Aziraphale sat on the sofa, a book open on his lap. He'd used a pillow to get it a bit higher, and to make it easier to read one-handed.
(Crowley had pointed out approximately once a week that an e-book reader would allow him to read single-handed much more easily. Aziraphale in fact had a small, elegant e-ink reader loaded up with a few thousand of his favourite books, but he kept it in a desk drawer to see how long he could irritate Crowley by ostentatiously only reading paper books. Regular miracles kept everything up-to-date, of course, as Aziraphale reckoned this could be several decades of Indignant Demon Fun.)
Crowley was sprawled at his side, curled up in a way that could not possibly be comfortable, but let him jam his head somehow between Aziraphale's thigh and the back of the sofa, and kick one leg over the opposite arm and rest his other foot on the floor and, the cause of Aziraphale's single-handedness, play with his halo.
Crowley traced the bones of his fingers, and the veins on the back of his hands. He gave Aziraphale a little hand massage, and he played with Aziraphale's ring, spinning it, tracing the fine design on it, and gently slipping it from his finger and putting it on his own hand.
They had been surprised, the first time he'd done that.
“I didn't think your body would let it go,” Crowley confessed.
Aziraphale just blinked and looked down at him, and visibly startled. “You're not supposed to be able to do that.”
“Oh, shit, I'm sorry, I --” Crowley scrambled to get the ring off. “Shit, you're right, Azirpahale, I'm really sorry –.”
“Hush, dear boy,” Aziraphale soothed him. “No, keep it on. I'm not upset. Just – you are literally not supposed to be able to do that. Humans can't take my halo, of course, but other angels can't either. I tried with a companion once, because we were curious. Long ago.”
Crowley blinked up at him, and touched the ring on his hand. “Maybe demons...fuck. Fuck, this is a weakness Aziraphale.” He went to take the ring off again and Aziraphale stopped him, soft hand over his.
“Crowley. Calm. I don't think demons can either. I think it's just...you?”
Crowley's jaw worked a bit. “I don't like it. What if it's not just me? What if...if some demon knew and they could just take your halo? Hurt you? Does it hurt, me wearing it?” He jumped up and started to pace, twisting the ring around his finger.
“No,” Aziraphale said. “It doesn't hurt, dear. And my halo isn't my power, or anything like that. That was given to me by God, and resides in my soul.” He tilted his head to one side. “The halo is...a part of me, yes. But I think it's a bit like a gallbladder. Not strictly necessarily to life, that is.”
“A gallbladder?” Crowley blinked, and sighed. “Well, I still don't love it.”
“Then give me my ring back.” Aziraphale smiled when Crowley hesitated. “My dear. I love that you can wear it. It makes me happy. And it must make you happy.”
“Dun mind,” Crowley muttered.
“Right then.” Aziraphale setttled back on the sofa. “I am curious, though. How far away can you get while wearing it?”
Crowley shrugged and walked a few feet away, and then a few feet more. “All right, angel?”
“Fine, fine,” Aziraphale assured him. “Keep going, dear.”
“You can't feel it at all?” Crowley asked.
And Aziraphale didn't. Didn't even miss the feel of the ring on his hand, so Crowley went right to the front door of the shop, but still nothing.
“Try going down to the next road?” Aziraphale suggested.
Crowley made a face – he wouldn't hear if anything went terribly wrong – but he slipped out the door, taking a moment at the entrance, then turning and heading down the pavement. Was the ring warm on his finger? Or was that just the last of Aziraphale's body heat? Sharing that – it made something in his belly go warm.
He had just made it to the next street when his ears popped, and the ring was gone. Crowley turned tail and raced back to the bookshop, bursting in, terrified of what he might find –
But it was just Aziraphale, sipping his tea, the ring back on his hand.
“I'm fine, dear boy,” he assured the worried demon, who was kneeling by him in an instant. “Honestly, you're worse than...than...someone very worrisome!” Aziraphale laid a hand on Crowley's shoulder and smiled, not truly upset. “How far did you get?”
“The off-license,” Crowley admitted, wrapping his arms around Aziraphale's knees. “My ears popped.”
Aziraphale started to stroke his hair. “Mmm. I had a moment of discomfort, like I was being pulled somewhere, and then my ring was back.”
Crowley shivered. “Let's never do that again.”
“Not with you going far away,” Aziraphale agreed. “But I – well, I like seeing you wear my ring. My halo. It's a part of me, and it can be with you, and that's very special to me.”
“Gross,” Crowley mumbled, turning and pressing his face into a soft, wool-clad thigh. “I like it too,” he informed said thigh.
“See? It will be something nice we can do while we're together,” Aziraphale said happily.
And so it became. Not all the time, but enough, Crowley gently slipping Aziraphale's ring off, or Aziraphale taking it off himself, and putting it on Crowley's fingers. It fit best on his index fingers, and he liked the look of the gold against his skin, and his clothes. Once, when he had long hair, Aziraphale had braided it into them, and they both enjoyed that a great deal.
Crowley wanted to give back, though, and he thought he might knew how – if his stupid demon self would just go along. He was pretty sure he'd figured it out, though, and decided to give it a go, on this rainy November night when otherwise all was dour and awful.
Crowley was wearing Aziraphale's ring, his head now properly in his angel's lap, when he turned so the left side of his face was up.
“Think I can get my tattoo to visit you, 'f you want,” he said lazily. No harm done if Aziraphale didn't want that, after all.
“Oh, my dear! Do you really? I would adore that!” Aziraphale traced the lines of the snake with a careful fingertip, and Crowley didn't even hide his shiver at the soft touch.
“No promises. But I think...” Crowley closed his eyes. “Keep your hand there, angel.”
“Of course, anything that might help,” Aziraphale said, his fingertips resting there on the hinge of Crowley's jaw, soft and easy and familiar.
Go to him. He's a friend. We like him so very much.
Crowley tried to be gentle in his thoughts, wouldn't do to force anything and cause hurt. He felt his cheek grow warm, and something stir, though.
Go visit the angel. He loves you, silly old thing that he is. Go and visit a little, so he can feel you. It was like urging a child to walk, or training a dog to come, gentle and persuasive and constant.
The sound of scales on sand, a stretching, and he felt the mark stir and straighten, and leave his body.
“Crowley! Oh, Crowley, it's working. It feels wonderful. Are you always so warm?”
“You know I'm not, angel,” Crowley said sitting up and watching the little snake make its way up Aziraphale's finger, the dark ink gliding and shimmering on his skin. “You behave yourself, now.”
Aziraphale giggled as the tattoo grew in size, passing over his hand. By the time the head disappeared up his sleeve, it was growing longer, then wider.
“Oi! You never do that for me!” Crowley protested, while Aziraphale unbuttoned his shirt cuff and rolled it up, showing off the gleaming dark ink on his forearm. The tattoo grew and thickened until its head poked out his other cuff, the tail curled around his wrist so that the snake spanned his arms and shoulders.
“Well aren't you just the sweetest thing?” Aziraphale cooed. He lifted his hand and kissed the snake's head, and giggled. “He's squeezing me! Oh, forgive me – do you even have a gender, dear?”
The snake's tongue darted out.
“No more than I do,” Crowley said, watching a tattoo that couldn't talk or make facial expressions fall in love with Aziraphale, and Aziraphale be utterly charmed by something that couldn't even bring him a pastry. It occurred to him then that perhaps the boundary to being Aziraphale's friend was a touch low.
“I do beg your pardon, then,” Aziraphale said politely, and petted the inked head. “What a darling thing you are, and so handsome! Now you just settle right there – yes, like Crowley does when he's a big snake too.” The angel prattled sweetly, and petted the tattoo's head again, and Crowley watched, utterly giving up. Of course a part of himself had fallen for Aziraphale. All of himself had fallen for a bloody nervous bloody cute bloody fussy angel in about five seconds flat. None of this should be surprising.
“Want to see how far away I can get?” Crowley offered.
“Absolutely not, I will not chance you hurting yourself,” Aziraphale sniffed.
“Oh, so when the shoe's on the other foot...” Crowley's smile grew. “Aren't you supposed to want to harm demons?”
“Well not you,” Aziraphale said. “I don't want to hurt you.” He looked mortally offended. “Then how could you go about...casting wiles, or whatever it is you do, for me to thwart!”
“How thoughtless of me,” Crowley said dryly.
“Besides,” Aziraphale sniffed. “We know you can only go a block away while wearing my ring. Why should your tattoo, which is far more intimate, be any different? No,” he said, with a voice of great wisdom. “I think you'll have to stay right there, Crowley, while it's invited over onto my body. Wouldn't want to chance getting too far away.”
“Of course, angel,” Crowley said, snuggling back down with his head in Aziraphale's lap. To be on the safe side.
Aziraphale returned to rolling up his other sleeve so he could admire the fine, dark lines on his skin, the snake gently wrapped around his body.