Seven is a recurring number with beautifully tragic things, Crowley observes. Seven deadly sins, seven charkas, seven heavens––
Seven days it takes for Crowley to fall in love with the weird kid in the cardigan.
Crowley hates studying. It’s a well known fact, and while his parents make think it’s because he’s a lazy teenager who only cares about his car (okay, slightly true), it’s mainly because he just can’t get the hang of things.
It drives him mad. He stares at the words, stares and stares and waits for the knowledge to come to him, like a goddamn epiphany or some shit, anything. It doesn’t work, it never works, and it’s going to make him go crazy. They slip away from him like silk, beautiful and impossible to grab, and it drives him out of his fucking mind.
Crowley looks up sharply. There’s a boy standing in front of him, about his age, all rumpled hair and – is that a cardigan? Crowley’s first thought, straight after the cardigan thing, is Oh God, I’m screwed.
“Are you okay?” the boy wants to know, looking torn between concern and amusement. “See, you were doing this thing –” He contorts his face, scrunching up his nose and opening his eyes very wide. Crowley raises his eyebrows. The boy continues, “ – and you looked kind of…disturbed. But it was quite cute, too, admittedly, though I don’t mean that in a - creepy way.”
“Do you need help?” the boy asks, invading Crowley’s space to lean forward and pluck his Algebra homework away. “Oh, this is easy. I can show you how to do it if you’re confused.”
No way, Crowley thinks, and he hears himself blurt out, “Please.”
Cardigan Boy’s name is Aziraphale, and he works in a coffee shop.
Crowley is perfectly unsuspecting when he walks into the new coffee shop down the road the morning after the library, bleary and cursing waking up at ridiculously early hours on Saturday mornings, ready for a good strong cup of coffee. He finds himself jolted awake when he finds himself face-to-face with Cardigan Boy.
“You,” he gasps, nearly tripping over his own two feet as he grinds to a halt.
Cardigan Boy looks pleased to see him, which Crowley must just be imagining, because nobody in their right mind is ever pleased to see him. It’s probably a sign of, like, the coming apocalypse or something. “Yes, me. Black coffee, right?” Cardigan Boy adds, smiling.
“Uh.” What? “Yeah, sure, I guess.” Like he doesn’t even know his own order (black coffee, for the record, but is this guy a stalker or––) “I don’t know – I mean, your name, what is it?”
(Later, a long while later, Aziraphale will tell Crowley, "You just looked like you were having a bad day," and Crowley will roll his eyes. "So I was going to order black coffee?" "Yes," Aziraphale will say, like that's obvious.)
Hastur nearly cries from laughing when Crowley tells him about the 'Your name, what is it?' part.
Cardigan Boy, to his credit, just smiles warmly. “I’m Aziraphale,” he says, holding out his hand for Crowley to shake. Crowley, after a moment’s deliberation, complies.
“Aziraphale,” Crowley says, “from the library.” And then, “Aziraphale?”
Aziraphale just smiles wryly. “Religious family. You?”
Aziraphale just goes right on smiling indulgently. Crowley doesn’t know how he manages to do that while he makes coffee at the same time, but he likes to obey by the sentiment of ‘Never question a workman’s craft.’ Or barista’s, whatever. “Your name,” Aziraphale clarifies.
“Oh, right,” says Crowley, taking the coffee and slipping the required money across the counter. “Crowley.”
Aziraphale grins. “Religious family?”
“Not really,” Crowley says awkwardly. “Um…my mother was a Satanist.”
Aziraphale eyebrows shoot right up. “I see.” He quickly steers away from the subject. “So, do you still need help?” When Crowley just stares blankly, he adds, “With your homework.”
Crowley laughs a little bitterly. “I always need help with homework, darling,” he says, gingerly picking up the coffee and feeling himself slip back into his reasonably less awkward – by which of course he means less like a love struck twelve year old – persona.
“I’ll help you,” says Aziraphale, “if you want.”
Crowley frowns at him. “Are you – I mean, that’s a lot to –” There goes coherency again. Well, it was nice knowing eloquence for the whole ten seconds.
“It would be my pleasure,” Aziraphale says, and he’s smiling.
Crowley tries not to swoon like a maiden from a Wild Western movie when he says, sounding a little shell-shocked, “Okay then.”
Aziraphale watches him for a moment. Finally, he says, “Well…it would help if I had your number, or something, my dear.”
“Right,” Crowley says, digging his phone out of his pocket and practically flinging it at Aziraphale. Aziraphale, smiling, takes the mobile and takes a painstaking amount of time to type in his number, finally handing it back to Crowley. “There. I’ll text you.”
“That’s…good then.” Crowley tries not to openly stare. Then, on hearing the bell of the coffee shop ding to announce the entrance of a new customer, blurts out, “I better be off, then.”
“Crowley, if you want, you can––” Crowley faintly hears Aziraphale call, but he’s already out the door and down the street, thanking the cold air for the coolness to his burning cheeks. He is not a twelve year old girl, he does not have a crush on the sexy guy from the coffee shop, and he does not spend the whole Saturday obsessively checking his phone.
Two out of these three things are true, and on a completely unrelated note, Crowley is seventeen, no matter how much he may act like a love struck teenager.
It’s not obsessive checking, anyway. Every fifteen minutes is not obsessive.
Aziraphale doesn’t text him on Saturday, anyway.
He does fall through Crowley’s window on Sunday, though.
The little Xs and Ys are taunting Crowley.
He’s not paranoid, he swears. “Maths,” he mutters, “is the spawn of the devil.” Sighing, he gets up from his desk and props himself up against his window sill, taking his packet of emergency (or not so emergency anymore, whatever) pack of cigarettes from his pocket and lighting one up.
He has a nice few moments of blissful mathless quiet before somebody jumps on him.
It’s important to note right at this moment that Crowley’s bedroom is on the second floor of his house. On the best of days, it is extremely difficult to access even via the pergola. Even Cardigan Boy cannot accomplish such a feat, right?
“What,” Crowley pants, pushing Aziraphale roughly off of him and retrieving his cigarette, which he stamps out and throws into the bathroom bin with a scowl, “the fuck?”
“It’s you!” Aziraphale gapes for a quick second, and then his eyes grow wide and innocent. “Apologies. I thought that there was a fire.”
“You thought…there was a fire,” Crowley says. He wonders if it would be rude to collapse on the ground and start sobbing into his hands. First school, and now he’s getting attacked by ridiculously good-looking boys in old lady cardigans. The world works in mysterious ways.
“I knocked on the door,” Aziraphale says, looking chagrined. He is determinedly avoiding eye contact with Crowley. “Nobody answered. So I––well, you see, there’s this tree outside your house and I didn’t want anybody to get hurt but I didn’t want to call the fire brigade in case I was just being irrational, so––”
Crowley stares at Aziraphale for a few long moments, trying – not very hard – not to gape. Finally, unable to deny the temptation anymore, he begins to laugh, so loud that he nearly falls off the bed he has recently planted himself down on, gripping his stomach because oh my God.
“You,” he chokes out between laughs. “You are – man, ‘Zirphale, you are the fucking best.”
Aziraphale looks torn between embarrassment and amusement. “Well, I…” He trails off. “I should go.”
Crowley just smirks. “Stay,” he says. “I was just thinking about ordering pizza. Mum and dad are out.”
And wow, didn’t that sound suggestive. Aziraphale blushes. He also looks sorely tempted.
“I think I heard that…” Crowley begins, eyebrows waggling, pulling out his winning card. “…Harry Potter is on the TV tonight.”
Aziraphale is already coming to sit next to Crowley on the bed when he says, “Well…for Harry, Hermione and Ron, I guess I could make the sacrifice…” He blushes again, looking down at the carpet. “I’ll have to call my mum, though.” When Crowley doesn’t argue, he sets about doing so.
“If she asks who I am,” Crowley calls when he hears the dial tone begin, “tell her I was on fire.”
“No? 'Really hot'?”
“Burning up? No? God, it’s like you don’t have any sense of humour at all.”
In History on Monday, Crowley just in time to see Aziraphale walk into the class. He hadn’t even known that Aziraphale took the class, which just went to show how much attention he had been paying to school since his parents––
No. No, he isn’t going to think about that. Catching Aziraphale’s eye, Crowley grins and winks. The other boy blushes a little, a pleasantly pink flush that makes Crowley wonder if it goes all the way down.
Crowley, hardly realizing what he’s doing, cocks his head at the chair next to him, an obvious request. He ignores Has’ (“Hastur is just so – I’m going to take over the world, you know?”) incredulously amused exclamation from two desks away (“I knew it”) and smiles when Aziraphale sits down.
“You’re a bad influence on me,” he says when Crowley immediately begins to doodle little Romans on Aziraphale’s The Fall of Rome notes.
Crowley grins widely, pleased with himself. “You’re just grumpy because I didn’t sob like a baby when Sirius died,” he mutters.
Aziraphale narrows his eyes at Crowley. “You may deny it, my dear, but there were tears in your eyes.” He adds in a whisper when the teacher looks at them pointedly, “There were tears.”
Crowley doesn’t know what to say to that, really, so he switches from doodling Romans to lewd – and graphic – pictures that make Aziraphale blush pleasantly.
If the whole subject passes more quickly than usual, and Crowley actually listens a little – but only when Aziraphale forces him to – then he’s certainly not going to say anything about it. He thinks that it’s noticeable, though, because he catches the look that Has throws him, the one that clearly says Don’t think you can fool me with a decidedly smug air.
The next week passes in much the same fashion. Crowley gets a B+ on a math test, thanks to his new tutor. He drinks lots of coffee. Aziraphale drinks far too much tea. Friday comes around again, and this time Aziraphale just knocks on the door.
“Climbing that tree was far too exhausting, anyway,” he says.
Later, Aziraphale will fall asleep watching Star Wars with his head on Crowley’s shoulder. Crowley will let him because he’s just a nice guy, and certainly not because the other boy looks adorable when he’s sleeping.
One week, and then two weeks, three, four; finals come and go. Crowley still drinks too much coffee, Aziraphale still drinks too much tea and Crowley still doesn’t kiss Aziraphale because – see, it’s like this. Usually, Crowley has limited inhibitions about kissing anybody he likes, male or female, but–– Aziraphale is pure and innocent, clever and quick, warm and caring and Crowley can’t bring himself to ruin that.
And it’s okay.
Well, until––until suddenly it isn’t anymore.
To his credit, it’s not even Aziraphale’s fault. Crowley is nearly an adult and should be able to handle himself by now, but when it comes to his parents – well, let’s just say, he’s not unbreakable. Crowley gets home one day to his parents screaming at each other, and when he walks in they force him into the verbal brawl, saying things like ‘Crowley, tell your mother she’s wrong’ and ‘Crowley, tell your father he’s an idiot – you know he is.’
Crowley blurts out, “I’m going to Aziraphale’s,” in an attempt to make a quick departure, which just makes his father go off on a tangent about how his son is a homosexual maniac and that Ziffyphale boy is a bad influence on him.
Crowley feels cold hard anger in his gut, throws open the front door before he does something he probably won’t regret, and runs. He runs and runs and runs, and finds himself outside Aziraphale’s house, staring up at the huge mansion like it can save him from his problems.
Swallowing, he knocks on the door. Aziraphale answers, and he takes one look at Crowley before he ushers him in, pulling the other boy into a hug. Aziraphale’s mum, Anne, is there, and she smiles warmly and concernedly at Crowley, offering him biscuits and hot chocolate and a place to stay, and that just makes Crowley have to swallow compulsively so that the tears don’t overflow completely.
Crowley’s not exactly one for stereotypes, but he had, admittedly, expected some prejudice from Aziraphale’s family. Religion is religion, he knows, and Crowley isn’t ashamed of his sexual orientation but–– even the best of judgment can be clouded and––
Neither Anne, nor the rest of the family, treat him coldly at all. They treat him like extended family, acting in as the perfect loving family that Crowley’s never had and no, he’d never admit it, not even to Aziraphale, but they make him feel like somebody actually cares.
Aziraphale tows him up the long and winding staircase and into the boy’s bedroom, depositing Crowley and himself onto the bed with a thunk. He wraps his arms around Crowley, and that’s when Crowley lets the tears go. He still has his dignity, of course, and Aziraphale may not care about sobbing in front of others but Crowley does, damn it, so he just kind of cries quietly and subtly, like it even makes any difference to Aziraphale.
“Never gon’ accept,” Crowley hiccups, “that I’m – I’m –“
And, no, no, he’s not ashamed of who he is, but he just can’t bring himself to say it. Maybe because it seems too open, too raw, like Aziraphale is the wound and words are the stitches, like maybe if he keeps talking Aziraphale will leave and he’ll have nobody and, fuck, so maybe he was never all that good at analogies, but––
“Crowley,” Aziraphale says. When Crowley doesn’t look up, the other boy places a finger beneath Crowley’s chin, tilting his head up. “Crowley,” he says again, and then Aziraphale’s kissing him.
It takes Crowley seven days to fall in love with Aziraphale.
It takes him about seven weeks to realise it.
(Later, much later, Aziraphale will grab Crowley by the hand when they're doing homework in his house one day, kiss Crowley's fingers with those feather lips. Aziraphale will ask, "What's wrong?" and Crowley will say, "I - Shit. I think I love you."
Aziraphale will smile and say, "I've loved you since the first day," and it will be okay.)