57. Brown iodine stains on skin
Crowley is not soft.
Not for anyone, not for elderly or the unfortunate or the pregnant, or–Satan forbid–children. Not soft for any children at all, no. He’s a demon. Demons don’t go soft for children, shouldn’t even like them at all–except maybe as a preferred target for demonic possessions but that’s a nasty business that Crowley wouldn’t ever be caught doing even under threat of an extremely Hell-ish punishment, and an entirely new topic of debate altogether.
Children. Not soft for them.
But the Antichrist isn’t exactly a child, is he? Certainly not any normal child, and if one is going by the logic that the Antichrist, The Adversary, Destroyer of Kings, Angel of the Bottomless Pit, Prince of this World and Lord of Darkness and what-have-you, is Satan’s very own son, then being soft for him is actually a very demonic thing to do.
(not that Crowley is soft for him either.)
But it does help that Warlock Dowling is rather adorable, in that bratty, snot-nosed way most five year-old children are adorable when they’re crying. He’s got on a full quivering pout on his wet face, sniffing and threatening to start up another sob when Crowley comes near his skinned finger with the iodine-soaked cotton swab.
“Nooo,” Warlock whines with a hiccup, stubbornly shaking his head. He’s quite a mess now, long hair stuck to his wet face in a combination of tears and mucus.
“Be a dear and listen to Nanny,” Crowley persuades but to no avail. Warlock only cries again and Crowley works to calm him down once more.
“Gonna hurt,” Warlock says, eyes watery and bottom lip trembling. Crowley absolutely does not feel any sort of heartbreak from this. Any and all sorts of mirroring pouts on Crowley’s face is simply for the irony of it. “Nanny, s’gonna hurt.”
“It won’t, darling,” Crowley shushes gently. Brandishing a handkerchief in one hand, he wipes away the mess from the boy’s face. “It won’t hurt. You can trust what Nanny says, can’t you?”
Warlock hiccups and nods glumly, but remains unconvinced, eyes downcast and nervous. Crowley sighs.
The thing is, alright–the thing is, he can miracle it away, can’t he? It’s just a skinned finger, it’s not like it’s bloody cancer that he’ll be miraculously healing, nobody’d be batting an eyelash if the wound closes itself in seconds. Crowley can just bloody well miracle it away if he wants to, can just pass it off as a magic trick to Warlock.
Crowley can miracle it away. He should miracle it away.
But that’s not how humans work, Aziraphale has said. How would young Warlock grow up to be good–or normal, for that matter, if he thinks all pain can be miracled away, Crowley?
(and honestly, what does Aziraphale know about how humans work anyway? the angel forgets that human hair even bloody grows!)
With another grumbling sigh and the strongest urge to roll his eyes until they reach the back of his skull, Crowley deflates and gets rid of the tempting thought of an easy fix. (imagine that. him, refusing temptation.) He offers the cotton swab to Warlock instead, watches him stop tearing up out of curiosity and question as he looks up at Nanny.
“Here, darling,” Crowley tells him, smiling a little when Warlock reaches for it obediently. “You can try it on me first.” He offers out his hand next, waiting patiently as Warlock looks at his fingers and then at the cotton swab, and then back up to him.
The tears are gone now but Warlock’s wide eyes are still alight with worry as he chews on his lip. “You promise it won’t hurt?”
Crowley nods. “I promise.”
Hesitantly, and with many a glance up at his Nanny’s face for encouragement, Warlock holds Crowley’s hand steady and swipes the iodine along the length of a slender finger, painting it dark–almost red, at first–until it stains the skin.
Warlock looks up. “Don’t sting?” he asks.
Crowley shakes his head softly. “It doesn’t sting.”
“Not one bit, my dear.”
This exchange doesn’t warm Crowley’s heart. Absolutely not. There are no warm feelings here, no feelings at all, not even when Warlock nods bravely afterwards, like a little soldier going into battle and declares to him, “I can do it, Nanny.”
Crowley isn’t being unnecessarily gentle when he presses the new iodine swab on Warlock’s wounds–Crowley’s just–he’s just careful, it’s to make it all easier for his job, really, doesn’t want to set off another round of fresh tears, and not because he doesn’t want Warlock to feel even another second of pain.
Warlock’s face pinches a little when the swab goes over his wound but he holds on nonetheless, expression resolute despite his shaky breaths. When it’s all done, he breaks into a slow smile afterwards, looking tentatively up at Nanny for her praise and Crowley doesn’t disappoint.
“There’s my brave boy,” Crowley says, and doesn’t melt when Warlock positively beams at him.
“Don’t hurt,” Warlock reports with a grin, brandishing his newly disinfected wound. “No hurt, Nanny.”
“Absolutely no hurt,” Crowley echoes back, tapping him gently on the nose and smiling as Warlock giggles. He must see someone else then because Warlock gasps and leans to the side to wave over Crowley’s shoulder.
“Hello, Young Master Warlock!”
Crowley turns just as Warlock runs to Aziraphale, tackling him by the knees. He watches as they chat in loud voices, both of them so easily excitable and cheerful, and straightens up to stand, smoothing out his dress when they come near.
“Nanny Ashtoreth,” Aziraphale greets, tipping his frankly ridiculous brown hat.
“Gardener,” Crowley replies coolly.
They stare at each other for a moment, both pretending to be ill at ease with each other around Warlock. (of course Aziraphale breaks first. he always breaks first. there’s a tiny, tiny smile playing on his lips and a twinkle in his eyes that he can barely control. it’s the loveliest thing, even with his gardener disguise, and Crowley’s heart absolutely melts.)
Warlock, for the most part, doesn’t seem to notice, and he tugs at Aziraphale’s robes until Aziraphale glances down at him with a smile. “Brother Francis, look!”
“What’s that now?” Aziraphale bends down gamely when Warlock shows off his skinned finger, grinning when Aziraphale gives an exaggerated gasp at the sight. “Oooh, that looks painful! Did the Young Master cry?”
“No,” Warlock declares proudly, despite the obvious tear tracks on his face. (Crowley won’t admit to this, but he’s proudest about Warlock’s bold-faced lies.) “Nanny said it won’t hurt and it didn’t. We match!”
At that last part, Aziraphale turns to Crowley in question. Crowley shows his iodine-stained finger in lieu of an explanation and feels his face heat at the distinct softness that Aziraphale’s expression takes on, then, looking the way he does whenever he thinks Crowley has done something good.
Thankfully, Aziraphale looks away before Crowley can spontaneously combust right before his eyes and looks down at Warlock with a smile, offering him a row of colored band aids that Crowley sees pop into existence from behind Aziraphale. (oh, but Aziraphale can be such a bastard when he wants to be. Crowley isn’t supposed to perform miracles for Warlock but he can???) “Let’s fix that right up, shall we?”
Warlock squeals in excitement, eyes lighting up. (Crowley absolutely does not find this cute.)
(Later, when both of them have band aids wrapped around their iodine-stained fingers–blue for Warlock, like Brother Francis’s scarf, he says and red for Crowley, like your hair, Nanny–Warlock will come up to Crowley, reach for his finger carefully and place a kiss on it.
“Brother Francis says kisses make it feel better,” Warlock will explain at Crowley’s stare and he will hold up his own for Crowley to kiss and Crowley–
–Crowley will kiss it better. Not out of obligation or any sort of irony, but because Warlock is a boy with wide eyes and too much heart, and he reminds Crowley of a time long ago, when Crowley had been the same.
And if later, Crowley keeps the band aid and takes care not to wash off the iodine stain on his skin too much, well then. That’s his business, isn’t it?)