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Going Slightly Mad

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It was not without a spasm of revulsion that Crowley, the Demon, examined a late-medieval book of prophecies at the A.Z. Fell And Co’s bookshop, while he was waiting for the establishment's owner to join him at a post-quasi-apocalypse rendezvous (they would dine at The Ritz). It was nine o'clock PM, precisely. As he turned the book pages, all the memory of the smelly diseases and the stinky religious collective hysteria permeated his mind.

Few people know that Crowley's nefarious reason for detesting the fourteenth century was partly due to the widespread circulation of a volume named “Zohar”, in Europe, and partly due to a celestial fight, let's say, with his dear Aziraphale, the Angel. The spread of the knowledge contained in this book, an important work of Jewish magic, was one of the events that inflamed the western european folks in the fear of demons and rites. Fear and fascination, in fact, both inspirations that provoke commotion in the human Will which, at constant moral crossroads, only hopes to satisfy its desires and ideals.

To Crowley's despair, alongside with the Zohar also appeared several and several other magical books, such as, to cite just two of many: The Book of Holy Magic by Amestrin, the Sage, a grimoire purporting to be truly about "sacred magic", and Clavicula Salomonis by Salomon, the King, both works that, tragically (for Crowley), testified that angels and demons could be used (by humans) both for Good and Evil. The reader may well understand what all these terrible books (according to our beloved Demon) are about: well, these books were simply manuals of conjuration and invocation of spirits, angels and (“oh shit”, cursed Crowley)... Demons

Of course, as we know, the human Will is always best instigated by the fearful and sensual fascination that mystery and nebulousness causes. Demons are easier to approach, after all. For this reason, Crowley was constantly conjured up. And when he was not being recklessly evoked, while trying to maintain an acceptable human appearance he was persecuted by members of the most varied anti-Satanic sects and proto-Inquisitions. No matter how hard he tried, it was impossible for him not to look like a demon, even because those ophidian eyes never left his face. Obviously, the Middle Ages was not the best time to have snake eyes, especially with so many catalogs containing drafts, illustrations, and charts about demons.

Both the conjurations (which were often caused by frivolous, harmless-to-mankind and even gentle desires of mundane souls, preventing him from doing a good… wait, an evil job in the eyes of his infernal colleagues), such as the inconvenient persecutions were obstacles that kept him painfully away from Aziraphale. Painfully, yes, because by that point he was already aware of how much his “facade nemesis" meant to him. In fact, that was the main reason for disliking the fourteenth century. Because, let's face it, although many of the frivolous desires were indeed innocuous, a good part was even a “good evil freelance job”, indeed involving devious things. And there was lynching, injustice, and hatred everywhere! But Crowley didn't like to work, did he? Working was boring for him.

Actually, this was the core of the newest agreement he had with Aziraphale, after several ethics debates since the eighth century. Well, the goal was to have a pleasant stay on Earth, without letting their respective bosses know about it, right?A pleasant stay, for Crowley, implied in: reduced work and having pleasant lunches with Aziraphale, or to see him at least! And, of course, the shity fourteenth century would make them fight over…. Over what? Right! Over those damn books of "sacred magic" and all the celestial fuss it was causing!

“Oh shit! Shit, shit, shit!!!”, cursed Crowley, running to hide behind a shrub as soon as he realized he was being disincorporated by the third time that week. A few minutes ago he was trying to find (also known as stalking) Aziraphale at one popular and crowded spot of lunch he knew the angel sort of liked (that place had the least-worst accessible food in Medieval Europe and it was located in the center of the Regne de Castella y Lion. The 1368’s Regne de Castella y Lion, with an intense civil war going on. Also, a very charming illness took place on the wondrous XIV century: the Plague).

“What isss it, moron?” he asked, extremely pissed off, when he appeared over a complex obscure symbol drawn with red sand on the floor. That symbol was probably listed at the Obscure Notes for the Grand Grimorium Verum, the book, stinky book, thought Crowley, furious.

The thing is: he wasn't the gorgeous human-shaped-Crowley-with-long-crimson-hair anymore, he was an ethereal angry snake floating on air.

A man kneeling on the floor with his head bowed was nervously mumbling, still unaware of the hellish creature: “He whom forges images, he whom bewitches! The evil aspect, the evil eye! The evil mouth, the ill tongue! The malevolent lip, the finest witchcraft! Spirit of the Welken, conjure it! Spirit of the Ground, conjure it!”

 

I AM ALREADY HERE, SSSTUPID HUMAN!!!” yelled Crowley, spitting flames that almost burned the man’s face.

“Christ! Oh, Lord!!!” gasped the terrified man, tumbling.

“Oh no, please sstop the holy catholic blabbering, you evoked a Demon, if you haven't noticed.”

“Oh, God, Methinks…”

“Noup. No God either.”

“Oh, fine, Waileway. Er…Good day, Infernal Serpent... Gramercy for thy attention. I hast been trying to evoke thou since the last Full Moon.”

“What do you want?” asked Crowley already bored.

 “Well, mine name is… Piers Bennett. What I do lack is to…”

“Bennet, really? That’s quite funny. Where are we, after all?” interrupted Crowley, looking around and twirling on air. It was a dark room with a wooden floor, seemed like a small cabin.

“We are ‘i Byllyrica, Stygian Sir.”

 “Oh, that’s far…” murmured the serpent, suddenly dreary. “Sso, what is it? Why did you invoke me?”

“What I do lack, Sir, is wisdom and knowledge to continue mine path, I beseech you. I study at the Merton College and I…”

“All right. Wisssdom and knowledge then, I don’t need to hear your motivess.” Crowley’s intention was to return as soon as possible. “And what will you offer in return to the Grand Dark Lord, Master of the Underworld, Ssatan?”

“Mine Soul, Sir”

“Perfecto! I beseech you, will you ssign here with thy blood?” said Crowley, sarcastically, conjuring a pointy feather pen and a sallow parchment. When Piers Bennet finished writing, unintentionally dropping a ruby gout upon the symbol, Crowley, the Demon, had already vanished.

 

In a not so distant Future, Piers Bennet would be a beloved remarkable Bishop and one of the reliable supporters of Wycliffe. And then Piers would die choking on a rugged dry loaf of bread he was sharing with some ducks on a lake. Crowley woke up all dizzy behind the shrub. Blurred surroundings and muffled sounds spinning around his body, it took a few seconds for him to realize who was standing right above him, gazing intently:

“Invoked again, my dear?”

“Wuh?”

“Oh Dear Lord… Let me help you out, Crowley.” said the angel catching the demon by the arms. For some reason, that assistance made him even more bewildered. “What was it this time?... And what are you doing here?! I thought you were in Caffa, you know, with this terrible Plague that your side has come up with…”

 “Oops, angel, that's controversial.” observed the demon, wiping the dirt from his dark clothes with elegance and faking that typical flamboyant and sardonic aloofness. “Some philosophers are attesting that aaall of this is the result of God’s judgement, you know, and a few sscholastics are even stating that the Judgment’s target is the clergy… And what are you doing here, pretty boy? I imagined you would be in Milan, miraculously saving all those good chefs and their recipes from the Plague.” joked Crowley, grinning, amused by the angel’s blushing face.

 “I'm here to grant some miracles. You're aware of that, Crowley, I will not keep explaining truisms… Farewell then.” said Aziraphale, firing nervously into the loaded street, suspiciously histrionic. He was not offended at all as the scene may suggest, he just couldn't cope with his blushed cheeks and the strange effervescence in his chest. That demon baffled him every time.

“Woa, angel! Wait!” Crowley shouted, going after him quickly. Aziraphale had slowed down. “Where are you going, angel? Since we're coincidentally here, let’s go to lunch coincidentally at the same tavern.”

A grumpy Aziraphale turned to face him.

 “Crowley, look at this place, it's full of agonizing people. I'm not the only angel here to grant miracles. And also... there is Gabriel, I am afraid he is here... Sure he must be here somewhere and… Well, he cannot see us having a friendly lunch! You and I would be in serious trouble!... Oh, God! I don't even know how I let you convince me about this awful arrangement!"  Crowley vaguely blinked as Aziraphale's despair escalated (even though he didn't use to blink too much, you know, reptiles). He vaguely blinked because the angel's wretchedness was half funny, half pitiful. 

"Stop worrying, angel! Look around, this place is indeed crowded... like Hell, which means it's easier to hide. And also I really need to talk to you...uh, about a plan... to deal with this particular civil war… And maybe this whole Plantagenet-Valois drama." invented he.

"What plan, Crowley? We don't need a plan for that." He pointed, appearing irritated, but the demon knew he wasn't. Histrionic Aziraphale, always seeming to mask something behind that arsenal of bothered facial expressions.

The two were walking slowly through the dense mass of people. They were in an alley that looked a lot like the lanes Brueghel would portray in The Fight Between Carnival and Lent, in 1559, except that the street they were on was much more crowded. Sometimes their hands and shoulders touched. Crowley felt the magnetic pull he used to feel whenever they were standing too close from each other. It was like a soft electricity spreading from his belly to his throat. A visceral need to get even closer. He couldn't guess if that physical reaction was ineffable or nefarious. Or human, even.

 

"Wha? Th.. pf, Of course we do!" he finally said, shaking off the indecent imagery. "Otherwise, we.. we will be reduced to a squalid offal of... one bristle of a single wing feather!!!"

"What an imagination, my dear."

 "That's true, angel! We need to help each other out! With all this war thing, and the Plague, the famine, the Inquisition… And those bloody grimoires… It's too much work! Boring work!!!" Crowley recited, emphatic. He knew he was almost reaching the goal. The Demon would convince the Angel once more.

 "Well, I do have to agree with you on that... The work has been really exhausting lately. But Gabriel and..

 "Oh fuck Gabriel! Who cares about him? He's a cocky bastard. Nothing more than that!"

 "I do! I care! Otherwise I, no, We would be in trouble… And don't be rude, Crowley." the angel added, deep down slightly pleased by the gratuitous protest against that heavenly arrogant Gabriel. He then blithely glared at the demon beside him. "Okay...let's have lunch".

 "Hell yeah! Where do we go?" Asked one smiling Crowley, already knowing the answer.

"Oh, there's a place I went last week that has a scrumptious salty chicken with quite good fava beans. Their quince pie is great, too. And one night they served a marvelous pheasant! No wonder where did it come from! There are no common pheasants in this region... And it's an expensive meat, I may say." Aziraphale said, cheerfully.

 

Crowley was the one to blame, he had "miracled" some fat common pheasants at the tavern's backyard. Silly things he liked to do. When they got to the place, it was, of course, crowded. After taking the food, they got a tiny damp table at the back, the only one available, where there were no windows. It was very poorly illuminated, everything was poorly illuminated in the Middle Ages...

 

"So? What is this plan of yours?” asked Aziraphale, staring at the demon with fond curiosity.

"Oh" Crowley forgot about it, wasn't his priority after all… He didn’t even had a pla. "Oh! Right! The plan! So, I was thinking… Why not to speed things up, angel?” he said, agitating his slender hands. Inside, he was somewhat uneasy with his clueless blathering... And maybe he had just said a potentially ambiguous phrase.

“What do you mean? What are you implying?” inquired Aziraphale, disoriented and mildly wary. Little did he know Crowley was as disoriented as him.

“Well...” he had started one sentence that he didn’t even know how it was going to end. “I thought about... Er, this quite stupid conflict between these royal buggers, you know, Pedro and Henrique. Thaat is just a ginourmous waste of time, you have to admit, and is causing a lot of unnecessary riot. Simply put, it's a lot of work. And you know I'm not sympathetic to royal dramas like this one, it's just boring… Besides, this drama in particular had caused a lot of deaths, hasn't it? So… Why don’t we make them murder each other?! After that I can try to speed up the Plantagenet-Valois drama! While you deal with the Plague.”

Aziraphale looked divided between total horror and analytical deliberation. Crowley’s facial expression, on the other hand, was very similar to the face we make when we’re watching an imminent car accident. Although his point (surprisingly) made sense (for him), what the Hell was that useless proposition? Crowley began to shove all the remaining food into his mouth, staring at the table. And he wasn’t even so into food like that, so that's why his reaction appeared quite suspect.

“Did you really think about it, Crowley? It sounds like a crappy made-up plan…” remarked Aziraphale, raising eyebrows.

“I did… Don’t say that!” he complained, pretending to be upset, placing his bony left hand over his chest.

“Crowley, them defeating each other is the whole point of the conflict! We don’t even need to interfere!” he urged, leaning over the wooden table. "And it's not a drama, it's a battle of interests."

“Yeah, yeah, I know, angel. That’s why I'm saying to speed-things-up! Otherwise it will last a long, looong time. And lasting a long time means more work for us. So while I handle this whole war issue, you could deal with all the Plague administration around here, or in Caffa, or in Milan even... And as a bonus, I grant you with all the yummy pheasants you want.”

“Are you really trying to buy me with food, Crowley?!” ascertained the incredulous Aziraphale, squinting his eyes.

“Certainly, my love.” said Crowley, grinning. And there it was! The angel’s blushy cheeks again! Violently contrasting with the wavy snowy hair and the light gray cloak. Every time the demon experimented to use those words of affection, he got that instigating response. It was all an experiment, however. "Come on, Aziraphale, it's not a terrible plan!"

Aziraphale took a deep breath and gave Crowley a worried and sorrowed stare.

"I've been too condescending to your lunatic proposals lately, Crowley... I'm not liking this at all, and I'm almost certain you are tempting me all the time just for your own amusement....Er, not sure if I can really trust you… To be honest."

That words furrowed Crowley's demonic heart like an artist engraves a cherry wood board. He felt an impetus to scream at Aziraphale that he, a demon, was trustworthy owing to the fact that he sincerely loved him. And maybe the angel noticed the impulse, because, while the demon remained in silence grinding his teeth, Aziraphale seemed to catch a glimpse of that suffering (and indignant) ophidian eyes. At that instant, the angel's worried stare subtly turned into a regretful-but-mixed-with-a-peculiar-warm-confusion stare. The demon started hissing: 

"Aziraphale… I'll never force you to do anything. When you consent to my offerss, I ssincerely expect you are doing it by sself-determination. You ssaying these things, at this point, is ssolely nonsense, it actually pisses me off and I p…

"Oh, all right! Sorry! I'm sorry, Crowley, really!" the angel cried. Aziraphale was incorrigibly soft. "I apologize, truly."


Crowley observed him behind the smoky quartz lenses for a couple of seconds.


"Oh… well, yeah, you know, it's all right... But now you have to compensate me for that. I'm in truly emotional distress right now, angel." he said, playfully, raising a cup full of watery red wine to his thin lips.

“Fine... Let’s try out your sleazy plan.” sighed Aziraphale. "Although I'm not particularly keen on dealing with that dreadful bioterrorism in Caffa...  I heard they're continuing to use infected corpses like... cannonballs, for God's sake..."

“Yeah... Quite terrible, uh? And it wasn't me who suggested that... Humans... I think Hell should hire lots of these buggers as soon as possible. ...All of the bright  demonic minds are up here.. Well, anyway, you'll just have to lamely tempt some post-Beg wacko and bazamm the work is done! Cheers! Aaand, now, for my quid pro quo, I really want to see you dressed in black for one day, angel. I think it would suit you.”

The angel rolled his eyes and, after checking if nobody was watching, snapped his fingers, transforming his ashen clothes into a noir vestment with argent details in the sleeves. The cape’s ivory button was wing-shaped. Well, the demon’s assumption was accurate, black really looked good on him, making the white hair and the viridian eyes stand out.

“Woa…” murmured Crowley, his throat became dry.

“So..? How do I look?” he asked, nonchalantly. Crowley cleared his throat:

“Gorgeousssly ghassstly. Just like me.” joked he, smirking. “Let’s go, angel.”

“Where?”

 “Huh, well, just take a walk... I’m tired of this place, there are too many people in here... It’s reminding me too much of Hell... Who needs this shoddy mock-up when it is possible to visit the fully constructed Cathedral?! And, by the way, that guy over there won’t stop rubbing his foot on his face… Just random. In the beginning it was entertaining, but now I'm bored and disgusted. Let’s go?”


They got out of the tavern. And that was the very moment when everything would gradually start going rather.. wrong. The splendid sunset sky hovering over the burgh was painted with a tepid gradient from peachy to turquoise. Both celestial creatures dressed in black took a silent walk, watching mortal people pass by like dry leaves carried by the wind. The alley was relatively empty, for it was the beginning of the evening. Only a group of men chasing a cat across the street was causing a rumpus, dismantling the quietude.

 
“Look at all those pillocksSo stupids... Lately the humans have been thinking that cats do the devil's work, isn’t it ridiculous?” laughed Crowley, snapping the fingers to force the group start dancing tarantella.

“What?! Why?” questioned the angel, unbelieving. “That’s terrible, cats are so cute… with those tiny fuzzy fluffy paws… Why would anybody harm them?”

“Oh, not sure... I suppose that's because of their, uh, autonomous, questioner and independent temperament… Those features are always understood as devilish…” insinuated the demon with an ironic smile. In return, Aziraphale gave him a look of disapproval, yet indulgent.

Misunderstood as devilish...And that is because humans usually just, er… don’t get what means to be good… Instead, they tend to sacralize a… a crystallized notion of Good just to legitimize their very own opinions and.. self-centered authority…” the angel explained, a little insecure.

“Oh… Oh, right! So are you inferring we all need to, not only know, but understand the subtle difference between good and evil, eh?... Woa, your opinion has changed over time, angel…” Crowley pointed out, amiably watching the angel’s face.

“I suppose so…” Aziraphale whined, with an afflicted expression.

“‘Crystallized notion of Good’, ‘authority’… Yeah, I just couldn't agree more with you, my angel.” Crowley said, admired and somewhat proud. “Anyway, let me tell you a quite funny story! I promise you’ll laugh: so, yesterday I was at one of those aaaabsurd animal trials -that’s how I came to know about the cat’s situation- aand one of the cases was about a bunch of caterpillars that were subpoenaed bec...

“Oh no!” whispered Aziraphale, freezing. “I think I saw Michael right over there.”

What?” asked Crowley, wrinkling his nose and grimacing in a way that his sharp teeth showed up.

 

“Michael! There! I'm leaving now, Crowley… Thank you, er... for the company… And the... pheasants, I imagine. Sometimes you don’t fool me, you wily demon.” he breathed hurriedly, with a demure smile. And in the next second, he had evaporated, leaving Crowley all pensive and lightly melancholic. The archangel was indeed on the street ahead, escorting a miscellaneous group of people carrying dirty hammocks, possibly with corpses inside, killed by plague or famine.

 

Hellmouth: The Runner/Courier, Nürnberg, 1425-1431.Heidelberg / Universitätsbibliothek Heidelberg, Cod. Pal. germ. 471, detail of fol. 047v. Hugo von Trimberg, Der Renner

 

Chapter Text

Aziraphale reappeared on an unfamiliar alley not far from where he previously was. Although he was an angel, he was easily affected by anxiety, a characteristic that possibly made him the most neurotic (and humane) of angels. Therefore, out of nervousness, Aziraphale had no idea where he could be. Different from the other broad streets, that one was a shadowy narrow dead-end street, apparently behind a Cathedral, the Cathedral of Saint Mary of Burgos . However, even knowing precisely that region, Aziraphale couldn’t recognize that site in particular. When he was about to teleport himself to a known place, a cavernous voice cried out:

“Good night, Sir.” it was a tall and gaunt old man, with pale bruised hands crossed over a silver scepter. “Lush cyperus grows on the lofty rocks. To have is better than to wait and loiter. Art Thou Hither to acquire the grimoires?” 

“Beg your pardon?” Aziraphale asked, perplexed.

“The symbol Thou carry is the major insignia of the Undaunted Union of Fiend Finders, Grimoire Gatherers and Alliteration Admirers affiliated to the Inscrutable Coalition of the White Wing Dark Knights .” and by the end of that sentence Aziraphale could barely hear the livid man’s voice, which was absolutely breathless, sounding like a broken flute. 

“U-Undaunted wh..” stammered the angel, entirely adrift. Then he looked down at his cape’s white button. “Oh!… Who could guess that ?!” 

“I amme not so attached to the Alliteration Association, to be honest... I amme a member of…”

The man took an identical wing-shaped button from his tunic’s pockets and showed it to Aziraphale, who was mentally cursing Crowley for the misunderstanding.

“Follow me then.” said the strange persona, spinning on the heels and walking away.

“Oh, I’m sorry, Sir, I don’t..

“I telle you, todaye wé received a curious collection of babylonean apocryphal writings.” continued the tall figure without listening, entering a hatch. “I imagine it Wilt interest thou… and I think we haven't met yet. I amme fromme the East, mine name is Ebenezer, Guardian of the Third Library. Hwat is thy name?”

The interest Aziraphale nurtured in papyrus scrolls, compendiums, codexes, manuals, pamphlets and every type of handwritten or printed book was comparable to his appreciation for gastronomy. For him, texts were one of the human actions that most resembled the Almighty’s acts of creation. While, in a sense, every flesh and concrete existence is verba, every text weaved by the humans is scripta, and thus the creations mirror each other, originating further worlds, fractal worlds multiplying within itself. And for Aziraphale, the scripta was fascinating: the way humans registered their hypothesis, philosophies and fictions, sealing realities and complex imaginaries inside codes and symbols just thrilled him. Therefore, it was no surprise he surrendered to curiosity. 


“Aziraphale, Sir... Babylonean apocryphal writings… you said?” he inquired, following Ebenezer inside a really small anteroom loaded with books and parchments.  

“Yea, but curious because of its nature. It’s a compilation of transcripts. Possibly transcriptions of Assurbanipal’s tablets. Precisely mysterious and it seems very powerful.” said he, making a funny approval grimace, almost as if he was commenting about the taste of beer hops. 



Oh, so there were the books Crowley hated so much, thought Aziraphale contemplating the place with attention. The angel spotted interesting titles such as Seferha-Almadil and Kitab al’Uhud, hebrew and arabic books of sorcery. Suddenly, he wished to have something like that one day, a building to keep all his dearest literature. Books, very often, exuded a lot of love... However, even being utterly intriguing with all those amazing manuscripts, that library didn’t awake any sense of tenderness, probably because it was being used to persecute harmless civilians, cats… and Crowley. 

 

"Hither it is, the booke, take a look. It does not seem like a hoax.” accounted Ebenezer, while putting the incunabula in Aziraphale’s hands. “For those who crusade against Evil, when we decipher these transcripts messages it will be truly advantageous. The Union is still on track of a suspicious warlock that is passing through the burgh these days. It is said that this arcane man keeps fainting in crowded places, out of the blue!” he revealed, wide-eyed. “He must be possessed !”

“Oh....Er, well, he can be ill or something, can’t he? Or undernourished maybe… the starvation is getting worse lately...” suggested Aziraphale, entirely certain that Ebenezer was referring to Crowley. 

“Plausible, but it is doubtful behavior and...” 

“Well, Sir, uh, Ebenezer… Thank you for showing me this wonderful collection... I really appreciated that. But now I verily need to go.” the angel interrupted, apologetic. “Er, duty calls!” he added, smiling nervously and lifting a fist in a quick and foolish gesture.

“Oh, gerai, very well, Sir Aziraphale, Righteous Knight of the Inscrutable Coalition of the White Wing Dark Knights, thou must go and defend our Holy Kingdom fromme malignant and impish forces.” declaimed Ebenezer, bowing in a limited reverence of honor. “Thou shall return whenever thy heart wishes! Farewell, Inscrutable Knight!Viso !” 

“F-Farewell, Inscrutable… Guardian of… Books. Er, cheerio!” blurted Aziraphale, promptly leaving the small chamber and reaching the alley.

“Cheerio?” repeated Ebenezer, slowly, without understanding. “Must be a code… Those bastards from the headquarters always hiding important information... ” 


As soon Aziraphale stepped on the ragged paving stones, Michael appeared right in front of him, with an armful of ancient rolls, appearing to be in a hurry. 

 

“Aziraphale? What are you doing here?!” she asked, astonished, and then measuring him from head to toe: “And why are you dressed like that?”


The anxious angel nearly screamed from the shock. He immediately thought that Michael was there because she saw him walking side by side with a demon. If yes, he was definitely screwed.


“Me?! Nothing! Er, just taking a walk…You know… Walking around… And these clothes ar

 “A walk?” interrupted Michael. 

“Yes, a walk, I...

“Here?”

“I guess so…”

“That’s odd... Did Gabriel talk to you?”

“About..?”

“About the books, of course.”

“The books? Well, I don’t think so…”

 

Michael stared at Aziraphale for a moment, furrowing her brow. 

 

“Right, I will update you on the matter… Just wait here .” the archangel instructed, with a mistrustful look. 

 

Oh fuck , thought Aziraphale. He was certain she suspected him… But there was a chance she hadn’t seen him with Crowley… Even because if she had seen them, she probably wouldn’t act like that, so ordinarily unsympathetic. Michael talked to Ebenezer for a few minutes. Meanwhile, Aziraphale drowned in his neurotic cogitations, kicking little stones on the pavement. Then she left the library, carrying some papers in her hands. 

 

“So, what are you doing here, Michael?” asked the angel, faking smile. He was trying his best, leastways.

“I came to this burgh because of the Plague, like you I suppose… And also to hand over these parchments to this… association, which apparently you already know about.” she stated. 

“Yes… Er, I just met… Sir Ebenezer right now. I didn’t know this place till a few minutes ago…” explained Aziraphale,  putting his hands on his waist and trying to act normally.

“Right… Anyway, let me inform you about the books.”

“The books, right.”

“Yes. The Head Office’s high command has this new project… Are you sure you haven’t heard of? Didn’t anyone send you a memo ?” inquired she, narrowing her eyes.

“I am sure I know nothing about this, yes.” declared Aziraphale, starting to get a little annoyed. “So, what is this project about?”

“Well, the project is the most recent strategy for undermining the Basement’s plans using all these sorcery books in our favor… Before they do. Firstly, the idea is to support mercenaries who are fighting and exterminating evil. And, as a side effect, the spread of the knowledge contained in these writings will, in the future, contribute to polarization of the sides. Those who fear sorcery against those who seem to practice it. The Head Office’s Strategy Sector made a projection that, with this new tactic, the human fear of going to Hell tends do increase over the years. Especially after the effects of War, Famine and Black Death of nowadays. We are also investing on specific fictional books and punctual myth distortions, as well as in aesthetic studies.” discoursed Michael, monotonously severe.


What a malicious plan , thought Aziraphale, slightly horrified. It is like the cat thing...


“Oh… That’s clever...” said he, inattentive, with unfocused eyes. He was absorbed in thinking how contradictory that project sounded. He very much preferred Crowley’s plan, at least it was well-intentioned and coherent, in its own way but still...

Great ! Now that you are aware of the Grimoire Project, I can trust you to conduct the supply of books for me. I’ve been really busy up there with all the paperwork… I will tell ya: since I condemned Azazel and Uzza, and they got fired, I kind of accumulated their work...” Michael said, relieved.

What ?! I have to supply the books?” asked the angel, disconcerted. 

“I assume this is not a problem for you.” the archangel said, subtly threatening.

Aziraphale swallowed sonorously.

“What?! Nooo, not at all ! I will be... more than happy to contribute with...Er, this important strategy.” lied Aziraphale, jumpy, all smiles. Fake smiles. 

“Very well. So I will inform the matrix about this function shift… After that, you will receive a memo with detailed instructions. Thank you, Aziraphale. We count on you. ” Michael said, and then added, while disappearing: “ Climb Every Mountain. ” 

 

Aziraphale kept looking at the now vacant space in front of him.

 

"Every mountain…" sighed he. 

 

Exactly at the same time, Crowley was wandering around the burgh, fomenting questioning and rebellion, when he suddenly passed out again. 

 

Shit! One more reckless invocation and I’m drinking a whole bottle of holy water. That's it. I'm sick of this shit ,  thought he, inside the void. When Crowley, the Snake, returned to his senses, he heard a very familiar disgusting laughter. And when he opened his amber eyes, he realized he was on the edge of a lake.  

 

"It worked! It worked!" The lunatic voice screamed, laughing with joy. "Oh, look at him!!!! For Satan! And so pissed off! Ah, this is incredible!!! These humans are overcoming their capacities, fantastic… " 

"We don't need you anymore, human ." pronounced a second voice, more serious. And then there was a flash and a mortal yell. When the sorcerer fell at the ground, one severe demon named Ligur murmured: " and thank you very much for your soul, foolish one."  

" How are you , crawling Crawly?" Asked one laughing demon named Hastur, agitating his hands. 

"Oh, shit… you stupid prats, why did you do that??! You morons just needed to send a bloody memo or, I don't know, maybe appeared at a 

"WhaatHAHHAHAHA" Ligur bursted into laughter when he turned to see Crowley, all his sobriety had vanished. 

"HAHAHAHHAHA, LOOK. Oh, for Satan, I can't.."

" What ? What is it?" asked Crowley, hissing furiously on air. Then, he realized he wasn't a threatening serpent, he was a miniature snake. 

"Beware the angry little snak hahahahaha!!" Shouted Hastur, falling on the floor.

"I can't take you s-seriously as a f-flying miniature snake, C-Crawlyhahahahaha!!!" Ligur could barely speak. "I am going to s-summon hahah your human body now." 

"It's C r o w l e y ." Sibilated the reptile demon.

"Oh no!!! Leave him like that!!! It’s bloody funny, please

" No , Hastur! We are austere employees of Satan." Ligur vociferated, abruptly stopping to laugh. Then, he closed his red eyes and united the back of his hands. In the next second, the serpent had turned into a man. 

“What do you suckers want?” inquired Crowley, sharply, cracking his neck bones. 


Hastur started:

 

“Crawly, we


Crowley ” corrected Crowley.


Hastur, impatient, gave up, took a step back and just hated. Ligur continued:


“We have reliable information that these...sorcery books are being disseminated by the Opposition. It’s a project, a new project, called... ‘Grimoire Project’.” said he, gravely. “Apparently, they are adulterating its contents as they wish. Some of the altered books function as defamation of Hell’s effectiveness -invocations just don’t work, or go wrong...like now- and some are being scattered with the main purpose of capturing and exterminating us, hellish creatures. Anyway, their idea is to spread false information and mendacious preconceptions about demons. And also, making humans fear going to Hell by endorsing internalized surveillance as an attempt to strengthen morale and fearful obedience to God. ”

What ?!” asked Crowley, mildly choleric.      

“And, because of that, our job is to tempt humans even more , working harder, leading them to utterly desire possessing Satan’s gifts. Further, whenever that fails, we need to incite their misconceptions about Good and Evil, confusing them, encouraging their selfishness and arrogance while they think they’re being benevolent and steady, in the name of God .” concluded Ligur, in ecstasy, pronouncing every word with emphasis.

“Woa, for Satan! What an unethical project! The opposition is a lot like us, at the end, eh? Right, mates… That’s all I needed to know… These damn books , grr I hate them! And how come you guys don't get invoked often? Is it just me or what ?” questioned Crowley, wrinkling his nose.

“No.. Bune , from the warehouse, always get summoned by humans, too.” murmured Hastur, that was quietly playing with some tadpoles by the lakeshore. 

“Yes, Bune… and Morax, from the logistics sector.” commented Ligur. 

“Morax? Who the Hell is Morax ? Come on, guys, I am your field agent. I cannot be inadvertently invoked all the time. What did you do to avoid that? Really? I need to know.” 

“Well, if you promise to contribute with us by being efficient at your work, we can try to change your invocation data in some of the books… That should disable some summoning operations.” said Ligur. 

Brilliant !!! That’s perfect! Count on me! I am your best worker! Employee of the month! Cheers!” Crowley celebrated. “...So, is that all? Can I go now?”


Ligur and Hasur stared at him,  somewhat indignant. 


“No, Crowley . We also need to check our accomplished temptations of the day”, said Hastur, vexed.

“Oh… yeah, okay. Uh, well, I purchased one man’s soul today, he studies at… Merton College, I guess… A very good deal”, reported Crowley, raising his eyebrows and shaking his head.

“Great. I tempted a young monk copyist today, inducing him to write hideous things on the pages of The Book of Hours”, Ligur communicated, proudly. “And I also purchased one man’s soul today. The sorcerer's.”

“And I instilled doubt in a priest’s mind, making him hate -and blame- God for the Plague. Then he inflicted his opinion on other humans in an assembly, disseminating discontent.” said Hastur, triumphant.  

“Woa, great, Hastur! So, yeah, everything’s hunky-dory today, eh? We can all rest now...Thank you, guys, for the data cleaning thing. I really appreciate, it will save my ass.” Crowley said, relieved. “Well, I need to go now… and be an efficient worker! Right?... So, adieu, mes chers amis.” And with that said, he vanished on air, with style. 


The forest silence condensed over the demons shoulders. 


“I really don’t like Crawly... I will never get along with him.”,confessed Hastur, growling.

“Yea, me neither.” Ligur admitted. “...At least he does his job...one way or another.”

And complaining like that, the two Hell creatures melted on the muddy floor. 

Chapter Text

After twelve terrestrial minutes of Aziraphale’s meeting with Michael, the memo arrived. The angel was still walking on the dark narrow streets when an ethereal silver orb came down screaming with a weird voice that sounded like a bugle. He was glad he was the only one that could see or hear that. What an inconvenient media , he thought. Aziraphale was a bundle of nerves even before reading the message, so, after accessing detailed information, he couldn’t be more worried. Thus, at least, the only possible thing to do was to calm down.

“Okay, okay....” breathed he “That’s an easy task… I think.”

The angel, at that time, lived in a region named Parálios Kaisareia , on the coast of the Mediterranean, near the ruins of one of the most important libraries of the ancient world. Aziraphale was captivated by that place (also, the mediterranean cuisine was -and still is- wonderfully delicious). So, after catching the awkward orb on the streets of Burgos, he decided to go home.

“However, it is a dreadful plan.” lamented he, sitting on a chair and resting his head on the hands. “I can’t do that…”

“But you need to, Aziraphale” said one inner voice of his. Luckly to us, for the sake of trying to understand his internal chaos he subconsciously named it ‘Azar, the Caterpillar’.“You have to. This is your job, your errand . You cannot not do what you are told to do.”


"Well, I suppose you're


“Are you going to listen to this wazzock ?” questioned a second inner voice, a subversive voice, it was ‘Ophelos, the Cat’. “You are incapable of accomplishing this plan, simply because you don’t want to do it . It is not your desire . What you need is to think for yourself .”  

 

"Oh, no" sighed the angel.

 

“Shenanigans! Desire ? You are an angel, you lapidate and elevate desires. You need to do what you were meant to do. You are a role model, if you give in to desires it will mean that every terrestrial soul can also give in.” said Azar, exasperated. 

Bollocks ! You need to question what people tell you to do! What if Michael is lying?! Or what if this plan injure millions of people?” Ophelos asked.

“Oh God! That’s not helpful! Definitely not!” cried Aziraphale, standing up and starting to walk in the room. “I should know this would happen… Staying around humans too much made me even more irresolute. Why did I get so involved in their bloody philosophy ? I am doomed... ”

“No! You are not doomed! Prudence and weighting , that’s what makes you a good soul! You just have to keep in mind your responsibilities before the Almighty and


“Yeah! Exactly ! Questioning is not bad!” yelled the anarchist Cat. 


“It is if you use it just to benefit yourself and your own desires over others!” the Caterpillar exclaimed, so intensely emotive that it exploded and became a butterfly. And then the Cat started chasing the insect, absolutely frenzied. Yes, there it was another human feature of Aziraphale: Buffoonery-imaginative-distraction-that-disturbs-a-cautious-judgement. Nevertheless, Aziraphale concluded, clapping hands:

“Well, I just need to do my job, but still question it… That’s it! I’ll do what I am told to… But I’ll apply my own methods.” 


-

 


Communication is not an easy thing. Not at all. And this short story is centered on communication errors.

 

The Grimoire Project was indeed a Heaven’s plan, and what was detailed on the memo Aziraphale received was somewhat mischievous. However, there was a part of the plan that the anxious angel didn’t know about. Not even the easy-going demon knew about… Well, he would, if he had a better relationship with Ligur, or even if he paid attention to things involving his job. But he didn’t. He didn’t care so much, in fact. There were, yes, hellish projects that interested him, but not always. So when he needed to do stuff outside of his field of interest, he would do it in a sloppy way. 

What Aziraphale and Crowley did not know was: 1) Michael and Ligur were working together to modify the texts in a way that would benefit both sides; and 2) the plan idealization was also a convenient discreet partnership between Heaven and Hell (backdoor’s alliance, you know). Because, in a sense, the XIV century was, after all, a small rehearsal for the Apocalypse. And 3) they also didn’t know that they both knew about the project now. So Aziraphale continued to secretly anguish about transporting and distributing the magic books to benefit, as he said, 'knavish mercenaries', and Crowley kept unreservedly hating the spread of the grimoires, especially after getting invoked more six times. Ligur wasn’t at all in a hurry to distort some books in his favor. 

 

Three weeks have passed since their last meeting, Aziraphale was so busy traveling to various places that he rarely stayed in one burgh for more than two days. And when they finally met, by accident in Carcassonne, it was a complete disaster. Crowley had been wondering about the possible reasons why Aziraphale had actively disappeared like that, and he could imagine just one: the angel, for some reason, was actively avoiding him. And he confirmed the suspicion when he saw the angel talking to a strange man in an alley of that fortified city.


“Bien, Sir, er, Seigneur.. Aubin Didon? C-comme je… l'ai dit avant, er, J’ai..J’ai a-appór

 

“I underrstand anglais! Oh, you arre murrderring mes oreilles, my earrs!” complained the man, grimacing. “Alors, avez-vous les livres?”

 

“Oh, okay, sorry… So, yes, Sir, I do have. I brought three: Testament of Solomon , Liber Juratus Honorii and Ghāyat al-Ḥakīm , also known as

 

The Goal of the Wise , très bien! Thank you, Sir Aziraphale!” said Sir Aubin Didon. “Voici les rapports.. The Association reports, you know. Merci encore! So… à bientôt!” 

 

“Oh! Wait, Sir! I have to explain how you must use these books!!!” exclaimed Aziraphale, worried.

 

“No, no, no, no. That’s fine. I alrready know how it worrks! Now, goodbye! Merci pour tout!” said the man, hastily, entering the library and closing the door. 

 

“But...” 

 

Aziraphale’s plan of infiltrating the Grimoire Project with his ideals, sometimes, didn’t work. Everytime he failed, he felt like rubbish. The feeling got worse when Crowley just jumped from the nearest street corner, seeming very pissed off... Apparently he had heard everything. 

  
SO, IS IT YOU WHO HAS SPRAWLING THESE BLOODY GRIMOIRES? ” he shouted, pointing at the angel. “I CANNOT BELIEVE IT!!! Y-YOU… TRAITOR!” 


Suddenly the windows of the nearest building just shattered entirely. Things like that usually happened when the demon’s angery got out of control. 

 

“Oh, no.” whispered Aziraphale, feeling kind of guilty. And a little frightened. “Oh, fuck!”

 

“YEAH, ‘OH FUCK’ INDEED, ANGEL!!!” Crowley’s rage was emanating from his body intensely, but it wasn’t just anger, it was frustration. “How could you do that? This terrible, terrible plan! Seriously! What, h-how could you do that to me? And you didn’t even tell me! You, you, you just vanished !!! 

“Crowley! Please! Hear me out, I


“Oh, fuck you , angel!” cursed he, walking away. The people crowding on the broad street all watching the scene, including Sir Aubin Didon, wide-eyed behind the library’s window. Crowley kept walking till turning the corner, entering an empty alley. Aziraphale followed him, trying to explain his point. 

 

“WAIT! Crowley! I didn’t mean to be a part of this! As a matter of fact , I’ve been trying to


“But you are a part of it, Aziraphale! And you don’t even question it! That’s the truth! The fucking Heaven’s Head Office can tell you to.. To bite your own foot while playing, playing drums or something, and you, Aziraphale, you would do it! You would kill me if ooh, spooky-Gaabriel or oooh, menacing-Michael told you to do that! I bet you would !” blurted Crowley, enraged, turning to him. The demon was a complete drama queen by now. 

A prying denizen with googly eyes tried to continue watching the discussion from the corner, then, out of the blue, he just turned into an ostrich.
 

W-what ?! So do you think I’m a bloody coward ? Is that it? Because, yes, Sir, only you think for yourself. Really, Crowley! It is indeed an unprecedented characteristic! Congratulations! So original!” cried out the irritated angel, sarcastically.

“Yes, I am saying you are a coward , Aziraphale!” muttered Crowley between the teeth, quickly getting so close of Aziraphale that their noses were merely two inches away. “Only a coward would lie to a friend like that.”

 

Aziraphale felt his legs weaken and crazy butterflies in the stomach. So, entirely dazed and confused, looking deep inside those amber iris that reminded Bombay cat’s eyes, he just managed to say:

 

“We are not friends , Crowley...er, we are associates .” 

 

And here, ladies and gentlemen, we witness the last human feature of Aziraphale: saying things contradicting the feelings just for fearing the truth. The angel could actually see Crowley's eyes losing a tiny portion of brightness. Yes, dearest, maybe I am a coward, thought he, feeling a hollow blazing inside his chest.  

 

“Oh…Yea? Well, o-okay, angel… That, that explains everything. Right. We are not friends, then. May you continue being an immaculate coward and getting on with this hideous plan of yours. I’m leaving.” said the demon, taciturn.  

 

 “Crowley, I’m sorry, I

 

But it was too late, the demon had already vanished on air. 

 

So! This was the story of how stinky the 14th century was. Eventually, demon and angel would reconcile, and that would only happen in 1410, in Japan. Meanwhile, Crowley made sure of trying to burn a lot of grimoires, just out of anger. Then, he got bored of doing that. He indeed made Henrique II de Castella murder Pedro I de Castella, in 1369, but he couldn’t speed-up the “whole Plantagenet-Valois drama” by himself. It wouldn’t even make sense... On the other hand, Aziraphale indeed miraculously saved Milan from the Plague (well, it was for the pasta...). The Grimoire Project continued to exist but with a very small budget (so the angel got removed from the assignment) because both sides realized that humans did, for their own, what the project intended to do. 

Chapter Text

"Remembering the old days, my dear boy?" Asked Aziraphale from upstairs. 

 

"Yeah, the quite terrible ones only... How could you keep this one, angel? And that one… for Satan... How many reminders of that stinky XIV century do you have in here, eh?" complained Crowley looking up, holding a Solomon's book in his hands. 

 

"Well, just these fifteen you're looking at! These are the ones I managed to keep, Crowley. After your emotional meltdown, er, emotional combustion … I may say."  commented Aziraphale, entering the room with raised eyebrows. 

 

"Oh, please. Don't even start talking about that, angel."

 

"You started it, Crowley! Frankly I already

 

"Okay. I started it, you're right. Let's go?" Said Crowley, walking rapidly to the exit door. He didn't let it show, but he was utterly nervous due to his inexorable and unchangeable decision of, after all those centuries, finally revealing (verbatim, literally word by word) the very nature of his feelings towards the angel. That morning, when he went to a flower shop to buy the most gorgeous Anthurium possible, it was playing Masterpiece by Madonna. When the demon heard the lyrics, for some reason, he nearly cried (drama queen). He kept putting the song repeatedly, staring at the plants, the people at the store thought the sound system was broken (and as well as the gloomy man staring at plants for so, so long. So long that the manager almost called the police).  

 

"What a hurry, dear. Let me get my coat…"  Said Aziraphale, taking the cream colored overcoat and searching for the store's keys. 

 

They got out of the bookshop. Crowley waited the angel lock the establishment's door, leaned over his black car at the sidewalk. And that was the very moment when everything would gradually start going rather… right. The splendid night sky hovering over London was painted with a warm gradient from ultra-mar to noir. It was an unusually beautiful night. When they entered inside the car, Crowley pressed one button at the Bentley's radio and "Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy" by Queen started playing. After forty seconds, Aziraphale glanced at Crowley, somewhat abashed.

 

“Ooh let me feel your heartbeat (grow faster, faster)

Ooh ooh can you feel my love heat, ooh

Come on and sit on my hot-seat of love

And tell me how do you feel right after-all

I'd like for you and I to go romancing

Say the word, your wish is my command

Ooh, love, ooh loverboy…”

 

"What is it, angel? Something wrong?" Asked he, grinning.

"Are you, er... playing this song on purpose?" he questioned, with a tone of voice that was both defiant and timid.

"Of course!" declared the demon, turning his head to face Aziraphale. 

"Oh…" sighted the angel, abashedly.

"I'm kidding, loverboy. It's this car... You know, he likes Queen." lied he. Yes, the 1926 black Bentley apparently transformed every tape in Queen's compilations, but that particular song was chosen by Crowley. "It was supposed to be... Vivaldi, I think... eh, I don't know anymore." 

"Right…" said Aziraphale, looking through the window to hide his blushing face from the demon. Inexplicably, he had a weird intuition that everything would intimately change very soon... Intuition or desire? It was difficult for him to tell the difference. 

 

“When I'm not with you

I think of you always…”


Aziraphale looked at the safe and sound city, in an unbelievably safe and sound planet. Well, in fact, not so safe, or sound either, but still existing for sure. He looked up, gazing at the night sky, imagining Alfa Centauri… 4,37 light-years from the Sun… What Crowley had in that mad mind of his? What exactly was that proposal? Thought he, feeling somewhat warm. That thought had been a repressed obsessive idea through the last forty eight hours, at least. Anyway, Earth is still around for us, thought he, with all this… falsely controlled chaos, injustice, endless battles of interests, human obsession to their own existential crisis... And also this blatant human blindness right in the face of urgent problems. I honestly just can’t get that... In a sense, it is almost as if humans desired the destruction, desired the Apocalypse, hypnotized by the idea of absolute Death, and...  

 

“Dining at the Ritz, we'll meet at nine precisely. I will pay the bill, you will taste the wine. Driving back in style…”

 

Aziraphale was abruptly pulled out from his philosophical reflection by Freddie Mercury's melodic voice.

 

"Oh! Ritz ? At nine…? Crowley, it really sounds like…. It sounds like us... And you know that!" blurted out the chary angel, more than embarrassed.

"Hmn-yeah? Do you think so?" questioned the demon, with a husky voice.

"Yes, I do." 

"Uhn, well, we aren’t the only ones that eat at the Ritz and meet at nine, angel. So explain your point to me." Crowley provoked. Of course he would use his best weapons: instigation and induced temptation. 

"I know… but it's not that… it's… OH GOD ! THE PEDESTRIAN!!!! Oh, Lord!! H-How many times do I have to remind you of driving slower, Crowley?" gasped the angel. 

"Sorry, angel… I'll try to remember next time… Oh look! We arrived."  


They got out of the Bentley, which Crowley parked carelessly in front of a “no-parking” sign. 

 

“What were you thinking right now, angel, in the car?” asked the demon with curiosity, putting his hands on the pockets. “Seemed quite distant…”

 

“Oh... Nothing.” said Aziraphale, entering the building with Crowley by his side. “Only about … humanity. And the past few days.”

 

“Argh! Let’s leave it alone.Enought of apocalyptic worries and terrestrial anguish!” said Crowley, grimacing.  

 

“Yes, I know… But, well, you have to admit it was a traumatic sequence of quite flabbergasting events.” sighed Aziraphale, and turning to the concierge: “Hi! Good evening, Miss. Table for two, please… We have a reservation for Aziraphale.” 

 

“Yeah, it was indeed…” agreed Crowley, “Well, but here we are!!! Alive! Not disincorporated! Not condemned or banned from existence! Alive.. And dining at The Ritz, that’s a good deal, eh?”


“I agree.” said Aziraphale, cheerfully (already thinking about the food), while they walked to the table. Same table as always. When they sat down, Crowley blurted out:


“At your bookshop, right now, I was remembering the.. uh, that time in Carcassonne, you know…. And, I’m… I guess I have to apologize, though I never did. So here it is, angel. I’m really sorry.”

 

Aziraphale lifted his eyes from the menu and stared at the regretful demon.


“What? But why, my dear? You didn’t do anything wrong...”  

 

"Well… I was quite rude." Acknowledged he, shrinking his shoulders and raising his eyebrows behind his cyberpunk shades.

 

"You were, yes." Laughed the angel, "but I was also mistaken. I should have told you about that bloody mischievous project… and I shouldn't have said that… that we weren't friends…"  

 

"Oh, yeah... Woa... That hurt me like Holiness, angel." confessed he. Aziraphale looked at him, an hesitant and unfathomable emotion lingering in his eyes. The demon wanted to ask Aziraphale the reason why he said they weren't friends back then -and for repeating it more than once- but instead he said: 

 

" So , what are we going to eat?" 

 

"Well, hm.... the beef Wellington is stupendous , I may say. What do you think?" 

 

"Sweet! I'm having whatever you're having, angel. I trust your judgement without even questioning." Said he, closing the menu sonorously and looking away.

 

Aziraphale looked at the demon for a moment, as if what he said had a deeper meaning. Then he smiled. Not a shy or demure smile, but an infatuated smile. It was a shame that Crowley was looking to the side and didn't see that. 

 

"Oh, jolly good!" Exclaimed the angel, calling the waiter and ordering the beef, some other gourmet dishes and, more importantly, the wine.

 

"So, what would be your personal prophecy for the future? You know, now that our respective bosses are aware of our… partnership?” asked Crowley, holding the glass while another waiter poured a Chardonnay. Actually, he wanted to ask about Aziraphale’s personal interpretation of Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy, but he didn’t. Yeap, he was kind of failing at his intent of declaring his feelings. And it was exasperating him already. 

 

“Well…” began Aziraphale, shifting in his chair, somewhat uncomfortable. “I honestly don’t have a clue … I imagine they will probably avoid this matter. Especially after our… remarkable play.” said he, smiling, then he added, with a reasonably provocative tone: “However...If they do start persecuting us, there will always exist Alpha Centauri … Right?”      (wily angel, uh?)

 

Crowley felt his heart skip a beat and almost choked on the white wine.

 

“W-wha, Sure! What did I tell you? It's.. up there just waiting for us, whenever we need to escape or...Wait.. It's actually right over there ,now, I suppose.” and the demon pointed at the floor. “Rotation orbits, so quizzical…”

 

“Er, Crowley… Would you really run away with me? Why…Uh, did you mean to say that? Or that was just a.. desperate balderdash baloney?” 

 

“What?!”

 

“I’m asking if you inten

 

“No, yeah, I got that . It was the balderdash-baloney thing.. Nobody uses these words seriously anymore, angel”, laughed Crowley. “And… uh, of course I meant to say that… What did you think ? We’ve known each other for six thousand years… I can easily spend the rest of eternity just with you... You alone is enough for me.. “

 

Aziraphale widened his eyes, awed by the demon’s sincerity. Crowley, on the other hand, felt he was going too fast, again. Luckily, for Aziraphale’s puzzled lack of words as well as for Crowley’s remorsefully bitten tongue, the first course arrived. Miraculously fast. 

 

“Oh! Tip-top! Great! Crowley, smell this magnificent fragrance! God! Isn’t it perfect ?!” said he, gleefully. “So synesthetic… It awakens the deepest ephemeral sensations and the more profound and transcendent poetic volitions!”

“Mn-ehh, seems quite nice” agreed the demon, not so excited as the angel. “...Can we order another bottle of wine, angel?”

 

“What? Already ?” asked Aziraphale, astonished. 

 

“Yeah… Oi, don’t pretend you didn’t drink it too!" protested Crowley. 

 

"But I didn't ! Look, my wine is still intact in the glass. How on Earth did you manage to drink so fast, Crowley?" 

 

"Well… I don't know... Shit happens? I am a demon , angel. It is pretty much what I do, I ruin things." explained Crowley, grinning. "Oh! There was a time in the 80s when I would go everyday at house parties solely to make the alcohol end faster, which often caused fights regarding who should leave the party and go to the market for the thousandth time to buy more beer  -only to bring more beer that would end up very fast again -... or regarding who owed money to the group, or who the Hell was drinking all the beverage ?!... Yeah. Oh! I also enjoyed to cause fights over cigarettes! Definitely a polemical matter, if you wanna know… Ah.. Good times." 

 

"That was really immature of you, Crowley." censured Aziraphale.

 

“I know... But it was quite hilarious .” the demon broke into a chuckle. 

 

 All right. Let’s order another wine, you tipsy demon.” said the angel, straightening his bow tie then politely calling a waiter to order another bottle. He asked for a Burgundy Côte de Nuits Red this time. 

 

“Humnthis is..rlydelicioush !” commented the indecorous demon inclined over the dish, with a full mouth, almost spitting the smoked eel.


“Isn’t it?!” said the angel, very content, staring fondly at the dish.

 

The caterpillars !!!!!!” exclaimed Crowley, all of a sudden, this time really spitting pieces of lovage.

 

“W-What?”

 

“I have such a good memory!” murmured the demon, cheerful, poking the food.

 

“What the fu

 

“The caterpillar story!!.. Wait, were you going to say ‘what the fuck’, angel ?! Is this real life? Or a fantasy? A landslide? Do you ever, ever, use vulgar expressions?!” interrogated Crowley, entirely stunned.

 

“I wasn’t going to say… what the fuck, Crowley!”, blurted the angel, nervously, lowering his voice.

  
The waiter had returned with the specific wine, and obviously had heard Aziraphale’s last impolite words.

“Oh! Please, don’t mind my husband , he had a burdensome day.” said Crowley to the waiter, smiling diplomatically, while the man was serving wine in their glasses. The waiter merely smiled back and left. Then the demon looked back to the angel, who was absolutely disconcerted. Discombobulated . So flushed that his face was a solid shade of a screaming shocked scarlet. Crowley couldn’t help laughing, while Aziraphale was resolutely speechless. 

 

“So! The caterpillars, rememb

 

“Crowley! For Heaven's sake! W-what was that ?” interrupted the angel, still blushing. "Would you please stop embarrassing me?" 

 

"Oh, angel. I didn't mean to embarrass you… But I apologize if my playful affection abashed you.” said he, with a sarcastic smirk. Let’s remember: his intention was to instigate the angel on imagining by himself what was already crossing his devilish mind. And it worked. Aziraphale just stared at him with a disapproval look. But he wasn’t offended at all, as the scene, again, may suggest. In fact, he was dazedly delighted to hear the word “husband” from Crowley. It was the exact same feeling that assaulted him when Uriel referred to the demon as his “boyfriend in the dark glasses”.

 

“So… Caterpillars ?” he asked, taking the fork to his mouth, still a little annoyed (not truly annoyed though). The memory of his argumentative imaginary friends crossed his mind, Azar and Ophelos.

 

“Yeap, I just remembered that I was going to tell you a quite funny story about caterpillars in 1368... But I didn’t.” 

 

“And what was it about?”

 

“Uh, don’t know… I can’t recall, exactly .. ”

 

“Oh lord…”


“It was something about a trial …” 

 

 “A trial?”

 

“Yes, a trial, with that eh...with that thingamajig that knocks, eh... Oh, damn, it was funny. Well, nevermind. I can’t remember what was it now…. Anyway, speaking of trials , did your side has something to do with that Campbell’s Act or...?" ,questioned he, lifting his glass and taking a sip of wine with his eyes narrowed. "Always wanted to know that... I missed that part of 19th century, you know.  The last.. fifteen years of it was good enough for me.. ” 


“Oh… Yes...1857, right? But I didn’t keep up with the process, dear. Er, I think Sandalphon handled that?… It’s his department, sort of.” explained he, grimacing when mentioning his coworker, then delicately wiping his mouth with the napkin.  


“Ah! I knew it! You guys are such a moralists…” exclaimed Crowley, leaning back and resting his right arm on the top of the white chair. “You can thank my lot for quality art, clean-shirts, that’s for sure .”  

 

“Well, er, this legislation has its historical significance, Crowley. And what precisely are you calling quality art?... Obscene literature? Pornography? Arts made solely to shock ? To praise Evil?” inquired the angel, looking at the demon for a moment boldly in the eyes. “An artwork conceived by resorting to Evil is illegitimate… Acting like that the artist is only coating putridity with beauty.”

 

“Oh no! You cannot truly believe in that, come on, angel! I know you don’t!” complained he, raising his eyebrows, incredulous. “What is obscene ? What is legitimacy even?”

 

“Your side encourages corrupted art, my dear boy.” emphasized Aziraphale, waving his head.

 

“Oh, for Satan ! The holier-than-thou blabbering again! Why do I still talk to you?!” retorted the demon, with a skeptic grin. “The only legitimate art, if legitimacy exists, is the one that courageously assume Evil as supreme value. As Gide said once: II n'y a pas d'oeuvre d'art sans collaboration du démon . Art simply needs demonic inspiration, angel. It needs subversion! That's why we've got aaall the first grade musicians, and you guys only got .... that boring Elgar....And that sssmug Liszt."

 

“Gide?! Didn’t you say that you ' don’t read books '?” replied the angel, imitating inverted commas with his hands,  with very high raised eyebrows.

 

“I don’t!... But I’m not uninformed ! And I personally like Gide, angel. He was, actually, a friend of mine... I also enjoy Wilde’s stories. And, by the way, The Picture of Dorian Gray had a huge contribution of mine... Did you know that?” he said, with a challenging smile and continued, "I like to say that, it sounds quite cool... And cult. More cult than the  TV game shows I helped creating... Which I'm also quite proud of." 


“Well, no, I did not know. But sounds perfectly plausible to me.” responded Aziraphale, making an ironic expression and sipping his wine. 

 

“So! That’s quality art ! Will you deny that? If you do, I won’t allow you to run a bookshop anymore, angel. What the Hell have you been saying to your customers?”


“Oh, are you really intruding into my business, dear? And of course I enjoy Gide... and Wilde."

 

“Hum, is that so?” asked Crowley, surprised and immensely interested, leaning over the table.

 

“Naturally! They were indeed brilliant writers!” exclaimed the angel, edgy. "And I also met Wilde personally..."


“Interesting…” murmured the demon, a little skeptical.

 

“Crowley. Look at me, for God’s sake, my dearest friend is a demon , why on Earth are you surprised I like André Gide? Or Oscar Wilde? Will you faint when you know I also enjoyed reading James Joyce's Ulysses? Including Nausicaa? And beyond that, I didn’t totally agree with the bloody Campbell’s Act, neither I agreed with that Grimoire Project or even Jesus persecution! For Heaven’s sake, I’m literally dining with a demon and… Sometimes I just don’t comprehend what judgement you make of me… I am not so immaculate… I suppose you know that..” unburdened Aziraphale, pouring more wine after his speech.

 

Dearest friend ? I heard it right?” asked the demon, absolutely happy. That torrid cascade of words flooded him entirely. Then he joyfully laughed: “Yeah, I am aware you're a bloody bastard , angel, don’t worry. Your reputation will not be distorted .” 

 

“Now it’s better!” joked Aziraphale, meaningfully looking the demon right inside his eyes. Meaningfully. It was that very gaze that inflamed the demon all the time, inadvertently. Then the main course arrived, immediately distracting the angel. Crowley, on the other hand, continued to stare at him, warmhearted. Dearest … the word kept echoing in his mind.

 

“Oh! Perfect!” exclaimed the angel, inhaling the perfumed smoke, skewering a specific slice of meat with the fork and then gladly putting it into his mouth. He savored the flavors, closing his eyes and letting himself be transported to elsewhere, in trance. Crowley couldn’t stop looking at him. At that moment, he craved tasting the angel’s lips. He didn’t care about all that expensive food.

 

“Oh, this beef is scrumptious ! Aren’t you going to eat, my dear?” asked Aziraphale, finally looking at the demon, who was with a ravenous and vague look underneath the shades. 


“Uh? Oh, yeah… Sure I will .” said he, grinning, his tongue briefly touched his sharp teeth. Canine-tooth flickering. Aziraphale didn’t understand that peculiar smile, but he felt a sudden mellow shiver crossing his entire body, and then a misty image of Crowley licking his neck and his whole body bedimmed his mind like a haze.

“Oh, er..we need more wine!” noticed the angel, looking at the empty bottle, trying to disguise his tenuous inner turmoil. Ordering another bottle he felt rather embarrassed, especially when observing the waiter’s face. “Crowley… We're drinking wine like humans drink low-quality beer… I guess our behavior is seeming somewhat unusual…”

“Bah, don’t worry about that, angel. The amount we drink is our own business.” said he, resting his chin on the left hand to watch the angel. “And we were here literally four days ago . These folks know us already.” 


“I know…”  anguished he. “But..

 

Where are we going after eating, angel?” interrupted Crowley, observing Aziraphale with attention. 

 

“Oh, I don’t know… You tell me.” he said, with a kind smile. 

 

“I guess I want to go back to your place…” said the demon “I like your charming old bookshop… It makes me understand what do you mean when you say ‘it feels love’, kind of...”

 

“Oh! Oh, dear… That means so much, Crowley… Thank you…” breathed the angel with a sigh of gratitude, he was a little moved...And lightly aroused. Goosebumps on his neck. He contained an impassioned smile, when the peculiar puzzling image crossed his mind again.


“Alright! So finish eating and we go!” exclaimed Crowley, that was in a desperate hurry to be alone with Aziraphale.



“Er.. Don’t you want dessert? Because...I already ordered caramelized apples.” said the angel, with a guilty smile. 

 

No, I don’t want caramelized apples, I want you for dessert , thought the demon.

“Uh, okay, fine…”

 

When they finished eating the main course, the dessert was immediately served. Crowley ate the apple very fast, Aziraphale kept relishing every particle of it, as soon as he finished eating, the demon blurted, standing up: “Let’s go, angel!”. They paid the bill and left the building, while returning to the discussion about human art.

 

“There is… ahm, Goethe, Flu..Flusser, Artemisia Gentileshi...Caravaggio, ah… Mary Shelley! Thomas Mann...er, Paganini, Giuseppe Tartini...Goya! Syd Barrett! Robert Johnson!!! All of them . Aaall demonic inspiration, angel. And all absolutely geeenius. It’s no use arguing.” listed the demon, counting on fingers, chaotically. In fact, the list is much bigger than that, but he was a little drunk. 


“Mephistopheles was defeated on Goethe’s poem, my dear boy, he wasn't insp  


“Blergh, because... Goethe was trying to fit in , that’s why!” interrupted Crowley.


“No, he wasn’t !!!!” claimed the angel, agitating his hands. 


“But above all things your side is… your side, angel, supports everything that makes people be sexually repressed, why is that? That’s quite sad…” pointed he, staggering a little and ignoring the angel’s protest. “ That’s evil.”

“You know, even though we are celestial creatures… You shouldn't drive after drinking, Crowley.” suddenly pointed the angel, worried, while they were walking to the Bentley. “ Especially you.”

 

“Ahh, it’s fiiine , angel. And if I hit someone you can miracle it back to life anyway!” said Crowley, opening the car’s door. 

 

“Oh, good Lord !” sighed the angel, getting into the car. He himself was feeling a little dizzy.

 

“Do you want to choose a song, loverboy ?” provoked the demon, with a smirk, turning the ignition key. 

 

 “No… You don’t like my taste, Crowley.” he said, annoyed, buckling the seat belt with a click. 

 

Oh, boy, I’ll definitely like your taste , thought the demon. He was trying his best, but he just couldn’t help imagining things. 

 

“What is it?” asked Aziraphale, observing Crowley’s face, who was blatantly gazing at his lips. He could tell that by the way the demon tilted his head. "...Is there caramel on my mouth..?" 

 

“What?!  Nothing ! No! You're perfectly tidy, angel.” blurted the demon, blushing and starting to drive.

 

“Crowley, are you… Are you blushing ?” laughed the angel, although himself was also redden, and feeling his heart beating hard, inexplicably. “You are rosy-cheeked right now! Look!... Blushing reptile-demon… That’s surely unparalleled.”

 

“Noup.” replied he, looking ahead. And then he put a Lou Reed song to play: Walk on the Wild Side , and said: “If I am blushing, this guy is bebop.

 

“Oh, no. Not that again…”

 

“Oh, eh, well, yeah, who would ever say Velvet Underground is bebop ? Whoever says that needs to be stopped. Consider yourself in a mandatory educational program now, angel.”

“Fine…” sighed he, looking at Crowley. Oh, God, why do I like him so much? He's so annoying sometimes.., thought he.

 

 “...And don’t you like bebop? Improv jazz is great , you know…”

 

“I guess I never took the time to really listen…I'm more into rag-time.” explained Aziraphale, opening the window and feeling the wind play with his hair.  


What ? Oh, Satan give me strength…What do I do with you...” murmured the demon, then he snapped his fingers and Salt Peanuts by Dizzy Gillespie started to play. That rapid music matched the speed with which he was driving.

“Oh!... That’s actually quite fun… ” commented the angel, smiling and doing a little dance: “What a funny song... Salt peanuts! Salt peanuts!

Right ?!” said Crowley, enthusiastically, nearly hitting a bus. “ Terrific musician he…”

 

Crowley !! Oh God! Drive slower, dear.” reminded the angel, frightened, grabbing the demon’s arm. 

 

“No need for that, Mr. goody two-shoes. We’re home already.” he said, pulling over the car and stopping the music.

Did he said ‘home’? , thought Aziraphale, muddled, while he was getting off the car.

 

Chapter Text

When they were driving back to the bookstore, they were already slightly drunk, with the alcohol gradually installing itself in their cells. And now they would, of course, traditionally drink an additional extraordinary amount of alcohol.  

 

Well, there is always a tricky thing that happens when you are drunk. Mainly if you have a crush on someone. And especially if the feeling is mutual. You inevitably become a tactile-freak: standing to close, grabbing the person’s hands to emphasize whatever nonsense you are talking, faking accidental bumps, acting silly...  Well, liquid courage, right? So when they sat next to each other, on the settee, with their knees constantly touching, it was only a matter of time till the most procrastinated kiss on Earth History happens. They were simultaneously drinking scotch and wine now. Crowley would decide the first songs (part of his self-proclaimed educational program), so in the background a slow psychedelic rock was emanating from the phonograph: May this be love , by Jimi Hendrix. 

 

“Oh… Can you believe? Eleven years ago we were exactly here, doing exactly the same thing, not having certainty of any kind whatsoever…”  

 

"Yeah...  Dolphins!!! Remember those guys? Smart folk... Mammalsss... Guess they’re fine now, eh? Continuing to be those, those, those poor seafood gumbo.... Yeah! Cheers!!!" Said Crowley, kicking his shoes off and lifting his glass of red wine: “Hail Sssatan!!!!” 

 

Aziraphale gave him a reprimand look, sinking in the settee while holding his drink, after removing his shoes and the tartan socks (unconsciously imitating the demon, yeah he was a little drunk already). That’s what Crowley was looking for: he praised Satan just for the sake of having fun with the angel’s flustered face. 

 

“Don’t hail that mannerless , impolite sir, my dear boy…. By the way, he was bigger than I ever, ever, ever - hiccup- ever imagined…Really. It almost didn’t make sense ..How h

 

“Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know, the guy is quite horrifying. Tough ntr-entr-entrepreneur. Good at his job, so… And you, numptie, you are afraid of… Gabriel !” interrupted Crowley, laughing.

“Don’t joke about that… He is quite scary, in a different way… In a psychological way… You wouldn’t understand.” protested Aziraphale, drinking his single malted scotch. He was sitting in a way his whole body was facing Crowley, with the right leg bent over the settee, and the left foot touching the floor. 

“Ooh, poor you ” said Crowley, making a satirical phony sad face. He wasn't wearing his shades anymore.


"Anyway. And, and the gorillas! They okay too, they're alright in th-their...nests, Crowley. Aah!!! And the whales…” commented Aziraphale, relieved, pouring more Châteauneuf-du-Pape for them. 

 

“Yes! And nothing, nothing is b-boiling, blub-bubbling…" agreed Crowley, tilting his head and resting it on the settee. Then murmured, giddy: "Whoo, I'm feeling like a banana tree right now…"

 

" Aand I don't have to eternally listen to: The Sssooound of Music !!! I am so , so glad!!!!" celebrated the angel, opening his arms, almost making Crowley drop his scotch.

 

"Oohh, you what ? You don't ? Are you sure ? So let me thing a sing, no…what? Let me sing a thing for you, my angel... hem-hem , raaaindrops on roses and whiskersss on kittensss     

 

"Oh no!! Stop!!! Nooo!!" Laughed Aziraphale, putting one hand over his ear and trying to put the other over Crowley's mouth. "You…You bad demon, stop it!"

 

"Bright copper hn kettlesmandwarmff woolenffmittens" singed the demon, bursting into laughter. "Mnfhss stop mf-angel!!!" 

 

"Only if you quit singing this criminal song, you impish fiend !" declared the angel, still covering Crowley’s mouth.

 

The demon continued to sing, chuckling, looking the angel inside his eyes. He noticed Aziraphale's skin was smooth and warm... Suddenly, the soft electricity he usually felt struck him again, stronger than ever. And… It was mutual, of course (well, after six thousand years of flirting, it obviously was). That very instant, Aziraphale felt a magnetic pull. He had felt that for Crowley before, yes, many times, but in that moment it was different. Now, he craved touching the demon more and more. It was a desperate volition. Maybe it was because of the alcohol. Or the music. Or because they could have died a few days ago without... well, without confessing some stuff. He couldn't tell. 

 

Jimi Hendrix's song stopped and another music started to play, it was a lazy and lustful melody. Another Crowley's choice: Planet Caravan, by Black Sabbath. They looked at each other, in silence, trying to assimilate that ineffable attraction. Then, following the music’s rhythm, Crowley took the angel's left hand, slowly removing from his own mouth just to kiss it right after, still gazing intensely at Aziraphale, who was now internally melting, dissolving. The angel just didn't know what to do. He was conscious of what they were doing was utterly sinful , in his opinion. But he also didn't want it to stop… Crowley's lips over his hand felt so g..But it should stop. It should stop. This is so wrong... Oh no, the Cat and the Caterpillar again… He wasn't sure who he was anymore…

 

"Angel...I need to tell you something..." Crowley whispered, gravely, still holding Aziraphale's exquisitely manicured hand and placing it over his chest. The angel could feel his heartbeat. 

 

Aziraphale was unable to respond with words, so he just stood with hesitant inquiring eyes. The demon also seemed to be struggling with what he had to say:

 

"Well, Aziraphale… I'm not certain if you noticed it, eh, but I've been quite madly in love with you since… uh, always ? And when I thought I lost you, after the fire, I truly felt I was dead.. I just gave up. Well, that’s because you make everything be worth living, angel. I certainly didn’t want to continue my life without you, and I can’t… I sincerely can’t see myself without you anymore… So, would you...stay with me, angel? Eternally? Well… Till the next Armageddon, at least?" 

 

Ethereal song was spiraling through the air: "... The earth, a purple blaze of sapphire haze..in orbit always..."  

 

Crowley stared at the angel, hopeful. And afraid. Aziraphale was definitely suffering with an internal crisis, the demon could tell that by reading his face. But then, surprisingly, the angel leaned over and softly placed his lips over the demon's mouth. 1...2...3...4...5 seconds. Then he said:


"I guess...that's how, er, humans, at least, show their affection...I sup


Crowley passionately grabbed Aziraphale's head, interrupting him, gently pressing their mouths together and, just out of happiness, the demon wanted to cry and laugh at the same time. There was indeed an electrical reaction. Not a celestial punishment, a canonical prohibition, or something like that, but a transcendental and cosmical tension. It was like an incantation. The entire universe fitted in that embrace. It was harmonious. They were infinite extremes that finally touched each other. Moon and Sun. Yin and Yang. Ma and Basara. Apollonian and Dionysian. Sturm und drang meeting picturesque . Figure blending with the ground. 

 

The whole was definitely something else than the sum of its parts. Something greater. It was infinity and completion. It was... love. 

 

How do we took so long for doing that? , thought Aziraphale, mesmerized, .. Oh, I guess if we had done this before the world would be a pile of ashes by now .The demon tenderly introduced his tongue inside the angel's mouth, while placing his hand over the angel's thigh, and then grasping it, putting the lover's left leg over his own right leg. Their tongues danced around each other for a couple of minutes and it was as if they had been absorbed into a black hole, where space-time perception was extinguished forever. They could be on Earth, on Alpha Centauri or on Oyster Nebula, they wouldn’t notice it. It was a pilgrim planet, travelling through the desert of existence...

 

" Oh, Lord " gasped Aziraphale, breaking the kiss, feeling a burning effervescence spreading not only on his chest but deep down his belly. Almost like when you miss a stair step, or better, when you miss a flaming abyss. "I feel like falling.." 

 

Crowley opened his snake eyes slowly and stared at Aziraphale, drowned in delight, in love. So joyful that he could hardly contain himself. Heaven , by The Rolling Stones started to resonate from the gramophone. "We will never..ever touch the ground, angel" whispered Crowley against the angel's mouth, smiling and kissing him again, but this time voraciously.

There was a “ deliberate voluptuousness which was both thrilling and repulsive ” on Crowley, making the bookseller remember of Bram Stoker’s Dracula . That incubu’s lustful hunger took his breath out, pushed him down the settee, leaned over his body and was starting to softly bite his neck. The angel moaned, even trying to contain the sound. Crowley grinned against his oversensitive skin, continuing to explore his neck, removing the bow tie and opening the collar. Aziraphale honestly thought about stopping all that, but he couldn’t, he didn't want to, it felt so good.. It was immoral, but what wasn't immoral anyway? Everything was twisted… Immoral is to prefer poisoning people with ‘a phial of prussic acid’ instead of accepting them to love whoever they want , though the angel, thinking of the Campbell's Act, oh, by the way, Heaven  is immoral! With that Sandalphon who is equally blatantly immoral, and that immoral corrupted Michael, immoral arrogant Gabriel. God! Heaven is immoral!, reflected he. 

Would the act of love make him less benevolent? Would it harm someone? How could love ever be an evil choice? If love is demonic, well, then I'll be gladly damned, he thought, tilting his head with his eyes luxuriously shut, as he did when relished a dish, smiling breathless against Crowley's smooth flaming hair, which had a smoky scent of musk, ashes, leather and ambergris. O perfume nonchalant and rare! O ecstasy! Remembering Baudelaire’s verses, letting the demon possess every inch of him, he clutched Crowley's back, stretching it softly with his nails, pulling him closer, then timidly opening his own legs, arresting the demon between it. They were moving at the same pace. Senses be praised, senses be praised, the music resounded. He held the demon’s face with both hands and kissed him again, ardently, savoring his flavour, biting his bottom lip as if it were a delicatesse. And it tasted like apples. Sinful apples.

"Oh, for G.. for Satan" gasped Crowley, burning, blushing face."Angel, I waited..." he started stripping the angel's overcoat off; "so", for each word he planted a kiss at the angel's lips; "..so..", he took off his own black jacket; “...long..”, then Aziraphale  started unbuttoning his noir waistcoat, "..for.", the demon tossed his own opened noir waistcoat off; “..this”, and ripped off the angel's waistcoat, they laid on the settee again. The angel always bringing the demon closer with the legs crossed over his lower back. "For someone.. who said the Campbell's Act.. has its importance...you, angel, definitely don't seem pure..neither moralist.."


"...I warned you, demon" he replied, slyly, caressing Crowley’s hair and kissing him again. The rhythm. Art is rhythm. It is desire or loathing. Crowley's motion, back and forth over his body while kissing him, was exasperating him in desire. Desire urges us to possess. Crowley started to unbutton Aziraphale's shirt, then to kiss the bare skin of his chest and belly, licking his nipples while unzipping his beige trousers. The angel kept trying to control the moans, but he couldn't when the incubus started to go down, kissing all the way down, abdomen, groin, thighs, while removing the beige trousers and his own black shirt, and tossing it all away. 

" Oh Lor- , I've never done ..this.. before, Crowley..." murmured the angel, rather desperate.  

" No ?" Asked Crowley, delighted by nibbling the angel's inner thigh. Aziraphale moaned louder, and then gasped: 

"Hm,h..No.. Crowley, oh my God, I h-haven't, no, I am a bloody angel… H-have you ?" 

"..Oh, well, eh.. Yes, but just out of curiosity...You know, I was quite bored...And I'm a demon.. So..Quite predictable..eh?" he said, lifting himself over his bare arms to stare at the messy angel. 

"May I know with who ?!!" Questioned Aziraphale, wide-eyed. 

"Are you jealous , angel?" Provoked he, leaning over to kiss the angel at the lips. 

"No… I am not … you have your own life and Ok, all right, I guess I am.." complained the angel, rolling his eyes. 

"Gluttony, lust and, now, greed ? Spoonful of sins today...eh?" joked the demon, kissing his neck. 

"Well? what can I do? It is all your fault, my dear boy..." Sighed he, and added: "but... true love is not a sin , Crowley... It’s... love. And love is holy." 

The demon glared at the angel with possibly the most passionate gaze that may have ever existed, and immersed into a warm kiss; the most caring kiss that may have ever happened in six thousand years.

Venus in Furs, by the Velvet Underground & Nico stroke the victrola. Their tongues entwined, dancing a whimsical tango in the rhythm of that sluggish song that sounded oddly medieval. When they kissed, they moved their whole bodies, back and forth, up and down. Constellation in unison. 

Aziraphale got so violently consumed by his own eagerness at this point he suddenly pushed the demon, stood on his knees and started unzipping the other's trousers, trembling. Crowley also stood on knees, and the slightest touch of the angel's hands over his crotch made him gasp,  he gingerly bent back, arms languidly up on air as a defendant, just to stare at the ravening angel trying to take off his clothes. He lingered there for a moment, grinning, heart hammering, observing the angel’s eyelids, the parted pink lips, his messy white hair, red cheeks, the open white shirt, his bare chest, his bare thighs, his tense erection under the gray boxers. He felt blasphemous. Even he, a demon. And he had profaned an angel’s Will and temperance over all those centuries, so easily tempted, that mundane angel pulled his black leather trousers till his knees and then looked he boldly in the eyes, cupped his swollen cock and passionately kissed his neck. The demon groaned, loudly, letting his head hang back, inhaling. At the beginning it was only chaos, darkness and abyss. But when the angel unexpectedly pulled his black briefs till his knees he just couldn’t stand anymore.

He abruptly took the other by the thighs and lifted him, catching him on his lap, standing up, while making his clothes and the angel's shirt disappear, then landing themselves on the floor. And so they laid down. Earth, Air and Heaven had no existence, it was only Love emerging after the revolution of long ages, born of a germless egg in the bosom of the infinite depths of Darkness. The fallen angel ripped off his lover’s boxers and put himself between the legs of that holy demon.

Angel, demon, they were the same thing, blending, there were only their bodies palpitating against each other.  Skin against skin. Igniting. Demon over angel, no evil triumphing no good, just holy love amplifying itself. And with love they kissed, feeling their hearts dance, their saliva, their erections frictioning against each other, back and forth, up and down, temperature raising.


"Oh..God" the angel arched his back, grabbing the demon's hair, gasping, his eyes were tearing. 

Patti Smith’s Gloria: In Excelsis Deo started emanating from the gramophone. With the mellowness of a pianist, Crowley softly ran his hands over his lovers thighs, waist, chest, arms, hands. And pinning the angel's hands over the head with his left hand, with the right he grabbed his lover's hard cock, starting to gently squeeze it. Jesus died for somebody sins but not mine. The angel moaned so loud that someone on the street could have listened. And he continued to moan as the demon went down and started licking his member with that pointed devilish tongue and then gingerly nibbling it. Thick heart of stone. My sins, my own. They belong to me, me. Till finally swallowing it, and he started to suck, suck, that ophidian forked tongue all over it.

The demon’s tongue was long and smooth and seemed to wrap itself around him, like a venomous serpent. The fallen angel was holding on his legs, engulfing him on the warmth of his profane mouth. Just as the angel was about to come, panting, clutching the carpet, moanin, dripping, eternally profaned, the demon slowly stopped. So he lifted his lover’s legs, leaned over, placing himself between the parted legs, hips against hips.

He stood on his knees, licked his own fingers while Aziraphale watched, the angel noticed that those sharp teeth were like real snake fangs. They stared at each other, flushed. Crowley’s index and middle fingers, lubricous and gooey from that devilish ophidian venom-saliva, burrowed between the angel’s cheeks, probed his anus, massaged his sphincter and the angel opened his mouth without a sound, tilting his head and holding the breath, the demon slowly pushed his slender fingers all the way in, then carefully worked his fingers in and out, finding a spot that made the angel scream because it was like being dissolved in million shivering pieces, it was The Song of Songs, it was a flaming spell. It was as if the light of Creation has crossed every single atom inside of him. And so the panting demon placed his hard cock in his lover's entrance, body fiery, eyes beaming, and he breathed "are you sure you want this, angel? Tell me you want this, ‘your wish is my command’", the angel just waved his head and moved his hips towards the demon so the demon, groaning, gently shoved his cock in, and in, and deep, and the angel felt like he was going to explode in delightful asphyxia but then the demon started moving inside him, slowly penetrating him, and oscillating, carefully, lovingly. G-l-o-r-i-a. Love was transcending him, invading him, perfusing him, crossing him. Gloria. He was being possessed. And he wouldn’t object to that. Because he liked. Gloria. So he moved his hips at that pleasuring rhythm, pushing himself against the demon’s penis. There he was, having sex with a demon. Angels didn't need sex, but they also didn't need to eat. And he knew it would end like that since the beginning, because love is greater than any destiny. Love is greater than haphazard. Love is ineffable.  

And the fallen angel, moaning, back and forth, reached that spot inside of Aziraphale again. And again, and again, and it was like an ocean of incandescent cosmic light drowned them both.

And I heard those bells chimin' in my heart. Going ding dong, ding dong, ding dong, ding dong.

And again, faster. Gloria . And faster. Gloria . And faster.

And the tower bells chime, 'ding dong' they chime. They're singing, "Jesus died for somebody's sins but not mine ".

They were absorbed by a shivering sensation that flowed like a river, a river that was warm and cold at the same time. Both angels shouted as they came, trembling, feeling the knot at the root of their cocks dissolve in fire, melting, profaned and sacralized in pleasure.  Gloria. Gloria. Gloria . Gloria...  They slowly disengaged, still trembling, gasping. The demon fell heavily by the angel's side, drowned in happiness, thinking about his luck and wondering why he had that luck if he was unforgivable. And they stood there for a moment, side by side, panting. Somebody to love, by Queen started echoing from the victrola.  

"Can..... anybody.. find me..... somebody to...... love..."

"Oh I found…"  panted Crowley, smiling. Looking at Aziraphale, absolutely in love. "I found you,angel.." 

The angel glared at him, beaming and still breathless, and kissed him voraciously almost till the end of the song.    

“I love you, Crowley... Er, I’ve loved you forever.” the angel whispered, beaming. “But I’ve truly realized it when I… tempted you to eat oysters with me...at Petronius, do you remember? I suppose th

“A-Ha!!! I knew it!!! You were quite insistent that day...” interrupted the demon, “Oh, I knew you fancied me back then....And how could anybody resist this temptation?” joked he, pointing at his own face.

“Crowley, my dear boy, don’t ruin my confession…” 

“Sorry, love.” he said, grinning. “May you continue...”

“....How did I fall in love with you?” sighed the angel, incredulous, rolling his eyes. 

“Hm, I ask myself the same question everyday.” commented the demon, still smiling so broadly that Aziraphale felt a mellow and warm wave of love pervading his heart again, butterflies in his stomach.

“Oh, I think it is

“Are you going to say ‘ineffable ’?”

“Crowley, would you stop interrupting me?.. And, yes, dearest… well, it is ineffable…I ineffably love you with my whole body and my entire soul.” breathed he, smiling. “Well, my damned soul…”

“Ya aren’t damned , you fool

“Well.. I could get used to it as long as I'm with you…” said the angel, grinning. Crowley couldn’t help kissing him after hearing that and he was getting rather aroused again, so was Aziraphale. It's No Good, by Depeche Mode started playing. 

"Hey!! Listen, I wrote this song for you... well, not me, eh, little demonic intervention on Martin Lee Gore's mind, actually..." said Crowley, smirking, caressing the angel's hair. "I couldn't stop thinking about you..."

"Really?!!...Oh, I don't doubt it, and it's perfect, my dear boy." breathed Aziraphale, smiling. "And yes, we've 'all the time in the world'."

So, that night, there they stood, because they would have eternity for themselves. That night they were sure existence will never end, because love is greater than that. 

 

 “It is the hour when from the boughs 

The nightingale's high note is heard; 

It is the hour -- when lover's vows 

Seem sweet in every whisper'd word; 

And gentle winds and waters near, 

Make music to the lonely ear. 

Each flower the dews have lightly wet, 

And in the sky the stars are met, 

And on the wave is deeper blue, 

And on the leaf a browner hue, 

And in the Heaven that clear obscure 

So softly dark, and darkly pure, 

That follows the decline of day 

As twilight melts beneath the moon away.”

(It Is The hour - Lord Byron)

 

Chapter Text

Well, supernatural beings didn’t need to sleep. Not at all. Much less Evil forces, in general, were supposed to rest. But Crowley loved sleep, it was indeed one of the wondrous pleasures of the world for him. By the way, we’re aware he slept through most of the 19th century, right? Sleep was really handy to avoid boredom, because it’s like being dead, but without actually dying...Just magical, it’s the perfect neglect of existence. However, that morning he wasn’t sleeping out of boredom or anything, he was, in fact, rather tired. The angel had managed to exhaust his celestial body until the last squalid offal of one single wing feather. And just as he liked to sleep after eating a heavy meal, he also liked to sleep after...well, eating, let’s say. Got it? Right. I’m glad we’re on the same page.

It was ten o’clock AM. Aziraphale was amiably glaring at the asleep demon by his side. He had miracled a nice bed by now, staying on the floor was bothering him. After all, he had standards… Although, not those standards of avoiding frivolous miracles, which he used to maintain before (not anymore). No. It was more like decorum standards..... Well, not much the night before, when he didn’t care about the carpet, the furniture, morality, neighbors or Heaven, but still, he had some decorum standards, occasionally. When Crowley started to sleep, irreversibly, he just miracled it and there it was: an unexpected bed right in the middle of the old bookshop, cloistered by bookshelves. Some customers had already knocked on the door that morning, and he didn’t give a damn (as always), but one of them tried to peek through one of the ajar windows, and had succeeded. The woman just stared at them, blushed violently and fled.   

“Oh, fuck…” murmured he, putting the hands over his temples. “Crowley, dear, wake up… please. ”

Nothing.

He tried again, lightly patting the demon’s face and kissing his forehead: “Crowley!!!” 

Then he softly kissed the demon's lips.

 

Bugger-all. Nada.

 

“Oh, good Lord…” he sighed and stood up, starting to get dressed. When he finished buttoning his waistcoat he exclaimed: “ Crowley!!! ”

 

“Ahmpf…” that was the only vague sound that got out from the demon’s mouth. He hissed, rolled in the bed and continued to sleep.

 

“Jesus...” grumbled the angel, zipping his trousers and starting to leave the room to get tea. “You lazy old serpent…”

 

“‘M’not lazy, angel” murmured the demon, putting his forearm over his eyes, “ya knocked me out…”

 

“Oh, finally!!!” cheered Aziraphale, going back to sit on the bed, leaning over Crowley and kissing his cheek. “We need to get out of here… Er, remember that time I suggested a picnic?”

 

“Uh… hm?” mumbled the demon, brushing his ophidian eyes. 

 

“The day is brightly beautiful today! Come on, dear!” insisted the vehement angel, softy shaking the demon’s shoulder.   

 

“Mn-ehh...”

 

“Oh, for Heaven’s sake ! We need to go , Crowley! The customers are starting to come and..er, one of them saw us...here…er, like, well, nude… these nosy humans, frankly… Go, demon! You don’t even need to sleep!!! Remember: Evil never sleeps, and Virtue is ever-vigilant!” 

 

“And, er, remember: this specific part of Evil has got into the habit of getting its head down, occasionally… Just a few more hours, I promise, er… And the day is not that beautiful, no, you’re overestimating, m’angel...”

 

“Well? How would you know?! You didn’t move! You didn’t even opened your eyes properly yet!”

 

“Yeah…hnf, and I enjoy being like that…Why don’t you come back here? Lay down with me...”

 

“You’re no fun…”

 

“Oh, is that so?… that wasn’t your opinion last night, you know…”, smiled he, wickedly. 

 

The angel just stared, open-mouthed, all jumbled and speechless. He couldn’t find anything to say. Crowley suddenly kissed his lips and said:  

 

“Alright, alright, let’s go... You won’t let me sleep anyway , so…” the demon sat and looked around. “Woa!!! There’s a bed here!!!!”

 

Aziraphale snapped his fingers and the bed disappeared, making Crowley collapse on the floor.

 

“Not anymore!”

 

“Ouch!!!...Oh, for Satan, how the Hell you aren’t fallen? Honestly....You’re worse than me sometimes...” complained the demon, slowly getting up and slothfully starting to pick up his dark clothes which were scattered around the room. The angel hurried through the place, helping him to find the clothes.

 

“Maybe... I was almost miracling the bed away before you wake up, seriously…” laughed Aziraphale.

 

“ And you wanted to kill Adam, angel. An innocent poor kid.” pointed the demon, lightly cynical, wearing his black shirt.

 

“What?! You suggested it!” said the angel, indignant, while making all those bottles of alcohol vanish.

 

“But you were very… incisive ...about that, at the end.” he said, yawning.

 

“I know… Well, it doesn’t matter, everything worked out fine . So! Shall we ?! Go?!” breathed he, more than ready, straightening his bow tie.  

 

“And if it wasn't for that, uh, Madame Tracy...you’d have killed the boy.” continued Crowley, smirking, lazily wearing his snakeskin black shoes...So it were shoes (not his actual feet... It could be, you know, demons...).

 

“Tell the whole world, why don’t you?” sighed the angel, then he added, fussy: “ Go, Crowley !...So sluggish… Why don’t you drive like that also, uh?”

 

“Where are we going, angel?” he asked, adjusting his dark ginger hair carefully. He stared at that rushed angel looking forward to date him, and smiled broadly, still otherworldly happy.

 

“Well, I thought about going to Kew Gardens…”

 

“Woo, you’re romantic!” exclaimed Crowley, raising his eyebrows and wearing his dark glasses.

 

“Yes, my dear boy, I am. Deal with it.” he said, gleefully, then he pointed to the wooden table: “I even have the picnic basket!”

 

“ Argh !… Er, the last time I saw this, I’ll tell ya... it wasn’t good at all ” he said, grimacing. Then noticing the angel didn’t understand his comment and was getting slightly disappointed, he hurriedly explained: “The antichrist… Well, eleven years ago when I had to deliver the baby to The Chattering Order of Saint Beryl, the boy was given to me wrapped in a red...cloth, inside a basket identical to this one... Oh, it was quite awful… Possibly one of the worst nights of my ghastly life...”

 

“Oh..” the angel raised his eyebrows “But this one doesn’t carry the Destroyer of Worlds, it carries…er, oaked Chardonnay, massepains de Saint-Léonard-de-Noblat...gruyere cheese, italian bread, salmon tea sandwiches, er, strawberries, grapes and… Bonbons!” he listed, looking inside the basket. 

 

“Oh boy...I love you so much , you petit bourgeois.” breathed Crowley, grinning, holding the angel's hand. “Let’s go, then.”

 

“I’m not a... petit bourgeois! I can’t be. I’m not even a human, Crowley…” protested Aziraphale, catching the picturesque basket with the free hand and walking to the bookshop door.

 

“Oh...Really? I didn’t know that… What are you?” joked the demon, following him in a sleepy pace.

 

“Why are you always so cynical, dear?” said Aziraphale, opening the door. 

 

“Uh, I used to work for a very cynical corporation called Hell …So, work habits, am I right?” he replied, sarcastically, leaping over the little stair. His cynicism actually came from watching too much Golden Girls. 

 

“Right…” said the angel, breaking into a chuckle. “Oh! Please drive slower, dear. Better tell you this before getting into the car…”

 

“Okay, m’angel” replied Crowley, beaming with happiness, walking around the black car and opening the door. Before entering he suddenly shouted, agitating his arms: “ OI, PEOPLE, I AM DATING THIS ANGEL HERE!!! ”

 

People on the street just stared, broadly didn’t give a damn, and kept walking, mournfully hurtling through the sidewalk with sullen faces to get to work, stand in bank queues or do whatever they needed to make their lives more miserable under the pretext of making a living. One enraged guy murmured “bloody faggots” across the street, and a young woman that passed by them blithely said “Yay!”. Aziraphale quickly got into the car, nervously looking sideways 

 

“Why exactly did you do that?” questioned the angel, perplexed, fidgeting the basket on his lap.

 

“I don’t know…” said Crowley, distracted, starting the engine. “Testing the metaphysical pollution and the low-grade evil of London… I spotted twenty veiled homophobes in fifteen square meters, but just one of them vocally cursed us...”

 

“Oh, you mad…” sighed the angel, shaking his head.

 

“About you?...Yes. I’m all for it.“ said the demon, grinning. Aziraphale smiled at him with a meaningful look. 

 

“Just drive the car, you.” laughed the angel, buckling the seat belt. 

 

“Your wish is my command, my love.” he declared, jerking the car into gear and rushing into the street.

 

“Well, you are the romantic one, after all…”

 

“Maybe, er…Consequence of listening too much Queen...” said he. “And of - GET OUT OF THE ROAD, STUPID PRAT- being madly in love with you for six thousand bloody years and having to stifle it -MOVE, YOU MORON.”

 

“Blimey! Don’t yell at the pedestrians like this, Crowley!” censured he, startled, hugging the picnic basket. If the basket had ears he would have covered it. 

 

“Well, they shouldn’t be in the middle of the street like that !!!” protested the demon, pointing at the people.

 

“Ahn, yeah, you’re right....” reflected he. "Still, don't yell at them… They've such short lives…"

 

The demon merely grunted.

 

"There's a lot of ducks ..." Said Crowley, after a minute, looking ahead.

 

"What?"

 

"In the park." 

 

"Yes… I hope they don't bother us… Harassing the food… " said the angel, glancing worriedly at the basket. In some recondite part of his head, that basket was probably a baby. 

 

"Birds are weird.. . By the way I think humans remind pigeons … Don't they?! For you?" Commented Crowley, narrowing his eyes while looking at the crowd, when he stopped the Bentley in front of the crosswalk waiting for the traffic light to turn green. "Maybe it was the same motion designer..."

 

 

Aziraphale laughed with a guilty expression. 

 

 

 

"Sometimes they do. Fact." 

 

 

"But I quite like them…" 

 

 

"Yeah, me too… What did you mean when you said the next apocalypse would involve Heaven and Hell against… all of them?" 

 

 

"Did I say that?" 

 

 

"Well, yes… Before we go to the Ritz that day…" 

 

 

"Oh! Right! Yeah… well, they're getting out of control… Have you ever watched Blade Runner? That 1980s north-american movie about human-like robots…?" 

 

 

"Uh… I don't think so…" 

 

 

"So you watched movies with, er… gorilla nests , but haven't seen Blade Runner?"  questioned he, lifting one eyebrow.

 

 

"I was busy, Crowley... I work, you know." 

 

 

"Right…" laughed the demon. "You work..."

 

 

"I do!... And so ? What is this movie about?!" 

 

 

"Gorillas don't make nests… ya know…" 

 

 

"Oh God..." sighed the angel, rolling eyes. He felt a curious desperate annoyance that made him want to kiss the demon and squeeze his face. 

 

 

"Birds make nests... Anyway, the movie, angel, is about  a rebellion...uh, the replicants, which are robots, have a limited life… an expiration date and

 

"Oh! I read the book! I have some copies in the bookshop..." 

 

"Did you read it?!" Asked the demon, surprised. He never imagined Aziraphale reading sci-fi books.

 

"Yeah, I found it interesting... Theologically speaking. The whole promethean conflict is quite similar to.. er, your side's rebellion. I think." 

 

"Hm..I really fancied the movie…Very touching, oh, and sad...especially the ending… So, I think humans are just like replicants… In a sense… And they won't like the idea of being induced to Apocalypse, an expiration date… They don't wanna die… you know? That's my first hypothesis… Or the contrary, I suppose they can get worse than Hell… They've been demonstrating this potential since the beginning of time, actually, these cunning buggers… They might end the World by themselves, without Antichrist, hellhounds… or Heaven's trumpets, indeed, you know, off the record, unofficial! So my second guess is that: to fight'em it will be needed a coalition between Heaven and Hell" 

 

 

"That's crazy…" said Aziraphale, vaguely, considering both the suppositions.

 

"Well, yeah, I know… But it's just a hypothesis…Well, two." 

 

"It makes sense, kind of…Unfortunately, the second one seems more plausible... " sighed the angel.

 

They immersed in a comfortable silence for a while, sinking in their own reflections on humanity and the future, watching the city's flow and humans pass by, so ephemeral like tears in the rain. Time perception, for supernatural beings, is a lot different than it is for mortal creatures. Firstly, they don't die (unless they get properly killed… But at least they don't get killed by Nature or gradual mitosis exhaustion like mortal beings), so Time doesn't have a demanding relevance or an authoritarian weight, it just… exists, like the Sky, or the Sun, no anguishes attached. The only possible anguish is: boredom. So it's comprehensible the fact of these two earthly angels having so many flaws regarding desires, fetishes and habits. Another perk of being infinite is that, no matter how much time you stay mute, without engaging a conversation, it rarely is excruciating (like it is for humans every time, you can't blame them, socializing it's hard). They were sat quietly for twenty minutes now, without even noticing it. Then Aziraphale broke the quietude: 

 

 

"Why did you sleep so much in the 19th century, Crowley? That, er, really annoyed me. I wanted to talk to you and you were…trapped in a free trial sample of Death…" 

 

"Uh… Well, we fought and… I didn't have anything to do, I got bored, so I slept. I like sleeping…" 

 

 

"I can't see why… It's a waste of time even for humans…Well, especially for them... Turn on that street, dear" instructed he. 

 

 

"It's called 'rest', angel. They need to rest, poor tired souls... And sleeping is wonderful… You should try it more often…It’s better than food." 

 

“No!? It’s not… Absolutely not!” exclaimed he, revolted.

 

“Better than sssushi …” provoked the demon, grinning.

 

“Oh, Lord… Give me patience…” sighed he, looking at the demon. The aggressive affection was afflicting him again.  

 

 

Crowley leaned across to the angel.

 

“Better than... french crepesss …” continued he, munching the words.

 

“You’re done !” declared the angel, making a gesture with his hands that apparently made the Bentley drive by itself, then abruptly grabbing Crowley’s chin and kissing him intensely. The demon’s hands slowly released the steering wheel, gravitating to the angel’s face. They got lost in the kiss for a long moment, forgetting everything else. 

 

 

“Is it better than this, Crowley?” inquired Aziraphale, breathless.

 

 

 

“Noo.” replied he, with a woozy voice, leisurely reopening his snake eyes. “Uh, noup.”

 

“I figured.” he smiled, breaking the enchantment on the Bentley.

 

“Alright! Now I’m going to have to stop the car, angel… You know what I mean...”

 

“No way!” laughed Aziraphale.

 

“Too late! You should have thought about the consequences of attacking me like that, babe.” said he, grinning and truly looking for a place to park. He began to sail off towards an alley. 

 

“No!” exclaimed he. “No, no, no, you rakish snake, you keep driving! We’re almost there.”

 

Crowley glared at him, considering to tempt the angel. A mischievous expression passed across his face, wandered around for a while looking for a place to stay, gave up and then left.

 

“Alright…” the demon sighed, stepping on the accelerator.

 

“M’ gonna put some music…” hastily murmured Aziraphale, who actually wanted to stop the car and make out, but didn’t admit it. The standards, you know.  He fumbled a random case from the glove compartment, opened it and stuffed the tape into the Blaupunkt radio. A Bethoven’s “I Want to Break Free”, which he had already heard in the Bentley, started emanating from the speakers. Not exactly what he was keen to listen, but anyway. They drove through the streets for another ten minutes, ignoring that very familiar magnetic pull.    

 

“Is this the park where there are those, uh, tiny... thingies?” asked Crowley, grimacing, making his sharp teeth appear again.  

 

“Er, trains...?”

 

“Trains!” snapped he, punching the steering wheel.

 

“No… There’s a miniature railroad in Brockwell Park… We could go there someday.” said the angel, smiling. “It seems funny…” 

 

“I don’t know, I’m not a fan of… miniatures, er, it reminds me of the Middle Ages…Even more miniature trains… Trains… Meandering, ssserpentine trains…” mumbled he bitterly and distractly, watching the road.

 

“What? Why?” the angel asked, amused. 

 

“Uh, well, one of those millions bloody hideous invocations that obstinately buggered up my life in the 14th century went wrong and...Uh, it was because of Ligur actually, that bastard… He asked a sorcerer to invoke me… to a meeting, but something went all to pot and it turned out that... er, when I appeared floating above an obscure symbol, on the edge of a chilling lake…I was a ridiculous, er, miniature snake...” he confessed, somewhat embarrassed. 

 

 

Aziraphale couldn’t help laughing. A lot. Crowley just stared at him, biting his own forked tongue, which was getting more forked and more sleek.

 

“What?! Is that true?” the angel asked after a moment, chuckling, tears in his eyes.            

 

“Hm, I wish it wasn’t…” muttered Crowley. “...Oh, come on, Aziraphale! Stop laughing! It was the worst century for me…”

 

 

“I’m sorry, my dear boy…” he said, still laughing. “I’m imagining this scene…”

 

“Right…” sighed he.

 

 

The angel continued to softly chuckle, wiping away a tear.

 

“Oh, Satan…Shouldn't have told you...” complained the demon. “Hey… We’re here! Finally! ‘M going to park somewhere…”

 

Crowley found a place to station the Bentley and they finally got out of the car.  After walking for a while in silence, holding hands, admiring the beautiful landscape, they picked a nice spot to lay the tartan picnic blanket, under one of the billowing fluffy trees between the Great Pagoda and the Temperate House (which, previously, Crowley insisted on seeing, so they went in there, then he suddenly tried to pluck two gorgeous plants from the ground -to take home, he said- and Aziraphale had to drag him out from there by force).

 

“Gorgeous plants in there... “ whispered (or better, hissed) Crowley, amazed, thinking of going back to the Temperate House without Aziraphale seeing. “Did I ever tell you that I grow houseplants? And they’re perfect.”

 

 

“No, I don’t think so… You forgot to tell me, dear, but I noticed some plants at your flat, when we swapped our bodies... They’re marvelous!” cheered he, taking the food from the basket and placing it over the blanket.  “And I find it... very cute , you growing indoor plants...”

 

“Cute? I’m not cute ....” complained he, grimacing. “Cute...That’s it, I’m doomed… I don’t think I’ll ever be respected at work again ...’”

 

“Have you ever been?” joked Aziraphale, sarcastically.

 

“Yes! Of course!” exclaimed he, raising his eyebrows, then he sighed: “Mn-eh… Maybe not…”

 

“I think neither of us were ever respected at our respective offices, my dear…” pointed out the angel, pouring wine for them. 

 

“Yeah, I suppose you’re right…” reflected he, biting a slice of cheese and looking at the grassy field.

 

There was a chubby yellow caterpillar on the top of a branch of the nearest tree, which had lush leaves that had caught Crowley’s attention. When his eyes focused on the insect, a scandalized expression spread across his face and he shouted:

 

“AAAAH!!!!!!!!”

 

“W-WHAT?!” shrieked Aziraphale, choking, then convulsively coughing to get rid of a crumb of italian bread stuck in his throat.

 

“I REMEMBERED!!!! YES!!!” still shouting, agitating his open hands.

 

“What, Crowley ?!”  asked Aziraphale, peeved, trying to clear his throat. 

 

“ The caterpillars !!!”

 

“Oh. Oh no…” sighed he, coughing a few more times. “N-not this again. Please.”

 

“The story!!!”

 

“I know, Crowley, that one which you can’t remember a tiddly minimal thing.” hissed he, weary.

 

“I remembered it just now! Word!”

 

“Right…” said the angel, skeptical, massaging his neck and lifting the glass of wine to take a sip, looking at Crowley with a furrowed brow.

 

“Seriously!”

 

“Didn’t you say it was about.. About a trial?… What does a trial have to do with bloody caterpillars , Crowley?”

 

“Well, because they were in the trial. It was an official court… With kind-of-lawyers and kind-of-judges, right? But the defendants were caterpillars !…Yes.... Oh, I swear! Don’t look at me like that, you know I’m not lying, angel. Don’t you remember that in the Middle Ages the humans used to put animals on trials? Like actual criminals ?” 

 

“I’ve never heard of…” said the angel, just to tease him. “You’re making this up…”

 

“What ?! I’m not! How you haven’t? The rebellious cats! T-the, the stubborn cows! Er, belligerent… pigs!!!! They were all persecuted by lunatic religious freaks! How don’t you remember? Oh, I’m going to prove my point to you, there are files about this somewhere… But now hear me out: I was wandering around a random burgh, spreading foment, uh, fomenting discontent, talking to wretched boring people, knowing new alarmingly boring places and, out of the blue, I came across a nervous group of people in one diocese's field… from afar they looked like flies, you know, erratically walking in circles in front of a church and

 

 

 

“A church? Did you enter in there?”

 

 

“Nah. No, of course not!” said he, dismissively. 

 

“That’s not so obvious, Crowley… You’re chaotically...insane, you know...  Well, and ?” commented Aziraphale, stuffing a tea sandwich into his mouth.

 

“I only got into a church once and it was because of you , angel… Well, and … Uh, those people were all oddly nervous indeed , like, with hunted expressions and...uh, wary looks. The whole atmosphere wasss......ssspooky, strangely comical, and somewhat, uh...sssolemn? So, obviously, I considered all of that quite interesting and decided to stay, you know, to watch whatever the Hell was going on there…”

 

“So?” asked Aziraphale, now genuinely entertained, leaning forward.

 

“So,” he sipped his wine and continued, “I realized they were nervous like that because a man was constantly yelling at them, and - I concluded this after observing the scene behind a fence for a while- it was the diocese’s Bishop and whoa... that man was blatantly enraged , angel, head over heels, just, just wearied beyond endurance… So I got closer to the group to understand what exactly he was shouting.”

 

“And what was it?”

 

“He was screaming ‘ find all of them, find all of them !”, something like that. I didn’t understand right away, but, gradually, I started realising that, apparently, the event, you know, that strange gathering was intended to be an animal trial… There was a queue of bored people holding subpoenaed animals: a lot of bustling cats, some dull cows, quarrelsome pigs, disoriented snails… All of the animals were obstinately not-waiting the judicial procedure to proceed… which couldn’t progress unless the ongoing case was closed. And the ongoing case was the caterpillar case, which couldn’t be concluded if the persecutors didn’t find a single specimen of the criminal insect.” 

 

 

 

“That doesn’t sound real… You know…” commented Aziraphale, mistrustful, with an incredulous smirk stamped on his face. “Eat, dear. You’re not eating anything.”

 

Crowley widened his snake eyes, feeling mildly insulted. 

 

 

 

“But it was!!! It was an official excommunication court, Aziraphale! And then, and then”, he grabbed a tea sandwich and shoved into his mouth, then he continued talking, full-mouthed “An exhausted scrivener thought he had found a caterpillar and happily yelled “Waahoo, I found one!” but it wasn’t a caterpillar, angel, it was a filthy… piece of twine… I guess. Well, that was the Bishop’s patience limit, he just punched the drowsy scrivener in the face, quite strongly!”  

 

“What a boorish Bishop!” said the angel, outraged, opening a white box filled with strawberries. 

 

“The worst thing was that nobody did anything! So submissives!!! Well, I was quite amused watching all that ecclesiastical fuss… At least it wasn’t as boring as everything else…. But all the fun seemed to vanish, for me, when I noticed the group was simply going to continue that absurd activity, obediently hunting invisible insects… It was… nonsense! Perhaps the caterpillars had already turned into butterflies and buggered off, you know…  So I decided to conjure the bloody caterpillars…Not regular ones, but abysmal.. abhorrent frightening demonic caterpillars. If caterpillars was what they wanted, they were going to have it. “

 

“Oh… I was already hoping you were going to help them…” commented the angel, slightly disappointed.

 

“I’m a demon, my love, don’t you ever forget  that… Well, uh, I tried to, emphasis on ‘tried’, to invoke the ugliest caterpillars I could imagine… But something went wrong…”

 

 

“What?!” exclaimed the angel, leaning forward again. 

 

Crowley started to chuckle, then bursting into laughter. 

 

 

 

“What?!!” asked the amused angel again, smirking.

 

 

“Oh, well” laughed he, “I-I, uh, well, the Bishop’s face was really peculiar… Did I say that? He had a large...hooked nose, thick… densely thick black eyebrows… a weird pink skin tone…a wide mouth with thin lips that looked like a ragged potato bag…Uh...So I 

 

“No, you didn’t do that!” whispered Aziraphale, a perplexed smile widening in his mouth.  

 

 

“Uh, do you remember that once I said I absolutely hate having to restore my clothes.. and my human shape... Because I’m afraid I’ll forget how to...do it? How to get it right?” he asked, laughing. “Hm… That’s because I kind of suck at materializing stuff, sometimes,  well, rarely, but still, you know… Ahm…Shit happens…?”

 

 

Aziraphale was already laughing, bewildered.  

 

“So… I materialized billions of caterpillars…” he broke again into laughter.

 

 

“Oh, no!”

 

 

“Billions, trillions, I don’t know how many...But it was… A lot... It was a lot, Aziraphale. Trust me.”

 

 

“No!”

 

 

“And all, ALL of them…

 

 

“How terrible!!” laughed the angel, putting his hands over his cheeks.

 

 

“...Had the angry Bishop’s face!!!” said he, finally, laughing loudly. 

 

 

Aziraphale covered his face with his hands and burst into laughter. They kept laughing for a couple of minutes, then softly chuckling, then repeatedly nodding their heads and sighing. 

 

 

“Oh, Lord…” sighed the angel. “....You’re crazy, my dear boy.”

 

 

“Yeah… Maybe… Oh! You should have seen their faces … Oh Satan! It was hilarious !” laughed he. “When they saw all those...cat-sized human-esque angry caterpillars raining from the clouds!”

 

“I imagine” said Aziraphale, breaking into a chuckle again. “Oh, dear…”

 

 

“Ah, I wish you were there…” sighed he, wiping away a tear. 

 

 

“Well, me too.” said the angel, grinning. He felt his heart get warm. “You're crazy…... I love you so much…”

 

 

“Luv ya more, turtledove.” said the demon, smiling and tilting his head with heart-eyes.

 

 

“That’s… sickly-sweet, er, too mushy even for me, darling.” pointed he, furrowing his brow and smirking. 

 

 

“You made me be like that… I’m cute now, did you forget?” joked Crowley, leaning over the angel and kissing him. Their terrestrial time perception broke again and the kiss lasted probably fifty minutes. 

 

 

“Oh, ff-God” gasped the angel, grinning. Their noses were still touching. 

 

 

“Fff!...’Ef’  what, angel? You can speak the entire word, you know. F-u-c-k.” laughed the demon, grabbing his chin. 

 

 

“I wouldn’t say ‘fuck God’, Crowley!” exclaimed he, then he hastily covered his mouth, widening his eyes.

 

 

“Oops, angel...” 

 

 

“Oh!!!…” 

 

 

“Yeah, I know… That’s how I fell... ” joked Crowley, picking a strawberry from the box and biting it. “Welcome to Hell! Have a good stay!”

 

 

Aziraphale merely stared at him with a disapproval look. He cleared his throat, and said:

 

 

“Your story made me remember that, in the fourteenth century, with all my… moral conflicts… especially after our arrangement being sealed...er, and even more after that hideous project... I talked to myself all the time, you know, really vivacious debates 

 

 

“I always knew you were slightly insane…” 

 

 

“... And, I progressively developed some... inner consciousness voices… Like humans, almost…”

 

 

“Now I’m worried.”

 

 

“Crowley! Let me finish, dear… Well, without even noticing, I created, in my head, a… conservative character, which was a caterpillar… And an… anarchist..ish...character, which was.. a cat! Can you imagine?! Now everything makes sense!” said he, epiphanic, grabbing Crowley’s hand.

 

 

“You’ve lost me here...”

 

 

“That’s why they were a caterpillar and a cat!… Right? One part of my consciousness registered what you said after our lunch at Sancho’s tavern, that one with the pheasants, remember? Uh, before everything went.. godawful. That was the moment you were going to tell me this mad story about the caterpillar’s trial, right? Subpoenaed caterpillars, rebellious cats!” 

 

 

“Oh!!! Mirror! Psychological mirror!”

 

 

“Exactly!” 

 

 

“Interesting... “

 

 

“You got into my head!!!” exclaimed he, revolted, squeezing and shaking Crowley’s hand. 

 

 

“Wha-uh, what ?! No! That wasn’t my fault, angel!” said he, raising eyebrows and with an incredulous grin. 

 

 

“It was!” exclaimed Aziraphale, continuing to shake Crowley's hand. “Look what you’ve done to me, demon. You’ve wrecked my mind!!!”

 

 

“Perhaps… that was the effect of repressing everything you felt for me, uh?” suggested he, drinking his wine with the free hand. 

 

 

Aziraphale stared at him for a while, reflecting. Then his eyes went unfocused. 

 

 

“ Hello? ” said Crowley, agitating Aziraphale’s hand.

 

“Oh, yeah, possibly…” whispered he, with an awed tone and wide-eyes.  

 

 

“There you go.”

 

 

“Why did I do that?” he continued to whisper, in a desperate tone. 

 

 

“I wish I knew!”

 

 

“Well, everything was so...complicated! It’s complicated even now!” said he, caressing the demon’s hand. Then he looked down and immersed in thoughts, gazing at the demon’s hand, playing with the fingers, opening and closing them, feeling the fingerprints. Crowley just stood there staring at the angel gingerly twiddle his hand. He knew what was going through Aziraphale’s mind: distressing thoughts about moral, ethics and God’s plans, some enraged emotions caused by thinking about their wasted time, and a really, really scared impression of the Future. That’s why he decided to hold the angel’s face with his free hand and kiss him again, passionately.  

 

 

“Stop thinking rubbish, angel.” whispered he, removing his dark glasses and squeezing the other’s hand. “We’re safe.”

 

 

“Right…”

 

 

“And I love you. I, I love you so much, angel, I”  

 

 

The angel’s face lit up, and he smiled.

 

 

“I know... “ breathe he, beaming. “Alright, er, I’m going to stop… worrying so much… At least try to...”

 

 

“Yeah!!! You got this!” cheered Crowley, entwining his fingers with Aziraphale’s. 

 

 

“Look at us, we’re immortal supernatural gay creatures who fight Heaven and Hell.” laughed the angel.

 

“We are!!!” exclaimed the demon, enthusiastic.

 

“That’s unprecedented!!!” 

 

 

 

“Unequaled!” laughed Crowley. “Yes.”

 

“And why the Hell the caterpillars were subpoenaed? You didn’t say.” questioned Aziraphale.

“Oh! I guess they were ravaging the Diocese, you know, eating plants…” Crowley explained, somewhat uncertain.

 

“Oh… What a ridiculous reason to condemn someone…”

 

“Pardon ?!!” exclaimed Crowley, “I would have killed those bloody caterpillars twice if they ate my houseplants!”

 

“Oh, you ’re ridiculous then, my dear...” laughed Aziraphale. Then he looked at the demon right in the eyes and added, with a sly and suggestive tone: “Well, speaking of your plants, I guess I want to go to your flat now...But before getting there I want to stop somewhere to eat devilled eggs... I'm still peckish.”  








Chapter Text





Two petrified figures were standing in the middle of an empty highway, staring at a vintage car which was carelessly parked at the side of the road, half covered by the wild shrubbery and the tall grass. A song by Talking Heads was emanating from the vehicle.

Sweet sweet, lover lover. Never never never find another to put sugar on my tongue..

 

"Uh... What… Er, what the Hell are they doin'?" asked the taller figure, strongly wary. "Can't see it from here..."

 

"I'm not sure if you'd like to know..." answered the smaller one, with an ironic tone, and after a minute: "...Theze loud moanzzz..are from the zzsong...or...?"

 

"...Frankly, I don't think it sounds like David Byrne's voice, my dear nemesis." said the taller one, slightly disgusted, but with the most blase of countenances shaping his face.

 

"Wait, do you know who David Byrne izz?!" laughed the other, incredulous.

"I know everything, fool fiend." said the groomed man, snobbishly looking at the grubby, yet oddly majestic, lady beside him.

 

"Ugh...Such a grotty cocky baztard... Come on, let's get thiz done, cumberground." sighed the woman, weary, starting to cross the road.

 

"You are grotty!.. Oh, Hey! Wait! Wait!..Uh, I think we can't go there right now..." whispered the man, his name was Gabriel. He was an archangel, and a former guardian of Israel.

 

"Why?" questioned the lady, her name was Beelzebub, Baal of flies, Light of Hesperus, one of the highest...well, deepest authorities of Hell.

 

"Because I suspect they're, uh...No, it can't be, that's just gross..."

 

"You zuspect they're fornicating, right? Like mortalzz.. Humanzz, dogzz, birdzzz-et zetera."

 

"Please don't

 

"Becauzz yez, they might, you know... You'll just have to deal with it..." laughed the woman, continuing to walk towards the black Bentley. "And zzsoon I'm going to deal with it properly, write my wordz, thiz betrayal izzz... unaczzz-unacceptable."

 

"Wait!"

 

"It's not pozible you didn't know about it, Mr. I-Know-Everyzing. Zzzseriouzly? Even with all that weird Earth Obzervation thing? Look, I dizzcovered about'em just now and I'm cool, I mean, empirically only now, cuzz, honestly, I zuspected it...Anyway, why the Deuzze are you acting like that, you hypocrite? And if you've payed attention, we wouldn't have a ridiculouzly canzealed Apocalypzzz!"

 

There was indeed some light hypocrisy from Gabriel, afterall he had access to the Miracle Receipts (it functions just like the work expenses of an enterprise's sales representative who needs to travel in order to seal an important deal and thereby keep track of every penny spent...If the employee is mischievously skillful and does it well, the company pays even the suspicious margaritas without contesting). That morning, when trying to spot his subordinate, the archangel had checked Aziraphale's requests and had seen a rather weird one: a king size bed. However, unlike Beelzebub thought, he didn't use to verify the Earth Observation files very often... Michael did that for him and, well, her hair was full of secrets. And there was also Metatron, who certainly knew about everything, because, essentially, he was a celestial scribe, something very similar to a browsing history, but one that couldn't ever be deleted. Never.

 

"Oh, give me a break, demon... I just don't want to see.. it. If they're, you know, doing it...Blergh, for me even eating human food is disgusting, so acting like them is even worse...But anyway, no, no, they're not doing...that. Aziraphale would never commit such depravity. No one of my staff would succumb that way, I believe. We've strong moral standards. We're not like your lot."

 

"Whatever. We need to talk to them right now, you gobshite. I want to zz-solve this matter quickly. You're making me waste my time." muttered the Hellish authority, peeved. All of the flies around suddenly started to fly furiously and chaotically.

 

 

"Excuse me? Don't talk to me like that! Look at you, who do you think you are? You dew-beater, You're just a filthy fallen soul that

 

Beelzebub just spinned on heels and started to walk again, angrily, ignoring the archangel who, by that point, was being attacked by a heavy cloud of revolted insects. She reached the side of the road, firmly stepped on the tall grass, withdrawing the shrub branches till revealing the car windows and empirically proving her theory. She could only see Crowley's profile, his head was facing the car ceiling, eyes closed, woozy broad smile on his lips, the angel's head was moving up and down over his lap.

 

"Hm, just that." she murmured, then she knocked on the window. Crowley opened his eyes, his expression went from total pleasure to total instant horror. The CAN's song immediately stopped when the demon bluntly pushed Aziraphale's head away from him and fumbled to the zipper of his black leather trousers.

 

"What's wro" the angel started asking, confused, but when he saw Beelzebub standing there, in all its menacing majestic presence, his voice just froze in his throat, and his face went as white as his hair, then it gradually got more crimson than his lover's head.

 

"Gabriel iz alzo here, so you better, uh, zz-straighten your clothezzz, you know, clean your face...To look more..Heavenly." she said to the angel, with a slightly sarcastic smirk.

 

Embarrassed and mildly annoyed, Crowley cleared his throat and said:

 

"Hi, uh, Your Honor..To what do I owe the pleasure of your presence?" For herself to appear that way, in person, the subject of the conversation should be critical, crucial, perhaps devastating. Crowley controlled a strong urge to hit the accelerator and bugger off.

 

She had started to answer, but then Gabriel appeared behind her, struggling with a pointy branch and with some persistent flies.

 

"Hello, dear fellows." cheered he, smiling a corporate smile and crossing his hands behind his back after straightening his tie."Uh, what are you doing...Here? In the middle of this road?"

 

"Oh, fuck." breathed Aziraphale, wiping his lips. Crowley looked at him with raised eyebrows. They briefly stared at each other, perfectly understanding what was passing through each other's mind: Weren't their bosses supposed to leave them alone after those failed trials? What the Hell were they doing there now?

 

Aziraphale cleared his throat, and explained:

 

"We were going to check up on Adam and his family, and on the kids also, er, to see how they're doing..."

 

"But Tadfield is in the opposite direction." pointed out Gabriel, narrowing his eyes.

 

"Oh, we got lost, I was trying to find the map... it fell somewhere on the floor... There... Ah there it is!" he exclaimed, smiling nervously and leaning over Crowley's lap again to reach a rotten map lying on the floor near the pedals. That map didn't exist till a few seconds ago.

 

Beelzebub rolled her eyes, impatient with the pointless discussion, and restarted explaining, focusing on avoiding her buzzing:

 

"As I was going to say, before the Archangel Gabriel interrupt me, we've some complicated issuez which need our full attention now. So, as an urgent matter, our rezpective office's commandzz sent us to inform you two about it... Neverthelezz, we didn't expect you'd be together...But that was handy, though, because all of us are being convoked to a zzzsupernatural general assembly. The agenda encompasses the Doomzday eventz, future guidelineszz and a recent dizcovery... Uh, of a zuspiscious activity, apparently developed by Uzzzza and Azzazzel, which has been going on since ancient timezz...Well, since their court conviction.." The arch-demon looked at Gabriel, irritated, she assumed the problem was Heaven's responsibility.

 

"Aren't they dead? Or... I don't know, they got condemned and then they seemed to have just disappeared.. Right? There are so many versions of what may have happened to them...Quite confusing." asked Aziraphale, glancing at Crowley, who seemed extremely uncomfortable and confused.

 

"Yeah, didn't they die in the Flood? Along with, uh, the unicorns?... And wasn't Azazel's real name, er, Nathaly? Nannel?..Natanannelz? Uh, sssomething like that...Whatever." said Crowley, suddenly feeling very exhausted and dreary. An entire film of the previous events invaded his mind: jumbled scenes of the near-death experiences, the fights, the fires, the persecutions... He didn't want all of that again, not right now, he just wanted a simple vacation, a respectable breathing space. He needed a rest from all the James Bond-ish pandemonium... And he already had what he needed: a match, The Match, a match better than Tereza Di Vicenzio, Madeleine Swann and Vesper Lynd together. And now he just wanted to chill out, in peace, with his companion...Maybe travel somewhere. His feet kept dancing around the pedals and his fingers kept drumming upon the gear.

 

"They didn't." blurted Gabriel. "They were condemned by Michael... And only some of their children, the naphals, died in the Flood, er... But those who survived are still around...And they're all involved in this activity..."

 

Crowley inhaled, absolutely wan, and sighed:

 

"What activ

 

Beelzebub interrupted him, thoughtless.

 

"Uzzzza was supposed to be hanging upzide down in the Sky as a penitence... But someone Up There messed up." commented she, cynically, turning to the archangel. "He.. She..Uh, He didn't want to join us in Hell, although we tried to recruit her, him. His personal problem was with Metatron, don't you remember? So her 'disappearing' is Heaven's responsibility!"

 

"Not the Sky, Orion Constellation." corrected Gabriel, arrogantly.

 

"Zz-same thing."

 

"It's not."

 

"It is."

 

"It's not, you driggle-draggle."

 

"It izz, it's a metonymy, you twat. The zzSky is everything you see from Earth when you look up." The flies turned to behave oddly turbulent.

 

"What about Azazel?!! Isn't he a demon?! How you guys lose track of him? Y'all are so incompetent."

 

"Ugh, I can't." grumbled Crowley, weary, putting his hands over his temples. Gabriel and Beelzebub's voices were giving him a headache.

 

"What is it, love?" murmured Aziraphale, looking at him, somewhat worried. "Are you alright?"

 

"Let's go, angel." breathed the demon, starting the engine and stepping on the accelerator. "Fasten your seatbelt."

 

The car may have been inspired by Crowley's despair to vanish, because it reached a supernatural speed within a few seconds, starting to play 'Don't Stop Me Now', out of the blue. Aziraphale, in shock, put his hands on his head and started to jabber:

 

"Oh! Oh no! Oh, no! No! Crowley, what, Oh, God! That's, Oh my Gosh, wha, we're fucked!!! We. Are. Fucked!!! The..Why, wh-why did you do this? They're our bosses. We won't have a further chance!"

 

"Ugh, I was dying of boredom there... Besides I can't cope with this, Aziraphale, those suckers tried to kill us and now they have the chutzpah to come to us and act like nothing happened? Bloody bastards..." said he, enraged, watching the road. "That obnoxious Gabriel... I had a hard time trying to control myself when he insulted you... You know, when I was you...He's the one who should 'shut up and die already'... Argh, fuckin' hate him..."

 

"It doesn't matter!!!... Oh, God! Crowley, my love, now they're really going to persecute us! We can't fool them again!" exclaimed he, wretched. "We simply can't!"

 

Crowley had opened his mouth to argue, but was interrupted by a blistering light and then the Bentley stopped moving. Then Beelzebub sprouted from the ground about five meters in front of the car, classical and theatrical as in a pantomime, and Gabriel landed beside her, elegantly retracting his giant silver wings.

 

"Don't do this again." muttered the arch-demon, threateningly. "I really don't wanna waste my time."

 

"Alrighty then! Are you youngsters ready to go?" said Gabriel, clapping his hands and smiling, he seemed to be enjoying everything, internally judging that attempt of escaping and concluding it was delightfully dumb. Crowley felt a wave of anger rippling inside his chest, then a nearby light pole was instantly consumed by flames.

 

"Youngstersss?" he hissed, the fact of the archangel blatantly scorning them and using that word to belittle both of them made him quite furious. Aziraphale discreetly took his hand, that was placed over the gear, and whispered:

 

"Hey, calm down, let's listen to what they have to say... We don't seem to have a choice, afterall."

 

Crowley looked at him and took a deep breath, then he put his head out and shouted from the window:

 

"What the fuck do you morons want? Just say it! You guys were taking too long to finish whatever the Hell you had to inform us about."

 

He had a point. Beelzebub would be pissed off with his insolence if she didn't agree with him, but Crowley was right, so she approached the car once again and patiently said, with a bored tone:

 

"You'll have to come with uszz, one way or another, zzz-since we're trying to analyse and underzztand what happened to the Univerze after the failed Apocalypzzse. However, for that we need you both, not only because you seem to have provoked thiz error, thiz bug in the zzsystem, but also because you two, apparently, are the ones that, uh, better understand all of it." it was noticeable how saying those things was against her nature, the flies started to sleep and fall on the floor. "Now I'm going to explain about Uzza and Azazel's issue, well

 

"I got a good metaphor to explain that!" exclaimed Gabriel, who had drifted away to magically put out the fire and got distracted with his reflex in a forgotten broken mirror that was leaning against the carbonized light pole. He also approached the Bentley, stopping next to Beelzebub, who was looking more drowsy and frustrated than Crowley.

 

"Hem-hem, it's like Lady Godiva and Peeping Tom's legend. "

 

"Oh, Satan..." sighed Beelzebub and Crowley at the same time.

 

"Peeping Tom wasn't supposed to peek out the street when Lady Godiva rode naked through the town. So he got killed, or blind. Let's say he got killed. And he got killed in the name of a secret contract between Godiva and her husband, a contract which had to be honored for the sake of the population."

 

"Someone please lobotomize me..." groused Crowley.

 

"Oh, Bollocks. That doesn't make any sense." said Beelzebub, "As I was saying, Uz

 

"Azazel and Uzza's activity is also a secret pact." continued Gabriel, elevating his voice. "They've been eliminating whoever knows about it since their damnation, in order of running free. Moreover, I believe they act encouraged by a twisted idealistic motto they created. Well, both of them were once angels, Seraphim who were sent to Earth to live among humans and test them. But they've succumbed. They fell for fleshly pleasures and selfish ambitions."

 

Distressed, Aziraphale thought that maybe he himself had to have fallen... He could be Uzza! Uzza was even similar to him... Sensible, fond of knowledge (afterall he made Solomon the wisest man on Earth, and he was almost an unbeatable competitor to Metatron), enjoyed living on Earth more than he should...Easily tempted..

 

"But what exactly is this bloody 'activity'...?" asked Crowley, tired, rubbing his eyes.

 

"They had children, who had children, and so on, therefore there are loads of their descendantszz among humanzz. And they're like the mob... Well, not all of the descendants, ‘cause there are just too many, but the existence of the royal-ish part of the lineage is kept secret." said Beelzebub, trying to hasten the conversation.

 

"Oh, they're like the Freemasonry." commented Aziraphale.

 

"Like... the Reptilians!" snapped Crowley, amused.

 

"There are no reptilians, Crowley, what? They're not real." sighed the angel, nodding his head.

 

"How? You're looking at one, sweetie." joked he. He momentarily forgot that their bosses were standing right there. Gabriel made a very displeased expression, cleared his throat and said:

 

"Summing up, humanity isn't just humanity... A reasonable part of it has at least a small percentage of naphal heritage."

 

"Hum, like the Kardashians." Crowley continued listing, absent-minded, trying to dissemble his embarrassment.

 

"But why is it bad?" asked Aziraphale, ignoring his disarranged lover.

 

"What?!" Gabriel had a jumbled grimace on his face.

 

"I mean, why having this heritage is a problem?"

 

"What is a Kardashian?" asked Beelzebub.

 

"Yeah, what is it? I didn't get that." questioned Gabriel, furrowing his brow.

 

"Oh, don't listen to him." said Aziraphale, dismissively, rolling his eyes.

 

"Zzz-so you don't know everyzing..." buzzed the arch-demon, cynically.

 

"Oh, dear..." sighed the angel.

 

"Anyway, with all due respect, what a crappy metaphor was this one, because I still don't understand..." said Crowley, returning to his senses. "What exactly seems to be the problem? Who's Lady Godiva in this picture?"

 

"Azazel and Uzza. And their lineage. They're Lady Godiva." insisted Gabriel, annoyed.

 

"But isn't Lady God" Aziraphale started questioning, hesitantly, then he got violently interrupted by Beelzebub.

 

"No. No. Enough of it." she took a deep breath. "Forget all of thiz ludicrouz metaphor. The problem iz: there's a mysteriouszz and potentially damaging activity that has been omitted through all these centuries. An activity led by celestial creatureszz who don't respond either to Heaven or to Hell. That'szz all we know for now, there may be further alarming issues within thiszz one. We don't know yet. However, the priority now is the Assembly. We need to discuss what the Hell happened with the Universe after that fatidical day, and what do we understand about the... Ineffable Plan... "

The covers of Biggles Goes to Mars, Jack Cade - Frontier Hero, 101 Things A Boy Can Do and Blood Dogs of The Skull Sea passed through Aziraphale’s mind, alongside with some grotesque images of fantastic angel-demon-human hybrids. How would these... original naphals look like?


"...And I'll say it in advance: this is not at all a truce or an armistice. Let's say it's a zzz-strategic alignment meeting, so that we're able to proceed with appropriate planszz."

Gabriel snorted, looking vexed, probably because he got massively ignored and contradicted by everyone. Never in his plush and comfortable life he had faced something like that.

 

"Okay, uh, let's go, shall we?" coughed he.

 

“Yes, we’re late” said Beelzebub, decisive, looking at the two men inside the car.








Chapter Text

Ittoqqortoormiit, Greenland

 

It was a cold sunny morning. He was drinking a strange red liquid on the top of a hill, watching the tedious colorful wooden houses from above, and reflecting on how convenient it was being able to be there, and also elsewhere, at the same time. A satellite wish will make it just enough. He was gifted after all.The settlement's folk only knew that the long haired guy wearing eyeliner had appeared out of thin air, puff!, just like that.

 

As in every little town (that one wasn't even little, was molecular), the unusual event made people as suspicious as a suricate. It has been almost two weeks since his arrival. A very weird arrival, for sure: his first appearance was getting off of a villager’s bathroom. Luckily (not for him, for the family), nobody was home. So he got out of the house, and was stopped by a passenger, who, very distrustful, asked him who he was, and what he was doing at Didricksen’s home:


“Chi son io tu non saprai”* he answered, grinning. 


The passerby, a citizen named Avdlak Bagge, got so inexplicably scared that he walked away and didn’t tell anybody about that strange conversation (or absence of one). Something radiated from that foreigner, something that made him urge to an unutterable action. He felt a devastating desire. He craved so much... So much! He didn’t know what, though. And, in a fraction of second, that incognito burning desire gave him freedom. He felt like he loved the World and he would have it. It was the most genuine and poetic power. But then he felt his conscience plummeting into an abyss. An abyss of lack, lack of everything, lack of himself, lack of identity, lack of love, lack of life. He witnessed the most terrible eternal incompleteness. Then the desire found its purpose, and he craved dying. Nevertheless, his conscience, to save itself, clung to a desperate sense of need: the need to mask whoever he was (or wasn’t), and therefore try to fool death. 

 

Well, that foreign wanderer was very fond of mountains. The Kangertittivaq fjord in particular he didn't know yet, and so far, he was appreciating the whole place very much. Although Ittoqqortoormiit wasn't as God-forsaken as he expected. They had even a little church (although it doesn’t mean anything, having a church or not). However, joyfully, drinking his thing in the top of the hill, he kept humming Mozart's Don Giovanni overture. Il dissoluto punito ... A punished libertine, that was what he, Azazel, was. The bohemian-looking man took a deep breath and groaned, melodically: 

 

"Questo è il fin di chi fa mal... E de' perfidi la morte alla vita è sempre ugual..."** 

 

Then he laughed, looking at his raggedy boots, the kind of laughter that makes your stomach drop, and you don’t even know why. The Azazel sitting behind a desk in a metropolitan skyscraper's highest office room also laughed.   

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Tokyo, Japan

 

To be a skillful ghostwriter you need a... starter pack.

 

This starter pack includes: strong sensibility to read people and perceive its mannerisms and vices; ability to listen and absorb what the hirer wishes; talent to write in the most varied range of styles and tendencies; detachment of any sense of ego and authorship; and the aloofness of that girl sitting alone at one Shibuya's hotel bar, dressing an elegant mix of cyberpunk style with androgynous new wave fashion, reading a Murakami's novel while drinking Chivas Regal and listening to Madama Butterfly with her headphones.
 

She was taking a trip after her last job in an offshore location in Southeast Asia, a really wearing and boring work for an Oil company’s tycoon. It wasn’t her favorite type of writing, memoirs, not at all. She liked writing songs, that was the best job for her. But since she decided to live entirely as a human being, she couldn't afford simply denying lucrative contracts. Besides, she liked good clothes, nice drinks, trips, and lots of books, it wasn’t a cheap lifestyle.

Living as a human being… What a hard thing, she thought, taking a sip of the whisky. It wasn’t easy because she wasn’t a human, despite putting a lot of effort into looking and acting like one. Also, she wasn’t a woman, neither a man.

A man approached her at the bar, when he looked closely he got completely confused if that mysteriously attractive person was a very pretty boy or a beautiful girl, maybe because she had a pixie cut… And the angular jaws... Anyway, he asked if he could “pay this pretty girl a drink”, to which she replied, sarcastically:

“Are you gonna liberate us girls from male white corporate oppression?”

The corporate white man stammered.

 

“Then no, dear. Fuck off.”

 

Unexpectedly using political sentences was a helpful tool to scare away vanillas and/or annoying males.

 

“And I’m not a girl, moron…” murmured Uzza, putting hir headphones again.

 

One could argue that, in the historically recent broad field of gender and sexuality studies, you cannot pinpoint if a supernatural creature is queer or not, because, supposedly, they’re not real. People who study supernatural stuff as if it were real are always in a random university's basement. And you can’t imagine a Judith Butler in a random university’s basement. That wouldn’t happen, not nowadays (thankfully). But we do know how the two-sexed child of Aphrodite and Hermes was neither a boy, nor a girl. Or how the Sumerian kalú, priests who worshiped the ancient Mesopotamian goddess Inana, weren’t either male or female. Or how the Hijras, in India, are mentioned in the main Sanskrit narratives and identify with great Ardhanārīśwara, an androgynous divinity.

 

Apropos... Greek mythology, Sumerian beliefs, Hindu deities and pre-Islamic goddesses are all part of different parallel universes that intersect with Earth. But a really weird thing happened with Uzza, who initially was from one, then collapsed into other…

 

“Yeah, life is really hard... Whether human or not” ze reflected, staring at the book.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

One cannot please Greeks and Trojans. It was very difficult to find a place where both Hellish creatures and Heaven's dwellers could feel comfortable. To paint a prosaic parallel: it's like going to a karaoke bar with different social circles -- your straight-edge lifetime pals from school who were emo (and still are otaku), artsy and militant lgbtqi friends from university, conservative soft-chauvinist family members and pisshead coworkers who like singing Toni Braxton and Shakira songs- and insisting on picking up one music for the entire group to sing. Together. It's rather nerve-racking. Besides, choosing perfect karaoke songs is a hard task, there's too much pressure, the time runs out and you keep forgetting the names of all the good songs. You'll probably end up choosing that song by 4 Non Blondes. Oh, you know which one...And I say hey, yeah, yeah... Hey, yeah, it wasn't easy finding a medium place for demons and angels to hang out. Conventionally, demons are grunge, angels are polished. One underground, other rooftop. With that said, the required suitable medium place could only be on the ground floor, on Earth... Although there was a lovely place in Guniibuu, the triple star system at Ophiuchus (but it'd be too onerous gathering everyone there so quickly).

However, luckily, there was, of course, a historical ancient place for that meeting.

Planet Earth has loads of Axis Mundi. From Ziggurat to Osun-Osogbo, there's at least ten thousand main portals where multiple Worlds cross and collide (Devil's Kettle Falls is, naturally, one of them). But the entry of their portal, the central node of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, was located in Southwest Asia, in the Sinai Peninsula (specifically in 'Arish, Egypt).

It had been quite a long time since the last Great Assembly. Uh, it had been a really, really, really long time. And, well, gentrification is a shady bitch, right? However, it also is kind of inevitable within a time interval longer than four thousand years. So where it was supposed to exist a magical stone gateway to access the "suspended territory", you could see, nowadays, the glass doors of El Khalili Mini Market.

The four supernatural creatures entered the small beige building. While they were passing through the market shelves, customers and employees just stared at them... At Beelzebub, actually, who was the most eccentric figure of the group. Nevertheless, something in the eyes of those grocery staff members gave away that they weren't as surprised as they could originally be, and there was a reason for it: through the entire day, some similar whimsical creatures have crossed that same glass door. Well, that meant they were indeed late.

"Uh... It was supposed to exist some really peculiar apple trees in here..." commented Crowley, looking around and waving his hand to greet the humans, who hastily looked away. "Or at least that great little tramontane tavern nearby, was it Baxtris the name? Bacteri...Bacris...Can't recall...Exotic place. They served those amazing fermented cocktails... Which were strangely white, uh

"Koumiss" said Aziraphale. "Is the name of that drink. It's Uzbek."

"Ahh"

"The world changes, fellow." replied Gabriel. Crowley rolled his eyes.

"I'll make a note of that." said the demon. Aziraphale nudged him, but he concluded: "Thank you for enlightening me with your knowledge, Gabriel."

The archangel looked at him, tightening lips, then he smiled briefly. That kind of cynical smile that says "I won't even bother arguing. I'm better than that".

"Oh dear, that will be a complete nightmare..." grumbled the angel.


"Here it iszz" buzzed the arch-demon. She had stopped, looking at the ground. They were in the back of the store, in a narrow corridor that was fortunately empty, standing between lots of wheat flour packets and oil bottles. There wasn't anything special in there.

".. What?" asked Crowley.

The arch-demon drew a complex sigil on air with her left hand, then the ground lit up with blue light and something similar to a spherical black box emerged from the tile floor as if it was traversing a water surface. The whole floor started undulating like a river.

"Ah! That...Iggulim thing." mused the demon, raising eyebrows. "Long time no see..."

The orb unlocked and opened, emanating iridescent rays. Beelzebub took a step forward and gazed at the rest of the group.

"Obviouzzly, I'm not going to give y'all a lift in my own chain connection...." Then she was abducted into the sphere and disappeared along with the ethereal object. Gabriel also drew his wiggly sigil on air, and another globe arose from the tiles, but that one was silver and gleamed a phosphorescent light. The archangel was also absorbed and vanished.

"We could run away... Now..." suggested Crowley, irresolute.

Aziraphale glared at him, secretly considering it.

"Er...We don't have a choice, dear."

"Ehh, Alright... At least give me a last kiss before we sink into this hideous bureaucratic hypocritical swamp...I think I won't survive that, angel... So...It was an indescribable honor knowing you."

"Such a drama queen..." sighed Aziraphale, smiling, then he pulled the demon by the blazer lapels and kissed him.

"Ready now?"

"Ugh, no... I don't wanna go..." complained Crowley.

"Oh, come on, it won't be so bad, we're together in this, after all." said Aziraphale, taking the demon's hand. "Let's go. Together."

Crowley took a deep breath and nodded. They both drew their own sigils. Two orbs appeared from the wobbling floor, one was white and shone a summery damask luminescence, and the other was dark crimson and glimmered an intense fluorescent glow. Then the globes suddenly merged.

"Oh, that's something..." said the demon, perplexed.

"Right?!" exclaimed Aziraphale.

The two took a step forward and disappeared, leaving behind a quite traumatized grocery's employee. In the next millisecond, when they opened their eyes, they were standing in a broad resplandescent salon. A hotel casino's salon... Of a Hotel Casino that looked a lot like a megalomaniac baroque church (except it was a little bit more classy clean, crisp and smooth).

"You better get ready for the destruction of the World, this is what I say..."

Little Richard's voice reverberated through the vast place, hitting the golden walls and spreading through the patterned cerulean carpet. Well, there's a saying that states "God will vomit the lukewarm"... That place could be God's vomit... Although it wasn't exactly lukewarm, because, apparently, it gathered some interesting qualities both from Heaven and Hell.

Actually, it was constructed to displease both sides: the unstoppable loud music satisfied the demons, but the lack of good drinks depressed them, as well as the place's decor, which was too heavenly bright and utterly boring (also, a nightmare to photophobics… Read: all the Basement's workers). On the other hand, the music displeased angels, but the decor amused them and the fact it was inexplicably impossible to gamble in the casino soothed them. Also, periodically, all of the casino table games turned into bingos. Angels loved bingo, Demons hated it... But now it was playing Soul Music and the hellish creatures knew Mozart would play next, and then Paganini, and then Robert Johnson, and then Lady Gaga, so they were very content and boogin' on the downbeat.


The reunion would be in the conference room, Crowley and Aziraphale drifted towards the large opened doors. Even though they were late, the Assembly hadn't started yet, and a reasonable part of the supernatural crowd was looking for a place to sit. For decorum reasons, demons and angels sat in different seating sections which were outlined by the runaways. Of course, it wasn't an ordinary conference room, despite it was very similar to one (resembling, at first sight, one of those Dallas business hotel's meeting rooms), you'd notice it was more circular and inclined. Like a theater. Maybe an opera theater. Little storytime: in Utah, USA, there's one conference center of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day. It's a giant theater.. Enormous, tremendously big. A day before conceiving the building's idea, in the 90s, the counselor who solicited its construction had a really weird bad dream. He spiritually visited God's Vomit while sleeping. He woke up and called the dream "a vision", prophetically. Well, when the Day arrives, he'll be the first in line.

You know, mixing spirituality with comercial-esque spectacle has always been lukewarm, and often dishonest, attitude.

Crowley and Aziraphale exchanged glances, understanding they'd have to sit separately. Fortunately, there were two available chairs that were only separated by the extensive corridor, so they would still be close to each other. Another good thing: those chairs were close to an exit door. They rapidly reached the chairs, Crowley almost lost the seat to a sullen demon, who cursed him and walked away. It was Bune, from the warehouse.

"Oh, so here's Bune... Where'd be..Morax?" murmured Crowley to himself, sitting on the chair, he was finding all of that a quite dreadful confraternization. Besides, he had a weird sensation that something would go wrong. Very wrong.

The auditorium was large enough to accommodate thirty thousand people. There were all the principalities, counties, minor organizations and subordinates of both parties who would fight in the last divine war of all. You could see angels, seraphs, demons, tricksters, monstrous shapes, goblins, and some strange hooded silhouettes... The whole scene totally looked like a painting by Hieronymus-Whataweirdo-Bosch.

By that time everyone had sat down, those who occupied a high position in the hierarchy were in what might be called a "stage," seating comfortable in extravagant chairs that resembled thrones. When everyone was silent, Metatron began reciting all the events of the week before the Non-Apocalypse, monotonously. There was a massive sigh of boredom from the demons, Beelzebub also rolled her eyes but gestured for them to be quiet. Occasionally, Metatron was interrupted by a shrill note of a violin solo. That was Paganini (live version).

The holographic scribe angel was retaking the highlights of the narrative to facilitate the discussion about the Ineffable Plan, nevertheless, after twenty minutes of blabbering, someone screamed “OI! WE ALREADY KNOW ABOUT ALL THAT BULLSHIT!”, a seraph shushed it, then another voice yelled “I DON’T, MORON!”, then “THAT’S YOUR PROBLEM, PAL”, an angel stood up and politely asked them to keep the decorum. Meanwhile, Michael got up from the seat and quietly left the auditorium. Aziraphale sighed and turned his head to comment with Crowley about the fuss but the chair was empty.

The demon, who had felt utterly bored, decided to leave the room. After playing with a very dull pinball machine he started wandering through the building. Accidentally, he heard some whispered voices and began to follow the sound. He saw Michael talking to someone who was behind a column. Crowley didn’t understand what they were saying at first, but then he realized they were talking about Uzza’s disappearance. Michael sounded like she was struggling to mask her anguish.


"Nebula!... Who was involved in that?" she said, after a moment of reflective silence.

"Nebula?"

"Orion Nebula, that messy thing."

"Why you ask?"

"We could say it has to do with Nebula..."

"Oh, really?!..." whispered Crowley, peeved, behind a trash can. "Life is great!"

"That's a good plan... Because we, the Loyals I mean, didn't build that... A lot of Fallen were involved with the design, at first. Well, not a lot... But you get the idea..."

"Just one, dear. One is enough."

"Hm..."

"Don't you remember one single name?"

"Uh..."

"Come on, Ariel, I can't ask Metatron about this, not now."

"Wait... I remember one."

"Do you?" she smiled.

"Yes... it was...Crow...Craw..Crawl

"Crowley? Interesting..." she murmured.

"Great!" grumbled the demon.

"Is that the guy who has an affair with Aziraphale?"

"He knows?!" Crowley was shocked.

"Oh, do you know about it?" asked Michael.

"I saw you with that Earth Observation pictures, remember?"

"Ah, I forgot you're terribly nosy."

"Sorry." Ariel broke into a chuckle. "I am."

"Well, it's fine, as long as it makes you a good informant."

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Crowley wasn't responsible only for M25. He was also the satanic architect of M42. No, not the Birmingham motorway that opened in 1976 in the UK, neither the Michigan highway in USA. He was responsible for the Messier 42, also called NGC 1976 or...Orion Nebula. An astonishingly beautiful nebula, for sure, one of the brightest. The demon was certainly proud of that achievement, just as he was delighted with his involvement in the television industry and with his sagacious sharpness about implementing Odegra sigil on M25. But now? Well, he was blatantly cursing the very moment he decided to help building that bloody nebula. And, talking about nebulae und shit, now he was exactly like Sharpless 279, a nebula that is also known as... Running Man.... Pardon the infamous joke. 

 

The demon hurried through the stairs, almost tumbling. His paranoid feeling of "hey!-things-will-go-majestically-wrong" was accurate, as always. Now he just desperately wanted to take Aziraphale and run away from that creepy and tacky baroque Hotel Casino. Oh, he already could see: Michael would get back at the conference room and announce the fresh "new information" with Ariel by her side, they'd convict him and take him away again, but this time to a trial of which he couldn't escape. Absent-minded and in all that rush, he didn't even notice that someone was on his way and bumped into the person, stumbling. It was a tall and elegant old lady (even though she was wearing jersey pajamas). Short white hair, arrogant countenance... He had seen that lady before, many times! But how?! How was she in that place?      

 

"You'd better tie one shoelace to the other, maybe you'll walk better that way." she hissed, irritated. 

 

"Hfmg-Satan!!!"

 

"Close, but no. Now get the Hell out of my way, boy."

 

"Yo-You're Dorothy!" the demon was nearly shrieking, just like the addict fan he was. 

 

"Yes!?"

 

"What, What are you doing here?!!" Crowley exclaimed, absolutely confused. And amused. 

 

"I wish I knew!...I'm dreaming for sure...That Rose's scandinavian gnurchen-frorg-somethingen cake..forgotten in the fridge..was certainly a bad thing to eat at 3 AM. I knew it!... But it was the only candy available though...... Why the Hell am I even talking to you?! I don't know you!"

 

"Oh my..That's..oh, Sat 

 

"Wait. Uh, croaw...Crowley. Are you a Crowley by any chance?"

 

"Satan, my...Yes, I am a Crowley! I mean, I'm Crowley. That's my name.."

 

"You see... I'd appreciate if you could stop calling me Satan, thank you very much." she replied, smiling sarcastically. "Anyway, I think...I have something to tell you, Mr. Crowley, er.. Oh boy, that's probably the weirdest dream I've ever had."  

 

" Uh, to tell me? Hold on, how's that pos.. Yeah, no, you're not really here, you're just sssomething I ate on Woodstock...A psychedelic hallucinogen..burp..." 

 

"Right." she vaguely blinked, an expression between bored and peeved stamped on her face.

 

"Okay, then what are you doing here, Dorothy?" Crowley asked, smiling broadly and crossing his arms, he forgot all of his worries. His favorite character was standing right in front of him. 

 

"Well, I guess I'm here to.. warn you."

 

"Yes?" oh no, the worries started creeping through the window of his consciousness again. Warnings weren't nice.

 

"A charming..weird man downstairs told me to tell you this... Oh, he was really mad, if you wanna know, it was something like: 'I know what you did, Crowley, ruining everything with that illusion trick, so don't think that the time alteration worked on me, I remember every detail of that dimension and I want everything as it was before. If I can't have it back, I'm going to tear this world apart.'That's all."

 

"...Does he said 'that's all'?" asked Crowley, narrowing his snake eyes.

 

"No, genius, that's me saying it. That was all he said to me." said Dorothy, wearied. Then she added, going up the stairs and handing him a white fabric: "Okay, now I really, really want to wake up. Here, take this, Mr. Crowley, it's yours. I didn't like it." 

 

"Why? What's this?" questioned he, taking the fabric, it was a rotten t-shirt.

 

"Ciao." she said, yawning and disappearing around the corner of the stairs. He held out the t-shirt and the phrase "Today is the first day of the end of your life"* was written on it. Then he laughed. 

 

"Alright, time to get out of here.." breathed the empyrean demon, starting to run again.

 

Meanwhile, the conference was, to use an opera term, in a Crescendo. The riot was nearly uncontrollable. Why? Well, it started with the commotion caused by Metatron's tedious tone of voice and the redundancy of his information. Then it got worse when an archangel requested the removal of the violinist, attesting he was having a migraine due to the sound. After that, Metatron couldn't speak anything further, the noise of the collective arguing was too loud. 

 

Beelzebub, then, drew attention to herself and started reporting Uzza-Azazel's situation (which was the main gossip topic between everyone there) in an attempt of distracting the startled hoi polloi, and trying to control the demons fuss over Paganini cancellation. She caught everyone's attention, including the disgruntled seraphim (after all, Hellish authorities are good at talking), but then a dewy-eyed childish angel interrupted her and suggested, surprisingly, for both sides to copy the assumed tactics developed by the fugitives. The assumed tactics were: possessing human bodies to create an army of their own. The fact was: nobody knew exactly what was the real deal with Azazel and Uzza. But that silly angel's idea (to force the Apocalypse battle using human bodies) inspired a great part of the audience, which wasn't divided between Heaven and Hell anymore, it was split between "possession enthusiasts" and "possession objectors". 

 

And now, to use another opera term, the Cabaletta would begin, although it wasn't playing opera in the back. The peeved Paganini was replaced by a bored Bach, who was playing "Toccata and Fugue in D minor" in a giant golden organ next to the stage, and asking himself why he couldn't play his sweet fugues on the clavier instead of that song that sadly turned into a cliché.    

 

Michael opened the theater doors, walked to the stage and sat down. You could tell she was satisfied, smiling briefly, just waiting the right moment to shine. She was sitting in one of the lowest throne rows that covered one half of the broad pulpit, among ancient Dominions (who were in the highest seats), Virtues, Powers (all three of them had belligerent pissed-off expressions), Seraphim, Cherubim (...what a bunch of weirdos), floating Thrones (not throne, the seat, but those weird round cosmic things, also called galgalim, or ophanim...Oh, by the way, they invented the teleportation spheres with the help of the Virtues) and Archangels (Uriel, Raphael, Raguel, Sarakiel, Gabriel, Remiel, Suriel, Zadkiel, Sarathiel, and Ananiel). 

 

The other half of the stage was dominated by the profane hierarchy of Hell: Lucifer (this charming man), Beelzebub, Lilith, Mammona and Belphegor (Leviathan was swimming in the Hotel's Olympic pool, listening to a radio transmission of the meeting, but he didn't give a damn, so "listening" is quite a strong verb for what he was doing). There was also all of the nine Kings and Queens of Hell (Baël, Paimon, Byleth, Purson, Ashmedai, Vinè, Balam, Zagan and Belial) and the main bureaucrats and advocates: Abracax, Deumus, Haborym and Hambuscias. Anyway, between all of those sullen faces annoyed by the riot, Michael seemed radiant. 

 

Lucifer, blatantly wearied, stood up, groomed his long hair, and declared, forcing everyone to be magically silent:

 

"I, Lucifer, am here, in my best material form, endeavoring to negotiate with Heaven a commodious plan for the Future, so we can have our final battle. But it seems impossible, due to this constant inconsequential interruptions." well, although that creature was simply the Master of Riots, he appreciated an efficient methodology and an effective bureaucracy when it was needed. Because, after all, you can't organize a rebellion without planning. He continued:

 

"Although the possession idea seems very appealing... I've got to say that if this..mess.. represents all we can achieve as a group, I'm leaving. Or better, we, The Fallen, are leaving. I'm not enjoying this waste of time." he talked with an amiable yet oddly threatening tone of voice. By the way, he was as androgynous as Uzza: he had a really long curly white hair (resembling a..supernatural young Robert Plant, one could say) that cascaded down softly over his shoulders till reaching his waist, Hatshepsut-ish enigmatic purple eyes, and a smooth skin of a pale cerulean shade.

Yes, he was blue.

The sixth-century mosaic in Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo (Ravenna, Italy) is accurate. Basically, the complete opposite of the ginourmous crimson Satan: he was beautiful and delicate as an Eros statue made of marble. Well, speaking of Satan... Even though we have all those Jean-Joseph Surin's lunatic texts about devil's dimensions and measures, or those crazy comedies written by Merlin Cocai, we'll never know its permanent shape. Satan is, basically, the accumulation of all the imaginary projection and fear regarding its existence.

  

"Grand Lord, I don't think thiszz is necessary, just give me a couple of minuteszz and I got

 

"Quiet, Beelzebub, I already made my decision." hissed the haughty man (although he was calm, he felt rather insulted by that Assembly).    

 

"What?! Are we really leaving?..Oh, I agree with Bee. No need to over react, honey, let her try something.." said Lilith, resting her face over her left hand. She was also terrifically gorgeous, with long wild black hair, wide white eyes and lustful full lips painted in black. She had an Acid Queen's magnificence, her voice even reminded Tina Turner's.         

 

Finally, an impasse, that was the moment for Michael. The archangel stood up, took a deep breath calmly and said:

 

"Excuse me, everyone, but I'm afraid I need to reveal some information in regards of Uzza's disappearance." 

 

Lilith abruptly laughed, loudly. Gabriel, who was using his ethereal quarkphone for all that time, jumped in his seat, scared. 

 

"Ah, sweetheart, we knew you had something to do with this... After all, Uzza was your responsibility." 

 

The Dominions and the Seraphim looked at Michael with severe disapproval expressions. In that very moment, Crowley entered the conference room and was sneaking through the auditory's runaway to reach Aziraphale. 

 

"Well, no, it didn't have anything to do with my administration. In fact, Uzza's disappearance was caused by one of your employees."

 

"So let's give her or him a promotion." murmured Lilith, breaking into a chuckle. 

 

Aziraphale was watching the scene with attention when he felt something nudging his legs, he slowly looked down to see what it was... and it was Crowley, the Snake. 

 

"Hey, psssst, hey!" hissed the serpent.

 

The angel opened his mouth to ask why his boyfriend was over his feet, but he couldn't vocalize a single sound. He was mute. Oh, it might be Lucifer's spell, he thought. So he gesticulated the words "Why-are-you-in-your-snake-shape?".  

 

"There's no time. Letsssgo. Azsssiraphale! Hurry! Sssssshhhit!" Crowley started to pull the angel's right leg, rolling himself around it. 

 

"We're well aware that the prosecutions of both Azazel and Uzza were developed by you, archangel Michael. We also understand that was you who locked Uzza in his cell" said Hambuscias, one of the advocates, then he looked at the mute crowd, thinking he had heard a shush. "So what are you implying?"

 

Aziraphale also couldn't move normally, he noticed that all his movements were twice slower. It was the spell. He stared at the snake over his feet with a desperate look in his wide turquoise eyes. Whatever was making Crowley uneasy, it certainly wasn't trivial. And it was going to get worse.

 

"I'm saying that the same employee who was involved in Orion Nebula's architectonic project may also have been involved in Uzza's escape. It wouldn't be incoherent, because this very worker happens to be Crowley, former Crawly, or even... former Oannesel. Someone, as we know, that has caused a lot of trouble."

 

"Shit! This isn't fair!" muttered the serpent, indignant, wrapping himself around the angel's leg now in an attempt of hiding.

 

"Zzseriously, thiz Azembly originally had an organized agenda. Why can't we zstick to the topics in order?" complained Beelzebub, putting the hands over her temples. "Additional information and open dizcussion should take place in the end, after the topics prezzzentation..."

 

"Darling, that's his job, our job, you know. Causing trouble..." sighed Lilith, crossing her legs. 

 

“Yes, I understand. However, that would be acceptable if he caused trouble only for humans, but, instead, he had been disturbing Heaven and Hell ordination. So I think Hell should also worry… I suppose we didn't have our great battle because of him. And also, yes, Uzza is not on our side, but neither he is on yours... That's worrisome, even because it adds up to an anarchic record of supernatural beings who aren't part neither of Hell or Heaven." 

 

"Okay. I took note of thiz. But let'zz continue with the agen

 

"OANNESEL!" shouted Lucifer, impatient. "I know you're there, child. Show yourself."

 

That beautiful cerulean man started to transform into a slightly grotesque version of himself. Now he had two giant crimson goat horns planted over his white hair and his eyes were turning entirely black. Not to mention his teeth... That were getting sharper than needles.

 

Aziraphale looked at Lucifer on the stage, then looked at the exit door…. So close! But he couldn't move. He felt Crowley trembling against his legs. If only he could draw his sigil, maybe they could get out of there. 

 

"DON'T MAKE ME WAIT!" his skin gradually begun to turn purple like a bruise. "And I'm seeing your beloved Principality from here, by the way." 

 

"Fuck.." sighed the serpent, losing hope."I guess that's it..."  

 

Crowley oozed through the carpet till reaching the middle of the corridor, then he turned into his man-shaped version again. The demon glanced at his lover with a sad and regretful look, then shouted:

 

"Oi! What's this fuss all about? I'm here." then he started to walk towards the stage with his nonchalant devil-may-care attitude. Although.. It wasn't the best time to have the Devil caring about anything, especially about him. 

 

"Arrest him!" ordered Michael, pointing at the demon. Not a single angel or principality in the room responded to the command. "Lucifer! Break this goddamn spell!"

 

"Shut up, Michael. I'm the one who's gonna deal with this." muttered the creature, lifting the arms with the hands open (which now were slender carbonized claws), casting another incantation, one that made Crowley float on air, incapable of moving a muscle, and then rapidly crossing the air till falling heavily on the stage floor, clashing against the baroque rostrum placed in the center of the stage (one symbol of the frontier between Heaven and Hell, the division of worlds).     

 

"Oh, fffuck!!! Hold on, hey! Why so much violence? There's no need for it, frankly..." complained Crowley, standing up and massaging his left elbow. He glanced at the mute crowd, trying to spot Aziraphale.  

 

"Quiet!" hissed Lucifer. "Compared to what I should do to you this is the most gentle gesture of courtesy, Oannesel."

 

"Ugh, why do you have to be so archaic?.. It's Anthony Crowley, that's my name, my inestimable Lord, not Oannesel." 

 

"I call you whatever I want." mumbled the Devil, walking towards the subordinate and taking him by the hurt arm. “And I won't call you by this stupid human name. Now, please, my confrere, explain to us what exactly did you do to ravage our awaited Apocalypse, will ya?” 

 

Lucifer guided the demon till the rostrum and tossed him there violently.   

 

“Ah, at leazt we returned to the main topic…” buzzed Beelzebub. 

 

“What the Hell? I didn’t do anyth” started Crowley, but he got interrupted by a Lucifer’s spell that twisted his arms backwards in a very eerie and aberrant angle. He felt so much pain that his man-shaped version glitched out a little (fleetingly revealing his true semblance) and the giant black wings appeared. He couldn’t see from there but, watching that scene, Aziraphale was already crying (more out of anger than anything). 

 

“Oh, you did! You surely did!!!” said Lucifer, laughing cynically. “You ruined everything, you major fool.”

 

“Enough!!! We’re not going to tolerate this.. brutality in an official Assembly!” exclaimed a seraph, standing up. “Weren’t you complaining about the lack of order, Lucifer? So what’s this? Why don’t we solve this in a peaceful way, my dear? That’s what this reunion stands for!”     

 

“Don’t interfere in Hell’s business... My dear. And that’s our burden, right? We’ve been dealing with Heaven’s dirty work for ages, so thou can canonically distort everything with thy charming sacred tales, biased artworks, glamorous architecture... Don’t you tell me you have no interest in what caused the Apocalypse’s revocation.” responded the Devil, bitterly. “Am I right, Michael?” 

 

The archangel looked sideways, avoiding making eye contact with Lucifer. 

 

“Zzso, Crowley, give us your teztimony about the Doomzday.” said Beelzebub, taking a parchment. 

 

“I...have nothing.. To sssay” gasped Crowley, leaning on the rostrum. “I have.. no idea what thisss is all about..”

 

“So let’s hear what our friends have to tell us, now that they’re calm, but I’m sure they aren’t very thrilled about the failed Apocalypse.” said Lucifer, snapping his fingers and breaking the censorship spell. 

 

That was all that Aziraphale needed. 

 

As soon as Lucifer’s thumb snapped in his index claw, the principality was taking Crowley by the right hand and pulling him out from the stage, opening his white wings and flying as high as possible, leaving a modestly enraged crowd behind, till reaching the vaulted golden roof. Part of the hordes of Heaven and Hell started flying after them. Crowley set some demons and angels on fire, accidentally, of course. 

 

“Draw your sigil!!!! I’ll draw mine!!!!” shouted Aziraphale. “In 3, 2, 1…”