Author's Note: This is for Ekaterin, as she was at the end of Komarr. No real spoilers for anything, but includes all the books, up to and including the 5 chapter spoiler of Diplomatic Immunity on Baen's web site (mainly for the full names of the two oldest kids, here shortened to use names). Set about 25 years after A Civil Campaign.
Disclaimer: The big passage in italics is a direct quote from Komarr, and all but the Crown Prince and the 3 youngest Vorkosigan children are Bujold's, who I will love forever for finally getting another book out!
The first thing Ekaterin felt as she swam back from unconsciousness were the hands wrapped so very tightly around one of hers. Hot on its heels came the realization that some things were more important than blood circulation.
"Miles?" she whispered, peering concernedly through the twilight at the face she knew so well. "Are you all right?"
"Am I all right?" Miles choked, pressing her hand to his lips. "You're the one that jumped in front of assassin's plasma fire, and you're asking if I'm all right?"
"But I had to." Her voice had all the conviction of a mother protecting someone else's child, even though that 'child' was 20 years old and the Crown Prince of Barryar. "How is Navi, by the way?"
"Angry, concerned, and more than a little guilty that his foster-aunt had to take fire for him. As soon as this mess is all cleared, love, you'll no doubt have him in your back pocket for the next little while." The memory forcing running itself once more through his mind, Miles's face twisted. "Do not ever do that to me again, woman. I'm the damned fool who's supposed to play hero."
She smiled slightly, despite the dull, burning pain she could still feel in her stomach. "Actually, it's oddly relaxing being on this side of things for a change. Those chairs are damned uncomfortable to sleep in."
"I wouldn't know. None of us have been doing much sleeping. Alex and Talia are with Gregor and Navi, alternately beating on the attempted assassins and the palace guard. Sasha and Simon are assisting Allegre, Nikki, Mark and Kareen have been contacted and should be here in a few days, and I finally persuaded Mother to take Marie home for the night, under serious protest from them both. I, needless to say, have been here."
He looked it. Pale and drawn, with dark circles leaving bruises under his eyes, Miles looked like he hadn't slept in months. Eyes closed against his pain, she pulled him close. "I'm sorry, love," she whispered against the top of his head.
His arms tightened fiercely around her, grasping for life, and Ekaterin could feel the traces of tears on her shoulder. "I have absolutely no idea what I'd do if I lost you, Ekaterin. Please don't ever make me find out."
"Never. As long as you promise me the same thing."
"I'll surely try." He chuckled slightly. "Everyone has already promised you anything you ask for if you just hang around. I seem to be rather impossible to deal with without you."
She smiled. "That is not a surprise." Then they just held each other.
Memory stole over Ekaterin then, a flash of life now almost 26 years old, of watching a similar embrace from a much greater distance. Her aunt and uncle, holding each other on her aunt's bed in the infirmary after they'd been released from the Komarran terrorists. The way she'd felt, watching them.
Ekaterin reflected with bleak envy on the nature of a marriage that its principles could regard as prematurely threatened after a mere forty-plus years. *Not for me. I've lost that option.* ... Whatever personal qualities it took to achieve this happy state, it was abundantly clear that she did not possess them. So be it.
Oh, how things would change. Blessedly so.
"Even after 25 years," she said softly. "I would have felt cheated having to leave you."
His voice was still rough. "A hundred years will still not be enough for me."
Suddenly, a shadow appeared in the doorway. "Count Vorkosigan, the Emperor apologizes, but he requires your presence immediately." As they both turned, still unwilling to let go of each other, the Impsec man blinked in pleased surprise. "Countess, you're awake."
With that, the footsteps that could be heard down the hallway started to run faster, ending as two breathless, black-haired teenagers burst through the doorway. "Mom, you're awake!"
Ekaterin beckoned them closer as Miles kissed his wife's cheek. "Sasha, Simon, it's your turn to come yell at your mother. Be quick about it, though - I'll be sending Alex and Talia down right after, and you know they can yell louder than you can." He disengaged himself reluctantly. "I'll be back soon, I promise."
She squoze his hand, fingers slipping away only as she was enveloped in a Vorkosigan group hug, promised to only be the first of many.
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© 2002 by Jenniffer Wardell (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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Last updated: May 6th 2002