Sergeant Angua was happy. Truly, she was. She just wished people would stop bothering her so that she could go on being happy without all of this fuss.
Still holding onto her hand, and teetering precariously on her very tall shoes, Cheery continued to shriek.
"Engaged! Oh, Angua! Was it very romantic? Have you set a date? Can I be a bridesmaid?"
Angua wondered if Cheery would stop to draw breath anytime soon so that she could answer her questions. (Yes, quite; no; and of course.)
As Cheery's voluble expressions began to wind down, Sally and Mister Vimes entered from outside.
By the measured look in Vimes' eye, Angua deduced that Carrot had already asked him for his approval.*
"Congratulations are in order then," Vimes said, smiling a half smile.
"Thank you sir," Angua replied, managing to retrieve her hand from Cheery's grasp.
"Congratulations to you both," said Sally, as she took off her badge and stick.
Cheery began talking at length about wedding preparations, although Angua was no longer listening. Carrot, however, seemed to pick up on the idea that planning a wedding was a massive undertaking, and one that required plenty of feminine help.
"I'm sure Sally would very much like to help in any way possible," Carrot offered.
Angua gritted her teeth and tried to force her lips up into something resembling a smile. Mister Vimes winked at her from across the room.
"Of course," said Sally, smiling, as if Angua had actually invited her, rather than been forced into it by her infuriatingly kind and noble fiancé.
[*He had probably also asked her father permission, which meant she had a rather urgent letter to send strongly suggesting that her parents absent themselves from the wedding. Not that she doubted that any protest would be any more than a token one.]
The well-dressed, well-fed men sat in their customary leather chairs, and sipped their customary drinks. The silence was heavy, penetrated only by the occasional soft sounds of a servant's footsteps as he kept the drinks appropriately full.
A deep sigh heralded a comment from one of the shadowy figures.
"Puppies," the man said. By the light of the candles it was just possible to see him put his head in his hands.
"Puppies," agreed another figure.
In the middle of the room the crown caught the lamplight and looked almost smug as it twinkled.
Havelock Vetinari turned the piece of heavy cardstock over in his hands.
"It is," he said carefully to his secretary, "a wedding invitation." He placed the card down on his desk with precision.
"Indeed, my lord. Though I believe it is actually what is referred to as a 'Save the Date Card.'" Drumknott replied.
"Young Carrot has decided to make an honest woman out of Sergeant Angua at last."
"So it would seem, my lord. What shall I reply?"
"Please send my compliments and my delighted acceptance of their kind invitation."
Drumknott's eyes widened. Vetinari smiled and opened the next letter on his tray.
Angua had not realized that quite so much planning was involved in well, er, planning a wedding.
She was entirely grateful to Cheery, because once the wedding mania had worn off she had proven to be invaluable in suggesting a caterer and a band and other requisite wedding things. Thankfully, the responsibility of acting as wedding planner was absorbing Cheery's seemingly boundless energy.
Mister Vimes had offered his and Sybil's house for the ceremony and reception, and Carrot and Angua had gratefully accepted. Young Sam was to be pressed into service as ring bearer and flower boy in one.
Grune was selected because it was not too far off, but not too soon either, as well as a relatively slow time of year for the Watch. Mister Vimes had promised them a month off for the honeymoon, but Angua expected that they would barely last two weeks away from Ankh-Morpork.
"Here are the drinks, girls!" Cheery set them down with a thunk, and pink liquid sloshed over the side of the mug.
"Cheery, what on earth is this?" Sally gracefully brought the glass near to her nose and sniffed it.
"A Slippery Nipple," replied Cheery, cheerfully.
Simultaneously, Angua and Sally pushed their drinks toward the young dwarf.
"I'm just going to get a pint," said Angua, and Sally added, "Yes, that sounds lovely," and the two of them hastened to the bar, leaving Cheery looking downcast until she realized that she now had two more Slippery Nipples all to herself.
Angua was half listening to Sally's order for a very complicated and very blood-substitution-esque drink – tomato juice and Worcestershire sauce and clam juice – and trying not to gag, when a voice from her left said, "Evening, Sergeant Angua."
"Spike," Angua replied, nodding her head. The other woman was perched on a barstool, a cloud of cigarette smoke surrounding her head like a halo.
"What brings the Watch to the Bucket on a fine evening such as this? Shady dealings in the criminal bartending underworld?"
Angua snorted and took a sip of the pint the barman had just delivered.
"Not that I wouldn't prefer it, but no. Cheery's gone and got an idea in her head about something called a Batch-el-ore-et party. We're to have lots of sickeningly sweet drinks and play games and I'm meant to be wearing a veil, but I managed to talk her out of that, thankfully. A large pint will go a long way toward making the evening not entirely awful."
Spike nodded and lit another cigarette.
"Just wait till the Times gets a hold of the story and comes nosing around. That will make nosy coworkers and rather nasty drinks" (here she shot a quelling glance at the bartender, ignoring his look of outrage) "seem delightful in comparison."
"So, still rather angry with the paper for all the ruckus surrounding your wedding?" Angua asked, repressing a smirk.
"Indeed." Spike coughed pointedly.*
"Well, I daresay I will bear it as I am bearing this: with fortitude and copious amounts of alcohol."
"Hullo, Spike," said Sally, appearing at Angua's right. "Won't you come and sit with us? Cheery's going to make us play something called 'Batch-el-ore-et Bingo,' and it will be much more fun with more people suffering alongside us."
Spike grimaced but gamely followed them back to their table.
"You lot took a long time," said Cheery reproachfully.
"But look, we brought Spike!"
Cheery's face lit up. "Oh lovely! This game will be much more fun with more people. And look, here's Sacharissa to play as well!"
Sacharissa beamed at them, though her smile grew a little forced once it was turned to Spike.
In the subsequent business of getting everyone settled into their seats and ready to play, Angua found herself next to a pleasantly smiling Sacharissa.
"William is going to want the inside scoop on everything, you know," Sacharissa said, eyeing Angua over her drink.
"As of yet there's not much inside scoop to be had," Angua admitted.
"Leave them hanging, Angua," Spike cut in from across the table. "You won't regret not giving the Times a front row seat for the nuptials."
Angua rolled her eyes and spoke up to forestall Sacharissa's heated response.
"It's not as if you won't be invited, you and de Worde and probably all of the dwarves who operate your press. Carrot couldn't bear to leave anyone out, so the guest list has stretched into the upper thousands. I have no idea where we'll be having it, but rest assured that the whole city will have an invitation."
Sacharissa looked determined to be content with that, and Cheery began to lay out the boards for "Batch-el-ore-et Bingo." Angua took a healthy gulp of her pint.
Just then a commotion by the door had the five women craning their necks to find the cause. Nobby Nobbs, dressed in his rather unfortunate "female" costume, had tumbled through the opening and into a table of rather unhappy looking dwarves. From behind him Angua could hear Detritus shouting and she saw Fred Colon run through the door right before a voice behind her made her turn.
"Evening, ladies," said Mister Vimes pleasantly.
"We hate to interrupt your evening out," Carrot began, "But I'm afraid we have need of Sergeants Angua and Littlebottom, and Lance-constable Humperding." He smiled apologetically at Sacharissa and Spike.
"Seems our pal Stanley wasn't quite as squeaky clean as he wanted us to believe," said Vimes, puffing on his cigar.
"He's the fence," Angua realized.
"Indeed," said Carrot. "Nobby had been keeping an eye on him of the evening, but a bit of an altercation with some rather raucous young men means that we have need of your plainclothes abilities, Angua. And Sally's as well." He said the last bit sotto voce, with a pleading look at Angua.
The three women of the Watch stood, with one lingering glance toward their drinks, and followed their commander as they made their way out of the Bucket.
Casting a final glance toward her table Angua saw Spike and Sacharissa eying one another. She smiled when they each reached for a Slippery Nipple and downed it entirely, grimacing both at the taste and at one another.
[*Adora Bell Dearheart, as she was referred to in the Times, had recently gained her own revenge on the newspaper's intrusion into her life: After arranging an extravagant and extremely expensive wedding and reception, she and fiancé Moist von Lipwig had eloped to Genua, rather than attend their own planned ceremony. Sacharissa had yet to forgive Spike, and continued to spend some column inches each week devoted to undermining the illustrious head of the Golem Trust.]
Barely an hour later, Angua shoved the door to the Bucket open with her elbow, keeping hold of Cheery's shoulder with her free hand.
"Yes, Cheery, I know you're tired. But damn if that wretched weasel of a man is going to ruin my Bachel-orrette party. Are you with me?"
Cheery nodded, though her eyes were drooping. Angua gave her a guiding push toward the table where Spike and Sacharissa were still sitting, seemingly in the middle of a staring contest.
"I'll get the drinks. Sally?"
Sally followed her to the bar, and helped carry the resultant tray of pink, sticky concoctions back to the table.
When she woke up the next morning, Angua's memory had stopped there. She was a bit nonplussed to find herself in Carrot's room, in her basket, and fully human. Had she remembered it, she would have been glad to forget dancing on a table and playing "Naughty charades" and something Cheery called "Pecker Toss" with most of the clientele at the Bucket.
The front page of the Times on the morning after their rather inebriated girl's night out read:
By Sacharissa Cripslock
In what is sure to be the wedding of the year, if not of the Century of the Anchovy, Captain Carrot of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch will marry Delphine Angua von Uberwald, a Sergeant in the Watch, on Octeday, the 10th Grune, at the estate of Sir Samuel Vimes and Lady Sybil Vimes.
The proposal, described to this reporter as "extremely romantic," occurred last week during a moonlit chase across the roof of the Assassin's Guild. Captain Carrot may not have got his man that night, but he certainly got his young lady!
The Times can report exclusively that the bride's dress will come from Elegant Expressions and Delightful Designs on Gleam Street, and the veil will be borrowed from the Lady Sybil Ramkin. The bride will be attended by Sergeant of the Watch Cheery Littlebottom, Lady Sybil Vimes and Salacia Delorisista Amanita Trigestatra Zeldana Malifee… Von Humpeding . The groom will be attended by Sir Samuel Vimes, Duke of Ankh-Morpork, and Sergeant Detritus of the Watch.
The accompanying picture, snapped when the Watch was supervising traffic during a torrential downpour, showed Angua looking rather more like a drowned rat than a copper. She made a face at it and chucked it in the bin.
Behind Mustrum Ridcully, dressed in his finest and most excitingly patterned robe, sat the rest of the wizards, who had eschewed choosing between the bride and the groom's side of the aisle and instead decided that they would watch from the center of it. Vimes could hear a sort of demented giggling that was probably from the Bursar. The librarian was settled in at the organ's seat off to the side, in happy possession of the large basket of bananas Carrot had ensured would be provided.
Vimes realized, as he looked out over the assembled crowd, that the presence of rather all of the Watch, with the exception of the very barest minimum required to man a skeleton force, was not what was keeping the crowd subdued and respectful. It was manifestly, in fact, due to their love for and loyalty to Carrot and Angua that the masses of Ankh-Morpork citizens were not engaged in their more typical loud and contentious behavior.
Even Cut-Me-Own-Throat Dibbler was behaving himself, though he was offering "commemorative plates, glasses and knick-knacks for the discerning customer, in remembrance of this fine and illustrious occasion. Don't be the only one without a special token to display! All proceeds go to the Watch!"* He was patrolling the aisle; always ready to shove his wares under an unsuspecting nose at the slightest whiff of interest.
The librarian began to play the organ and the crowd quieted and waited for the ceremony to begin.
*At the bottom of his sign, in script practically invisible without a magnification device, was the clarification: W.A.T.C.H: What Articles Throat Can sell He keeps the money from.'
Angua twisted a bit of the lace attached to her dress and tried her best not to fidget while Lady Sybil arranged her hair.
"Such a shame your parents weren't able to attend the wedding, my dear," Lady Sybil tutted as she teased a hair into place.
"Yes, well, Mother wasn't sure if Father would consent to walk me down the aisle on his leash, and so decided it would be better if they remained in Uberwald."
"Well, perhaps you might see them along the wedding tour."
"Perhaps," Angua said noncommittally.
She paused in front of the mirror as Lady Sybil gave her one final once over, then wiped her glistening eyes with her handkerchief.
"Oh, you do look lovely dear. Carrot is a lucky man."
Angua smiled at her, and together they walked out into the garden.
She went to her place in the procession, and as the wedding march began they all followed Young Sam, who was strewing flowers in the aisle with the earnestness that only the very young possess.
The ceremony passed as if in a blur; the only bit Angua remembered very clearly was when she looked at Carrot's dear, honest face and said, "I do." Then there was the Archchancellor exclaiming, "I now pronounce you husband and wife," and lots of cheering from the guests.
CMOT Dibbler was loitering near the dessert table, shoving cream pastries up his sleeves, when another partygoer paused near him. He glanced up into a rather impenetrable face.
"Er, hello. Lovely party, isn't it?"
"Are you a friend of the bride or the groom's?" Throat asked, a little off-put by the gentleman's deep bass voice and extraordinarily dark cloak.
THEY ARE BOTH WELL KNOWN TO ME.
"Ah. Good. Well then, hope you enjoy the party, me'self I must be off."
Before he could slip away his companion spoke again. DO YOU HAPPEN TO KNOW WHERE THE BAR IS?
"Yes, it's just over there."
Throat shook his head, relieved, and resumed his inspection of the buffet tables.
A few feet away from Throat and his activities, Angua heard a "pssst" coming from underneath a buffet table. She peered beneath the cloth to see Gaspode, enjoying a leg of ham that had certainly not been intended for him.
"Hullo, then," he said, though it was muffled by the bone and sounded more like, "Uooh, fhen."
"Hello, Gaspode," Angua said.
"Congratulations, and whatnot," the mangy dog continued.
"Best of luck, and all that."
"That's very kind of you," Angua said, and left him to his bone.
Standing again, she scanned the crowd for Carrot, and spotted him in a large group of dwarves, standing out among them like a skyscraper among factories.
Just then, Moist and Spike twirled by, as much as two people can twirl when one is refusing to relinquish her cigarette. Spike shot Angua a wink and smacked Moist on the shoulder as he tried to dip her.
The members of the Watch were heartily enjoying themselves; so much so that Angua thought that tomorrow's dawn shift might be quite an interesting one. Detritus and Buggy Swires had improvised some new kind of dance step, which involved Buggy being thrown through the air and caught by one or another of his fellow men at arms.
And up in the crenellations of the Ramkin house sat Constable Downspout and his compatriots, enjoying a celebratory pigeon.
The wizards were grouped together near the buffet table, and had taken it upon themselves to glare at anyone else who tried to approach. Angua stifled a groan. Perhaps Carrot could persuade them to relinquish some of the food.
Lord Vetinari was standing near the edge of the party, conversing with Sybil. His smile, though a bit stiff, was genuine. Mister Vimes approached, and the two men squared off for a moment before Vimes led his wife to the dance floor.
As the crowd gathered to send them off, Angua hefted her bouquet thoughtfully in one hand. The unmarried women in the crowd gathered in front of her, some more enthusiastically than others. Taking careful aim, Angua heaved the flowers above the crowd, and was pleased to see them fall unerringly into Cheery's outstretched hands.
She grinned and chimed in with Carrot's shouted goodbyes, and clasped hands with Sybil before they were through the door and out into the night.
It seemed as though she had not seen Carrot since the night he had proposed; every spare minute had been caught up with preparing for their wedding; so much so that they had had no time for one another.
"Well, that went well, I thought," said Carrot, turning to her.
"Yes, surprisingly, it did," Angua replied, and kissed him.