1. Cause financial devastation
"What are you up to?" It had been the feelings of anxiety, fear and despair emanating from those waiting to go into the bank that attracted Azriaphale's attention more than the queue itself. He eyed Crowley with suspicion borne of knowing him far too well for far too long.
"Queuing," Crowley said brightly, as though it weren't obvious. "To get money out."
"You're a demon. You don't need money."
"I know. This part is just for fun." He grinned as he stepped up to the counter, speaking quietly to the cashier for a moment and showing - well, she might have thought it was a bankbook, but in actual fact it was a blank sheet of paper, before walking away with a handful of notes.
Aziraphale stared at him as he tucked them safely away. "Crowley..." he said warningly.
"Hey, they started this one on their own. I'm just helping it along a bit," Crowley said cheerfully. "It would be a shame if the world ended before I got to see the full effects. I've been waiting for it for ages. Besides, it's on the list." He waved the paper he'd shown the cashier at the angel, moving already to rejoin the back of the queue.
"List?" Aziraphale snatched it away, scanning it quickly. "Crowley, what is this?"
"A hundred things to do before I die," Crowley said patiently. "Well, more before everybody dies, really. Here, have a chocolate. They were handing them out earlier to stop people rioting."
"Did it work?" Aziraphale asked absently, reaching for one.
"Well, no-one got lynched, so possibly they can count it as a success," Crowley conceded, a little disappointedly, moving forwards with the queue. "Your guys should take note. Hand out chocolate to prevent sin."
Aziraphale made a vague assenting noise before looking up. "Crowley, you're not seriously attempting to do all these? How many times have you queued here already?"
"So far I've closed accounts in the names of Crawlee, Crowley and Crowlie." Crowley ticked them off his fingers. "Got about ten more to go. And yes, I am. If we're going to have another Apocalypse in the near future I want to try things at least once before I can't."
"Mmhm." A red pen appeared in Aziraphale's hand and he started to move down the list, crossing things out as he went. "Well, you're not doing that. Or that. And if you actually did try telling Gabriel exactly what you thought of him, I assure you, my dear, everyone would die a lot more quickly than you otherwise would."
"That was why I put it last," Crowley protested, making a grab at his list and the level of anxiety in the bank escalated with each person that joined the queue.
Aziraphale moved hastily out of reach. “No,” he said firmly. “I’m thwarting you. For your own good.” He glanced down the list again. “Some of these you can do. I don’t see how flying around the world could hurt, and you could manage to go on a visit back to the Garden without managing to get yourself inconveniently discorporated I suppose. But really, my dear, glad as I am to see a Cathedral visit on there, what exactly were you planning to do on a visit to Bath and Wells Cathedral?”
Crowley didn’t answer, but something in the way he grinned made Aziraphale frown anxiously. “Maybe I’d better come with you,” he decided. “If you’re starting with this, Heaven knows what you’ll try next.”
That was enough to make the demon laugh. “No, it doesn’t,” he contradicted. “And I hope Hell doesn’t either for that matter. Anyway, it’s only one run, on a very small bank.”
“True,” Aziraphale conceded, relieved that at least the fall of one small Northern bank was unlikely to rock the world’s foundations. “Still, I’d better stick around. It looks very much like a wile I should have thwarted. I’d hate for you to get away with anything else.”
Crowley grinned, and didn’t argue with that, instead stepping into the bank to empty his fourth account that day. It seemed silly to protest – after all, it was far easier to convince Aziraphale to come along in case he needed stopping than to persuade him to come along for the sheer fun of the ride.
2. Visit space shuttle.
Some people thought that living up in a space shuttle an unimaginable distance from the earth’s surface would be lonely. Charles just found it peaceful. No television, no phone, no worry about being disturbed at all by anything other than his fellow astronaut’s and the occasional crackling instruction from earth. A man could get used to that.
What a man didn’t expect at such a time was a knock on the shuttle door.
“John,” he said suspiciously, knowing the other man had a bad tendency towards playing the occasional practical joke, “was that you?”
It took time for the startled John to deny that it hadn’t been him who knocked, and to establish that yes, unlike the time he covered his face in blue ink dots and claimed to have caught an alien plague he was telling the truth this time. It took more time to get a message back home and receive the order to scramble into their suits and investigate. Cameras were switched on, and the entire world watched, fascinated, as the astronauts stepped slowly out of the cover and retrieved what looked like a catalogue from where it had been jammed and a parcel with “Return to Sender” stamped on it.
By the time the world’s top scientists were studying what seemed, much to their confusion, to be an advert for various types of ‘probes’ and a long lost Space station toolbox, Aziraphale and Crowley were almost back to earth, the former trying very hard not to laugh.
3. Eat lunch in a small picturesque café in Paris
“It’s not that I mind,” Aziraphale said again. “I ‘m just not sure why it’s on the list. It’s hardly as though it’s something we haven’t done before.”
“It didn’t count before because it wasn’t on the list,” Crowley explained serenely, topping up his wineglass. “It only counts if you’re doing it specifically before the world ends and everybody dies.”
“If you say so, dear.” Aziraphale surrendered with a shrug. It was certainly much easier than many other things Crowley might have suggested.
“Besides,” Crowley added, “I need it for item four.”
“Oh?” That made the angel raise his eyebrows. “What’s item four?”
4. Have hangover.
“Are you quite all right, my dear?” The pale interesting look certainly suited Crowley, but Aziraphale still squinted at him with some concern.
“No,” Crowley growled, slumping into a chair, glad that his customary sunglasses afforded him at least some protection against the light which seemed to be trying to drill through his eyeballs. “I certainly am not all right.”
A sympathetic cup of coffee was placed in front of him. “Remind me why you’re doing this again?” Aziraphale asked, slightly bemused.
“I wanted to see what it was like. Figured it couldn’t possibly be that bad if humans kept on having them and yet didn’t stop drinking.”
“And?” Aziraphale prompted, closing the blinds with a gesture and leaving them in a comfortingly dim light.
“They’re all completely insane,” Crowley informed him hoarsely. “It’s like going through Hell and coming back and asking for another go.”
“Mmhmm,” Aziraphale agreed and then said in his most reasonable and coincidentally annoying tone, “So… why are you still choosing to go through it?”
It took a moment for that question to penetrate through the hangover, then Crowley sat up and blinked, wiping the alcohol from his system with a shake of his head.
“Blow that for a game of soldiers,” he said in a much stronger voice. “Right, cross number four out. What’s number five?”
5. Listen to the happy laughter of children.
“I’m sure this wasn’t on my list,” Crowley said suspiciously. “Have you been adding things to my list?”
“Me?” Aziraphale looked as innocent as only an angel could. It was a wonder his halo didn’t manifest with a gratuitous ‘ting!’ to emphasize that innocence.
“Yes, you.” Crowley examined the paper more closely. “The ink is even a slightly different shade. I’m impressed, angel, that’s almost devious.”
Aziraphale just smiled and leaned back on the bench, closing his eyes. “Just hush, and listen to the children laughing, there’s a good man.”
“I hate to tell you this, Aziraphale, but good men very rarely hang around children’s shows just to watch children,” Crowley informed him. “Slightly creepy men, maybe. Anyway, they aren’t laughing.
“They will in a minute,” Aziraphale said firmly. “It’s because the show’s just warming up.”
“No, it’s because they’re watching a clown, and they’re just too terrified to have figured out how to run away yet. Clowns aren’t funny. Hold on, I’ll make them laugh.”
It was a sentence that Aziraphale should perhaps have known to react more quickly to or at least more swiftly than he did. The next few minutes passed very rapidly, and by the time the screaming had stopped the pair were walking away very quickly from what had once been a children’s show.
“I can’t believe you did that,” Aziraphale hissed under his breath.
“What?” Crowley asked affably. “I made them laugh. I listened to them laugh.”
“You set him on fire, Crowley. You set the clown on *fire*”
“He’ll only have minor burns. Anyway, you have to admit, it was funny.”
6. Appear in a pop video
“I never knew you were into all this…” Aziraphale waved a hand, obviously trying to summon the right words. “…bopping.”
Crowley tried not to laugh. “I’m very tempted to make item seven watching you tell Billy Joel that you consider this bopping.”
“Well, really, my dear, it’s hardly one of the classics, is it?” Aziraphale sniffed a little disapprovingly.
“I never got credit for inspiring this the first time. I’m blessed if I won’t get to appear in the re-release before it all starts going wrong again.” Crowley adjusted his sunglasses, flashing Aziraphale a brilliant smile.
“And sitting around playing with a drum is things going right?” Aziraphale asked, still looking rather disdainful of the whole thing. “Don’t tell me annoying people with this song was part of your demonic duties.”
“Actually, no. He noticed me watching someone and decided to steal my look.” Crowley grimaced. “Or as much of it as he could steal while also looking considerably older and nowhere near as good-looking. Which, let me tell you, was very annoying for a while. People kept coming up and assuming I was a fan. As though I would need to copy anyone else.”
Aziraphale smiled and nodded at that, and carefully didn’t mention the James Bond fake bullethole sticker which he was fairly certain was still attached to the window of Crowley’s Bentley.” “Indeed,” he agreed instead, politely.
“This way at least they get to see how it should look before everything’s over.” Crowley tugged at his cuffs, making sure they were straight before the opening bars of the song began to play.
‘We didn’t light the fire! Oh, we didn’t light it, but we tried to fight it…’ Even to Aziraphale the song was familiar.
“Ironic really,” the angel murmured to himself even as Crowley loitered at the back of the music video looking cool and demon-like. “Seeing as we did.”
7. Making Jesus appear on a lunch box.
“Mum?” Patrick called anxiously. “Mum, I think you better come look at this.”
“Did you set fire to the microwave again?” His mother’s voice floated through from the next room, sounding slightly suspicious. “Because I swear, Pat, if you don’t stop sticking things in there to see what happens, you can just live on cold tuna and see how you like that!”
The boy stared at the lunchbox in front of him. Between brightly coloured pictures of robots, a small figure danced and spun. “No,” he said quietly. “No, it’s not that.”
“Well, what is it then?” His mother appeared finally at his shoulder, still stuffing plimsolls into his schoolbag. “You’re going to be late if you don’t hurry.”
Patrick handed the lunchbox over, which managed to be surrounded in an aura of holy light and the faintest hint of the echo of vast angelic choirs. “Jesus appeared on my lunchbox,” he explained. “And he keeps doing handstands.”
Unfortunately for the pair of them, by the time Patrick’s mother got off the phone to the News of the World Jesus was long-gone – and so were the angel and demon who had been watching and in one case, sniggering quite loudly.
8. Have lunch in a small picturesque café in Nepal
“I certainly don’t object, my dear,” Aziraphale insisted, licking cream carefully from elegantly manicured fingers. “It’s just, well. This does seem to be a little close to number three, doesn’t it?”
Criwley shrugged. “I like this cafe,” he said stubbornly. “If everything’s going to end, I want to have lunch in it just one more time. Just to remember it by.” The truth was, it seemed that one hundred things to do did seem rather a long list now he came to try and do them. You needed an imagination like a human’s to come up with so many things that were completely different. Besides, not that he was going to tell Aziraphale, but he was reliving some of his happiest memories. For some reason a lot of them were in small picturesque café’s or restaurants, and even more bizarrely involved the angel.
Aziraphale shrugged, and reached for another cream cake. “In that case, while you’re here you can do number nine.”
9. Actually pay for lunch.
“You’ve been adding things to my list again,” Crowley complained.
“I have,” Aziraphale agreed sunnily. “I feel you should do it at least once. I’ve been doing it for centuries now. It’s more than your turn.”
“That’s not true!” Crowley protested. “I pay for lunch. I have no problem waiting for lunch.”
“Ah!” Aziraphale raised a finger. “Check the footnotes please.”
“You added footnotes to my list?” Crowley asked incredulously, peering at the bottom of his piece of paper. “With real money that doesn’t dissolve the next morning or turn into leaves, and isn’t actually a piece of paper that the waitress only believes is money?”
“And the rest.” There was just a hint of smugness in Aziraphale’s tone.
Crowley looked again, further down the page. “And leave a tip?”
“A piece of paper saying “get a better job” doesn’t count.” Crowley looked a little sulky. “I’d almost think you’re getting to know me too well, angel.”
“Well, after a few thousand years, you do start anticipating certain tricks…”
10. Teach Aziraphale how to use a computer
“I really can’t see why this is important,” Aziraphale protested, voice muffled as he crouched to fiddle with wires behind the monitor.”
“Because you’re going to properly appreciate the strides humans have made before you lose the chance to do so.” Crowley said sternly. “Besides, after that last trick with the waitress, you deserve it. No, that’s a mouse, not a footpedal.”
Aziraphale peered at the machine, expression still baffled. “Where do I feed the little pieces of paper to have holes stamped into them?”
Crowley sighed. This item might take longer than he had previously planned.
A day and a half later, the computer was hooked up, and running on the wireless internet from Aziraphale’s closest neighbour (Crowley enjoyed the idea of the angel stealing anything too much to explain that the internet was not in fact landing in the computer through some type of strange human magic). An instructive lesson on How To Use Google was in progress.
“So, it’s like a very large library?” Aziraphale asked finally, having managed to digest that much. “Although,” he added, blushing, “one with some very strange indexing procedures.”
Crowley grinned, a little wickedly. It had been a very instructive lesson. One day, perhaps, he would tell Aziraphale about the Adult Content filter. Somewhere around list item number ninety-five perhaps.
11. Go back to where it all began
“We shouldn’t be here.” Aziraphale sounded nervous, glancing back over his shoulder.
“Relax,” Crowley soothed. “We’re not doing anything wrong. It’s not as though we were thrown out. Just the humans.”
“Just because it hasn’t been explicitly forbidden doesn’t mean that someone isn’t going to be very annoyed when they find out,” Aziraphale reminded him.
“And by the time they do, we might well be in a war and it’ll hardly matter anyway.” Crowley seemed oblivious to the warnings, utterly relaxed as he looked around him at the most beautiful scenery in the world, closed to human entrance for eternity. “I just wanted to see the place again. Do you remember? The tree, the fruit. You had a sword…”
“You were a snake…” Aziraphale agreed, reluctantly going along with the trip down memory lane as if he was going to be mugged and some dim alleyway of recollection.
“Yessss…” The word came out as a hiss, as though merely being here was sending Crowley back into old habits.
“It was lovely then,” Aziraphale said wistfully. “Peaceful.”
“Pfft.” That made the demon snort. “It was boring then!”
“Oh, come now. Even you can’t criticise the perfect garden!” Aziraphale objected as a myriad butterflies, glittering and shimmering in the perfect light swept past them both. They watched as they arced towards the most beautiful cascades in the world, awe inspiring in their majesty with a permanent triple rainbow ghosting over them all. “Don’t you remember how it was? The sunlight, the two of them together…”
“The predictability,” Crowley said firmly. “They were pets, goldfish kept nicely in their goldfish bowl, swimming nicely round and round so you could all watch them and enjoy them. Then I offered them something a bit different, and things were never predictable again.” He reached towards the Tree to pull one of the ripe fruit down, and looked at it reflectively. It looked disturbingly prosaic to have caused the Fall of Man “You know, I always wondered what they actually tasted like. Never did get to try them myself.”
Aziraphale shrank back. “Don’t you even think about it.” Some things went beyond the mischief he was prepared to go through for Crowley’s sake. “Those things go beyond trouble.”
“Surely you’ve wondered?” Crowley tossed the fruit from one hand to another. “I always did. Fancy, all that time convincing her it was the most delicious thing in the world, and I never even knew if I was right."
“Crowley…” the angel warned. “Don’t do this.”
“I haven’t been forbidden,” Crowley pointed out. “Neither have you. Only the humans. And I only wanted to try… to see what it changed.”
A note of desperation entered Aziraphale’s voice. “It isn’t on the list,” he tried. If it had been he’d certainly have carefully have removed it, hidden it away before Crowley could return to be tempted. If he’d had any idea what Crowley intended…
It didn’t work. “So I’ll add it,” Crowley said decisively, bringing the fruit to his mouth.
12. Eat the forbidden fruit
“Well?” Aziraphale watched him as one might watch a man with a bomb strapped to his chest, waiting for the inevitable explosion.
“Tastes like apple.” Crowley sounded a touch disappointed. He chewed, swallowed, and took another mouthful.
“Do you feel different?” Aziraphale prompted. “More knowledgeable?” He paused. “Guilty at all?”
“Really, Aziraphale, you should know by now that demons can’t feel guilt. It’s just not in us.” Still, Crowley seemed a little confused, eying the core he was still holding. After centuries wondering, it seemed too much of an anti-climax. “Maybe I got a dud.”
“Well, thank Heaven for that.” Aziraphale sighed in relief. “Come on, let’s go. Quick, before anyone notices.” Even without eating the fruit, he seemed to have enough guilt for the pair of them.
“You want to try a fruit?” Crowley offered teasingly, tugging another from the tree and holding it out in offering. “It’s not as though it could be wrong for you. You’re an angel after all.”
Aziraphale shuddered and looked away. “Not a chance. I’ve known you too long to let myself be tempted now.”
13. Have lunch in small picturesque café in Reykjavik
“You’re running out of ideas,” Aziraphale accused. “I knew you would.” Secretly he was just a little relieved by this. Eating their way around various cities had plenty to recommend in compared with what Crowley might otherwise have suggested.
“I just don’t see any reason to rush through things,” Crowley said comfortably, lounging back in his chair. “Besides, I like Iceland. It’s very…” he sought for a description Aziraphale might be find believable. “Very pretty. Glacial. And has good wine. Besides, I’ve got some business I can get done while we’re here”
“It’s very cold,” Aziraphale complained, and glanced at Crowley suspiciously. “And what business. What are you planning now?”
The demon’s shrug was deliberately casual. “Just this and that. A little work here and there. You know how it is. Do you like your skyr?”
Aziraphale finished the cream-filled confection, still eying Crowley with some wariness. There was something about that smile…
14. Allow the angel to think he’s been a good influence. Just for a short time.
He could feel Aziraphale beaming without looking at him. It was as though a new sun had appeared – you didn’t have to look at it to sense the sudden increase in light and warmth. Crowley grinned to himself, and stuck his hands in his pockets. “What?” he asked innocently, as though he had no clue what might have brought about the angel’s good mood.
“You tipped!” Aziraphale’s tone was filled with surprised delight. “I saw you! Twenty-five per cent – and in real money as well!”
“Isn’t that you wanted me to do?” Crowley injected surprise into his tone with practised ease.
“Well, yes, but I never thought that you’d do it without me making you.” Aziraphale patted his arm happily. “I always knew you wanted to do the right thing deep-down, my dear. You’re becoming quite a reformed character.”
“Uh-huh.” Crowley somehow managed to refrain from smirking, and instead accepted this demurely.
It wasn’t as though a tip was going to make any difference one way or another in a few days after all.
“Don’t need you for this one,” Crowley said cheerfully. “This I think I can manage quite well on my own.”
Aziraphale looked worried. “You’re just planning on sleeping for a few days? That’s all?”
“Believe me, there’s few things more enjoyable in the world,” Crowley assured him seriously, and then reconsidered. “At least few that you can do on your own. Or that don’t cause international warfare. You should give it a try sometime.”
“Well, if you’re sure…” Aziraphale said, still sounding doubtful. If he was honest, he’d begun to enjoy the experience of wondering what idea Crowley would pull out next. Still, a few days peace and quiet might not be a bad thing. He could reorganize the bookshop, give out a few blessings, work without any concern that Crowley might be about to cause a massive disaster because it looked fun.
“I’m sure,” Crowley said confidently. “Now if you’ll excuse me, there’s a wonderfully big bed with goose-feather pillows waiting for me. I’ll see you in a few days.”
16. Cause financial devastation. (Again).
The phone was ringing. Crowley struggled out of deep sleep at the noise, made a cursory attempt to sit up, and then flopped back against the pillows. Getting out of bed felt like far too much effort to be worth it.
Another ring, and then the answering machine clicked on. Crowley listened hazily to his own voice. “Hi, this is Anthony Crowley. Uh, I’m probably not in right now or asleep-“
Wonderful things, answer-phones. One of the things that made you grateful humans were around really; inventing things like answer phones, and beds, and wonderfully soft goose-feather pillows.
“Crowley, I’ve just seen the news. Did you just destroy the Icelandic economy?” Of course, Aziraphale never had liked them quite so much. Crowley opened one eye, staring at the ceiling as the angel’s voice went on. It must have been a success. Aziraphale sounded actually annoyed.
“-and thanks to you I think the UK is only about two and a half steps from declaring war on them. You can’t just do that and-“
Running out of space after ten minutes of Aziraphale’s flustered complaints the machine clicked off, cutting him off mid-sentence. Crowley stayed awake for a few more minutes, a smile lingering on his lips.
Years of gentle temptation, nudging bankers to accept loans when they knew they really shouldn’t, and coaxing people to overlook their common sense finally coming to fruition. It could all be such fun.
Still smiling, he drifted happily back to sleep.
17. (written where Aziraphale will not see) Persuade Aziraphale to eat forbidden fruit.
“I’m very angry with you,” Aziraphale stated as soon as Crowley stepped into the bookshop. The angel glared at him, arms folded across his chest.
“Ah, Aziraphale…” Crowley made his voice as coaxing as he knew how. “You know I was only doing my job.”
“You don’t have to do it quite so well,” Aziraphale said coldly. “Do you know the work I’ve had to do over the last few days to make sure the country only applied economic sanctions? They very nearly declared war on a country whose entire military force consists of a few lifeboats.”
Crowley tried not to smirk. “Iceland would have got it’s own back somehow,” he offered vaguely. “Over fishing cod again or something.”
“That’s not really the point, Crowley, is it?” Aziraphale could have an incredibly forbidding frown when he chose to use it.
As far as Crowley was concerned, it was exactly the point. He’d almost been able to feel the air crackling with nervous tension as soon as he’d stepped out of the house. In one fell swoop, he’d managed to annoy rich people worried about their savings, council workers worried about their jobs, poor people worried about their council tax going up, Icelandic people worried that no-one understood that they simply didn’t have the money their country had taken…
As far as Crowley was concerned, it all came under the heading of “a good day’s work”.
Better not to say that out loud around Aziraphale though. Instead he summoned up his most cajoling tone. “I brought a peace offering?” He waved the paper bag temptingly in front of Aziraphale.
The angel hesitated. Crowley sighed. “Come on. You know you want to forgive me.” It wasn’t as though Aziraphale had ever been much good at holding a grudge for more than five seconds. All that angelic practice at forgiving humans tended to take root.
Grudgingly, Aziraphale took the bag, peering inside. “What is it?”
“It’s a cake. Can’t you tell?” Admittedly, Crowley had to admit, it was a little hard to tell. For all his apartment had a beautifully shiny chrome oven, he’d never actually bothered using it before. Convincing it to work at exactly the right heat hadn’t seemed to prevent the pastry in question coming out looking strangely blackened and rather soggy in the middle. “I made it myself,” he added, feeling this should earn him points somewhere.
“Hn.” But, just as Crowley had known would be the case, Aziraphale didn’t have the heart to turn down a home-made gift, however strange it might look. He took it out of the bag, eying it a little uncertainly. “Thank you, Crowley.”
“Well, try it then!” Crowley sounded perhaps a little too eager as he watched the angel take a bite. “What do you think?”
“”Mmmph.” Aziraphale swallowed with what good really be considered a brave effort. If anything the cake looked even less appetising out of the bag than it had coming out of the oven. “Tastes… appley.”
And that was apparently that. Perhaps angels and demons really couldn’t be affected by it.
18. Set his plants free.
“Why are we doing this?” Crowley complained. “I don’t remember why I agreed to this.”
“You agreed to it because you’re still making up for the Iceland thing. And because it’s the right thing to do.” Aziraphale said primly. “Let the poor things taste freedom for the time they have left.”
The landed lightly in the rainforest, each folding away large white wings before they looked around.
“I don’t see why.” Crowley clutched the plant-pots in his arms to his chest possessively. “They’re happier in captivity anyway.”
“Crowley,” Aziraphale said patiently. “Last time I bought a cactus for you for Christmas, I found it lying amidst shards on the floor after I left the room for a minute. The poor thing committed suicide rather than go to your apartment.”
“Really?” It was hard to help looking a little smug. “Must have been a weakling.”
“Crowley!” This time Aziraphale’s tone was warning.
“Fine, fine.” Crowley set the pots down, giving in with a theatrical sigh. “If you think it’ll be for the best for them.”
“I do.” Pleased, Aziraphale crouched down to begin replanting the ‘lucky’ plants into the rich soil.
The plants, considering that they knew Crowley rather better than Aziraphale did, trembled.
Half an hour later they were on their way again, Aziraphale smiling at the thought of a good deed well done.
Crowley didn’t bother to tell him about the hungry wildebeest, already heading in the direction of their planting. Some small victories didn’t need to be pointed out.
19. Tell Gabriel what you really think of him.
“Don’t even think about it,” Aziraphale said forcefully. “Not if you want to ever get to the other eighty-one items.”
“But-“ Crowley protested, several millennia of simmering resentment badly needing a voice. The bastard had looked so damn smug wielding that sword back in the day.
This time, however, it seemed Aziraphale wasn’t going to budge. “I said no, Crowley. What’s the next item on the list?”
20. Teach Aziraphale to use eBay.
“But you already taught me to use a computer!” Aziraphale protested.
“If you won’t let me do any of the really fun things, we have to do this instead.” It was Crowley’s turn to be firm now. “Observe, angel, more books than even you have ever dreamed of.”
A few clicks and the search-list came up. Crowley knew his audience well, and had been careful to tailor his search to the rarest of the rare, things guaranteed to make the angel salivate with pure delight.
Aziraphale mouth fell open. “And these are available… just to buy?” he asked, already reaching to take the mouse from Crowley.
“Just that,” Crowley confirmed, deciding he would wait for the angel to discover for himself the joys of bidding wars. It might be good for Aziraphale to feel a touch of unangelic irritation at bidders who waited until the last millisecond to place their bid.
Aziraphale looked a little stunned, still scrolling down the list of book. “This is really nice of you, Crowley. Thank you.”
It was the wrong thing to say, perhaps. Crowley bristled a little. “Of course,” he added slyly. “You can sell books on there as well.”
Aziraphale froze, hand going suddenly going still on the mouse.
“You could modernize the bookshop perhaps, use the internet to find yourself a few more customers,” Crowley suggested, eyes alight with mischief. “Get rid of some of the old ones you’ve had about for ages.”
Aziraphale made a neutral noise, staring fixedly at the screen. Crowley tried not to laugh.
He was not entirely surprised when he visited a few days later to find that the machine had been packed back into its box.
21. Take the Bentley on a hot date.
“You know,” Aziraphale said, “I thought you actually meant to say you intended on taking a hot date in the Bentley. Because that is what most normal people – and demons – would mean.”
Crowley shrugged. “The plants got a happy ending,” he pointed out reasonable. “Why shouldn’t the car? And really, dates don’t come much hotter than that, do they?”
They both glanced towards where the Bentley was – for lack of a better word – snuggling against the silver-grey Aston Martin. The motors were running, making a noise Aziraphale could only think of as purring.
“If they get carried away,” he warned Crowley quietly, “you’re going to have to pay the Bond people for the scratches.”
22. Buy a Best of Queen album
“But I thought you had a Best of Queen album,” Aziraphale said, confused. “I thought you had several copies actually. Your car is full of them.”
“No,” Crowley said patiently. “My car is full of other albums I left in there too long which turned into Best of Queen albums. I have never actually been into a shop and bought one before.”
“And you want one because-?”
“Because logic dictates that if I leave a Best of Queen album in my car for a while it will then turn into something else. Anything else would be better, frankly. I’m not enduring another Apocalypse with a catchy tune to remind me that there’s a devil put aside for me. Frankly, going through that once was bad enough.”
Aziraphale glanced at him sideways. This had all seemed harmless enough so far, but there were a few tense lines at the edge of Crowley’s eyes now, a set to his mouth that suggested that this wasn’t quite the excuse to just enjoy himself and cause chaos a hundred times over that it seemed at first glance.
“Crowley,” he said gently.
The demon glanced back at him. “What?”
But the words of comfort wouldn’t come somehow. There was no promise that everything was going to be all right to give, because if they were right, it really really wouldn’t. Aziraphale shook his head, trying to shake that thought off. “Why don’t we check what’s next on your list?”
23. Take dancing lessons.
“Not the garotte, Aziraphale.”
“Gavotte,” the angel corrected mildly. “Garrotting is when you cut someone’s head off.”
“Yes, well, not that either.” Crowley scowled. “I had in mind something more… up to date. No-one dances the gavotte now.”
“You don’t dance anything now,” Aziraphale pointed out. “I’ve seen you. You just stand in clubs in your sunglasses and lean against the wall trying to look cool.”
“There’s no ‘try’ about it, thank you very much,” Crowley said, offended. “Anyway, I can dance. I just choose not to.”
“So can I. As long as it’s the gavotte.”
The receptionist looked from one to the other as they squabbled, and tried not to sigh. “A lot of gentlemen now find they much enjoy our riverdance lessons?” she suggested. “It certainly can be very effective.”
“Riverdance?” Aziraphale brightened a little. “That might just work, you know.”
Crowley considered it. “Not much moving around with that, is there?”
“So it would be a lot harder to fall between the electrons,” Aziraphale agreed, and beamed at the confused receptionist. “We’ll take lessons for two, please.”
24. Take up cookery.
It was the cake he’d make Aziraphale which had put the idea into Crowley’d head. He didn’t like things which wouldn’t obey him by working – not plants, and certainly not cake mix. If things went wrong, they needed to be persuaded to stop going wrong, that was all.
It meant that when Aziraphale called by one evening, he found the apartment filled with surprisingly delicious smells, and plates full of cakes and biscuits lying about the place. A few well-placed words to the oven about what Mr Muscle could really start doing with those muscles, and it had soon seen the error of its ways.
“Crowley!” he said, looking around at the assembled foodstuffs. “What a lovely surprise.”
Crowley looked smug. “Try some,” he suggested. “Here.” He pro-offered a bowl full of suspiciously pink looking goo.
Aziraphale obligingly took a spoonful. “What is it?”
“Angel delight,” Crowley said cheerfully. “Made with real angels!”
Aziraphale put the spoon down quickly.
“That’s how it gets its colour,” Crowley went on. “Quite ingenious, really, these humans. It comes in this little packet of powder after they’ve ground the angels down and-“ He broke off, starting to laugh. Enjoyable though it might have been to keep the joke going, it was difficult to keep a straight face when Aziraphale looked so appalled.
“You’re joking?” Aziraphale visibly relaxed.
“Maybe just a bit,” Crowley admitted. “It actually involves a weird and wonderful mix of chemicals. No food – or angels – whatsoever.”
It might, however, be best not to mention the ingredients of the Angel’s Food Cake.
25. Investigate Super Collider
“So it’s a machine that could create vacuums?”
“And those vacuums could then suck in the world, and in fact the whole of the universe?”
“Because they’re humans,” Crowley said glumly. “And humans would end the Universe just to see if it was actually possible. And be really excited, in the last second before they all died, that it actually was.”
The pair stared at the Large Hadron Collider while scientists busied around them, not invisible as such, just… not noticeable right now. It was impossibly big considering it was going to study things that were so tiny.
“They’d cause an apocalypse just to see if it was possible?” Aziraphale asked unbelievingly.
“That about sums it up, yes,” Crowley agreed. He sighed. “I liked the old days. They might have committed awful acts of mass genocide then, but at least they did it on purpose. Whereas now they just do it to show off – I mean, they didn’t even try very hard to hide it did they? Just look at the name?”
“What about the name?”
“Try anagramming Hadron. It makes it much easier to understand their intent. World’s most dangerous penis extension”
26. Break Super Collider
It was a couple of seconds before the machine’s hum changed to a worryingly high-pitched tone. One of the scientists hurried to peer at it, then glanced back at his colleagues. “Hey, Bob. Bob!”
The room was suddenly abuzz with anxious looking men with white coats, none of whom took any notice at all of Crowley or Aziraphale.
“What did you do to it?” the angel asked in a quiet aside.
Crowley grinned. “Helium leak,” he said happily. “They need it for cooling.”
“Huh.” Aziraphale watched as the white-coats buzzed around the machine, most of them looking decidedly upset. “They’ll fix it, you know,” he warned. “They’re persistent like that.”
It was news that didn’t seem to disturb the demon. “Not quickly,” he said firmly. “Which means we should still have enough time.”
“Enough time for?” Aziraphale hazarded, as the whine died off altogether and the machine lay still and silent.
“For the other seventy four items, of course! You don’t think I would stop now?”
27. Absolutely do not pay back any money you owe anyone. In fact, borrow more.
Crowley didn't tell Aziraphale about the loans he was taking out. It was just hard to miss as he was visiting when the postman arrived one morning. There were enough credit card statements, bills, and loan agreements there to almost fill the man's sack on their own. They wouldn't fit through the letter-box, and Aziraphale answered the knock to find himself being handed a huge bundle, rubber-banded together.
"Crowley," he said, carrying it through to the kitchen. "Is there anything you want to tell me?"
"Hmm?" Crowley glanced at him enquiringly.
"These bills, Crowley," Aziraphale said patiently. "Are you in trouble of any sort? Money worries?" He paused, thinking that over. "Wait, you can't have money worries. You never actually pay for anything anyway!"
"That's true," Crowley agreed. "Just add them to the pile over there." He waved to where a small mountain of letters was beginning to form.
Aziraphale set it down, then turned to stare at him suspiciously. "Just what are you up to this time? Why do you need all this money?"
"I don't." Crowley shrugged. "They kept sending me letters offering to loan me as much as I wanted. So I said yes." He smiled; the sharp, amused smile that never failed to remind Aziraphale that however entertaining his friend could be, there was still a demon under there. "It seemed to make them happy."
"But you're not planning to pay it back," Aziraphale said slowly.
"No." Still the smile, the look that meant Crowley considered something a job well done. "But, don't worry. Neither is anyone else."
28. Have lunch in picturesque small cafe in Berlin
"What are you planning this time?" Aziraphale demanded, sitting down.
"What?" Crowley looked up from his book, widening his eyes innocently.
"Are you going to crash the economy here too?"
"Already have," Crowley said cheerfully. "Look at the bright side. Your Apfelstrudel is stimulating the economy. You're doing your proper angelic duty already, just by being here."
Aziraphale sighed. Nice although it sounded in theory, he wasn't certain his superiors were likely to view eating cake with a demon as doing his job. "So, what are you planning?" he asked again. "If we're here, we're here because you're planning to pull some misdeed out of your sleeve in two days time, and then laugh about how you got away with it while I wasn't paying attention."
"So suspicious, angel." Crowley looked wounded. "I simply thought you would enjoy lunch here one last time before..."
"Before the world ended. Yes, I get the idea." Aziraphale sighed. That phrase was starting to wear just a little thin by now. He focused on Crowley's book for the first time. "What's that you're reading?"
For the first time the demon looked a little sheepish. "Well. It turns out that a hundred things to do is quite a few after all."
"And?" Aziraphale prompted.
"And I'm a demon. So I cheat and copy someone else," he said cheerfully. "How do you feel about karaoke?"
29. Find out how you feel about karaoke.
"That," Crowley said still horrified, "was the single most embarrassing thing I have ever endured. And that includes watching you doing magic tricks."
He got little comfort from Aziraphale. The angel was still red-faced, hurrying ahead as though to get away from the bar as quickly as possible. "You suggested it," he said, a little accusingly.
"I thought you'd be better at it! What happened to all the angelic choir practice?"
Aziraphale looked guilty. Given the option of standing in a host for hours practicing hallelujahs, and doing something else, he'd always picked the "something else". "I was busy," he defended himself.
"And the song!" Crowley continued, bitterly.
"Ah, now, you can't blame me for that," Aziraphale said quickly. "You chose that."
Crowley spluttered for a minute. "I can assure you I most certainly did not."
"Well, it wasn't me," Aziraphale said so firmly that Crowley knew that there was little point accusing him of lying. Angels just didn't.
"Then whose fault was it," he asked sullenly, "that I ended up in front of a pub full of people, singing that I was loving angels instead of all things!"
Aziraphale beamed. "I don't know, Crowley. I never thought you cared!"
30. Piss off the fundamentalists. And the atheists.
"You've done something, haven't you?" Aziraphale stated, more than asked. Crowley showing up at his door in this good a mood couldn't bode well, not when he'd been sulking since the karaoke incident.
Crowley just grinned. "Come and watch the news. You'll like this."
"What have you done?" Aziraphale persisted, following him inside.
"You'll see." A snap of Crowley's fingers convinced Aziraphale's television to suddenly grow several inches and start showing its picture in colour rather than black and white.
"Crowley!" Aziraphale protested. "I might have liked it the way it was before."
"You liked it the way it was before sound. Someone has to move you into the future," Crowley said calmly, sitting down without being invited. "Look, it's starting."
Aziraphale frowned, watching the screen. "An archaeological dig - oh, Crowley! You didn't bury a dinosaur, did you?"
"It's a thought," Crowley admitted. "Not this time though. Keep watching."
The tiny figures on the screen were positively bouncing with excitement now. Aziraphale watched as they led the cameras through the dig and to a room where the screen zoomed in on...
"Blueprints," Aziraphale said out loud. "For half an eye?"
"Thus disproving the fundamentalists argument that evolution isn't possible and forcing the atheists to acknowledge that something must have designed it in the first place," Crowley said happily. "Isn't it great? Annoys everyone at once."
Aziraphale blinked, trying to absorb that. "Don't you think you're going a little far?" he said eventually.
"In what way?" Crowley seemed oblivious to his concern.
"In every way. Crowley, it's one thing you playing around with this list of yours, but this is going to attract attention. You know that."
"I've got it under control." Crowley waved the worry away. "One last blowout, hey? Might as well enjoy it while I can."
Aziraphale kept watching, pressing his lips together tightly as the news station brought out an expert theologist to comment on the matter. "Don't say I didn't warn you."
31. Add some seasoning to life (and mess around with folklore)
“My eyes! My eyes!”
“What did you do?” the head chef hissed at the unhappy waiter as the entire kitchen turned around to stare at the writhing figure that appeared to be steaming on the floor behind them.
“I just threw some salt over my shoulder!” The waiter stared in horror at what he had apparently caused.
“Well, why?” the chef demanded. “Can we get a first-aider over here please? And has anyone called an ambulance?There’s…oozing. That can’t be good!”
“It’s just what my granny taught me to do!” the waiter burbled miserably. “If you spill salt, you have to throw some over your shoulder to... blind... the devil...”
They both turned to stare at the figure on the floor, still clutching at his eyes.
“That’s not real,” the head chef said uncomfortably. “It’s just a silly old superstition. The sort of things that grannies do tell you.”
The waiter took a step back, hastily crossing himself. “My granny knew an awful lot of stuff, Chef,” he said stubbornly. “Anyway, how else do you explain it?”
“It’s just a... well, maybe he got something in his eyes,” the other man suggested. “Anyway, there’s no such thing as the devil.” He looked around, a little desperately. “I said can someone bring that first aid kit over here now? Who’s our first aider?”
Reluctantly the pastry chef brought it over, moving slowly and reluctantly. Of course it was all silly superstition, but, well... you never knew for sure, did you?
He knelt down by the afflicted ma- perso- figure, engineering to do so while still staying as far away as possible. “Can you open your eyes please?” he croaked, proud of the fact that his voice was barely shaking at all really. “I... I’ve got some eyedrops here...”
The eyes opened slowly. The man pulled back as he caught a glimpse of yellow slit pupils that glowed malevolently and then... the figure winked and vanished as though he had never been there.
“Okay,” the Head Chef said slowly. “If anyone asks – especially the Health and Safety people – that did not just happen, do you understand?”
No-one was listening. They all seemed to be paying attention instead to the brown powder slowly falling from the ceiling.
“And furthermore, we... what’s that?” There was a faint note of stressed hysteria in his voice now, the sound of a man who knows that what he’s seeing cannot possibly be real. “What’s that?”
One of the waiters licked a finger, dabbed it in one of the rapidly growing piles, and tasted it gingerly and then sneezed. “Tastes like pepper, Chef...”
32. Swim with dolphins
“This is over-rated,” Crowley decided. “Can’t think what humans see in it.”
“I think they don’t usually become dolphins when they swim with them,” Aziraphale volunteered, taking a rather careful leap out of the azure water and splashing back beneath the waves with sleek grace.
“Makes it even more boring then. Why do they want to swim with an animal whose only thought in life is how to convince someone to give it another fish?” Crowley demanded. “And the smiling is starting to creep me out. I can’t do this smiling all the time.” He followed Aziraphale out of the water, executing a particularly stunning somersault in midair before slicing back into the water with a clean dive. “And this body seems to demand I do acrobatics whether I like it or not.”
“You smile as a human,” Aziraphale said mildly.
“No, I smirk,” Crowley said firmly. “Or I look smug, maybe. Demons do not do happy-friendly-smiling, except when we’re trying to convince someone to do something they shouldn’t.”
Aziraphale didn’t correct him, but the fixed smile on his dolphin’s face seemed to beg to differ. Or maybe it was just made that way. Hard to tell with dolphins.
“Sharks, maybe,” Crowley said thoughtfully. “Swimming with sharks might be more appropriate. At least they have proper predator smiles.”
33. Swim with sharks
"Now this is more like it," Crowley said, smiling a toothy dangerous sort of smile, full of razor teeth, his ebony shark eyes rippling with glowing gold as he cut through the water with the sharpness of hunger in every motion.
"What exactly is the difference between focusing solely on finding the next fish as a dolphin, and focusing solely on finding the next fish as a shark?" Aziraphale queried.
Crowley didn't even have to think twice about it. "Sharks do it with style."
34. Play something that has been in car for over two weeks and is not a Best of Queen album.
"And now we will see." Crowley held the tape in the air dramatically for a moment before sliding it into the player. Loud music filled the car.
"Two outta three ain't bad. Not Queen!" He grinned triumphantly, and glanced over at Aziraphale who nodded tolerantly. Sometimes, when dealing with Crowley, that was the easiest thing to do.
They were halfway to Item Number Thirty Five (Have lunch in a picturesque little cafe in Cornwall) when the music changed suddenly.
YOU HAVE BEEN BUSY, CROWLEY, Meatloaf commented midsong.
It took that little somehow to spoil what should have been a perfectly nice day with tea and scones. Crowley blessed softly, and braked in a way that, had he been anyone else, should have caused a pile-up of at least five or six cars. As it was, the drivers behind him simply all decided spontaneously that they would like to move lanes.
Beside him, he was horribly aware, Aziraphale had gone very still.
They were communicating by sound, so they would only use sound. They wouldn't look. They wouldn't see the angel next to him. At least... he hoped they wouldn't.
"Yes, lord," he agreed meekly, wondering what they would want now. Not another baby, please not another baby that they hoped would grow up to fight Adam. That had been hard enough the first time.
WHAT PRECISELY WERE YOU DOING WITH THE PLANS FOR HALF AN EYE, CROWLEY?
Crowley swallowed hard. Aziraphale had warned him, Aziraphale had warned him, but he hadn't bothered to listen, because really, the world was going to end in another blessed apocalypse even if the sides might be different this time around and what could possibly be worse than that?
Well, obviously, the things that happened immediately before the world ended could be. But he hadn't thought about that at the time.
"It was... demonic business, lord," he managed, his voice sounding slightly strangled. "To... tempt the fundamentalists, and make them doubt their faith." There we go. That was proper demonic justification if ever there was one.
There was a silence for a moment, as though that needed to be digested, and Crowley watched his own knuckles whiten on the steering wheel as he waited.
AND IN THE GARDEN OF EDEN? the question came finally.
Crowley bit his lip hard, trying to think, trying to justify. You couldn't just say that you'd visited because you felt like seeing the old place again, and while you were there got a bit peckish. That was the kind of explanation that would get you hauled back up to hell right quick. You had to have a reason.
And he did, didn't he? Well, at least, one that they were more likely to take than any other. "I was tempting the angel, lord," he lied glibly, careful not to even turn his head for a glance at Aziraphale.
Even so, he could hear the angel's quiet intake of breath.
WITH WHAT, PRECISELY?
Was it his imagination, or did Meatloaf sound a little approving? Crowley took the chance. "With forbidden fruit, lord," he said without hesitation.
AND DID YOU SUCCEED?
Crowley didn't have to look at Aziraphale now to guess the angel's expression. Well, he could make it up to him later. It wasn't as though it was usually hard to coax forgiveness out of him. Needs must when the devil drives, as the humans put it. "Yes lord, I did."
VERY GOOD. And now Meatloaf definitely sounded pleased, if not entirely convinced. YOU WILL BE NEEDED SHORTLY, CROWLEY.
"Yes, lord." Don't look at Aziraphale, don't look at Aziraphale, just focus on surviving this conversation. "I'll be ready."
MAKE SURE YOU ARE, CROWLEY. WE DON'T WANT A REPEAT OF THE LAST LITTLE INCIDENT…. Like a bat out of hell, I'll be gone, gone, gone...
It was over. Crowley let himself relax, taking a deep breath, before he let himself glance over at Aziraphale.
The angel was jiggling at the Bentley door, struggling to open it.
"Hey, hey!" That was a little alarming, and more angry than he had considered Aziraphale being. "Where are you going?"
"Out!" That single word was furious, and Aziraphale finally managed to jerk the door open. "I don't know what's wrong with you lately, Crowley. Do you want me to have to end up smiting you?"
"Look, you know I have to tell them what they want to hear," Crowley protested.
"Just like you tell me what you think I want to hear? Or at least what you think will make me let you get away with whatever you feel like doing," Aziraphale said coldly.
"It isn't like that!" Or maybe it was, sometimes, but what else did Aziraphale expect of a demon? "You know that isn't really why I took you there."
"Do I?" But Aziraphale hesitated, hand on the door-handle. "Answer me this," he said finally, eyes seeking Crowley's behind the sunglasses. "Have I eaten the forbidden fruit?"
It should have been easy to lie - Crowley did it every day without problem. But there was something about those angelic eyes boring into his that made him feel curiously exposed, even with the sunglasses to shield him. "Yes," he admitted finally.
"Oh, Crowley." It sounded as though it was said more in sadness than anger, with a disappointment that pricked a conscience Crowley hadn't realised he had any more. It was oddly like a numbed limb coming back to life with the unsettling sensation of pins and needles.
"But-" Crowley started to add quickly, but it was already too late. The car door slammed, and the angel walked off down the motorway, walking around cars which swerved around him of their own accord, much to the astonishment of the drivers.
"But I only wanted to see what would happen," Crowley finished quietly to an empty car. Well, damn him if he didn't want to listen. It wasn't as though he needed the angel to have a good time. He could drive on to Cornwall and have lunch there without him.
Suddenly angry, he reached to turn the music up to its highest volume, blaring it out of the speakers.
"-and I know that I'm damned if I never get out, and maybe I'm damned if I do. But if I'm gonna be damned, you know I wanna be damned, you know I wanna be damned with you."
Crowley stared out of the window for a second, then reached back to the volume knob. Maybe this drive would be better without music after all.
35. Have lunch in a small picturesque cafe in Cornwall.
Cornwall was wet; pouringly, miserably wet, with grey skies and not even a sign of the sun to be seen.
Of course, Crowley arranged for the rain to fall around him rather than on him, but surprisingly that somehow didn't make him feel any better. The scones were too dry, the cream tasted off, and he'd only really ordered them out of habit because he knew Aziraphale liked cream cakes.
He sank a seagull on the way home, because Aziraphale wasn't there to stop him. Somehow, that didn't make him feel better either.
36. Apologise to Aziraphale
It should be easy. It was always easy. Angels didn't have it in them to withhold forgiveness when it was asked for. You apologised, made out that you'd repented, and they forgave you. That was how it worked.
Crowley marched into the bookshop carrying a whole box of cream cakes, determined to win Aziraphale back over. Life just wasn't as fun without the angel to drag along with him. There was no fun in being outrageous unless there was someone to act as an audience.
"Aziraphale," he started firmly. "I came to apologise."
The angel looked up from where he was re-organising books. Somehow, he looked less pleased to see him than Crowley had hoped he would. "Yes?"
Crowley cleared his throat. "I... well, I'm sorry about the whole forbidden fruit thing. I brought cream cakes. Do you want to go to Wales this afternoon? There's this nice little cafe..."
"No?" Crowley's heart sank a little. Somehow, that hadn't sounded as though Aziraphale were saying no just to Wales. Still, he pressed on. "Scotland then?"
"You're not sorry," Aziraphale said calmly, picking up another stack of books and stacking them back in the shelf. "Or if you are, you're only sorry because I found out. Maybe I should have known better than to trust a demon in the first place, but I can't trust you, and if I can't trust you we can't be friends. And I am sorry for that, but it can't be helped."
This was worse than Crowley had expected. "But-" he started to protest weakly.
"No, Crowley," Aziraphale said firmly. "I'd like you to leave now, please. I have work to do."
Dumbfounded, Crowley actually did as he was told, taking the cream cakes with him.
Had he looked back, he might have seen Aziraphale set the books down, leaning against the shelves and taking a deep, steadying breath. Sometimes, doing the right thing could be so hard.
37. Visit Gomorrah.
Maybe it was just as well the angel was angry with him right now. Crowley wasn't sure he would have wanted to bring him here anyway.
Here had been the little tavern where he used to get people drunk, and coax them that just one more drink wouldn't hurt at all. Here the table where it was so easy to get men to join him leering at passers-by. Here, here and here the houses of people he had known, had visited, had coaxed into sin one at a time, because... well, because they were there, and it was his job. The days had been hot, picked out in light and the darkness of night had seen rich wines flow endlessly until the air itself seemed intoxicating, thick and heavy with sensuality and the spice scents of lust.
It had been like a game almost. He'd thought it was funny when the angels came around, growing steadily more frustrated each time they searched for righteous people and came up blank. He'd moved ahead of them, talking to one person after another; seductive, tempting and more persuasive than the angels had ever known how to be.
If they'd sent Aziraphale, it would have been different. Aziraphale understood how humans could be - terrible one day, wonderful the next. Sometimes it just took a conversation, an idea planted in their heads, or even everyone else doing something - it was easy to get them to go along with the crowd. Aziraphale would have moved amongst them, undoing the damage Crowley had done, nudging them back to where he wanted them. They could have been righteous, on another day, with help or even without interference.
But the angels who had been sent hadn't understood that. They'd looked, seen, and reported back, not understanding really that they could have changed what they saw.
Maybe, with foresight, telling the whole town that he knew them, and they were great in bed but liked to play hard to get had been a bad idea. But it had seemed funny, at the time.
And so they had gone away. And they had left... this. Crowley paced what had once been a thriving town, treading ground which had once been trampled by a thousand feet, now cracked and barren scoured by fire and wrath until the ground itself was to bitter and tormented to hold life.
This was what it looked like when things ended. This was what it looked like when there was nothing left. Desolation, a bereavement of the earth, grieving for a life that would never come again. There was no bright day, only endless mourning twilight, no rich wines just the bitter wind, no spice in the air, just cold bleached bones tumbling with the shifting sands stark and unforgiving.
This was what everywhere would look like.... afterwards.
He sat down, leaning his back against the worn salt pillar at the edge of the town, any semblance of a face or features scoured to oblivion by the desert wind, and looked into space until it was too dark to see, once more watching people from millennia ago who only existed in his memory.
38. Feed the ducks.
"What's the passphrase?"
"The- oh." For once, Crowley resisted taking advantage of the situation. "I think you've got a case of mistaken identity."
"I have?" The MI5 agent looked disappointed. "But my instructions were to find someone feeding the ducks in the park."
"Look for someone wearing a trenchcoat and a hat," Crowley advised. "I'm really just feeding ducks. At least for today."
The agent wandered off disconsolately. That was the problem with feeding the ducks alone. Every passing secret agent assumed you'd been sent to meet them. On other days, Crowley had had fun with this, merrily informing FBI agents of plots by alien badgers to kidnap the President, and sending Russian agents to search for secret nuclear bunkers in local nurseries.
Today he just wasn't in the mood.
"Psst! You here about the photos?"
"Oh, for he- no! No, I am not here about the sodding photos! I am here to feed the ducks!" Crowley waved the bag with an impressive amount of threat for what was only stale crumbs. "Unless you'd like them to be retrieving bread from a really uncomfortable place, I suggest you go away."
Looking sulky, the man wandered away.
After a third agent - this one French - attempted to discretely stuff a brown envelope full of unmarked notes into his hand, Crowley gave in and went home. Feeding ducks just wasn't as easy as it used to be.
39. Test the ineffable plan.
"Do you think," Crowley repeated urgently, determined to get someone to listen to him this time "you'd have more of a chance or less of becoming moral, and not sleeping with your neighbour's wife and, I don't know, becoming a priest or something if you hadn't been born on a council estate?"
The teenager stared at him. "You accusing me of nicking my mate's bird?" he asked finally.
"Theoretically," Crowley stressed. Surely it wasn’t this hard to test ineffability? "If you'd been born rich, do you think you might have been a better person?"
"Are you from Mickey? Because you can tell Mickey from me that I wouldn't have a go with his Kirsty if you paid me. Not after what I heard he caught from her."
Crowley sighed. "Tell you what," he said finally. More opportunities for grace, his demonic arse! "Here's six numbers. Put them on the lottery this Saturday, then see if you feel like a better person."
The boy blinked at the piece of paper thrust into his hand. "Are you kidding me, mate?"
But the demon had already gone.
40. Apologise to Aziraphale. Sincerely, this time.
Aziraphale's best intentions to ignore the demon faltered when faced with Crowley standing outside the shop door looking mournful. Determined not to give in too easily, he retreated to the back to make a mug of cocoa.
Crowley was still there when he returned. And it was starting to rain.
Trying to look stern, the angel reluctantly opened the door. "Well?"
"I came to say sorry," Crowley said, a little gruffly. Sincere apologies didn't seem to come naturally to a demon throat.
"For?" Aziraphale prompted, still blocking the doorway.
"For tricking you into eating the forbidden fruit." Crowley shuffled his feet uncomfortably.
Aziraphale softened a little. "Well then, if you realise you were wrong..."
"I should have thought that you would have expected it though," Crowley blurted, unable to quite stop himself.
Aziraphale shut his eyes for a minute. "Crowley..."
"I mean, you don't think "oh, this is a demon, it's a bit weird that he's turned up bearing a gift"? It was obvi - Aziraphale!"
But the angel was already closing the door in his face. "Good bye, Crowley."
41. Create a website.
Sure he shouldn't have been browsing the internet at work, but it wasn't as though anyone was going to notice someone Googling away for five seconds. Besides, Henry only wanted the song lyrics to get the stupid song out of his head. Hear it on the radio once and it seemed as though the same line was going to repeat forever in his head.
Ah, here it is. He clicked eagerly, glancing quickly back over his shoulder before scanning the lyrics.
Damn, was that background music? Someone was going to notice that. He checked hastily that he had the volume turned down, but it didn't seem to be making a difference. Oh, well, easily fixed. Just close the window and...
Dammit, a pop-up. He hated those. The boss might not notice a simple lyrics site but a half-naked woman was a different matter. And that music seemed to be getting louder. He clicked the cross hastily, trying to close that too.
Except now there were two popups. Half-naked men and women. This wasn't getting any better.
Click to close those too. Now there were four popups. Now eight. Now sixteen. And the music - the music was so loud someone would hear it at any moment. Panicking, Henry reached over and unplugged the speakers.
It didn't help.
By the time the entire office had come to investigate just who was playing the Sorcerer's Apprentice at such a loud volume, the screen was covered in too many pop-ups to count. Henry looked up, his face grey, his finger sore from clicking too many crosses, and horribly aware that he was about to be known as "that guy who got sacked for watching goats".
"I can explain..."
42. Get your fortune told.
"We burnt it," Newton said calmly. "Sorry,"
Crowley stared at him. "I'm sorry, I think I misunderstood you. We are talking about the one book which actually carries an accurate record of the future, yes? The one that might tell us when the world is about to end - again."
Anathema shrugged. "We decided that this time maybe we didn't want to know."
It was a good job Aziraphale wasn't here. If Crowley was sweating at the idea of losing it, Aziraphale would have been foaming at the mouth at the sheer idea of a book being treated in such a way.
"But how - you won't know if you're going to die!" he blurted. "Or if everyone's going to die. Or when they are, and how much time they have..."
"We didn't want to know," Anathema repeated.
"We don't want to spend our lives waiting," Newton agreed. "It'll come when it comes. Living is something you ought to make up as you go along not that you do to some instruction manual."
Crowley closed his eyes a moment. Now was not the moment to argue the wisdom of destroying something which might just have had the ability to save the universe. "You didn't happen to notice how thick it was by any chance?"
43. Spit on brambles.
Humans had some weird beliefs, and this was among the odder ones. Blackberries eaten after Michaelmas have been spit on by the devil? Who seriously believed the devil had that kind of time on his hands anyway? He wasn't going to take time out of his busy schedule of tormenting damned souls to seek out some forgotten patch of wasteland and spit on some berries just in case some human felt like eating them.
Especially not as the type of areas filled with bramble also tended to be filled with dogdirt. And nettles. And thorns. And it turned out the blackberries tasted rather nice, and really it seemed a pity just to keep spitting on all of them.
The devil does not have time to spit on your brambles after Michaelmas. A demon, however, might have time to eat them before you get a chance to.
44. Try to talk to the angel. Again.
"Aziraphale!" No waiting at the shop door this time. It hadn't worked last time, so he strode in instead.
"Crowley." The angel sounded more resigned than annoyed now, setting down his cup of tea. "What is it now?"
"I need to talk to you about the end of the world. Enough of this messing around with apologies - we need to deal with this," Crowley said firmly, hoping that this would work. If he could just blow through the apology part and leave that behind then they could move on. "Did you know they've burnt the book?"
For a moment Aziraphale looked confused. "What book?"
"The book! The one that tells us how much time there is left before... well, before we have to go through it again!" Crowley snapped. "They can't even remember how many pages it had - we could be at war again tomorrow for all we know!"
Aziraphale winced, trying not to imagine centuries old parchment burnt up in a moment. "Well..." he said, uncertainly, angelic nature fighting it out with book-lover's horror at the idea. "I'm sure they had their reasons."
"If stupidity counts as a reason, yes," Crowley said sharply. "Everyone has reasons. It's just that sometimes those reasons are "I just felt like having a little bit of torture today" or "I don't know, I just couldn't see any reason why I shouldn't be a complete idiot today". Reasons don't just magically make everything okay."
It was working. He could see the angel wince, see the part of him that wanted to get angry at the insanity of anyone destroying such a precious book. That was Aziraphale's weakness, and he just had to tap it, to nudge it until the angel had forgotten to be angry at him and was angry at someone else instead.
"Totally irreplaceable," he added for good measure. "No-one'll ever know what was in there now. Even if they didn't want to read it themselves, they might have handed it over to someone who did."
Aziraphale grimaced a moment, and Crowley was certain angelic wrath was only moments away, but somehow he seemed to steady himself.
"No, Crowley," he said quietly.
"No, you're not getting around me this way," Aziraphale said. "If Agnes Nutter could see far enough into the future to make another book survive this long, she could see far enough to know that it would be burnt when it got here. If I were meant to read it, it would have reached me somehow."
That was the problem with angels. They were so accepting.
"And I've been thinking about what you said the other day," Aziraphale added. "You're right. I should have expected it from someone of demonic nature."
Somehow, it didn't sound like a good thing when Aziraphale said it. The angel looked dreadfully serious.
"If I'm going to walk around with a demon, I should expect consequences for that choice. And... I can't live with those consequences. I'm sorry, dear boy. If you can't help doing things like that, then I simply have to avoid seeing you."
For once left without an easy argument in return, Crowley stared at him. "But I was just testing to see if it had an effect! That was all!"
"And I'm sure that seemed like a good reason to you," Aziraphale agreed. "But you've said it yourself, Crowley. Reasons don't just magically make everything okay."
45. Corrupt the young.
Sarah looked around at the hiss. Up, down, side to side. There didn't seem to be anyone close enough to be talking to her.
"Psst!" There it was again, and this time the snake in the nearest tank seemed to jerk its head at her.
Of course, there wasn't a child in Britain - maybe not in the whole world - who didn't know what that meant. "Are you talking to me?" she asked, eyes wide. "Am... am I speaking Parseltongue now?"
"Yessss," Crowley agreed cheerfully. "Yessss, you are."
"Does that mean... I'm a wizard?" the eight year old pressed, stepping closer to the glass. Mummy and Daddy were further on, and no-one else seemed to be listening all that closely.
"Yessss," Crowley confirmed. "Now, what I want you to do is..."
It made the news later than day when most of the animals in the zoo's Reptile House were mysteriously released. Harry Potter made Crowley's job so much easier.
46. Give the EU back its rude vegetables.
"So, we're all agreed then? That whole thing about funny-shaped cucumbers was a case of too much alcohol at lunch? We can undo it and consider the whole thing dropped?"
There were murmurs of agreement through the meeting.
"I never suggested it in the first place," the Bulgarian MEP said stoutly.
"My wife says dinner isn't the same without the chance of a turnip shaped like... well, you know," the British representative agreed. "She was very upset when she first heard what we'd decided. You can't think the trouble it's caused. It turns out our country is very much in favour of rude vegetables."
"Well, your country would be," the French MEP said sourly. "Your country still believes it's easier to count to twelve than ten after all."
The other man flushed. "We avoid metric as a matter of principle!" he protested. "And because we don't like people telling us what to do - just like these vegetables. We were an Empire once, you know!"
"We know!" And that was a strained chorus from everyone there. There was only so much Empire talk anyone could take from the British without feeling the urge to force stupid laws on them purposely in order to annoy them.
"Still," the German MEP added thoughtfully, "maybe we can undo this one now. It's gone on long enough. Good idea of yours there, Hungary."
The Hungarian representative looked startled. "Us? We didn't suggest it. I thought it was Portugal."
The Portuguese MEP shook his head. "It was that man in the sunglasses," he recalled, "and the suit. I thought he was from Slovenia?"
"I thought Spanish?"
Each country in turn was queried and shook his or her head. It seemed no-one was willing to own up to the suggestion.
"Well, he must have been someone important, else he couldn't have been here," the Irish MEP decided eventually. "Maybe he's on the toilet or something. Shall we put it to the vote?"
And so, rude fruit and vegetables were returned to tables throughout Europe. It was wonderful what one little suggestion could do.
47. Fell the Leaning Tower of Pisa
Some things just begged to happen, and this one had been crying out to Crowley ever since the Tower had been built. It made the palms of his hands itch, that kind of accident waiting to happen, if only someone gave it a gentle nudge. Humans again - only they could make a massive structural fault and make it a tourist attraction which brought in a fortune.
Especially when it was so easy to break.
"Look over there!" He nudged the nearest tourist, pointing into the distance. The tourist peered through his binoculars, then lowered them slowly to stare at the scene visible from the top of the tower.
It was a parade. A parade of elephants, ridden by goats, on whose backs monkeys perched each carrying a torch. Which was on fire. Crowley saw no reason to be subtle about it.
"Here, Gladys!" the man shouted back over his shoulder to his wife. "Come have a look at this! Must be some kind of weird Italian celebration."
Crowley smiled to himself as people started to cluster at the South side of the tower, murmuring and pointing. Fifty watching now, then a hundred as the people on the other side began to realise that there was something they were missing.
The monkeys started to juggle the torches from one elephant to another, and more people climbed the stairs, not wanting to miss seeing such a spectacle properly.
Two hundred, three hundred... Crowley wandered back down the stairs, hands in pockets, well out of the way of danger. Three hundred and fifty, four hundred...
Safely at the bottom, Crowley stood back and hummed a cheery little tune to himself. The lean became a tilt, and then a wobble, until centuries-old architecture fell almost gracefully to the city below, accompanied by shouts and yells of alarm.
Crowley smiled the smile of a man who had just had a long-annoying itch scratched for him.
News stations around the world would later exclaim in tones of shock that it was almost miraculous that no-one had received injuries worse than cuts and bruises from the fall. None of them would realise that this 'miracle' was in fact prompted by what a certain angel might have said had he been there.
48. Attempt to win way back into Aziraphale's good books.
At any other time, after the second attempt at talking to Aziraphale had failed, Crowley might have given up for a while. Given it a decade or so, let the angel forget what he was angry about, and then slunk back without really having to swallow his pride so much. It wasn't as though there were usually any hurry about it after all. There was literally all the time in the world.
There still was in fact. It was just that 'all the time in the world' might not be very long at all now. Every second that ticked away was another that Crowley wasn't amusing himself by finding new ways to put that faintly appalled look on the angel's face, or that they weren't both enjoying a bottle of wine in a lunchtime treat. It was the sort of thing that made a demon conscious of just how fast time could pass.
Going to the shop hadn't worked, either time. Time for a new approach. Crowley reached for the phone and dialed a familiar number.
It was a few minutes before the line was picked up at the other end. "Hullo?"
"Aziraphale!" Crowley made his voice as bright and breezy as he could. "I've got to pop over to Milton Keynes for a few temptations. I wondered if there was anyone who needed brushing up with a spot of rallying hope or anything while I was there?" This, he thought, had to be a winner. Milton Keynes had been on both their "avoid as much as possible" lists for a long while now. Surely the idea of being able to skip a visit to it would win the angel over?
There was a pause, and then a sigh on the other end of the line. "Crowley," Aziraphale greeted, sounding tired, and less than enthused to speak to him. "I thought we talked about this."
That wasn't what Crowley wanted to hear, not at all. "Come on, Aziraphale," he said, sounding more pleading than he had meant to. "It's not like you want to go to the place. Why don't you let me save you a trip?"
There was another pause. Crowley wondered what the angel was doing to take so long over answering. Weighing over whether to say yes? Or just trying to think of another gentle way to say no, and slip away again? "Why?" Aziraphale asked eventually.
It was a good question. Why? Because he needed Aziraphale. He needed someone to appreciate all those times he could have damned, and caused death and destruction much worse than he ever did, but held his hand, even if he squirmed those days the angel acknowledged it. He needed someone to make the job fun, rather than just something that meant he couldn't sleep for another full decade.
Because the world was going to end, and he was scared, and maybe there was no-one else in Heaven or Hell who might understand that.
It was too much for anyone to expect a demon to admit, and Crowley shrugged his shoulders on the other end of the phone. "It's my turn?" he suggested finally. True enough - Aziraphale had saved him a trip down there a few years ago, not that he was usually so quick to volunteer to pay it back.
"Crowley," Aziraphale said, and it was somehow worse how gently he said it. "I can't accept that. You know I can't."
"Why not?" Crowley demanded, annoyed now. The angel was making this so damn hard. "You always have before!"
"Because it's a temptation under another name," Aziraphale said simply, apologetically. "Save myself a trip to Milton Keynes, in return for the risk that in future I'll allow you to do something which is forbidden. I know your tricks, Crowley. I've worked with you long enough to recognise them."
Crowley hissed in exasperation. The fact that this time, this time, it wasn't a trick seemed to be something he was unable to get into the angel's head.
Aziraphale apparently heard it, and sighed again. "Maybe you've been tempting too long, Crowley. You don't even know when you're doing it any more. But I do. And I can't accept it. Sorry."
The receiver sounded a dull tone as the angel hung up on him. In a fit of annoyance, Crowley melted it. Of course, that didn't help anything.
49. Listen to the radio.
It was plainly ridiculous. He was being held hostage by his own music system. Crowley glared at it resentfully. He was a demon, he had power to coax people into endless damnation, he could cause terrible destruction with a snap of his fingers, and he was damn well going to listen to music in his own car if he wanted to. He was going to listen to music, moreover, that didn't paint dreadful pictures on the inside of his eyelids.
Best of Queen was out then. Meatfloaf was out for the same reason, so that took care of the albums. There was still the radio though.
He turned it on, and relaxed for a moment at the soothing tones of the radio presenter before the Beatles' familiar croon filled the car.
"Imagine there's no Heaven, it's easy if you try. No hell below us, above us only sky."
He managed a whole thirty seconds before he turned it off again. He hadn't really wanted to listen to music anyway.
50. Tell someone your life story.
It had been another of the book's suggestions. Crowley was really beginning to doubt the sense of the man who had written that book after the dolphins, not to mention the whole karaoke incident, but it seemed worth a try nevertheless.
There seemed to be a limited number of people he could actually try it out with though. The angel wasn't in the mood to listen to him, it seemed. Another demon was unlikely to react sympathetically, if by 'sympathetically' you meant 'did not react by reporting back that Crowley had gone more native than anyone realised and getting him recalled home'. Most humans were likely to stare and nod along while taking details for the fortune they were planning to get from the News of the World.
That left a small select group of people who were, you might say, contractually obliged not to tell anyone. Crowley parked outside, sauntering into the building with a carefully casual air. What was the worst that could happen, after all?
Well, the worst was obviously that he ended up drenched in Holy Water - and that stuff stung - and having to explain his discorporation in Hell. But hopefully, it wouldn't come to that.
"I suppose," he drawled, in response to an urgent enquiry from behind the screen, "that I should start at the beginning with the whole fruit business. Though I was only acting under orders."
There was a pause, and then the confession screen slid back. The priest peered out incredulously.
Crowley grinned, and allowed the sunglasses to slide down his nose just enough to expose a glimpse of yellow eyes.
The priest paled, but to his credit managed without one splash of Holy Water or yell of 'Get behind me, demon' (which Crowley had been rather looking forward to - they always looked so shocked after shouting that when you tapped on their shoulder from behind). There was a pause in which the man seemed to be considering what to do next.
Crowley smiled wickedly. Perhaps the book had got it right after all. This was more fun than he had anticipated. "Would you like me to go on?" he enquired.
A deep, steadying breath, and much to Crowley's surprise the priest seemed to get a hold on himself. Unknowingly, Crowley had chosen his priest well. Father Butters had spent a lifetime counseling drug-dealers, murderers, and thieves. He was not about to be intimidated, just because he now appeared to be faced by well... the being which had invented original sin.
Or perhaps he was, a bit, but that was no reason to be unprofessional about it.
"I get the feeling that this one might take a while," he said bravely. "Why don't you come around the back." He grasped wildly for a moment for the thing guaranteed to bring protection, the thing resorted to as the saviour in most, if not all, emergencies – particularly in England. "Would you like a cup of tea?"
51. Talk to a priest.
It wasn't that Crowley had never talked to a priest, of course. It was just that most of those conversations had involved the desires of the flesh, the temptations of bribery, and, most recently over the last few years, the irritations involved in setting up a Parish website. A nice chitchat over a cup of tea had never really been on the schedule.
In actual fact it took several cups of tea, most of the afternoon, and a special rolling out of the chocolate digestives when things started to get intense.
"...and so I knocked down the Leaning Tower of Pisa," Crowley finished finally. "Which pissed a lot of people off, I can tell you. The insurance folk are sweating buckets, and you can't even imagine the amount of paperwork it's going to cause. I would say several thousand people are about to be suddenly tempted to lie on their insurance claim forms about how nice their cars were before a tower landed on it as well."
"I see." Father Butters had taken the whole thing surprisingly calmly. He'd paused Crowley to ask questions here and there, detouring occasionally into discussions of Henry the Eighth's motivations, and just what Cromwell had against Christmas, but otherwise he'd listened quietly, taking occasional sips from his cup of tea. "But... no-one got hurt badly, I think?" he queried. "I saw it on the news. No-one died."
"Yes, well." Crowley looked a little uncomfortable. "There was no need to go too far."
"I see." The priest rested his chin on his hand now, thoughtfully gazing at Crowley for a long moment. "Tell me, demon. Are you actually wanting to repent?"
It was a question that turned Crowley's expression pained. "Not if it meant I had to stop."
"So, why exactly are you here?"
He shrugged awkwardly, nonplussed. It seemed a little late now that he'd actually expected the priest to run screaming long before this point. "Just seemed like a good idea to tell one person at least. Before... well."
"Before the world ended, or at least before our people ended up at war with your people," Father Butters nodded. "Yes, I think I got that point." Crowley had been rather emphatic about that part. There had been pacing, and some rather excitable arm-waving, and even some explanatory diagrams in case the Father had somehow failed to understand.
"That was pretty much it," Crowley concluded, eying the last chocolate digestive hungrily.
"One thing I don't understand though," the priest added, looking at Crowley thoughtfully. "What exactly were you hoping to achieve with the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge?"
"Achieve?" It was a question that made the demon falter. "I wasn't wanting to achieve anything. I just wanted to see what happened, and..." he shrugged, "...nothing did."
"Well, of course, it didn't," Father Butters said, as though that much were obvious. "That's not how it works."
Crowley eyed him suspiciously. Knowing the scripture was part of his job, of course, and he was fairly certain the instruction booklet to the Tree of Knowledge wasn't in there. He would have noticed before now if it were. Still, humans could sometimes surprise you. They were good at that. "Because I'm a demon?"
Father Butters shook his head patiently. "Because it doesn't work like that. We made our first choice to exercise our free will when we took the fruit. From the sound of it, you've been using yours for centuries."
"I don't, technically, have free will," Crowley protested quickly. "Besides, it's the Tree of Knowledge, not the Tree of Free Will."
The Father shrugged. "Knowledge of what will happen if you choose one course or another. Knowledge of punishment. Knowledge of consequences." He looked sharply at Crowley. "Knowledge that you have a choice. Knowledge that you can make the wrong choice. Knowledge that, for instance, if you push a tower over and allow everyone on it to fall to their deaths... a lot of people will suffer unnecessarily, and that you don't have to do that. Sound familiar at all?"
Crowley was quiet for a moment, digesting that. "But, Aziraphale-"
"The angel, by the sound of it, is as confused as you are," the priest said calmly. "He's angry with you, because from the way he sees it you tried to take away his choice and make him sin unknowingly. But it doesn't work like that. If you ate the forbidden fruit without the knowledge you were doing something forbidden, I doubt it would do anything." He shook his head. "Even if he did though, I doubt it would have any effect on him now. Unless he already had the gift of knowledge, he would - how did you put it? He would smite you without hesitation. Because it's his job, as an angel it’s his purpose for being and he wouldn't see the option. There wouldn't be an option."
"So," Crowley said slowly, "we have..."
"You have free will," Father Butters confirmed. "And doubt, and fear, and the rest of the package that comes along with it, including responsibility for your actions." He smiled. "Welcome to the same world as the rest of us, demon. You've been living it for a while now, just without letting yourself see it."
52. Have one final attempt at talking to the angel.
"Crowley." The name itself was a sigh now, as Aziraphale looked up to find that once again the demon had wandered into his shop.
"Hi." Crowley gave an awkward little wave. "I need to talk to you."
"What did you bring this time?" Aziraphale asked skeptically. "More cream cakes? Book from the Lost Library of Alexandria? Promise to do all my visits in Slough for the next century?"
"No bribes." Crowley held up empty hands as though to prove it.
"Ah. Then you're intending to tell me again that unless I forgive you and start working with you again, the world is going to end?"
Crowley winced. "No threats," he promised.
It didn't stop Aziraphale looking at him suspiciously. "Then you're going to blame it all on your demonic nature and tell me that I should have known better than to trust you in the first place?"
"And no excuses," Crowley said. "I just want to talk." He swallowed. If this didn't work, he was out of ideas. "Please?"
Aziraphale scrutinised him closely for a minute, and then gave a slow nod. "Sit down."
53. Apologise. And really mean it this time.
"I'm sorry I sneaked you the fruit..." Crowley started.
"But you couldn't help it, because it's in your nature," Aziraphale interrupted, sounding tired. "Crowley, we've been through this."
"No." Crowley stared at the table in front of him. Apologising did not come naturally to a demon. Nor did taking responsibility. "I could help it. It... that wasn't why I did it."
Aziraphale quietened, listening now.
Crowley took a deep breath. "I've been thinking about this next war thing. And... whichever way it goes, it's likely to be worse than the last one for us. If they win, we won't even exist any more, and if we win... no more earth. We'd have to go home, because there'd be nowhere left to go."
"And?" Aziraphale prompted, as the demon seemed to falter.
"And I thought... I thought that perhaps the only way we could get out of this one would be if we switched sides," Crowley said very quietly. "If we - well, eating the fruit worked for them."
He didn't look up from the table, but after a moment he felt a warm hand rest on his shoulder. "That wasn't a choice you had a right to make for me, you know," Aziraphale said very gently.
"I know. It didn't work anyway," Crowley said. "But I just... I thought I could try and then maybe things didn't have to end. It's too soon for things to end. It was too soon last time, and it's still too soon. I'm not ready."
What he couldn’t say, couldn’t admit was it had to be both of them. He couldn’t swap sides alone because then he would still be alone, but he never had been with Aziraphale. Each was the answer to the others questions.
"Rage, rage against the dying of the light," Aziraphale quoted softly. "Oh, Crowley. Why didn't you say?"
54. Be forgiven.
It turned out that being forgiven felt a lot like suddenly being rid of the stomach ache that you hadn't been really conscious of until that point.
Crowley blamed it entirely on indigestion from the fruit he had eaten a few weeks ago.
55. Listen to the ‘wireless’.
"It's broken," Crowley said stubbornly.
Aziraphale shot him a disbelieving look. "Crowley, this is your car. If any part of it were broken I should think you would sit on the curb and sulk for the rest of eternity."
"It's broken," the demon maintained. "It keeps playing the wrong songs."
"So if you're tired of the tapes, listen to the wireless." Aziraphale leaned forward to fiddle with it, trying to tune it in.
"It's not a wireless, it's a radio. No-one's called it 'the wireless' in the last fifty years," Crowley corrected. "And furthermore, it's brok-"
"...but love is not a victory march, it's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah..."
Aziraphale sat back in his seat, looking smug. "Seems to work perfectly well to me."
56. Feeding the ducks (again).
"That's not bread."
"It's the last time. I thought it could be a bit special for them."
"Crowley..." Aziraphale eyed the bag the demon was clutching. A distinctly alcoholic smell was oozing out. "What are you giving them?"
"It's soaked in rum," Crowley admitted cheerfully. "But look! They're enjoying it."
He gestured as one duck tried to swim upside-down, and another quacked flirtatiously at a passing secret agent's foot.
Aziraphale sighed, which only made Crowley grin more. It really wasn't any fun misbehaving without the angel around to disapprove of it.
57. Have lunch in picturesque small cafe in Edinburgh.
58. Have lunch in picturesque small cafe in Basel.
59. Have lunch in picturesque small cafe in Graz.
60. Have lunch in picturesque small cafe in Schonbrun.
61. Have lunch in picturesque small cafe in Vienna.
62. Have lunch in picturesque small cafe in Prague.
63. Have lunch in picturesque small cafein Ljubjana.
64. Have lunch in picturesque small cafe in Luxemburg.
65. Have lunch in picturesque small cafe in Tivoli.
66. Have lunch in picturesque small cafe in Sapparo.
67. Have lunch in picturesque small cafe in Rome.
68. Have lunch in picturesque small cafe in Madrid.
69. Have lunch in picturesque small cafe in Valkenburg.
"I'm noticing a certain pattern here," observed Aziraphale. "Not running out of ideas, are you?"
"Not at all," said Crowley, who was, but had reminisced fondly in each café of glorious temptations and equally epic wiles and epic thwarting. "I have plenty of ideas. I'm just not using them yet, that's all."
"I'm sure you do." Aziraphale looked at him skeptically.
"I have!" Crowley insisted. "Eat your spekulatus. I'll show you."
70. Visit the Grand Canyon.
"It is fairly impressive," Aziraphale admitted.
"It's a hole in the ground," Crowley sounded a little less awed by the spectacle. "Come to Hell, we have lots of them, even bigger. Ours usually have a great big fire at the bottom though. And less tourists." He glanced at the crowd lingering around them, most of them gazing at the view, or taking photos. "This lot look as though they're getting pretty excited by it though."
"To a human, it's amazing." Aziraphale shrugged. "Did you get it from their book again?"
"Yes," Crowley admitted, and grinned. "Didn't get this next bit from there though."
71. Fly down the Grand Canyon.
It was more a glide than a flight, but that didn't make it any less exhilarating. The feel of the wind beneath his wings, streaming through his immaculate feathers... this was living. Crowley let himself enjoy it, doing a wide circle and letting the sun catch him in a blaze of glory on white angelic wings and waved casually at the startled tourists, several of whom were already dialing the emergency services to report a jumper.
He landed lightly at the bottom, without a hair out of place. Even his sunglasses still rested comfortably on his nose.
"Show-off," observed Aziraphale, landing beside him. There had been a moment of shock when Crowley took off, but that had been followed by the decision that if they were going to appear on the evening news anyway, he might as well enjoy it.
"It's what I'm good at," Crowley said calmly, tucking his wings back away.
"You're going to get attention again, if you're not careful," Aziraphale warned, a little primly, smoothing his own wings down.
Crowley shook his head. "No. They're all going to decide it was a publicity stunt, all done with special effects. To advertise... let's see. Biscuits. No wait, this America…cookies."
"What do biscuits have to do with flying down the Grand Canyon?" Aziraphale asked, confused. He didn’t even acknowledge the cookies.
"Nothing at all. As far as advertising stunts go though, that's fairly normal."
72. Make a Christmas Cake.
"What is it?" Aziraphale eyed the... thing with some disbelief, and prodded it lightly with a wooden spoon.
"It's a Christmas cake," Crowley said defensively. "Or rather, Christmas Cake mix. I've been trying the baking things again. You have to ‘feed’ it. Apparently."
"What exactly have you been feeding it, Crowley?" Judging from the sucking sounds, the mixture was attempting to drag the spoon out of Aziraphale's hands. He hung onto it determinedly.
"Mice?" Crowley admitted. "Uh, maybe a rat or two. A couple of the plants I had left that weren't thriving and needed a lesson."
There was a crack as the mixture succeeded in snapping the spoon in half. Aziraphale watched as the broken piece was sucked into the mixture and the cake mix seemed to stir itself.
"It seems quite a lively type," Crowley added with pride.
"Yes," Aziraphale agreed carefully. "You know, I'm not sure this is something Martha Stewart ever imagined dealing with."
The mass seethed, and seemed to try to actually pull itself out of the bowl. Aziraphale tried not to shudder. "Can you imagine ever actually eating it?"
"Maybe not." Crowley looked reflective. "Maybe I'll keep it as a pet."
73. Find out what one hand sounds like clapping.
"Right." Crowley rolled up his sleeves.
"Crowley," Aziraphale cautioned.
"I'm only giving the man what he wants to know!" Crowley insisted. "He's been wondering for years, and he deserves to know the answer."
"Er," their startled host interjected. He hadn't expected, when opening the door, to have two men barge past him. "Are you here to sell me something?"
"Oh, no, no, no," Aziraphale reassured him hastily.
"Well, are you here to rob me then? Only I don't know you, and you're in my house..."
"We're here to help you," Crowley said briskly. "You are a philosopher, right? That's what it said on your website. Thomas Smith, philosopher."
"Er... yes?" He'd only put it there to attract girls. And it hadn't worked.
"Then prepare to have one of your questions answered, Thomas Smith." Crowley held out his hand dramatically.
The man's eyes bulged, and he let out a horrified, choked noise as Crowley's hand began to twist and grow, stretching until was wide enough to easily double up. Demons, like angels, could be any shape they wished to be. It was just a matter of re-arranging the molecules.
Crowley slapped the two halves together a few times experimentally. Ptt ptt ptt.
"That is the sound of one hand clapping," he told the terrified Thomas Smith sternly. "Do you understand?"
Thomas nodded, his eyes huge.
"Good. Next time, don't ask such stupid questions. Come on, Aziraphale."
"You shouldn't have done that," Aziraphale scolded as they turned to leave.
Crowley only laughed. "That's nothing. You wait to see what I'm going to do about the sound trees make falling in the forest."
74. Learn a musical instrument.
"No." There were some things that even the most easy-going of angels couldn't be coaxed into.
"Oh, come on," Crowley coaxed. "The humans have it on their list."
"The humans can do what they like. No."
"It'll be good practice for when you get called back up!"
"And cleaning out cows would be good practice with a pitchfork for you," Aziraphale retorted. "I am not learning to play the harp. What's the next item?"
75. Eat strawberries at Wimbledon.
"Wimbledon is in summer, Crowley."
The demon shrugged again. "So?"
"Are you intending just to eat strawberries while an empty cour-oh."
Oh, indeed, for as they stepped into the stands, it became clear that the court was not empty at all. Not only was a match going on, but the place was packed with people, a loud 'ooo' going up with each stroke of a tennis racket.
"I keep telling you," Crowley said calmly. "Stop putting yourself out to be at the right place on the right date. Just go where you want to be, let the dates arrange themselves around you."
"Did you just rearrange reality so that we could eat strawberries?" Aziraphale demanded.
Crowley thought about it. "Yes?"
He frowned as the angel sat down. "Something's not quite right though. If - yes!" He snapped his fingers.
The crowd groaned as a light rain began to fall on the court.
Crowley beamed and sat back. "That's more authentic. Not to worry. Cliff Richard will be along any minute now."
76. Visit the Titanic.
"I remember the Captain." Being miles under the ocean never posed the slightest problem to either angel or demon. Aziraphale walked across the deck, stroking a thoughtful hand over the wheel, as seaweed fluttered away from his hand.
"He always looked a bit like Captain Birdseye to me," Crowley mused to himself, grimacing at an octopus which had decided the ship was his very own luxury home and was menacing tentacles at them through a porthole as a shoal of fish flickered like sparks of silver over one of the four great funnels.
The angel looked blank. "Was that one of the eighteenth, or nineteenth century Captains?"
"Uh... a bit later." Crowley forgot sometimes that Aziraphale didn't quite share his knowledge of TV. "Captain who liked shipping a ton of small children away from their parents for golden treasure. Very dodgy business if you ask me. Don't worry about it." He stopped in the middle of the deck. "Do you remember the band?"
"Playing until the ship went down," Aziraphale remembered dreamily. Bioluminescent sea creatures clung to available surfaces, outlining them in a tremulous greenish spectral light until the wreck around them looked like ghost-sketch of a vague memory.
"Horribly out of tune," Crowley said, his own memory a bit sharper. "And I think they could have done better fighting for a lifeboat with everyone else if you ask me. Violins don't float all that well, not when they have to hold a human up."
"And then there were the lifeboats," Aziraphale murmured. "Men gave their lives so women and children could live... let them take the boats."
"Some didn't," Crowley said darkly. "They weren't all so noble."
"They prayed at the end." Aziraphale was by now in a world of his own, no longer listening to Crowley's dry comments. "They prayed for help, for salvation, for something, and I... there was nothing... why?"
Because they were humans, Crowley thought, but did not say. Because I gave them human arrogance, which stopped them putting enough lifeboats on the ship; human pride which stopped anyone admitting that was a problem; human selfishness which made them panic and fight and squabble over the life boats they had.
And you... you gave them the kindness and unselfishness that made a man give up his place on the boat for a child, and yet that is enough to give you the hope that they are redeemable. He sighed, glancing at Aziraphale's face, and then looked away.
"I don't know," he said. "It's ineffable."
77. Hear from the office.
The Titanic had left neither of them in a particularly good mood. Afterwards, by mutual agreement, they headed back to the bookshop and opened a bottle of good wine. Sometimes alcohol could fix the things you had no answers for, or at least make you forget for a short while that you had no answers.
When the shaft of blue light appeared behind Aziraphale it was natural therefore that Crowley assumed it was a result of the fourth large glass (the advantage of drinking as a demon or angel was that one bottle of wine could contain just as many large glasses as you wanted it to).
He nudged Aziraphale, squinting at the light. "'s that really there?"
Aziraphale attempted to turn his whole body around to look, lost his balance, and fell off his chair. Trying not to laugh, he twisted to look in the direction Crowley had indicated.
He sobered up fast when he saw the light. Making an exaggerated motion at Crowley to stay where he was, and stay quiet, he stood up quickly, stumbled just a little as the wine rushed to his head, and stepped into the light. "Hello?"
"Aziraphale," a familiar cultured voice greeted him. "Have you been working hard?"
"Er..." Aziraphale swallowed, flushing with the guilt of an angel who might have been doing a little too much keeping a demon out of trouble, and not so much actual work. "Been doing a lot of thwarting lately?" he offered hopefully. "Keeps you very busy, all this thwarting. No sooner do you finish off one wile than you see another one and think ooo, I should really thwart that before it gets any worse..."
Across the table, Crowley gestured at him urgently. He shut up.
"Yes, well, it hardly matters now," the voice said, sounding disinterested. "Have you been in contact with Crowley recently?"
Aziraphale froze, feeling the pleasant haze of alcohol vanish. "Crowley?" he queried, voice turning to a squeak, seeing the demon pale.
"Yes, Crowley," the voice said, a little impatiently. "You might recall him. Demon, helped you stop the Apocalypse?" And though it didn't say it, there was the overtone of and don't think anyone has forgotten that.
"Oh, Crowley," Aziraphale said, voice forcedly jovial now. "That Crowley. Oh yes, I thwart him quite often actually. Only the other day, I stopped him..."
"Contact him," the voice interrupted, voice brisk. "Immediately. We need to set up an alliance."
"An alliance?" Aziraphale echoed stupidly.
"Is this a bad connection? Can you not hear me properly?" And now the voice sounded annoyed. "If we need to come down there..."
"No, no, that's fine," Aziraphale said hastily. "I just don't quite think I understand. What kind of alliance?"
"Why, an alliance of war of course." The tone indicated that this should be obvious.
Aziraphale felt his stomach turn. "I see. And this would be war against...?"
"The humans," the voice said matter of factly.
He saw Crowley sit up and glance at him anxiously, and realised that this time it must be him who had paled. "I don't understand. Why are we fighting the humans?"
The voice was crisp, annoyed and sharp. "Aziraphale, are you questioning the ineffable plan?"
"No, no, of course not. I just..."
"We have noticed that you have been doing quite a lot of questioning lately. Perhaps we do need to come down and deal with things personally."
"No, that's fine!" Aziraphale blurted, alarmed. If they sent Gabriel, or worse the Metatron to deal with Crowley, well. The demon's manners could not be trusted. They wouldn't understand his little jokes as Aziraphale did. "Contact Crowley, arrange alliance! I've got it!"
"If you have any problems getting in touch..."
"No, no, I'm sure there will be no problems." He glanced again at Crowley.
Crowley pointedly refilled his glass of wine.
"Anyway, I'll be getting on with that straight away. Better be going now for that. Bye!"
Because Crowley was a demon, saying "I told you so," was pretty much compulsary. Because Aziraphale was Aziraphale, however, he did at least make sure the angel had a full glass of wine before he did so.
"Maybe it won't be so bad," the angel said helplessly.
"Them against Us? Hard to see how it could be good," Crowley reasoned. "We've got the power of Heaven and Hell behind us, and them? They've got *imagination*. And Him of course."
"We could win." Knowing humans made that far from a certainty. Humans were good at imagination. They might win even without Him on their side. Heaven and Hell wouldn’t think that of course; they had the power but history was littered with examples of superior power being defeated by brilliant strategy.
"And then afterwards we get pulled back home, and they start using those weapons they've built up against each other," Crowley predicted glumly.
Aziraphale stared into his glass of wine. "They could win?" he suggested hopefully.
"And then... well. And then nothing. Not for us anyway. That's the point," Crowley said, voice filled with the calm of someone who'd already thought this out in a long sleepless night. "I wonder what it's like to die when there's nowhere to go?"
"Like... nothing. You just stop existing." Aziraphale took a desperate gulp of his wine. "I just... why would we? Are they attacking? But He wasn't interested!"
"Maybe He changed his mind," Crowley sighed. "I'll see what I can find out. Maybe we can talk him out of it. But... it doesn't look good."
And there was a line of lyric going around and around in his mind his dread growing with every repetition,
…Imagine there's no Heaven, it's easy if you try. No hell below us, above us only sky….
79. Find out what's going on.
"I say a little prayer for yo- yes Crowley?"
"I've had communication from the angel, lord." Crowley carefully did not look at Aziraphale, who was sitting next to him, fingers tapping an anxious tune against the glove compartment. "Asking for an alliance."
"Yes?" There was the same trace of impatient annoyance Aziraphale had heard when communicating with Upstairs.
"Against the humans, Lord," Crowley clarified, as though it might be unclear.
"Well, we weren't going to approach them for a while yet. Still, it's better they come to us. Puts us in a position of strength," Aretha Franklin's voice said thoughtfully. "Put him off for a while. They will offer more if we seem reluctant."
"Yes, lord," Crowley said, grateful once more that no-one ever bothered to look and see what he was doing when he had these conversations. "Uh. Are we at war with the humans, lord?"
"Not as such," the radio said dismissively.
"No?" Crowley felt his heart leap for a moment, and saw, from the corner of his eye, Aziraphale's face brighten.
"It is not necessary to commit to war with such... beings. The humans are faulty. Otherwise they would have followed the Plan. It has been decided that the best thing to do under such circumstances and try again."
"Try again?" Crowley said slowly, as Aziraphale lost his smile. "You mean like... start a new game board?" One that could be persuaded to play along this time. One which didn't resist, didn't remain stubbornly and annoyingly human rather than good or evil.
"If that is the way you wish to phrase it. Do not think your earlier attempts to stop the war have been forgotten," Aretha said, her voice holding a sharpness which made Crowley squirm in his seat. "The war is not stopped. It is merely... delayed, until a more suitable time and place can be found."
"Yes, lord," Crowley said meekly, grimacing at Aziraphale.
"Speak to the angel. Delay an alliance for now, until Heaven gets desperate enough to offer us more than they wish to give," Aretha instructed firmly. "And Crowley? This time make sure you do your job. The consequences for further disobedience will be... severe."
"Understood, Lord." Crowley closed his eyes to stop himself seeing Aziraphale's sympathetic look. "I'll get onto that now, Lord."
"Good- that's how it must be, to live without you..."
It was a moment before Crowley reached out, with a hand that only shook a little, and turned the radio off.
80. Have lunch in pictureseque little cafe in Tottenham.
"They can't do this!"
"Yes," Crowley said, wearily nursing his cup of coffee. "They can."
"But... the entire human race! The entire world!"
Crowley shrugged. "The way they see it, they can always make another one."
"It wouldn't be the same one," Aziraphale said stubbornly.
"No. But do you actually think any of them spent enough time on here to know the difference?" Crowley asked. "Look, think of it like my plants. If one of them isn't growing right, I get rid of it, and get another. And I make damn sure the replacement knows what happened so that one doesn't feel like getting all uncooperative."
"And if you think my people are going to let me near anything vital this time after the last fiasco, you can forget it. Yours too, judging from how they were speaking to you. There'll be no babies this time, no leaving us alone to try to screw it up. The slightest hint that we're not behaving and..." Crowley gestured, "back we go."
It had been the flaw in pointing out that perhaps the Apocalypse as it had been written might not be Ineffable. It left things right open for Heaven or Hell to say, in that case… what we do now cannot be wrong.
"So, what do we do?" Aziraphale asked helplessly.
"We take this as a gift," Crowley said firmly. "We at least have an excuse to be seen together now. We've got orders to work together even. So, we do as we're told, we work together on the idea of forming an alliance, and..." he tapped the table, "we make sure we enjoy the rest of the list."
"The list?" Aziraphale said weakly. "Even now?"
"Especially now," Crowley confirmed. "If these are our last days on earth, I'm going to enjoy it."
81. Do something about Milton Keynes.
"Do I need to ask why? I mean, not that I'm objecting or anything. It's the kind of thing I'm totally in favour of in principle. I just... why?"
"Because when this war starts, there's a fifty per cent chance that every human on earth will be wiped out," Aziraphale said, as though that should explain everything.
"And would you want to have spent your entire life living in Milton Keynes if you were going to die tomorrow?"
Crowley had to admit he had a point.
"So, you think we should arrange for the houses in Milton Keynes to suddenly to worth more than the houses in the rest of the country?" he queried, just to be certain.
Aziraphale nodded eagerly. "Anyone given the option of selling their house in Milton Keynes to buy a mansion elsewhere in the country would take it, I'm sure."
Crowley, who had his own views about how the country would react to the great housing crash of 2008, did not bother to correct him. Sometimes you just had to let Aziraphale's optimism work itself out.
82. Teach Aziraphale to sleep.
"But virtue is..."
"Ever-vigilant. I know," Crowley said. "Although," he couldn't resist adding a little snidely, "it does occasionally seem to take a five minute break at old book fairs."
"That's not the point!" Aziraphale protested. "I know that if I lie down and close my eyes for five minutes you'll take advantage of it to cause some major disaster."
"You think that I don't while you're at old book fairs?" Crowley grinned. "Lie down, angel. Rest. I'll try not to let the apocalypse happen without you."
It didn't take the suspicious look out of Aziraphale's eyes. "If you get up to anything..."
"You can smite me when you wake up," Crowley reassured. "Thwarting my wiles can wait until morning. Believe me."
Aziraphale's expression reminded him of a child afraid to go to bed in case everyone threw a party without him. He stared at Crowley untrustingly. "Why do you want me to sleep?"
"Because it's the single strangest experience humans have ever discovered, and you haven't even tried it once," Crowley said firmly. "Sleep, angel. Dream. Create endless realities that make no sense and will be forgotten on waking."
"No-one can create realities," Aziraphale protested. "No-one except, well..."
The demon laughed. "Believe me, humans do it every night. Which explains a lot about give it a try."
He didn't say, because sleep will iron out that worried line between your eyes that appeared when you realised this wasn't just me playing around.
He didn't say, we're running out of time and if you can have eight hours when you don't remember what we're running from it would be time well-used.
He didn't say, I need you to sleep for me, because when I try I have nightmares about what's going to happen and I can't stop it.
He didn't say any of them. But when Aziraphale did sleep, Crowley sat and watched until the angel's peaceful expression sent him into his own slumber.
83. Eat ice cream.
"Human imagination," Crowley said, voice a little awed. "Applied to the sweetest salvation, the most terrible torture and... ice cream. Where do they get these ideas?"
"I think some of them might be torture as well, actually." Aziraphale had been reading some of the labels. "There's an octopus flavour there."
"No! Really?" Crowley stared at the collection of tubs.
"And goat. Not just goat milk," Aziraphale hastened to point out. "But...actual pieces of goat. Why would you put goat in icecream?"
"Maybe they ran out of goat milk?" Crowley suggested. "Anyway, at least that one's cooked. How about raw horseflesh?"
"What's wrong with strawberry?" Aziraphale asked, sounding a little mournful. "I like strawberry. And chocolate."
"I told you. It's the experience. Now, help me gather those tubs."
They piled the trolley high, wheeling it past a bored shop assistant who rang them through as though raw horseflesh icecream was something people bought every day. Probably it was.
"We'll start as soon as we get home," Crowley said cheerfully. "Should take a while to get through. Thirty nine flavours of ice cream!"
"I stopped counting after the wheat flavour," Aziraphale noted. "It may be more."
84. Attempt to fix the stockmarkets (in my own way).
"You've got to let me," Crowley cajoled. "I broke it. I should be allowed to at least attempt to fix it."
"Normally, I would be all in favour of that kind of thing," Aziraphale agreed. "But... it's you."
"Don't you trust me?" Crowley tried his best hurt expression, lowering his sunglasses slightly.
"Crowley," Aziraphale said patiently. "I know you."
"This is true." And that earned him a grin, the hangdog expression quickly vanishing. It was hard not to take pride in his work, even if it could make things more difficult at turns. "Still. I'm not doing anything that your people haven't done."
"Hardly in the same situation," Aziraphale protested, but looked doubtful. "You really think it'll work?"
"Read the papers. It's all about fear. They're selling things because they're afraid," Crowley waved the newspaper at him. "So, all I'm proposing is to... take away the fear."
It sounded amazingly reasonable, but then most things the demon suggested usually did. Reluctantly, Aziraphale nodded. "If that's all then."
The trading floor was jittery as Crowley wandered casually into the middle of it. He could feel the anxiety bleeding from each trader, follow each back to find the side-effects, the guilty secrets in each mind. There was the arguments called by the lack of finances, the man who had been beastly to his daughter due to stress, the man who was having an affair and told himself he needed it to relax now... Crowley could feel it all, the bad behaviour, the justifications. He smiled at the satisfaction of a bad job well done, and continued walking until he was stood in the middle of the room.
It was few moments before the closest trader looked up from scrolling rolls of numbers, and noticed the wings starting to emerge from the back of Crowley's shirt. He gaped, wondering if he'd finally snapped the way they were always telling him he would under all this high pressure. Maybe it was time to give it up and become a teacher. A class of rowdy 14 year olds would feel positively peaceful after this.
He turned to prod the man next to him. The man glared at him, but continued speaking into his phone. It was a moment before he too noticed the figure in the middle of the room, and fell silent.
One by one other people noticed, eyes drawn to the wings, to Crowley's calm expression and the angelic beam of light pinspotting him on the exchange floor. It was hard to remember the last time in working hours when the London stock exchange had been so quiet.
Time for Crowley's big moment. He opened his wings dramatically, playing to his audience, and spoke in a loud clear voice. "Don't be afraid!"
The silence was such that you could have heard a pin drop. The traders seemed glued to the spot, staring at the demon.
Then, after a moment, the worst shout went up. "It's the end of the world! SELL! SELL! SELL!"
As though a spell was broken, the traders turned back to their machines, fingers frantically tapping on keyboards, graphs once more heading in a resolutely downwards direction.
Crowley grinned to himself. It was hardly his fault if the people now couldn't do as they were told.
85. Deny everything.
"You knew that would happen, didn't you?" Aziraphale said accusingly.
Crowley widened his eyes innocently. "I did exactly as I promised. I guess I'm just not as convincing as your people."
"Mmhm." The angel did not look convinced.
Crowley nudged him. "Look at it this way. I'm probably doing you a favour. How does it go - you cannot worship both God and money? Maybe they'll worship it less if they haven't got any."
86. Invite all your friends to a big party.
"Another one out of the human book of suggestions?"
"Something like that," Crowley agreed, leaning over to top up Aziraphale's wine.
"So, who's coming then? Him? The kids?" It was in fact the fourth or fifth time Crowley had topped up Aziraphale's glass. He didn't object.
"No. They're under-age," Crowley pointed out.
"You've never let that bother you before," Aziraphale said reasonably.
"Yes well, I'd invite them, and then you'd have to thwart me by giving them a lecture on the dangers of alcohol and accepting invitations from strange demons, and then I'd have to tempt them to slip some vodka into the fruit juice you gave them..." Crowley shrugged. "So I thought this could be a night off."
"Not the kids then," Aziraphale nodded. "The other humans then? Anathema and Newton? Shadwell and Madame Tracy?"
Crowley waved a hand dismissively. "Just because you've stopped an Apocalypse with someone hardly makes them friends, does it? Not like you've known them for a few centuries."
By that qualification, that excluded all humans then. Aziraphale swallowed, feel his mouth go dry. "Other demons?"
Crowley looked at him as though he'd lost his mind. "Have you met any other demons? Would you invite them to a party?"
"Well... no," Aziraphale admitted.
"Besides, they haven't got the hang of life up here yet. They'd be busy the entire time trying to find out how humans had managed to fit a band in the CD player or something."
That got a smile out of the angel, but wasn't quite enough to make him drop the subject. "So, all your friends is... just us two then?"
"Something like that." Crowley leaned to get the bottle again, deliberately not looking at him. "More wine?"
87. Get drunk (again).
"Wouldn't it be nice if we could just stay like this?" Crowley waved his glass a little carelessly, spilling a large quantity of red wine. This might have caused a nasty stain if it hadn't turned to water before it hit the floor.
Aziraphale did his best to focus on him. "Like what?"
"Drunk. Just fuzzy around the edges," Crowley said. "Just keep on drinking before it could wear off."
"For how long?" Aziraphale tried to sit a little more straight in his chair. His body appeared to want to slump instead.
"Just until the world ended." Crowley's tone was casual, as though it were a perfectly sensible suggestion. "Just... until it was over. We'd never know that way."
"Mmm." Aziraphale looked at him carefully. Even under the influence of... how many glasses was it now? - it was easy to read the stress under that casual look. "I don't think we can though," he said gently. "They'd notice."
"I know." Crowley stared into his glass of wine. "I wish I didn't."
88. Confess drunkenly.
"Mmm?" Aziraphale raised his head off his arms to peer at Crowley through bleary eyes.
"Jus' wan'ed you to know." Crowley patted his arm with the urgency of a drunk who had something important to say as soon as he could remember how to work his mouth. "You... needed you t' know that..."
Aziraphale waited patiently, watching him stumble over the words. Crowley's confessions could be anything from "I just destroyed one of the Wonders of the World because I was bored" to "I just broke an office's only tea machine right before a major emergency" and were usually related with a certain amount of glee. You just had to wait and see what came.
"Wan'ed you t'know that if, if the world's got to end, there's no-one I'd rath'r see it end with," Crowley managed eventually, and took another mouthful of wine.
Aziraphale's expression softened."That's good to know," he replied solemnly, blinking rapidly in a way that was certainly due to the room rotating around him rather than anything else. "You're... you're a good demon to have around.
The demon's expression abruptly crumpled, as woeful as a child with an empty stocking on Christmas day."Don't want it to end though," he said mournfully. "Having too much fun."
And that was the problem with alcohol, wasn't it? That was why you really couldn't just stay in a state of continual drunkeness until the world ended. Sooner or late you hit the melancholy stage. Aziraphale sighed, but didn't suggest Crowley sober up, slipping an arm around the demon's shoulder. He felt Crowley sag against him, head leaning against his shoulder, needing the comfort of someone close by.
Everyone needed that sometimes. Even demons.
89. Report to base.
It was morning when blue light filled the shop again, and Crowley seemed to have dozed off against Aziraphale's shoulder. That demon did like his sleep. Aziraphale moved him gently, shifting him back onto his own chair, and removing the alcohol from his bloodstream in a quick healing. Judging from what Crowley had thought of his first hangover, he wouldn't be in a hurry to experience a second.
There was a moment of nervousness before he decided that he wouldn't be in trouble even if the Powers That Be picked up on Crowley in the background. They had ordered him to fraternise with the enemy, they could barely blame him when he did as he was told.
Possibly they hadn't intended on quite so much wine being involved, but it wasn't his fault if they hadn't been specific.
"Aziraphale." That voice again, speaking as soon as he reached the light. "Have you made contact with the demon?"
"Er." Aziraphale glanced back to Crowley. "Yes?"
"And was he inclined to cooperate?"
"He can be difficult sometimes," Aziraphale hedged carefully. "And he doesn't always promise what you think he does." Put them off, put them off, buy more time. The more time Heaven was uncertain of Hell's co-operation, the more time they might have left to enjoy.
"But will he cooperate? Do we have Hell's cooperation?" the voice demanded impatiently.
"Uh..." Crowley seemed to be asleep still. Aziraphale licked dry lips. "I don't think we can currently rely on him wanting to help us against the humans," he said carefully. "I would need a little more time if I were to convince him it was to be a good idea."
"Hmm." That didn't seem to please the voice. "But you think he can be persuaded?"
Again, careful wording was needed. "I think I can make him listen to me," Aziraphale said, and conscientiously added "sometimes."
There was a celestial sigh. "Well, do what you can."
"I'll talk to him," Aziraphale promised, glancing back at Crowley again. "I'll uh... I'll see what I can do."
"Do that. It is vital that Hell aids us in this."
"I... yes. Totally understand that. I'll see to it."
The blue light had faded out again, and Aziraphale was moving to sit back down before he realised that Crowley's eyes were open behind his sunglasses.
"Very good," the demon drawled, sounding more than a little amused. "You know, I'm sure I'm a bad influence on you."
Aziraphale flushed guiltily. "I didn't lie!"
"Yes, I noticed that," Crowley agreed. "You were very careful not to lie."
"It was... well." Aziraphale shrugged and sat down, still uncomfortably pink. "It was necessary."
"I know." Crowley looked at him over the top of his sunglasses for a moment, serious again. "It won't work forever, you know."
"I know." Aziraphale grimaced, then forced a smile. "Still, I had to put it off a bit. We have ten more items to go yet!"
90. Take Aziraphale ice-skating.
"You're good at this." Aziraphale clung to the rail, certain that the moment he released it his feet would no longer be under him.
"It's just a matter of arranging for the ice to be where your feet are." To Crowley that seemed obvious, and he skated backwards gracefully.
"And if people get in your way?" A young girl seemed on course to do just that, and Aziraphale lifted a hand, meaning to call a warning.
"They don't." And suddenly the girl was a foot to Crowley's left, skating on as though nothing had happened. He gave the angel a sharp grin. "Besides, I've had practice. We invented this. You think humans would invent something like this?"
"Well..." Aziraphale started, doubtfully. Humans did seem to invent most things when it came down to it.
"No," Crowley said flatly. "The first human that sees strange white stuff outside and decides to go play in it and jump around on suddenly hard water, that human freezes to death if it doesn't drown first. It isn't an experiment that does well on a trial and error basis. Ice-skating was invented because we had too many salesmen mounting up and weren't sure what to do with them. We figured we might as well freeze them and use them for something amusing."
"Salesmen?" Aziraphale raised his eyebrows, still holding tightly to the rail. "How long exactly have your lot been ice-skating? I'm sure humans can't have been selling that long."
"The first time a human realised that his dead cow had got a bit whiffy, and swapped some absolutely prime cow, honest mate, nothing wrong with it, for a bit of sheep, we got him," Crowley answered. "Of course, we also got the guy he swapped with as the sheep turned out to be basically lots of chopped up rats. It's what they're good at. They just moved from rats to double-glazing. And we moved with them."
"So, when you say a cold day in Hell..." Aziraphale said slowly.
"That isn't all that infrequent," Crowley agreed. "And a snowball can have quite a good chance in certain places. Until it gets thrown." He drew alongside Aziraphale, nudging at him impatiently. "Are you coming to ice skate, or just standing there? It's perfectly easy."
Reluctantly, Aziraphale let go, wobbling as he edged out into the ice. "If I fall..."
It was a statement that made Crowley laugh. "Somehow that's always been more my problem than yours."
91. Practice sword-fighting
"How can you be bad at sword-fighting? You had a flaming sword! Surely you knew how to use it?"
"Well, they never actually gave lessons as such," Aziraphale admitted. "It was more like 'here is your flaming sword, go and stand at the gate and look impressive now, we'll call you when we want you back here'."
Crowley stared as the angel waved the sword in his hand in a manner more like an old woman waving an umbrella than someone intending to inflict serious stabbing or anyone. "But what if you'd had to fight someone?"
"Fight who? There was only the two humans, and it wasn't as though anyone gave them weapons. What were they going to do, throw rocks at me? Prod me with a stick?"
"You gave them a weapon though," Crowley pointed out, quietly.
"Well, yes." Aziraphale flushed, still a little guilty about that even after all these centuries. "They needed it. And I knew they didn't want to fight me."
"They still don't want to. But this time, I don't think they get a choice." Crowley prodded him lightly with the tip of his own blade. "Better learn how to use that thing, angel. This time you might actually need to fight with it.
92. Write some horoscopes.
"You're going to write some horoscopes," one of the visitors instructed firmly. "Are you ready?"
"Er..." Meg was used to making up horoscopes between sniggering over letters to her 'agony aunt' persona. Having two well-dressed gentlemen somehow get past the security downstairs and invade her office to write them for her was not how it usually went.
"You'll need your keyboard," the dark-haired one pointed out, and snapped his fingers. Dazedly, Meg watched her hands reach out, straightening the keyboard and opening a new word document. It seemed they knew what to do anyway.
"Tell them that this is not a period in which time should be wasted," the blonde one instructed. "Tell them not to hold onto grudges, to make up any arguments, to love each other..."
"...to have sex..." the other one interjected.
"Crowley!" The blonde one turned to glare at him.
"What?" Crowley lifted his hands defensively. "I'm telling them to do what they enjoy, Aziraphale. They enjoy sex. Dirty, naughty, often adulterous sex. And it's not as though they're likely to be around long enough to be sorry about it."
"Yes, but afterwards..." Aziraphale started to protest.
"Afterwards, then what? You think that if we win your lot will still be providing a perfect haven for them if they're been good? Or that they'll take it after you've been waging war on them?" Crowley raised his eyebrows. "These are, one way or another, the last days. They might as well have fun."
"Fine," Aziraphale surrendered. "Leave that in. Just tell them to be happy. Being happy is good."
"Right." Some far corner of Meg's mind was sure she should be screaming and running, but her body seemed to have it under control. She typed away obediently. "Uh, which star sign?"
Aziraphale didn't hesitate. "All of them."
93. Receive orders.
"You never play music any more in here," Aziraphale complained, fiddling with the knobs on Crowley's car stereo.
"Well, no, because..." Crowley started to explain, and winced as the radio cut him off.
"...if I swore you were an angel, would you treat me like the devil tonight?"
"I tried to make it play something other than Queen," he finished glumly. "Now I think it's developed a sense of humour."
"Can it do that?" Aziraphale went a little pink.
"Apparently so." He lifted a hand to turn it off, and froze, hand an inch from the knob as the music died away.
"Yes, lord," he said weakly. Ah yes. The other reason he'd been avoiding turning the radio on. The television too for that matter. That desperate little hope that if he made it hard to contact him, maybe they wouldn't bother, at least for a little while yet.
"It's has been difficult to get in touch with you. You haven't been avoiding us, have you, Crowley?"
"No, lord." Crowley stared straight ahead, focusing on the road. "Been busy, lord. Sorry."
"Good. Because if you were avoiding us, we might have to call you back. There are a lot of demons down here who would like that, especially after your last escapade. Demons who'd like a word with you. Is that clear, Crowley?"
"Yes, lord." Crowley's voice shook a little. Aziraphale looked at him sympathetically as his hands tightened on the steering wheel.
"Have you spoken to the angel?"
Crowley's eyes flicked sideways to glance at Aziraphale. "Yes, lord. I refused the alliance as ordered."
"And he said?"
"Er..." Crowley groped for words for a minute. It was hard to keep your cool when trying to spin an untruth which would likely go directly to the Father of Lies. "I think he had to go back for more orders, or something. Didn't have the authority to make any other offer on his own, he said."
"And has he received more orders?" the radio demanded, impatiently.
"Uh..." Again the quick desperate glance towards Aziraphale. "I think he might have, lord. I'll uh... I'll check, shall I?"
"Do that. And make a deal with him. Whatever deal you can get." That he was to be allowed so much freedom somehow wasn't a comfort, not when it signified that they wanted things to move fast now. "And don't think of trying to avoid us again, Crowley. I expect to hear back from you within a week. Is that understood?"
Seven days. The world had been built within that time once. It had seemed an eternity then, but now it didn't feel like very long at all. "Understood, lord." And he and Aziraphale would work out a deal perhaps that would cost Heaven more than it enjoyed giving, and gave Hell less than it would have liked to get, and yet that would somehow give neither of them any comfort at all.
"A week, Crowley," the radio warned again, and then switched seamlessly back to music "...don't make small talk, he said come out and say what's on your mind..."
"Well, that's it." Crowley had pulled up on a side-road in the end. Driving fast and angry only helped if you could trust yourself to remember to move the pedestrians. Right now he wasn't sure that hitting someone hard wouldn't feel very good, and Aziraphale would object if he did. Better to pull up so he couldn't be tempted.
"We could just..." Aziraphale started, and faltered, able to think of nothing. "Well, there must be something we could do."
"Give in," Crowley said flatly. "That's what we can do. That's all we can do. This was something we were only ever going to be able to put off." He stared out of the window again, fingers tapping on the gearstick. "Think of whatever your side would give up for this stupid deal. I'll let them know it's accepted. At least they might let us work together a bit longer on it if they think we're the only ones who can get the other side to co-operate."
"Crowley," Aziraphale said gently.
"It should keep them happy, at least. Then there'll be the war, I suppose, and at least we'll be on the same side in that. Sort of. I wouldn't like to bet on how many friendly fire injuries either side can expect from that though. There'll be a few who end up with flaming swords in their backs at least."
"Crowley!" Aziraphale put his hand over the demon's, stopping the increasingly frantic tapping. "We've got a week yet. Let's at least say goodbye first, hmm? Seven days can be a long time."
"It can," Crowley agreed unhappily. "Or it can be nothing at all."
95. Dance to the Northern Lights.
"It's bloody cold."
"You never said that when you wanted me to ice-skate," Aziraphale noted.
"Well, it is. And my wings are tired. Are we nearly there yet?" Crowley complained.
"And you never got tired when we were flying to the space-shuttle," Aziraphale said. "It's amazing how much more energy you have when you want to misbehave."
That was acknowledged with a smirk. "Well, I don't see the point..."
"You'd see if you spent more time watching what the humans wonder at and less time watching what annoys them." Coming from Aziraphale, that almost qualified as a scolding. "Everything of your fancy computers, motorways and email, and none of this."
"You're one to talk," Crowley protested. "How many nights have you lost reading books rather than sticking your nose outside?"
Aziraphale shrugged that point off. "The point is, this is something you need to see. We need to see."
"What is?" Crowley asked, still skeptical.
"This..." Aziraphale beat his wings, rising over the brow of the steep snow-covered slope, then gestured. "There!"
Ahead of them the sky was lit; painted in brilliant reds, greens, violets and oranges. The colours swirled and tumbled in a breath-taking display, dancing before them. It was silent glory, the veil of Heaven moving in time to the breath of the divine.
"Bit tacky if you ask me," Crowley said dubiously, but Aziraphale saw his eyes widen, heard the slight catch in the demon's voice, and smiled.
"Come on," he gestured, gliding forward, beckoning to Crowley.
"What, you want to try Lord of the Dance again? Here?"
Aziraphale only laughed, and opened his wings wider. A moment later Crowley capitulated, doing the same.
Together the pair swooped and soared through the air, dancing as only angels and demons can, at the heart of the aurora borealis, their wings made rainbow fire and phoenix bright against the night and an ocean of stars. Their wings were the heartbeat of the sky and they were blazing meteor bright in the darkness before the dawn.
96. Find out what noise a tree makes when it falls with no-one to hear it.
"This isn't a good idea."
"You know it's not a good idea."
Crowley ignored him, face twisted into a grimace of concentration as he stared at the Tree of Knowledge. It might have moved another millimetre.
Another fraction and then his focus went. The tree stood steady once again. Annoyed, he turned on Aziraphale. "Can't you see I'm trying to concentrate?"
"Yes. I can." Aziraphale agreed. "What I can't see is why. Why are you doing this, Crowley?"
"I told you I was going to knock a tree down to see what sound it made!"
"Yes, but not this tree. Why this tree?" A gentle hand rested on Crowley's shoulder. "You know, they won't ignore this. Can't ignore this."
"I don't really think that matters at this point," Crowley said bitterly, turning to stare at the tree once more. "There's a limit to how much they can do."
"You're not giving me the why," Aziraphale noted. "Come on, Crowley. Any tree but this."
"No! It has to be this tree!" Crowley snapped. "It has to be this tree because I'm not doing this again! They can't just wipe everything out and then replace it like a... a toy that got broken! If they want to destroy this, scrub it all out, then that's fine but I'm not letting them start again. If there's no Tree of Knowledge left then they can't make me tempt anyone with fruit again. No fruit, no free will, and either they live with the toy they've got or they break it and cope without it. I'm not... this isn't replaceable. None of it - the Bentley, your books, the... the world!"
Aziraphale stepped back, surprised at the strength of fury in the demon's voice.
"I'm not letting them pretend it never existed, just because it doesn't work exactly the way they want it to! If free will wasn't meant to mean they acted as people didn't expect them to, then what was the point of letting them have it in the first place?" Crowley demanded. "He said that wasn't fair, and the answer to them working that out can't just be to destroy it."
"It's ineffable," Aziraphale said softly, reaching instinctively for that answer.
"Then make it effable! It's a world, not a puppy you can get rid of because it peed on the carpet!"
"I thought you'd decided we couldn't stop this?"
"I have! We can't! They'll... replant it anyway, remake it, do whatever they need to. But..." Crowley was trembling, and this time didn't protest when Aziraphale reached for him. "How can we just let this happen?"
"We can't. But we can't stop it." Warm arms enfolded him, steadied him, but there was little comfort Aziraphale could offer. "I'm sorry, Crowley. But this won't help."
97. Have lunch at a small picturesque cafe in Tadfield.
"What do you think the attack move will be?" Crowley picked half-heartedly at his scone.
Aziraphale shrugged. "Floods? They've used floods before." He heaped clotted cream and jam onto his scone, then stared at it, struggling to find an appetite.
"Rain and rain and rain and..." Crowley looked at the water drizzling down the cafe windows and grimaced. "How would you tell?"
"Maybe you wouldn't. Maybe that's the point." Just rain, falling and falling until the floodwaters rose and covered the face of the earth and left... nothing. Aziraphale shuddered, and pushed his plate to one side, getting to his feet. "Come on. It's time to go."
98. Say goodbye.
The Adversary, Destroyer of Kings, Spawn of Satan and so on did not look as though he were preparing for war. He looked rather like a small boy playing fetch with his dog in fact.
"Maybe he's planning?" Aziraphale said hopefully. "Maybe that's a distraction for what he's actually doing, which is preparing some way to avert the war that could wipe out the entire world?"
"Do you really think so?" Crowley asked flatly. "Because I think he just hasn't got a clue what's about to hit them."
The angel deflated. "No," he admitted mournfully. "I really don't."
"Well, we're about to tell an eleven year old boy who is completely unprepared to prepare an army against... well. Us," Crowley murmured, as Dog saw them and came over to sniff at them suspiciously. "How quickly they grow up, huh?"
It took a while to explain. Long enough for them to get back to the cafe, and for Adam to drink his way thoughtfully through two chocolate milkshakes as he listened.
"So," he said, when the whole tale was finished, frowning in a way that might have looked a little bit more serious had he not been wearing a chocolate milkshake. "What does wheat ice cream taste like?"
Crowley gaped. "What does - it tastes like wheat. You do realise I've just told you that you're about to enter a war?"
"Yeah," Adam nodded. "And it was important enough to you to find out what wheat ice cream tasted like first, before it started. So I reckon, I'd like to do that too. And I reckon I'd like a look at that Northern Lights thing. That sounds like it could be good."
Crowley turned to Aziraphale despairingly. "The world is going to end and he wants to eat ice cream."
"Yes," Aziraphale agreed. "I'd say he's about as insane as you are."
"Aren't you going to stop it?" Crowley demanded hopefully. "Or at least... at least get ready?"
Adam slurped on what was left of the milkshake, hoovering up the bottom of the glass. "Why did you say you guys couldn't do anything about it again?" he asked innocently.
"Free will?" Aziraphale said. "It's just... it's not possible for an angel or a demon to have them. We don't have the power to do anything. Except what heaven or Hell order us to do."
"Yeah?" The boy's eyes were on Crowley now, far more knowing than any eleven year old's had a right to be.
Crowley swallowed. "Yeah..." he said awkwardly. "About that. It uh... it looks as though we might have more free will than we previously thought. As much as we want in fact. All of it."
The angel's eyes went immediately to Adam. "You changed us?" he said accusingly.
"No," said Crowley. "It turns out we somehow changed ourselves."
"With the fruit?" Aziraphale looked bewildered still.
"No," Crowley said. "With... with being, I think. I was meaning to tell you, but it's complicated."
"No, 's not," Adam contradicted. "You have free will to make choices 'cause you made choices. Seems perfectly simple to me."
"So are we human now?" Aziraphale examined his hand as though expecting to find it different, changed.
Crowley shook his head. "Not last I checked. Humans don't have wings, Aziraphale."
"But you can't be angels and demons 'cause you have free will." Adam regarded them placidly. "I reckon you're an Aziraphale. And you're a Crowley. And I think that's basic'ly all."
"Right." Crowley stared at him for a moment as though waiting for more. Nothing seemed to be forthcoming. "Well, that's very nice, but I really don't see how it helps anything..."
"Wait," Aziraphale interrupted. The angel was frowning deeply, still looking thoughtful. "You're saying... we're not an angel and demon any more. We're not under anyone's authority?"
That stopped Crowley. "Don't be stupid. Of course we are. You heard them on my radio, and you have..." he waved a hand. "You have your light thing. Keeps reappearing."
"Yes, but that's just someone telling us what to do," Aziraphale sounded excited now. "Free will means that we don't actually have to do it. There's no authority. They can't call you home, because unless you're a demon, Hell wouldn't be home."
"And Heaven wouldn't be home for anyone but an angel," Crowley said meaningfully.
It took a moment for that to sink it, but when it did Aziraphale only grimaced for a moment, dismissing it with a shake of his head. It obviously wasn’t as terrible a thought as he believed. "Well. It wasn't as though I was ever going to be any good if I actually had to use a sword anyway."
"If you want to stay here, I don't see how anyone can stop you," Adam said reflectively. "Not if you don't belong to anyone. If you've got the power to choose what you do, I reckon you can choose to stay here. If you want to, of course. I wouldn't go makin' anyone stay here, if they didn't want to."
"But that still doesn't stop the war," Crowley said slowly. "I mean, it helps us, but I don't see that it helps much if the place we're staying won't exist any more soon anyway."
"We're not really all that important," Aziraphale agreed, excitement quickly dissipating. "This is bigger than us. Two... well, two whatever we are now couldn't make a difference."
Adam shrugged. "Two of us do, all the time. Seems to me, you've been expectin' it an awful long time of people if you don't think it's actually possible after all. Seems to me, the first thing you ought to put on a list of things to do before the world ends is stoppin' it."
"It's different," Aziraphale started to explain. "You can't expect Heaven and Hell to just..."
Crowley though was mulling things over in his head. "Silly idea," he said slowly. "Insane idea. But... what would happen if we two didn't forge an alliance between Heaven and Hell?"
"Well, obviously, they would just start to work around us, and..." Aziraphale started, and broke off, starting to smile. "No. They wouldn't, would they?"
"Hell would demand... everything, because it saw your lot in a position of weakness. Your lot would say no. Hell would threaten to refuse to help. There'd be talk of smiting somewhere along the way..." Crowley was grinning now. "Talks would break down, and start, and break down again. Our lot would lie, and deceive, and break promises..."
"Heaven would accuse them of lying, even when they weren't..." Aziraphale joined in. "It's really not in their nature to work together, is it?"
"I think for it to be in their nature, they'd have to be able to look beyond absolute good and absolute evil," Crowley confirmed. "And to do that... they'd need free will."
"Is that right?" Suddenly anxious, Aziraphale looked back at Adam.
The boy had been studiously examining the half-millimetre he had left of milkshake. He looked up, startled by the question. "I dunno. I don't think you get to know if anything is right until you actually try it. I think that's how you find out."
"So, how do we know if it's wrong?" Aziraphale demanded, voice taking on a frantic tone.
"We guess." It was such a serious thing, but suddenly Crowley was laughing; shaky, relieved laughter because this was amazing, and terrifying, and it worked. "That's it, isn't it? We guess, and we make it up, and we get it wrong and get it right, just like everyone else we've been messing with all these centuries. Just like everyone else with free will."
Adam grinned and placed his glass back on the table. "You'll work it out, I reckon," he pronounced. "Most people do in the end."
100. Stop it.
They drove back in the Bentley, chatting and laughing with the lightness of two people who had discovered that their souls were in fact their own. Crowley didn't talk about what Aziraphale should do the next time blue light shone into his shop, and Aziraphale didn't ask what Crowley would say if someone spoke through his car radio. Some subjects were still off-limits, and there was no question that the next few weeks were likely to be difficult.
But at least now there was a chance that there might be a 'next few weeks'. And months. And years.
And the car radio played 'Heaven must be missing an angel'. Neither of them turned it off.