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By Any Other Name

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It all started with a wedding invitation, as many embarrassing revelations between couples are wont to do.

Crowley lounged on the new sofa he had conjured up in Aziraphale's shop, idly flipping the save-the-date card into the air and catching it. He and Aziraphale were well into their second bottle of wine for the evening, but evidently not far enough given that he was still able to catch the card as he toyed with it.

"They are rushing things a bit, don't you think?" Aziraphale asked from where he sat on the opposite end of the sofa, the demon's long, thin legs over his thighs.

"Who? The Device girl and the Pulsifer boy?"

"Well, yes. Only three years after they met and already getting married. A bit scandalous, I should think."

"They aren't immortal, angel," Crowley said, fumbling the catch for the first time. An encouraging sign. "Three years is normal for them. Humans can't just dither around like us. They've got to strike while the iron isn't wrinkled and droopy."

Aziraphale squinted at him. A pleasant, rosy blush had begun to settle across his cheeks. "I'm not sure that's how the idiom goes."

Crowley shrugged. "So, what do you think they'll do about names?"

"Oh goodness, are they expecting already? Maybe that's why they're moving so fast…"

"No! I mean for after the wedding. After they tie the, uh… the thing. Rope thing."

Aziraphale's blush simply darkened further. "The safe word?" he asked, having recently gone through a very specific phase involving very specific literature.

Crowley made a sound in the back of his throat that could not possibly be written down using the Latin alphabet. Turning even redder than the wine that had gotten them here, he dropped the card on his chest and buried his burning face in his hands. He sputtered for a moment, trying not to imagine putting the angel's recent research into practice. "Their surnames!" he squawked. "What will their surnames be after they get married!"

"Oh! Well, tradition would dictate that she would take his, but she strikes me as the type to be very, er, modern about the whole thing. He may well end up being Mr. Newton Device."

Crowley slumped further into the soft, plush cushions of the sofa. Still covering his face with his hands, he muttered, "Names. More trouble than they're worth sometimes. You know, I don't even remember what I was called before."

"It was Crawly, dear," Aziraphale supplied as he finished off the bottle and materialized another.

"No, no. Before that."

"Ah, the angelic name. You know, you're quite fortunate. Sometimes I remember my first name and I think, 'Goodness, they still haven't sorted that out?' Always gives me quite a stir. Would absolutely love to be able to forget that whole embarrassing business," Aziraphale said. After swirling some of the new wine in his glass, he added, "My, this one has very strong legs."

Slowly, Crowley's hands slid from over his face, revealing pure confusion in their wake. "What did you just say?"

"The wine has-"

"Before that. You mentioned your first name."

As soon as what the demon said registered, Aziraphale seemed to immediately jump up the sobriety ladder by several rungs. He smiled nervously, his eyes darting away from the demon lounging beside him. "Nothing! Just a slip of the tongue!"

"In vino veritas, angel," Crowley said, grinning like a cat that had just won a lifetime's supply of canaries. He sat up in one smooth motion that Aziraphale, who scrupulously avoided sit-ups as if they were the plague, attributed to serpentine sorcery. "Tell me."

"No."

"Oh, come on!" the demon insisted. He lunged at Aziraphale, wrapping the angel in his arms and resting his chin on his shoulder. "Don't you trusssst me?"

"Fine!" Aziraphale exclaimed, trying and failing to shrug him off. He knew very well by then that there was absolutely no ridding himself of Crowley when the demon felt snuggly or otherwise handsy. He was a constrictor at heart, after all. But he still felt the need to try to make a point. "Just promise you won't make fun of me."

"Wouldn't dream of it," Crowley said, releasing Aziraphale and tracing the shape of a sloppy pentagram across his heart to swear.

Aziraphale took in a breath he didn't need and began his explanation.

*****

He had missed the war.

Not that he had wanted to fight in any war, mind you, but then only types like Gabriel and Lucifer did. It just seemed like someone of his station missing such a pivotal event would be a Very Bad Look. But he hadn't fallen. His wings were still white as the stuff that hadn't yet been named snow. He wasn't writhing in the eternal pit of damnation either.

He had been absolutely engrossed with the new fruit that was being prepared for the garden - pears - and then wham. Half of heaven was lost.

He wandered the battlefield, which thankfully had been mostly cleaned up already. Some trampled black and white feathers still littered the ground and there were a few ominous-looking puddles of celestial or infernal goo about, but he gave them all a very wide berth.

Finally, he came across another angel, tall, strong, and resplendent in her shining war regalia. He didn't know her name just from looking at her, but at least he figured she'd be able to fill him in on what he'd missed.

"Excuse me."

The angel turned to him, brandishing the tip of her holy spear far too close to his face for his liking. A bit of foul-smelling black ichor clung stubbornly to the tip of the spear. He held up his hands in surrender and her hardened expression softened.

"I see you haven't Fallen, brother," she said. "Who are you?"

The question took him by surprise. He wasn't used to other angels not knowing who he was. He had been around longer than most and had been dragged out along with the others of his position whenever there was some big announcement. Had he really been so detached from everything political going on for that long? He couldn't have been stuck on pears for all that time. But then, he had been very keen on tea leaves before the pears. And honey before that. And bees, obviously, before that. Oh, and cloudy weather that keeps everything cool and atmospheric (a pun he would later appreciate) before that. And certainly he couldn't forget sheep's wool...

Maybe he hadn't checked in as often as he should have, after all. Especially considering he'd had no idea rebellion had been brewing at all.

"Ah, it's er…Raphael…"

"Aziraphale?" the angel asked, sounding out all of the awkward filler sounds he had made before his actual name. "Never heard of you. Well, must be one of the new batch. Someone's got to replace the traitors, eh? How'd you get away from the rest and end up all the way out here?"

"Um…"

"Boy, what a first day to have. Look, I promise it isn't always like this, what with the horrible war-torn battlefield and the expulsion of several hundred thousand former angels into the boiling sulphuric pits of Hell. Very unusual, that. Not representative of a normal business day at all."

"I think there's been a misunderstanding…"

"Oh, no, certainly not!" the angel said, frowning at him. "They got what they deserved, being rebellious and all. No misunderstanding about it. Take that as your first lesson, fledgling. Now, let's get you to where you belong."

And with that, she ushered the Angel Formerly Known As Archangel Raphael off to join a group of very confused newly created angels for first day orientation. He did incredibly well and showed a great deal of innate talent, primarily because he had been through most of that training before and what he hadn't he had invented himself.

*****

"And after they finished training me as Aziraphale, they assigned me to the garden," Aziraphale finished, trying to ignore the fact that Crowley was staring at him slack-jawed in his peripheral vision. "And, well, you know everything from there. At this point I've been Aziraphale longer than I was ever Raphael. Probably. Time was weird before entropy kicked in post-apple."

There was a long, heavy moment of silence in the book shop, as if the world itself were holding its breath and waiting for Crowley's response.

Finally, Crowley took in a deep breath that he, too, did not need and transformed it into the loudest, most riotous laughter that Aziraphale had ever heard in all 6000+ years of creation. Perhaps it was the severity of his cackling or perhaps it was a gentle, petulant shove from Aziraphale, but he fell from the sofa and landed on the floor with an ignoble thud. The change of position didn't seem to impact anything, as the demon continued to laugh from where he lay on the floor.

"An-an-an' nobody noticed?!" Crowley howled. "Not even that prick Gabriel?!"

"At first I thought they knew and it was just some very esoteric form of bullying. But as it went on, I realized that even the other Archangels genuinely didn't know I had been one of them," Aziraphale muttered. That just made Crowley laugh even harder, something the angel thought utterly impossible. His mouth pinched down in a disappointed frown. "Honestly, Crowley, you said you wouldn't make fun."

"'m- 'm n-not l-l-laughing at you," Crowley gasped between more bouts of laughter. "'m laughing at them! Heaven!"

A bit of the anger smoothed out of Aziraphale's expression. "Oh?"

"Y-yes! Those utter dunces lost track of one of their highest ranking Archangels because he was too polite to correct their mistake! Classic!"

"Well, it started like that, certainly," Aziraphale said. "But if I may be perfectly honest with you…"

"Yes, please, please do," Crowley wheezed, some of the laughter finally abating.

Aziraphale glanced around conspiratorially, as if he were expecting to find Gabriel or Michael standing nearby glaring at him. "It started out like that, but not long after the whole business in the garden, I realized that I really vastly preferred the simple Principality life. Just being Aziraphale. Fewer expectations of me, more freedom to do what I liked. So even though plenty of opportunities came up to set the record straight, I never took them."

In the fall from the sofa, Crowley's sunglasses had become skewed across his face, leaving both golden, slitted eyes on display. They glimmered with something that has been there as long as Aziraphale has known him, but which he had only recognized as profound love for the past few, short years.

He slithered up to rejoin Aziraphale on the sofa. Taking the angel's face reverently in his hands, he leaned forward to press a kiss to the angel's right cheek. "You complete -" A kiss on the left cheek. "- and utter -" A kiss to the forehead. "- selfish -" A kiss to the tip of the nose. "- bastard." A kiss to the chin.

Aziraphale grinned and reached up to rest his well-manicured hands over Crowley's own. "And most importantly of all, Raphael had to deal with the other Archangels regularly. The company I get to keep as Aziraphale is far, far better."

Being creatures that viewed oxygen as strictly optional, hours might have passed before they finally broke the kiss that followed. Afterward, they lay tangled up together on the sofa with Crowley's fingers twirling loops with the curls at the back of Aziraphale's head.

"So we really are the only two beings in the universe that know about this massive clerical error?" Crowley asked.

"Aside from Her, yes. She knows everything, after all."

"And you think She doesn't have a problem with it."

"It's hardly the only less-than-orthodox thing She has abstained from commenting on," Aziraphale said. "Considering I have a demon sprawled all over me with his leg between my thighs."

Crowley stuck out his tongue, which would have been a childish move if it weren't for the fact that most petulant children don't have snake tongues. It tickled at the angel's chin.

Aziraphale looked up at the ceiling, his brow furrowing slightly in thought. "So I'd wager that She either approves or She simply has better things to worry about. The rest of them up there, though… certainly they'd be less than thrilled if they found out."

"Ah, who cares," Crowley muttered, dropping his head to thump against the pleasant warmth of Aziraphale's chest. "We've already scared both upstairs and downstairs enough to leave us alone. If they try anything, we'll just remind them that they shouldn't mess with us."

"Right," Aziraphale said, smiling bright enough to light up the room. "We'll tell them to fuck right off."

Crowley groaned piteously and buried his face into Aziraphale's chest. "Azzzziraphale, you know what it doessss to me when you curssssse," he hissed.

"I know. That's why I've been using profanity a bit more frequently lately."

As for the name that Crowley shouted out a few minutes later… well, he had to try it out once, just out of curiosity.