Originally written in 2011. Crowley's Cheese does in fact exist (I drove past it) but in Vermont. I borrowed the name and the web site for this story.
The invention of the Internet was indubitably one of Crowley’s greatest achievements - possibly even the crowning achievement, beating out Milton Keynes. The time wasting element alone proved it to be a stroke of pure genius. Human productivity world-wide was at an all-time low. People were otherwise occupied with purchasing useless junk they didn’t need, tracking down former classmates or relatives they’d never much cared for in the first place, obsessively detailing every moment of their lives in 140 characters or less, or watching endless videos of laughing babies and playful kittens.
It was sheer brilliance, if anyone asked him (not that they did), and best of all, it didn’t require him to leave town or miss a single lunch date with Aziraphale at the Ritz. The Great Time Waster hummed along quite nicely on its own, thank you very much, with only an occasional nudge from Crowley to keep it focussed in the proper direction.
Down Below, still doggedly clinging to their outmoded ideas for corrupting humankind, found the entire matter beyond their comprehension, and refused even to consider using Facebook (Facewhat, Crawly?) to communicate. Which Crowley considered a shame, since he’d hoped that the addictive allure of Mafia Wars would serve to keep his people off his back.
The only fly in the ointment of Crowley’s self-congratulatory bliss was the aforementioned Aziraphale. The angel, for reasons Crowley found impossible to comprehend, kept claiming the invention of the Internet for his side.
Like a human with a bad tooth, Crowley couldn’t stop from probing the sore spot, especially when he arrived at Aziraphale’s shop one afternoon to find the angel hunched over his brand-new MacBook Pro*, watching a video on Cute Overload.
“Come and look, my dear. It’s a pair of darling Maine Coon kittens playing with a fluffy mouse,” Aziraphale said with a fond, indulgent smile, and sipped his tea, which he’d prepared in a tartan teapot of extreme loudness that he’d bought on eBay UK.
In fact, Crowley had observed with growing uneasiness how Aziraphale’s Soho shop was becoming overrun with tartan objects of varying degrees of hideousness (“All that tartan,” he’d murmured happily the first time he’d logged onto eBay). Not to mention his latest obsession that was gradually taking over the inventory Adam had given him: Japanese doujinshi. They were piled on every available flat surface, accumulating more rapidly than Aziraphale could enter them into his Library Thing account*, and beginning to displace even the beloved Regency silver snuff boxes.
“A real, dead mouse?” enquired Crowley with a sarcastic lift of his eyebrow, peering over Aziraphale’s shoulder.
“Of course not.” Aziraphale looked mildly shocked. “Cute Overload doesn’t permit that sort of thing. I would never allow it.”
“You? Now hang on a minute,” interrupted Crowley indignantly. “Cute Overload was entirely my
But Aziraphale simply smiled another of those fond, indulgent smiles, this one aimed at Crowley directly, and poured him a cup of Royal Blend tea. Crowley scowled. He hated it when the angel did that. Even a demon had no defense against Aziraphale’s fond, indulgent smiles.
“Very well, my dear, if it means that much to you, you can take credit for Cute Overload.”
Crowley endeavoured not to grind his teeth; he lowered his sunglasses and stared so threateningly at the green and black tartan snake with yellow eyes that adorned his teacup that it turned pale and slithered away.
“But I insist on Icanhazcheezburger,” Aziraphale said, “and please let us not argue again about Facebook. I claim that absolutely for my side.”
“On what grounds?” Crowley demanded, even though they’d been through this a mind-numbing
number of times before.
“What can be better evidence of the inherent goodness of humankind?” said Aziraphale, beaming. “All those long-lost relatives and friends from people’s schooldays reunited. Its so touching, Crowley.”
Touching. That was one way to put it, thought Crowley, scowling as the snake poked its head around the side of the teacup. It retreated at once.
“But my people still are no more interested in Facebook than yours, Crowley,” the angel continued. “I brought it up again the other day. ‘Whatbook? Never heard of it.’ Thats what they said. One might think they never listen to a word I say.” He sighed mournfully. “I’d rather hoped Up Above would be more forward thinking. It is after all the 21st century. Besides,” he said, “if I could only get them interested in FarmVille, they might, erm, stay off my back.”
With which sentiment Crowley was, on the whole, in perfect agreement. He’d grown to enjoy the leisurely lifestyle that he and Aziraphale had enjoyed since the Apocalypse-that-wasn’t. Far more than an Arrangement, it was now more of a Permanence, with weekends spent at their cosy cottage in the Cotswolds, where Crowley had a burgeoning cheese business that he’d started there in a bored (not to say extremely drunken) moment back in the early 19th century*.
It was, in fact, on cheese business that he’d come by the shop to see Aziraphale. The angel, who had revealed a hitherto unsuspected enthusiasm for web design, was about to unveil the Crowley’s Cheese web site.
“If they ever listen to a word either of us say, it will be a cold day in Hell,” Crowley pointed out, seating himself beside Aziraphale. “Now, how about my web site?”
“Our web site,” Aziraphale murmured reproachfully.
“Ours then,” Crowley said. Being part of a couple was devilish hard work.
To his surprise, Crowley found himself rather excited as Aziraphale, wearing a happy smile of anticipation, typed www.crowleycheese.co.uk into his browser - although the source of his excitement was somewhat in doubt. Like his fond, indulgent smiles, Aziraphale’s happy smiles of anticipation were equally impossible to resist. He’d noticed, too, that the angel was wearing a new cologne - no doubt something that came in a tartan bottle and he’d bought on eBay. Like all his colognes, it smelled Aziraphale-ish, which was to say, a mixture of vellum and leather-bound books, the best 30-year old Macallan, and hope.
Only now there was a little something extra added to the mixture that reminded Crowley of those ashes Aziraphale had mentioned as they drove into Lower Tadfield for the first time. He shied away from the ‘L’ word, but it returned undaunted. Love. It was indubitably Love, with a capital L.
“All right, here we go,” Aziraphale said as the homepage popped to life on the screen.
Crowleys Cheese: A British Tradition. Hand-made in the Cotswolds since 1824.
Crowley stared at the really rather tasteful yellow and brick red colour scheme. No tartan. Not one speck of tartan. No frolicking kittens or playful puppies, just a photo of a romantic-looking Cotswold cottage and a row of links marching down the left side for ordering, product descriptions, recipes, directions and contacting the company. He breathed a sigh of relief. So far, so good.
“Scroll down the page,” he commanded. Aziraphale started scrolling.
Award-winning Crowley Cheese has been made in the green hills of the Cotswolds from the same recipe, in the same manner, since 1824. Hand-made the old-fashioned way, it’s cheese the way it used to be: all natural, with no additives or preservatives. Pure, simple, delicious: cheese that everyone will love.
Nothing to object to there, thought Crowley, if not perhaps his style. “Good, good,” he said then, “Hang on.” He read aloud, “It's a Cheddar, It's a Colby ... No, It's a Crowley!”
“Our slogan, my dear. Isn’t it clever? Sometimes I astonish myself,” said Aziraphale, appearing inordinately proud of himself.
It would only take a thought, a look. He could banish the dreadful slogan in an instant. Which, after all, was the nature of demons, to succumb to (or saunter vaguely downward into) Temptation. Too bad there was that whole being part of a couple thing to interfere now.
“Very, erm, clever,” lied Crowley, relieved to have this minor means of upholding the honor of his kind, something at which he’d been rather failing in recent years.
“What do you think of this next bit?” Aziraphale asked eagerly, pointing at the screen. “I do think it’s rather good, if I say so myself. "I don't need the food critics to say how good Crowley Cheese is; all I need are my taste buds and a hankering for the Cotswolds. Mr. A. Ziraphale.”
“A hankering?” Crowley repeated in bafflement.
Aziraphale’s smile was serene. “An Americanism, my dear. To throw people off the scent, so to speak, and give the site an international air.”
“Ah. Very, erm, clever,” Crowley lied again.
“I think so,” Aziraphale replied modestly.
“Well, let’s see the rest of it.”
Aziraphale’s hand hovered hesitantly over the mouse.
“What’s wrong?” Crowley asked suspiciously, recognising an evasive gesture when he saw one.
“Nothing.” The angel was, like all his kind, a terrible liar. “Not a thing.”
Crowley gave the scroll wheel a mental nudge downward, and let out a very un-demonly yelp of indignation at the sight that met his eyes.
Winfield Crowley, founder of Crowleys Cheese it said underneath the photo.
“Aziraphale, who isss that person? Winfield Crowley? Isss that sssupposed to be me?” A hiss crept into Crowley’s speech.
“Now, my dear, I can explain,” Aziraphale said in the sort of soothing tones that Crowley found all too easy to resist.
“Thisss had better be a good one, Mr. A. Ziraphale,” hissed Crowley.
“Of course, I should have used a photo of you, but well, we are trying to sell cheese, and your eyes... they aren’t precisely inviting. So to speak.”
“You call that inviting?” Crowley hadn’t set on eyes on a face less inviting since his last visit Down Below.
“My research shows that 87 % of similar sites include a photograph of the company founder, ideally a black and white photograph of a man with craggy features, a bushy white mustache and a shock of white hair. It seems to inspire consumer confidence,” Aziraphale said then added in a hurt yet dignified voice, “I’m only trying to help our business to be a success, my dear.”
Hurt, dignified Aziraphale was also impossible to resist, Crowley had discovered. He let out a breath and the hiss disappeared with it. “Fine. If it will help sell our cheese, he can stay.”
Aziraphale’s beatific smile literally lit up the laptop’s screen so that old Crowley glowed like he’d had a run-in with Pollution.
“But Winfield?” Crowley felt compelled to complain. “Why Winfield?”
“A combination of ‘win’ and ‘Tadfield’,” Aziraphale explained. “It sounded appropriate for a successful business. I thought of it myself.”
“Ah, erm, very clever.”
“Then you’re pleased with our new web site, Crowley?”
Aziraphale’s beseeching look would have done credit to the most heart-meltingly adorable kittens or puppies on Cute Overload. Maybe, Crowley thought, resigned, he should just go ahead and return credit to the other side. He was doomed.
“Yes, I’m quite pleased with it,” he said, and expressed his pleasure in a non-verbal fashion, to the satisfaction of them both.
“Erm, not that I’m not enjoying myself, very much indeed,” murmured Aziraphale some indeterminate amount of time later, “but there’s an eBay auction for a particularly fine doujinshi ending in a few minutes.” He paused. “Frodo/Sam, my dear.”
Crowley waved his hand at the screen. “Auction over, angel. You won.”
“That’s cheating,” Aziraphale pointed out, but not as if he minded very much - which as a matter of fact he didn’t, and not only because he was, when it came to acquiring books for his collection, not always a perfect angel.
“Tell it to old Winfield,” Crowley said, unimpressed, and kissed him again.
*Logo aside, there was no question about who got credit for Apple; Windows 3.1 was another of Crowley’s great achievements.
*The doujinshi was, of course, not being offered for sale in Aziraphale’s shop; online bookselling was something for which Crowley was, entirely without merit, blamed by Aziraphale.
*The day-to-day management of the business was now handled by Wensleydale, who was, in the opinion of both Crowley and Aziraphale, clearly destined for the position.