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Zira's Panto

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1928

 

It's a cold drizzly Sunday afternoon in November.

 

Zira sits still and ramrod straight in a chair in the middle of Crowley's kitchenette.

 

They had found last winter that this was one of the warmest places for them to be, being that it had a small stove and it shared a wall with the school's kitchen which had a much much larger oven.

 

“Don't move.” Crowley warns him.

 

Zira feels Crowley run a comb through his hair where it had gotten long in the back and snip it with the pair of scissors Zira had brought for the much needed hair cut. The trimmings fall on the towel draped around Zira's shoulders and Crowley combs out the next curl.

 

Zira tries to stay still but he's got something he needs to tell Crowley and he really wants to get it off his chest. He trying to confine his nervous energy to his fidgety hands as he picks at a snagged thread on his trouser leg.

 

Crowley is mostly quiet behind him, humming in thought occasionally as he takes his roll as makeshift barber seriously. “I think I've got it evened up... looks fine.” He declares.

 

Zira runs his hand over the hair at the back of his head. It's shorter on his neck than it had been. It feels pretty even.

 

He can't quite see in it the small handheld mirror he's got but Crowley has definitely improved in his hair cutting the past few months so Zira trusts him. “Much better, thank you.”

 

They remove the towel carefully to catch as much hair as they can and Crowley shakes it into the nearby bin.

 

Zira straightens his waistcoat as he stands. “Would you like a trim up, my boy or are you still letting it grow?”

 

Crowley has skipped getting his hair cut a few times now but today he looks like he's considering it.

 

He puts one hand through his hair combing the longish auburn locks back. It's grown well past his ears now and is starting to get some curl with the length.

 

He shrugs “It's probably time.”

 

Zira nods, he is much more practiced at cutting hair, he'd cut his grandparents' hair for years. He's been looking forward to getting his hands on Crowley's. “Have a seat then.”

 

Crowley sits, lowering himself onto the seat using the sturdy chair's back.

 

He sits up a bit straighter than he usually does in these kitchen chairs. Zira places the towel around Crowley's neck, tucks in in neatly around is back and then puts his hands on Crowley's shoulders. “What are you thinking?”

 

“Just trimmed...” He pauses and then changes his mind. “Maybe just cut it a little shorter... what do you think?”

 

“I think taking off a couple of inches off would be good. I can shape up the back too.”

 

“Alright, if you think you can.”

 

“Of course.”

 

Zira picks up the comb and combs through Crowley's hair and then runs his finger's through. As he does he thinks about where he should start cutting and how he is going to tell Crowley his news. He laces his fingers though Crowley's hair as he thinks.

 

Crowley's laugh brings him out of his musings. “Are you sure you want me to have my hair cut, Angel?”

 

Zira suddenly realizes what he's doing. “Oh... I'm sorry... I'll get to it.”

 

He feels his face heat up and he is glad Crowley can't see.

 

Zira picks up the scissors and combs out the hair in the back and starts to cut. He has a plan and as he works the comb and scissors it becomes almost meditative.

 

He starts talking.

 

“So, you know how there wasn't a panto last year...” Zira says with a causal air.

 

Crowley hums in acknowledgement.

 

“well I asked around. It turns out the school hasn't put one on in years. Can you believe that, they were always a high light right before the semester ended... So I...”

 

Crowley's shoulder's tense. Zira is behind Crowley so he's not seeing the look on his face but he can image Crowley's endearingly exasperated look of disbelief.

 

“No... no, you didn't, Angel, tell me you didn't...”

 

“Ohhh It'll be fun.” Zira tries to sound convincing. He really is excited. He's never directed a play before.

 

“Ughh...”

“I've agreed to put on Sleeping Beauty this year. The casting call goes up tomorrow and auditions will be on Wednesday.”

 

“You're really going to volunteer to do this?”

 

Zira rolls his eyes, Crowley always starts out questioning everything, he always warms up in the end.

 

“I always liked the panto... I was never anything but a bit player but it was always a good time. Didn't you ever go to the panto... I don't remember you being in them.”

 

“I saw them, I never participated. I had enough of being told how to act in my everyday life without subjecting myself to being told what to do on stage.”

 

“Oh, It's not like that... It's a play, 'play' is literally what it's called. It's fun.”

 

“Well, if that's what you want to do, you can have fun just...”

 

“I did rather hope you'd help... maybe with sets.” Zira says hopefully.

 

“what, no. no. Angel...” Crowley whines. “Do you have to drag me into it?”

 

“Oh stop complaining, you'll love it, you'll see.”

 

“I won't”

 

“Well you'll do it for me won't you?”

 

“What am I getting out of it?”

 

“My eternal gratitude.”

 

“Fine.”

 

Zira trims his last lock throughly satisfied.

 

 


 

Zira is buzzing with excitement on Wednesday. He's told all of his students and any student he's seen in the hall to come to auditions in the auditorium this afternoon.

 

He's recruited Anathema to be his assistant and Newt to help too. The boy can play the piano Zira was over joyed to find out.

 

In the afternoon he hurries to the auditorium with his pen and notebook.

 

He strolls into the auditorium and walks purposefully down the aisle to the stage. He loves the feel of the big open room just waiting to be filled with words and music.

 

It's all very exciting.

 

There are a few students milling around. Zira is very please to see some of his favorite students of turned up. “Good afternoon everyone.”

 

“Good afternoon Professor Phell.” They turn and greet him.

 

“We'll begin shortly.” He surveys the room and makes sure things are in place. There is a piano off to one side and the lights are on, lighting up the stage.

 

Anathema comes in eager to help. She throws her books and coat down on a chair in the front row and turns to Zira for direction. He is the director now after all. “What can I do?”

“Will you make sure everyone signs in please.” She nods and he hands her a sheet of paper he's numbered and a pen. “We'll get started in about five minutes.”

 

Zira picks a seat back a ways from the front and in the middle of the rows of chairs. He wants to be able to easily see the whole stage from where he's sitting.

 

Anathema brings the sign-in sheet back to him and he gives her two books. “First through third year students can read from the first book here.” it's a copy of the play Peter Pan. “Any of the pages I have marked. Forth through eighth years can read from the second.” a copy from his classroom of Romeo and Juliet.

 

Anathema indicates that she understands and takes the books up to the front of the auditorium so she can assist the students with their auditions.

 

Zira calls the students to the stage one by one.

 

They read and then sing for him. Newt helps by accompanying them on the piano.

 

Anathema helps them to the stage and back back to their seats.

 

Zira takes notes on each performance and starts to formulate a cast and a plan.

 

“Thank you for coming out I'll have the cast list posted tomorrow morning. We'll start rehearsing here tomorrow night.”

 

The students chat excitedly as they exit.

 

Zira thanks Anathema and Newt for their help and sits back down to look at his notes.

 

He has an idea what he wants from the cast, it's just hard to make a definite decision.

 

“How were they?”

 

Zira jumps in his seat and turns. He must have been concentrating hard. He hadn't heard Crowley come in or down the row of seats behind him at all.

 

Crowley's nose and cheeks are red from coming in out of the cold. Zira smiles at how darling the pink makes him look and how prominent it makes his freckles.

 

“They were good... mostly, there were some stand outs, I just hate having to choose one student over another and I'm having trouble choosing.”

 

Crowley holds the back of the chair in front of him and leans over to look at Zira's notes, “hum... I suppose someones got to win and someone's got to lose, don't they.”

 

“Oh, when you put it that way. This is terrible...” Zira is starting to get nervous again.

 

“Are you going to cast it funny or conventional.” Crowley asks sincerely.

 

“Well I could go with defying expectations through the whole cast which could be funny or I could cast the leads conventionally and have the supporting cast be the comic relief which is what I'm partial to.”

 

“That sounds good Angel.” Crowley straightens up. “Just got to make your picks and call it done.”

 

“Yeah...” Zira doesn't sound so confident. He decides a distraction is in order. “Do you want to see the costume room?” He asks excitedly. It's always been one of his favorite places on campus.

 

“Sure” Crowley agrees.

 

Zira gathers up his things and makes his way down the row of chairs. Crowley similarly makes his way following Zira, the uneven, angled floor of the auditorium and narrow space between seats make Crowley's steps awkward and using his cane difficult, he holds onto the backs of the chairs instead for support and balance.

 

Before they head any further Zira thinks to ask. “Do you want to go the direct route with stairs or the round about way without stairs?”

 

If they go through the auditorium to the stage and back to the dressing rooms there are stairs and if they exit through the doors to the side just before the stage there are stairs but if they exit through the back of the auditorium and take the hall around to the back there aren't any stairs just a slight incline.

 

“Can we avoid the stairs?”

 

Zira nods and heads away from the stage.

 

Crowley follows him out and around.

 

Zira finds himself speeding up and slowing down his pace with his nerves and all the things on his mind.

 

Crowley keeps a steady pace and doesn't seem bothered by Zira, he just continues to follow.

 

They make it to the back of the auditorium and Zira unlocks the changing room and then the costume room that's inside it.

 

It's a room packed with all sorts of costumes that the school has collected or had donated to them over the years. There are all sorts of dresses and wigs and hats.

 

It was one of Zira's favorite places to explore when he was a student. He doesn't know if Crowley has ever seen the room before.

 

Crowley looks around and smirks, “Got a lot of stuff packed in here.”

 

It's true, Zira is probably going to spend a bit of time tidying in here.

 

“I think we've got outfits for the prince and princess, maybe even the king and queen. Dressing all the fairies might take some doing but there are some usable pieces.”

 

Crowley picks up and throws a black feather boa around his neck. “What do you think Angel?”

 

Zira smiles. “I think the feathers suit you.”

 

Zira picks up a box.

 

Crowley lays the boa aside.

 

Zira shows the contents of the box to Crowley. “there are some smocks here, you and your art club can use for painting...” He smirks. “I heard the other day they were calling themselves something, what was it?” Zira teases.

 

“Uuugh,” Crowley throws his head back with as he groans. “The art aardvarks.”

 

“How clever, how did they come up with that... was it your suggestion?”

 

“OH yes just what I want to be, an aardvark.” He snarks.

 

Zira enjoys getting a rise out of him. He know's Crowley really secretly really likes how enthusiastic the students have been since he started the art club at the beginning of the semester.

 

Crowley reaches up onto a shelf to take down a top hat, he can't see the wax fruit someone has inexplicably stacked behind it.

 

Zira shields him just in time to keep apples, oranges and grapes from all falling on Crowley's head.

 

“Sorry, thanks” Crowley puts the hat on his head and helps Zira find a box to put the faux fruit that he's juggling in.

 

Then Crowley gets down to the serious business of the putting on the panto. “So exactly how long do we have till we put the show on?”

Chapter Text

“We've got just over six weeks. To get everything together for a performance in front of students, parents and faculty.”

 

“Is that enough time?”

 

“I think... It should be... plenty.” Zira gulps, he really hopes it's the truth.

 

Crowley puts the top hat down on the shelf it came from and runs a hand through his newly shorn hair.

 

“Do you know what sets you want? I can start getting backdrops planned and painted... can I get a copy of the script?”

 

Zira opens his mouth and then closes it before looking at Crowley with a grimace.

 

“There is no script.” He blurts out unable to keep the panic from his voice or concern from his eyes.

 

“Whaatt?” Crowley's eyes get wide behind his glasses, Zira can tell, the corners of his mouth turn up. He's surprised and intrigued.

 

“Yet, there's no script yet.” Zira amends adamantly.

 

“You don't have a script, isn’t that putting the cart before the horse?”



“It all just happen so fast, I asked about the panto and then suddenly I was in charge of the panto and they were expecting... did I do the right thing?”

Crowley's still staring at him clearly amused. “I don't think you could do the wrong thing, Angel. It'll all work out.”

 

“Oh thank you, I've been so nervous.” Zira feel a fraction of relief.

 

“Though... wouldn't it be funny if it didn't work out.” Crowley smirks.

 

“no, that is absolutely not funny.” Zira huffs, “Stop laughing you fiend. I'm in a real pickle here.”

 

“Good thing you like pickles...”

 

Zira freezes and blinks, Crowley's words strike him funny. He snorts and then can't hold back his laughter. He fights it but he can't help blushing.

 

Crowley's face gets red when he realizes what was implied.

 

They both stand there blushing and giddy til Zira clears his throat, and composes himself.

 

“I... hum, well I do have a plan, you see. I'm basing the show on the Grimm Brother's Little Briar Rose. I think that show will have two acts with something like four scenes each.

 

Crowlet stands awkwardly with a hand on the back of his neck. “You've got your work cut out for you.”

 

“Don't I know it.” Zira looks at his briefcase, there's certainly lots to do.

 

“We should go get dinner.” Crowley declares.

 

“I really must get all this done...” Zira reasons. “but... I suppose I can take the cast list with me. No point in starving.”

 

“No, no point in starving for a panto. No point in freezing either, make sure you bundle up the wind's gotten worse.”

 

Zira certainly believes Crowley, it's been nippy out.

 

He does up his coat and puts his hat on. He's got gloves and a scarf too.

 

Crowley puts the collar of his coat up to shield his neck. Zira thinks he needs a scarf. They put gloves on and Crowley grips his cane. “You ready?”

 

“Everything looks in order here.” Zira shuts off the lights and locks the doors behind them.

 

It is cold and the wind is making it even worse as they walk outside into the dark evening.

 

Zira hunches his shoulders to try and block some of it. It's making his eyes sting and his face feel numb.

 

When they finally reach the dining hall door they are practically blown into the hall.

 

Zira nearly looses the door as the wind tries to take it out of his hand. Crowley's hat blows off his head and into the room, even as he tries to hold it.

 

They bustle in.

 

Zira gets the door pulled shut and almost backs into Crowley who has stopped to bend over and pick up his hat.

 

Zira quickly sidesteps him, quick enough to avoid an unfortunate accident.

 

Zira gets his bearings and looks up to notice quite a few of the students are looking at what the weather blew in.

 

Zira smiles awkwardly and nods at them, glad that his cheeks are already pink from the cold.

 

The dining hall quickly returns to it's usual chatter. Crowley brushes off his hat and mumbles under his breath about the blasted weather.

 

It's certainly not pleasant, Zira agrees. He also knows the cold really is hard on Crowley. Zira knows from last winter that it makes his legs ache just that much more.

 

“Come on, my boy, it's warm in here.”

 

They move into the hall and are greeted by the students, mostly courteously “Good evening Professor Phell, Professor Crowley.” “Good Evening Professors.”

 

Then they get stopped by a group of students looking solely at Zira.

 

“Professor Phell have you finished the cast list yet?”

 

“You'll see it tomorrow morning just like everyone else.” He tells them, side stepping the fact that's it's not been done yet.

 

“Ahhh...” They whine disappointingly.

 

Zira sends them on their way giving them an apologetic look, he gives Crowley an amused one.

 

They head to the faculty tables first to shed their coats and hats and then go to get their dinner.

 

They have a well practiced system now.

 

When they eat together, Zira gets them both something to drink while Crowley gets fruit and rolls for them. They both fix their own plates and Zira is in charge of scouting out dessert.

 

He likes something sweet with his meal. Crowley's not so keen but he's discovered Crowley can be tempted if it's angel cake or ginger biscuits.

 

They meet back at the table and divide what they have.

 

Zira picks at his food tonight, distracted.

 

“You should just get the cast list done and then start on a rough draft of the script.” Crowley leans over to drive home his point. “You're clever, you can do this.” Then he sits back pulls a book out of his satchel, stretches out his legs, and prepares to be there a bit longer.

 

Zira grabs paper out of his briefcase and writes 'Cast List' at the top.

 

He sits and contemplates a little more before starting to write. Crowley looks on as Zira jots down one name after another, before setting his pen down with finality.

 

“Got it figured out?”

 

“Yes, I rather think I have.”

 


 

The cast list goes up and most of the students who auditioned are excited. There are some who seem a bit disappointed, which Zira feel terrible about and then there are some who are just confused.

 

“Professor Phell... I wanted to play the bad fairy and enact my righteous vengeance on the kingdom but you cast me as the good fairy.” Pepper stands at his desk, arms crossed in front of her, questioning his decision.

 

Zira had a feeling this was coming.

 

“It's about turning expectations on their head Pepper, I think you will make a wonderfully righteous good fairy.”

 

She has a big personality, a good voice and she's smaller than the boy he cast as the bad fairy so the juxtaposition should be entertaining.

 

Pepper does not look convinced. “If you think so Professor, but I am not wearing anything pink and frilly.”

 

“Duly noted. I'll see you at rehearsal.” He smiles his most reassuring smile.

 

“Yes Professor.”

 

One casting defense down, who knows how many more to go.

 

In the teacher's lounge before classes start Zira grabs a quick cup of tea and multiple teachers mention how they are excited to see the show.

 

Zira smiles and tries to not show how nervous he is about the whole thing.

 

Professor Tracy comes in just as Zira's tea is done steeping. He has always admired her outfits, she's as colorful as ever today.

 

“Hello, Professor Phell, I hear you're putting on a play.” She gets her own cup out of the cupboard.

 

“Good morning Professor Tracy, it seems the word is out.”

 

“haha, it will work out of dear.” She smiles warmly at him.

 

He words alarm Zira. “oh my... am I, do I... I'm trying not to look too nervous.”

 

“Oh no Dear you're fine, just an intuition is all.” She pours her cup and Zira pulls out the sugar bowl. “Also...I heard that you cut our Professor Crowley's hair, you did a very good job, I must say. I might want call on you for a trim sometime myself.”

 

“Oh well, I suppose... I could, I have have experience.”

 

She hums knowingly. “Am I to understand that our dear Crowley, cut your hair in return?”

 

Zira's eyes get big again. “OH oh, is it sticking out funny?” Zira runs his hands over his hair hoping nothing is sticking out too outlandishly.

 

“It's fine, but hum... I could shape it up for you sometime if you'd like, even out the sides a bit.”

 

Zira is certainly tempted but he doesn't want to discourage Crowley. “He's getting better.”

 

“Well maybe I'll sneak a few pointers in when next I talk with him. We'll get him up to snuff soon enough. I was meaning to ask him if he needed help with the tutoring you both do since I assume you'll be engaged with the show. I think he'll need some help with maths.”

 

Zira snorts. “So he wasn't any good at maths when you had him as a student.”

 

“Rubbish. He's smart as a whip except when what he's trying to take a crack at is numbers.”

 

“I'm really in the same boat, I've always been rubbish with numbers too.” Zira shrugs.

 

“Oh, but you have been good for each other haven't you.” She practically coos at him.

 

Zira clears his throat surprised. Was she taking about them being a couple? Did she know? They had agreed to keep it a bit quiet till they were a bit further into their relationship.

 

“Just an observation Dear,” She puts a hand on his arm, “I've known him awhile now and I've seen you now too these past few months. You're both better together. You're quicker to laugh and loosen up and he's slower to pretend like he doesn't care and slink off.”

 

“I...” Zira is at a lose for words.

 

“Bells about to ring.” She announces and sure enough the class bell sounds. Zira's mouth hangs open before he clamps it shut.

 

“Intuition Dear.”

 


 

He's scribbling out some dialog at lunch when Crowley pokes his head in the classroom. “I've brought food.” He says triumphantly.

 

Zira had told him he'd probably be working through lunch. “Oh that's kind of you, my boy. You didn't have to do that.”

 

“I wanted to.”

 

Crowley saunters into the room and places an apple and a roll with ham and a biscuit on Zira's desk. It's a very Crowley meal, Zira smiles to himself.

 

Crowley leans against the podium next to Zira's desk.

 

It's his customary spot in Zira's classroom.

 

In his classroom Crowley has the podium on the other side of the room from the desk. Zira now understands that when they moved it together at the beginning of last year it was so Crowley would have a support if he needed it no matter which side of the projection screen he was on.

 

“How goes the script?” He leans over a bit to see what Zira has on his desk.

 

Zira looks concerned at what he's gotten through. “I don't think there's enough for a read through tonight.”

 

“What will you have them do in rehearsal?”

 

“Character sheets, maybe some improv.”

 

Crowley makes a face at the thought.

 

Zira makes a face in understand, improv could be awkward. “I think maybe I'll have them sing.”

 

“Will there be songs in the show?”

 

Zira sits and looks dramatically at Crowley, like he can't believe Cowley doesn't know. “It wouldn't be a panto without songs. I think I'm going to put 'Where'd you get those eyes' in the Christening scene. Maybe 'I'm Henry the VIII, I am' in the King's introduction...”

 

“That's something.”

 

“Ha yeah... more yet to go.”

 

“You'll get it.” Crowley confidence in him is a boost to Zira's spirits.

 

“Thank you, Dear.”

 

Zira looks down at the page in front of him and back up at Crowley. “Will you read these lines with me...”

 

Crowley looks a bit surprised and a bit uncertain. “Hum, I guess I can.”

 

“Great.” Zira stands and puts the page he's been working on on the podium.

 

“Where do we start?”

 

“From the top.”

 

Zira's handwriting is generally neat and he thinks it should be legible. He just wants to hear the words out loud.

 

Crowley clears his throat and puts a finger on the line to keep his place and reads the king's first line. “Welcome, Welcome Nobles, Noble Fairies, and humble subjects...”

 

“He should indicate the audience with humble subject.” Zira interjects.

 

Crowley keeps reading. “On this joyous day, the day we Christen the Princess Briar Rose...” Crowley pauses. “Is there going to be a baby?”

 

“Just a doll.”

 

Crowley nods. “Right... The Princess Briar Rose, She is a blessing to the Kingdom and to her parents, her beauty and grace will make the kingdom proud...” Crowley raises an eyebrow. “Has she got beauty and grace yet, isn't she just a baby?..”

 

Zira shrugs and waves his hand indicating Crowley should keep going. “Thank you all for coming now we shall feast in a manner befitting the Princess.” Crowley pauses with a question. “What's the manner?”

 

“Baby food, the whole feast is mush.”

 

“Ahhh, I see...interesting. So what happens next?”

 

Zira purses his lips and thinks. “The bad fairy who wasn't invited shows up.”

 

“Why weren't they invited?”

 

“Invitation got lost in the post?.. Carrier Pigeon lost in a storm?... Didn't want the Drama?... She's bad news?” Zira reads from another page in his hand.

 

Crowley doesn't react, as Zira runs through the lines.

 

“It's funnier if you imagine the children saying it.”

 


 

After classes Zira heads to the auditorium. He's got some sheet music and some things outlined so the students can get an idea of what the show is going to be.

 

The students are there ready and waiting for him. Some sitting in the auditorium seats some on the stage. Zira tries to position himself to address all of them.

 

“Good afternoon everyone.”

 

“Good afternoon Professor.”

 

“Yes thank you. For those of you who don't know and there are a few of you I've not met before. My name is Professor Phell. I'll be directing the show. This is Anathema she'll be assisting me and Newt here will be helping manage the house and manning the piano.”

 

“Congratulations to you all, you all did very well on your auditions.” Zira smiles particularly big at the children he knows. Brian, Pepper and Wensleydale. “I would like to start if we could with introductions, lets go around... introduce yourself and say what part you are playing.”

 

Once introductions are complete Zira and Anathema hand out some pages of music. “So we've got six weeks to pull this show together and put it on for the rest of the school and the community. Today we're going to start by learning some songs.”

 

Newt sits at the piano and noodles around playing few runs and scales. He gives the students a key and then starting the first song and promptly hits a bad chord.

 

Everyone cringes. “Hang on, sorry.” He looks at the music and adjusts. “He we go.” He starts again and gets it right the second time.

 

Zira breathes a sigh of relief.

 

Anathema leads the students through a few songs, Zira takes some notes and considers who he might which fairies he might want to sing a lead and what other songs he might try to fit into the show.

 

Towards the end of rehearsal Zira sees Crowley come in and take a seat in the back of the auditorium. He smiles as Crowley settles in.

 

Zira dismisses the students and tells them to be back after classes tomorrow. Then he makes his way back to see Crowley. “You don't have to sit in the back you know... you're helping with the show, you can come to rehearsals.”

 

“I didn't want to interrupt.” he says with an innocent look on his face, Zira has his suspicions though.

 

“or you wanted to nap.”

 

Crowley chuckles. Zira sits turned around in the seat in front of him. “How was tutoring?”

 

“Well you've snatched Newt and Anathema away, but we managed today. Professor Tracy came by and was a big help.”

 

“How were Dagon and Sandalphon?”

 

“They can't help themselves but be unsettling can they...” Crowley frowns exaggeratedly and Zira winces. “He started talking about things he shoved up his nose as a kid and I had to put an end to that.”

 

“My word... “

 

“Yeah see what you're missing.”

 


 

After Rehearsal on Friday Zira heads straight to Crowley's.

 

Crowley asked him if he wanted to come over and work on the script tonight.

 

Zira hopes that with help he'll be able to get it done, if not tonight at least this weekend, then they can really get the show rolling, so to speak.

 

Crowley must have seen him coming through the window or estimated his time of arrival.

 

Zira doesn't even have to knock, Crowley has the door open. “Welcome, Mr. Director!”

 

Zira smiles bashfully and quickly redirects the attention to Crowley “Get inside before you catch your death of cold.” Zira playfully admonishes.

 

He's standing in the doorway without a hat, scarf, or gloves and only his suit jacket not even an overcoat. At least he's not in his shirt sleeves as he tended to be, more often than he probably should, the devil.

 

Zira takes his hat off as Crowley closes the door and then surprises him with a kiss on the cheek.

 

Zira's stomach goes all fluttery. “What was that for?”

 

“I just think you're... wonderful.” He says hovering close.

 

“well thank you Dear.” Zira turns and kisses Crowley on the lips. Crowley's mouth turns up in a delighted and delightful smile. Zira beams.

 

“Better come along dinner will get cold.”

 

“You got dinner already?” Usually when they ate at Crowley's Zira was the one to implore the kitchen staff for food. Crowley usually got his kitchen utensils out or washed some things in the sink for them.

 

Tonight in the kitchenette there was already meat and soup and cake and tea. “Oh my!”

 

“I didn't want to take up anymore of your time, you've got to write. The kitchen staff was quite accommodating. Mrs. Strathmore and one of the younger workers took care of it.”

 

“I'm glad they did... and they gave you cake! They must like you, they rarely give me cake.”

 

“What can I say, I'm charming.” He says with a sly grin.

 

“When you want to be...”

 

“Exactly, when I want to be... have a seat already.” Crowley sits in his chair and Zira sits in his usual seat. He puts his napkin in his lap and started on his soup. “How was your day my dear?”

 


 

They eat and then talk about what to write, then Zira writes and Crowley throws out ideas.

 

Things are written down about fairy curses and spinning wheels, walls of thorns, sleeping for a hundred years, and a prince's kiss.

 

The stack of pages grows and Zira feels closer and closer to actually being able to pull this off.

 

Crowley excuses himself to get out of his leg braces, he returns to the kitchenette with a crutch under one arm.

 

Then the wine comes out and their first draft is set aside.

 

Crowley gets the bottle out and hands it to Zira who gets the glasses, they're just tumblers, Crowley still hasn't gotten any wine glasses.

 

They toast to the script and the show and the cast and crew.

 

“Fingers crossed, dear boy, I'm think we're going to get through this.” Zira says, his spirits high.

 

A while later, They moved to the sitting room, the small lamp on the desk is burning and both are feeling fine. They're ready to figure out the problems of the world or at least the ones of the fictional world they've been building.

 

Crowley is sprawled next to Zira on the sofa. “So, so there's no more spinning wheels right, banished... no one's aloud to have a spinning wheel. Is there no more spinning like at all?”

 

Zira thinks, the wine has made him feel warm and comfortable. “There are other ways to spin... like hum it's called a drop spindle, it's a little thing and you spin, spin it like, it's like a thing that you spin... a, a top. Been used for centuries.”

 

“But it's a spinel. Shouldn't it be banned too... no more spinning.” Crowley gestures, his hand not holding his glass, waving loosely in the air.

 

“But not a spinning wheel spinel.”

 

“Technicality. My point is...” He pauses and gathers his wine wobbly thoughts. “sheep... That's my point. If they can't have any spi..spin... sssspindles would they think to shear their sheep? They must have loads of sheep in the kingdom, got to shear 'em. You know... know what happens to a sheep when it's not sheared.”

 

“You do?” Zira blinks as he looks over his glass.

 

“erm uh yea... it just pilesss up, all that wool, mounds of it and matted. Just a, a... a big matty mess.”

 

“The poor sheep!” Zira can just imagine the poor creatures. “Well they'd have to shear them then, wouldn't they. They could send it... send the wool to a neighboring kingdom and have it spun there and the yarn sent back.”

 

Crowley nods. “If they don't they'll wind up with great wooly beasts roaming the country side, looking a fright.”

 

“GGGreat wooly beast.” Zira repeats dramatically.

 

“and and they can get their yarn back and weave it, looms've got nothing to do with spindles. They do that for a few years and then they all get to sleep for a hundred years. Win win.”

 

Zira makes a disgruntled face.“I wouldn't like that,” He shakes his head for emphasis. “think of all that wasted time.”

 

“No, sounds like a dream to me, sleep a hundred years, wake up, no problems to deal with, no worries. All the twits you knew...long gone when you wake up.”

 

Zira snorts. “That's one way to deal with twits.”

 


 

Zira walks home to his rooms above the library. It's just past midnight on a quiet, clear, cold night.

 

The cold air is sobering but he's still a bit giddy from the wine and the company, the fact that they got so much done on the script, and the good night kiss he'd stolen.

 

He looks up at the stars above him as he walks.

 

They are beautiful.

 

Crowley would be able to point to each and name them. Zira's heart jumps with the thought of Crowley, of Crowley and the stars.

 

He smiles to himself.

 

He nears his door and pulls his keys from his pocket, fumbling them through his gloved fingers. They drop and Zira grumbles as he pick them up. His breath hangs visible in the cold air.

 

When he stands up straight he jumps, Hastur is suddenly in front of him. Less than five feet from him.

 

Zira drops his keys again with a curse.

 

“Back late, Professor.” Hastur says lowly.

 

Zira stares at the man, not sure where he's come from.

 

“Better get inside, cold out tonight.” Hastur takes a handful of salt out of the bucket in his hand and throws it down at Zira's feet.

 

A shiver goes up Zira's spine, the man gives him the creeps.

 

“Yes, yes... good, good night.” Zira grabs his keys and moves swiftly away from the grounds keeper.

 

He hastily gets in and locks the door behind him and climbs the stairs quickly.

 

When he gets up and into his flat he leans back on the door and sighs in relief.

 

Oh, it's been a night.

 

Zira is reminded of the 'Alls Well that Ends Well' Quote. 'The web of our life is of a mingled yarn, good and ill together.'

 

“Right again Shakespeare.” He breathes out into his dark room.

 

At least the good, was very good.

Chapter Text

Zira spends Saturday typing as much of the script as he can. He gets three copies typed and gives one to Anathema, Sunday after church. “I'm sure there are typos, I did my best by I'm no typist.”

She nods and says she’s excited to read over it. She says goodbye just as Crowley joins him in the church aisle. 

Zira looks at the other script in his hand. “I've got a copy to give Mary Sarah in the office. She's agreed to type up some copies. If we can get a few typed pages of the first couple of scenes by tomorrow night we can start blocking.” Zira says thinking out loud.

He's started envisioning what he thinks things will look like. He’s excited to get things out of his head and up onto the stage. 

 

He walks with Crowley. “Do you want to go over to the theater and help me look around for set pieces and props?” and try and make some sort of sense of the costume room, he leaves left unsaid.

 

Crowley looks apologetic. “I... can't... I have things I need to get done.”

 

They exit the building and brace themselves against the shock of cold air.  

 

 

Zira tries not to appear disappointed. He likes having Crowley around but he understands Crowley's got things of his own to do and can't drop everything to spend all day with him.“alright, then I'll see you later.”

 

“Yes, absolutely, later.” Crowley heads in the direction of his rooms, looking stiff and unhappy in the weather, one hand thrust into a pocket, head down so his ears are practically in his upturned collar.

 

Zira heads in the opposite direction.

Part of him wishes he was going with Crowley. That they were going to lunch and would spend the day sitting around grading papers and sharing interesting facts that they were going to teach in class.

Part of him wishes he didn’t have this Panto to deal with. 


But he got himself into this and he was going to see it through. 

Zira gets the keys out to unlock the auditorium door when a voice calls from behind him.

 

“Hold up there laddie!”

 

Zira looks up and sees Sergeant Shadwell coming towards him. Is hat’s ear flaps flapping in the wind. 

 

Zira isnt' sure what he's done to draw the Sergeant's attention, the man has his own ideas about things. Zira internally rolls his eyes.

 

“Where do you think you're going?” He demands, pointing his finger at Zira. 

 

Zira tries not to sigh. “I'm going in to the auditorium.”

 

“Under whose authority?” 

 

“Well... mine, I'm directing the panto this year and I've got the key to this building, see.” Zira holds up the key for him to see. “Assistant Dean Etron gave it to me.”

 

Shadwell eyes the key and then Zira with a bit more suspicion than Zira would like, then he relents. “Alright... but don't think I won't be checking up on this.” 

The man’s accent is thick but Zira can’t quite place where it’s from, it’s always been kind of all over just like the man’s brain. 

 

Zira sighs now, the man certainly plays up his role as acting head of Security. “Yes of course Sergeant I would expect no less.”

 

Zira lets himself in and locks the building behind him. He puts the key back in his pocket and pulls off his gloves.

The building is dark but there is enough light coming in through the windows to make his way around back to the changing rooms.

 

He turns the lights on and tosses his coat on a nearby chair then opens the costume room and the prop closet.

 

He dives in and starts making piles of props and costumes.

One pile for things that need mending before they can be used. One for things he thinks should be thrown away, and one for things that are ready to be used in the show.

He hums to himself as he works.

 

He finds some fairy wands with stars and ribbons. They could all use some touching up of their paint and bows. He thinks he could have one painted black and use it for the bad fairy.

 

He finds some cat ears and a tail that would work for Wensleydale’s castle cat character and a lot of clothing, some that needs buttons sewn on and rips repaired.

 

Looking at his piles of props and costumes, he loads most of it into a box and the rest into the waste bin.

 

It was a start.

 

He decides to take a look in the construction room around the corner next.

 

It's just off stage before the door that connects the stage to the changing rooms.

 

He takes a peak in and can see readily that there are tools hanging and pieces of wood stacked up.

It looks like there are some wooden stands and rolls of canvases that they might be able to utilize. He needs to look at the set up on stage to see what will work best. A lot will be determined by what things in the construction room are usable and what set up they have on stage. 

 

He and Crowley had been talking and they were currently thinking that the set needed to indicate the Castle in the distance, the dining hall, the room with the spinning wheel in the tower, and the castle with the thorn bushes grown up around it.

 

It didn’t have to be a terribly complicated matter, it could be as simple as opening the curtain and closing it so the actors could be in front of it, moving some furniture or turning a flat. Anything to indicate a different space.

 

They would just have to figure something out, together.

 


 

On Monday Zira starts with the students singing and then hands out a few copies of the script for scenes one and two.

 

“Make sure you take notes as I tell you where to move and stand, this is your blocking and it's as important to memorize as your lines.” He explains.

 

The king and Queen, two of the underclassmen seem to pick up on what Zira wants pretty readily.

Anathema makes lots of notes in her script, one of her jobs as assistant to the director is to keep book. To help the cast with lines and blocking. 

The gaggle of fairies is having a more difficult time. “Pepper I need you to move downstage some, closer to where the table will be. No no the other direction... that's it right there.” Zira directs her.

 

“It makes no sense. Why's it 'up stage' and down stage?'” She asks frustrated.

 

“It’s silly, it should be front and back or something.” Brian adds.

 

“There must be a reason for it.” Wensleydale suggests and the others agree.

 

“I don't know...” Zira muses as he stands onstage with the cast.

He's never much thought about it, it's just the way he was taught, he never questioned it. “Perhaps we could look it up... I not sure if there's a book on the history of theater in the library but...”

 

“It's because the stage was raked in medieval times.” Zira turns from his spot onstage to find Crowley sitting in a seat in the front row. 


When had he snuck in? 

 

There’s a general murmur of uncertainty in the room, the students don’t know what Crowley means, even Zira isn’t quite sure. 

Pepper asks what everyone is wondering. “what’s that mean, the stage was raked?” 

 

“Means the stage was slanted, it went up towards the back so that the audience on level ground could see what was happening. An actor had to literally walk up the stage. Today we rake the auditorium, so the seats move up instead of the stage. But we kept the stage direction.” 

 

“How do you know that?” Zira murmurs curiously.  He is of course delighted to learn this new information.

He says much loader so the cast can hear him. “Thank you Professor, that is fascinating. Everyone, this is Professor Crowley he’s going to be helping with sets and things.” 

Crowley gives a quick wave from his seat, and then slides down and stretches out a little further in his chair as Zira gets on with rehearsals. 

Zira steals a glance behind him at Crowley every once in awhile and sees that he’s pulled out a book, it looks like the sketchbook the Dean gave him for his birthday last May.

Zira has seen him drawing in it but Crowley hasn’t showed it to him.  He’s certainly been curious about what’s in it.


 

 

 

 

When rehearsal is over and the students have filtered out with their books and coats Crowley brings his book to the edge of the stage. “Got some things for you to look at Angel.” 

Zira joins him at the edge, sitting down with his legs hanging over the stage while Crowley leans up agains it. 

Crowley opens the sketchbook without flourish and starts flipping the pages and explaining what’s on them.  

Zira is excited and wants to see everything.

“Whoa, slow down you’re going to fast for me.” 

“oh hum, right, no you’re right.”  Crowley says self consciously.  He flips the pages back to where he started and slows down so Zira can really look at what he’s drawn.

 

Zira sees trees and parts of Castles. 

He sees where Crowley has drawn sketches of some of the cast in mock ups of their costumes.

 

He’s drawn some technical looking drawings of the stage and then what a flat or a backdrop might look like. He’s also drawn some compositions for backdrops. 

Crowley is chattering on and Zira hasn’t caught much of any of what he’s saying as he takes in the drawings. 

He reaches out and places a hand on Crowley’s.

Crowley quiets and looks up at him. 

“They are lovely.” Zira says in all honesty.  Even the more technical drawings are full of character. 

It’s his first look inside Crowley’s sketchbook, a peak into his personal world of thought and exploration. Like seeing through his eyes, Zira think poetically. 

 

He’s seen Crowley’s doodles, even saved some of them over the months. Little sketches of flowers and leaves and hands on napkins and the corners of scrap paper. He keeps some in the pages of a book in his rooms. He loves them but they aren’t nearly as lovely as these.

 

”These are wonderful, my dear. Any of them would make a set to remember.” 

Crowley smiles shyly. “What do you think you’ll want.”

 

Zira thinks, he’d love to see all of them painted and complete, he’d love to see all of Crowley’s visions brought to life. “I think, well, it’s all a matter of what materials we have and what we can get done.” 


“Is there a budget for any supplies?” Crowley asks sincerely. 

 

Zira scrunches up his nose, that’s been a concern of his. “I can make a request for the Assistant Dean to approve. But we have to see what we have before we can ask for anything new.” 

 

“right, makes sense.”

 

”I haven’t inventoried the construction room, I looked and there’s a lot in there but I don’t know how much of it will be useful.”

 

”Is there paint?” 

 

”I don’t know, I can look.” Zira stands. 

“Is it back stage?” Crowley asks eyeing the wings.


“Yes, the room is off stage right here.” Zira points to his left. 

“I’ll come.” Crowley seems genuinely interested. 

“I’ll walk with you.” Zira moves to join him so they can walk the round about way, around and back through the changing rooms like they had before. 

Crowley shakes his head. “I’m here, I can manage, what is it, four steps?” 

There are only four to get up onto the stage but they are a bit steeper than the three the front of the academic building that Crowley climbs most school days.

 

Crowley closes his sketchbook and moves to the stairs.

Zira hovers, unsure if he should offer a hand or insist that Crowley go the other way. 

Crowley seems to have his mind made up and takes the steps one at a time. He goes up with his more stable leg, his right and then brings up his left. It was cautious of him.

 

Zira can breath again when he reaches the stage. 

 

Zira gives him a nod and waves for him to follow.  Zira gets a few steps into the wings and realizes Crowley isn’t following him.  

He turns back filled with concern. 

Maybe the stairs were to much. 

He finds Crowley still standing on stage but facing out, out into the audience. Much like Zira had yesterday. 

looking from a stage into a dark auditorium can be inspiring or it could invoke fear.  Crowley’s face is passive when Zira moves to stand next to him. He can’t see his eyes, but Zira does not get the impression he’s fearful. 

 

 

Zira feels the desire to speak but not his own words, Romeo’s. “O, speak again, bright angel! For thou art as glorious to this night, being o'er my head, as is a wingèd messenger of heaven unto the white, upturnèd, wondering eyes of mortals that fall back to gaze on him when he bestrides the lazy-puffing clouds and sails upon the bosom of the air.” 

One corner of Crowley’s mouth turns up slyly. “Act 2, Scene 2...‘Tis but thy name that is my enemy. Thou art thyself, though not a Montague. What’s Montague? It is nor hand, nor foot, nor arm, nor face, nor any other part Belonging to a man. O, be some other name! What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other word would smell as sweet. So Romeo would, were he not Romeo called, retain that dear perfection which he owes without that title. Romeo, doff thy name, and for that name, which is no part of thee take all myself.” 

“Are you sure you’ve never been on stage before? You are so very familiar with the bard.” Zira points out and Crowley has proved it over and again now. 

 

”purely academic reasons.”  He dismisses the question. 

“Well you would have made quite the Juliet. You’ve got a good sensitivity and a strong delivery.” 

Crowley smiles fully now. “thank you Mr. director, I’ll take that as a compliment.” 

“oh it is.” Zira says adamantly. 


Crowley takes one more look out into the dark rows of seats and follows Zira. 

They stand in the open doorway and look in. The construction room is long and narrow and in a state of organized chaos. Crowley whistles lowly at the sight. “Well there’s certainly stuff.”

 

”yes...” Zira says with an overwhelmed sigh. “But is it any of the stuff we need?” 
Zira doesn’t know where to start, it’s a lot. 

Crowley is the first to venture in.

He carefully places his steps to avoid wood that’s leaning against the wall at an angle and lengths of rope that have slithered away from their place, coiled on hooks. 

He finds some things that might be of use at first glance. “Some of these flats could be repainted or touched up, they’re in good shape.” 

“what’s the canvas to your left? How’s it look?” Zira asks from just inside the door.  

Crowley turns and looks up at a roll of painted canvas his height plus half.  He examines what he can see of it. “Hum... it might be salvageable.” Crowley moves the closest canvas and then looks at another roll behind it. “This one, the paint looks a bit too cracked to be used.” 

he shifts it as best he can to see if there’s any other useful pieces.  “Oh, Angel! There’s paint back here!” 

 

“Oh Good!”  Zira cranes just neck to see what Crowley has found. 

 

Crowley picks one can of paint up by the handle and lifts it so Zira can see. “There’s about seven more. This one feels pretty full, the question is, is it usable or dried out.” 

“We’ll get them out and then we can check.”  Zira suggests.

 

Crowley nods and picks up another can by the handle so he’s got two handles in one hand and his cane in the other. 

Zira backs up out of the room so Crowley can get through.

Crowley edges his way out. His steps seem more uncertain than when he went into the room, the cans he’s carrying are throwing his already precarious balance off. 

Zira realizes this and move back in, taking the cans from him.  He sets them down outside the room and turns just as Crowley steps out of the room awkwardly.

He over compensates moving around an obstacle on the floor cause him to loose his footing. Zira reaches out and catches his arm in the nick of time.

Crowley catches himself on Zira’s chest. 

“hey, got ya.” Zira says, nerves rattled.

“whoa” Crowley breathes, looking a bit surprised. 

“Are you alright?” 

“yeah, just...” Crowley straightens himself up. “Let me get out of here. Will you get the rest of the paint?”  


“I’ll get it.” Zira is reluctant to let go of Crowley.

no because he was worried, Crowley seems fine now. 

It was just, having him in his arms made Zira think of kissing.  His ears start to heat up.  This really wasn’t the time or place for that. 

Crowley grabs a screwdriver from a shelf on the wall and Zira backs up again to let him pass. 


Zira makes a few trips to get the rest of the cans and Crowley starts popping the lids. 

“Most of them look alright. It’s the purple and more disappointingly the white that are no good.” 

Zira can see what he means both are dried. “So we need purple and white.” 

“We can do without purple, that we can mix, we’ve got blue and red but the white that’s going to be pretty vital so I’d say it’s got to go on the supply list.” 

“how soon do we need it?” 

 

Crowley runs a hand through his hair. “The sooner the better but,I guess, not right away, I can get some help from the art students...” 

 

“the Art Aardvarks.” Zira corrects causing Crowley to purse his lips in mild annoyance. 

“the art...”

 

”aardvarks.” Zira supplies.

 

“I hope you’re enjoying this.” 

“oh I am.” 

 

“the Aardvarks...” Crowley says sarcastically. “Can get the flats and things out and we can see what’s what and start making a plan.” 

 

Zira smiles brightly. “That sounds excellent my dear, thank you so much for all your help.” 

 

“Don’t thank me yet, thank me when the curtain opens and the paint dries.” 

 

”shouldn’t it be the other way, when the paint dries and the curtain opens.” 

 

“I thought you’d been in a play before.” 

 

“I thought you hadn’t.” 


 

It’s Wednesday when Crowley gets the Aardvarks that aren’t already in the show to the auditorium to help him.

 

Adam is standing at the stage when Zira and Anathema arrive. 

“hi Adam.” Anathema greets him. 

“Are you here to help Professor Crowley?”  Zira asks. 

“Yep, I was meeting Warlock here but I haven’t seen him or the Professor.” 

 

“Why didn’t you come out for the play with the other children?” Zira asks, they usually all stick together, peas in a pod.

 

Adam shrugs. “I don’t know. I just feel like more of a behind the scenes person.”


“aaahhh, Well we’re glad you’re here, the show can use all the help it can get.” Zira acknowledges. 

 

 

“Adam... “ Warlock pokes his head out from the wings. “Adam, we’re back here.” 

Adam perks up “Alright!” He heads for the stairs and enthusiastically follows Warlock. 

Zira and Anathema put their things down and Zira gets rehearsal started. 

They are starting today with the scene where the bad fairy has set up a spinning wheel in the tall tower. 

Zira stands on stage with the actor and a chair and explains what he’s looking for as the director. “For now just imagine you’ve got a spinning wheel in front of you.” 

“Will we... having a spinning wheel Professor?” Ethan, the tall student Zira is eager to see on stage with Pepper asks. 

“Don’t you worry about it, I’ve got it covered. now go ahead and run the scene.” 

Zira exits the stage and stands next to Anathema who is following along with her copy of the script. 

Upstage behind Ethan Crowley leads his art students in, Adam and Warlock and then Pepper, Brian and Wensleydale. Who aren’t currently in the scene being rehearsed. They carry flats and canvas between them. 


Crowley directs them where to put things and then they follow him backstage again. 

Zira tries to pay attention to his actor, Ethan is doing a fine job but Crowley and his Aardvarks are just so endearing. They make another trip out and back and Zira can’t help but chuckle.

 

Anathema looks at him like she’s missed something. Zira shakes his head and then points to what’s distracting him.  “Professor Crowley’s Aardvarks look more like ducklings.” 

And they do, they’re following along right in a row, Warlock imparticular is practically Crowley’s shadow.  


Anathema chuckles too, she’s been around Professor Crowley long enough to know just how he’d react to such a statement. 


After Ethan and the spinning wheel scene comes Briar Rose pricking her finger and falling asleep. Then Zira calls the good Fairies to the stage to rehearse finding the sleeping princess and singing a lullaby.  

Pepper and Brian come bounding downstage from where they’ve been helping Crowley and Newt takes his place at the piano. 

it’s a pretty song that they sing, just a lullaby. Pepper isn’t thrilled with it but she sings well as the lead Fairy. 

Upstage Crowley has the three remaining students spreading out a roll of canvas. Zira watches as the boys work and Crowley walks around it, no doubt inspecting for damage. He stoops to pull the canvas flat and calls the boys over while he points something out. 

Zira pulls his attention back to the fairies and their song, he really must stop letting himself be distracted, he tells himself.

 

Watching the scene he takes some notes on blocking and when they are finished he gives them instructions and has them run it again. 

They’ve started the song again when Zira hears giggling. 

Giggling coming from upstage. 

Adam and Warlock look very amused, Wensleydale looks bashful and Crowley, well that’s a mischievous look if he ever saw one on the other Professor’s face. 

Zira watches and it becomes apparent that Crowley is singing along with the Lullaby and whatever he’s singing the boys find it very amusing. 

Zira snaps his fingers once and it’s enough to get their attention, he shoots them a look and they disperse and get back to business. 


“So are we going to be here after tutoring tomorrow?” Warlock asks Crowley as he and Adam follow him through the changing room where Zira and Anathema are looking at some of the  costumes he’d pulled out of the closet. 

“I like your enthusiasm but how about we do tutoring tomorrow and more set work on Friday.”

 

“Alright Professor.” Warlock looks thoughtful as he collects his books and puts on his coat before leaving.

 

”Come see me before class if you want me to look over your homework.” Crowley calls as Warlock goes. 

“Back here Friday than, See you Professors, see you Anathema!” Adam runs off to find his friends, coat over his shoulder, books under his arm.   

“You looked to be having a good time with...” Zira starts and Crowley gives him a ‘don't say it’ look. “Your Aardvarks.” 

Crowley makes a sour face. Zira knows he’s not really that put off.  

Anathema tries to hide her amusement, Crowley picks up on it quick. “Oi, don’t you start too.” 

She covers her mouth as she laughs. 

Crowley groans. 

“Sooo...” Zira hitches an eyebrow and folds the vest he’s been looking over. “What were you singing that sent the boys into fits?” 

Crowley blushes and sputters. “Uh hu Yeah... sorry, sorry about that. Just a bit of fun. You know changed the words a bit. ‘Gloom and darkness, blood and brains’ silly stuff really.” 

“Oh my, well that’s, clever.” Zira finds it surprising and sweet, the way Crowley was with the students today.

They certainly hung on his every word and he seemed happy to be working with them. Zira was glad he was having fun, he just didn’t want the cast distracted. 

Crowley looks around at the costumes, scattered on chairs and tables. “What’s all this then?” 

“We are trying to get a good idea of what we have and what needs cleaning and mending and what we’ll need new so I can get it on the supply list.”  

“Anything, I can do?” Crowley picks up a shirt with a frilly collar. 

“oh no, my boy, I don’t think so. Anathema and I have got this...” 

“Can you sew?” Anathema cuts in. “There’s going to be sewing that needs to be done.” 

Zira is surprised to see Crowley nod. “I can sew a button back on. But I know someone who’s really very good at sewing.” 

Zira looks thoughtful. “that would be very helpful, I’m afraid some of these costumes could really use some care... there’s work to be done... oh and Anathema and I were talking, we think we need a throne.” 

“What like build one?” Now Crowley raises an eyebrow. 

Zira shakes his head. “I hope not, not if we don’t have to, tell me, do you know whatever became of that big chair that was in the back hallway where the lift was put in?” 

Crowley quirks his head. “No, I never really thought about it.” he admits.  

 

Zira never really thought about it either, the chair was just there and then it wasn’t, he hadn’t thought to enquire where it went.

 

”I think maybe I’ll look into it.” Zira jots it down on the list of notes he’s keeping. “Alright, we’re nearly at the bottom of the box now. I’ll catch you up at the dining hall Dea... my... Professor Crowley.”  Zira smiles in a way that looks more awkward than anything.

 

Crowley seems amused by Zira not knowing what to call him in front of Anathema. 

“I’ll see you there, Professor.” Crowley subtly teases him. 

He goes and Zira tries to keep busy but he can‘t avoid the smile that Anathema is giving him forever. 

He smiles back, less awkwardly, as they document the last tutu and call it a night.

Chapter Text

Professor Tracy agrees to help with the costumes when Zira and Crowley ask, she has been making her own clothes since she was a girl. And is excited by the idea of helping put together a whole cast of outfits. 

 

 

She and Crowley are pinning the rough hem of the Queen's dress up when Zira finds them in the changing rooms after rehearsal and tutoring Thursday night.

 

“I've gotten a note from the administration office, the things we ordered are in at the store... at least most of them are in. It seems the silk flowers we wanted for Briar Rose's dress are on back order. We'll probably have to make do without.”

 

“Oh well, I'm sure we'll come up with something.” Professor Tracy says optimistically.

 

“We'll be fine without, as long as the paint is in...” He sees the looks on the faces around him and amends. “As long the paint is in and she's got a costume with or without flowers, it'll be fine.” Crowley offers and then promptly sticks himself with a pin he was trying to stick in the dress. “I'm rubbish at this.” 

 

“You're doing fine and I thank you for your help. I'd have been here all night as full as this skirt is.” Professor Tracy deftly places another pin and keeps working.

 

Crowley puts his finger in his mouth and looks to Zira, 'Save me' written on his face.

 

Zira clears his throat. “I was wondering... of course you could say no and I can have, oh I don't know, Hastur pick the things up tomorrow from the store... but I was wondering if you'd be up for a trip into town Professor Tracy.”

 

“A trip... oh you mean you'd like me to take you into town. Well won’t that be fun. I'd love to... I need to go myself, but it is getting late, will the store still be open?” 

 

“The note says they're open late for patron’s holiday convenience.”

 

“Oh well that, that will work won't it. What do you say Professor Crowley, up for a trip into town?”


Crowley looks like this wasn't quite the saving he expected but he agrees. “I suppose...”

 

“Excellent, it'll be a wonderful change of scenery.” Zira says excitedly.

 

 


 

 

Professor Tracy has a car. A car that Crowley has been drooling over since she drove it on campus last semester. A car that she is now driving about ten miles per hour under the speed limit, Zira thinks, as he watches the scenery pass from his seat in the back of said car.

 

The sun is setting and making the tree line glow. 

 

He really hasn't ventured into town much over the last year but he always enjoys going. It is a lovely quaint little town and a very nice area, he'd liked it here ever since he was a student and it was extra exciting to get a pass to go to town. 

 

Over the years there had been different cafes and pubs in the town but the store had stayed the same. It was still owned by the same couple, a man and woman who were just as personable now as Zira remembers. Always ready to talk, and talk literature even, and offer there newest ware for a try. They’d offered him some delicious grapes last time he was in. 

 

When they finally get to town there are a few people bustling around, even on this cold evening. There are people heading into and coming out of the store when Professor Tracy puts her car in park out in front.

 

Crowley climbs out of the front passenger seat and moves out of the way so Zira can get out of the back.

 

The three professors hurry inside and out of the cold. 

 

Inside the store and the lighting are warm. A few people are looking at things on the shelves as Zira scans the one room store. There is a young man, a clerk at the register helping an older woman.

 

“I'm going to ask the clerk about our supplies.” Zira informs the others.

 

“I'll be over by the teas, it looks like they've got some new varieties, likely for the season.” Professor Tracy heads to the far corner of the store.

 

Crowley follows behind Zira, perusing the shelves as he does.

 

Zira stands back from the counter and waits patiently as the clerk finishes up with the lady he is wrapping candlesticks for. Zira thinks they look like a very nice gift for someone.

 

He smiles when the clerk acknowledges him. The clerk does not greet him with half as much cheer. Zira thinks it's probably been a long day and doubly long since they are open late for the Christmas holiday.

 

“Hello, yes, I'm... I'm from St. Terrence and got a message that the supplies we ordered for the theater, for the Panto we're putting on you see, well we got a message that our things, that you ordered, not you personally necessarily but the store ordered, hum in general. That they were in.”

 

The clerk nods but his eyes are narrowed and focused over Zira's shoulder. He looks around underneath the counter. One side and then the other. Then looks back passed Zira again while asking irritably. “What was it you ordered?”

 

Zira isn't sure if the man is having an issue with one of the customers in the store, that his attention is divided but he certainly seems distracted and unhappy.

 

Zira hopes he wasn't the cause. “We ordered paint and fabric and large paint brushes and ribbon...” Zira lists the things off.” He starts to get concerned as the clerk doesn't seem to be recognizing his order. “The school office got a call that things were in.” Zira fights back the panic that is threatening. Maybe Mary Sarah got the message wrong.

 

“Does your charge need assistance?” The young man asks annoyed at something Zira isn't sure what.

 

Zira looks over his shoulder in the direction the young man is glaring. “My charge?” Zira isn't sure what he means, they hadn't brought any students with them it was only him, Professor Tracy and Crowley.

 

Crowley is standing a few feet away in the aisle behind Zira examining a box with a gold bow. 

“Crowley, do you need any assistance?” Zira asks trying to be helpful and the clerk makes a disgruntled sound behind him. Apparently that wasn’t what he wanted. 

Crowley puts the box down and shakes his head, “don’t think I do...” He move up beside the counter and Zira. “Have you got the supplies?” He asks and it sounds like he’s half asking Zira and half asking the clerk. 

Zira explains. “This young man was looking into it but he seemed to think you may need some assistance before he can find our things.”

The clerk looks Crowley up and down as if he’s trying to decipher something. “I think you should stay close with your friend here.” 

Crowley smiles a smile at the man that surprises Zira, there’s somehow no kindness in it. “I think you should find our order.” 

the young man’s eyes get big at Crowley’s words and he seems to be very put off. 

Zira looks from the clerk to Crowley and back again. He does not understand the exchange that has just taken place. 


The clerk turns dramatically and heads to the back room.

Zira turns to Crowley for an explanation.

Crowley shakes his head slightly with a frown. Zira gets the impression that maybe Crowley feels like this isn’t the time to talk about what’s just gone on. 

Crowley shrugs and moves around Zira, making a beeline for the shelf where Professor Tracy is looking at more pins and sewing needles. 

Zira waits at the counter.  

He waits patiently.

He hopes the clerk is in a better mood when he comes out of the back. 

He looks around, there are some fine things on display behind the counter. A number of bow ties in different colors. Some socks that look thick and warm for the winter, some shiny black bowler hats probably from London, and among all the finery a blue scarf. 

It catches his eye.

It’s a knit scarf made of a thick wool that is a particular shade of blue.

The blue reminds him very much of the blue sweater Crowley wears in his rooms on occasion. It’s a color that Zira particularly likes on Crowley and he is in need of a scarf.

 

Zira can’t take his eyes off of it.

He wants ... he needs to find a way to get it without Crowley seeing. It would make the perfect Christmas gift.

 

He tries to formulate a plan, some way to get it, if not tonight then at least before Christmas and he kept coming up short. 


Zira sighs, maybe it will still be here after Christmas. 

The clerk returns from the back with a big box in his arms. Before he can set it down the store’s owner comes out of the back.

Zira recognizes the man at once. He has thinning dark hair and a mustache.

He and the clerk speak in hushed tones and the clerk cuts his eyes, Zira realizes, in Crowley’s direction. 

 

Zira is uncomfortable with what’s going on and not understanding what’s going on. The smile fades from his lips. 

The owner’s tone with the clerk gets suddenly harsh and Zira can see the clerk looks now like he’s been reprimanded. Well that’s something, he thinks. 

 

The owner steps up to the counter. “Good evening Professor Phell, I’m sorry you were kept waiting, we have your things. Burbage can take the box to your vehicle.” 

“I think we’d like to check and make sure it’s all there.” Crowley comes back around to Zira’s side. 

The owner looks from Zira to Crowley. He’s got a nervous energy about him, that’s making Zira jumpy. “Of course, Sir, that’s a very good idea.” He waves at the clerk to bring the box. 

The clerk sets the box down and Zira checks what’s in it against his list. “It is all here. All except the back ordered flowers.” 

 

“Excellent,” The owner says overly enthusiastically. “then we’ll load the box up for you.”

Zira thinks that will be alright. “I’ll get Professor Tracy she has...” 

 

“The key.” Crowley holds it up with a smirk. Zira can’t say he’s surprised Crowley talked her into giving him the key, next he’ll be getting her to teach him to drive. ”I’ll open the boot.” 

“Very good Sir, come along Burbage...” The owner moves to insists the irritated clerk follows him as Crowley leans on his cane and waits for them to get to him. “Lead the way Sir and can I just say, thank you for your service.”

 

Crowley nods tight lipped and turns away from him towards the door and they follow. 


Zira is still confused, lord knows, but now he’s been given an opportunity and he needs to take it. “Professor Tracy, I need a... well another favor.” He hurried to get her and point out the scarf. 



“Is Professor Tracy ready?” Crowley asks when Zira passes the owner and the clerk in the doorway as he exits the shop. 

“She’s getting a few things, she said she’d be right out.” 

Crowley nods and opens the car door. Zira climbs into the back and Crowley gets into the front passenger side seat, were there’s more leg room.  

“So what was all that about...” Zira asks, curious and concerned.  


he knows both the clerk and the owner were acting odd towards Crowley but he was at a loss as to why. 

Crowley is quiet for a moment before he answers. “Sometimes people don’t know what to make of the dark glasses and the cane, I think the clerk was afraid I was going to cause a problem, break something or just generally make his life difficult... the owner thought I was a veteran of the Great War.” 

“oh...” Zira didn’t realize, it’s a lot to take in. “You didn’t correct him.” It’s an observation more than a judgement. 

Crowley just hums and seems tired. 


 

On Friday Crowley and the Art Aardvarks hit the ground running, brushes are passed out, paint cans cracked open and everyone set with a task. 

Zira directs music rehearsals and checks in on the crew about half way through. 

The students are painting and chatting as they work.   


“I asked Santa for a bicycle!” Adam says to other kids as he leans over and paints the top half of one of the flats, that’s laying on a tarp, sky blue. 

Crowley is sitting on a stool painting clouds on the blue area already painted.

Zira is impressed they really look like fluffy clouds, it was almost like magic. 


Zira watches as Crowley uses the white paint over top of the still drying blue. His brush picks up some of the blue and makes shadows and swirls in the clouds. 

“I asked for a cricket bat!” Brian says excitedly, pulling Zira’s attention from Crowley’s talented strokes. 

He cringes when he sees how much paint Brian is covered in. At least Crowley got the kids in the smocks.

Anathema notices him off to the side of their workspace backstage as she sets a new can of paint down for the younger students to use. 

“What are you doing for Christmas Professor Phell?” She asks. 

Zira smiles to himself thinking about his plans. He’s looking forward to having some time to himself and the quiet campus. 


“I’ll be here... I think I’ll attend Midnight Mass I've always been fond of that.”

“You’ll be here alone?” Anathema asks and the other students turn from their painting and look concerned too. 

Crowley turns to him and an eyebrow raises slyly. 

“No Processor Crowley will be here too.” Zira clarifies. 

“Both of you are staying through Christmas, don’t you have family to go and see?” Adam asks. 

“Well, frankly no.” Zira shrugs.

“No family?” Anathema looks like the idea confuses her. “None at all? No one to have Christmas dinner with or exchange gifts?” 

Zira doesn’t often talk about personal matters with the students and he knows Crowley certainly doesn’t. It’s understandable they’re curious.


“No Dear,” He explains gently. “I was raised by my grandparents and they’ve past on. There is really no one left to spend the holidays with.” There were cousins, but no one that he wanted to spend his holiday with. 

“That’s so sad.” Anathema pushes her glasses up on her nose. 

Zira gives her a small smile, she is so mature in some ways and very young in others.

“No no, It’s fine, it just means making new traditions with friends.” Which is the truth, as far as Zira is concerned.

“And Professor Crowley, you don’t have any family to go see either?” Warlock speaks up, Zira hadn’t even noticed he was there before. He’s often very quiet, he reminds Zira of another quiet student, one with long red hair. 

Crowley shakes his head. “No, I don’t have any plans to see any family.”


“Do you not have any family either?” Anathema’s brow furrows. 

Crowley grimaces.

Zira knows a bit of Crowley’s history with his family and it’s all quite depressing, it’s no surprise he makes a pained face.

“The blood relatives that I have disowned me a long time ago.” He says very evenly. 

“Disowned?” Anathema isn’t the only student with a confused look on their face. 

Crowley sighs, he probably didn’t mean to get into this discussion with a bunch of pupils. “They don’t want anything to do with me, they disowned me, so I don’t want anything to do with them.” He explains. 

“That’s terrible. Not even at the holidays?” Anathema looks like she can’t believe what she’s hearing. 

“Not even at the holidays, I haven’t heard from them since I was your age.”

Anathema blinks and doesn’t seem to know what to say. 

Adam speaks up with a question. “Don’t you want to reach out to them? Reconnect? It’s Christmas.”

Crowley’s face pulls in distaste again. “It could be doomsday, that doesn’t mean I need to waste my time or energy on people who don’t value me as a person.”

He states and turns back to his painting. 

“Oh.” Adam and Warlock, Anathema and the others take in Crowley’s words.

Zira clears his throat and adds. “Sometimes family that you find is more important than the family you’re born with.”

The young students nod, Anathema still seems uncertain about it all. 

“Are you all still planning on being here tomorrow to work on props and sets.” Zira asks them.

Crowley confirms that is the plan.

 

The student agree enthusiastically. Zira is glad to have so much passionate assistance. 

“Alright than I will be here and unlock the door at nine. Thank you for your help everyone.” 

 



On Saturday Zira opens up and practically on his heels are Warlock and Adam and his gang, Anathema, Newt and a few others from the cast follow promptly and Zira puts them to work. 

They're about an hour into making props, when Zira looks around and realizes he hasn't seen Crowley yet.

 

“Have you seen Professor Crowley?” Zira asks Anathema who shakes her head and continues making a garland out of paper. 

 

“Has Professor Crowley been in yet?” Zira asks the students who are painting, they all say they haven’t seen him.

 

Zira waits another half and hour and then his concern gets the better of him.

 

“Anathema would you please hold the fort, I'm going to run a quick errand.” He grabs his coat before she finishes saying yes.

 

Crowley had said he was going to be there to help and it's not like him to just not show up. Not in Zira’s experience af least.

If he got held up, that's fine, really no problem. Zira just wants to check.

 

He knocks before opening the door with the key Crowley gave him a year ago. 

 

“Crowley, Dear, are you here?” he asks into the dark rooms. 

 

“In here Angel.” Crowley calls from the bedroom.

 

“Is everything alright?” 

 

Zira opens the door a crack and finds it even darker in the bedroom. The light from the open door is enough to see Crowley is still in his bed.

 

“Is everything alright?” Zira asks again this time with greater concern, Crowley has never, since he’s known him been one for laying around in bed.

 

Crowley groans. “It's just one of those days... haven't had one in a while. Think I was over due.” Crowley shifts and makes a sympathy inducing sound in his throat.

 

“Is there anything I can do?” Zira hates to see Crowley so blatantly in pain.

 

“No... hum...”

 

“What is it?” There seems to be something he wants to ask for.

 

“The hot water bottle is in the kitchen, I think I left it in the sink last night... would it be possible?”

 

Zira should have guessed, the hot water bottle. “I'll put the kettle on Dear, just relax.” 

 

Zira hurries to help. Of course he can’t hurry the stove or the kettle. 

finally he’s got the hot water bottle Crowley asked for.

 

Zira cracks the door a little and tries to be quiet as he enters, he's not sure with the heavy curtains blocking the light, if it's Crowley's eyes or legs or head or just all of the above that's bothering him. “Crowley, I've got the water bottle.” Zira says just over a whisper. “I'm sorry you’re not feeling well my dear, I hope this helps some.”

 

Crowley reaches out from under the blanket he's curled up in and takes the hot water bottle and hugs it to his chest. “Thank you.”

 

“I'm putting a glass of water on the nightstand and an apple. Just in case. I'll be back in a little while to check on you if that's alright.”

 

Crowley hums in agreement. “thank you.” The breathes 

 


 

A couple hours later Zira knocks softly on the door “Crowley can I come in?”

 

He gets an affirmative reply. He opens the door quietly and lets his eyes adjust to the darkness.

 

Crowley's still bundled up with his eyes squeezed shut.

Zira feels his heart ache. “Can I refill the hot water bottle or get you anything?”

 

One eye cracks open. “could... would you... would you sit with me?” He asks.

 

Zira stands in the doorway, a little surprised but absolutely willing, everything was done at the auditorium for the day. “I can... would it be alright if I let some light in?”

 

“you could open the curtains.” Crowley agrees.

 

“Are you sure that's not going to bother you?”

 

“I'll be alright... it's... my legs.” He presses his face into his pillow.

 

Zira nods.

 

He moves to the window and slides back the curtain a little so there's light enough to read by but the whole room isn't flooded.

 

Zira looks around, the only chair has Crowley's leg braces laying on it, like Zira has seen before. He thinks maybe he should bring the desk chair in.

 

“There's room on the bed.” Crowley suggests.

 

Zira blinks, it is true there is room.

 

He takes his shoes off and slides up onto the bed. He sits on top of the blanket, back against the headboard. He opens his book and reads quietly.

 

Crowley is quiet too and doesn't move for along time. Slowly he starts to uncurl. Zira doesn't mind when Crowley pushed his back against his thigh. Eventually Crowley rolls onto his back and Zira can see his face in the light.

 

He's pale and his face is twisted in a grimace that speaks to the pain he's in but his uncovered eyes are clear and he doesn't seem too bothered by the light, Zira is blocking most of it anyway.

 

“What are you reading?”

 

“Poirot Investigates.” Zira keeps his voice low to match Crowley’s. 

 

“Agatha Christie?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Any good?” 

 

“It's a series of short stories, I like some better than others but over all it is good. Have you read any Christie?”

“Ngk...”

“Oh she writes wonderful mysteries, they're fun to read. Would you like me to read some to you?”

 

“If you want.” He says noncommittally, but seems happy enough whenZira starts flipping back. 

 

“I'll go back to the beginning of this one.”

 

Crowley lays back against his pillow his head angles closer and closer to Zira's side as Zira reads aloud.

 

He relaxes and closes his eyes and just listens.

Zira had almost finished the story when Crowley opens his eyes and pushes himself up on his elbows.

 

His sudden jolt of movement surprises Zira who drops his book and looses the page he was on.  He’s not concerned about that, he’s concerned about what’s upset Crowley.

 

“Are you alright? Do you need something? What can I do.”

 

Crowley looks up at him with such a forlorn look Zira thinks something awful must be happening.

 

Crowley looks devastated “It’s Saturday... I didn’t... I don’t... I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.” Crowley spouts.

 

Zira isn’t sure what he’s apologizing for for a second. “Oohh, the props and sets today.  You don’t have to be sorry, I’m sorry you didn’t feel up to it.  You’ve done so much already, really truly thank you for all you’ve done. Don’t be sorry for not being able to do more.”

 

“But, the students and, and I took you away.”

 

“The students did fine, they worked, maybe not as diligently as if you had been there but it’s a Saturday, any work they did was something. Anathema and Newt were there overseeing things when I couldn’t. They’ve really been so helpful, I think I must do something for them as a thank you. It all worked out my dear, nothing for you to worry about. I just want you to feel better.”

 

Crowley blinks and breaths and looks back at Zira. “It’s been a long month.”

 

“I know, not long now till it’s over, the show, the semester... we’ll get a break soon enough.” And I’ll sit in bed with you all day everyday of that break if you ask me too, Zira thinks. “Oh, oh... I forgot. I asked the students today if they’d seen that chair, The Chair...”

 

Crowley nods.

 

“Guess who has it.”

 

“I don’t know.”  Crowley says without even trying to think of a guess.

 

Zira isn’t bother, Crowley isn’t in the mood and that’s alright.

 

“You’ll never believe it, Adam and Pepper say Hastur has it, in his workshop.”

 

“You have got to be kidding me.” Crowley says in disbelief. “Of course, of course it would be Hastur.” He flops back down and covers his eyes dramatically with his arm. “Why did it have to be Hastur.”

 

“Oh I know Dear, I know.”  Zira thumbs through his book to find the page where he left off. “Were nearly done this story, how about we finish it and then see about getting something to eat, if you’re up to it.”

 

Crowley nods with his face still half covered.

 

Zira looks around and notes that Crowley’s dressing gown is draped on the end of the bed and his Crutches are on his side of the bed leaning against the wall.

 

Zira would get them food from the kitchen and Crowley could eat it here or if he wanted to get up he could.

 

Tonight, Zira decided, he would attend to Crowley. Tomorrow he would have to see about Hastur.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Slides of Stars art for the New Year Tumblr insta 

Zira knows he’ll find Hastur in the back of the Church on Sunday morning. The groundsman usually hangs in the doorway during Mass and makes a hasty exit as soon as the congregation is dismissed. 



Zira makes a plan as he enters the church alone.

 

Crowley got up this morning. He had some tea. He really didn’t feel up to going out.



Zira left him sitting on the sofa with a warmed up cuppa, some toast, a blanket, the hot water bottle and his school bag in reach so he could get some work done or draw when he was ready. Zira was also ready to make excuses for him to the Assistant Dean if he asked why Crowley wasn't in church.

 

Zira takes a seat in the very back row on the very end and when the Priest exits and everyone is dismissed Zira jumps up and follows Hastur out the door.

 

He walks fast trying to catch up to Hastur’s long legged strides.

 

“Hastur, Mr. Hastur... excuse me. could I just...” Zira calls after him.

 

Hastur gives no sign that he’s heard Zira until he stops and turns on him suddenly.

 

Zira stops in his tracks startled and blinks up at the taller man. There’s dirt on his face, Zira can’t imagine what the man was digging this early on a Sunday.

 

“I, hum, I need to ask you...” Zira tries to get his inquiry out.

 

“Ask me what?” Hastur asks coldly, there’s a menace to the words that sends a chill up Zira’s spine,

 

Zira starts to second guess his decision to do this alone. He really wishes Crowley were with him. He usually avoids Hastur for a reason.

 

“I, I’m just, well... the chair. That is, the chair that was in the back hall of the academic building, I heard that you have it and I was wondering if we could use it for the throne in the school Panto.” Zira finally gets all the words he wants to say out.

 

Hastur looks at him, almost through him.  “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

 

He turns to leave but Zira follows. “Really? I heard the chair was in your shop.”

 

Hastur keeps moving. “I don’t know what you are talking about.” He throws over his shoulder.

 

“We just want to borrow it, I can even get help moving it.” Some of the older boys would likely help him make quick work of it, Zira thinks.

 

Hastur stops again, Zira is in mid stride this time and does wind up bumping into the other man. Hastur turns to face him and speaks very loudly and in his face. “I told you I don’t know what you’re talking about.” He turns and walks away faster than before.

 

Zira is left standing there dumbstruck in the cold.

 


 

“He what?” Crowley sets his sketchbook down and starts to throw off the blanket wrapped around him.

 

Zira takes his hat off and lays his coat over the desk chair.“Relax my boy, there’s nothing to be done about it right now.”

 

Crowley considers this and then crosses his arms with a huff. “You think he was lying?”

 

“My instincts say yes, but I’ll look into it.”

 

Zira picks up Crowley’s sketchbook, hands it back to him and takes its place on the cushion next to Crowley.



He kicks off his shoes and gets comfortable on the warm sofa. “What have you been drawing, my dear? Anything fun?”

 

Crowley shrugs and moves the blanket over so they can share it. “Just been playing with some costume designs, for fun.”

 

“Oh, will you show me?” He crosses his legs under him on the sofa and leans over so their shoulders touch and he can see the sketchbook in Crowley’s lap.

 

“They were just for fun, Angel, don’t expect too much.” Crowley opens the book to the page he’s been working on.

 

There are bits of fairy wings and royal robes drawn around the center of the page where he’s drawn a long dress. The skirt is covered with flowers, they flow down from the waist and ring the bottom hem like a fringe.

 

“Oh Crowley, that is lovely, that would have made a beautiful ending dress for the princess if only we could have gotten the flowers, well, if we could have gotten the money from the budget for all those flowers, it’s spectacular.”

 

“Thank you Angel, I'm glad you like it.” Crowley lays his head in Zira’s shoulder and Zira puts an arm around him.

 

After a quiet minute Crowley changes the subject. “Sooo Anathema was really freaked out yesterday by the idea of spending Christmas without family, wasn’t she.”

 

Zira hums thoughtfully. “What brought on this train of thought?”

 

Crowley shrugs against his side. “I don’t know, I was just thinking about it I guess. Does it bother you, not having a traditional Christmas?”

 

“I meant what I said about making new traditions with friends.” Zira says insistently. He looks down at Crowley stilly laying against his shoulder. “Does it bother you?”



Crowley shifts and sits up a bit straighter so he's looking at Zira's face. “No, 'traditional Christmas' doesn't mean much to me. My family’s Christmas tradition was to leave me where they didn’t have to deal with me or do things that didn’t include me...” Crowley's thought trails off.

 

He's remembering something unpleasant.  Zira can tell.



It's the way he turns his head slightly and the corners of his mouth pull down. He’s seen Crowley get pulled into some painful parts of his past in the last year.



When he drifts into a memory like this, it's worrying. Crowley is so often left upset by it. Zira has found he does not like when Crowley’s family is brought up.

 

He tries to distract him.

 

“I think Anathema has had a very different growing up experience to either of us.”

 

“Huh?” Crowley looks back to him and Zira smiles warmly at him.

 

Crowley hesitates but then smiles back.



“What about Anathema?” He asks.

 

“Oh, I think she’s an only child but she has a large extended family and they’re all very close.”

 

“Really?” Crowley asks like it's a foreign concept. Which for Crowley, Zira supposes it is.

 

“Yes, she’s just had a different experience to either of us, she can’t see not doing thing with family as an option.”

 

“Hum, makes her difficulty with my lesson on Michelangelo make more sense.”

 

“She had difficulty?”  Zira knows that Anathema has been one of Crowley’s favorite students and that art history was something she was quite good at.

 

“She couldn’t seem to wrap her head around the fact that Michelangelo followed in the footsteps of his wet nurse’s family, stone masons and not his family who were bureaucrats.”

 

Zira thinks he understands. “Well if she has a strong belief in following the traditions of family, I could see where that might be upsetting.”



“You mean Michelangelo getting the love of stone craving from the breast of his wet nurse could be upsetting, or the fact that the greatest artist Europe has known could have gone into politics?”

 

Zira snorts softly. “You know what I mean.”






On Monday they are two weeks from the end of the semester and ten days away from the Panto.

 

Crowley has decided to use both crutches this morning to give his knees and ankles a rest. Zira meets him at his rooms and walks with him to school, getting the door for him when they get to the academic building.

 

The students who pass them in the hall greet Zira and Crowley. Many of their gazes linger on Crowley longer than normal, particularly the students in their first year.

 

The other students probably remember some of the other times the red haired professor used crutches last year.

 

Crowley moves very deliberately as he and Zira talk about what needs to be done for the Panto this week.

 

Professor Tracy is at Crowley’s door waiting for him when they get there, a bundle of pink fabric under her arm.

 

She doesn’t seem surprised to see him on crutches, even though she only just started at the school this semester. Zira knows she had Crowley as a student. Had him when he was still mostly using crutches.

 

“Oh Dear, I thought you were limping a bit more at the end of last week. Are you alright, is there anything I can do?” She follows them into Crowley's classroom.

 

Crowley shakes his head. “Can you control the weather? Maybe make it not bone chilling and wet?”

 

She looks sympathetic. “Oh, I'm ‘fraud not... could get you a nice cup of tea, though.” She suggests.

 

Crowley half shrugs and half nods.

 

“I’ll get that for you, I’ll be back in a tic.”

 

“Thanks.” He says gratefully.

 

Zira watches as she brushes past students entering the classroom. He wonders if the pink fabric she has is part of a costume for the show. “Does Professor Tracy have more pinning for you to do?” He asks absently.

 

“What?” Crowley shrugs off his satchel and places it on his desk.

 

“Wasn’t that a dress she had with her.”

 

Crowley turns his dark shaded gaze on Zira. “I...” he seems to think. “I hope not, I’ve got enough sore fingers as is.” He turns away quickly and starts pulling his books out.

 

“Ahh, well I hope not than.” Zira chuckles.

 

Crowley hums in acknowledgement. Then calls to the back of the class. “Warlock, will you get the box of slides out of the closet?”

 

Warlock who may or may not be drawing in a text book, Zira observes with some irritation. gets up from his desk in the back and sleepily makes his way to the closet.

 

When Warlock get to the front desk with the slides, Zira sees the realization that Crowley is on crutches play out on his face. He watches as Warlock's eyes get big. “Whoa, did you get into another fight Professor?”

 

“Har har, no,” Crowley pulls a face at the boy's question and answers dryly. “just feeling under the weather.”

 

Warlock nods and his expression turns serious. “What do you need?”

 

Zira looks at the boy in surprise, he’s never heard Warlock be so direct and mature.

 

Crowley seems surprised too but takes Warlock's question to heart. “Do you think you can man the slide projector? Thompson has been falling down on the job and I need someone I can rely on.”

 

“I can do it.” He straightens his shoulders and stands up tall.

 

Zira is impressed with the young man's vim.

 

“Good man.” Crowley nods curtly at him and Warlock hurries to get set up at the projector.

 

Professor Tracy whirls back in with a cup of tea and sets in on Crowley’s desk and leans in to whisper to him.

 

Zira figures he better get to his class. It is that time. “I’ll... I’ll see you lunch Crowley, I’ll see you at rehearsal Professor Tracy.” The two of them look up and nod, saying they would see him before turning back and talking close and quiet again.   

 

Zira leaves wondering what in the world they could be talking about.

 

 


 

At rehearsals things are coming together. Most of the cast is off book. Anathema follows along with her script as they run through scenes.  Zira watches and makes sure the actors are hitting their marks.

 

“Line!” Wensleydale calls. The cat role really only has five lines but it turns out he’s rubbish at remembering them.

 

“You look puurrfect your majesty” Anathema supplied the line.

 

Zira makes a note, if Wensleydale can’t get his lines down by the end of the week they’ll have to come up with something.

 

Newt is playing well. Thankfully the music seems to be one thing that everyone has gotten set to memory.

 

Zira hums along as the king sings his entrance song. In an effected comedic voice. “I’m Henry the Eighth I am...”

 

In the back Crowley is instructing Adam who is up on a stepladder to add leaves to a tree Crowley has deftly painted.

 

Warlock stands at Crowley’s side holding paints and brushes at the ready. Like a little master’s apprentice.

 

Zira is pleased with how the sets are coming together.

 

“Brian, make sure you're facing the audience when you enter! We've talked about this, you shouldn't been looking upstage.” Zira directs. 

 

“I was just looking to see what Adam was doing, Professor.”

 

“Yes yes, well you can see you're friend later. Right now you need to be rehearsing how you'll do things during the actual performance. Now take that entrance from the top." 

 

Zira continues to watch the actors until a while later there's a ruckus upstage where the Art Aardvarks or at least two of them, have been working.

 

“Adam you weren’t suppose to paint flowers on the tree!” Warlock exclaims.

 

“I think they look good.” Adam decides as nonchalant as he ever is.

 

“It’s dripped in more than one place!” Warlock is very clearly not happy with what Adam has done when Zira gets back to them.

 

“What’s the matter?” He asks hoping it's something that can be resolved quickly and more quietly.

 

“Adam’s messed up the flat, Professor!” Warlock looks disgruntled as he points to the offending painting.

 

“I’m fixing it Warlock!” Adam exclaims now in irritation.

 

“I’m sure it’s fine.” Zira looks around Adam and sees it's really is not fine. He grimaces at the mess he sees.

 

“What’s all the commotion?” Crowley comes out of the wings.  He must has been back in the construction room or the changing room where Professor Tracy is working.

 

Warlock runs to Crowley. “Professor Crowley, Adam didn’t do what you told him and he’s made a mess and ruined it.”

 

“I didn’t ruin it!” Adam says defensively.

 

“Adam, do come off the ladder.” Zira wants the boy on solid ground before this goes any further.



He also notices the theater has gotten very quite. Rehearsals have stopped and the actors are all watching what’s happening upstage. “Do continue, please.” Zira waves his hand for them to keep going.

 

Once the scene reluctantly restarts and Adam is down on the stage he and Warlock are glaring at one another and Crowley is examining Adam’s handiwork with the flat.

 

“Nothing that can’t be fixed.” He announces.

 

“Professor, I think...” Adam starts.

 

Crowley stops whatever he's about to say. “I think maybe you should take a break from painting for now, maybe book girl needs some help.” Crowley suggestion in a not unkind but not happy way either.

 

“Yes Adam, go and see if you can help Anathema for awhile.” Zira seconds the thought in hopes of defusing the situation.

 

“Alright, fine.” He signs and kicks at the stage and goes.

 

Warlock smirks at him leaving. Then Crowley turns to him.

 

“You go help Professor Tracy.”

 

“Ah, why what did I do?” Warlock's mouth hangs open in shock.

 

“We’ll talk about being a snitch later. Now go see if she needs anything.” Crowley tells him.

 

“But what if you need help?” Warlock asks and Crowley raises an eyebrow at him.

 

“I’m here to assist for the moment.” Zira steps up to stand by Crowley, he would help however he could.

 

Warlock huffs and sulks off backstage.

 

Crowley purses his lips and gets to work.

 

He examines the mess on the flat and wipes a finger along a bright red drip that's run down over the green leaves of the tree.  He wipes the red paint off of his finger with a cloth from his pocket.

 

“Hold this for me?” Crowley holds out his right crutch. Zira takes it for him as Crowley reaches for Adam's paint and brushes left on the top of the step ladder.

 

“Can it really be fixed?” Zira asks concerned, it looks pretty hopeless to him.

 

Crowley looks determined. “It’s just sloppy and not what we asked for... Adam took some artistic liberties with the flowers but I can clean it up a bit. It'll be fine.”

 

Zira watches as Crowley wipes away wet paint and starts to cover drips and splotches with new paint. He works as quickly as the paint will dry.

 

Where Zira wouldn't have been able to do anything but a thick line of paint with the brush Crowley is using, in the art history Professor's hand it does all sorts of things.

 

Crowley turns the brush and must change the pressure he puts on it because he entices lines that start thin and get wide. He edges along branches and brings leaves to a fine point. It's fascinating to watch.

 

Finally he puts the brush down and wipes his hands off with the clothes from his pocket. “That will have to do for now. I'll give it another coat if things aren't covered well enough, tomorrow.”

 

“Ahhh yes, very good... hum, very very good in fact.” Zira gushes just a bit, he does so enjoy watching Crowley work.

 

Crowley turns to him and Zira holds out his crutch for him. Crowley starts to take it but stops and chuckles, reaching for his cloth again. “You've got some paint...”

 

“What?” Zira questions looking down at himself.

 

“... You've got some paint on your face.” Crowley points out.

 

“what? How did...” Zira start to wipe at his face.

 

“Hold on, I'll get it.” Crowley steps close to him and a hand on Zira's chin has him tilting his head to the side. Crowley gently wipes at his forehead and wipes again.

 

“I've got it.” His hand stays on Zira's cheek. Zira wants to lean into his touch.

 

“Professor Phell?” a voice calls his name and Zira is pulled out of his musing. Crowley's hands drop to his crutch as Anathema joins them on stage.

 

“Professor Phell, do you have any instructions for the cast? It's time to wrap up for the night.”

 

Zira clears his throat awkwardly and turns to his assistant with a smile. “Thank you Anathema, I'd rather lost track of the time.”

 

He turns to the auditorium where most of the cast is waiting for his word to head out for the night. “Keep running your lines and get some sleep, we'll keep working with act four tomorrow. Have a good night everyone.”

 

“Thank you Professor.” Many of the students call as they gather their things and head out.

 

Adam and his friends among them.

 

Warlock comes back on stage from the wings with his coat on and his books still looking mopey

 

“Good night Professors.” He scuffs his shoes on the stage as he heads to the stairs.

 

“Hey...” Crowley gets his crutch under his arm and goes to speak with Warlock. They stop just before the stairs and Crowley leans in to talk quietly with him.

 

Newt comes to stand next to Anathema who's standing next to Zira. “Did you ask him?”

 

Zira startles and blinks at them.

 

“Ask me what?” He has no idea what she could be asking.

 

“I'm going to make you dinner.” She states matter of factly.

 

Zira blinks again. “That's... that's not a question.”

 

“No, I know. I've decided I'm going to make my Grandmother's Christmas soup. I've already made the arrangement, I just need to know if you want it Saturday or Sunday night and can we have it at your rooms?” She pushes her glasses up on her nose.

 

Zira is speechless for a moment trying to process what's just been said. “Aahhh, ah there's really no need, no need for you to cook for me.”

 

“You said you weren't seeing family for Christmas and that you were making new traditions. This is a tradition from my family that I want to share with you, you and Professor Crowley, he's invited too.”

 

“Oh my, I don't want you to go to the trouble.”

 

“I've already got my mother sending the ingredients, she's very proud I'm going to make my grandmother recipe, and the Matron at the dormitory says I can use her stove to make the soup, so what'll it be, Saturday or Sunday, Professor?”

 

“Oh my well if you're so inclined... I should really ask Professor Crowley, we'd be eating in his rooms not mine.”

 

“His rooms?” Anathema asks.

 

“Yes, too many stairs to mine.” Zira states.

 

Anathema nods in understanding... Newt looks a bit confused but that's the expression often on his face so Zira's not sure if he's actually confused or not.

 

Crowley finishes what's he's got to say to Warlock and Zira calls across the stage to him.

 

“Crowley... Anathema would like to invite us to dinner. Dinner at your rooms. Would Saturday or Sunday work for you?”

 

“Dinner? Where?” Crowley pauses and looks across the stage at the three others.

 

Zira moves to meet him half way. “Anathema would like to make us her Grandmother's Christmas soup and we'd like to eat it at your rooms, if that's alright.”

 

Crowley raises an eyebrow as he looks from Zira to Anathema and back. “oh, if we must... make it Saturday Book Girl.”

 

Anathema smiles and nods. “Saturday it is.”

 

Chapter Text

On Wednesday afternoon Zira finds himself in a position he's certain he didn't want to be in.

 

He's shivering in Hastur's shed looking at the chair the groundsman had adamantly denied knowing anything about.

 

Zira had brought Crowley for moral support and because he'd always been better at dealing with Hastur and Newt and Jason, the bad fairy, to help carry the chair to the theater. He'd left Anathema in charge of getting rehearsal started.

 

Hastur had not been happy to see them and had not been forthcoming in letting them borrow the chair.

 

He still tried to deny he knew what they were talking about even after they were in the little outbuilding he worked in and could see the large chair, much too large for the space sitting in front of a small stove that wasn't putting off enough heat to reach where they were standing.

 

They'd asked nicely at first, Zira adamantly promised they'd bring it back the day after the show and Hastur could do what he liked with it after that.

 

Hastur had turned his nose up and told them to piss off. Zira was scandalized by the use of such language in front of students, Crowley leaned on his cane and looked annoyed.

 

When Zira had brought up that the Assistant Dean said they could use it and Crowley pointed out that they had every right to use school property with permission Hastur had gotten down right nasty.

 

“Oh Crowley, you think you’re so great. You go around getting people fired, over foolishness, like you're God's gift to the school.”

 

Crowley straightens up. “I didn’t take money to keep tabs on a faculty member, Ligur did, he got what he deserved...” Crowley says pointedly.

 

Hastur glares at him. “You think you’re so smart.”

 

“I’ve got degrees that prove it.” Crowley shoots back. One of the boys snorts... probably Jason, Newt looks like he's fretting more than Zira.

 

“Yeah well you’re broken aren’t you, sad little broken man whose legs don’t work right. Go cry to the Dean, I know she favors you, her little pathetic pet project.”

 

“Well that’s just just uncalled for!” Zira is spurred into defending Crowley, he speaks up so Hastur is sure to hear. “No need for you to be terrible and insulting!”

 

Hastur just laughs.

 

Newt squeaks in surprise and concern behind them.

 

“Charming as ever Hastur.” Crowley sneers.

 

Zira puts his foot down, he's done with this nonsense. “Look, we just want to borrow the chair for the production. You can have it back in a week.”

 

“No, it’s mine now.” Hastur looks menacing.

 

Crowley moves so he's shoulder to shoulder with Zira. “I doubt the administration sees it that way.”

 

Hastur glares at them and seems to weigh his options, hopefully he's deciding the chair wasn't worth getting in trouble over.

 

After a long pause he growls. “Fine take it and get out of my sight.”

 

Zira jumps into action, “Right, boys with me.” Zira waves Newt and Jason over to the chair. They follow close on his heels.

 

Crowley keeps his position, Zira notes he's watching Hastur's every move. When they have the chair moving. Crowley opens the door for them.

 

“What do you say we get out of here.” He says under his breath as Zira, carrying the back of the chair and the bulk of the weight gets through the doorway.

 

“Oh yes, quick as you can lads.”

 

It's brisk out but thankfully the wind isn't blowing.

 

Newt struggles a bit but both boys have a good grip even with their gloves and they move fairly swiftly if awkwardly across campus.

 

Zira's heart is beating like a drum from the thrill of it all when they finally get the chair in the front door to the auditorium and set it down in the foyer, breathing heavy and rubbing their hands together to warm them.

 

“Mission accomplished.” Zira breathes a sigh of relief.

 

“Yeah well, we better give Hastur a even wider berth than before, he's not fans of ours that's for sure.”

 

Zira nods. “Thank you for your help boys, We'll get in moved into position after we warm up a bit, why don't you go see what scene they're on in rehearsal.”

 

“Alright Professor.” Jason hurries off.

 

“Let, let us know when you're ready to move it.” Newt pushes his glasses up on his noses and follows.

 

Zira waits till the door into the auditorium proper has closed behind the boys before turning to Crowley. “Are you alright my dear?”

 

The question is sincere, Hastur was awful to Crowley in particular.

 

“What do you mean, I'm fine.” Crowley plays it off, like he hasn't a clue what Zira's concern is about.

 

Zira smiles knowingly. “I just wanted to check, Hastur said some mean and out of line things back there.”

 

Crowley shrugs. “I've heard worse.”

 

That makes Zira's heart ache to hear, he's sure Crowley has. “Still...” He leans in close and kisses Crowley's cheeks. “I'm sorry he said those things. Thank you for being there to help me.”

 

Crowley's hand comes up to rest on the spot where Zira's lips were the moment before. “my pleasure Angel.”

 

“Do you have much work planned to do this afternoon?” Zira asks.

 

Crowley nods and starts to head for the side hallway. “Something things to get done, gonna finish painting the wands and help Professor Tracy get everyone sorted with their outfits.”

 

Zira walks with him. “I truly appreciate all you've I couldn't have done this without you.”

 

“I know.”

 

“You're such a fiend.” Zira shakes his head.

 


 

The weekend comes upon Zira fast. The semester is almost at an end and the Panto is only a few days away from performance night now.

 

“What else do we need?” Zira looks around the kitchenette like he might discover something he hadn't thought of for the last hour he'd been puttering around preparing.

“There's nothing...” Crowley leans against the counter by the sink, he's got a fond look on his face Zira notices.


Zira wrinkles his nose as he thinks. “The stove is stoked, we've got extra wood. We’ve got water on for tea and there’s some bread warming. I've brought the extra chairs...” Crowley's where his braces so the chair from the bedroom and the desk chair have been brought to the table. “and you got the bowls, spoons and napkins... Oh oh Mrs. Strathmore said I could have some biscuits, I’ll just go see if I can get that from the kitchen.”

 

He doesn’t get the chance.


There is a rhythmic knock at the door in the sitting room. Zira jumps. Crowley chuckles.

 

“It’s Anathema And Newt, no reason to get worked up.” Crowley says grabbing his cane moving to the door. He opens the door and welcomes the students in.

Zira slides around him to greet their guests. Newt's got a big pot wrapped in a towel and Anathema has a bag with her.

“How nice to see you both.” Zira greets them.

“We just saw you this morning.” Newt says as he carries the soup over the threshold carefully.

“Yes, I suppose it’s just a thing people say... this way both of you, we’ll get things settled.” Zira directs them, he’s grown quite used to the role and Crowley closes the door behind them with a smirk.

Zira makes room on the small wood stove for the large pot. The kettle is nearly there, it’s not whistling yet but he can hear it hissing.

Anathema pulls a large ladle out of her bag while Newt warms his hands by the stove. “You have very nice rooms Professor Crowley, though... they could do with some art on the walls.” She looks around.

 

Zira really does needs to remedy this, if Crowley won't.

“Funny for an art history Professor to have no art.” Newt looks around the small kitchen too.

“Oh I've told him as much.” Zira agrees.

Crowley hums. “I think this is no way to talk to your host.”

“You’re right,” Newt agrees and quickly amends. “thank you for having us over Professor.” Anathema purses her lips like she might actually have more to say on the matter. She goes to stir her soup instead.

“I’ll take your coats.” Zira collects Newt and Anathema's things and takes them out to the sitting room, he takes care to hang the coats with his and Crowley's. He moves Crowley's satchel back a smidge, from it's hasty position on the floor by the door, so it shouldn't get knocked into. When he does he notices the slightest bit of pink fabric sticking out of the bag.

 

It gives Zira pause, he wonders what it could be, but the thought passes quickly and he hurries back to everyone else. He can smell the soup now and it's making his stomach growl.

Crowley is sitting, sprawled in his usual seat when Zira gets back.

 

Anathema is filling the teapot with the hot water from the kettle and Newt is looking like he's not sure where to be or what to do.

 

“Have a seat Newt, do relax.”

 

“Are you sure there's nothing I can do? I'd like to help if I can.”

 

“Ahhh... Zira looks around for something for him to do, Anathema seems to have the tea and the soup under control.

 

“My mother always sends me out of the kitchen, she says I make too much of a mess.” Newt looks nervous but also eager.

 

Zira looks to Crowley, Crowley who is just out of Newt's line of sight shrugs dramatically and looks around before pointing to the bread warming on the back of the stove.

 

Zira raises an eyebrow. “Can you use a breadknife Newt?”

 

Zira gets Newt set up slicing the bread.

 

“The soup smells wonder Anathema, what kind is it?” Zira has looked in the pot and it does not look familiar to him at all.

 

“It's Spanish, well, Catalan to be exact. It's a pasta called Galet with pork and beef meatballs, the stock is chicken, pork, beef, carrot, cabbage, potatoes and chickpeas. It's seasoned with garlic, parsley, and cinnamon.”

 

Zira's eyes get big “Oh my, that sounds interesting.” and expensive. “That must have been tricky to put together.” His grandmother used to make soup, he doesn't remember her making anything with guite so many ingredients.


Anathema starts ladling the soup into bowls “I’m good as long as I have directions I can follow, My Grandmother has written lots of her recipes down for me. Our cook at home makes things with no directions, I just can't even imagine how.”

 

Zira nods. “My Grandmother would cook without a recipe, I think it comes with time and experience.”

“Did she teach you how to cook?”


“Ah, that's one regret I have. I didn’t learn much, my grandmother always said I was too busy sticking my fingers in the bowl and not enough time paying attention.” Zira takes the filled bowls and sets them at the table.

 

Newt brings the bread and Crowley pours tea for everyone from the pot that's been steeping on the table.

“What about you Professor Crowley did you ever cook with your grandmother?” Anathema asks as she takes her seat.

 

“Never had a Grandmother to cook with.” Zira can't quite make out his expression behind his glasses but it seems like he's just stating a fact.

 

“Oh, not on either side of your family, no grandmothers or great grandmothers?” Anathema questions.

 

“Not one that I ever met.” Crowley picks up his cup of tea not going any further to give an explanation.

 

Zira knows the explanation could very well include the fact that Crowley's grandparents hadn't wanted to meet him.

 

Zira says the grace.

 

Zira tries his soup almost as tentatively as Crowley does. He sips the broth first and then tries the pasta. He's only had pasta a couple times before but he likes it, he likes the texture and the taste.

 

“This is very good Anathema.”

 

The young woman looks very proud of herself.

 

Newt is eating happily.

 

Crowley is trying the soup, he's picking at the bread more than anything. Zira purposely gave him the bowl that was least full, knowing that Crowley can be finicky about what he eats.

 

“Oh, I was going to get biscuits from the kitchen. I should do that before I forget.”

 

“I brought dessert with me too professor, so there's no need.” Anathema points back to her bag. “My mother sent anise short breads, Mantecados.”

 

“Oh how nice, you must thank her for all this wonderful food.” Zira is certainly enjoying himself, he's going to have to supply Crowley with all the ginger biscuits he wants tomorrow.

Everyone eats contently, the food is good, the kitchen is warm and the company is enjoyable.

 

“So Adam and Warlock seemed to have calmed down and made up after the other day.” Anathema comments.

 

Crowley agrees. Zira had noticed that the boys weren't glaring daggers at one another anymore.

 

“Adam seems to be doing a fine job assisting you.” Zira comments on the boy's attentiveness to Anathema.

 

“Adam's a good kid. He can be overzealous but he's been helpful this week.”

 

“Yeah, I've got his oversealousness covered now, only took three coats of paint.” Crowley grumbles behind his hand as he talks and chews.

 

“But you did get his messy flowers covered, it's all good now.” Zira smooths over Crowley's ruffled feathers. That blasted red paint just kept showing through.

 

“Warlock's really been enthusiastic about the show.” Newt adds his own observation.

 

Crowley smiles. “Yeah, it's been a good experience for him I think, he's channeled some of his... creative energy.”

 

“We're lucky he's not painted his name all over the set. I'm actually pretty surprised it was Adam who made the mess, and not Warlock. That boy certainly likes marking things up.” Anathema chuckles.

 

“Is that who scratched that rude word into the mirror in the changing room? Was it Warlock?” Zira ask having an annoyed realization.

 

Anathema clamps her mouth shut and her eyes get big. Newt looks anywhere but at Zira. Crowley chuckles.

 

“I'm going to keep my eye on him, he better not mark up anything else or he'll feel my wrath.”Zira warns. 

 

“I'll watch him.” Crowley says and Zira narrows his eyes at him.  

 

“That's what I thought you were doing, he's practically been your shadow the whole time. If I didn't know any better, I'd think you encouraged him.”

 

Crowley snorts. “Well art is all about expressing yourself, isn't it.”

 

Zira sighs with mock exasperation. “Can I get anyone more soup?”

 

“Yes Please.” Newt asks. He's a teenage boy, he could probably eat the whole pot by himself. Zira remembers devouring some of his Grandmother's cooking at that age.  

 

When everyone is finished Zira and the students clear the table while Crowley tend to the stove.

 

He moves around the kitchenette without a cane or crutch and puts another log into the fire box.

 

Zira catches Anathema watching Crowley, there's a hint of concern in her expression.

 

Anathema is very intuitive, very observant, she likely has in the back of her mind that he's been using his crutches and his cane a lot this week.  But she's not been around Crowley in his own home. Zira has seen that sometimes even when he definitely wouldn't leave the house without his cane he'll move around his rooms without it, it really depended on the day.

 

In the small kitchenette there's lots of things, the table, the counter, the chairs, close at hand to hold onto should he need some help balancing or to take some of his weight. He's getting around the stove easily tonight with practiced steps. 

 

Zira smiles reassuringly at her, “Are these short breads a recipe of your grandmother's also?” He asks.

 

In a delightful surprise, Crowley really seems to enjoy the short breads. He actually takes a second one. Zira will have to see if Mrs. Strathmore knows where Zira can get something like them.

 

Zira is happy as a calm by the end of it all.  “That was scrumptious Anathema, thank you so much for sharing with us. I'm so glad you and Newt could both join us this evening and I really want to thank you both for all your hard work on the show.”

 

“Thank you Professor, it's been fun.” Newt says politely.  

 

Anathema nods vigorously.  “Yes, I was happy to share some of my Christmas traditions with you and the Panto has been so much fun, I'm going to be sad when it's over,"  she pauses. "...maybe we could do another show in the spring.”

 

Crowley almost chokes on his tea at the idea of putting on another show.

 

Zira can understand the feeling, it certainly has been overwhelming at times. “I think one show a year is plenty,” Crowley relaxes back into his seat at Zira's answer. “...but maybe we could do a night of dramatic readings or... or a monologue competition, that could be fun.”

 

Crowley groans.

 

“Oh, you know you'd love you it.” Zira gives him a sly smile. Anathema grins at Crowley's dramatics, Newt seems just happy to be there.

 

Crowley can't deny he'd love it.