"So…Alan," Jonathan said quietly once Alanna had ambled a safe distance away. She had Thom awkwardly balanced on her hip, with one of his long legs curved over her very round belly, and was making her way towards Thayet. Roald and Kally were playing with their mother, and Jon smiled at the way Thom excitedly leaned out, reaching for his cousins.
"Yup," George replied in a resigned tone.
"I take it that one is Alanna's idea? Please tell me it's just a clever way to name the boy after his mother." Jonathan looked down at the remains of his brandy, then quickly downed it.
A servant ran up, holding a glass bottle on a tray. He silently refilled his king's glass, then turned to George. George waved the man off, and watched him retreat to a discrete distance before replying.
"No, she wants to name the lad after her father."
"Why?" Jonathan was more vehement than he had realized."That man was a father in name only. I have never, not once heard her tell of a single pleasant memory of him. In fact, he was so disinterested in her life she was able to run off and become a knight without him once checking in to see where she was!" Jonathan had worked himself up now, but he couldn't stop. "Honestly George, I didn't think much of it at the time, but can you imagine now not knowing where Thom was for five years? Never writing him, never visiting, never wondering or worrying?"
Further down the garden path he could see Thayet and Alanna laughing about something while the children picked flowers at their feet. The royal gardeners would be livid, but Jon didn't care. He wanted his children to feel like the palace was their home, to play in its gardens like other children might play in a yard. It was one of the few semblances of normalcy he could offer them.
George shook his head, "Of course not. Lord Alan was a care-for-naught who spent his children's lives quietly punishing them for being alive, until they were so twisted and defensive neither of them had any conception of love or friendship. I have no lost love for the man." He too watched the children, sipping slowly from his glass. The sun was just beginning to touch the horizon, lending the gardens a beautiful golden glow.
"Then why name your son after him? Tell Alanna you want to think about other options." Jon swirled his brandy agitatedly as he spoke.
"I considered that," George said slowly, "But I've come to conclude we're not naming our lad after Lord Alan, not really. Alanna wants to name him after the idea that she had a good father, who loved her." He shrugged, "She's not a real introspective lass, she doesn't spend time thinking about her childhood and what could have been different. She wants to name him Alan because it's what good daughters do, and she wants to carry on the Trebond line. I'm not naming my son after some wastrel lord, I'm naming him for a thought that makes my wife happy." George smiled at Jon. "That? That I'm more than willing to do."
Jon paused, taking a drink to cover his speechlessness. Not for the first time he marveled at the way George just got Alanna, taking what could have been a moment of contention and turning it into a profound declaration of love. He cared for Alanna deeply, but moments like this reminded him, yet again, that it was a good thing she had the sense to say no to him.
"Besides," George said after a moment, his eyes dancing wickedly, "I'll just tell everyone it's your idea, that he's named after her. That'll shake the conservatives up. Can't have them thinking we've settled down now, and it does them good to get their feathers ruffled."
Jon chortled, and with a clap on George's back they set off towards their wives. The scent of flowers filled the air, and the soft breeze made their petals dance. The men quietly sipped their drinks, with nothing but the soft hum of busy honeybees to interrupt the peace.