I could kill him. I could kill him. But she hadn't, God knew why. The fool, the incredible, insane fool! Turning what should have been at most a domestic quarrel into a caravanserai melodrama. Idiot! Murderer! Dear God poor Lorens, and Vorsales that harmless old man!

Sybille Vorruyter Vorkosigan sat hyperventilating, surrounded by smashed porcelains and shredded cushions her temper finally spent. It was so damned unfair! She'd played by the rules, she'd been totally discrete. Aral had no right to be angry. What on Barrayar had he expected her to do with herself all alone in Vorbarra Sultana? Everybody had affairs and only a madman, or madwoman, made a fuss over it! She'd never dreamed Aral was that kind of lunatic – or a murderer. She'd liked him. Now she wanted him dead. Certainly she would never let him touch her with those bloodstained hands ever again!

She didn't hear the door signal or it open: "Sybille?"

She turned, "Piotr?" and then she was in his arms and the tears came at last.

"I am so sorry, so sorry," the old man said brokenly. "I never dreamed….Aral must have been mad…"

"It was Ges," she said calming. He's always wanted Aral for himself. "My brother can turn a little flirtation into a scandal with his ugly tongue."

"And Aral is unworldly enough to swallow his filth," the Count said resignedly. "But that is no excuse for dragging our name, and yours, through the mud!" He pushed her gently to arms-length. "Sybille, I'll give you a divorce and a settlement large enough to demonstrate your innocence. Or I'll see to it your name and Aral's are never mentioned – though God knows he doesn't deserve the consideration! I'll do whatever you want, your choice."

Sybille stood very still within the comforting circle of his arms for a long moment. Then she said; "I want my honor and my child's." She knew how he'd take that.

Piotr nodded. "Right, I'll go see Negri at once. Don't worry, child, this is exactly the sort of thing ImpSec was created to handle!"

She returned his kiss warmly. Dear Piotr, he'd been a better father to her then her own, much better. "Blame Aral all you like," she whispered in her ear. "But not yourself, I know you're on my side."

He left her reassured, and completely unsuspecting. Piotr was wrong to think he could hush this up. Too many people knew she'd been involved with Lorens and Vorsales. Discrete affairs were perfectly acceptable but open scandal was unforgiveable – and this would be the juiciest scandal the capital had seen in years. She knew she was doing exactly what Ges hoped she would but didn't care.

She could never live with Aral again after this. And while she didn't much care about scandal for her own sake – she was a Vorruyter after all – she did care about saving the honor of Piotr's name and she knew very well what a scandalous mother would do to her daughter's prospects. But death cancelled all debts of honor. Death would leave her name and the Vorkosigan name clean. And if it blackened Aral's – well he deserved it!

She found her vorfemme blade amidst the wreckage and held it, point turned inward for a long moment. No, wait. She slipped the knife into its garter sheath and went into Aral's dressing room. Yes, he had left the belt with his service weapons behind. Let's see, disrupter or plasma-arc? Plasma-arc she decided. That would do the most damage, to her body and to Aral's reputation. She knew what people would think. She wanted them to think it, wanted Aral to suffer damn him!

Piotr would know better of course. He'd understand. He'd grieve of course, but he'd respect her for her decision, just as long as he didn't blame himself. She hoped he would remember her last words to him.

She pointed the muzzle at her forhead; "For you, my little Anastasia," she whispered, "and for your Gran'da, and damn your father!" She squeezed the trigger.

It didn't hurt.