George Cooper made his way through the student section of Corus, shoving past throngs of loud and jubilant university students. He could see them packing in to local inns and taverns, eager to celebrate the end of exam period. George had just gotten out of a very informational meeting in the lower city and was heading back to the palace when he recalled that exam week had passed. His oldest son, Thom, was one of those very university students. Knowing Thom, however, he would be hidden away in his room studying for next year's exams, rather than celebrating. Mayhap I'll stop by and attempt to coax him out for a congratulatory dinner, George thought. It'll do him good to take a night off.
George loved his son dearly, but as Thom grew older George found it harder and harder to understand him. When George was a young man he was busy making a name for himself in the court of the Rogue. In between daring thefts and schemes there were parties and wild gatherings, where George and his friends were always in the thick of any carrying on. By contrast, Thom was a shy, quiet boy, who struggled to meet people outside of his family. He much preferred to hide away behind a book than to talk to anyone his own age. George knew his very sweet, sensitive son was going to find life extremely difficult to navigate without loyal friends by his side.
It wasn't just Thom's demeanor that George couldn't relate to. Although George's mother worked very hard to teach him his numbers and letters, growing up in the poorest part of the lower city meant George had access to very little formal education for much of his childhood. When buying food was considered a luxury, the idea of owning books was beyond fantasy. That, coupled with a lack of the magical Gift that his wife and son wielded, meant that George had no idea what to talk to his son about, on the rare occasions Thom left his books behind to return home.
When he was just a wee lad he thought his Da knew everything, George thought ruefully. Now my boy is all grown up and studying complex magical theory. George's greatest fear was that Thom would end up lonely, isolated, and too withdrawn to express this to anyone. When during midwinter break Thom had hesitantly asked if his parents would be willing to help him pay for a room off-campus with a few boys from his program, George had eagerly agreed. He had hoped that living with other students would open up more social opportunities for Thom. However, every time George inquired about his son's new roommates Thom would just shrug and offer non-committal answers as he reached for his newest case study, leaving George to conclude that Thom's friendship situation had not changed.
Which is why, upon finally reaching his son's door, George was so surprised to find the interior a scene of drunken revelry. The place was full of students, in various stages of intoxication, laughing and dancing to the sound of fiddle emanating from somewhere in the back. Closer to the door a very pretty young woman with pinned blonde hair was talking to a tall, gawky redheaded companion. She was red in the face and gesticulating wildly with a mug, the contents of which sloshed to the floor. Whatever she was saying must have been amusing, for her companion, was laughing and clutching his own tankard. He turned, still chuckling and saw George. Immediately the color drained from Thom's face and his eyes went wide with shock. He stumbled to the door, tugging his father outside away from melee.
"Da! I-uh-this isn't- I don't ever- I know the room is a big responsibility, I just- I, I," Thom spluttered out as George shushed him, placing a big hand on his son's shoulder.
"Son, your mother and I are very, very proud of you. We know how hard you work, and we're pleased that you've made some friends," George's voice was grave as he looked intently at his son. Thom's face reddened in embarrassment, and George couldn't help but smile at how like his mother Thom looked when he was flustered.
George squeezed Thom's shoulder, then let go to dig in his breeches pocket. He withdrew a handful of coins, which he handed to his son with a wink. "Here, use this to buy another barrel of ale. The secret to a good party is to never let them get dry early."
Thom hesitated, looking at the coins he held uncertainly. George felt his heart squeeze, and he reached out to cup his son's cheek. For a long moment he only looked at his boy-or rather, his newly grown man. While George could still plainly see the bashful, reticent Thom in his mind's eye, the Thom in front of him had the beginnings of an aura of confidence and self-assurance about him. George smiled.
"Have fun tonight. Don't get any ale from Zorba's, they overcharge."
A timid smile spread across Thom's face, "Thanks Da. I uh, I better get back inside, I think Rose is waiting for me.' George clapped Thom on the back as he turned towards the party. When Thom opened the front door again his features were bathed in light, and George heard a raspy female voice shriek, "There you are!" before the door shut again, swallowing Thom and leaving the street dark and quiet once more. George felt a brief pang of disappointment at the lost opportunity to visit with his son, but it quickly dissipated as a broad grin settled over his features.
So my son decides to celebrate an accomplishment by throwing a raging party, where he gets drunk and flirts with the prettiest girl in the room? I guess he's more like me than I thought. George turned and headed back to the palace, feeling a large weight melt off his shoulders.