Dira Sudis (dsudis) wrote,
Dira Sudis

Vorkosigan Fic: The Emperor's Voice

For the Lost Voice square on my [community profile] cottoncandy_bingo card, because, obviously.

Gregor/Laisa, little princes. G. 1,370 words.
Given the nature of the complaint, Laisa stayed at Gregor's side when his personal physician arrived to examine him.

The Emperor's Voice

Given the nature of the complaint, Laisa stayed at Gregor's side when his personal physician arrived to examine him. Gregor had insisted that she needn't, but he hadn't objected to her doing so; from Gregor that was all but a petition for aid calligraphed on parchment, tied up with some brightly-colored ribbon.

They had already had breakfast--Gregor had not acceded to the possibility that he could not be cured through sheer force of will until after his second cup of coffee--and were both more or less dressed for the day by the time Dr. Vorleigh arrived to look at Gregor. The doctor quickly grasped the problem and offered a few treatments, but when the first few didn't work, Vorleigh seemed to descend into a series of half-hearted and perfunctory efforts to get to the bottom of the matter. Laisa frowned, watching them both closely--the physical examination was rapidly developing into a sort of pantomime performance, and not only on Gregor's side--and then Vorleigh sighed, tucked a scanner away, and said, "Sire, with your permission and hers, I'd like to have a private word with the Empress."

Gregor raised his eyebrows, looking startled for the first time in the proceedings, and then looked to Laisa, his eyebrows rising--up to you--even as his mouth quirked--I'm sure you'll tell me what this is about later. Laisa nodded agreement, as she wanted a private word with Vorleigh herself Gregor directed a nod to Vorleigh, gesturing expansively toward the sitting room.

Vorleigh made a similar gesture, inviting Laisa to precede him, and she struck out across the kitchen in her most Imperial manner, which she still tended to think of as playing Aunt Alys even five years on.

In the sitting room, Vorleigh shut the door all the way without hesitation. Laisa raised an eyebrow and Vorleigh gave an apologetic look, but said briskly, "It's not necessarily serious, but there isn't anything I can do about it. There's nothing physically wrong with him."

Laisa frowned. "He can't speak. Are you telling me he--"

Vorleigh shook his head quickly. "It's perfectly genuine, milady, trust me. He can't speak. I haven't seen it in years--peacetime, you know--but it happens. Vor officers are particularly susceptible, or counts and counts' heirs, even if they aren't in the Service. Proles, junior officers, noncoms, they're more apt to go blind or lose the use of a limb, but high Vor, to a man, lose their voices under stress. You can see why."

Laisa opened her mouth to say she couldn't, but closed it as the automatic Barrayaran cultural translation process caught up. The whole Barrayaran system was built on one's Word, given in one's Voice. To lose the power of speech--surely there were, in unambiguously physical cases, ways around it; Duv would know the historical precedents. But it was a symbol so powerful that it must surely be capable of doing this to them, rendering a man mute when he couldn't bear to go on any further.

Laisa looked sharply toward the door. Gregor had given no sign; they'd gone to bed late last night, tired but together, and Gregor had been just fine. This morning he had seemed entirely himself, except that he couldn't speak, taking the whole thing calmly. She started to search for the cause, and thought first of the children, who always seemed to be the independent variables lately.

Their first daughter was due out of her replicator just a month from now, but Gregor seemed nothing but enthusiastically anticipatory for her arrival. The boys had presented no unusual challenges recently; Peter was enjoying nursery school and Xav had not yet reached the truly difficult phase of toddlerhood. They were still a few months away from the first of the dates Cordelia had pointed out to her to watch for--the days when Gregor would have lived to see his eldest son older than his father and his mother had ever seen him.

She thought next of politics, from Gregor's schedule for the day up to the Sector-wide security briefing she'd sat in on earlier in the week, but she couldn't put her finger on anything....

Her mouth crimped ruefully as she looked over at the doctor. "I suppose it's foolish to try to find any one thing he's stressed about today, isn't it?"

"Naturally if there were anything specific it would merit looking into," he assured her. "But if nothing springs to mind, then I think it's more likely that he's tired, milady. If circumstances allow, my prescription would be for a day's rest and revisiting the matter tomorrow."

"And if circumstances do not allow, it's all the more necessary," Laisa observed, and nodded decisively. "I'm sure it can be managed. I'll make him catch up on his correspondence later; writing to Cordelia always encourages him to sort himself out, and it will be easy enough for us to exchange comconsole messages if he wants to tell me about it instead."

Vorleigh nodded his agreement, and Laisa led the way out of the sitting room. Gregor was standing at the breakfast table where they'd left him, frowning intently and shaping silent words. He put his cooperative-patient smile in place a fraction of a second too late, and Laisa realized that he had to be worn down past all enduring, to be so unguarded.

She turned her hand toward Vorleigh, silently endorsing his words, and Vorleigh cleared his throat and took his cue after only a brief pause. "Sire. As you've realized, I don't have an immediate treatment to offer. I strongly recommend rest--not just your voice," he added, when Gregor seemed about to wave this off as obvious. "For yourself. You need to take the day to rest."

Gregor's expression transformed into polite amusement, and Laisa said, "Thank you, Doctor, that will be all."

Vorleigh nodded, gathered up his kit, and excused himself with all propriety. Gregor turned to Laisa expectantly, and she shook her head.

"He's right, sweetheart, and if you want to argue I will invoke my right to occasionally and privately command you, as your Empress...." Laisa got no further before Gregor raised his eyebrows, and then his hands, in honest surrender.

"Good," Laisa said. "Notify your man and then get back to bed. I'll go get something to keep you busy all day."

Laisa waited until Gregor had begun tapping out a message before she left the room, crossing the hall to the nursery.

Lunch time was, of course, sacred, and Laisa accordingly returned to their apartments after her morning meetings, ruthlessly setting the armsmen to keep out anyone who wanted to speak to Gregor for just one moment, milady. No lunch was in evidence, so Laisa went into the bedroom and then pressed a hand to her mouth to stifle a laugh.

Gregor was fast asleep, propped against the pillows in his pajamas with Xav asleep on his chest. The rest of the bed was strewn with toys and books and, if Laisa was not very much mistaken, cookie crumbs, and Peter was sprawled across the mess, his chin on Gregor's knee, watching intently as the portable holoscreen played a cartoon he'd been insisting was Xav's favorite now that he was, at four, much too old for it.

Laisa walked over and knelt by the bed, and Peter's face lit up as his focus shifted through the holo to her.

"We have to be quiet," Peter whispered, well above the volume of the holo. "It's nap time."

Laisa nodded agreement and leaned through the holo to kiss his forehead, which made him giggle even as he twisted to kiss her cheek before she could straighten up. She went and sat on the edge of the bed, scooting up enough to lean into Gregor, and his arm came around her reflexively; his face stayed smoothed out in sleep as his head tipped onto her shoulder. Laisa laid her hand over his on Xav's back, watching as Peter settled back in to watch his cartoon, and it didn't seem surprising at all that Gregor cuddled a little closer to her and made a small but unmistakable sound of contentment.

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Tags: bujold, fic post
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