Chapter 1: I Can't Get Past You
The beginning of the end.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
As Crowley usually was midday on weekdays (once could even imagine it was Thursday, the unluckiest day), he was working. It wasn’t usually unpleasant by any means, Crowley actually loved his job (not like you’d be able to get him to admit that), even though most of it was just office hours.
Office hours weren’t bad. The vast majority of his students were afraid of him, so most of the kids coming in were students he’d had for a few years and knew on a more personal level. He didn’t really know any of these kids personally, and tried his best to keep his work and personal lives as separate as possible.
On this Thursday afternoon, that separation came crashing down. He looked up as the door to his office opened, now thoroughly distracted from the grading he’d been doing. When he saw who came in, he’d be thoroughly distracted for the rest of the day.
“What brings you to my office, boys?” Crowley sat back, taking his reading glasses off. He wasn’t going to put his sunglasses on - no, this was close company.
“We’ve got news,” Hastur drawled.
“You missed the funeral,” Ligur said.
“We even sent a letter.”
“Oh, oh, yeah, I got your letter, real nice,” Crowley said. Yeah, he’d gotten the letter. He also burned it without opening it, and rinsed the ashes down the sink. “What funeral are we talking about? Somebody else die that I didn’t notice?”
“Dad’s funeral,” Hastur said.
“He wanted to talk to you before he died,”
“But you never came.”
“Wow, he lasted a lot longer than I expected,” Crowley said, tapping his fingers on the desk. “So what was it? Heart failure? Liver failure? Alcohol poisoning?”
“Suicide,” Hastur said.
“That’s classy,” Crowley responded. “So what’d you two really come here for? Jealous of me? Figure you haven’t blackmailed me recently? Come on, it can’t just be that.”
Ligur let out a chuckle that would have made anybody’s blood run cold. It just annoyed Crowley, since he was used to the creepy gross aesthetic they both had.
“We tried your phone number first,” Ligur said.
“Cute husband you’ve got,” Hastur said.
“Would be a shame…”
“If something happened.”
Hastur shrugged. Ligur turned. They both left the office, together.
When Crowley looked down at the corner of his desk, he saw a pack of cardboard matches. When he picked it up and opened it, they were all burned halfway down.
His staring was interrupted by a knock at the door from one of his newer students, and he tossed the matchbook into the bin.
He was distracted for the rest of the day by the message. It was intentional, everything they did was intentional, and cryptic, and cagey, and puzzling. They knew about Ezra, and they managed to find his phone number and figure out where he worked, so it wouldn’t be a stretch of the imagination to think they could figure out where Ezra was.
God, they probably knew where he lived. They probably knew where the bookshop was, too. Thank god Ezra knew who they were, and knew they were trouble.
All of this thinking distracted him for the rest of his office hours. Before he went home, he had to make a phonecall to the most qualified person he knew to call.
“Anathema, are you still a witch?”
“Are you still a witch? Are you deaf? The question isn’t hard.”
“I.. suppose I am, why are you asking?”
“Do wards work against humans? The witchy wards. If you put those up, could you keep people out of places?”
“Nnnno. It only works against supernatural entities. It can deter humans, but if they’re determined, they can get through,” Anathema responded, “why are you-”
Rather than hear out the rest of Anathema’s question, Crowley slammed the handset down into the cradle. She’d understand, she knew Crowley had a bad temper.
He knew Ezra was going to be working at the shop tonight. He always worked late on Thursdays (working was perhaps not the best word to use - he kept the doors open while he cleaned and reorganized, which tended to make patrons think he really was closed or closing up.)
He didn’t know what he was going to do. He knew he perhaps had a week until these threats were going to get serious (it’d happened in the past, once before, but Crowley answered the door with a baseball bat and it seemed to deter the two for a while).
He didn’t think a baseball bat would do anything this time. He had a feeling the two had branched out into methods that were a bit more sinister than brute force, and he had a feeling it was because Crowley had shown he wasn’t playing any games.
His apartment was empty when he got home, so that was a good sign. It was untouched, and he made sure to check every nook and cranny for anything unusual (which took about 45 minutes and made him feel crazy). He didn’t know what to do at this point.
He couldn’t just call Ezra up and tell him that his brothers might come and try and do something terrible. That would stress them both out, and Lord knows Ezra was always anxious about something. Crowley came to the decision that he’d think about it over a bottle of… something. His hand landed on whiskey, so that’s what he grabbed.
It was a familiar taste for him. Really brought back memories of locking himself in his bedroom at age 14 and getting trashed alone. In fact, that’s exactly what he was doing right now, except he was sitting in his living room, and the threat of Ezra finding out was now a lot more paramount than it had been in the past.
Actually, that thought was kind of nice, knowing Ezra lived there with him.
He spent his time watching some stupid and old game show while he drank. He should be working on dinner, but he was most decidedly doing this instead.
It was 5 pm and he was on his fourth episode of Match Game ‘76 when he went to pour himself another drink and was only met with a couple amber drops falling from the lip of the bottle. He downed whatever was left in his glass, pushing himself to stand.
It was a bad idea. The world spun around him and jerked to the left, pain blooming across his shoulder and head. He had to blink a few times before he realized that he’d fallen down, and had to push himself up again. He hadn’t realized how much he had to drink until he tried to stand.
The second attempt was more successful, and he managed to lean up against the wall to stay upright as he staggered out into the kitchen, sleeve dragging against the drywall. He made it to the kitchen before realizing he’d left his glass behind. C’est la vie.
He yanked another bottle of something down, squinting at the label. It was all too blurry, and wouldn’t stop moving, and there was a ring of black closing in on his vision. He cracked the seal on the bottle with his teeth and took a big swig, pulling a face. Gin.
He leaned up against the countertop, slowly sliding down onto the kitchen floor. He didn’t consider how this looked - sitting on his kitchen floor, an open and empty bottle of whiskey sitting in his living room, a bottle of gin in his hand. He really just needed to sit down. It wasn’t comfortable, but he was too drunk to notice.
It was 7 pm when Ezra closed up the shop and drove home (he had a modest little car of his own to drive around when Crowley couldn’t take him). The drive home was short, seeing as he’d missed rush hour, and he was just glad to be home.
He could hear Gene Rayburn on the television when he opened the door. Other than that, it was silent. Crowley was a quiet man, but this kind of silence was offputting in a way it wasn’t usually.
“Love, I’m home,” he called, shutting the door behind himself. He stepped in and peered around the corner, finding the sofa empty. He walked closer to investigate further, seeing the empty bottle and empty glass.
Didn’t he just buy that?
He frowned, heading down the hall. He checked Crowley’s little office (empty) and their bedroom (untouched). He wasn’t even out fussing over his plants.
“Crowley?” he called out, walking slowly, listening carefully. He might have expected Crowley to jump out at him and scare him, and he could feel his adrenaline mounting.
Crowley didn’t jump out and scare him in the conventional sense.
When Ezra peered into the kitchen, he smelled liquor, and a shock of red hair caught his attention. Crowley was sprawled across the tile, nearly face-down, his limbs all sticking in awkward and most definitely painful directions. He could see the clear bottle a few inches from his outstretched hand, and there was a sizable puddle on the floor.
Ezra took a tentative step forward and crouched down, nudging Crowley’s shoulder.
Crowley didn’t respond, or grunt, or groan, or even twitch. Ezra could feel a tenseness in the pit of his stomach, a mounting panic that had his shoulders tight.
He let out a very worried whine and hauled Crowley up (damn how heavy he was), bracing his weight over his shoulder.
It was the only time he’d ever sped in his whole life. He could almost hear Crowley calling him a hypocrite, and thought in that moment that hearing Crowley’s voice would be the best thing he’d ever heard, even if it was infuriating sometimes.
He was almost in hysterics by the time he got to the A&E, sputtering something out about coming home and Crowley not being responsive before he was swept away. Ezra was instructed to wait, and he’d be called in when they had an update.
He’d never been in the waiting room of a hospital before. He hated it.
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Chapter 2: So...
A lot of explanations are made, and a surprising lack of excuses are made.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Crowley expected waking up to be a bit of a serene moment, when he noticed the bright lights and the atmosphere around him slowly. He realized very quickly that expectations were always going to be far from reality.
He woke up violently, with an acute full-body ache and a tube down his throat that made him cough and gag. He didn’t have to choke on it for too long, seeing as a nurse helped him out and took it out for him. God, he hadn’t even opened his fucking eyes yet, and this all sucked.
He let himself fall back into place in the (quite uncomfortable) bed, refusing to open his eyes. They were sensitive enough, and he had a feeling the hospital lights would just make his head hurt more than it already did.
The voice was quiet and happened somewhere to his left. It sounded weaker than Crowley felt. He opened an eye and looked over to his left, unable to contain his smile when he saw Ezra. He looked flustered, and concerned, and afraid, and a little bit relieved, actually.
“Angel,” he responded, reaching a hand out in Ezra’s direction. The IV was tapped into his right hand (he didn’t have great veins anyway), so he didn’t have to worry about tugging on it. Ezra took his hand, running the pad of his thumb over Crowley’s knuckles.
“We can talk about what happened when we get home,” Ezra said, pointedly looking down at their hands.
What happened? Crowley ran through his memories. The last thing he remembered was the garish display of weird orange carpet and Gene Rayburn’s ugly suits-
Oh, right. He remembered the pack of burned matches, and the sense of dread Hastur and Ligur left behind when they left his office.
“How long was I out?” he asked apprehensively.
“Not terribly long. It’s hardly even noon, I got you here at… around 7. They’ll likely discharge you soon,” Ezra explained, looking around at the room they were in. It was open, and they were separated from other beds by just a curtain. He’d been there through the night with Crowley, and he was starting to get a little hazy with sleep deprivation. The adrenaline was keeping him up, and all the shitty hospital coffee.
“Oh,” Crowley said. He squinted a bit as he thought, bringing his other hand up to cover his eyes after a moment so he could think. He couldn’t think with all that light. He thought maybe he was still a little drunk, which was likely.
“I wasn’t able to grab your glasses. I think they’d fallen off somewhere, sorry. I was much too occupied with you,” Ezra said, watching Crowley cover his eyes.
“S fine. You have your phone on you? I need to make some calls.” Crowley dropped his hand, turning his head to look over at Ezra. Ezra shifted for a moment and pulled his phone out, suddenly suspicious.
“Who will you be calling? I don’t want you calling anybody about what’s happened here.”
Crowley rolled his eyes, dropping Ezra’s hand.
“I’ve got to call into work, Ezra, they’re probably wondering why the hell I’m not in class at the moment. I’ve also got to email my students and call Anathema to check up on the apartment.” Crowley made a ‘gimme’ gesture at Ezra when he was done talking, and soon enough received the phone.
Ezra wasn’t particularly tech savvy, but he had gotten a smartphone by Crowley’s insistence. Consequently, Crowley had to set everything up for him, and Ezra still only used it to make calls. It worked well for both of them, seeing as Crowley didn’t enjoy the text messaging either.
He sent out a quick email first (a simple “class is cancelled get the hell out of my lecture hall, no office hours today”), decided not to call in, and instead called Anathema right away.
“Ezra? Why are you-”
“Mistaken. Take the rest of the day off, you’re much needed in London.”
“...Back up a little bit. What’s going on over there?”
“Ezra and I aren’t home. We need somebody to make sure our flat hasn’t burned down. Or the bookshop.” Ezra looked a bit incredulous, and Crowley could tell Anathema was feeling the same way with her period of silence.
“Why would your apartment be on fire? Also, where are you? It’s 11 am on a Friday.”
“Not important, and even less important. I really need you to come and check on the place. I’ll explain more when you get there.” Anathema sighed in a way that suggested she was going to take the rest of the day off to go to London and check on the place.
“Okay, okay. I’ll bring Newt with me. We’ve still got the address from our wedding invitations. We’ll be there soon,” Anathema said, before hanging up. Crowley handed the phone back, and settled back down. His whole body was tingling with the kind of ache that comes with almost dying. He’d felt that a couple times, now.
He gave the phone back to Ezra, and closed his eyes again.
“Darling, could you please explain what all this is about?” Ezra reached out to take Crowley’s hand again.
“Hastur and Ligur paid me a visit,” Crowley responded, eyes still closed. Ezra knew he was getting tired, and would want to sleep. He’d get some information first.
“Oh, dear. What did they have to say?”
“Regular stuff. Dad’s dead, said he wanted to talk to me, sent a letter and everything. Threatened you. Glad you’re here.”
“They- what? They threatened me? Crowley, why didn’t you tell somebody?”
Internally, Ezra was wondering why Crowley didn’t tell him, but he supposed he also wondered why he didn’t call the police. This seemed like a situation where calling the police was appropriate.
Crowley just shrugged in response, and shifted a bit to get comfortable. He was already half-asleep, so Ezra decided not to press any more. He let Crowley rest, and for the first time in more than 15 years, he prayed.
Anathema and Newt had never once been in Crowley and Ezra’s home. They’d been around it, seen it in the background of photos, but they had never once been inside. They had the apartment number, so all they had to do was go up.
Anathema had been left instructions as to where to find the spare key (which wasn’t easy to find and was no doubt hidden by Crowley), and from there getting inside was easy.
The place held all the grandeur and drama of a Mayfair flat (and then some due to Crowley living there), but still had spots and splashes of the comfort and homeyness that Ezra was no doubt the root of. It was a perfect median between the two, and it had Anathema a bit taken aback at first. She headed inside and let Newt close the door.
The first order of business was cleaning up a bit. She noticed the television was still on (who the hell watches Card Sharks?). She turned it off, and cleaned up the bottle and glass. Newt headed into the kitchen, where he found the puddle of liquor on the tile.
“What do you think happened in here?” He picked up the bottle of gin, and set it in the sink.
“He wasn’t too clear, he just said they ‘weren’t home’. Whatever it was, it doesn’t look too good,” Anathema responded, coming out to throw the bottle away. She took a look at the puddle of liquor on the floor and sighed, getting out a few rags.
“We’ll probably have to run a load,” Newt said, crouching down to start wiping everything up.
“Probably. We should check on the bookshop while we do that, though. I’m not sure what we should be looking for, but he was specific in where we should look. You know where the shop is?”
“From what I hear, it’s at a busy corner in Soho. I think we’ll be able to find it,” Newt stood up and collected the rags, rinsing them out in the sink. Anathema wiped up the rest of the liquid on the floor and rinsed the rest of the rags out, hanging them up to dry over the edge of the cabinet door.
“I don’t think a peek around would hurt,” Anathema said as she surveyed what she could see from the kitchen. It seemed like just yesterday Crowley was 17 and complaining about garish displays of exuberant wealth, and it was amusing to her that only a few odd years down the line, he was the one with the lavish home.
She wasted no time in heading out of the kitchen, and around the corner, down the hall. Newt was trailing behind, but made sure not to touch anything so he could claim plausible deniability. They found a bathroom (with marble tiles), a room that was bare enough to guess it was the guest room, and further down the hallway they found the master bedroom.
It was dark in a modern and sleek way - pale charcoal walls, ash-gray carpet, with an ornamental Turkish area rug underneath the bed that was particularly ugly. The room was quite large and open, one wall taken up by a large window. The opposite wall was covered floor to ceiling with bookshelves, and hundreds of books were placed and crammed wherever there was space for one to be placed or crammed.
The bed was large, with black sheets. It was flanked by one side with a shelving unit, each shelf meticulously spaced with plants. They were all quite small - a string of pearls, some other succulent types Anathema couldn’t name, and some pots she could have sworn had belladonna and nightshade growing in them. A copy of The Great Divorce was set in alongside some of the plants.
After taking in the room for a few moments (which was required, seeing as it was a lot to take in), Anathema backed out and continued down the hall. At the end was the final room, which she opened the door to. She supposed this was almost entirely belonging to Crowley.
The floor was tiled with a dark slate, and the walls were a similar gray (but darker than the bedroom). There were windows that went from the floor to the ceiling and overlooked the city below, and it let in much-needed light. There was a desk, a chair (that more accurately resembled a throne, if Anathema was to be honest), and a television in the corner. The rest of the room was full of plants. Tall floor ferns, small potted flowers, and everything in between. It was, to some effect, a personal greenhouse.
“Wow,” Newt said. The room took on a mood of being lush, and verdant, and alive. It was quite beautiful.
“Didn’t expect this from him,” Anathema said, “they’re beautiful.”
“Maybe we shouldn’t be here,” Newt said. He backed out of the doorway, and was already down the hall by the time Anathema could turn around and close the door.
The bookshop was impressive for a few reasons. The first of all being the plot it was sitting on (really, a corner property in Soho? They both wondered how much that cost), and the second reason being how… weird it was on the inside. It was like the bookshelves in their bedroom, but worse, and throughout the whole shop. They spent a while looking at all the books in there (a lot of them quite valuable), quipping about how many books Ezra had.
It didn’t seem as if E. Z Fell and Co. got too many visitors, regardless of the fact that his shop was on the corner. They spent a short while making sure everything was as it needed to be and very much not on fire, and Anathema called Ezra’s phone back in the early afternoon.
“Hello, Ezra. Is Crowley with you?”
“Oh, not quite. He’s about to be- er, we’re about to head home. I can pass a message along to him if you like?”
“That’s not suspicious at all. Just let him know that everything’s in order and cleaned up,” Anathema said.
“Splendid. You two can head off now, thank you for checking up on everything in our absence.”
“Of course. Where is it you two went? I didn’t think it was like you to up and leave like that without any notice.”
“Well- there was a bit of a, a mishap, last night. Everybody is alright. Crowley had a brief stay in the hospital for monitoring, but we’re just about to go home now!”
“Ah, alright. Well, Newt and I are going to head home. You two have a beautiful home.”
“Thank you, Anathema, goodnight.”
The two hung up, and Anathema followed Newt out to the car.
“So what did he say about where they were?” He said as he started the car up.
“Alcohol poisoning, I think. For Crowley. He called me yesterday asking about wards, which must have been before all of this. I’ll be asking him about that later.” Anathema had a feeling this ran pretty deep. Crowley seemed pretty desperate on the phone.
edgy headcanon that crowley grows nightshade in his bedroom and learned the hard way not to lick his fingers after dealing w it
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Chapter 3: I've Stood Here Once Before
Crowley has a directionless nightmare-ish thing. He's nervous.
Dear God I am so sorry for not updating for so long! School kicked my ass thoroughly but I am (hopefully) back now that I'm settled into a routine! Somebody tweeted some wonderful art at me (link TBA) of teenage Crowley and Ezra and it motivated me to finish this (admittedly short) chapter!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
He didn’t know how he got there, but it didn’t matter. His mind was an arrow pointing in one direction with one objective, and for once, it had nothing to do with himself.
He could feel the soles of his feet burning, he could feel the soot collecting on his skin and in his lungs, and he could feel the searing heat nipping at his clothing. Something rushed through his brain and his body, compelling him to focus, something that screamed wake up.
He felt more awake and more concentrated than he had in his entire life. By comparison, his daily life existed within a fog - a reality separate from this. It felt divine, as if a messenger of God had swooped down and knocked him upside the head with some other Earthly power, something superhuman.
It was real. It was more real than anything had been in his whole life. He felt the spirit of- something. Somewhere.
As he stared into the flames, he realized it probably wasn’t God.
As he stared into the flames, he could see ever-present (yet not quite existing) images, ever-shifting in their form. It wasn’t one to be understood by anybody who didn’t have the vocabulary or the language to describe it, because it was simply indescribable. It never settled on one form, and just as Crowley’s mind was able to narrow it down, his sense of reality was tossed aside - the fickle thing, his reality.
He felt the presence of something darker than night. God couldn’t save him now.
He didn’t know how he got there, but he stood over a corpse doused in white, smattered with soot, and bespattered with blood. He stood over the corpse, and faced the presence before him.
“Crowley, wake up!” the figure next to him seethed, and he was finally able to hear it. He was laying on his back, an arm thrown above his head, and the sheets tangled around his legs.
More uncomfortable than that, he could feel that the arm above his head was completely asleep (and completely numb), and his entire body was uncomfortably itchy and sticky with a gloss of sweat that wasn’t terribly common for the time of year.
Actually, he was freezing cold.
He pulled his arm down from above his head and rubbed at his entirely numb wrist, pulling a face at how odd the sensation was. He turned his head, and he could see Ezra wide awake, giving him a quite odd look.
“It’s the middle of the night, what are you doing up?” Crowley asked, all fluid aside from the fact that his voice was entirely groggy with sleep (or lack thereof).
“Dear Lord, you were thrashing around like somebody was trying to strangle you,” Ezra responded, “it’s a wonder you didn’t give me a black eye.”
“I’ll try to keep the involuntary subconscious movements to a minimum,” Crowley snarked back, kicking the sheets out so he didn’t get frostbite or something. Ezra gave him a look that was a bit more concerned, reaching out to brush a stray curl from Crowley’s face.
“Having quite rough nightmares recently, haven’t you?”
“Rough? That’s bollocks. They’re not nightmares, they’re just…” Crowley raised a hand to wave it around to poorly illustrate his point, “disturbing vignettes that are more unsettling than scary.”
“This has happened quite a bit this week, Crowley,” Ezra said, resting a hand on his husband’s arm. Crowley rolled his eyes, and turned his head away, probably to avoid the problem. Ezra moved himself closer, extending his arm to drape over Crowley’s chest. “What’s bothering you?”
“Nothing bothers me-”
“Okay, yes, sure, you’re so tough and resilient, you’ve never been upset in your whole life, not even once. What are the nightmares about?” Ezra cut in.
“Like I’ve told you, they’re not nightmares. It’s nothing, and you shouldn’t be worrying so hard about it in the middle of the night,” Crowley grumbled.
“You’ll be the death of me someday, Crowley,” Ezra finally relented with a bit of a shrug, easing up. Pushing, but not shoving. Push didn’t often lead to shove in that house. “We can talk about it in the morning.”
“Great,” Crowley said, turning away. Ezra rolled over, presumably to get back to sleep. Crowley didn’t get much sleep that night, although it probably wasn’t much of a surprise. He hadn’t gotten much sleep in a while.
The next morning, for Crowley at least, was a little bit tense. He was waiting for Ezra to bring the topic up again as he sat and drank some coffee (and Ezra had tea), while they ate breakfast, but it never came up. It hadn’t come back up by the time Crowley left to head to work, and it left hairs pricking up on the back of his neck. If not then, when? Would he get a phonecall? Would it be when he got home? God, he hoped not. The anticipation was killing him.
The anticipation of many things was killing him. Every time a student knocked during office hours, he expected to see the face of one of his brothers. Or both.
He employed a strategy he often did as a child. Take your existence second by second. If you can’t stand to take it day by day, take it by the hour, or the minute, or the second. It kept him sane, really. In the midst of family drama, tumult, and a sea of papers to grade - it helped.
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