Breakfast was in the glassed-over courtyard with the marble birdbath, Tabris in the black and gold brocade and Shinji in the white and silver dressing gown. The shoes Hikari brought were a little more substantial than the bedroom slippers, because the grass was wet with dew. They fed each other, the way they had that first morning, and Shinji found the courage to ask, "Do you always do that? Have people spend their first night in your bed?"
"With new children?" Tabris asked. "The ones that are defiant, I leave to their fellows, so they can see how much the others like it here, how much better a place this is, and how many opportunities it gives them to strike back at those they hate, in my service." Tabris' smile was perhaps a little evil, but it wasn't directed at Shinji. "Those who are broken, I give to Iruel and my other children, the fallen angels. They can take the time to mend their minds." Tabris himself was busy, although Shinji wasn't entirely sure with what. "Those who are sad and desperate, for themselves and others, I enchant their minds while they sleep, and keep them with me to try to find the cause. Hikari and Touji had younger sisters, and when the only money-earners were kidnapped? They were desperate to get back to those children, so I had mine find them. You, however, I couldn't enchant." Because Shinji's soul was sold, not sacrificed.
"I saw a core of nobility in you, a willingness to sacrifice yourself for those you loved. You deserved kindness, so I gave it to you, and then you were so eager, so affectionate…" Tabris was enchanted himself, but that reminiscent smile was replaced by a frown at himself. Shinji was sad to see it go. "I thought the fact you acted like that even without the enchantments meant that it was how you truly felt, but I forgot that… The enchantments I place upon the incubi are for their protection as well. I should have remembered that leaving your heart untouched meant it was unarmored."
"Touji said you hadn't really let anyone into your bed since Mari left," Shinji said, looking down at the black leather boots on his feet. They seemed sturdy enough, the kind of thing that could survive London's streets, not something for lounging around inside a manor.
"She tackled me," Tabris said fondly. "She was a prostitute for quite some time before one of them hired her and found her burgling his rooms when he woke up. He was angry enough to sacrifice her for something of very little value, but she took to the life of an incubus as eagerly as you seemed to take to being in my bed. She's very full of life, and she saw me as something of a conquest and mostly as a charity case."
"Do you miss her?" Shinji asked, examining the china painted with riots of exotic flowers. This set must be for use only in the gardens: he'd never seen it before.
"She called me 'daddy' in bed." Tabris grimaced. "Incest isn't a taboo for us: all angels were created by the same being, so in a sense they're all brothers and sisters, but I was happy when Asuka became old enough. Mari adores looking after people. The physical act was enjoyable, but she slept with me because I was there, she liked me well enough and no one else was sleeping with me. Who I was didn't come into it. Mari could survive the life she had and still possess the joy she does because something in her is broken. I decided not to fix it, because she's happy the way she is, but Asuka is the first person that Mari has affection for as Asuka. You're a little jealous of Mari, and that's because you're worried that I might love her, and not love you as much, but it wouldn't occur to Mari to be jealous. She's not capable of that depth of feeling. The depth of feeling I love you for."
"But I was lying," Shinji said quietly. "You thought I was… because you were special to me, and…"
"And even when you were being hurt because… No, even when I was hurting you, you still came to love me. You don't hate me for it, even though you have every right," the fallen angel said seriously. "You may have sought my favor because of what I was, because I had power over you… In order to survive," he reminded Shinji, seeing him start to rebuke himself for lying. "But you truly did come to love me, just as I thought you did. Not because of who and what I am, but in spite of it. The only one I am disappointed in is myself, Shinji. You were brave, and clever, finding a way to survive when you thought you were among enemies."
Shinji blushed and Tabris smiled affectionately, distracted from his self-recrimination by how adorable he seemed to find Shinji, and pressed another bit of scone to his lips. "It concerns me that you fell in love with me while I was hurting you. Anyone who would hurt you…" It was harder to tell if Tabris' eyes were glowing angrily when they were out here in the bright sunlight. Shinji had seen them glow during the cult meetings, to hint that he was about to become displeased if someone did not correct themselves quickly. "Anyone who would hurt you deserves many things," coming from the devil, that meant 'countless tortures,' Shinji knew "but your love is not one of them. You should not love me, Shinji. You deserve someone who succeeds in making you happy. And yet, I have your love, and could never refuse it, so all I can do is attempt to earn it."
But Tabris had earned it, by being so gentle, by trying to make Shinji happy. Shinji should have said that, instead of lowering his eyes to the table. Tabris might think that Shinji was doing that because he was still too afraid of displeasing his master to agree with Tabris, actually say that Tabris needed to earn it. He should have said that it wasn't necessary, really, he didn't want Tabris to go to any trouble when going to trouble for Shinji's sake would surely annoy him, and remind him that Shinji didn't deserve any of it, and then he wouldn't be kind anymore.
He didn't say anything, though, because Tabris was already so kind, so gentle. He already made Shinji so happy, so if he was trying to make Shinji happy? To spoil him? To prove to Shinji that he was loved?
Would Tabris wrap his wings around him, tell him that he was loved, touch Shinji so gently, ask him again to be certain that the touches felt good, that he wanted to be touched (made him confess his sinful desires, admit that he wanted to touch Tabris and be touched in return)?
He wanted Tabris to keep spoiling him, to keep being so wonderfully gentle and kind. That was really why he'd tried to be good, not some clever plan to survive. He wasn't like Hikari and Touji, he was sure he would have killed himself if his father had turned him out onto the streets to try to survive. He wasn't brave at all, but he didn't want to correct Tabris, not when it made Shinji feel so warm. His father had always regarded him with hatred and disgust: Shinji knew that he didn't deserve the joy he was experiencing now, but he would do anything to hold onto it.
And Tabris did intend to spoil him, to shower him with gifts in the hopes of making him smile. To make up for letting him live in fear. "Israfel are performing today. Would you like to come with me?"
"Come with you?" Shinji echoed. Outside the manor? He realized that instead of being grateful for the increased freedom, for Tabris wanting him to feel like less of a prisoner perhaps, he found the idea a little upsetting. The outside world was cold and cruel. He'd already known that escape wasn't an option: even if he was willing to let his mother die, he didn't have anywhere to go. He realized now that he didn't want to leave. That the manor was, was his home, no, his heaven.
"Israfel sings," Tabris explained, smiling at the thought of them. "They're performing at an opera house in London. There's a box reserved for their parents, but their parents are their familiars, so the box is always available for me."
"An opera house? Ritsuko and Kaji were going to make clothes for me to wear outside the manor, but…" Shinji hadn't seen any.
"Since you still hadn't selected a room of your own, they were put in with my spare and seasonal clothing," Tabris said. "Would you like to try some on, after practice? Pick out something for a performance and dinner in the city. It's one of those venues where those in attendance are there to be seen as much as to see, which is why I don't go as often as Israfel would like me to go. I use the name Kaworu Nagisa in town: it's something the Circle set up for me. Would you like to go as my fiancée?"
Fiancée? Not fiancé? Go as a woman? But, Shinji realized, they couldn't go out in public as two men. Not when Tabris would want to stay close to Shinji, and kiss his hand. Be affectionate, to prove to Shinji that Tabris loved him. It was strange how much the idea of dressing as a woman didn't bother him, not after more than a week of being naked most of the time. He'd need help dressing, since what little he knew about women's clothing was that it was complicated, but he'd needed help putting on all the layers of cloth for the last ceremony. He was sure Hikari would help.
One of them needed to be a woman, since he didn't want to go an entire evening without any contact with Tabris, even if they wouldn't be able to kiss or do much of anything in public. Asking Tabris to dress in women's clothing, though? Of course not: Tabris was the man in the relationship.
So Shinji nodded, knowing that he was blushing and glad that Tabris considered it cute. He wasn't blushing because of the clothing, just because it was a reminder that Tabris wanted to do things like kiss Shinji's cheeks and accept a bit of buttered toast from Shinji's fingers.
The way he sucked on those fingers for just a few moments before returning them made Shinji very glad they didn't wear normal clothes here. He was a little too worn out from Tabris taking care of him for such a long time this morning, but when he did grow hard, he'd be able to kneel down at Tabris' feet and pull open both their robes.
At first it had tasted strange, but soon the taste and scent became associated with gentle instruction, with words of praise, and afterwards being touched and savored like he was something precious.
If there was any possibility, any hope at all, that it was possible to make Tabris love him, then he had to seize that chance. If Tabris liked it when Shinji reached for him, lusted after him, then he would eagerly be a catamite.
"My hair isn't long enough," was the first problem. Other than that, Shinji had to admit as he looked in the large gilt-edged mirror, taller than he was, that hung on the wall in the dressing room, it would be very easy for him to pass for a woman once he was in a dress.
"I gave you the power to change your shape," Tabris said. "Well, it's dangerous for a human to change their form too freely. You don't understand how your bodies work, so you're liable to leave out something vital. So we give you specific transformations instead. Growing your hair out, growing your ears and tail back if you decide you want to give it another try: those are simple things. Shall I show you how?"
Shinji nodded, and Tabris touched a finger to his forehead. A mental twist, and there were different senses of what his body could be like. That was ears twitching in the wind, those were wings flexing on his back, there the weight of hair on his head, and next to it, more weight on the front of his body. "Would you like me to turn into a woman?" Shinji asked.
"Well," Tabris pointed out, "If you do that now, there's no way we'll be leaving on time."
He was right, Shinji knew: he'd want to experiment, see if it really was true that women could enjoy sex. Mari and Hikari definitely seemed to, and he was sure that Tabris could show him how. Shinji blushed.
He really had become a pervert: thinking of this shouldn't be making him want. No, they really wouldn't be leaving on time if they did this. "You're right," Shinji agreed. "Maybe tomorrow?" Unless Tabris had something else planned for them.
"We'll just have you put on a stuffed bodice," Hikari said, fishing one out of the appropriate box. This was where they stored all the costumes as well as the other clothing that wasn't currently being used. "Let's get you laced into the corset first. It's a good thing one of the other housekeepers wrote out directions. Noble ladies' clothing is really just ridiculous. Oh," she realized. "I'll have to show you where everything like that is." For when Shinji needed it, once he was head of the household after Hikari and Touji became demons.
It took Hikari and Tabris combined to manage the corset, and then more and more bits and pieces were put on Shinji, something like forty, and he found himself thinking with despair of how long it would take to get all of it off.
Tabris hadn't even started getting dressed, and the thought of how much clothing would be on the two of them combined, separating them from each other? How long it would take to get all of it off both of them? A date suddenly felt much less appealing.
Especially once Tabris started brushing his hair and helping Hikari put it up. He loved those hands on his head, in his hair.
They were able to talk freely in the coach, since the driver was one of Tabris', but eventually they reached the opera house and had to dismount. Shinji tucked his arm into Tabris', or rather Kaworu's, and let him lead. He really didn't know how to make the skirts or anything work, so it was a good thing that some people thought it was cute and feminine to be a bit clumsy.
He really wasn't used to admiring glances, even though he told himself that almost all of them had to be for Tabris, even the men. Why would anyone pay attention to someone as plain as Shinji when he was standing next to someone so radiant?
There was champagne sent to the private box not long after they settled in to the padded seats lined with velvet. Shinji grimaced at the taste. He hadn't liked the taste of beer, the few sips the boys managed to get, but Tabris' wine was addictive, and champagne was supposed to be a good kind of wine, right?
Maybe what he liked about it was Tabris' blood.
"Would you like me to?" Tabris asked, glancing at Shinji's glass, and Shinji nodded. The curtains of their box were still drawn, since the performance hadn't started, so Tabris could let a bit of blood flow into Shinji's glass, then snap his fingers so the liquid became clear again.
Shinji sipped, and oh, yes, that was much better. The wave of warmth sent ripples down his spine, and he felt instantly tipsy. Not tired, or fuzzy, just like the world had the edges taken off, and it was impossible to be self-conscious. When the curtains were drawn, he sat back and leaned against Tabris' shoulder, even though that was certainly inappropriate to do in public and people would think whoever he was had been raised badly, but it wasn't as though he wanted to participate in Society.
"I want to bury my face in your neck, and breathe in the scent of you," he heard in his head, and even though he knew that was Tabris' voice, he still jumped a bit.
The devil looked at him and smiled, so Shinji sat back down, hoping not that many people had been looking at them. "Master Tabris?"
"Kaworu out here, or Mister Nagisa, if you must," he heard. "The two children: they're Israfel."
"Like Ramiel?" Shinji asked, seeing the white-haired boy and girl, but he'd watched and whichever host Ramiel wasn't possessing had black hair. Only the fallen angel's current body had white hair.
"Israfel has two selves. Cecelia is often unaware that she is Israfel." Shinji turned to look at Kaworu, and saw the doting smile. At least it seemed more parental than anything else? "I'm her kind cousin Kaworu – this identity is a little too young to be an uncle. I've been two generations of Kaworu Nagisa now, although the older one is supposedly still alive. It's the father that has the title. I would appear older in public," since this Kaworu looked no older than fifteen, "but then I would seem to be robbing the cradle, as common as that is."
Tabris was ancient, and Shinji wasn't that old, but the most wrong thing about their relationship was that they were both men, so the age difference barely registered by comparison. Oh, and Shinji was letting a devil have his way with him. That was also much more inappropriate than a noble taking a young wife.
Shinji finally registered the music. "Is it safe? For demons to sing a hymn?" They weren't going to get hurt would they? What about Tabris, sitting here listening to it?
"I'm very fond of it," Tabris responded, glancing at him with a reassuring smile. "Kisses, and wine," he murmured, touching his champagne flute to Shinji's in lieu of a kiss. "Seek him beyond the starry heavens." That made him smirk behind his champagne flute, but he didn't explain the joke.
He also didn't point out to Shinji the woman who was staring at them through her opera glasses, not even bothering to hide her scrutiny. Tabris himself had told her that he could feel it when someone was watching him.
Tabris could do without being glared at, but it was good to see that Misato Katsuragi was doing well. So Kaji had managed to find out about the trip and alert her in time? No wonder the man's continued existence annoyed Leliel so much.
After the performance, they were led backstage, where Cecelia ran up to fling herself on Cousin Kaworu while Makoto followed more sedately, glaring at Shinji. Even pint-sized fallen angels were intimidating to someone who knew what they were.
"And thank you for coming!" Cecelia said, suddenly in front of Shinji and curtseying. "If you hadn't asked to come, I'm sure Cousin Kaworu wouldn't have come, and we love singing for him, don't we, Makoto?"
Makoto nodded, still glaring.
"Shinji plays the cello: when you next come visit my estate, both of us can accompany you," Kaworu told her.
"Really?" she said, clapping her hands with delight.
"Does she have to?" Makoto said.
"Makoto!" Cecelia said, aghast. Tabris gave him a scolding look.
"That's our time with him," Makoto said, still frowning. "You get to spend almost all day with him, don't you? He's our family."
Makoto was jealous, Shinji realized. Jealous of him? Another fallen angel thought that Shinji was special to Tabris? He should have been worried, or apologetic, but instead as he looked down at his skirts he just felt happy.
Cecelia and Makoto are from Campus Apocalypse, the two halves of the angel Israfel. Since they didn't want to destroy human souls, they possessed hosts in the womb, before they got souls of their own. They're still adorable little kids that sing at the professional level, so Tabris isn't the only angel who is fond of human music in that continuity. Cecelia gets a crush on Shinji after he helps her save the cat she's feeding (which is actually Gaghiel, not that either of them are aware of this). Makoto is both worried and ticked off at Shinji because of this, since Cecelia doesn't remember that Shinji is one of the people trying to hunt her down.
I don't think Tabris ever finds out that another of his siblings, or well, half of another of his siblings, also likes Shinji. If only that manga was longer...