aj_crawley: (bentley aeronautics)
aj_crawley ([personal profile] aj_crawley) wrote2009-08-16 10:32 am

(no subject)

No Core'ards waves from Jubilee, the station manager advises them, accent thick to the point of incomprehensibility. Through a tinny lucidity, Crowley wonders whether he's been here so long he's begun to match: a colourless man, heavy features oozing towards the bottom of his face like mud on a hillside. No Core'ards waves, not while Jubilee is darkside of Zhuó Què and the 'Lode; ongi etorriak if they want to try, but it won't get past the belt.

Crowley wants to turn to ask Raguel what in the 'verse possessed him to come here, of all places, to this lièzhì shit-hole of a rock, but realises before he even starts that first, he'd probably just fall over, and second, he'd probably rather not know. Either way, the man is right; there's no point trying. They can change a lot, being what they are. But they can't (ha ha) change the stars.


Crowley (rather unfairly, Raguel thinks) is taken aback to learn that Raguel has actually booked passage on a ship. As it turns out, the crew of the Marrazo is a little surprised as well. Being the enterprising sort, they turn a modest profit performing such deliveries and other odd jobs that, for one reason or another, are best undertaken during those times of the year when Jubilee is darkside. The sudden addition of a second, unknown passenger isn't received with great enthusiasm, even though Raguel offers to pay for him and everything. In fact, they're quite argumentative about the whole thing, until Raguel puts his foot down.

After that, they don't raise the subject again.


The Marrazo isn't a first class boat. The Marrazo isn't a second class boat. In fact, whatever the sharp-nosed crew have been spending their earnings on, it hasn't been the upkeep of their ship, because in Crowley's opinion, the Marrazo is barely even safe to be offplanet in - and that's something which, he, Crowley, should know. He voices these sentiments with substantially less coherency and clarity of diction, and with significantly more profanity, while kneeling over the head on the first night.

It rattles. It doesn't just rattle; it judders and clanks and whines and groans, grinding up Crowley's new eardrums in great metal teeth and bellowing for more, their room near enough to the engine that it vibrates with the sound. Raguel does what he can, but still it whistles and squeaks and screams, and the dampeners pop and the recycler rumbles and the walkways jangle and thunder with busy footsteps until it the whole of it settles like a solid weight behind Crowley's eyebrows, and all he can do is lower his head to the cool steel and try to remember how to turn it off.


It doesn't take them long to escape the signal-hungry shadow of the 'Lode, and that's when they go looking for the Cortex hub. Raguel thinks he might have a bad feeling about this, but then, Raguel thinks he might have a bad feeling about a lot of things. They generally bear out in the (very slightly) longer term, but that's not the point; he likes to have facts. They're... solid. Real.

They find one in the shuttle bay. A Cortex hub, not a fact. It's not that it's as antiquated and ill-used as the rest of the ship; it looks, so far as Raguel is able to judge these things, very modern, qìtài screen and downsized elision pad and all. In addition to these upgrades, it has also had any capacity for vid and audio links neatly and thoroughly removed. Raguel sees the look on Crowley's face when he realises this, and knows. Just knows, with a clarity with which he knows very little these days.

"I'll do it," he says quickly, before Crowley can unclench his fists enough to try.


When the world stops shimmering in and out of painful hyperfocus quite so much, Crowley notices that while he's wearing as close an approximation of Jubilee (and Marrazo) fashion as he could think together, Raguel actually... well, Raguel actually looks alright. Not convinced that he isn't going insane, he asks about it.

Aziraphael sets down a mug of tea in front of Raguel, the comforting scent mixing with the smell of rain that drifts in through the gatehouse windows.

"He left you some, you know," the angel says, settling himself in the other armchair. "Along with some instructions."

Raguel might be - well, not what he was, but he at least has the sense to look wary. "Oh?" he replies.

"Yes." Aziraphael sips his tea, cupping the warm mug in both hands. "I believe his exact words were find some clothes that didn't come from a skip, buy some human comforts, and get a fucking haircut."

Crowley laughs so hard it nearly kills him.


"Did anyone find it?" Crowley asks, staring up at the ceiling.

Raguel sort of thinks about making him say it, to see how well he manages to wrap his mouth around the complicated sounds. But he answers, "No. Me."

"Oh," Crowley says.

And then, "Was there a - "

"No." He looks over at Crowley from the opposite bunk. The demon is rubbing his fingers around his wrist, where... He waits for the right images to bubble up to the surface. A watch? Yeah, a watch. And something else, too, though the only thing Raguel can call up is a vague impression of the colour green. It's been a very long time since there hasn't been a body to retrieve valuables from - but even so, he's almost never been the one to do it.

Except -

"Wait," he says, brightening, and rolls from his bunk to rummage in the pocket of his overcoat, hanging like a gibbet by the door.

Crowley starts when it bounces off his arm, then gropes around the shabby sheets to find it, lifting the shiny black button up above his head for a better look.


"No. No, Raguel, you didn't 'have to'."

"Did. She was - "

"She was useful." Crowley's voice cracks out over Raguel's like a slap to the face, flat and ringing, then drops back into a sneering hiss. "Or she would have been. Don't give me your Great Mouse Detective gŏu pì; you don't know what she might've told her dear old Uncle Andy, back from the dead, and now you never will."

The cold flutter in his chest is going to tip him right off the edge of the bunk. Right off the edge, and into Raguel's stupid, placid face, sharp bits first. The muscles in his jaw tighten.

"I know," Raguel says. "Enough. You weren't there. Aziraphael - "

"Don't you dare."

"Aziraphael wasn't going to do it," Raguel continues, unmoved. "Nobody. You'd've done the same."

"Oh, I wouldn't count on it."

"She wasn't sorry."

"That'ss not the point."

"The point," Raguel says, nodding his head. "You weren't there; I had to. Couldn't let her get away with - "

"You didn't have the right." Crowley could swear he never got to his feet, unless that icy little flutter did it for him. "You. had. NO. RIGHT - "


The silence is tense for a day or two, until Raguel decides to rebuild shattered bridges of communication based on mutual shared experiences. He read it in a book once. After some careful thought, he observes to Crowley that the lighting on the Marrazo - flickering strips along each edge of the ceiling - sort of reminds him of the lighting on a different ship, long ago and on a much longer journey, headed out into the relative unknown. He begins pointing out other things that are the same, or look the same, or that he has convinced himself could be the same - outbursts which, despite the sage advice of Ms. Wood, are often liberally peppered with profanity. The bunks, the walls, the ladder to the engine room, all 'the same,' according to him.

When Raguel tries to insist that the low doorframe between their tiny room and what passes for a lavatory is the same as the doors in the old ship, Crowley flings an emaciated pillow at his head (missing badly) and announces that if it bothers Raguel so much, he can change it.

Happily noting the constructive contribution, Raguel takes his advice - and suddenly, everything looks different. The shadows are softer, the light warmer, falling in patterns that suggest not only a different source but a room of an entirely different size and shape.

Then one of the crew members passes by outside, setting the walkway rattling once again, and the illusion flickers away into nothing.

Raguel doesn't mention any more similarities. The cabin stays cramped, and the light remains sterile and hard. But they'll see the real thing soon enough.