Genre(s): Romance, psychological, divinity!AU
Length: 3846 words
Summary: Doubt can either be an illness or an asset. Leeteuk is not sure anymore.
Inspiration(s): Several novels, such as Utopia and The Giver. I also watched several Supernatural episodes (huge Castiel fan). Do not take offence if this seems to be targeting religion. I personally am agnostic, but I have nothing against religion—this story was just a way to get an idea out of my head.
As much as Leeteuk loved being an angel, he most certainly hated his job. He was always on the move, he never ever had days off, and there were times when he felt like he needed four pairs of wings in addition to the one he had on his back. Under God’s command, he flitted around Heaven with his golden messenger bag and handed out pristine white envelopes containing His orders, always punctuated and never questioning. He visited Zhou Mi, a guardian angel, and gave him envelopes of what he should be protecting his charge Kyuhyun from. He visited Donghae and Eunhyuk, two warrior angels, and gave them orders to divide and conquer. He visited Ryeowook and Yesung, the lead singers of the Heavenly Choir, and provided their music. He visited Sungmin, the head cupid, and provided him with a list of significant others.
Leeteuk had to admit, though, that he was perfect as an angelic messenger. He was one of the fastest angels in Heaven, and always sent the envelopes in record times. He was dependable and never forgot an appointment. Besides, he was naturally busy; without such a demanding job, he might have gone crazy from boredom.
The best part of being an angelic messenger would probably be visiting Earth, where billions upon billions of living creatures thrived. He loved scaring away bad dreams and replacing them with happy ones, performing a few miracles such as saving a patient with terminal cancer, and just observing how life on the Middle Ground was like while he was on the job. Humans were fascinating, after all. In addition to their resemblance to God, they had overwhelmingly strong emotions, and were able to feel more than three emotions at the same time. Leeteuk sometimes envied them in that sense—emotions were the pathway to doubt, a place where angels were forbidden to tread. Therefore angels, traditionally, did the best they could to solely practice mercy. No happiness, no sadness, no anger, just pure compassion. Therefore it was on Earth where Leeteuk felt almost special.
The worst part about being an angelic messenger, however, was the yearly trips to Hell. Pitch blackness with the occasional bursts of scalding fire. There was tangible bleakness, with poor souls crying out in pain and agony as they were whipped and torn apart by the bloodthirsty demons that worked there, unable to escape, unable to die. His angelic glow diminished every time he neared the gates to the point where he thought that it would go out completely, stripping of all of his white pureness that was intrinsic in all angels. Besides, trips to Hell were the farthest trips, and usually by the time he made it to dividing point he was out of breath and in desperate need of a wing massage.
And then to top it all off, there was Kangin, the very reason why he hated his job in the first place.
Theoretically, angels are not supposed to full-out hate per se, but just for him, Leeteuk believed that God could allow him to make a huge exception. Every year, the guard demon stood there, red-hot pitchfork held loosely in his hand, red eyes staring right into him. Which would have been tolerable if not for the fact that he knew which buttons to push to psychologically taunt the angel for the rest of the year.
The first time Leeteuk met Kangin, God had just created the universe, paralleling his drastic change of life course. He was young then, young and filled with and hope and ambition. He had been eager to carry out God’s wishes, dutifully flying to the depths of Hell without any hesitation in the flap of his wings.
Then he arrived at the Gate for the first time, dimpled smile and blind duty shining from his eyes. “I have news from our Almighty Leader,” he had recited loyally. “Man has been created, and he is to be in command of all that is living on Earth.”
Kangin stared, red eyes threatening. “Why is man in command?”
The angel was taken aback at the demon’s bluntness. Surely nobody, not even a demon would dare go against God’s wishes! “Because God commanded so.”
“And why did God command that?”
“Because my Father is all-knowing and infinitely wise,” Leeteuk replied without hesitation.
“Sure, sure, but why did he command that? Is there any particular reason?”
Leeteuk’s eyes narrowed and he quickly opened his mouth only to find out that he had no answer. “My Father is all-knowing and infinitely wise,” he repeated, the conviction in his voice completely gone.
“And how do you know that?” the demon taunted, knowing he was close. “Have you even met the bastard? Seen him with your own eyes?”
Scandalized, Leeteuk had gasped at the open mockery of the Creator of Life. “Such blasphemy! Your soul is beyond saving!” he declared in shock.
“Answer the question,” Kangin demanded unflinchingly.
“I shall not answer to a soul as damned as yours!” the fledging angel cried, hurriedly taking off though his wings were still sore from the trip down. He flew with a desperation he never knew he embodied, until he was safe behind the golden gates of his homeland Heaven. Only then did he stop and catch his breath, half-conscious. Ryeowook was the first one to notice his arrival.
“Leeteuk!” he cried out, pushing through the Choir to get to his fellow angel. “Leeteuk, what happened? Why are you crying?”
The messenger angel brushed his fingers to his wet eyes, not even realizing that he was crying. “I don’t know,” he rasped weakly. “I don’t know.”
“I’ll bring you to the Healer,” the singer said, helping the other up with a heave of his small white wings. “You’ll be alright.”
Ryeowook lied. Leeteuk was never alright from the moment he met Kangin. Since his trip to Hell, against his own advice, he had given the demon’s words some very deep thought. It was true, he had never met God face to face. He had never even heard His voice, never heard the man who gave the orders. As he knew it, information was always passed indirectly, from angel to angel, never from God to angel. But then, there was a paradox: where had these orders come from, then, if every angel had received their orders from another angel? Where did God come into play? Was God even there?
He was ashamed of those sinful thoughts, and prayed every day for salvation and forgiveness. Of course God was there! He would not have been living in the first place if not for God!
He had almost confided his personal turmoil to Ryeowook, who was known for his overwhelming ability to empathize in addition to his voice. He was doing his job at handing out envelopes, as per usual, when it happened. “You sing beautifully,” he stated the obvious.
“It is not I who sings beautifully,” Ryeowook replied humbly, blushing a little bit at the compliment. Even after millions of years, the angel still was not used to receiving praises. “If it were not for our Holy Father, I would not have my voice, and because of that I am eternally grateful.”
Leeteuk had frowned slightly at the statement. “How do you know if it was our Holy Father who gave you your voice?” he asked without thinking, and the moment the words spilled out of his mouth he regretted it.
Ryeowook’s eyes widened, and he recoiled in shock as if the words had physically hurt him. “How could you say such a thing? Our Holy Father gives us everything! Our home, our Heaven, our very lives! Are you questioning the powers of our Leader?”
The messenger had no choice but to downplay his mistake if he did not want to get caught. “Of course not, Ryeowook, I was just joking with you!” he smiled weakly, though inside his conscious was bleeding. It was the first time he had deliberately deceived another living being. “You were always so gullible.”
Ryeowook seemed to like that answer better, but his eyes were still accusatory. “You should still be careful with your words, Leeteuk. For a moment I really thought that your faith was wavering.”
That was when Leeteuk knew he was damned.
“I have news from our Almighty Leader.”
“Demons are forbidden to tread on Earth again.”
“Like we care,” the demon tapped his foot impatiently. “There will always be evil in the world without our meddling.”
“Goodness always prevails.”
“Goodness is relative. How do you judge goodness?”
“God judges goodness.”
“Is that your answer to everything? God does it so it’s correct?”
“Yes,” the messenger answered after a moment’s indecision.
“Angels are so one-dimensional.”
Leeteuk ignored the comment and turned his back, positioning himself for takeoff.
“What is your name, angel?”
The angel looked back and was met with a red gaze. “My name is Leeteuk,” he answered before he flew out of sight.
Eventually Leeteuk’s trips to Hell became increasingly less shocking, partly because he was prepared for Kangin’s derogatory questions and partly because he felt like he belonged in Hell where all the other damned souls were. Besides, he knew that the easiest way to confront the demon was to show that his words were not affecting him. Do the job and get out, in other words. Of course, curiosity still gnawed at him, and each time he travelled down Leeteuk was finding it harder and harder to keep on with his charade. By the hundredth time, his protective wall had become perilously thin.
“Nice to see you again, Leeteuk,” the horned creature greeted, something akin to venom coating the last word as he stood by the Black Gate of Hell, pitchfork in his hand.
“Kangin,” the angel replied stiffly, immaculate white wings tensing at the sight of the demon. “I have news from our Almighty Leader—.”
“Yah, yah, the man upstairs,” Kangin rolled his red gleaming eyes. “Your Holy Highness, I get it, save your breath. What does the prick say this time?”
Leeteuk’s lips thinned but he bit back the reprimand at the back of his throat. He had long gotten used to having the demon ridicule the power of the God in which he served with what was left of his love and devotion. “There is to be a new law. All animals are to be sent to Heaven where they will be loved and cared for by the cherubs.”
“Got to have something for those diaper-wearing sissies to do,” the demon shrugged. “Those low-ranking excuses for angels can’t even shoot an arrow right.”
“Their role in Heaven is equally important as everybody else’s.”
“To be honest, I believe that they are absolutely no use.”
This time, Leeteuk was unable to control his usually levelheaded temperament. His wings spread out in his anger, and the halo above his head glowed two times brighter. “Cherubs are the reason why love exists, why children are gifts and not nine-month burdens, and why goodness is still widespread. Without them, the world would be filled with unhappiness and lack of purpose. Hark, keep your wicked opinions to yourself for once!”
Kangin hardly flinched throughout the angel’s heated outburst, and instead stood there quietly, a smirk on his face. “Of course, what do I know? I’m only a demon.” The red eyes shone with fire in the darkness. “But I do know that angels have been the most patient creatures since the creation of life. If you can’t keep your temper in check, I wonder who can.” Kangin looked at the angel with a knowing gaze. “You have been fighting it, Leeteuk. I can see it in your soul. What you feeling is called doubt.”
“I do not doubt my Father’s presence!” the angel retorted.
“I never said you did,” the demon grinned.
Leeteuk swallowed, panic settling in the pit of his being. Tears started stinging at his eyes.
“It’s not wrong, you know,” Kangin said, and Leeteuk started at the soft tone of his voice. “Whether you believe me or not, the feeling of doubt is not a sin.”
“Do not try to corrupt me! I am a devoted servant of the Lord, and that I shall forever remain. Your tasteless words have no effect on me, beast!”
“Then I pity you. You may be a devoted servant but who do you serve?”
“God, of course! My Holy Highness, the Great Creator!”
“And do you know who God is?”
“But do you have proof of God’s existence?”
“I don’t need it.”
“And why not?”
“B-Because I have faith.”
“And yet your faith is wavering,” the demon deadpanned. “It is the ugly truth, Leeteuk. Angels are but blind sheep following a pastor that they are unable to see or hear or feel. They feel the presence of other sheep, just not the one herding them. They have no idea where the pastor is leading them, nor why they are following the pastor. They just do, blind and dependent and helpless.”
By then Leeteuk was crying openly. “Why are you so cruel, Kangin! I am just a messenger! I just needed to do my job! I do not deserve this torment especially from somebody I had no intention of hurting in the first place!”
Kangin lowered his gaze. “I too had no intention of hurting you.”
“Then why do you treat me like this?!” the angel sobbed, the loneliness and isolation finally surfacing after years of bottling up. “Because of you, I can hardly talk to my colleagues without remembering that they are all serving somebody that they hardly even know. Every day I pray, hoping to get some sort of sign. Why doesn’t God reply? Why doesn’t He help me?! Kangin, because of you I have no idea what to believe in anymore!”
The angel felt a pair of warm arms wrap around him, and collapsed into a bawling fit in the embrace of a demon—the one living being in the universe who seemed to understand him.
“All demons were once human,” Kangin explained. “Except for Lucifer, as you know, who was once a respected angel.”
“We still do not speak his name in Heaven,” Leeteuk pondered. “He rebelled against God, but it is never mentioned how he rebelled. Do you remember what you were like when you were human?”
“No, and for that I am grateful.”
“Why is that?”
“Despite common belief otherwise, guilt is a concept that is not new to demons.”
Life in Heaven became increasingly miserable for Leeteuk. He started to notice every flaw in the system, such as the ways in which the angels would always praise God in their everyday speech. Though he knew why they did as such, there was annoyance in his throat every time he heard a random angel thank God for the millionth time for granting him the talent to play beautiful music on the harp. He had long stopped talking to the other angels, and only put on a surreptitiously impatient dimpled smile every time one of his coworkers came to talk to him. “Praise the Great Lord!” they would say, and Leeteuk would flinch at how ignorantly insincere the voices were.
“It’s like they are only saying it because they were meant to say it, like mental conditioning,” he confided to Kangin on his next visit. “Brainwashing, really. The more they say it, the more they believe it. Like they are trying to physically convince themselves.”
“You were like that once, too, you know,” Kangin pointed out, not unkindly.
“And then you corrupted me,” Leeteuk replied, also not unkindly.
There was also the monotonous emotional disparity. Nobody in Heaven got mad or angry or sad or frightened or confused. They just were. Before, Leeteuk had thought that they practiced pure compassion, but ultimately he started to wonder how angels could be compassionate when all they were doing was following anonymous orders. Zhou Mi only meddled in Kyuhyun’s life when he was told to. Eunhyuk and Donghae only went to the battlefield when they were told to. Yesung and Ryeowook sang what they were told to sing. Sungmin only shot the arrows to those he was told to shoot at. Leeteuk found it all so unreal, how all the angels could go on living like that, so naive and clueless. It sickened him.
It made him want to fly away from Heaven, away from the false perfection of his world.
Leeteuk was curious, and one of his many curiosities concerned the touchy topic of love. Angels claim to be capable of love. After all, they loved their Father, they loved all of Earth, they loved everything. But that was just the problem: loving everything was basically the same as not loving anything.
“Which song do you like better?” Leeteuk asked Yesung one glorious afternoon.
“I love all of them.”
“Don’t you like one song better than the other?”
“No,” Yesung shook his head, and Leeteuk’s heart sank. You knew that life was off its axis coordinates when Yesung looked at you like you were the weird one.
If Leeteuk had been drawn to Earth before, he was practically craving it now. During his free time (which was not much), he wandered around on the planet, invisible to all, and watched silently. He watched a pure hearted homeless man sit on the sidewalk in the snow, occasionally pulling his torn jacket around him tighter as his teeth chattered from the cold. He watched a pregnant woman trip over a puddle of cooking oil in a grocery store, and felt the beating heart inside of her uterus stop. He watched a serial killer win the lottery. He watched an innocent rape victim die in a hospital bed while her parents sat by her bedside, crying.
And all this time he wondered: why didn’t God do something about it? There were innocent people dying while the evil were left alone to their business. Why did God punish the innocent and praise the evil? Leeteuk did not doubt that God (if there really was a God) had a clear sense of justice, but then he wondered why he did not use it. For an angel, it is not hard to save a person’s life. A car accident could easily be avoided if the angles of the cars were just rotated slightly. A sunken boat could have easily been sidestepped if the waves were just a little less tumultuous. If Leeteuk could do it, God surely could. But why didn’t he?
Kangin had shrugged. “I was always told that God works in mysterious ways.”
Leeteuk wondered if those so-called “mysterious ways” were worth the several million innocent people whose lives were tragically cut short.
It came to the point where he ceased praying for forgiveness.
Kangin’s eyes lost their red glow on their thousandth meeting; in its place were beautiful chocolate-brown orbs.
“What happened?” Leeteuk asked after his shock had worn down. He had long become accustomed to the red eyes staring back into his though the brown was a pleasant adjustment as startling as it was.
“I don’t know,” the demon answered truthfully.
“Your eyes! They’ve changed!” he asked, the question fashionably late.
“It’s not the only thing about me that’s changed.”
“What do you mean?”
“Demons aren’t supposed to be capable of love.” Kangin looked at his angelic confidante in distress. “I think that I have been purified. By you.”
Leeteuk lost his wings soon after, and unfortunately it had to happen in Heaven in front of all his comrade-in-arms. It was the strangest occurrence—the pair of beautiful white wings that he had known for all his existence just disappeared from his back, leaving only pregnant space between his shoulder blades.
The angels were, to put it mildly, utterly horrified, and immediately sent him to the Healer, who was equally horrified at the sight of his missing wings.
Almost immediately he was stripped from his golden messenger bag and cast out of the holy grounds of Heaven, and he hardly turned around when the gates closed behind him. Leeteuk only dropped to his knees and let a few tears fall. For the first time in many years, he started to pray. He prayed for salvation, for his brothers and sisters. He prayed for Ryeowook and Yesung and Zhou Mi and Eunhyuk and Donghae and Sungmin and all the other angels who doggedly followed orders without asking themselves why. He prayed for the innocent lives on Earth that were being ravished upon, unjustly. He prayed for the wellbeing of the Earth and the happiness of all the pure living beings.
Lastly, after a moment’s hesitation, he started to desperately pray for Kangin, the demon-no-more who completely understood him, who he deeply loved with all his soul, and who loved him back with just as much fervor. He still did not understand God’s ways. He still did not know if there really was a God. The one thing Leeteuk knew for sure was that he was able to love and be loved. With that knowledge, he felt happy for the very first time in all of his existence.
And then the clouds opened up from under him, and he let himself fall through.
As much as Jungsu loved being a high school student, he most certainly hated his job. He was always on the move, he never ever had days off, and there were times when he felt like he needed four pairs of legs in addition to the one pair he already had. Under his homeroom teacher’s command, he flitted around the high school with his messenger bag and handed out pristine white envelopes containing school news, always punctuate and never questioning. He visited Zhou Mi, a sophomore, and provided him with advice on how to win his longtime crush Kyuhyun’s heart. He visited Donghae and Eunhyuk, two dancing machines, and gave them white envelopes containing information of their next performance venue. He visited Ryeowook and Yesung, the lead singers of the school choir, and provided their music. He visited Sungmin, a junior, and updated him with the school’s dating gossip.
The problem was Youngwoon, the very reason why he hated his job in the first place.
The troublemaking sophomore loved making his life miserable, and he always had to watch out during his messenger routes in fear of tripping over a fishing line or slipping on melted butter. Sometimes he would open his locker and find himself bombarded by rubber spiders. Or he would walk around the whole day with a Kick Me! sign stuck to his back. One time when he had been studying in the library, Youngwoon had somehow been able to tie his shoelaces together.
The messenger hated Youngwoon, which was saying something because it was not in his nature to hate.
But sometimes their eyes would lock and when Jungsu took a good long look at those chocolate brown orbs he could not help but think that they completely understood each other.