ESCHATOS (slightly edited-for-ffnet version)
a Good Omens fanfic by quantum witch (c) 2008
Rating: M, slash (Crowley/Aziraphale)
Summary: An interrupted vacation. An irregular assignment. An embarrassing moment. A desperate night. A terrifying realisation. A miraculous meeting. And a happy ending.
Disclaimer: GO is not mine nor will it ever be mine, and I weep over that fact every day.
Note: "Eschatos (εσχατος): Greek – 1. (of space) furthest, uttermost, extreme; 2. the furthest in any direction; uppermost; lowest, deepest; innermost; the last, hindmost; 3. (of degree) the utmost, last, worst; 4. (of time) last, to the end." In Christianity, eschatology is the study of the End Times – the Second Coming, the Judgment of Humanity, the Rapture, the Kingdom of God, and the Apocalypse, etc. Bless you Vulgarweed, Beta Supreme, for de-purpling me as much as can be done. Warning: A mixture of stupid humour and angst, may result in explosion.
Further Note: Initial concept based on part of a speech given by Gaiman at a book signing back in 2005, concerning plotline ideas for a GO sequel, discussed with Pratchett in 1991. Transcript at the end of story.
Artist Note: Cover illustration is my own work, titled "Holy F*uck".
Archived (in full unedited form): library. good-omens. com [author: Quantum Witch]
(you must remove spaces in address before you copy/paste link)
July 6, 2009
Crowley moaned in delight as the slick and skillful hands moved over his body. He was having a very hard time deciding if the pleasure was sinful or divine.
Oddly enough, he'd never actually gotten a massage before, and regretted having missed the experience all these years. The young woman above him, taking him to the edge of bliss, was getting one hell of a tip afterward. As the oiled hands pressed into his muscles with such delicious precision, what was left of his mind wandered.
The demon was in Las Vegas, in the plush and very pricey Four Seasons Hotel, enjoying the high life and taking it even easier than he usually did. This was because it was nearly twenty years past what should have been the End of the World, he hadn't been contacted even a single time by anyone from Down Below, and he was finally convinced that they'd given him up for lost. Millennia of tension was melting away and this fabulous profession of massage was making it all the better.
Three weeks he'd been in America, and he was absolutely loving it. The weather in Vegas was far preferable to that in London. And so was the entertainment. Adam Young may have said "no messing people about", but he probably didn't mean "no subtly encouraging them to do stuff they would have done anyway, any sooner than they'd have done entirely on their own". And since Crowley hadn't had to lift a finger to enhance the sinfulness in this town, it made not a whiff of difference.
He'd been giving serious thought to relocating. He and the angel could just… call each other. Or visit sometime. Or something. If the angel even cared anymore. That was the only thing still bothering him, to be honest, which he was trying very hard not to be.
Ages of working-against-but-mostly with Aziraphale had become a part of life. But the Arrangement was unnecessary now, and without it they really didn't have much in common. Crowley had his car and clothes and people to not entirely mess with, and the angel had his books.
Damned angel and his damned books. Crowley frowned without realising it.
Best just to try and forget it all. Another decade or so, and he probably would.
Anyway, being tied down to anyone, especially a dusty old-fashioned prude of an angel… well, it wasn't his style. Vegas was his style. And it was bloody well time he'd gotten out of the far too often cold and rainy British Isles and someplace better suited to a reptile.
When his body was finally pummeled into submission, he oozed off the table. The masseuse left his 180 Degree Suite * considerably richer. Then Crowley soaked for an hour in his huge marble tub, sipping margaritas. After that, he dressed in his finest, ready for an evening out. The whole town was lousy with people to see, shows to watch, casinos if he cared to gamble (possibly without cheating), and fantastic restaurants from one end of the Strip to the other. And of course reservations were still something that happened to other people. Instant gratification every direction one turned. He didn't think Vegas would ever be boring.
For getting around town, he'd rented a candy-apple red Mustang convertible.** American cars were a whole new breed to him, as was driving on the right, but if he made a mistake in a rented car, he wouldn't feel like he'd damaged something precious.
The sun was fast going down and he had cruised the Strip for about half an hour, when he sensed a presence that he just shouldn't have. He slammed on the brakes, leaving the driver behind cursing, which was all right. And there it was, among the crush of tourists, the source of the oh-so familiar tingling sensation.
A plump blond angel in tweed, looking as out of place as, well, an angel in Las Vegas.***
"What the fuck?" Crowley muttered, watching Aziraphale study a map so intently it might have been a priceless volume. The angel glanced around in mild confusion, then sighed with relief and walked into Caesars Palace.
Crowley gave a rare blink. Had Aziraphale followed him for some reason? Or was it just the oddest vacation spot the angel could think of?
After almost an hour driving up and down the Strip, mulling things over, Crowley gave in to temptation. He parked and went inside. The angel was nowhere to be seen but he could sense trace amounts of nominal holiness in the aether. Aziraphale had gone through the checkout area, and had taken the elevator to the Centurion Tower's hotel rooms.
Crowley slithered down a hallway and up to the correct room, scenting the aura beyond the door. And it seemed somehow… furtive?
Whatever Aziraphale was doing in there, it could be even more interesting than the Palomino¹. Maybe.
* So named for the span of its view of the city, not for the temperature. That would have been a bit hot even for Crowley.
** The Bentley was in storage. After watching it burn up during Armgeddon, he wasn't willing to risk the slightest ding, even if he could miracle it away.
*** Incredibly ironic, since Crowley was instrumental in the development of a Las Vegas Tourism Board advertisement campaign featuring an angel and a demon, both of whom leeringly declared that "What happens in Vegas, stays here".
¹ Operating since 1969, the Palomino is an all-nude strip club with both female and male dancers, and is still decorated in its original retro-red-with-sleazy-low-lighting scheme. It has a rather sordid history including a murder-for-hire scandal. Crowley found it tackily charming, in its way. Besides, it was the only nude club that served liquor.
Aziraphale stood in the small room, unsure what to do with himself. He didn't even have a suitcase to unpack. Not even a book. He'd left London at the drop of a very big hat, and there'd been no reason to bring anything along. He would only be here a single night anyway, and it promised to be long and lonely and a little scary.
He sighed heavily. Not because he was horribly jetlagged, or even because of the shabby condition of the hotel room or the noise of the partiers in the adjacent one. He sighed because his last night on earth would be spent in such a place. And without even being able to say good-bye to the one person who mattered to him in the slightest, because he had no idea where said person was.
Stop thinking about him, and about your fate. Distract yourself. Perhaps some television, to drown out both background noise and worrisome thoughts.
He rarely watched television, and had to examine the remote control carefully to understand how to turn the set on let alone change channels. Then he flipped through them, uncaringly. Sports. Music – bebop, mostly. Movies, some of them classic at least. News. Game shows.
And then – good Heavens – naked bodies engaged in brazen acts of carnality.
He blushed furiously and scrabbled with the remote to change the channel quickly. What on earth was such a thing doing on a television in a hotel? Perhaps he ought to call down and complain to the management. He fumbled with the booklet near the television, looking for a phone number, and discovered that it wasn't a mistake at all. Apparently the hotel offered adult films for rent, and the snippet he'd seen was the free two minute "teaser", meant to entice the viewer into renting. Leave it to "Sin City".
Aziraphale sighed again. And flipped through the channels once more. Boring. Tedious. Mindless. Crowley'd had a hand in most of this banality. One more sigh as he thought, unavoidably, of the demon, wondering where he was and what he was doing. Aziraphale hadn't heard a single word in weeks. Of course it wasn't as though they were bound to one another, not that they had the Arrangement anymore. Keeping in contact was an option, not a necessity, and had anyway become increasingly rare. Apparently it was something he ought not to consider at all.
Once more the television reached the adult film, and Aziraphale blushed, but was a little slower to switch the channel.
Why on earth was he blushing? It wasn't as though he hadn't seen a human body naked. He was inside one, after all. And it wasn't even as though he'd never seen acts of intercourse. He'd lived a very long time and it was impossible to avoid seeing such things forever. It happened. Actively watching wasn't exactly social etiquette, of course, but the act itself wasn't supposed to be a shameful thing.
Besides… the people in these sorts of movies were performing for the express purpose of being watched, and closely. He'd avoided deliberately observing such things even though the shop next door to his own purveyed wares of this very nature. That sort of shop nearly filled his entire street, most of his neighbourhood. He'd barely noticed them, really, because such things just didn't hold any interest. Well, not prurient interest. Of course he was interested in understanding the human race and its needs, and intercourse was certainly high up on the list. It could be said, then, to be part of his duty to comprehend this aspect of humanity more fully, if not in any participatory capacity, then perhaps from a merely observational post, merely for edification…
He realised he was rationalising doing something that he ought not to do. But he only realised it after he'd been watching the film for about a minute and a half. And after two minutes he would be charged for viewing. He changed the channel.
Really, it hadn't been so very interesting after all. It was only two people * having sex. They'd been making standard sex noises. They'd been posed in standard ways. No, not so true. Aziraphale's limited knowledge on the matter could only envision a couple of variations, and he was pretty darned sure that what he'd just witnessed didn't match up. Now his curiosity was piqued, but not quite enough to switch back to the channel yet.
He considered. Angels weren't supposed to experience sexuality, it had been outlawed back in the days of the Nephilim. Some naughty apples, er angels, had spoiled the barrel, so to speak.** He shouldn't even be contemplating watching... But it wasn't an actual sexual experience, just doing the watching. It certainly wouldn't incite him to lust after a human woman, nor attempt to breed with her. If he knew one thing was irrevocably true, it was that. So, watching a show, made to be watched, wouldn't be a sin or anything…
Especially if he didn't actually pay for it.
So he retrieved the small bedside alarm clock, put it atop the television, set the timer for two minutes, and flipped the channel back to the film. He stared at the twisting and turning of bodies, observed the insertion of body parts and other objects into numerous orifices, listened to the grunts and squeals and badly forced attempts at dialogue. He puzzled vaguely over the seemingly cookie-cutter aspect of the females, with their long bleached hair, overly painted faces, clearly malformed breasts, shaved genitalia, and long fingernails that simply could not be comfortable used in the manner they were used. And the males were no more distinguishable. Each one was muscled and gleaming and had erections that architects would have been proud of.
He watched with bemused intrigue. And whenever the alarm sounded, he changed the channel. He managed to get most of the way through an hour-long movie in this manner.
And would have continued watching in peace, with minimal guilt, had the door not suddenly burst open and a grinning demon not declared with the most lascivious glee, "If you want a real show, you should come with me to the Cherry Patch ² instead of watching that crap. I'll even pay."
* Actually four, but Aziraphale hadn't paid attention long enough to notice. So many bodies in porn look so much alike that, to a casual observer, they might as well be completely interchangeable. Which, in a way, they are.
** Funny how apples caused so much trouble, right from the dawn of time…
² One of two licensed brothels in Nevada, the Cherry Patch boasts a sexual "menu" with items you wouldn't believe (and a few things you possibly wouldn't want to). Crowley was light years away from prudish, but he still marveled at what some humans could imagine to be sexy. For more details, take thyself Googling.
Aziraphale's face nearly combusted from the ensuing blush. He squawked and threw the remote at the television, somehow successfully changing the channel before the alarm sounded again. He leapt to his feet and struck a battle stance, looking for all the world as if he would gladly run Crowley through had he had more than an ice bucket within easy reach.
Crowley laughed uproariously and plopped onto the bed, quite at home. "Not only did it shock me to find you were in Vegas, but catching you watching a porno has to be the most amazing sight since… since…" He waved his hand, searching for an example. "Since nothing else. There isn't anything to compare. Didn't think you had it in you, honestly."
Aziraphale was breathing heavily, eyes wide and desperate, still not ready to accept that Crowley was here. Or that he'd been caught.
"Oh, calm down, would you?" Crowley sighed. "You'll give yourself apoplexy. In your current state, that might even be possible."
Relaxing only a tiny bit, Aziraphale demanded, "What in the world are you doing here?"
"I was here first. Extended vacation," Crowley smiled easily. "I've earned a little trip around the globe. What's your excuse for being in town? Doubt there's a book convention."
"Er." Now Aziraphale's face ceased blushing and went very pale. He slumped as he remembered all too well why he was here. He sat on the edge of the bed.
Frowning in real concern now, Crowley said, "What is it?"
"I've been… summoned." The angel's eyes went flat as he mumbled, "I received a message from On High…"
"Your people contacted you?" Crowley choked. "Fuck. And they sent you over here? Did they know I was here? Did they send you after me?"
Aziraphale turned, his gaze refocusing. "What? No! I doubt they really care, actually. And I'm not sure… I don't really think they care what happens to me, either."
Seeing the returning daze in the angel's eyes, Crowley felt a little jump in his chest. "What does that mean? What did they say?"
"They sent a letter… Here…" Aziraphale rummaged through his coat pocket and produced a piece of parchment that glowed faintly white. Though he'd already memorised its contents, he read:
"Hasten thee this instant unto the City of Sin in the desert of the New World. Upon the following morn, the seventh day of Julius' month, at seven of the clock, approach humbly to the Port of the Airships at the Seventh docking in the berth of Chi. Therewith thee shall meet a Great Host and His Holy retinue. Bring the Host forth unto the Palace of Caesar. Thy final duty for all of time is thereby fulfilled, whereupon ye art to be discharged in all fullness."
"Boy, they just cannot bring their language up-to-date, can they?"
"What a bunch of gibberish. Can't they just say 'Vegas, airport, July 7, 7am, Gate 7-C', for crying out loud?"
The demon blinked at him.
"Don't you see?" Aziraphale said softly, but sternly. "My final duty. For all time." He hung his head morosely, saying, "I… think… they're sending someone to get me. I think they might be punishing me for the Apocalypse."
Crowley frowned, slowly catching onto the line of reasoning. "You really think they would—"
"Dispose of me. Yes. I really do." Aziraphale stared blankly at the floor.
"But they can't – they wouldn't really – I mean, okay, sure, you showed up your people by stopping Armageddon and you've been colluding with a demon for a thousand… years… and… Oh."
The very demon bit his lip. He dithered internally. No. This wouldn't do, he refused to accept it. Aziraphale had done his job regardless of their personal association, and his intentions had been good. But of course, good intentions were paved over with frozen door-to-door salesmen, so it really wasn't much help.
Aziraphale said softly, "At first, I thought it might mean they were bringing me back, relieving me of duty. But on the flight over, I had a while to think about the words… and… They didn't actually say I was going back Up. Nor that I had been felled, or anything like that. So they probably don't intend any sort of torment for my misdeeds. I expect I'll just… cease to be."
Crowley was speechless. The idea of there being no Aziraphale just didn't register.
"So you see, that's why I'm here in this Godforsaken city, in a rather squalid hotel room next to another room containing what seem to be a herd of tone-deaf elephants, and watching bits of a gratuitously sexual and extremely poorly-made film." Aziraphale muttered numbly. "This is almost certainly my last night on earth. Why worry about possibly sinning? I can't enjoy anything anyway."
Crowley desperately tried to think of something to do. But there was nothing. He knew it. Aziraphale knew it. There was no comfort he could offer, especially being what he was. His presence was pointless.
But he didn't want to leave.
Swallowing, he reached out, placed his hand on the angel's hand, giving a small squeeze. "I -"
Aziraphale removed his hand and said, quietly, "Please. It's all useless. Just… I'm sorry… but, I think I would prefer to be alone… for a bit…"
Crowley, helpless and frustrated and a little angry, rose and walked slowly out of the room. Closing the door, he wondered if the sight of a forlorn Aziraphale, sitting on the edge of the bed, was to be the final one.
Crowley entered the elevator again. He made sure he was alone, of course, because if smoke started coming from his ears he didn't want to explain it to any humans. Fuming, mind racing for any option however small and unlikely, he punched the down button.
No way. That letter has to mean something else, and Aziraphale's just jumping to conclusions, that's all. They'd both been edgy off and on for the last two decades, but you'd think if something was gonna happen it would have done so long ago. Especially with the angel's people. Now Hell, they loved keeping you paranoid and wondering just when they might change their minds…
The elevator music ceased being a vapid but popular song as a deep voice let Crowley know, without a shadow of doubt, that every move he made, every step he took, they were, apparently, still watching him.
Oh can't you seeee, you belong to HELL-O, CROWLEY...
His heart nearly exploded, and he wondered if clawing his own vocal chords out so he couldn't reply, or rupturing his eardrums to pretend he hadn't heard, would excuse him. But of course it wouldn't. And that would really hurt, besides.
"Um, yes, hello," he answered meekly, cringing into the corner of the elevator, which he barely noted had stopped dead.
WE'VE BEEN LOOKING FOR YOU, CROWLEY. AND HERE YOU ARE, IN LAS VEGAS. OF ALL THE PLACES ON EARTH, THAT IS ONE OF THE EASIEST IN WHICH TO TRACE YOU.
WE ALSO SEE THAT YOU ARE NEAR YOUR… FEATHERED FRIEND.
Oh fuck oh fuck.
SOMETHING VERY SPECIAL IS COMING, CROWLEY. AND IT'S GIVEN US A SINGULAR OPPORTUNITY TO DEVISE YOUR NEXT ASSIGNMENT. OR, SHOULD WE SAY… YOUR LAST. EVER.
And then the voice told him what he was to do.
And Crowley, when the muzak started again, fell to his knees and put his curled fists against his face as if to claw his eyes out instead.
… Every single day, every word you say, every game you play, every night you stay, I'll be watching you ...
He was doomed, truly, utterly, and with total finality.
Aziraphale was still sitting on the edge of the bed, staring at the wall and trying – and failing - not to think, and feeling very very alone.
When the door slowly opened again and then shut very quietly, he smiled, feeling a wave of gratitude.
"Crowley, I was just—" Then he turned and saw the demon's face and his second of happiness fled.
Crowley was white as paper and actually looked as though he would faint. Aziraphale made to rise, but Crowley had already staggered over and joined the angel on the bed. He didn't seem to be breathing at all, but he was definitely sweating.
"What on earth—?" Aziraphale began.
"What in hell, actually," Crowley rasped. "Oh fuck. Aziraphale. Fuck it. I'm fucked. Fuck."
"What? Please, tell me!"
"They contacted me. Down Below. They did it just now. They gave me an assignment." Crowley shook his head in a futile attempt at denial, his voice a low monotone. "No coincidences, none, all of it planned, both sides planned this…"
"What are you talking about?" Aziraphale demanded, more afraid than ever.
"Apparently whither thou goest, angel…"
The moment of confusion gave way to terror. "You… they… same place and time?"
"So it would seem. And it's pretty clear they want me dead. If I'm lucky, haha, I'll go the same as you think you will, just – snap – wiped out of existence. Won't have to go back Downstairs for more torture. I think that's what they mean. You're right. Nothing matters… It's all useless…"
Aziraphale's heart felt squeezed in a vise. No, no coincidence at all. Ineffable. Insidious. Both sides in agreement about their executions. And in full view of one another. It was absolutely the most horrible thing they could have come up with. He found himself actually fighting back tears. He hadn't even been this scared during Armageddon, perhaps because, deep down, he'd somehow known it wouldn't be the end. But this time… oh God, this time...
For many long minutes they sat side by side, alternately staring at the wall, the floor, each other's hands, and finally each other's faces.
And eventually Crowley, having reached some sort of internal conclusion, removed his sunglasses, very deliberately laid them on the bed, and spoke.
"Aziraphale, I… I've got a question. And if you really feel offended by it, then you can smite me all you want, doesn't matter…"
"What is it?"
"Have you ever really been interested in sex?"
"… What?" Aziraphale twitched in surprise.
"Because I'm just wondering, since we're both doomed anyway, it won't matter what we do or don't do before we die, so maybe we ought to make the best of things and just enjoy what's left of it and get laid."
Aziraphale gawped. "Get – Wh- If I were even interested, what good would that do?"
"Clearly you do have some sort of interest. You were watching the film."
"Out of mild curiosity, nothing more!"
"You had an erection when I first came into the room."
"I most certainly did no– "
"Did. Even if you weren't paying attention consciously. You did."
"Well, it must be just a natural reaction. Human bodies—"
"Sure, you wake up in the morning and it's just there of its own accord. Sometimes it pops up just because it wants to, sure. But when you're watching something like that film and you're getting stiff, it's because you're interested. Denial doesn't always equal river, angel." Crowley managed the tiniest half-hearted smirk.
Pursing his lips, Aziraphale grumbled. "Fine, yes. I was intrigued. But I ask again, what good would it do?"
Speaking softly and seriously, Crowley said, "To get laid before you die? Well, if you want to spend your last hours in misery, thinking about your imminent demise with nothing to distract yourself, to miss out on one of the finest pleasures in the physical world and the last chance you'll ever have to enjoy it, then be my guest. Myself, I'd rather spend my remaining time drowning in pleasure, and I sure as hell don't think a nice meal and a few hundred drinks will be enough to keep my mind occupied. I want sex. And I want it very soon."
Aziraphale's eyes narrowed as he looked back at the wall. "Well, fine. Go on then," he muttered, jaw tightening. Go 'get laid', as you put it. I'm not stopping you."
And then Crowley's hand was suddenly there. There. On his… Through the trousers, but still… There.
He sat perfectly still for a moment, eyes straight ahead, bright with shock, not breathing. He didn't dare look down, because it was simply too much to encompass and looking down might fry his mind. But when Crowley's hand began to slowly move, he did turn toward the demon. Crowley's golden eyes were already upon Aziraphale's face rather than what his hand was doing. They seemed very intent indeed, as though he was trying to read Aziraphale's thoughts. Aziraphale wasn't sure he had any actual thoughts to translate.
Crowley squeezed gently but more firmly, still watching Aziraphale's face. There was reaction there – eyes twitching, searching his; lips slightly parted, breathing shallowly; cheeks bright pink. There was astonishment and confusion, yes, but nothing yet to indicate the angel was going to say "stop".
Neither of them said a single word. It seemed neither of them could find a voice to say anything with. So Crowley decided to keep going until one of them did, or until he was brutally discorporated for what he was doing.
He groped with sincerity now; fingers curled below, cradling and massaging, and thumb above, rubbing firmly over the increasing hardness. Aziraphale's breathing was unsteady but he kept looking into Crowley's eyes, though his own had gotten a bit glazed. The demon went on for a moment or two in this way, then got more bold and quickly unfastened the angel's trousers, zipped them down, and shoved his hand past the underpants. Crowley didn't look down or say anything, even when Aziraphale finally let his eyes nearly close for just a moment, breath hitching sharply.
Stroking gently, Crowley wondered how long it would take before one of them cracked and spoke, or at least looked away from one another. Though Aziraphale was now struggling to hold still, biting his lip, his eyes increasingly foggy, Crowley continued. It was a miracle the angel was still sitting upright. The white-knuckled grip Aziraphale had on the edge of the bed was, indeed, the only thing preventing collapse.
When it was obvious the angel was going to climax, he opened his mouth as though to speak. But he remained mute in awe at the sight of Aziraphale's face. As tremours snaked through the angel's body, the gleam of his half-closed eyes shining with pleasure and wonder, mouth opened in a silent shout…was something Crowley simply couldn't interrupt with words. It would profane such a moment.
Aziraphale shuddered repeatedly, at last looking away from Crowley's face and toward the wall. The demon released his grip, tidied up with a mere thought, and was trying to refasten Aziraphale's trousers when the angel finally spoke.
"No… no need to bother. I… think I feel rather tired, actually. Perhaps I'll just… lie back for a bit…"
Crowley felt incredibly guilty, which he hated to feel at any time but more so because of what he'd just done. The angel seemed to be dismissing him, and might even be angry but just too embarrassed to say so.
But when he tried to rise from the edge of the bed, Aziraphale's hand on his arm stayed him.
"Would you… stay here? We both… there's no reason not to… I don't mind, really. I'd like..."
Looking back into the angel's eyes, Crowley saw they were still aglow. He nodded, inwardly grateful that he wouldn't be alone for his last night on earth.
They both stripped down to underpants (Aziraphale seemed just a bit reluctant for complete nakedness even after what had occurred, but Crowley didn't complain), and slid underneath the bed covers. Before long they were spooned together, Aziraphale holding Crowley tightly as the demon drifted into light sleep.
The angel lay afloat in his own thoughts, and rubbed his face in Crowley's soft hair, careful not to wake him. He gently kissed the demon's sharp shoulder, tasting warm skin that he realised now, when it was virtually too late, he would like to explore in detail. If he wasn't terrified to do so. At least they were together.
Crowley stirred fitfully in his arms, whimpering. Aziraphale stroked his cheek and murmured something, but Crowley awoke and turned his head. "Can't sleep?"
"It's just wasting time," Crowley whispered, "don't have much left, so… I'd rather spend it awake." He wiggled around until they faced one another.
Eyes met eyes in a way they never had before. There was desperation, fear, longing, and too much knowledge.
The only time that existed was now, for as long as they could make it last. Their world was nothing more than the tiny bubble around them at this very moment. And they wanted to draw it in tightly, hermetically seal themselves away from the universe.
Hands began to stroke. Arms, necks, faces, chests. Lips grazed lips. Tongue glided against tongue. Legs slid together, between and around one another. Hips pressed, twisted gently. And eventually remaining clothes were discarded.
Time vanished entirely. Neither had the slightest conception of how long they spent touching and kissing and whispering of pleasures given and received.
Flesh so hot and moist. Tiny gasps escaping with shallow breath. Mouth swathing velvet-hardness. Wordless begging groans. Lithe body sliding atop softer one. Slippery. Pressure. Admission. Heat. Clench. Gasp.
Aziraphale watched, through a fevered haze, Crowley's slithering form riding him. The demon writhed so very slowly. Climbing and descending the mountain of pleasure thrust within him. Air wavered in the heat around his body. Eyes all but closed, rolled back and glittering. Sinuously rippling torso and hips, hypnotic, serpentine. Slender hands roaming up his own chest and throat, back down, over Aziraphale's stomach, up to the lips, back again. Never enough touch, impossible to feel enough.
Crowley's ecstasy astonished Aziraphale. His own pleasure astonished him. Screw watching porn, the real thing was far more engrossing.
They had moved slowly together for an eternity but Crowley felt climax nudging inside him, and began to ride more quickly as it approached. Aziraphale's hand pushed him higher. It rose and rose, crested achingly slow, stretching him nearly to the heavens, and finally released him to fall spent and gasping on the angel's body.
Aziraphale was stroking fingertips gently along his spine, kissing his hair, whispering in wonderment. Crowley felt all this in a dazed delight, but also felt the angel inside him. He felt incomplete. Wiggling his hips, he made it obvious without words that Aziraphale had left a job unfinished. When the angel failed to coordinate his thrusts from below, inexperience frustrating them both, Crowley slid off his body and tugged him over and up and above.
Long legs were wrapping around Aziraphale's hips and he was slipping into soft, slick fire. He had banked his own fire before, content to feel Crowley's pleasure, but Crowley's whispers blew across the coals and now his body was the fire, the demon's body wrapped around it for warmth in the darkness.
He wanted to ride slowly as he'd been ridden. He wanted to fall forever into this beautiful Hell, burn forever inside the Pit that was his lover's body. Arms were grasping him, pulling him up instead of down. Hell was upside down, fire in every direction. It flared bright as lightning in his eyes, his ears, his flesh, and he rode it to Heaven. His body, incinerated, clenched and spasmed and shattered.
Aziraphale collapsed entirely upon the demon, mind wiped clear. Just as he had done earlier, Crowley was now placing lips gently upon his face.
Then Crowley whispered, "At least now… I have something of you to take with me."
The words smashed into Aziraphale's mind with the force of a hammer. He raised his head suddenly, and saw the demon's pale face, the stiff and unreal smile. "Oh, Crowley… oh God."
"I have this much of you," he said of the melting heat inside his body, "I'll have it with me until they destroy me. I'll have it to the last second."
Aziraphale stroked the demon's cheek, which was growing cold so quickly. He had no words. Words did not exist.
But time had begun to exist again, had crept into their world on tiny sharp claws that broke the bubble.
The clock declared it was morning. The final one.
With silent resignation, sated bodies and shuddering hearts, they rose, dressed, and left.
July 7, 2009
Gate 7-C was entirely empty of humans, of course. The angel and demon stood numbly together and stared out the windows at the runway.
Precisely at seven o'clock, a large silver plane – or something that at least appeared to be a plane; it was enormous and it had wings – descended from the sky, circled once before landing, taxied up to the boarding bridge.
They stood before the doorway that would soon reveal their fates.
Out stepped two very tall, muscular angels. They weren't blatantly angelic – they wore black suits, white shirts, black ties, and dark glasses, and had communication earpieces – but they were definitely angels. The aura of smug divinity hovering around their inflated heads was unmistakable. And they were glaring at Crowley with undisguised hatred.
Blinking stupidly, Aziraphale and Crowley felt their numbness fading rapidly.
The two angels tapped their earpieces as they listened to orders, and stepped to either side of the doorway, waiting at stiff attention.
Then, quite without fanfare, a short human in rumpled tan slacks, white shirt and scuffed sandals, sunglasses pushed atop a shaggy dark head, stepped out. The man looked around briefly, then turned to the demon and angel, and through a short beard beamed a bright smile.
The smile reached out and embraced them both, and told them exactly Who He was.
"Oh my dear Lord," Aziraphale breathed.
"Yes?" Jesus asked with a wry grin.
Two more angels had come up behind him, identical to the first two. There stood the Christ Himself, small and casual and unassuming, surrounded by tall, dark, over-starched pillars of clichéd angelic security.
Aziraphale could only goggle, until Crowley tugged gently on his sleeve. He looked away from the Lord to see the demon had all but turned transparent from lack of blood.
"They really do mean me to die," the demon croaked, "and they want it to be in unspeakable agony."
"What do you—"
"My orders were to…" Crowley shuddered, gathering his words. "I was told to meet whomever you were meeting and to… strike him in the face."
Five angels turned toward him now; one with a gasp and unutterable disbelief on his face, the other four with flaming menace. The security entourage were reaching into their jackets, but whatever weapons they actually had there were surely not pistols. Crowley cringed and closed his eyes.
"All right, all right, it's fine," Jesus said gently, waving the angels back. They reluctantly stood aside as he walked toward Crowley. "Ah, the Serpent, is it? Well, if those are your orders, friend, then you'd better follow them."
Aziraphale's mouth was flapping wordlessly. A tiny squeak fluttered out before he finally said, "No, you can't—"
"I know," Crowley murmured, "one touch and I'll be obliterated. It'll be worse than a holy water enema. With that, my guts would just boil and I'd feel like piranhas were eating me from the inside out and eventually I'd melt into a puddle of blistered glue after screaming my throat to bloody shreds. But with this… This might actually hurt."
"Crowley! You cannot strike the Lord in the face!" Aziraphale shouted, moving as though to stand between them.
Jesus shook his head. "No, he must do as he was told. He was ordered."
"So come." Jesus motioned him forward, and Crowley felt himself unable to resist. "Strike me." The Christ offered his cheek with a soft smile. "Obey your orders. To the very letter."
And suddenly, as though a warm breeze wafted through his mind, Crowley understood. He stepped close, drew his hand back, and then moved it forward. His palm landed, softly but firmly, flat against the Christ's cheek, and brushed across it in slow motion.
A strike, as defined by the dictionary, "to come into contact with", from the Latin stringere, meaning "to touch lightly". His orders, obeyed to the letter. No one had specified how hard the strike needed to be.
Jesus smiled, and turned his face the other direction. "Care to try the other side?"
Crowley laughed weakly, staring at his hand in amazement. He was alive, he was whole, he had struck Jesus Christ in the face. Shit.
Aziraphale gaped. "Oh my dear Lord," he wheezed.
"Yes." Jesus said again, grinning broadly. "The Principality, I presume. Well, come along. You're my escort to Caesars Palace. Busy day ahead, so lead the way."
Blindly, angel and demon walked out of the terminal. There was a limousine waiting at the front of the airport (Crowley's rental was too small for everyone), and they all piled in. Two of the security angels got in front, one as chauffer, and the other two in back, watching Crowley and Aziraphale with confusion and distaste.
Aziraphale and Crowley sat in silence, waiting for what they couldn't even fathom anymore.
Jesus chuckled. "Oh, man. Aziraphale, didn't they tell you anything about what to expect?"
Aziraphale cleared his throat, and said, "Er, I was sent a missive. It was rather—"
"All flash and no substance. Yeah, I was afraid of that when I tried dictating the note." Jesus rolled his eyes, then offered them both a drink.
Crowley bit through the top of a bottle with his teeth and downed half the liquid before anyone could even try to pour a him a glass. He grimaced. Water. With a small gesture, he turned it into champagne.
"Thought I held the patent on that trick," Jesus laughed. A wave and there was wine all around.
"So," Aziraphale said after a hefty drink of his own, "what is actually going on?"
"I have returned, of course," Jesus smiled. "Don't worry, it's not the Apocalypse again. We decided that John's prophecies ought to be edited, heavily. Should've been done ages ago, but you know the bureaucracy Upstairs."
"Indeed," Aziraphale sighed.
"Well, the whole book was a nightmare of loopholes and contradictions and, poor guy, hallucinations. Told him to lay off the 'shrooms, man."
Crowley gave a short bark of laughter, then bit his tongue when the two big angels glared at him.
"Then what is left?" Aziraphale asked, fingers fiddling with his refilled glass. "What are we to expect?"
"You, my friend, can expect to finish your job of escorting me to Caesars, then off you go on your merry way."
Aziraphale's brow creased. "I'm… dismissed, then? That's it? No… smiting?"
"Smiting? Hah, poor angel. They really have messed this whole thing up. Don't let an angel who's never been to earth write a letter to one that lives there." Jesus shook his head, took a sip of his own champagne, and explained. "Okay, here's the deal. I was getting set to return and Father, with His sense of humour, thought Sin City was hilariously appropriate for the first stop. And being taken to Caesars Palace, how ironic. Arriving on July 7, at 7am, at Gate 7-C… my number, you know, 777, then an extra 7 for good measure and the C for Christ. Should have heard Him giggle over it. But there is something portentous to it all, I suppose, so I'll go along. These guys," he thumbed at the huge angels, "are here to make sure no unfriendly types make life any harder. Makes me look like some bigshot, which kind of negates the good old humble aspect, but Father insisted.
"Anyway, as a sort of protocol, you were called so I'd be met by Heaven's ambassador on earth and escorted to my first destination." He looked at Crowley now. "And seeing Hell's agent on earth alongside wasn't much of a surprise. You don't really belong to Hell anyway, Crowley. Certainly not anymore. They may have wanted you dead… but they didn't count on loopholes and contradictions." His grin was borderline diabolical. "Both sides are far too literal sometimes.
"So," he said, waving all that aside, "the point of my being back is to remind people that the Old Laws were meant to be set aside when the New Laws were handed down by me. They never did figure that out and it's been two thousand years. Mucking it all up, misquoting me, twisting everything around and making themselves completely miserable." He sighed, shaking his head. "And Father told me it would be rough the first time. I'm hoping now, with the faster communication of this new world, that I can get the message across more clearly. And of course, hoping that people will listen a little harder."
He smiled at the demon and angel. "Not many of those laws ever applied to you two, but you've wound up trying to live by most of them anyway. That's pretty special."
"Uh. Thanks," Crowley said. He frowned into his bottle. "So… speaking of me, what happens now? Downstairs is bound to notice I've not been turned into vapour."
Jesus shrugged. "Won't matter what they notice. You are no longer in their jurisdiction. Lines cannot be crossed to bring you back. You are free. Your job is over."
The demon gaped.
"Both of you, in fact. You've worked long and hard, together. Helped prevent Armageddon. Deserves a medal, let alone a vacation. Dismissed with honours." Jesus raised his glass in toast, a huge grin on his face. "The force is with you both. Live long and prosper."
Demon and angel gaped in unison.
"Wow, he's like super-nerd," Crowley whispered.
Aziraphale's elbow nearly broke his ribs.
Jesus laughed and the champagne flowed like milk and honey, though it tasted better and got one far drunker.
Two hours later, Crowley and Aziraphale were lying on their stomachs in Crowley's suite at the Four Seasons, being massaged by attractive young females. It had taken nearly that long to convince the angel it was far less sinful to enjoy someone being paid to rub away the tension than to fuck a demon for over five hours, as he'd already done. Said that way, Aziraphale had to agree, and was now finding the sensation of warm oil and firm hands digging into his back to be very nearly as pleasurable. Though he wouldn't say so to Crowley.
"Can't believe it," Crowley grunted, "sending His kid to-ooh Caesars. Coulda sssstayed here, 's much nicer."
"'S the humbler cho-oooo-ice," Aziraphale sighed, "gotta keep uuuhn-up the image..."
"Yeah, guessss so. But th' bad jokessss. Stayin' in the new Octavius Tower-rrr, room 665 ³. Neighbour of the Beast, hah!" Crowley gave a short laugh, then groaned again in pleasure.
"True, that wa-aaah-s rather tacky. Still, it's cosmic resonance, I think. Sympathetic magic, if one can use that term-mmmm…"
The girls finished their work, accepted the generous tips, and giggled as they left the two consenting Englishmen to their own devices.
Angel and demon enjoyed another few hours in the suite, with brunch, drinks, and a leisurely spell in the jacuzzi. Aziraphale initially declared the jets to be unnecessarily erotic but Crowley demonstrated exactly why they weren't unnecessary, for at least another hour, and eventually they dragged themselves from the water, exhausted and possibly pruned for life.
As they stretched out on the enormous bed, Aziraphale sighed. Crowley had always been a special thing in his life, without question, but also without answers. Now he realised Crowley had been feeling the same way. Demonic pride, or just demonic nature, had prevented him showing it clearly. The last ten hours now filled in for the last several hundred years.
Whatever Crowley's thoughts were now, they weren't nearly so profound. He was playing absently with a damp golden curl across Aziraphale's forehead, smiling mischievously, at the same time playing with damp golden curls elsewhere. Cheeky thing. Aziraphale gently removed the demon's lower hand. For the moment.
"Hm," he mused, stroking Crowley's lip to remove the pout, "I wish I could be there at his first meeting, to see what he'll do…"
"I'm sure there'll be other chances." Crowley nipped at the fingertip. "He said he'd be on earth for years."
"But today is the start. A new beginning, instead of the end."
"And you were there to meet him. The first at the gate. Hell of an honour, don't you think?"
Aziraphale smiled. "It was. Almost as much as what he said when we left him at Caesars…"
Crowley smirked, recalling how Jesus had placed their hands together, enfolded them with his own and declared they were well-matched.
So he was bound to the angel after all, as if he didn't know it anyway. Looked like Vegas was only going to be a vacation spot instead of home. Wherever Aziraphale was, that was home. And all the sentimental drivel was making his brain feel like syrup.
So he quipped, "All he was missing was an Elvis costume. Then it would have been perfect."
Aziraphale sighed with fond indulgence. "You are insufferable, and I shall of course live to regret being stuck with you for eternity."
"Tell me that when the world really ends and I might believe it."
They kissed, slowly, savouring each tiny second. Time rippled around them, only daring to graze their edges. Fingers drifted over skin. Breath flowed into breath. Crowley had just rolled atop Aziraphale, and they had just established a pleasant rhythm rubbing together... when time did a strange little dance.
A rush of unnameable energy pulsed through the aether, through their bodies, through their true selves. It was hot and cool and fresh and ancient and new and pure and colorful and real and laughing. They shuddered violently, pieced back together almost before they were torn apart. Their bodies lifted a full foot off the mattress, and dropped down again in a sweating heap. They had also both climaxed, mostly out of shock.
"What the fucking hell—?" Crowley gasped.
"Him," Aziraphale breathed. "His meeting with… those businessmen, the heads of global corporations… the thing he was telling us about… the 'subtle influence' he would exert, to encourage mankind…"
"Oh. I didn't realise his subtlety would be so un-freaking-subtle."
"Yes. And that was just the first wave. He's got more meetings… in more cities… with governments…"
"With Adam," Crowley chuckled.
Aziraphale groaned. "Strangely, I think they'd get on rather well.'
"I wonder if each of those meetings be this rough on us."
The angel groaned again. "I wonder if we'll survive after all."
Crowley mopped up a salty puddle from Aziraphale's stomach and put his finger in his mouth.
"If we don't, we'll definitely go out with a bang."
The pillow over his face didn't quite smother the laughter.
³ Fact. It happens in 2009. See here - www. vegas. com/resorts/caesars/
(you must remove spaces in the address when you copy/paste links)
Transcribed from Gaiman's 2005 speech at a book reading/signing event, as best as I could manage from a grainy cell phone video overlapped by loud laughter:
(talks of discussion with Terry in 1991 about the idea of a sequel to Good Omens, with the working title "668, Neighbour of the Beast") "… Mostly about Crowley and Aziraphale coming to America, and there are some odd bits in it, including Aziraphale attempting to watch an entire pornographic movie in the free two minute clips they give you.* See it wasn't actually a sin if you got to watch it in those free two minutes. And he's ticking off the minutes he's seen in a little notebook (inaudible)… sit there waiting for eternal (inaudible) writing in it… And we had Jesus, actually, was in it, and he came down, the Second Coming, and he was going to come down in a big silver plane, and there were going to be lots and lots of angels around with dark glasses and little earpieces. And once down here he was meant to be sort of visiting..." (video cuts off)
* Meaning this takes place in a hotel room. While there's no mention of what city this was to take place in, Las Vegas planted itself firmly in my mind as soon as I heard this speech and it refused to leave.