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sam_storyteller ([personal profile] sam_storyteller) wrote2005-07-06 01:01 pm
Entry tags:

Act of Redemption

Title: Act of Redemption
Fandom: Good Omens
Rating: G.
Summary: After the world failed to end, Crowley got depressed.
Warnings: None.

Also available at AO3.

Act of Redemption

After the world failed to end, Crowley got depressed.

Not about the non-apocalypse. Crowley had been gung-ho and full-speed-ahead for saving the world, despite his official, one might say departmental stance on the end of the world. And both departments, as it were, seemed so embarrassed over the mighty roar of buildup and amusing "pfft" of denouement that he and Aziraphael had been given a sort of unofficial amnesty with regards to fraternising with the enemy.

Certainly he should have been blissfully happy that the world hadn't ended. It was, after all, his own personal playground*. He should have thought the skies were bluer, the grass greener, the motor accidents louder and smokier, the sex sexier. That was what happened after a brush with Armageddon, wasn't it? That was what happened to humans, he'd heard. Maybe it was different for (former) seraphim but he didn't see why it should be, all of them being made in a similar image, give or take a pair of wings.

* With perhaps a little section of the sandbox and maybe one swing put aside for Aziraphael.

He'd given himself a few weeks off to recover from the monumental lack of event and then he decided it was high time he got back to temptation and wiles and all the rest. It wasn't like it wasn't fun -- he got to go to nightclubs and drive fast and eat lots of good food. The whole point of sauntering vaguely downwards was that it was a lot less hard work.

But more and more he realised that it still felt like work. He had to think up all these complicated plans to spread the ill will as far and as fast as possible, and even with this new Internet thing happening, there were only so many websites a day that you could troll.

He had to go out and spend all his time around humans. It just got tedious after a while.

He tried taking small breaks, like he recommended to new trainees, but a small break for coffee would turn into an afternoon sitting at the cafe table staring idly at the humans and being shed on by the coffeehouse cat. He wasn't even taking his breaks at Starbucks, as policy pretty much demanded.

And he was sleeping. All night long. Every bloody night! It just wasn't normal. And then he'd get up in the morning and some days he'd just wander around in his black pyjamas, continually reheating his tea. He turned on his television for the first time in twenty years and was crestfallen to discover that The Avengers had gone off the air.

Aziraphael had once told him that doing things by hand was a wonderful way to distract the mind, so he tried waxing his Bentley, but he couldn't get the hang of it and the stuff caked up, and finally he gave up in frustration.

He'd lost the will to wile.

He realised, the third or fourth day in a row that he'd given up on going out because he had no idea what to do to the humans, that he was being practically angelic. Wasn't this what Aziraphael did all day? Amble peaceably through not-quite-life drinking tea and never bothering anyone? Did Aziraphael ever actually go out and do miracles or Touch People or whatever it was modern angels did?

He was sufficiently curious to make a very firm note to himself that he would go see Aziraphael tomorrow. Before noon. Or at least by noon. Or maybe he'd drop by and bring tea. Before the bookshop closed, at any rate.

It actually took him three days, but he did manage to get himself decently dressed and out the door. The idea of seeing the angel and possibly getting annoyed back into his usual routine cheered him enough that he broke four mobile telephones on the way.

Aziraphael's shop door was open, unusual but not unprecedented, and inside the angel was seated at the till, absorbed in Plays Pleasant.

"Hallo, Crowley," he said, without looking up. "I haven't seen you around for a whi -- goodness," he added, when he finally closed the book. "You look awful."

"Thank you," Crowley said.

"I didn't mean the good kind of awful!" Aziraphael said, putting the book on the counter. "You look done in. Do you need to have your body replaced?"

Crowley hadn't really checked a mirror, but he knew his hair was all right and his clothes were decent...

"No, I don't think so," he said. The idea hadn't occurred to him. Perhaps that was all it was -- some chemical problem with this body.

"Come have some tea, I've just put some on," Aziraphael said, leading him towards the back. "Be with you in five minutes," he said kindly to a customer, who was clearly about to ask a question about the price of a book. Crowley half-heartedly trod on the man's toes, but he didn't really enjoy it.

In the cosy back room, the kettle was whistling gently. Aziraphael set out two chipped mugs, threw a handful of loose-leaf directly into the pot, and filled it with hot water. Immediately, he poured rich, fragrant tea out into the mugs. Aziraphael understood that some things took time -- years, even centuries -- but he didn't see why tea ought to be one of them.

Crowley caught a glimpse of himself in the shiny steel kettle, and saw what Aziraphael was talking about. Weeks of sleeping every night had given him bags under his eyes and he was the shade of pale that was unhealthy and offputting rather than cool. He sat up a little straighter and made a few internal adjustments.

"That's much better," Aziraphael said approvingly. The bags were gone, at least. "I had wondered where you were, but after our little adventure I thought perhaps you were keeping a low profile."

"I came to see you," Crowley protested.

"Yes, weeks ago. And not a word since."

"Well, you could have come to see me," Crowley sulked.

"My dear boy, I didn't think you wanted me to. I very rarely do, when you think about it." Aziraphael sipped his tea. "I often think I ought to drop by and see you and then the next day you'll show up."

"That's hardly fair. Just because you never do doesn't mean you never could."

Aziraphael looked mildly stricken by Crowley's tone of voice. "I'm sorry. I didn't realise you felt that way."

"I don't feel any way," Crowley snapped.

Aziraphael fell silent; most humans are able to convey hurt through silence, but Aziraphael wasn't that way. It was merely patience. It made Crowley feel an absolute shit. Which, in its own way, was quite a miraculous achievement. Then again, he was an angel.

"Maybe you had other things to worry about," Crowley muttered.

"Well, I did have to catalogue all the new books," Aziraphael said, clearing his throat.

"Enjoy them?" Crowley asked.

"Certainly." A faint smile crossed his face.


Silence descended once more, this time the comfortable silence of two people who have got all the silly small talk out of the way years ago. Centuries, in their case.

"Life all right then?" Crowley ventured.

"Oh, yes. Satisfactory."

"Getting out? Enjoying yourself?"

"Well, the shop takes up a lot of time."

"Ah. Good."

"And you?"

"Oh, business as usual," Crowley shrugged.

"It's just I've noticed..."

Crowley waited.

"Well, there seems to be a...a bit of a drop in souls needing saving and such. Not a big one, but most of what's left seems...lacking."


"Your wiles, my dear boy, have a very distinct flavour to them."

"Oh. Ah."


"I've been a little under the weather, truth be told," Crowley admitted.

"Crowley, you're not human. They haven't yet managed to invent a disease that strikes angels. Or former angels." Aziraphael ducked his head a little, trying to make eye contact with Crowley, who was staring into the amber of his tea. "If I didn't know better..."

Crowley raised his head quickly. "What?"

"Oh, nothing." Aziraphael shrugged. "In a human I'd say you're depressed, but demons don't feel emotions that way, do they?"

"How would you know?" Crowley said.

"I don't, I just presumed. I mean, you wouldn't do all sorts of awful things if you did, would you?"

Crowley mulled this over. He didn't feel bad about anything he'd done the last few weeks, the little that he'd done. He didn't feel good about it either. He just felt like it was all rather tedious and pointless. Breaking the mobile phones had been a little fun, but he realised he'd only broken those belonging to particularly obnoxious phone-talkers.

The only thing he'd really enjoyed doing was sleeping.

"They're just boring," he said.


"What's the point, you know?"

Aziraphael cocked his head. "I didn't think there had to be a point. I thought that, er, was the point."

"Well, there doesn't -- " Crowley put his head in his hands. "Stop confusing me."


"Stop apologising when I'm being a shit to you."

Aziraphael obediently did not apologise. "You're pretty much a -- a not very nice person to everyone, Crowley."

"And you will notice that very few people ever apologise to me."

"Few live long enough." Aziraphael refilled his own tea. "Crowley...may I press you to a theory?"

"All right."

"What you know, when the world didn't end...might be considered sort of heroic."

"It was enlightened self-interest, that's all."

"Yes, but despite the spirit of the act...wasn't there just a little bit of you that enjoyed it?"

"Oh, it was a lot of fun." A little of Crowley's old spirit returned, and he smiled toothily. "I mean, it was sort of great, wasn't it?"

"Yes! Yes. You enjoyed saving the world. And you know not many people do. Save the world. It's not...well, not penance exactly, but it's a very redemptive act, saving the world," Aziraphael said. Crowley looked at him in horror.

"You're not suggesting..."

"To Him belong mercief and forgiveneffes, though we have rebelled against Him," Aziraphael said serenely. "I always liked Daniel."

"I never rebelled. Not what you call rebelled per se," Crowley mumbled.

"Oh, Crowley, does it really matter?" Aziraphael asked. "It's only a theory. It could just be ennui."

"They have inoculations for that, don't they?"

Aziraphael sighed. Crowley wasn't much of a reader, and had the vocabulary to prove it.

"Come with me," the angel said, taking Crowley's wrist and leading him back out into the bookshop. The customer who'd been told to wait five minutes had gone fifteen minutes ago, but a woman and -- Crowley shuddered -- her small, grubby child were fingering Aziraphael's books greasily.

"May I help you, ma'am?" Aziraphael asked, politely.

"Do you have Harry Potter?" she asked abruptly.

"Not in residence," Aziraphael sighed.


"I believe I may have a copy. Yes, here we are," Aziraphael said, reaching behind the till counter for a book that had not been there a minute earlier. He was standing next to the till; Crowley and the child were between Aziraphael and the odious small being's mother.

Aziraphael, carelessly, threw the book.

It tumbled through the air in a solid block, a too-short arc that was not half going to reach the mother.

Crowley's hand shot out and caught the book about six inches in front of the boy's eyes, sharp hardback corners digging into his palm.

"Oh my ga-a-awd," the mother bleated. "You nearly took my boy's head off!"

Crowley looked up at Aziraphael without moving. Aziraphael's gaze was serene. The child, undaunted, grasped the book and ran out of the shop. The mother, after a daggers-glare at Aziraphael, ran after him.

"You wouldn't really have thrown a book at a child's head," Crowley said.

"Oh, yes. If I was going to save the boy you'd have known it and the whole experiment would have been flawed."


"I had faith."

"In me? Are you daft? You nearly put his eye out!"

"I'm sure he's done something recently to deserve it. Besides, that's the newest volume, it's not even done being published yet and he didn't pay for it. So really he ought to be quite happy."

"Your theology beats me," Crowley said, rubbing the back of his head.

"For now, maybe."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"Well, you saved him, didn't you? You even got angry at me."

"I'm not an angel!" Crowley shouted.

"Well, you're not exactly a demon anymore, either, are you?" Aziraphael retorted. "It felt good, didn't it, catching that book?"

"Oh." Crowley said, knees buckling a little. Aziraphael kicked the till chair under him just in time. "Bugger."

"I'm very sorry, Crowley, truly I am," Aziraphael said. "You did seem to enjoy being a demon so. Look at it this way," he added brightly. "You're not really either -- you're just between jobs right now."

"I feel sick."

"Nonsense, don't be a big girl's blouse about it."

"I do, I feel sick."

"Well, nobody likes change." Aziraphael patted his shoulder, comfortingly. "I'll tell you what, you can stay here for a while. I need an errand boy." Crowley looked up reproachfully. Aziraphael looked almost wicked. "Oh come, Crowley, it isn't so bad. I've enjoyed it for six thousand years."

Crowley sighed and leaned back. Aziraphael's jumper was nubby against his scalp and smelled like book-dust.

"I'll get you some nice chocolate biscuits and a copy of Saint Augustine to read," Aziraphael said. "He's quite amusing."

"Yes, I met him."

"Oh yes that's right! Well, that'll be nice for you then, won't it?"

Aziraphael bustled off into the stacks, leaving Crowley alone. There was a surreptitious rustle, and one wing hesitantly appeared. He sighed. Pearly -- not really white, but sort of a shiny grey.

But then, it wasn't so bad. They'd danced on the edge of crossing over into enemy territory before.

And besides, the immediate future was full of chocolate biscuits and Saint Augustine, who'd been a very nice chap on the whole, if he'd gone a bit strange eventually. Crowley would be interested to see if Augustine had written anything nice about him.


Author's Endnotes: I feel that this is probably gratuitous, but one never knows. I poke fun at Crowley's depression, but I mean no offence to those who are diagnosed or struggling with clinical depression. I am myself. Thankfully I tend to have a sense of humour about it.

And I know it's spelled "-phale". I am a willful youngster and do not care.

(Anonymous) 2009-07-03 06:47 am (UTC)(link)
I actually do have clinical depression, and I am not at all offended. The feelings of indifference and just wanting to sleep all the time are pretty accurate, at least in my case. I enjoyed this story a lot! Also, I'm quite sure Aziraphale wouldn't mind your creative spelling. If he can overlook the Crawly-Crowley transition, he can handle a simple two-letter swap.

[identity profile] 2010-03-11 10:17 pm (UTC)(link)
Oh dear. A depressed demon who's turning good? Marvelous!

(Anonymous) 2012-09-07 12:37 am (UTC)(link)
This was lovely, and by far the most realistic take on sort-of-redeemed Crowley I've ever seen! (It's not really a concept that appeals to me, otherwise.) I particularly liked the exchange when Crowley first shows up at Azi's shop, the bits about patience and making him feel like shit. >D It was just lovely.

I do, however, kind of have to wonder at how long he dragged his feet after the Not-Apocalypse before coming to visit Azi, given that the first Harry Potter book wasn't published until 1997... O_o

- Kaytara