* * *

by afrai

* * *

It was probably not a good omen, Crowley thought, that the first word Aziraphale spoke to him outside of Eden was "Aaargh!"

He rolled over and groaned.

"Crawly?" said Aziraphale in a voice that mingled irritation and concern equally. "Are you all -- are you alive?"

Crowley muttered. Aziraphale leaned closer, and Crowley fought the urge to flinch away from the bright burn of his halo.

"What's that?" said Aziraphale.

"I sssaid," said Crowley, "unfortunately, yes."

Crowley could hear Aziraphale wince.

"Well, I don't see what you expected me to do," Aziraphale said defensively. "Why in Hea -- " Crowley cringed -- "why on Earth did you spring out at me like that? And what is that?"

It took a moment for Crowley to realise what Aziraphale was talking about.

"It's my body," he said, with dignity.

"Why?" said Aziraphale. He sounded genuinely perplexed.

Crowley didn't have fur, but if he had he would have bristled.

"It's not that bad!"

"Crawly," said Aziraphale flatly, "I don't even know what you are."

He seemed to be expecting an explanation.

"Well, what do you think I am?" hedged Crowley.

"You look like a snake with legs," said Aziraphale, but he didn't sound awfully certain about it. He squinted. "Not very well-attached legs, either."

Crowley, who was trying to get up on those legs -- which were none improved by the staff Aziraphale had taken to them -- had to agree. He hadn't really put a lot of thought into his legs. He'd just felt it was time for something new. All those centuries as a snake . . . it was beginning to get on his nerves. It was time, he'd decided, to make a change. And for some obscurely felt reason, he'd known that the change would have to involve legs.

He was starting to think, though, that he hadn't quite got it right this time. He'd have to try again.

Preferably when he wasn't hurting in thirty-two different places from Aziraphale's beating. Crowley wondered vaguely what the angel had done to get such a right arm.

"I'll thank you to keep your personal comments to yourself," he snapped. "You've had enough of a go at me already, don't you think?"

Aziraphale blushed.

"Sorry," he said. "I just wasn't expecting you. You must admit, you did make rather an abrupt appearance."

Crowley hissed sulkily to indicate that he was not going to admit any such thing.

"What in He -- on Earth are you doing here, anyway? Aren't you supposed to be -- " Aziraphale waved vaguely -- "wile-ing somewhere?"

"Wanted to see you," muttered Crowley. He wondered if his legs were supposed to tangle like that. They seemed a lot more bendy than most of the legs he'd seen.

"Really?" Aziraphale sounded pleased. "Why?"

"S'posed to corrupt you," said Crowley, absorbed in untangling his legs.

He supposed later it might have been a good idea not to say that, but since this was after Aziraphale had knocked him on the head with that staff and fed his body to a passing lion, it was pretty much a moot point.

* * *

"But look, are you sure you don't want to think about Hell as a potential workpl -- "

"Yes," said Aziraphale.

"Oh," said Crowley.

Then he said,

"The sword. Um. Would you mind, um, moving it away from my neck just a bit?"

"Is that your neck?" said Aziraphale. His surprise was worse than the sword. Crowley had spent ages working on this one.

"The legs are much better, though," Aziraphale said kindly as Crowley crawled away. If Crowley had had hands, and if the sign had existed at the time, he would have given him the finger.

* * *

The next time they met, Aziraphale didn't whip out any weapons for at least five minutes. Crowley could have considered this a triumph in breaking Aziraphale's resistance down, but he was too busy being offended on his body's behalf.

"I'm sure fur isn't supposed to look like tha -- " began Aziraphale, just as Crowley said,

"It was the best I could come up with! D'you know how hard it is to make those bastards down there give you new bodies, especially if the old ones aren't broken?"

Aziraphale shut up and stared at him. Crowley squirmed.

The fur might be wrong, but it was a good body for squirming in. Aziraphale had to give him that, Crowley thought defiantly.

"Would you like a drink?" said Aziraphale.

Crowley gaped.

Aziraphale hadn't asked him if he was able to drink, even though it was a perfectly legitimate question, considering the body Crowley was currently inhabiting. Crowley told himself it was gratitude for this that made him accept the offer.

That, and the fact that it gave him the perfect opportunity to tempt Aziraphale into evil. Right.

His body didn't seem to take alcohol the same way Aziraphale's did. He would have to work on that. It looked like fun.

* * *

"But why do you do it?" said Aziraphale one day, over drinks.

"Do what?" said Crowley. This was after he'd finally managed to configure a body that was affected by alcohol.

The fur still wasn't quite right, though. As Aziraphale pointed out, they weren't supposed to turn into scales and drop off every other month.

"This body-switching," said Aziraphale. "You hardly ever look the same for two months straight. The only way I recognise you when I see you again is from your voice."

"In most cases, my voice saying 'aargh,'" said Crowley.

"Are you still sulking over that?"

"You broke my spine! It took decades to put it back together!"

Aziraphale graciously refrained from pointing out that it hadn't been a very good spine in the first place. The silence was so defined Crowley could almost see its edges.

"Well, that just makes my point, doesn't it," Aziraphale said, when he felt the silence had sunk in well enough. "I wouldn't always be thrashing you if you didn't keep showing up looking like some horrible perversion of God's creation."

"I am a horrible perversion of -- "

"You don't have to look it, do you?" said Aziraphale.

"I don't do it on purpose," said Crowley. "Those are just . . . mistakes. I'm working on them, but I'm not going to get it right the first go."

"Get what right?" said Aziraphale. "What are you doing?"

Crowley was silent. Then he said,

"Looking for me."

Aziraphale looked at him with sympathy.

"I think you've had enough," he said. But he let Crowley have the rest of the jug anyway.

* * *

He couldn't remember when Aziraphale started calling him Crowley instead of Crawly. It must have changed at some definite point, and for some reason, because Crowley had never mentioned it.

But Aziraphale said, "I've got do some divine ecstasy in Sumeria; would you look after Greece for me for a bit, Crowley?" one day, and when Crowley thought about it he couldn't remember when Aziraphale had started. He knew there must have been a transition, but he couldn't tell when.

Aziraphale still slipped up and called him Crawly sometimes. Crowley didn't say anything.

He didn't need quite so much fur after all, he thought. Certainly not all over.

* * *

The first time Crowley got it right, he strode into a tavern and ordered a drink. Then he waited for Aziraphale.

He'd already had a good feeling about his current body, but he knew he'd got it right when he looked across the room into Aziraphale's eyes and seen recognition.

"Hello, angel," he said when Aziraphale had made his way across the room to his table. "Nice day, isn't it? Want a drink? These little cocktail things are really good. You're staring."

"Crowley, you look -- "

"Charming? Debonair? Upright?" Crowley knew his mouthful of unusually pointy teeth was probably the only thing that saved his grin from becoming a beam, but he thought that was excusable, given the occasion.

But Aziraphale went on staring at him. Crowley tried not to fidget.

He thought he'd got it right this time. He had hair -- it was actual hair, and it was actually in the right places. He'd done quite a lot of research on that. His legs were no bendier than they were supposed to be. His opposable thumbs were perfect in every detail. His tongue was hardly even forked.

He hadn't been able to do much about his eyes, but he'd decided to leave them as they were. They were a nice touch, he thought. Gave his body a sort of air.

This body was right. It was him. And if Aziraphale didn't realise that --

"You look," said Aziraphale, "exactly the same as you've always looked. I'll have two of those, please."

"What?" said Crowley.

"The little cocktail things," said Aziraphale. "You said they were good?"

"They are," said Crowley.

"Then I'll have two," said Aziraphale.

He was halfway through his sixth when Crowley ventured to mention his body.

"The fingers," he said. "They're pretty good, aren't they?"

"Very nice," said Aziraphale absently. "What do they put in these things, d'you think?"

"And the toes," Crowley said. "Well, you haven't seen the toes, but they aren't bad either. They wiggle and everything. But not too much."

"Would you like to see them?" he tried.

Aziraphale finally looked up from his drink. Crowley realised that he was smiling.

"I'm sure they're perfect, Crowley," he said. "Are you going to have that?"

"No," said Crowley.

It took him a few centuries to notice, but Aziraphale never called him Crawly again.

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