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Saunter Vaguely Sideways

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Crowley wakes that morning feeling…. Off. Fuzzy. Like he might have forgotten to sober up last night, and now he has to deal with the slightest bit of a hangover. His head pounds—only when he moves too quickly—and a general sense of achy malaise threads his frame. He thinks little of it at first. He had drunk just a few too many glasses (or bottles) of a very fine year of Pinot Gris last night; the blaring lights and edge of dizziness don’t strike him as altogether strange.

He wallows fondly in what he thinks of as a hangover, pleased by the sheer physicality of it. Only a scattering of months has marched past since the not-quite-apocalypse—barely a drop in the perception of a millennia-old being—and he hasn’t grown to take the concept of corporeality for granted just yet. He decides to indulge in his usual vices and return to the embrace of sleep.

Sleep never lost its charm. Perhaps with the end of the world already past, it never will.

The second time he wakes, the light permeating his windows casts his room in street-lamp orange. The sky just visible through the slats of his blinds seems far too dark, and his phone rings insistently. He feels just as uncomfortably hung-over as the first awakening. At this point, he begins to worry slightly. Hangovers don’t usually linger so long. He hadn’t drunk enough for that. He tries to puzzle things out, body aching and thoughts crawling at a snail’s pace, only to recognize that the phone has never once ceased ringing.

Crowley pours himself out of the sheets and slinks across the floor like a – himself. The call goes to voicemail, drops, and immediately starts ringing again in the time it takes for him to reach the handset. Only one person in the whole world calling him like that. Crowley fumbles with the receiver before the damn thing can ring again and worsen his building headache.

 “Angel,” he croaks, surprised by the sleep-heavy timber of his own voice. The back of his skull throbs at the crest of the word.

“Crowley! Thank—Somebody. You missed a—you didn’t show up for—I thought something had happened to you.” Aziraphale puffs, sounding fully worked-up. Crowley pictures him, the worried line between his eyebrows, the way he fiddles anxiously with the receiver as he talks, his light hair tugged all out of place. Ah, angel, he thinks, over-fond, and winces as his headache redoubles.

“I missed something?” he repeats, sliding down to sit on the floor.

“You…” The angel struggles for words. Crowley can hear the way his anxiety transforms with every syllable, worry giving way to suspicion. “you were supposed to drive us to dinner an hour ago.”

“Oh.” That doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. They had dinner plans for Friday. When he’d slipped into bed after their night with the Pinot Gris it had been Tuesday[1]… He stares down at his dimly-lit floor and tries to add this new information to the confusion already bubbling in his aching head. 

“Are you quite alright, my dear boy? You sound… strange.” Aziraphale’s sincere concern plucks at something just behind Crowley’s ribcage—an old twinge of longing he grew used to long ago. He scarcely notices. He has six thousand years’ practice ignoring that particular ache. His favorite, idiot angel, worrying himself silly over the demon meant to be his adversary. Only Aziraphale, he thinks fondly, and the pain of his headache overwhelms him for an instant.

“Ow.”

“Crowley?!” Concern edges toward panic in the angel’s voice. He can’t have that at all. He never meant to make Aziraphale fret over him, he should—

Another jolt of pain, smaller this time but there nonetheless. He begins to understand what has happened with a sinking certainty. Maybe he’s wrong. He hopes he’s wrong, but…

“That’s it. Stay right where you are, I’m on my way.” Aziraphale sounds terrified, and Crowley blesses himself soundly. He’s begging the cosmos to be wrong, but if he isn’t, the angel can never know of this. Not. Ever. He breathes through his nose and wills himself to sit straighter on the floor.

“No, no—no need for that, angel. I’m fine, just— I think I overslept.”

Overslept,” the principality echoes. The single word drips with enough disdain to set Crowley wincing once again. Aziraphale never had approved of his century-long nap.

“Yes! Overslept. Forgot to sober up after that bit with the Pinot Gris and thought I’d sleep off the headache.” The best part is, he doesn’t even have to lie.

“That was three days ago!”

“So it was! Longer than I intended to sleep, hence; ‘Overslept.’” This earns him a deep, long-suffering sigh he can’t help but to find endearing. Another spike of hurt lances his skull. Shit shit shit.

“Well it doesn’t seem to have helped you much. You sounded in a right state when you finally picked up. Are you certain you’re okay?”

Not at all, he thinks, safe in his own thoughts. “Tickety-boo” he says aloud instead. Aziraphale huffs, making his eye-roll felt over the airwaves. He’s going to call Crowley’s bluff, he can just feel it. He has to misdirect the man somehow and go figure this out. The angel starts to say something. Crowley cuts him off “Look, I’m sorry I flubbed dinner. I really didn’t think I’d sleep so long. Let me make it up to you, alright? I’ll grab the wine and meet you at the shop in ten.”

“No.”

“No?” the lonely ache trapped within the cage of his ribs twinges enough to drive any thoughts of headache away. “Angel, I—I really didn’t mean to, I—”

“I’ll not have you speeding through London in that death-trap of yours with a hangover. That would be irresponsible. I’ll grab the wine and meet you at your flat. Not that you need more to drink. Really, Crowley. A three-day hangover? You must have been drinking for quite some time after I left.”

“Well, a demon has to indulge his vices occasionally, doesn’t he?” Crowley steps into the opening Aziraphale lends him and lies. Relief sinks through his form as he recognizes Aziraphale bears no grudge for missing their date, followed quickly by another shiver of hurt. He should put the angel off his path, he knows. If this is what he thinks it is… “Are you sure you want to come here? You don’t like my flat. We could always—”

“Yes, dear, I’m sure. However much I like your flat, I happen to like you far better. I’m not about to chase you out of your own home feeling under the weather.”

I happen to like you,’ his mind paraphrases, latching on to the words and letting them sit, warm and cozy right next to the millennia-old ache in his soul. Crowley shivers through a sharp spasm of pain, increasingly frantic. He should make an excuse now—feign sick and beg off—run, do something.

“I can be there in half an hour with the buses. Don’t go back to sleep.”

“I won’t,” he promises, blessing mentally all the while. Crowley hangs up, afraid of what else he might be tempted to say. The migraine building just behind his eyes finally blossoms into painful reality.

He knows what this is. He really does and he really hopes to G-S-Someone that he’s wrong, but he knows one way to tell. Tripping over flashbacks and his own bedsheets, he tumbles toward the bathroom and miracles his shirt away. His hands slam against the sink counter as he leans gracelessly against it. He squints at his own chest in the mirror, pulling his glasses further down his nose to see unhindered. Maybe he’s wrong. Maybe he drank a whole liquor cabinet and doesn’t remember- maybe--

The tiny, grey spiderweb veins he expects to see are there when he looks, barely visible beneath the skin across his chest. Poisoned blood, branching out from his heart.

 “Fuck,” Crowley summarizes to himself with enthusiasm, sliding back down to sit on the hard tile floor. He is rather unfortunately not hungover after all.  


1. If one wants to get technical, he’d collapsed atop his sheets after a pleasant night of drinking very early Wednesday Morning.

 


 

It is a well-known fact that love is selfless.

It is only slightly less well known that selflessness is virtuous, and slightly-less-than-that well known that virtue and demons do not mix well. Through the power of transitive properties, one might thereby discern that love does not play nicely with demons.

One would be right.

Love, real love, is poison to any demon who feels it. Not that most would know; the vast majority never have to experience it.[2]  Those few who start to feel the dreaded symptoms of love often pursue self-preservation over paramour and avoid the objects of their affections until the feeling fades. 

Still, as the alchemist Paracelsus once said, “The dose makes the poison.”  Paracelsus was a bit of a prick, but his oft-quoted statement applies, nonetheless. Demons have little trouble with love in small doses. The very idea frightens most demons so badly that they avoid experiments. But if they had experimented, they might learn a few important facts. First, the more powerful the demon, the less the virtue harms them. Second, hell’s ambient energies generally heal past what love can damage.[3]

Crowley, Serpent of Eden himself, drifts toward the powerful side of the scale. No duke, certainly, but as an equal to one of heaven’s Principalities he is also no slouch. So long as he re-visits hell every few months and re-charges, he has absolutely no need to worry about the ill-advised, six-thousand-year-spanning dose of unadulterated, unrequited love lurking in his heart. None whatsoever.

…dear reader, I hope you begin to see the problem.

 


2. Important outliers include Azazel, a fallen who fell for love of a human woman and later took credit for teaching swordplay and the use of makeup to mankind. (Swordplay was, of course, the fault of a certain Principality of the East Gate. But Azazel really had gone all-in on the makeup.) Azazel’s love for his wife ate away at his demonic nature, but her mortality left him in no real danger. She died before his love of her could kill him.

3. It is a much-less-well-known fact that due to Hell’s demon restorative properties, several romances between demons exist in hell entirely unaware of their own afflictions. These demons are in for a nasty shock if they ever pop earth-side.