Aziraphale usually spends his time in his study drawing, with a cup of either hot cocoa or tea beside him as he works. It’s not that he can’t work outside his posh and comfy little office, it’s just that he prefers being alone when drawing. He’s by no means ashamed of his talents, talent he has been polishing since the day he picked up a pencil and started doodling, he just likes sitting in a room where no one can interrupt him, music of his own choosing lulling him on as he draws line after line onto paper.
Therefore, when he goes to the coffee shop just a three-minute walk from his gallery-slash-bookshop, with a book, his sketch book and his trusty pencils (which really need to be replaced soon, they’re almost just little duds by now), he never expected to be able to do some serious work. All Aziraphale expects when entering the coffee shop, is finding himself a cosy little nook and enjoying a good cup of tea or two as he reads his book. Every now and then he gets a small burst of inspiration and puts down his book, grabbing his sketchbook and a pencil, and doddles down ideas he can work more on later, before going back to his reading.
There are only a few days left before Christmas, and every time Aziraphale looks up from his reading material as he reaches for his cup of tea, he sees people bustling back and forth outside the coffee shop, arms filled with shopping bags and packages in volumes to the point he is wondering how they manage to get anywhere without dropping them. Outside there is chaos, but at least inside the café there is a comfortable silence, with only silent murmurs from the other patrons. Everyone who has come inside have collectively decided that they do not want to disturb the peace that has settled in there.
And that is just fine with Aziraphale. He prefers it this way. It’s not like he can’t shut out the world when he’s reading, but it’s certainly easier to lose himself to the story when it’s quiet around him and he doesn’t have to put in an effort at toning out the sounds around him. People wander in and out of the coffee shop, the little bell atop the door announcing every little movement. It’s a soothing sound, really, and while Aziraphale does let his eyes flicker up every time it chimes, he never actually lets his eyes linger for longer than a second before he’s back to his book again. He never looks up long enough to break his concentration, until he’s halfway down into his second teacup, and a redhead walks through the door.
Aziraphale isn’t quite sure what makes him pause at the sight of the man. It might be his flaming red hair, that certainly stands out, even though it’s short and messy. Well, mostly short, there are rather long locks swept to the side of his face that Aziraphale might believe have been styled to stand a bit upwards before the man came here. It might be the style of clothes. The snake-skin shoes, black skinny jeans, dark turtleneck and the red and black flannel shirt tied around his waist beneath his jacket. It looks… odd, though Aziraphale can’t exactly judge anyone by their fashion-sense. It might be the sturdy, bold shades, covering his eyes completely, they’re certainly standing out too. Perhaps it is the slight downwards dip of his lips, which points more towards the emotion sad, than angry or displeased. Well, the slight slump of his shoulders means to say so too. Unless that is just how sloppy his posture- Aziraphale shakes his head. Really, who is he to judge?
He watches the redhead walk up to the counter, place his order, before he finds a tiny table for himself, crossing his arms on the surface and literally burying his face into them, as if he wants to hide away from the world. Terrible place to want to hide away though, Aziraphale thinks. And it must be uncomfortable to lay like that when he has yet to remove his sunglasses. They must be digging into his skin, yes? Yet even as the artist is absolutely sure about this, the redhead doesn’t move or shift until the waitress gently places a cup of something beside him, gently tapping his shoulder. The redhead jerks, startled, looking up at her, before giving her a slight, wobbly smile in thanks before the waitress leaves. Aziraphale frowns. Sad, indeed. The redhead takes a sip of his beverage before removing his sunglasses. Aziraphale doesn’t even notice that he has grabbed his sketchbook before he finds himself dragging his pencil across the surface of the paper, but he already wishes he had brought with him colours, and not just a charcoal pencil, because the colour of the man’s eyes is spectacular. He’s never seen that kind of yellow before, but they’re breath-taking.
And so sad.
The man jumps again, and reaches into his pockets, pulling out a phone. Suddenly he seems both angry and sad, and he drops the phone onto the surface of his table rather harshly. The stranger is so expressive, the emotions dancing across his face so quickly Aziraphale barely manages to catch a glimpse of them. He is caught by a sudden urge to draw all the expressions this man can muster, see if he is skilled enough to form them on paper, to capture their intensity and do the stranger justice. Aziraphale stops his movements and frowns a bit, shaking his head. He doesn’t even know the redhead, and he wants the man to pose for him. He can’t just go up and ask him that, no matter how tempting it is. It will be rude, and also, rather weird. The man will think him a rather weird fellow if he does, won’t he?
Still, now he is curious. It is almost Christmas, only five days left now, so why does this man look so sad and angry? Stressed, Aziraphale can understand, because it certainly is a stressful time of the year, but it is also a holiday that brings joy. Or should, at least. Another few swipes with his pencil has him finish with the shape of the man’s chin, eyes, neck. The phone suddenly starts vibrating again, the stranger’s eyes narrow as he reaches for it, before hesitating as the frown eases up, and he looks sad again. He answers this time, a small smile tugging at his mouth after a few moments as he speaks.
His smile is beautiful. Aziraphale hurriedly draws the smile before it disappears. He can vaguely hear what the man says and strains his sense of hearing a little bit to catch up on it. Staring and listening in on other’s private conversations. What is wrong with him today, Aziraphale wonders.
“Yeah, I know… sorry… m’fine, no, really….” He can’t hear every word, so it all really is just a jumbled mess before the man sighs and mutters the name of the coffee shop before hanging up. Aziraphale expects the man to finish his beverage and leave, but he stays, nurtures his cup, before asking for a refill. The artist uses his time wisely, as he continues to sketch the redhead sitting in his seat, capturing every little detail of his face, the way his hair falls across his eyes whenever he moves, the hands nursing the cup as he stares at the contents. The bell chimes again, and Aziraphale’s eyes are drawn towards the person coming in the door. It’s a blonde woman, with eyes nearly the same colour as the redhead, except hers are a deeper colour, slightly darker, more orange than yellow. She doesn’t go to the counter to order anything, she walks hastily straight towards the stranger and pulls up a chair beside him, dumping her jacket and purse to the floor unceremoniously and looks at him, worry etched so deeply into her face. The redhead smiles at her, releasing a breath as he turns more towards her, and slightly hides his face away from Aziraphale.
But that’s okay, Aziraphale thinks. He’s already done with his face, and he can draw the man’s pose from before out of memory either way.
Anthony J. Crowley is not having a good day. He’s having a terrible day, a really terribly, emotionally painful day. And to him it had come out of nowhere, but it’s spreading through his tiny ring of friends like wildfire. His phone buzzes and he look down, sees a text message from Beelzebub.
Are you okay?
He sighs, stopping in the middle of the street, ignoring the people walking into him as he types a reply. It’s nice of Beelzebub to ask, though how she knows is beyond him. He just figured it out an hour ago, and he hasn’t told anyone yet, and Beelzebub is in the States right now, how can she have heard?
No. He answers. His phone buzzes again only seconds later. Beelzebub is playing the good, supportive big sister for once. He sighs, shaking his head. That is unfair of him. Beelzebub is rough around the edges, because she is the eldest, but she’s not the worst sibling he could have been stuck with. At least she cares.
You want to talk?
No. He repeats. Beelzebub’s got other matters to think of, she doesn’t need his troubles either. He’s barely managed to shove his phone in his pocket again before the phone buzzes, and he receives a call from said sibling. He considers pressing the end button, but knows that won’t play well at all, even if she does realize he doesn’t want to talk about it, can’t talk about it, but he answers anyway.
“I get it, you don’t want to talk, so I won’t bother you, but you have to know where I heard it, and also, I am angry and I’m sorry I’m not there.” A nice enough sentiment. Good to know he’s got someone on his side.
“Okay, who told you?”
“Babylon is looking everywhere for you.” Crowley swallows, mouth suddenly dry. Babylon? Beelzebub learned through Babylon? How did Babylon know? As if reading his thoughts, Beelzebub speaks again.
“She went by your place. She got out early from work, wanted to surprise you, because Tonya is supposed to be with Oliver this weekend. She said she wanted to see if you wanted to hang out if you didn’t have any plans. She just called me fifteen minutes ago, in a rage.” Which means that they were still at the flat? After Crowley walked in, neither of the two left? They just kept on going at it? That doesn’t make him feel any better about himself, it actually makes his eyes well up with tears and he takes a shuddering breath, trying to reign himself in. He’s not going to cry for that bastard, he is not. He doesn’t deserve it, the bastard.
“She haven’t called.”
“She’s probably checking out all your haunts first. She’s really worried.” Crowley’s got a few haunts, true enough that, but he has kept away from them because he knows where they are too, and Crowley doesn’t want to be found.
“I’ll… I’ll call her. Once I’ve calmed down a bit.” The both of them knows that is a lie, but at least Beelzebub is courteous enough not to point that out.
“Right. Also, I know a guy with a shovel who’s good at hiding bodies.” Crowley can’t help the wobbly chuckle escaping him at his older sibling’s rather morbid humour, but despite the fact that it really isn’t appropriate, it kind of cheers him up a bit.
“Thanks, but I’ll pass.” There is a silence on the other end and Crowley blinks.
“I really am sorry, Anthony.”
“Yeah, uh, don’t. Don’t say it, not your fault.”
“But seriously, Hastur is good at hiding bodies.”
“Bye now, Beelzebub.” He hangs up, inhaling and then exhaling. He wants to cry, he wants to laugh, and they usually never end well when mixing, at least not out in public, so he swallows his emotions as best he can and trudges on, stopping when he almost passes by a coffee shop. He’s never been in there before, but then again, he’s not often in Soho. He makes a split-second decision and enters the café. It’s simply, and cosy and warm. He shudders, realizing just how cold it had been outside. His jacket isn’t exactly made for this cold weather, but when he had run out of his flat he hadn’t been thinking about grabbing appropriate clothing for the weather. He needs something to warm himself up, and moves to the counter, ordering himself a coffee before finding himself a table. Once there, he pulls off his jacket, drapes it over the chair, crosses his arms across the table and buries his face in them. It’s uncomfortable, his shades digging into his skin, but he doesn’t have the strength or care to remove them. All he wants to do is curl up, hide away from the world and cry, but he can’t because he’s outside, he doesn’t want to cause a scene.
He still can’t stop the slight tremor going through him as he takes a few deep breath in an attempt at controlling himself. He nearly breaks when a waitress gently taps his shoulder. He jumps, looks up startled, and she gives him a friendly smile and nods to his coffee. There’s no pity, just sympathy, and he manages one weak, wobbly smile back at her in thanks. He takes a sip of his coffee, before pulling off his shades. He can imagine there’s angry red lines all over his face now after how he had just pressed them harshly into his skin. He must look like a real idiot, and he feels like one too. He keeps drinking his coffee, trying to avoid thinking about the entire thing, but it just keeps on popping back into his head every time he closes his eyes.
That was their apartment… their bed. Except it isn’t anymore. Crowley’s self-esteem might not be the best right now, but he sure as hell has enough dignity left to accept that it’s over, and that he doesn’t deserve this shit-show. He jumps again, startled for the second time since he entered this coffee shop, when his phone starts buzzing.
‘Probably Babylon.’ He thinks as he reaches for his phone and pulls it out. He almost welcomes it, until he sees the name flashing across the screen. He feels the urge to just throw the phone as hard as he can across the shop, but settles for dumping it rather carelessly onto the table after pressing the end button. This is a call he is not going to answer anytime soon. He barely manages to finish his coffee when the phone starts buzzing again and he feels anger bubble up as he grabs his phone, pretty much ready to toss it at the ground and step on it when he sees Babylon’s name on the screen. She must have given up looking for him everywhere then. He swallows, but answers.
“Anthony.” She’s breathing heavily on the other end, clearly she’s been running around all over London trying to find him and he feels warmth bloom in his chest. Everyone else might be shit, but Babylon and Beelzebub are precious. They’re the only family he cares about anyway.
“I know it’s stupid to ask, but are you okay? I… I know what happened.”
“I know you know. Beelz called earlier. Sorry you had to… see that.”
“Don’t say sorry. Are you okay? Wherever you are, can I come?”
“I’m fine.” Crowley mutters, and when Babylon makes a sound on the other end implying that she doesn’t believe him, he tries to reassure her that he is fine, but she doesn’t reply, and he knows that whatever he says, it won’t convince her a lick, so he sighs and offers her the name of the shop he entered, and then he waits. He moves to drink some more, only to realize his cup is empty. He refills his cup, and waits, and not long after he hears the door open, the bell chime, and hurried footsteps before a chair is pulled up beside him, and items are dropped to the floor. He turns slightly, sees Babylon and feels a smile trying to force its way onto his face.
Aziraphale wonders who this lady is. She’s a beauty too, if he’s honest with himself, and while the redheaded man is all angles and sharp features, this woman is slightly softer. Younger too, if the artist’s keen eyes have anything to go by.
Perhaps she is his girlfriend, here to cheer him up after something bad happened to him. It certainly would fit the scenario, won’t it? Aziraphale watches as the blonde hugs the redhead. It’s… it’s a heart-warming exchange to watch. The redhead nearly clings to her as she embraces him, presses a kiss to his temple before she carefully pulls back. When she speaks, Aziraphale can hear her more clearly than the redhead, her voice carried better in the quiet shop.
“You can stay at my place tonight, Anthony.” The redhead shakes his head.
“Don’t wanna intrude.”
“You’ve got nowhere else to go. I’m not sending you back to that flat. Come on, stay with me and Tonya until you find a new place to stay, okay? Beelz said she’ll come back for Christmas. You, me, Beelz and Tonya. Finally that family Christmas we’ve talked about for years, yeah? Haven't done that since before I finished college” The redhead, now known as Anthony, looks away, down at his beverage, and Aziraphale notices how his furrowed brows convey his uncertainty.
“Tonya misses her uncle Tony.” The man chuckles at that, clenching his eyes shut.
“That’s merciless of you, kiddo.” Ah, they are family. How nice, seeing such open display of sibling affection between two people. Suddenly the woman leans in closer, and their words quiet down, as if they realize that people can hear them and they don’t want to be heard. But that is okay, Aziraphale feels quite bad already about having listened in on them, and he wants to finish this drawing as quickly as he can. Because it is obvious that the this Anthony is struggling with something, and the blonde artist feels really bad for having listened in, and also for using the man as a model without asking for his consent. Suddenly the woman’s phone starts ringing, and she looks annoyed, but then frowns at her screen and she answers it. Her brow furrows deeper as she listens to the speaker on the other side.
“No, her father is supposed to pick her up?” She sounds actually quite distressed. She looks towards the redhead, an apologetic look on her face. The man waves her off and she kisses his forehead before gathering her things.
“I’ll be right there. I’m so sorry about this, it won’t happen again. Tell her I’m on my way, would you?” She ends the call and turns towards Anthony one final time.
“You’ll stay at our place, okay? Once you’ve finished your coffee, come to our flat, and stay with us until we find you a new place, okay?” The redhead opens his mouth, as if to argue, but she levels him with a look and he nods, giving up any fight.
“I know where the key is.” Is his reply and she smiles at him, before she’s out the door. Aziraphale beckons a waitress over, and tears out the page in his sketchbook and writes a quick note on a napkin. The waitress waits expectantly and he hands her the page and note, and she looks at it, then the redhead, raising a brow and a playful smile on her face. Ah, at least she is not the judging kind.
“Would you mind giving them to him? And also, don’t tell him it was me.”
“Of course, love.” She says with a heavily Scottish brogue before heading over to the redhead. Aziraphale leans back with his book, and hopes he looks innocent in his seat with his book, like he hadn’t just spent the last thirty minutes sketching a complete stranger and listening in on his private conversations.
“You can stay at my place tonight, Anthony.”
“Don’t wanna intrude.” He can hear how pathetically weak his voice is, how it’s gravelly and heavy with tears. If Bayblon notices, she doesn’t comment on it.
“You’ve got nowhere else to go. I’m not sending you back to that flat. Come on, stay with me and Tonya until you find a new place to stay, okay? Beelz said she’ll come back for Christmas. You, me, Beelze and Tonya. Finally that family Christmas we’ve talked about for years, yeah?” There is no pity in her voice, not that he expected that. Babylon is angry on his behalf, and so worried about him, wanting to help him out so desperately. He can’t quite bear that look from her and he turns his head to stare at his coffee, frowning.
“Tonya misses her uncle Tony.” Crowley chuckles, clenching his eyes shut tightly to stop an oncoming wave of tears.
“That’s merciless of you, kiddo.” He tries to joke, just to keep the mood light and keep that control which is hanging on a very thin thread.
Crowley loves his younger sister, he really does. She’s sweet and caring, and considering she’s the only one out of the three siblings with a child, she acts the mom in the family more than any other, despite being the youngest of the trio. But she is right. He shouldn’t be alone, and he hasn’t seen little Tonya in a while. And now he has a good reason for actually joining them during their family get-together at Christmas. Actually, he’s always had good reason for it, but he never wanted to intrude, because Oliver used to be there, and he wanted to let Babylon and him work it out for the sake of Tonya. Babylon leans in closer.
“I know you’ve stayed away because you think that’s for the best for me and Tonya, but Oliver isn’t… He gets her every other weekend, no more than that. There is nothing to salvage, Anthony. Staying away isn’t the best. She keeps asking for her uncle, and I’d love to have you over for dinner, or even a sleepover. Tonya’d love that too.” He feels a lump grow in his throat, realizing just how much time and effort he might have put into his relationship the last few years instead of his family. He feels bad for it, because in the end, now it shows just who he can rely on. And that certainly is not his partner. Ex-partner.
“I…” He pauses, and Babylon grabs his hand, looking determined.
“You’re not going to apologize for anything. Just come home.” He opens his mouth again, shuts it because, God, she knows him too well but that’s what he gets for practically raising her at some point, before he forces the words out.
“I… can you guys help? Getting my stuff back? I don’t want to go alone. And… I need a new place to live too.” She smiles then, and nods.
“We’d love to help. I’m sure Beelz will stay a little bit longer if we can find a flat before they have to return to the States.”
“You should call her.”
“She just called me before I got here.” Crowley says and Babylon rolls her eyes.
“She calls me every day, you know, asking about you, and you didn’t hear that from me. At least call her once a week.”
“I’ll try.” Babylon seems rather satisfied with that answer and Crowley checks his watch, and looks up at Babylon confused.
“Shouldn’t you pick up Tonya from kindergarten?”
“This is Oliver’s weekend. He’s going to pick her up and have her at his place, so it’ll be just you and me.” Crowley is both relieved and a little disappointed to hear that. He’s relieved because he’d rather not the five-year old see him like this, like a wreck. It’ll invoke questions and she’ll feel bad on his behalf and she won’t even understand what caused it because he won’t tell her that he just walked in on his partner cheating on him. It’s not an aspect of real life he wants her to know, or even understand at this age, hopefully never. So she’ll probably be distressed too, picking up on his shitty mood. At the same time he really wants to see her, hold her, play with her and read her a bedtime story, because it might give him something else to think about, and he misses her terribly. And in his own honest opinion, he doesn’t think Oliver deservers even a minute of her time because he’s… Tonya has to fight for his attention, and that’s not right. Oliver isn’t a good dad, he doesn’t deserve the angel Tonya is.
“It’ll be easier, won’t it? Give you some time to gather yourself.” Babylon says and he nods silently. They sit in silence for a little, and then suddenly Babylon’s phone starts ringing, and she huffs in annoyance at the interruption, but pauses at the sight of the caller ID. She answers, and Crowley quickly realizes through her dialogue with the caller that Oliver has not picked Tonya up from kindergarten, and that Babylon now has to do it, and perhaps also explain to the little girl that she won’t be visiting her father this weekend. He can just imagine the heartbroken expression on the little girl’s face. Babylon looks at him, apologetic and he waves her off. She leans forward and presses a kiss to his forehead before she’s moving towards the door.
“You’ll stay at our place, okay? Once you’ve finished your coffee, come to our flat, and stay with us until we find you a new place, okay?” Crowley opens his mouth, as if to argue, but thinks better of it. He did agree to stay at Babylon’s and Tonay’s and the blonde will just be worried sick if he doesn’t show.
“I know where the key is.” He tells her and she smiles, waves and then she’s practically running down the street. Crowley sighs and slumps in his seat again, blinking confused as someone suddenly holds out a piece of paper and napkin at him. He looks up and sees the waitress, smiling at him.
“Someone wanted me to give you this. Secret admirer, I imagine.” He is utterly confused, but accepts it, and unfolds them. His breath catches in his throat at the sight. That’s… that’s him. Someone drew him, the moment he sat down someone began drawing him. He’s not sure if he’s creeped out or flattered. But the longer he stares, the more details he notices and, yeah, he is feeling more flattered than creeped out. He unfolds the napkin, and reaches a hand up to cover his mouth to muffle the chuckles.
My apologies for not asking your consent for this drawing, I know that is very rude. I got lost in my own thoughts, but you truly are a wonderful model and I couldn’t help myself. Again, my apologies, and I hope you’ll cheer up and have a wonderful Christmas.
Sweet, very sweet. Crowley glances around, but can’t see anyone sketching. It makes sense though, because if the note is anything to go by, the artist is rather embarrassed by not asking Crowley for his consent and just letting his creativity run off with him, but this… this kind of cheered the redhead up. He can’t seem to find anyone to pin this on, so he signals for the waitress. She seems rather happy about being caught up in this little scheme.
“Is there any chance you can tell me who did this?” She shakes her head with a secretive smile, enjoying this far too much.
“No, he wanted to remain anonymous.” He, huh? Crowley makes a split-second decision and grabs his own napkin and looks up at the waitress.
“Can I borrow your pen?” She hands it to him and watches as he scribbles down his own note.
“Mind giving this to him then? I’m going to leave now, so I won’t see either way.” She nods, eyes narrowing in mirth and Crowley pauses, before pulling out a small bill from his wallet.
“Thanks for great service, by the way.”
“Anytime, love.” She says and waits for him to leave. Crowley tries to sneak a peak inside the windows, but the waitress sees him and doesn’t give his note to anyone, so he gives up with a shake of his head and leaves, heading towards his sister and niece’s apartment.
Once she is sure Crowley has left, she turns towards Aziraphale and hands him the note. He looks up startled and she smiles at him.
“I think you just scored, love.” He blinks, but accepts the note and reads it, face flushing.
Don’t be sorry, it is beautiful. I’ll model for you anytime, just give me a call. Merry Christmas to you too. A.J. Crowely Phone number: *********
Well, if he’s volunteering, who is Aziraphale to deny him?