For torch, in return for comment fic yay.

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Custard creams and other dreams
by afrai

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It was Kenren's missions that were the problem, really. Tenpou set his cup of tea down and wondered how he was going to explain it.

"They provide him with an outside interest," he said. He paused, listening to the quiet chink of crockery from the other room. "It's good for him. I wouldn't interfere if I could."

"Mm, yes," said Aziraphale, his voice slightly muffled. After a moment he said, "Oh dear, looks like the chocolate bourbons are gone. Do you have any objection to custard creams, my dear?"

"Not at all."

"Not that one wishes to criticise," said Aziraphale a moment later, holding the door open with a hip as he eased his way through, "but it does seem there must be some way of managing while he's gone. Have you ever considered, well, shelves?"

"It's not that I can't manage," said Tenpou, with dignity. He took a biscuit. "I just have my own system. I know where everything is."

"Everything except for your own self, you mean."

"Aha. Yes, well --"

"Well, that's the danger, isn't it?" said Aziraphale. "You know what they say about library classification systems."

"They're frequently loaded with cultural bias, either unnecessarily complicated or unhelpfully simplistic, and lead to higher numbers of student fatalities?"

"No, I meant in relation to L-Spa -- student fatalities?"

"That's what the Librarian told me," said Tenpou. "You know the one. Works in the library with the books with the big pointy -- " He gestured at his mouth.

"The ones that read you as you read them, you mean? Ah, yes, I know the one. Did you drop by there, then?"

Tenpou shrugged. "On the way here. He was very hospitable, but there are only so many bananas you can refuse before it starts to have the appearance of churlishness."

"Ah," said Aziraphale. "I know how that is. How is the old bo -- ape?"

"He seemed well," said Tenpou. "When I visited him he was having a problem with the academic textbooks. The newer editions kept killing and eating the old, he said."

Aziraphale tutted sympathetically. "Always a problem, these animate books. The -- er -- authorities were going to institute some in this universe, but they thought better of it. Good thing, too. They have their charm, I'll grant you, but I draw the line at cannibalism in the shelves."

Tenpou nodded. "Although the Librarian said it wasn't the feeding as such that troubled him, as a matter of fact," he said. "It was their cooking practices he objected to. They liked the smoky flavour imparted by grilling over a fire. It was making the other books nervous."

"Ah?" said Aziraphale, interested. "Do you find it easy to understand the Librarian? I've always had difficulty with his accent. The difference between 'ook' and 'ook', you know -- "

"It isn't immediately evident to the non-native speaker," Tenpou agreed. "But I have, ah, previous experience with simians, you could say."

"That would explain it."


There was a brief break for biscuits.

"Not that the Librarian minded the student fatalities," Tenpou remarked through a mouthful of chocolate bourbon-substitute. "He said he wouldn't have anything against students, if they would only just stop coming into the library."

"They do that, don't they," said Aziraphale.

"It's almost as if they thought the books were there for them to read, he said."

"Shocking, this younger generation."

"Cracking spines, dog-earing pages -- "

Aziraphale held up a warning biscuit. "Please, my dear boy. At the table?"

Tenpou smiled. Aziraphale shifted his chair away in an apparently unconscious movement.

"Sorry," Tenpou said. "Ah ha ha."

"It's quite all right," said Aziraphale. "But I have a ... colleague, who used to do that sort of thing, if you'll believe it."

"You don't say? So do I," said Tenpou.

"Really? How did you stop him?"

"I can't. I keep telling him, but -- "

Aziraphale looked horrified. "You don't mean he still does it?"

"Well, I don't think he does it on purpose ... "

"How do you put up with it?"

"Ah, well." The light glinted off Tenpou's spectacles. "There are compensations."

"If he doesn't do it to annoy, I suppose," said Aziraphale dubiously. "Well, this colleague I was telling you about, we haven't always got along so well as we do now, and back in the day he used to come in to the shop when I was out on professional business and do all sorts with the books, just to make a nuisance of himself."

Tenpou made appropriate noises of sympathy.

"And you stopped him?"

"Well, of course," said Aziraphale. "I couldn't be having with that sort of thing. The most dreadful behaviour."

"Good thing you put a stop to it."

"Oh, yes."

There was another pause. Tenpou had another cup of tea.

"You know," said Aziraphale dreamily, "snake meat is considered a delicacy in China."


"Oh, yes," said Aziraphale. "The way it goes, as I understand it, is that the waiter brings the live snake to the table, chops its head off, drains its blood, guts it, and serves it up for dinner."

Tenpou thought about this.

"Pleasant," he said.

"Yes indeed," said Aziraphale happily. "Not for the snake, of course."


"Another cup of tea?"

"Don't mind if I do," said Tenpou.

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