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"Do you trust me?"
Gregor couldn't help but jerk, almost imperceptibly at the question. Ivan calling him on this channel was rare. Very rare. The last time had been concerning Dono, but to start with a question like this…. this heralded serious trouble. Of Milesian proportions most likely. Dammit.
"Do you trust me as Ivan? Do you trust me as your Cousin? Do you trust me as Lord Vorpatril?"
He couldn't read Ivan well at this moment; he was obviously trying to project stone. However, to someone who held him as a baby, determination, despair and urgency came across relatively clear. He inhaled deeply and said "Yes."
He did. His closest family he could trust - Vorkosigans and Vorpatrils. He had learned that lesson as bitterly and harshly as all the other most important lessons. Letting himself doubt them would lead to depression, fear, paranoia and, lastly, madness. He knew how that story went. In several gory versions.
Besides, the Vorkosigans would be merciful enough to ensure that he died quickly, never knowing of their soul-destroying betrayal… Stop!
He concentrated on Ivan again. Who had apparently taken a deep breath of his own and continued, "I need to request something from the Emperor and I need it granted. I need your word as Vorbarra that you will grant it."
All the air was expelled from his lungs as if he had taken a well-executed hit in the plexus. What!
"My word as Vorpatril that I do not mean harm to the Empire. My word as Vorpatril that I do not mean harm to the Imperial family. My word as Vorpatril that I will not abuse privileges granted. Do I have your Word?"
Sire or even Count was missing from that sentence; this was still a question for Gregor. Well, he knew this day might come and he was ready for it.
And Gregor looked at his cousin, practically his younger brother who had sacrificed so much and given even more and intoned, "My word as Vorbarra that I will grant your next request to the Emperor of Barrayar on the condition that it is in His power and that it doesn't imperil His Empire." Please…
Gratefulness shone briefly in Ivan's eyes and he choked a bit. On words or emotions, unclear, but Gregor couldn't help staring worriedly at him. What is going on? He's supposed to be at that routine shebang on Komarr. Please don't let there be problems with that planet again. For how long will….
"Sire…." a tremor passed through Ivan and then, breathing deeply, he stood even straighter and looked Emperor squarely in the eyes.
"Sire, as a descendant of Emperor Dorca Vorbarra the Just, by right of blood and law, I request that I be granted the title of an Imperial Prince with all the duties and privileges that title entails. Effective immediately."
Gregor mentally scrapped his list of ten biggest surprise of his life (Miles featured there predominately) and put THIS into the No. 1 spot.
His Imperial Cousin bowed deeply. '"You honour me, Sire. I'll do the Barrayaran Empire justice or... die trying." He rose from the bow with a dry, self-depreciating smile and confusion met… affection.
"Thank you," Ivan whispered and terminated the connection.
Gregor pulled off his seal and entered this new development into the system. It would be noticed and spread before the day had ended. He turned around and looked at his guest who still languished at the untouched luncheon table. Miles's eyes glowed feverishly.