The world before. The world after.
Somehow, the two — and the time between them — seemed to separate slowly as Cordelia stood in a drawing room of the Viceroy's palace on Sergyar, shivering over her decision and her dead husband.
She'd spoken to the servants, quietly, calmly, rationally, while inside she'd been numb, unable to hear more than his faintly Barrayaran-Russian baritone in her mind, remembering the first days they'd met.
"No man could wish to live on like that."
She couldn't tell them she was hearing Aral. Miles would have understood that — would understand.
Oh, kiddo. Will you understand this? Will Mark?
Her fingers caress his cold hand as she sits down beside him to wait for the stretcher, throat clogged with tears that will not fall.
She gave up a world for this man, and gained another, and now she has to let him go.
He can find a better place and someday, she will join him there. She can accept this day in exchange for her years with Aral, Miles, Mark, Gregor, her grandchildren - even Barrayar itself. It happens to everyone. And in the end —
It's all been worth it, love. Even this.
Beta-read, kindly and thoroughly, by Tel and Ed Burkhead from the Bujold mailing list. I am not putting any warnings on this fic as that would negate the spoiler warning.