The Franciscan is barely five feet tall and he's missing most of his hair, save for a pair of gray tufts on the sides. His nose is oversized for his small face and Claire can't stop staring at it. She thinks this is maybe why God sent Michael with her, to keep her from making an ass of herself by staring at the monk's bulbous schnoz. The little man is talking, too, and Claire hasn't been able to pay attention to a word of it.
"Claire?" Sister Josephine asks and Claire shakes her head slightly to clear the haze. She turns away from the monk and looks at the Mother Superior. "Zee Friar wants to see zee book. Could you get it for 'im?"
The older nun winks and Claire considers breaking down in hysterical laughter. It's been that kind of day - an evil address book, an art forger, and the Devil. Sister Josephine is lucky Claire is still functioning.
"Of course, Mother Superior." Claire walks into the vault and picks up the forged Legemeton. Sister Magdalene, true to Michael's assumption, had copied the book. It's a perfect forgery, practically indistinguishable from the the book that Michael took with him, save for one tiny difference: you can actually read from this one without fear of a demon popping up and eating you. Claire's already skimmed over a few pages. It left her wondering if Crowley, the Serpent from the Garden of Eden, still lives in Baltimore, Maryland.*
She bundles the book up in an old piece of oil cloth and takes it out to the waiting Franciscans. The little Friar is tapping his sandaled foot impatiently, his giant nostrils flaring in time to his foot. Claire wonders if he got marbles stuck in those nostrils as a child. She begins to giggle at the thought of it, loses track of her feet, and trips.
The book, of course, flies out of her hands and lands on the floor at the Friar's feet.
"Claire," Sister Josephine says with a sigh. "What am I going to do wiz you?"
The Friar is berrating her in French, which is lucky for him as Claire can't understand more than a few words of the language.** She does, however, recognize "Vous fille gauche" as "you ridiculous girl" and she rolls her eyes at the little man.
"Oh can it, Friar Tuck."
* * *
After a long week at the Pearly Gates, God is indulging in a bit of pampering. She's listening to Fleetwood Mac while brushing a second coat of Holy Roller Pink on Her toes. She's just about done Her left foot when the door to Her office bangs open and Michael walks in, followed closely by Lucifer.
She stares at them, Her hand poised with the nail polish brush over Her foot. She stares at the two intruders, both of whom are staring back at Her in surprise.
"Michael," She says. "Lucy." She finishes Her foot, puts the brush back in the bottle and closes it up. "To what do I owe the displeasure of your company?"
"Is that pink nail polish?" Lucifer asks.
Michael arches an eyebrow at Her. "And Fleetwood Mac?"
She frowns, points at the stereo system across the wall. The opening chords of Go Your Own Way fade out and Michael coughs, poorly covering a laugh.
"What the hell do you two want?" God asks, annoyed.
Michael opens up his robe, pulls out the Legemeton. "I brought this up for You," he says. Lucifer tries to snatch the book out of his hands, but Michael is faster and he moves it out of the Devil's reach. "It's the Legemeton."
"Legemeton?" She asks.
"The grimoire You asked Claire to pick up from St. Luac's?" Michael asks. God continues to look at him blankly and he sighs. "Lucy's address book?"
Recognition flashes across her face. "Right! The address book. Let Me have it. I'll put it in the big vault." Lucifer whines and they ignore him. Michael doesn't move, though. "Mike?" She asks.
His mouth curves up in the tinniest of smiles. "I have a better idea," he says and opens the book, begins ripping the pages out of it. God stares at him with big eyes and Lucifer squeaks each time a page is ripped out. When Michael's finished tearing out pages, all that's left is the outer covering. He hands it over to Lucifer and tucks the torn pages into his robe.
"My gorgeous book..." Lucifer moans.
"I'll make you a deal, Lucy," he says. "For every good deed you do, you get a page of your address book back."
"What?!" God shrieks, standing so quickly Her chair falls over. She stares at Michael like he's lost his mind.***
Lucifer does the math in his head. "But that's two hundred good deeds!" he cries. "Do you know how long that's going to take?"
"At least a century in Earth time. I suggest you get started." Michael grins. "Don't worry. The warm and fuzzy feeling eventually grows on you."
"Michael, those pages are full of evil," God says. "You can't just give them back to him."
"Good and evil, Ellie. You're the one who's always saying there has to be balance." He pulls a page out of his robe, hands it to the Devil. "For helping Claire out earlier."
Lucifer looks at the page, calms a little. "Uriel," he says. "She was fun."****
"And she had those huge..." Michael begins, holding out his arms. He stops, though, when God clears Her throat. "Wings. Huge wings."
"Get out of My office, Lucy." God says, Her eyes never leaving Michael. Lucifer doesn't hesitate to run. Two angry women in one day is enough for the Devil. He's barely cleared the doors when She points Her finger at them and they slam closed.
"Did You know what the book was when You sent us to St. Luac?" Michael asks.
God hesitates. "I'm not sure how to answer that without you throwing a fit."
"You wasted a Prophet's time in search of an address book for Your own nemesis." She opens Her mouth to object, but the Archangel raises a hand to silence Her. "Claire has enough on her plate with Armageddon coming up without You sending her on a fool's errand to France. I could have gone by myself." He crosses his arms over his broad chest, frowns at Her. "I know You don't get along with that little prick, but the bad news is You're stuck with him. Learn to deal. And don't ever again use Claire to do Your dirty work where Lucifer is concerned."
God's eyes narrow. She hasn't ever appreciated being told what to do. It's one of the main reasons She now enjoys being the boss. "Don't overstep your boundaries, angel," She says quietly.
Michael uncrosses his arms, walks over to God's desk, and leans in close. "She's my charge. When You put her in harm's way, You overstep YOUR boundaries." Their eyes lock and if either of them feel the electric current that passes through the office, they decline to mention it. Both blink and the tension is gone.
Michael straightens, shakes out his wings, and takes a few steps towards the door.
"Where are you going?" God asks, suddenly insecure. She doesn't often fight with Michael and something about him just leaving doesn't sit well with Her.
He smiles over his shoulder as he pulls open the office doors. "To check on Claire. I left her with a handful of nuns and some Franciscans. She's either been converted or she's hit someone." He winks. "Don't miss me too much."
"You wish!" She calls after him. "So mature..." She mutters to Herself, thinking he's out of earshot.
He pops his head back in the office and smiles so brilliantly at Her, Her eyes hurt. "Don't You know it, darlin'," he says and disappears completely.
It takes all of Her holy willpower, but She doesn't stomp Her foot like a petulant child.
She throws something instead.
* * *
"You called him Friar Tuck?" Michael asks around laughter and Claire nods, all smiles.
He caught up with her at the airport in Paris and agreed to keep her company on the flight back to Detroit. He had actually offered to fly her back himself, but she declined on the pretense that an airplane would be safer. A short argument ensued at that point regarding angel wings versus plane wings and a little old woman sitting next to them solved it by politely asking them to shut the hell up because she couldn't hear her iPod over their "squawking".
"He looked just like Porky Pig, too, so all I could hear in my head the whole time was yoyks and away." She pulls her seatbelt across her lap, motions for Michael to do the same. "I kept waiting for Daffy Duck to show up with his buck and a quarter quarterstaff."
Michael's laughter is so loud he's drawing attention from the other passengers and, to his great pleasure, an attractive flight attendant with big "wings". The angel actually has tears streaming down his cheeks.
"Did you get the book back to God like you were supposed to?" she asks once he's calmed down enough to talk.
He nods, wipes his eyes. "Kind of."
"Kind of?" Claire asks. "What does 'kind of' mean?"
"I ripped the pages out of it. Every time Lucifer performs a good deed, he gets a page of his address book back."
Claire's shocked smile is reward enough for Michael. "I'm going to bet She wasn't happy with that."
"Not at all." He pulls a handful of tiny liquor bottles out of his overcoat pocket.
"How did you make it out of Her office with all your feathers intact?" she asks.
"Angelic charm," he says, picking out a tiny bottle of Jameson.
"You left before She could smite you, didn't you?"
"Yup." He holds the bottle up. "Ever wonder how they make these so tiny?" he asks.
"The bottles are regular size, Mike. Your hands are just so big they make them look tiny." She smiles, closes her eyes as the plane begins to take off.
It's quiet and Claire cracks open her right eye. Michael is holding his hand up to his face, examing it. When he hears her start to laugh, he drops his hand into his lap and frowns.
"My hands are not that big," he says and she closes her eye, her smile widening. "They're not."
"You're absolutely right," she says. "They're not big."
"Thank you," he says.
"I kind of hate you."
* He does and gee, doesn't that explain a lot...
** If she could understand more, the Friar might fear for his little bald head. As it is, Josephine is deliberately translating only the nice words so Claire doesn't throw something at the Hobbit-like man.
*** Michael has a bad habit of making up his own rules as he goes along. He's never reckless, per se, but he's never one hundred percent safe and sound either. Truth be told, however, that character flaw is the reason God loves him. Like a brother. Loves him like a brother. Absolutely.
**** Later that day, Lucifer will look at the fallen angel before him and say "Uriel, my darling dear, my how your wings have grown..." He'll make a mental note to thank Michael for giving him back that particular page first.