[personal profile] a_fell
It's almost funny. No matter what he does, no matter how often he scrubs and sweeps and runs the old rolling dustcatcher over the carpets, there is always dust in the air of Aziraphael's little bookshop in Soho. On grey, rainy days, he hardly notices at all, but today, with the sun streaming into the back room in great bars of near-solid light, it's painfully apparent how very filthy the place is. In point of fact, today's efforts towards cleaning seem only to have made things worse, stirring up the tiny motes to cloud the air, to dance back and forth and glow gently in the light, accreting around the angel's head in a soft, musty halo.

It's late afternoon by the time Aziraphael graduates to the shop proper and the somewhat neglected shelves therein. The sound of quiet creakings from above (and, shortly, the staircase) brings a smile to his face; he looks up from freeing the dark, hidden backs of wall-hitting shelves from dust and through the open door to the back just in time to see Crowley sneeze violently into the sleeve of an ugly blue jumper emblazoned with a lumpy yellow 'A'. "Hello, my dear. Have a good nap?"

"There's something to be said for early morning exercise," the demon concedes, dropping onto the sofa and wrinkling his nose in an effort not to sneeze again as the act raises another cloud of dust. "You've been cleaning."

"Yes," Aziraphael replies, brandishing a filthy rag which was once a foppish waistcoat... in 1803. "One does need to do so, on occasion, with books lying about."

"Hn," replies Crowley, which may be a dismissive noise, or may just be another averted sneeze. Leaning back to peer out into the shop again, he asks, "Going to be much longer? Really not in the mood for an evacuation."

"...Is that slang for something distasteful, my dear?" The angel eyes the rag with some interest. "You know I really don't feel all that connected with today's youth culture."

"No. It's slang for having to pack up and leave because of lethal amounts of dust in the air."

"Ah." Amazingly, the rag is gone! "I can continue on Monday, I suppose."

"Glad to hear it," Crowley says, over the gentle squeaking of the couch cushions as he slithers back down out of sight. Except - after a moment, yellow eyes peek back into view, glancing up and down at Aziraphael's flushed, rumpled appearance. The corner of a grin appears over the top of the sofa. "There's iced tea in the fridge," he adds.

"There is?" Aziraphael asks, bewildered, stumbling into the back room and combing through dusty blond hair. "Have we got lemon as well?"

"Some lemons in with the fruit, I think. No idea where the juicer is, though. Do you even have one?"

Halfway through ridding himself of his unseasonable jumper, Aziraphael pauses, chewing his lip. "I never wished so hard for a fundamentalist in all my life."

"Ha ha," comes the flat rejoinder from the back room. There's a moment of silence, accompanied by the gentle prickle of power in the air, and then Crowley says, "Now, we have lemon. See how much easier things are when we do them my way?"

Aziraphael pitches his jumper at Crowley on the way to the kitchen, one hand slipping up to rub at the back of his neck. "Not necessarily." he opens the cupboard, selects a tall glass, and pours himself some tea. "I seem to recall doing things your way that one time Persia, my dear."

"Yes, but it was hardly my fault the bloody satrap was sitting right there, was it? Anyway, come here."

"Yes, yes, all right." The angel makes his way back into the main room, a slice of lemon floating... floatily in his glass. He sits on the couch beside Crowley, his cheeks still pink from exertion. "By all rights, I ought to have the store open. Saturday afternoon is usually rather busy."

"All the more reason for you to keep it closed," Crowley points out in reply. As if to prevent Aziraphael from changing his mind, though, Crowley is busily balling up the angel's discarded jumper, finally placing it in Aziraphael's lap, swinging his legs up onto the couch, and pillowing his head, quite comfortably, on the angel's thighs. Aziraphael's free hand drifts along the tips of Crowley's sleep-messy hair, barely there, and he looks down at Crowley with a small, inscrutable smile upon his face.

"I don't suppose you have any vacation time saved up."

"That depends," Crowley says, brushing his knuckles against Aziraphael's knee. "If you're going to try and persuade me to go to, I don't know, Cornwall, the answer is no."

"Who says we have to go anywhere at all?"

Crowley's eyes flick up to meet Aziraphael's, with the sort of unguarded openness that comes only to the very-recently awake. "I wasn't."

Aziraphael's fingers slide deeper into Crowley's hair, and his smile widens. "Well, then. Keep it in mind."

"Yeah," the demon replies, turning to rest his forehead against Aziraphael's stomach. "Okay."

Taking a long breath, Aziraphael scoots down on the couch just a bit, pulling Crowley closer still; on anyone else it might be considered slouching. "It's nearly tea-time. Would you like to venture out into the sunshine, or stay hunkered down like shut-ins?"

"Choices," Crowley sighs. "I'm very comfortable. But on the other hand: sunshine. I don't know - any preference?" A cheeky grin. "Are you very comfortable?"

"I," the angel intones solemnly, "am quite astonishingly comfortable." He wiggles underneath Crowley, searching for an even better position. "I would just as soon stay home. But I thought I would offer."

"Then we stay." Crowley yawns and stretches with a smug, quiet grunt, managing to avoid upsetting Aziraphael's glass even with his eyes closed. "All this sssneezing wears a body out."

A snort, and Aziraphael sips his tea, then sets it upon the coffee table. Both hands free, he tangles his fingers with Crowley's. "I could open a window. Air the dust out. As good as it is to see you resting peacefully, I should very much prefer if you were awake a while longer yet."

"Might not be a bad idea," Crowley agrees, propping himself - if reluctantly - up on his elbows, in order to allow Aziraphael to worm out from under him.

Aziraphael does so, his back cracking once, twice, as he stretches on his walk to the windows in the kitchen; the shop being bounded on both sides by other shops, natural light and fresh air are only very craftily come by in the main rooms. He manages to crack one window open; the grand sort of ripping the windows open, oh springtime! gesture he had in mind is cut short by the fact that this window always sticks. "Blast."

"Blast?" echoes the enquiry from the couch (the tone not so much impatient as nevertheless suggesting that it might be nice if Aziraphael were back soon).

"Sticky frame, nothing to be concerned about," He rattles the window a bit, then strains against it futilely. "Perhaps I ought to take some time to strip the paint off these and start over. Summer seems like the right time for that sort of project, yes?" he pants. Not that he's ever done anything like that before. But it ought to be perfectly easy. Like deacidifying a book.

"Sure," Crowley replies airily, supremely unaware of the intricacies of home improvement as concerns anything more complex than aligning hammer and nail and hitting one with the other. "Knock yourself out. Is there enough air to get rid of some of the dust, at least?"

"Not--yet--just a--" Wham, the window slams open with a distressed cracking sound. "Yes. But I fear I'll have to do more than re-paint, now. Oh, dear," the angel sighs, walking back to join Crowley on the couch. Once settled, he smiles. "Your hair is sticking up in the most interesting pattern."

"Well maybe if some people didn't think it made such a good handhold - "

Two spots of pink surface on Aziraphael's cheeks. "I needed the leverage."

"Yes," Crowley says happily. "Not complaining. But if you're not keen on looking at it afterwards, is all I'm saying. Made bed, lie in it, et cetera."

Aziraphael's hands bury themselves once again in Crowley's spiky hair where it rests against his thigh, his thumbs stroking up behind delicate-seeming ears, then down the back of the demon's neck. "I wasn't complaining either. I merely observed that it's interesting, after all. Of interest."

"Carry on, then," Crowley sighs - almost purrs - eyes slitting nearly closed. His fingers slide up again, insinuating themselves between the cushions and Aziraphael's thigh, curling there against the cloth of the angel's trousers.

The afternoon light pours in from the kitchen, accompanied by a wispy breath of fresh air that curls around Aziraphael's socked ankles and agitates the dust hanging in the air. His fingers walk up Crowley's scalp to his temple and then slide down his jawline. "What would you like for tea?" he asks, his voice low.

"Don't mind," the demon murmurs. "Could order out, to save on, you know. Moving."

Aziraphael's blunt index finger traces Crowley's abrupt hairline. "Asian? I know you've had quite enough Middle Eastern."

"Sssushi," Crowley concurs, longingly. It's accepted, amongst anyone who knows anything about sushi, that it should never be eaten anything but fresh. But then, amongst anyone who knows anything about sushi, there aren't that many that can ensure their sushi is fresh no matter what. Delivery is less of a sin than it might otherwise be. Metaphorically speaking, of course.

"Hm," agrees the angel. "Would you like to me more specific, or shall I choose?"

Last time he was let to choose, he got sea urchin.

"Tuna. Tuna or conger. Or salmon. Temaki - no, makizushi. Um."

A sigh. "I'll just order half the menu, then, and give the leftovers to the ladies next door?"

"You think, between the two of us, there'll be any leftovers?"

"...Maybe," the angel prevaricates, his fingers twisting Crowley's hair into little spikes all over his head. It suits him. "If only Hastur and Ligur could see you now, my dear."

Crowley pinches the underside of Aziraphael's knee. "You'll only bloody summon them or something. Besides. Maybe I'm wiling."

"Ouch." Aziraphael shifts, jostling Crowley intentionally. "Yes, clearly. Wiling. And I am thwarting evil deeds as we speak."

"Stop that. You're keeping me off the streets," Crowley allows, then, "but you're indulging in sloth to do it."

Wide blue eyes startle, snagged by smug demonic gold. "I most certainly am not. I'm..." He trails off, lost in thought. "I'm making a sacrifice for the common good." A smile tugs at the corners of his mouth.

"My sympathies," Crowley retorts with a snigger. He tugs distractedly on his earlobe, wondering how Aziraphael might be persuaded to continue playing with his hair.

"Right." Aziraphael's fingers tiptoe across Crowley's collarbone and back in a different route. "I'll ring for the sushi if you give me your credit card, my dear. I've got out of the habit of carrying cash since we had our tabs perpetually covered at the bar."

"Right," Crowley echoes. "My wallet is... wherever my jacket is." He lifts his head, craning his neck to cast a glance around the back room. "And my jacket is wherever you tidied it away to this morning."

The wandering hand leaves Crowley entirely to scratch the angel's blond head. "That-- That is an issue."

"See what happens when you clean?" Crowley sighs - and then, with a complicated ripple of his fingers, he closes his fist, opens it again, and hands Aziraphael his wallet.

Aziraphael takes it, clearing his throat pointedly, and gently ejects Crowley from his lap to search out the telephone. He opens the nearest cupboard. "...Oh. That's where my copy of A Wrinkle in Time went. Did you know Madeleine L'Engle was somewhat of a theologian?"

Crowley's foot appears, as the demon idly slings up one calf to rest along the top of the couch. "Angel. Would I have any conceivable reason to?"

"Well. I mean." He flips through the pages with some longing; it has been a long time. "You never look up the opposition? Besides me, that is."

"In children's literature? Not since they started sanitizing the fairy tales and nursery rhymes."

Aziraphael sighs and pitches the book at him. "She was adept at hiding Christian messages in her books. And, considering Many Waters, not always hiding per se." He moves into the shop, rummaging. "Where did I put it? I remember not wanting to get dust on it..."

"You better mean the phone," Crowley calls after him, "and not more Diet Christianity."

"Oh, do be still for a moment," Aziraphael replies, standing stock still in the middle of his shop, looking at nothing. "I'm thinking." Obediently, Crowley shuts up - but then, just to be annoying, riffles loudly through the pages of the book in his hand, sparing them only a cursory glance.

Aziraphael is a puttery sort of person in general. It's not that he hasn't got the capacity for stillness; it's more that he hasn't got the disposition for it. He fiddles and shuffles and crosswords his way through life because that's what he feels like doing, mostly. But he does have the capacity for stillness. For a very long set of moments, he is as still as one of the human statues one sees loitering motionless at Covent Garden.

He's always wanted to ask them what they're accomplishing, doing that.

Then, suddenly, he starts and snaps his fingers. "Of course!" Striding through the back room and into the kitchen, he makes a few clattering sounds, then emerges with telephone in hand. "I put it in the oven!"

Of course.

There's silence from the vicinity of the couch - a silence so pointed and, well, silent, that it is, in fact, a Silence. Finally:

"What."

"Erm." The angel blushes bright red. "It was a good place to put it, I thought. At the time." He swallows, shuffles his feet. "I'll just."

Crowley's hand appears at one end of the couch, beckoning.

Aziraphael rolls his eyes, more at himself than at Crowley, and walks over, telephone clutched to his chest like a clunky plastic teddy bear. "Yes?"

Reaching up, the demon's hand fists itself in Aziraphael's ragged button-down, tugging him down so Crowley can say to the angel's upside-down face, "You prat," and stretch up to kiss him.

Mouth curving in a smile that to Crowley must feel like a frown, Aziraphael hitches a laugh and kisses Crowley again, a firm press of almost-closed lips on lips, before moving to sit on the arm of the couch. "I am not a prat."

What there is available of Aziraphael's backside, Crowley swats, then dropping his hands back down to his stomach. "Suppose it could have been worse. Could have been in the toilet or something. Order the food, idiot."

Aziraphael sighs, rolling his eyes, and sets the telephone on his knee. He does not dial, and there is no cord; as soon as he lifts the receiver to his ear, it begins to ring. "...Hello? Yes, delivery, please." His free hand drifts down to tangle in Crowley's hair again as the order goes on and on. "...Yes, I quite like the rainbow roll, please do...Two carafes of warm sake, please... Yes, two...No, no udon, but could we please have a side of vegetable tempura? I've been craving the squashy ones..."
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a_fell

April 2010

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