A/N: My other SFF challenge fic at TDD. This one meets the word limit. ^_^ I rather like it, too.

Disclaimer: Not mine, and this isn't for profit.  

Ill-timed Epiphany

By Seereth

George was impressed with Jon's restraint during the first few months of Alanna's retreat into the desert. Impressed, that is, until he learned that Jon was planning on asking Alanna what was it many ways the question where Tortall's welfare was concerned.

Upon the heels of that realization came two others. The first: he knew Alanna better than Jon, her knight master, did. It was amusing, but given the position soon to be offered her not very. George didn't consider himself particularly cynical, but he doubted Lianne had enough willpower to bend Alanna and her temper into something more fitting a queen.

The second…the second was that George didn't want Jon to marry. Not just not marry Alanna, he didn't want Jon to get married at all.

It was interesting, to say the least. That he knew that Alanna would refuse only solved half of the problem. Pleased as he was that it left Alanna free, parts of him were even more pleased that it left Jon free…

Bright Mithros, he thought, I'm turning into a court flirt. I'm as bad…I'm as bad as –

There was no need to finish that thought, he decided.

*

"Leaving so soon?" said George dryly. "You won't get away with such a short goodbye as that, Jon. Come up, we'll have some of the good wine."

Jon, who had counted on that sort of invitation, grinned for what was probably the first time all week. "And the good cheese? And the good bread?"

"Don't push your luck, lad," said George, though he did have those things waiting upstairs, along with cold meat and the best honey cakes in the city. "Come up," he repeated, and the both went rapidly and carelessly up the stairs.

"I knew I could count on you," Jon said, seeing the spread of food awaiting them. He flopped unceremoniously in the chair next to George, removing his coat. "Mother had them make something ridiculous – fig stuffed peacocks in rose petal sauce and poached peaches cooked in saffron oil maybe. I don't know where she comes up with these ideas."

"You nobles just get madder and madder every year, don't you?" George grinned at him, pouring some wine in the waiting glasses. "To over bred insanity," he proposed, to hear Jon laugh. The prince did, and George was pleased that he'd managed to genuinely amuse him. "Leaving tomorrow morning then?" he asked, raising his eyebrows. "However did you manage to slip away?"

Jon snickered. "They think I've slipped away to break it off with some lower class lover…" George was glad he wasn't facing the mirror - the sight of his losing battle with laughter would probably set him off.

"It was Gary's idea, wasn't it?" he asked, grinning crookedly.

Jon nodded, prompting George to wonder if Gary had picked up in something he'd rather no one had. "You think my probable future Prime Minister would have more tact," Jon said around a mouthful of honey cake.

"Not if it's Gary, you wouldn't," George told him. "Apple?"

The prince nodded, George – partly to see if he could get away with it – held one out. Jon managed to thwart his plans, their fingers never touched. I will not throw myself shameless at the man who is going to propose to the woman I love. Even if it might distract him.

George mentally raised an eyebrow. Now there's a thought.

"Where will you be while I'm off securing the fate of my country?" Jon asked, rather tactlessly. "Staying in Corus?"

George shrugged. "I might have to go to Port Cain. There's a possible…situation."

Jon tilted his head. "A situation?"

"I could tell you," drawled George, "but then I'd have to kill you. You might let something slip to the Provost."

Jon looked both sulky and annoyed, like a child who has been told he cannot sty up at his parents' parties. George hadn't been serious, not entirely, but the prince didn't seem to have picked up on it. "I would let something slip George," he said plaintively. "You know that."

George sipped his wine. "I was joking, Jon."

That seemed to settle his nerves, he grinned a little at George, who toasted him flippantly with the scanty remains of what was in his wine glass.

It took a moment of quiet for him to realize that Jon had rested his feet – bare, as he had removed his boots along with his coat – very lightly, very causally, against George's. He pretended not to notice, and Jon genuinely didn't notice that George had.

"Are you going to wish me luck?" he asked slyly.

George made a mental note never to give Jon alcohol ever again. "I may have to wish Tortall luck," he said, perhaps unwisely.

No, definitely unwisely. Though whether it was the "may" or the remark in its entirety, George wasn't certain.

Jon was staring at him intently, unnervingly. Jon – as evidenced by his most recent decision – had never been very perceptive when it came to where Alanna's relationships with other people. George thought it exhibited spectacularly bad timing on Jon's part to begin at this point.

"You're jealous," said the prince, smiling harshly.

No point in lying. "Yes."

"Of me…or her?"

That question was certainly unexpected, though typical of Jon, and George started. The answer was, of course, both, but he wasn't sure he wanted to say it. He looked out the window instead.

"Of me or her?"

George opened his mouth, blinked rapidly, and shut it. Then he tried answering again. "Of you both."

"You should have said something sooner," Jon said quietly.

"Why?" he asked.

He didn't receive an answer immediately. Jon leaned over, looking directly into George's eyes. He ran one tentative finger of George's face, frowning very slightly now, though he retained the eye contact. The prince leaned in further, dragging his chair with him though George barely registered the sound. Their faces were maybe a half-inch apart, but that barrier of air was eliminated quickly as they both leaned in. The kiss was abrupt and slightly clumsy. The second was nothing of the sort.

"Your timing is damned inconvenient," said Jon. "Where's the bed?"

George had to agree, it was an ill-timed epiphany.