AUTHOR NOTE: This originally started off as a Crowley/OC one-shot, based on an idea by Kinthinia, one of the kind souls who reads my one-shot series Hell Is... It's loosely based during the fifth series, and there will be some of the story involving the main plot of said series; however, much of it will be about Alex (my OC) and her apprenticeship to the King of the Crossroads. It will cover their relationship as it grows, her learning the trade, finding a niche for herself in Hell and her discovering more about who Crowley is, and was. It will contain mature content in later chapters. The title of the story is taken from a novel by Clive Barker (who I heartily recommend to anyone interested in reading fantastic, horrible, magical stories that twist the concepts of good and evil beyond recognition). Please review, read any of my other stories that you're interested in, and feel free to send me messages – these things make me happy.
Part 1: The Great Below...and the Mundane Escape.
Alex slapped her hand against the wall, it was smooth and warm beneath her fingertips. It was definitely real. Although the knowledge that she was really in Hell was disquieting to say the least, she'd imagined a lot worse. She'd imagined a fiery pit, with thousands of screaming, agonised souls destined to suffer their torment for eternity. Alex was simply pleased that, so far, nobody had started jabbing at her intestines with a very sharp knife; although, it was only her first day.
The sound of someone shouting greeted her as she rounded the corner. "Right, that's it, piss off!" This from a dark-suited, decidedly angry looking demon directed towards a younger man who threw his arms up in defence, as though the words were physically hurting him.
"Please, Crowley, I am absolutely the right man for this job. Give me another chance and I will not let you down. I can close any deal..." The younger man was wearing a fancy designer suit and had a fancy designer hairstyle to match.
The man in the dark suit sighed audibly and moved closer to the object of his irritation, "And it's Mr Crowley to you! You know what; all I asked for was a bit of...finesse. This job is not about intimidation, it's about charm, and persuasion. Most of all, it's about being a bloody good liar – which you're not. Now get out of my sight. You're fired!"
The designer clad youth walked away, shoulders slumped, looking, she supposed, about as lost as she did.
"Yes, can I help you at all?" More shouting from the man in the suit. She looked behind her, only to realise he was staring directly at her from where she had been peering around the corner.
Straightening up Alex walked towards him, smiling slightly, "No, just...passing through." As she got closer she felt a wave of familiarity hit her; she had a distant memory of having met him before at some point, but couldn't quite place where.
"Do I know you?" He stared at her with narrowed eyes as she drew level.
She shook her head, kept walking, dismayed to find that he'd fallen into step beside her. "I'm sure I do know you from somewhere; is it your first day by any chance?" He had his hands shoved in the deep pockets of his coat.
Alex sighed, "Yes. Although you should know, it was your deal." Crowley. Finally, she'd managed to place the name. The Crossroads demon she'd met a year ago.
He smiled, "Ah, I knew it! You're one of mine. Very good. How are you liking it so far?"
"Not really what I expected to be honest." He raised his eyebrows at her. "I thought there'd be more...torture."
He chuckled; a slightly ominous sound, "Oh, you were hoping for torture? That's...weird. Don't worry though, you just haven't met Alistair yet."
She shook her head, "I didn't say I was hoping for torture. I'd prefer not to be tortured in fact." She glanced at him, "Who's Alistair?"
"Someone you should really try to avoid." Abruptly he stopped walking, turned and then headed in the opposite direction, back the way they'd come, "Right, come on then."
Alex stared at his back as he walked. Noticing that she wasn't following he turned and shrugged, "Or, do you have something more important to do?"
She followed wordlessly for awhile. The path seemed to be veering to the right and upwards, sharply, and Alex found herself becoming short of breath. "Where are we going?"
He pointed ahead of them, at nothing seemingly except a long expanse of corridor, "Just up there. Not far."
She followed for such a long time that she began to think that Crowley might be a long lost ancestor of her ex, Shaun, who had insisted on taking them on long, unplanned walks in the countryside and would deflect any questions or insinuations that they were lost with, Not far now. Just round this corner. She followed for so long that the surroundings blurred around her.
"Here we are." Alex jumped at the sound of his voice. She looked around; they were standing on a tree-lined street in an obviously well-to-do neighbourhood. Huge houses with wide electronic gates stood well back from the road.
Alex blinked, "Did we just break out of Hell?"
Crowley shook his head, "No, we just kind of...strolled out, actually."
"I don't understand."
He sighed, "Well, since you were witness to my little...discussion with Jason earlier, you'll know that I'm in need of an apprentice, or should I say assistant? Or maybe minion, yes, I think I likes minion best."
Alex nodded, "Someone who's charming, persuasive and a bloody good liar. I remember."
He grinned, "Perfect! You'll fit right in."
She raised her eyebrows as he punched in a combination on the keypad by the side of a set of gates. He caught the confused expression, "This is where I live. You didn't really think I spend all my time down there did you?"
The gate swung open, slowly, and he held his arm out, "Shall we?" He looked at the gardens around them as he walked towards the house, "Well, at least I'll have something nice to look at for a change with you here, instead of that bloody idiot with the floppy hair do."
Alex looked around, wide-eyed, taking in the vast drawing room; books lined the walls and a vast fireplace glowed behind the desk where Crowley sat. "This is a nice house," she muttered, more to herself than to Crowley.
"Isn't it? The benefits of not being a total dogsbody in Hell. Drink?"
Alex accepted the glass he passed to her, continuing to stare at the pictures above the fireplace.
"Right, stop gawking. I need you to look through some documents. Just the usual contractual nonsense: I promise to teach you the skills involved in my little...trade and, in return for bloody hard work, you are hereby relieved from certain...obligations in Hell. Most notably, from being tortured."
Alex frowned, taking the pile of papers, "Right, ok, sure." She began to read.
Crowley picked up a pen and jabbed at a dotted line at the bottom of the page, "Just sign there. It's all above board. Promise."
She nodded and scrawled a signature before handing him the pen and papers back.
He raised his eyebrows, "Well?"
She sipped at the amber liquid in the glass he'd given her, "What?"
He smiled, "First rule of the Crossroads, darlin', a deal isn't a deal until..."
She shook her head, putting the glass down, "I'm not kissing you."
He looked genuinely disappointed, "Oh, go on!"
She stood up, suddenly afraid, the weight of her recent, gruesome death and her journey to Hell crashing down around her, "No. We're not at the Crossroads now, and you are my employer. Please act like it." She turned to walk from the room, but realised she had no idea where to go, "Where do I sleep?" Her voice sounded much weaker than she wanted it to.
Crowley looked disgusted, shuffling papers around on the desk, "Fine. I'm just trying to do you a favour, you know." He stood, walking over to a nearby counter to refill his drink. "As for sleeping, you go upstairs and pick a bed. If it happens to be mine I'll let you know about it later tonight. How's that sound?" He looked away, dismissing her.
Alex walked from room to room for awhile, before moaning in frustration and flopping down on the end of a bed. She wasn't sure why things had turned so bad; Crowley had seemed perfectly amicable earlier on, for a demon anyway. Things had definitely turned sour later on though, and the worst possible thing she could imagine was picking his room and having him tumble in drunk and angry in the middle of the night. She couldn't pick a room.
Sighing she made her way back down the corridor, down the winding staircase and back towards the drawing room. Crowley was still sitting at his desk when she peered round the door; he appeared to be studying a gun of some kind, seemed totally engrossed in it. She knocked quietly.
"What do you want? I thought you went to bed." He slurred slightly as he spoke to her.
She shrugged, walking towards the desk, "I was taught never to go to bed on an argument."
He gulped the rest of his drink down, "That's cute." Quickly, he flipped the gun towards her, "Do you know what this is?"
"A gun." Her voice was remarkably steady however, much to her dismay, his hand which was holding said gun in her face was not.
"Yes. Perceptive." He looked down for a moment, before placing the gun back in a box on the table. "Do you know why I brought you here?"
"You needed a ...apprentice?"
He nodded, "Yes. But more than that. I need a...replacement, in case something goes wrong. Someone I can trust, someone who'll keep the Crossroads in line."
She shook her head, "So, why did you choose me? You don't even know me."
He glared at her, "All the people I know have been in Hell a very long time. Like me. That's reason enough not to trust them."
"So, how am I different? I'm in Hell too."
He smirked, "It's your first day! You're not a demon, not even close. You're just a lost soul. I thought if I could get to you early..."
Alex swallowed back her growing concern, she'd obviously stumbled into something that was much greater than her, "Why do you need a replacement, Crowley?"
He looked at her properly then, blinking slightly to bring her back into focus. Maybe he'd chosen badly; she was just a girl, after all. He stared back down into his glass, "Because I may be about to do something that's going to get me into a lot of trouble." He chuckled, raising the glass and emptying it. Shakily he filled it again, before gesturing towards the door, "Your bedroom's third door on the left at the top of the stairs. 'Night."
He watched her go, still looking about pensively as if the walls might suddenly melt at any moment and she'd find herself back in Hell. Maybe this was an unwise choice; if he defied Lucifer then she'd most likely end up implicated too. There could be hundreds, thousands of demons out for her blood by the year's end if he went through with his plan.
Crowley swirled the liquid in his glass around before draining it for the last time that night. He shrugged to himself, "Can't be helped, I suppose."