Petya Vorkosigan never intended to conduct a love affair with the Chief of Imperial Security. It was never in his plans at all. If anyone would have mentioned it to him, he would have stared at them in cool disbelief and then turned and walked away, because he has better things do with his time than indulge tasteless jokes.
It happens like this:
Illyan has just been promoted to being the head of Domestic Affairs. He is briefing Petya on a matter of grave importance to the Imperium, a threat which, thankfully, had been averted several hours previously. And then Petya kisses him.
This also happens, Petya would like to mention for the record, less than a month after he had arrived back home from Beta. You can hardly hold it against him, when he had just returned to Barrayar from a place where everyone expects you to wear your sexuality on your ears.
Illyan, to his utterly despicable, terribly Barrayaran, credit, shrugs and continues with the briefing and doesn't see fit to mention it. Petya wonders at the time if Illyan'd put it down in Petya's file, something like: Subject is sexually promiscuous, but at least is sexually promiscuous with discreet personnel.
Padma, when he finds out, sits Petya down and talks to him about jumpships, for which Petya is very thankful, and then mentions to him that Aral Vorkosigan had known all about Petya's preferences and hadn't cared or thought poorly of him for it, for which Petya is very unthankful.
Alys asks delicately about what Petya had been doing on Beta and if he had left a lover behind. Petya gapes like a fish and tells her that he'd been under surveillance by both Betan Security and Imperial Security. I didn't do anything with anyone! Which may have been the problem, come to think of it.
Illyan's cute and he's available and, in a moment of self-reflection that Petya kind of hates himself for, had been one of the last people to see Aral Vorkosigan alive and free and safe.
But Petya has been named the Emperor's legal guardian and he is in charge of the Emperor's household and the Emperor's education and everything the Emperor owns as Count Vorbarra, which includes a staggering amount of Vorbarr Sultana, which Petya shouldn't find as surprising as he actually does, and he also acts as Count's proxy in the Council of Counts, which complicates matters entirely because by custom, the Emperor only rarely votes, and so there's the whole problem of when and if the Vorkosigan heir is even allowed to cast a vote on behalf of Count Vorbarra. The Lord Regent is of the opinion that Petya shouldn't cast a vote at all and should only give the Emperor's Abstention to every matter.
Petya thinks that will last a year at most, six months at best. And then Gran'da will be demanding that he cast the Emperor's vote on some piece of legislation that would probably make Gregor fall asleep if you tried to explain it to him.
Petya does try to explain it to him. Petya tries to explain it all to him. He is not of the opinion that they should be sheltering Gregor at all from his government. Serg hadn't had any idea of service or responsibility or even self-restraint. Petya's in charge of making sure that Serg's son is a better excuse for a human being.
Gregor's not quite seven yet, so Petya is sure that that makes him a bad Betan. So it's a good thing his citizenship never came through. He'd hate to have to give it up for wanting to raise Gregor as a Barrayaran Emperor and not a Betan Democratist.
And then Simon goes and kisses him again on the night of the Emperor's Birthday, after Petya has gotten Gregor to bed and come down to the rest of the party. He's wearing his House uniform, but not with intent. Everyone had agreed -- everyone being Capital Gossip and also Padma's Irregulars, who are technically Alys's Irregulars, but Padma is their liaison to Imperial Service Headquarters and is the one officially responsible for their actions; if you called them Alys's Irregulars, you would then have to explain why someone who is not an oath-bound and liege-sworn officer had been permitted to organize a counter-intelligence militia and then keep them after the war was over -- that if the Lord Regent hadn't knelt in the tax ceremony, there'd be rumors of another coup within a day.
Sometimes Petya really hates the rampant Barrayaran militarism that can decide that if an old man doesn't kneel to a child and give him some gold, that the old man is about to overthrow the child and put his own damn self on the throne.
But, anyway, back to the kissing. Back to Simon in his red-and-blues and his charged nerve disruptor and his undeniably hard cock against Petya's thigh. Back to Simon telling him that he went off duty as newly-sworn Chief of ImpSec the moment the Lord Regent left the party, which was ten minutes after the Emperor did. Back to Simon suggesting they take themselves somewhere more private.
Which they do.
And, anyway, beyond all the nitty, gritty details of it all, which Petya is not getting into, because it's no one's business but his and Simon's and ImpSec's and the Lord Regent's and possibly, if you want to squint, the Ministry of Domestic Affairs's, the point is, he's not conducting a shameless, torrid love affair with Simon Illyan.
Except that it turns out he sort of is.
It's a violation of ten different kinds of regulations, because even though Petya isn't technically in the government, he's the Lord Guardian of the Imperial Household and also Count's Heir to the Vorkosigan's District, and so there's no question whatsoever that if Petya tries to take the throne, it's Simon's responsibility to kill him. Or, if killing him is not immediately required for the Emperor's safety, to arrest him and then let other people kill him. But as Chief of Imperial Security, Simon's first and foremost responsibility is to the Emperor's security. Having an affair with someone so closely involved with the Emperor is such a huge conflict of interest, that--
Well. It turns out, it's actually par for the course when it comes to typical Vorish misdeeds. There are so many other sins going on that people don't seem to actually care. The Lord Regent mutters that this is going to last about as long as the Lord Regent's life, until a new heir is required, so what the hell, let the boy have some fun, because if he's getting it from ImpSec, he's not getting it from some scandalous Vor town clown who'll use it to embarrass the government or try to topple the Prime Minister.
In other words, Petya has better taste in men than his father did.
Considering, though, that his father's taste in men ran to Ges Vorrutyer, having better taste than him isn't particularly hard.
And then it kind of becomes, in unapproved Betanish terminology, an on-going thing. An on-going thing that lasts years.
Because he has some sense of self-preservation, he tells the Lord Regent himself, going for bland and ImpSecish, and presenting it as a curious sort of trivial fact about himself. By the way, Gran'da, I seduced your Chief of Imperial Security and I'm keeping him. And on a similar note, the Hassadar hospital project is stalled again. The Lord Regent just stares at him, grumbles, and dismisses him.
Not telling the seven-year-old Emperor about it proves to have been a mistake. Happily, it's a mistake that percolates for a decade and only hits him over the head when Gregor is seventeen and has recently taken to requesting worrisome files from ImpSec and sitting up all night reading them. Files like Serg's and Negri's and Ges Vorrutyer's. Petya'd been almost happy when Gregor requested Petya's and Padma's, because at least it meant that Gregor wasn't going to be deliberately giving himself nightmares with them.
And then one day when Petya is reviewing a list from Alys of suitable ladies who wouldn't object to uterine replicators and never having sex with their husbands, Gregor asks him point-blank what the hell he thinks he was doing with Simon Illyan if not setting up for some kind of coup.
It happens more like this:
Petya is at his desk in his office in the Residence. Gregor opens the door and leans his head in. Then he says, "why didn't you tell me you were homosexual?"
Petya's mind goes blank and then he says, "didn't I?"
"No," Gregor says grimly and steps into the room.
"I thought I had," Petya says honestly, trying to remember. "But surely you've known?"
"No." Gregor looks at him like he's trying to figure out who this man is and what did he do with Gregor's foster-father. "I just found out. You didn't tell me about you, and you certainly didn't tell me about your allegiancing dalliance with My head of Imperial Security."
And it hits Petya over the head like news that his father has been arrested for treason.
"You think I was doing what?" he demands of his Emperor.
Gregor's sucking in his bottom lip like he used to when someone brought up Serg around him, and then he gesticulates wildly, as if that means anything at all other than the fact that he's panicked out of his mind. "You were seducing him to your side!"
"I was seducing him to my bed," Petya retorts, "if you must know, sire. And are there any other details that my liege-lord demands of me? If you were really going to accuse me of treason, Gregor, I would hope desperately that you would be sensible enough have a witness or two nearby who could do the arresting."
Gregor glares at him.
"And if you're having such concerns about my loyalty," Petya continues, "I do hope that you are voicing your suspicions to me first rather than me last. How long has this been going on, Gregor? How long have you been doubting me?"
"I don't doubt you!"
"You said I was sleeping with Simon in order to overthrow you!"
"Why else would you be?" Gregor demands. "He's--"
And that's when Petya starts laughing. Hard. Then he takes in a deep, harsh breath. "Gregor, Simon Illyan is a very attractive man, if one is into such things, which, I assure you, I am."
"But he's Illyan," Gregor says. "You yourself call him a silver-eyed bastard. I've heard you do that."
"He can be at times," Petya says. "A bastard in temperament only, he assured me the first time, but he didn't object to the name. Then again, we were in bed at the time. That may have influenced his reaction."
Gregor looks a bit sick at the idea. "You've having sex with Illyan?" he repeats weakly.
"Not anymore," Petya reassures him. "Alys suggested that I start putting myself out on the social circuit as being in search of a wife so it doesn't seem as sudden when my grandfather dies and I need to get married. Don't worry, everyone knows I can't get married until after your majority."
Gregor pretty much throws himself onto the couch in Petya's office, full of gangly limbs and pouting. This is just like the time he was trying to convince Petya to let him wear civvies instead of his House uniform to a Residence party. No, Petya had told him, you are the Emperor, not some town clown, and you will dress as such and as befitting your name. "That's your taste in men?" he asks. "People who can kill you in your sleep accidentally just on reflex if you poke them wrong?"
"I sleep with a weapon close at hand," Petya tells him. "I can't throw stones. And, ah, Gregor, let me make this perfectly clear to myself. Your objection is my taste in men, not that I have a taste in men?"
"You're the one who sent me to the Betan expat school," Gregor says. "If I held that opinion, you could demand Our money back."
Getting Gregor into that school had gone like this:
Lord Guardian Vorkosigan had requested an interview with the dean of the school, with the understanding that it is easier to turn down a foster-father requesting information about the potential admittance of his foster-son than it is to deny an actual application with the name Gregor Vorbarra on it. One has a paper trail that may need to be defended to the board or other interested parties. The other does not.
There had been some confusion beforehand if Dean Justine Parmiller had been aware that Lord Guardian Vorkosigan was there on behalf of the Emperor or on behalf of Lord Guardian Vorkosigan's daughter. It was made clear beforehand to Dean Parmiller that Petya didn't have children, but Petya couldn't blame her for her confusion, if there really had been confusion and not others being confused on her behalf, because the conclusion that Lord Guardian Vorkosigan was in her office at The Betan Academy For Expatriated Child-Citizens (Vorbarr Sultana, Vorbarra's District, Barrayar, Barrayaran Imperium) in order to facilitate sending the Emperor to that school was not the immediate or obvious conclusion. It was easier later, of course, when they'd sent Ivan there.
Dean Parmiller's reaction hadn't been the worst one Petya's encountered during his quest to get the Emperor some sane schooling. When the time had come to negotiate the Emperor's entrance into Vorbarr Sultana University, the Chancellor had assumed it was an ImpSec investigation into some alleged treason coming out of the history department -- something to do with salic descent and potential claimants -- and had apparently thought Petya's security perimeter had come to storm the history department and arrest everyone inside. He'd begun his conversation with Petya by volunteering for a fast-penta interrogation. It had gotten worse from there.
At least the worst Dean Parmiller had done was ask him if Petya was aware of the Betan philosophy towards education and insinuate that a young dictator might do better in a military environment, where it's easier to abuse power.
Petya had actually been disappointed in the amount of sedition going on at the Betan expat school. He'd honestly expected a lot more. The worst case was a journalism teacher who openly tried to undermine Gregor's views on official censorship, and hadn't been amused when Gregor, at age fourteen, had gone on the attack about journalistic standards on Beta and then organized a Betan debate in the classroom over the merits of making sure no one got slandered in the press versus having a controlled press. Petya had told him later that it was a false choice, and Gregor had shrugged and said the teacher should have tried harder at getting the Emperor to publicly condemn his own government and his own security.
As Petya had told the Lord Regent later, they may be trying sedition, but not very competently; if the Betans are seeking to use this opportunity to get Gregor to step down and implement a Betan democracy, they should try sneaking up on him from behind, where he can't see, rather than trying a frontal assault, like they did when the student council tried to get Gregor to run for student council president in his penultimate year. Gregor had declined. Politely. And rather mirthfully, according to the captain of his protection detail.
Gregor's adventures at school, in short, were nowhere near as bad as the General Staff had feared.
"And do you doubt Simon's loyalty to you?" Petya asks. "If you suspect me of sleeping with him for nefarious purposes, have you started suspecting the truth or completeness of your security briefings?"
"I hadn't gotten that far," Gregor admits. "I was sort of stuck in panic over the idea of my head of security having sex with my father--"
"I'm not your father!"
They've had this conversation before, or parts of it. It's always gone like this:
Gregor calls Petya his father. Petya denies it at great volume. Gregor looks shattered and then says quietly, that of course he knows Petya is nothing like Serg. But can't Petya just let him call him that? In private? When it's just them and there aren't witnesses? Please?
And Petya says no and then feels like a traitor for dashing Gregor's hopes and breaking Gregor's heart like that.
This never fails.
Okay, he'd allowed it once, but Gregor had been sick with a fever then and he'd addressed Petya as 'Da' and Petya had been scared that Gregor was hallucinating Serg and then Gregor had made it clear that he wasn't, but he wanted his Da to stay with him, please? And Petya hadn't had the heart to correct the form of address.
But that was the only time, and if Petya kind of likes the idea that Gregor thinks of him as his da, well, he'll never admit it. Not even under fast-penta, because what idiot would ever ask him that question under fast-penta?
But the point is, Petya isn't Serg, and he isn't trying to set himself up as Gregor's new father, which would turn their vassal relationship upside-down, and so he will defend himself against that treacherous assumption to the limits of honor. Or, as need be, at great volume in private with his Emperor.
"Foster-father, fine," Gregor says, like he's taken to doing, like there's no distinction whatsoever, and completely ignoring the fact that the legal distinction between adoptive-father and foster-father is vast enough to avoid a challenge in the Counts of the Vorkosigans setting Gregor up to be a puppet Emperor with no power. Petya is the Emperor's guardian. Not his father. The distinction is very, very clear to Petya. Gregor, on the other hand, seems not to care and prefer to pretend it doesn't exist.
On the other hand, Petya's father had been a war hero who had been killed on a false charge of treason. Gregor's father had been Mad Emperor Serg. Petya does understand why Gregor would want to claim someone else as his father.
"Simon does go off duty," Petya says. "He isn't some sort of Jacksonian cyborg without emotions or desires. We were perfectly safe choices for each other. He doesn't pose a security threat to me, and I don't pose a security threat to him. I know he won't kill me, and he knows I won't try to get any information out of him that I shouldn't know."
"You have the highest security clearance," Gregor says.
"Exactly my point," Petya says. "Consider Simon's predicament, sire. He was a young officer in the capital, with a memory chip in his head that records both his every reaction and every reaction of whoever he's looking at. And all that in addition to the fact that he was Captain Negri's protege, and then Negri's successor. It's about as hard for him to find safe people to consort with as it is for me. We were excellent choices for each other, perfectly safe and perfectly discreet."
"You said he was attractive," Gregor says dryly.
"Physical attraction must come first," Petya says. "But of course no action should be taken before ensuring the safety of the assignation."
"Safe sex lecture, by Lord Vorkosigan," Gregor says. "First, order a security report on the person in question. Yes, I remember."
"The doctors were in a better position to speak to you about maintaining medical safety," Petya dismisses.
"And then there was the bit about being wary of those with implanted fast-penta allergies. As I recall, you digressed into a discussion on whether it was a good sign or a potentially disastrous one. And meanwhile, you were... with Illyan!"
"He has the allergy," Petya says. "Amazingly discreet man, Illyan."
Gregor thumps his head gently back against the couch pillow. "Petya, has anyone told you that you're a cold-blood bas-- a cold-blooded Vor?"
"Quite frequently," Petya says. "Are you done with your theatrical fit over my choice of sexual partners, Gregor, or do you want details? Because I'm sure the ImpSec report on our affair does include details. More than you will ever want to know."
Gregor blushes. "Um, no, Petya. That's okay. I think... I'm sorry I accused you of being a traitor," he says, not quite meeting Petya's eye.
"You should apologize to Simon, too," Petya says, going for the tone he used to use to tell Gregor that, yes, Emperors do have to eat their vegetables. "You dishonored him as well."
And Gregor apparently does, because Simon comes to visit Petya late that night. Simon's wearing civvies, well-cut and calculatedly bland. Not wearing a uniform makes things easier, he's said, because there isn't a rank insignia to potentially confuse people who might not understand that, in the peculiar world that is ImpSec, a Captain can outrank a General.
Their conversation goes something like this:
"You didn't tell the Emperor," Simon says.
"Neither did you," Petya says. "And you've given him his security briefings for years."
"It never came up," Simon replies.
They look at each other for a long uncomfortable moment.
"He did want to know why we weren't still," Simon says eventually. "I suppose it was easier to ask me than to ask you."
"We've been over this," Petya says. "I'm not going to court a woman while I'm having an affair with someone else. It's dishonorable to everyone involved." He pauses. "What did you tell the Emperor?"
Simon does not exactly shrug. "I asked him if he was really requesting a fully-detailed report about his foster-father's sex life. And then he got very quiet and said, no, he wasn't."
Petya sighs and wishes he could go back in time and have them execute Serg and Ges all over again.
And then they discuss that night's security briefing and Petya reflects on the shape of Simon's mouth and hands and how they used to feel against his body and, really, he'd never intended to have an affair with the Chief of Imperial Security.
It'd just been a side effect of sleeping with Simon Illyan.