They're headed to France to save an ancient book from a group of even older Franciscans. It wasn't how Claire had planned to spend her much needed - much deserved - week long vacation from the Houseman Library in Detroit, but all things considered there are worse places she could be headed. Like the mouth of a volcano, which, according to God, was her other option if she didn't like France.
God is mildly unpleasant when argued with before Her morning coffee.
"I hate flying," Michael says from his cramped position next to her on the airplane. She can't complain too much - God sprung for first class seats so at least she has some leg room.
"You're an angel, Mike. You have wings."
He turns his head and frowns at her in such a way that she wants to laugh. "Yeah, so?"
"You, by definition, fly on a daily basis."
"Airplanes are unsafe."
"No, they're not, and what does it matter anyway? You're already dead. I'm the one who should be freaking out right now." She took a Tylenol PM (or three) before they boarded the plane, so while a small part of her wants to freak out, the rest of her is too numb to care. "Besides, you didn't have to fly with me. You could have just met me there."
He turns to look at her and the look on his face suggest he never considered that possibility.
She smiles and closes her eyes. "Wake me up when we get there."
* * *
Claire has to hand it to the French - they know what they're doing with countryside. The convent at St. Luac is at the very top of the only hill in all of France without an access road, so she and Michael have had ample opportunity over the last hour to admire the gorgeous rolling green of Southern France. Beautiful or not, though, she'd donate a kidney for a four-wheeler.
"How's work?" Michael asks from beside her. They've paused for a few moments to catch their breath and he's been doubled over, hands on his knees and chest heaving, the entire time.
"It's fine. The Houseman is nice." She takes a sip of water from the bottle she stole off the plane and points at him. "You wouldn't have this problem if you stopped smoking cigars."
"I wouldn't have this problem is She just sent someone else to watch over you." He straightens, snatches the bottle from her hand, and finishes it off. "Christ, it's hot down here."
"It's August and you're wearing an overcoat."
He looks down at himself, shakes his head and covers his face.
"You forgot you were wearing an overcoat, didn't you?" He nods and she can see red starting to climb up his bearded cheeks. "You kind of suck at pretending to be human."
"It's been a long week, alright?"* He sighs, shrugs off the coat and leaves it on the ground for someone else to find. Almost as an afterthought, he shakes out his wings and stretches. "Much better." He grins at her.
"You look like a cockatoo."
The grin falters. "You can be a real twit sometimes."
"I love these bonding moments," she says. "They make me feel so warm and fuzzy." She starts walking again, turns around when she doesn't hear him following.
He winks at her. "Race you to the top," he says and takes off through the tree canopy.
She shields her eyes and stares at the Michael shaped hole in the branches. "Ass," she says.
"I heard that!"
* * *
The woman frowning at Claire is barely five feet tall, possibly older than Jesus, and carrying a ruler the size of a redwood branch. Despite her size and traditional black tunic and habit, Mother Superior (a.k.a. Sister Josephine) is hella imposing. Claire is trying very hard not to flinch every time the ruler smacks against the nun's palm.
"Who are you?" she asks and taps Claire's arm with said ruler, punctuating each word.
"My name is Claire Rogers. I'm here about the grimoire."
The woman's crystal blue eyes go wide and the ruler disappears into the sleeve of her tunic and the hard line in her forehead smooths. "Zee holy Mother sent you?" she asks and there's a tone of conspiracy to it. Claire nods. "It took you long enough! I called Her three days ago."
Claire knows better than to be surprised.
"We took the earliest flight, Mother Superior. I'm sorry it took us so long."
"We?" she asks. "Who did you bring with you?"
Michael's timing is impeccable. He appears in the sky, attempts a fancy manuever, and trips himself up just badly enough that he crashes onto the ground in front of Claire and the Mother Superior. He looks up at the old woman through messy hair and grins, waves his hand.
"Good morning, Josephine."
She sighs, turns towards the doors of the convent. "All zeez yearz, Michael, and you are still a child." She motions inside. "Zee grimoire is in zee vault."
Claire offers Michael a hand as the Mother Superior disappears inside the dark convent. "I take it you two know each other," she says as she pulls him to his feet.
"I saved a local girl from a minion once." He brushes the grass off his robes. "She didn't approve of my methods."**
"What did you do?" she asks as they walk towards the doors.
"I singed off his tail."
Claire shakes her head and follows the Mother Superior inside. Michael stares after her, hands raised.
"What?" He shakes out his wings, heads towards the door. "I apologized eventually," he murmurs. "Not that the bastard deserved it."
Josephine's voice filters out from the darkness. "I heard zat."
* A long week in the Pearly Gates is like eight long years on Earth. Like two terrible Presidential terms. Like failing high school - twice.
** It was the one time in his existence that Michael was actually wrong. The minion wasn't actually going to hurt the girl, just take her out for ice cream. In hindsight (no pun intended), he should have asked why the little girl looked happy and what the spoons were for.