since I was ten!!

 

Yeah. Sorry. Rant over. Fell’s a gem. That’s my take. Rose out.

___________

 

The bookshop wasn’t a place people usually popped into on sunny days in London. This was partially because of the rarity of sunny days and partially because Aziraphale took long lunches and tea breaks then and flipped the sign to ‘closed’. Part of that particular morning had been spent kissing Crowley. They’d coupled recently enough that Aziraphale was still pleasantly sore and instead of repeating the experience, they’d spent an hour or so of the morning lounging on the sofa in the back room and exchanging slow, tender kisses. The angel could have miracled away the soreness, but he didn’t want to. He liked feeling the effects of Crowley’s enthusiasm. Much to Crowley’s chagrin, Aziraphale eventually decided that he needed to open the shop and couldn’t spend the entire day exchanging kisses with his love. Because he had no intention of leaving, Crowley found a chair to lounge in while Aziraphale bustled around opening the shop, dusting and tidying. 

The thing that humans didn’t understand about Crowley and Aziraphale was that they weren’t men. They weren’t male or female, they were a sort of both-and-neither. Their corporations were able to be manipulated into appearing any number of different ways, from hair and bone structure to genitals and other physical aspects. Gender was a fun little concept to play with, but a little too simplistic for the likes of them. Still, they had to call each other something and at the moment they were both manifesting themselves as male so they used the appropriate pronouns. Crowley had been female before, as had Aziraphale, but they’d settled comfortably into the forms that they wore and swapping everything was more trouble than it was worth unless they had a little time to devote to all the minutiae of performing human gender. It was a bit annoying, having to adjust everything so humans weren’t confused, and depending on the year and the culture, the rules shifted this way and that--it was terribly difficult for Aziraphale to keep up, and Crowley didn’t seem to care either way. 

One of the regulars stood by the window, not really looking in, but hovering indecisively, unsure whether to come in or walk past. Aziraphale looked up and flashed a smile at the human, though it wasn’t clear if they saw this or not. After a minute or two, they shuffled in slowly, clearly hesitant to enter. Crowley glanced at the human and flicked his gaze to his partner, then back to the human. Aziraphale gave him a significant look in reply, but said nothing other than,

“Hello my dear! Been awhile, how have you been? I’m enjoying your new look, lovely haircut.”

“Thanks,” they said nervously. 

“Anything you’re looking for in particular? I’m doing a bit of tidying today, dusting and the like.”

“I’ve changed my name,” the girl said quickly. “I go by Rose now.”

“Oh, Rose! What a lovely choice. Crowley dear, why aren’t you growing any roses? Some white ones would look splendid next to my Henredon chair.”

The girl’s body, which had been stiff and wary, relaxed. This clearly wasn’t the response that she expected.

“Anyone can grow white roses,” Crowley replied from behind his phone. He was playing one of those matching games with berries or gems or pastries or bubbles and swiping this way and that to clear the board.

“They’re boring, angel.”

“I like roses,” Aziraphale replied somewhat huffily, and Crowley nodded, still not looking up. Aziraphale was nothing if not old-fashioned.

“You don’t need just white ones, though, do you? I’m working on a variety that’s white but the edges of the petals are a golden yellow. Still working on it being just the edges, though. Needs another generation before I perfect the breed.”

Aziraphale looked at the Henredon chair doubtfully.

“I’m not sure that yellow edges will look as nice...you can grow the regular white ones, can’t you? They’d look splendid in a crystal vase--maybe that one from France that I like? Marie Antoinette’s vase?”

“I know the vase. I don’t see what’s wrong with yellow edges. More interesting, having something a little different.”

“There’s nothing wrong with them, I just want white ones.”

Crowley sighed and double-tapped his phone screen.

“Whatever you like.”

“Splendid. You’ll get some white roses then?”

“I’ll look into it, angel.”

“Lovely. Now, Rose, dear, what is it you’re looking for today? A bit more poetry?”

“I was actually wondering what you had of the Canterbury Tales? We’re reading them in class and I wanted to see if the version we were reading matched up with any older versions. You said you had a copy from the 1700s.”

“I do indeed, though you’ll have to wear cotton gloves to look through it. The pages are very delicate.”

“I don’t mind.”

“If you go to the table in the back, I’ll bring it out along with a pair of archival gloves.”

“Thanks Mr. Fell.”

“Of course, my dear girl. Back in a moment.”

Crowley glanced up as the girl walked further into the bookshop. She looked happy, relieved. Humans made a big deal about gender, particularly other peoples’ genders, and it seemed that Rose had expected that sort of pushback from them as well. He resisted snorting and instead did a little bit of a curse, just a tiny one, so the next person who gave Rose a hard time about her gender would come down with some painful boils in a very sensitive place. 

Aziraphale returned with the antique Chaucer and set it on the table before Rose, handing her a pair of white cotton gloves. Usually he’d hover over someone looking at a book that old and valuable, but he’d known Rose since she was about ten and she’d learned how to care for his prized books. 

“Just let me know when you’re done, my dear, and I’ll come put it away.”

“Thanks Mr. Fell. I brought my notebook, I’ll be making a few notes. Might be awhile.”

“However much time you need. I’ll be around, just give us a shout when you’re finished.”

Aziraphale resumed his dusting and tidying. He could have miracled it clean, of course, but part of his love of the bookshop was its care. He wiped shelved down with a damp rag, polished the end tables with a little furniture oil, dusted the knickknacks and art and stacks of books that hadn’t yet found a shelf they fit on. Crowley won his game and started another. Once Aziraphale had bustled about the whole shop, he sat down in a chair close to Crowley’s and picked up an Agatha Christie. 

“I was thinking of naming them ‘Angel’s Halo’.”

“Hmm?”

“The hybrid tea roses I’m breeding. White with yellow edges on the petals. I was thinking of calling the variety Angel’s Halo.” 

He flushed a little pink as he said it, concentrating intently on his phone instead of the angel who was practically beaming at him.

“Oh Crowley!”

“I could call them something else. It was just an idea. White with gold edges though, bit like an angel’s head and a halo.”

“Don’t you dare call them something else.”

“If you like it that much,” Crowley muttered, and Aziraphale leaned over and planted a kiss on his cheek.

“You really are a darling.”

“I’m no such thing. M’a demon.”

“Yes darling.”

Rose came out from the back of the shop with a notebook under her arm and a pen tucked behind her ear. 

“Mr. Fell? I think I’ve finished.”

“All right then, I’ll take care of it from here. Do enjoy the rest of your day.”

“I will, thanks!”

Rose walked out of the shop and Aziraphale looked slyly at Crowley.

“I don’t suppose I could tempt you to some lunch? I have a few questions about the new roses you’re growing.”

Behind his glasses, Crowley’s eye crinkled into a smile. 

Chapter Text

Anyone else in the shop when that guy started yelling about buying pornography? And then got escorted into the back room for some ‘private conversation’? Well done, Mr. Fell! Didn’t know you had it in you.

___________________

 

Once the world had ended, then not ended, it was the hope of both Aziraphale and Crowley that their respective head offices would leave them alone. The body swap and respective holy water bath and hellfire shower had been a fairly solid insurance plan against being bothered. That was, until the bell on the bookshop door rang and in walked a tall, white, broad-shouldered man with violet eyes.

“Hello!” the man said cheerily and Aziraphale’s head jerked up, entire body tensing. He wished for his flaming sword as he thought of Crowley, napping on the couch in a back corner of the shop, probably in front of the old CRT set with some television program running. He had a few shows that he watched, the one with the old American women that lived together, the mother and daughter in the small town, also Americans. There was also the one with the little old lady detective, she was English, and there were some others, Azitaphale had a hard time keeping track. However, the only thing that he could think as he saw Gabriel standing in his bookshop was that he had to protect Crowley at any cost.

“Gabriel,” he said cordially.

“Hello!” Gabriel repeated in a shout. “I am here to procure some of your finest pornography!”

Relief washed over his corporeal form and Aziraphale ushered Gabriel into the back room and closed the door, putting another barrier between the archangel and Crowley. Whatever Gabriel knew or suspected, he was not going to harm the dearest being to him in the universe. He’d take another hellfire shower rather than let that happen, this time in his own body.

“Humans,” Gabriel chuckled, “Are so stupid. And so embarassed about their pornography. It’s too easy to fool them.”

“Indeed,” Aziraphale said. “Is there something that you need, Gabriel? I thought we had an understanding in place that I would not be called upon.”

A muscle in Gabriel’s jaw twitched and Aziraphale stopped himself from raising his pale eyebrows in surprise. Gabriel didn’t want to be here. If the tension in his neck and shoulders was anything to go by, he was furious and pasting on a smile for the good of the company, that is, Heaven. He hadn’t enjoyed telling battalions of angels to stand down and Aziraphale was certain that in Gabriel’s eyes, the blame belonged to a Principality who owned a bookshop in Soho. 

“Yes, that was the understanding,” Gabriel said tightly. The smile was still on his face, which was almost more disturbing than if he had looked as angry as he likely felt.  Aziraphale waited for him to continue, though it was fairly clear that Gabriel wanted him to ask the archangel why he was there. He didn’t. After a long moment where the pressure in the room raised enough to make the ears of a human pop like they were in a rapidly descending airplane, Gabriel bit out his request.

“I have orders to ask,” he nearly spat out the word ‘ask’, clearly of the opinion that Principalities were not asked, they were told. “To ask you,” he repeated, as though it was causing him physical pain to say it. “If you would be willing to do the occasional freelance job for Heaven. The Metatron themself said it is the Almighty’s intention to keep your specialized skills on the list of Heaven’s assets.” 

“What sorts of freelance work?”

“That wasn’t made clear,” Gabriel growled. “Apparently an angel with an immunity to hellfire is the sort of tool we want if Satan decides to send Hell on some kind of revenge mission for the corruption and disobedience of his son.”

“Former son,” Aziraphale corrected. “Adam Young appears to be a perfectly ordinary human boy.”

The key word that made Aziraphale’s statement true was ‘appears to be’ because unless you happened to notice the occasional convenient coincidences that seemed to occur around him too often for them to be coincidences, he really did look like an ordinary young man with a little dog and a band of friends who enjoyed messing around in the woods and getting into trouble. Gabriel didn’t appear to appreciate the correction.

“Yes or no, Aziraphale? I have things to do other than wait for you to make up your mind.”

“Well I suppose if I am allowed discretion and can negotiate the terms of my assignments, I would accept freelance work.”

It was truly astonishing how Gabriel could smile while looking as though he would like to strangle Aziraphale and then smite him and then maybe issue him a new body exclusively so he could do it again. When Gabriel didn’t say anything, Aziraphale rested his hand on the doorknob.

“Is there anything else?”

He could sense Crowley on the other side of the door and with a cheery shove, he flung the door open, sending the demon sprawling back. Stepping neatly out into the shop, Aziraphale used his body to block Gabriel’s view of the back of the shop, gesturing towards the front entrance.

“I also have things on the agenda for today if that’s everything.”

Gabriel’s jaw worked for a moment before his eerie smile reappeared and he nodded to Aziraphale. 

“I’ll let them know you accepted.”

“Quite,” Aziraphale agreed, and he watched as the archangel marched out, only breathing a sigh of relief when the front door had swung shut. Only then did he turn to where Crowley was standing with a letter opener held in front of him like a very small dagger.

“My dear boy, are you all right? I didn’t mean to hit you so hard with the door, but I thought it would be best to avoid questions and I’d hate for any harm to come to you after all we’ve been through.”

He gently took the letter opener from Crowley’s hand and placed it into the drawer of a little side table that held a stack of books topped with a soapstone figurine that looked like a unicorn.

“What did he want?” Crowley practically growled and Aziraphale patted him on the arm reassuringly.

“Just a job offer, nothing to be concerned about my dear.”

“You’re going back?” Even with his eyes covered, he looked wounded, but after a moment he had shuffled the emotion away, put on his cool, unbothered expression.

“Of course I’m not going back!” Aziraphale exclaimed. “Apparently the Metatron asked if I would be willing to do occasional freelance work. My immunity to hellfire was cited.”

Crowley would deny that he relaxed, but Aziraphale saw the lines of his body loosen. Uncaring that the shop was still open and there were two customers milling about up front, the angel pulled his demon close and pressed a kiss to his hair.

“There isn’t a thing in Heaven or on Earth that could convince me to leave your side, my darling.”

“Angel,” Crowley mumbled, embarrassed. He was keeping the blood from rushing to his face and making him blush with sheer force of will. He was a demon for Someone’s sake, not a schoolgirl with a crush.

“Not a thing,” Aziraphale repeated, pressing another kiss to the deep copper hair. He had to stretch a little because Crowley was taller than he was, but the serpent was in an ever-present slouch so it wasn’t too far to reach. 

“All right, I get it. No need for all that,” Crowley muttered, and Aziraphale smiled at him before pressing a kiss to his cheek. This time Crowley did blush, and Aziraphale thought it looked absolutely lovely, but didn’t say anything else about it.

Chapter Text

The demon Crowley had two forms. One was human-like and one was serpent-like. The actual size of the serpent was about the size of a reticulated python--at least six meters. It was probably longer than six meters, but Crowley had never felt the need to lay along a tape measure or a meter-stick and thus didn’t know his exact length. Because it was incredibly inconvenient to be that large of a snake, Crowley usually settled to about the size of a dwarf reticulated python, only about three meters. It was still large enough to be intimidating but not so bulky that he couldn’t drape over furniture or his angel without squashing anything. Aziraphale was resistant to being crushed, but he got very touchy about his books and knickknacks.
Many of the regulars to the shop were familiar with the fact that Mr. Fell kept a very large snake in his bookshop and that it had free reign of the place. The unspoken, unwritten, unmentioned rule was that you gave the snake its space and if you absolutely needed something and had to step over/around/under/near the beast, you would approach it politely and say ‘excuse me’ as you went by, so as not to startle it. The snake would sometimes look irritated with you, but he only reared up and showed his fangs when he felt threatened or was very put out. It had only happened a few times as far as anyone knew--there was an incident with a drunk where the snake had come to the front of the shop to scare off the menace, and once another time when some fool had tried to break in, perhaps a decade past. That story was only ever heard second or third-hand, but always in hushed tones. No books were stolen, but the thieves turned themselves in and the window on the door was replaced the next day, presumably with their apologies.
Crowley favored his snake form when he didn’t feel like talking to anyone or when he wanted to be particularly frightening. It didn’t work on the regulars, who just avoided him, but Aziraphale had been in a huff since this morning for reasons he didn’t understand or dare ask about, so instead of talking to the angel, he coiled himself on the counter next to the register, covering the whole thing. He could nap and prevent anyone from purchasing books, which would ideally make his angel feel a little better.
The counter wasn’t his favorite napping spot. It caught a breeze whenever the door opened and papers around and under him rustled unpleasantly and there wasn’t even a sunbeam or a convenient radiator to bask in or near. Still, if something had Aziraphale in a huff, he would deal with the discomfort so that the angel would (hopefully) be in a better mood later in the afternoon. He wasn’t sure precisely why Aziraphale was feeling tetchy, but as always, he was half-afraid it was something he’d done. There wasn’t a reason to think such a thing, but that didn’t stop him from worrying, just a bit, that Aziraphale had realized that he was an irritant at his very best. Perhaps he too was feeling a bit tetchy. A few centuries of open affection and a year or so of intentional romance wasn’t enough to rewrite his eons of being scorned and stepped on (both metaphorically and literally).
When the door opened again, the breeze shifted a receipt so it fluttered up and rustled directly in front of his nose. He raised his head a little to see a human man standing perhaps a meter past the door, just looking around. His mouth was a little slack and he seemed in awe of the place. Crowley had a bit of secondhand pride then. The man was in the best bookshop in SoHo, if not all of England, perhaps the whole world. It was right that he should be impressed. Maybe if Aziraphale was still feeling down later, he’d say something to that effect later. Not directly of course, in a casual, offhand sort of way. Yes, he’d consider doing that; Aziraphale would be pleased by it.
After a full two minutes of just standing, gape-mouthed and wide-eyed at the shop, Crowley began to wonder if the man was in fact, all right. He didn’t look drunk, Crowley was intimately familiar with how various stages of inebriation looked. On drugs, probably. Or experiencing one of those human ailments where their insides were going haywire while their outsides looked completely ordinary. He resigned himself to moving and reared up a bit so he could get a better view of the situation. He blinked into his thermal vision, the man was indeed alive and appeared to be hotter in all the places he should be. Crowley blinked again. The man’s gaze had found the enormous snake and he reached out a hand, as though to try and determine if Crowley was real. The man was also across the bookshop from him, not even the longest arms would have brought them near enough to touch.
The man continued standing and groping at the air, but after another minute, he turned away, settling his gaze on a statuette version of the David. Crowley had bought it for Aziraphale maybe a century ago as an apology or maybe a bribe. It could have been just to see Aziraphale smile, honestly, but as a demon, he was not in the practice of being honest. The point was, the man was shuffling towards the statuette, his feet never lifting from the floor like they were attached with magnets or velcro or an adhesive of some kind. So he did the reasonable thing and descended from the counter and slithered across the shop with undue speed, arriving at the table that bore the miniature David while the man was only halfway there.
Appearing entirely unintimidated, the man continued towards statue and snake with the slow, dogged shuffle of a zombie from a film. Well that certainly wasn’t going to stand. He wasn’t just any serpent,he was the serpent that gave all the others a bad name. He was used as a motif for evil, bless it. People still talked about his temptation--admittedly, they attributed it to Satan, but still. He had a legacy and on top of that, an angel who was sulking in the back room of the best bookshop in all of London. He wasn’t going to be shown this kind of disrespect.
Rearing up into striking position once more, he opened his mouth and flashed his fangs. Pythons weren’t poisonous, but he certainly was and he had no qualms about a bite or two for the sake of making a point. When the man didn’t slow, he hissed a little. The fangs made it easier. Still nothing. Was he losing his touch?
Crowley shifted and changed his body so he was closer to his actual size--roughly double of what he had been only moments before. The man stopped, looking unsure, and Crowley opened his mouth again to show off his fangs. The man took a shuffling step back and encouraged, Crowley unhinged his jaw. If he started at the feet, he could swallow a man whole. He wasn’t going to, for a number of reasons including but not limited to that it would take forever to digest something that large, even with a little demonic help, and that humans tasted terrible.
The man took a larger step back, and his shuffling increased in speed. Crowley felt a bit pleased with himself, watching the man stumble backwards until he found the door and pushed it open, fleeing to the sidewalk outside. Shrinking his form back down to his more manageable one, Crowley made his way back to the counter, feeling smug. He still had it, no question. He’d protected his angel’s bookshop and been a general menace to the public. As he started to climb back atop the counter, he paused. He ought to check on Aziraphale, even if it was just to preen a bit about shooing off a potential customer.
The angel was perched on a three-legged stool, peering intently at a very old book. Crowley would have suspected that he was reading, except even after a minute and a half or so, he hadn’t shifted his attention to the second page. He hovered in the doorway for another minute and gave himself a stern talking to and slid across the carpet and up the stool. Aziraphale must have noticed as soon as his first coil was around the stool’s base, but he didn’t react, even once Crowley had made himself comfortable with his coils wrapped loosely around the angel, his head resting on one shoulder. Gently, he flicked his tongue out to tickle at Aziraphale’s right earlobe.
“Hello my dear,” the bookseller said absently. Crowley tightened his coils a bit so he was more securely wrapped around the object of his affection, and nudged Aziraphale’s cheek with his nose.
“Do you think,” the angel said softly, “That the Almighty designed me to be a shoddy angel?”
Crowley bit him. Just a little and without any venom, mind, but a little nip on the chin as though to say, ‘stop that this instant’.
“Ow!” Aziraphale put his fingers to the wound, checking for blood. There wasn’t any, of course. Crowley hadn’t intended to draw blood, only snap him out of a mindset that allowed him to think so poorly of himself. The snake lowered himself to the floor and became more man-shaped, his skin covered with black trousers, a black jacket, dark sunglasses.
“What was that for?”
“You were talking nonsensssse.” He tended to be a bit more sibilant when he’d just switched over.
“It was a perfectly reasonable question.”
“It’ssss not. You’re the reason the human race survived from Eden and we averted the apocalypsssssse to boot. What’s wrong? You’ve been in a mood all day.”
Aziraphale sighed and stepped off the stool and shuffled over to the couch with a gait startlingly similar to the man from earlier.
“I don’t know. I suppose I’ve just got a touch of what humans call ‘the blues’.”
He sat heavily on the sofa, adjusting his waistcoat once he was seated and Crowley sat next to him, taking much less care about his clothes than the angel had.
“Well that’s no good.”
“No,” Aziraphale agreed glumly.
“There’s no point in sulking if you aren’t enjoying it, and you’re not. Shall I take you to supper? Maybe a nice walk in St. James Park?”
Aziraphale shook his head.
“I almost feel...tired.”
“Bed it is then.”
“Crowley, it’s five in the afternoon.”
“Precisely,” he said, gesturing with one hand. In an instant, the shop had been closed up and an angel and a demon were standing in a bathroom that Crowley had miracled up to be a great deal larger than the one that came with the flat above the bookshop. It had a tub deep enough to really sink into and wide enough to fit two, perhaps three if the three were a bit flexible and didn’t have hang-ups about other people’s body parts.
The demon put the plug into the tub and turned on the taps, mostly hot with just a little touch of cold water to keep it from scalding angelic skin.
“Rose or lavender?”
“I beg your pardon?” Aziraphale looked a bit baffled at the enormous blue-and-white tiled bathroom with its gargantuan tub and equally luxurious shower with several showerheads and ample room if you wanted to sit and have tea in it for some reason.
“Rose,” the demon said decisively and began pouring a pale pink liquid into the tub alongside the water jetting from the tap. Bubbles formed immediately and Crowley looked intently at Aziraphale before he conjured a rubber duck from mid-air and set it along the edge of the tub.
“Crowley, what on earth?”
“Best cure for the blues, a good soak with plenty of bubbles. Thought you might like the duck. I can get rid of it if you don’t want it, I just thought you’d fancy one.”
“And this will make me feel better?” He sounded doubtful, but leaned over to stick a finger in the water to test it.
“Absolutely. If you like, I can get one of those audiobooks you like so much and put it on so you don’t worry about a book getting damp.”
“That does sound nice,” the angel agreed.
“Of course it does. Do you want me to stay or would you rather have some privacy?”
Aziraphale blushed and Crowley was charmed, not for the first time, by the flush of color across the pale cheeks.
“Well actually,” he began, and Crowley stepped back towards the door.
“Whatever you like angel.”
“Oh, I was thinking, um, perhaps that you could join me?” The angel was flushing crimson now and Crowley wanted to sink his teeth into him, perhaps the juncture of his neck and shoulder. They’d had sex and Aziraphale was bashful about asking for company in a bath? It was beyond adorable.
“Anything you like,” he said again, gentler this time. “Whatever you think will make you feel better.”
The angel was methodical and a little bashful about taking his clothes off. The clothes that he’d removed, hood-eyed, while Crowley watched. The clothes that Crowley always had to miracle folded when he stripped his lover, lest Aziraphale fret about creases or dust on his precious clothes. He was tempted to make a joke, remind Aziraphale that he had seen it all before, but there was something in the air, something soft and fragile as a soap bubble. He busied himself fetching towels so plush and fluffy that they could have been used as blankets, looking away so that Aziraphale could climb into the tub without Crowley watching him. He didn’t mean to stare, but the angel was a marvel and he was Crowley’s. He loved Crowley and would give him his body to wring pleasure out of. This incredible being belonged to him and sometimes he was still stunned by the enormity of his love for him.
He miracled his clothes away and stepped into the tub, moving so he wouldn’t step onto Aziraphale, then slid down into the tub until the bubbles covered his shoulders. Miracling up an elastic, he bunched his hair into a messy bun atop his head--he’d been growing it out.
“Too hot?” he asked his angel. “Not hot enough? More bubbles?”
Aziraphale smiled at him. It was a gentle smile, affectionate, and Crowley was hit with another wave of love for the celestial being he shared a life with. Aziraphale was his. The angel’s smile warmed a bit. Right, he could sense love.
“It’s lovely, dear. Just one thing...:”
“Anything you like, angel. Whatever you want. Tea? Chocolates? A nice red?”
“Could you take off your glasses for me? I’d like to see your eyes.”
He did.
And the rubber duck didn’t get any use, but even once the bathroom was set back to rights, it sat next to the sink, and later migrated to beside the kitchen sink. And Crowley didn’t say a word about it.

Chapter Text

Witnessed the most perfect exchange the other day:

Grumpy Dude With No Manners: “You. Boy. Where’s the man I spoke with over the phone?”

Mr. Fell’s Partner Who Knows Damn Well Only Two of Them Work There But Clearly Doesn’t Like This Guy’s Tone: “Did this man give you his name?”

Grumpy Dude: “Might have. Don’t remember. Sounded like a fairy though.”

Me: “….”

My girlfriend: “….”

This Poor Sweet Startled Kid On Our Left: “?!?!?!?”

Fell’s Partner In The Drollest Voice I’ve Ever Heard: “None of us have wings. Out!”
_______________________

It was a rarity that Aziraphale left the shop in Crowley’s care. It wasn’t that Aziraphale didn’t trust Crowley, it was more about his very precise specifications as to how the shop ought to be run. However, there was an estate sale with a number of books he’d wanted and Crowley had urged him to go, take a day trip and get the books, maybe stop at one of those little shops that sold scones and teacakes and other confections that his angel enjoyed. After a bit of convincing on the part of a demon, Aziraphale set off on a train trip with fifty quid tucked into his vest pocket because Crowley knew that he liked to leave generous tips.
Aziraphale had answered two calls before Crowley drove him to the station and gave him a peck on the lips before bidding him goodbye. It all felt very domestic, dropping his partner off at a train station with a bit of money for treat tucked into his pocket, but he didn’t mind. In fact, the feeling made him pull the omni-present little velvet box that stayed in any outfit he wore, save for pyjamas. He peered at the gold ring until someone behind him blared on their horn and jolted him out of his musings. He’d had it made specifically for Aziraphale, none of that run-of-the-mill stuff for his angel. It was gold, yes, but it also had chips of a black and white diamonds that had been removed from a meteorite. A meteorite which originated from one of Crowley’s galaxies. Originally, he’d wanted to use a star as the stone, but without constant miracles to keep it from causing a lot of physics-based disasters, the star wasn’t a viable option.
Parking in front of the bookshop, he strolled in and opened up for the day, lounging behind the desk and playing on his phone. Some of Aziraphale’s Saturday regulars came in--an assortment of young queer humans, the eternal browsers that would look for hours but never buy anything, and a lesbian couple who each selected a volume and sat in one of the convenient sitting areas and began to read.It was a quiet Saturday and Crowley was grateful. He wasn’t interested in doing business ever, nor was he planning to spend his time convincing humans not to buy books. The little cluster of people treating the shop as a library were fine; they understood how things worked. They didn’t bother him, he didn’t glower at them until they left.
When the bell on the door rang, he didn’t even look up from his phone, instead sliding five candies together to form a little gummy fish which would be useful in a few moves. Nor did he look up when he sensed someone standing in front of the counter. If they didn’t know how the shop worked, he wasn’t there to teach them. When the person cleared their throat pointedly, Crowley made another move in his game which gave him a large point bonus.
“You. Boy. Where’s the man I spoke with other the phone?” The tone was gruff and unfriendly and Crowley looked up leisurely, making it abundantly clear that the man in front of the counter was in no way a priority for him. He took another moment to look the man over, not bothering to put the phone down. He could appreciate rudeness in the right contexts, he was a demon after all, but it was no secret that AZ Fell and Co was run by one man, and that another loitered about. He was the loitering one, but still, there were only two possible people that the man could have spoken with. Actually, it could only be Aziraphale because Crowley didn’t pick up the bookshop phone ever. The only reason he picked up his mobile was when it was Aziraphale or someone worth speaking to. This man did not fall into any of those categories.
“Did this man give you his name?” He drawled.
“Might have. Don’t remember. Sounded like a fairy though.”
Behind the man, both lesbians and a teenager looked up, displaying varying degrees of alarm. Crowley let his remark sit in the air for a moment.
“None of us have wings,” he said dryly. “Out!”
All three of the people in the sitting area looked delighted at this outcome and as the grouchy man stomped out of the shop, Crowley returned his attention to his phone. He could probably finish another ten levels before he had to go pick up Aziraphale.
Once he’d cleared out the shop that evening, he drove back to the train station and pulled into a parking spot, and a legal one at that. Well, a sort-of legal one. Cab parking. Nobody was going to tell him to move, anyhow, and Aziraphale’s train was late. He dug the box back out of his pocket and after looking around to make sure no one was looking, opened it.
He hadn’t been sure he wanted to use gold, at first. Aziraphale already had a gold ring, the signet he wore on his pinky, and he didn’t want to give the angel something he already had. He wanted his ring to be special and different and nothing like anything else Aziraphale had. He had shared his angel with heaven and with earth and this object would be a symbol of their binding, the two of them together and no one else. But Aziraphale was nothing if not a traditionalist. He wore the same waistcoat for over a century and was fussy about keeping things just the way he liked them, even if the way he liked them had gone out of fashion several decades ago.
So gold it was, but not just any gold. This gold was from nuggets he’d collected himself when he’d participated in the California Gold Rush. The gold wasn’t really the goal of his visit, it was supposedly to sow greed and dissent, but humans did just fine on their own and a bit of panning for gold seemed like a good idea after a bottle and a half of whiskey. He’d managed to get a few little rocks of it, which sat in a tin box in a drawer until the apocalypse did and didn’t happen. Then he took the nuggets, a coin from ancient rome made of a zinc alloy, and melted them down into a lump before taking the lump to a jeweler with two diamonds--one black, one white, and a very specific design in mind. ‘Angel’ was engraved on the inside of the ring and Crowley paid for the treasure with actual money, knowing Aziraphale would be displeased if he just took it.
He heard the train whistle as it pulled into the station and he snapped the box shut, shoving it back in his pocket before he pulled out his phone and opened some game or another so he looked occupied when Azirphale opened the Bentley’s door and slid into the passenger side, a box wrapped in paper and twine clutched to his chest like a child’s beloved stuffed bear.
“Find everything you were looking for?” Crowley asked.
“Mmm,” Aziraphale hummed agreeably, “A lovely first edition, and a second, but the second edition is signed by the author, as well as a rather hard to locate copy of a minor book of prophecy I’ve had an eye out for some twenty years.”
“Supper?” Crowley offered, and Aziraphale tilted his head to one side, considering.
“Sushi?”
“The place with the sake I like.”
“Excellent,” the angel gave a delighted little wriggle. “But the bookshop first, so I can put away the new volumes.”
Crowley could think of a few other things he’d like to do at the bookshop, most of which involved ravishing, but he supposed it could wait until after sake.