Who the fuck, Crowley thought savagely, schedules an entry-level English Lit course for eight o’clock in the motherfucking morning?
It was only Monday, but Crowley had already had enough of this week’s bullshit. He wanted to sleep his way through the next five days of classes and wake up in time for his Friday afternoon plans (which consisted mostly of him being held upside down over a keg, tap in his mouth and cheers ringing in his ears, chugging beer until he either gave up or got so fucked up that he couldn’t remember his own name). The weekend he’d just finished had held many of the same type of activities, and he wasn’t entirely sure whether the classroom around him was spinning because he was just hungover to the point of being dizzy or still actually a little drunk.
The answer to that question, he decided, was irrelevant. He felt like shit, and this class was going to be shit, so he’d just sit here and drowse through it until he could go back to his dorm, drain a beer or two (“hair of the dog,” someone had once told him), and really sleep off whatever-it-was that was making his head pound.
Sighing, Crowley laid his forehead against the cool top of his desk, not caring at all that his sunglasses were pinching the sides of his face. He was wearing the glasses because his professor was a dick who liked to flood the room with as much natural and artificial light as possible, and the gremlin that was walking around in his brain with a baseball bat did not like that at all.
The kid next to Crowley had an annoyingly high-pitched voice, and he was currently giggling about something, and Crowley wanted very badly to punch him in the throat. Crowley wasn’t the type of person to learn the names of his classmates unless he had to, but he knew what the kid sitting next to him looked like. Blond curly hair, dark eyes, freckles, too-wide smile, wire-rimmed glasses with lenses thicker than aquarium glass. He was not a bad-looking guy, actually, but Crowley could have done without his laugh at the moment.
To Crowley’s immense relief, his neighbor stopped laughing when their professor started class. Crowley, as usual, dozed off into a semi-comfortable sleep three minutes into the lecture, aided along the way by his professor’s exceedingly monotone voice.
But then there was a hand on his arm, shaking his shoulder, and Crowley briefly considered if twenty to life was really all that bad of a prison sentence. He determined that prison wouldn’t be all that much fun - they didn’t have alcohol, after all - and with a groan, lifted his head off of the desk.
“What d’you want?”
“Group project,” the blond guy chirped. “We’re partners.”
“Fuck,” Crowley said feelingly, ignoring the slightly wounded look that crossed his new partner’s face. “I hate group projects.”
There was a surprise. Crowley raised one eyebrow (it had two lines shaved into it - his roommate had done that this weekend, possibly) above his sunglasses.
“Yeah,” Blond Guy said. “I like to work alone.”
“Ah,” Crowley said, and he laid his head back down on the desk again. They had different reasons for hating group projects, then; Crowley hated work, and he hated talking to people, and so group projects were about as pleasant as having toothpicks shoved under his fingernails.
“Anyway. We’ve got to do an analysis of the difference between the myth of Kurtz and the reality.”
“Myth of what?”
Blond Guy’s jaw fell open with an audible pop. “Kurtz. From the book.”
“Mm,” Crowley grunted. “What book?”
“What do you mean, ‘What book?’” Crowley’s partner was staring at him like he’d grown a second head (the thought of which made Crowley’s headache worse, so he stopped thinking about it immediately).
“Haven’t read the book.”
“You’re joking.” Blond Guy’s tone had gone from chipper to shocked to annoyed, so Crowley sighed, sat back up, and hauled his backpack into his lap.
“Not joking,” Crowley said, rummaging through his backpack before he found what he was looking for. “I really don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about.”
Blond Guy’s skin got even paler than it already had been. “So the rumors are true, then. You really do sleep through every class.”
Crowley grinned and took a sip of Pedialyte (right out of the bottle, of course). It was the best hangover cure he’d found, and he hadn’t planned to use it, but it was looking like he’d need to get his head back in the vicinity of his shoulders for this conversation.
Something that could have been qualified as a whimper passed Blond Guy’s lips, and he set his copy of a book down on Crowley’s desk.
“Heart of Darkness. Joseph Conrad.” Poor guy, he sounded exhausted. “You can have my copy because I doubt that you care enough about your grade to buy your own. I’ll get another from the bookstore later.”
“Thanks,” Crowley said, and he flipped the book open to the inside cover in the hopes that there would be a name.
“Ezra. Thanks, Ezra,” Crowley said again.
“No problem.” It was a problem, and Crowley could tell, but this Ezra character seemed intent on politeness. Waste of fucking time, really, but that wasn’t any of Crowley’s business.
“When’s this due?”
Crowley’s eyebrow made another appearance. “Damn, quick turnaround.”
“Yeah. I’ve got a busy week, and you haven’t read the book yet, so do you want to meet on Saturday to work? We can divide up whatever we don’t get done and do that independently on Sunday.”
Crowley stared at him. “That’s… that’s the weekend.”
“Don’t you have plans?”
Ezra shrugged. “Nothing I can’t reschedule.”
“I have plans,” Crowley insisted. “Lots of plans.”
“I know what your plans probably look like, Crowley.” Oh. So Ezra knew his name (and reputation), then. “Can you possibly put them off until a later date?”
No, Crowley’s brain said vehemently, but what came out of his mouth was, “I guess.”
Ezra smiled at him, and a little piece of Crowley’s chest flipped inside out.
“Nmph,” Crowley said. His cheeks were strangely warm, so he took another gulp of Pedialyte. Probably just dehydrated or something, yeah. No other reason.
Ezra grabbed his bag, which was one of those professional-looking leather bags that always looks out of place on the shoulder of an undergraduate, and got to his feet. “Right. See you in class on Wednesday, then?”
“Yeah.” Crowley had actually been debating skipping class on Wednesday, but now he figured that he should at least read the Sparknotes summary of the book and do his best to stay awake in class to see if the professor said anything relevant.
It had absolutely nothing to do with seeing Ezra, of course. That would be ridiculous.
Crowley slumped into the chair across from Ezra, shaky hand wrapped with white knuckles around a familiar-looking plastic bottle.
“This feels like deja vu,” Ezra said drily. “Fun night, then?”
“Shuddup,” Crowley mumbled, popping the seal on his Pedialyte and taking a long drink. He was going through his stash of this stuff way too quickly. Crowley decided to stop hanging around people who required him to be semi-conscious during the before-noon part of the days following weekend nights.
His brain reminded him that the only person who fit that description was currently sitting across the table with a self-satisfied smirk on his face, and he gave himself a mental slap across the face.
“Right. So, I’ve got a document I can share with you - d’you want to start a Powerpoint? I was thinking we should go in order of the times Kurtz is mentioned...”
Three hours and a bottle of fake-grape tasting electrolytes later, Crowley had a list of tasks to accomplish before Monday and was waving goodbye to a too-cheery Ezra. They had managed to pull together a series of quotes and the bare bones of an analysis for each, but they’d decided to work out the specific wording for each part on their own. Well, Ezra had actually decided that, and Crowley had agreed because it had meant he could leave and go home to sleep.
Ezra had put his phone number into Crowley’s smartphone with fingers that were clumsy and uncertain (“I don’t have one of these yet - mine still has the keyboard”) and told Crowley to text him with any questions. They could see each other’s analyses in the shared document, so Crowley figured that Ezra would go through and fix anything that needed fixing, so he wasn’t really planning to use the phone number.
Still, the fact that he had Ezra’s number in his cell phone made his stupid heart do a sort of squirming motion inside his chest, but Crowley dismissed it as a never-before-documented hangover effect. It didn’t matter at all that when he’d been kissing that guy last night, he’d caught himself imagining blond curls and freckles. That didn’t really mean anything, did it?
Crowley was sober on a Sunday night, and he was scowling at his laptop screen. He had to write some shit for that bullshit class, but he didn’t want to do it. It’s not that he didn’t know what he was supposed to be writing because he did. Ezra had explained things really well (and had complimented Crowley when Crowley had come up with something fairly smart-sounding on his own, which Crowley remembered with a vividly red blush), so he knew exactly what to write. He just didn’t know where to find the motivation to actually do it.
Groaning, Crowley pulled his phone out of his pocket and sent a text to Ezra.
Hey, need help wording a thing, got a sec to talk?
He put his phone back on the desk and waited. In the meantime, he clicked over to Twitter and wound up spending the better part of an hour trolling homophobes and generally dicking around until he remembered what he was supposed to be doing.
With a sigh, Crowley re-opened the document and was surprised to find that absolutely nothing had changed. The large gaps under the quotes for Ezra’s sections were still just as blank as his own, which was puzzling. It was nearly ten, and Ezra had made it very clear that he never went to bed after eleven if he could help it (Crowley had laughed at him, which had made Ezra blush).
No text on his phone, either. No missed calls.
Hey, Crowley wrote again. I didn’t say, but this is Crowley.
Fifteen minutes went by, and Crowley managed to work through the first of his five analyses. No text from Ezra, but sending another was borderline weird, so Crowley put his headphones in and went back to work.
It was eleven thirty by the time Crowley had finished writing and editing his part of the work. He closed out of the document and opened it again, expecting to see Ezra’s name pop up next to a blue cursor, but it was the same as before. The white blanks next to the quotes Ezra was supposed to be working on were mocking him, so Crowley picked up his phone and fired off another text.
Crowley stared at the half-finished project on his laptop screen and made a decision that he’d never imagined he’s even consider. He pulled Ezra’s old copy of Heart of Darkness out of his bag, flipped to the first relevant quote about Kurtz, and started typing.
At just after one in the morning, Crowley hit print, snapped his laptop shut, set an alarm for seven thirty, and collapsed face-first into bed. He’d deal with it in the morning.
Crowley walked into English Lit with two cups of coffee in his hands and a poorly-stapled packet of papers under his arm. He’d been woken up by a call from Ezra, and after slipping out of his room to avoid waking the alcohol-scented lump of blankets that was his roommate, he called Ezra back. His side of the conversation had begun with a good ten seconds of “Hey… calm down… take a breath… slow down, Ezra… hey… it’s okay… WILL YOU SHUT UP?” until he finally managed to explain what he’d done. Ezra had been hyperventilating (and possibly crying, although Crowley couldn’t be really sure about that), but Crowley had talked him off the ledge and promised to bring the finished project to class.
As far as expectations for the presentation went, Crowley didn’t really have what you might call high ones. He was a B-at-best type of student, so he had a few reasonable expectations for the class period. He’d stand at the front, read off his analyses, try to avoid eye contact with the professor, and say “Thank you” at the end of the presentation. Ezra would, he expected, be as bubbly and bright as he always was and would probably give the best damn presentation on Kurtz that this university had ever seen, and that would be that. New group project, same college bullshit. “Game over, insert coin” and all that.
What Crowley was not expecting was to get bear-hugged as soon as he’d put the coffees and papers down on his desk, but that was what happened. Two strong arms were wrapped around his middle and a soft body was pressed against his back, and Ezra was evidently trying to squeeze all of the breath out of Crowley’s lungs.
Just when Crowley was about to pry Ezra’s hands off, Ezra let go. Crowley straightened his (admittedly already somewhat wrinkly, but that wasn’t the point) shirt and turned around, smirking.
“Thank you,” Ezra gushed, cheeks pink and warm. “I’m so sorry. I’ve never done that before, you know-”
“What, sleep for fifteen hours?” That was actually what had happened. Crowley had picked up Ezra’s explanation between gasps and apologies on their earlier phone call; evidently, Ezra hadn’t been feeling well, so he’d settled down for a mid-afternoon nap and woken up at seven in the morning the following day.
Ezra’s blush deepened. “Yes, that, but I was talking about not doing my share of the work.”
“You did your share,” Crowley lied. “No worries.”
Silently, he handed Ezra the second coffee, and Ezra’s dark eyes twinkled with surprise.
“What is it?”
“Something stupid and sweet,” Crowley said, taking a swig of his own coffee (black, like he liked it). “Figured it might be your thing.”
Ezra popped the lid off of the cup and broke into a wide smile at the sight of the brown-and-white swirled foam. He closed his eyes and raised the cup carefully to his lips, taking the smallest sip imaginable.
It was ridiculous, really, how much Ezra seemed to enjoy that first sip. He sighed deeply and his whole body relaxed, a soft smile turning up the corners of his mouth. And then his tongue darted out and licked a bit of latte foam from where it had stuck to his top lip, and Crowley’s mouth went dry. He solved this with another gulp of coffee, not caring at all that it burned his throat.
Ezra’s eyes popped open again, and Crowley quickly shifted his gaze to the floor, the tips of his ears flushing with color and heat. He hadn’t been staring at Ezra because he liked him. No, he’d had milk foam on his lip, and it had been distracting.
“Thank you, Crowley.” Ezra’s voice was soft, and Crowley came to the realization that he didn’t hate the sound of it at all when he wasn’t hungover. It was a bit nice, actually - not too nice, of course, but nicer than some. Possibly most.
“Ngk,” Crowley said, and he kept staring at his sneakers until their professor called them up to present their work.
Crowley’s friends were laughing about something, so he sauntered over to them and leaned against the wall. The bass was so loud that it made it nearly impossible to hear, which wasn’t unusual for this kind of party at all. At the moment, Crowley had enough vodka in his veins to get a horse drunk, but that wasn’t unusual either. The friend who owned this house always got a lot more alcohol than should have been legal for any one person to buy, so things on that front were just as they always were. It was just a house party on a Friday, and nothing was really unusual about it at all.
Well, nearly nothing. The one thing that was out of the ordinary was that Crowley had turned down three offers of hey-let’s-go-upstairs-and-make-out for no reason other than that he just… didn’t want to kiss those people. They were good-looking, sure, but none of them were his type.
Huh. He didn’t think he’d had a type, before.
Must be the vodka.
“Wha’s the joke?” Crowley slurred, thumping one of his buddies on the back with an open hand. “Simon fall down th’ stairs again?”
It was hard to see through the clouds of smoke and e-cigarette vapor, but Crowley could make out a familiar pile of blond curls poking above the top of what everyone agreed was by now possibly the most disgusting couch in the world.
“No,” Crowley whispered, unbelieving, and his friends dissolved into peals of beer-soaked laughter again. They had, evidently, crossed paths with people like Ezra before and were just as surprised as Crowley to see him here.
“I asked ‘im his name,” one of them choked out between a burp and a laugh. “Said ‘s Ezra.”
“Yeah, I know,” Crowley said, and before he knew what he was doing, he was making a (drunken, stumbling, uncoordinated) beeline for the couch.
Ezra was holding a red cup in both hands and looking very, very lost. He was sipping something from the cup every few seconds, eyes flicking around the room and never landing in one place for very long.
“Hi,” Crowley shouted, and Ezra’s head whipped around. He wasn’t entirely sure what he thought he was doing, but his brain had established that he was going to do something, and so here he was doing it.
“Hello.” Crowley didn’t so much hear Ezra’s reply as read his lips, so he sank down onto the World’s Grossest Couch and leaned in. He told himself that he was trying to hear better, but Ezra also smelled like cedar instead of stale beer and sweat, so that was nice.
“What’re ya doin’ here?” Crowley was proud of himself for getting that sentence out all at once, so he grinned. It hadn’t been a smile directed at Ezra, exactly, but Ezra saw it and smiled back anyway.
“I have no idea,” Ezra confessed, dark eyes wide behind his glasses. “I guess I thought I’d see what all the hype’s about.”
“And?” The room was spinning a little, so Crowley reached out and braced himself on Ezra’s arm.
“I don’t get it.”
In his inebriated state, Crowley thought that this was the funniest thing he’d ever heard, so he broke out into snorting giggles and buried his face in Ezra’s shoulder. He really did smell good, didn’t he?
Ezra started laughing, too. It was a relieved kind of giggle, like Ezra had been waiting all night for someone to come up to him and make him laugh, and so Crowley laughed harder. They stayed like that for a minute, just laughing over the sound of the music and shouting, and Crowley’s alcohol-addled brain thought that it was very nice.
Finally, Crowley sat up and grabbed Ezra’s hand. It wasn’t a conscious decision so much as instinct, but Ezra tightened his grip on Crowley’s hand, so it didn’t seem like too bad of a move. Ezra’s hand was both warm from the muggy air of the house and cold from where it had been pressed against his cup, and Crowley’s stupid brain started to imagine that he could warm it up completely if he just held on for long enough.
“C’mon,” Crowley said, and got to his feet with more dexterity than should have been possible.
Ezra’s eyes got even wider. “Where are we going?”
“T’ talk.” He hadn’t even asked if Ezra wanted to talk (and if he’d been anything short of plastered, he would probably have picked up on the fact that Ezra looked like what he really wanted to do was go home), but Ezra stood up and followed him, so he thought that it was alright.
Ezra hadn’t dropped his hand, either, so that was weird. Not a bad weird - a really good weird, maybe - but definitely weird.
Crowley dragged Ezra through the house and into one of the spare bedrooms. A couple was in there, lying down with their tongues making knots in each other’s mouths, but they sat straight up when Crowley walked into the room.
“Out,” Crowley said, gesturing to the open door with his non-Ezra-attached hand. “Bye.”
The people who frequented this house knew enough to understand that Crowley had unmatched veto powers. It didn’t matter what you were in the middle of, really - if Crowley came in and told you to leave, you left. If Crowley wanted the room you were in, you found another. Those were just the rules, just a fact of life with parties at this house.
The couple glanced at each other for a moment (their brains were taking a moment to process the fact that they’d just been kicked out before they’d done anything more than play a few rounds of tonsil hockey), but then they scrambled off the bed and darted out the door, looking for all the world like two kids who’d been caught mid-make-out by a prudish parent.
When they’d gone, Crowley shut the door and pulled Ezra over to the end of the bed. Ezra was unnaturally fidgety, fingers tapping the back of Crowley’s hand in a nerve-driven staccato rhythm.
Crowley, as a general rule, was not very skilled at small talk even when he was sober. Now, though, it would have been less accurate to say that he had too much alcohol in his bloodstream and closer to the truth to say that there was a surprising amount of blood in his alcohol stream, and so his powers of speech were more limited than normal.
He had alcohol on the brain, of course, so his first question to Ezra was, “What were ya drinking?”
Ezra blushed and stared at their linked hands, fingers still tapping out Morse code. “Coke.”
Oh. Well, that wasn’t entirely surprising, but it certainly limited Crowley’s conversation options. He’d been hoping that Ezra had been drinking something alcoholic so that he could ask him if he liked it, but Crowley (correctly) assumed that Ezra had had Coke before, so he couldn’t really ask that question anymore.
So, he said, “Oh.”
Ezra shifted uncomfortably on the bed. “You don’t have to be here, you know. You can go back out.” The words tumbled out of Ezra’s mouth in a rush, so fast that Crowley’s slowed brain processes barely caught them.
“Nah,” Crowley said. “Good here.”
There was another awkward pause, and then Ezra asked, “So, you do this every weekend, then?”
“And this is fun, usually?”
Crowley shrugged, bumping his shoulder into Ezra’s. “Yeah. But y’gotta drink f’r it to be fun, most of th’ time.”
“Oh,” Ezra said. “Not for me, then.”
It occurred to Crowley (later than it should have, but, well… drunk) that Ezra had been in college for just as long as he had, which meant that he knew that parties were typically more fun when you drank alcohol at them. What Crowley had told him couldn’t have been new information.
“Why’re you here?” Crowley hadn’t meant to ask it like that, but that was how it had come out. It was a little accusatory, maybe, and that could have been the reason why Ezra flinched like Crowley had struck him.
“I told you: I wanted to see what all the fuss was about, and I found out that I don’t really understand it.”
“But, why’re you here, though? Lotsa parties, y’know.”
It was dark, but enough light was slipping in from the crack under the door that Crowley could see Ezra turn his head away to hide his blush. He mumbled something under his breath, and this time Crowley couldn’t read his lips.
“I knew you’d be here,” Ezra said, raising his voice just above a whisper. “You’re the only person I know who goes to parties, and I knew you’d be here.”
“Oh,” Crowley said, a smile creeping over his face. “Good.”
“Good?” Ezra’s head had turned again, and now Crowley could see little squares of light reflecting off of his dark eyes.
Crowley closed his eyes and laid back on the bed, tugging at Ezra’s hand to get him to follow. He felt the mattress next to him dip with Ezra’s weight, and his smile widened.
“Hey, ‘m drunk, but we can talk if you wanna,” Crowley said to the ceiling, and he heard a happy-sounding hum from Ezra’s side of the bed.
“Okay. I’d like that.”
The more they talked, the more Crowley became aware of the fact that he’d never, not once in his life, wanted to kiss someone as badly as he wanted to kiss Ezra. Both of their hands were sweaty, which was really pretty disgusting, but Crowley didn’t care enough to break the hand-hold (and apparently, neither did Ezra). Ezra’s laugh was soft and his hand was warm, and Crowley couldn’t even see him all that well, but he knew that his curls were crushed at weird angles because of the way he was lying on his side. Sometimes, Ezra shifted around, and his knee knocked into Crowley’s. On one notable occasion, their noses bumped, and Ezra collapsed into the same high-pitched giggles that had once been Crowley’s least favorite noise. It was almost comical, really, that the very sound that hungover-Crowley hated was one of the best things that drunk-Crowley had ever heard, but Crowley wasn’t thinking about the irony of that. No, he was thinking that he wanted to feel Ezra’s nose against his again, thinking that he wanted to crush his lips into Ezra’s and maybe put his tongue in Ezra’s mouth.
But a little part of Crowley (the part of Crowley that was usually dead asleep by this point in Crowley’s drinking activities) was telling him that Ezra deserved better than that, so Crowley didn’t kiss him. Instead, he listened to Ezra tell him stories of home and reveled in the little touches of their noses and knees.
“I should go,” Ezra said after a while, levering himself into a sitting position once more. In the dim light, Crowley could see that he’d been right: Ezra’s curls were squashed and messy, and he looked very handsome with them like that.
“It’s late. I have to go to bed.” There was a smile in those words, so Crowley smiled back into the dark.
Ezra still hadn’t dropped his hand. Crowley didn’t know how long it had been, exactly, but he did know that he’d never continuously held hands with anyone for this long before. It was new, this feeling in Crowley’s gut, but he didn’t hate it.
The feeling felt like sweaty palms and looked like freckled skin and smelled like cedar. It was warm and gooey and strange, but it was also soft and happy-feeling.
Butterflies, Crowley’s brain supplied helpfully, and he knew that yes, that was the right word.
And then the butterflies turned into electricity that raced up Crowley’s spine because Ezra had leaned over and pressed his lips to Crowley’s cheek.
“Goodnight, Crowley. Be safe, alright?”
“Ngh,” Crowley said to Ezra’s retreating back.
The door opened and closed, and Crowley didn’t move. He just stayed where he was, staring at the ceiling and grinning like a lunatic, the feeling of Ezra’s lips on his skin searing a brand across his memory. He wasn’t sure how much of this night he’d remember in the morning, but he knew that he would rather never wake up than wake up without the memory of that kiss.
Crowley’s last thought before he drifted off to sleep was that it was truly stupid how much he liked this boy.
On Friday at nine in the morning, Crowley cancelled his evening plans and made new ones. These new plans involved getting dinner with a blond-haired nerd from his English Lit class, and he was more excited about that than he’d ever been about getting drunk.
Crowley couldn’t say exactly what it was that made him ask Ezra to dinner, but he was sure that he’d spend the rest of his life thanking whatever-it-was. Ezra’s shocked grin had split his face into two pieces, and Crowley kicked himself for ever even thinking that his smile was too wide. It was perfect, really, because if it were any smaller, it wouldn’t have enough room to store all of Ezra’s joy.
“I’d like that,” Ezra had said shyly, cheeks and ears and neck (and chest, probably, but Crowley couldn’t see that because of his shirt) turning a very lovely shade of red. “What time?”
Ezra was nodding before the number was even out of Crowley’s mouth. “Sounds perfect.”
“Right,” Crowley said, still a bit dazed by the fact that he’d actually done this. “See you tonight - I’ll pick you up at your dorm?”
“Okay.” Still beaming, Ezra had gathered up his things and walked out the door, looking back over his shoulder in time to catch Crowley watching him.
He and Ezra had been smiling at each other all week in class, and Crowley had been able to stop himself from kissing him in front of forty strangers, and they’d even been flirting a bit over text throughout the week. All of these were small things, small happy things, and they’d culminated in Crowley sucking it up and extending a dinner invitation.
Something had changed for Crowley that night at the party. He’d stopped running from his feelings and started running toward the source of them, which was something he’d never really done before. The catalyst of that change might have been the frankly absurd amount of alcohol in his body, yes, but Crowley thought that the more likely culprit was Ezra himself. He was soft and kind, and he was surprisingly funny. Sure, he dressed sort of dumb and had a habit of using too many big words in short sentences and was generally a pretty dorky sort of person, but somehow, all of these things were reasons that Crowley liked him more. It made no sense at all, but Crowley didn’t care because it was really, really good.
They were lying on the roof of the engineering building, and Ezra was laughing.
“I can’t believe that I’ve never been up here.”
“I can,” Crowley teased. “We’re breaking the rules, you know.”
Ezra sniffed at him. “I know. Contrary to popular belief, I have actually broken rules before.”
“No,” Crowley gasped with mock surprise. “You? No way.”
“I have,” Ezra insisted, indignant.
“I snuck out of my house past curfew once,” Ezra said, and there were a few soft thumping noises as Ezra fumbled for Crowley’s hand in the dark. He found it and laced their fingers together, and Crowley’s stupid heart skipped several beats. “I went out and sat in the middle of the road under the stars, and I just watched them for a while.”
“You snuck out just to go look at the stars?”
“Yeah, I mean…” Ezra trailed off, and Crowley guessed that he was gesturing at the night sky. “Look at them! Worth breaking the rules for.”
“More than once, apparently,” Crowley said, turning his gaze away from the twinkling night sky and searching for the silhouette of Ezra’s face. When his eyes adjusted, he could see the profile of Ezra’s nose and lips, and he saw lights from other parts of campus reflected in the lenses of Ezra’s glasses.
“Yes,” Ezra said to the stars, “more than once.”
“Okay, so you snuck out. What other rules have you broken?”
“I returned a book late to the library.”
Crowley laughed, a sharp sound cutting through the warm night air. “Oh, watch it, you might go to prison if you keep on like that!”
“Shut up,” Ezra said, but Crowley could hear his smile. “Anyway. I parked illegally in an alley once because there was this bakery having its grand opening and I couldn’t find parking anywhere. And I smoked a cigarette, once, because my brother dared me to do it - my parents told me that I shouldn’t ever smoke, but I did it anyway.”
“You’re a rebel,” Crowley teased, inching closer to Ezra so that their sides were pressed together. He still hadn’t gone back to looking at the stars, but Ezra hadn’t stopped. So, as silence fell over the rooftop, Crowley watched Ezra watch the stars, and he felt the soft wings of butterflies settle into his stomach once more.
“Thank you,” Ezra said after a while, his gentle voice almost getting lost in the darkness.
“Bringing me here. Asking me… asking me out.”
Crowley smiled. “Anytime.”
That was what broke Ezra’s concentration on the stars, and he snapped his head around, coming nearly nose-to-nose with Crowley. Crowley could feel Ezra’s breath on his own lips, and it made the hairs on his arms stand up on end.
“Do you mean that?”
“Yeah,” Crowley said, because he did.
“You’d want to do this again, you mean?”
Anytime, Crowley almost said again. Whenever you want, whatever you want to do.
Instead, he said “Yeah. Do you?”
“Yes.” It was the fastest reply Crowley had ever gotten to anything, a single syllable that fell from Ezra’s lips and brushed past Crowley’s chin on its way down. The sound of it sent a shiver through Crowley’s whole body.
“Ezra,” Crowley said slowly, “I want to do something, but I don’t want to mess this up.”
“Oh?” It sounded like Ezra had stopped breathing (which, in fact, he had).
“I want to- can I kiss you?”
The question hung in the two-inch gap between their faces, heavy and real, and Ezra still hadn’t started breathing again. When he spoke, his voice was shaky and small.
“I haven’t kissed anyone before.”
“That’s okay,” Crowley said, and fuck, it was taking every ounce of his willpower not to just lean across that tiny space and do it. But he didn’t do it, not yet. He stopped himself because he wanted Ezra to be sure. He wanted Ezra to want this, really want this, because otherwise it would feel dirty and wrong.
Warm air hit Crowley’s lips again, and he could feel Ezra’s ribs expand as he drew in one shuddering breath after another.
“I don’t know how to kiss back.”
“It’s okay.” Ezra, Crowley noticed with increasing excitement, hadn’t said no. He hadn’t said yes, yet, but he wasn’t saying no.
There was another pause, and then Ezra leaned forward just enough to press the tip of his nose to Crowley’s. Crowley could tell that Ezra was worried - scared, maybe - so he rolled onto his side and brought his other hand up to rest against the steady curve of Ezra’s jaw. He’d never been this careful with anyone before. When he’d wanted to kiss someone who wanted to kiss him, he just did it. He didn’t wait, didn’t hold himself still and listen to the racing beat of his own heart, didn’t touch their face like they were the only thing that mattered. But Ezra? Ezra mattered enough for this.
And then there were two words that floated up from the roof and fell in with the stars.
“Kiss me,” Ezra said, and Crowley did.
Crowley didn’t believe in miracles until he found Ezra, and then he noticed them everywhere.
Over a shared bowl of ice cream, Ezra said, “You know, I really went to that party because I wanted to talk to you, but I didn’t know how,” and Crowley kissed him because that sort of honesty was nothing short of miraculous.
When Ezra confessed that he’d liked the look of Crowley since the first day of class, Crowley swore that the room got brighter in a way that could only have come from some sort of divine power.
Ezra also had the uncanny ability to send an encouraging text exactly when Crowley needed to see one. They were always little things, like, I can’t wait to see you later! or Good luck on your test <3, but they were miracles nonetheless.
When Crowley bought coffee with Ezra, it was always just the right kind of bitter. It wasn’t ever burnt or over-roasted, and it was always smoother than it was when Crowley bought it on his own. Miracles in paper cups, really.
Alcohol became an old friend rather than a clingy significant other, and while Crowley still liked to drink sometimes, he always wound up in the same sturdy arms at the end of the night. Ezra laughed at his antics, and Crowley said the sappiest things, but it wasn’t a constant anymore, and that was a miracle, too.
And the kisses, those were the best miracles of all.
The first time that Ezra kissed Crowley, they were snuggled under a blanket in Ezra’s room, and Crowley kissed Ezra on the tip of his turned-up nose for no reason other than that he could. Ezra blinked at him for a moment, the warm pinkness of a blush already filling his cheeks, and then he’d leaned over and pressed his mouth to Crowley’s. It was clumsy and indelicate and short, but Crowley’s stupid heart nearly fell out of his chest anyway.
There were kisses on cheeks in public and kisses on lips in private. Sometimes, when he was feeling particularly old-fashioned, Ezra would kiss Crowley’s hand because it always made Crowley break out into laughter. And then there were forehead kisses and top-of-the-head kisses, and there were hundreds of kisses blown through the air and sent across the wireless text network.
Because of these miraculous little changes to his life, Crowley had the sneaking suspicion that Ezra was some sort of angel. The first time he called Ezra by that name, he was rewarded with a happy-Ezra giggle and a soft peck on the lips (which really just proved him right, he thought), so he made a mental note to do it as often as possible.
Crowley still hated mornings, and he still slept through most of his classes. He was still a B-at-best student, and he still hated talking to people. He still was sarcastic and a bit too-cool-for-school, and he still had a crush on the boy who sat next to him in that miserable excuse for an English Lit class.
It was a bit embarrassing, really, how much he liked that boy. But then the boy would kiss him, and Crowley would forget that there had ever been a world without that boy and his miracles.