Crowley was not the type of demon to turn down a free lunch. So when Aziraphale offered to pay for lunch at one of the charming new bistros downtown, Crowley shrugged amiably and allowed himself to be talked into it. He even consented to drive them there, although, considering that Aziraphale had no car and probably wouldn't know what to do with one in the first place, this wasn't saying much.
Crowley felt himself to be a very generous demon, on the whole.
"Your houseplants are looking well," Aziraphale said by way of polite conversation. Crowley glanced into the backseat, where three verdant plants huddled in terrified silence.
"Them?" Crowley said. He turned back around in his seat, offering his most pointy grin to Aziraphale. "Let's just say those three are going to the big garden in the sky."
Unfortunately, the metaphor was entirely lost on Aziraphale, who only gave a puzzled blink and said, "Hang on, I thought Eden was still down here?"
Crowley sighed. "I'm getting rid of them, Aziraphale. Trust you to overlook an obvious attempt at being clever."
Aziraphale chose to overlook the obvious attempt at sarcasm as well. "Getting rid of them?" he said, horrified. He twisted around to look at the plants again. The houseplants, evil little sots, contrived to look pathetic as possible, drooping their leaves and trembling ever so slightly. Crowley snorted, and waited for the inevitable.
Crowley smirked. "Yes, angel?"
"I can take the plants, if you want." Aziraphale paused. "They would look quite lovely in the back room."
Crowley pretended to think about it. "I don't know...you do okay with inanimate objects, but I think plants might be a bit much for you." Much to his amusement, Aziraphale ruffled in defense, drawing himself up to his full height and glaring indignantly at the demon. The fact that Aziraphale was sitting in the passenger seat slightly ruined the effect, but, Crowley reflected, the thought was there.
"I'll have you know," Aziraphale said, "I am perfectly capable of raising a couple of...of rejected houseplants!"
Crowley grinned at him. "You think so? Then go ahead, angel. Be my guest."
Aziraphale beamed, immediately placated. "Thank you, dear boy," he said. "You won't regret it."
"Not a problem. But you're still buying me lunch."
"You killed my plants?"
"To be fair, Crowley, they weren't your plants anymore."
"But you killed them!"
"You were going to kill them anyway!"
Crowley paused. Aziraphale had a point, damn him. "Well," he said, "that doesn't mean you had to go and kill them first."
Aziraphale sighed. "I didn't mean to kill them," he said.
Crowley pursed his lips, thoughtful. "Aziraphale, why don't you just buy a new plant?"
"You think I should?" Aziraphale looked unsure. Probably haunted by the specters of houseplants past, Crowley thought. Aziraphale continued, musing, "I always did like ferns."
"Well, there you go." Crowley shrugged. "I mean, honestly. How much harm could you do?"
Crowley looked at the sad, brittle remains of what had once been a rather handsome maidenhair fern. If plants could speak, Crowley imagined, this one would be screaming in misery. Or, in the case of this particular plant, gasping. He fingered one pathetically brown frond.
"Traditionally," Crowley said slowly. "Traditionally, you water plants." He paused, taking in Aziraphale's expression of good-natured confusion, and added, "Otherwise they die."
Aziraphale's confusion deepened. "I thought they could get water from the air?"
Crowley pinched the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger, sighing deeply. "No, Aziraphale. Plants get air from the air." He prodded the fern again, trying to gauge whether it would be worth his while to resurrect it or not. The plant shivered slightly under his touch, and crumpled into a fine brown powder.
"Oh dear," said Aziraphale, and blinked at Crowley from behind his spectacles. "I didn't realize this would be so difficult."
"Just water the next one, all right? Lots of water." Crowley paused, thought about state of the fern currently disintegrating on the table in front of them, and added, "lots and LOTS of water."
"Lots of water," Aziraphale said. "Right." They both regarded the dead fern.
"Next time," Crowley said, "get a philodendron. There's something bloody twee about ferns."
The philodendron was yellow.
It looked, Crowley thought, like it had been stricken by some particularly rare and unpleasant form of jaundice -- the entire thing drooped, sickly yellow leaves wobbling unsteadily on pliant stems. Crowley touched one leaf speculatively, and immediately wished he hadn't.
"Can you tell what's wrong with it?" Aziraphale, hovering nearby like an overly anxious parent.
Crowley grimaced and wiped his finger off on Aziraphale's sweater vest. "That plant is slimy, Aziraphale. No plant should be slimy. What did you do to it?"
"You said to water the next one," Aziraphale told him, fingers fluttering like nervous butterflies. "A lot, you said."
"Water it, not drown it!" Crowley shook his head. "You didn't take me that literally, did you?"
Aziraphale's expression was one of complete and utter bafflement. Crowley sighed. "Never mind."
Aziraphale turned to look at the plant. As they watched, one stem after another began to sag under the weight of the sodden leaves. Soon, no part of the plant remained upright, the leaves and stems of the hapless plant splayed out like the tentacles of a dying octopus. Pretty soon, Crowley thought, the stupid thing would probably start to sink.
"Come on," he said. "I think this one's a goner too."
Aziraphale sighed wistfully and gathered the plant in his arms. "This is getting to be extremely depressing," he said, and for once, Crowley could wholeheartedly agree.
The African violet lay amidst the shattered remains of a flowerpot, the scattered potting soil like a dark wound against the wood of the floor.
"It fell," Aziraphale said, a guilty expression flitting across his face before returning and setting up camp. "At least, it made itself fall. Er."
Crowley stared at him. "Your plant committed suicide?!" Crowley couldn't help but be impressed. He only terrified his plants; it took a special kind of mind to get one to off itself.
"I didn't even know plants could do that," Aziraphale said wretchedly.
Crowley snickered. "So much for angels having green thumbs, eh Aziraphale?" He nudged Aziraphale in the ribs, but the angel only shot him a dejected look before returning his gaze to the pathetic corpse of his African violet. Crowley sighed.
"Look, maybe you're not cut out for gardening." At Aziraphale's questioning look, Crowley bit his lip, scrabbled for something nice to say. It was harder than he thought. "It takes a special sort to manage plants, you know?"
"Right," Aziraphale snapped. "Demons."
Crowley winced. "Er..."
"I know." Aziraphale sagged. "I'm sorry." He retrieved a broom and a dustpan from the coat closet, and began to sweep up the bits of pottery shard and leaf. Crowley watched silently from his vantage point by the couch. Aziraphale appeared to be an angel in mourning, which was so stupid and ridiculous and utterly Aziraphale that Crowley found himself feeling sorry for him.
"I could help you with that, if you like," he offered. Aziraphale dropped the broom and stared at him with wide blue eyes.
Crowley blinked. He hadn't really meant to say that out loud.
But Aziraphale only favored him with a beatific smile before retrieving his dropped broom and returning to his sweeping. "No thank you, dear boy," he said. "Some of us feel we ought to clean up our own messes."
"Where's the fun in that?" Crowley said. Aziraphale shot him a look and kept sweeping, albeit a bit more pointedly than before. Crowley just smirked at him, and went to dig some wine out of the cupboards.
"What is that?"
Aziraphale was staring at the bag in Crowley's arms with an expression of mixed trepidation and amusement. Crowley grinned and held the bag out for Aziraphale to take.
"This," he said, "is a present. For you."
Watching the twin expressions of alarm and pleasure battle their way across the angel's face was one of the funniest things Crowley had seen in a long time. "It won't bite, Aziraphale," he said. "Just take it."
Aziraphale took it from him gingerly, as if expecting the paper bag and its contents to explode at any minute. Of course, given some of their past experiences, Crowley supposed that was to be expected. He waited as Aziraphale unrolled the top of the bag and peered inside, eyebrows furrowing in confusion.
"A plant?" He looked up at Crowley, puzzled. "I thought we'd been through that."
Crowley folded his arms across his chest and smirked. "It's not a plant, Aziraphale," he said. "It's bamboo. It's impossible to kill... believe me, I've tried. You can't overwater it, it's perfectly happy to be kept inside, it grows like you wouldn't believe, and it only needs a little bit of fertilizer every once in a while." He paused. "And I'll even help you with that bit, so you really have no excuse to go whinging around anymore."
Aziraphale had pulled the potted bamboo out of the bag and was holding it on his lap, staring at Crowley with an expression of blank astonishment. His mouth opened and closed soundlessly.
"What?" said Crowley. "You don't like it?"
"No, I..." Aziraphale cleared his throat, smiling slightly. "It's just that you've never done anything this, well...this overtly nice before."
Crowley winced. "Don't remind me."
"I don't know." Aziraphale looked sideways at Crowley, his smile widening. "Perhaps I'm having more of an influence on you than I thought."
"Don't push it," Crowley said. "Not if you want to keep the plant." Aziraphale placed his hand on Crowley's arm. "It's a wonderful gesture," he said. "Thank you."
The bamboo rustled its leaves slightly. Crowley glared at it. "Don't mention it," he said. Aziraphale only smiled. Crowley’s arm felt very warm where Aziraphale’s hand rested, and he considered moving before ultimately deciding against it.
He was, after all, a very generous sort of demon.