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This Is Political (It's Not Personal) 

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Benjamin smiled softly at the sight of the tall brunette weaving through the crowds, her 'cat perched on her shoulder and the glitter of the Star of Grayson on her chest.

“I forget sometimes that she's older than I am, Howard. And even with Nimitz on her shoulder I forget that she's not a Grayson.” Honor's silver haired regent smiled almost crookedly at his Protector before shaking his head. They both watched her as a tall, Manticorian admiral approached her. His temples were tinted with grey and his eyes icy blue. He asked her something quietly and then kissed her hand and led her onto the small dance floor.

“He'd be good for her, I think.”

“Bethany agrees with you, my lord.”

“But you don't Howard?”

“I think there will be problems, and I'm not going to be the one that tells her any of what we've been discussing, my lord.”

"Coward!"

"I just have a healthy respect for her dislike of people meddling in her life, my lord."

"You *may* have a point, Howard." Benjamin tapped his lip thoughtfully. "Perhaps I should set Katherine and Elaine on her again. With the war against the Peeps heating up, we could really do with an actual line of succession in place for her Steading ... if we lose her ..." The two Grayson males looked at each other and Howard shuddered slightly as he saw what Benjamin was trying to head off.

Howard chuckled softly. "If it wasn't for his lack of Prolong, I'd have Bethany sit on Honor and point out how much Andrew loves her. I love the woman like a daughter, and she's got that link with Nimitz, but she's wilfully ignorant of other people's interest in her ... and I think in his case that might be for the best. I'm not sure she'd cope with losing a second partner - and out living him ..."

"She told me that used to be the great tragedy of treecat bondings. The 'cat suicides if they outlive their human and our lives are so short compared to theirs. And now she grows ever more 'cat like. It leaves me wondering if she'll survive losing another partner." Benjamin looked at the dancers sadly.

"Only till she had her revenge. Then she'd follow them into the Tester's Hands, my lord, and we'll be left mourning our Shining Star." He shook his head bemusedly at his own words. "And there'll be fights in the Conclave over the right to foster her heirs if her parents can't."

Benjamin's head snapped up. "There would be no fights, Howard. They'd be raised in the Palace nursery. She's my *Champion*." There was a faint blush on his cheekbones.

Howard chose to ignore it. Instead he turned enough to view the dancers himself only to watch Honor flinch slightly from the man she was currently dancing with. He touched his wrist comm lightly, and Major LaFollet stepped forward; tapped her arm lightly and then whispered the pre-arranged message in her ear.

She shook her head and made her excuses to the Manticorian Admiral briefly, before trailing out of the room with her armsman on her heels.

"Neatly done, Howard."

"Nothing more than I'd do for one of my daughters, my Lord. And that flinch is why I think there might be problems ... I'm not sure she knows what causes it, but Andrew was the first one who reported it to me, and she's obviously uncomfortable enough to take an offered escape from him." Benjamin looked thoughtful at that information.

"I think this is a job for Elaine, to be honest. I'll ask her to talk to Honor before she leaves the planet again, and see if she can get to the bottom of it. Maybe Hipper will have some insights." Benjamin shook his head. "Has Honor disappeared into her library for the moment, Howard?"

"That's the theory, my Lord."

"Then I think I might take advantage of the chance to talk to her myself briefly." He slid away surprisingly easily, followed by his own armsman. The composition of Honor's guest list helped with that.