Jesus was holding a pint and looking extremely pleased with himself. He'd decided it would be a good idea to get Hamish on his own. Man to man... or, as close to that as he could achieve: deity to man. Singular. Deity to mankind would be a whole different ballgame and he really didn't want them all to have a pint in their hands if he ever attempted that. He wasn't even entirely sure he'd get away with referring to them as mankind anymore - it felt outdated given the direction the human race had gone. Personsapathetic might be more appropriate.
Hamish was also holding a pint and grinning broadly at how happy Jesus looked. It was like having a nephew or a God-child, excuse the pun, who had just turned 18 and you had the honour of taking him for his first pint. Jesus had sampled each of the ales Derek still had running before selecting the Doombar and leading Hamish over to a small table with two stools. Jesus was insisting on using a coaster and looked utterly delighted with proceedings.
Jesus had decided that he needed to hear from Hamish his own version of the issues in the Gilmore/Stewart household. He slightly suspected that Sarah was hiding something and before he got them all in a room together he wanted a bit of time with Hamish - he liked Hamish, and it was always interesting to talk to atheists. For him, it is a bit like you sitting down to a dinner party with someone who doesn't believe in people who read books.
"So..." Said Jesus, with a grin bounding back across his cheeks.
"So!" Said Hamish, mirroring the smile and wondering how much this looked like The Ring of Bells' first gay date.
"So, you proposed to Sarah?"
"I did." Said Hamish, and looked down at the table. Jesus was blunt.
"Really? I would have thought I should have done it years ago for it to be honourable in your opinion." Hamish tried to keep his tone chatty, he didn't want to seem accusatory - it was interesting to have the source here rather than a disciple. Once in an afterlife time experience.
"Times change. If you don't think religion moves with the years then you're a little stubborn. That's my opnion. I often wish the Bible had been a magazine rather than a book - it'd be a blog by now I suppose. The letters section would certainly have made more sense if it had been a magazine. The psalms could have been detachable... Hmm. I'm getting off topic, what I mean is it would have helped so much with keeping things up to date."
"So it's not set in stone?"
"Well, except the Commandments. Really, how hard is it for you lot to follow? The bits that are set in stone we literally set in stone. We just thought that was foolproof."
"I guess now I think about it. Yeah."
"So, back to the point. You proposed to Sarah?"
"And she said...?"
"She hadn't said anything. You know, when the world stopped. She hadn't said anything yet."
"How long had it been?"
"Since I asked?"
"I don't know... a few seconds?" Hamish felt squirmy, unsure where all this was going. He knew that his and Sarah's relationship had brought Jesus was here but he felt distinctly uncomfortable now he was actually having to discuss it.
"Were you expecting her to wait a few seconds before replying?" Jesus asked. Hamish faltered.
"Um, no. No, I wasn't really." He paused but Jesus remained silent so Hamish sallied forth into the conversation. "It's not like I was expecting her to leap into my arms and be overcome with excitement, Sarah's lower key than that. But, I did think she'd say yes instantly. I know she was going to say yes - I know she was. But, I suppose the pause was unexpected. But then the Apocalypse happened and that really messed with things. Maybe she wasn't going to say yes at all."
"She was." said Jesus, simply and swiftly. "You can tell. No, it's the pause I'm interested in."
"Right." Hamish sipped the foam on the top of his beer.
"Why do you think she paused?"
"Waiting for a better offer?" Joked Hamish. Jesus frowned. "I think it would have to do with her father. Has she told you about Frank? Her Dad?"
Jesus shook his head. Even this miniscule, so whiter than white it was bordering on transparent lie made his stomach churn.
"Frank, Sarah's father, doesn't seem to really approve of me. He, well, I think he doesn't like that I am black."
"I'm black - you know, coloured skin?"
"I thought you were Scottish." Jesus looked puzzled.
"I am. I was born and raised in Scotland, it's my mother - she's from Jamaica. How she swapped Jamaica for Edinburgh I don't know but she did and she met my Dad, who is Scottish, and white, and they had a family." Hamish felt like he was narrating a very poorly thought through children's book about the birds and the bees.
"Right." said Jesus, thoughtfully. "And that makes you black?"
"What? Well, yes, I mean - look at the colour of my skin... it's darker than everyone else here? Except you, obviously. Yes?" Hamish confusedly held out his forearm to show it to Jesus.
"Right. OK. That is good information. Put your arm away, no use showing it to me - I don't see colour. Don't look at me like that, I mean that literally. It turned out to be a side effect of squashing a God into a human body - you lose some strange things. I can't sneeze either but that is less helpful to a peace loving spectre than the inability to see race." Jesus giggled to himself conspiratorially and leant in towards Hamish, "Sometimes I daydream about being like one of those Apple geniuses, and downloading an upgrade into you lot where you can't see colour either! Wouldn't that be smart! Steve Jobs is my idol."
Hamish felt his spine chill - you got half a pint into Jesus and the all powerful thing really showed new dimensions. Hardly surprising, given he'd stopped the world over a moment's hesitation. What would have happened if she'd said no? Or, had he stopped it because she was going to and he didn't want to deal with that. Hamish swallowed.
"Yeah, that'd be useful!" he was far from convincing.
"So, you think Sarah paused because her father doesn't like you?"
"I don't know that he doesn't like me... I just think he has a slight issue with me, not that he's ever been rude or awful, but he's clearly not sold on me and, and Sarah picks up on that. She knows something is wrong. He just doesn't think of me as one of them." Getting these words and thoughts out was like trying to hold 50 pomegranate seeds in your mouth and recite Richard III backwards with a different regional accent for each character. Hamish picked his way awkwardly through the staccato sentences, his eyes fixed on Jesus; trying to mitigate the impact of his words.
"And you think it must be because you're black?" Jesus continued his questioning.
"What else could it be?"
"That you're Scottish?"
"Easy! Well, I suppose it might be..." Hamish laughed, "No, they have Scottish family. No, it's not that. He just... well, he says odd things sometimes. He once asked me what 'my sort of people' do for weddings, when Sarah and I had been together a few years. He says things about my upbringing and I overheard him ask Sarah once if the school I'd gone to had 'covered even the basics'. I mean... that's rude, isn't it? Maybe it's just ignorance... I suppose it usually is with this sort of thing. But, I think it's influenced Sarah. I suppose she just had to weigh up what marrying me would do to her relationship with her Dad."
Jesus was thoughtful. It certainly sounded as though Frank Gilmore might have something to do with the problem.
"Surely," Jesus countered, "By marrying you, Sarah is leaving her family behind? Shouldn't she have been making up her own mind?"
"Well, yes..." responded Hamish slowly, "But she's still going to see them every year and she's very close to her parents. Listen, I don't think she was going to say no. Do you? Are you supposed to make sure we get married? If she wasn't going to say yes then why would she be staying here now?"
"I'm here because there shouldn't have been a hesitation. This should have been the simplest situation in the world. I happened to have been paying attention, something felt wrong, I looked a little closer and I saw a problem that seemed ludicrous. If you two had a hesitation, then someone else would have had a screaming row and if something as perfect as your love wasn't flawless then the worst problems have no chance. If I can't make this village work, then everywhere else is doomed."
A crack of lightning and roll of thunder wouldn't have seemed out of place to Hamish in the pause that followed. If Hugh Grant had been playing his role then he'd have had an awkward quip on the tip of his tongue ready to go, but unfortunately the weather wasn't on the payroll and neither was Hugh.
"Right." Said Hamish, wondering if 'What Would Hugh Do?' bracelets could catch on amongst men left floundering by the recent migration to metrosexuality. "Where do we go from here then?"
"I've invited Frank and Katherine down to Norton Fitzwarren." Jesus polished off the rest of his beer and swung his legs round the stool to go and fetch another.
"How does that work? With the pausing?" Asked Hamish, "There's no electricity or anything... is the whole country stuck like we are? Does everyone know the world's paused?"
"Yes." Said Jesus, pointing to the Doombar pump and winking at a delighted Derek. Some landlords decorated their pubs with the C-Listers who'd deigned to sip a Chardonnay, the Ring of Bells would have a real star on the wall. "I've paused everyone, I thought it would be simpler, but, everyone else is a little more relaxed about it. I've let a peace settle on most places."
"Yes. There's a rather lovely little trick that I have at my disposal where I can lay a peace across a place. It has a beautiful effect on humans - it makes you so serene and clear about things. I use it quite a lot over Christmasses for groups of people, I try to get it to the 3rd or 4th hour after a new baby has been born, it once worked absolutely heart breakingly during what you refer to as the 2nd World War, it's one of my favourite parts of the job. As it is, I'm using it over the rest of the world to keep things in a state of happiness until I decide what we're doing here."
"Right. And, Frank and Katherine... what do they know?"
"They just have a desire to get to their little girl. It's quite natural. I left them out of the peace to see what they would do and I am just delighted that this was their inclination. It means we're off to a great start."
"But they don't know that it's anything to do with Sarah and me?"
"No. Not as yet. Human parents can struggle a little with their children being involved in saving the human race. Mary was alright but Joseph really struggled sometimes, personally I always felt he had a rough old ride of it. Solid chap."
"Wow, so, when they get here... what then? Are you planning for us to have it out with them face to face?"
"Not quite," replied Jesus, "I've planned a series of elaborate physical and mental tasks for you all to participate in. You'll be working in teams, in the specially built arena I've had created called the Diamond Labyrinth. And the shell suits should be arriving tomorrow."
Hamish blinked three times in rapid succession. Jesus looked disappointed.
"You're not very good at getting jokes, are you?" sulked the deity. "Yes, you'll be having a chat. But if that doesn't achieve the results I'm looking for then I really can source shell suits."
"I'm not joking."