Six days after Ianna is born, Plourr goes for a run.
It hurts like hell, but it's worth it.
Two and a half weeks after Ianna is born, Plourr picks up invoices, petitions, and reports again; she reads with one hand while holding close a little girl in a green hat with the other.
Three weeks after Ianna is born, Plourr throws herself back into work with gusto. The Cabinet, petitioners, and figures in local government become accustomed to the sovereigns conducting business with Princess Ianna in a sling at his or her side; the two of them trade off, depending on who has a committment that shouldn't be interrupted by crying and every-two-hour feeding breaks. Visiting foreign dignitaries are always startled.What's anybody going to do about it?
Plourr says, practically. I'm the goddamn empress.
Nynie was good to her when she was growing up, and she doesn't have anything against accepting outside help, once in a while. But no nanny 'droid is going to raise her
Besides, it's not half bad having a cute, very audible excuse to get out of budget hearings.
Four weeks after Ianna is born, Plourr takes great pride in dumping several armloads of grossly oversized clothes in the bin. Rial laughs at the vicious glee with which she rifles through the wardrobe, and sensibly points out that she'll set off an alarm or five if she lights the pile on fire, like she threatens to.
Four weeks and three days after Ianna is born, Plourr rolls on top of Rial and kisses him soundly.
Very shortly, it's over before anything began, and Plourr is curled in a swearing ball that smacks Rial whenever he worriedly tries to apologize.
It is decided that the doctor might just know what she's talking about, after all, when it comes to patience being a virtue.
Four weeks and four days after Ianna is born, Plourr pulls on the baggy orange flightsuit for the first time in eight months, removes her helmet from the shelf where it has been waiting, and she claps a woeful-looking Rial on the shoulder as he tries in vain to convince the baby to stop crying.You'll be back in a few hours?
he asks, Ianna's thin wails filling the apartments.Yeah,
says Plourr, and she doesn't even try to hide her fierce smirk as she turns back to him.
He eyes her, standing with her helmet under her arm and her hand on her hip as she is, and then he sighs. You're lying to me, aren't you, my princess?Yeah.
She grins at him ferociously with a flash of white teeth. Don't wait up.
She tugs his ponytail, easily dodging the half-hearted return swat, and she takes the back staircases and hidden passageways down to the hangar bay.
The sun is sinking below the level of the sea, activity in the bustling bay drying up for the night, and Plourr stands in the huge doors for a long moment, just looking at the lone X-wing resting on its landing struts behind a merchant freighter. It isn't the battered starfighter that she flew with the Rebel Alliance. She gave up
that craft over a year ago now; left it to Rogue Squadron, who needed it more than she did. She misses that bird.
She got this one after returning to Eiattu to stay. After she'd come in from an afternoon flight, griping about the inferior qualities of the Z-95 Headhunter she'd been flying, rather than arguing the point as he so often did, Rial asked why she didn't just see about getting an X-wing.
Two weeks of wrangling with Incom later, Plourr was forced to admit that the man she'd married could occasionally be something of a genius.
She'd spent months with this fighter, working on it every chance that she got; coming down to the hangar bay when she couldn't stand one more second of hearing news of Priamsta guerilla attacks
, of reading civilian casualty figures
, and later, after nightmares in which hands held her down and the stuttering whirr
of a dull vibroblade sank deep into her brain.
She spent hours maximizing thruster power, fixing the inertial compensator's settings just the way that she likes them (low), taking apart and putting back together the servos that open and close the S-foils. The onetime lieutenant allowed no one to touch her starfighter.
When she had the time--which wasn't often--she spent hours flying, screaming low over treetops, racing huge sea-borne avians, and impatiently dodging the slower-moving traffic that didn't have the sense to get out of her way. She rocketed out of the atmosphere, and if, on the bad days, she felt the inexorable pull to turn the X-wing's nose toward the stars and punch in coordinates to points unknown -- she always made the long, lazy loop back to the planet's surface.
Nearly a year ago, Plourr came down to the hangar bay--back when her arm was in a cast
and her knee braced, back when she'd only just been released from the infirmary and wasn't technically supposed to leave her quarters--to find Rial putting the finishing touches on the final kill silhouette just below her X-wing's cockpit.
He froze guiltily at her throat-clearing, and then turned and said, ...Surprise?
Plourr looked at him, stone-faced, taking in the swirls of color dotting his strong hands, wrists, and nose; looking at the perfect Rogue Squadron colors now painted on her X-wing, and the rows of TIE fighter and capital ship silhouettes faithfully, impeccably reproduced from her old fighter. She saw the tiny, blood-red imperial crest marked just above one landing strut.
She one-handedly shoved Rial back against the landing strut, her face right in his, and she said, It's perfect, and if you ever irrevocably change my X-wing without permission again, Rial Pernon, marriage vows or not, you're a dead man
, and she kissed him, hard.
Plourr stands in the doorway, watching the way that the proud red stripe across the nose and fuselage seems to shimmer under the day's last rays of sun. She closes her eyes, feeling the warmth of the light fade, and she smiles ever-so-faintly.
When she opens her eyes again, the stark artificial lights have switched on for the night, and she pushes off from the bulkhead. A tech is passing under the wing of her X-wing, his arms full of spare parts and face streaked with engine grease and blue-white light as he scurries across the bay, and Plourr shouts to him.
He starts and nearly drops his armload of bits and bobs in his haste to bow.Quit it,
Plourr tells him, looking him over for a moment before pulling the hydrospanner from his toolbelt. I'll get this back to you.
He stares up at her, and has the presence of mind to nod.Go on, now
The tech is still gaping.
She rolls her eyes. Shoo
, she tells him, with an impatient flick of her fingers. He bows once again, and hurries on his way.
Plourr hefts the heavy all-purpose tool, closing her fingers around its familiar weight. She looks up at her X-wing, dark eyes bright, and she sets to the business of fixing the damage caused by eight months of neglect.
Three hours after Plourr left the apartments, a distinctive X-wing flashes through the black Eiatti sky. Sitting on the balcony in one chair with his feet propped up on another and Ianna curled up on his chest, Rial squints up at the high-flying craft, and he smiles as it waggles its wings.That,
he tells his daughter proudly, is your mother.
The lights--more visible in the dark than the snubfighter itself--take an abrupt, impossibly steep dive, and level off just above the ground. The triumphant roar of the engines as it buzzes the capital city and then flashes off across the sea is audible even at this distance.She's kind of a show-off,
Rial confides, once his heart has settled back into its chest where it belongs, and she's going to turn my hair grey before my 35th lifeday.
Ianna gums her lower lip in her sleep.
Rial curls his arm around her more securely and quietly kisses the top of her head. But we like her anyway.