Ivan Vorpatril turned five today.
He was supposed to have a brilliant birthday party with lots of little Vor boys and Vor girls, and lots and lots of presents, and most importantly a ginormous cake. He was in his very best outfit, and every Vor adult so far had told him he was the cutest Vor boy in the history of Barrayar.
Ivan Vorpatril was the star of the party, and he’d been loving it.
Until Miles gets upset that he’s being left out and tries to join in even though he knows he shouldn’t, and somebody makes fun of cousin Miles for being small and wrinkled and crooked and then Ivan has to defend Miles’s honor, only Miles isn’t at all appreciative and gets mad at Ivan as well, and then Miles tries to join in the fight even though he knows he shouldn’t, and of course he gets hurt and Bothari interferes and, and, and …
And now the party is over, and Mama is mad for no reason, and won’t let him have cake or presents, and Ivan hates Miles and wishes he were never born.
Ivan Vorpatril is eight and a half, and he realized today how very unfair the world was.
If the world were fair, he would be munching on fresh-from-the-oven cookies while Miles were scolded. If the world were fair, people would realize that getting in trouble was never his fault, that it was always Miles’s idea. If the world were fair, Miles would be able to execute his own cunning schemes, instead of somehow always involving Ivan.
It had been all Miles’s idea, but nobody cares because it’s not like Miles ever gets in trouble or gets punished for anything. Not even when it’s his idea, not even when he makes Ivan go along with it, not even when Ivan had insisted it was a bad idea. No, Miles gets to be brilliant, and Ivan gets to be in trouble.
It’s just not fair …
Ivan Vorpatril is ten, and he should have known better. He is in big trouble because he’s done a very, very, very bad thing. He hit Miles.
He didn’t mean to, not really, because he knows that Miles is small and weak and should be protected, and he knows that Bothari is going to kill him when he finds out, because Bothari is a bodyguard and that’s what bodyguards do. Uncle Aral will probably exile him and Mother will get that look in her eyes, and he doesn’t even know what Aunt Cordelia will say, and doesn’t want to think about it.
He didn’t mean to actually hit Miles; he was just thinking about it. He thought about it a lot, every time Miles had another “brilliant” idea that he just knew would get him in trouble. He thought about it every time Miles did something dangerous, and he knew he was going to get lectured about not watching Miles. He thought about it sometimes when he was in a really bad mood, and he wanted to hit everyone who talked down to him, and Miles was a kid too so there was no reason Miles should talk down to Ivan, as if Miles were an adult and Ivan a kid.
He doesn’t even remember why he hit Miles, all he knows is that Miles is standing there, clutching his arm with those white fingers and pinched lips, and Miles is trying to make him feel better. Miles is trying to laugh, to joke, to shrug it off, as if it weren’t a big deal – as if Ivan didn’t know that it were a big deal.
What he hates the most about Miles right now, he decides, is the way Miles is trying to be so noble and honorable about it all. So noble and honorable it’s hard to hate him for it.
Ivan decides to hate him anyways.
Ivan is fifteen, and his date is blonde, beautiful, and Vor. He doesn’t remember her name (Mar-something? Marleen? Marni? Whatever), but that’s okay because the girls like it when he calls them “Babe” and “Darling” and “Love.” He is 15 and he is high on life, because even if-
But then, reality intervenes. Because when your blonde and beautiful date has an equally attractive cousin she needs to foist off, and you promise to bring along a date for said cousin, but you forget about this promise until the day of, and any Vor worth his salt already has plans with his own Vor lady, and the only remaining option is Miles…
Well he thought about not bringing anyone, but that would guarantee his night would end early. And with Miles, there was a slim chance his night might not. And it wasn’t necessarily so bad at first – the girl didn’t react as badly as Ivan had feared, no warding-off backwater hand gestures, no loudly declamatory remarks beyond an initial recoil, no pointed remarks. Any of those would have meant Ivan would be honor-bound to end the date.
No, the girls didn’t react badly at all. It’s Miles who’s reacting badly.
Miles cannot stop being funny, and hyper, and weird. He keeps on chattering away as if what the girls want to do is listen instead of, oh he didn’t know, kiss. If he would stop being so damn twitchy and prudish, the girl might even overlook the way he looked (it turns out that Ivan has met said cousin before, and he is positive she has no standards when it comes to this).
Ivan resigns himself to an early night not in the company of a lovely Vor blonde. Thanks to Miles.
Ivan is seventeen and he’s throwing up. He almost died just now, as Miles decided to fly blind through the Dendarii gorge, and Miles is laughing at him.
He’d always been warned, take care of Miles, watch out for Miles, keep Miles safe. But nobody had ever thought he might ever need protection from Miles. They should have. Miles was touched in the head, just brilliant enough to be dangerous, always getting in trouble, and always dragging him along, too.
Blast Miles and his too-smart-for-his-own-good ideas.
Ivan is thirty, and he is in trouble. He has spent his whole life trying to ensure there are as many people between him and the Imperium as possible, as many people between him and the Vorkosigan seat as possible. And now, with one fell stroke, all that stands between him and doom is a frail old man with an ailing heart and a fat clone who stands no chance against the Barrayaran Vor.
Ivan has pretty much spent his whole life trying to stay out of politics, trying to live his empty, fluffy Vor life in as meaningless a manner as possible. The gritty strategic thinking and me-against-the-world attitude fell under Miles’s purview – Ivan’s never had to deal with a speck of trouble in his life, excepting when that trouble concerned Miles.
Ivan has spent his whole life expecting Miles to defeat all odds – and now Miles has died. Miles is not supposed to die, at least not without having lots and lots of healthy Vor heirs first, and then only of old age.
Ivan closes his eyes and wishes with all of his heart that Miles is alive and well.