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Even with her, it had been hard for Aral to even begin to approach the subject, and he'd sunk three glasses of brandy before making the attempt. Unused to Barrayaran circumlocutions and pleasantly fogged by her own brandy, it had taken a while for Cordelia to catch on.

"I stopped in the caravanserai this afternoon," he said.

Cordelia had been watching the rain--strange, strange phenomenon--making mesmerising tracks down the windows. Some silent servant had come in to draw the curtains, but Cordelia had stopped her. Barrayar was so open, exposed to the vagaries of the atmosphere, and she wasn't sure she would ever get used to looking out a window and seeing the sky. It was low and dark night-grey, tinted orange from the city lights, and the large raindrops caught the light as they fell.

"Oh?" she said vaguely.

"In the caravanserai," he repeated. "They have a lot of interesting shops there."

"Not to mention the brothels," Cordelia commented. "I guess I'm starting to understand how slowly Barrayaran politics work, but you really need to start some decent services in that area. Running water and sewerage would be a good start."

"Sewerage," Aral repeated dumbly. "Yes, I suppose so. The thing is..." He hesitated.

This was sufficiently uncharacteristic that Cordelia looked away from the window. "The thing is what? You saw an interesting shop in the caravanserai?"

"Yeah. Well. I bought some things. I ... if you don't like them we can just throw them away or, or whatever you want, but..."

Aral tongue-tied? Cordelia raised an eyebrow at him to continue.

"And Miles is sleeping all night now," he went on.

"Aral," Cordelia said carefully, "what exactly are you trying to say?"

"Do you like the idea?"

"I don't know what the idea is at the moment, my love."

"Oh. I thought, you know, since you were Betan ... they do have, um, on Beta?"

The connections finally made themselves in Cordelia's head. "Are you saying you found a sex-toy shop in the caravanserai?"

"... yes."

"Why didn't you tell me? I didn't even know there were any on Barrayar. I'd have come and we could have picked some things out together."


"But you did buy some things, right? If I'd realised what Barrayar was like I'd have gone for a quick round at the tourist shops at the shuttleport before coming here, even if they do gouge the prices horribly."

Aral began to laugh. Then he stood up. "Come upstairs, dear Captain, and tell me what the proper Betan names are for the things I bought. And what you'd like to do with them."