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Three Conversations Donna Vorrutyer Had About Bisexuality

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“Really?”

“Really. I mean, I’ve never put it into practice. But I’ve known since I was twelve or so.”

“Huh. That’s ... pretty interesting. If you ever do decide to put it into practice, can I watch?”

“By all means, dear boy. As long as I can watch if you ever decide to experiment with men. In case you’re looking for a partner in crime, I do believe my cousin might not object.”

“I did not need to know that – and obviously, that isn’t the same – you’re just doing one of those reverse-the-genders thought experiments you like to do...”

Why isn’t it the same, pray tell? Because women and their desires exist to be playthings for men, but it doesn’t work the other way around? Or because you, personally, are not interested in it, so it doesn’t exist?”

“No! Because – because women aren’t interested in seeing that sort of thing!”

“Says who?”

“Says everyone.”

“Would this be everyone-everyone? Or just the male kind of everyone? Or I’ve-asked-two-people-and-I’m-taking-that-as-a-reasonable-sample-of-everyone?”

“Well, obviously I haven’t asked everyone-everyone. But it stands to reason.”

“Why? Because women are pure and innocent and don’t ever think about that sort of thing?”

“No. Because it’s gross.”

“Right, so that would be male-everyone. Or, to be more precise, heterosexual-male-everyone. How pleasant it must be to know your desires and opinions are universal. I’ve often thought it would be very relaxing.”

“Honest-to-God-I-don’t-know why you keep putting the worst possible spin on everything I say. Or why I put up with it.”

“Well, darling, you do make yourself rather a sitting target, sometimes ... Also, you’re cute when you get flustered, and you’re awfully easy to fluster...”

“I’m not easy to fluster, it’s just that this conversation is bizarre. Are you seriously arguing there are girls who would be interested in watching me and your cousin get it on?”

“Oh, my dear, innocent young lieutenant. You have so much to learn.”

“Huh. ... Teach me?”

“Gladly.”

* * *

“Come now, you’ve been so serious ever since you took over managing the district. What you need, my dear, is a frivolous and inconsequential love affair.”

“Did you have anyone in particular in mind?”

“How about Helga Vormuir? You obviously get along with her, and I suspect she may not be averse. Word on the street is that she and the Count have an ... arrangement.”

“No.”

“You’ve never actually been with a woman, have you?”

“No.”

“You know ... you were the one who explained it to me. The only person in the family who talked about it openly. You told me never to be ashamed. Or afraid.”

“I stand by that.”

“Then why not try taking your own advice, hmm?”

“Because I am not ashamed or afraid. What I am doing is thinking in terms of long-range strategy, which is something that you, dear coz, have never been much good at. Which is why I always beat you at chess.”

“I don’t like chess. There are too many rules, and none of them even make sense. ‘If you’re wearing a pointy hat, you can only go to diagonal places.’ What kind of rule is that?”

“Now you’re just being silly.”

“And you are being unreasonably enigmatical, which is annoying. Besides, I made you smile, and you’ve not done that in ages. That ought to be worth something.”

“All right. I’ll give you a small hint. Have you ever known me to do anything that would be terribly scandalous if a man did it?”

“Well, technically speaking, I don’t think having an affair with Helga Vormuir would be terribly scandalous if a man did it. At least not on the man’s side.”

“You know what I mean. Anyway, unless you’re volunteering to be the next Count Vorrutyer yourself –”

Perish the thought.”

“– Someone will have to do it. Someone decent. So trust me when I say I know what I’m doing.”

“Ah. So in other words, you’re trying not to do anything that might jeopardize your chances of meeting husband number four, and giving Pierre a proper heir?”

“Something along those lines. But I promise you, when I meet the right girl ... it will happen. And it will be spectacularly public.”

“Ooh. Scandal. I shall look forward to it.”

“Do. I think it might even exceed your expectations.”

* * *

“We’ve got an hour to kill before my next appointment. I thought we might have a look in the earring shop.”

“As you wish ... I wonder what young Theophilos would make of this?”

“Poor Armsman Theophilos! He seems to think the Betan girls are going to eat him alive.”

“Remember, we are not armsmen at the moment.”

“Right, thanks, I keep forgetting ... Look at this chart, I didn’t know there would be that many styles. They’re remarkably specific, don’t you think?”

“Yes. It seems a very logical system.”

“You say that as if it’s a bad thing.”

“Eliminating ambiguity is not always a good idea, in my experience.”

“No, I guess not. Neither is eliminating mystery, I think – at least when it comes to romance ... Look at this one, married but not happily, looking for a short-term fling but prepared to take full responsibility for all long-term consequences. Can you imagine going around wearing all that in your ears?

“No, m’lady.”

“You only call me ‘m’lady’ when I’m being impertinent. What have I said this time? ... Oh. That style would be yours, wouldn’t it, if you were going to buy some.”

“M’lady.”

“Right. Sorry, I hadn’t realized ... I wonder if you will say ‘m’lord’ in the same tone, after next week. I don’t think, somehow, that ‘m’lord’ will lend itself quite as well to scolding people ... Oh, look at this one! Bisexual and looking for something more serious than my previous career would suggest. And they’ve got them in stock ... How do I look? I think they’re very me.”

“They are. You look ... very right in them. But you cannot wear them in public.”

“No. Never on Barrayar. And I suppose not here, either – I can’t very well come home with a Betan Countess, let along a Betan Count, so announcing that I’m looking for something serious would be false pretenses ... It’s a shame, isn’t it? Because I really do like them.”

“Can I help you, madam?”

“Yes. I’ll take these, please.”

“That will be seventy-nine dollars. Off-worlder, are you? Keep the receipt, you can get the sales tax back if you turn it in at the shuttleport.”

“M’lady –”

“What? Don’t we know anyone who deserves a nice souvenir from Beta, and who doesn’t mind being as shocking as possible in public?”

“Ah. But are you, er, sure that is your cousin’s style?”

“Funnily enough ... I think it might be.”