Captain Lord Ivan Vorpatril, also known as "That Idiot Ivan" or "Ivan, You Idiot" (a likely reference to Ivan the Fool, common hero of Russian folk tales), is a character in Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga. He is Miles Vorkosigan's second cousin, foil, burden, workhorse, and until Miles has children, his formal heir. He is everything Miles is not - tall, handsome, and athletic. He waltzed into the military academy and waltzed right back out into one plum posting after another. He inhabits any uniform - even the Dendarii's - like a second skin. When last seen, Ivan was a Captain in the Barrayaran military, but had been detached to serve as aide to his mother, Alys Vorpatril, in the planning for the upcoming Imperial wedding. Although not an heir to a Countship, Ivan is addressed as "Lord Vorpatril," rather than "Lord Ivan" or just "Vorpatril," presumably because of his descent from an Imperial daughter, though he provides much amusement for Count Falco Vorpatril, Ivan's distant uncle. Ivan tends to act simple--not dumb, but not especially bright either--but has stated that looking too smart is a bad idea if you are a potential heir to the Empire. being third in line after Count Aral Vorkosigan and Miles.
Ivan owes his life to his aunt, Cordelia Vorkosigan, who rescued newborn Ivan and his mother Lady Alys from plotters who killed his father during Vordarian's Pretendership, and was brought up with Miles as a virtual foster brother. Ivan probably understands Miles better than any other person his age, except possibly for Emperor Gregor. He provides muscle and speed that Miles lacks, and is frequently the go-between for other characters who deal with Miles. He often complains that he is Miles's "donkey," but follows where Miles leads; this is equal parts knowing that Miles is right, and acceptance of his family responsibility. In return, Miles trusts Ivan more than he trusts almost anyone else: when Ivan first called himself Miles's donkey, Miles answered "I don't know what I'll be asking you to carry, but it could be high explosives...I need a donkey I can trust."
Ivan's association with Miles has on occasion proven hazardous to his well-being and even to his life. During the events of Brothers in Arms, he was captured and held hostage by Mark Vorkosigan and his Komarran handlers, in order to draw Miles into a trap. Miles sprang the trap and saved Ivan from a grisly end, which left Ivan less than enamoured with Mark for awhile afterward.
During the events of A Civil Campaign, Ivan was drawn into the situation occurring between Lady Donna Vorrutyer (who has had Betan gender-change surgery to become Lord Dono, in order to inherit her brother's estate) and her less-than-savory cousin Richars (who would otherwise inherit). Rudely surprised by Donna's transformation to Dono, Ivan finds himself enmeshed in the plans to have Dono affirmed by the Council of Counts. This culminates in his assisting in the thwarting of a direct attempt to reverse the Betan surgery with far more crude field surgery. In the event, Ivan manages to finally get one up on Miles by turning his usual "Ivan, you idiot!" back on itself and proving himself to have significantly aided Dono's case as well as Miles' related one.
In this and other books, Ivan shows himself to be physically competent and possessed of a keen sense of judgment about people. However, despite his apparent showiness, he is perennially modest about such useful talents, which often leads people to underestimate him.
As he ages into his thirties, Ivan discovers two new senses: as sense of responsibility and a sense of loss. His mantras throughout life have been "It's not my fault" and "I want nothing to do with it." Despite the trials his cousin Miles has inflicted on him over the years, he finds himself shocked and dismayed when Miles, in trouble over his relationship with Ekaterin Vorsoisson, repeatedly refuses his help. Later Ivan's reaction to the attack on Dono is revulsion at the nature of the attack even though he was blindsided by Dono's sex change. As he says "I don't agree with what you did, but what they tried was just...wrong." Having helped abort the attack he uses his political connections to bring Dono's cousin to justice. His reward for this is a nod and a rare smile from Emperor Gregor, and the sudden realization that, in Miles' words, the reward for a job well done is usually a harder job.
Ivan also realizes that he is losing the attraction he once held for young vivacious Vorbarr Sultana debutantes. While recovering from having been strung along by one, just to get her boyfriend to pay more attention to her, he is hit hard by Lady Donna's sex change, especially since he was thinking about renewing their old relationship. Having already been turned down by two of the Koudelka girls, and facing a shortage of eligible partners due to Vor parents selecting for male children in his generation, he realizes that the life of a carefree bachelor may become that of a lonely bachelor.