Not for the first time, Sam Vimes was feeling the bewildering sensation that his life was not his own. Oh, yes, he was in his own body, but that body was clad in ridiculous red tights that chafed after an hour, and surely, he didn't know this many people? They all knew him, dozens, perhaps hundreds of people crowding the house he still thought of as Sybil's. And, oddest of all, the reason they were all there that day: his son. He was half Sam, half Sybil, and a new personality onto himself. Sam knew on a logical level that he loved him, but part of him still felt awkward. Surely it should feel different than this? Didn't fatherhood change you? Shouldn't he be bursting with love, and not with confusion and doubts? Would he be a good father? Could he? Why did he feel as though the child were a stranger, even after having over half a year to get used to the idea, of talking to Sybil's midsection and patting it fondly?
A slight hush went over the room as the double doors opened, and Sybil entered, arms full of a lacy bundle that was twice the size of the actual baby, Lord Vetinari at her side. Sam hadn't seen him since he'd stormed out of the graveyard... He shook his head, trying to dislodge uncomfortable thoughts.
"...Sam and I on the left, and you'll tell him his name- oh, for goodness, Havelock, he's not made of glass, put your hand there, he's fine; and then at the high table you'll tell everyone his name and read the poem before the fish course."
Sam allowed himself the rare pleasure of seeing the Patrician ruffled as Sybil thrust the bundle into his arms, and adjusted the folds of his sleeves artistically around it. A poem, no less! Maybe today wasn't such a bad idea after all. He absently bent to feed a begging dragon the miniscule egg and cress sandwich quarter he was holding, and went to take his place at Sybil's side.
Sidelong, he watched Vetinari inspect his son. He wore new robes, Sam noted; only knowing this because of the depth of the black. The only other nod to formal attire was the jeweled Assassins' Guild pin at his throat. He seemed to be pleased with what he saw, as he formed what might even loosely be called a grin, and looked down with piercing but fond eyes in a way that was almost possessive, the look that made Sam avoid his gaze and straighten his posture. He leaned in and murmured something to the child, this time one side of his mouth noticeably quirking up. Finally, he cast that gaze over the now silent crowd, baring his teeth in a full smile. "My friends, " he began, much to the satisfaction of those assembled, "I present to you Samuel Ramkin Vimes, Marquess of Morpork." The cheer that went up was deafening.
"No more kings." Sam repeated the mantra, although it sounded hollow. He was shaken out of his contemplation of his favorite bit of wall by the proposal, where the plaster formed a small shadow about six inches to the left of Vetinari's head.
"Of course not. Our civilized times call for a Patricianship, and in these especially enlightened years, a bloodless transition. I, of course, will likely shed blood, but it is in all of our best interests to keep it tidy." Vetinari stood, leaning a little more heavily on his cane that usual. Sam suspected it was supposed to evoke a sense of guilt and obligation from him. The sockets of the silver death's head peered at him from between Vetinari's fingers. He hated the damn thing, always had. He was sure that Vetinari chose it to mock him, to remind him that one day he wouldn't be able to stand between him and death.
"You could have had your own children, you know."
Vetinari shook his head once. "I fear it would not have been wise. I had my ambitions, and I fear I would not have made an ideal parental figure. You, however... yes, you and Sybil have done well. You are a doting father, and Sybil is an ideal mother, clever and kind. Both of you have instilled in Young Sam an admirable sense of civic duty, the notion that the safety and heritage of Ankh-Morpork are sacred matters. The blood of the Ramkins mixed with that of the common man. The son of the Duke of Ankh. It is exactly what the people want, as they will in him what they wish to see."
"You planned this." Sam took a threatening step forward. "From the beginning!"
Vetinari merely raised an eyebrow.
"At first I thought you did it for Sybil, you know. Duke of Ankh! Hah! Annoying me was a bonus, though, wasn't it? But it's not as simple as that, it's never as simple as that, not with you! You wanted my son-"
"Before he existed?" Vetinari interjected.
Sam snapped his mouth shut. "Well, it is certainly convenient for you." he glowered.
"Matters are what you make of them." Vetinari returned. "Perhaps if I had not been so...focused years ago, I might have married and had my own child. Certainly Sybil would have been the first I would have asked for that honor."
It might have been taken as a thoughtless, offhand comment from anyone else... but this was Vetinari, after all. The words hit him like a stinging slap. Vetinari could have had Sybil. Well, of course he could have. Sybil had accepted him, after all, and he was hardly a prize, especially back then. Back in those days, he never had the courage to look Vetinari in the eye, but he was aware of the fact that, even now, there was a subset of ladies high and low in Ankh-Morpork who fancied the Patrician. A few years before Sam had met him face to face, young Havelock Vetinari might even have been described as beautiful; if unconventionally so. He certainly had a way with people, a solid education, a large inheritance, a title. He certainly had a friend in Sybil, even to this day. Sam would never have believed that Vetinari could sustain an actual human friendship if he had not seen it with his own eyes; how little notes and fanciful letters flitted between the palace and Scoone Avenue almost daily, how Sybil greeted him by his given name, and Vetinari responded to in kind. There were plenty of nobs who addressed the Patrician this way, but the only other person besides his wife that Vetinari addressed as an equal had the power to unleash the Dungeon Dimensions on the city on a whim.
Sybil was important, Sam knew. Gods knew how important she was to him. Where would he be without his wife? He didn't have to speculate. He'd be long dead. Maybe he'd have drowned in his own vomit face down in the gutter, maybe he would have just abused his body to the point of where he would fall asleep or unconscious, and never wake up again. It certainly wouldn't have been a dignified death. But... Sybil had seen something in him, some potential that suggested that he could become someone worth loving, someone who could become something worthwhile. Without that, he would never have had anything; no self respect, no home, no wife, and certainly not Young Sam. Vetinari must have seen something similar. The highest of the high raising the lowest of the low...
"I am merely stating that you are worthy parents. You and Sybil are the rarest of things. You are moral people. You have given your lives and your hearts to the city. How could your son not be the same, living with you as examples?"
"You would have asked my wife..." Sam was circling between feelings of inadequacy and rage, while some part of him tried to remember that Vetinari said things like this because he knew what buttons to push, loved to push him and push him to see just how far-
"Perhaps things are different still, in another trouser leg of time, and were I Lady Vetinari instead, I would have you father my child. As you are the finest man in Ankh-Morpork, I would insist." Vetinari allowed himself a smirk at Sam's shocked and outraged expression. "Do you know why I did it? Why I gave you a Dukedom. Perhaps it was a bit for dear Sybil. Indeed it made me pleased to see you squirm. Yet, the true reason? It was to give you power. The city needs you, it needs more than just myself. Far more. I could not rest in my grave if my city were not in safe hands. I do not give power lightly."
Sam bit down on his lip, trying not to feel the warmth spread through his chest. "He is too young to have this decided for him."
"Sybil is quite in agreement with me."
"You can't talk to my wife about this sort of thing before talking to me!" Sam barked, taking comfort in the new wave of anger.
"You would tell Sybil what she is not to do? Ah. I thought not." Vetinari sat again. "I would never force this upon him. I will give him everything, all that is in my power to give, and he will decide. I believe that he will decide to serve Ankh-Morpork, as we have done ourselves."
"You won't die. Not yet. Not- not soon." Please, no.
"I do not plan on it. Perhaps he will be a valiant watchman for many years before duty calls him. Still, one must plan for the unexpected."
Sam stared at his feet, attempting to process feelings that would have ended in a fist through the wall a short time ago. What had changed? A child? The memory of the scent of lilacs in the dark? He couldn't deny, especially now, that some force had tied him and Vetinari together, spiraling around each other, each rotation binding them closer together, perhaps to some greater purpose. It had an effect on him. He couldn't call it love. He would not call it love. And yet... this moment in time needed to be marked with something. An admission of truth.
"You have never asked me to bow to you." he began. "You have never made me kneel."
Vetinari looked mildly surprised. "There is no need."
"I would, you know." He managed, a choked almost-whisper.
Vetinari's eyes softened, although his overall expression did not change. "Sam... will you trust me with your son?"
Sam shut his eyes tightly, and nodded.