He glanced at the card Gabriel had given him. "A.Z Fell and Co. Huh. A bookshop. Well, gotta start somewhere." Crowley glanced at the address, turned, and set off, leaving Heaven's Gate behind him. After a few moments of walking, Crowley realized 3 things rather all at once. One, he was cold. Soho wasn't warm at the best of times, and he was wearing barely anything. Two, he was starving. Crowley didn't each much on principle, Gabriel preferred him thin, but he still needed food. Third, he had absolutely no idea where he was going. He looked at the address again, glancing at the building again. Great, that didn't help at all.
He huffed to himself, and walked into the nearest store. Some kind of convenience store, he thought. Not his best idea. The man behind the counter leered at him. "Where you going looking like that, princess?" He asked, smiling lecherously.
Crowley faltered, before composing himself, pushing up his sunglasses. "Just looking for a place. Do you know where, uh, A.Z Fell and Co. is, by any chance?" He asked, trying to be as polite as possible.
The man frowned, apparently only just now realizing that Crowley was a man. "It's a bookshop. Some queer around here owns it. Follow to the end of the street, then take a left, then a right, you'll find it. Now get out of my shop, tranny, 'fore I call the cops." The man told him, hand already on the phone. Crowley took the hint and scurried out of the store and followed the mans directions, his arms wrapped tightly around his empty stomach in a feeble attempt to keep himself warm. Hopefully, this bookshop would be warm. Hopefully this bookshop would let him in, give him an apple or something. Just a place to stay before he could get back on his feet.
It wasn't long before he found himself where the man's directions had sent him to. He looked up at the sign, and sure enough, it was the same place that the business card advertised. A somewhat foreboding "Closed" sign hung from the door, but Crowley didn't know where else he could be expected to go. He steeled himself, fixed his robe, and knocked, clenching his eyes tight in anticipation. Of what, he wasn't sure. There was a moment of silence and then "We're closed!" Damn.
Crowley sighed. He was desperate. He hadn't been out on the city in years, he didn't even know where the bus stop was, and it wasn't like he had the money to pay for it if he did. He opened his eyes and resigned himself to bargaining. "Please! I was told to come here, I need, I need help! I don't have any money but-" he stopped, breathing shakily, "I'm sure we can work something out!" He waited for the answer, a cold breeze passing through him. God it was fucking freezing. If this damn bookshop didn't let him in, he might actually freeze to death. And it was only morning, maybe 5 AM.
A few moments later, the door swung open to reveal a confused looking Aziraphale. The two both seemed equally surprised to see each other, although for different reasons.
Crowley had expected this to be some sort of safe house, not an actual bookshop run by the man who had paid his debts. Aw hell, this complicates things.
Aziraphale had not expected Crowley to come at all, he left his card with Gabriel, but did not expect it to actually be given to the man. Well, that makes things easier.
He took in what the poor man was wearing and realized he must be freezing. As if on cue, a particular powerful shudder wracked Crowley's body. Crowley smiled, faintly, not quite reaching his eyes. He was almost begging, now. "Please, Aziraphale, please." He asked, unsure of what he was even asking of the other man. Hurriedly, Aziraphale stumbled to open the door and ushered Crowley inside, shutting the door behind him. The bookshop was notably warmer than outside, and Crowley visibly relaxed. Two problems down, at least.
Aziraphale helped Crowley inside, guiding him to a couch in the backroom, and then sitting in a chair across from him. He was the first to break the awkward silence that had settled over the pair. "Well, Crowley, I can't say I expected to see you here." He mused. This was, apparently, the wrong thing to say, because the man seemed to hunch in on himself slightly.
"Sorry, sorry." He began. "I promise, I won't stay long, just until I can get back on my feet. And we can work something out, like I said. I just needed somewhere to go, please, ang-Aziraphale. Please let me stay for a little while, I didn't know where else to go, I didn't know that this was your bookshop. Really, I didn't." He seemed like he had more to say, but he stopped himself, looking at Aziraphale with frantic, begging eyes, hidden by dark glasses.
Aziraphale considered all of this. "Dear boy, you're welcome to stay as long as you need, or want. I don't need you to pay me, I know you have no money. I simply meant that I did not believe that that vile man would give you the card I left him. Please, do not feel like a burden, my doors are open to all, including you.”
Crowley considered this for a moment. Then he frowned, almost confused. “I can pay you back without money, angel.” He smirked faintly, but Aziraphale could tell he was forcing it.
“Whatever do you mean, dear boy?” He asked, now also confused.
Crowley huffed, laughing, a humorless sound. “Sex, Zira, sex. You let me stay here, I keep your cock happy, everybody benefits!” He explained, as if it was obvious.
Aziraphale visibly recoiled at the suggestion. “Dear boy, last night was wonderful, truly, it was, but it was a mistake on my part. I was lonely, yes, but I never should’ve taken advantage of you in that terrible place. I will never expect sex from you out of payment or obligation, this I assure you.” He smiled brightly, with his whole face.
This only seemed to confuse the other man more. He was offering! He was offering and Aziraphale was saying no? No one says no! All he had to do was say yes and this would all be so much more simpler.
As if sending Crowley’s confusing, Aziraphale tried again. He pinched the bridge of his nose for a moment, sighing, and began once more. “Listen, Crowley. You are not in that terrible place anymore. You do not have to do anything you don’t want to. You do not have to have sex with anyone you don’t want to. You do not have to use sex as any form of payment or trade deal, I promise you. You will never have to do anything like that again if you don’t want to. You are safe here.”
Crowley gazed at the other man with a thinly veiled suspicion. He considered everything Aziraphale had told him. Logically, it didn’t make any sort of sense, but the bookshop owner seemed so sincere. He offered the best explanation he could. “Right, of course. It’s just-y’know, people don’t, people don’t usually say no.”
Oh fuck, that hit like a gut punch. Suddenly, Crowley couldn’t breathe. He was suddenly overwhelmed by a flood of memories, of telling men and women and Gabriel and all sorts of people to stop, please stop, no, it hurts, please, help me, please, no, he didn’t want this, no, please, why, somebody-
“-Ly! Crowley!” All at once, reality came flooding back. He foucused back on the man across from him, who was lunged forward in his seat, staring at him, his eyes wide with concern and the beginnings of panic. Crowley’s own eyes were wet beneath his sunglasses.
“Fine,” he reassured, “m’ fine angel, just thinking.” He let the silence sit for a moment, before continuing with a deep breath. “Yeah, I guess, in the beginning maybe, but not anymore. Gabriel trained it out of me. It’s not a big deal, Zira, it’s like, penance, I guess. I like sex, anyways, really, I do. Love it, actually. Working in a brothel wasn’t great, but it had its moments.”
Aziraphale was staring at him, a hand over his mouth, wide-eyed and horrified. “Gabriel...t-trained you?” He asked, terrified of what the explaination for that might be.
“Sampling the merchandise. I had to be a good slut before I went on the market.” He explained.
Had it been in any way appropriate, Aziraphale would’ve puked on Crowley’s heels. The way he was so nonchalant, his eagerness to please, everything about Crowley screamed abuse. Abuse that Aziraphale himself had contributed to.
Crowley scrambled to reassure him. “Hey, angel. I meant what I said last night. I like you, I liked fucking you. You were sweet, you are sweet. You’re a good man. And I’m, I’m okay now. I’m out, I don’t have to worry about it. I’ve got issues, I know that, but I can work through them.”
Aziraphale smiles softly at that, a faint thing, but genuine. “Oh, dear boy, I think we can work through them. You never deserved that.”
And for the first time in what felt like millennia, Crowley felt hope, somewhere deep in his chest. In front of him was a good man, a kind man. A man who expected nothing from him, a man who wanted to help him. And he was so sure that Crowley too was a good man, a man that was worthy of forgiveness and help.
Aziraphale stood, suddenly. “Let me show you to your room, hm?” He offered, suddenly eager to change the conversation.
Crowley stood as well. “Lead the way, Zira.” He gestured in front of himself. The other man set off, Crowley in tow. They soon arrived at a guest room of sorts, one that looked like it had not been used in quite some years. Aziraphale began to flush, apologizing for the dust and the mess, but Crowley cut him off. “It’s perfect, Zira. Thank you.”
It was then that something rather occurred to Aziraphale. “Oh! Of course, dear boy, you must be freezing, come, lets get you changed.” As it turned out, Aziraphale did not have much in the way of modern clothes, but Crowley managed to find a pair of grey sweatpants that were much too large for his bony hips, and a tartan nightshirt of some kind. It was hardly the most stylish getup, but it was comfortable and considerably warmer than what he had been previously wearing, so Crowley considered this an upgrade on some level, at least.
He carefully set his heels by the beg and stole a pair of the bookshop owner’s slippers, and made his way downstairs, as Aziraphale had left him to change. A bit of an odd choice for a man who had had his cock up his arse the pervious night, but he said nothing of it.
Downstairs, Aziraphale was busying himself in the kitchen with some sort of pastry. Cinnamon buns, at a guess. “Ah, welcome back. We’ll find you some better clothes soon. For now, are you hungry, dear boy?” Aziraphale asked, smiling kindly.
“Eh, not really.” Crowley lied. As if calling him out, his stomach rumbled loudly, and the other man frowned.
“You really must eat something, dear boy.” He insisted.
“I’m fine, angel. Really. I never eat this early.” He assured.
Aziraphale sighed deeply, almost sadly. “Crowley, you are not expected to look a certain way here. Please, just eat the damn bun.” He huffed, exasperated.
“Fine, if it’ll make you happy.” He took a bun and ate it slowly. He didn’t want to give the other man the satisfaction of admitting it, but these were really fucking good. Who knew the man could cook?
After eating another bun, he found himself rather at a loss for what to do. He padded into the other room where the bookshop owner had seated himself into a rather plush looking chair with some old book, and promply deposited himself into Aziraphale’s lap.
The bookshop owner squawked indignantly, but Crowley shushed him. “Shut up, angel. Just...just let me do this, okay? It’s not a sex thing, I just-Just let me, okay?”
He smiled warmly at the man in his lap. “Of course, dear boy.” He set down his book and wrapped his arms around Crowley’s middle, pulling him close, Crowley hurrying his head in the crook of his neck, whispering out a soft thanks.
Aziraphale simply hummed in response. “Of course, my sweet boy. I’m proud of you for trying.”
At this, Crowley stiffened, muffling a soft whimper into the other man’s neck, before he quickly allowed himself to relax. Alarmed, Aziraphale asked, “Did I say something wrong?”
“No!” He assured him. “No, no. It’s just, it’s been awhile since anyone told me they were proud of me and meant it.”
Aziraphale’s heart broke for the man in his lap, and kissed him on his forehead, a hand tangling into his long red hair.
It was then that it occurred to Aziraphale that he was well and truly fucked.