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Seducing the Serpent

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Aziraphale fussed with his skirt. Crowley had miracled away the stains he had left while he kissed the life out of Aziraphale but part of Aziraphale wished he hadn’t because then he’d have some proof that Crowley had kissed him. Proof that Crowley had tugged him against his body like he wanted to consume him. Just the thought made his heart race and his knees feel weak.

Forcing himself to look up, he watched as Walter went down the line of knights, awarding coin and praise. Sir John was first. He thanked Walter with a bow and then looked up at the stand to catch Aziraphale’s eye. There was a smattering of blood over his forehead from where a pommel—Crowley’s, Aziraphale was fairly certain—had connected with his temple. That didn’t stop him from smiling wholeheartedly at Aziraphale who was honestly surprised. He’d imagined John would be a bit of a sore loser—he seemed awfully proud—and yet there he was, still bright-eyed despite his literal browbeating. 

Crowley shifted in the seat next to Aziraphale, the wood creaking and drawing Aziraphale’s attention. “Old blue-eyes fancies you,” he said, staring out over the field and looking worse for wear.

It was part of the tourney, the winner seated next to the lord as the festivities drew to a close, but Crowley was clearly growing exhausted, probably from the effort and the fact that he was bleeding from his arm.

“Oh yes,” Aziraphale said with a little laugh. Not that Crowley had anything to worry about on that front. Aziraphale fancied Crowley and there weren’t enough beautiful blue-eyed men in the world to change that. It was quite nice to be able to admit that to himself. He probably should have done it sooner.

Feeling rather elated, Aziraphale turned back to face the yard just as Walter dismissed the lined-up knights. The crowds were already dispersing, moving to the tents for more food and ale. Soon the lords and ladies in attendance would retire to the castle for the banquet along with the local knights and now, Crowley. Who had said he would stay. He’d said it while looking Aziraphale in the eye as if to say, I’m staying for you.

“Perhaps we ought to go back,” Aziraphale said in a low voice. Crowley truly looked terrible. “Are you going to heal?”

Crowley scowled. “And what? Explain away my miraculous recovery? Unfortunately, I think I have to manage the old fashioned way.”

Aziraphale grimaced. He’d been in that position before. When he’d been working with King Arthur he’d had to heal from an awful stab wound without raising suspicion. “Perhaps you could heal them up just a little. I hate to think you’re going to suffer for the next while needlessly...” 

He reached out and laid his hand over Crowley’s. Crowley looked down at it blearily. “I’m not sure I could heal a paper cut right now. I think I could sleep right here if it wouldn’t cause a stir,” Crowley replied, words a bit of a blur.

Aziraphale’s eyebrows drew together. “Let’s get you back to the castle. I can patch you up for now.”

It wasn’t the first time they had helped each other with their injuries, cleaning wounds and setting breaks. It was truly shocking how often they ran into each other in battle. Several centuries ago, they’d learned their lesson about trying to use their powers on each other when Aziraphale had tried to heal Crowley’s broken arm but had made the situation even worse.

He helped Crowley stand on his unsteady feet. Emony stood as well, hovering at his side, all concern. “Is Sir Crowley alright?”

“I believe he just needs rest. And perhaps a few bandages,” Aziraphale said, trying to dispel her concern.

“I can get the surgeon,” Emony replied, still a aflutter. “He’s around here somewhere. Seeing to the other knights.”

“Oh I’d hate to take him away. I’m sure I can handle Crowley’s injuries.”

Emony’s eyes went wide. “I didn’t know you had such skills.”

“Oh yes, er.” Aziraphale floundered for a moment. “I studied under the surgeon my father employed.”

Emony still looked surprised but accepted the explanation, letting them pass as Crowley shuffled slowly behind Aziraphale.

After Crowley stumbled down the stairs, Aziraphale took his arm so he could lean his weight against him. Crowley tried to pull away. “‘M gonna get your pretty dress all dirty.”

Aziraphale bit his lip, suddenly thankful he’d followed Alice’s advice and worn the pink dress. “Don’t you worry about that.”

Though he did wonder how the fabric would hold up against a second miracle in under twenty-four hours. 

They made their way steadily to the castle, where Aziraphale decided to take Crowley to one of the many guest chambers down the hall from his own room. 

The stairs were the worst part of the journey. Crowley had grown even paler somehow, and with the way he was dragging his feet, Aziraphale became concerned they might not make it to a room before he fell asleep. 

“Just a bit further,” Aziraphale said, trying to sound as encouraging as possible.

Crowley grunted and continued to let himself be guided along. Aziraphale wondered briefly how Crowley would react if Aziraphale picked him up and carried him the rest of the way. Probably grouse for a century about being tossed around like a sack of grain.

When they finally reached an empty room, Crowley stumbled through and collapsed in the nearest chair, a sad old thing by the empty fireplace. Frowning, Aziraphale held him upright and said, “Open your eyes. I need you to stay awake.”

Crowley dragged his eyes open a fraction. “Remind me never to fight in a tourney again.”

“I don’t know,” Aziraphale said lightly. All of a sudden he was having difficulty looking Crowley in the eye. “You were very dashing.”

“Oh don’t go on about that now,” Crowley said, sounding embarrassed as he tried to sit up straight. Aziraphale began to tug on his mail, wanting to take it off so he could see the extent of Crowley’s injuries.

Crowley lurched to his feet and hunched his back, allowing them to pull the mail over his head together. It was heavy and blood stained and Aziraphale kicked it away without a qualm. Underneath, Crowley’s padded gambeson was ripped along the arm and under his right breast, the black fabric darker where blood had seeped into the padding.

Aziraphale reached for the clasps at the back and undid the first, letting the hook slip through the loop, the fabric parting and revealing the knob of Crowley’s spine. He was so very thin.

With one hand on Crowley’s hip to steady him, Aziraphale carefully undid the clasps of the jacket and pushed it forward off Crowley’s shoulders. He hissed when the fabric pulled away from the dried blood. The jacket hit the floor and then Crowley was standing in front of Aziraphale, face dirtied and pale, bare-chested and blood-stained. 

Crowley looked down at the cut on his ribs and frowned. “I thought that one would be worse.”

Aziraphale leaned over and inspected the cut. It was rather shallow, but the blooming bruise around it made Aziraphale certain the cut wasn’t the worst of the issue. “I think perhaps you have a broken rib.”

“Oh. That explains why it hurts to breathe,” Crowley said without a hint of irony and Aziraphale laughed even though the situation wasn’t very funny. Crowley would be fine, but he would certainly be uncomfortable. Aziraphale wanted to do everything he could to help with that.

“Perhaps you could heal that?” Aziraphale asked. Crowley’s eyes fluttered shut.

“Maybe tomorrow. Not much I can do right now. Too tired,” Crowley admitted and then he poked at the bruise, hissing in pain. Aziraphale slapped his hand away.

“Don’t poke at it,” Aziraphale chided, hurrying to the sideboard to get the pitcher and basin, which he used his power to fill with water.

After setting them on the bedside table, Aziraphale moved the chair next to the bed and helped Crowley into it. “Now stay still.”

Crowley shot him a venomous look but stayed silent. He must truly be tired then.

Miracling up a bit of cloth, Aziraphale dipped it into the water and wrung it out. Watching for Crowley’s reaction—he wanted to keep the pain to a minimum—he carefully dripped water over the wound on his arm, wincing in sympathy when Crowley gritted his teeth. Soon enough, the blood from the wound ran pink and Aziraphale cleaned the surrounding skin as delicately as he could manage.

Once the dried blood was gone, Aziraphale could see bright flecks of metal stuck in the edges, evidence that some of the links of Crowley’s mail had shattered and found their way into the wound. Aziraphale looked at Crowley’s face, where his mouth was drawn and his eyes were glassy. Reaching out, Aziraphale placed a supportive hand on Crowley’s uninjured shoulder, drawing his attention back to him. “Are you doing alright?”

“Y’know, you could just put me to bed and let me heal tomorrow, you don’t need to go through all this,” Crowley said with an awkward wave of his hand as if to gesture at his injuries. 

“Hush,” Aziraphale admonished, rinsing out the rag. “Let me take care of you.”

At that, Crowley’s eyes fully opened and his brow furrowed. They’d cared for each other before, out of necessity, but this felt so entirely different. Crowley was beneath his hands, vulnerable and breath-taking and Crowley had kissed him earlier. Everything was different and Aziraphale hoped it would stay that way.

Heart racing in his chest, Aziraphale cupped Crowley’s cheek, forgetting that his fingers were wet until they smeared the dust on his face. Crowley’s lips parted on a soft, surprised exhale, and Aziraphale gave him a supportive smile. He took the rag and wiped away the trail of filthy water from one of Crowley’s cheeks and then the other, reveling in the soft pulse of Crowley’s breaths as they grew uneven. How had he spent so long willfully ignoring Crowley’s response to him? It had always been like this, hadn’t it? 

Pulling away with regret—Crowley was injured , Aziraphale could kiss him later—Aziraphale turned his attention back to the cut on Crowley’s arm. He cleared his throat, which felt embarrassingly tight. “You have some metal in this cut. I’m going to have to take it out.”

Crowley’s jaw clicked shut as he ground his teeth. “Yeah, do your worst.”

Aziraphale closed his eyes and prepared himself. With a pair of summoned surgeon’s tongs, he carefully picked out the shards of metal and stray woolen fibers that had sank into the cut from the gambeson. Crowley was still as a statue, hands tight on his thighs as Aziraphale worked.

“You’re doing beautifully,” Aziraphale murmured as he rinsed the wound a final time.

“Shut up,” Crowley said through gritted teeth. Aziraphale patted his hand indulgently and miracled some bandages.

He wound them efficiently and carefully around Crowley’s arm and, in some sort of romance-induced fugue, pressed a kiss to the final product—which had Crowley sucking in a breath as his whole body tensed.

Aziraphale looked up at Crowley, who stared down at him, eyes locked for so long that Aziraphale ached with it. Color returned to Crowley’s pale cheeks as he searched Aziraphale’s face. For a thrilling moment, he was certain Crowley would kiss him, but the sensation passed quickly. To Aziraphale’s disappointment.

Aziraphale forced himself to stand and move on to clean the cut on Crowley’s chest, water gathering red as it ran down the flat plane of his stomach. Aziraphale’s hands were trembling as he carefully washed away the blood. This cut was much smaller than the wound on his arm and the work went faster, but it was more difficult to bandage, Aziraphale having to run his hands over Crowley’s chest, feel the soft down of his chest hair, ignore the growing heaviness in his own belly as he imagined touching Crowley’s body under other circumstances.

When the bandage was secured, Aziraphale stepped away and tried to get his breathing under control. He should not be feeling so flustered while Crowley was injured. He reminded himself that Crowley had agreed to stay with Lord Walter at least until he healed and that perhaps they should talk before Aziraphale succumbed to the impulses currently roaring through him.

“Perhaps you should get to bed,” Aziraphale said, voice slightly unsteady. 

Crowley, still a little bleary, nodded. “Thanks, angel. I think I’m going to go pass out.”

Aziraphale helped him to the bed. He was loathe to leave, but he knew that to spend too much time in a man’s bedroom was courting scandal, and he’d already been in Crowley’s chamber for far too long.

Crowley laid back on the pillows with a long sigh. Unable to resist, Aziraphale brushed his fringe back and kissed his forehead. “Get some rest, darling.”

Crowley’s eyes drifted shut, a slight smile curling his mouth, and Aziraphale left the room before he got too caught up in the play of light over Crowley’s bare collarbone.

Aziraphale looked despondently at his discarded dress. Alice really would have a fit if she saw it in this state. The sleeves were the worst of it, streaked with dirt and drying blood. He waved away the stains, hoping they’d stay gone. Cleaning miracles were not his forte.

With a flutter in his belly, Aziraphale went to his wardrobe and tried to decide what to wear to the banquet that evening. He wanted to look nice for Lord Walter’s sake, but also...what if Crowley was in attendance? Aziraphale felt embarrassingly flattered by Crowley’s earlier comment on his pink dress. Would he like the blue kirtle with the gold embroidery? Alice always said that one made his hair look beautiful. 

Aziraphale huffed at himself. One kiss and he was thinking about how Crowley would react to his outfits. It was probably for the best that he’d spent so long pushing away his feelings else he would have been an utter mess for centuries.

There was a light knock at the door and Aziraphale turned to find Alice shutting it carefully behind her. The maid hurried to his side and took his hands in hers before spinning him around. “That kiss!” she cried, jumping up and down, still holding Aziraphale’s hands.

Aziraphale couldn’t hold back his smile. That kiss indeed.

“Oh, and Sir Crowley besting the bear knight in the joust! We were so certain he would be unseated,” Alice said, putting her hand to her face as if to cool her pink cheeks. “He’s so very handsome. Don’t you think?”

Aziraphale felt his own cheeks heating. “I do, rather.”

Alice squealed and then threw open the doors to Aziraphale’s wardrobe. “We are picking out your best dress and you’re going to wear that golden sheer veil that makes your hair shimmer.”

In that moment, Aziraphale was so terribly thankful for Alice and her unbridled enthusiasm. His earlier thoughts no longer felt quite so silly. Crowley and he were...wooing. Or something like that. And if Aziraphale was going to indulge in human custom, then he was going to indulge .

Alice chattered about all her favorite parts of the tourney - most of them involved Crowley, and Aziraphale couldn’t help but agree - and worked two braids into his hair to tuck them back under the veil where it would lay over the cascade of his curls. 

“My lady," Alice said when she finally finished affixing the veil over Aziraphale’s hair. "Please. How was the kiss? I've never been kissed before and you must tell me everything. How did it feel? Was it everything you dreamed?"

Aziraphale laughed. He felt as if he was full of light, his heart growing overlarge and warm. “It was...Alice, it was lovely.”

Alice squealed and hopped in an excited dance. “Have you always wanted to kiss Sir Crowley? I know you've known him a very long time.”

Aziraphale considered that for a long moment. Had he always wanted to kiss Crowley? Surely not, but the more he thought, the more he remembered all those desires he had ignored for centuries. “I think I’ve wanted to for longer than I even knew.”

“He’s going to be so very glad!” Alice said, clapping her hands. “It’s awfully clear that he’s in love with you.”

Aziraphale thought briefly of the way Crowley had frozen time just to kiss him for a moment longer and the glowing feeling inside him grew even more intense. “Is it?”

“Of course it is,” Alice said in a tone of voice that implied he was dense. She helped him to his feet and started lacing up his dress. “The way he looked at you the last time he was here, it was like you were the most beautiful thing he had ever seen.”

Swallowing around a lump in his throat, Aziraphale tried to absorb that. He really had misread Crowley’s behavior as particularly taunting that evening. But he’d been complimenting him! Telling him he was beautiful!

Aziraphale did so hope Crowley would come to dinner.

Emony welcomed him to dinner with one of her toothy smiles. It was much less formal than Aziraphale had expected. The typical courses had been forgone for the sake of celebration as musicians played, some of the younger girls dancing caroles on the far side of the room and the knights from the tourney sharing drinks at one of the low tables. The whole room bubbled with joy that Aziraphale could feel . Humans were remarkable creatures.

“It’s so nice to have the hall filled with people again,” Emony said wistfully. She took a long drink from her wine and looked at Aziraphale. “I can’t help but feel it’s in some part due to you.”

Aziraphale swallowed around the bite of spiced mutton in his mouth. “I can’t take credit for Lord Walter’s hard work.”

Emony cast her glance at her husband where he was gesturing wildly, telling a story among the neighboring lords, who seemed thoroughly entertained by his antics. “Things have been hard for the last few years. Yes, the weather has improved, and so have the harvests, but your visit has meant a great deal to Walter. Family has always been important to him. You’ve brought a lot of joy to this house.”

Aziraphale flushed. There were many aspects of being an angel that never grew old and this was one, feeling the love of other people, bringing joy and peace. There were other, less palatable aspects, but Aziraphale was in a good mood and refused to think on them.

Before Aziraphale could respond, Emony glanced at the door and then gave him a meaningful look. Aziraphale followed the direction of her gaze and immediately understood the teasing cant of her eyebrows. Oh, dear. He was really in it now. 

Long fringe hanging in his eyes—perhaps that was how he was halfheartedly disguising his eyes these days—Crowley walked through the herd of knights, some of whom cheered while others frowned and grumbled. He was still shuffling as if his body pained him and he waved off their enthusiasm as he approached Aziraphale’s table where Emony swiftly took her leave, smirking at Aziraphale all the while.

Crowley slouched to his side and dropped into the seat next to him, glowering at the table before he dragged the pitcher of wine closer so he could fill his cup. 

Aziraphale almost stopped him. “Should you really be drinking at a time like this?”

“I dunno,” Crowley said carelessly. “Might make me feel less like I’ve gotten clobbered by a hammer.”

Aziraphale sighed. Crowley was probably right and Aziraphale was just letting his worry get the better of him. Lowering his voice even further, Aziraphale leaned close and asked, “Were you able to heal a bit?”

Crowley gave him an unamused glance. “Chest’s all cleared up. I left some of the bruises but I'm beginning to regret it. Definitely leaving the arm though. Seems the one most people would notice.”

“It was quite the turning point in the fight,” Aziraphale said, feeling flustered just thinking about it. The way Crowley had evaded the blow, kept his ground. “Very dashing.”

One of Crowley’s eyebrows flicked up and he set down his cup. “Find me dashing, do you?”

“I think this entire castle thinks you’re dashing,” Aziraphale said, determinedly ignoring the way his cheeks started to flush. It felt very good to tease Crowley like this, with the knowledge that they wanted each other. That they could have each other. In fact…

At that moment Walter dropped into the seat next to Crowley and slammed his hand into the demon’s back, making Crowley splutter and turn red. “Crowley, Crowley, Crowley,” Walter said, shaking his head. “Glad to see you made it out to the tournament today.”

Crowley raised his glass and took another drink.

“Though I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised. When I announced my fair cousin to be the lady of the tournament I was certain you’d make an appearance.”

Aziraphale tried not to beam as Crowley grew even redder.

“Anything for a chance to kiss our lovely lady, am I right?” Walter said with a shark-toothed grin. Crowley made a noncommittal noise that drove a crack of doubt through Aziraphale’s good mood. Had he misinterpreted Crowley’s earlier enthusiasm? Did he no—

Sir John appeared in front of the banquet table, pink cheeked with his thick black hair pushed back from his forehead and an open smile on his face.

“Lady Aziraphale,” he said as he approached. He was favoring his right leg but that didn’t stop him from saying, “The others are striking up a dance. I was hoping you’d join us.”

Aziraphale looked back at Crowley who was somehow simultaneously scowling at the table and Walter. Frustrated, he gave John his full attention. “That sounds like very good fun, Sir John.”

Aziraphale was not a strong dancer—he had no rhythm to speak of—but the others were so joyful, full of wine and food, that it was difficult not to enjoy himself, even as he replayed Crowley’s noise of derision at the mere implication that he had come to the tournament for Aziraphale. 

When the carole ended, John escorted him back to the table before pausing at the edge. Some of Aziraphale’s curls had come undone and were scattered over his shoulders so John pushed one back behind his ear before saying, “I am truly sorry I did not win today.”

Aziraphale felt a little traitorous fluttering in his stomach because John’s blue eyes were really quite blue and very earnest. “You performed admirably, Sir John,” Aziraphale said and John smiled, taking his hand and pressing a kiss to his knuckles.

“In the future, I hope I am the one to earn your favor.”

With that, John left, striding away across the room to join some of the other knights and leaving Aziraphale feeling a bit weak at the knees. He grasped the edge of the table and then brought himself to rights before returning to his seat where Walter was laughing very loudly and Crowley looked even more glum than when Aziraphale had left.

Aziraphale couldn’t stop his rising concern. “Crowley, are you alright? You look very green,” he said. Crowley truly should not have come downstairs if he was still feeling so poorly.

“M’fine,” Crowley growled which just sent Walter into another fit of snorting laughter. Crowley glared at him.

Tossing up his hands, Walter stood and walked away, shaking his head and laughing to himself. Emony kissed his cheek when he reached her side and he turned to her with a fond smile that warmed Aziraphale’s heart.

Refusing to be distracted, Aziraphale put his hands on his hips and frowned down at Crowley. “You clearly need to rest. I’m taking you to bed.”

The minute the words left his mouth he realized what they sounded like, but it was too late. Blushing, Aziraphale stood his ground until Crowley slumped in defeat.

“Don’t think you can just scowl at me and get your way, you know,” Crowley said as he shuffled into a standing position. Even though he was still pale from whatever injuries he had yet to heal, Aziraphale couldn’t help but admire the way his black surcoat emphasized his slim shoulders, making him look tall and lithe and dangerous.

The unsteady feeling in his legs returned but Aziraphale refused to entertain it. Perhaps he had been a fool out there on the stand letting Crowley kiss him breathless and thinking it meant anything. Perhaps Crowley went around kissing all sorts of people, making their hearts race. It was fine. Aziraphale was fine.

Stalwartly silent, and steadily fuming, Aziraphale marched Crowley back to the guest chambers and came to a stop by the door, crossing his arms over his chest. “I hope you’re happy,” Aziraphale snapped.

Crowley, whose hand had come up to the door to push it open, froze and turned to Aziraphale, lip curling, a sure sign he was about to spit something venomous in Aziraphale’s direction. “Happy? What am I supposed to be happy about? That my entire body feels like a bruise? Or perhaps I’m supposed to be happy for you and Sir Blue Eyes? Should have let him win. Then you could have kissed someone you wanted to.”

Aziraphale blinked, feeling tears prick at his eyes. “I don’t appreciate your tone, Crowley. John asked me to dance so I did. I don’t see you wooing me so you have no right to—”

“No right?” Crowley said, baring his teeth as he whirled on Aziraphale, drawing close enough that Aziraphale could feel the heat from his body. 

One moment, Crowley was bearing down on him, and the next they were kissing. Crowley herded him back against the wall, one hand on his ribs and the other in his hair. Aziraphale fisted his hands in Crowley’s velvet surcoat and tugged him against his body. Crowley made a surprised noise of pain but when Aziraphale went to pull back, Crowley didn’t let him. “S’fine. Injuries. Ignore it,” he murmured into Aziraphale’s mouth.

Aziraphale pulled back as far as he could, head spinning from Crowley’s kiss. “Perhaps we shouldn’t. If you’re hurt.”

“If you think a light stabbing will keep me from kissing you then you’re daft,” Crowley said, his voice thready and unsure. Not at all the normal vitriol and spite despite his attempt at their usual banter.

“Crowley,” Aziraphale breathed, unable to find a response. It was He wrapped his arms around Crowley’s neck and brought him back down into a kiss. The glowing feeling from before was back. It filled up his ribcage until he felt fit to burst. All he wanted was to keep kissing Crowley who slipped his hands around Aziraphale’s lower back and pulled him even closer, nearly lifting him from the ground in his fervor.

For a moment, Aziraphale wildly regretted the spread of his skirt because if he were in trousers, Crowley’s leg would easily fit between his own and then Aziraphale could have something to alleviate this steadily growing ache. 

Aziraphale tore his mouth away. “Please…” he gasped with no idea what he was asking for. Crowley had opened his mouth to answer when the sound of boots echoed down the hallway, and then Crowley was pulling away. Aziraphale found this supremely unfair. 

“Thank you for escorting me to my room, Lady Aziraphale,” Crowley said, too loud and too dramatic. Aziraphale suppressed an eye roll. “Good night.”

And with that, Crowley dipped into his room, leaving Aziraphale to confront Sir George, who seemed to be stumbling to his own guest quarters, drunk and paying Aziraphale no mind.

He sighed. He still felt like his whole body was tingling. The very core of him ached. He hoped this meant something. Crowley wanted him, surely. He’d felt the evidence of it against his hip, he’d felt it in the grip of his hands, in the moan in his mouth. 

Now he just needed to make sure Crowley knew he felt the same.