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20 August 2009 @ 12:28 pm
Fic: Love and Marriage  
Title: Love and Marriage
Author: philomytha
Prompt: Padma and Alys, prior to the Pretendership.
Length: 1000 words
Rating/warnings: PG, none
Summary: the venereal transmission of power

"Well, what did you think of her?" Padma slid his arm around her shoulders in the rear of the lightflyer and gave a boyish smile. "Quite the Betan, isn't she?"

Alys settled into his comfortable embrace, her gaze turning from the distant night-glow of the capital to her husband.

"Very much so," she said. "She's clever, of course, and utterly besotted with him." She gave a little laugh. "A love-match, who would have thought it after all these years? She'll have a lot of instant enemies amongst all the girls who've been trying to catch Aral this past decade and more." Alys had been amongst those girls for a short time, until her grandmother had acidly suggested that she observe Aral's behaviour towards men. Alys had made the correct deduction and decided to try for the younger and handsomer cousin instead. A Betan, she supposed, would be more flexible about those kinds of things.

"But you'll make her welcome, won't you?" He cupped a protective hand over her womb and added, "As much as you have the energy for, I mean. You have to look after yourself right now."

Alys smiled. "Of course I shall." She had gone to the wedding prepared for anything, and Cordelia had left her profoundly relieved. Aral could have chosen much, much worse. "All in all, I liked her." The other thing Alys had instantly concluded was that she didn't want Cordelia for an enemy. Whether she would be a friend ... was a harder question to answer. But Alys intended to try. "It'll certainly stir things up if we get a Betan for Regent-Consort," she added.

"If Ezar names Aral," Padma said cautiously. "He might be laying a false trail for us all, planning to spring some other candidate out at the last moment. It would be like him."

"Kareen used to want Count Vordarian, it's true, but even she's been talking Aral up lately. And I can't see how any of the other plausible candidates could stand up to Aral. Especially since Negri supports him."

"He does?" Padma turned to look at her properly. "How do you know that?"

"Did you notice that little ImpSec commander who was there today? He left halfway through the reception," she added with a disapproving frown. "Anyway, I've seen him at the Residence. Kareen tells me he's Negri's right-hand man, and Negri's been sticking him to Aral at every opportunity. He wouldn't do that without a reason."

"Ah. We don't hear much about ImpSec's internal arrangements in Ops." Padma shrugged. "I hope Princess Kareen won't hold it against Lady Vorkosigan that she fought on the other side of the war."

Alys raised her eyebrows a little. "I hardly think that likely." She glanced sideways at Padma, and he looked away.

"Well, yes." Prince Serg's behaviour had been a topic nobody mentioned in polite company. He had married Princess Kareen just before Alys came out, and she had lamented the lost opportunity and not understood why her mother had seemed relieved. The first time she encountered Serg at a party, it became clear. After that she learned to keep her distance from him. Parties at the Residence would be much more enjoyable now.

There was a silence, whilst Padma absently stroked her arm and Alys allowed herself to enjoy his warm presence at her side. Watching Cordelia and Aral repeat their vows had reminded her of her own wedding, though Aral's had been a tiny affair whilst the Vorpatril match had been the biggest event of the season. And that was not the only contrast. Aral and Cordelia were a love-match. Alys didn't think Aral had sent a Baba to Cordelia's family even as a formality. Whatever Cordelia saw in Aral, it was not his rank or his title. Alys hadn't been entirely convinced that Cordelia even understood who Aral was in Barrayaran society. She would be in for a shock when Aral took her back to the capital.

"But apart from all the politics," Padma said after a while, "I think she'll be good for him. And after these last few months, it's wonderful to see him ... more himself again."

Alys put her hand over Padma's. "I agree. He does seem much better," she said, and felt Padma relax. He loved his cousin, but whatever had been eating at Aral since Escobar, Padma had been unable to help. The night they'd heard about Aral's attempt to kill himself by crashing his lightflyer, Alys had seen Padma weep for the first time.

She had comforted Padma that night, and never spoken of the wondering voice in her mind that said that perhaps it would be she who would sit in the Residence if Aral did manage to kill himself one day. Padma had wisely stayed well clear of the discussion of the Regency, and he wasn't a good candidate as things stood, but if Aral had died he would have been a much better one. Alys was genuinely fond of Aral, and didn't want any harm to come to him, but there was always a part of her that calculated about things like this. She had learned early on that to speak about these things was unwomanly, but her grandmother had saved her from believing that it was unwomanly to think them. But she could never share that part of herself with Padma.

"I hope," Padma said, smiling again, "they will be as happy together as we are." He leaned forward and kissed her cheek. Alys let him draw her close and rested her head against his shoulder. Of all the men she might have caught, she thought she had found the best. Padma might be further from the throne, but he wasn't a pervert, wasn't a drunk, wasn't married to his career. He was honest and loyal and clever, he treated her with unfailing respect and he listened to her advice. And over time she was coming to love him, perhaps not passionately, but warmly. What more could she want?
Kristina Andersson: Can I Play? (by Dolimir)kriscat on August 20th, 2009 02:04 pm (UTC)
This was brilliant, and so Alys.
philomythaphilomytha on August 20th, 2009 03:58 pm (UTC)
Thanks! I do love writing Alys.
Telteldreaming on August 20th, 2009 02:23 pm (UTC)
Alys is more ambitious than her husband, and that shines through clearly. But Padma is not... dumb. And perhaps more sensible about such matters!

This really is a beautifully written fic.
philomythaphilomytha on August 20th, 2009 04:08 pm (UTC)
Padma, poor sod, has learned the hard way how dangerous it is to get too close to power. I suspect that if Aral had died, Alys would have discovered that her placid husband could be just as stubborn as Ivan can be later, if Alys had hinted that he should make a push to become Regent. It isn't till later that Alys learns her own hard lessons, and even that doesn't really dent her ambition that much, just tempers it. Though I wonder whether she isn't a bit relieved, secretly, that Ivan doesn't have any ambition at all except to slide by unnoticed.

Also, thanks! I'm pleased you enjoyed it, since it was more than a bit inspired by your Padma fic.
(no subject) - teldreaming on August 20th, 2009 05:52 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - philomytha on August 20th, 2009 06:16 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - teldreaming on August 20th, 2009 08:12 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - philomytha on August 20th, 2009 08:23 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Alys and Simon - (Anonymous) on August 20th, 2009 09:36 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: Alys and Simon - dan_ad_nauseam on August 21st, 2009 01:38 am (UTC) (Expand)
Re: Alys and Simon - teldreaming on August 21st, 2009 05:43 am (UTC) (Expand)
Re: Alys and Simon - (Anonymous) on August 21st, 2009 06:15 am (UTC) (Expand)
the most saint-obsessed Jew you'll ever meetrymenhild on August 20th, 2009 02:28 pm (UTC)
She's young, and still learning, but this Alys is already learning to be steel.
philomythaphilomytha on August 20th, 2009 04:10 pm (UTC)
Thanks! She's definitely a woman of steely determination and ambition. I enjoyed figuring out what she might have been like before the Vorkosigans and their adventures impinged so strongly on her life.
shimotsuki: vorkosiganshimotsuki on August 20th, 2009 06:32 pm (UTC)
I like this a lot, from the perceptive comments about Aral and Cordelia (love the idea of the grandmother warning Alys off Aral, heh) to the realistic dynamic between Alys and Padma in the structure of an amiable but arranged marriage.

It's interesting to see this early view of Alys, who may not have the vast power and influence she'll come to have later, but is clearly very observant and analytical about the people in power. And of course, it's also fun to see her make a throwaway comment about a certain ImpSec officer whose name she doesn't even know!
philomythaphilomytha on August 20th, 2009 06:48 pm (UTC)
I think Alys already has a fair bit of influence, at least on a social level--her wedding is the social event of the season. But political power is something that comes to her later on.

it's also fun to see her make a throwaway comment about a certain ImpSec officer whose name she doesn't even know!

I've written too much Alys/Simon fic to pass that opportunity up :-) I'm glad you liked it!
girl_called_sun: competence (bujold)girl_called_sun on August 20th, 2009 08:39 pm (UTC)
I'm really pleased to read Padma as smart, and compassionate, and kind - a match for Alys. It's a good view into the father Ivan never had.
philomythaphilomytha on August 20th, 2009 08:57 pm (UTC)
Thanks! We only get a glimpse of Padma in canon, but he comes across well in it. I liked writing him.
fawatsonfawatson on August 20th, 2009 08:57 pm (UTC)
This is very believeable. Thank you.
philomythaphilomytha on August 20th, 2009 08:58 pm (UTC)
Thanks! I'm glad you thought it rang true.
Professorprofessor on August 20th, 2009 09:29 pm (UTC)
But she could never share that part of herself with Padma.

Hee. I love this bit. Because, of course, she CAN share that part of herself with Simon.
philomythaphilomytha on August 21st, 2009 06:00 am (UTC)
Thanks! Yes, Simon knows how to appreciate a bit of cold-blooded analysis.
Pete Granzeaupgranzeau on August 20th, 2009 09:30 pm (UTC)
I just don't get the picture of Aral ignoring women for men publicly at all. I think more of a furtive arrangement with Ges Vorrutyer, kept strictly as confidential as they could make it, and possibly of short duration. Ges used it later to attempt to hurt the relationship Aral had with Cordelia, but that didn't work.
philomythaphilomytha on August 21st, 2009 06:02 am (UTC)
Thanks for commenting! I don't think Aral would have been blatant about it, no, but to an astute and primed observer I think there might have been signs. Aral and Ges were a 'secret scandal', so quite a lot of people in their social circles probably knew about them.
The Espresso Addict: coffee cupsespresso_addict on August 20th, 2009 10:21 pm (UTC)
She had learned early on that to speak about these things was unwomanly, but her grandmother had saved her from believing that it was unwomanly to think them.

An interesting portrait of Alys in the making. I like your Padma, too -- clever enough to realise that his wife is (at least) his equal.
philomythaphilomytha on August 21st, 2009 06:03 am (UTC)
Thanks! Yes, Padma has realised that listening to Alys' advice and analysis is a good idea, and Alys in turn respects him all the more for that.
emma_in_oz: Elizabeth Petersemma_in_oz on August 21st, 2009 02:26 am (UTC)
Nice, thoughtful fic. thank you.
philomythaphilomytha on August 21st, 2009 06:03 am (UTC)
Thanks! I'm glad you liked it.
VorWombat: biowombathouse on August 21st, 2009 09:45 am (UTC)
Excellent, as always. And that last paragraph slices like a good razor -- what a nice back-handed indictment of arranged marriage!
philomythaphilomytha on August 22nd, 2009 03:34 pm (UTC)
Thanks! Yes, arranged marriages can work out fine, but there's plenty to be said for love-matches. As Alys will find out...
vkw10vkw10 on August 23rd, 2009 05:47 am (UTC)
Great view into Alys, the future doyenne of high Vor society. She comes across as perceptive and pragmatic. She's content with her choice of Padma. She can see that Aral and Cordelia have something more, but she's made a bargain and it's turned out fairly well.

If the Pretendership hadn't made the dangers of being a young widow with a son close to the throne clear, Alys might have remarried. But she's not risking following in Kareen's footsteps.

I love this line: "The other thing Alys had instantly concluded was that she didn't want Cordelia for an enemy." While everyone else was seeing Aral's Betan frill, Alys saw another intelligent woman worthy of her respect. That line goes a long way toward explaining how two such disparate women became friends.
philomythaphilomytha on August 23rd, 2009 07:31 am (UTC)
Thanks for the comment! Yes, I do see Alys very much as a pragmatist. And she isn't one to make the mistake of underestimating a woman. Admittedly the fact that Cordelia is going to be Regent-Consort is colouring Alys' desire to be friends with her, but she can also see that Cordelia is an interesting person to be around.

After Padma's death, Alys was undoubtedly courted by many men who wanted to have her influence and power (not to mention the beauty and charm) for themselves, but as you say, she knew better than to give her power away like that.
(no subject) - filkferengi on August 27th, 2009 07:01 pm (UTC) (Expand)