It was the middle of a particularly unforgiving winter in London, just over two weeks before Christmas, and it had been snowing non stop all day, nonetheless, Aziraphale had opened the shop and had been happy that no one had yet ventured inside. In fact, he hadn't seen one single person walk past in the street at all. His collection was safe for another day and thanks to the snow, he doubted anyone would notice if he closed early. So, he went to lock the door and turn over the sign from 'open' to 'closed' when he saw something rather odd on the pavement outside.
Amidst the thick, white snow was a black snake mostly buried but its head was sticking out and it was this that made the angel run out of the shop and frantically dig out the creature from under its freezing prison. There was only one huge black snake that would be loitering near his shop and he'd recognise his friend's serpent form half blind and drunk. There was just something not quite natural about a demonic snake.
"Crowley?" Aziraphale said, concerned as he gently ran his hand over the frozen snake. Its unusual yellow eyes were unresponsive and dull and since snakes had no eyelids, it wasn't quite clear whether it was awake or asleep but when the angel got no response he took that to mean that his friend was unconscious. "Oh dear," Aziraphale sighed and looked around, luckily there was no one there to see him, with great difficulty, carry the snake into his shop.
There was a nice back room with a fireplace and an inviting sofa surrounded by mountains of books and this was where he brought his half frozen friend. Aziraphale soon had a roaring fire burning in the grate and he settled Crowley on the sofa with his small, snake head resting on his lap and swathed in half a dozen blankets. He had his wings splayed around them in the hope of retaining heat, a book on hand and a warm mug of cocoa, now all he could do was wait until his friend woke up which happened about half an hour later.
A quiet hiss and the slow movement of the snake shuffling in the blankets alerted Aziraphale to this and he breathed a sigh of relief. He set down his book and looked down at the snake.
"Crowley," the angel said and the snake started darting its head around frantically. "It's alright, it's me, dear fellow. You're safe and sound in my bookshop," he explained, "Are you warm enough?"
Crowley hissed as he shook his head weakly and instinctively snuggled, though he himself would deny it vehemently, closer to the warm angel. "...What...happened...did I make it?" Crowley managed to ask, his voice hoarse and quiet.
"Make it? You mean here? I found you outside buried in the snow almost frozen to death. I've been worried sick about you. What on earth were you doing outside and in your serpent form, too?"
"..Didn't have a choicccccccce," the demon hissed back, his forked tongue flicking out.
"Can you change back? You'll warm up a lot faster," Aziraphale said.
"Can't," Crowley replied, "Sssstuck like thissssss...at leasssssst for a while."
"Priessssssst...knew a binding sssssspell. Damn sssssstrange priessssst he was too."
Binding spells were odd things and the fact that a priest knew one in this century was odder still. They were used against demons to force them to assume their original demonic state, in Crowley's case, a snake, to show the world for what they really were. They wore off on their own eventually.
"A priest?" Aziraphale asked, exasperated, "Crowley, my dear, please tell me you weren't tempting the clergy at Christmas?"
"If head officccce decccidesss to sssshow up and assssk, then yessssss, I wasss...but...errr...well," he turned his eyes away, sounding embarrassed. "I wassss going to, that'ssss what I wassss going there for but I found a..."
"Erm...promisssse me you won't tell anyone."
"What on earth is this about? Are you in trouble?"
"Beyond being ssstuck as a sssnsake? If Hell findssss out why, then yeah, I'm in big trouble. I wassss going to tempt the Priessst, jussst a bit of fun, y'know. You're always saying how 'good' he is...y'know, that church you go and help out at?"
"Yes, it's a lovely old church and he's quite a nice man. I really wish you hadn't tried to tempt him."
"Didn't get the chancccce. I wasss on the way over I found a kid...jusssst a girl...sssshe wassss half buried in the ssssnow and sssshe ssssaid ssshe was homelesssss. I remembered you telling me that that church hasss placccessss for people who need them ssso I took her there."
"Oh, Crowley," Aziraphale beamed, "I'm proud of you, what a remarkably good deed," he said, stroking the snake's head.
"Bloody priessst ssssaw my eyesss!" Crowley hissed. "Knew a binding ssssspell too. What kind of priesssst can do a binding ssspell thisss good?!" he exclaimed.
"A very good question," the angel said. "I wasn't aware that he had that kind of power. We should probably investigate once it's worn off. How long do you think that's likely to take?" he asked.
"Wissssh I knew. A day...a week...who knowsss."
"Being frozen half to death won't have helped you to regain your strength either."
"Didn't know anywhere elsssse to go. I wasss ssso clossse to the ssshop...almossst made it insssside...wasss sssso cold. Mussst've blacked out," Crowley replied. "They ssssay no good deed goessss unpunished," he hissed.
"That young girl would disagree with you. You likely saved her life."
"You're a bad influencccce, angel."
"Maybe so," Aziraphale said, "But I've said before that there's good in you."
"Don't ssssay that out loud!"
"There's no one here but us."
"Ssstil don't sssay it!" the demon said and shuddered.
"Still cold?" Aziraphale asked, the smile on his face fading away to concern.
"How can you sssstill be sssso warm when it'sss sssso cold?"
"I suspect it's do with Heavenly warmth," Aziraphale answered, bringing his wings closer around them. "Being warm blooded helps, too, I imagine," he said.
"Hate being a ssssnake in winter," Crowley bemoaned.
"Here," the angel said, moving the pile of blankets closer to him, if that was even possible. The snake slithered inside its cocoon and draped his long body over the angels' lap.
"...Thanksss..." Crowley muttered, sheepishly.
"Anytime," Aziraphale replied, gently stroking the surprisingly smooth snake skin and almost chuckled when he heard his friend purr in response. He wasn't aware that snakes could purr. "You're more than welcome to stay, of course," he said after a moment, "In fact, I'd rather you did, at least that way I can keep an eye on you and this binding spell. We don't want any nasty surprises."
Crowley slightly raised his head to look the angel in the eyes. Since the Apocalypse that never was, and even during it, they'd spent more time together than they had in any other century. Not a day had passed since then that they hadn't spent in each other's company. Before, they used to meet up every one and a while for lunch and before that it was chance meetings typically. The 'Not-Apocalypse' had changed so much between their friendship, after all, forming your own side, away from their respective head offices and thwarting the end of the world together was bound to have an effect.
"M'kay," Crowley simply replied and went back to resting his head against the warm angel.