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24 May 2006 @ 11:26 pm
"Shopping" - for quietann  
by Flora
Summary: Cordelia goes shopping. Written for quietann
Spoilers for Shards of Honor.

A light jingle announced her as the shop door closed behind her. The bustle of morning traffic was muffled, and for the first time since she landed no one was staring at her. Her tan survey fatigues were conspicuous enough, even with the insignia patch removed, in a city where every woman she'd seen wore skirts long enough to hide her shoes. She had not changed them since she left home, huddled on the floor of a freight compartment in tears. Two days on the freighter, then three days from Escobar, in her cabin with the door locked. And on the fourth day, Vorbarr Sultana spaceport, crowded with armed men under a cloud-veiled sun, a cool breeze and the smell of damp growing things even in this industrial center, mixed with flyer exhaust. I've made it.

Safe. When did Barrayar become safe? She remembered standing at the bottom of the ramp, dry-eyed and resolute, looking around as if she expected Aral to be waiting for her at the spaceport. Idiot. You never even told him you were coming.

He asked you, and you said no. What if he's changed his mind? He was a Count's heir, and not a young one, at that. Such a man would be expected to marry to continue his genetic line. Oh, dear God above, what if he's gone and married someone else?

"Ma'am?" The soft, accented voice startled her, and she jumped, making the clerk step back. A simply-dressed woman in gray, her tone caught between curiosity and impatience. She must make quite a sight, in her tan survey fatigues. "Can I help you find something?"

She swallowed. Vorkosigan had not answered his comconsole, and the uniformed servant who took the call had no knowledge of her. "I'm looking for –" Camouflage, she thought wildly, though the bright silks and wide skirts she could see from here would blend in about as well as a peacock on full display. "I'm, uh, looking for a dress."

The clerk's eyes passed up and down her body, wrinkled fatigues and scuffed boots. "Did you, um, have anything specific in mind?" She blinked, and the clerk saw her confusion and bustled away.

The first dress was orange silk, swirling skirts the color of peach sherbet. She shook her head sharply. The next was dark green, embroidered in a floral pattern.

"This will match your eyes, ma'am." Alone in the cramped closet that served as a changing room, she peeled off the rumpled fatigues for the first time in four days, letting the heavy silk fall over her in a wash of cool green. A flash of memory – a red-haired, freckled child in a ridiculously long skirt, peering out of her mother's hallway mirror, a princess for a costume party.

She twisted one way, then the other; the skirts swirled and whispered with her slightest movement as if the silk itself were alive, smooth and sensuous. It occurred to her she had no idea what sort of clothes Vorkosigan would find attractive.

He kept your old uniform. She folded her jacket and pants, tucking them inside her carryall, where she had already stowed her rank insignias and uniform patches.

Dear Captain, Vorkosigan had called her. Here, she was no longer Captain Naismith. Back home – back home she was an escaped psychiatric patient, if not a suspected enemy agent. Oh, Aral. You fell in love with a captain and a soldier. Now, I come to you as neither.

"Oh, this is lovely!" The clerk prodded her toward a mirror, where she eyed her reflection dubiously. Is this what Lady Vorkosigan looks like? Staring at the woman in the mirror, she felt more like a stage actress wandering the streets in full costume. What if Aral doesn't recognize me? She exhaled slowly, fighting a panicked flutter in her stomach at the thought. I'm not even sure I recognize me.

"But we really must do something with your hair!"

Cordelia looked at her askance, then back to the mirror as the clerk began to briskly undo her neat, utilitarian braid. After several minutes' tugging and pulling at her scalp, her hair was piled on top of her head, pinned securely in place by a set of delicate, fine-looking enameled combs.

"There!" The clerk's smile faltered a little at her expression, and Cordelia essayed a tentative smile in return.

"It's – lovely. Beautiful."

She exhaled slowly, turning her head from side to side, cautious. The warm overhead lights glowed along the opalescent surface of the combs, caught and glittered on her earrings. Simple jeweled studs, these would have told any Betan observer that the wearer was currently single, and was not seeking a partner.

She doubted Aral would recognize the significance of the studs, and these were the only Betan thing she wore, now. But she pulled them out, slipping them into a side pocket of her carryall, and let the clerk lead her toward the jewelry counter.

Barrayaran jewelry was as extravagant and gaudy, to her eyes, as everything else in this shop. She pointed, before she could think, to a pair of mother-of-pearl embossed hoops shimmering beneath a glass case. On Beta Colony, such a style indicated the wearer was in a committed relationship.

The clerk was eager to open the case, placing the earrings in her hand. Cordelia stared at them, hiding a shiver of doubt and anticipation. I don't even know who I am anymore.

She paid for everything, wincing inwardly at the price tag. She had come this far, left everything to get to him. She could not very well lose her nerve now. Only one way to find out. She had delayed long enough already.

At the door, she hesitated, looking down at the earrings in her hand. Later. There would be time. She tucked them into a pocket, and slipped out the door to find a lightflyer.
Kassia: Dandelionkassia06 on May 25th, 2006 03:41 am (UTC)
Ah, nice! What a cozy fic to curl up in. I like Cordelia wondering when Barrayar had begun to feel safe, and I really like that she looks around for Aral at the spaceport, even though he didn't know she was coming -- I've done that, too. Though not at spaceports.

And this bit: "I'm looking for –" Camouflage, Yes! That's so Cordelia.
Azure Jane Lunaticazurelunatic on May 25th, 2006 07:11 am (UTC)
Oh, I like this. Especially the earrings.
Persephonepersephone_kore on May 25th, 2006 04:02 pm (UTC)
Ooh. This is good all over, and I especially like that the clerk is so helpful despite probably finding it very odd, and most especially that she changes out the earrings so they mean the right thing, even though nobody but her will see the message.
Entendre? Make mine a double.: Find xdeirdre_c on May 25th, 2006 05:42 pm (UTC)
Very nice! I really enjoyed seeing this missing scene.

This line particularly struck me:
Oh, Aral. You fell in love with a captain and a soldier. Now, I come to you as neither.
How uncertain she must've been at how Aral would receive her. How little yet and how well she knows him.

Thanks so much for sharing!
Jedi Interdictor: bloo dancejedishampoo on May 25th, 2006 10:40 pm (UTC)
Wonderful missing scene, something I must admit I've always wondered about. How did she find those clothes, and what did they make of her, and vice-versa? Brilliant, and so well done. I loved Cordelia thinking about "camouflage," and "Oh Aral." Amazingly good for Cordelia's voice-- I could never do her voice half so well. Nice job.
firefly_124: biologicalwealth by asefirefly124 on May 26th, 2006 12:24 am (UTC)
What a nice peek into Cordelia's mind!
quietannquietann on May 26th, 2006 03:06 am (UTC)
lovely, thank you! and special thanks for pinch-hitting.

(I wasn't sure about this the first time I read it, but the second time, I fell in love!)
grime and livestockcofax7 on May 26th, 2006 03:40 am (UTC)
Oh, I liked that. Poor Cordelia. Such culture shock she must go through, those first years.
jetta_e_rus aka Жоржеттаjetta_e_rus on May 26th, 2006 07:33 am (UTC)
Thanks! I enjoyed it.
Cordelia's doubts about her role, here temporary uncertainty and apprehensions that Aral is already married are fully reliable. And this bit about earrings is wonderful.
Altariel: Gregoraltariel on May 26th, 2006 11:01 am (UTC)
Lovely, subtle piece. Such ordinary activities - buying a dress, picking some earrings, fixing your hair - but done in such extraordinary circumstances.

A huge thank you for pinch-hitting. I'm going to put a list together of prompts that weren't picked up from the original posts - is there anything you'd like me to include from you?
florastuart: badass DRDflorastuart on June 1st, 2006 10:09 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I'm glad you liked it!

I'm going to put a list together of prompts that weren't picked up from the original posts - is there anything you'd like me to include from you?

Hmmm ... anything involving Miles and Sgt. Bothari would be wonderful. Or something about Piotr's history - either during the Cetagandan war or after his wife was killed. Or Elena, at her father's grave for the first time, and her feelings about him and his relationship with Miles. (No slash, please.)

Thanks so much!
sahiya on May 26th, 2006 12:06 pm (UTC)
Really well done. I find Cordelia very difficult to write, but I think you totally nailed her voice here. I especially liked her worries about how Aral would receive her after she'd come all that way.

One small canon quibble: I'm pretty sure the trip from Beta to Barrayar is much longer than a few days.
filkferengifilkferengi on May 30th, 2006 09:04 pm (UTC)
Nice Cordelia!
Josan PQjosanpq on June 10th, 2006 09:15 pm (UTC)
Loved this insight into Cordelia. I have just finished rereading SHARDS and this fits in perfectly.