Crowley woke up to a ringing phone and a bad feeling. It was a Thursday, a mere three weeks after the world got a second chance it didn’t even know about and was already wasting, and London was in the grips of a heatwave. Crowley loved it and had spent several afternoons curled up on the hot roof of his building, or in the comforting gold-green shade of his plants.
This particular Thursday, he had been napping in his human form, which made answering the phone just a fraction quicker.
“What is it?” he asked, one hand on the receiver, one hand snapping clothes into existence.
“Oh, it’s… It’s me,” Aziraphale said. “Aziraphale.” As if anyone else called Crowley. Ever.
Well, occasionally someone did, to ask about his life insurance or discuss the accident he’d had but that wasn’t his fault.They were the kind of conversations that the phrase ‘this call may be recorded for training purposes’ had been invented for.
“I know it’s you, angel. What’s wrong?”
There was a beat of silence at the other end, during which Crowley imagined five different kinds of life-or-death scenarios and changed his outfit twice.
“There’s nothing wrong. Why would you think something’s wrong?”
There was definitely something wrong, and the fact that Aziraphale was trying to deflect – badly – set all of Crowley’s finely tuned alarm bells ringing. They chimed to the tune of Hammer To Fall, which was both apt and, well, alarming.
“I just wondered if you could pop over, dear?” Aziraphale was saying. “No hurry, just a little… situation. That would benefit from your… input.”
That did not sound good. At all.
“I’ll be right there,” Crowley promised and slammed the receiver.
He cast about for something to use as a weapon, briefly considered grabbing one of the larger cacti but in the end left with nothing but the keys to the Bentley (which he strictly speaking didn’t need) and a long thin scarf (which he absolutely did).
Crowley regretted his decision as soon as he got to the bookshop. Well, about thirty seconds after he got to the bookshop and discovered what Aziraphale’s ‘little situation’ consisted of.
“Oh,” Aziraphale said, “You’re here!” He had the gall to sound surprised as if Crowley’s arrival had somehow been in doubt.
“You cal— Um, you said there was a problem,” Crowley snapped, pretending very hard that he didn’t jump at even the slightest reason to see the angel, and had in fact been forgetting to wait for one lately and just started showing up and depositing himself in Aziraphale’s general vicinity whenever because of reasons.
“Now, dear, I don’t want you to jump to conclusions.” Aziraphale was coming from behind the counter, hands held up in a decidedly placating fashion. “If fact, if the recent events have taught us anything, it is that things are not always what they seem.” He cast a nervous glance toward the backroom, which was all the information Crowley needed to know where this ‘little situation’ resided.
He started toward it, in long, determined strides, pushing his jacket sleeves up as he went.
Aziraphale fluttered next to him like a particularly fuzzy moth. “Just… hear him out, that’s all I’m saying. Crowley? Crowley, are you listening to me?”
Crowley was not listening to him. Because by that point he’d nudged the door to the backroom open and clapped his disbelieving and horrified eyes on…
On the sofa, Hastur swivelled around to stare at him, shrieked, launched to his feet and promptly fell over the back of it, disappearing into the narrow gap between the sofa and the wall.
“What is he doing here?” Crowley shouted at Aziraphale, stepping in front of him, and then “What the fuck are you doing here?” at the sofa, behind which he could just see one bulging toad eye.
Hellfire burst from his palms, completely useless against other demons but also completely instinctual.
“What is he doing here?” Hastur’s voice was shrill with fear, which gave Crowley a sense of deep satisfaction, but also with the kind of offended outrage that made no sense in the context. “You promised not to call your pet snake!”
“Hey!” Crowley exclaimed, willing himself not to blush because now was not the time, and then “What?” because “What is, what does…? What?”
Crowley turned half of his stare to Aziraphale, and then had to extinguish the hellfire because the idiot angel was reaching for his hands like it was nothing, like Crowley couldn’t…
For a moment, Aziraphale closed his hands around Crowley’s, cupping them gently before letting go.
“Now, I told you to just hear him out,” Aziraphale said, in a tone that was obnoxiously calm for an angel who had a demon on his sofa. Behind it. Specifically, a demon who wasn’t Crowley, who had damn well earned that spot on the sofa over six thousand long years and who was now very angry that he’d never had the foresight to investigate the space behind it because now that would always be a part of the bookshop that Hastur had been to and Crowley hadn’t and—
“Get out here so I can kill you!” Crowley yelled, pointing a finger at the sofa. One of the cushions exploded.
Hastur’s toad made a strangled sound and disappeared from sight entirely.
“Nobody is going to kill anyone in my bookshop.” Aziraphale’s voice had taken on the kind of quality that evoked a pissing-in-pants-reverence in mortals. Crowley huffed and lowered his arm.
“Now,” Aziraphale said, straightening his waistcoat. “Why don’t both of you sit at the table while I make us a nice cup of tea.” It was phrased like a suggestion but it very much wasn’t.
“He’ll take his with an extra blessing,” Crowley muttered, just loud enough to be heard.
Aziraphale rolled his eyes but Crowley was pleased to see Hastur looking somewhat apprehensive as he shuffled out from behind the sofa.
“Whipped,” he hissed at Crowley, walking past, making a wide circle to reach the other side of the table.
They sat at the same time, keeping a close eye on each other. Crowley was looking out for any sudden movements that could be interpreted as a threat. Well, more so than Hastur’s inexplicable presence in Aziraphale’s bookshop.
“Well now,” Aziraphale said, setting out a tray with a teapot and three cups, milk, sugar, and assortment of biscuits. “This is…” He visibly swallowed ‘nice’ and went with “…more civilised.”
He poured out the tea. They drank in silence, Hastur waiting to see if Crowley started melting first before taking his own sip.
Crowley was almost certain Aziraphale had holy water somewhere in the shop, but he was also absolutely certain that he would never tell him where even if that were the case. More’s the pity, he thought, and imagined Hastur slowly puddling into goo.
From the look on Hastur’s face, he knew exactly what Crowley was thinking.
Crowley could feel his fangs lengthening and was just about to flash them to the maggoty bastard opposite when Aziraphale shoved a digestive into his half-open mouth.
“Listen,” he said, and then at Hastur, “And you, tell him.”
Hastur looked like every one of the wriggly crawly things living inside him was lodged in his throat but eventually he spat out: “I lost it.”
Crowley swallowed his biscuit. “Lost what? Your wits?”
Hastur glared but a pointed cough from Aziraphale’s direction derailed whatever non-witty comeback he’d been planning. “No,” he said grudgingly. “I lost the Kraken.”
Crowley blinked. Then he blinked again, more slowly, and burst into the kind of laughter they invented the word ‘demonic’ for.
It turned out, Darjeeling stung awfully, coming out of one’s nostrils.
The North Atlantic Ocean was relatively calm, waves rolling across the vast expanse of it on their way toward distant shores. The three of them were hovering some forty feet above the surface, high enough to get a good look.
“It was right here,” Hastur said, and pointed at a spot in the ocean, quite indistinguishable from any other.
“And how do you know it’s not there still?” Crowley asked, grumpily. “Did you go and have a thorough look? And if not, maybe you should do that right now?” He wrapped his arms around his middle tightly, suppressing a shiver. It wasn’t really cold, not like it would be during the winter, but the temperature was still a far cry from the sunny roof of his building.
Hastur muttered something inaudible, pointedly turning his back to Crowley. His wings were the colour of swamp water; the kind that had sat still for years and had an ecosystem of its very own.
“What’s that you said?” Crowley asked. The whole thing was ridiculous and he wanted to get back to London, to Aziraphale’s bookshop, which he would have to disinfect thoroughly now, to erase all evidence of Hastur’s presence.
“He said he’s connected to it,” Aziraphale supplied. “That’s how he knows.” He twisted in the air next to Crowley, turning into a kind of graceful loop around him, catching the air currents to actually avoid using his wings too much.
Crowley tried not to look at the angel directly like this, bathed in rays of the setting sun, his wings catching the restless sway of the water as it reflected light back up onto the white feathers. It was too much; blinding and painfully lovely.
“You can check yourself though,” Aziraphale said, his voice gentle like he somehow knew what Crowley had been thinking about. “Just cast your mind—”
“I know how to do it, angel!” Crowley snapped, then immediately felt bad about it, and thrust his mind down and outwards in an effort to avoid thinking about anything except…
Thousands, millions of life forms, spread out underneath the surface; the endless web of plankton and cold water corals, the quick, darting swarms of fish, the curious whistle-click-echo of whales, more and more and still more, so many of them, silver flashes of life, there and gone and…
“Dearest.” Aziraphale’s voice. “Don’t get lost. Come back to me.” An iron grip on his arms, a deep whoomp-whoomp-whoomp of Aziraphale’s wings, beating hard to keep them both up because Crowley’s own were hanging still and…
“I’m fine,” he said, pushing off to fly under his own steam again. “No Kraken.”
“Told you,” Hastur said. He was hovering nearby, eyes darting between the two of them.
Crowley stiffened, ready for a pointed comment about what had just happened, but curiously Hastur kept to the topic.
“If I don’t find it soon, Beelzebub is going to have my intestines for garters.”
“Remind me again,” Crowley drawled. “Why is that a bad thing, from my perspective?”
Aziraphale answered for him. “Because we still have a missing sea monster. And if it’s not in the sea…”
“Then where the fuck is it?” Crowley finished. It was a good question. The kind that probably had a very, very bad answer.
1 If Crowley had had it, it was not an accident. [ return to text ]
2 It was, however, definitely to his credit. [ return to text ]
3 Specifically, Aziraphale’s life, at cost of whatever death Crowley was required to sow to keep it that way. [ return to text ]
4 The Saguaro Cactus in question was relieved. It was getting rather large for its pot and really wanted to be outside, preferably in a nice desert somewhere warm, but barring that maybe a garden or a balcony. It did not harbour any ambition to be used as a pummelling stick against whatever trouble Crowley had gone to face. [ return to text ]
5 That do not need to be explored at this junction, or any other, ever, would you just stop looking at Crowley like that? [ return to text ]
6 This is incorrect. ‘Now’ was precisely the time, in as much as ‘now’ denotes every currently experienced moment of present, all of which were vulnerable to blushing, stammering and sweaty palms, given the mutual presence of certain parties. Sometimes just the thought would do it. [ return to text ]
7 Outrageous, despicable, unnatural [ return to text ]
8 The novelty of being able to do this, in his human form, had never worn off. The expressive potential of such a single gesture was vast and Crowley had mastered them all, from the slow ‘you have got to be fucking kidding me’ blink that he was deploying right now to the coy flutter of lashes he hadn’t actually deployed outside his bathroom mirror but was hoping he would someday have a reason to. [ return to text ]