Gregor Vorbarra, The Emperor of Bayarrar, Komarr and Sergyar, woke up feeling groggy and tired. Again. He wasn't surprised, he didn't fall asleep until what was early morning, rather than a late night, and even then he was restless. He sighed and sat up slowly, rubbing his eyes. If he didn't get some proper sleep soon, he was going to be in serious trouble. Politically, if not physically, as he was sure there were more than enough people around him ready to pounce at the slightest sign of weakness and he was slowly loosing not only the energy, but also the mental ability, to fight them off. Gregor dragged himself off the bed and dressed in already prepared clothes, knowing from experience trying to go to sleep wasn't going to work. He looked up to look into the mirror, making sure his jacket's collar was standing properly, and his hand dropped from his neck as his father's face stared back at him. He blinked and Prince Serg was gone, replaced by his own face. Gregor stood very still for a second, before running to the bathroom and dry-heaving over the basin. He washed his face when his stomach settled and sat down heavily on the floor. Wonderful. The man haunted his nightmares, chasing away Gregor's sleep and now, because of it, he was moving on his waking moments as well. Gregor closed his eyes and put his head on the cold, porcelain of his bathroom wall. Maybe this wasn't lack of sleep. Maybe this was the beginning of the madness he carried in his blood. Well, if so, maybe it wasn't half bad, Gregor decided, finally pulling himself up. He wasn't that afraid of just seeing things and going crazy, what terrified him was the possibility of his madness turning outwards toward Barrayar and its people. He pressed his fingers to his temple and sighed. Unlikely he would be that lucky. It probably was just lack of sleep, combined with his brain not being fully awake after the little restless sleep he did have and family resemblance seen for a split of second in a darkened room. His madness was probably still to come. Gregor stood up straight, corrected his jacket and went back into the bedroom, his step sure. Still to come, he reminded himself when he passed by the mirror, studiously avoiding looking into it. Somehow, the reminder didn't make him feel better.
The day went by in a bit of a haze, although Gregor managed to hide it well, even if he said so himself. After all, his itinerary included a two hour meeting with his foster father, Count Aral Vorkosigan, Barrayar's Prime Minister, and after they finished talking politics and all-things-Imperial, during their usual informal chat in the time left over, Aral didn't ask about Gregor's well-being or grill him about his recent behaviour and lack of attention. Instead, Aral spent the 20 minutes conveying his wife's stories about Beta Colony, her homeplanet she was currently visiting, and his mother-in-law's greetings to Gregor, whom Gregor met only once, but who always treated him as her own grandchild. Gregor dutifully promised to call Grandmother Naismith and asked Aral if he wanted to have dinner together, since he knew his foster father absolutely hated having his wife away, a feeling, Gregor suspected, which was a mix of love he felt for her and a left-over worry from all the battles they've been in together. Aral thanked him, but said he would probably be asleep long before "young ones" dined and left after a few more minutes of chit-chat.
The rest of the day was easier, as no one really required Gregor to focus that much or make any decisions. Just one of the many days in the life on an Emperor, filled with paperwork, reports, paperwork and irate old Vor men that made even more paperwork. Gregor signed what he had the energy to read, the "read before you sign anything" mantra passed on from his foster father too strong to break even when his brain was slowly turning off, which wasn't many. For the rest of time reserved for signing things he busied himself by dividing the files on his comconsole into folders based on assumed content, which probably wasn't very correct considering he assumed it based on the first 10 words and then ranking the folders on the scale of predicted boringness, which was probably much more accurate than the previous task. He had a lot of experience with that. He also sent quick thanks to any upper power that was listening that due to his position he did not have to worry about ImpSec analysts looking through his comconsole, because there was no hiding the weirdness anymore. He put in the last rank (4 for a file he hasn't actually read at all, but as it came from the Council of Counts he could assume it would be pretty damn tedious) when one of his armsman came in to tell him his dinner was ready. Gregor moved on to the informal dining room, which, being in the Imperial Residence, wasn't that informal at all, and ate alone. Finally, he was informed by another livered man that his last meeting of the day was ready to begin.
Gregor sat on an elaborate sofa in what he called the Lecture Room, but what would probably be more correctly identified as a sitting room, connected with his bedroom. Maybe the Lecture Room was more accurate after all, Gregor mused as he pretended to listen to Simon Illyan, his Chief of Imperial Security, since there had been more lecturing there, than there had ever been sitting. But then again, in the lecture-sitting dynamic, Gregor had taken the sitting role much more often than he did any lecturing, so maybe he should start calling the room a sitting room after all. Gregor rubbed the armrest of the sofa with his hand, because rubbing his face in the middle of Illyan's report would surely cause a lot of questions about his well-being, he didn't think he could lie his way through convincingly. He really needed to get some sleep. The last thought avalanche was positively Miles-ish. How utterly terrifying.
Gregor tuned in to what Simon was saying and caught what seemed to be the end of a report on the terraforming of Komarr. Not really a problem he missed it then. It wasn't like anything Gregor did or didn't do would in any way impact terraforming. Especially that of a planet he didn't even live on. He listened semi-properly to the rest of the report, which finished with a quick summery of security for the next day's event. Gregor nodded his understanding, asked his usual question about how Miles was doing and listened poker-faced to the answer, saving it in the back of his head to laugh about in private and then thanked Illyan for his report. Illyan, very much in his official zone, braced to attention and saluted, before heading towards the doors.
"Simon," Gregor called him back, jolted by a sudden thought.
"Yes, Sire?" Illyan turned towards him, cocking his head in polite enquiry.
"You knew both my parents, right?"
Gregor saw the slight widening of the eyes and the tightening of the mouth on Illyan's face, because he was looking for a reaction, but he didn't think his Chief of Imperial Security meant to show any kind of distress.
"Your parents, sir."
"Yes. Crown Prince Serg and Princess Kareen," Gregor reminded him sarcastically and was reworded by a very unamused look.
"Yes, I am aware," Illyan drawled. "And yes. I knew them both, but I was never in charge of their security."
Which meant to imply that he didn't know them well, but which Gregor rather doubted. Illyan was methodical to the core, if he was attached to the Imperial Residence at any time during his career, which he was, he would have researched every person living in it and, thanks to his memory chip, he would still remember it now. He might not have known them personally, or as well as he did Gregor, but he knew of them, and that was enough for the purpose of Gregor's question.
"That's alright," said Gregor. "I only have one question."
Illyan moved his stance from about-to-leave to almost-parade-rest, making himself comfortable for the conversation.
"Which one of my parents do I resemble most?" asked Gregor in one breath and leaned in, looking at Simon intently.
"You look very much like your father, Sire," Illyan started, but was interrupted when Gregor just shook his head. "Which you know. You don't mean looks."
Gregor gave one nod, more and more afraid of the answer. The feeling only grew as Simon stood silently, his eyes on some faraway point above Gregor's shoulder, obviously seriously thinking about his answer. He really shouldn't have asked. As long as he didn't know for sure, he could be his mother's son rather than his father's, but a definite answer would change that. He was just about to tell Illyan to forget it, when the man let out a startled laugh.
"I'm sorry, Sire," Illyan chuckled, "I tried to go through everything I remember about your parents and compare it to you, but then in the middle I just realised who you were more like and- Ehm," he cleared his throat and continued. "Never mind, it doesn't answer your question, I'll just continue."
"What do you mean it doesn't answer my question?" Gregor exclaimed. "You just said you realised who I resembled most! Just tell me!" And end my suffering, he added in his head.
"But that person- Very well. When it comes to looks, you resemble Prince Serg. When it comes to character, I think the person you resemble most is Countess Vorkosigan."
Gregor laughed. Not a surprised little chuckle that got out of Illyan at the thought, but an easy laughter of pure delight and relief. He thanked Simon with a nod and watched him go out of the room, before bursting into giggles again. So. Cordelia. Not a woman ready to sacrifice everything, just to continue breathing, even if her sacrifices made life not much worth continuing. Not a man who cared for little but his own pleasure and who found it in the pain of others. A woman who was loyal and strong, who loved with all her heart and would move the world for those that found their place in it and who, without even realising it, collected loyalties of people she met, the same way others collected ship models. Cordelia. What a thought.
Gregor Vorbarra, the Emperor of Barrayar, Komarr and Sergyar, went to bed with a smile and on that night, and every night from then on, he slept soundly.