Some days, when random disturbances in the Disc and his lifestyle caused Drumknott to lie awake at night, he would allow his thoughts to wander to one specific night: the night his master had touched him.
It had been a difficult week, spent feeling fatigued and anxious. It had been a relief to be released from the Watch cells and to return home to the palace. But dark, despondent thoughts had lingered in Drumknott’s mind, and when Lord Vetinari had noticed – well, Drumknott would never offend his master by lying to him.
Just one night, to relieve Drumknott’s troubled mind.
They had slept in the same bed, Drumknott’s bed, for the rest of that night, and in the morning, Vetinari had said ‘Thank you’, as if it was Drumknott who had done him a favour. Then they had simply carried on, as if it had never happened. Vetinari, it turned out, was very good at pretending things had not happened. He gave no sign or indication that it had affected him in any way. Of course, they had had the understanding that it was something that could only occur that one night and it was not that Drumknott was expecting anything more ...
... sort of. He had always found it difficult to lie to himself; in honesty, he knew, he did want it to happen again. He knew it couldn’t happen, and he would never ask it from Lord Vetinari ... yet he could not help but think of it sometimes.
He was thinking of it now, in particular, because he had just given Lord Vetinari the mail that had come during the evening, and one of them was from Lady Margolotta. Like many of the other citizens of the city, Drumknott had occasionally wondered about the personal relationship between the Patrician and her ladyship. Before, it had been a matter of little concern to him. Now, however, he thought it a bit more pertinent to himself.
For one thing, Drumknott was sure that Lord Vetinari would not have slept with him if he was – or had been at the time – in a relationship with Lady Margolotta.
Lord Vetinari’s voice awoke Drumknott from his reverie, where he had been reading a report at his desk in the Oblong Office almost unseeingly.
‘My lord?’ he said.
‘I need you to write replies to these and send them out in the morning, please,’ his lordship said, pushing some letters across his desk. Drumknott stood up and went to retrieve them. ‘Then –‘ Lord Vetinari pushed back his chair and stood, ‘– I would like you to tell me what has been on your mind from when you had dinner that you have been going through those reports at such a slow pace.’
In a flash of guilt, Drumknott thought, rather wryly, that it was it was not possible to deceive his lordship in any way; complete frankness was his only defence against that impossibly keen mind.
‘My apologies, my lord. I will endeavour not to be so distracted again.’
‘Perhaps my words were unclear,’ Lord Vetinari said, a cold note entering his voice. Drumknott was taken aback, confused that he had appeared to have annoyed him. ‘Or are your thoughts too private to share?’
‘I have no thoughts too private to share with you, sir,’ Drumknott answered, and then checked the statement. It was true; he wouldn’t hide anything if Lord Vetinari asked it from him ... though there may be some things he would much rather keep to himself, if he could.
‘Are you sure of that?’ his lordship asked with a raised eyebrow. ‘I think I would feel better if you would at least pretend that you have a life outside your work.’
‘I do. That does not mean I would be reluctant to share its details with you.’
‘Such trust is gratifying,’ Lord Vetinari said, going to stand at the window. At any other time, Drumknott would have thought he was being teased. Without turning away from the view that stretched out below him, the Patrician said, ‘Tell me then.’
Of course, when it came to it, Drumknott did not want to put his master in an awkward position. He hesitated for a moment, looking for the right words; it was a skill he had been trained in, if not for a situation like this.
‘I was only thinking,’ he said, trying at first to strike for the right balance of carefulness and nonchalance, then realising who he was talking to and giving in to the direct approach that he had discovered was the only way he could speak to his lordship, ‘of the night you ... we ... spent together ... that night after we were released from Watch custody ...’
He trailed off pathetically, dismayed at his failing courage.
After a pause, Lord Vetinari said, ‘I see. Why?’
Drumknott though of Lady Margolotta’s letter, lying folded up on the desk that divided them, and felt a most shameful twinge of jealousy. There was not the slightest bit of Lord Vetinari that belonged to him in any way, though he belonged to Lord Vetinari so wholly.
‘It ... is difficult not to think of it sometimes, sir.’ If Lord Vetinari said then that he never thought of it, Drumknott thought he would be rather unable to think of it ever again. And he almost wished that he would say it.
Lord Vetinari turned slightly to look at him and said, ‘Yes, it is, sometimes.’
A smile he could not stop touched Drumknott’s face as his heart thumped one, overloud beat.
‘I’m sorry,’ Lord Vetinari said unexpectedly, and Drumknott’s breath caught in his throat.
‘Sir?’ he managed to say.
‘Perhaps ... it was a mistake for me to offer intimacy to you that night. I wished to comfort you, but I did, of course, ask for something for myself as well.’
‘You did – comfort me,’ Drumknott stammered before he could even consider what an undignified response it was, ‘and I didn’t – hadn’t thought that –‘ that you might have wanted that night as much as I did, it slowly dawned on Drumknott. He had to swallow before he could speak again. ‘I do not regret it.’
‘Then what are you thinking of tonight?’
How could he say when he hardly even knew? Was it mere desire that made him wish to return to that night? But even as he thought it, he knew it was not. He had become aware of his own feelings a long time ago, and had only feared putting a name to them.
'Drumknott, do you ... have feelings for me?'
His face burned with shame, and he dropped Vetinari's gaze, unable to look him in the eye as he murmured, 'Yes.'
There was a long pause. Drumknott wondered what was going to happen to him now. Would he be dismissed? Or would this conversation simply end and become another thing they both pretended have never happened? He didn't know which would be worse.
'Why do you find it difficult to look at me?' Vetinari said, so soft yet so clearly, and Drumknott looked up to realise that Vetinari had moved to stand directly in front of him. 'Is it so shameful to be in love with me?'
'No, my lord,' Drumknott said with a tremor in his voice. 'I am ashamed to reveal that I have become so weak ... when all I want is to better myself for you.'
'Do you realise how difficult it will be in a relationship with me? You would be bound to me forever. For my own security as Patrician, and for your own safety as someone close to me, you could never leave me. I would be the only lover you could have for the rest of your life.'
Drumknott was struggling to control his breathing. He couldn't begin to tell if Vetinari was saying this to dissuade him, or as some sort of disclaimer before requesting his confirmation.
'You are still young, Drumknott. Could you live with that?'
Drumknott inhaled deeply before answering, carefully picking his words as he spoke, 'My lord, if you believe that I am capable of dedicating my life to you as your servant, please believe me capable of dedicating my body and soul to you as your lover.'
He felt as if he shouldn't have been, but he was amazed when the corners of Vetinari's mouth lifted in a slight smile.
'Why me, Rufus?' Vetinari reached out and touched his cheek with a finger, tentatively, as if asking permission for more. 'There is nothing I can give you, as your lover. I belong to Ankh-Morpork. I cannot give you stability, family, or even much of my time.'
'Could you ...' Drumknott's heart was beating in his ears, but the cool touch of Vetinari's finger was the only thing he could comprehend in that moment. He reached up and touched Vetinari's hand, lightly, but encouragingly, guiding it to open and cradle his face. Vetinari's eyes stared into his, almost entirely void of expression as they usually were, but there was just the spark of something else in them - curiosity? Desire? Drumknott leaned into the touch, laying his hand over Vetinari's. 'Could you possibly give me your heart?'
'Will that be enough?'
'It would be enough to last me a hundred lifetimes.'
'Oh.' Vetinari stepped closer, and took Drumknott's other hand in a gesture that was as sweet and delicate as the first blossoms of spring. 'Then you shall have it.'
Drumknott didn't even have time to smile. Vetinari leaned in and pressed their lips together. They had done this before, and it only lasted a moment, but it filled Drumknott's heart with feelings tender and gentle, yet fervent and passionate.
'Thank you, Havelock,' he said.
'Me? Rufus, I cannot even say whether you are generous or foolish to choose me.'
'The human heart is ever incomprehensible in its desires.' Drumknott smiled at last - it could be said that he grinned. How could he help it? 'I have chosen you, and you will simply have to deal with the fact.'
'Very well then. I am not sure if you have noticed, my dear Rufus, but we are not quite done with the day. You will have to wait until afterwards to be dealt with.'
'Alright.' Drumknott stepped away from Vetinari's touch, assured in the fact that he could soon return. 'Afterwards, Havelock.'