It was the type of perfect winter day that didn’t really happen anywhere except for Tadfield. The snow was deep and fluffy, perfect for canceling school and more importantly, perfect for playing in. The sun glittered off of the snow in the park without any risk of melting it. Ten children played in this winter wonderland, five human, and five tiny snakes.
Snakes are cold-blooded, and so, as a rule, do not go out during winter, much less frolic in the snow. These particular snakes, however, had been read bedtime stories about winter fun and had begged to be allowed to experience it themselves.
So, on a chilly December day when Aziraphale and Crowley went to visit their godsons Warlock and Adam, the children were allowed to come along. And when the whole group went to the park, Aziraphale blessed with divine protection from the cold.
The snildren (snake children) rested on top of the snow, too light to break its crust, and looked about them. It was rare that they were unsupervised in the open, but their parents had spoken to Adam, and the three had insured the park was protected and safe.
Azirafather was sitting on a bench talking animatedly with the nice witch lady they had been introduced to as “Anathema”. Father was huddled close by his side, seeking warmth, having stubbornly refused protection from the cold himself. He was, unknown to the children, keeping an eye on them from behind his sunglasses.
But what really held the young snakes’ attention were the five human children, Adam, Warlock, and the Them.
“What are they doing?” Angelica asked.
“Making a giant snowball, obviously.” Junior rolled his yellow eyes.
“Look at that! They’re making another one!” Datura piped up.
“I read about this” Rosa said thoughtfully. “They’re building a snowman.
They watched the snowman being built with fascination.
“We sshould make one too!” One hissed and they all agreed excitedly.
Rolling snowballs, it turned out, was very difficult without hands. Constricting around the snow didn’t work. Nor did burrowing into it. Coiling all together they managed to get a rather lumpy chunk of snow, but that wasn’t satisfying. At last, Junior had success nosing at a broken off piece and rolling it forward with his snout. Catching on, the others did the same and soon they had five snowballs of varying degrees of tininess.
Stacking them was the next challenge. They tried picking them up in their mouths, but protection from cold or no, that was unpleasant, and when they bit down too hard the snow broke back into loose powder. After a lot of work, team effort, and rolling replacement snowballs many times, they finally got three stacked haphazardly on top of each other.
Three of them burrowed into the snow to collect gravel and pebbles to use in the place of buttons and coal. The other two slithered to the nearest tree to hunt for twigs.
Once it was all put together they considered the final product.
“He’s missing something.”
Angelica jabbed her tail at the far larger snowman being built close by. “He needs a nose like that one.”
Yellow and blue eyes looked at the carrot. It was about the same size as each of them, far too large for their own snowman.
They stared thoughtfully for a while.
A crunch of snow made them raise their heads. Adam was approaching the four black noodley bodies that stood out against the snow, and one white one that blended in almost entirely.
“What have you got there?” he asked and crouched down to look at the ankle high structure.
“A snowman!” They chorused.
“We need a carrot though,” Junior grumbled.
Adam nodded. “Gotta have a carrot nose. ‘Else it isn’t a proper snowman.” He said solemnly.
Adam ran back to the other human children, and after consulting with them, Brian sprinted off towards the village.
He returned minutes later and placed a baby carrot gently next to the snakelets, careful not to step on them.
All five hissed their thanks, and Brian looked over to Adam.
“What are they saying?”
“They say thank you.” He called back.
“Oh.” Brian looked down. “No problem. You know, some people think snakes or scary but I think you’re cool.”
As he spoke the rest of the Them approached.
“Actually,” Wensdleydale piped up, “most snakes aren’t even dangerous. Very few are venomous. They’re actually good for the environment. They eat rats and cockroaches and things.”
Brian and Pepper looked impressed. Warlock rolled his eyes. “Venomous snakes are cooler.”
Angelica flicked her tongue in amusement.
Carefully, Datura placed the baby carrot into the snowman’s face. All the children, human and snake alike, cheered.
The adults on the park bench looked up at the commotion.
“Father! Azirafather! Come see!” The snake children cried upon seeing the attention on them. Smiling fondly, they got up and walked over.
“Careful! Junior snapped. “Don’t step on it!” They were nowhere near close enough to step on it, but his parents indulged him anyway.
The Them moved away to complete their own snowman, while talking about something quietly among themselves.
Aziraphale crouched down and looked at the miniature snowman. “What’s this, children?” He asked despite knowing exactly what it was. They all began talking over one another, explaining what it was and how they had made it, while Aziraphale and Crowley looked at it appreciatively.
The snowman was, quite frankly, adorable. It was surprisingly well made and symmetrical, especially for something made without hands. Aziraphale cooed over it and praised how creative they had all been, how good their “itty bitty snow-gentlemen” was. Meanwhile, Crowley snapped several pictures of the snowman and the children with his phone. Crowley would never admit to being one of those proud parents with hundreds of photos of his children, but he absolutely was.
Adam approached again a few minutes later, after Crowley had at least a hundred new photos on his phone, and crouched down to address the snakes. “We’re going to go sledding,” he pointed to a relatively gentle slope in the park. “Wanna join.”
Aziraphale and Crowley shared a worried glance. “I’m not sure that’s a very good idea, Adam,” Aziraphale tried.
Of course, children being children, this did not go over well. “Whatever sledding is, I want to do it!” “We’re big! We can handle it!” “But Azirafather, we want to!” and other hissed complaints, all the children except for clem demanding to be allowed to go sledding, despite having no idea what that was.
Crowley sighed. “I’ll keep an eye on them, angel, make sure everything stays safe.”
Aziraphale hesitated. He had been looking for a chance to talk to Anathema alone, but he did not want that opportunity to come at the cost of his precious little ones going down steep hills at dangerous speeds. (The hill was not at all steep.)
“Please Azirafather! Please!”
Adam’s eyes glowed oddly for a second. “Nothing bad will happen, I promise.”
Aziraphale looked at the nine pairs of pleading eyes focused on him. The them seemed to have latched onto the idea just as strongly as his own children. Clem was the only one who did not seem enthused by the idea, coiling in on himself and avoiding eye contact.
Aziraphale let out a breath. “Oh alright then.” He sighed. “But Clem stays with me.”
Clem looked immensely relieved and slithered up to Aziraphale. “Thank you Azirafather,” he hissed.
“Oh course my dear.” He lowered an arm and Clem slipped into the warm safety of his coat sleeve.
The children with arms fist-bumped and high fived, chattering excitedly. They each scooped up a little snake, except for Adam, and dashed for the hill, Crowley following after and shivering slightly. Aziraphale knew better than to try and convince him to accept a blessing of warmth when he was being stubborn like this, the poor dear.
Aziraphale returned to the bench and sat by Anathema. They watching the retreating children with concern for a moment.
Anathema patted his shoulder. “They’ll be fine, and the independence is good for them.”
Aziraphale sighed. “I know, and it’s very good for them, getting to play with other children. I just… Worry.”
Anathema nodded. “The Them usually don’t let adults watch their games. I’m surprised they’re letting you and Crowley keep as close an eye on this as they are.”
“They really are being quite kind.” Aziraphale shifted awkwardly. “There was actually something I wanted to talk to you about…” he said hesitantly. Clem poked his nose out of the sleeve curiously, listening in. “This will be the first holiday Crowley and I will be together. And I know it’s a frightfully silly thing to make into a big deal after six thousand years of knowing him but… I want to make it special.”
Anathema looked surprised. “I didn’t know you celebrated Christmas. That seems unusual considering… well, you know.”
“The angel and demon thing, yes. We’ve never done it before but I want to get a nice gift for him because- because I love him. I’ve always wanted to show him how much I care but have never really been able to until now” Aziraphale’s expression softened with fondness. “Anyway, he says he’s behind the commercial gift-giving side of the holidays. One of his ‘evil deeds’ he’s rather proud of,” he chuckled.
Anathema nodded. Clem listened in interest. Whatever this “Christmas” was it sounded interesting. It involved presents after all, and what child wouldn’t perk up their head at the thought of that.
“I just wish I could think of something to get him.” Aziraphale finished.
Anathema sat and considered this for a while. Then an idea struck her. It was just sentimental enough that it might work. She told Aziraphale.
“Oh! Oh, that’s absolutely perfect.” Aziraphale cried, beaming with delight. “He’ll love it.”
Clem slithered up the sleeve and stuck his nose out the collar by his ear. “Azirafather? What’s Christmas? I want to give father something too!”
Meanwhile, at the top of the hill, a different discussion was taking place.
“Actually, they can’t ride by themselves, they’re too small. They’d go flying off.”
Pepper rolled her eyes. “Obviously.”
“So they ride with us.”
“How exactly?” Warlock looked doubtful. “We don’t want to squish them if we fall.”
After some thinking, it was decided that each tiny snake would loop around a human child’s scarf, and ride down the hill wrapped around their neck. It was almost like they were cold, scaley scarves themselves.
This would, however, leave one child snakeless. Warlock gave Crowley a beseeching look. “Please nanny?” He had continued to call Crowley nanny after they reconnected.
Crowley grumbled, cursing himself for being such a softie when it came to children. But he transformed himself into a much larger snake than his children and coiled around Warlock. This would, after all, allow him to keep a closer eye on his own spawn, or so he told himself.
With all the human and snake children, and Crowley, now situated on the sleds, they were off. They tore down the hill, the ride smooth and fast because Adam expected it to be. Shrieks and hisses of delight echoed about the park.
Crowley and Warlock’s sled went to furthest, due to their combined weight. When they finally skidded to the top, it was a race to the top to slide down again. And again and again. Some of the snildren, it turned out, were quite the speed demons like their father. Even Crowley was having fun, despite the cold.
On about their tenth time back up the hill Junior whispered something into Adam’s ear. Both children giggled mischievously. The original members of the Them knew Adam, and so were keeping an eye on him. Not Warlock. He and Crowley around his shoulders were taken by surprise when a snowball hit them at high velocity. Warlock shouted and quickly retaliated, throwing a snowball at Adam. It missed, and hit Pepper in the face. Pepper threw snowballs at both Adam and Warlock, correctly blaming them both. Brian, not wanting to be left out, threw a few snowballs of his own, as did Wensleydale. This, of course, led to an all-out snow war.
The snake children riding on their shoulders yelled encouragement and commands at their human mounts that no one but themselves and Adam could understand.
“We’re going to kick all of your butts!” Angelica yelled from Pepper’s shoulders.
“No, we are!”
“No, we are!”
Crowley smiled affectionately. Letting the children play together like this really had been a good idea, despite his misgivings.
Then, a snowball hit him square in the snout. Oh, it was on . With a flick of his tail, several snowballs formed and began to float in the air, and he took aim. Sure, it wasn’t playing fair, but since when did a demon play fair. Warlock grinned. “Hell yeah.”
Half an hour after the first snowball was thrown, Aziraphale saw the others returning. They were soaked, and shivering, and were smiling like they had just had the best time of their lives. This included the tiny snakes peeking out from inside the other children’s coats. Aziraphale raised his eyebrows at Crowley, still in snake form and looking pleased with himself.
Anathema smiled. “I think it’s time we all warmed up. Newt has hot coco at the cottage.”
Aziraphale looked delighted at the word “coco” and did a happy little wiggle. He took Crowley from Warlock, warming him and all his children up with a snap, and bustled them off towards Jasmine Cottage.
Soon they were all settled inside the cottage. Each human child was sipping from warm mugs of coco contentedly. Each snake child was coiled snug around said mugs, absorbing the heat after the chill of the winter day. The snildren squealed and whooped whenever the mug they were on was lifted or moved, like it was some kind of ride.
Crowley, too large to warm up around a mug, was instead wrapped around his warm, soft angel. Occasionally he would flick out his tongue and steal a drink from Aziraphale’s own mug, just to see his exasperated yet fond expression
“I’ve been wondering,” Brian began, “if Christmas celebrates the birth of Christ, and Adam’s the antichrist, does that make his birthday Antichristmas?”
“Actually, Jesus’s birthday wasn’t on Christmas, it wasn’t even in December.” Wensleydale corrected.
Pepper rolled her eyes. “If he even really real.”
Aziraphale hummed, gently stroking the top of Crowley’s head with his free hand. “You met the young man didn’t you, my dear. Did he happen to mention when he was born?”
All the humans in the room gave Aziraphale and Crowley a strange look.
Crowley’s tongue flicked out lazily. “Didn’t say, but the commotion about it started downstairs in, oh, the middle of summer?”
Unheard to the non-supernatural, a hissed discussion was taking place at the same time.
Clem wiggled in delight, excited to have information to share that the others did not know. Crowley listened in amusement to the slightly confused account. Slowly he relaxed against Aziraphale and was lulled to a light doze by the happy chatter.
By the time everyone was working on their second cup of coco, the conversation inevitably turned to presents. Even the young snakes, hitherto unaware of the possibility, were excited.
With Adam acting as translator the two groups, they excitedly listed all kinds of possibilities. Aziraphale surreptitiously took notes.
“What do you want Azirafather?” Rosa asked eventually, once the conversation was winding down and all the coco had been drunk.
“Some soft, warm socks would be lovely.”
The children collectively booed the boring “parent” gift.
“We can think of something better” Junior stated with confidence.
“But how will we surprise father and Azirafather? We can’t go out on our own.” Clem pointed out.
Adam smiled. “I can take you guys, since I can hear you.”
Aziraphale fiddled with his empty mug nervously. “Now, I’m not sure that’s a good idea.”
All the snake children focused him with pleading looks. Somehow, even though they had snouts rather than mouths, they all managed to pout like Aziraphale, with the same power as the angel’s own puppy dog eyes. Or perhaps in this case, “snakelet eyes”.
Crowley shifted and slithered onto the table. “You can work with Adam to order something online, alright spawn. No going out to shops without Azirafather or me.”
There was a chorus of agreement to the compromise.
Anathema cleared away the mugs and the adults all retreated to the kitchen, to plot Christmas fun, while the children plotted on their own.