Summary: Crowley is being thwarted. He has suspicions Aziraphale is involved.
AN: i just finished rereading Good Omens, and I was struck so clearly with the image of Crowley shifting highway markers, so then this had to happen. Thanks to musesfool for the instant gratification AIM beta.
If You Want Something Done...
Demons, Crowley had decided an hour and thirty-five minutes ago, should never, under any circumstances, be squelchy.
He'd done an excellent job for the last six thousand years or so of avoiding squelch by tempting humans into doing his dirty work, or finding an imp who specialized in that sort of thing, or in extreme cases, simply willing the squelch out of existence.
Unfortunately, no amount of ineffable demonic power could will the squelch out of several square miles of London mud churned up by highway construction after three days of good solid English rain, the kind you needed a machete to hack your way through just to get down the drive to your car.
Crowley knew because he had tried. The squelch remained. It remained in his shoes and on his trousers and in his eyes from when he'd made the mistake of trying to wipe his sodden hair out of his eyes a moment ago, and nearly lost his grip on the construction marker he'd been trying to lever out of the ground in the process.
It was the last marker, thank Go…Sa…thank you very much, and Crowley was having a rough time of it. He'd been so focused on the losing battle with the squelch that he'd neglected to remind his body it didn't require breath and thus the panting was needless dramatics, nor was the numbness that allowed the marker to slip through his fingers for the third time strictly necessary.
It must be angelic squelch, Crowley decided, wiping his hands off on his trousers, which he suspected might have actually made them wetter and dirtier, because it was certainly thwarting him.
On the fourth try, Crowley finally managed to tear the marker free of the muck it was buried in, and began trudging towards the spot he wanted to put it. The marker dragged behind him, catching in the sucking mud as if it knew it was being forced into demonic service. Angelic markers as well as angelic squelch, this was getting better all the time.
Crowley stopped after a dozen steps, then purposely took one more just to even things out. Glancing at the other markers he had moved to make absolutely sure he was in the right place (he had set the markers very carefully and had no reason to believe they had since moved but wouldn't put anything past the squelch at this point), he jammed the marker back into the mud hard enough that his fingers left little grooves in the wood.
He should have felt something as the marker snapped into its place, completing the arcane sigil, a shock of evil beginning to ooze in its destructive course, or even a tingle of dark accomplishment, but all Crowley could feel was the bedamned squelch and the promise from his muscles that they'd be protesting tomorrow, whether or not they could technically be strained.
Figuring he was long past the point of saturation, Crowley let his body collapse backwards into the mud, giving himself up wholly to the squelch. On his back with his arms flopped out to either side, he closed his eyes so the rain would stop pinging off his eyeballs and contemplated waving his arms and legs like mortal children did when they tipped themselves over in winter.
Squelch angel, he thought to himself, fighting back a giggle. One didn't giggle after completing a years-long campaign to turn the random shape of a motorway into a demonic symbol the effects of which could not yet be comprehended even by the demon who had created it. Cackling would have perhaps been all right, but giggling was definitely out.
And then it stopped raining. But only on Crowley's head. Raindrops with the force of pennies dropped from the observation deck of the Eiffel Tower continued to pelt Crowley's legs and lower torso. Opening his eyes, he found himself staring up at the ugliest umbrella that had never been manufactured. Cheerful yellow ducks stared back.
"Are you all right, dear boy?" Aziraphale asked, leaning over a bit more so that his face came into Crowley's view and the umbrella covered a few more inches of him.
"I was," Crowley growled, or at least tried to although it was a bit wavery because he was still suppressing a giggle over the cleverness of 'squelch angel', "until your squelch tried to eat me."
"I was under the impression that English mud was actually an invention of your people's," Aziraphale held out a hand and Crowley took immense satisfaction in gripping it firmly and dirtying it up. "Up you go, there's a lad."
The mud let go of Crowley grudgingly with a wet, sucking pop. He stood under the gauche protection of the umbrella, dripping and oozing and considering Aziraphale for a long moment. Along with the umbrella, the angel was clad in wellies, and Crowley was forced to admit that if angels weren't immune to the squelch either then they must not have invented it. Aziraphale considered him right back.
"Are you here to thwart me?" Crowley inquired at last. Aziraphale's placid expression didn't change.
"I'm sure I have no idea what you're talking about," he said, blinking slowly. "I'm here to ask if you might like to come back to the shop for a nice warm dinner."
"It's twelve-thirty at night," Crowley pointed out. He had intended to finish his evil-doing at the stroke of midnight like a proper demon, but neither markers nor squelch had cooperated.
"It isn't as though you need to eat." Aziraphale shrugged, knocking a shower of icy raindrops off the edge of the umbrella and down Crowley's neck. Wrinkling his nose, Crowley shook his head sharply, sending the sodden tendrils of his hair flying. When they fell still again, they were dry, if hurriedly styled.
"Let's go then," Crowley said, drawing a pair of sunglasses out of a pocket and slipping them on. Laying one hand on Aziraphale's shoulder to turn him around before he noticed the demonic sigil behind them, Crowley touched the other hand to the umbrella handle just long enough to turn it into one of those stylish black ones which refuse to ever collapse properly back into its handle after it's been deployed.
A job well done all round, then.