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by afrai

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Aziraphale kept his mouth shut when the first three men crawled past, breathing age and poverty and disease, but he snapped at the corpse.

"Right, there's quite enough of that," he said.

"What?" said Crowley innocently.

"My dear," said Aziraphale, "do you really want to start something here?"

His tone made it clear that he was not averse to the idea. Crowley coughed, embarrassed.

"Sorry," he said. "Just a joke."

"It's in very bad taste," said Aziraphale severely.

The problem with Crowley was that he kept mixing business with pleasure, he thought. Dinner invitations turned into the eternal tale of Good versus Evil, and when Good and Evil were represented by a demon and an angel who'd done it all before and were quite bad at it anyway, it was a boring tale. Repeating it was a habit left over from the bad old days, and Crowley should have got over it by now. Aziraphale was about to tell him so, but a man stumbled against him and his arm shot out, steadying the stranger.

Blank dark eyes looked right through Aziraphale, wiped of all expression by the horror of enlightenment. Aziraphale dropped his hand.

"Are you -- "

But he was gone, staggering like a man drunk on pain. Aziraphale stared after him.

"Maybe we should get him some help," he said.

"We?" said Crowley.

Aziraphale was silent just long enough for Crowley to remember that he wasn't yet forgiven for the social faux pas of rubbing the uglier side of life in Aziraphale's face. Then he smiled.

"I think you owe me dinner?" he said.

Crowley wisely did not remind Aziraphale that he'd paid last time.

"Right," he said.

Aziraphale looked back once before they left, but he could no longer see the man.

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It was nearly ten years later when Aziraphale met Crowley in India.

It was in a market. Crowley dodged a woman with a chicken and collared Aziraphale, which was a pretty impressive feat considering collars hadn't been invented yet.

"You're paying for dinner this time," said Crowley firmly. Aziraphale adjusted the expression of innocence on his face and wondered what good deed Crowley had found out about now. He hadn't seen Crowley so annoyed since the invention of the Hippocratic oath.

"May I ask why?" he said mildly.

"Because I paid the last two times, and because that trick with the prince was below the belt," said Crowley. His voice was sharp, but tinged with a reluctant admiration.

"The trick with the prince?"

Crowley glared at Aziraphale.

"You don't have to gloat," he said. "I get it, you win. I don't know how you did it, but good on you. I'll bet your superiors were pleased when they got the report."

"Crowley," said Aziraphale patiently, "kindly tell me what on Earth you are wittering about."

Crowley looked around uncomfortably, leaned in, and whispered a name.

"Ah," said Aziraphale. He did not smile, though the impulse was almost irresistible. He was, after all, quite fond of Crowley. He wasn't a bad sort, when you got right down to it, even considering whose side he was on, and he was about to suffer a bit of a shock.

"I didn't actually have anything to do with that affair," Aziraphale said. "In fact, you might say any credit there might be that isn't his really goes to you. . . ."

"What?" said Crowley.

Aziraphale told him.

Then he picked Crowley up and dusted him off.

"He's really a lovely man," he said kindly. "He has some very interesting ideas. You should try talking to him; I'm sure you'd like him."

Crowley whimpered.

"Here, come along," Aziraphale said. "There's a place I know nearby that serves some excellent curry. You'll feel better for some food."

Crowley croaked.

"What's that?"

"I need a drink," said Crowley.

Aziraphale put his arm around the demon.

"Of course you do," he said. "Come on, I'll pay."

He could afford to be generous.

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