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“We really should have held a formal ball to announce your betrothal properly. Count Vorpatril would have been happy to host it in the Vorpatril House ballroom,” Lady Alys remarked. “Of course, neither Ekaterin nor the Professora are accustomed to planning major social occassions. But I’ll help plan the wedding. Hmm, about 600 guests at Vorpatril House? If we select a date in late spring, we should have enough time to prepare.”

“We were planning a small family wedding in the Vorkosigan House gardens next month. We want to get married before fall semester at the university,” Ivan said, looking from Ekaterin to his mother.

“Certainly not, Ivan. We have a great many friends who will expect to be invited to your wedding. It will take at least six months to plan properly. I’ll ask Falco Vorpatril about suitable dates as soon as Simon and I return from Bonsanklar. Now, do pay a call on him tomorrow to inform him of your betrothal,” Alys instructed. “I’m absolutely delighted, Ekaterin. I’ll call you to arrange dinner when we get back so we can start on the wedding plans. Good night, dears.”

Three weeks later, Lady Alys suddenly stiffened while reviewing the items Delia Galeni had added to the Emperor’s social calendar during her absence. “Vorpatril-Vorsoisson wedding? In two weeks? Delia’s made a mistake,” she muttered to herself. She entered Ivan’s number at Ops, then spoke before he finished greeting her. “Ivan? What kind of event are you and Ekaterin planning in two weeks? Delia’s entered it on Gregor’s calendar as wedding, but that can’t be right.”

“Two weeks from tomorrow? That’s right. It was the only date before fall semester when both Gregor and Miles could attend. You and Simon must have gotten in late last night or you’d have seen your invitation,” Ivan said blithely.

“But, Ivan, two weeks isn’t enough time to plan. And it’s such short notice that many of your guests won’t be able to attend!” Lady Alys would have wailed, but wailing wasn’t proper.

“Don’t worry, Ma. We’ve only invited family. Miles and Gregor, the Vorkosigans, Ekaterin’s father and brothers and their families, the Professor and Professora, and  the Koudelkas. Well, the Koudelkas aren’t actually family, but they feel like family,” Ivan said blithly. “Everything’s planned. Oh, Ekaterin has a fitting for her dress tomorrow. She’s planning to call and invite you to go with her.”

***                                                         

Lady Alys put her spoon down and said, “Have you mentioned Nikki’s school to Ekaterin yet, Ivan? You’ll need to act quickly to secure one of the places left open by Lord Vorlannis’s decision to take his sons to Earth with the embassy.”

“Yes, he mentioned it, Lady Alys,” Ekaterin said. “But Nikki is happy at his current school and I don’t want to send him to boarding school.”

“Ekaterin, my dear, I realize you will miss him, but you’ll soon be busy with the baby. Nikki will make excellent connections at Konrad’s and get the best possible preparation for the Academy exams,” Lady Alys said firmly.

Ekaterin’s serene expression masked her irritation, but Nikki looked alarmed. Ivan said, “No need discussing it now, Mama. I paid Nikki’s tuition when I dropped him off at school today. And the spaces are probably already taken, anyway, because I mentioned them to Vorgarian. Vorgarian called his sister right away; they just returned from Komarr and she’s anxious to get her boys into a good school. Twins, you know.”

***

Three years later, Ivan carefully slipped his sleeping three-year-old daughter into bed, then went to check his comconsole messages while Ekaterin settled the baby. One message, from his mother. He played it back.

“Ivan, where are you? I reminded you at least three times to make reservations. I asked about your reservations while I was confirming ours, but they don’t have a reservation for you this year. I tried to make one, but all the family houses are already rented. You and Ekaterin and the children won’t be able to join us at Bonsanklar this year.”

Ivan grinned, looking at the letter confirming his reservations for a cabin at Silvy Vale. Ekaterin was delighted that he had managed to get a mountain cabin for ten days.

***

 “The teal dress is perfect for Sylvia! She’ll be the best-dressed girl at the party,” Lady Alys declared.

Ekaterin raised an eyebrow. “The teal is nice, but this soft rose is lovely. Don’t you love how the skirt and petticoats rustle, Sylvia?”

Five-year-old Sylvia looked from Grandmama to Mama. They never liked the same dress.

 “Da,” Sylvia piped up, “which dress do you like?”

“Hmm? I like the dress that your mama likes best,” Ivan said firmly. He actually wasn’t sure which dress Ekaterin preferred because he’d been trying to devise a strategy to send the children off with his mother so he could talk Ekaterin into an afternoon nap.

“Ivan,” exclaimed his mother, “you haven’t even looked at the dresses! How can you possibly prefer one over the other?”

Ivan blinked. “I always agree with Ekaterin, Mama.” He looked over at Sylvia, stroking a pink dress. “That it, sweetheart? Let’s pay for it, then we’ll go for an icecream.”

***

Over dinner, Lady Alys indignantly told Simon Illyan about the visit to the dressmakers. Illyan smiled faintly and said, “But Alys, Ivan always does what Ekaterin wants.”

Alys thought. The cream parlor draperies, instead of that lovely blue print. Gymnastics lessons for Sylvia, instead of dance lessons. Holidays in the mountains, instead of at the beach. Sylvia’s pixie hairstyle, instead of curls. Ivan always listened to his mother. He never disagreed with her. But he always did what Ekaterin wanted..