The Disappointed Poet

Disclaimer: Not mine. What isn't from Good Omens belongs to history.
Disclaimer 1: This is fanfic. That means I do not own any of it. I just borrow it to play with for a little while and let people see the pathetic results if they really want to.

Disclaimer 2: I'm not making any money from it. It's just for fun.

Disclaimer 3: What isn't borrowed is all made up. None of this is real or most likely at all realistic. Please don't trust any of the information in here. Most likely you know more about whatever I'm writing about than I do.

Disclaimer 4: Attitudes, views and opinions expressed by the characters or in the story are not necessarily those of the author. Even when writing Science Fiction or Fantasy I do not tend to attempt to create perfect/better worlds in which everybody gets a happy end ... or whatever is best for them. Please accept that some characters will have a bad ending or be unhappy.

Disclaimer 5: I intend no insult to anyone. If I offend anyone I'm very sorry. Please understand that it was an accident as I tend to be very clumsy in these things.

Disclaimer 6: If my characters' conversations seem odd or they appear to be talking past each other the latter might occasionally be intentional, but most likely it is an accident and I'm not aware that they are. It's just my bad communication skills.

A/N: Here's the prompt I actually got for the 2012 exchange. Quite a nice oneas well, even if it didn't run away with me the way the other one did.

The Disappointed Poet

Aziraphale sighed contentedly as he put his cardboard box of books down on the counter of his bookshop. It had cost him quite an effort to carry them all the way back to Soho on public transport, but they were worth it.

Perhaps he would have done better to call Crowley and ask for a lift to the auction in the Bentley, but then he'd only intended to bid for one, small, but quite rare bible. He had never meant to bring back anything more than that1.

He smiled and ran his hand lovingly over the covers of the top books. They weren't all that interesting, mostly titles not even the angel himself had ever heard of before, but they had all been excellent bargains since nobody else had been interested and, if he found that he didn't really want one of them after all, he could always sell it. That was what he owned a bookshop for.

Not that he'd ever bought a book he hadn't wanted to keep before. The only such books he'd ever owned had been the ones he'd gotten when Adam had so very kindly re-imagined his shop for him, the dear boy. He really ought to drop by Lower Tadfield sometime and see how he and Pepper were doing, and perhaps reassure himself that the Roman ruins they were digging up wouldn't falsify Ancient history too much.

Yes, he really should visit them soon. One never knew, they might find some unusually well preserved codices or even a lost religious text. He'd call Crowley and suggest it as soon as he'd put away today’s purchases, Aziraphale decided.

After one last loving look into the box, he managed to tear himself away long enough to walk into the kitchen and set the kettle to boil. Sorting through books always was a time-consuming task and he was certain to want at least one cup of tea per book.

The water could boil without him just fine, though, and he returned to the shop to finally take a first look into one of his new books. Reverently he picked it off the top of the right stack.

Ah yes, the early Spanish print. The auctioneer hadn't known any Spanish and mangled the title so awfully that Aziraphale hadn't even been able to guess what he was buying, but now he could see that it was a text on sheep breeding. The information was all long out of date of course, but ah, how pretty those old letters were, how much effort and love had gone into typesetting in those early days.

The angel beamed down at the pages lovingly. Yes, this one was a real treasure. As he gently turned the pages he wondered how this book had ended up in England.

About two hours later after he'd finally made up his mind to shelve the book under T for typesetting rather than S for Spanish2, the angel realised that he was beginning to feel a little thirsty, remembered his tea and went to the kitchen for his cup and kettle. He was pleased to find that just as he'd expected the water had just begun to boil.

He put in the tea, got out milk and sugar and carried them out into the shop on the ugly neon orange tray that Crowley had brought him a few years ago to replace his lovely old one with the tartan pattern.

"A tartan tray is simply embarrassing nowadays," Crowley had explained. "This is the twenty-first century, Aziraphale. You have to go with the times."

And Aziraphale had frowned, sighed and accepted the horrid thing, because it would make Crowley happy3.

The second book was a relatively new religious text, cheaply bound and printed and not at all interesting to look at, but the text itself was all about Him and how to dedicate one's life to good deeds, faith and helping others. Aziraphale quite approved in principle, though on closer observation there were some remarks about homosexuals and pagans that were rather worrying. After all the centuries he'd spent among them, sometimes it still surprised the angel how difficult it was for humans to interpret the message of love and forgiveness. No, Aziraphale decided after he'd read the whole book, well intended though it might be, he couldn't possibly pass this one on to some innocent soul that might be misled by it. In fact, it had best go into the back-room where no customer would ever see it.

When he returned, he found that it was just the right time to take out the tea infuser. He poured himself a cup of tea, added milk and two lumps of sugar, turned on the light because it was getting hard to see4 and took out the third book.

This one he'd bought out of pure sentimentality. He had known the author more or less in passing, and felt quite sorry for the poor boy. Colin McPhearson had been a friend, or rather: a hanger-on, of Lord Byron, fiercely determined to become famous writing poetry in the style of his idol, but hopelessly inept at both rhyme and metre. Aziraphale had tried in vain to steer the young man away from poetry and towards novel writing, pointing out the success of historic novels like the then still anonymous Waverley5 and romantic stories such as Jane Austen's, or the often alarmingly scary Gothic novels women had liked to read for a thrill. But no, McPhearson had been determined to be a poet and when on one unlucky day he'd received both another rejection letter from an annoyed editor and the sad news of poor Byron's untimely death, the misguided young man had thrown himself out a window and died without ever having a single work published.

Or so Aziraphale had been convinced until this morning. Yet, here it was: A Tragic Tale of Love Between Heaven and Hell by Colin McPhearson. For sure, the book couldn't have been anything near a success or Aziraphale would have heard of it before - he'd been living in England at the time, after all - but considering all he remembered of poor McPherson and his poems, it was still surprising. Perhaps it wasn't the same man after all. The book had been published in 1815, yes, but then neither Colin nor McPhearson was all that rare a name. There might have been two Colin McPhearsons with literary ambitions living at the same time.

Aziraphale took a sip of his tea, opened the book and began to read. Indeed, this was not one of his Colin McPhearson's awful poems. This was clearly a novel.

"Of course angels are supposed to love all creatures." it began.

'Quite right,' thought Aziraphale. 'I've said so myself many times.'

In fact, he had a vague memory of maybe having once said it to McPhearson on one awful evening when Crowley had had to cancel their dinner engagement on short notice and McPhearson had just received another rejection letter including some rather rude suggestions what he ought to do with his work. The angel quite clearly remembered his disappointment at having to dine alone after all and McPhearson showing up crying and with his hair in disarray just as he was about to close his shop. The young fool had sobbed something about throwing himself into the Thames and Aziraphale, half out of obligation to do good and half out of the desire to distract himself from thoughts of Crowley's absence, had taken him by the elbow and suggested they get drunk at the nearest pub instead.

He also remembered sitting down at a table and ordering a bottle of wine well enough and then he thought he might have miracled the bottle to always refill itself so McPhearson would keep drinking without any interruptions that might bring on more ideas about the Thames6. After that however ... Well, it had been two centuries ago. There was no reason he should remember every detail of a drunken conversation after two-hundred years.

The story began in Eden where Adam and Eve were busy naming and categorising animals and plants and the etherically beautiful Archangel Aziraphale ...

"Archangel!" gasped the angel. Why, maybe he had confessed to being an angel in his attempts to talk McPhearson out of committing suicide, but he certainly never would have claimed to be an Archangel and surely McPhearson couldn't have been short sighted enough to mistake middle-aged, pudgy Aziraphale for beautiful!

Aziraphale, best sword fighter in the angelic host ...

Another gasp. Aziraphale only just remembered that it might not be the wisest course of action to pray that Michael never got hold of a copy of this book7.

Aziraphale was commanding the company of angels on picket outside the Eastern Gate of Eden.

Clearly McPhearson had spent too much time drinking with officers returned home from the Napoleonic wars, Aziraphale diagnosed. Oh well, the less the story resembled the truth, the better.

However, Crawly, the serpent, was described only too realistically, down to his adorably beautiful bright-yellow eyes.

Aziraphale couldn't help smiling. He'd always loved those eyes and even though he'd changed everything else about himself, Crowley always had kept them.

Crawly, essentially good-hearted and striving desperately against the fatal flaw in his character that had caused his Fall in the vain hope to redeem himself and be re-accepted into Heaven, fulfilled his mission to cause trouble in paradise by talking Eve into the apparently harmless misdemeanor of eating a forbidden fruit and to his horror had to watch the humans be thrown out of Eden in punishment.

Heroic Aziraphale overcome by angelic pity and love for all creatures, but nevertheless in violation of heavenly orders gave his sword to the banished humans and promised to help Crawly to redeem himself. Two fatal mistakes as it turned out. For the gift of the sword Aziraphale was punished by being banished to Earth as well, though, as he had acted out of good and angelic motives God was merciful enough not to Fell him.

Then followed a more or less accurate description of Aziraphale's and Crowley's adventures through human history, always punctuated by their failed attempts to redeem Crowley while, unnoticed by both, Aziraphale was slowly but inevitably infected with Crowley's fatal character flaw, the Arrangement being presented as the manifestation of his first giving in to sin.

But worse soon followed as Aziraphale began to lust after Crowley's sinfully beautiful, but nevertheless male, body and eventually ...

Wait a minute! That most certainly had never happened! How dared McPhearson even imply that they had ever ...

But in fact McPhearson had dared more than just imply and Aziraphale found himself spellbound against his will even though he knew he should slam the book shut and destroy it.

He'd do that, he promised himself hastily turning another page. He'd hunt down every single surviving copy and ... Oh my! How had McPhearson ever managed to get this printed in those homophobic times? It was almost a miracle!

Aziraphale read on, not hearing the bell over the shop door tinkle to announce someone entering, not hearing the visitor's jaunty greeting, or the voice calling his name repeatedly in increasing volume and hissing undertones.

"Aziraphale!" Crowley finally shouted, slamming his hands onto the counter and leaning over it so their foreheads almost collided. "Could you at least acknowledge my presence?"

Startled, the angel finally glanced up, straight into those beautiful yellow eyes and to find the very lips that had just done something most ... reprehensible in the book mere inches from his own.

Aziraphale yelped, blushed flaming red, slammed shut the book and hastily hid it behind his back.

"C ... Crowley! Forgive me, my dear," he babbled nervously. "I'm so sorry! I didn't even hear you enter. I was ... er ... well ..."

Crowley laughed. "Reading porn, were you? Accidentally got your neighbours' delivery and mistook it for your own because it contained books?"

"No!" Aziraphale yelped, but his angelic nature protested against the untruth. "Well, not exactly, that is ... I bought this book at auction and I knew the author, but had no idea ... Would you mind going to visit Adam sometime this week? We haven't seen him in so long."

"Why really, angel," Crowley said sounding amused. "You let the humans' strange ideas of morality get to you too much. There's nothing at all wrong with enjoying a little porn now and then, you know. I'm perfectly sure you wouldn't be capable of liking it, if it were evil."

"Um ... well, I ... er ..."

"I mean, it's nothing at all like lusting after another man's wife. Where's the harm if you aren't married and the woman isn't even real? That's a perfectly innocent little enjoyment."

"I suppose, if you say so," Aziraphale quickly agreed. Then he hastily shoved the book into a drawer before Crowley could see the title. "But never mind my little guilty pleasures. How about that visit to Adam?"

Later, after their return from Saint James' park and Crowley's departure, Aziraphale took the book out again intending to destroy it. He looked at it for a very long time and finally put it with his old tartan tray. He'd finish it when he was sure Crowley was out of town, he decided, just to be sure exactly what McPhearson had written about them.

Of course, he'd also have to hunt down all the other surviving copies to make sure the demon never found out about them. For the first time since the invention of cuneiform Aziraphale was glad that Crowley had never been fond of reading.

It was also lucky that the book never had been a big success and most likely not many copies of it had survived8.

1 That was how it usually went when Aziraphale went to auctions of book collections.

2 After all, somebody might look for a text on sheep under S.

3 He'd also kept the tartan tray, but only used it when he was sure the demon was out of town for several days and not likely to happen by and catch him. It might hurt his feelings to see how much Aziraphale disliked his gift, after all.

4 In fact it had been dark for quite a while by then, but you cannot expect an angel engrossed in a book to remember that he is supposed to need light to read.

5 Luckily Scott never found out about Aziraphale's attempt and was spared having to wonder whether owning up to being the author might have made a difference to McPhearson.

6 ... or windows ... or duelling pistols. It had been quite a dangerous time for suicidal people all in all, even before they'd started building railways.

7 Prayers, especially those of angels, tended to be noticed in Heaven and there was no such thing as a seal of confession on prayers.

8 In fact, to this day Aziraphale has not managed to track down another, though unbeknownst to him there is at least one more in existence, a signed copy that stands next to a bottle of holy water hidden in a wall safe behind a picture of the Mona Lisa.

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