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All things being equal (although in Aziraphale’s mind things were never equal because Good always conquered Evil), the Renaissance was a great time to be an angel. After muddling through the Dark Ages and the Black Plague, Aziraphale was grateful for the rebirth of civilization. He imagined that all of Heaven, too, was appreciative of all the art and architecture being created in dedication to the Glory of God Most High.

Not only that, but Gutenberg’s new invention -- the printing press -- was now cranking out Holy Bibles so that even the masses, well, the literate and the wealthy ones, could now read the Word of God for themselves. Aziraphale imagined a time in the not-too-distant future when there would be a Bible in every household and maybe in every inn, too, for travelers away from home. And, while it did pain him that there would soon be little use for illuminated manuscripts, the benefits of mass-produced volumes certainly outweighed the loss of that artform. Besides, Aziraphale was certain that the soon-to-be-out-of-work monks would find some other worthy endeavor to fill their time. Like brewing beer, for instance, which the Cistercian monks had been doing for centuries. He couldn’t imagine that a little competition in the ale market would do any harm.

So, perhaps Aziraphale could be forgiven for the pride he took in being selected as Michelangelo’s model for Adam, the image of which now graced the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Of course, Mickey had taken some liberties, but if he sucked in his gut and squinted just a little bit, Aziraphale could convince himself that it was an uncanny likeness. The irony of his being cast as Adam was not lost on Aziraphale, either, though he took it as an omen that he was finally able to put the little Garden of Eden incident behind him.

Crowley, on the other hand, was a bit more skeptical.

“Are you sure that’s you?” He folded his arms across his black leather jerkin that matched his breeches. Red silks and a black velvet beret finished off the look. Aziraphale had to admire the demon’s taste in clothing.

“Y-you don’t think it looks like me? Look at the nose, Crowley.” For his part, Aziraphale favored a loose, knee-length, buff-colored velvet and brocade jacket. The tailor who’d made it proclaimed that ‘it hid a multitude of sins.’ Conveniently, it also camouflaged the teensiest bit extra padding that came with Aziraphale’s penchant for sweets.

“What’s that thing between his legs … Oh! Adam’s not very well-endowed now, is he?”

Aziraphale felt his face grow faintly hot. “I think it’s the angle, Crowley.”

“The angle of the dangle?” Crowley smirked.

“Well … you’d be small, too, in the presence of The Almighty!” Aziraphale sniffed, then changed the subject. “Why are you even here?”

“Oh, I wanted to see if Michelangelo was as talented as a painter as he is working in the round.”

“Ah, you’re familiar with his oeuvre?”

“You’ve seen his Pietà?”

“Of course I have, it was a big deal recently when it was installed in St. Peter’s Basilica.”

Crowley snorted. “It looks like a tchotchke in that gaudy palace! Really, Aziraphale, is He so insecure that He needs all that garish adoration from His subjects?”

“I think you have it all wrong, Crowley. Of course He doesn’t need it. The people are just showing how grateful they are to be alive during such a wonderful time to be alive. Look around you! Look at all the beautiful art -- even the fashions are so, so much better than they were in the Dark Ages!”

“I’ll give you the part about the fashion,” Crowley said, brushing some imaginary lint from his sleeve. “But this,” he spread his arms wide to encompass the tiers of frescos that filled every plastered wall, “it seems a bit more like sucking up, if you ask me.”

“Notice that I didn’t,” Aziraphale said stiffly. “About the Pietà, though, what a marvelous--”

“I was the model for that,” Crowley interjected.

“You-WHAT?”

“Shhhh!” A priest, who had just happened to be walking past the chapel, admonished Aziraphale as his disbelief echoed off the plastered walls.

Aziraphale covered his mouth with his hand then whispered, “How could you!”

“‘How could I’ what?” Crowley whispered back, innocently.

Aziraphale wasn’t buying it for one second. “You modeled as the Lord Saviour, Son of--”

“Isn’t that rich?” Crowley asked rhetorically, unable to contain his mirth.

“Rich!?” Azriphale voice rose briefly and the priest stuck his head back through the doorway. “It’s an abomination!” he said vehemently and also quietly.

“I’m a demon; abominations are my forté. Besides, how could I turn down spending hours in the arms of a nubile young woman?”

Aziraphale’s face blanched, and he regretted that he couldn’t unsee what Crowley had just revealed.

“Did you eat something that didn’t agree with you, dear?” Crowley asked solicitously.

Aziraphale gave Crowley his best withering stare, which not only did not have its intended effect of chagrining him, it had no effect at all. “Yes, I’m sure that corrupting that young woman was quite delightful,” he sighed finally.

“Actually, I ended up straining my back.”

Aziraphale’s look turned to one of pure horror.

Crowley gave him a sidelong glance before his face broke into a wide grin.

“Michelangelo’s studio is drafty and cold,” Crowley explained, “and laying that way for hours … it’s an unnatural position to hold.”

Aziraphale pursed his lips. He felt his pulse return to normal. “For some reason, I can’t find it in my heart to feel the least bit sorry for you.”

“Oh, come on now,” Crowley clapped him on the back, “I may be evil, but I do have limits.”

“I’m seriously doubting that right now.”

“Well, I do. And I draw the line at underage girls with virgin complexes.”

“‘Virgin complexes?’”

“Yes, girls who fancy themselves to be the Mother of God. Do you know that she actually baby-talked to me?” Crowley visibly shivered.

Aziraphale smiled, amused. “Well, at least there’s a modicum of decency to the Pietà,” he said, referring to the cloth draped over the Son of God’s lap.” He knit his brow, recalling that he, too had been draped when he’d posed. “You know, Crowley,” he said, gazing up at the central fresco on the ceiling, “I wasn’t nude when I posed for Mick--Michelangelo.”

“Well, yes, er, maybe he just got inspired. Could I interest you in some wine and dinner?” he added quickly, “I know this great little place across the Tiber … in the Piazza Navonne.”

~~*~~***~~*~~

A few days later Aziraphale ran into Michelangelo. After exchanging pleasantries, he mentioned that he’d gotten a glimpse of the Sistine Chapel.

“And, what did you think, my wonderful friend and model?” Michelangelo asked, wrapping his arms around Aziraphale.

“It’s very nice and all,” he replied, politely extracting himself from the bear hug, “but I was wondering -- what made you decide to make Adam nude?”

“Well, it’s how we all come into this world! In our ‘birthday suits!’” Michelangelo motioned to hug Aziraphale again, but the angel took a step back, narrowly avoiding another squeeze. Sometimes, Aziraphale truly wished Mickey were a little less ... handy. This was one of those times.

“Oh, I see. It’s just because .... well if I knew that, I may have agreed to pose without the cloth.”

Michelangelo looked hurt. “You don’t like it.”

“No, no, I do!” Aziraphale consoled.

“Come to think of it,” Michelangelo mused, “It wasn’t my idea originally. It was suggested to me the day I started on that part.”

“Was it,” Aziraphale said flatly, his eyes narrowing. “By whom?”

“Another one of my models … he has a foreign name.”

“Can you remember it?” Aziraphale prodded.

“I think it begins with a ‘C’ ...”

“Does he have a fondness for black leather?” Aziraphale continued.

“Yes! Yes!” Michelangelo replied, “with a red blouse and hosiery. Do you know him?”

“No, it was just a lucky guess.”

It figured Crowley had something to do with it. And the meal he’d treated Aziraphale to, as delightful as it had been, had only been to assuage his guilty conscience. Aziraphale snorted. That was it; the game was on. It might take centuries, but he was certain that he was going to even the score.

~fino~