"No! Absolutely not!" Alan bellowed, his voice ringing off the stone corridor.

"What? You can't stop me," Aly said patiently.

"You're not invited so you're not coming. Go find something else to do," Alan snarled back.

In the family sitting room down the hall George sighed deeply, and Alanna shot him a look.

"We mustn't step in," she reminded her husband for the hundredth time, "They need to sort these things out on their own."

George scowled, but he knew his wife was right. His twins needed to learn how to navigate their complex relationship on their own, without outsiders controlling it. Gods willing, they would be around long after he and Alanna were gone, and it wouldn't do to make their relationship dependent on Mother and Father. He just hated listening to them bicker about the same trivial frustrations night after night.

"What're you going to do? Lock me in my room?" Aly's near non-existent temper was finally beginning to surface, and her tone tok a turn for the vicious.

"Get your own friends! Quit bothering me and my friends! You don't even come to have fun, all you do is flirt with them, it's pathetic," Alan shouted.

Crooked God, now we're off to the races, George thought. He glanced sideways at Alanna. She was still determinedly reading, just as before, but he could see her lips were pressed together so tightly they were turning white. Good, just as long as I'm not suffering alone.

"Really? REALLY ALAN?" Aly shrieked, "Unlike you, who has NEVER attempted to make up to my friends? You just write Marcaynne poetry for the fun of it, hmm?"

They both began to yell at the same time. George could no longer follow the spat, as it was now just a cacophony of accusations and bitter resentment. He massaged his temple, and saw to his satisfaction that his wife had shut her book, and was now drumming her fingers on the cover tensely, her eyes on the doorway.

Finally the screaming ended, although George was unclear who was the victor, if either of them were. He heard feet, one pair stomping away from them and one pair coming this way. A door down the hall slammed violently just as Alan flung himself into the room. He flopped into an armchair near his mother.

"I hate being a twin, I hate it! I get nothing for myself, I have to share everything with someone I don't even like! I don't even get my own birthday!" Alan's voice was raw and petulant.

"You get nothing you say?" George growled, but Alanna shook her head at him. She was right, now was probably not the time to remind Alan of the thousands of people going without in the lower city, although he made a mental note that his children were overdue for his much reviled lecture on their privilege.

"I just want my own life. Everyone else gets one of their own. Is that too much to ask?" Alan crossed his arms over his chest defensively, but he looked more tired than angry.

"Well then make one," Alanna replied simply, picking her book back up again. Both Alan and George turned to look at her in surprise.

"What?" asked Alan.

"Make a life of your own, " Alanna said, closing her book with a snap. "Do something different, and you won't have to fight for the same space anymore." She shrugged, then stood and walked out. Alan stared after her, his jaw open in awe.

Three Months Later

"This is it," George said quietly to his son as they stared around Alan's new home for the next four years. "Your Ma is just in with the training master, she'll be back soon and then it'll be dinner. I s'pose we ought to leave you to get ready so you can be on time with the other boys."

Alan nodded slowly, "Thanks for helping me put all my things away."

George smiled broadly at his youngest child, "That's what your Da is for."

Alan tried to flash his father a smile, but the effect was ruining by his pale anxious face and wide terrified eyes.

George clapped him on the shoulder, and said in a soft tone, "If you need anything, anything at all you know you can always go to your grandparents. Or write us, we'll be coming and going from Corus, we'll be seeing you again soon."

"I know," Alan rolled his eyes a little, as though being loved was a terrible burden to bear, and George chuckled.

"Well alright then, I'll leave you to it.," George said. He shook Alan's hand, resisting the urge to crush his son to him in a massive hug like he would when Alan was a child, and walked out.

Alan turned slowly in his new room, getting used to the surroundings. A sudden wave of loneliness washed over him, and his throat felt tight. Alan realized he had never been this on his own before. A smile began to grow across his face.

I'm finally on my own.