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I Like the Sound of That

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At some point, Crowley had made up business cards for himself. Aziraphale was not entirely sure when, or why, or what one was doing tucked under a stack of poetry books on his shop counter[1]. But made them he had, and Aziraphale now turned the card gently between his fingers[2].

[1. The card in question had decided that enough was enough, and had slipped out of Crowley’s pocket on its own accord almost two months ago.]
[2. Which, after his latest manicure, depicted a miniature pastoral landscape that was quite impressive.]

Crowley's business cards were white, and had his name printed on them in crisp black type: Anthony J. Crowley . Beneath the name were smaller words which filled exactly the space expected of them. It was clear, however, that Crowley hadn't actually bothered deciding on what these words were supposed to say. A human reading them would understand that they were, indeed, words, but the meaning would slip away almost before they'd been read (much like the fine print on every business card). To Aziraphale, however, they were perfectly legible, and consisted of a verse of Queen and Bowie's "Under Pressure.”

That could only mean that Crowley wanted them for the aesthetic, rather than the function, which was perfectly understandable[3].

[3. Despite having an actual business, Aziraphale did not have business cards to give away, as he preferred not to be contacted by any customers ever. The only business card design Aziraphale had every truly considered, several years ago when he was not quite sober, was very elegant and read only “BIG GAY”.]

Or perhaps… Aziraphale ran his thumb slowly over the words Anthony J. Crowley. Perhaps it was not just for the aesthetic.

“Anthony J. Crowley,” he said to his empty shop, just to see how it felt on his tongue. “Hmm,” he concluded, and placed the business card carefully in his pocket.

He did not bring it up for several months. Crowley had never made it a secret, but he’d never properly said anything about it either. Aziraphale didn’t want him to take anything the wrong way, whatever that might be, and mostly it had never seemed like the right time. And then they were walking through the park on an early spring morning, and Crowley was staring at the sky trying to figure out where that bird with twigs in its beak was building its nest, and his hair looked warm and soft in the sun, and Aziraphale said, “Anthony.”

Crowley stiffened and glanced around, but there was no one nearby that would compel Aziraphale to treat him extra human, and no one else Aziraphale could be addressing. “Er,” he said. “Yeah?”

“You are going by Anthony again these days, aren’t you?” Aziraphale reached in his pocket and pulled out the business card, by now somewhat the worse for wear[4]. “This seems current.”

[4. Aziraphale kept a lot of things in his pockets. Honestly it was a small miracle (literally) that he was able to find the card again.]

“Where’d you get that?” Crowley said. “I didn’t think I gave you one.”

“I found it in the shop,” Aziraphale said. “Would you like, well, that is…”

“It’s a joke,” Crowley said quickly. “Mayfair flat: a million pounds. Business cards: three hundred pounds. Getting people to call a demon Anthony: priceless[5].” He flashed Aziraphale a sharp-toothed grin.

[5. It was funny because the meaning of Anthony, according to a late night Google search that Crowley slightly regretted, was apparently “priceless.” He didn’t go in for it, but suspected Aziraphale might know things like that.]

"Did your flat really cost a million pounds?" Aziraphale asked.

"It might have," Crowley said casually[6].

[6. It hadn't. Neither of his price estimations were accurate, and indeed Crowley hadn't actually paid for either the flat or the business cards.]

Aziraphale thought this over. “Is that a meme?” he asked finally.

“Course,” said Crowley.

“Ah,” said Aziraphale.

They were silent for nearly a quarter of an hour, mulling this over, and Crowley went back to birdwatching. “We’re not going to want to come here in a few months or whenever,” he said. “The eggs will have hatched and there will be baby birds screaming like anything.”

“You didn’t get business cards printed up because of a meme,” Aziraphale said. “Besides. You’ve been using Anthony for centuries now, haven’t you?”

“Off and on,” said Crowley. He nodded at the business card, still in Aziraphale’s hand. “It looks alright written out, doesn’t it?”

Aziraphale nodded, and stopped bending the corners of the card a little guiltily. “If you’d like me to use it,” he tried for a second time. “I feel I may have been somewhat remiss.”

"Dunno," Crowley said. "There's a lot of...." he waved his hand in a way that was obviously supposed to indicate something that it very much did not. “It’s been a long time.” Aziraphale couldn’t tell if he meant it had been a long time since he’d changed his name and he was due for a new one, or he’d had the same name for so long he was used to it, or something else entirely.

“Yes,” he agreed anyway.

“You like your name, don’t you?” Crowley asked. “Even after, well, everything, even though it’s all angel-y?”

It was not very long ago that Aziraphale wouldn’t have thought twice about sniffing importantly and saying that surely there was nothing wrong with having the name of an angel, quite the opposite actually. But he knew what Crowley meant. He paused after the sniff, and then said carefully, “I do, actually. I think I always have.”[7]

[7. This might have had some bearing on the fact that Aziraphale’s human aliases tended toward the, ah, uninspired.]

“Hm,” said Crowley.

Crowley got a text, then, which cued a James Bond musical sting from his pocket and made them both jump. “Just a sec,” he muttered, frowning at the phone as he typed a quick response[8].

[8. Aziraphale didn’t particularly mind, but he did peer over at Crowley’s screen to see that was texting Tim, the nice young man who sold them both weed.]

A breeze picked up, chilly but mellow in a very sort of springtime way. It tousled Crowley's hair, which he was wearing long again, nearly down to his shoulders. Across the park, a few under-dressed teenagers shrieked and laughed at the shock. Aziraphale looked for Crowley’s bird, but he couldn’t see it anymore. “We could encourage it to build its nest elsewhere,” he suggested, half-facetious, though it couldn’t be too different from "encouraging" customers to leave his shop.

“What?” said Crowley. He stowed the phone quickly in his pocket. “No, I— Angel.

Aziraphale smiled innocently. “If you say so.”

Crowley rolled his eyes and set off down the path. His purpose faded quickly as he realized Aziraphale was in no mood to rush along, and soon the two were walking side by side again. "Y'see," said Crowley. "It matters where they build their nests. Shelter and sun and being close to worms and things. You and I can't understand it."

"I was joking, my dear," Aziraphale said, but Crowley had a point to make so he listened along to Crowley's bird facts and corrected them where necessary[9] and in this way they made nearly a full circuit of the park.

[9. And sometimes where unnecessary.]

And then Crowley had gotten onto “and jays, you know, they’re right bastards. Like you,” said with a playful grin.

Aziraphale sighed in only partial offense. “ Anthony.”

And Crowley had stopped in his tracks. “Is this what we’re doing now? Since when do you keep coming back and questioning things?”[10]

[10. As Crowley knew, Aziraphale had been practicing questioning things since the apocalypse had failed to end and he’d found himself with quite a lot of questions and very few answers. It should be noted that the mechanics were something Aziraphale had picked up from Crowley.]

Aziraphale frowned. “I thought you’d like it.”

Crowley swayed on the balls of his feet. “I do. But it was never supposed to be— it’s pretend, Aziraphale.”

“It’s most certainly a real name. Perfectly nice. Very… human.”

“Yes, that’s it exactly. I chose it to blend in, match the local color. You didn’t use it, and I never asked, because... Well. It wasn’t ever supposed to be for you.”

“It could be,” Aziraphale said. “If you want it.” It occurred to him that this was not the first time he’d had this sort of conversation. Crowley had changed his name once already, of course. But watching over queer groups throughout the years had facilitated this sort of thing rather often. “It seems more personal these days than using your last name.”

Crowley hissed. “It’sss only. You know. The flat, and the computer, and all of that. That’s not me, really. It’s who I want to be, how I want to appear, but it’s not very, er...”

“Demonic? Neither are you, my dear. Not these days. And for the record I’ve always thought you were the sort of person who would get an impractically modern flat.”

“Oh,” said Crowley.

This time it was Aziraphale’s phone that went off and broke the silence. It was a preset text tone and Crowley made a face, but Aziraphale thought the chime was perfectly nice. He texted Tim, Oh, that would be lovely. Stop by anytime this week; the shop will be closed . :)

Before he was quite finished, Crowley blurted, "alright, sayitagain."

"Excuse me?"

"My name. You know. It's not usually you who uses it."

"Ah," Aziraphale said, and then, with deliberate weight, "Anthony."

His face twitched in an inscrutable way. "Hrm," he said.

"What do you think?" asked Aziraphale. "Anthony," he added, for good measure.

“It doesn’t sound, well, fake to you?”

“No, dear.” And it didn't.

“Ah.” At this Crowley’s— Anthony’s— shoulders sagged in relief. He ran a hand through his hair. “Yeah, alright. Let’s give it a try, then.”

Aziraphale smiled. “Yes. Let’s.”

They continued walking. Anthony found a way to slip Aziraphale’s arm around his shoulders without Aziraphale realizing quite how he’d done it, but he was quite pleased with the arrangement all the same. He was even more pleased to learn that, with a hand wave, Anthony had transferred his sunglasses from his face to a pocket somewhere so they weren’t pressing into Aziraphale’s chest.

In this way, they made another loop around the park. Aziraphale gave the birds warning glares over Anthony’s head[11].

[11. Fortunately, birds are made of sterner stuff than bookshop customers and simply glared back.]



“Care for lunch?”

He could feel Anthony’s smile against his chest. “I like the sound of that.”