"We gotta...I dunno. Separate them or something," Bee said, peering into the polar bear enclosure and frowning one of their impossibly deep frowns.
Gabe had yet to work out exactly how face muscles could contort that way and was mildly impressed every time Bee managed it.
Gabe looked down into the enclosure and sighed. This was definitely above his pay grade. So far above his pay grade it wasn't even in the same fucking department. But what was he supposed to do? If he went and tattled to the director, he and Bee would have to fill out incident reports and then maybe Aziraphale would get quarantined and as much as the stupid bear made Gabe's life hell, he was his responsibility in the end.
"Look, I'm not getting my arm chomped off because I'm trying to separate a stupid penguin from an even stupider bear."
There was an indignant squawk from inside the enclosure and they both turned to look, ready for any horrors that might greet their eyes. Namely a penguin being ripped in half by a bear.
Instead, they saw Crowley waddling up to the rock formation that led up to the viewing platform where they were currently squatting. He was squawking like crazy, slapping his little flippers against the rocks like he was trying to climb them. But this wasn't the penguin enclosure and those rocks were more for decoration than penguin recreation.
Aziraphale appeared, breaching the water of his pond with a loud splash. The splat splat splat of his wet feet echoed as he ambled over to the still indignantly squawking Crowley.
It was over. Gabe was certain it was over. Say goodbye to his internship, his college recommendation letter. And say goodbye to Crowley.
Except. Aziraphale stopped behind Crowley where he was still slapping away at the rocks and then ducked his head, nudging Crowley with his snout.
Crowley emitted one loud squawk and then fell silent, turning on his little feet and clambering onto one of Aziraphale's wet paws.
Was he cooing? Did penguins coo?
"Holy shit," Bee breathed beside him. "They weren't joking about the whole imprinting thing."
Gabe had seen the video. He knew for a fact they weren't joking.
He pushed a hand into his hair and swore. "What the fuck do we do? Zoo opens in" - he checked his watch - "fifteen minutes. We can't just - shit we've got to-"
Bees hand came to rest on his forearm. He stared down at it. It was so small. Pale and slim fingered. But that was just Bee, small pale slim.
He swallowed and met their eyes.
"I'll get the fish. You get the net. We've got a penguin to wrangle."
Gabe nodded and rose to his full height. He'd had a growth spurt during freshman year, way back before his family moved to England and that had firmly cemented him as one of the tall ones. He used to play basketball but now he preferred track and field. And if he was honest, zoo keeping. Though height really wasnt an advantage against a fucking polar bear.
Bee on the other hand was barely five feet. Which maybe did come in handy with the penguins. Bee was more on their level. Barely had to squat if they wanted to look a penguin in the eye.
Bee was already a few steps away when Gabe realized there was a better way.
Bee froze and turned back expectantly. That impossible frown.
"Go to the cafeteria. If you want to distract Aziraphale you should get three snack packs."
"Snack packs…" Bee repeated dubiously.
"Pudding," Gabe explained and Bee raised their eyebrows. "Mousse. Custard. Whatever. I don't have time to debate British and American English. Go get the fucking pudding. If you throw an open one into the enclosure, Aziraphale goes nuts trying to lick it clean."
Gabe had learned this the hard way when he accidentally still had pudding on his fingers after lunch one day. He thought Aziraphale was going to bite his fingers clean off. But it turned out all he wanted was to lick the smear of butterscotch pudding off of Gabe's hand.
To be totally honest. Gabe almost pissed himself in fear. Thank god Bee hadn't been hired yet. They would have never let him live it down.
Bee nodded and scampered off.
Gabe looked back down into the enclosure where Crowley had somehow managed to climb onto Aziraphale's back. He was steadily grooming the fur at the base of his neck as Aziraphale laid down, eyes closed, at peace with the world.
Wouldn't that be nice.