Work Header

Take This Oath

Work Text:

Take this oath, and press it between your palms

He remembers being five, and frightened, in the room where his grandfather has just stopped breathing. He remembers Aral Vorkosigan on his knees, low enough that the five-year-old Emperor looks straight into his eyes. He does not remember taking oaths. He does not think he was as frightened, at five, as he is now at twenty.

Aral Vorkosigan is the first to kneel before him. This time, even though Gregor is sitting, he has to look down to meet the eyes of the former Lord Regent. The hands in his are hard and almost burning hot, which makes him wonder how cold his own hands must be. He knows this time he will never forget what it feels like to hold Aral Vorkosigan's hands between his palms, and take the weight of that service in his hands.

It is not until the oath is made and returned, and Vorkosigan rises, that Gregor looks past him, at the line of Counts and Count's Heirs and government officials and high-ranking officers, those important enough that their oaths must be given direct to the Emperor on this, the first day of his majority.

He had not slept well, the night before. Lady Vorkosigan had made sure he had some sedatives--"They won't knock you out, they'll just help you sleep, and take them if you need them, Gregor"--but he hadn't taken them. He thinks it's appropriate to be worried by the responsibility he is taking on, and he doesn't think that, if he put it that way to her, Cordelia would object, and so he had sat in the dark and wondered how he could possibly be the Emperor that Barrayar needs.

He tries to fix in his mind every face as they speak their oaths, but there are so many he would need Illyan's memory chip to be sure of remembering every moment. He knows each man, though, greets them by name, looks each time at the hands between his. His hands remember for him, and when he rises at last from the camp stool he is so weighted by the oaths that he fears he will stagger. In the small room behind the dais he waves off ImpSec and Armsmen alike and goes to stand by the window, staring down at his hands, and wondering how they can hold what he has been given today.