|GO Summer Prompt Fill #6: Delayed Reaction
||[Jun. 25th, 2012|01:40 pm]
Title: Delayed Reaction
Rating: PG-13 for cursing and mild romance? Who knows.
Notes: I'm afraid that this explanation could end up being longer than the ficlet itself, but some context is really necessary. About two years ago, the first time that synekdokee came to visit me in London, conversation turned one evening to the boy (i.e. my partner, for those of you who don't know what I mean by that) talking about the Hindu festival of Holi and how a mainstay of celebrations is people throwing colored powder, water, and perfume at each other. He said someone had once told him the dye-throwing originated with a legend that held a village, terrorized by a demon, enlisted the aid of Krishna, who banded up all of the village children and had them throw colored powder and water at the demon, which led to its being driven out, humiliated. I have since that time attempted to corroborate this supposed legend with online or other sources, but I've found nothing of the sort; rather, most information I can find suggests that the powder-pelting is derived from Krishna's favorite prank to play on unsuspecting female cowherds. The demon part seems to come in completely separate from this, as you can see in the Wikipedia article. Anyway, looping back to synekdokee's visit, I don't know which of us burst out laughing first because we couldn't help picturing an indignant Crowley covered in splotches of bright chalk. Assume CoT [ABP/WWTM] 'Verse for setting; the date is 10 March 2012, as Twickenham seems to have been Holi galactic central this year. That said, this can definitely be read as a stand-alone with no harm done!
Summary: Given Aziraphale's footwear, Crowley should've been suspicious.
Given Aziraphale's choice of footwear, Crowley should've been suspicious.
"You're wearing trainers," Crowley said, hesitating, his hand frozen on the doorknob. "And we're going where?" He wouldn't have let Aziraphale leave the flat looking like this under most circumstances, much less for a day trip to—
"Richmond," said Azirahale, pleasantly, adjusting his ratty scarf. In fact, everything he had on smacked of a charity-shop raid; even at home, around the cottage and environs, he certainly didn't favor such frumpery. "Orleans House Gallery. That Asian festival I'd mentioned, don't you remember? Worth a look, I should have thought."
Crowley sighed and opened the door, ushering the angel into the corridor. His Mayfair flat was keeping dustily enough in their absence, although it sparkled on the odd weekend they decided they'd had enough of the sea air and needed a dose of city excitement. This wasn't so much his idea of excitement as it was Aziraphale's.
Crowley punched the down-button on the lift. The things he'd do for love.
Aziraphale tried to insist that they use public transport, but Crowley wouldn't hear of it, even if parking promised to be a somewhat hellish affair. What should have been a thirty-minute drive turned into a fifty-minute one courtesy of some inexplicable traffic; Aziraphale cheerfully suggested that they weren't the only ones headed for Twickenham today, and Crowley could only turn up the radio and jam his sunglasses bit further up the bridge of his nose. They could've had a cozy lie-in and a perfectly civilized breakfast at Claridge's, but no. Rampant multiculturalism had won out.
Still, he felt better when the parking space he'd been expecting to turn up did.
"Well," said Aziraphale, squeezing his knee. "Not such a terrible drive, was it?"
"Get out of the car, angel," Crowley muttered, but he warmed to the touch.
The grounds of Orleans House were lovely, but they were also completely mobbed with young people in an odd mix of appalling modern fashion and traditional Indian garb. The music wasn't anything Crowley would have chosen given half a chance, but it had a catchy beat, and Aziraphale seemed genuinely content to be amidst the ruckus. Crowley took hold of his hand, preferring to be dragged along.
"What's this, again?" he shouted above the crowd.
"Holi," replied Aziraphale. "It's the Hindu festival of colors, dear boy!"
"The point being?"
"To celebrate spring. Or, if you like, the burning of Holika and Prahlada's survival."
Crowley stopped and yanked Aziraphale around to face him. They were jostled and elbowed on all sides, but nobody seemed annoyed in the least. A blonde university student shimmied past Crowley, her hair a riot of sapphire and fuschia.
"Wait a minute, what's with—"
"Oh," said Aziraphale. "I'm sorry, I hadn't considered this might be in poor taste."
Crowley blinked as a young man wearing bright red face-paint sprinted by.
"Poor taste?" he blurted, his initial confusion momentarily forgotten.
Aziraphale's features softened in a way Crowley had only come to recognize since, well, since everything that had brought them to where they were now had transpired. He had one hand in his cardigan pocket, probably fussing with a loose thread; all signs pointed to a manifestation of his newfound fear of hurting Crowley's feelings.
"Ssspit it out," Crowley hissed, leaning close to Aziraphale's ear.
"Prahlada, the demon-king Hiranyakashipu's son, refused to show his father reverence, praying instead to Lord Vishnu," Aziraphale recited, like a human child tired of being asked to repeat nursery rhymes. "Hiranyakashipu's sister, the demoness Holika, built a pyre in her lap with intent to burn her nephew to death. Prahlada prayed to Vishnu and was spared; Holika, on the other hand, was not."
Crowley realized then that Aziraphale's hand had at some point made its way from his pocket to rest against Crowley's cheek. His fingertips felt strangely gritty against Crowley's skin as they stroked slowly, deliberately down to his chin.
"Swell," Crowley said. "You'd best keep me away from the bonfires."
Aziraphale was the one who looked hurt. He ran his thumb over Crowley's lips.
"I hadn't meant..."
Crowley's tongue flicked out briefly, just enough for him to notice the acrid taste.
"What!" Crowley shouted, "Have you done?"
Aziraphale's fingertips were covered in a thick dusting of luminescent emerald powder. His expression was stuck in that curious space between guilt and amusement.
"Festival of colors," he repeated, unable to keep from smiling. "My dear, you look—"
Just then, a shrieking gaggle of teenagers hurled a bucketful of canary yellow chalk at them. Crowley stumbled forward, his eyes shut tight against the grit, knocking into Aziraphale. His sunglasses went flying, and Aziraphale caught him around the waist.
Crowley opened his eyes and smeared his gritty palm across Aziraphale's forehead.
"You were saying?"
Aziraphale kissed him in spite of the bitter taste, a little bit breathless.
"Ravishing," he said, tracing a scale-pattern from Crowley's jaw down to his throat.
Indignant, Crowley retaliated—but, the truth was, he knew Aziraphale meant it.
—Continue: The Beach Botanist's Survival Guide—