A/N: Hi there, all! This was written for the Criminality August-April Challenge. I actually had fun writing it and I'm glad it's done and out there (because it was starting to clog up my brain).
Warnings: There are some controversial themes regarding religion and sexuality (not sex) here, so just a heads up for anyone who doesn't feel up to reading it.
Another note: There will be some things about Catholicism here and please, please take no offense to some of the things I write. None of this is meant to offend anyone or their religion, only to make a statement about how people treat religion. I'm a Catholic myself, so I mean no ill will by writing this.
Um, and one more thing. This one is a bit more...wordy than your average fanfic. Please bear with me, this is how I normally write. Please give it a chance!
DISCLAIMER: I disclaim. All rights to the Artemis Fowl series, that is.
Children of Sodom and Gomorrah
Angeline knew her Artemis, there was no doubt about that. In spite of the extraordinary circumstances of their relationship and the rather curious relationships he had with other people, Angeline knew Artemis. She knew about his loveless childhood and his stony climb into adolescence. She knew what storms ravaged his tumultuous mind, what ships took harbor there and which vessels were swallowed in his unforgiving waves of ice water and blood. She knew what tainted him. She knew the exact number of lives that had been ruined for the sake of his dream—and she knew his dream too. She knew how selfish and futile a dream it was and she knew that he was both childish and admirable for clinging to it, like a man trying to find the waterfall's edge of a world already pronounced completely and utterly round. She knew his failures. She knew his victories. She knew about his rejection of her in favor of another. She knew his body from the sheet-white shade of his callous hands to the unforgiving straightness of his brow.
Oh, she knew him well; her memories supplied her mind with a very rational image of this boy—no, man—but the problem lay in her heart.
Angeline had come from a traditional Irish family. They were high-class in wealth and in conduct, yet decidedly plain. They were luxurious in their proud simplicity, modest in their extravagance. Their social status (inherited along with the distinguishably small noses) did not affect their lifestyle extremely; but, because of it they lived in a small mansion—or perhaps a grand house—and dabbled frequently with the "Big Boys" of the Irish community. Even so, they were a family of small boasts, settling for a mediocre life within an exceptional enclosure. Angeline attended a high-class Catholic school and earned average marks, although she was an unusually bright girl. Later, she graduated from college and typically came home to a life of lady-like political dancing, of entertaining guests from the "So-and-so Business who are interested in your investment, etc, etc...", or representatives of the "So-and-so Party who need YOUR support, etc, etc..." And soon the "So-and-so"s and the "etc, etc"s and the flower-patterned dresses (which were the epitome of modesty and daintiness) were all Angeline knew, until she knew a boy who was far more than a "So-and-so".
She first knew his name.
"Artemis Fowl," the boy—man?—of barely twenty murmured, his lips a teasing breath away from the virgin back of her hand. His eyes were blue—dark as the distance between stars and tempting as forbidden fruit—and his face was pale and sharp. It was the face of lies and she recognized it at once. She almost recoiled but his voice came smooth and calming. "Forgive my boldness, but...may I?"
His wicked eyes glinted as he hovered over her raised hand. She could not help but shiver; he saw her fear and he was daring her to follow, beckoning with a silent promise of unknown sensations, of undiscovered tastes, untapped knowledge. Her unusually bright mind became subordinate to her fluttering heart, naive from years of sheltered neglect.
She found herself—small nose and all—reflected in his dark eyes. She conceded. "You may."
His lips pressed to her skin—like scorching coal to an untouched mound of white, white snow—and when he pulled away she could feel them on her still, a deep indentation that rubbed far past her flesh—that also gently bruised the bone and muscle in her hand whenever she would flex it. The pressure of the first kiss made its gradual way through to her palm, then up her arm, across her torso, and from there struck her entire, quivering body with the sin of contact.
It was not chaste. It filled Angeline with the juice from an overripe fruit, graced her mouth with fleshy sweetness, and planted the red pit into the indentation of the back of her right hand where it took root and grew. It was with this right hand that she crossed herself in the confessional, at the local church, in front of the local pastor. It was a dirty hand that needed cleansing and the priest told her as much, told her to absolve for her sins and make an oath—with that same hand—of chastity. She hesitated in doing this for the first time. So far her life had been governed absolutely by her parents' rules and by the good teachings of the Catholic Church—no contradictions. The Word was all she need hear. Salvation was all she need request. And, indeed, for all her life this was so.
But now, she hesitated.
The problem lay in her heart. Like a starved dog it lapped up the new emotions excitedly and struggled for more. Her mind was unaccustomed to such things and was at a loss. Eventually, her heart would become stronger with each helping and it was only later, when she witnessed her Artemis with another, that it was momentarily weakened. Throughout all of this her mind tried to keep up.
But unknown to both the heart and the mind, there was another tertiary force working within Angeline.
She knew her Artemis well enough to know about his Butler. She knew that Artemis and Butler were closer than brothers and that Artemis had grown up with the older man. Because of this, she thought, Butler was the only one who knew Artemis better than she did. She knew all this, yet it still shocked and revolted her when she knew the truth.
At some point after their relationship had escalated so far that their parentshadtaken it upon themselves to arrange the marriage ceremony, Butler decided that they should not keep secrets. On the night before the engagement terms between their parents were to be made final, Angeline sat in Artemis' study and watched silently as her fiancé kissed another man.
Her heart sped up and stopped, unsure of a proper reaction, and pitifully attempted to fly up her throat and escape through parted lips. In reaction, her mind took control and assessed the situation carefully, impersonally, as one regards history, with an interest never exceeding detached curiosity. (Unfortunately, it was only later, much later—after the damage had been done, after her life had been deconstructed and painfully, slowly peiced back together again—that she would see how much sense it all really made.)
But at the time, her mind was again overpowered, this time by the third voice.
This voice—it was not thought, but it was not emotion either. It can best be described as a vague notion that once flitted between heart and mind, unsure of where to go, and eventually settled somewhere in the middle with strings attached to either ends so it could pull and tweak them both at a whim. This may make it a powerful presence in any person, usually depending on how strong it was. In Angeline's case it was the virtues and beliefs taught to her by the Son of Man. And it was strong.
Now, the problem was her sudden urge to be sick all over Artemis' Oriental rug. Two pairs of defiant eyes searched her own for a response and she felt something rise inside her. It was not anger, not embarrassment—not jealousy. It was righteous scorn.
Angeline looked at the two men in front of her—two men!—who had just a moment ago been locked in an intimate embrace. They reflected each other in their eyes, their hands were joined. Her small nostrils flared.
They were dirty, filthy.
Angeline knew only her contempt for the Herods before her. She felt only the need to take each man and crucify them on their own distorted crosses of love. She believed only in the sacrilege her eyes beheld.
She raised her right hand to her face and formed the sign of the cross.
Artemis felt something. He felt a physical attraction to one young woman. He felt an unnamable emotion for one older man. He felt a cornucopia of sensations that mixed together desire and trust and distrust and happiness and misery and pain. He felt some things only half-way. He felt others so completely that they occupied every inch of him, stretched his skin and leaked out his pores so that his flesh wept from the force.
Yes, perhaps Artemis felt many things. And these emotions were reason enough for worry without the troubling, ever-present religion.
Catholicism plagued Artemis day and night. It controlled his every movement, like a hawk-eyed puppeteer pulling divine strings and jerking his lifestyle every which way. Artemis, above all, hated being controlled.
And what irked him the most was that he was not even a Catholic.
As the young heir to a long line of criminal businessmen, Artemis was bound to family customs. In an ironic twist of fate, one of them, alongside extortion and theft, was the respectful act of keeping to the Bible...for the most part. While the family was anything but virtuous, they were strict believers of tradition. They ignored the majority of the Commandments, yet they attended Mass weekly; they never gave charity, but they openly prayed for the unfortunate. At home they were Catholic by habit, in public they were Catholic by feigned commitment. In reality, the family was solely Catholic for the social benefits so that they each donned their gold-studded cloaks of piety with pride and paraded it around for their admirers. They found that it served its purpose as a false preamble to their lives, planting assumptions in the minds of the naïve that they were as golden as their garments and on each of their heads rode a crown of silver thorns. Artemis took up this tradition easily and found that, for most, religion was little more than the most popular of passing fashions. He used his reputation as a respectable Catholic boy (which went a long way in Ireland) to swindle the trust from others. He used this, also, to snake his way into the good graces of a young woman and her family.
Before this, though, Artemis had no real interest in women. Angeline was the first female he had ever found himself attracted to, and this intriguing difference may have been the reason he kept her around so long. Men had always been more appealing to him but, truthfully, Artemis had very little chance to act on his desires for his faithful pretense demanded not only chastity but also "cleanliness" of body.
"Cleanliness", Artemis learned, had nothing to do with the body or any part of a human being. Proof of this could be found even in the Bible itself where it speaks of the original sin which taints every man and woman (and everything in between) on God's earth. And on the earth that isn't God's. Artemis felt that "cleanliness" should be a word used only to describe hospitals and laboratories. And because Artemis had no problem defying a faith that was not his to begin with, he was perfectly comfortable with defiling the "cleanliness" of his body in secret.
Butler had been there for as long as he could remember, first offering a guiding hand, then being his shield, and then becoming something much closer, more intimate. Artemis could not remember precisely when their relationship had made the drastic change—perhaps it was when Butler began staying up with him as he worked on late night projects during his college days or maybe later when Butler had proven himself as his only ally in a world of political enemies—but all he knew was that he felt something powerful for that man who was more, much more, than a brother to him. The man was the sole person who held Artemis' complete trust and, with it, his heart. In Butler's hands, Artemis' heart relaxed and was comforted because there nothing could bother it and, for once, it would have its well-deserved peace.
But it was different with Angeline. With her, Artemis knew he felt only infatuation. He was no expert on emotions, but he knew what he felt for her was dwarfed when in comparison to what he felt for his bodyguard—a comparison that could be mirrored in their respective physical statures. Nevertheless, Artemis grew attached to Angeline and also began to feel a certain obligation to please her.
Guilt was still stirring in his heart as it argued back and forth with his mind about how to tell the damn trusting woman about his infidelity when their unknowing parents chose that time to announce their children's upcoming union in the Holiest of Holy Matrimonies.
Alas, it was faith being a nuisance once again.
The revelation was a shock to Angeline, which was understandable. Then again, the truth had been staring her in the face while she, content in her ignorance, turned that little nose of hers the other way, which was soon followed by her cheek.
Breaking apart from their embrace, Artemis and Butler stared at her as she stood rigidly before them. Artemis watched her eyes and felt rather than saw the emotions behind them.
First, he felt sadness. He felt his heart wrench with unshed tears that were not his but somehow became his through unexpected compassion. He also felt betrayal. He felt the need to hit, to smack, to scream, to run, to cry. He felt the blackness leak from his overwhelmed heart and take its corroding hold on his body, constricting his insides and boiling them in chorus. Finally, he felt the contempt. He felt Angeline stone him with her eyes. He felt her desire to further condemn them with fire and brimstone and to watch them burn in a mortal Hell of their own making. He felt his walls of clay crumble and turn to ash, completely decimated.
And while his heart was being torn, his mind worked. Of course, it had foreseen such a response from Angeline, as it was only rational, and had already planned accordingly. When the mind attempted to put this plan into action, however, it found that the heart still had control. And it was paralyzed.
Artemis could do nothing.
Butler believed in nothing.
He had no religion to speak of and had enough wisdom to know that faith was only a poor substitute for responsibility and action. Butler relied on his mind.
His mind, with a touch of human instinct, helped Butler make many life choices, most of them the right ones.
With something beyond intelligence, he chose to take the job as a Fowl bodyguard instead of as a disposable human wall for some unnamed politician. This same way, he chose to know his charge on a more personal level. And later, he also chose to become the man's lover, deciding that if sacrifices were to be made then there would be no better reason to make them than for his and his employer's happiness.
It was also his choice to take up the initiative when his companion had apparently frozen up under the young woman's glare.
"We know that this comes as a shock to you, Angeline, and we are sorry that we've waited so long to tell you," Butler said, sincere yet blunt. "But please understand that it was not our intention to hurt you."
Butler looked at the girl before him with something akin to pity. She stared back with a face contorted by unreasonable derision, disgust shaking her thin frame. He noted that she was still silent.
"Please try to accept this. It is better that you know now than to marry for a lie." Butler paused to collect his thoughts. "I understand that you are still trying to recover from...from what you know, but there's something else I—we—must ask of you...
"We have a proposition to make."
He noticed Angeline's eyes flash at this. He presumed, correctly, that it was from apprehension.
"Please, Angeline, you-"
"It is null."
He knew now for certain that she had already guessed their request. He watched her, sympathetic but calculating.
"I ask you to at least consider-"
"It is vile-"
"Just for a moment-"
Angeline broke down and Butler's words were lost in her frantic screams.
"It is indecent! YOU ARE INDECENT! You have sinned... What you have done is detestable! Those who do such things must be cut off from their people—must be put to death! You have sinned... The Law is made for the lawbreakers and the ungodly and... The LORD has sent... sin... your blood will be on your own heads!"
Butler recognized the desperation in her voice and in her expression. Angeline's eyes were wild and glazed; her breathing was hard and came only in harsh gusts of air through her gaping nostrils; her body was tense, as if barely containing the tightly wound coils of a spring. The transformation from the usual composed woman into this feral creature was unsettling.
Still he tried for he had hope.
"Think of your family—think of Artemis! It would be better for both of you if-"
"We won't! I won't!"
Butler's mind struggled to find a way to shake the girl, but he knew it was useless. She was blind, he knew. And Artemis was frozen.
Butler sighed tiredly and waited.
It was destiny, she decided. It was her destiny to live this way.
Somewhere between her heart breaking and a series of mind-splitting headaches, she found a compromise. They all did. The wedding was beautiful, held in a beautiful chapel, with beautiful music, where she wore a beautiful dress—which she kept always in a chest by her wardrobe to remind her of that day. To remind her of the fate chosen for her.
Her fate was to guide and save the wayward souls delivered to her. It was her obligation to grant them holy redemption from a most unholy fate. Those two men were her crosses to bear, and she bore them like a queen would a crown. She was happy, or so she believed.
Her new family included two men, two very troubled men who, without her, would certainly burn in the depths of Hell. One man played with her heart. The other played with her mind. The first was her husband. The second was her shared bodyguard.
The man of her mind was the bodyguard. Even before the marriage, she often spoke to Butler about things women her age weren't normally expected to know. They had a lot in common, actually, and after the marriage they had gotten along well. Or at least Angeline thought so.
She felt then that the man of her heart was her husband. At first, she was completely opposed to the deal, appalled by it. Artemis had wanted to marry her in order to keep appearances and she would not stand for such deception. No, she would not. But then, she realized that her Artemis was on a path to condemnation and that she must save him.
She felt that she must love him.
She decided, at the same time, to call him "Timmy". Her Timmy.
She knew that he loved her, but what she knew could no longer be trusted to be truth—for she had, right before marriage, baptized herself in a fountain of lies, as she thought was necessary—so perhaps it would be better to say that she believed. Believed in his love, believed in the salvation that would not be coming for any of them for they were prodigal children forevermore. She believed that she was his savior—and Butler's, too—sent by the LORD, her God.
She was the angel of love. The angel of judgement. The angel of death. The angel of cleanliness.
She was the angel sent to Lot. In the unholy city of Sodom. Yes, she was the one. She believed so, and so it was true in her heart and in her mind.
Yet, truth was never faith, because the act of believing would not be so without an absence of fact. Once she may have been able to see the truth, but by this time her eyes were corroded by scripture and sermon. But she was fortunate, for there were two pairs of much clearer eyes constantly watching over her and trying to heal her heart, mind, and hand—all broken from a pain she had come to believe was love.
Maybe it was a penance paid by these two for failing to save her the first time. Maybe they sought to fix what they'd broken. Maybe they just didn't like to compromise.
She was still a child, but so were they. The difference was that the boys were strong enough to know that there was no use in trying to find a Hell or a Heaven, for they were already living in both.
They were both. She knew both and she loved both, but what she wanted was something too perfect, too impossible, too divine.
But, she knew and felt somewhere deep down, her two crosses would guide her to a new salvation.
In her right hand she held them—that same hand that had been at once blessed and branded by mortality so long ago.
In her human hand, she held two angels.