Azira Fell is a man of many things. He’s a good man; well-mannered and soft spoken; of humble beginnings and a believer of good intentions. Do good things to receive good karma in return. Show others the kindness you yourself would like to be shown. His mother raised him right, after all.
He’s fond of many things, too. Animals, books, photography, and especially… food. He’s always been a good eater; no allergies and never an upset stomach. His baby photos show him to have delightfully chubby cherub cheeks and a soft round physique, which has followed him into adulthood in the form of soft smiles and a soft stomach - not overweight, but not the strong form his father would have wished him. No matter.
His love of food is what has led him to this moment in his life - he was about to open his own bakery. He’d managed to get his hands on the deeds to a very small, old shop front in Soho, London, with an apartment on the floor above, and with a little bit of TLC, he knows it’ll feel like home soon enough.
Anthony J. Crowley is also a man of many things. Sharp-tongued, quick witted and endlessly chaotic in every aspect of his character. Those who know him or have had the pleasure to meet him have long since given up understanding his actions or motives. As a lone predator; he takes risks and thrives in adversity, enjoying seeing people react to the things he does. He believes in karma too - talk shit, get hit kind of karma, and his youth was certainly an example of that.
He also likes to think himself as handsome, devilishly so. Slick red hair, a wicked sense of style, a great taste in music and a gleaming smile that has helped him charm his way through life more times than he could count.
That being said, his career is not one people often expect of him, and thus he tends to do things that are… unfitting of his appearance.
And with that, he walks into the newly opened Heavenly Delights Bakery .
Azira lifts his head at the chime of the front door being opened. He braces a dazzling smile, ready to cheerily welcome another new customer into his shop.
“Hello! Welcome to Heavenly Delights!” he calls out with as much enthusiasm as he can manage whilst balancing two hot, heavy trays of freshly baked bread rolls. His baker’s hat is askew, but there’s no time to think about that. He sets the trays down to cool on the prep table and takes off his oven mitts.
“Is there anything in particular you might be looking for?” he asks as he moves towards the front of the shop from the wide doorway separating the kitchen from the store itself. There is a woman sitting at one of the small tables; whom he’d served a few minutes ago; enjoying the last of her Belgian bun and sips of her tea, and he’s pleased to see there’s nary a crumb in sight on her plate. The customer who just entered approaches the display counter and points at the blueberry muffins, not even saying hello.
Rude, Azira thinks, though his upbeat manner doesn’t falter as he chirps, “Just the one blueberry muffin for you sir?”
The man grunts, raising a brow as if to mock him. “Do ye see me pointin’ at anything else?”
Azira falters, not sure how to reply, and hurries to select the muffin and package it carefully, not even hearing the door chime again.
“An excellent choice, sir, these blueberries are locally grown, you know, and the farmer is such a charming old man who-”
“I don’t care, just tell me how much I owe ya.”
Once more he falters, his well-mannered mentality shocked at how rude one person could be even on a first encounter.
“W-well, it’s- it’ll be -um, a pound and fifteen pence, please. Th-that’ll be all.” He takes the item to the cash register and logs the transaction in manually; the machine is a tad old-fashioned, but he feels it adds to the atmosphere of the shop.
The rude gentleman drops a fistful of change onto the counter, slowly shifting through it to find the exact change and Azira tries, very hard, not to shift from foot to foot impatiently in front of him as he waits, and instead takes a look around the shop again.
There’s someone new.
He blinks. Someone must’ve come in without him noticing.
The man is standing by the doorway, admiring a display of cupcake boxes, sizes holding between 8 to 24 cupcakes at a time, and is twirling a polka-dot one in his leather gloved hands idly. Azira can only see his face in profile, the twist of a slight frown tugging his lips down and the small twitch of his straight nose pushing his rather unusual sunglasses back up as he looks around in an almost bored expression. The most notable thing about him is the fact that not only is he dressed entirely in shades of grey and black, but his hair is… well. A shade of coppery red Azira can only describe as stunning. He looks away before he’s caught staring.
The customer pushes an admittedly annoying amount of small change his way, and Azira resolves himself to quickly recounting the coins to the correct amount. Luckily he’s quite good with numbers, and as he hits enter on the register and the till drawer dings open, the rude customer snatches the muffin and turns to leave, without even a goodbye.
“Have a nice day!” he calls after him anyway.
The guy tuts, shaking his head and reaches for the door, only-
“Oh. Sorry about that.” Not sounding sorry at all, the gentleman with the unusual sunglasses grins sharpishly at the rude man. He’d opened the door just before him, causing the now red-face angry man to walk face-first into the edge of the door.
“Watch what you’re doing, asshole!” the man sputters, clutching his nose as he storms out. Sunglasses man wiggles his fingers after him in a teasing manner, calling out, “Better watch where you’re going, you know!”
Azira stands there, mouth slightly agape, unsure how to react to anything that has just happened. The fiery-haired gentleman drops his hand and lets go of the door, letting it shut naturally as he saunters - yes, saunters, it’s the best word for how he moves - up to where Azira stands still like a statue.
“Don’t suppose you do custom orders?” he asks, and the baker has to blink and clear his throat. Dear Lord that voice is something else-
“I-I err, well, yes. I suppose I could make a custom order, if the request is something within the range of my abilities.”
“Oh, I’m sure it is….” the man leans closer, mouth twisting slightly. “Azir...a…?”
“Azira.” Azira provides him sheepishly. “I er..have a kind of unusual name, I suppose…”
“It suits you, though. Sounds like it could be an angel’s name.” The man leans back and smirks, and Azira swallows almost nervously, why is he nervous? “So, Azira, is it? I need uhh...let’s see… around 30 cupcakes.”
“Cupcakes..?” He was not expecting a simple request such as that.
“Yes. Nothing too fancy - vanilla and chocolate chips, or something like that. Bit of frosting on top. Sprinkles and whatnot.”
“Is this for a special occasion of sorts?” Azira grabs his notepad, jotting down the details before he forgets.
“Kinda.” The man sniffs, pushing his sunglasses back up the bridge of his nose and swaying on the spot, as if he struggles to stand still. “It’s - it’s a welcoming party, of sorts.”
“Right. And - And when would you like this order for, sir?”
“Just Crowley. None of that sir stuff.” He waves his hand dismissively. “And I need it for a week from now, that good?”
“Ahh, yes, plenty of time, don’t worry sir- I-I mean, Mr Crowley, sir-” he feels the heat of his blush creep down his neck from his ears and he wishes, not for the first time, that he didn’t fluster so easily when he’s embarrassed. “When will you be collecting it?”
“First thing in the morning - ah- when is it you open, exactly?”
“Eight on the dot!”
“Mmn, that should be fine. I’ll be in to collect them at eight, next week.”
“Splendid!” He’s scribbling down the last of the notes - and honestly, the name Crowley just seems to fit the man so well - when he realises Mr Crowley is in fact, already leaving.
“Ahh, sir- M-Mr Crowley-”
“Mmn, yes, Mr Azira?” The red haired wonder turns and hums, smirking back at him.
“I…” Azira has to clear his throat again. “I-I need some sort of contact number.. A-and a deposit on the order, in case of cancellation..”
“Ahh, yes, my apologies.” He saunters back and leans over the counter, easily sliding Azira’s notebook and pen from his slackened grip. With an effortless twirl, his thin, long fingers pull the pen across the page to reveal a phone number along with the name, Anthony J. Crowley. From his jacket pocket he produces a leather wallet and pulls out a few notes.
“Is this good?” He holds out a few ten-pound notes.
“.. Ah! Yes, that’s m-more than enough - in fact, I think I need to give you some change-”
“Don’t worry about that, Angel.. Add it to the tip jar, or something.” He grins and backs away, turning sharply with a salute of his hand. Within moments he’s out the door, around the corner and out of sight. Azira sits at the register on the little stool he’d placed there for quiet moments, staring down at the notepad and the foreign, haphazardous scrawl in front of him, so different from his own neat script. It was not like him to be so taken aback by a person, but as he’s been told many a time by his parents - is that a first encounter always has a lasting effect on how you view that person, and well, this has certainly been an interesting one.
To say that Crowley was nervous about going back to the bakery the following week would be a damned lie. A lie in the sense that it was close to the truth, but he wasn't ready to admit it to himself just yet.
He had not been expecting the employee behind the counter to be so.... well, for lack of a better word, angelic. He was sure the man had the patience of a saint, especially with the way he handled the rude customer he'd been serving before Crowley approached. He eavesdropped on them and maybe, maybe purposefully opened the door on purpose with just the right timing to smack the asshole in the face. He'd been rewarded double for the gesture; a flustered and angry ass storming off and the shocked yet flushed pink face of the baker, who he swore was hiding a smile.
And he was so soft spoken. He spoke so formally, despite his appearance - he can't be much more different in age to Crowley, who was slowly approaching the big 3-0 as reluctantly as possible. His manner and personality just seemed so polite and refined that he almost seemed out of place in the bakery, if it weren't for the messy apron, askew baker's hat and dustings of flour on his hands and cheeks.
Crowley grimaces at the image in his mind of big blue eyes, a wide friendly smile and that one insistent smudge on the man's cheek he wished he could have brushed off. It's not good for him to already feel...things... like this after one small conversation.
He's waiting across the street in his Bentley, parked up in one of the few cheap parking spaces this area of London had to offer - and well, at seven in the morning it's well within his right to hog it. He's early - the lights are off in the storefront of the bakery, though he can see a faint glow through the windows where the back kitchens must be, even with his sunglasses on. He takes a drag of his vape - nasty thing, but Gabriel had complained of him smelling of smoke and cigarettes in the workplace and it affecting the kids, so he had made the switch to lessen the smell. Plus, it was supposedly less bad for you. At least now he can get his nicotine fix; just now it smells of apples.
A movement in the corner of his eye gets his attention, and he looks up to see a blur of blonde and white open the door to the bakery, moving nonchalantly over to the windows and giving them a quick wipe down with a damp cloth. He has a carefree grin on his face, and as Crowley tucks away his vape and gets out of the car, he can hear faint humming as he approaches.
The blonde man startles a bit. "Oh!! Good morning, my dear."
Crowley raises a brow, but doesn't comment on the pet name. Maybe it was retaliation for the 'Angel' nickname he'd given him before.
"Am I too early for ya?" he waves a hand at the still-quiet shop. The chalkboard in the door window says the average opening time is 8am.
"Oh, not a worry! It's usually just me here in the mornings, and I'm not strict on opening times. Most of those numbers are simply guesstimate." He chuckles, gathering up his cleaning kit and shuffling around Crowley to head up the steps. "Come in! I'll get your order for you."
Crowley hums and smiles, gently kicking the door shut behind him. Definitely not because he wanted to be alone with the baker.
"You always open alone?" He asks casually. "What about management?"
"Ahh, well - I am the one who owns and runs the shop, so- I suppose I am my own management?" Azira - Crowley now remembers, catching sight of his name tag in the light, shrugs. "Though if it starts getting busier I will have to take on a couple of helpers."
"If you need a few young folk to help out part time, there's a college nearby that has a decent cooking course goin' on. You could probably put an ad up over there."
"Oh, wonderful! That's so helpful, thank you Mr Crowley!" The blonde beams at him, and he has to shuffle his feet and look away before he did something weird.
"Don't worry about it."
Azira smiles even more at that, then turns with a thought and hurries into the back room. "I almost forgot!" Crowley hears him call, and the shorter man returns with a large, square cupcake box. "I hope it's to your liking, the instructions were, erm, a little vague..."
He lifts the lid of the box, revealing thirty perfectly frosted vanilla cupcakes, the swirl of buttercream frosting dusted lightly in chocolate cocoa powder and an artistic swirl of chocolate and sugar sprinkles.
"They look perfect, Angel, they'll love it." He almost reaches in to grab one, but stops himself, reminding his hungry stomach that they were for his new students. He almost pouts.
"I did make a couple extra, if you'd like to try one yourself?" Azira almost reads his mind, and Crowley looks up with an eager grin.
Azira grins and as if by magic, produces a small plate with two extra cupcakes. He reboxes the order and sets it to one side, then gives Crowley a curious, innocent look.
"Would you like a drink with your cupcake? I could make a pot of tea."
"Ahh, m'fine, Angel, this is more than enough already." His fingers twitch, eager to try out the delightful looking treat in front of him already. Amused, the blonde shakes his head with a hum.
"Go on, you heathen. Try it and tell me what you think!"
Crowley tries to keep to some manners he'd learnt growing up, making sure to unwrap the little paper liner first and taking a big bite. He almost instantly feels the frosting smear over his upper lip as his teeth sink further down than imagined, and sparks of stars dance across his tongue as the sugar melts into his tastebuds, a smooth blend of chocolate and buttercream, chewy and soft, a hint of crunch between his teeth from the sprinkles and chocolate chips that were hidden away in the batter.
It truly was a Heavenly Delight. It was all he could do not to moan out load.
A small choking noise and cough startles him, and he blinks open his eyes to see Azira thumping his fist on his own chest.
"You alright?" He asks through a mouthful of cupcake, unwilling to rush this experience for the sake of being 'polite'.
"Ah- y-yes, um-" he clears his throat, recovering. "Just gone down the wrong pipe, as it were."
Crowley nods, he's done that before. He feels a smudge of frosting along his lip that he'd missed, and he flicks a tongue out to sweep it up. Behind his sunglasses, he notices Azira watch him in a wide eyed wonder as a blush appears the flush his cheeks. He smirks.
"Are you sure these are heavenly?" he asks, and Azira blinks back into focus.
"What do you mean? Are they no good?"
"Good? Absolutely not -" Azira begins to frown, so Crowley quick leans closer with a wider smirk. "It's fuckin' sinful , Angel."
The blush comes back in full force, causing the stuttering baker to take a couple steps back as he flusters for a reply. Crowley takes the opportunity to mentally pat his own back and finish the rest of the cupcake, even going so far as to lick his fingers clean. It was just that good, after all.
Azira clears his throat after a moment. "R-right, well, as you paid the deposit on the order already, that leaves only £7.50 to pay, if you're ready..?"
Crowley glances at his watch: about 7:30am. It'll take him at least twenty minutes in the morning traffic to drive to work if he doesn't want Gabriel on his ass about punctuality and whatnot. Plus he does want to set up and make sure everything is ready for the day. He sighs quietly to himself and digs his wallet out from his back pocket.
"D'you take card, or is cash better?"
"Both are fine!" Azira chirps, heading around the counter to the cash register. "The system's still a little old fashioned so it won't take any of that contactless nonsense, I'm afraid, but it'll do the job."
Crowley hums and fishes out a ten pound note. "Don't worry about the change, Angel."
"Hm- Hey! No, you're not doing that one again!" Azira lifts his head and frowns. "That is far too generous and you've already spent so much for your first purchase here!"
"It's just a couple of quid, Azira." He shrugs.
"That won't do!" The blonde opens the till and digs out the change, trying to hand it back, but Crowley dances out of range. It causes the other man to pout. Pout. Jesus Christ, Crowley thinks, wondering if this man was even real.
"Well if you aren't going to take your money back, you'll at least have to take something else." Azira insists, and before Crowley can say another word he dives under the counter and comes back with serving tongs, clacking them together gleefully and nipping back into the kitchen with surprising swiftness. He comes back with a small white paper bag, folded neatly at the top to preserve the contents.
"Here, my treat." He places the bag on top of the cupcake box and lifts it up to him. "I think it'll be suitable for your lunch break at work."
"Okay..." Crowley rolls his eyes behind his sunglasses, but smiles all the same. "Best get going, gotta beat the traffic." He goes to take the box, momentarily brushing fingers with the shorter man and feeling a buzz of something warm snaking up his hands and wrists, and he quickly takes a step back, giving the other man a nod and wave.
"I'll catch you next time, Angel!"
He doesn't hear a reply as makes an embarrassingly quick exit from the shop.