1O | Dinner with an angel
For most people, a ‘see you at dinner?’ wouldn’t have been nearly enough information. For Crowley and Aziraphale it was. They'd always met at 7pm at the doors of the restaurant in the hotel if they could convince their parents to let them have dinner together instead of with their families. It didn’t happen a lot, Aziraphale’s family was a lot stricter in having family dinner than Crowley’s ever was, but it happened at least once every year since they turned thirteen.
Crowley was extremely nervous, the nerves only got worse while the few hours until dinner ticked away and he found himself pacing through his room. He had retreated back to his room after taking a walk at beach, but it was very warm and he still hadn’t changed out of his dark trousers since arriving. Nerves were exactly his thing, anyway. He always tried to appear nonchalant, aloof even, but always felt filled to the brim with nerves.
He opened his suitcase and tried to decide if he should change. Should he? He closed it again and walked to the bathroom, checked his hair and tried to make something of it. Maybe just a bit of perfume and he would be ready for dinner. He didn’t want to overthink it or overdo it. But he did anyway and he was ten minutes late because of that.
Aziraphale stood by the double doors to the restaurant, his lips slightly pursed with annoyance. He had changed his shorts for trousers in the same colour and wore brown, shiny loafers instead of flip-flops. Still the same non-existent fashion sense as the last time they met. It still made his heart flutter. Crowley avoided looking at him when he approached the man.
“Sorry if I kept you waiting, traffic was awful,” he said jokingly.
Aziraphale gives him an uncomfortable smile. “Doesn’t matter, let’s go.”
Crowley doesn’t really want to go, but he follows Aziraphale into the restaurant. He also doesn’t want to talk. He can talk, he can be witty, snarky, sarcastic, smooth and charming, even concerned, as long as it has nothing to do with his own emotions. Whenever he attempts to talk about things that go deeper than the surface, he shuts down. His brain short-circuits and his tongue forgets how to form words. It’s like his jaw is stuck in place and he has to pry it open so he can stammer out some half-formed words that don’t make any sense anyway. He knows this is going to be a disaster. He can’t say what he wants and he ends up making jokes or something.
Aziraphale was always the one with words. Eloquent and articulate. Right now, there’s a heavy silence as neither of them speaks while they are seated at a table and don’t know how to break it. Crowley bounces his knee, drums with his fingers on the edge of the table and readjusts his sunglasses, even though they’re still sitting perfectly straight on his nose.
“Still with the glasses, then?” Aziraphale asked.
“Obviously,” Crowley snapped.
They were both relieved when a waiter stopped by to take their drink order. Crowley ordered a top shelf whiskey and was glad that they understood this time. Aziraphale ordered some wine and that made Crowley smirk when the waiter was gone.
“I thought your parents weren’t very big on wine, were they?”
Aziraphale huffed in response. “Speaking about parents, how are -” He tried to change the topic, but only realized halfway through his sentence what he was asking. His pale blue eyes grew big. “I'm so sorry, I forgot -”
“S’ fine,” Crowley interrupted him with a wave of his hand and he slumped a bit in his chair.
He knew that everyone knew that his parents passed away. His dad retired a few years ago, but politicians never really leave the spotlight after all, especially since his dad kept injecting himself into the public eye. He absolutely hated that, because it also meant that he never got to leave the spotlight and that was exactly the reason why his parents felt like they had to control him when his life spiraled out of control. Even now, months after his dad passed away, a year after his mum, they were still controlling him, holding up the threat of losing everything if he slipped up. If he lost his trust fund, he would automatically lose his right to his parents estate, they had made sure of that, and everything after that would collapse. He was pretty sure that Sandy would leave him, if not because he lost all his money, it would be because he was a failure, and with that his carefully crafted life in New York would come to an end pretty quickly.
“My deepest condolences to you,” Aziraphale still offered sincerely. “Might that be the reason why you’re here?”
“Yeah, m’here for some rest before I go back to England and sort out their affairs. Apparently my presence is required.” Now it’s Crowley that changed the subject, while also keeping it away from the thing Aziraphale wanted to talk about in the first place. “What about you? What’re you up to?”
“Oh, I’m working as curator in the British Museum,” Aziraphale answered proudly.
“You moved to London?” He asked astounded.
“Yes, I moved into a flat above a second-hand bookshop in Soho,” he said with a content wiggle. “It’s quite idyllic if I may say so.”
“A flat in Soho?” Crowley repeated, even more astounded than before. He remembered when he Googled Aziraphale’s family a few years ago and found the huge Fell-estate just outside of Windsor. He couldn’t imagine Aziraphale moving into a flat, but he also wouldn’t call living above a second-hand bookshop in Soho ‘idyllic’. "That bookshop must've been turning a record profit ever since you moved in."
Aziraphale huffed. "I have standards , Anthony -"
"Crowley. I don't just go around and buy all the books I see and…" He seemed to realize that Crowley was just teasing him.
Luckily for him, they were interrupted by the waiter bringing them their drinks and taking their order. Crowley already knew that he was going to nurse this one for the rest of their meal because he couldn't risk getting drunk or worse, someone noticing him getting drunk.
"What about you?" Aziraphale broke the silence.
"Moved to New York city a few years ago and became a security consultant. Awfully boring, I'm afraid. Just writing protocols all day."
"New York? Why all the way there?"
"You know, just keeping a low profile," Crowley kept it vague, counting on the fact that Aziraphale didn't read the Sun or the last pages of newspapers that always revealed too much of people's private lives. He never understood why humans were interested in the lives of kids of famous or important people.
He remembered that time when he decided to leave rehab after a week, got even more strung out than usual and got caught in a very compromising position with a musician that was at least a decade his senior. That was probably his lowest point ever and also the point where his parents had enough. They gave him an ultimatum to go back to rehab and stay clean, or to lose his trust fund and get written out of their will. Crowley decided to pack up his stuff and go to rehab in the States, where people also didn't care about the adult kid of some British politician.
"Oh, I see," Aziraphale answered and when Crowley looked up from his drink, he saw that the man was looking anywhere but him. It was obvious that he did know.
Crowley didn’t want to talk about it, because it would lead back to the last time they saw each other and the fight they had. The thing Aziraphale wanted to talk about. The point where Crowley started to spiral out of control. The foundations for this were laid long ago, with every rejection, the time he had spend alone, the no's and the do what you’re told. Between the rough hands and the tears cried afterwards. It all came to a head when the boy he loved told him he couldn’t love him back. The very last time he went to France, because he couldn’t come back afterwards. A story as old as time, but also a story that’s not over yet.
Aziraphale opened his mouth to say something, but closed it again. Crowley didn't even try, he knows the words would spill from his lips and go on without him agreeing to any of them. He always had a tendency for babbling while nervous. The awkward silence lasted a bit longer. Someone else broke it, their food was put in front of them. Aziraphale smiled and changed the subject.
They ordered dessert, Aziraphale had another glass of wine and Crowley switched to water. When their final order came, Crowley planted his elbow on the table and put his head in his hand while he watched the other man enjoy a creme caramel. He only took one bite of his own lemon tart, he wasn’t a big fan of desserts anyway. When Aziraphale finished, he eyed the leftover tart, but didn’t ask anything. He didn’t have to, Crowley pushed to plate towards him without saying anything. Aziraphale beamed a smile at him, it was an old routine that seemed easier than words.
The name was spoken with disgust. He recognized the voice and it clicked when he looked up to a tall man dressed in grey slacks. His body tensed up for a second, but he willed it to relax and leaned with his arm over the back over his chair. Sprawling out ever further, like he only ever got a vague suggestion of how chairs worked.
“Gabriel Fell,” he drawled. “Should’ve known that you’d show up.”
Gabriel folded his arms in front of his chest. “Thought you were smart enough to stay away.”
“Oh don’t get your knickers in a twist,” Crowley rolled unseen with his eyes behind his sunglasses, his body somehow conveyed it anyway. “I’m just catching up with an old friend.”
Crowley had no interest in staying here in the company of Aziraphale’s older brother. The two never liked each other and that wasn’t likely to change. Since they were basically done dining anyway, he got up, dragging his chair slowly over the floor with a loud, obnoxious sound while he was at it. If he was standing upright, he would probably be just as tall as Gabriel, but Crowley always slouched a bit and his hips had the tendency to angle themselves either way. He turned to walk away with his usual laid-back swagger, but stopped and looked over his shoulder to Aziraphale with a smirk.
“See you around, angel.” It was an endearment he hadn’t said in a very long time and right now he just said it to annoy Gabriel.