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Aral held Cordelia fiercely as they squashed together in his chair in the Tanery Base conference room. She'd returned to him, after days away into the horror of the Pretender's war. She'd rescued their son, killed a traitor—the gooey streak of Vordarian's blood was still on the table. His beautiful, dangerous wife had just won the war for him.

As their words died down she said, “This isn't Ezar's era. You have to find your own way. Remake this world into one Miles can survive in. And Elena. And Ivan. And Gregor.”

“As you will, milady,” was all he could say.

He embraced her harder again. She smelled of her own strong sweat, mud, smoke, and general stink. Her dress, some Residence uniform, was spattered with blood. She was hollow-eyed behind her tears.

“You need a bath. A shower. Hot water will take away those shakes.”

She murmured something, quieting now in her fatigue.

“What?”

“C'n you wash my back?”

He paused, imagining her nude, warm, floating in a bath with scented oils, her red hair flowing around her shoulders—lowering himself into that bath. Or holding her in a shower, water pouring over them, washing her carefully everywhere. Back, breasts--his cock stirred at these visions. Peace, warmth, and time to re-explore every inch of her. Mine, all mine.

“Not this bath, but soon, dear Captain. Soon.”

She got off his lap, moving slowly and stiffly, and he escorted her to the door, and into the hands of a young officer.

“Infirmary for Lady Vorkosigan.”

He turned back to the men who'd vacated the chamber so he could talk to Cordelia, silently triumphant and trying not to show it. Victory. Victory soon because of this—amazing, daring, woman. His wife, warm, safe, here. His world was whole again.