It did not take a great temptation to get Aziraphale to Vienna. Heaven had sent him to Geneva on something or another to do with the printers that wound up being a dreadful disappointment. Someone in Management apparently disapproved of the written word being used to distribute deist thought, polemics challenging the divine right of kings, and pornography. While one could find such things anywhere booksellers congregated, everyone said they were printed in Switzerland. Officially, Aziraphale was bound to agree, although he privately noted that God Herself had been pretty quiet on the subject of policy since a certain conversation about flaming swords, a great many kings he had known had headed noticeably downward after a lifetime of claiming Heavenly support, and it seemed the tiniest bit hypocritical for a being who put as much effort into his physical corporation as Gabriel to object to depictions of certain features of the human anatomy.
All Crowley had to do was mention that Vienna had coffee, chocolates, music, libraries, and a recent rush of interesting pamphlets. Aziraphale packed his bags and wrote up a report blaming the entire Swiss book trade on the Adversary, noting that he now would be tragically forced to trail his wily and clever enemy across the Continent. And that was that, with reports to follow lest Michael or Uriel notice that said thwarting largely happened at coffeehouses and the theatre. Crowley would likely get a commendation out of it, while Aziraphale would not be forced to condone or commit any acts against the publishing industry that he would find personally—if not theologically—sacrilegious. Not to mention that a holiday was always nice.
“It’s absolutely brilliant, angel.” Crowley waved a pamphlet in Aziraphale’s direction in lieu of a greeting. “I know you’re still trying to convince Upstairs that books are good and all, but just look at this. The emperor has loosened restrictions on printing and in doing so managed to upset absolutely everyone. The people who read these are mad at the contents. The people who are written about are mad at the people who write them. The people who write them are mostly mad at one another over sales figures. If I could find a way to keep this going without the need for getting everyone to look at the same flimsy pieces of paper, I could generate all kinds of sin without having to lift a finger.”
A little over two centuries later, Crowley would remember this conversation while idly scrolling Twitter during a meeting and have both a moment of indignation that humans had gotten to his idea and pride at how well they had implemented it. What a pity, he realized as Beelzebub droned on, that the world would be ending soon and he wouldn’t have the luxury of enjoying the time off.
“Don’t be ridiculous, Crowley,” Aziraphale replied, unwrapping a box of chocolates. “People will use this to create new possibilities—new ideas, new philosophies, new art. Which reminds me. Speaking of new art, I believe that I just may have come across an exception to that musical matter we talked about last decade.”
Crowley and Aziraphale had each separately observed the trend around the time humans first developed systems of organized sound, but the Arrangement and subsequent handy excuses for surreptitious meetings in drawing rooms, theatres, palaces, and the non-consecrated ground surrounding many great churches over the last several centuries had given it form. The Bachs had simply been the most recent case. Upon their last meeting (yet another request from their respective offices to influence the same royals to do surprisingly similar things), they had happened to catch Gluck’s latest in Paris. Crowley expressed some doubts about the story (Orpheus, again, really) and remarked that far more stage Orpheuses had marched triumphantly out of the underworld than ever seemed to in reality. It had clearly gotten both of them thinking.
“Funny you should mention that. I was just about to say the same thing. I just met this one guy from Salzburg that people are saying is an absolute miracle.”
Said guy’s father said that, anyway, loudly and to anyone who would listen. While no longer privy to the decisions of the Almighty, Crowley very much doubted that a man who had once lied to a whole gaggle of priests with aim of becoming a lawyer was professionally qualified to evaluate such things. Was gaggle even the right word for a group of priests? Or was that geese? Not that it mattered, really. Between his theological misdeeds, abortive legal studies, fiddle playing, and pedagogical approach, this Leopold fellow’s soul was likely rather more in peril than he probably assumed. Crowley wasn’t sure that Hell necessarily needed any more violinists at this point, although one with knowledge of the law might be useful should any of his coworkers get it into their heads and attempt to replicate his success with Tartini.
But, more to the point, he had to admit that the kid was good.
Aziraphale beamed. “Well, I just met the nicest young man at the confectioner’s. The lady behind the counter must have realized I was new to the city and and asked whether I had managed to make it to the theatre. I said not lately, but that I had enjoyed Gluck’s operas in Paris. You know, they had the most marvelous candied orange peel—really, Crowley, you must try it. And anyway, the man behind me in line mentioned that he was actually studying with Gluck and just now working on a new French opera all about duty and love and sticking by one’s beliefs to make the right decisions in the face of tremendous obstacles. Isn’t that just wonderful? I’m certain it’s all going to be perfectly lovely.”