A long time ago (in a galaxy far, far away) isolabella had started a little story about the moment Scarlett and Rhett decide on Bonnie's name. That story lay untouched and unfinished for five long years until your dear ol' Bugsie here convinced (read: cajoled, begged and threatened) iso to pick it up again before taking her leave of the fandom for good. In turn, Bugsie offered to co-write the story. So, here it is, the result of our collaboration and, we hope, a nice Valentine's Day treat for all of you. Enjoy!
Scarlett looked down at her thickening waistline in disgust and irritation. Having a baby ruined everything! Only last week she had made her final leave of the mills to begin her confinement and today she could not be more miserable. Foolishly, she had thought that she might find some measure of relief in these first days of confinement, for as she had grown more obviously pregnant in the last weeks, working with Ashley had been mortification itself. She had been painfully aware of her blossoming state around him, had felt—obscurely, but keenly—that carrying another man's child was betraying her beloved Ashley. She could not let him see the growing evidence of that betrayal, would not, above all, let him watch her lose her charms and grow more bloated and ugly with each passing day. And so she had been glad to retire to the confines of her mansion—where she now found herself so bored and miserable.
It really was most unfair that this happened to women. And to have this happen just now, when things were finally going so well in her life, when she had enough money to do as she pleased, a lavish house to entertain in, people who admired her and never tired of attending her parties. To trade all of that for boredom and discomfort just because God had made it women's lot in life to bear babies? No, she would mend the matter. She would at least have a party—yes, something to cheer her up and make her forget these distressing circumstances. She colored a bit, imagining what Ellen would think of her daughter entertaining guests in her state of advancing pregnancy, but then discarded the thought. After all, just because a lady was confined to her own home surely that did not mean she could not entertain in it. There was nothing wrong in that. Yes, she would invite over all her new friends—all except Mamie Bart, of course, for Rhett had refused to budge on that matter—and all would be well.
And for several weeks it was. Life resumed its pleasantly diverting rhythm and she found herself again the gracious hostess bestowing favors on a circle of fawning, glittering followers. But then attendance to her whist parties and teas began to drop—slowly at first, and then precipitously, as the ladies in her set, one after another, regrettably informed Scarlett they were otherwise engaged and would have to miss her delightful functions. They were all too lately come to ladyhood, too anxious to display their newfound elegance, and when one of them began to suspect that such invitations from an obviously pregnant hostess were only extended to be graciously refused, they all followed suit, eager to show themselves paragons of subtlety and refinement. Scarlett, who knew she was approaching the moment her condition would truly be too advanced for her to receive, could do nothing about it. But she was once again miserable.
One night, shortly after her new friends' desertion, she had retired to her bedroom in her gloomiest mood, only to be met with an unexpected surprise laid out on the seat of her vanity—a new ermine-trimmed wrapper of gold and ivory brocade, complete with matching slippers that somehow miraculously fit her swollen feet. Rhett had made no comment on her new attire when he later emerged from the dressing room, but over the next few days more and more items began to silently appear for her. Charming wrappers festooned with satin ribbons and cascading embroidery, light day dresses that cunningly concealed her growing heft behind ripples of flouncing lace, and stylish yet cozy slippers all lined with the softest fur imaginable. Rhett had shrugged when asked about it and said he thought she of all people would appreciate her cage more for being gilded. But despite his flippancy, she could not help but be pleased by his thoughtful gifts. And before long her misery slowly started to recede, for it was so nice to feel pretty and stylish again!
About this same time, she also started to notice a change in her husband. He spent less time out with his Scallawag and Carpetbagger friends and they no longer frequented the house—even though it was permissible for him to receive guests for cigars and whisky in the masculine safety of his study, as most men did during their wives' confinements. She could dimly sense that he had done this out of solidarity with her and she was silently grateful. He was home more often for dinner as well and regularly took her on long walks about their wide yard, regaling her with coarse stories that made her laugh despite herself, before ordering trays made up so they could lunch in the gazebo or on the porch. And in the evenings, when the table was cleared after supper, they now had coffee and cards to entertain them, instead of the customary brandy that Rhett had, quite unreasonably, declared off-limits for a woman in her condition. When she'd frowned at him in annoyance, he had had the gall to assure her that he would bow to Dr. Meade's advice on the matter, as soon as she secured it. As if her nightcaps were something she could discuss with that old goat!
And so they had come to play cards almost every night. As they lacked the numbers for whist, Rhett had attempted to teach her poker. It had lasted for a markedly brief time, before she flung down her cards in frustration.
"Oh it's impossible to win against you! You're too good of a bluffer!"
"And you, my dear, are all too easy to read," he smiled cryptically, as he cleared out the table again. "We are, I'm afraid, rather tragically mismatched."
And from that point on, they confined their card playing to parlor games.
But, all in all, this arrangement made for many warmly pleasant nights between them and it was where Scarlett now found herself pondering a matter more pressing than cards. For, as the weeks passed and her condition advanced, the impending arrival of the child had become more and more tangible to her. She had started ordering things for the new baby: finery, cradles, bassinets, a baby carriage—everything that money could buy. In this Rhett had encouraged her lavish spending without a barb, had indeed presented her himself with catalogues from the finest toy manufacturers in New York (how he knew these things she could never guess) and overseen her orders. Slowly, from between delicate infant caps of the finest lace and little silver toys that rattled merrily and shone, the reality of the new baby had started to take form—and there were still many things that had to be decided before its arrival.
"Rhett," she said suddenly one evening, as he was shuffling the cards, "we need to talk about names."
"Names? Quite a fruitless topic," he drawled, deliberately misunderstanding her intent. "For, indeed, 'What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.'"
"Oh, hush up talking nonsense. We need to—"
"It's not nonsense, my unlettered darling. I find the Elizabethan gentleman to be both accurate and eloquent. One name is as good as any other. After all, I would no doubt still find you devilishly charming if your name wasn't Scarlett but something else…like Pansy, for instance."
"Pansy!" she cried, disgusted.
"Yes, why not? I've been told Pansy is a very Irish name. Who knows, Scarlett? Any one of your Irish peasant kin could have been named Pansy O'Hara."
"Pansy O'Hara! Why, I've never heard such a silly name in all my life!"
Her temper, always short these days, was about to ignite at his vexing taunts. But before she could draw breath and continue her assault against the offending name, she caught Rhett's eyes. They were warm and bright with boyish laughter and, before them, her anger faded as quickly as it came.
"Oh, Rhett, you're impossible!" She laughed before continuing, flirtatiously. "Besides, honey, it would be Pansy Butler now."
"Indeed it would," he replied, voice suddenly rich and silky. "I much prefer your surname being Butler—and all that it confers."
A hot blush colored her cheeks, before her eyebrows slanted into a frown.
"Hmmph," she replied with a careless toss of her head. "Right now the only thing it confers, Rhett, is that I am going to have a baby—and we need to decide on a name for it."
"Yes," he remarked idly, "most babies seem to have names. I imagine ours should be no different."
"Oh, do be serious!"
"I am serious. Like you, I believe that our baby should have a name. So let us bestow one. Surely you have some thoughts on the subject, Scarlett. Enlighten me."
He spoke in the manner of his softly drawled barbs, but strangely his tone carried none of the malice that so frequently drew her to open wrath. And under the odd expectant light in his eyes, she plunged forward with her thoughts.
"Well… for a girl I don't want any name that's fussy or old-fashioned—nothing like Sarah or Mary." Scarlett wrinkled her nose in contempt, before continuing excitedly. "Oh, it just has to be something impressive! A special name—a name fit for a queen!"
"Ah, a queen's name, my sweet? Then you are in luck. There are several queens in existence these days. Eugenie, for instance. Or Victoria. There's also—"
"Oh! Eugenie and Victoria! Eugenie Victoria!" she pronounced, with sudden satisfaction. She turned happy green eyes on him. "Oh Rhett! Wouldn't that just be lovely? Oh, how grand that sounds!"
"Eugenie Victoria," her husband mused with a wry smile, setting the pack of cards on the table. "It is a surprisingly tasteful choice, my pet. Looking at our surroundings, I was sure our offspring would be called Sapphire or Garnet or… Crimson."
"Crimson Butler?" Scarlett huffed. "That is absurd."
"I thought it rather unadvisable myself, considering the names of her parents. But I confess to being pleasantly shocked by your selection, my dear. For I happen to like it and, moreover, it is a name good enough for a Butler."
His wife rolled her eyes. "I thought you said one name is as good as any other."
"Ah, but I lied, my dear Pansy." He grinned and continued before she could reply. "Then we are agreed on Eugenie Victoria?"
"Yes, I suppose we are," replied Scarlett, a little curtly, for she was still annoyed by Rhett's new name for her.
"Well, then this was a most effortless process and now our child has a name."
Scarlett looked at him in bewilderment.
"But we need to pick out a name for a boy too!" She laughed. "Unless you plan on calling your son Eugenie Victoria."
"I don't plan on calling him anything. Boys are useless creatures. I won't have a boy, Scarlett."
"Oh, and I suppose you get to decide that?" she replied tartly.
"Perhaps I do." He shrugged lazily, smiling in her direction.
"Don't be a fool, Rhett. That's not something anyone gets to decide."
"Oh indeed? Who settles these matters then?" he asked, his dark eyes dancing. Scarlett, who had never given the indelicate matter any thought before, reddened under his frank question. She had the uneasy sense that he was somehow making fun of her and her ignorance. Why did he always insist on talking about things no decent person should ever talk about? She moved to silence him with a decorous reply.
"Why—God, I suppose." She offered her answer with as much prim piety as she could muster, drawing the robes of feminine modesty and superiority about her.
Rhett laughed and his mouth curved with a sardonic twist.
"Ah, yes, but I've had a very long discussion with the Lord—and He in His celestial wisdom agrees that I won't have a boy."
"Oh you're impossible!" Scarlett cried, her dignified poise lost. "Fine then, if you want to be so difficult—I'll just settle on a name myself and you'll have to live with it, Rhett Butler!"
"I can't imagine I will have to live with it, as there won't be a boy to name. But regardless, my dear. I shall indulge you. Select a name. I am waiting breathlessly."
Scarlett bit her lip, momentarily silenced. In truth, she was not sure what she would name a boy. It had been easy with Wade Hampton, for naming boys after their fathers' commanding officers had been the fashion at the time, and besides Charles had already laid out his plans for their future children in the foolishly ardent letters he'd sent her before he died. His firstborn, he hoped, would be named after the colonel he worshipped, and Scarlett, who had no interest in the matter herself, had acquiesced. But if she offered to name Rhett's firstborn after his commanding officer, he would roar with laughter, she knew. He'd always claimed his eight months in the army were the one truly embarrassing episode in his checkered past. And she was not entirely sure what Rhett's commanding officer's name was, anyway. She racked her brain for another choice—before the obvious one presented itself.
"Why," she said triumphantly, "I would name him after you, of course."
Men always liked that—she should have thought of it right from the start. Ellen herself had named her doomed little boys, all dead before their first birthday, after their father. And the only time Scarlett had ever contemplated with any degree of interest the idea of having a son, she had imagined she would name him after his father. Of course, in her dreams that name had been George Ashley Wilkes Jr. (and how utterly foolish of Melanie not to name Beau that!), but it hardly signified now.
"How dynastic of you, my pet," Rhett drawled, raising a dark eyebrow. "But I am afraid you are forgetting something." He smiled slightly at her frown of confusion. "My name, sweet. What is it?"
Scarlett opened her mouth, then closed it again, recognizing the trap she had unwittingly walked into. For she realized now that she did not know her husband's middle name. Even on their marriage certificate, she could only remember seeing the initial. Perhaps it had been written out on the marriage license, but she could not recall. Well, there was nothing to do about it now, she thought with an inward sigh. She would have to ask him, though he would of course mock her for it. He was already watching her with a look of perverse amusement on his face.
"You don't know your own husband's name," he said in feigned outrage, before she had time to talk. "I am crushed."
"Oh, Rhett, don't be unpleasant," she pouted. "If you would just tell me what it is—"
"Certainly. But a shrewd businesswoman like yourself would surely not expect me to give anything away without expecting something in return. As indeed I won't." He touched a finger to his lips, as if pondering his options. "So… tell me, darling—what year were you born?"
His dark eyes were dancing devilishly as he watched her. Scarlett pursed her lips primly before deigning to reply. "I've told you before, Rhett. Ladies do not disclose their age."
He shook his head and chuckled. "And so you have. But, my darling, since I won't tell the truth for nothing and coquetry prevents you from paying my price, it seems we are stuck. You will have to find another moniker for our hypothetical son. Though," he shrugged negligently, "as I've said before, I wouldn't bother."
Scarlett narrowed her eyes in annoyance at him. He really was impossible to manage when he was in this taunting mood. She almost wished she hadn't started this conversation. But it was too late now—she could not back down now and let him have the last word. She would find a name for a baby boy and it would be just perfect. She just needed more time and for Rhett to stop watching her with that unbearable smirk on his face.
"Well, won't you deal those cards already?" she said crossly.
Rhett nodded with a knowing smile, but complied and for a while they played in silence—the rustle of the cards and the distant ticking of the grand clock in the hallway the only sounds to be heard in the room. Scarlett tapped her finger against her lips thoughtfully as they traded cards. She was losing badly, which on any other night would have irked her; but now her focus was only partially on the game, her mind still dwelling on the pesky matter of baby names. And then the idea finally came to her, simple and clear as the light of day.
"I think we should call him Gerald—after Pa," she announced, sitting straight in her chair, as if the conversation had never been interrupted.
"An appropriate choice," her husband said in a neutral voice and she could not whether he was pleased or not.
"Of course, he will need a middle name as well," she mused, biting his lip. They could pick a name from Rhett's side of the family. That would be only fair. But was there anyone he liked in his family? Not his father, surely. She knew enough about him to know that. Not his brother, either, for Rhett always jeered on the rare occasions when he mentioned him.
"Rhett, what was your grandfather called?"
His hand stilled on his cards. "My grandfather?"
"Yes, the pirate one. Remember when we were driving to the mills when I was—before Ella was born, and you told me about him?"
"I remember," he said simply.
"Well," his wife raised her eyebrows expectantly, "what was his name then?"
"James. James Butler," he said and there was a curious light in his dark eyes as he looked at her, but Scarlett was too busy testing the new name on her tongue to notice.
"Gerald James… No… James Gerald! That is better. But we will have to call him by his middle name," she said decisively.
"Of course," he inclined his head.
"You did like your grandfather, didn't you?" she asked, suddenly a little unsure in face of his silence.
"I did." He smiled at her a little lopsidedly. "Then again I always had a liking for renegades. But you, my dear, enchant and surprise me as ever. I had not expected you to destine our son to a life of cutthroat villainy from the cradle."
"Oh, you—" Scarlett cried in exasperation.
Rhett quickly extended his hand across the table and caught hers. "Shh… It is a good choice, Scarlett—and a thoughtful one." He rubbed his thumb across the back of her hand, gently; his voice suddenly low and stripped of its usual mockery. "I am in your debt."
He was watching her with something of that strange waiting look she'd caught on his face before, but his eyes were warm enough that Scarlett found herself flushing prettily under their scrutiny. She could faintly feel an air of expectation cloaking them now—as if—as if he wanted something from her—but what it was eluded her. Her eyes fell in confusion to where he caressed her hand. His thumb was slightly rough and the feel of it rubbing against her soft skin was not unpleasant. It sent shivers up her arm. She leaned slightly towards him, drawn in by his gaze and his touch, yet still unsure of what he expected her to do or say.
"So," she said softly in the end, clearing her throat to steady her voice. "We have decided on the names now. One less thing to bother about."
Whatever he had been waiting for, it had not arrived, for he withdrew his hand after a moment and sat back in his chair. His face was once again his own—bland and slightly amused, his eyebrows raised over dark, ironic eyes.
"We have, indeed," he said, picking up the cards he had negligently let fall face-up on the table. "Care for another round, my dear? You might still wipe me out tonight after all."