So in celebration of Tumblr’s imminent porn ban… have some–
Well, okay. It’s not exactly porn, though there is one sex scene. Mostly, it’s a fic about fandom and female sexuality. It is complete, but I never posted it because it’s basically fic #2 in a series for which I never wrote fic #1, so some of the set-up is a little contextless/assumes you’ve read something you physically couldn’t’ve read because it doesn’t exist. Oh well.
Oh yeah, and this is (explicit!) Supernatural Becky/Crowley, i.e. what is quite possibly one of the rarest of rarepairs for this fandom. So… there’s that, too.
Enjoy! (Preferably while listening to this and this, if that’s your bag, baby.)
Becky’s fifteen years old when she first battles her way through all eight-hundred-plus pages of The Stand. She doesn’t remember much of it nowadays; blah blah apocalypse, blah blah good versus evil, blah blah nuclear bomb. Whatever. Not her favorite King book (Black House, so sue her), not her least (Under the Dome which, snore). It’s just … there. Existing as an item on her GoodReads completed shelf.
There is, however, exactly one thing from the book Becky remembers with burning clarity, and that’s Nadine Cross. The girl who fucks the Devil and is rendered insane by the experience.
At age fifteen, Becky read that scene while swinging in a hammock at Pops’s house in Florida. Afterwards, she’d put the book down, squinted into the sun, and wondered just what it was about men that made them feel their dicks were so damn special they could change a woman through the power of entry alone. (Four years later, after a fumbled encounter with Joey Johnson in his con hotel room, she’d still wonder.)
At age thirty-something, Becky does a Nadine of her own and takes, if not the Devil, then definitely a Devil into her bed. The experience is, in her opinion, highly satisfying. The next day, she wakes up as sane as she went to sleep. Then she gets up, gets dressed, and goes to work.
Work is still soul-corroding bullshit, same as always. At law school, Becky had dreamed of being a big-shot fandom lawyer; battling C&Ds and DMCA fair uses cases, setting the precedent to cement fanfic as a legally protected form of transformative work. As a lawyer, Becky spends her days helping companies dodge environmental regulations and screw over their employees on labor conditions. That’s when she’s not doing the office scutwork and evading the wandering hands of Jack Pearson, partner and all-round sleazeball. Never get into a lift with Jack alone, Deb had whispered on Becky’s second day. And for God’s sake, if you have to travel, get a separate hotel room.
Eight days after her first date with a devil, Becky’s lingering afterglow has been replaced by a headache from being yelled at by clients and a sore ass from being slapped by Pearson. Her feet hurt from her heels and her thighs chafe from her stockings and her stomach growls from having nothing in it all day but three coffees and half a stale muffin. It’s nearly nine p.m. on a Friday and she’s beat, arms juggling papers and her satchel and laptop and she’s ten-thousand-percent ready for a weekend of doing nothing in particular. She has a bottle of wine and a chunk of leftover lasagne with her name on it, a half-finished Destiel WIP in Scrivener, and twelve asks in her Tumblr inbox, at least half of which aren’t even hatemail.
She’s halfway stumbled into her little shoebox apartment when she realizes she isn’t alone. There’s a presence in the air, heavy as iron and heady like woodsmoke, as dangerous as an open pit. The feel of it stops Becky short, has her craning her neck around the stack of folders in her arms and, there. Over by the bureau where her little crochet TFW dolls are huddled, is the congealed shadow of the King of Hell.
There’s a moment where Becky has no idea how to react. It’s not that their last encounter was bad (it wasn’t), so much as she’d woken up to an empty bed and the certainty she’d never be seeing Crowley again. Except … here he is. Inspecting her crochet Sam-doll, moose horns and all.
In the end, Becky defaults back to her usual go-to: awkward, inappropriate enthusiasm.
“Crowley!” she squeaks, dumping her armful by the door and wondering, belatedly, if she should use some kind of title. Oh well. Too late now, so: “I didn’t know you were coming! I would’ve cleaned up!” She bustles up to him, kicking off shoes as she does, then goes in for the hug-and-cheek kiss before the demon can do so much as flinch.
Which he doesn’t, not quite, but there’s a half-second of stiffness before he relaxes that, if Becky didn’t know any better, could almost pass for surprise.
He recovers quickly. “If I wanted clean I’d be chasing angels, pet. You, on the other hand, I find delightfully … dirty.” A big, hot hand caresses down her side, past the soft billow of her blouse, onto the tight curve of her skirt.
She swats him away, but playfully. “Hah! I mean the house, you horny old devil.”
Crowley makes a tisk sound. “Oh, did you?” Which, good. Flirty is good. She can work with that.
So she does, pulling away and heading to the kitchen, putting a little more bounce in her step and wiggle in her ass. Chase me, I’ll only run at first.
“Come in,” she says. Redundant, but it’s the intent that matters. “Can I offer you a drink? Do you drink wine? I have a bottle of Syrah my dad recommended. Oh, and you’re welcome to stay for dinner, if you want? It’s just reheated lasagne but there’s enough for two, and—”
She gets as far as the fridge before she’s being turned by strong hands and pressed against the door. She makes a soft sound—surprised, but not startled—as rough lips claim hers.
Crowley still tastes like blood and ash and kisses like his existence depends on it, which it sort of does. Or did. Whatever. It’s demanding and enticing, all at once, and Becky lets her eyes flutter closed and her body soften and arch up as she enjoys it. Enjoys the feel of hot-wet silk against her tongue, the smell of smoke and ash, the feel of wool and muscle beneath her fingers. Crowley isn’t tall but he’s big, a seething presence lurking coiled behind fabric and flesh, and the sensation of it unfolding is intoxicating. As insubstantial as smoke and as consuming as magma, shivering across her skin and pooling hot beneath her belly.
A moment, then two, then Crowley is pulling back. Becky chases him, teeth nipping and lips split into a lust-dazed grin, and receives a rumbling chuckle for her efforts.
“Or we could just do this?” she suggests. Lasagne can wait. At least until after she’s carved up a few more notches with the King.
“Actually,” Crowley says, taking a step backwards. “I came here for business, not pleasure.”
“Oh.” Becky tries not to let her smile drop, but only catches it after the first wobble. “Um. Okay?” Right. Of course. It’s not like …
Crowley’s the King. Of Hell. He’s probably got more important things to do than … than hang out with an awkward nobody like Becky.
She steps away, faces the fridge for a moment to realign both her heart and her expectations, then says: “I’m not sure … I mean, if I can do something, I’ll try?” She risks a glance at Crowley as she says it. He’s still standing close but there’s an inexplicable distance to it as well. Inexplicable distance and an unreadable expression. Becky reminds herself she’s dealing less with a person and more with an inhuman entity that wears flesh like a suit. A dangerous, frequently murderous, arguably capital-e Evil entity at that. She’s not stupid; she knows all that. After all, that’s part of the attraction.
Crowley must sense her hesitation because he gives her a heart-fluttering smirk. “Don’t worry, my dear,” he says. “It’s nothing … compromising. I just need someone to fly to D.C. and deliver a little letter.”
“Um.” Oh, gee. Where to even start with that? “When?” That’s good enough.
“Tomorrow. Just for the weekend. Tickets and hotel booked and covered. Official business and all. Just need the courier. That’ll take an hour, two hours, tops. Otherwise, think of it like a little holiday.”
And Becky can see it in her mind, clear as a cloudless night at full moon. An abandoned crossroads in a dusty wasteland, cracked blacktop bifurcating into a road paved with glistening, blood-soaked gold, nothing but burning brimstone on the horizon.
In Campbellian terms, Becky knows, this is the Call to Adventure. She can refuse it and keep trudging along that dusty highway, the one that leads to her crappy apartment and soul-crushing job and escapist fantasizing about a world she knows but will never be a part of. It’s the road where she’s left as a bit-player in her own life, a walk-on cameo, a one-note joke. Safe and boring and forgotten.
Or, alternately, she can hook a sharp left, and drive herself headfirst into Hell. Probably literally.
Like there was ever going to be any choice.
“Okay,” she says. “Sure.”
And there’s a moment, just a moment, where she thinks Crowley looks almost … surprised. He covers it quickly but it’s there, and Becky can’t help but dwell on it. The once-King of the Crossroads is a creature built on sin and temptation, and here he is, offering the apple. Becky isn’t sure why he’d be surprised when Eve decided to bite.
The expression is gone again as soon as it manifests, settled beneath the smarmy, self-assured mask. “Wonderful, darling. I’ll leave a folder on your desk in the morning.” There’s a pause, and another one of those strange half-seen expressions. Then: “Now. With business out of the way … I would love a glass of your Syrah.”
Becky leaves Crowley in the kitchen with his wine while she goes to change and hang up Crowley’s coat. She’s sort of amazed he handed it to her—since she’s only ever seen him before either fully dressed or entirely naked—so is careful about picking it a nice wooden hanger and giving it plenty of space in the coat cupboard. It’s heavy wool and smells amazing—smoke and musk and spice—and she totally presses her face against it and inhales like a creeper. She doubts Crowley will mind.
Wriggling out of her work clothes leaves her with a dilemma. Should she go for comfortable-comfortable or sexy-fake-comfortable? The black silk robe and neglige, or the flannel PJs and fluffy XXL robe straight out of the mens’ department?
In the end, she goes with the neglige. It sends a pretty unambiguous signal re. what she’s after and, well. Crowley’s a demon. It’s not like he’s going to judge her for being an easy lay. Which she isn’t, or isn’t usually, it’s just … a girl has needs. And last time had been pretty freaking incredible which, okay. She’d kinda been counting on. It’s not like Crowley got to being Lilith’s 2IC through his great passionate belief in Lucifer’s plan to destroy humanity. He must’ve had some other talents and, well. Headcanon confirmed. Suck it, antis.
(Or, yanno. Not. As the case may be.)
While she’s getting changed, Becky does what she can about the floordrobe, either kicking it under the bed or throwing it into the laundry hamper. Her room still looks like a tatty disaster zone when she’s done but it’ll have to do.
By the time she gets back into the kitchen, Crowley is leaning over the counter, wineglass in one hand, phone in the other. He’s typing something furiously with his thumb, sneering at the phone like it’s personally betrayed him.
“Bad day at work?” Becky tries. It’s not just small talk; she’s legitimately interested in the workings of Hell. Chuck was always so frustratingly vague about it partly, Becky always suspected, due to lack of interest.
“Always,” Crowley growls. “By definition.” He finishes whatever missive of dread he’s been composing with a sharp tap, then looks up. “Though I see you’ve come to improve it.” He doesn’t bother hiding the leer, or the way his gaze drags up and down Becky’s body like a physical (or metaphysical) touch.
“I can try,” she says. “So, lasagne? Or— wait. Can you eat salt?”
“It’s just, there’s salt. In the lasagne. And I don’t want to, y’know. Poison you? If it’s a problem I can make something else?”
Crowley gives her an odd, squinty sort of look and asks, “Did you add the salt for the purpose of warding away the forces of evil?”
“Um. No? It was for the purpose of making the food taste better.”
“Then it should be fine, luv. There has to be a level of … intent to these things.”
“Oh!” Becky nods. “That … that totally makes sense. I mean, I always wondered because, like. It’s made out to be this huge weakness or whatever except, like, Ruby definitely ate fries that one time and there was no way they were unsalted. Plus, like, there’s salt in human sweat, and tears. Oh, and cum? And, like. Wow but that would be really inconvenient and also painful, so … y’know.”
Crowley is making what Becky thinks of as the Cannot Unsee Face. “What a charming thought.”
Which, yeah. Okay. Becky is totally going to write a fic about that. Or at least really awkward Tumblr meta.
She’s busy getting out the lasagne and pre-heating the oven when Crowley says:
“We can feel it. The salt. It does burn and it’s an acquired taste. A lot of our, ah, younger recruits find the adjustment frustrating.”
“Like chili?” Becky suggests. “Or wasabi?”
“Similar, I suppose. But we feel it, not the meatsuits.”
It occurs to Becky there probably wasn’t a lot of chili or wasabi floating around in 1600s Scotland. Or lasagne, for that matter, given Europeans thought tomatoes were poisonous until, like, the 19th century. Poisonous and an aphrodisiac, actually, if Becky’s remembering her obscure internet trivia correctly.
Out loud, she says:
“Do you, like. Dare each other to eat it? Like someone’s a huge badass because they can drink the brine out of a pickle jar or whatever?”
Crowley huffs something that might be a laugh. “We’re demons, luv. What do you think?” He takes a sip of wine, contemplating, then: “Every now and then some imp will get the bright idea to try and ‘desensitize’ itself through exposure.”
“Yeah? How does that work out for them?” Dinner in the oven, timer set. She turns and walks the two steps until she’s back in Crowley’s personal space. He allows her approach, eyes dark and glistening. Amused. Eager. They are totally going to defile the kitchen counter. Oh, yes.
“Poorly, in general.” Crowley puts down his glass and straightens, hands running possessively over Becky’s robe as she gets into range. “But it’s amusing for the rest of us.”
She makes a noncommittal sound, pressing herself against the warm wool of his jacket as her own hands come up to run across Crowley’s cheeks. She likes his beard; it’s both soft and prickly and black and grey, all at the same time. A microcosm of contradictions, just like its owner.
Crowley is easy to kiss, easy to rut and writhe against. His hands cup her breasts and her ass, stroke up and down her sides, fisting handfuls of satin then letting it fall.
“You like the fabric,” Becky realizes, giggling the words against the underside of Crowley’s stubbly jaw.
“It’s cheap trash,” is the response, although the caresses of thick, hot fingers don’t stop.
“Yeah. But it feels good, doesn’t it?”
“Cheap trash often does, pet. At least for a little while.” He pulls at the tie of her robe, letting it fall open.
The robe is ankle-length but the neglige underneath barely goes to Becky’s thighs. Crowley hums approval, then again when his hand moves underneath and finds she isn’t wearing underwear.
“I’ll take this as a hint, shall I?”
“More like a billboard, but sure.” She isn’t trying to be subtle.
Becky gasps when Crowley’s fingers slide inside her; presses her hips forward and opens her thighs. Crowley’s teasing, touch just too shy of what she needs, so she bites him. Hard. On the neck, just above the collar of his shirt. She’s careful not to break skin or draw blood, but otherwise doesn’t hold back, and is rewarded by a rumbling groan so deep it may as well be a growl.
She licks her tongue over the bite, then uses her teeth again. Crowley’s fingers press harder inside her in response, and she rocks against them, feeling the warmth pool in her belly and her limbs. It’s good but not enough, and her own fingers dart down, fumbling with his belt buckle while her palms press against the thick cock barely held back by warm wool.
Fuck but he’s huge. It’s not even his original body but Becky would bet money that the size of its dick was one of the reasons he chose it. Crowley is such a fucking size queen and, moreover, he knows exactly what to do with what he’s got.
He is wearing underwear, and the black cotton is damp with precum when Becky pulls it down and draws out the hot flesh beneath. Crowley groans into her neck, mouthing at the skin and allowing the touch, his hips rocking as she takes him in hand, feeling the girth of his shaft and the heavy weight of his balls.
“Fuck, yeah.” She giggles when she says it, heat and slick between her own thighs in anticipation.
“All for you, darling.”
He’s still only half-hard and she can feel him grow and thicken in her palm. Fuck but that’s hot. At his thickest her fingers barely fit around the girth and, okay yeah. Maybe Crowley’s not the only size queen in the kitchen. So sue her.
“Fuck me,” she says. “Here. Against the counter.”
She feels empty and hot and wanting when he pulls his fingers out, but bites back a complaint. Soon, she thinks, watching that big jutting cock, flushed and curved against black wool and cotton and the dangling end of the red silk tie.
Crowley starts patting at his pockets, but Becky knows what he’s after and came prepared, pulling the condom from her gown.
Crowley takes it with a smirk. “I love a girl who thinks ahead,” he says, and presses back in for a ravishing kiss while he fiddles with the packet.
Because, yeah. Rolling on the rubber maybe isn’t the sexiest part of the event, but no one wants to deal with a case of surprise cambions. Ironically, that makes an actual literal demon better at safe sex than most human boyfriends Becky’s ever had, because go figure. She supposes barebacking is a bit less attractive when the potential consequences are likely to try and destroy the world.
Crowley isn’t tall enough to fuck Becky on the counter, but he is strong enough to hold her up against the fridge, thighs splayed around his hips and neglige hiked up around her waist. The sheer size of him hurts when he pushes in, but it’s the good kind of hurt. The kind that tightens Becky’s belly and sends her eyes rolling back into her skull.
“I’m good,” she promises. “You’re just so big.”
“You say the nicest things,” he drawls in reply, and kisses her.
She kisses back, hungry and messy, biting at his lips and jaw and enjoying the drag of beard beneath her tongue. She rocks her hips as she does. It’s not easy with the way he’s holding her, but it gets her intent across and she’s rewarded with a deep, hard thrust.
“Like that, luv?”
“Fuck. Fuck, yes. Harder. More.”
Crowley growls, fingers digging into her ass, strong enough to leave marks, as he begins thrusting into her with enough force to rock the fridge. It feels good. So good. A knife-edge mix of pain and pleasure and full, so fucking full, stretched wide and devouring and she throws back her head and laughs from the feel of it, begging for more.
“Touch yourself,” comes the growled command, Crowley’s voice nearly inhuman with lust.
Becky shakes a negative, head thrown back and eyes closed. “Nuh-uh,” she gasps, breathless between giggles. “Wanna … gonna come on your cock. On the King’s big, fat cock.”
This earns her another growl, this one definitely not human. “You like that, do you luv? That do it for you, getting shagged by a demon?” His voice is almost a hiss. Like lava pouring into a crashing ocean.
“N-not any demon,” she says. “You. The King. My King.”
Crowley makes another one of those strange, inhuman sounds as he thrusts in deep enough that Becky sees stars. She makes a noise halfway between a groan and a laugh. She can’t stop it, the laughing. It’s just, it’s so good. She’s being taken by the King of Hell against her shitty half-broken fridge and it’s perfect.
When she opens her eyes, the gaze that stares back at her is blood red and smoking. Her hands are inside Crowley’s jacket, against his broad back, and she grabs a fist full of fabric and pulls him closer. The kiss is more teeth than tongue but that’s fine, it’s great even, and Becky keeps muttering filthy words into his mouth, keeps crying out for her King to take her harder, faster, more.
And Crowley does. She can feel him. Not just his dick or his meatsuit, but him; that whirling maelstrom of sin and rage and power, pressing against her, pressing into her, like standing too close to a bonfire on a winter’s night, impossibly hot and impossible to pull away from.
He’s big. So much bigger than the body he’s chosen and, for one moment, Becky feels it. Feels her fingers scrabble against scales like cooled obsidian. Feels the huge, blood-soaked claws wrapped around her thighs. Smells the stink of brimstone and burning and knows, just knows, that if she looks it won’t be two eyes that stare back at her but six, goat-slat pupils gleaming with unholy malice.
And that? That’s enough. Enough that she throws her head back, orgasm breaking over her in helpless gouts. Her body bucks and shudders and she hears the vicious hiss as Crowley comes as well, swelling and pulsing hot inside her.
Afterwards, there’s nothing but the sound of harsh breathing. Becky’s. Crowley is still buried inside her, holding her up, but he’s inhumanly still, head bowed and forehead pressed against the fridge door. She has no idea what he’s thinking, but the thick roil of him has pulled back. Becky makes a happy humming noise and nuzzles against his furred cheek. Then she laughs.
“You should watch it with the laughing, luv,” Crowley mutters. “Someone could get the wrong idea.”
Men. So fragile. Becky just giggles again and plants a kiss on Crowley’s cheek. “Not you,” she says. “You were great. I just … have you ever read The Stand?”
Crowley rears back, enough to look at Becky and start the process of pulling them apart. “What?”
“The Stand. Y’know, the Stephen— whoa!” This because her legs won’t quite hold her up. “The Stephen King book.”
Crowley makes another one of those odd, squinty expressions. “The meatsuit’s read it,” he says eventually. (Which, so cool.)
“Right. Well, I was just thinking, as far as bumping uglies with the Devil goes? You’re a much better lay than Randall Flagg.”
This earns her another inscrutable stare, before Crowley finally huffs and looks away. “That’s sort of the point, luv,” he says. “Why I sold the ol’ soul and all.”
“No,” Becky says. “You sold your soul for a ten inch dick—”
“Eleven inch dick. You can still be a lousy fuck with an eleven inch dick.” In fact, she’s willing to bet there are a lot of dudes out there who’d fit that sort of description. Resting on their god-given laurels, or whatever.
Crowley doesn’t seem to know what to say to that; just makes a noncommittal sound and finishes tying off the condom and tucking himself back in. Becky helps, smoothing down his hair and straightening his tie, mostly because it seems to put Crowley so adorably off-kilter. Like he isn’t used to casual affection which, come to think of it, he’s probably not. The realization is depressing, but easily rectified, and while Crowley isn’t entirely comfortable with the attention, he doesn’t move away, either.
After that, they drink wine and wait for the lasagne to finish reheating. Becky feels muzzy from the sex and from the alcohol, limbs tingling and belly warm, and she burrows herself against Crowley’s side. Kind of like cuddling, but standing up. He’s warm and smells good, his voice a pleasant bass rumble beneath her ear as she tells him all about her shitty week and skeevy boss, and he makes sympathetic noises as if he gives a shit. Becky knows he doesn’t, not really—why would he?—but that’s fine. Because at least he listens, which is more than Becky can say about most boyfriends she’s ever had. By the time the food’s done, his hand has even migrated to her hip. It’s not quite an embrace, but she’ll take it just the same.
The next day, she wakes up alone, which isn’t surprising, even if it’s not how she went to bed. She hurts. Everywhere. In the good way; a burn between her thighs and on her ass and down her back and across her shoulders. She’s been bitten and smacked and scratched and half the marks don’t even look like they came from human hands or teeth. Not to mention there’s the beginnings of a bruise on her inner thighs that she swears looks like the imprint of scales.
It was a good night.
As promised, there’s a leather folio on the kitchen counter, next to the dirty dishes. It has email print-outs for plane tickets and a hotel booking, and is all unexpectedly mundane. Demons, as it turn out, use Expedia like everyone else. Not to mention have hilariously generic, corporate-sounding email addresses like [email protected]
The one thing that actually looks like an artifact of the realm of the damned is the letter. It’s standard sized, thick with documents, and seems to be made from a vellum Becky doesn’t want to speculate on the origin of. The flap is fastened by a big black wax seal with what, Becky has to assume, is the crest of the King of Hell. Her eyes won’t quite focus on the details and trying gives her a headache, so she tucks the whole thing away.
The last thing in the folder is a handwritten note. It’s on Becky’s own pink stationery, but written in a fountain pen with red, rusty ink (Becky tries not to think about the origin of that, either). The handwriting is almost indecipherably ornate—apparently Crowley hasn’t bothered picking up block lettering in the last three hundred years—but Becky can make out the lines the car will pick you up at 8am, as well as instructions on where to meet whatever hapless mortal she’s supposed to give the envelope to. The letter is signed “C——” and has way more scrolls and flourishes than a single letter and a dash really need. The mental image of Crowley standing at Becky’s bench, writing it out on her chibi-Stucky notepaper, makes her grin.
Breakfast is a coffee from the off-brand Nespresso machine. After, in the shower, she inspects the injuries from last night. It’s nothing that won’t heal and nothing that’ll scar; nothing that’ll show above her clothes and nothing that even really needs treating. Becky’s certainly had worse, care of infections from boyfriends to whom the concept of brushing teeth was apparently an esoteric and unknown sorcery. She dresses in comfortable leggings and an oversized cable-knit, then grabs her little overnight and throws in what she’ll need for tomorrow. After some debate, she eschews the Hell-corporate black pencil skirt and blazer, a instead picks a less dour ensemble of faux-70s diamond-print slacks and ruffled cream blouse. She might be showing up on behalf of the King, but if he’d wanted predictable Becky figures he would’ve sent one of his own.
On top of the clothes, she adds her wash kit and a canister of salt. She already has her anti-possession charm rosary wrapped around her wrist—she’d taken it off last night, because courtesy—and the spritzer of holy water she’s been carrying in her handbag for years. Just in case.
The last thing she adds is a collection of cotton Devils’ Trap scarves in varying sizes. She makes and sells them at cons, along with the rosaries, and she’s never technically trialled them in the field, but she doesn’t see why they shouldn’t work. Slip one under a doormat or a rug or the bed and, hey presto. Insta-portatrap.
(It’s not that she’s expecting trouble, exactly. But she sometimes still has nightmares about a blade sliding into flesh and, well. Being prepared couldn’t hurt, right?)
By the time her case is packed and she’s done one final mirror-check, the time is 7:58. She grabs the folio, makes sure the envelope is tucked safely into her handbag, and darts out the door.
There’s a huge black car waiting for her on the street, dour guy in a suit watching her as she approaches.
“Morning, ma’am,” he says, nodding, as he reaches out to take her case.
“Hi! Um! I should … I’ll just hold onto this, okay?” She has no idea if this guy’s a demon or not, but current signs point to likely, and she doesn’t want to get him stuck to her luggage.
(Do the Traps work folded-up? So many questions! Probably shouldn’t use some random guy as a guinea pig, though …)
Becky’s had dorm rooms smaller than the back of the car, which comes complete with TV and an ice bucket of champagne, because apparently the “somewhere” in “it’s always 5 o’clock somewhere” refers to Hell. After a moment’s consideration, Becky pours herself a glass. Dad always used to say airplane time didn’t count as real time, which seems as good an excuse for a champagne breakfast as any. Next time, Becky will have to request strawberries.
She takes a photo of the glass and her leggings and boots and the (unexpectedly) tan leather car seats, then posts it to Instagram with the caption, Last-minute weekend vacation? Why not!
Driver Guy does not attempt small-talk, which Becky is fine with, though she is mildly amused by his conscientious obedience to the rules of the road. It’s about an hour out to the airport and Becky spends it on her phone, scrolling Tumblr and tapping out a few Askbox responses. There’s been a bit of a ship-war flare-up in the night (when isn’t there?), and the Usual Suspects are trying to drag her into it. As far as she knows, neither side is canon and aesthetically she likes both, so she makes a few noncommittal responses in attempt to keep the peace. It won’t work—she knows that one from harsh experience—but she figures it’s the thought that counts.
She wonders, sometimes, what it’ll all look like in a thousand years’ time; how the doctrinal splits over the Gospels will shake out. Will the Church of Wincest go to war against the Church of Destiel, laser rifles and combat drones filling the streets with the smell of burnt plastic? It’s not the sort of thing she asks out loud much, at least not any more. She learnt that one the hard way, too.
When they roll up at the airport, Becky again won’t let the driver handle her case and he, in turn, won’t accept a tip.
“It wouldn’t be appropriate, ma’am,” he says, face impassive and eyes hidden behind dark sunglasses.
Becky thanks him profusely anyway, wishing him a good day, and the praise leaves him looking almost afraid. Definitely a demon then, if only because they all seem so allergic to genuine kindness. She guesses that’s not so much a thing when you live in a realm invented by a guy with a hateboner for humanity as his self-fulfilling prophecy about how much your species sucks. Well, fuck Lucifer, basically (or not, because ew). He’s not the boss any more, so no reason why Hell should keep running according to his delusional whims.
Becky spends a good twenty minutes standing in the airline ticket queue before she gets to the counter. The woman behind it looks bored and harried right up until the point where she’s about to print Becky’s boarding pass. Then her eyes go extremely wide, her face goes an ashy kind of pale, and she spends a good few seconds mutely looking between Becky and her computer.
“Um,” Becky says. “Is, um. Is something wrong?” She has a sudden vision of herself getting jumped by the TSA and dragged off to an interrogation room. Like Hell is on some kind of terrorism watchlist which, thanks for that, unnamed airplane demon from, like, 2005.
“N-no, ma’am,” the check-in lady says. “Just, um. P-please wait here.”
Becky does, in fact, wait there, stomach churning with anxiety, until the lady comes back, this time with a man in tow. The man immediately shakes Becky’s hand and gives an obsequious little half-bow and stutters:
“M-Ms. Rosen! I’m so sorry for the inconvenience. Please, c-come right this way.”
The man introduces himself as Phil and spends the entire time leading Becky through the airport apologizing. Becky isn’t sure for what, exactly, so she does her best to reassure him. He walks her right past the TSA check—no metal detector, no x-ray of her bags, nothing—and takes her to a nondescript door he opens with a swipe-card.
Becky has that moment of panic again, except the door doesn’t go to a concrete-walled detention room filled with TSA agents and rubber gloves. Instead, it opens into a huge, opulent foyer; all wood panelling and glass-backed waterfalls and living walls of tumbling vines.
“Um,” says Becky, who has no idea what this place is or, in fact, that it even existed.
“Please make yourself comfortable in lounge,” Phil says. “We’ll send someone to fetch you when your flight is ready.”
“Oh,” says Becky. “Jeez. Thank you?”
“Please,” Phil says. “It’s the least we can do, for such valued, um. Patrons.” He’s wringing his hands as he says it, not meeting Becky’s gaze. Terrified, she realizes, and wonders if he thinks she’s the demon.
A while back, Becky had asked Chuck about the whole Heaven and Hell thing. Specifically, what made a soul end up in one place and not the other.
Chuck, in his usual scatterbrained, disinterested way had just shrugged. “Human souls aren’t supposed to go to Hell,” he’d said, not looking up from where he’d been struggling to fish the last lo mein out of the take-out box. “They’re supposed to go to Heaven, that’s the point of it. For Hell … you have to try real hard to get there.”
“‘Real hard’ like how?”
Which had earned a noncommittal gesture, as if Becky had asked how Chuck was finding his noodles, not asking one of the most hotly debated theological questions of all time. “Selling your soul, mostly. Free will and all that. You want a one-way ticket downstairs? No-one’s going to stop you.”
“But it can’t be that common, right?” Becky had asked. “People selling out.”
Chuck had looked up at that, just briefly. Becky still remembers it, because it’d been one of those little … moments. Chuck had gotten them sometimes. When the affected veil of Chuck-ness had dropped off, and gooseflesh had shuddered across Becky’s arms as she’d found herself eye-to-eye with … something else.
Then he’d looked back down, and the moment had been over.
“Happens more than you’d think,” is all he’d said in reply.
And then, both years later and a week ago, Becky had been sitting on her shitty old sofa, passing the tub of Ben & Jerry’s back and forth with the King of Hell, when she’d asked:
“So how come there’s not, like, a rash of people dropping dead a decade after they, yanno. Get famous or whatever?”
“Leverage, luv,” Crowley had told her. “The ten years, that’s just the boilerplate. Most people get to about six or seven, then they start to panic. Call us back up, start trying to renegotiate the terms.”
Crowley had grinned at her, sharp and serpentine and vicious. “That’s the thing, isn’t it? What can you offer when you’ve already sold off the only thing you truly, eternally own?”
“Favors,” Becky had guessed. “Like, earthy power or whatever.”
Crowley had made a rumbling sound of agreement. “Let’s just say,” he’d said, “I didn’t spend an eternity on the rack to sleep in shitty motels when I made it back into the sun.”
The airport lounge offers free massages, so Becky has one. Then she sits on a huge cream leather couch and watches the planes land, another glass of champagne in hand and a bowl of strawberries on the table in front of her. Those go on Instagram as well, and she’s starting to get some seriously jealous-sounding comments from her mutuals.
There are no clocks inside the lounge. Just a few staff and one other traveller Becky would swear up and down she’s seen on the cover of Forbes.
As promised, when it’s time to board the plane, a woman in a neat uniform comes to fetch her and escort her to the boarding gate. There’s a mad crush of travelers when they get there, but the lady skips them to the head of the queue.
Becky is, quite literally, the first passenger on the plane. Another hostess shows her to seat 1A and stows her luggage. She gets offered another glass of champagne (which she accepts, if only because the whole experience is starting to get so surreal she feels she needs the boost to get through it), and then the pilot comes out to shake her hand and tell her he hopes she has a pleasant flight.
By the time everyone else is allowed onto the plane, Becky is … reeling. She’s gonna go with reeling. Also, people keep taking surreptitious photos of her as they file past. Assuming she’s someone famous, she supposes, because who else but a mega-celebrity could possibly warrant personal kid-gloves treatment from an airline. Airlines don’t treat anyone well. Domestic plane flights are practically the very definition of—
Oh. Oh, right.
Becky just pulls out her phone, hunches down in her seat, and pretends to read.
There’s another car waiting for her at Dulles, though she has to fight her way through more obsequious airline staff to get to it.
By the time the woman in the neat black suit appears at her arm with a, “This way please, Ma’am,” Becky is buzzed from the champagne and dizzy from all the reassurances she’d been giving to terrified stewards.
“Oh, thank G—” Becky starts, before stopping herself. Is it rude to casually invoke the name of God in front of a (probable) demon? Does it even bother them? She has no idea, but decides to err on the side of cultural sensitivity. “Thank you. I am, like. Totally ready to blow this joint.”
The journey from the airport to the hotel is just as stoic as the last, and in an almost identical car. Becky is almost disappointed when the drive they pull up in does not, in fact, belong to the Watergate (she’d been betting on Crowley finding the irony amusing), but she supposes she can’t complain about a free night at the Mandarin Oriental (unfortunate name aside).
As she’s getting out of the car, the driver comes and hands her a business card. There’s nothing on it bar a phone number and a vaguely ominous glyph.
“His Majesty has put us at your disposal for the weekend,” says the almost-certainly demon, keeping the why-you-pathetic-mortal sneer to a minimum. “Someone will be here tomorrow at four to collect you. If you need transport in the interim, call.” If you dare, is not spoken, but Becky hears it away.
Hears it, and ignores it.
“Oh, thank you!” she says instead, bright as balefire. “And, um. Hey. While I’m here, I haven’t been to D.C. since, like, I was a kid, so … Is there anything you’d recommend I do? If I get the time, I mean.”
The demon stares, inhuman and cruel. Becky stares back, hands clasped and eyes wide, naive sincerity turned up to eleven. Don’t eat me, I’m so sweet you’ll gag on it.
In the end, it’s the demon who cracks first.
“I … like the monuments,” she eventually says. “The obelisk. It reminds me of—” She cuts herself off, biting her lip and looking away. It’s hard to tell with the sunglasses, but she maybe looks … sad. Or annoyed. Demon emotions are such thorny tangles.
Becky thanks the demon, then hands her bag over to a patiently waiting bellhop. The inside of the Mandarin Oriental is … ostentatious, is the only word for it. Heavy and glittery, decorated by scattered fu-dogs and twirling gold dragons. (Becky runs her fingers along the side of one of the latter, remembering the feel of smooth scales between her thighs and heavy claws pressing at her back.)
The man at the check-in desk is just as obsequious as the airport staff, albeit more subtle about it. He makes sure to stress, several times, that Becky’s room is fully paid for, including the entire minibar, room service, pay-per-view, spa facilities, and/or any meals she may or may not eat in the hotel restaurant.
As usual, no one will accept a tip.
Becky’s room is less of that and more of a house. There’s a kitchen. With, like. A stove. It’s obviously never been used and there aren’t any pans to cook with, but it’s there. The bathroom is entirely made from different types of marble. There’s a TV hidden in the vanity mirror. The shower is like three showers. In the bedroom, the bed has curtains and is practically a room in-and-of itself. Becky stands in front of it for a long time, thinking about Sam’s threadbare jeans and Chuck’s dingy, mildew-infested house. She thinks the phrase reign in Hell or serve in Heaven more than once.
Then she gives up, and spends the rest of the afternoon ordering every single treatment in the spa.
The next morning, she goes sightseeing. With a hangover. Because, well. The bar did whiskey tastings, so how could Becky refuse?
(That’s a legacy of the con circuit. Too many nights spent in costume in dingy hotel bars, laughing and forcing down Jack and Maker’s, for the “authenticity”. She doesn’t even remember the name of the guy who introduced her to Scotch—proper Scotch, single-malt and pot-stilled and whatever—only that he hadn’t even been one of the con attendees. Just some old guy who found a bunch of girls in flannels at a bar, choking on cheap bourbon, and had decided to help broaden their palettes. “It’ll taste like a hellhound’s piss,” he’d told Becky, before she’d taken her first sip of Laphroaig. “And it’ll make you wonder why you keep coming back for more.” The words had, in retrospect, been portentous.)
She wanders the Mall, taking photos of monuments and posting them to Instagram. The sky overheard is the heavy, steely grey of something calculating the best time to dump its storm, though that hasn’t deterred the tourists.
At eleven, Becky heads back to the hotel to wash up and change. Her perfume smells like myrrh and musk and smoke; it’s a custom-blended, Firefly-themed oil she bought a few years back at WisCon. Her eyeshadow is a Hannibal-themed mineral powder, her lipgloss tastes like Butterbeer, her socks are patterned like the Tardis. It is, she thinks, about as close to wearing armor as she can get.
“Okay,” she tells the version of herself reflected in the bathroom mirror. “Okay. You can do this. Be the … be the implacable servant of Hell you’ve always known you had inside you. Or something.” Inspiring.
She checks her handbag three times before she leaves the room, just to make sure the envelope is still inside (it is). Then she’s out.
The meeting is at some hipster café on the far side of the Mall. It’s about a forty minute walk and Becky considers it for all of the five seconds it takes between leaving the hotel and the rain coming down in sheets. She’s half-way through hailing an Uber when she remembers the little card she was given yesterday. She stares at that number for far too long before finally dialing.
“Yes?” says the voice on the other end, when the call connects. There’s something … echoing about it. Something not quite human.
“Um,” says Becky. “This is, um. Becky Rosen? I was told to call this number if I needed a car?”
“Yes,” agrees the echoing voice.
“Um. Okay. Well … can I get one?”
“Oh. Okay, cool. I’m at—”
Except the call has already disconnected. Becky is halfway through wondering whether she should re-dial when the black car pulls up in front of her.
The driver is different, or maybe the same. Who knows, with demons? Becky jumps in the back and flashes a smile. “Thank you so much,” she says. “I was going to just walk, but … nope.” She gestures at the sky.
Silence, for a moment, as they pull out of the hotel driveway. Then:
“I remember having to walk everywhere. It was … tedious.” A low mutter, almost pitched like the demon expects Becky to ignore it.
She doesn’t, instead says: “I know, right? I mean, most of the time I don’t mind, but then you get a day like this, and … urgh.”
Another awkward pause. Then, hesitantly: “I don’t mind the rain here. It’s better than in … at home.”
“All fire and brimstone?”
“Blood and ash,” the demon corrects, more confidently. “Some of us like it. I … don’t. The storms can be beautiful, I suppose. If you have shelter.”
“I guess it’s one of those things,” Becky says. “It’d be cool to see but, uh. A little tough to get a tourist visa?”
The demon huffs laughter. “I wouldn’t be in any hurry. Now. Where to?”
This time, they make small-talk in the car. Bitching about coworkers and the films they’ve seen and shows they’ve watched. They even talk a little about Hell.
“Say what you want about the King,” the demon says, “and believe me, people do. And, sure. He’s young, but at least he’s one of us, y’know? Before, it was all Lucifer this and Dark Father that and, honestly? If I wanted to spend eternity sucking angel dick I wouldn’t’ve booked my ticket downstairs. The religious nutbars are pissed off but, fuck ‘em. Blunt-horned old devils’ve just got their tails in a twist because someone’s finally pointed out just how gauche it is to … to spend eternity blighting crops and tormenting soccer moms. But the King? Now there’s a demon with vision, y’know? ‘We’re Hell. We torture the wicked and tempt the virtuous,’ that’s what he tells us. That’s a mission. Something you can really be proud of. Today I bought the souls of ten priests and flayed the skin off a hundred sinners, that sort of thing. Achievements! Like you’re really making a difference in the world, not just slouching around waiting for it to end.”
“Good for you,” says Becky, and means it. “Mortals get so down on Hell, but it has a function. There’s no reason it shouldn’t do that well.”
“Exactly!” enthuses the demon. “Man, most people, they just don’t get it. They’d rather, I dunno. Kill us all off and nuke Hell outta existence. But then what? You gonna send every human soul to Heaven? Well then don’t come cryin’ to me if you get to the Pearly Gates and find yourself rubbin’ elbows with Hitler.”
Becky supposes that, if anyone’s allowed to resort to Goodwin’s, it’s a demon.
“Hell provides a service,” the demon continues, apparently warmed up to its topic now it knows it has a sympathetic audience. “The King, he gets that. The old Loyalists, they bitch about us going all corporate, say that’s not what we were made for. It’s laughable, y’know? They make out like they’re the biggest rebels since Lucifer but, if you think about it, they’re just as braindead as the harp-strumming drones upstairs. They talk about the apocalypse like it’s this … this big fuck you to God. Except God freakin’ planned it! That time it almost went down; Heaven colluded, called it part of the Divine Will! They think we’re fuckin’ idiots and don’t know about it. But we know! So, way I see it? Not throwing in with that plan’s the real ‘fuck you’.”
That, Becky thinks, is some Grade-A demon logic—and probably no small dose of Crowlean propaganda—right there. Funny, because the thing about demons? They were human, once. Tortured and corrupted and subverted, yeah, but they still have that one little thing their dark creator never could: free will.
And that, right there? That’s a story. Maybe one Becky could think of writing. She always did like redemption arcs over savior narratives.
It takes them maybe ten minutes to get to the café. When they do, Becky thanks the driver profusely, and earns herself a sharp-toothed grin and a “call when you need a pick-up” in return.
The café is nothing special; just some modern American hipster thing, heavy on the quinoa and vegan options. After some thought, Becky eschews one of the secluded tables near the back, and asks for one right up the front, near the windows. Just in case. Then she orders herself a latte, and prepares to wait.
She’a there maybe five minutes early. The guy she’s meeting, on the other hand, is five minutes late. A power-play, Becky knows, because her boss does the same thing. Make them wait to prove they have to; that you mean more to them than they mean to you. She wonders how that works out when the people being stood up have literally all of eternity to make someone regret a lack of punctuality.
And then, at 12:36:
Becky looks up. She instantly recognizes the guy looming over her. He’s a Senator. One of the noisy right, with a fondness for bleating about guns and “family values” and the moral degeneracy of homosexuality and abortion. The fact that he’s apparently one of Hell’s lapdogs is disappointing in how unsurprising Becky finds it.
Because she is A Professional, however, she doesn’t let it show. Instead, she gives her best gormless smile, stands up, and says:
“His Majesty had a prior engagement. I’m here as his delegate. Becky Rosen.” She holds out a hand.
The Senator eyes it like it might be contagious, then takes just slightly too long to grasp back. As he does, Becky takes a bet with herself on whether he’s a pain-squeezer (i.e. an asshole) or a limp-shaker (i.e. someone with no idea how to deal with women in the workplace).
“John,” says the Senator, who Becky knows for a fact is not called that. “John Smith.” Like he’s daring her to contradict him.
As it turns out “John Smith” is a squeezer, at least at first. Not just a squeezer but a turner, too; grabbing Becky’s hand in a crushing grip, then twisting it so his knuckles end up on top of hers. There’s something scratchy and clammy about his palm, and Becky has only a moment to register it when Smith suddenly releases her.
His eyes go very wide. “You’re not one of them,” he hisses.
Salt, Becky realizes. The clammy feeling on his hands is salt. She bets it’s not the only warding he’s packing. Maybe more than just warding.
She tilts her head, frowning in confusion. “Sorry?” Then: “Please, Mr. Smith, sit.” She retakes her seat.
“Where is Crowley? I have things to discuss with him.” But he sits, if only because the staff have started to eye him oddly.
“His Majesty had a prior engagement,” Becky repeats. “Apologies on his behalf, but I assure you I can pass on any messages or correspondence in the strictest of confidence.”
Smith leans back in his chair, regarding Becky with a sneer. “Really, can you now? And just who, exactly, do you think you are that you’re entitled to do that? Do you even know why you’re here?”
“Yes.” Becky reaches into her purse, pulls out the envelope, and lays it on the table. “I’m here to deliver this. But if you have any other business I’m happy to note it down and have someone get back to you.” She makes sure her smile is extra friendly.
Smith has gone kind of pale looking at the envelope. He snatches it off the table, stuffing it into his jacket pocket as a server descends to take their order. Afterwards, Smith leans forward and hisses, “For God’s sake! Have some discretion, girl.”
It’s supposed to be a chastisement, but Becky does not feel chastised. Whatever’s in that envelope, it isn’t shameful to her. Nor to Hell, she’d be betting.
Smith’s eyes dart back and forth, then: “Listen,” he hisses. “You seem … you seem like a nice girl. Woman. A nice woman. So you listen to me; whatever they’ve got over you, I can help you. There’s a way out. I know it. I just need someone. Someone like you, who can get to that red-eyed faggot goat-fucker. You can, can’t you? Pretty girl like you. Yeah, yeah I bet you can get that limp-dicked maggot slobbering, no problem. Put you in a cute little black number … yeah. Yeah, you’ll do. Stick with me. Ol’ T— ol’ Johnny will get you out. Easy as pie.”
Bargaining. Great. Becky hates when clients get into bargaining.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Smith,” she lies. “I think there’s been a misunderstanding. I’m here on behalf of His Majesty”—and, yeah, it’s laying it on thick, so sue her—”in a professional capacity. His Majesty required a safe-hand courier, and that’s what I was engaged to do.”
It’s amazing, really, how fast men like Smith can slip from naked lust to vicious misogyny.
“You filthy cunt,” he snarls. “I should’ve known. Satan’s whores the lot of you.”
Which, okay. Becky does take offense to, if only because, Lucifer. Ew. He’s like, the Angel of Fedoras and Whiny Manchildren. Do not want.
“You proud bitch,” the Senator is saying. “They’re gonna rape you every day in Hell. Turn you into their goddamn cum-bucket. That’s all sluts like you are good for. They’re gonna split you open till you cry, till you beg for forgiveness. But there ain’t gonna be none. And you know why? Cause God hates a whore. You turn your back on Him, and He loves watching you get what you deserve. He knows what you are, all you’ll ever be. A filthy, gape-holed whore.” He punctuates the word with a hand slapped against the table, loud enough that the people behind him startle and turn, and the barista starts eyeing them for intervention.
And Becky …
There’s a moment, just one moment, where the rage washes over her. White hot and impotent and so fierce it blurs her vision, sears away the world in a moment of hate so sharp and violent that Becky feels like she’s balanced on a knife-edge, balanced with nowhere left to go but down.
And then, as soon as the rage comes, it passes. She looks at “Smith”; really looks at him. At the way his hands shake and his lip trembles, at his flushed face and his white knuckles and she thinks, so clearly, in that moment:
No. No, it’s not about me. That’s what you fear they’ll do to you.
Out loud, she says:
“I’d appreciate it if you didn’t speak on God’s behalf. In my experience, he’s always been supportive of sex workers and I feel it’s inappropriate for you to imply otherwise.”
Whatever Smith expected her to say, that clearly hadn’t been it. He gapes at her, mouth opening and closing like a landed fish, and Becky can see the conflict in him; wanting to knock her down while at the same time trembling in fear that she might just be right. Who’s to say the woman who runs errands for the King of Hell doesn’t do the same for God?
The scrape of Smith’s chair is loud when he stands. “Crowley will pay for this,” he says. Becky assumes he means it in the abstract, given the hundred dollar bill he throws onto the table.
“I’ll be sure to pass on your feedback,” Becky tells him.
Smith storms out. Their food hasn’t even arrived yet.
All-in-all, Becky thinks that could’ve gone worse. She handed over the envelope and, really, that’s all she’d been asked to do. So, score one Team Hell!
And if her coffee cup shakes when she lifts it to her mouth? Well. Who’s to notice?
“Ma’am? Are you … are you okay?” Oh, the barista. Right.
Becky gets halfway through trying to say she’s fine when she bursts out into tears. She doesn’t even know why she’s crying, not really. It’s not like anything happened.
The barista is a bearded hipster with a leather apron and slouchy beanie and he is an absolute sweetheart. “I’m okay,” Becky keeps telling him. “I’m sorry, I don’t mean to— It was just work, y’know?”
“No one deserves to be spoken to like that, girl,” the dude says. “‘Specially not if you were just doing your job.”
Becky just shrugs. He’s not wrong, exactly, but he’s also significantly underestimating the stakes. She cancels the Senator’s lunch but still eats her own. The staff bring her a salted caramel popcorn milkshake to cheer her up, and it does, if only because she’s never had a milkshake with actual popcorn in it before. As she’s drinking it, she texts Chuck:
tips on comebacks for people who want to try and yell at you on god’s behalf?
She doesn’t really expect an answer. Chuck reads texts like he does everything else in his life, which is to say, haphazardly and with no apparent concept of the passage of linear time. So it’s a surprise when, almost immediately, she sees the three little dots appear beneath her message.
Becky considers this, then:
oh nothing much
just got told im a worthless whore and god’s going to enjoy watching me get raped eternally in hell
She feels the sting in her eyes as she types it, and bites down hard on the feeling. No. No, she won’t let it get to her. She won’t.
wow yeah no, comes the response. thats not going to happen
thats NEVER going to happen
Becky lets herself smile at the vehemence. Even if it’s not actually an official Word of God response, she likes that Chuck would say it. She sends back a heart, then sighs, and finishes her milkshake.
She walks back to the hotel. It’s not close but her shoes are sensible (Commandment Eight of the Gospel of Winchester: Thou Shalt Don Apocalypse-appropriate Footwear) and the movement helps her not to think. In theory.
In practice, she’s halfway across the Mall when her phone rings. She doesn’t recognize the number.
“So how was our dear friend the Senator? Not too much trouble, I hope?” Crowley, right.
How to answer that? Probably should just go with straight-up honesty, if only for the fact Becky is certain Crowley already knows exactly how everything went down.
“Well, it was a little rocky?” she tries. “The Senator, ah. Was expecting you.”
Crowley makes a tisking sound. “He always was a demanding client.” Becky tries not to focus on the agonized screaming she can hear in the background.
“Honestly? I think he was trying to set you up.” She’s almost certain Crowley already knows this, and it’s the reason he sent Becky in the first place. Still, best to confirm it. “I’m pretty sure he’d been using rock salt hand cream.”
“And he was pissed. Like, really pissed you weren’t there. He had some, um. Pretty choice words about it.”
“Oh, do tell.”
“Uh. Apparently you’re a ‘red-eyed f-word goat-fucker’?”
“Then he got really, really mad when I wouldn’t work with him to, like, I dunno. Shiv you in your sleep or something.”
“I … see.”
“It was seriously like the seven stages of grief in seven minutes. He, um. He took your envelope, though. So … that’s good?” she adds, hopefully.
“All’s well that ends, I suppose.” Crowley sounds thoughtful, and Becky has a sudden flash of guilt.
“I’m sorry I couldn’t, y’know. Calm him down?” she tries. Because, jeez. What if she’s just messed something up with a major client? What’s a single US Senator worth to Hell nowadays? Becky has no idea. But if he’d been actually important, Crowley would’ve told her, right?
Yeah. Maybe. Maybe not.
Except all Crowley says is:
“We’re Hell, luv. We only need to play nice before people sign up. Once we’ve got ‘em by the short and eternals, the sales team moves on and contract management takes over. The transition’s always a shock. So the cajoling and the double-crossing, that’s all part of the game. But Hell is like Vegas; the House always wins. Eventually.”
“Oh.” That makes sense, she supposes. “Well, um. So long as I didn’t mess things up?”
There’s a slightly too-long (and scream-punctuated) pause on the end of the line. Then: “No. No, my dear, you were … perfect.”
It’s probably a sign of Becky’s current, terrible job that hearing the praise makes her whole body flush and tingle. Jeez. When was the last time someone told her she did good at work? She can’t even remember.
“And everything else?” Crowley is asking. “The accommodations, are they suitable? None of my people giving you any trouble?”
“Oh, no. No, everyone’s been super-nice, and the hotel is, like. Holy shit amazing? I spent like all of yesterday in the spa and— uh. I hope that’s okay?”
“The facilities are there to be enjoyed. One of the perks of the job.”
“Well. It’s definitely, um. Perky. So … thank you? This is, like, the nicest work trip I’ve ever been on.” The only work trip she’s ever been on, really. But even if she had been on others, she doubts they would’ve been this nice.
“Well, you still have a few hours before your flight. Plenty more time to indulge.”
You could join me, Becky thinks, but doesn’t say. Because, what? Crowley wants to go sightseeing with her in D.C.? Yeah, right. Anyway. Judging from the screaming, he’s already got a better offer.
She spends the rest of the afternoon at the Smithsonian. Or, some of them, anyway. One. She goes to one. Even then, she probably cuts it a bit fine getting back to the hotel.
She does one more lap of the outlandish suite, partly to make sure she’s collected up all the Trap-scarves, but also just to say goodbye to the luxury.
The big black car comes to take her to the airport. The driver is the same as yesterday, and asks Becky about her trip with a sharp-toothed grin.
At the airport, Becky goes through the priority lane, and tries not to wave as she’s escorted past the people waiting to get friendly with the TSA. In the lounge, she drinks champagne and counts politicians, wondering how many of them are in Hell’s pocket. At least three people nod to her as they pass, eyes flashing red or black. They’re all either coming from or going to meetings with anxious-looking men and women, and Becky wonders if maybe the Crossroads has updated its summoning rituals. After all, an airport isn’t an unpaved intersection in the middle of the night, but it’s just as isolating and just as timeless (it’s always five o’clock somewhere, but that means it’s always midnight, too).
On the plane, she drinks more champagne and shakes hands with another captain. It’s an evening flight, so she’s served a meal that turns out to be surprisingly edible. She’s dozing by the time they land, and stumbles out in a sort of a daze. By the time she gets outside the airport, little bag trundling along behind her, the entire weekend is starting to feel like a dream.
Did it really happen? Did she really just run an errand for Hell? Stay in a twenty thousand dollar suite and get called a whore by a senator? Or is it something she dreamed, or wrote about, and tomorrow she’s going to wake up in her bleak little apartment, and go to her degrading little job, and all of this will have been something that happened to someone else?
She still has the number for Hell’s Chauffeur Service in her phone. She stands on the curb for a long time, looking at it, wondering if she’s still allowed to call.
Then she puts her phone away, and climbs into a cab.
On Monday, Becky wakes up in her bleak little apartment, gets dressed, and goes to her degrading little job.
By 9:43 she’s crying in the bathroom. Not even for any reason, just from the dull grey walls and the small, dark cubicles. From the sneering emails in her inbox and the pile of files on her desk.
She hides in the toilet cubicle and reads h/c fic for a good half-hour; a nice little Destiel coffeeshop AU, where everyone has problems and everyone’s problems are solved with a kiss and a hug and a weekend of hot, kinky sex. Crowley makes a brief cameo in the story as an acquisitions lawyer, and he’s hilariously OOC but so is everyone, really, so Becky leaves kudos and a nice comment anyway. Because why shouldn’t she make some random stranger smile?
When she’s feeling fortified enough to emerge, she dabs her eyes with cold water and walks back onto the floor. She gets through maybe an hour before Pearson corners her in the printer room, his vicious, skeletal fingers pinching at her breast as he leers at the bra beneath.
“I know you want it,” he says, pressing her against the wall. “Girls don’t dress like you do unless they want it.” He smells like sour coffee and cheap cologne, his skin corpse-dry and withered.
The problem is, Becky does want “it”, where “it” constitutes “a job”. Pearson is a slimeball but he’s connected; he’s ruined careers before over less than a sexual harassment suit. Assuming Becky could even get one to stick. She’s been looking for new work, on and off, for a good six months but it’s slow-going and, honestly, depressing. So, yeah. She spends the hours she should be job-hunting planning cons and writing fic. Getting herself lost in other people’s problems and other people’s lives while she’s busy ignoring her own. So sue her.
She manages to extract herself from Pearson with nothing worse than a parting slap on the ass (“still a thong-girl, I see,” he says, and Becky bites back the retort of it’s a tanga, you dickless asshole). No matter how hard she tries, she ends up feeling the ghosts of his hands crawling over her for the rest of the day.
She stumbles home at six, numb and exhausted, and just about manages to get herself into the shower. There’s mould on the tiles and the hot water runs out far too quickly, but at least it burns away the feeling of unwanted fingers.
Afterwards, she throws on an old tshirt dress and her thick, fluffy, men’s bathrobe. She’s halfway through scouring the kitchen for something to eat when she notices the box on the crappy little table. The box is matte black with a gloss damask pattern, and is topped with a large red velvet bow. Inside, is blood-red crêpe paper folded around a pile of the most luxurious black silk Becky’s ever seen.
It’s a robe and neglige set. It bears about as much resemblance to her existing version as a plastic Tonka truck to the Impala. The neglige is still short, but it’s made from silk like water and trimmed in lace as fine as spiderwebs. The robe is long, with a fur collar and structured bodice above a waterfall of sheer, patterned chiffon. All-in-all, it is both the most ostentatious and downright sexy thing Becky’s ever seen.
At the bottom of the box, written on cream cardstock, is a note. It reads, in Crowley’s flowing hand:
Cheap and trashy is fun for a tumble, but competence is a luxury of lasting worth.
Becky looks at the card, then at the lingerie. Then she takes the latter to the bedroom, ditches her comfy PJs, and gets changed.
Afterwards, she feels … she feels sexy. Sexy and powerful, there’s no denying it. Because she’s wearing thousand-dollar lingerie, and she looks good and she feels good and she deserves it, damnit. Deserves to feel special.
She doesn’t have a floor-length mirror in the apartment, and her bedspread is Avengers-themed. So finding a place for a sexy selfie is, uh. Non-trivial. She ends up on the floor in the den, phone held high above and gown spread out to cover the ugly carpet. A bunch of expressions later, she decides on the slightly goofy smile. It’s not seductive like the pout or confident like the smirk, but it feels … more her. She likes it. She rarely likes herself in photos, but … she likes it.
Then she takes a deep, fortifying breath, and sends it to Crowley.