Aziraphale had been distracted lately, Crowley had noticed.
It was not his usual distraction, of a good old book or a new restaurant in town, both of which Aziraphale would talk about endlessly. Not that Crowley minded that, of course. Crowley would happily listen to Aziraphale talk about his old books or his scrumptious dinners; hell, Crowley would willingly and gladly listen to Aziraphale read the yellow pages.
This distraction made Aziraphale a little nervous for some reason, although he didn’t seem to be unhappy about anything in particular. This was most puzzling, as nervous-but-reasonably-happy was usually reserved for dates of Aziraphale’s choosing that he wasn’t entirely sure Crowley would like. (Perhaps he really should make Aziraphale read him the yellow pages, Crowley thought, just to prove that there is nothing they could do together that he would dislike.)
So, Aziraphale seemed to have taken up knitting, as a form of stress-relief. Crowley observed with some amusement from his own couch in Aziraphale’s shop. It would have been more amusing, had he not been looking forward to cuddling up next to Aziraphale that afternoon. This year’s autumn was more than crisp, and the coming winter was looking to be hideously cold. Of course, all English winters are too cold when you’re a snake, even the mild ones.
He’d wanted to sit next to Aziraphale, but Aziraphale had sent him over to his own couch, saying he needed the elbow-space for knitting. So Crowley watched from across the room as Aziraphale struggled with a strangely shaped...thing. It was hard to make out what it was supposed to be, and Aziraphale was keeping mum on the subject, despite Crowley’s best attempts.
“Isn't that a bit lumpy for a scarf, angel?” He had tried, hoping Aziraphale would correct him.
Aziraphale looked up from the too-lumpy-to-be-a-scarf with a look many parents would have envied if they had been there to see it. It’s a look that was vaguely annoyed, but also filled with fondness, and the look spoke volumes. It said ‘I see what you’re doing dear, and I love you, but that is not going to work. We’ve known each other for far too long for me to fall for that now, so let me knit in peace, please. You’ll find out what I’m knitting eventually’.
A second time, he attempted: “If you want something knitted, but don’t want to buy it, why not just miracle it, ‘ziraphale?”
Aziraphale had looked quite offended at that, and said only: “It’s not the same, dear,” as he continued his knitting.
So here Crowley was, seated in the cosy bookshop, but not in the most comfortable and warm place, which would have been next to Aziraphale. Instead, he contented himself with a second-favourite pastime, next to cuddling up to his warm, soft angel, which was Aziraphale-watching.
Crowley could never get enough of this, no matter what his angel was doing, But especially at times like this, when Aziraphale was so focussed on something he’d forget to drink his tea before it grew cold. The tip of his tongue poked between his lips, and his brow was furrowed ever so slightly in concentration. It was, in Crowley’s not-very-humble opinion, adorable.
Whatever had been causing Aziraphale’s distraction, this knitting was definitely serving as a distraction from that distraction.
And it was distracting Crowley too. The soft clack-clack-clack of the needles, and the casual unspooling of wool from its giant balls of yarn were almost hypnotic. Crowley found himself considering simply turning into a snake and dozing the winter away in Aziraphale’s yarn stash. He’d be warm, and cosy, and close to Aziraphale. And he’d be able to listen to the click-clacking sound all winter. Not a bad idea at all. If he could fit his snakeform inside the basket Aziraphale kept his yarn in in the first place, that is.
The basket was filled to bursting with wool, all of similar colours, poking up from underneath the lid. (Perhaps they were even lots of yarn of the exact the same colours? Crowley found it hard to tell, all the balls of yarn were gradients, and so all looking similar, but none looked the same.) Inside the basket was a riot of reds and oranges and deep blacks, all wild and dappled, which created a beautiful shifting transition when Aziraphale knitted it into his… well. Into the probably-not-a-scarf.
The cold had really started to set in, but Aziraphale seemed to have stopped his knitting, at least in front of Crowley. The wool basket still lived under the book shop’s sofa, and still looked like it was being used.
That is, until it vanished.
One wintery autumn day, Crowley pushed open the bookshop door, only to be blown inside by a particularly strong gust of wind and rain. He sneezed, and stumbled to the couches, taking the couch that had become his. Underneath the opposite couch was an empty space, where the fiery-sunset-wools of Aziraphale’s yarn basket usually hid.
From upstairs came Aziraphale’s voice: “Crowley, is that you? I’ll be right down, just a moment!”
“It’s me, angel!” Crowley yelled back, and miracling up a tea service he added: “I’ll get us some tea!”
Footsteps sounded down the stairs, and Aziraphale appeared in the bookshop, carrying a now-tidy yarn basket.
“I could hear your sneezing all the way upstairs dear, are you quite alright?” Aziraphale settled down, not on his own couch, but the couch Crowley had come to think of as his own. He kept the knitting basket on his lap, however. Perhaps he wanted to switch places? A change of view, so to speak? Crowley made to stand, but a soft hand on his arm stopped him.
“Yeah, m’okay angel, don’t worry,” Crowley shifted. “But really, if you want to knit you’ll need the space, right? Lemme scoot over to the other couch, ‘s no problem.”
A tender look crossed his angel’s face. “No, Crowley, I’d love for you to stay. Isn’t the weather just beastly today? I know how you hate the cold…” Aziraphale’s voice trailed off. Crowley could feel Aziraphale was trying to say something, but he couldn’t quite figure out what that something might be.
“Well yeah, snake like me, weather like this? ‘S not great. But I’ll manage– I always have, haven’t I? I might nap through a few winter months though,” as he said it he could see a flash of concern in Aziraphale’s eyes. “I’ll warn you ahead of time though, no worries. And you have the key to my flat, right? Come wake me once spring comes back. Perhaps we can travel to Japan, see the blossoms there next spring? Never actually taken the time to see them myself, but it seems like something that’d be more fun with someone else there, you know?” Crowley was rambling, he knew he was, but the concerned, slightly sad look hadn’t left Aziraphale’s eyes yet.
The hand Aziraphale had placed on his arm trailed down and took Crowley’s hand, stilling the flood of words. “Dearest, I would love to visit Japan with you, that would be wonderful .” Aziraphale self-consciously looked down at the basket in his lap. “But before you go to sleep away the winter, I have a gift for you first.” Letting go of Crowley’s hand, Aziraphale lifted the lid from the basket, took out the thing that was now definitely-not-a-scarf, wrapped up with a red velvet ribbon, and proffered it to Crowley.
Crowley gaped, unbelieving, and for a moment didn’t know what to do. Before he could shake his surprise, Aziraphale started babbling: “I know it’s not much of a surprise, seeing as you’ve seen me make it and all, but I know how much you hate the cold, so I wanted to make you something to help with that and–“
“Angel…,” he reached out, but instead of taking the gift Aziraphale had made him (Aziraphale had made him a gift!) Crowley took Azirphale’s hands and wrapped his own around them (and around the gift. That Aziraphale had made. For him).
“Angel, all that knitting… that was for me??” Crowley was perplexed, sounding just as shocked as he felt.
Aziraphale blushed, a sunrise red enough to match his gift, and Crowley felt his heart skip several beats.
“It is,” said Aziraphale softly, extracting his hands from Crowley’s, leaving Crowley to hold only his gift. (That Aziraphale made him! It still sounded unbelievable.)
Lowering the gift to his lap, Crowley stared at the ruby-amber-nightsky-sunset, and marvelled at how soft it felt. He looked up at Aziraphale, who was looking quite bashful. The blush was enchanting, and enough to break through Crowley’s distracted confusion of thoughts.
“All that hard work… was for me?” Crowley asked, and his voice came out even softer than Aziraphale. Aziraphale nodded. “But why??”
Aziraphale blinked twice at the question, astonished. “Because I love you of course, you silly snake!” Another blinked, as Aziraphale realized what he’d just said, and then he rushed on: “Because I know you get cold, and I wanted to help you with that… And because I thought it would be nice to see you wearing something I made.” The blush came back with a vengeance.
Crowley was astonished. This was not the first time either of them had said ‘I love you’, but it was usually reserved for when they were drunk, or after an afternoon of cuddling, or at the end of dates. Feelings were… hard, for them both. The habits they formed over six thousand years of knowing each other while not being able to be completely honest with each other were hard to shake off. But they were trying. And it seemed Aziraphale was even succeeding.
Leaning across the couch, he kissed Aziraphale, first on the nose, just a peck, and then on the lips, for far too long to be termed “a peck”. Aziraphale melted against him, worry leaving the lines of his shoulders.
As they broke apart Crowley whispered “thank you” against Aziraphale’s lips.
Aziraphale huffed a laugh at that. “You haven’t even opened it yet, love.”
“ ‘S hardly the point. You made it for me, so I love it. So, thank you.” He pressed a last small kiss against Aziraphale’s lips, and leaned back. The flush that now covered Aziraphale’s cheeks was not an embarrassed one, but a happy one.
Focussing his attention on the soft woolen thing in his lap, Crowley began to untie the ribbon. What spilled out was the softest wool he had ever filled, in colours he could not help but describe as his colours. Holding it up, he saw it was a sweater. His angel had knitted a sweater. For Crowley.
Crowley scrambled to pull the sweater over his head, even as he felt his own cheeks warm, not out of embarrassment but out of love. All that work, all those hours knitting, his angel had done all that just for him.
Emerging from the neck of the sweater, glasses slightly askew, Crowley turned to Aziraphale. A moment hung between them, a silence of many words, until Crowley broke it with the simple words: “Thank you.”
Later that afternoon,Crowley was cuddled up under Aziraphale’s arm as he was reading, wearing the sweater and somehow feeling warmer than he could ever remember being.
“I really am glad you like it Crowley, I was so worried at first. I wanted to make you something warm, and a sweater seemed perfect, but you know…”
“It is perfect, Angel, and you never had to worry about a thing.” Crowlet twisted around at Aziraphale just in time to catch a raised eyebrow. “Hey, no, you never had to worry, I love everything you could ever make for me, promise.” Crowley sat up slightly, and sealed the promise with a kiss against Aziraphale’s temple.
“Thank you,my dearest, I believe you. It’s just this silly superstition among knitters, you know. That if you start to knit a sweater for your significant other you’ll break up with them before you’ll finish knitting it. I know it’s probably nonsense but-“
Crowley giggled. Crowley actually giggled at him.
“I know it’s silly of me Crowley, but you don’t have to laugh at me for it.”
Crowley stopped, and instead wriggled around until he could sling both arms around Aziraphale’s neck.
“ ‘M sorry Angel, I didn’t mean to cause you any worry–“
“Oh you didn't Crowley, we’ve had this discussion already, it’s quite alright–“
“No angel, really.” Crowley looked quite serious at this, so Aziraphale chose not to correct him again, but to let him continue. “See uhhh… that curse? I kind of… may have made that up… couple of decades ago…” He trailed off, peeking up at Aziraphale with something like concern in his eyes.
That would never do. “Oh, you wily old demon!” Aziraphale exclaimed, holding onto Crowley tightly, just in case he tried to wiggle away, and put one hand against Crowley’s cheek. “Do you know how many knitters have worried over that silly curse of yours?”
Crowley looked ashamed. “‘M told it was quite successful, yeah.” He looked up at Aziraphale pleadingly. “Will you forgive me angel? I really didn’t mean for it to become this much of a thing. I just figured I should make up the curse for the girl I was talking to- she deserved a decent boyfriend. Y’know, someone who’d appreciate all the work she did for him…”
Aziraphale relented. Of course Crowley did it for a reason. Crowley might be a demon, but he rarely did anything out of spite. Not unless provoked anyway. He planted a kiss on Crowley’s nose.” I forgive you, my demon, on one condition.”
“Of course, angel, anything,” Crowley tried to sit up, but Aziraphale wasn’t letting go.
“My condition is this: I will knit you more sweaters, just to prove the curse wrong, and you must wear them. Is that acceptable?”
Crowley wanted to hide, or at least hide his face, but Aziraphale’s arm held him back, and his hand held his face where he couldn’t hide.
“I accept, my love.”