"Have you seen my left dress shoe, Aral?"
The newly minted Viceroy of Sergyar looked up from the report he was studying and surveyed the room from where he sat leaning against the headboard of the bed. He was already mostly dressed for this morning's occasion, safe for his own dress shoes and his house uniform jacket. For some mysterious reason the trousers of the dress uniform could stand a little slouching before crinkling up, but even thinking about leaning against something in the jacket made said jacket break out in a truly amazing amounts of creases. So he avoided slouching in it, as a rule. It was no hardship – the jacket was not made for slouching, and the morning air blowing in through the open window made sitting in shirtsleeves the more comfortable choice, anyway.
A brief survey of the room from his vantage point – dresser, window, entrance to the dressing room, Cordelia – Cordelia in nothing but a rather scant assemble of undergarments, with what Aral presumed was her right dress shoe held in one hand and a summery dress on a hanger in her other, thrown over her shoulder - what a lovely sight – did not reveal the missing shoe. He'd much rather keep looking at Cordelia anyway, since she looked decidedly lovely and delectable this morning. Not that she didn't look lovely and delectable on other mornings, too. Or at other times of the day. Or … .
"Hmm?" Aral dragged his gaze back to Cordelia's face. She was smirking at him. Amused instead of annoyed, then. Good.
"Sorry, I got …" he gestured in her direction with the hand that held the report "… distracted."
"I noticed." She was still smirking, which could go either way … but she was also coming closer, which (in his expert tactical opinion, of course) was a good sign. In fact, she might be … sashaying. Make that a very good sign. He put the report aside and turned so that he was facing her, sitting up sideways on their bed, his feet on the ground.
He cleared his throat. "Well, you can hardly come in here, looking like that, and expect me to be anything other than distracted. It would be … discourteous."
"Discourteous?" Yep, definitely sashaying.
"Indeed, dear Captain. In fact, not just discourteous: impolite." Yep, she was definitely sashaying. And there weren't all that many steps left between the dressing room door and their bed, even though their bedroom in their new house on Sergyar was a bit on the large side. The builders had been … enthusiastic.
"Would you go so far as to call it ill-mannered?" she replied, and took another step.
He nodded gravely. "Insolent."
She was almost within reach, smiling in what was definitely anticipation, and he needed to come up with one more synonym. Just one more synonym, and she was scrambling his brain. And she knew it too, his lovely, delectable, admirable minx. But he was Aral Vorkosigan, and he would not be mastered by synonyms. By his wife, frequently. By words, rarely. By synonyms … well, it hadn't happened yet, and it would not happen today.
And there she was, settling warmly into his arms, the shoe dropped on the floor and the dress discarded on the bed beside him. "Ohhh, good one, Count Vorkosigan, Sir. We cannot possibly have the Viceroy of Sergyar acting boorish."
Her hands had gone around his neck, and his were finding their way around her waist. "It would be unfortunate," he agreed, faking sadness. "Barely a month into the job and it has already worn away his veneer, making him crack from the strain and excitement and chaos."
"Perish the thought. I expect to be accompanied by a perfectly polished and polite Viceroy later this morning, not a half-dressed Dendarii hillman"
"Oh, do you." He raised his eyebrows. "Tell me then, where will you find one in such a short span of time? And does it mean that I get the morning off?"
She laughed, and slapped his shoulder. "Beast! As if I would be seen in public with any other Viceroy."
"How fortunate for you that I am the only one currently in existence within the Barrayaran Empire, then. Though wouldn't it be nice to get Gregor to appoint a second pair, so that we could skip all the social engagements and get on with important things?"
"I don't know … what kind of important things are we talking about here?"
He reached a hand up, so that he could wind a strand of her hair around his finder. God, he'd never tire of her hair, not if he lived to be a hundred years old. His thumb traced her eyebrow gently. "I leave that to your discretion, dear Captain, with perfect confidence that you can prioritise the important things all on your own."
She smirked, but this time not necessarily in the way that bode well for the next hour, and leaned back.
"Well, in that case … I regret to inform you that I consider the welcoming ceremony that has been organized for us by the local primary school of supreme and outstanding importance indeed. I am their honorary chairwoman, after all."
Aral sighed, mock woebegone. "Ah, yes. I had attempted to forget. I am sure it will be a lovely ceremony."
Cordelia echoed his mock sigh. "It will be lovely in all the important ways, and a little horrible and embarrassing around the edges in all others."
He laughed. "A truly fitting description. But I would submit that you add terribly earnest to your definition. And cake. There is certainly going to be a cake. And most likely poetry, too. I would wager on there being poetry, in fact."
She was grinning, which he approved of. Happy suited her. "Recited by small, lovely, earnest, adorable, and painfully clean schoolchildren. Possibly written by them, too."
He leaned in so he could kiss her cheek and whisper into her ear: "Only if we get … lucky."
"Well …" her hands were running through his hair, she was shifting closer, and he thought that they might just be able to be late to the welcoming ceremony. "… I don't know about the poetry, or if I would call awkwardly earnest and heartfelt yet horrible poetry getting lucky, but I know that it's definitely lucky that the ceremony does not start for another two hours."
"It doesn't?" He kissed her, and she returned it with interest. "Well, it would not do for us to arrive there early. Another thing to add to the list of terribly uncouth things one ought to always avoid doing, as it puts everyone out and creates unnecessary confusion and stress."
She pushed against his shoulders and he fell back on the bed willingly, taking her with him. "For the sake of Miss Urkovs primary school then?"
Most of his attention was focused on nibbling on her collarbone, but he managed to return a distracted "Indeed," before coherent conversation escaped them entirely for a while.
They ended up lying tangled together, after, still sideways on the bed, with the warm Sergyaran summer wind blowing through the open window and caressing their bodies. Cordelia vaguely wondered how far they might have been heard, but could not really focus enough energy on the question to care about it one way or another. Their house sat a ways off from the road, anyway, and all the staff were used to them.
It was a good thing that she owned so many representative summer dresses, though, and that Aral had a ready supply of house uniform trousers at hand, as both of these items of clothing were likely in a sad state. Not even the forgiving fabrics of summer dresses and house uniform trousers took too well to being rolled around on repeatedly, after all.
She curled around Aral a little tighter, resting her head on his chest so that she could hear his heart beat. It had been a couple of months now since his heart surgery, but she still needed to assure herself that he was hale and sound from time to time. An irrational need, but not one that she thought she would shake any time soon. His hand rose to stroke through her hair in warm and familiar movements, unfailingly aware of her unstated need for reassurance.
His chest moved when he spoke, and she could feel his voice rumble within it. "I've been thinking about poetry." He said lightly, in a rather obvious and slightly awkward (but sweet) ploy to distract her from her thoughts. Cordelia gladly let him.
"Oh?" Cordelia raised her head and turned to look at him, crossing her arms on his chest and resting her chin upon them.
"Indeed." He raised his head to kiss her nose, contentment giving his eyes a warm shine. "A poem to honour the new and most noble Veicereine of Sergyar, as it might be recited" – he turned his head to look at the chronometer on the bedside table – "an hour from now."
"Have you come up with anything?"
He shook his head. "Nothing suitably earnest yet clumsy. And I was otherwise occupied. With things far more important than composing awkward limericks."
"I am glad to hear it. If something suitably ungainly should come to your mind, though, do let me know."
He laughed. "Oh, trust me, dear Captain, you will be the first to know. And, in case I manage to outdo the verses in your honour that we shall shortly be privileged to listen to, also the only one."
She returned the laugh and nodded gravely. "Discretion is to be advised in cases like this. There's the reputation of the office to consider, after all."
"Indeed. 'Disorder on Barrayaran colony drives Viceroy to writing overly emotional poetry' … a headline to be avoided. The reputation due the office shall keep me from publishing any possible future efforts at outdoing primary school children in the composition of horrible yet sincere poetry." He rolled them both over, and gave her a kiss before rising from the bed, holding a hand out to her. "And on the note of jobs … care to join me for a shower? Miss Urkov's primary school awaits, after all."
Cordelia took his hand and let herself be towed up from the bed and into the bathroom with a will.
While they were not … precisely … late, they were certainly not early.