“Oh dear, this form is asking for a last name,” Aziraphale said suddenly and Crowley looked up from the calatheas he had been terrorizing. He thought he had seen a leaf spot and had been working himself up into a proper snit when Aziraphale had spoken. The angel was frowning down at the paperwork through his reading glasses, a soft crease between his eyebrows. Beside him, Adam was messily gumming on Cheerios in his high-chair.
“Whassat?” Crowley asked.
“A last name. For the form here.”
Crowley made a noise of aggravated comprehension and turned back to the plant. “Just use Fell like you normally do,” he grumped. He was crouched over the calatheas, thumb gently tracing along the edge of one striped leaf as he looked for imperfections. The plant was trembling.
“A last name for Adam.”
Aziraphale’s soft words registered a few moments after Crowley actually heard them and he blinked hard, just once. Sat back on his heels. Suddenly feeling inexplicably winded, he let go of the leaf and glowered at the little plant. “Don’t you get comfy,” he warned.
It said nothing.
Standing, Crowley turned to face Aziraphale. The space above the bookshop had gotten a little cramped over the past few months. What should have been Adam’s meager belongings (“He’s a baby, Aziraphale. How much could he possibly need?” he seemed to remember asking.) had morphed into a frankly intimidating hodgepodge of toys, clothes, and other necessities. Though he didn’t think he was required to hang around 24/7, Crowley hadn’t seen his flat in weeks. That had been when he’d gone and retrieved his plants. Necessities and whatnot.
He meandered over to the table and shoved a load of books off of the only other seat. They were miracled onto a nearby shelf before they hit the floor, but Aziraphale still gave him a stern look over the tops of his glasses. “Well, I guess we should have thought of something before now,” Crowley murmured, sitting in the newly-vacated chair. Adam waved one chubby hand at him, shoving the other fully into his mouth and managing to spill half his fistful of Cheerios. “Just put down whatever.”
“You’re very helpful,” Aziraphale said. Removing his glasses with a sigh, he glanced across the table. “What if we just use Crowley?”
The demon flicked a sodden piece of Cheerio at him and scowled expansively. “Adam Crowley?” he scoffed. “Not on your life.”
“He’s your Antichrist, too.”
Crowley said this offhandedly, his attention on pushing little bits of cereal around Adam’s tray with one finger. The kid was watching him with his huge blue eyes—Crowley would think there was some preternatural intelligence behind them if he wasn’t also drooling down the bib Aziraphale had put on him. It had a little whale on it. The demon sighed and picked up one of the unmolested Cheerios; held it out to Adam; tried to ignore the little jolt of unnamed human emotion in his chest when Adam wrapped his tiny hands around his fingers.
It’s probably disgust, he reasoned, extracting his hand before Adam could stick it in his mouth. When he realized that the quiet was lasting a little longer than he expected, Crowley glanced over at Aziraphale. The angel was staring at him with that soft look he got sometimes, a gentle smile curving his mouth.
“Shut up!” Crowley snapped.
Aziraphale chuckled and put his hands up. “I didn’t say anything, dear fellow!” His smile was still firmly in place, though.
Crowley scoffed. “Whatever. Anyway, why not just use your name?”
“Adam Fell?” Aziraphale asked, and Crowley could hear his skepticism ringing as loudly as a church bell. “My dear, you’re just asking for him to be pushed down on the playground.”
“No one’s gonna push him; he’s the bloody Antichrist, inn’t he?”
Aziraphale gave him an arch look and fiddled with his pen. “So, what do we think? Some sort of combination?”
“What, like—” Here, Crowley made a few of his incomprehensible noises that signaled he was trying to organize his thoughts. “Name-Dash-Name? Or are you thinking of mashing them together and seeing what comes out?”
“As...interesting as that would be, I confess that I was thinking more along the lines of Name-Dash-Name. Maybe Crowley-Fell?”
And quite suddenly he couldn’t breathe. His throat closed up like he was choking on ash, on fire. Sulfuric gas was peeling away his skin, leaving weeping, raw muscle shifting beneath. His gorgeous wings torn apart and burned black. He stood in the wasteland they’d created with their own hubris and thought about the ones left behind, their brothers and sisters. Thought about the Grace that had been ripped from him and left a gaping hole behind. Thought about the Principality with fair features and the kind smile, the one he’d called friend. Thought about how he was incapable of succumbing to Death, yet he screamed and screamed and felt like he was going to die...
The voice was soft and worried. It flared through Crowley’s thoughts like a beacon, lighting the dark corners and driving the lingering shadows away. He sucked in a shuddering breath despite the pain in his throat and then hissed it out again. The episode had probably lasted less than a second, but the memories still left him staggering.
Bugger, he thought with a grimace. Usually he was better at hiding his reaction when Aziraphale or other demons mentioned his fall from grace—he’d just been on a hairpin trigger recently, what with the sudden influx of Antichrists to his everyday life.
Nerves thoroughly rattled, he chanced a look across the table. Aziraphale was watching him with mild concern. He had a hand resting on the table between them, as if he had been reaching out to touch his arm. He withdrew it hesitantly. There was a delicate sound as he cleared his throat, then murmured, “No, I think not.” Crowley wasn’t sure if he was talking about the touch or the name—and tried not to feel a pang of disappointment thinking that it might be the former—but was saved the trouble of asking when he was suddenly pelted with Cheerios. Adam shrieked with laughter and the tension left Crowley so quickly he felt light-headed.
“Hey!” he groused, glaring over the tops of his sunglasses at the kid. “Don’t throw them at me! Throw them at him!” He pointed a finger at Aziraphale, whose face had transitioned quickly from concerned to bemused to affronted.
“Don’t you teach him that!”
“Don’t teach him what? This?” And then he proceeded to launch Cheerios at the angel one by one. The tiny projectiles bounced off Aziraphale’s head, each one eliciting a giggle from Adam. Crowley took in the laughter and Aziraphale’s annoyed face, and he felt the last vestiges of darkness leave him.
For now. It was never far away.
Crowley quickly ran out of cereal to toss, but amused himself watching Adam make his attempts. The kid didn’t throw the bits of cereal as much as he just opened his hand and let them fall onto the table. Progress is progress, Crowley supposed.
There was a sigh as Aziraphale swept the errant Cheerios off of the paperwork. “You’re incorrigible.”
“I’m a demon. It’s what I do.”
Aziraphale hummed and went back to straightening his papers. “What about Adam Fell-Crowley?” he said, trying to get the conversation back on track. Crowley pursed his lips and shrugged one sharp shoulder. In his opinion, it wasn’t as great as something like Adam Bonecrusher, but it didn’t make his skin burn hearing it, so whatever. Compromise.
“Works for me.” He stood and adjusted his waistcoat, smoothing out the fabric and straightening the buttons. He could feel Aziraphale’s eyes on him. “What?” he snapped.
When he looked up from fiddling with a button, he saw that the angel was regarding him with something like guilt. Crowley scowled.
“Apologize or wax poetic about forgiveness or whatever it was you were thinking.”
“I wasn’t—” Aziraphale began, but Crowley interrupted him.
“Oh, of course not. I’ve only known you for 6000 years now. I can’t read you at all.”
Aziraphale arched one blonde eyebrow at him. “You don’t read, if I recall.”
“Not books, no.”
The angel rolled his eyes but said nothing more. In the lull in conversation, Crowley miracled a washcloth into his hand and quickly scrubbed Adam’s face clean of spit and cereal bits, leaving pink skin in his wake. The kid made some upset noises and, by the time Crowley had started cleaning his sticky fists, the towel vanished. He sighed. “Kid, you’ve got to stop doing that.”
“At least he’s taken to just making things disappear rather than them turning into maggots or snakes,” Aziraphale said archly, as if he thought Crowley was the one teaching him how to do that.
He pulled a face at the angel. “Anyway, you’ve got a name now.”
“Indeed,” Aziraphale said with a suddenly bright smile, replacing his glasses and going back to carefully filling out the form. “You can go back to bullying your ferns now.”
Crowley curled his lip, indignation putting him back on level footing after feeling off-kilter for most of the conversation. “It’s not a fern—it’s a calathea orbifolia. Doesn’t even look like a bloody fern.”
“My mistake, dear,” was Aziraphale’s mild response.
“He thinks it looks like a fern,” Crowley said to Adam as an aside. The Antichrist gurgled in solidarity and handed him some soggy Cheerios. Crowley accepted them with equal parts solemnity and disgust. (Then quickly miracled them away.)
“Well, not all of us are budding botanists,” Aziraphale said. He made a little flourish with the pen. “There we are: Adam J. Fell-Crowley.”
Crowley cocked an eyebrow. “What’s the J stand for?”
“Oh, it’s just a J, really.” He glanced over his glasses, a knowing smirk playing on his lips—then let out an explosive sigh as a fistful of cereal hit him square in the face. Beside him, Adam burbled happily and clapped his chubby hands together.
Crowley’s grin showed off nearly every single one of his sharp teeth. “I think he likes it,” he said and then promptly scarpered back to his plants.