The following day, Crowley tore all of the tinsel and strands of Christmas lights out of their boxes and cardboard sleeves, and announced that he was going to really get the bookshop into the spirit of things.
They started with the tree, Crowley pacing circles around the spruce with the bundle of lights while Aziraphale fussed over their exact placement on the branches. A few quick miracles arranged the lights on the upper half of the tree, even wrapping around where the crown turned at a right angle upon meeting the ceiling.
“If we put something on the top, it’s going to fall right off,” Aziraphale pointed out. “A star or an angel or something. It would be horizontal.”
“Eh, it’ll stay if I want it to stay,” Crowley said. “So do you want a star or an angel? Thought a star might be less…ya know, playing favourites.”
“Well, it is your lot’s celebration, isn’t it?” Crowley pointed out. “Angels, angels everywhere, and not a drop to drink.”
Aziraphale frowned at him. “What’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner have to do with anything?”
Crowley shook his head. “Never mind. But my point is that my side gets no representation whatsoever. I mean, I was at Bethlehem too! Never see me in the nativity sets.”
“My dear,” Aziraphale said, a little surprised.
“But that’s why I was thinking a star,” Crowley continued. “More neutral.”
“Of course it doesn’t have to be an angel,” Aziraphale said. “Though it really is our celebration, as much as All Hallows’ Eve is yours.”
“Yes, I’m just saying it’s not terribly accurate, is it? But it doesn’t really matter. What matters….” Crowley strode over to the not-insignificant mountain of tinsel piled on the floor nearby, “is that we swamp that tree with so much tinsel it wishes it never sprouted in the first place.”
Aziraphale allowed his attention to be diverted with good grace, though some part of him wondered if Crowley did feel he had been excluded from the celebration of an event he had all but witnessed firsthand. To the extent of his memory, Aziraphale couldn’t remember Crowley ever expressing any inkling to celebrate Christmas before for the religious aspects. On the contrary, he had often taken pleasure in mocking, interrupting, or sabotaging religious ceremonies on and around the holiday.
As he watched Crowley disentangle strands of silver tinsel from the pile with apparent good nature, Aziraphale wondered sadly if Crowley had spent all those other Christmases feeling rather left out.
“Are you just going to stand there, angel?” Crowley asked, pulling a long length of silver tinsel from the pile and bundling it up in his arms.
Aziraphale shook himself and went to help, taking solace in the fact that Crowley seemed perfectly cheerful now.
“Do you want to use the gold as well, or the red, or just the silver?” Crowley asked as he tugged another length of silver tinsel free, shoving this one into Aziraphale’s arms.
“Er…gold and silver?” Aziraphale asked. “Though I don’t know what we’d do with the red, then.”
“We can put it around the door,” Crowley said, gently kicking the remaining tinsel into two rough piles by colour.
Aziraphale walked over to the tree and started winding the tinsel around, leaving enough slack in between branches to create slight scallop shapes.
“Tinsel pro,” Crowley teased as he picked up the slack and started following Aziraphale around the tree again.
“You just have to…take your time…” Aziraphale said, focusing on keeping the distance between boughs consistent as the tinsel spiralled higher.
Twenty minutes later, the spruce was circled with lights and silver and gold tinsel, and was starting to look like a proper Christmas tree. Part of Aziraphale still thought that candles would complete the effect, but his dedication to the safety of his books far outweighed his attachment to open flames.
Next, Crowley produced several boxes of ornaments he’d bought. Crowley had wanted to buy all manner of specialty ornaments, including ones shaped like villains from the latest American film franchises, while Aziraphale had insisted on more traditional options. In the end, they had compromised. Aziraphale had picked out several very nice sets of gold, silver, red, and green round orbs, while Crowley bought anything black or silver, including several newfangled ornaments that required batteries and lit up. While Crowley had been pursuing these peculiarly-shaped ornaments, Aziraphale had found several he liked as well, including a delicate angel ornament and one shaped like a wreath that sang snippets of Christmas carols.
Luckily, the newfangled ornaments were small enough that none stuck out too obviously on the tree, and the general effect wasn’t ruined too much.
Once they had finished with the last of the ornaments, Crowley and Aziraphale stood back to admire their handiwork.
“Not bad, angel, not bad at all,” Crowley said, in the tone of voice of someone who had presumed the outcome would be very bad indeed.
“Hmm,” Aziraphale agreed.
Crowley raised a hand, middle finger and thumb pressed together. He looked at Aziraphale. “Ready?”
The angel nodded and Crowley snapped his fingers. The lights on the tree sprang to life, each bulb shining brightly, every colour of the rainbow represented. After a few seconds, several of the bulbs flickered off and on again, twinkling brightly.
“Is it everything you ever wanted?” Crowley asked theatrically.
Aziraphale smiled. “I’ll admit; this modern Christmas isn’t so bad.”
“See? I told you so,” Crowley said. “But this is just the tree. We still need to win the competition, remember?” The demon rolled up his sleeves. “We have to do the outside, too.”
<< ~ >>
“Crowley, my dear, are you sure you’re okay up there?” Aziraphale craned his head back, looking up at where his friend was perched on top of a particularly tall ladder on the pavement outside the bookshop.
“Absolutely,” Crowley said cheerfully, leaning over dangerously far from the very top step of the ladder, a plastic clip in one hand and a strand of Christmas lights in the other. The demon had almost finished stringing lights along the facade of the building, and Aziraphale had to admit that it did make the shop look considerably more friendly. Though hopefully not too friendly; he didn't want potential customers getting the wrong idea.
It was the middle of the afternoon, and the street was plenty busy, pedestrians in winter coats bustling by with hands full of shopping and mobile phones.
A young woman wearing headphones walked past Aziraphale and under the ladder. She took care not to brush it, but Aziraphale started forward anxiously anyway, in case it wobbled; from the way Crowley was standing on it, it wouldn’t take much to shake him.
“You could get down and I could just move the ladder a metre or so, you know,” Aziraphale pointed out, a little worried.
“I’ve almost got it,” Crowley said, shoving the clip onto the lip of the building right above where the words ‘Ezra Fell’s Rare Books’ were painted. The demon hooked the strand of lights carefully onto the clip and fished another clip out of his pocket. He was still wearing the reindeer antlers, and the bells tinkled cheerfully as the demon shifted his weight.
Several metres up the pavement, the woman who had walked under the ladder suddenly slipped and fell. It was too warm for ice, so Aziraphale cast a suspicious glance at Crowley, who had started to whistle.
“Yes, angel?” Crowley snapped the next clip onto the building and reached for the strand of lights. Beneath him, another pedestrian passed under the ladder.
Aziraphale tracked this one with his eyes, and, about ten metres up the road, he suddenly slipped as well, sending his bag skipping across the pavement as he hit the ground hard, legs flying out from under him.
The whole effect was rather comical, but Aziraphale forced his tone into one of stern disapproval. “Stop it.”
“What?” Crowley asked innocently.
“Making those poor pedestrians fall over.”
“Hey, it’s winter,” Crowley said. “It’s slippery out.”
“They know it’s bad luck,” Crowley said evasively, wedging another clip onto the building.
Aziraphale sighed but when the next pedestrian slipped in spectacular fashion, he arranged for a passing stranger to help her up.
Crowley muttered something from the top of the ladder, and Aziraphale looked up at him.
“What was that, my dear?”
“I said, you’re no fun.”
<< ~ >>
“I didn’t know you knew how to bake,” Aziraphale said, a little sceptically, as Crowley carefully measured out half a cup of sugar.
They were in the kitchenette in the demon’s flat, surrounded by a small mountain of baking ingredients and several pots, pans, and baking trays.
“You just have to follow the directions, right? It’ll work out in the end. Humans do it all the time; it can’t be that hard.”
“If you say so.” Aziraphale fished out another handful of chocolate chips from the bag he was holding and popped them in his mouth.
“You’d better not eat all of those, angel, we’ll need them later,” Crowley said, shooting him a glance and then returning his attention to the recipe.
Aziraphale swallowed guiltily but did not relinquish the bag.
“Okay, we need a half teaspoon of baking powder,” Crowley read, and then looked over at the pile of ingredients. “Do we have that over there?”
Aziraphale obligingly poked through the canisters, boxes, and bags, and produced a small orange box. “Baking soda,” Aziraphale read. He showed it to Crowley.
“Is that the same thing?” Crowley asked, taking it and poking his thumb at the perforated area. Once he’d peeled back the corner of the box, he sprinkled a little onto his hand and frowned down at the nondescript white powder. “What do you think?”
Aziraphale shrugged and looked longingly down at the bag of chocolate chips. “I’m sure I haven’t the faintest, my dear, I usually just miracle things up.”
Crowley harrumphed. “Six thousand years and he never learned how to do things the old-fashioned way.”
“Never needed to,” Aziraphale said cheerfully, and indulged himself in another, smaller, handful of chocolate chips.
“Naturally,” Crowley said, and squinted at the recipe again. “Eh, it’s a powder and it says baking on it. It’s probably the same thing, right?”
<< ~ >>
“Where did you get these pastry cutters, Crowley?” Aziraphale asked, a little bemused as he turned a pastry cutter in the shape of an angel over in his hands. Its wings were spread and it held what was probably meant to be a raised trumpet; it was not dissimilar to the pair on his new jumper.
“Tesco,” Crowley said without looking up as he spread flour onto the rolling pin. “They must have been selling two dozen different kinds. I got the Christmas pack.”
“I see that,” Aziraphale said, poking through the pile and finding one shaped like a Christmas tree and another that might have been Father Christmas with a bag slung over his back.
“Are you going to look at them or cut out biscuits?” Crowley asked, finishing with the flour and hefting the rolling pin impatiently.
“I’m getting there, my dear,” Aziraphale said, carefully placing the angel-shaped pastry cutter on the rolled-out dough and slowly, deliberately pressing it down.
Crowley raised an eyebrow as Aziraphale, with the utmost caution, shifted the pastry cutter back and forth a fraction of a centimetre and then carefully lifted it. Aziraphale could almost hear Crowley rolling his eyes as the demon went to stir a bowl of sugar, cream, and butter together.
“What’s that for, again?” Aziraphale asked as he carefully started the process of cutting out a Christmas tree, leaving the absolute minimum amount of dough between the shapes.
“Peppermint bars,” Crowley grunted as he stirred faster, reindeer antlers weaving back and forth in the air as he rocked back and forth slightly. “I knew we should have bought one of those electric mixers.”
“We can do without,” Aziraphale said dismissively as he held a star-shaped pastry cutter above the dough critically, eyeing up the most efficient place to put it.
“Easy for you to say, it’s not your arm about to fall off,” Crowley said, and a moment later gave up. He waved his hand tiredly at the bowl, and the spoon raised itself into a vertical position and started stirring away of its own accord.
Aziraphale raised an eyebrow. “What happened to the good old-fashioned way?”
“It met sloth.”
<< ~ >>
“You didn’t strike me as the doll type, angel,” Crowley said, watching Aziraphale over the top of his sunglasses, antlers still firmly planted on his head.
“It’s not for me,” Aziraphale said, pulling the wrapping paper closer and carefully cutting a length free.
“Who’s it for, then?” Crowley asked. There was a sizeable stack of presents already stacked on the floor beside the demon, and another, slightly larger stack of things still to be wrapped on his other side. Rolls of colourful wrapping paper, scissors, ribbon, bows, and tape lay scattered between them.
“The local orphanage,” Aziraphale said.
Crowley bit back a laugh. “Orphans? You’re helping orphans?”
Aziraphale bristled. “Of course. They are more in need than ever at this time of year.”
Crowley sniggered and taped up the side of the present he was wrapping. “Couldn’t think of anything more cliché?”
“Just because I think of people other than myself—”
“Hey, I think of plenty of people other than myself!” Crowley protested.
Aziraphale paused in wrapping and raised an eyebrow at the demon. “You’re wrapping presents for yourself, Crowley.”
“No,” Crowley said, carefully picking out a bow and arranging it on the present, “I’m finding a creative solution to the fact that the bottom of the Christmas tree looks barren without presents. It needed some, so I’m wrapping presents to put under it.”
“You could have wrapped empty boxes,” Aziraphale pointed out, undeterred.
“Well, that’s no fun, is it?” Crowley asked. “Who likes opening empty Christmas presents? So I…you know…put my possessions in them.”
“New possessions you just bought for that express purpose.”
<< ~ >>
“Angel, what are you doing?” Crowley asked, edging closer cautiously.
“What does it look like I’m doing?” Aziraphale asked blithely, carrying on.
“It looks like you’re trying to break fifty years of hard-won discipline.”
“Nonsense,” Aziraphale said briskly, and continued tying ribbons and bows onto Crowley’s houseplants.
“They’ll start getting ideas,” Crowley warned, glaring at the nearest plant to him, an innocent, beautifully-flowering begonia, as though daring it to contradict him.
“Your plants shouldn’t be terrified on Christmas,” Aziraphale said, reassuringly stroking the leaves of an African violet as he unwound another length of ribbon.
“They should be especially terrified on Christmas,” Crowley said, continuing to glare at his plants.
“Don’t listen to him,” Aziraphale told the violet in an undertone, wrapping the ribbon around its pot and tying it in a bow. “He acts like he doesn’t have a heart, but he really does.”
<< ~ >>
Aziraphale found the book he was looking for and worked his way perilously along the front aisle of the shop. He had to weave between the ends of the bookcases and the twinkling Prancer and Blitzen, and when he finally stumbled into the centre aisle, he all but collided with Crowley.
“Hey, careful there,” the demon said. He looked like he was just on his way outside, an enormous wreath in one hand and some sort of hanging contraption in his other. The felt antlers swayed back and forth on his head as he rocked to a halt.
“It’s your reindeer,” Aziraphale huffed defensively, and Crowley rolled his eyes and pushed the front door of the shop open. As he did so, there was a jangle of jingle bells from the bundle Crowley had replaced the usual lone bell on the top of the door with.
“Speaking of reindeer,” Aziraphale continued after a moment, standing on the threshold while Crowley walked around to the front of the half-open door and started hanging the wreath, “you do know it’s been a week, right?”
“A week since what?” Crowley’s voice asked from the other side of the door. There was a metallic scraping sound and the door vibrated.
“Since we went shopping,” Aziraphale clarified, adjusting his grip on his book.
“Oh,” Crowley’s voice said. “Yeah.”
Aziraphale frowned. “A week since you bought that ridiculous lawn ornament set, I mean.”
Aziraphale wasn’t sure if Crowley understood what he was saying. “You don’t have to wear those antlers anymore if you don't want to.”
Crowley didn’t respond for a moment. Then: “Don’t tell me what to do, angel.”
<< ~ >>
“Did you get a star?”
A pair of felt reindeer antlers emerged from behind the back of the giant light-up sleigh, from which Crowley had decided to hang their Christmas stockings. Crowley’s head appeared a moment later.
“No,” Aziraphale said, edging his way through the bookshop door with arms full of shopping bags.
“What, I send you to buy some things and you can’t even follow the list?” Crowley asked, rolling his eyes and ducking back behind the sleigh. “Did you buy those chocolate orange things, at least?”
“Yes, I did manage to find oranges made of chocolate,” Aziraphale said, walking to the tree and depositing his bags on the floor beside it. “I had to ask, but the shop carried them.”
“Excellent. Those things are delicious.”
“I bought some candy canes, too,” Aziraphale said, pulling out a box of them. “I heard you can hang them on the tree.”
“I also…” Aziraphale rummaged in the bag and then straightened. “Found eggnog!”
Crowley’s head appeared from around the corner of the sleigh again. “Brilliant! We’ll spike it with cognac.”
“Tsk tsk,” Aziraphale chastised, hugging the eggnog back to himself. “You’ll ruin the flavour.”
“Flavour shmavour,” Crowley said dismissively, while Aziraphale shook his head and put the eggnog back in the bag. He pulled out the tree topper next. After spending the better part of an hour looking over several shops’ entire collections of tree toppers and unhappy with any that he’d found, Aziraphale had decided to make one himself.
Aziraphale pulled a ladder that had been leaning against a nearby bookcase over to the tree, pulled it open, and started up it, tree topper under his arm.
“So if you didn’t get a star, what did you get?” Crowley asked, voice floating around the back of the sleigh.
“Something better,” Aziraphale said as he reached the top of the ladder and reached for the crown of the tree; it would have been out of his reach, except the kinked top of the tree jutted towards him across the ceiling.
“Yeah, that’s encouraging,” Crowley said, and there was a jingle of bells as he straightened up from behind the sleigh. “Finally got these stockings up.”
Aziraphale carefully threaded the topper onto the tree, rearranging the branches so it wouldn’t fall off. Once he was satisfied, he started down the ladder. Crowley was waiting for him at the bottom, peering around Aziraphale’s shoulder as he came down.
“Is that…” Crowley trailed off.
“Like you said,” Aziraphale said. “You were at Bethlehem too.”
Crowley turned an unfortunate shade of red and quickly busied himself looking at anything other than the tree topper. Aziraphale had fashioned it out of silver-backed pipe insulation that he had wrapped into a slowly-shrinking spiral shape. And at the tip of the spiral, where the head of his impromptu serpent tree topper lay, he had taped a pair of sunglasses.
“You may never be a part of Christmas as the humans remember it,” Aziraphale said kindly. “But you’ll always be a part of mine.”
<< ~ >>
Aziraphale stopped dead. “Oh, Crowley, what have you done?”
Crowley ground to a stop and looked over his shoulder. “What’s the matter?”
Aziraphale looked between Crowley and the object of his horror. “But it’s the Bentley.”
Crowley huffed a little and got in. “It’s not permanent, angel, don’t worry.”
Aziraphale approached hesitantly. “Are you sure?”
Crowley cast Aziraphale a sceptical look. “Yes, angel, I’m very sure.”
Aziraphale popped the door open carefully and slid in, careful not to close any of the garland in the door when he pulled it shut after him.
In addition to the garland draped over the vintage automobile, there was also a scattering of snowflake window clings on the windscreen, considerably obscuring Aziraphale’s view. Luckily, he wasn’t driving.
“Where are we going again?” Crowley asked as he pulled the Bentley out into the road.
“Oh, my friend,” sang Freddie Mercury from the stereo, “we have the strangest ways.”
“St Anne’s,” Aziraphale said. “I’m meeting the choir there to go carolling.”
The Bentley lurched to a very abrupt stop at Regent Street.
“Carolling?” Crowley repeated incredulously. “How old-fashioned could you be?”
“People still do it,” Aziraphale protested, and, though Crowley rolled his eyes, the demon turned left anyway. “Besides,” Aziraphale continued, “it brings people cheer.”
“It brings people migraines,” Crowley countered under his breath, but Aziraphale ignored him.
“All my friends, on this one day of days,” sang Freddie. “Thank God it’s Christmas.”
“I mean,” Crowley said after a moment, “Just think about the lyrics. All of those old hymns, all about angels and peace on earth, good will to men, etcetera; doesn’t it get a little old after a while? Repetitious, at least.”
“World peace does not ‘get old,’ Crowley.”
“To you, maybe. If I have to hear one more Oh holy night or Glory to the newborn king I’m going to be sick.”
“I thought you liked Christmas music.”
“Music, yes. Hymns, no. I’m talking ‘Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree’ and Dean Martin and Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra and all the rest—not ‘O Holy Night’ and…and…bleeding ‘In the Bleak Midwinter.’ Contrary to popular belief, I am still, in fact, a demon.”
“As you like reminding me,” Aziraphale said mildly.
Crowley gave him a suspicious look, but Aziraphale only smiled beatifically at him.
Crowley harrumphed and turned back to the road. “Bloody angels,” he muttered.
<< ~ >>
“Aziraphale!” Crowley called, a mischievous note in his voice.
Aziraphale, who was in the middle of dusting the shelves in the bookshop, stopped, immediately suspicious.
“Oh, Aziraphale!” Crowley called again, and Aziraphale could hear him pacing through the bookshop, doubtlessly weaving between the tree, sleigh, and handful of reindeer. There was a muffled, shrill warble and the sound of something rustling.
Aziraphale had a sinking feeling that he really did not want to know what Crowley had in store for him, but he also knew that waiting would only delay the inevitable.
Sighing, he set down his feather duster and went to see what Crowley was about.
Aziraphale rounded the corner of the last bookcase and rocked to a halt.
“There you are, angel!” Crowley said, beaming as he strode forward. “For you.” Without further ado, the demon pressed into Aziraphale’s hands what appeared to be a rather large tree branch, dotted with crinkly green-brown leaves.
Aziraphale, flustered, accepted it clumsily, and as he did so the branch made a shrill shrieking noise not unlike a cat being strangled. The angel froze. He peered cautiously down into the depths of the leaves, and saw movement. Aziraphale shifted the branch to one hand and poked nervously at the leaves with the other. “What was that?”
Crowley continued beaming at him. “Take a look,” he encouraged.
Aziraphale gave Crowley a look that clearly communicated that, if he got his fingers bitten off, Crowley would be held completely accountable, and cautiously parted the leaves. There was a rustle, and a moment later a small striped grey and brown head bobbed above the leaves. It turned to look at Aziraphale and cocked its head at the angel, opening a tiny orange beak and letting out a sharp, indignant, warbling shriek.
“Explain,” Aziraphale demanded, staring at the bird.
Crowley grinned. “It’s a partridge,” he said.
Aziraphale looked from the bird to Crowley. “Er, why are you giving me a partridge?”
Crowley poked at the branch meaningfully. “It’s a bit out of season,” he lamented, “but that’s from a pear tree.”
Aziraphale continued staring at him, and then it all clicked. “No.”
Crowley took a step back and threw his arms wide. “It’s twelve days ’til Christmas, angel!” he said cheerfully. “On the first day of Christmas—”
“A partridge in a pear tree,” Aziraphale finished with a sinking feeling. “Though you’re not my true love, Crowley.”
Crowley waved away his words. “Eh, close enough. It’s not like anyone else was going to get you anything anyway.”
Aziraphale frowned at him. “Crowley, please do not get me two turtledoves tomorrow. And where did you even find a partridge?”
“Ah, a demon never reveals his secrets,” Crowley said, flipping his sunglasses down over his eyes from where they’d been sitting nestled in his hair, right in front of the now-ever-present reindeer antlers. “And what do you mean you don’t want turtledoves? And calling birds and geese a-laying and lords a-leaping and all the rest?”
“Crowley—” Aziraphale started, in a rather distressed tone of voice, before he realised the demon was teasing him.
“Come on, angel, where would I find maids a-milking in this day and age, anyway?”
“You’d find a way,” Aziraphale muttered.
“’Course I would,” Crowley said cheerfully. “But who wants a dozen drummers, anyway? They’d just be dreadfully noisy, and always getting underfoot.”
“Yes,” Aziraphale agreed, relieved Crowley didn't seem interested in pursuing this avenue any further. “You do realise the twelve days of Christmas are the twelve days after Christmas, though, right?”
Crowley’s smiled faltered, but then leapt back in full force. “Eh, close enough. And I feel that, in honour of twelve days until Christmas, we work up a rousing round…”
Aziraphale realised what Crowley meant just as the demon drew a huge breath.
“On the first day of Christmas,” Crowley belted out, “my best friend gave to me a partridge in a pear tree.”
Aziraphale turned and tried to flee, but the demon pursued him. “On the second day of Christmas, my best friend gave to me two turtle doves and a partridge in a pear tree.”
Aziraphale carefully deposited the pear tree branch on the bench of the light-up sleigh next to Father Christmas. The partridge shrieked at him again and tried to free itself. Aziraphale realised Crowley had tied its foot to the branch to prevent it flying away.
“On the third day of Christmas, my best friend gave to me three French hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree.”
“Please, Crowley, you’ll be going on for ages,” Aziraphale said hopelessly as he freed the partridge’s foot with a wave of his hand.
“On the fourth day of Christmas, my best friend gave to me four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves — my, so many birds! — and a partridge in a pear tree.”
“I’m not listening,” Aziraphale said stubbornly, walking past Crowley again as he headed back towards his bookshelves. Behind him, the partridge burst into the air and made a desperate bid for freedom.
“On the fifth day of Christmas, my best friend gave to me FIIIIIVE GOOOOOOOLDEN RIIIIIIINGS,” Crowley belted, following Aziraphale shamelessly.
The partridge ran into the shop window with a resounding thud and Aziraphale waved his hand at the shop door until it opened with a jangle of jingle bells. The partridge shrieked again and flapped desperately out into the winter air.
“Four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree.”
“Must you?” Aziraphale asked as he returned to his bookcases, picked up the feather duster, and resumed brushing the dust off the shelves.
“On the sixth day of Christmas—”
<< ~ >>
“—my best friend gave to me six geese a-laying, FIIIIIVE GOOOOOOOLDEN RIIIIIIINGS, four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear—”
“On the seventh day of Christmas—”
“It’s been three days, Crowley,” Aziraphale begged. “If you don’t give me some peace, I’ll be pleading self-defence when they ask me why I smote you.” (Presuming Heaven would have cared why Aziraphale smote a demon, which they wouldn’t have.)
“—seven swans-a-swimming—nah, you wouldn’t smite little old me—six geese a-laying, FIIIIIVE GOOOOOOOLDEN RIIIIIIINGS—”
“Don’t tempt me, serpent.”
<< ~ >>
“Crowley, that’s not polite.”
Outside the bookshop, Aziraphale watched two passing strangers suddenly stop and pivot towards each other as though pulled from their parallel trajectories by invisible strings. They exchanged a quick kiss before resuming their previous courses as though nothing had happened, though both blushed bright red.
Aziraphale frowned at Crowley, who was sitting on one of the reindeer lawn ornaments with his feet propped up on the interior sill of the bookshop’s front windows, holding a bowl of popcorn.
“You’re baiting random strangers again.”
“Hey, it’s their fault they’re not watching where they’re going,” Crowley said, eating a handful of popcorn and peering around where Aziraphale was doing his best to block the demon’s view.
“Crowley, putting mistletoe outside the bookshop and then forcing people to kiss under it is not okay.” (And Hell wouldn’t have considered it proper demonic behaviour either, which just goes to show how out-of-touch they are with reality.)
Crowley gave Aziraphale his most innocent look. “It’s in plain sight,” he protested.
“It’s not consensual,” Aziraphale stressed. “This is worse than the ladder stunt you pulled.”
Crowley sniggered, but when Aziraphale snatched his bowl of popcorn away, he sobered considerably. “Come on, angel…”
“Don’t angel me,” Aziraphale said sharply. “I’m going to go take it down, and if you make me kiss anyone, so help me.”
Crowley mumbled something as Aziraphale strode towards the door to the bookshop. Outside, two lone men passing from opposite directions had the misfortune to step under the mistletoe at the same moment. They swung to face each other with mutual surprise, and kissed.
This one lasted longer than the others, and Crowley blinked in surprise as the two men broke apart, blushed a bit, and then one jerked a hand over his shoulder and said something with a smile. They walked off together in that direction.
A moment later, Aziraphale arrived and, with a wave of his hand, tugged the mistletoe free from its location. The angel glowered at Crowley disapprovingly through the window before turning to walk back inside, but Crowley was feeling a little like his plan had turned against him, and didn’t protest.
To Be continued!!