This is my fill for today's Whumptober prompt ("Recovery") but I'm posting it separate from my designated Whumptober collection because it's a direct sequel to my fic "Crossfire". Tomorrow's final prompt will be posted in my Good Omens Whumptober collection.
For tessseagull upon your request ^_^
It had been over a month and Crowley still couldn't stand to be in his flat.
He knew it was stupid—probably, anyway—but when he was there, all he could think about was the demons coming for him, dragging him to Hell to face the wrath of Hastur and Malebranche. Yes, he was pretty sure that all of that had been cleared up, but it had still happened and for some reason he couldn't get over it. And there were the nightmares. For a while, after his injuries had healed, he had stopped sleeping, afraid of the nightmares that had plagued him during his convalescence, but he grew weary, and sometimes he drifted off to sleep. He'd been doing that a lot lately, and every time, he had been forced to, once again, relive what had happened to him in Hell. After which, he would usually spend the rest of the night pacing around or going out, being anywhere but the place everything had gone wrong.
So, after pacing around, firmly avoiding his bedroom where the capture had taken place while he had been sleeping, he finally decided that he couldn't stay there another minute and went out for a drive.
He'd been doing that a lot lately. Driving. Trying to make attempts at getting back to work with his meddling and tempting to make himself look good for his superiors again. But even he would admit that he didn't really have his heart in it like he usually would. It was funny, how being tortured brutally could do that to you.
While he was driving, trying to decide what new wile to come up with, his car phone rang and he jumped, heart beating heavily, before he remembered that Hell never contacted him like that.
He answered it. "Hullo?"
"Oh, hello, Crowley," Aziraphale's voice came over the line.
"Angel? Is something up?" Crowley asked.
"What? Oh, no, I was just wondering if you wanted to meet for dinner tonight. There's a new place I'd love to try."
Crowley bit his lip. On one hand he didn't want to be accidently seen with the angel so soon after their ruse, and they had risked their covers getting blown only two weeks ago meeting at the park. But on the other hand, he really, really, didn't want to be alone right now.
"Sure, why not?" he replied. "Where are we meeting?"
Aziraphale gave him the address and Crowley showed up there early, waiting for the angel to arrive.
When Aziraphale appeared, Crowley breathed a silent sigh of relief. The angel's presence and the glow of his halo had been the only thing that had gotten Crowley through the worst of his recovery, during his convalescence. When he'd been bedridden and couldn't even speak for the injuries Malebranche had given him, Aziraphale had never left his side. He owed everything to his friend—which was partly why he hated the thought of putting the angel in danger even by seeing him. But he needed his friend too; being alone had been…difficult lately. He spent most of his time jumping at shadows and he hated it. He hated that this is what he had become.
"There you are, my dear!" Aziraphale greeted as Crowley got out of the Bentley. "You're looking well."
Crowley knew that was a lie. While the bruises and scars had faded, he knew he still had the pale, gaunt look of an invalid. But he supposed it was an improvement on his former appearance, so there was that.
He gave a tight smile and shrugged before following the angel into the restaurant where there just happened to be a table ready. Crowley also noticed that it was in an inconspicuous spot in the back, near the wall, and away from any windows. He relaxed slightly, seeing that Aziraphale was at least being careful. Or maybe that had been his influence on the host, he wasn't sure.
They ordered their food and drinks before Aziraphale launched into conversation. Nonsense, nothing of import, and Crowley was again glad. Glad the angel seemed to see what he needed, that he didn't want to talk about what he had been doing. How he had been. Crowley felt some of his worries start to dissipate.
But as the night wore on and it was nearly closing time at the restaurant, the darkness began to descend on Crowley again. The inevitability of going back to his flat, of sitting down, trying to relax. Perhaps falling asleep, and when he did, how there would be nightmares waiting for him because there always were. They were there when he simply closed his eyes, right behind his eyelids, and if he didn't let them take him then while he was awake, they would wait until he was asleep and then jumped on him, pulling him down until he couldn't fight.
"I think we had best be going, Crowley," Aziraphale said, breaking Crowley out of his dark thoughts and making him sick to his stomach. He thought a moment about making the restaurant staff think the place was open all night, but that would only delay the inevitable. He just wished he could find a way to fix this all together.
He nodded shakily, and stood, following Aziraphale outside the restaurant, fumbling for his keys, trying to think of another way to stall, when Aziraphale asked him for a ride.
Aziraphale had noticed as soon as Crowley met up with him that there was something wrong. He had that haunted look that he'd had right after the whole thing with Hell had gone down. Aziraphale's heart sank at the sight. His friend had seemed to be doing well for a while, and now it seemed like everything was bothering him again. He really hoped something else hadn't happened to trigger it. Perhaps it was just the memories coming back naturally. He knew memories had the pesky habit of doing that.
When he saw Crowley's distress at his suggesting they leave the restaurant, he made up his mind that he needed to do something to help. So as Crowley fumbled for his keys, taking far more time than he needed to, Aziraphale had asked, "Could I trouble you for a ride?"
Crowley looked up, but nodded. "Sure."
Aziraphale got into the car and was silent as Crowley started it, then…he took a deep breath. "My dear, I feel slightly embarrassed for asking this, but…they're doing roadwork near my shop and the noise is utterly infernal! Would you mind terribly if I stayed at your place for tonight? Perhaps a couple nights depending on how long it takes them."
He watched with relief as some of the tension left Crowley, his hands loosening on the steering wheel and his shoulders slumping with a sigh. "Sure, angel. Don't have that many books though…"
"Oh, I'm sure I can manage," Aziraphale said. "Perhaps we could watch one of your films."
Crowley raised an eyebrow, but nodded. "Well, all right."
Aziraphale smiled, feeling relieved himself. So he had most likely been right. Crowley simply didn't want to be alone and Aziraphale couldn't really blame him. Especially when he had been taken from his own apartment. Aziraphale couldn't imagine how horrible it would be to have someone assault him in his own bookshop.
By the time they got there, Crowley seemed to have a little more lightness to his step. Aziraphale had not spent a lot of time at the demon's flat, they usually met in his bookshop, both agreeing it was a cozier atmosphere than the dark walls. Though Aziraphale had always liked the plants, which trembled slightly as Crowley passed before Aziraphale shushed them with a kind smile.
Crowley led him to the entertainment room where there was a big comfortable looking sofa and a very large television.
"Alright then, what do you want to watch?" Crowley asked him.
"Oh, anything you recommend is fine, I wouldn't know," Aziraphale told him. Anything that would distract the demon from his problems.
Crowley shrugged and put on a movie as they took seats on the sofa.
Aziraphale watched the demon more than the film. There was definitely something ill at ease with Crowley. He was even less able to hide it here in his own place, which bothered Aziraphale. He wanted Crowley to feel safe in his own home again.
Every once in a while, Crowley would glance to the side as if expecting to see something in the shadows. But there was nothing there and he would relax until he did it again a few minutes later.
This had to stop.
During a quieter part of the movie, Aziraphale turned to his friend and touched his arm gently. "Crowley? Are you all right?"
The demon flinched slightly at his touch and looked away. "'Course. Why wouldn't I be?"
Aziraphale took a deep breath. "Because you know it's okay if you're not."
Crowley froze and clutched his hands together in his lap, squeezing until his knuckles turned white. "No, it's not," he muttered.
"It's not okay that I can't even get into my own bed without fearing that I'm going to get dragged to Hell. That I can't even stand to be in this place, half the time." He clenched his jaw. "That I still can't shake the nightmares. That I'm still working for the people who did this." He hunched his shoulders defensively. "That Hastur reminds me of that every time I see him, that he's just waiting for an excuse to condemn me again, put me back on that rack." He snapped and the television shut off. "So you shouldn't even be here, angel, because he could come back at any time. Road work is better than Hell, Aziraphale."
But Aziraphale stood his ground. "I didn't come because of that, Crowley, I came because I'm worried about you."
Crowley had gotten up to pace, but he turned around again and furrowed his brow. "What?"
"Because I'm worried about how you've been acting," the angel said gently. "You obviously haven't gotten over it; you still need time to recover, and that's okay."
"No, it's not, angel!" Crowley said, eyes shining as he clenched his teeth and hugged himself tightly. "Why can't I shake this? It was just a little torture…it was…" He sniffed and turned away, rubbing a hand across his eyes.
"Oh, Crowley, it wasn't," Aziraphale said softly, his heart aching for his friend, remembering the state he had found Crowley in when he had rescued him from Hell. "No one would blame you for your reaction to it. What they did to you… It could break anyone."
"I'm not broken," Crowley snapped, spinning back around, then more hesitantly, "Am I?"
"Of course not," Aziraphale said. "Not permanently. But you have to understand how you're reacting to this and why. Look, whether or not you trust the other demons, they are still your people, your co-workers. The fact that they betrayed you, when they should be on your side had to hurt. That, coupled with the torture itself. Oh, Crowley, it was bad. No one would blame you for not being over it. I'm not over seeing you like that."
Crowley looked down but seemed a little better for his admission. "I hate being here right now. It's so big and empty. I always think I'm seeing things in the shadows when I'm not."
"Well, you're not alone right now, dear, and I will stay as long as you need me." He smiled. "Now, how about we finish the movie and I'll groom your wings for you. That always relaxes you and I want to see how your feathers are growing back in."
Crowley sagged, and returned to the couch. He turned the movie back on, and sat with his back to Aziraphale, materializing his wings.
Aziraphale was glad to see that the feathers Crowley had lost during the torment, had mostly grown back. He straightened them and put Crowley's wings back in order, happy to see that the tension was easing out of the demon as he went.
By the time he was done, Crowley had practically drifted off and slumped against the side of the couch.
Aziraphale gently pulled him down so Crowley's head was resting in his lap and heightened the glow of his halo just a bit, knowing that had comforted Crowley before. He could see the shadows in the room dispersing at the added light and the demon sighed in relief.
"Thanks," he murmured.
Aziraphale smiled and squeezed his shoulder gently. "Just rest, dear. I don't think there will be any nightmares tonight."
Crowley closed his eyes, and slept.
And Aziraphale had been right—there were no nightmares that night.