Highlight below for (spoilery) trigger warnings:
homophobia and transphobia (including slurs), graphic discussion of crucifixion, infertility, and sexual assault and harassment.

“There are times when I think Christians need to see ourselves more in the ninety-nine sheep who stayed put,
and ask ourselves if we may have been part of the reason that the lost sheep got lost in the first place.”

~~Austen Hartke, Transforming: The Bible and the Lives of Transgender Christians

The Shepherd

Loreena        Together Again        Auditions        Taking Measure        First Rehearsal        Brunch        "Closure"

The Serpent and the Angel        Times       
Gethsemane        Director's Orders        The Road        Little Bird and Lion

Blessed        Mercy        The Decision        Visitors        Trouble        One        Works Cited, Playlist, Etc.



Circa 2005

"The category is... Femme Queen Academia!"

That was the last thing Loreena heard before she fled from the ballroom in tears.

She was unaware she'd been followed outside until someone sat beside her on the stoop she was occupying.

"Don't listen to them.  Hurt people say hurtful things sometimes."

Loreena raised her head from her hands and looked over at her guest.  She didn't know what to make of him.  She wasn't even sure what he was wearing... some sort of heavily embroidered tunic paired with leather leggings.  And his make-up...  He looked like a daddy who had allowed his pre-schooler to go wild with her dollar store palette.  

It was strangely endearing.

"What's your name?" the man asked.


Loreena stuck her hand out.

The man didn't shake it.

"What's your name?" the man repeated.  "Your real name."

Loreena smiled and tried again.

"Loreena.  My name is Loreena."

The man shook her hand.


"Pleased to meet you, Vero."

"Likewise.  Anyway...  I'm sorry about what the judges said in there.  I thought you looked great."

Loreena said nothing.

"Sometimes in this life, what comes so easy to some people has to be fought for... hard won... by others.  It's not fair.  But I think there can be beauty in the journey.  Don't let other people tarnish that for you," Vero advised.  "God has big plans for you."

Loreena scoffed.

"You really think God loves people like us?"

"No.  I don't think.  I know He does."


Vero patted Loreena on the back.

"Just don't lose hope."

Loreena smiled, feeling strangely calmed.  

"Get back in there.  Focus on having fun, on being yourself.  Forget what the others say.  You're you and that's beautiful," Vero encouraged.  

Loreena's smile grew.

"Yeah... okay.  You coming back in?"

Vero shook his head.

"Time for me to move on.  But I'll be cheering you on, Loreena."

"Thank you."

In spite of her usual aversion to touch, Loreena hugged the man.

Vero returned her hug and beamed.

"Remember...  He's got big plans for you."

Loreena chuckled.

"Yeah, yeah.  Okay."  

She smiled once more then disappeared back into the ballroom.

Vero remained where he was, smiling at the closed door.

A voice sounded from behind him.

"Explain to me, please, how one paints a sunset with such immense beauty and detail and yet... you do that to your face."

Vero turned around and grinned.


Cephas shook his head in disbelief.

"Rabboni...  You look..."  He wrinkled his nose.

"Hey, I dress like I need to dress to fit in for what I need to do, the message I need to convey.  You think it was a treat to go around in sandals all the time with all that sand and dirt?  Did that for you, buddy," Joshua teased.

"But those pants..."

Joshua looked down at them and laughed.

"Yeah...  They are uniquely awful.  Not.  Comfy.  At.  All."

Cephas' reserve faltered.  He laughed loudly as Joshua squirmed.

"Let's go Home, hmm?  And promise me something?" the erstwhile fisherman asked.

"Yes.  Let's do that.  And what's that?"

"If you ever do this again... let Mary or Yemimah do your make-up.  This is embarrassing."

Joshua laughed loudly.


"Thank You.  So... what is the story with the girl?"  Cephas waved to the stoop where Loreena and Joshua had been sitting.

"You'll see."

Joshua looked back once more at the door Loreena had disappeared through, smiled, and walked off into the city with his right hand man.


Together Again

Saturday, January 29th, 2022

Loreena walked into the laundry room of her apartment building to find Roger pinning something to the community bulletin board.

"Ooh, you got news, Roger?" she asked as she set her basket down.

Beaming, the man nodded.

"Sure do!  We've got lots of details to iron out but St. Genesius' production of Jesus Christ Superstar is back on!  Live and with an audience!"

Loreena returned Roger's smile and patted his arm.

"That's great news!  Are you going to be in it?"

Roger laughed and shook his head.

"Definitely not.  No singing talent, no dancing talent, big case of stage fright.  But... I do plan to help out backstage.  Maybe with the PR a little."

Loreena eyed the poster. 

"Do you know if Joshua is performing?" she asked quietly.

"As it happens... that's one of the few pieces we do know.  And yes!  He's performing as Jesus at all performances."

Loreena let out a happy little shriek.

"That's awesome!  I've been wanting to see him perform live and, frankly, just hoping he'd come back into town."

"He'll be there tonight.  We're having a meeting to sort things out.  Dates, casting, rehearsal schedule."  Roger studied Loreena.  She looked wistful.  "Would you like to come?"

Loreena stepped back and shook her head.

"No... no.  Thank you, though.  I'm not part of the cast or crew."

Roger shrugged.

"Neither is Tony but I'm still bringing him along."

Loreena shook her head.

"I'm not even Catholic but it still seems so weird to me when you refer to him that way.  No offense."

Roger laughed.

"None taken.  But it's what he prefers.  Archbishop Merriman is who the world sees.  But Tony... that's who he really is.  And he likes having someone around who remembers that.  He's just a man."

Loreena hummed.

"'He's a man... he's just a man...'" she sang.

Roger grinned.

"That's it!  You're coming tonight!  That sounded great!  Maybe you could be in the show!"

Loreena chuckled and shook her head.

"Roger...  You and I both know that's not how that song is supposed to sound." 

"It sounds different every time a different person sings it!  Everyone has their own spin.  And, besides, it's not like St. G's stands on tradition.  They gave an entire song to a character they inserted.  There's no Claudia Pilate in the OG show."


Roger clasped Loreena's hand.

"Just come.  Please.  No commitment.  I mean, yeah, we'll get into logistics tonight but really it's more of a celebratory pizza party reunion thing."

"I do want to see Joshua...  And it'd be nice to see Andrew and JenniAnn.  It's been a few weeks since I've seen them.  I still worry about them.  Did they ever find the guys who attacked them?"

Roger stared down at his hands for a moment, searching for words.  He sometimes forgot how much Loreena didn't know about their group.

"No... no, they didn't," he replied.  "But Andrew and JenniAnn are doing well.  And, yeah, you should come see them!  And Mason and Renee are coming, too!"

Loreena smiled at his eagerness.

"All right.  Sure.  I'd love to tag along.  Should I bring anything?"

"Just yourself!  We're meeting at 6:00 but I'm leaving here about 5:15 so I have time to swing by and get Tony.  I could come to your apartment around 5:00?" Roger suggested.

"It's a plan!" Loreena agreed, beaming.

Roger returned her smile.

"Then I'll leave you to your laundry.  See you at 5:00!"

"See you!  And thanks.  For inviting me."

"Thanks for agreeing to come!"

Roger grinned then went on his way, humming the show's title song to himself.

Loreena shook her head.

"What have I got myself into?" she murmured. 


Shortly after lunch, with their two youngest children under the care of their older ones, Andrew and JenniAnn snuck off for a walk around Dyeland City.

"Are you warm enough?" Andrew asked, moving to take off his coat.

"Don't.  Thank you, though.  Feeling a bit hot around the face, to be honest," JenniAnn replied.

The angel of death smiled.

"Don't suppose it has anything to do with who we'll be seeing tonight... who will also be staying with us for a while."

JenniAnn's cheeks flushed.


Andrew wrapped an arm around JenniAnn's waist and pulled her close, kissing her hair.

"You're not still worried about Christmas, are you?  You both were on good terms when Joshua left.  And have been since, Laja.  He likely won't even bring your... disagreement up.  Not unless you do."

"I know...  I just still feel bad about it.  It was his birthday."

"I mean he's had two thousand and twenty one of them...  Last year wasn't the only one to get a bit... heated.  I mean, if we're honest, they probably all have.  He's used to it."

"I suppose."

Andrew frowned.  Nothing appeared to be resolved for JenniAnn.  He steered her towards the nearby gazebo.

Once the two were seated, Andrew clasped his anam cara's right hand in both of his.

"Something else is going on.  You've been jumpy ever since you woke up.  Is there anything I can do?"

A tear splashed down JenniAnn's cheek.

"Just...  Had a nightmare is all."

"About the attack?"

"No.  The old one."

"Oh..."  The Crucifixion then, Andrew realized.  He brought her hand to his lips.  "You know, maybe we should rethink you doing all of Joshua's make-up."

JenniAnn jolted and shook her head.

"No!  I mean...  If someone wants to help out...  It probably wouldn't be the worst idea for someone else to learn.  What if I got sick?  But...  I don't want to completely pass it along.  I...  It's good bonding time."

Andrew had to admit this was probably true.  As bizarre as it seemed, JenniAnn and Joshua had turned the flogging and Crucifixion make-up routine into something oddly spa-like.  Any skin that would be touched by that horrid red make-up was first covered in moisturizer which smelled of some mix of rose, lavender, jasmine, patchouli, and sandalwood.  It would be wrong to take that away from them.

"All right."  Andrew nuzzled her hair.  "Just let me know if you do need a break."

"I will."

"And we're definitely not doing anything related to the Crucifixion tonight.  Mostly it's just planning.  At most we'll get everyone singing together.  'Could We Start Again, Please?' or something."

JenniAnn smiled.

"That sounds nice.  Do you think everyone's coming back?"

"I sure hope so!  But I do think we may need to split up some roles.  We'll see."

"We'll see," JenniAnn echoed.

Andrew smiled at her then they resumed their walk.

"Marty's coming with us tonight," he informed her.

"I figured.  Although I wish he didn't feel he had to.  I mean Joshua is going to be there.  Aziraphale and Crowley, too."

"Yeah...  And maybe after tonight he'll begin to... worry less.  Maybe all it'll take is seeing us with all our friends.  Happy.  Safe."

"Maybe."  JenniAnn wasn't so sure.  As much as she loved Marty, she'd begun to feel like a child.  He was always wanting to know where she was going, when she'd be back.  Same with Andrew when he wasn't in angelic mode.  Poor guy couldn't even go to Omaha to deliver his carpentry orders without a security detail.

They reached the beach and Andrew gestured to a form in the mist.

"I think this Spring we should really decide what we're going to do with that."

JenniAnn followed his gaze to the Aurora Mist, their old ship.  She smiled sadly.  They'd loved that ship in the early years.  She and the girls would often take it out... after giggling through seafaring lessons from Andrew and Adam.  But then many of "the girls" had moved on.  Then the years had passed in a flurry of odd jobs, children, housework, and... him.  JenniAnn hugged Andrew's arm.

"We should...  I've half a mind to tell you to salvage it for the lumber.  But... lots of memories."

"I don't think I could do that."  Andrew nuzzled JenniAnn's hair.  He remembered fancy teas in the "captain's quarters," the princess making eyes at him over the rim of her teacup.  It had been awkward then... JenniAnn had only been a teenager, after all.  But now...

"We should go check it out," the two said in unison before laughing.

They headed towards the ship and Andrew helped JenniAnn to board.

"Oof.  I can tell the birds have spent time here.  The deck needs a good scrubbing," she observed.

"Definitely.  But I think I did a good job of sealing the lower decks up when Max and I checked it over last Spring.  So... hopefully no nasty surprises there.  You wanna see?"


Andrew pulled out the copper mesh he'd stuck beneath the door leading below deck then unlocked it.

"I'll go first... just in case," he offered.

"Sounds good!"

"A little water damage on these first two steps.  Otherwise..."  Andrew made his way to the captain's quarters and peered around.  "Looks good!"

"Ha!  I've been looking for this!"  JenniAnn snatched up a necklace off a side table.  "Y necklace... very early aughts!  Musta been irritating me the last time we were in here.  Loved the colors, though.  Bit youngish for me now.  Maybe one of the girls will...  What are you looking at, love?"

Andrew was standing near a desk, looking down at something.  JenniAnn approached and her cheeks immediately reddened.

"Ooh... boy..."  She studied the half-written love letter... in her own handwriting.  Its subject picked the missive up.

"Can I have this?" Andrew asked quietly.

"Love..."  JenniAnn stretched up to kiss his cheek.  "Of course.  It was meant for you.  I just wish I'd had the guts to finish it and send it at the time."

Andrew pulled her close.

"Everything worked out."

JenniAnn beamed up at him.

"Beautifully so."

Andrew returned her smiled, tucked the letter into his pocket, and then tenderly kissed its author.


"But do you think I should bring scones or... ooh.  This looks yummy.  Marmalade-filled cupcakes.  I could fill some with other jams, of course." 

Crowley set down his watering can and chuckled.

"Bring whatever you'd like, angel.  You weren't actually asked to bring anything."

"I know, I know...  But we've not spent much time around some of these people and I'd like to make a good first impression.  I think I'll go with the cupcakes.  Scones are, perhaps, a little too breakfast-y."

"Sounds delightful... cupcake."

Aziraphale giggled as Crowley moved behind him and wrapped his arms around his middle.

Crowley lingered longer than was his wont.  After a few moments, Aziraphale swiveled and peered into his anam cara's eyes.

"Are you all right, dear boy?" he asked.

Crowley nodded.

Aziraphale snatched off his sunglasses.  Once able to see Crowley's haunted eyes, he grimaced.

"You are not.  Tell me."

Crowley leaned into Aziraphale's hand as it rested on his right cheek.

"'S only...  Spose I'm a little... nervous."

"About the show?"

Crowley nodded.

"Being around all those... humans... and angels."

Aziraphale carded his fingers through Crowley's hair which now ran past his shoulders.

"JenniAnn will be there.  You like her.  Andrew, too.  And Joshua... now that we've made our peace, it'll be pleasant to spend some time with him, hmm?"

"Do... do you think the others will like me?  I'd even take tolerating me."

"Oh, Crowley..."  Aziraphale hugged him.  "They'll adore you.  Just like I do.  Well... not just like I do.  That could be a problem.  But they'll adore you in a completely average way."

The reformed demon chuckled.

"And... is this also maybe a bit about the role Joshua asked you to play?" the angel gently pressed.

Crowley gave a silent nod.

"It'll be difficult.  But just keep reminding yourself... Joshua is safe.  Joshua is unharmed.  You're just recreating something that happened a very long time ago.  And it won't hurt him this time.  In fact, it'll make him feel good.  I'm quite looking forward to seeing him swarmed by adoring fans after the performances."


Aziraphale kissed Crowley's brow.

"And you are a beautiful angel."

While Crowley sometimes still bristled at the term, he didn't then.  He only smiled and rested his head on Aziraphale's shoulder.

Whatever else happened, the love of his very long life would be with him.


"I really don't think you need to go.  Unless you want to, of course," Sandy said as he dusted a few items in Marty's room.  His brother sometimes left a bit to be desired on the cleanliness front.

"I want to go," Marty insisted.  "Just... make sure they get settled in safely."

"It's only... Joshua will be there.  If they're not safe with Joshua then I don't know how..."

Marty shut his twin up with a look.

Sandy sighed and dropped his dust rag.


"I'm not talking to her," the scribe sneered.  "She is a literal child, Sandy."

Sandy sat down beside Marty on his couch and settled an arm around his shoulders.

"With all due respect... and well-knowing your prowess with words... I feel it's my duty to point out that you have, like many, misused 'literal.'  Jamie is several thousand years old, Marty.  She is most assuredly not a literal child.  But if age is the issue... I am a mere second your junior so... talk to me."

"They are my responsibility."

"Did He tell you that?"

"Not in so many words.  But He sent me.  To them.  To tell them to knock it off with the ridiculous will-they-won't-they charade.  And I did.  Happily.  And they... they were doing so well, Sandy." 

"They're still doing well.  They hit a bump in the road, yes.  But Andrew and JenniAnn... they're closer than ever."

"Something still feels... off."

"Well... that may be.  But, if so, I think that's for them to figure out.  As a couple."

"But they can't do that if they're worried about their safety!  That Maslow fellow was onto something.  Safety before love."

"Sometimes love is safety."

Marty wasn't sure how to respond to that so said nothing.

After a few moments, Sandy hugged him.

"I'll go with you," he offered.  "I mean... I do love the creative process.  It would be pleasant to see it unfold, right before my eyes."

"It would," Marty agreed.

"And it would be good for you to see Andrew and JenniAnn surrounded by their friends and family, I think.  And back in New York."

Marty nodded.

Sandy squeezed his hand then went to the small wardrobe his brother kept at Willowveil.

"Might need to borrow...  Marty..."

The elder angel smirked.

"Such disarray!  Honestly!"

Marty looked on with amusement as Sandy began tidying.

"Sometimes I really can't believe we're twins..."

Marty smiled to himself and sipped his tea as Sandy muttered in consternation.


"They're coming, aren't they?"

"We told them we were leaving at 5:45, right?"

Adam checked his pocket watch.

"Well, technically they have two more minutes."

Kylie frowned and shook her head.

"But Lacey's always so punctual.  If they were going to leave with us, they'd be here by now."

Edward peered around the group waiting in Randall's and Dot's living room.

"Has anyone talked to them today?"

"I saw Caleb around 1:00," Ethan answered.  "He was getting into his truck.  We waved and said 'hey.'  He looked okay.  Maybe a little distracted.  Do you think something happened?"

Kylie patted her foster son's back.

"I'm sure Caleb and Lacey are fine.  Edward, why don't you go check on them?"

"Yeah, sure."

"Do you want me to go with you, babe?" Zadie asked as she re-tied Etta's shoes.

"No, I'm fine.  Be right back."

With an encouraging smile, Edward made his way to his twin's cabin.  He'd barely knocked when the door opened and Caleb poked his head out.

"Hey, sorry.  I was just heading out to come see you all.  Lacey's not feeling well so we're staying in.  Please give everyone our best."

Edward glanced past his brother and saw Lacey, huddled on the couch.

"I'm sorry to hear that.  Can I get you anything before..."

"No, no.  You should go."

"Maybe I could ask Joshua to come by and..."

Edward noticed a quick flash of anger on Caleb's face.  Likely anyone else would have missed it... anyone who hadn't known the man since the embryo stage.

"No," Caleb replied flatly.

"Okay...  Caleb, is this about..."

Caleb cut Edward off.

"I really need to focus on Lacey now.  Please go, Edward.  I don't want to make everyone late."

"All right, all right.  But we're going through casting tonight so... are you in for the usual?"

Caleb sighed and dragged a hand through his hair.

"The Friends are a lot more numerous now.  Let someone else..."

Edward fought tears.

"But I like having you there.  Especially during the scourging.  You... you calm me down."

Caleb's own eyes welled.  He turned back to his wife.

"Lacey, love, be right back."


Caleb moved onto the front stoop and closed the door behind him.

"I just can't do it this year, Edward.  Maybe never again.  It... it's not like I hate Joshua.  I... I still believe everything I ever did about him.  But... but I'm angry at him.  And I just... I can't spend multiple nights a week around him.  Not right now.  I don't want to bring down everyone else's mood but... I... Edward..."

Edward wrapped his arms around his twin as he began to cry.

"We... we've prayed so... so much.  But..."  Caleb shook his head.  "He... he made it so Zeke and Diana could... could have a fourth kid, Edward!  And... and we don't begrudge them Manny.  Not... not at all.  But...  He... he won't even give us one!  And I'm so tired of... of seeing the look of devastation on Lacey's face every god damn month!"

Edward said nothing.  He didn't know what to say.  He knew Caleb and Lacey had been struggling to get pregnant.  He also knew that it was just the latest in a string of examples of everything being just a bit harder for Caleb than it was for him.  But this was more than "just a bit harder."

"I'm sorry," he murmured.  "I... I wish I could make it better."

Caleb smiled sadly at his brother and rested his forehead against his.

"I know.  But please go.  I really don't want to make everyone late.  Text when you get back.  So we know you're all home safe.  Please."

Edward nodded.

"I will.  Promise."

"Thank you."

With a final hug, the twins pulled apart and Edward, reluctantly, headed back to the house without his brother and his sister-in-law.



St. Genesius' Community Theatre's lobby was brimming with laughter, giddy chatting, and enticing aromas.

For the first time in months, the Friends of all ages were together.

Most of them.  Only Caleb and Lacey were missing.

"Edward!" Zeke approached and pulled the man into his embrace.  "How are you this fine evening?"

Edward smiled and patted Zeke's back.

"Pretty good.  And you?"

"Wonderful!  So excited to finally get back to live performances!  And having everyone together..."  Zeke's eyes misted.  But then his face clouded.  "Hey, where are Caleb and Lacey?"

Edward cleared his throat.

"Oh, umm... they're not coming.  Lacey isn't feeling well.  Caleb stayed behind to take care of her."

"Good man!"  Zeke glanced over at his own wife who had commandeered little Amelia and was cooing at her.

"Dad..."  Hailey approached and took her father's arm then smiled at Edward.  "Hey, Edward!"

"Hi Hailey!  So good to see you!  I wasn't sure if you and your sister were going to be here.  Glad you are!" 

"Me too!  And, yeah, my subbing stint in New Jersey ended so I'm back home now.  Probably will be for a while!  Everything's so expensive and besides..."  She kissed her father's cheek, causing Zeke to smile proudly.  "I missed my family.  Anyway...  Sorry to interrupt.  I need to borrow my dad.  He needs to settle a debate.  Sy is insisting that when we were little, I was the one who freaked out whenever we went to the zoo and saw the gorillas.  I swear it was him!"

"It was him," Zeke confirmed.  He chuckled and patted Edward's shoulder.  "Guess I'll go settle that."

Edward smiled and nodded.

"Guess so.  We'll catch up more later."


As Hailey led her father away, Edward scanned the room.  Joshua was standing with Isolde and Marco, helping to divvy up the pizzas and breadsticks they'd brought.  Edward wondered if he should speak to him about Caleb.

Before he could decide, Zadie approached and squeezed his arm.

"Babe, I got us some pizza.  Come eat.  It would do you good," she encouraged.  "And, besides, Etta's making such a disaster of her slice that it's gonna take two of us to clean her up."

Edward laughed.

"Oh boy...  And, yeah, pizza sounds good."

Edward glanced once more at Joshua who caught his gaze and smiled gently.

He knew.  Of course he knew.  But why wasn't he doing anything?


"This pepperoni is delicious," Roger praised.  "I'm going to go grab another slice.  Anything for anyone else?" he asked the table which was comprised of Loreena, the archbishop, Mason, Renee, Kyle, and Ana-Maria.

"Maybe another breadstick?" Kyle requested.

"For me, too?" Renee asked.  "Actually... maybe two?  Baby is hungry."

Mason patted his wife's belly.

"I think he or she inherited my loves of carbs."

"I think so!  I was never that obsessed with bread but lately..."  Renee smiled and shrugged.

"More breadsticks on the way!" Roger promised.

"How have you been feeling, Renee?" Loreena asked in between bites of her pizza.

"Ya know, I get tired a lot more easily than usual.  But otherwise good!  The morning sickness has passed, thank God."

Loreena noted Renee smiling across the room at Joshua.  It seemed slightly odd but she supposed it wasn't entirely since they were used to him portraying God.

"It must feel so cool.  Feeling a tiny little person growing inside of you," Ana-Maria murmured.

Renee smiled and nodded.

"It really is.  I can't wait til I can really feel them move and kick.  I can a bit now.  Just barely."

"I can't wait..."  Ana-Maria's face flushed.  "I, umm, didn't mean to say that out loud."

Kyle laughed.

"A wedding might be nice first."

"Wedding?" Roger asked as he returned and set a plate of breadsticks down.  "And Joshua said to just take a bunch so... here you go."

"I suppose we should set a date."  Kyle squeezed his fiancee's hand.  "Now that COVID isn't quite the threat it was.  Maybe after we're done with the show?"

Ana-Maria beamed.

"I would love that.  Actually...  Emma had shown me photos of her and Peter's wedding here and it was so beautiful.  Maybe..."

Kyle brought her hand to his lips.

"I'd love that."

Tony clapped enthusiastically.

"Finally!  I mean... don't get me wrong...  I completely understood not wanting to get married when your guest list would have to be so limited.  But I was growing a bit anxious.  I'm not getting any younger, you know.  And I'd love to be there."

Kyle hugged his uncle.

"You're not going any where any time soon, Uncle Tony.  But, yeah, no sense waiting any longer.  You just never know..."  His voice faded away.  While COVID had, thankfully, never breached El-Chanan to any extent, he had accompanied both Fr. Mike and his uncle when they'd ministered to the grieving and dying in New York.  Kyle didn't want to waste any more time.

Tony pulled out his phone.

"April 23rd is the first Saturday after Easter.  Thoughts?"

Ana-Maria laughed.

"I mean... I certainly have no objections."

Kyle smiled at his bride-to-be.

"None here."

Tony punched a few buttons.


"Can we announce it!?  Can we announce it?!" Mason prodded.

"Is everyone here invited?" Renee checked.

"Of course!" Ana-Maria and Kyle responded in unison.

"Uncle Tony, you do the honors.  Mason, you get everyone's attention," Kyle directed.

Mason began to beat on the table then shouted.

"Hear ye, hear ye!  The most honorable Archbishop Anthony Merriman has an announcement!"

Everyone turned to look at their table, expectant smiles on their faces.

Tony chuckled and got to his feet.

"Beloved friends...  It is my absolute honor to announce that my dear, dear nephew, Kyle, and his lovely fiancee, Ana-Maria, have set a wedding date.  While many details remain to be sorted out... your presence is requested on Saturday, April 23rd."

The crowd erupted in applause and cheers.

The color suddenly disappeared from Kyle's face.

"Wait...  my parents and siblings."  He looked to Ana-Maria.  "And your family!  We need to make sure the date..."

"Already reserved on their calendars.  I told them I was planning a function and needed them present," Tony explained with a cheeky grin. 

Ana-Maria burst out laughing.

"You planned this, Uncle Tony!"

The archbishop shrugged.

"I did.  But then you walked right into it on your own.  I didn't even have to broach the subject."

Loreena laughed.  She had only met the archbishop a handful of times and liked him.  But now she loved him.

While the majority of the Friends clustered around to congratulate the couple, a small contingent remained near the food table and it quickly became clear why.

The group, with Kylie and Joshua in front, raised their cups as Tess hurried to the piano and familiar notes began.

Kyle and Ana-Marie laughed and embraced each other.

"'A toast to the groom,'" Kylie sang as the rest of the group echoed her.  "'To the bride.'"

Joshua took over.

"'From your... brother,'" he sang with misty eyes.  "'Who is always by your side.'"

"Oh..."  Ana-Maria murmured as she rested her head on her fiance's shoulder.

"'To your union,'" Andrew toasted.

"'To the union... to the... revolution?'" the others sang, laughing at the lyrics they'd not quite had time to tailor.

"'And the hope that you provide,'" Emma continued.

"'May you always... be satisfied,'" Peter concluded.

Tess finished on the piano with a flourish before a new round of applause and cheers sounded.

As Kyle and Ana-Maria took in all the love and support, Loreena's eyes filled with tears.  She felt such warmth and love even though she hadn't properly met everyone.  She didn't even know if they knew about her.  She didn't think it likely that Joshua, JenniAnn, or anyone at her table would have told the others behind her back.  So probably they didn't know she was transgender.  A familiar melancholy stirred in her heart.  She felt she could be accepted here... but would that be true if she were honest with them all?

Then she saw them, standing beside a very blonde man holding what appeared to be a miniature wedding cake.  They had vibrant red hair that cascaded halfway down their back in gorgeous waves.  Over some skin tight black jeans they wore a tunic Loreena recognized.  She knew it was JenniAnn's because she'd seen the woman wear it before.  She'd admired it herself... a deep black with red and white flowers embroidered down the center.  The person wearing it was beautiful and, Loreena suspected, assigned male at birth.  But no one seemed the least put off by their feminine-leaning appearance.

Aziraphale and Crowley approached the happy couple.

"For you!" the angel presented the cake with a flourish.

"Thank you!" Kyle hugged Aziraphale and Crowley.  "How did you get that so quickly?"

"Magic," Aziraphale replied with a wink.

"It's so beautiful!" Ana-Maria gushed.  "And this beautiful lily..."

"One of my own," Crowley explained.  "We're very happy for you."

Hearing the stranger's voice, Loreena's suspicions were confirmed.

"Can I see the flower, please?" a small voice asked.

Loreena watched as Crowley scooped Avi up so he could have a better view.

"Nice," the boy admired.  He patted Crowley's cheek.  "Good job."

Crowley beamed.

"Thank you.  I have an extra pot at home.  I'll give it to you if you'll promise to take care of it?"

Avi's face lit up.

"I promise!"

While trying not to be too obvious, Loreena studied this exchange... and the complete lack of reaction from anyone else.  With all the disgusting propaganda out there, she was always so careful... so distant... with children. 

Crowley caught Loreena staring at him.  He smiled and held his hand out.

"Crowley and you are..."

Blushing, Loreena shook his hand.

"Loreena... she/her."

Crowley's smile grew.

"He/him.  For now."

Loreena felt the pit in her stomach begin to unwind.

Roger approached and rested a hand on Loreena's arm.

"Oh good!  You've met Crowley.  Crowley's an old friend of Joshua's."

"Very old.  We go way back.  Along with my partner.  Aziraphale, meet Loreena.  Loreena, Aziraphale."

"So pleased to meet you, my dear!"


"Loreena, as soon as we're done eating, I'll finish introducing you around," Roger offered.

"Thanks, Roger!"

Feeling less uneasy and more excited by the prospect, Loreena returned to her meal, smiling happily.


By the time the group moved into the theatre proper to deal with the business of putting on the show, Loreena had been introduced to everyone.  Thus, she was as excited as the rest of them to see what casting decisions were made.

While almost everyone was settled into the seats, Andrew, Joshua, Emma, and Peter stood on the stage.  The latter spoke first.

"I just want to start off by saying how glad Emma and I are to see all of you back here and new faces, too!  It's going to be so amazing to be able to work together again!"

The group cheered.

"That being said..." Andrew continued, "We realize that there's been a lot of change since the last time we did this.  We... all of us... completely understand if anyone needs to scale back their roles or even drop out entirely.  We just ask you to be honest about that."

"I'll be doing that myself," Emma offered, a hand rested over her distended belly.  "I'm due the week after Easter so... I'm really grateful that Ivy has agreed to split Mary Magdalene with me."

"Go Ivy!" Sy shouted as the others clapped.

"Thank you," the young woman murmured shyly.

"And Eric has kindly agreed to split Peter's role with me," Peter added.

There was another round of applause for Eric.

"Zeke and I will continue with our roles for all performances," Joshua announced, drawing the most thunderous applause yet.  "As will Adam as Pontius Pilate."

After another wave of applause, Peter chuckled and shook his head.

"Maybe let's just do one very long round of applause at the end?" he suggested... to applause. 

"Max, what have you decided about Simon?" Andrew asked.

Max stood up.

"Well...  Rose and I have talked it over."  He smiled at his seated wife.  "And we really don't want to leave the kids on all of those nights... especially when their Gamma and Grampy are going to be here, too.  So...  we were hoping maybe we could rotate nights.  Like, say, I play Simon on Thursday and am off Friday while she comes here to be in the chorus.  Would that be okay?"

"Absolutely.  Completely understandable," Andrew assured.  "So... anyone willing to take the female chorus role on Rose's off nights?  No solos."

The group was quiet for a few moments before Isra stood, seemingly prodded by Behnam.

"You have such a lovely voice!  More than the children and I deserve to hear it, my star," he encouraged.

"Isra... we'd love to have you," Andrew invited.  "If you could maybe sing a little something for us.  Even just a few bars."

Her face flushed, Isra scrambled to think of a song.

"Umm...  umm...  'When You Believe'?  From Prince of Egypt?" she requested.

"You got it, baby."  Tess smiled at the woman then began to play.

Isra closed her eyes, blocking out the group as she began.

"'Many nights we've prayed... with no proof, anyone could hear.  In our hearts a hopeful song we barely understood...'"

Isra's eyes opened and she peered at Joshua who smiled proudly at her and nodded with encouragement.  The woman's voice settled and strengthened.

"'Now, we are not afraid.  Although we know there's much to fear.  We were moving mountains, long before we knew we could.'"

Seated to her sister's other side, Salma squeezed her hand.  When Isra gently tugged, she stood and began to sing along with her.  The sisters' voice melded together beautifully.

"'There can be miracles when you believe.  Though hope is frail, it's hard to kill.  Who knows what miracles you can achieve?  When you believe, somehow you will.  You will when you believe...'"

Their nerves calmed, the two sang the complete song together.  When it came to an end, everyone applauded the sisters.

"Isra... I think you're more than capable of being in the chorus!" Andrew enthused.  "And Salma, if you'd like, we'd love to have you join, too."

"Thank you," Isra blushed and hugged first her sister then Behnam, whispering thanks to him for pushing her.

"I would adore that," Salma accepted.  "Thank you."

"Absolutely wonderful!" Joshua praised.  "Such beautiful voices, Isra and Salma.  I'm so pleased!"  He beamed at them then surveyed the group.  "And now... we need someone who can sing with an edge to help Max out with Simon.  Any takers?"

Roger stood up.

"Not me.  But I would like to nominate Mason."

Mason startled and looked to Roger in shock.

"But I'm just here to hang out!"

"Maybe that was your plan but... I've heard you at karaoke.  You have a stellar voice!"

"He's right, baby," Renee agreed.

"I... I don't know..."  He sighed and looked around frantically.  Then his eyes locked on Joshua.  "Could I have a few moments with Joshua?"

"Of course!" Joshua agreed and motioned Mason onto the stage.

The two conferred and then Joshua nodded and moved backstage.  When he returned, he had his guitar.

"So since Simon's song is sung to Jesus about what he wishes Jesus could do, Mason and I are gonna do a duet.  An edgy duet," Joshua explained.

Peter pulled over a stool so Mason could sit beside Joshua who had began to strum.

"So, umm, we're doing 'Father and Son' by Yusuf/Cat Stevens."  Mason sucked in a deep breath then smiled over at Joshua who began to sing.

"'It's not time to make a change.  Just relax, take it easy.  You're still young, that's your fault.  There's so much you have to know...'"

As Joshua continued to sing the father's part, Mason worked himself into something of a frenzy before spitting out his stanza.

"'How can I try to explain? 'Cause when I do he turns away again!  It's always been the same, same old story!  From the moment I could talk I was ordered to listen...  Now there's a way and I know that I have to go away.  I know I have to go!'"

When the song ended, Joshua hugged Mason tightly.

"You okay?" he asked before releasing him.

Mason wiped at his eyes and nodded.

"Yeah... yeah.  Just kinda took me back.  But it felt good.  Singing with you."  He smiled at Joshua. 

"Well... I don't think anyone here needs any more convincing!" Andrew clapped Mason on the back.  "You got it!  You and Max can figure out your schedules."

"Sounds good!"  Mason hugged Joshua again then joined Max and Rose so they could work things out.

Andrew checked his notes.

"So...  Shane's returning as Herod.  Eli and Henry will continue to play Caiaphas and Annas, respectively.  Violeta's going to play Mary of Nazareth, right?"

"Yeah," Violeta answered from her seat beside JenniAnn.

"Crowley will be taking over as the Angel of Gethsemane."

Surprised, Loreena looked over at him.  She was touched to see Aziraphale gently stroking his back.  Joshua smiled at him with tender fondness.

"Monica is staying on but focusing on costumes," Andrew continued.

"Happily!" Monica chirped.  "Very pleased to be passing the role along to a fellow redhead."

Crowley smiled at her and gave her a gracious nod.

"Edward...  Where's..."  Andrew scanned the seats.  "There you are Edward!  Are you still in for Roman #1 and Joseph of Arimathea?"

"Umm.  Yeah.  Yeah, definitely."

"What about Caleb?  Do you know?"

"I... I do.  He, umm, he's sitting out this year."

There were murmurs of surprise.

Edward studied Joshua's face.  He didn't appear to be surprised... only sad.

"Oh."  Andrew frowned.  "Okay.  Well, I'm sorry to hear that.  Do you think I should talk to him or..."

"I think his mind is made up," Edward pressed.

"All right.  So... anyone for Roman 2/Nicodemus?"

Edward looked around, slightly anxious.  Someone had to help him with the scourging scene and he hoped it would be someone he was relatively close to.

"I could do it."

Relieved, Edward turned around to see Kyle had stood up.  Kyle, Tony, and their family often visited the Romano Family Farm and he liked the younger man a lot.  Edward smiled at him.

Kyle warmly returned the smile.

After a brief rendition of "Some Enchanted Evening" directed to a blushing, enamored Ana-Maria, Kyle was taken up on his offer.

"Awesome!" Andrew cheered.  "We have several chorus spots to fill but the last character with a full song is Claudia Pilate.  Kylie... what are you thinking?"

Kylie handed Maisy to Clay then stood up.

"Adam and I have been talking... and Clay, too, of course... and I still really, really want to participate.  But... I just don't think I want to be away from the kids so much.  So... I was hoping maybe I could do an every other night thing, too?  If anyone wants to share, I mean?"

"Anyone?" Andrew questioned.

"Ana-Maria, you can sing, can't you?" Emma asked.

Ana-Maria's face flushed.

"Oh...  Umm...  Yeah.  But I was thinking maybe more of a chorus role, if I could.  And... and maybe every other show with that, too.  I mean... I have a wedding to plan and..."

"Of course!"  Emma laughed.  "Sorry, pregnancy brain.  No, that totally makes sense.  And, yes, we'd love to have you in the chorus part-time.  So... anyone else?  Joccy?  Brittony?  Shelby?  I know you three mentioned maybe being in the chorus.  So..."

Andrew's eyes went wide and he shook his head.

Adam started sputtering.

Shelby wrinkled her nose.

"I mean no offense but... I... I just really don't want to pretend to be married to Adam.  It's kinda... weird and incestuous.  He's like my uncle."

"I mean they did do that.  The Romans, I mean," Crowley deadpanned.  "But no."

"Besides," Shelby continued, "I really have more of a chorus voice."

"Same," Joccy echoed.  "And... I was kinda hoping to just be in the chorus with Takoda."

"Assuming we get in, she means," Takoda clarified.

Andrew chuckled.

"I've heard you both sing while washing dishes.  I see no problems there.  So... Brittony?"

Brittony looked to Adam.

"I mean you're great, Adam, but... yeah, I'd like to stick in the chorus with Eliot.  It's like... date night for us."

Adam chuckled.

"No one needs to feel bad!  I'm not taking it personally.  It's Pilate.  Not me.  Although...  Shelby, I would step down if you want a shot.  Someone else could play Pilate some..."

"Nope!  I'm really, really happy just to be considered for the chorus.  Besides, you're an awesome Pilate."

"He is," Andrew averred, smiling at his buddy.  "So... any other ideas?"

Joshua nodded.

"I have a suggestion.  But I'd like to confer with someone first."

"Of course!"  Andrew smiled, relieved that Joshua had someone in mind.

Joshua jumped off the stage, causing those nearby to clap over his clean landing.

"Oh, sure, when he does it it's cool," Eric teased.

Joshua burst out laughing and hugged the man.

"Good one."

"I thought so."

Joshua chuckled again then headed towards Loreena.

"So... I've heard you sing before.  I think you'd be perfect."

Loreena's eyes went wide.  When had Joshua heard her sing?  Maybe when he was living in the apartment?

"I... Joshua, then you know my voice...  My singing voice... it... it's sometimes deeper than I'd like."

"I think it's beautiful.  Please.  Just... give it a try?"

Roger patted Loreena's shoulder.

"I second Joshua's request."

"I'll third it," Tony piped up.

Loreena laughed nervously.

"Well then... okay, I guess."  She drew in and let out a deep breath then looked to Tess.  "'Send in the Clowns', please.  In honor of Mr. Sondheim."

"Beautiful choice, baby," Tess complimented before turning to the piano and beginning to play.

"'Isn't it rich?  Are we a pair?  Me here at last on the ground, you in mid-air.  Send in the clowns...  Isn't it bliss?  Don't you approve?  One who keeps tearing around.  One who can't move.  Where are the clowns?  Send in the clowns...'"

Joshua stumbled into a seat, tears welling in his eyes.  He remembered a younger Loreena singing this song to her mother who adored it... desperately seeking her approval.

Loreena's voice strengthened.

"'Just when I stopped opening doors, finally knowing the one that I wanted was yours.  Making my entrance again with my usual flair... sure of my lines...  No one is there.'"

Roger reached for Loreena's hand as tears began to streak down her face.

"'Don't you love a farce?  My fault, I fear.  I thought that you'd want what I want.  Sorry, my dear.  But where are the clowns?  Quick, send in the clowns...  Don't bother.  They're here.'"

Loreena swiped at her face and smiled to assure everyone she was okay as she finished.

"'Isn't it rich?  Isn't it queer?  Losing my timing this late in my career.  And where are the clowns?  There ought to be clowns.  Well... maybe next year...'"

There was silence for a few moments.  Loreena's heart began to pound in her chest. 

Then the applause broke out. 

Roger squeezed Loreena's hand and beamed at her.

Joshua handed her a handkerchief and when Loreena wiped her eyes, she realized that several of the others were wiping at their own eyes and blinking back tears.

Andrew stepped off the stage and approached Adam, whispering something to him.  The elder angel of death nodded then approached Loreena.

"Loreena... would you do me the honor of being my pretend part-time wife?" he requested.

Loreena laughed and gave him an enthusiastic nod.

"I would love that.  Yes!  Thank you!  All of you."

Joshua approached and hugged Loreena.

"Thank you.  Truly.  It meant a lot to me to hear that."

Loreena rested her head on Joshua's shoulder, marveling at how safe she felt.


As the evening progressed, the rest of the chorus filled out.  At Joshua's request, Jeff, Tyson, and Tim were leaving the next day to establish their emergency infant care project in Poland.  Their roles were taken up by Takoda, Behnam, and Christopher.  Excited by the prospect of spending more time with her boyfriend, the latter casting decision prompted Amala to volunteer to help Monica with costumes.  Cira and Crystal decided they were too busy with their work at the Phoenix to participate full-time and opted to help out backstage as needed.  Thus, Joccy took over the role of Abigail while Salma was cast as Adah.  When Kemara opted out over concerns about risking COVID exposure for her little ones, Ana-Maria and Shelby agreed to split the role of Joanna.  Sy and Arthur had agreed to split the role of John so the latter could enjoy some family time on his off-nights.  The rest of the cast, crew, and orchestra reclaimed their roles.

Andrew exhaled deeply.

"We did it!" he cheered. 

The crowd clapped and cheered along with him.

"We'll start rehearsals on Wednesday.  I'll work on the full schedule tomorrow so be sure to check your emails," Andrew directed.  "And now... we're adjourned for the night.  Thanks, everyone!  So glad to see you all!"

Over the next several minutes, the Friends all said their good byes and headed back to their homes.  For Joshua, that meant heading to Willowveil with Andrew and JenniAnn and their household.  By the time they arrived, both Belle and Avi were asleep and being carried by Andrew and Joshua.

"Do you want me to get him changed or is he okay to sleep in his clothes?" Joshua asked as he headed towards the stairs with Avi.

"His clothes are comfy enough," JenniAnn replied before kissing the boy's hair.  "Thank you."

"Of course."

"I'll get Belle tucked in, too."  Andrew carefully shifted her in his arms then followed Joshua.

JenniAnn let out a contented sigh.

"It really was so good to see everyone.  Oh, thank you."  She smiled at Marty who took her coat. 

"My pleasure."

"I'm so excited to be part of it this year!" Joccy gushed.

"Me too," Shelby agreed.  "Although very relieved I don't have to be fake-married to Adam."

JenniAnn laughed and hugged the girl.

"Sweetie, that was never gonna happen.  Emma just wasn't thinking straight.  I feel for her.  I was never even pregnant but just all the prep and planning that comes with babies can make a person a little frazzled without even figuring in hormonal changes.  I remember once, shortly after we adopted Belle, I signed something and misspelled my own name."

"And that's just one reason I am perfectly happy to only ever be an aunt!" Shelby asserted.

"Will you be going to all of the rehearsals, JenniAnn?" Marty asked.

"Oh...  I dunno.  Definitely as we get closer to opening night.  But, yeah, maybe all of them depending on what's going on with the kids.  My parents, Vincent and Catherine, and Raquel and Nico are all hoping Andrew and I make ourselves scarce, I think, so they can babysit.  Why?"

"Just for planning purposes."


Joccy, Takoda, Violeta, and Shelby all exchanged awkward, hesitant looks.  Sandy let out a soft sigh.

"Hey, so, I think Joc and I are gonna head to bed." Takoda announced.

Joccy yawned.

"Yeah... so tired suddenly."

"And Shel and I are gonna head to our room," Violeta added.  "Joshua said he'll help us hang shelves and stuff while he's here!"

"Okay, sounds good.  G'night, all!"  JenniAnn hugged the four before they headed off, leaving her with Marty and Sandy.  She gently squeezed Marty's right hand before speaking.  "I'd love for you to be at rehearsals, Marty.  And you, too, Sandy.  But only if you want to be.  Andrew and I... we'll be fine.  Crowley and Aziraphale will be there.  On the nights the orchestra is around, Gabe and Freya will be, too.  And, most importantly, Joshua will be there.  Surely no demon would come near us when the Son of God is right there."

"But he's limited in his current state," Marty pressed.

"Yes.  Which means he's just not omnipotent.  Or... not consciously omnipotent.  Still not entirely sure how that works.  But..."  JenniAnn used her most gentle tone.  "Marty, he's still more powerful than you.  We'll be fine."

"Like I said..." Sandy murmured.

"Still..."  Marty bowed his head.

JenniAnn hugged him.

"I don't think you need to be there to protect us.  I really, really don't.  But... I think you should be there.  I think it would be good for you.  A nice distraction, hmm?  I mean... I know it'll be heavy at times.  Especially for you angels who remember.  But it really is fun.  And , Sandy, we'd love to have you, too."

"Thank you!  I do adore being around all those talented, artsy people."

Marty smiled and nodded.  He felt relief that JenniAnn wasn't upset and was encouraging Sandy's presence.  He would be good company for the rougher bits.

"Now... I'm going to change into some comfy pajamas but I'm quite wired after tonight so... care to join me for some tea in the ballroom?  I'll ask Andrew and Joshua."

"We'd love that.  I'll start the pot," Marty offered.

"Thank you!" JenniAnn called back as she headed to the staircase.

Once at the top, she ran into Andrew and Joshua who were exiting Avi's and Belle's rooms.

"Hey!  I'm just gonna change but then Marty, Sandy, and I were gonna meet in the ballroom for tea.  They're getting it ready.  Interested?" she invited.

"Absolutely," Joshua agreed.

"Same."  Andrew nodded.  "But, yeah, I'd like to change first, too." 

"I'll see you both down there.  I'll go help the boys."  Joshua smiled at the couple then left.

Andrew and JenniAnn entered their room and grabbed their pajamas.  They talked as they changed, JenniAnn in the bathroom and Andrew remaining in their bedroom.

"So what do you think about how the casting turned out?" the angel inquired.

"So happy and excited!  Especially for Loreena.  That meant so much to her!  Still a lil concerned about Crowley.  And... really concerned about Caleb."

Andrew frowned as he pulled on his flannel pants.

"Me too.  You figure it's because of them not getting pregnant yet?"

"I do... unfortunately.  I mean it would be hard to deal with... especially with Renee and Emma being pregnant.  And I have my suspicions about Neela... just something Eric said about being glad to only be part-time so he could help Neela out more around the house given...  He cut off then.  Not sure, though.  Anyway...  I mean... I can remember feeling those pangs of longing pre-kids... even when I wasn't trying to conceive."

"And I can remember feeling badly that I... I couldn't give that to you."

Changed, JenniAnn stepped out of the bathroom and hugged Andrew before helping to button up his top.

"But then you did... just not in the most typical way.  I keep praying something will work out for Caleb and Lacey."  She shook her head.  "And I just really hope it doesn't take a toll on their marriage.  They're so perfect for each other."

"They are."  Andrew's face clouded.  He'd seen more than one marriage dissolve under the strain of infertility.  And he'd seen others come to the brink. 

"Do you think Joshua will go see them?"

Andrew sighed and dragged a hand through his hair.

"I mean... he'd want to.  Of course he'd want to.  But he couldn't push them.  They'd have to want to see him."

"He... he could heal them.  He's done it before.  I mean... obviously.  Lots of healings.  But I know it's happened at least twice just in the time he's been in the show.  Diana and Zeke.  Then that other couple...  Remember.  Ivy, Kemara, and Violeta met them when they went to Wicked with Joshua."

Andrew nodded.

"Talita and Milo?  Does that sound right?"

"Yes!  He helped them so..."

"Yes.  And maybe he'll do the same for Caleb and Lacey.  But maybe... maybe he'll do something like he did for us.  Miracles don't always look the same."

"True."  JenniAnn leaned up for a kiss.  "And ours are perfect."

Andrew smiled and returned her kiss.

"Maybe more perfectly imperfect.  Perfect doesn't wake their parents up at 2:30 AM, screaming because she realized she shares a name with a possessed doll and demanding to be called Dora."

JenniAnn giggled, remembering an unfortunate side effect of Belle happening upon her older siblings watching one of The Conjuring movies earlier that week.

"As pretty of a name as Dora is, I'm glad we were able to reason with her and get her to see she was named after us, Belle from Beauty and the Beast, and Badriya... not a possessed doll."  JenniAnn laughed once more then sobered, resting her forehead against Andrew's shoulder.  "I want that for Caleb and Lacey..."

Andrew kissed her hair.

"Me too.  We'll pray about it, okay?"

JenniAnn nodded and laced her fingers through Andrew's as he spoke.

"Father... Joshua... please extend Your healing grace to our friends, Caleb and Lacey.  Give them the support and love they need to help them through this trial.  And, if it be Your will, please grant them the desire of their hearts.  Amen."


Andrew squeezed JenniAnn's hands before releasing them.

"Ready to go get that tea?"

Struck for a moment by the oddness of knowing the God they'd just prayed to was downstairs waiting for tea, it took a moment for JenniAnn to respond.

"Yeah.  Yeah, let's head down."

Andrew smiled, seemingly reading his anam cara's mind.

"The mystery and awe of it never entirely wears off.  Not in decades... not in eons."

JenniAnn returned his smile.

"I'm glad."

Hand-in-hand, the two made their way to the ballroom.


Taking Measure

Monday, January 31st, 2022

After finishing up at her office, Loreena made her way to St. Genesius'.  Though rehearsals were still two days off, Monica had requested she stop in for costume measurements. 

Loreena felt a bit self-conscious.  She knew some of the others were sharing costumes.  But she was easily a foot taller than Kylie.

When they'd spoken about it on the phone, Kylie had laughed it off.

"Don't worry about it!  I'm shorter than most everyone I know...  Ethan's been taller than me for as long as I've known him and I know I only have a year or two before Ryan bests me.  Besides, Adam's going to be relieved to play against someone he doesn't have to hunch over to make eye contact with."

Her words and general levity had put Loreena at ease... mostly. 

Loreena knocked on the door to St. Genesius' office and it was almost instantly thrown open.

"Loreena, welcome!"

"Joshua!  I didn't know you'd be here."  Loreena smiled at him as he ushered her inside.

"Andrew, Peter, and I decided we'd better inspect the stage.  It's been a couple of years since we've done a full-blown production on it so... safety first."

"And how does it look?"

"Great!  We sanded down a couple of spots where the floorboards warped a bit but other than that..."

"Oh!  Oh!  Look at you...  Oh, Crowley..."

Joshua and Loreena exchanged curious looks upon hearing Aziraphale's exclamation.

"Let's just go see what that's about, hmm?" Joshua suggested.

Laughing, Loreena followed him and nodded.

Once backstage, the two found Aziraphale in teary rapture as he beheld his anam cara, dressed in an immaculate white robe as JenniAnn fussed with his hair.

Crowley glared into a full-length mirror.

Loreena looked over to Joshua who was misty-eyed.

"Don't know about thisss..."

Aziraphale grabbed Crowley's hand and squeezed it. 

JenniAnn looped a metal belt around Crowley's waist.

"Stop holding your breath, Crowley," she directed.

The watcher relaxed.

"There we go..."  JenniAnn secured the belt, the end of which hung halfway down Crowley's right thigh, decorated with a collection of golden sun, moon, and star charms.

"This is yours," Crowley murmured.

JenniAnn nodded.

"Yes.  But you can use it for the show.  It'll look lovely when the light hits it during the show.  You look lovely."

"You do, my dear," Aziraphale praised, stroking Crowley's back.

Crowley spotted Joshua in the mirror.  His face began to crumble.

"Excuse me for a few moments," Joshua murmured, touching Loreena's shoulder before going to Crowley and pulling him into a hug.

"There now, love... there now," Aziraphale cooed.

JenniAnn, with tears in her own eyes, approached Loreena.

"Best to leave them for a bit.  You're here to see Monica and Amala, right?"

Loreena tore her gaze away from the scene in front of her and nodded.

"Yeah... I am."

"They're on the other side.  I'll show you."

Loreena followed JenniAnn as she walked onto the stage.

"Is he all right?  Crowley, I mean?"

JenniAnn nodded.

"He is.  And he'll be even better in time.  He and Joshua... they just have a lot of history.  This will be emotional for them both but good, I think."

"How long have you known Crowley and Aziraphale?"

"Hmm...  We met shortly before the pandemic so... a lil over two years now."  JenniAnn smiled fondly. 

"And where's that cousin of mine?" a voice sounded from the back of the theatre.

JenniAnn turned away from Loreena then bolted off the stage.


Loreena watched with amusement as the two met halfway down the aisle.  They embraced, the big man briefly lifting JenniAnn off the ground.

"I'm so glad you're here!" JenniAnn exclaimed.  "I wasn't sure if..."

"Of course I'd be here.  Whether I had anything to do or not.  But since Kemara is taking a step back, I said I'd help Roger with promotion."

"Aww, good!"  JenniAnn looked back to the stage and smiled at Loreena before leading John that way.  "John, I want you to meet Loreena.  She's splitting the Claudia role with Kylie.  Loreena, this is John Aaronson, Joshua's cousin."

Loreena held out her hand which John warmly shook.

"Very glad to meet you, Loreena!  I believe you shared an apartment building with my baby cousin at one point?"

JenniAnn laughed.

"John is six months older than Joshua... and very proud of it," she explained.

"As he should be!" Loreena grinned at the new arrival and nodded.  "And, yeah, we did.  Back when he was living with Mason."


Loreena cocked her head.

"You look so familiar to me..."

"You may have seen John around town.  But I also know he was in that photo you asked me about... during the worst of the pandemic.  When Joshua was helping out.  John was the man with him," JenniAnn related.

"Oh!  That must be it.  Because that did startle me.  I was worried for Joshua.  Thank you for what the both of you did.  Such a scary time."  Loreena shook her head at the memories.

"It was important for us to help out in any way we could."  John was quiet for a few moments before brightening.  "And now I'm looking forward to helping with something much more heartening.  Where is Joshua?"

"Near the office.  Crowley had his costume fitting and, well... there were feelings," JenniAnn explained.

"Naturally.  I think I'll go check on them."  John smiled at the two women.  "Loreena, good to meet you.  JenniAnn, we'll catch up soon."

"Sounds great!" 

Once John was gone, JenniAnn returned her attention to Loreena.  "And now to get you to Monica and Amala so they can..."

Loreena reached out and set a hand on JenniAnn's arm.

"Before that...  I just...  Everyone knows, right?  About me being trans?" she checked.

"I'm not actually sure," JenniAnn replied.  "But I know everyone was on board with you joining the show so..."

"It's just...  Word's going to get out.  After my first performance if not before.  And given the subject of the show..."  Loreena frowned.  "Well, there could be backlash.  Ugly backlash.  And... I'm used to that but the rest of you..."

JenniAnn looked to the woman with sympathy.

"There could be, unfortunately," she acknowledged.  "But there was backlash over Joshua.  Really ugly backlash.  Graffiti.  Threatening calls.  Some literal cult members showed up.  All because Andrew dared to hire a Middle Eastern Jewish man to play a Middle Eastern Jewish man."

"Good Lord..."

"Yeah...  But we didn't back down then and, if it happens, we still won't back down.  You got the part fair and square.  And you'll be great, Loreena!  I know it's easy for me to say but... it'll be okay.  No matter what, we stick together."

Loreena slowly let out the breath she'd been holding.

"Besides, Jesus hand-picked you so... nobody knows better than him."

Laughing, Loreena nodded.

"That's true!"

JenniAnn wished Loreena could know she wasn't joking.  Maybe soon, she prayed.

"So... you ready to go see Monica and Amala?"

"Sure!  I'm actually feeling pretty excited now!"

"Yay!  I'm so glad.  Then right this way!"

JenniAnn led Loreena to a curtained off area on the other side of the stage. 

Nearby, Amala was sorting through some fabric.

"Oh good!  You're here!" the teenager greeted Loreena with a smile.  "Ooh and, JenniAnn, I have a question for you later."

"Cool, come find me after you're done here."

"Hullo, JenniAnn!  Hullo, Loreena!"  Monica smiled in greeting.  "Loreena, if you want to step inside our little makeshift room here..."

Loreena looked back once more at JenniAnn who gave her an encouraging smile and thumbs up.

"Sure," she agreed.

"I'm just gonna go check on Crowley but I'll be around for a bit yet," JenniAnn assured before leaving her friend in Amala's and Monica's capable hands.

"Well, the good thing for you is you get a comfortable costume!" Monica chirped.  "The Roman men... not quite so much."

"Kylie told me hers is as comfy as a nightgown," Loreena related.

"Hoping so!  Shall we begin?" Monica checked.

"Sounds good."

For a couple of minutes, there was only silence save Monica relaying measurements to Amala who dutifully jotted them down.

Once they were finished, the angel clapped her hands.

"And we're done!"  Monica smiled at Loreena.  "I think you'll love being part of the show!"

"I think I will, too!  You've been working on it for a while haven't you, Monica?"

"Oh, yes.  Ever since Joshua started performing.  Mainly in costumes.  But I was also the Angel of Gethsemane for a while."

"Why did you stop?  With being the angel, I mean?"

"A few reasons.  One, I think it's important Crowley have a go at it.  He was... born for the role," Monica said carefully.  "And, more personally, my partner, Arthur, works a lot of hours at True Light, the men's shelter he runs.  And we have a twelve-year-old son, Liam.  Evenings are often the only time we have together as a family, all three of us, so... I just didn't want to be apart from them on so many evenings."

"Understandable!  Amala, this is your first year, right?"

The girl nodded enthusiastically.

"Yup!  I'm studying fashion design... with a focus on sustainability.  So that's why I wanted to work on the show.  St. G's is big on reusing materials.  We get as much use as we can out of the bits of fabric and then when we're down to barely nothing left, we give that to JenniAnn for her mice to use for bedding."

Loreena laughed.

"JenniAnn has mice?  How have I missed this?  Somehow they never made an appearance in our many Zoom calls."

"JenniAnn has a mice army!  Andrew builds them these adorable little houses so they can stay warm and cozy all winter," Monica relayed.

Loreena smiled and shook her head.  Somehow that didn't surprise her.  She hadn't spent a great deal of time around Andrew... but enough to know that he was devoted to his "Laja."

"That's too cute!  But I better let you ladies go," Loreena said with reluctance.  "I'm sure someone else is due in soon."

"Not for another twenty or so minutes!" Amala chirped.  "So you're welcome to stay and chat with us.  Monica?"

"Absolutely!  Although first...  I could do with a bit of coffee, anyone else?" the angel checked.

"Sure, why not?" Loreena happily accepted.

The three made their way to the coffee pots and spent an enjoyable few minutes getting to know each other better.


On the other side of the theatre; Joshua, John, JenniAnn, and Aziraphale were all focused on cheering Crowley.

"I could use a drink..." the former demon muttered.

Joshua materialized a steaming mug.

"Here you go."

Crowley accepted it then scrunched his nose.

"No wine?"

"Nope.  The spiced milk will serve you better," Joshua insisted.

Crowley took a sip.  It did make him feel all warm and calm.

"Just took me back's all."

"Of course it did, dear boy!" Aziraphale cried, fussing with Crowley's hair.  "This...  Theatre is designed to pull on the heartstrings!  Make one's emotions go wild!"

"Just remember: We're here in 2022.  We're both doing well.  We both have people who love us very, very much," Joshua reminded.  "It doesn't take away all the pain of what happened back in Jerusalem... but it helps, Crowley.  It really does."

"Least you look better than you did then," Crowley mused, giving Joshua a slight smirk.

Joshua laughed.

"Yeah, well, access to a shower and a good mattress can do a lot for a person... not to mention having a very attentive host and hostess." 

JenniAnn squeezed Joshua's hand back when he grasped hers.  Then she returned her attention to Crowley.

"You're still talking with Jamie, right?"

Crowley nodded.

"Good.  Glad to hear it!  And, ya know, you're always welcome at Willowveil.  All three of you are.  Maybe it would help to just kinda be around Joshua when we're all just hanging out.  Speaking of... and not to distract from you, Crowley..."

"Nope.  Distract from me.  Please!"

JenniAnn patted his shoulder then continued.

"Thank you.  Anyway...  Loreena.  I can tell she's feeling a bit nervous.  I mean not terribly much.  But she did ask about how we'd handle things if people got out of line.  So I told her about that first year... with the graffiti and everything.  And about how we didn't back down."

"Good.  Because we won't back down this time either," Joshua stressed.

"Which is what I said.  But I'm just a little nervous that the more she talks to people, the more she'll realize that Andrew and I have had everyone else over to our place.  I don't want her to feel like we're keeping her at a distance.  Like our acceptance is only at a surface level.  But, well... she doesn't know Andrew's an angel, she doesn't know we live in another world, she still thinks Andrew and I were attacked by random criminals, and she definitely doesn't know who you are."  JenniAnn peered at Joshua.

"You're right to be concerned."  Joshua smiled gently at JenniAnn.  "She did used to read Narnia as a child... even spent a bit of time patting the backs of closets as many children do.  So...  The portal concept isn't foreign to her.  And she's definitely trustworthy.  I just don't want to throw too much at her at once and risk overwhelming her.  So... let's start with Willowveil.  John, you busy tomorrow morning?"

"Not unless you say I am."

Joshua laughed.

"All right.  You can help tomorrow at the castle.  We just need to move and hide anything that looks a little too... worshipful of me.  I don't want Loreena thinking I'm a cult leader.  We'll leave the angels and demons thing alone for now.  And as for who I am... she needs to come to that realization in her own time.  The only other thing I'd be concerned about her happening upon is your therapy group, JenniAnn and Aziraphale.  But she's usually working when you're doing that."

"And we can also keep the ballroom door closed.  In the unlikely event she would stop by then, I know she'd knock before entering and thus not hear anything she shouldn't," JenniAnn pointed out.

"Right," Joshua agreed.

"Don't you think she'll ask about the... how of the portal?" Crowley questioned.

"Yes.  But we'll just say God's mysteries never cease to amaze."  Joshua smiled at JenniAnn.  "I mean you've known about the portals for over half your life.  How do they work?"

JenniAnn laughed.

"I dunno!  Never really thought about the technical aspects.  Just, ya know, God's mysteries never cease to amaze," she quoted.

"Exactly."  Joshua hugged her.  "So that's the only answer any of you can give.  And it's the one I'll give, too.  Maybe letting her know I created the blue room one.  It'll ease her nerves.  No one really wants a long-winded explanation.  Maybe physicists.  But Loreena is not a physicist."

"The young lady will be far too interested in all there is to see in Asteriana.  I mean that library alone...  One could wile away hours... days... in there," Aziraphale mused.

"Which he knows from personal experience," Crowley teased.

JenniAnn patted the angel's shoulder.

"And we love having you, Aziraphale!"  She smiled at him then returned her attention to Joshua.  "So... when do we tell her?"

"How about inviting Loreena for brunch on Sunday?" Joshua suggested.  "Before rehearsals.  And Roger, too.  It'd be good for him to be there.  One more comfortable person.  Actually, Mason and Renee would be good to add, too.  Same reason.  We'll ask them to meet us here first so we can show Loreena the way... the way being the blue room."

"I love that idea!  And, Crowley and Aziraphale, you should come to.  And John you should get to know Roger more since he's helping with PR."

The three happily accepted their invitations then began to plan the menu. 

Joshua smiled as he listened, heartened particularly by the change in Crowley's demeanor.  His skittishness was gone and replaced by his usual sense of humor.

"When should we start?" he inquired.

"10:00?" JenniAnn suggested.

"That would fall during my afternoon nap but... I could make it work," Crowley agreed with a grin.  "Joshua?"

The carpenter nodded.

"Yeah.  10:00 would work.  I need to be somewhere at 8:00 but I'll be back by then."

JenniAnn noted a fleeting look of sadness on Joshua's face but didn't comment.  He'd tell her later if he wanted to.

"10:00 it is then!  Assuming that works for Loreena.  I'll ask her before I leave."

"Then it's a plan!"  Aziraphale clapped happily.

There was a knock at the office door.

JenniAnn glanced out the window.

"Joccy and Takoda for their measurements... and Marty."  She raised an eye brow before letting the trio in.

"Hi!" Joccy greeted, immediately rushing to Joshua and hugging him.

"Crowley...  You look awesome," Takoda complimented.

The watcher blushed.

"Thank you."

Marty stared.  For just a moment, his lower lip trembled.

Done with indulging his own emotions for the evening, Crowley looked away.

"What brings you here, Scribe?" he asked without meeting Marty's gaze.

Marty startled.

"I... wanted to see how things were going."

Joshua and JenniAnn exchanged a quick look.  The former smiled warmly.

"Great!  As it happens, I have a job for you, Marty.  We need a chronicler.  It'd be nice to have a sort of keepsake book for all the cast and crew." 

JenniAnn's eyes lit up.  Not only did she love the idea... but she welcomed having Marty consumed by something other than babysitting her and Andrew.

"I love that idea!" she gushed.  "It'd mean so much after having been apart for two years."

Marty nodded.

"It is a fine idea.  Thank you for thinking of me."

Joshua squeezed his hand.

"All the time."

Marty's lip trembled again but he recovered with a smile.

"Well, I'm gonna go check in with Loreena before I head home.  Joccy and Takoda, if you wanna follow me, I'll show you where Amala and Monica are holed up," JenniAnn offered.

"Sure!"  Joccy smiled at the others and waved before following JenniAnn.

"Don't get into any trouble!" Takoda called with a grin before following the two women.

Once they were gone, the remaining five were silent for a moment, their emotions running high.  Then John spoke.

"So the Messiah, the Baptizer, and three watchers walk into a bar..."


Wednesday, February 2nd, 2022

Shortly before noon, Joshua waited in the lobby of Mason's office.  He was skimming the newspaper when someone shouted his name.

"Joshua!  My man!  How've you been?"

Before Joshua could respond, he was nearly pulled out of his chair and into a bear hug by Mason's boss.

Laughing, Joshua patted his enthusiastic fan on the back.

"Doing well, Doug, doing well!  And yourself?  Jackie and the kids?"

"All good!  And all very excited!  Mason tells us you're doing Superstar again.  We're all planning to come see it.  We've decided Kasey is old enough.  Don't you think?"

Joshua was touched when he realized the man genuinely wanted his opinion.

"She's what... eleven now?"

Doug nodded, pleased that Joshua remembered.

"I think she'll be fine," Joshua assured.  "And we always do a meet-and-greet afterwards so she'll be able to see that everyone's just fine."

"Great!  I'm so excited!  But... I do have to ask...  Any chance you've reconsidered that HR job?  We still have vacancies.  Lots of them," Doug tantalized.

Joshua smiled warmly and shook his head.  Ever since his first visit to Mason's office, Doug never let an opportunity pass by to offer him a job.

"And I'm confident you'll find the perfect people for those jobs but I still move around a lot so I'll have to pass again," he politely declined.  "But thank you, always, for thinking of me."

"Of course, of course.  You just know that I've always got to try.  Anyway... I won't keep you but I guess I'll be seeing you soon, Joshua!"

"Looking forward to it!" 

The two parted with a friendly hug after which Mason appeared, chuckling.

"Sorry, I got held up a little.  But I see Doug was entertaining you... to his delight, I'm sure," Mason whispered.

Joshua nodded, smiling after the man as he made his way to his office with a bounce in his step.

"I enjoyed visiting with him.  I'm glad he and his family are coming to the show."

Mason chuckled as he held the door open for Joshua.

"He wanted to buy tickets the second I told him," he explained as they exited the office. 

"Aww.  So everything's going well at work?" Joshua asked as they stepped onto the sidewalk and headed towards Adrian's Coffeehouse.

"Really great!  I mean, yeah, Doug can be a little Michael Scott-ish at times but he's great.  He, uh, wants to throw Renee and me a baby shower at the office.  Is that normal?"

"Baby showers at offices?  Sure.  Pretty frequent, actually.  Thrown by the boss?  Especially the male boss?  Quite a bit less frequent.  But I think it's sweet.  Men can get just as excited about welcoming a new little one as anyone," Joshua pointed out.  "And Doug thinks very highly of you."

Mason smiled proudly.

"That means a lot to me.  Of course, he thinks even more highly of you.  Did you get offered a job again?"

With a sheepish smile, Joshua nodded.

"I hate turning him down but..."

"But you're running the largest Human Resources department ever so..."

With a laugh, Joshua nodded.


"Well, maybe he'll settle down on that front when he sees you perform... or he'll just double-down!"

The two continued to chat until they reached the coffeehouse.

"I asked Adrian to reserve the snug for us," Joshua informed as he ushered Mason inside.

"Thank you.  I appreciate that.  Nice to have a little privacy."

"Yeah."  Joshua patted Mason on the back then waved at Adrian as they headed to the snug.

"Aww...  You ordered ahead."  Mason smiled at Joshua as he sat down.  "And perfectly... of course."

"Gourmet grilled cheese, tomato soup, and a honey buttered croissant."

"Yummy carbs."

Joshua smiled then the two bowed their heads and joined hands.

"'Blessed are you, Lord our God, ruler of the universe who brings forth bread from the earth,'" Joshua prayed.

"Amen."  Mason squeezed Joshua's hands then dug in. 

"So have you had a chance to review Simon's lyrics and lines?" Joshua began after giving Mason a few moments to chew.

"Oh...  Umm.  Yeah."  Mason took another bite of his croissant before continuing.  "It's... intense.  And I'm glad I'm only doing it part-time... which, to be clear, I am completely committed to.  But... I did forget about that 'the filth from Rome who rape our country' line.  I mean I know it's not about clerical abuse but..."

Joshua patted Mason's hand.

"I know."

"I think I'll be fine," Mason insisted.  "I really do.  But I still have random bad days so I guess I am a little afraid that one of those days will coincide with a performance and I'll just be kind of... triggered and unhinged.  More even than Simon should be."

"If you think you won't be able to perform for a show you're assigned to, just give Max as much notice as possible," Joshua urged.  "I know he'd do what he could to help.  And if it just hits you in the moment...  I'll be there.  Right there.  As Jesus, yeah.  But as me.  As your friend.  And if you need to hold onto me to ground yourself... do that.  It'll just read as Simon being really impassioned."

Mason's eyes filled.

"Yeah...  That's true.  I'll keep that in mind.  I might have to do that."

"I love you so much, Mason.  And I'm so proud of you and all the progress you've made!  And... I know you and Renee are going to be wonderful parents," Joshua gushed.

Tears trailed down Mason's face as he smiled at Joshua.

"Thank you.  I... I love you a lot, too, Josh."

Joshua reached over and patted Mason's cheek.

"Thank you.  Now... those carbs aren't gonna eat themselves."

Chuckling, the two dug into their meals and moved onto chatting about happier things.


An hour before the rest of the cast was set to arrive for a rehearsal, Edward stepped out of St. Genesius' blue room to find Kyle waiting for him.

"Hey!  Thanks again for agreeing to meet."  Kyle clapped the older man on the shoulder.

"Of course!  I'm actually really glad you asked."  Edward smiled at Kyle before heading to the props room.

"I know we'll go over it during rehearsals but... the scourging makes me nervous," Kyle admitted.  "More than the Crucifixion, to be honest."

"No, that makes sense.  I mean all we do during the Crucifixion scene is bang a hammer onto a metal sheet.  I mean, obviously, you have to be a little careful.  But you'd have to be pretty out of it to accidentally hit Joshua's hand or arm.  There's more room for error with the scourging."


Edward smiled encouragingly at Kyle as he grabbed the rope.

"But we have precautions upon precautions built in."

"Right.  Good."

The two moved to the stage.  Edward placed himself on a green X marked on the floor.

"One of us will stand here.  Joshua will stand here."

Edward moved to a white cross.


"Now go stand on the green X," Edward directed.

Once Kyle was there, Edward handed him the rope.

"Now, keep tight hold of this end."

Kyle gripped it.

Edward plucked up the other end and moved away.  He halted when the whip was taut.

"See, I'm still about six inches away from the white X... from Joshua.  So it's basically impossible to actually hit him.  The only way you would is if you stepped off your mark... which you won't.  But, just in case, Andrew watches from the side.  He has a mic that feeds into Joshua's ear.  If Andrew even thinks it looks like you may go off mark, he tells Joshua to stumble forward a bit."

"So the distance is still maintained."


"So where does the blood come from?"

"So during 'Could We Start Again, Please?' and 'Judas' Death,' JenniAnn is doing Joshua's scourging make-up.  She also attaches these little packets to his back that are filled with fake blood.  Once 'Trial' starts and Joshua's robe is torn away, his back never faces the audience.  So they don't see that the scourge wounds are there before we even so much as raise the whip.  Once Adam shouts 'Thirty nine!' we grab Joshua and start pulling him towards Adam.  As we do that, we break the packets.  It doesn't take much pressure.  And, if we miss any, Adam gets them."

"Got it."

"And JenniAnn lets us test on a few packets first."

Kyle gave a slight laugh and shook his head.

"It's so surreal..."

Edward smiled sympathetically and nodded.

"It really is.  Especially when everyone's in their costumes.  I'm gonna be honest... sometimes it can feel like you're in a terrible nightmare.  But you just need to focus.  And remember that, in a few minutes, we'll all be celebrating out in the lobby.  And you never know what seeing the show will mean to someone.  I mean... you know about what happened with Yehuda."

Kyle shook his head and marveled.

"It's... stunning.  I think of all the things I've learned since figuring out who Joshua is... that was about the most shocking."

"I don't think there are any more errant apostles to win back... but there are certainly lost souls out and about.  So... that's why we do this."

"I'm just really glad to be a part of it.  Although..."  Kyle squeezed Edward's hand.  "I'm sorry your brother isn't here."

Edward frowned.

"Me too.  And I can't say I entirely understand it.  I mean... I know he and Lacey are going through stuff.  But I don't see how hiding away will help."

"He's still helping out on the farm, right?"

"Oh yeah.  He works as much as he ever did.  He's not shirking responsibility or anything.  And they still come to family dinners.  It's just... he couldn't do this, I guess."

"Has Joshua seen them since he's been back?"

Edward's face colored.

"We tried.  I asked Joshua to join us for lunch yesterday and he did.  Caleb decided to go for a drive."

"And Lacey?"

"Just waved at us from the porch.  Said she'd already eaten."

"Gosh, that's too bad.  I'm so sorry."

"Appreciate that.  I just wish...  I mean... I saw Joshua literally piece my uncle back together.  It... it doesn't seem like this would be anything compared to that."

Kyle looked away, staring at the Exit sign as he spoke.

"Sometimes it's really hard to understand why God allows bad things to happen.  But... I have it on high authority that He doesn't blame us for our anger... or the way we act out sometimes because of the pain.  And... He can bring incredible beauty from unimaginable pain."

Edward hugged the younger man.

"Yeah...  Yeah, thanks for the reminder."

"Any time."

Edward heaved a sigh.

"Anyway... welcome to the Roman Empire."

Kyle laughed.

"Thanks.  It's gonna be something!"

"Yoo hoo...  Who's here?" a woman's voice called from the direction of the office. 

"Edward and Kyle," the former shouted back.  "Emma?"

"Yup."  Emma approached with Peter just behind her, carrying Sawyer. 

"You two get everything figured out?" Peter asked.

"We did!"  Kyle nodded happily.  "I feel much calmer knowing I can't accidentally hit Joshua."

"Nope.  Everything will be just..."  Emma winced.

The three men all hurried closer.

"Are you okay, Emma?" Peter asked, his voice tinged with anxiety.

"Oh yeah.  Just got a swift kick in the ribs," she replied.

"Let's get you sat down," Edward suggested.

Kyle ran for a chair.

"You okay, mommy?"

"Oh, yes, baby.  Your sister's just being feisty."

Emma took Sawyer's right hand and rested it against her belly. 

"Can you feel her?"

Sawyer grinned and nodded.

"Baby sister..."

"That's right, bud!"  Peter mussed the boy's hair.  "Emma, can I get you anything?"

"Maybe some water, please?"

"Of course."

Emma gave Kyle and Edward a sheepish smile.

"I just hope I can make it through this show... otherwise Ivy might end up on stage a lot more often than she's planning."

"You think you could go early?" Edward asked.

"I dunno...  This little one just seems to be a lot more active than Sawyer here."  Emma stroked his hair.

"Well, we'll do what we need to do.  The show will go on," Kyle averred.

Emma beamed.

"And that's why I'm not going to panic.  I know this place is in good hands even if Peter and I do have to drop out early."

"Absolutely, mi amor," Peter reassured as he returned.  "But I do hope you get at least a bit of time on stage.  I know you love acting with Joshua."

"And you!" Emma stressed.  "But yeah... I do miss being up here with him sometimes.  But... I also want to meet our baby.  So... it's in His hands."

"Amen," Peter murmured.

Emma took a few sips of water then stood.

"Much better.  Now... if you boys would help get things in order up here... we have a show to rehearse!"

Edward, Kyle, and Peter all jumped into action as Emma directed them and Sawyer kept a watchful eye on his mommy.


First Rehearsal

"All right!  So as I said in my email, I think tonight we'll focus on doing an initial run-through on songs that will be sung by our new performers," Andrew related from center stage.  "So... Ivy as Mary Magdalene, Loreena as Claudia, and Mason as Simon.  Kyle, you don't have a solo... well, briefly as Nicodemus.  But we'll go over the scourging blocking for you.  We'll also do 'Hosanna' for the new chorus members.  Sound good?"

After a chorus of agreement, the angel of death smiled. 

"Great!  How about we have Ivy start with 'I Don't Know How to Love Him'?"

"Ooh boy..."  With a touch of nerves, Ivy rose from her seat in the audience.

Joshua hopped up and took her arm.

"Would you rather act it out with me or just sing it through the first time?" he asked.

"Hmm...  Actually, I think it'd be easier for me if we run through it properly.  So, yeah, if you could..."


Owen hurried onto the stage and set down a mat for Joshua.

"Baby, just tell me when to start," Tess directed once Ivy and Joshua were on stage.

"Uh huh.  Will do."  Ivy nodded.

Sensing her nerves, Joshua hugged her.

"You've got this, my own," he encouraged. 

For a brief moment, the two rested their foreheads together.

"Yeah... okay..."  Ivy smiled and nodded then looked to Tess.  "We can start."

As the familiar notes began, Ivy escorted a weary Joshua to the mat.

"'Try not to get worried, try not to turn onto problems that upset you,'" Ivy sang, soft and clear, as she tucked a blanket around Joshua.  "Oh, don't you know everything's alright, yes, everything's fine."

Joshua reached up to pat Ivy's cheek.

"'And I think I shall sleep well tonight.  Let the world turn without me tonight.'"

Ivy squeezed Joshua's hand then lowered it to his chest.  When he moved into fetal position, she softly stroked his back and sang.

"'Close your eyes, close your eyes and forget all about us tonight...'"

Just as she'd so often seen Emma do, Ivy pulled her knees up to her chest and watched Joshua for a few moments.  Then, as if it was physically painful to move away, Ivy rose and made her way to center stage.

Peering up at the heavens/private box, the young woman resumed singing.

"'I don't know how to love him.  What to do, how to move him?  I've been changed, yes, really changed.  In these past few days, when I've seen myself, I seem like someone else.'"

Ivy took a few steps closer to the sleeping Joshua and began to reach out but her hand dropped to her side.

"'I don't know how to take this!  I don't see why he moves me.  He's a man.  He's just a man!  And I've had so many men before in very many ways...'"  Ivy's hands balled into fists.  "'He's just one more!'"  She glared at the private box, tears welling in her eyes, as she continued.  "'Should I bring him down?  Should I scream and shout?  Should I speak of love?  Let my feelings out?  I never thought I'd come to this.  What's it all about?'"

Ivy's body relaxed a bit and she gave a slight smirk.

"'Don't you think it's rather funny?  I should be in this position.  I'm the one who's always been so calm, so cool...  No lover's fool!  Running every show...'"  She peered over at Joshua who moved slightly in his "sleep."  "'He scares me so...  I never thought I'd come to this!  What's it all about?'"  Ivy shook her head and brushed at her eyes before drawing closer to Joshua and kneeling beside him.  "'Yet, if he said he loved me...  I'd be lost.  I'd be frightened.  I couldn't cope, just couldn't cope...  I'd turn my head.  I'd back away.  I wouldn't want to know.'"  Ivy held her hand aloft, nearly touching Joshua's hair but not quite making contact.  "'He scares me so...  I want him so...  I love him so...'"

When the final notes drifted away, the Friends began to clap and cheer wildly.

Joshua hugged Ivy tightly.

"You were wonderful!" he praised.

With Sy's help, Emma climbed onto the stage.

"Oh, Ivy...  I loved that!  You did so well!"

"Did I?  I... I didn't know whether to just mimic you or..."

"No!  You made it your own and that's what made it perfect!" Emma insisted, brushing at a tear on her cheek.  "And I loved actually being able to see that number performed."

"You did beautifully, Ivy.  So beautifully," Sy gushed.  "Not that I'm surprised.  I knew you would."

"Sy...  Thank you."  Ivy hugged her husband tightly.  "Thank you," she repeated to Joshua and Emma.

Beaming, Andrew approached.

"Awesome job, Ivy!  Great way to start us off.  And I love how you tweaked it a bit and didn't just copy Emma."

"That's okay?" Ivy double-checked.

"Absolutely!  I probably should have made that clear.  Sorry.  But, yeah, the way I figure it is if we shake things up a bit, we might even get repeat customers who just want to see how the different actors bring different parts of the show to life."

Ivy nodded.

"That makes sense.  And thank you.  Now..."  She raised her right hand which was shaking slightly.  "I think I'd just like to sit for a bit."

"Aww, of course, sweetheart."  Emma hugged Ivy once more before the little huddle dispersed.

Andrew returned to center stage.

"Thank you so much, Ivy, for getting us off to a great start!  And she was good enough to remind me of something I should have said before.  If you're sharing a role or taking over a role, please feel free to make it your own.  A little variety might get us some repeat business!  Plus, you should just have that freedom.  And now... Mason, are you ready?"

"As ready as I'll ever be!" the man replied as he stood.

"Great!  Maybe let's just have Mason and Joshua up here right now," Andrew suggested.  "We'll focus on the dancers later this week.  Sound good?"

"Sure," Mason agreed as he stepped on stage.

"Happily!"  Joshua smiled at Mason and clapped him on the back.

"Thing is... I really like how Max portrays Simon."

"Aww thanks, man!" Max shouted from his spot in the audience.

"Of course!" Mason smiled.  "So... not sure I want to change much but... let's see how it goes."

"Awesome!"  Andrew peered out at the crowd.  "Chorus, you can just sing from your spots this time around.  Okay?"  After getting murmurs of assent, the angel of death gestured to Tess.  "And... go."

Tess nodded and began to play her piano.

Joshua gave Mason a quick hug then moved into place.

Mason led the chorus in their declarations of devotion before singing his first solo verse.

"'Christ, what more do you need to convince you that you've made it and you're easily as strong as the filth from Rome who rape our country and who've terrorized our people for so long?'"

Mason peered at Joshua as he sang.  Though the man wore a frustrated scowl for the sake of the audience, Mason was calmed by the tenderness in his gaze.  He knew, in that moment, he would be okay.  Joshua would keep him safe.


After a brief break, rehearsal resumed with "Pilate's Dream" next on the list of numbers Andrew wanted to cover.

Before she stepped on stage, Joshua hurried over to Loreena.

"You've got this!" he assured.  "I know it.  You'll do great!"

Loreena held up her hand which was shaking.  She laughed uneasily.

"I hope you're right..."

Joshua took her hand in between both of his and squeezed it.

"Generally am," he teased.

After a laugh that came much more easily, Loreena hugged him.

"All right then... here I go..."

Loreena moved onto the stage where Adam was waiting.  He gave her a kind smile and patted her shoulder.

"I've been looking forward to this all evening.  I know you'll do a great job, Loreena!"

"Thank you...  Sure hope so!"

Adam smiled again.

"Well, no time like the present to go off on your horrible husband," he jested.

Loreena grinned, feeling more at ease.

"Then here we go..."

She nodded to Tess who began playing the mournful opening notes.

With Adam's back to her, Loreena sang.

"'I dreamed you met a Galilean, a most amazing man.  He had that look you very rarely find... the haunting, hunted kind.  You asked him to say what had happened, how it all began.  You asked again.  He never said a word... as if he hadn't heard.'"

A memory popped into Loreena's mind.  Joshua standing at her doorstep, bringing her her forgotten laundry.  He'd look so kind... been so kind.  In a split second, her mind drifted to the photograph.  Joshua and John loading the dead bodies.  She'd worried so much that he would catch it... that he would die. 

Tears streaked down Loreena's face as she reached out for Adam who continued to ignore her.

"'And next the room was full of wild and angry men.  They seemed to hate this man.  They fell on him and then...  They disappeared again.'"

She'd had a nightmare once.  Joshua in one of those body bags... someone zipping it up.  But there'd been welts all along the crown of his head.  Why?

Loreena gripped Adam's arm but he shook her off.

"'Then I saw thousands of millions crying for this man...'"

Adam started to walk away but Loreena dashed in front of him.

"'And then I heard them mentioning your name and...'"  Loreena raised her arm and pointed at her faux husband.  "'Leaving you the blame!'" she cried, her eyes flashing.

When the final notes drifted away, Adam rushed forward and hugged Loreena.

"You okay?" he murmured, genuine concern in his voice.

"Yeah... yeah...  Just... how awful..."


As everyone applauded, Roger joined in from his spot in the audience.  But as he stared at Adam embracing Loreena, he felt an odd quirk in his stomach.

Joshua hurried over to Adam and Loreena and pulled them both into a hug.

"Wonderful, wonderful job, Loreena!" Andrew praised from the other side of the stage.  "You've all done so well!  I feel really great about this year's show.  Now... to celebrate... how about we do 'Hosanna' all together?"

The suggestion was met with cheers as those involved in the number took their places. 

Loreena returned to her spot beside Roger in the seats.

He beamed at her.

"You were amazing, Loreena!  I knew you would be but to actually see it..." 

"Aww, thank you.  It... it felt pretty emotional.  I... I found myself thinking about if... if Joshua really did die and... it just came out."

Roger's face clouded for a moment.

"Not a fun thing to imagine."


Loreena squeezed Roger's hand.

"But I'm fine now.  You?  You look a little flushed."

"Just fine.  Really.  Emotional... like you said."

Loreena nodded and smiled at him before turning her gaze to the stage where the cast had begun singing.

"'Hosanna, hey sanna...'"



Sunday, February 6th, 2022

By 7:00 AM, Andrew, JenniAnn, Aziraphale, Crowley, John, and Joshua were preparing Willowveil for brunch guests.  A final check was done to ensure the castle was de-Joshua-ified.  Framed family photos were left alone while Owen's religious artwork was carefully stored away.  Remnants of Belle's birthday party the previous afternoon were quietly brought into the sleeping girl's room.  Last minute cleaning was completed and then, shortly before eight, the six gathered in the ballroom for coffee.

"You're leaving soon aren't you, Joshua?" Aziraphale checked.

Joshua swallowed a sip of coffee and nodded.

"I need to be in Albany by 8:00."

The other five exchanged concerned looks.  John silently agreed to ask what they all wanted to know.

"Are you going to see Caleb and Lacey?"

"Caleb hopefully."

"Do you want someone to go with you in case..."  Andrew's voice trailed off.

Joshua smiled at him then the others.  He shook his head.

"No.  Thank you, though.  I'll be fine.  And I'll be back by 10:00 no matter what.  Actually... I'll meet you in the blue room at ten til, Andrew.  I'd like to be there when Loreena goes through the portal.  I think it would settle her nerves."

"That's a good idea," the angel of death agreed.

"I've planned a delicious spread of scones, vegetable quiches, yogurt parfaits, and..."  Aziraphale frowned.  "Turkey-like pigs in a blanket.  With ketchup."

JenniAnn laughed.

"Maybe one day the kids will have as refined of tastes as their beloved Uncle Aziraphale.  But today is not that day, I'm afraid."

"It's such an unappetizing name..." the watcher lamented.

Crowley chuckled and squeezed his anam cara's shoulder.

"I'll take you out later for a nice dinner at a fancy French cafe so you can recover."

"You don't need to..."

"I know.  But I want to."

Joshua beamed at the two who, for a few moments, only had eyes for each other.

John cleared his throat.

"What are quiches?" he inquired.  "And will I like them?"

"Yes," Joshua replied before Aziraphale launched into a detailed explanation.

While Aziraphale continued, Joshua leaned over and rested a hand on JenniAnn's arm.

"I need to head out."

"I really hope it goes well."  JenniAnn rested her other hand on his and gave him an encouraging smile.

"Thank you, little bird."

"I'll walk you out," Andrew offered.

"Thank you."

Joshua waved at the others then left with Andrew.

"You going to the portal?"

Joshua shook his head as they stepped onto the front porch.

"No.  I'm not actually going to the farm.  Caleb's out for a drive so... I'm just going to be hitchhiking.  I just needed to get out of view.  JenniAnn wouldn't like just seeing me disappear."

"No... she wouldn't," Andrew agreed before hugging Joshua.

Joshua patted his angel on the back.

"Thank you."

"You're welcome.  See you soon, Joshua."

"See you soon," he echoed before disappearing.

Andrew remained on the porch for a few moments, offering up a silent prayer to the Father for Caleb, Lacey, and Joshua.


The shop Caleb usually went to for coffee wasn't open on Sundays.  And Lacey wasn't yet up, anyway, to enjoy a latte with him.  But still Caleb hopped into his truck and drove off.

The morning breeze, even when it had been cold, had been a comfort to Caleb.  It continued to be that morning, as were the singing birds. 

Caleb drove a few miles away from the farm, trying not to think of anything in particular.  He turned the radio onto a country station and loudly sang along.

But he clicked it off when "Jesus Take the Wheel" started up.

And then he saw him... ambling along the side of the road.

Joshua wasn't dressed warmly enough.

"What was JenniAnn thinking... letting him go out like that?" Caleb muttered.  His face flushed.  Lacey would have elbowed him had she been there.  Why was it JenniAnn's responsibility and not Andrew's?  Or even Joshua's?  She'd be right.

Caleb heaved a sigh.  He really didn't want to talk to Joshua.  But as stormy as he was feeling, he couldn't bear to be the reason Joshua felt any discomfort.  So he pulled over.

"Need a ride?" Caleb asked.

Joshua smiled brightly.

"I'd love that, thanks!"

"Where you headed?"

"Back to your aunt's and uncle's would be great.  I'd love to say hello to everyone then I need to be at the theatre a little before 10:00."


"No.  Andrew and JenniAnn are having Loreena and some others over for brunch.  It'll be the first time Loreena finds out about Asteriana, the portals."


"You and Lacey would be more than..."

"We have plans."

"Oh, okay."

Once assured Joshua was buckled up, Caleb restarted the truck.  He turned the radio back on.  That dratted song was still playing.



"I've missed you.  You and Lacey.  At rehearsals, of course.  But also..."

"We haven't gone anywhere.  Still here."

"I know but..."

"You could fix this so easily!" Caleb snapped.  "But you won't.  So we need a little time, all right?"

Joshua was silent for a few moments, allowing Caleb to calm down.

"I want to fix it, Caleb.  But... sometimes that looks different than what you have in mind.  But I promise..."

"You're really good at that, Josh.  Promising.  But it fu... it effing hurts... waiting on you."

Caleb kept one hand on the steering wheel and wiped his other forearm across his face as tears began to fall.

Joshua's own eyes filled with tears.

"I... I know, Caleb.  I know.  Just... please don't lose hope.  I promise..."

"There's that word again!"

Caleb wanted Joshua to yell, to get angry.  He knew he deserved it. 

Joshua did not comply.

"'So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.  And God blessed them, and God said unto them, 'Be fruitful, and multiply,'" Caleb recited.  "If that's what you really want... why did you have to make it so hard for some of us?"

"I didn't, Caleb.  I didn't want it to be.  But... things have gone wrong with human bodies.  Generations of abuse and pollution and illness... they take a toll and it's not fair that some suffer more for it than others."

"No...  It's not.  If only those people were friends with someone worshipped the world over as a healer..." Caleb scoffed. 

He felt bad as soon as he said it.  It was wrong.  The Friends were blessed to have Joshua in their lives so personally, so closely.  That didn't make them better than anyone else.  That didn't make them more deserving.  He knew that... but it hadn't kept him from saying that.

Joshua rested a hand on the man's arm but he flinched and pulled his arm away.

"I'm sorry, Caleb.  I have my reasons.  But... I am sorry that you and Lacey are feeling pain right now.  And I... I don't want to be the cause of any more.  I don't.  I love you so much.  Both of you.  So... so I'm going to go.  But I'll see you soon.  And just... keep taking these drives, my boy.  They're good for you."

Caleb said nothing, just stared at the road ahead.  When he finally turned to the passenger seat, it was empty.


The others knew it wasn't a good sign when Joshua reappeared not long after he'd departed.

JenniAnn hurried over to him when he stepped through the ballroom doors and embraced him.

Joshua let out a ragged sigh and closed his eyes for a moment, resting his cheek against her hair.  She had been angry at him once.  And now they had this.  Caleb and Lacey would find their way back to him, too.  As much as he longed to gather them closely right then... he had time.  And he would wait for them.

Andrew wrapped his arms around the two.

"Thank you," Joshua murmured, patting Andrew and JenniAnn on their backs.  "I'm fine.  Really.  Better now."

Once Andrew and JenniAnn released Joshua, John approached.

Joshua laughed as his cousin enveloped him in a bear hug then lifted him a few inches off the ground.

Aziraphale and Crowley were the next to join him.

"Made this while you were gone.  Just... felt I should."  Crowley handed Joshua a mug of spiced milk.

"Oh..."  Joshua rested his free hand against the watcher's cheek.  "Thank you."

"It goes very well with cinnamon spice biscotti," Aziraphale suggested as he held out a tray.

"Then I'll have to give it a try.  Thank you.  All of you."

Joshua returned to the chair he'd only recently vacated.  He sipped his milk and dunked a biscotti, giving the two watchers a thumbs up.  As he ate and drank, Joshua's gaze traveled around the table.  Everyone there had been angry or frustrated with him at some point or another.  But he'd made peace with them all.  And now here they were, gathered together, their gazes all at once worshipful and concerned. 

"I'll be fine," Joshua assured.  "Everything will be fine.  Promise."

Joshua's eyes welled at the last word, remembering Caleb's reaction to it.

But things would be better soon... he just wished he remembered how soon.


"We're having brunch... in a storage room?" Loreena questioned with amusement.

"Not exactly...  Just... trust us, please," Joshua requested.

"Okay..."  Loreena watched with an arched eye brow as Roger set a wooden key against Owen's mural in the blue room.  She gasped when the paint began to shimmer. 

"Off we go!" Mason cheered before taking Renee's hand and disappearing into the wall.

Loreena screamed.

"How... how... how..."

Roger shrugged.

"No idea, really.  But... don't be afraid.  Joshua?"

Joshua held his hand out to Loreena.

"Ever read Narnia?" he asked though he well knew the answer.

Rendered mute, Loreena could only nod.

"So... it's like that.  It's a portal.  Andrew and JenniAnn and their family... they don't actually live on Earth," Joshua explained.  "They live in a place called Asteriana.  When JenniAnn was very young, she accidentally stumbled into a portal in her home state, in Nebraska.  And she ended up in Asteriana.  This portal is safer because you can't stumble into it.  You need a key.  Like Roger has.  Most everyone in the cast and crew has one.  When we're doing weekly Bible study, we all meet at Andrew's and JenniAnn's place.  It's very safe.  Would you like to walk through with me?"

Loreena might have thought poor Joshua was losing his mind... if not for the fact that she'd seen Mason and Renee disappear.  She peered into Joshua's eyes.  They were still the same kind, gentle eyes she'd always known.  He didn't look deranged.  And neither did Roger.  With a nervous nod, she reached out and took Joshua's hand.

After a quick squeeze, Joshua stepped forward and Loreena followed.

Suddenly, they were standing in a gazebo.  In front of them, Mason and Renee were chatting with Andrew and JenniAnn.

"Yay!  You made it!" JenniAnn cried happily, rushing up the steps of the gazebo to greet Loreena with a hug.

Roger appeared and chuckled.

"Surprised?" he asked.

Loreena still couldn't speak.  She returned JenniAnn's hug then looked around with wide eyes.  Everything was so beautiful!  And that castle!  It looked like something out of a Disney movie!  Or a Narnia movie... like Joshua had said.  She half expected to see a lion, nobly pacing the lawn.

"You all right?" Joshua checked, setting a hand on the newcomer's back.

"I... I... yes..."  Loreena laughed.  "You know... I always kinda had a feeling you all were hiding something... gotta admit.  But this!  Never in a million years...  You're all magic!"

Mason laughed and shook his head.

"No.  We're not.  Only Joshua."

Joshua smiled.  They'd agreed that he would at least take credit for creating the blue room portal. 

"An old family trick."  He shrugged as if it was no big deal.

Loreena wanted to ask more about that... but even more she wanted to see that castle.

"Let's head inside," Andrew suggested.  "It's a little chilly."

"And we don't want the food to get cold," JenniAnn added.  "Aziraphale spent so much time on it!"

"It's just..."  Loreena kept looking around.  "JenniAnn... this is amazing."

"Aww.  Yeah...  It's a good place to be.  And after we've eaten, Joshua will get you set up with a key so you can visit whenever you'd like.  Everyone else has one... and does.  I so badly wanted to tell you before but with lockdown..."

Loreena laughed and squeezed JenniAnn's shoulder.

"You're great... but I don't think I would have believed you unless I'd actually seen the portal and went through it.  It's just... unbelievable!  And yet... here we are."

"Here we are..." JenniAnn repeated as Andrew opened the front door of the castle and ushered the two women inside. 

"Welcome to Willowveil, Loreena."

Loreena beamed at Andrew.

"Thank you!  Wow..."

"We'll do a proper tour after we eat," JenniAnn promised.  "For now... ballroom's this way."

"Ballroom..." Loreena echoed, stunned.

Once they stepped inside, they found Marty, Joccy, Takoda, Belle, John, and Aziraphale making last minute preparations for their brunch.  Crowley and Avi were near a window where the former was giving the boy care instructions for his new lily.

After exchanging greetings with everyone, Loreena was ushered to a table and sat between Roger and Joshua.

"This is just... incredible.  It's so fancy and yet... homey."

Joshua nodded.

"JenniAnn inherited the castle, in a manner.  Asteriana was fading.  The younger population had mostly immigrated to Earth, the U.S. largely.  So when JenniAnn showed up with some friends, it was a 'Please, stay!  Free castle!' kind of scenario.  It was Fr. Mike's parents, actually, who did a lot of the convincing... not that it took much."

"Fr. Mike is from here?" Loreena asked.

"Yep.  Born on Baile, an island south of here."

"And this is where you stay when you're... in town?  Doesn't quite seem like the right phrase!"

Joshua chuckled.

"I suppose not.  But yes, usually.  Andrew and JenniAnn have the room and since it's so accessible to everyone, it makes the most sense.  But sometimes I do stay with the others.  Just to give Andrew and JenniAnn a break."  He winked.

"Aww, I can't imagine needing a break from you."

Joshua only smiled.

"You know, you'd be welcome at my place," Roger offered.  "If you're feeling nostalgic."

Joshua smiled.

"That would be really fun, actually!  We could get some pizza, play some video games."

"You'd be more than welcome, too," Roger offered to Loreena before blushing.  "I mean... not, like, to stay over...  You... you have an apartment.  But like to... play."

Loreena politely ignored the man's awkwardness.

"I'm up for it!  What games?"

"Umm, something like Animal Crossing?  Joshua doesn't like shoot em up games."

"I do not," Joshua confirmed.

Loreena's eyes lit up.

"How did I not know you played Animal Crossing?!"

Roger laughed.

"Sorry.  One just never knows who will think a man in his mid-thirties playing video games is cool versus who will think it's lame."

"Well... I think it's very cool," Loreena assured.

Roger grinned and Joshua smiled to himself.

Aziraphale clapped his hands, silencing everyone.

"Ladies and gentlemen, for your culinary pleasure... we present brunch.  For starters, we have delectable fruit kebobs courtesy of Master Avi and Miss Belle.  We also have a variety of scones, vegetable quiches... mushroom and spinach, for one, and beet and goat cheese, for another... Greek yogurt parfaits, pigs in a blanket... turkey in a honeyed croissant."

"Yum," Mason murmured.

"A variety of drinks and, uh, Froot Loops."


Loreena smiled at Joshua.

"A favorite of yours?"


Charmed, Loreena giggled.

"But first... I believe Andrew will say the blessing," Aziraphale concluded.

Seated at one end of the table, Andrew held his hands out to JenniAnn and Belle before bowing his head.

"Heavenly Father, please bless this food.  Let it nourish our bodies and let the time together nourish our souls.  Thank You for the generosity and creativity of those who prepared this wonderful meal.  Please also continue to guide us as we embark on another season of Superstar.  May You use us to reach those in need of your message of love.  Amen."

"Amen," the others echoed.

Andrew waved to the buffet.

"Loreena, start us out, please?"

"Oh!  Umm, okay!  Thank you."

Loreena smiled when she reached the spread of food.  Much like the dishes on the table, nothing matched.  It was charming and made her feel like she was with the Mad Hatter.  She loaded up her plate then returned to her seat, soon joined again by Roger and Joshua.

"Do we wait til everyone's seated again?" she checked.

Joshua shook his head.

"No, dig in.  The kids can be a little pokey and it keeps Andrew and JenniAnn from stressing, thinking they're holding everyone up."

"All right then..."  Loreena took a bite of quiche and oohed.  "Delicious..."

"Aziraphale's quite the chef," Joshua praised.

"And he and Crowley are... married?" Loreena asked.

Joshua shook his head.

"Not married.  But very like it."

"Like Andrew and JenniAnn?"


Loreena wondered about this but didn't think it right to press.

"I take it Andrew's and JenniAnn's older children don't live here?"

"Max and Rose live on another island with their kids.  But they visit frequently.  Violeta and Shelby do live here... mostly.  Shelby sometimes stays with her brother in New York.  And Violeta also has a room over at Ivy's and Sy's place... two doors down though actually connected to Willowveil by a tunnel.  The girls were roommates before Ivy married Sy.  And Violeta's still very much welcome.  But she stayed here during COVID lockdown and realized she missed being in the family home.  But that's where they are now: Ivy's and Sy's place.  They stayed over to watch movies," Joshua explained. 

"I love how everyone's connected in so many different ways."  Loreena surveyed the room.  "And Marty... and Joccy and Takoda... how do they fit in?"

"Family friends.  Marty often stays with Sandy, his twin brother.  You'll probably meet him soon if you've not already.  I've asked him to help Marty with a project at St. G's.  When he's not with Sandy, Marty stays here in a little writing garret upstairs.  Takoda is a protege of one of Andrew's old friends.  He struggled a few years back so the friend, Wahkan, asked Andrew and JenniAnn to take him in.  They happily agreed and, since then, he and Joccy have become very close so she's usually hanging around here, too."

"I guess it's a very good thing they have a whole castle the way they take people in!"

Joshua chuckled.

"Yeah.  Including yours truly.  And my parents stay here, too, when they come into town for the show.  Although they tend to split time between here and Emma's and Peter's.  They might opt more for the latter this year to help out with preparing for the baby."

"You're going to love Joshua's parents," Roger interjected.  "They are literally the best."

Joshua smiled.

"Thank you."

"Aww!  I'm so excited!  When do they usually come?"

"The last couple days of rehearsals this year.  Since their parts are very small and don't change, they don't need much rehearsal time.  And they also bring our donkey, Yoktan, for the Palm Sunday scene."

Loreena clapped.

"I totally forgot you have a live donkey in the show!"

"He's my boy," Joshua commented fondly.

"You... don't let him see the rest of the show, do you?" Loreena checked.  "I mean... I guess I don't know how much a donkey would understand but... surely he'd know you were in pain.  Or pretending to be, anyway."

"Oh no.  Someone takes him out to the parking lot as soon as he's done.  Yeah... that would NOT go over well.  Imagine the headlines?  'Rampaging Donkey Interrupts Crucifixion Scene, Roman Guards Head-Butted Into the ER,'" Joshua joked.  "Poor Edward and Kyle!"

Loreena and Roger laughed.

"It's kind of uncanny, to be honest.  Your parents are named Maryam and Yosef... you have a donkey... you do woodworking... even your cousin..."  Loreena waved towards John who was cooing over Renee's sonogram photos in between bites of his breakfast.

Joshua smiled and shrugged.

"It's just my life.  Never seemed weird to me.  But, yeah, a lot of people find it odd."

"I don't think it's odd.  Just kinda incredible.  But I suppose nothing should surprise me after this morning!"  Loreena looked around the ballroom, still in awe.

Roger quietly chuckled to himself, knowing the biggest surprises still hadn't been revealed.

"So, umm, you mentioned Bible studies.  I imagine those are on pause now because of the show?"

"They are," Joshua confirmed.  "But they'll pick back up after Easter."

"Do you think I could come?"

"Of course!" Roger answered.  "That's why JenniAnn was so set on inviting you this morning.  So you could take part in more of our group activities.  We'd been doing Wednesday nights.  I imagine we'll stick with that."

"Wednesdays would be perfect!  That's my early out day at work."

"We could go together," Roger suggested.

"That'd be great!  Especially because I don't entirely trust myself with that portal."

Joshua patted Loreena's hand.

"Don't worry.  You'll either get through to here or stay in the blue room.  It's not like you'll end up on Mars or anything.  And we'll practice."


"And... I'm glad you're interested in Bible study."

Loreena smiled at Joshua and patted his hand back.

"I really am.  You know, I miss my old church sometimes.  I absolutely do not miss having to be someone I wasn't just to be accepted.  But I miss the Bible readings, the hymns, the fellowship.  And knowing I can be myself...  I think I'll enjoy it.  And more than all that... even just the little bit of rehearsals we've done..."  Her eyes welled as she looked at Joshua.  "You've made me miss Jesus.  So... I'd like to have Him back."

Roger looked intently at Joshua.  He knew Loreena's remark had to be both paining him and encouraging him.  For the briefest moment, Joshua looked stricken but then he smiled.

"I... I think he's been waiting for that," he murmured.

"I hope so."  Loreena gave Joshua a bright smile before changing the subject.  "So... which are your favorite numbers to perform?"

As Joshua answered,
Roger made a mental note to give him a a big, warm hug later.


"And, lastly, we have the conservatory," JenniAnn stated as she and Loreena stepped inside.

"It's beautiful!  How do you manage to keep so many plants alive?" her guest marveled.

"By doing very little with them," JenniAnn replied with a laugh.  "I'm horrible with plants.  Some of the folks who live with Vincent are much more adept.  And Crowley, of course.  He'll probably be stopping in soonish to check everything over, actually."

"Well, you may not be good with plants but you're wonderful with people.  It's amazing to me how you and Andrew manage having so many people around.  And you're so welcoming!  I think all the activity in my own home would drive me a little wild."

"Well, people are, thankfully, pretty good about not coming onto the second floor... where we actually live... uninvited.  So we appreciate that.  Privacy is good."

"Absolutely!  You know... you remind me of my mother."

JenniAnn cocked her head in confusion.

"No!  Sorry, I didn't mean my biological mother!  I mean my house mother.  When I first came to New York, I was into the ballroom scene and this wonderful lady took me under her wing.  Her name was Diamond.  She took in all the strays she could, built us up, taught us how to get by... I adored her."  Loreena smiled at the memory but swiped at a tear.  "And you're like that.  I mean... I'm sure you're not motherly towards him given his age but Marty... Takoda and Joccy... and I know he doesn't live here but I can already tell Crowley looks to you as a sort of mom figure.  And then your own kids, of course."

"Thank you.  That means a lot.  Truly.  But... did something happen to Diamond?" JenniAnn asked gently.

"We lost her to cancer about seven years ago.  I only had her for a decade but she filled those ten years with a lifetime of love."

"I'm so sorry, Loreena.  And I know this doesn't make the pain go away but... I think she's looking down on you and so proud!"

"I really hope so.  You know, she had to deal with even more crap than I did.  But, unlike me, she never lost her faith.  She went to church every Sunday.  Proudly.  Right til the end.  She always wanted me to find my way back.  Actually..."  Loreena rested her right ankle on her left knee and pulled up her skirt just a bit.  "I got this after she died."

"Oh...  It's lovely!"  JenniAnn admired the outline of the diamond on Loreena's inner ankle.  A cross rested in the center of it. 

"Thank you.  Actually... I've been meaning to ask...  I thought I caught sight of a bit of a tattoo peeking out from under your sleeve at the last rehearsal.  Do you have one, too?" Loreena questioned.

JenniAnn blushed.

"Yes...  I was ten years younger and just a bit tipsy when I got it but..."  She yanked up her right sleeve. 

"Aww!  It says Andrew's name!"

"Yeah...  He was stationed in Afghanistan at the time."

"Andrew was in the military?"

"A chaplain."

"Wow...  Well, it's beautiful."

"Thank you.  I sometimes wish I'd picked a different spot... even the back of my shoulder.  But that probably woulda hurt more."

"Oh, yeah.  Best to stay away from bones."

A sound from behind them caused the two women to turn around.  They spotted Crowley standing in the door, a watering can in hand.

"Sorry, didn't mean to interrupt.  I can come back," the watcher offered.

JenniAnn rose and shook her head.

"No, no.  I actually should go check and see if Aziraphale would like any help with clean-up."

"I'd be happy to help, too!" Loreena offered.  "It's the least I can do after..."

JenniAnn shook her head.

"You're our guest!  Stay!  Although if you really want to help, maybe Crowley could use an extra set of hands?" she ventured.

"Wouldn't turn that down," Crowley replied.

"All right!"  Loreena hugged JenniAnn.  "Thank you so much for the tour!"

"You bet!  I'll see you both in a bit."  JenniAnn returned Loreena's hug then moved to leave, patting Crowley's arm as she left.

"So you're the one keeping all the plants alive, hmm?" Loreena asked.

Crowley chuckled.

"One of the ones, yeah.  But they managed before me.  This place was gorgeous even before I showed up."

"Oh, so you've not always been part of the group?"

Crowley shook his head as he watered a rosebush.

"No.  Aziraphale and I met Andrew and JenniAnn in late 2019."

"Oh right!  I think JenniAnn mentioned that a while back.  What can I do, by the way?"

"Nothing just yet.  Well, keep me company, I suppose."

"Happily!  So is this your first year with the show, then?  I mean since they couldn't do it in 2020 and 2021."

"It is, yeah."

"Are you nervous?"

"A bit.  Don't have much to do.  So that's good but... I don't like seeing Joshua upset.  Even when it's pretend.  Reminds me of... other times."

"I'm sure.  I'm a little nervous about that aspect, too.  Have you known Joshua longer than you have Andrew and JenniAnn?"

"Much longer.  I've always known him."

"Oh, wow.  So since childhood?"

Crowley decided that was close enough to the truth and nodded.

"So then maybe you can tell me...  Has he always been... like he is?  I mean...  Not to pry but... have... have you always been like you are and has he always accepted that or... or did he need to learn?"

Crowley smiled.

"He never needed to learn.  There was a space of time when I was female-presenting.  He didn't so much as bat an eye lash."


"He's a lot more open-minded than people give him credit for."

Something about the way Crowley said that gave Loreena pause... as if Joshua's opinion was much sought after.  But maybe it was.  After all, playing Jesus was a big deal.

"How long have you and Aziraphale been together?" she asked.

Crowley smirked.

"Eons, seems like.  But really only since late 2019... like we are now, I mean."

"Well, I think you're a lovely couple.  Although... not that I know you well... but you do seem very opposites attract."

"You have no idea how true that is," Crowley assented with a laugh.  "Could you please hand me that plant food?  Pink container."

"Of course."  Loreena fetched the item and brought it to him.  She watched as Crowley carefully measured it out and sprinkled it into a pot.

Crowley worked in silence for a few moments before he turned and gave Loreena his full attention.

"They're good people, you know.  They aren't going to change their minds about you.  Or bail the moment things get rough.  I... I spent enough time thinking they might.  You shouldn't."

Loreena's eyes filled with grateful tears.  She reached out and set a hand on Crowley's arm.

"Thank you.  I appreciate that."


Crowley smiled then returned his attention to the plants with Loreena stepping in as requested.



Wednesday, February 16th, 2022

When Andrew awoke, he could sense that JenniAnn was already up even before she lifted her head from his chest and peered at him.

Andrew softly caressed her face.  They had a big day ahead of them and he could see it was weighing on her.

JenniAnn leaned down and kissed the angel's lips.

After closing his eyes, Andrew
buried his right hand in his anam cara's hair, gently stroking her scalp, as she trailed kisses down his neck. 

With a sigh, JenniAnn settled back onto the bed.  She smiled when Andrew planted a kiss on her forehead then her lips. 

Andrew's hands went to the laces of her nightgown.  His right eye brow crooked upwards causing JenniAnn to giggle and nod.

It was a little awkward canoodling with the knowledge that Joshua was above them.  JenniAnn wasn't entirely sure why.  After all, Joshua was always above them.  Still... it was odd.  But it had been a while... and she had missed this.

Andrew was making quick work of the laces when someone knocked lightly on their door.

"Blurg..." JenniAnn muttered.  Maybe it would still be a while...

Andrew snorted then turned towards the thankfully still closed door.

"Who is it?"

"Marty.  I hope I didn't wake you..."

"No," Andrew called back then shot JenniAnn an exasperated look.  "But... we're not dressed yet.  Can I, umm, help you?"

"Would it be all right if I asked Sandy along today?"

Andrew looked to JenniAnn who gave a reluctant shrug.  He knew it was nothing against Sandy... they'd just hoped for a little privacy.

"Yes, that's fine."

"Thank you.  And... I'm starting pancakes if you're interested."

Andrew and JenniAnn shared a look.

"I mean pancakes are yummy..." she whispered.

Andrew chuckled and turned back towards the door.

"We are.  Be right down.  Thank you!"

"You're most welcome."

The two listened for the sound of retreating footsteps.

Andrew sighed and collapsed against JenniAnn who stroked his hair.

"Joshua is staying with Roger on Saturday night.  Maybe we can find someone to watch Avi and Belle and get away for a night?" she suggested.

Andrew sat up and beamed at JenniAnn.

"I'd like that.  Especially since tonight we're starting on the heavier stuff with rehearsals.  It'd be good to have something to look forward to."

"Agreed.  I'll talk to my parents then."

"Great.  You plan for the kids, I'll plan for us."


The two kissed then got out of bed and, reluctantly, prepared for the day ahead.


In Randall's and Dot's kitchen, Zadie ladled a generous amount of scrambled eggs into a bowl.  Besides her, Edward was heaping frosting onto two giant cinnamon rolls.

"You're sure this isn't overkill?  Like we're trying to... compensate?  Caleb's just so touchy lately."

"It's their third anniversary!  They deserve to be spoiled a bit."

"True...  I just...  I don't even know how to talk to him any more.  How are you managing with Lacey?"

"It's... okay.  I mean she's always pleasant.  There's just a sadness I can't touch."

"Yeah.  Exactly... I actually thought about..."

"Offering to donate?"

The couple stared at each other for a moment before Edward laughed awkwardly and nodded.

"I mean we're identical twins...  I wasn't going to say anything until I talked to you, of course.  But I've thought about it.  The only thing is, from what Caleb has told me, the doctors have no idea what the issue is.  Everything seems fine on paper.  So what if I did and nothing happened?  That might make things even worse."

"That's true..."

"And I would hope that, if they were interested, Caleb would know he could approach me about it.  I mean... we shared a womb!  But maybe not.  Maybe it's less awkward if I broach the subject.  But I dunno...  I could also see him reacting badly to 'Hey, maybe I can get your wife pregnant for you.'"

Zadie cringed.

"That's definitely possible.  Have you talked to Joshua about it?"

"About Caleb yes.  About any particular plan?  No."

Randall entered the kitchen, mug in hand then halted.

"Just stopping in for more coffee but... I can come back," he offered, sensing he'd interrupted something serious.

"No, no.  It's your kitchen!"  Zadie waved him in.

"And you're not.  Interrupting, I mean.  We're just..."

"Talking about Lacey and Caleb?"

Edward and Zadie nodded.

"My heart breaks for them.  And Dot and I both wish they'd talk to us.  We've tried but..."  Randall shook his head as he filled his mug.  "It's different for everyone, of course.  In the end, Dot and I were happy just to have our sweet, little nephews.  That doesn't seem to be the case for Lacey and Caleb.  But sometimes it helps to hear from others who have been in the same boat."

Edward nodded to his uncle.

"I would think so.  But since Caleb won't... can I ask you something?"

"Sure!  I'm an open book!"

"If my dad had offered to donate his sperm... assuming that was even the issue and don't feel you need to clarify but pretending it was... would you have been offended or weirded out?"

Randall thought for a few moments then shook his head.

"No.  I would have been touched.  But I just don't think people thought that way as much back in the day.  I'm not sure I would have taken him up on it.  I mean maybe if Dot had wanted to.  Like I said, Dot and I ultimately decided we were fine just the two of us.  We traveled so much when we were younger!  Built up this farm.  We did things we never could have done with kids.  And we were happy.  Are happy!  But, no, I wouldn't have been offended.  Not in the least.  But I just... I hope the two of you think long and hard about that before you say anything... not because Caleb and Lacey might be upset... but really think about how you'd feel having a child of yours raised by someone else, even if they are family."

Zadie squeezed Edward's hand.

"Yeah... yeah, we will," he promised.  "But for now... we can at least give them a good breakfast."

Randall smiled proudly at the two and nodded.

"That you can."

"Hello?" a voice called from the hallway.

"Josh!" Randall approached the newcomer and hugged him tightly.  "Glad you stopped in.  Hungry?"

"I could eat.  Thank you.  But first..."  Joshua held a couple branches of lilacs in a vase out to Edward.  "Could you please put these on the breakfast tray?  Lacey loves them.  I... I know they still don't want to see me.  But maybe if you could give them to them?"

Zadie gently took the branches then hugged Joshua's arm.

"Of course we will!"

"Thanks..."  Joshua gave them a wavering smile.  "That's really nice.  Making them breakfast.  I know they'll appreciate it."

"Hope so.  We'll bring it and the flowers over now.  Will you be here when we get back?"


"Let's get you some breakfast, Josh," Randall encouraged.  "It's set out in the dining room."

"Okay, thanks."

Joshua waved to Edward and Zadie then followed Randall.

"This is just all so sad..." Zadie whispered.

Fighting tears, Edward nodded before picking up the breakfast tray.

"Let's go."



Over in their cabin, Caleb and Lacey were sipping their coffee when he removed a small box from the pocket of his robe and placed it in front of her.

Lacey smiled.

"I thought we were keeping it simple this year?"

"I did," Caleb assured.  "It's just a little something."

"Well, good.  Because I got you a little something, too."  Lacey went to the hall closet and retrieved a bag. 

Caleb grinned as he accepted it.

"Open on the count of three?"


"One... two... three..."

Lacey opened her box to reveal a necklace with a butterfly pendant.  Inside his bag, Caleb found a Game Boy.

"Ha!  You remembered!"

"I did.  You and Edward both got one for Christmas when you were ten.  Yours stopped working after a few months.  His didn't," she recalled.  "This one works.  I tested it."

"You're the best!"

"Hardly... but thank you.  And for the necklace.  It's beautiful."

Caleb rose and helped Lacey put it on.

"It reminded me of you... hope and beauty."

Lacey stood and embraced her husband, resting her cheek against his shoulder.

"I... I wish I felt hopeful," she murmured as she began to cry.

Caleb brushed his hand over her hair.

"I... I know this is so, so hard, darling.  But... but I have you.  And for a long time, I didn't think I would find anyone.  But I did.  And I love you so much, Lace.  More than anything."

"I... I love you, too.  And I'm grateful for you.  Truly.  A-and we'll get past this.  One way or another."


The two kissed.

They'd just stepped apart when the doorbell rang.

"That'll be Zadie and Edward with our breakfast," Caleb announced, moving towards the door.

"I am getting a bit hungry..."

Caleb opened the front door.

"Happy anniversary!!!" the other couple cheered.

"Thank you!"  Lacey smiled and waved them in.  "Ooh...  That smells so good and..."  She paused and reached out to caress the lilacs.

"Where did you get those?" Caleb asked.  "I didn't think they bloomed til April or May."

Edward and Zadie exchanged a panicked glance.

"Oh..."  Lacey's eyes welled.  "Joshua."  She picked up the lilacs and buried her face in them.

"He wanted you to have them," Edward relayed.  "He's over at the house if..."

Lacey's face lit up for a moment but then she shrunk back.

"Please give him my best," she interrupted.  "And... and thank him for me?"

"Sure.  Will do," Edward promised, fighting to mask his disappointment.

"That was nice of him," Caleb commented, his voice flat.

"Cinnamon rolls..." Lacey licked her lips.

"Very gooey cinnamon rolls," Edward specified.  "I may have gone overboard with the frosting."

"But those are the best kind," Caleb insisted.  He hugged his twin.  "Thank you."

"You're welcome.  Anyway, we'll let you two eat in peace.  Yell if you need anything."

"Will do.  Thanks, Zadie."  Caleb embraced his sister-in-law.

Lacey followed suit.

"Yes, thank you both.  I'm excited!"

"Well, enjoy and, again, congratulations on your anniversary!  Here's too many, many more years together," Zadie wished.

Caleb squeezed Lacey's hand.

"So long as she can put up with me," he teased.

Lacey laughed and wrapped her arms around his waist.

"I'll try..."

Glad to see them both in a fairly good mood, Edward and Zadie stepped back onto the front porch and waved good bye.

Once they were alone, Caleb and Lacey made up their plates.  Caleb began to dig in but Lacey rested a hand on his arm.

"We should at least say thanks.  For the food.  We... we still have many blessings, Caleb."

Caleb lowered his fork and nodded.

"We do.  You lead."

The two joined hands and bowed their heads.

"God, thank you for this delicious meal and for our wonderful family who prepared it for us.  Thank you for these three wonderful years.  May Caleb and me walk together for many, many more.  Please... be with us.  A-and be patient with us.  Amen."


Caleb squeezed his wife's hands.

Lacey smiled at her husband then the two enjoyed their celebratory breakfast together.


That afternoon, Andrew slid into the backseat of a car then squeezed JenniAnn's hand.

"Doing all right?" he checked.

JenniAnn smiled at him and nodded.

"I'm fine.  Really.  Just... seems a bit much.  Being driven around like this."

"Well... we can't walk.  The cemetery is too far out."

"I know.  I know.  But I mean...  Big, black, fancy car.  Oldest created being as our driver... second oldest created being riding shotgun."  JenniAnn looked out the window to where Marty and Sandy were discussing something. 

"I guess this is the sorta car Marty likes.  But, yeah, it's kind of... ostentatious."

JenniAnn stared at the flowers in her lap.

"Do you think we'll ever go back to normal?" she murmured.  "Just the two of us."

Andrew sighed and dragged a hand through his hair.

"I think about it, Laja.  I do.  And I want to.  But... but if something happened again..."

JenniAnn gently laid the bouquet on the floor and slid nearer, hugging Andrew's arm.

"I know."  She kissed his cheek.  "I'm sorry.  I just feel very... coddled.  I mean... I'm always driven around.  But it feels different when it's you.  We made a commitment to each other.  Marty and Sandy... they were, well, drafted."

"Laja...  They weren't.  None of the Watchers were.  This is their plan.  And... we may both be too young to fully understand their reasons."

JenniAnn looked to Andrew in alarm.

"That sounds... foreboding."

Andrew brought JenniAnn's left hand to his lips.

"I don't mean it to be.  I just mean... they were involved with the War.  Marty directly.  Sandy got reports, I'm sure, when he wasn't trying to distract the rest of us.  Our attack... I think it brought a lot up for them.  Marty especially.  But... we could say something to Joshua.  Ask him to talk to Marty.  Maybe get him to back off?"

"I just don't want to hurt his feelings... and I don't want to make it awkward around the castle.  And I especially don't want him to move out."  JenniAnn sighed and rubbed her temple.  "And I suppose today might be especially taxing for him.  Let's just keep quiet for now.  But... whatever you're planning for this weekend, it's in Dyeland, right?  Because I really don't want Marty crashing our romantic evening."

Andrew nodded.

"It is."

"Good..."  JenniAnn smiled and kissed his cheek then slid back to her seat and picked up the flowers.

Marty and Sandy entered the car.

"Are you ready?" the scribe asked as he buckled his seat belt.

"We are," Andrew confirmed as JenniAnn nodded.

Sandy smiled at them from the passenger's seat.

"I think it's lovely what you're doing.  And I hope it gives you both peace."

"I hope so, too."  JenniAnn smiled at him then peered down at the flowers and sighed.  Jamie had suggested this at their last therapy session.  JenniAnn hoped it would help but she wasn't convinced.

Marty started the car then drove through the portal.  They appeared behind an abandoned building and then Marty, with great care, drove them the thirty minutes to a cemetery.

Once parked, all four exited the car though the two watchers maintained a respectful distance.

"It's just past that mausoleum there," Andrew directed as he looped an arm around JenniAnn's waist.  "Near that angel statue."


Andrew squeezed JenniAnn's hip and kissed her temple.

When they reached the grave, JenniAnn's breath caught in her throat.  It was obviously well-tended and visited often.  She knelt down and squeezed the hand of a lavender teddy bear.  Then she ran her fingers over the engraved name: Natalie Smythe.

"Hi Natalie," she greeted as she laid the flowers down.  "I... I'm sorry we didn't come sooner.  I wanted to but... but I wasn't sure what to... to say, I guess." 

"Laja..."  Andrew wrapped his arms around her tightly.

JenniAnn sobbed as the memories the demon had showed her resurfaced.

"I... I am so... so sorry about what... what you went through..."

"Laja..." Andrew repeated as he nuzzled her hair.  "I love you."

JenniAnn drew in and slowly let out a deep breath.

"I... I am so glad, though, that... that you had Andrew with you.  And I'm so glad that you're at peace now.  And your family... they're so brave!  The way they've handled themselves during the trial... so amazing a-and inspiring.  When they talk about you, it's with such love.  I... I wish we could have met.  But... please know that... that I'll never forget you."

"I won't either," Andrew vowed.

JenniAnn rested her head against his shoulder.

"You were so... so brave," she murmured.

Andrew nodded, remembering.

As they continued to kneel, holding each other and crying, Sandy began to sing.

"'On Jordan's stormy banks I stand,
and cast a wishful eye
to Canaan's fair and happy land,
where my possessions lie.

O'er all those wide extended plains
shines one eternal day;
there God the Son forever reigns,
and scatters night away.

And I am bound, I am bound for the promised land,
And I am bound, I am bound for the promised land;
I am bound for the promised land.'"

Andrew and JenniAnn felt a firm hand rest on each of their shoulders.  They expected to see Marty when they turned around but, instead, it was Joshua who smiled gently down at the two before kneeling and wrapping his arms around them.


Thursday, February 17th, 2022

After an evening rehearsal, everyone at Willowveil turned into bed nearly as soon as they'd gotten back to the castle, Joshua included.

But falling asleep easily didn't mean staying peacefully asleep.

Joshua awoke with a sigh and peered out the window.  He guessed it to be a little after 3:00 AM.  His mind was spinning with memories of the previous day... a furtive look at Lacey and Caleb as the latter left for his daily drive, Andrew and JenniAnn weeping at Natalie's grave, Marty watching them intently... on edge and ready to strike..., and Crowley going ashen when Andrew had suggested they might do a run through of "Gethsemane" and the Crucifixion at the next rehearsal.

And then, unbeknownst to the others, Joshua had visited Jeff, Tyson, and Tim in Poland.  They still didn't entirely understand why he'd sent them there.  But whisperings around town were giving them some insight.

A tear slid down Joshua's cheek, soon joined by others.

He knew he wouldn't be getting back to sleep.  Joshua, rose, pulled on his robe, and went to the window.  He peered out at the moon and prayed.  Once finished, he headed downstairs.  Maybe some spiced milk would help settle his mind?

From the next landing, Joshua spotted a dim light coming from the library.  Andrew, JenniAnn, and their kids were very good about turning off lights when they left a room.  Someone must be up.  Curious and concerned, Joshua made his way into the library.  He wasn't entirely surprised when he spotted JenniAnn, curled up on one of the couches with a book.

"Little bird..."

JenniAnn startled and turned around.

It wasn't lost on Joshua that she'd hastily stowed away the book she'd been reading... and that whatever it was, it had made her cry.  Nonetheless, she attempted to smile.

Joshua hurried forward and sat beside her, wrapping his arms around her shoulders.

"What's wrong?"

"Just... just couldn't sleep."

"Were you thinking about Natalie?"

JenniAnn nodded against his shoulder.

"And other... stuff."

Joshua kissed her hair.

"I'm sorry.  Do you want to talk about it?"

"No!" JenniAnn cried, startling herself.  Her face flushed.  "I mean... I... I don't think so.  I... I don't know."

Joshua hugged her tightly.

"How about I go make us some spiced milk and, while I do that, you think it over, hmm?"

"Yeah...  Okay.  Thank you."

"You bet."  Joshua smiled and squeezed JenniAnn's hand then left.

When he returned a few minutes later, the mysterious book was sitting on a coffee table.  The title page boasted that it was a forensic pathologist's account of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.  Joshua chose to ignore it for a few moments at least.

"Here you are."

JenniAnn gratefully accepted the mug from Joshua and took a sip. 


"Good.  I'm glad."

Joshua sat back down beside her.

"Would you like to tell me why you've decided to read that?" he asked gently.

JenniAnn took another sip of milk.

"I... I just thought it would be a good idea.  Maybe give me greater insight.  For the make-up."

"Ah."  Joshua knew it wasn't a lie.  But it also wasn't the full truth. 

"It... it was a stupid idea.  The make-up is fine as is. 
I mean I have no training.  So... so the idea that I thought I could recreate bruising..."  She shook her head.

This was also not the full truth.

Joshua hugged her.

"You do a fine job, JenniAnn.  Truly.  Don't put anything more on yourself.  Especially not this year.  There's enough pressure between it being the first year back and Crowley's first year and your first season back after everything you and Andrew went through." 

"Yeah, I suppose."

"And you know... you can ask me anything.  I think, just maybe, I'm in a better position to give you answers than the author... as fine of a job as he did.  His medical and historical knowledge is impeccable.  But he doesn't know you.  I do."

"Yeah..."  JenniAnn began to cry again.

"Besides, while I definitely want you to still do my make-up for the scourging and crucifixion, I'd really like you to focus on Crowley.  I can do my own normal hair and make-up."

JenniAnn blinked and looked at Joshua in surprise.

"But... Crowley is barely in the show.  You're the title character!"

"I know.  But Crowley needs a little extra TLC.  And you're very good at that."

JenniAnn smiled through her tears.

"I am, aren't I?"

"Most definitely."

The two sat together in silence for a few moments before Joshua spoke again.

"Is there anything you'd like to ask me?"

JenniAnn sucked in a deep breath then slowly let it out.  She honestly wasn't sure.  Ask and all doubt... some of it self-preserving she was sure... would be gone.  She shook her head.

"Not now.  Maybe some other time."

"Okay.  Would you like some privacy?"

"No.  But if you'd like to get back to sleep, I can..."

"No.  No, I'm fine."  Joshua hugged her.


JenniAnn rested her head on his shoulder.

Joshua begun to hum his Ama's lullaby.

JenniAnn eyelids grew heavier and heavier.

Once she was asleep, Joshua stretched so he could reach the book.  The page she'd been on was marked.  He scanned it then set it back down.

"Little bird..." he cooed.  "I love you."

Joshua remained where he was as the hours wore on and the sun began to rise.  He prayed and thought and planned until a relieved sigh behind him alerted Joshua to another presence.

"I didn't know where she went," Andrew whispered as he approached.  "Glad she's with..."  The angel's eyes landed on the book.

"We've got a big talk coming," Joshua quietly revealed as Andrew sat down on the couch.

"Yeah... yeah you do."  Andrew's eyes welled.  "I... I've known it was coming.  Ever since what they showed her.  Natalie, especially."


Andrew dragged a hand through his hair.

"Should... should I have told her?  That first year... I told her about being there.  But I left a lot out."

"Understandably.  And, no, it wasn't your place."

JenniAnn stirred.

"Mmm...  What..."  She blinked and gaped at Joshua, not yet remembering how she'd ended up sleeping with her head on his shoulder.

"Good morning, little bird," he greeted.

"G'morning, Laja."

JenniAnn smiled sleepily.

"G'morning.  Nice way to wake up.  Although..."  She stood up and stretched.  "Bit of a crick in my back."  She peered down at Joshua.  "Did you get any more sleep?"

"No.  But that's okay.  I'll try to get a nap in before rehearsal.  But for right now... coffee would be good."

"Yes..." JenniAnn agreed.  "I'll go start it."

"I'll go with you," Andrew offered, wanting to keep an eye on her.

"Okay.  Joshua, would you like us to bring yours up to you or..."

"No, no.  I'll be down in a bit."

"Sounds good."

Once they were gone, Joshua grabbed the book.  Tempting as it was, he wouldn't hide it.  But he ensured it was put back in its proper place, on a high shelf the children couldn't reach.

That done, Joshua approached a window and peered out at the glorious dawn.  It soothed his lingering sadness.

"Thank You, Dad," he murmured before stepping away to join Andrew and JenniAnn for coffee.


The Serpent and the Angel

The minute she stepped into the theatre, Loreena felt the shift in mood.  On all the other evenings, there'd been a sense of jubilation.  It had been there even when they ran through difficult songs like "Jesus Must Die" and "Simon Zealotes."  But tonight was different, of course.  In those numbers, even though he was being threatened, Joshua... Jesus... was still unharmed, still whole.

Loreena was glad she'd arrived a little early.  Only about half of the cast and crew had arrived.  She exchanged friendly but muted greetings with them all before heading to the dressing room.  Though she wouldn't be delivering any lines, she had to get dressed for the trial scene.  Entering the room, she found Amala hanging up her costume.

Before she was aware of Loreena's arrival, Amala let out a strangled sob.

"Sweetheart!" Loreena cried, rushing towards the teenager. 

Alarmed, Amala spun around.  When she saw Loreena, her face crumpled and she began to sob freely.

"Amala... sweetie... what's wrong?" Loreena asked gently as she led the girl to a loveseat. 

"I... I... I dunno.  I was just... Monica asked me to put the... the costumes in the... the right dressing rooms a-and one was Joshua's robe.  The... the one that tears.  For the scourging scene and I just... kinda lost it."

"Oh... I can understand."  Loreena pushed some damp hair behind Amala's ears.  "I think everyone's feeling out of sorts today.  If it helps, when I talked to Andrew he said we're not doing any of the make-up.  Just costumes."

"It does.  Thanks.  Well, kinda...  He's still gonna get on... on the cross."


"I... I wouldn't change anything.  Not really.  But... but sometimes I still wish I... I thought he was just a prophet.  And he... he escaped.  No scourging.  No crucifixion."

"I can understand that."

"But... it's not true."

"No...  It's not."

"Bad things happen to... to good people all... all the time."

"They do."

"Josh-Joshua was shot once.  The guy... he shot at my daddy, too.  And my uncle."

Loreena nodded.

"JenniAnn told me about that.  I'm so sorry you all had to go through that.  How awful and frightening it must have been."

"Uh huh...  Joshua was... was so brave."

Loreena smiled.

"He is very brave."  Loreena grabbed a tissue and dabbed at Amala's face.  "You know, I'm only in the one scene.  Maybe you should take a night off.  I can help Monica out."

Amala shook her head.

"Gotta face it sometime."

"That's true."

"And my dad's here.  And Christopher.  I'll be okay.  Thank you.  I... I just needed a few moments, I guess.  Sorry you walked in on..."

"Don't be sorry!" Loreena stressed.  "At some point or another, I think we'll all have a bit of a breakdown.  Because we're human and this... it's a lot.  And maybe it's especially a lot when we've come through two years of so much violence, so much death."

"Yeah..."  Amala sniffled and hugged the older woman.  "Thank you.  But I better go.  I still need to get Crowley's costume ready.  I... I think this'll be a rough night for him, too."

"Yes.  I'm afraid so."

Amala sighed then smiled at Loreena.

"I'm reasonably calmed down now.  I'll go get Crowley's costume and you can change.  That'll help.  You look so great in your costume and it reminds me that, no matter what else, he had some really incredible, strong, loving women around him.  That had to have helped."

"I'm sure it did.  And thank you."  Loreena squeezed the girl's hand.  "If you do change your mind, though, and need the night off... I was serious in my offer."

"I know.  And thanks.  I'll let you know."  Amala hugged Loreena again.  "I'm really glad you're here.  That you joined us."

"Me too, sweetie.  So glad."

The two parted with smiles. 

Once Amala had closed the door, Loreena ran her fingers up and down her costume.  It really was beautiful and comfortable.  Dreamy, even.  She made a mental note to get a photo with Joshua... before things got weird.


Andrew clapped his hands, getting everyone's attention. 

"All right, everyone!  Thanks for coming!  Let's get started here soon.  As I mentioned last night, we'll be running through 'The Last Supper,' 'Gethsemane,' 'The Arrest,' 'Trial By Pilate,' 'Superstar,' and 'The Crucifixion' tonight.  I know it'll be heavy but as I've mentioned to some of you this will be a make-up free run-through.  Still... I thought we could do with a special surprise to help lighten things up.  Henry, Eli... if you would, please."

At the back of the theatre, the two angels of death opened the doors.

Shouts and cheers started up when Maryam and Yosef entered with Yoktan.  Even Joshua was surprised.  He laughed and jumped up from his seat to greet his parents and pet.

"I had no idea you were coming tonight, Ama and Abi!"  He hugged them tightly.  "And Yoktan..."  He nuzzled the donkey's mane.

Yoktan brayed happily.

"Andrew asked us to come by," Yosef explained.  "And we were eager to check in on you so... here we are."

"How are you doing, my own?" Maryam asked.

"Good.  I'm doing good!"  Joshua lowered his voice.  "A little tense around here, of course.  Might need more handkerchiefs."

Maryam patted his cheek.

"You know I always have those, Yeshu."

"I do, Ama.  I do."  Joshua beamed at her then waved towards Loreena.  "Come meet my parents!"

Smiling shyly, Loreena approached the newcomers.

"Ama, Abi... this is Loreena.  She lives in the same building as Roger, the one Mason and I used to live in.  She's one of our Claudias," he introduced.  "Loreena, my parents and my donkey... Maryam, Yosef, and Yoktan."

Loreena shook Maryam's and Yosef's hands.

"It's so great to meet you!  I've heard so many wonderful things about you," she gushed.  "From Joshua, of course.  But really everyone."

Yoktan brayed.

"Oh and about you, too!" Loreena hastily added, petting him.  "Aren't you so sweet?"

"We're very pleased to meet you, as well, Loreena."  Yosef smiled kindly at her.  "And I look forward to seeing your performance but, for now, I fear I need to get outside with my friend here.  He's a bit hungry.  Maryam, you should stay."

"Thank you, Yosef."  Maryam kissed her husband's cheek then turned back to Loreena.  "Yeshua's told me so much about you, Loreena!  I'm pleased we can finally meet."

Loreena bowed her head, suddenly shy.

"I... Thank you."

Maryam squeezed her hand. 

"Perhaps you could sit with me when you're not on stage?" she suggested.  "I know tonight will be emotional."

"Yes, definitely.  It would be an honor."

"Thank you."  Maryam smiled at Loreena then hugged Joshua again.  "I'd like to check on Emma, if I could."

"Over here!" Emma called, struggling to get out of her chair.

"Stay there, my own!  I'll come to you," Maryam responded.

Joshua motioned for Loreena to follow her.  He smiled after them then joined Andrew on stage, hugging him.

"You arranged this?"

Andrew smiled and nodded.

"I thought we all needed a mood boost.  And a therapy pet."

"You were right.  Thank you."

"You're welcome.  And now... ready to start?"

Joshua nodded.

"I am.  Yeah, let's go."


As they listened to the run-throughs of "The Last Supper," Aziraphale, Crowley, and JenniAnn sat in the office.  JenniAnn was brushing Crowley's long locks as Aziraphale looked on protectively.

"You look lovely, Crowley," she praised.


JenniAnn set down the brush and squeezed his shoulders.

"You'll do wonderfully."

"Absolutely, my dear," Aziraphale assured.  "And JenniAnn is right.  You look..."  His eyes welled.  "Very angelic."

Crowley rose from his chair and embraced his anam cara.

"Learned from the best."


JenniAnn politely looked away and focused on tidying up as the two kissed.

Crowley stepped away and studied himself in a mirror.

"Still not sure white is my color."

"Maybe not all the time.  But it suits you now," JenniAnn complimented.  "Your hair looks gorgeous against it.  Of course, it does with black, too."

A fourth person entered the room.  The three turned to peer at Maryam.

"Oh, Crowley..."

Crowley stiffened and stared down at the ground.

"Maryam... hello."

"You look... incandescent, my dear."

Tears filled Crowley's eyes as he met the woman's. 

JenniAnn looked back and forth between the two, feeling a little anxious... and surreal.  All her life she'd grown up with the image of the Virgin Mary stepping on the Serpent.  Granted, she was confident the Serpent was meant to be Satan, long conflated with Crowley.  But still...  It was odd.

"Crowley..."  Maryam approached and rested a hand on the reformed demon's arm.  "I...  Since I found out...  I've been so glad you... you were with my son that night."

JenniAnn gasped and peered over at Aziraphale who was staring down at his wringing hands.

"Did... did you know?"

"Not at the time," he whispered.  "Later."

Crowley broke down.

"I... I tried... I really tried to... to make him feel better.  I... I wanted him to flee but..."  He shook his head.

"But he wouldn't.  Never.  He had to fulfill his plan.  His and his Abba's.  But you gave him comfort when no one else would.  And I am grateful for that, my own.  So grateful."

Tears trickled down JenniAnn's cheeks.  She understood why Joshua had told her to focus on Crowley.  Joshua was used to re-enacting the worst day of his life.  Crowley wasn't.

Crowley collapsed into Maryam's waiting arms and wept.


Joshua was on his knees, tears in his eyes as he peered up at the ceiling.

"'Would I be more noticed than I ever was before?  Would the things I've said and done matter any more?  I'd have to know, I'd have to know, my Lord!  Have to know, I'd have to know, my Lord!  Have to see, I'd have to see, my Lord!  Have to see, I'd have to see, my Lord!  If I die what will be my reward?  If I die what will be my reward?  Have to know, I'd have to know, my Lord!  I'd have to know, I'd have to know, my Lord!  Why... should I die?  Oh why should I die?  Can you show me now that I would not be killed in vain?  Show me just a little of your omnipresent brain!'"

Behind Joshua, white, shimmery curtains were lowered in the center of the stage. 

"You can do this, love," Aziraphale whispered into Crowley's ear.

JenniAnn said nothing, only briefly resting a hand in between Crowley's wings.

Joshua stumbled onto his feet and continued singing.

"'Show me there's a reason for your wanting me to die.  You're far too keen on where and how but not so hot on why...  All right!  I'll die!  Just watch me die!  See... see how I die!'"  Mimicking the cross, he raised his shaking arms out to his sides.  "'Just watch me die!'"

Crowley winced as he heard Joshua fall to the floor.  He drew in and let out a deep breath then stepped through the curtains.

He knelt beside Joshua, offered him a sad smile, and rested his forehead against Joshua's brow which was bathed in sweat.  Gently, he wiped away Joshua's tears.

They peered at each other, remembering that night.  It had been more strained than what they were portraying on stage... but sweeter and holier, too.

"I love you," Joshua mouthed as the instrumentation played.

"Love you, too," Crowley silently replied.  He brought Joshua's right hand to his lips, kissed it, and then disappeared behind the curtains again.

As Joshua resumed his song, the Angel of Gethsemane collapsed into the waiting arms of the Angel of the Eastern Gate.


"Oh darn..." Loreena frowned as Roger helped her into her coat after rehearsals.

"What is it?" Roger asked.

"I just forgot... again... to get a photo with Joshua.  I have this cousin in New Zealand who I talk to a couple times a week.  I told him about the show, of course.  And he's been wanting a photo.  Can you remind me to get one next time we're both in costume?"

"Of course.  Everyone was kinda all over the place tonight so it's no wonder you forgot.  Tomorrow should be better.  Not that the songs we're covering are necessarily fun but... they're not the Crucifixion."

"No... they're not."  Loreena's face clouded.  She hadn't been fully prepared for what it would be like to see Joshua up on that cross, live and in person.  She'd sat by Amala the whole time, holding her hand while Raheem had done the same from the girl's other side.  Maryam had been to Loreena's other side... her eyes never leaving her son.

They'd all wept.

And then Joshua had gotten down and announced there were cookies and milk for everyone in the lobby.

What a bizarre life to be leading...

"Excuse me?"

Loreena turned around to find a wiry, elegant man peering at her.  She ran through the names she'd recently learned, searching for his.  Sandy!  Marty's twin.

"Sandy, right?" Loreena checked.

Sandy beamed and nodded.

"Yes.  And apologies for interrupting but I couldn't help overhearing and... here..."  He held a printed photo out to Loreena.

"Oh!"  She admired the candid image of her and Joshua smiling at each other.  "Oh, this is perfect!  Thank you!"

"My pleasure.  And I can email it to you, too.  Or text it.  I think..."  Sandy withdrew a cell phone from the pocket of his slacks and stared at it.  "I think I just..."

"No need.  I'm happy with this!  I can just take a photo of it," Loreena assured.  "You and your brother are making memory books, right?"

"Yes!  I'm so pleased Joshua thought up a project for me."  Sandy shifted awkwardly.  "I... I love singing, you see.  But... not in front of crowds.  So it's good to be involved.  Behind-the-scenes.  And to spend time with my brother."  He beamed as he peered over at Marty who was behind the ticket counter with Joshua, peering at a laptop screen.

"Well, I'm glad you could be with us, Sandy!  I'm looking forward to seeing the finished project but for right now..."  Loreena held up the photo.  "So happy to have this.  Thanks again!"

"My pleasure.  But I won't keep you any longer.  I know you both have a subway to catch.  I'll see you tomorrow?"

"We'll be here!" Roger asserted.  "Good night, Sandy!"

"Yes, good night!"

Once he'd finished waving after the two, Sandy rejoined Marty and Joshua.

"Loreena was very happy with the photograph!  I'm so pleased I took it."

Joshua hugged the angel.

"So am I.  Thank you.  You're both getting absolutely amazing shots."

Marty opened his mouth to reply but then pointed towards the front door.

"Andrew and JenniAnn are going outside.  I should..."

Joshua rested a hand on Marty's shoulder and softly pushed him back into a chair.

"They're fine.  My Ama and Abi are out there.  I think Crowley and Aziraphale are, too."

"But... do you know?  Or just think?" Marty pressed.

Joshua and Sandy exchanged concerned looks.

"I think they are," Joshua repeated.  "But even if not, like I said, my parents are and no demon would dare approach with them around."

Marty drew in a shaky breath.

"I suppose..." 

"Perhaps... we could make an appointment with Jamie," Sandy suggested.  "We could go together.  I think it might help with the lingering anxiety attached to..."

"It's not lingering anxiety!" Marty exclaimed.  "I am responding to a continued threat!"

"Marty..."  Joshua patted his arm.  "Calm down.  Please.  Andrew and JenniAnn are fine.  Let's just see the rest of the photos you two got.  Please."

Marty obediently nodded and refocused on the laptop.

"Oh...  Look at that.  I love that."  Joshua reached towards the screen when an image of him and Crowley off stage just after "Gethsemane" appeared.

"Sly old serpent did a beautiful job," Marty admitted, his eyes misting.

"He truly did," Sandy agreed.

Joshua smiled proudly.

"Everyone has.  Truly.  Including the both of you."

Joshua wrapped an arm around each of the angels' shoulders and squeezed them.

"My firstborns..." he cooed.

In spite of his mood, Marty smiled and reached up to squeeze Joshua's hand.

"I have... enjoyed it," he admitted.  "Very much."

"Me too!  Heartily!" Sandy echoed.

"I'm so glad."  Joshua gave their shoulders another squeeze then once again focused on their handiwork.  He chuckled when an image of him and his Ama appeared.  "I look like I'm getting scolded."

"Wouldn't be the first time," Marty teased.  "I seem to remember an incident with mosaics gone very wrong."

"I was an utterly delightful child," Joshua protested with a glint in his eye.

"I wish I could have been there to help you and Yohannan," Sandy offered.

Joshua patted his hand.

"But you're here now.  And I love that."

Sandy beamed.



Thursday, February 24th, 2022

There would be no rehearsal that night.  Andrew had decided that as soon as he'd woken up and seen the news. 

But there would be planning.

All of the Friends, whether they'd intended to rehearse that night or not, were gathered into the theatre.  Even Lacey and Caleb had come.

On a large screen, Tim spoke from Poland... intermittently freezing when the Internet caused trouble.

"They're predicting thousands of Ukrainian refugees will come here... maybe millions... on how long this goes on.  We're ready for now but our materials have been depleted since... Afghanistan.  So... help... appreciated."

"Tim, you're breaking up some but can you hear me okay?" Andrew asked.

"Yes, sir."

"Am I correct that you said your group could use some help because your materials have been depleted since you've also been operating out of Afghanistan?"

"Correct.  And Tyson has his phone if... texting for clarification."

"I'll relay info to Tyson via text," Arthur offered.

"My boss has been asking me about pre-sales on tickets," Mason brought up.  "Is there any chance we could put them on sale now and offer some of the proceeds to the relief effort ASAP?"

"I love that idea," Kylie seconded.  "And also... and I know not everyone can do this... but Clay and I are getting along fine.  I don't need to be paid for this.  I'd like to donate my earnings.  Maybe the people who can do that can privately convey that to... Peter, would that be you?"

Peter's eyes filled as he nodded.

"Yes.  And that's a beautiful gesture, Kylie.  Thank you.  And I agree on the pre-sales.  Emma?"

"I also agree.  The only thing that worries me a little bit is... what if we have to cancel the shows?  Because of COVID, I mean.  We can't handle a bunch of refunds and...and remain okay.  But I also really, really want to do this so..."

"We aren't canceling any shows," Joshua averred.  "We can do it."

"Then absolutely.  I agree to pre-sales."  Emma smiled at Mason.  "Great idea."

In her seat between Roger and Crowley, Loreena wondered how Joshua could be so sure.  Other shows had had to cancel performances... shows with a lot more resources.  But maybe whatever magic allowed Joshua to create portals also gave him a bit of psychic ability?

"We could sell more stuff," Azalea suggested.  "Basil and I could get you more pottery.  And you could raise the prices a bit.  I think people would understand given the circumstances."

"Awesome idea.  I could carve some things.  Simple things.  Crosses, jewelry boxes, things like that," Andrew offered.

"And I'd be happy to help with that.  I bet a lot of people in the Tunnels would be eager to donate assorted handicrafts."

"Eliot's right," Owen affirmed.  "I'd love to do some prints of my work."

"I'm confident my Ama could embroider more handkerchiefs.  I mean... they're not exactly time period appropriate but... they're nice.  Always appreciated," Joshua pointed out.

"And people will buy something just because the famous Joshua Davidson's mom made them."  Zeke smiled at Joshua. 

"Would there be a way for us to get clothing to them?" Amala asked.  "JenniAnn and I have been talking about having a clothing swap place in Asteriana.  Upcycling, you know.  I'm sure we all have clothes we don't actually wear.  But... maybe this should be our first project instead of the swap?"

"'We're working with partners on getting material goods delivered,'" Arthur read from his phone.  "'But, yes, we would appreciate that.  People will need clothes.  They'll be leaving everything behind.'"

The room was silent for a few moments. 

Jeff appeared and whispered something to Tim.

"Guys, we have to go.  Some folks... arrived... need help.  But thank you.  All... you...  Be in touch."

The screen went black.

"Tyson says thank you to everyone," Arthur relayed.

"This is going to take a bit of time to get in motion," Lacey pointed out.  "Maybe... only if people can... maybe we can pass a hat around or something for the first round?"

"Great idea."  Joshua smiled warmly at Lacey. 

One of the baskets from the Temple scene was fetched and promptly sent around the room.

"Could we... sing something maybe?  Not from the show.  Just something... reassuring?" Ivy requested.  "Maybe that song you and Zeke sing, Joshua?  'Times.'  Zeke and Peter sang it at the prayer vigil after... after the shooting.  It brought so much comfort."

Joshua rose from his chair.

"Of course.  Zeke?"



"Yeah, definitely."

"And everyone join in when you can," Joshua urged as he took his guitar from Andrew.  He strummed as Zeke and Peter made their ways to the stage.

Zeke and Peter sang the first two verses together as the congregated Friends joined in on the "Ohs..."  As Joshua took over, there wasn't a dry eye.

"'My love is over.  It's underneath.  It's inside.  It's in between.  The times you doubt me, when you can't feel, the times that you question: 'Is this for real?'  The times you're broken, the times that you mend, the times you hate me and the times that you bend.  Well, my love is over.  It's underneath.  It's inside.  It's in between.  These times you're healing and when your heart breaks, the times that you feel like you've fallen from grace, the times you're hurting, the times that you heal, the times you go hungry and are tempted to steal.  In times of confusion and chaos and pain, I'm there in your sorrow, under the weight of your shame.  I'm there through your heartache.  I'm there in the storm.  My love, I will keep you by my power alone.  I don't care where you've fallen, where you have been.  I'll never forsake you.  My love never ends, it never ends...'"


Saturday February 26th, 2022

The following two days had been sober ones.  Not only were the Friends deep into rehearsing Act II but the reports from Tim, Jeff, and Tyson had grown increasingly troubling.  Ticket pre-sales had started coming and between the collection and those who were forfeiting their pay, the Friends had been able to send the trio a substantial amount of money.  But still, many of them felt helpless.  To cope, they'd congregated at Willowveil and St. G's at all hours of the day and night, when not working or rehearsing, to work on crafts to sell during intermission. 

By Saturday evening at 7:00, Andrew could tell that everyone was running on fumes.  The final straw had been Eric completely breaking down during the recitation of the Kaddish.

"All right...  I think we've done enough.  I know things are really difficult right now but I think everyone should go home and either try to get some much needed... and deserved... rest or have a little fun.  We'll reconvene tomorrow at 5:00 PM," the angel of death announced before hurrying over to Eric.

"Sorry... sorry," he apologized.  "It just... hit me different tonight."

Andrew stroked his back.

"No, no... you're fine." 

Joshua dashed out of his tomb and hugged Eric.

"Let's get you home to Neela and Zany, hmm?  I'll ride with you."

"You don't have to do that, Josh.  I can manage a subway ride by myself.  I'm a big boy."

"I know.  But sometimes even big boys need a friend beside them."

Eric smiled.

"Yeah, okay."

"Good.  Just let me go change into something that, umm, won't get me arrested on the subway."

Eric laughed as Joshua ran off in his loincloth.

On his way back to the dressing room, Joshua passed Roger.

"Oh, hey, I offered to go with Eric on the ride back to his place.  I think the company will do him good.  But I'm still planning to come to your place if we're still on?"

"Absolutely!  Loreena's planning to come by at 8:00."

"8:00 it is!  I'm excited!"  Joshua smiled and waved before resuming his path to the men's changing room.  He knocked.

"Come in, we're decent," Adam called.

Joshua stepped inside and found Adam, Edward, and Kyle.

"Great job tonight, guys!  I know it was rough but all three of you did a really great job.  And, Adam, if looks could kill... Loreena woulda done you in.  I mean if you weren't immortal, of course."

Adam chuckled.

"Yes.  I'm confidant that, with her, ol' Pontius woulda spent the rest of his life sleeping alone on a couch.  Here."  He handed Joshua his clothes.

"Thanks."  Joshua stepped behind a curtain and began to change.

"We were, umm, just talking about Caleb and Lacey," Edward shared.  "When you came in."

Joshua's face peeked around the curtain.

"Yeah?  I was so glad to see them on Thursday.  I'd hoped maybe they'd start coming around..."

Edward sadly shook his head.

"They want to help with everything, fundraising-wise.  But it's still just too much for them... being here."

"I understand." 

"Hey, Adam and I are gonna get going," Kyle interjected.  "See you both tomorrow."

"Good night!"  Joshua once again peeked out and waved.  "Love you both!  See you!"

"Love you, too," Adam and Kyle called together before departing.

Joshua finished changing and stepped out, resting a hand on Edward's shoulder.

"You know I'm always here to talk.  But... there's someone else I think you ought to speak to."

"Oh?  Who?  Someone here?"

Joshua nodded.


Edward balked.

"Sandy?  I mean he's nice enough but... what does the great Sandalphon, Angel of the Arts, have to do with Caleb?"

"Not much.  But he knows plenty about having a twin brother who just maybe isn't the best about opening up when he's troubled."

"Oh..."  Edward considered Joshua's words.  He wasn't particularly close to Marty.  But even he'd been able to tell the angel hadn't been quite right since October.  "Yeah... he does."

"I think it would do you both good.  It's important to be there for your brother, Edward.  But it's also important to have support for yourself.  And I know you do.  You have Zadie and little Etta.  And you have your aunt and uncle and parents.  But that twin bond... that's something special.  And Sandy understands that."

Edward's face lit up.

"Yeah... yeah, you're right!  I mean, of course."  He laughed.  "Yeah... I'll go try to catch him now.  Set something up."

"He'd like that a lot."

Joshua hugged Edward.

"You're a great brother, Edward.  Don't ever doubt that."

"Thank you.  I... I needed to hear that."

Joshua rested a hand on Edward's cheek.

"I'm so proud of you, Edward.  Both you and Caleb.  You were such squabblers when you first came here.  My Sons of Thunder 2.0.  But now...  You've grown so much.  I love you so much."

Edward hugged Joshua tightly and rested his head on his shoulder.

"I love you, too, Josh.  And thanks for the pep talk."

"Thanks for listening.  Now, you go talk to Sandy then head on home.  Get some rest."

"Will do.  Good night, Josh."

"Good night, my boy."

Joshua clapped Edward on the back then, once he'd left, he stepped in front of the mirror, checking to be sure most of the fake blood... at least what was visible... was gone.  He frowned as he studied himself.  Neither he nor Andrew had wanted JenniAnn to do his make-up tonight.  Not on a date night...  But she'd insisted and he'd let her. 

Joshua bowed his head and began to rock as he prayed... prayed that Edward would have a good talk with Sandy, that Andrew's and JenniAnn's night together hadn't been too sabotaged, that Eric and all the others would find rest, that Tim, Jeff, and Tyson would know they could lean on him as they worked, and that peace would triumph. 

"Thank You.  I love You, Dad," he finished before leaving the room to go escort Eric home.


Loreena squealed with delight as she and Roger played Animal Crossing. 

Joshua smiled from behind his mug.  He enjoyed playing well enough... but not as much as watching Loreena and Roger play.  And the pizza, courtesy of the Crocettis, was phenomenal. 

After a few more minutes, the two ceased playing so they could focus on their dinner.

"So the weirdest thing happened earlier... when I was at Willowveil," Loreena started.

Joshua and Roger exchanged curious looks, the former wondering if they'd forgotten a religious painting somewhere.

"So JenniAnn was talking to... Tim, right?  Which is the one with the earring?"

"Tim," Joshua confirmed.

"Okay, good.  She was talking to him on Zoom while we were working on painting these beautiful jewelry boxes Andrew had made for the sale.  Anyway, since I don't know him I wasn't really participating in the conversation but I was listening because it's just all so... so awful.  He... he mentioned how... how children are showing up with absolutely nothing.  So they're doing their best to get them comfort items... blankies, stuffed animals.  And I looked because I was just so affected and... I coulda sworn I saw you, Joshua.  This guy walked by, holding a little girl and he was a dead ringer for you."

Roger shot Joshua a shocked look.

Joshua remained calm.

"Wow...  That's something.  I'm just really glad there are so many people helping out."

"Me too."  Loreena hugged Joshua.  "And, selfishly, I'm glad this Joshua stayed with us."  She smiled at him.  "I... I don't think I've fully told you how much it's meant to me to be included.  And so welcomed.  It's not something I'm used to having happen so effortlessly outside of specifically queer spaces."

Joshua returned her hug.

"People are people.  And God tells us to love people."

"He does," Loreena agreed.  "But...  Some people... a lot of people... feel like loving someone means helping them to turn away from sin."

"And it can be," Joshua agreed.  "But only when it's truly a sin.  If someone has a problem with, say, losing their temper and making people feel lousy, it would be a loving act to help that person get help to be better, kinder.  But just being who you are... that's not a sin."

Loreena beamed.

"I like that.  I like that a lot.  Sometimes I can't help laughing at myself... just assuming you'd be all judgy and prudish.  Sometimes first impressions are very, very wrong."

Joshua chuckled.

"Well, I'm glad you gave me a chance to change your mind."

"Me too!  But you..."  Loreena waved her hand towards Roger. 

Roger's eyes went wide.

"You I had pegged from the moment we met."

Roger smiled.

"How so?"

"I just figured any guy whose response to getting attacked in a bar is to then move into an apartment with that guy out of loyalty to his cousin... he's gonna be a very tolerant guy."

Roger blushed.

"Yeah... don't see much sense in getting worked up about things."

"No.  But you also stand up to people when it's important.  You've done it for me.  You and Mason both.  And I appreciate that."

Loreena reached over and patted his hand.

For a brief moment, Roger placed his other hand over Loreena's.

The room went quiet.  Joshua pretended to be intrigued by the ingredients on a parmesan cheese packet.

"So, umm, you did great tonight, Loreena," Roger murmured before pulling his hand off hers.  "I mean... you both did, of course.  Joshua... amazing as always."

Joshua smiled.

"Thank you.  And I agree.  Loreena, I told Adam that if looks could kill... he'd be a dead man."

Loreena laughed and refocused on her pizza.

"I mean just imagine being married to someone and so convinced they're doing something that will leave their name cursed for generations...  I mean... not that Pilate was a stand-up guy beforehand by any means.  But if someone only knows one thing about him, it's that he sentenced Jesus to death.  How awful for Claudia... whether she loved him or not.  I'm not sure which would be worse."

"I think it would be worse to know someone you loved basically killed someone who was innocent.  But, then again, if she didn't love him... it's all happening after a lifetime of trauma," Roger opined.

Joshua kept mum, thinking of Claudia as she'd truly been.

"Just as an exercise... to get myself into character, I guess... I wondered about what she woulda said to Jesus.  If she could have spoken to him, I mean."

Joshua perked up, curious.

"What do you think she would have said?" Roger asked.  "I mean if you want to share?"

"Sure.  I think she would have said she was sorry for everything that he was going to go through.  That... that she'd tried her best.  But sometimes... when you're so beaten down by society... your best just doesn't go that far."  Loreena's eyes filled.

Joshua reached over and squeezed her hand.

"I think that would have meant a lot to him.  And I think he would have told her that it wasn't for her to stop.  But that she wanted to spare him pain... that meant a lot.  And it went far enough."



Roger fought tears as the two embraced and, not for the first time, he wished Loreena knew exactly who was in her arms and who loved her and accepted her just as she was.


For the second time in his life, it had become abundantly clear to Andrew that he was involved in a love triangle.  But this one was far trickier, far more sensitive than the him-JenniAnn-Eliot one.  This was the oldest love triangle of all time.

Man... well, more or less.  Woman.  God.

So it had been in Eden, so it was now.

But, with all due respect to Adam and Eve... and even Crowley... this felt thornier.  The ripple effect wouldn't be nearly as huge.  But how to resolve it?  It was going to take a lot more time and effort than simply donning some fig leaves and heading East.  Because JenniAnn didn't have to choose between obeying God and being with him.  She only had to choose between continuing to torment herself with questions about Joshua's death... questions she wouldn't seek definitive answers for... and allowing herself to enjoy their life, unfettered.  But, right now, she was choosing to remain in limbo... obsessing about Joshua but not actually talking to him... and loving him and yet not allowing herself to enjoy their time together. 

Andrew stared up at the ceiling of the Aurora Mist's captain's quarters.  He'd spent hours cleaning it up, making sure it was safe.  Then he'd brought his Laja there... meaning to make up for the stilted, awkward times they'd spent there when she was younger.  He'd imagined dancing on the deck then slipping down here, into bed, into each other's embrace.

But the Laja he'd brought onto the ship had come straight from covering Joshua in scourging marks and fake blood and nail holes.  He and Joshua had both tried to dissuade her but she'd insisted... wanting to "rip off the band-aid for the year."

Now she was sleeping fitfully at Andrew's side.

Andrew wondered sometimes how much the demons had known about what they were doing.  Had they chosen to show JenniAnn Natalie's rape and murder just because it had been especially heinous?  Or had they deliberately picked a Christmas baby with a scar on her right side
?  Had they known that, in JenniAnn's mind, the two would fuse?  That they would flicker in her memories and imagination, the murdered young woman, the crucified God?

She hadn't told him that.  But he'd assumed it.  And that book she'd bought... that had all but sealed it.

JenniAnn whimpered in her sleep.

Andrew turned onto his side and wrapped his arms around her.

"It's okay, Laja.  I'm here, darlin'.  You're okay.  We're all okay," he murmured.

JenniAnn jolted then her eyes opened.


"On the ship.  The Aurora Mist."

"Oh... right.  Date night."  JenniAnn gave Andrew a regretful smile and stroked his face.  "I'm sorry I've been a crappy date."

"Never," Andrew countered, bringing her hand to his lips.  "I'm just so sorry it's been so rough on you this year.  If there's anything I can do..."

JenniAnn shook her head.

"I don't want to give it up," she insisted.

"I know.  And I wouldn't ask you to.  But if I can make it easier..."

JenniAnn sat up and rubbed at her temples.

"I... I just can't stop obsessing about what... what happened to him.  I had a nightmare earlier this week... the most recent of many... and ever since..."  She hugged Andrew tightly.  "It's hard to feel romantic when... that... keeps running through my head."

"What if you took a week off?  We can go a week without make-up.  Even two."

"I don't know...  I mean I hadn't even been doing the crucifixion make-up when I had that nightmare.  Tonight was the first night.  I guess I thought... maybe if I just did it once a-and moved past that initial... shock?  But... no."

"Then maybe... Laja, maybe you need to talk to Joshua.  About what you've been seeing.  In your dreams.  Or if not that... talk to me.  I know it's about Joshua's death.  And I can guess at other things but... it's only a good guess."

"I'm just... not sure I want to know for sure is all.  A theory can just be a theory.  A nightmare is just a nightmare.  But once Joshua says something... it's just true," JenniAnn lamented.

Andrew hugged her.

"We need to do something to try to stop the nightmares, JenniAnn.  This... it isn't healthy.  Your seizures increase when you don't sleep well," he reminded.


"Just... think about it?"


JenniAnn nuzzled his shoulder.

"Let's try to get some sleep, hmm?  If I fall asleep before you, just wake me up if you want to talk.  Okay?"


Andrew kissed JenniAnn.

"Good night, Laja.  I love you."

"And I love you.  So much."  JenniAnn caressed the angel's face then snuggled down beside him.  "G'night."

Andrew gently stroked JenniAnn's hair until she once again fell asleep.  This time it seemed more restful.

Andrew whispered a prayer, asking for peace, then joined his anam cara in slumbering.


Sunday, February 27th, 2022

Joshua smiled at Loreena and Roger, huddled together on the couch and fast asleep.  Weariness had overtaken them both during an attempt to watch The Book of Boba Fett.  Joshua remained in his chair.  Roger had made up a bed for him but he knew the two would be less embarrassed upon awakening if he was also there. 

Joshua, too, closed his eyes but not to sleep.

He ran over his to-do list. 

He had to get through to JenniAnn, had to get her to open up to him.  On the surface, maybe it didn't seem like much.  After all, she'd gone through a similar period of obsessive thinking during college.  But there hadn't been so many people depending on her and Andrew then.  And she'd been different then... more easily able to shrug off trauma.  But not now.  How could she be?

And then there was Caleb and Lacey.  Resolution was coming there.  Soon, Joshua thought.  The details were fuzzy but he knew happier times were ahead.  And then Edward, too, would feel at peace.

Then there were his older twins... the oldest twins ever.  Andrew and JenniAnn weren't the only ones dealing with residual trauma from October.  Vonnie had been right when she'd spoken to Marty all those months ago...  in his heart, Andrew and JenniAnn were his Adam and Eve.  He had watched over them since that first fateful meeting in the Fields of Gold.  Joshua had sent him to urge them to give in to their desire to be together, not simply as co-parents but as anam caras.  So it was no wonder Marty was protective... but it was becoming maladaptive.  Sandy was trying to help.  But Marty was stubborn. 

And Crowley...  Joshua smiled as he recalled what he'd heard about his Ama's visit with the angel.  He knew how much that had meant to Crowley... and to his Ama.  But, like JenniAnn, Crowley was struggling with the reality of what had happened to him.  Unlike JenniAnn, Crowley had witnessed it all.  So had Aziraphale, of course.  But it was different for Crowley.  Though his relationship with Aziraphale had been strained at times, the angel had never truly cut himself off from Joshua.  Crowley had.  And from his Mother, too.

Joshua opened his eyes and peered over at the sleeping duo.

Loreena...  He also had to do everything he could to protect Loreena's heart.  The Friends had done him proud by all accepting her without question.  But news would spread.  And some who had shied away from Superstar because they felt rejected by Christianity... and Jesus... would come to see the show.  And that would be beautiful.  And Joshua would hug each and every one of them who wanted to.  But there would be others...  Those who added plenty of asterisks to his command "Do not judge..."  And they would be cruel.  Those around Loreena would have to love her even more fiercely.

And there was something else...  So many things.  But this was big... 

But he couldn't remember.

Joshua smiled as he recalled that first year, that first production.  He hadn't remembered about Yehuda returning.

Whatever he'd forgotten could be something like that.

Maybe he'd be able to find another of his lost sheep and lead them Home.

With that hopeful thought, Joshua allowed himself to fall asleep.


"I just wish I knew what to say is all," Edward relayed in between bites of an apple as he sat in one of the barns on his uncle's property.

Sandy raised his head from where it had been resting against an especially cuddly sheep.

"I know the feeling.  You don't want to pry and yet..."

"Yet you hate to see him struggling.  Hate to see him pulling away."


Edward gave a half-hearted chuckle.

"I mean... I suppose in some twisted way it makes me feel better that you're the second oldest being in creation and haven't fully figured out how to support your own brother.  Sorry."

"No need to be sorry.  It's true.  The whole created being thing...  We were created to be uniquely complicated, ever-changing.  Answers that worked before won't always work."

"That's true."

Sandy's face lit up.

"Changing... but the same," he murmured. 


"Marty is used to being in control.  Of himself, I mean.  Of his emotions.  He's used to being the calm, collected observer.  He takes notes.  He files reports.  He feels... always.  But he doesn't get bogged down in those feelings.  And then this thing happens... his friends are attacked.  And he can't just move on.  He's stuck in those feelings... that horror.  But he feels trapped in a role.  He's the scribe.  He's aloof... but then he's not."

Edward blinked.

"Okay...  That sucks for him."

"Yes.  And I can help with that.  And I will!  Now that I know.  But think...  Caleb.  What do people... your family... the Friends... what do they expect from Caleb?"

Edward thought.

"Well...  He's always been something of the class clown.  I mean not in a bratty way.  Just... not overly serious.  Playful."

"And what if, right now, he doesn't have the energy to be those things?"

Tears welled in Edward's eyes.

"Maybe... maybe that's why he's withdrawn.  He can't be who he thinks we expect him to be.  But... we love him.  Not because he's a goofball but... but because he's Caleb."

"Yes."  Sandy smiled brightly.

Edward jumped up onto his feet.

"Is... is it okay if I go?  I need to go talk to Caleb."

Sandy laughed and nodded agreeably.

"Of course!  That was the point!"

Edward grinned.

"Okay, thanks!  And I hope all goes well with Marty!  I assume you have a talk of your own?"

"We do," Sandy agreed.  "Best wishes, my friend!"

"Thank you!"

Sandy laughed again and pet his new sheep friend.

"Well...  I believe I just did an assignment.  Don't get those very often.  I think I was rather good, wasn't I?"

He peered at the sheep for a few moments.

"Well, thank you.  I appreciate that very much.  Say, would you care for a bit of William Blake?"

Sandy paused again then beamed.

"Wonderful!  'Little Lamb who made thee/Dost thou know who made thee/Gave thee life & bid thee feed...'"


Edward ran to another barn where Caleb was busy mucking stalls.


Caleb turned and arched an eye brow when he saw his red-faced, winded brother.

"Is everything okay?"

"Hope so."

Edward grabbed the pitchfork Caleb was holding and set it aside.  Then he pulled off Caleb's work gloves and held his twin's hands.

"I love you, Caleb."

"Umm.  Thanks.  I love you, too, bro."

"But, like, I mean it.  I don't just love you because you're fun to be around... because you make me laugh... because you tell me when I'm being too serious.  I just love you.  Because you're my brother.  Because you're Caleb."

Caleb bowed his head and blinked back tears.

"I just... I need you to know that.  And... and I know I'm not the only one who feels that way.  Caleb... why did you and Lacey really step back?"

"We just...  It was... hard.  Being around pregnant ladies and... and everyone talking about their kids and..."

"And I don't doubt that.  I can only imagine how painful that is.  But... is it the real reason?"

Caleb sighed.  He squeezed his brother's hands then settled onto a hay bale. 

Edward sat beside him.

"It's why I've been angry with Joshua.  And... Lacey's not so much angry as just hurt.  But... no.  That's not the main reason we pulled away.  Not really.  It's just always been 'That Caleb, he'll cheer you right up!' and 'Caleb's such a riot!'  But... I don't feel fun... or funny.  Just... sad."

Edward hugged him.

"And that's all right.  I mean... I don't want you to be sad.  But... it doesn't mean you have to pull away.  Because, sure, you're usually a jovial guy.  But that's not the only reason people love you.  You're kind.  And you're a good listener.  A hard worker.  There's so much to love about you."

Caleb smiled as a tear rolled down his cheek.



"Maybe you're right.  Maybe... maybe we could just pop in tonight?  I don't want back in the show.  I just... I'm not ready to be that close to Joshua, night after night.  I said some ugly things."

"And I'm sure he forgives you.  But I understand that.  It's rough-going playing Romans even at the best of times."

"But you're doing okay?  Everything's working out with Kyle?"

Edward nodded.

"I'm doing good.  And Kyle's great.  He's not you, of course.  But I've enjoyed working with him a lot.  So, yeah, I think you should come visit whenever you want.  People would love to see you, Caleb.  You and Lacey both."

"All right."

Caleb smiled at his twin.

"Thank you.  This talk... it really helped."

"I'm just sorry it took me so long to come to it," Edward apologized.  "It didn't really occur to me until I was talking with Sandy who, well, he's got his own issues with Marty.  But he was talking about feeling stuck in roles.  And I realized you probably felt that."

"A little, yeah."

"You don't need to any more.  And if anyone makes you feel like you need to... send them to me."

Caleb chuckled.

"Will do.  Now... my very supportive brother... want to help me finish here?"

"No...  But I will."  Edward grinned at Caleb them stood up and grabbed a second pitchfork.

As they worked, the two talked like they hadn't in a long time.


It was nearly 10:00 AM by the time Roger stirred.  He smiled happily and turned into the warmth beside him.

Then he froze and his eyes went wide.

Joshua chuckled.

"Morning!" he chirped.

Loreena moaned quietly and stretched.

Then she, too, froze.

Roger and Loreena pulled away from each other and sat, stiffly, on opposite sides of the couch.

"Relax," Joshua urged.  "I fell asleep out here, too.  Not a big deal.  Comfy couch.  I remember."

With that, Loreena and Roger exchanged shy smiles.

"It is comfy," she agreed.

"Yeah...  Very." 

"I was just thinking about running out for some coffee.  Maybe some donuts?  Interested?" Joshua offered.

"If you're not sick of me by now..." Loreena answered with a smirk.

"Absolutely not," Roger and Joshua said at the same time.

Loreena laughed.

"All right then.  Can I run up to my apartment to make myself at least a bit more presentable?  Fifteen minutes?"

"Fifteen minutes," Joshua agreed.  "You want to meet back here or..."

"I'll come back here," Loreena replied. 

"Then we'll see you in fifteen."  Roger smiled at her.  "And... sorry if that was... weird."

Loreena shook her head.

"Takes two to... uh, fall asleep on the same couch."

The two once again smiled at each other before Loreena fled.

Roger cleared his throat.

"You could have woken me up."

"Could have," Joshua agreed.  "But nah."

Roger rubbed at his face.



Cringing, Roger shook his head.

"Sorry...  I shouldn't have said that.  Just... flustered."

"No!  Really?" Joshua teased.

Roger laughed.  He rose from the couch and squeezed Joshua's shoulder.

"I'm gonna go get ready."

"Sounds good.  And I meant it.  Not a big deal."

Joshua smiled fondly at his host.

Roger patted Joshua's shoulder.


Joshua continued to smile as Roger made his way to his room.

Things were falling into place nicely on one front at least.


JenniAnn leaned against the railing of the Aurora Mist, staring out at the sea. 

Andrew stepped behind her and wrapped his arms around her waist, sighing when she settled back against him.

"This really was lovely.  I'm just sorry I was in a mood.  But... it did mean a lot that you did all this."

"Anything for you."

JenniAnn twisted around and studied her beloved's face.

"I'll figure something out.  I will.  I promise.  Just... if you ever do this again... maybe don't with someone who studied theology.  I'm beginning to think we all go a bit nuts in the end."

Andrew chuckled and rested his forehead against her hair.

"You're not nuts.  And I'm never doing this again.  Just staying with you.  Forever."

JenniAnn caressed his face with one hand while the other settled over the angel's heart.

"I know.  And I'm glad.  And grateful.  Because I love you so much."

"I love you, too, Laja."

They shared a perfect kiss. 

It hadn't been the date Andrew had intended.  But she was in his arms and that's all that mattered.


That evening, a more rested and calm cast and crew gathered at St. Genesius'.  Caleb and Lacey, as promised, were among them which meant they were able to join in on Shane's birthday celebration.

Embarrassed but delighted, Shane had agreed to hold court from Herod's chair, wearing an even more ridiculous crown than usual.

"So how's 42 feel?" Owen asked as he brought the birthday boy his sundae.

"Not much different from 41!  Or 40... or 39, to be honest.  And thank you."  Shane took a bite and fluttered his eyes.  "Very yummy.  So much chocolate!  I love it."

"Do you think your kids will do anything for you?" Diana asked.

"I've heard rumors of a special song."  Shane's eyes misted.  "I'm looking forward to it."

"You deserve everything good that comes your way," Joshua assured.  "What you've done... what all teachers have done... these past couple years has been amazing.  And, of course, what you do here is amazing, too, Shane.  So... we got you a little something."

Shane fanned his face as tears began to fall.

"You guys..."

Joshua handed him a wrapped parcel.

Shane drew in a deep breath to steady himself then unwrapped it.

"Oh, Joshua...  Did you..."  The man reverently brushed his fingers over the wooden box which was engraved with an image of the crown of thorns and a crown that looked much like Herod's interlocked.

"I did, yeah."  Joshua lowered his voice.  "I thought it was a nice way to commemorate the work we've done together in the show.  But each crown also represents you.  The servant's heart giving so much to his students.  And the prince's crown... because you're the son of a King."


Shane hugged Joshua tightly as he wept.

"You gotta open it," Kylie urged.

"Oh!  There's something inside?"

"Yup," Joshua affirmed.

Shane released the carpenter and sat back down.  He opened the lid to discover several small pieces of paper.

"A note from every one of us," Emma explained.

Shane read one then shook his head.

"Caleb...  That's beautiful.  Thank you.  But... I can't do this and then get up on stage and pretend to be the rowdy, capricious king everyone loves to hate so... do you all mind if I read them later?"

"Not at all!" Peter replied on behalf of the others.

"We assumed you'd want to," Andrew added.  "Heck, you wouldn't be the only one crying if you went through them all.  So... just everyone enjoy your ice cream, gush over our birthday boy, and we'll get going in about..."  He checked his pocket watch.  "Twenty minutes?  5:45?"

The group cheered in agreement then broke off to chat and make sundaes.

After a few minutes, Joshua felt a hand on his shoulder.  He set down his sundae and turned to find Caleb and Lacey.

Caleb opened his mouth to speak but nothing came out.  Then he simply collided with Joshua.  With a sob, Lacey followed.

Joshua wrapped his arms around them both and softly swayed.

"I'm here.  I'm here," he murmured.  "It's okay."

And, though they still felt pain, Caleb and Lacey knew it was.


Friday, March 11th, 2022

The two weeks that followed Shane's birthday had been a breathless flurry of activity.  Between amped up rehearsals and throwing themselves into their fundraising efforts, the Friends were once again exhausted which prompted Andrew to declare a weekend off.

For JenniAnn, the hectic pace had meant having little time to deal with her scruples.  It also meant her sleep schedule left much to be desired.

She was wearily making tea when a shout from down the hall caused her to startle.

"En guarde, ye scoundrel!  I've come to reclaim my treasure."

"Aziraphale, get away from the mantle before one of you knocks something over."

Curious, JenniAnn turned off the stove and followed the voices to the ballroom. 

She stepped inside to find Aziraphale in the midst of a sword fight... or wrapping paper roll fight, to be more precise... with Liam, Belle, Avi, and Evie.

"You'll never catch me, you... you... fancy pirate dude!" Belle cried before coming at Aziraphale with a tube of Elsa-themed paper.

JenniAnn made a beeline to where Joshua and Crowley were watching the proceedings, the latter rubbing at his forehead.

"What is going on?" JenniAnn questioned.  "Aziraphale never struck me as the swashbuckling type."

"Oh, he's very much not," Crowley replied.  "But... he's found a new show to fancy.  Bit obsessed, I'm afraid."

"A... pirate show?"

"Yeah.  Gay pirates, yep." 

Joshua chuckled.

"A gay pirate show..." JenniAnn repeated, a bit stunned.

"So it would seem.  There's this character on the show... based on a real guy but not quite so... messy," Crowley explained.  "I mean I have to admit when Aziraphale made me watch it... it was like watching him.  This very cute, very fancy blonde fellow.  Well-dressed.  Soft.  Well read.  Patient with brooding, ill-mannered types."

JenniAnn couldn't help but notice that Crowley was sounding and looking a bit soppy. 

"So... there's a gay pirate show and the lead is a lot like Aziraphale and now he's obsessed?" JenniAnn recapped.

"Right," Crowley and Joshua said in unison.

"So is there a pirate Crowley?"

"No," Crowley answered as the same time Joshua said "Kind of."

Crowley stared at Joshua.

"Please...  I'm not nearly as childish and brooding as that man," he protested.


Joshua chuckled and hugged the watcher.

"Honestly, it makes him happy.  Things have been a bit emotional so if he wants to watch two blokes swing swords around and swoon over each other... I'm here for it," Crowley declared.

"So what's the name of the show?"

"Our Flag Means Death," Crowley replied.

"Would I like it?"

"Yup," Joshua answered as Crowley shrugged. 

"Cool.  I'll have to check it out.  And I assume they have a ship on the show?" JenniAnn asked.

"The Revenge."

JenniAnn wrinkled her nose.

"The Aurora Mist is much prettier sounding."

"Aurora Mist?"  Crowley looked to her in confusion.

"Our ship."

Crowley cocked his head.

"Oh right...  I remember seeing that once when Aziraphale and I went for a walk.  I thought it was a toy."

"No.  It actually sails.  Or at least did.  I hope it still does.  It was sorely neglected but..."  JenniAnn's face flushed.  "Andrew cleaned it up really nice for... for a date night a couple weeks ago.  It's still pretty dated, though.  I mean... I decorated it when I was in college."

"Might be a nice project for Aziraphale," Joshua suggested.

"Oh, yes, please!" Crowley begged.  "If this goes on much longer... and there are four more episodes so it very well could... I'm afraid he's going to start boatifying our flat.  And I like our place as it is."

Joshua squeezed Crowley's shoulder.

"He wouldn't do anything that would upset you but..."

"Ah ha!" Aziraphale shouted.  "The booty is all mine now!" 

JenniAnn watched with amusement as he struggled to move a decorative chest Andrew had found at a flea market.

"Should I tell him that's loaded with Christmas ornaments?  Heavy Christmas ornaments."

Crowley smirked.

Andrew entered the ballroom, fresh from an early morning assignment.  He approached JenniAnn, kissed her cheek, and then surveyed the scene.

"What's going on?  Are they re-enacting Shakespeare or something?"

"Playing pirates."


JenniAnn recapped the conversation for Andrew's benefit.

"Huh okay.  I mean... I get it.  We got pretty intense about Hill House.  It feels good to see yourself reflected back to you... and this at least sounds more fun."

"So I was thinking maybe we could let Aziraphale take over re-decorating the Aurora Mist," JenniAnn suggested.  "Joshua's idea, actually.  We'll just have to be very, very clear on a budget.  I suspect his tastes may be a bit more... upscale than ours."

"Definitely.  So you agree, Joshua?"

"Yup!" Joshua answered.

"Then let's do it," Andrew declared.

"And now... the Gentleman Pirate bids you adieu!"  Aziraphale bowed dramatically to the children who were giggling.  They politely declined to point out that he'd only budged his "booty" a half inch.

Seeing Andrew and JenniAnn, the principality blushed before approaching.

"My apologies!  I got carried away.  I fear your wrapping paper may be a bit dented."

"No worries.  They were having fun and burned off some energy.  Crowley and Joshua were explaining your recent fascination to us.  We'll have to check the show out."  JenniAnn hugged Andrew's arm and smiled at Aziraphale.  "But... we have a proposition."


"Did you know we have a ship?" Andrew asked.

Aziraphale's eyes went wide.

"You do?"

"Yeah.  Anchored on the north coast, a bit past the chapel," Andrew relayed. 

"We were wondering... now, our budget is modest... but given your newfound fascination with the seafaring life... would you want to redecorate it?" JenniAnn offered.

Aziraphale jumped up and down and clapped happily.

"Yes!  Can I decorate it's like Stede's ship?"

"Uh..."  Andrew looked to Joshua.

"I think Andrew and JenniAnn would like that very much," Joshua answered.  "But, again, you can't go overboard... ha... because..."

Aziraphale shook his head.

"No, no!  Let me finance this!  Please!  I'd love to!  It would be such a delight.  And I have a couple of rare books I could sell.  They're duplicates.  I wouldn't miss them.  And I've had inquiries from a seller in Rome.  I could get more than enough to..."

"I wouldn't mind a weekend trip to Rome," Joshua interjected. 

"Joshua and I could go!  And Crowley, of course, you can come along, my dear."

Crowley shook his head.  He'd been spending a lot of time with Joshua because of the show.  This seemed like a good chance for Aziraphale to have some quality one-on-one time with their boss.

"Thank you, angel.  But I'll sit this one out.  The two of you should go.  Admire the fancy art and stuff."

Aziraphale gripped JenniAnn's hands.

"Will you allow it?  My treat.  No strings attached.  I mean... if you'd allow me to take it sailing every so often that might be nice..."

JenniAnn laughed and hugged him.

"Of course you could use it!  And... I think this all sounds lovely.  Andrew?"

Andrew clapped Aziraphale on the back.

"Go for it!  And thanks!  One less thing on our to-do list."

"Oh!  Oh!  This is wonderful!  I'll go pack.  And call the buyer.  Joshua... can you be ready in two hours?"


"Then I'll meet you here then!  Can't wait.  Too-da-loo!"

JenniAnn giggled as Aziraphale ran off.

Crowley let out a dramatic sigh.

"You see what I live with?"

Joshua chuckled and patted his arm.

"As if you'd have it any other way."

Crowley smiled.


"So what are your plans for the weekend, Crowley?" Andrew inquired.

"Dunno.  Napping probably.  But for right now... I better go help.  He'll pack the whole flat if he's not watched."

JenniAnn smiled and hugged him.

"Sounds good.  Enjoy your nap."

"Yup.  Later."

Belle ran over and gripped Andrew's hand.

"Mama, Daddy!  Uncle Aziraphale played pirates with us!"

"I saw!" JenniAnn stroked her hair.  "Looked like fun!"

"Will you come play with us since he had to go?"

Andrew glanced over at JenniAnn who looked a little unsteady.  He knew she hadn't slept well.

"How about your Daddy and I play with you and we let your Mama relax for a bit?" Joshua suggested.


JenniAnn mouthed a heartfelt thank you to Joshua.

The chatter had, somehow, exhausted her. 

"You going upstairs, Laja?"

JenniAnn nodded to Andrew.

"I'll go with you."  Andrew turned to the four children.  "Be back in just a bit, kids."


JenniAnn squeezed Andrew's hand and they made their way upstairs.

"Seems goofy to get back into bed when we've just barely had breakfast."

Andrew turned the covers down.

"Not when you didn't sleep well last night.  Or the night before.  Or..." he trailed off.

JenniAnn got into bed.

Andrew bent down to kiss her.

"Love..." she murmured, stroking his cheek.

"I'll play with the kids then I'll be back in a bit, okay?"


JenniAnn snuggled into her pillow.

At the door, Andrew peered at her for a few moments and prayed she would get some sleep.



Saturday, March 12th, 2022

Crowley woke up in a cold sweat.  His hand drifted to his side, searching... for warmth, for comfort, for Aziraphale.  But there was only emptiness.

He remembered then that Aziraphale was with Joshua somewhere in Rome. 

Joshua in Rome...

Snippets of Crowley's tormented dream returned to him. 

He and Joshua had been on stage.  Joshua was feigning agony and Crowley was comforting him.  And then Yehuda had appeared... not Zeke.  Yehuda.  And he'd kissed Joshua.  And then Joshua had been arrested and taken to Qaiapha and Khanan... to Pilate... to Herod.  Not to Eli, Henry, Adam, and Shane.  And then... then he'd been put to death.  JenniAnn wasn't there with her make-up.  The blood was real.  And it was coming from Joshua.  And Crowley was helpless.

Slinging away tears, the watcher looked to his clock.  It was after 11:00 in Asteriana.  He couldn't go there.  JenniAnn was teetering on the brink of actual exhaustion as it was.

But he was quite fond of a gay bar in New York, the Green Carnation.  It was cozy and welcoming.  He and Aziraphale had gone a few times with Shane, Owen, and Graham.  Two or three times each, Jamie and JenniAnn had tagged along, too.

He could go there.  Then he wouldn't be alone.  And the music would drown out the dream and his memories.

Resolute, Crowley got out of bed, made himself decent, and materialized in an alleyway in Manhattan.

He made his way to the Green Carnation, ignoring a couple of cat-callers.

Once inside, he surveyed the crowd.  He had hoped one of the guys might be there.  But he didn't recognize anyone.

Crowley sidled up to the bar. 

"Hey there!  What can I get for you?"

"Hey.  Umm..."  Crowley thought.  He'd done a good job of staying away from the hard stuff since reuniting with Joshua.  But surely one drink wouldn't hurt him.  "Your finest whiskey, please," he replied.

"Coming right up."

It didn't take long for Crowley to be served as the place wasn't that busy.

He took a sip.  Then another.  Soon, the glass was empty.

"Another, please."

"Got it."

Crowley's mind began to feel fuzzy as he sipped the second serving.  He was glad.


Graham groaned when he heard his cell phone ringing.

"Crap...  I thought you said you weren't on call?"

Owen untangled his limbs from around his husband and collapsed onto their bed, aggrieved.

"I'm not.  Must be an emergency...  Sorry."

Graham kissed Owen's forehead then grabbed his phone and answered.

"Dr. Carpenter speaking.  How...  What?  No..."

Concerned, Owen sat up and looped his arms around Graham's torso.

"Are you sure...  Oh.  Yeah.  No, you're right.  Red hair, gold eyes.  Pretty rare.  Yeah, we'll come get him.  No, thank you.  Really.  We appreciate it.  Thanks so much."

Graham ended the call and got out of bed.

"Get up and get dressed.  That was Timothy from the Green Carnation.  Crowley was drunk and making an ass of himself... and is currently passed out in the alley with quite the shiner.  I promised we'd go get him."

"Crowley..."  Owen leaped out of bed, shaking his head.  "That doesn't sound like him.  At least... not as we've known him.  Usually he just orders a glass of wine.  Two at the most."

"Well, Aziraphale's on that trip with Joshua.  Maybe he just can't handle being by himself."

Owen put his hands on his hips.

"I went weeks without you during the height of the pandemic.  To think he couldn't handle a night..."

"Not to belittle anything you've gone through... because I know it was a lot, O.  But... were you there during the Great Flood?  Joshua's death?  Wars?  Famines?  Plagues... not just this last one?  That's a whole heap of trauma," Graham pointed out as he got dressed.

"Good point... Doctor."  Owen kissed Graham's temple then hastily got dressed himself.  "Let's go rescue the Serpent."

"And the Angel of Gethsemane."

Owen shook his head, still marveling at that particular turn of events.  He took his husband's hand and followed him out of their chamber.


"I'm sorry.  I think I really misread the situation.  I just... I was having a bad day and then I thought he was one of those right-wingers... rambling on about Jesus.  So... I punched him.  And then Timothy said he was a regular and...  God, I'm sorry.  Poor guy's going through stuff.  Didn't need that." 

Owen patted the bar patron on the back.

"I understand.  And he will, too.  He's just... well, we're doing a production of Jesus Christ Superstar and I think it's gone to his head some."

"Catholic guilt?"

"Umm... something like that.  Sure."  Owen turned to the bartender.  "How much did he have?"

"Three whiskeys.  I shouldn't have given him the third but he seemed fine and then suddenly..."

Owen looked over to where Graham was doing a quick examination of the fallen watcher.  He'd still been outside when they'd arrived but they'd managed to drag him back into the bar.

"Want my Mum..." Crowley muttered.

"Umm..."  Owen wasn't sure what to do with that.  He turned back to the two men.  "We're just going to take him home with us.  His partner's out of town so... I think that's for the best."

"Can you please call tomorrow?  Let me know how he's doing?  I'm really sorry," Timothy apologized.

"Sure.  Absolutely.  I'm sure he'll be fine."  Owen smiled to reassure the two.  "We'll keep you posted."

The man who had punched Crowley hurried forward to open the door so Owen and Graham could carry him out.

"Sorry.  Again.  You feel better soon, okay?"  He lightly patted Crowley's arm.

"Died...  Jussss wasssssed the life go righ ou of him..." Crowley slurred.

"Jesus..." the man muttered.

Crowley's eyes filled.


Owen and Graham exchanged pitying looks.

"Okay, Crowley, let's get you back to our place just... Can you put an arm around each of us?" Graham coached.


Crowley did and, slowly, Owen and Graham managed to get him into the Tunnels.  Since Shelby wasn't around, they brought him to her chamber which used to be JenniAnn's and deposited him on the bed.

"Mum..." Crowley whined.

"Call JenniAnn," Graham whispered to Owen.

"She's not his mom."

"Obviously.  But we can't exactly call down the Creator.  She'll know what to do."

Owen groaned.

"She's barely functional herself but... fine."

Crowley, completely oblivious to the plans being made around him, drifted to sleep... drifted back into his memories.


33 AD

Crawly stared at Yeshua, crumpled against the trunk of an olive tree.  After a few moments, the carpenter noticed he was no longer alone.  He took in the black-robed figure, curled hair peeking out from beneath a veil.  He blinked in surprise then gave a trembling smile.

"Crawly...  You look different.  I like it."

"Yeah, well, got sick of being respected by society.  Figured I'd see what it was like being female round here."  Crawly rolled her eyes.  "Jus' so you know... your whole 'Judge lest not ye be judged' thing hasn't caught on.  Or the gouging out of offending eyes."

Yeshua frowned.

Crawly felt some regret for being crass... but it was true.  Wanting... needing... to change the subject, she pointed a few yards off.

“You could just walk away, you know.  Lazar’s place isn’t so far.  You know he’d do anything he could for you.  Good friend that one."

“I can,” Yeshua agreed.  “But I will not.  My Father’s will…”

“Is crap!” Crawly shouted.  “Your Father’s will is to see you nailed to a damn cross and slowly suffocated to death!”

Yeshua stared down at his hands and nodded.  After letting out a shuddering breath, he looked up at the demon.

“Yes.  And it’s my will, too.”

Crawly flinched upon seeing the determination in those familiar brown and gold eyes.  They were her earliest memory…  Those eyes… mirthful and peaceful then.

“If you’ve been sent to dissuade me, save yourself the trouble,” Yeshua continued.  “I’m not leaving.”

Crawly wanted to reach out and brush the tears from Yeshua’s cheeks… but she couldn’t.  She only stood, silently staring.

Yeshua shakily got to his feet and moved closer to where his men waited.

“Cephas…  Yohannan…  Yaqob…” he called.

The only answer was the sound of snoring.

Crawly saw the man’s shoulders sag.

“Asleep again…”  Yeshua gave a ragged sigh.  “My friends… my brothers… why have you abandoned me?”

Crawly blinked rapidly, trying to keep her own tears at bay.

Then she let out a sigh to echo Yeshua’s.

She couldn’t do anything about her iridescent ebony wings… but she could do something about her clothing… something to remind that deepest part of Yeshua that they’d been friends once.

Crawly closed her eyes, pleaded, raised her hand, and swiftly brought it downward.  As she finished the movement, her ragged black robe gave way to one of flowy, soft white. 

Yeshua turned away from the disciples and looked to Crawly.  Though his eyes were still brimming with tears, he smiled.

“I like it.”

“Yeah, well…”

“Come sit with me?”  Yeshua returned to the olive tree and patted the spot on the ground beside him.  “Please.”

Crawly nodded and joined him.

They were silent for several moments before Yeshua spoke, his voice cracking.

“I’m… scared, Crawly.”

Crawly fought back tears.

“I would be, too.”  She closed her eyes when Yeshua squeezed her hand.  “But… It’s like… childbirth.  Brutal…  Horrid pain, yes.  But… women do it over and over again because… cause of what they gain.”

“Babies.”  Yeshua smiled.

“Yes.”  Crawly peered up at the sky.  “I know you won’t remember this but… I do.  Sometimes… sometimes we’d walk about.  Stroll fields brimming with flowers.  Climb rainbows.  Dash about with butterflies and birds.  Run up and down mountains, pausing to listen to the music of the streams…  And you’d just stop.  And you’d say, ‘Ja…’”  Crawly flinched and shook her head.  “You’d say ‘Crawly, this place is much too big for us.  We need more… life.’  And I’d say ‘Seems like you and Mum ought to be able to do something about that.’  And you’d just smile and say ‘You’ll see.’  And this happened over and over.  Each time I’d think this was the time you’d tell me what you had in mind.  More angels?  More animals?  And then… then finally you did.  Earth.  Humans.  And you wanted them to be with us after they’d finished here.  And… and so… that’s what you’re doing now.  Making a way for them to… to get back Home.”

“Yes…  Exactly.”  Yeshua beamed.  “Home…”  He stared up at the starry sky.

Crawly studied his face… his homely, beatific, perfect face.

After a few moments, Yeshua spoke again.

“I won’t forget about you, Crawly… when I’m Home, I mean,” Yeshua vowed.  “And… I’ll never stop hoping that, one day, you’ll be there with me again.”

Crawly hastily brushed at her eyes.

Yeshua took one of the angelic demon’s hands in both of his and squeezed it.

Crawly stared down, all at once touched by the image in front of her and haunted by the imagined image of Yeshua’s bloodied hands.

Then she leaned over and kissed Yeshua’s cheek.

Yeshua smiled.

“Thank you, my child.”

Crawly felt as if her heart was being torn.

She said nothing else… only sat with Yeshua as torch lights in the distance drew closer.


She watched, safely hidden in the branches of an olive tree.

She saw Yoseph open the tomb.  Yohannan escorted Maryam in.

Of course she would survey her son’s final home.

Crawly could just make out her shadow, brushing some dust away.

Then they came… those rotten, good for nothings who had left him: Cephas, Andreas, Yaqob, and Mattay.  They carried the cot on which he laid… so still.

How could he be so still?

Even when he was still, there was always a creative energy radiating off of him.  Always a sign that his mind… it was never still.

But now there was nothing.

In the beginning, there was nothing.  Except One who was Three.  But He was dead.  How was the world still alive?  How did birds sing and humans breathe and waves crash and flowers bloom and animals frolic when their Creator had become nothing more than abused skin pulled over destroyed organs?

Mattay brushed a curl away from Yeshua’s forehead.

Crawly wanted to jump down and bite him.  He didn’t get to touch him.  He left him!

He was hers.  Long before any of them, long before any of this horrid world… Yeshua had been.  And Yeshua had been safe.  And Yeshua had been hers. 

And now Yeshua was dead.

Thanks to this muck of humanity.

Thanks to her… 

The tree, the apple, the woman…  Sin.

Sin required redemption.

Redemption required a Redeemer.

“You did thisssss,” Crawly whispered to herself.

The women took over… bathing him and wrapping him in fresh, white linen.

For a moment, Crawly’s heart lightened.

He’d been such an ugly baby…

But never to Maryam, never to Yosef.

And never, truthfully, to her. 

His eyes had never changed.

Snakes aren’t able to cry.  But as Maryam bent down to kiss her son’s forehead, Crawly wept.

And she kept crying as Yoseph and Yohannan rolled the stone into place.

Then they left.  Slowly.  Some lingering.  Maryam and Mary were the last to leave, together.

When they’d been in Heaven, sometimes Yeshua would let Crawly listen to some of the music that was yet to be.  Crawly had loved the oeuvre of a certain band named Queen and anxiously awaited their arrival in the world. 

But it wasn’t a Queen song that came to her then.

She couldn’t even remember the name of the singer.

But his voice echoed back and forward through time, singing only for Crawly in that moment.

“Honey, you're familiar like my mirror years ago.
Idealism sits in prison, chivalry fell on its sword.
Innocents died screaming, honey, ask me I should know.
I slithered here from Eden just to sit outside your door."

Crawly slithered down the tree and to the stone door.  She wedged herself in the small gap left between its bottom and the ground.

And she drifted to sleep, not particularly wanting to wake up again.


Saturday, March 12th, 2022
As Crowley awoke, he became aware of two things: one, someone was gently wiping his face with a cold cloth and, two, they were singing.

"'I slithered here from Eden just to sit outside your door...'"

Crowley's eyes fluttered open and JenniAnn smiled down at him.

"Hi, sweetheart,'" she greeted, smiling gently at him. 

"That... ssssong..."

"Oh...  Sorry.  It just... it makes me think of you.  And I guess it just came out.  Beautiful, haunting song."

Crowley nodded then winced, bringing a hand to his forehead.

"You should drink some water.  Here."  JenniAnn looped an arm around his shoulders and helped him to sit up.

"Why... why are you sssso nice to me?"

"Because you're my friend.  Because I'm sorry you had a rough night."

Crowley took in a huge gulp of water.

"Good."  JenniAnn stroked his hair then frowned when she pulled some muck out of it.


"I'll brush it out for you if you'd like?"

Crowley nodded.  He didn't want her to go away.  She'd stay close by if she was brushing his hair.

"All right."

For several minutes, the two sat in silence as JenniAnn worked.  Eventually, Crowley's mane was cleared of debris though still tangled in places.

JenniAnn set down the brush and moved to sit in front of Crowley.  She frowned when she saw tears rolling down his cheeks.  Gently, she lifted his glasses away.

Crowley made a sound of protest but didn’t move.

“Shhh…  It’s okay.  Owen and Graham said you wouldn't let them take them off but someone has to look, Crowley.  Does it hurt?”  She gently laid a finger just beneath his blackened right eye.


“Helpful.  Thanks,” JenniAnn deadpanned.

In spite of his mood, a smile played at the watcher’s lips.

“A bit,” he corrected.

“I’ll get you an ice pack.  But first…  I think we’ll leave your hair until I can go and get Belle’s detangler.”

“Don’t wanna cut it…”

“We won’t cut it, I promise!  That’s why I want the detangler.  But waiting a couple of hours isn’t going to do any more harm.  For now, you should lay back down.”  JenniAnn handed him a small pile of clothing.  “Vincent is lending you some pajamas.  They’ll probably hang off you but the length should be right.  I’ll give you a few minutes to change and then…”

Crowley’s hand darted out and clasped her wrist.

“Sssstay.  Please.”

Concerned by this out-of-character clinginess, JenniAnn nodded.

“Okay.  I’ll just turn around to give you privacy.  Tell me when I can turn around.”


JenniAnn did as she promised.


JenniAnn turned back around and stifled some laughter.  Crowley looked like a little boy who had stolen his father’s pajamas. 

Crowley himself was amused.

“All right.  Let’s get you tucked in and then maybe you can tell me about…”

“Just wanna sleep,” Crowley interrupted. 

“Fine.  Can I leave just long enough to get that ice pack?”

Crowley began to pick at some lint.

“I’ll be fine without,” he muttered.  Then Crowley flinched.  “Where are the kids?”

“My kids?”

He nodded.

“With Andrew.  And if he has to go anywhere before I'm back, he can call my parents.  They’re spending the day with them, anyway."

Crowley relaxed.

“Good.  And... are you okay?"

Though still alarmed, JenniAnn was touched that whatever Crowley was feeling, he seemed reluctant to put his own wishes above Belle and Avi or her own well-being.

"I am, yes.  I woulda been angry if Owen and Graham hadn't gotten me here.  Now, c'mon.  Let's get you settled back down."

Crowley slipped into bed and smiled when JenniAnn tucked the blankets around him.

JenniAnn pulled a chair up to the side of the bed and reached for her friend’s hand, squeezing it affectionately.

“I do wish you’d tell me what happened.”

Crowley squeezed her hand back but shook his head.

“Not now.”

“Okay.  Then what do you need?”

Crowley thought.

“Stories.  Tell me more about you and Andrew.  The early days.  Please.”

JenniAnn smiled and nodded.

“Okay.  Where should I start?”

“After you broke up with Eliot.”

“All right.  So it was Valentine’s and I’d called things off with Eliot…”

As he listened, Crowley nestled the pillow and prepared to drift back to sleep.


After several minutes, JenniAnn stood up from her chair.  When Crowley didn’t move, she started towards the chamber door.

Owen was waiting outside.

“How is he?” he asked.

JenniAnn shrugged.

“Physically he seems fine.  Minus the black eye.  But he was very, very reluctant to have me leave.  Tell me again about how you found him?”

Just as Owen was about to answer, Graham came down the corridor carrying a thermos and cups.

“Oh good!  You’re here, Psyche.  How’s our patient?”

“Physically fine.  Mentally… clingy.  Won’t talk about whatever happened.  I was just asking Owen to tell me again how you found him.”

Graham poured each of them a cup of tea as Owen spoke.

“We found him in an alley behind the Green Carnation, slumped against the wall.  Definitely drunk.”

JenniAnn grimaced.

“According to Aziraphale, he hasn’t been drinking to excess for quite a while.  Speaking of… did anyone reach him?”

Graham shook his head.

“Phone keeps going to voicemail.  Wherever he and Joshua went to deliver those books, service must be spotty.”

“But surely Joshua would know if they had to come back.  Or if he didn’t know himself, his Dad would tell him.  Right?” Owen questioned.

“Right.  But maybe they don’t *have* to come back,” JenniAnn reasoned.  “Angel, human, whatever…  It’s not good to be completely reliant on one person.”  She glanced back at the chamber.  “He needs to know we all care about him.  The show is bringing a lot up for him.  I know it did for Andrew that first year.  And… well, Andrew’s situation is a lot less complicated.”

“Angels aren’t responsible for what happened to Joshua.  We are.  And… so is Crowley.  Of course this is hard for him.”  Owen shook his head.  “Do either of you just ever step back and be like ‘What is my life?!’”

“All of the time,” Graham and JenniAnn answered in unison.

“I mean really…  We’re babysitting the serpent of Eden because the Angel of the Eastern Gate and the Messiah went to sell a trove of rare books?” Owen questioned.

“Apparently!”  JenniAnn peeked back into the chamber and saw all was well.  “If Aziraphale’s not back by tonight, I’ll take him to Willowveil.  He probably shouldn’t be alone and I think some time with the kids would do him good.  Or Andrew can take him to the workshop and let him bang out his frustrations or whatever with some carpentry.”

“I’m just wondering how long it’ll be until you adopt him,” Owen teased.

“Oh hush…  I was perfectly happy to adopt someone who was nearly my own age.  But I’m not adopting someone who has millennia on me,” JenniAnn protested.

“Still…  He does seem to look to you for some sort of mommying… odd as that may be,” Graham pointed out.  “And he kept asking for his Mum.  Might be the key to figuring out whatever is going on with him.”

“Maybe.  We’ll see.  Joshua’s definitely got something up his sleeve.  He still has me do his crucifixion make-up but he insists on doing his own hair and the normal make-up.  He asked me to focus on Crowley’s… which, admittedly, struck me as odd given Crowley has a one scene cameo and Joshua is, well, the title character.  But then the whole Angel of Gethsemane thing came out...”

“Joshua is on perfect terms with his mother.  Crowley still has some issues with his,” Owen reminded. 

“I’m hardly on par with God!” JenniAnn protested.

“No.  But maybe that’s the point.  Crowley messed up.  He knows he messed up.  God is perfect.  God is sinless.  Trust me, when you think you’ve screwed up majorly, God can be really hard to approach.  But you… well, you’re good, Psyche.  But you’re not perfect.  You’re not sinless.  You’re approachable,” Graham reasoned. 

JenniAnn gulped.

“Not like that’s a lot of pressure or anything…”

Graham and Owen hugged her.

“The really hard work is done, Psyche,” Owen encouraged.  “He’s come back to the light.  You don’t have to win him over… Joshua did that... just… make it a little easier for him to feel comfortable in the light.”

"I'll try," JenniAnn promised.  She glanced back towards her old chamber.  "Poor love..."

Owen snickered.

"Such a mom..."

JenniAnn playfully swatted at him but didn't deny it.


That evening, with the family gathered in the ballroom to spend some time focusing on their own interests while being together, Andrew kept looking up from his book and studying Crowley.  More often than not, he caught him staring at JenniAnn as she helped Belle with a craft project, gave Shelby feedback on her writing, styled Violeta’s hair, or snuggled Avi, Evie, Landon, and Amelia. 

There was something… hungry?... in the former-demon’s eyes.

If it were anyone else, Andrew might have been alarmed.  Or even jealous.  He liked to believe he was above the latter but JenniAnn’s brief relationship with Eliot had taught him otherwise. 

But Andrew wasn’t jealous of Crowley.  At all.  Instead, he felt sad for him.  Clearly, in spite of all the progress he’d made… truly sharing his life with Aziraphale, reconciling with Joshua, making friends… something was missing.

And in JenniAnn, Crowley no doubt saw a pale echo of it.

Andrew had always experienced the First Person as a loving Father.  He, of course, knew that God the Father wasn’t actually male.  Nor was He female.  He simply was.  But Father felt right to Andrew.  However, he’d long been aware that other angels experienced God differently.  To some, He was the Eternal Mother.  To others, God was simply and grandly the One. 

Crowley seemed to be in the Eternal Mother camp. 

And despite his healed relationship with Joshua, Andrew wasn’t sure that he had truly made peace with God the Mother.

Andrew saw it a lot with humans, Christians in particular.  Many of them felt much better going to Joshua with their concerns, hopes, and fears.  And Andrew understood that.  Joshua was human.  A perfect human… but a human nonetheless.  The Father was much more difficult for them to wrap their minds around.  And the Spirit?  Yet more difficult.  Joshua was approachable.  And yet they often sensed that this wasn’t quite right… that they should have a deeper relationship with the Father and the Spirit. 

And that sense of missing something was probably not unlike what Crowley was feeling now.

He missed his Mother.  But sometimes She still felt very far away. 

But JenniAnn was close.  He could watch her interact so lovingly with her children.  He could imagine her treating him the same.  And then… then he could imagine his Mother loving him, caring for him.

Still...  Andrew was very much aware that JenniAnn was already carrying a lot.  Too much.  And he wanted to protect her, to keep her from burning out or, worse, getting sick. 

But maybe if she could help Crowley with his trauma, she'd finally allow someone... him, Joshua, anyone... to help her with hers.


Aziraphale was quiet as he and Joshua sipped some wine and nibbled at some cheese and fruit while sitting on a veranda.  It had been hours since he'd received the text messages about Crowley... at a delay.

Joshua reached across the table and patted the angel's arm.

"He's all right, Aziraphale.  He's safely tucked into bed at Willowveil."

"Oh, I know.  Andrew and JenniAnn will take excellent care of him.  It's only...  I suppose I'm a bit alarmed at how utterly he fell apart in so short a time.  He hasn't been drinking much.  Truly.  And I'm gone for not even a full day when he..."

"It's been a lot, Aziraphale."

"Yes.  And... you asked him to... to do this."

Joshua could hear the accusation in Aziraphale's words.  He gave the angel a sympathetic smile.

"I did, yes.  Sometimes a wound hurts more right before it heals."

"Yes, I suppose so.  Still... I wish I had been there."

"Crowley needs to learn that it's no longer the two of you against the world, Aziraphale.  You have friends now.  And, no, they will never, ever take the place you two hold for each other.  But it's not good to be so reliant on a single person.  Not good for either of you."

"No..."  Aziraphale smiled.  "It does feel good.  To have friends.  Real friends.  And it was so kind of Andrew and JenniAnn to trust me with this project... and now to take Crowley in."

"Well, it's kind of you to be so generous in redecorating the ship for them.  It'll be good.  Rid the place of old, strained memories.  And it's for the best that Crowley is with JenniAnn.  For now."

"Is it?  I sometimes fear...  I fear he's imperfectly filling a hole in his life.  With her.  She's a mother.  But she's not our Mother."

"Exactly.  And this time will give him the chance to really sit with that.  And it'll help her, too.  Crowley's not the only one carrying around baggage about what happened on Golgotha."

"Poor girl..."

Joshua's eyes misted as he thought of Crowley and JenniAnn. 

"I have enjoyed this time together, Joshua.  Truly."  Aziraphale smiled.

Joshua returned his smile.

"I have, too.  So much.  Thank you for allowing me to come."

"Of course!  I was delighted that you wanted to.  I love hearing you describe how everything came to be.  I mean I remember Michelangelo, of course.  But you obviously know so much more about his process!  In fact, I was wondering if you could elucidate on why..."

Joshua continued to smile as Aziraphale chattered away.  He loved it and he sent up a prayer of thanksgiving to his Dad for allowing them this time.


Director's Orders

Sunday, March 13th, 2022

Andrew woke up to discover half of the bed was empty.  He glanced over towards the bathroom but it was dark and empty.  Frowning, he got out of bed, donned his slippers and robe, and began his hunt.

JenniAnn wasn't in the library as he suspected she might be.  Nor was she in Belle's or Avi's rooms.  The door to Shelby's and Violeta's room was closed and Andrew refused to open it.  However, he pressed his ear to the door and heard nothing.  Next, he moved to the room Crowley was in.  As with the older girls' room, he didn't feel right checking inside.  But, yet again, listening produced no hint.

"Laja... where are you?" he murmured. 

He considered she might have gone for a midnight snack but, a few seconds later, the kitchen turned up nothing.

Just before panic set in, Andrew closed his eyes and prayed.

"Father...  Where is she?  Please let me know where she is.  I'm worried she's passed out or..."

Movement a few yards outside the window caught Andrew's attention.  He could just make out something white blowing in the wind.

JenniAnn's robe was white.

"Thank You," Andrew said as he ran into the hallway and towards the front door.  He hurried to the ethereal figure standing in the lawn, grabbing her nearest hand.  "Laja...  Laja... you're so cold."

Andrew wrapped his arms around her and turned her back towards the castle.  When JenniAnn began to stumble, he picked her up and carried her the rest of the way.

"I... I just needed fresh air," JenniAnn explained once they were back inside.

"But it's probably not much past 40 degrees out there!  You could get sick, Laja!" Andrew protested, still not putting her down.  He headed towards the ballroom and deposited JenniAnn on a couch near the fireplace.  "I'll start a fire.  Warm you up."

"I'm sorry..."  JenniAnn began to cry.

"Laja, no...  Hey, it's okay."  Andrew sat beside her and nuzzled her hair.  "You... you just worried me is all.  But it's fine.  Just... just let me get the fire started and we'll talk.  Okay?"


Andrew grabbed a blanket and tucked it around JenniAnn.  
Then, as quickly as he could, Andrew got a fire roaring.

"What happened?  Another nightmare?"


"Laja...  I think it's time to revisit the idea of taking a break."

"But we're less than two weeks away from the preview performances!" JenniAnn protested.

"So take a week.  Laja, it's not as if you don't know what you're doing.  You do.  And you wouldn't be doing make-up every night, anyway."

"But Joshua told me to focus on Crowley..."

"Well, he's taking a break, too.  He doesn't know it yet but he is," Andrew insisted. 


"Laja, I have always been so careful to... to not throw my weight around.  I was so worried in the beginning that... that you'd do or... or not do something out of some misguided... I dunno... deference to me.  But I'm so... so worried that... that I don't care.  You are not to show up at that theatre for a week.  You are taking a break."

JenniAnn opened her mouth to protest.

"I'm not telling you this as your anam cara.  I'm telling you this as your director.  And... and my word is final."

JenniAnn's protestations died on her lips.

Andrew wrapped his arms around her.

"And sometime within the next week... you are having a talk with Joshua.  You have to.  Because this limbo you've put yourself in... it's not healthy, Laja.  I'm worried about you.  So worried.  I... I love you so much and... and... you had a seizure earlier, didn't you?  Right after we got into bed?"

JenniAnn blinked in surprise.

"How... how did you..."

"I told you I loved you and you didn't answer.  Just stared."

"Oh...  Love..."

"I... I miss you.  I know it... it's only a few seconds here a-and there.  But... I miss you when... when you're... gone like that.  Laja...  I love you so much and I hate seeing you suffer.  This needs to end.  Please..."  Andrew pleaded.

JenniAnn let out a sob and rested her forehead against Andrew's.  She cradled his face in her hands... that face she adored, contorted with worry.

"I... I'll take the week off.  And I'll talk to Joshua.  I promise."  She kissed him.  "I promise, my love."

Andrew melted into her kiss, his whole body relaxing.

"Thank you."

"Thank you... for taking such good care of me."  JenniAnn smiled tenderly at Andrew.  "And you never have thrown your weight around.  Not unless you really needed to.  And... and I'm sorry I've brought you to that point."

Andrew shook his head.

"Not... not your fault.  You couldn't help... the things they made you see.  With Natalie and..."

"No.  But I should have been braver.  Should have dealt with them nearly as soon as Joshua showed back up.  But... I dunno.  But I will.  Promise."

Andrew sighed as she brought his left hand to her lips, kissing him near his ring.

JenniAnn slid their hands together, their rings touching.  She peered into Andrew's teary gaze.

"I love you so much, Andrew."

"I... I love you, too, Laja."

They kissed again then JenniAnn cuddled back up against Andrew's side, her head resting on his shoulder.  Her hand delicately stroked his chest.  She peered into the flames until her eyelids grew heavy.

Andrew remained awake, keeping guard, and praying that his Laja would find peace in the week ahead.


"And so... as director... I've decided that JenniAnn and Crowley will be taking the next week off from the show," Andrew declared at an impromptu meeting following Joshua's and Aziraphale's return to Willowveil.

Crowley bristled.

"But we're so close to the show's opening.  Listen, I learned my lesson.  I won't... relapse again." 

The former demon's face flushed when he glanced over at Aziraphale and Joshua.

"I trust you," the latter assured.  "But Andrew is right.  For the sake of your mental... and physical... health, you and JenniAnn need a week to regroup.  You should both get some rest.  And when you want something to do, I'm sure Aziraphale would appreciate some help on the Aurora Mist.  Hmm?"

"Oh yes!" Aziraphale nodded eagerly.  "So much to do.  But rest is definitely the priority.  JenniAnn, maybe I could just get your approval of some upholstery fabrics but I'd bring everything to you.  Crowley, perhaps some window boxes?"

"Of course, angel."

"Sounds lovely.  And, yes, that sounds great, Aziraphale."  JenniAnn smiled at him then squeezed Andrew's hand.  "I think this is for the best.  It took me a while to realize that but... I think it'll be good for you, too, Crowley."

"Spose so."

"Great!  Then we're settled.  You can both come back next Sunday."  Andrew smiled with relief. 

"Sounds good.  I'll just... uh, I'll go tidy up the room and get out of your hair."

JenniAnn leaped up when Crowley stood.

"You don't have to hurry away," she insisted.  "I'm sorry for the circumstances but... I enjoyed having you here."

Crowley smiled and squeezed her hands.

"Thank you.  Appreciate that.  Really.  But... I think Aziraphale and I need to have a talk.  And I will be back.  To help with the boat."

"Ship," Aziraphale corrected.

Crowley chuckled and rolled his eyes.

"Ship," he repeated before heading towards the door.  "We'll check back in before we head home."

"Thank you," JenniAnn called after them. 

Once the two watchers were gone, she turned around to face Joshua and Andrew.

"So... so is this why you asked me to focus on Crowley?" she asked the former.

Joshua nodded.

"I knew you'd both struggle.  And I thought if you focused on his much easier make-up and hair then it might give you some relief.  Little bird, this time is different."  He approached and hugged her.  "You're different.  What happened in October... it changed you.  How could it not have?  So... I want you to take a few days to rest and recover.  Then we'll talk, hmm?"

"O-okay.  I... I could actually do with a nap now."

"I'll help you get settled," Andrew offered.

JenniAnn smiled at him and squeezed his hand.

"Thank you.  Maybe we can have an early family dinner before you head to the theatre?" she suggested.

"Absolutely," Joshua agreed.  "Rest well."


JenniAnn smiled wearily then left with Andrew.

Once alone in the ballroom, Joshua moved to the window and stared up at the sky.  He prayed that, very soon, some of the struggles he'd come to ease would be resolved.


"So if you don't mind my asking... what happened?  How... how did you end up in the bar?" Aziraphale questioned as he helped Crowley make the bed.

"Jus' had a nightmare.  Couldn't get back to sleep.  Too late to bother anyone so... so I headed to the Green Carnation to take my mind off things."

"What happened in your nightmare?  It may help to talk about it."

"Maybe.  I was on stage with Joshua but... suddenly it was all real.  And... and he died.  Again.  Same as before.  And all... all I could do was watch."

"Oh, dear Crowley..."  Aziraphale sat down on the settee at the foot of the bed and patted the spot beside him.

Crowley collapsed, tears welling behind his glasses.

"Just... didn't want him to do it.  Why... why'd he hafta die for them?  I... I wanted him to live.  For us."

Aziraphale sighed sadly and nodded.

"I can understand that.  He was ours first."


Aziraphale stared out of the window, peering at a shaft of light breaking through some clouds.

"But... maybe we weren't his first."

Crowley gaped at him.

"Course we were!  You were there!  We both were.  Metatron came first.  Then Sandalphon.  Then the rest of us.  Us Watchers.  Then the other angels.  Then single-celled organisms.  Dinosaurs.  All that.  Then humans."

"But he has always been who he is, my dear.  Always God.  Always all-knowing.  When it was just them... Joshua, Mother, and the Spirit... they had all their thoughts.  All their dreams.  All of us... of who we would be.  From Marty to the baby born just this second to the one born thousands of years from now."

Crowley sighed and nodded.

"I spose... but we knew him first.  And why... why didn't you struggle?  Why didn't you rebel?"

Tears welled in Aziraphale's eyes.

"Maybe I did.  Inwardly.  But... everything Joshua ever said he would do... he did it.  Not a single thing was put aside.  Everything was accomplished.  His death... it would be no different.  So... I surrendered to it."

"As I should have done..."

Aziraphale squeezed Crowley's hand.

"He..."  Crowley stomped the ground.  "He told me that... that if he was in charge, well... no humans.  No humans, no sacrifice.  No death."

"He lied.  He does that, my dear."


"Why... why did you not try to come back once you realized?"

Crowley shrugged.

"Embarrassed, I guess.  Too proud to admit I was wrong.  And then... can't really explain it.  Just... felt dead inside.  Not motivated to do much of anything except slither about.  Not until the day I saw... you."

Aziraphale smiled and rested his head against Crowley's.

"I began to feel... happiness again.  Just... wanted to be with you."

"Oh, Crowley..."

"I understood him then.  When I thought you were lost to me... woulda done anything to... to get you back."

"And I'd do the same for you, my dear."  Aziraphale wrapped his arms around Crowley's waist and gave him a peck on his cheek.

Crowley smiled and patted Aziraphale's knee.

"I owe JenniAnn...  And Owen and Graham."

"We'll make them some nice scones or something."

"Yeah, well, pretty sure I interrupted Owen's and Graham's... uh... couple time."

"Chocolate-covered strawberries then?  Oysters?"

Crowley laughed.


"Well, we'll look into that tomorrow.  For now, let's get you home."

"You're not going to work on the ship?"

Aziraphale shook his head.

"It can wait until tomorrow.  Right now my job is to see to the well-being of my lovely anam cara."

Crowley blushed happily.

"Thank you."

"It's my pleasure.  Truly.  I like taking care of you, you wily serpent."

Crowley grinned then gently pulled Aziraphale to his feet, eager to get back to their flat and snuggle with his beloved angel.


"What do you mean they're suspended?" Loreena asked, an edge of panic in her voice.  For the first time since she'd started the show, JenniAnn wasn't there when she'd arrived at St. G's.  So she'd inquired... and gotten an unexpected answer.

Owen shook his head as he added a few strokes of paint to a backdrop. 

"Sorry.  Bad word choice.  I mean... kind of.  Andrew got concerned about their well-being and told JenniAnn and Crowley to take the week off.  He was not open to negotiation."

"JenniAnn had been looking awfully tired lately," Roger observed.  "And if I saw that... who knows what Andrew saw.  It can't be easy.  Doing Joshua's make-up like that."

"No...  It can't be," Loreena agreed.  "And I know Crowley was emotional but I didn't think he necessarily was more than others."

"He's good at hiding things," Owen shared.  "But maybe he'll say more when he's back.  For now... it's just important to know that they're both fine.  JenniAnn was resting in bed when I stopped by Willowveil and I'm made to understand Crowley was doing the same back at his place... under the watchful eyes of Aziraphale."

"And did someone stay back with JenniAnn?"

Owen nodded to Loreena.

"Marty is with her.  Sandy's flying solo tonight on the archivist front."

"Well, that's good.  Marty seems very attentive to JenniAnn."

"Yeah..."  Owen frowned and refocused on his work.  "I'm sure by next week they'll both be back, well-rested and ready to go!"

Loreena squeezed the painter's shoulder.

"Hope so."

"Let us know if there's anything we can do to help, hm?" Roger requested.

"Sure thing."

"Thank you, Owen.  We'll leave you to it."  Loreena smiled at the man then walked away with Roger.  "That's disconcerting..."

Roger could only shrug.  He couldn't very well tell her that Crowley and JenniAnn both knew who Joshua really was... and that he was re-enacting his own final days.

"Maybe I should make them up little care packages or something?  I could bring JenniAnn's by Willowveil tomorrow.  But I don't know where Crowley and Aziraphale live."

"That sounds like a really sweet idea.  And I think you could just drop Crowley's at Willowveil, too.  Even if he's not around, Aziraphale can pick it up.  I heard Andrew telling Adam that he's redecorating their ship."

Loreena laughed.

"First they have a castle... now a ship?"

Roger chuckled.

"How very 1% of them, huh?"

"Ha!  Yeah, really raking in the dough working at a community theatre.  I actually really love the juxtaposition of their gorgeous castle with their eclectic style.  They're just so interesting.  I never want to pry... because do I ever know how that is... but... some day... I'd really like to ask JenniAnn, well, what their deal is.  There's just something about her and Andrew that seems... I dunno.  Fairy tale-like.  I thought that even before I knew about the castle," Loreena mused. 

"I think, one day, you'll have that heart-to-heart.  But for now... I promised John I'd meet him in the office.  Tony agreed to talk to someone at the Catholic newspaper about giving us a feature so... we need to prep for that," Roger explained.  He didn't want to part from Loreena... but they were dancing close to some secrets he was afraid he'd reveal before their time.

"Okay!  Sounds good.  I should get into costume, anyway."

Loreena hugged Roger.

Roger warmly returned the embrace.

"See you in a bit."


The two walked away then, in the same instance, turned back to glance at each other. 



Unseen, Joshua lurked nearby, enjoying some popcorn.  He jumped slightly when a hand rested on his shoulder.

"Hey, I was watching my story!" he teased when he looked around to see John.

John responded with a chuckle then left to join Roger in the office.

Joshua gave a self-satisfied smile then went to change into his costume.


Marty was putting away the last of the dinner dishes when he heard soft foot falls behind him.  He turned and smiled as JenniAnn entered the kitchen.

"Can I get you anything?" he offered.

JenniAnn shook her head and gave him a half-smile.

"I'm not a total invalid.  Thank you, though.  Just was gonna heat some water for tea.  You want some?"

"Yes, please.  And I know you're not but...  You're less than 24 hours out from a seizure, JenniAnn."

JenniAnn sighed.

"I know."

Marty filled the kettle with water and handed it to her.

"I'm just...  I dunno..."

"You make the tea.  How about I start a fire in the ballroom and we can have a chat?" Marty offered.

"Okie-doke.  Thanks.  What kind do you want?"

"Surprise me."


JenniAnn smiled after Marty as he left then perused her tea collection.  It seemed like a good night for cinnamon spice.  After the kettle was heated, JenniAnn loaded up a tray and headed to the ballroom.

"Very cozy.  Thank you."  JenniAnn set the tray down.  "I hope cinnamon spice is all right."

"Absolutely.  I'm almost done here then I'll join you."


JenniAnn added a bit of milk to her tea then sat down.  After stoking the flames for a few more moments, Marty followed suit and settled into a chair across from JenniAnn.

"I wanted to apologize," he began.

JenniAnn startled.

"For what?"

"I've been so focused on your and Andrew's physical safety that I didn't realize the mental toll all this was taking on you."  Marty peered into his tea before continuing.  "And I regret that."

"Thank you.  But... that's not your responsibility.  And, to be honest, neither is protecting me.  Or Andrew," JenniAnn replied, somewhat nervously.

Marty frowned.

"But I... I thought we were... friends."

JenniAnn gasped.

"Of course we are!  Oh no... I... I didn't mean to imply we weren't.  You're my friend, Marty!  And a very good one!" she stressed.  "And you're right.  Friends are kinda responsible for each other.  But I just feel like you've taken on an outsized amount of responsibility."

"Maybe," Marty admitted.  "But... what happened in October can't happen again."

"I... I know.  But I also..."  JenniAnn sighed.

"And I'm hardly the only one taking on an outsized amount of responsibility," Marty countered.

JenniAnn frowned.

"No... probably not."

In the silence that followed, Marty took a sip of his tea.  Then another before speaking.

"All of my life I have observed... I have recorded.  I fought in the War but other than that... I am passive.  Yes, occasionally I come to the mortal realms to make a proclamation of some sort.  But then I'm gone.  Until you and Andrew.  God sent me to you and then... then He sent me back.  And... and you made me part of your lives.  Part of your home."

JenniAnn's eyes welled when she realized Marty's own were watery.  He was not a crier.  But now...

Marty sniffled before continuing.

"When Vonnie was here, she helped me to realize something.  You and Andrew... you're like my Adam and Eve, in a manner.  God sent me to nudge you together.  And... and I've watched over you since.  I feel responsible for you both.  I... love you both.  For once, I... I could have some positive influence.  And I've loved that.  I don't want to lose either of you... and I don't want to lose that."

"Oh, Marty...  You won't.  Never, ever.  Not really."  JenniAnn reached across the distance between them and took his hands in hers.  "Even when I'm gone... you'd still be welcomed here.  Yes, you did nudge Andrew and me closer.  Which means you're partly responsible for the family we built together... the home we built.  And you will always, always be welcome here.  Your presence, your wisdom... they'll always be valued here.  But to borrow your metaphor... Andrew is my Adam.  My one and only.  Not bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh but... mine.  And I am his.  And I just..."  Her face flushed.  "I need to know that the rest of our lives aren't gonna involve a detail of Watchers accompanying us on romantic strolls through Central Park or whatnot."

Marty gave her a sheepish smile.

"We have been a bit of a romance deterrent, haven't we?  Me especially."

JenniAnn chuckled.

"I mean... a bit.  Although, admittedly, I... I've just not been in the mood lately."

"Which Andrew understands."


Marty patted her hand.

"How about this... I'll work on stepping back... on not hovering... and you work on what's bothering you?"

"Would that maybe include talking to Jamie?" JenniAnn asked hopefully.

"You or me?"

"Both of us.  Separately, of course."

Marty sighed.

"Yes, yes...  I'll talk to Jamie.  It'll get Sandy off my back, anyhow."

"And I'll talk to her, too... although first I have another couple of talks.  But... deal?"

Marty shook her offered hand.


The two smiled at each other then resumed enjoying their tea in companionable silence.


The Road

Tuesday, March 15th, 2022

While Caleb was feeling much better about his and Lacey's life since his talk with Edward and the resulting reunion with Joshua and the Friends, he'd still been avoiding a big heart-to-heart with Joshua.  And, thus, he still went on his drives to clear his head. 

There was a bitter chill in the air as Caleb hopped into his truck.  He momentarily considered going back into the cabin and grabbing some coffee.  But he decided to wait, preferring the lattes he usually picked up for himself and Lacey.  Tightening his scarf, Caleb got settled into the driver's seat and took off.

This morning, Caleb opted to keep the radio off.  So many thoughts were buzzing through his head and he didn't want to add anything more to the noise.

Was Lacey really doing better?  She said she was but how could he be sure?  What were their next steps?  And was there any chance that, now that they were in better mental spaces, things would just happen?  Caleb had read about that.  Maybe that's what Joshua had meant when he'd told him to keep driving... 

Those and more thoughts kept percolating in Caleb's mind as he drove.  He was still three miles away from the coffeehouse when he decided that, no, he had been wrong.  He definitely wanted music. 

Caleb slowed the car and reached for the dial.  He was just about to turn it when he heard a high-pitched noise.  Alarmed, he looked around.  Had an animal been hit?  But there were no other cars on the road.  Maybe a hawk had taken out a rabbit?  Caleb frowned.  He hated that.  Yes, he definitely needed music.

There it was again!  The sound.  And hearing it a second time, Caleb began to wonder if his mind was playing a cruel trick on him.

It sounded like a baby crying...

Afraid for his mental health, Caleb pulled over to the side of the road.  He blinked back tears and stared ahead.  His body froze when he heard the cry again.  Then, out of the corner of his eye, Caleb saw movement.

After letting out a shocked, strangled cry of his own, Caleb leaped out of the car.  He ran towards where he'd seen the movement... red fabric flapping near a boulder.

"My God!" Caleb shouted when he came to the bundle... a stained fleece blanket wrapped around a... no... two babies.  One was red from squalling but the other was quiet and bluish.  "My God, my God!" 

Caleb huddled the babies to his chest and ran back into the truck.  He turned it on and started up the heat.

"What do I do?  What do I do?" he said to himself. 

Then he remembered the oft-told tale of Belle's rescue.  JenniAnn had stuck the freezing baby up her shirt. 

"Okay, okay..."  Caleb carefully set the babies on the passenger seat and unzipped his coat.  Gently, he picked up the weaker baby and placed them on the right side of his chest, beneath his sweatshirt.  This caused the remaining baby to screech. 

"I'm hurrying!  I'm hurrying!"  Caleb let out a relieved sigh when he felt the baby squirm slightly.  Then he grabbed their twin and settled them to the left before zipping up his coat again.  With his left hand, he pulled the neck of his sweatshirt away from his skin so they'd have air.  With his right hand, he fumbled for his phone and called Edward.

Later, Caleb wouldn't remember what he'd said to his twin.  But the result was Clay and Edward arriving with the former's van and Lacey and Zadie rushing out of the backseat as soon as they'd parked behind him.

"Caleb!"  Lacey threw open the driver's seat door of his truck and moved to hug him.

"Careful!  They're under my shirt."

Lacey looked down and realized her husband's chest and belly were distended... and squirmy.  Eyes wide, she set a hand on his coat.

"Are... are they doing okay?" she asked.

"The one for sure.  The other... weaker.  But they've roused some.  They're, umm, trying to eat with I'm sure is very frustrating."

In spite of the insanity of the situation, Lacey giggled.  Grinning, Caleb did, too. 

"Lacey, sweetheart, let's get you inside the truck and close the door," Zadie suggested.

"Oh, yeah.  Of course."

Zadie escorted her sister-in-law to the passenger seat and got her settled.

"We've called 911.  Edward will flag them down," she informed before closing the door to keep the warm air inside.

Once they were alone, Lacey rested a hand on Caleb's arm.

Suddenly, Caleb's body shook with a sob.

"Caleb...  Oh, Caleb..."  Lacey's head rested on his shoulder.  "I'm sure they'll be fine.  A-and even if... if not... you're doing everything you can to... to..."

Caleb shook his head.

"I... I know.  And I... I think they will be fine, Lace.  It... it's just... that morning... when I fought with Joshua...  The last thing he said...  'Just keep taking these drives, my boy.  They're good for you.'  He knew, Lace...  He knew.  And if... if he'd healed us and... and I'd calmed down... I wouldn't have... have been on the road and...  It... it's such a quiet road.  If no one..."  He let out another sob and gently ran his hands up and down the front of his coat.

"Oh..."  Fresh tears welled in Lacey's eyes.  She snuggled closer and rested her hand near her husband's as they waited.


By luck... or divine intervention and Clay was inclined to think it was the latter... it was Ryan's and Ethan's social worker who showed up at the hospital.  She also happened to be the mother of a couple of his basketball players.

"Coach Stanford!  What are you doing here?"  The woman's face clouded.  "Are Ethan and Ryan okay?"

Clay smiled and nodded.

"Yeah!  Yeah, they're great, Ms. Carmody.  Are you here about the babies found on the highway?"

Ms. Carmody looked at Clay in surprise.

"I am, yes.  How did you..."

Clay waved towards where Caleb and Lacey were huddled together in the waiting room.

"They're my friends."

Ms. Carmody nodded in recognition.

"Yes, I recognize them from our site visits.  They live in the cabin near yours and Mrs. Stanford's, correct?" 

"Right.  Caleb... he's the one who found the twins."

"I see...  Well, since you happen to be here...  Once the babies are released, we'll need emergency placement for them.  The police will do their best, of course, to try to find the parents but I think, given the manner in which they were found... well, they're unlikely to be successful.  Would you and Mrs. Stanford be open to..."

"Yes!" Clay replied.  "We would.  But...  Is there any way in which Caleb and Lacey might be considered?  I mean..."  He waved back towards them.  "Look at them.  They're already in love.  And Kylie and I can vouch for them.  If one of us needs to temporarily move into their place to make everything kosher... we could do that."

Ms. Carmody tilted her head as she considered this.  She'd met the couple and been impressed.  Lacey had even asked her a few questions about fostering.  And in her check-ins with Ethan and Ryan, both boys always spoke very highly and warmly of everyone on the farm.  The two had thrived in the company of the Stanford-Romano clan.

The advocate smiled at Clay and nodded.

"Let me see what I can do."

Clay grinned.

"Thank you.  Thank you so much."


Jamie chuckled as she surveyed the progress Aziraphale was making in the captain's quarters of the Aurora Mist. 

"I'm gonna have to bring Vonnie and Rhiannon here.  They'd get a kick out of this."

"Ooh, do they watch, too?" Aziraphale inquired with interest.

"Yup.  And then they went and got me into it.  This does look quite a lot like Stede's rooms.  You've done an admirable job, Aziraphale.  But now... it's time for me to do mine.  Where is he?"

"Crowley should be headed back soon.  He just ran to the castle to check on JenniAnn."

"Hmm...  I suspect I'll be visiting with her soon." Jamie frowned.  "I can't believe it came down to Andrew forcing them off the show for a week."

Aziraphale sighed.

"Yes, well, seems neither of them has been very forthcoming of late."

"Angel, I'm back," Crowley shouted from the upper deck.  "And I have news!"  He thundered down the stairs then halted.  "Ah... Jamie."

"Hullo, Crowley.  I thought we might have a chat?"

"Umm, yeah, sure but first... JenniAnn got a call while I was there.  You're not going to believe this..."  He grinned.  "Caleb found twin babies on the side of the road this morning."  He grimaced.  "I mean... it's very sad that it came to that, course.  But they're placing the babies with Caleb and Lacey.  Isn't that something, angel?"

Aziraphale put down the curtains he'd been hemming and smiled at his anam cara.

"That's wonderful news!  Oh, I'm so happy for them!  I do hope and pray they get to keep them!"

"Me too."  Crowley smiled and squeezed Aziraphale's hand then turned to Jamie who looked confused.  "Caleb and Lacey are a couple of the Friends.  They've been hoping for children and now, seemingly, they'll have two at once."

Jamie smiled.

"How lovely!"

"It is, yes."  Crowley shuffled uncomfortably.  "I suppose we could go on deck to talk?  It's pleasant enough.  Get a bit of sea breeze."

"I'll bring you up some tea if you'd like?" Aziraphale offered.

"Maybe give us twenty minutes?" Jamie suggested.  "Then you could join us with the tea?"

Aziraphale nodded.

"Of course.  Yes.  I'd like that very much."  He turned to Crowley and hugged him tightly.  "I'll see you in a bit, my dear."

"Uh huh."  Crowley forced a smiled and planted a kiss in Aziraphale's hair.  Then he nodded to Jamie and followed her upstairs.

"Firstly...  I heard about the Green Carnation," Jamie began.  "You could have come to see me.  We're in very similar time zones."

Crowley's face flushed.

"Should have, yeah.  Sorry."

"Well... just remember if there's a next time, okay?"


"Now... do you want to tell me what prompted your visit there?"

Crowley told the counselor about his nightmare, about waking up alone, about not wanting to disturb JenniAnn... only to wind up doing exactly that.

"And... apparently... when I was drunk... I kept asking for Mum," he admitted.  "Then, once I was lucid, I got pretty clingy with JenniAnn."

"Crowley..."  Jamie reached over to pat his hand.  "
JenniAnn loves you.  That much is obvious.  But she is not your mother and she will never be your mother.  She's not even forty years old, Crowley!  She can't mother the Serpent of Eden!  Can she care for you?  Absolutely.  But if you keep projecting your issues with Mum onto her... eventually she is going to disappoint you because she is not God.  And it will damage a really beautiful friendship.  So for her sake... if not your own or Mum's... talk to Her.  To Mum."

"I know I need to..."


"Jus... hard."

Jamie nodded.

"I know.  Trust me, I know.  Not so much with Mum but... there was definitely a space of time when things were tense with Joshua and I.  But the only thing that made it better was talking."

Crowley was quiet for a few moments before he spoke again.

"I'm... embarrasssssed."  He rolled his eyes at the inadvertent hiss.

"Because of your fall?"

Crowley nodded.

"That's in the past.  It's done.  It can't be undone.  Think of it this way... you came back.  How many others haven't?  Haven't even made an effort.  Won't even acknowledge that they did wrong.  You did come back.  You admit you did wrong.  The fact that you feel any embarrassment proves that your heart is in the right place.  And Crowley... think of what you've been doing on that stage.  When so many of the rest of us felt helpless... when we didn't know what to do for Joshua... you comforted him.  You stayed by him.  Yes, you are the Serpent of Eden.  But you're also the Angel of Gethsemane.  And that should make you so, so proud, my friend."

Crowley blinked back tears.

"Does a little, I spose." 

Jamie smiled.

"Good.  So whenever you feel guilty, think of that.  And when you're ready to talk to Mum, remind yourself of that.  When everyone else fell away, you were with Her beloved son.  She loves you for that and so much more, Crowley.  Truly.  And She wants to be there for you when you need Her.  Because She's actually your mother and She can mother you better than anyone."

Crowley let his tears fall freely.

"Yeah...  Yeah, you're right."  He chuckled.  "Who made you so wise?"

Jamie smiled.

"Gwen... and Liliwen... and God."

Crowley nodded and hugged his old friend.


At the request of the police, Caleb had returned to the road where he'd found the babies.  He'd pointed out exactly where they'd been laying and answered questions about others on the road... there hadn't been anyone... and if he'd noticed anything amiss during previous trips.  He had not.  He left out the one and only hitchhiker he'd seen.

Caleb was heading back to the hospital when that familiar hitchhiker appeared again.  He immediately pulled over and jumped out of the truck.


Joshua beamed at Caleb and held his arms aloft.

Caleb ran into the man's embrace and sobbed in his arms.

"I'm sorry...  I'm so sorry.  I... I doubted and... and..."

"It's all right, it's all right, Caleb," Joshua soothed.  "I understand.  I know."

"You... you did know."  Caleb pulled away enough to peer into Joshua's warm, loving gaze.  "You told me to keep taking drives."

Joshua nodded.

"If... if they hadn't been found..."

"But they were."

"Because... cause you... you didn't give me the miracle I wanted.  If you had..."  Caleb swallowed the lump in his throat.  He'd loved those babies from the moment he'd seen them and to think of exposure... coyotes...  He shuddered. 

Joshua smiled gently.

"Thank you," Caleb murmured as he buried his face in Joshua's shoulder.

Joshua gently stroked Caleb's back for several moments as he wept.

"I love you," Caleb choked out.

"I love you, too, my boy," Joshua echoed back.

"Will... will it work out?  If... if you can say?  Can we... keep them?"

Joshua peered up at the Heavens for a moment then beamed at Caleb and nodded.

"They're yours forever."

As relief swept over him, Caleb laughed through his tears.

"Now... you're in no state to drive so I'll take you back to the hospital.  Keys, please?" Joshua requested.

Still laughing, Caleb handed the keys to Joshua.

They returned to the truck and Joshua patted Caleb's arm.

"Off we go to see your babies."

Caleb beamed the rest of the way to the hospital.


Though Caleb and Lacey were quite understandably absent, that didn't stop the Friends from popping champagne to celebrate their good news.  In honor of the occasion, Andrew had invited Crowley and JenniAnn back to St. G's for an hour or so.

A few minutes into the celebration, Loreena spotted JenniAnn rooting through a tea box in the office.

"You don't like champagne?" Loreena asked as she approached.

JenniAnn smiled and shrugged.

"It's okay.  I took a sip of Andrew's to say I did.  Just have a bit of a headache so didn't want to chance it.  Caffeine might help."

Loreena frowned and went to start the electric kettle while JenniAnn continued to peruse the offerings.

"Is there anything I can do to help?"

"Oh no.  And thank you again for the care package you brought over yesterday.  That was so kind!  And the chocolates are very yummy."  JenniAnn at last plucked up a bag of orange pekoe and smiled at Loreena.

"You're welcome.  And it was my pleasure.  I really enjoyed picking the stuff out for them.  You've been so nice to me since we met... talking me down when I got anxious about Joshua and COVID.  And Crowley's really put me at ease being part of the show.  So I wanted to do something nice but... I am a little concerned.  About you."  Loreena rested a hand on JenniAnn's shoulder. 

JenniAnn patted Loreena's hand.

"Thank you.  I really appreciate it."  She wanted to be honest with Loreena... but that was a little hard to do with all the secrecy.  Still, she would try.  "It's just...  I think I've mentioned that I studied Theology in college?"

"Mmm hmm.  I bet that was interesting!"

"It really was.  But one thing we did was read this sort of autopsy report on a crucifixion victim.  Like... how it probably happened.  What it did internally."

Loreena grimaced.

"How awful..."

"It really was.  And I suppose... because of what happened to Andrew and me in the fall... the... the violence and... and the horror of it all... it's gotten harder to tuck away.  Harder not to think about that while I'm doing Joshua's make-up.  How... violent it really was."

"Oh, JenniAnn... I can only imagine."  Loreena hugged her.  "Now it makes so much more sense why Andrew put you on leave."

JenniAnn smiled fondly.

"He definitely knows what's best for me... more than I do sometimes.  And this is definitely one of those times."

"Do you think maybe someone else could take over?"

"I just... I don't think it would really matter.  And... I would miss that time with Joshua."

"Of course."

"Anyway...  I'll figure it out.  I really need to just sit down and talk to Joshua.  But in the meantime... what's been going on with you?  Any more late night Animal Crossing sessions?"

Loreena nearly choked on her champagne.

"Oof!"  JenniAnn patted her on the back.  "You okay?  Sorry if I said anything..."

Loreena shook her head.

"No... no.  It's fine.  I just... I guess I never got around to telling you..."

"Telling me about what?"

"That night Joshua stayed over at Roger's so we could play games.  Well, I... I ended up staying over, too.  I didn't mean to.  Roger and I just fell asleep on the couch and... well, we ended up... snuggled."

JenniAnn grinned.

"Really now..."

Loreena couldn't help but laugh.

"I mean... it's really not that big of a deal," JenniAnn assured.  "It happens.  I mean... unless you're hoping it was a big deal?"

"I... I don't know!"  Loreena shook her head.  "I, umm, haven't done this in a while.  I had a boyfriend a few years ago.  I... I really loved him.  But..."  Her face fell.  "We were together for two years and he never introduced me to his family.  Not a one.  And I... I knew why.  It broke my heart and so... so I pretty much just focused on work once we split."

"I'm so sorry to hear that.  Do you feel about Roger anything like you felt about him?"

Loreena rubbed at her temples then gave a slight nod.

"I think so.  I mean...  Yes.  But... I have no idea how he feels about me."

"How did he act once you both woke up that morning?  Snuggled."

"I mean... we were awkward.  Joshua had fallen asleep in the chair so he saw us and..."

"And how did Joshua act?"

Loreena smiled.
"He seemed very amused.  And very chill.  Then we left for coffee and donuts."

"And after that... how has Roger been since?"

"Like normal."

"That's good!" JenniAnn encouraged.  "It obviously wasn't upsetting to him.  Has he asked you to do anything since?"

"I mean... I have gone to his place to hang out and play games since.  Not that late.  But... he usually invites me over a few times a week, before or after rehearsal.  He has started escorting me back to my apartment which he didn't used to do.  At least not all the time."



"I mean... my experience is very limited... but I think that's adorable.  I think maybe you're both a bit stuck.  You've had this friendship for a good while and you're both afraid of risking it.  And... I get that in a way.  I mean not exactly but... you see, when Andrew and I first met and for a good many years after... we were part of a larger friend group.  Like the Friends but definitely more female-heavy.  And... I was scared of them thinking I thought I was more special than they were.  More... deserving of him.  I mean... most of us had mad crushes on Andrew.  So even when I started to think... just maybe... Andrew felt something more than friendship for me... I still didn't really say all I wanted to.  Because I didn't wanna make it awkward between us but also... not for the whole group.  And I regret that now.  Because a lot of those friends have moved on.  We... we coulda been happy so much earlier than we were."  JenniAnn blinked back tears.  "So... I don't want that for you.  I think, after this, I need to go back home.  I promised Andrew.  But... I'll be back starting on Sunday.  And I'd be happy to feel Roger out.  And maybe I could even arrange to stop by the cathedral and see him there before Sunday if..."

"No, no!  You need to rest.  Focus on you.  But... if you do find yourself with a convenient moment on Sunday or sometime after... I would appreciate that."

JenniAnn smiled and hugged Loreena again.

"Then it's a plan."

JenniAnn raised her mug and tapped it against Loreena's flute.

"To true love... wherever we find it."

"To true love!"

Giggling and with their arms around each other's waists, the two women left the office and rejoined the others.


Wednesday, March 16th, 2022

After an evening spent ironing out a few blocking issues and reviewing the first few songs of Act II, Andrew dismissed everyone a half hour ahead of schedule.  Even with all the new people, he was pleased with how quickly everything was coming together.  But the truth was he was anxious to get back home to JenniAnn.  Earlier, she had insisted on digging her nursing system and breast pump out from a closet and giving them a good cleaning before passing them off to Lacey.  The endeavor had proven to be emotional.  Sweet-natured little Avi had been a good sport and allowed his Mama to cuddle and carry him around for a while.  And by dinner time JenniAnn had rallied but the whole ordeal had made Andrew reluctant to leave.

After a quick shower, Andrew entered their bedroom and found JenniAnn already asleep.  As he slid into their bed, he realized she was wearing one of his T-shirts.  It always made him feel a little light-headed when she did that.  It meant she'd missed him... wanted him close.

JenniAnn stirred slightly.


"I'm here."

Andrew circled his arms around JenniAnn and nuzzled her hair.

"How was rehearsal?"

"Great.  Everything's coming along really well.  I missed you."

JenniAnn brought his right hand to her lips and kissed it before burying her face in his chest.

"Missed you, too." 

"How was everything here after I left?"

"Good.  Aziraphale was all about the pirates again... out of anticipation for new episodes tomorrow, I think.  So he wore Belle and Avi out which was helpful cause I... I'm fine.  No seizures or anything.  But I faded pretty early on.  Went to bed as soon as the kids were settled."

"I'm glad you got some rest.  I, umm, I gave everyone the night off tomorrow in case they want to celebrate.  I thought maybe we could go to the cabin... just the two of us.  It's been twenty two years since we first met, Laja.  We should celebrate.  If you're up to it."

JenniAnn patted Andrew's chest.

"Sounds lovely.  Twenty two years..." she repeated.

JenniAnn roused enough to plant a kiss on the angel's lips.

"Yes.  Let's go," she agreed.


Andrew gave JenniAnn an affectionate squeeze then watched over her as she drifted back to sleep. 


Little Bird and Lion

Thursday, March 17th, 2022

JenniAnn startled awake with her heart pounding.  Another nightmare... 

Joshua was dying on the cross and she'd been helpless... just as helpless as she'd been when the demons had attacked Andrew.  Somewhere, in the distance, Natalie screamed.  And JenniAnn had been unable to help her, too. 

It was in the past.  It was all in the past.  Nothing could be done now.  There was no reason to keep mulling it all over.  But JenniAnn's unconscious mind didn't seem to understand that... and neither did her conscious one for that matter.

JenniAnn tried to return to her slumber but sleep was not coming… not with everything rolling around in her head. 

Maybe if she just snuck a quick peek at Joshua…  Saw that he was peaceful, comfortable… safe. 

But then it seemed untoward to peek into the bedroom of a grown man… even if he was God.  Maybe especially because he was God.

But he was Joshua.

He was Yeshua.

And she needed to see him.  Maybe to talk…  Maybe to just be near him for a moment.

Careful not to rouse Andrew, JenniAnn slid out of bed.  After donning her slippers and robe, she quietly crept up the stairs and made her way to Joshua’s room.  To her surprise… and equal parts relief and anxiousness… Joshua was up.  He was standing in front of a window, staring out at the night sky.

When a floorboard creaked, Joshua turned around and smiled at JenniAnn.

“Ah, so I’m not the only one not sleeping,” he mused.

JenniAnn returned his smile and nodded.

“Is everything okay?” she asked.

“Yes.  Just… one of those nights, hmm?”

JenniAnn’s face flushed as she nodded again.

“You know, I was just thinking that a little fresh air would do me good.  Care for a midnight stroll?” Joshua offered.  "It's unseasonably warm."

JenniAnn nodded eagerly.  Now that he’d mentioned it, fresh air seemed like exactly what she needed.

“Hard soled slippers?” Joshua checked.  “It’s a little damp out there.”

“They are, yes.  Thanks.”

“Good.  Just let me get my robe.”

JenniAnn gulped.  Why had she gotten him a tan one?  It had seemed cute at the time.  But now she wished she’d chosen anything else.  He looked… well, like himself.

When Joshua offered her his arm, JenniAnn took it and left the room with him. 

Once they were outside, the fresh air and sounds of the night birds began to calm JenniAnn.

“Beautiful…” she murmured.


JenniAnn laughed quietly and hugged Joshua’s arm. 

They walked without speaking for several moments until Joshua halted.  To JenniAnn’s surprise, he reached into his pockets and pulled out several pieces of cantaloupe.

“Cup your hands,” he directed.  “It’s safe.”

Amused, JenniAnn obeyed. 

Joshua dropped some melon into her hands and kept some in his own.  When he held his hands in front of him, JenniAnn followed suit.

After only a few seconds, four fruit bats swooped down and began to dig into their treats.

JenniAnn giggled.

“They’re so sweet!  I wonder if any of them is Stella... the one Andrew… and you… helped a few years’ back?  I can't tell.”

“The one on your left.”

“Aww!  Well, hello, sweetheart!  Is that yummy?  Yeah?”

Joshua beamed at JenniAnn as she conversed with the bats. 

Once the melon was devoured, the bats flew away again.

“Let’s head to the stream.  Get the stickiness off our hands,” Joshua suggested.

“Good idea.  They were quite messy!  But careful!  I didn’t get so much as a nip.”

“They know not to bite the hands that feed them.  Those four, anyway.”

“Thank you for that.  It was lovely.”

“I know you love them.”

“Yup.  Mice with wings.”

Joshua laughed.

When they reached the stream, the two knelt down to wash their hands.  After drying hers on her robe, JenniAnn looked over at Joshua.

He looked peaceful and comfortable and safe… and yet…

Joshua leaned against a rock.

“How about you tell me why you were having trouble sleeping?” he suggested.

JenniAnn stared down at her hands.

“I… I’m not sure.”

“You don’t lie well,” Joshua gently pointed out.  “Especially not to me.”

JenniAnn blushed.

“I’m sorry.  It’s just…  Hard to talk about.”

“It’s okay,” Joshua assured.  “I understand.”

JenniAnn sat down beside him.

Joshua waited patiently.

Finally, JenniAnn spoke.

“Crucifixes are pretty much a lie, aren’t they?  And… and I don’t mean the white guy and the placement of the nails or even that the beams are perfectly sanded and straight.  I… I mean… I mean…”

Joshua squeezed JenniAnn’s hand.

“I know what you mean.  And do you really want to know, little bird?”

“Do… do you want me to know?”

“I never tried to hide it.  And I think it would be better for you to know than to continue to let it remain unsettled, occasionally... now more than occasionally... keeping you up at night.”

JenniAnn let out a shaky breath.

“I…  Yes, I want to know.”

Joshua nodded then looked up at the moon.  JenniAnn followed his gaze and was momentarily transfixed.  It was so beautiful. 

When JenniAnn looked back to Joshua, she gasped.

The man was gone... transformed into a lion.

"I thought this might be easier for you.  Just... for a bit."

Tears filled JenniAnn's eyes.  She nodded and reached for his mane, halting before she made contact with the black and gold silken strands.

"It's okay," Joshua encouraged.  "I'm not really like Aslan in that.  Not touchy about my mane."

Grateful, JenniAnn let her fingers sink into the softness.

"You ready to continue?" Joshua checked.


“Okay.  Then you’re correct.  There was no loincloth.”

JenniAnn began to sob.

Joshua's front right paw settled onto her shoulder and pulled her against him.  He nuzzled her hair.

“Remember this, little bird: That’s always been true.  You just know it now.  But it doesn’t change anything.  Not really.”

“I… I’m… sorry…”

“I know.  And I also know you would never have chosen to do that to me.  That’s just… it was the way the Romans did things.  I wasn’t special in that.”

“It just… it had to feel so… violating,” JenniAnn lamented.  "I mean... I... I first heard it was a possibility back when I was in college.  And I can remember being really upset but... but then... well, the towers fell and life got more complicated and it... it sorta slipped into the back of my mind.  And it stayed there until... til that first production.  But... but you were so... present and so vibrant and strong and I didn't want to think about it.  So... I pushed it back again.  But then with Natalie...  The... the way that all happened...  With... with the scar... a-and the... the rape and... her crying out for you and it just got all so muddled in... in my nightmares.  And I couldn't push it away.  She was violated in such a heinous way and you... it wasn't the same but... but closer than... than I ever wanted to believe possible."

Joshua nodded.

“It did feel violating.  It was violating.  But you know I wouldn’t spare myself that when so many, many people throughout time haven’t had a choice… haven’t had their bodily autonomy respected.”  Joshua’s eyes filled.  “You know that, little bird.”

JenniAnn buried her face in Joshua’s shoulder as she remembered Rex and the alley.

Joshua gently patted her back. 

“Yeah…”  JenniAnn lifted her head and met his concerned gaze.  “I… I’m not sure what else to say.”

“You don’t need to say anything else.  But it also shouldn’t be something that you run through in your head and don’t talk to anyone about.”

“I just…  I don’t want to put it in anyone’s head if it’s not there.”

“I understand that.  And it’s good to be sensitive to that.  But you know you can talk to Andrew about anything.”

“But he didn’t tell me…  He told me so much else but not that.”

“Because he didn’t want to put it in your head.  You weren’t ready then.  Just know that if you have any nights like this going forward… I’m there, of course.  But so is Andrew.”

“Yeah…”  JenniAnn ran her fingers through Joshua's mane a few more times then rested her forehead against his.  She closed her eyes briefly.  "Could you maybe change back now?  This did help but now... now I want..."

"Of course."

Joshua reverted to his normal form.

JenniAnn gave Joshua a trembling smile then brought his right wrist to her lips.  “Does it bother you that we’ve whitewashed the nudity?  It just… it feels like we’ve minimized what happened.”

“It doesn’t.  Mostly.  Maybe it would be better is more art was realistic.  But movies?  Shows?"  Joshua shook his head.  "I mean do you think we’d be having kids come to Superstar if I was up there without a stitch of clothes?”

“Well, no…  I guess not.”

“And also… my death happened once.  It was brutal and humiliating… but it only happened once.  No one needs to relive it to such detail multiple times a week.  That’s not healthy.”  Joshua sighed and peered up at the stars.  “The only reason it bothers me at all is because too many people can relate.  And maybe they’d feel more comfortable talking to me if they knew.”

“Yeah…  I can see that.”

“So… trust your instincts.  You have good ones.  If you think it might help someone to know… or even if you can’t tell them that you do know, only that it’s quite likely based on historical reports… like in that book... you can tell them.  I trust you.”  Joshua smiled proudly at JenniAnn who blushed happily as she returned his smile.

They sat in companionable silence for several minutes before Joshua caught JenniAnn yawning.

“I think we should head back to the castle.  Get some more sleep before we have to be up and around,” he suggested.

“Probably so.  Thank you for this.”

“Thank you!  I love having this time with you and it is a beautiful night.  And the bats are grateful we came out.”

JenniAnn grinned at the memory.

“I loved that.  And… even though it was difficult… I really am glad we had this talk.  And that I know.”

Joshua hugged her shoulders.


He helped her to her feet and they headed back, arm in arm.

When JenniAnn returned to her bed, she felt comfortably drowsy and lighter than she had since the Superstar rehearsals had started back.

Joshua was peaceful, comfortable, and safe and all was well.


That morning, JenniAnn was just exiting Yonah’s barn when she saw Joshua approaching.  She noticed how carefree he looked and smiled as she moved towards him.

“G’morning!  Did ya decide to start the day with a swim?” she asked, gesturing towards his wet hair.

“Good morning!  And, yeah, I did.  It felt great.  Tending the pets, I see.  Need any help?”

JenniAnn shook her head.

“No but thanks.  Yonah was the last on my list.  I’ve got to throw a load in the laundry before we get started on breakfast.  Do you need your trunks washed?”

“Nope.  Thanks for checking, though.  I knew no one would be around so I didn’t wear any.”  Joshua gave JenniAnn a breezy smile.  “It was… heavenly.”

“Oh…”  JenniAnn’s face quickly flushed.  “That actually…  It sounds nice.  I’ve, umm, never gone skinny dipping.”

Joshua nodded.

“It was nice.”

JenniAnn mulled this over.  Joshua seemed perfectly at ease.  What had happened to him hadn’t, ultimately, changed his relationship with his own body.  He felt no shame.  And, of course, she had known he didn’t.  But seeing it…  Something in the pit of her belly unknotted.

“Maybe I should try it sometime,” she murmured.

“You’ve got the pond which is nice.  But I prefer the ocean.”

“Good to know, thanks.”

As the two walked back towards the castle, Joshua began to hum “Everything’s Alright.”  He stopped when JenniAnn halted.

“Maybe… maybe I could ask Andrew along, too?” she suggested.

Joshua smiled.

“Sounds like a plan.”

JenniAnn nodded. 

The two resumed walking.

"You know..."  Joshua took JenniAnn's hand in his.  "Nothing that happened to me should ever, ever make you think that your life should be limited.  Nudity can be used as a weapon, yes.  But it's also beautiful.  It can mean intimacy... respect... love... care.  It's okay to enjoy it under the right circumstances.  Remember when Andrew got released from the hospital and you were worried about him showering alone?"

"Yeah..."  JenniAnn's cheeks flushed and she sighed.  "Crowley really didn't need to be involved, did he?  Coulda been me."

"Yeah.  I entrusted you both to each other.  If that ever happens again... you don't need to call in a third party for the sake of modesty unless you want to.  And it's fine if you do.  Really.  But... I don't want you thinking it needs to be that way because of some misguided angst surrounding my death.  Okay?"

JenniAnn bowed her head and nodded. 

"And as for Natalie," Joshua continued.  "She may not have met you but she did meet Andrew.  And she was very fond of him.  She wants the best for him.  So please... try to let go of those images.  I know it's hard.  I know it's not something you have total control over.  But when they come to mind... don't dwell on them.  Take a deep breath.  Say a prayer.  And move on.  Do something fun.  And also... don't let any of this make you think there's anything particular you ought to do tonight... or any time... with Andrew.  If it's still warm enough and you want to go skinny dipping... do that.  If you want to shower together... do that.  If you want to wear footie pajamas and binge The Golden Girls... absolutely do that.  Although... Andrew might be a touch disappointed by that last option.  But he'd live."  Joshua winked.

JenniAnn giggled as he smiled at her.

"The bottom line is I just don't want to be the reason you're not enjoying your life.  And neither does Natalie.  Okay?"

JenniAnn hugged Joshua's arm.

"Okay.  Thank you."

"You're very welcome.  And now... I think the girls have finally decided how they want their shelving units arranged so I'm going to work on that."

"Sounds good.  And I need to pack for tonight."  JenniAnn blushed but gave Joshua a breezy smile.  "I'm looking forward to it."

"Very good!"

Joshua returned JenniAnn's smile then accompanied her back to the castle where they parted with a hug.



Roger's idea for a nice, little St. Patrick's Day party at his apartment had turned out nicer and littler than he'd intended.  He'd considered inviting John only to have overheard him telling Zeke that he was spending the evening in Asteriana, making boxty with Fr. Mike and his parents.  Mason and Renee were obviously considered but the latter wasn't feeling well and, of course, Mason was determined to be the doting expectant father.  Roger would have expected no less.  The archbishop had Mass and thus was unavailable.  Roger had considered inviting Kyle and Ana-Maria but figured they had better things to do than hang out with an "old."  And he would have invited Joshua if he hadn't already known he was babysitting Andrew's and JenniAnn's kids. 

So that left Loreena... Loreena who had jumped on his invitation.

So it was that the two of them ended up back on his couch... close but not too close... sipping green beer and snacking on green and orange popcorn and assorted not-really-Irish treats. 
On the arms of the couch sat the two pairs of shamrock headbands that they'd both worn for several minutes before agreeing they rubbed behind their ears too much.  They were both misty eyed as the last moments of Waking Ned Devine played.

"This is JenniAnn's funeral song."

Roger coulda kicked himself the second the words left his mouth.

Loreena sputtered on her beer.


Roger grimaced.

"Sorry...  That was weird."

Loreena laughed.

"I mean... yeah.  Maybe a little morbid even."

Roger laughed.

"I guess we're a morbid crowd then.  It was one evening, a while before COVID, and we'd finished Bible study and some of us were still hanging around Willowveil.  I'm not even sure how the conversation started.  But we ended up on 'What song do you want played at your funeral?'  And that's when JenniAnn told us about this movie and this song.  'The Parting Glass.'  I thought it was kinda funny.  I mean she hardly drinks."

Loreena thought about her searching for tea while everyone else was drinking champagne and nodded.

"But it is beautiful," Roger admitted.

"It is.  Hauntingly so.  Mine's 'I'll Be Seeing You.'  The Billie Holiday version."

"So you're saying you'd just really like people to bawl?"

Loreena laughed and nodded.

"Yup.  Do you have one picked out?"

"I mean... maybe.  It's kind of a new pick.  And it doesn't really make sense now but... but if I found someone...  My maternal grandmother was actually born in Columbia.  So when Encanto came out I was..."  Roger chuckled.  "Maybe I watched it more often than a man in his thirties should have but... I fell in love with 'Dos Oruguitas.'"

"Oh...  That's such a beautiful, sad song.  And I don't think it's weird at all.  It's always nice to see your culture represented."

"It is, yeah."

"And I..."  Loreena took a sip of beer.  "I think you will find someone.  Anyone would be lucky to... blessed to..."

Roger met Loreena's gaze, his own a bit watery.

Loreena forgot what she had meant to say.

Suddenly, she was leaning forward and Roger was leaning forward and...

Their noses bumped together.

Roger cringed.

"Sorry...  I... I'm bad at this.  Oh, God..."

Loreena only shook her head and giggled.  She cradled Roger's face in her hands, tilted her head, and kissed him.

Roger wasted no time in reciprocating, this time with considerably more gracefulness.

When they were done, their foreheads rested together.

"So, umm...  how do you feel?" Roger checked.

Loreena played with a lock of his hair and smiled.


Roger grinned.

"I'm going to need to call JenniAnn at some point... maybe tomorrow," Loreena continued.

"JenniAnn?  Why?"

"I may have asked her to feel you out... see if you might be... interested."

Roger laughed.

"I see.  Well, she's very busy so it's nice we knocked one thing off her to-do list."

"It really is."

The two embraced.

"So, umm, what should we do now?" Roger asked.

"Well... it's maybe a little unseasonable but... watch Encanto?" Loreena suggested.

Roger beamed.

"I would love that."

He pried himself away long enough to pull up the movie.

As the opening notes sounded, Loreena nestled against Roger.  He wrapped his arms around her and kissed her hair.

It was the best St. Patrick's Day ever!


In Albany, Caleb and Lacey were also celebrating their best St. Patrick's Day ever.

The twins, a boy and a girl, were nestled together in Lacey's arms.  Though the girl was smaller and would need to be watched especially closely, exams hadn't revealed anything particularly troubling.  There was a good chance they'd even go home the following day.

"They're so beautiful..." Lacey murmured.  "Those lil cheeks..."

Caleb smiled as he stroked first the girl's cheeks and then the boy's.

"I... I just wanted one baby but...  He gave us two," Lacey continued.

"He did.  And, listen, if down the road you still want to try... we can," Caleb assured.  "I know you liked the idea of being pregnant."

Lacey shrugged.

"Yeah, maybe.  We'll see.  More than anything, I just really liked the idea of nursing.  Just snuggling the baby... babies... so close and knowing you're nourishing them with your own body.  I just love the idea of that.  And between JenniAnn and the lactation consultant... I'm convinced I can still do that in time.  Maybe it'll even help her."  Lacey caressed the girl's hair.

"I'm sure it will, darling.  So... what are you thinking about names?  We can't keep calling them Boy and Girl.  We sound like characters from Bird Box and I don't want to start having nightmares again."

Lacey laughed.

"No, we definitely don't want that.  I really love the names we'd picked out... just in case."

Caleb smiled.  One night, in a particularly optimistic frame of mind, they'd pulled up baby names sites and picked a girl's name and a boy's name they both liked.

"Marisa and Gianni?"

Lacey nodded.

"Marisa and Gianni," she repeated, smiling down at the twins.

"They suit them."

"I think so."

Caleb bent down and kissed one of the baby's brows.

"Marisa Romano."

He did the same with her brother.

"Gianni Romano."

"Perfect," Lacey murmured before cupping Caleb's chin and kissing him.


In their cabin near the Fields of Gold, Andrew and JenniAnn had shared a romantic, candlelit dinner and several slow, reverent dances.  But as midnight neared, JenniAnn yawned.

Andrew, with some reluctance, released her.

"We should probably head to bed."

JenniAnn nodded and wasted no time in sinking beneath the covers.  She was grateful that they'd already changed into their pajamas.  But when she went to brush some hair away from her face, her fingers caught in a knot.

"I need to brush my hair...  If I don't, it'll be an absolute rats' nest in the morning."

Andrew shook his head and grabbed her brush from her bag.

"Let me?"

JenniAnn shrugged.

"Sure.  Thanks."

Andrew settled behind JenniAnn and began to gently brush out the tangles.  There weren't many and when they were attended to, Andrew set the brush on JenniAnn's nightstand.  He ran his fingers through her hair as a final check... and because he loved the sensation.  Then he gathered her hair into one hand and pulled it back from her neck where he planted a soft kiss.

"Love..."  JenniAnn turned around and peered at him.

"Laja..."  Andrew cupped her face in his right hand. 

JenniAnn kissed his palm then straddled his lap, wrapping her legs around his middle.  They hadn't canoodled since their attempt had been interrupted by Marty a month ago.  She'd missed it.  She'd missed Andrew even when he'd been right there.

"We... we don't have to..." Andrew murmured even as hope had began to swell in his chest.

"I know... but I want to.  Do you?"

The angel nodded against her shoulder where his head rested.

"Very much."

The two shared a kiss then JenniAnn released her hold on Andrew.  She went for his T-shirt at the same moment his hands came to the hem of her camisole.

Andrew chuckled and let go.

"Ladies first."

JenniAnn smiled and yanked off his shirt.  She snuck a kiss before Andrew again went for her cami.

Arms around each other, they laid down and proceeded with a flurry of kisses.

Andrew let out a shaky breath as JenniAnn's lips trailed along his collarbone, her hair tickling his chest.

JenniAnn raised her head and met his gaze.  She cradled his face in her right hand.

"Are you all right, my love?"

Andrew nodded. 

"Just... missed this.  Feels good to..."

"To have this back?"


JenniAnn brought his left hand to rest over her heart.

"I'm sorry I've been... off."

"Don't be, Laja!  It's normal to have times when... when you just don't feel up to..."

"I know.  I do.  But... I should have been more honest with you.  I should have told you about how Joshua and Natalie and what happened to them...  So many nightmares and sometimes even when I was awake just... intrusive thoughts.  I'd... well, I'd expected for a long time that... that the loincloth was a myth.  It... it wasn't there."

Andrew's eyes welled and he shook his head.

"I... I didn't want to be the one to tell you.  I'm sorry if..."

"No."  JenniAnn squeezed Andrew's hand.  "I'm glad you didn't.  I didn't want you to be the one.  I think, really, it needed to be Joshua.  I needed to be able to see with my own eyes that he was okay.  I mean... of course I knew he was okay.  But that he was okay talking about it, I guess.  And then this morning..."  JenniAnn laughed.  "Did you know he skinny dips?"

Andrew chuckled and nodded.

"I did, yeah."

"Well... I didn't!  But he told me this morning and as helpful as our talk during the night was... hearing that and seeing him so relaxed afterwards... it was like something loosened in me.  Like... it was okay to enjoy something like that... in my way.  Because he still could... in his way.  I dunno...  It's weird."

"It's complicated.  It's not weird," Andrew assured. 

"Yeah... spose so.  That's a better way of putting it.  Just... seeing intimacy perverted and autonomy stripped away... it... it felt... wrong somehow to enjoy physical intimacy but... it wasn't."

"No.  It wasn't."  Andrew caressed JenniAnn's face and stroked some hair behind her ear. 

JenniAnn's face flushed but she smiled.

"He said we could go skinny dipping if we wanted... together.  I figured not tonight since it's a bit chilly and you'd just worry about me getting pneumonia again."

"You know me well."  Andrew kissed JenniAnn's brow.  "But some day... absolutely.  Whenever you want."

"Okay."  JenniAnn returned the kiss then snuggled against her anam cara, lightly stroking his chest.

"Twenty two years..." Andrew murmured.

"Yep.  Hard to believe we have three children who are older than I was when we met."

"So weird when you put it that way."

JenniAnn grinned.

"We've always been weird... but good."

A shiver went through Andrew when she sat up, her hair cascading around him like a curtain.

"I thought I loved you then.  And I did... in a manner.  But compared to all I feel now...  I... I used to love this song called 'That Was a River.'"

"Sing it to me?" Andrew requested.

"I only remember the chorus.  But it was about this guy's wife seeing his ex and worrying that he still loved her.  And he sang 'That was a river.  This is the ocean.  That never carried this much emotion.  Nothing compares to this deep devotion.'"  JenniAnn leaned in to kiss Andrew's lips.  "Same guy for me.  But... this is the ocean.  Now."

Andrew reached up and pulled her closer, cocooning JenniAnn in his arms.

This was the ocean and one day it would drown him in grief but he wouldn't change anything.

Twenty two years ago, he'd met a girl in a field.  Years of awkwardness and fumbles had ensued.  But now he was hers and she was his.  She knew him best, second only to God. 

"I love you," he whispered into her ear.  "I love you.  I love you."

JenniAnn repeated it to him, three times, before rolling onto her back and pulling him with her.

For a brief moment, she buried her face in his shoulder, remembering that darkened, torturous alley.  But then it faded away and twenty two years of happy memories overwhelmed her.  Her younger self would have died for a moment like this.  And now this was her life.  Whenever they wanted.

Her fingers twined in Andrew's hair when he rested his head on her chest, his fingers gently caressed her right side. 

JenniAnn gasped.  Somehow she had forgotten about her own scarred right side, courtesy of Rex.  It had become such a part of her that it escaped her notice.  But now it occurred to her that before her own struggles with the twin images of Joshua and Natalie, Andrew must have done his own mental work. 

And even though it seemed impossible, that made her love him even more.


Friday, March 18th, 2022

Joshua smiled as he rocked Amelia back to sleep shortly after midnight.  His Dad had given him a report of very recent events and he was pleased.  Loreena and Roger had, finally, expressed their love for one another.  Caleb and Lacey were blissfully tucked away in a hospital with their son and daughter.  And Andrew and JenniAnn had come back together after a tense few weeks.  Crowley had scheduled a time to talk with his Mum and Joshua knew Aziraphale would make him stick to it.  And while Marty's hang-ups weren't entirely resolved, at least he'd spoken to JenniAnn and planned to speak to Jamie. 

All was well.

But Joshua was not naive.  Ever.  He knew things would get tense when the show opened.  Most of their audience would be moved by Loreena's inclusion in the cast.  Others would be a little uncomfortable but keep it to themselves, letting their discomfort challenge them.  But then there would be the others... 

Joshua's eyes welled.  Everything would be fine.  He knew that.  But he also knew the pain of feeling like your very existence put others at risk.  He didn't want Loreena to feel that.  At least now Roger would be there, full-time, to help cushion the emotional blows.  And the rest of the cast and crew would rally around Loreena, just as they always did around their friends.

But then there was that other thing he couldn't remember...

Something... or someone... was looming.  Someone, Joshua thought.

But no other detail came to him.

Joshua stroked Amelia's back and prayed for whomever it was.


That evening, Loreena and Roger giggled as they entered St. Genesius' Community Theatre.  Their hands were clasped together as they stepped into the office and came face to face with JenniAnn.

"Oh!  Hi!  I didn't expect to see you tonight but I'm so glad you're here, JenniAnn!" Loreena released her boyfriend's hand and hugged JenniAnn.  "Are you feeling better?"

"Oh, yes and I'm glad to be here, too.  Still off make-up duty for a couple of days but things are much better so... Andrew agreed to let Crowley and me come back early.  And it's a good thing, too.  Seems like I've already got some catching up to do."  JenniAnn grinned.

"Umm... yeah!"  Loreena smiled at Roger who was hanging back near the door.  "That thing we talked about... you don't need to worry about it."

"Wonderful!  I'm so happy for you both!" JenniAnn gushed.

Roger stepped forward and again took Loreena's hand.

"I'm happy, too.  Turns out we just needed to discuss funeral songs to get the ball rolling."

Loreena laughed as JenniAnn cocked her head.

"Seems you'd recommended Waking Ned Devine to Roger and that led to remembering a discussion you'd all had which led to us discussing our funeral songs which led to 'Dos Oruguitas' which led to a kiss which led to..."

Roger raised their joined hands.


"Aww!  That's so great!  Well, you're a lovely couple and I couldn't be happier for you.  Does everyone else know?" JenniAnn asked.

"Mason and Renee.  Otherwise no," Roger explained.  "How... do we just make an announcement?  That seems odd."

"Surely not..."  Loreena grimaced.  "That seems so... I don't know."

JenniAnn laughed and shook her head.

"No.  You just act couply and word spreads like wildfire.  If you want me to plant the seed... since I'm now off the hook for the other thing... I can," she offered.

"Yes, please!" Roger and Loreena answered in unison.

JenniAnn made a happy little squeak and hugged them both.

"Great!  Then I'm off!"

Once they were alone, the new couple faced each other and laughed.

"I better go get into my costume," Loreena said after a quick kiss.

"Yeah, I better try to find John.  But... I'll be in the audience when you go on."

"Thank you!"  Loreena planted another quick peck on Roger's cheek then hurried off.

Roger stared after her, beaming.


By the time rehearsal had started, JenniAnn's mission was complete.  Loreena and Roger had shyly but happily accepted sincere congratulations from the Friends... Joshua included.  He'd pulled them both into a bear hug.

"I'm so happy!  Totally knew it!"

"Since the sleepover?" Loreena guessed.

"Mmm...  Before that," Joshua countered, offering no more detail.

"Well, your approval means a lot.  Thank you, Josh."  Roger clapped him on the back.

Nearby, Emma smiled.

"This production seems to have that effect.  Seems like every year, someone ends up getting together because of it.  Or makes their relationship official.  The last time we did this before COVID, a couple got engaged during intermission.  They took a photo with Peter in full Jesus-mode after the show.  They even used it as their engagement announcement photo.  Sometimes I like to think about how, somewhere, a photo of my husband looking like... well," she gestured to Joshua, "is sitting on someone's mantle."

The others laughed.

"It's definitely a beautiful legacy for the production."  Joshua smiled at everyone.  "I'm so glad and proud to be a part of it with all of you!"

After a chorus of awws and several group hugs, rehearsal began.



Saturday, March 26th, 2022

It had been decided that the troupe would perform two preview performances for their most loyal patrons and assorted friends and family.  The first show on the 25th had gone off without a hitch.  The second and last preview performance had started off equally well... until they hit intermission.

Emma was freshening up her make-up when she felt an odd sensation... one she'd felt only once before in her life.  Standing nearby, Diana heard when she gave a little gasp.  The older woman was immediately by her side.

"Emma!  What's wrong?"

Emma was pale.  She took a step back, revealing a small pool of water.

"Oh!"  Diana hugged her friend then yelled.  "Peter!  Get over here now!"

Within moments, the entire backstage of the theatre was abuzz.

Peter was comforting his wife alongside Maryam, Zeke was calling 911, and Joshua was whispering words of encouragement. 

Andrew, meanwhile, was scrambling to figure out what to do.

"Max, go out in the lobby and tell everyone we're going to need to take another fifteen minutes.  Or no...  Can someone think up something to do to entertain them while we figure this out?"

"Mick and Beth are out there," JenniAnn replied.  "I doubt Mick has his guitar but Joshua's is here.  I'm sure he could borrow it and play for a while?"

"Yes, Mick can borrow my guitar," Joshua called from his spot near Emma and Peter.

"Edward, can you go find Mick, please?" Andrew requested.

"Absolutely."  Edward nodded then ran off.

"Ivy's here, right?"  Andrew peered around.

"Also in the audience," Diana answered.  "I can..."  She looked over at Emma with concern when she cried out. 

"I'll go get her.  We're asking her to go on as Mary, right?" Amala checked.

Andrew nodded. 

"Yes.  Any chance Eric is here?  I didn't see him."

JenniAnn frowned and shook her head. 

"He's not...  Also, Maryam is going to go with Emma and Peter, right?  So Veronica..."

"You're Veronica," Andrew cut in.  "Okay, Peter... Peter..."


The Friends all turned to a man who had suddenly appeared a couple yards away.

Joshua tore his gaze away from Emma and beamed at the newcomer.

"Hey, Cephas."

"Rabboni."  Cephas smiled and waved at Joshua then turned back to the Friends.  "I feel like I could do a decent job as Peter."

Andrew chuckled and hugged him.

"More than decent.  Thank God."  The angel of death smiled at Joshua then refocused on Cephas.  "We'll let everyone fuss over you after the show.  For right now... Monica, get this man a costume, please."

Monica laughed and hooked her arm through Cephas'.

"Right this way..."

The others stared after them, stunned.  But soon attention was focused back on Emma.

"She's too early!  What... what if her lungs aren't fully developed?  What if..."

Joshua knelt beside where Emma was crouched and kissed her temple.

"Everything will be all right, my own.  When the ambulance comes, you and Peter will go with them.  And you'll do wonderfully."  He looked up.  "Anyone available to drive my Ama?"

"Sy's in the audience.  He can," Zeke offered.

"Wonderful.  Andrew, could you go find him?  And Christopher... there should be a woman out in the lobby looking a bit overwhelmed and confused.  Purple shawl.  Cream peasant dress.  That's Rakhyl, Cephas' wife.  Could you get her seated?  Naturally, she'd like to watch her husband perform."

Christopher smiled and nodded before leaving on his mission to find the apostle's wife.

"Absolutely," Andrew agreed.

He squeezed Emma's and Peter's shoulders then left to do as Joshua asked.

After another few minutes, Owen rushed in from the office.

"EMTs are here!"

"Peter!" Emma cried.

Peter squeezed her hand.

"I'm right here, mi amor.  I'll be with you the whole time."

"And I will follow as soon as I can, Emma," Maryam vowed.

Emma sniffled and nodded.

"Thank you.  All of you.  I had hoped..."  A contraction cut her off.

"Don't you worry about a thing, sweetheart," Diana urged.  "Everything will be just fine.  We'll do you proud."

Emma smiled through her pain and nodded.

"I... I know you will."

With that, the EMTs began to load Emma up.  Sy rushed up and took Maryam by the arm, escorting her to the Wilsons' car.

Once they were gone, the sound of Mick strumming his guitar started up and everyone let out the breaths they'd been holding.

"Zeke, when there's a break before Mick's next song, why don't you and Andrew go out there and explain what's going on?  It's not a secret.  Emma and Peter put in their program bios that they were expecting.  Announce the cast changes.  Then let Mick play for another ten minutes or so while we regroup... and pray for our friends."

Zeke gave a ready nod.

"Absolutely, Lord."

Loreena, who had snuck in from the dressing room once she'd heard about Emma, stood on the periphery of the group and raised an eye brow.  But then maybe Zeke was a bit of a Method actor...


Mick was finishing the last notes of "Amazing Grace" when he saw Andrew and Zeke standing off-stage, waving at him.

"It looks like our director and Zeke, who plays Judas, would like to say a few words so... fellas."  He beckoned to them.

Andrew waved to the crowd and brought a handheld microphone to his lips.

"Folks, thank you so much for your patience.  We really appreciate it.  We're going to let our friend Mick here continue to entertain you for about ten more minutes while we get our bearings but, first, we thought we owed you all an explanation so..."  He handed Zeke the microphone.

Beaming, Zeke spoke to the crowd.

"As many of you know, Emma and Peter, the owners of this theatre who are currently starring as Mary Magdalene and Simon Peter, are expecting their second child.  Well... Emma went into labor shortly after intermission started."

Murmurs of surprise and joy went through the crowd.

"I know we're all praying for them and looking forward to welcoming another little one into the St. Genesius' Community Theatre family.  But, obviously, this has forced a few changes in the cast for Act II tonight.  Happily, my daughter-in-law, Ivy Lee Wilson, was in attendance tonight.  She'll be taking over at Mary Magdalene."

"Go Ivy!" Manny, Kendra, and Hailey shouted from the audience.

Zeke smiled.

"Yes, she'll do a fantastic job... just as she'll be doing at certain performances throughout the run.  As for Peter... we have a special friend, Cephas, who will be helping us out there.  And the part of Veronica, usually played by our leading man's mother, will be played by JenniAnn Chandler, Andrew's partner and our make-up artist, so Maryam can support Emma and Peter tonight."

As the crowd cheered, Zeke returned the microphone to Andrew.

"And with that... we'd just like to thank Mick and everyone who jumped in to help out tonight.  Thank you, again, for your patience.  Obviously it's not every day a couple of apostles have to leave to welcome their baby."  Andrew chuckled then turned off the microphone and hugged Mick.  "Thanks, Mick.  Really."

"Of course!  I'm enjoying it.  Now go take a few minutes for yourselves.  I imagine it's been pretty frantic back there.  I've got this."

"Thanks, man."  Zeke hugged Mick then followed Andrew backstage.  They found the others already circled around Joshua and praying.

"Dad, we ask You to wrap Your love around Emma and Peter and their little one.  Guide the doctors.  Give Emma strength and, after the baby's arrived, please grant her peaceful rest so she can truly enjoy these first days as a mother of two.  Hold Emma, Peter, Sawyer, and their baby girl close as we know You already do.  And thank You for this family we've found here... so supportive, so eager to help each other out.  May we bring Your message of love and forgiveness to everyone out there tonight and to everyone who comes through these doors.  Amen."

"Amen," the others echoed.

"Now..."  Joshua smiled encouragingly at the gathered cast and crew.  "Let's go out there and finish this show!"

The group cheered then, after a series of embraces, went to their places and prepared to resume the show.


It was surreal for Cephas... being on that stage, re-enacting those last hours of Yeshua's life, surrounded by strangers... but strangers he felt a kinship with, strangers he'd watched over.

During "Gethsemane," Aziraphale had stood beside him, watching Yeshua and Crowley, their arms around each other's shoulders.  Cephas had wept when Yeshua called for him, remembering how he'd failed to answer. 

Then he had to get back on stage, back to waving his useless sword around.

But the rockiest moment was the denial.

He stumbled onto the stage, catching the edge of the well as he began to fall.  As he splashed water onto his face, Joccy approached.  She eyed him up and down then glared.

"'I think I've seen you somewhere...  I remember!  You were with that man they took away.  I recognize your face!'"

Cephas peered into the well and shook his head, unable to meet her gaze.

"'You've got the wrong man, lady.  I don't know him and I wasn't where he was tonight... never near the place!'"

Max scoffed and grabbed onto Cephas' shoulders, turning him around.  With the hand not facing the audience, he gently patted Cephas' back.  The kindness brought even more tears to Cephas' eyes as Max sang.

"'That's strange, for I am sure I saw you with him.  You were right by his side!  And yet you denied!'"

Cephas shook his head and tried to shrink away.

"'I tell you, I was never, ever with him!'"

Takoda pointed at him then looked in the direction Joshua had been dragged.

"'But I saw you, too!  He looked just like you...'"

Cephas ran away, nearly to the edge of the stage before turning back to his accusers.

"'I do-don't know h-him!'" he screamed out, his voice cracking.

Ivy approached and moved in front of him, her expression sorrowful.

"'Peter, don't you know what you have said?  You've gone and cut him dead,'" she lamented.

Cephas took the young woman's hands in his and sobbed. 

"'I-I had to do it, don't you see?  Or else they'd go for me.'"

Ivy closed her eyes and let out a ragged breath. 

"'It's what he told us you would do...  I wonder how he knew?'"

The lights dimmed as Cephas sobbed and Ivy wrapped her arms around him, leading him offstage to where Joshua was waiting to wrap his right hand man in a hug.


The after-show crowd lingered for longer than usual, eager for news of Emma and Peter and their baby.  However, by 11:00 the last of them finally left, promised there would be an update on social media as soon as possible.  The cast and crew dwindled to only a few of the older members, the rest assured they'd get to spend time with the surprise guest star and his wife later.

Those that remained gathered on center stage, seated on the cushions used for the Last Supper.

"Peter is going to be so bummed out that he didn't get to properly meet his namesake!" Zeke said as he handed Cephas and Rakhyl some coffee.

"We've no intention of hurrying off," Cephas assured.  "Although... I can't say I'd like to do that again.  Once was enough."  He waved to the stage.  "Unless absolutely needed, of course."

Joshua shook his head.

"No, I wouldn't ask that of you.  But I do appreciate you stepping in in a pinch.  We'll talk to Eric.  I think he'll take on some extra shows.  And I doubt Peter intends to remain out for the rest of the time.  Emma, however...  Well, we can figure everything out tomorrow when we're rested.  But I did want to say you did a wonderful job, Cephas.  I knew you would, of course.  But I couldn't be more pleased."

Rakhyl stroked her husband's back.

"You did do wonderfully, my dear."

Cephas smiled proudly.

"Thank you.  It was my honor.  I'm glad I've finally been able to properly meet almost everyone.  We'd hoped we might all take in a show this time around."

"All?" Shane asked with evident curiosity.

Cephas nodded.

"The twelve of us.  And our wives."  He smiled at Rakhyl. 

"And a few other friends," John added.  "I know Mary's group expressed interest in coming."

"Oh, that would be lovely!" JenniAnn gushed.  "I'm just sorry she won't see Emma perform.  But Ivy will be so thrilled!  And whomever we get to help her out.  Joshua, you don't suppose Mary might..."

Joshua shook his head.

"She'd maybe do it once or twice like Cephas here.  But I wouldn't ask any more of her.  Besides, I have a suggestion."

Andrew perked up.

"I'd very much like to hear it."

"I was thinking we might ask Loreena if she'd step in.  Then it's much easier to find someone else willing to do a single solo and a brief non-speaking appearance during the trial.  We could ask Azalea about that.  Lily, Basil, and her were out of town when we did rehearsals.  But I know she could do it."

"That... would be a really big deal," Owen pointed out.  "I mean... I love the idea.  Truly.  But... people are more attached to Mary than they are Claudia.  They could get... riled."

Joshua nodded.

"They could."

"If I remember correctly... and I believe I do... some were riled by Joshua's casting," Rakhyl reminded.

"They were.  But we didn't back down," Andrew asserted.

"Think of what it could mean to people in the LGBTQIA+ community.  I mean... the female lead."  JenniAnn met Joshua's gaze.  "And if people are uncomfortable... well, I'm learning anew that sometimes you need to be a little uncomfortable to grow."

Joshua smiled and raised his coffee mug to her.

"Exactly.  But we'll see what Loreena..."

He was interrupted by a series of chimes and rings from cell phones.

After exchanging a few anxious looks, several people picked up their phones and looked at the Friends' group text.

"Read it, please, Zeke," Joshua requested.

Beaming, Zeke complied as Diana hugged his free arm.

"'Mercy Luciana Garcia-Campbell was born at 10:56 weighing five pounds, six ounces.  Emma and Mercy are both doing well.  Mercy is a touch underweight so will likely spend a couple days in the NICU but we're feeling so blessed that everything looks good.  See you all soon.  Love, Peter.  PS- Will post to FB shortly.  Then sleep.'" 

Zeke handed his phone around so those without could see the image of a beaming Emma holding her little girl.

Joshua admired them both as tears welled in his eyes.



The Decision

Sunday, March 27th, 2022

As the first rays of dawn's light filtered into their bedroom, JenniAnn let out a dreamy sigh.  Her head rested on the left side of Andrew's chest and her hand lazily caressed his right side.

Andrew's eyes were closed as his own hands drifted up and down his anam cara's back, sometimes burying his fingers in her hair.



"I love you."

Andrew smiled and turned onto his side, causing JenniAnn to shift to her side, too.  He cupped her chin and planted a kiss on her forehead.

"I love you, too."

"I was thinking... Aziraphale has made a lot of progress with the Aurora Mist.  I'm thinking he'll be finished by Tuesday.  He's gone into hyperdrive these past few days.  That show's season finale aired and it seems to have agitated him some.  I mean...  Obviously, he and Crowley should get to enjoy it first after all their hard work.  But maybe... Wednesday or Thursday night we could stay there?  Celebrate the show opening.  Make up for last month."

"I would love that.  But first... we need to figure out how to continue the show."

"We could invite Loreena and Roger over for lunch.  You and Joshua could talk to her then.  And I'd be there, of course, for moral support."

Andrew brought her right hand to his lips. 

"Sounds like a plan."

"What time is it?" JenniAnn asked.

Andrew rolled over to check his pocket watch.

"6:15.  We should probably get up soon to start breakfast."

"There's enough grab and go stuff to keep someone from starving," JenniAnn countered.  "I vote we stay here for another half hour at least... and I give you a massage." 

Andrew closed his eyes and gave a soft moan as her hands gripped his shoulders.  He smiled.

"Forget what I said.  I like your idea better."

JenniAnn grinned and planted twin kisses on his shoulder blades before going to get her supplies.

Whatever the lunchtime conversation brought, Andrew was glad that at least in one area of his life, all the puzzle pieces had slotted neatly back together.


"So what are Cephas and Rakhyl up to today?" JenniAnn asked as she prepared chicken(-like) salad for sandwiches.

Joshua smiled as he mixed a fruit salad.

"Being tourists.  I think they're going to some art museums... her choice... and the Seaport... his.  We've given them a few days to themselves.  And they'll pop back up at St. G's eventually."

"How lovely!  Speaking of lovely..."  JenniAnn washed her hands then hugged Joshua.  "Thank you.  Again.  For that talk.  Things are... better."

Joshua chuckled when her cheeks flushed.

"I gathered.  Andrew's been humming at random moments yesterday and today."

"Aww, good.  It's... it's been a wild few months.  But I hope now things will start to normalize."

Joshua laughed again.

"Normalize?  Doubtful with the crowd you hang around with.  But get better?  Yeah... I think so."

Beaming, JenniAnn stepped back into Joshua's embrace.


His heart pounded in his chest as he approached the security checkpoint, passport in hand.  He still couldn't explain its sudden appearance on his bed stand a month prior.  Possibly it was a sick joke.  Maybe it wasn't legitimate.  That seemed like something his former "colleagues" would do... set him up to get arrested at the airport, pulled away from the only person who truly loved him, right as hope of escape had begun to blossom.

A gentle hand rested at the small of his back.

"It'll be all right.  You'll see!  We can't have come this far just to have it all fall to pieces, Ed."

Ed forced a smile and nodded.

There was only one more person in front of him in line... and then that man was waved through.

The agent waved at Ed.

"Kia ora!"

Ed forced what he hoped was a friendly smile... not that she could see through his mask.  But hopefully his eyes showed a breezy pre-travel excitement.

"Kia ora."

He held his ticket and passport out.

"All right, Mr. Bonnet.  Looks good.  Go on through the scanner when indicated and enjoy New York!"

Ed was so stunned that he didn't move until Steve gave him a slight push.

"He's a bit sleep deprived.  I'm hoping he can catch up on some sleep during the flight."

"I know how that is!  I've got a four-month-old at home."

"Bless you!  I imagine you do!"

Ed smiled, further calmed by the chatter.  Then another agent was waving him through the body scanner.  He took a deep breath and moved... and was waved through again and... nothing.  Just a polite tip of the head from the agent on the other side.

Soon, Steve was beside him again and grinning.

"And so we're off!" he chirped.  "I meant what I said back there.  You really ought to try to get some sleep, dear."

"Mmm.  Yeah.  Okay."

Ed was still stunned that nothing had happened.

They'd just gotten through airport security... without a hitch.  Not even a pat down.  Nothing.

Steve frowned.

"Let's get you sat down.  Our gate's over there."

Steve looped his arm around Ed's waist and steered him to a couple of chairs.

"Do you need anything?  A drink?  A snack?"

Ed shook his head.

"Just need... you."

"Aww, Ed..." 

Ed sighed as Steve hugged him tightly. 

"Just think... by this time on Friday or Saturday or so... everything could be sorted.  You could be free, hmm?"


Steve held out his phone.

Ed smiled at the image on the screen... Joshua and Ant's cousin... Loretta?  No.  Loreena.

Maybe everything really would work out.


"I really don't think Andrew and JenniAnn are expecting us to dress up much," Loreena offered as she watched Roger do his tie.

"No, probably not.  But... it's our first time being invited somewhere as a couple.  So... I want it to be special.  Besides, you look fantastic.  So I need to up my game.  I'm not showing up in a T-shirt and jeans."

Loreena smiled.  She did think she looked rather good in her belted sweater dress, leggings, and boots.

"It's kind of weird," Roger mused.  "Being together when..."

Loreena's smile faltered.

"How so?"

"Well, I mean..."  He chuckled.  "Pretty sure after all those laundry sessions, we've already seen each others unmentionables, for one."

Relaxing, Loreena laughed.

"Yes, when I start dating someone I don't typically know that he has dinosaur print boxers.  Oh and, of course, my personal favorite... the otters."

Roger burst out laughing.

"Otters make me happy.  So I get up, I shower, and I immediately see otters.  It's a good way to start the day.  Besides, you should talk.  You have Twilight Bloom on one of your bras."

"Okay, firstly, the ponies are named Twilight Sparkle and Apple Bloom.  And, secondly, it's Rainbow Dash on my bra.  Get it straight, Colson."

With a smirk, Roger finished tying his tie then embraced his girlfriend.

"In any case, my awkward self is perfectly happy to start with the getting-to-know-you stuff behind us.  But... I can't help but wish we'd figured this out sooner."

"Mmm...  Yeah, that could have been nice but... I'm just happy we figured it out at all."  Loreena kissed him. 

"Very true."  Roger took her hands in his and gave them a squeeze.  "But now... we better head out.  Don't wanna be late for our first couple's lunch."

"Couples plus Joshua," Loreena corrected.  "Actually... does he ever date?"

Roger suppressed a shudder and only shook his head.

"Nope.  Never."

"Huh.  I mean I guess playing Jesus might kinda kill your dating life."

"Something like that, yeah."

"Maybe some day... if he wants."

"Guess we'll see.  Ready?"


The two exited Roger's apartment.  After locking up, he took Loreena's hand and they headed to the elevator.

When it beeped, an older woman who tended to behave a bit passive aggressively towards Loreena stepped out.  She studied the two, an eye brow quirking upward.

"Good morning, Mrs. Galbraith," Roger cheerily greeted. 

"Hmm.  Yes, good morning, Roger."

"We're headed out to meet friends for lunch.  Anything we can grab for you on the way back?" Loreena asked.

Flustered, Mrs. Galbraith shook her head and scurried towards her apartment door.  She gave the couple one more alarmed glance before the elevator door closed.

"Now the entire building will know..." Loreena lamented.

"I'm sorry.  I didn't even think.  It just felt natural to take your hand."

"Don't apologize!  It is natural and I like it very much."  Loreena squeezed Roger's hand.  "I just hope you aren't hassled."

"I'll handle it if I am.  I'm more concerned about you."  Roger rested his forehead against Loreena's.  "We'll deal with whatever comes.  Let's just have a good time, hmm?"

Loreena smiled and nodded.

"Yeah.  Let's."

The elevator beeped again and the two set off towards St. G's and the portal.


Loreena nervously pushed bits of fruit around her plate.

"What does everyone else think about this?" she asked.

"Well, we haven't told everyone.  Emma and Peter, of course.  They thought it was a great idea.  So did Ivy.  Truth be told, she was relieved.  She would have done all the shows if needed but she's trying to write a book.  A theological one, ironically," Andrew explained. 

"Some of the others were there when we were brainstorming," Joshua added.  "Zeke, Diana, Owen, Shane, John."

"They were all supportive of the idea," JenniAnn stressed.  "But only if you were.  If you don't want to do it, we'll figure something out."

Loreena looked over to Roger.

"What do you think?"

"I think it matters most what you think but since you're asking... I've heard you sing a few bars of 'I Don't Know...'  You sounded great, Loreena.  You really did."

Loreena caressed his cheek.

"Thank you."

"It's true."

Loreena sighed and looked across the table at her hosts and Joshua.

"If this was just something we were doing as a group for fun... I'd say yes in a heartbeat.  But... we're talking about the public.  We're talking about a Jesus show.  I'm afraid of the reaction some will have when they hear sainted Mary Magdalene is being playing by a transwoman in half of the performances.  It's not the same as with Claudia.  People aren't attached to her.  But..."  Loreena paused for a moment and rubbed at her temples.  "I also think about what it would have meant to fourteen-year-old me...  Seeing something like that.  Seeing someone like me... that close to Jesus.  Trusted by him.  Loved by him."

Joshua's eyes filled with tears.  He reached across the table and took Loreena's right hand in both of his.

"If... if the show weren't in a tight spot, would you feel comfortable with this, Joshua?" Loreena questioned.  "I mean... the perception is there that Jesus and Mary Magdalene... well...  It can definitely look romantic.  And... and some of these people are used to seeing a married couple portray those roles so... so there could be an assumption.  About you.  So I need to know you... you won't be uncomf..."

"I won't be," Joshua assured.  "Not at all."

Loreena looked over to Roger whose own eyes were misty.

"Joshua doesn't lie," he murmured.  "Ever."

Loreena let out another sigh.

"Then... if you're sure... I... yes.  I'll do it."

Relief washed over Andrew's face.  JenniAnn beamed and hugged his arm.

Joshua rose, walked around the table, and hugged Loreena.

"Thank you.  I think this will be great.  I know you will be."

Loreena smiled at him.

"I sure hope so."

"I'm Jesus.  I know all," Joshua replied.

Loreena laughed and returned his hug as Roger looked on with pride.


Monday, March 28th, 2o22

After a morning spent putting finishing touches on the captain's quarters of the Aurora Mist, Aziraphale and Crowley had moved onto St. Genesius' where Loreena, Joshua, and Eric had spent hours rehearsing their numbers together.  Crowley had wanted to support his new friend and also enjoy some time wrapped up in the energy of the show without worrying about going on stage himself.  Loreena, of course, had done an amazing job.

From there, the two watchers had made their way to an outdoor cafe for dinner.

"So... I was thinking we could stay on the ship for the next couple of nights.  Ensure everything is comfortable and conveniently arranged," Aziraphale suggested in between bites of creme brulee.

"Sounds good, angel."

"I do still want to get a different duvet before Andrew and JenniAnn stay.  I'm not entirely happy with the one we're using now."

Crowley chuckled.

"What's wrong with the duvet?"

"Too modern.  I thought I wouldn't mind it and I do like some of the other smaller modern elements but it's just too much.  Stede wouldn't like it."

"Stede is either a long-dead slave owner or a fictionalized TV character.  I don't think his opinion on a duvet really matters, Aziraphale."

The angel sniffed.

"Well... it does to me... in the latter case, not the former.  Naturally."

Crowley rolled his eyes as his anam cara pouted.

"Fine, fine.  We can look around to..."

Aziraphale interrupted his sulk to look up at Crowley who had tilted his head towards the street.

"Crowley, dear..."

After another moment, Crowley relaxed.

"Sorry.  For a moment I thought I sensed..."  He lowered his voice.  "A demon.  I think?  Maybe?  That way."

Aziraphale's eyes went wide and he stared in the direction Crowley had pointed. 

"I don't sense anything."

Crowley shrugged.

"Mighta just been paranoia then.  Anyway... we can shop around tomorrow.  I would hate for you to be stuck with a second-rate duvet."

Aziraphale chuckled and patted Crowley's hand.


A block away, Ed was plastered against the wall of an alley.  He could hear his heart thumping wildly.

All he'd wanted to do was get some dinner for himself and Steve and now he'd likely been spotted... by the Serpent no less.  Now he was going to tip them all off and ruin everything!

Ed fought back tears.  He needed to get back to the hotel.  And he needed to see to get back.

He hurried back down the few blocks he'd come, his heart only settling down a bit once he'd crossed the threshold of the hotel.  He rushed to his and Steve's room and hurled himself inside the moment he had the door unlocked.

Steve startled when he saw him.

"Ed...  Ed what happened?"

Ed couldn't speak.  He only shook his head and began to sob.

"Oh, darling..."

Ed rested his head on Steve's shoulder, melted into his embrace, and wept.



Wednesday, March 30th, 2022

JenniAnn took a final look in the mirror and smiled at herself.  She and Andrew were headed to a French cafe in Omaha for a celebratory lunch in honor of opening night.

"You look so pretty!" Violeta chirped from where she was sprawled out on the bed. 

"The eye make-up isn't too much?  Too bright?"

Shelby shook her head.

"No!  It's really beautiful.  Actually kinda makes me want to play around with eye shadow."

"Well, just don't take any tips from Belle," JenniAnn teased.  "She's not happy until every shade is somewhere on her face."

Shelby laughed.


Violeta sidled up and hugged JenniAnn.

"Bring us back some fudge?" she requested with puppy dog eyes.

JenniAnn smiled and kissed the angel's hair.  There was a candy shop not far from the cafe that Violeta was very fond of.

"We already planned on it.  Just keep an eye on your phone.  We'll send a photo of the flavors sign."

"I hope they have cookies and cream."  Violeta licked her lips.  "But mostly I hope you and Andrew have a good time.  You deserve it."

"Thank you, honey.  And thank you both for sticking around to help watch Avi and Belle.  What are you planning to do?"

"Watch a movie and do a craft of some sort, I think.  Maybe..."

Shelby was interrupted by a knock on the door.

JenniAnn opened it to find Marty.


"I, uh, just wanted to say that I hope you and Andrew have a lovely time at lunch," the angel said.

JenniAnn smiled at him.

"Thank you, Marty.  I appreciate that.  Are you..."

Marty shook his head.

"Aziraphale invited me to check out the work he's done on the ship so... Sandy and I will be doing that."

JenniAnn could see some strain on Marty's face as he said it.  She could tell he would have preferred going along... sitting at the cafe with Sandy, at a respectful but unobscured distance.  But he wasn't.  She squeezed his hands.

"That sounds fun!  I can't wait to hear what you think."

Marty nodded and squeezed her hands back.

"I will be going tonight.  To the theatre.  If that's..."

"Of course!  Our archivists need to be there for opening night!  And our friends."

Marty smiled.  It grew as JenniAnn embraced him.

"Thank you," she murmured.

"You're welcome.  I'm sorry that things got..."

"Don't apologize.  It's okay.  Really.  It's... been a time."

Marty stepped back and nodded.

"It really has."

"But... better times to come!"

"From your lips to..."

"My ears."

Joshua peeked around Marty and chuckled.

"Aww!  You look great!  All of you do.  Actually...  Could I please borrow your phone, JenniAnn?" he requested.


JenniAnn grabbed it from her purse and handed it over.

"I noticed something back when we were putting things away before Loreena's first visit.  Marty... my camera-shy firstborn... there are hardly any photos of you around here.  We need to remedy that.  Girls, you should get in it, too."

"He's right!  And I'm sorry I never caught onto it!  It's almost always you offering to take the photo, Marty.  But you're part of the household... part of the family, too.  So, yes.  Thanks, Joshua.  Let's do this."  JenniAnn looped an arm around Marty's back.

"I suppose a photo might be nice..." Marty admitted.

After the four were posed, Joshua snapped the photo.  He gave a satisfied smile to the image on the camera.

"We'll have to get one later with Andrew in it."

"Where is Andrew, actually?" JenniAnn asked.  She took the phone back from Joshua and glanced at the time.  "We're supposed to leave in five minutes.  He's always so punc..."

"Sorry!"  Andrew hurried up the steps.  "I got waylaid.  Look who I found visiting with Yonah..."

The angel of death motioned for someone to come up the stairs.  As the figure drew nearer, JenniAnn gasped and rushed forward.


Zeke was standing in the grotto outside of St. Genesius', taking a few moments to reflect before the show.

"Is it break a leg that they say?" a vaguely familiar voice asked.

Surprised Zeke turned to the source.  He smiled gently.


Yehuda smiled and moved into the man's open arms.

"Shalom, Zeke."

"It's... wow.  It's so good to see you again.  Cephas said you'd all be around."

Yehuda nodded.

"The others will be coming.  But I wanted a few extra days.  Mostly to have time to thank everyone.  I spent the afternoon at Andrew's and JenniAnn's place with Yeshu.  He's so pleased to have the show back."

"Well, we're all thrilled to be back.  I missed this so much.  I missed... well, being you.  It's made me feel closer to all of you... the Lord, especially."

"I'm so glad.  And... your portrayal is so respectful.  I've appreciated that."

"Well, thank you.  It means a lot to hear that.  Although... were you wanting a go at it like Cephas..."

Yehuda cut Zeke off with an adamant shake of his head.

"No, no.  It's kind of you to offer.  Truly.  But... once was enough.  More than enough."

"I'm sure.  Just wanted to check.  Want to go inside and meet everyone?"

Yehuda gave an eager nod.

"I would love that."

Arm in arm, the two men headed inside the theatre.


Roger gently rubbed Loreena's shoulders as she sat in front of a mirror, running through "Could We Start Again, Please?"

"'I've been living to see you...  Dying to see you but it shouldn't be like this.'"

Roger nodded encouragingly as she went through her verses.

"Beautiful...  And very emotional," he praised once she was finished.

Loreena let out a shaky breath. 

"Thank you.  I know it's a much easier song than 'I Don't Know How to Love Him' but... full disclosure... I sometimes sing that one around the apartment.  When I'm cleaning and stuff.  Lots of showtunes.  But that's a favorite.  I'm just not as familiar with 'Could.'"

"Well, I wouldn't know it.  And neither will anyone else."

"Thank you... mi dulce nutria."

Roger burst out laughing.

"Your... sweet... what?"

Loreena laughed, too.

"Well... I noticed that terms of endearment are kinda big with all of you.  So I wanted one for you.  And the coupled Friends kinda laid claim to all the English ones I could think of so... I decided in honor of your heritage I'd use a Spanish one so... my sweet otter."

"Aww..."  Roger's eyes welled.  "That... that's really sweet.  I love it."  He rested his chin on Loreena's hair and they peered into the mirror together.

"I thought it was fitting... not just because you like them.  But also because you're cute and playful.  Like an otter."

Loreena stood and wrapped her arms around Roger's waist.

"I don't know that I would have agreed to this if... if we weren't together."

"I think you would have... but I'm very glad we're together."

The two kissed.

"And I definitely need to think of a pet name for you..."  Roger's brow furrowed.

Loreena patted his cheek.

"Don't force it.  It'll come to you... just like mi dulce nutria came to me.  Well... my sweet otter did.  I had to look up otter in Spanish."

Roger beamed.

"And I love that you did.  I'll let you know as soon as it comes to me."

"Looking forward to it."  Loreena smiled and moved into Roger's embrace.

There was a knock on the door.

"Come in!" Loreena called.

Joshua entered carrying a parcel.  The archbishop was a few paces behind him.

"Hi!" Loreena greeted. 

"I just wanted to come see you before we saw each other on stage and I ran into Tony on my way.  Here.  For you."  Joshua held the parchment-wrapped gift out to Loreena.

"Oh... thank you.  Should I open it now?"

"If you'd like."

"I would."  Loreena smiled at Joshua then tore away the paper.  "Oh... did you make this?  It's so beautiful..."

"I did."

Roger's eyes lit up as Loreena showed off the carved box shaped like a butterfly.

"Mariposa!  You're my mariposa!  Butterfly!"

"We were discussing terms of endearment just before you came in," Loreena explained to her well-wishers before looking to her boyfriend and squeezing his hand.  "I love it.  And it fits with 'Dos Oruguitas.'"

"Aww.  Yeah!"

"You've changed and grown so much since we first met, Loreena," Joshua explained.  "So I thought it was fitting... and, yes, I thought the 'Dos Oruguitas' story was very cute.  It inspired me."

"Well, thank you."  Loreena hugged Joshua.  "I'll treasure it always."

"You're very welcome.  I'm just so glad we're doing this together.  You're going to be a wonderful Mary.  Speaking of..." Joshua motioned to Tony.

"Well, my gift isn't nearly as impressive and I know you're not Catholic, Loreena, and please don't take this as an attempt to convert you or anything but... I thought you might like to have this."  The archbishop handed Loreena a small pouch.

Loreena opened it and smiled.

"Oh...  No, I love this, Arch... Tony.  I really do.  Look at her..."  She showed the St. Mary Magdalene medal off to Roger.

"I'm so pleased you like it.  I picked it up when I visited Jerusalem some years back."

Loreena's eyes went wide.

"It's from the Holy Land and... you're giving it to me?"

"Of course, dear.  You're bringing her to life... and doing so as a favor to your friends and so the show can go on.  You deserve it."

"Thank you," Loreena murmured through the lump in her throat.  She hugged the archbishop then Joshua again.

"We'll let you get back to your prep now.  But... I'll see you on stage."  Joshua squeezed Loreena's hands and smiled.

"Looking forward to it!  Really!"  Loreena smiled and kissed his cheek.  "See you in a bit, Joshua!"

"Sounds good!"

"Thank you both!" Loreena called after the two as they left.  She closed the door and, when she turned around, Roger was holding a box.  "You too?  I'm gonna get spoiled!"

"Well... I thought about getting you flowers but... I thought this would be better."

"All right..."  Loreena accepted the box and pulled off the lid.  "Oh... oh, Roger... it's..."

"I remembered you once telling Mason and me about a dress you saw when you were in high school and... and you wanted it so badly.  Royal blue.  Sparkly bodice.  I... Well, I know it can't be the same dress but... I hope it's close enough.  I got your measurements from Amala.  I hope that wasn't creepy or..."

Loreena cut Roger off with a kiss then rested her head on his shoulder.

"It's not the same dress... it's even more beautiful.  But what I love most of all was that you remembered.  That was years ago I told you that, Roger!"

"It stuck with me."

Loreena kissed him again.

"Thank you.  I can't wait to try it on.  I would right now but... then I won't want to take it off.  Maybe tonight you could come to my apartment?  Dance for a bit?"

Roger smiled and nodded.

"I'd love that."

Loreena beamed as Roger kissed her forehead and then her lips.

"Then it's a date."


"You doing okay?" Joshua checked as JenniAnn began covering his back in moisturizer.

"Yep.  Doing good."  JenniAnn smiled at him in the mirror.  "You?"

Joshua grinned back.

"Super!  It's fun having Yehuda here.  Although I think it's for the best he watched from the box again."

"Probably so.  I imagine it's all still very emotional.  I mean between what actually happened and how difficult things still were for him last time he was here.  But I'm glad Aziraphale is here to watch with..."

JenniAnn was interrupted when the subjects of their conversation burst into the office along with Crowley.

Alarmed, Joshua stood up.

"What's going on?"

Crowley shook his head.

"Something...  It's seemed off all night.  But... I was sssssso dissssstracted..."

Aziraphale hugged his anam cara.

"Calm down, dear boy.  Deep breaths."

"Yehuda, is everyone okay?"

The apostle nodded.

"Yes.  But Crowley thought he sensed a demon."

JenniAnn gasped in surprise.


"Somewhere in the audience," Yehuda relayed.

"Crowley, come sit down," JenniAnn suggested, waving towards the couch.  "Joshua, should I keep..."

"Yes, please.  We're not stopping the show," Joshua insisted. 

"All right.  But... can someone get Andrew, please?" JenniAnn requested.

Joshua squeezed her hands.

"Yehuda, please get Andrew."

"Yes, Rabbi."

Yehuda left to search for the director.

Aziraphale rubbed Crowley's back as they sat on the couch.  JenniAnn resumed applying Joshua's make-up.  In spite of her nerves, the familiar routine calmed her.

"This whole time...  I've felt like there was something I couldn't quite reach.  Like when Yehuda first came.  I hadn't remembered he was finding his way back to me."  Joshua rubbed at his temples and peered up at the ceiling, asking for information.

Crowley calmed and spoke.

"Something felt off since shortly before curtain.  But... nerves, ya know.  Opening night.  Sympathy nerves for Loreena, too.  I put it off to that.  I'm glad I'm doing this but it's still hard sometimes.  But I figured it would go away once 'Gethsemane' was over.  But... I went into the lobby, planning to join Aziraphale and Yehuda in the box for the rest of the show.  And as soon as I was up there... I could sense them.  A demon.  Or... I think it was a demon.  But... a little off.  Somewhere in the audience."

"It doesn't make sense.  Why would a demon come here... sit through the entire first act... intermission... now a good chunk of Act II.  If they wanted to do something... why wait?" JenniAnn questioned.

"Because they don't want to do anything," Joshua replied.  "Except watch the show." 

JenniAnn couldn't help but laugh.

"A demon who loves the works of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice?"

Aziraphale cocked his head.

"Well...  I'm not sure it's much stranger than a demon who loves the works of Queen."

Crowley chuckled.

Yehuda returned with Andrew.

"Laja..."  The angel of death ran to her and hugged her.

"Hey...  Are you okay?"

"Yes.  I had no idea anything was amiss until Yehuda found me.  So there's a demon here?"

"Yeshua, can you sense anything?" Yehuda asked.

"Just... my children."

"Adorable.  But not very helpful."

"Crowley!" Aziraphale hissed.

"I mean... it's true."

Joshua chuckled.

"It is true.  Well... thankfully... I'm going to have a really good aerial view of the audience soon."

"Using the cross for surveillance...  That's... something."  Andrew shook his head, his expression a mixture of amusement and concern.

"I don't know what's going on and Dad isn't telling me but I... well... I feel... good," Joshua relayed.  "Whomever it is... I don't think they're here to hurt anyone.  I think... maybe... they're trying to find their way back just like..."


Joshua beamed at Yehuda and nodded.

"So I'll see if I can spot anyone.  Failing that... let's post Gabe and Freya by the lobby doors post-curtain.  Andrew, can you get that message to them as soon as the show ends?  I'll already be in the lobby after the finale."

"Of course.  You think they'll recognize whomever it is?"

"Probably.  Marty and Sandy would be better but... let's not mention this to them.  At least... not yet," Joshua decided.  "If we can't figure it out... then we tell Marty.  But I don't want to upset him when there's no reason."

"I agree.  He's just barely started to return to, well, normal.  And... it's not like a demon lurking about has always been a bad thing," JenniAnn reasoned.

Crowley rose just long enough to take a little bow.

Joshua chuckled.

"Exactly.  So... I'll let you know if I spot them during 'The Crucifixion.'  In the meantime... please try to be calm.  I mean think about it...  If they meant any harm, would they really show up where I am?  If they started any trouble, I'd have to do my thing.  Satan really wouldn't want to set things up so a theatre full of people in one of the largest cities in the world witnesses the Son of God expelling a demon.  And you just know cell phones would come out.  Then it would go viral.  It just wouldn't make sense."

"All good points."  Andrew dragged a hand through his hair.  "Well... then I guess we proceed as normal."

"None of this is normal," JenniAnn teased as she
gently applied a blood packet to Joshua's back.

Chuckling, Andrew nodded.

"As normal as possible.  Agreed?"

"Agreed," the others echoed.

After a few more moments and a few more blood packets, Joshua stood and walked towards the backstage area.

"Here we go..."


"'Father, forgive them...  They don't know... what they're doing.'" 

Joshua gasped as the eerie cacophony of music played.  He peered down at Violeta and Loreena and the others.

"'Wo-woman... behold... your son...  Behold... your mother.'" 

Stealing a few moments, Joshua gasped for air and peered out at the crowd.

So many familiar faces but no demons...

"'My God...  My God...  Why have You... forsaken me?'"

Joshua arched his back and looked up at the ceiling.

"Dad... where???" he silently asked.

Joshua's head rolled forward, his chin resting on his chest.

"Row 7... left aisle," a still, small voice replied.

"Thank You."

"'I thir-thirst,'" Joshua spoke aloud.

As Edward moved to grab the spear and sponge, Joshua looked to the seventh row.  He recognized everyone... except two people.  One's face was completely obscured by a cascade of black and grey hair.  They appeared to be hunched over, sobbing.  The man next to them was turned, seemingly whispering in their ear.  Joshua could only see soft blonde waves of hair. 

The sponge rose into the air.  He was out of time.

The chorus' shrill voices grew louder.

Joshua rallied a final time, his face once again upturned as he peered into the imagined heavens.

"'It... is fin-nished.  Father... into... your hands... I commend... my... my spirit.'"

His head lowered and his eyes closed, Joshua could no longer see anyone.  But his blood ran cold when someone howled from the left side of the theatre.

A tear slipped down Joshua's cheek.

He recognized that howl.


As soon as Joshua was in the tomb, he hurried out of the back to where Andrew and JenniAnn were waiting.

"So?  Any ideas?" the latter questioned as she began wiping off Joshua's face.

"Yeah.  No one you would know of but... Crowley and Yehuda know him.  I don't think I want to say anything just yet.  I'll try to talk to him after the show."

Andrew glanced at JenniAnn before giving his attention back to Joshua.

"Do you think we have reason to be concerned?"

Joshua's eyes filled and he shook his head.

"He...  I... I didn't send him away.  He... he chose...  He..."

"Joshua..." JenniAnn wrapped her arms around him as he sobbed.


Loreena walked onto the stage, her costume now complimented by a black veil.  She clung to the edges of it as she peered up at the private box.

"'I've been living to see you... dying to see you but it shouldn't be like this.  This was unexpected.  What do I do now?'"

From offstage, a recovered Joshua sang.

"'Could we start again, please?'"

Loreena stumbled towards the voice then shook her head, grief etched into her face.

"'I've been very hopeful so far.  Now for the first time, I think we're going wrong.'"  Loreena hastened to the opened tomb and, after peering inside, fell to her knees in anguish.  "'Hurry up and tell me this is just a dream.  Oh, could we start again, please?'" she begged.

A hooded Joshua stepped on stage and rested a hand on Loreena's shoulder.

He lowered his hood, smiled, and sang out.

"'Now let's start again...'"

Loreena threw her arms around Joshua and beamed.  They stood together, foreheads touching as the crowd applauded.

After reuniting with the rest of the cast, sans Zeke, Joshua paraded down the aisle with Loreena and Violeta on either side of him.  His smile faltered for just a moment.

The two seats at the end of row seven were empty.


The champagne cork popped and Loreena giggled as Roger scrambled to get it over the sink as it spewed out.

He poured some into two flutes and handed one to Loreena.

"To my beautiful girlfriend... mi mariposa... who did a magnificent job tonight!"

"Thank you."  Loreena tapped her flute against her boyfriend's then took a sip.  "I'm so glad to have the first night over with.  I'll be way less nervous on Friday night with one performance under my belt."

"I couldn't tell you were nervous at all.  You really were wonderful."

"Thanks but... it's actually pretty easy to pretend to be enamored with Joshua.  I mean... don't get me wrong."  Loreena squeezed Roger's free hand.  "You're the one for me but..."

"I understand.  Completely.  I think nearly everyone who meets him ends up at least a little bit... if not a lot... in love with Joshua.  In a very chaste way, of course.  Generally."


Roger laughed.

"I've heard the girls have occasionally had to intervene when women have formed designs on him."

"Makes sense.  I mean... to be brutally honest... he's not the most handsome man I've ever laid eyes on.  But there's just something about him that just... I dunno.  He's easy to love."

"That he is," Roger agreed.

"And so are you... but in a different way."  Loreena batted her eye lashes.

Roger chuckled and wrapped his arms around her waist.

"You look... amazing.  Ready for that dance?"

"Mmm hmm."

Roger started a song on his phone.

"Oh... I love this song."  Loreena smiled at him and began to hum along as they danced and Leon Bridges crooned along.

"Baby, baby, baby...
I'm coming home
To your tender sweet loving.
You're my one and only woman.
The world leaves a bitter taste in my mouth, girl.
You're the only one that I want.
I wanna be around.
I wanna be around, girl.
I wanna be around, girl."


Thursday, March 31st, 2022

It was well after midnight and Joshua alone remained awake.  He sat in Willowveil's ballroom, sipping spiced milk and staring into the flames of the fireplace.  He mentally reviewed the show and everything that had happened afterwards.

He wondered when exactly Steve and Edgar had slipped out.  There was a brief moment of darkness between "The Crucifixion" and "John 19:41."  Maybe they'd gone then.  The lights also lowered between "Kaddish" and "Finale."  Either way... he was certain they'd not seen the Resurrection.  They couldn't have snuck out the back door.  His Ama and Abi would have been there, waiting with Yoktan.  They must have gone through the lobby.  Owen, Amala, and Mike should have been there... but maybe not if they'd all gone to the storage room.  A lot of merchandise had been sold during intermission.  They may have needed to restock.  Whenever and however they'd gotten out, Joshua wished he knew where they were.  He hoped they were comfortable... that they felt safe... that they really were trying to make their way to him.  Maybe the show had just been too much.

In spite of his concern for the two visitors, Joshua had managed to give his time and attention to the throng of audience members who had descended upon him after final curtain.  He smiled as he recollected the warm words and the embraces.  Multiple times he'd stepped outside to take unmasked photos with them.  He'd noticed Loreena doing the same. 

Word had gotten out... at least in some circles, namely among the regulars of the Green Carnation.  Joshua was relatively sure he knew how it had happened.  After finding out exactly why Crowley had been babbling about Jesus, Blake, the man who had punched him, had looked into the show.  He'd seen a behind-the-scenes photo of Loreena on St. G's Facebook page.  He'd recognized her from their days in the ballroom scene and excitedly shared the news with his fellow bar patrons.  So it was that a number of queer people, eager for representation, had shown up for opening night.  Joshua knew more would be coming and he felt heartened by that.  Loreena's face had shone so brightly...

Joshua didn't think she'd noticed the small group of people who had shot out of the theatre as soon as they could, their faces stormy. 

His Abi had.  He'd overheard them as they'd gotten into their car... spitting out words like "disgusting" and "disgraceful" and "blasphemous."

Word would spread further and faster now... for good and for ill.

Joshua sucked in and let out a deep breath.

Somewhere, a modern day Qaiapha and Khanan were making plans... telling themselves they were honoring Jesus, defending Him. 

"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean," Joshua spat out.

A creaking noise behind him caused Joshua to spin around.  He could just make out two silhouettes, frozen in the hallway.  His face softened.


Shelby and Violeta stepped into the ballroom.

"We woke up and couldn't get back to sleep.  Thought we'd get some cocoa or..."

"Spiced milk."  Shelby glanced at the mug on the coffee table in front of Joshua.  "We didn't realize anyone else was awake."

Joshua motioned for them to come closer.

"Which do you want... cocoa or milk?"

"Cocoa," Violeta replied.

"Milk," Shelby answered.

Joshua smiled and nodded as two steaming mugs materialized.

"Oooh, thanks!" Violeta took a sip and beamed.  "Delicious.  Could we sit with you for a while?"

"I would love that."

Joshua sat down on the couch and smiled when Shelby settled to his left and Violeta to his right.

Shelby enjoyed her spiced milk for a few moments before setting it down and letting her head loll onto Joshua's shoulder.

Joshua smiled and kissed her hair.

"Sleepy after all?"

"No.  Just... dreamy.  Tonight was really great.  It was cool to be on stage.  And did you see all those people around Loreena after the show?"

"I did.  It was great to see."

"A lot of those same people came to see you after," Violeta observed. 

"They did."  Joshua recalled the hesitant, nervous faces of some.  Then he'd held his arms aloft and they'd scrambled into his arms.

"Did you know a lot of queer people when you were on Earth the first time?" Shelby inquired.

"A fair amount, yeah."

"So... why didn't you say anything?" Violeta pressed.

"I did, Duckling.  'Judge lest not you be judged'... 'Love one another as I have loved you.'  As the meme goes... I didn't stutter."

Shelby and Violeta giggled.

"I do love that meme..."  Shelby squeezed Joshua's hand.  "Love you more."

Joshua wrapped an arm around each of the sisters.

"I love you both.  So much.  Now... tell me something good?"

As Shelby and Violeta happily told Joshua about the amusing things Belle, Avi, and Evie said and did while they were babysitting, Joshua calmed.

Whatever the modern
Qaiapha and Khanan were doing, he had an army of Shelbys and Violetas and they would triumph.


The following day passed without incident... save a flurry of tickets being bought.  Soon, St. Genesius' was again filled with the cast and crew and an excited audience. 

That evening, Yehuda had opted to go invisible so he could roam the audience.  On some level, he was hoping the mysterious demon... or whatever they were... would have returned.  But Crowley had had no sense of them.  So, instead, the apostle studied the faces of the audience members.  He was moved by their joy and sadness, excitement and dread.  In many ways, it was the three years he'd spent with Yeshua distilled into a couple of hours. 

As Act II progressed, Yehuda made his way to the private box which held such precious memories.
  He peered around the small room, marveling over how much had changed since the first time he had been there.  Everything really.

And then he saw movement in the back corner.

Yehuda opened his mouth to speak then thought better of it.  He tried not to look directly at the intruder.  People could sometimes sense him if he stared and he didn't want to scare him off.  But the quick glance was enough to recognize him... the black and gray hair, the beard, the arms bedecked with tattooed stars. 

As calmly as possible, Yehuda exited the private box.  Once the door was shut behind him, he hurried down the stairs, through the theatre, leapt up the stage stairs, and ran backstage, becoming visible as he stepped into the office where JenniAnn was applying Joshua's make-up. 

"Rabboni, Edgar is here," he reported.  "In the private box.  Edgar who was known as Rawiri," Yehuda added when he realized Joshua knew thousands upon thousands of Edgars.

Without saying a word, Joshua bolted up from his chair, becoming invisible in the process.  He followed Yehuda's path in reverse... off the stage, through the theatre, up the stairs, and into the private box.

No one was there.

Joshua's heart sunk.  He believed Yehuda.  Yehuda would know.  Edgar had been there.  But he'd chosen to leave once he'd realized he'd been spotted.

Joshua whispered a prayer to his Dad then returned to JenniAnn and Yehuda. 

"He left."

"Who is Edgar?  The demon?" JenniAnn asked as Joshua sat back down.  She squeezed his shoulders when she saw how glassy his eyes were.

"Yes," Yehuda replied.

"So... are we still thinking there's no reason to be scared?"

"Yes.  Edgar wouldn't actually hurt anyone," Joshua hurriedly assured, taking one of JenniAnn's hands in both of his.

"I'm sorry he left before you could speak, Yeshua," the apostle apologized.

"I saw him last night.  I didn't tell you and Crowley because I didn't want to get your hopes up.  I couldn't see his face.  His hair was in the way.  Then... then they snuck out early. 
How... how did he look?"

In spite of his disappointment, Yehuda smiled.

"Well.  He looked well.  Cared for.  His beard was neatly trimmed.  His hair was brushed and washed and in a neat...  I can't recall the word."  Yehuda gathered his own hair behind his neck.

"Ponytail?" JenniAnn suggested.

"Yes!  But only partly.  He looked... princely."

A small smile played on Joshua's lips.  At least Edgar was allowing himself to be cared for by someone.  It made Joshua feel more secure in his assumption that the blonde man had indeed been Steve.  Joshua hadn't thought Edgar would leave him half a world away.  He hoped they were enjoying themselves... outside of whatever Edgar's current scheme was.

"So... I shouldn't be scared.  But should I be worried?"  JenniAnn bit her lip and looked at Joshua in the mirror.

"No," Joshua and Yehuda said in unison.

"Perhaps his identity is best kept between the three of us?" Yehuda suggested.  "Yeshua is right to be concerned about Crowley.  They were close... as close as anyone can be in Hell.   Maybe Edgar will come back... but likely not if he senses anyone is looking for him.  Crowley would look for him.  I tried not to make eye contact.  It's possible he doesn't realize I saw him."

"I think that's best," Joshua agreed.  He met JenniAnn's gaze in the mirror.  "You can tell Andrew if you'd like.  I would never ask you to keep anything from him."

The woman considered for a moment then shook her head.

"No.  This all sounds... angsty.  It'll only worry him.  If you say it's not worth worrying over then it's not.  I just... I hope he comes back.  For your sake."

JenniAnn leaned down and hugged Joshua's neck.

Joshua reached up and patted her cheek.

"Thank you.  But now... we have a show to continue with."

Yehuda nodded.

"I told Zeke I would visit him before 'Superstar.'  I'll go do that now.  I'll let you know if I see anything else, Yeshua."

Joshua reached for Yehuda's hand and squeezed it.

"Thank you."

"Of course, Lord."

Yehuda squeezed Joshua's hand in return, smiled at JenniAnn, and left them.

JenniAnn opened her mouth to ask further questions but then thought better of it.  Joshua's eyes had gone glassy again and she didn't want to push him.

"Sing me something?  Please?" Joshua requested.

"O-okay."  JenniAnn nodded then began to sing.  "'Tender shepherd, tender shepherd, let me help you count your sheep.  One in the meadow, two in the garden, three in the nursery fast asleep... fast asleep.'"

A tear trickled down Joshua's cheek as he listened and thought of his lost lamb.



Friday, April 1st, 2022

Cephas and Rakhyl were walking through the Bronx, admiring the hustle and bustle, when they heard worship music.

They stopped in front of a church.

"Mission of Christ Christian Church," Cephas read aloud.  "A bit redundant, don't you think?" he whispered to his wife.

Rakhyl laughed.

"A bit.  Do you want to go in?"

"Yes.  But let's sit to the back in case we need to make a quick escape.  Some of these modern churches..."  Cephas clucked his tongue.


Rakhyl took Cephas' hand and walked with him into the church.

Right away, the two felt very ill-at-ease.  While they received a few smiles upon entering, most of the congregants looked them up and down with wary gazes.

"Not feeling the Spirit of the Lord," Cephas hissed to Rakhyl once they were seated.

"No... me neither."

Still, they sang along and listened attentively to the readings from the Bible.

Cephas shot his wife a look as a man walked to the pulpit wearing a designer suit.

"Ladies and gentlemen... I come to you with grave, grave news.  It has come to my attention that here in our own city, a passion play is being performed that disgraces our dear Lord who stretched out his arms and died for us.  Instead of honoring the Risen Christ, they have given into the woke, liberal mob in the most disgusting of ways.  They have dared to cast a transvestite as Mary Magdalene!"

Shouts and gasps arose from the congregation.

"We should leave, Cephas.  This... it's horrible," Rakhyl whispered.

Cephas shook his head and remained rooted where he sat.

"At first," the preacher continued, "I couldn't... wouldn't... believe it.  But I heard it from our brother, Malachi who, as you know, believes so strongly in representing our Lord as he truly is... having done so for many years in our own passion play.  Malachi, please come up here and tell us what you've learned."

Cephas and Rakhyl watched in horror as a second finely dressed man took over at the pulpit.  He couldn't have looked less like Joshua if he'd tried. 

"I'm afraid Pastor Quentin is correct.  St. Genesius' Community Theatre is allowing a cross-dressing man to play Mary Magdalene."

The screen which had formerly shown the day's Bible readings showed a photograph of Loreena and Eric performing "Could We Start Again, Please?"

"And it gets worse.  They've cast a gay man as Jesus."

The image shifted to one of Joshua embracing Crowley.

"They've piled offense upon offense.  We cannot let this continue.  So I hope you'll join me in picketing..."

Rakhyl looked over at her seething husband.

"Cephas... we need to go," she demanded.  "We need to warn them."

Cephas ceased shooting daggers at Malachi and nodded to Rakhyl.  He gripped her hand and ran from the so-called church.


"Oh, look at her!  Oh, Emma!  She's beautiful!" JenniAnn gushed as she snuggled little Mercy.

Emma and Peter smiled proudly.

"Thank you.  And, surprisingly, she's been a very good sleeper."

"Oh...  It feels like it was so long ago that Avi was this small."  JenniAnn's eyes filled.  "So precious..."

Andrew beamed at the infant and let her wrap her fingers around one of his.

"Time does go so fast.  She's adorable, Emma and Peter.  Yes... yes, you are..." he cooed to Mercy.

Joshua stepped into the lobby and held two mugs out to the couple.

"Here, enjoy some tea while you can.  I know it's difficult to get a whole cup down with a baby around."

"Thank you!"  Emma accepted the tea.  "It is.  But your parents have been so helpful!  And Sawyer was so happy to be going to the park with them.  Peter's parents are flying in tomorrow but I don't think he would have made it."

"Poor little guy was getting pretty stir crazy.  Your Ama and Abi have been a huge help," Peter added.

"Well, they've loved every minute of it.  They adore babies.  How have you been doing, Emma?"

"You know, recovery has actually been easier this time.  Maybe it's because I've done it once before.  Maybe it was just missing those long, last couple weeks of pregnancy.  And maybe it's having Maryam and Yosef around.  I don't feel nearly as tired and sore as I did with Sawyer."

"I'm so glad to hear that."

"How's everything been going here?" Peter checked.  "I've been reading the comments on Facebook and Twitter.  People seem to be loving the show.  Well, we've had a few trolls but... we always do."

"It's been really good," Andrew assured.  "Loreena and Ivy have both been wonderful.  Really, everyone new is just perfect in their roles.  And seeing the audience reaction...  It's been really, really special."

"I'm so glad!" Emma gushed.  "Have you heard much from Caleb and Lacey?"

Joshua nodded.

"Caleb called this morning.  Marisa and Gianni should be coming home tomorrow!  They're so..."

Joshua was cut off by someone pounding on the theatre's glass door.

JenniAnn handed Mercy back to Emma when she spotted the angry looking man.

"Is... is that Edgar?" she whispered to Joshua.

Joshua shook his head.  If only it was... 

"Emma, go into the office with Mercy.  Please," he requested.

"Oh... oh, okay."

"Laja, maybe you should..."

JenniAnn watched as Joshua moved towards the door.  She shook her head but gripped Andrew's hand.

Joshua opened the door.

"Can I help you?" he asked.

The man pushed past Joshua.

"Get out of my way, fag!"

"Don't you dare talk to him like that!  Not any where but sure as hell not in my theatre!" Peter snapped.

"Your theatre...  So you're responsible for this?  The Lord deserves better!  Mary Magdalene deserves better!" the man shouted in Peter's face.

Joshua looked above and took a deep breath before pushing his way between Peter and the ranting man.

"So she’s voiced her opinion on the matter to you?" he asked, his tone calm. 

Peter, Andrew, and JenniAnn saw the fire in his eyes. 

Based on the way he stepped back and began to stammer, so did the man.

"Well…  No…  But… obviously…  It’s just…  You all do fine work… God-honoring work.  So I don’t understand why you’ve decided to betray Him by casting that… thing."

"What the he…"  Peter moved towards the visitor but Joshua’s arm flew up, blocking him.

"How dare you refer to a beloved creation of God as 'that thing,'" Joshua chastised.  "Shame on you!"

The man stepped closer, his face beet red.

"You listen to me…  Just because you play God doesn't mean you are God.  How dare you use His story to push your liberal nonsense!"

Joshua laughed.

JenniAnn shivered.  It was not a pleasant laugh.

"'Liberal nonsense'?" he mimicked.  "'Judge lest not ye be judged.'  Is that the 'liberal nonsense' you speak of?  I’m not liberal.  I’m not conservative.  I’m a servant of God the Father.  And now… I ask that you leave us so we can return to…"

"Disgusting…  All of it is disgusting!  Traitors!  I’ll tell everyone I know not to ever set foot in this theatre again because you’d rather honor a sick pervert than God.  The Lord didn’t stretch out His arms and die on that cross so you could mock Him!”

"He knows better than you what we’re doing here," Joshua responded.  "Much better.  He died for her the same as everyone…"

"Her!"  The man scoffed then glared at JenniAnn.  "Don’t come crying to him when that man rapes you in your dressing room!  ‘Jesus’ here doesn’t care!  Probably because he's a pervert, too."

"Enough!  Get out!" Joshua bellowed.  "Get out now!'

The abrupt change in volume caused everyone to jump. 

Joshua pointed towards the lobby door.

"Out!  NOW!"

He moved towards the man who jolted out of his shock and hurried towards the door, slamming it behind him. 

Joshua turned back to the trio of Friends.

JenniAnn was crying and Andrew was comforting her. 

Peter quietly left the lobby.  He returned a few moments later with Emma, Mercy, and Joshua's guitar.  He briefly conferred with Andrew and JenniAnn.

"I…"  Joshua’s voice cracked.

"Sit down, Joshua," Emma directed, waving to a nearby chair.

Joshua nodded.

While JenniAnn stepped away, Andrew approached and took Joshua’s right hand, giving it an affectionate squeeze.

"We’ve been working on something for the wrap party.  I think maybe now would be a good time to show you."

Joshua gave the angel a wan smile.

"I hope you don’t mind me borrowing your guitar.  I didn’t bring mine," Peter explained.  "I… didn’t know I’d need it."

"Peter…"  Joshua reached for the man with his free hand which Peter also squeezed.

JenniAnn returned with a damp, cold rag.

"You… you look flushed.  Let me?"

Joshua nodded.

"Please…  Thank you."

He sighed as the coolness rested against his hot brow.

Peter began to strum on the guitar as Andrew sang.

"'There will come a soldier
Who carries a mighty sword.
He will tear your city down, oh lei, oh lai, oh Lord.'"

The other three joined in as Joshua’s eyes filled.

"'Oh lei, oh lai, oh lei, oh Lord.
He will tear your city down, oh lei, oh lai, oh Lord.'"

Emma proceeded with the next verse after planting a kiss on Joshua’s hair and handing him Mercy.

"'There will come a poet
Whose weapon is His word.
He will slay you with His tongue, oh lei, oh lai, oh Lord.'"

Joshua let out a sob and kissed Mercy's curls as the four sang the chorus.

"'Oh lei, oh lai, oh lei, oh Lord
He will slay you with His tongue, oh lei, oh lai, oh Lord.'"

Peter peered lovingly into Joshua’s eyes as he sang.

"'There will come a ruler
Whose brow is laid in thorn.
Smeared with oil like David's boy, oh lei, oh lai, oh Lord.'"

As if somehow knowing, JenniAnn caressed a spot on Joshua’s scalp where a thorn had dug in deepest.

"'Oh lei, oh lai, oh lei, oh Lord
Smeared with oil like David's boy, oh lei, oh lai, oh Lord
Oh lei, oh lai, oh lei, oh Lord
He will tear your city down, oh lei, oh lai... oh!'"

As the vocalizations and ministrations continued, Joshua felt the tenseness leave his body.

When the song ended, JenniAnn knelt in front of Joshua.

"We all came to love this song.  We’ve been blessed to, mostly, see you in your Good Shepherd mode.  But we don’t love you any less as the soldier… the poet… or the king.  Those other… modes?... they may be alarming but we know they’re not bad.  They can’t be because they’re all you.  Joshua… we always knew you weren't a tame lion."

Joshua chuckled gently then leaned forward and nuzzled JenniAnn’s hair.  He rose, pulling JenniAnn to her feet along with him, then gathered all four close to him and Mercy.

"Thank you for that.  It was beautiful… and even more so the love behind it."

"Do you feel at all better?" Emma checked.

Joshua nodded.

"I do…  It hurts when one of my children is so blinded by hate that they can no longer hear me… no longer recognize me.  But… there’s time.  And… it helps to know there are others who see me and hear me truly."

The group startled when the front door rattled.  However, their apprehension gave way to relief when they spotted Cephas and Rakhyl. 

Joshua unlocked the door and pulled them inside.

"Rabboni..."  Cephas hugged him tightly.

"We've come from a horrible church... two of the ministers were saying the most awful things..." Rakhyl reported.

"I think we just met one of their followers," Peter muttered.  But then he brightened.  "You must be Cephas and Rakhyl.  Come get comfortable... I think we have a lot to discuss."

Cephas smiled at Peter and nodded.

"That we do."

Together, the group moved to the office and began to plan.



After their discussion, Andrew, JenniAnn, and Joshua left the theatre and made their way to Loreena's apartment.  First, they detoured to get Roger from his.

The four were waiting for Loreena when she stepped out of the elevator, fresh from her office.

"Hey...  What's going..."

Roger stepped forward first and hugged her.

"Let's get everyone into your apartment first.  If that's okay?"


The four followed Loreena into her apartment where she waved them towards the living room area.

"Did something happen at the theatre?" she asked.  "Did... did someone leave graffiti?"

Joshua shook his head.

"No.  No, the theatre is fine.  But... we did have a very angry man show up earlier.  He was dealt with and he didn't harm anything or anyone but... we've learned that a couple of preachers have begun to speak out about our production.  They've gotten their congregation riled and... we're expecting picketing tonight.  Possibly going forward," he relayed.

"Because of me..." Loreena murmured.

"No!" Joshua protested.  "It's because of their hatred and hard-heartedness.  But...  They were upset by you portraying Mary Magdalene.  I'm so sor..."

"I don't want to put anyone at risk.  Maybe I... I should drop out," Loreena suggested as tears began to trail down her cheeks.

"Absolutely not."  Andrew gave an adamant shake of his head.  "We're not backing down.  Besides, they have it out for Joshua, too."


"They think Crowley and I are a couple, apparently."  In spite of his annoyance, Joshua chuckled.  "He doesn't know that yet.  I'm sure he'd let them know in no uncertain terms that I'm not his type."

Loreena smiled but shook her head.

"I... I knew things could get ugly but... but I was hoping it would just be internet trolls.  Maybe... maybe a random crazy or two that we'd have to have escorted off property but... a whole church?"

"Cephas looked into them.  They are, thankfully, a rather small church," JenniAnn informed.  "Two hundred or so on the roll.  And no way all of those are active enough to get involved in this."

"Two hundred..."

"We have so many more people than that on our side," Joshua encouraged.  "So many more!"

"But all it takes is one angry person with... with a gun...  Joshua..."

Joshua enfolded Loreena in his arms.

"That's always been true.  We've already faced that."

Loreena gasped.  She'd nearly forgotten.  Joshua had been shot by a hate-monger... but he hadn't back down.  He'd been brave and strong.  She needed to be, too.

Joshua cradled Loreena's face in his hands.

"Let's just say I have some friends in high places.  They're planning to be around tonight... and every show going forward.  The cast and crew will use the portal to get in and out of the theatre.  My friends will be stationed at spots around the theatre.  If they see any theatre-goers getting hassled, they'll escort them inside.  And we'll have security inside, too.  We'll be as safe as we can possibly be, Loreena.  I promise."

Loreena nodded and forced a smile.


Joshua returned her smile. 

"Good.  Now...  Let's get some dinner, calm down, and then... on with the show."

"On with the show," Loreena repeated, her gaze determined.


An hour before the show was due to start, all the Friends who could make it gathered into St. Genesius' theatre whether they intended to participate with the show or not.  They hugged and encouraged each other. 

Once everyone was settled, Joshua stepped onto the stage wearing his robe.  He smiled when everyone cheered.

"Thanks, everyone, for coming.  It means a lot to have your support and love right now.  Andrew and I just wanted to get everyone together to raise our spirits... to remind each other why we're here: to remind people that God loves them.  No matter what.  Unconditionally.  Right now, I'd like to pray together, if we could."  Joshua held his hands out and began.  "Our Father who art in Heaven..."

As the Friends prayed together, Tess and the orchestra moved to their places. 

"'For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, forever and ever.  Amen," the Friends finished.

Music swelled and the screen they used for the prologue displayed the words of a hymn.

Together, the Friends sang.

"'We are one body, one body in Christ
And we do not stand alone.
We are one body, one body in Christ
And He came that we might have life.'"

Joshua's voice rang out.

"'I am the way, the truth, the life,
I am the final sacrifice,
I am the way, the truth, the life.
Believe in me, have eternal Life.'"

Outside, John casually stationed himself near some picketers.  He took out his cell phone and put it on speaker.

"'At the name of Jesus,
Every knee shall bend.
Jesus is the Lord and
He will come again.
When you eat my body and
you drink my blood
I will live in you,
and you will live in my love.'"

"That's beautiful," a woman holding a sign commented.  "Who is it?"

John grinned and waved to the photo on her sign... Joshua with flaming eyes.

"The man on your poster.  Nice PhotoShop fail."

The woman grimaced and turned away.

John only chuckled in response and kept playing his music.

"'We are one body, one body in Christ
And we do not stand alone.
We are one body, one body in Christ
And He came that we might have life.'"

Near St. Genesius' front door, Cephas and Yehuda stood together.  Waiting.  The former smiled when Joshua's voice met his ears.

"'On the rock of Peter,
On the church I built,
Come receive My spirit.
With My gifts be filled.
For you are my body,
you're my hands and feet,
Speak my word of light
to everyone you meet.'"

A huddle of ten men rounded a corner and headed towards Cephas and Yehuda, greeting them with kisses to the cheeks and hugs.

Across the way, John happily counted them off.

"Andreas.  Yaqob ben Zebedee.  Yohannan ben Zebedee.  Philippus.  Bar Tolmay.  Mattay.  Thoma.  Yaqob ben Halphi.  Shimeon.  Thaddeus."  He beamed then raised his own sign.

Andreas burst out laughing and pointed.

The others looked and read the Baptizer's sign.

Under a cluster of arrows pointing up, he had written "I'm With Whitewashed Tombs."

Inside St. G's, the Friends continued their song, united in their love for each other.

"'We are one body, one body in Christ
And we do not stand alone.
We are one body, one body in Christ
And He came that we might have life.

I am the way,
The truth, the life.
Believe in me.
Eternal Life.'"


After a few minutes, the picketers took note of John's sign.  They were not pleased.

Laughing, John jumped to his feet and set off running, knowing a few would follow and, thus, make their display look even more pathetic than it already did.

John didn't notice as he ran past an ice cream parlor where two men were sharing a sundae.  The dark-haired one began to sputter.

"Careful there, Ed!"

Steve pounded Ed on the back.

"Bit of chocolate go down the wrong way?"

Eyes wide, Ed shook his head.

"I... I coulda swore... John the Baptizer just ran by here."

Steve smiled widely.

"John the Baptist...  Well, isn't that something?  I suppose it's not entirely surprising given... everything.  Here, have a sip of water."

Ed obediently took a sip.




Ed chuckled and reached across the table to squeeze his beloved's hand.


After the show ended, the applause failed to die down.

In the lobby, Joshua embraced Loreena tightly.

"Well... this hasn't happened before.  What should we do?"

Loreena laughed.

"I dunno...  Does JCS have a mega-mix?"

"Not really.  But I suppose we could make one up?"

Beaming, Loreena squeezed Joshua's hands and nodded.

"Let's go for it."

Together, the two led the cast back into the theatre proper as the crowd roared with delight.


Outside, Marty and Sandy glared at the picketers.  They had dwindled to only three.

"All this time, I was so worried about demons... turns out I should have been worried about them.  Rabid humans."

Sandy sighed.

"You suppose they'll come back tomorrow?"

"Undoubtedly.  And the day after and the day after that..."

"Their signs are atrocious.  The words and images, obviously.  But the color composition...  Horrid."

Marty chuckled and slung an arm around his twin.

Cephas approached with Andreas a few steps behind him.

"Why are you wearing a kilt?" Marty demanded of the latter.

Andreas shrugged.

"Patron saint of Scotland.  Figured I was allowed.  Plus, I thought it would mess with them."  He waved towards the picketers.

Cephas laughed.

"Any idea when the audience will start drifting out?"

"Probably in another ten minutes... then continue trailing out for another hour or two," Marty replied.

"We'll be here," Andreas vowed.  "Every day if we have to be."

The other three responded with determined nods.


As midnight neared, Joshua waved to the final departing fan then leaned against the trellis arching over his Ama's shrine.  They had made it through the night without much trouble.  More than that, the picketers had long since disbanded.  Joshua was sure that they'd be back the following day.  But he knew it had to needle at them to see a much larger crowd gathered around the theatre, outlasting them.

And Loreena, who had started the evening so devastated, had left feeling buoyed by the support of the Friends and the enthusiasms of the audience.

There was only one thing that could have made the evening even better.

Crowley had, once again, thought he'd sensed a demon... or something "off."  But a search of the private box hadn't revealed anyone.  The watcher had shrugged it off as a response to the picketers up the block, thinking maybe they'd had a demon with them.

Feeling wistful, Joshua stared up at the beautiful moon and whispered.

"Where are you, Edgar?  Will you... come back to me?"


Several blocks away, Steve sat on the balcony of a small hotel room, peering up at the sky.  The moon was especially beautiful.  Unbidden, a passage from The Chronicles of Narnia, much loved in his childhood, came to him.

“But all night, Aslan and the Moon gazed upon each other with joyful and unblinking eyes.”

A sudden gasp from inside the room caused Steve to tear his gaze away from the majestic orb.

"Steve... Steve..."

Steve hurried over to the bed furthest from the window.

"I'm here, Ed.  I'm here, darling," he murmured, sitting on the edge of the bed and enfolding the other man in his arms.  "Nightmare?"

Ed nodded wordlessly against his shoulder.

"I'm so sorry.  And you'd only just fallen asleep."

Steve planted a kiss in Ed's tangled mane.

"Was the show harder to watch tonight?  Do you want to talk about it?"

"No... to both.  Just... stay with me?"

"Of course, Ed."

Steve gave Ed another squeeze and kept his arms wrapped tightly around him.

He closed his eyes and prayed that the following day would bring his beloved peace.

To be continued in "The Lost Sheep"...

Works Cited (please let me know if you notice anything missing...  I had a heckuva time focusing on catching them on re-reads.  Thanks):
Jesus Christ Superstar

"When You Believe" from The Prince of Egypt
"Father and Son" by Yusuf/Cat Stevens
"Some Enchanted Evening" from South Pacific
"Send In the Clowns" from A Little Night Music
The Conjuring movies
The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
The Office
Hamotzi- the Jewish blessing over bread
"Jesus, Take the Wheel" by Carrie Underwood
Genesis 1:27-28- the creation of male and female, be fruitful
Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
"On Jordan's Stormy Banks I Stand" by Samuel Stennett
"Times" by Tenth Avenue North
The Kaddish
Genesis 2-3- Adam and Eve in the garden
The Book of Boba Fett
Matthew 7:1-3- "Do not judge..."
"The Lamb" by William Blake
Our Flag Means Death
The Haunting of Hill House
Genesis 6-9- Noah and the Flood
Matthew 26:36-46/Mark 14:32-42/Luke 22:40-46- agony in the garden
Matthew 5:29- "If your right eye causes you to sin..."
Genesis 3- Eve and the serpent
"From Eden" by Hozier
Genesis 2:23- "Bone of my bones, flesh of my flesh"
The Golden Girls
Waking Ned Devine
"The Parting Glass"
"I'll Be Seeing You"
"Dos Oruguitas"
Bird Box
"That Was a River" by Collin Raye
"Amazing Grace"
My Little Pony
"Coming Home" by Leon Bridges
Matthew 23:27- ""Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees..."
John 13:34-35- love one another
"Tender Shepherd" by Moose Charlap and Carolyn Leigh from Peter Pan
"Soldier, Poet, King" by the Oh Hellos
The Lord's Prayer/Our Father/Matthew 6:9-13
"We Are One Body" by John Michael Talbot

(The first several songs are diegetic.)
1.  "Satisfied" from Hamilton
2.  "When You Believe" from The Prince of Egypt 
3.  "Father and Son" by Yusuf/Cat Stevens
4.  "Some Enchanted Evening" from South Pacific
5.  "Send in the Clowns" from A Little Night Music
6.  "I Don't Know How to Love Him" from Jesus Christ Superstar
7.  "Simon Zealotes"
from Jesus Christ Superstar
8.  "Pilate's Dream"
from Jesus Christ Superstar
9.  "Jesus, Take the Wheel" by Carrie Underwood
10.  "On Jordan's Banks I Stand" by Jars of Clay
11.  "Gethsemane"
from Jesus Christ Superstar
12.  "Times" by Tenth Avenue North
13.  "As the World Caves In" by Matt Maltese- The first non-diegetic song on the playlist.  The lyrics don't so much work with the Gethsemane flashback but the vibe 100% does.  If this were a movie/show, I would score the scene with Joshua and Crowley with an instrumental version of this.
14.  "From Eden" by Hozier- I mean it just fits...
15.  "The Parting Glass" from Waking Ned Devine- In case anyone wants to listen to my funeral song which I'm lending to JenniAnn.
16.  "I'll Be Seeing You" by Billie Holiday
17.  "Dos Oruguitas" by Sebastian Yatra
18.  "That Was a River" by Collin Raye- It got stuck in my head during the Andrew/JenniAnn cabin scene until...
19.  "Into the Ocean" by Blue October- This one took over once Andrew started in with the ocean imagery. 
20.  "Lucky" by Bif Naked- What I would actually score the cabin scene with.
21.  "Coming Home" by Leon Bridges
22.  "Tender Shepherd" from Peter Pan
23.  "Soldier, Poet, King" by The Oh Hellos- Great song and I've been looking for an excuse to use it somewhere.  It seemed fitting with the rare glimpse of angry Joshua.
24.  "We Are One Body" by John Michael Talbot- This was one of my favorite songs that we used to sing in church.  It seemed really powerful as a rallying song.
25.  "Devil's Backbone" by The Civil Wars- During the final scene with Steve comforting Ed.  It felt like a good way to bridge over to Part II aka "The Lost Sheep."

Confession of writing sins:
- Our Flag Means Death was not airing in the U.K. during the time period covered in this story.  Air dates are based on the U.S. release schedule.  So... if Aziraphale and Vonnie and Rhiannon were watching it, it was likely illegally.  Oops.  I'm sure they'll rewatch it legally when it's released.
- You absolutely should not go into the woods and feed cantaloupe to bats with your bare hands.  That's a very bad idea.  But if Joshua tells you to then you can.
- My next story deals with COVID in a pretty significant way.  Actually more directly than any of the previous stories.  So I kinda flaked out with COVID on this one.  I needed a break.  Probably the Friends shoulda been masking during rehearsals and whatnot but eh...  I'm still following all the guidance in real life and, as I've said before, I can handle COVID in one reality but not so much in two... unless I get a good plotline out of it.
-Not really a sin but... Just wanted to make it very, very clear that Ed is not Edward Teach and Steve is not Stede Bonnet.  I may redeem some historical figures but those two are on their own.  I like their OFMD versions and their OFMD versions only.  The real ones don't get a nice story.  Sorry, not sorry.

Lamb Illustration 212050247 © Viktoria Karpunina | Dreamstime.com