Author: Ithilwen C. Malfoy
Disclaimer: Pterry and Gaiman write, I subvert. Accordingly, I have no rights over the characters.
Love is not meant for the likes of Anthony J. Crowley. It is a thing which belongs to angels, not demons. And angels are, really, half the problem.
It has often struck Crowley that despite the scales, the serpentine eyes and the predilection for inappropriately timed hissing, he is essentially angelic. Fallen is neither here nor there when one considers that God created only angels, of which Crowley had been – is – one. When he took his downwards trip, Crowley retained the same supernatural essence, except this time he dressed in black rather than white.
This in itself strikes Crowley as evidence for the superiority of the Nether Reaches. White may be beauty, purity, sugar and spice and all things nice. But black… black is cool. Heaven may have the best choreographers, but the devil has the best music. Besides which, Hell has The Orgasm. And whereas angels have to be taught to dance, a demon finds it comes quite naturally. Admittedly, 'natural' is a relative term, and can refer, for example, to the natural rhythm and flourish of an oil slick.
Crowley considers briefly the practicality of clothing, and finds white severely lacking on several counts. Almost everything an angel encounters on his Earthly travels is likely to stain dreadfully. And he questions the point of robes of the purest white, when they come out of the wash pink with only the slip of a coloured sock. White is ridiculously impractical and, in Crowley's opinion, so B.C. 1160's.
He remembers the toga and smiles. Some people are born to wear a toga, and Crowley is one of them. It had, however, taken him decades to persuade the angel to wear what he considered 'clothing made from a bed-sheet. Most improper,' and then, by the time the temples were crumbling and grass growing between the paving of the forum, the angel had grown so fond that he refused for centuries to forsake his Hellenistic drapery. Crowley remembers the gather of pleats at the hip, and the tract of pale, exposed flesh. He remembers the outline of taught nipples through cotton on cold days. He remembers the long blonde hair which, when the wind whipped at it, curled around a not-exceptionally attractive but (to Crowley) astoundingly beautiful face, and which had to be pushed back behind each ear by slightly chubby fingers.
The wine which Crowley is sipping catches in his throat and he chokes a little, the reflex of his human body somehow comforting.
It has been only a little time since Crowley vowed not to think of blonde hair or pale, skilled fingers. And herein lies the crux of the problem. It lies in the beauty of that open, gentle face; in the curve of the inappropriately named cupid's bow of an utterly lickable upper lip. It lies in the perfection of an imperfect, flawed human body, and in the warmth and purity and glow of the spirit which is squeezed into it.
The realisation came to Crowley some years ago, in the aftermath of an averted Armageddon, when he was keeping his angel company with the help of a large bottle of wine. The loss of a bookshop had come as something of a catalyst leading to a number of changes in Crowley's life, the first being that, unusually, the angel had taken to visiting Crowley's flat; the second that the end of an era had been sounded.
"I could find another shop," the angel said, as though fielding ideas for Crowley's approval or rejection, "though there won't be any in this part of London. It's all themed cafes and fashionable bars. We're becoming outdated, my dear."
Crowley said nothing for a while, savouring his mouthful of Chateau Lafitte 1895 – always their tipple of choice when there were life-altering decisions to be made. "We could find another city. You could, I mean. And I could get a place nearby. In the interests of honouring the Agreement, of course."
The angel had simply lifted his head from the table and beamed at him.
In that dreadful, car-crash of a moment, Crowley came to realise two terrible things: that the thought of existing further than a drive away from the angel had somehow become unbearable, without him having noticed when; and that he would gladly reconfigure the M25 to resemble a large fluffy bunny rabbit, if only for another beaming smile, all that light and energy and love focused on him and him alone.
And again, Crowley thinks, as he aims a withering glare at an unfortunate pot plant, which obeys, shrivelling sadly, I have hit upon the problem: Angels, by nature, love every living creature. Their intrinsic fairness and purity prevents them from singling out a being which to love the more, and negates the possibility of their falling in love. Especially, Crowley reflects as another pot plant collapsed reluctantly, not with a demon.
Anthony J. Crowley is up a certain river without a certain implement and no matter how furiously he paddles, he is being sucked ever closer to the whirling vortex which threatens to engulf him entirely, leaving his poor mangled corpse to be washed up weeks later, nibbled by crabs and with an attractive dusting of barnacles. He is, in short, fucked.
Even the possibility of death has been stolen from him, he muses sullenly. Do humans realise just how much immortality sucks? It has always amused him to watch the alchemists blow themselves to smithereens in their quest to find the Elixir of Life, to watch the Crusades ravage a sub-continent in the name of the Holy Grail. Nothing he could have initiated would have been such a success. He had, of course, taken credit for it (as had the angel), and for once the Dark Powers had appreciated irony. Knights bearing the crucifix engaged in slaughter, rape and looting in the name of Heaven was something Hell looked on with malicious glee. He had gained a commendation.
His interest in this brand of irony has, however, long since faded. He has no further desire to see the purity of Heaven blackened and tarnished. This is why he is preparing to leave. He has already sold his flat, to the dreadlocked man who sits in the King's Road with his dog and a sign imploring the largely indifferent general public to Help the Homeless. Crowley had taken him at his word last week and sold him the house for five pence and rolled cigarette of dubious provenance and content. Not out of charity or any misplaced sense of community spirit, but, he tells himself, out of a desire to see a simple yet pure soul corrupted by the evils of Mammon. He can't quite make the words stick.
The phone begins to ring, but Crowley leaves it. There is only one person who ever telephones, and the answer machine can talk to him, not Crowley.
"Crowley? Are you there? You must come round, I've found us a new city. How would you like to see Barcelona again? We haven't seen Spain since the Inquisition, and there are some particularly fine pieces of architecture I mean to…"
Crowley lets the angel murmur to himself and carefully disconnects the phone from the wall. He mentally crosses Spain off his list of destinations.
He must escape, you see. He must escape because he has fallen in love. You would think it impossible, but Crowley has never been one to play by the rules. He knows, however, that he cannot allow himself the hope of it being anything more than one-sided. That is killing him. He knows, too, that he cannot remain here, tormented by soft, loving, innocently inviting smiles and the open beauty of that face, in case one day he can no longer resist temptation – ironic, really – and takes the angel's face in his hands, and kisses him till he feels weak at the knees. Because he knows that in doing this, he will have done the one thing which he cannot bear to contemplate. He had promised, so long ago, that he would never try to tempt his angel, and the thought of the betrayal in the angel's eyes as he felt himself being torn away and cast down…
Each man kills the thing he loves. And Anthony J. Crowley is aware that he has the power to do just that. Aziraphale is not made for Hell. The pain of being ripped from Heaven would break his heart, and knowing that it was he who had caused it would break Crowley's too.
Everything about the angel which Crowley loves so much is everything which makes it impossible to tell him, for fear of losing. The innocent trust which his angel places in him. The pure, flickering beauty, the gentleness of character, the principles which Aziraphale holds so close as though they are an armour against temptation. Against Crowley.
Love is not meant for the likes of Anthony J. Crowley. And it is killing him. Slowly but surely the pain in his mortal heart is growing and the desire to leave his body, retake natural form and scream for the agony is becoming unbearable. So Crowley is running away. He will go somewhere Aziraphale cannot find him, though he knows that if the angel searches hard enough, he will have to keep moving to stay one step ahead. It is worth it, to save both of them from this.
To make a clean break of it, everything of the old Crowley has been destroyed. With a flick of his hand, the answer machine lies molten and smoking, and his Bentley – instantly and fatally recognisable – has been sold to a struggling car dealer with a family to support and little means to do so. Another act of almost kindness, Crowley thinks disgustedly.
But not his cell phone. He has kept that, out of some sort of twisted desire to know that Aziraphale will always be able to reach him. If his angel is in trouble, or in danger, Crowley will never desert him. At least, that's how he tries to justify it. He will keep his cell phone running for centuries, millennia if that is what it takes.
He takes a last look round his flat and says a silent goodbye to the plants. He has assured them they will be well looked after by their new owner, and he is sure they will be pleased to see him go. Will Aziraphale miss him, or will he and the Arrangement be easily forgotten? He feels he knows the answer.
He strides outside, climbs into the waiting taxi, and tells the cabbie to take him to Heathrow Airport. And there, standing in front of the departures board, he'll decide where to go. Perhaps somewhere warm, with plenty of things to distract him and take his mind off home. No, no longer home. He will build a new home somewhere Aziraphale is not. And when his angel comes looking, he will move on and build his home again.
He unfolds himself from the cab, the creases in his suit disappearing with a brush of his hand. He pays the cabbie five times his fare and walks into the terminal, the doors closing behind him, closing on London and on Aziraphale.
Some four hundred years later, Crowley lies on a beach in the Outer Hebrides, enjoying the consequences of global warming, and sipping a brightly coloured whisky cocktail (served with a small tartan umbrella resting jauntily on the side of the glass.) He surveys the scene before him and tries to ignore the pang in his chest as he wishes, with a rebellious and quickly suppressed thought, that Aziraphale were here.
400 x 365… 146000 days. 146000 x 24… 3484000 hours. 3484000 x 60… 209220000 minutes. 209220000 x 60… 12553200000 seconds. And not one but he has felt the Aziraphale-shaped hole beside his heart.
He watches children play happily in the waves, taking it in turns to drown each other. He takes a sip of his cocktail and decides that whisky and grenadine are, perhaps, not the happiest of bedfellows. A blink, and he sips a dry martini.
A tiny chirping sound, like a baby bird or a frog trying to defend its pond, startles Crowley and he looks up into the leaves of the tall Scots Palm, expecting to see a nest of the Lesser Pheasanted Macaw. Instead, he feels a vibrating near his hip. The cocktail glass shatters on the corner of the lounger.
He has kept his phone for four hundred years, waiting for and dreading this moment. He closes his eyes and lets it ring. It does, for what seems like hours, until the cheeping ceases and Crowley knows that somewhere in the world, Aziraphale stands, talking into Crowley's voicemail. It is all he can do not to seize the phone and hear that soft voice, or to sob out his apologies and his desire.
He gives it ten minutes, though it is agony to wait that long. He then picks up the traitorous piece of plastic, so incredibly outdated, pressing the key relevant to 'recover message'.
A beep, then a buzz. Then a shuddering breath, as if the person on the other end is trying not to cry out.
"Crowley? Crowley, please, answer. I've given you four hundred years, please pick up the phone…" – a pause, and Crowley can see his angel's face, broken and empty – "I thought perhaps you needed some time… but it's been so long… Please, Crowley, tell me you're alright. I know you haven't gone back Down, I can sense you still… I won't ask you where you are, or try to follow you, just speak to me, only for a little while." – Another pause and Crowley wonders whether to press 'delete message' and have done with it – "I'm coming after you, Crowley, just in case something has happened. I could never… Oh, Crowley, please…" – the angel sounds near to tears, or is it Crowley's imagination running away with itself? – "just let me know you're there. I miss you, Crowley, I just want –" Beep. "End of message."
Love is not meant for the likes of Anthony J. Crowley, and as he places his cell phone on the sand, he realises that he suddenly feels old, though he knows his mortal body cannot age. Love is not meant for the likes of Anthony J. Crowley, and at this moment he feels a terrible resignation embrace him. Love is not meant for the likes of Anthony J. Crowley, but from this moment he knows he can no longer resist.
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