Title: Simply Having a Wonderful Christmastime
Word Count: 15,313
Pairing: Aziraphale & Crowley
Tags: #fluff #Christmas #ace/platonic relationship #adorableness #domesticity #SO MUCH FLUFF DEAR LORD HELP ME #itty bitty bit of angst because I’m me and I can’t help myself
Summary: Crowley decides Aziraphale needs to celebrate Christmas properly this year.
Aziraphale, for all intents and purposes, lived in the mid nineteen-fifties. His idea of high fashion was a tweed jacket with elbow patches, he refused to consider any book published in the last half-century “literature,” and he still made his tea the old-fashioned way: by boiling the water in an actual kettle on the hob. Possibly the closest he had ever come to the turn of the millennium was when he listened to Queen in the Bentley.
Aziraphale lived a comfortable sixty years behind the curve, and to this trend Christmas was no exception.
Every year, Aziraphale volunteered at the local homeless shelter, ladling soup and handing out sandwiches to men in hoodies and women with tight expressions. He went carolling with the local parish choir, singing only the most traditional, time-honoured hymns, usually the ones where counter melodies were considered too forward-thinking to merit inclusion. Occasionally Aziraphale would pull out a miniature Christmas tree and place it on the bookshop’s counter, and decorate it sombrely with candles and ribbon. He did keep a sharp gaze on the lit candles at all times, though — there was no sense inviting trouble.
For the past sixty years, Crowley had tolerated his friend’s antiquated behaviour with amusement, but he was now beginning to think that things were getting a little out of hand. The world had changed a lot in the last sixty years, and exceptionally so in the last twenty — how long could he leave Aziraphale on this destructive path before the angel became so entrenched in the past that he could no longer get in touch with the present? It would be for Aziraphale’s own good to show him around a little bit, Crowley reasoned to himself, while the angel still had a chance to progress past the prime ministership of Winston Churchill.
Christmas as a holiday had also changed significantly in the last sixty years, and Crowley felt the movement towards secularism and consumerism was exactly the right direction this sort of thing ought to be heading.
And so it was that Crowley decided that this was the year in which he refused to watch Aziraphale keep one more candlelit vigil, and resolved to drag Aziraphale, kicking and screaming if necessary, into the twenty-first century.
(This was not the first time Crowley had attempted to do so, and his previous endeavours had met with mixed results. His most spectacular failure was in 1993, when he attempted to show Aziraphale how to use the hideously expensive computer he’d bought from some chaps in California. His well-intentioned efforts had resulted in an impromptu exorcism that, had it been directed at Crowley, would have certainly resulted in a collapse of the Arrangement until Crowley, having exacted his revenge and stormed off in a huff, got lonely.)
Crowley made his intentions known to Aziraphale when, on the first of December, he arrived at the angel’s Soho bookshop with one of the largest spruce trees Aziraphale had ever seen in tow.
Aziraphale couldn’t convince his mouth to form any words, couldn’t do anything except stare in disbelief at the wall of pine needles forcing itself through the bookshop door, fully ignoring the ‘closed’ sign as it did so.
“Hey, angel,” Crowley said altogether too cheerfully, casting a glance and a smile at where Aziraphale was sitting in shock behind the counter. The demon’s sunglasses were perched on his nose as usual, but that couldn’t disguise the devious glint in his eye. Crowley turned back to the wall of pine needles.
“Come on, it’ll fit!” he called, motioning with his hands, and Aziraphale noticed several men in green and yellow uniforms helping manoeuvre the tree through the doorway. Given the modest dimensions of the door and the enormous girth of the tree, the latter should never have fitted, but Crowley waved his hand encouragingly and abruptly the tree had passed the threshold. Pine needles cascaded to the wooden floor, and several branches banged into the nearest bookshelves as the tree settled onto the floor with a series of snaps and groans. As though this assault on his books had been the cue he was waiting for, Aziraphale leapt to his feet.
“Now put her right-side up!” Crowley directed the workmen, waving his hands in a manner he probably thought was helpful.
“What are you doing?” Aziraphale demanded, coming around the counter and planting himself firmly between the demon and the nearest bookshelf.
“It’s Christmas!” Crowley told him brightly, ducking out of the way of a branch as the tree lurched into a forty-five-degree position. He moved to stand next to the none-too-pleased angel, seemingly unaware of his friend’s scowl.
“No, it’s not,” Aziraphale said tartly. “Christmas is the twenty-fifth.”
Crowley looked at the angel over the top of his sunglasses. “Not anymore it isn’t. Have you even been into a shopping centre? Christmas stuff everywhere!”
Aziraphale gave the demon a testy look and glowered at the tree when one of its branches took a swipe at his bookcases. “My bookshop is not a shopping centre, if you hadn’t noticed.”
“Oh, don’t worry about it, angel, you can keep your precious books. We’re just sprucing the place up.” Crowley grinned at him again. “Sprucing? Spruce? Get it?”
Aziraphale frowned at him. He, of course, “got it,” but humour hardly seemed appropriate. He kept his eyes trained on where the tree was still bobbing around dangerously close to his bookshelves.
Crowley deflated a little. “Huh, tough crowd,” he said, and turned his gaze back to the workmen, who were hoisting the tree into a vertical position and fumbling around with a tree stand of not inconsiderable diameter.
“It’s not going to fit!” one of the workmen called.
“Yeah, it will,” Crowley shouted back. “Just shove it up there.”
After a short squabble and some protests, the workmen did as they were told, and Crowley turned back to Aziraphale, who was still glowering at him.
“Think of it this way, angel,” Crowley said, clapping his hand onto Aziraphale’s shoulder. “I’m celebrating Christmas, aren’t I? Isn’t that what you lot are all about?”
Aziraphale frowned at him until Crowley retracted his hand. “You’ll recall there wasn’t an abundance of spruce trees in Bethlehem.”
Crowley waved his words away. “That was ages ago, angel; no one cares about that anymore. This is how Christmas is celebrated now. And this — ” he turned to indicate the tree, which was nearing a vertical position, the top metre or so rammed right up against the ceiling so the crown of the tree jutted out sideways, “—is how we’ll celebrate it.”
“Crowley, you don’t celebrate Christmas.” Aziraphale’s tone indicated he thought this was an unlikely trend to break.
Crowley shrugged. “Not historically, maybe, but what’s there not to love? Consumerism gone wild, family get-togethers with unpleasant uncles with strong political beliefs, dubious desserts, coercing children into behaving by telling them lies about jolly burglars — there’s so much potential, I don’t know how I missed it before!”
Aziraphale folded his arms, but the tree was no longer threatening his books, and he started to feel his irritation evaporate. Maybe he could use Crowley’s unexpected change of heart to his advantage. “Really? Christmas for the demon this year?”
“Sure,” Crowley said cheerfully. “What do you say, angel? You can’t possibly be planning on sitting around lighting those stupid candles again this year.”
Aziraphale stiffened a little, but, ever since the unfortunate mishap with Shadwell, he’d been a little leery about the candles himself. “Maybe,” he mumbled.
“Nah, we’ll do Christmas properly this year,” Crowley said. “The whole kit and caboodle, all nine yards, all...however many holes there are in golf.” Crowley’s voice trailed off, head swivelling towards where the workmen were stepping back from the tree. Several were standing with heads craned back, looking at the metre and a half of tree jammed against the ceiling.
“Just think of it, angel,” Crowley said after a moment, coming out of his reverie and taking Aziraphale by the arm. Crowley took a step towards the tree and gestured at it expansively with his free hand, tugging the reluctant Aziraphale after him. “Lights and tinsel all the way around, and we can even put a star on the top, and maybe you can find some book ornaments or something. And it has that lovely fresh pine smell; it’s been getting a little musty in here, don’t you think?”
Aziraphale’s gaze went up and down the unfortunate spruce. It was clearly one of the tallest Crowley could find, and was nice and bushy all the way around, green boughs warm and inviting, if a little flat on the side that had had an unfortunate meeting with the floor. The crumpled top of the tree rather ruined the effect, in Aziraphale’s opinion, but if it had fit without any problems, Crowley probably wouldn’t have liked it half as much. The demon did like to vex him sometimes.
Aziraphale pictured the tree wrapped in strands of golden tinsel, brightly coloured Christmas lights, and candles. Then he scratched the candles; Crowley was right, that was just asking for trouble. Elegant silver bobbles, maybe, or blown glass icicles…
“Will the lights twinkle?” Aziraphale asked.
Crowley’s gaze switched from the tree to his friend, and he grinned in triumph, eyes bright even behind his sunglasses. “You can stake your life on it.”
<< ~ >>
The following day the Soho Society, a community organisation Aziraphale hadn’t been aware existed until that moment, announced that they would be holding a competition encouraging members of the community to decorate their homes and businesses in true Christmas fashion. This was the first year the competition was being held, and, from the hasty design of the posters that had appeared all over the area overnight, Aziraphale gathered that the officers of the Soho Society hadn’t been aware of the plans until very recently, either.
Crowley, naturally, denied any and all interference, instead declaring that he intended to win the competition if he had to buy every giant blow-up snowflake and box of novelty Christmas lights in London.
As Aziraphale watched Crowley pacing through the Christmas section of John Lewis, he wondered if the demon intended on doing just that.
“Gold or silver tinsel, angel?” Crowley asked, looking critically between the two neatly wrapped bundles of tinsel in his hands, each bound in a festive green cardboard sleeve.
“Either’s fine,” Aziraphale said, watching Crowley’s furrowed expression with some amusement.
“Both, you’re right,” Crowley announced after a moment’s thought, tossing both into the trolley and snagging a red bundle as well when he thought Aziraphale wasn’t looking.
“Can we get lights now?” the angel asked. He’d really only come along to pick out the lights; knowing Crowley, he’d find the one set that didn’t twinkle and then feign ignorance of Aziraphale’s preferences when he pointed out that that wasn’t what he wanted.
“Yes, yes, hang on,” Crowley said, pushing the trolley a metre down the aisle and then stopping to paw through a display of miniature light-up snowmen. “I thought patience was a virtue?”
“It’s been three hours.”
“Oh, we’re just getting started!” Crowley said cheerfully, moving the trolley another metre and stopping to pick something white and fluffy up off the bottom shelf. It was a pair of white boots clearly not meant to be actually worn outside or interact with real snow of any description; a huge fluff of white fur lined the top, and oversized candy cane decorations were pasted on its sides. Crowley waggled a boot at him temptingly.
“Really, my dear?”
Crowley stroked the white fluff with exaggerated care, his hand disappearing almost entirely into the fur. He held it out to Aziraphale invitingly, and waggled it again. “Come on, angel, live a little.”
Aziraphale looked at Crowley, sighed, and petted the fluffy boot. It was just as soft as it looked, and he tried to hide his disappointment when Crowley put it back on the shelf.
“See, that wasn’t so bad,” Crowley said, managing to cover almost two metres this time before he stopped again, waylaid by the beginning of the clothing section. Crowley glanced over a row of knitted hats patterned with snowflakes and Father Christmases, but Aziraphale’s attention was arrested by a headband with a pair of felt reindeer antlers attached, complete with a red ribbon bow and tiny jingle bells.
Aziraphale felt the sudden, irrational, overpowering desire to see Crowley wearing them.
“We’re just being thorough,” Crowley continued, blissfully unaware as he moved forward another fraction of a metre and started poking through some festively-decorated footed pyjamas. “We don't want to miss something by being hasty, and end up losing the competition, do we?”
Aziraphale didn't respond, and Crowley half-turned, mouth open to say something else.
It was then that Aziraphale pounced.
The look on Crowley’s face was glorious.
Once the surprise had worn off and Crowley’s hand had gone to his head to determine exactly what Aziraphale had subjected him to, the demon adopted a long-suffering expression. “Angel…”
Aziraphale was trying and failing to keep a straight face, a smile twitching at the corners of his mouth. “You look lovely, my dear.”
Crowley grumbled something that might have been “You look lovely,” and pulled the reindeer antlers off his head with a tinkle of jingle bells. He examined them for a few moments, running a finger down one of the felt antlers. Then his gaze flicked up to meet Aziraphale’s, and he grinned that devious, mischievous grin that only a demon in a very good mood can pull off properly.
“Oh, no,” Aziraphale said, picking up on what Crowley wanted to do with the ease of long practice.
“Come on, angel, it's only fair,” Crowley said, taking a smooth, almost serpentine step forward, golden eyes glinting.
Crowley lunged forward. Aziraphale let out a noise that was a little higher than he was strictly comfortable with, turned, and ran.
Behind him, Crowley skidded around a display of winter coats (only £25!) and Aziraphale ducked around a shelf piled high with winter-themed socks, knocking several pairs to the floor in the process. Aziraphale swerved around another shelf of socks and decided to double back in a loop, hoping to lose Crowley in the sea of Christmas-themed clothing.
The angel squeezed between two stands and slipped around the corner of a shelving unit. He skidded to a stop, breathing a little heavily and listening for any sounds of pursuit. He didn’t hear anything besides an employee being paged over the intercom and his own pulse beating in his ears, so Aziraphale allowed himself a triumphant grin at having evaded the demon. While he slowed down his breathing, Aziraphale took a moment to look around his refuge. He was still in the clothing section, and was currently surrounded by dozens and dozens of soft, colourful wool jumpers. They were patterned with red and green and gold and decorated with little bells and ribbon and appliqué Christmas trees and reindeer.
All thoughts of Crowley fled Aziraphale’s head.
The angel felt himself drawn to the nearest circular rack as though by an invisible force, and started poking through the jumpers. Some were merely winter-themed, while others showed Christmas trees, the star of Bethlehem, and shepherds. Aziraphale worked his way to the next rack, seeking out the most lavish jumper he could find; the miniature jingle bells and appliqué snowmen were irresistible.
When something jammed down hard onto his head, Aziraphale was so absorbed in making his selection that he jumped several inches, ramming his arm into the top of the rack and making it rattle.
“Gotcha!” Crowley crowed triumphantly, and Aziraphale spun, heart pounding, to see Crowley beaming at him. “You’re getting lazy, angel.”
Aziraphale took a deep breath to calm himself and reached for the jumper rack for support. His arm smarted uncomfortably. “Crowley.”
“Who else did you think it’d be?” Crowley asked, a hint of humour in his voice as he critically examined Aziraphale, eyes roving up to the reindeer antlers the angel knew he was currently sporting. “You’re right; that is a good look.”
Aziraphale ignored him and turned back to the jumpers.
“What were you looking at, anyway?” Crowley asked, moving to get a better view. “Dear G—Sa—Adam,” Crowley exclaimed. “These humans don’t do things by halves, do they?”
“Aren’t they beautiful?” Aziraphale asked, moving to the next jumper and running his hand appreciatively over a beaded snowflake.
Crowley made a strangled coughing noise and took a moment to recover. “Don’t know if I’d say that.”
“You just don’t appreciate art,” Aziraphale said loftily, floating over to the next rack to examine the jumpers over there.
“I know art when I see it,” Crowley said, walking over to another rack and prodding at the jumpers derisively. “Michelangelo’s David was art. The Pantheon was art. Anything of Vermeer’s was art. This—” Crowley pulled a jumper off the rack and held it at arm’s length, gesturing at it with his other hand. “This is a four-year-old’s finger painting brought to life by an elderly woman with too much time on her hands.”
“Really now, my dear,” Aziraphale said, joining Crowley and holding the bottom edge of the jumper the demon was proffering, so that he could get a good look at it. It was bright red with a large appliqué green Christmas tree in the centre, decorated with tiny ornament-like beads and strands of silver plastic that resembled tinsel. There was a shiny gold star at the top of the tree, and presents piled around its base. An angel holding a trumpet bordered the tree on either side. It was actually quite lovely.
“Just — just — look at it!” Crowley protested. “It’s sparkly.”
“They’re small,” Aziraphale said mildly, running a finger fondly over the strands of tinsel.
Crowley seemed to realise he wasn’t making his case and switched gears. “But it’s got angels on it!” he protested.
“I am an angel,” Aziraphale reminded him, taking the jumper from Crowley before he could shove it back on the rack.
“They’re wearing dresses,” Crowley tried.
“They’re robes, my dear,” Aziraphale said. “And it wasn’t so long ago that you and I were doing just that. I seem to recall you were quite mistrustful of trousers yourself, when they first came into fashion.”
“Nah, that was you, angel,” Crowley said evasively.
“No, I quite clearly remember you saying…what was it?” Aziraphale turned and started walking back in the direction that they’d left the trolley. “Something about ease of access?”
“Well, you know how it is,” Crowley said, sounding appropriately embarrassed, “sometimes a guy’s gotta take a leak—”
Aziraphale walked out of the jumper section and between the two sock shelves, conscientiously stopping to put the socks he’d knocked down back in their proper places.
“Hey, what are you doing with that?” Crowley changed the subject, hurrying after him; Aziraphale was still carrying the jumper.
“I’m going to buy it,” the angel announced.
“You’re not serious.”
“Perfectly,” Aziraphale said cheerfully. “It’s even in my size.” He reached the trolley and plonked the jumper into the basket.
“Oh, not in my trolley, you don’t,” Crowley said, moving forward quickly and snatching it out. “I’m not paying for that monstrosity.”
“Then I’ll buy it myself,” Aziraphale said, pulling the jumper from Crowley’s hands.
“Don’t be absurd,” Crowley said, snatching it back.
There was a small sound from the adjacent aisle, and they both turned to see a family with several small children in tow staring at them. It wasn’t much of a mystery as to why—two fully grown man-shaped beings fighting over a slightly sparkly jumper in front of a trolley piled high with Christmas decorations would have turned lesser heads. Aziraphale flushed cherry red and tugged the reindeer antlers off his head as the family moved on.
“You’re buying,” Crowley said after a moment, and tossed the jumper back at Aziraphale. “I refuse to have anything to do with it.”
Aziraphale caught the jumper, huffed, and looked down at the reindeer antlers in his hands. He reckoned he could get Crowley into them at least once more before the demon miracled them out of existence. Maybe he could get one of those “cam-e-rah” things and take a photograph.
Aziraphale looked up and locked eyes with Crowley. With a slow, deliberate motion, he set the antlers in the trolley, never breaking eye contact and silently daring the demon to challenge him.
Crowley’s left eyebrow quirked. “Oh, so that’s how we’re going to play it? In that case, if you’re making me buy that, I’m buying…” Crowley trailed off as he started down one of the other aisles, waving his hands as though he thought that would help conjure the perfect item. Who knew; maybe it would. Aziraphale followed him past a stack of Yule logs, already starting to regret this decision.
Crowley reached the end of the aisle, turned, and froze. A smile crept across his face. “This.”
Aziraphale reached the end of the aisle with some trepidation and turned as well. He spent a moment taking it in. “No.”
Crowley grinned. “Yes.”
“Where are you going to put it?”
“The bookshop, naturally.”
“It won’t fit.”
“Sure it will.” Crowley grinned.
“I retract the antlers.”
“No taksies-backsies, angel, you know how it works.”
“I need it.”
Aziraphale considered his options. “You have to wear the antlers for a week.”
<< ~ >>
Five hours, a company van, and two exhausted deliverymen later, a complete set of wire, light-up lawn ornaments was sitting in the middle of a bookshop in Soho. The centrepiece of the set was Father Christmas sitting in his sleigh with a bag of presents; this wouldn’t have been so bad, except that all nine of his reindeer accompanied him.
Crowley was currently carrying out the necessary assembly on the relatively small patch of floor left in the middle of the bookshop, beside the tree and a small mountain of boxes.
It was getting cramped very quickly, and since Crowley planned on fitting the entire team of reindeer inside the bookshop, the situation would only be worsening. Unable to do anything to combat the problem, because moving a single one of his books was out of the question, Aziraphale contented himself with sitting behind the counter and watching Crowley struggle to figure out which pieces went where. Luckily, the demon had made good on his promise to wear the reindeer antlers, which made the whole process bearable as well as making him look rather endearingly like the lawn ornaments he was struggling to assemble.
“Blast it all, why don’t they come fully assembled?” Crowley exclaimed, throwing up his hands in disbelief. “And those instructions! They might as well have written them in Sanskrit.”
“You read Sanskrit, my dear,” Aziraphale said mildly, and earned himself a poisonous look; the effect was rather negated by the reindeer antlers, which jingled merrily when Crowley looked up. Aziraphale gave him a blithe smile and turned a page in his book. The angel was wearing his new jumper, and it was just as warm and comfortable as he could have hoped for. It also seemed to perennially annoy Crowley, which made it all the better.
This was doubly amusing because Crowley had been the one to buy the jumper, in the end. When Aziraphale had gone to another checkout to purchase his lone jumper all by himself, thank you very much, the demon had snatched it from his hands. Crowley had said something about how he wasn’t about to let Aziraphale help the economy by buying something with genuine money, and then proceeded to pay for his own giant pile of Christmas decorations (Aziraphale-approved lights included) with a credit card that was almost certainly falsified.
“Hell should take notes on this thing,” Crowley muttered as he squinted at the instruction booklet again. The demon tilted his head slightly, as though the words would suddenly take on new meaning if viewed from a twenty-degree angle, and the tiny bells on the reindeer antlers jingled accommodatingly.
Aziraphale bit back a snigger and returned to his book. After a minute or two, there was another tinkle of bells and Aziraphale looked up to see Crowley gazing at him.
“Help?” he asked, looking particularly pathetic as he sat on the floor surrounded by wire reindeer limbs.
“Not from me,” Aziraphale said, perhaps a little too smugly. “You’re on your own there, my dear.”
When Crowley continued looking at him plaintively, Aziraphale allowed, “I’ll help with the tree, okay?”
“Fat lot of good you are,” Crowley said grumpily, turning back to the instruction booklet.
“You could just miracle it together, you know,” Aziraphale pointed out.
“It’s not the same,” Crowley said, sounding a little despondent about it himself.
“Suit yourself,” Aziraphale said, and miracled himself a cup of tea.
Crowley mumbled something about high horses and flipped through the booklet again.
In the end, Aziraphale gave in and went and lent a hand, since Crowley had made dismal progress in four hours’ time and Aziraphale was getting peckish and wanted to go to dinner.
They placed Father Christmas and his sleigh right in front of the tree along with the first pair of reindeer. The rest ended up set between the front windows and the foremost row of bookshelves, peering with blank wire eyes out at passersby. They needed to be plugged in for the lights to work, but, with a little encouragement from Crowley, they lit up of their own accord. At the unspoken request of Aziraphale, they began to twinkle.
<< ~ >>