Disclaimer: Good Omens and its characters were created by
Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. I intend no dispute to their rights
over the aforementioned things, as this fanfic was written solely for
Note: I'm not sure if Crowley's old school Bentley would have a backseat, but it can be safely assumed that it does when Crowley really needs it to. Also, feel free to leave constructive criticism; I'm not entirely sure if this fic works or not, though I did my best.
Anthony J. Crowley was a man who exuded sophistication. At business dinners people wouldn't quite stop and stare at him, being too aware of their own decorum, but attention would linger on him, and reference to him would slip into idle conversation.
Anthony himself would slip in soon enough, and this was also something to be appreciated; the man liked fine people as much as he liked fine things, and didn't stand for fools, bores, or boors. He came across as light-hearted up until the moment he found someone deserving of a cutting down - then he did rather make you sit up, discreetly get out some popcorn and enjoy the show.
Everything about the way he behaved made clear that Anthony J. Crowley did not understand that it was a free country, or even world. He was the kind of man who made the universe bend to his will, and it was devastating.
(At such dinners, the demon Crowley would generally find a moment to look at the tittering, glittering people around him and marvel at what tossers they were. This was probably his saving grace.)
"I don't know how you can treat a suit like that so poorly." Aziraphale stared at the mess splattered on Crowley's trouser legs and coat sleeves with fretful longing. "It's one of those Italian-made suits, isn't it? They are lovely when they're taken care of..."
"There's not much point getting rid of the mess until we get out of this mud pit," Crowley said, stepping away sharply. He could tell that Aziraphale was aching to dab at him with a hankie and would be unlikely to stop if given the chance.
"It's a pity, that's all."
Crowley stepped on a spot that turned out to be a surprisingly deep mud-puddle and decided to needle the angel for the sake of the cosmic balance. "I've never understood your attachment to clothes," he said, pulling his leg free. "Doesn't a love of material things go against your code?"
"One must appreciate what one has. And you're quite as attached to clothing as I am, otherwise you wouldn't buy something like that. I think you could get the cut adjusted, though, around the shoulder..."
"You think so?" Crowley frowned down at himself and made some mental adjustments. "How's that?"
"Well, it'd look much better if you'd let me..."
Crowley moved just in time to avoid Aziraphale's handkerchief. "Come on, angel, we've got enough to worry about with this." He waved his hand at the expansive mud wasteland. "It won't take a second to fix up my suit afterwards!"
Crowley had picked up some bad habits from the type of human he tried to be.
A large part of him was the type of human he tried to be - after all, you can't fake that level of debonair charm and downright cool - but he often had to work to make people believe that he was one of their own. When doing a little hands-on work, he tended towards playing a shark-like tycoon type: the kind that didn't easily say 'yes' and never deigned to hear a 'no'. The world worked, such people knew, because it worked for them.
This is an unhealthy attitude to cultivate for an extended amount of time; fortunately, humans always have mortality to wake them up. From their delusions, anyway.
Crowley, however, was a demon, and so wasn't going to die easily. More importantly, the universe was rather obliging to him. He possessed a 1926 Bentley free from rust, petrol, and mostly even flyers under the windshield wipers. In his never tidied, always-spotless home stood an unplugged fridge wherein milk soured into Camembert. When he felt like low-key amusement, people's shoelaces automatically unravelled.
Hell wasn't mindful of his being free with dark occult acts (formerly known as miracles, but there's no sense getting hung up on details) in the way that Heaven sometimes tsk'ed at his counterpart, and that was good because raw firmament could surprise you with its sensitivity. Look at Adam Young - he tried to be careful about the way he thought, but people he was fond of still tended to find themselves on a Ferris wheel in Disneyland, California at unexpected times.
"I wish the little bugger would learn not to shout so loud," Crowley muttered as he and Aziraphale trudged along. "It's downright creepy."
"I wish he wouldn't call quite so often," Aziraphale said. "But that's the problem, I suppose. If he could control his powers properly, he wouldn't need to call us at all. And if he did regain total control of his powers..." He didn't finish the sentence; 'Armageddon' still wasn't an easy word to say.
Crowley nodded, conceding the point. "Yeah. Anyway, tell him to knock it off, will you? I can see them now." He waved his hand in the direction of four figures standing in the distance, with a smaller shape racing around their legs.
"He's a good lad," Aziraphale said as he sent their greeting to Adam. "You don't have to worry about talking with him like this."
"I don't like dropping things into his mind any more than I like it when he drops things into mine. I know what's down in the bottom of him, and I don't want it to recognise me."
"It might not," Aziraphale said at once, in a reflexive good deed; but his was voice as doubtful as it was hopeful.
In spite of everything, Crowley couldn't help but let the hope lighten his own doubt in return. "Yeah." He smiled briefly.
He was beginning to feel downright upbeat as they neared the Them. It had become normal to drive out to Lower Tadfield in search of children who invariably turned out to be filthy and deeply relieved to see them (and, in the case of the girl, somewhat belligerent, but that seemed to be her general attitude towards life). If the children didn't come across as harmless, it was only because all children were inherent menaces. All things taken into consideration, Crowley was inclined to believe that it was a good sign that, after a two months of semi-regular meetings, the Antichrist hadn't blown them up (not even a little bit, or by accident).
"Hello," the children chorused a bit warily, still in the first few moments of tentativeness at their adult-looking visitors. Dog yapped a sharp greeting before returning joyously to chasing its dream of imbedding enough mud into its fur to become a portable farm.
"Hello, you young scamps," Aziraphale said, and Crowley sighed privately. The angel would never learn.
"And what is this cheerful scene of play meant to be? Mars? Vietnam?" Crowley asked.
Aziraphale studied the children digging their toes into the mud, and then the plains that had once been what adults in Lower Tadfield called 'The Pit'. "Given their ... robes, I would guess Lawrence of Arabia," he said. "It was on television the other night."
"So that's why it took so bleeding long to get here. We were tracking our way across the desert, then?" Crowley asked, directing the question at no one in particular, and in return getting studiously ignored by Adam.
"'Cept it's not s'posed to rain in the desert," said Pepper, tugging at the knots that held her mud-spattered robes on her frame. She looked resentfully at Adam. "My mum's going to go spare when she sees what's happened to these sheets."
Adam dug his toes further into the mud, squelching with all the guilty nonchalance in his being. "Wasn't the right kind of sheets to make robes of, anyway," he said. "You can't use Egyptian cotton. Arabia's not in Egypt. Wensley said."
Wensleydale looked up from his mournful contemplation of his own clothing to gauge Pepper's reaction to this, and the sight of her face made him edge hurriedly towards Brian, who was happily paying attention to nothing but the contents of the pockets beneath his robes.
"Ah, you warm my heart, young Jeremy. Always so eager for knowledge!" Aziraphale said. "Tell me, how is your reading?"
"I liked those books you sent, mister Aziraphale," Wensleydale said dutifully. "They were ever so interesting."
Aziraphale beamed. "Good, good. I'll lend you some more, as long as you return the others post-haste. Now, young 'uns, tell us what the problem is."
"'S not a problem, really," Adam said, sending a disparaging look in the direction of his friends. "It rained a bit, that's all. We were crossing the desert, an' then there was a thunderstorm, and the sand went back to being mud. 'Cept it's still big, and we can't really find our way home."
"An' he's not to put it right if he couldn't do it properly in the first place," said Pepper, crossing her arms.
"Quite right, dear child, quite—"
"Yeah, it rained, mister Aziraphale," Brian chimed in. He had decided to complete his brown-smudged look by eating a chocolate he'd excavated from his pockets with piranha-like enthusiasm. "Is rain really God's tears, like they say in Sunday school?"
Crowley snickered at the frown that Aziraphale was unable to stop. "Well-" Aziraphale sighed.
"Only they say it's persippytation and the water cycle and nature in school, mister Aziraphale," said Wensleydale. "But I'm not so sure anymore, because ... you know." He made vague flapping motions with his arms. Wensleydale's belief in the tenets of science had taken something of a knock at the time that Aziraphale had flown him off the peak of a volcano.
"Mum says it's from God crying, too," Brian added. "She says he cries because of us kids doing bad things. But it's weird, innit, because we need rain or we get water restrictions and can't play with the hose pipe anymore, and Mum can't water the garden either. So then it'd be good to do bad things and make God cry."
"That is a beautiful example of logical thinking, young man," Crowley said. "Stick with that."
Crowley grinned at the look Aziraphale gave him. Yes, he decided, this situation wasn't too bad - he was getting on the good side of the Antichrist, after all, and the bulldozing, innocent curiosity of the Them could be so entertaining.
It had been very different the first time Adam called them: white-faced children had seemed to be everywhere, staring at the Antichrist with teary terror that brought the panic of the Apocalypse rushing back.
Then Adam had turned to Crowley and Aziraphale and asked for help in a pretty civil way, considering that at the time he was a spear-wielding midget from the rainforest. It turned out that while the Antichrist had kept his powers, his powers hadn't quite deigned to keep him; human as he'd turned out to be, he couldn't control everything. When Adam changed things, often a little factor that he hadn't thought of crept in to make events unfold in ways that would make Chaos theorists weak in the knees.
"Don't you pay attention to Mr Crowley," Aziraphale said. "And the school seems to be in the right about this one, so rather listen to your teachers, there's a good lad."
"Could you ask?" Pepper said, looking interested against her will. "To be sure about it all, could you, like, ask ... Him?" She pointed up. "Or Her. Mum says that if she had to believe, she wouldn't bother with anything but a Her."
Aziraphale had paled. "Well, uh, well, dear child, you see..."
"You kids," Crowley said. "So perceptive! Aziraphale loves religious philosophy. Ask him all the questions your little hearts desire while I do the real work, all right?"
"You know you're better at dealing with children than I am..." Crowley grinned, growing inch-long fangs. The Them nudged each other and pointed appreciatively, and Dog looked rather envious. "I have no patience for cooking."
Immediately, Aziraphale went into mothering mode. "Honestly," he said, turning his back to Crowley and putting out his hands as if to herd the children into a protective huddle. "Don't you fret, young 'uns, he thinks he's funny. Now, perhaps I could explain to you..."
Crowley turned away with an amused shake of his head, and looked out over the world he had to change, grinning.
Sometimes, when Crowley wasn't paying attention, he liked Aziraphale. Uneasily, he had even admitted it to himself once, while asleep, so that he could skim books about dream interpretation to discover that he actually wanted something pretty and nubile to explain his Id to.
If Crowley were more attuned to what the universe was trying to tell him (he left that to dippy-hippy Anathema types - ignoring the fact that Anathema, for one, mostly got things right), he would be aware that the fact of the matter was a shade different.
The universe would reveal that not only did he find it in himself to occasionally tolerate affection for Aziraphale, but actually harboured a furious and unrelenting passion for him. Crowley was viciously alone and understood too much about true reality, and to know that understanding of these stark facts was shared by someone else was a comfort as addictive as mortal death - that is, not addictive at all, but something too powerful to escape.
Instead, the universe listened to Crowley.
Crowley gave the ground a good hard look, thinking about all the miles it stretched for. He sighed.
Undoing something of this magnitude was going to be harder than usual, and teasing the strands of should be out of made to be was a headache to begin with. The love that Aziraphale insisted Adam had invested into Lower Tadfield seemed to be returned; it was the only reason Crowley could think of for the fact that sometimes things resisted returning to what they should be. It sometimes took hours to sort out what had to change back and what could be left alone.
"Sod it," muttered Crowley, and flipped the metaphorical switch: the ether rippled, and Everything went back to what it was. This was Lower Tadfield, after all; at worst, the flowers would probably be a bit less colourful.
The quarry certainly didn't seem to be worse off than before. It was still a muddy trench, but its horizon now showed the town and fields beyond it, and the Bentley on the top of the rocky quarry slope.
"That's done!" Crowley said, turning back to the group. They gave him looks filled with varying degrees of relief, depending on who simply wanted the world back to normal and who was taking the brunt of adult-to-child interactions.
And behind them, Crowley saw his mistake.
"Er," said Crowley. "Um. Run?"
"Run?" Aziraphale's forehead lined with impatience and confusion. There was no terror, and that was a problem, but Crowley couldn't manage to dig the words out of his throat to express this.
"Whatever do you mean—" Aziraphale said, then turned as he realised that Crowley's line of vision went behind him - the sunglasses made it hard to tell. The children, always idly curious, followed suit; and saw Adam's dog ... no, his hellhound.
Fur and muscle bulged on the massive frame, as if the beast were still settling into itself; with every rippling twitch it growled as if it had swallowed a motorbike, which it probably could have managed. Its eyes were mad and red, and its teeth were there. Undeniably, sharply, innumerably there.
"Dog?" Adam whispered.
The growl throbbed an unceasing threat, and the hellhound managed to take a step towards the group.
"Yeah, c'mere!" Adam said, natural command returning strength to his voice. "Good boy! Come-"
His arms were eagerly outstretched, and the hound nearly took off his fingers. Then Aziraphale jumped in front of him, like an intensely stupid angel with more goodwill than could possibly come naturally.
Crowley lurched forwards, slipping-almost-falling, hooking one arm around Aziraphale's neck and jerking him out of the way. As he fell to his knees he followed the arc of the hellhound's leap over them; it twisted inelegantly in mid-air, snapping after its targets, losing its balance so that it landed with a resounding smack on the mud.
Aziraphale scrabbled to his feet before Crowley and yanked him up by the collar. The jerk shook Crowley into the abrupt realisation that he was also behaving idiotically, and he moved rectified this: "Run!" he shouted, grabbing hold of the nearest children.
"No!" yelled Adam - it came from his right, where Aziraphale was running with Brian and Adam in tow.
The hound was behind them. Crowley could hear the sounds of panting and thudding of its paws - and he could sense it on a deeper level, a presence that was heated, malicious and horribly familiar. The thought fluttered through his mind: Was I ever like this?
"Leggo!" Adam squealed, fury breaking his voice. "I've got to save Dog!"
The boy was going to stop, wasn't he? Crowley could tell, he could feel it—
Not as much as Adam felt the smack Pepper gave him. The girl's fist flashed out as she shrieked in terror and anger. Crowley saw the movement from the corner of his vision; he clutched Pepper's collar in his right hand, and Adam was held in Aziraphale's left, so she was close enough for the strike to land on Adam's eye, though with no real force.
Aziraphale jerked the shocked boy along - then they were scrambling up the bank. The hound snarled at each rock they dislodged on to it, and Crowley nearly managed a cheer when he heard its yelp as it lost balance and skittered down the slope.
The Bentley had already started. These old cars, Crowley knew, could be very attuned to their owner's wishes. He dived into the car, and even managed to let the children do the same. With a second and a squeal of tyres, the Bentley was careening away from the Pit.
Crowley cleared his throat. "Adam, I believe now is the time to think really hard about what should not be happening."
"Yes, yes," Aziraphale said breathlessly. "Think your dog back to normal!"
"I was talking about the mud they're getting on the car seat, but yes, that too."
"What happened?" Adam's voice was raw. "Why's Dog like that? I didn't - did I?"
"Adam!" Pepper said. "I didn't mean to hit you when I hit you! But I had to!"
"Shut up!" he snapped. "What's wrong with Dog, mister Crowley?"
The sharp little insight in the question sliced down Crowley's spine. Adam had asked him, specifically...
"I ... it must have happened because I changed everything near us back to its original form," Crowley said. "That was the form your dog had when it was sent to you on your eleventh birthday. It was - it is a hellhound. Always has been."
"It's behind us," said Brian, in a way that made it sound likely that semi-digested chocolate would soon join the mud on the seat.
Crowley looked up into the rear-view mirror and saw a dark, quick moving shape.
"That's not your dog, Adam!" Crowley snapped. "That's ... I don't know, Heart-of-midnight! Deathbringer! And Aziraphale and I don't have the authority to do anything about that."
Crowley had to force himself to look away from the beast. There was something hypnotic about the way it loped after them, dried mud cracking off its coat to reveal glossy black fur. Crowley suppressed the urge to find rodents to stare at until he was reassured of his place in the food chain.
"You can think it back into being Dog," Aziraphale said urgently. He'd twisted around in his seat and alternated between staring out the back window and at Adam. "That's how you changed it from being a hellhound the first time. You gave it its name and function. Simply name it again, and think of how your dog used to be."
Crowley looked into the rear view mirror in time to see Adam shake his head vigorously. "What is that supposed to bloody well mean?"
"Hush, Crowley! Let Adam explain himself." Aziraphale's posture belied his words; he moved stiffly as he shifted to better look at Adam; Crowley was now the only one who seemed to be giving undivided attention to the figure of the hellhound.
"Dog's my friend," said Adam. "I couldn't think at him."
"Dog's getting closer," said Crowley.
Brian, Pepper and Wensleydale looked through the rear window in unison, and Adam looked at his friends' reactions with pain in his expression.
"Adam, you simply must take action," Aziraphale said. "You know you have to."
"That creature's not your friend right now," Crowley said. "It's a beast of hell."
"But you're a demon!" Pepper said.
"I've been up here for six millennia. That dog's been here for a few years, probably hating every adorable puppy moment you made it have. It's remembered its true nature all this time, and I don't think it's eager to being a mongrel." Crowley was working hard to keep a panicked hiss out of his voice, and paused to make his words as s-less as possible. "Not when it has caught up with the car."
The dark shape was beside his window. Crowley thought that surely even the humans could feel the hellfire presence with their deeper senses. They did not scream, but the three normal children scrambled over each other to the corner of the backseat furthest from the driver's seat.
Adam whispered, "You change him."
"Its master must name it, and its master must give it purpose," Aziraphale said, before Crowley could snap. Crowley thought he caught the angel's eyes lingering on the way he was clutching at the steering wheel, but was too busy trying to ignore the raging hound keeping pace with his window to care.
"Can't," Adam said, almost inaudibly, hunching up with his knees against his chest.
"You three! Tell your friend to be sensible!" Crowley yelled at the other children.
The looked back, wide-eyed with terror. But Brian said, "If Adam won't do that to Dog ... Adam wouldn't ever do that to one of us. Adam shouldn't, if he doesn't want to." He was staring at the loping form of the hound. "Not just by thinking..."
"You're the ones always telling him not to think so much!" Pepper shouted, furiously meeting Crowley's eyes in the rear-view mirror. Wensleydale didn't provide hope either; he was pale and shaking, but his mouth stayed resolutely shut. When the leader of your gang could turn you into a donut at his whim, you tended to take a firm approach on loyalty.
"Oh dear," said Aziraphale, imbuing the words with a depth of feeling that somehow managed to summarise the situation perfectly.
Then there was a turnoff in the side-road, and the hound ran away.
Crowley hit the brakes. By the time he'd realised what an immensely stupid move that was and began fumbling to restart the car, it had dawned on other parts of his brain that the hound continued to ignore them in spite of the fact that they presented a sitting duck of a target. It was racing pell-mell down the centre of the road.
Adam shot up from the seat. "Dog!" he yelled.
"Let it run!" Crowley whipped around to face him. "If you're not getting rid of it then don't call it back here!"
"Crowley can get some of his associates from Down There to deal with this, I'm sure," Aziraphale said, managing to keep the lingering hysteria in his voice to a bare minimum. "Isn't that right, Crowley?"
"Um," said Wensleydale. In much the same way that Aziraphale's 'oh dear' had carried dark expanses of fear and despair, there were entire prophecies of doom came laden in that sound, and from the nature of the speaker, you knew that he had used pure logic to find that doom.
"That road..." said Wensleydale. "It, um ... the first house along it is Anathema's cottage."
Anthony J. Crowley found the J-dot combo to be an important part of his name.
It was a mundane mystery that could be made into a topic of conversation in its own right, which could be raised with a suitably flirty air and lead to greater temptation.
The regularity with which the tactic worked was astounding. Over and again, the same thing could be said to different people, and though the results were relatively small-scale - a few marriages growing steadily more bitter, some infidelity or jealousy - they were reliable.
Crowley was amused by the way he could use people, and at the same time fascinated. You'd think they'd learn simply by the weight of collective experience. By rights, it should become some kind of cultural osmosis; but he'd found that every human was uniquely stupid, and every one liked to use that stupidity to the utmost of their ability.
If asked, Crowley would not have admitted to having much fondness for individual humans and the things they did, but in practise, he could see a kind of beauty in each silly, tiny life. He liked it. He liked people. He might even, under certain circumstances, find himself quietly shattered at the thought of a particular life reaching its impending end...
Crowley stared at the hindquarters of the hound and wondered if Newt would be at the cottage too. With the way today was going, they'd both be there, celebrating the discovery that Anathema was pregnant.
The Bentley rattled as he eked that little bit extra out of its engine, and he took some sadistic pleasure in it. He had learnt the art of the suicide rush well.
"Crowley?" Aziraphale's whisper sounded pale.
"Will we make it in time?"
"I don't know, angel. The hound is clearly dying to cause damage." He turned his head a little to speak over his shoulder: "I daresay it's getting ready to rip apart the whole town!"
"Shut up," Adam said sullenly. "It's your fault."
Crowley urged the car to go faster.
They'd be there soon; both the car and the hound were being driven by infernal power, and it seemed to equal out pretty well. The hound had a head start, but Crowley was closing the gap. Not that closing the gap would do much good.
"Adam, seriously now," Crowley said. He wrung the words out from the parts of him he tried to ignore in order to lead a happier life. "I made a mistake, but you're the only one who can put it right. This isn't only about you and your pet, it's about everyone in Lower Tadfield."
There was an obnoxious silence.
"Look, if you don't put the hellhound back to rights, we'll have to kill it."
He was expecting the silence to continue - and continue it did - but surprised himself by finding that he was waiting for Aziraphale's exclamation of "Oh, my dear, they're just children".
He glanced at the angel and was met a grim look and a nod, which he returned. Then Aziraphale looked forward at the hound. "We're almost there," he said.
Crowley smiled with a corner of his mouth. It was good to have reliable back up.
"All right," he said. "Just so you know, children, I'll give you the basics on hellhounds: in essence, they're evil. It's made to cause pain, and it will like doing so. They're smarter than the average dog, too, so it probably has a plan of sorts."
"What kind of plan?" Wensleydale asked.
"The hellhound has been a little spark inside Dog for years. It probably feels humiliated, so I think it's going for revenge."
"So you think Dog will hurt Anathema?" Adam asked.
Then there was no more time to talk. They'd reached the cottage and so had the hound. Crowley slammed the brakes, gave everyone whiplash and cured it in an instant. They piled out and screamed at the woman in the garden: "Into the cottage! Anathema! Run!"
Anathema looked up, the hound bayed in delight, and Anathema dropped her herbs and ran for the cottage.
Aziraphale snatched a rock off the road and passed a hand over it in blessing, then hefted it rock determinedly - but the hound was at the cottage door, which Anathema had been too late to shut. The hound stalked through the door with slow steps, as if savouring the moment, its muscles rippling in a show of strength. Then it thrust itself over the threshold with a great, snarling growl, and Anathema screamed.
It had happened in less than seconds, and now time stretched into something far too long as they all ran forward. Even Adam had a stick, and Crowley took up the idea, thinking a sword into his own hands. They were on the path to the cottage, and through the wide-open door saw—
They saw that all the fuss was entirely unnecessary.
"What on earth," Anathema gasped, waving the kitchen knife in her hand in confusion. "What happened - that dog did not look like that a moment ago!"
Dog sat on the carpet, panting. It gave them an exhausted, baleful look - slightly defused by the 'pop' of displaced air as one of its ears turned inside-out.
Adam cried out and pounced on the mongrel. Dog wagged its tail weakly as its master hugged it, and briefly licked Adam's cheek. Then the rest of the Them rushed in and swarmed over both master and dog, shrieking with delighted.
"It ... it..." said Aziraphale, the rock dropping from his hand.
"It..." Crowley agreed, forgetting about his sword in sheer surprise. They walked forwards to investigate - then Crowley yelped in shock and jumped back when he tried to step into the house.
Aziraphale whirled around. "What's wrong?" He made to move, but Crowley put up one hand to still him.
"I know that feeling. Look up, angel, over the doorway."
Aziraphale did so, and gaped. "The horseshoe nailed up there is white with heat! It's smoking!"
"They used to put those things up in the old days to guard against bad luck, demons, evil and the like," Anathema said. "You mean to tell me those old superstitions work?"
"This one does," Crowley said. "It doesn't do much more than sting me, but for lower class entities like a hell hound ... it could kill them."
"Dog came here on purpose!" Adam said, voice clear as a bell, triumphant and trusting. "Once he was thinking straight, he came here 'cause he wanted to be saved. He knew he could burn the hellhound out of himself!"
"It shouldn't be possible. A hellhound is what that animal is," said Crowley. "It was exactly what it's supposed to be." He stared at the happy reunion on the floor, uncomprehending.
He jumped when a hand came to rest on his shoulder. Beside him stood Aziraphale, looking tired but pleased.
"Let's just go home, Crowley."
Anthony J. Crowley is not one for melodrama, except for the times when he'd not entirely sure he exists. This happens on occasion, as you can't enjoy wine as much as Anthony does without sometimes getting maudlin. The real problems come when the demon Crowley - or maybe even Crawly - isn't sure either.
Six millennia of human influences wore a supernatural entity down of their own, but when Crowley couldn't avoid thinking about it, he knew there was more. He would wonder why he was damned and a demon when he'd been an angel on high - how he could be the good friend of Aziraphale, the Enemy - what everything or anything at all could mean. There were never any answers, and he'd find it hard to think that anything was real, including himself.
(It was a foolish problem. Crowley wouldn't even have had to pay attention to all the sensations the universe sent his way to reassure him that he was really there - he'd simply need to pause to realise that someone had to be having the existential angst.)
Crowley, seated on the stepladder Aziraphale used for reaching the books on his towering shelves, pretended very hard that he was supposed to be where he was. Aziraphale's approaching footsteps stopped, and though Crowley could see scuffed shoes standing expectantly in front of him, he took great care to show how absorbed he was in his book.
"Are you enjoying your reading?" Aziraphale asked eventually.
Crowley looked up and nodded sharply. "Yeah. This is fantastic. Adam made a good choice when he gave you this. It makes me feel like everything makes sense again."
"Really? A Doctor Seuss book?" Aziraphale asked.
"Yeah." Crowley gave up and tossed the slim book aside. "Perfect logic, I tell you."
"Are you all right?"
"Why wouldn't I be?"
Aziraphale smiled kindly. "It's only that your eyes are a bit too bright, and your hair isn't as dishevelled as you like it to be."
"When did you get to know me so well, anyway?" Crowley asked, feeling irritable for no good reason.
"Possibly around the time that you decided you could enter my bookshop and peruse the merchandise without so much as a by your leave."
Crowley took note of the snippiness. "Peace offering," he said, pulling a bottle of wine out from his jacket pocket in much the same way as Aziraphale couldn't pull a rabbit from a hat.
They settled in the back room of the bookshop. A glass of wine in hand, Aziraphale gave Crowley a knowing glance. "Maybe you should speak up now. It's easier to speak of and solve problems when one is sober enough to use words of more than one syllable reliably."
"It's easier to handle the problems like this," Crowley said, and got rid of the contents of his own glass. "And they never really seem to get solved even when I'm sober," he muttered, knowing that he sounded embarrassingly petulant.
"It's about the dog, isn't it? You seemed somewhat dumbfounded by that whole episode."
"The bloody hellhound," Crowley said. "You know what? I am that dog. Except that the dog's more certain about what it is than me."
Crowley poured himself more of the wine, and drank it again. "When I was trying to repair Adam's mess, I changed everything into what it originally was. It was simple bad luck that the hellhound was included in that. But see, it shouldn't have wanted to change back to being a normal dog. It should have been ... fury unleashed! Darkness prevails! Kind of thing."
"I don't see the problem," Aziraphale said. "It had been a hellhound, and it had been Adam's pet. If it's smarter than the average dog, it should be able to make a comparison and choose which scenario it prefers."
"But it goes against basic nature, you see. It goes against everything that the hound is. It shouldn't want to be something that it isn't - not to the extent that it really becomes that thing!"
"Why on Earth not, my dear?" Aziraphale sighed. "We've been doing the same thing, haven't we?"
Crowley started, then gave him a long look. "Didn't think you liked to talk like that."
"It's a realisation that's been coming since the Armageddon." Aziraphale ducked his gaze, speaking his words with great care, as if he were afraid of all the rules he was able to break with them. "We're not normal anymore, Crowley. Neither of us are exactly what we're supposed to be."
They had been close friends for many, many years, but the words still grated at Crowley. Something within him insisted that this was his polar opposite. This was the Enemy, and... "I don't know. I'm a demon, Aziraphale. If I wasn't, I'd be an angel, and I'm certainly no angel."
"What if you're becoming more human, instead?"
Crowley shook his head. "And what about the fact that I'm six thousand years old, and that I've been in Hell? They wouldn't ever be able to know what that means. Look, I still think in terms of 'us and them', angel - supernatural entity versus little mortal human being. Can't help it. And here I am, ignored by every demon there is because they're terrified of the kid Antichrist I run errands for..."
"Here we are," Aziraphale reminded him. "That's a comfort, at least."
Crowley looked up and stared at him.
Anthony J. Crowley is who he wants to be.
... A little.
Crowley is who he is ... a little.
The point is that the universe knows that it's easier to just be, and is tired of dropping him hints. If subtlety isn't working, well, time to give him what he wants.
"I don't know," Crowley said, and then dissolved into incoherency. There was something that he wanted to say, and he was terrified that he would look at Aziraphale's wonderfully familiar face until he knew what it was. "I want to understand. I want it all to make sense. Or maybe ... you see, I want..."
There was a blur in the more cosmically-attuned senses of both angel and demon, and reality reshuffled itself into something that had been coming for a long, long time, and had also been threatening never to come at all.
To ordinary senses, all this took the form of Aziraphale vanishing from his chair, then re-appearing in Crowley's lap.
"Oh, shit," Crowley said.
Aziraphale was not yet at the stage where he could form coherent utterances.
But in all the shock and astonishment, there was little discomfort beyond the physical, even though there was the sense of something fundamental having changed. Crowley helped Aziraphale to his feet, in a flustered fumble of legs and hands, and would have spoken; but the both of them swallowed words as they realised their closeness, and all the things that skin could say. Aziraphale's left hand stayed on Crowley's shoulder; Crowley still stood inches from Aziraphale.
Slowly, slowly the thought crept into Crowley's mind: there just might be ways in which this situation could turn out very favourably indeed. He looked up at Aziraphale from over his sunglasses and gave the smile of an old tempter.
Some things you just know.