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Page history last edited by PBworks 18 years, 5 months ago


Apples and Serpents

    The apple fell from the tree.
    It was picked up by a gloved hand that rubbed it, admiring thoughtfully its exceptional redness with a bony thumb, and then set it on top of a pile of its kind already filling the basket to the brim. The basket was carried off into a waiting cart, by a pair of rough, callused hands that sorted the apple with unusual care, into a box cushioned with foam. And then the box was hauled into a truck by a pair of large arms that lifted it gently into the hold, and then closed the hold of the truck, which drove to the market to deliver this morning’s fresh produce.
    Miles away in London, in a random fruit market, the apple sat like a crown jewel, on top of a pile of other apples, in an old vendor’s cart. A hand picked it up, and its slightly chubby fingers turned the red apple gently to catch the light, and held it there, just for the briefest second, to admire its especially smooth and splendid sheen. The apple was bought, and went into a brown paper bag, where it shared space with a tin of lemon cakes, a box of tea, and today’s issue of The London Times.

    - - - - -

    Aziraphale picked up the apple and bit into it absent-mindedly, with a soft crunching sound. A small trickle of juice ran down the corner of his mouth unexpectedly, and he dabbed it daintily with a handkerchief before returning to his work. He wrote in the boxes of ten across, T-E-M-P-T-A-T-I-O-N. The next to be filled was number two down: “Subtle, cunning.” He was about to answer this, when the bell over his shop door tinkled merrily, and Crowley stepped in.
    Aziraphale beamed, and offered to get him some tea.
    While the angel puttered around in the kitchen, Crowley bent over the counter and peered curiously at the newspaper crossword. It was almost entirely finished, though it was obviously done with the aid of an old thesaurus and dictionary that lay beside it.
    “You’ve been out already,” said the demon casually.
    “Just wanted a bit of fresh air. It’s a lovely morning out there,” answered the angel from the kitchen.
    Crowley grunted noncommittally. He wasn’t by any stretch in favor of mornings, and Aziraphale usually seemed to agree with him, no matter that he didn’t sleep (as a matter of principle), particularly after a long night of hard drinking in the shop’s back room. But, today seemed to be an exception.
    The dictionary was opened to the word “temptation”, which brought a small smile to the demon’s lips. It was, after all, his word, originally. And then his eye caught something even more interesting: a small notebook, which was filled with Aziraphale’s neat, rounded print.
    There was a clatter from the kitchen. “Do you want some lemon cakes? I’ve got them fresh off a bakery, and they’re awfully good, if a bit too sugary.”
    “N-no! No thanks!” Crowley called out, even as he reached for the notebook.
    He read:

temptation n.

A state of mental conflict confustication

bet. of a heavenly agent (me) and by infernal

influences (A.J. Crowley).

    He stopped just to snort, and mutter under his breath, “Typical Aziraphale. Can’t even vandalize a dictionary when he so obviously wants to.” And then continued:

(to) tempt v.t.

1. To attempt to persuade (a person being) to

do wrong not thwart evil for the moment, as by

promising pleasure or gain (dinner and/or

drinks…theater? Oh, dear.).


2. To be attractive to (oh, my); invite: Your offers

do should not tempt me. (Not very good at

resisting them, I suppose…oh no!)


3. To provoke or risk provoking: to tempt Fate.

It seems the post-almost-Apocalypse has dimmed

boundaries of Arrangement. Perhaps it is for the



    If Crowley had been drinking tea, he would have sprayed a mess on the countertop at this moment. As it were, his throat made a gurgling noise, that went out somewhat like “urkgh”.
    Still in the kitchen, Aziraphale asked, “Crowley, is everything all right?”
    “Ye—yesss!!!” Crowley exclaimed, hissing in his surprise. There was a clatter of tea things, Aziraphale was finally coming out of the kitchen. Quickly, Crowley replaced the notebook and then snatched a pencil. When Aziraphale set the tray down on the counter, he was surprised to see Crowley finishing his crossword puzzle.
    Aziraphale observed, with a pout of dismay, that number two down was filled with the demon’s untidy scrawl.
    “What? Is there something wrong?” Crowley asked, barely able to breathe in his anxiousness.
    “No, not really. I just wanted to finish that,” replied Aziraphale.
    Crowley glanced at the word that Aziraphale was pointing at. It was the one he wrote himself, S-E-R-P-E-N-T-I-N-E. He flashed Aziraphale a weak, apologetic smile. “Oh. It’s just a word, angel.” Then, to divert the angel’s attention, he pointed to the apple, sitting innocently on a book, and said, “That’s a nice apple. Mind if I have a bite?”
    Aziraphale tilted his head, and his expression was one of confused bafflement. He picked the apple up and offered it to Crowley, saying, “Oh, well, I’ve already bitten it, dear. But, if you still want it…”
    Without thinking, Crowley took the apple and bit into it, with a soft crunching sound. It was unexpectedly very delicious, for an innocent apple, but this thought failed to register in Crowley’s mind, because its juice appeared to be dribbling in a thin line down his chin.
    “Oh, let me...here...” started Aziraphale, but already Crowley had wiped it off with the back of his sleeve.
    “Mmph. Yeah, delicious. Thanks for the bite,” said the demon. For some reason, his feet were already heading for the door. He was only able to call out to Aziraphale, “Just to remind you—the theater—I’ll pick you up at six,” before the door closed and Aziraphale was left, dumbfounded, with his handkerchief held out to thin air.

    - - - - -

    That afternoon, the angel dreamed.
    It was a pleasant sort of afternoon really, with mild sunny weather and the like. The last Aziraphale recalled he was doing was doodling in his notebook: an odd little apple, with a bite on each of its dimpled cheeks.
    And then Crowley was sitting next to him on a low couch, slugging a jug of wine with one hand, and gesturing wildly with the other. Their general view appeared to be a tapestry of the temple of Vesta, replete with a virgin offering a salt cake to the Temple Snake. And in his hand, Aziraphale was holding an apple.
    “And then her mother ssstuffed my mouth with a drugged rodent, and it tasssted sssomething bloody awful, like ditch water from the bathsss…”
    Aziraphale looked closely at his dim surroundings. The night had already settled in, and the oil lamps were just beginning to burn brightly. The architecture isolated them from most of the noises outside, but he could still vaguely distinguish the chatter of people dining and loitering by the baths. He seemed to recall a certain thermopolium near the Baths of Constantine that he and Crowley used to frequent, back in Ancient Rome. He wondered if this was a dream or a memory. He vaguely remembered this conversation actually, but he couldn’t be certain about the apple in his hand.
    “And then, before I knew it, I’d ssswallowed half that Go— He— bloody awful rock-hard ssson-of-a-rotten-passstry, and it was absssolutely constipating. Conssstipating! Thisss is utter blasssphemy, angel!”
    Aziraphale examined his apple closely. To his surprise, it already had a bite on one side. And then Crowley’s hand surprised him even more by snatching the fruit and saying, quite drunkenly, “That looksss deliciousss. Mind if I have a bite?”
    And Crowley did. Bite it. And a thin trickle of juice dribbled down his chin.
    Aziraphale could only stare, absolutely dumbstruck at this phenomenon. It was the first time he actually experienced déjà vu, and it felt strange that it should be in a dream, which he shouldn’t be having in the first place, because he shouldn’t be sleeping, because angels didn’t need to sleep.
    And then he woke up. And blinked. There was a tree in front of him, and it seemed to be an apple tree. And then there was the apple, in his hand. Aziraphale blinked, and blinked again.
    The grass was soft underneath his bare feet. He was in his robes, his old robes. The ones he’d never thought he’d wear again, and had stashed in the deepest recesses of his old and battered wardrobe a long, long time ago. Seeing it on him now, white and pristine and very much new, could only mean one thing.
    “What’s thisss…?” hissed the Serpent of the Tree.
    Aziraphale stumbled over his name. “Crow—Crawley?”
    “Yesss? Do I know you…?”
    “Umm, I’m not sure,” replied the angel. “That’s a nissse apple,” hissed the snake, Crawly.
    And then there was Crowley, with his wings, and nothing much else, though Aziraphale didn’t risk looking down. The demon grabbed the apple, saying, “Might I have a bite?” And before the angel’s astonished face, the Serpent Crowley bit into the apple, with a soft crunching sound, and a thin trickle of juice dribbled down to his chin.
    “Is everything alright, Aziraphale?” And the angel could only make some indistinct garbling in his throat.
    “Aziraphale…? Angel…?”

    - - - - -

    “Aziraphale? Angel, wake up, we’re gonna be late.”
    Aziraphale woke up to discover the line of drool that was drying on his chin and Craw—Crowley’s hand, shaking him gently on the shoulder.
    “Aziraphale? Are you alright? Still up for Hamlet?”
    Oh. “Oh,” the angel said. The theater…and it was really just a dream…
    Aziraphale looked down, and there was the apple, sitting on a book, with its two bites, one on each dimpled cheek.
    “Oh, dear,” he said. “I’m terribly sorry. I…I don’t feel like—”
    “That’s alright, angel,” said Crowley, and his voice was strangely mellow, and thoughtful.
    Aziraphale looked up, but the demon’s sunglasses covered his eyes completely, of course. And he realized that looking for something though he didn’t even know what it was --was just futile, so he looked away.
    “Look, you don’t seem to have eaten much,” the demon continued, gesturing to the hardly-bitten apple. “Why don’t I buy you a spot of dinner? Some curry, perhaps. What do you say?”
    Aziraphale battled with the cotton cloud that strove to conquer his mind. He managed to answer, softly, “I suppose that would be fine, dear.” And it was followed by a small, weak smile that Crowley nevertheless took as an affirmative.
    Crowley told Aziraphale only to grab his coat, but the angel insisted on washing his face at least, and there were other little things that he suddenly needed to tidy up before they could leave. Crowley, however, drew the line when Aziraphale offered to make some tea, and then he grabbed his absent-minded friend, packed him into the Bentley, and they were finally off.

    - - - - -

    “And then I was in the Garden, er, you know…” “The Garden of Eden,” Crowley supplied. “Yes, er…and you were actually there. And there was the apple, I think it was the same, and I was holding it again. And you, well, as a snake, you hissed at me—”
    I hissed at you?”
    “—yes, well, you spoke to me, but honestly, you can’t help hissing when you’re a snake—”
    “I ssupposssse...”
    Aziraphale gave him a mildly vexed look, and then returned to his story. “And you said, ‘That’s a nice apple. Might I have a bite?’ And then you bit it.”
    “As a snake?”
    “No, as a demon…man-shaped, er, being. Er. Well, you just transformed, you see, and then you asked me, ‘Might I have a bite?’ And—”
    “Wait. Did you say transformed? From a snake? In front of you?” Crowley leered lasciviously. “Are you saying that you saw me—”
    “I didn’t check!” hissed the angel, suddenly all flustered and pink in the cheeks.
    “Oh, I see,” said the demon, and punctuated it with a supercilious smile.
    They ate their curry in relative peace after that. Until Crowley spoke,
    “Maybe you should lay off the apples for a while, angel.”
    Said angel did his best not to be too obvious in almost choking on his dinner.

    - - - - -

    Later, on their way to the car…
    “That’s the first time I caught you sleeping, you know.” The statement caught Aziraphale off-guard. It was a good thing Crowley was the one holding the shopping bag. They had driven to a 24-hour grocer to buy some wine, and Crowley had even thrown in a couple of apples just to spite Aziraphale.
    “It’s not something I’m in the habit of doing. In fact, I rather think that was the first.”
    “What did it feel like?” asked the demon. “I don’t know. I just knew I fell asleep when I started dreaming.”
    “It’s a funny thing for you to have dreamt. That episode in the pub, I remember it still. And the cake was a truly wretched experience, you know.”
    “It didn’t feel funny at all.” Aziraphale said, frowning. “You ought to have been there. It was all very confusing.”
    “Yeah. But according to you, I was. And the thing about apples was a bit freaky.* Especially about how I kept on biting your apple. Are you sure you’re not fixating on something, angel?”
    Aziraphale chose to ignore that comment, or maybe it was just that he failed to hear it because at that moment, a young woman suddenly slipped on the slick pavement and her small shopping bag went flying in the air. One apple rolled to his feet, and this had caught the angel’s attention particularly, even as he helped the poor girl up and discreetly set her shopping bag and her memory to rights with a muttered prayer and a bit of healthy angelic intervention.
    When the girl had gone her way, Aziraphale turned back to Crowley, only to find him holding a slightly bruised red apple, and wearing a small frown on his lips. “Why did you dream?” the demon asked, but his voice seemed far away. Aziraphale would have liked to see his eyes then, but he contented himself with taking the damaged apple from Crowley’s warm hand and healing it with his slightly chubby fingers.
    “Maybe I was a little bored…” The angel’s words brought him back to the present, and Crowley had to smile bemusedly at this strange lapse into a world of memories he thought he had stored away never to remember ever again. It was the Garden of Eden all over, and he was a serpent who only wished to know what it was like to dream.
    “Oh?” Crowley replied. But that’s what she thought she felt, too.
    “And, maybe a little curious. About sleep, I mean. Now that I think of it,” answered Aziraphale, while handing him the newly-healed apple.
    Crowley kept mum as he took the fruit, but inside his head, the wheels were turning. Déjà vu, it seemed. Somewhere, a wheel had just turned a full circle. “Do not eat of this fruit,” he muttered, under his breath.
    “What did you say?”
    Crowley just smiled his vaguely serpentine smile. “Nothing, angel. Let’s get you home.”


    - - - - -

* It was a good thing Aziraphale refrained from mentioning in detail about the apples. He had enough sense not to want to embarrass himself completely, even if it was just with Crowley. Especially if it was just with Crowley.




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