It was a beautiful day, the cloudless sky looked in its mirror and found the waves had subsided enough for proper self-admiration. There were little sounds of plish-plosh, plish-plosh as Aziraphale made his way across the surface of the ocean in a state of dudgeon, like an angry beetle striding across a vast pond.
A voice drifted westward from a small atoll, a voice like succulent fruit after months of dried beef and stale bread, like a fitful night’s sleep after days of watching. A voice like honey from the wildest of flowers.
“Excuse me!” Aziraphale called out, waving his arms at the figure lying on the sandy strip of the atoll before him. “Hello, yes, I really must insist you stop that singing, our crew are so, erm, enthralled by your performance they’ve almost run the ship aground twice now.”
Plodding forward across the water, Aziraphale could see the figure was almost entirely obscured by an immense amount of shiny and oddly dark red hair. They did not appear to be clothed underneath all the hair, but where there should have been legs (and other matters between them), there was only a long, scaly tail that looped into the water.
The singing stopped.
“Angel?!” the mop of hair inquired.
“Oh no no no,” Aziraphale said. “What the devil are you doing here, Crowley, trying to get decent people drowned?”
“Lovely to see you too, Aziraphale.”
“Crowley, I’ve been stuck inside that dreadful-smelling ship for weeks on end, I’m not in the mood for your laughing off attempted murder!”
Crowley picked a small bit of seaweed from his hair in apparent irritation.
“M’not trying to drown anyone, angel--what good would that even do? You off a bunch of good people and Heaven’s got that many more. Much better to entice them a little.”
“Good luck with that,” Aziraphale said waspishly.
Crowley grinned. “Why’ve they got an angel on board, anyway?”
Aziraphale tapped his foot on the water and tried not to look at the uncanny junction of skin and scales on Crowley’s belly, which was strangely distracting.
“There’s an awful lot of superstition about these waters. My superiors don’t approve of that sort of thing, especially not when it turns out that sailors are being diverted from their honest business by--by ersatz mermaids posing seductively on sand bars!”
Crowley raised an eyebrow.
“So you do think I look seductive.”
Aziraphale sniffed. “Well, I assume that’s the intent.”
“M’not a mermaid, you know, I haven’t got the fin-thingies figured out,” Crowley said, withdrawing his tail from the water to demonstrate its lack of aquatic appendages and wiggling a little. “D’you want a drink, angel? I’ve got some spiced rum and an unopened coconut...”
The open ocean, Aziraphale reflected, was a strange thing. Wandering endlessly between two wobbling disks of sea and sky could make the most unerring of angels a little disoriented, so surely it was no cause for concern that watching Crowley slithering on the rim of the atoll made him feel a bit light-headed. Perhaps he was suffering from heatstroke.
“Perfectly,” Aziraphale lied. “I suppose I’ll take a drink if you’ll tell me where you learned to sing like that.”
Crowley’s face broke into a worrisome grin and he snapped his fingers. Two frosty glasses of what Aziraphale would later learn to identify as pina colada appeared in their hands, complete with exorbitant dollops of whipped cream.
“It’s this thing doing the singing,” Crowley said, holding up a conch shell. When he tapped it, the enchanting voice began to play from its interior. “I tried doing my own singing, but my high range isn’t spectacular, and I think I just frightened the crabs.”
“So you made this?”
“Yeah--took ages to set the spell properly, had to bring this thing back to my office for a week to let the hex sink in.”
“May I?” Aziraphale asked, setting down his pina colada.
Crowley passed him the shell. Aziraphale gazed at it in wonder, in awe, in delight. Then he threw it as hard as he could into the sea.
“Are you fucking--angel, that must be ten leagues off!”
“Oh dear,” Aziraphale said, picking up his glass. “How clumsy of me.”
Crowley lunged for him, but apparently forgot that he didn’t have any legs, and flopped onto the sand with all the grace of a fish abandoned by the tide.
“You wait until I get that shell back, angel! It’ll be Odysseus Two Point Oh for your stupid boat!”
“Lovely, dear, I look forward to the concert,” Aziraphale replied, and he sipped on his drink as he walked back over the waves.
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