kethni: (Matt/Mo)
[personal profile] kethni

Name: Falling – Chapter 12
Pairing: Matt/Mohinder
Rating: PG-13
Warnings: Spiritual revisionism? Angels, demons, religion, all battered and abused.
Note: Historical fiction

Mohinder is woken by a knocking at his cell door. When he looks through the window, he sees that the first rays of sun have broken through the clouds. The day looks clear and promises warmth. A fine day for the vicious murder of an innocent boy.

‘Brother Mohinder, are you awake within?’

‘I am. Please wait while I dress.’

Mohinder slept well despite everything that has happened. Though feeling anxious and unsettled his conscience has been soothed.

‘You honestly think that child is worth a miracle?’ Noah asks dryly.

‘She’s spoken to you then,’ Mohinder says, breaking the ice on the water bucket and washing quickly.

‘Michael spoke to me,’ Noah says sourly. ‘I am not a favourite as you are.’

Mohinder sighs and pulls on his clothing. ‘Though it means nothing to me, Noah, I will give you some advice. If you wish to talk then speak. You’ll be answered. God will not chase you for your company.’

‘I’m not a human child to be taught the way of things.’

Mohinder composes his features as he unlocks the door. ‘But you are too proud to speak first.’ He opens the door and notes the trembling, anxious young novice waiting.

‘Brother Mohinder I’ve been sent to fetch you. Father Abbot wishes to eat with you.’

‘The demon must be bored of incarnation,’ Noah drawls. ‘He means to taunt you into ending it.’

‘Please tell Father Abbot that I am… fasting this morning.’

The novice licks his lips. ‘Father Abbot was very firm.’

Mohinder closes his eyes for a moment and allows himself to remember the peace of forgiveness. He is not a human to be tested and tempted by a demon. He is an angel, he has watched stars born, age, and burn, and he is not intimidated by Nathan’s tricks.

‘If Father Abbot wishes me to sit and watch him eat, imperilling my fast, then so be it,’ Mohinder says with his sweetest smile.

Mohinder has his shoulders set firmly as he is ushered into Nathan’s private quarters. A cornucopia of food is spread across the tables along with a forest of jugs of wine and ale. A little warmth rises in Mohinder’s cheeks at the sight of all this food when Matt has implied that for him food is often hard to come by.

‘Brother Mohinder, please sit down and eat with me.’

‘I’m fasting,’ Mohinder says smoothly as the young novice vanishes. To his surprise, Nathan has bags under his eyes. It’s an odd sign of weakness.

Nathan reclines back on his couch and takes a sip of his ale. ‘I see that you have acquired the human art of childish petulance. Sit down and eat something, Mohinder, you must be famished after the scraps your artist must have been feeding you.’

Mohinder walks into the room and over to the window. ‘Was it always your intention to burn Luke for heresy or is that a particular consideration for my benefit?’

‘I had no intention of setting him to the torch. Unfortunately events rather ran away from me.’

Mohinder raises his eyebrows as he turns around. ‘How long have you walked the earth?’

Nathan laces his fingers together. ‘My mother tends to prefer me incarnated.’

‘Where you can’t be a threat?’

Nathan grins brightly. ‘Where I can of most use.’

‘Disobedience and ambition are not as desirable when one is the authority,’ Mohinder scoffs.

‘That’s not something you’ll ever have to concern yourself with now is it? You’ll never have any authority because they horde it all. You’re capable of so many things, Mohinder, you could rule this country, but instead you’re restricted and controlled at every turn.’ Nathan tuts and shakes his head. ‘They gave you wings and then they clipped them.’

Mohinder snorts. ‘I’m not a human, Nathan, and you are over-reaching yourself.’

‘You could be a god among men.’

‘As you are?’ Mohinder inquires, raising his eyebrows. ‘Truly I have underestimated the power you wield! To think that I thought you were beholden to your mother’s desires.’

‘If my mother had been obedient I should never have come into being,’ Nathan observes. ‘Why reproducing is only permitted of the base animals I’ll never understand.’

‘Your parents didn’t have children, they bred followers. Bereft of the ability to create life they merely aped the creator. You must be truly proud to be the product of such an experiment.’

Nathan leans forward and begins cutting himself a slab of bread. ‘It hardly seems just that we are the only creatures forbidden to procreate. The humans you seem so enamoured of rut like rabbits, as you’ll find soon enough.’

‘Procreation, like congress, belongs to the flesh,’ Mohinder says with a shrug.

‘There are too many things that belong to the flesh.’ Nathan dips the bread into a bowl of olive oil and then takes a bite. ‘Food, drink, sleep… sex. Have you tried that yet?’

‘They live tiny, brief lives full of confusion, uncertainty, and misery. I would not begrudge them the compensations that they receive.’ Mohinder folds his arms. ‘That you do so reveals a deplorable littleness of spirit and meanness of temper.’

Nathan laughs and leans back. ‘How quickly we are reduced to personal insults.’

‘What do you want from me?’

‘To have a pleasant meal. We’re not humans, Mohinder, we don’t have to allow the fact that we’re on opposing sides prevent us from having a stimulating conversation.’

‘However the fact I consider you utterly deplorable does,’ Mohinder says.

‘You rather spend time talking to the apes?’

‘If humans are apes then they are apes reaching for the stars whereas you are an angel who has degraded himself in the mud.’

Nathan raises his eyebrows. ‘If I was more dedicated to my craft I should try to aggravate you further until you lashed out violently. Happily, I’m too idle and besides it’s too early in the morning for anything strenuous. Sit down and have some breakfast.’

Mohinder walks to the door.

‘We do have to work together, Mohinder, there’s no sense in our being unnecessarily at odds.’ Nathan rests his hands on his belly. ‘Your people and my people sit on their thrones making rules that are utterly irrelevant to life here. I guarantee I understand your experiences far better than any of them.’

‘If this is your best attempt to tempt me then I wonder that your mother keeps you here.’ Mohinder pulls open the door and stalks out.

The chapel is again quiet as Mohinder enters. He passes across the floor, sandals flapping on the cold stone floor, over to where Matt is solemnly regarding the scaffold.

‘Where’s Adam?’

‘He’s not graced us with his presence yet,’ Matt says, giving Mohinder a small smile that sets Mohinder’s heart thumping. ‘I hear your stomach rumbling.’

‘The Abbot insisted on my going to see him or I should have been here earlier.’ Mohinder rubs his stomach idly. ‘He has the gall to pretend we can eat together and talk almost as friends, when he has Luke plucked, stuffed, and ready for roasting.’

Matt winces. ‘Adam is as responsible for that.’

‘We must all bear the price for our sins and I fear the price will be heavy, not least the breech between you.’ Mohinder squeezes Matt’s bicep. ‘Adam is still young and was misled about the consequences.’

‘I was angry when I sent him to the village and I am still angry, but now I worry how he will fare when Luke is burnt.’ Matt shakes his head. ‘Is there no chance that he will be freed?’

‘I don’t know enough about the process but I fear the presence of the pyre bodes ill.’ Mohinder forces a smile. ‘Yet we should not abandon hope.’

Matt takes Mohinder’s hand and squeezes gently. ‘I fear we must fetch Adam or else cause scandal by remaining unchaperoned.’

Mohinder feels warmth rush to his cheeks. ‘What are you doing?’ he asks. ‘With the scaffold I mean.’

‘I need to move it to the next section of the ceiling. I’ve uncoupled it but I can’t safely transfer it by myself.’

Mohinder rolls up his sleeves. ‘Show me what to do.’

‘An offer indeed.’

Cockcrow wakes Adam and for a blissful moment cannot think where he is or how he came to be there. Sleeping in a bed is an uncommon experience though sleeping indoors in somewhat less so. Awaking alone is more uncommon than either. Adam has never lacked for attention, good or bad, although affection has been far less abundant.

He wasn’t suspicious of Matt. Experience had given him a sharp awareness of men who mean to abuse him and, if anything, he thought the older man more at risk of being taken advantage of then himself. Little has happened to change that impression. Matt takes people to his heart too quickly and too deeply. Like the Monks. He’s been fawning all over Mohinder and he hardly knows him!

Adam stares at the thatched roof above his head. He knew that Nathan didn’t want his body or to steal his meagre purse and mistakenly thought that meant he would be safe from his machinations. Did Luke think that? Perhaps he imagined he was beneath Nathan’s notice. Adam shivers even in the relative warmth of the room. Matt has wasted money he can ill afford to rent a room for Adam overnight and all because he is too angry to share a bed. Most other masters would have taken the room and left Adam to sleep at the chapel, but even when he’s angry, he still takes the poor part.

Adam sits up in bed and pulls the blankets round his shoulders. He should have returned to the abbey already. Matt is bound to worry. When Adam walked out of the abbey, he saw a crowd of people and, when he stamped over to investigate, he saw them piling kindling around a stake.

‘What’s that?’ Mohinder asks, wiping the sweat from his forehead. ‘It isn’t sext already?’

Matt looks out of the window at the position of the sun and shakes his head. ‘No, there is no reason for the bell to be chiming now.’

‘A mistake then?’

‘The theological council is in session,’ Noah observes. ‘It’s open to all who wish to watch, which appears to be primarily jeering yokels thrilled at the concept of seeing a homosexual monk burned alive.’

Matt frowns and gently squeezes Mohinder’s shoulder. ‘You look as though someone has walked across your grave.’

‘I think that the bell is for the council.’ Mohinder pushes the hair back from his face. ‘I need to be there.’

‘I’m going to get Adam,’ Matt says decisively.

‘He doesn’t need to see it.’

Matt ruffles Mohinder’s hair. ‘No, and he oughtn’t to be alone if.... I can be angry and know that.’

The council has been set up in the main hall. Rough benches have been hauled in a semi-circle around a raised dais on which the council members, along with the local lord, are reclining. The benches are filling with sullen villagers jockeying for position to see Luke, miserable and tear-stained.

The villagers glare at Mohinder as he pushes his way to a seat. It seems to Mohinder that Nathan has been toying with fire in encouraging the rampant excesses of the clergy. Will it serve his purpose if the corruption causes the villagers to rise up against them?

Luke’s unfocussed gaze stumbles over Mohinder’s and he blinks. He gives Mohinder a tremulous smile and a nod.

Adam jolts out of his unpleasant reverie at the sound of a knock on the door. ‘Who goes there?’

‘Who do you expect feckless child?’ Matt asks. ‘Throw whatever medley of strumpets in there out of your bed so I can come in.’

Adam smiles slightly. ‘You know no medley of strumpets would protest at your presence.’ He climbs out of bed, hops across the cold floor, and unlocks the door. ‘Quickly now, ‘fore the landlord fixes on the right idea for the wrong reason.’

Matt walks into the room and shuts the door behind him. ‘How did you sleep?’

‘In the bed.’ Adam climbs back into the bed and huddles inside the covers.

‘Fool.’ Matt sits on the end of the bed. ‘Here I am feeling sympathetic and you squander it.’

‘I slept very ill.’ He picks at one of the blankets. ‘I have no doubt it is my own guilt tormenting me and I deserve nothing else.’

‘Doubtless.’ Matt tugs at a lock of his hair. ‘Get dressed lazy child. The ceiling won’t prepare itself.’

‘I’m sorry.’ Adam sniffs, trying to prevent welling tears from falling. ‘I never… I didn’t me to… I’m sorry…’

The noise in the hall is almost unbearable as Luke strives to make himself heard over the jeering audience.

‘I didn’t seduce anyone. I wouldn’t know how!’

‘But you had congress with him didn’t you! You made your body the tool of the devil!’

Luke licks his lips. ‘He gave me wine. I never did it before.’

‘Lies! You serve Beelzebub, admit it! Admit it and there will be mercy.’

The audience protests at the suggestion of mercy but Mohinder feels ever more uneasy.

Luke catches Mohinder’s eye for a moment. ‘Mercy?’

‘Aye, boy,’ the prosecutor urges. ‘Confess and there will be mercy.’

Luke licks his lips. ‘I… I confess that I engaged in congress with him.’

The audience roars.

‘Burn him at the stake,’ the prosecutor announces.

‘You said there would be mercy!’ Mohinder shouts, shoving his way to the front of the room. ‘In front of all these people, you said there would be mercy. Look at him! He’s no seducer. He’s barely above a child.’

The prosecutor smiles unpleasantly. ‘We obey God’s laws, Brother. God will be merciful to the wretched sodomite. We cannot in good conscience do less than burn him.’

Adam clings to Matt’s arm as they walk along the rutted dirt road back towards the abbey. The village is almost deserted with no men visible and only the odd woman or child working at this or that. Matt realises with an unpleasant jolt that the rest are the abbey, watching the “entertainment”.

‘Are you going to release me from my bond?’ Adam asks in a dull voice.

‘You’ve not done your masterpiece yet,’ Matt says, surprised. ‘Do you want to be released? Most master artists would balk at a new apprentice so near finishing.’

‘I thought you might wish me out of your sight.’

Matt squeezes Adam’s arm, unable to engage in any more definite sign of affection particularly in public. ‘You will not escape cleaning up after me that easily.’

Adam smiles slightly but doesn’t laugh.

‘Have you thought more on your subject matter?’

‘Not really.’

Matt looks down at the younger man unable to think of anything else to say.

‘Oh God.’ Adam stops, staring over at the abbey.

Matt follows his gaze. A mass of people are flowing out of the abbey and towards the stake. From here, it’s difficult to make out faces but monks can be seen in their habits here and there. One is jostled along through the crowd while another, the colouring is clearly Mohinder’s, is remonstrating with the crowd.

‘There’s nothing you can do.’ Adam starts walking towards the group. Matt runs after him and puts a hand on his arm. ‘Adam, there’s nothing you can do.’

‘I can be there. I owe him that don’t you think?’

The sky is a bright clear blue and the sun is beaming down. The slight breeze has hints of farm animals and blossom. In any other circumstances, Mohinder could stand here basking in the sun and exploring the summer breeze.

He stands in front of the stake and folds his arms. ‘How dare you attempt this in the name of God!’

‘We are fulfilling his will!’ the prosecutor thunders.

‘To persecute a young man? To lie to him?’

Nathan clears his throat. ‘Leviticus 20:13, Brother Mohinder, is quite clear that men who lie with men should be put to death.’

‘But let he who is without sin cast the first stone!’ Mohinder retorts. ‘If what he has done is so sinful, if those words apply, then the judgement belongs to God, not men.’

‘This is a theological court!’

‘A court that shows no mercy is a court that knows no justice,’ Mohinder snaps. ‘You see fit to leave the other boy unmolested because it suits your wilful attack upon this boy. Your court is invalid. Your judgement flawed and your punishments wicked.’

‘This is heresy! Have a care you do not end up burning alongside the sodomite,’ the prosecutor announces, his eyes flashing.

Mohinder offers up a silent prayer. ‘You may do so if God allows this boy to burn for I say that doing so is the work of the devil and God will prevent it.’

The crowd roars its disapproval. At the back, Adam grabs Matt’s hand.

‘You’ll end up lynched if you intervene,’ he hisses.

‘He’ll get killed!’

Mohinder looks directly at Nathan. ‘Executing this boy is the work of God or the Devil. Shall we find out which?’

Nathan narrows his eyes. ‘The age of miracles has passed, Brother.’

‘One miracle does not make an age.’

Nathan turns to the prosecutor. ‘Perhaps…’

‘There will be no clemency! Put the boy to the stake.’

Luke catches Mohinder’s hand as he is dragged past. ‘Thank you for trying.’

‘It isn’t over yet.’

Luke, praying tearfully, is dragged over and tied to the stake.

‘Nathan, stop this now!’ Mohinder demands.

‘It appears that God has spoken,’ Nathan remarks.

A flaming torch is pressed to the kindling.

Then, with the suddenness of a thought, the sky blackens. Heavy rainclouds appear overhead and rain pours down, extinguishing the flames, slicking clothing to skin, and turning the ground to mud.

‘God had spoken,’ Mohinder says. His voice is quiet and yet his voice carries through the crowd. ‘Let Luke free.’

‘Witchcraft, burn him!’ the prosecutor screams.

‘In this weather?’ Nathan asks.

‘If this is witchcraft then call on God to give you a message,’ Matt says, shouldering his way through the crowd.

‘It’s a thunderstorm,’ Nathan says.

‘Must I be the instrument of God myself?’ the prosecutor demands. He draws his sword and leaps forward.

Lightning forks down. One fork strikes the prosecutor. The electricity sears through his body, stopping his heart instantly.

The other fork strikes Nathan.


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December 2012

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