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Name: Falling – Chapter 2
Pairing: Matt/Mohinder
Rating: PG-13
Warnings: Spiritual revisionism? Angels, demons, religion, all battered and abused.
Note: Historical fiction

Mohinder stomps along the draughty corridor with Luke, oblivious to the crowd of novices gathered on the steps to watch him.

‘This monastery is a den of sin!’

‘Father Abbot says…’

‘Father Abbot is the wellspring of the depravity afflicting this place,’ Mohinder snaps. ‘That… man intends to drag you all to hell with him!’

‘You must not say things like that!’

Mohinder spins on his heel. ‘I tell you this in the hope that you will understand why I do not join you for services. To worship alongside that creature would be to wash myself in sewage and expect to become clean.’

Luke’s eyes fill with tears. ‘He’s the abbot! If he is here then it must be a part of God’s plan. Who are we to question that? I cannot question that. If an abbot is sinful…’ He shakes his head.

‘Calm yourself, calm yourself, Brother Luke.’ Mohinder sighs. ‘Take me to my cell. Perhaps we could pray together.’

Luke nods and rubs his face with his sleeve. ‘I would like that.’

At the foot of the large stairway Nathan smiles and walks to his private sanctuary. The room is less opulent then might be supposed from his dining area but compared to the usual austerity of the monastery it is still extremely luxurious. He snaps his fingers and the tapers ignite, bathing the room in a warm red light. Some of his brethren in similar positions, his spirit brothers rather than his spiritual brothers, live conspicuously wicked lives. There’s a certain rough charm to it, Nathan will admit, but it lacks ambition. They are so egregious that they are quickly identified and, often as not, move somewhere else. The offence tends to be considered one bad egg in the basket which to Nathan’s mind is thinking far too small. It is extravagant certainly and suicides are especially piquant but so limited in scope. Nathan prefers the slow drip, drip of hypocrisy and corruption. What it lacks in drama it makes in success with generation after generation gradually poisoned against Him and, better, generations of the apes embracing the taints of venality and vice as if they were born to it.

Ironic, really, that Nathan and his kind spend so much time here given their antipathy for humans while the rest of them, the ones who claim to love humans so much, never come near the place. No, they stay up there in the tranquil realm floating on every zephyr talking about humans as some sort of abstract idea. Grace! Forgiveness! Redemption! Lofty ideals completely lost on almost all of the humans that Nathan has had the fortune to tempt or corrupt. The dirty, lusty, corporeal details of human life are as alien to them as the transcendence of spirit is to humans. The Son hardly made much use of his short sojourn on Earth. How different might history of been if he had ever discovered sexual pleasure, or intoxication, or even the simple pleasure of fattening food. Nathan discovered sexual pleasure by the end of his first day on earth. He discovered sexual pleasure by himself several days later. If Nathan was to be entirely fair, and given his role there’s no reason that he should be, he would admit that humanity’s enthusiasm with the base, blasé, and banal is understandable. They are fixed and finite creatures anchored to the soil and surrounded by animal life. Those humans who raise their eyes about the animal appetites and consider spiritual matters are inevitably channelling frustrated sexual desires.

Yet for all the mindless visceral obsessions attendant with human life some of them… some of them soar into the starlight and spread their wings. The things that those humans can do… Thousands of apes flinging excreta at each other and then every so often one of them clambers up onto two feet, picks up two dry sticks, and rubs them together.

The room cools momentarily and the lights flicker. Nathan pours a couple of beakers of mead and sits down.

‘Decide if you are going to incarnate or not and do it in speedy fashion. Human time passes more quickly than you imagine.’

A hand lifts a beaker of mead and then joins an arm, a shoulder, a chest, torso, legs, and head.

‘Clothing is considered appropriate, even here,’ Nathan remarks.

The naked man sighs heavily and sips the mead. ‘The humans I have seen in here rarely seem to agree.’

‘Humans are tolerant of many things when there is sexual gratification available.’ Nathan takes a sip of his mead. ‘Peter, please, indulge me and materialise some clothes.’

Peter pulls a face and sits down as hose and tunic form over his body. ‘There is a reek of angel here.’

‘That will be the incarnated angel. He has taken himself off to his cell in order to complain piteously about being exposed to a terrible influence such as myself.’

‘He has gone to pray?’

‘This is a monastery. People pray all the time.’ Nathan interlaces his fingers together on his stomach.

‘You listen? I thought it would hurt to hear it,’ Peter says, shaking his head.

‘It only hurts if I laugh too heartily. The prayers are only slightly less amusing than the confessionals.’

Peter pushes a lock of hair out of his eyes. ‘This life is far too restrictive. I will take daybreak as a matter of faith. I have no need to see it myself.’

Nathan laughs and reaches down to unbuckle his sandals. ‘The pleasure and profit of being the abbot is that I do nothing that I do not wish to do. If I do not wish to wake at midnight or five in the morning then I do not.’ He smiles. ‘Not only does it serve my selfish interests it also serves my purpose. Such small irritations can be greatly more efficacious in undermining faith than the obvious traumas.’

‘You are tempting humans by remaining in bed when you ought to be pretending to worship?’

‘The road to damnation is made of many bricks.’ Nathan rubs his forehead with his fingertips. ‘To what do I owe this visit?’

‘I was sent,’ Peter says sheepishly.

‘I imagined as much.’

Peter pushes his hair out of his face again. ‘How long have you been hosting the ninnyhammer?’

Nathan rolls a mouthful of mead around his mouth. ‘The angel has been here barely an hour. Mother is extremely prompt.’

‘I never heard of one incarnating.’

‘The history surely fails to fill him with confidence,’ Nathan says dryly. ‘As many fell from temptation of corporeality as rebellion. This one ate enough food for three people.’

Peter pours himself another beaker of mead. ‘You mean to tempt one of them? Your appetite has grown beyond your capacity, brother.’

‘You should incarnate more often, Peter. The innate mortality of a body concentrates the mind wonderfully.’

‘What does that mean?’

Nathan shrugs gracefully. ‘Tempting humans, undermining and perverting their faith, is a flavour that can become jaded after a thousand tastes.’

Peter rolls his eyes. ‘Angel is too rich for your palate, Nathan.’

‘I have no illusions of bringing him crashing down to earth, even Mother has yet to achieve that, but it has been a long time since I spent any time with anyone but apes and outcasts. I would welcome a change of topic.’

‘Mother wants you to frustrate the angel’s purpose, not engage him in petty conversation.’

‘Does our Mother know his purpose?’ Nathan asks, raising his eyebrows.

‘He’s an angel! We are demons. It makes no difference what his purpose is.’

Nathan swirls the mead around in his beaker. ‘Peter, when you know how to foil an angel without knowing his intent then you will have to show me the way of it.’

The candles are guttering when Mohinder and Luke finish their prayers. A quiet has fallen over the monastery as the guests have staggered away to their homes and the brothers, sober or intoxicated, have dragged themselves to their cells.

‘Brother Mohinder,’ Luke asks as he clambers to his feet, ‘is this… is this life as you thought it would be?’

‘No, I cannot say that it is. Are you uneasy with your vocation?’

Luke brushes his hands over his cassock. ‘I am not uneasy with my faith in God. I wonder if he is uneasy… I have these thoughts that I work to banish. The abbot says that they are a trial sent to test my faith.’

Mohinder rests his hand on Luke’s shoulder. The material of the cassock is rough, coarse, and holds a tint of the warmth of Luke’s body.

‘God does not test us, Luke, and we should not test God.’

‘You think they are sent by the devil then!’

Mohinder interlaces his fingers together. ‘What thoughts?’

Luke bites his lip and looks at Mohinder from under his eyelashes. ‘Leviticus eighteen twenty-two.’

‘You have thoughts of sleeping with temple prostitutes of Moloch? I think you might find it difficult to locate a temple devoted to him and least of all a temple with prostitutes.’

‘No brother I… I have thoughts of lying with men!’

Mohinder raises his eyebrows. ‘Brother Luke, the scriptures are not a random anthology of disconnected phrases devoid of context to be plucked at will to support any argument one wishes to make. For the meaning of verse twenty two I suggest you read verse twenty-one!’

‘But it is a foul perversion!’

Mohinder squeezes the bridge of his nose between his fingertips. ‘Brother Luke, I am very tired and this is a complex matter. Are not all brothers here sworn to celibacy?’

Luke nods heartily and brushes his fingers through his hair. ‘Yes, and I have never, ever, acted on my… never I promise!’

‘The devil wishes you to hate, Luke, if not God then yourself. Your self-hatred makes you feel that none can love you, that none will ever wish to feel close to you, and that is how the devil wins.’ Mohinder squeezes Luke’s shoulder. ‘Think on that.’

Mohinder’s cell is bare and empty, little more a sack on top of a wooden pallet. The stones walls are chill to the touch and running with water that gathers in small puddles on the floor. Now that Luke has retired for the night Mohinder transforms the room, ridding the walls of damp, warming the air, and replacing the pallet with bales of tightly packed hay.

‘Is this the purpose for which you are meant to be using your gifts?’ Elle teases.

‘This obsession with extreme deprivation and debasement is equally as self-indulgent as the pleasure seeking that the demon also encourages,’ Mohinder says, shaking his head.

‘Humans are drawn to extremes,’ Elle says. ‘Love and hatred, pain and pleasure, binge and purge.’

Mohinder bars the door to the cell and then undresses. ‘The corporeal world is... not as I thought it would be.’ He runs his fingers through his hair and pauses to examine the texture. ‘It is intoxicating, Elle, the sheer depth of sensations. Every bite of food has layers of flavour and a cascade of textures. Every breath is a unique perfume.’

‘You have only been here one day, Mohinder, you cannot be falling already!’

‘Admitting that temptation exists is not the same as yielding to it,’ Mohinder says sharply. ‘Denying temptation is the first step to succumbing to it.’

Elle clucks her tongue. ‘You are becoming angry again,’ she says in a singsong voice. ‘Cease from anger, and forsake wrath.’

‘Kindly do not quote The Book at me; I am not human and my wrath when aroused is righteous.’ Mohinder stretches and yawns. ‘The body grows weak.’

‘I wish you much pleasure with your sleep,’ she says tartly.

‘Wish me success on the morrow when I will meet the artist.’

‘I wish he much patience in dealing with your temper,’ Elle says as her body dissolves into smoke.

Mohinder sleeps through Matins, Lauds, and wakes only with the singing of the hymns during Prime. He awakens to an urgent need that he resolves appropriately without the conscious control of his mind. In the small privy, as he communes with the cosmos, his conscious mind gradually emerges from the warm, gently confused, dark sea and into the early morning light.

He is, perhaps, a little too much awake now. The drifting sensation is receding far too quickly now. All the art and poetry and music devoted to love and so little to sleep! It seems an unequal apportioning of praise. There are so many facets of corporeal reality that he had no comprehension of before. No wonder so many having become flesh then fell.

Desist. That way of thinking lays temptation, sin, and damnation. They are each given their proper lot in life: spiritual and corporeal alike. Those that fell were acting in defiance of their nature. There are moments, only a few and centuries apart, when Mohinder wonders how it is that acting in defiance of one’s nature is so difficult but succumbing to temptation is so easy.

Brother Luke, red faced and cringing, arrives at Mohinder’s door to beg him come down for breakfast.

‘I have been told I am not to do my usual work but to assist you,’ he says, fairly glowing with the honour.

‘I am somewhat uneasy that this artist has been appointed in my absence.’

‘Was it not your archabbot appointed him?’ Luke asks, averting his eyes too assiduously as Mohinder dresses. ‘Father Abbot also said he was not given the opportunity to assess his work.’

Mohinder attempts to tidy his hair. All of the wonders of a human body, the complexity of blood, bones, and brain, and yet he is apparently incapable of doing as he wills with his hair.

‘What is the point of hair?’

Luke giggles. ‘To keep your head warm? I do not know brother. It can be most appealing though.’

Mohinder looks at him sternly. ‘I was not placed here to look appealing.’

‘You are very well formed,’ Luke says, and reddens in embarrassment. ‘In a proper and manly way!’

‘Am I?’ Mohinder looks at his hands.

‘Your form and your face more than your hands.’ Luke’s own hands writhe together as he regards Mohinder’s large, dark eyes and sharp cheekbones.

Mohinder makes a final attempt to master his unruly curls. ‘Was that Prime I heard?’

‘Yes, brother, and after we breakfast I have been told you will wish to see the chapel. The artist and his apprentice are in there now.’

Mohinder considers the gentle, but growing, yawning feeling in his stomach. ‘Ought we perhaps better speak to the workers before we break our fast?’

‘Oh no, brother! It would not do to dance attendance on the painter.’

‘Was Christ not humble to all men?’

Luke drops his voice to a hushed and secretive whisper. ‘The artist is a Jew!’

Mohinder walks towards the door. ‘Yes?’

‘Well…’ Luke trots after him. ‘It is not done. Um, and I am very hungry,’ he says sheepishly.

Mohinder’s stomach makes its agreement sharp and plain.



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