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The Vorkosigan Spare.

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Major Lord Piotr Richars Vorkosigan of the Barrayaran Imperial Service Diplomatic Corps glares over the desk at his younger brother. Miles squirms.

"Hi, Miles," he says softly. "What brings you here?"

Over Miles's shoulder, Gregor coughs.

Petya's gaze flicks up over Miles's shoulder and he looks at his Emperor and foster-brother. "Yes, sire?"

In the early years of the Regency, for the obvious dynastic implications, the Lord Regent's of-age son had been kept as far from Vorbarr Sultana, and then Barrayar as a whole, as possible. Miles dimly remembers a time when Petya had been recalled, at great haste, from Earth when Gran'da had been very sick and it seemed Petya would need to act as Count's proxy in the Council until Dad no longer held Gregor's proxies as Count Vorbarra. But Gran'da had gotten better and Petya had been abruptly turned around at Komarr and hadn't set foot back on Barrayar.

That forced-distancing has never stopped Petya from adopting Gregor as his other wayward baby half-brother.

"We were separated from Our security," Gregor intones, somewhat nervously, to Miles's ears. Petya, who had been abruptly removed from the security track at the Academy when Dad had been named Regent and tracked into diplomacy instead, barely widens his eyes at this blatant lie. "Lord Miles was aiding me in reuniting with them."

"Of course, sire. The classified high-priority arrest warrant on Miles for kidnapping the Emperor is simply a figment of my well-known overactive imagination." Petya flicks at the key on his desk which was keeping the bugs from recording the conversation. When Miles had shown up through the discretion-requested entrance, Petya had hit the secured-conversation button automatically and had been holding it down manually while watching Miles, then the Emperor, slink into the room. Petya is, Miles notes with relief, securing it in its off position, not hitting the panic button which would trigger his security to answer the warrant. Miles chokes on goddamn Ungari before it can be fully voiced. Maybe there's still hope after all of getting out of this with everyone's lives intact. He hopes. He'll probably be court-martialed and lose his commission and might be sent to jail for a very long time, but everyone will be alive. He'll call that a success. "Captain Illyan will be relieved. As will Dad. He wasn't looking forward to your second treason trial in four years."

It suddenly seems even quieter in Petya's office in the Vervani embassy. Gregor, to his credit, does not fidget. Miles does. "Illyan hasn't caught up with us yet?" Miles asks, because it seems Gregor isn't going to.

"After tearing half of Komarr apart bolt by bolt," Petya starts, and Gregor does fidget at that, "Captain Illyan returned to Barrayar to cover Gregor's disappearance as a sudden illness. When you return," Petya nods to Gregor, "please remember that you have been recuperating at Vorkosigan Surleau. The weather has been particularly fine recently. You and your security have been fishing and enjoying other solitary rustic pursuits. Illyan will have a full itinerary for you to review, I'm sure."

"Lord Vorkosigan," Gregor says, then pauses. "Petya, I request and require your services in a matter of grave importance to Barrayar."

"You have it, sire," Petya says. He looks to Miles. "Does it have anything to do with why someone named Cavilo wants to kill your covert identity?"

Miles groans.

"Tangentially," Gregor says kindly, "but first and foremost, I will be negotiating a treaty between Hegen Hub powers so as to avoid a Cetagandan invasion."

Petya blinks. He covers it by hitting the voice recording button on his desk. "What are Your orders for Your embassy, sire?"

Miles almost lets himself relax. Gregor's safety is out of his hands and securely his big brother's problem. As for the rest, well, Admiral Naismith is going to handle that.

He hopes his forward momentum will continue to cover it.