A/N: This is just something that I wrote to get rid of writer's block. Based off fanart from 10yrsy. I might come up with a sequel or something if I have the time. Have fun!
The Conman and the Bookseller (One-shot)
Every day was the same for Ezra "Aziraphale" Fell. It was like clockwork.
Wake up at seven-thirty. Shower and be dressed by eight-ten. Have breakfast and a cup of either tea or coco (depending on the season) in front of him and open his antique bookstore at ten. He'll have a couple of a customers throughout the day, some who will buy and some who are just there to browse to satiate their interest or curiosity. Once the clock hits six-thirty, though, he'll close up for the day, head back up to this flat for a nice supper at seven-thirty and curl up with a good book until he eventually falls asleep at around nine-thirty-five.
Rinse, wash, repeat.
Overall, for a single man in his mid-thirties living in London, he was enjoying himself pretty well. Everything that he could ever want or need, he had with his books, his flat and those customers that came into his shop on a regular basis.
Though he did wonder why there was a slight pang in his chest whenever he saw couples when he went to his favorite cafes or restaurants on occasion. Maybe it was a want to have someone he could talk to, to confide his deepest secrets and most personal interests too. Or maybe it was just because he wanted to have a companion, another constant in his life.
Whatever it was, he would get it one fateful day when he opened his store.
It had been about an hour since he had opened, and Ezra was sitting in his armchair near the back of the shop. The chair was in a spot where he could read in relative seclusion but also where he could see the entire store with ease. Even though he had only been opened for an hour, Ezra could already tell it was going to be a slow day. He had a splattering of customers over the course of the hour, but only those window-shopping and not looking to buy anything.
That was fine with him.
He was very fond of his collection, with a particular fondness for the extremely rare books that were placed in the very far back. He only sold them if he was in dire financial straits, which hadn't happened in a while. So, he was content with the relatively few customers.
In fact, he was contemplating closing up shop and go out for lunch at a nice little café that had just opened up down the street, when the sound of the bell above the door ringing dashed that hope.
Ezra sighed to himself silently as he shifted his body into a more respectable posture, in preparation for a customer to come looking for him. He heard the shuffle of feet in the main part of the store, some grumbling of curses followed closely by a large thump.
That spurred the bookseller into action, more so out of curiosity and worry that one of his precious books would get damaged. He quickly marked his place and rushed to see what had happened.
The customer, a man he had seen around a couple of times but never really spoke to, was on his knees. His face was a bloody mess, with cuts and scratches that were leaking blood violently. And thanks to the fact that the man's grey shirt wasn't button up all the way, Ezra noticed a deeper cut right below his clavicle. There were other medical issues that he could see, like the massive bruise on his face and his forearm, or the fact that the man's left eye was almost swollen shut.
But what really hit Ezra in his heart was the pure panic that had the man's startling golden amber eyes blown wide and his heavy breathing.
"Please…. you've got to help m-me."
Ezra knelt down, worry about his books all but forgotten as he examined the young man in front of him. Gently, though the stranger did flinch a bit, Ezra cupped the man's face and turned it in order to examine anything he might've missed. "My dear boy, whatever happened?"
The man didn't say anything, still trembling like a leaf in a storm. His golden eyes scanned the shelves, eyes darting to the shadows as though they were hiding some hidden foe.
"P-please…" the man begged again.
"Alright. It's alright." Ezra assured the man gently. He took hold of the man's forearm and, being as gentle yet firm as he could, hefted him to his feet and directed him to the backroom. There was an antique sofa that had belonged to Ezra's grandmother there, one which he deposited the man on before turning to flip the sign on the front door.
Only to stop and jump at the loud banging that had the man's breath catching.
"P-please, y-you can't let them find me."
Ezra didn't know if it was the man's begging, looking like he did, that touched his heart but then and there, he made a vow to protect the lean man dressed in black.
With a soft smile and a nod, the bookseller made his way back to the front, shutting the door that led to the backroom behind him and turning the handle just so to jam it (a trick he figured out when he moved into the shop. No one but him knew it). Almost as soon as he stepped into the front room, he nearly balked at the stench of something odious that wafted from the front room to where he was.
It was a combination of piss, alcohol and cigarettes and nearly made him vomit.
When he stepped into the front room however, he figured out where that horrid stench was coming from.
Three men, all of them wearing dirty clothes that seemed to falling apart at the seams, lingered around, searching every corner and crevice.
Stay calm Ezra, the bookseller told himself. Act as though you have nothing to hide.
He cleared his throat, and kindly, civilly, asked, "May I help you gentlemen with something?"
The palest of the three, a man with wild straw-blond hair that seemed to defy the laws of physics. Ezra had to keep himself from dropping the kind smile on his face when he caught sight of what he could only describe as rotting flesh speckled across his pale features and those dark, soulless eyes that seemed to peer deep into Ezra's soul darted to his.
"We're looking for someone."
"Well, you're going to have to a little more specific, my good man." Ezra stated, taking an unconscious step backwards. It was getting harder to keep that smile on his face with the stench. "I have had plenty of customers today. Perhaps you could describe the person you're looking for?"
"He's tall," spoke the pale man's companion, someone with a little more…togetherness in their appearance, but none the less creepy with those all too orange eyes contrasting against dark skin. "Has red hair. Lanky. Not all that good looking."
Ezra pretended to thinking, hemming and hawing about as he scratched his chin. "No, can't say that I have seen anyone with that description. But I'll be on the lookout, as it were."
The trio sneered evilly, before they all shuffled out. The pale man with the rotting flesh turned back to him gave him an 'I'm watching you' jab, before turning and following his companions. Ezra winced at the sound of the door slamming shut, nearly breaking the glass. He took a deep breath, trying to dispel the stench from his lungs, as he made long strides towards the door, throwing every bolt it had into place and flipping the sign from 'Welcome, We're Open' to 'Sorry, We're Closed'. That simple task complete, Ezra sighed a bit in relief.
Then he remembered his patient in the backroom.
With even greater strides, Ezra made his way back to the backroom, finding that the stranger had passed out on the couch.
That's probably for the best, I suppose, Ezra thought as he set about gathering all the supplies, he would need to doctor the man's injuries.
He grabbed the first aid kit from its little shelf, made sure that it was still packed with all the gauze, disinfectant, needles, thread, pain medication and the like.
It was and, after placing those down on the little coffee table, scrambled to the kitchenette for a bowl of warm water and a dishtowel. When he returned to the backroom, Ezra put a little bit of the disinfectant into the bowl. Finally, he cracked his fingers and got to work.
At first, all he had to do was to wash the cuts on the man's face and chest. He was thankful that none of the cuts were deep enough to need stitches. Through his slumber, the man winced and hissed at the slight sting he no doubt felt from the disinfectant. After all the cuts were cleaned, Ezra hesitated for a moment before he started to unbutton the man's shirt. He told himself that it was just to be thorough.
And he was.
He didn't want to leave any injuries untreated and then have them get worse.
"Oh my…." Ezra gasped. The man's chest was a spattering of purple and yellow bruises. A nasty sight, one that him worrying his fingers as he stared, wondering if he should call an ambulance.
Those criminals, their threatening gaze and evil gazes, flashed into his mind. He shook his head and steeled himself. Carefully, ever so carefully, Ezra felt around the man's ribs, feeling for any movement that shouldn't be there. He sighed in relief when, after a thorough check, he found nothing that would indicate a fracture or break. After he was done checking, Ezra carefully wrapped the man's chest.
The overall process took about two hours and when he was finished, the bookseller's hands were shaking.
"I need a drink." He muttered to himself.
He left the man in his slumber, and poured himself a shot of brandy. After a long slow sip, Ezra sighed heavily, returning to the backroom. He sat heavily in his armchair, before picking up his book. His attention wasn't always on the pages that lit up his imagination. Instead it flittered between his sleeping guest.
Hopefully, he would wake soon, and hopefully, he would be given some answers.
Anthony J. Crowley was in absolute pain when he woke up.
But that was expected after spending all night and half the morning with Hastur, Ligur and Beelzebub.
He shifted a bit, biting back pained gasp at the pain that shot through his chest. There was something on his right that shifted, and the wood floors creaked as someone shuffled over to his side. After struggling to open up his eyes, he finally did so, and was greeted with a strange sight.
A round face, the soft lines etched with worry and concern, greeted him. Crowley remembered the face belonging to the bookseller.
Crowley licked his lips, and opened his mouth to speak. "What….?"
"Shush, dear boy." The man interrupted gently. His voice was soft and made Crowley feel something that he couldn't quite place.
An emotion that at one point was familiar but now was strange and alien.
Despite the man's insistence on him being quiet, Crowley tried to speak. "Where am I?"
The man chuckled. "You're in my bookstore, dear boy. 'A.Z. Fell and Co'."
Crowley distinctly remembered breaking away from the three that had taken him from his flat and running to the closest place that he could think of. He had come into the bookstore from time to time, mostly out of curiosity though he had heard that the owner was super cute. And they were right.
The man, the owner apparently, looked down at him with even more worry. "I don't mean to intrude on your private life, dear, but I was wondering what ever happened to you for you to end up in such a state."
"I, ugh, ngk…" Crowley cleared his throat a little, unsure of how to answer that question. He barely knew this guy, and he didn't know how he would react to him being an ex-conman that was trying to get out of the life he had led for so long. He didn't know if his savior was going to call the police, kick him out or what. So, he settled for a safe answer, "Just ran into some trouble. No real reason really."
"Are you sure?"
Oh, God, I just met this guy but why does the head tilt he's doing seem so fucking adorable?! Crowley thought with a grimace.
"Ffffffnno. I- now, please don't overact, but I'm…I'm a professional, uh, well, ex-conman."
He winced as he finished his sentence, but when he opened his eyes, he was a bit shocked to see the man just looking him over with a confused look. Not the worried look that just associating with him could land someone in loads of trouble that he usually got.
"Wot?" he asked worriedly.
"You don't look like a professional criminal to me."
Crowley sighed heavily, "Oh, I'm sorry, lemme just; make myself look like Hannibal Lector or somethin'."
"Alright, alright." The bookseller relented, showing his hands as if in surrender. "No need to get huffy. Now, would you like something to drink? I would prefer if you drank water and stayed hydrated, but I have something stronger if you'd like."
After the night he had, Crowley definitely needed something stronger, but he decided that it would better to drink some water. While the man made retrieved a glass of water for him, Crowley glanced down and tried to take stock of his injuries. He was surprised to see that his chest was wrapped in white gauze, and his face, while the cuts still stung, didn't hurt as much as it did when he first broke away from his three former bosses. Crowley glanced back up just in time to see the man hobble back into the backroom, a glass of water . The bookseller glanced down at him, his lips pursed in thought.
"Can you sit up by yourself or do you need assistance?"
Crowley cautiously sat up, finding that there was still pain in his rather horribly bruised ribs but it wasn't too bad. Though the bookseller helped him up a bit, and helped him hold the glass when his hands shook. The water felt great sliding down his dry throat. When the glass was removed from his lips and placed on a coaster on the coffee table, Crowley glanced up with his eyebrow cocked and asked, "How long was I out?"
The man glanced up at the clock on the wall. "Oooh, I'd say about three hours. Are you hungry?"
"Uh…. a little?"
He nodded. "What would you like? I usually go out but I can get takeout if you'd like."
Crowley sat there, trying to figure out what he was in the mood for. Finally, he said, "Mmmsushi's fine."
"Alright. I'll be right back. Feel free to peruse the shelves if you like."
Crowley watched as the man moved out of the room, eyebrows raised and trying to suppress a smile.
He was…. different. But a good different. The owner was kind of trusting nature that Crowley hadn't experienced in a long time.
The smile that was trying to be repressed died on its own when Anthony remembered the life he was trying to leave behind. He knew that he couldn't let his feelings (read: his need for closeness and companionship) cause trouble for anyone because Hastur and Ligur and Beelzebub would hurt anyone that knew him.
No one ever had an easy time leaving criminal organizations. Crowley had known that for years. But what he wasn't prepared for how much the organization was trying to get him back. Thank whoever that they had yet to catch wind that he was helping the police in trying to take down his former coworkers.
Otherwise…...well Crowley didn't want to even think about what they would do.
"Here we go."
The bookseller's voice startled him so much that he almost jumped off the sofa. In turn, his savior also jumped, a strangled cry escaping his throat.
"Don't do that!" Crowley shouted, clutching his chest as he tried to will his heart to calm down. Once he managed to do that, he hissed slightly as his chest made known its displeasure of being moved so suddenly. "For someone's sake, you nearly gave me a heart attack!"
The man exhaled heavily. "Well, the feeling is mutual, dear boy."
"Wot's that?" Crowley asked, pointing to the bag in the man's hand in an attempt to direct the conversation in a different direction. It wasn't as smooth as he intended it to be, but it worked, which was always a victory.
The blond-haired man glanced down at the bag he was carrying, looking visibly relieved at the change of topic. "Sushi take-out."
"That was…. fast."
That was true. A quick glance at the clock told him that the man had only been gone for about fifteen minutes. The man shrugged. "I am well-known at the sushi place that's right down the street. Plus, I tip really well."
"You must if you got the food here under twenty minutes." Crowley muttered. He shifted himself until he was sitting up (though he was hunched), and started to eat.
The two enjoyed the high-quality sushi in comfortable silence. Ezra kept an eye on the man chew his food rather quickly, while he savored each and every bite.
After the sushi was finished, Ezra and the man enjoyed a silence that was strangely companionable even though they just met that day. Ezra finished the book he had started earlier that day and started another one while the man dozed off on the couch. Strangely, Ezra didn't mind.
Those men that had come into the store earlier hadn't come back and by the middle of the afternoon, Ezra realized that he had his store closed for the entire day. But, again, he didn't mind.
When suppertime came, Ezra excused himself for a couple of minutes to get something to nibble on from the kitchen. He had hoped the man would stay, since there was no telling if the three men were still looking for him. But of course, the two were strangers, and it would be weird to offer a man he just met that day to stay over.
Ezra hoped that some day they could get to know each other.
After finding some biscuits that were still pretty good, a task that took far longer than he expected it to take, Ezra returned to the backroom only to stop upon finding it empty.
"Hello?" he called out. The man placed the tray of biscuits on the coffee table and made his way to the front of the shop. That was empty as well.
With a heart heavy with disappointment, Ezra returned to the backroom finally catching the sight of a note folded and stuck in between the cushions of the couch. Curious as ever, Ezra plucked it up and carefully opened it.
Dear Bookseller, Sorry for this, but I needed to run. Didn't know if the three dumb-igos would come back and do a more thorough search. And I didn't want to put you in danger. Maybe we'll see each other around though. I hang out at St. James' Park a lot, so maybe I'll see you there, feeding the ducks or something. Thanks for everything. Sincerely, AJ Crowley.
Ezra couldn't help the smile that appeared on his face, especially at the little script at the bottom.
PS: Forewarning, since I didn't quite catch your name, I'm going to call you 'Angel'. Hope that's good with you. If it's not…...oh well. Bye.
As night finally arrived, Ezra found himself looking forward to his lunch break tomorrow. Maybe he would fit a quick walk through St. James' Park into his regular schedule.
Every day was the same for Ezra "Aziraphale" Fell. It was like clockwork.
Of course, he was always opened to new additions to his schedules.