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A Queer Sort of Community

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Aziraphale had been left rather alone for thirty years now, while Crowley slept, and he’d grown dishearteningly accustomed to it. He’d found solace in a somewhat unexpected place– a discreet gentlemen’s club in Portland Place called the Hundred Guineas, which was a lovely location to meet people and dance– oh, how Aziraphale loved to dance– so long as you left before the lights went out. And Aziraphale always did.

One night, he was sat in the club, nursing a claret in between rounds of dancing. It was late– about quarter to two. Aziraphale really ought to be leaving, if he was honest with himself, but there was meant to be one more dance tonight, and the conversations he was flitting between in the meantime were far more fascinating than they had any right to be.

“Mister Fell, is it not?” a man asked from Aziraphale’s shoulder, and Aziraphale turned to see a rather dashing young man with dark hair and a darker suit, bowing and grinning cheekily you at him.

“The very same,” said Aziraphale, smiling back as the man straightened up.

”You’re quite the dancer, Mister Fell,” said th e young man, still smiling. It was rather disarming.

”Why, thank you,” said Aziraphale, wriggling happily at the praise. “You flatter me, Mister…?”

“Oscar Wilde, sir,” said the young man.

“Mister Wilde?” Aziraphale asked, intrigued. He’d heard of the man, of course. He’d garnered rather a reputation amongst the soldiers and telegraph boys, as well as within the club itself, of course. It wasn’t necessarily the most flattering reputation, but it was accompanied by some rather breathtaking writing. “The same Wilde who’s written such lovely poems?”

“Indeed,” said Oscar Wilde, grinning. “I see my reputation precedes me. I’m still not certain if that’s something I want.”

Aziraphale laughed at that.

“You have a most fascinating laugh, Mister Fell,” said Wilde, taking a half a step closer, and Aziraphale felt his pulse quicken. He really was quite handsome.

“I’m not quite certain how to receive that remark, Mister Wilde,” Aziraphale responded, very carefully not stepping away.

Wilde grinned. “It was intended as the most sincere of compliments, though again I think my reputation gets in my way there.”

“Well, thank you, then,” said Aziraphale, smiling.

Wilde glanced over at the grandfather clock a short distance away, then said quietly, “If you’d like, I have some drafts of my newer works stored away in a room upstairs.”

“Oh!” said Aziraphale, his face flushing. “My goodness. Um. Mister Wilde, I– you know I– I’m flattered, really, but–“

“I’m sorry,” said Wilde, taking a step back immediately. “I’m very sorry, Mister Fell, I meant no offense, I was rather too forward–“

“Oh, no, it’s not you at all, dear boy,” said Aziraphale quickly. “It’s just… I just… I don’t… I really can’t risk…”

“I understand,” said Wilde, nodding. “Dangerous world out there.”

“Quite,” said Aziraphale. There were Heavenly edicts in place. And it seemed like Gabriel in particular had rather gotten the… wrong idea, from the whole Sodom and Gomorrah business.

“It was a pleasure talking to you, anyways, Mister Fell,” said Wilde. “You really are quite the dancer.”

“Mister Wilde?” Aziraphale said quickly, before he could walk away.

Wilde paused, arching his eyebrow once more.

Aziraphale liked him, almost despite himself. He wanted to help, if he could.

“I do believe that there’s a young man over there who’s been watching you all evening,” Aziraphale said, gesturing subtly towards the far end of the room. It was true– he could practically feel the poor boy’s want from here. “A Lord Alfred Douglas. I’m quite certain he wouldn’t mind if you were to… ah… introduce yourself.”

“Is he quite as nervous as you are?” asked Wilde, grinning mischeviously.

Oh, Aziraphale liked him. “I don’t believe there’s a man on Earth as nervous as I am.”

Wilde laughed at that. “You’re a fascinating man, Mister Fell.”

“Again, I’m not entirely sure how I’m meant to receive that.”

“Compliments only,” said Wilde. “Only and always. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I might just go… introduce myself, as you put it. And whatever happens next, I’m blaming you.”

“I accept it wholeheartedly,” said Aziraphale, smiling. “Mind how you go, Mister Wilde.”

Wilde grinned once more, then slipped off, into the crowd, vanishing amongst the sea of people.

Aziraphale danced his one last dance, then went home. Two days later, he found a book sitting on his doorstep, with a note scrawled in the front cover– This is entirely your fault. Here’s your punishment. Regards, Oscar and Alfred.

The book was a draft of a novel, titled The Picture of Dorian Grey.

Aziraphale smiled, brought the book inside, and read the whole thing in one night.

Five years later, Aziraphale stood outside a courthouse, watching as Oscar Wilde was escorted away in chains.

He blinked, hard, fighting back the tears misting his eyes. Not just because he was an angel, and angels didn’t cry– because the courtroom was filled with officers, watching the spectators like hawks. Searching for their next arrest.

And Crowley wasn’t here this time to save Aziraphale, if he got himself locked up.

He watched until he couldn’t see Oscar’s cart anymore, then watched some more anyways, until the first drops of rain began to fall. Then he sighed, bit back his tears again, and made his way home, not bothering to miracle himself an umbrella. He doubted he’d been inclined to wear such a dark-coloured coat as this ever again, anyways. It didn’t matter if it got stained with the rain.

Two years of labour. It would destroy poor Oscar, of that Aziraphale was certain. He’d be lucky to survive it.

When Aziraphale got home, he found Gabriel waiting for him within the bookshop, his nose wrinkled.

“This place smells foul, Aziraphale,” Gabriel said the second the door was shut. “It reeks of evil in here.”

“That’s likely the fault of some of the books,” Aziraphale said. And it was true. It’s not like there had been anything else evil in his shop for nearly forty years.

“Ugh,” Gabriel said, rolling his eyes. “I don’t know why you keep those types of things.”

“Keeping up appearances,” said Aziraphale. “The customers have certain expectations.”

“Right,” said Gabriel. “So. We’ve got an assignment for you.”

Aziraphale listened as best he could, and responded in what he hoped was an appropriate manner, and didn’t bother to miracle his face or hair dry– the water helped to hide the tears he hadn’t been able to hold back.

Finally, after Gabriel left, Aziraphale made his way to the back room, conjuring up a cup of tea and settling down into his armchair.

He’d introduced them, all that time ago. Oscar and Alfred. And since then they’d stayed in touch, occasionally dropping by to trade drafts of writing or new editions for exciting trinkets Aziraphale had found, rare books of poetry or prophecy or philosophy that they’d always return a week or two later in perfect condition. They were charming together, and Oscar quite doted on Alfred.

Oscar’s last gift was sitting on the table, a copy of The Importance Of Being Earnest that had been annotated by Alfred. And as always, they’d written a note in the cover. A thanks, for a happy seven years, all due to the “ever-caring Mister Fell, without whom we most certainly would not have met.”

Aziraphale vanished his tea, buried his face in his hands, and sobbed.