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Happy Holidays, ea_lyons!

Title: Managing Trouble
For: ea_lyons
By: sarahsan
Rating: About PG-13, borderline R, for graphic violence
Pairing: Crowley/War
Prompt: Crowley/War, wing kink, humor, fluff
Beta: lirren
Notes: Happy holidays, dear recipient! I hope you enjoy, even if I couldn't quite manage fluff...it's rather light overall, though. :)



He was there to see her born.

Of course he had been. As Hell’s agent in this new worldbuilding experiment (and in most everyone’s opinion the whole thing had been a complete embarrassment so far), Crawly was of course present for all major events, the sort that would at some point be considered historical. Not that there were any histories being written yet. The world hadn’t been around long enough for much history to have happened, and certainly no one had thought to write any down.

But one day soon the survivors of the first battle upon the face of the earth would realize that they weren’t getting any younger and would tell their children the whole tale, no doubt with numerous self-aggrandizing revisions, and those children would grow up to tell a further-exaggerated version of the story to their children, and so it would go.

But they would never tell or hear the story as Crawly knew it.

Having been thoroughly ostracized by all the other serpents in Creation for his injudicious loss of their once-useful legs, Crawly had put in for a replacement corporation, something a bit sleeker and bigger and leggier and maybe with opposable thumbs. Unfortunately, the desk-demon now in charge of that department thought he had a sense of humor, so instead of waking up as a suitable dinosaur or perhaps even a nice winged dragon by which to wreak some real havoc on humanity, Crawly regained consciousness only to find that he was a human, with the attendant opposable thumbs (good for wielding weapons to defend oneself against other humans) and legs (good for running away from dinosaurs, or at least best used for that purpose if not entirely successfully). He was told, by way of a talking ney, that his tactics manual had undergone a few changes since his rousing success with persuasion in the Garden and that he was being made to resemble the humans in order to better infiltrate the ranks, as it were. He was to continue suggesting and wheedling and coaxing and all manner of other subtle participles, rather than outright wreaking. Grumbling, Crawly slowly adjusted to the change, thinking that his fragile new body wouldn’t have been up for any proper wreaking even if it had been allowed.

Eventually he took up with a band of nomads, who didn’t ask him too many questions and didn’t make him tend sheep because the bloody-minded things spooked around him so badly they tended to run right into cliff walls; despite this obvious mental defect sheep were considered very valuable among humans, much too valuable to allow them running pell-mell into cliff walls. So Crawly was made the tribe tentmaker. He worked better and faster than the current tentmaker, who was barely more than a little boy and had inherited the title prematurely when his father died. Crawly let him stay on as dyer and apprentice.

Manual labor, Crawly quickly discovered, was not really his speed. He grew bored quickly, and although the tribe moved around frequently and so often came into contact with other nomadic groups, it was hard for Crawly to keep track of all the humans anymore. They were breeding like rabbits and every time he turned around there was a new bunch of them springing up out of nowhere. He wondered bitterly how he was to be expected to carry on with his work in this manner, with more humans than he knew what to do with, and wished incessantly that someone Down There would kindly throw together an instruction manual of some kind. He was always on the lookout for new opportunities to cajole his tribe-mates into mischief but it seemed sometimes he’d somehow managed to land the least mischievous bunch of humans on earth. Still, they had good connections and lots of disposable wealth, and he thought he could probably exploit these circumstances if he could just devise a decent plan.

He was nearly going out of his mind inducing unexpected pregnancies and quietly redistributing gold around the camp and brining wells, the sort of childish trickery that Crawly had been doing when he was still an angel in need of diversions that did not involve harps in any way. He felt underused and, frankly, forgotten (which he would discover later was mostly true). And then, suddenly, it came to him, in a flash of brilliance as stark as the sunrise over the desert. His minor experimentation with thievery and fraud had thus far produced entertaining but predictable results in the tribe. But what if he were to create a misunderstanding between his tribe and a wholly different set of people? If possible with one of the tribes that had started speaking a different language after that messy tower incident. The confusion would be immense. It would be chaos. Glorious chaos.

Crawly set about the plan quickly, persuading the tribe patriarch, without much trouble, that, their so-far successful sheep trade being as profitable as it was, he should consider the sale of tent cloth in any future transactions. The patriarch was a greedy man and immediately commissioned twenty new bolts of tent fabric that they didn’t need, already planning a pricing scale for the goods.

When Crawly delivered the cloth the next week, it was of the finest color and thickness, fit for the patriarch himself.

It also had weak seams.

And had been threaded with nettle fibers.

And was lovingly laced with approximately three million flea eggs.

With just a little more planning and maneuvering on Crawly’s part, it just so happened that the next tribe they encountered had just come through the desert and a nasty sandstorm, and was in dire need of new tents. They bought the entire stock of tent cloth, impressed with the quality and with Crawly’s handsome smile, a new weapon which he had just begun learning to use.

He gave it a couple weeks to ferment properly, and for the flea eggs to ripen and mature and wreak more havoc than Crawly could have in a month on his own. And then one day a clutch of riders came slouching into the camp on camelback, none too happy and with faces mottled red with bugbites and scratchmarks.

Crawly, watching from his tent, congratulated himself on a job well done as the offended men swept straight to the Patriarch’s tent and started up a heated conversation with him. He noticed for the first time, as they gathered around the mouth of the Patriarch’s tent, him holding the flaps protectively closed behind him, that there was a woman among them. This was odd for two reasons: first, because women rarely left their camps, and second, because she had the most startling red hair and Crawly didn’t see how he could have missed her before. He squinted to try and get a better look at her, but she was half-hidden by the forms of her companions, and when Crawly blinked she wasn’t there.

He momentarily wondered where she had gone but did not have long to think about it, as suddenly the Patriarch and all the riders were bearing down upon his tent, none of them looking well pleased to see him.

He smiled and bowed obsequiously. “Gentlemen. Are you in need of new materials?”

The Patriarch’s face was thunderous. “They say the tentcloth you sold them was cursed, for it fell apart at the first high winds and caused their homes to be plagued with disease. Or at least I think that’s what they’re telling me, I’m damned if I can understand a word they’re babbling…”

“Oh, leave that to me, sir,” Crawly reassured him, and immediately launched into the travelers’ dialect. Their faces registered momentary surprise and then relief and then anger as he patiently grilled them on all the things that had gone wrong in their camp since they had received the new tents. It was better than he could have hoped for, really: not only was every man, woman, child, and camel in their tribe crawling with fleas, but the first victims to suffer the stinging nettle-welts had first been exiled from the camp as leprosy victims. By the time it had become clear that it wasn’t disease but simple skin irritation causing the welts, it had been too late to recall the exiles and now the bereaved families were whispering dissent and outright murder amongst themselves against their tribe’s leadership (of which a portion was represented in the bedraggled, desperate-looking bunch in front of Crawly). They demanded he set the curse aright, or they would have to consider him, and, by extension, his whole tribe, mortal enemies of their own.

Crawly only just contained his glee. Two whole tribes set against each other. He was pretty sure no one else Down There had managed to cause such a brouhaha yet. Crawly liked being the first at exciting new ventures like this.

“Well, Old Father,” Crawly said gravely, stifling his amusement behind a sober, anxious voice as he turned to his Patriarch. “They say that they believe we cursed their tentcloth and demand that we not only lift the curse, but that we also provide them with—” he calculated quickly for maximum effect “—sixty new bolts of cloth in replacement.”

As expected, the Patriarch bristled. “Damn them, what do we look like, enchanters? Where are we to get so much new cloth so quickly? And why did you curse them in the first place?”

Crawly looked stricken. “I never did this thing! They believe we cursed them because we were jealous of their wealth and trade routes.”

The elder went purple. “THEY WHAT??”

The five foreign tribesmen startled at this outburst, and grew mutinously restless. They muttered to each other and then one demanded a translation of Crawly.

He gave them a vaguely sympathetic look, though he was careful to also look a bit haughty. “My chief says that you are all liars and that you probably brought the curse down upon yourselves by being greedy and arrogant, and by mistreating your women. He suggests you go make sacrifices to the gods and repent of your sins instead of compounding them by threatening and robbing us.”

The others all stood gaping at Crawly for nearly a whole minute, and he only looked placidly back at them, while from the corner of his eye he thought he caught a glimpse of red through the opening of his tent.

He only glanced away for an instant, but that was long enough for violence to erupt.

Crawly barely got out of the tent with his new corporation intact; the five foreigners produced long-bladed knives from their robes and fell on the Patriarch and Crawly with less than an eyeblink’s warning. Crawly hastily dove for the center tent support, knocking it over and collapsing the whole structure on top of the combatants, then wriggled his way to safety on his belly (rather too familiar a sensation to be truly comfortable). He had a few nasty lacerations on his arms and his robes were slashed quite morbidly, but that was nothing to the gleaming knife-blades that poked out from the tent behind him at intervals, punctuated by angry shouts and yells of pain. Neighbors who poked their heads out of their tents to see what all the ruckus was about saw quite clearly that all was not well with the tentmaker.

Suddenly three of the foreigners burst from the ruined tent and flew like men possessed to their abandoned camels. Crawly stayed well out of their way as they clambered onto their beasts and beat them into a frothing drunken gallop, tearing from the village and leaving their comrades’ mounts behind. Shrieks rose from curious onlookers as they finally got a glimpse of the carnage and Crawly winced when he realized the Patriarch was in pieces beneath the wreckage of his own tent. That could have gone better, he thought. It was a bit bloodier overall than he had expected it to be.

“This is only the beginning.”

Crawly jumped mightily and spun around to see the red-haired woman behind him. So he hadn’t just imagined her.

“Beg pardon?” he said, eyeing her suspiciously. She was looking around the camp in interest, but her eyes lingered especially on the grieving villagers who were kneeling beside their fallen leader, weeping loudly.

When finally her gaze returned to Crawly, he saw that her eyes were the color of fire, and shivered.

“I said, this is only the beginning. They’ll be back, with more men and better weapons.” She licked her red lips. “Who are you?”

“M-me?” Crawly was taken aback by her unabashed stare. “I’m Cr—erm…that is…” He cringed, the embarrassment of the name hitting him afresh.

She cocked an arched red brow at him. “You’re not one of these lot, are you?” She jerked her head to indicate the simpering, confused tribe milling frantically around them. No one noticed Crawly standing there, of course, because he did not want them to; they would ask too many pesky questions about what had happened. What surprised Crawly was that nobody seemed to notice the red-haired woman, either.

“No,” he replied, now more suspicious than ever. “So what does that make you? You one of Above’s spies? Replacement for that blond fop from the Garden?”

She narrowed her ember eyes. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I am…” She paused, considering, seeming at a loss for further words.

Crawly snorted. “Looks like I’m not the only one with an identity crisis.” He crossed his arms. “I’m a demon. I was given jurisdiction over this planet by Beelzebub himself, though I rather suspect he was just trying to get me out of his hair rather than make me a proper Duke of Hell. If you were sent here by Heaven I suggest you find some other camp to bless. This one’s mine.”

“On the contrary,” Red murmured, her eyes narrowing again, but not from anger or suspicion this time, “they are mine.”

Crawly noticed she had long, sharp fingernails, immaculate but dangerous-looking, and that she flexed them like claws when she spoke. The movement struck him as possessive more than anything else, and he drew himself to his full height, feeling a bit territorial.

“And just who gave them to you?”

“They did!” she said, in a voice bright as desert day, and twice as hungry. She spread her hands to indicate the village around them. “They have given themselves over to strife and to revenge and to the first stirrings of War.” She paused, and her eyes got big. Her beautiful smile curved sharply at the edges, a glittering white bone blade. “That is who I am. That is what I am. I am War.”

Crawly flinched, though he didn’t know why. “War?” he wondered, looking around him and seeing anger and murder in every face. He had never seen murder in the eyes of so many humans at once. He had not known humans were capable of concurring on such a thing in such large numbers. “What…I’m not sure I know exactly what you mean…”

She closed the space between them faster than a dying exhale, and Crawly fought the urge to back away.

“War…” she breathed, and closed her mouth to his.

At first Crawly was a bit flustered because he had had very little experience so far in this department (most women he’d encountered had found his smile charming but his yellow eyes a bit too much to bear), but then his mind was wiped clean by a flood of images he had never seen. Rivers of blood poured across the desert in the sunset and the bones of men lay bleached across the sand. Men marched in the dozens – in the hundreds – the pound of their feet like hideous drums. These armies of men met and clashed in a thunderclap sound, spears striking spears and blades hammering blades in numbers staggeringly great. Wind raked over decimated plains, swept by men and fire as if by locusts, and the screams of the wounded and dying rang in the treetops of the Garden. It was eaten by fire as he watched.

More images flowed through Crawly’s mind, a torrent of sights and sounds and always the smell of blood, red-red and black at the edges, the coppery-meat smell of violent human death. Crawly saw things he did not understand: strangely-dressed men wielding long metal pipes that erupted with lightning and smoke, killing other men by the dozens; enormous flying machines that vomited what looked like rocks upon the ground below, where they exploded, destroying hundreds in their homes; an enormous, ghastly cloud greater than a mountain, shaped like a massive tree made of smoke and fire, rolling away over the extinguished earth with a roar so immense Crawly’s ears nearly burst.

He tasted blood in his mouth.

War broke her kiss and traced Crawly’s lower lip with the tip of her blood-red tongue, and Crawly felt his stomach grow heavy at the look of lust in her eyes. But somewhere in his mind he knew the lust was not for him, but for the things she had made him see.

“Oh,” he said, his breath shuddery. “I…see.”

“You will have a part in it, at the end,” she whispered against his mouth, her flame-colored eyes seeming to flicker under her long lashes. “I see you standing shoulder-to-shoulder with another of your kind, shown for what you are.”

The shiver rocketed up Crawly’s spine before he properly felt the feathery touch, but when his mind caught up with itself he registered that the fingers of both her hands were splayed in the gleaming plumage of his wings. He did not even remember changing. It must have happened while she was in his mind. He snapped the wings immediately to his back but she only followed them, sliding around behind him to trace the edges of the largest feathers.

“So you are a demon,” she said matter-of-factly, while Crawly flinched and shivered at her delicate, sensuous touches. “You do not look much like what the humans think you do.”

“Yes, well,” he answered snippily, craning his head around to try to see what she was doing but only able to catch the glint of sunlight off her red hair. “I’m one of the more impressive specimens. I daresay I have colleagues a great deal less attractive than the most hideous thing any of the humans have imagined. Two in particular come immediately to mind…”

“Clearly modesty is not your strong suit, then. What is it you do here on earth that makes it such a prominent position as almost-duke?” She was turning aside each primary feather as she spoke to stroke the underside, starting near the base of each where they were most sensitive. Crawly’s breathing grew unsteady; he would have been hyperventilating if he really had been human. He had the distinct impression that she was mocking him, but he couldn’t quite hold on to his slippery irritation.

“I, uh…I cause trouble, mostly…just. Mmm. Whatever I can get into. Whatever I can get the humans into.”

“Sounds scintillating.”

“More like babysitting, really; the buggers pretty much manage trouble on their own most of the time. It’s just that instead of telling them to keep their hands out of the cookie jar, I encourage them to put them in.” Crawly blinked, tasting the anachronism on his tongue, and shook his head, finally annoyed at her interference in his mind. “Stop that!” he snapped, craning again to try to see her. No luck. “You’re distracting me.”

She laughed, a hard sound, and then Crawly arched in pain, choking on a furious yelp, and Red reappeared in front of him, twisting a large feather in her fingers, the blood from its quill end staining her skin the color of her hair. Crawly stared at her in complete disbelief, so angry and so confused and so residually aroused from her very thorough wing-massage that he wondered how his damaged human body could even contain so many sensations at once.

“That is what I do,” she said smugly, brushing the tip of the feather across Crawly’s face. “I distract, I divert the eye, I make you forget what you were doing and then suggest alternate activities.” She smiled again. “I think it’s going to be a good gig for as long as it lasts. I’m having fun already. Aren’t you?”

Crawly looked around him again. The bodies of the two slaughtered foreign tribesmen were being dragged from his tent and tied to the two abandoned camels; as Crawly watched, his fellow villagers slashed open the dead bodies from throat to groin and stuffed red-hot coals into their open mouths. The camels were then switched across the flanks, whereupon they lit out of the camp and back towards home, dragging their gruesome cargo, the intestines spilling out and trailing after and the heads already catching fire.

Beside him, Red sighed happily.

Crawly wrinkled his nose a bit, hiding the expression by scratching at his jaw in an abstracted fashion. “Um…to be honest, I’m…not sure I’m really the best person to ask. This isn’t really…well. Not my area of expertise, exactly. I do think I know someone you might be interested in working with, though…”

“YOU CALLED?”

Crawly jumped again, then silently grumbled to himself about people sneaking up on him. “Erm. Yes. As I was saying…”

“Oh,” Red breathed, her eyes going wide and, for the first time since Crawly had first seen her, a bit intimidated. She looked up into the cowled face in blatant admiration. “You are…?”

“YES. I WAS TOLD TO EXPECT YOU.” The bottomless eyes turned to Crawly, who shifted uncomfortably. He had been present for this fellow’s birth, too, if you could call springing whole and unaided from a patch of bloodstained ground a birth, but Crawly was never quite easy in his presence. The tall figure extended a narrow finger in Crawly’s direction. “YOU I DID NOT THINK TO SEE, HOWEVER.”

Crawly laughed a bit, nervously. “Never quite know where I’ll turn up, do you?”

“APPARENTLY NOT. IS ALL THIS YOUR DOING?” His outstretched finger waved over the whole outraged encampment, now piling swords and spears and axes in the center of the ring of tents with the glee of children piling rocks over a buried treasure. Somehow, subtly, his indication also included the red-haired woman, who was still staring up at him in awe. Crawly cleared his throat, feeling a little guilty.

“Um…well…I suppose yes, though the effect is a bit, erm. Exaggerated from the original plan.”

“HUMANS WILL DO THAT TO YOU. THEY’RE GETTING HARDER TO KEEP TRACK OF NOWADAYS, I’M SURE YOU’VE NOTICED.”

Crawly nodded glumly, suddenly wondering what he was going to do now that he’d set two local tribes at war with one another.

“GETTING HARDER TO DO MY JOB PROPERLY. IN FACT, I’M ALREADY LATE FOR ANOTHER APPOINTMENT.” He regarded the redhead in a manner Crawly couldn’t help but think of as mildly, though of course there was no actual change of expression to indicate this. “ARE YOU QUITE READY TO GO?”

War blinked, looking a bit surprised, and then nodded deeply. “Yes. Where are we heading?”

“EVERYWHERE.”

Crawly shuddered, and War smiled.

Just before the blackness of the tall One’s robes expanded to consume both himself and War, however, she turned and sent Crawly a wink over her shoulder.

“‘Crawly’ doesn’t really suit you, you know,” she told him, and then the air where they were standing rushed in on itself, and they disappeared.

Crawly, or at least the man-shaped being formerly the serpent-shaped being formerly known as Crawly, stood there a long moment, feeling disconnected from his own being. It was a bit like being discorporated, he thought, distantly, and then he realized that the gash on his chest was rather deeper than he had at first thought (in fact, he knew it had not been this deep or hurt this much before War had appeared), and bleeding profusely, and he realized he really was discorporating and thought perhaps the first item on his agenda ought to be to see to that problem.

He supposed the rest of his problems would take care of themselves in time.

He flew after the spooked camels, hoping to commandeer one or both of them, though flying was painful with a semi-injured wing. He secretly hoped he wouldn’t have cause to see the source of his pain anytime in the near future, but a little resigned voice in the back of his consciousness told him glumly that now that the humans had gotten it into their heads to wage war once, the idiots would almost certainly try it again, because in his experience there was very little humans liked more than a bit of competitive skull-bashing.

And Crawly did see her again, many times before the end. Er, the end-that-wasn’t-really-but-made-an-awful-good-showing-of-it-anyway. And every time he did, each time he caught a glimpse of too-red hair or a smile like the blade of a knife, his wing twinged, just a little, as a reminder of what he’d helped create.



Happy Holidays, ea_lyons, from your Secret Author!

Comments

( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
ea_lyons
Dec. 12th, 2008 06:21 am (UTC)
Oh my! This is absolutely the most lovely thing in the world and I will be able to more coherently comment on this when I've gotten some sleep and when I stop grinning so much. :D Thank you, thank you, thank you!
secret_kracken
Dec. 12th, 2008 06:45 am (UTC)
:D You're welcome, you're welcome, and you're MORE than welcome! I'm really so glad you enjoyed it, I was feeling a bit insecure about it, actually. ^_^;; So I'm thrilled it made you grin. <3
ea_lyons
Dec. 12th, 2008 08:42 pm (UTC)
I do hope that all insecurities are put to rest now. :) I was a bit worried that no one would be able to come up with anything seeing as I was fairly vague. However, you did this exquisitely. I'm still kind of, "Guh!" over it all cause it's exactly what I wanted.

There were some parts that stuck out in my mind: Crawly as a dinosaur (hilarious!); the there, but not there sightings of War before she had her name; the wing-massage that sent a twinge up my back in sympathy and the way the humans acted and reacted...so very disturbing and so very human.
secret_kracken
Dec. 13th, 2008 05:18 am (UTC)
Crawly as a dinosaur

For some reason I keep getting the mental image of the T-Rex from Meet the Robinsons, flailing and growling about having a really big head and tiny little arms. XD

Some of the bits that stuck out for you are my favorites, too, so I'm really ecstatic that you liked them. Thank you, again, so much! :D
oddsbobs
Dec. 12th, 2008 06:59 am (UTC)
Wow. That was... I'm not even sure how to describe how I'm feeling. There was a depth to this. And it was a bit twisted and creepy. And yet, lovely at the same time. I'm sure none of this is very coherent. However, I do know that I liked this very very much.
secret_kracken
Dec. 12th, 2008 07:21 am (UTC)
*blush* Thank you so much! I'm enormously pleased that you got all that from this fic, because that was all I was aiming for and more. I'm so pleased you enjoyed it!!

(And you were perfectly coherent, dear. XD It's only...*checks clock*...twenty after TWO, the night is still young! :P
sticktothestory
Dec. 12th, 2008 11:29 am (UTC)
This was really good. In fact, I'm left a little twitchy myself.
secret_kracken
Dec. 12th, 2008 04:18 pm (UTC)
LOL, thank you very much! ;)
todd_fan
Dec. 12th, 2008 05:46 pm (UTC)
That was absolutely stunning and I loved every minute of it, so nicely done!
secret_kracken
Dec. 13th, 2008 05:19 am (UTC)
Oh, wow, thank you immensely! <3
ladymouse2
Dec. 12th, 2008 05:53 pm (UTC)
>slashed open the dead bodies from throat to groin and stuffed red-hot coals into their open mouths.<

>then he realized that the gash on his chest was rather deeper than he had at first thought (in fact, he knew it had not been this deep or hurt this much before War had appeared), and bleeding profusely, and he realized he really was discorporating<

>“Yes. Where are we heading?”

“EVERYWHERE.”

Crawly shuddered, and War smiled.<

"Chilling" is an overused descriptive but there's simply not another more apt here.

Most chilling of all is her slithery way of seducing the demon up to the moment she suddenly snatches his pinion.

Poor Crowley who wrought more than he intended...

secret_kracken
Dec. 13th, 2008 05:25 am (UTC)
You gotta think that that's just an expected job hazard for a demon: accidentally wreaking a bit too much. XD

Overused or not, I'm very pleased you found the story chilling. It seems to me you can't write about War and not come up with something at least a little scary and ugly.

Thank you so much for reading!!
(Deleted comment)
secret_kracken
Dec. 15th, 2008 04:02 am (UTC)
There's a sentence you don't type every day.

*laugh* And normally I wouldn't be so flattered. ;) Thank you so much for reading; I'm glad Crowley rang true for you. He's my favorite GO character. ^_^;;
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )

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