It's lunchtime in the Pearly Gates Corporation and Michael the Archangel is enjoying a turkey club and french fries with St. Nicholaus in the atrium of the main Headquarters. They've had to set up at one of the large tables because it's nearing That Time of Year again and Nick is knee deep in his list of names.
"How many kids this year?" Michael asks and Nick sighs around a bite of roast beef sandwich.
"Too many," he says, his German accent thick and tired. "The mortals, they can't stop having children."
Michael laughs at this and brushes crumbs from his beard. "Too many Christians downstairs," he says and Nick nods his head in agreement. "Not enough heathens if you ask me."
"Speaking of heathens," a voice says behind them and Michael cranes his head around to to smile at his Boss.
"Hi, Ellie," he says and motions to the chair next to him. "Nick and I were just talking about Christmas."
God sits down next to Her favorite archangel and steals a french fry from his plate.
"Is it really That Time of Year already?"
Nick's red pen makes a violent scratching noise and both God and Michael look at the saint with wary expressions. He looks up from his List, pen still poised over it, and smiles slightly.
"Gunther Parkinson was a particularly bad boy this year," he says and shrugs.
God waits until Nick has gone back to pouring over the names in front of him before She turns to Michael and quirks an eyebrow. It's an expression that says I should really give St. Nick a vacation. Michael returns the look with an expression of his own which says Don't worry, he's always been this crazy.
"Moving on," She says with a quick shake of Her head. She hands Michael a slip of paper. "A new charge for you," She says, stealing another fry. "I just put her in the prophet program."
Michael looks at the paper and reads the name. He looks up at God, his eyes wide.
"Isn't this Kate's daughter?" he asks and God nods. "Why are you giving her to me?"
"Because it's a conflict of interest to allow her own mother to be her guardian angel." She grins suddenly. "And because she's going to grow up to be a pain in the ass."
Michael frowns. "This is because of that thing in France, isn't it?" he asks and God's grin widens. "I told you I'm sorry."
"You blew up a convent."
"And killed a demon in the process."
"You still blew up a convent. Demon or no demon, those poor nuns had to move in with the neighboring Franciscans." She glares at him. "You know how I feel about Franciscans."
He laughs, pockets the slip of paper. "I'll get down there this week."
She stands and pats his shoulder. "You'll get down there today," She says and Her tone of voice bears no arguments.
"I'm on my way." He waits until she's disappeared down the hallway that leads to the Celtic wing before turning to Nick and getting the saint's attention.* "I need you to check a name for me," he says. "Be nice to know what I'm getting myself into."
* * *
Claire Elizabeth Rogers is a very cranky six year old at the moment. Her attitude has nothing to do with the weather outside, which is rainy and cold though it's December and should be snowy and freezing, but instead has everything to do with being grounded for having decided to make a snowman out of mud - in her school clothes. She's been relegated to her bedroom, without her coloring books and crayons, until she agrees to say she's sorry.
Claire feels as though she may be in her bedroom for a very long time.
She's halfway through a Nancy Drew mystery when there's a knock on her door and a man with curly golden hair wearing a dark blue robe appears in front of her, smiling. "Hi Claire."
She frowns at him over the top of her book. "Who are you?" she asks, eyes narrowed.
"I'm Michael, the Archangel." He flutters his wings for dramatic effect. "Maybe you've heard of me?"
Claire has not heard of the strange man with wings wearing a robe standing in her bedroom and so she does what her teacher told her to do when approached by a stranger. She screams.
"Holy crap!" Michael hollers and he runs from the bedroom, slamming the door behind him. A very pregnant Kate is waiting for him in the hallway and she's smiling. "You've really let yourself go, Kate" he says.
"Hello to you, too. And I'm pregnant, you idiot."
"Your daughter has a serious set of lungs," he tells her as she comes closer.
"She takes after her mother," she says, her smile wider than before. "How about we try this again and I'll introduce you this time." Michael nods, wings rustling under the robe. "When did you get to be such a scaredy cat?" she asks, reaching past him to open up Claire's bedroom door.
"Right about the same time your daughter started screaming like a possessed monkey."
* * *
It takes only a few words from her mother to calm Claire down and a few more encouraging words from Michael to get her to understand that he's her guardian angel. In fact, once Claire understands exactly what's going on, she thinks the whole thing is pretty great.
"Can you bring me a pony?" she asks over chocolate milk and sugar cookies later on that afternoon.**
"No, but I can make sure you never get thrown off of one." Michael's blue robe is covered in sugar cookie crumbs and the pattern reminds Claire of a starry sky.
"What good is that?" she asks, her mouth full of cookie.
Kate smiles at her daughter and steals a cookie from Michael's plate.
"I'd say that's a whole lot of good, little one," he says and pats Kate's stomach for good measure.
* God has lunch every Pearly Gates Wednesday with the Celtic goddesses Anann, Badb and Macha. They're the triplicate goddesses of war, though since they learned about Cosmopolitan, they've become more like the triplicate goddesses of fashion. Today's lunch has something to do with what's in season for the summer...
** Archangels, like small children, love chocolate milk and cookies. Michael's partial to sugar cookies - the side effect of spending too much time with St. Nick.