There was a rumour in the city- one that had been going for years- which said that the only being the Patrician had ever loved was his little dog. Life would have been somewhat easier if that had actually been true.
Havelock Vetinari was not exactly an unhappy man, on a personal level. For the most part he was perfectly content to leave things as they had always been- it wasn’t as though he went all day without speaking to anyone, and he had Wuffles for companionship. Besides, he was far too busy to even consider any reflection on the matter of his personal life. He rarely had time to think about it, let alone actually have one. And yet…
People liked to gossip, and if they were brave or stupid enough they would occasionally ask him why he had never married. The reasons, which he generally chose not to disclose, were as follows:
- Anyone who started a relationship with the leader of a city like Ankh-Morpork would become a target for Assassins’ Guild contracts and would see little of their partner due to the demands of the job. The risk-benefit ratio was, frankly, appalling.
- Developing a fondness for one person was difficult enough, and somehow he had managed it twice.
- Both of those people were married. To each other.
In short, Havelock had found himself in a considerable predicament, and he chose to deal with it by not discussing it at all. To make matters worse, one of the people he’d developed these inconvenient feelings for was the Commander of the Watch, and that was a recipe for a scandal if ever there was one.
Still, he wanted them both- though perhaps not in the ways other people seemed to yearn for each other, if all his reading and observation was to be believed. He wanted… what, exactly? The physical side of things didn’t hold a great deal of interest; there wasn’t so much a desire for it as a sort of detached curiosity, more about the intimate moments around it than the thing itself. Thoughts of Sybil’s softness and Vimes’s strength were appealing, but that was all. It would be enough just to be present, rather than chasing pleasure.
Perhaps a fear of intimacy would have been easier to manage. It certainly would have been rational to feel that way, after years at the Guild and betrayal by a member of his personal staff. But there was no fear, only indifference.
No, that was a lie- there was fear, but not about the act itself. If he decided against taking those final steps, as he most likely would, the inevitable assumption that his advances were nothing but manipulation was not something he looked forward to. This wasn't politics; baring one’s soul only to be thought a liar was unthinkable, especially in front of people who were so honest. They were good people- kind people, despite Vimes’s insistence that he wasn’t. It would be foolish to look for more in Sybil’s smile, or in the half-hidden concern in Vimes’s eyes after unearthing yet another plot.
Yet it did sometimes seem to be there, in the way that they exchanged triumphant grins when he responded to some innuendo or other, and the way Sybil would watch so intently when her husband barged right into Havelock’s personal space. The problem was, for all his skills in observing other people, he didn’t trust himself to do so objectively any more. What they wanted from him might well be entirely different to what he wanted from them, and if so, it seemed likely that he wouldn’t be able to give it to them.
There had occasionally been encounters in the past, of course, through curiosity or political necessity. Margolotta had been both, though he had soon realised that he felt more at home in her library than in her bed. He had admitted as much eventually, and she had let him go. She was a vampire- there would be others for her, over time. Asking a couple to let someone into their marriage with no guarantees about what they could expect was an entirely different matter- and Vimes being Vimes, he would probably take it as a personal insult if the situation wasn’t very precisely worded to avoid misunderstandings.
Havelock tried not to hope that those words could be found. Even if they were, what then? It was still too much to ask for them to welcome him in in exchange for so little. He was not a superstitious man, but even he considered getting shot on someone’s wedding day to be a sign that further involvement would not end well. Accepting their love without providing all that they deserved in return would just seem like yet another unreasonable demand on their already limited time together.
But sometimes there were moments when he wondered how things might change, if he let them. What would happen if he didn't turn away with a smart remark the next time he was cornered by a frustrated watchman? To let things progress even as far as a kiss without explanation would leave Vimes with the suspicion that he’d crossed a line or taken advantage, even though both of them knew that Havelock could stop any unwanted attention with little more than a single raised eyebrow.
So aside from the Duke and Duchess of Ankh’s ever-increasing list of titles, things stayed more or less the same. And in the end, hadn’t he always said that what most people wanted was stability? Even if other things weren’t possible, at least he could give them that.