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Best Not to Mention It

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It's Crawly, Dagon had said, passing a well-singed manila folder across the table. We'd like to know how he's spending his free time. Just a routine stalk-and-lurk job, you understand, to make sure he's getting up to no good. We feel you'd be the right fit. Leave Hastur out of this one, will you? We don't really need anything burnt down.

Try telling Hastur not to tag along, especially when it's orders, Ligur had thought grimly (there were no other kinds of thoughts to be had when Hastur was the subject), but he'd kept his gob shut and opened the folder. The photographs were grainy black-and-white shots of Crawly going about what looked like ordinary business: driving too fast in his horseless carriage, sinking ducks in St. James's Park, and leaving potted plants on strangers' doorsteps (it did count as heartless abandonment).

There were also a number of shots of him coming and going from a dingy, unmarked shop-front with tattered awning.

Ligur had given Dagon a questioning look. "Woss this all about?"

"We don't know," Dagon had said, "but we'd like you to find out. And if it's a significant racket, we will, of course, notify him that he is to send regular updates."

"You mean I should talk to him?" Ligur had asked, suppressing a shudder. He didn't like dealing with Crowley alone; the bastard was stylish, modern, and made him feel like a troglodytic maggot. He preferred to feel like a complete and utter creep, and Hastur was very good at obliging him. Shame he couldn't come along.

"No, don't trouble yourself with that," Dagon had told him. "Just get up there and spy on him for a day or two. Stake out that shop. Let us know what you find."

Dagon was a decent boss, you had to admit. Not too decent, of course. Only where it counted. Ligur had scurried out with a muttered yessir and an explanation that Hastur was not going to like one bit. He'd somehow managed to leave Hell without giving it.

Forty-eight hours later, he was stuck lurking in the rainy, deserted alley behind the shop, none the wiser for what business Crowley had there. That was mostly because Crowley hadn't shown up yet. Neither had anyone else, except a chap named Gavin who talked to himself a lot and seemed to like lurking as much as Ligur did.

Three hours after that, a light went on in the back room, and two voices started bickering. Ligur stepped over Gavin's snoring form and sidled up to the back door, struggling to peer through the window, which was partly obscured by lacy curtains. At times like this, Ligur hated being short. If Hastur were there, it wouldn't be a problem.

"What do you mean?" asked the first voice, which Ligur didn't recognize. "It's still perfectly good. Sniff. See? Nowhere near sour. Now, be a dear and put the kettle on."

There was a clicking sound, followed by the second voice, which, from his new lurking-point at the door, was definitely discernible as Crowley's.

"Urgh. When did you last clear the limescale, angel?"

Ligur cast about frantically for something to stand on, settling for a milk-crate. He blinked through the crack in the curtains, realizing the glass was coated in a fine layer of grime. He grudgingly approved, but he didn't like the sound of what he thought he'd just heard Crowley say. The window was positioned over the kitchenette sink, and Crowley stood off to one side, fiddling with a formidable-looking contraption.

A man—or at least something man-shaped—stepped into the doorway, silhouetted in the orange glow of the cozy-looking room behind them. Where Crowley was his usual polished, suit-clad self, this stranger was dressed in dozy tan trousers and a jumper.

"Not long ago," said the stranger. Whatever else he was, he was not a very good liar.

Crowley stuck his hand inside the contraption, scratched around, and held out something on his fingertip. He looked reproachfully at his companion.

"Comes back awfully fast," he said dubiously. "Would you drink that?"

"Rinse it out," said the frumpy man-shaped thing. "We'll live, I'm sure."

Crowley did as he was told (not nearly contrary enough; that was going straight in the report) and muttered something under his breath that sounded like bloody Aziraphale.

Ligur shivered on his crate. That sounded familiar, but he had no idea why.

Aziraphale came up behind Crowley and, after having a long look at his handiwork, touched the wall. The kitchenette was instantly flooded in light, which seemed to be coming from a glass bulb suspended directly above Crowley's head. Both the bulb and the contraption Crowley was cleaning did, indeed, appear to involve a lot of wire.

"Good enough for you?" Crowley asked, holding the dripping thing out for inspection.

"Quite," said Aziraphale, and what he did next presented Ligur with a conundrum.

Crowley didn't appear to mind being kissed on the cheek by this unremarkable creature. In fact, he set down the contraption (kettle, Ligur thought, his brain finally catching up), gave a resigned sigh, and leaned into the contact with easy familiarity.

He added to the conundrum by tilting his head and kissing Aziraphale on the mouth.

Ligur tried desperately to make sense of this information. Was Crowley working on some kind of elaborate, long-term seduction? That wasn't his style, though, working hands on with single-minded determination until his hapless target cracked. As Ligur recalled, Crowley went in for time-wasting annoyances on a large scale. Or at least that's how Hastur had explained it. He had mastered the mass application of Sloth.

Unless Crowley had significantly changed his methods, this was something much more puzzling. Ligur squinted and shaded his eyes. They were still kissing. The kettle sat forgotten on the work-top, and Crowley's damp hands had worked their way into Aziraphale's mousy hair. Ligur wondered why Crowley would bend to advances he hadn't initiated, unless he'd been working up to it all evening.

As the kiss broke, air flooded into Ligur's lungs. He'd been holding his breath.

"You don't want tea," Crowley said, touching Aziraphale's lower lip with his thumb.

"No," admitted Aziraphale, smiling, and let go of Crowley's lapels. He slid his hands inside Crowley's expensive jacket, and then opened his mouth just enough to catch the tip of Crowley's thumb (far too gently, Ligur thought) between his teeth.

Crowley wasn't carrying out a seduction. He was being seduced.

Ligur stepped down off of the crate, deciding he'd seen enough for the time being. His lungs ached with unaccustomed use, and his gut had twisted itself into taut, unfamiliar knots. You got that kind of thing from routine torture, sure, but this was different. All he'd done was watch Crowley snog some bloke with bad taste in clothes.

Worst of all, he missed Hastur, and he didn't think it had to do with being short.

Ligur put one word on his report: Fornication. He was proud for several reasons: first, it was a big word, so Dagon would know he'd worked hard on the assignment; second, he'd cleverly disguised his uncertainty about the situation, and he wouldn't be sent to do a follow-up; third, of course, was that Hastur would want all the lurid details.

And Ligur would gladly show him.