Fandom: Good Omens
Rating: Mature! R! For adult audiences only!
Summary: On vacation in the United States, Crowley encounters Insanity again, but things have changed and it's all a little bit pear-shaped.
Notes: Crowley and Aziraphale from Good Omens belong to Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, and are not mine. However, most everyone else in here is, including me. A crossover with a fic-verse of my own, as well as a self-insert. Crowley and OC-centric!
General Wanrings: Sex, including implied semi-non-con. Language. Self-insert. Full warnings, including possible spoilers, below, if you're into that sort of thing.
Anthony J. Crowley may not have been a man, but as a man-shaped being acting as a permanent agent on the Earth, he had developed a very specific image to present to all the people he interacted with who were men. Part of that image had to do with vacationing—once a year, like clockwork, at appropriately high-class locales around the world. To Crowley, all it meant was moving his base of operations temporarily from London to whichever oceanfront resort he’d chosen this year and simply continuing his work there.
That wasn’t to say he didn’t look forward to it, of course. He liked London well enough, but wasn’t so fond of staying in one place for extended periods of time. Vacations could be good, seeing as they offered a change of scenery and all.
This year, his destination was the United States*, and as he hadn’t been for a while, he was looking forward to it. You heard such delightfully nasty things about America that he figured going there would give him a chance for a real break—just as much return as usual from a minimum of effort.
This year, he’d be spending two weeks in the great state of New Jersey, taking advantage of the tourist towns along the shore—and all the tourists that flocked in with the summer season. He worked the casinos at Atlantic City, alternately urging the gamblers to wild excesses and messing with the machines so they couldn’t gamble at all. He hung around the boardwalks at Wildwood and Seaside Heights, where arcades and carnival rides ruled the strip and vacationers all fought furiously to appear happy and well-adjusted.
The last few days he had planned he wandered down into the little beach towns, the more private destinations of discerning sunsponges, planting himself in Lavalette and setting up for three intense days of relaxation—true relaxation at that, the kind that involved him lazing around without doing any sort of work at all. He was looking forward to it.
It was midmorning when he directed his rented Porsche up one of the streets in the town at random. Obligingly, the lines at the end of the block rearranged themselves to eliminate the No Parking zone, and he pulled up with his tires kissing the boardwalk.
The day was overcast, and the biting, unrelenting wind blowing up from the south had kept the beach clear of too many people, but Crowley didn’t care too much for that. As he strode across the sand in immaculately fashionable beachwear, the clouds began to disperse and the wind died to fitful gusts. By the time he’d selected the ideal spot and set up a beach chair that looked like it could go from zero to two hundred in five seconds flat, the clouds overhead had begun to shred apart. Within a half-an-hour, the sun was shining and the most eager of the beach-goers had claimed territory on the sand.
Crowley turned his chair away from the wind and watched them. Humankind fascinated him, always had. He was perfectly willing to bask in the hot sun and observe their interactions with each other. They were delightfully entertaining, and allowing them to amuse him was far preferable to amusing himself.
There was something about vacationing that could bring out the best and the worst in people. It was the worst that Crowley was attuned to, the petty squabbles and the dark worries and the cruel tricks of the families and couples out, nominally enjoying themselves. He was surrounded by people straining to remain courteous with one another when money was draining away on an overpriced apartment, the kids were misbehaving, and all the wife wanted to do was sunbathe, the lazy bitch!
He loved it.
But he couldn’t relax, because he kept catching flashes of weird things out of the corner of his eye—something long-tailed and covered in fluff floundering into the water, a figure with a pair of brown-and-russet wings staring into the wind, strangely colored and strangely proportioned humanoid shapes—all of which disappeared when he turned for a better look. Whenever he was just becoming distracted by some new mischief unfolding, he’d catch sight of another momentary phantom, and it would pull him from his enjoyment all over again.
The strangest part of it was that the part of his consciousness that was usually pretty good about picking up on supernatural things was silent. Not that the sense was an infallible one**, but it was still pretty good at letting him know something was awry, at least a little bit. He was much more accustomed to ignoring the alarm bells raised, than feeling alarm because there were none.
But he was here to enjoy himself, and was very pointedly determined to do so. After the first three or four incidents of false alarms, he ignored anything strange he was seeing out of the corner of his eye, and after a while realized that what he had been ignoring was now legitimately gone. He was able to pass the later hours of his day in a much better frame of mind for it.
*Crowley chose his vacation spots by closing his eyes and putting his finger down at random on a map of the world. This particular map, it should be noted, stopped the 42 parallel, north and south.
**It was really more an ability to identify others in a similar situation as himself more than any sort of sixth sense, in the same way that the ridiculously wealthy can often identify the other ridiculously wealthy without ever before meeting.
The sun was beginning sink. The beach was nearly deserted, and the lifeguards had left twenty minutes ago. Crowley quit his seat and stretched luxuriously. He examined himself; he’d acquired a perfect tan for his efforts on the beach, even and complete despite the fact that he’d been sitting with in the same position all day.
He packed his few things and returned to his car. He slid into the Porsche and reversed it, cruising down the street at only mildly reckless speeds. Farther north up the narrow island, there was supposed to be a decent seafood place, and he turned right at the end of the black with the idle notion of attending for dinner. However, when flash of loose white hair caught his eye outside a crowded ice cream parlor, he abandoned the idea. It was the first such sighting in hours, and this time, there was a spark of recognition.
Several years ago, he’d passed an interesting night with the immortal being Insanity; in the morning, she’d been claimed by her twin, Inspiration. He hadn’t seen more than a few minutes of Insanity’s twin, but the unusually slender figure and cascade of pure white hair was unmistakable. It was unmistakable enough to make him swing off the street and into a parking space (eliciting a rash of honked protest from the people behind him) with the idea of tracking her down.
When he strode into the crowd milling outside the shop a few minutes later, though, there was no sign of her. There were no tall, androgynous, white-haired anyones, much less the specific someones he thought he’d seen.
Disgruntled and somewhat annoyed, he lingered in the parlor long enough to get an ice cream, perhaps with the vague hope of catching sight of her again. There was no such luck—all of the patrons there were disappointingly human. No longer interested in pursuing dinner, he left his car haphazardly parked on the side of the road and wandered back in the general direction of the ocean. He ended up on the boardwalk once more, and in the failing light, picked a direction and struck off.
He walked with his eyes on his feet and his attention turned inwards. The phenomena he’d so studiously ignored were very much on his mind, now, because if he remembered right, he’d noticed white hair once or twice today. He couldn’t claim to know the mind of his once-lover (and suspected that even had he spent more than one night with her, he still wouldn’t be able to), and wondered if perhaps he hadn’t been the only one enjoying himself in rather unorthodox ways on this beach today. He hadn’t had reason to think of her more than once or twice after they parted ways, but odd enough things had happened today that he was much occupied in dredging up the memories.
Absorbed in his musings, he didn’t notice the figure emerging from one of the entrances to the beach proper until he’d almost walked into her—and the long-limbed, white-haired profile in the corner of his eye stopped him short. But when he lifted his head…the image seemed to flicker and dissolve away, leaving only a short human girl with a scooter slung casually over one shoulder.
The human had glanced up and stepped back, blushing with apparent mortification. She mumbled some sort of deferral or apology, and then slowly lifted her head. Brown eyes narrowed suspiciously, and in a deeper and more forceful voice than the one she’d used an instant before, she asked, “Crowley?”
Though she had claimed a desire to get more ice cream, the only reason Janella had lingered at Iceberg was because she wanted a little time alone, and planned to take the scooter she was borrowing from a cousin up to the boardwalk for a solitary ride. She needed to sort some things out.
Well, she needed to sort one thing out. She needed to find out why, after over a week of relative silence, the voices in her head were acting up so much suddenly.
They tended to come and go, as it were; the presences in her mind were always just that—present—but they went through cycles of activity. There were times when anything she saw or did had one of them coming to the surface, eager to make some kind of comment or react in some way. For just a moment she would see through their eyes, feel along her limbs a ghost of the way they felt their own. Occasionally, her mouth would issue a remark that wasn’t hers, though just as often, the presence dissolved away silently after a moment or two.
There were also times when she didn’t feel them at all, when she fretted that she was losing whatever it was that made these characters and personas she loved so much seem real.
Typically, family vacations were times of sullen silence. She suspected it was because her own fear of slipping up, saying or doing something that was a little too out there was inhibiting them, but no one had ever come right out and said it. It was a relief, because they weren’t confronting her with her irrational fear of accepting them totally, but it also worried her, because with no word said on the subject, she had no way to know if it was she or they quelling the activity.
For some reason though, this vacation had seen more than its usual share of activity from the voices, and today had been wild. She’d “heard from” no less than six of the fifteen of them, something like a record for a single day. It had her wondering why.
She meandered her way up the street and rattled out over the boardwalk. A few blocks of that and she was tired of it; the concentration necessary to keep from crashing over her handlebars was making it hard to think, much less to plumb the depths of her psyche. She hooked the scooter over her shoulder, kicked off her sandals, and plodded out onto the beach.
The tranquility at sundown was a striking contrast to the chaos at high noon, and by sticking to the flat, dry sand near the rank of carefully protected dunes, she was able to shuffle along without running into any of the fishers or beachcombers dotting the waterline. Sandals in one hand, scooter in the other, she wandered along and waited to see if anyone had anything to say to her.
She could feel Red at her shoulder suddenly, and craned her head to smile at him. If she really concentrated, she could just make him out, tall and slim and green behind her, smiling back despite the proximity of the ocean.
“Answer me a question, love,” she said in the mélange of images, emotions, and words that served as communication, passing between them instantaneously.
“What’s up with all the…y’know…babble today?”
He shrugged, jammed his hands in the belt around his narrow waist, sighed. “Dunno,” he said finally. “Why? You complaining?”
She grinned, and swayed backwards. She could feel phantom pressure against her spine and shoulder, as if he’d been there, real and solid for her to lean against. “Not if it means I get to hang out with you.” She paused for a moment, settling against arms that only she could sense. Then she straightened up, and the presence faded.
She continued to walk. She wasn’t surprised that Red didn’t know much about what was going on. Though he was one of the first headvoices who’d ever manifested, he’d never had much to do with the others, for reasons that had very much to do with his occasionally volatile temper. He remained aloof from the affairs of his fellows, and she hadn’t yet found out what he did when he wasn’t hovering around her.
The breeze gusting steadily up from the south strengthened and whipped the tails of the scarf around her head out. She turned her face to the wind and there was Lucinda again, splaying her tail and spreading her feathers of her wings to it, reveling in the tug and the remembered knowledge of flight.
“Luce—?” she started, but the self-styled angel was already gone and she was nearly at the entrance that opened on to her street. “What the hell is going on?” she muttered to herself.
A trio of teenaged boys barreled down the gap between the dunes, and as they passed she lifted her chin and straightened her spine, affecting a swagger not her own. Insanity grinned at them, but they paid her no mind, and Janella could feel a momentary surge of frustration for this short, flabby, utterly unattractive body.
Insanity stalked off the beach, pausing to slip her borrowed feet back into the sandals without even really thinking about it. She took two steps and was forced aside mentally as Janella stopped short. They’d nearly walked into someone!
“Excuse me,” Janella mumbled quickly. “Sorry. My fault.” She ducked back, and was shocked to feel Insanity again, lifting her head and forcing her to look the guy head on. Her lips moved, but it was in a roughened, accented version of her voice that Insanity said his name.
He frowned at her—them—whatever. Her, since she was all he had any reason to see. “Sorry,” she said again, color rising in her face. “My mistake. Thought you were—”
“I am Crowley,” he interrupted, crossing his arms over his chest. He tilted his head back and to the side just a little, so that he was staring down the bridge of his nose at her (or so she assumed; with those sunglasses on, it was hard to tell). “And I wonder who you are to know that, seeing as I can’t recall ever having met you before in my life.”
Her mind had begun to race so furiously that for a moment, she couldn’t acknowledge his question. The implications of this—of Insanity calling someone Janella had never met before by name—were unfolding before her, and the enormity of it swamped her. It wasn’t hard for Insanity to wrest the controls away from her, such as it was.
“Darling Crowley,” she drawled through the little human’s mouth, “it is an incredibly long story. May I remind of a single night spent together in London?”
“You may, but there’s a lot of girls I’ve spent single nights with in London,” he said. He paused, and turned his face away very deliberately. “Insanity. The years certainly haven’t treated you well. You hardly look the same!”
“Don’t look at all the same, more like,” she muttered, feeling not for the first time the keen indignity of her current residence.
“What…er…happened?” he asked dubiously, as if he’d really rather not know.
“I already told you, it’s a long story,” she growled, but there was an upward quirk to her lips that belied the anger. “Follow me, and I’ll see that you hear it.”
Crowley followed her, willing to obey the command in the interest of hearing what was sure to be a fascinating story. He was very much looking forward to hearing how it was that Insanity came to speak through a human girl.
It was undeniably Insanity. The swagger, the smirk, that slight, ever-shifting, unidentifiable accent of hers—the physical form may have been completely different, but the mind behind was the same as ever. Hers wasn’t the only mind in there, though, and that was the thing. This wasn’t some elaborate guise; she was sharing the body someone else.
She led him down the street, walking in the road and then switching to the sidewalk once they’d passed a torn-up patch of construction. “Let me just tell my mom I’m going out,” she said in a sing-song, mocking tone of voice. Not her real mother*, he realized, but a referral to the body’s. They stopped at one of the houses, indistinguishable from the others around it despite being unique in shape and color. “Wait here,” she ordered. “I’ll be right back.”
She left him alone on the sidewalk, and he gingerly sat on the concrete stoop in front of the house. Voices rose and fell inside, not in anger but rather as the speakers moved about. Young voices shrieked through the house, and the screen door popping open startled him.
“Oh!” a little girl gasped, and a couple of young children giggled their way back inside before he could say a thing. A minute after that, he heard a voice admonishing them gently, and then she came back outside.
“I told my mom that you’re a friend of mine named Connor,” she explained in a quick, quiet voice. “She’s met him, but it was years ago, so she won’t catch us out in the fib. Hopefully. I told her we were going to wander around out here for a while, so you’ll have some time alone with…” and her voice caught as she said the name, “Insanity.”
Crowley got to his feet, and was unsurprised after those last few words to find that, when he turned and regarded her out of the corner of his eye, there was no overlaying image of anyone. She, the girl, the human, had arranged it. “All right,” he agreed tentatively, unsure of what else there was to say.
She grinned again, suddenly, and his once-lover was back, linking her arm in his and propelling him once more towards the beach. “So,” he said, feigning nonchalance, “the story.”
Insanity shook her head, pressing the full length of her body against him as she laid a finger against his lips. “When we get on the sand,” she promised, before releasing him and skipping off. He suppressed a flare of irritation and increased his stride to maintain pace with her.
Just a few minutes later, she was kicking around in the grains at the foot of one of the dunes, clearing a spot for them to sit. Crowley, not much pleased with the prospect of sand getting into the clothes he’d planned to wear to dinner, caught her arm as she was about to seat herself. “Let me have this,” he said, untying the jacket around her waist without waiting for an affirmative. He shook it out into the wind, and when he spread it on the ground, it had turned into an immense blanket.
“I hope you can change that back,” she said warningly, and he shrugged, sitting. After a moment, she joined him.
It was twilight now, on the beach, and all but the most determined romantics (and fisherman) had quit the shore for the comfort of their homes, rented or permanent. They were nearly alone, and their nearest neighbors were some distance upwind, far out of range. Insanity spent a quiet moment regarding the pair of distant fishermen, before beginning to speak.
“It’s a long story,” she began, “and I’m not sure I understand it, especially not the most important parts. I know that I was distinctly me, distinctly independent, for…I don’t know, for years, I guess. After I met you, I mean. Obviously, I was before. But…less than a year ago…shit, I don’t know. Somehow, I went from living my own life, whole and unfettered, out there, to being…trapped in here.” He glanced at her, saw her clench her fists on her knees. There was fury in her voice, and impotence, but a little of something else as well. “My physical form was just gone; I was a consciousness only, crowded in here with all these other lunatics. Inspiration was, too—trapped with my sister!”
“How?” he asked.
“I don’t know!” she wailed, and her apparent anguish caught him by surprise. He looked at her sharply, but saw only the human girl, curled over herself, her face sorrowful. She sighed. “We weren’t the first, but you know what?” She turned to regard him now, and her face had cleared. Her eyes—normal and brown, no longer the mismatched pair they had been—narrowed fractionally. “They’re all figments, like she thinks they are. Cartoon characters and people from her…stories…and shit like that, brought alive through sheer force of will.” She leaned back on her palms and laughed bitterly. “It’s funny,” she remarked. “I would have been drawn to this little mortal girl. Someone who hears voices in her head, and voices of her own making at that? Definitely one of mine, and even Inspiration’s, a little. She should have been one of mine, and instead, this!” She slammed her hands into the blanket. “Imprisonment! Entrapment! Fuck!”
Crowley grimaced, leaning back himself and turning his head to the side, so it would be easier to see her as he remembered her, instead of the body she was trapped in. “What’s it like?” he asked, fascinated in spite of himself.
“Not too bad, actually,” she admitted as if it pained her to say it, with another sigh. “For a bunch of figments of her imagination, they’re remarkably self-possessed, and some of them are kind of interesting.” She shook her head, and tapped at her temple. “The drama in here is like something out of a soap opera. Violent arguments, sex, power plays and experiments, and all kinds of weird shit.”
“Sex?” he asked skeptically.
“Oh yes, though none for me.” She lowered herself the rest of the way and stared up into the sky, her eyes tracking back and forth between the first stars. She turned on her side, and he twisted around in time to see her eyes flick back to the sky. “Inspiration’s forbidden me from complicating things in here any farther than they already are.” She snorted scornfully.
“And you’ve been obeying her?” Crowley was even more skeptical than before. True, he didn’t know Insanity well, but what taste he’d gotten of her appetites that one night so long ago made it hard to believe she’d refrain simply because her sister told her to.
She chuckled, and grinned at him once more. “Let’s just say it’s been a while since anyone’s struck my fancy,” she murmured, tracing swirling designs in the fabric aimlessly.
“Oh?” he said. He paused, thinking about that, and added guilelessly. “A while, hm? Years?”
“Years,” she said, with a tilt of her head.
He lay back on the blanket as well, pillowing his head in his hands and looking up into the now-black sky. “That’s interesting.”
“Yes,” she said. “My standards seem to have elevated themselves unaccountably in recent times.”
“Of course,” he said slowly, “I have to wonder how I measure up to these newly elevated standards of yours.” And he honestly was wondering, because even if he hadn’t suffered from the same dearth she had, there had been something singular about her that his most recent relations lacked. (That wasn’t to say he enjoyed them immensely, of course, but he felt it prudent not to mention that here.)
She sat up, looming above him in the darkness. “Darling I>Crow</i>ley,” she purred, rolling on top of him, “you should know that already. After all, you are the one who set them.”
*She didn’t have one, as far as he knew.
Janella was terrified. Not one of her headvoices had ever been in control this complete—she could hear, see, and feel, but her body was not responding to her brain. Whenever her limbs moved, wherever her eyes flicked, all of it was out of her control. She was like a passenger in a car being driven by someone else, and felt just as impotent as one.
But just because one of her ‘voices—a character she’d invented and brought to life inside her mind—had taken complete control of her body, didn’t mean she’d lost her wits entirely. She had to throttle her mounting panic, quell the ever-rising terror, and listen to what Insanity was saying, because obviously it was important. This one encounter had just changed everything.
The logic of it was inescapable, and as she had been known to boast, she was a daughter of logic. This man, this Crowley person, was someone a figment of her imagination had recognized and identified, and Janella had never met him before. There was no way Insanity could have extrapolated a past with him out of some encounter of Janella’s own. That meant, logically, inescapably, that Insanity had a reservoir of experience outside that Janella thought she’d imagined for her.
And that meant that, somehow, some way…Insanity had once existed outside of her mind.
If Insanity had, than Inspiration had. If the twins had…then who else? Any of them? All of them? How was there any way to know?
So she throttled down the fear and listened. She despaired at what she heard; while she knew it was too much to think that all her ‘voices enjoyed their lot in life all the time, she’d never expected to hear such imprecations against her. She certainly hadn’t meant it, didn’t even know how it happened! It wasn’t her fault!
Even more than being a passenger in her own body, the thought that she had trapped sentient, independent minds here without even knowing she’d done it was horrifying.
Then Insanity rolled them on top of this man who obviously wasn’t a stranger to her, and all other thoughts fled, because they were kissing in a way Janella had only ever imagined, and she wasn’t naïve enough to miss that the kissing would soon turn to other things.
Later, when she attempted to describe what happened next, she had difficulty finding words for it. The closest she could come was that someone had seized her from behind and yanked her bodily away, all without ever being physically touched or moved. She found herself crushed to Red’s chest, distantly aware of her physical body but more immediately so of this mental projection of herself.
For that’s where she was—almost entirely disassociated from her body, cradled in the arms of an Irken who professed to love her…even though he was a part of her. “Red?” she asked, unable to suppress the quaver in her mental voice.
“Did I trap you here? Were you real once—corporeal, I mean? Physical?”
He sighed, and she could feel his chest lift and fall where her cheek was pressed against it. The texture of his black T-shirt was as real as anything she’d ever felt. “I…I don’t know, Janella,” he said finally, without much conviction. “I really don’t know.”
So much for reassurance.
When Insanity kissed him, it brought to mind memories of that night, so many years distant. They’d met in a swanky nightclub in London, each drawn to the other, even if they hadn’t known it at the time, by their otherworldliness. Their mutual reaction to each other had been a surprise and, honestly, a delight. It had been really great sex.
Tonight was shaping up to be very interesting in its own right. Her body pressed along his was insistent, her hands restless. She kissed him, hard and long, and there was something desperate in it.
She was straddling him, and now she reared back. Faint moonlight limned the body she was trapped in, highlighting the short hair and the square face. The expression on that face was rapacious, wild, and just a touch foreboding. She reached for him once more.
Within moments, they were rolling together on the blanket, half-naked and heedless of anyone who might happen across them. While he was eager and willing enough, she was desperate, frantic. When she reached for him, she demanded. When they embraced, she consumed him. Where she touched, he burned, and he realized as her hands slid up his thighs that perhaps he wanted this as much as she seemed to need it.
Last time, it had been sex. It had been a fling, a quick shag with nothing else behind it. This time, as they came together, alone with the wind and sand and sea, it was more than that. This time, though they were rough, though they were wild and their passion seared them with the heat of flames, this time they made love.
Crowley found he didn’t mind it at all.
Suddenly, Janella felt herself snapped back, drawn into her rightful place as Insanity lost her concentration and lost control. It was not the opportune moment to regain control of her body, because there was a panting Crowley was still on top of her. Her hands still clutched at his shoulders, but her part in this was done. She understood, in an academic way, that she wouldn’t be back if it wasn’t.
Indeed, it wasn’t a minute later that he finished as well, the small tremors wracking his lean body the only physical evidence of the pleasure she knew Insanity had been able to give him. He collapsed slowly to one side of her, but an arm remained draped across her possessively. A breeze whispered off the ocean and across her exposed flesh, and she shivered.
Abruptly, Crowley propped himself up on one arm. The light of the half-moon highlighted his sleek body, and for the first time she appreciated how truly handsome he was. Strangely enough, though, he was still wearing his sunglasses, and she wondered why.
“Oh,” he breathed in a sibilant sigh. “Ssshit.”
“What?” she growled.
“You,” he said, sitting up straighter. “You’re…you. Where’s Insanity?”
“Gone,” she murmured, pulling herself upright. She folded her legs up to her chest and rested her chin on her knees. “Back inside, I guess. Fuck, I don’t know.” Much to her chagrin, her eyes stung, and she was unable to stop the silent tears that rolled free. It was as much a reaction to this final indignity as it was to everything else up to this point.
He leaned forward, noticed her tears, and grimaced slightly. Wordlessly, he handed her the T-shirt she’d been wearing earlier. For some reason, it only made her cry harder, and she buried her face in the garment in an attempt to stifle her sobs.
“Shit,” he hissed again. “You’re just a kid, aren’t you?”
“I’m eighteen,” she sniffed.
To her surprise, he laughed. “Eighteen. It’s been a long time since I was eighteen.”
It was the right thing to say, even if there was no way he could have known it. His comment gave her something to concentrate on apart from her own current woes. She sniffled mightily and lifted her head, wiping at her eyes with the back of her arm. Surreptitiously, she looked him up and down. He didn’t look all that much older than eighteen—no more than thirty at the absolute most, if she was any judge.
“So how old are you, then,” she asked, “if eighteen is so far behind you?”
“Six thousand, plus,” he said causally, leaning back.
She gaped at him. “Six thousand?” she repeated. “You want me to believe that you’re over six thousand years old?”
“No,” he said, lifting one shoulder in a half-hearted shrug. “I’m telling you that’s how old I am. You can believe whatever you want.”
“I don’t know what to believe right now,” she whispered, wiggling her toes against the blanket. The logo that had been on its breast when it was her jacket was right in front of her, and she traced the edge of it lightly with one finger. “If you had said to me yesterday that you were that old, I would have laughed, and tried to say something witty. Today…? Today, I’m halfway to believing you.”
“Only halfway?” he asked.
She looked at him again, her eyes tracing the clean, sculpted lines of his face. She lingered momentarily on the sunglasses, and looked away again quickly when a dark eyebrow arched up over their frame. “Who are you?” she asked finally. “Who are you to know…” She took a deep breath and forced herself to complete the sentence, “…to know Insanity for who she is? She doesn’t…she…” Janella couldn’t finish her thought, and only looked up at him hopelessly.
“I’m Crowley,” he said. “I met Insanity in London, once, years ago. We—”
“But how?!” she wailed, interrupting him and not caring how rude it made her sound. “I made Insanity up! She’s based on a David Bowie song!”
“A David Bowie song?”
“Yeah.” She took a shuddering breath. “‘Insanity laughs, under pressure we’re cracking,’” she attempted (and failed) to sing. “That line inspired both of them, both the twins. ‘What if Insanity were an actually person, a mythical figure like a god?’ I asked myself. ‘What if she had a foil? What would the foil be like?’ You see, I figured it all out—the Bass, the Flute, how they collaborate—everything. I made them up. I made them up!” He was staring at her, she noticed, and irrationally, it irritated her. “What?!”
He shook his head. “Nothing,” he said, “though I do recall that she played that song on stage the, ah, night I met her.”
Janella felt a chill finger trace her spine, and shivered again. This one had nothing to do with the wind. “You knew her,” she said. It wasn’t a question. “You really knew her.”
“I knew her,” he acknowledged.
“How did this happen?” she moaned, dropping her head once more to her knees and lacing her fingers across the back of her skull. “How did I do this?”
She hadn’t expected an answer, honestly, but to her surprise, he cleared his throat and said, “I may have an idea.” She looked up at him, and knew the expression of hope on her face must look pathetic. “D’you know all that rot about being able to bind…magical beings…by knowing their true names?” Janella was familiar with the idea, having come across it who knew how many times in her fantasy books. “Well, most of the time, it’s just that—rot. If that was true, anyone who read the Bible would be able to summon angels…and demons. They can’t, because for the most part, that’s a sentimental fantasy crafted by human minds.
“But Insanity…well, she’s a class apart. She—and her sister, too—have little to do with Up Above and Down Below.” He waved one hand at the sky and then down under their feet, and she knew he was talking about Heaven and Hell. “The rules don’t apply to them in quite the same way. In making up those characters, based on that song, I think you got very close to the real thing, and it bound them to you.”
It made sense, in a weird, cosmic sort of way. The explanation appealed to her sense of the unrealistic, and exculpated her as well, at least to an extent. She rubbed at her temples and was silent for a long time, thinking about it.
“Damn,” she muttered finally. “That…that could be it, I think. It makes sense enough.” She lapsed into silence again; something else prodded her, and she seized on the chance to think about something else for a minute. “How do you know so much about divine things—the religious stuff, Heaven and Hell and all that?”
“Personal experience,” he said without missing a beat. She stared blankly at him, and after a moment, he continued. “If I didn’t think Insanity would tell you this, I wouldn’t bother,” he said. “Just know that.”
With that, he removed his sunglasses.
To her credit, she reacted well. A quick intake of breath, a barely noticeably flinch, and then she was hugging her knees again. “You’re a…” she started hesitantly, as if daring him to contradict her.
“Demon,” he said shortly. “Yes.”
He knew it was stupid. He knew it was a risk. But if a human girl could be discrete about hearing voices in her head, he figured she could be discrete about other things, too, especially now. He felt he owed it to her, since…
Well. It hadn’t been his first time. It hadn’t been Insanity’s. It had been hers; he’d taken the virginity of a girl whose name he didn’t even know, and if it wasn’t the first time*, this time he hadn’t meant it. This time, he felt bad. He felt…almost guilty.
Okay, actually guilty.
“So that’s how you know her, then,” she was muttering. “I mean, the real her. She doesn’t reveal who she really is…er, I think. I mean, that’s how I always wrote her.” She let out a deep breath that caught on the end, like a sob, and turned abruptly away. “I’m sorry,” she said.
But she only shook her head mutely, and busied herself pulling her clothes on. Hastily, he hurried to do the same, pushing his sunglasses back on first; just because he’d let one human know didn’t mean he wanted any others to. He watched her as she dressed, and made no secret of his interest when she turned and saw him staring. Not beautiful, not by any stretch of the word, but pretty enough, he decided. He smirked as he saw the color rise in her tanned cheeks.
Sand shifted under her feet as she stepped off the blanket and paced towards the water. He watched her go, but made no move to follow; instead, he got to his feet and brushed the sand from his trousers. The blanket reverted to a jacket as he shook it out, and when she made no move to return, he brought it to her.
“This is yours,” he said, opting not to notice her wet cheeks.
“Thanks,” she whispered. “I’m sorry.”
“For…” That brought her up short. “Being a crybaby?” she suggested with a weak smile. “I don’t know, for being emotional and irrational and weepy.”
“I think, right now, you’re entitled.”
She shook her head once more, but used the sleeve of the jacket to dry her face. She turned it into the wind, and just for a second, he saw a flash of wings. With a shudder and a flick of her fingers, she turned back to him.
“I’d…better get home,” she said finally. “My family will be wondering where I am.”
“I’ll walk back with you,” he offered without thinking. She nodded, and together, they quit the beach and wandered back down the street. Crowley couldn’t seem to take his eyes off of her, but she was withdrawn, distracted (rightfully so, in his opinion). When she stepped up the stoop to the front door, he remained on the sidewalk.
“Thanks,” she said again, standing with one hand on the door handle and looking anywhere but at him.
“You’re welcome,” he said sincerely.
She stepped a little closer, and grinned at him. “It was good seeing you again, Crowley,” Insanity said silkily, draping her arms around his shoulders and kissing him deeply. She leaned back. “Are you going to be around tomorrow?”
“No,” he told her. He’d planned to stick around for two or three days, actually, but now he wasn’t so sure it was a good idea. “I’m leaving tonight.”
She frowned. “Goodbye, then,” she snapped, and then she was gone.
The girl smiled at him, a wistful, sad smile. “Goodbye,” she said, echoing Insanity. She turned, as if to go inside, and paused. “Um. Crowley?”
“Is there any way to…get her out? Emancipate her—both of them?”
He frowned, but he’d be lying if he said he hadn’t expected the question. “I don’t know,” he said. “Maybe. Let me talk to my people**.”
She nodded. “All right.” Two steps forward, and she was standing inn front of him, head tilted back so she could look him in the eye. Her hands lifted, quavered, dropped a little, and lifted again. Her lips were parted slightly, and with a practiced eye, he could read the wish written on her face. He leaned down and kissed her, the real her.
It was a very short, very chaste kiss. Her face was bright red as she pulled away and fled to the door. She pulled it open, and was halfway inside when he spoke again, a single word. “Wait.”
She froze, but didn’t turn. “Yeah?” she asked in a weak whisper.
“What’s your name?”
Now she turned. “Janella,” she told him. Then she was gone, and the door was swinging slowly closed.
Crowley stood, silent and still outside the house, for a long time. He was mulling it over, everything that had happened today since he first noticed weird things in the corners of his peripheral vision. There was a lot to think about, and all he really wanted was a drink and long talk with his friend Aziraphale. Finally, he turned and walked to the end of the block. His sleek, high-tech cell phone was in his car, and there were a few phone calls he had to make.
As he walked away, he pretended not to notice blinds lifting free of a window, and a square little face watching him go.
*He was Crowley, after all, and his specialty was temptation. Back in the day, he’d been a master at tempting virgins.
**Person, technically: Aziraphale.
Warnings: This fic contains adult content, i.e., graphic heterosexual sex, with slight non-con overtures. While the mechanics of it are not explicitly described, it is, undeniably sex, and it is an important part of the story. Please do not read if this disturbs you. Also, the fic contains the original female character, Insanity, who is crossed-over from original fiction of my own, and she gets it on with Crowley. Also, there is a shameless self-insert in this, and she's (I'm) pretty important too. Finally, headvoices. This fic contains much discussion of the phenomenon that is headvoices.