July 10, 2006

Disclaimer: by request only. Written for daegaer. Do not archive without permission.

Slouching, forever

"Perhaps we shouldn't," Aziraphale said.

Crowley stopped halfway through the hedge and turned his head. He would have turned more of himself, but he was involved in a bit of a silent dispute with the hawthorn about his trousers, both of them arguing that possession was nine-tenths of the law. "It was your idea."

"I know." Aziraphale shifted from foot to unhappy foot. "Perhaps a more discreet approach would be better."

"Spying from behind a tree is discreet," Crowley said. He touched a fingertip to one of the more intrusive bits of hawthorn, and it shuddered and drew back from him. "Or were you planning on sending up fireworks or holding up a sign saying hello, we are here to secretly check up on the Adversary, Destroyer of Kings, Angel of the Bottomless Pit, Great Beast—"

"Don't be ridiculous," Aziraphale said, following Crowley through the hedge. When he nudged the hawthorn branches aside, a few of them burst into spontaneous bloom. "Oh, bother. Anyway, he's not, any more, is he?"

"Of course he is." The field was empty. Crowley took two steps and put his foot down on evidence that the field hadn't been empty for very long. "You can't just stop being what you are."

"Free will." They strode across the field together, just another angel and demon out for a stroll on a hot summer's day. "He chose, well, this." Aziraphale gestured airily around the field, leading with the wrist and somehow managing to include all of Tadfield.

"He did, didn't he," Crowley said.

On the other side of the field, they waded through nettles and ducked under low tree branches until they got to the fence, which was more than half falling down; nevertheless, they hid behind it. Through a gap where one plank had come loose entirely, they could easily see the Them down in the quarry, crowded together, with some difficulty, on their milk crate.

"—and stealing stuff like the kind of jewels that have actual names."

Brian frowned. "What, like John or Dudley, or, or Priscilla?"

"No," Adam said. "Like the Star of the East or the Cow-i-Noor. Int'restin' names. I thought everyone knew that. And they're famous on account of stealing these famous jewels, and on account of being all," he searched for the word, "swarv."

"If they're so famous," Pepper said practically, "why don't the police catch 'em? Seems to me, soon as they notice this famous Star of Priscilla is missing, they can just look for the nearest famous thief who steals famous jewels."

Adam shook his head. "They're not really famous under their real names," he said, not quite patiently. "It's like the Scarlet Pimpernel. Everyone knew about the Scarlet Pimpernel, but no one knew who he really was, really."

"We knew after you told us," Pepper said with a reminiscent grin. In fact, there had been a considerable amount of reenactment.

Wensleydale, who had been busy polishing his glasses, finally finished, put them on, and looked up. "I heard Mrs Golding tell my father this morning she's finished putting all the turnips back in the bin."

Brian perked up. "P'raps we could save your sister from the guillotine again," he suggested to Pepper. "Or Wensley."

Wensleydale shook his head, but before he could say anything, Adam spoke up. "I don't see why anyone wants to hide under a bunch of smelly ol' turnips when they could be stealing famous jewels and fooling the police."

"I don't think anyone has any famous jewels in Tadfield," Wensleydale said. "Not so famous they have names, anyway."

"My mother has a ring with a diamond in it," Pepper said, very hesitantly.

The rest of Them just shook their heads. It was no use trying to steal any famous diamonds from Pepper's mother, who had an uncanny ability to turn around at the wrong moment, or come out the back door whenever anyone tried to sneak through the garden, and who probably hadn't even named her diamond Priscilla, even.

The secret meeting of potentially famous jewel thieves broke for lunch. Crowley and Aziraphale made themselves disappear behind the nettles as the Them came out of the quarry and got on their bikes, with a little difficulty. It was hardest for Brian, whose legs were now about six inches too long, so that his knees kept hitting the handlebars. It was also very clear that Pepper's Transformers t-shirt had been designed, some years ago, for someone who was considerably shorter and not in need of a B cup.

Wensleydale could have used a shave.

The Them pedalled off, shouting breathlessly to each other about cabbages and diamonds. Crowley and Aziraphale straightened up out of the nettles. "Oh, dear," Aziraphale said. "Well. He chose this."

"He did, didn't he," Crowley said. "He can't stop being what he is." Crowley thought about it. "Or what he wants to be."

Aziraphale wound a nettle stalk around his fingers. "Do you suppose they'd notice if I made the milk crate bigger?"

"I really don't think it would make a difference," Crowley said honestly, and Aziraphale's shoulders slumped.

They looked at each other for a long moment, and then Crowley tilted his head and Aziraphale nodded, and they started walking back towards the hawthorn hedge.

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