Rating: PG-ish. (Gen, Aziraphale & Crowley friendship)
Summary: I kind of wove two of your prompts together a little bit: "When Crowley figured out he liked sleeping" and "Crowley acquiring a new plant." I hope you enjoy it!
Everything about this place was too much -- too lush, too green, too full of colours and textures. Everything was so big. Well, then, that was a function of the agent having become rather small, or at least, low. Those immense, immobile things called trees stood so far above him he found it hard to tell where their canopies ended and the sky began….
With the delicate, ever-flexing scales of his belly as one of the main sources of his sensory experiences, he was rapidly becoming something of an expert on terrain. He knew soil now, and sand. He knew stone and grass and the weird mix of earth and water by the edges of the clear running streams. He wasn’t a fan of that. It stuck to his scales and made him feel rather crusty.
He knew plants now, and he knew the tall hairless ones who talked were really into naming things, so there were certainly likely to be names for every single type of tree and flower and shrub and herb he passed through, even if he didn’t know them. His own name was a mystery that tugged at his mind - oh, he’d heard the general word for what he was, or at least the form he was currently wearing, but that isn’t the same as a name. He’d been called Crawly most recently. He couldn’t help but feel it wasn’t really him.
He knew animals, most of which seemed to be far too well-placed to step on him. But at least being so low to the ground made it feel like it was really unlikely that he’d fall. (Again. He had, hadn’t he? Or had it been a more gradual sort of...sauntering? Sauntering is hardly the most natural motion for the type of creature that he was now, but hadn’t always been.)
And of course by now Crawly knew the sun, even though it was both too far away and not far enough. Warmth, in particular, was something he was learning all about, and how the rays of the sun seemed to energize him and make him tingle all over in a good way, particularly if he found exactly the right kind of smooth flat rock to slowly wiggle on.
The first time he could recall the sun going away was the first time he experienced an amazing sensation of slowness and heaviness as the air cooled around him. For the first few minutes, he was terrified that his weird little body might be shutting down for good. And then he discovered that he could curl up into a tight coil under a sheltering shrub, and simply drift, and that it was good.
It is not known to science whether or not snakes dream - ordinary snakes, anyway. It seems plausible that anything with a brain very well might, because dreams are where all the inconvenient and not-useful thoughts go, and also the way to receive message from alternate dimensions, and why wouldn’t snakes get those just like every other creature?
Crawly, of course, was not an ordinary snake, but a fallen angel in a snake suit for the time being, so it stood to reason that he would have dreams of flying, and also of falling, and sometimes even exploring the new world while walking proud on two legs or spinning about like wheels of eyes and flames.
And there was that angel hanging around by the eastern gate, who seemed to be trying to make himself as unnoticeable as possible. Crawly slithered away and kept his distance, because it was hard to relax and just drift with that sword flaming away like anything.
Hundreds of years of wars and plagues later, settled into his charming little flat, the demon now known as Crowley (Crawly just wasn’t him) had started to get into the habit of getting his head down once in awhile.
After all, being a man-shaped being tasked with the eternal damnation - but really, in practice, more often the minor irritation - of actual genuine humans, it was only a matter of time before their habits started to rub off on him a little. And he had nothing but time. The world was still young, but Crowley was beginning to feel old as he watched so many little lifespans flying by.
Too much time - and back in his snake days, he’d found a marvelous way of making it pass as quickly as possible.
And, as delicious as it had been even in serpent shape, it was so much better in a human-ish form. He had softer skin, more receptive to the recently-invented Egyptian cotton (like Egypt itself, a new invention). He had four limbs once again, and they felt pleasantly heavy and languid. And best of all, he could close his eyes. He vowed to never take that privilege lightly again.
Let others rise and go about the city and seek who their soul loved and whatnot, because after a couple of hard days of tempting (mostly focused in the areas of gambling and palm wine) Crowley liked to just curl up in his cozy bed and have at it, sweet oblivion.
He dreamed of being a small and carefree creature who slid easily along the ground and didn’t have to worry about much but where his next mouse was coming from. He could hibernate for years and sometimes did, not waking until that fussy angel appeared at the foot of his bed again, fretting about how the books were coming unbalanced.
“What year is it, anyway?” Crowley asked blearily.
“Don’t know if it would make sense to you,” Aziraphale said with a disapproving pout. “Suppose they’ve changed the calendar system since you dozed off.”
“It’s not just tick marks on a stick of bone anymore, then?”
“I thought you were the one who liked to keep up with the times, my dear.”
“I’m a demon. Should you really be calling me ‘my dear’?”
“I call everyone that.”
“Of course you do.” Crowley sat up and wrapped the luxurious sheets and furs around himself, reluctant to part with the sensation. “Tavern?”
“Well, it has been more than fifty years,” Aziraphale said. If Crowley didn’t know better, the might think the angel was feeling neglected.
“That little one, on the corner by the--”
“Of course. Well, your choice then.”
“There was another place I liked but I’m afraid it was run by a firstborn son.”
“Now you’re just trying to rub my nose in what I’ve missed.”
“Would I do such a thing? I’m an angel!” Aziraphale hadn’t manifested his wings, but Crowley could tell that his feathers were ruffled.
Crowley gave him a sideways grin and imagined himself well-dressed. “I’m too sober to talk to you. We have to fix that.”
“It’s not far. Bye the border of Dan, fromme the east side to the west side, just past the portion for Afher, easterly of the portion for Nephtali, almost on the edge of the portion for Manaffeh--”
“Bugger all this for a lark,” Crowley said. “Isn’t that part of town a little rich for your blood?”
“It’s come down a bit,” Aziraphale said, coughing. “Something to do with plague.”
You couldn’t get the kind of palm wine Crowley had loved long ago in this place. You could definitely get a good bold red, though, not the fruity kind of sangria the fruity angel loved, but the real bull’s-blood-ish stuff (not literally, Crowley hoped).
And he was going to need it.
Shaking, Crowley fired off the last of his reports on the Inquisition. The quill scratched across the vellum like the clawing of a million beetles. His arms felt worn and boneless.
He was getting all misty and nostalgic for the days when he didn’t have arms at all, and that was never a good sign. Times were simpler then. His brain was simpler then. He could smell things with his tongue.
“Tomorrow -” he muttered. “Tomorrow. I’mma gonna be a snake again. Tomorrow. That was alright. Yeah. What you think about that, angel?”
Aziraphale wasn’t there. Crowley talked to him anyway, brass cup swaying and spilling red drips of wine all over his rough drafts of descriptions of torture devices.
“I just...I don’t think I wanna be human anymore,” he said, into the bottom of his cup. “I mean, I’m not, never was. But I used to think it was cool...I just don’t want to now. Ssssssnakesss are easier. Even the venomous ones….I mean….they don’t do that to each other. Worst they ever do is bite. Or the ones that squeeze things to death, I guess that’s pretty bad. But they don’t put that kind of...”
He filled the cup again, and drained it.
“...thought into it.”
He filled the cup again, and drained it again. The jug sloshed dangerously low, and he refilled it with a thought. The quality of the wine always diminished over the course of a binge, but the deeper in his cups he got, the less he cared.
“All right then. Tomorrow. Whenever tomorrow is. I wanna be a ssssnake again. Yeah. Hey, angel, you out there? Don’t wake me up for about a hundred years, all right? I’ve been . . . er...busy, yeah, that’s it. Working hard! You gonna have to work hard to thwart my . . . ssssomething. Reports, yeah. Inquisition. I jussst...I didn’t do it. I sssswear I didn’t. I just…..sawww it. Enough. I’m tired. Cheers!”
It was not a sweet and luxurious sleep that Crowley fell into as his head drooped on his desk and the spilled wine pooled on the floor and turned to vinegar and then to a bloodlike stain over the weeks, and the months, and the years. Eventually Crowley slumped from his chair to the wooden floor, and noticed very little.
When he awoke decades later, the stained vellum was gone and the blank sheets neatly stacked.
There was a small palm tree in a pot, sheltering him.
There was a sheep’s fleece blanket covering him and a feather pillow beneath his head.
There was no note, but there didn’t need to be.
Aziraphale had stolen most of his research materials, but at least he’d been kind about it. Bloody angel. Probably can’t help it.
In his heart, though, he knew better. Aziraphale might be good, but he’d never been particularly nice.
It didn’t seem fair that Crowley could sleep that long and still have a hangover when he woke up, but there it was. He changed back into a snake like he’d promised himself. It helped a good deal, because snakes are less prone to self-recrimination and existential disgust.
The little tree helped too. That was a good idea. He was going to have to get more of those. His blurry drunken snakey little head had the thought that it reminded him of home somehow. Which home, he couldn’t be sure of, but it was a home nonetheless.
He ate a mouse and coiled up in the pot around the little trunk and let the scent of leaves and soil lull him into a kinder nap, eyes wide open this time. He no longer feared being stuck in this form. It might not be the worst thing in the world.
The Greatest City
Crowley gazed out through the windows of his London townhouse. There wasn’t much of the sky visible between the buildings - risen up again so swiftly after the Fire years ago, but through the valleys of the walls he could see that it was red. The city had multiplied and squared itself and got a lot louder and more complicated, the streets packed with carriages and noise.
Dawn, dusk, or Apocalypse? The latter was unlikely. They’d never have let him sleep so long, Downstairs - doubtless some horrible message would have been delivered in threefold overlapping voices through some picturesque urchin widget vendor beating down his door.
That is, if the angel didn’t get there first.
Huh. Someone must have watered his plants from time to time. They were green and verdant and lush, and he knew they weren’t just doing that to put on a show for him. He’d realised he liked having them around after the not-so-mysterious gift of the little palm tree back in Spain, and they had a way of accumulating.
So it was only a matter of time before Aziraphale showed up and told him what year it was. In the meantime, the tea kettle heated itself and the bed remade itself, as though it hadn’t spent the last several decades (how long? He’d got up once to use the lavatory and thought it was 1830-something) cradling and covering a man-shaped body while it lay mostly inert and snuffling with little hissy sounds.
Sleep was a lovely thing, one of the pleasures of the world, and for an immortal being with all the time in the world, there was no reason to rue time lost. Get a good head start of drooping limbs and heavy eyelids, drift through that sweet dark violet haze, and then any sort of aches and pains that the flesh of a mortal costume can pick up over the centuries. Nightmares have usually run their course in a decade or so, and then it’s just a mix of sweet oblivion and very strange moving pictures, combined with some nice aerial landscape views.
Still, though. Time to wake up. One has to do that from time or time, or else one stops appreciating it. And he was hungry.
Right on time, there was a knock at the door. He always did that, the angel, whether Crowley was sleeping or not.
“Come on in!” Crowley yelled, and chuckled at the startled squeak.
Happy Holidays, daxarve, from your Secret Writer!