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Penance

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It was his penance.

The soltoxin attack on the Regent had not been Simon’s fault, but he would never shake the feeling that there was something more he should have done. He should have insisted they come to the Imperial Residence, should have insisted on a more secure bedroom, should have done something.

He had not done enough, and their unborn son had paid the price for his failure. Through Lady Vorkosigan’s insistence, young Miles had been saved – but at a heavy price, one the boy paid every day here on Barrayar.

So every year on this day, he found himself in the ImpSec storage vaults, studying the crossbow and soltoxin gas canisters, and remembered. The memory chip let him relive every moment of the horror of that night, as if it were only last night. He could never forget any of it.

The alarms, the shouts, the confusion.

Admiral Aral Vorkosigan in his bare feet and undress greens, gray-faced and grim, with his lady wife saying something too softly for Simon to hear.

Drou standing there with a bleeding nose and wet shift, the crossbow hanging in one hand. Koudelka arguing with her.

Simon’s fear that Aral Vorkosigan might take an action which none on Barrayar would condemn him for, but one that would make Simon’s job much harder. The look on his face when he’d seen who the attacker was.

One of the moments in which Simon knew he would follow this man to the gates of Hell, if he asked for it.

He could see that same quality in the preteen boy who called him Uncle Simon, and he knew that he would do what he could to help that boy along.

It was the real reason he kept these things here in the storage vault, rather than having them destroyed.

It was his penance.