This is a stand-alone story that fits pretty much anywhere in the Voyage timeline. Another one of those stories whose origins I cannot explain.
"I quit," Mike tossed down a battered and bent halo onto the pristine white desk of the Head of Operations of Angelic Protection Services, a distinguished looking older angel known by all as simply Paulie.
Paulie picked up the halo and tilted it sideways, sighing at the damage. "Mike, this is the fourth halo in as many weeks. You have to be more careful. Supply is not going to be happy when you request a replacement," Paulie said sadly.
Mike snorted, most un-angelically. "I'm not requisitioning another. I told you, I quit. I can't keep doing this."
"Mike, you can't quit, you and Ritchie are the best in the Agency. What are the newbies going to think if one of my top Guardian Angels walks? It's hard enough to recruit as it is."
But Mike was unconvinced. He eased himself up on the edge of Paulie's desk and perched on the corner. "I'm tired of all this, Paulie. Been doing this for what, two hundred years? They all die sometime. You know how I lost this one? Submarine. BOOM! An explosion and the whole crew was history. Over a hundred people, good men, just gone. When I think of all those families—it breaks my heart and I can't keep doing this. Ritchie feels the same way."
Paulie looked up at the angel, gazing into Mike’s amber hazel eyes. "He does?" Paulie asked weakly.
"Sure. Did you know Ritchie’s charge was the executive officer of that submarine? You gave me the skipper. Both were lost in that explosion. Ritchie took it hard. The exec was a nice guy. Ritchie really liked him. The Skipper died trying to save his men. There just wasn't anything we could do for them. The boiler just blew. It just happened so fast."
"I know, Mike, listen, just because you lose a charge doesn't mean you should just up and resign. Think about it. Think about the Agency. If I lose you and Ritchie I'll have a devil, I mean, a hard time replacing you. You two are the best. Beside what would you do? The captain's been your charge for what, thirty five years? Same thing with Ritchie. Let me hook you up with another Navy man. You should see the roster, lots of new blood coming in, great opportunities," Paulie was excited just talking about it. For a second he saw something twinkle in Mike's eyes but then it was gone.
"Paulie, I want to go back," he said quietly. Paulie stared.
"No, Mike, you can't mean that, think about what you're saying!" Paulie exclaimed in horror.
"Paulie, I do know what I'm saying." Nervously, Mike ran a hand though his dark curly hair.
"He means it, Paulie. We both do." A second voice chimed in, a voice just a bit deeper than Mike's.
"Ritchie, no, Rich, please don't do this. The two of you are the best. I can't lose you, I just can't," Paulie wailed, covering his face with both hands.
"Paulie, I'm sorry. I'm with Mike on this. I just can't do this anymore. Two Guardian Angels couldn't save one submarine."
"But Ritchie," Paulie began, only to have the agent hold up a forestalling hand, his blue eyes brimming with sympathy.
"Paulie, it's already decided. I'm going back. They've already picked out a family for me." Ritchie shoved his hands into the back pockets of his white trousers, rocking back on the heels of his white shoes.
Now the head of operations stood up, wings flared high in anger. "You already requested a transfer? You went over my head to the Department of Reincarnation? I'll have your wings for this!" Paulie shouted. Mike reached over and laid a gentle hand on the department head's arm.
"We both did, Paulie. Three months ago. We just didn't have in our hearts to tell you."
Paulie sat down, defeated. His halo seemed to have a lost a bit it its shine and the broad, powerful wings seemed to droop in despair. A sad angel is a sad thing indeed.
"Alright you win. Ritchie, how much longer till you go?" the older angel asked dejectedly.
"The new mother is in her last month of pregnancy. As soon as she goes in to labor, they'll call me in. I'm sorry, Paulie, I didn't want it to end like this. The exec was a good man. He lived well and died bravely, trying to protect his best friend. You know he and the skipper graduated together? I'd like to be like him, someday. To look death in the eye and not think of myself. When you're immortal, you have a different view of things."
"Yes, Ritchie, it's all in the files. Listen; go on, I'm sure you have paperwork to do. I want your final report in my desk before the end of the day. I'll put you on suspended duty until your transfer comes through."
"Thanks Paulie, you're the best." With that Ritchie spread his elegant white wings and lifted off, papers and files just barely affected by the back draft of his take off. Paulie took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "What about you? I suppose you want to go back too?”
"Well, kinda of. See, Ritchie and I have a plan."
"A plan?" Paulie repeated weakly.
"Yeah, a plan. See, they way we figure it, Guardian Angels work so hard, and you've been such a great boss, we thought we would make it easier on you. Ritchie and I signed up for the Buddy Program."
Paulie just stared at Mike. "The Buddy Program? You want to share one Angel?" Reincarnated souls who signed on with the Buddy Program usually came back reincarnated as brothers, more often than not as twins. A bond that close joined the two on a deep level and as a result, only one Guardian Angel needed to be assigned to the pair. Since the two watched out for each other, it made the assigned angel's job easier.
"We think it's only fair, since you'll be short handed. There's just one trick," Mike said.
Paulie arched one bushy eyebrow. "What's the catch?"
"Since Ritchie got his family picked out before I decided what I wanted to do, I can't come back as his brother. I have to wait."
"Since you're so set on this maybe I can help. If you can't be born into the same family, maybe I can arrange for you to go to the same school or something? John in the Faith and Destiny Department owes me a favor."
"Would you, Paulie, that would be great! Listen I have to get started on my own paperwork, I'll talk to you later. Thanks again, pal."
Mike jumped off the edge of the desk, tool two bounding steps and spread his wings. He sailed upwards and soon vanished into the clouds. Paulie only shook his head as he reached over and picked up the white and gold phone that suddenly appeared on the edge of his desk. "Reincarnation please," he said into the receiver. A few second later the line was picked up.
"David, I need a favor from you," Paulie began.
"You want the family name Ritchie’s been assigned to. You want me to pull some strings and get Mike born into the same family?" David, the head of Reincarnation said.
"Something like that," replied Paulie.
"Sorry pal, no can do. Family and Bloodlines already has the family tree on this marked out. There's only one son born into this family, so unless Mike wants to come back as a girl . . ."
"No, Mike would never forgive me for that. Since we can't get them into the same family, can we set them up in the same part of the country so they meet at school or something?"
"Looked into that already. The problem is that all the births in the Chicago area have already been taken. The best I can do is a family in Rhode Island."
"Rhode Island!? You've got to be kidding!!" Paulie exclaimed. This just wasn't his day.
"Don't get you feathers in a knot, hear me out. If we put Ritchie in Chicago, and Mike in this family from Rhode Island, we can get John to pair the two of them when they get to Maryland."
Paulie wrinkled his brow in confusion. "Maryland? How does Maryland figure into this?
"Didn't they tell you? They wanted to come back as Navy officers and serve on a submarine together. That's what made finding a suitable family so hard. Brothers can't serve together on the same ship anyhow, not since the Sullivans. This is actually the best solution if they want to serve together under the Buddy Program."
"Well, if that's the only route we have than do it. Oh, Dave, one more thing,"
"Anything for you Paulie," Dave replied, his smile clear in his voice.
"What are the family names? The least I can do is keep up with their families as they grow up."
"Sure thing, Paulie. Lets see," Paulie could hear the sounds of papers and files rustling. Finally Dave came back on the line.
"Here we go, Family names, for Mike and Ritchie, that would be…lets see, Crane and Morton, respectively."
Paulie grinned. Crane and Morton. Sounded like a good paring. He hoped things would work out.
Thirty-five years later . . .
A bullet whizzed over Chip Morton's head, reminding him, as if he had forgotten, that they were no longer in friendly territory. He glanced over at the dark haired young man, clutching a rifle in both hands as he squeezed off another shot.
"Come on, we're sitting ducks here. Can you walk?" Lee Crane asked, casting a worried look down at Chip. Morton rubbed at his ankle still sore from the fall he had taken a few moments before.
"I thinks so," the blond said finally.
"Come on, let me give you an hand. After this, I'd better get a little more respect from you, as many times as I've played guardian angel for you on this trip," Crane said with a twinkle in his amber hazel eyes.
Chip scowled. "Guardian angel for me? I think you're mistaken buddy. You must be thinking of all the times I've pulled you six out of the fire."
Lee got an arm around Chip's shoulders and helped the blond to his feet."My six? Now who's delusional . . ."
The two friends disappeared over the ridge, debating the finer points of who saved who and when.
Standing dead center in the path, a lone Guardian Angel stood, wings spread wide in a defensive posture, guarding their retreat. Again.