Newton Pulsifer hated being a new kid.
He adjusted his glasses and hugged his notebooks to his chest, glancing around the office. He had an appointment with the academic advisor—a man named Mr. Shadwell—and there had been no sign of him so far. However, the office provided plenty of interesting distractions. Weird little knick knacks, a map on the wall that he wasn’t quite sure resembled England at all, and strangely, a glass cabinet that held only a bell, book, and candle.
The door opened.
A man shambled in, looking absolutely nothing like an academic advisor should. He was wearing some variation of an army uniform, though it looked suspiciously home-made. He was white-haired, balding, and didn’t so much as look at Newt as he did scowl. Newt straightened his back at once and stood up.
“Um, hello, I’m—”
“Newton Pulsifer,” said the man, ignoring Newt’s outstretched hand, and standing at attention behind the desk. “New recruit.”
“Actually, I’m in Year 13—”
“I know what y’ are, laddie,” Mr. Shadwell barked. “How many nipples have ya got?”
Newt blinked. “I’m… I’m sorry?”
“Two!” Newt said, wide-eyed, feeling very much like this was an inappropriate question to be asking a seventeen year old.
“Aye, good lad. Off ye git, I’ve work tae do!”
Newt scurried out of the office faster than his legs had ever carried him. Not looking where he was going, he didn’t see the other student walking into the office and crashed into him.
The boy was long-limbed, wore all black, and was, oddly, wearing sunglasses indoors. His hair was shaggy and long, just hitting his shoulders, and he seemed to be made of sharp angles. He glowered down at Newt, and Newt gulped, fleeing from the office without another glance.
Shadwell looked up as the boy arrived. “Ah, Mr. Crowley. Making your visits a weekly ritual now, aye?”
“Only so we can have these wonderful moments together, Shadwell,” said Crowley, looking extremely bored. “Should I dim the lights?”
Shadwell scowled at him, and Crowley grinned, leaning against the doorway. “I hear yer exposing yerself in the cafeteria, lad,” Shadwell said, and the grin fell away.
“It was just a joke,” said Crowley, rolling his eyes behind his sunglasses. “It was a bratwurst.”
“A bratwurst,” said Shadwell. “Aren’t we the optimist.” Crowley frowned. “Don’t let it happen again! Now scoot, I’ve work tae do!”
Crowley groaned and turned on his heel, leaving the office with a sour mood. Nobody could take a joke in this bloody school.
Newt looked up from his silent terror of trying to figure out his timetable to see a boy standing in front of him, with wild curly hair and a subtle smile. The smile gave off the impression that the boy knew several secrets that he had the power to share or keep to himself.
“Um, hi,” said Newt.
“I’m Adam Young. I’m s’posed to show you around,” said the boy.
“Oh, good!” said Newt, feeling a rush of relief. He wouldn’t be completely alone.
Adam began walking, and Newt scrambled to keep up. “This is my world, so I’m the best person to show you how things work here. Newt, right?”
“Yes.” Newt wondered how Adam had known before he’d told him. If he’d been given his name before they met, how did he know that he preferred Newt?
“Right, so, over there, those are the pretty, rich people,” said Adam, pointing to a cluster of people who were, indeed, rather attractive. “The main one’s Warlock Dowling, he’s an exchange student from America. His father’s some important government type.”
Newt scurried faster as he saw Warlock draw a rather vulgar piece of anatomy on his friend’s face.
Adam pointed out another group of students, these four wearing excessive amounts of leather. “Those four, I’d stay away from. Biker-types. Some of us call them the Four Horsemen.”
“Like, of the apocalypse?” Newt asked. What in the world went on at this school?
“Yeah. Oh, there are the religious ones, there,” said Adam, pointing to a cluster of girls in long, modest dresses. “Future nuns, likely. Never stop chattering on.”
They moved past the future nuns. They were in the courtyard now, plenty of people milling around, but suddenly, Newt’s eyes found one person in particular.
“Oh, wow,” he said, his voice but a whisper, as he looked upon the most beautiful girl he had ever seen in his life.
She had long, dark hair, and warm tanned skin. Her spectacles magnified her dark, beautiful eyes, and she wore a long blue dress. Her arms were full of thick, leather-bound books, and Newt had never seen a more attractive person in his life.
“What group is she in?”
“The Don’t-Even-Think-About-It Group,” said Adam, rolling his eyes. “That’s Anathema Device. Another American. She transferred here to get cultured, or something. Very studious, cares about her grades, and doesn’t waste time with boys, so forget it.”
“I burn, I pine, I perish,” said Newt dramatically, running a hand through his hair.
“‘Course you do. Listen, forget about Anathema. She’s sort of untouchable.”
“Why’s that?” Newt watched as the girl smiled brightly (and oh, that smile) as someone joined her side.
“Because of him,” said Adam, pointing to the boy she was speaking to.
If Anathema had a large stack of books, it was nothing compared to what the boy was carrying. He was also dressed far too formally to be normal, and had a shock of blond hair that looked slightly unnatural. He looked wildly uncomfortable, shuffling around the courtyard, avoiding bumping into anyone, but he looked comfortable with Anathema as they chatted.
“And that’s… her boyfriend?” Newt asked, feeling very much like a rapidly deflating balloon.
Adam laughed. “No. They’re just friends. But they have this… well, call it a pact. Neither of them date. They’re too concerned about their grades, and besides, I don’t think he’s ever been interested in girls.”
Aziraphale sat down in his first class of the day, which also happened to be his favourite: English. He had already read all of the texts for the semester, some more than once. It was his best subject, but the only drawback was that Anathema was in a different section than him, so he spent the period terribly lonely.
Mr. Tyler clapped his hands. “Let’s start our class by discussing the reading. Any thoughts on The Sun Also Rises?”
A girl put up her hand. “I loved it. He’s so romantic.”
“Romantic? Hemingway?” Aziraphale said, frowning. He was rather educated on all of the classic authors. “Actually, he was an abusive alcoholic misogynist.”
Another student, Gabriel, piped up. “As opposed to a bitter, self-righteous fag who has no friends?”
Several students tittered, and Aziraphale sunk into his seat, forgetting his usual prim posture in order to appear smaller. It would’ve been too much to have one day without Gabriel’s torment.
“Quiet down, there,” said Mr. Tyler, thankfully looking at Gabriel and not him. “We’ll use no such language in my classroom.”
That gave Aziraphale the confidence to sit up straighter. “Sir, is there ever a chance we might look at Sylvia Plath, or Charlotte Bronte? Or—”
The door opened, and all eyes turned to see a familiar student slinking in, as if he had no idea he was ten minutes late. Aziraphale went very still, freezing at the sight of Anthony Crowley, sunglasses and all.
“Sorry I’m late,” said Crowley, looking not sorry at all, and sat down. “What did I miss?”
Before he could stop himself, Aziraphale said, “The oppressive patriarchal values that dictate our education.”
To his surprise, Crowley quirked an eyebrow, looking at Aziraphale with an expression that looked dangerously like he was impressed. “Good,” he said, nodding, and Aziraphale turned back to face the front, blushing.
He may have been imagining it, but for the rest of the class, he could feel eyes on the back of his neck.
Great, he thought, I’ve turned myself into a target for the resident demon.
Newt, unsurprisingly, was watching Anathema walk across the courtyard. There was another girl with her, someone that Adam had pointed out being named Pepper. He noted that he and Pepper were friends, but Newt had to wonder by the smile playing on his lips whether or not that's all they were.
A guy with a pearly white smile was watching Anathema go by, whispering to his friend. Newt didn’t like the way he was looking at her.
“Who’s that?” he asked.
Adam rolled his eyes. “Gabriel. He’s a prat if I ever saw one. A model.”
Newt laughed a little. “A model?”
“Yeah. Mostly regional stuff, but I heard he has a tube sock advert coming out,” said Adam, grinning mischievously.
They both laughed, until Newt’s gaze found Anathema again, and he sighed. She was showing some intricate little instrument to Pepper, talking animatedly. “Look at her,” he sighed. “Is she always so…”
“Don’t say that!” Newt’s eyes widened. “Um, why do you say that?”
“She’s very into occult things,” Adam explained.
“That’s not so bad,” said Newt.
“She believes in Bigfoot.”
“You’re—no, I don’t believe you. You’re wrong about her. I can tell, there’s… depth. You know? She looks very smart. And when she smiles! And her eyes!”
“Alright, Romeo,” said Adam, putting a hand on Newt’s shoulder, which was harder than it sounded, because Newt was rather tall and Adam was determined to believe he had a final growth spurt on the horizon. “You didn’t hear this from me, but she is looking for a tutor.”
Newt brightened. “In what?”
Newt’s shoulders sagged, and his stomach plummeted to his knees. “Oh.”
Across the courtyard, in the parking lot, Aziraphale came to a jarring halt as a fancy car (don’t ask him for the model. He doesn’t know a thing about cars.) stopped right in his path. The window rolled down. It was Gabriel.
“Aziraphale! Are you aware that the Victorian era ended over a hundred years ago?” Gabriel asked, grinning.
Aziraphale frowned. “Well, yes, I am aware.”
“Really? Because I think your clothes aren’t.”
Oh. He was being made fun of. “Please leave me alone,” Aziraphale said, and stepped around the car, making his way to the bus stop with haste. Behind him, Gabriel scoffed and edged his car forward to where Anathema and Pepper were walking.
“Ladies,” Gabriel said. “Would you like a ride home?”
Pepper scowled. “Women are not to be paraded around like prizes.”
“Oh, come on, Pepper,” said Anathema. “It’s just a ride home. Thank you, Gabriel.”
Aziraphale watched from the bus stop as the two girls climbed into Gabriel’s car. “Well,” he murmured to himself. “That’s a charming development.” The last person he wanted to see his best friend climb into a car with was Gabriel. Gabriel was a bully, and took nearly every opportunity to remind Aziraphale of his place—and now Anathema was in his car.
It wasn’t that Aziraphale was upset with Anathema, but they had both agreed long ago that it was for the best if they focused on their academics rather than their social lives. This had been of particular appeal to Aziraphale because he had no social life—other than Anathema, and occasionally Pepper, though to be honest, she scared him just a bit. There was also the tiny, hidden part of Aziraphale that he hadn’t quite been ready to admit yet to the public: he did, actually, fancy boys rather than girls.
He had known it for quite some time, and he wasn’t ashamed of it. But, in this particular town, with these particular students milling around him (most of them would be most accurately described as imbeciles), he thought it best to keep it to himself. Anathema knew, of course, and she was fine with it. She was protective of Aziraphale, in a mothering sort of way, which was nice when it wasn’t annoying. The no-dating pact had been her idea.
And yet, he could see her head through the back windshield as Gabriel drove away. Oh, bother.
Newt sat in the computer lab, looking very nervous.
Anathema sat across from him, an eyebrow quirked, trying to get a good read on him. He was nervous, that much was obvious, but for some reason, the nerves seemed to stem from the amount of technology around him, rather than the beautiful girl he was with, judging by the way he kept glancing at a nearby monitor as if it may burst into flames.
“Are you alright?” Anathema asked.
Newt’s eyes widened. “Oh, er, yes. It’s just, um, computers. Tend to. Malfunction. Around me.”
She leaned back in her chair, crossing her arms over her chest. “You know I asked for a tutor for computer science, right?”
“Yes!” said Newt, smiling. “In fact, I do know quite a bit about computers. It’s just the, er, using them, that’s the problem.”
“There is an alternative, though. For teaching you a bit about it, rather than hands-on.”
Newt ducked his head, smiling shyly. “We could… go… see a movie about it, maybe? And, er, dinner, too, if you like.”
A slow smile spread across Anathema’s face. Oh, he’s flirting. “Are you asking me out?”
“I think so.”
“That’s sweet.” She reached over and patted his hand, like congratulating a child for winning a prize. “What was your name again?”
“Fascinating.” She made a quick note in her notebook of his name. She’d do some research later. “You’re sweet, Newton, but I actually have this thing with my friend. It might sound silly, but we’ve both agreed not to date.”
Newt, of course, already knew this, but he pretended to be surprised. The disappointment he showed was real, though. “Well, what if you both agreed to date?” he asked, a sudden idea coming to mind. “Maybe I could… find a match for this friend of yours.”
“You would do that for me?” He did seem rather sweet, she thought. But Aziraphale would be hard to convince, especially because of that one particular detail about preferring boys. “I’ll have to ask him,” she decided. It wouldn’t hurt to bring it up at lunch in the cafeteria.
“Absolutely not!” said Aziraphale, dropping his scone in shock. “We agreed that academics would come first, not wasting our time on boys.”
“He seemed really sweet, though,” said Anathema, looking thoughtful. “He even offered to find someone for you.”
“Good luck with that,” Aziraphale muttered, picking a hair off his pastry and wondering if the five-second rule counted on a cafeteria floor.
“Aziraphale, stop that! You’re a catch!”
“I only meant that you would be hard pressed to find… you know.” He waved his hand dismissively. “Any other boy who’s gay, let alone gay and interested.”
“There’s bound to be someone.”
Aziraphale considered his options. If Anathema liked this boy, did that make him a bad friend for denying her a chance at love? Or was he being a good friend for getting her to focus on her grades first?
He sighed. “Alright. If he can find someone interested, I won’t say no,” he said, because truth be told, it was dreadfully lonely being the only queer person around. “But make sure he doesn’t go spreading gossip about me, understand?”
Anathema leaned over and kissed his cheek. “Of course.”
That afternoon in biology class, Newt found himself at a loss. After the go-ahead from Anathema, he and Adam had gone through nearly every upperclassman who gave off even the most subtle of gay vibes, and found no one who was willing to date Aziraphale. Even the ones who had admitted to have leanings towards men turned up their nose at the idea.
“Most people seem to think of him as boring and a bit stuck up,” Adam had explained, shrugging. “Not your fault.”
Newt had hung his head, wistfully thinking of all the dates he could have taken Anathema on. He was feeling rather depressed as he and Adam attempted to dissect their frog.
Across the room, Newt saw another student—the same one from the office that morning, with the sunglasses—slice through his frog with a pocket knife. He, unlike everyone else, had no lab partner. Newt watched him curiously. He had that long hair, and those tight pants, and his shirt was undone just one button shy of modest.
“What about him?” he asked, pointing to the boy.
Adam looked, and immediately shook his head. “Oh, no. That’s Anthony Crowley. You really look at him and think he’d be good for a guy who wears tartan?”
“I dunno, I just thought… we’re running out of options.”
“Look, there have been a few rumours about him. But I’ve never seen him date anyone. Besides, he’s trouble. I mean it. I heard he sold his liver on the black market to help pay for his car. He’s obsessed with his car, actually, it’s some ancient thing.”
Newt watched as Crowley pulled out a cigarette, turned on the Bunsen burner, and lit it right in the middle of the classroom.
For some reason, that just made Newt more interested in him. “I think he’s our guy. Think about it: a guy like him would probably do it for money, if the black market thing is true.”
It was hard to tell behind the glasses, but it suddenly seemed that Crowley’s eyes had turned on him, and Newt looked away, trying to appear nonchalant.
He heard a short hum of amusement, and then turned to see Crowley flicking his finger through the flame of the burner, looking completely bored.
“How do we get him to date Aziraphale?” Newt asked, once he was sure he wasn’t being watched anymore. “I don’t have any money.”
Adam tilted his head in thought. “What we need is a backer. Someone with money, who’s a bit dim.”
Newt glanced around the room, and his eyes settled on Gabriel. “How about him?”
Adam followed his gaze. And sighed. Begrudgingly, he stood up. “I’ve got an idea.”
Crowley gets involved in Newt and Adam's scheme.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Crowley lounged on the bleachers, his long body draped across the metal as he basked in the sun, a cigarette dangling from his lips. His eyes were blissfully closed behind his sunglasses, and he was rather enjoying the peace and quiet.
Until, that is, a shadow fell over him.
“Oi, get outta my sun, I’m tanning,” he snapped, opening his eyes.
It was Gabriel.
Crowley sat up. “It’s Crowley to you,” he said, and blew a cloud of smoke right in his face.
Gabriel’s nose wrinkled, but he plastered on a smile anyway. “I have something to discuss with you. Let’s call it a business proposition.”
“How ‘bout we call it you buggering off, and leave it at that?”
“At least listen to what I have to say,” said Gabriel.
Crowley put out the butt of his cigarette on the metal bleachers beside him, and then pulled out another one from behind his ear. He lit it, and inclined his head towards Gabriel, as if to say, I’m listening.
Gabriel gestured across the field. “See that guy over there?”
Crowley’s eyes fell on a blond boy reading a very old looking book at the sidelines of the field. He recognized Aziraphale from English class, of course. They’d had classes together over the years, orbiting like passing satellites. Try as he might, Crowley never seemed to come into direct contact with him. But he wasn’t going to tell Gabriel that.
“That’s Aziraphale Fell. I want you to go out with him.”
Crowley choked on an inhale. “Oh, sure, no problem!” he said, his hand gesturing wildly, leaving a trail of smoke in its wake. “Why the hell would I do that?”
“He and his friend have a no-dating pact. I like Anathema, but she’ll only date if Aziraphale does. You follow me?”
“Do I f— yes, you idiot, I follow. Thing is, though, it’s not really my problem, is it?”
Gabriel’s smile didn’t budge, but Crowley could see the way it strained around the edges, and it made him ridiculously happy to get on the boy’s nerves.
“Would you be willing to make it your problem if I provide… generous compensation?”
Wow. Crowley didn’t know whether to be disgusted, or impressed. The nature of Gabriel’s suggestion was bordering on demonic, and Crowley was nothing if not a little sinful. But being paid to go out with someone—with Aziraphale— just so Gabriel could get his rocks off with some girl? It felt, for a lack of being soft, wrong.
“Let me get this straight,” he said, leaning back to get a good look at Gabriel. “You’re going to pay me to take out some guy, who we don’t even know is gay, just so you can date his friend.”
“I think we know he’s gay,” Gabriel said smugly, watching as Aziraphale untied and retied his bow tie.
“I think I don’t like your assumptions of other people,” said Crowley. He wanted very much to punch this boy in the face. Gabriel looked at him, shrugging a little, as if to say, I can think whatever I want.
Crowley glanced over at Aziraphale, who was smiling brightly and waving to his friend. He sighed. “How much?”
“Ha!” Crowley couldn’t help his explosive laughter. “Fifteen pounds? Alright, sparky, is it a date or a metro pass?”
Gabriel exhaled very slowly. “Twenty.”
Crowley hummed, and turned his gaze on Aziraphale. “Well, let’s think about this. If we go to the cinema, that’s, what, fifteen pounds a ticket?” He stood up, and began circling Gabriel like a shark. “We get popcorn, that’s, say… fifty-three. And he’ll want M&Ms, so we’re looking at approximately seventy-five pounds.”
Gabriel’s jaw clenched and flexed, like he was biting back some choice words. “This isn’t a negotiation. Take it or leave it.”
Crowley smoked thoughtfully, blowing another cloud into his face. “Fifty pounds. Final offer.” He couldn’t believe he was actually doing this.
Gabriel conceded, pulling out a stack of notes. Crowley snatched them and counted them, then nodded approvingly. At that moment, he noticed Aziraphale began packing away his books, as his friend, the witchy girl, met him at the sidelines. Crowley gave Gabriel a nod, not giving him the courtesy of a verbal goodbye, and sauntered his way over.
Anathema saw him first. She nudged Aziraphale, and the boy looked at Crowley, going beet-red. She whispered something to him, and he considered her words and then shook his head. She walked away, calling out a goodbye, just as Crowley came to stand in front of him.
“Um, hello. May I help you with something?”
“Just admiring the view.”
Aziraphale went impossibly redder. “Oh. I should, actually, be, er, getting home, I think.” He fiddled with the strap on his bookbag and began to walk. Crowley kept in his stride.
“Need a ride?”
“No, thank you.”
“How ‘bout on Friday, then?”
Aziraphale glanced at him, his brow furrowed. “Friday?”
“When I pick you up for our date, of course.”
“I—I’m not sure what you mean.”
“I’ll take you places you’ve never been before.” Crowley smiled. He shouldn’t have been enjoying this as much as he was, but really, it was hard to find a bit of fun these days.
“I’m sorry but, do you even know my name?”
“I know a lot more than you think.”
“I doubt that very much, actually.” Aziraphale gave him a final glance as they reached the edge of the parking lot. “I rather should be going. Goodbye,” he said quickly, and bolted for the bus stop.
Crowley watched him go, fascinated. Or at the very least, intrigued.
Across the field, Newt looked at Adam. “We’re screwed.”
The next afternoon, once school had finished, Aziraphale found himself in the library. It was something like his own slice of Heaven. The smell of old parchment, the rows upon rows of books, old leather bindings and hidden gems. He could spend hours lost within the stacks, and feel as if only a minute had passed.
Every minute of his free time that day was spent there, hiding. He didn’t want to risk running into that Anthony Crowley again. He spent all night on the phone with Anathema, in hysterics as to why someone like Crowley had chosen him of all people.
“He might surprise you, Zira,” Anathema had said, using the nickname that Aziraphale not only detested, but made him cringe whenever she used it. He didn’t have the heart to tell her that, though. He knew his name was a mouthful. “Nobody really knows that much about him. He could be a nice guy, under all that.”
Aziraphale wasn’t so sure. Somehow, Crowley had known that he was gay. It surprised him even more that Crowley, himself, was interested in men. If that boy, Newton or whoever, had gotten Crowley to ask him out so that Anathema could go on a date, Aziraphale had to wonder what he was getting out of all this.
A little part of him hoped, maybe, that he was doing it because he wanted to. Crowley was attractive, after all, and mysterious. There was a certain intrigue to him. But he couldn’t see anything they had in common.
Hours after school ended, Aziraphale left the library, and trudged towards the bus stop, deep in thought.
A sleek, black Bentley was parked right where the bus was meant to be, and Crowley leaned against the side of it. “Lift home?” he asked, as if it was a completely normal thing to say.
Aziraphale glanced around. The school was deserted by this time. “Are you following me?” he asked.
“I saw you go into the library earlier. I had detention, only got out about a half hour ago, so I figured I’d wait.” Crowley shrugged.
“Oh.” Detention. He was trouble, after all.
He smiled. “Not a big talker, are you?”
“Depends on the topic,” said Aziraphale, clutching his books to his chest like a lifeline. He really hoped the bus would come soon. He glanced at the monitor inside the stop, and saw that the next one wouldn’t be there for another thirty minutes.
“You’re not afraid of me, are you?” Crowley teased, and Aziraphale was going to say something cutting in reply, except at that moment he took off his sunglasses, and oh, he’d never seen the boys eyes before.
He was always wearing those sunglasses. Aziraphale had never seen him without them. Now, as Crowley pulled up the hem of his shirt to clean the lenses (Aziraphale pretended not to see his exposed hipbone), he tried to get a good look at his eyes. They were hazel, or more like amber. They were beautiful.
Crowley slipped his glasses back on, and Aziraphale remembered himself. “Why would I be afraid of you?” he asked.
“Most people are.”
“I’m not.” It was only a little bit of a lie.
“You may not be afraid of me,” said Crowley, “but I’m sure you’ve thought about me naked.”
Aziraphale sputtered, flushing red from head to toe, and looked around at anything except Crowley. “Well, I—I never… I can assure you that I—”
“Relax, angel.” Crowley pushed off the side of the car and opened the door, gesturing for him to get inside. “Just a lift home. No funny business.”
Aziraphale glanced again at the monitor. Twenty-eight minutes. “Oh, alright,” he said, pointedly not making eye contact with Crowley as he climbed inside the Bentley.
It smelled like old leather and pine air freshener. It was well-kept, nearly spotless, except for the tape deck, which was half-open with a tape jammed inside. Unable to help himself, Aziraphale took a jab at it, trying to get the tape out.
“No use,” said Crowley as he closed the driver’s side door. “It’s been in there since I got the damn thing.” He started the engine, and smiled. “Hope you like Queen.”
The next morning, Crowley was thinking about Aziraphale as he shuffled books around in his locker. The ride home had been deadly silent, except for Freddie Mercury singing Radio Ga Ga, and Aziraphale’s occasional directions to his home. He didn’t look particularly overjoyed to be stuck in a car with Crowley, but Crowley saw the way he kept glancing over with interest, watching him drive.
Crowley hadn’t known where the sudden desire to refer to him as angel came from, but he supposed it fit. He’d done his research; Aziraphale was an angel’s name, and Crowley wasn’t particularly religious—at least not anymore—and the boy looked like an angel if he ever saw one. Not to mention the overwhelming innocence and fundamental goodness that radiated off him.
When they had arrived at Aziraphale’s home, he gave Crowley a curt, “Thank you, goodnight. Drive safely,” and got out of the car with haste.
Drive safely, Crowley mused. Well, at least he cares.
He slammed his locker, only to find Gabriel on the other side of the door, leaning against the wall. “When I shell out fifty pounds, I expect results.”
“I’m working on it.”
“Driving him home doesn’t count as a date. If you don’t get any, I don’t get any. So get some.” He jabbed Crowley’s sternum with a pointed finger, and then backed away. Crowley grimaced, feeling very much like he was sick of Gabriel’s smugness.
“I’ve just upped my price!”
Gabriel paused. “What was that?”
“Mhm. Hundred pounds a date. In advance.”
Gabriel snorted. “Forget it.”
“Forget the girl, then.”
Gabriel considered this, and then reached for his wallet. “You better hope you’re as smooth as you think you are, Anthony.”
“Crowley,” he corrected, and accepted the wad of notes pushed into his hand. He twiddled his fingers. “Run along, now.”
He managed to avoid Gabriel for the rest of the day, but he wasn’t counting on being bombarded by the other two idiots during shop class.
“Can I not get a moment of peace in this school?” Crowley grumbled, setting down his tools.
The bespectacled one shifted nervously, not looking Crowley in the eye. “We, um, hear that you’re, er, courting Aziraphale Fell.”
“That’s one way of putting it. And what are you planning to do about it?” He picked up a blowtorch and flicked it experimentally.
“Help you out,” said the boy, and the other one, who Crowley knew was Adam Young, nodded along helpfully.
Adam leaned in. “Well, you see, my friend Newt here fancies Anathema Device.”
Crowley frowned. “What is it with this girl? Does she shit gold bricks?”
“Look, Newt’s love is pure. Purer than, say, Gabriel’s.”
“I’m in this for the cash, boys. Gabriel can plow wherever he wants.”
Newt gaped. “There will be no plowing…”
Adam put a hand on his friend’s chest to hold him back. Crowley thought the whole thing was a bit funny. He would easily snap Newt in half if he wanted.
“Anthony,” said Adam. “Tony.”
“Let me explain something to you, alright. We set this whole thing up so that Newt could date Anathema. Gabriel is just a pawn in our chess game.”
Adam had confidence, Crowley had to give him that. He acted like he owned the school. And if what he said was true, then they were smarter than he’d given them credit for. “A couple of masterminds we got here, eh?” he said.
“Undoubtedly,” said Adam, and pulled out a flyer from his back pocket. “Listen, these two blokes, Hastur and Ligur, are having a party with their mates on Friday night. It’s the perfect opportunity.”
“To take out Aziraphale.”
Crowley would be hard-pressed to convince Aziraphale to go with him, but after the drive home yesterday, he had a decent chance of getting a positive answer.
“I’ll think about it.”
Please note I do not ship Gabriel and Anathema. At all. Gabriel is simply a plot device, and takes whatever he can. Anathema isn’t even really interested in him, she’s just exploring her options like the good logical witch she is.
Newt gathers information, Crowley goes to a poetry reading, and Aziraphale gets ready for a party.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
“So, have you heard about Hastur and Ligur’s party?” Newt asked, trying to sound nonchalant as he and Anathema parked their bikes on the dirt road leading to Jasmine Cottage. He had offered to escort her home after school, just in case that arsehole Gabriel offered her a ride in his shiny car.
“Yes,” Anathema sighed, walking her bike towards the front gate. It was a lovely little cottage where she was boarding with an English family during her education. “And I’d really like to go, but you know I can’t. Not without Aziraphale. It would kill him if I did something like that without him.”
“Do you have to do everything together?” Newt asked.
“It’s what we’ve always done, ever since I moved here. We’re outsiders, we stick together.” She smiled sadly. “He’d never say yes to going to a party like that. Not if he was third-wheeling.”
“I have been working on that,” said Newt. “Although, it doesn’t seem like he’s going for this guy. Are you sure he’s…”
“Into men?” Anathema nodded. “Definitely. We’ve had sleepovers where we talked about how dreamy Jack Lemmon was in The Apartment.”
“I don’t know who that is.”
“It’s an old movie from 1960.”
“So, he’s into that sort of thing? Pretty boys and old movies?” Newt realized he may have made an error of judgment in selecting Anthony Crowley. He wasn’t exactly a pretty boy.
“I don’t know,” said Anathema. She shrugged. “All I’ve ever heard him say is that he would rather go to Hell than date someone who smokes.”
“No smoking, great,” said Newt. “Um, what else? Is he religious? Considering the, um, Hell thing.”
“Yep,” she said. “But I know his faith has been really complicated since he realized he was gay. I don’t know if that information is useful, though. And, let’s see… he’s really into old literature, poetry, and fancy food. So, no fast food joints. And he likes the opera.”
She may as well have been listing all of the things opposite of Anthony Crowley. This was going to be more difficult than Newt originally thought.
Anathema gave him a pat on the cheek, like a mother might to do his son. “Thank you, Newton. You’re sweet. Let me know if you need any more information. I’ll see you at school!”
She passed through the front gate, disappearing up the walkway, and sent him off with a tiny wave before slipping inside. Newt gave a dreamy sigh. When this was all over, it would be worth it to have Anathema.
Crowley couldn’t believe he was willingly going to a poetry reading. Newt had insisted Aziraphale would be there; he was big on poetry, apparently, among a list of other things that he’d been given as a guide to getting in Aziraphale’s good books. Nearly all of them made Crowley gag.
He’d gotten rather defensive when Newt had said, “There is one problem, though. Apparently he likes pretty boys.”
Crowley had scowled. “Are you saying I’m not pretty?”
Newt hurriedly assured him he was, indeed, the prettiest.
But he wasn’t allowed to smoke anymore, which was actually alright, because Crowley only did it for the intimidation factor, and that it gave him something to do with his hands whenever he lounged around. He rather liked blowing it in people’s faces. He’d likely go back to it after all this was over. Old habits and such.
He parked his Bentley outside the coffee-shop-slash-bookstore where the poetry reading was being held, and could already see Aziraphale through the storefront windows, sitting primly on one of the fold up chairs facing a small stage. Most of the other people inside where with friends, but he sat all alone, reading a book as he waited.
Crowley admired his own reflection in the rearview mirror for a moment. He’d done part of his hair up in a small bun, the rest of it draping around his ears. He was clean-shaven, and his sunglasses were unscratched. He was pretty, dammit.
Much as he was loathe to admit it, Aziraphale was, in a sense, pretty as well. In his own quiet way, there was something magnetic about him. Crowley tried to convince himself it was only because it was so rare to find another queer kid, but he knew there was something different about Aziraphale. It had started with that outburst about the patriarchy in English class; it was a quiet sort of defiance. Ever since then, Crowley had been drawn to him.
He slipped inside the cafe as nonchalantly as he could. He got a couple of stares, and one pointed glare that he returned with fervour, but Aziraphale was buried in his book and took no notice of his arrival. It wasn’t until Crowley sat a few seats away from him that the boy looked up, his eyes widening when he saw who it was.
Crowley turned to look at him, and Aziraphale ducked his head. As if he hadn’t seen him staring. Watching out of the corner of his eye, Crowley could practically see Aziraphale’s internal debate before he finally closed the book and gravitated closer.
“If you’re planning to ask me out again, I—”
“D’you mind?” Crowley asked, nodding to the small stage where the person reading was about to begin. “It’s about to start.”
Aziraphale blinked at him. “You’re here for the…” He frowned, and sniffed. “You’re not surrounded by your usual cloud of smoke.”
“Thanks for noticing,” said Crowley, who had pointedly worn his only jacket that didn’t reek of cigarettes. “I quit. ‘Parently they’re bad for you.”
That was all they had the chance to say before the reading began.
He felt Aziraphale’s eyes on him for a long moment before finally turning to look at the stage.
Aziraphale listened with rapt attention, seeming to forget that Crowley was there as time went on. Crowley had thought he would be bored—but found himself surprised at how the other boy kept his attention. He was sincerely wrapped up in the words being spoken, moved by poetry in a way that Crowley had never been moved by anything. It was dreadfully fascinating.
When it was over, Aziraphale sighed happily, and smiled so brightly that even his eyes began to twinkle. “That was lovely,” he said.
“Not bad. It’s no Wordsworth or Roethke, though,” said Crowley. He stood up and started weaving through the aisles of chairs. He smiled to himself when he heard Aziraphale follow.
“How do you know who Roethke is?”
“Why, don’t you?” Crowley pushed through the door, the bell jingling overhead as he stepped out into the street. Aziraphale was right behind him. He turned to face him. “You know, I was watching you in there. I’ve never seen someone look so…” He considered his words carefully. “Captivated,” he decided.
Aziraphale looked oddly pleased. It was an odd sort of compliment, but it was a compliment nonetheless. He was smiling, and Crowley found himself smiling, too.
“Come to Hastur and Ligur’s party with me.”
For good measure, he removed his sunglasses to look Aziraphale right in the eye. He watched the other boy soften a little, and forced himself to hold his gaze. Until finally, he said, “You never give up, do you?”
“Is that a yes?” Crowley asked.
“No,” said Aziraphale, and turned away.
“Well, is it a no?” Crowley called.
Crowley grinned. “I’ll see you at nine-thirty, then!”
It was nearing half past nine, and Aziraphale had Anathema on speakerphone as he got ready for the party. His night had started off rocky. Every few minutes or so, he would convince himself going to this party was a terrible idea, and would pick up his copy of Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew. Then he would remember Crowley’s eyes, or his smile, or his soft-looking hair, and he would put the book down and return to his wardrobe to fret over his outfit. And the cycle would start anew. Finally, he called Anathema for a bit of encouragement.
“Aziraphale, just be yourself,” Anathema was saying as he stood in front of the mirror, holding up two different bow ties.
“Being myself hasn’t got me very far, dear,” he sighed, setting the bow ties down. He would go without one tonight.
“You don’t have to make a big deal of it, you know. It’s just a party.”
He hummed. “Yes, and Hell is just a sauna.” He frowned at himself in the mirror.
“At least that Anthony Crowley is cute, huh?”
Aziraphale saw his face go pink, and turned away from the mirror at once. “I’m sure I don’t know what you mean.”
“Come on, you must at least think he’s attractive. And he’s interested in you!”
“Did you know he quit smoking?”
“Fancy that. Maybe he’s trying to impress you.”
Aziraphale sank onto his bed. “I don’t know about this, Anathema. Isn’t this party just an excuse for people to drink alcohol and… mess around?”
“Yes, but that’s the fun of it. You’ll be with Crowley, and I’ll be with Newt. It’ll be great, I promise. And if you hate it, we’ll leave, okay?”
“Alright, just this once,” he said. One night wouldn’t mean the end of the world. Even if he did have to arrive with Crowley, that didn’t mean he had to stay by his side all night.
“Have I mentioned lately that I love you?”
“Perhaps once or twice.” He found it in himself to smile, just as the doorbell rang. “Oh, dear Lord, it’s him.”
They said their goodbyes, and Aziraphale ended the call, hurriedly rushing downstairs. Thankfully, his parents were out at a fancy dinner, so he didn’t have to face the embarrassment of introductions. Or trying to convince them to let him attend the party. It was better if they didn’t know.
He took a deep breath and opened the door.
He was expecting Crowley to look the same as any other given day. This was not the case. Rather than his usual slouching outfit, he had on a nice dress jacket, black skinny jeans (these were not unusual, but the degree to which they clung to his legs were), and what appeared to be snakeskin boots. Like at the poetry reading, his hair was partially done up, and Aziraphale fought the sudden urge to run his fingers through it.
Most shockingly, there was no sign of his sunglasses. Instead there were just those eyes staring back at him in the glimmering porch light.
“Uh, hi,” said Crowley. “Bit early. Was worried about traffic.”
“Um,” said Aziraphale.
“Ready to go?”
Crowley quirked an eyebrow. “Alright then.” He turned on his heeled boot and strode towards his Bentley, parked at the curb. Aziraphale tried very hard not to let his eyes linger on his backside.
Aziraphale Fell, he thought to himself. Do not mess this up.
In my opinion, Jack Lemmon really was a dreamboat. The idea of Anathema and Aziraphale watching him in The Apartment (and, additionally, Some Like It Hot) made me giggle a little bit.
This is the last chapter I have fully written. So updates will start to come slower... sorry in advance!
The party was already in full swing when they arrived. The car ride had given Aziraphale time to adjust to the sight of Crowley, who, yes, now that Anathema mentioned it, was very attractive. How had he not noticed before? It didn’t help his nerves. It only made them worse, so as soon as they arrived, he helped himself to a drink in the hopes that it would calm him down.
Crowley stayed closeby, but they didn’t really talk. Aziraphale wouldn’t have known what to say. He wished desperately to find Anathema.
A girl stumbled into Crowley, and Aziraphale watched as she beamed up at him, clearly inebriated. “Kiss me!” she said.
Crowley blinked at her, took her by the shoulders, and turned her around, gently guiding her towards a nearby boy. “Kiss him,” he suggested.
While Crowley was distracted, Aziraphale sidestepped out of the room, and began hunting down his friend. The crowd was nearly impossible to navigate, the air thick with smoke and sweat and too-loud music.
“Well, well, Aziraphale.” Gabriel slid into view, dressed obnoxiously well for a casual high school party. “I must say, I’m surprised to see you here.”
“Gabriel,” Aziraphale replied curtly, and tried to step around him.
Gabriel blocked his path. “Is your friend here?”
“Anathema?” He felt a wave of protectiveness. “Please stay away from her, Gabriel.”
“Oh, I’ll stay away from her. I just can’t guarantee she’ll stay away from me.”
With that, he disappeared, leaving Aziraphale flounder, and hope that he found Anathema soon.
Crowley turned away from the couple that were now passionately necking due to his interference, and saw that Aziraphale was no longer in the room. He’d lost him. They’d only just arrived, and already he had managed to slip away.
How could someone who stood out so terribly at school be so good at flying under the radar? Crowley pushed away the desperate itch to grab a shot. He was driving, and he was responsible for getting Aziraphale home. Contrary to popular belief, he actually did give a shit about other people, given enough reason.
After searching the main floor and upstairs, he was descending the staircase again when he finally spotted Aziraphale across the room, downing a shot.
“Oh, Christ,” Crowley muttered, and pushed through the crowd towards him. “Oi! Angel! What’s this?”
“I believe this is called tequila,” Aziraphale replied, looking a tad irritated. The quip took Crowley by surprise; he hadn’t ever seen him be sarcastic.
“I’ve been looking all over for you,” said Crowley, feeling quite irritated, himself. “You can’t just wander off!”
“I’m trying to enjoy myself. Isn’t that what you’re meant to do on this occasion?” said Aziraphale, and reached for another shot.
“I dunno. I say do what you like.”
“Funny. You’re the only one.” Aziraphale grimaced at the burn in his throat, and coughed. “It’s not like this is how I like spending my Friday nights. I’d much rather be reading Oscar Wilde. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to find Anathema before Gabriel does.”
He slipped away before Crowley could grab him, disappearing into the crowd. Crowley let out a frustrated groan, but let him go.
In the next room, Newt found Adam again. “Have you seen her?”
“Anathema, obviously,” Newt said. He let out an exasperated sigh. “I got here a half hour ago and I haven’t seen her yet. She said she would be here.”
Adam jerked his chin to a spot over Newt’s shoulder. He turned to see Anathema and Pepper passing by. “Hi, Anathema!” Newt said brightly, giving her a wave.
Pepper exchanged a look with her friend, and Anathema gave her a reassuring pat on the arm before changing trajectory to join him. “Hello, Newton. Adam.”
“Hullo, Pepper,” said Adam.
“Hi.” Pepper crossed her arms over her chest, as if being here was a great inconvenience.
“So, um,” Newt said. “You look amazing, Anathema.”
Anathema laughed a little, smiling shyly. “Thank you.”
“And we all know I look amazing.” Gabriel appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, and nudged Newt aside, smiling that terrible smile of his. “Anathema, just the girl I was looking for. Care to join us for a round of King’s Cup?”
Pepper gave Anathema a pointed look, but she just shrugged. “Alright, sounds fun! I’ll see you around, okay, Newt?”
Pepper rolled her eyes and huffed, muttering something about falling victim to the patriarchy, and followed her friend and Gabriel out of the room.
Newt watched them go. Devastation swept through him. The whole night had been a waste. All of this time spent maneuvering people, Adam assuring him that it was as simple as a game of chess, and some rich American had come in and taken Anathema right from him.
Crowley blew right past him, looking mildly frantic when he saw Aziraphale with another drink in hand. He was absolutely plastered, more unkempt than Crowley had even thought possible.
Crowley made an attempt to swipe the drink from his hand, but Aziraphale teetered away precariously. “Hey, angel, how ‘bout I take this one?”
“No, this one’s mine.”
He zig-zagged away, and before Crowley could follow, a hand clasped his arm. “Crowley, my man!” It was Gabriel. Of course. “How did you do it?”
“Get him to act like a human being.” He gestured to Aziraphale, who was dancing—very badly—to the music. A small circle of other students had gathered around him to watch, cheering him on, but there wasn't any kindness in their eyes. They were teasing. Aziraphale didn’t even want to be here, and now he would be made fun of.
He turned to say something cutting to Gabriel, but he’d gone. For reasons Crowley couldn’t explain and didn’t want to explore at that moment, the whole scene made him irrationally angry. He shoved people aside to get to Aziraphale, just as he tripped over his own feet and fell directly into Crowley’s arms.
“Are you alright?” Crowley shouted over the music.
“I’m fine!” Aziraphale attempted to stand up straight, and promptly fell back again.
Crowley caught him, and wrapped an arm around his shoulders to keep him steady. “You’re not fine. Let’s go.”
They pushed steadily towards the front entrance. “I just need to lie down,” Aziraphale said, a definite slur to his tone.
“You lie down and you’ll go to sleep.”
Aziraphale giggled. “Sleep is good.”
“Not if you pass out drunk. Come here, sit down.” They were outside now, and there was a bench on the porch. Crowley shoved aside the person sitting there and forced Aziraphale down.
Newt ran up to him. “We need to talk!”
“Little busy right now,” Crowley said.
“Just one moment. Please.”
The kid looked so desperate that Crowley forced himself to bite back his annoyance for one second. With a glance at Aziraphale, who was holding his throbbing head and his eyes squeezed shut, he let Newt take him aside.
“What,” he hissed.
“It’s off. The whole thing’s over.”
“What are you talking about?”
Newt sighed. He looked so heartbroken that Crowley might have felt bad for him, if he didn’t have a drunk teenager to babysit. “She was never really interested in me,” he said. “Gabriel got to her first.”
“Oh, fuck’s sake,” Crowley groaned. “Newt! Do you like the girl?”
“And is she worth all this trouble?” He gesticulated wildly to encapsulate the astonishing ridiculousness of this party.
“I thought she was, but I—”
“She is or she isn’t!” He put both hands on Newt’s shoulders, giving him his hardest stare. “First of all, Gabriel is not half the man you are. Secondly, don’t let anyone ever make you feel like you don’t deserve what you want. Go for it!”
It wasn’t his best speech, but it was pretty damn good. All this trouble, just for him to give up at the first sign of defeat. Pathetic. No harm in tempting him to see it through, especially not when it was putting money in his own pocket. And giving him more chances to see Aziraphale.
He gave Newt one last nod, and picked Aziraphale up again, practically dragging him away from the property. He couldn’t take him home like this, hopelessly inebriated, but he was sure they’d passed a park nearby where they could get some fresh air.
How in the Hell had this become his Friday night?
“This is so patronizing,” Aziraphale said as they neared the park.
Even drunk, Aziraphale had an incredible sense of vocabulary. Crowley sighed and dragged him along. “Leave it to you to use big words when you’re sloshed,” he muttered. The park had only been a couple blocks away, but it had taken forever to get that far. He pushed Aziraphale towards the closest bench.
“Why are you doing this?” he asked, looking at Crowley, but not really looking, because his eyes were sort of swimming.
“Because I don’t fancy you getting alcohol poisoning on your first night out.”
“You don’t care if I never wake up.”
“Sure I do.” And he did, really. Aziraphale was his responsibility now, like it or not. He plopped him down on the bench and sat next to him, putting a respectable distance between them.
“Why?” Aziraphale pressed.
Crowley snorted. “Because then I’d have to start taking out people who actually like me.”
“Like you could find one.”
Crowley laughed loudly, throwing his head back. Aziraphale was full of surprises, and the latest one was that he appeared to have a mean streak. “See—who needs affection when I have blind hatred?”
Aziraphale pouted. “We’re herderturry—hadeditary—HA-RED-IT-ARY ENEMIES!” he exclaimed.
“Well, I’m—this—” Aziraphale gestured to himself. “And you’re—that—” He gestured at Crowley.
Crowley snorted. “Oh, thank you, that’s very helpful.”
They fell silent, chirping crickets filling the air around them. Distant stars twinkled overhead, and Aziraphale stared dreamily at nothing. Crowley stared at Aziraphale.
“Why do you let him get to you?” he asked.
Aziraphale sighed deeply. “He’s a bully.”
“He’s an ass. His opinion doesn’t matter. You have a problem with him, you come to me, alright angel?”
Aziraphale looked thoughtful, or at least as thoughtful as one could be while drunk. “Why d’you call me that?”
Crowley stammered wordlessly for a moment. This conversation may very well be forgotten tomorrow, given the amount of tequila, but he would be careful with his words, anyway. “Because of your name,” he said. “Named after an angel, aren’t you?”
Aziraphale didn’t respond. Crowley glanced over, and saw that his head was lolled back, eyes closed. “Oi!” He shot up from the bench and lifted Aziraphale’s head. “Hey, angel, wake up! Aziraphale, look at me.” One hand on each side of his face, Crowley shook him gently, leaning in closer than they had ever been before. “Open your eyes, you stupid—”
Aziraphale blinked, eyes going wide, and oh, Crowley had never noticed just how blue they were. He let his hands drop quickly, trying to steady his own breathing.
“Hey,” Aziraphale said softly, looking up at him. “Your eyes have a touch of gold in them.”
Despite himself, Crowley laughed a little, and Aziraphale smiled dazedly. And for just that moment, it was as if they were suspended in time, gazes locked.
Oh, no, Anthony, you are way in over your head.
And then Aziraphale bent over and vomited on his snakeskin boots.
Crowley couldn’t bring himself to be angry, not when Aziraphale was hunched over, retching weakly with his head in his hands. Crowley gave his head an affectionate pat and sat down, grimacing as he began taking off his shoes.
Once Aziraphale had thrown up as much tequila as he could, and Crowley had shaken the vomit from his shoes, they walked back to the Bentley on steadier feet than when they’d gotten to the park. Aziraphale was still drunk, or at the very least had come down to a respectable tipsy.
He spent most of the ride gazing out the window while Crowley listened to Queen on a low hum. He kept his eyes on the road. Neither of them spoke.
They were pulling up to Aziraphale’s house when he groaned. “Oh, no. My parents are home,” he muttered.
“They didn’t know you were going out?” Crowley said, shutting off the music. “You don’t strike me as the Ask-Forgiveness-Not-Permission type.”
Aziraphale chuckled. “Now you think you know me?” he asked. Yep. Definitely still drunk.
Crowley shrugged. “I’m getting there.”
Aziraphale smiled a little. He wrung his hands together, staring at his lap. “Most people think I’m boring.”
“I don’t think you’re boring.”
He looked up, and their eyes met, and something blossomed inside of Crowley like a flower in the spring. Aziraphale’s eyes sparkled in the dark, the porch light outside illuminating him with an almost halo-like glow. Angelic.
Aziraphale leaned towards him, and Crowley panicked, instinctively leaning back as far as he could. “Have a good night,” he said quickly, turning his face away, glad that the dark masked the blush creeping up his collar.
Aziraphale just stared at him, his smile gone. He blinked, and opened the car door. “Right,” he muttered, and got out, slamming the door behind him. He disappeared up the walkway, and Crowley pretended not to see the way he glanced back at the car before going inside.
“Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit—” Crowley said as he pulled away from Aziraphale’s house, resisting the urge to smash his head on the steering wheel. If he didn’t care so much about his car, he might have willingly crashed it on his way home.
Aziraphale had almost tried to kiss him. Drunkenly, but still. What was worse, Crowley, for just a moment, had wanted to kiss him back.
He shook his head and accelerated the car, creeping up over the speed limit. It was just the tequila making Aziraphale act that way.
The money in his wallet weighed especially heavily as he reminded himself why he’d gone to the party in the first place.
It's the aftermath of the party and prom is just around the corner...
Thanks so much for all the positive comments! I really appreciate it!
Newt had been on his way out of the party, his heart but a puddle at his feet, when none other than Anathema tapped him on the shoulder.
“Newton?” she asked. Her voice was uncharacteristically small, defeated, lacking its usual confidence. “Could you, um, drive me home, maybe? If it’s not too much trouble?”
The last thing Newt wanted to do was lock himself in a car with the girl that had just broken his heart. But he also had the terrible inability to say ‘no’ to anyone; especially not the girl he had been pining after. Crowley’s words came back to him: don’t let anyone ever make you feel like you don’t deserve what you want.
So he nodded. “Come on, then. I’m parked ‘round the corner.”
Dick Turpin was waiting for them in all its pathetic glory. The painted letters seemed to glow in light of the street lamps. Anathema looked at it curiously, but didn’t ask. Newt was sort of glad. He wasn’t in the mood to explain it.
Anathema sat primly in the passenger seat, adjusting her dress with fidgety motions. Every time Newt glanced at her, her face was creased with misery, her shoulders hunched and defeated.
“Party wasn’t all it was cracked up to be, huh,” he said.
“No,” Anathema murmured. “No, it really wasn’t.”
“And Gabriel?” He tried to sound nonchalant, and failed.
Anathema huffed. “He’s an idiot. You know what he did? He showed me his modelling poses. For twenty minutes. I mean, he’s good-looking, but not that good-looking.”
Newt frowned. Not knowing what to say to that, he kept driving in silence. Of course Anathema thought Gabriel was good-looking. Maybe she had never been interested in him at all—he thought Gabriel had been a pawn, but Newt had been the real pawn all along.
When they pulled up to Jasmine Cottage, he shut off the car. Anathema unbuckled her seatbelt, but made no movement to get out.
“You never really wanted to go out with me, did you?” he asked.
Anathema blinked. “Yes, I did.”
“No, you didn’t.” Newt sighed. “Just because you’re beautiful, and smart, and interesting doesn’t mean you can play around with people like that.”
“I wasn’t playing around,” said Anathema. “Gabriel was just… an option. An idea I entertained. It’s… complicated.” She sighed. “Until I came to England, I always did what my family wanted me to do. What was expected. And I guess… well, boys like Gabriel are also sort of expected. He’s an easy choice, and so of course I gravitated towards him. But I do like you, Newton.”
“It’s Newt.” Being told he wasn’t an easy choice wasn’t how he wanted to end this night. “If you really do like me, maybe you would have realized that nearly everybody calls me Newt, and it’s actually quite rude to imply that I’m—”
Whatever he’d been about to say was snatched away by a pair of lips closing over his. Anathema’s hand cupped his cheek, pulling him closer, and that reminded Newt that he was meant to be kissing her back, so he tentatively moved his lips in response. It occurred to him that this was his very first kiss, and he’d been completely unprepared for it. Just his luck.
Anathema pulled back, and smiled, and did that thing where she patted his cheek. Except this time, it felt less like a mother consoling a child, and more like a gesture of affection.
“Goodnight, Newt,” she said, and climbed out of Dick Turpin.
When she’d gone inside, a wide smile spread across Newt’s face. He righted his glasses (which had become askew from the kiss), and said to himself, “Checkmate.”
“Hey, Zira,” Gabriel said as Aziraphale shuffled into English class on Monday morning, “how much do we all owe you for that dance on Friday?”
Aziraphale lowered his head and walked faster to his seat. The majority of remarks thrown his way since entering the building that morning had been of a similar calibre. He couldn’t remember much from the party itself (although he had an awful memory of throwing up on Crowley’s shoes) but from what he’d gathered, he’d made something of a fool of himself, to say the least.
Thankfully, Crowley hadn’t made an appearance in class. His seat was empty, and Aziraphale was glad, for the thought of having to look him in the eye was a painful one.
Mr. Tyler cleared his throat. “How was everyone’s weekend?” he asked, in a way that showed he didn’t really care to hear the answer.
“I don’t know, sir, maybe we should ask Aziraphale,” said Gabriel.
“I rather think we should get on with today’s lesson,” said Mr. Tyler over the laughter that bubbled up at Gabriel’s remark. “Please open up your books to page seventy-three, sonnet one forty one.”
Aziraphale pulled out his book of Shakespeare sonnets. Every movement felt rehearsed, devoid of thought, just going through the movements. Shakespeare usually captivated him, but today he could hardly find the energy to read along as Tyler recited the sonnet.
In faith, I do not love thee with mine eyes,
For they in thee a thousand errors note;
But ’tis my heart that loves what they despise,
Who, in despite of view, is pleas’d to dote;
“Now,” said Mr. Tyler. He began pacing the aisles. “I would like for each of you to write your own interpretation of this sonnet, to be presented in front of the class.”
He passed Aziraphale’s desk as he spoke, but paused upon finishing his sentence. Without looking, he seemed to know instinctively that Aziraphale had raised his hand.
“Yes, Mr. Fell?”
Aziraphale lowered his hand, sheepish as Tyler turned on him. His reputation of having an opinion on everything had preceded him. “Would you like us to write it in iambic pentameter?”
Mr. Tyler looked at him curiously. “You have no objections?” he asked.
“No, sir,” said Aziraphale. “I think it’s an excellent assignment.”
Mr. Tyler scowled. “I won’t tolerate being made fun of, Mr. Fell.”
Aziraphale’s eyes widened. “I—I wasn’t—”
“Get out of my classroom.”
“Mr. Tyler, I—”
Taken aback, Aziraphale hesitated only briefly before shoving his belongings back into his bag. The world, for some reason, was against him. Being dismissed was almost a relief.
As he was leaving the room, he heard Gabriel’s snide voice say, “Thanks, Mr. Tyler.”
And Mr. Tyler’s agitated response, “Be quiet, Gabriel.”
Pepper did the usual between-class shuffle of exchanging textbooks at her locker. She’d been in a sour mood ever since the party on Friday. Anathema had called her Saturday morning, ecstatic about the fact that she and Newt had kissed, and it made her slightly nauseous. All of this romance and drama only further convinced her that boys were a waste of time.
Except, of course, the boys who were her friends.
“Speak of the Devil,” she muttered when she saw Adam walking towards her. “Hi, Adam.”
“Hullo, Pepper,” said Adam.
She braced herself for some stupid question about Anathema (her thing with Newt was all they talked about these days) but instead, Adam pointed at the poster pinned to the inside of her locker door. “Is that Rosie the Riveter?” he asked.
Pepper blinked in surprise. The poster was a redesign of the original Rosie the Riveter image, but with a woman of colour instead of a white woman. “Yeah, it is. D’you like it?”
“It’s really cool,” said Adam. “Sorry we didn’t get to talk much at the party this weekend. I was sort of… nannying Newt, until he ran off.”
“It’s okay.” Pepper was a bit sad that she and Adam and Brian and Wensleydale didn’t hang out as much as they used to. But it was to be expected. They’d split apart a bit when high school began, since there were so many new faces. Anathema had been a great addition to Pepper’s circle of friends, but she still missed the old days where it was her and the boys playing in Hogback Wood. “Once Anathema had gone, I left,” she admitted. “House parties aren’t really my thing.”
“Me neither,” said Adam, and smiled. “If I’d known Newt had left with Anathema, I would’ve come and found you. Then we wouldn’t have been there all alone.”
“Did you know she kissed him?” said Pepper with a grimace. “Oh, ‘course you do, he probably told you all about it. I just don’t see what the big deal is. Everyone’s partnering up all of a sudden. It’s horrible.”
“I mean, look at Newt and Anathema, they seem pretty happy. Can’t be that bad.”
“Try telling that to Aziraphale and Crowley,” said Pepper. “Apparently he threw up on Crowley’s shoes. Said he’d rather die than face him ever again.”
Crowley sat on the bleachers, flicking his lighter idly, itching for a cigarette. Newt sat next to him, annoyingly chipper. Normally during the lunch hour, Aziraphale would be out enjoying the sun, reading one of his dusty old books and looking adorable. Today he was nowhere to be seen, and Crowley was thankful, but somehow also disappointed.
“What did you do to him?” Newt asked, catching on to Crowley’s bad mood.
“I didn’t do anything,” said Crowley. His stomach turned. He could have done something, but he’d backed out. “He would’ve been too drunk to remember, anyway.”
“But the plan was working.”
“What do you care,” Crowley sighed, staring blankly through his sunglasses at the little flame flickering on the end of his lighter. “You said you wanted out.”
“I did, but uh…” Newt chuckled to himself. “Then she kissed me. So, um, the plan’s back on.”
“Actually—” Adam said, jogging up to them. “Might be a bit more difficult than that. I got some information. Aziraphale would ‘rather die than face Crowley ever again’. That’s a direct quote.”
Crowley groaned. “Thanks, Adam, that’s very comforting. Just delightful. Guess we’re screwed then, so let’s forget about it, hey?”
“Maybe he just needs a day to calm down,” said Newt.
Aziraphale, in fact, would need a lot longer than a day. Knowing that Crowley spent his free time around the bleachers, he’d avoided going outdoors as much as possible, and had instead retreated to the comfort of the library. Anathema, to her credit, had been a good friend and accompanied him instead of seeking out Newt, which is what she actually wanted to be doing.
Anathema pointed out a poster promoting the upcoming prom. “Hey, look,” she said, pulling the poster down from the bulletin board. She placed it overtop of the open book Aziraphale was attempting to read. “Don’t you think this would be fun?” she asked.
“Absolutely not,” said Aziraphale, brushing the poster aside.
“Come on, Zira. Everyone goes to prom.” Anathema sat down in the chair next to him and rested her chin in her hand.
“You would think that, considering you have a date,” said Aziraphale, not looking up from his book.
“You could get a date, too. I know you don’t want to talk about him, but—”
“If you even mention his name, I will—”
“He likes you, Aziraphale,” said Anathema. “It’s obvious! He calls you angel, he drove you home and took care of you when you were smashed.”
“Thank you for reminding me.”
“I just think you ought to give him another chance.”
Aziraphale finally looked up. “No, Anathema. It’s too embarrassing. I—” He glanced around, but nobody was watching them, so he leaned in closer and dropped his voice to a whisper. “It’s not just that I made a fool of myself. I also… I…” He took a deep breath. “I think I tried to kiss him.”
Anathema’s jaw dropped. “You what?!”
“Shh!” Aziraphale frantically gestured at her to quiet down. “I was very inebriated, and I may have tried to—but he obviously wasn’t interested, so it doesn’t matter.” He buried his face in his book again so he wouldn’t have to look at her, his face burning, and scanned the words in front of him without really reading them.
“He’s done nothing but flirt with you, Aziraphale, of course he’s interested.”
“Then he certainly has a funny way of showing it. Let’s not talk about this again, please.”
Anathema huffed and leaned back in her chair. She was considering pushing the conversation further when she glanced at the wall clock and saw the time. “Fine. I have to go change for gym class. I’ll see you later.”
Aziraphale just hummed his acknowledgement and let her go, waiting until he heard the library doors closing behind her to exhale, slumping in his seat. Then he slowly lowered his face onto the table, and refused to move for the rest of the day.
They were doing archery in gym class. All the girls stood parallel to a line of targets, with quivers of arrows at their feet. Anathema usually loved having class outside, spread out across the football field. Today, however, that meant anybody could stroll right up and talk to her while she was nocking her arrow.
The familiar scent of cologne that Anathema had come to associate with Gabriel wafted over her with the breeze. “Hey, there, Cupid,” he said, stepping up beside her.
Anathema rolled her eyes. “Hello, Gabriel.”
“You’re concentrating awfully hard, considering it’s gym class.”
She sighed and lowered her bow, swivelling to face him. “Can I help you?”
“I’d like to talk to you about prom.” Gabriel put his hands in his pockets, acting nonchalant. He had that easy smile, and a stance that bordered on leering. She couldn’t remember why she had ever thought she’d liked him.
Now, she was glad Aziraphale refused to go to prom. “You know the deal. I won’t go if Aziraphale doesn’t go. And he doesn’t want to go. Sorry.”
“Oh, he is going.”
Gabriel shot her a wink. “Let’s just say I’m working on it.”
He walked away—more of a swagger, really—leaving Anathema to puzzle over his statement. He couldn’t possibly have another guy lined up to take Aziraphale, and if he meant Crowley, he was in for a shock.
“Here.” Gabriel shelled out two hundred pounds and held them out towards Crowley, who was leaning against the wall, arms crossed, glaring over the top of his sunglasses. “This should cover the suit, the flowers, even a limo. Just make sure he gets to the prom.”
Crowley took the money from him and inspected it in every which way he knew how. Definitely real, cold, hard cash. Then he handed it back. “No.”
Gabriel blinked, his smile frozen on his face. “What was that?”
“I said no. I’m tired of your little game, Gabriel.”
“Would you be tired of, say, three hundred?”
“For fuck’s sake,” Crowley muttered.
Gabriel patted around his pockets for a few moments, and emerged with several more bank notes. He folded them in a neat pile and offered them. “Okay, how about three-fifty?”
“Why are you doing this?”
“Why aren’t you?” Gabriel shot back, without ever dropping his charade of formality. He still had that smile, but there was a dark look in his eye. “What’s the problem, Crowley? Too good for my money? Or are you just afraid because you caught feelings?”
Crowley grit his teeth. “Watch yourself.”
“I’m just looking out for you,” said Gabriel. “You know you want to take him to prom. I’m giving you the excuse to do that. Plus, let’s face it—you could use the extra cash to replace those fancy shoes of yours. I hear vomit leaves stains.”
Crowley snatched the money and shoved it in his pocket. “Don’t expect a thank-you,” he snapped.
Gabriel just laughed. “Wouldn’t dream of it.”
The Iconic Scene™
Big thank you to seekwill for beta reading this chapter for me! She’s an amazing writer who kindly offered to help me with this fic!!
Wonderful. Just what Crowley needed to end his terrible day. He’d been trying to avoid Aziraphale and succeeding, and now he was meant to take him to prom. Perfect.
He didn’t have to look far. The library was thinly populated after the final bell rang, but he knew Aziraphale would be there. He seemed to spend more time in the library than anywhere else, so when Crowley saw a familiar bookbag leaning against the leg of a table, he wasn’t surprised. The owner of the bag, however, was nowhere in sight.
Crowley tiptoed through the stacks, slinking silently like a cat on the prowl. He heard the distant shuffle of footsteps, the flutter of turning pages, the slide of books being shelved and unshelved. First he ran into a couple not-so-quietly making out in the Earth Sciences section, so that was a dead end. Then he found a Year 10 student crying into her textbook while studying, which was relatable, but also, regrettably, a dead end.
He found Aziraphale in the Classic Literature section. Crowley carefully walked down the next aisle, so that he could just peer through the shelves to see Aziraphale on the other side. He matched Aziraphale’s pace undetected, only revealing his presence when they reached the end of the aisle and came face to face.
Aziraphale’s eyes went impossibly wide. Crowley smiled. “‘Scuse me, I’m looking for The Picture of Dorien Gray, do you know where I can find it?” he asked, face full of innocence.
Aziraphale ducked his head and turned back down the aisle. Crowley followed. “It’s by Oscar Wilde,” Crowley added. “Big Wilde fan, me.”
Aziraphale thumbed across the spines on the shelf in front of him, not looking Crowley in the eye. “What do you want, Crowley?”
“Trying to get caught up on classic queer literature, clearly.”
Aziraphale shook his head. “You are so—”
“Charming?” He leaned against the towering bookshelf. “Devilishly handsome?”
“I was going to say demonic.” Aziraphale shot him a scowl.
“Alright, I give up. What’ve I done?” Crowley suspected the problem was less about what he had done, and more about what he hadn’t; drunken Aziraphale had wanted to kiss him, but Crowley hadn’t had it in good conscience to kiss him back. He’d never thought being good would end him up in so much trouble.
“Nothing,” Aziraphale sighed, finally facing him. “Really, Crowley, I would prefer it if you kept your distance. I would very much like to forget we ever knew one another.”
He might as well have personally punched Crowley in the chest. Crowley flinched, ever so slightly, and hoped Aziraphale didn’t notice. His mind spun as he tried to come up with a response, but before any words could form on his lips Aziraphale pulled a book from the shelf, pressed it into Crowley’s hands, and walked away.
Once his footsteps faded, Crowley blinked and looked down at the volume. It was, of course, The Picture of Dorian Gray.
Crowley despised the cafeteria. It smelled of week-old leftovers and sweat. But prom was approaching, and he was beginning to feel desperate. As much as he despised Gabriel, the bastard was right about the fact that he would like to take Aziraphale to prom. He’d finally admitted to himself that, yes, he liked Aziraphale very much, against his will, as hard as he’d tried to shut the feelings down. Sometimes these things happened.
The run-in at the library left him hollow, a hole where his heart should have been. Whatever Newt had done with Anathema had apparently worked, so instead of his usual spot on the bleachers, he sauntered into the cafeteria in search of the boy.
He spotted the happy couple in line for their lunches. Adam and Pepper lingered behind them, chatting animatedly. He wedged himself between the two pairs, and snatched up one of Newt’s fries.
“I need… assistance,” he said, practically grinding out the words. He hated asking for help.
“Hello to you, too, Crowley!” said Anathema.
“Stop taking my fries,” said Newt.
Crowley helped himself to another, trying to appear as careless as possible. “He’s still upset with me. I dunno what to do.”
Adam nudged him. “Sweet love, renew thy force,” he said, in a passionate way that made Crowley think he was reciting something.
“Don’t say rubbish like that to me,” he snapped, glancing around to make sure they weren’t overheard. The line shuffled down. “People can hear you.”
“Crowley, he’s clearly embarrassed,” Anathema said. With a jolt, Crowley remembered she would actually have insight to Aziraphale’s mind. Perhaps it was a good thing she was here. “I say you need to sacrifice your own dignity a bit. You know—even the score.”
“Even the score?”
“Anathema’s right,” said Adam. “If I made a fool of myself like that, I’d want the other person to be just as embarrassed as me.”
“This is all so ridiculous,” Pepper scoffed, picking up her tray and storming off to the end of the line. Adam shrugged at Crowley and then followed her.
“He won’t even talk to me,” Crowley said. A number of times he’d tried to pass notes to Aziraphale in class, or bump into him in the hallways, even diverting his usual routes to class in order to cross paths with him. Each time he was ignored, and it was infuriating.
“Then don’t use your words,” Anathema said. “Words only go so far. You know what they say; actions speak louder.” Then she lit up, and turned to Newt. “Hey, you know people in the AV Club, right?”
“Er, yes. Although I’m not sure if we’re on good terms. When I tried to join, I broke their projector.”
“Never mind that,” she said. “I have an idea. But we’ll have to talk to Dagon, as she’s in charge of the club…” Crowley could practically see the wheels turning behind her eyes, the puzzle pieces slotting together as she cooked up a plan.
She looked at Crowley. “The first thing we need to do is pick the perfect song.”
Over the next few days, it took a generous amount of bribery to put everything into place. The president of the AV Club, Dagon, kept close tabs on all of the tech equipment. The rest of the club referred to her as the “Lord of the Files” as nobody besides her was allowed to access any equipment filed away in the tech room. The whole thing was ridiculously over the top. (Then again, so was Anathema’s plan.)
Crowley convinced Dagon, with the help of Gabriel’s prom fund, to lend him a microphone and hook it up to the outdoor loudspeaker. He went about the whole thing with a sense of dread; if Anathema’s plan worked, he had a good chance of winning Aziraphale’s affections back. If not, he’d be a laughingstock, his reputation would be tarnished, and he’d likely get detention or worse.
Was it worth it? He assured himself it was. There was something about Aziraphale he couldn’t back away from.
He peered around the edge of the building, microphone in hand. The boy in question had returned to his usual spot on the field, reading one of his books. Crowley had kept his distance, and allowed Aziraphale back into a sense of security so that he would be out here, in a public place, precisely for this occasion. Anathema had helped; she was sitting next to him, holding a book of her own, but instead of reading she kept glancing around expectantly.
Crowley leaned back against the brick wall of the school and took a deep breath. Any moment now.
He wasn’t even a good singer, and that made it all the more nerve-wracking. Anathema insisted it added to the embarrassment, which was apparently a good thing.
He startled when he heard the loudspeaker squeal as it turned on. His heart rattled in his chest, and he lifted the microphone to his lips. Show time.
I can dim the lights and sing you songs full of sad things
We can do the tango just for two
I can serenade and gently play on your heart strings
Be your Valentino just for you
Crowley rounded the corner so that he was in view, breathing shakily as the background music kicked in. Most people hanging around the field stopped whatever they had been doing to try and find the source of the interruption.
“Set my alarm, turn on my charm, that’s because I’m a good old fashioned lover boy,” Crowley sang as he leapt onto the bleachers. Several students had noticed him by now. He could feel his face going slightly red, but kept his gaze on Aziraphale, who was now looking up from his book. Anathema tapped on her friend’s shoulder, smiling as she pointed out Crowley.
“I’d like for you and I to go romancing,” Crowley sang, locking eyes with Aziraphale. “Say the word, your wish is my command.” Anathema pulled him up to his feet, and Crowley made a big show of jumping up and down the steps of the bleachers, dancing (badly) down the aisles.
The students were openly laughing now, but Crowley paid them no mind, his confidence gaining. He vaulted himself off the bleachers and made his way to Aziraphale. The boy’s eyes widened as he approached, and Crowley took off his sunglasses, perching them on his head.
He looked Aziraphale in the eyes and sang:
When I’m not with you
Think of you always
I miss you
When I’m not with you
Think of me always
Love you, love you
Aziraphale cracked a small smile, and ducked his head. A few students hooted and jeered, but Crowley was beyond caring now. He ran back up to the bleachers, just in time to see campus security arrive.
“Hey boy, where do you get it from? Hey boy, where did you go?” Crowley ran from the two security guards, laughing. “I learned my passion in the good old fashioned school of lover boys!”
One of the guards snagged his arm then, and they both got a hold of him. Crowley grinned and waved to the crowd, who were clapping and cheering. Even Aziraphale applauded politely as Crowley was dragged away towards the school doors, the backing track continuing to play, the guitar solo ringing across the field.
Crowley managed to get the microphone back to his lips in time to sing, “Dining at the Ritz, we’ll meet at nine, precisely,” before it was snatched out of his hands. He pointed at Aziraphale and winked. The other boy gave him a wave, and then the doors slammed behind them.
Crowley grinned at the guards as they marched him to the office, his heart beating wildly in his chest. “At ease, men,” he said, shaking himself free of their grasp to lead the charge forward. “I know the way.”
Crowley's in detention for causing a scene in an attempt to get Aziraphale's attention back.
APOLOGIES for how long this update took. But I’m back! It’s a short one, but an update nonetheless!
& Happy Thanksgiving to my fellow Canadians!!
Detention was nothing new to Crowley. He liked to make minor mischief, for entertainment more than anything. He once brought down the Wi-Fi across the entire school for a week, just to piss people off. On occasion, he might put an “out of order” sign on all the washroom stalls except one. If he was feeling especially criminal, he’d leave an anonymous tip on Mr. Shadwell’s desk alluding that a member of the student body harboured certain witchy tendencies, like a hidden pentagram tattoo or excessive nipples. That usually shut the building down for a few days.
He’d never been given detention for courting someone before, though. That was new.
Normally, Crowley might take such an opportunity to catch up on the homework he was behind on. School had taken a backseat to his scheme of getting Aziraphale’s attention. But he was sprawled out in his seat, lounging in the most Crowley-way possible, with limbs stretched out as far as they could go.
Mr. Tyler, who was in charge of detention that day, had confiscated his sunglasses because it was “improper” to wear them indoors. Little did he know that Crowley had an extra pair stashed in the inside pocket of his jacket.
He twirled a pen in his hand, gazing off into space. He hadn’t heard from Aziraphale yet. After being marched to the Headmistress’ office and getting a stern but somehow disinterested talking-to from Her, Crowley was dismissed and sent to his afternoon classes with the chiming of the end of lunch bell. Several hours passed, and then he was in detention. He shared no classes with Aziraphale that afternoon, so he had no idea what the boy had thought of his performance.
The classroom door opened, and Crowley glanced over—then sat up ramrod-straight when he saw who it was. Aziraphale shuffled into the room; he made brief eye contact with Crowley before making his way over to Mr. Tyler. That one second of eye contact made Crowley’s mouth go dry. He leaned forward with interest as he watched the interaction at the front of the room.
“Mr. Tyler, I am so sorry to bother you,” said Aziraphale, who was twitching nervously. “I just had a few quick questions about our sonnet assignment.”
“Can it wait, Mr. Fell?” said Tyler. “I’m rather occupied at the moment.”
Being “rather occupied” was evidently Mr. Tyler’s way of saying “filling out various letters to the Headmistress concerning the rising number of hooligans at this school”. He had a reputation for delivering complaints to the main office at least once a week with suggestions on how to lower the “crime rate” (his words) and teach the children better behaviour. They were routinely ignored.
Mr. Tyler’s head was bent over his desk as he worked on his latest letter. While he was looking down, Aziraphale locked eyes with Crowley and surreptitiously pointed towards the open window behind the desk.
Crowley frowned, and mouthed, What?
Aziraphale jerked his head towards the window forcefully, and a slow smile spread across Crowley’s face. Ah.
“I’m afraid it’s quite urgent, sir,” said Aziraphale, drumming his fingers on Tyler’s desk. Tyler sighed and got to his feet, rounding the bureau to face Aziraphale. The boy gave him his most pleasant smile. “You see, I, er, had this idea… to liven up the poetry a little? Poetry can be a little dull, you see—not to me, I assure you, but to other less cultured students…”
While Aziraphale distracted Mr. Tyler, Crowley crouched low and weaved his way between the desks towards the window. The other students in detention watched with interest. This was much more entertaining than detention usually was. Word of Crowley’s performance had spread rapidly throughout the student body, and all were intrigued by his sudden interest in a socially awkward bookworm.
He didn’t like the attention, but as long as he had Aziraphale’s, that’s what really mattered.
“I only thought you might encourage more… three-dimensional performances,” said Aziraphale, eyes following Crowley behind Mr. Tyler.
“I don’t see why such a thing is necessary.”
“To keep the students engaged.” Crowley’s foot snagged on a stool and it squeaked across the floor. He winced, freezing where he was. Tyler began to turn his head, but Aziraphale quickly tapped his shoulder. “You wouldn’t want your class to be bored, would you, sir?”
Tyler frowned, successfully distracted. “Well, no, see, no teacher wants their students disengaged from the material,” he said, and Crowley exhaled in relief. He ducked down behind a table shoved against the wall, and reached a hand upward to unlatch the lock on the window.
It opened with a quiet snick, loud enough to make Tyler say, “What on earth is that?”
“Old buildings make strange noises, sir,” said Aziraphale, eyes wide as he watched Crowley shove the window open wide enough to climb through. “I was in the library the other day, actually, reading about the school’s history, and did you know—”
“I don’t have time for this, Mr. Fell.” Tyler waved a hand dismissively and sat back down. His chair faced away from the window, so he didn’t see Crowley with one leg over the windowsill. Aziraphale gestured for him to hurry.
Tyler looked up, noticing his sudden movement, and Aziraphale froze. “Er, there was a fly. This school has a terrible bug problem.”
“Did I leave the window open?”
“No!” Aziraphale said loudly, startling Tyler into stopping his head mid-turn. At that moment, Crowley dropped out of sight, successfully escaping the classroom. He gave an uneasy laugh. “Well, I should be going, places to be. Thank you for your time, Mr. Tyler!”
Aziraphale was halfway down the corridor when he heard Tyler’s thunderous roar of, “Where the hell is Anthony Crowley?!”
He ran the rest of the way.
Crowley waited in the parking lot, his Bentley parked and running as close to the front door as he could get it. Adrenaline pumped through his veins, and he couldn’t wipe the smile from his face.
Aziraphale had come to help him.
He laughed to himself and took the spare pair of sunglasses out from his inside pocket, sliding them onto his nose just as the front doors opened. Aziraphale practically sprinted towards the Bentley and slid into the passenger seat.
“We best get moving, I think Mr. Tyler’s on the warpath,” he said, breathless, and Crowley only responded by revving the engine and peeling out of the lot with vigour.
Time passed in silence, and before he knew it, they were driving along the countryside, bracketed by trees. Aziraphale stared out the window, having calmed down from his exhilaration. Crowley watched him out of the corner of his eye.
Whatever anger he must have felt towards Crowley seemed to have subsided. His stunt had worked, more or less. Now was his chance to do something about it.
“I can’t thank you enough for getting me out of detention,” he said. “That was… nice of you.”
“It was the least I could do,” said Aziraphale, turning to face him. Crowley’s eyes flickered back to the road. “After your… performance. Which was quite dazzling, I will say.”
“You have a lovely voice, Crowley.”
“Aziraphale, I swear to—to someone, if you ever mention it again—”
“I won’t.” Aziraphale smiled. “But thank you. Despite what people say, you really are a nice person.”
Crowley made a non-committal noise and shrugged one shoulder. “I had help.”
The other boy sighed. “You are so quick to discredit yourself.”
“Not like I have much to credit myself with. All those rumours, those things people think I’ve done, I didn’t actually do any of them. I mean, who would actually sell an organ on the black market just to pay for a car? Honestly, they’re all idiots, believing everything they hear.”
“You never gave them any reason not to believe it,” Aziraphale pointed out. “You never said you didn’t do those things.”
“Can’t be bothered. They usually run when I walk into a room, anyway.” He shook his head. “But hey, what’s your excuse?”
“You don’t exactly blend into a crowd, either.” He reached over to tweak Aziraphale’s bowtie, and the boy swatted his hand away with a smile.
“This is just me,” said Aziraphale. “And sometimes, well, I just don’t like to do what people expect.” Something flickered across his face—something filled with sadness, or loneliness, or maybe both. “I’ve always been a bit of an outsider in my family, you know. My parents, they’re very religious, and… it is difficult, trying to have faith in God when so many believe that people like me… like us… don’t belong in the church. So one day I decided, why should I live up to their expectations instead of my own?”
Crowley smiled sadly. “Hm,” he said. “Disappoint them from the start, and then they won’t be bothered, eh?”
“Something like that.”
For a moment, neither of them spoke. Then Crowley snorted. “Well, you screwed up, then, angel.”
Aziraphale frowned. “How’s that?”
The car slowed to a stop, and Crowley shut off the engine. “You never disappointed me.”
A short one, but the pacing made it feel right to stop here.
Aziraphale looked out the window. The Bentley had come to a stop by a park, or rather something of a field. It was utterly deserted, and Aziraphale thought Crowley must have taken a wrong turn until the driver’s side door opened and Crowley slid out, shutting it behind him.
Before he could think of what to do, the passenger side door opened, and Crowley held it open, sweeping his arm to say After you.
Ducking his head to avoid showing his blush, Aziraphale got out of the car. He looked around, but there was nobody else around. Just the two of them.
Crowley appeared at his side, holding a blanket.
“What on Earth—”
“I keep it in the trunk,” said Crowley, and then began walking to the middle of the clearing. Aziraphale hurried after him, not wanting to be left alone.
Once Crowley had spread out the blanket on the grass, he sat down and patted the spot next to him. Aziraphale obliged, settling down a respectable distance from Crowley, but still close enough that he could take his hand, if he wanted to. Which he did want to. But he didn’t. It was all very confusing, navigating these feelings.
“I come out here sometimes to stargaze,” said Crowley, breaking their comfortable silence. “If I’d known you were planning to break me out of detention, though, I might’ve packed a proper picnic.”
Aziraphale smiled. “Sorry. I suppose I’ve been a bit silly, haven’t I?”
“Nah,” said Crowley. He turned his face up towards the sky. It must have been nearly five o’clock, and the sun was still shining, though it would begin to set before long. “‘M not really good at these sorts of things.”
“That’s simply not true, Crowley. Dare I say you’ve almost been... romantic, of late?”
“Ugh.” Crowley made a face like he’d tasted something sour. “Don’t say that.”
“The whole school knows it.”
“I should never have listened to Anathema.”
“Oh, this was all her idea, was it?” Aziraphale smiled fondly. “I might have known. But the song selection was yours?”
Crowley nodded. “Thought it fit.”
“You are full of surprises, Anthony.”
Crowley inhaled sharply and looked away. Panic flared in Aziraphale’s chest—had he done something wrong again? But then Crowley shook his head. “Can’t remember the last time someone called me that,” he muttered.
“Why does everyone call you Crowley?” Aziraphale’s voice was soft, probing but not invasive. Just curious. There was so much he didn’t know about Anthony Crowley, but suddenly he realized that he wanted to know all of it.
“Never got close enough to anyone to call me by my first name.”
He said it with such detachment that Aziraphale’s heart ached a little. But Crowley didn’t dwell on it. “‘Sides, Crowley’s a bit more intimidating than Anthony, don’t you think?”
“I suppose it is.” They lapsed into silence for a few moments, until Aziraphale said, “We could have a real picnic sometime, you know. It could be a… a date.”
Crowley looked at him, expression unreadable behind his sunglasses. But the corner of his mouth quirked into a smile. “I’d like that.”
Aziraphale exhaled, unable to help smiling, too.
And then he did something, seemingly out of his control. Without knowing what he was doing, he leaned over and pulled off Crowley’s glasses. Crowley blinked at him, surprised. And then Aziraphale kissed him.
Aziraphale had only ever been kissed once. In the church, young Aziraphale had returned to get a scarf he’d forgotten after mass. When he’d stood up, scarf in hand, he’d come face to face with Caela—a prim and proper young girl about his age who used to be in church choir with him. She hadn’t said anything, just smiled, grabbed him on either side of his face, and kissed him gently. It lasted barely a second, and then she’d turned and skipped away, her kitten heels clicking down the aisle all the way out the door.
Kissing Crowley was not like that.
As they connected, Crowley made a small hum of surprise that sent a tingle up Aziraphale’s spine. He was warm, and softer than expected. He smelled like the leather seats of the Bentley, and his lips had the vague taste of peppermint.
Once the shock of what they were doing had subsided, his long slender fingers came to rest on Aziraphale’s cheek, fingers meeting the curve of his jaw.
Aziraphale didn’t know what to do with his hands. And then he realized he wasn’t breathing, and how did one breathe during a kiss? He felt so wildly out of his depth that when Crowley pulled back, still cupping his face, he was almost relieved. And somehow sweating despite the breeze.
“Go to the prom with me.”
It took him a moment to process Crowley’s words, his mind abuzz with thoughts going a mile a minute. “The… the prom?”
“Yes, angel. Prom. Big dance, spiked punch, suit and tie, the whole shebang.” Crowley smiled and dipped his head, kissing Aziraphale’s neck, and oh, that did feel nice.
“Go to prom… with you?” he managed to say.
“Is that a, uh, request or a command?”
Crowley lifted his head, his face just inches from Aziraphale’s own. “Come on, go with me. It’ll be fun.”
“Yes, Aziraphale, fun. Ever heard of it?”
Aziraphale’s mood soured suddenly. “To imply I don’t know how to have fun is insulting, Crowley. You told me once that you didn’t think I was boring.” He pulled back, turning away, brows knotted together in thought.
“That’s not what I meant,” said Crowley, scooting closer. “I just thought it might be fun to go together.”
“It isn’t really my scene. You saw what happened at that party. I’m not comfortable with it, I’m… embarrassed, to go to one of these things again.”
“C’mon, it won’t be like that.”
Aziraphale looked at him, eyes narrowed. “Why are you pushing this? I said I don’t want to go.” When Crowley didn’t respond, he said, “What’s in it for you?”
Crowley laughed, but it sounded forced. “What’s in it for—really? Now I need a motive to be with you?”
“You tell me.”
“You really think that little of me?”
He still hadn’t answered the question. Why hadn’t he just answered the question? “Answer the question, Crowley,” said Aziraphale, his voice tight. How had they gone from kissing to this?
Crowley’s jaw clenched. “Nothing. There is nothing in it for me. Just the pleasure of your company. Alright?”
He reached into the pocket of his jacket and pulled out a cigarette. Aziraphale watched him, bewildered, and angry, because he’d said he’d quit, hadn’t he? What else had he said and didn’t mean?
Before he had the chance to light the cigarette, Aziraphale grabbed it and tossed it aside.
He stood up, and brushed off his trousers. “I would like to go home now. Please.”
Crowley stared at him for a long moment. And then he put his glasses back on. “Fine,” he said, not even an indication of emotion in his voice. Somehow, that made Aziraphale feel even worse. “Get in the car, I’ll be a minute.”
So Aziraphale did. He sat in the passenger seat, and listened to Crowley’s footsteps as he put the blanket back in the trunk. He started the car, and began to drive.
They didn’t speak the whole ride home.
Where we last left off, Az had broken Crowley out of detention, they kissed in a park, and Crowley asked him to prom. But Az said no because of what happened at the last school party, and now everyone's upset at everyone.
Sorry again for the long delay!! My life has been... not the best lately... and I sort of lost all motivation, and at one point even forgot about this fic. But I'm back, and the chapter after this is half-written, so hopefully it won't be too long a wait.
Anathema drummed her nails on the lunch table, staring across at Newt with narrowed eyes. Prom was days away, and he hadn’t yet mentioned it. She already put a dress rental on hold, knowing that she wanted to go with him, but it was like he was in a whole other universe.
“Hm?” Newt looked up from his textbook. The fact that he studied during their lunch hour was enough to drive Anathema mad. It was hard enough finding time to spend together, and the one time during the day where they had uninterrupted time he chose to study.
“Do you know what’s happening this weekend?” she asked.
“Sometimes, Newt, you are utterly obtuse.”
“Wh—” Newt watched Anathema stand up and gather her things. “What’ve I done?!”
Anathema sniffed haughtily and slung her bag over her shoulder. “It’s more like what you haven’t done. See you later.”
Newt sputtered wordlessly. “Anathema!” he called, but she didn’t look back as she exited the cafeteria. A few students turn to look at him with unabashed judgement, and Newt sank into his chair. He’d messed something up, again, without even realizing.
Across the room, several tables erupted into cheers and applause. Newt’s eyes fell on a football player kissing a cheerleader, a large hand-made sign with the word PROM? dangling from his hand.
Newt groaned and face-planted on the table.
Adam shuffled towards Pepper’s locker. Ever since Newt and Anathema had gotten together, his presence hadn’t been required as often as before, and he was beginning to get bored. More importantly, he was beginning to feel… alone. Seeing his friends pair up made him happy, but it also reminded him that he didn’t have his own person to take to the prom.
Not only that, but he’d begun to realize exactly how he felt about Pepper, and how much he missed hanging out with her. So he waited patiently at her locker for her to arrive after her final class of the day, taking nervous glances around the corridor.
“What are you waiting around here for?” Pepper’s voice jolted Adam out of his thoughts, and he smiled as she appeared from behind him.
“For you,” he said. “Newt’s off apologizing to Anathema, and Brian and Wensleydale have some test to study for. I wondered if you might get ice cream with me or something.”
To his surprise, Pepper actually smiled a little bit as she opened her locker. “That sounds nice, actually. We haven’t done that in ages. It’s too bad the others are busy, though.”
“It’s alright that it’s just us though, right?” Adam asked.
“Of course!” Pepper closed her locker and shouldered her backpack.
They began walking down the hallway. Adam pointed to a poster advertising the prom as they passed it. “Anyone asked you yet?” he asked, trying to sound nonchalant.
Pepper wrinkled her nose. “No, thankfully. It’s a stupid tradition.”
“It’s supposed to be fun.”
“Besides, why are the boys always supposed to ask the girls? If I wanted to go, I’d ask someone myself.”
“Oh,” said Adam, pushing through the doors to the courtyard. He held the door open for her, and she thanked him with a smile. “Is there, er, anyone you want to ask?”
Pepper glanced at him, her mouth set in a tight line, and then looked away. “I dunno.”
Adam’s heart pounded in his chest. “Well, maybe we could go. Together. As friends! Or not. Whatever you want.”
“Yeah. I mean, we’re friends, Pepper. Who says you can’t go to prom with a friend?”
Pepper smiled a little. And then abruptly frowned. “I haven’t got a dress.”
“We could go find one after we get ice cream,” Adam offered. “I’ll help. And we’ll make sure it’s not too girly. I think jumpsuits are popular.”
Pepper’s eyes lit up, and she broke into a toothy grin. “Yes,” she said. And then she linked arms with him. “You had me at jumpsuits.”
“And then he starts chasing me on his bike, and the idiot tries to cut me off and we both end up crashing!” Anathema winced as Aziraphale tended to her scraped knees. She sat on the edge of his bed while he knelt on the floor with the first aid kit from the bathroom. “Now I’m going to be all banged up for the prom that he forgot to ask me to!”
“Please take a breath, Anathema,” Aziraphale sighed, putting a plaster over the cut. “He apologized, yes?”
“Yes. Although I’m not sure if he was apologizing for that or for throwing me off my bike.”
“Regardless, he did apologize.” Aziraphale stood up and sat next to her. “You ought to cut him a bit of slack, you know. He’s likely got a lot on his plate.”
“But it’s prom. And he hasn’t even asked me to be his girlfriend yet.” She huffed. “Sorry. I’m just a bit rattled. I think my bike will need to be fixed, too.”
Aziraphale gave her a sympathetic smile, but it was half-hearted. “At least you have a date.”
Anathema instantly switched gears, forgetting her own heartbreak. “What happened with Crowley? I thought things were going well with him!”
“They were,” said Aziraphale. “He asked me to prom, but I… oh, I think I may have made a rather large mistake.”
He explained what had happened from breaking Crowley out of detention, to the kiss, to everything else. Anathema listened with rapt attention, absorbing every detail. When he was finished, she looked thoughtful.
“Are you really that embarrassed about the party?” she asked.
“I would really just like to avoid being in the spotlight again. I’m no good at social events.”
“Aziraphale.” Anathema turned to him and took his hands, meeting his eyes very seriously. “On prom night, nobody is going to be focusing on you. This is a night that everyone wants to remember for how much fun they’re having, not what other people are doing. If Crowley asked you to go, that means he wants to spend time with you. He cares about you. ”
“We’re from different worlds, Anathema. He’s probably moved on by now.”
“He kissed you, that means something!”
“I kissed him,” Aziraphale corrected.
“He kissed you back! And then asked you to prom!”
Aziraphale was running out of excuses. He groaned and buried his face in his hands. “I’ve been a fool.”
Anathema patted his back lightly. “Maybe just a little. But hey, if you really don’t want to go… I won’t go either.”
Aziraphale shot up. “Absolutely not!”
“Why? I’m still loyal to our pact, you know,” said Anathema. “I’ll only go if you go. It won’t be fun without you, anyway, and it’s clearly not a priority of Newt’s, so nobody will be disappointed. Deal?”
Aziraphale considered this. “Only if Crowley says no,” he said, but even as the words came out, they made him feel hollow. He wanted Crowley to say yes. He thought he might just die if he didn’t. Not because he wanted to go to prom so badly, but because this was Crowley, and though he didn’t want to admit it, he’d become very attached, sunglasses and all.
“If he says yes—which he will!—then we’ll all go together. Okay?”
Aziraphale nodded. “Alright.”
By the time Anathema left, it was quite late. The Fell family was asleep, except for Aziraphale.
He stared at Crowley’s number on his phone screen. He dreaded phone calls. Sometimes it was hard enough taking social cues in person, let alone when you couldn’t see the other person’s face, and really, he wanted to see Crowley’s face right now.
He steeled himself, took a breath, and hovered his thumb over the call button.
Something hit his window.
It took a moment to register the sound, and then Aziraphale dropped his phone on the bed and hurried to the window. He parted the blinds and peered out into the dark.
There was someone on the lawn.
It was Crowley.
As quietly as he could, trying not to disturb his parents, Aziraphale lifted the window and stuck his head out. “Crowley?” he called softly. “What are you doing?”
“Trying to be, uh, romantic, or… I dunno. I need to talk to you!” He swayed on his feet, unable to keep still. His glasses hung on the neck of his shirt, so that even at a distance Aziraphale could see the sparkle in his eyes.
“This isn’t an ideal way to talk!”
“Then come outside!”
“My parents,” said Aziraphale, gesturing over his shoulder. “I can’t wake them.”
Even from the second floor, he could hear Crowley’s huff of annoyance. Then, to his surprise, Crowley began to climb the tree, snaking up from branch to branch until he was level with the short roofing outside of the window.
“What on Earth—”
“You couldn’t come down, so I came up. May I?” Crowley pointed to the window, and Aziraphale hastily stepped aside to let him in. After a bit of tricky maneuvering, he was standing in Aziraphale’s bedroom, brushing bits of debris from his clothes. He surveyed the room with an appraising look. “Nice books,” he said, nodding to the towering stacks of volumes that lined the room.
“Thank you.” Aziraphale was suddenly nervous. “Er, Crowley, I—”
“Hold on.” Crowley turned towards him and stepped closer. “Let me speak for a second. Okay?”
“I’m not so good with words, but. I just mean, well, about yesterday… Things sort of—came out wrong—wasn’t thinking, really, and can you blame me, we’d just k—ahh, kissed. We kissed. And I sort of… well, you know.” He gestured vaguely. His face reddened. And then took a deep breath. “What I mean is, I’m sorry. You were right, I shouldn’t have pushed you.”
There was a pause. Aziraphale stepped forward and embraced him, tucking his chin over Crowley’s shoulder. Crowley froze for a moment before tentatively hugged him back.
“Thank you,” said Aziraphale softly. He pulled back to look Crowley in the eye. “I must apologize for my behaviour, too. Anathema helped me realize that I was focusing on the wrong things. I like you, Crowley, I really do. And… if you still wanted to go to prom—”
“Yes,” Crowley said very quickly. “I—I mean, if you want to. We don’t have to. But if, by chance, you did want to…”
Aziraphale laughed, and Crowley couldn’t help but smile, too. “I would be honoured.”
The air around them felt charged. Aziraphale held onto the tension, wondering who would be the first to crack it. Finally, Crowley moved with such determination that Aziraphale didn’t have time to think, just react instinctually. It was a slightly less gentle kiss than the one they’d already shared. More sure, more passionate. Aziraphale leaned into it, his grip tightening on the thin material of Crowley’s jacket—
“What the hell is going on here?”
Aziraphale all but shoved Crowley away, a shallow gasp escaping him as he turned towards the voice—the voice he knew well enough to know that he was in big trouble.
His father stood in the doorway, eyes flickering between them. One hand was on the door knob, pushing the door to the bedroom wide open, the other braced on the frame, as if trying to keep himself standing. He was in his pyjamas, but he looked wide awake.
He straightened himself, his jaw set, and cleared his throat. “Downstairs. Now.”
Aziraphale was so tense that he could have shit diamonds.
All he could think was one phrase:
Strap in bc this chapter is a RIDE.
Crowley was very good at not being caught.
So good, in fact, that for his entire high school career, his father had no idea of his more unsavoury habits. Smoking, for example, was something he’d taken up in Year 9 and had managed to keep hidden for several years now. Whenever he got a bad grade on an assignment (it was rare, since he was excellent at bullshitting his assignments, but it happened on occasion) it would meet the paper shredder before it ever came into contact with Mr. Crowley.
His sexuality, too, had been very under wraps. Having his own car meant that sneaking around was easy, and he never had to bring a boy home on the rare occasion that he found anyone interesting enough to hold his attention. He was careful and discreet.
It was approaching eleven o’clock and he sat in the passenger seat for once, his father’s eyes locked on the road ahead of them. Crowley gazed out at the passing streetlights, head against the window, remembering how Aziraphale had looked in the Fell family’s living room. He sat a few feet away from Crowley, hands clasped in his lap, eyes cast downward, almost as if he was praying. Maybe he was praying. Sometimes, despite it all, Crowley forgot he was religious.
The whole thing was like a trial. As if he and Aziraphale had committed some terrible crime. He wouldn’t have even been there at Aziraphale’s house if it weren’t for Gabriel and his stupid scheme.
Guilt made his stomach twist. The thing was, he wanted to be there. He didn’t throw rocks at Aziraphale’s window because he’d been paid to. He did it because Aziraphale had gotten under his skin, and he couldn’t stand the thought of losing him. The money didn’t matter, except that it did, because Aziraphale didn’t know, and if he found out—
“I’m disappointed in you, Anthony.”
His father’s voice interrupted the thought spiral.
Crowley tensed. It wasn’t that he was afraid of his father, necessarily. Mr. Crowley was just strict, and cared more about figures and results than about things like fatherly love. If Crowley got an A+ on an assignment, he got a pat on the shoulder. If he needed to talk about his feelings, he’d rather die than go to his father.
He could scarcely remember when things were different; when his family was whole, and his father was full of smiles and playing catch in the yard. It changed when his mother left them both. The Crowley men weren’t enough for her, and Crowley could never figure out why. What had he done to drive his mother away?
He’d asked his father once. A normal dad might reassure his son that it wasn’t his fault—these things just happen. But Mr. Crowley never made any indication that it wasn’t his son’s fault.
Maybe he blamed him. Crowley didn’t know. But if he’d done something different, maybe his mother would still be there.
That’s the thought he tortured himself with, anyway.
“You’re not even listening to me,” his father said when Crowley didn’t reply.
“Think this is funny, do you?” his father said, his stern face full of creases and tight edges, his lips just short of pursed. His knuckles went white on the steering wheel. “It’s not bad enough to ruin your own reputation, but you had to go ruin someone else’s?”
“I haven’t ruined anything.”
“Mr. Fell believes you are corrupting his son.”
“Corrupting him?” said Crowley, with a short laugh. “If a kiss counts as corruption then we are in a sorry state, aren’t we.”
“Anthony.” His father’s tone was a warning. “Sometimes you have to think about the implications of your actions.”
Crowley scoffed. “What actions would that be, exactly?” he said. “Being queer?”
A silence followed his words, filling the car with a quiet hum of the engine. He looked at his father, gauging his reaction, but there wasn’t one. Just a blank face. Nothing.
Finally, “I don’t have an issue with that , Anthony.”
Well, that was news to him.
After being chewed out by Aziraphale’s father with rants about God and sin and temptation, he figured the rest of the night would be the standard Don’t do it again, son and off to bed. Avoiding the topic. The whole thing forgotten.
His silence must have conveyed his confusion, because his father sighed. “Who you choose to be with isn’t my business, son. But for that young man’s parents, this is quite a big deal. I won’t have you upsetting other people and turning anyone against us.”
Crowley suppressed a groan. “So this is about your reputation, then. Not mine. Got it.”
“I’m looking out for the both of us.”
“Yeah, right. If that were true, you might ask me how I’m doing every once in a while.” He turned back to face the window. “Would be nice to have a father who actually notices when I sneak out at night.”
They reached their street, and his father turned into the driveway. He sighed. “I don’t know what you expect from me, Anthony. Someone has to pay the bills in this family.”
“Right, I forgot you’re actually a saint and I should be grateful you haven’t kicked me to the curb like mum did.”
Before the car had even gone fully into park, he’d jumped out and slammed the door behind him. He was completely and utterly alone. No mother, hardly a father, and now Aziraphale, the one person he could stand to be around, ripped from his grasp. Dangled in front of him like a piece of particularly precious fruit and then yanked away. The apple in the garden just out of reach.
He fled to his room, taking only a moment to shuck his clothes to the floor before crawling under the sheets, shivering against the cold press of the mattress.
In the dark, he typed out a message to Aziraphale.
Say the word and I’ll still pick you up at 7pm tux and all.
He waited, and waited, but the phone remained silent. No text alerts. He fell asleep sometimes around one o’clock, still clutching it to his chest.
Seven o’clock on Saturday was approaching, and there was still no word from Aziraphale.
Crowley spent the day in bed, headphones on, listening to whatever rocked his eardrums the loudest.
By mid-day, he was certain that it was over. Aziraphale was done with him, or at the very least he had been forbidden from going to prom. Grounded, maybe. On house arrest. That meant there was still a chance he wanted to be with Crowley—just that he couldn’t. Phone confiscated. That was it.
No doubt the Fells would be on their guard, so sneaking in through the window wouldn’t work a second time. Not that he had the energy. Part of Crowley wondered if there was any point anymore. If he should give up on his angel, just forget about him and add him to the list of people that had left Crowley behind.
His father attempted to check on him several times throughout the day, but Crowley pushed the dresser in front of the door to prevent him from coming in.
Around six-thirty, Crowley was famished, but he would rather starve than face his father now that he was certain Aziraphale wasn’t answering.
There was a knock at his door again.
“Anthony, I’m going out.” That wasn’t a surprise. His father often spent Saturday nights at the casino or getting drinks with coworkers. ‘Building connections’, he called it. “There’s food in the fridge. Eat something. And use the bathroom, for God’s sake.”
Crowley glanced guiltily to his bedroom window, where he relieved himself throughout the day. Those petunias in the flowerbed below were almost certainly goners.
He waited until he heard the front door close to crawl out of bed. He used what little strength he had to shove the dresser out of the way and then shot downstairs, helping himself to the kitchen.
He was halfway through his frozen pizza when the doorbell rang. And rang again. And again.
Something like hope swelled in his chest, but he roughly shoved it back. It wasn’t Aziraphale. It was nearing seven-thirty now. Probably some neighbour delivering misplaced mail. He wiped his greasy fingers on his shirt—very suave, Crowley—and pulled open the front door.
Crowley went so still that he may as well be made of stone.
“Crowley,” Aziraphale said. He was breathless, slightly pink in the face, like he’d been running. But he was also wearing a suit. Off-white, with a real daisy in one of the buttonholes, and, of course, a tartan bow tie.
Crowley moved his lips to speak, but no words came out.
“I’ve only just escaped.” Aziraphale teetered nervously on the front stoop. “May I come in?”
Crowley stepped aside and let him in, closing the door. When he turned to face Aziraphale—it really was him—he saw the way the other boy was looking him up and down, taking him in. His unwashed, disheveled hair. A stained, oversized Queen shirt and sweatpants. Just a tinge of that orange glow one gets around their mouth when eating pizza sauce.
“I’m so sorry,” said Aziraphale softly.
Now over the shock, Crowley turned bitter. He shrugged. “S’alright.”
“No, it isn’t. Oh, look at you. I’ve left you in such a state.” Aziraphale fussed over him, gently brushing crumbs from his shirt and tucking a lock of hair behind his ear. Crowley felt a blush rising to his cheeks. He wasn’t used to being fussed over. “I truly am sorry, Crowley. My father confiscated my phone, and we’ve just been fighting all day, absolutely terrible, and no way to contact you. I do hope you didn’t get into much trouble, I just haven’t been able to stop thinking about it, if you got in trouble because of me, and—”
“Angel.” Crowley grabbed one of his fidgeting hands. “Slow down.”
Aziraphale exhaled slowly, nodding. Then he chuckled nervously. “Funny, I always thought you were the one moving too fast for me.”
The corner of Crowley’s mouth quirked into a smile. “Well, it’s not throwing rocks at my window, but I’ll take it,” he said. “By the way, how did you…?”
“Escape?” Aziraphale asked, and Crowley nodded. “I thought about going out the window, but that would be cowardly, I think, and I’m not quite as agile as you, anyhow, and I would have gotten my suit dirty. No, I went out the front door. My father needed to understand…” He got a steely look in his eye. “He needs to realize that I’m not going to change. No matter how many times we go to church or how many friends’ daughters he gives my number to. I know who I am and I know what I want.”
“And what you want is?” He tried not to look too hopeful.
Aziraphale smiled. “You, of course.”
“Thank God for that,” said Crowley, letting out a sigh of relief. “Or, not God. Satan, maybe. Whoever. Thank Someone, anyway.” He looked Aziraphale up and down, and then down at himself. “I am a bit, er, underdressed…”
Aziraphale sensed his worry and reassured him by cupping his jaw in his soft hand. “My dear, you could be dressed in a pillowcase and I would still think you were beautiful. You are beautiful.”
Crowley’s heart fluttered. Beautiful. He would have never associated such a word with describing himself.
He recovered quickly, even if his blush gave him away. “M’not going to prom in a pillowcase,” he muttered. “That is, if… if you still wanted to go.”
Aziraphale beamed. “Whyever would I wear a suit if not to go to prom? It would be a shame to wear it and not show it off.”
“We’re going to be late.”
“We already are. Nothing wrong with being fashionable tardy.” Aziraphale leaned in and kissed him chastely. Crowley could have sung. “Go get ready,” Aziraphale whispered.
“Care to join me in the shower?”
Crowley cackled and ducked out of his grasp, rushing up the stairs impossibly fast. “Only be a moment, angel, make yourself at home!”
It was the fastest shower he’d taken in his life. With the speed of a demon, he blow-dried his hair and put it up partially, a little bun at the back with the rest framing his face in what he hoped was a flattering way. He did have a suit rental, having used the money from Gabriel, and it wasn’t perfectly tailored, but it would do. All black, very sleek. Very Crowley.
His sunglasses, folded up nicely on the nightstand, stared up at him. His hand hovered over them, itching to take his safety net with him. They gave him a barrier to the rest of the world. Aziraphale was the only one who had been able to lower that barrier.
He left the glasses behind.
Aziraphale was in the sitting room.
“Not too shabby, eh?” Crowley said, giving something of an ostentatious twirl.
Aziraphale rose from the sofa and met him in the doorway, eyes practically sparkling. “Stunning,” he said. He said it far too genuinely for Crowley to play it off with a laugh. Lost for words, he only answered by taking hold of Aziraphale’s lapel and pulling him in for a kiss.
Aziraphale pulled back after a few glorious moments of unbridled kissing that verged on a full blown make out session. Crowley whined in defiance, but Aziraphale put a hand on his chest—oh, his hands, how he’d dreamt about those hands—and chuckled.
“You’re just missing one thing.”
Crowley frowned. “What’s that?”
Aziraphale plucked the daisy from his buttonhole, gingerly lifting it and tucking it into Crowley’s hair. It sat by his ear, secured by the vines of copper that snaked back toward his bun.
“There,” he said.
“As eloquent as ever,” Aziraphale teased. He held out his arm. “To the prom?”
Crowley took it, a warmth spreading from the ends of his toes to the tips of his ears. “To the prom.”
Jasmine Cottage nestled quietly between the trees, the blossoming garden alight with fireflies. Gabriel strolled up the path to the front door with so much confidence that even the flowers themselves sat up a bit straighter.
He knocked on the door loudly and surely, wearing a suit of all white. The limo idled on the road, ready to sweep him and his date off to the prom. All he needed now was the girl.
An older woman opened the door. She appeared confused at his arrival. “Can I help you, dear?”
“I’m here to pick up Anathema.” He flashed his pearly teeth. “Is she ready?”
“She isn’t home,” said the woman. “That nice young lad picked her up for the dance. Who are you?”
Gabriel clenched his jaw, and stalked back down the path towards the car.
Two chapters in a week?!?! WHaTT??
We're coming to the end of this fic. The one after this will be the last. I'll save my sappy thanks for that one. For this chapter... um, I'm sorry. In advance. *hides*
They were, in fact, very late to the prom. It was in full swing when Crowley pulled up to the venue in the Bentley, and it took a few excruciating minutes to find a parking spot. Aziraphale fidgeted in the passenger seat, looking equal parts giddy and nervous.
Finally, they made it in amidst the sweating hormonal youths. They hovered at the doors, afraid to crack the seal and delve into the crowd.
“Don’t think I really mentioned it,” said Crowley over the din, “but you, uh, look good. Great. Uh, handsome. Etcetera, etcetera, more complimentary words, you know.” He waved his hand dismissively as if to say fill in the blank. He was no good with words. But Aziraphale smiled nonetheless.
“Thank you, Crowley.”
They stared at one another, unsure. Crowley could have kissed him. His nerves triumphed and instead he gestured to the doors and said, “Shall we?”
“In a second, I just…” Aziraphale began to fidget once more. “I wanted to apologize, again, for questioning your motives. When I asked what was in it for you. Taking me to the prom.”
“Oh,” said Crowley. He might have felt guilty, but this wasn’t about Gabriel’s scheme anymore. The money didn’t matter to him, and Newt had taken Anathema to the prom, so Gabriel was out of the equation. He wasn’t being paid to spend time with Aziraphale; that was a thing of the past.
Telling him now would just ruin everything.
He was there with Aziraphale because he wanted to be.
“You’re forgiven,” he said, and gave a wry smile.
“Excellent.” Aziraphale beamed and took his hand, threading their fingers together like it was meant to be. Maybe it was. “Ready for the prom?”
“As I’ll ever be.”
School dances, as it turned out, could be fun. The music was terrible, of course, but that could be overlooked, because Crowley had Aziraphale, and little else mattered beyond that.
They saw Anathema and Newt dancing not far away, and even more surprisingly, Pepper and Adam seemed to have decided to go together as well. They wore matching aubergine ensembles, Pepper in a jumpsuit and Adam in a suit, pink corsages on their lapels.
“That’s nice, isn’t it?” said Crowley, making sure to lean in extra close so Aziraphale could hear him. “Every couple’s all squared away.”
“Couple?” Aziraphale blinked. “Are we... a couple?” His arms sloped over Crowley’s shoulders, their faces just inches away, his wide eyes full of uncertainty.
“Could be,” said Crowley, meaning every word. “If you wanted.”
The song happened to end there, and the energy changed with the music, a slower dance. A couples dance. Some of the floor cleared as friends and singles, and there was more space to breathe.
Crowley put his hands on Aziraphale’s hips and they swayed together slowly. The music hung between them, the fairy lights overhead twinkling like stars. They could’ve been on another planet, or even another galaxy for how little Crowley noticed anything in the room except his angel.
That’s why he had little warning before he was suddenly yanked backwards. Hands gripped his collar and a puff of spearmint hit him. “Oi!” he yelped, and pushed the attacker away.
It was Gabriel. Standing between him and Aziraphale.
“Why is Anathema here with that nerdy prick?” Gabriel demanded.
“Probably because that nerdy prick is far more likeable than you.”
Gabriel snorted. “Listen, Anthony. I didn’t pay you to take out Aziraphale so that some little punk could come sweep her away from me!”
And Crowley saw it; the way Aziraphale’s face twisted, first in confusion, and then anger. His eyes that had moments ago been sparkling and blue where now dark and closed-off.
“Nothing in it for you?” said Aziraphale. His voice was dangerously quiet.
No, no. Anything but this. “Angel…” Crowley started, but Aziraphale was already heading towards the doors. The crowd parted by some miracle, making way for him, but by the time Crowley moved to follow there was no clear pathway. He swore under his breath and shoved away from Gabriel, needing to find Aziraphale before he left the building.
Across the room, Adam and Pepper maneuvered over to where Anathema and Newt were dancing, trying their best to look nonchalant.
“Keep your eyes open, Newt,” said Adam. “The shit has hit the fan.”
“Ouch, Newt, my foot,” Anathema hissed.
Gabriel’s head lifted at the sound of Newt’s voice, and he went very pale as the other boy marched over. The two couples separated as Adam pushed ahead to protect the others.
Gabriel pushed him aside. Literally pushed, shoving him so hard that he tripped and ended up on the floor. Newt hurried to help him up.
“You messed with the wrong guy,” Gabriel warned. “Now you’re going to pay. You and that little witch!”
Newt stepped up, looking Gabriel directly in the eye with renewed confidence. “That’s enough! You’ve crossed a line,” he said, adjusting his glasses on his nose.
Gabriel laughed in his face. He smiled. He looked around at the audience that was accumulating around them and then shrugged.
His fist hit Newt right in the nose.
Now it was Newt’s turn to hit the floor, gasps of shock echoing throughout the room. The music shut off.
“Come on, get up you little—”
Anathema tapped him solidly on the shoulder. Gabriel turned. And she reeled back and punched him with all her might.
It didn’t send him down, but his face twisted in pain, lifting a hand to his nose. “Shit, Anathema, I’m shooting a nose spray ad tomorrow!”
“That’s for making my date bleed!” she said.
Another punch . “That’s for my best friend—”
She grabbed him by the shoulders and kneed him squarely in the crotch. “And that’s for me.”
She folded her arms over her chest, watching down her nose as Gabriel sank to the floor, groaning in pain. With a satisfied sigh, she strode past his curled up form and helped Newt to his feet. “Are you okay?” she asked.
Newt looked at her as if she had the stars in her eyes. His nose hurt, and a bit of blood was pooling at his upper lip. There might be a bruise. But he smiled. “Never been better.”
Pepper brushed dirt off Adam’s suit. “It was a valiant attempt,” she said, consoling him for his failed intervention.
“Thanks, Pepper,” Adam said, glad to see that Newt was alright and back in the arms of his girl. “That’ll go down in history,” he said as he watched Gabriel get escorted out of the venue by security.
“That’s what he gets for being an entitled straight white man,” said Pepper, shaking her head.
“And American,” Adam added.
Pepper laughed. “And American.”
Oblivious to the drama inside, Crowley and Aziraphale occupied the curiously out-of-place bandstand that sat on the green outside the building. For outdoor venues? Aziraphale didn’t care. All he wanted to do was crawl into bed for the next several days.
But Crowley had caught him at the bandstand, frantic.
“Would you just give me a chance to—”
“You were paid to take me out,” Aziraphale said, unable to keep his voice calm, “by the one person I truly hate! I knew this had to be a cosmic joke on me, and I was right.”
“Angel, it wasn’t like that!” Crowley tried to step closer, but Aziraphale only stepped back in response. He looked at anything but Crowley, knowing that if he looked into those eyes there was no telling if he could hold his resolve.
“What was it like, then?” he asked, trembling as tears threatened to spill over. “A down payment now and then a bonus for sleeping with me later?”
“I didn’t care about the money, alright? I cared about—” Crowley ran a hand through his hair. Gripped it hard. He softened. “I cared about you.”
“You…” Aziraphale took a shuddering breath. “You are not who I thought you were.”
He turned to leave. Couldn’t bear the thought of staying a moment longer. A hand grabbed his arm, and then his neck, and Crowley was kissing him, and—
It took every shred of willpower to push him away. “Please,” he said. His voice cracked. “Just… don’t, Crowley. It’s over.”
“Alright.” Mr. Tyler clapped his hands. It was nearing the last day of school now, and finals approached, but there were just a few more assignments to get out of the way. “I assume everyone has found time to complete their poem.”
It was a large assumption. Most students in class still looked hungover from prom on Saturday, and it was Monday now. Aziraphale sat stiffly in his seat, eyes on his desk. It was the only way to insure that he wouldn’t glance over his shoulder to where Crowley was sitting.
Only Gabriel was absent, having been excused due to his nose being broken.
“Is anyone brave enough to read theirs aloud?”
A resounding silence answered his question. Students avoided eye contact, praying not to be picked first.
Finally, Aziraphale raised his hand. “I will.”
“Very well, Mr. Fell.” Mr. Tyler moved to sit by the wall, allowing the front of the room to be the stage. Aziraphale picked up his notebook and shuffled to the stand. It wasn’t quite a podium, more like a stick with a tilted surface to place his book.
There had been another draft; a poem written before prom. He’d scrapped it on Sunday morning and started fresh.
He shakily smoothed out the page and cleared his throat.
“I hate the way you talk to me,” he began, “and the way you cut your hair. I hate the way you drive your car; I hate the way you stare.”
He chanced a look at Crowley, who was leaning on the heel of his palm, watching from behind his sunglasses. Even with the barrier, Aziraphale felt the intensity of his gaze.
“I hate your horrid snakeskin boots, and the way you read my mind. I hate you so much it makes me sick; it even makes me rhyme.”
Something ached in his chest. He took a deep breath. “I hate the way you’re always right; I hate it when you lie. I hate it when you make me laugh; even worse when you make me cry.”
Aziraphale’s throat tightened. Crowley had lowered his glasses, folded them neatly on his desk. From the look in his eye, he could see the ache there, too.
“I hate it when you’re not around, and the fact that you didn’t call.” A tear escaped, and he hastily brushed it away. “But mostly I hate the way that I don’t hate you. Not even close; not even a little bit; not even at all.”
Aziraphale closed his notebook and clutched it to his chest. He ducked his head and walked out of the classroom door. He didn’t return.