As light broke the horizon, Jesus began to stir.
Zadkiel looked up at his companions. ‘You can go. I can manage, now, but thank you for staying with me.’
Last night, he had needed them. Once the snake fled and the desert ceased its hissing, Jesus had collapsed in exhaustion. All through the darkness, the angels tended him and kept him warm. Michael took watch and warned the wildness away. Gabriel knelt, and called to Word and Wisdom through the stories of the stars. Jophiel sang lullabies, and Zadkiel sheltered Jesus in his wings.
The hills blazed red as the angels rose. Jophiel bowed and left without speaking. Gabriel and Michael masked themselves in splendor, till they were indistinguishable from the light. As his form shifted, Gabriel called out: ‘Courage, Zadkiel. Make him laugh.’
Zadkiel nodded to him, and smiled: their days together never lacked laughter.
Jesus rolled over, and opened his eyes. For a moment, he sensed the shimmering –a presence he’d known from childhood. Then, it eluded him, and he turned to the familiar face of his friend.
‘I am always here.’
‘But you weren’t — these 40 days. I had only the birds for my friends.’
Zadkiel ruffled his feathers, and looked at Jesus coyly.
‘Yes. I’m sure that’s how it seemed.’
Jesus scowled at him and laughed.
‘Oh well, if you insist. Were you the partridge I thought of roasting, or the kestrel who tore at the shrew?’
Zadkiel narrowed his eyes, and sought retaliation.
‘So, what next? What does God’s Beloved want to do today?’
‘You’re not going to let me forget that, are you?’
‘No. I’m not going to let you forget that.’
Laugher hung in the air, but Jesus sensed Zadkiel’s seriousness.
‘And that’s why you’re here?’
‘That is why I am here.’
Jesus thought back across the forty days. He had liked being alone. For a while. He sensed the freedom of it, and there was joy in the huge spaciousness of God. But, if truth be told, it was only nice sometimes. Sometimes, it was frightening and confusing. Sometimes it was far too cold.
‘Well, I’m glad that you are.’ Jesus said, as he reached out to stroke Zadkiel’s feathers, ‘though that day with the partridge? … it was a close run thing.’
Zadkiel chose to ignore him.
‘Since you can’t have partridge, maybe fish?’ Zadkiel asked, eager to be on their way.
‘Fish. Of course. To Capernaum. To the Sea!’
Jesus rose and ran down the valley. Zadkiel watched him joyfully, then took to wing.