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Angel in the Gallery

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Professor Fell was everyone’s favorite. He was warm and friendly, with a bit of a bastard streak that his older students loved. And he made his subject come alive with his teaching - almost as if he’d been there among the salons of Paris or at Michelangelo's side as he painted the Sistine. 

And the best part of the Professor were his capricious trips to the museums - 

“How can I expect you to learn without being embraced by history and art itself?” he asked his students.

And really, who would argue?

-

It was a breezy October when Professor Fell decided to sweep his students up for a last-minute outing to the nearest art museum to see the Roman statues. 

The crowd huddled around him for warmth - and he did look the coziest wrapped in his tan cardigan and camel-hair overcoat. There was an inner warmth to the man, too, which the students just wanted to bask in as much as they did in the light of his smile.

“Come around, there’s a love,” he said. “Now, wander around a bit and take notes of what you see: subject, material, style all of it is indicative of something we’ve learned in the past few weeks. And don’t be lazy. I will be sitting in the new exhibit for you to meet up with in an hour.”

He waved them off and, hands clasped behind his back, made his way into the exhibit of the featured artist - one Anthony Crowley.

Professor Fell wandered around, taking in the beautiful contours and almost renaissance-like beauty of the artwork. He hummed happily as he came before a landscape - lush and green - with a snake wrapped around the trunk of a tree.

“Nice, huh,” a voice behind him said. “Heard it’s supposed to be an interpretation of Eden.”

He turned around and came across a handsome, angular face. The only discernible characteristics of the man before him were the wide smile and the red-hair that was tied back at the top letting the rest fall in soft waves around his shoulders. His eyes were hidden behind dark glasses that turned to the painting.

“It’s lovely,” said Professor Fell, turning back to the art. “I can tell that the artist really loves what he does - and this medium does him well. The oils really allow for the scenery to reach for its own light. Truly a master in their own right.”

The man gave a little hum, “Is that right? I’d love to hear your opinions on his other work…that is, if you have the time.”

Bright hazel eyes, sparkling with the intensity of his smile, “My dear boy, I have an hour before I’m swarmed by young academics wanting to share their discoveries. I would love to take in the exhibit with someone.”

“And what can I call you, angel?”

“Oh, terribly rude of me. My name is Azra, Azra Fell. And you, dear?” asked Professor Fell, looking up at the man through his eyelashes.

“Just call me Tony.” 

-

As the hour wound down, students started circling around the exhibit where they were told to wait for their professor but not coming in just yet. The first two to arrive and slip in were a mischievous pair that flocked to Fell like chicks to a mother hen - Warlock and Adam - and they were surprised by what they saw. 

While every student knew everything there was to know about the oversharing professor -  from his home in London to the cat he’d had in uni that he’d named Oscar - and were protective about him - defending him from his hardass boss, Dr. Archer - there was one thing that only these two were privy to and more protective of than anything else. And that was Fell’s heart.

So when they found their dear Professor hiding a stream of chuckles behind a hand as he sat - a little too close - next to a stranger, the pair were immediately on high-alert.

“Who’s the twink?” asked Warlock, sliding in close to Adam and stare at the couple keeping their quiet laughter to themselves. “And why is he so close to Professor Fell?”

Adam shrugged, “I don’t know - but I think the professor likes them. And I think the "twink" likes him back.”

“Well, I don’t like him,” Warlock said, crossing his arms. “He looks like a love ‘em and leave ‘em type. Not good enough for Fell. Could break his heart.”

“There’s only one way to test him. Why don’t we go and find out what his intentions are,” said Adam, his eyes twinking with mischief. “If he can’t handle us hellions then he has no right to Fell. If he can - we can give him a chance, right ‘Lock?”

The other young man grunted his approval and allowed Adam to drag him forward as he rushed over to the blushing professor and his new friend. 

“Hey, prof,” said Adam, plopping down at Fell’s feet. “The exhibit was nice - got a lot of notes for the presentation. Can’t wait to show you what ‘Lock and I got. Who’s your new friend?”

Without waiting for Fell to respond, the man reached a hand out, “Tony, nice to meet you kid. You too,” this he directed at Warlock, “nice kicks, by the way.”

Warlock glanced down to his burgundy Docs and mumbled a thanks, choosing to sit on Professor Fell’s open side rather than the floor. For his part, the professor was alight with joy as he presented the boys to Tony, commenting that these two were his best students and sharing with boys the wonderful time that he and Tony had while looking through the new exhibit. 

“You like art?” Adam asked. 

Tony smiled, “I do. Love it - would make a career out of it. Like having someone to talk about art just as much.”

This was directed at Fell, who blushed once again and gave a wiggle that the boys had only seen him give when eating a good meal. Warlock and Adam shared a look, sharing a silent conversation between eyebrow raises and mouthed out words, then focused on Tony and the dopey smile he was giving their professor. 

It was Warlock that broke the silence with an exaggerated sigh, dropping his forehead against Fell’s soft cardigan, “I’m glad that you found someone to talk to, Professor. Must’ve been nice not to be bored waiting for us.”

A hand came up to smooth the long, black hair as Fell smiled back at Tony and said, “It is when the company is good.”

Tony shifted, bashful, and Adam rolled his eyes, but continued to study the two as Tony cleared his throat, “You know, Azra, I’ve been invited to the public opening of the exhibit - terribly boring, wouldn’t want to come alone - would you like to accompany me? Keep me from dashing my brains out?”

Warlock’s head shot up, looking at Adam with wide eyes and finding that his friend was in a similar state. Between them, Fell fiddled with his ring.

“Oh, I’d love to, dear boy, but - I don’t think I would fit in at such an event,” he said, the light in his face starting to dim. “I’m too - much too - outdated, fuddy-duddy- ”

“That’s not true.”

“You should go.”

“Go, Professor Fell, you’re smarter than the lot of them.”

The boys went up in arms, tugging on his shoulder and hand and trying to convince him to accompany Tony. Fell, surprised, turned from the two boys to Tony who was also a little taken aback if the slight drop of his mouth was to be believed.

Fell smiled, easing the boys off his extremities, “Well, dear. I guess I will be accompanying you after all.”

Tony beamed and the boys around them did, too. 

“Then it’s a date.”

-

Anthony J. Crowley - Crowley to those he liked - was in a frenzy. 

The minute he’d gotten back to his flat from the museum he’d swept into his studio and started sketching. One sketch turned into two - and then into a dozen - all of soft, Rubenesque round rolls of fat and sparkling eyes. Oils of blue, green, greys, and browns mixed to try and capture the right shade of dancing hazel.

“It has to be perfect,” he muttered, eyes narrowed at the canvas as he fixed the fluffiness of white curls with his fingers. “Perfect like him - an angel in the room.”

Since the moment he sauntered into the exhibit of his own work, he hadn’t been able to keep his eyes off the only other person in there. The way that the sunlight from above had fallen onto the fluffy curls of cloud-white and the rapture on the face, cute nose tilted up as he looked up at the hanging artwork - well, it was artwork in itself.

Azira Fell, stunning and soft and brilliant, had fallen into his path like a light to guide him towards new inspiration.

His subject matter had always been biblical - repenting demons and places like Eden and Babel - but never an angel. Until this one had appeared.

His phone rang and, with a press of paint-dirty fingers, he put it on speaker to continue working, “Crowley here.”

“Are you getting ready for the opening?”

Crowley rolled his eyes, “Nice to hear from you too, Bee, and I’m in the middle of a creative outpour so no, not yet. But I will be there, don’t worry your fuzzy little fly-head. You see, I have a date.”

From the other end of the line, there was a little hiss of laughter, “Who did you hoodwink into being your date to this thing.”

“Not hoodwinked, charmed,” he said, taking a break and sighing until his body was relaxed. “Bee, this is the most beautiful man I’ve ever met and he’s kind and simply amazing. I think I’m in love.”

“You said that both about Lilith and Lucian and look at what happened there,” said Bee,. “Just watch yourself, I don’t want you to go down that spiral again.”

Crowley cooed, “Aww, Bee-Bee, you do care.”

“Shut it, punk. Just finish up and get ready. Send me a few pictures of your work…see if we have another exhibit on our hands.”

And without letting him get another word in edgewise, Bee hung up and Crowley found himself facing the unfinished painting. The crinkles at his eyes and the soft curve of that smile that Crowley followed with the tip of his finger.

“He won’t be like the others. He’s different. I can tell,” he said. “You are .”

-

Azra was waiting outside of the exhibit, afraid to walk in alone and have eyes on him. He tugged the cream waistcoat down, wishing it didn’t press so tight against his stomach. 

Nerves danced within him until he felt like there was no other option but to turn around and go home - what was he doing in a place like this anyway? He didn’t fit - and Tony would be better off without someone like him.

This way he can find someone more like him .

Mind made up, Azra turned around and bumped into someone.

“Oh, I am terribly sorry, I was just on my way out,” he said, bending down to pick up the glasses that ended up on the floor.

“I certainly hope not,” the person he bumped into said. “Considering you’d be standing me up.”

Azra straightened up to meet the gorgeous, uncovered gold eyes of Tony who was giving him a shy smile. He let himself look the man over, a pang in his stomach as he took in the sleek black outfit, sinfully tight, and scattered with red sequins.

When he met the eyes again, Tony’s smile had slipped a little, “Are you really about to leave?”

“I - I just don’t belong here,” said Azra, pouting. “Everyone is so fashionable and beautiful and far beyond my league.”

Tony grabbed his hand where they were twirling the pair of sunglasses, “Hey, it’s alright, angel. You’re not here for them anyway, you’re here for me. And you’re just as beautiful as anyone in there - more, because those are just money hoarding, elites who have no heart. Now what do you say - will you come in with me?”

With a weak nod, Azra allowed Tony to take the glasses and tuck his hand into the fold of his elbow.

“There’s a love. Let’s go in, gorgeous.”

When they walked in, a short guest fell at Tony’s unoccupied side, eyes glued onto the phone in their hand.

“Okay, so they’ve been waiting for you. You probably will have a good ten minutes where everyone will want to schmooze, then another five for photo ops, and then one good one in front of the piece that you choose. Got it?”

Tony rolled his eyes, “I got it, Bee. Let me introduce my date, Azra. Azra, this is my - manager Bee.”

Bee looked around and their eyes got bigger at the sight of the professor, “Oh. Nice to meet you. I can see why he spent all afternoon doodling. Might have another hit series - won’t we, Crowley?”

Azra’s face paled as another moment of bickering passed between Bee and Tony, “ Crowley ? As in - as in Anthony Crowley? The - the artist of this exhibit?”

Around the artist in question, Bee gave a little snort, “Okay, so I know you’re not in it for the fame. Good to know. Keep an eye - and hand - on him, Crowley. You’ve got a keeper for once.”

Crowley turned around, hand scratching his neck, “Yeah, I - I didn’t want you to feel obligated to like anything just because of who I am. I really enjoyed our time this morning and didn’t want it ruined by - by my name.”

Azra sputtered, “My - my dear, your artwork is stunning . This is your celebration. I shouldn’t,” he tried to pull out of Crowley’s grasp which made him only hold on tighter.

“Please, don’t,” said Crowley, thumb rubbing over Azra’s knuckles. “I don’t care what all these people think - or what they’ll say. Please just let me enjoy the exhibit with someone that actually like me for me and not because my name is under all these paintings.”

“You could do much better than me, my dear, just look around.”

“Azra, listen to me,” Crowley said, turning him over so that they were face to face. He held Azra’s face in his hands and looked at him from above the rim of his glasses. “I think you are stunning - thought so since I laid eyes on you. I - ngk - here, let me show you.”

Crowley grappled with his phone and held it out for inspection. Pictures after pictures of the work he’d poured over that afternoon with one subject - Azra.

“You see, angel,” he said. “I don’t want any of these people on my arm or around it - I just want you. Please? Will you let me have tonight and then, if you want, not another second more.”

The open earnestness in Crowley’s eyes made Azra sigh, a small smile on his lips, “Tonight and - maybe dinner tomorrow? My treat?”

A giddy smile spread on Crowley’s face, “Absolutely, yes. Anything. Dinner, breakfast, a movie, a play - anything, hell, feed me to those boys of yours.”

Azra laughed and looped his arm into Crowley’s again, “Not anything so drastic, love. But, come now. I believe Bee said you had ten minutes of schmoozing to get through.”

Arm in arm and laughing, Crowley led Azra through the crowd of elites presenting him to all as ‘my angel and my muse’.

-

The next morning, Adam dropped a newspaper in front of Warlock, a giddy smile on his face when his friend looked up.

“Professor Fell’s dating the artist .”

Warlock for his part looked at the picture taken of the two - besotted smile on both their faces - and gave a little grin of his own.

“Good. He better know he has a treasure in his hands.”

Adam shrugged, “If he doesn’t, we’ll let him know.”