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Neighbourly Intent

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“Crowley, what the fuck?” Bee groaned, incredulous, as Crowley handed them another houseplant through the car window. They were sat in the passenger seat, knees near enough at their chest with how far forward the seat had been pushed, their lap and arms already full of plants which they may as well have been juggling in trying to make room for more.

“I have to bring all of them, Bee, they’ll be lonely if I don’t.” Crowley answered sincerely, handing them another, which Bee shoved rather frustratedly into one of the cupholders by the gear stick. 

"Oh, don't worry about me-" Bee huffed sarcastically, taking the tray of mini cacti that Crowley handed them and sliding it onto the dashboard. "-I'll just be a fucking shelf, shall I? It's not like I wanted to say goodbye to our mothers or anything."

"Language, Bee!" Came their mum's joking voice, though from where Bee couldn't quite tell, their peripheral vision on both sides blocked by leaves and greenery.  

"Yeah, Bee, language ." Crowley mimicked petulantly, having the gall to try and hand them one last plant through the window only to be stopped by a string of very colourful curse words. Bee managed, after a lot of growling and swearing and heightening claustrophobia, to transplant the innumerable pots into the vacant driver's seat, swinging the car door open with enough vigour to nearly hit Crowley as they made their escape.

The tiny battered car was stuffed to the brim, back seats folded down to make room for two lots of possessions, Crowley and Bee's lives packed up into boxes and stacked in the world's most audacious game of Tetris, scraping the roof and blocking the back window entirely; sure to make Crowley's already terrible driving even worse. 

"Arsehole." Bee scowled, stepping back from the car to join their parents on the pavement, all watching and doing nothing to help as Crowley attempted to strap a way-too-big suitcase to the roof.

"Don't call your brother an arsehole, dear." Their mama said jovially, nudging them in the side.

"He is a bit of one, though." Replied their mum - the other one - coming up to their other side. Bee smirked at the two of them, and busied themselves with rolling a cigarette. 

"Oi!" Crowley called, turning to throw them all a faux-offended pout, ignoring the suitcase for just long enough for it to start sliding off the roof. At the sight of him frantically trying to stop it from either hitting the ground or smashing one of the car windows, Bee choked on a laugh and dropped the filter they'd been holding between their lips, figuring it was karma for laughing as Mama rushed to Crowley's aid. 

"You could help, you know, dear sibling." Crowley yelled, way too loud for a quiet, late September morning, as he tightened the straps on the makeshift roof rack. The neighbours, inevitably, would talk amongst themselves - middle class businessmen asking "oh, aren't you glad that those bastard kids are finally going back to uni?" over a neat and orderly breakfast, wives responding "I never did understand them anyway, Karen mentioned Satanic witchcraft, but really I think they're just hippies." Maybe they'd even pop round with fake neighbourly intent, presenting the couple with a rehearsed spiel of "my Sophie left for uni again a few weeks ago, you don't appreciate the alone time until they come back!" and a horrid fake laugh when really all they were trying to do was nosey around and determine whether their neighbours were lesbians or just really good friends.

Really good friends, who shared a surname, raised children together, and held a garden party last year to renew their vows.

Bee ignored him and sparked up their cigarette. Both mothers shared a glance and rolled their eyes, and Crowley rounded the car to lean against it. 

"Is that everything?" 

Bee nodded through an exhale of smoke, and suddenly their parents had zoned in on them, Crowley being dragged into their huddle while Bee was made to extinguish their cigarette.

"Oh, we'll miss you, horrible children." Their mum laughed, pulling both Bee and Crowley into a tight hug and kissing them both, Bee on the crown of their head and Crowley on the cheek, before passing them off for Mama to do the same.

"We'll miss you both too." Crowley replied, his smile showing clearly all of the anxiety he was trying to keep hidden.

"Don't worry, kiddo-" Bee slapped him on the back as they spoke, a rare moment of genuine and open kindness flashing between them and making their mothers smile from ear to ear. "-Everyone's nice, you know that."

It was Crowley’s first year while Bee was going into their second, and Crowley was to move in with Bee and their friends that they’d met last year. Crowley had met them all before, too, even considering them friends of his own after spending a lot of time at Bee’s flat, though nothing could help keep the anxiety at bay. 

Truth be told, the poor kid looked like he might cry, and so with a sigh Bee decided to take control.

“Come on, we gotta go, I’ve got all the keys and I don’t want Hastur or Dagon tearing into me for making them wait.” 

Crowley looked understandably dejected, but nodded nonetheless, and with one last long family hug the two bundled into the car.

Bee got in first, bringing all of the plants back into their lap to make room for Crowley, who soon after slid into the driver’s seat, hands balled into fists on his thighs as he took a deep breath.

“It’ll be okay, kid.” Bee tried to be reassuring despite their voice sounding bored and their face being almost entirely blocked by plants, but Crowley smiled at them anyway.

“I know, it’ll just be weird to be so far away.”

Bee nodded with a hum, both of them waving goodbye to their mothers, before they set off for their new house-

-which was fifteen minutes away, in the city.

~

Crowley and Bee had managed to unpack the car and near enough move everything in before the first of their housemates even showed up, perfectly chaotic and exactly at the wrong time, as Crowley battled to fit the giant suitcase through the front door while Bee laid on the sofa and did nothing to help.

Her arrival was made known by three things: the sound of Britney Spears’ ‘Womanizer’ muffled through car windows and getting ominously closer until coming to a head as she pulled up, a crash as the aforementioned car hit the lamp post outside the house, and then a loud, blunt exclamation of “fuck.”

“Ah, Dagon’s here.” 

She ran out of the car, leaving the engine on, door open and music still blasting, and gave Crowley a hard clap on the shoulder as she pushed past him and threw herself into Bee’s lap, only to be promptly deposited onto the floor.

“Aren’t you guys buzzed?” She grinned, red hair messy and falling into her face, partially covered by a black baseball cap that said “women want me, fish fear me” on the front.

“I was until you got here.” Bee fired back playfully, snatching the hat from Dagon’s head and shoving it on their own. It was way too big and the peak fell down over their eyes every time they moved, and they readjusted the size, quite intent on wearing it for the rest of the night, as they got up to help Dagon unpack her car.

Dagon had brought with her far too much of what she didn’t need and far too little of what she did; half of her car being taken up by a giant fish tank (“I’m going back home tomorrow to get them, I hope they don’t miss me too much.”) while the tiny suitcase on her passenger seat apparently held all of her clothes for the year. The music, still Britney Spears, was only turned off once Dagon had unloaded the car completely (as Bee and Crowley had discovered, she had created a playlist of every single Britney Spears song on Spotify), by which point many of the neighbours had already given them some rather distasteful looks from behind their net curtains. 

With the playlist blaring again, now through a speaker upon Dagon’s insistence, the three of them had split up to investigate the house. The outside was irregular and dirty-white, made complete by a wooden door with chipped black paint and a half shiny, half rusted number six nailed to the wall. The inside was no better, old carpets and ragged papering complimenting holes in the plaster and rusty radiator pipes.

None of them had even bothered to look around the place before signing the contracts - an offer of cheap rent and ‘satisfactory’ facilities more than enough to sway them.

Bee had taken to the garden, itching for nicotine, and they extracted a cigarette from behind their ear, scattering loose tobacco through their mess of black hair and making no effort to even acknowledge it, let alone remove it.

The garden was small, narrow and void of greenery completely, except from a pitiful looking tree that looked more like a long twig that had been plunged into a patch of gravel than anything that had ever been remotely alive. The ground was plain concrete, mossy and damp and unappealing in every sense, resembling an alleyway more so than a garden. Bee thought it crunched nicely beneath their thick-soled boots as they walked, and that was enough for them.

They hopped up onto the shoddy brick wall that ran the length of the garden fence, almost barreling straight into the tree-that-once-was, and once they’d found their footing they paused to light their cigarette. 

Crowley would be sure to try and bring the thing back to life, of that they were certain. 

Eyeing the fence, Bee was sure that it would fall down before the year was up, what with the rot and knot-marks and holes between the panels; and they suppressed a laugh at the death-rattle it gave when they kicked it. They spared a glance over into their neighbour’s garden, and then their nosiness overcame them and they draped their arms over the fence entirely, wrinkling their nose a little at how nice next door seemed in comparison. 

It was a wide, open space and the tiles on the ground looked brand new and almost shone under the early afternoon sun. Bee didn’t feel in the least bit bad about dropping cigarette ash all over them. In the middle was a patch of neat green grass, in the far corner a russet-painted shed, and the entire back fence was painted with a sunset-inspired mural.

Inside the house Bee saw a lone girl, busy packing things away into the wall units in the kitchen. Bee found themselves very intrigued, her deep brown skin flawless and shining with a rich gold highlighter that caught the sun every time she moved, and she wore a loose, ruffled white shirt that flowed with her movements and made her look like an angel. 

For someone so seemingly put-together, she’d sure picked a rough neighbourhood to live in.

Bee stopped staring, then, and as they turned to duck down behind the fence to finish their cigarette they met eyes with Crowley, making his way out of the back door to join them.

“Dagon’s setting up her tank," He waved vaguely behind him as he spoke, up on his tiptoes to peer eagerly over the fence. 

"What's next door like?" 

"Nice." Bee replied genuinely with a nod, waiting for Crowley's hum of approval before continuing. "When's your boy moving in?" 

Crowley choked, and Bee snickered when his face flushed almost as red as his hair.

He had started dating a boy named Aziraphale, though Crowley would only ever call him Ezra, Zira, or Angel , over the summer, having met online and hit it off in a fresher's group chat for their university. 

"Weird name." Bee had commented, and then had immediately taken it back upon remembering that their legal name had very nearly been Beelzebub .

The two had met up a few times, and soon become an official item. Bee could still vividly remember the absolute joy on Crowley's face when he'd found out that, arguably through some sort of divine intervention, Zira would be living just next door when term time started.

Who else he was living with, however, Bee and Crowley hadn't the faintest. All Zira had said was that there were four of them, two second years and two first years, and all of them had met through family friends, university societies and extra curricular youth groups. Nerds.

"Uh, h-he-" Crowley cleared his throat, removing his sunglasses as if it'd help him think better, brown eyes so light they almost shone yellow darting this way and that but never meeting Bee's own. "-He should be here tomorrow, or the day after."

Bee smirked at him, quirking an eyebrow. 

"You'll have to introduce us.”

Crowley very quickly brushed it off with an awkward nod.

“What do you think the rest of ‘em will be like?”

Bee finished their cigarette and stubbed out the end on the wall, little ashy embers flying back at them as they flicked the filter in the general direction of the drain by the back door.

‘Get something to put your dock ends in-’ Bee reminded themselves as they followed Crowley back through to the living room. ‘-Asshole. Think of the planet.’

“Insufferable, probably.” Bee shrugged, leaning back against the sofa and crossing one leg over their knee, their foot beginning to twitch and shake out of habit. They decided not to mention the girl they’d seen in the kitchen, knowing full well that Crowley would mislay the information to Dagon, who in turn would mislay it to Hastur, over-exaggerated and not at all true stories of Bee and the mystery girl somehow being an item forming from nothing more than boredom and a need for drama.

“Yeah, probably.” Crowley’s reply was half-hearted, paying no real attention as he instead stared down at his phone.

“Zira likes them, though, so I’m sure they’re nice enough.”

Bee made no effort to reply, but if they had, it would’ve been cut off. First by a crash, followed immediately by the second customary exclamation of “fuck” of the day. 

It was beginning to feel like home already.