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Balance and Counterbalance (... Inanimate Objects "She")

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"Should I be jealous?"

Honor’s eyes flick to Nimitz who is busy grooming the speaker's companion. Both 'cats smile back at her with needle sharp fangs.

"Of whom, My Lord Manticore? Of Nimitz? Mike ...? Or is it Grayson?"

Honor continues her kata. There is an unmistakable caste to the features of the man asking the question. And she knows that the only threat this man poses is to her sanity. The 'cats are tussling now, mostly playfully. At least she hopes so - sparring with Beowulf used to leave her Uncle Jacques bruised enough she's almost worried about Sphinx's claws. The treecat manifestation that is Sphinx’s purr drops in tone to be closer to a growl and Nimitz nips the other ‘cats ear in gentle rebuke.

Honor raises one finely arched eyebrow at him as she finishes the set. "It is, isn't it?”

The man reaches out for her and she allows him to tug her into his arms. The kiss is unexpected and heated. She bites his lip almost angrily before throwing him to the floor with a single move.

"This is not what we agreed to."

The man’s body shifts, melts beneath her on the mat. Slim athleticism, the body of a woman warrior not unlike her own, lies temptingly beneath her. When it comes, the answer is a familiar furry contralto, "No, it isn’t. But, you changed the agreement. I permit Beowulf’s visits for your mother's sake. I gave you Mike. I didn't allow for yet another being given leave to lay their claim on you."

"Elizabeth and Benjamin are the ones who changed the agreement." Honor sighs and rests her forehead against the avatar's. "And you know why I don't bed Michelle, My Lord Manticore. Unless the Articles of War disappear, we can't have each other and still be allowed to serve together. I need officers I can trust in what’s to come more than I need a bedmate."

Manticore has completed her shape change beneath Honor, and she might as well be laying on top of her executive officer. "Then if you won’t let Mike bed you, let me. Before Grayson does. Or Haven."

"Not while you wear her face."

The words are a mistake. She meant to say no, didn't she? She always has in the past when Manticore has asked.

It was so tempting this time. Honor knows with a child’s trust that the avatar would make the illusion complete; from the stories she’s heard, she knows that Beowulf has done so for her Uncle Jacques in the past. Everything was perfect; down to the pitch of Manticore's voice. For all intents and purposes at that moment Manticore might as well have been Gloria Michelle Evelyn Samantha Henke.

Selfishly, Honor finds herself tempted to yield. It would be so very easy. Especially knowing that even if Mike were attracted to her, there are years ahead of them still before they can be together without one of them paying an unacceptably high price.

But the choice is taken away from her.

Manticore's features ripple and Honor has to steady herself as the body beneath her shifts again. While the face still bears a distinctly Winton caste - one couldn't mistake the woman beneath her as anyone other than a member of Manticore's ruling house - Manticore no longer bears an uncanny resemblance to any of that noble house’s known members.

"Will this face suit, Lady Harrington?" her voice is a touch lighter, somewhere between Michelle and Elizabeth’s in pitch.

Nimitz and Sphinx both croon their approval, the interfering menaces.

"One of these days, you’ll explain exactly what you are to me." Honor replies. It’s not an answer and the woman she's still pinning to the deck of her cabin laughs uproariously. It’s the kind of laughter that carries, and Honor doesn’t particularly want either Andrew or Mac to come investigating. With an exasperated sigh she gives in to instinct, furiously kissing the other woman to shut her up.