Crowley tries to cope when the Bentley mysteriously breaks down.
Trouble in Paradise
It was a nice day. Crowley hopped into the Bentley, placing a hand against the black paint to enjoy the heat radiating from the metal before changing gears and swerving out into traffic. Even after all these years, he never got tired of the pleasure of driving the Bentley through crowds of terrified motorists, pedestrians, school kids on field trips, and whatever other riffraff that got in his way. He loved roaring along at 200 km per hour, cutting off other drivers and sending people into a bleak depression as their lives flashed before their eyes and they realized just how dismal and dull they had been. He swerved around something pathetic and white that probably couldn't even be legally classified as a car, almost sending it crashing into the back end of a horse trailer. He was laughing in sheer glee at the expression of abject terror on the driver's face when the unthinkable happened.
The Bentley was losing speed.
Crowley stomped on the accelerator, but the car continued to slow down. A beige Honda Civic zipped by, followed by an elderly Ford Prefect. Crowley made an angry gesture that the Bentley refused to acknowledge (1). Pretty soon, he was forced to pull over onto the shoulder. He sat there in disbelief before getting out and popping open the bonnet.
Black bits, shiny chrome bits, greasy bits, it all looked like it should to Crowley. He puzzled over the engine for a while before getting back behind the wheel. He wanted to curse but couldn't bring himself to swear at his beloved car, even now that it had betrayed him like this. He tried to start the car. He tried to start the car again. He was putting all his demonic energy into making the Bentley work but it wasn't moving an inch. In a panic, he materialized a mobile phone out of the ether. At least he hadn't lost his occult powers, just his influence over Bentleys, he thought, momentarily relieved. There could only be one culprit.
"Aziraphale!" yelled Crowley into the phone when Aziraphale picked up.
"Oh!" There was a sound like a phone receiver dropping onto the floor. "No need to yell, my dear. What's wrong?" asked Aziraphale when he finally came onto the line.
"Like you don't know," said Crowley with the demonic menance normally only experienced by certain recalcitrant houseplants.
"I really don't," came the baffled response.
"Don't play the innocent angel with me! I know what you're really like!"
"Crowley, is this about that pornographic magazine I found among your sofa cushions? I didn't mean to snoop but it was poking me in the back when I sat down. I can't believe you'd pose in such a disreputible publication!"
Crowley hissed. "Ssstop trying to change the subject! What did you do to the Bentley!"
"Nothing! You know you never let me near that car without you there to baby-sit. Er, car-sit. Why, what happened to the Bentley?" exclaimed Aziraphale in surprise.
Crowley couldn't deny the truth of this and scowled fiercely. "It won't go," he said sullenly.
A pause. "Can't you just, you know, make it go?" asked Aziraphale.
"Thank you, angel. That never occured to me," said Crowley sourly.
"I'm only trying to help, dear boy. I don't know a thing about automobiles. Um, do you have any petrol?"
Crowley gave a huge exaggerated sigh."No, I don't have any petrol. I never have any petrol. I'VE NOT BOUGHT PETROL IN THIRTY YEARS!" He suddenly felt like crying.
"I know you're upset but I'm trying to help, which is difficult to do with you yelling into the phone every sixty seconds. Try to calm down. Take deep relaxing breaths."
"Is that the best you can do?" asked Crowley, miserable and thoroughly unimpressed.
"For now. Look, why don't you ring up a tow truck and bring the Bentley back to my place. We can think about this together."
Crowley closed his eyes. Why him? What did he do to deserve thi-- why him? "Fine, I'll see you soon." He hung up, wishing he weren't on a mobile so he can slam it down and give vent to some of his rage.
(1) The Civic driver soon found himself with a sudden raging case of gonorrhea, however.
Crowley's mood hadn't improved by the time the tow truck pulled up fifteen minutes later. The driver lurched out and whistled when he saw the Bentley.
"I've never seen one of these outside of car magazines. What is she, a 1927 Bentley?" asked the man, clearly impressed.
"1926," said Crowley shortly. "Make sure you don't scratch the paint."
The man reached out to touch it but instinct made him stop. Instead, he leaned over and examined the dashboard. "Hey, no wonder you're stranded. This car is out of petrol."
Crowley gritted his teeth and fantasized about turning the man into a frog and kicking him into the street to be flattened by traffic. The man saw the look on his face and wisely didn't utter a peep the entire way to Aziraphale's shop.
Crowley and Aziraphale stood outside the bookshop, examining the Bentley from every angle. Everything was in perfect working order, as far as either could discern. Crowley had even been desperate enough to allow Aziraphale to slide behind the wheel and try and drive it himself. No good. There was no reason, earthly or otherwise, that it wasn't working. Stumped, they headed back inside and sat down in the mismatched armchairs. Crowley picked up the dumpy feather pillow on his and hugged it to his chest. It had a badly-worked needlepoint of a duck on it.
"Are you all right?" asked Aziraphale gently.
Crowley didn't answer right away, just stared glumly out the window. "When I saw it for the first time, I knew we were meant to be together. It was so sleek and black and beautiful, just like me. I know it's silly but a part of me thought we'd be together forever," he said in a voice little more than a whisper, not looking at Aziraphale.
Aziraphale leaned over and patted his hand. "I know, dear boy. But don't lose hope, we'll figure something out. Maybe we should take it to a mechanic."
Crowley buried his face in the pillow.
"Do you want to spend the night here?" asked Aziraphale after some time had passed, looking at Crowley with concern.
Crowley sat up and ran a hand through his hair, giving Aziraphale one of his rare, genuine smiles."No, no, I'll be fine. Thanks, though. Can I leave the Bentley here tonight?"
"Of course," said Aziraphale in a quiet voice. "You're flying home tonight, I take it? Or I suppose you could always take the Tube," he couldn't resist adding.
"Ha ha," said Crowley, shaking out his gleaming white wings. He stepped out the back door and was soon only a pale speck against the evening sky.
The next day, Crowley and Aziraphale took the Bentley to an automechanic that specialized in antique cars with all the fuss concern of two parents taking their newborn to the pediatrician for the first time. The mechanics poured over the Bentley all afternoon, while Crowley sat fretfully in the waiting room and Aziraphale paged through the mechanic's lamentable reading supply, which consisted mostly of back issues of Jaguar World and Auto Italia. Three hours later, the mechanic, Harry according to the name sewn onto his shirt, came out to talk to them, a worried look on his face.
"Is it bad?" asked Crowley, hardly daring to ask. Aziraphale silently put a reassuring hand on his shoulder.
"I'm sorry, sir, we don't know what's wrong with your car. It should be working perfectly," said Harry, wringing his hands.
Crowley blinked rapidly behind his sunglasses as Aziraphale shook the man's hand and thanked him in a quiet voice. Harry walked away, feeling unaccountably refreshed. He decided to go home early to take his little girls for some ice cream. Afterward they could go to the park and feed the ducks.
"Useless sod," muttered Crowley but his heart wasn't in it.
"Try to be more charitable, he was only doing his job."
"You're never sympathetic when I say that."
"He's only human. Even the two of us couldn't figure out what was wrong, " said Aziraphale in an annoyingly reasonable manner. "Come on, let's go back to the shop."
"It's hopeless. I might as well have the Bentley recycled into pop cans. I can't bear to see it like this any longer," moaned Crowley.
"Now, now, don't give into despair, my dear. Let's think this through. What were you doing just before the Bentley began er, exhibiting symptoms?" asked Aziraphale in his most practical voice.
Crowley eyed him sourly. "I was driving. That's usually what people do in cars. Well, besides shagging." He waited for Aziraphale to blush and was irritated when he didn't.
Aziraphale raised an eyebrow. "Can you elaborate? Did you feel anything odd?"
"No," said Crowley. "I was just laughing at a car that I almost made crash. You should have seen the man's face." He chuckled a little as the memory resurfaced.
Aziraphale gave him a stern glance.
"What? No one was hurt," said Crowley, shrugging. The amusement abruptly faded from his face. "And I suppose I'm being punished for it now, so you can stop looking at me like that."
Aziraphale relented. "So it was right after that when the Bentley stopped working?" he asked thoughtfully.
"I already said tha - Why? Do you think that wanker did something to the Bentley!" cried Crowley, jumping out of his chair in a rage. "I'll kill him! I'll squeeze him so hard his eyes will pop out of his socke--"
"Crowley, calm down!" Aziraphale leapt up and gripped Crowley's shoulders. "I don't think he did anything, at least not deliberately. Now sit down."
Crowley reluctantly allowed Aziraphale to push him back into his seat, but remained ready to spring up again at any second.
"Now, think for a moment. I know neither of us can remember the, er, Incident very well, but didn't you say that there was a young man there who possessed an odd reaction to technology?" asked Aziraphale.
"You mean in that it frequently blew up in his face? What does he have to do -- yesssss, that was him in the car! How could I forget that dopey expression? And now he's infected the Bentley!" exclaimed Crowley in despair. "What are we supposed to do?"
Newt was putting away the week's groceries when there was a knock at the door. He opened it, only to be poked hard in the chest by the slender, pale man in black sunglasses.
"You! Whatever you did to my car, cursed it or whatever, take it back now!" threatened the man, who seemed terribly familiar to the bewildered Newt, as did the stouter man in white next to him, who grabbed for his companion's arm
"Crowley! Behave yourself!" he cried. Memory beckoned to him at the name, like a dream mostly forgotten upon awakening, but it was too tenuous to last. Newt shook his head, banishing the eerie sensations.
"Er, what do you want? Also, if you lay another hand on me, I'm calling the police," said Newt.
"We're terribly sorry, Mr. Pulsifer. My friend here is quite upset," said the man in white. "My name is Aziraphale and this is Crowley. I don't know if you remember us at all, but we met a few years ago, when um, all this" - he made a gesture that encompassed the surroundings- "nearly ended. Do you remember?"
Newt frowned. "Um, I think you better come inside."
They sat awkwardly on Newt's light green sofa. Crowley was relieved when Newt told them Anathema and the kids were out of town visiting her parents. He hadn't been eager to deal with her again, let alone the terrors she must have spawned. Earlier he had agreed to let Aziraphale do most of the talking while he tried to look as harmless as possible. He probably ruined it with the chest-poking back there but it was still worth a try.
Newt frowned at them. "I do remember you, er, sort of. Whenever Anathema or I tried to think of those times, it slipped away from us. Eventually we simply let it go. We're quite happy now."
"We're not here to disturb your peace, Mr Pulsifer. We are merely trying to find an explanation for an incident that occured involving Crowley's car. A black Bentley?" said Aziraphale.
"Please, call me Newt. I remember him driving up in a flaming heap of metal. Was that supposed to be a Bentley?" Newt chuckled. "Wait, a black antique car cut me off the other day, almost making me crash! That was you!" he exclaimed, turning an angry gaze onto Crowley, who did his best to look meek and regretful. It wasn't very successful.
"He's very sorry, Mist- uh, Newt," said Aziraphale.
Newt snorted. "I'm sure he is. But I doubt you came all this way to apologize."
"You'd be correct," said Aziraphale with a small sheepish smile. "But ever since that incident, the Bentley hasn't functioned at all."
Newt's eyes widened. "You think I have something to do with that? But I haven't had that sort of problem in years!" he cried, horrified, in the manner of a man who thought he'd been cured of a terminal disease and was now told that it had returned.
Aziraphale held up his hands in a consolatory fashion. "No, not exactly. After all, you haven't had any problems with technology in the last day or so, have you?" Newt shook his head no, calming down. Aziraphale continued, "I'm hypothesizing that under extreme stress, like an almost car accident, your...allergy to technology manifested itself again in order to protect you. Therefore, it struck out against the Bentley."
Newt blinked. "That doesn't make any sense."
"Humour me, please?"
Newt drove them back to London in his Wasabi. Aziraphale was delighted at the little haiku that requested that he buckle his seatbelt and wished him a pleasant drive. Crowley scowled and rebelliously left his belt unbuckled.
"Why do I have to sit in the backseat?" complained Crowley. "There's not enough leg room back here." He kicked his legs against the back of Aziraphale's seat to emphasize his point.
Aziraphale and Newt exchanged commiserating glances.
"You sound just like my son whining about not being allowed to sit in the front. He's five," said Newt.
"If you don't behave, I'm asking Newt to turn this car around," admonished Aziraphale, turning around to shake his finger at Crowley. Crowley made a very rude gesture in response but spent the rest of the drive sulking in silence.
When they arrived at Aziraphale's bookshop, Newt parked the Wasabi in the parking space that had miraculously appeared right behind the Bentley. They climbed out of the car, Crowley making exaggerated stretching motions to show how cramped he had been, but no one was paying attention. They stood on the sidewalk, facing Crowley's disobedient car in silence.
"Now what?" asked Newt.
"Er," said Azirphale, who wasn't all that sure, "place your hand against the Bentley."
Newt skeptically followed Aziraphale's direction. As his hand came into contact with the car, he felt a strange frisson pass through him. He staggered back, momentarily dizzy, missing Crowley who instinctively stepped out of the way. Aziraphale took Newt's arm and steadied him.
"Are you all right?" he asked.
"Um, something happened. I think it worked," said Newt, holding a hand to his head. They both turned their heads to look at Crowley, who had made a strange squeal at these words. He blushed and cleared his throat.
"I mean, do you really think the Bentley is cured?" asked Crowley, the careful casualness of the tone belied by the slight trembling of his voice.
"Why don't you try it and see?" suggested Aziraphale fondly.
Crowley slowly approached the car, as if afraid it would shy away from him and flee like a startled deer. Gingerly, he opened the door and slid into the driver's seat. He ran his hands over the steering wheel gently before taking a deep breath and starting the car. The engine turned over and the Bentley purred just as if nothing had ever been wrong. To Crowley, the sound was more beautiful than a thousand celestial choirs. He was hard put to it to not weep in joy.
"So, Newt," he said breathlessly, with a go at his old demonic grin, "fancy a race?"
More notes: The Ford Prefect mentioned refers to a type of car not the guy from the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.