aj_crawley: (baby it's cold outside)
aj_crawley ([personal profile] aj_crawley) wrote2010-03-14 10:40 am

(no subject)

It's a picture-postcard sunrise as Crowley ghosts back through the streets of L.A., headed towards Raguel's apartment, and it gives his face a little colour. He feels strange - flattened and insubstantial, like nighttime in the desert has eroded something out of him, worn it away with cold and dust, from right around the time when he found that it hurt too much to breathe. He mostly just sat, after that.

Crowley's clothes are dusty - everything is dusty; his face is smudged with it and his hair is streaked with it, and nobody looks twice as his shadow, long and thin in the early light, glides through street junctions like a stick clattering along a picket fence. The roads are so regular here, predictable as graph paper or prison bars, laid down upon the landscape. He'd do well here, Crowley thinks distractedly, trailing exhaustion beneath a particularly shameless billboard. Under other circumstances, of course. He'd do well here, in this city with its squeaky-clean boulevards and grimy back alleys, its sunsets and sunrises ripe and pink, glorious with air pollution, its smooth, silicone denizens talking the talk and walking the walk, feet on the ground but heads in some celluloid dream. They've all sold their souls to get here, one way or another; in highway rest stops and bankers' offices, in doctors' waiting rooms and studio car parks. What's one more name on the bill of sale? Just name your price.

Crowley could wear this city like a coat, all fashionable angles and hungry grin, designer sunglasses and unrealistic cheekbones. When you get by, it's called 'making a living'. When you succeed, it's called 'making a killing'.

Los Angeles. City of Angels.

He can see why Raguel hates it here.

It still hurts to breathe.

The door to Raguel's building opens without putting up a fight, and it's early enough (for a Sunday, at least) that he doesn't meet anyone on the stairs. It's still cold in here. His shoes don't make much sound on the floorboards, because that's what happens when you trudge, and when you feel so insubstantial that you're barely there at all. He half-expects his fingers to pass through Raguel's doorknob when he reaches for it, but they don't. The door opens when he leans against it, creaking. And then he stops.

Just stops.

[identity profile] a-fell.livejournal.com 2010-03-14 01:16 pm (UTC)(link)
The furniture inhabiting Raguel's apartment is improbably stylish, but the contrast between the owner and the place's understated elegance isn't as jarring as Aziraphael might have expected. It's all rather tasteful, in fact, and he's more than a little certain that Crowley had a hand in it - if for no other reason than that he can't imagine Raguel taking the time to pick it out, any more than he can imagine Crowley suffering Raguel to decorate his pet project with worn but serviceable charity rejects.

Nevertheless, Aziraphael can't quite get comfortable. By the time the sun comes up, he's flitted from armchair to couch, one place to another, until he's sat almost everywhere there is to sit, first perched on the edge of the deep cushions and then settling back, then getting up to fetch another cup of tea. Raguel would no doubt be surprised to learn quite how much of it he had in his cupboards.

There's no milk, however.

(His thoughts falter here, chest constricting tightly.)



He'd been surprised to find how clear the path had been, how easy it had been to arrive here, once he'd made that first decision. He's anxious, of course -- his stomach hasn't stopped twisting since Christmas morning -- but whenever a particularly bad flutter threatens his composure, that image of Crowley leaning against his cupboards surfaces again, stark and simple, stopping his thoughts in their tracks. It's an easy choice to make. He'll simply stay until Crowley comes back. He will wait for as long as it takes. And he will make this right again.

Eventually, he settles back into the first armchair, hands wrapped around yet another cooling mug. It's the sound of the door that makes him look up.


"Crowley," he says.

[identity profile] a-fell.livejournal.com 2010-03-14 03:04 pm (UTC)(link)
He looks - small, there. Small, and so far away.

After a moment (long enough), he leans forward and carefully places the mug on the coffee table, brushes some imaginary lint from his trouser leg. And only then does he stand, and take a couple of steps toward the demon. Crowley doesn't look well at all.

"Are you all right?"

[identity profile] a-fell.livejournal.com 2010-03-14 03:41 pm (UTC)(link)
He looks so tired. Aziraphael is not going to let himself go any further than that, just at the moment. He allows one hand to reach forward a little, as though gentling a spooked animal.

"Will you come and sit?"

There's a thick quilt lying half-folded on the couch. When he was 'decorating' Crowley might have decided that the room needed a little visual warmth, but it's unlikely he'd have chosen quite those colours.

[identity profile] a-fell.livejournal.com 2010-03-14 04:10 pm (UTC)(link)
"...Oh." He blinks down at himself and a tiny hint of a smile breaks through his composure.

"Thank you, my dear; I'll deal with it later, I think. Come sit? There are some things I have to - things you should know."

[identity profile] a-fell.livejournal.com 2010-03-14 05:36 pm (UTC)(link)
He sits back down in the armchair (when had he taken those steps away from it?) gratefully. Now that they're here, face to face and in the flesh, he's almost forgotten how he meant to begin.

"Look, you are all right, aren't you?"

...That wasn't it, but he couldn't help it. Crowley still doesn't look well at all.

[identity profile] a-fell.livejournal.com 2010-03-15 02:37 am (UTC)(link)
That still isn't an answer.

"Oh," he says, a little taken aback. Crowley seems very unguarded, for a demon in sunglasses. Well, for Crowley.

"Er. 'Going to -'?"

[identity profile] a-fell.livejournal.com 2010-03-15 03:52 am (UTC)(link)
He doesn't say anything at all for a moment. Literally can't, for a moment. The familiar invisible band constricting his chest is back, and all the air has disappeared from the room.

"I'm not sure that's entirely--" he begins in a wavery voice, and trails off before he can finish.

"I have plenty of apologies to make as well, as it happens," he says instead, a little more strongly. "That's part of why I needed to come. And I wanted to be sure you were all right."

(That's a hint, if Crowley chooses to take it.)

[identity profile] a-fell.livejournal.com 2010-03-15 04:34 am (UTC)(link)
He has a sudden, strong urge to wrap himself around Crowley and call up as much heat as he can stand, cover them both with that quilt and doze right here on Raguel's couch until Crowley is relaxed and comfortable again.

But he can't, yet.

"I'm sorry," he blurts out. "That's the last thing I wanted, after all this."

[identity profile] a-fell.livejournal.com 2010-03-16 01:36 am (UTC)(link)
"Yes. I see," he says, nodding and trying not to stare. The Mojave is perhaps not so far as it sounds, after all, not when it's as simple as visiting a friend round the corner. Still. There's no hiding the fact that a night alone in the desert was hard on Crowley, sitting there as he is, covered in smudges and weariness.

"Different scenery does wonders, I've found," he continues. "But I'm glad to have met you on your way home."

[identity profile] a-fell.livejournal.com 2010-03-16 04:02 am (UTC)(link)
"Where to find you?" he finishes cautiously. "Oh, I wouldn't call it anything as dramatic as a hunch. You weren't at your flat, and when you didn't come back for a bit I began thinking about where you might go, and made a phone call."

He glances at his knees. It sounds so simple laid out like that. The more cluttered details can surely wait until another time.

[identity profile] a-fell.livejournal.com 2010-03-16 04:22 am (UTC)(link)
"Really, my dear, I'm sure he was only concerned for you."

(But the admonishment is more for form's sake than anything else, and it shows.)

"And I was quite relieved to hear it."

[identity profile] a-fell.livejournal.com 2010-03-16 05:18 am (UTC)(link)
"Yes. Yes, I."

It wouldn't be so hard, perhaps, to just put aside his confession and let the conversation wander where it would. But it's impossible to think he could live with himself if he let Crowley take the fall, so to speak, for his own misery. And he remembers too well how Crowley had looked, bent against those cabinet doors under an invisible, impossible weight. It's not an alternative he could consider.

His hand wraps around the cushion's edge and squeezes.

"I - as it happens, I thought I could do something about that. But I rather seem to have made things much worse."

[identity profile] a-fell.livejournal.com 2010-03-16 06:35 am (UTC)(link)
"That isn't precisely it. That isn't it at all, as a matter of fact," he says, unhappiness sharpening his determination. If Crowley apologises again, his eyes downcast and with that awful, painful humility that he can hardly stand to look at, then he can't be held responsible, he really can't. Raguel might come home to discover fretful fingerprints pierced right through the leather of his cushion, or shards of broken mugs, dropped from unsteady fingers, littering his floor.

"I couldn't - look, do you remember how dreadful it was last winter, when it was so cold?"

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