Your ghosts never really leave you
[Feels Warning: Contains imminent demise]
Miles fought for his next breath. He was dying. He knew it. Ekaterin knew it. His beloved little army knew it. Only his grandchildren were really still in denial.
In all honesty, it was surprising he lasted this long.
Damn meds they had him on were giving him some interesting reactions. Just as well, really, since the decor at ImpMil sucked dead donkey balls. Everything was very, very interesting. And he needed the entertainment.
Except for the ghosts.
Sergeant Bothari stood guard, but did nothing to stop the endless parade of corpses on his conscience. The pilot. His first. Ensign Murka. Sergeant Beatrice. All silent. All staring. All shuffling in and shuffling around before shuffling out again
“Already said ’m sorry,” he managed. His voice was hardly a whisper of a croak. “Whaddaya want? Speak up? ’ve gone deaf…”
But the silent throng still shuffled and stared.
“There’s no-one here, Gran'da,” said Emileé. She was crying. Sitting watch. His own Da sat opposite. His sparkling eyes said, You have a responsibility, my Lord.
A duty to his people. Even his grandchildren.
He patted her hand. “Celebrate my victories, eh? Even the classified ones. If they’ll let you.”
“Gregor’s coming later this afternoon,” said Emileé. “You don’t want to disappoint your emperor.”
Gasp. “I might…” gasp… “have to. Give him my humble apologies…” Gasp. “If it’s necessary.”
“No tears, eh? Consider it…” gasp… “an order from your lord…” gasp… “Count… Vorkosigan….”
Bothari left his post to join Da’s side.“Time to go, my Lord.”
Miles flicked him a covert signal. Wait.
“I don’t suppose you could sneak in…” gasp… “a glass of wine for me?”
“The doctors said…”
One gentle finger on her pretty little lips. She was going to leave broken hearts in her wake, oh yes. “Doctors…” gasp… “can bite me.”
Emileé giggled in spite of herself. “I’ll tell them you said something profound.”
Miles smiled in return. His ghosts cleared a path for her.
It was a very strange perspective, from six feet tall. Staring both Da and Sergeant Bothari in the eye, instead of the rib-cage.
“You always thought you were six feet tall, on the inside,” said Da.
“What happens, now?” asked Miles as he took his father’s hand.
“We watch over our crazy descendants, of course.”