Written for Remix Redux III: Re-Loaded -
as a remix of Daegaer's
Boys and Girls (Go read it!)
Many, many thanks to Louise Lux for beta!
Boys and Girls (the "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" remix),
Sleeping was to blame.
It had to be.
If he lived an eternity, which admittedly wasn't entirely out of the realm of possibility, Aziraphale would never understand Crowley's fascination with sleeping. Humans were different, of course. Their biological requirement for sleep was part of His ineffable plan. Angels, however, had no such need, and the idea of indulging in such a sybaritic practice had always seemed a little shameful to Aziraphale.
Crowley possessed no such shame, needless to say, but then shame didn't feature prominently in the demon's storehouse of defining attributes.
Yes, sleeping was definitely to blame. It had to have started with Aziraphale's uncharacteristic decision to indulge in a night's sleep three days earlier.
Or perhaps it had started with the book.
Not that book. While The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter could certainly be held to account for a fair share of the difficulties which had taken place over the past three and a half centuries, the book which bore the responsibility for the current trouble was Virginia Woolf's Orlando.
Aziraphale hadn't been looking for a copy ofOrlando, but the radio announcement of a book auction that morning had been particularly compelling - so much so that he found himself drawn to Sotheby's before he had even finished his second cup of tea. And, really, what was he to do when the auctioneer introduced a rare signed first edition of Woolf's novel with a starting price of less than £500? In no time at all, the book was his.
The lack of any other interested buyers should probably have made Aziraphale at least a little suspicious, but the truth was that he was rarely suspicious of anything, at least not unless Crowley was involved. It just wasn't in his nature.
Of course, Aziraphale had read Orlando before, but for some reason the story made a much more powerful impression on him, this time around.
. . . Orlando woke.
He stretched himself. He rose. He stood upright in complete nakedness before us, and while the trumpets pealed Truth! Truth! Truth! we have no choice left but confess - he was a woman.
To wake up and discover that one's sex had changed overnight! What an oddly captivating idea.
Strictly speaking, Aziraphale couldn't be said to be either male or female - nor any of the possible combinations in between - but he had lived in the body of a man for millennia, and had become accustomed to thinking of himself as a man. How strange it would be to go to sleep, and discover himself housed in the body of a woman.
And so, although feeling slightly anxious about his decision, Aziraphale slipped into a pair of silk pyjamas, created a bedside table (upon which he placed a glass of water), then created a bed and went to sleep.
The following morning, Aziraphale opened his eyes slowly . . . only to find that nothing had changed overnight, except that the sheets had become so entangled around his legs that he stumbled getting out of the bed.
It had all been a rather silly notion, he admitted to himself, as he buttoned his linen shirt. Much more in Crowley's line, actually.
Yes, he could imagine Crowley transforming into a woman. He'd think it all a lark, a great joke, an opportunity to tempt humanity in whatever ways he hadn't already undertaken. Crowley wouldn't bat a mascara'd eyelash, just carry on as if he'd always worn high heeled shoes that showed off the unquestionably lovely turn of his ankle . . . as if he'd been created to walk just so, a combination of elegance and seduction . . . as if there had never been a time when he didn't know the precise manner in which to dart his tongue out and wet his lips that never failed to make Aziraphale want to . . .
The trouble with recognizing that one's imagination has wandered into inappropriate areas is that it becomes quite impossible to keep from thinking of the very thing that one wishes not to have thought of in the first place.
And so, although Aziraphale expended a great deal of time and energy over the next few days trying not to imagine how Crowley might look in an off-the-shoulder velvet gown of the deepest forest green or what Crowley's voice might sound like if the chest . . . the chest . . . if the chest from which it emanated was . . .no, it was all quite impossible to keep from thinking these things, not even after Aziraphale had taken the unprecedented step of leaving the shop open three afternoons in a row on the off chance that a customer might come in, wishing to purchase Orlando, thereby removing temptation from his path.
It never occurred to him to just burn the novel, or throw it in a bin. One simply didn't do that, at least not if one was an angel. Surely the destruction of books was started by the other side.
When the phone rang, Aziraphale thought long and hard (approximately the length of time it took for three complete rings) about whether it might not be better to let the ansaphone pick up the call. After all, he couldn't remember anyone ringing him apart from Crowley for decades, and the demon was the absolute last being Aziraphale wanted to speak to.
In the end, however, politeness won out.
"Crowley." Of course. Who else would it be? "Can I ring you back?"
"Sorry, this is important," Crowley said. "Sorry to disrupt your soap operas, but I knew you'd be in. Can you find me information on sex changes?"
For a second, Aziraphale couldn't speak. Clearly, he'd been found out, but . . . he had no idea how Crowley had managed it - none whatsoever. The only remotely plausible explanation was that Aziraphale must, somehow, have been broadcasting his thoughts all the way to - where was it Crowley said he was staying? - Bristol.
He'd all but resigned himself to the mockery that was sure to follow before he realized that Crowley wasn't laughing. Perhaps it would be best to go along with whatever game the demon was playing until he could establish why Crowley wasn't already using this knowledge against him.
"All right," he said, then added, "Are you going to want me to come down to you?"
He could only hope that Crowley said no. Aziraphale didn't know if he could bear to come face to face with the demon at the moment.
"No, no, just post it," Crowley said, and hung up the phone.
Over the next few days, Aziraphale divided his time between trying to ignore the surprisingly numerous works of fiction whose plots chronicled spontaneous gender transference (somehow he'd never noticed these books before, but now they seemed to be everywhere he looked), and putting together a comprehensive cross-section of the latest sex change studies in medicine, anthropology, sociology, and zoology for Crowley. He considered including some of the works of fiction that kept springing up out of nowhere, but in the end, he decided against it. After all, if one Modernist novel could give even him such odd thoughts, well, there was no telling how it would affect his counterpart.
Now and again, Aziraphale took a break from his research in order to Go About and Do Good, but there really wasn't much point in thwarting when the demon wasn't actively trying to tempt humanity.
Or . . . was he? After Aziraphale posted the envelope, he wondered whether Crowley's oddly agitated request for information had actually been nothing more than a ruse to keep him from paying attention to one of the demon's nefarious schemes; The fact that Crowley hadn't launched any particularly nefarious schemes for the past century was irrelevant; he could do, and that was the point, surely.
He had been a fool! Crowley was the Spawn of Evil. One of Satan's Minions. Aziraphale had let himself forget for a moment, but he knew how very tempting Crowley could be, with his flashing eyes and his . . .
It had taken a considerable effort to rouse himself to Righteous Fury against the Forces of Darkness, but even that wasn't enough to drive these disturbing images of Crowley from his mind.
When the phone rang, it was almost a relief to hear Crowley's voice at the other end of the line, asking him to come to Bristol. He'd see him and discuss whatever the demon wanted to discuss, then they'd have a drink or two, and everything would be back to normal.
Except, Crowley had said "You're a good friend, Aziraphale."
No, this wasn't normal at all.
Aziraphale purchased a ticket to Bristol at Paddington Station the following morning and boarded the train. He requested a window seat, but the tea service had been cancelled, and really, there was very little interesting scenery (apart from the Wonders of His Creation, of course) until they'd passed Chippenham, and the steady rhythm of the train almost lulled him to sleep, until he remembered exactly why sleeping was quite possibly a very bad idea.
One taxi ride later, Aziraphale was standing at the door of the B&B, shaking his head and chuckling to himself. Fancy having been so distracted by imagining that Crowley was a woman.
Then the door opened, and . . . Crowley was a woman!
Aziraphale could hear his own voice - sharp and accusatory - as he scolded Crowley for the sheer immaturity of staging such a ridiculous prank ("I would have imagined that even you might have left this kind of puerile behaviour behind after your first thousand years"), but one look at Crowley's face was enough to tell Aziraphale that this transformation wasn't something the demon was at all happy with.
It wasn't possible that he had done this, was it? Him and that book?
He forced himself to remain calm as the door to Crowley's room closed behind them and Crowley removed his (quite attractive) new clothing. Barely waiting for Crowley's shrug of acceptance, Aziraphale laid his hands on the demon's chest, and . . . oh yes, definitely a woman. Female skeletal structure. Female reproductive organs. Female . . . yes, definitely female.
Four weeks later, after they had returned to London, Aziraphale noticed something quite odd. Crowley was still a woman, yet he was still . . . Crowley. He had the same lithe body (not that Aziraphale had ever paid particular attention to Crowley's human body, but after a millennium or two, you do notice a few things), the same red glow from behind his . . . her sunglasses, the same execrable taste in music.
The whole time they were in Bristol, she had been acting in a manner that suggested she'd fallen prey to the very female complaint of PMS (those female reproductive organs of hers were alarmingly insistent), but if Aziraphale really thought about it, Crowley had often acted as if he were suffering from PMS. Just ask his . . . her . . Crowley's houseplants.
Of course, Crowley snapping at Aziraphale in Debenhams Department Store and telling him that he should have been the one to change into a woman ("At least then your constant whinging about whether white trousers make your wobbly arse look too fat would make some sense") was a little hurtful, but she was a demon, after all, so what could you expect? And if Crowley viewed Aziraphale's charitable act (and really, Aziraphale thought, what woman wouldn't be grateful for being relieved of three and a half weeks of delayed pre-menstrual discomfort all at once, even if it was a little . . . messy ?) as some sort of petty retaliation ("You bloody bastard! That hurt!"), well, there was just no fathoming the mind of the fallen sometimes.
In any case, things did get back to normal rather quickly once they were both back in the City. Crowley returned to not-quite-tempting, and Aziraphale returned to not-quite-thwarting, and the two of them continued to discuss the state of The Arrangement in St. James' Park and have lunch at the Ritz.
And if every now and then, Aziraphale noticed how very aesthetically pleasing the curve of Crowley's hip was and how Crowley's hair always shined so brightly in the London sun (much more brightly than any demon's hair had any right to shine) . . . well, if Aziraphale was perfectly honest with himself (and really, angels should be perfectly honest), it really wasn't much of a change from the way he had looked at Crowley before.
It's just that he had never noticed.