*WARNING* This fic contains spoilers for thoses who haven't read Test Tubes, Dragon Spawns, and Demi Gods. It is recommended that you read that fic FIRST before reading this fic.
Disclaimer: I don't own Gundam Wing or the characters, they all belong to other people *sniff*. Don't sue me, okay? Elizabeth Noventa is own by Orla, Fablespinner & Ashura.
Title: A Short Tale of Two Cousins
Author: Lady Orla
The howl ripped across the room, effectively silencing the giggling, chattering five-year-old girls and causing Sylvia to turn off the music. She stood up and approached the little circle, her eyes falling on the screamer.
Elizabeth's grey eyes were dark with rage and her small fists clenched. She glared furiously at the small girl next to her who was cowering back, clutching the prize she had just won to her chest.
"Elizabeth," Sylvia pitched her tones low and smiled sweetly at her little cousin. "What's the problem?"
"She's got MY prize!" Elizabeth accused. "It's not fair! It's MY birthday! I WANT IT!!"
Sylvia winced inwardly and silently chided her uncle for spoiling Elizabeth so, but she kept her outward expression sweet and calm. "Elizabeth, this is a game and Lucy won this turn perhaps you'll be next."
"I haven't won ANYthing!" Elizabeth shrilled, thumping her heels against the floor. "It's MY birthday!" She repeated. "I should get the presents! Not anybody else!"
The other girls all fidgeted uncomfortably, and little Lucy looked ready to cry. Sylvia resisted the urge to shake her cousin and tried a new tactic. "I don't think you're being very gracious, Elizabeth." She said severely. "After all, a _lady_ is always calm and generous with her guests."
There was a short pause as Elizabeth digested this. Sylvia prayed that the little girl's desire to be her father's `little lady' would cancel out her greed. Pouting slightly, Elizabeth looked at Lucy who smiled nervously.
"Fine." The grey eyes snapped with childish fury. "She can keep it."
Well, grudging agreement was better than none at all. Sylvia stepped out of the circle and beamed at the children. "Okay, shall we keep going?" She asked cheerily.
There was a quick nod of assent from all and, as Sylvia started the music, the game of pass the parcel continued. Sylvia wasn't supposed to be watching, but she angled herself so that she could see their reflections in the bedroom mirror so she could keep an eye out for any further trouble.
Trouble was not long in brewing. Elizabeth's expression darkened more and more as the game progressed. The other girls continued to be the ones to unwrap a layer of the parcel and get a prize, and soon Elizabeth was the only one with an empty lap. Sylvia bit her lip, despite her determination not to cater to her spoiled cousin it looked as if she would have to cheat and let Elizabeth get something.
The music stopped and the parcel was in Elizabeth's hands. The little girl beamed, the smile transforming her face into an angelic expression, and she ripped the paper off with eager enthusiasm. Sylvia sighed in relief. Sometimes you had to cheat a little, if only to preserve harmony.
Elizabeth looked at the prize as it rolled into her hand and she scowled. It was only a tube of sweets, a paltry offering compared to the pretty beads and little tiaras that the other girls had. With a shriek of rage she threw the tube across the room, narrowly missing Sylvia who whirled around in exasperation.
"Why you spoiled little " Sylvia hissed as her patience deserted her. Elizabeth just glared, undaunted by Sylvia's anger.
"I don't want stupid sweets!" She cried getting up and stomping her feet. "I want pretty things!"
Sylvia drew in a deep breath and wondered why she had ever agreed to look after Elizabeth's birthday party so things were not worth the pain. Controlling her urge to pick the little girl up and shake her until her teeth rattled, Sylvia prepared to wade into the fray once more.
Elizabeth giggled and posed in front of the mirror, admiring her reflection. On her head was a glittery silver tiara and several shiny loops of colourful beads hung around her neck. Rings decorated her fingers and there were sparkling stickers on her pink shoes and rhinestones stuck to the skirt of her pink dress.
"I look like a princess!" She crowed, spinning around.
"A very tacky princess." Sylvia muttered from the couch where she had collapsed in an exhausted and depressed heap. Her second attempt to reason with Elizabeth had been a failure as all the other little girls folded under Elizabeth's demands and gave the birthday girl all their prizes. Sylvia tried to stop them, but Elizabeth's tantrum rapidly became louder and she even pinched her guests, so Sylvia gave up and just let things happen. Now, she was stretched out on the couch, trying to work up the energy to at least say something reprimanding to her cousin.
Elizabeth walked over to Sylvia and regarded her with a triumphant little smile. "I had a great party, cousin Syllie," she said sweetly. "Thank you!" She kissed the astonished Sylvia's cheek. "My Mama would be so happy with you!"
Sylvia stared at her, hardly believing that such a low blow was coming from the mouth of a child. Elizabeth's mother had died before her daughter was out of diapers, and consequently Sylvia was frequently reminded that she had to be kind to the little girl, as kind as people were to Sylvia when her parents were killed in the car accident eight years ago. So Sylvia did her best not to get angry with Elizabeth, constantly reminding herself that it wasn't Elizabeth's fault that her father spoilt her out of grief, and that Elizabeth was without her mother's guidance. However, sometimes Sylvia wondered if much would have changed if Eleanor hadn't died so earlier she remembered Elizabeth's mother as a very cold person, arrogant and selfish, and most definitely not the most maternal person around.
Sitting up, Sylvia regarded Elizabeth coolly. "Well, I don't think your dear Mama would be very impressed with your behaviour today." She said sternly. Although you seem to have picked up enough of Eleanor's faults that she'd probably praise you! She added silently, staring into Elizabeth's grey eyes.
Elizabeth tossed her hair. "Papa says I deserve the best and should get what I want." She smirked and Sylvia sighed.
"My uncle is a fool " She muttered. How could someone as charming as her father's little brother be so blind when it came to his child? Didn't he realise that by spoiling Elizabeth he was only going to turn her into a selfish woman?
"Where's my little lady?"
Speak of the devil Sylvia sat up as her uncle's voice rang out from the hallway. Elizabeth squealed with delight and ran out to meet him. She dashed down the stairs and launched herself into her father's open arms, the beads around her neck jingling and the tiara falling from her head.
Sylvia watched as her handsome uncle Anthony hugged his daughter and questioned her about her party. "I'm sorry I wasn't here, sweetheart," he kissed Elizabeth's cheek. "Do you forgive your bad Papa?"
"Yes as long as you've bought me a BIG present!" Elizabeth giggled and Sylvia frowned as Anthony showed Elizabeth a huge parcel topped with a massive bow. However, her frown vanished when she noticed the man behind Uncle Anthony. "Grandfather!" She cried and raced down the stairs.
Marshal Noventa beamed at his eldest grand-daughter and hugged her. "Did everything go well?" He asked.
"As well as can be expected at a party full of five-year-olds." Sylvia demurred, not wanting to distress her grandfather by revealing what a brat Elizabeth was.
"Grandpa!" Elizabeth switched her attention from her present and tugged on the old man's coat. "Did you bring me a present?" She asked, smiling angelically up at him.
Marshal Noventa stroked the child's head. "I certainly did, Elizabeth." He opened a little box, revealing a diamond bracelet, and handed it to her. "Just the thing for a grown-up lady like yourself."
Sylvia watched the two men fuss over the little girl and marvelled at Elizabeth's skill. Only five-years-old but already adept at convincing people that she was a miniature angel. Very few people had the dubious honour of seeing Elizabeth's true nature and Sylvia was sure that no one would believe her if she tried to tell them what a brat her cousin was.
One day, little cousin, you will be found out and you will learn a very hard, nasty lesson Sylvia sighed, I only pray that it's not one that ruins your life.
Tears slid slowly down Sylvia Noventa's cheeks as she walked away from the cell. She brushed them away with her fingers, astonished that she had tears left to cry.
"Grandfather " She whispered. "What do I do? I need your counsel badly "
There was a faint screaming from down the hall and Sylvia shuddered as she recognised her cousin's voice. Elizabeth was initially very calm during the visit, vacant eyed and smiling at Sylvia without recognition, but towards the end she had started to moan and shriek. The medics hustled Sylvia away, despite her protests, but they couldn't prevent her from hearing Elizabeth's mad cries and pain struck Sylvia's heart.
"Poor little cousin, I was so angry with your actions, but I am also to blame," Sylvia bowed her head. "I should have tried to undo the damage, to warn you that this path would only lead you to sorrow, but instead I hid away from the conflict and refused to touch it." She shook her head. "I accused Heero Yuy of being a coward once, but I am not much better because I didn't possess the courage to check you."
Alerted by the use of his name, the man beside her turned slightly. "You shouldn't blame yourself." His voice was low-pitched and meant for her ears alone. "Elizabeth failed herself, there was little that you could have done for her."
Sylvia sighed. "You're right, Heero, but for all her faults she is part of my family and I should have said something " She looked back. "I only hope that somewhere in her mind she knows that there is still one person who cares about her."
Heero Yuy bowed his head. "For your peace of mind, Sylvia, I hope so." And with that he led her away from the Mental Institution and Elizabeth Noventa's screams.