Day 3

Title: Day 3
Author: tarotgal
Fandom: Good Omens
Rating: PG-13
Pairing: Aziraphale/Crowley
Disclaimer: Not my characters. I wish they were mine. I definitely don’t get paid for this.
Summary: Aziraphale's got a cold and a visitor.
Notes: Written during my 12 Ficlets in 12 Days in 2019-20 project project for Masking

As Aziraphale rang the customer’s purchase up, he ducked his head and coughed into the thick scarf he had wound ‘round and ‘round his neck that morning when he realized he had caught a chill and did not want to risk it getting worse. That was not how these viruses worked, he had soon come to realize. If a head cold wanted him, then it had him. It was sort of like Crowley in that respect, only in that it caused him to have a sore throat and a sniffly nose rather than a ticklish sensation in his pelvic region.

Though he had seen many people afflicted by one thing after another over the years, he had never personally been ill before. And now that he had experienced it for a good part of the morning, he was decided that he most certainly did not enjoy it.

“Coming down with something?” the woman asked him, handing over her larger bills and then hovering for her change. “Nasty weather fluctuations we’ve had lately, I shouldn’t wonder if half of London’s ill.”

Aziraphale wanted to explain to her that that wasn’t how viruses worked. But he couldn’t very well explain that demons had unleashed viruses on the world millennia ago specifically to inspire the creation of over-the-counter drugs that would make you loopy and lower your inhibitions. It was a long game, but one that had ultimately paid off for their side. Most of the worst decisions made this century had been done by people hopped up on too much Nyquil.

Giving her a polite nod and smile, he handed her the change and pushed the books back over the counter to her. She slipped them into a canvas tote and went on her way. As soon as the bell over the door gave its jingle to indicate she was gone and the door was firmly closed, Aziraphale looked hastily around the store to confirm he was alone. Then he dropped down into a squat behind the counter. He pulled a large, thick handkerchief from his pocket and unfolded it.

He wanted very much to blow his nose and clear it of all the runs and stuffiness he felt clogging his head, but the need to sneeze first was far too great. Just in time, he gratefully nuzzled his poor nose into the soft, warm cloth and relaxed, letting the sneezes come. “HHPTshhh! IHHptchh! HEPShhoo!” He massaged his nose, wiping it dry, as the bell tinkled again.

Aziraphale shot to his feet at once, ready to project to the new customer the friendly, confident demeanor of a bookseller who didn’t have a million germs making his nose twitch and tickle. “Good… day.” His smile was wide and bright, but his words trailed off as he realized it was none other than Crowley who had just entered.

Crowley looked as he always did, only a bit more disheveled than usual. The labels of his black suit sported wrinkles. He had skipped a button on his vest. His hair more or less lay on his forehead rather than sticking up in a quaff. His dark glasses were slightly askew. Oh, and, yes, the tip and underside of his nose were as red as a cherry. “Hullo, Adgel,” he snuffled grumpily, slumping into a chair at the table where they normally took tea together when the shop was very much closed.

Aziraphale wanted very badly to wipe his nose again, so as to be able to present himself as well as possible. So he hurried over to the door to flip the sign from OPEN to CLOSED. He could easily have done so from across the store just by thinking of it, but turning his back to Crowley to do it gave him ample opportunity to wipe his runny nose once more and then tuck the large handkerchief back into his trouser pocket pocket. He hoped Crowley would not notice the bulge. “Ah, to what do I owe this unexpected visit?”


Aziraphale’s eyebrows rose slightly as he took his seat at the table across from the demon. “Did you say karma?”

The corner of Crowley’s mouth rose in a sneer. “Did you say karba?” he repeated, his tone higher-pitched and with a finer accent, attempting a crude imitation of Aziraphale. “Yes I did, I hab a head cold, all right? By dose is all stuffed ub.” To drive the point home, he sniffed several times and pawed at his nose with the side of his hand. “Add I’ll bloody well thadk you dot to… rub it id…” That seemed to be as much as he could manage before all the talking caught up with him. Crowley began to cough, though he kept his mouth closed, holding them in. His body shook and cheeks puffed, and he leaned forward in his seat, a pained expression on his face at the almost-silent misery he was enduring.

Aziraphale’s own raw throat tickled sympathetically. He cleared it and quickly got up to make some tea, never before so glad for it. It would be his fifth cup of the day, so he switched to a pleasant herbal lemon decaf. Perhaps Crowley’s taste buds were so ill-affected from his ailment that he might not notice it wasn’t what Aziraphale normally served. Perhaps he would only notice the warmth against his hurting throat and be glad for the fleeting respite it provided. Aziraphale smiled. Here he was, not only fraternizing but actually looking forward to making a demon feel better. What a brave new world this was indeed.

He popped the top on the tea kettle. “It’s just, karma is not exactly a concept either of our sides holds much stake in, is it?”

Crowley shrugged. “S’ubbose dot. Bud I dod’t dow what else to call it.” He sniffed hard and looked up at Aziraphale. “This wasd’t beadt to habbed.”

His heart racing, Aziraphale swallowed hard. There was a note of panic in his voice. “What wasn’t? Us?”

Us?” Crowley screwed up his face like he’d tasted something terrible. “Doe, I’b dot talkidg about us. This!” He emphasized the word by waving his hand up and down, gesturing to himself. “Whed we idtroduced viruses, they were sbecifically desigded such that debods were dot subbosed to be able to get sick.”

Angels, too, had seemed to be immune given that demons were fallen angels. Aziraphale turned and bent down to get two teacups and saucers, surreptitiously scratching his nose as he did so. He moved the cups, hoping that the sound of them scraping against the shelf and rattling on their saucers would mask the little sniff he needed to sniff to keep his nose from visibly running. Crowley seemed far too wrapped up in his own misery and misfortune to have noticed that Aziraphale was also ill, and he was keen to keep it that way. “Well, what happened? With the viruses?”

“Dabb thidgs butated, got away frob us, got out of codtrol. I’b sure you cad relate.”

It was true, that was a perfect definition of humanity as well. All his years living on Earth, watching humans grow and change had taught him that much. He admired their ceaseless ability to surprise him. But it was also true that getting ill wasn’t something he was particularly chuffed about. On all levels, it seemed, he could relate all too well.

He set the cups down on the table before taking his usual seat. Crowley grabbed for his cup and took several long, lingering swallows before nodding approvingly and hugging the teacup to his chest for a little extra warmth. Aziraphale wished he could offer some of his own warmth, but that wouldn’t be at all proper.

Crowley took in a deep breath and began to cough again, holding them in and thereby shaking the teacup still in his grasp. Aziraphale reached over the table and took it for him, holding it close until he stopped coughing. Crowley reclaimed it afterward with a groan of misery. He slumped down even further in his chair, if that were possible. “I feel awful!” Crowley was always overly dramatic, but this time Aziraphale understood why. His own body felt slow and his head felt as though someone had snuck in and stuffed all his pillows into his ears overnight as he slept then turned on the taps and walked away. How his nose could feel both stuffed-up and runny simultaneously was truly amazing, but he certainly preferred when his nose was neither.

He sipped his tea, which soothed the scratchiness of his throat. “How’s your tea?” he asked.

Crowley shrugged, looking down at his teacup before knocking back the rest of the tea in two gulps. “S’all right,” he admitted. Aziraphale figured that was about as close to a thank you as Crowley was going to get when he was stuck in this self-pitying mode. Crowley set down the cup and wrapped his arms around his chest with a shiver.

Aziraphale was just about to pop up and get him some more tea when out of nowhere, Crowley sneezed. “HAHHTchuhhhhhh! Heh EHHTTTchishhhhh!” The sneezes had been wet and, unlike the coughs, unrestrained. Lucky for Aziraphale, he was already ill and couldn’t catch cold twice. He was going to have to give the tablecloth a good wash later, however.

Snuffling, Crowley raised his arm and dragged it back and forth under his nose. “Ugh… I… oh great. Here cobes… adother…” Instead of simply sneezing into his sleeve, he dropped his arm altogether and sneezed freely again, the strength of it pitching him forward, aimed toward the floor at least. “heyyYAHHTTchhhhhhh! HAHHTchshhhhhhh! HEHchshhhhh! Sniff! Sniff!” He brought his other arm up and wiped his nose again, but apparently that sleeve wasn’t much help. “I gotta blow by dose. Aziraphale, sniff, give be your hadky.”

 Aziraphale hesitated. As much as he wanted to help, under no circumstances could he hand over his already soggy handkerchief. “I haven’t got one to give you.” Being around Crowley for so long had taught him how to lie, but this was actually the truth. Or, at least, mostly the truth.

Sniff! Sniff! What? You’ve always got ode.” He turned his arm and rubbed a dry patch of his sleeve against his nose. “You brobably have ode to batch every tie you owd.”

He wasn’t wrong about that. But, in truth, Aziraphale had only the one on him now, and not only was it already used, but he needed it for his own cold.

Crowley stuck unbent his arm and stuck his hand out, palm up, toward him instantly. “C’bod. Just hadd it over.”

Not wanting to prolong this, Aziraphale was quick to stick to his guns. “I can’t.”

“What’s wrong? Your hadds suddedly dod’t work?”

Aziraphale puffed up, indignant. “There is nothing wrong with my hands, thank you very much.”

“Great. Glad to hear it. Thed hadd it… over… ‘cause I… hahh… I deed to… Hah!” His body rocked back with a gasp then he sneezed again. “HAHTTTTshuhhhh!” The force snapping him forward so violently that it dislodged his glasses, making them fall to the floor. Both in surprise and because his nose was running, Crowley clapped both hands to his face and began to sniffle. He looked up at Aziraphale with an expression filled with desperation, need, and vulnerability. It was such a good look on him. Warmth flooded Aziraphale at the sight.

Sympathy did as well. He got up at once, feeling flustered but nonetheless resourceful. It wasn’t a handkerchief, but it would have to do. Aziraphale handed him the tea towel instead. And Crowley must have really needed it, because he didn’t even bat an eyelash, just took it and blew his nose. He closed his eyes, relaxing, and both men felt plenty of relief at this solution.

To give Crowley some privacy, Aziraphale turned his back on the demon. Until today, he wouldn’t have known what that felt like, but now he did. Now his nose tickled in sympathy—or perhaps from something more. He raised a knuckle to it and rubbed, but the tickle wouldn’t go away. He rubbed again. He kept rubbing. The tickle only grew worse. All right then. If that’s how it had to be, then so be it. He pulled his handkerchief out of his pocket and pressed it to his nose and mouth. In the best case, it would muffle the sound sufficiently so that Crowley wouldn’t hear. In the worst case, his sneeze would at least be properly contained. "h’PTshhhhh! Heptshhh!” He sneezed as discretely as he could, which wasn’t very, and tried to quickly tuck the handkerchief away again.

“Ah-ha!” crowed Crowley. “I saw that! You do have a haddkerchief!”

Aziraphale turned, not sure of exactly what to say but determined to say something. But his breath hitched and eyes closed, and he only just managed to get the handkerchief back out and pressed to his nose in time. “Hepschhhhh!” His nose felt so wet and full he was forced, right then and there, to blow his nose. It was wet and humiliating, but there was nothing he could do about it.

When he opened his eyes again, he found Crowley staring at him. Staring at the handkerchief. Staring at Aziraphale holding the handkerchief. Staring at Aziraphale’s nose that needed the handkerchief. All the attention was rather too much for him. Aziraphale’s cheeks went pink and, with a clearing of his throat, he hurried back over to the tea kettle. “More tea?”

“Bore tea?” Crowley repeated, though this time without the put-on voice. “Bore tea? You just sdeezed add all you cad say is: bore tea?”

Aziraphale gave his nose a firm wipe and tucked the handkerchief back into his pocket, mostly just so that Crowley would stop staring at it. Aziraphale’s gaze, however, was fixed on the tea kettle. “I can also say: one lump or two?”

Crowley sighed heavily. “You dow berfectly well how I take by tea, Adgel.” He sat up, still staring. His snake eyes were still fixed unblinkingly upon Aziraphale. “I didn’t give you by cold, did I?” He looked strangely horrified by the idea, which only made Aziraphale feel warmer.

“Impossible. Colds don’t catch that fast. I’m afraid the fact that we’re both ill at the same time is just a big coincidence,” said the angel who had a rocky relationship with the concept of coincidences to begin with. When one started to question what was part of the big plan and what wasn’t, one never stopped questioning it.

“How lodg have you beed feelidg ill?”

“Oh, not long.” He tried to sound casual, but his whole face felt like it was on fire. He strolled over to the counter and cash register, pretending that he needed to tidy up. Really he was buying himself a few moments to clear his throat, not wanting to cough the moment he answered. Aziraphale took a slow, controlled breath before answering the question. “Since I woke up this morning, I suppose. You?”

“Sabe. Which is lodg edough to wadt this to stob. All the dribbidg add ticklidg add achidg.” He sniffed as he rubbed the side of his hand at his nose. “I feel all full of cold, add I really dod’t like it. I… cad’t eved… hahhh… Hahhhh… HAPPTXSchhhhhhh! HEHTShhhhhh!” The sneezes snapped him forward, and he collapsed back into his seat afterward, arms and legs spread. He moaned miserably. “I cad’t eved coblaid without deedig to sdeeze. This is officially the worst!

Aziraphale couldn’t help but marvel inwardly at that statement coming from a demon who had made regular tips to Hell itself. Forget the fire and brimstone, the torture, the apocalypse, and the end of days. Head colds. Now there was something to really strike fear into the hearts of men.

hahh-HIHHTshhhhhh! EHPTschhhh! Ugh!” Crowley sniffed, not even lifting his hand to rub at his nose this time. “I dod’t feel good!”

“Sorry to hear it,” said Aziraphale, who was not without empathy this time. “If it’s any consolation, you’re not alone. I don’t feel particularly well either.” He ducked his head, coughing into his scarf a few times. Then he busied himself straightening the stacks of books on the counter.

Crowley cocked his head, watching. Then, all limbs and grace combined, he hauled himself up to his feet and headed to the counter. “Hey, you all right?” He didn’t ask. Not with a word or a look. Crowley just reached over the counter and helped himself to a touch. His fingertips stroked Aziraphale’s platinum blond hair.

Aziraphale sucked in a breath and tried not to cough. He leaned into the touch, eyes closed, body warmer than it had any right to be. Any more of this and he might actually burst into flames. And, yet, he didn’t ask for it to stop. He never wanted it to stop. Not for the world.

Or, well, maybe for the world, but that was the only thing really.

His nose twitched, needing to sneeze again, but he only leaned harder into the touch, the stroking so gentle and comforting it seemed impossible to come from a demon. But of course Crowley was no ordinary demon. He felt a hand brush his waist, and he froze, not sure about what this meant. Then that hand slid into the pocket of his trousers and pulled out the handkerchief. Aziraphale’s eyes opened, filled with alarm. He wanted to explain that Crowley couldn’t have that. He’d used it, and he would need it again pretty soon, if all indications were correct.

But then Crowley lifted it to his nose for him and held it there, patient and expectant. Aziraphale’s expression softened, trying to convey his appreciation through his eyes alone because the rest of him was rather occupied with the oncoming sneeze. “ehhhhh… ehhh-ihhhhhh…” It was embarrassing how it teased him, but Crowley and the handkerchief stayed put. “Here it—” he tried to warn, only to fail miserably in the attempt. “ehhKtshoo!

“All that for just the ode sdeeze?” Crowley scoffed, yet his other hand had not stopped stroking for a second. Not even as Aziraphale’s head snapped forward with the sneeze. “You do soud quite…”

“Under the weather,” Aziraphale answered civilly for him. He rubbed his nose into the handkerchief and cleared his throat before pulling back, putting distance between them. He took the handkerchief back and busied himself folding it neatly before placing it back in his pocket. “Yes, thank you so much. I had in fact noticed I’m ill.”

“Thed what the hell are you doidg workidg with a head cold?”

Aziraphale was taken aback. The thought to not open the shop honestly had never even occurred to him.  

Crowley immediately presented the alternative. “If you’ve got a bad cold, you should be ubstairs id your bed, gettidg sobe rest.”

“Then so should you.” He had of course meant that Crowley should be back home in his own flat, asleep in his own bed. But that wasn’t at all how it had come out. The words had raced out before he’d even had a chance to consider them. This was what Crowley did to him. All reason simply flew out the window where the demon was concerned, leaving behind only instinct and unfiltered bluntness and, oh Dear God, what had he just said? He tried to laugh it off. “I didn’t mean… I obviously meant—”

“Well all right, thed. Thought you’d dever ask.”

Aziraphale blinked. It most certainly had not been an invitation, but now that Crowley had accepted, it would be impolite to rescind. An excuse seemed the only possible option. “I, ah, I’m not sure my bed is exactly big enough for both of us. It might be a bit of a tight fit.”

Crowley grinned widely. “Souds berfect. Lead the way, by Adgel.”

Aziraphale acted as though he hadn’t heard that extra little ‘my’ dropped in there. But he replayed the sound of it over and over in his head as he turned off the lights in the shop and headed up the stairs with Crowley on his tail. Even spoken through heavy congestion, it still sounded so sweet to his ears.