Even with his eyes shut Miles could still see the light diffusing through his eyelids. It was disorienting, and having spent weeks in much the same situation on Dagoola IV did not make this situation any more bearable. The first thing he was going to do when the Komarrans let him go was turn off all the lights and luxuriate in the dark. Preferably with Elli's cat blanket. And Elli, assuming she hadn't run off with his clone. Brother. Elli... The Dendarii couldn't have figured it out, otherwise they'd be here. Wherever here was.
Miles told himself to focus. He'd been a little tangential since the fast-penta attempt, still. He was fairly sure he'd never heard of the drug's half-life being this long, but he'd never heard of his reaction, either. Maybe ImpMil would want to look at him. ImpMil. Barrayar. Right. Where was he? Oh, the story.
"So," he told the light fixture, with all the wide-eyed tale-telling enthusiasm he could muster, "as you can see, Count Vorpatril, when he found the snakes -- not the current wheezy one, mind you, and not my cousin; he's hardly anywhere close in the line of succession. Which is good. Ivan you idiot, we call him." Huh. Oops. Maybe he should have tried to make the Barrayaran presence on Earth sound like a threat. He clapped his hand over his mouth, hiccuped, and then giggled.
Great. The damned fast-penta hangover isn't even supposed to last this long, much less the drug.
They'd taken Galeni away again -- he didn't know how long ago -- and left him in the empty cell. He'd paced a little, sung a few songs, and at the moment was halfway through regaling the sinister light fixture with the tale of Lady Vorpetrova, her twelve snakes, and the treason charge, but he hadn't even gotten to the treason when the door rattled again.
The same two blank-faced guards, holding stunners, deposited Galeni in the middle of the room. He was looking even worse than he had when the guards had taken him away, which, given his appearance at the time, was an astonishing feat. He looked paler, more haggard, and there was a trickle of blood running down his face, with a matching dark stain on the shoulder of his cream-colored shirt, what remained of his undress greens. Their captors had clearly moved beyond the realm of fast-penta and stunning into physical damage. This was Not Good, the part of Miles's brain that never really stopped being Naismith informed him. It meant they were becoming expendable.
"Hey," Miles said, and Galeni sank down into the middle of the floor. The guards, uninterested, retreated, and the door slammed shut. "Come on. You can't just lie there. Think of-- think of what it would do to Komarran relations if you lie there and die. Think of what you can write about this when we get back. Think of the ethnography."
At this, Galeni raised his head, which at this upside-down angle was both encouraging and positively horrifying. Miles contemplated the man's bloodshot eyes. "Trying to bribe my inner academic? 'An Oral History of Komarran Revolutionaries,'" he mused. "I don't think I'll get an article out of it." His voice was about as hideous as his face, the sound of dry muscles rasping on air.
"Publish or perish," Miles chirped, completing the phrase without really thinking about what it meant. "Uh. Sorry. Sir."
Even lying twisted on the floor the man managed to give him a withering stare. "Thank you, Lieutenant."
There was a long pause, as Galeni squinted at the light fixture and made a motion that looked, to Miles' eye, like an exceedingly uncomfortable attempt at stretching.
"What was it this time?" Miles wondered. "More embassy procedures? Family history?"
Galeni's stare fixed on him again. "I. Don't. Want to talk about it."
"All right, sir."
Miles dangled his feet off the side of the bench, holding his legs out and trying to touch his toes. That maneuver had broken his legs on him once; he was grateful for the synthetics. Probably some kind of mirror-neuron thing, if he wanted to stretch because Galeni was. Maybe he should read up on neurology. He wondered if he should ask the guards for reading material when they brought the next meal. At least they couldn't break his legs.
"You should come up to the bench," Miles said to fill the uncomfortably quiet room. He nodded over at Galeni's empty bench.
Galeni gave a sigh like someone punched him in the chest, a sudden, explosive exhalation. "I see no advantages the bench has over the floor. They're both the same flat surface, and the floor at least is roomy."
"The bench is higher up," Miles contributed, this being really the only quantitative difference between the two. "Closer to the light. You wouldn't want the visual pickups to not get you in focus."
Galeni tilted his head toward him and bared his teeth. It took Miles a few seconds to realize that this was a smile. "I'd better look pretty for the camera, eh? Hate for anyone reviewing the footage to think we were two random prisoners."
At that he got up, dragging himself to a standing position with what must have been an enormous amount of effort. He shuffled slowly across the room... toward Miles. Miles decided not to comment as the man collapsed on the bench next to him, half-falling over, curling an arm around him. He was warm. It was a strange thing, human contact. One of those things you could take for granted.
Abruptly, Galeni's fingers dug into his shoulder, hard.
"Sensory deprivation," Galeni said quietly, almost in a whisper, and apparently he did want to talk about it after all.
"I'm a little... starved, you could say," the man continued. "I hope you won't be offended." Miles had to admire Galeni's composure. Polite. Smooth, the other embassy official had called him. He'd have to be, to get into the Imperial Service as a Komarran.
"No offense taken." He knew well enough what sorts of things you did for comfort in prison, or at least, what sort of things he'd done. And this was far less effort than inventing a religion. He could begrudge the man a hug.
Miles twisted to see how Galeni was doing, and the smile Galeni wore this time was almost happy. He had only a few brief seconds to ponder that before Galeni slid somehow closer to him and... kissed him.
I guess Ivan was wrong about him not liking men. Maybe he just didn't like Ivan. The thought floated idiotically through his head. Galeni was even warmer this way. His mouth was dry and cracked, but Miles's could hardly be any better. The man was probably just starved for touch, after all, as he'd said. He kissed like it, and for all that the kiss was chaste, closed-mouthed. Like Galeni was drowning and still didn't want to reach for his rescuer.
The kiss broke off and Miles had a very close-up view of Galeni's stunned face. No, sir. Not giving you the time to be sorry.
Galeni pulled his head back and made a rather undignified choking noise. "Lieutenant, I--"
He had barely begun the apology when Miles tackled him and kissed him back. The man shouldn't go around thinking he was forcing himself on unwilling subordinates. Willing subordinates are ever so much better, right? This time Galeni's mouth opened under him, and Galeni's arms locked around him hard. Much better. He could be a life preserver. Galeni needed sensation. He could be that.
This kiss lasted until Miles leaned forward, and somehow his weight made Galeni fall backwards and wince as the bench hit some part of him that was probably already sore.
Miles sat up and they regarded each other for -- some amount of time, damn the continuous light.
Galeni closed his eyes and scrubbed at his face. "Oh God. Tell me I didn't just kiss you. Tell me I hallucinated that."
"Uh." Miles coughed.
Galeni opened his eyes again and started to laugh. The laugh was racking and hollow and suspiciously similar to the sound of a man coughing up his own lungs. "I kissed you."
"I kissed you back," Miles pointed out. It was after all the truth.
"I kissed the Butcher of Komarr's son," Galeni mumbled, not looking at him as he said it. "And we're being recorded."
"The Butcher of Komarr's mutie son," added Miles cheerfully, much louder, for the benefit of the audio pickup. "Think of what this will do for interplanetary relations. Nephew of a victim of the Solstice Massacre, and the Butcher of Komarr's son! Why, the symbolism alone--"
"Lieutenant," Galeni cut in.
Another long pause. "This is highly improper, you know. Non-fraternization regulations are here to prohibit this kind of thing." He sounded distant, sensible for a man reciting the rulebook. "There could be the appearance of nepotism, when the vid files are reviewed, depending on where we both go after this. Pulling rank to get someone a better position."
"I can put in a good word for you with Illyan," Miles offered. "How would you like a post at ImpSec HQ to make up for this?"
"I--" Galeni made another highly alarming choking noise. "In these cases, it's not usually the subordinate unethically offering promotions."
"I'm special," Miles said. "Sir."
"I see that."
But for all his talk, Galeni didn't move away, and Miles quietly brought up a hand to Galeni's wrist, gingerly placed to avoid the worst of the new abrasions. Galeni's fingers locked around his.
"If you're done complaining, sir, I could use the company." Miles slid across the bench, wedging himself up against the wall until Galeni's body almost blocked out the damned light. Perfect. "You're over here already. Might as well stay." Make it seem like he was the needy one here. Give Galeni more sensory input. You just tell yourself that's what it's about, Miles.
"I-- all right."
Galeni's arms laced around him with a strength that was not quite painful, and Miles tucked his face into the man's shoulder, feeling oddly content despite everything. Darkness at last. He slept.
When the guards came for Galeni, later, they were still lying wrapped around each other, and Galeni grinned at Miles as they dragged him away for the next round.
Something within Miles sparked, warmed. They were going to make it through this together. They would live. He knew it.