Gregor returned home to Barrayar after Cavilo and the war of the Hegen Hub a few days before Aral and Miles. They stayed to clean up the mess an appropriately threaten anyone who needed to be threatened. The first person he spoke with upon arrival was Illyan who met him at the shuttle port and debriefed him on the aircar home to the imperial residence. Simon was strangely silent even after Gregor apologized to him.
Before departing back to ImpSec Illyan had put a hand on Gregor’s shoulder and stated, “it’s good to have you back.”
Gregor had feigned a smile but he felt drained and exhausted and thought he wanted nothing more than to sleep for a week. That evening, before he went to bed Gregor received a vid call from Cordelia asking him to see her.
He went early the next morning, expecting a tongue thrashing, expecting her to weep or mutter Barrayarans or any of a number of other things.
Instead he was introduced into a room, the library with its antique bookshelves and green silk walls and found her seated with a very handsome man.
“Andrei, this is the boy I was telling you about,” Cordelia explained to the man sitting across from her on a high backed chair.
“Oh, I see,” Andrei said then promptly stood up and ripped off his own clothes. Gregor’s mouth dropped open as the man literally ripped off his coat, button down shirt and slacks. They must have been tearaways of some kind with buttons along the side to allow for that sort of thing, Gregor decided, he couldn’t decide that he was too confused about what was happening. First this man, this Andrei was in a full suit and tie and the next he was standing there bare-chested with just socks and his underwear on.
“Cordelia, what is happening,” Gregor asked in a strangled voice, only glad that Andrei had waited until after Gregor’s armsmen had stepped outside before this happened.
“Gregor, Aral mentioned what happened on Komarr but refused to give me details. Naturally I was forced to come to my own conclusions,” Cordelia explained walking up to and hugging Gregor.
She pulled back and gently touched his face, “you know it’s alright if you’re gay.”
Cordelia looked only mildly perturbed at this, “I understand that Barrayar does not approve of certain sexual variations for reasons that are still not obvious to me. I know there is a great deal of stress being placed on you to produce an heir coupled with the stigma of homosexuality. I know people just keep piling expectations on you and you feel like you have to please everyone. But you’re human Gregor and I see that even if no one else does or they refuse to believe it. It’s alright if you can’t reach everyone’s expections, you shouldn’t be required to do that. I don’t want you to kill yourself because you think you’ve failed. There is nothing wrong with you for liking men and frankly I think this little shake up will be good for those old goats in the council.”
“Yeah kid, always be yourself,” Andrei put in winking at him.
Gregor felt himself blush, “That’s…um, thank you Cordelia, but I well I-“
Cordelia sighed, “I thought you might still be nervous, fortunately Andrei is a Betan like myself, I was serendipitous enough to run into him while he was touring with his family by Vorhartung castle and found out he’s a licensed Sexual therapist so you don’t need to worry about anything, just enjoy yourself.”
“Yeah and I’m really good at my job,” Andrei smiled.
“I’m not actually gay,” Gregor blurted.
Cordelia looked him over, “are you sure? Because I did have our chef bake you a cake. Hold on,” Cordelia spoke into her brooch and moments later Armsman Esterhazy came in with a large cake on a cart that read:
Your homosexuality does not change your value as a person
“Cordelia, I thank you but I’m really not gay. Andrei I do appreciate your… willingness to help in Imperial matters but We would appreciate it if you put your clothes back on,” Gregor stated regaining his composure.
“Oh, well I only took them off in the first place so you wouldn’t feel awkward about taking your clothes off too,” Andrei explained re-buttoning his shirt.
“Are you sure you’re not gay? I could have sworn that was the issue, when societal norms and individual deviations clash here it so often leads to suicide. And there are plenty of other high vor who pretend to be straight or only interested in women. Even Aral had a fling with a man,” Cordelia mused then turned to look Gregor over in renewed concern, “but then why did you try to hurt yourself?”
Gregor’s eyes widened only briefly at Cordelia’s mention of Aral but recovered himself, “I found out the truth about my father,” he admitted lowering his gaze.
“Oh,” Cordelia swore, “no doubt some callous lout… well what’s done is done, come sit next to me and we’ll talk about this. Andrei I sincerely thank you for your efforts but I think Gregor and I need some time alone to talk. I will of course still pay triple your fee considering you’ve taken time off of your vacation to help me.”
“Oh, alright, well nice meeting you both. I’m sorry I couldn’t be more help,” Andrei apologized before following Esterhazy out.
So Gregor poured out his concerns about his father and himself and Cordelia listened and tried to help. When Gregor was emotionally and psychologically spent from the ordeal Cordelia lay a gentle hand on his hand and squeezed.
“You’re never going to be your father Gregor. I have many fears for you but turning into him is not one of them,” Cordelia stated sincerely.
They sat in comfortable silent for a few moments longer.
“Did you want some cake after all,” Cordelia asked, “I did have the chef put the blueberry filling I know you like into it.”
“Oh, well I would have no desire to offend your chef. Heavens know I need as many loyal servants as possible.”
Cordelia cut him a slice and then one for herself and sighed, “still, I did get you some fireworks that spelled out:"it’s alright if your sexual identity doesn’t mesh with society’s expectations". I don’t know when I’m going to be able to use them now.”
“I really don’t understand how you could have thought that was the problem,” Gregor stated somewhat defensively.
Cordelia snorted, “Listen kiddo, when Aral leaves me in the dark about matters I’m forced to fall back on my training as Captain of a Betan Astronomical Survey team and make decisions based on logical reasoning and empirical evidence. I know Lady Alys has been throwing women at you since you reached your majority and hasn’t had any luck. Naturally I asked Simon what he knew about your previous lovers and that was no help. I tell you, there is something wrong with a planet where it’s alright to talk about dismembering someone at the dinner table but you can’t talk about sex without someone fainting.”
“Simon fainted,” Gregor asked incredulously.
“No, he became cadgey, more so than usual anyway and I imagine that he was almost embarrassed, though that might have been because he had nothing to report. I couldn’t imagine you sneaking off to cannoodle some girl or boy and Impsec not know about it. Furthermore, the history books and local culture dictate that it is socially acceptable for young men to ah, sow their wild oats so I couldn't imagine why you hadn't found someone yet. Contrary to what some people here insist you are quite human and have your own needs. Finally, I thought you were remaining abstinent out of shame and so I concluded that you were gay.”
“I see,” Gregor said, and he supposed he did, “remind me to not leave you in the dark in the future so as to avoid these well meaning erm, interventions.”
Cordelia shook her head, “my poor backwards foster son, I will never cease my well meaning interventions if it means protecting you.”