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Sweet Tooth

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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-

-smack.

“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?”

“Crowley.” 

“Pardon?”

“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.

"Mornin'"

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.

"Absolutely."

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.


Chapter Text

As Crowley walks down the hallway, boots clicking on the squeaky-clean floor, he feels a grin form on his face as he reaches his classroom, hearing excited chattering coming from inside. He pauses just before the door, glancing in quickly and seeing a few familiar faces at the front. He adjusts the box under his arm, turns the door handle, and kicks the door open in his usual flair for dramatics.

Gooooood morning, Hellspawns!” he cackles as a few kids jump up in surprise; kids who clearly weren’t in his class the year before. The kids at the front of the class don’t get shocked, in fact they light up in joy.

“Mr Crowley!! Good morning!” The ringleader of the group, Adam Young, stands up and rushes up for a high-five. Crowley accepts, turning the move into the weird little handshake Adam makes him do every time, not that he minds. 

“Scoot your ass back to your seat, kid. I gotta take attendance.”

He strides over to his desk, setting the cupcake box down in front of the very-curious eyes of the students. Leaning back, he takes a quick peek at the itinerary the school board wanted him to cover for the first day, then flipped to the next page with the list of his students. 

“Good to see my favourite brats have made it to the top set class once again…” He hums, noticing over his sunglasses that The Them, Adam and his friends, grin and nudge each other. “Alright, from the top. Carl Allen..”

He ticks kids off the list as he goes, noting that there was a name he’d never seen before in the list, one Walter Dowling, who was also absent as he read his name aloud.

“No Walter? Hmm, not off to a good start there..” he frowns, then continues. He ticks off each of The Them as he gets to their names, then stands up in front of the class again.

“Alright, now that that is done, I’ll introduce myself to those of you who are new to my class. My name is Mr Crowley, and I will be your homeroom teacher as well as your science teacher. I specialise in chemistry, but believe me the other two subjects are close behind. Those of you who were in my class last year know that I expect you all to give me 110%.” He paces slowly, hands behind his back, smirking slightly at the intimidated faces of the students. “I do not tolerate failures. Anyone not giving me their all will be sent to lower-level classes. My classes are tough. I will work you hard, and any disrespect or anti-social behaviour will be punished even harder.”

There were definitely a few scared looks now. His no-nonsense policy is the talk of the school, and it was the reason why the kids called him The Snake. He squeezed the potential out of every kid by squeezing and pushing them to their limit.

He goes to a standstill beside his desk, placing one hand on the cupcake box and catching the students attention.

“That being said… hard, honest workers are also well rewarded. As a welcome and a congratulations for making it to the highest-level and frankly, the roughest class of your year group, I’ve brought you all some cupcakes. There is enough for all to have one each.”

Surprised and happy murmurs break out as he takes the box and opens it in front of the first kid, Adam’s friend Brian.

One, Brian.” He warns the gluttonous messy child. He nods and picks one up, eyes widening.

“Wow! Mr Crowley these look so good!” Pepper, next to him, praise happily as she takes one too.

“Only the best for my brats, after all.” He brags quietly, feeling smug at the reactions of his students. While most take the offer immediately, some of them more intimidated kids are slower, and for them he smiles softer and speaks more warmly.

“Take one, it’s okay.” He holds the box closer, smiling wider as one of the girls takes one finally. “There you go. Good job.”

Once every kid collected a cupcake, Crowley took the empty box to the front and tossed it into the recycling bin. The itinerary said that the kids had to go to their welcoming assembly at nine thirty, which was fast approaching. He picks up the papers from his desk and tucks them into his planning folder, tucking that under his arm as he claps his hands together.

“Right. You have two minutes to eat those cupcakes and clean up! Don’t even leave a smidge of frosting in sight! Can’t let the other kids know I’m bribing you all with desserts to work hard.” He receives a few giggles. “That, and we all have to go to the assembly. Line up and eat as you go, chop chop!”

As the kids stuff their faces and chatter together about how delicious the cupcakes were, Crowley’s mind flickers back to this morning, with Azira in the bakery. The happy smile the baker had greeted him with, the light hearted chat and banter when he refused his change, a hint of curiosity at whatever the blonde had packed him for lunch. It brings an unusually soft smile to his face, and he shakes it off quickly.

“Right, Hellspawns, quick and quietly! March on!” He points down the hall, leading his line of students off to the most boring hour of the morning.






Azira is restless.

Not in the way that he's bored and needs something to do, because he has plenty he could be doing. The shopfront is quiet and all of the freshly baked goods have cooled enough to go out on display, and the kitchen could do with a clean now that the counter-tops were clear, but his mind is going around in circles.

He keeps thinking about Mr Crowley.

Rather, why it is that the man intrigues him. He was just the same as everyone else who's visited the shop so far - polite and kind and smiles nicely, and compliments his baking-

'-fuckin' sinful, angel.'

He shivers as his mind replays the tone Mr Crowley spoke in, low and harmonious and with that dreadful, dreadful smirk that made his insides twist and pull. The way he'd leaned in and smelled faintly of apples and how one canine visible in his smirk seemed far too pointed to be natural and even with the closeness he still couldn't see his eyes, and why did he always where those sunglasses anyway? It wasn't particularly sunny out that morning, nor the first time they'd met. Maybe he was shy.

He realises he's been cleaning the same spot over and over now, and quickly rushes to clean the rest of the tables and counter-tops. He was in a French mood today, so on the little chalkboard he'd purchased for such occasions, he'd listed a couple specials for the day, coffee and a croissant or eclair for £3, or a box of 10 macaroons for £5. He still wasn't sure how to price his goods, his head wasn't quite made for the business side of things honestly, but he didn't want to overcharge either. Macaroons aren't his speciality when it came to French pastries but he was pleased with the few he'd made the night before, so the limited amount of boxes he'd put together deserve the special treatment, stacked elegantly on a display tray on one side.

With all the cleaning and organising out of the way, Azira turns the radio up a little louder and hums along, gathering up the ingredients needed for the next batch of baking. He won’t let himself think about trivial things for too long. He needs to keep up the appearance of actually knowing what he's doing, even with nobody else around. If he keeps busy there's no time for distractions and mistakes. And so, he gets to baking.

 

Baking is one of his favourite hobbies. He enjoys the sense of routine it gives him - there were recipes to follow, rules and methods to stick to - but still gives the baker enough freedom to add their own creative touches. He's by no means a professional, but over the years it was one of the few hobbies that earned him praise with many of the adults in his childhood, despite the upbringing his parents gave him. He still keeps a box of all the little ribbons and certificates he'd won in his teens and young adult life.

His skill lay in the details. He could follow a recipe by the letter and it will turn out exactly as it should, but it was form, decoration and small hints of something extra that would give his treats a winning edge. Something as simple as a little lemon zest, a pinch of cinnamon, a bit of coconut oil, something that one might not think of adding necessarily but nothing too wild, often granted him a few praises.

That being said, he can admit that he can be a bit stubborn, especially if a particularly difficult recipe gets the better of him. He can humbly accept defeat from other bakers but a recipe? He must perfect it. It was one of his less admirable traits, though he doesn't dwell on it. Before he knows it, he has several bowls of batter, ready to transform into croissants once he gets ready for it. He decides to do additional flavours, berry mixes and chocolates and vanilla cream, so he busies himself with grabbing the supplies. He hears the front door chime open and gasps, setting everything down and eagerly goes to greet the customer.

 

"Good afternoon my dear!" he hums happily, turning the radio down slightly to a more respectable level. The woman who had entered is quite stunning, with long, dark chocolate waves of hair in bohemian style, large glasses and an even larger smile on her face. She clutched a couple books and papers in her hands and a tote over one shoulder.

"Hello!" She replies equally cheerfully, and Azira notes her slight accent. She rushes up to the counter with an elegant sway of her hips, making the dress she wore flow around her. She seemed almost ethereal in every sense of the word, and even for a man of Azira's... preferences,  he had to hold back a blush as she leaned over the counter top.

"You must be Mr Azira Fell!" She sets her books down and quickly swipes up the papers from on top of the pile, thrusting them towards him and continuing before he could even reply - "I remember seeing you on TV! The Great British Bake Off, about five years ago?"

Now he really blushes, wiping his sweaty hands down his apron and straightening his bakers hat.

"I- I- er, y-yes, that was indeed me five years ago... erm, I must say, I don't know h-how you've come to find me?" His voice lowers with a slightly sadder tone. "I didn't even make it to the finals that year.."

"Oh, I just knew." She smiles; in a calm, confident way that's slightly unnerving. "You said in your final interview that you hoped to one day open your own bakery - and what do you know! A small blog I follow mentioned this place, with your photo and a review of your time on that show. It's so wonderful to really meet you!"

Azira has to look down as the redness consumes his face awkwardly. At least she discovered him in a positive manner, as embarrassing as it is. Honestly, he didn't even know that there were blogs or reports about his time on that old show to be found online, let alone about his more recent adventures.

She thrusts the papers at him again, and he takes them, now realising it was a cover letter and CV, applying to work in the store.

"You... y-you'd like to work for me..?"

"Yes!" She laughs, calm and soft like balm against his awkwardness. "That season of the bake off, watching you bake so passionately, it was really inspiring! I started baking because of you."

He can't help it, he can feel the tears building up in his eyes as he blinks them back, so he takes a shaky breath and murmurs a genuine thank you. She seems to understand him perfectly, reaching over to pat his arm.

"It's been great to meet you. I have to go back to college now for my afternoon classes, but I hope to hear from you soon." She had a knowing look again, as if certain it will happen, but Azira doesn't mind it now. He was already quite fond of her. 

 

Chapter Text

Azira is closing up for the day when he hears his phone ring. 

It’s short, indicating a text. Whilst he doesn’t have too many people he talks to regularly, it still strikes him as odd to receive a message at this time in the evening. He calls his mother every Sunday, which was the day after tomorrow, so it likely wasn’t her. Most of his old college friends and past co-workers tend to use social media nowadays, which he had a different ringtone for. Any customers wouldn’t have access to his personal number, unless….

He picks it up, breath hitching as he recognises the number saved under the name Mr Crowley

 

 

Sent:[5 days ago] - Good evening Mr Crowley! Your order is complete and will be ready for you in the morning! :)

 

---1 New Message---

 

[8:13pm] - Hey, are you busy?

 

Azira huffs. So the man won’t reply to his message about his order but will text him out of the blue? He shakes his head as he types out a reply. With the front door locked, he shuts the lights off and heads upstairs, popping the kettle on as he waits for a response, which takes a surprisingly short amount of time.

 

 

[8:15pm] - I’ve just closed the shop for the day. I’ll be open again tomorrow!

 

[8:16pm] - m’not lookin to buy anythin right now

 

[8:16pm] - Oh? Are you alright?

 

The kettle boils, and he busies himself with making a cup of tea while he pretends not to be waiting for his reply. He adds milk and sugar, stirring and humming as his curiosity builds and the chime of his phone has him a little too eager to rush back to his favourite armchair.

 

 

[8:19pm] - was wonderin if you wanted to go for a drink? 

[8:19pm] - could introduce you to a couple friends from the college

 

Azira’s heart lifts and falls within moments of the second message coming through. Of course he wouldn’t be inviting him for a drink alone, that was just silly. Did he even want to drink with him alone? Lord knows his tolerance is terribly low for a man of his age, and yet he can’t help but feel a little sad. At the same time, meeting more new people that he might not be comfortable with is a little daunting as well, and his awkwardness and nervousness will only get worse with alcohol. He puts his phone down for a moment, slowly sipping his drink as he debates internally at what to do. He must’ve lost track of time, because a few minutes later his phone chimes again.

 

 

[8:28pm] - some other time? Doesn’t have to be tonight

 

[8:29pm] - Sorry, maybe another night. Have a good evening, Mr Crowley :)

 

He feels oddly embarrassed and guilty for declining, but also can’t hold back a sigh of relief as he settles back into his chair. He’s not mentally prepared to make plans on the spot like this, he’d rather have some warning in advance. He still can’t shake the sadness though, at being unable to see Crowley again. He could’ve asked him about the cupcakes, if he liked his lunch, how he was doing.. See him smile, laugh, anything… Sighing to himself, he takes his tea with him to read in bed.




“He said nooooo~” Thump.

“There, there.” Anathema pats Crowley’s back sympathetically as he presses his face to the bar-top. “It was unexpected, after all. Maybe he had other plans.”

Crowley just groaned pitifully.

“Come on, Anthony. Sit up and have another shot.” 

The redhead sighs and does as he’s told, despite being a good few years older than his friend. The brunette passes him a shot glass of golden amber liquid and they toss them back at the same time, both enjoying the burn with soft sighs.

“Maybe he’s not interested.” Crowley mumbles, cradling his almost-empty rum glass as he pushes away the empty shots. “M’not exactly sunshine an’ r -ngk , rainbows.” 

“You’re an acquired taste, certainly, but not a demon, Anthony. We’re friends, aren’t we?”

“Yes, but you also hit me with a broom.”

“That was once! You broke into the college’s Botanical Gardens!”

“I was just talking to the plants!”

“And who wouldn’t use a broom against a strange old man fondling their garden plants in the middle of the night?” She quirks an eyebrow at him, pointed elbow digging him in the ribs as she forces a chuckle from him. 

“Alright, alright. In my defense, that Head of Biology, Hastur, failed to inform me that he'd finally hired a new Botany Professor.”

“He does like to see you squirm uncomfortably.” Anathema agrees, and they both fall silent to sip their drinks. They’d already had a few each, but the younger woman remained as poised as ever, and Crowley… well, he was sinking further and further onto the bar. They ordered another refill and Crowley momentarily takes off his sunglasses. Anathema politely looks away for a moment, but catches glances of him squinting in the bar’s back wall mirrors as he cleans his lenses with his sleeve. 

“Would you like to sit somewhere darker?” She asks quietly, to which he shakes his head.

“Nah, s’alright. Just feel a migraine comin’ on.” He slips his sunglasses back on and their drinks arrive. Crowley pays for this round, to the pouting protest of the young professor.

“Well, let’s make this the last one and get a cab after. You’ll need to sleep off that migraine if you don’t want to be sick tomorrow.”

“Yer not my mother…” he mumbles into his glass. She snorts and Crowley smirks at the unladylike noise. He’s glad to have a friend like her, really. She always seems to know the right thing to do or say. She has a way of just... knowing . Anything and everything. And whatever she doesn’t know will drive her crazy until she understands it. Even with 5 or 6 years between them in age, they get along like the siblings Crowley wished he could’ve had when he was a kid.

He tips back the last of his drink, sighing and resting his head on his folded arms. He’s still thinking about Azira too. He’s probably messed it all up now, inviting him out of nowhere to come meet with people he barely knows. The man was probably confused as hell, and wary no doubt. Is it strange to have a customer you’ve barely spoken to invite you out for drinks less than a week later? He can’t think straight anymore.

“Still moping?” Anathema pokes his cheek. He groans, eyes drooping shut as weariness kicks in. She’s still poking him, annoyingly. “Tell you what, if you’ve recovered enough by tomorrow afternoon, I’ll pick you up and we can have an afternoon lunch date at the bakery. It’ll be my treat.”

He swats her hand. “Sure, sure, whatever.”

She smirks, standing up. “Excellent. Now, let’s get you home, AJ.”

“Don’t call me that.”