He pronounced it hey-soos, allowing only a thread of sardonic amusement to peek through his bland exterior as he did so. Not particularly tall, his moderately handsome, slightly vulpine face was adorned with a close cut salt-and-pepper mustache and goatee. Crinkles around the edges of his mouth and around his eyes bespoke a man who liked to smile. A glint in his eye spoke of a man with a thought toward mischief.
The man sitting at the bistro table under the warm California sun waved him toward the other chair. A beer already waited them, cold sweat rolling slowly down the outside of the bottle. He smiled. “You know me so well.”
He pulled the chair out and sat down, slouching with the air of someone with no particular concerns at the moment and looked back at Jesus. “How’s the Old Man?”
Jesus, a darker skinned Hispanic man of about thirty, wore a fuller beard, but so similar were their features an observer might have guessed them brothers. Or maybe father and son. He shrugged, taking a drink of his own beer. “You know how he is, Nicholas. Always got his tail in a knot about something.”
That had been his name as long as they’d been meeting like this. Any one of the other names he’d been called over the years would attract far too much attention and probably utterly ruin their afternoon. No need for anything like that to happen. “What is it this time? Let me guess. Gay marriage?”
Jesus shook his head. “Nah. My father’s actually starting to come around on that one. You know how much he hates the idea of evolution, that something of the original plan could have changed all on its own. Life is a tricky thing sometimes. It has its own mysteries. Pisses him off.”
Nicholas nodded. “Are you going to make me sit here and guess what’s up his craw, then?” The corner of his mouth twitched up into a sly grin.
Jesus snorted. “I should. You have to know all the things that are going to tweak his beard as well as I do.”
“Better,” Nicholas said with a laugh. “Fine. I’ll guess. Abortion. Or birth control?”
Jesus just shook his head. “Thinks it’s silly. Nature itself aborts more than humans even realize. Just the way of things. Dad doesn’t think it’s human until it’s able to survive—with or without help.”
“Damn,” the goateed man murmured, unconsciously echoing the other man’s gesture with a shake of his own head. “You’d think it would rile him more, given everything everyone is saying.”
“Dad’s been weird lately. A lot more… introspective. You know how I’ve always had to calm him down, keep him from doing anything rash? Yeah, well, we haven’t had one of those episodes for quite a while now.”
“Quite a while?” Nicholas cocked an eyebrow.
Jesus sighed. “Let’s say it’s been ten times longer than average.”
“Don’t think it was me. I think it was him.”
Nicholas leaned back in his chair. “Fine. I give up.”
“Oh, don’t be like that.”
“Give me a break, kid. It’s been a rough couple years.”
Jesus nodded. “Yeah, I know. Work kicking your ass?”
“You have no idea. That Ratzinger fellow is a real prick. You know how hard it is to get him to tell anyone what he really thinks? I’ve managed to get several statements on record, either directly, or trickling down through the cardinals. It’s doing its job. Church is getting a little wobbly these days.”
“And our closest friends?”
“Two of the grandchildren left the reservation. One of them is doing a pro LBGT ad.”
Jesus choked and sprayed beer in his lap. He coughed for a minute before they softened into very clear chuckles. “Lilith’s tits, that’s funny.”
Nicholas smothered his own laughter under s smirk. “I’m trying, but, seriously, these people are assholes.”
“You think I don’t know that? People can’t take a simple set of instructions and just follow them. How long was it before the first skirmish? A decade? Two? And to construct these…these…blasted idiotic constructs I never meant them to build.” Jesus set his beer down on the table without looking, head bowed toward his lap. His shoulders were shaking and Nicholas wasn’t sure whether he was still laughing or if he’d started crying. “The only thing I ever wanted was them to love me.”
“Some of them do. The problem is too many say they do and then go around proving they don’t.”
“Yeah. I like a lot of the damn atheists better.” Humanism is a natural outgrowth of what I tried to teach them. Shit, I wanted them to walk on their own, not use me as a crutch.”
“They’re humans. Your Dad designed them with deep flaws. You can’t expect too much of them.”
“I suppose you’re right. But they have so much potential.”
“Don’t we all? So what’s got your dad’s panties in a twist?”
“Yeah. He’s on a tear because just as they were starting to get some territory back, starting to rebuild a population, Congress let them be delisted or something. Result? A lot of dead wolves. You should have heard him. Wolves were apparently the model for early human social order. And, in the early days of domestication, because of the link, he deliberately tweaked their DNA so they could be more easily molded into you what humans wanted them to be. He looks at them as a kind of older sibling to the human race, and he’s pissed.”
Nicholas stared at him. That was so not what he was expecting. He was spending too much time around mortals, particularly the biggest assholes on the planet. He wondered what all those types would think if they knew that they were far more conservative than their deity?
He shook his head, laughing, and finished off his beer. He stood up. “Well, Jesus, it’s been good seeing you.”
“Hey, you just got here. Figured you could spare an afternoon.”
“You’re the boss’s kid. You don’t have to work. I’ve got a job, and I’d best get to it before something goes all to hell and I’m not there to manage it.”
“Well, damn.. It was so good seeing you too, you slippery bastard. Keep me updated, will you?”
“Sure will. Still using the same email?”
“I am. So who are you after now?”
“I’ve got my eye on a corrupt politician who’s selling his votes. I’m trying to figure out how to bring him down. Can’t let the guilty go unpunished.”
“I hear that. Well, it was good seeing you.” He stood up. They hugged. “Take care of yourself, Uncle Nick.”
“You know me. I always do.”
Jesus settled back onto his chair with a sad smile, raising his hand to catch the waitress’s attention. She was a pretty young Hispanic woman and he let that smile widen as she approached. “Can I get another one?” he asked, pushing a twenty into her hand. She had a three year old son with a developmental problem and every minute away from him was torture for her. The least he could was make her feel as if someone appreciated her.
“Gracias,” she murmured, meeting his gaze for a second before dropping it and turning away.
“De nada,” he said as he settled back into his chair to wait for her to bring his next beer. It was a nice afternoon. Might as well sit back and enjoy it. That was, after all, why he lived in Los Angeles.
He pulled his sunglasses down from the top of his head and heaved a great sigh. Nicholas knew as well as he did that Jesus had the harder job. He’d eventually have to fix the planet they’d broken. And that was going to be a bitch.