I sink the boat of love, but that comes
later. And yes, I swallow
glass, but that comes later.
And the part
where I push you
flush against the wall and every part of your
body rubs against the bricks,
I’m getting to it.
“Litany in Which Certain Things are Crossed Out”
- Richard Siken
“What happened to your coat?”
Crowley hadn’t meant to start out like that. Had meant to say something really bloody clever, cool even. But those were the first words out of his mouth, dropping like pennies in a well, and fucked if he can take them back now.
Avery Fell looks over at him. He’s got a darting-rabbit sort of gaze, and his blue eyes quickly return to his champagne. Fine, whatever. Most people at the cocktail party have been avoiding Crowley like the Black Death, certain he’s contagious. He’s had a couple of drinks (booze was never his problem) and he’s sure he’s not imagining the disapproving glances that’s earning him as well. Oh no, don’t let Crowley near the punchbowl, he might - trash a set and shag your husband and strangle your kitten and - and -
Do all the wrong things. That’s what he does, right, that’s what all these bastards are waiting for? For him to fuck it all up again and prove once and for all that he doesn’t belong here.
(If he’s being honest with himself, if he’s cutting through to the deep-dark-ugly-truthful heart of things, he probably doesn’t belong here. It’s been ages since he’s been invited to one of these fancy premiere do’s, and he feels overdressed and underdressed and likely to scratch his suit jacket right off his clammy skin if he doesn’t get a cigarette soon. He doesn’t belong with the beautiful people any more. Lantern-jawed and surly and all black elbows and ribs - he probably never did.)
Oh, right. He came over here with a purpose: making nice with the cringing vanilla so-and-so to his left. That’s clearly going down like a lead bloody balloon.
“Your coat? Brown leather one -“
“Coat? I - no, I -“
“I’m sure you were wearing one. I was eyeing it up on the carpet like anything.” That much is true. The coat had a very nice cut to it, and despite a ridiculous bit of tartan peeking out of the sleeves, he kind of wanted to touch it.
It looked rather soft.
“Lost it on your way in, did you? One of the paps wrestle it off you to sell online?”
Fell gives him a tight little smile, a please go bother someone else smile, an expression like someone politely snacking on glass. And this, this man is going to be Crowley’s co-star. Crowley’s first real job in nearly fifteen years (the second chance he never thought he’d get, a longshot at redemption) and this is the man he’s going to have to share it with. Jesus Christ on Toast. Fell can barely look at him.
He’s probably just trying to protect his pretty little image, and Crowley gets it. He’s the ‘wrong sort’ of person to be seen with. Avery Fell stays well out of the press - never involved in any sort of scandal, never getting the bad kind of attention. He only pops up now and then when his latest film is winning an award or when he and his partner are donating huge sums to charity. He’s clearly too good for this world and all the nasty, regular people in it (people like Crowley). Clearly some sort of flawless bloody angel.
“Look, this will go a lot easier if you pretend you can stand me.” Crowley tosses back the rest of his lager, considers another one. Considers how it would look, whether Beez would hear about it tomorrow (he should have dragged them out to this, spread the misery around.) “I get it, I do. Can’t be seen fraternizing. People might get the wrong idea, right? And I’m sure you’re worried about the series, whether I’ll light the whole thing on fire and bring you down with me, fuck it all up, but -”
“Not at all.” Fell’s wide blue eyes are suddenly intent on Crowley’s face. “And I’d rather you didn’t put words in my mouth.”
Crowley is - staggered. Bowled over. Knocked on his arse (those eyes are really - hellishly blue. He’d thought it was something special effects did.)
Fell’s voice sounds different as well. Crowley realizes that he hasn’t actually spoken to the man in person before. There was that recent, awkward conference call when the two of them were offered their roles in Warlock (they muttered “congratulations” to each other like aliens learning what words meant) but that was the extent of it.
When he’s not on-screen, Fell’s voice is more musical. At least Crowley thinks he can hear music. There’s something vibrating around him, some uncanny harmony pressing up against his skin.
“I have every faith in your talent,” Fell continues. The corner of his mouth curls in a shy grin, and that’s hellish as well. “Was quite the fan of your - erm, previous work.”
“You - you were?”
Christ, Crowley hopes he isn’t glowing as brightly as he feels, they’ll see him from space. He’s such a fucking idiot - give him a scrap of kindness and he’ll follow you home with his tongue hanging out (and these days, no one ever says much about his previous work. Mostly they ask him if he’s okay. How is he doing? Is he doing okay? Has he tried yoga? How’s yoga going? Is it going okay?)
“Oh, absolutely. That Hanake film - I must have seen it three times in theatres at least. And the Irish co-production, where you played the musician - what was it called? Strings? The ending was simply -“ There is a sudden flood of delight in Fell’s eyes, crinkles forming at the corners. That is a look that Crowley recognizes from the man’s films (the happy films anyway. The nice ones.) Turns out Fell can do that look in real life as well.
Crowley’s glad his drink is empty because - fuck.
“Well. That’s really - nice.” Nice? Like this man just brought him a casserole - bloody hell, Crowley’s supposed to be cool, what’s wrong with him?
“It’s the truth.” Fell is still looking at him with those soft-lit eyes, so Crowley finally looks away, hoping it will help his sanity. He isn’t quite so happy anymore about his empty glass. “I saw you on stage once at Stratford, as well. Ages ago. You were so talented.”
Crowley doesn’t miss the were in that sentence. Of course it’s were, it’s always were - you were so talented. You were a star once (it was a long time ago.)
Before he fell.
(“You can’t talk to me like that on my set. Hey! You fucking primadonna, I don’t care who your parents are, I should never have -“
“Then you should watch your fucking mouth, maybe -”
“You’ve got some problem with the way I talk? I’ll say whatever I damn well please, if I want to call someone a fucking queer then - “
“Then you better call me that as well. All right? I’m a fucking queer, Hastur, so now what do you have to say -“
“That you’re a bloody mess, Crowley. Jesus Christ - are you high right now? Take your glasses off.”
“Unbelieveable, he’s fucking high right now, get him the fuck off set. Security -”
“No, don’t you - touch me, get your fucking hands off -”)
Ha, good times. Great memories.
It isn’t every day you get your heart broken, shoot up in your trailer, come out to the world in the stupidest way possible, trash a set, get arrested, lose your job, get blacklisted in the industry you love - all in the space of a few hours.
Really, if it wasn’t so life-ruining, it might be kind of impressive (Crowley bites into the meat of his cheek, bites harder and harder, testing the limits of his skin.)
“Are so talented,” Fell amends softly. “Is what I meant,”
It takes Crowley a minute. He slowly unlocks his jaw. “What?”
“Just - misspoke there. Didn’t want you to think -”
“Hiya, love!” A woman’s voice interrupts them, and Crowley realizes that his pulse is beating dangerously fast, the nattering of a snare drum at the start of a march. He’s glad for the distraction.
“Thank heavens, you made it just in time.” Fell steps forward to give the red-headed newcomer a peck on the cheek.
“Crowley, I don’t believe you’ve officially met my partner, Tracy. Tracy, of course, this is -”
“Anthony Crowley!” Tracy shakes his hand enthusiastically. “I’m a fan, a massive fan. Almost didn’t recognize you without your glasses.”
Tracy’s an overly made-up woman about Fell’s age, with jingling bracelets on each of her wrists, a silk dress that looks more like a dressing gown, and an accent that’s a bit - common. Crowley’s seen her before, but only in the very rare photos of Fell at social events.
Tracy’s louder in person. Shabbier ‘round the edges.
Crowley likes her immediately.
“Such exciting news, the two of you working together. This one won’t shut his mouth about it!” Tracy gestures toward Fell, who presses his lips together. Goes a bit - pink maybe? Nah, probably just the light. “I’m going to pop to the bar, get myself a G&T before the film starts. I’ll see you gents in - Az, I thought you were wearing that leather jacket tonight. The nice one - did you change your mind?”
“Er, yes. Bit - warm for it.”
“Warm? Give over. Just getting out of the car, I was freezing my ti-“ She stops talking suddenly, purses her pink-smeared lips. “Um, you know, I’ll just get that drink.”
She heads off to the bar, and Crowley stares at Fell. Silently. After a moment more of that, he raises an eyebrow (it usually does the trick.)
It takes Crowley’s temporal lobe a few extra seconds to make that into something sensical.
“You - what?”
“My coat. There was a - the girl outside the theatre. On the corner, with the cardboard sign? Don’t look at me like that - it’s cold out, it’s just going to get colder -“
“You gave your coat away.” How had Crowley not noticed this? “To a - a tramp?”
“Shhhh,” Fell waves his un-cocktailed hand urgently. “Please keep it down. I don’t want anyone to - hear.”
“You - don’t?” This may be the biggest shock of all.
“Then everyone might - talk about it and I - let’s just leave it. Tracy already thinks I’m too soft, and it - doesn’t matter. Please don’t say anything.”
Crowley feels like he can’t get enough air, like maybe he tied his scarf too tightly around his throat. He tugs at it, and Fell looks over in concern.
“My dear, are you all right?”
When was the last time anyone called him something so gentle? When was the last time he had a pet name, when - No. Anthony Crowley, stop whatever the fuck you’re doing this absolute second. Stop what you’re thinking as well.
Definitely stop looking at him.
But Crowley does not stop looking. Not that Fell is an astonishing beauty - maybe in a cherubic, middle-aged sort of way, all tight blond curls and flushed cheeks, but he’s more like the idea of person than an actual one.
And he’s not Crowley’s type, not at all.
Fussy as anything. Straight(ish, let’s be honest, it’s the Arts.) Taken.
It’s - ridiculous.
There’s a five minute warning announced over the speakers, and Fell gives Crowley a smile that’s - warmer this time. Still weighed-down with pockets full of stones, but a bit more real. Crowley wonders (a whiskey-sharp thought that has no place in his brain) what it would take for Avery Fell to let his guard down, even for a moment. How much booze, how much time, how little sleep - what could get him to smile at Crowley in an open-book sort of way, spine cracked, pages ruffled.
That’s when Crowley’s jostled by the latest BBC ingenue, well on her way to pissed and wobbling in her stilettos.
“Haha, oh nooo...” the poor thing whimpers as sub-par red wine spills down the front of Crowley’s shirt. “Sssshhhh, okay? Just - I’m so ssssorry. It’s okay, right?” She wiggles her fingers, pulls up the tiny straps of her dress, and then promptly pisses off with what’s left of her Merlot.
“The fuck,” Crowley hisses to himself, as Fell takes a step toward him.
“Oh, what a disaster.”
“Don’t worry about it. I’m all in black, can’t see it -”
“But you’ll be damp for the entire film, hardly pleasant - here, just let me -“ And suddenly Golden-Globe winner Avery Fell has a handkerchief in his hand, and is pressing it to Crowley’s chest, soaking up the worst of it.
Crowley - swallows. He doesn’t move.
“There you go,” the goddamn angel says softly, “It’s no trouble. We’ll have you fixed right up.”
“Right.” It’s a wonder Crowley can speak. What the fuck is happening? His skin is cold from the air and damp from red wine, but every now and then he can feel the heat of Fell’s palm through the fabric of his shirt.
(You poor, pathetic, touch-starved bastard. Pick up someone at a club and quickly; you’re clearly losing your mind. Again.)
“Better,” Fell says, pulling back. The handkerchief in his hand is now stained purple, like a fistful of violets. Fell’s hand is as well. Crowley wonders (and then immediately wants to lobotomize himself) if the man’s thick fingers would taste like sub-par Merlot. “I suppose you’ll want to go into the theatre. I’ll wait for Tracy. And - um - we’ll see each other in three months, won’t we?”
“Expect we’ll be seeing a lot of each other.”
“I’m so glad we had a chance to chat properly. I was always hoping you’d – well.” Fell stops and - looks away. Swallows. Crowley watches the bob of his throat. “I look forward to working with you.”
Crowley manages a weird, unbalanced smirk (he can feel it tilting on his face, knows what he looks like). He mumbles something unintelligible, and slinks away. He doesn’t know if he quite gets the ‘slink’ down but he’s feeling a bit off balance (never good for any sort of swagger.)
He finds his seat for the film, and curses himself for getting so caught up in their conversation that he forgot to piss off for a smoke. Now he has to sit through a whole film thinking about it. Damn Fell for - distracting him.
The man in question is currently coming down the row a few in front of Crowley’s, a bit closer to the screen. His hair catches the light like a halo, making him look more of an angel than ever. Even in the darkness, he seems to notice Crowley staring at him (staring for fuck’s sake) and gives him a precious little wave.
Crowley grimaces, doesn’t wave back (but his hand clenches on the armrest in one desperate spasm, wanting to, wanting to.)
This could be a problem, Crowley thinks, and then thinks better of it. Absolutely bloody not. He’s being an idiot (and if he calls Beez later while nursing a tumbler of whiskey and tearing out his hair, “Ringlets, Beez, bloody ringlets –just murder me - I’m not allowed to feel like this about someone with ringlets –” well, he’s an actor. He’s allowed a bit of drama now and then.)
It won’t be a problem, Crowley thinks to himself as the lights go down and the opening credits start (three rows ahead of him and seven seats down, Fell laughs.)
It could be.