Title: Angel of the Snowdrift
Authoresses: NoChristmasJokesPlz and ANT-chan
Rating/Genre: Romance/Drama/NC-17 (for SLASH/YAOI/BL/GAY, sex sex and more sex, language, a bit of angst, and threesome.)
Summary: 'Life hates me. It always has. ...I'm really going to die here.' Neither Sin nor Draca ever thought finding a boy in the snow and doing a good deed would lead to so much. A Shadows & Seraphim story. M/M/M
Angel of the Snowdrift
Chapter 4: Madam Brigsbee's
A heavy sigh was the only sound in the room. Milo rolled onto his stomach, resting his chin on the warm wood of the living room floor. He had thought to enjoy the early spring sunlight and take a nice snooze. But it was the same thing he'd been doing for... the two and a half weeks?
Things had been good ever since he'd talked to Sin that night at the pub. He was still embarrassed to think about what the two of them did behind closed doors, and ashamed of how his insides seemed to tie in knots whenever he looked at them for too long... and Draca still teased him, of course. But it wasn't anything like what had happened in that first week. Milo could actually hold a full conversation with them without wanting to bolt. And Sin had kept his promise as well. He'd... done something. He'd drawn a strange symbol onto the wall one day, and things got quieter. The walls got thicker, Draca had remarked. While he could still hear them doing... things if he strained, it was no longer so obvious to his hearing. He could ignore it now.
His arm was fully healed now – had been for about a week. But they hadn't asked him to leave, or even give them any kind of payment for staying there and had outright scoffed at his pathetic overture of an offer. They hadn't even really noticed the passing of time all that much at all, actually. They acted, for all the world, like they just expected Milo to stay for however long he wanted.
But the problem? With all those good things - with the comfort and stability of having a place to actually stay?
Milo was very, very bored.
There were some days when he didn't even really get out of bed. It just seemed pointless. He'd just end up doing what he did every day: waking, bathing, eating, napping, eating again, lying about, bathing again, and sleeping again. It was a tiresome cycle. And it didn't help that Sin was out on commission, and Draca slept during the day. It left very little for him to do at all. As a feline Fayth, that shouldn't bother him too much. He could nap the day away, and still be perfectly capable of flopping into bed at around eight o'clock and sleeping until noon. But he also needed something to occupy the other six to ten hours he was awake.
At the very least, there was Draca to talk to in the evenings. But he would mostly leave for Flamesoul if there was nothing to do around the flat, leaving Milo to his own devices most nights. He couldn't imagine what it would be like if both Sin and Draca were out on commission. In the few weeks since he'd started living there, it had never happened. But it could at any time.
And there was only so many times Milo could go braid his hair or take a nap in the patch of sunlight in the living room.
Somewhat disgusted with his lethargic life, Milo sat up and frowned. At least when he was traveling, as stressful and horrible as it could be, he never felt so... useless. He always had to do something. Keep walking, find food, find shelter, make sure he wasn't being followed - something.
The neko stood from his spot, quietly padding up to his borrowed room and taming is long hair. He still didn't know his way around the Haven, but he could at least get to Kyris' pub without trouble. Maybe she could give him something to do.
He dressed himself in a loose pair of pants, worn and faded to grey (they had once been black) from his travels, and an over-sized black shirt that belonged to Sin. It fell almost to his mid-thigh, and always drooped from one shoulder or the other, so he belted it at the waist with a blue ribbon that Gwen had given him and tugged it down so that it bared both of his narrow, white shoulders. He fastened his choker into place around his slim neck, and grabbed a traveling cloak he'd been given by Kyris.
Once he had tugged on his boots, he bounded down the stairs and out the door, down to the cold, sunny streets of the Smuggler's Haven.
The walk to Flamesoul never seemed to take long. After all the traveling he'd done, it was a blissfully short distance. And he always tended to lose himself in thought on the way, so the walk seemed even shorter. In no time at all, he found himself in front of the pub, and he opened the door and padded inside.
Almost immediately, he was caught up in a tight hug, and swung in a circle by Kira. At first, when he'd discovered her habit of picking him up, it had terrified him. He was still wary of most types of physical contact. But, by now, his instincts had deemed the young fire Fayth harmless (to him anyway), and she was the only one who could surprise him without him jumping out of his skin.
"Hiya, kitty!" she exclaimed boisterously. "What brings you t'this dump?"
"Watch it, brat!" Kyris snapped from the bar, obviously having heard the younger.
Kira ignored her and set Milo on his feet and rumpled his messy hair, making him squawk as he attempted to return it to its previous state of relative neatness. "I just..." he began to answer shyly, "had nothing to do, I guess. I was sort of... Sort of wondering if Kyris had anything for me to do?"
Kira simply gazed at him for a long moment, and then a slow, devious grin slid over her face. Her arm went around his shoulder and Milo found himself being pulled towards the bar. He had to stumble to keep up with her long strides. "Kyyyrrriii!" she sing-songed to the older woman. "Li'l Milo's lookin' for a job!"
"Job?" Kyris murmured, mostly to herself as she glanced at the nervous Fayth. Milo wasn't looking at her, shifting from foot to foot. He bit his lip in thought, hating how his heart was pounding from his shyness. A job? He hadn't planned to ask for one. Just something to do - to pass the time and keep him from being bored. On the other hand, he realized, a job would do just that, and he'd have something to do every day.
'A steady job? You?' The thought seemed laughable. 'You aren't good enough for that. You can't cook. You're too clumsy to clean. The only thing you could ever be good for is--'
Golden eyes snapped to attention, blushing as he remembered where he was. "Um," he faltered, "i-if you needed someone... I-I could..."
The redhead considered the open-ended offer for a few minutes. She eyed him critically, which only made the poor boy want to crawl into the floor. "Alright. You already said you can't cook - I remember you saying that one. So... for now you'll just clean dishes. Until we get you something else to wear. I'll pay you... nine mira an hour. That's a good start."
"N-Nine--! You don't have to--" He hadn't even thought about pay in the first place, let alone nine mira per hour. That was certainly more than a simple dish boy could hope for.
"Nonsense." Kyris' tone left no room for argument. "Kira, since you aren't doing anything, why don't you take him over to Madam Brigsbee's and get him fitted for something nice, hm?"
Kira bowed mockingly. "Yes, your Highness," she teased.
"Watch yourself, girl," Kyris growled, before returning to work and leaving her charge to do as asked.
Kira ushered Milo towards the door, the boy still reeling over the sudden turn of events, and chattered away as she led him down the street.
"D... Did that really just happen?" he asked. "I have a job?"
Kira laughed. "You sound like you've never had a job!" she said.
"I haven't," he blurted. "Not a real one, anyway," he added ruefully, shuddering slightly, and not from the cold.
"Meaaaning?" Kira nudged him playfully, leading him down a side street, and then another. "What other jobs did you do?"
Milo paled, and tried to hide it by shifting his cloak around him and dodging a puddle of half-melted snow. "O-Oh. Uhhh... odd jobs while I was traveling. Little things. 'Clean this, deliver this,' you know? J-Just something to get me enough for a meal or a place to sleep."
The fire Fayth slung a friendly arm around him, something that only she could do. Anyone else would have him scurrying away at the familiar touch. "Wow," she intoned, turning out into a bright market lane and weaving through the crowd with him. "You sound like you've traveled a lot. That's pretty cool from someone as young as you are. Where're you from anyway? How far'd ya travel?"
Milo nibbled on his lip for a moment. "I traveled far to get here. Very far. I'm from an island country. The Navitnios. Ever heard of it?"
Kira pursed her lips as they paused by a small booth that boasted various pieces of jewelry. "Nope! What's it like?"
Milo sighed. "I... I can hardly remember the good parts. From what I can recall, it was... beautiful. It was full of mystery, so many things I wanted to explore. But that was when I was little, and when you're young, everything is a big adventure. Everything's new." He looked away sadly, eyes catching sight on a small, crimson jewel dangling from the top of the booth on a silver chain. "But, traveling wasn't so bad. It was rough sometimes, and scary being alone. I don't know much about anything, really. I... um..." he blushed. "I can't even really read."
The silver-haired Fayth turned her gaze to him, rosy eyes shining in surprise. "Really?"
Milo averted his eyes, an ashamed blush flitting over his face. "W-Well... I can read a few runes. Just enough to get by. But... not really. Not fluently." He waited for the laughter. For the insults and questions. Nineteen years old, and he couldn't even read. But none of that came. Instead, Kira only hummed thoughtfully and continued on her way.
"You should ask Sin about that when he gets back," she said.
"W-What? No, I couldn't--" The very idea of it made him want to crawl into a hole and hide for the rest of time. Kira might not have made fun of him, but he could all-too-easily imagine the look an educated man like Sin would give him if he found out.
"No, really, you should. He's the one who tutored me and Gwen. He taught me how to read when Kyris adopted me. He's a really good teacher." She grinned at him, and patted him on the shoulder. "I was eleven when I came here, and I couldn't read either. I grew up on the street, so there were more important things than reading on my mind, yeah?"
"You did?" Milo asked, finally having the strength to look at her. There was nothing mocking about her stance or the bright grin she was wearing. He finally relaxed. "So... how did you get here, then?"
"Hm?" Kira got a wistful look in her eye, her smile softening. "When I was eleven, my Papa found me. He said he'd been looking for me for a long time, and that he was going to give me a home."
"Papa...? You mean your real father?"
"Nope! He just told me to call him Papa. I didn't back then, of course. Didn't trust him back then – strange guy trying to coax me to go somewhere with him, that's always a bad idea. But…" She shrugged. "He took me to a port and passed me off to Kyris, saying she'd be my new mother. We stayed for a few days there and then parted ways. Kyris and me came back here, and Papa left. S'been that way ever since. Haven't seen him since then."
Milo sighed wistfully. "I wish I had been so lucky," he murmured before he could stop himself.
Kira heard him, and she gazed at him curiously. "What happened to you, Milo?" she asked, her tone surprisingly soft. "I know there's something you aren't telling us, and it's your business, but... If ya wanna tell me, I'm not as terrible a listener as I like to make Kyris think."
Milo actually stopped walking. His blood had frozen in his veins, his heart faltering and his chest constricting to the point of physical pain. He'd said too much. 'Damn it! Nonononono!' On instinct, his gaze darted through the crowd, trying to find a swift escape route. But it was too late. Kira was already striding back to him, her expression both knowing and concerned.
She knew. Or she suspected. 'You're an idiot, Milo. You can't keep secrets to save your life! Why did you ever think you could keep this quiet?'
"Milo." For once, Kira used his name. It didn't comfort him. Seeing this, the fire Fayth knelt on the ground, not caring about the curious eyes of the market crowd. She took his trembling hands in hers, looking up at him steadily. "You don't have to tell me now. Hell, you don't ever have to tell me, if you don't want to. Just remember something for me, okay? Everyone gets scarred going through life - whether it's physical or emotional. Everyone. So don't think we'll think less of you for it. And..." Her rose-hued eyes drifted to his stomach, to the exact area of his scars, much to Milo's horror. "I'm more observant than I let on. Draca might not have seen it yet, because he wasn't looking for it. But I got a glimpse of how life scarred you that night."
Milo's eyes filled with tears, making Kira's sincere image to swim before his eyes. He choked as he tried to speak, taking a deep, shuddering breath. The scars on his stomach may have been the worst physically, there were others that brought up a far worse pain. One that he couldn't talk about, not now. Maybe not ever. But definitely not now.
"I... I can't..." he choked out, watching as a blurry Kira rose to her feet. "I d-don't... I can't..." He struggled to find the words, to make her understand, but he couldn't stop shaking, couldn't stop sobbing. He broke and buried his face into her shoulder, clutching her arms like he would drown in his own tears if he didn't.
Arms went around him, holding him up with an easy strength that he didn't expect. It was... soothing. He tried to still his sobs, remembering that they were out in the market place where anyone could be watching, but only managed to make himself choke on his tears.
'Oh shit,' Kira thought, sighing heavily, 'I made him cry!' The guilt that suddenly swarmed her made her wince, and she drew the boy close to her. She was really no good at comforting people. She was better at annoying them or making them laugh. Or even hurting or threatening them. But not comforting them. "Hey," Kira whispered, trying to hide how awkward she felt. "It's okay. You're safe here with us. What... whatever it was that hurt ya, it can't get ya here."
'How idiotic can you get? Of course it can't-- ugh. Whatever.' She stroked Milo's long ebony hair on impulse, hoping it would calm his strained breathing and the ragged, broken sobs.
After a few seemingly endless moments, he began to noticeably calm, his shoulders trembling only subtly. He drew slowly out of the welcome embrace, pressing the heels of his hands into his eyes. "M'sorry," he mumbled, sniffling as he attempted to regain some semblance of composure.
"It's okay," the silver-haired Fayth said softly, resting a hand on his shoulder. "I'm sorry if I like... scared you or something?" Kira offered him a sheepish grin.
Milo sniffed and shook his head, face flushed from tears and embarrassment. "No... it's not that..." Not all of it, anyway. He wiped his face on his cloak, trying to get over the fact that he'd been bawling like a small child right in the middle of the street. "I'm just... I don't want to..." He faltered for a proper explanation.
Kira seemed to understand him, despite his difficulty. "I gotcha. I'm curious, I'll admit. But... I don't think I could push ya to tell me. Not somethin' as serious as this. So... this'll be our little secret, okay?" She brought a finger to her lips in a parody of secrecy, and smiled. "And I'll buy ya somethin' t'eat after we get ya all measured for your uniform. As an apology for this whole mess."
Milo swiped at his eyes and raked his hair back, smiling. "O-okay. What sort of outfit will I be getting?"
"Hmm... I've always thought you'd look adorable in a vest. And snug-fitting pants." The fire Fayth smirked playfully. "That cute little tush of yours would definitely bring in customers." She ignored his indignant squeak in favor of pushing him to a storefront with bold lettering above the door.
"Madame Brigsbee! Got some business for ya!" she called as she dragged the neko inside.
The room they stood in was a simple square room, lined with shelves upon shelves of fabric of all kinds and in all colors. In the middle of the room was a low dais, big enough for a person to stand on. A mirror stood beside it, as well as a few cushioned stools. It was simple. Tidy.
And a grave understatement for the owner of the shop. A sigh came from the archway at the back. "You again? How many times do I have to send you to the armory? I don't make battle clothes, Ki-- ah!" A slender woman stepped into the room, her crystalline blue eyes widening in delight as she caught his gaze. Her dark hair had streaks of gray running through it, and it was held back by a bright, gauzy bandana. Her long skirt and corset top were equally bright, a belt of baubles and bells at her waist. There were needles stuck in her sleeve and a tape measure around her neck. She looked equal parts fashionable, elegant, and eccentric, and Milo wasn't sure he liked how she smiled at him.
"Well, well, weeeell," she crooned, striding forward with the strong, self-assured gait of a woman who was not to be trifled with. "Who's this little cutie, Kira?" she asked, strolling in circles around the highly uncomfortable nekojin.
"This is Milo, Madam B. He's Flamesoul's newest employee and he needs a uniform." Kira smiled at the hapless Fayth, obviously finding great amusement in his discomfiture.
Madame Brigsbee reached out and pinched Milo's waist, which made him jump, squirm, and bite back a combination yelp/giggle. The seamstress smiled wide. "Up on the dais, pretty! And clothes off. I've got just the outfit in mind!"
Milo balked at the command to undress. "B-But... I..." His hands instinctively went to the front of his shirt, holding the hem in an iron grip on instinct. No way was he going to stand in next to nothing in front of anyone, let alone when there were windows that any passing stranger could look in!
The madam turned to him with a severe frown, here sharp eyes narrowing like a predator. "You're keeping me from my job, little neko." There was a sing-song quality to her voice - a warning tone. Milo started to back away, only to collide with Kira.
Her strong, callused hands touched his shoulders, squeezing soothingly. She gave him a brief grin. "Naaaa~ BeeBee, can he--"
"Madam B, you uncouth brat!" Brigsbee cut her off sternly, though she was fighting back a grin herself.
"Can't he put on somethin' thin? He's a shy li'l thing."
The seamstress studied them in silence for a moment, before shrugging and retrieving a set of light, thin clothes from a shelf. "Put these on, then. Be quick!"
Milo took the thin clothing and glanced around for a changing room, which Madam Brigsbee impatiently pointed out. He squeaked a quiet thanks and scuttled inside, pulling the curtain closed and quickly stripping off his clothes, replacing them with a thin, black sleeveless top and loose, but equally thin black shorts. He came back out, feeling highly under-dressed, but took his place on the dais.
"O-okay," he murmured timidly, unnerved by that hawk-eyed stare. "I'm ready."
But the seamstress stayed where she was, gazing at the nekojin with an uncomfortable intensity. Milo fought not to squirm as she began to circle him, looking him up and down in a way that would've been extremely disturbing if he wasn't reminding himself that eyeing his figure was a part of her job. Her hands went experimentally to his shoulders, his waist, to his wrists and along the thin line of his chest.
"Hmmm," she hummed quietly throughout it all. "Back straight, pretty boy." A firm hand pressed into the small of back, making him squeak and straighten. After an immeasurable amount of time, Madam B turned away from him and instead walked along the row of shelves, muttering under her breath. "Thin frame... small stature... feminine..." Milo's sensitive ears pricked at that particular murmur, and he pouted.
'I'm still growing!'
"Pale, very pale. Bright eyes. Hmmm... dark colors. Ah. Here we go." A ream of deep violet fabric was removed from the shelf, and she carried it deftly over. It was soft as it draped over his shoulders - very soft and it flowed effortlessly. "Rayon," Brigsbee said to his unasked question. "Very soft, very durable. It clings when sewed tightly and flows when left loose. It'll make a fine, comfortable shirt for you. And for pants... cotton. Flowing as well. Definitely have to accent that tight little rear of yours, though..."
Milo blushed brilliantly.
"Don't forget a vest, Beebee!" Kira called from the veritable sidelines. "He'd look adorable in one!"
The light of inspiration sparked behind the older woman's blue eyes, and she didn't even protest the familiar nickname. "Oh, yes... it would make your chest look a bit broader... less feminine or childish. Yes..." She rolled the fabric back onto its ream, and darted about the room, grabbing other samples of cloth and setting them aside. "Well," she said finally, "we've got your materials chosen. Now all that's left are measurements."
She took the measuring tape from around her neck and stretched it out. "Arms out, pretty boy," she commanded. He obeyed without question, and she measured the span of his arms, then his shoulders, around his neck, chest, and hips. She muttered and murmured to herself occasionally as she circled him, checking and rechecking her measurements. He fought not to squirm or twitch in discomfort. He was not used to anyone getting too close to him for any good reason. But this... This was entirely different. Entirely new. The woman's hands didn't linger on him in any way. Her movements were quick, efficient, and in no way unprofessional. He was just a job. That was all.
He tried not to blush as she made another muttered comment about his rear end and how it would draw in more customers for sure with the pants she was planning. "Um... C-could you not talk about my butt?" he asked shyly. "I... It's... It's making me a little uncomfortable."
The seamstress snorted in a very unlady-like manner, and poked him harshly in the back to make him stand up straight once more. Milo yelped and jumped, teetering on the edge of the dais as he tried to move away. "Hold still, will you?! By Gabriel's eternal soul, you are such a jumpy model." The harsh command made Milo freeze, but again, not in fear. He didn't feel anything mortally threatening from her. Only annoyance that he was preventing her from doing her job. So he blushed brightly and returned to his upright posture.
For how long he stayed there while Madam Brigsbee poked and prodded and measured him, the neko had no idea. All he knew was that his arms trembled in exhaustion from holding them still and aloft for so long. It took all his will not to sway or to drop his arms even an inch.
"Alright, pretty boy. I've got everything. You can go change now." Milo all but sprinted from the pedestal, shaking his arms to ward off the numb, heavy feeling in them. The tiny changing area was a relief, compared to the open vulnerability of the shop.
He dressed quickly in his old and borrowed clothes, cinched his ribbon around his waist, and withdrew another ribbon, this one faded lavender, from his pocket, and quickly and neatly braided his hair over his shoulder. Once the braid was tied tightly at the end, he left the changing room and shuffled up to Kira, glancing around nervously, as if Madame Brigsbee were going to leap out of nowhere at him and demand he stand still for another fitting.
"Um... Where..." He let the question hang in the air, but Kira understood.
"She went to get to work on your clothes," she replied cheerfully. "She doesn't waste time when it comes to her work. I ordered a couple more outfits for you to wear, not just the uniform. Is that okay?"
Milo blushed and mentally counted (thank the gods he could do that much) how much money he had hidden in his bag at Draca and Sin's place. "Um... How much do I owe you for this?" he asked, worried when he recalled he had only a few more coins left from his travels.
"Absolutely nothin'!" Kira answered briskly. She cut him off before the nekojin could even begin a protest. "Ah-ah! I owe you for what happened on the way here, right? Kyri will pay for your uniform. She'll consider it a necessary expense. The others are a partly a welcome gift and partly an apology. Got it?"
"Got it?" Her smile had remained, but her voice sharpened ever so slightly, brooking no room for argument. Milo fell silent. Kira seemed to take that as an agreement, for she grinned and hooked an arm around his shoulder. "Great! Now, let's go get some lunch, and then we can see what Kyri's got for ya today, 'kay?"
Milo let himself be led from the shop, too overwhelmed to even think of a response.