-San Francisco, California 1922-
He should have been a woman.
It’s hard to tell, from year to year with this lot- only ten years ago they’d been high collars and long sleeves and from the glances Crowley had made earlier this morning, things hadn’t improved with their shapeless dresses and long skirts- worse even.
Meanwhile the men waltzed around in full suits and Crowley had always looked good in suits and what better way for his debut?
He should have been the talk of the town, strolling in, dressed to the nines and ready to rack up the temptation quota he’d missed during his nap.
He didn’t get far.
They were incredible- glittering under the electric bulbs and showing more skin than he could recall seeing since Eden, their faces painted vibrantly, their hair shorn, freely dancing and drinking and smoking with complete disregard to propriety.
He blessed under his breath.
How was he supposed to work with this?
What temptations were left that these humans weren’t already grasping for with both hands?
He watched, irritably at the bar- it was all gin and whiskey these days apparently. Tasted like licking the bottom of a tub.
In a very out of character move, Crowley found himself abandoning the alcohol on the bar.
He watched with no small amount of envy as the men fawned after the women, trailing after them, their dignity disregarded at the door. It hadn’t been so long ago that men had had all the power in this little dance- could send a woman reeling with a single polite word of acknowledgment.
He hated it.
And Satan did he love it.
He hadn’t seen people so free since Greece and he wanted nothing more than to dive in with the rest…
His eyes traced over the beautiful creatures and he could feel the envy palpable in his throat.
He could easily step outside and return more stunning than anyone else in the room.
Of course he could.
But that felt like cheating and while normally Crowley excelled at cheating, this was different.
This was about pride.
To accept defeat now would be to say that he wasn’t just as capable of doing his job in this form than in another. And if lizard faced Hastur could tempt humans looking like Casu Marzu then Crowley damn well bloody could.
He approached the throng in full swagger, eyes panning the room, looking for a target. There were a number of promising individuals at the bar, far too plastered for their own good and many contemplating thoughts that would score him easy points with Downstairs in a hand full of words.
No. First memo to the main office in sixty years wasn’t going to be about how he coerced some sad sod to cheat on his wife or gamble away his savings- no, he was Crowley, there were standards to uphold.
No, if he was going to do it right, he would need some more impressive stock than that.
He continued to slowly circle the room, prey looking to strike- but rather than separate the weakest from the heard, he was going straight for the leader of the Pride.
(Metaphors weren’t exactly his strongest suit)
His attention was drawn by a rather large throng of gentlemen that, for some reason were not on the dancefloor or anywhere near the band, but gathered around an ornate lounge, a sea of dark suits and in the center of it white.
That’s more like it.
She was beautiful, even from a distance Crowley could tell that much.
She was dressed in cream and whites- a stark contrast to the brightly colored reds and greens and blues he had seen among the crowd- the dress glittering with her every movement- though what caught his attention in particular were the feathers. White as a dove, they decorated the hem that fell just below her knees (modest for the time, it would seem) trailing up the gown and accentuating a supple figure that he hadn’t realized would be so flattering. He supposed there were advantages to this fashion after all- what looked absolutely ridiculous and shapeless on some of the other girls dancing around, worked perfectly on her.
Her hair was cut short as well, into a mop of graceful white curls that framed her round face. It was a nice face at that- with large blue eyes, a dainty upturned nose and tastefully painted full lips, she was the spitting image of a cherub- the human interpretation anyway.
This was all, of course, coincidental and in no way appealing to Crowley in the slightest. He chose her, not for any particular reason apart from that, among a sea of sin, she seemed to exude a purity that was magnetic.
To the humans.
Of course not.
His motives were purely demonic.
He began to circle closer in on his target, observing her among the others. She seemed rather disinterested in her company and much more so interested in the cake she held, devouring it happily as the gentlemen continued to flock around her. Her smiles were polite but distant, her answers short when pressed and her attention only spanning the length of her arm as she accepted a proffered drink.
Rather than fight his way through the crowd he decided to circle from behind, compiling in his mind just what he might say, how he might get this one to deviate. Perhaps play the heroic rescuer to the damsel in distress? She didn’t look too terribly in distress, just annoyed, that would do he supposed.
Well, he was best at thinking on his feet anyway.
He noted as he approached the back of the chaise longue she was seated upon, that the back of her dress was also decorated in feathers, placed in a way that alluded to wings.
He ignored the bitter irony and pressed forward, very pointedly continuing to disregard thoughts that had no business crossing his path right now. Not while he was working.
He miracled a slice of cake on a plate identical to her own and sidled up behind her, knowing whatever he handed her would be better than whatever sawdust she was guzzling. Gluttony wasn’t his department but perhaps he could score a few points downstairs while he lured her away from the rest. Another well placed miracle had one of the buffoons knocking the cake out of her hands and into the lap of another beside her.
“Oh really!” He heard her say in an affronted tone that struck him sharply somewhere between the ribs. He fought it down. He would not think of that right now and instead put on his most charming smile and leaned forward, arm outstretched around her to hand her his plate.
“Hello dove, what do you say you and I go somewhere else to chat?” She didn’t look directly at him, her attention much more interested in the cake- but at his words, something in her froze. The others were babbling about her, trying to catch her interest, to look at theminstead. She batted them away with the white gloved hand not holding the cake, and looked over at the wildly gesticulating gentleman beside her who was now hurriedly trying to wipe the sticky substance off of his trousers.
“Yes.” She agreed, to Crowley’s surprise, “ I think I’d rather like that.” She stood from the chaise, surprising Crowley again by setting the slice of cake carefully down where she had been sitting, then straightened her skirt, the feathers on her back now clearly an homage to wings. “You may all go now.” She stated, expectantly. Naturally they protested, only gathering in closer as she pushed them aside and out of her way, only snapping when one attempted to grip her by the feathers of her gown. “Now gentlemen,” she chastised, spitting out the word as though a curse, “there are plentyof other ladies out there who would love to bask in your affections- I am not one of them- now shoo!” She drew herself up to her full height, head tilted up like a noble among rabble and made her way to Crowley’s side, reaching out and gripping his arm and tugging him away with a force that had Crowley nearly tripping over his own feet.
Positively speechless, he allowed himself to be dragged along, at a complete loss for what to do next. This was why he should go in with a plan- he was absolute rubbish at thinking on his feet!
Fortunately, she seemed to be doing the thinking for both of them and continued to navigate them through the masses.
“What took you so long?” She asked, finally glancing over at him. He was truly out of his depths.
“What?” He managed, affronted, “I- I just got here! I-”
”Precisely and who do you think was covering for you while you took your nice long nap, hm? Which reminds me- trench warfare was your idea- nasty business, fortunately I was in Spain at the time, who were mercifully neutral in the matter. I would suggest looking it up though, in case your lot have any followup questions. Fortunately not much word from them but really my dear, you could at least have told me your plans so I could accommodate- you left me in quite a bind. It’s lucky I insisted on that forwarding address or else I wouldn’t have received their correspondence at all- to the point, aren’t they? Anyway, apart from that there were a few odd jobs here and there- do they always send you such strange requests? I had to talk some college directors into rejecting a lad from the Academy of Fine Arts, poor lad, I do hope they weren’t too harsh on him. Oh and there was that time in- Crowley? Are you listening to me?“ She released his arm and whipped around to face him, her perfect curls bouncing along with her and forming a perfect hal- oh....
"Wha-” The feathers, the hair, the nose- Crowley found himself looking down into unmistakable blue eyes- eyes that were currently glaring at him and an expression of great displeasure that could not be mistaken.
“Yes, what is it?” The angel before him asked, impatiently.
Crowley gaped. He wasn’t proud of it, but he was even less proud of what came out of his mouth next: “You- you’re- look at you- you’re so….”
The angel’s eyes widened and he watched as her cheeks became a charming pink tint.
“Oh.” She replied, gently, and he watched as a small, shy smile played across her face. “You really think so? I thought the feathers might be too much- I’ve never- you know, before- and the female anatomy is so-”
“Stunning.” Shot out of Crowley’s mouth before he had a chance to reel it in.
“Truly?” She asked, all insecurity in her shining blue eyes.
Crowley nodded, emphatically.
If he hadn’t recognized her before, then the smile that blossomed upon these new feminine features would have given her away instantly. It was as though the sun had decided to make a guest appearance among them, she shined so.
“Oh…well…thank you.” She beamed, cheeks dimpling and Crowley could feel it again, that ache in his heart- that relief- he hadn’t thought he’d get to see it again, that smile, directed at him.
So he looked away, into the crowd.
“So…..” Crowley managed, grasping desperately for more solid ground, “this…music, yeah?”
Aziraphale wrinkled her nose in distaste.
“Ah, yes it’s no wonder you woke up.”
“What, you don’t like it?” Crowley asked, feigning surprise.
“I suppose you do?” Aziraphale replied with a weary sigh and oh how Crowley had missed this.
“What’s not to like? About time they stopped being so rigid- like the dancing too.”
"What and I suppose you disapprove of that as well?”
He delighted in the old familiar expressions on this new, less familiar face, watching as she shifted irritably. It was something he’d always lo- liked about the angel- Aziraphale felt everything with his entire being, seemed incapable of stifling his- or her now- movements to facial expressions alone and right now her entire being was radiating distaste so strongly it was near palpable.
“There’s no….order. No consistency- how is anyone supposed to know where to go? What to do- without falling all over each other.”
“Seems to me they don’t mind that bit.” Crowley mused, fighting down a delighted grin as the two turned to observe the humans.
“Yes, well…” They fell into a companionable silence. Or, as silent as could be in the middle of the room. Crowley could barely contain himself, eyes darting back and forth from the dance floor to his companion, heart constricting in the way it did when he got one of his impulsive ideas.
“What do you say then, hm?”
Aziraphale startled slightly at his side, glancing up at him, inquiringly.
He nudged his head invitingly towards the throng and watched her eyes widen with what could only be described as abject horror. "What- Crowley no!”
“Aw, come on, Angel- when in Rome and all that!”
“We’re not in Rome and I’ll remind you I said no there as well.”
“Yeah well can’t say I’m surprised, that was less of dancing and more of an org-”
“-How about a drink?” Aziraphale interrupted, wrapping an arm around Crowley’s once more and effectively silencing him instantly. “Have you had a cocktail yet, dear? There’s this one called The Bees Knees that I’m particularly fond of- they’re so clever- countrywide ban on alcohol and these clever humans decide to make their own- of course, they haven’t quite perfected it yet- but their efforts to cover them up are splendid, you-”
“Hang on, they did what?”
Aziraphale paused, then chuckled affectionately. “Oh dear, it looks like there’s much to catch you up on.” She said, steering him back towards the bar.