Notes: This is gonna be a long one, I'm afraid. ^^; The actual plot for this story has been sitting on my hard drive for several weeks, possibly even months, but my muses would simply not work on it. I've tried to start this story twice, and each time failed - third time is the charm, so let's hope this pulls all the way through.
Advice? Criticism? I'd love to hear from you.
He was vaguely aware, in some dark, small portion of his mind, that he shouldn't enjoy the angel's company quite so much as he did. It was dangerous enough to call Aziraphale a friend, but to honestly mean it was something else quite entirely.... All in all, Anthony J. Crowley decided, he was in a bit of a spot.
Because when you started having dreams that involved your 'friends' that shouldn't be such at all and chocolate body paint, usually you were either psychologically damaged or else.....
Or else nothing.
He had decided he was crazy. Very crazy. And he had been for quite some time now - so he deftly shoved the dream - no, the nightmare - out of his train of thought and didn't look back as it bounced to a halt alongside the proverbial tracks.
"Crowley?" Aziraphale, however, continued to stare at the demon from beneath dirty blonde bangs, eyes almost luminescent in the darkness, waiting for an answer that Crowley didn't quite have. He licked his lips. Why had he woken up from just such a dream, gnawing on his pillow, in Aziraphale's bed?
The last thing he could remember was feeling someone hit him in the jaw.
"I must have been drunker than I thought," he groaned, lifting a hand to his temple. With a thought, the hangover dissipated and Crowley smirked sheepishly into his fist.
"I should think so," Aziraphale murmured, sitting back against the pillows, his expression filled with disapproval. He was wearing flannel pajamas, plaid, with an 'A' monogrammed on the front. The sight made Crowley suppress a giggle behind the same closed fist that was guarding his smile. The angel was just....so..... damned..... "you started a brawl and passed out in record time. I had to carry you out to the corner and call a cab!" he added that last part indignantly, as if he couldn't believe the demands Crowley made on his angelic time.
"Then my Bentley...."
"Still at the parking garage."
Crowley knew perfectly well that his car would have no tickets stuffed beneath the wipers, was not parked near anything illegal, and would be looked over by any sort of gangster imaginable. Therefore, naturally, it was all true. "Damn," he hissed. "Now I have to go get it back. Why didn't you drive me home?"
No answer. The demon swore under his breath and rolled over, staring for a moment at the angel by his side. "Aziraphale-?"
Aziraphale was frozen in place, mouth half-open, his eyes focused on Crowley's face - though they were unblinking and his lips silent. He looked for a moment like a three-dimensional photograph, or a statue, or one of those new-age American commercials with lots of floating leaves and camera panning - Crowley reached out, startled, and tried to touch the angel's face.
His fingertips went right through.
"All hail Satan."
"Crawly, really, you should learn to keep your hands to yourself," That was a hissing, familiar voice. Crowley rolled over again and stared nonplused as Hastur leered at him from the doorway of Aziraphale's bedroom, as if it was the most natural thing in the world.
"Come again?" Crowley asked softly, no trace of intimidation in his voice. He had the satisfaction of sending a streak of annoyance racing across Hastur's pinched features. The hellish underling hadn't spoken with Crowley since the whole end-of-the-world affair, but there was certainly no love to be lost between the two of them - not after Crowley came quite close to dousing Hastur in holy water along with his one-time partner. It made for tension in the work place.
"You know what I'm talking about," the redhead hissed, waving a clawed hand towards the bed. "Look at you....with an angel! It's disgusting!" Hastur shook his shaggy head and produced something from his robes, deftly dangling it between two fingers. "Hold out your hands, Crawly."
"What?" Crowley did recognize the object held between Hastur's claws - it had been a while, but lessons in demonic lore tend to stick with a person. Two gems strung together on a golden chain? It could only be- "No way!"
"The angel is in real time, and you are in a sub-state of such. It would be simple for me to put these on his hands and drag him back to hell in your place. Would you rather that happen?"
Crowley's mouth opened, shut, and opened again. He emitted something rather like a disgruntled squawk, then shook his head, eyes flickering over Aziraphale's frozen profile. "No.....I understand.... or at least, I think I do. But what's this all about? And why the cuffs?"
"Cuffs?" Hastur slapped the matching jewels on the back of Crowley's hands - moments later they lit up completely, encircling his wrists with blue light. "I know not-"
Crowley turned away as a brilliant black light burst from the floor of Aziraphale's room, burning the carpet away in a puff of dark smoke. Beneath that was simply...nothing, an empty hole. Hastur took a few steps forward. "Demon Crawly, Tempter and Cause-er of Mischief, you are being charged with high treason, and plotting - that's bad - may Satan have mercy on your soul. Yeah, right."
Crowley gulped. "High treason?"
"I haven't done anything like that!"
Hastur gave him a very devious stare. "Consorting with the enemy, Crawly - and I use the word 'consorting' quite loosely."
With that, they disappeared into the hole, which fizzled into nothingness moments later and left Aziraphale rubbing his temples in surprise. The angel looked around his now-empty room and frowned faintly. He had a headache, and it was definately not from the drinking the night before. ".....Crowley?"
Hell, his demonic counterpart was discovering at that very moment, is much more imposing if you're being dragged in on the inside of a cage constructed of human bone, with leering skulls and glowing eyes following your every move. Crowley had never been in trouble like this before. He had never been cuffed and cackled at. Usually when he did return to hell, it was on legitimate business and the whole underworld seemed quite a bit more friendly than this.
His cage was rocking back and forth, Hastur was flying before him and there were several members of the demonic horde at their tails. Crowley leaned against the cage bars and peered out, feeling a bit depressed.
Hell seemed to be quite a bit nastier than Earth. And to think, when he had first been assigned to the mortal plane, he had been dismayed at leaving this realm! "The grass is always greener," he muttered. Except that Hell had no grass, and the humans were making short work of their own natural resources. He hoped that Heaven was taking care of itself, or else there wouldn't be any nice-looking places left to enjoy.
Nice places. He liked the Ritz, it had a nice view, and Aziraphale's bookshop was alright, in a musty sort of way. Crowley's flat looked alright, but it wasn't quite as enjoyable as some other spots on Earth. The Bahamas! He was fond of the Bahamas.
In fact, to be honest, he was rather fond of Earth. He missed it, a bit, as he looked over the rolling planes of red and black buildings and smog-belching pipes, the occasional tower of flame, and the massive Citadel of Sin that rose in the center of it all. It was noisy and filled with crime, hate, pain - it was suffering, it was the antithesis of Heaven and it was what he stood for... It was a massive, endless city.
But it was not home.
At length the cage slowed and Hastur appeared again, eyes and teeth gleaming as he spoke. "You alright back there, Crawly?"
Crowley said nothing, merely glared at him. It was a 'you're an idiot and I hope you know it' look, and the meaning wasn't lost on Hastur. "Get out of the cart," the other demon hissed, opening the cage door.
Crowley tripped over Hastur's feet as he was let out, and began looking around the massive hallway they had entered. He recognized it (dimly, it had been so long) as the closest thing Hell had to a Judicial system - and it was more warped than that of some modern-day countries.
His handcuffs were jerked on and he moved forward obediently onto a dias of tile and stone, which promptly hissed and lifted upwards into another large room. The demon nearly lost his balance, but regained it just as he appeared on the floor of a massive-
"Holy shit," Crowley hissed. He suddenly felt very small. And very unimpressive.
The room he had entered was the Court of Hell, a massive gladiator-like structure of stadium seating, all centered around a small patch of stone floor, where Crowley stood on his own. On his left was Beezlebub - it was difficult to tell what he was thinking, but Crowley knew it wasn't anything good at all. On his right, Hastur, who was looking very smug.
The crowd was full of strangers. It was apt to be, Crowley supposed, after six thousand years away from home, yet somehow the sheer amount of strange faces made him want to shrink into the woodwork.
He was in his human body, his everyday, black haired, snake eyed appearance that had never been questioned by humanity - but would appear weak to anybody in the audience. Quickly he tried to change into something remotely more impressing, but discovered he could not.
"Crawly," came a booming voice. Crowley looked up, like a deer caught in the headlights. "You have been szzzzummoned to the Courtszz of Hell on chargezzzs of High Treazzson againszzt Hiszzz Evil Greatneszzzs, Szzzatan himszzzelf. How do you plead?"
How did he plead?! To what? And did it make any difference at all whether or not he tried to defend himself? "Um. Sir. It would be helpful if I understood the charges," Crowley settled for that, glaring as defiantly as he could at Beezlebub (he assumed that figure was the speaker, anyway). It was difficult enough - he felt like he was going to be sick.
"That szzzhould be obviouszzz, Crawly," the voice hissed. "Your actionszz with the Angel, formerly of the Easzztern gate, called Azziraphale."
He had searched the bookshop once, from the lowest shelf to the highest nook, and found neither hide, nor hair, nor scale of his demonic counterpart, save one little note. There was a massive hole that reeked of darkness burnt into the floor of his room, the carpet still sizzling when the angel had rolled out of bed and burned his feet on it. When he had noticed the inverted pentagram still hazy on the wood beneath the rug, he had completely understood.
Crowley had gone Down Below.
That was not unusual. However, he had simply disappeared out of the bedroom, and that was not normal at all.
Aziraphale prepared himself a cup of tea and settled on the couch, thinking. Over all, his gut feeling was that something was wrong, and should be investigated - Crowley was a friend, and despite his position and background, he had never once left Aziraphale hanging - not like this, anyway. However... if Crowley had been suddenly called back, there could be a real reason that he had not explained to Aziraphale.
And interfering with whatever schedule the demons had in mind was not a smart idea for someone who was perfectly happy as a member of the angelic host.
He took a sip of his tea, which was still warm, and tasted perfect. As an angel, there was absolutely nothing Aziraphale could do to contact Crowley when he was in that realm.. Hell was out of his reach in every way possible.
He wasn't sure how demons ran their show down in the Inferno. Aziraphale had one told Crowley of his personal interpretation of Hell - flaming pits, steam, fog, and Crowley had laughed.
There really wasn't any reason to worry, Aziraphale knew. Crowley was a demon, and an old demon at that, which meant that he was powerful and more than likely respected...if demons could feel such a thing. If he was in Hell, he was in his element, and could take care of himself.
Aziraphale nodded. Worrying would do him no good. It would be best to keep himself occupied while Crowley was gone.
He stared down into his tea. Maybe he would visit some old friends...
It hadn't gone very well.
No, no it hadn't.
Crowley - now Crawly, once again - sighed, the sound hissing between his fangs, the only noise in the darkened cell. It had seemed a good idea, at the time, to deny his charges and put up a good defense - but in retrospect he supposed it made him look about as guilty as a kitten that had gotten into the cream - or in the demonic perspective, a dog that had been drinking out of the toilet.
There was a collar around his neck that prevented him from changing his form, or using any of his more handy demonic abilities, and the cell he was in had neither bars nor doors, nothing that he could sneak through.
He had forgotten how boring life could be without simple things like opposable thumbs. Coiling quietly in on himself, Crowley sank into a pit of thought - far more dangerous, he mused wryly, than anything his superiors could have dished out.
Love. How could they accuse him of love?
Why hadn't he been revolted by the thought?
Scales slipped across scales as he shifted silently. Love was not something demons were allowed to feel. In fact, he didn't think himself *capable* of such an emotion... Wasn't that one of the reasons he had fallen from grace in the first place?
It hurt in a strange, nagging way to be accused of something like this. Hell had always been his backer, his supporter, even if Satan himself barely did enough to be called that - maybe an order here and there, a demand that something be done - but Hell itself was a powerful ally, one that Crowley was well used to having on his side. Six thousand years in it's service, and now they were calling him a traitor, and he was here, locked in a tiny cell instead of enjoying himself out in the wilder clubs?
And all because he loved an angel.
.....er, because they thought he loved an angel.
He hissed softly in the darkness, and it was a very lonely sound.