Disclaimer: Maybe if I write enough fanfiction…
Author's Note: This story harks back to "Contracts" and "KakuRenBo." Originally, it was going to be much longer, and much more epic than this… But as time has gone by, this has been the only scene I still find myself interested in writing. Maybe someday I'll return to this idea and compose a full-length one-shot, but for now, this is enough. Besides, it was never meant to be a prequel so much as a side-story… just another random part of what I've decided to call the "Hide and Seek Saga." And it can still be that without being a full-length piece. In any case, I hope you enjoy this, even though it's not nearly as grand as its predecessors. XD;
Warnings: Spoilers for "Contracts" and "KakuRenBo," I suppose. (Rather, it won't make much sense if you haven't read one or the other or both.)
L'Homme aux gants blancs
(The Man with White Gloves)
"Do you believe in demons?"
The words hang heavily in the honeysuckle air, startling both the speaker and her companion. Frivolous conversations about fashion and the Season hardly seem decent segway into theological discussions; even still, Rachel refuses to retract her question, and instead watches Ann's auburn eyes as they widen behind the rim of her Wedgewood teacup.
"Demons?" the redhead echoes, her initial shock melting into poorly veiled amusement. "As much as any scientist does, I suppose. As much as I believe in God, or angels, or shinigami." She tinkles a pretty laugh, setting her china cup upon its floral saucer with a cheery chink. "Really, big sister. What a silly—"
But the young woman silences herself with a startled breath, blinking swiftly as her gaze finds Rachel's. Those endless sapphire eyes seem strangely clouded; with a jolt of sudden discomfort, Angelina notices the ringing bags of sagging violet that bruise the hallow expanse of her sister's upper cheeks. The navy-purple streaks clash violently with the young woman's already porcelain skin, making it seem even paler— almost translucent in the golden gleam of summer sunlight. The sheltering shade beneath her lily-white parasol does nothing to help, either; if anything, the gray shadows make her seem all the smaller, all the frailer, all the more ethereal.
"Rachel…?" Ann whispers, frowning faintly in concern. "Is something the matter?"
Rachel does not respond. She hardly moves—she has yet to touch her tea or cake. Instead, her cerulean stare darts distractedly sideways, following the exuberant path that her toddler is carving through the blossoming garden. Oblivious to all but the rows of fragrant lilacs, the child is racing back and fore, back and fore, playing a cheerful game of tag with a stray cat. He is too young yet to understand the concept of allergies, and simply looks confused whenever he reaches his midnight-colored prize, only to sneeze so mightily that he propels himself onto his rear. For its part, the cat— unusually patient for a creature of the feline persuasion— weaves then waits, weaves then waits, as the babe waddles along in its wake. Ruby-bright eyes watch the child's meandering progress unblinkingly, even as its long tail flicks with amusement.
"He just looks so much like him," Rachel mutters distantly, her gloved fingers tightening around the ivory handle of her laced sunshade. "Like 'that man.' Like Vincent. I didn't believe him at first, but… But then I realized: my husband only ever wears black gloves."
"Big sister, you're making very little sense." Ann's brow knits in concern; she leans across the luxurious spread of cucumber sandwiches and fruit tarts to touch her elder sibling's arm. "Are we speaking of Ciel's features? Because of course Ciel would looks like Vincent; Vincent is his father. It's only natural. And as for the color of your husband's gloves, that hardly seems a matter to work yourself up about." The straining fingers land, gentle and soft. "Are you feeling quite well?"
Rachel starts, stiffens, whirls around— yanked from her musings by both her own subconscious fears and the unexpected warmth of Angelina's hand. The abrupt shifting alarms them both; in that instant, they turn away from the exploits of the child. Also in that instant, little Ciel squeals in eager alarm. Instinctively, both women whip towards the sound—
One blanches, the other blushes.
"Well, speak of the devil!" the delighted Ann beams, straightening in her cushioned wicker seat as her cheeks flush to match her hair. "Look who it is! Vincent, my dear brother-in-law, what are you doing out of your stuffy office?"
The tall young man responds with a lighthearted chuckle, an acknowledging bow; he takes the opportunity to lift the happily chirruping Ciel into his arms as he straightens. "Hello, Lady Ann," he then verbalizes, always smiling, and choosing to ignore the way his son merrily yanks at his ascot and lapels. "Hello, sweet Rachel. I hope you don't mind that I've interrupted your tea party. The weather was simply too nice to stay indoors…"
He winks once—swift, charming—before turning his attentions to the cooing child in his embrace. They rub playful noses, and bounce in place, and Ciel grabs hold of his father's raven forelocks, refusing to let go.
"Kitty!" the small boy squeals as he does so, gurgled giggles puncturing each childish declaration. "Kitty!"
"You don't say?" his grinning father returns, laughing pleasantly as he presses a lingering kiss to the round of his son's forehead. His hold shifts; against the pale blue of the toddler's ribbon-encrusted blazer, white gloves glow like twin beacons.
Rachel watches this display of innocent affection without saying a word.
The cat has vanished.
"…speak of the devil," she murmurs to herself, and says nothing more.