Title: Ars Gratia Artis
Fandom: Good Omens
Rating: PG at most for language
Comments: Linn's art is the most insanely lovely thing ever; trying to separate her in my mind from the idea of art is a lost cause, and so slowly the images of this fic pieced themselves together. Each section built itself around a very clear visual image, rather than a mood or an emotion or a character, which is rare for me. Not much of a plot, just a slow thread of ideas and continuity and colour.
The title is something I whitetexted in an RP thread the other day (involving the same characters, which seems fitting) and I liked it so much that I had to use it again. It's a quote from Dante's Inferno, and it means 'art for art's sake'.
It's odd, I have no idea if it works or not, but I'm sort of fond of it for a very quick evening's work. Many thanks to darthrami for the impromptu beta.
Hope you enjoy, Linn, and that it sparks off some pretty images in your own mind :)
Ars Gratia Artis
A fire burns in a valley, somewhere and somewhen, coarse and fierce in the darkness. Two figures stand on a cliff looking downwards.
“What purpose did that serve, really?”
“Well. Culture has to start somewhere, my dear.”
“That fellow with the spear looked very excited when you painted him killing the….what was that, anyway?”
“A bison, I think.”
“It’ll catch on, I’ll bet. Every cave will want one.”
A quick smile that is swallowed by the darkness. “I’m rather counting on that.”
“Do you think this counts as…interfering?”
“Of course not.” But his voice is a little too fast.
The night gets colder. The angel rubs his hands together and feels rough specks of ochre against his palms.
Years and years and years again and Aziraphale is painting cadmium red onto a canvas that is almost laughably huge.
“What is it?” Crowley asks.
“A volcano,” the angel proclaims firmly.
“A…what?” Laughter, more out of surprise than anything else. “London. And you’re painting. A volcano.”
“Indeed.” A slow sweep of the brush, tinged with yellow on one edge.
“Why?” He leans against the wall and plucks an apple from a wooden bowl on the table.
“I…I think it’s important not to forget,” Aziraphale says, meeting his eyes for the first time, briefly. “Sometimes our focus is too narrow.”
Crowley looks at the painting. “It’s good,” he admits. “But you’ll be shot down by the art world, you do know that, don’t you? They want portraits, at the moment. Aristocrats and their grand houses and the occasional bowl of ridiculously plump fruit. None of them have any idea what a volcano is. And I’m fairly sure that informing them before they have the chance to discover it themselves is cheating.”
“If you would not steal my apples, I might have a bowl that remained constant enough for long enough to paint,” the angel says calmly. He mixes colours with a deft twirl of fingers. “Besides, I’m not showing this.”
“Waste of canvas.” Crowley looks at the apple and bites down hard, feeling perversely rebellious.
“I’ll paint over it.” A shrug.
“Doesn’t that kind of defeat the purpose of painting it in the first place?”
Aziraphale looks at him again, for long enough that he swallows his bite of apple and starts to shift his feet and then stops, cursing himself silently, and for long enough that he begins to notice tiny things like the way the angel’s eyes are a deep blue that clashes with the orange shades on the canvas behind him and the way his fingers move, almost imperceptibly, up and down the handle of the brush.
“I think you’re missing the point.”
He thinks the point just hit him in the face, and he’s not even sure he cares.
The Apocalypse That Wasn’t turns Aziraphale onto pastels. They’re muted, apologetic, and the faint landscapes and quick portraits that are scattered around the apartment scream I’m not causing any trouble. They’re pretty, but unremarkable. Timid.
Crowley visits him on a precious free Sunday, and they feed the ducks, and then the demon installs himself on the couch with his newspaper. Aziraphale hums unselfconsciously to himself and his fingers move slowly over the paper.
“What are you drawing?”
“Oh.” His cheeks are tinged no. 32, Musk Pink. “You. Um. If that’s all right.”
“I. Well. I suppose so?” Crowley looks back at his paper, with a pleased shrug. He times this kind of day in sections, and so it is half past Current Affairs and a few minutes to go before Sports (which is really, he muses, just a way for them to say Cricket Scores and David Beckham in a single word, in this bloody country) when –
“Can you take off your sunglasses?”
Crowley looks up in time to catch Aziraphale’s gaze before it darts to the side in an embarrassed flicker. “What?”
“I can’t see your eyes.” The angel frowns, peering down at his sketchpad, and then up again.
“You’re awful at eyes,” Crowley tells him calmly. “I’m providing a good shortcut.”
“I know I am.” Aziraphale looks irritated. “So I need to practice them more.”
“My eyes are hardly representative of the norm,” Crowley points out, finally lifting his glasses for purposes of display. They are very bright gold against the very matt black and very lazy-sharp and Aziraphale’s crayon wavers in fingers that are suddenly very limp. “You should find a better model. Um. Angel?”
No. 2, China White, and a quick indrawn breath that turns into –
Times change and they…don’t. Current Affairs makes the angel’s mouth tighten, and Crowley reads him the comics and they aren’t funny at all.
Push this way says Up Above and pull these strings says Down Below and “Heigh ho,” says Crowley, pushing his sunglasses further up his nose with a sigh.
“It’s not fucking fair,” says the angel. A bookcase behind him commits suicide, loudly. Aziraphale stands very still and raises a hand to his mouth. Crowley’s hand is on the doorframe, a little unsteady with surprise; then he is gone.
He expects to return and see the shelf fixed, the books brushed off and neat in their places, but the room is a shattered mess of dust and splinters and an uneven parody of what used to be quite a nice, if rather stuffy, apartment.
“Er,” says the angel, caught with a vase poised to drop, and then, “It’s quite soothing, once one begins.”
Crowley’s mouth is an O of oh blessed heaven and shock, but before he can say anything Aziraphale laughs, shakily, and looks around the room.
“Installation?” he suggests, eventually.
The news gets darker and the skies get greyer, seasons bleeding into winter. Colour fades from the world around them, and when Crowley pushes open the door of the bookshop Aziraphale is sitting in front of a fire drawing with black, black ink.
“A little morbid,” he jokes, closing the door. His glasses fog up; ridiculous, but the fire blazes so fiercely that the shop is almost uncomfortably warm. He takes them off, and his coat, draping it over the doorhandle.
“It’s a neat medium,” the angel says, sounding distant. He looks up and chews the end of the old-fashioned pen. It leaves an inky mark at the edge of his mouth.
Crowley sighs. “Come on. It’s dreadfully quiet in here. Let’s do the Ritz.” He strides across the room and hauls the angel up by one arm.
“Careful, my dear –” Aziraphale flails, looking indignant, and before either of them can do anything the tiny pot of ink in his hand has spilt down Crowley’s shirt.
“I…” Crowley lets him go and looks down at his chest. He could be the dying hero in a silent film, bleeding black onto white.
“Sorry,” Aziraphale says miserably. “I expect it was Armani, irreplaceable, etcetera.”
“I’ll just –” The demon waves a hand and waits. Frowns. Tries again. His eyes widen in a kind of horror. “Angel, what kind of ink is this?”
“My kind.” There could be a reluctant smile lurking at the corner of his mouth. “I did say I was sorry. But I don’t think it can be removed. See.” He bends and picks up the paper he had been working on, a detailed study of a rose.
“It’s very nice, I’m sure, but about my shirt –” Crowley trails off as Aziraphale’s fingers, black-stained, press into the paper and pull away. A single rose is held between them, solid and unmistakably real. Black petals, and a faint smell of leather.
“Your kind,” Crowley says, slowly. Then he starts to unbutton his shirt, irritably. “Versace.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“Versace. Not Armani. And you’re buying me a new one.”
“If you wish.” Aziraphale does smile now, putting the rose on a table, tugging at one sleeve to help him remove the ruined shirt and reaching across and something happens with his hand and the tips of his fingers brush against Crowley’s chest and both of them breathe in at exactly the same moment.
Crowley turns his head before he can think to do anything else and he presses his lips to Aziraphale’s and tastes a sharp patch of black bitterness where the ink has smudged.
He pulls away.
“Hush.” Aziraphale’s eyes are wide and careful and his hand pushes gently, turning Crowley around, but the first thing to touch Crowley’s back is a quick brush of lips, where shoulders meet neck.
Then the nib of the pen, wet and sharp.
He draws, and he draws wings.