Daegaer wrote, @ 2003 -06 -04
The colours, the colours! Cold medicine. Is there anything more wonderful in our world? Last time I took cold medicine and was let near a computer, do you remember what happened? Yes, that’s right. Bad Au weirdness ensued. Well, I’m trying a different brand this time, but it’s all still horrific. Look away! For foreverdirt Blessed Event
It was a bright and sunny day, and Crowley hadn’t a care in the world as he strolled along window-shopping. Some of the new season’s fashions would look good on him, he thought. Most of them wouldn’t look good on anybody. The colours were abysmal — neon green wouldn’t suit his complexion at all, he’d look like a zombie. It was better to stick with black. It never went out of style and it went with everything. Especially more black. He checked his hair in a window. Was it time to change the style? No, he decided. It looked good, and was never less than perfectly groomed. He shuddered inwardly as he remembered the 1970s; long hair on him had been bad enough, but long hair on the angel . . .
On he strolled, making a note of the new crop of cafes and inciting sloth and gluttony in their patrons. He really needed to bring off something big, something that would earn him a commendation and a raise. Not that he lacked for material wealth and the good things in life, but a demon had standards. He had his professional pride. Maybe a resurgence in the popularity of country and western music? That would bring despair across the land. He should really do some stuff the old fashioned way as well, he thought, to please the traditionalists. While that was fresh in his mind he put lust in a few teenagers’ hearts — hardly a difficult task — put wrath in a few drivers’ hearts — even easier — and made everyone in a five street radius covet ice cream. He skipped to the head of a rapidly forming queue outside a newsagent’s, and got himself a large whipped cone.
Humming a catchy tune, he rounded a corner and collided with the figure lurking in wait.
“Hello, Crowley,” Ligur hissed.
* * *
Crowley carefully put the cardboard cup of cappuccino, five sachets of sugar, a doughnut, a Danish pastry and a large jar of pickled onions on the bench and watched in horrified fascination as Ligur tucked in. He really wished Ligur hadn’t consulted his demonic guide to London before picking a place to have an urban picnic. You could still hear the screams here if you listened carefully. Of course, that was what made King’s Cross Station such an appealing place to a Duke of Hell.
“So, how have you been keeping?” he asked awkwardly.
“Get me anuvver of them frothy things,” Ligur said through a mouthful of onions and doughnut.
“Right away,” Crowley said, hotfooting it.
He tried again after Ligur seemed to have stopped eating.
“Was there something you wanted?”
Ligur fixed him with a beady eye. Even sprawled inelegantly on a tube station seat he looked like he was lurking.
“You like it up here, don’t you, Crowley?”
“Well, not so much like as resignedly put up with it in the eager pursuit of my duty,” Crowley said quickly.
“Yeah, you like it,” Ligur said with deep malice. “Think you’re too good for Hell, don’t you?”
“What? No, I’m evil, me,” Crowley said.
Ligur frowned in confusion.
“Course you are. You’re a bloody demon. But you’ve gone native up here, haven’t you?”
“Nah, who says so?” Crowley said.
Ligur didn’t answer. He just scowled ferociously at Crowley. After several minutes of scowling silence Crowley tried yet again.
“Are you in London for long?”
“Till everyfing’s settled to my liking,” Ligur said.
“Aha. And if I need to contact you? Where will you be staying?”
Crowley felt like he had been cast into the Pit of Despair after having been keelhauled through the Slough of Despond. Ligur favoured him with a toothy smile.
* * *
Ligur didn’t like the Bentley. He didn’t like Mayfair and he really didn’t like the flat. Crowley didn’t like being banished to the sofa or the way Ligur ground crumbs into the carpet. He also didn’t like the way Ligur took to daytime TV or his habit of biting the top off a bottle of gin and swilling liquor in bed. He wasn’t too keen on the way Ligur ordered him around — get me more ice cream, I want one of them kappycheenos, where do you keep the virgin’s blood? Virgin’s blood. He wasn’t living in Transylvania. And Ligur wasn’t in the mood to be thwarted, either — even for a senior demon he was a touchy bastard. So Crowley got him his ice cream and his cappuccinos and after careful consideration decanted some tomato juice into an ancient bottle of mystical design that he’d just materialised. Ligur seemed happy enough, at least until the next round of demands.
After two days of fetching and carrying Crowley was summoned imperiously to the bedside. He tried not to wince at the destruction of his lovely room. The bastard had even taken to eating the houseplants.
“Crowley,” Ligur said in portentous tones.
“Shut up. Crowley. You’ve been up here a long time, haven’t you?”
Crowley settled for a silent nod.
“And you’ve been chasin’ that angel round all this time, yeah?”
Crowley nodded. Ligur assumed an air of innocence. A newborn kitten could have seen through it, even with its eyes not being open.
“Tough, is he?”
“Véry,” Crowley said. “Gung ho in the cause of righteousness, filled with zeal for kicking demonic arse. See my reports from the beginning of time on for specific details.”
“I want to meet him,” Ligur said decisively.
" . . .,” Crowley said.
“You track ’im down and bring ’im ’ere,” Ligur said. “Now naff off and let me sleep.”
Crowley naffed off.
* * *
“. . . and he won’t even let me change the sheets. The place stinks,” Crowley said bitterly, glaring into his cocoa.
“Dear me,” Aziraphale said. “And you’ve no idea what he wants?”
“None. Maybe he’s trying to drive me crazy. It’s working.”
“Well, suppose I do go and see him. We might be able to figure it out,” Aziraphale said.
“He’d take one look at you and you’d be angel burgers. He expects someone more or less my equal.”
“Thank you so much,” Aziraphale said dryly.
“Sorry. I didn’t mean it like that,” Crowley said. “But these guys put a lot of stock in appearances. And you look like a shopkeeper. Mind you,” he continued, “Ligur looks like the sort of guy you wouldn’t want hanging round a schoolyard. What are we going to do?”
“I’ll meet him,” Aziraphale said firmly, “on neutral ground. We’ll all have lunch and we’ll see where to go from there. You pick the restaurant.”
Crowley sighed. He felt very depressed.
“I’ve made you out to be a sort of athletic demon-thwarting zealot,” he said. “Sort of like Michael but with a brain. He isn’t going to believe I’ve set this up so easily.”
“So string him out for a few days. Make promises but don’t deliver,” Aziraphale smiled. “You’re good at that.”
Crowley went home and was berated for his lack of success. At the end of the week he staggered in sporting a black eye — blast Aziraphale’s over-enthusiasm anyway — and reported that the angel would be delighted to spit on Ligur’s name in a public venue with a wine license.
* * *
Crowley had arranged they would meet Aziraphale in a rather tacky Italian restaurant. Like most demons Ligur had no sense of style, and would be happy as long as the decor was over the top. He ordered several bottles of wine, and persuaded Ligur to use a glass, just this once.
“Wot’s all this foreign stuff?” Ligur said in a loud whisper.
“It’s Italian,” Crowley said. “You know, Italy? Nice weather, nice wine, the Pope lives there?”
“He ain’t comin’ in ’ere, is he?” Ligur said suspiciously.
“No. It’s his day off,” Crowley said. Where was Aziraphale?
At precisely one o’clock, Aziraphale walked through the door. He looked a little less bookish than usual, and holiness crackled off the hand he politely held out. Ligur declined to shake it.
“So you’re the Angel Aziraphale,” he said. “I’ve heard a lot about you.”
“All good, I hope,” Aziraphale said mildly.
As Crowley passed him a menu, Aziraphale snapped his fingers sharply. A tiny bolt of lightning arced into Ligur’s hand.
“Ow! Bloody ’ell!” Ligur said.
“I’ll thank you not to make occult conjurations during lunch,” Aziraphale said sternly. “Oh, I think I’ll have a calzone.”
There was a strained silence until their food arrived. Their waiter glared at Ligur, who had ordered puttanesca with a side dish of whipped cream on fried eggs. Only Aziraphale’s intervention prevented the waiter from becoming a side dish himself.
“I don’t fink there’s any chopped whore in this at all,” Ligur complained.
“What was it you wanted to see me about?” Aziraphale asked.
Ligur shot Crowley an evil glare.
“Get lost, Crowley.”
“What? My food’s just arrived!”
“Shoo,” Aziraphale said gently.
Crowley grabbed his lasagne and left, bitterly resenting being told to ‘shoo’ in front of a Duke of Hell. He went into the kitchen and stirred up fights for all he was worth. By the time he returned to the restaurant one of the cooks and two waiters were unconscious, and the second cook was spitting in every dish that went out. Aziraphale and Ligur were warily shaking hands as he marched over and sat down sulkily.
“I’m staying at Crowley’s place,” Ligur said.
“Oh. Really?” Aziraphale said vaguely. “Well, I suppose you’re not used to the modern world, after all.”
Ligur looked confused and suspicious.
“Wot’s wrong wiv Crowley’s place?” he said.
“Nothing, nothing,” Aziraphale said in a condescending manner. “Would you like a sweet?”
“Yeah. Anchovy pie and ice cream. So wot’s so bad about Crowley’s place?”
“It’s a bit small,” Aziraphale said. “I’d have thought you’d be staying in a nice hotel. But still — I don’t suppose you’re all that likely to share Gabriel’s tastes.”
There was a brief pause as the desserts were brought out and Ligur was restrained from killing the waiter. Crowley sat back in his dessertless place and smiled cheerfully at the other two.
“So, where does Gabriel stay, then?” Ligur asked casually, as he heaped ice cream onto a piece of fishy pastry.
“He always stays in a hotel near an airport. For the flight paths, you understand,” Aziraphale said.
“You’re a lying bastard,” Ligur opined.
“My dear Ligur. I’m an angel. I don’t lie,” Aziraphale said so smoothly that Crowley almost believed him.
Crowley wasn’t quite sure what happened after that, but somehow it was agreed that Ligur would stay near Gatwick, and that Crowley was paying. The look of unholy speculation on Ligur’s face once he’d had room service explained made Crowley quake. He got Ligur installed, he got the pay-per-view channels switched on, he explained about the mini-bar and got a double order of steak tartare and custard sent up. Then obedient to orders, he naffed off.
He naffed off straight back to Soho, an exhilarating feeling of freedom in his heart. It might be costing him a fortune, but the angel had freed him of Ligur’s odious presence. He almost skipped into the bookshop.
“What did he say?” he demanded, deciding that it wouldn’t be good protocol to hug an angel, no matter how grateful he was.
“He wanted to make sure I wasn’t going to track him down and kill him,” Aziraphale said, chasing a customer out.
“Cup of tea?” Aziraphale said brightly.
Crowley groaned in anticipation, but couldn’t hurry the angel along. Finally they were sitting in the back room, with their cups of tea and a plate of custard creams.
“Come on, Aziraphale. Tell me.”
“He wanted to ask for — well, asylum, I suppose. For a few months. He was very insistent that he wouldn’t get up to any mischief. He said he’d rein you in as well.”
“Oh he did, did he? Why? Why does he want asylum?”
Aziraphale set his cup on the floor and leant forward in the traditional manner of someone with really juicy gossip.
“I shouldn’t really tell you. He wanted it kept confidential.”
“Aziraphale! The whole reason we were doing this was to find out what he wanted!”
“Well . . . he’s pregnant.”
Aziraphale sat back, with a very satisfied expression on his face. Crowley thought he might be going into shock.
“Oh my G —, oh, for the love of G —, oh. Is that even possible?”
“Well, think about Lilith,” Aziraphale said. “Off having ten thousand babies a day by the Dead Sea. I always thought she should take up a hobby, you know, make her life revolve around more than the children.”
“But Ligur’s male! Isn’t he? This is very — who? Who’s the — other father?”
“Guess,” Aziraphale said, eyes sparkling. “Big, hulking, usually seen in Ligur’s company?”
“Oh, yes. They’ve had a falling out, and Ligur ran off. It was very touching — he even cried a bit.”
Crowley felt like his face was going to stick in its stunned expression.
“Hastur — and — Ligur —,” he said.
“Had carnal relations, and are now expecting the patter of — well, tiny hooves, one assumes,” Aziraphale said, clasping his hands together. “Silly boys.”
“You’re enjoying this,” Crowley said.
“Hee hee hee,” Aziraphale giggled. “Oh, yes I am. And you’re mainly shocked that I’m not shocked. Really, Crowley. You’re such a prude.”
Crowley felt a wide grin spread over his face. The words Hastur, Ligur and carnal relations still sounded a bit odd together, but this was the best bit of blackmail material he’d heard in millennia. He jumped out of the chair.
“See you later,” he yelled.
Aziraphale grabbed his arm.
“Oh no,” he said. “You are not going back to that hotel.”
“I just have to get caught up on my tempting,” Crowley lied.
“I know you, you’re all set to slither off and torment Ligur, aren’t you?”
Crowley tried his most appealing smile. Aziraphale tsked sceptically.
“That won’t work on me today. If you leave him alone, he’ll leave you alone. He still has a lot more pull than you. Be sensible, Crowley.”
“I don’t want to be sensible. I want to grind his face in this.”
“Crowley. My dear Crowley. Think about this. Leave him in peace, and he’ll owe you a favour. Now, he’ll probably try to weasel out of it, but be patient. If you need to you can grind his face in this another time. And,” Aziraphale said cajolingly, “for now why not rejoice in the fact that you have a Duke of Hell who’ll happily sign off on anything you want, as long as he’s left alone to eat vile combinations of food?”
Crowley looked at Aziraphale in admiration.
“Are you sure you’re an angel?” he said.
* * *
Everything went well for weeks. Crowley rang the hotel every few days to let Ligur berate him, after which Ligur would agree to sign more or less anything. Every week Crowley thought of more blank forms he’d quite like Ligur’s signature on. The best thing was that he was under official orders to do nothing in order to keep Aziraphale sweet. He’d suggested to Ligur that this was very difficult without distractions, and was now in possession of a stack of signed permission slips for hurricanes, volcanoes, amusing tornadoes and rains of fish. He spent some time every day drawing lines on maps for where he’d like to rain down destruction. Rain down destruction, he thought. Good idea. He added ‘storms of fire and brimstone’ to his wish list.
It was as he was calculating a tornado path that would hit every trailer park in a three-state area that he had the bad idea of turning on some background noise. The inhabitants of Ambridge went about their exciting rural lives for a few minutes, then started talking to him.
Crowley. We Wèré wondering if you might have seen Duke ligur recently?
“No, no. Should I have?” he said casually.
You haven’t seen him at all?
“Well, no. He’d hardly be likely to come visit me, would he?”
Please hold. Duke Hastur is on the Line for you. He is most anxious to discuss this matter with you.
“Gosh. I’d love to chat, but there’s a whole parade of priests and nuns going past the window, and I simply must rush out and incite sin in their hearts.”
He ran out of the flat, jumped in the Bentley and roared off to Aziraphale’s bookshop.
“Hide me!” he yelled, running in. “Hastur thinks I know where Ligur is. He’s probably already at my flat.”
“Ah. Which is full of evidence that Ligur is around somewhere, yes?”
“Chock-full of evidence. You’ve got to hide me! But not here! He can’t find me here!”
“Calm down,” Aziraphale said, patting his arm. “Take deep breaths.”
“I don’t need to breathe!”
“Crowley,” Aziraphale said loudly. “You’ve been acting under orders from Ligur not to say he’s here. Calm down. Let me handle this.”
“Handle this? How? What are you going to do?” Crowley said.
“For a start, I’m going out there to talk to the angry demon coming down the road. I suppose he must have tracked your scent,” Aziraphale said.
Crowley dropped to the floor. He shouldn’t let Aziraphale go out there, he thought. Hastur was more than a match for him. The angel would be minced in two seconds flat and then Hastur would come in for him. While he was writhing in indecision the shop bell tinkled, and Aziraphale trotted out to meet his doom. Crowley became a very tiny fly and sat in the corner of the window, watching in terror. Aziraphale seemed unconcerned, and was chatting away to Hastur. Hastur was furious and doing his best to intimidate the angel. Crowley winced as Aziraphale put his hands on his hips and laughed in Hastur’s face. Hastur predictably rushed the angel and Crowley wished he’d chosen to become something that could shut its eyes. He was astonished — although probably not as astonished as Hastur, he reflected later — when Aziraphale calmly fell backwards and let Hastur’s weight carry him over the angel’s head to crash on the pavement beyond. Aziraphale clambered up and gave the fallen demon a few kicks in the head, then struck what Crowley had to say was a very melodramatic pose and seemed to chant poetry at him for a while. Hastur got back on his feet and yelled a lot, while Aziraphale wagged a finger at him like he was a naughty little demon. Finally it looked like Aziraphale was doing more talking than Hastur, and the demon suddenly vanished. Aziraphale sagged and staggered back into the shop. Crowley resumed human form and seized him.
“What the hell was all that about? Didn’t you have the sense to be scared?”
Aziraphale slumped against the counter.
“If I’d had the time to think of it I’m sure I would have wet myself,” he said tiredly. “I was just going on what you said, Crowley. These people value appearances more than reality. You said you reported me as some kind of super-angel — so I thought that’s what I’d give Hastur.”
“But you sort of — flung him round,” Crowley said in shock.
“Oh, that,” Aziraphale said. “I did a self-defence course up in Charing Cross Sports Club. I was pretty bad at it, but I thought Hastur probably would never have heard of judo.”
“Where’s he gone?” Crowley asked.
“Gatwick,” Aziraphale said, picking up the phone. “I had to give him something, and it came down to Ligur or you, and I don’t much care for Ligur.”
He dialled the phone and smiled reassuringly at Crowley.
“Hello? Room 666, please. Thank you. Ligur? This is Aziraphale. I feel I should warn you that Hastur is on his way. No, he already knew your whereabouts. Of course I couldn’t mislead him — angels don’t lie. Anyway, my dear boy, I didn’t think you’d want me to say you’re under the protection of Heaven.”
He hung up.
“He’s rather distressed,” he said. “But he doesn’t seem to be blaming you. Be a dear, Crowley, and get the humans out of that hotel.”
Crowley rang the hotel on his mobile.
“Hello,” he said. “This is Citizens Against Noise Pollution. As a protest against the intolerable noise from the airport, we have planted a bomb in your hotel. I repeat, there is a bomb in your hotel. You have — oh, I’d say no more than 15 minutes to evacuate.”
He looked at Aziraphale’s expression.
“What? It’ll get them out quickly.”
“Let’s turn on the radio,” Aziraphale said.
By the time the police and fire brigade got there, it was already too late. No one was quite sure what had happened, but the police was adamant that it hadn’t been any sort of bomb they were familiar with, seeing as the ground beneath the hotel had simply opened up and the whole thing had vanished into the depths. The newsreaders kept saying it was a miracle that no one had been killed.
“Don’t look at me,” Aziraphale said, sipping a nice strong cup of tea.
Crowley looked at him suspiciously. The angel seemed awfully calm for someone who’d faced down a Duke of Hell and had seen some real estate vanish down to Dis.
“What aren’t you telling me?” he asked.
Aziraphale began to smirk.
“Hastur may have got a little emotional.”
“What do you mean?”
“I think he really wanted to make up with Ligur. I think Ligur had got attached to that hotel, and Hastur was just trying to please him. Think of them spending their honeymoon there, isn’t that romantic?”
“Don’t make me ill,” Crowley said.
“He had tears in his big, stupid eyes. I told him Ligur was in a very delicate condition and wouldn’t be able to appreciate the poetry of mass murder for some time. I guess he fell for it,” Aziraphale said, grinning.
“Shame on you for lying to me, you liar.”
“Fine. I won’t tell you his pet name for Ligur then.”
“Hee hee hee.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *