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The Many Names of Love

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Then, out of the blue, Crowley says it.

Aziraphale freezes. They both freeze, actually, as soon as Crowley, too, realizes what he has just done.

“Did you just say…” Aziraphale pants, while Crowley’s hands are still on his shoulders. He’s holding onto those plush anchors for dear life, lost in a sea of possible consequences dawning on the both of them.

Crowley breathes slowly. “I did.”

It's an unwritten, unspoken rule among angels and demons, a custom dating back to the ancient times when humans trod the Earth for the first time. It has always been implied that, after the end of the Creation, no one should say any of the angel’s names anymore – their true names, of course, the ones gifted by God Herself when She created them.

Every one of those names is a name of love: after all, She is love and love has many names which She gifted to them all. Every one of them, when uttered, is powerful enough to create something in Her name, because She does everything through love. Every one of the many names of love is universally known among celestial beings, because love is the most powerful of languages; and even if some angels have fallen, they still can’t forget them. Those names stay with occult and ethereal creatures, deep down, creating something like a common knowledge among them.

Before the beginning, the true names of the angels – the many names of love – were employed to create the Universe. After having received orders to create something, every angel would say their own name. This way, love was poured out of them and it could start its creating process almost by itself. Sure, the inner workings of Creation had all been laid out by Her, but the angels still retained a great deal of freedom as they created the Universe using their imagination.

Once the Creation was over, though, no one received direct orders anymore, except on very rare occasions. They were left to figure out and to follow the Great Plan, and the Ineffable one, by themselves. (That’s when the Fall actually happened. No orders to smite anyone down were ever given. It was a civil war more than a punishment, really… especially looking at it from the Archangels’ side. They fought each other on futile matters until a group of them smote the others and their followers, causing their Fall.)

After then, every angel started to fear the consequences of going on creating. Saying those names and creating new worlds without Her direct permission and Her guidance suddenly seemed too risky. Panicked reasoning started to be an everyday routine for many among the higher hierarchies. What could happen?, they would tell one another. What if She doesn’t allow to use our true names anymore? We would probably fall for an outrage like that. Maybe hellfire is also in store for such an action.

The same went for demons: were they allowed to utter those names? Probably not, many of them reasoned with a shrug. After all, they were the fallen ones. The act itself of saying one of the names of love would probably kill them. No one had ever been brave enough to try, though, so nobody was really sure of anything. Besides, being demons, their purpose wasn’t love anymore; on the contrary, it was sin and destruction. The result was that it was labelled as a forbidden practice also on their side.

By the end of that so-called civil war, every angel (even the fallen ones) had received a new, safer name, one that didn’t create anything when said out loud. It was a common name, so to speak, and it became the standard to be used at all times in order not to break the balance of the Universe with a surplus of creation or unwanted and unknown consequences.

Now, for the first time in literally forever, a demon has broken this rule.

“My dear, why did you do that? Why did you say it?” Aziraphale searches into Crowley’s eyes for something that could be safety and reassurance.

“I couldn’t do otherwise”, Crowley answers. “It’s like it wanted to be said…”

Aziraphale and Crowley are very still, waiting for something to happen. It could be Her divine wrath smiting them, or time collapsing and expanding at the same time in a madding never-ending loop, or dimensions and parallel universes melting together to create unimaginable horrors and monstrosities that can’t be fixed.

They breathe in, breathe out, still in each other’s arms, still lying on Crowley’s bed, and they keep an ear out for the sounds of the cosmos, waiting for an irreversible imbalance to come and destroy everything.

Nothing of that kind seems to happen. However… they still sense something else.

They both can see what has just happened, and it’s not an unfamiliar sight. It’s just a rare one, nowadays. It’s there in their minds as if it were in front of their eyes, as if they were there together.

Far away in the Universe, planets and galaxies and force fields have shifted and moved. There’s a void to be filled, now, a void that wasn’t there before. It lingers expectantly, calling silently for somebody to create a new world in it.

Aziraphale and Crowley look into each other’s eyes and they see that void. It is beckoning, calling them to perform something they haven’t done for a long time. They were alone, back then... but things change.

The perspective from which they are looking at the void is the same, as if their minds were united into one and they were watching it with a single pair of eyes. While their joined minds roam around the stars to inspect that strange, empty spot, their physical bodies are still in a black-, silk-sheeted bed. Their indecision bounces back and forth between them like a pinball.

At least we’re still here, they think. We’re still existing. Breathing in, breathing out.

Aziraphale clears his throat. “Do you… do you think… our former sides will do something about this?” Even if there’s absolutely no one else in Crowley’s bedroom, his voice is just a whisper. They may be still alive, but what if Heaven and Hell get to know about this? An implicit rule has been broken. Even walls have ears. (“So have ducks”, Crowley would probably say out of the blue, in a normal situation. But that’s a whole other matter.) The two of them have helped humans stop the Apocalypse, they have lived together for months by now and, as they were promised, no one has still knocked at their door; still, Aziraphale has always been a little methodical about his security checks. Old habits and suspicions are hard to kill.

“Nah. Don’t think so. We’ve broken many taboos by now and they’ve never come after us. They’ll notice something new is up, eventually. Me, though, I don’t think anything serious’s gonna happen. They’ll keep leaving us alone.”

Crowley sees Aziraphale relax and he secretly congratulates himself on the success. His little speech was enough to reassure his angel, wiping his only doubt away. After all, even if he’s a bastard at the core, Aziraphale is and has always been such a sweet, trusting dear… he goes around having faith in anything and anybody. His standard mode is a sort of reversed Murphy’s law. If anything could go right, it will.

Crowley, too, is an optimist, but he tends to disguise this well when he lets his many questions come to the surface. He closes his eyes. “Do you think She’ll do something about this?”

“Mmh.” Aziraphale is quiet for some moments, brushing a wave of long hair out of his beloved’s forehead. “I don’t think so. She rarely takes action, you know that. It’s part of the Ineffable Plan and all that business.” Crowley’s eyes are still closed and Aziraphale takes advantage of that to brush two feather-light, soothing kisses on his eyelids.

“Even so… I’m scared”, Crowley admits, opening his eyes. “You’re an angel and you could get away with it. I’m not like you. I’m a demon. I’m not supposed to create anything anymore.”

“Well, neither am I, my love… I think. And yet, there’s a void in the Universe to be filled now, whether we like it or not. The humans would say, ‘You break it, you buy it’. Though I’m not sure that this would be the right situation for such an idiom,” he mutters to himself.

“Yes, but… what if this is wrong, or… what if She…”

“Creature of beauty”, Aziraphale calls him softly as only he can do. “Enough with the fussing. Just now, you’ve reminded me that we’re on our own side. It was you who taught me that, in times when I was too stubborn and too blind to understand.”

Crowley looks away, mulling it over. Aziraphale lets some seconds pass before speaking again.

“She, too, must know we’re on our side now. And if She knows, then, well…” Aziraphale smiles down at Crowley, who is still silent and pensive. “Let’s put it like this: surely this has not been the first time we were making love. Do you remember the first time we did, right after the world was saved? How we thought that we were going to discorporate on the spot? And yet, nothing happened.” He giggles. “Well… I mean, we didn’t discorporate. Maybe this isn’t all that different. If our former sides aren’t going to chase after us, I am positive we are quite safe. And you’ve already said my true name just now…”

Crowley shifts slightly under him, biting his own lip. (If he didn’t do that, he would be about to spill that name out again. It’s his turn now to be overly cautious, apparently.)

“Something else is troubling you, isn’t it?” There he goes again, the angel and his intuition.

Despite all of Crowley’s resistance, it's not much of a free decision for him – it's almost a forced choice, by now.

During these months after the averted Apocalypse, Crowley has been feeling so much love – and has stored so much of it inside of himself – that he doesn't know what to do with it. This love has piled up on the love that he has been feeling for six millennia, starting almost with time itself.

He has hoarded love and kept love safe so that it could grow; he has sheltered it with his wings from the rain just like Aziraphale did for him when they met; he has put it under a glass dome and he has put a wind screen around it so that it wouldn't fly away, away from him into the cold dark space.

At this point, after more than sixty centuries, more than twenty-four thousands seasons, more than seventy-two thousand months, Crowley feels like a dragon pretending to sleep on its precious hoarded treasure, always vigilant lest somebody take away even an inch of it.

He is a demon, though. His spirit isn’t made to store that much love anymore. He’s not like Aziraphale… though at the core, they are and they’ve always been. (Sometimes, Aziraphale says that the two of them are just like spaghetti and lasagne: they’re two very different types of pasta, but their dough is the same.)

When Crowley, too, was an angel, he could store all the love he wanted inside himself and gift it out to the world at his free will. He could use his own name of love to create things and he knew no boundaries that could restrain or consume him.

His Fall changed him and made him different. (Then again, he has always been different from the ones who fell before and after him). The boundaries to love he didn’t know could exist were suddenly there. When he, a demon, started feeling love for an angel – something that was supposedly against his nature – a spiritual vessel began to fill up ever so slowly. At first he didn’t even notice it but, drop after drop, minute after minute, an ocean was undeniably forming.

The love he has collected is now too much. It is pushing and begging to find a way out, to come back to the surface, to the light, to the world. Crowley is going to implode if keeps hoarding it, and a part of it has already spilled out when he has said Aziraphale’s true name. It’s something Crowley knows was bound to happen, sooner or later: should he go on like this, his own love for Aziraphale will burn him out like a candle, it will devour him, turning him inside out in the sweetest but deadliest of ways.

It’s an untrodden path for a demon. No-one of his lot has ever loved after the Fall, except him; it’s a path he has been walking on for six thousand years. It’s a weight you feel in your bones, in your sinews and on your shoulders; a tension that piles up and fills your throat with wine and cracks your ribs like Mikado sticks and makes you dizzy like when you smell freshly baked bread, and it could tear a demon apart once and for all anytime, should it becomes too much.

The only way to keep living would be to let go of some of that love, putting it back in the Universe where it was meant to be. Ultimately, it would mean saying his beloved’s true name, just like he has done a few minutes ago. It would mean creating new things, even though they would act against Her will. However, if She has allowed a demon to love and be loved in return… maybe She is not against all of this, after all.

Aziraphale looks at his demon as he tries as hard as he can to keep his mouth shut. By now, he’s absolutely certain of the reason of Crowley’s inner struggle. Having taken into account all the risks, and all things considered, he makes up his mind. “Crowley, my dear… you know I can feel love around me. Believe me when I say that you may have too much of it inside yourself.”

“Big sssurprise, angel,” he retorts half-jokingly, almost biting his tongue in the process.

“I mean… after more than six thousand years, it must feel almost too much for any demon. I’ve been noticing that something was up with you, lately. You look like a nice old jacket, the seams of which are about to be torn. I have no intention whatsoever of seeing you burst out of existence because of your fear of illogical consequences and the fact that you’ve been feeling too much love. It would be utterly ridiculous.”

Crowley snorts a little, but Aziraphale is very serious. His eyes follow Crowley’s every little movement.

“Free yourself, Crowley. Do it for us.”

Somewhat cynically, one could argue that it all boils down to a matter of survival. Therefore, being at his very limit, Crowley nods.

It is on. Aziraphale smiles at Crowley who is lying below him. He swims for a little while in the two orange pools of gemstones that his demon has in place of a common pair of eyes. Their fingers lace together, as if those same hands had a secret agreement of their own.

“Ah! The things we are about to do together, my love… It’s going to be like the old days, when there was nothing but warm light and sweet darkness, and all of us used to live there in the middle while we created everything… Do you remember?”

“It was a long time ago,” Crowley answers rather cryptically.

“Do you want me to remind you how it’s done?”

“Maybe. Actually, neither of us, nor any of the angels for that matter, has ever created anything together.” Crowley untangles their fingers to cradle Aziraphale’s face in his hands. “But I believe it could start with something like this.” Saying his lover’s true name, Crowley leads him downwards for a kiss.

With that, as if obeying an unspoken command, tiny particles start to move, lost in the space surrounding that distant void. Aziraphale and Crowley can see clusters of lonely atoms suddenly needing the company of friends, grouping together from the ten thousand corners of the Universe to become molecules, gathering at the speed of light to crash and evolve.

They kiss; and then they kiss, again; and Crowley says that name, again, and for the first time that night Aziraphale says Crowley’s true name in return… and there it goes, a giant flash of scorching light coming out of those atoms and molecules and elements pressed together.

There’s something resembling an explosion and, by the time they break their string of kisses to catch their breaths, it’s there: a new planet, all rocks and minerals, floating where moments before there was only a void. It’s multi-coloured and perfectly still, waiting to start its motion around a specific star. It’s as if it were listening, just waiting to be told what to do with itself.

They smile, seeing the newborn planet deep in each other’s eyes, endlessly mirrored like in a kaleidoscope. Nothing happens, no one stops them or smites them; and in Her ubiquitous, metaphysical home, She is surely aware of what is happening and watches on in silence. Maybe this whole thing is still all part of the Ineffable Plan…

“My love, my light”, Aziraphale says, getting braver. “Let’s… let’s create the sea together.”

He combs the fingers of one hand through Crowley’s long, wavy hair, all spread out on the pillows like an auburn crown; and lo, there’s water now on the faraway dry planet suspended in space. Droplets come together, flowing downwards to the ground, following a perfect science; it’s the first rain, so dear to them. It’s a literal waterfall pulled down towards the rocks and the soil by an irresistible and simple force. Humans would call it gravity.

Coral lips say that name of love and press it on the skin behind a demon’s ear. Aziraphale’s fingers dive into the depths of Crowley’s locks and emerge again (My, my… this red-headed sea is never-ending); and there on the planet, when pinkish-white knuckles break those fiery waves, swimming creatures come up from the dark muddy depths, all fins and tentacles and never-seen-before gills, ready to live but still a little unsure about how to breathe or to move.

Crowley hums contentedly at the touch, then opens his eyes and gazes at Aziraphale. “Tsk-tsk, angel. Don’t be so selfish.” (Aziraphale cannot look away. He is happily, eternally trapped, an insect enclosed in those amber cages.) “Do you want to keep all the fun for yourself?”

They both smirk. Aziraphale says, “We’ve only just begun, dearest.”

“Pff. I know, I know.” Surging up and forward like a cobra, Crowley grabs Aziraphale’s wrists and reverses their positions to loom over him. “Was only teasing you.”

He brushes a kiss on his forehead. Out of his lips comes Aziraphale’s true name, and Crowley senses the angel’s whole face light up with a smile. He smiles back. Aziraphale is his own personal star. He didn’t get to create it like he did with many others before the beginning; yet, he was lucky enough to find and keep it thanks to an unexpected, miraculous encounter on the high wall of a Garden.

Crossing the open gate of his angel’s blinding smile, Crowley swipes a careful finger on his parted lips and on his teeth. They look like white and lovely little pebbles made of calcium, nerves and living matter, as solid as the stalactites and stalagmites now forming inside the damp caves of that remote planet, as unshakable as the glaciers freezing on top of the mountains, as spectacular as the chalky cliffs climbing up and out of the sea.

It only takes a name to shape the matter, provided it’s one of the many names of love. Angular hands roam on a skin as smooth and soft as the dark velvet of the Universe, very slowly. With every ascent and descent, with every name, soft and sun-kissed hills come to unite the harsh peaks of the mountains to the vast expanse of the plains. The static between them paints lightnings in the sky, every time they tremble there’s an earthquake, every one of their warm whispers makes volcanoes wake up and erupt for the first time.

Their true names come out one after the other like beads in a rosary. They are made of otherworldly sounds, sounds that are similar to the psychic language of animals and to the echo of stars silently burning, ever-connected in the loneliness of space. They are names existing before the beginning of time. They will live on, when everything is over.

Their two owners are so connected that there comes a point in which thinking those names is enough to do the magic. Aziraphale’s hair becomes white moss and snow and sea foam; Crowley’s lean arms and legs give shape to tender saplings, looking up and asking the sun for a kiss. Crowley’s freckles scatter in the wind, becoming the warm and shape-shifting sands of the deserts; Aziraphale’s blue eyes fill lakes up to the brim, cool and serene, mirroring the sky. The inhuman blood in their veins makes rivers flow, cascades fall and hot springs boil.

You could think that two opposites would combust or downright explode when they collide, and sometimes this is exactly what happens… but have you ever seen the night burst into fire, or the day melt away all of a sudden, dissolving into dark dust, never to come back again? I bet you didn’t. On the contrary, they gently blend together, taking turns, shining in the in-between colours that they can create only when they are united. Sunrise, sunset. Breathing in, breathing out.

That is exactly the case of a demon and an angel in the midst of a one-of-a-kind creation. When they unite, it’s unexpectedly natural and comfortable, as if the sun came to visit the moon for tea, all soft compliments and sweet things ready to be savoured. Don’t bother to knock. Just you being here is already enough. I brought something for you. This should be good, shall we taste it together?

Their true names, two of the many names of love, keep being chanted in their minds. Two spines arch and the branches of the trees do the same, praying the sun, trying to grow wings and to touch the sky. Two pairs of hips move to be closer, and a net of roots clasps deeper and tighter the warm and welcoming soil. With any luck, they will never part.

It’s a dance they have done many times already, but never like this, with the whole Universe inside of them, twirling around on a duvet of stars and galaxies and comets, synching their breaths to the faint echo of a distant explosion that scattered atoms in every direction, so that angels could mould them.

At last they enter together in the garden of delights, letting an all-encompassing burst of light embrace them. Tasting once more what was probably the forbidden fruit of Eden, they let each bite consume them. Each shiver that strikes them down also skyrockets them beyond the most distant stars, hand in hand.

That is all it takes for life to start moving on the faraway planet. Swimming creatures crawl and leap outside of the water, growing limbs and lungs and incredible types of furs and skins and scales, their eyes adjusting to the light, their ears ready to catch the faintest sounds in the air, their noses about to sense all the smells buried in the ground.

They are brand new life forms, nothing that humans have ever seen before. Perhaps it will take them centuries, or millennia even, to discover this new cluster of rocks inhabited by what they would call ‘alien creatures’. For now, it belongs only to Aziraphale and Crowley. A garden of Eden on a planetary scale.

As a sort of final touch, Aziraphale breathes out Crowley’s true name one last time, brushing his eyelashes with his fingertips and making them flutter like butterflies. Suddenly, all the winged creatures on the newborn planet take flight at the same time, dancing all around. To see those gracious animals scatter and become small dots in the dusk, each one chasing its own destiny far from the place where they have been created, is pure bliss. The night falls.

As they catch their breath, lying down side by side, Aziraphale and Crowley take some moments to look deep into each other’s eyes once again, admiring the life going about on the planet they’ve created.

Then, when they are a little calmer, Aziraphale reaches out to take Crowley into his arms. Crowley snuggles closer, closing his eyes and starting to nose at Aziraphale’s chest and his collarbone.

“My dear… are you alright?”

“Never been better.”

Aziraphale smiles, stroking his auburn hair. His mouth is so close to Crowley’s ear that Crowley feels Aziraphale’s soft and warm breath ease down on his skin, like a feather floating gently downwards. “I’m so glad.”

“Jussst a little tired.”

“It’s only natural. We’ve just built a new planet from scraps of atoms and matter through our love. I have to admit, I’m tired, too.”

“I can’t believe it actually worked. It’s like a weight has been untied from my neck, like it happens to… you know… one of those big, round thingies full of air, with all those colours… and stripes… and dots…” It’s difficult to describe objects when you are drunk, Crowley thinks, but it is even more so in the afterglow, flailing your hands weakly in the air and trying not to yawn too much. Besides, he’s not that used to talking for so long. “Help me out here, angel. Those flying things that humans invented, like, more than two centuries ago.”

“Oh! Flying! Then they must be the ‘hot air balloons’, I think.”

“Mmh-mmh. Those ones.”

Aziraphale chuckles. He snuggles even closer to Crowley, wrapping his arms a little tighter around him. He closes his eyes and strokes his back.

“Seriously, angel. It felt amazing, it felt… almost like flying again.” He leans into Aziraphale. His hug is soft and warm and loving. No matter how impossible is to be blessed for a demon; that’s what Crowley feels, nested in his angel’s arms. “I feel so light, now. Guess I was full to the brim, I was.”

Aziraphale waits some seconds before speaking. “Now you should be alright for some more millennia, I think.”

“What do you mean?”

“You have unloaded a lot of love from yourself right now. It’s going to take some time, before you store it all again and you are full. On the edge, so to speak. Or in danger.”

Crowley laughs softly, and Aziraphale wants to engrave that small tune in his brain, note after note. Crowley doesn’t laugh often, and it’s always the most beautiful sound Aziraphale has ever listened to. “Angel, you do realise we could do this even if I’m not about to explode, right?”

“This means we’d be scattering the Universe with new planets, though, every now and then… well, that is, more often than I’d thought.”

“’s not a problem for me. This demon here has a lot of love to give.” He kisses Aziraphale. “And it’s all for you, you know.”

“You’ll be receiving tenfold in return, darling. You’d better be ready. Frankly speaking, I don’t know if you are.”

“Oh, well, ‘scussse me, Mr. A. Z. Fell, I think that after six thousand bloody years spent storing my love for you inside of me, I am more than ready. You could even say I was born ready.”

“Yes, yes. We’ll see about that.”

They laugh.

Out there, on that brand new special planet, so full of life, so far away and yet so very close to them, the last piece of the puzzle slots into place, the last magic happens, and the first dawn breaks.