Harlequin's Slash Fic

The Ineffable, the Infernal and the Inelegant

Title: The Ineffable, the Infernal and the Inelegant
Author: Stew
Universe: Good Omens
Characters featured: Crowley/Aziraphale
Category, Word count: Short story; 4,500 words
Rating: R
Summary: Crowley feels at a loose end once Armageddon is averted, and he’s looking for some tempting to indulge in.
Notes: I wrote this way back when, because I loved the novel so much. Posting it now in honour of the new Amazon Prime series.
Warnings: Attempts at philosophy.
First published: 1 January 1996 in Espresso One

 

 

The Ineffable, the Infernal and the Inelegant

Crowley sat in St James’s park, vacantly glaring at the ducks, waiting for Aziraphale. Punctuality obviously wasn’t the virtue it was cracked up to be, or else surely the angel wouldn’t always be late. To amuse himself, Crowley began bobbing the ducks underwater, one by one, with just a glance. They’d rise spluttering and fluttering to the surface, waak‑waaking in surprise. Pathetic, really.

But, surprisingly enough, everything felt a little bit pathetic these days. Armageddon had been averted, or delayed, or maybe thwarted altogether, and partly through Crowley’s actions. He had no idea whether he was in trouble over that, because nothing had happened since. A silence had fallen, as if the Man Upstairs and the Adversary had each withdrawn to consider their next moves.

Meanwhile, Crowley and Aziraphale, in the absence of further instructions, had tentatively returned to bedevilling and beangelling respectively. They were both relieved at this reprieve, as the Earth was a far more interesting place to be than either Hell or the Other Place. But the thing was… doing bad and good works amongst these human creatures who could be so excessively evil and so amazingly altruistic, well at times it tended to make a demon feel inadequate.

Perhaps Aziraphale felt the same way. He drooped up to the park bench Crowley was slouched on, and sat down. They would make an odd‑looking couple to anyone who cast them a glance, the demon reflected. While they were both in human form, their chosen attire contrasted: Crowley was in his usual sharp black glasses, cool black leather jacket, hot black jeans and pointed black boots; Aziraphale was all blond curls and proper tweedy suit, like English gentry up from the country.

“You’re late,” the demon eventually accused.

No explanation was forthcoming. Apparently listless, the angel didn’t even react when Crowley bobbed another duck underwater.

“Weird, isn’t it? We’ve had a reprieve; the world is still here and we’re still on it. But just when you’d think we’d be ecstatically cheering in the aisles, our problem is motivation. A lack thereof.”

“The way your lot motivate,” Aziraphale finally commented, “I’m surprised you’re complaining.”

Crowley winced. “How do your lot do it?”

“Oh, much the same I suppose. The wrath of God, you know.”

“Right.” Crowley turned to look at the angel, and got distracted by Aziraphale’s general demeanour. “What are you so flustered about?”

“Never mind,” the angel said. He was, however, unusually pale, with two red spots of embarrassment painting his cheeks.

“Come on, tell me. What have you been up to?”

“Crowley –”

“You were in Scotland, right? As planned?”

“Yes.” The red spots were growing… Aziraphale stared fixedly at nothing at all.

“And you did your good deeds for you, and you did some bad deeds for me? As per our Agreement?”

A pause. “Yes.”

Crowley was obviously on the right trail. To string the angel along, he changed tack for a moment. “Well, I did the same, down south. Got a whole lot of people angry and frustrated and depressed. Created a veritable sinkhole of depression. Then I –” Crowley frowned. “You know, Aziraphale, I did a couple of good deeds for you, and they didn’t seem to quite work out.”

“What did you do?” The barest hint of wariness.

“There was this charity organisation. I added a couple of zeroes to their bank balance, you know, thinking of all the hot meals and warm blankets that would buy…”

“Yes?” Aziraphale prompted.

“The accountant withdrew it all and took the next flight to Spain.”

The angel just looked at him, unamused with the practiced ease of one who has spent six thousand years being unamused by Crowley, and who wasn’t going to start laughing at him now.

“All right,” Crowley said impatiently. “What would you have done?”

“I would have given him the perspective to see the long term. I would have renewed his faith in the charity and in humanity and in himself. I would have given him courage and energy. Then maybe I would have added the zeroes, because he could have helped hundreds of people in need.”

“Ah,” said Crowley, nodding. Perhaps Aziraphale wasn’t such a dimwit after all, perhaps he had some profound ideas about what good was, in the same way Crowley had sophisticated ways of spreading evil. Which reminded him – “Aziraphale, you never answered my question. Why are you so flustered?”

“Ah,” the angel echoed, self‑conscious again. “Well, my bad deeds didn’t quite work out, either… There was this girl, a twenty-seven‑year‑old virgin. And I appeared to her one night, like a succubus –”

“Incubus,” Crowley corrected. “I hope,” he added.

“– with my wings and all. And I tempted her.”

Crowley chuckled. “You old‑fashioned thing, you. Tempting virgins, that’s really quaint.”

But the angel had more to tell. “She turned out to be a very nice girl. We, er… spent a couple of nights together, you know… The days, too.”

Crowley gazed at Aziraphale in disbelief. “I’ve never seen a face so bright red,” he observed. “Not outside Hell, anyway. So, you spent a couple of days together,” he continued… “fucking.”

“Yes.”

“And you don’t consider that to be a thoroughly bad deed?”

“Oh, no. I mean, we had fun, it was nice. She was happy.” He added, with a hint of surprise, “She liked me.”

“Did she?” Crowley pondered this. “Did she, indeed.” He’d never really thought of the angel as a sexual creature. “Do this often, do you?”

“Good heavens,” exclaimed Aziraphale. “No, I don’t.”

“Then, how long has it been?”

The angel had to think about that, with furrowed brow. “Seven hundred and sixty‑three years,” he finally said.

Crowley’s eyebrows shot up. “And there I was beginning to think a few decades was a long time.”

“It takes an effort,” Aziraphale demurred. He was right – angels (even fallen ones) were generally sexless.

“Sex is well worth the effort, though, don’t you think?”

The angel wordlessly agreed. Following his gaze, Crowley saw he’d been distracted by a pair of young women, presumably on their lunch break, who were throwing bread at the ducks. And when they wandered on, a rather attractive man caught the angel’s eye. There was something undeniably sensual about the expression on Aziraphale’s face.

The women were fresh and buxom and full of life waiting to happen; the man was almost as lithe as Crowley: the demon would have been quite happy to seduce any or all of them. But it occurred to him that this was an opportunity for a really world‑class temptation.

“Aziraphale…” Crowley murmured, edging a little closer.

“Hhmmm?” the angel asked, still distracted by memories or fantasies or both.

“You know, a demon can get pretty damned lonely after six thousand years on Earth.”

“You love it here,” Aziraphale said dismissively.

“Humans are fascinating, especially when they’re really really bad. Or really really good, depending on your point of view. But don’t you get lonely for your own kind?”

The angel said, “Yes. At times.” But, after a moment, he confessed, “Actually, my lot can get pretty boring.”

Crowley grinned, and slid even closer. “Do I bore you?”

“Oh, no.” As if it wasn’t even in question.

“You and me, Aziraphale; we’re the only beings that have been around the whole time, right from Eden. Yours is the only familiar face.”

“I thought familiarity breeds contempt.”

“Not in this case. Actually, I’ve become quite fond of you.” To his mild surprise, Crowley found he was telling the truth. “Especially during those last few days when we were busy trying to save the world,” he continued. “Together. Yeah, I’m fond of you.”

“Really?” The angel’s tone indicated this notion was welcome and bizarre and unexpected.

Crowley leaned in and kissed Aziraphale on the mouth. A moment’s return of the fluster, hands pushing ineffectually at Crowley’s shoulders, and then the angel let the kiss happen. Co‑operated, rather than actively participated. When Crowley felt sure he’d made his point, he withdrew, though remained within easy range.

“My dear boy,” breathed the angel, glancing around, blushing like anything. “This is not the place to be so indulgent…”

“Where, then?” Crowley pressed. He wasn’t about to explain, for the thousandth time, that he’d simply made it so people wouldn’t see them; Aziraphale seemed disinclined to make things easy for himself. Anyway, in this case, it wasn’t that Crowley wouldn’t mind shocking people, but interruptions might cramp his style. He didn’t want Aziraphale to flutter away in embarrassment. “Where, angel?”

Aziraphale was looking at him carefully, baffled but open in that way of his. “What do you want, Crowley?” he asked, genuinely wanting to know. “What are you asking of me?”

And of course that was the path to the angel’s nether regions… express a need. “What’s that your lot have?” Crowley mumbled. “Not love, not forgiveness exactly. Gets so a demon misses things, you know, yearns for what’s been left behind. Just basking in the radiance of divine –”

“Grace,” supplied the angel in a whisper.

“Yeah,” the demon muttered. “Show me some grace, Aziraphale. I need a little grace right now.”

“Well of course, dear boy,” Aziraphale said, gathering Crowley into two surprisingly strong arms. “Well of course.”

Within minutes they were in a room at the Ritz hotel, and the angel was lying back naked on the bed, sprawled senseless on the lace covers, limbs awry and breath moaning. The demon crouched at the end of the bed, between the angel’s rather divine legs…

Crowley could do really amazing things with his tongue.

They’d slept away a few hours, or a few days, Crowley wasn’t sure which, and it didn’t matter anyway. Here he was in Aziraphale’s arms, sated and comfortable, and this little interlude of theirs had turned out to be quite bewitching.

The angel was cute, you could say that for him. The blond curls that framed the pleasant face were recklessly tumbled, which was an improvement on the usual untidiness. And if Aziraphale opened his eyes right now, they would be blue as a summer sky. But he slept on, happily and quietly snoring. This human body Aziraphale wore was kind of pudgy, but that just made his cuddles more generous.

Crowley looked down at his own body. About the only thing they had in common was the palest of skin; on Aziraphale this looked like cream, while on Crowley it looked like he only went out at night. Otherwise, Crowley was a few inches taller, and his hair was black as a depraved soul, and his eyes were dark but eerily luminescent, and he was lean and lithe and gorgeous. He’d added some long fine muscle definition in recent years, and he looked deadlier than ever.

“Yes, you are gorgeous,” the angel agreed, punctuating the compliment with a yawn.

Crowley started. “You can’t read my thoughts, Aziraphale,” he said severely, though he wasn’t sure whether he was asking or telling or pronouncing.

“Oh, I can when they’re written all over your face,” he retorted, daring to be amused by the demon. “Anyway, you lot think that’s one of yours, don’t you? Pride.”

“Yes,” Crowley said. “Isn’t it?” he asked.

“Well, you can have vanity and arrogance and that sort of thing. But I believe that the foundation of human kindness is a healthy self‑esteem. You know, you can’t love or respect others unless you first love and respect yourself.”

Crowley frowned. There really was more to this dithering fool than he’d given Aziraphale credit for. Perhaps Earth had taught the angel as much as it had taught the demon. One way to find out… “Maybe you have self‑esteem instead of pride, Aziraphale, and maybe that’s good, but we’ve just been committing another two of the seven deadly sins. Unmitigated lust and lazy slothfulness. How can you see the good in that?”

“We’ve been sharing love and peaceful contentment, Crowley,” the angel said with a completely straight face.

Damn it all, Crowley thought, he couldn’t even do this right. Pathetic, really pathetic. It had seemed such a great idea, to kick‑start his motivation by tempting the one being in the whole world who was by his very nature good – and of course Crowley was going to fail miserably. Ridiculous.

He pulled out of the angel’s embrace, and sat up against the brass railings, knees drawn up to his chest.

A demon, by his very nature, should be evil. He was on the side of the Bad Guys, after all. Everything he did should carry the seeds of destruction even when he tried to do something good for a friend. Well, that business with the bank balance and the accountant had worked out badly, despite Crowley’s best intentions. And it seemed Aziraphale’s attempt at the seduction of a virgin girl had worked out well, despite his worst intentions.

“I saved a child’s life,” Crowley said morosely. “When I was down south, looking around for some good deeds to do. This kid tottered out onto a road, almost got run over by a bus. I picked it up and took it back to its grandmother. But I had to be quick, otherwise the bus would have got there first, and I didn’t have time to make her not notice. And the old lady was so shocked she had a heart attack and died.”

Just to make it all worse, Aziraphale reached up to pat him sympathetically on the knee.

“And then I kind of found out, not that I was paying any attention, that the kid didn’t have any other family, and it got put in an institution.”

“You tried, Crowley,” the angel said. “Maybe it was meant to happen that way.”

“What would you have done?”

“I don’t know, I wasn’t there. Perhaps given the old lady enough courage to rescue the child herself. Perhaps diverted the bus a little. Perhaps, if I didn’t have the time, I would have just let it happen and made sure the child didn’t feel any pain.”

“Yeah? Where’s the good in letting a baby die?”

“Perhaps that was part of the ineffable Plan, Crowley. Babies do die, and young people, and good people, and others who could contribute so much because of their unique qualities and abilities. It happens, I don’t know why. I have faith that it’s all for the best in some way.”

The demon looked sourly down at the angel. “How can you have that much faith, when it all looks like a monumental cock‑up?”

“But I do have faith, and hope and trust. And you don’t, Crowley, perhaps that’s the main difference between us. You think too much. You should try some simple trust, you should sometimes just let things be. It’s a lot easier than worrying over it all, especially when it’s all so damned ineffable. You do what you can, and not even He can expect more.”

But how could a demon by his very nature be evil, when he used to be good? It wasn’t Crowley’s fault that he Fell. It hadn’t been a decision he made, a plan he’d worked on. Everything was laid out for him, it seemed, in a Plan that felt not ineffable but tiresomely infernal.

“You know,” he said in dejected tones, “the only time I ever felt truly free was for those moments when you talked me into fighting Him, you know, the Adversary, my Boss. Nothing to lose that I hadn’t already lost. No trouble I could get into that I wasn’t already in. They couldn’t have done anything worse to me than they were already planning. I felt free, Aziraphale, and now that’s gone again.”

“You’re scared of them.”

“Yeah,” Crowley admitted. Only sensible to be scared of them, of course. But it was strange that the certainty of eternal diabolical retribution made him feel free, while the fear of the possibility of it didn’t.

“Free will,” the angel said. “For those moments, you and I had free will, just like these human beings, and we made our own decisions. We took responsibility for our actions. We didn’t let our fears hold us back.”

Crowley just looked at him.

“Free will gives them the choice to do good or bad. If you add long term thinking, responsibility, creativity, empathy and caring, then they’ll choose to do good. That’s where I help.”

“Empathy just gets in the way,” Crowley said dismissively.

“Well, it would get in your way, wouldn’t it?” The angel scrambled to sit up next to him. “Crowley,” he said in a whisper, “all of what I just said about free will and responsibility – that’s what you did.”

“Don’t tell me I felt free because I did something good.”

“No,” the angel replied with a sigh. “Because you made your own decision. You weren’t acting on Their behalf, and you weren’t rebelling against Them either. You were simply doing what you wanted to do.”

Crowley considered this for a moment. “Aziraphale, you just had the chance to get me, and you didn’t.”

“Didn’t I?” the angel asked, in a tone that wasn’t quite sad. “I know you were trying to tempt me, Crowley. I know that’s what this has been about.”

“And weren’t you trying to save me?” the demon retorted. “I always figured sex belonged to my side.”

“It doesn’t, sex is ours. But sometimes what people do with it, use it for, that can be bad, and then it’s yours.”

“I guess we call that one a draw,” the demon said, disconsolate. “I don’t know why I thought I could tempt you, Aziraphale.”

“Yes, you do,” said the angel. The truth was a terrible weapon when wielded by the right tongue.

“I underestimated you,” Crowley admitted. Any minute now he’d feel something truly excruciating, like humility. Devil save him.

“This time,” Aziraphale murmured, “decide to do it for your own reasons. All right?”

After a moment, Crowley nodded. And the angel drew him close again in those strong arms, and kissed him.

Funny thing was, this wasn’t all that imagination demanded it should be. It wasn’t being blessed by smooth perfection, it wasn’t being cherished by infinite understanding. In fact, given that he was an angel, it was almost alarming how graceless Aziraphale was. Though Crowley had to admit that the clumsy, earnest artlessness was endearing in its own way. Aziraphale, of course, thought Crowley’s style was nothing more than an undesirable affectation.

So there they were, tucked up together against the brass railings of a bed in the Ritz, kissing like eager, inexperienced teenagers. It was nice, sure, but Crowley wanted something more. “Aziraphale,” he said as the angel bestowed soft, hungry kisses down the demon’s throat.

“Hhmmm?”

“You know I’ve been a long time in human form. Wouldn’t mind, seeing it’s just us here alone together, giving the old wings a stretch.”

“Hhmmm…” That sounded almost like agreement.

“Wouldn’t mind,” Crowley continued, “seeing you. I mean seeing you, your true self, not just with your wings out.”

That got his attention. The angel raised his head, and looked at Crowley. He was disconcerted, and maybe even a little bashful. “It has been a long time,” the angel said.

“Show me,” Crowley urged.

“Are you trying to tempt me again?”

“Oh, no,” the demon assured him. “It’s entirely your decision. I just thought it might be really special if we do this as our true selves.” Now, there was a line the angel would swallow. “In fact, how else can we do this, if it isn’t as our true selves, Aziraphale?”

Still appearing a little dubious about Crowley’s intentions, Aziraphale stroked absently at Crowley’s dark hair, leaned in to kiss him again. “All right,” he said at last. And, all the time looking at Crowley, the angel pulled away, crawled back off the bed, retreated to the far wall.

A pause, as Aziraphale stood straighter, feet carefully placed together, shoulders squared. For a moment, he bowed his head, held his hands palm to palm, as if praying. And then… and then… Aziraphale dropped his hands and lifted his head, brought his arms up and out to each side with palms up, letting his head fall back, as if welcoming whatever Heaven let rain down upon him. Perhaps a trumpet sounded, far distant. There was a heavy silken rustle, and the angel’s wings unfurled behind him, so large that the tips brushed the ceiling, the feathers so white they radiated their own light. Everything else in the room seemed dull and gloomy. Crowley forgot himself and hissed in surprise.

For Aziraphale, standing in the middle of all this, was… beautiful. Frighteningly beautiful. The pudginess was now a healthy plumpness, as if Aziraphale was a cherub grown up. The pale creamy skin was now warm living marble. The tumble of curls were glowing alive and golden. The blue eyes… Crowley forced himself to meet them. Truth and love and profound understanding shouldn’t be that terrifying. It wasn’t fair.

“Come, my friend,” said the angel. And Crowley wondered how he’d ever thought that melodious voice was silly. “Share your true self with me.”

He was reluctant to, of course. A fallen angel couldn’t help but get tarnished along the way. Thing was, he’d forgotten about some of the things he’d lost. The things, he now supposed, that he regretted losing. But a deal was a deal.

Without any fanfare, Crowley stood before the angel, and let himself change. Compared to Aziraphale, the demon knew he was scrawny and smoke‑stained, and his wings were singed round the edges. He waited, staring at the divine pair of feet opposite him, noting each perfect, chubby alabaster toe.

“I am the day, and you are the night,” Aziraphale said. “Neither is more beautiful than the other. Love yourself, Crowley, like I love you.”

“Why should I do that?”

“Because then you can love me. Just for this little while, before we return to worldly concerns.”

“I see,” said Crowley. Well, it wasn’t that he didn’t normally think he was the coolest creature on the planet. It was just that the angel had startled him. Fuck this humility lark. Crowley decided that pride, not to mention coveting and lusting, were much more fun. The demon called on his pride, on his esteem for himself (because, whatever Aziraphale called it, they sounded like the same thing to Crowley), called on his confidence, and stood tall. “I always did have good cheekbones,” he commented. “Sharp. The sharpest.”

“Yes,” said Aziraphale, “you have the best cheekbones I’ve ever seen.”

Crowley grinned. “Don’t humour me, angel.” And he stepped forward, because he deserved this and maybe Aziraphale did, too, and he kissed the guy like an angel (even a fallen one) should be kissed.

They didn’t need the Ritz any more. In the blink of an eye, they were outside, flying up through the clouds to the sunlight, ignoring mundane gravity. Creating the slowest, profoundest, most radical sex together (because living among humans taught you imagination as well as free will). Crowley led them towards the Earth’s night side, and the pace of their coupling increased. Perhaps the humans below thought they saw a meteor in decaying orbit, the last of those troubling phenomena that had heralded Armageddon. Perhaps people had a scare. That was fine.

Thing was, Crowley couldn’t figure out whether the sex was really really good, or really really bad. And eventually he decided that he didn’t care. It just was.

They were sitting outside Aziraphale’s bookshop, in the front of Crowley’s beloved Bentley, necking. Ridiculous, really. Though Crowley had to admit to himself that it had been fun. In fact, they had been so indulgent, Crowley reckoned he should win the gold medal for gluttony.

Quite a successful interlude, if you looked at it that way. He’d covered all the deadly sins except anger.

Necking in his Bentley… Crowley said, as casually as he could, “We gonna do this again, sometime, do you think?”

Aziraphale could look quite beguiling at times. Anyone would think the angel was learning something from the demon. “Perhaps sometime,” he said.

And that was when Crowley knew everything was more all right than it had ever been. Because Aziraphale was lovely and sexy and thoroughly, disturbingly wanton. Yet Crowley’s first and truest and most gut‑deep reaction was that he was tired of the angel’s company, and needed to be alone. There were wicked and subtle deeds that needed Crowley’s urgent attention.

As if he’d read the demon’s thoughts again, Aziraphale smiled and said, “Perhaps sometime in a century or five.”

“If we have that long.” Who knew what would happen now that Armageddon hadn’t.

“Oh, I think the Earth will be here a while yet. And, if you’re right, and the next war is your lot and my lot together against humans… well, it’ll take millennia for Him to decide to do that.” Aziraphale pulled away to sit back in his seat again, and looked across at Crowley. “Which side would you be on?”

“Same as you,” Crowley admitted.

“Humans,” Aziraphale agreed.

Silence for a long moment. “I have work to be getting on with,” Crowley finally said.

“Me, too, dear boy.” That endearment had become generic again, Crowley was pleased to note. Aziraphale asked, “Where are you heading?”

“Spain, France, Germany,” the demon said. Then he muttered, “That accountant’s going to wish he’d never been born.”

“Thought I’d go to Wales.”

“Should be plenty of twenty-seven‑year‑old virgins over there,” Crowley couldn’t help but comment.

The angel blushed. “I’ll, er, think of some other bad deeds for you.”

“And I’ll see what I can do for you.” Crowley found he was curious to see if he could do something good that would actually turn out that way. Not that he’d tell the angel, for fear of misinterpretation. It was simply an experiment in free will. And, Crowley reassured himself, he wasn’t finding the accountant in order to encourage the man to repent. No, finding him would be nothing more or less than revenge for making the demon appear less than cool. Crowley smiled his slickest, sharpest grin. “See you round, Aziraphale.”

“Goodbye, Crowley. It’s been –”

“Yeah,” the demon cut him off, uninterested in platitudes. “It’s been very.”

The angel clambered out of the Bentley in his usual clumsy fashion, and headed for the bookshop without a backwards glance. A gentleman always knows when it’s time to leave, Crowley thought disparagingly.

And he grinned again, indulged in an evil chuckle, revved the Bentley and tore down the busy street at ninety miles an hour. There was just time to cripple the ATM networks before lunch, fraying the nerves of thousands of shoppers, igniting the tempers of all those trying to pay their overdue bills. The ripples from that much anger and frustration could lap around the whole globe…

Life up here on Earth was delightfully… bad.

Posted in: Good Omens, Slash fic

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