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Barriers, and the Breaking Thereof

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Chapter One: Rules 

 

Ezra Fell, head librarian of the Soho Public Library, sits at his desk, counting down the minutes until he can turn the little vintage sign hanging by a blue ribbon on his door from open to closed. 

It isn’t that he doesn’t want to work; far from it. But the day has been long, and the customers particularly difficult. It’s the price one pays to work in a space of public knowledge: often, one has to deal with the public

As a general rule, Ezra likes people. He finds them terribly fascinating and complex, each one a puzzle waiting to be solved. He loves how strange and kind and annoying people can be, from old Mrs. Henderson’s shy demeanor when checking out the raunchiest books the library has to offer from Mr. Jones’ penchant for Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte, despite his stereotypical overly-masculine appearance and behavior. Yes, overall, people are lovely and Ezra loves to study them- from a distance, of course. And today is one of those days where he is glad for his resolution to keep a solid barrier between himself and people even as he observes them: today the public had been far less fascinating and more, well, draining

People arguing about late fines and grumbling about their place on the waitlist for the obscure book they want have plagued Ezra all day, and of course the phone has done nothing but grate loudly on his eardrums, ringing every other minute for several hours straight. One would think a new Harry Potter had been released at the rate people were calling, but mercifully, Ezra thinks as he glances at the clock, no such thing has occurred in a couple years. 

Now, however, the library is blessedly empty. He has two minutes until he can officially close, and then retreat to the sanctuary of his flat above the library for a nice cup of tea and some time with his own book, a selection of short stories by Oscar Wilde. 

The second hand ticks by, spitefully slow it seems, and Ezra waits with bated breath for the moment he can guilt-free lock the door. 

Ding-ding-ding!  

The bell above the entrance jingles merrily, mockingly, and Ezra looks over to see that someone has indeed entered at forty-seven seconds until close

Standing up, the primly dressed librarian moves to gently reprimand the customer who so clearly has no respect for business hours, but stops short when he sees a man clad in all black with a screaming baby in a carrier and a look of pure terror on his face. Even underneath his dark glasses, Ezra can see the man is frazzled, frantic, and very near a breakdown. 

“I know you’re about to close,” he says quickly, “But he won’t stop screaming and I have no idea what to do. He places the carrier down before beginning to pace. “He’s not got a fever, he won’t eat, he’s dry, and nothing I say or do will work. Please tell me you have books on parenting or something because I am at the end of my rope here!” 

Ezra, for his part, has no idea how to respond. He stares for a long moment at the strange man, willing his brain to catch up with what’s happening, until finally something snaps and he reboots, and steps forward.  

“Of course, my dear. Just hold on.” He moves to the door, turns the sign to closed , and locks the door. “Come with me. Oh, you both look a fright. Come, come.” 

Ezra leads them to the back room, where he ushers the man to sit. He does so, absently rocking the carrier with his foot as he tries with exhausted desperation to soothe the screaming baby within in. 

“Come on,” he mutters, “Please stop. I’m literally begging you.”

Ezra bustles about, and puts on a kettle. He turns to the man. “Some chamomile will help,” he says softly. 

The man snorts. “I think I need something stronger than tea.” 

“You need a clear head, my dear,” Ezra fusses gently, fixing a cup and then handing it to the man. He takes it but doesn’t drink, instead holding it to him as if to try and absorb the warmth from it. While he sits, Ezra looks down at the screaming baby. “Do you mind if I-?” He gestures to the child and the man nods. He has no idea why he's asking to hold the baby. It goes against every rule he has in place for himself about keeping people at a respectable distance. But just above his rule of don’t let anyone get too close sits the rule show kindness whenever possible. And this poor man is in definite need of some kindness. 

“If you can get him to stop I’ll owe you my life,” he says weakly. 

Nodding, Ezra bends down and starts unhooking the baby from the straps that keep it secure in the basket. He’s not had many dealings with small babies on a personal level, but he does like children, in the same way that one who has no interest in owning a dog might still enjoy the occasional pet and lick from one, and hoists the baby into his arms. 

The screaming continues, loud and unbridled, and Ezra winces at the frequency the child can reach. “There, there,” he coos to the baby. “No need for such a fuss, young-“?

He glances to the man. He looks up and realizes he’s yet to introduce himself. “Oh. Right. That’s Adam. I’m Anthony.” 

“Adam,” Ezra coos the baby’s name, then smiles. “Hello, Adam. I’m Ezra. Come on, let’s give your dad a break and go find some parenting books, hmm?” He looks to Anthony to wait for an okay, and he receives a small nod. 

“Thank you, Ezra, was it?” He sighs. “You’re a fuckin’ angel, you are.” 

“I don’t know about that,” Ezra replies sheepishly, then turns his attention back to the baby. “Come on then. Parenting books. Let’s see what we can find.” 

< > 

This was not how Ezra had imagined his evening. He’d imagined something quiet and relaxing, and a screaming baby in his arms is definitely not quiet or relaxing. Thankfully, though, Ezra’s soft talking and bouncing as he scans the shelves for some self-help books seemed to be helping. Adam is still screaming, but it feels half-hearted now, as if the poor thing doesn’t  know what to do with himself in the absence of screaming. 

Ezra approaches a shelf and pulls out a couple books. “There we are, these might be useful, what do you say?” He asks Adam, whose cries seem to be dwindling by the minute. “Yes, I rather agree,” Ezra says, knowing the conversation to be entirely one-sided, but his words seem to be at least distracting the baby and so keeps at it. “Let’s see- What to Expect - no, I dare say that won’t be of use. You’re already here. Not much more to expect. Hmm. I wonder where your mother is. Poor thing.” Ezra bounces the baby as he plucks a couple books on child development and parenting. He doesn’t have many, but the ones he has might be able to help a little. 

He bounces the baby as he carefully scoops the books into his other hand and returns to the back room. Anthony is bent over, elbows pressed to his knees. The cup on the table is drained dry. He sits up when Ezra enters, and takes the books and places them on the table. Ezra bounces Adam a little more, cooing and making silly faces until at last, the boy’s cries dwindle down to little more than a few whimpers before eventually, apparently having exhausted himself of all other options, the baby falls asleep. 

Anthony stares, aghast. “He’s barely slept in the three days I’ve had him. How-“ he stops, shakes his head. “Nevemind. Doesn’t matter. Thank fuck, he’s asleep,” he whispers, awestruck, hands pressed to his head as if it’s the first time he’s heard silence in a long time. 

“Poor thing was exhausted,” Ezra agrees, gently swaying back and forth in an effort to keep the baby soothed before the man’s words catch up to him. “Wait. Three days?” He glances down at the baby, who is clearly not a newborn. He looks to be several months old, though Ezra has little to base that on other than the fact that if this baby is only three days old, well, God bless the poor mother. 

Anthony sighs and plops back down into the seat. “He’s not mine,” Anthony murmurs, then stops and makes a face. “Well. He’s mine now, I suppose.” He glances up to Ezra. “You’d think you’d be informed if you were named the legal guardian of your cousin’s baby in the event of said cousin’s death, but no!” He’s still whispering, but his voice somehow still manages to sound shrill. “No, you get a call from some stuffy lawyer who goes, ‘Oh, guess what, this cousin you barely have a relationship with was killed in a car crash so sorry about that, but congrats, your whole life is about to be uprooted! Come pick up this random baby and take care of it for the next eighteen years!” 

Ezra blinks. “They- they can do that?” 

Anthony gestures wildly to the baby in Ezra’s arms. 

“What am I gonna say? ‘Thanks but no thanks’ I don’t think I want to deal with the human baby that’s been placed in my care’?” 

“Well, it’s kind of you to be willing to take on the responsibility-“ 

“Yeah, I’m not kind. I just….” Anthony sighs. “I can’t punish the kid for something that isn’t his fault, y’know?” 

“Of course,” Ezra agrees quietly. 

After a moment, Anthony stands. “Listen. You’re closed. I’m sorry about this, I just… panicked? I guess. He’s been freaking out for three days. Which, I get. I’m not his dad and suddenly whoop! Here baby, live with this man now. I’d cry too.” His shoulders sag and he looks around him with an air of uncertainty, as if he’s only just realizing how intrusive he’s been. “I’ll check these out and get out of your hair. Thanks for… getting Adam to sleep.” 

“Of course,” Ezra agrees, gently placing Adam in the carrier and buckling him in. “Let’s get you checked out. Do you have your card?” 

Anthony pauses in picking up his things. “Oh. Um. Shit. I don’t uh…” he adjusts his sunglasses awkwardly and Ezra realizes he’s yet to take them off the entire time. “I don’t have one. I’m not much of a reader.” 

“Ah,” Ezra says, a small feeling of disappointment welling up in him before he squashes it down. It doesn’t matter if the man reads or not. It’s not his business. Though it does mean his chances of seeing him again after he returns these books are- 

Shaking his head, Ezra walks out of the room. Rules. You have rules for a reason, Ezra. You’ve helped a stranger. You’ve done something kind. Leave it at that. 

“Not a problem. I’ll sign you up quickly and you can check them out.” 

“Sure.” 

Ezra collects the basic information he needs, then produces a card, and scans the books. “There you go. I hope they help.” 

“Right,” Anthony says as he hoists the carrier and the books. “Well. Thanks again, angel.” 

“Ezra,” he corrects gently. 

Anthony shrugs. “Ezra the angel librarian. Ciao.” 

Silently, Ezra moves to the door and unlocks it, then watches with a mix of conflicting and unwelcome emotions as the handsome stranger with the baby disappears into the night, leaving Ezra alone once more. 

It’s not nearly as comforting as it used to be. 

Chapter Text

 

 

 

Chapter Two: A Moment of Weakness  

Ezra taps his fingers against the desk with annoyance. The library is empty- it usually is on a Saturday afternoon- but that is perfectly fine with him. No, his annoyance comes from the image staring back at him on the old library computer. The contact information for one of the newest patron’s of the Soho Public Library: Anthony J. Crowley. 

It’s been three days since the man in black blew into the library like a whirlwind, frantic and frightened and carrying a screaming child. Part of Ezra thinks he should put the man out of his mind; he should put the whole ordeal out of his mind, but the fact is that for the last three days, all Ezra can think of is Anthony Crowley. He has not the slightest clue why. Certainly the man is handsome, but that’s never been a fact worth putting any amount of attention to. Plenty of people are attractive, Ezra reasons. He doesn’t get caught up thinking about every attractive person he sees. 

He doesn’t think about anyone, really. 

It’s safer to be obtuse, to be friendly and kind but not really form any deeper connections. He doesn’t think about people once they’ve left his sight. Out of sight, out of mind , as they say. 

But Anthony. Oh, he was something . Behind the panic and the bitterness of being handed a lot in life he hadn’t wanted or expected, he’d been oddly charming, with a strange grace and a gangly sort of elegance that Ezra finds endearing the more he thinks about it. 

He can still hear Anthony calling him an angel

He tries not to think of how much he liked that. 

With a groan, Ezra moves the mouse to click off of Anthony’s profile. But even as the cursor hovers over the X , he can’t bring himself to do it. He wants to call him. He wants to hear that man’s voice. He wants to make sure he’s okay, that Adam’s okay. 

It’s just a kindness. Nothing more. 

It’s a lie that he tries to sell himself, and for a moment he buys it. 

I just want to make sure Adam is okay.

He frowns, knowing that’s only the half of it. That’s not even the main reason. Maybe his lie is not quite so easily bought. He stares at the phone number; he practically has it memorized already. It doesn’t matter that the man will bring the books back by their due date. It doesn’t matter if this is a blatant violation of privacy. 

Ezra wants to talk to Anthony. 

Without allowing himself time to think, he grabs his clunky old cell phone and dials the number on the screen. 

What am I doing? It’s alright. It’s a moment of weakness. Just one little conversation, and I’ll put it out of my mind for good. 

After four rings, a tired sounding voice answers on the other end. “This is Crowley.” 

Ah. He goes by his last name, Ezra thinks as he makes a note of that, then instantly fumbles when he says, “Ah. Yes. Hello Anthony-“ he winces. Blast it! “This is Ezra. Ezra Fell. From the library.” 

There’s a moment of silence, then a slightly surprised, slightly amused: “Ah, yes! My guardian angel in the tartan bow tie. What can I do for you?” 

Hearing that word again makes Ezra’s heart do a complicated gymnastics routine in his chest.

Stop it. Don’t get attached. 

“Oh. Well. I, um. Right. Yes. I uh, wanted to just… I know this is a violation of privacy, calling you like this, and I really am sorry to bother you, but I was worried and wanted to make certain you and young Adam were doing all right.” 

Another length of silence stretches out between them before Anthony replies, a bit softer than before. “Well. Shit. That’s… you’re really calling to check up on a random stranger who barged in on you like a madman?” If Ezra closes his eyes, he can almost imagine the man squinting at him suspiciously. His eyes fly open. Best not start down that path. 

“Um. Yes?” 

“You really are an angel,” Anthony mutters more to himself. Ezra feels his face flush hot. “I’ll be damned. Um. Yeah. No, things are starting to uh… fall into place here, I s’pose.”

“Oh, that’s good,” Ezra sighs, relieved. “D-did the books help?” 

“They did, yeah,” Anthony replies. “Followed a few guidelines they recommended and it’s not perfect by any means, but he’s not crying eighteen hours a day now, so. Progress.” 

“Good!” Ezra replies with a bit too much enthusiasm that leaves him mentally cursing himself. “That’s very good. I’m glad they helped.” 

“Yeah,” Anthony replies softly. 

“Well,” Ezra fumbles after a moment. “I won’t keep you. I’m sure you’re busy enough as it is, so.” 

“Sure. Right. Well. Thanks for the call. I’ll see you on the twelfth.” 

“The twelfth?” Ezra repeats, confused but suddenly very excited. 

“Books are due back then. Figured I’d keep them as long as possible; get as much info as I can out of them.” 

“Right. Yes, the twelfth. Good; that’s good. I will see you then.” 

“Bye, angel.” 

And with that, the line goes dead. Ezra drops the phone to the desk, hands shaking as he stares ahead, mouth agape as he dwells on what he’s just done. Slowly, he buries his head in his hands and groans loudly in dismay. 

It’ll be alright, he tells himself. It’s over now. Put it out of your mind. 

Chapter Text

 

 

 

Chapter Three: The Twelfth 

 

Try as he might, Ezra can’t manage to put it out of his mind. 

The twelfth

The date is ingrained. Every minute, every hour that ticks by is an eternity, but one that brings him closer to the twelfth. He can hardly maintain his eagerness, his anticipation for the day. He tells himself it’s nothing, that he’s being ridiculous, but his heart is not inclined to listen to his brain, and so he counts each hour down, until finally, he opens the library on the twelfth, and waits with bated breath. 

Each time the door opens, he rushes to say hello, but each time is disappointed when the person wandering in is not Anthony J. Crowley. He silently chastises himself for being so foolish, so easily smitten, and storms away from the door after the twentieth person who isn’t Anthony enters. 

He tries to go about his day as normally as possibly, but fails miserably. Despite working the library alone, he’s never been overwhelmed with the work, and quite enjoys it. But today he can hardly focus, can hardly complete a single task without glancing up at the door numerous times, even when the small chime hasn’t even gone off. 

After lunch, he checks the drop off bin to see if perhaps Anthony slid the books in there rather than coming inside. It’s possible, probable even, but after he goes through it and sees there are no parenting books in the bin, he feels an embarrassing amount of relief. 

I’ll see you on the twelfth, he said. He said he’d see me. 

He throws a glance at the clock. There’s still time. 

The hours tick by, and he doesn’t show. Finally, the clock inches dangerously close to six, and Ezra contemplates leaving the library open a little longer. Maybe half an hour. Or maybe he can close and just wait downstairs to see if Anthony comes- 

“You are being an idiot,” Ezra murmurs to himself. He looks up as another patron approaches and half-heartedly checks them out, then glances at the clock again. 

5:54  

With a sigh, Ezra accepts that he isn’t coming. He’ll have to mark the books as late, but he already knows he’s going to waive the late fee like the sap he is. 

5:55

Ezra stands, stretching his back momentarily, and goes to the back to collect his keys so he can close up in a few moments. It’s strange, he thinks as he stares at the golden key in his hands: he’s never been so unhappy to close shop. 

A small chime echoes into the back room, and Ezra looks up, rushing out to see Anthony and Adam. He’s ashamed of the relief he feels. 

“Hey,” Anthony cocks his head in greeting. “Sorry. I had to stay late at work, and getting him-“ he jostles Adam, who is babbling away happily in his arms- “Ready to go anywhere takes longer than you’d think. Didn’t think I would make it.” 

“Oh, it’s no trouble at all,” Ezra says simply as he takes the books Anthony holds out from him. “Thank you.” 

“Sure thing- hey!” Anthony grumbles as Adam reaches out and grabs his sunglasses, yanking them off his face and whacking him in the process. “I can’t see without those, you jerk,” Anthony remarks to the baby in an annoyed but playful tone. Ezra watches as the man wrestles the sunglasses out of the baby’s hand and moves to put them on again. Before they’re obscured by dark lenses, Ezra catches a glimpse of Anthony’s eyes, and is startled to see they’re the color of honey, and so, so beautiful. He feels his breath escape him at the sight, and has to force himself to look away when Crowley manages to get the sunglasses back into place. 

“Anyway,” he grumbles, catching Adam’s hand as the baby reaches for them again with adorable determination. “Good seeing you. And thanks again for the books. He pauses for a moment, then, “I’ll uh, see myself out.” 

He turns to walk away, and Ezra panics. He has no idea why he’s so drawn to this stranger, why he wants to keep this man around for just a moment longer. It’s foolish and unlike him to want company, to want a companion. It goes against every rule he’s made for  himself, but there’s something in the strange aloofness of Anthony J. Crowley that he can’t quite shake, and as much as it frightens him, he can’t help but try to hold onto whatever this is. 

“Wait!” 

Anthony stops. Turns. Adam is still determined to steal his adopted father’s sunglasses, but Anthony manages to catch the baby’s hand and press a kiss to sticky fingers before he lifts his gaze toward Ezra. 

Ezra wishes the baby could have stolen the glasses again. Anthony’s eyes are fascinating, and he’d love another look. He knows he’s going to have trouble focusing for the rest of the evening. And oh, he’ll never be able to look at honey the same way again, not when it makes him think of beautiful- 

Shaking his head to rid himself of such thoughts, Ezra realizes he just asked the man to stay, but has no idea what to say or do to make that request seem reasonable. Anthony probably has things to do, people to see- he looks like someone who has plenty of people with whom he could fraternize, unlike Ezra, who has long been content with his self-created isolation. The library is his Eden, his paradise, and it’s been a long time since he’s wanted to invite anyone beyond the surface for a closer look. 

“I’ve read-“ he starts lamely, having no idea where this sentence is going to take him, “That it’s good for a baby’s mental development if you read aloud to them.” 

God above how desperately pathetic, he chastises himself. You’re a grown man, Ezra. Why are you getting so flustered over a stranger!? This is unlike you! 

Anthony, however, doesn’t seem annoyed. In fact, he looks rather amused, if the small smirk on his face is anything to go by. “Yeah?” 

“Well, I just-“ Ezra flounders, “It seems as if you want to do a good job parenting the boy- and you are ! I just thought perhaps you might want to, well… of course it’s a silly thing, probably. I have no children so I don’t know how accurate it is but-“ 

He’s cut off by Anthony wandering over to the nearest cart of books to be reshelved and grabs a couple children’s books. He moves to the counter and holds them out to Ezra expectantly. “I s’pose it can't hurt to try.” 

“Certainly not,” Ezra replies with an embarrassed mumble as he quickly checks out the books and hands them back with a receipt that lists the due date. 

Anthony glances at it, then dodges another swipe of Adam’s hand to steal his glasses. “I’ll see you on the twenty-first,” he grins. Then bounces Adam playfully. “Say bye.” 

Adam makes a sputtering baby noise that sounds nothing like bye , but Ezra smiles nonetheless. “Bye,” he breathes as Anthony exits the library. He follows behind to lock the door, then returns to his desk and slumps down into his chair, aghast at his own desperation. 

Stupid, stupid, idiotic, foolish moron! He curses himself before forcing the interaction out of his mind and begins trying to accomplish a day’s worth of tasks that had been neglected. As he works he finds his gaze wandering over to look at the calendar on the wall that announces all the library’s events, few though they are. 

The twenty-first, Ezra sighs, and his heart flutters helplessly in his chest.

Chapter Text

 

 

 

Chapter Four: Friends? 

 

Anthony shows up on the eighteenth. 

Ezra is busy restocking the shelves, humming softly as he works. It’s a bright and sunny day, unusual for this time of year, so thankfully most people are at the park or enjoying other outdoor activities, leaving Ezra to the peace of an empty library. 

It’s nearing tea time, and Ezra contemplates closing early to retreat upstairs for a proper cup, when he hears the small chime go off. Resisting a groan, Ezra moves to greet the intruder, but stops short, his brain forgetting how to make the rest of his body function at the sight of Anthony and Adam entering the library.  

“Oh!” He practically squeaks. “Hello.” 

“Hi,” Anthony responds with that lazy casualness that Ezra is equally fond of and jealous of. This man radiates cool, even if during their first meeting he’d been anything but. Anthony holds up the books he’d borrowed. “We both agree that after the thirteenth time reading these, they got a little less interesting. Got anything else a seven month old might enjoy?” 

“I rather think I have plenty of things he might enjoy,” Ezra remarks. “Though I suppose it doesn’t matter at his age what you read. He doesn’t understand it.” 

“Well I’m not about to sit down and read him Moby Dick,” Anthony says, and as he speaks Ezra notices a small lisp on certain words. He has to bite back a smile over how cute it is, “So stories about hungry caterpillars and toy bears living in a forest will have to do.” 

Ezra helps him select a few more books, and is surprised when, as he and Anthony have a pleasant but slightly awkward conversation, Adam reaches for Ezra. He glances with uncertainty at Anthony who simply shrugs and hands the baby over without a word. Adam instantly goes for Ezra’s bow tie, and he laughs as he tries to pry the baby’s fingers from the fabric. 

Eventually Anthony and Adam leave, with another promise from Anthony to see him on the date the books are due. Ezra watches them go, and suddenly the silence of his library feels a little too stifling. 

< > 

It becomes... normal. Every week, almost like clockwork, Anthony and Adam come to the library. 

By now, Adam can crawl, so, assuming there aren’t many people in the library- and there rarely is- Anthony sets the baby down and lets him crawl around while he and Ezra browse for another children’s book that Crowley seems acceptable. Noting too sanguine and cutesy is allowed, but weird or educational or bear-related are favorites. 

These visits quickly become the highlight of Ezra’s week. It’s nice to have someone to talk to, even if it is mostly about children’s books or asking after Adam’s development or library business. It’s nice, to have something like this, small as it is, and Ezra clings to the slight interaction with the desperation of a man clinging to a liferaft. 

He knows it’s foolish to think this is anything other than a polite professional interaction, but now that he’s met someone who he actually likes, he finds it hard to keep his barriers up. They’re cracking at every interaction, every smirk Anthony throws his way, but he finds he honestly doesn’t mind that much. That frightens him. 

< > 

Three months after the weekly visits start, Ezra looks up one evening just before close to see Anthony rushing in with Adam. He’d checked out some books three days ago, so Ezra is instantly in high alert, fearing something might be wrong. 

“No, no, stay there,” Anthony says as Ezra rounds the desk to come closer. Ezra stops, and watches as Anthony stands Adam up on two wobbly, chunky legs. Once he’s settled, Anthony backs up to crouch next to Ezra. “Okay, Adam. Come on.” 

With an intense concentration only a baby can exhibit, Adam shuffles one foot forward, clumsily and awkwardly. His hands are out as if to give him balance, which he maintains, and then he shuffles a little more, until he’s taken three, four, five steps. 

“He’s walking!” Ezra says excitedly as Adam takes a few more steps before he wobbles and falls onto his bottom. He looks up at the two adults to see if the fall is worth a cry, but they both look pleased so he instead scrambles to his feet, and at the encouragement of his father and the other man, he shuffles forward until Anthony slides forward and scoops the boy into his arms. 

“Look at that!” He cries, placing a big kiss onto Adam’s chubby cheek. “All by himself!”

“Did he just do it today?” Ezra asks as he holds out a hand for Adam to take, which the boy does, and promptly shoves one plump finger into his mouth. 

“Just an hour ago,” Anthony says with the kind of radiating pride only a parent can feel. “I was so proud and I just-“ he pauses, seems to realize where he is and who he’s with, and stiffens. “And I just interrupted your work day to show you my kid walking when you probably don’t actually care in the slightest.” 

“What?” Ezra squeaks, “No, Anthony, of course I care! I’m quite fond of Adam, so it makes me happy that you thought to show me. I’m proud of him. In fact, why don’t I close up now; I have some biscuits in the back. We can celebrate.” 

“I don’t want to impose,” Anthony says, still leery and looking very much out of place. 

“You have never imposed,” Ezra replies as he gently wrestled his finger out of Adam’s grip and goes to lock the door, ignoring the fluttering in his chest. 

“Well, biscuits can’t hurt, then.” 

They retreat to the back, where Anthony breaks off a biscuit to allow Adam to slobber all over, then takes a cup of tea Ezra has prepared. He doesn’t eat, but he drinks the tea, and answers all of Ezra’s questions about Adam and his progress. 

An hour passes, and they find that their conversation has easily veered far away from the safe topic of Adam. Instead they talk about themselves, about the library and how Ezra defied his family’s wishes to go into ministry to surround himself with books instead. 

“Well, at least your family had expectations,” Anthony remarks as he accepts a glass of wine about an hour and a half into their chat. “My family basically thought I was a huge screw up from day one.”

“You can hardly be a screw up if you were named godfather to Adam,” Ezra reasons. 

“Yeah I still have no idea how that happened,” Anthony sighs. “What ol’ Lou thought he was doing when he put me in charge of a kid is, well…” 

“Ineffable?” Ezra supplies. 

Anthony huffs. “Yeah, somethin’ like that.” He takes a sip of wine as he watches Adam stomp around, babbling happily as he enjoys his newfound ability. “It’s weird. I feel like, first three days aside, I’ve gotten pretty good at this whole parenting thing. Never thought it was for me, but… I kinda like it.”

“You’re doing a remarkable job,” Ezra compliments. “He seems happy, and he’s developing normally.” He knows. He’d read the parenting books Anthony borrowed a few weeks ago, just to be sure.

“Yeah?” Anthony smiles softly. “Good.” He watches Adam, a deep fondness on his face, “I can’t believe I’m saying this aloud, but I actually think I’m starting to feel like his dad. Not just a hapless caretaker. He can say dada now, which I know is just a sound and doesn’t actually mean anything, but the first time he did it, I’ll be honest: I got a little emotional.” He huffs out a laugh. “How lame is that?” 

“It’s hardly lame,” Ezra fusses. “It’s sweet.” 

“Don’t think I’ve ever been called sweet.” 

Ezra flushes at that, and tries to quickly change the topic before he makes an utter fool of himself. “So, Ah… what do you do? If you don’t mind my asking.” 

“Oh. I own and operate a nursery,” Anthony says, then quickly clarifies, “A plant nursery, that is. I grow and sell plants and flowers and the like.” 

“Really?” Ezra says surprised. “That’s quite impressive. Though not at all what I’d pictured.” He might have guessed tattoo artist, or rock star, or bartender. But plants? It’s surprising, but somehow Ezra thinks it suits him. 

Anthony shrugs. “It keeps me busy. And I enjoy the work. I have an assistant who, well… let’s just say he’s managed to not kill anything yet. He mostly handles the browsing customers and the bookkeeping. I keep to the plants. Less talking to people,” he lists, pointing to his mouth for explanation. 

“You sound like me, then,” Ezra remarks softly. “Books- and plants, I suppose- tend to be more enjoyable than people.” 

“Usually, yeah,” Anthony agrees, then amends quickly, “I don’t mind you, though. You’ve never once treated me like I’m some kind of annoyance who you want out of your hair.” 

“You’ve always been enjoyable to converse with,” Ezra reasons, quite sensibly. 

“You haven’t questioned the sunglasses or the lisp.” 

“It would be rude,” Ezra replies primly, “But if you ever want to discuss it, I’m happy to. No judgement will be found here. Besides, you have never minded my social awkwardness.” 

Anthony smirks. “You like Adam.” 

“You bring Adam around.” 

Suddenly Anthony leans forward, studying Ezra with intensity for a long moment before asking, half-amused. “Are we… friends?” 

Ezra blinks. He considers it for a moment. He’s not had a friend for a long time. He’s not really wanted anyone for a long time. But the thought of this strange man, with his sunglasses and his lisp and his affection for a small boy that was forced into his care is now so dear to Ezra that he can scarcely recall how comfortable loneliness had once been. 

Friends

Ezra rather likes the sound of that. 

He leans forward as well, a conspiring grin spreading across his lips. 

“My dear, I rather think we might be.” 

Chapter Text

 

 

Chapter Five: Succulent 

 

It’s not a big deal. You are going into a shop. You are looking around. Browsing. That’s not a sin. Besides, it will do you some good to get out, explore a little. It’s not a big deal. It’s just Anthony. 

Ezra has been trying to get up the nerve to go anywhere near the nursery for the past ten minutes. Every time he thinks he can do it, he manages to psych himself out, and he takes another step backwards, until he’s a good two feet farther back than he was when he originally chickened out. 

We’re friends. It’s okay. He visits you at work all the time. He won’t mind. And if he seems put out, you can just… buy a plant! 

He takes a deep breath, but his nervousness makes his lungs tighten in a way that prevents him from being able to fully inhale. He tries again; barely any better. 

Just go. Just go in. Come on, Ezra. 

He puffs up his chest, exhales sharply, and marches toward the nursery. 

A bell jingles cheerily as he makes his way inside. It feels like walking into a sort of paradise. Greenery abounds everywhere. Every inch of space, save for the small path carved out for customers to squeeze through, is covered with plants. Below him, at eye level, and even above him, are the most beautiful and luscious plants Ezra Fell has ever seen. He approaches a flower, bright and purple, with the loveliest petals, and brushes a finger against it, the silkiness of it utterly stunning. 

“My, aren’t you lovely?” Ezra whispers to himself. If all this is Anthony’s doing, then Ezra has just found himself even more attracted to the man than before. 

He frowns at that. I am not attracted to him, he tells himself forcefully. We are friends, nothing more-

“Can I help you?” 

Ezra jumps, and jerks his hand away from the flower like a child caught trying to sneak a treat. 

“Oh!” He says, turning to look at the young man. He’s tall and gangly, with large glasses and a timid looking stance that makes Ezra feel a little better about his own. “Um. Yes. I wondered if I could speak to Anthony?” 

The young man, whose name tag says Newton, shuffles awkwardly. “Do you have an appointment? He only meets with customers himself by appointment.” 

“Oh,” Ezra says, “Er. Well, no. I don’t. But,” he pauses, hesitant before he decides to speak anyway. “I am a… friend of his. Could you tell him Ezra is here?” 

“Oh, the librarian,” Newton says idly as recognition dawns. “Sure thing. Hang on; be back in a tick.” 

Two emotions shoot through Ezra at that moment: the first is the exhilaration at referring to Anthony as his friend out loud, as if somehow that makes it official. It’s quite nice, having a friend, he realizes. 

The second is mild shock and a strange, terrified excitement that Anthony’s assistant knows who he is? Which has to mean that Anthony has mentioned him?! Aloud?! To someone else?!  

A smitten sort of panic rises up within Ezra, and a small, nervous laugh escapes him as he waits for his friend to come say hello. 

< > 

“Mr. Crowley?” 

“Yeah, Newt?” Crowley asks, not turning around from where he’s focused on watering some plants. 

“You know how you told me to tell you if Ezra the Handsome Librarian ever came by?”

“I never called him handsome,” Crowley protests weakly. 

“It was heavily implied, sir.” 

“Was not. Anyway. What about him?” 

“Well, he’s here.” 

Suddenly all Crowley’s focus turns toward Newt, which in turn means the hose he’s holding moves that direction too. Blessedly, Newt dodges out of the way, and looks at Crowley alarmed while Crowley mutters a slew of curses and turns the water off. “Shit,” he murmurs, glancing down at his dirt-stained apron.  He wipes his hands on it, debating on whether or not to remove it or simply keep it on since he is working. 

He keeps it on. 

“How do I look?” He asks, adjusting his sunglasses. 

“Um… fine?” Newt offers helplessly. 

Crowley sighs dramatically and rolls his eyes. “Fine’ll have to do. Don’t touch anything!” He yells to Newt as he walks out toward the front, where the more common flowers and plants are stored for the average customer. 

“Ezra!” Crowley croons as he enters from the back room, adding more swagger to his step than normal. “What a pleasant surprise.” 

“I hope you don’t mind,” Ezra says quickly as he turns, eyeing Anthony appreciatively before catching himself and looking toward the plants again. “I decided to take a long lunch and thought I would visit.” He glances around to the plants surrounding them. “It’s absolutely stunning.” 

“Ah,” Anthony waves his hand dismissively even as he bursts with pride. “Just sun, water, good soil, and the occasional threat, and they’re as easy as a baby.” 

“I hope you don’t threaten babies,” Ezra teases dryly. 

“Only the ones that deserve it,” Crowley remarks equally dryly, causing Ezra to laugh. It’s a glorious sound, and suddenly Anthony wants nothing more than to make it happen again. “Come on, let me show you around.” 

He leads Ezra back to where he’d just been, and revels in the way Ezra gasps as they enter. All around are rare and exotic plants, a select few sealed off in small sections to regulate their temperature. Some are in areas partially shaded while others are stationed under direct light. Ezra follows the path, looking at the vast array of vibrant colors and interesting shapes the plants form, before turning back to look at Anthony, wide-eyed and slack-jawed. 

“They’re positively incredible,” he breathes, and Anthony basks in the compliment like the flowers bask in the sun. “How on earth do you manage to keep them all so stunning? I don’t even recognize half of these!” 

Anthony shrugs and saunters toward Ezra. “I’m just good at what I do, I s’pose,” he lisps, and mentally curses himself for the slip up. Despite years of training to overcome it, his lisp still manages to rear its ugly head when he’s nervous or incredibly flustered. 

He’s only been those things lately when around Ezra. 

“Well, I am thoroughly impressed,” Ezra says turning around and startling slightly at how close Anthony is. 

“Always nice to see my work appreciated,” he remarks with a smugness that Ezra finds well-earned and absolutely endearing. He looks at Anthony for a moment, then pulls his handkerchief out of his pocket and reaches out, dabbing a small smudge of soil from Anthony’s cheek. 

“Sorry,” Ezra apologizes as he pockets the cloth. “You just had… a little…” 

“Don’t be,” Anthony says, flushing and a bit dazed, before clearing his throat and stepping away. “Here, let me show you my prize-winning Dahlias’.” 

< > 

Ezra browses for a while, ever amazed at how good Anthony is at his job. Anthony beams from the praise, following Ezra like a puppy desperate for treats. Ezra ooh’ s and aah’s over the plants for some time, and then laments that he has never been able to care for a plant before. 

“Not that I’ve ever really given it much thought,” he confesses, “It’s always been books for me. But I have to be honest, you’ve amazed me so much with this that I can’t help but wish I could have even a sliver of your talent.” 

Anthony thinks for a moment, then guides Ezra to the front of the nursery where he picks up a small succulent and presses it into Ezra’s hands. “Try this one,” he says softly, waiting for Ezra to take hold of the pot before releasing it. “Water her once a week and she’ll be fine.” He glares at the pot. “Right?” 

“Oh, I can’t…” Ezra protests worriedly. “What if I kill her?” 

“Oh, she knows better than to do that,” Anthony remarks simply, but at Ezra’s uncertain look, assures him: “I’ll check on her when I stop by the library to make sure you don’t.” 

“Th- that would be lovely,” Ezra agrees as he stares at the little plant in his hands. “How much do I-“ 

“It’s a gift,” Anthony cuts him off, “For a friend.” 

Ezra can’t help the grin that appears; he doesn’t even try to fight it. “Right. Thank you. I’ll take good care of her.” 

“I’m sure you will. See you Friday?” 

“Yes,” Ezra nods, “I look forward to it.” 

With that he exits the nursery with the little succulent in hand, cheeks as red as the Dahlias he’d appreciated earlier. 

Inside the nursery, Crowley turns to see Newt staring at him with a great amount of amusement.  

“Shut up,” Anthony grumbles as he grabs a nearby mister, spraying Newt with it as he walks back toward the back room. 

Chapter Text

 

 

Chapter Six: H A P P Y 

 

 

“Adam turns one next week.” 

Ezra looks up from the computer to see Anthony has ventured his way over from the children’s book section and is now leaning over the counter with his signature sunglasses and smirk. Adam is around somewhere, probably making mischief, but neither Ezra nor Anthony are worried. The succulent sits proudly at Anthony’s elbow, still thriving and as lovely as the day Anthony gave it to him. 

“You’ll have to do something special,” Ezra remarks as he scans in another book. Anthony holds out his hand and Ezra looks at it curiously before Anthony wiggles his fingers expectantly, and then Ezra realizes he wants the book. He hands it over, and Anthony gives it a once over before taking a few steps and putting it on the cart of books to be reshelved. 

“Why? He’s one. He’s not going to remember anything.” 

“But you will.” 

“Yeah, but what am I gonna do? Throw a party just for me? That’ll consist of putting him to bed and getting gloriously drunk.” 

Ezra rolls his eyes and scans another book. The library is closed, but business hours matter little when it’s a friendly visit from the Crowley boys, as Ezra affectionately calls them in his mind. Miraculaously, such visits are starting to happen more and more frequently. Anthony takes the book and moves it to the cart. 

“You don’t have to do that.” 

“What? Put up books or get drunk?” 

“Well, both, I suppose. We can lug all the books over when I’m done.”

“Nah. Gives me something productive to do while I pace.” 

“And why are you pacing, dear?” 

“Because now you got me thinking I should do something for his first birthday! But who am I gonna invite? Newt ?” He shivers. 

“Well, why don’t we do something?” Ezra asks, equally charmed and exasperated by his friends dramatics. He holds out another book and Anthony takes it as he strolls past. Ezra can’t help but watch Crowley walk; his hips are mesmerizing. 

“Oh?” 

“There’s a little bakery a couple blocks from here,” Ezra explains, forcing himself to look away, “I’ll get a cake.”

“What and let him smash it and get it all over himself like in those videos you see online?” 

“Possibly,” Ezra muses, “It could be cute.” He pauses, then relents, “Though it is a waste of a perfectly good cake…” 

“Not to mention we have to clean him up, after,” Anthony remarks as he takes another book. 

You get to clean him up,” Ezra corrects. “You’re his father. I’m…” he pauses, “I’m the fun uncle who lets him do all the things you won’t.” 

“He’s one,” Crowley says dryly. “The only things I don’t let him do are stick his fingers in outlets and slam his head into the corner of the coffee table.” 

“Well,” Ezra huffs. “Have you got a better idea?” 

“I didn’t say I didn’t like your idea,” Crowley huffs. “I just don’t want to get cake all over me.” 

“I’m quite certain half of parenting is getting things on you that you would prefer not to be.” 

Crowley cringes. “You’ve no idea.” 

“So, cake at yours then? Maybe we let him smash a cupcake. Less mess that way, but still lets him enjoy the tradition of wasting delicious food.” 

“Why not,” Crowley relents. “And wine for us. And maybe a game of chess or poker to determine who cleans him up after.” 

“I’m rubbish at poker,” Ezra remarks. “But chess I could do. Oh! Or Scrabble.” 

Scrabble?” Crowley exhales, pulling down his glasses enough to give Ezra a dry, unamused look. It goes unnoticed, as he’s too busy studying the glorious color of Anthony’s eyes, and it takes him a few seconds to realize that he’s being teased. 

“It’s a perfectly respectable game!” He protests. 

“It’s lame.” 

“It is not.” 

“Fine,” Crowley sighs with extra flare as he takes a few of the books Ezra scanned during their argument. “Come over next week at seven. I’ll provide the birthday boy, and the wine. I’ll even play Scrabble-“ he spits the word out like a curse, “If you buy the cake and help me clean him up.” 

“I can do that.” 

Anthony holds out his hand, and Ezra places a book in it. Rolling his eyes, he drops the book onto the counter and keeps his hand outstretched. 

“Oh!” Ezra replies as he reaches out unthinking, though his brain shoots into overdrive the moment they shake on it. 

His hands are so soft… 

He pulls away after a moment, clearing his throat nervously and returns to scanning books, watching Crowley out of the corner of his eye as he saunters over to put another book on the cart. 

< > 

“Happy birthday, Adam!” 

Adam looks at his father and the pale-haired man with delight. They’re smiling at him, and Crowley is holding his phone, taking a video while Ezra places the cupcake on the tray of the high chair. Adam studies the cupcake for a moment, then smashes his hand on the top, laughing at the sticky mess that gets stuck to his fingers. His hand instantly goes into his mouth and he giggles, then grabs a small handful of cake with the other, and gums on it, smearing yellow icing all over his cheeks. 

“Well, That was anticlimactic,” Crowley remarks as he turns off the video. 

“It was adorable,” Ezra says as he moves to pour them a glass of wine. 

“Cheers,” Crowley says when Ezra returns, clinking their glasses together before taking a sip and studying Adam, who has lost interest in the cake and is instead clapping his hands together and singing a little babbling song. 

“Cheers,” Ezra repeats, “To Adam, and to you, for being such a good father.” 

“To managing not to kill him yet,” Crowley replies as he takes a sip. A moment later Ezra smacks his arm, and Crowley laughs. 

“That’s not funny!” 

“It’s a little funny,” Crowley says as Adam babbles away. Ezra glares, unimpressed. 

“Right. So the cake thing happened and was relatively underwhelming. Let’s clean him up and then I owe you a game of-“ he sighs, “ Scrabble.” 

He grabs a towel to protect his clothing, then hoists Adam out of the chair and into his arms. “Oh,” Crowley says, remembering something. “Come here, angel.” 

Curious, Ezra steps close, and Crowley moves, pulling out his phone and turning it to selfie mode. He snaps a couple quick photos of the three of them to commemorate the occasion, then pockets the phone and moves toward the bathroom. 

“You’ll have to send me one of those,” Ezra remarks as he follows. 

“Will do,” Crowley replies.

< > 

They clean Adam up and Crowley feeds him before changing him and then putting him to bed. Crowley walks out of the room to see Ezra walking toward him. “I nearly forgot,” he says, “I got him a present. Do you mind?” 

“Not at all,” Crowley says, and the softness in his gaze makes Ezra pause. They’re in Crowley’s house where it’s comfortably dim for him, so his glasses are off, and his eyes are brilliantly expressive. It’s the longest Ezra has seen his eyes exposed, and while he could stand there all night staring at that brilliant pale honeyed hue, he thinks it might be best to look away before his heart makes him do something stupid. “He’s not asleep yet. So long as it doesn’t make noise, you can just hand it to him.” 

“No, it’s just a stuffed toy,” Ezra replies a little breathlessly. “I’ll be right back.” 

He slips past Crowley, very aware of how their arms brush, and goes to Adam’s nursery. He’s lying down but isn’t near sleep yet, so Ezra pulls out the toy from the back, pulls the tag off, and then hands it to the boy. 

“There you go,” he says, “A friend to keep you company. Happy birthday.” 

Adam takes the stuffed black and white dog, then holds his arms up to Ezra. Without hesitation, he picks the boy up and hugs him close. “I’m so glad I have you and your father,” he whispers to Adam, pressing a kiss to his cheek. “You have certainly made things better.” 

Og.”

Ezra laughs. “Yes, that’s right. It’s a dog.” 

“Og! Wa, og!” 

“Yes. And Dog will keep you safe while you sleep, alright? Now, pleasant dreams, darling boy,” Ezra kisses him once more, then places Adam back in the crib. He’s unhappy for a moment, but then notices the toy in his hands, and begins to babble happily, shaking the dog in excitement. 

Ezra slips out of the room and finds Crowley has already set up the Scrabble board Ezra has provided and has refreshed their wine. Ezra takes a seat opposite Crowley and stares suspiciously at the letters on his stand. 

There are more than seven, and it takes him a moment to realize what they say: 

T H A N K S   A N G E L 

He glances up, misty eyed, to where Crowley is decidedly not looking at him. Finally he glances over and clears his throat. “Well, we playing or what?” 

Biting back a smile, Ezra dumps the letters in the bag, shakes it, and pulls out seven new ones. He studies them for a moment and can’t help but wonder if some sort of divine intervention has wormed its way into his Scrabble bag. Slowly, he takes five of his seven letters, and carefully arranges them to spell- 

H A P P Y  

Crowley looks at the word, then to Ezra who is making a concerted effort not to look at him while he scores his points. When Ezra looks up, Crowley glances quickly down at his own tiles. After a moment, he uses the A Ezra placed to spell- 

 S 

 A

M

E

 

Chapter Text

 

 

 

Chapter Seven: Surprise 

Ezra rounds the corner from where he’d been tidying up in the library and blinks in surprise. Anthony is there, which isn’t the surprise, but what does amaze him is that his friend is sitting at the computer, seemingly very focused on something. 

“What’s got you so enraptured?” Ezra asks casually, noticing with slight confusion that Anthony nearly jumps out of his skin at Ezra’s voice, slamming his knee against the desk as he jerks back. 

He clicks the mouse quickly, then leans back in the chair, trying to act much cooler than he is and remarks idly, “You don’t have any games on here.” 

“It’s a work computer,” Ezra says simply as he moves over to where Crowley is seated. “I don’t get paid to play Minesweeper.”

“You could though.” 

“I don’t even understand how that blasted game works.” 

“No one does,” remarks Anthony simply, “That’s the point.” 

Ezra eyes him suspiciously. “The point of the game is to have no idea how to play the game?” 

“Must be,” Crowley shrugs, “I’ve never figured it out.” 

“Well now you have me curious,” Ezra sighs as he shoos Anthony out of his seat. From the back, Adam gurgles and screeches from the small playpen Ezra put up a few days prior. “Shame we’ll never know.” 

“Absolute shame.” 

“You didn’t mess up anything on here did you?” Ezra asks, pulling out his glasses as he quints at the screen. “I will have to kick you out if you did.” 

“If anyone is going to mess up that dinosaur,” Anthony remarks, “It won’t be me.” 

“If you’re insinuating that I am technologically impaired,” Ezra huffs, “I won't argue, but I’ll be terribly put out.” 

“Well we can’t have that,” Anthony murmurs as he pats Ezra on the shoulder and saunters into the back room to fetch Adam. “Can we?” 

“You are insufferable,” Ezra remarks fondly over his shoulder as he sets about checking in books that have been returned. A small part of him wonders if Anthony was telling the truth about what he was doing. His lips curl into a frown at that and he scolds himself. There’s nothing of any real importance on this computer for Anthony to snoop through. And despite all the reasons Ezra has not to trust others, he’s never felt that Anthony would do him wrong. 

He puts it out of his mind and focuses on his work. 

< > 

The incident with the computer- though it can barely even be called an incident- is forgotten within hours. Which is why, two and a half months after the fact, Ezra is horribly confused to see Newt enter the library with a vase of the most beautiful flowers he’s ever seen. 

“I have a delivery for you, Mr. Fell.” 

Ezra approaches. “I’m quite certain I didn’t order anything,” he says before, “Hello again.” 

“Hello,” Newt says softly, then clears his throat. “You didn’t order them. Mr. Crowley sent them, though. For you. They’re some of his prize winning Dahlias.” 

“They’re stunning,” Ezra agrees as he takes the flowers from the young man. “Did he say why he sent them?” 

“Not to me,” Newt replies. “Well, I best be getting back to the nursery.” He turns, then whips back around and holds out an envelope. “Oh. I’m supposed to give you this as well.” 

“Well, tell Anthony I said thank you,” Ezra replies, thinking he’ll have to call Anthony later to ask after the sweet gesture. 

“Sure thing, Mr. Fell,” Newt replies, then he’s gone. 

Now alone, Ezra rushes to the back and places the Dahlias down in the table. He gingerly touches the petals, smiling at how soft they are. “My, he really does have a green thumb,” Ezra remarks, then turns his attention to the envelope. It’s a standard envelope, and his name is written on the front in Anthony’s scratchy handwriting. 

Curious, he opens it and pulls out a folded sheet of paper. He opens it up, blinking in curiosity when he sees printed out instructions for Minesweeper. 

That day a couple months back enters his mind and he lets out a soft laugh before he notices something written on the bottom of the page. 

Happy birthday, angel

-Anthony 

A gasp escapes Ezra as his free hand lifts to his heart. He hadn’t been looking for Minesweeper that day after all! He’d- 

Ezra grabs his phone and dials Anthony’s number. 

Heeeeellllllooooo?” 

“You utter fiend!” Ezra declares, though there’s no venom in his voice. “I knew you were up to no good that day!” 

I’ve no idea what you’re talking about,” Anthony remarks smugly. 

“You do too, you-!” Ezra cuts himself off and looks at the flowers. He sobers. “Thank you,” he says much softer. “The flowers are beautiful. Absolutely stunning.” 

Don’t let them hear you say that; they’ll get cocky.” 

Despite the emotion suddenly stirring in his heart, Ezra laughs. “You’ve no idea how much this means to me.” 

I had a feeling you weren’t into celebrating much, seeing as you haven’t once mentioned today,” Anthony remarks, “ But I couldn’t let the opportunity pass by. You’ve got reasons, sure, but I figured some flowers and a little inside joke might be just small enough to make it not distasteful.” 

Perhaps one day I’ll tell you why I didn’t mention it,” Ezra remarks. 

“How about tonight?” Anthony asks. “There’s a lovely spot in St. James’ where we can have a picnic and Adam can play; we can feed the ducks. Talk, or not. We can be as celebratory or as glum as you wish.” 

Ezra’s heart surges on his chest, unbidden and nearly overwhelming. That sounds lovely,” he manages to squeak. 

“Pick you up at half past six. Ta.” 

The line goes dead. Ezra takes a shaky breath, then glances down to the minesweeper rules. A wet spot has appeared near the bottom, and it’s only then that Ezra realizes he’s crying. 

Wiping his eyes, he stuffs his emotions down. Then he takes the flowers out so they can sit proudly on the counter next to his succulent plant for everyone to admire, then tucks the paper in his pocket for safe keeping. 

< > 

Ezra isn’t sure how Crowley has managed to simultaneously go all out and still make things seem incredibly simple, but he has. There’s a small lemon cake for them to share, wine, and sandwiches from a local deli Ezra is fond of. When Crowley arrived, he didn’t say another word about it being Ezra’s birthday, merely takes him to the park and they have a lovely picnic while Adam plays with Dog and waddles around. 

“This is lovely,” Ezra sighs as he looks at the small spread before them. 

Anthony shrugs. “It's not much, but I figure you prefer it that way.” 

“I do,” Ezra remarks as he watches Adam play, a fond smile on his face as the baby wadded around. Anthony keeps a close eye on him, but is equally invested in his conversation with Ezra. For his part, Ezra feels the same; ever watchful of the boy but able to focus of the man beside him. 

It’s really quite lovely. 

“I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.” 

It’s unsurprising to Ezra that Anthony no doubt has birthday baggage of his own. He’s mentioned before he doesn’t have much of a family, though to what extent that means Ezra isn’t sure. 

“I can do that,” Ezra replies softly as he watches Adam stumble as he works to master running. “I used to love birthday’s. Mine, my sibling’s- any excuse for cake and fellowship,” he shrugs. “But I’ve told you about my family: I didn’t follow them into ministry and that… well, there’s quite the rift wedged between us now. I suppose they decided if I couldn’t make an effort to do what they wanted, they couldn’t be bothered to make the effort to put up with me anymore. I usually get a call or a text from them. So, I suppose I didn’t mention it because I haven’t really had cause to celebrate in recent years.” He looks at the picnic, at Adam, at Anthony, and feels himself smile. “I’d rather forgotten what a happy occasion a birthday can be.” 

“Your family sounds real fun to be around,” Anthony remarks dryly. Ezra snorts in an undignified manner. 

“If you think I’m dull, then you haven’t seen anything yet.” 

“I hardly think you’re dull,” Anthony remarks, purposely watching Adam rather than Ezra. 

“Well, more the fool you, then.” 

Anthony turns back to him, hand pressed to his chest as his mouth hangs open. “Insulting me?! Angel, how could you?” 

“I’m not insulting you,” he huffs. 

“Too late; I’m insulted.” 

Ezra rolls his eyes and reaches out to pat Anthony’s knee before quickly pulling his hand back and letting it fall primly on his lap. “Forgive me, my dear. You’re hardly a fool.” 

“And you’re not dull. Happy birthday.” 

“Thank you, Anthony. Truly. This is the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me.” 

They fall into silence for a bit, watching Adam waddle around and giggling. He’s ungraceful and uncoordinated which only adds to the cuteness, and Anthony and Ezra are content to watch him for some time before Anthony speaks up at length. 

“I was abandoned,” he says matter of fact, causing Ezra to turn sharply and look at him with undisguised shock. Anthony is wearing his sunglasses so it’s hard to tell exactly how he feels about the statement, but he doesn’t exhibit any real sorrow over it. 

“I was, what? Two maybe? Not really old enough to have any memories of good ol’ mum and dad. I was taken in by an aunt. She raised me-“ he stops, scoffs. “I mean. If you can call what she did raising . I had a roof over my head and food in my belly, so it was better than nothing. She was there, but she wasn’t really… you know, a mum .” 

“Oh, Crowley.” 

He shrugs. “It wasn’t all bad. But it wasn’t great. I was a pretty dorky kid. Had to work hard to overcome my speech impediment, and I couldn’t see half the time because of my severe photophobia, so I got teased by my cousins a lot for being weird . I left home the day I turned eighteen. Crashed with his dad-“ Anthony nods toward Adam, “For a couple years. He was another cousin, but we got on alright. He fell into some bad stuff though, toward the end. Tried to drag me down with him too, but never fully managed it.” 

“Is that why he named you Adam’s godfather?” Ezra asks softly, “He knew you would be good for him?” 

“Maybe,” Anthony shrugs once more. “I couldn’t tell you what went through his head. Had to know something was going to happen to him and whoever Adam’s mother was. I don’t even know that. I mean. I know her name- ‘s on the birth certificate. But I didn’t know her.” 

“Well,” Ezra hums, “He at least did something good for Adam. Ensured he’d be safe.” 

“‘S why I took him,” Anthony says, and Ezra notices that as he gets a little more emotional, his S ’s elongate in the small lisp that slips out from time to time. “I don’t remember what it was like to be abandoned, but the fact is I was. And I didn’t really have anyone to help me deal with that, growing up. Not Adam, though,” he shakes his head, staring hard at the boy playing happily. “He’ll know the truth, of course. But he’ll know he’s loved. There won’t ever be a doubt in that kid’s head. Not while I’m in charge of him.” 

Ezra watches Adam, then looks to Anthony. “He is a lucky boy. And you’re a good man.” He stands up then, gathering the extra bread Anthony brought for them to feed the ducks. Anthony follows suit. “And I’m glad you told me. I’m glad you trusted me.” 

“Yeah, well,” Crowley looks away, flushed, as he stuffs his hands into his pockets.“I’m glad you trusted me too. Anyway. Come on. Ducks won’t feed themselves.” He stops and makes a face. “I mean. Yes they will. But not in this instance. Whatever. Come on.” 

They gather up their things and scoop up Adam, who is entranced with the ducks. They help him throw some food to them, and Adam claps and laughs as two ducks fight over a piece of bread. 

“May first,” Anthony says after a while. 

“Pardon?” Ezra asks, shifting Adam in his arms to better look at Anthony. 

“My birthday is May first.” 

Ezra knows. It’s in the system at the library, but he says nothing and allows Anthony to reveal this part of himself willingly. “I’ll have to think of something quite extraordinary when the time comes,” he muses aloud. 

Silence follows for several beats, until: “You know, I also don’t understand Freecell,” Anthony remarks softly. Unable to help himself, Ezra throws his head back, and laughs. 

Chapter Text

 

 

 

 

Chapter Eight: Routine

Four Years Later 

 

Anthony J. and Adam Crowley have a routine. First, Crowley’s alarm goes off at six o’clock in the morning. He groans and hits the snooze, then lies there thinking of all he has to do for the day. By the time the alarm goes off again, he’s awake, though just barely, and he crawls out of bed, throws on some clothes, grabs the freshly brewed coffee from his ultra fancy coffee maker, then goes to corral his son. 

Adam is awake by now and is busy pulling out a bizarre assortment of clothing from his wardrobe. Crowley watches with great amusement as the boy decides what to wear, only stepping in when he has to explain that, “No Adam, you can’t wear pants as a shirt, they aren’t made that way. Try again.” 

Once he helps Adam get dressed, they eat breakfast at the kitchen bar. Crowley has ensured that his son has the sugariest, most unhealthy cereal there is, and as the boy eats, he packs him an absurdly healthy lunch, just to keep things balanced. 

Once they eat and the dishes have been put away, they leave the flat, and here is where the routine has changed slightly over the years. Originally Adam would accompany his dad to work, where he would play in the small playpen while his father ran his business. Sometimes Crowley would let Adam play with dirt to encourage a love of nature and growing things. As Adam grew, they traded days at work to Adam going to day nursery, as Crowley had read it was good for Adam to socialize with children his own age. Nursery was only a couple days a week, and so he’d thought little of it, dropping Adam off for a few hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays. No big deal. 

They go about their week as normal, with the occasional change occurring as Adam ages, but most things stay the same. Until Friday. 

Friday is the Crowley’s favorite day. Everything happens as normal, but the evening is where things change. Where things are made even better. 

Friday, at precisely six o’clock in the evening, Adam bursts into the Soho Public Library, and slams himself directly into Ezra’s legs, laughing as the other man picks him up and greets him with almost the same amount of enthusiasm as he greets Adam’s father. 

What happens next varies. Sometimes they order takeout and sit in the back room of the library while Adam explores. Sometimes they go upstairs to Ezra’s flat where Adam knows very well not to touch any of the books. He wants to, but doesn’t dare disobey, lest he make his Uncle Ezra sad. Sometimes they go out. To a restaurant or to the park or a museum. When the weather is nice, they’ll venture to a local playground where Adam can run wild and his dad and Uncle Ezra can talk. He likes to watch them as he plays. He likes to see how happy his dad looks as he chats on the bench with Adam’s uncle, both of them oblivious to anything but each other. 

It’s a simple routine, but it’s theirs. 

But time, as it is wont to do, passes on. Eventually Adam turns five, and suddenly everything changes. 

It’s time for Adam to start school. 

< > 

“Okay, you have a backpack. You have crayons, glue, scissors, pencils, paper, pencil sharpener- bullocks, did I forget something?” 

“Dad?” 

“No, no, we have everything. I have the list here and both Ezra and I double checked it, so we’re good. But what-“ 

“Dad.” 

“No, yeah it’s fine. It’s good. We’re okay. Okay, lunch box is packed, uniform is all nice and tidy, and we-“ 

“Dad!” 

What, Adam?” 

“We’re gonna be late.” 

Crowley looks up at the clock, and even behind his sunglasses, Adam can see his father’s eyes widen. “Shit!”

“Langwage, Dad.” 

Crowley ignores his son’s chastising - something he picked up from his uncle Ezra- and grabs the boy’s hand. “Okay, lets go! First day of school!” 

They rush to the Bentley and speed toward school. Adam can hardly wait. Uncle Ezra told him all about school, and if Uncle Ezra likes something, then it can’t be bad. So Adam bounces with excitement as his dad drives a bit more recklessly than he should. 

One part of the routine that doesn’t change is the music that blasts throughout the Bentley. The car is old, and doesn’t have speakers, but Crowley installed a small Bluetooth speaker so they can rock out as they drive. As has been the case since Adam was old enough to have an opinion, he picks the songs. But thankfully Crowley has raised the boy right because, while other parents have to listen to Baby Shark an infinite number of times, Adam likes the way his dad screeches the high parts of Bohemian Rhapsody and so they blast Queen at too high a volume and sing along, even if Adam can’t pronounce most of the words. 

Crowley sings today, but without his usual enthusiasm. Adam, for his part, is too excited about going to school to mind. 

Finally, they arrive at Adam’s new school. 

Crowley sits; sighs. He looks to Adam, who looks back at him expectantly, and with great reluctance Crowley unbuckles and they get out, walking toward the door. After registration is finished, Adam is meant to join his new class. With dread welling up in his chest, Crowley bends down and crushes his son to him. “Okay. This is it. Be good. Mind your manners. Kick butt- metaphorically speaking. Don’t actually kick anyone, okay? Unless they kick you first, then it’s fair game. Be the smartest damn kid in this whole school.”

Adam giggles. “Langwage, Dad.” 

“Yeah, yeah I know. Langwage,” Crowley huffs, then presses a kiss to Adam’s forehead. “I love you.” 

“I love you too, Dad. I’ll be okay. I pwomise.” 

And with that, he is ushered away to his class room. Crowley watches as a little girl with dark curls approaches his son, studies him for a moment, then pokes him. Adam stares at her for a moment, then pokes her back. She looks where he poked her, then back up, then they both break out into giggles. She points to the character on his lunchbox and smiles, and Adam bounces excitedly that she recognizes it. 

The teacher instructs the students to follow her, and Adam and the little girl clasp hands like they’ve known each other for years, and follow the teacher and other students into a classroom. 

Suddenly alone, Crowley is aware that he is about to have a nervous breakdown in the middle of his son’s school, and he doubts Adam will appreciate being known as the “kid whose dad cried like a baby on the first day”, so he exits the building and shuffles toward his car. He sits idly for several minutes, telling himself he will not cry, then throws the car into gear and drives. 

Tears begin to fall. 

He doesn’t really realize where he’s going until he’s parked outside the library. It’s not due to open for another half hour, but Crowley is in despair, so he knocks loudly and persistently on the door. A few moments later, Ezra appears, and he tuts softly as he looks at the complete mess that is Anthony. 

“Oh my dear, come inside. Are you well?” Ezra asks as he ushers Crowley inside. He locks the door behind him, and walks Crowley to the couch near the window. 

“He did so well,” Crowley sighs. Head hanging low. 

Ezra frowns, puzzled. “That’s… good… though?” 

“It is,” Crowley agrees weakly, “But it… it’s so stupid, angel. I should be glad that he walked off without a second thought and pretty much instantly made a friend. It’s great. I didn’t have to pry a screaming demon off my leg like some parents were doing, and I’m proud of him for being so independent but-“ 

“But you’re realizing that he’s growing up and won’t always need you like he once did.” 

“Fuckin’ hit the nail on the head, angel.” 

“Language.” 

Crowley laughs. “He’s picked that up too, you know. Anytime I curse in front of him, he fusses at me.” 

“Good. He needs a good influence in his life.” 

Crowley laughs as he removes his sunglasses, wincing slightly at the change in brightness before wiping his eyes. “Can’t get better than you.” He slides the glasses back into place, then shakes his head. “You should have seen him, Ezra. He walked in like he owned the place. I can’t believe he’s already old enough for Reception. It was one thing when he was just a wee thing and nursery was just a few hours a week. Now he’s growing up and he’s gonna have homework and friends and-“ he freezes, stopping mid sentence. “And I have no idea why I came here. I interrupted your morning with my whining.”  

“Nonsense. You did no such thing,” Ezra scolds as he stands, tugging Crowley with him, keeping an arm wrapped around his shoulder comfortingly. “Now, why don’t you come back to the back with me. It just so happens that I went to the bakery down the street earlier and he gave me an extra donut and coffee by mistake. I haven’t had mine yet so why don’t we sit down and enjoy them together, hmm?” 

Crowley watches as Ezra opens a small box and pulls out a plain, unglazed cake donut and a blueberry donut. 

Their favorites. 

He takes the plate with the unglazed one and stares at it skeptically before glancing up at Ezra. The librarian is staring at him with a smug look that almost dares Crowley to challenge him. Dares him to remark upon the fact that this clearly wasn’t an accident and Ezra was fully expecting him this morning. 

He doesn’t. He simply takes the coffee handed to him and then sits at the little shabby table that he’s sat at for five years, and eats his donut with his best friend. He tries not to think of this as anything more than Ezra simply knowing him far too well, a thought that, were it anyone else, might terrify him. But as with all things involving Ezra, it’s so calm and comforting and warm, that Crowley finds he doesn’t mind in the slightest. 

Things might be changing, routines may be altering, but Anthony J. Crowley knows one thing for sure: he’ll always be able to rely on Ezra Fell. 

Chapter Text

 

 

Chapter Nine: Perfect Fit

When Crowley’s phone rings, nine times out of ten, it’s Ezra. It’s always exciting when Ezra calls, whether to ask after Crowley or Adam, or to plan their weekly evening together. Sometimes it’s to rant about a particularly annoying patron, and other times it’s just to chat. Regardless of the why, it always brightens Crowley’s day when his phone rings and he hears Ezra greet him with a fondness he doesn’t allow himself to dwell on. 

Only this time it’s not Ezra calling. It’s Adam’s school. 

He feels a twinge of dread as he answers, feels his stomach sink as he’s informed by the school nurse that there’s a stomach bug going around and poor Adam seems to have caught it. 

Crowley finds Newt, tells him he’ll be gone the rest of the day, and under no circumstances is he to touch the plants, then leaves. He gets to the school in record time, and makes his way to the office where Adam is curled up on a little exam table, pale and sweaty and miserable. The nurse explains he’s thrown up twice already, and tells Crowley to let the boy sleep and try to keep him hydrated. 

He carries his son to the car, and drives carefully back to their flat. Once Adam is tucked into bed with a small trash bin just below, and a cup of water with a bendy straw, Crowley leaves to let the boy sleep. Sitting heavily on the couch, he throws his sunglasses onto the coffee table, pulls out his phone, and calls Ezra. 

The librarian answers on the second ring, his tone pleasant and soft, affectionate in a way that’s just for him. “Hello, my dear. How are you?” 

“Well, I’m fine, but Adam caught a stomach bug at school.” 

“Oh, dear!” Ezra exclaims, sounding adorably fretful. “Poor thing. How is he faring?” 

“Threw up twice. Has a fever. He’s sleeping now and in a couple hours hopefully he’ll be able to keep down some water. Until then it’s just waiting. Which, also means we have to cancel tonight, I’m afraid.” 

“Oh, my dear, don’t be sorry. Take care of Adam. He comes first.” 

“Yeah,” Crowley sighs as he glances down the hallway where his son’s room is. “Hopefully he’ll be too sick to be upset over it.”

“I’ll call to check on him later,” Ezra promises. “We can have a nice chat, if he’s up to it. It won’t be the same, but he needs rest more than anything.” 

“Yeah,” Crowley sighs. “Anyway. I’m gonna sit here and twiddle my thumbs ‘til he wakes up, I s’pose. I’ll let you get back to work.”

“Alright. Call if you need me.” 

“Will do, angel.” 

They hang up, and Crowley groans. He doesn’t blame his son, of course he doesn’t, but he does blame some idiot child out there for causing him and Adam to miss out on their weekly outing with Ezra. 

< > 

Crowley wakes up to the sound of vomiting. He leaps off the couch and rushes to Adam’s room where the boy is bent over the bed, emptying the last remaining contents of his stomach into the waste bin. When he’s finished, Crowley helps him up to go brush his teeth, then tucks him back into bed and sets about taking out the trash. When he returns with the bin and a fresh bag inside, Adam rolls over, and with the most pitiful expression he can muster, asks, “Will you stay, Daddy?” 

Adam only ever says Daddy when he’s sick or scared, and it breaks Crowley’s heart to hear that small voice sound so weak and unhappy. 

“‘Course. Scoot over.” 

Adam shifts closer to the side of the bed with the waste bin, and after Crowley kicks off his shoes and sheds his jacket, he crawls onto the too-small bed and curls up with his son’s back pressed to his chest. Adam is curled up in a little ball, hands clasping Dog tightly to him, and he whimpers a little as he scoots closer to his dad. 

“It’s all right,” Crowley soothes him gently, trailing long, thin fingers up and down the boy’s arm in a soothing repetitive motion. “Just sleep.” 

“Will you sing to me?” 

“Of course, dear.” 

Crowley’s mind instantly forgets the lyrics to every song he’s ever heard, and so after a moment of panic, he begins to hum a mindless little tune, until finally he manages to remember the lyrics to a Queen song. 

I was born to love you

With every single beat of my heart

Yes, I was born to take care of you

Every single day of my life

He knows the rest of the song doesn’t exactly fit as a lullaby, so he sings that part over a few times, grateful that Adam is so exhausted it barely takes any time at all for him to fall back asleep. The medicine the nurse gave him is definitely assisting in that manner, but even when he hears Adam’s breathing even out he continues to hum, until eventually he falls back asleep as well. 

< > 

He’s roused by tiny hands shaking him. “Dad, someone’s at the door.” 

Crowley groans and sits up, trying to force himself into some semblance of coherent before he goes and tells off whoever dared disturb him and his sick son. He checks Adam’s forehead- still hot, but not quite as bad- then presses a kiss there and goes to answer the door. 

He flings it open a little harshly, then blinks in surprise to see Ezra standing there, adorable in his suit and bow tie, several bags in his hands. 

“H-hey-“ Anthony says, at a loss. 

“I hope you don’t mind,” Ezra says, making no move to enter. “I feel awful about Adam being sick, so I brought a few things that might make him feel better. And wine. But that’s for us, if you like.” 

“Yeah,” Crowley says as he steps aside to allow Ezra entry. 

Ezra makes himself at home. He’s been here numerous times over the past five years, though the library is their most used meeting space. He makes no comment on the light- or lack thereof- and busies himself with emptying out the bags on the counter. 

He watches for a moment, feeling a warmth creep up his spine and latch onto his heart. Wonders if perhaps he’s coming down with something too. 

After a moment he joins Ezra, emptying a bag and finding a container of chicken soup from a local deli he knows Ezra likes. There’s saltines, some Pedialyte, orange popsicles, and Greek takeaway for the two of them. Last but not least he sees Ezra pull out a book of fairy tales. 

“You didn’t have to do all this,” Crowley remarks as he grabs a small bowl and transfers some of the soup into it. 

“I know that,” Ezra huffs. “But I hate to think of you two all alone and Adam sick. I figured, if he can keep some soup down, maybe later I could read to him?” 

“He’ll love that,” Crowley smiles softly, the smile he’s only ever given to this man and to his son, and grabs a tray. He puts the soup and crackers on it and carries it to Adam’s room. Adam is sitting up, holding Dog tightly. He looks at Crowley. 

“Who’s there?” 

“Your Uncle Ezra brought you some soup and a book.”

The way Adam’s face positively lights up warms Crowley’s heart. He loves how much Adam loves Ezra; loves that, despite being alone for so long, he has someone who cares enough about him, about his son, to give up their evening to help care for a sick boy. 

“Eat a little of this- just as much as you can. Then you can have a story, ‘Kay?” 

“‘Kay!” 

Crowley presses another kiss to Adam’s head, then leaves him to his soup. When he returns to the kitchen, Ezra has already plated their dinner, and is pouring two glasses of wine. 

“I’m starting to think you really are an angel.” 

Ezra doesn’t look up, but even in the dim light he can see a flush on the man’s cheeks. “I’m nothing of the sort. I don’t do this sort of thing for just anyone, you know.”

“My point,” Crowley remarks as he grabs a glass and takes a sip. 

How is that your point?” 

“My point is-“ he takes another sip. “Damn this is good. Is it always this good?” 

“I brought one of my better bottles,” Ezra says. “Figured you could use a pick me up after such a rough day.” 

“Like I said,” Crowley remarks. “Angel.” 

Ezra blushes deeper and huffs out a small, flustered laugh, then motions for Crowley to sit and eat his dinner. 

< > 

“Hello, darling boy,” Ezra says as he enters Adam’s room an hour later. Adam has finished half the small serving of soup, but he looks brighter already, and Crowley leans against the door to watch as Adam sits up and throws his arms out toward Ezra for a hug. Ezra moves the tray onto the little desk by the window, then sits down and lets Adam, slightly sweaty and warm, hug him tightly. 

“What are you gonna wead to me?” 

“I have a book of fairy tales,” Ezra remarks as he holds out the book for Adam to see. Adam’s eyes widen in excitement, and he touches the cover of the book with a reverence he had to have picked up from the librarian. 

“But first,” Ezra says, and moves his hand in a way that catches Crowley’s attention, “We need to address a very serious problem.” 

“What?” Adam blinks, enraptured by what Ezra might mean. He lifts his hand to the boy’s ear, and when he pulls it away, a quarter is pressed between his fingers. 

“Why are you shoving quarters behind your ears, young man?” 

Adam’s eyes widen in amazement as his hand smacks the side of his head as he tries to feel for any other quarters. He looks from the quarter to Ezra, to his dad, who is desperately wishing he had his sunglasses so he could roll his eyes. 

Really, angel? Magic tricks? How adorably dorky. 

Ezra keeps the hand with the quarter in front of Adam, mesmerizing him as his other hand moves to the other ear and pulls out another quarter. 

Adam’s eyes widen to comical proportions. “Dad!” 

“Oh, I don’t think your father is sticking quarters behind your ears,” Ezra laughs, “But what’s say we see if he has any tucked away, hmm?” 

“Yeah! Yeah!” Adam laughs, clapping as Ezra stands up and turns to Crowley who instantly cowers. 

“Oh, no you don’t!”

“That sounds like someone who doesn’t want their son to learn they’ve been hiding quarters behind their ears.” 

“Come on, Dad!” Adam laughs. 

Crowley scowls half-heartedly and sighs. “Fine.” 

The things he’ll do for the people he loves. 

The thought hits him suddenly, but he has no time to dwell on it since Ezra has stepped up to Crowley, glancing up at him from where he stands a few scant inches shorter. With a wink and a flourish, pulls out a quarter from behind Crowley’s ear. He turns and presents it to Adam who kicks his feet as he laughs. 

Ezra drops the coin into Crowley’s hand, then moves back to the bed where Adam scoots over and holds out the book. 

“Dad, sit with us!” Adam requests as he settles against Ezra. Crowley glances down at the coin in his hand, then to where Ezra and Adam are already flipping through the stories trying to find the best one. Closing his hand around the quarter, he feels his heart do something strange in his chest. He tests the feeling out, lets it linger for a moment, deciding that it can stay. It settles in his chest, perfect and fitting. 

He moves to the other side of the bed, sitting next to Adam who is draped over Ezra as he reads a story of a prince and a princess who fall in love against all odds. Despite the tiny bed, they fit perfectly on it, the three of them.

As if they belonged together. 

Chapter Text


 

 

Chapter Ten: Promotion 

When Crowley picks up Adam from school, he’s almost always bombarded with the excited clamoring of a hyper six year old who has so many things he wants to tell his father that he trips over his words and can hardly finish one exciting tale before he moves on to something else. He always has a story about his best friend Pepper, and there are two other boys he’s been talking about in increasing increments, and not a week goes by that the four of them don’t get into some adorable shenagians. 

These tales are made even more endearing by the way Adam still hasn’t mastered his R’s, a W sound frequently taking the place. It’s adorable, though Crowley knows it’s something he needs to address sooner rather than later. He doesn’t want his son to end up like him- teased for something he can’t help. 

Today, however, when he picks up Adam, the is unusually quiet. He slides into the Bentley and drops his Spider-Man backpack on the floor, buckles himself in, and doesn’t say a word. 

“How was your day?” Crowley asks as they pull out of the school grounds. 

“‘Kay,” Adam shrugs. 

“Learn anything interesting?” 

Adam shrugs again. “I guess. I drawed a picture of a pirate on a wocket ship.” 

“Well that’s pretty cool,” Crowley encourages helplessly. “Anything else?” 

“No,” Adam mumbles in a manner that reminds Crowley of being a teenager, when he’d often answer questions in much the same manner. He knows why he’d answered that way, and he knows his son now. His son is a happy boy, has always been exuberant and lively and eager to share. This reserved, quiet boy isn’t the boy he knows. 

With a strict feeling of resolve, Crowley takes a turn, and drives for a few minutes before parking and motioning for Adam to follow him. Confused, the boy scrambles out of the car to follow his dad. 

They walk for a bit to St. James’ Park, and wordlessly Crowley buys two ice cream cones, hands one to Adam, and leads them to a nearby bench. Once seated, Crowley gives his son a pointed look. “Okay, kid. Spill.” 

Adam looks at Crowley with utmost confusion. He glances at the cone, then at his dad, then with extreme hesitance slowly starts to stretch out his hand with the cone clasped in it, preparing to tilt it. A small laugh escapes Crowley as he quickly rights his son’s hand. “Not the cone,” he says, removing his hand before poking his son in the stomach, causing a weak laugh. “You. Spill. What’s wrong? You’re sad.” 

Adam licks his ice cream as he thinks for a long moment. Crowley waits patiently, letting the boy formulate his thoughts without pressure. Finally, Adam looks up. 

“I’m not sad,” he says softly, “Just thinking.” 

“Anything you wanna share?” 

Adam thinks for a moment, then states, “Will and Jonah laughed at me because I don’t have a Mum.” 

Whatever Crowley had expected his son to say, it hadn’t been this. Naturally, in the back of his mind, he’d known it would eventually come up with other kids, but he hadn’t expected it to be so soon. He’d explained as soon as he’d felt Adam was able to understand the situation, that his parents loved him but had been taken away, and they loved him so much they made sure to give him to someone who would love him just as much in their absence. It hadn’t been an easy conversation, and Adam still didn’t fully understand, but this scenario is something Crowley has long dreaded. Rage begins to bubble over the fact that anyone would dare mock his son for any reason, but he forces himself to remain calm for Adam’s sake. 

“You know that’s bullshit, right?” 

Dad!” 

“Whatever,” Crowley huffs. “You know that, right? You know you do have a Mum. She just isn’t here.” 

“Yeah.” 

“So do you want to talk about it? Did you tell your teacher? Did you pummel them into the dirt?” Crowley doesn’t necessarily advocate violence, but when it comes to bullies, he has no tolerance. Sometimes a good punch in the face is what’s needed. But, there was no call from the school today, so he doubts his son took the more physical route. 

“Nah,” Adam shrugs. “It makes me sad sometimes that they aren’t here but it’s also okay. I told them that I don’t need a mum because I have two dads and that’s way cooler anyway.” He takes a big lick of ice cream with the same confidence of someone who has just performed a successful “mic drop”. 

Crowley, however, is stunned. All the color in his face drains. He feels his heart do a fancy little somersault that delves into a belly flop directly into his gut, and he swallows thickly. “You… have two… dads…”

“You and Uncle Ezwa,” Adam confirms. “My weal mum and dad can’t be with me, so I have you and I have anotha’ dad who teaches me about the Dewey des’mal system and helps take care of me when I’m sick and is gonna teach me to tie a bow tie when I get bigger!” 

Crowley’s brain is going about a thousand miles a minute, unsure of what to say. Does he tell Adam he can’t go around calling Ezra his other dad? Does he encourage it? Does he tell Ezra? Should he explain that that’s not how it works and Ezra can’t be his dad because he and Ezra aren’t married and to get married they have to be in love and there’s no way Erza could ever love him?

“Um. Yes,” Crowley coughs. “Er. Well. Um. Okay,” he exhales slowly, trying to keep from falling into a panic. “So… you want Ezra to be your dad too?” 

“Yeah!” Adam nods with more enthusiasm than he’s shown since Crowley picked him up. 

“Well,” Crowley coughs again. “Let’s maybe not… call him that… er…” he trails off, uncertain. 

“Why?” 

“Let’s just… let’s… uh go.” He stands, having no earthly idea how to handle this situation. The last time he’d been this out of his element, he’d stumbled his way into a quaint little library and met the most amazing man in the world. 

He certainly can’t ask Ezra for help in this. Not when Ezra is the- well, he’s not a problem- but the situation is- 

Crowley’s thoughts are cut off an oblivious request of: “Can we go to the lie-bewwy?” 

Crowley stops, heart making a loud thud in his chest before falling silent in sheer panic. “You wanna go to the library?” 

“Uh huh,” Adam nods his head. He’s at least perkier than before. 

Sighing helplessly, Crowley gives in. He can’t deny his son anything, and if the boy wants to see Ezra, then he’ll see Ezra. 

It really doesn’t help that Crowley wants to see him too. Maybe he can mention what Adam said; judge Ezra’s reaction to it. If he’s receptive, maybe that means there’s hope. If he is horribly uncomfortable by it, or outright rejects it, then Crowley will have his answer. 

“Yeah. Okay.” 

He turns to head back toward the car but after a few steps realizes Adam isn’t following. He stops and turns back, and watches as Adam stands, nervous and pouting. 

“What?” 

“Can I get my allowance early this week so I can buy Ezwa a cone too?” 

Crowley’s heart clenches in his chest, and then sags wearily from so much exertion in the last several minutes. His kid is too damn cute sometimes, and he has no idea what he did to deserve him. 

“We can do that, if that’s what you want,” Crowley answers as he pulls some money out of his wallet and hands it to Adam. “Go on.” 

Seemingly much happier than before, Adam runs back to the cart and orders another cone. When he has it, he walks carefully back to Crowley and they return to the Bentley. 

“You spill any of that on the seat-“ Crowley warns. 

“I won’t,” Adam promises as he holds it carefully over his lap, studying it carefully as if to will the ice cream to stay frozen. 

With more nerves than he’s used to feeling regarding Ezra, he drives them to the library. It’s a blessedly short drive, and as soon as they’re parked Adam is carefully sliding out of the car and moving toward the door, cone held out so as to avoid any drips on himself. 

They enter the library, and a moment later Ezra appears with the usual polite smile on his face. It brightens considerably when he sees Crowley and Adam, who moves forward and holds out the cone to Ezra. “I got this for you!” He says proudly. 

Ezra takes the cone with a delighted smile. “My darling boy, how kind of you! I was just thinking how nice an ice cream would be right now.” 

Adam grins and hugs Ezra’s leg, then points to the books. Ezra looks to Crowley who shrugs. “Go on, kiddo. Pick whatever you want.” 

Adam gasps. “Weally?!”

“Yeah. Go on.” 

Adam races off toward the children’s section, leaving Crowley and Ezra alone. Ezra motions for Crowley to follow him to the back room and he does so, taking his usual seat as Ezra leans against the small counter, eating the cone. 

“Did he have a bad day?” 

It always amazes Crowley how well Ezra seems to pick up on things. A part of him wonders if he should be worried about being so predictable, but then again, Ezra just has a way about him. It’s probably nothing. The other part of him relishes just how in tune Ezra is to them, how well he seems to pick up on their moods and their needs. It makes Adam’s wish all the more desirable. 

“He got teased by a couple bullies.” 

The mild concern in Ezra’s eyes flashes like lightning and is instantly replaced with barely contained rage. “What?” 

Crowley loves him for that look. 

He quickly shoves that thought away. Best not to hope. 

“It’s alright,” Crowley replies, waving a hand absently. “Or. Well. Maybe. Actually, I need to talk to you about it. It involves you.” 

Ezra blinks owlishly. “How does Adam getting bullied involve me?” 

“Well,” Crowley knows it needs to be done. Beyond his own experiment, he knows he can’t have Adam running around calling Ezra his father without Ezra being aware. It will raise all kinds of questions. Might raise some anyway, he’s certain of it. “They teased him because he doesn’t have a mum like them.” 

The rage in Ezra’s eyes intensifies, but he stays silent. 

“And that obviously upset him, but he says he’s okay. His reply was that it doesn’t matter because, and I quote, ‘I have two dads and that’s way cooler.’” 

“Two dads?” Ezra repeats softly, seemingly just as confused as Crowley has been. He gives Crowley a look, and Crowley returns it with a very pointed one, honeyed eyes peeking out over dark lenses. After a couple moments, Ezra gasps. “Me?!”

“Yup,” Crowley replies, the p popping. 

“Oh,” Ezra breathes, before, “Does that… bother you?” 

“I rather worried about it bothering you.” 

“Me?” 

“Yeah,” Crowley remarks dryly. 

“Well,” Ezra muses softly, “I certainly don’t mind, if you don’t mind. I quite enjoy being a part of Adam’s life, and he seems to enjoy it when I teach him things- I know I enjoy it. But if it makes you uncomfortable, then I understand.” 

“No!” Crowley protests, not sure why he’s suddenly so adamant on Adam doing exactly what he’d been afraid of fifteen minutes ago. “No, I don’t mind. Not in the least.” 

“I suppose it might be confusing,” Ezra concedes, “But… it’s rather sweet, I think. And an honor, to be ranked up there with you.” 

Crowley stares, bewildered. He can’t believe that Ezra considers it so highly, and wonders if that just means he merely likes having someone to mentor or if he dare hope that someday, maybe... 

Ezra interrupts his thoughts. “I do suppose it might be best to explain to him the situation, however, just so he understands that it’s not exactly like having two-“ 

“Godfather,” Crowley says suddenly. Ezra pauses. 

“Pardon?” 

“Godfather,” Crowley repeats. “That’s what we can say. If he says it in public or anyone questions why he has two dads but they aren’t-“ he can’t even bring himself to voice the word, for all that it might create visions in his head that he doesn’t need. He gestures vaguely instead. “We’ll say I made you his godfather, he heard the word father and just went with it.” 

“Godfather,” Ezra says dreamily, a small smile on his face as he lets the title settle over him, like trying on a new jacket and finding it fits perfectly. “Well, I’ll be damned.” 

And so am I, Crowley thinks helplessly. 

“That okay, then?” 

“It’s perfect,” Ezra says with a smile. 

“Well. There we go,” Crowley sighs, looking less worried than when he’d entered. “Congrats on the promotion.” 

< > 

Later, Ezra has a panic attack over just what it means to have such a prominent part of Adam’s life, officially, at least. He closes the shop early and spends a good two hours fretting over what this means for him and Anthony; if it means anything. He’s gone from being solitary and practically reclusive to having a beautiful family form before his very eyes. 

Does Anthony consider them family? Could he ever want them to be one in a more official way? 

He dare not wish for more than he has, even as he thinks back to how Anthony had smiled at him as they explained to Adam that Ezra was more like a godfather. It had been interesting explaining that concept to the boy, but in the end he’d been fine with it. 

And so long as it makes Adam happy, so long as Anthony is happy, Ezra knows he'll be happy with whatever Anthony is willing to give him. 

I’ll be damned, indeed. 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

 

Chapter Eleven: The Real Crime 

It’s a typical Tuesday evening in the Crowley house. The man himself is lounging on the couch, watching the news with bored disinterest. But at least it’s not a ridiculous children’s program. Below him on the floor, Adam is kneeling at the coffee table, pencil in his hand as he carefully writes and rewrites his letters. He’s already finished the small worksheet required by his teacher: it’s neatly tucked away in Adam’s Spider-Man backpack that’s hanging by the door. 

Rather, Adam is practicing his letters for his Godfather. Adam had recently become entranced by the fancy fountain pen Ezra uses when writing correspondence, and Ezra had promised Adam that once he could write his letters properly, he would let him write with the pen. 

So, instead of burying his nose in the latest video game, Adam Crowley is busy practicing his handwriting so he can use a bloody fountain pen. Crowley would laugh if he didn’t know just how important it was to Adam. So he stays silent, glancing down and occasionally correcting Adam’s hold on the pencil when it gets sloppy. 

Overall it’s a calm and pleasant evening, the kind that is boring in the most relaxing way. Crowley’s mind drifts as he listens to the news report about a string of muggings and begins to imagine how, despite how content he is in the moment, there’s something missing that would make this night perfect. 

His phone rings then, and when he sees who it is, he feels a little flushed at how his thoughts seem to have summoned the very object of his musings. 

“Hey, Ezra-“ Crowley begins, stopping short when he hears a small sob. 

“Anthony,” Ezra whimpers, and Crowley immediately sits up, feet on the floor. He snaps his fingers to get Adam’s attention. The boy looks up and Crowley points to the telly, and motions for it to be shut off. Adam grabs the remote in tiny hands and smashes the button a little too hard, and the television shuts off. 

“What’s wrong, Ezra,” Crowley asks in the meantime, on alert.

“Well, I was walking home from the bakery down the street and- and I was mugged.” 

“Ezra, call the police!” Crowley says urgently, “Are you okay? Hurt? Did he-“ 

“The police have come and gone,” Ezra remarks softly. “They have my statement and a description of the man. I just… I really don’t want to be alone tonight and I know it’s horribly imposing to ask-“ 

As Ezra rambles his way through an apology for asking for comfort, Crowley gives Adam a stern look and points to their feet. “Shoes,” he mouths, then points to his face and mouths, “Glasses. Now.” 

Adam is an obedient child. He has moments of childlike rebellion as all children do, but it’s rare that he is actively refuses to obey. Even if he were such a child, the look and tone of his father in this moment is enough to send him scrambling to his room to grab his velcro trainers. He then runs to his father’s room and grabs his boots and glasses. 

“Angel, hush, you don’t have to apologize for asking for us,” Crowley remarks as Adam trundles into the room with their things. Crowley shoves his feet into his boots then throws on his sunglasses, scoops Adam up into his lap where he shoves his shoes on the wrong feet, grabs his keys, and they’re out the door. 

“I know,” Ezra replies with a sniffle, “I hate to disrupt Adam’s evening but-“

“But nothing. “Go pack a bag. We’re already on our way. You’re staying with us.” 

< > 

Before Adam, Crowley often referred to himself as a speed demon. He loves to drive fast, loves the thrill of a bit of reckless endangerment. Ever since Adam, however, he’s reluctantly slowed down, though it’s hard not to drive fast when it makes Adam laugh as Crowley weaves through traffic with cheers of, “Faster, Dad, faster!” 

Tonight, Crowley drives fast, but Adam doesn’t cheer. Instead he silently pulls off his shoes and sticks them on the correct feet, then looks at his dad. “Is Ezwa okay?” 

“I don’t know,” Crowley answers honestly as he races down the street. “I think so. I think he’s mostly scared.” 

“What happened?” 

Crowley’s hands tighten on the steering wheel, knuckles white. “Someone was mean to him,” is all Crowley says. He’s not certain he wants to explain mugging and the fact that the world is a genuinely cruel place at times to his son right now, not when he’s so tense and ready to jump out of his own skin. So he settles for something simple, and hopes perhaps he can have a better discussion later when he’s not breaking several laws trying to get to Ezra as fast as possible. 

“Like a bully?” Adam reasons, and Crowley risks a glance toward the backseat to see Adam is watching him, and he sees a look of horror mixed with anger on his son’s face. 

“A really, really mean bully, yeah.” 

“I hope someone punches him in the face,” Adam huffs, hugging Dog to him indignantly. 

“Me too, kid,” Crowley agrees. He doesn’t admit that he would like to be the one to punch the culprit. 

Finally, in record time but still too long for Crowley’s liking, they arrive at the library. The lights are all on, probably to ease Ezra’s nerves, and Crowley knocks on the door loudly. “Ezra, it’s me!” 

A few seconds later the door opens, and he sees Ezra standing before him, looking haggard but safe. Something overflows in Crowley, something that’s illogical and irrational and relieved, and though he hardly knows what happened, all he knows is that Ezra is safe, and he lets out a small sound he’ll deny making later, and lunges forward, wrapping his arms around the librarian in a tight hug. 

He feels arms wind around his waist, holding just as tight. Feels the softness of Ezra’s hair tickle his nose as he buries his face in Crowley’s neck, and they hold each other for a long moment. Ezra feels something wrap around his thigh, and he pulls back enough to see Adam latched to him as well, holding on just as tightly as his father. He drops one hand from Crowley’s waist to press against Adam’s shoulder. 

“My heroes,” he mutters after a moment. 

At that, Crowley pulls back, shoving his hands in his pocket . He steps back awkwardly, but Adam has no shame in his affection, and practically climbs up Ezra to be in his arms. “I’m fine, darling boy,” he swears, placing a kiss on his cheek. “No harm done, I promise.” 

“You packed?” Crowley asks. 

“Yes,” he nods to a small tartan suitcase. Crowley resists the urge to tease him over it. Now isn’t the time. “Thank you again. I know it’s silly-“ 

“Not another word,” Crowley instructs as he slips past Ezra and grabs the suitcase. “You’re staying with us for a few days, and that’s final.”

“Thank you,” Ezra replies softly, holding onto Adam a little tighter than he normally would. He notices the boy does the same. 

They move to the Bentley, and even though it’s against the law, neither of them say a word about Adam sitting on Ezra’s lap in the front seat. Crowley puts the car into drive, and makes a turn, heading back to his flat. 

“What did the bully do to you?” Adam asks softly from where he’s curled up against Ezra. 

“Well,” Ezra breathes slowly, taking a moment to let his nerves settle. “He approached me while I was walking and told me if I didn’t give him my money, he would hurt me.” 

“What did you do?” 

“I tried to talk to him; offered to take him to a homeless shelter or a food bank,” Ezra replies. “He just wanted my wallet, and wouldn’t relent until I gave it to him.” 

“Did you fight him?” 

“No,” Ezra laughs softly, despite himself. “I’m afraid I left my sword at home. So I gave him my wallet- there wasn’t much there anyway- and he left.” 

“You should carry your sword with you all the time,” Adam decides. 

The sword in question is an épée, from Ezra’s college fencing days. He’s hardly touched it since graduate school, but had been unable to let himself throw it away. Ever since Adam discovered it a year ago, he’s been obsessed with the thought of Ezra wielding a sword like some kind of hero. He’s already decided that when Adam is a little older, he’s going to ask Anthony if he can give it to Adam; maybe even teach him how to fence. 

“Perhaps I should,” Ezra smiles softly. 

They pull up to the Crowley residence, and wordlessly Crowley grabs Ezra’s suitcase and they head inside. Once there Adam seems to forget the circumstances that brought Ezra to them and resumes his childlike enthusiasm of having a guest over. He shows Ezra his handwriting practice and relinquishes Dog into his care for comfort and then asks Crowley if they can have cocoa, which Crowley agrees. 

Once settled, Adam curls up on the couch on one side of Ezra while Crowley sits stiffly on the other side. Adam is oblivious to the tension and merely talks away, and Ezra indulges him, grateful for the distraction. 

Eventually it’s Adam’s bedtime, and he pouts and whines through his good night ritual, but goes to bed with little more than a couple weak protests of wanting to stay up with Ezra. 

“He’ll be here in the morning,” Crowley assures Adam, and that seems to be enough to get the boy to bed. 

Crowley returns to where Ezra is cleaning up the mugs of empty cocoa. “You don’t have to do that.” 

Ezra doesn’t stop. “If it’s all the same to you, I’d rather continue. Keeps my hands busy.” 

Keeps me from breaking down. 

Crowley doesn’t object and digs out a dish towel. He lets Ezra dry them, letting him keep occupied. Finally he has to relent that the mugs are dry enough and he puts them back where he saw Crowley get them from, then turns and leans against the counter, hands clutching and twisting the towel. 

“I didn’t want Adam to know, but I really am rather shaken.” He lets out a soft sound, a nervous sort of laugh mixed with hiccup, and it breaks Crowley’s heart to see his dearest friend so upset. Crowley takes a step forward, and Ezra follows suit. They meet in a tight hug, and Crowley feels Ezra tremble in his arms. “You’re safe now,” Crowley whispers to his friend. 

“Yes, I am,” Ezra agrees with an awkward nod against Crowley. 

After a bit, Ezra mumbles something against Crowley, and he pulls away slightly and asks Ezra to repeat himself. 

“Um. Wine would be lovely, if you have any.” 

Crowley snorts, squeezes Ezra once more, then releases him. “Anything you want.” 

They drink and chat idly, though Ezra doesn’t bring up the mugging. Crowley doesn’t push. If he wants to talk about it, he will. Once they’re slightly tipsy, they head to bed. Crowley insists on Ezra taking his room, and Crowley slips into Adam’s to curl up next to his son. 

Roughly three hours later, Crowley wakes up. Adam’s bed isn’t exactly as comfortable as his own. When he blinks himself awake he notices that a light in the living room is still on. Grumbling, he gets up to go turn it off, stopping short when he sees Ezra sitting on the couch under the lamp light reading. 

He has his adorable glasses perched halfway down his nose, and is dressed in tartan pajama pants and a simple white tee shirt. He’s practically angelic in the dim light of the lamp, and Crowley feels his heart do a series of complicated tricks.

He wants this, he realizes. He wants to wake up in the middle of the night and find Ezra close by. He wants to have Ezra here with him, with Adam. He’s never wanted something like this before; hasn’t let anyone close enough to even consider wanting something like this. But Ezra looks right sitting there. He knows nothing will ever come of it; things will never be more than what they are, and he has to be okay with that. 

It’s better than not having him at all. 

He must have made a noise or something because a moment later, Ezra looks up, startled. “Oh,” he gasps, hand to his heart. “You startled me. Am I keeping you up?” 

“Oh, no,” Crowley shakes his head. “Just happened to wake up. Saw the light was on and came to check on things.” 

“Ah. Right. Well. I, uh,” he chuckles nervously. “I suppose it’s not something that’s ever really come up before, but I have rather severe insomnia. All the stress and excitement of this evening didn’t help matters.” 

“Sorry to hear that,” Crowley mutters. “Want me to let you get back to your book, then?” 

“If you like,” Ezra says, then reconsiders, “Though, some company would be just as lovely. But-“ he interrupts himself quickly, “Don’t feel obligated. You’ve already done so much for me tonight.” 

But Crowley is already moving toward the couch, beckoned by the allure that is Ezra Fell. “Scoot over.” 

Ezra makes room and Crowley plops down beside him, glancing at the book on Ezra’s lap. “Whatcha reading?” 

Ezra tilts it so Crowley can read it. “A House Of Pomegranates?” 

“Mmm,” Ezra nods. “I adore Wilde.”

Crowley knows this. In the five years they’ve known each other, he has spent many evenings listening to Ezra gush about Oscar Wilde. It’s one of the many strange yet adorable quirks that endears Ezra to Crowley. 

Ezra drops the book back on his lap. “I can’t seem to stop shaking,” he mutters with a small, pathetic laugh. I’d hoped to take my mind off it, just put it all behind me, but I can’t.” He lifts his hand up between them, and Crowley can see that Ezra’s hand is in fact trembling with some severity. Boldly, thoughtlessly, he reaches out and catches Ezra’s hand in his. 

“You wanna talk about it?” 

Ezra shrugs, but doesn’t pull his hand away. “Not much more to say. He demanded money, I tried to talk him down. Offered to help. He wouldn’t listen and…” he hesitates. 

“What?” Crowley asks, suspecting there’s more to the story that Ezra hasn’t said. 

Ezra shudders. “He pulled a knife on me.”

Rage fills Crowley. “He what?!”

“Shh!” Ezra hushes him, “You’ll wake Adam!” 

“Adam could sleep through Armageddon, what do you mean he pulled a knife on you? Did he touch you? Are you hurt? Why didn’t you say so sooner?” 

“I’m fine,” Ezra insists. “I gave him my wallet immediately after. Like I said, there wasn’t much in there anyway. And I didn’t mention it because I didn’t want to frighten Adam. Or you.” He looks down at where their hands are joined and squeezes softly. “I’ll be okay, I promise.” 

“Well, you can stay here as long as you want. Until you feel safe at yours, our home is open to you,” Crowley insists. He releases his hold on Ezra’s hand and wraps his arm around the other man’s shoulders, pulling him closer. Ezra goes without complaint and sighs against Crowley. 

“I know, Anthony. Thank you, my dear.” 

Crowley closes his eyes, breathing Ezra in. It’s comforting, earthy and soft, and Crowley resists the urge to pull the librarian even closer. 

“Anything for you, angel.” 

He feels Ezra sigh against him contentedly. After a few moments, Crowley murmurs, “I’ve never read Wilde.”

Ezra knows. Crowley enjoys reminding him every time Ezra mentions the author’s name. 

“That’s the real crime that’s being committed,” Ezra remarks. 

“Not funny,” Crowley grumbles, holding Ezra tighter. After a moment, he whispers, “Read to me?”

“You sure?”

Against him, Anthony nods. 

Ezra lifts the book and begins to read, never once shifting away from Crowley’s embrace. He reads for a bit, until the comforting feeling of being curled up together and the events of the day catch up to them, and they both drift off to sleep. 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

 

Chapter Twelve: Duality 

“Please, Dad?” 

“No.” 

“Why not?” 

“Because I’m an adult.”

“But Daaaaaad!”

Crowley sighs and rolls his eyes. Ever since Ezra took on that blasted American graduate student as his intern several weeks back, she’s been a menace. Despite that, Crowley likes her, immensely, but at the moment she’s not in his good graces. Namely because once she announced her blasted idea for a Halloween Ghost Story event at the library, Adam has gotten it into his head that they both need to dress up for it. Until today Crowley has refused. But Adam’s persistence is beginning to wear him down. 

He also might be a sap when it comes to his son.

If I agree,” Crowley remarks finally, wincing when Adam begins cheering loudly. “I said if. If I agree, I am picking the costume, and you don’t get to complain. Deal?” 

“Okay, Dad!” 

Crowley holds out his hand, and Adam takes it. 

< > 

“Daaaaaaaaaad, you didn’t even try!”

Crowley glares at his son, who is in a Spider-Man suit and pouting adorably. “Ah, ah. You don’t get to complain, remember?” 

“But you aren’t even trying!” 

“I didn’t agree to try. I agreed to pick a costume.” He points to the devil horns on his head. “I picked. This qualifies as a costume, thus my end of the deal is upheld.” 

Adam’s pout only seems to grow and he glares at his father in a manner that makes Crowley feel as if he were looking in a mirror. “Fine.” 

They leave and head to the library. 

< >

Ezra glares at his intern, unimpressed. 

“You’ve been conspiring with Anthony.” 

Anathema Device, American exchange student on a scholarship to study in England and all around menace, bustles by him, her white suffragette outfit pristine and fetching. “I have done no such thing. You forgot to pick a costume. You asked me to run out and grab something quick and cheap. It’s Halloween, which means all the good options were already gone. Besides,” she smirks, “I think it suits you.” 

“You are nothing but trouble and I regret taking you on,” he calls out as he begins grumpily donning the costume, “Make sure there’s plenty of candy in the bowl up front!” 

“Yes, sir!” 

< > 

When they arrive, it’s busier than Crowley has seen it in years. There are plenty of children around in various super hero costumes, and Anathema is seated near the front, reading a ghost story to a group of engrossed kids. Despite his annoyance at her meddling with the quiet status quo of the library, he has to admit that she’s been good for business. She’s lively, intelligent, and a hard worker. She’s got a lot of ideas, and despite only being here a short amount of time, she’s managed to convinced Ezra that she can handle public relations, can build up the library and make it a haven for those who wish to learn. Ezra, ever a champion of expanding one’s mind, but having little desire to interact with the public, had jumped at the opportunity to push her into the limelight. From where Crowley stands, she’s thriving. And so is the library. 

They’re good for each other, Anathema and Ezra. They’re opposites in many ways, but they seem to work well together, in Crowley’s opinion. This Halloween event, for example, had been a collaborative effort between the two of them, and from the size of the crowd, Crowley thinks that they’ve really got something good going on. It warms his heart to know that things are going so well. Ezra deserves it. 

Crowley lets Adam go, and watches Adam get settled next to a little Doctor with a multicolored scarf, then turns to look for Ezra. He moves to go toward the back room, but at that moment he sees a flash of beige out of the corner of his eye, and turns to see Ezra coming down the stairs from his flat, a bowl of candy in his arms, and a halo on his head. 

He’s beautiful. 

Ezra notices Crowley and brightens, the small costume angel wings on his back shifting comically as he rushes over to his counterpart. 

“Well isn’t this serendipitous?” He laughs. “Makes me feel a little less foolish too.” 

“Adam insisted I dress up,” Crowley shrugged. “This required the absolute least amount of effort.” 

“I ended up at the mercy of Miss Device,” Ezra sighs. “I spent so much time preparing everything else, I forgot about a costume. I sent her out and she thought she’d be clever and make me an angel.” He pauses, then blushes prettily. “Though I’m sure you think it’s fitting.” 

“No comment,” Crowley remarks with a wry grin as he holds out his hand for the bowl. “Need any help? I can be of some use I suppose.” 

“Yes, actually,” Ezra brightens. “Can you read the next ghost story? It would give Miss Device a break, and keep me from having to do it.” 

“You know I don’t read.” 

Ezra rolls his eyes. “Even you can handle The Little Witch on Penbrook Lane.” 

Crowley makes a show of sighing. “Fine. Anything for you.” 

“Oh! Thank you! You’re an- well. You’re a demon tonight, but you’re a nice demon.”

He pats Crowley’s arm, then steps around him to go set down the candy bowl. Crowley turns after him. “I don’t think demons are nice, angel!” He protests, but Ezra is already speaking to another client, and Crowley can do nothing more but watch, feeling rather warm in the process. 

< > 

An hour later, Crowley takes his spot in the chair, demon horns in place, and he begins to read. Ezra watches from behind the desk, trying to bite back a smile as Anthony seems to get into it, adding voices and spooky sounds as he reads with ever increasing drama and flare. The kids are eating it up. 

And Anthony has never looked more stunning. 

Ezra knows he needs to stop watching. Knows he needs to refill the candy bowl again, needs to check that Miss Device isn’t overwhelmed. Needs to make sure the computer is ready to process any checkouts, as it’s becoming clear the poor machine is on its last legs. He needs to do a lot of things, but he can only stand and watch Anthony. 

“He’s pretty good, huh?” 

Ezra jumps, and glances to his left to see Anathema standing there looking rather all-knowing. 

“He is quite dramatic.” 

“Uh huh,” Anathema hums. “But I don’t think his ability to read a children’s book is what has you smiling like an idiot.” 

Ezra gives her a sharp look. “It’s not polite to speak to your supervisor that way, Miss Device.” 

She snorts and somehow finds a way to make it elegant. “And you’re dodging the question, Mr. Fell.” 

“You didn’t actually ask a question.” 

“Is it so bad,” she whispers as they watch Crowley make a ghostly moan, causing a few children to gasp, “To be smitten with him?” 

Ezra looks at her sharply. “I’m not-“ he stops short. 

He’s not smitten… 

Is he? 

No, he passed by smitten years ago. He’s something else entirely; something more . He knows what to call it, but he can’t allow the word to take hold. He can’t hope for that; he’ll only be disappointed, otherwise. 

But, oh, if only… 

He swallows thickly, then turns back to watch Anthony. Anathema pats his arm affectionately. “Trust me. I’ve only been here seven weeks, but I’ve seen how he looks at you. And I see how you look at him. I think you both are reading from the same book. You just need to make it to the same page.” 

Ezra swallows again. “Th- that’s a terrible metaphor, Miss Device.”

“You’re not denying it.” 

Ezra can’t meet her eyes. “The candy bowl needs refilling, I think.”  

Anathema nods. “Sure.” She steps away, and Ezra remains where he stands, eyes moving to watch as Crowley finishes the story. The kids all cheer and ask him to make the scary noises again, and he indulges them, laughing along the way. After a moment, he glances up and meets Ezra’s gaze. He offers him the smallest, sweetest grin, then goes back to growling at a little girl dressed as a miraculous ladybug, and Ezra feels his heart flutter in his chest, and a small gasp escapes him as the feeling he refuses to name blossoms as beautifully as one of the luscious plants Crowley tends to. 

< > 

Later, once the party is over, Crowley stays to help clean up. Ever since the mugging he’s been more protective, nearly clingy, even. And even though Anathema is around now, he still lingers; is wary to leave Ezra alone. 

“That wasn’t so bad,” Ezra concedes to Anathema. 

“Got several new sign ups,” Anathema confirms proudly. “And lots of compliments. I’d say it was a rousing success.” 

“Quite right,” Ezra agrees. 

Eventually Ezra shoos her away, telling her he can handle the last bit of tidying up. After some good-byes,  she heads home, leaving Anthony and Ezra alone. Adam is on the couch, asleep. 

Crowley steps forward and taps the halo. “‘S a good look on you, you know.” 

Ezra bats his hand away. “Oh hush.” He pulls the halo off and inspects it. “I still think you two conspired.” 

“Nope,” Crowley insists. “I’m just as surprised as you. But I’ll admit: I like her even more because of it.” 

“You would,” Ezra huffs before Crowley takes the halo and plops it back onto Ezra’s head. He protests, but doesn’t remove it, rolling his eyes as Anthony pulls out his cell phone and snaps a picture of the two of them. “Look at us,” Crowley drawls, “The duality of man. Good and evil side by side.” 

“Oh please,” Ezra drawls, “You’re about as evil as The Little Witch on Penbrook Lane .” 

Crowley clasps a hand to his chest dramatically. “You wound me! I am horribly evil! I do all sorts of evil things!” 

“Such as?” Ezra challenges. 

“I bother innocent librarians regularly,” Crowley declares, “Very evil, that.” 

“Librarians, plural?” Ezra asks with a pointed look. “I’m hurt, Anthony.” 

“Nah,” Crowley says, throwing an arm around Ezra’s shoulders and swiping a piece of candy from the nearly empty bowl. “You’re the only librarian for me.” 

“Oh, get off, you fiend,” Ezra laughs as he nudges Crowley lightly before slipping away from him and moving toward the back room. When he reaches the threshold he slows, glances back. Anthony is leaning against the counter, next to the succulent plant, watching him with a soft, yet unreadable expression. 

“What?” Ezra asks, feeling his heart flutter at the look. He wishes Anthony would look at him like that all the time, and he can’t even be shocked by such thoughts anymore. 

Crowley snaps out of his distraction. “Your wings are comically small,” he says, and it’s obvious that wasn’t what had him so distracted, but Ezra chooses to let it slide. Chooses not to dwell on what could have had him so distracted. Tries himself not to think about how lovely it had felt for Anthony to so casually drape himself over Ezra. 

Ezra pushes his those thoughts aside. He knows it’s futile, to want what he knows he will never have. Duality indeed. 

“Well, my wings may be small, but you know what they say about demons with tiny horns,” Ezra manages to bite back playfully over his shoulder as he disappears, laughing at Crowley’s flustered shock and slack-jawed objection to Ezra’s commentary on his horns. 

Chapter Text

 

 

Chapter Thirteen: Lost and Found

 

Anthony J. Crowley hates Christmas.

Or, more accurately, he hates everything that Christmas has come to represent.

He’d been a faithful churchgoer in his late teens. After growing up in a home without any sort of real familial connection, thought of a heavenly Father was appealing to an all but parentless boy, and he’d eagerly ate up everything the church fed to him regarding heavenly love and being a child of God.

He’d been diligent and faithful and excited about learning more about God. He remembers telling Lou about the sermons and teachings, though Lou couldn’t have been any less interested. But Crowley had found something to fill the gap in his heart, and he’d clung to it with both hands, grateful that for the first time in his life, he felt wanted.

But as he studied and soaked up the teachings of the church over the years, he began to notice things that didn’t make sense. He turned to the Word for answers, but only became more confused, which led to more questions. Questions led to doubt, and doubt led to a certain type of fear. So, in an effort to put his doubts and fears to rest, he’d broached the subject with the elders of the church.

His questions had been met with indignant scoffs. He was told to have faith; do not question.

It hadn’t been enough. And so, unsatisfied, Crowley continued to ask questions. What’s so bad about knowing the difference between good and evil? How can we justify God killing innocent kids in the flood? How can we cherry pick verses to support our desires? Does God really have a plan for us? How can you preach of God’s love but turn away those that need it most?

Crowley vividly remembers the day he was told his questions were causing discord, and it would perhaps be best if he looked elsewhere for answers. It had been a week before Christmas.

It’s a sore subject, a wound that never fully healed. It’s a wound that is ripped open every year when colorful decorations and tacky fake evergreens line the streets and fill the shops with their flashing lights, which only adds to Crowley’s already severe photophobia. The world grows more chaotic, which normally he’d enjoy, but the panicked bustle of people scrambling to buy things they can’t afford for family they don’t particularly like leaves a sour taste in Crowley’s mouth. He hates everything the holiday represents: gross consumerism and a time in which he’d been rejected by people he’d thought he could trust.

So, with all the baggage the holiday has left on Anthony’s doorstep over the years, the Crowley’s don’t celebrate Christmas. They don’t put up a tree or go sing Christmas carols or leave out cookies for Father Christmas Adam knows Father Christmas isn’t real (and Crowley cringes at the thought of that: the first and so far only argument he and Ezra have ever had was when he’d mentioned during Adam’s first Christmas holiday that he wasn’t going to feed his child the lie of a magic man who comes down one’s chimney and leaves gifts. Ezra, ever a traditionalist in the most bizarre of areas, had been appalled. They didn’t speak for two weeks. Thankfully it’s a non-issue now , but that first Christmas had been a bit tense.)

In the absence of a traditional Christmas, however, Crowley has managed to take the painful experiences of his own youth and turn them into an opportunity to share some defiant goodwill with his son. It’s far more meaningful, far more special to Crowley that way.

First, they go through Adam’s toys, and Adam picks out the ones he feels he’s outgrown, and they drop them off at a local charity drive to be given out to children in need. The next weekend, they go shopping, and Crowley allows Adam to pick out several toys and games to buy that they wrap and take to the local orphanage on Christmas Day.

The toy store is where they’re heading now, in fact. Despite the cold chill in the air, the overcrowded bustling of people frantically shopping and pushing past one another amidst hurried and insincere Merry Christmas’s, and the god-awful music, Crowley is in a good mood. He has Adam’s hand in his, and they’re doing something good, and despite the pain he’s buried in his chest over the whole holiday, he’s glad he and his son have something they can do together, even if Crowley does it to be contrary. Spiteful kindness; he thinks Lou might be proud.

They’re walking along, Adam talking happily about the different toys he’s planning to pick out. He wants to get some superhero figure and maybe a couple stuffed animals because Dog is the best toy ever , and then he wants to get some superhero capes and maybe a toy truck and- 

“And I’ll get a doll too, because some boys and girls might want a doll instead of a truck.”

“They might do,” Crowley agrees as they walk along.

As they walk, Adam talking away, Crowley sees something shimmer in a shop window. He pauses, distracted by its beauty, and for a single, solitary moment, thinks perhaps it might make a lovely gift for Ezra.

He frowns.

He doesn’t do gifts. Especially not Christmas gifts.

But, as he looks at it, on display ever so prettily, it somehow just seems to scream Ezra.

What would Ezra do, if Crowley were to hand him a present, knowing his disdain for the holiday? Crowley can almost imagine the smile on Ezra’s face, bright and beautiful as he opens the present-

Adam tugs on his hand impatiently and he shakes his head free of those thoughts. Enough.

He makes a mental note of which store it is- just in case - he tells himself, and gently lets Adam pull him away and back into the mess of the overcrowded street. As they’re walking, a large, burly man shoves past Crowley, knocking him a step to the side. “Oi, watch it, you wanker!” Crowley calls out over his shoulder. He grumbles a bit, then takes a step to keep on- then freezes when he realizes that his left hand is empty.

Whirling around, he scans the street for a curly mop of brown hair, but sees nothing.

“Adam?” He whimpers before shouting, “ADAM?!”

< >

Ezra Fell loves Christmas.

Or rather, he loves what Christmas is supposed to represent.

He loves the food and the weather and the music and decorating the library with little snowflakes and snowmen. He loves how it’s meant to be a time to bring people together, and he loves it with a ferocity that, if anyone were to peer beneath the surface, would find that he loves it almost out of spite.

But no one has ever gotten that close, so it’s a box he keeps locked away and hidden underneath cheerful smiles and fresh gingerbread cookies for the kids who wander inside for a momentary respite from the cold.

He’s in the middle of decorating right now. It’s not quite December, but most places already have a several-week head start on him. He’d thought of calling Anthony and asking if Adam would like to help decorate, but thinks better of it. They’re doing their charity shopping today, and Ezra is reluctant to attempt that after their first and only fight revolved around Christmas.

He sighs wistfully as thoughts of Anthony slip into his mind, unbidden but not unwelcome. Despite the tension that seems to radiate off Anthony around Christmas, things have been good between them. Crowley is a fantastic friend, and Ezra doesn’t know what he’d do without the man. He’s a balm after a rough day. A rough life. He’s comforting and funny and snarky and beautiful, and Ezra positively loves how his life has improved since Anthony appeared that fateful night nearly six years ago.

Surprised, he nearly drops the ornament he’s holding

Love…

It’s a word he doesn’t allow himself to think in regards to Anthony. But lately it’s been harder and harder to keep it suppressed. He knows how he feels, and after Anathema’s teasing on Halloween he’d been forced to do a little introspection, coming to the understanding that, yes , he is desperately in love with Anthony J. Crowley.

It’s terrifying. It’s wonderful. It’s impossible. But it’s there, right enough.

Before he can contemplate the feeling further, he feels his phone vibrate in his pocket. He’s not much for technology, though the past couple years have found him keeping his cell phone on him more often than not.

Just in case.

He quickly hangs the ornament and fishes out his phone. “Hello, Anthony!”

Ezra, I’ve lost him!”

Ezra freezes. “What?!“

He’s gone! We were walking and some twat bumped me and- oh god, Ezra, I can’t find him!”

Clumsily, Ezra climbs down the ladder and looks around for Anathema. “Where are you? I’ll come help look.”

Crowley tells him where he is. Only about a ten minute walk from the library. Ezra tries to stay calm for Crowley’s sake, even as his heart has lurched up into his throat. Or maybe that’s his lunch.

“Alright, my dear. Keep looking. I’m grabbing my jacket and I’ll start looking as well. What is he wearing so I can keep my eyes peeled?”

Blue jacket, red trainers,” Crowley says and Ezra can hear he’s on the verge of tears. “Please hurry, angel. I don’t know what to do!”

I’m coming. We’ll find him, I swear it. Anathema!” Ezra calls out, disregarding the fact that he’s in a library where silence is meant to be respected. When she doesn’t immediately answer, Ezra huffs and turns to rush out the door. He’ll call Anathema on the shop phone. He’s not wasting another moment. “Just keep looking, my dear, I’m on my way. We’ll- oh!”

Ezra stops short when he sees none other than a puffy-eyed and blotchy-faced Adam entering the library. He takes one look at Ezra, whimpers, then runs to him, latching onto him with a force a child shouldn’t be capable of. Ezra sinks to his knees and clutches the boy to him while he keeps crying.

“Anthony, he’s here!”

He hears a gasp on the other end of the line. “What?!

“He just entered the library,” Ezra says hurriedly, sticking the phone to Adam’s ear. “Tell your father you’re here.”

“I got lost, Daddy; I’m sorry.”

Even from this distance, Ezra can hear the frantic laugh that leaves Crowley. “Stay right there! I’m coming.”

The line goes dead at that, and Ezra drops the phone in favor of wrapping his arms around Adam. “Oh, darling boy, you scared us!”

“I was scared too,” Adam mumbles. Ezra can feel the boy is shaking.

“Come on,” Ezra murmurs as he pockets his phone and picks up Adam. “Let’s wait on your father, okay? I can have Miss Device make you some cocoa; would you like that?”

He feels Adam nod his head, and he goes to find his intern.

Anathema looks up at the sound of her boss approaching, but when she realizes there’s a teary-eyed Adam and no Crowley in sight, her brow furrows in worry. “What happened?” 

“We need some cocoa, I think,” Ezra says gently, hand rubbing soothing circles over Adam’s back. “They got separated. Adam came here. Anthony is on his way.”

“Ah,” she says in understanding. “Four cups of cocoa it is. I’ll be right back.”

She disappears up the stairs to Ezra’s kitchen in a flurry of skirts, and Ezra lingers close to the door so Anthony can see his son as quickly as possible. Within a few minutes the door flings open and a frazzled Anthony blows in like a whirlwind. He takes one look around, sees Ezra waiting with Adam safely in his arms, and a sob escapes him. “Adam!”

Adam looks up. “Daddy!”

He reaches for Anthony, and Ezra moves to let him fling himself out of his arms and into Anthony’s. Adam begins to cry anew, and Crowley struggles not to cry as well. They cling to each other in the entrance of the library, and after a moment, Ezra gently ushers them into the back room for privacy.

After a couple minutes Anathema returns with four steaming cups of cocoa, and Adam peels away from his dad just enough to take one before curling back against him again.

“What happened?” Anthony asks as he holds his son to him.

“Someone bumped me,” Adam says softly, sniffling and wiping his nose on his sleeve. Ezra tsks and pulls out a handkerchief and wipes the boy’s nose. “I fell down. When I got up I couldn’t see you.”

“And you came here straight away,” Anthony reasons.

“Uh huh. I got scared and thought Ezwa could help me find you.”

That,” Crowley breathes, “Was so clever of you, Adam! I’m very proud.”

“Yes,” Ezra agrees from where he’s still kneeling next to Adam. “That was brilliant, darling.”

Adam grins softly and takes a sip of cocoa.

< >

They stay there for a bit to let the nerves and adrenaline wear down. Adam hovers near his father for some time, but eventually is enticed by Anathema’s work and wanders over to where she is and watches as she catalogues books, giving Ezra and Anthony a moment alone.

The second Adam’s attention is diverted, Anthony steps up to Ezra and envelops him in a tight hug. Taken aback, it takes the librarian a moment to respond, but soon enough he lifts his arms to wrap around the thin expanse of Anthony’s waist.

“Thank you,” Anthony murmurs softly. “Thank you so much, angel.”

Ezra holds Anthony tighter. “It was nothing, my dear. You raised a smart boy, to have him come somewhere he knew he’d be safe.”

“I’m glad he had somewhere to go. I’m glad he has you. I’m glad to have you.”

“You’re too kind,” Ezra says, but he clings a little tighter anyway. He tries not to dwell on the fact that Anthony seems to do the same.

“Nothing of the sort,” Anthony denies even as he buries his head in the crook of Ezra neck. They stand there like that for several long moments, neither willing to let the other go.

“Tell you what,” Ezra remarks softly, pressing his cheek to Anthony’s. “It’s a slow day. Why don’t I leave Miss Device in charge and I’ll join you on your shopping trip? Two pairs of eyes to keep watch, and all that. We can get dinner, after: my treat.”

“Yeah,” Anthony agrees as he slowly releases Ezra, sliding his hand down to catch Ezra’s hand in his. He squeezes it, even as he lifts the other hand to quickly brush under his eyes, which are hidden by his glasses. Even still, Ezra knows he’s been crying. He says nothing, but squeezes Anthony’s hand in return.

A moment passes, and Anthony shifts. He glances downward, where Ezra thinks perhaps he’s looking at their hands. It’s on the tip of his tongue to apologize for hanging on for so long, when Anthony lifts their hands to his lips, pressing a lingering kiss to Ezra’s knuckles. “Thanks again, angel,” he murmurs before abruptly clearing his throat and dropping Ezra’s hand. The softness in his face melts and is replaced by his usual cool demeanor, even if it’s a little less convincing than normal. He glances at Ezra, then shuffles past him to go find Adam.

Ezra doesn't follow. Instead he clasps the hand Anthony had kissed to his chest, holding it tightly to him while he tries not to panic as he feels his entire world tilt on its axis.

< >

Later, they venture to the toy store and watch as Adam studies each toy as he carefully selects his favorites to gift to the children at the orphanage. If Anthony stands a little closer to Ezra, their hands brushing as they wait for Adam to make his selections, neither of them make mention of it. 



Chapter Text

 

 

 

Chapter Fourteen: Wish 

 

“Whatcha working on?” 

Adam looks up from his homework and quickly throws his little body over the paper, glaring up at his father. “You can’t look!” 

Crowley had only asked out of vague, disinterested curiosity, but now he’s actively intrigued. What could his six year old son possibly be hiding? 

“Why not?” 

“Because you’ll get mad and then yell for an hour.” 

Crowley raises a brow. “Your homework will make me yell?” 

Adam sighs and murmurs out a reluctant, “It’s a letter to Santa Claus.” 

The urge to begin a tirade swells up within Crowley, but he stamps it down, if only to prove Adam wrong. 

Spiting a six year old. How mature. 

“And what exactly is educational about writing a letter to Santa Claus?” 

Adam sighs again and holds the paper up toward his father. Crowley takes it and glances over it. It’s a worksheet with a little chubby, jolly Santa in the upper corner. On the lines below it has the pre-printed phrase in dotted lines: Dear Santa Claus, What I want for Christmas is… and the rest is left up to the child. Adam has traced over the letters up to the word Christmas. 

“Ah,” Crowley acknowledges. “Handwriting.” 

“I don’t want help,” Adam insists as he puts the paper down and covers it back up with his hands. “I can do it myself.” 

“Cool,” Crowley remarks with a shrug as he moves into the living room to reorganize his vinyl collection. “Have fun.” 

< > 

Later as they eat dinner, Crowley broaches the subject again. “So, what did you ask good ol’ Saint Nick for?” 

Adam cocks his head to the side. “Who’s Nick?” 

Crowley sighs. “No one. Santa. Father Christmas. Whatever. What did you ask him for.”   

“Nothing,” Adam says in a manner that all but screams it’s anything but nothing. 

“Nothing, huh?” 

“He’s not weal,” Adam says pointedly, clearly trying to dodge the question. He picks at his macaroni, not meeting Crowley’s eyes. 

“You gonna get in trouble for not asking for something?” Crowley will protest if so. He doesn’t care if his son doesn’t turn in the assignment; his handwriting is already impeccable for his age. And besides, he knows Adam’s teacher. She probably only handed out a Santa-themed paper because her boss demanded it. 

Adam bites his lips. “I can’t tell you,” he finally whispers. 

“Can’t tell me what?” 

“What I asked for!” Adam says with more passion than he’s ever said anything. “I can’t tell you! It’s a seek-wet!” 

“So you did ask for something.” 

Adam huffs. “Daaaaaaad!” 

“Okay!” Crowley holds his hands up in defense. “Fine, then. It’s a secret. None of dear old Dad’s business. Got it.” 

Adam studies his father for a moment, unconvinced, but then Crowley changes the subject to how they’re going to their plans for the weekend, and Adam visibly relaxes. 

< > 

Later, after Adam has read his father a bedtime story and fallen asleep, Crowley sneaks into the living room where Adam’s backpack is by the door. Glancing over his shoulder, he quietly unzips the backpack and pulls out the homework folder Adam had carefully stuck his homework in. Deftly, Crowley pulls it out, and looks at the letter. 

The first thing he notices is how neat his son’s handwriting is, even for a six year old. He’s gotten several notes from Adam’s teacher about how good his handwriting is, and Crowley knows Ezra is the one to thank for that. 

Who knew a kid would be so motivated by a bloody fountain pen of all things? 

He glances down at the rest of the letter, and as he reads his son’s carefully written words, he feels his heart rise up in his throat. 

DEAR SANTA CLAUS, 

WHAT I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS IS… 

I no you are not reel but I still want to ask for Dad and Ezra to fall in lov so we can be a reel famlee.

Adam Crowley 

Crowley breathes shakily and hurriedly puts the paper back exactly the way it was. He stumbles to the cabinet and pulls out a bottle of wine - a gift from Ezra, damn it all- and takes a long swig from it. And then another. And then one more. 

Moving to the couch, he sits down heavily, head hanging low as he feels the distant rumblings of a panic attack try to take root. He’s not had one in years, but he can feel himself trembling, can feel a weight on his chest that makes his lungs struggle to expand fully. 

Crowley gasps for breath, swallowing thickly as he tries to will himself calm. Finally, the feeling ebbs, though it doesn’t disappear entirely, and he’s able to think a little more clearly. 

I want Dad and Ezra to fall in love so we can be a real family. 

He knows at this point he’s madly in love with Ezra. Knows it as surely as he knows Adam is his son; as certainly as he knows how to tend to the most exotic plants in his nursery. It’s a fact, a truth stamped on his heart, and apparently it’s so obvious that even a fucking six year old can see it. 

He also knows nothing will ever come of it, which makes his stomach plummet. Or maybe that’s just dinner disagreeing with him. Either way, Ezra is his friend- his only friend, really- and the last thing Crowley wants to do is send him running away. He doesn’t think he could survive that. Doesn’t want to even think of it. Sure, they’ve had a few moments in the past, especially more recently, but Crowley is convinced that those were flukes, were tricks of the mind and heart, making him see what he wanted to see. He knows Ezra could never love him- not the way he loves Ezra. 

But the possibility of such a thing… 

The thought comes, unbidden, of what it might be like to have Ezra’s love. It sends a warmth through him, pierces his heart and sends all sorts of images spiraling into his mind. The thought of Ezra’s hands on him. The thought of Ezra’s lips on his own. The thought of other things he dares not allow to fully form, lest he be required to take a cold shower. 

He takes another long drink of wine and curses softly aloud. “Shit shit shit.” 

He remembers the trinket he saw in the shop window. Thinks maybe he should go out this weekend and see if it’s still there. He can give it to Ezra before Christmas- before Ezra leaves to go on holiday with his siblings at their cabin in the country. A just because gift. Maybe test the waters to see if he can gauge whether Ezra might be amenable to…

Crowley shakes his head. The last time he felt hope he’d been horribly burned. 

But Ezra isn’t like anyone else. Ezra is kind and loving and accepting. 

Maybe… 

He looks up at his son’s backpack; frowns. What if he’s misread everything, and he ruins things, and Adam loses Ezra because of it? He can’t be selfish and risk breaking his son’s heart in the process. 

No. I can’t. 

A moment later his phone vibrates on the table. He glances over, and sees its Ezra calling. With a groan, he takes another swig of wine and answers with more far cheer than he feels. “Hey, Ezra!” 

Good evening, my dear. How are you?” 

Awful, he thinks, miserable for the want of you. 

“Good. Great. Just put Adam to bed. Partying hard now.” 

Really?”

Crowley rolls his eyes. Feels the dread and fear and panic crawl back into the recesses of his mind as the light that is Ezra’s presence chases them away. 

“Ezra, I’m a single dad. ‘Course I’m not partying,” Crowley pauses. “Well. I am drinking. A lot. But that doesn’t count.” 

“I suppose it doesn’t; at least not when you’re alone,” Ezra remarks. 

“Not really alone now, am I though?” 

No, you’re not,” Ezra agrees, a smile in his voice. “Hold on. I’ll grab a glass too. We can drink together.” 

“You’ll have to drink fast to catch up. I think I’m already tipsy.”

“Are you… all right?” 

Crowley frowns. “Why wouldn’t I be?” 

Well,” Ezra says cautiously. “I didn’t know if perhaps… you know.”

“What? Christmas?” 

Yes.”  

“Oh. Nah,” Crowley drawls, “Just drinking for the sake of it.” 

Drinking because I’m in love with you and I don’t know what to do about it. 

Ah,” Ezra says, “Well, I suppose that’s better than the alternative. If you were drinking because of that, I might have to come over and fuss at you.” 

Crowley blinks. “Can I change my answer, then?” 

Ezra laughs sweetly, and Crowley’s heart surges at the sound. “Afraid not. Anyway, I’m starting to go through my things to… prepare packing.” The last word is laced with dread.

“You don’t have to go to the cottage, you know.” 

They’re my family, Ezra sighs. “I’m afraid I rather do.” 

“Just come down with… pneumonia. Influenza. Bubonic plague.”

The Plague, Anthony?” 

“Whatever disease suits your fancy. Just make sure it’s terribly contagious. Is Mad Cow Disease still a thing?” 

Oh, really!”

“Just saying.” 

Ezra sighs. “I confess I’m dreading it more than normal. I can’t quite explain why. But it’s just a week. Maybe you can call and pretend to work for me and make up an emergency so I can leave early.” 

“Whatever you need, angel. I’m at your disposal.” 

“Oh, you’re a darling,” Ezra coos. 

“Shh. You’ll ruin my reputation,” Crowley says, but it’s insincere. He thrills at the compliment, and it only makes his longing all the more painful. 

The subject changes and they talk for a couple hours. They talk about the library and the nursery and how it would be funny to set up Anathema and Newt on a blind date and see if anything comes of it. 

They finally have to say goodnight when Crowley is so exhausted he can barely keep his eyes open. “Think you’ll be able to sleep?” He asks Ezra as he shakes his head to force himself awake for a few more minutes. 

Possibly,” Ezra remarks. “But if not, at least I can think about all the varying diseases I can catch to get out of  Christmas at the cottage.” 

They say their goodbyes and hang up. Crowley stares at the picture of Ezra in his contacts for several minutes, and wonders how much longer his heart can bear to hold Ezra at arm’s length. He doesn’t think he has the strength to keep away. He’s not sure he wants to anymore. 

But would Ezra let him pull him closer? Would Ezra let him into his heart? Could Ezra possibly love him too? 

< > 

In a flat above a library in Soho, Ezra Fell wrings his hands nervously as he stares at the gift he just finished wrapping and wonders the same thing about Anthony Crowley. 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

Chapter Fifteen: The Breaking Thereof 

Ezra sits slumped in his armchair, his mobile on the table in front of him. His mind is split into two distinct branches of contemplation: the conversation he just had, and the conversation he’s tempted to have next. 

Sighing, Ezra thinks back to the former conversation. He’d answered his phone without much thought, assuming without looking that it would be Anthony on the other end. He’d had to fight back a groan of disappointment when he’d heard his brother’s voice instead. 

“Oh. Hello, Gabriel.” 

Can’t chat long,” Gabriel had said, all business as usual. “Just wanted to let you know we are meeting on Christmas Eve at the cottage.”

“As we do every year,” Ezra agrees, biting back his agitation. 

Just making sure you haven’t forgotten us,” Gabriel chuckled, but there had been a bite to his words. 

“Of course not,” Ezra replied primly. 

They chat for a couple minutes, pleasantries one would expect to exchange with a coworker one does not particularly like. It’s not the kind of conversation Ezra thinks one should have with a brother. It’s stiff and forced, not at all like the conversations he’s grown accustomed to having with Anthony. With Anthony he can laugh. He can talk about Shakespeare and even if he doesn’t understand it, Anthony is supportive. He can be silly, even. The number of drunken conversations they’ve had over the years that have left them in stitches are too many to count. 

This… this isn’t even a conversation. This is an obligation Gabriel has to fulfill. 

Ezra is rather tired of being an obligation. 

Finally, after the how are you’s, Gabriel had sighed. “Well, I’ll let you get back to… whatever it is you do,” 

“Running the library,” Ezra had reminded him, with a touch of annoyance lacing the words. “As I have for the past twelve years.” 

“Right. That.” Gabriel had remarked simply. “Well, just remember, Ezra, whenever you’re finished with all that and are ready to join us, we’ll still welcome you.” 

With that Gabriel had hung up, and Ezra had fought remarkably hard not to curse. And cry. Now he sits, debating with himself on whether to make the other phone call.

It’s a critical choice: between one family and the other. And despite knowing that it’s just Christmas dinner, something about it feels final. As if this were a long time coming and he has neglected to prepare for the choice: 

Return to the cottage for a week of dismissive ridicule by his blood relatives who have never tried to understand him or his work, or choose the family he’s found and surround himself with love and happiness and affection, even if it isn’t the kind he wishes it were. 

He stares at his phone; clasps his hands together, thumb brushing over the spot where Anthony had kissed him a couple weeks prior. He realizes now that he’s standing on the precipice of the walls he’s built around his heart. The barriers that have been steadily cracking for the past five years. For so long he’s been content with his loneliness, keeping everyone at arm’s length. 

He doesn’t want to do that anymore. 

He weighs the two possibilities one last time, feeling nervous and fidgeting and fretful. Finally, after going back over everything, weighing the pros and cons, he realizes that despite any obligation, despite everything in him that says he should go to the cottage, he knows deep down that isn’t what he wants

He wants something else. He wants Anthony Crowley. 

He wants to be with Anthony. 

He dials Anthony’s number. 

He feels the barriers around his heart break, and crumble to the ground. 

< > 

The phone rings a few times before a cheerful voice answers. “Hi, Ezwa!” 

Hello darling ,” Ezra says, already feeling certain in his decision. “ How are you this fine day?” 

“Good! We wapped all the pwesents for the owe-phans tonight!” 

Oh, that’s wonderful!” Ezra coos. “I’m sure they’ll be extremely happy to get them.” 

“Uh huh!” 

Listen, dear,” Ezra swallows thickly, “Is your father around?” 

“He’s making spaghetti!” Adam exclaims happily. “Hold on.” 

The sound of shuffling and fumbling echoes through the speaker, then Adam shouts, causing Ezra to wince, “You’re on speakah phone! Dad, say hi to Ezwa!” 

“Hey, angel,” Anthony calls from a distance away. He then addresses Adam, “Come ‘ere, kid. Stir this.” 

There’s more sounds, one of which is a chair scraping against the floor. Suddenly there’s more indistinguishable sounds and then Crowley’s voice comes through, much closer and clearer than before. “What’s up?” 

Ezra’s throat closes up. Everything he’d thought to say dies on his tongue and he feels himself freeze up like the fool he is. He knows he shouldn’t have called. Knows he should just leave things as they are. He’s stupid, foolish- 

“Ezra?” 

Oh!” He gasps. “Yes, um. Apologies. I uh-“ 

“Hey, kid, don’t stir so hard!” Crowley instructs quickly, then his attention turns back to the phone. “You sound upset. Something happen?” 

Oh. Well. Um. I, uh… well. I wanted to see if you and Adam would like to come over for dinner on Tuesday evening and perhaps stay over and the next morning I could make us breakfast.” 

“I don’t see why not,” Crowley murmurs, clearly distracted. “Lemme check my calendar and-“ he stops short. Realizes what Ezra is asking. “Ezra…” he’s confused; maybe a little put-off by what is being implied. 

I know,” Ezra whines. “I know it’s Christmas Eve and I know you don’t celebrate, and I’m not trying to make you, but… well. I rather hoped I could use you as an excuse not to celebrate this year myself.” 

Crowley goes quiet for a moment. “Are you sick?” He asks softly, and Ezra knows exactly what he means. 

Terribly, I’m afraid. Quite contagious.” 

“I’m so sorry to hear it,” Crowley says in understanding before he murmurs, “Gently, Adam.” There’s a moment of silence between them before Crowley continues, “So what happened? Okay, Adam, that’s good.” 

“I can call back later, if necessary. ” 

“No no, I’m good. I can listen and prevent a culinary disaster at the same time,” Anthony says. “‘Sides, noodles are done. Hop down Adam. Give me two minutes, angel. Here, kid, talk to your godfather.” 

Adam takes the phone and chatters away happily while Crowley finishes his dinner. A couple minutes later, Anthony snatches the phone away with a soft but strict, “Eat.” 

Then he turns his focus back to Ezra. “Okay, angel. Spill.” 

Well,” Ezra starts nervously, “My brother called.” 

“Ngk,” Crowley grimaces. “That’s never good.” 

A helpless laugh escapes Ezra. “No, it never is.”  

“So what did he say?” 

Nothing he hasn’t said before,” Ezra admits with a pang of sorrow. “I’m sure you recall that my family is very religious.” 

Anthony makes a noise of distaste. “Yup.” 

Ezra can’t help but laugh bitterly. “Precisely. And every time he calls he has to remark upon the fact that I didn’t follow the family into ministry, and I’m just-“ he cuts himself off. And then, simply because he’s never really spoken about this with anyone, he finds that the relief he feels now for having voiced even a fraction of how he feels has caused a massive crack in the box he in which he keeps all these feelings, and in moments the floodgates open, and he begins pouring it all out to Crowley. 

And I’m so tired,” he confesses, “Of going home year after year and being expected to sit through a week of my siblings all talking about their ministries and how perfect and wonderful it all is, and then when they finally deign to ask me anything about my own life, it’s with such disdain and disinterest! I’m tired of feeling like a disappointment! I love my job, and I love London, and they don’t understand! And I know that if I try to defend myself they’ll just shake their heads, as if to say, ‘Oh poor, delusional Ezra, he’s so misguided and lost.’ But I’m not! I’m happy! And they don’t understand. And!” He laughs bitterly, “God forbid if I tried to tell them about you. Or Adam. I can see the look of scorn on their faces if I dared express I’d found even a modicum of happiness with you! Nothing I do will ever be good enough for them and if all I’m ever going to do is disappoint them, I may as well stay here and be with the people I actually want as my family!” 

He seems to come back to himself at that moment, and slaps a hand over his mouth the moment the confession leaves his lips. He groans slightly. “I’m so sorry,” he murmurs, embarrassed. “I didn’t mean to say all that.” 

“Maybe not,” Crowley replies softly, “But it sounds like you needed to.” 

Possibly,” Ezra relents, sagging deeper into the chair. “I just… I can’t bear another Christmas with people who don’t respect me; who don’t even like me. I know I’m their brother but-“ 

“Blood doesn’t mean shit,” Anthony replies hotly, earning an exasperated “Dad!” and ”Anthony!” 

“Oh, hush, both of you,” he says as he moves out of the room, away from Adam. “Ezra, sod your relatives. If they can’t support you, then you don’t owe them the time of day. Adam and I will be at your place Tuesday at six. Hell, if you wanna celebrate Christmas, I’ll join you. We’ll watch some blasted Christmas romance, or bake cookies, or whatever. We’ll be jolly out of spite.” 

No,” Ezra replies, though his heart is overflowing with adoration, “I won’t force you to celebrate something you don’t feel comfortable doing. I respect you too much for that. We can have a perfectly average Tuesday, and a rather normal Wednesday. I just… I’m not going to the cottage. I can’t. But I also don’t want to be alone.” 

“We’ll be there,” Anthony promises. “And it’ll be the jolliest average Tuesday ever.” 

They talk for a bit longer, making vague plans for their time together. Adam is super excited by the prospect and after a while, they have their plan in place. 

Hanging up, Ezra feels himself relax, a small smile forming over his lips. It’s the first time in years he’s not dreaded Christmas Eve, and his heart hammers excitedly in his chest as he types out a quick text to Gabriel. 

Ezra: Something quite important has come up. Won’t be able to make it to the cottage this year. Give my regards to the others. Happy Christmas and New Year. 

He doesn’t even bother with the illness excuse. Gabriel doesn’t deserve it. 

When his phone rings three minutes later, Ezra watches with satisfaction as he lets the call go to voicemail. 

< > 

Tuesday comes. The library is only open for a couple hours to allow people to return books, and by noon Ezra locks the door. Anathema is back home in America for a couple weeks, so things are even more quiet than normal, which Ezra enjoys. He adores his intern, but there’s something about having a library all to oneself that just can’t be beat. 

Standing in the middle, alone, surrounded by books, Ezra thinks of how, in years past, he would be lugging his suitcase out to a cab to head toward the train station, where he would have two hours to fret over seeing his judgemental family again. No such luck this year, and his heart feels fantastically lighter than it has in a long time. 

In a few hours, Anthony will be here. He’s going to spend the evening with Anthony (and Adam, he reminds himself sternly). He’s going to bask in his friend’s cocky smiles and smooth sauntering all over his flat. He’s going to give him his gift. If he’s brave enough (i.e., drunk enough) he might even tell Anthony how he feels about him. 

His stomach plummets at that, and he wrings his hands nervously. 

...Maybe.

Grabbing his coat, he runs out to grab a last few things he needs before all the shops close for the day. Once he returns, he tidies up the place, makes sure the guest room is perfect, and then paces back and forth while he counts down the minutes until his guests arrive. 

< > 

They arrive at six, precisely. 

Ezra meets them at the front door of the library, letting them in with a cheerful smile. Adam has his backpack in tow, Dog sticking out of it haphazardly. He lunges at Ezra, hugging him tightly, then runs upstairs. 

“Don’t run,” Anthony corrects Adam as they follow him up toward the flat. Once inside, Anthony sets his bag down long enough to allow Ezra to help take his coat. “Happy Average Tuesday,” he greets Ezra with a smirk. 

“Happy Average Tuesday,” Ezra replies, feeling a little giddy at the thought of having something so distinct and special between them. “Come, let's get you both settled.” 

He leads them to the guest room where Adam has already thrown his bag on the bed, and has pulled out Dog. He looks up at the two men when they enter and grins. “This is so cool!”

“It’s all he’s talked about since Saturday,” Anthony remarks with fond exasperation. “I had to threaten to not come so we could talk about literally anything else.”

“I’m glad he’s excited, though,” Ezra says as he stumbles from where Adam latches onto him once more. 

“Happy Ave-wage Tuesday, Ezwa!” 

“Happy Average Tuesday, darling.” 

< > 

Ezra prepares a lovely dinner of roast chicken, potatoes, and steamed vegetables. Anthony helps Adam set the table, and they enjoy dinner and conversation as snow begins to fall outside. Once dinner is complete, Ezra produces a small vanilla cake, a bottle of wine for the adults, and a bottle of sparkling grape juice for Adam, who’s eyes widen in excitement when he’s handed a fancy glass like the grown ups. 

“Be careful,” Anthony instructs as Adam holds the glass tightly in little hands. “And don’t drink it too fast. You only get the one.” 

Adam nods and takes a sip of sparkling juice. “Yummy!” 

Anthony and Ezra watch him with fondness, then they clean up, and settle down for popcorn and a movie. Adam falls asleep halfway through, and Anthony motions for Ezra to pause the film while he gets Adam put to bed. Ezra lingers, nervous for what’s to come. They’ve been alone together plenty of times, but this is different, somehow. He still plans to give Anthony his gift, and can’t help but wonder what might come of it. Things between them have shifted in recent weeks, and while it’s utterly terrifying, he can’t help but feel a small twinge of hope that maybe…  

He feels utterly foolish. 

We are all fools in love. 

Ezra stands to go get his gift, but before he can, he hears the sound of the guest room door closing. Crowley emerges a moment later, hands behind his back. Ezra watches as he approaches, and his heart skips a beat or two. 

“So,” Anthony says a little awkwardly when he reaches where Ezra stands in the middle of the living room, “I don’t celebrate Christmas.” 

“No, you don’t.” 

“So what I’m about to give you is not a Christmas present, okay? It’s a normal gift for an average Tuesday.”

“You got me a gift?” Ezra breathes, and he feels his cheeks warm. He’s grateful he’s kept the lights dim in the flat, partially because it means Anthony is without his glasses, and also because it hopefully hides the flush he knows is making his whole face turn tomato red. 

“Happy Average Tuesday,” Anthony says as he moves his hands from behind his back, offering a small package wrapped in simple red shimmery paper. Ezra takes it tentatively, as if it were the most precious thing in the whole world. 

If he’s honest with himself, it is. 

He presses it back into Anthony’s hands, gently. “Wait right here.” 

He disappears for a moment, then returns with two packages of his own. One is wrapped in a simple brown paper, the other is quite tacky, yellow with grinning sun’s wearing sunglasses. 

“I tried to make them as un-Christmas-y as possible,” he laughs nervously. “This is for Adam. But this,” he places Adam’s gift down and holds out the brown package, “Is for you. It might require some explaining, though. Possibly…” 

Anthony takes the package with the same reverence Ezra had taken his. He stares at it with awe, as if he’s never received a present before. Ezra realizes that might actually be true. He glances up, eyes full of emotion, then holds out Ezra’s gift once more. “You first.” 

Carefully, Ezra opens the package. His eyes widen as he sees what lies inside the box. It’s a beautiful pocket watch, vintage and ornate, with gold inlay on the abstract pattern that gives the resemblance of angel wings. A delicate chain is attached to it, and with the utmost reverence, he lifts the time piece out of the box to examine it closer. “Oh my,” he breathes, stunned, “This is absolutely breathtaking.” 

He glances up to meet Crowley’s eyes and an awestruck smile spreads across his lips. “Thank you,”  he says, unable to help the little wiggle of happiness that overtakes him. “This is stunning! I don’t believe anyone has ever given me something so lovely.” 

“Saw it in a shop window, and thought of you,” Crowley shrugs. “Couldn’t resist.”

“I adore it,” Ezra says as he sets the package aside the works to attach the timepiece to his vest, slipping the watch into the pocket on the side. It’s a perfect fit, and he fingers the chain with an adoring smile. “You are absolutely wonderful,” he says in a soft whisper.

Anthony grins and then moves to open his own present. The paper falls to the floor and in his hands he holds a small, vintage looking photo album. He opens it, and on the first page is a copy of a receipt from the library. He looks at it curiously for a moment, then recognition dawns as he sees the date, the name of the books. 

It’s from the day they met. 

He flips the page quickly, and finds a copy of the photo from Adam’s first birthday. 

“This is… us,” he says breathlessly. He turns another page to see ticket stubs from their trips to various museums, several accompanied by photos Crowley took during the outing. There are a few pressed flowers from the Dahlias and other flowers Crowley has given Ezra for his birthday, as well as the minesweeper rules. Another page has the words H A P P Y and S A M E spelled out in Scrabble pieces. There are other small mementos that reflect their relationship over the past five years on other pages, as well as more photos. Anthony looks up at Ezra, tears in his eyes.

”You kept all this stuff?” He asks, astounded.

“Of course,” Ezra replies softly. He feels tears brimming in his own eyes but tries to quickly blink them away. “I don’t think I ever truly knew happiness until I met you. Adam, too, of course, but I wanted you to see just how much you companionship means to me. How much you mean to me.” 

“And what do I mean to you?” Anthony asks, voice barely above a whisper. 

A moment passes. Then another. Finally, heart in his throat, Ezra manages to whisper, “You are… everything. Everything I never even knew I wanted.” 

“And… what do you want…?” 

Despite his desire, Ezra hesitates. “I’m almost afraid to put a name to it. Because what if you don’t want the same? I don’t think I could bear it; knowing you didn’t-“ he cuts himself off; looks away and shuts his eyes to hold back the tears that threaten to fall. 

He hears a shuffle, the sound of Crowley turning away, the sound of things being placed on the table. Then he feels warm hands on his cheeks, lifting his face to Anthony’s. Ezra’s eyes flutter open at the feeling, and a small breath escapes him at the gentle touch.

“Do you know,” Anthony says softly, but with a small, tearful chuckle, “That a couple weeks ago, Adam had handwriting homework where he had to write a letter to Santa.” Ezra’s eyes widen. Anthony smirks. “Yeah, I know,” he says amused, “But would you like to know what Adam asked for?” 

“What?” Ezra asks tentatively, barely able to focus through the feel of Anthony touching him so softly. It’s like he’s scarcely allowed himself to dream. No, it’s better . He can’t help but to reach up and touch his fingers to the back of Anthony’s hand. 

Crowley inches a little closer to Ezra. “He asked for you and I to fall in love.” 

Ezra exhales as sharply as if he had been punched in the stomach. The tears that had threatened to fall prior now escape and slide down his cheeks as the overwhelming feeling of shock and relief fills him.

“And?” Ezra asks quietly after a moment. “Do you… do you think you… could? Love me?” 

“I already do, Ezra Fell.” 

Four days ago Ezra Fell kicked down the barriers surrounding his heart when he invited Anthony into his home for Christmas. Tonight he steps over the rubble that remains of those walls, and is finally free of the barriers he’d long ago built up around himself. 

“I love you as well, Anthony Crowley.”  

The space between them vanishes as they close the remaining distance between them, and their lips meet in a tender, long-awaited kiss. 

Chapter Text

 

 

Chapter Sixteen: A Normal Wednesday 

Crowley wakes up slowly, gently. His mind is cloudy from pleasant dreams, and he’s warm and content, and has Adam snuggled against him, which makes his heart swell with fatherly joy. A part of him just wants to sink into the warm flannel of Ezra’s sheets and just sleep the day away. 

His eyes snap open as he suddenly recalls just where he is: Ezra’s flat. 

Ezra’s flat, where he and Adam came to celebrate a normal Tuesday. Ezra’s flat, where for the first in a long time, Crowley had felt like he was part of a family. Ezra’s flat, where Ezra had given him the most thoughtful gift. Where they’d confessed their feelings. Where they’d kissed. 

Warmth swells within Crowley’s chest at the memory of Ezra’s lips against his. Of how perfect it had felt to press up against him, to lavish him with kisses and whispers of love and devotion. He recalls the warmth of Ezra’s hands in his hair, holding him close as their kiss deepened, turning into something passionate and all-consuming. 

He recalls how Ezra had pulled away, just barely, wide eyed and flushed, and asked that they stop there, that they not go too fast. That they savor this. 

Crowley knows he would have agreed to anything in that moment. 

Carefully untangling himself from Adam, Crowley slips out of the bed and decides to seek Ezra out. He dresses quickly, running his fingers through his nearly-shoulder-length hair to get out the worst tangles, and slips out of the room. 

He can hear the faint sound of sizzling, can smell something sweet in the air, and so he quietly makes his way to where Ezra is. 

The man is humming softly as he cooks, dressed in khaki slacks and a white button down. Crowley can see from he stands that the pocket watch is attached to Ezra’s belt loop and tucked into his pocket, which makes Crowley grin. 

Sauntering forward, he makes sure to make a small cough to alert Ezra of his presence before stepping up behind him and resting his chin against Ezra’s shoulder. “Morning.” 

He feels instantly how Ezra seems to melt into him with a contented sigh. Emboldened that this isn't too much, Crowley wraps his arms around the other man’s stomach and presses a kiss to Ezra’s cheek. 

“So it wasn’t a dream,” Ezra replies softly, perhaps a little awestruck. “I worried I might have imagined the whole thing.” 

“If you did, then so did I.” Another kiss. 

“Must have been something in the wine, then,” Ezra remarks as he turns and kisses Crowley fully on the lips. 

“Or it really happened and you’ve made me the happiest bastard on the planet.” 

“I rather think I like that outcome best,” Ezra agrees and a smile before he turns back to the stove. “I certainly welcome you hanging all over me, but could you also be a dear and hand me that plate?” He points with his spatula, and Crowley acquiesces, placing a final kiss to Ezra’s cheek before letting go and doing as requested. Ezra takes the plate and places the crepe he just finished making on it. “There we are,” he says, satisfied, then hands it back to Crowley. “On the table, please. Is Adam up yet?” 

“Not yet,” Crowley says as he puts the plate down, then quickly sets the table for three. “Shall I go get him?” 

“In a moment. Still have the tea to make, then we’re ready,” he says as he takes a thing of eggs and bacon out of the warmer and places them on the table as well. Then he turns to pour water into his electric kettle. 

“Well, you do that; I’ll get him.” 

“Actually, wait. Anthony-“ 

Crowley turns. “Yeah?” 

When he sees Ezra, he’s upset to see that the man looks nervous, almost frightened. “Are we going to tell Adam about… I mean- I assume... well, there is something to tell now, isn’t there? Seeing as we are… well, I suppose we’re together, but I don’t want to presume anything. Maybe you didn’t mean it that way. Maybe we should sort out what-“ 

Crowley huffs affectionately and closes the distance between them, silencing Ezra with a kiss. Ezra makes a small sound of protest, as if annoyed at being interrupted, but quickly responds to the kiss, and they lose themselves to it for a moment. Finally, Crowley forces himself to step back. 

“Does that clear some things up?” 

“Perhaps,” Ezra replies, a little dazed as he turns and turns on the kettle. “I suppose I just don’t really know what to expect. I’ve never… done this before.” 

“Done what?”

“Been with someone. Romantically speaking.” 

Crowley blinks. “Wait,” he breathes, “I’m really your first?” 

“Oh, don’t rub it in,” Ezra says, lightly smacking his chest. “But yes. You are. My first… well, everything really. Well,” he corrects, “I did have a bit of a first love of sorts back in my undergraduate days. Lovely boy; one of my only friends I made while there. But he wasn’t interested.”

“His loss,” Crowley murmurs as he wraps his arms around Ezra’s waist. “My gain.” 

“Yes,” Ezra agrees, a small smile on his lips, “I must say I definitely am pleased with this outcome.”

“As am I,” Crowley agrees, and kisses him again. “But,” he says when he breaks away, “As far as sorting out what we are, I would say we’re exactly as we always were, but now I can tell you I love you and when I want to shut you up I can just kiss you.” 

Ezra glares at him but there is no heat in the look. “I may not have much experience in this but I’m quite certain that that is not how-“ Crowley sweeps in and kisses him. 

“Oh, ha ha,” he deadpans when Crowley steps back, looking quite pleased.  “You’re so clever.” 

Crowley smirks, then grows serious and takes Ezra’s hands. “I am serious, though. Let’s not complicate things. We have a good thing going; have done for five years. We’ll just… keep building from there. Together. No use in trying to reinvent the wheel. We can just… be as we were, except now, we- you know- know.” 

“Know what?” Ezra prods, teasing. 

“That we love each other.” They kiss. “But-“ he breaks away, “Please do not call me your boyfriend. We aren’t twelve.”

Despite himself, Ezra laughs. “No, I rather think we’re a bit past that term. Partners, I suppose?”

Crowley shrugs but his gaze is content and satisfied. “Works for me.” Unable to help themselves, they kiss one last time, just as the kettle kicks off. “Shit. Right. Adam. Should go get him.”

“That might be wise, yes.” 

“Oh-“ Crowley stops, “Let’s wait a couple weeks before we tell him. If we tell him today, he might start to think Santa Claus is real, and I’ll have a time trying to convince him that no , Dad just snooped through your things and read your letter, told Ezra about it, and we decided to give the whole dating thing a go.” 

“Wai- you snooped?!” Ezra gasps, turning to stare accusingly at Anthony. 

“He wouldn’t tell me!” Anthony protests. “I wanted to know why he refused to tell me what he was asking for!” 

“So you snooped through your son’s homework? You are twelve!” 

“Well, it worked out for the best, didn’t it?” Anthony retorts, his flustered state causing his lisp to become more pronounced. 

“It did, rather,” Ezra says softly, stepping up to Crowley and lifting a hand to cup his cheek. Anthony rests against the touch for a moment, then kisses Ezra’s palm, then moves to capture his lips once more. It starts out chaste, but a flick of Anthony’s tongue against Ezra’s parted lips quickly spurs things on, and they find themselves lost in a passionate embrace. 

Finally, with a small groan, Ezra pulls away. Breathless, they both stand there for a moment, eyes locked as they catch their breath. 

“Adam,” Ezra says at length, cheeks flushed and lips bruised. “You should… food is getting cold..” 

“Yeah,” Anthony agrees, stepping away. He instantly wants nothing more than to take Ezra back into his arms. “I’ll just…” 

He hesitates a moment, then steps forward for one last kiss. Before things can escalate again, he pulls away, then vanishes back to the guest room. Unable to help himself, Ezra watches Anthony slink away, then dazedly cups his hands over his mouth and lets out the smallest, sweetest giggle. 

< > 

Breakfast is quiet, but enjoyable. Adam is decidedly not a happy person upon first waking up, though the crepes certainly seem to brighten his demeanor, as does seeing Ezra first thing. 

They eat, then Crowley sends Adam to the guest room to change while he and Ezra clean up. They use the few minutes to chat a little further about them, and the fact that there’s anything to talk about at all makes Ezra a little dizzy with happiness. 

To think, he would have missed this if he’d simply done what his family wanted and gone to the cottage. He’s more than grateful that he rebelled, if this is the reward for such behavior. 

They kiss again, seemingly drawn to one another now that they know it’s allowed, that the other wants it just as much, and they only just manage to break away before Adam comes bounding into the room, a small box in his hands. 

“I got you a normal Wednesday present!” He exclaims loudly. Ezra looks from the box to Crowley, who has to look away to hide the smile spreading across his lips. 

“You scoundrel,” he murmurs to Crowley as he steps forward to take the gift. 

“I buyed it myself,” Adam declares proudly. 

“I’m sure I’m going to love it,” Ezra assures him as he opens the little box, laughing aloud when he sees a green and tan bow tie. 

“Oh, darling, it’s lovely!” He exclaims, meaning it entirely. He pulls it out of the box to examine it closer, then looks to Adam who is holding a matching bow tie, though this one is substantially smaller. 

“We can match!” Adam declares proudly, then runs to his father who rolls his eyes affectionately and kneels down to clip the little tie onto Adam’s button down shirt. 

Placing the box down, Ezra quickly does his own bow tie, then looks to the boy with hands outstretched. “Well?” 

“We match!” Adam exclaims again, then runs to Ezra, who swoops him up into a hug. 

“And there’s no one I’d rather match with than you,” he tells Adam as Crowley pulls out his phone. 

“Hey, nerds,” he says, causing both to look over. He snaps a picture, then tucks his phone away. 

Ezra makes a face at him, then looks to Adam. “I actually have something for you as well.” 

“I get a normal Wednesday gift too?!” 

“Of course you do!” Ezra declares as he puts Adam down. “Let me grab it.” He disappears for a moment, then returns with a small box. He glances nervously from Adam to Anthony, wringing his hands together as Adam opens the box, eyes widening as he lets out an excited shout. 

“DAD!!” 

Crowley leans forward, then glances up in surprise at Ezra. In the box is a fountain pen, much like the one Adam often asks to use. 

Crowley pulls Ezra a step aside. “You didn’t buy him an actual-“ 

Oh heavens, no!” Ezra whispers. “It’s a knock off. Very inexpensive. Don’t worry.” He then turns his attention back to Adam, smiling broadly. “I thought you were doing so well in school you could have your own pen,” he explains, “But it’s a special pen, remember? So it can only be used for special things.” 

“I ‘member,” Adam says, barely listening as he holds the pen up to his face, inspecting it closely. “Dad! I have a pen and a tie like Ezwa!” 

Crowley sighs dramatically. “You really are turning my son into a nerd.” 

“I am turning your son into a cultured and intelligent individual. And there’s nothing wrong with nerds.” 

“Never said there was,” Crowley remarks playfully as he squats back down on lanky legs to look at the pen with Adam. “Would you look at that,” he remarks, “You’re just a fancy gentleman now, aren’t you?” 

“Uh huh!” 

“I hope your not too fancy to go to the orphanage and then to our secret place we talked about.” 

Adam gasps excitedly. “No!” 

“Then go put on your shoes and coat. We’ll leave in a bit. Did you ask him yet?” 

Adam shakes his head, then puts the pen back and runs to Ezra. “Will you go to the orphanage and then to our super secret place with us please, Ezwa, please!” 

“Of course I will,” Ezra replies. “It wouldn’t be a Normal Wednesday without a few surprises, would it?” 

< > 

While Anthony and Adam pack up, Ezra goes downstairs and rummages through the children’s section of the library, pulling out a few books that he has duplicates of and marking them down to remove them from the inventory on his computer later. Eventually, the Crowley’s come downstairs, and they make their way to the orphanage. 

Despite only being a three year tradition, the orphanage is expecting them. They have a small group of volunteers who come each year to give gifts and play with the children, and so Adam falls right into the swing of things, passing out the gifts and books Ezra has pulled and starts playing with kids excitedly. 

His excitement, and that of the other children, is palpable, and Anthony and Ezra watch the heartwarming display from the corner. 

“He’s such a sweetheart,” Ezra remarks softly as Adam excitedly plays with a little girl who is hugging the doll he’d selected. 

“I blame you for that,” Anthony remarks, just as softly. “All that goodness and kindness you always preach around him.” 

“I’m not the one who started a tradition of giving presents to orphans,” Ezra says primly. “I’m afraid that’s all on you.” 

“Yes, but it’s charity born out of spite ,” Anthony explains. “A middle finger to so-called holier-than-thou pricks who would probably look at these kids and sneer.” 

“Well, whatever the motivation,” Ezra says softly, “I’m glad I get to be a part of it.” 

He glances at Anthony out of the corner of his eye. His sunglasses obscure his eyes, but he’s got the faintest smile spreading across his lips. 

“Me too.” 

< >

An hour later, the trio leaves, and Adam can hardly sit still for his excitement at what is to come next. Ezra has no idea- they’ve kept it secret and been extremely vague, and Ezra can’t help feel a flutter of excitement at what might be in store. It’s fun, being a part of the Crowley’s holiday traditions, and Ezra hopes that he can do this again next year. And the year after. 

It certainly beats what he could have been doing at this moment. 

Eventually they park near Hyde Park and Anthony pulls a small duffel bag out of the back of the car. He glances to Adam who is bouncing excitedly, clutching Dog to his chest as he nearly bubbles over in excitement. 

“Okay,” Anthony says quickly, “Adam, you know the rules, so why don’t you tell Ezra?” 

Adam beams. Turning to Ezra, he counts the rules off, and Ezra finds it hard to focus on what he’s saying for how cute it sounds when he says it. R’s still pose a problem, and it’s adorable. 

“One,” Adam says, holding up his pointer finger, “Do everything Dad says. Two. Be as little as possible so no one sees you. Three. Be quiet. Four. Be weady to wun when Dad says so.” 

“Are we committing a crime?” Ezra asks, aghast as he follows Anthony and Ezra, as they move quickly, quietly, and just a little suspiciously. 

“Technically,” Anthony admits, causing Ezra to sputter. Anthony stops. “It’s fine. Just a little trespassing. Come on. Trust me.”

Ezra stares for a long moment, uncertain. He’s never committed a crime, not even jaywalking, but something about Anthony’s gaze, Adam’s excitement, and the love he feels for both of them spurs him forward. He doesn’t think Anthony will intentionally steer him wrong. 

They sneak around until finally they reach an ice rink. It’s empty; closed for the holiday. Sitting down on a bench nearby, Anthony dumps out the contents of the bag: three sets of ice skates. He hands Adam the smallest pair, and the boy quickly tugs off his boots and begins tugging the skates on, then holds his foot out for Anthony to tie the strings. When he’s done he glances to Ezra. “Well?” 

“We’re trespassing to go ice skating?” 

“Yep. Whole rink to ourselves. We got about forty five minutes before someone comes by to check on things. You in?” 

Ezra hesitates only a moment, then sits down and tugs off his shoes. The skates are a bit big, but Anthony has extra socks to make up for that, and after a couple minutes they’re ready to go. Adam is wobbly and clumsy but confident, and he slides into the ice with a yelp of excitement. Anthony shushes him, then turns to look at Ezra. 

“Coming?” 

Ezra looks down at the skates and then up to Anthony. “I’ve never skated before.” 

Anthony holds out a hand, smirking. “Then I guess you’ll just have to hang onto me the whole time.”

Ezra’s face flushes in a way that has nothing to do with the cold, stands unsteadily, and grabs Anthony’s hand. They make their way slowly onto the ice. Adam is playing a game with Dog, where he throws the poor stuffed toy as far as he can, then skates and falls onto his stomach to slide further than where the toy landed. He’s laughing and covered in flakes of ice, and seems to be having the best time of his life. 

On the other side of the rink, Anthony and Ezra move slowly, holding hands as Anthony shows Ezra the ropes. He’s stiff and fumbles a little but manages to stay upright. After some time has passed he grows a little more comfortable on the ice, and his grip on Anthony’s hand loosens from a terrified death grip to a gentle and affectionate hand-hold. 

“So you break into Hyde Park to skate on Christmas Day after giving gifts to orphans,” Ezra remarks incredulously. 

“It’s all about balance,” Anthony shrugs. “Doing a little good then causing a little mischief. And you can’t deny this is fun. Being here when we aren’t supposed to be? Having the whole rink to ourselves?”

“It is rather exciting,” Ezra confesses. 

“All the more exciting because you’re here,” Anthony says, slowing to a stop and stopping Ezra as well. They regard each other for a moment, and Anthony leans in for a kiss. Gasping, something catches Ezra’s attention and he leans back. 

“I see someone!”

Anthony turns, and sure enough, in the distance is a security guard, though he doesn’t appear to have noticed them. He makes a small whistling sound to catch Adam’s attention. The boy looks up, understands, and grabs Dog. The three rush to the bench, yank off their skates, grab their shoes, and begin running back to the car. At this point the officer seems to notice them, and begins shouting for them to stop, but they pay him no heed. Once inside the Bentley, Anthony turns up the heat, and they rush back to the library, full of giddiness and delight. 

<> 

Once inside Ezra’s flat, Adam pulls off his wet socks and then runs to the couch, pulling off the blanket draped over the back and curling up with it for warmth. Anthony and Ezra follow suit and remove their socks as well before Ezra instructs Anthony to start a fire in the fireplace. He moves into the kitchen to make some hot cocoa. 

By the time he makes it back, Adam is out, exhausted from the day’s activities. Ezra joins Anthony in front of the fire. He grabs a second blanket and drapes it over Anthony, who then holds it up for Ezra to join him. He does, pulling the other end of the blanket around his shoulder as they warm up together.  

Quietly, they sit side by side and sip their cocoa. Ezra can feel the warmth of Anthony’s arm pressed against his, and that closeness fills him with a heat that has nothing to do with the fire blazing before them. 

“This day has been quite exciting,” he whispers after a while. 

Anthony hums in agreement. He seems utterly content; eyes closed and a serene look of relaxed peace on his face. “Best normal Wednesday I’ve ever had.” He pauses and then adds softly, “Best Christmas, even. Best day, now I think of it.” 

“Agreed,” Ezra breathes, realizing it’s true. The past twenty four hours have been amazing, even with a little trespassing involved. He can’t remember a time when he was this happy, and he does his best to commit the feeling to memory. He never wants to forget this moment. 

He feels something brush against the hand not holding his mug. He glances down to see Anthony has draped his hand over Ezra’s, squeezing softly. Ezra moves his hand so they press palm to palm, and entwines their fingers together. Anthony sighs contentedly, and presses his forehead to Ezra’s shoulder. 

“I’m glad I finally told you,” he murmurs. “Been driving me mad- wondering if you could ever…” 

“I do,” Ezra whispers. “Have for quite a while, in fact.” 

Crowley sits up and looks at Ezra. He’s still wearing his sunglasses; he hadn’t really thought to take them off- more out of habit than anything, and Ezra sets his mug aside in favor of lifting a hand to remove them so he can see Anthony’s eyes. “Your eyes are so beautiful,” he whispers, glad to be able to finally say it. “I’ve been enamoured with them since the first time I saw them.” 

“You’re going to be a romantic, aren’t you,” Crowley groans, but there’s a softness to it, an appreciation and affection that hides the years of being ridiculed for the very thing Ezra finds beautiful. 

“My dear, you have absolutely no room to talk, but yes. I have over five years of pent of affection to give to you, and you’re just going to have to endure it.” 

“If I must,” Crowley sighs dramatically, but he’s smiling, and there’s a sparkle in his eyes. 

He looks happy; just how Ezra feels. 

Their gazes meet, and their lips follow suit. 

Chapter Text


 

 

 

Chapter Seventeen: New Year’s Eve 

Crowley yanks a basket from the stand and he and Adam make their way to the snack aisle of the grocery store. Adam is happily declaring aloud all the treats he wants to get, and Crowley is biting back a laugh at how the kid is naming practically every single bit of junk food he’s ever encountered. 

“How about we each pick three things, huh?” He suggests. 

“Four?” Adam bargains. 

“Two.” 

“Dad!” 

“What?” Crowley shrugs as he steers his son down an aisle to a selection of crisps. “Three is a fair amount.”

“Fine,” Adam relents, overeggageraring the world-weary sigh that follows as he stretches on his tip toes to grab a bag of Walkers Cheese and Onion crisps. Crowley smirks. Clearly this kid managed to inherit his flare for the dramatic. He reaches out and grabs the Prawn Cocktail flavor for himself and tosses both in the basket hanging from his arm. 

“Come on,” he says, nudging Adam along. They grab more snacks, then Crowley lets Adam pay the cashier since no one is in line behind them. Adam happily stretches up to hand his father’s money over to the young girl who smiles sweetly at the duo, then they retreat to the Bentley. 

“What time is Ezwa coming over?” Adam asks as he grabs Dog from the floor of the car and hugs him. 

“He’s coming at nine,” Crowley answers as he drives toward their flat. 

“What time is it?” 

Anthony twists his arm behind him to hand Adam his cellphone. “You tell me, kid.” 

Adam studies the numbers for a long moment then answers, “It’s two-three-zero.” 

“So two-thirty,” Crowley explains. “If he’s coming at nine and it’s only two-thirty, that means we have to wait six and one half hours.” 

SIX HOURS?!” Adam cries, utterly forlorn by the news. “Dad, that’s forever!” 

“We have plenty to do to keep us busy,” Crowley says to his son, but in his heart he shares the boy’s pain. He wants nothing more than to see Ezra, to sit close to him and watch the awful New Year’s Eve program until Adam undoubtedly falls asleep. They’ll tuck him into bed, and then bring in the New Year together, with perhaps some wine and a chaste celebratory kiss that, if all goes according to plan, won’t stay chaste for long- 

“-and I’m gonna stay up and watch the ball drop!” 

“You do that, kid,” Crowley says as he forces himself to stop thinking about how desperately he wants to kiss Ezra. It was a problem before they confessed their feelings, but now it’s all he can focus on, and he knows his mind is going to get him in trouble one of these days. 

Good thing I like trouble. 

< > 

There’s a knock on the door at 8:59. Adam, who has been asking every five minutes for the past four hours if it’s almost time for Ezra to come, races to the door and throws it open. 

“Ezwa!” 

“Adam, my darling boy!” Ezra declares as he scoops up Adam, carefully juggling the boy and a bottle of champagne as he enters. Crowley walks out a moment later and rolls his eyes. 

“At least let him take his jacket off, kid,” he says before looking at Ezra with undisguised affection. “You’d think we didn’t just see you yesterday.” 

Stepping forward, Crowley takes the bottle from Ezra, purposely brushing his fingers over the librarian’s quickly before moving away. Ezra sharply inhales at that, and looks longingly at Anthony for a long moment before turning his attention back to Adam, reaching up to tickle him. “I’m glad you’re so excited,” he teases the boy, “It’s nice to know someone is eager for me to be here.” He throws a glance back to Anthony, playful and almost smug, and delights in how Anthony makes a face at him before winking and turning away. 

Adam scrambles out of Ezra’s arms and runs toward the kitchen. “We got cwisps, and chocolate and juice and-“ he lists off the snacks with the same excitement that he does most things, and Ezra listens with rapt attention as Adam grabs a biscuit and munches on it happily. 

“You are certainly prepared,” Ezra compliments the boy, who radiates excitement in a way his father knows will dwindle and diminish in a couple hours, despite Adam’s best efforts. 

True enough, by 10:45 Adam can barely keep his eyes open. He’s snuggled between Ezra and Anthony on the couch, holding a cup of sparkling grape juice in an effort to be like the adults who are currently sipping champagne. Adam’s little head sways and dips heavily as he fights sleep, focusing with an intense amount of concentration on keeping his eyes open. Finally, the battle is too much, and his head lobs to the side and he sags against Ezra’s side, asleep. 

Ezra clears his throat softly to get Anthony’s attention, and he looks over with a grin at the sight of his son. Carefully, he extracts the cup of grape juice and places it on the coffee table, then lifts a finger to his lips to inform Ezra to keep quiet a bit longer. Nodding, Ezra lightly runs his fingers through Adam’s hair soothingly as Anthony turns the Telly down. They wait for a couple minutes, making sure Adam is down for the night, then carefully Anthony stands up and lifts the boy into his arms. Adam is as limp as a rag doll, and remains undisturbed as he’s moved. Anthony motions for Ezra to hand him Dog, who’s lying on the floor at their feet, and he does so, before Anthony mouths, “I’ll be right back,” and slips out of the room. 

A couple minutes later he returns and promptly flops down onto the couch, letting his head land on the cushion of Ezra’s thighs. The man in question looks down at where Anthony is lying. 

“Do I make for a comfortable pillow?” He asks with amusement, his hand moving without his permission to begin brushing through Anthony’s hair. 

“The best,” Anthony remarks softly. “Mmm, that’s nice, angel.” 

“You know, I still don’t understand why you call me that.” 

“Because the night we met I was at my wits end. I had no idea what the hell I was doing and I was driving around aimlessly looking for an answer. I saw your library and just… stopped. I needed help, and there you didn’t turn me away. My own personal guardian angel.” He lifts his hand to brush his fingers against Ezra’s pink cheeks, “And because it always makes you blush.” 

Ezra catches Anthony’s hand in his other one; holds it as he brushes their fingers together. 

“I can stop,” Anthony murmurs, “If you want.” 

Ezra gives him a sharp, disapproving look. “Don’t you dare.” 

A smile tugs across Anthony’s lips and he pulls Ezra’s hand down to press a kiss to his knuckles. They fall into silence for a few minutes, simply relishing the togetherness between them. Eventually, Anthony presses another kiss to Ezra’s hand. 

“Adam nearly drove me mad today,” he says softly, peppering kisses in between every few words, “Asking when you were coming over.” Another kiss. “Every five minutes, ‘Dad how soon ‘til Ezwa comes’?” Another kiss. “He’s quite fond of you.” 

Ezra looks down at Anthony, and brushes the hand in his hair over to caress his forehead, running his fingers along Anthony’s eyebrows and gazing at amber eyes full of love. “I’m fond of him too.” 

Another kiss to Ezra’s hand. “I’m fond of you as well, you know.” 

Ezra smiles. It’s strange, to be so happily in love. To know that love is returned. For so long he’d been convinced that he would never know love like this; had nearly counted on it. Now he can’t imagine his life without the rapid-pace beating of his heart every time he looks at Anthony. Can’t imagine the lonely nights he used as a shield to keep himself from harm anymore. Now nights without Anthony nearby seem empty in a way that leaves Ezra aching. 

To think he might have denied himself this pure and simple joy. To think he once thought himself unloveable. 

But he looks at Anthony now, and knows better. 

“I’m very fond of you as well,” Ezra replies softly, letting his fingers trail down the curve of Anthony’s nose before brushing over his lips. Just as he’d kissed the other hand, Anthony purses his lips to kiss the fingertips that brush over him now, and then promptly sits up, twisting to face Ezra and gently pressing a hand to his chest to make Ezra fall back against the arm of the couch. Anthony follows him, hovering over him and watches for a moment for any word of disapproval. 

Ezra decides he’s waited long enough and pulls Anthony to him, their lips meeting in a heated exchange. 

Anthony groans against him, lips sliding against Ezra’s in the most sinfully delicious way possible. Anthony’s tongue follows, brushing against Ezra’s lips, and he promptly parts them to allow Anthony to brush the tip of his tongue against his own. They trade back and forth for a bit before teeth come into play, and Anthony presses closer to Ezra as his teeth catch his bottom lip and tugs gently, causing a gasp to escape the blond. 

He feels Anthony smile against him, and decides that two can tease, and so tilts his head in the way he’s read about in romance novels, and sucks Anthony’s bottom lip between his teeth, reveling in the gasp that he swallows a moment later. 

They stay that way for some time, a slow movement of lips and teeth and tongues lazily brushing together as Anthony hovers over Ezra. Eventually he settles against him, one arm bracing himself on the arm of the couch while the other cups Ezra’s cheek. He groans again as Ezra’s hands slide to wrap around his waist, tugging him closer so that they’re pressed together and their kiss deepens into something heated and eager. 

Eventually they part, Anthony’s head falling to rest against Ezra’s shoulder, where he takes a moment to catch his breath. Ezra is breathing just as heavily, heart pounding hard in his chest as he tries to catch his breath. 

On the television, people celebrate the new year with cheers and shouts and impulsive kisses. Anthony lifts his head and looks over at the television, then sits back and looks at Erza. “Happy New Year,” he says as he holds out his hand. Ezra takes it and tugs Anthony back down for another kiss, this one soft and gentle, without any heat the prior kiss had stirred up between them. 

“I dare say it’s going to be a very good year,” Ezra agrees, lips brushing against Anthony’s, “If this is how it is to begin.” 

Anthony grins, and they don’t speak again for some time. 

Chapter Text

 

 

Chapter Eighteen: Bad News, Good News 

Crowley is extremely biased, but he is convinced Adam is the brightest and most well-adjusted child he’s ever encountered. Adam rarely gets in trouble, with the exception of perhaps too much talking when he’s meant to be napping at school, and the occasional childish mood swing can make him produce some impressive dramatics, but those episodes are blessedly few and far between. In fact, Crowley has received numerous notes from Adam’s teacher praising him for his intelligence, manners, and excitement to always help others. 

So when he listens to the voicemail Ms. Rizvi left on his phone on the first day back from the Christmas holiday, requesting a parent teacher conference to discuss Adam’s schoolwork, Crowley is more than a little perplexed. Usually notes of praise suffice. Parent-teacher meetings are for those who are in trouble. 

Nervous about what might be in store, he arranges to meet with the teacher that afternoon. He’d rather not put this off, and then waits anxiously for the rest of the day. Finally, it’s time to leave and he speeds to the school. 

When he arrives at the classroom, he sees Adam sitting at his seat reading a book from the library. Crowley knocks on the door and both Adam and his teacher look up; the former bounds over to Crowley as he enters, hugging his legs and chatting happily about his day. 

Crowley listens, engaged in his son’s excitement, then when Adam has to stop long enough to take a breath, Crowley interrupts. 

“I need to talk to Ms. Rivzi, kid. Why don’t you go play on the playground for a bit, okay?” 

Adam tenses at that. He looks between his teacher and his father. “Am I in twouble?” 

“Nah,” Crowley assures him. “Don’t worry.” 

That seems to settle Adam and he nods, grabs his book from the library and runs out the door.

“Don’t run!” Crowley yells lazily after him. Once the sound of squeaky trainers vanish from the hallway, Crowley turns back to the woman. “He’s not in trouble, is he?” 

“Oh, goodness no,” Ms. Rivzi assures him. She’s a young woman, probably in her early thirties, dressed in a dark skinny jeans, a flowery button up, and a mauve headscarf. She adjusts her thick-rimmed glasses and motions for Crowley to take a seat. “He’s a very lovely boy. One of the best, really.” She gives a soft smile, “And I’m not just saying that to placate you. I really wish I could have a room full of Adam’s.” 

Crowley tries not to grin like a fool as he sits, crossing one lanky leg over the other. “Well. Glad to know I’m not a complete waste at this whole parenting thing.” 

“Definitely not,” she agrees, then gets down to business. “I’m sure you’re wondering what I wanted to speak to you about.”

“Generally.” 

She nods and pulls out a sheet of paper Crowley instantly recognizes. “I wouldn’t normally have said anything, but Adam made quite a fuss about the fact that this was supposed to be a secret, and that he couldn’t tell you. While I typically would adhere to that, I get it might be important to let you know that your son has some specific… expectations involving you and someone named Ezra.” 

She hands him the letter to Santa and Crowley has to resist the urge to laugh. 

“He speaks of this Ezra often,” Ms. Rivzi continues. “I assumed originally that perhaps he was someone you were seeing. But then he turned in that, and I realized that clearly wasn’t the case, and he might be getting his hopes up for something that isn’t… well, going to happen. I wanted to let you know so you could set the record straight, as it were.”

Crowley just studies the paper, thinking about how this little piece of paper had helped spur him into action. How it had been the way he’d admitted his feelings to Ezra. 

“Ezra is a friend of mine,” Crowley remarks softly. It doesn’t feel right, calling him that, not anymore, because he’s so much more than that now. “He’s been a part of Adam’s life since- well since pretty much the day I got custody of him. We, uh... very recently began dating,” Crowley says, and he can’t help the satisfied smirk that forms. “Over the holiday, in fact. We’re planning to tell him soon, once we sort of… settle into things.” 

“Well,” Ms. Rivzi says with a grin as she leans back in her seat. “Seems I was worried for nothing. I hope you don’t mind my getting involved.” 

“Nah,” Crowley shrugs. “I’m glad he has a teacher who cares enough to make sure he’s not gonna get his heart broken.” He pauses then waves the paper. “By the by- I checked his homework that night, so I knew what he asked for. This letter proved to be a rather effective kick in the rear.” He gives her a pointed look. “But he doesn’t get to know that.” 

She laughs at that. “My lips are sealed.” She stands then, and reaches out to shake Crowley’s hand. “Well. I’m glad things have worked out. The way he speaks of you, and of Ezra- he’s absolutely crazy about you both. I’m glad he’s getting his wish.” 

“Me too,” Crowley says. 

< > 

“So I’m not in twouble?” Adam asks as they drive home from school. 

“Yep,” Crowley answers simply. “You’ve been awful. Absolutely horrible. You’re grounded for a million years.”

“What!” 

“Two million years.” 

Dad!”

“What?” 

“Can you even count to a million?” 

“Yeah. Wanna see? One… two… three… four…” 

Adam laughs. “You count too slow!” 

“Five… six… seven-eight-nine-ten, a million!”

“That’s not what comes after ten!”

“Then what does, Mr. Smarty Pants?” 

“Eleven!” 

“Are you sure?” Crowley teases as he makes a turn.

“Yes, Dad,” Adam says, adorably exasperated. “I can count to 40. I know what comes next.” 

“Well, aren’t you brilliant?” 

“Yep!” 

They arrive at the nursery, and Adam enters, letting his fingers gently brush over some of the leaves as he walks by. He greets his favorites, and then goes to see what Newt is doing. Newt pulls the boy onto his lap to explain that he’s doing bookkeeping, and because Adam is so good at counting to forty, he offers to help. 

Crowley leaves them to it, and moves toward the small office to sit down and relax for a moment. Propping his feet up on the desk, he thinks for a long moment, then pulls out his phone. 

Crowley: hey. got a sec?

Ezra: For you, always. 

Crowley smiles at that, knowing all too well he’s a lovesick fool. 

Crowley: normally i’d call about something like this but little ears are close by. i had a parent teacher conference today. apparently adam has been talking about you A LOT. 

Ezra: Oh dear. I do hope he didn’t get in trouble. 

Crowley: nah his teacher just wanted to make sure he wasn’t getting the wrong idea of things. That dumb santa paper came back to haunt me. 

Ezra: It’s hardly dumb! He worked hard on that piece! And besides… 

Crowley: besides…? 

Ezra: It’s because of that paper that we’re together. I almost want it so I can frame it. 

Crowley laughs softly at that. He’d thought the same thing. 

Crowley: anyway. Figure with that whole conversation we might as well just tell him since apparently it’s all he can talk about. 

Ezra: If you think it’s best. I defer to you on this decision. Though I will say I’m terribly glad he’s going to find out. 

Ezra: I’m glad there is *something* for him to find out about. 

Crowley: ditto. 

Crowley: okay back to work. Talk later to decide when/how to tell him? 

Ezra:  Hunky-dory. 

Ezra: I love you. 

Oh angel, Crowley sighs lovingly. 

Crowley: love you too 

Crowley lets his gaze linger over the last text from Ezra. The fact that they can say it, that they feel this way for each other, is something Crowley never expected to experience. He’d figured long ago that he was unloveable, especially after being kicked out of the church he’d tried so hard to fit into. No one had been willing to put up with him, with his strangeness and his questions. Not until Adam, though Adam was hard pressed to find anything he didn’t love (vegetables were on the list, as was the color yellow for some strange reason). But Crowley wanted to ensure he was worthy of that love. That Adam could look back one day and know without a doubt his father had done everything possible to give him a good life. 

But then he’d met Ezra. Ezra, who is nervous and awkward and an absolute dork. Ezra, who loves books more than people, but still manages to be kind and gracious and loving to everyone he meets. 

He doesn’t know how he ended up with someone so incredible, but it’s the one thing he chooses not to question. He doesn’t need the answer, not when he can simply look into Ezra’s eyes and see all the love and affection for him there. It doesn’t make sense, really, but the best things in his life don’t. 

They’ll tell Adam Friday night at dinner. 

He can’t wait to see his son’s face. 

< > 

Crowley orders takeaway and they pick it up on the way to the library. Anathema is just leaving as they enter, remarking on how she has a date. Crowley wishes her luck, and they enter, Adam bounding to Ezra happily before running upstairs. 

Crowley follows at a lazy pace, sauntering up to the librarian and wrapping his free arm lightly around his waist and pressing a soft kiss to his lips. He feels Ezra melt against him, feels a smile forming against his own lips, and it’s the hardest things he’s ever done to pull away. 

“Hello there,” Ezra breathes. 

“Hi,” Anthony drawls. “You ready?” 

Ezra steps away to lock the library door. “I am.” 

They share another quick kiss when Ezra returns, and then head upstairs. 

Dinner progresses as normal. Eating together is a normal scenario for the trio, one that Adam loves. He chatters away, then plays with Dog while Ezra and Anthony clean up and quietly go over their plan. After dinner their activities vary. Sometimes they go out; sometimes they put a movie on for Adam and talk while he plays. Tonight however, Adam watches as his father and Ezra lead him to the couch and instruct him to sit. He does so nervously, staring at the adults with a look of worry. His dad has had a couple Serious Talks with him before, and they always start with a pointed and mildly vague suggestion that Adam “take a seat.” 

He holds Dog tightly and watches as his dad and Ezra sit across from him. 

“So,” Crowley begins with a lazy drawl, “We have to tell you something.” 

Adam looks between the two of them with wide-eyed uncertainty. 

“There’s been a slight change of plans,” his dad continues, “Unfortunately you won’t be able to go with us to dinner next Friday.” 

The look of utter heartbreak on Adam’s face makes Crowley’s own heart crack in his chest. 

“Why?” Adam sniffs softly. He likes their routine; he doesn’t see why it has to change.

“Well,” Crowley explains, equally wanting to draw it out for the excitement he expects will come, but also hating to see his son so upset. “Because Ezra and I are going to have dinner together.” 

The implication flies right over the five year old’s head. “Why don’t I get to go?” He pouts. 

“Because,” Ezra says softly, leaning forward and holding out his hand for Adam to take. He does so, giving his father a glare before turning his attention back to Ezra. “Well, your father and I are going to go on a date.” 

Adam blinks. “What’s a date?” 

“It’s something grown ups do when they…” Ezra pauses for a moment, choosing his words wisely. “Well, for many grown ups it depends, but for your father and I, it’s because we love each other, and want to spend some time together.” 

Slowly Adam seems to understand and he gasps loudly, looking from Ezra to his father as a big grin forms over his face. “Are you boyfwends?!” 

Crowley groans and Ezra laughs at the term. “Yes, kid,” Crowley sighs. “We’re boyfriends.” 

“Pepp-ah says that she’s never gonna have a boyfwend because she doesn’t want to be a part of the pate-we-ah-key. But I want you two to be boyfriends,” he decides with stern resolution, then thinks of something and gasps excitedly, “Are you gonna get mawwied?!”

Both Ezra and Anthony stiffen at the question. It’s not been discussed, but both would be lying if they said they hadn’t thought of it. With a wary glance at the other, slowly Anthony simply smirks and shrugs in a way that seems to say I’m in. Ezra smiles softly and looks back at Adam. “Maybe someday,” he says, startling when Adam cheers. 

“Whoa, whoa, slow down Adam,” Crowley says quickly. “It’s not gonna happen anytime soon, okay? We’re gonna be-“ he cringes- “Boyfriends for a while first, yeah? And furthermore, do you even know what the patriarchy is?” 

“No,” Adam says simply. 

“Oh, boy,” Crowley sighs, head falling into his open palm. “I’m giving that one to Anathema.” 

“Might be best,” Ezra murmurs in agreement.

After that, they talk a bit more. Adam is thoroughly entranced by the idea of Ezra and his father being in love, and asks them adorably childlike questions like when did you know you loved each other? And do you love Dad more than books? or Dad, do you love Ezwa more than your plants? 

They answer his questions indulgently as he thinks of more things that they might possibly love more than each other, and is pleased each time they declare they love the other more than whatever Adam can come up with. He follows that up with questions about their date. What are they going to do and where will they go and will they take turns picking things to do and will Adam be allowed to go with them sometimes still. 

“Of course you can go with us,” Ezra soothes his worries instantly. “It’s just that sometimes we will go by ourselves, but that doesn’t mean we don’t want you with us, all right?” 

“Okay,” Adam agrees. After a moment, he seems to grow thoughtful, then he looks up and asks, “Are you gonna be like the pwince and pwincess in my book and hold hands and kiss?” 

Dibs on being the princess,” Crowley mutters under his breath as Ezra pointedly ignores him and answers Adam.

“Yes, dear boy. I imagine we will.” 

Adam giggles. “Eww!” 

“Eww?!” Crowley cries playfully, standing up and scooping a squirming and flailing Adam into his arms. “I’ll show you eww!” And presses a big kiss on the boy’s cheek. 

Ezra laughs and watches as his family playfully battles in his living room, a place that once had been deafeningly silent, but now rings with the sounds of laughter and joy. As Crowley relentlessly tickles a squealing Adam, it dawns on Ezra that for the first time in a long time, he finds himself utterly content. He is madly in love, and is equally loved in return. He has a sort-of-son who looks at him at times with such adoration and fascination that it leaves him breathless. He has joy and silliness and comfort and laughter and warmth, and he has things he never thought he’d ever see directed at him. Like the sly, desirous look he saw on Crowley’s face earlier that evening that seemed to say, “I want you.” It’s a look and a feeling Ezra wants nothing more than to give all of himself to. 

And he will, he thinks, in time. Ezra wants to give Anthony all of him, and he wants all of Anthony in return. They can share their baggage, their pain. They can share the joy of love, and they can share the delight of watching Adam grow into a fine young man. 

He’s brought out of his thoughts as Adam crawls into his lap, laughing and begging Ezra to save him from his father’s tickling clutches. 

Ezra takes a moment to smile up at Crowley, wink, and then proceed to tickle Adam himself. Adam screeches in laughter, and unable to help himself, Ezra laughs too. 

This isn’t the life he ever expected to have, but now that he has it, he’s never going to let it go. 

Chapter Text

 

 

Chapter Nineteen: Out 

It’s a nice day. The library is closed on Sunday’s, and Ezra is enjoying the quiet of the morning to indulge in a cup of tea and a good book before Adam and Anthony arrive later for their first official outing with Adam aware of their relationship. The thought brings a smile to Ezra’s face. He can envision it now: they’re going to the cinema to watch some movie Adam wants to see. Ezra hardly cares. All he can think about is going out on the town, holding Anthony’s hand as they walk down the street, Adam fussing because he wants to hold both their hands too. They’ll watch the movie then go for a walk in the park, and as Adam runs ahead as he is wont to do, Anthony will wrap his arm around Ezra’s waist and tug him close, pressing a kiss to his cheek before having to yell at Adam for running too far ahead. 

It’s so utterly pastoral and chaste and simple, but it’s the simple things like this Ezra never knew he craved so deeply until he’d been presented with them as options. Who knew the thought of holding someone’s hand could fill him with such utter delight? 

(He doesn’t let himself think of what else those hands might do in the future.) 

He’s so wrapped up in his thoughts that he nearly doesn’t hear the buzzer alerting him that someone is trying to reach him from the library entrance outside. Frowning, he looks at the pocket watch Anthony has given him. It’s early yet, so he knows it isn’t them. It could be a teenager messing around and making mischief, but Ezra figures answering the buzzer can’t hurt. He gets up with a groan and goes over to the intercom and presses the button. 

“If you’re wanting the library, I’m afraid we’re quite definitely closed.” 

“I’m not here for the library,” a chillingly familiar voice answers. “I’m here to see you, Ezra.” 

Ezra freezes. He tries to take a breath, but his lungs seem stuck, unable to expand or collapse for several agonizing seconds. Forcing himself to remain calm, Ezra manages to take a weak breath, swallow thickly, and reply with only a slight tremble in his voice: “O- of course. I’ll be right down, Gabriel.” 

With trembling hands, Ezra adjusts his sweater vest and bow tie- the one Adam had gotten him for Normal Wednesday. He’s taken to wearing it more often than his old, beloved tartan one, and as he adjusts it he finally manages to take a deep enough breath to steady himself. He opens the door of his flat and walks down the stairs, then stops about halfway down. Hesitating only a moment, he pulls out his phone and sends a quick text, barely able to type for his hands shaking. 

Ezra: My brother just showed up…

He puts the phone away after making sure it’s set to silent. He doesn’t know what he means to accomplish by telling Anthony, but a small part of him hopes that he will arrive a bit early and maybe help encourage Gabriel to cut his visit short. 

He reaches the front door and unlocks it, stepping aside to let Gabriel enter. “What an unexpected pleasure,” Ezra stammers out as he shuts the door, leaving it unlocked as a small act of faith, then turns to where his older brother is standing, hands clasped behind his back as he looks around the library, as unimpressed with anything relating to Ezra as ever. 

“Tea?” Ezra offers, moving around to the other side of Gabriel, standing by the counter where his still-alive succulent rests. This position gives him the ability to retreat upstairs quickly if necessary, or even just to move behind the desk with the pretense of needing to work. It also allows him to see out, in case Anthony does choose to take his message as the cry for help that it is. 

“No thank you,” Gabriel replies, still looking around with vague disinterest. Gabriel was always the more handsome of the two of them, Ezra thinks. Taller, a more conventionally attractive face, strong frame from years of running cross country. His style is much more modern, too, Ezra thinks, though just barely. Today Gabriel is wearing a grey suit with a purple tie that brings out the striking violet in his eyes, reminding Ezra of Elizabeth Taylor. Ezra thinks to mention it but quickly opts against it. His brother probably doesn’t even know who Elizabeth Taylor is. In fact, Ezra is confident the comparison would go over Gabriel’s head entirely. After all they’d been horribly sheltered growing up. Ezra still recalls the first musical he’d seen that hadn’t been The Sound Of Music. He’d just moved out, had a little money saved up, and had decided to treat himself to see Cats. He doesn’t understand it to this day, but he’d been delighted by it nonetheless. It was certainly better than the second musical he’d watched of his own volition: Sweeney Todd. The dark tale had shocked him when he was younger, though now he thinks he might be able to handle it. In fact, he thinks Anthony would quite enjoy the black humor, and makes a note to mention it to him later. 

“So,” Gabriel says, drawing Ezra out of his thoughts. “We missed you at Christmas. And New Years.” 

It’s said so stilted that Ezra wonders how he could have ever believed the words genuine before. 

“As I said, something came up.”

“Which is why I’m here,” Gabriel explains with a slight air of impatience. 

“O- oh?” Ezra stammers. 

Gabriel sighs, pinching his nose before he looks up to meet Ezra’s gaze in a pointed stare. “We’re worried for you, Ezra, he says. “First you forsake the family and move off to London, then you do…” he gestures vaguely to their surroundings, “This. And now you’re neglecting us during the only time of year you’re normally willing to come around. This… thing you’re doing… we just want to know when it’s going to be over.” 

It’s an onslaught that he both saw coming, but still feels blindsided by. Ezra stammers a bit, wringing his hands together. Then he snaps his mouth shut and forces himself to take a breath. He won’t let Gabriel fluster him; that’s his tactic, and Ezra is wise to it. 

“I did not forsake anyone,” he replies calmly, which he’s rather proud of. His heart and his hands tremble to make up for the surprising steadiness in his voice. “And this isn’t going to be over,” he stresses. “This is my career. This is what I want to dedicate my life to.” 

He gestures to the library around them. “I love my work. I enjoy London. If I choose not to come home for Christmas,” he pauses, terrified by the words bubbling in his throat that threaten to spill out. He thinks of Anthony, and lets them. “It’s because I found a more pleasant way to spend my holiday.” 

The exhilaration he feels at saying those words is dimmed by the hurt and accusing look in Gabriel’s eyes. “More pleasant than family, Ezra? I know you’re selfish, but that is uncalled for.” 

“Selfish?” Ezra breathes, unable to hide the waver in his voice now, “How is wanting acceptance selfish?” 

“Because this isn’t what was planned for you,” Gabriel snaps, exasperated. “You were supposed to follow Michael and me into ministry. You were supposed to help us lead the church. But what did you do? You got distracted by the words of lesser men and wandered off to bury yourself in secular garbage!” 

“It isn’t garbage!” Ezra replies heatedly. It’s one thing for Gabriel to demean him, but books? “You haven’t ever read the words of Wilde, or Keats, or Plath, or- or even Tolkien! The pain and sorrow and joy they express is exquisite! The pictures they paint with their words are as stunning as any God-made sunset!” 

Gabriel rolls his eyes. “Ezra,” he sighs. “Please.” 

“I’m not sorry,” Ezra huffs, feeling indignant and small, something Gabriel was always good at making him feel. “I’m finally happy, Gabriel. Why can’t you just accept that my pursuit of such is not the same as yours?” 

The door jingles behind them, and Ezra looks up, heart leaping when he sees Adam and Anthony walk in. 

“He’s closed,” Gabriel says haughtily. 

“Good thing I’m not a customer, then,” Anthony remarks as he saunters past before leaning against the counter to address Ezra. “Hey.” 

Adam follows his father and while normally he’d bound up to Ezra like an over excited puppy, today he walks up calmly and gives Ezra a hug, his arms wrapping around Ezra’s thighs. Ezra takes the hug gratefully. “Hello, darling boy,” he says, then looks to Anthony, silently indicating he doesn’t want Adam to be a part of this. 

“Adam,” Anthony says, voice soft but serious. “Go upstairs for me, okay?” 

Adam looks at Anthony and clings tighter to Ezra, as if trying to shield him from the tension in the room with his small frame. Anthony finds it endearing, but repeats, “What did I say on the way here?” 

“...To listen extra good to you…” Adam mumbles. 

“Then?” 

With great reluctance, Adam releases Ezra and, after giving the strange man with the violet eyes a curious once over, he moves to the stairs and disappears. 

Once Adam is gone, Crowley turns, raising his sunglasses up into his hair. “So. You must be Gabriel.” He steps forward, hand outstretched and an unnerving smirk on his lips. “Anthony Crowley.” 

With great hesitance, Gabriel accepts his hand and shakes it firmly, before releasing it and taking the smallest step back. He eyes the man with the leather jacket, long hair, and black nail polish for a long moment then looks to Ezra for clarification. 

“Were you expecting this man, or…” 

Ezra glances at Anthony, and in a moment the latter understands what the former intends to do. He gives the faintest nod of encouragement, and shifts ever so slightly closer to Ezra. 

“P- partner,” Ezra manages with less fuss than he’d expected. “Anthony is my partner.” 

Gabriel blinks. “Your… business… partner?” 

Crowley snorts. “Do I look like I work in a library?” 

Gabriel says nothing, prompting Ezra to continue. “Partner… as in… we are… together. Romantically.” 

Gabriel’s express falls. It’s not one of pure disgust, as Ezra had expected, but is very clearly full of distaste. “Oh.” 

“Yes,” Ezra says, reaching down to take Anthony’s hand, partially for show and partially because he needs to squeeze something, and Anthony will quietly endure the slight discomfort for his sake, he knows. “I chose to spend Christmas- our first Christmas as a c- couple- together.” 

“I see,” Gabriel remarks, the disdain in his voice thick as his gaze shifts from one to the other. “Well. If this is the life you’ve chosen to live, then maybe it is best that you… don’t come home for Christmas in future.” 

Ezra doesn’t speak, but a small, choked sob wells up in his chest that he barely manages to keep shoved down. Gabriel looks down, then back up and the sneer of disapproval on his face nearly contorts his face. “I’m very disappointed in you, Ezra.” 

Ezra doesn’t speak, but he doesn’t have to, because Anthony does instead. “Get the fuck out,” he hisses, stepping away from Ezra, and up to Gabriel, who winces in shock at the language hurled at him. “You don’t get to come into Ezra’s business, into his home and act like you’re somehow better than him. You’re not. He doesn’t need your approval, and he certainly isn’t worthy of your disdain. He’s not welcome at your table anymore? Fine. I’ll take such good care of him, love him so god-damned much, he’ll forget to even miss you.”

“Now wait just a-“ 

Get. Out,” Crowley snarls, “If that’s how you’re going to talk to him, then you aren’t welcome here.” 

Gabriel looks ready to protest, but Crowley takes another steps toward him, causing Gabriel to back away. He backs up toward the door, and looks at Ezra one last time. Crowley crosses his arms and glares impatiently, and with one last shake of his head, Gabriel exits the library. Anthony growls in his wake and walks forward to lock the door. He turns then, intending to ask after Ezra, but instead is knocked back a step as Ezra slams into him, arms wrapping around his midsection, face buried in the crook of his neck, and he cries. 

“Oh,” Crowley breathes, winding his arms around Ezra, hugging him tightly, rubbing his back with one hand. “Oh, angel…I’m sorry.” 

Ezra says nothing for a long while, just hangs onto Anthony and cries, years of pent up hurt and longing for acceptance bubbling out of newly formed cracks in his heart. Anthony holds him through it, letting Ezra cry as much as he needs, pressing kisses to his temple, and whispering soothing little nonsensical words of encouragement and comfort to him. Inwardly, he curses Gabriel for breaking his angel in such a way. 

His own family hadn’t cared one way or the other about his sexuality or gender expression, but they hadn’t cared much for him either, and that general apathy had led to a strange sort of uncaring acceptance. But to see Ezra like this, his beautiful and perfect friend, his partner, his love, reduced to tears because his brother couldn’t accept that he was his own man, fills Anthony with a rage unlike anything he’s ever felt. 

He grips Ezra tighter. How dare anyone deign to cause this kind-hearted man pain? 

He’s pulled out of his own thoughts by Ezra muttering something against him. 

“What’s that, love?” 

Ezra pulls back just barely. “You came.” 

“‘Course I came,” Anthony murmurs, lips pressed against Ezra’s temple. “I figured you text me for a reason.”

“I probably shouldn’t have,” Ezra confesses as he loosens his grip on Anthony and leans back, but does not break their embrace. As he speaks, Anthony wipes away the tears that still fall.

“I just didn’t want to face him alone. And I knew if you came that I’d have to… well, come out, I suppose... but I wanted to. I wanted him to see. I knew he wouldn’t approve, but I still wanted to show him that I’ve found happiness for myself.” 

“Well, I’m proud of you,” Anthony remarks, kissing him again. “That was very brave.” 

“I don’t think I could have done it if you weren’t here,” Ezra confesses. “You make me feel much braver than I really am.” He pauses and lifts his gaze to Anthony’s, and smiles softly in spite of the tears still falling. “You’re rather cute when you’re angry.” 

Crowley frowns and wipes away another tear. “I’m not.” 

“You are,” Ezra insists, moving one hand to let his fingers brush against Anthony’s lips. “I know you’re a touch self-conscious about it, but you lisped a little when telling Gabriel off. It was extremely adorable.” 

Anthony glares at Ezra, using the hold he has on him to walk him a few steps away from the door and to the wall just to the right, pinning him against it. “I am intimidating and fear inducing. I am not adorable.” 

“You are to me,” Ezra whispers, moving his fingers from his lips to move over Crowley’s cheek, cupping his jaw and brushing his thumb along his pronounced cheekbones. “To me you are kind and gentle and caring and-“ he breaks off to bite back an emotional sob, “And I love you so much, Anthony-“ 

Anthony cuts him off with a kiss. It’s heated and full of passion, but not the kind that stirs one to more amorous pursuits. Anthony means it as comfort, as assurance of his requited feelings, of his devotion and adoration, and he holds Ezra tight, pinned between him and the sanctuary of the library walls, swearing his love by way of lips sliding and parting against Ezra’s. Ezra all but sags against him, emotionally exhausted even as he returns the kiss with equal measure. 

His hands slide up to grip the back of Anthony’s hair, carding his fingers through it, lightly scratching his scalp in a way that makes Anthony moan against him. 

One of Anthony’s hands slides down to squeeze Ezra’s ass, before using the angle to shift so he can press one thigh in between Ezra’s. The comfort of the embrace begins to bleed out and be replaced with something a little more feral, a little more sensual and desperate and purely emotional, and the whiplash causes Ezra’s hips to jerk in response to the movement even as he makes a noise of uncertainty. 

Anthony slows the kiss, pressing a few chaste one against Ezra’s lips before stopping to let his forehead rest against Ezra’s. “Sorry,” he mutters. “Stopping.” 

Daddy…?” 

Reality crashes back down onto them both, and with a groan from them both, Anthony pushes away slightly from Ezra, breathing heavily before he calls out, “Yes?” 

“Can I come down now?” 

Anthony glances down where his arousal is quite obvious. Ezra, too, is not unaffected by what they just did, and Anthony reaches down to adjust himself with a grunt before calling out, “We’ll be up in a minute. Just stay put.” 

“Is that man gone?” 

“Yeah, kid,” Anthony says. “He left.”

“Oh.” There’s a pause, and then: “Are you two kissing?”

Ezra’s “no” is met with Crowley’s “yes”. Ezra glares and lightly smacks Anthony’s chest, causing him to laugh as Adam yells, “Ewww!” 

“Don’t tell him that!” Ezra whispers. 

“You want me to lie to my son?” 

“Ugh,” Ezra scoffs, and tries to playfully push past Anthony, but he tightens his hold on Ezra, studying him with golden eyes. 

“You gonna be okay?” He presses a kiss to Ezra’s temple, then releases him before holding out his hand for Ezra to take. He does. 

“I’m not sure,” he confesses, “That certainly wasn’t how I planned for my morning to go.”

Crowley scoffs. “No, I’d say that went down like a lead balloon.” 

Ezra sighs and looks at the door. “It did, rather.” He waits a moment, then shakes his head and returns his gaze to Crowley. “But I think, for the moment, I’ll manage.” 

Anthony lifts Ezra’s hand and kisses it. “Whatever you need,” he offers, “Say the word.” 

“You,” Ezra breathes after a moment. “So long as I have you, I’ll be alright.” 

Crowley steps forward and kisses him soft and thorough, then they head upstairs. 

< > 

Despite the emotional morning, they still go out. They watch the movie and share popcorn, and go for a walk and feed the ducks. Adam runs ahead of them, laughing and throwing Dog about and jumping in a small puddle before Crowley scolds him. While Adam plays, he wraps his arm around Ezra’s waist, and they walk silently behind the boy who is blissfully unaware of what occurred that morning. He’d asked, of course, but Anthony had told him it was a sensitive subject, and they would discuss it at length later. 

For now, they let Adam enjoy his naivety. There will be plenty of time for him to discover that the world isn’t always as kind as he expects it to be, and if the two of them want to protect him from that reality for just a bit longer, well. That’s their prerogative. 

They move to a bench near the pond, and watch as Adam feeds the ducks. Anthony wraps his arm around Ezra’s shoulders and Ezra curls against him with a sigh. Despite what happened that morning, despite the ache in Ezra’s chest that seems to hurt with each beat of his heart, he knows he’ll he okay. He’s in Anthony’s arms and Adam is nearby naming the ducks and the weather is crisp, and despite the clouds, the sun is still shining through. 

It’s still a nice day. 

Chapter Text

 

 

Chapter Twenty: To Be 

Anathema is smirking. It’s the kind of smirk that is self-assured and overly confident; the kind of smirk one wears when one knows they were right.  

Ezra wants nothing more than to politely request that she stop smirking. Instead he merely sighs. 

“Yes or no?” 

She lifts a long-fingered hand and adjusts her glasses. The smirk has reached her eyes, which are practically sparkling in delight. They’re sitting in a corner booth at a cafe a block away from the library, sipping lattes and sharing pastries and enjoying a particularly long lunch break. 

“I’m just wondering why you are asking me to watch Adam? If Anthony is busy, I would assume you would be happy to babysit.” 

Ezra huffs and takes a bite of pastry, chewing slowly to give himself time to think. “Because I happen to be busy that night myself,” he says at length. 

“Uh huh,” Anathema says, unconvinced. “And where is Anthony going?” 

“Out.”

She gives him a pointed look from behind her steaming mug of coffee. 

“He is going on a date,” Ezra says at last. 

“I see,” Anathema draws out the word. “And you are…?” 

“Unavailable.” 

“Because…..?” She prompts. 

Ezra rolls his eyes and picks up a piece of the pastry they’re sharing. “Because I am also going on a date.” 

“Huh.” She says, completely unsurprised as she props her chin in her hand. “Both of you have a date on the same day, at the same time. How interesting.” 

Huffing, Ezra places his hands primly on the table and gives her his meanest glare, which only serves to make her laugh. 

“Alright!” He declares finally. “Fine. You win. Anthony and I are going on a date. Our first date,” he stresses, “To celebrate one month of being together.” 

The smug look fades. “One month?” She squeaks. “You’ve been together a month and you’re only now going on a date together?!”

“We’ve been busy,” he huffs indignantly. “Besides, you can’t say no. We already told Adam he would be staying with you and he was quite excited about the prospect.” 

He gives her a self-satisfied look, and not for the first time Anathema affectionately thinks her boss is a bastard. 

“That is shockingly deceitful of you,” Anathema remarks, brow raised. “I’m impressed, Mr. Fell. I guess Anthony is rubbing off on you.” 

Ezra dutifully ignores the pointed way she says rubbing off and instead remarks, “You'll obviously be paid, of course. And you can have a day off next week, if you like, as thanks.” 

“Yes to the first part,” Anathema agrees, “Definitely enjoy earning some extra money. But I’ll pass on the day off. I like my work.” She smirks. “Plus, who would annoy you if I weren’t there.” 

“Customers,” Ezra says simply. 

Anathema laughs and scoots her bite of pastry towards Ezra, who hesitates only a moment before taking it. “So no day off. Instead you can thank me by giving me details.”

“Absolutely not. You are my employee. It’s not proper.”

“I’m not your employee right now,” she counters. “I’m off the clock, which means I’m your friend . And friends tell each other about their dates with guys they’ve been pining after for as long as some of us have been in college.”

“Cheek,” Ezra murmurs good naturedly before sighing. “You’re buying the first round of drinks,” he says.

Anathema grins. “Deal! Now, as far as Adam goes: I’ll watch him at your place- it’ll be a sleepover. That way I can open on Saturday and you don’t have to worry about getting to the library on time.” 

“Why wouldn’t I get there in-“ he stops short, and feels his cheeks burn as realization dawns. “I am not doing that on the first date!”

“You don’t necessarily have to do that!” She stresses. “But don’t you want an entire night together-  uninterrupted?” 

“Well,” Ezra muses, wringing his hands together, “It... would be nice not to feel rushed to get back home. Just take our time…” 

“Precisely!” Anathema agrees. “Let me stay in your flat overnight with the kid. We’ll have lots of fun. And you two can enjoy your date without any worries. And you’ll be free to do- or not do -“ she winks, “Whatever you want.” 

“Well…” Ezra considers it. “I’ll have to discuss it with Anthony… I don’t know what exactly he’s planning for us…” 

“Well, just let me know,” Anathema says with a grin. “And keep in mind. Just you… and Anthony… alone… kid free… for an entire night…” 

“Yes, I am quite aware of what you are implying.” 

She laughs, winks, and summons the waitress to order another pastry. 

Ezra only eats a couple bites, finding his appetite suddenly gone. 

< > 

Ezra’s relationship with sex is extremely simple: it’s nonexistent. Growing up in an extremely strict household where adults consistently warned that God was always watching, coupled with his vague disinterest in girls had caused Ezra to merely shrug at the concept and go back to sneakily reading Shakespeare in the same way other boys his age might try to read Playboy. 

College was the first time he’d felt any sort of stirring, and it had shocked him when he realized the friend he’d made in one of his literature classes was becoming a source of wonder for him. He imagined what it would be like to kiss him, and upon that thought he’d dropped to his knees and prayed every night for six months that those feelings would go away. 

They didn’t. 

Eventually he stopped praying, and merely figured that if he were going to disappoint his family, it only made sense that he disappoint them in every way. It wasn’t the healthiest way to accept oneself, but for Ezra it had been enough. After college he resumed his trend of loneliness, and assumed that it wouldn’t matter if he preferred men, women, or in between, because no one would look at a nerdy, old-fashioned half-recluse librarian and see anything of any interest anyway. 

And then Crowley had burst into his life in a whirl of chaos and slinking hips and beautiful eyes. Intrigue bloomed into affection, and affection soon transformed into desire. 

And desire is what he feels now. He desires Anthony, wants him in every way, though he has to admit, Anathema has successfully unnerved him about the whole thing. He knows she means well; knows she wants him to be happy, but he wishes she weren’t so… blunt sometimes. 

Americans

It’s with those thoughts in mind that Ezra sits at his desk later that afternoon, thumb hovering over the Send button on his phone. He can’t seem to bring himself to press it, can’t bear the embarrassment that he knows will follow when he’s forced to explain himself. 

But it’s better than not knowing. 

Right? 

He lets out a groan and lets his thumb push the button. He slams his phone down and cringes, feeling nauseous and what he’s just done. 

Ezra: I know this is not exactly the sort of thing one discusses over a text, but I’m quite certain I won’t be able to speak if I ring you. But I must ask: what exactly are your expectations regarding our date on Friday? 

There’s a long wait of about ten minutes. Ezra wonders if perhaps Anthony is busy, which is fine- it’s a workday and he doesn’t expect Anthony to drop everything to answer him, but Ezra can’t help but hope that Anthony will see the message and reply sooner rather than later. 

He decides to get up and be productive while he waits. He takes three steps when he hears the soft ding of his phone, and all but scrambles to grab it. 

Anthony: in what sense? Like what are we doing or..?

Ezra: Well, not so much the… date itself… but, I suppose… what comes… after? 

Ezra grimaces at that and quickly types out: 

Ezra: What I mean is: Anathema agreed to watch Adam but she wants to keep him here. Overnight. Because she thinks we should spend the night together at your place, heavily implying… well… you know. Sex. The two of us, that is. So I suppose now I’m wondering… Do you want to have sex? 

He sends the message before he can chicken out and thinks he might throw up. 

A moment later, his phone dings. 

Anthony: do you? 

Ezra: I asked first. 

He feels so petulant answering that way, but he doesn’t quite know how to voice how he feels. He absolutely wants sex with Anthony. But he’s not certain if, come Friday evening, he’s going to be quite ready to attempt it. He thinks he might be, but might isn’t good enough. 

Anthony: is this a “I’m a virgin so I’m generally nervous” thing or a “I have some hang ups about being with someone with a dick” thing? 

Ezra blinks; feels a strange sense of relief at Anthony being able to comprehend his worry even when he can’t. 

Ezra: The former. I suppose I’m merely nervous because I have no idea what to do. I mean. I DO. In theory. Not so much with any practical application. I suppose I’m afraid it’s too fast. Is it? 

Ezra: I also desperately do not wish to disappoint you. 

Anthony: angel you literally could never disappoint me 

Anthony: but why don’t we just see what the night brings? I’m good either way. I’m all for us having the whole night together, if you’re fine staying here. But whatever we end up doing, we’ll do it at your pace. no pressure. And if I ever go too fast, you tell me, and I’ll slow down. Or stop. Or whatever. 

Ezra: You’re sure?

Anthony: I’ll be with you either way & that’s all that matters to me. We can go as far as fucking on Friday, or we can do as little as hold hands while you recite Shakespeare at me. Long as we’re together I really don’t care. 

Ezra feels a surge of love- and something a little darker- nearly overwhelm him, and he blinks away a few happy tears before he thinks of something quite unlike him, and types it out. 

Ezra: Maybe one day we could combine those two things? 

Anthony doesn’t text back. 

He calls.

Ezra answers his phone, a little breathless and with a tight throat. 

“Yes?” 

You can’t fucking tease me like that, angel!” Anthony huffs, equally breathless. “I have a client coming in five minutes and I can’t bloody well stand up right now because of you!” 

“Oh!” He flushes furiously. “I’m terribly sorry.” 

“Nah, don’t be sorry,” Crowley lisps, “‘S fucking great. I’m gonna remember this. Fuck, I adore you, you absolute bastard.” 

With that he hangs up, and Ezra sits back in his chair, shocked at his behavior. He’d just sent a rather lewd message to Anthony. During the day. While they are at work.

He feels decidedly uncomfortable in the best possible way, and suspects that while he won’t be ready for all the possibilities of what they can get up to alone, he’s certainly willing to take Anathema’s advice to heart and take advantage of the time they have together. 

He’s been longing for Anthony for nearly six years. Maybe it’s time to pick up the pace just a little. 

< > 

“Okay, you’re all set,” Anthony says, more to assure himself than Adam. It’s technically the first time Adam has slept away from home without Anthony, and his mind is evenly split in excitement over the why of Adam sleeping elsewhere and the parental dread of letting their hold on their child slip a fraction more. 

“You have your pajamas and Dog and some snacks-“ 

“I can handle a five year old,” Anathema huffs good naturedly. 

“You better,” Anthony mutters before hugging Adam to his chest and then instructs the boy: “Listen to Miss Anathema. If she tells you to do something I expect you to obey as if it were me telling you, okay?” 

“What if she tells me to touch Uncle Ezwa’s special books?” Adam whispers, half-worried. 

“Then you question the leadership placed over you and if they are unwilling to see reason, you revolt and establish a new form of rule in her place.”

Adam nods seriously. “Okay!” 

Anathema smirks, admittedly proud of the response, while Ezra rolls his eyes. “Oh really,” he clucks. 

Deciding to rip off the bandaid, Crowley kisses Adam one more time, lets him hug Ezra, then they’re out the door. 

On their first date. 

Anthony glances at Ezra, who is glancing at him, biting back a delighted smile, and Anthony feels his nerves settle. 

< > 

While it is admittedly strange not to have Adam hanging off one of them, the date is lovely. Anthony takes Ezra to a small Italian restaurant and while he picks at his food, he can’t help but watch as Ezra enjoys his. They sit for some time, sipping wine and talking, and it’s as easy and comfortable as if they were sitting in the back of the library or on Crowley’s couch. Even though it’s a date, it feels normal, comfortable, and just right. 

They toast to one month, then share a gelato dessert, and talk some more. They discuss Adam, the library, the nursery, their families, and vague plans for future dates. 

Eventually they leave and stroll through the city, not having any real destination in mind, simply walking hand in hand in the crisp London air. When it grows a little cooler they decide to grab coffee from a small place Ezra likes, and end up staying to listen to the jazz band that has taken the stage. Anthony slides his chair up against Ezra’s and throws his arm around the librarian as they listen, and he feels the way Ezra trembles under the grazing of his fingers lightly brushing up and down his arm. Ezra turns to look at Anthony and, unable to resist, he leans forward and captures Ezra’s lips in a quick but promising kiss. 

Once the band finishes their set, Ezra tips them generously and they leave, huddled as close as possible as they chat. 

Eventually it grows late and they decide to head back to the Bentley. Crowley drives to his place, and then grabs Anthony’s overnight bag and escorts him upstairs. It’s nearing one in the morning when they enter the apartment, and the fluttering gentle softness that’s been surrounding them the entire night lingers, causing them both to stop just past the entrance to regard one another. 

“This has been lovely,” Ezra says quietly, as if speaking too loudly might break the spell that’s between them. “I find I don’t want it to end.” 

“Doesn’t have to,” Anthony murmurs, pressing a feather light kiss to Ezra’s cheek. “I’m perfectly willing to listen to you quote Shakespeare, if you like.” 

Ezra inhales shakily, and it dawns on him that while he's spent the past week fretting about what to do when they arrived at this moment, he hadn’t once thought about it during their date. And even now, Anthony is reminding him that there are no expectations here. He can end things now, or they can linger and see where they end up. 

Nothing could pull Ezra away from this moment, he’s certain of it. Certain of this. Of Anthony. 

Being with Anthony is as natural, as right as it had felt when he first picked up a copy of Hamlet and discovered the vast world that lies beyond the Scriptures his parents had forced him to memorize. It’s breathtaking and illuminating and world-shaking. 

“How you tempt me…” he breathes, wanting nothing more than to turn his head just so, and kiss Anthony properly. 

So he does. 

Anthony makes a small surprised sound, but wastes no time returning the kiss, sliding his hands around Ezra’s waist to pull him close. For his part, Ezra winds his hands in Anthony’s shoulder-length hair, carefully pulling out the band that keeps it half up, and then buries his hands in the fiery red locks, blunt nails scraping against the back of Anthony’s neck, earning him a very delighted moan that he swallows down. 

Growing bold, though he has no idea how or why, Ezra gently steps forward, and manages to push Anthony back against the wall behind them. Anthony grunts in surprise when he feels the wall hit his back, but he doesn’t break the kiss- if anything he deepens it, parting his lips and all coaxing Ezra’s tongue to flit against his own. 

Anthony’s legs spread ever so slightly, and he uses his hold on Ezra to urge him forward, wiggling until one of the librarian’s legs is nestled in between his own. 

Immediately Ezra becomes aware of the hardness pressing against him; becomes aware of his own arousal, and knows he needs to make a decision. 

Anthony’s lips slip from his and press a slew of heated kisses over his cheek, his jaw, toward his throat until the collar of Ezra’s shirt prevents him for going further. With a decisive dip of excitement in his stomach, Ezra releases his hold on Anthony’s hair and reaches up, tugging the bow tie Adam had given him loose and unbuttoning the first two buttons of his shirt. 

Anthony’s eyes darken with wicked intent. Ezra feels a shiver go up his spine, and then Crowley is latching onto the newly revealed skin, biting and sucking and pressing hot, open mouth kisses while Ezra keens against him. 

“Anthony…” Ezra gasps, eyes slipping shut as he relishes the feeling of Anthony against him, surrounding him, consuming him. 

“Anything you want, angel,” Anthony whispers hotly as he gently bites Ezra’s earlobe, then moving to capture Ezra’s lips with his once more. “Just tell me.” 

“I-“ he lets out a small moan as Anthony pulls him closer, grinding against him as he licks a stripe across Ezra’s bottom lip, catching it between his teeth and tugging before releasing it. 

“I don’t know what I want,” Ezra confesses, even as he lifts a hand to push Anthony’s jacket off his shoulders. “But I want more.” 

It takes Anthony a minute, but he finally breaks away from heated kisses against Ezra’s skin to press their foreheads together. Reaching up, he cups Ezra’s face in his hands, stealing Ezra’s breath with the heated sincerity in his amber gaze. “Do you trust me?” 

“Implicitly,” Ezra breathes instantly. 

Anthony kisses him soundly for the answer, then pushes himself off the wall and Ezra away from him. He catches one of Ezra’s hands in his and begins to walk backwards, leading him toward his bedroom. 

When they arrive, Anthony carefully tugs off Ezra’s jacket before gently guiding him to sit on the edge of the bed. Anthony steps in between Ezra’s legs, nudging them open with his own bony knees as he cups his face and kisses him once more. 

The loss of so much friction saddens Ezra, but he can hardly focus on that while Anthony’s mouth consumes him, kissing with the heated desperation of a man who has waited years for the opportunity to taste his kiss. Ezra knows because he feels the same, understands the longing that sits between them, understands just how deep this want goes. It scares him, in many ways. To want someone so much; to be wanted with equal fervor. 

No one has ever wanted him before.  

No one has ever cared about Ezra, which, up until five years ago, he’d been content with. Isolation suited him, and he’d embraced the lonely, outdated librarian persona with a sort of gusto that one has when donning a beautiful costume for the first time. 

But therein was the problem: it had all been an act. A performance for the world to protect himself from the inevitable disappoint he would no doubt bring to those who gave him a chance. But Anthony has never cared about any of that. Anthony has never been bothered by his plain wardrobe or his nervous ramblings or his obsession with literature or his old-fashioned tendencies. Anthony finds them endearing, teases lovingly (much in the way he teases now, with that skilled tongue making Ezra sigh and gasp against lips that curl into a wicked smirk for the world, but soften into a smile for him.) 

It’s a thrill, to be wanted. To know that he can finally let someone in- because someone finally dared to knock. 

“Anthony-“ he sighs, wanting more. It’s such an abstract term that needs defining in this moment, but it’s a rhythm his heart is beating to: more, more, more. 

“I have a plan,” Anthony whispers wickedly, stepping away as he pulls off his thin tie and shirt. He gives Ezra a look. “Strip.” 

The command sends a bolt of lightning straight to Ezra’s groin, and he nods, standing to quickly digest himself of his sweater vest and shirt. Anthony, still in his skinny jeans, leans forward and assists Ezra in undoing the buttons of his shirt, pushing it off his shoulders before tugging the blond closer to him, pressed together, warm and inviting. 

Anthony is sharp where Ezra is soft. Somehow it’s perfect. 

His hands go to Ezra’s khaki’s and pauses, waiting and watching for permission or denial. Ezra nods and quickly they finish undressing before moving back to the bed. 

Once settled, Anthony straddling Ezra, he kisses over his lips and cheeks, down his throat, over his chest, across his stomach. He moves lower still, and Ezra, hard and aching, manages to murmur out a small warning. 

“I’m afraid this won’t take long.” 

Anthony laughs, then quickly moves back up to kiss the scowl off Ezra’s lips. 

“I’ve had blue balls for over five years,” he lisps simply, “This isn’t gonna be some top performance on either of our parts.” 

“Five years?” Ezra breathes. 

“Hard to find time for a wank when you’re a single dad, and you’re also desparately trying not to fantasize about fucking your only friend in ages.” 

Ezra blinks. “You wanted me for five years!”

Anthony shrugs. “Eh. Four years and eleven months. Give or take.” 

Ezra glares, then wraps his arms around Anthony’s waist, pressing him down to grind against his thigh. “Then you’d best start making up for lost time,” Ezra remarks shakily, his own desire making coherent thought tricky. 

Anthony gasps, then slithers back down Ezra, kissing every inch of skin he passes, until finally he licks up the hard shaft of Ezra’s erection, giving the man a smug look before taking him fully into his mouth. 

Nothing could have prepared him for the utter bliss he feels at having Crowley take him this way. His breath hitches and he groans, head lolling to the side before he rights it, wanting to watch the sinfully alluring act of Anthony sucking his cock. He can already feel himself nearing the edge as he tries not to writhe against the movement of Crowley’s head bobbing up and down. 

After a minute or so he releases Ezra, who laments the loss with a whine, but is quickly encouraged when Anthony takes Ezra’s hand and places it in his hair. “Don’t hold back, angel.” 

Ezra trembles violently at the dirty implication combined with the sweet name he’s been called for five years. Experimentally, his grip tightens as Anthony resumes licking and sucking, and the vibrations of Anthony’s sigh against him causes him to jerk, gasping as a wave of need courses through him. 

“Oh-“ 

Anthony hollows his cheeks and takes him all the way, then does something wonderfully wicked with his tongue, and Ezra tugs his hair harshly as he comes with a cry of ecstasy. 

Anthony lingers for a moment, swallowing him down, before he releases him and licks his lips in a way that makes Ezra want him more. Using the grip on his hair, he tugs, and Anthony takes the hint, moving back up until they’re pressed together chest to thighs, and kisses him for all he’s worth. 

He tastes himself on his lover’s tongue, and while he isn’t exactly crazy about it, he does delight in what it represents, and it makes him deliriously hungry for more. 

“What about you?” He asks after he breaks the kiss breathlessly. 

“Tonight’s about you,” Anthony says, “I won’t say no, but only if you want to.”

“Yes,” Ezra breathes. 

Anthony reaches over and grabs a bottle of lube from the nightstand, pouring out a little into Ezra’s palm. “I like it rough,” he murmurs as he kisses Ezra and adjusts so he can get a proper angle. 

Keeping that in mind, Ezra wraps his hand around Anthony, feeling quite pleased at the groan that slips from Anthony at the merest touch. He strokes slowly at first, not quite trying to tease, but to get used to the feeling of stroking someone else. It’s not difficult, but he wants to do this right. Knows the buildup is part of the pleasure, and he doesn’t want this to end just yet. 

Anthony seems pleased regardless, the way he’s sighing and writhing already against Ezra as he lightly strokes before eventually squeezing a little tighter and begins to pump with intent. 

“Oh, shit,” Anthony growls as he nips at Ezra’s lip with sharp teeth. 

A bust of inspiration comes to Ezra then, and he lifts his other hand back to Anthony’s hair and tugs in it hard at the same time his hand slides down Anthony’s cock. 

Fuck- Ezra!” He gasps. 

Emboldened, Ezra does it again, and again, and after several more times he tilts his head to bite Anthony’s bottom lip. 

Anthony stiffens, and comes on Ezra’s hand and stomach with a guttural groan. 

After a moment he sags against Ezra, then carefully rolls off to lay on his side. Ezra shifts to face him, and they lie there for a few moments, silent and breathless. 

“Holy shit,” Anthony breathes after a moment. “Wow.” 

“Was that okay?” 

“Was that-“ Anthony hauls himself back up and over Ezra, kissing him hungrily. When he finally breaks away, he continues, “Yes, angel. That was more than okay.” 

“Oh,” he sighs, “Good. You were very good too.” He pauses; makes a face. “I’m afraid I’m not very good at having a conversation post-coitus.” 

Anthony laughs and kisses him before sliding off and motioning for Ezra to follow him towards the bathroom. “Well, first off, we definitely aren’t calling it ‘post-coitus’,” he teases as he turns on the shower, then catches Ezra’s elbow and kisses him again. “And if you don’t know what to say, you can just just quote Shakespeare at me, if you like.”

“You really aren’t going to let that go.” 

“Nope.” 

Ezra rolls his eyes and steps forward, wrapping his clean hand in Anthony’s hair. “I can express no kinder sign of love than this kind kiss,” Ezra says as he gently kisses Anthony before murmuring against his lips, “O Lord, that lends me life, lend me a heart replete with thankfulness! For thou hast given me in this beauteous face, a world of earthly blessings to my soul, if sympathy of love unite our thoughts.”

Anthony shivers. “Just as hot as I thought it’d be.” 

< > 

By three o’clock they crawl into bed with the intention to sleep. They curl against one another, tired and happy and in love, and quickly Anthony falls asleep. Ezra manages to fall asleep too, but wakes up scarcely an hour later, and understands instantly that he will not be falling back to sleep any time soon. 

He lies there for some time, perhaps another hour, and merely enjoys the feeling of being in Anthony’s embrace. It’s so soothing, so relaxing, and he feels the sweet lethargy of exhaustion take over him, but it’s pull is never quite hard enough to fully drag him under. There’s too many lovely things to be experiencing right now, his mind tells him. The feeling of Anthony’s body pressed against his own. The soft sound of his breath as he sleeps. The warmth of his hand on Ezra’s stomach. The stirrings in Ezra’s chest and groin at the memory of what they’d done replays in his mind. It’s not enough to arouse him fully, but merely sends his heart fluttering with a content appreciation and anticipation of repeating such pleasures again. 

Eventually he begins to feel a little restless, and carefully untangles himself from Anthony’s arms and bed. Slipping quietly into the living room, he clutches a copy of Hamlet that he’d brought with him, worn and battered, and settles onto the sofa. He flips to a random page and with a smile begins to read. 

He’s disturbed some time later by the feeling of hands rubbing over his shoulders and a kiss pressed to his head. 

“Couldn’t sleep?” Anthony asks as he rounds the sofa and drapes himself in Ezra’s lap. 

“Unfortunately not. Too much excitement this evening, I suppose,” he teases, causing Anthony to let out a sleepy sounding laugh. “I thought I might read out here so as not to disturb you. It’s early still, if you want to go back to bed.” 

“Nah. You’re comfy enough,” Anthony says, as obnoxious as a cat that’s decided now is the time for pets and cuddles. “If you don’t mind company while you read-“ he takes the book gently from Ezra’s hands- “Hamlet?” 

“Thought it appropriate.” 

Crowley flips through the book. “Doesn’t everyone die at the end?” 

“Well, not everyone -“ 

“How’s that appropriate? Was I that bad?” 

“No!” Ezra exclaims, belatedly realizing that Anthony is teasing him. He smacks his thigh in retaliation. “You are horrid.” 

Anthony laughs. “I thought I was rather good.” 

“Begone, foul fiend.” 

Anthony settles against Ezra spitefully. “How’s Hamlet appropriate? I sense a story. I know your parents were super strict and didn’t let you read stuff like that, but I’m curious as to how Hamlet is good ‘post-coitus’ reading.” 

“You really are the worst.” 

“And you love me for it.” 

Ezra kisses his head. “I do.” He waits a moment, then explains. “You know that I was homeschooled until my tenth year.”

“Yeah. Then sent to a private Catholic high school.” He cringes.

“Quite right,” Ezra agrees. “Well, one day I went to the library for a book I needed for a report. I started browsing absently and I came across a copy of Hamlet. My parents didn’t approve of Shakespeare because they said his plays were too celebratory of the follies of man. Glorifying murder and disobedience and suicide. And since I was meant to attend seminary, what use did I have for such things?”

“Damn, angel…” 

“Yes. Looking back it is rather… alarming. But it was all I knew. Anyway. I decided I wanted to know what all the fuss was about. So in a small act of curious rebellion, I started reading it. I dared not check it out, for fear someone would see, but I went to the library every day and read Hamlet. Barely understood it; eventually I asked the librarian to explain it to me and she did- wonderful woman. And so I reread it with a better understanding of what was happening. Then I read it again because I was realizing that I didn’t want to go into ministry and reading of Hamlet’s troubles were more comforting than focusing on my own. I felt mad, sometimes, for not being what my parents and siblings demanded. I read it again when I moved away for university. I went and bought a copy of Hamlet-“ he wiggles the copy in his hand. “It was my first purchase beyond essentials- and I stayed up all night and reread it.”

“So it’s important-“ Anthony surmises- “Because it represents you making your own choices in life.” 

“I suppose so,” Ezra agrees, “Reading Hamlet was my first act of rebellion. Hamlet led me to Macbeth, which led me to Romeo and Juliet. Then I found Oscar Wilde and fell madly in love with his works, and then I discovered Mary Shelley and Orczy- there was so much out there that I’d been deprived of, and I knew that I had found my calling: to ensure everyone has access to literature, to knowledge. To the pain and beauty that can be expressed in the written word. Not sermons and psalms to God, but agony and despair and longing for those things my family thought beneath us.” 

“I just grow plants because it means I don’t have to talk to people,” Crowley murmurs sheepishly. 

“That’s hardly it,” Ezra remarks, pressing a kiss to Anthony’s head. “You’re nurturing; caring.” 

“I’m not.” 

“You might insult your plants- which I still don’t understand- but you take pride in helping things grow, in guiding them to their full potential. You do the same with Adam. You might not want to hear it, but you have a kind and gentle soul, one that loves deeply and-“ 

He’s cut off with a kiss. 

“I do have an image to maintain,” he huffs, face red. 

“Not around me, you don’t,” Ezra replies softly, lovingly. “Together we can be soft; we can be bitter. We can just be, and we both know the other won’t mind.” 

Anthony raises up to properly look at Ezra, then kisses him again, softly, gently. They melt into it for some time, then Anthony breaks away to settle against Ezra again. “Read it to me?” 

Ezra’s heart swells. Anthony may as well have said I love you again. 

He picks up where he’d left off. 

Doubt thou the stars are fire,

Doubt that the son doth move,

Doubt truth to be a liar,

But never doubt I love.” 

He reads through the early hours of dawn, long after Crowley has fallen back asleep in his arms. 

Chapter Text

 

Chapter Twenty-One: Home 

One Year Later 

 

“Happy anniversary, my dear.”

“Happy anniversary, angel.” 

They share a kiss, then touch their champagne glasses together. They’re at the Ritz- a shockingly romantic surprise from Anthony that had left Ezra stunned and near tears upon realizing that was where they were dining. He’s always wanted to dine at the Ritz, but a humble librarian’s salary didn’t quite allow for such extravagance; but any time they happened to pass nearby the hotel, Ezra would comment on how he’d love to dine there one day. 

Now they’re enjoying dessert, after an exquisite lunch, and the beaming smile hasn’t left Ezra’s face the entire time. 

“I still can’t believe you did this.” 

Anthony shrugs as he takes a sip of champagne. “You wanted to come. That’s the only motivation I need.” 

“Darling,” Ezra lays a hand on his where it rests on the table, “I love you so much.” 

“Love you too.” 

They finish their dessert, and Anthony settles the bill. They linger for a bit, talking happily about a variety of things, neither in a rush to leave. Finally, when it’s at the threshold of having stayed too long, they stand, and Ezra looks around once more at the beauty of the dining room, wishing absently that he could stay just a little longer. He moves to head toward the exit, but Anthony catches his arm and leads him somewhere else. 

“Wh- what are you doing?” He asks, confused. 

“Come on,” he says, as he pulls Ezra to an elevator. 

“I don’t think we’re supposed to be just wandering around the hotel,” he protests, mostly just for the sake of protesting. 

“We aren’t wandering,” Anthony says as the elevator door opens and he pulls Ezra inside. “We’re going to our room.”

The door closes just as Ezra screeches, “Our- what?!”

Anthony pulls a key out of his pocket and dangles it in front of Ezra’s face. “Our room,” he repeats with a smug, self-satisfied grin.

“Our- Anthony Crowley you got us a room?! Wha- Wh-“ he sputters for a moment, completely shocked, before Anthony steps forward and winds his arms around Ezra’s neck. 

“I take it you like it?” 

Ezra manages to close his mouth, but his eyes are still comically wide as he stares at Anthony, shocked. “You’re serious.” 

“As a heart attack.” 

The elevator dings and the doors open. Slipping away from Ezra, he steps out into the hallway and jiggles the key expectantly. “Coming, angel?” 

< > 

Despite only being four-thirty in the afternoon, Ezra and Anthony are relaxed in the luxurious king-sized bed, curled up together, sweaty and sated. 

“I still have no idea how you pulled this off,” Ezra murmurs, kissing Anthony’s chest where he’s pillowed against it. “My clothes are here. How did you pack for me and get everything here without my knowing?!” 

“Adam is very good at keeping you distracted,” Anthony remarks simply as he idly runs his fingers up and down Ezra’s arm where it’s draped across his stomach. “Walked right out with your suitcase and you didn’t even blink.” 

“My clever boys,” Ezra remarks affectionately, pressing another kiss to the same spot. 

“I also brought a copy of Hamlet- for later,” Crowley wiggles his brows. That earns him a smack and Anthony laughs. “What? I want to see how far you can read before you lose focus from me sucking your cock.” 

“You are the worst, Anthony Crowley!” 

< > 

They emerge from their room long enough to have dinner- and dining twice at the Ritz, in one day no less, has Ezra thoroughly giddy with delight. His delight only increases when they return to their room and Anthony runs them a bath, complete with candles and more champagne. 

They take a long, leisurely soak in the fancy bathtub, Crowley’s back pressed against Ezra’s chest as they bask in the luxury around them. Ezra’s fingers brush through Crowley’s hair, pressing kisses to his temple every so often as he murmurs soft sentiments of love. 

Anthony sighs contentedly, and lets his eyes slip shut, the feeling of Ezra’s hands in his hair and warmth at his back lulling him to sleep. 

“Anthony?” Ezra murmurs after several minutes of comfortable silence. 

“Hmm?” 

Ezra hesitates for a moment before he speaks again, softly, uncertainly. 

“I want to talk to you about something.” 

Normally those words signal bad news for the recipient, and while Crowley knows it’s probably serious, whatever it is, he also knows Ezra, and knows he wouldn’t drop some kind of bombshell revelation on them while they’re celebrating their anniversary at the Ritz. 

“What’s up?” He asks, trying to remain calm even as his mind searches desperately for anything that might need to be discussed. 

“Well,” Ezra begins slowly, “I’ve been thinking about this for a while, and… well… I want to ask you- well, it’s just a thought , really but-“ 

Anthony, ready to burst from sudden nervous anticipation, sits up and turns to face Ezra in the tub, his back pressed against the cool marble behind him. Thankfully it’s decently sized so he can move with little trouble. “Ezra.”

Ezra stops. Takes a breath. Leans forward to take Anthony’s hand, kissing his knuckles soothingly. 

“Well,” Ezra murmurs, “I was thinking that, we’ve been together for a year-“ 

It’s technically a year and one month. Considering their anniversary falls on Normal Tuesday (which fell this past December on a Wednesday) they weren’t about to forsake Adam just to have a night alone. So they’d waited until the anniversary of their first official date to mark the occasion. 

“And, it’s been lovely, and, well quite frankly the best year of my life, really, but I have been thinking about this and I wanted to talk to you about… well…” he pauses, takes a breath: “I’d like to be more involved in Adam’s life.” 

Crowley considers Ezra for a moment. “In what way?” 

“Just… more , I suppose,” Ezra remarks, “Maybe I could pick him up from school on occasion, or he could spend the night with me on a school night and I can take him to school- you can certainly stay as well, in fact that’s quite preferable, but in case you couldn’t- and, well… obviously you’re his father and I wouldn’t interfere with any sort of disciplinary decisions, but maybe I could just be more… present. Help him with homework, or take him out for ice cream sometimes. I don’t know- it sounds rather silly, now I’ve said it out-“ 

He’s cut off by Anthony scooting forward. water sloshes from the movement as he straddles Ezra’s thighs, takes his face in his hands, and kisses him softly. “Yes,” he breathes upon releasing Ezra’s lips. “Yes.” 

“Are- are you sure?” Ezra asks. “If you don’t like it, you don’t have to agree for my sake-“

“Ezra, you are asking me to let you love my kid. What the hell else am I supposed to say other than yes? Adam adores you! Why would I deprive him of something I know he will love?” 

Ezra seems to relax, tension leaving him as he takes in Anthony’s words. “You really don’t mind?” 

“Not a bit,” Anthony agrees, sitting back a little to look at his partner. “In fact,” Anthony breathes, “I’ve been thinking about something too, and I think it will help make your wish much easier to accomplish.” 

“Oh?” 

Leaning down once more, he kisses Ezra softly, then whispers, “Move in with me.” 

Ezra’s breath catches. “What?” 

“Or we can move in with you,” Anthony supplies quickly. “Either or. Just thought it might be nice, all of us together. We can drive Adam to school, then get breakfast together. I can drop you off at the library and go to work. We can trade off picking up Adam. Go home together and I can cook while you help him with his reading. We can argue over who does dishes. Both of us can read him bedtime stories while he’s still young enough to want them. It might be… I don’t know,” he shrugs, “Nice.” 

“Plus,” he adds quickly, “If you’re with us, the flat would be free: you could rent it to Anathema when she graduates- lets her live in the city without paying a fortune and you get some extra income for more books.”

“You’ve thought about this,” Ezra breathes, stunned, pruned hands laying on Anthony’s thighs. 

“Every day for the past six months.” 

“I-“ 

“It doesn’t have to be tomorrow,” Crowley interrupts, nervously. “We can wait a week. A month. A year. Longer. I don’t care. But please, tell me you want this.” He searches Ezra’s gaze, his own pleading and desperate. 

Ezra stares at him for a moment, mouth slightly agape but speechless. Anthony bites his lip, fearing for a long moment that perhaps he’s gone too fast, that maybe Ezra isn’t ready for that kind of a commitment. Maybe he likes things as they are, and isn’t interested in more. 

He feels stupid for asking, for pushing for more than what Ezra is willing to give and is on the verge of taking it back as a slightly drunken joke but then Ezra’s brain seems to catch up with the rest of him and a stupidly happy grin spreads across his face. 

“Yes.” 

Anthony stares for a long moment before a nervous, strangled, giddy laugh escapes him. 

“Really?” 

“I love my flat,” Ezra says softly, “I’ve been there for a long time. But my home is with you.” 

Anthony kisses him then, hard and hot and desperate, swallowing the moan that spills from Ezra’s lips. After a moment he releases him, stands, and holds out his hand for Ezra to take.

“What?” 

“Come on,” he says, urging him up before letting go long enough to grab the fluffy towel next to him. “We’re going to celebrate.” 

“Oh?” Ezra grins. “What did you have in mind?” 

“Well, considering I paid good money for that bed in there,” he points to the other room, “We’re gonna use it. Come here.” 

Willingly, eagerly, Ezra follows and they fall into bed, a tangle of limbs, love, and giddy anticipation. They don’t leave each other’s arms for the rest of the evening.

(They also learn that Ezra can only manage about three and a half pages of Hamlet before he loses himself to Crowley’s talented tongue. Ezra takes Anthony’s satisfied grin as a challenge for the future.) 


Chapter Text

 

 

Chapter Twenty-Two: Domestic 

It doesn’t happen immediately; but it does happen. 

First Ezra talks with Anathema about her plans for the future and offers her a full-time position at the library. There’s funds for it, afterall. He offers her the flat as well, and they discuss a rate for her rent, and she accepts with a smile and a hug. 

Then comes deciding on what to take with him. Ezra lives modestly in most areas of his life, save for his own private collection of books. He doesn’t have very many mementos from home, and other than a few decorative pieces, said books, and his clothing, his home is otherwise sparse. So he plans to leave most things at the flat for Anathema, to make things easier on her. 

It’s not like he needs them, where he’s going.

Eventually Anathema completes her schooling, and it’s time to do some rearranging. 

They don’t tell Adam until it’s actually time. They take him out to dinner, then for ice cream at the park, and Anthony asks Adam how he’d like it if Ezra came and lived with them. 

Adam is immediately all for it, until a thought crosses his mind and face instantly falls. “But… where will Ez- wrah… sleep?” Adam asks, slowly sounding out Ezra’s name like he’s been taught, concerned. 

The two adults throw each other a look. “Well,” Anthony clears his throat. “Ezra will sleep in my room with me.” 

“So he won’t have his own room?” Adam exclaims, alarmed at the thought. He looks at his father aghast, as if he were a horrible person for even making such a suggestion. 

“I don’t mind sharing with your father,” Ezra says softly, his tone instantly soothing the boy. “In fact, most grownups who are in love and decide to be together like your father and I share a bedroom.” 

Adam makes a face. “I don’t want to share my bedroom!” He decides forcefully. “Not even when I am a grown up!” 

“Well, you don’t have to,” Ezra tells him, “But I want to share with your father. And he wants to share with me, don’t you, my dear?” 

Anthony nods. “Yup.” 

“Oh.” Adam says, seemingly placated for the moment. Now that he knows Ezra doesn’t mind not having his own bedroom to put his toys, Adam is okay with the plan. He looks up at the two of them, a little more hopeful. “You’re weally gonna live with us? Forever?!” 

“That’s the plan,” Ezra grins, loving the feeling of Anthony wrapping his arm over Ezra’s shoulders. “Would you like that?” 

“Yeah!” 

“Oh, wonderful,” Ezra smiles. “I’m so glad to hear it.” 

< >

They move his clothes and toiletries first, the essentials he needs for his day to day life. 

Next comes the books. Anthony reorganizes his shelves that contain an impressive record collection but not much else, in order to make room for Ezra’s books. It requires some work, but eventually the living room in Crowley’s flat houses three new bookshelves nearly overflowing with books. The three first editions Ezra has (all purchased from estate sales from family who didn’t know enough about literature to care that Ezra was getting something so valuable for nearly nothing) are put on display, with stern instruction to Adam and Anthony both not to touch them.

Slowly, the flat begins to reflect all three of them. Toys and children’s books litter the living room floor. The stark, minimalist walls begin to grow covered in drawings by Adam of the three with them, paired beside framed photographs. The letter to Santa is hung up as well (and Adam had been quite put out that his teacher had tattled in him, but he can’t argue with the results, so he doesn’t stay too angry with her.) 

A tartan blanket joins the black and red one on the back of the couch. An antique vase Ezra was fond of sits in the center of the dining room table, fresh flowers from the nursery making the air smell fresh and lovely. 

Bit by bit, the flat becomes home. 

As with all changes of such a substantial nature, there are some challenges and adjustments that must be made as well. Ezra, used to living alone for quite some time, now must adapt to living with others, namely an energetic six year old. Crowley has to adapt to the fact that, in any given night, he’ll wake up to an empty bed, only to find Ezra sitting on the sofa reading. They have to adjust their morning routine (though as Ezra is usually already awake, he takes over rousing Adam and getting him ready for school, which allows Crowley to hit the snooze button a second time, and everything is worth it just for that extra ten minutes of sleep.) 

Through trial and error, they adapt, and each of them are happier for it. 

< > 

One evening, about two and a half months after Ezra moves in, Crowley is washing dishes while Ezra and Adam do… who knows what. 

He can hear the soft murmurs of the two of them from the other room, and after a bit, Crowley grows curious and sneaks out of the kitchen to observe. 

Leaning against the doorframe, he watches as Adam and Ezra sit across from one another, the Scrabble board between them. Adam is staring hard at his letters, brow furrowed in deep concentration. Finally, he pulls out two letters and puts them on the board. 

D-O-G,” Ezra says each letter as Adam places it, then grins as Adam looks up. 

“Is that good?” He asks. 

“Well, let’s see,” Ezra says, leaning forward to pick at the tiles. “Count for me, will you, darling?”

“Two,” Adam begins, looking at the D. Plus one is...three,” says as he counts the O.

“Good,” Ezra encourages. “Now this is the tricky bit. Your G is on a double word score. So first, what is three plus two?” 

Adam holds up three fingers on one hand, and two on the other. “Five!”

“Very good,” Ezra nods. “Now, we double that. So, five plus five.”

Adam counts. “Ten!” 

“Excellent, darling!” Ezra grins, “Ten whole points to you!” 

Adam laughs and as Ezra writes down the score, Adam draws two new tiles from the bag. Ezra then plays a word. Adam leans over and glares. “That’s not a real word!” 

“Is so.” 

He studies it. “Tem-p-t?” 

“Tempt,” Ezra confirms. 

“What’s tempt mean?” 

“Well,” Ezra considers for a moment, and out of the corner of his eye, he notices something. He glances over to see Anthony leaning on the frame, looking distractingly handsome. “It’s when you want something very, very much, even if you know you can’t have it at the moment,” he remarks, tilting his head enough to meet Anthony’s gaze.

“Like what?” 

Ezra jerks his head back to Adam, cheeks pink. “Like when you want two pieces of cake, even though you know one is more than enough for dessert.” 

He glances back, and Anthony is gone. His heart sinks just a little. 

In the distance he hears water running. Then Anthony calls out, “Kid! Bath time!”

“Awwwwww,” Adam whines, pouting. “I wanna keep playing!”

Anthony appears, arms crossed and hip jutted out to the side. “You can play some more later. Bath time first. Let’s go.” 

“I’ll keep the board out,” Ezra promises as he stands and lifts Adam to his feet, “We can pick up where we left off.” 

“Okay,” Adam sighs, then looks pointedly at Ezra. “Don’t lose the score, okay? I’m winning!” 

“Wouldn’t dream of it, darling,” Ezra replies as Adam runs toward the bathroom, Anthony following behind. A minute later the water shuts off and the bathroom door clicks shut. 

Anthony appears in an instant, and makes a beeline for Ezra. They meet hard, lips locking in a hungry kiss, Anthony continuing to walk forward until Ezra bumps against the bookshelf behind them. 

“You did that on purpose,” he growls, moving from lips to Ezra’s jaw, kissing with frantic hunger. Ezra’s hands wrap around him, pulling him close. 

“Don’t know what you’re- oh… talking about.”

“I’m talking about you,” he lisps as he bites Ezra’s neck before trailing kisses back up to capture Ezra’s lips once more, “Using fucking Scrabble as a method of seduction.” 

“I did nothing of the sort,” he laughs breathlessly before a groan slips from him at Anthony’s attention. “Oh, dearest, we don’t have time-“ 

“Oh, I know,” Anthony remarks, sliding his thigh between Ezra’s legs. “This is just a taste of what I have in store for you.”

“You wicked thing,” Ezra sighs as he falls into another kiss. 

Crowley pulls away after a moment, and Ezra will forever deny the whimper that slips from him. “How’s that for tempting?” He asks before he steps back, then turns and saunters back into the kitchen. 

Ezra’s head falls back against the shelf with a groan. A few moments later Adam calls out from the bathroom, “Dad, I’m all clean!” 

< > 

Ezra can hardly focus on the game now. Certainly, he goes easy on Adam, helping him when Adam can’t figure out anything, but the memory of Anthony pressed against him, kissing him hungrily is seared into his brain and making for a lovely but inconvenient distraction. 

Adam spells a word, then looks up to Ezra. “Your turn!”

Ezra nods. He stares at his board of letters, but nothing jumps out at him. His mind is a million miles away. Rather, it’s about four feet away and still pressed up against the wall. 

“Who’s winning?” 

Ezra looks up as Anthony enters the room, holding a glass of wine. He brushes by, fingertips skirting over Ezra’s shoulder as he walks past, moving to sit in the chair behind Adam, leaning forward to study his son’s tiles. 

“Me!” Adam says excitedly. It’s only true because Ezra has stuck to simple words. Were it anyone else, he’d have obliterated them. 

Ezra manages to play a word, and lets Adam count up the numbers for his score. While Adam stares at his fingers as he adds it up, Ezra glances up to regard Anthony. The man in question is still leaning forward, chin resting in his free palm. He’s watching Ezra pointedly, and after a moment, sits back and takes a sip of wine, licking his lips afterward in a manner that Ezra knows exactly how to take. 

For a moment, Ezra is taken aback. He glares at Anthony, then gestures with his eyes toward Adam. Crowley merely smirks and shrugs. 

Adam finishes counting and Ezra makes note of the score. Anthony then turns his focus away from Ezra to help Adam spell a big word, and Adam looks up at his dad quite pleased. 

Things pass simply for a few minutes before Anthony stands and moves to the chair behind where Ezra is seated on the floor and sits, once more leaning forward so he can ghost his breath over the back of Ezra’s neck when he speaks. “What have we got over here, then?” 

“Don’t cheat, Dad!” 

“Wouldn’t dream of it,” Crowley remarks as he lets his chin rest on Ezra’s shoulder, one hand moving to lightly brush up and down his spine, sending chills all over him. 

You are distracting me,” Ezra accuses softly. 

“I’m just sitting here,” Crowley remarks, fingers teasing up and down, “On my best behavior.” 

They play for a few more minutes until the warmth of Anthony against his back, the teasing brush of fingers against him, the memory of earlier and the promise of later becomes too much, and Ezra graciously concedes defeat to Adam. 

Upon his victory, Crowley informs his son that it’s time for bed. Adam pouts, but a stern look from his father has him huffing as he obediently moves to hug Ezra good night. Ezra sends them on to bed while he cleans up the game, and he’s hardly able to slide the pieces back in the back for all that he’s trembling in anticipation. 

After about ten minutes Crowley returns, and wraps his arms around Ezra’s waist. “Hi.” 

Ezra huffs and pulls away. “You,” he says, turning to face Anthony, hands on his hips, “Are a menace.”

“But I’m your menace,” Crowley remarks as he steps closer. Ezra rolls his eyes, but welcomes Anthony into his arms anyway, this kiss softer and more gentle than the one before. 

They don’t speak for some time, content to simply kiss, before Ezra leans back and whispers, “I think I’d like to go to bed.” 

Anthony groans at the implication, and uses the leverage he has from his hands on Ezra’s waist to pull him closer, leaving no doubt in the other man’s mind just how much he’d like that very same thing. 

They move to their bedroom- and even after a couple months, it still stuns Anthony to think that he gets to fall asleep next to Ezra every night. It sends a thrill of delight through him as he turns as Ezra shuts and locks the door. Unable to wait a moment longer, he moves forward, pinning Ezra to the door and lavishing him with hungry kisses. 

Ezra melts into it eagerly, threading his hands in Anthony’s hair, gripping the strands tightly the way he knows Crowley likes. 

“You’ve quite the penchant for- oh, darling - pinning me against the wall,” he muses once Crowley’s attention shifts from his lips to his throat. 

“Are you complaining?” Anthony murmurs as he unbuttons Ezra’s shirt, kissing every inch of skin that appears under his fingers. 

“Never. Merely an observation,” Ezra sighs as he can’t help but to thrust helplessly against Anthony as he nips at his collarbone. “Oh, dearest. That’s lovely.” He tightens his grip on Anthony’s hair, which earns him a flustered moan, and a hard press of sharp hips against plush ones. 

“Shh,” Ezra soothes as he kisses Anthony’s temple, “We don’t want to wake Adam.” 

“No,” Anthony gasps, more softly, “We don’t.” 

They stay there for a bit, Anthony slowly and thoroughly kissing every inch of Ezra’s skin that he reveals. As lovely as it is however, Ezra begins to grow impatient. 

“I thought you- ahhh- had plans?” 

“Mmm,” Crowley hums in the affirmative as he sinks to his knees and begins to undo Ezra’s fly. “Did. Step one: get you flustered.” 

“Very much accomplished,” Ezra agrees. 

“Step two,” Crowley murmurs as he pulls down Ezra’s pants and underwear, “Get you to our room.”

“Check,” Ezra sighs. 

“Step three,” Crowley says as Ezra kicks away his clothing and sags against the door. Crowley kisses his thighs, trailing his lips everywhere except where Ezra would very much like him to go. “Drive you absolutely mad.” 

“Accomplished that between steps one and two.” 

Crowley laughs wickedly; lets his tongue trail up the underside of Ezra’s cock, earning him a groan that’s muffled behind a hand pressed over Ezra’s mouth. 

“And step four,” he breathes, before he takes Ezra fully in his mouth: “Let you have your way with me.” 

Ezra’s eyes slide shut as his mouth falls open. The hand not covering his mouth grabs the back of Crowley’s head, holding tightly to a fistful of shoulder-length red hair. Crowley hums in satisfaction at the feeling; unzips his own jeans to stroke himself as he sucks Ezra. 

“Oh, my darling,” Ezra groans, “If you don’t stop, I-“ his hips buck of their own accord, and Crowley pulls away with a self-satisfied smirk. 

“Take it you want something else, then?” 

Ezra tries to glare, but he’s so flustered and aroused he can barely manage the look. “Bed. Now.” 

“Love when you’re bossy,” Crowley murmurs as he stands and beckons Ezra to follow him. 

“I thought you loved it when I quoted Shakespeare at you.” 

“Love that, too,” Crowley answers as he undresses quickly while Ezra lies back on the bed. When he’s nude he straddles him, his own arousal brushing against Ezra’s. “Love it when you fuck me. Love when I fuck you.” He kisses him all over as he talks, reaching down to grab them both and stroke lightly. “Love it when you pull my hair and when you hang on to me so tight I have bruises on my hips for days.” 

“I am sorry about that-“ 

Crowley stops his mouth with a kiss. “No. Feels good. Feels good when you’re rough with me-“ he grips them a little harder. “Love it when you’re gentle, too-“ he ghosts a feather-light kiss against Ezra’s lips, earning him a breathy sigh. 

“Sounds as if you like it all,” Ezra remarks, trying to sound put out but instead sounds increasingly desperate for more. 

“I like you,” Crowley corrects, “So naturally, anything you want to do to me, for me, or with me, I’m gonna enjoy.” 

“Well then,” Ezra remarks, hands falling to Anthony’s hips just the way he likes. “I know what I’d like.” 

“All you have to do is tell me,” he breathes. 

This is the hardest part. Sex has never been something Ezra put much thought toward, and so even though he is now able to enjoy it somewhat regularly (though any amount at all is regular compared to the previous lifetime of celibacy he’d practiced) he still has trouble voicing what he wants. 

Well. That’s only partially true. He wants Anthony. It’s what he wants Anthony to do that’s tricky to voice. 

Anthony is vocal in bed. Not so much the sounds of pleasure (though he makes those too, and beautifully so, if Ezra does say so himself) but he likes to talk . Likes to use his tongue in all manner of wicked ways, one of which is whispering what it is he plans to do- or what he wants done- and then teasing Ezra until that desire is seen to. 

Ezra, on the other hand… he knows what he’d like, but a lifetime of guilt and repression and disinterest is hard to overcome. It’s why the whole quoting Shakespeare thing is nice. He can quote passionate sonnets and soliloquies of desire and passion without having to actually say what he wants. 

But tonight it seems Anthony wants something more direct. 

Ezra swallows. He knows what he wants, knows what he’d love to see and feel and do- 

He just doesn’t quite have the voice to ask for it. 

Anthony seems to understand the dilemma- it’s something they’ve had a few discussions about, once sex became a thing between them. And so he takes pity on his lover and begins whispering all sorts of lewd and lovely things that Ezra can do, until he hits the one Ezra has envisioned. 

Yes,” he breathes. “Yes. That.” 

“Love to,” Anthony says as he leans over to grab the lube out of the nightstand. He gives the bottle to Ezra, then shifts to allow him better access. 

Anthony sighs as Ezra slips one finger inside. Has to bite his knuckles when eventually Ezra adds a second. Leans forward to release a moan into Ezra’s mouth as a third is slipped in. 

Shhh,” Ezra chides. “If you’re too loud I’ll have to stop.” 

Anthony’s head falls to press against the crook of Ezra’s neck and releases a muffled groan of desperation. “Please,” he murmurs, “Don’t stop.” 

They readjust, and both sigh as Crowley sinks down onto Ezra. He doesn’t move for a long moment, simply enjoys the feeling of being filled by his lover, and glances down to see Ezra staring up at him, baby blue eyes clouded over with lust. 

Anthony rolls his hips, relishing the feeling and the sound of Ezra trying to bite back a moan. He waits a moment, then repeats the motion, a gasp escaping him as Ezra thrusts upward to meet him. 

Fuck,” Anthony breathes. 

“I plan to,” Ezra says before he can really think too much of it, and Anthony grins wickedly and begins moving in earnest, causing Ezra to grip his hips, loving the feel of Anthony moving above him, glorious and beautiful and perfect. 

Ezra has enough forethought as he races toward his climax to stroke Anthony, rough and quick like he likes. It’s apparently just what the redhead needs, because he comes with a broken cry, slapping a hand over his mouth a moment later as Ezra finishes and the feeling encourages another broken sound to leave him. 

They sit still for a long moment, both to catch their breath and to listen for the small pattering of little feet toward their bedroom. Several seconds pass and… nothing. 

Both sigh in relief, and Anthony sags against Ezra, whose clean hand lifts to caress abstract patterns against Anthony’s sweat-slicked back. 

“If you can't be quiet, I’ll have to gag you next time,” Ezra remarks, and it’s obvious he doesn’t mean it as a sexual thing, and only realizes the implication a moment later when he glances at Crowley, mildly horrified at what just came out of his mouth. 

“Ooooh, lets. Got any old bow ties you aren’t afraid to ruin?” 

“Oh, really!”

Ezra shoves at Anthony, who lifts off him and gets up, sauntering to the bathroom with a laugh. 

Ezra glances to his wardrobe, biting his lip thoughtfully before following Anthony to take a quick shower. 

They shower together, and don’t leave until the water is cold. Ezra takes his towel before Anthony can grab it, and slowly dries him off, pressing soft kisses to Anthony’s shoulders and back as he does it. 

They crawl into bed a few minutes later, Anthony wrapping himself around Ezra, who holds him close as he settles in for the night. They share a few lazy kisses just because they can, and then Anthony mumbles a sleepy good night and lets sleep take him. 

Sleep doesn’t come for a couple hours for Ezra. But he doesn’t mind like he used to. Now he spends those waking hours holding his lover close and, unable to help himself, silently thanks God for bringing them together. 

Chapter Text

 

Chapter Twenty-Three: Making a Claim 

 

Summer had come and gone and Adam had started his Year Three classes. The half term holiday had arrived, and since summer had been dedicated to Ezra and Anthema’s moves, settling in, and adjusting to life as a family of three, no opportunity to get away had presented itself. But with the half term on them, Anthony and Ezra has decided it would be the perfect time for a small holiday, and so they’d whisked themselves away to the countryside for some much desired rest and relaxation. 

It’s a Saturday, the last day of their vacation. Tomorrow they’ll head back to London, to their jobs and the craziness that is everyday life, but for the moment, all is peaceful and quiet and serene. 

The sun is just barely up, but Anthony and Ezra are awake, sleepily kissing and cuddling, enjoying the cozy contentment of knowing that so long as Adam is asleep, they have the morning to themselves. 

Thankfully, Adam somehow inherited (or learned) his father’s penchant for sleeping late, and so they figure they have at least another hour before Adam comes knocking on the door. 

It’s so warm, in bed, and Ezra can scarcely recall a time in his life when he was this happy. He has Anthony wrapped around him like some kind of constrictor, the air is crisp and fresh from where they’d left the window open the night before, and though he’s awake, he feels the coziness of sleep still hanging onto him at the edges of his mind, and it’s the kind of feeling that makes one sentimental and giddy and blissfully stupid. 

Later, that’s what he’ll chalk it up to, at least. 

But in the moment, he’s so cozy and in love and happy, breathing in the smell of sea air mixed with sex and Anthony’s shampoo; his eyes are closed, but he doesn’t need to see- he can feel Anthony all around him; can feel his leg where it’s draped over Ezra’s hip. Can feel one hand lightly brushing the small of his back. The other hand is holding his chin, guiding him close every few minutes for another kiss, soft and lazy and full of promise. Ezra feels the stirrings of desire, but has no real interest in doing anything about it just yet. 

He will, if there’s time. But for now this is enough. 

And that in itself is amazing. Ezra never once believed he’d wake up to find himself on vacation with the love of his life, with the boy he’d grown to love as his own, and with such hope and eagerness for the future. Once, he’d been a lonely librarian who hid behind a fortress of books in order to keep people at a safe distance. Now here he is, knowing his sanctuary is in good hands with Miss Device; knowing Adam is just a couple rooms away, cuddling with Dog. Here he is, in Anthony Crowley’s arms, content with who he is and where his life has led him. 

He’s so happy, in fact, that he can’t help but imagine how much more there is to be had. 

His thoughts are interrupted by another kiss, this one a little more sensual than the others, but Anthony makes no move to do anything else, and so Ezra simply melts into the kiss, humming contentedly as Anthony gently bites his lower lip before pulling away slightly.  

“Morning,” Anthony murmurs finally. 

Ezra smiles. “Good morning, my love.” 

It’s such a lovely way to wake up. And he gets to do it every day. Most days are more rushed than others, but for the past week it’s been like this: waking up with no plans, no places to be. Nothing, for a few minutes at least, but the two of them, together, hearts and limbs entangled and love pouring from their mouths in the form of words and kisses. 

It’s all so much; it’s all so lovely, and it’s his- it’s his everyday for as long as they want, and oh, Ezra wants. 

So overwhelmed with the delightful thought of having this- forever - Ezra kisses Anthony sweetly, hand coming up to caress his cheek, and without thinking he whispers, “Anthony… marry me.”

Anthony gasps. 

Ezra gasps. 

What?!” 

Anthony sits up, quickly followed by Ezra, who is flushed red with shock and embarrassment. 

“Oh… fuck,” he breathes, more to himself than to Anthony. “That’s not at all how I planned it!”

“You planned it?!” Crowley repeats, slack jawed. Ezra doesn’t seem to really hear him, but continues on, nervously. 

“No, no, no! I had a plan! I was going to wait until tonight and it was going to be lovely, and I had everything sorted and-“ 

He’s so absorbed in his own frantic rambling that he fails to notice Crowley moving. It’s only when Crowley crawls back into bed and plops a small box into Ezra’s frantically moving hands that he seems to come back to himself. 

He looks down at the box, and for a moment is confused. How had Crowley found it? He sighs and opens it, thinking he’ll just give the ring to him now, since the moment is ruined. But then he glances down, blinking curiously as he looks at a ring that is most certainly not the one he’d purchased. 

It takes him a moment, but finally he realizes what he’s holding and looks up. Anthony is smirking. 

“So. You were gonna propose tonight too, hmm?” 

Ezra gapes. “Too?!

Anthony shrugs. “I didn’t really have a plan. I just knew I was gonna do it at some point today. Now seems opportune.” 

Ezra stares down at the stunningly beautiful ring cushioned in the velvet box. It’s clearly a vintage piece, definitely not like a modern wedding band. The ring is a signet ring stamped with angel wings. 

It’s perfect. 

Ezra looks up, teary-eyed, then scrambles out of bed and to his luggage. He digs for a moment, then returns, a second velvet box in his hand. “I suppose this works just as well,” he says, and hands the box to Anthony, who opens it slowly, breath catching as he looks inside. It’s a simple gunmetal tungsten ring, dark and sleek and slim, just like Crowley.

Anthony pulls out the ring and looks at it closely, and a small smile spreads across his face. He holds the ring out to Ezra. “Put it on me?” 

“Gladly,” Ezra grins as he takes the ring, sliding it on Anthony’s finger, pleased to see that it fits. 

“Here,” Anthony says, motioning for the other box. “I’ll do the same.” 

Ezra hands the box to him, and Crowley takes out the ring and slides it onto Ezra’s finger. It’s a touch too big, but nothing a trip to the jeweler can’t fix once they return. It fits well enough for the moment, and Ezra looks down at his hand, a smile as bright as Anthony’s on his face. 

He looks up quickly. “You never actually answered me.” 

Crowley tilts his head. “What?” 

“I mean,” Ezra shrugs, “I suppose I can infer that your answer is yes considering you planned to propose too, but really, it’s rather rude of you to not answer the most important-“ 

Ezra is cut off but Crowley tackling him back onto the bed, kissing him soundly. Ezra sighs contentedly, letting his hands roam over Anthony- his fiancé. 

Yes, angel,” Anthony says upon breaking away. “Yes. Absolutely. Of course I will.” 

“Oh,” Ezra beams. “Wonderful!” 

“But the real question is,” Anthony murmurs, as he begins kissing a path down the column of Ezra’s throat, hands wandering up under his pajama shirt to tease playfully, “Will you marry me?” 

“Instantly, if I could.” 

Crowley’s playfulness melts into sincerity at that, and he kisses Ezra again, softly and with as much love as he can pour out. “I love you so much.” 

“And I love you, my dearest-“ 

Knock knock. “Dad? Ez-wrah?” 

Crowley groans and lets his head fall to Ezra’s chest, where he feels the soft rumbling of a laugh. With great reluctance he rolls off Ezra, who slides back under the covers and reclines against the headboard. Crowley saunters over to the door and unlocks it, and Adam shuffles in, mid-yawn and clutching Dog to him. 

Anthony picks him up and tosses Adam onto the bed, causing Adam to shriek in delight as he bounces on the mattress. Crowley slides back into bed as Adam curls up between them, snuggling against his father. 

“What are we gonna to today?” 

“Whatever we want,” Crowley shrugs as he wraps his arm around Adam. “Got any thoughts?” 

He feels Adam shake his head as he idly plays with his dad’s hand. After a moment, he notices the ring. “What’s this?”

Crowley looks down, then over to Ezra, who smiles at him so happily, so brightly, Crowley nearly needs his glasses. 

“It’s my engagement ring,” he says simply. Adam looks up. 

“Isn’t that like what you-“ he stops, looks at Ezra with a frantic, terrified look, then leans up to whisper, still loud enough for Ezra to hear: “Isn’t that what you bought Ez-wrah because you want to ma-wree him?” 

“It is,” Crowley whispers back slyly. 

Adam glances over at Ezra who simply holds up his hand for Adam to see. Adam lunges forward and grabs the hand. “That’s it!” He exclaims excitedly, then turns to his dad. “You asked?!” 

“Yep,” Anthony says. Ezra huffs. 

“Technically I asked you.” 

“Eh,” Crowley makes a face, “We asked each other- whoa!” 

Adam pounces on his father and bounces excitedly. “Are you getting ma-wreed?!”

“Ow! Kid, you’re bonier than I am!” Crowley grunts as he playfully shoves Adam off him, poking his ribs and causing Adam to laugh and scramble to Ezra. 

“Yes, darling,” Ezra answers for him, “Your father and I are going to get married.”

YAY!”

Adam bounces on the bed, shaking Dog dramatically as he beams at the two of them. “When? When?! Can we do it today? Please!

Ezra laughs and shakes his head. “Unfortunately, darling, we can’t do it today-“ 

Adam pouts, but continues jumping. 

“But we will do it soon. Promise.” 

He looks up at Anthony, and for a moment is afraid his heart may burst from the sheer amount of love and joy he feels in this moment. 

Adam stops bouncing. 

“Does this mean you can finally be my other dad now?” 

Ezra and Anthony’s eyes widen. 

“Is that what you want?” Anthony asks softly. 

“Uh huh,” Adam agrees. Anthony looks to Ezra. Silently seems to ask do you want this? 

Ezra smiles. There’s nothing I want more. 

“On one condition,” Ezra speaks aloud as he squeezes Adam. “You have to call me something other than ‘dad’ or else we’re liable to be confused.” 

Adam turns and stares at Ezra. “Father?” 

“Is that what you want?” 

Adam’s face scrunches and he shakes his head. “I need to think,” he decides after several moments, then crawls out of bed. “I need food to think better,” he declares as he moves out of the room. 

Choosing to follow him, Ezra and Anthony get up as well. They meet at the bedroom door, and Anthony tugs Ezra to him for a quick, but no less loving kiss. 

“You sure about this?” Anthony asks, tone teasing, but there’s a touch of apprehension hidden just underneath. “If you go through with this, I’m afraid there’s no escape.” 

Ezra takes Anthony’s hand and kisses just above where his ring sits. “You say that as if I have any intention of ever leaving. I’m afraid you’re stuck with me, my dear.”

< > 

Anthony tells Adam not to tell Anathema about the engagement. He can tell Newt, and his teacher and his friends, but he can’t tell Anathema. When both Ezra and Adam question why, Crowley grins wickedly. 

“Because I want to see how long it takes her to notice.” 

It takes three days for her to notice. 

Ezra hasn’t said a word, but he does keep doing things with his left hand to flash the ring her way. But she’s so absorbed in her work, in teasing him about nearly everything else, that she fails to see the very thing that’s right under her nose. 

It’s the Wednesday after the Crowley-Fell vacation, and Anthony and Adam arrive at the library fifteen minutes before close. Adam immediately goes to the back to finish his homework- he’s in an advanced maths and reading class, which made both Ezra and Anthony beyond proud- and Anthony moves to find Ezra, kissing him quickly before he greets Anathema. 

“Hey, book girl.” 

“Plant man.” 

His nose wrinkles at the term, and Anathema laughs sweetly as she brushes by them. “Don’t start something you can’t handle,” she teases. 

“Oh, I can handle it, alright,” Crowley remarks as he follows her, waving his hands for dramatic effect. “I’m just offended that you think I care for mere plants. What I grow are the most incredible and exotic-“ 

“What is that!”

Crowley stops, blinks as Anathema grabs his hand to stare at the ring. “Is that-“ she looks up, eyes wide. “Are you-“ 

She leans away to look at Ezra. “Did you -“ 

Ezra says nothing, but holds his left hand up and wiggles his fingers. She gasps, looking thoroughly offended and shoves past Crowley to grab Ezra’s hand, staring at the signet ring. 

“Wh- whe- did you two get married without me?!”

“Nah, just engaged,” Crowley says from behind her. She whirls around to glare at Crowley and with a smirk, Ezra moves on to finish reshelving books. Best to let them argue in peace. 

“You told them not to tell me!” She accuses, accurately. 

Crowley places a hand over his heart, guilty as charged but nevertheless offended. “Now why would I do that?” 

Her hands come to rest on her hips. “Because you’re a menace.” It’s said affectionately, but her glare is still frighteningly serious. 

“Angel, your intern is being mean to me,” Crowley calls out. 

“Miss Device, please do not be mean to my fiancé,” Ezra says distractedly from somewhere behind one of the shelves. No one is in the library, so none of them are considerate of the volume at which they speak. 

At that, however, Anathema smiles. “I’m so happy for you,” she drops the act and approaches Crowley, taking his hands in hers to inspect the ring. “So who asked whom?” 

Crowley sighs. “He beat me to it. Didn’t even mean to ask it when he did.” 

“But you both planned to do it?” 

“Yup. Great minds, and all that.” 

Anathema looks up. “You make him very happy; I hope you know that.”

Anthony glances up in the vague direction where Ezra is. He’s not one for gushing heartfelt sentiments, but he can’t help himself when he whispers, “He makes me happy, too.” 

< > 

Once Anathema knows, she immediately begins doing what she does best: meddling. 

She spends the next few days pestering Ezra about wedding details that he has no answer to, until  eventually, Ezra decides he needs to plan something if only so Anathema will relax

They’re cleaning up the kitchen a few nights later after dinner while Adam sits in the living room working on his homework. He’s seven now, and his birthday feels as if it’s fast approaching. Neither of them can believe how fast time has gone. 

As Ezra hands Crowley a bowl to dry, he asks, “What do you think we should do, in terms of a wedding?” 

Crowley pauses his drying and doesn’t move for several moments. Finally, he shrugs. “Whatever you want to do, I s’pose.” 

Ezra scoffs. “That’s hardly helpful.” 

“Well,” Crowley mumbles, “I don’t really have a preference one way or the other. Guess I don’t really care what we do, so long as when it’s over you’re mine.” 

“I’m already yours,” Ezra says dryly. “But it will be nice for it to be official. Legally binding and all that.” 

“Yeah.” 

They continue on in silence for a few minutes. Eventually Ezra says: “I don’t think I want it in a church.” 

“Oh?” 

“We both have a bit of… baggage… when it comes to that. Lovely as some churches here are. But we neither one are particularly religious at this point so it seems superfluous. And I’d rather not do anything out of doors- that’s just asking for trouble. There’s always the library but I don’t think I want to get married where I work, special though it is for us. Maybe we-“ 

He’s cut off by a kiss. 

When Crowley eventually releases him, Ezra huffs. “I hate when you do that.” He adjusts his bow tie from where Crowley knocked it askew. 

“What? Kiss you?” 

Interrupt me.” 

“Angel,” Crowley sighs. “I mean it: I’ll do whatever you want. I’ll walk into the nearest courthouse and sign the certificate without any fuss if you decide that’s what you want. I’ll marry you in a church. I’ll be grumpy , but I’ll do it. I don’t care. It’s not that I don’t want to plan something, but like I said. So long as I get to be with you, the rest is a bit…” he shrugs, “Unnecessary. You’re more than enough.” 

“Oh, darling,” Ezra breathes. “I love you so.” 

“Love you too.” 

Ezra presses a chaste kiss to his lips, then goes back to washing dishes. The conversation is dropped in favor of other topics, but thoughts swim through Ezra’s head regardless.

Later, once Adam has gone to bed and they’re preparing for sleep themselves, Ezra sits on the bed and watches Anthony as he undresses. 

“I know what I want.” 

“Oh?” 

“I want to go to the Registrar’s office on a sunny afternoon, and simply… get married. Have a small reception afterward- there’s that lovely French restaurant a few blocks from here.”

“That’s it?” 

“It’s like you said. The ceremony isn’t what’s important. This is what matters. These moments, every day, that we’ll get to share.” 

“Well then,” Anthony says as he steps up to Ezra, leaning over him to press a kiss to his forehead. “We can go next week to the office and give notice, if you like.” 

“Actually-“ Ezra says, then winces, as if he doesn’t really want to say what he’s about to say. Curious, Crowley finishes pulling on his black silk pajama pants and sits down next to where Ezra is fidgeting with his ring. 

“I’d like to… oh, you’re going to think this is so stupid-“ 

“No I won’t-“ 

“I’d like to tell my siblings and invite them.” 

“...I retract my previous statement.” 

Ezra sighs. “I know. I know I shouldn’t tarnish what will be the happiest day of my life by dragging them into it, but they’re my siblings. I… I’d like to at least give them a chance to be happy for me-“ 

Crowley opens his mouth, but Ezra cuts him off. 

“I know. They’ve never been happy for me, ever. But I want them to meet you. Properly. I want them to see that I am in love and happy. I want them…” he sighs. “I want them to know that all my life they’ve made me feel guilty for the choices I’ve made, and that for the first time, I am making a decision completely guilt-free. I want them to know, Anthony. I want them to look at us and be incapable of denying that we are meant to be together.” He looks away sheepishly. “Is that foolish?” 

He feels fingers under his chin guiding him to look toward Anthony. He gives him a small smile- the one reserved only for him- and leans forward to kiss him softly. 

“It’s not foolish,” he breathes. “It’s hopeful. And if that’s what you want, then that’s what we’ll do.” 

“Are you certain?” 

“Absolutely. You just tell me when, where, and how to behave. If you want me to be civil, then I will. If you need me to protect you when they start being bastards, I will.”

“My knight in… black skinny jeans.” 

“I look good in those jeans.” 

“You really do.” 

Crowley flushes at that, and swings an arm around Ezra, who lets his head rest on Anthony’s shoulder. 

“I have to admit,” Ezra says a minute later, “Despite how awful that day was when Gabriel came to the library, I rather enjoyed you getting so protective of me.” 

“Had to defend your honor,” Crowley remarks simply.

Ezra laughs. “It would seem,” he says as he sits up, “That I should be the one doing the defending. Between the two of us, in the only one who has training with a weapon.” 

Crowley scoffs. “That thing barely counts as a weapon, angel. And anyway, you gave it to Adam- good luck trying to get it back.” 

“Oh!” Ezra says, turning to face Crowley more directly. “That reminds me: I’ve been wanting to talk to you about this, and with the wedding business taken care of, I wanted to see how you might feel about me signing up Adam for fencing lessons. I’ll pay, of course, but he’s expressed interest, and I think he might enjoy it.” 

Crowley shrugs. “Sure, if he wants to. But, Ezra, you don’t have to pay for it-” 

“I’d like to,” he interrupts quickly, then snaps his mouth shut, suddenly seeming nervous, his hands wringing together. He fiddles with the ring, and Crowley waits for him to figure out how to word what it is he wants to say. “I...well… he… I’d like to think of Adam as-” he takes a shaking breath- “As my son, too. And...well… I’d like to… d-do that for him. But, only if you’re alright with it!” Ezra shrinks back a little, as if somehow afraid the claim on Adam might offend Crowley. 

It does the opposite. 

With that same soft smile he can’t seem to be rid of when Ezra is near, Crowley takes Ezra’s face in his hands and kisses him softly. “Angel,” he says, in between kisses, “If you want to marry in a church or in a registrar’s office-” he kisses him, “-We will.” 

Another kiss. “If you want to invite your siblings-” Kiss. “You can.” 

Another kiss. 

“And-” he says, leaning back slightly to meet Ezra’s eyes, “If you want our son to take fencing lessons-” A final kiss. “Then he can take fencing lessons.” 

Tears well in Ezra’s eyes and he releases a shaking breath. “You don’t mind?” 

He’s not asking about fencing lessons. While Crowley is certain that fencing lessons are in the future for them, he suspects that isn’t what has Ezra so emotional and worried. He’s not asking if he can take Adam to fencing class. He’s asking for a claim to Adam. He’s asking for an equal measure; he’s asking for permission to be Adam’s father too. 

“Nothing would make either of us happier.” 

Ezra smiles, understanding exactly what Crowley is implying. 

“Thank you, dearest,” he whispers, before pulling Anthony to him for a kiss. 

Chapter Text

 

Chapter Twenty-Four: Comedy Over Tragedy

 

Ezra and Anthony sit next to each other at a posh restaurant in Soho, sipping wine as they wait. Soft, easy jazz plays and each table is decorated with candles and fresh flowers, keeping the ambiance soft and warm and cozy. 

Ezra, who feels anything but cozy, takes another gulp of wine and huffs out another sigh. 

“Angel, calm down. You’re making me nervous,” Crowley murmurs as he reaches out to take Ezra’s hand. It’s trembling. 

“I can’t help it,” Ezra replies, just as soft. His gaze is fixed pointedly on the entrance of the restaurant, and Anthony isn’t sure when he last blinked. “I feel quite near a panic attack. Oh, I should never have done this-” 

“Breathe, angel,” Crowley whispers, moving his hand to rest on Ezra’s back, rubbing soothing circles at the base of his neck. “It has to mean something that they agreed to come and meet us. I mean, I still fucking hate your brother for what he said to you, but at least he’s giving us the courtesy of meeting. So maybe it won’t be so bad.” 

Ezra swallows thickly and looks down. 

“Angel?” 

Theydon’tknowyou’rehere-” he murmurs under his breath. 

“What?” Crowley asks, stunned. 

“They don’t know you’re here!” Ezra repeats as he turns to look at Anthony, flustered and perhaps a little shrill. He huffs again and takes a large gulp of wine. “I only told them I wanted to see them.” 

‘You lied to your brother and sister?!” Crowley gasps, more amused than anything. “Angel, I’m shocked.” 

“I didn’t lie!” Ezra retorts, looking mildly offended. “I merely… omitted some… crucial information…” 

“That’s a lie, my darling, future husband.” 

“Yes, well,” Ezra huffs again as he adjusts his bow tie and waistcoat in agitation, “Agree to disagree, my darling, future husband.”

“See, when you say it like that, it sounds almost as if I’m not darling,” Crowley teases, “And that hurts, angel. Really.” 

“You’re not darling when you tease me so,” Ezra remarks, then blinks as he realizes what he said. “Oh.” He glances to Anthony and smiles, “Thank you. I suppose I am letting my nerves get the best of me.” 

“‘S why I’m here,” Crowley replies as he takes the wine bottle and tops off Ezra’s drink. “I’m cutting you off after this,” he warns, “Need you to be relaxed, but not too much.” 

“Probably wise, that,” Ezra agrees, and purposely takes a much smaller drink this time. 

After a few minutes, Ezra stiffens when he sees two terrifyingly familiar faces approach them. Crowley hears him whimper a soft oh god , and then he stands, moving around the table to where his siblings have arrived, but both stop short and look past him to Crowley, who is still seated. 

“I wasn’t aware he would be joining us,” Gabriel says, eyes wide even as venom drops from every word. 

“Yes, well, I didn’t think you’d come otherwise,” Ezra says softly, perhaps a bit tersely if one knew him well, as he nods to Gabriel and accepts a kiss on the cheek from his sister Michael. Stiffly, the three Fell siblings take their seats, and stare at each other as if they were strangers. 

Finally after a moment of tense silence, Ezra clears his throat. “I… um.. Would like to properly introduce you both to Anthony Crowley. Anthony, you’ve met Gabriel. And this is my sister, Michael.” 

Crowley nods. Smirks. “Pleasure.” 

Michael nods back, then looks to Ezra. “What’s this about, then?” She glances to Gabriel, suspicious, “And how have you already met him?” 

Ezra stares from Michael to Gabriel, then glances to Anthony, who realizes the same thing as Ezra: Gabriel hasn’t told Michael about his visit to the library just after New Year’s over a year ago.

Suddenly Ezra wonders how Gabriel explained his absence at Christmas the last time. He’d gotten a brief text from Michael- a short and formal Happy Christmas, dear brother, but now he can’t help but be curious as to what Gabriel might have said. He’d have thought his eldest sibling would have marched home and announced to all the family not to associate with Ezra. 

But from the look of confusion on Michael’s face, it’s clear Gabriel kept this news to himself. 

Odd. 

“Well,” Ezra says, after a long moment, thinking of how to best broach the subject considering one half of his siblings is completely unaware of the situation. He flinches when two sets of eyes look up to him, and he suddenly feels as if he might throw up. The room is swimmy, and he feels a flash of heat shoot through him, leaving him with chills in its wake. He can’t do this. Not again. This was a foolish idea and he needs to leave, needs to- 

He feels Anthony squeeze his hand from under the table, takes a breath, and the world settles back down just enough to make him feel brave enough to speak. 

“I invited you both here because I wanted to tell you something very important,” he sits up a little straighter, feels a little bolder. Anthony is next to him, and no matter what happens, he’ll have that when this is over.

Deep breath… 

“Anthony and I are getting married on the first Friday of December, and I wanted to invite you both to the ceremony.” 

No one speaks. 

Gabriel sighs in heavy disappointment and leans back in his seat, unable to look at Ezra. Michael, on the other hand, can’t seem to look away from him. She stares for several long moments, then looks beside her to Gabriel. He meets her gaze after a moment and she glares at him as if to ask, “Did you know?!”

Sitting up straight once more, Gabriel shakes his head at Ezra. “If you think for one moment I am going to support-” he gestures vaguely to Crowley, “Whatever he’s deceived you into, then you’re very much mistaken, Ezra.” 

“He hasn’t deceived me into anything,” Ezra replies, trying and only partially succeeding at keeping his tone calm and level, “I love him. And he loves me. We’re happy together. And we’re getting married. It’s all going to be rather lovely,” he smiles, and feels it deep in his chest- the certainty, the love, the absolution. “And I wanted to share my happiness with you.” 

Gabriel shakes his head. The server appears and asks for their drink order. Gabriel stands. “We’re not staying,” he says as politely as he can, then nods to his sister, “Come on, Michael.” He glares at Ezra, at Anthony. “We’re done here.” 

Without waiting for her, Gabriel turns and storms out of the restaurant. 

Michael doesn’t move. She politely waves away the server, but doesn’t speak for several moments. She looks shell-shocked, and Ezra supposes she is, in a way. She studies Ezra for a long moment, then looks at Crowley, who meets her eyes but tries not to look too menacing. 

“So this is why you haven’t come to Christmas at the cottage the last two times,” she whispers, as if she’s finally figured out which piece of a massively complex jigsaw puzzle goes in the slot she’s been trying to find. 

“Well, last year I wasn’t invited,” Ezra murmurs, blinking away a sudden, stray tear before looking at her again. “But the year before? Yes. I chose to stay with Anthony and his son.” He pauses, hands lifting to rest on the table for half a second before they begin fiddling with the napkin. “I… assumed… Gabriel told everyone.” 

“No,” she shakes her head. “He just said you declined the invitation.” 

Crowley scoffs, drawing Michael’s attention. “He was declined the invitation. Your brother didn’t want him there.”

Michael says nothing. She glances over her shoulder at the direction where Gabriel stormed out, then looks back at her brother. She stares in disbelief for several long moments, clearly processing everything. Finally, Michael leans forward. “Is this really what you want?” She asks, and the look on her face suggests she can’t believe she’s asking such a question. “To marry… a man?” 

“Well…” Crowley murmurs under his breath, but doesn’t press it. 

Ezra nods, and he can’t help the smile that spreads across his lips. “I’ve never been more certain of anything in my life.” 

She blinks at that, surprised. Sitting back, she stares at her hands, still processing. Then she looks up, prim and confused, but resolved. “Then I will be there.” 

A breath escapes Ezra, and he can’t help the sob that follows. “You will?” 

She nods, sparing a glance at Crowley. “I may not… understand...,” she admits cautiously, “But I can also see that we are this close to losing our brother for good. And I do not want that. So. While I may not understand... I will try and… support.” 

“There’s not much to understand,” Crowley says dryly, “We’re in love. Doesn’t have to get much more complicated than that.” 

“No,” Michael breathes, “I suppose it doesn’t.” She meets Crowley’s gaze then, and after a moment of consideration, leans forward, hands resting gently on the table. Her smile is reserved, but her eyes are hard and dangerous. 

“If you ever hurt him-” she warns softly. 

Crowley mimics her stance. Smirks. “I’ll do to your brother the same you intend toward me,” he promises. “Let’s not forget that I’m not the one who showed up uninvited and belittled Ezra for daring to have a job and a life outside the church, and then lie about why Ezra isn’t at the family holiday.” 

That seems to sober Michael a little. She clears her throat and sits back. “Yes,” she acknowledges. “I clearly have a great deal to speak to Gabriel about,” she says, looking at Ezra now. “You know as well as I that he won’t ever… approve.”

“To be perfectly honest,” Ezra says softly, “I didn’t expect him to. I also expected you to follow him out, so this has already gone much better than I anticipated. But you’re right. I don’t foresee Gabriel coming around. And I suppose I’ll have to be alright with that.” 

“You’re probably right,” she agrees softly. “I… have a lot to think about. So… I should go,” she says as she stands. “Gabriel’s probably waiting for me.” 

“Of course,” Ezra says, trying to hold back his tears as he stands, his sister pulling him into her arms and pressing a kiss to his cheek. “It was lovely to see you again, Michael.” 

“And you as well,” she smiles softly, then looks at Crowley and nods. “It was nice to meet you, considering.” It’s clearly difficult for her to say, but the effort seems to please Ezra, so Crowley says nothing he wants to say, and instead inclines his head toward her in acknowledgement. 

Michael turns back to look at Ezra. “I love you,” she says simply. “Though I suppose I have often failed to show it. But if this,” she gestures vaguely around them, “Is that you want-“ she takes a breath, “Then I pray God blesses you both with joy and prosperity in your… marriage.” The word is difficult to say, considering the context in which it is uttered, but she smiles anyway, and the effort is enough to appease Ezra. 

She kisses his cheek again, then slips out of the restaurant. 

Ezra sinks into the chair she’d inhabited, across from Crowley, watching her leave. 

“Well, that could have gone worse,” Crowley says after a long, silent moment. 

Ezra absently grabs his glass and drains it. “Indeed.”

“You okay?” 

Ezra thinks for a moment. Turns to look at Anthony- beautiful, protective, incredible Anthony, who he is going to marry in a little over a month. Despite the pain of being rejected by Gabriel, the shock of hesitant and conflicted acceptance by Michael, and the nerves that still course through him over the whole thing, Ezra feels confident in his answer. 

“Absolutely tickety-boo, my dear.” 

“Feel like ordering dinner? Or a dessert?” 

Ezra shakes his head. “I… don’t think I’m all that hungry, actually,” he says, offering a sad smile to Anthony in apology. “I think I’d like to just… go home and curl up with you and William.” 

Crowley cringes. “Don’t- don’t say it like that! I hate when you say that! He’s bloody Shakespeare! You want to read Shakespeare. Don’t make it sound like we’re gonna have a threesome with some bloke we met at the pub! Not that I’m against that in principle, mind, but I’m not interested in sharing you.”

Ezra laughs softly, a genuine, heartfelt laugh. “I can see why you like to tease me so much,” he says, as he summons the waiter for their check. “It’s rather fun.” 

Crowley glares, but he’s smiling. “You’re a bastard, you know that right?” 

“I might.” 

They settle the bill and Crowley throws his arm around Ezra’s waist as they leave. “Come on, then. Let’s go curl up with William,” he says, mockingly, “And you can read to me.”

“Really?” 

“‘Course. But!” Crowley adds on quickly, “Make it a funny one. We’ve had enough doom and gloom and drama for one evening. I don’t think I can handle everyone dying on top of all this,” he gestures vaguely behind him. 

“Yes,” Ezra agrees as they move toward the Bentley. “I think you’re right. We could do with a happy ending.” 

Chapter Text

 

 

Chapter Twenty-Five: New Beginnings

“Alright, class. That’s the bell. Remember to study for your test tomorrow.” The teacher looks to Adam. “Remember, you’ll have to stay after to make it up on Monday.” 

Adam nods and slides his maths book into his bag. He stands up from his seat, and is immediately nose to nose with Pepper. 

“What does she mean make it up on Monday? Aren’t you going to be here tomorrow?” She says it accusingly, as if his missing is somehow personally offensive. Behind her, two boys approach, and ask Adam the same thing, but with much less aggression. 

Adam looks at his friends with a grin. “Oh, didn’t I tell you?” He asks as he pushes past them and the group makes their way to the cafeteria to wait for their parents to pick them up, “My dads are getting ma-“ he pauses, forces himself to slow down and focus on the R’s. “Mar-ried… tomor-row!”

“I thought grown ups got married on week ends,” Pepper says, unimpressed. “With a big expensive party and gross food. That’s how my aunt’s wedding was. I had to wear a dress,” she sneers. 

“I bet you looked funny in a dress,” the one boy- Brian- says. Pepper shoves him.

“I did,” she huffs. 

“My dad’s didn’t want all the fuss,” Adam shrugs. “We’re going to some office and they will sign some fancy piece of paper and then I’m spending the whole weekend with An’thema while they go on a honeymoon.” 

“What’s a honeymoon?” Brian asks as they sling their bags onto the table and sit down. 

“It’s like a vacation,” Pepper explains, “But for people who get married.” 

“And you don’t get to go?” The other boy, Wenlsleydale asks, frowning. 

“No,” Adam shrugs. “But they always say that I can go with them on another vacation. But this one is special, just for them.” He shrugs again. “It’s okay. All they’re gonna do is make stupid faces at each other and kiss anyway.” 

“Gross,” Pepper makes a face. “I’m never getting married. And if I ever do fall in love, I’m not kissing them. Mouths are gross. I don’t want some gross mouth touching mine!” 

Brian shivers beside her in agreement as he messily eats a pudding cup left over from his lunch. “Yeah. That’s gross.” 

“My dad’s don’t think so,” Adam shrugs, “And Papa… Ez- rah wouldn’t lie to me.” 

At that, Adam’s name is called. He grabs his bag. “I gotta go. I’ll see you on Monday!”

“Bye, Adam!” The others wave him off as he runs to the Bentley, where he’s greeted by Ezra and Anthony. 

“Hi, Dad! Hi, Papa!” 

Ezra beams and Crowley watches him affectionately as Adam crawls into the back of the Bentley. 

< > 

That evening, after dinner and dishes and homework, and Adam is sound asleep in his room, Ezra and Anthony lie in bed, watching each other with intense nervousness and delight. 

“I can’t believe we’re getting married in seventeen hours,” Ezra murmurs as he fiddles with Anthony’s hand, idly playing with the ring on his finger. “I feel so nervous.” 

“Don’t be nervous,” Anthony remarks. “Not trying to downplay things, angel, but is getting married isn’t exactly going to change anything. I mean, it will, but-“ 

“Exactly,” Ezra interrupts, “It will.” He reaches up to brush Anthony’s hair from his eyes. “You’ll finally be mine,” he whispers, “Let no man tear asunder, and all that. I just…” he takes a small, shaking breath, “I just still can’t believe you actually want me enough to-“ 

This time Anthony cuts him off, with lips pressed together in a searing kiss. 

“How long have we been together? Over six years.” 

“We’ve been together a little over one.” 

Crowley sits up and tugs Ezra up with him. “No, no, no. Well. Yes. But. We’ve been together for six years. You and me,” he says, poking Ezra’s chest gently, “Us, against the world. I’ve been yours since the beginning, angel. From the moment I walked into your library I’ve belonged entirely and irrevocably to you. Tomorrow is a formality. A good one; one I’m all for- but it doesn’t change the fact that, for me-“ he pauses and grimaces. “Ugh, I can’t believe I’m about to quote Scripture- but- I sealed you on my heart, upon my arm, years ago. Tomorrow is just one more way I’ll burn you into my soul, Ezra.” 

A small sniffle makes Crowley stop, then, and he sees Ezra is crying softly. He catches a few tears with his lips, kisses them away. 

“I really hope those weren’t your vows,” Ezra murmurs after a moment, causing both of them to laugh. 

“Nah. My vows are all about how I can’t wait to fuck you for the rest of our lives.” 

Ezra gives him a stern look through his tears. “They better not be.” 

“Guess you’ll find out tomorrow,” Crowley says as he reclines back into bed. 

“Anthony Jay Crowley, I swear if you really made your vows about sex- in front of our son- I will-“ 

“What will you do?” Crowley teases, smug and self-assured. 

Ezra glares at him for a long moment, then moves to hover over his fiancé. “I will marry you, but I’ll be very grumpy about it.” 

“Oooh. Can’t have that,” Crowley says sarcastically, laughing through the kiss Ezra presses against his jaw. 

He lingers there, kissing a path over Crowley’s jowl and throat, before moving up to nibble his earlobe. 

“I sealed you on my heart, too,” he whispers, “Hid you there for an age, tucked away like one stores a prophecy or a dream. But starting tomorrow, you’ll be my husband- and I’ll be yours- and I’ve never so proudly bared a title such as that. I know it’s a formality to what we already have, but there’s something final about it. Something concrete and permanent. It’s the first chapter in a new book, and it’s a book I cannot wait to read cover to cover.” 

Crowley cups Ezra’s face. “I hope those weren’t your vows.” He coughs to cover a sniffle. 

“Certainly not. My vows are just spliced together lines from Shakespeare’s most romantic moments with all names changed to Anthony.” 

Anthony blinks. “I… honestly don’t know if you’re joking, and that terrifies me.” 

Ezra laughs and kisses him. “I guess you’ll have to wait and find out tomorrow.” 

“Bastard.” Crowley returns the kiss. 

“And you love me for it.” 

“You know, I do.” 

< > 

Ezra tries for the fifth time to tie his bow tie. His hands tremble and it slips out of his grasp again. With a sigh, Anathema steps forward and bats his hands away. 

“You’re making me nervous,” she remarks as she deftly ties the tie. Ezra glares at her and spitefully adjusts it to his liking. 

“I think I’m allowed to be nervous,” he says primly, “It’s my wedding day.”

They look at each other for a long moment, then dissolve into elated giggles. 

They’re standing in the ladies room of the town hall, a giddy mess of nerves and delight, and finally Ezra stops laughing and fidgeting with his grey suit. “How do I look?” 

“Very handsome,” Anathema nods firmly. “Grey is a good color on you.” 

“Do you think?” Ezra asks, turning to look at himself in the mirror. He’s never been one to explore fashion, sticking with simply whites and khaki and the occasional argyle sweater vest. But grey had always seemed to sharp, too sleek and modern for his tastes. But Anthony had picked it out, and he tugs at the suit jacket a little, turning and tilting his head as if inspecting an old tome for wear and tear. 

“I do,” she says, stepping up to inspect and adjust her grey and navy lace dress. She runs her fingers through her hair to smooth it out a little, then lightly wets her hands and fixes Ezra’s hair a little. “There. Perfect.” 

Ezra lets out a deep breath. Checks his pocket watch. “Twenty minutes,” he says, then pulls out the paper with his vows. “Maybe I should practice-“ 

There’s a knock on the door then, interrupting them. 

“Occupied!” Anathema shouts pleasantly as she plucks the vows from Ezra. 

A voice on the other side of the door speaks. “I’m told Ezra Fell is in there.” 

Anathema looks to Ezra, who has gone a bit wide-eyed and pale. Looking at him curiously, Anathema waits for Ezra to nod his head, and once she has that permission, she moves to the door and unlocks it. Stepping aside, she watches as a woman enters, dressed in a white and brown dress suit, hair tied up in a severe coif. She regards Anathema for a moment, nods pleasantly, then turns her attention to Ezra. 

“Hello, Ezra.” 

“Michael,” he says, a soft, fond smile forming, “It's good to see you.” 

“You as well,” she nods. “You look very fetching.” 

“Thank you,” Ezra beams at that, giving Anathema a pleased grin, before remembering his manners. “Oh! Introductions! Anathema, this is my sister, Michael. Michael, this is my dear friend and employee, Miss Anathema Device.” 

Anathema sticks out her hand, and Michael takes it. “Pleasure to meet you,” Anathema smiles knowingly. 

“Likewise,” Michael says softly. She’s a bit stiff, a bit uncomfortable and uncertain- out of her element. But she’s here, and she’s making an effort, and Ezra counts that as something. 

“Do you mind, Miss Device,” Michael clears her throat, “If I have a word with my brother. Alone?” 

Anathema glances at Ezra. He nods. “Sure thing,” she says with only a slightly terse smile. “I’ll be right outside.” It’s a warning, and a promise. With that, she slips out of the bathroom, and shuts the door. 

Michael waits a moment, then lets out an uncomfortable chuckle. “Your friends are very protective of you.” 

“They are,” Ezra agrees. 

Michael glances down to where her hands are clasped demurely in front of her. Not knowing what to do with one’s hands is a Fell family trait. She sighs and looks up after a long moment. “Gabriel isn’t coming.” 

“I assumed as much.”

She nods, and looks away. “I suppose it wouldn’t do any good to apologize for him.” 

Ezra shakes his head. “You aren’t responsible for him. And we both know he wouldn’t apologize, anyway.” 

Michael sniffs. “Probably not.” 

She shifts, before resuming her rigid and prim stance. She’d look military if Ezra didn’t know better. He absently pulls out his pocket watch. Michael notices. 

“That’s lovely,” she nods toward it. Ezra beams. 

“It was a gift from Anthony,” he says with a burst of pride as he steps forward to let her inspect it closely. “From our first Christmas… together.” 

“It has angel wings on it,” She remarks, amused. 

“Yes,” Ezra coughs, “That’s a bit of a… joke. Between us.” 

“Oh?” 

“He, uh…” He pauses. It feels weird, having to explain it; makes the joke less funny. “He calls me ‘angel’. Has, since the day we met.” 

“He does? Why?” 

“If you were to ask him- well, if you asked him, he probably wouldn’t tell you- but if he did tell you, he’d probably say it’s because he found me when he needed someone the most.” He feels himself smile, feels his heart tumble in his chest. Feels the certainty of his choice further cement. 

Michael blinks, surprised. As if she’s only just now realizing the truth of things. As if she’s come out of a daze and suddenly the answers are before her. 

“You really do love him,” she breathes, and it’s not a question, but Ezra answers her anyway. 

“More than I ever thought myself capable of loving anyone.” 

“The way you speak of him.. Michael says softly, “You get this look on your face. It was at the restaurant, too. It’s like that saying… it’s like he hung the stars.”

“That’s because my world was horribly bleak before him,” Ezra confesses. “I was content with my life, and I loved my job, but I was alone. Until him. And as far as I’m concerned, he did hang the stars.” He pauses and smiles fondly as he thinks of Anthony, just down the hall, waiting to marry him. “He is the stars.”

Michael studies him for a long moment, then sighs. Stepping closer, she rests a thin hand on Ezra’s cheek. “I don’t think I’ve ever understood you,” she whispers, “Perhaps I still don’t. But I think I understand you a little better. You’ve always been different. And we never appreciated that.”

“No, you didn’t,” Ezra agrees. 

“I’m not happy,” she confesses after a moment. “And I don’t think Gabriel is either, not really. We are doing what we were told was planned for us, and there is a certain satisfaction in that, but I look at you now, and you’re glowing , Ezra. You are radiating happiness and love- it’s in your eyes, your smile. I think you managed to do what Gabriel and I have tried and failed to do.” 

“What?” Ezra asks, head tilting in confusion. 

“You’ve found love of the most exquisite kind,” she says, “It’s divine and pure and… good. It’s the love Christ has for His church. I see it in you, in the way you love Anthony. In how protective he is of you. And it contradicts everything I’ve known, but it’s there, right enough.” 

Ezra catches Michael’s hand, and presses a tearful kiss to her knuckles. “Thank you,” he breathes. 

She smiles, eyes filled with tears as well. 

Ezra doesn’t think he’s ever seen his sister cry. 

“I’m proud of you,” she whispers, and it’s sincere and surprised. Ezra sniffles at that, and then laughs as Michael lifts her other hand to wipe away his tears. “And I love you.” 

“I love you, too.” 

They embrace at that, another real first for the Fell siblings, only moving apart at a knock at the door. They move apart as Adam pokes his head in. 

“Papa? It’s almost time.” 

Ezra quickly pulls out a handkerchief and dabs his eyes before handing it to Michael who does the same. As she does, Ezra motions for Adam to come in. He obeys, watching the woman curiously before Ezra bends to scoop Adam up into his arms. He’s nearing eight, and getting too heavy to hold, so Ezra is going to do it as much as he can for as long as he’s able. 

“Adam,” he says softly, “This is my big sister, Michael. Michael, this is my son, Adam.” 

“Hello, Adam,” she says softly, breathless from the wonder of hearing those words. They sound right. 

“Hi,” Adam says, holding out his hand for her to shake. Pleased by his manners, she takes his hand. Once she lets go he looks at Ezra and whispers impatiently, “We have to go!”

Ezra laughs. “Well, then, darling boy, let’s go.” 

Adam wiggles out of Ezra’s arms and opens the bathroom door where Anathema is waiting right outside. She ruffles his hair as he moves past, then looks to Ezra and Michael. “All good?” 

“All good,” Ezra confirms. 

< > 

They opt for a simple ceremony. No pomp and circumstance, no walking down an aisle or any of that nonsense. Instead they meet at the doors of the registrar's office, grinning stupidly and lovingly, and walk inside together with their friends behind them. 

It’s a small party. Michael, Anathema, Newt, and Adam make up the guests, which is all that Anthony and Ezra need. The officer makes a brief statement about the legality of marriage, then instructs Ezra and Anthony to recite their vows. 

Ezra starts. 

He removes the folded piece of paper, and puts on his glasses, causing Anthony to smirk. Ezra scrunches his nose at him playfully, then reads: 

I know I told you I was going to splice together every romantic quote from Shakespeare, but I lied. As clever as the Bard is, I wanted my vows to be from me , not him. 

Six years ago I was alone. And I was content with that. I’d been alone for most of my life, so it was par for the course. But then I met you and everything changed. I suddenly no longer relished that loneliness, but rather resented it. Every moment I wasn’t with you was miserable, once I discovered the beauty of your companionship. Your friendship. Your love. 

I love you, Anthony. Irrevocably, incredibly so. And just as I have cherished these last six years with you, I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with you. I promise to love you, to trust you, to support you, and most importantly, I promise those things to our son. 

Thank you for allowing me into your life and into your heart. Thank you for sharing yourself with me. I promise I will strive to be worthy of being your husband and Adam’s father.”

“You are worthy, angel,” Anthony murmurs, doing his best to express as little emotion as possible. He’s never been good at being sincere in front of others, but his heart is bursting at the seams, and Ezra’s words leave him wrecked. 

He takes a moment to collect himself, then pulls out his own paper, and clears his throat. 

He looks at it, laughs softly, then gives Ezra a dry look. “Well. One of us had to quote Shakespeare,” he says with a long suffering sigh. “Guess this time it’s me. And I didn’t read the whole play, so if it ends tragically just don’t tell me.” 

Ezra laughs at that, as does Anathema. 

Crowley snaps the paper in front of him, and reads. 

The very instant that I saw you, did my heart fly to your service. There resides to make me slave to it, and for your sake am I this patient log-man. O heaven, O earth, bear witness to this sound and crown what I profess with kind event if I speak true! If hollowly, invert what best is boded me to mischief! I beyond all limit of what else in the world do love, prize, honor you.”

He glances up at Ezra and grins, pleased with himself. Then he sets the paper aside, and takes Ezra’s hands in his. 

That day in the library, when we first met- I was a disaster. I was at the end of my rope. And even though I hadn’t prayed in years, I prayed that night, for help. I asked if God were listening, to please send me help or a sign or something. And then I found you. And while I still don’t know how I feel about God, I do know how I feel about you. And… I love you. And I can’t believe I’ve gotten to spend the past several years at your side, making you laugh and annoying you and loving you.

And I can’t believe that, knowing who I am, you’re still willing to stand here and promise me forever. But you’re here… and I’m never going to take that for granted. You love me and you love Adam and you’re just so… full … of love that it’s blinding and overwhelming to think that even a fraction of that love could be directed toward me. You’re an amazing, beautiful bastard, and all I can do is sit in awe of you, and hope that some day I’m worthy of everything you’ve given me.” 

“Dearest,” Ezra breathes, eyes filled with tears. 

The officer declares them married, and as Ezra wiggles happily, Crowley grins wickedly and crooks a finger under his bow tie, pulling Ezra in for a deep, loving kiss. 

< > 

They sign their marriage license with two witnesses, Anathema and Michael. Michael had been shocked when Crowley passed the pen to her, but she simply gives him a nod of understanding and signs her name. 

Ezra scoops Adam into his arms and laughs Crowley throws his arms around them both, proclaiming to his son, “We got him now! There’s no escape!” 

After everything is in order, the group travels to a nearby restaurant for an early dinner. Once again surprised, Michael is invited, and can’t find it in her to say no. She knows she should head home, but she finds herself in awe of how shockingly happy Ezra is, and she finds herself wanting to see more of it. 

So she stays. 

Anathema had reserved a private room for them, and once the group is seated and the champagne- and grape juice for Adam- is served, she proposes a toast. 

“To Ezra and Anthony,” she declares, “It's about time these two idiots got their act together.” 

Newt chimes in. “To Mr. Crowley and his handsome librarian.” 

“I never called him that,” Anthony replies. 

“To my dads!” Adam shouts, earning a few awww’s. They drink to the couple, order their food, and enjoy the day. 

Later on, while Ezra is sharing his dessert with Adam, Crowley wanders over to the empty chair beside Michael and plops down, sprawled out as if he has no idea how one is meant to sit in a chair. 

“So,” he says, regarding her curiously. 

“So,” she replies. 

“I s’pose we’re family, now,” Crowley remarks simply. He isn’t looking at her directly; he’s watching Ezra. She is as well, head tilted in curious amusement as she watches him interact with the small boy. 

“Yes. I suppose we are.” 

“Ezra told me you two had a nice talk earlier.”

“We did,” she agrees. “One that was long overdue, I think.” 

“Good,” Crowley says simply. 

After a few more minutes of tense silence, Michael clears her throat. “The ceremony was lovely. Your vows, especially.” She looks down thoughtfully. “I didn’t realize how much he liked Shakespeare. It was very pretty.” 

“There’s a lot about your brother you don’t know,” Anthony says simply, shrugging one shoulder. 

“I suppose I could argue that communication is a two way street,” she begins thoughtfully, “Though I suppose we never really were very accommodating.”

Crowley scoffs but doesn’t say more. Michael continues. 

“I look at him now, and it’s like looking at a stranger,” she confesses, “He looks so happy.”

“He is happy,” Crowley replies, a little tersely, “And I’ll make sure he always is.” 

Michael nods. “Good.” She pauses a moment, then turns to face Crowley directly. “You don’t like me.” 

Crowley snorts. “What gave it away?” 

Michael doesn't take the bait. “And I don’t necessarily appreciate it, but I do understand it. And I am grateful you are so protective of my little brother. But-“ she says, meeting his gaze, “I hope in time you can forgive me.” 

“Not really my job, forgiving you,” Crowley says simply. “That’s Ezra’s bit. And if he forgives you, then you and I have no problems. And anyway, you’re here, so I assume that he will, if he hasn’t already, because he’s kind like that.”

“I suppose that’s fair.” She holds out a hand. “To new beginnings, then.”

Crowley hesitates for a moment, then shakes her hand.  

A couple moments later, Adam approaches and Crowley pulls him onto his lap, his harsh and standoffish demeanor instantly melting once his attention is focused on his son. After a minute, they get up to go find Ezra, and she watches as Crowley pulls out his phone and snaps a picture of the three of them together. Ezra looks over at her and motions for her to join them. 

She does. As she stands beside her brother, Crowley moving away to snap a picture of the two of them, Michael can’t help but feel a sort of peace settle over her. Despite everything she’s been taught throughout her life, she knows that her brother has made the right choice. 

To new beginnings, indeed. 

Chapter Text

 

Chapter Twenty-Six: The Most Beautiful Thing

 

Eventually Crowley and Ezra take their leave of the restaurant. They gather outside to say their goodbyes before the newly married couple make their way to the Eurostar for their honeymoon. 

Michael gives a gentle hug to Ezra and a nod of understanding to Crowley. She watches as they coo over Adam, before eventually Crowley sets him down and he moves to stand with Anathema. 

“So,” Crowley says, crossing his arms. “What do we do with Miss Anathema?” 

“Obey.” 

“Unless?” 

“Unless her authority no longer represents the best interests of the public.” 

“In which case you…?” 

“Peacefully protest, and if that doesn’t work rebel and establish new leadership more in line with the will of the people.” 

Crowley grins and ruffles Adam’s head. Ezra rolls his eyes, but there is a grin on his face despite his best efforts to keep it subdued. 

At that the group parts, and after one last hug and kiss to Adam, Ezra and Anthony make their way to the station. Once settled and on the move, Crowley turns to look at his husband- and it strikes him for a moment as he realizes that he’s looking at his husband. He has a husband. That he married. 

“My love, you’re staring.” 

Anthony blinks. “Am I?” 

“Mmm,” Ezra nods. “I don’t mind though. I want to look at you too.” 

Crowley huffs, and looks away, but he can’t help the flush that spreads over his cheeks. “Nothing much to look at.” 

“I disagree,” Ezra says as he takes Anthony’s hand. “I rather think my husband is extremely fetching. Might want to spend the rest of the night looking at him.” 

Crowley turns his head to look at Ezra pointedly. “I hope you intend to do more than just look.” 

Ezra smirks and glances down to where their hands are entwined and back up to meet his eyes. “Maybe.” 

They fall silent at that, enjoying the quiet humming of the train as it races down the tracks. The silence is comfortable, and the feeling of Ezra’s thumb caressing his knuckles is so utterly divine. He glances down at their joined hands, sees the signet ring shimmering in the light, and can’t help the smile that flits over his lips. 

I’m married. 

“So,” he murmurs after a few more minutes of silence, “Why Paris?” 

“Why not Paris,” Ezra counters. “Paris is lovely. It’s the most romantic city in the world, and it’s close enough that we aren’t spending the majority of our brief honeymoon traveling.” 

“All fair points,” Crowley agrees, “Is that all?” 

“Well,” Ezra murmurs, and Crowley feels a distinct burst of satisfaction. He knew there was a reason. Ezra never does anything just because. There’s always a reason, logical or sentimental, but it’s never without a purpose, so when he’d asked to plan the honeymoon, Crowley had known there was some reason for it. 

“If you must know, there is a lovely creperie near the hotel I booked for us. I’ve only had their crepes once, but they were heavenly. I thought we could go together.” 

“So you’re using our honeymoon as an excuse to come get crepes ?” Crowley teases. He doesn’t care, he just wants to fluster his husband. 

Ezra sniffs indignantly. “I’m using our honeymoon to visit Paris so I can share something special with my husband.”

“And the something special is crepes?” Crowley asks, amused. 

“They were quite good.” 

“Well now I’m curious,” Crowley says turning in his seat to face Ezra, tugging their hands into his lap. “What were you doing in Paris? Going on a tour of creperies? Trying to learn their secret recipes so you can make your own in London? Oh! You could have become a renowned crepe chef, hoarding a deep dark secret of stolen family recipes!” 

Ezra makes a face at him. “Oh, really,” he huffs. “I wasn’t going around stealing recipes. Just because I like to eat-“ he pats his stomach, “Doesn’t mean I want to bake for a living.” 

“You’d look handsome in a chef’s smock and hat,” Crowley muses. “Or maybe an apron.” His eyes light up. “Only an apron-“ 

“I will divorce you.” 

“Nah,” Crowley says, knowing full well his angel would never. “I don’t think you will.” 

Ezra smiles softly. “No, I definitely won’t.” He leans forward and they share a soft kiss. 

“So really,” Crowley says when he pulls away. “What were you doing in Paris? Nice little holiday or something?” 

No,” he says thoughtfully, “I was in graduate school and I had a bit of a… well, a panic attack I suppose.”

Crowley blinks. “And so you went to Paris?” 

“You have to understand,” Ezra says, “I was very sheltered. And when I went to university, that was already an extremely defiant and crazy act of rebellion. I didn’t want to risk ruining my prospects by acting foolish, so I kept to myself and just studied and worked hard. I was very hard on myself. No room for error or failure, so there was a lot of stress I placed on myself.” 

“The day before my final exams, I was so stressed and nervous and sick, I managed to convince myself I had just wasted six years of my life doing something that was going to fail. I kept waiting for God to punish me, for me to realize I wasn’t cut out for what I wanted, and I would return home with my tail between my legs. So I panicked and worried that if those were my last days of freedom, I may as well… live a little. So I got a ticket and took a trip to Paris.”

“I can’t see you doing anything impulsive,” Crowley remarks softly. 

“It’s only impulsive if you don’t consider spending two hours prior to leaving debating with myself on whether or not I should do it impulsive.” 

“I don’t consider that impulsive.” 

“Thought so,” Ezra remarks. “So anyway. I got to Paris, realized I didn’t speak a word of French or have the correct currency. Managed to sort out the latter and then found the little creperie. I ordered and sat there and ate my feelings for around two hours.” 

Crowley smirks. “So you popped across the channel for something to nibble?” 

Ezra shrugs, flushed. “I was having an existential crisis.” 

“Clearly.” 

“If it makes you feel any better,” Ezra continues, “I was also arrested that night.” 

“Wh- What?!” Crowley sputters. Why the hell didn’t you lead the story with that!?” 

“Because it’s embarrassing,” Ezra huffs. “I was walking around, minding my own business. There was a protest going on. Some union was protesting poor wages or something, and some people got into a fight. I tried to leave the area before I got caught up in it, but the police thought I was involved. They arrested me, along with several others and took me to the police station for questioning. I couldn’t answer because I couldn’t understand them. Finally someone who could interpret came by and helped me explain. They released me after I signed some paperwork and I all but ran back to the station and came back to London.” 

“I can’t believe it,” Crowley says, mouth agape. “It’s like I don’t even know my own husband. Running off to Paris on a whim, getting caught up in a protest? Getting arrested?! If it weren’t for the crepes, I don’t think I’d believe you were telling the truth.” 

Ezra glares at him. “It’s not nice to be sarcastic to your husband of-“ he uses his free hand to out his pocket watch, “Five hours.” 

“And it’s been the best five hours of my life,” Crowley says as he sits up, catching Ezra’s chin and pulling him close for a kiss. “I can’t believe I’m married to a criminal!” 

“Oh, good Lord-“ Ezra huffs. 

”I mean, in all fairness, you are too, so.”

“What? When did you get arrested?”

Crowley shrugs. “I was eighteen. Lou and I got drunk and were bored. Went and moved some markers around where they were planning to pave a new road. We got caught.”

“You moved the road markers?” Ezra repeats, unimpressed. 

Crowley shrugs. “Seemed funny at the time.” 

“I really am married to a criminal,” he says affectionately. 

“And I’m married to a crepe-loving revolutionary.”

Ezra scoffs. “Hardly.” 

“No, no,” Crowley says, holding back a laugh. “You really do love crepes.” 

“Nearly as much as I love you,” Ezra says softly. Their eyes meet, and they can’t help but to smile. 

< > 

They eventually arrive in Paris and make their way to the hotel. They check in and head to their room- the honeymoon suite. They both feel positively giddy, though part of that is the wine they enjoyed on the trip here. The other source of giddiness is the fact that they’re married. 

The bellhop brings their bags into the room and once Ezra tips him generously, he locks the door and turns to face Anthony, a coy grin on his face, eyes shining expectantly. 

Crowley is in the middle of tugging off his suit jacket when he sees Ezra, looking at him, and he pauses mid-motion. He lingers for a moment, then lets his jacket fall to the floor, removes his sunglasses and tosses them onto the dresser, and beckons Ezra to him with a crooked finger. 

Pushing off the door, Ezra takes a step toward Anthony, who smirks and takes a step as well. They meet in the middle, lips searing together and hands tugging at their clothing. 

“I have wanted to get my hands on you all fucking day,” Crowley murmurs as he pushes the jacket off Ezra’s shoulders, kissing him feverishly as he does so. 

“Then by all means,” Ezra murmurs, too busy unbuttoning Crowley’s shirt to be concerned with talking. “Put them on me.” 

“Gonna do more than that,” Crowley murmurs, pulling Ezra’s bow tie off and throwing it behind him haphazardly. “I want you to fuck me into the mattress,” he growls, sliding his hands down Ezra’s shirt, unbuttoning it as he goes. 

“Yes, please,” Ezra whispers against Anthony’s mouth. 

They finish undressing and stumble to the bed. Ezra moves away long enough to grab a towel from the bathroom and lay it over the comforter. Crowley gives him a funny look. 

“What?” Ezra huffs. “I’m not interested in ruining the hotel’s linens.” 

Unable to help himself, Crowley grabs Ezra and kisses him to keep from laughing. “I love you so fucking much,” he whispers, before falling back onto the bed, pulling Ezra down on top of him. They kiss hungrily as he reaches down to stroke Ezra’s cock, loving the way his husband hisses and trembles against him. 

“Oh, darling,” Ezra sighs. “How I want you.” 

He kisses Crowley, a heated press of lips to his mouth before trailing down over his throat, his shoulders, his chest. He vanishes for a moment, and Crowley whines at the sudden cold absence. Ezra returns as quickly as he left, pressing a bottle of lube into Crowley’s hand. “Open yourself for me, husband.” 

And how can Crowley deny his husband what he wants? 

They shift so that Crowley can do as requested, but also allows Ezra to continue lavishing his praises against Crowley’s heated skin. Fire burns where kisses are placed, and as Crowley presses a finger inside himself, he very nearly sobs as he’s struck with overwhelming pleasure. 

He drags it out, in no rush to have this moment end. He knows if he could stop time, he’d freeze it right here, to allow them an eternity of this. An eternity of being pressed together, eager for the touch and taste of one another. He presses another finger inside and groans as Ezra gently strokes his cock, not enough to send him spiraling over the edge, but enough to make that tingle of desire fall over him like a sudden chill. 

Once he’s stretched and ready, he rolls onto his back and lifts his hips, wordlessly begging for Ezra to take him. With slow, gentle movements, Ezra kisses him all over, as if he were tasting the first flavors of a succulent feast, until finally he lines himself up, and with a sort of saintly patience that drives Crowley mad, he slowly presses in, gentle and loving and perfect. 

Fuck,” Crowley hisses. It’s not different from the times they’ve done this before, he knows. But somehow this feels significant. It’s a sappy, overly romantic sentiment that might otherwise make Crowley cringe, but he can’t help but feel it as he looks up at his husband- and oh, God , will he ever tire of that word?- and sees pure, genuine, piercing love, as hot as flame but as soft as a feather. 

“I intend to,” Ezra says, his voice shaking a little as he tries to hold himself back. Tries to maintain a semblance of control. 

That’s unacceptable. 

“Don’t hold back,” Crowley whispers, wrapping his legs around Ezra, pushing him closer. “ Fuck. Me.”

The love in Ezra’s eyes darken into a beautiful shade of lust, and Crowley feels a warm hand press against his hip, while the other braces himself on the Pillow above Crowley’s head. He leans down to press the softest, sweetest kiss to Crowley’s lips. “As you wish, husband.” 

Then he snaps his hips forward. Hard. 

Crowley grunts in surprise, at the force of motion that actively shifted him on the sheets. Before he has time to make a snarky remark, Ezra’s hips thrust forward again, and again, and again. It’s hard and unforgiving and just what Crowley was hoping for. He groans in unabashed pleasure as he tries to meet Ezra’s thrusts, but Ezra is holding him down, that hand on his hip bruising in a way that makes Crowley nearly come from just the thought feeling the ghost of fingertips on his skin tomorrow. 

That hand slides upward then, and before long it’s tangled in Crowley’s hair, gripping the strands tightly in that way Crowley adores. He’s not sure what it is, but he loves being used by Ezra, loves it when he’s a little rough with him. Perhaps it’s because in every other area of their relationship Ezra is soft and gentle and loving. And Crowley, though he would never admit it aloud, adores that about Ezra. Loves that gentleness and sweetness; but he equally loves these moments when Ezra loses himself to the carnality in which they are indulging and holds a little too tight and thrusts a little too hard. It’s bliss. 

Ezra snaps his hips and Crowley cries out in agonized joy, needing more but feeling that any more will send him spiraling over the edge. 

“That’s it, my love,” Ezra murmurs, never once faltering his thrusts, “You’re doing so well.” 

Crowley groans at that, and reaches up to tug Ezra down so that he can kiss him thoroughly before releasing him and lightly pushing at his chest. “Out,” he murmurs, and Ezra obeys, slipping out of Crowley and moving so Crowley has room to roll onto his stomach. “Okay,” he says once he’s settled. “Don’t stop until you come.” 

He feels a series of gentle kisses over his shoulders and upper back, then he’s shifted to give Ezra the proper leverage, then he’s sliding back inside, causing Crowley to moan into the pillow and grip the duvet with a white-knuckled grip. “Yes.”

Ezra moves over him, in him, mercilessly, just how Crowley wants it, and after a minute he reaches down, griping his cock, but doesn’t move his hand, instead allowing the movement from Ezra’s thrusts to cause him to fuck his hand. Above him, Ezra presses kisses sporadically, until his thrusts are just as unrhythmic, and just as he murmurs out a desperate, “I love you, Anthony,” he comes, and the warmth that fills Crowley is so good, is so wonderful and right that he follows his husband over the edge, coating his hand and the towel Ezra had laid down. 

Panting, Ezra carefully lifts away from Anthony, rolling onto his back, head turned to regard his husband. Anthony shifts to look at Ezra, a small, fucked-out smile on his lips. 

“I love you, too,” he says after a moment. 

Smiling, Ezra sits up, lightly smacking Crowley’s ass as he moves toward the bathroom. Crowley sits up, smears his hand over the towel, then looks up to see Ezra giving him a smug, self-satisfied look. 

Crowley rolls his eyes. “I’m not saying the towel was a bad idea,” he grumbles, standing and wadding it up, “But I do think it’s dorky.” 

“But the duvet is clean,” Ezra sniffs haughtily, “I’m just being considerate. This isn’t our home where we can just behave like animals.” 

Crowley walks by Ezra, dropping the towel on the floor. “You’re adorable.” He moves to the shower and turns it on. “Coming?” 

Ezra rolls his eyes, but follows him into the shower. 

< > 

“They’re fucking.” 

“Anthony!” 

“What?” Anthony exclaims defensively, gesturing to the statue in question, “You can’t look at this and tell me that the demon isn’t giving it nice and hard to the angel.” 

“They’re wrestling,” Ezra huffs quietly, well aware that they are not alone in this particular room of the Louvre. “The brochure says-“

“The brochure can say whatever it damn well pleases,” Crowley remarks dryly, “I don’t care that this is supposed to be good and evil fighting for dominance. That is two supernatural beings fucking and you can’t change my mind.” 

Ezra huffs and turns away from the statue. “You are the most immature, juvenile-“ 

He cuts off when he feels Crowley’s arms wind around him and feels his warm breath against his ear. “Save the argument for later, angel . We can go back to the hotel and fight for dominance.” 

Ezra slaps his hands away with the brochure and moves to the other side of the room to look at the painting there, pointedly ignoring his husband. Crowley follows him, trying to bite back a laugh. He steps up next to Ezra, leans against him gently. “I love you.” 

“Mmhmm.”

“I do,” Anthony murmurs, “And I’ll prove it: tonight I’ll let you dominate me, how’s tha- ow!” Anthony laughs as Ezra smacks his arm again, glaring at him intensely before moving on to look at the pieces in another room. Anthony follows, hands in his pockets, and a wicked smirk on his face. He’ll stay out of slapping range for a few minutes, maybe wait until they reach the statue of Psyche and Cupid before he approaches Ezra, wraps his arms around him, and presses a kiss and semi-sincere apology against his temple. 

He does just that, and as Ezra studies the statue, Crowley slips his arms around his husband, kisses him, and whispers a soft, “Forgive me?” 

He feels Ezra relax against him. “I suppose.” He glances over his shoulder to look at his husband. “Are you going to behave now?” 

“On my best behavior,” Crowley swears. “Would I lie to you?” 

Ezra turns fully, gives Anthony a dry look, then moves on to the next exhibit- but he entwines his fingers with Anthony’s and pulls him along. 

They break for lunch in the cafe, chatting pleasantly about their favorite pieces thus far. Crowley confesses he actually really does like the Battle for Dominance, and when Ezra scoffs, he is quick to prove his sincerity. 

“Think of it: good and evil, fighting for dominance. But there’s this eroticism to it, like, they can’t exist without one another. Like they need each other. And there’s this passion to it, you know. Violent, intense passion, like they hate each other because they’re supposed to - they’re on opposite sides- but then they’re posed like, well like that - like they’re in this weirdly sexual but still violent embrace, fighting because they have to, but embracing- sort of- because they want to.”

Ezra considers for a moment. “I feel,” he says slowly, “That that was just your way of eloquently trying to say that it looks like they’re having kinky hate sex.” 

Crowley laughs. “Well, when you put it like that…”

He takes a sip of his coffee, then asks, “What about you, then? If the good and evil hate-fucking isn’t your cup of tea, then what is?” 

Ezra rolls his eyes, but he’s smiling. “I was rather fond of the Law Code of Hammurabi.” 

Crowley snorts lovingly. “Nerd.”

“It’s impressive,” Ezra defends. “Older than Biblical law. A foundation of law and language! Written in one of the oldest, readable languages! It’s extremely fascinating!” 

“Not arguing that.” 

“I also rather liked the Winged Victory of Samothrace.” 

Crowley nods. “That one is pretty bad ass.” 

“Indeed,” Ezra nods. “And one feels so small, looking up at her. She’s quite imposing; as dreadful as she is beautiful.” 

“Sublime, one might say.” 

Exactly,” Ezra exclaims, “She’s sublime.” 

They discuss some more favorites as they finish their meal, then stand to continue their tour. Crowley is definitely fascinated by the pieces- and quickly finds a new favorite in the Sleeping Hermaphroditus. But while he enjoys the art and history and culture- despite his devil may care attitude and appearance, he does enjoy this sort of thing- he finds more joy in watching Ezra. He’s surrounded by priceless masterpieces spanning the ages- pieces that have stood the test of time and have influenced and inspired many over the years- but by far the most beautiful and priceless work of art in the whole museum is right beside him, holding his hand, and looking with unbridled awe and wonder at Death of the Virgin. 

He has never loved anything quite the way he loves Ezra Fell. He takes a moment in Ezra’s distraction to study him: the soft frame he knows intimately hidden beneath grey slacks, a white button down, and a light blue sweater vest. The soft, round cheeks that blush so prettily when he is flustered by Crowley’s words and actions. Those gorgeous lips that whisper words of love even when Crowley doesn’t think he deserves them. Those lips that have kissed away his sorrow and bitterness. Those eyes that sparkle in delight over life- good food, a good book, Adam’s silliness, Crowley- he delights in all things, takes pleasure in the world and its creations, and somehow out of everything, cast those beautiful blues upon Crowley and decided to never look away. 

His hair, silver-blond and dangerously close to curling, shines in the light of the Louvre, almost like a halo surrounding him. He’s positively breathtaking. Unable to help himself, he tugs Ezra’s hand and pulls him close. Ezra looks confused for a moment as he’d been studying the painting, but willingly allows Crowley to crowd his space, and Crowley sees the hint of a smile before he claims those lips with his own. 

After a moment he steps back. He’s wearing his sunglasses, but even with that barrier, he knows Ezra can see right through him. 

His angel smiles, the love reaching his eyes, and it’s the most beautiful thing Crowley has ever seen. 

“I think I’ve seen everything on my list,” Ezra says softly, taking a step back and pulling Crowley along with him. “Shall we go back to the hotel?” There’s a mischievous glimmer in his eye, and Crowley falls even more ridiculously in love with his husband. 

< > 

They spend the afternoon in bed, Crowley straddling Ezra and worshiping him with meticulous devotion. Kisses every exposed inch of flesh, whispers words of love against the soft expanse of his stomach, kisses them into his thighs, breathes them across his lips. He fucks him slowly, relishing in the feel of them pressed together, moving as one and sighing brokenly as pleasure blooms between them, within them, before bursting like fireworks behind their eyes and leaving them sweaty, exhausted, and satisfied. 

Several minutes pass before Ezra finally has the ability to speak again, and once he does, he rolls over to curl against Anthony and murmurs, “Though I can't be certain, I think that was much more lovely than battling for dominance.”

Crowley laughs at that, shocked and delighted. “Wouldn’t know,” he responds, holding his husband tight against him. “Never wanted to fuck anyone I hate.”

“Well, I would offer to roleplay, but I don’t think I’m interested in that, and at any rate, I don’t think I could even pretend to hate you.” 

“Aww, angel,” Crowley coos, kissing his temple before tugging Ezra to lay half on top of him. “You don’t have to hate me in order to dominate me.” He thrust his hips upward, and Ezra gasps, feeling Crowley’s renewed erection brush against him. “I’ll gladly let you win any time you want.” 

“Does that promise extend beyond the bedroom?” Ezra asks as he sits up, straddling Crowley’s thighs and sinking down onto him, riding him slowly. 

Oh, fuck-“ Crowley groans. “You keep fucking me like this, and you can have anything you want.” 

Ezra rolls his hips, then leans down to kiss Anthony, filthy and heartfelt. “I have everything I want right here.” 

< > 

They finally leave the room to grab dinner at a small cafe before heading to a surprise tour: the Paris underground. 

Sufficiently morbid and yet humbling, it’s just the sort of thing that’s up Crowley’s alley. He’s all for high art and ancient monuments of law, but the seedy, dark history of the city of love is equally appealing, and he has to admit that he rather likes walking past ancient bones that, if they could talk, could tell the most amazing and terrifying stories. 

It doesn’t hurt that Ezra is pressed as close to him as possible, a little claustrophobic and mildly freaked out. 

Afterward they find a seedy looking bar and grab the corner booth. Ezra drinks to forget the prickly, uneasy feeling of being so intimately surrounded by death, and Crowley drinks because the wine here is damn good

“So what’s on the agenda for tomorrow?” 

Ezra sips his wine. “I have a list of things,” he says, pulling out a rumpled sheet of paper, “But nothing concrete. We accomplished what I wanted for myself and what I had for you today; tomorrow can be entirely up to you.” 

“If that’s the case we’re staying in bed all day,” Crowley replies even as he reads the options Ezra has written down. 

“That’s certainly an option,” he agrees primly, “So long as we get crepes at some point during the day.” 

“Could tie you to the bed and feed you crepes after I fuck you.” 

“We are in public.” 

“No one’s listening, angel.” 

Ezra glares, and sips his wine. “As much as I enjoy crepes, and sex, I don’t think I’m inclined to combine the two.” 

“Probably wise,” Crowley agrees, “Else you might get a hard on every time you see a crepe.” 

“Oh, really!” Ezra huffs, flushed but grinning despite his best efforts. “You are horrible.” 

“And yet you married me.”

Ezra’s smile softens and he reaches out to take Anthony’s hand. “And it was the best decision I’ve made.” 

< > 

They spend Sunday morning in bed, enjoying each other at their leisure. Eventually they venture out for a late lunch- crepes, of course- then wander aimlessly around Paris, enjoying the last day of their honeymoon to the fullest. 

Chapter Text

 

Chapter Twenty-Seven: Fate, or Otherwise

 

Four Years Later 

Michael walks into the gymnasium, looking around anxiously for a familiar face in the bleachers. After a moment, she spots a couple, one with silver-blond hair immediately next to a head full of wavy red hair. The blond looks over, and she sees it is in fact her brother, and he grins and waves at her, that little wiggle he does when he’s happy accompanying the gesture. 

Michael realizes she has no idea when she last saw that wiggle. 

Frowning, she shoves that thought aside and approaches them, watching as Ezra scoots a little closer to Anthony to make room for her. She sits down, welcomes the kiss on the cheek from her brother, and whispers a soft, “Hello,” to him before nodding to Crowley. He lifts his chin in greeting, then goes back to scanning the crowd. 

“Have I missed anything?” She asks Ezra. 

“No, they’ve just started,” he explains. “Adam won’t be up for a few minutes.” 

“Good,” she replies. “Traffic was awful. I’m convinced the M25 was made by Satan himself.”

“Might have been,” Ezra agrees softly. “It’s always miserable when we have to take it. But you’re here, and that’s all that matters. How are things?” 

“The same as always,” Michael replies softly before turning her head and looking at Ezra with an uncharacteristic gleam in her eye. “With one exception.” 

“Oh?” Ezra turns to face her, curious as to what Michael might have to report. It’s strange, having this sort of camaraderie with her, after so many years of feeling like there had been a wall between them. But in the four years since his wedding to Anthony, they’ve worked to bridge the gap. It’s been slow and not without its hiccups, but Ezra is grateful for it all the same. 

“Yes,” she says, “Sunday some political group came to the church to disrupt things as part of some sort of protest. There were four of them, led by this woman with dark hair. She interrupted Gabriel’s sermon and began challenging him on his beliefs.” 

What?” Ezra gasped, “What did he do?”

“He told her that he had no interest in being a part of her display, but if she really wanted to have a discussion, to meet him afterwards for a talk.”

“And let me guess,” Ezra muses, “She didn’t.” 

“She did.” 

“No!” His eyes widen and his jaw drops. “You’re joking!” 

“I’m not,” she says primly, “They talked for two hours after dismissal.”

“What came of it?” He asks, truly intrigued. 

“They hated it so much, they’re meeting on Saturday for coffee to continue the debate.” 

Ezra’s expression is truly comical, and he stares at his sister in complete disbelief. “I- what?!” 

“Precisely my reaction when he told me.” 

“He’s actually going on a date with an atheist?” Ezra asks. “I remember when he wouldn’t even acknowledge a non-believer’s existence!” 

“Trust me. I am as shocked as you are. And he would probably be offended if you called it a date,” she remarks, “He claims it’s strictly business, and he’s trying to save her.” 

“Of course.” 

A moment later, Ezra feels Crowley smack his arm. He turns sharply. “Ow!” 

“That didn’t hurt.” 

“No, but it was rude!” 

Crowley huffs a laugh and then points. “Adam’s up.” 

“Oh!” Ezra wiggles excitedly, turning his attention to the gym floor. Adam walks out to the ring dressed head to toe in white, focused and serious and perhaps a little nervous. He gets into position, as does his opponent, and they salute each other with their epees. The boy’s place their masks in place, then stand en-garde. 

“That’s my epee,” Ezra whispers proudly to Michael. “We wanted to start him with foils, but he insisted on using my weapon.”

The referee signals, and the bout begins. Adam and the other boy begin to cross blades, moving back and forth until the other boy presses the tip of his blade against Adam’s thigh, and a point is awarded. 

“The whole body is the target with an epee,” Ezra explains softly to Michael, “But only if touched with the point of the blade.”

“How do they tell?” 

“The suits are electronic,” he says, “Much different than when I did it. The sensors can tell.” 

Adam scores a point, and Ezra grabs Crowley’s hand in excitement. “Come on, Adam,” he cheers softly, wanting to be supportive but not distracting. Crowley doesn’t cheer, but he does grip Ezra’s hand just as tightly, squeezing it when Adam scores against his opponent. 

Ultimately Adam wins his first match, and goes on to win third overall. Crowley and Ezra cheer for him happily, and Adam waves sheepishly from his spot on the podium while the referee hands out medals. They call out the names of each winner, and Adam beams with pride as the referee says, “Third place is awarded to Adam Crowley-Fell.” 

It’s been two years since the adoption was made official, but each time Ezra and Anthony hears their son bear both their names, it sends a wave of intense joy and warmth through them both. It had been Adam’s choice, when the adoption became official, on whether he wanted to take Ezra’s name too. It had been an easy choice. Ezra still gets a little teary-eyed when he hears his name attached to Anthony’s, and though Anthony would refuse to acknowledge it, he gets a little misty eyed as well. It feels right, Adam carrying both their names, by his own choice. 

Second place goes to a boy named Jacob and first to a girl named Carmine. Adam, who knows these kids well from previous tournaments, high fives them both once the awards are finished, and then they disappear toward the locker rooms with their coaches. 

While they wait, Michael, Ezra, and Anthony chat, Ezra carrying most of the conversation. It’s pleasant, if a little stiff, but it means a great deal to Ezra that they get along, so they keep the conversation light, and all is well. 

Before long Adam reappears and bounds across the gymnasium, duffel bag on his shoulder and epee secured in its sheath. He runs to his fathers, drops his bag, and lets Ezra scoop him up into his arms. He’s too big for such things now, nearing eleven and just on the cusp of being five feet tall. Ezra doesn’t care, and hugs him tight anyway. 

“Bravo, my boy,” he congratulates him before setting him down. Adam turns to Crowley, who fist bumps him, ruffles his hair, then pulls him into a hug. 

“Not bad, kid.” 

“Thanks,” Adam says before turning to face Michael. “Hi, Auntie Michael!” 

She smiles. “Hello, Adam. You did very well today.”

“Thanks!” Adam says as he picks up his things. “Coach says if I keep it up, I could win the next one!” 

”It’s a very good goal to work towards,” Ezra encourages, “But let’s not discount your improvement today. Third is very respectable, and is evidence of your hard work thus far, right?” 

“Yes, Papa.” 

He smiles. “We’re proud of you, darling boy.” 

Adam grins, then moves toward the door. “Can we go now? I’m hungry and want to get lunch before Pepper’s party.” 

Crowley smirks and nudges Ezra. “Fencing, food… are we sure this kid isn’t biologically yours somehow?” 

Ezra rolls his eyes. “Don’t act like you don’t enjoy a good meal on occasion, you grouch.” 

They walk outside to the Bentley where Crowley helps Adam put his things into the boot. 

“So,” Ezra says to his sister, “Care to join us for lunch?”

Michael smiles but shakes her head. “I should be getting back. But thank you for the invitation.” 

“Of course,” he nods, watching as she submits an Uber request, “Are we still on for New Years Eve?” 

“Absolutely,” Michael nods. “I’m looking forward to it.”

“As are we,” Ezra nods, watching as Adam steps forward and hugs Michael. 

“Thanks for coming, Auntie Michael.” 

“Of course, Adam,” she says fondly, hugging him lightly. They aren’t extremely close, but Adam always seems pleased to see her, and she has to admit she is quite proud of her adopted nephew. Gabriel doesn’t know what he’s missing, she thinks, as she releases Adam, and accepts a hug from Ezra, and then a half-hug from Crowley. Things are still a little tense between them, but she knows it’s not exactly personal. Crowley is extremely protective of Ezra, especially regarding their family, and though she used to take mild offense to it, she’s since learned to appreciate it. They don’t have much in common, but they both love Ezra, and that’s enough to garner a mutual respect. The rest will come as it will. 

“See you on New Year’s,” he says simply, then moves to get in the car. “Come on, angel. Gotta kid to feed.” 

Michael’s ride arrives at that point, and her phone pings. “There’s me,” she says, stepping up to give Ezra a kiss on the cheek. 

“Mind how you go,” he says, followed by a soft, “I love you.” 

“I love you too.” 

She moves away, then Ezra calls out, “Oh!”

Michael turns. 

“You must tell me what happens on Saturday.” 

A conspiring look flashed across Michael’s face, and not for the first time she thinks this is how it should have been. “Oh, I will.” 

They go their separate ways, and Crowley speeds away, toward Soho. 

< > 

They grab lunch at a small cafe Adam likes that serves a fabulous gelato, then race home to grab Adam’s clothes and gift for Pepper, and then are on their way once more to drop Adam off at the girl’s birthday party. It’s an overnight event, complete with scary movies, lots of junk food, games, and rumors of a bounce house have floated around the school for days , but Pepper refused to confirm or deny such speculation. 

When they arrive, Adam gives his fathers hasty goodbye hugs then, enticed by the game his friends are playing, and he rushes to Pepper, Wensley, and Brian to join in on the fun. When he reaches his friends, he turns back for one last wave, then Pepper is pulling his arm and demanding that he take the lead for this round of tag. 

Abandoned in favor of his friends, Crowley and Ezra greet Pepper’s mother, confirm when to pick up their son, and then retreat to the car, perhaps a little more forlornly than before. Crowley drives a little slower on the way home, a surefire way for Ezra to know he’s bothered. 

He reaches out to touch Crowley’s thigh. “You all right, my love?” 

Crowley shrugs. “Just sort of realized Adam is growing up,” he says softly, “He’s not a little boy anymore. S’pose I’m having a Moment.” 

“Ah,” Ezra says in understanding, squeezing his leg comfortingly. “He is growing up quickly. Feels like only yesterday you burst into my library with a screaming infant. Hard to believe it’s been nearly ten years.” 

“Ten years,” Crowley repeats softly, disbelieving. “Fucking hell.”

“Language.” 

“I think ten years of you and me warrants a bit of language.” 

“In a good way, I hope.” 

Crowley takes one hand off the steering wheel and lets it rest on Ezra’s. “In the best way.” 

Ezra flushes. He likes knowing that after all these years Anthony still has the ability to fluster him. “So,” Ezra says thoughtfully. “We’re child-free for the next twenty-four hours. Any thoughts on how to utilize such time?” 

Crowley doesn’t answer immediately. His brow furrows in thought before finally he shrugs and says simply, “Let’s go.” 

“Go where?” 

Another shrug. “Anywhere. Nowhere. To the moon. The stars. Paris. Doesn’t matter. Let’s just go off together for the night.” 

Ezra gives Anthony a questioning look, “You’re serious?” 

“Why not?” 

Ezra considers it. “It’s still early,” he muses, “And it’s not that far of a trip to Paris, I suppose.” 

“Arrive in time for dinner, find a cheap hostel, grab some crepes in the morning, be back in time to get Adam at 3.” He pauses, then adds with a smirk, “Maybe start a riot and get arrested.” 

“I did not start a riot!” 

“Well there’s a first time for everything.” 

“We are not starting a riot,” Ezra clucks before smiling softly. “Shall we rush home and pack an overnight bag, or just be true ragamuffins and just go as we are?” 

“Let’s stop by the flat: you have ten minutes to pack and call Anathema. I’ll call Newt to open tomorrow. Then we’re off.” 

< > 

They’re on the Eurostar, sipping wine and laughing like two lovesick teenagers. 

Eventually, Crowley sobers and takes a sip of wine. “Angel?” 

“Hmm?” Ezra turns his head to look at his husband. 

“Do you ever wonder if us meeting was meant to be?” 

“What,” Ezra asks, “Like it was ordained by God?” 

Crowley shrugs, a bit embarrassed, and turns to look out the window. There’s nothing to see at the moment, but he looks anyway. “I dunno,” he shrugs, “Just keep thinking about how it’s been ten years. And so much has happened during that time. And I keep thinking about how all these things are connected- all these decisions and accidents and how all these things in our lives lined up perfectly to allow us to meet when we did, and I have to wonder: was it all supposed to happen like this? Every good and awful thing? Was it all just to lead us here, to this moment?” 

Ezra is quiet for a couple minutes, contemplative and uncertain. 

“I think,” he says at last, “That I have no idea.” 

Crowley chuckles. “I suppose it doesn’t really matter,” he says at last.

“I suppose not,” Ezra agrees. “At any rate, I don’t know which I prefer: that everything in the universe had to meticulously work out a certain way in order to ensure we would find each other, or if we managed to do it despite random chance and chaos. I suppose my instinctive response would be that God ordained it all,  but then that leaves a lot of unsettling questions about outside circumstances.” 

“Careful, Ezra. You’re getting dangerously close to blasphemy. Not that I mind. I perfected the art, after all.” 

“I’m quite certain having questions isn’t blasphemous.” 

Crowley snorts. “You’d be surprised.” 

“Unfortunately, no I wouldn’t.” 

“True.” 

They slip into silence after that, feeling, not exactly morose , but thoughtful. Eventually Ezra takes Crowley’s hand. “However it happened,” he says softly, “I’m glad it did.” 

Crowley lifts their hands to kiss Ezra’s knuckles. “Me too.” 

< > 

Their excursion to Paris is short, but lovely. They find a little hotel with a few rooms still available, drop off their bag with the bare necessities inside, then venture out into the Paris evening. They walk the streets of the city hand in hand, visiting several adorable shops, before grabbing dinner at a charming restaurant near the Louvre. They’re there on one of the few nights the Louvre is open late, and so they buy tickets and walk around aimlessly, looking at the new pieces and collections that have since been brought to exhibit, and revisit a few well-loved favorites. 

They retreat to the hotel after a pit stop for coffee and crepes at a late night cafe. Once in bed, they feel that familiar pull of desire for one another, but are too tired to do more than lazily jerk each other off before taking a quick shower and falling back into bed. Despite their exhaustion, they relish the time together, the togetherness and the intimacy of just lying in bed,curled up together as they talk about the future and about everything and nothing until they fall asleep. 

They rise early the next morning, much to Crowley displeasure, grab a small breakfast, and return to the station for the two plus hour ride back to London. 

Despite it being early morning, and both of them tired, Ezra feels positively giddy at their little excursion, and his delight rubs off on Crowley. 

“We’ll have to do this with Adam,” Ezra says at length. “Just whisk him off to Paris one weekend.” 

“Let him tell us his opinion on the best statue in the Louvre.” 

Ezra glares. “The Battle for Dominance is hardly the best piece in the Louvre.” 

“Oh? Then what is?”

They tease and argue playfully the rest of the trip home. They arrive back with a couple hours to spare before they are meant to pick up Adam, so they run by the library to check on Anathema, and the nursery to check on Newt, before returning to pick up Adam. 

Adam slides into the car, looking as happy and exhausted as his parents. 

“How was it?” Crowley asks as they drive toward home.

“It was wicked!” Adam declares. “Pepper had a bounce house and we got to watch this really scary movie and it made Brian cry but it was really cool and there was lots of blood!” 

“Sounds awful,” Ezra mutters. 

“And then we had cake and ice cream and pizza and hot cocoa- yours is way better than Pepper’s mum’s, Papa- and we played Sardines at midnight and it was so cool!” 

“Well, we’re glad you had a lovely time,” Ezra says sweetly, “I do hope that movie won’t upset you too much, though.” 

“Nah, it was old so I know it wasn’t like, real.

Crowley snorts. Ezra rolls his eyes. “Well, good.” 

“What did you two do while I was gone?” 

Anthony and Ezra share a look and a smile. “Went to Paris,” Anthony says. 

“Whoa, cool! I wanna go to Paris.” 

“Well, maybe we’ll go soon, as a family,” Ezra says, glancing at Anthony expectantly. 

“Maybe for your birthday,” Anthony says. Adam beams. 

“Wicked!” 

< > 

The party appears to have wiped Adam out, because by the time they arrive home, he’s out. Ezra reaches back to gently rouse him, but Crowley catches his hand and shakes his head. He slides out of the car and then scoops Adam into his arms. 

Once inside the flat, Anthony carries Adam to his room and lays him on the bed. The room has changed over the years, going from a simple slate grey with only a couple photos on the walls to being a true child’s room. Posters of superheroes, bands, and clippings from magazines line the walls in a sort of organized chaos that only Adam understands. He has a shelf with his fencing medals and a few science awards above his bed. His desk is covered in books, his Nintendo Switch that probably needs charging, and his fountain pen safely enclosed in its case. 

On the bed itself sits Dog, who no longer is Adam’s constant companion, but remains vigilant to Adam’s safety as he sleeps. Almost instinctively, Adam rolls over to pull Dog to him, and settles back into sleep. 

Ezra gently pulls Adam’s shoes off, quietly placing them where they belong next to the wardrobe. The room is a bit untidy, and Ezra knows he’s going to have to make Adam clean it soon, lest it become a proper mess. 

Anthony drapes a blanket over his son, then steps back and looks at Ezra, whose eyes are a little glassy. 

“I think it’s my turn to have a Moment,” he says with a soft chuckle. 

Crowley smiles in understanding and steps up to Ezra, kissing him softly as he wipes the tears away. They linger for a moment, watching their son sleeping peacefully, before they slip out of his room, pulling the door shut to allow him uninterrupted rest. 

Ezra immediately goes to sit on the couch, glad for their adventure, but grateful to be home. Anthony joins him a few minutes later with two glasses of wine. He sets them down on the table, then goes to the bookshelf and pulls out a well-worn book. 

Returning to the couch, he hands one glass of wine and the book to Ezra. “Read to me?” He asks softly, “Just for a bit.” 

“Of course,” Ezra grins, making space for Anthony to curl up against him. “Much Ado About Nothing. You really like this one.”

“It’s funny.” 

“You do prefer the funny ones.” 

“Mmm,” Anthony agrees. “Thou and I are too wise to woo peaceably.” 

“Oh, I don’t know,” Ezra muses after a moment, “I rather think thou and I were too dumb to woo peaceably.”

Crowley looks for a moment like he might argue, but then recalls what brought them together. “Point taken,” he relents. 

Ezra holds out his glass. “To us, though,” he says, “Two idiots who somehow managed to get it right, after all.” 

Crowley touches his glass to Ezra’s. “To circumstances, ordained or chaotic, fate or otherwise, that brought together two idiots and a pretty great kid.” 

“Hear, hear.” 

They share a smile, then a kiss, then put their glasses on the table. Crowley curls up against Ezra, who wraps his arm around his husband, and begins to read softly aloud. It’s a scene reminiscent to many, many nights before, but it’s a scene that, much like the stories of Shakespeare and the person he’s reading them to, Ezra knows he’ll never tire of.

Not long into the story, Adam- carrying Dog with him- ventures sleepily into the living room, and crawls onto the couch, curling up against Crowley to listen as he dozes. 

Eventually both Adam and Crowley drift to sleep, and quietly, Ezra closes the book and lets it rest on the arm of the couch. He takes a moment to study Crowley and Adam, and gently brushes his fingers through the former’s hair. 

If anyone were to have asked Ezra ten years ago where he saw himself at this point in his life, he would have first been annoyed at such an invasive question, but, out of politeness, would have said something vague about expanding the library. He’d never imagined a scenario in which he might be married, have a son, and have a slowly but surely improving relationship with at least one of his siblings. It’s a funny, odd world, sometimes, and it’s even funnier how Ezra’s world changed by the simple act of someone needing a book. 

He’s glad for it, though. He’s glad Anthony found him, and he’s glad that he acted foolishly, that he reached out for the first time in his life, and allowed someone past the barriers he’d placed around his heart. 

Crowley shifts slightly under Ezra’s touch, bringing him out of his thoughts as he curls into him a little tighter. The hand on Ezra’s thigh shifts, as if searching, even in sleep, for his husband’s. With a smile, Ezra slips his hand under Anthony’s and sighs contentedly.

He thinks back over his life once more, and a gentle realization settles over him like a warm blanket after ice skating in an abandoned park: in this moment, sitting together with his husband and their son, on a cramped little sofa in their home in London, Ezra Fell has never felt so free. 

 

End