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On a Wing and a Prayer

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On a Wing and a Prayer

 

Crowley’s flat

Five weeks after the (Not) End of the World

 

What Crowley needed was a plan.

In all his years on planes celestial and mundane, he’d never needed a plan. There’d always been The Plan, with no need to lower the case. Sure, the lords of hell got a bit vague and mumbled when asked about the details of said Plan, but it had always been there, and it had never left space for whatifs and wherefores. Angel or demon, you stuck to The Plan—which generally meant doing whatever someone at a higher pay grade asked at any given moment.

Ineffable, the angel called it. The word Crowley used had an eff as well.

But if there was A Plan now, no one would be telling him about it. He had no paperwork to file, no scheming to do, no will of evil to enact. Every last cosmic distraction had gone, leaving him with nothing to do but faff about the flat watching crime procedurals, skimming the tabloids, and making pointed threats at that uppity rhododendron that kept refusing to flower. Oh, he muttered sometimes about getting out, seeing Alpha Centauri for a few years or so, but it never came to anything.

Occasionally—usually after a bottle or two—he’d take out his phone. Let his finger hover over the name, plan be damned.

Because, while Crowley didn’t have a plan, he did have a goal.

They’d left the Ritz, he and the angel, and there’d been no Plan and no plan. There’d been only a look, unfocused from champagne. A stretched smile. An offered lift. And as they’d pulled up at the bookshop, eyes that met too long. Crowley thought he might say something, might have found his moment.

But the memory hit him sideways. He always remembered it like that, tight, braced for impact.

You go too fast for me, Crowley.

And he’d held his tongue.

So had the angel.

As it turns out, once you get into a rhythm—too fast, too slow, or otherwise—it’s hard as heaven to change the beat.

They saw each other more often now, of course. Lunches had become regular. Sometimes tea or brunch. Every few days, Crowley sat around the bookshop for a while, watching the angel chase away customers or re-organize the same bookshelf three times in an hour.

It was wonderful: it was more than Crowley had thought they’d ever be allowed.

But it wasn’t everything.

At the end of it, Crowley still said goodbye. Still came home to a flat that somehow felt less and less like his home. Or perhaps, he was beginning to realize, it had never really been a home in the first place.

Crowley needed a plan.

So when, on that nice and sunny morning, he opened Metro to see the date printed coolly above a write-up for Jardin’s tenth anniversary, the words lit a kindling-feeling. It spread as neat and tissue-thin as the paper itself. Something…something almost like a plan.

One final temptation before hanging up the pitchfork.

Aziraphale would be fussy about it, of course. Crowley had suggested Jardin for lunch once before and been subjected to a litany of complaints about trendy décor taking precedence over flavor and culinary skill. The angel had nattered on about it for almost half an hour, in fact.

So, despite the fact that Crowley rather liked the place[1], he’d known better than to suggest it a second time.

This, then, would take a bit of convincing. Luckily, that played to his strengths.

C’mon,” he opened. Not an impressive foray, of course. Just a warm up.

Even over the phone, he could see the angel’s withering look. “You know how I feel, Crowley.”

“The reviewer at Metro raved about it.”

“Reviewers are shills impressed by food in spherical form.”

“I promise there’s nothing about spheres. And it’s ten years since they opened. They’re bound to have improved, haven’t they? Stood the test of time?”

 “Time is no guarantee of improvement.” 

“Oh, I dunno. Look out your window.” He looked out his own at humanity streaming by. “Wasn’t so long ago they were dropping like flies out there from dysentery and cholera and the like.”

We might drop from dysentery if we eat at Jardin.”

He rolled his eyes. He was going to have to sweeten the pot, then. “The write-up mentioned a new dessert. A tart. Pastry chef’s French an’ everything. Critic raved.”

“A tart?” Aziraphale couldn’t hide the edge of interest in his voice, even as he tried.

“Mmm-hmm. Some sort of fruit and crème—with almond, maybe?”

“Almond?” This had a distinctly squeaky quality.

“Weren’t you just saying something about that?” He put on his best prim, angelic voice. “ ‘Why can’t anyone do anything with proper crème these days? It’s all whipped air and flavored foam and non-dairy such and such—’.”

“I don’t sound like that,” the angel huffed, sounding exactly like that.

Beneath the surface tension of reluctance, however, Crowley heard it.

“Come on, angel. What else have you got to do these days?”

Crowley knew that pause, that sustain, and he knew well how to play it. You tempt, you wait—one golgotha, two golgotha, three golgotha—and then…

“When did you have in mind?”

Crowley grinned. “Next Sunday. I’ll pick you up at eight.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Jardin met four of Crowley’s five usual criteria for a restaurant:  it had a nice selection of reds, an abundance of dark leather and exposed concrete, other patrons who routinely wore their sunglasses indoors, and a tendency to play anything-but-pop music. Crowley’s fifth criterion, unfortunately, was that the angel liked it.