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Commentary - Easter
the director's cut
I was very doubtful about writing Good Omens fic, and this
remains the only one of any substance that I have written. The fandom is so
small and so overstuffed with really talented writers that I didn’t really know
whether I could pull this off. The fic is also one of the few fics I’ve ever
written on paper first, so it underwent much less editing than most.
Crowley didn’t like Easter.
Well, that wasn’t precisely true. There were certain things he liked about it. He liked Easter eggs. He liked chocolate. More specifically, he liked it when people ate more of it than was good for them and gained weight, looked at themselves in the mirror and were engulfed by waves of low self-esteem and depression that could only be combated by the eating of yet more chocolate, so the deliciously evil cycle would begin again.
Guess what I was munching on when hunched over my pad and paper?
Crowley was particularly proud of the idea that fat equalled ugly. He considered it a real accomplishment, especially when taking into account the historical precedent. There was Eve herself in the garden, curvaceous Greek nymphs, Renaissance painters, Titian and his voluptuous nudes, and the less said about Le dejeuner sur l’herbe the better, but with a relentless campaign of subliminal advertising, fashion designers with diabolically-induced anorexia nervosa, and when all else failed, strategically placed tapeworms, Crowley planted the seed that eventually blossomed into the stark and beautiful evil that was the Nineties. The agents of the divine could wave their “Thin is Sin” placards all they wanted; Crowley had them exactly where he wanted and they knew it.
This is quite possible my favourite section. There wasn’t anything resembling research – these were all things I could remember off the top of my head – and they do represent something I have wondered about before. Le dejeuner sur l’herbe is a painting by Manet, featuring a delightfully curvy nude woman having a picnic on the grass.
There was, however, an unexpected drawback to this particular evil scheme, and it bothered the demon at various odd times. There were other cardinal sins to be focused on, and how was one to promote Lust and the Pleasures of the Flesh when there was so little flesh around?
But then, if you took into account pleasures of the flesh, you were some way towards understanding why exactly Crowley didn’t like Easter. In a word, the main reason for it was Aziraphale. Usually, Aziraphale was a Good Thing. What better way to promote the pleasures of the flesh than to lead by example? And even though the innate evilness of his temptation of the angel was so very satisfying, it wasn’t the only reason by far that Crowley enjoyed their encounters so much.
I don’t like this, now I look back. The last sentence reads in very stilted, clunky fashion.
But there were certain times when the ideological differences between them were too much for Crowley to ignore, and Good Friday and the two days following it were collectively one of those times.
Crowley got back from a day’s tempting on Maundy Thursday to find Aziraphale lying listlessly on one of his couches and staring at the ceiling. One of Crowley’s horrifically abused umbrella plants was on the floor at his feet, but the angel hadn’t even watered it. Crowley frowned. This was Serious.
Random capitalisation! I only ever employ this tool in GO fics, because it’s so in keeping with the flippant humour.
“Aziraphale?” he said kindly, or at least as kindly as a demon could. “Um… you do realise it’s not actually Friday yet, don’t you?”
Aziraphale’s eyes flickered and he gazed steadily back at him in a way that could only be described as malevolent, or at least as malevolently as an angel could.
“Ah,” said Crowley faintly, and as he had every year with the words Anno Domini after it, went into strategic retreat.
I wanted to make it clear from the beginning that this is not new to Crowley; he’s been coping with it since the beginning.
The next morning, the plant was dead. Aziraphale lay in exactly the same position as the night before, only now, Crowley noticed with a feeling of dread, his wings were in full view. Apparently the angel had reached a level of depression where he didn’t have the energy to keep them concealed. He was lying on top of them and the feathers were getting horribly crushed, but he didn’t seem to care.
Aziraphale is going beyond what we could call clinical depression and into a state of almost spiritual depression. The wings are the ultimate symbol of what Aziraphale is, but he’s reached the point where he’s even treating them uncaringly. The plant, incidentally, couldn’t cope with the atmosphere of bleak despair and consequently expired. :)
Crowley stood silently watching him, and thought about it. A plastic bucket of water came into existence, revolving slowly about a metre above the angel’s head. Crowley held it there for about half a minute before he decided he couldn’t make himself do it, and the bucket levitated off to the kitchen and emptied itself into the sink.
He’s a demon! He’s got to get that out of his system before he can start being sympathetic.
Crowley groaned and sat down heavily beside him. “Aziraphale...” he began.
Aziraphale seemed not to have noticed, but after a moment or two, a hand crept stealthily forwards and slipped into the grip of Crowley’s own. Crowley grinned wickedly to himself. That was the problem with having a basically angelic nature – that propensity for giving comfort to those in need could so easily be inverted.
Crowley felt it was worth another try. “Aziraphale,” he said, “I’ve got to go out, but before I go, can I get you anything? Cocoa? Alcohol? A rare manuscript or two?”
“No,” Aziraphale said clearly, without turning his head. “You go out and you tempt. Drive them to murder. Make them sell their souls for a few silver pieces.”
This is uncharacteristic of Aziraphale. I will admit that it’s partly because I couldn’t figure out a way to make him stay in-character for this, but there’s also the idea that depression does make people behave in ways they wouldn’t otherwise.
And in case anyone’s missed it, the silver pieces were paid to Judas after his betrayal of Christ.
He didn’t say anything more, not even when Crowley padded silently out of the room and shut the door on him.
The first time this happened, they were lying on the soft green grass of Golgotha, underneath an azure sky. Stars were coming out from over the horizon, one by one, and there was near silence on and around the dark knoll. The only sound to be heard was the soft moaning of the man below, stirring, trying either to make it less painful or make it quicker, and failing.
Flashback! I purposely used the Hebrew name Golgotha instead of Calvary simply for the resonance of it. Golgotha. Say it out loud. Golgotha.
Aziraphale was lying on his back, looking straight up at the sky. His wings reflected the faint starlight, and Crowley wondered what he was thinking. Thousands of years had already passed since the beginnings of the Arrangement, but there was a side of the angel that was barred to him since the Fall.
“Ineffable,” Aziraphale murmured to no-one but himself. His eyes had closed.
He’s not depressed at this point. I think it’s because it hasn’t really sunk in; he’s lying here and waiting for something he still can’t believe is actually happening.
“Hush,” Crowley said, with one hand on the angel’s head.
“Why?” Aziraphale asked him, using the word to convey so much meaning.
“I don’t know, angel,” Crowley told him. He knew Aziraphale could fly down the dark hillside, be a shadow no-one saw, and take away the man’s pain, but at the same time he couldn’t.
After a moment, the angel spoke. “The divine plan,” he said.
Aziraphale still has a lot of faith in the divine plan. After another two thousand years on earth, more doubts will start to creep in.
“Yeah,” said Crowley, and then they were silent. The demon wondered if the man below could sense the two immortal presences in the darkness, and then decided he couldn’t. At the end of everything, he was human.
They lay there together the whole night, angel and demon, until the grey light of dawn, when there wasn’t even a flattened blade of grass to show where they had been.
Because if there had been, they’d have been in the Gospels! Seriously, I wanted to make it clear that Crowley did feel the need to stay with Aziraphale the whole night through, even though this isn’t his party, so to speak. Despite everything, they are friends and they always have been.
On the Saturday, Crowley amused himself mainly by making Crème Eggs leak. The problem with Easter, as opposed to Christmas, was there were very few generally diabolical things to do, such as spontaneous combustion of all the alkaline batteries in the land. Easter required individual attention for each of the pitiful humans under his care, and was therefore much harder work. Even he was perfectly aware that leaking chocolate eggs were not exactly the new Auschwitz when it came to new acts of diabolical cruelty, but angelic depression was contagious and he didn’t feel up to anything more.
Batteries Not Included on Christmas morning – it’s so Crowley.
By Easter Sunday, the angel stirred slightly and Crowley decided he would get into even more trouble that usual if he didn’t do anything evil in the next few minutes. Aziraphale still wasn’t feeling up to general chastisement, guilt-trippage and what he called “thwarting” and what Crowley called “being a bloody nuisance” so he couldn’t help but feel he should be making the most of the weekend and allowing evil to triumph.
Crowley has free reign – he can do what he likes and Aziraphale can’t stop him. But he’s not quite demonic enough for that.
“Because evil is fundamentally... ah... evil,” Aziraphale once said, whilst drunk, “it inevitably sows the seeds for its own destruction.”
At the time Crowley had ignored him, but he couldn’t help but wonder why exactly he was allowing this precious time go to waste. Morosely, he went out into the street and a dozen cars were spontaneously wheel clamped. He didn’t like it, he felt it lacked finesse, so next he tried to engineer a bad break-up between a pair of lovers who just happened to be passing. He’d had a lot of experience with acrimony and malice, especially on Valentine’s Day, but while the split did go along tolerably well, he didn’t feel quite satisfied. More was required, somehow.
He knew exactly what it was he wanted to do – it was stylishly evil, imaginative and breathtakingly original, but doubts lingered. Standing on the pavement, Crowley thoughtfully removed his sunglasses. A passing motorist caught a glimpse of his eyes and promptly drove into a lamp-post, but the demon didn’t notice.
Still deep in thought, he returned to his flat, picked up the angel and kissed him without due ceremony. Quite uncharacteristically, Aziraphale submitted to it, and became dead weight in Crowley’s arms.
“You’re supposed to thwart me when I do that,” Crowley informed him.
“Uggrh,” said Aziraphale, and his wings disappeared.
More with the depression. He’s getting better – the wings have gone! – but he’s still “dead weight”, ie there isn’t enough life in him to respond to Crowley. I love you but I feel like crap, etc.
On the day the tomb was opened, there were no hosts of angels in the skies around Jerusalem, but Aziraphale could feel the divine crackling in the air. He lurked in the shadows around the tomb, waiting for the stone to be rolled away.
“What difference will it make?”
The angel turned his head to see Crowley standing behind him. He was wearing sunglasses, despite the fact they wouldn’t be invented properly for nearly two thousand years, and Aziraphale felt a familiar pang of irritation. “What difference will it make?” he repeated. “What do you mean, what difference will it make? Christ is risen again!”
I can hear him shouting that. Aziraphale may be clueless, twee, slightly detached from reality, all the rest of it, but he is an angel and that is the most fundamental part of his existence. He can’t see beyond the Resurrection the way that Crowley can.
“He died for their sins,” Crowley said, “but they’re still committing them. To give one example, there’s a girl in the city sleeping with her best friend’s betrothed.”
“How do you know?”
“I suggested it.”
Aziraphale closed his eyes in despair.
A subtle piece of demonic mischief-making – Crowley has utterly ruined Aziraphale’s joyous mood. And yet, he does have a point and against his will, Aziraphale is beginning to see what it is.
“The point is,” Crowley went on, “this doesn’t change the fact they were thrown out of the garden of Eden at the dawn of history, because they’re all sinners.”
“And whose fault is that?”
Some ambiguity there. Crowley tempted them, Aziraphale helped them against God’s will. They can pass judgements and call all of humanity sinners, but they aren’t guiltless themselves.
They looked at each other, and simultaneously, their eyes dropped to the ground. After a minute, Crowley pulled Aziraphale back a few steps. “Stand back, angel,” he said, and the stone was rolled away.
The Monday after the Easter weekend was a bank holiday, and Crowley revelled in it. He engineered mile-long tailbacks, sudden hailstorms, literally hundreds of lost children. Tempers were frayed, inanimate objects were thrown, gallons of tears were shed. Crowley was in fine form. He was looking forward to further acts of wickedness later in the day, with the regularly scheduled ravaging… no, ravishing of angelic flesh. Preying on the vulnerable; Crowley’s eyes narrowed into slittier slits than usual at the evil of it. There was no doubt, however, that the angel would appreciate it. Easter, thankfully, was over for another year.
“Slittier” is not a word, so I had to invent it.
And on a more serious note, life is going on. Easter’s over, Aziraphale can’t stay depressed forever, especially because he has a much broader perspective of life now than he had then. He’s lived with humans and evolved strategies for coping.
At around lunchtime, Aziraphale got up, smoothed out his wings before concealing them again, and went systematically around Crowley’s flat, watering all the plants.
He’s happily thwarting again; starting small, but we know he’ll work his way up. This is one of those stories that just had to be written; I was reading GO over Easter and this more or less wrote itself.
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