The Private Collection



While Crowley sleeps away the late 1800s, Aziraphale starts a new category in his bookstore.


All of the locations and books in this are, of course, entirely real.

Imma be real here, this was originally supposed to be 100% more fladge porn-heavy, to truly do justice to the final image of liesmyth's wonderful fic. Then my brain got jolted out of GO mode with a heavy dose of murder husbands, and I realized if I didn't post what I had of it, it would languish forever. So, here's what there is of this. Someone else write the proper version of Aziraphale's Adventures In Victorian Sadomasochism, please?

The Private Collection

Victory over a worthy adversary was, in Aziraphale’s opinion, one of the great pleasures of the Righteous. Victory over Crowley was even better, because the demon usually invited him for drinks afterwards no matter who came out on top.

As the nineteenth century dragged on, though, and Crowley’s sulk over the whole holy water incident entered its second decade, Aziraphale had to admit that it really wasn’t as much fun when you only triumphed because your worthy adversary was asleep.

“Come on,” he wheedled, head poking awkwardly around the door of Crowley’s rather Romantic garret lodgings. “Crowley, you have to wake up. They need you out there. Sin is floundering. Strict morals are taking over, and… oh, I don’t know. Just get up.”

“Mmph.” Crowley’s body was half off the bed, draped like a liquid and tangled up in the sheets. “Mmmmtheyredoinfine.”

“But—” Aziraphale floundered. I’m bored, is what he really wanted to say, but instead he choked out, “Fine then, but just know that when you wake up, I’ll have eradicated evil completely from the human race in your absence. Then you’ll be sorry.”

“G’luck.” The Crowley-shaped lump turned over and went back to sleep.

Aziraphale stomped out of the garrett with every intention of eradicating evil. Really.

But— well. He did start to wonder at his own motivations. After all, the desire to win was intrinsically a selfish one, and angels shouldn't be selfish. And he and Crowley did have an Arrangement. If the demon wasn’t holding up his end of the deal, well. Demons were untrustworthy by their very nature. That didn’t mean that Aziraphale ought to go back on his word.

Yes— it really would be better for him to go on with covering Crowley’s work. He had agreed, and the demon might wake up soon and be in trouble with Head Office, and there was just no sense in bringing unnecessary attention to either of them.

He decided to start small. He didn’t want to do Crowley’s job too well, which would only give the demon more reason to keep sleeping, so he decided to start off with supporting a sector of the infernal industry that he had never actually been all that sure even properly belonged to Crowley in the first place.

In fact, the only true evidence of demonic influence was the public house in which Aziraphale fortified himself for his task. The Angel Inn, standing at the intersection of Wych Street with the Strand, had apparently started out as a sincere attempt to irritate Aziraphale by attaching his title to a den of iniquity. Crowley, however, liked a good drink and friendly service just as much as Aziraphale did, so he’d actually turned the place out rather nicely. And ever since Aziraphale’s teasing Devil and St Dunstan tavern had been demolished, it was nice to have somewhere they knew your name.

It turned out to be surprisingly maudlin, however, sipping sloe gin alone in a tavern built specifically for your edification. Aziraphale couldn’t help but wish that Crowley was there— it would make his activities today ever so much more enjoyable.

No matter. Aziraphale pushed his way out of the crowded inn and veered away from Wych and onto its complement. Holywell Street was positively humming on a bright, cheerful Saturday afternoon as Aziraphale strolled away from the metropolitan respectability of the Strand and into the tangle of booksellers and vaguely furtive shoppers. He remembered, with a sort of gauzy nostalgia, when this street had been home to legions of political radicals, funding their revolutionary pamphlets with the proceeds of vast reams of pornography. He had had some outstanding drunken arguments with Crowley over whose side laid claim to the pamphleteers.

Perhaps it had been Crowley’s side after all, for they had moved on to funding more enjoyable pastimes than political revolution, but the source of the financing—pornography, and lots of it—remained the same. But since the quality and quantity of the material in question had only gone up, and the street was now bustling with happy citizens browsing at bookstalls— what angel could object to that? Even if the Holywell Street clientele did tend to avoid each others’ eyes rather more than the customers browsing the penny press of Fleet.

Aziraphale had no such squeamishness. These were the bodies the Almighty furnished, after all, and She no doubt intended them to be enjoyed. And if She didn’t, surely She would have let Aziraphale know at some point over the last few thousand years.

The shops were almost universally dark and unwelcoming. A grizzled bookseller glared at Aziraphale when he entered and waved cheerily, evidently deciding that a cheerful customer could only be an undercover agent of the law. Aziraphale paid him no mind, beyond noting that the general atmosphere of the shop might do quite nicely to help discourage customers in Aziraphale’s own bookshop from actually buying any of his precious volumes. He had, for a while, relied on the presence of a large snake to discourage unwanted purchases, but since the snake didn’t even have the decency to do his sleep-sulking in a basket in the store where he could be of some use, Aziraphale needed to find other methods.

There was, as Aziraphale had known there would be, a truly astounding quantity and variety of lurid writing of all types. Fitting, then—if Crowley had been there, Aziraphale would have suspected him of having a hand in it—that the first book that caught the angels’ eye was a bibliography: exactly what he needed to jump-start a new section in his literary collection.

Aziraphale was quickly completely absorbed in the amusingly named Index Librorum Prohibitorum, making mental notes of volumes to search for among the stalls. It was, of course, only natural that he would gravitate towards titles dealing with his own particular area: after all, the Divine is a very inspiring subject, so it was hardly surprising that titles like A Girl’s Guide to the Knowledge of Good and Evil and The Sins of the Cities of the Plain would appeal to him.

Aziraphale was just at the point of deciding that the bibliography should be the first item in his collection, and was about to attempt to purchase it, when the warmth of a human body behind him made him jump.

“Apologies,” murmured the man squeezing in between Aziraphale and the teetering shelf behind him. He was somewhat unsteady on his feet—not actually inebriated, but the kind of person on whom sobriety appears to be the alteration of the default state of drunkenness, instead of the other way around.

Perhaps it was that looseness which caused him to glance over at the volume in Aziraphale’s hand, when all the other customers assiduously avoided each other. Or perhaps, Aziraphale realized guiltily, the angel had been so absorbed in this new line of enquiry for his bibliophilia that he had been accidentally radiating love and peace without intending to. He quickly reigned in the waves of goodwill sloughing off of his angelic presence, but the damage was done. The man was gazing at him with entirely too much wonder.

For a moment the man just stared, then he recovered himself, his wispy shock of fading red hair waving slightly as he visibly shook off his reaction. His eyes slid off of the book in Aziraphale’s hand and up to his face. “Oh, he exclaimed, seeming quite delighted, “Isn’t it wonderful? Mr. Fraxi has done us a service indeed with that volume.”

Aziraphale couldn’t help the gratified smile that spread across his face. Here was a fellow soul who appreciated the organization of his library. He turned the volume over to inspect the spine, which did indeed bear the name Pisonius Fraxi as author.

“He’s writing another,” the man said enthusiastically. “A third, rather. Which is will contain a special section, specifically on works pertaining to that scourge, the Catholic church.” He poked one bony elbow into Aziraphale’s side. “You don’t look like a church-going man to me.”

“Oh,” said Aziraphale, a little guiltily. “Well, no, not exactly.” Which was true. Aziraphale liked churches quite a bit, of course he did. He very much enjoyed visiting them. He just tended to do so on their off-hours, when nobody would attempt to lecture at him or try to get him to talk to God. It was nerve-wracking enough to have to send back quarterly reports, with Heaven’s rather long definition of a quarter, without having the humans pressure him to do it every Sunday.

“I knew it,” grinned the man. “Say, what kind of place do you go to for entertainment, then?” He seemed to have recovered from the shock of meeting Aziraphle with all his Grace hanging out, and was now leaning rakishly against a nearby teetering bookshelf.

That at least was an easy question to answer for Aziraphale, who was never happier than in a bookshop. “Oh, places like this, of course,” he answered cheerfully, waving his hand around the grimy shop.

The man’s smile turned positively predatory as he also took in their surroundings: filth as far as the eye could see. “Wonderful,” he said, and held out his hand in introduction. “My name is Swinburne. Can I bring you to some more places like this?”


Of all the days that Aziraphale had expected to find Crowley conscious again, he wouldn’t have guessed this one.

He got back to the shop in the late afternoon, feeling strangely sombre. It was nonsensical for an angel to mourn the death of a human whose soul would undoubtedly be counted a victory for his own side. But the uncanny silence in the streets as the Queen’s coffin passed by the crowds had seeped into his flesh, and he was looking forward to sitting down with a drink and a book and turning his mind to more cheerful matters.

Crowley was pacing around the shop, looking worn out and tired in only the way that someone who has slept for entirely too long can be tired. Still, the demon couldn’t disguise the way his eyes glowed a little brighter as Aziraphale entered the room, and Aziraphale felt an answering spark of joy light in his chest. “Crowley!” he exclaimed. “I do hope everything is alright?”

“End of an era,” Crowley acknowledged. “Figured I might as well be awake for it.” He gestured around the shop. “This place, though, it never changes.” Then his eye caught on a section of the shelving that had, in fact, changed: an alcove near the back that was tucked away behind a thick black curtain.

Aziraphale stepped quickly in front of the curtain. “Those books are, ah, in mourning,” he said. It was almost true— not for Victoria Regina, but for the foul dens of iniquity where they had come from; Holywell Street, and all of Aziraphale’s particular favourites of such dens, being slated for demolition within the year.

It wasn’t that Crowley wasn’t allowed to see the Private Collection. After all, Aziraphale had spent quite some time and effort in acquiring it, and he was proud of it. He had also amassed a large collection of new human friends and acquaintances in the effort: as these things have a tendency to do, his web of associations had expanded quickly. What started out as merely shopping expeditions had soon turned into club memberships, and then dance meetings, and then significantly more private dance meetings, and on one memorable occasion, something involving a wooden block and a switch that Aziraphale wasn’t at all sure he wanted to repeat, but was nevertheless grateful to have gained a thorough understanding of.

It was that kind of thing that Aziraphale thought perhaps he should hold off on telling Crowley about until the demon, and his delicate sensibilities, had had a good strong cup of coffee.

Crowley eyed the mourning books, then seemingly decided that he didn’t care enough about any of Aziraphale’s books to investigate further. Aziraphale looked forward to the day that Crowley came to regret it; in the meantime, he simply took his demon’s arm and led him away for dinner.


End Notes

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