This was how I wound up assigning daemons to the GetBackers characters. It is also how I came up with this, earlier this evening, and it would not leave my head or let me sleep until I wrote it down. So. Yeah.
Set in the Vorkosigan saga universe, but will make more sense to Hetalia fans, because that's where the concept comes from and it's a pretty damn weird concept. But cool.
She was introduced to Barrayar a little after her husband became its regent. His regent. The idea was a little foreign to Cordelia, but she wwas somehow sure it wasn't a joke; he took her hand and looked her in the eyes, and she knew. He was tall, dark, and he had very tired eyes; he held one arm stiffly at his side as if favoring a healing wound. He looked at her suspiciously, then, and muttered something about having to trust Aral's judgement.
It wasn't for Barrayar's sake that she'd come to Barrayar. But she did not release his hand; she answered, "He has served you well. I hope that I will come to equal his devotion."
That day, Barrayar had turned away, expression stern, mistrusting. But the day after the fall of the Pretendership, when she let him out of the most ancient of the dungeons, he fell to his knees and kissed her hand, and whispered, "My lady, your empire will not forget this service."
He takes an interest in Gregor's schooling, of course. ImpSec is never quite sure what to make of him, but he seems to be immune to them. He comes as goes where he will, and often when poor, shy Gregor has slipped away from her Cordelia will find him sitting with Barraryar in the gardens - the garden Ezar designed, most often, laid out in clean circles, every plant there green. They are Earth-origin plants, of course - immigrants in their own way, like every human and every foot of black soil.
Barrayar has a gentle and deep voice, and she has never seen him without his sword and plasma arc. Gregor listens to him with the same solemn attention he gives to Cordelia and Aral. He does not seem comforted afterwards, but he will throw himself at his studies with fresh determination.
"Be careful with him," she says to Barrayar once, in the brief span of time under a veranda after she's sent Gregor back inside to wash his hands before dinner. "He's - he's a very good boy. He doesn't deserve pain."
Barrayar's eyes are as unreadable as ever. "He is my Emperor," he says, "and I will serve him."
He says nothing about care. He says nothing about caring for Gregor the boy, although Cordelia cannot imagine that he does not care, from their peaceful conversations. She wonders if the two concepts are seperable in his mind.
Miles has never met him, and Cordelia thinks that's just as well, frankly. Mutant prejudice still runs strong. Miles loves the idea of Barrayar so intensely, believes with such terrifying earnestness in all the good things that him Empire can be, that coming face to face with the reality would be nothing but pain. Miles has had pain enough, and Cordelia knows the importance of pain as something to overcome, but she's his mother. She wants him safe and happy. She'll settle for happy.
But somehow it's no suprise at all, one warm afernoon, when she hears Ivan's raised voice in the library nook and looks in to find him and Barrayar sitting together, Ivan's hands waving in some animated discussion.
She contemplates a quick retreat, but Ivan grins. "Oh, hello," he says, and gestures her into their circle. "Come on, sit down, I bet you'll like this."
"Ah - you two know each other?" She brushes her hair back from her temple and wonders how to introduce Barrayar, how to explain him. He's noble, obviously. In fact he bears more than a faint resemblance to Gregor. But what name -
Her internal debate is settled as Ivan says, "Yeah, Barrayar explained everything. He's been telling me about some of the weird stuff they did for Academy graduation in the old days. There was one time a Count Vorkosigan sent this big barrel of maple mead to the party, and one of the cooks opened up the top for some stupid reason, and he actually fell in and drowned. Can you believe that?" He laughs, and Barrayar looks pleased.
Ivan's graduation party wasn't that lively, thankfully, although it was a lot less decorous that his mother would have liked. Cordelia smiles, pulls up a chair, an listens to their stories.
Ivan eventually has to rush off to a date, and Cordelia finds herself holding Barrayar's hand, looking after him with a feeling of faint nostalgia. "I always feel like I should apologize for Ivan," she says.
Barrayar's hand tightens around hers. "Don't. We need men like him."
"Reckless, irresponsible, and careless with their words?" Her lips twist around a fond smirk. Ivan is a fine young man, when he can be bothered, and when his damn cultural programming doesn't get in the way. But it gets in the way so often, and he has so much growing up left to do.
Barrayar answers, "Brave and living."
There's no hope of Cordelia getting in a quiet word with Gregor after the wedding, of course. This is an Event, and his every minute is accounted for. She'll have to hope that she's given him enough advice to tide him over. She loves him as well as she does Miles, because he is, after a fashion, her son. And for all that he's spent most of his life wrapped up in a quiet misery, Laisa makes him smile. It seems strange, to let go and trust.
Aral is around somewhere, talking to someone, no doubt dealing with some dreadfully important matter that she'll have to drag him away from by pretending she's exhausted. Which is not much pretense, at this point; midnight has come and gone and she's lost count of how many people she danced with. The Palace corridoors are quiet. Most of the clean-up crew are in the gardens, already moving tables and folding up tents and sweeping away the few groats that somehow escaped being taken for souvenirs. It's blue and quiet, except for the faint yellow glows of the wall sconces.
Cordelia pauses to look down a side passage toward a little side door out to the grounds, and sees Gregor and - a woman who is not Laisa. She could almost be, but she is taller, her hair even in this half-light is the wrong shade, and her body is just a little too streamlined. Cordelia almost hisses. The woman who is not Laisa is wrapped in Gregor's arms, her head resting on his shoulder -
No. That's not Gregor. Cordelia lets out a breath. Barrayar. It's Barrayar. They look so much alike, now.
She stills, trying to think of a route, but they finish their embrace, join hands and walk toward her, and Cordelia can admit to herself that she's curious. She steps into the glow of the nearest sconce.
Barrayar smiles in the dark. The woman looks at her thoughtfully. "Cordelia Vorkosigan," she says; it isn't a question. "Cordelia Naismith Vorkosigan."
"Yes." The woman is dressed in Komarran trousers and vest, elegant and formal. "I don't think we've met."
"Not in person. But we have met. Komarr." She offers a hand, galactic-style, and Cordelia takes it. Komarr's hand is smooth and cool.
Behind her Barrayar smiles again, pleased and proud; his hand is resting on her hip, and she reachs back and sets her own over it, gently, almost possesively. It's no suprise, when Cordelia considers the matter. Integration was always Gregor's goal, and he can be very persuasive. When better than now? There have been stranger marriages. Just remember that she has her own mind, she thinks, although she does not, cannot, say it aloud. Respect her. Care for her. You'll do fine, love. You'll do just fine.
The girl just turns up in the back garden, the one still filled with native plants arranged on Ekaterin's orders. She could be eight or ten. She looks like Gregor. Cordelia pinches the bridge of her nose and takes the girl inside to give her orange juice, then calls Aral.
When he comes home Aral goes down on one knee, to look the girl in the eye, and takes her hands. "Do you know who you are?" he asks.
"I'm Sergyar!" She sounds very happy about it. She has a Dendarii accent, which somehow is no suprise at all.
"Sergyar. I'm Aral Vorkosigan. I'm your Viceroy, and Cordelia is your Vicerine. That means we're supposed to look after you and help you grow up strong." There's the hint of a smile around his eyes, between the wrinkles. He's taking this well, but then, he grew up knowing Barrayar.
Cordelia rests her hand on Sergyar's shoulder. "You're a colony of the Barrayan Empire," she says. "That means Barrayar has to look after you too. It's Barrayar who sent us here. Will you stay with us for a while?"
"Yep!" Sergyar bounces in her chair. "I like you. So I'll stay with you until I grow up. Where does Barrayar live? Is he a planet like me? Can I meet him?" Her eyes are big and hopeful. Cordelia finds herself thinking, well, as empires go, you could do worse.
They let Barrayar and Komarr know by courier, but Aral says he doesn't think it will come as a suprise.
Well. It's going to be fine. Cordelia always did want a daughter.