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Disclaimer: The Vorkosigan universe does not belong to me. I'm just borrowing the characters for my and (I hope) my readers' amusement only and have no intention of trying to make money off of them in any way, shape or form.

Warnings: None
Fandom: Vorkosigan
Rating: G

Author: The RCK
Last updated: 6 November 2009

Written for tigerkat24 for Fandom Stocking 2009. Thanks to my beta readers. I've been sufficiently remiss in dealing with this fic that I've lost track of who beta'd it, apart from Ceara. My deepest thanks to Ceara and everyone else.


Cordelia, Vicereine of Sergyar, stared at her husband. "What?" Usually, she managed not to let him know that he'd caught her completely off guard. Except when it's fun to be surprised. In this case, though-- "I thought we decided--" Thirty years ago. "--that that was...unwise." She still felt the echo of the pain of that decision, but she'd never doubted that it had been the right one. We chose the child we had.

Aral looked out the window. Cordelia doubted he was even seeing the flowers blooming beside the garden paths below. "Circumstances have changed considerably."

Cordelia knew him well enough to read the full meaning in that sentence. Miles has found his place. No one would try to replace him as Lord Vorkosigan now. He's even married and should soon produce healthy heirs. Gregor is married with a child almost here. Mark.... I doubt Aral's even thinking of Mark in this. Mark doesn't affect the politics. She sighed and crossed the room to lean against Aral's back, putting an arm around him. "You've surprised me, love." She inhaled, letting herself spend a moment thinking of nothing but the smell of him. Then she slipped herself under his arm so that she was in front of him, resting her head against his shoulder.

"I know you regretted the necessity."

His body felt stiff against hers. "Two is enough." I wanted more, but.... Miles and Mark-- and Gregor-- are riches. Wanting more is greedy. Why now? Do you want more children? Do I? If I'm honest.... "I'm not sure we could keep up."

"We have help. We could have more help." Aral wrapped his arm around her. "And this isn't Barrayar."

Ah. Addressing my other objection. "Not entirely," she said, "but it isn't not Barrayaran." Was that too tangled? He'll understand. "And you keep talking about me, about what I want. What do you want?" I thought grandchildren would be enough.

His arm tightened around her. "I've given you so little for thirty years of love. I didn't realize how little I had until I offered it to you. Barrayar is beautiful to me but broken."

She considered that. "Not broken. More like a strong sapling growing but strangled by weeds and struggling in the shade of older trees." The simile pleased her. Much more Barrayaran than Betan. For you, my love. "Adversity shapes worlds as much as people. I don't always like the shape of Barrayar, but it all makes sense when I see the context."

He laughed a little, making her wonder if she'd gotten the words wrong. "My Captain." He kissed her hair. "I thought Barrayar was a gift I could give to you, that you'd share my love for my world. I was wrong. You were my gift to Barrayar."

She felt tightness in her jaw and dampness in her eyes. Is that what this is about?

"Barrayar hasn't noticed the gift, Captain. I'm sorry for that."

"Don't be," she whispered, not wanting to address her other thoughts. She cleared her throat and tried for a normal tone. "Not being noticed let me do so much more." She managed something like a laugh. I don't think I can give more of myself to Barrayar. What I gave wasn't for the planet. It was for you and Miles and Alys and Gregor and Drou and-- Personal loyalties lead true. She resisted the urge to bury her face in his chest.

He sighed and didn't say anything further.

After a while, Cordelia reminded him of their dinner meeting with the department heads of the waste management team. She laughed and remarked that it was pleasant to deal with things that mattered instead of worrying about protocol and alliances.

The original topic didn't come up again until they were in bed that night. Cordelia thought it was past time to give him an honest answer. "If you genuinely want more children, want to be a father again and take joy in it, that's one thing. If you want to give me something to do're gone, whenever that may happen, or to tie me to Barrayar through more--" Beloved. "--obligations, then the answer is no. Will always be no." If I'm going to raise children without you, I can do it as well on Beta Colony or Escobar. Better as they won't be tied to the Vor.

He raised her hand and kissed it. "The...less admirable reasons aren't-- I considered them." He met her eyes and smiled. "I'm not that much a fool. Not after all these years. I wouldn't use children to trap you."

Not without my consent. She gave him a smile to let him know that it was all right. "I trust you." She traced a finger over his lips then pinched his nose. "One daughter. If we can handle one, I'll consider a second." We're more tired than you think, love, but I think you will take joy in watching a baby grow. We'll talk to the doctors, arrange for a replicator. She laughed as another thought occurred to her.

Aral looked at her in puzzlement.

"Miles is going to be appalled!"

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