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Title: Blood Yet Must Flow (on Ao3 here)
Author: [personal profile] ailis_fictive
Fandom: Vorkosigan Saga/Barrayar
Rating: Teen
Wordcount:  1060
A/N:  A prequel of sorts to "The Wrong Ground To Hold"--a scene from the episode "Blood Yet Must Flow" from the (imaginary) TV show Barrayar.  Inspired by Barrayar Expects That Every Fan Will Do Their Duty: Excerpts From A Fandom by [archiveofourown.org profile] lannamichaels .  Author's commentary here.
Warnings: Implied recent torture and death, blood, non-explicit description of serious injury, a fair amount of swearing.

*     *     *

There was too much blood on Varadar Tau’s face.

Captain Piotr Vortalon knew how scalp wounds could bleed--and had a few scars as proof--but Varadar Tau’s face was covered ear to ear, as though someone had painted it on. The corpse at his feet had scrubbed-clean hands, with traces of blood under the nails.

“Don’t do this to me, you stupid bastard.” Vortalon stepped over the dead man without looking down. Tau hung in his bonds, unconscious at the least, and the blood wasn’t only on his face. “If you’re dead Hazelbright is going to fucking kill me.”

Either the General’s name or Vortalon’s own hands, sawing at the ropes, brought a response at last. Tau’s eyes, open, were shockingly bright blue against the smeared red. “Who--” His voice was a gasp, that broke off into a choked cry as the first rope parted and his arm dropped free.

Vortalon ground his teeth and dug out the pocket med-kit. “Vortalon, of course. Who else is going to save your sorry ass?”

“Fuck off. Leave me alone.” Invective was a good sign, Vortalon thought. Invective in a dull monotone...hmmm. He sorted through the med-patches, pulled out a strong painkiller and, after a moment, an even stronger tranquilizer. He found a mostly clean spot on the back of Tau’s neck and stuck on the painkiller, then tucked the tranq into a pocket. Carrying an unconscious Varadar Tau back to his flyer would be unpleasant work; the other man was thick with muscle, shorter but heavier than Vortalon. Carrying him conscious, in this condition, was even less appealing.

“Now, that’s not very friendly. Usually for a daring rescue I get at least a thank you. Sometimes a passionate kiss--I think we can skip that part.” Not a flicker. Fuck. What the hell had happened here? Well, if banter wasn’t going to work... “Who was he?”

“Was...he’s dead?” The other rope finally gave, without warning, and Vortalon only just managed to keep Tau from falling sideways--his ankles were still tied.

“Yes.” Vortalon didn’t bother to keep the snarl out of his voice. “He hurt one of my crew.”

“He was one of my crew. He was the last one, and he’s dead.” Tau sagged, suddenly, and Vortalon did his best to set him down, not let him fall. “They’re all dead now. My ship. My crew. My fault.”

Shit. Vortalon shook out his hands, trying to find something to say that wasn’t Shut up, neither of us wants me to hear this. He took a better grip on his blade and began working at the snarl of ropes and knots around Tau’s ankles. It was easier, at least, than working on his arms; the ropes were tighter and tangled, but the boots were sturdy and he didn’t have to worry that he would cut a wrist instead of a rope. Even if that was what the stupid bastard seemed to want.

“You gave us all all hell of a scare, vanishing like that. Hazelbright is livid.” That was a filthy low blow, but the tangled...thing between Varadar Tau and General Hazelbright, which Vortalon tried hard not to think or learn about, was at least good for getting a reaction. From both of them, although Vortalon had never been suicidal enough to use it on the General. Much.

It worked, after a fashion. Tau moved of his own accord--flinching away, and drawing his good hand up to cover his face. “Should have left me.”

The last rope snapped, and so did Vortalon. “Listen to me, you stupid sack of shit! I am risking my neck and my commission--and they’re worth something to me, even if they aren’t to you--to get you out of here. I don’t give a fuck what happened in the past. You have a new ship now and she needs you. So snap out of it and let’s get out of here before we’re both dead.”

Vortalon was panting a little as he met Tau’s wide, shocked eyes. Tau gave a jerky nod and began to struggle to his feet. Shit. Is this what it feels like to be Hazelbright?

“So. Boat. She’s OK?” Tau’s voice was raspy, but no longer flat.

“Yes.” Through the startling flood of relief, Vortalon felt sudden suspicion.. “Why wouldn’t she be?”

“Grav-mines. He had three. Said...me or my ship. Seemed fair. Had ‘em on remote.”

Vortalon found the remote in one of the dead man’s pockets, with its screen cracked and a streak of black across the casing.

“Shit,” Vortalon said, expressively, and then fumbled to power his wrist-com back on. Before he could open a channel to the bridge, the override kicked in and Hazelbright’s voice roared “Where the hell--”

“Later, sir.” Back-talk from Vortalon was nothing new, but this flat interruption actually silenced Hazelbright. “I’ve got Varadar Tau. He is...he’ll be fine. You need to get crews out on the hull immediately. There are probably three grav-mines on it. They, um, might be armed.”

There was a moment of hissing silence, before Hazelbright ground out “Back. Here. Now.” The connection closed on the beginning of a bellow to “Suit up!”

“Can you walk?”

“Yes,” Tau said, which was a flat lie. Vortalon caught him as his legs gave, and Tau made a choked noise that should probably have been a scream and said, after a minute, “Ribs!”

Damn it. Vortalon considered for a moment what the Doc would say if he gave a tranquilizer to a man with a probable concussion, and then decided that if they got back in one piece, Doc could say anything he damn well pleased. He pulled out the tranq patch and held it up until Tau’s eyes focused. “I’m going to have to carry you. I want to put you out.” Tau nodded and offered a wrist. They both looked for a moment at the torn, bloody flesh, and then Tau fumbled at his collar, pulling the sticky fabric aside until he’d exposed some reasonably clean skin.

The patch worked fast, but Vortalon waited until Tau was all the way under, because there was nowhere to grab that wasn’t bruised or bloody or both. He found the safest grip he could, slung Tau, as gently as possible, over his shoulders, and started back to their ship.

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October 2015

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