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Vorkosigan fic: "Discretion"

Fandom: Vorkosigan series
Challenge: lmb_challenge prompt: "secrets"
Pairing: Nicol/Bel
Rating: PG-13
Length: 810 words
Author's Notes: Thanks to gryphonrhi, my beta. Spoilers for 'Labyrinth' and the scenario of 'Diplomatic Immunity.'
Disclaimer: These characters belong to Lois McMaster Bujold. Go buy her books.

“Nicol? Are you asleep?” Bel said quietly, trying not to disturb her.

Nicol stretched her limbs in the sleep sack. “Not quite,” she said, twisting to see the chrono shining in the dark. “You’re awfully late. Trouble at Docks and Locks?”

“Well,” Bel hesitated, “the Barrayaran envoy arrived today.”

Barrayarans. Strutting around the grav areas in those green uniforms, glaring at quaddies like they were unquarantined disease-carriers, breaking poor Garnet 5’s arm and then using plasma arcs inside the station. They were maniacs, even by downsider standards.

There wasn’t a single woman with them, either. Nicol imagined the Barrayaran women huddling together on their home planet, banishing their dangerous men out past the atmosphere. It would certainly explain the way Barrayaran men acted when they reached civilized ports.

“And it turns out that I know the envoy,” Bel continued, sounding a bit apprehensive. Guilty, almost.

“Come on, snuggle up,” Nicol said absently, considering the possibilities as she listened to the soft rustling of Bel undressing in the dark. Had some former lover turned up all the way out here on Graf Station? She held her upper arms out to Bel and helped it into the sleepsack. “So, you know him?” she asked.

“We both do,” Bel said, twisting around to rest its head on Nicol’s shoulder. “Seems that Miles is operating under the identity of ‘Lord Auditor Vorkosigan’ these days. Mmmph!” it protested as Nicol’s lower hands clutched too tight.

Once upon a time, Nicol had craved excitement, romance, and danger. She had left home and set out across the space lanes, using her musical gift to pay her way from station to planet. She’d found more than she’d bargained for. Nicol had been imprisoned by an unethical contract, degenerate downsiders, and relentless gravity when she first met Bel.

Bel was beautiful, exotic, a true hero, and in love with Miles Naismith.

The violent combat that had left Nicol a shivering wreck made the little Admiral incandescent, like a prodigy after a triumphant opening performance. Watching that fierce light reflected in Bel’s eyes, Nicol assumed nothing could pry Bel away from the Admiral and the life he offered. So Nicol had come back home, where it was safe. Bel’s appearance in Quaddiespace years later had been an unexpected delight. If the Admiral was fool enough to toss Bell away, she wasn’t too proud to pick up the pieces.

“According to the cover story, we’ve never met Miles before,” Bel said, running a soothing hand down Nicol’s back. “I told him he could count on your discretion.”

And now, just when Bel was finally settling down, looking into the genetics work needed for children, he had to show up.

Sure, Admiral Naismith was the man who encouraged Bel to rescue her. He was also the man who’d gleefully started a three-House war on Jackson’s Whole and not even looked back to see how much damage he’d caused. Someone had put him in charge of those trigger-happy Barrayaran soldiers. And all Nicol had to fight back with was a sliver of truth. Should she keep the little man’s secret? Barter her silence for something of equal value? Or just see how much damage she could cause? What was that old Earth saying? Oh yes. ‘All’s fair in love and war.’

“Of course,” Nicol said, in a tone as pure as her dulcimer. “I wouldn’t want to get Miles in any trouble.”

Bel hugged her. “Great! I’ve invited Miles and his … ah, his wife, to join us for dinner tomorrow at Zapico’s.”

Nicol’s view of this visit from Miles spun wildly for a moment before reorienting itself on a new vector. “His wife? What’s she like?”

“Oh, she’s an attractive woman,” Bel answered. “Not as tall as I’d have guessed.”

Bel quivered with quiet laughter against her. Nicol had to smile at the memory of that astonishing gengineered female the Admiral had rescued from Ryoval’s.

“She’s very Barrayaran,” Bel said. “Serene – no.” Its fingers traced a pattern down Nicol’s spine. “Self-contained. Definite steel under the velvet, if you know what I mean. I think she’s been good for him.”

“Well in that case, I look forward to meeting her,” Nicol said honestly. She slid herself slowly, teasingly along Bel’s body until she could kiss the curve of its breast.

“Oh,” Bel breathed out on a pleased sigh. “Not sleepy?”

“Not any more,” Nicol purred, reaching for another bit of Bel’s anatomy that was expressing its interest. Their love-making was fast, and rather desperate. If Bel assumed she was feeling jealous, that was fine. But there was more to it.

Nicol knew, with something like the bone-deep awareness every quaddie has of Newton’s Laws, that with the little Admiral’s arrival, life on Graf Station was about to get very exciting indeed. She fell asleep holding on to Bel with all four hands, and hoped it would be enough.

Comments

( 19 comments — Leave a comment )
akamine_chan
May. 22nd, 2009 04:21 am (UTC)
Lovely, k. I think you did a wonderful job of capturing Bel and Nicol's voices, and I loved seeing Ekaterin through their eyes.

And poor Nicol. She has no idea how much excitement Miles is bringing this time...*g*
keerawa
May. 22nd, 2009 05:49 am (UTC)
I'm glad they seemed in character to you, Nicol and Bel are tough to pin down. Miles arrives like some ancient Trickster God, chaos in his wake. Thanks, aka!
akamine_chan
May. 22nd, 2009 05:51 am (UTC)
Which is why I always thought that Ivan was smarter than he seemed - he was the only one who consistently ran in the opposite direction when Miles shows up...*g*

Edited at 2009-05-22 05:52 am (UTC)
capplor
Aug. 7th, 2009 04:47 pm (UTC)
Ivan isn't stupid at all
He IS a conservative, though. He's been thoroughly indoctrinated into "The way things have always worked SHOULD work now," which is generally not the way things work around Miles.

What Miles is, more than he is intelligent (just can't get that 5-space math) is observant and imaginative. He always sees what's in front of him, and how it might be used to advantage.
keerawa
Aug. 7th, 2009 11:08 pm (UTC)
Re: Ivan isn't stupid at all
Good point. He's also a rather lazy fellow, and willing to color within the lines.

Miles, on teh other hand, is incapable of accepting limitations. He includes them in his calculations - but only as potential obstacles to be worked around as necessary.
philomytha
May. 22nd, 2009 06:06 am (UTC)
What a lovely scene! I never thought about what Nicol might make of Miles turning up in Bel's life again. I love Nicol's perspective on Barrayar, with all the women shipping their men off into space to get rid of them. You get her voice just right.
keerawa
May. 22nd, 2009 06:46 am (UTC)
Nicol was less than pleased. Gender-segregation is just so odd to the rest of the galaxy. Thank you, philomytha!
wombathouse
May. 22nd, 2009 07:28 pm (UTC)
excellent! Thank you!

I'd love to see one of Nicol's performance nights from her p.o.v.
keerawa
May. 23rd, 2009 02:16 am (UTC)
I'd love to see one of Nicol's performance nights from her p.o.v.
Interesting idea. She's intense about her music. Thank you for the feedback, wombathouse!
kdorian
May. 23rd, 2009 03:39 am (UTC)
Oh I like this! Your Nicol seems very true; I like her instant willingness to use her knowledge as a counter to trade to keep him from taking of with Bel.
keerawa
May. 23rd, 2009 03:59 am (UTC)
Thank you, kdorian! The assumption that Nicol would keep Miles' secret, that she didn't have an agenda of her own, just seemed insulting.
fawatson
May. 23rd, 2009 07:05 am (UTC)
Wonderful! I echo a comment made earlier: I like the altenative viewpoint about Barryaran women - shipping their men off-world so they can get some peace and quiet at home.
keerawa
May. 23rd, 2009 08:22 pm (UTC)
Barrayar has such a terrible Galactic rep, you can't blame Nicol for making certain assumptions! Thanks for the feedback, fawatson!
etrangere
Jul. 13th, 2009 01:03 pm (UTC)
hehe, it's so refreshing to have Nicol's PoV on Barrayar and Miles. Great imagery!
keerawa
Jul. 13th, 2009 02:53 pm (UTC)
Thank you, Anne-Elisa! Miles is an acquired taste - like bungee-jumping over Niagra Falls.
silveronthetree
Oct. 30th, 2009 04:40 pm (UTC)
This was lovely. I loved the insight into Nicol's feelings about Bel's relationship to Miles.
keerawa
Oct. 31st, 2009 12:47 am (UTC)
Nicol is terrified of Miles, and with good reason, I think. Thank you for the feedback, silveronthetree!
insatiable_nick
Jul. 16th, 2010 02:39 am (UTC)
I love the way Nicol's feelings change in this. She starts off afraid that Miles has returned to claim Bel as a lover - then completely turns around once she realises he's already safely paired-off :)

I find the quaddies fundamentally fascinating, and was glad that Diplomatic Immunity returned to their story. I'm sad that so little Vorkosigan fanfic features them, and glad that you remedied that. I also love fanfics that include science: Nicol knew, with something like the bone-deep awareness every quaddie has of Newton’s Laws. Mmmm!
keerawa
Jul. 16th, 2010 06:42 am (UTC)
Miles is a force of nature - I can certainly understand why Nicol would be worried! Thanks so much for mentioning the line about Newton's Laws! A narrtor's internal analogies and metaphors are so illustrative of their world-view. I had to work hard on stripping out ones that made sense to me, and replacing them with ones that would occur to a Quaddie living in null-gee in a space station: 'at quaddies like they were unquarantined disease-carriers', 'Nicol’s view of this visit from Miles spun wildly for a moment before reorienting itself on a new vector', etc. Thanks for the detailed feedback, nick!
( 19 comments — Leave a comment )