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Team Humanity

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It takes some fast talking to reassure the startled demon that no, they're not a joint team from Upstairs and Downstairs sent to take him out. They're not even associated with this universe's Upstairs and Downstairs.

"The different-universe part is likely true," puts in the humanoid information terminal who'd been striking a kung-fu pose at his side, "as I have no information on record about either of them. The rest of their story can neither be confirmed nor denied, as, again, I have no information on record about either of them."

She relaxes into a perky at-attention pose, which neither Crowley nor Aziraphale are fooled by. She has access to, among other things, all the martial-arts and self-defense knowledge in the universe. Could probably speed-bless the contents of one of the beer bottles along the bar wall in the time it takes to swing it at Crowley's forehead.

"So you're already in rebellion against the celestial structures of your world?" says Aziraphale hopefully, trying to steer the conversation back to their areas of agreement. "Taken your stand on the side of the human race?"

"Because that's us too," says Crowley. "Great fans of humans, us. Squidgy bits and all."

The other demon squirms. "I wouldn't say the entire human race," he admits. "Sure, Janet and I sort of worked our way up to wanting to destroy and rebuild the whole soul-judging system from scratch. But only because it turned out that's what it'll take to protect...those four over there."

He gestures to the gaggle of humans cowering behind the bar. Two are staring at Crowley and Aziraphale in the standard celestial awe/terror; a third, in a less-typical but still-understandable reaction, has her eyes fixed on Crowley's hips. The fourth, amazingly, has been distracted by a novelty napkin ring.

Leaning in toward Crowley for a conspiratorial whisper, the local demon adds, "The reason is friends!"

"W-well. Yes. Very good," says Aziraphale. They can still work with that, surely. "It would be to our mutual benefit -- the two of us, the two of you, and your friends -- if you joined us in the Pan-Universal Eternal and Corporeal Alliance to Defend the Best Interests of Humanity."

For the first time, one of the humans speaks. "That's what we're calling it? Yeesh, kind of a mouthful."

Aziraphale is officially flustered. "I'm sorry, did you have a better idea?"

"No, we did not," says another human, snapping out of her awe/terror to glare pointedly at her friend. She switches on a dime to beaming at the visitors, as charming as if they were invited guests to her interdimensional cocktail party. "Of course, we would love to help. Have you found any volunteers yet to bring the hors d'oeuvres?"

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This angel isn't wearing a body, or (to Aziraphale's disapproval) any heavenly imitations of clothing, which means her undiminished true form is lighting up the room. Crowley can't identify her rank as anything from his own Heavenly hierarchy, but it it must be a high one, to come with six wings and more gold than Fort Knox.

She listens to the visitors' pitch, along with her human companion -- a young woman, practically a girl, and only a student according to the ID clipped to her bag.

Still, the human watches Crowley and Aziraphale with narrow, alert eyes that remind Crowley of Adam's...and he isn't entirely surprised when the angel defers to her for a response. "Thought that was over already," she says bluntly. "There was a whole war about it. Armies gathered from across the multiverse. Besieged the seat of the Kingdom of Heaven and everything."

"Yes, we heard about that," says Aziraphale. "The thing about the multiverse is, there's always more of it. We felt you might be interested in helping other parts...and of course, your previous experience with interdimensional travel would be a great asset."

"Also my previous experience with killing gods?"

Aziraphale sputters, all his rhetorical flourish deserted him. Crowley decides it's time to step in and pick up the slack. "Your what now?"

The local angel coughs, and the human corrects herself: "Well, not gods, precisely. The first angel. Put on airs, called himself a god. Me and my --" She hesitates.

"Partner," fills in the pine-marten-shaped soul on her shoulder. Oh, so it can talk. Crowley had been wondering.

"-- found him, and killed him," continues the girl, as smoothly as if the whole sentence had been her voice. "Wasn't much of a fight, though. If your universe has stronger gods, I don't want you getting your hopes up."

"We don't want to kill God!" bursts out Aziraphale.

"-- probably," adds Crowley, then speeds forward before Aziraphale can object. They'll have time to talk it over later. "Look, we're not asking you to take on any pivotal quests singlehandedly. Or even double-handedly. This whole thing is going to be a team effort, and we'd like you to be on the team. Same with this partner of yours, if they're available."

The girl's a good negotiator. Nothing on the surface changes, no sign of how much she wants this. "He's in a different universe. So's a bunch of other friends and allies who'd join you, if I convinced 'em it was important. You could get them? Safely, I mean? No risk to the fabric of reality or anything?"

Crowley assures her that it is. He can't describe the process on a level corporeal beings would understand, but the six-winged angel follows his explanation and confirms for the human that it works.

He's pretty sure the human would be hooked either way, though. Once they'd mentioned the partner, a burst of love had pulsed through the room, so intense that Aziraphale still looks dizzy.

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Neither of the humanoids in red is actually a demon, as far as Aziraphale can tell, but they certainly do look the part. One has a mass of infernal shadow-stuff hanging from her shoulder in place of an arm; the other has all the usual limbs, but is a little too tall, a little too thin, and rivaling Crowley for doing interesting things with his tongue.

"Are you here to tell me," says the human at the desk between them, looking completely unperturbed, "that God is not on my side?"

"God is...not entirely responsive these days," says Aziraphale carefully. Wouldn't want to send the poor woman into a crisis of faith. "And an institution...does not, ah, differentiate itself from Hell as clearly as I would like. Although I'm certain we could arrange for you to only be fighting demons, if that would make you more comfortable..."

"Tactically, that would have its advantages." The human picks up a gun -- where was she even keeping that? -- and something about the ammunition is holy, enough that Crowley flinches and Aziraphale takes a half step forward. "All our strategies and weaponry are designed with unholy opponents in mind."

Her two companions, whatever else they may be, are both clearly unholy. Aziraphale wonders if he ought to say something.

"And these two haven't had an opponent who truly tests their strength since the One-Night War."

The visitors must look lost, because the shorter not-demon chimes in with some exposition: "Attack by a hidden battalion of Nazis with occult superpowers."

Crowley shoots Aziraphale an exasperated look. "How do so many of these dimensions have Nazis coming back?"

The taller not-demon has been preternaturally still this whole time, but now the woman looks up at him as if responding to something. "Go on, say whatever-it-is out loud."

His face splits into an unnaturally wide grin. "Please, please, please, Master, let me fight an angel."

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Their intelligence says the precinct has worked with celestial agents for years, but the office breaks into a hive of panic when Crowley and Aziraphale show up with their wings out. Guns are raised (at least there's no blessed ammo in them this time -- ammo yes, blessed ammo no). People scream. Someone faints.

"Do you think we've got the wrong place?" asks Aziraphale under his breath, while Crowley does a discreet wave of his hand and miracles all the firearms into surprisingly-realistic Nerf guns.

"Everyone stand down!" yells a voice, and a new human sprints out of an office. Leather jacket, no-nonsense ponytail, hands waving for peace and calm. "It's okay, nobody panic -- they're just angels."

"Just?" whispers someone behind a desk.

The human jogs to a stop in front of the visitors, tucks a strand of hair behind her ear, and catches her breath. "Sorry about the confusion, we don't get a lot of you with the..." She gestures in a wobbly motion that looks not even slightly like a wing flapping. "...feathers out. Uh, I'm afraid none of your kind are on duty at the moment -- are you looking for someone specific? Can I take a message?"

Aziraphale buys some time with the Formal Introduction, leaving Crowley to discreetly scan the building for other potential threats. Some of the guns have been swapped for phones; a quiet glitch brings down the Facebook Livestream function. (For the entire world. It's a habit, okay.)

It isn't long before he senses a massive amount of infernal power, overhead and approaching fast. He nudges Aziraphale, who assures the humans they'll be happy to wait. Sure enough, moments later a demon sprints through the door -- one who's gone native, at least enough that he forgets to stop his corporeal form being out-of-breath. "Detective? I know we didn't have a case today, but I just felt like dropping by and -- oh! I see you've already met them."

"You know these -- people, Luci?" calls the human, stumbling a bit over the word. She may know more about the celestial realms than the rest of the department, but apparently not for long enough to get used to the idea.

"Not them specifically, no, but I felt someone drop in. Can I help you two with something? If it's any request from Dad, you can tell him to bugger off, thanks. And if it's at all dangerous, I'm afraid I have to insist we take it outside, so we don't hurt any of these lovely humans. Or Dan."

"In fact," begins Aziraphale, "not hurting humans is exactly what we --"

"Hang on," says Crowley, still stuck a couple steps behind. "Did you call him Luci? The kind of Luci with a fer at the end?"

Aziraphale stops short. Both of them stare at the other demon, still making his way through the desks and defensively-positioned humans to reach them. They don't recognize the body, but that proves nothing. And under the surface is a lot of power.

"Yes, that's me," he says brightly, coming to a stop. Not quite next to the human detective, but close enough that a spread wing could shield her in an instant. "Lucifer, the Adversary, prince of darkness, lord of lies, blah, blah, blah. Currently semi-retired, and definitely not hurting humans, if that's what you're worried about. Ask the Detective to see my case files, if you need proof of how helpful I've been."

...the look on the Detective's face suggests that he hasn't been entirely helpful. But in an amusing way, not a threatening way.

"Sorry for any confusion," says Aziraphale. He's pulling himself together a lot better than Crowley, who kinda wants to bolt for the next universe so fast it leaves a Crowley-shaped hole in the ether. "We've had some trouble with the Lucifer from another part of the multiverse, but his goals didn't align with ours, and it seems that yours do. At least, we hope they do. You aren't by any chance having a child to bring on the Apocalypse, are you?"

"What? No!" This Lucifer's eyes dart to his human friend, then back to the visitors. "Why? Do you know something I don't?"

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"I always suspected," says Aziraphale, stepping gingerly over the latest puddle, "that there were worlds where the Apocalypse was successfully brought down on the planet. I just never realized the aftermath would look so much"

"...oceans of Tang?" suggests Crowley, gazing at the orange-tinted horizon.

Aziraphale frowns. "Is that a brand of sarsaparilla?"

"Close enough."

They're absolutely charming, a delight to watch, but about to head off in the wrong direction. And there's no doubt they'll give up on this world long before Tabris gets tired of watching them. So he sidles up next to them and uses the smile that always makes Shinji feel nonthreatened. "The humans you're looking for are this way."

Both visiting beings jump, then give him a quick once-over. They'll be able to tell he's an angel. Will they really understand what that means, by the rules of this world? Does Tabris understand what it means in theirs?

"You picked a good plane to visit," he adds. "By its very nature, the only beings left after Third Impact are the ones who looked at destiny -- at prophecy -- at the end of humanity -- and said, 'not for us.'"

"That is what we're looking for," says Crowley thoughtfully.

Aziraphale is still suspicious. "And how exactly did you know?"

It said so in the liner notes, obviously. But if this version of angelic stock can't read the script, it's probably best Tabris doesn't try to explain. "News of your mission is starting to spread, through friendly channels across the multiverse. This won't be the last place you arrive to find us already waiting. Now, why don't you come and meet my friends?"

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"That's not a code name, is it?" asks the girl with the ferret-shaped soul, when Adam introduces himself. "Because I'm Eve -- that's a code name, not my real one -- but I en't in the market for another boyfriend."

"It's the name my parents gave me," Adam assures her. "Well, it was originally suggested by an evil nun, but they approved it, so I reckon it still counts."

Most of the guests are already there when he shows them in, and the room is close to full up, but it's not going to overflow. It's exactly the right size it needs to be, and with comfortable seats in the right size for every shape and species, too. Even with all that space, nobody will have trouble hearing everybody else, because the acoustics? Heavenly.

It's the best clubhouse in the multiverse.

Once the seats are full, Aziraphale calls things to order with a calming angelic glow, and gives a stirring recap of the shared purpose that brought the Pan-Universal Eternal and Corporeal Alliance to Defend the Best Interests of Humanity together.

"Although," he adds, after a moment's hesitation, "I understand there's some discontent about the name?"

He looks surprised, then miffed, when a murmur of agreement goes up around the room. Crowley pats him consolingly on the shoulder. They're good for each other, those two. Adam approves.

"It is rather unwieldy," says Sir Integra, who is, in Adam's estimation, the coolest person there. She has an eyepatch, and she's a knight and a vampire slayer. Not a pirate, sadly, but you can't have everything. "A name that long only works if it's a tortured backronym for something short and elegant."

"Well, if anyone has a shorter idea to nominate, now's the time," says Crowley, while most of the humans are still visibly working out the acronym in their heads. (Adam already did. It's not great.)

Eleanor -- she grew up in America, but since then she's been to a place that had a thousand ice-cream flavors, which Adam has got to ask her about some time -- raises her hand, in spite of the winces of the humans on either side of her. "We've been going by Team Cockroach."

"I'm sure we can come up with something better than that," says Chidi, the desperate-sounding human on her right. "I mean, we probably can. I mean, can't we?"

Will, the boyfriend, who has a cat-shaped soul and hasn't let go of his Eve's hand this entire visit, speaks up for the first time. "After our war, we all decided to fight in the name of the Republic of Heaven."

"That seems a bit...insensitive, to those of us who have been forcibly ejected from the Silver City," says Lucifer in a polite hiss. (He's the Lucifer who's not Adam's dad, but in a different way that the other Lucifer isn't Adam's dad. More importantly, he's got no interest in fighting for the spot.)

"I don't care what we're called," huffs Asuka. "As long as I get to punch more angels." The pale one sitting on her left coughs, and she adds, grudgingly, "Present company excepted."

Smaller debates break out all around the room. Pepper, next to Adam, says under her breath, "This is just like when we were kids, and ended up being called The Them because we couldn't settle on anything. Maybe, for this group, we'll end up being The Us?"

It does have a ring to it. But then again, it might get people confusing them for a group of Americans. At least, people from the universes that have an America...which is probably a lot of them.

Adam stands up. Everyone else quiets down, without him having to say so.

"Seems to me," he says, "we need a short, simple name that gets across right where we stand. Seems to me we ought to go by Team Humanity."

There's a bit more discussion, just for the sake of it, but when they get around to voting it isn't even close. Adam always did have the best ideas. And he's really gotten the hang of giving things names.