"You see," Aziraphale said, jabbing the air with a threatening, if not well manicured, finger, "you see. You see?"
"..." Anthony J. Crowley blinked, feeling as if he'd missed something important.(1) "See what?" he asked finally, trying to focus on Aziraphale's vehement finger motions.
"You see," Aziraphale repeated, for the fourth time, during his sixth You See Cycle, "the point is that this is -- this is -- this is very good wine, Crowley, where did you get it?" Crowley vaguely felt less confused for not being able to follow Aziraphale's train of thought, because if even Aziraphale couldn't follow it, that meant it had probably derailed at the third, point-accompanied 'you see.'
"Oh," Crowley said, waving his hand in the air, "you know, around, sort of."
"Fantastic," Aziraphale said appreciatively, "fan. tas. tic."
"You, are extremely, very much, welcome." A bit of blond hair fell forward over Aziraphale's forehead. His glasses had slipped off his nose a while back and lay forlornly on the tabletop that separated the two old friends. Because of the loss of these librarian-style spectacles, Aziraphale's myopic blue eyes were just slightly off focus, blinking more often than usual to piece the black hair and the odd golden eyes and the spattering of features before him into a recognizable order that made up Anthony J. Crowley.
"Aziraphale, my dear, my darling, you are very much drunk."
"I most certainly am not."
"...and I can tell you this," Crowley went on, "because we are friends, and friends do not spare each other basic, fundamental truths."
"Have I said something to upset you, my dear?" Aziraphale poured himself another glass. It prismed the light, he noted, in a rather lovely fashion.(2) And then he swallowed it in one go and enjoyed that tremendously more than the way the alcohol made his eyes go all sparkly.(3)
"Basic, fundamental truths. What in bloo-- what in the name of-- for Pete's sake, what are those things, anyway?" Aziraphale slammed his glass down on the table in a way that was meant to be authoritative but merely looked comical. Crowley, fortunately, missed it.
"You know. Like-- like-- fundamental, basic truths." Crowley blinked again.
"That's the same thing you just said."
"No it's not."
"Yes it is." Aziraphale was very insistent, like a belligerent, blonde donkey.
"What's it matter, anyway?"
"You can't define something with its self."
"Yes, you can."
"No you can't."
"That's what makes it a fundamental, basic, fundamentally basic truth," Crowley said, getting a little fed up. "That it, you know, goes without definition."
"Like life?" Aziraphale murmured.
"Sort of. Or, you know. Breathing."
"Or Heaven," Aziraphale added.
"Or Hell," Crowley finished off. They both grimaced.
"That it has no definition," Aziraphale mused, "well, that doesn't, you know. Make any sense. Are we supposed to just, just, believe it because its there and we think because, because we can't describe it, it's got to, you know, be-- be--"
"Right. But what if, what if it isn't? That we just think it is and thinking it makes it, makes it-- there. True. Truth, existence, same thing, all part and parcel, and we're really just wandering around hallucinating all the time?"
"Religion," Crowley said, but he didn't sound so very sure of himself, "isn't like gettinghigh, my dear."(4)
They were silent for a little while as they chewed this over. After thousands of years of living you couldn't help but start to wonder, What's It All About, Alfie? And once you got to wondering, all it took was a couple of words to get you to really wondering. And once you got to really wondering, well, they was going to be all hell to pay.
Proverbially or not.
"Well," Aziraphale said, after a while, "what is it then?"
"It's like being," Crowley muttered, still waving his hand around in motions reminiscent of Aziraphale's Finger of Vengeance, "like being, as they say, as they are apt to say, 'up shit's paddle without a creek'."(5) Something about that sentence seemed ever-so-slightly off to Aziraphale's senses but they were too muddled for him to be able to place a finger on it. "I mean," Crowley went on, "what happens, when all the bright lights are supposed to come on, flashing about, 'Welcome to Heaven, please leave your bodies at the hat check'; or, 'Entering Hell: Eternity's Never Been This Hot'; you know, what happens is, is that it's not all so, as they say, clear cut, as, as all that."
"I wouldn't mind," Aziraphale said absently, "taking a nice vacation to, er, Down There, once in a while. Get a, er, bit of a tan on the old, er, wings, or, something."
"Right!" Crowley said, smashing his fist down on the table and making Aziraphale jump in his seat. "But you see, the point is, you see--"
"You're starting to sound like me, my dear."
"--you see, you can't ever have a nice vacation! It's always the truth or not the truth, the good or the bad, and there isn't any, any of the in-between-stuff. Stuff that's in between."
"Suppose I could just go to Florida," Aziraphale said, "but it's just really not the same, this time of year."(6)
"And the fact," Crowley was sticking to his guns, "the fact that we all believe them, and the truth they say is the Be All and End All, even though there isn't proof, not of the solid kind, not really, not at all!"
"Well that's not how it works," Aziraphale said suddenly, "it's all belief oriented. S'how there's a bloody mess with gods springing up and all those crusades and, and-- well, for belief's sake."
"But believing and knowing are two different things."
"Well are they?" Aziraphale pouted at the empty bottle of Cointreau, turning it upside-down above his glass and shaking it a few times before he realized that, along the lines of non-philosophical and simply basic truth, there was no more to be gleaned from the bottle. "You know. Are they really?"
"All right. Listen. Look." Crowley snapped his fingers and produced a new bottle of Cointreau for the ruffled angel.
"Which do I do first?" Aziraphale quite nearly squealed at the 'present,' the Melancholy Drunk phase kept at bay with that fresh burst of good cheer -- well, kept at bay, at least for the time being.
"What d'you mean?"
"Look or listen. Which do I do first?"
"And then you can look."
"Fair enough, my dear."
"You know things," Crowley went on. "Like -- all right, like right now." He lunged across the table, grabbing up one of Aziraphale's hands. "I am, right now, without any doubt at all, touching, you see, your hand, because the atoms, all the little pieces, of your hand, are touching the atoms, all the little pieces, of my hand.(7) Which proves that, that, you see, our hands are touching. That isn't, isn't subjective. It has nothing to do with opinion. It just is."
"Right," Aziraphale said, finding the only thing he knew from this was that now he had to figure out the Cointreau bottle with one hand as opposed to with two, and that was going to make things rather more complicated.
"And what you believe," Crowley continued, on a roll, "is that, is that, say, you have very feminine hands. Just as an example. I mean, you do, but what I mean, is that's, that's an opinion. Your fingers, dear chap, are long, and your nails, quite obviously, have been buffed. Do you catch my drift?" Aziraphale blinked down at his nails, felt as if perhaps Crowley were insulting him, and immediately took offense.
"I don't like it," Aziraphale protested, "when the edges of my nails get all, er, chipped."(8)
"You," Crowley said, "are missing the point."
"Right." Aziraphale blinked his blue eyes, clear as the day he was born -- or conceived, or created, or whatever(9) -- up into Crowley's reptilian, gold-flecked ones. Crowley found he looked rather sheepish. "Er," Aziraphale said after a moment, "what was the point again?"
"Belief," Crowley said. "That and, I don't know, we probably don't even exist at all. Not in fact, anyway."
"Crowley," Aziraphale said, and then took a moment to recapture whatever point it was he himself was trying to make, "what are you going on about?" Crowley stared down absently at the pale and yes, very feminine hand in his own.
"I'm talking about," he muttered to himself, to that hand, "what I'm talking about is, you know. Why."
"That's a bloo-- that's a stupid topic. Why." Aziraphale looked down at his Cointreau nervously and found it didn't look pretty, just dull as it captured the weak light of his small dining room.
"Be a darling, would you, and pour me another glass."
"Right." Aziraphale obliged with one hand. Crowley drank the contents of his glass down with one hand.
"And you know what else."
"No. Er. Can't say that I do."
"Don't see what the difference is between Up There, and Down There., except for the vague variations in inflection. So bloody, so bloody extreme, each side, that they're just wrapping around three-hundred-sixty degrees," Crowley spun a finger round and round in the air to indicate a circle, "and they'll end up. Sort of. Meeting each other, in the end. You see?"
"I think so," Aziraphale said.
"So there's no difference," Crowley plowed on, faithful to his theories, especially when drunk as a skunk, "really, between one side, and the other, when all that separates them is just, is just belief, and not any fundamentally basically fundamental truths."
"You're repeating yourself. 'Fundamentally basically fundamental.' S'not. S'not. S'not really proper english, now is it? Really." Aziraphale's brow knit together in thought.(10) "No, no, you're definitely repeating yourself a bit too much," he decided finally.
"Just because I'm saying things worth, worth repeating!" Aziraphale watched Crowley's fingers flutter around in the air, his hand waving back and forth wildly, impassioned. It was inspiring, at least to his alcohol-obtuse senses.
"Well what are you saying? That we're -- fundamentally basically fundamental-wise -- the same sort of. Er. Thing. Whatever that thing is, when you get right down, or right up, to it."
"We were," Crowley said, "way before Eve and Adam and that whole business with the apple."
"What a fiasco," Aziraphale mourned.
"So, well, I mean," Crowley endured like a champion, "if nothing is anything at all, except for believing makes it so, then why not, why not just believe that I'm an angel and you're a demon, or we're both just, you know, the same thing, His children, if He even does exist, which He may or may not, actually, but I don't think the Cointreau's good enough, to get into that."
"Isn't any Cointreau good enough," Aziraphale said.
"Right," Crowley agreed.
"So then, we might not even need the, er, Agreement."
"Ah," Crowley said, "we would, if what we were Agreeing against was, you know, real."
"It is real," Aziraphale asserted helplessly, "it just may not be, according to this half-theory, true."
"Right," Crowley said again.
"Oh." Aziraphale couldn't think of much else to say to that, so he said it again for good measure. "Oh. Er." And again. "Oh."
"So what if," Crowley said, "we stopped believing?"
"Then there wouldn't be anything at all," Aziraphale replied immediately, and then realized just exactly the weight of what he'd said. He blinked between his pretty fingers and Crowley's unusually irised eyes and felt the bottom of his stomach fall out, down through his feet. "...oh dear. Oh my. Oh." He wanted his fuzzy slippers, but he couldn't very well wear those in front of Crowley.(11) Instead, he opted for another drink. He needed it.
"There you have it," Crowley said, after waiting what he felt was a proper amount of time to let this sink in.
"Everyone isn't just going to stop believing," Aziraphale said, feeling really uncomfortable.
"We'd all be gone."
"Believed out of existence."
"And then what would there be?"
"Nothing." The demon didn't say the word particularly loudly but it was the sort of word that made everything get very, very quiet, just to be respectful to it.(12) It was a word that was powerful even when whispered, even when whimpered. Aziraphale clutched tighter to Crowley's hand, on instinct, only angel's didn't exactly have instincts, besides doing Good and smiting people who were undoing Good and feeling heavenly when they saw an egregious amount of the color white.(13) He coughed, too, making it perfectly clear in a perfectly polite, perfectly British fashion, how very uncomfortable Crowley was making him.
"That's quite enough Cointreau for you, my dear, because this is really quite pointless and, even if I'm only speaking for myself, entirely pointless--"
"You said pointless twice."
"That's not the point!"
"Right. The point is, Aziraphale," Crowley said, "carpe diem."
"You know," Aziraphale said, grasping at straws, "I heard a funny joke along the lines of that once, having to do with fish--"
"Angel," Crowley said, "do shut the bloody hell up."
"Erk," Aziraphale said, for he was going to protest, and was instead met with the unusual and sudden and, to be blunt, quite terrifying realization that Crowley's lips were on his(14) and he'd better do something because he was suddenly forgetting one of those fundamentally basically fundamental truths they had previously established, that being: how to breathe.(15)
(1) Like what exactly he should be seeing, par exemple.
(2) This is not to be taken as a positive note on the prisming, per se. Given Aziraphale's state, the dog outside could have been said to mauling the cat from next door in a lovely fashion. It was just the way he Saw Things.
(3) For, you see, he wasn't yet drunk enough to be distracted by shiny things from drinking more.
(4) This is an excellent example of philosophical argument, also known in some parts as Foreplay For Losers.
(5) What Crowley really meant to say was "up shit's creek without a paddle," but, thinking along the lines of philosophers everywhere, if words are misspoken and your friends are too drunk to notice, does it really make a sound?
(6) Besides, whenever Aziraphale went to Florida, and that was a whopping once, he got to thinking about retirement, and that started making him feel very Old; and after that he'd wound up very drunk in a red convertible with three scantily clad females and he had to call Crowley for help from a payphone at a gas station in Miami Beach. But that's enough story entirely.
(7) Actually, they don't, as the electrons repel. But barring that little glitch, Crowley's point was still very sound.
(8) Aziraphale was swish before anyone knew what swish meant, which caused some occasional confusion.
(9) Because, after all, some celestial chick wasn't going around plopping out little angel babies. At least, Crowley didn't think so.
(10) REAL men's brows furrowed.
(11) Aziraphale changed his routine drastically on these nights. In addition to losing the slippers, Aziraphale would also replace his bubble pipe with a real one, and decorate the walls with big game.*
*Moose. Some things you just can't fake.
(12) There are other words like this. Penis springs to mind.
(13) Except for the white of coffins, when their Natural Angel Instinct said it was time to duck their heads down and feel bad for the death of people they didn't know from Adam. Or, well, they knew Adam, but that wasn't the point at all. The point was-- the point was-- oh, screw the point. Angels, like your average house cat, had basic gut instincts in their hard-wiring -- despite their lack of actual physical guts -- and in Aziraphale's case there must have been some feline confusion, for he knew exactly where and when to step forward and trip people up.
(14) It was quite one thing for the angel to be kissed, and quite another to be kissed by Anthony J. Crowley, not so much because he was on the Other Side, but because they had been best friends for a very long time, and this was nowhere to be found anywhere within the Agreement.
(15) Not that it would have made any difference. As he was an immortal sort of entity, he didn't exactly need to breathe. It was just the idea that he was forgetting how that was the worrying part.