Sir Samuel Vimes, Commander of the City Watch, the Duke of Ankh, was an honest man. A truly, genuinely, honest man. Not only with others, but with himself, a far rarer breed altogether, in Havelock’s experience. But present, in this particular case. Sam Vimes, while perhaps not Carrot (and he was sure many, many people were thankful for that), was, in truth, a genuinely honest man.
Which was why it was all the more amusing to listen to him rather desperately lie to himself. To Havelock, too, but he rather suspected that was a mere side-product.
“We’d never get away with it!”
Good gracious, Sir Samuel. How ever did you come to that conclusion? Havelock propped his chin on his laced fingers, and carefully didn’t smile. Really, though. With all the things Vimes alone got away with on a regular basis, the number of important people he insulted to their faces, the number of implausible things he’d arrested (armies, foreign diplomats, the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork … the dragon, unfortunately, did have to be awarded to Carrot, but still). Not to mention Havelock’s own not inconsiderable exploits (he would always remember Leshp with a certain fondness). Tch. No. Not even you believe that one, Sir Samuel.
“Sybil would never go for it!”
Ah. That one, perhaps he had more of an idea. But the Duchess had been dead for some four years now, and even had she not been … She had taken Havelock aside, a number of times. Oh, she’d never said anything (Havelock had been continually shocked at how many people failed to realise how subtle the Lady Sybil Vimes could be), but she’d … implied things, maybe. Left pointed hints. Once, memorably, warned him, rather spectacularly considering she’d named no particulars whatsoever, of what she would do to him, dead or not, should he, ah, misstep. And he couldn’t imagine she had done all that, and not mentioned it to Sam. Hm. No. Havelock thought that one, too, was a lie.
“Will you stop bloody staring at me,” Vimes snarled, leaning forward on his cane to glare savagely at him. Havelock blinked mildly. Not at all pointedly. “Oh, for the love of … You don’t even like me!”
Havelock blinked again, this time a little more shocked, a little more real. He blinked, and simply raised one eyebrow. That, of all things, that … How could he believe that lie, of all of them? For things allowed, in their time and their place, and others, allowed whenever they happened, simply because … well. Because Vimes was Vimes, and there simply was no other course. After all that, could Sam really believe …?
No. Vimes ducked his head, looked away, and Havelock felt his shoulders release back that tiny, minute, utterly imperceptible fraction. No. Vimes, too, knew the lie of that one.
“Fine,” the watchman snarled. “But I don’t like you, you old bastard! And call me a liar for that one!”
Havelock pressed his lips together. Faintly. Desperately. He could not smile. At this time, in this place, he must not smile.
Once, he might not have been able to. Once, even he might have failed to see the lie, there. Vimes would save any life that needed saving, because that was the right thing to do, because you did not sell someone just because you didn’t like them. There could be no guarantees in that. And even still, even now, there were times when Sam genuinely did hate him. Quite virulently. Mostly, at times when Havelock was rather proud of eliciting the result.
But he remembered things. He remembered the man who’d saved life, all those years ago, on pure instinct. He remembered the man who’d listened to a horror story, and simply asked how Havelock could bear it. He remembered the fury as Vimes sought his murderer. The reluctance as Vimes put the cuffs on his wrists, when he feared it was for real (a lovely memory, that, in many ways, metal and those fingers about his wrists, those eyes first desperate, weary, and then knowing, angry, reluctantly impressed - yes. Havelock did remember Leshp fondly).
And he remembered the anniversary of the Glorious 25th. He remembered the lilac. He remembered the graveyard, and secrets between them, and the howling fury of a man wrung to the edge once again, and he remembered … that even then, in that moment, that time and that place, when Havelock had revealed his own part in events, when he admitted, with some genuine embarrassment, to having taken a badge in his teeth, and fought for something not his own … Vimes had not looked at him with disbelief. Anger, yes, but Havelock bore that easily. But not disbelief. Not disdain.
As a man, Havelock did not wait on the approval of any person. Many, many years ago, so very long ago, when he first perceived the world he lived in for what it was, he had decided that that would be so. He had decided that he should not ever long for any person’s respect, any person’s caring. He had decided, and he had succeeded.
But he had seen respect, that day, and even some degree of acceptance, from a man still on the edge, and it had been … alarming, perhaps, or would have been, should have been, save for all that had gone before. It had been nothing he sought, nothing he had let himself seek, but even still, even despite that, it had been … good.
No. Samuel Vimes did not dislike him. Did not hate him. He might hate the fact that he didn’t hate him, Vimes being, after all, still Vimes, but he did not hate Havelock.
And he knew it. Shoulders slumping, dropping his chin onto his chest in mute, frustrated admission, Vimes knew it.
“We can’t,” Vimes whispered, raggedly. One last, perhaps desperate little lie. The last-ditch effort, because Vimes would not be Vimes, if he did not fight a thing all the way down, to the last, with everything he had.
Vimes would not be Vimes if, after all this time, he listened to Havelock, and simply agreed.
“Bugger,” Sam said, very softly. “Bugger it all. We’re doing this, aren’t we? All these years, you bloody bastard, and now you say it, now you ask me, and bugger me, we’re going to do this.” He lifted his head, he met Havelock’s eyes, and there … there was anger there, real and genuine, and determination, and something wry, self-amused, something Vimes had spent years trying to drown unsuccessfully in a bottle. Something Havelock, at least, was infinitely grateful had refused to die.
“We are,” he said, very quietly, lifting his chin from his hands and moving to stand. To reach out, and touch Sam gently on the shoulder. “As long as you are willing, Sir Samuel …” He smiled, very faintly. “Then yes. I rather think we are.”
Vimes looked at him. Vimes glared at him. Grey-haired and stooped and angry and fierce, prouder, so much prouder than he’d been, the first time they’d met, after Havelock had broken him, and Sam had saved him, instinctively, in response. Vimes, so many years distant from that drunken, desperate, honourable man, looked at him. And glared at him. And smiled.
“Sam, then,” he said, with a stab of his finger for emphasis. “And Vet … Havelock?” Grumbling faintly over the name, flushing a little, under his ears. Havelock dared not smile. Really, he must not.
“Sam?” he asked, mildly and imperturbably, just because. Just to see him snarl. Let it never be said that Havelock Vetinari could not give as good as he got. And never, never at all, with this man, of all men.
“I love you too,” Sam gritted out. As though the words were being dragged out of him. “Bastard. I love you too.”
And there, at the truth as he could not at the lies, there, Havelock let himself smile.
Sir Samuel was, at the end of it all, no matter how much he wished not to be … an honest man.