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[personal profile] kethni
Name: Falling – Chapter 6
Pairing: Matt/Mohinder
Rating: PG-13
Warnings: Spiritual revisionism? Angels, demons, religion, all battered and abused.
Note: Historical fiction

Mohinder awakens with the clanging of the lauds bell. Despite the blankets on his cot, he awakens to find that his skin is cool yet covered in a fine sheen of sweat. As he rises from the cot, he finds he has a pressing need beyond the emptying of his bowels and bladder. His manhood is heavy and swollen with juice, pulsing with the beat of his heart, and warm to the touch.

To Mohinder’s surprise the merest touch leads to his need resolving itself almost immediately.

He is washing himself clean when Noah appears.

‘Could you not wait until I covered my nakedness?’

‘We have already lost hours while you were sleeping,’ Noah says.

Mohinder rolls his eyes. ‘Sleep is a requisite of a human body. You may have been above such basic needs when you were incarnated but I have no ambitions to scarify the flesh from these bones.’

‘If you continue eating the way you have been then when scourged you would bleed lard.’

Mohinder feels his face grow warm as he continues dressing. ‘Forgive me for not immediately being aware how much food is needed to sustain a body. Is this what you wished to discuss with such urgency?’

‘The artist has not yet begun painting the chapel ceiling.’

‘Pft, you know nothing of how an artist works,’ Mohinder says airily. ‘There are many stages to painting the ceiling. In all it will take perhaps four years.’

Noah folds his arms. ‘The man is not worthy of a great work.’

Mohinder smoothens down his cassock and attempts to tidy his hair. ‘That choice is not yours to make or mine.’

‘He spent the night drinking and in intimate conjunction with his apprentice,’ Noah sneers.

Sudden gall fills Mohinder’s mouth and finds himself feeling faint. ‘The least may be fit to serve great purpose,’ he mutters. ‘What is gained by the righteous bearing witness?’

Noah snorts. ‘The righteous gain by the acknowledgement.’

Mohinder takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly. ‘The purpose of bearing witness is to give glory, not to receive it.’

Noah raises an eyebrow. ‘I am not here to trade words with you.’

‘Why are you here?’

‘This place is a den of sin. You have already glutted yourself on food. What will be next?’

Mohinder walks to the door. ‘Next I intend to break my fast and then go to the chapel.’

Noah follows him out into the corridor, floating through the wall. ‘Clean wine cannot flow from a dirty wine skin.’

Mohinder waits until a corpulent brother passes by him before replying. ‘What is that pearl of wisdom intended to convey?’

‘The artist lives dissolutely. How can anything holy flow from him?’

‘With God’s will,’ Mohinder says tartly.

Noah raises an eyebrow. ‘You are an angel and I am a seraph.’

‘Your point?’

‘I am aware that you are considered particularly beloved but I have been tasked to guide you. The fact that you apparently think your relationship means you are above my guidance is not my concern. I have been tasked with guiding you and providing assistance is neither here nor there.’ Noah’s voice gets a little colder. ‘I will not allow your hubris to ruin my reconciliation.’

Mohinder purses his lips. ‘You infer that. I did not intimate it. If your relationship with God is not what you would wish it to be then you have my sympathy but anger at me is not useful.’

The scaffolding has been fully erected now and when Mohinder casts his gaze to the ceiling, all he can see of the artist and his apprentice are the edges of their robes.

‘Good morning Brothers!’ the artists calls, and then looks down over the edge. ‘I beg your pardon; you appear to be missing your young colleague.’

Mohinder considers the scaffold thoughtfully. The cassock around his ankles is not conducive to climbing and clambering but remaining on the ground while Matt and Adam are on the scaffold platform does not occur to him. While in human form, he has not left terra firma before and he is curious whether he will experience dizziness or fear. Hitching his tunic up to his knees Mohinder begins climbing. As he reaches head height he offers up a silent prayer.

‘He won’t come all the way.’ Adam’s voice floats down from somewhere up above. ‘Too much soft living these monks.’

‘He will.’

‘He’s never done a day of work of physical labour in his life.’

‘Probably not,’ Matt agrees, ‘but he’s a stubborn one.’

‘He’ll fall off.’

Mohinder grits his teeth and continues climbing.

‘Three coppers says he doesn’t.’

‘We’re wagering in a church?’ Adam laughs.

‘It isn’t my faith.’

‘Three coppers that he doesn’t make it up here.’

‘Agreed,’ Matt says.

There is an odd weightlessness that washes over Mohinder now. A kind of waiting void beneath his feet as he climbs; as if letting go would send him flying freely. There is a strange fatalistic pull to it. An undercurrent that washes against the natural survival instinct rooted firmly in his flesh.

His breathing has quickened and his heart is pounding. Was it as difficult for them to climb up here? How do they mean to do this every day and for four long years?

Mohinder’s sandalled foot slips its mooring and his falling weight jolts his hands.

He’s going to fall.

He’s going to fall…

Meaty hands grasp his forearms and haul him up. His feet scrabble for purchase as he’s lowered onto the platform.

‘You owe me three coppers,’ Adam says cheerfully.

‘He’s here, isn’t he?’ Matt says.

Mohinder can smell Matt’s skin. The scent of warm skin and soap from the East fills his nostrils. Matt’s hands are on his arms still and the warmth of his body is toasting Mohinder’s skin.

‘You helped him,’ Adam grumbles.

Mohinder doesn’t hear him. All he can hear is the frantic pounding of his heart. He tears himself away from Matt and gulps air as if he has been suffocating.

‘We never said I couldn’t help him.’

‘Never said he could fly either, but I wouldn’t pay out if he did.’

Mohinder digs in his scrip and holds out three copper coins in a shaking hand. ‘Here you are.’

Adam scoops up the coins and bows extravagantly. ‘You’re a man of honour, Brother, even if my master is not.’

‘Get to work, wretch,’ Matt laughs. He turns back to Mohinder and looks him over frankly. ‘Shall I carry you down to the ground?’

‘No!’ Mohinder takes a deep breath. ‘I merely lost my footing. My sandals are not well designed for climbing.’

Matt gestures at a pillow on the platform. ‘Sit yourself down then, Brother; there’s no call for you to stand about in the way.’

Mohinder grits his teeth but sits down; he is shaken and weak from more than the long climb. Matt’s scent is still clinging to Mohinder’s skin and the memory of his hands is lingering on his body.

Surely the simple touch of another human should not wreak this damage. How can they possible survive it? Luke has sequestered himself among so many people, in such confined environs, that it surely must be torturing him.

If he feels the things that Mohinder feels. Matt gives small sign of the peculiar wound that is battering Mohinder. He has already turned to Adam and issued orders on the mixing of some paste.

‘Where is your little monk?’ Matt asks, glancing at Mohinder.

‘Nathan sent him on some task in the village.’ Something intended to corrupt or confuse the young man, Mohinder has no doubt. He was sorely tempted to intervene but there was nothing overtly deserving of it and avoiding trials is no aid in life. Trials will come to the strong and weak alike.

Matt chuckles and shakes his head.

‘Is that amusing? Why?’

‘The way you talk about the abbot. The other monks are respectful, obsequious, or jealous.’ Matt runs his fingers through his hair. ‘You talk about him as though you were mistrustful.’

‘And disgusted,’ Adam suggests.

‘You have no love for the church.’

Matt shrugs easily. ‘I’m Jewish and he’s an orphan brat raised in a nunnery. I have no reason to love the church, and Adam has every reason to kick against it like a youth against his father. You’re a monk. These are your people. Your church.’ He shakes his head mournfully. ‘Where is your loyalty, Brother?’

‘My loyalty is to God, not the edifice that has built up around the scriptures. The abbot...’ Mohinder offers a silent prayer of apology, ‘the abbot is a man and men are corrupt, sinful. I see no virtue in slavish devotion.’

‘Tsk tsk. Is your affection for your church so conditional?’ Matt asks, shaking his head. ‘Hear that, Adam? Brother Mohinder is a faithless lover.’

Warmth scalds Mohinder’s face. ‘You take delight in purposefully misunderstanding me.’

Matt smiles sweetly. ‘There are a great many things I would take delight in doing to you.’

Mohinder’s tongue is heavy and graceless, stuttering out his reply. ‘I think we should begin. I am here for a purpose.’

‘Begin as you would. Perhaps the Song of Solomon?’

‘Do you think I will not?’

Matt rests his hands on his hips. ‘I request in the innocence of genuine desire.’

‘I do not think you know the meaning of innocence.’

‘What’s the Song of Solomon?’ Adam whispers.

Mohinder gratefully turns his attention to the younger man. ‘You may know it as Canticles. It is a series of songs describing the love of a man for a maid.’

Matt chuckles. ‘That is the explanation one gives to a child.’

‘Is it obscene?’

‘It’s the scripture,’ Mohinder says acidly.

Adam looks at Matt.

‘Listen as he sings it to me,’ Matt says with a grin.

Mohinder brushes the hair from his face. He intended to speak to Matt only about the scriptures with which Matt was unfamiliar but now he has been challenged he cannot refuse without Matt taking it as his backing down.

‘I will sing it,’ he says, bringing his voice under command.

Luke’s gaze darts about the village as he hurries along the cart track back towards the abbey. There is no pursuit and in fact he is attracting almost no attention. This close to the abbey monks are hardly an unknown sight even though it is relatively unusual for a novice such as Luke to be given permission to go outside the abbey.

No, he is not being followed. There are no accusing stares. There is no whispered gossip in his stead. Yet he feels the wings of guilt beating in the air about his head.

Mud upon the hem of his tunic and his scapula stains the purity of his clothing. The outer sign of the inner corruption which he is sure is now eating away at his soul. Forgive me Father for I have sinned… Are some sins too terrible to ask for forgiveness? Can he deserve to be forgiven when he is so sinful, so pathetic that every day he finds his weakness pressing against him? Before Brother Mohinder joined the abbey he thought that the other novices were a daily torment enough, before that the boys of his village, and always, always the supple bodies in his fevered imaginings.

Brother Mohinder’s smile is a knife in Luke’s heart. Yet he is more comforting to Luke than Father Abbot. Luke has never opened his heart to the abbot without feeling worse. For all his smiles and geniality the abbot seems cold to Luke, untouched by the misery that spills from Luke. Despite his strict adherence the orthodoxy there is something alienating about his attempts as spiritual guidance. Brother Mohinder is full of wild, almost heretical ideas, and his temper is as hot as it is quick. He burns with angry compassion and kindness that he wields like a cudgel. Every time that Luke speaks to him he feels that the ground is being cut away beneath his feet. All his certainties are being shown as fragile edifices.

Yet Mohinder’s near heresies feel truer and more sustaining that the abbot’s iron adherence to canon. When Father Abbot talks of God’s love, Luke feels a chilly hand clamping about his throat. When Brother Mohinder talks about God and the scriptures, he feels something of the warmth he thought his proclivities had cut him off from forever.

Matt is lay down on the platform with his eyes closed, listening as Mohinder talks.

‘Ought I to wait for your assistant to return?’ Mohinder asks.

‘No need, he’s an ignorant little toad and wouldn’t learn anything he isn’t interested in.’

Mohinder watches Matt’s eyelashes flutter slightly as his eyes move under the closed eyelids. ‘You appear to like him well enough.’

Matt opens his eyes and turns to Mohinder. ‘That barb was not well hidden.’

‘As is your relationship with Adam.’

‘He’s my apprentice.’

‘The abbot says you spent the night in intimate conjunction with Adam.’

Matt laughs lightly. ‘Why are men banned from physical intimacy always so concerned with the way other people use their bodies?’

Mohinder feels warmth suffuse his cheeks. ‘I have no interest in what you do with your body!’

Matt laughs again and sits up. ‘Then why are you mentioning it?’

‘I wish to warn you of the risk which you are taking,’ Mohinder stammers. The lie claws out of his mouth hissing and spitting as it launches itself at Matt. He knew that some truths would be impossible to own up to but lying for no reason, for no reason he can identify, is beyond understanding.

Matt rests his hands on the floor. Mohinder finds himself staring at them; at the large square palms and thick, blunt fingers. They don’t seem like the hands of an artist to Mohinder. Adam’s hands are slim and delicate, far closer to Mohinder’s conception of an artist’s finest tool than Matt’s solid and strong paws.

‘Listen to me, Brother, we are not permitted to sleep in your building. Have you slept outside? The wind blows bitterly and the frozen ground cuts through every blanket and covering. A body loses more heat alone than two together so we sleep in one bed. So do every family in the village, though they are indoors.’ Matt shakes his head. ‘If Adam and I were in “close conjunction” last night it was because we were cold.’

‘I meant no offense.’

Matt barks a laugh. ‘No? Where did you fall from, Brother, so that you suggest I am a heretic and then claim no offense meant?’

Mohinder licks his lips. ‘You’re Jewish.’

‘That doesn’t excuse me from accusations of heresy. In the mind of your abbot and the like I am already in the debit because of my religion.’

Some pressing need prevents Mohinder from silence and instead pushes him on. ‘So, you and Adam are not lovers?’

‘If you mean to have me burnt at the stake, Brother, your ceiling will never be painted.’

‘Of course I do not mean to have you burnt for heresy!’ Mohinder drags his voice down to a hushed whisper. ‘I do not think such actions are heresy and even if they are the desperate time of the Hebrew scriptures have passed. The S… Our Saviour preached love and understanding. Not blood and fire.’

‘Love and understanding?’ Matt asks incredulously. ‘You tell a Jew that the church does not believe in persecuting and killing unbelievers?’

Mohinder shakes his head. ‘No. But the church consists of men, and men are flawed. Weak and sinful.’

‘Your church purports to be the human agency of God’s purpose,’ Matt says.

Mohinder catches his too-ready retort. ‘King Saul was the human agency of God’s purpose; it did not prevent him from wickedness. Nor King David.’

Matt laughs quietly. ‘You are too well schooled for me to debate.’ He tilts his head up to the ceiling.

‘I intended no insult to you,’ Mohinder says awkwardly. He licks his lips. ‘Where is Adam?’

‘Adam is a matter of great interest to you.’

Mohinder feels his face warm once more. ‘I was merely expressing polite interest.’

‘It’s his afternoon off,’ Matt says with a shrug. ‘He’s my apprentice, not my slave. He will be in one of the near villages looking for women of easy virtue or a brothel.’

‘Oh! I thought… I thought that…’ Mohinder finds the words failing him. ‘Are you content for that?’

Matt purses his lips. ‘I’m not his father.’

‘Or his lover?’

‘You are far too interested in Adam’s peccadillos,’ Matt says mildly. ‘With you and the abbot together I will be fortunate to wring any work out of him at all.’

The mention of Nathan’s interest in Adam is a welcome distraction from the mire in which Mohinder feels entrapped. He runs his fingers through his hair and seeks a level, understated tone of voice. ‘What did Nathan want from him?’

Matt shrugs easily, a fluid movement that drags Mohinder’s eyes to his wide shoulders and strong arms. ‘Adam declined to tell me.’ He drums his fingers on the platform. ‘Your abbot has an unsavoury reputation though more for young women than young men.’ His bright, dark eyes are momentarily clouded with anxiety. ‘He has been troubled by older men before. I think he knows that he can tell me if something is amiss.’

‘I don’t believe that… violence is Nathan’s nature,’ Mohinder says carefully. ‘Seduction perhaps but I think Adam unlikely to be to his preferred prey.’ Adam is already too wise and worldly for Nathan to debauch. Whatever Nathan is planning, Mohinder thinks it will be something subtler, and crueller, than Matt imagines.

‘Adam looks the innocent in a poor light only,’ Matt says, rolling his eyes. ‘He can meet any libertine on his own ground.’

‘Yet you worry,’ Mohinder observes.

‘He’s my apprentice. You have your little brother you are responsible for and I have Adam.’

Mohinder finds himself smiling at Matt’s tone. ‘I wish that Luke listened to me as Adam listens to you.’

Matt laughs earnestly at that. ‘Adam listens to little that doesn’t agree with what he already believes. He is a good-natured lad though single-minded. I worry he expects too much from himself.’

‘Ambition unchecked can be a snare.’

Matt shakes his head. ‘I wasn’t thinking of his soul,’ he says wryly. ‘Adam will be satisfied with nothing less than being hailed as the foremost artist of his generation.’

Mohinder purses his lips. ‘Is he gifted? You would not encourage him beyond his talents.’

‘He’s skilled and passionate.’ Matt rubs his forehead. ‘Fame requires more than skill. It needs wide patronage and support of high families. More than that, it needs the happy fortune of being in the right place, at the right time for opportunities as well as the drive and determination to capitalise on it.’ Matt shrugs with his mouth.

‘He seems a young man who knows his own mind,’ Mohinder says.

‘That is one way of…’ Matt trails off as the sound of running sandals echoes along the corridors and into the chapel. ‘Is it usual for your brethren to run about the place?’

‘I think it unlikely.’ Mohinder crawls to the edge of the platform and looks down as the chapel doors are flung open.

Luke runs into the chapel, sandals beating on the floor, and stumbles to a halt in front of the scaffolding. ‘Brother Mohinder?’ he quavers.

‘Best jump down before one of the other monks scents his tears,’ Matt says.

Mohinder rolls his eyes. ‘I have no wish to return to heaven, yet, thank you.’

‘Maybe you’ll fly,’ Matt calls as Mohinder begins climbing down. ‘How will you know if you can fly if you never take a leap of faith?’

Mohinder catches his breath as Luke slams against him, sobbing incoherently. ‘There… there…’

Matt swings down the scaffolding and drops down beside them. ‘There’s a small room there, full of candles and robes and the like. You should take him there. Let him dry his eyes in peace.’

‘Thank you,’ Mohinder says with a nod.

Luke is snivelling quietly as Mohinder settles him down on a pile of vestments. Distress, this yawning pit of misery and despair, is outside of his experience. That brief humans are capable of such depths of sorrow and unhappiness seems a bitter irony. The lives of angels are largely without extravagance of emotion be it distress, rage, love, or joy; with incarnation comes intensity.

‘I’ll be in the chapel when…’

‘Don’t go!’ Luke grabs his sleeve. ‘Please…’

‘What is that horrendous racket?’

Mohinder squeezes his eyes shut. Of all the moments for Noah to reappear it is difficult for Mohinder to think of a worse one.

‘What’s upset you?’

‘The… the abbot sent me… sent me to the village!’ Luke sobs.

Mohinder rubs Luke’s back soothingly. ‘Yes?’

‘To… to the wine merchant. I… I spoke to the wine merchant’s son.’ Luke scrubs his eyes with the back of his hand and forces himself to look in Mohinder’s eyes. ‘He gave me wine.’

‘Is that the level of vice Nathan is doling out?’ Noah scoffs. ‘If it wasn’t for his family he would cleaning out the pits of hell, not here corrupting the innocent.’

Mohinder crouches down to Luke’s level. ‘Our Saviour drank wine, Luke, there is no shame in it.’

Luke looks at Mohinder with pellucid eyes. ‘He was comely and fair, with a blithe bold spirit.’

‘What happened?’

‘Isn’t it obvious?’ Noah drawls. ‘Even you should be able to look at this sinner and see the sin.’

Luke rubs his eyes. ‘There was wine. He spoke to me kindly.’ He swallows tears and shrugs. ‘Not many… nobody…’

‘Luke, what did you do?’ Mohinder asks softly.

The young man takes a deep breath. ‘We went into the hayloft and we… we lay down together. I broke my vow and condemned my soul.’


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