"The one thing you can't trade for your heart's desire is your heart."
Any time Miles Vorkosigan meets up with his father again after one of his madcap adventures. This troper was particularly choked up by The Vor Game's reunion.
Also in The Vor Game is the description of how big, powerful, dangerous Admiral Count Aral Vorkosigan, back when he was Lord Regent (and absolute ruler) of the Barrayaran Empire, would take a two-hour lunch every day—short of any crisis less serious than actual war—race home, spend five minutes bolting down a sandwich, then spend an hour-and-a-half down on the floor with his little crippled son who couldn't walk yet, talking and playing games and reading out loud.
Not only Miles, though. The moment in A Civil Campaign where Aral quite casually asserts Mark's status as his son is breathtaking.
To elaborate - Mark is a clone of Miles created by enemies of the family to kill and replace Miles in order to get at Aral. Mark rebels and at the age of 21 or so is adopted into the family, well...yeah. In this scene, just two years later, a friend of Aral's starts complaining about "your son," and Aral's first reaction is to ask "which one?" To be sure, he'd deliberately referred to Mark that way before; this was totally offhand.
Another magnificent thing about that scene is that Miles, in the midst of his own problems, still cares enough about his brother to be pleased that Mark had the chance to hear Aral say that.
The Vor Game is good, but for my money, The Warrior's Apprentice has the killer line. After Miles talks about wanting to make his life "an offering fit to lay at my father's feet":
Barrayar. Cordelia and Aral are discussing the psychopathic Sergeant Bothari, a sadistic abuse victim who, in the past book, came very, very close to raping Cordelia before he decided to rescue her instead. Cordelia wonders why Bothari seems to idolize her so much. Aral's response:
Aral Vorkosigan: "[Bothari] becomes whatever is required of him. Not a conscious process, I don't think. Piotr expects a loyal retainer, and Bothari plays the part, deadpan as you please. Vorrutyer wanted a monster, and Bothari became his torturer. And victim. I demanded a good soldier, and he became one for me. You . . ." his voice softened, "you are the only person I know who looks at Bothari and sees a hero. So he becomes one for you. He clings to you because you create him a greater man than he ever dreamed of being."
Years later, Bothari reminds Miles that he has been promised a grave next to Cordelia's...at her feet, for he has been her faithful dog. And to Bothari, being accepted as Cordelia's dog is the greatest honor.
Considering at least some of Bothari's issues stem from his childhood raised among prostitutes, his abuse at Vorrutyer's hands, and his work as a rapist/torturer, the fact that he eagerly devotes himself to this woman, and is even able to be a decent father to his daughter makes his entire character development arc fit this trope.
Not to mention that his mother, who was a prostitute, "used to sell [him] to her customers".
For this troper, it's about a page after Aral's quote above, where Cordelia first sees her newly-born (and heavily fought-for) son Miles:
Cordelia: Welcome to Barrayar, son. Here you go; have a world of wealth and poverty, wrenching change and rooted history. Have a birth; have two. Have a name. Miles means "soldier", but don't let the power of suggestion overwhelm you. Have a twisted form in a society that loathes and fears the mutations that have been its deepest agony. Have a title, wealth, power, and all the envy and hatred they will draw. Have your body ripped apart and rearranged. Inherit an array of friends and enemies you never made. Have a grandfather from hell. Endure pain, find joy, and make your own meaning, because the universe certainly isn't going to supply it. Always be a moving target. Live. Live. Live.
Heartwarming or Awesome, it's a toss-up: In "The Mountains of Mourning," after disinterring an infant to confirm that she'd been murdered, Miles realizes he doesn't have anything with him to burn as the customary small sacrifice at a burial. He thinks: Peace to you, small lady, after our rude invasions. I will give you a better sacrifice, I swear by my word as Vorkosigan. And the smoke of that burning will rise and be seen from one end of these mountains to the other. He makes good on the promise.
Even better is when Miles returns to the same village years later and finds that the poverty-stricken backwater has been transformed into a thriving community, and the mother of the murdered infant is now a teacher at the newly-built school, which, at Miles' suggestion, is named for the infant.
Any part of A Civil Campaign that's not Crowning Moment of Funny is Heartwarming. Oddly enough, this troper was most affected by Mark's stumbling towards his shot at happiness with Kareen... and making it.
The ending of Mirror Dance, especially Cordelia's maternal smile of greed, since she and Aral had the second child she'd always wanted but could never have had because of Miles' condition; a second male would have put "mutie" Miles in danger, since plots to make his brother the heir apparent to Vorkosigan House.
The Countess attached herself to her husband's arm. "Lead on, love. Vorkosigans Victorious."
Vorkosigans Convalescent, was more like it, Miles reflected, following. But you should see what the other guys look like.
Miles' efforts to get Elena Visconti to acknowledge and meet her daughter, who was the product of rape. Visconti first regards Miles' pleads with suspicion and disgust, but his heartfelt offers finally melt her.
"Would it be so difficult, to do a few days-even a few minutes-of acting? I'm going to have to dip some Dendarii funds anyway to pay for a dead ship, and buy a lady a new face. I could make it worth your time."
He regretted his words immediately at the loathing that flashed across her face, but the look she finally gave him was ironically thoughtful. "You really care about that girl, don't you?"
By Memory, the relationship had improved so much that some of the inherent burden the younger Elena had felt had vanished.
Ivan's Tough Love in Memory via ice bath shortly after Miles gets fired from ImpSec and goes into a nearly suicidal funk is pretty damned touching for anyone who's been in a similar situation on either side.
The "Letter from home" in Cryoburn shows how Miles' married life has developed, bringing to mind Cordelia's "Lots of little Vorkosigans" wish from back in Barrayar.
Three from Ethan of Athos:
First, Ethan Urquhart giving genetically-engineered telepath Terrence Cee the first real acceptance he's ever known, without thinking twice about it:
Terrence: What am I to you, then, if not a monster?
Ethan: We all remain children of the Father, however we may otherwise be orphaned. You are my brother, of course.
Terrence: Of course...? Damn it, I'm the ultimate weapon, the super agent. I survived it all. How can you make me weep now?
Then, at the end, meeting Ethan's father (paraphrasing):
Ethan: I've only brought one immigrant with me, but he's quite remarkable. He's been my friend for all this time.
Ethan's Father: Welcome to Athos, Terrance. Any friend of my son's is a son to me.
Terrance: You...you really mean that, don't you!
Finally, the last lines from the book, in which Ethan, the product of an all-male planet, realizes his society was built on the bones of women, and even though the residents only believe in fathers, he makes a special prayer to the woman who gave him part of his genes.
Ethan paused in front of the bathroom mirror before turning out the light, and studied his own face. He thought of Elli Quinn, and EQ-1. In a woman, one saw not charts and graphs and numbers, but the genes of one's own children personified and made flesh. So, every ovarian culture on Athos cast a woman's shadow, unacknowledged, ineradicably there.
And what had she been like, Dr. Cynthia Jane Baruch, 200 years dead now, and how much had she secretly shaped Athos, all unbeknownst to the founding fathers who had hired her to create their ovarian cultures? She who had cared enough to put herself in them? The very bones of Athos were molded to her pattern. His bones.
"Salute, Mother," Ethan whispered, and turned away to bed. Tomorrow began the new world, and the work thereof.
Cordelia meets and falls in love with Aral, but they are on different sides of a war, and Aral is suppose to be a war criminal. She gets repatriated at the end of the war after being a POW. Her own people, in examining her for PTSD or adjustments find out her love of Aral. They think it's fake, and work to 'undo' the brainwashing. She does her own moment of awesome, escapes the security forces, and steals a ship to meet back with Aral.
Diplomatic Immunity has not so much a Moment as a Crowning Cultural Background Noise of Heartwarming, for those who've read Falling Free. Between Graf Station, the finale of the zero-G ballet, and "Leo" being the most popular boy's name by roughly a full order of magnitude... The Quaddies really love their granddad.
The final scene of Komarr where Miles reels off his list of exes, and Ekaterin asks if she can get in line. And his response.
In fact this scene made me feel the start of A Civil Campaign were totally redundant and out of character. If they're flirting this hard before then why do they regress back on Barrayar?
Because Ekatarin was coming off her adrenaline high. After sober reflection, she'd decided that the risks of romantic involvements were too high. Was she deluding herself? Probably, but that was her rationale for backing off.
The significant social consequences of starting a relationship like that so soon likely contributed to her reluctance as well. Her husband only just died, and Barrayar custom expects a certain mourning period that isn't properly over by A Civil Campaign. It's kind of a big deal that several Vor men consider the impropriety worth the chance to steal a march on other Vor.
Taura and Roic at the end of '"Winterfair Gifts''. After all, there is no such thing as a horizontal height differential.
Miles' letter of apology to Ekaterin in chapter 11 A Civil Campaign. Particularly, this excerpt;
I love you. But I lust after and covet so much more than your body. I wanted to possess the power of your eyes, the way they see form and beauty that isn't even there yet and draw it up out of nothing into the solid world. I wanted to own the honor of your heart, unbowed in the vilest horrors of those bleak hours on Komarr. I wanted your courage and your will, your caution and serenity. I wanted, I suppose, your soul, and that was too much to want.
By the time Ekaterin finishes reading her letter she is a gently steaming puddle of emotional goo - and so is the female reader. Take note guys, that is how to write a love letter!
All readers are left teary-eyed by that scene, regardless of gender.
The epilogue of Barrayar, when Count Piotr Vorkosigan, who HATED Miles' existence as a mutant and a cripple who should never have been allowed to be born (and keeps this attitude for about five years) FINALLY starts to befriend him... Miles is just that charming.
In Brothers in Arms Miles tells Mark that their grandfather tried to smother him in his cradle, he knows this because Piotr told him. Consider the context; Four-Star Badass General Count Piotr Vorkosigan confessed to his grandson he had been wrong about him. That's heartwarming right down to the toes.
It's tossed off so casually the reader barely notices on first take but Elena has brought her baby to make an offering at her father's grave. Sounds like she's gotten over her issues.
Cordelia is in no mood to appreciate it but the fact her crew of divas voted unanimously to rescue her from 'The Butcher of Komarr' is rather touching. It's also pretty funny. Here she is comfortably ensconced in the best cabin mulling over an offer a marriage and here come her crew to 'rescue' her!
A casual remark to Ivan, after he reveals that he was being more clever than brave: "Oh, good. Your mother said she didn't think you could be an idiot." After Ivan has spent so many books as the Phrase Catcher for "Ivan, you idiot!", it's nice to see that his family actually believes in him.
After the emergency marriage of convenience, failed divorce, and the ensuing comedy of errors; Ivan realizes he truly loves his wife and proposes.
Ivan:Tej. Will you stay with me for the rest of my life?
At the end of Captain Vorpatril's Alliance, Gregor overrules the head of ImpSec and comes onto the scene, just to see for himself that his cousin Ivan is alive.
When Miles first meets Mark - a clone he had no idea existed who, as far as he knows, is a willing part of the conspiracy to kill and replace him - his first response is to work out what Mark's name should be and call him brother. Even as Miles is being dragged away to be tortured:
"Your name is Mark!"
The wedding planning scene in A Civil Campaign. At first it just looks like charming domesticity, but then you realize: they're in the Green Silk Room. The very same room where thirty-some years ago Emperor Ezar Vorbarra and Lord Aral Vorkosigan were plotting how to murder Ezar's son and start an interstellar war to hide his corpse among. The inception point of "the most wasteful political assassination plot in Barrayaran history" has now become a peaceful place where Ezar's grandson and his fiancee happily work out the details of their wedding party and how soon they can bring new life into the world. And then it hits the reader; Barrayar has made it. The barbaric, blood-soaked place that our heroes and their forebears have bled out their hearts and souls to try and save has indeed moved into the new era they'd always hoped for, a more peaceful and gentle age.
Even the antagonists of A Civil Campaign bear this theme out. Venal and corrupt as they are, they're cartoonishly harmless compared to people like Vordarian the Pretender and so are their actions. It's considered a horrific, political-career-ending-on-the-spot thing in ACC when one Vor Lord is caught sending several thugs to inflict a painful and humiliating yet entirely survivable beating on anothernote (biotech and medicine are at the point where emasculation is fixable); thirty years ago, a similar family feud would have been fortunate to merely involve grenade launchers as opposed to full-on civil war.
Note also that every lethal antagonist in the series after this point is from off-world.
Emperor Gregor's words at Aral Vorkosigan's funeral, as he moves to join the pallbearers and Lady Alys objects to the lese-majeste.
Gregor: This man has carried me since I was five years old. It's my turn.
In Captain Vorpatril's Alliance Rish finds out her family isn't dead and says "Is everything horrible going to come untrue?
In Mirror Dance, Mark finds an unfamiliar name in the Vorkosigan's celebrated cemetary: Amor Klyeuvi. Kly the Mail got his just reward after decades of service and his role during Vordarian's Pretendership.
In Cryoburn, there's a small moment that shows, even in Ekaterin's absence, just how much she means to him. In the midst of one of his manic, run-on explanations, he notices the confused faces of his audience, and absently reminds himself: "Oh yes. Unpack, Miles."
Count Falco Vorpatril denies Ivan and Tej's petition for divorce on the grounds they took valid and voluntary vows. And very possibly because everything from their testimony to their body language (they insist on sitting together and even hold hands for mutual support) makes it clear to the objective eye that they are head-over-heels in love.
From Shards Of Honor, Aral offering to give up Barrayar and move to Beta Colony as a judo instructor. While how serious he was about this is up for debate, the fact that he put enough thought into it to be able to name his probable career (and the fact that he might well have done it, had their situations been reversed) is pretty damned adorable and a testament to just how much he loved Cordelia, even from the first.