There's a hissing behind him, and Aziraphale knows it isn't Crowley.
Some time in the future when he stops to think about it, he'll have a crisis of conscience over the fact he's familiar enough with Crowley to distinguish his hiss from that of some other demon. But it'll be a very brief crisis, reasoned away by the rationale that one should know one's enemy. Preferably in a civilised manner, over a cup of spiced wine.
In the present however, he's fleetingly surprised into inaction, and by the time he's turning to look, the demon is on him; all one tearing, biting, ripping screech, like the scrape of blades down a rusty shield. It's moments like this he rather misses that sword.
Recovering enough to fight back and being introduced, face first, to the ground occur at the same time. He’s just about to try and throw his attacker off his wings when his assailant is wrenched away, taking an unpleasantly noticeable chunk of feathers with him.
“Shedim, what in Hell are you doing?”
Aziraphale gets shakily to his feet, muddied and bloodied and definitely worse for wear. He really shouldn’t be glad to see yet another demon (basis for minor crisis of conscience #2), but it would be a lie to say he isn’t just a mite grateful to see Crowley.
Who is scowling ferociously at one of the most unsightly little demons Aziraphale’s had the misfortune to see in a long time. The fiend dangles from Crowley’s hand, about three and a half feet of squat puce-coloured withered ugliness; all liver-spotted scales (if scales can be liver-spotted that is, or indeed if the demon even has a liver), skeletal tail, needle-like teeth and yellowed claws.
In a human it would be a trill of joy. Shedim just sounds as though he’s bubbling noise through a noseful of snot. A long olive tongue, coated with glutinous saliva, darts out and slovenly laves over Crowley’s hand. Crowley’s face spasms in disgust and he drops the small demon.
“What are you doing here?” he demands, not-so-surreptitiously wiping his hand on his trousers. Being a Fiend of the Pit does not necessarily mean one enjoys being slimed.
Shedim looks shocked.
“Haff you fergotten vat day thisss isss?”
Crowley looks shifty.
“Oh. Right. I’ve been so busy - you know, racking up souls and sins - it slipped my mind.”
It’s obvious to Aziraphale that Crowley has no idea ‘vat day thisss isss’. Shedim is apparently not quite as perceptive. He sidles closer to Crowley, gazing up at him with what, astonishingly enough, appears to be no small amount of adoration in watery sludge-coloured eyes,
“I vanted to do sssomething for you, Crawly,” Shedim’s tail lifts and snakes around Crowley’s calf, “Sssomething ssspecial to remind you off me up here in thisss horrid plasssse.”
“Oh?” enquires Crowley faintly, mild horror duking it out with his puzzlement and winning, “And that was?”
Shedim gives a choking, hissing laugh.
“Angel ssssshisssshkebab,” the tip of the tail is now at Crowley’s thigh and heading toward parts generally never mentioned in polite company, “Jusssst the thing to ssselebrate today.”
Despite the pain he’s in, Aziraphale is finding himself hard-pressed not to giggle at the expression on Crowley’s face.
“Oh! Right!” Enlightenment seems to dawn as Crowley wriggles free of the other demon in a movement that would undoubtedly have dislocated the spine of any human, “It’s the day of th… ah.” He darts a quick, almost embarrassed glance at Aziraphale, then turns his attention back to Shedim, who is inching closer again.
“Yes, well, it was a, er, inspired scheme. Congratulations. Probably not a good idea to go any further though - you know how much paperwork they make you do for unauthorised actions,” Crowley is gradually edging around backwards in response to Shedim’s scuttling advance. It’s rather like watching a raven being chased by a cockroach. Aziraphale fixes the sight firmly into his memories. “I appreciate the present, but I wouldn’t want you to get into trouble. And you know what they say – it’s the thought that counts.”
“Sssso you liked it?” Hope is a somewhat frightening emotion on a demon.
Crowley carefully looks away from Aziraphale, bares his teeth in a smile that’s very full and pointy, “Of course.”
Shedim emits a high-pitched squeal and wraps his arms around Crowley, hugging tight. Given their respective heights, this puts his nose at a rather interesting level. Aziraphale is reminded that the last time he saw Crowley blush was 1,643 years ago. It still goes all the way up his ears.
After a few uncomfortable seconds Crowley is moved to protest,
The little demon looks up, face sad,
“I haff to be going now. I’m ssso glad you liked your presssent, Crawly.”
For the first time since Crowley’s arrival Shedim spears a poisonous, gloating glance at Aziraphale, then disappears with a loud BAMPFF! and a puff of foul sulphur-scented and coloured smoke. Aziraphale watches as Crowley makes rather a production of coughing and blowing the smoke away. Eventually the air is clear and there is nothing else for him to do but turn, patently reluctantly, to look at Aziraphale.
“Well,” says Crowley and stops. Because ‘Sorry about that’ is not a phrase in his vocabulary.
“Um,” says Aziraphale. Somehow, ‘Happy Descension Day’ doesn’t seem quite the thing for an Angel of the Lord to say to a fallen angel. “So. I didn’t know you had a boyfriend.”