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Sam and Havelock or Lady Sybil the Patrician

Chapter Text

Every guild has at least one member who takes guild business “a little bit too far”. This frequently ends up two valleys and three hills away from the intended destination and equally as frequently involves a corpse. Or several.

Guilds also have those members who don’t take business far enough. This is mostly due to laziness and occasionally due to someone’s conscience suddenly showing up at the scene, despite its owner’s certainty that they’d left it at home.

But then there are those who take the guild business exactly where it should go. Not only to the right hill, but even the right house, room, piece of carpet. Many aim for this, but very few deliver. One or two deliver every time. These people are usually watched very closely. Sometimes because they are about to be promoted (this rarely happens), but mostly because no one wants to be within a two mile radius when such a person snaps.

In the Guild of Assassins this person was Lord Havelock Vetinari. His precision and efficiency were such that he was given the most difficult assignments in the hopes that he would fail. Lord Downey had people follow him around to be constantly aware of his actions. At first they gave him regular reports, but soon they started to lose him.

Lord Downey tried a different tactic. He assigned someone to find out all of the man’s habits and learned absolutely nothing new. Lord Vetinari had an old dog. He had a butler named Drumknott who was more of a secretary and merely ordered other servants around. He lived alone with thirty servants in the house, including a cook and several maids all of whom were loyal to their master.

They tried to tempt Vetinari with someone who wasn’t a member of the Guild of Seamstresses, but he gave his coat to the young woman, apologized and had Drumknott escort her back to her home.

Lord Downey tried to hint to Vetinari that, perhaps, the man could find a better use for his time and was met with a blank stare.

It is said that there are trees that grow regularly for several years until one day they start to favour one side or another and symmetry is forgotten. For Vetinari this moment came one late night when he was on his way home from another successfully completed mission.

He slipped into a shadow as soon as he heard approaching footsteps.

“And – hic – I told them! I told them: the city is like a wossname. It swallows you up and never lets go. Takes your soul. The blastered- damn thing eats it up, like, like…” A man, obviously drunk out of his mind staggered down the street, grabbing hold of the walls as he moved. “I’ll just take a nice nap here on… Elm Street… Get back… later.” He dropped on the ground and passed out.

Lord Vetinari snuck closer.

The drunk started to snore. In the dim light from a nearby house Vetinari could just make out the man’s clothes. Captain of the Night Watch. Oh dear.

He continued on his way, not throwing any looks behind and not thinking about what he saw.

But the symmetry was broken.

Chapter Text

Sam Vimes sat in the Mended Drum, trying to put the clues together. They resisted. They refused to be put together before he drank anything and were equally uncooperative after each drink.

Carrot sat next to him, giving him worried looks. “Sir? I think –”

Vimes felt he was being watched by several other people and looked around. A fight started at the other end of the Drum and he turned away, not wanting to see any of it.

He failed utterly to see the dark figure sitting next to him and staring at him with interest.

“’S all stupid, Lance-Constable,” Vimes said to Carrot.

“What is, sir?”

“All of it,” was the laconic answer. Then the Captain’s head dropped.

“Sir? Sir?” Carrot tried to wake Vimes up and failed. He searched for Fred and Nobby and found them on his other side. “Let’s take him home.”

“Three drunk men carrying an unconscious one? You’ll need some help,” someone said and Carrot noticed for the first time the man sitting on the Captain’s other side.

“Hello, I don’t think we’ve met. I’m Lance-Constable Carrot –”

“Yes, I know.” The man rose to his feet. “Which way are you going?”

As they left the Drum Carrot worried that he hadn’t asked for the stranger’s name.

Chapter Text

When people met the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork their first impression of Lady Sybil was that she was a big, kind woman with an even bigger heart who was simple and naïve. She listened to everyone with interest and sympathy and these people went away convinced that they will get everything they asked for and more.

But over time they learned that this wasn’t the case. She listened, of course, but rarely actually promised anything. Equally rarely she gave her opinion of the situation and the speaker ended up assuming what her opinion was or trying to impose their own on her.

When the leaders of the Guilds of Ankh-Morpork suggested that she become Patrician they expected to be able to manipulate her to their own ends. They thought they could fool her right under her noise. First they brought her laws they wanted to enforce, but the papers for those went mysteriously missing. Then they brought her laws they wanted to correct and these, too, went mysteriously missing (“oh dear, I was certain I put them down somewhere”).

One morning the leaders gathered together in the Rats Chamber to decide what to do about the Patrician.

“I say we offer her a nice retirement somewhere by the sea,” Lord Downey, leader of the Assassins’ Guild, began. “They say Quirm is nice this time of year.”

“Fourecks?” Baggis of the Thieves’ Guild suggested.

Lord Rust huffed. “I told you it was a bad idea! A woman as Patrician! The daft lady is barely fit to be called a Ramkin! Find her a proper husband is what I say. One who won’t suffer nonsense.”

Queen Molly of the Beggars’ Guild remained silent, but shot a glance at Lord Downey.

“Maybe there’s a legal clause we can use to get rid of her,” someone suggested.

“Why isn’t Mr. Slant here?” Lady Selachii demanded.

“Said he had urgent business in Quirm,” Lord Downey answered calmly, as if Slant’s absence didn’t mean anything. Slant, being a zombie, was the oldest resident of Ankh-Morpork and had an excellent sense of self-preservation.

“And then there is that Vimes!” Lord Rust cut in. “Who gave her the right to grant him so much authority?”

Several people in the room seconded this remark with a “yes, indeed!” and there was even one “hear, hear!”

“I heard rumours,” said Lord Selachii, “about his connection with someone in the Guild of Assassins.”

There was a contemplative silence, during the course of which each occupant of the Chamber stared at Downey and tried to imagine what the connection could be.

Downey said nothing and kept his eyes fixed on the table in front of him. Nevertheless he contrived to look like someone who’d make the life of anyone spreading bad rumours about members of the Assassins’ Guild very difficult indeed.

The meeting ended quite quickly after that with everyone getting up, mumbling some kind of excuse and leaving. Most of the people in the room were well aware of just how much their lives were worth and, what was more important, suddenly remembered that Downey was well aware of it too.

Pretty soon Lord Downey remained alone.

Mrs. Palm of the Seamstresses’ Guild hadn’t come. Mr. Slant was called away on urgent business. Queen Molly hadn’t said a word during the meeting, just watched Lord Downey from time to time. And Lady Selachii hadn’t contributed much to the conversation. There seemed to be a pattern. Then again, perhaps, there wasn’t.

Lord Downey stood up and left the room. His wife was waiting for him in a carriage outside the Palace.

The last thing he noticed as he stepped outside was the Patrician’s secretary, Willikins, holding the door open for him.

The door shut with barely a noise behind him.

 

The Leaders of the Guilds gathered at the Palace a week later. They sat in the waiting room (which was decorated with engravings of various dragons that some of them thought looked familiar) and practiced their small talk while various clerks rushed around on different errands.

Ten minutes after they all assembled Willikins walked out slowly to greet them. “Good morning, gentlemen. The Patrician is busy, so if you’d like to wait –”

“Busy? Don’t be ridiculous, man!” Lord Rust (who wasn’t a guild leader, but came along anyway) jumped to his feet. “We demand to see her at once!”

Willikins stepped back. “If you would just… follow me.” He turned around and led them out with a slow walk.

But instead of leading them to the Oblong Office or the Rats Chamber, he led them outside, around the Palace to the place where Lady Sybil had recently set up the dragon pens.

Lady Sybil herself was inside one of them, dressed in fire-proof clothes and holding a bucket of coal.

“Good morning, gentlemen! What can I do for you?” She tossed a piece of coal to one of the dragons, who caught it with his mouth.

The leaders of the City’s Guilds took in the sight of the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork feeding a bunch of small dragons and exchanged glances. All except Lord Rust, who started to speak.

“Are you out of your mind? What sort of job is feeding dragons for the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork? It’s no wonder no city business ever gets done!”

Lady Sybil tossed a piece of coal to the dragon closest to Lord Rust, keeping her eyes on the man. Lord Rust returned the look without flinching.

“You’ve given the Seamstresses and Beggars their own guilds!” Lord Rust continued.

Lady Sybil didn’t comment on the absence of the leaders of those two guilds.

“Being a Patrician is a man’s job!” Lord Rust went on, oblivious to the drop in metaphorical temperature and a rise in the physical one. “What will you do if Ankh-Morpork goes to war?”

“If my memory serves me right,” Sybil said calmly, “it’s been about a hundred years since Ankh-Morpork went to war and it didn’t end well for everyone involved.”

“I wouldn’t expect you to understand military tactics!”

“I didn’t realize that a complete defeat was a military tactic.”

The guild leaders watched this exchange like a sports match.

“And I suppose you think you would have won?” Lord Rust nearly screamed.

“No,” Lady Sybil said, her voice still calm, “I wouldn’t have, because I wouldn’t have fought at all.” She gave a weak smile. “And it seems that my being a woman hadn’t stopped you all from deciding I will be the Patrician.”

She saw Willikins slip past the men in the room and stand beside her. “Thanks for reminding me, Willikins. I’m sorry, gentlemen, but I have urgent business to attempt to. Willikins will see you out.”

“No,” Lord Rust said. “You don’t have urgent business, Sybil, because that is the Patrician’s business and you’re no longer the Patrician.”

“And why is that, Ronald?”

Lord Rust held out the rolled up piece of paper he’d held in his hand the whole time. Lady Sybil reached out to take it from him.

The dragon nearest to them burped.

Lady Sybil grabbed Rust’s arm and dropped to the ground, taking him with her. Around them dragons raised their heads.

“Down, boys,” Lady Sybil said.

The guild leaders dropped to the ground. The dragons lowered their heads. There was a tense silence of several people trying to be quiet and then Lady Sybil stood up. Willikins rose to his feet next to her. Then everyone else got up, brushing themselves off and avoiding each other’s eyes.

 “Oh dear,” Lady Sybil said, “it looks like your document is just ashes now, Ronald. I do hope it wasn’t important.”

“This, Sybil, was a document containing signatures from the leaders of the city asking you to step down from your position as Patrician.

Lady Sybil continued to smile politely. “That shouldn’t be difficult to get a second time, I’m sure. Now, if you’ll excuse me, gentlemen, I promised Lady Downey and Lady Rust afternoon tea.”

 

“I had a lovely time this afternoon at the Palace,” Lady Downey said.

Lord Downey raised his head from the paper he was reading. “Yes? And how was it?”

“Why didn’t you ever tell me about the hall of statues? I thought the statue of Lord Snapcase was most amusing.”

Lord Downey nodded for lack of anything to say to that. His wife was difficult to entertain, but if Lady Sybil–

“What a brilliant idea you had to make Lady Sybil the Patrician!”

Lord Downey didn’t bother to correct her. He tried to remember whose idea it had been and found that he couldn’t. It definitely wasn’t his. Of this he was certain.

The guild treasurer walked into the room. Lord Downey waited patiently for the man to come up to him and whisper into his ear. Then he stood up.

“I’m sorry, my dear, I have an urgent matter to deal with.”

There were matters more important than changing the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork. If his wife was kept entertained, then maybe there was no harm in letting Lady Sybil remain patrician for a while longer. What could she do?

This is the same kind of thinking as the one behind the belief that leaving old weapons around won’t cause any harm.

Around the city a similar conversation was taking place in several houses belonging to guild leaders. The overall result was that the request to resign wasn’t rewritten or signed by anyone.

Queen Molly had a long talk with Mrs. Palm and held regular meetings with her afterwards.

Chapter Text

Something hit the wall next to him and twanged. Vimes saw the black arrow sticking out of the wall and ducked, expecting a second one. Then he noticed the writing on the arrow.

“GUILD OF ASSASSINS – WHEN STYLE MATTERS,” he read and groaned.

Vimes rose to his feet and opened the window. Sure enough, Vetinari stood on the roof of the house opposite.

“What is the meaning of this?” Vetinari jumped from roof to roof until he stood right by Vimes’ window. “That was to let you know that there is a contract on your life. And I accepted it,” he said.

Vimes opened his mouth, realized he didn’t know what to say and closed it.

“May I come in?”

Vimes moved away from the window and Vetinari slipped inside. “Do you want to know how much they think your life is worth?”

“How much?” Of all of the questions fighting their way to be heard that one was the fastest.

“60 thousand.”

Vimes laughed. “That much?”

“I suggested two million, but they disagreed.”

There was a long silence after those words filled with Vimes wondering what Vetinari was going to do next. Vetinari still held a crossbow, but Vimes doubted the assassin would fire it indoors. Still, it was best to be careful. His sword and helmet lay on the bed next to his armour. Behind him was his shaving mirror, which wasn’t going to offer any help.

Vetinari dropped the crossbow and stepped up to the bed to pick up Vimes’ sword. He studied it carefully like a man whose life depended on it.

The next moment Vimes was looking down at the sharp end of his own sword.

“I didn’t expect the Commander of the Watch to be so careless as to leave weapons lying around.”

Keep him talking, Vimes thought and another thought responded with about what? “Yes, sir.”

“Havelock, please.”

Bits of Vimes’ brain were kicking other bits to try to get him to say anything, the end result being Vimes’ mouth opening and closing several times.

The situation was saved by Fred Colon who knocked on the door, without seeing that it was slightly open. “Mr. Vimes, there is a – oh, sorry, I didn’t know the door was – oh, sorry for intruding. I thought you were alone.”

Vetinari raised his eyebrows at Colon.

Vimes grabbed for the sword, but Vetinari anticipated this action. The sword swung around and Vimes suppressed a cry of pain.

“That’s a nasty cut you have there,” Colon said. “Should I go get a doctor?”

Vimes grabbed his elbow, but Vetinari tossed the sword aside and pulled Vimes’ hand away, replacing it with his own. “There is no need for a doctor, Sergeant. Bring me some water and bandages, if you have any.”

“Yes, Your Lordship,” Colon saluted and rushed off.

“You don’t have to –” Vimes began, but Vetinari sat him down and then tore off the Commander’s sleeve completely.

“I will tell Drumknott to arrange for some clothes to be sent to you.”

“Why are you doing this? You came to assassinate me.” Yes, that’s right, a voice in his mind said, remind him, why don’t you?

“If I was here to assassinate you, Commander, you would have been on the floor, dead, by now.”

Vetinari was getting too dangerously close for Vimes’ liking when he heard footsteps on the stairs.

Fred Colon came in several minutes later, a bowl of water and some bandages in his hands. He was tailed by Carrot, Angua and Nobby and several other watchmen who peered into the room that was full to the point of bursting.

“What happened?” Carrot asked.

“The gallant Commander was just teaching me how to use a sword,” Vetinari said, washing Vimes’ wound and bandaging it expertly. Vimes tried not to think of it as a strange skill for an assassin. He found out much later that Vetinari learned this skill after one of their encounters during the course of an investigation.

“But you’re an assassin,” Carrot pointed out.

Vimes threw a look at the wall and noticed that the arrow was missing. When had Vetinari taken it away? Someone like Colon wouldn’t have noticed it, but Carrot might notice the dent it had left in the wall.

“Yes,” Vetinari said and didn’t add anything else.

“Sir, this may not be the best time,” Carrot said, “but the Patrician’s carriage is waiting for you.”

Vimes stood up. “I’ll go see her now.” There were several protests at this. “It’s just a scratch. I’m fine.”

He left the room, followed by all of the watchmen.

Chapter Text

“Ah, Vimes,” his Lordship said calmly, as if he wasn’t lying on the floor with an arrow in his leg and a puddle of blood under him.

Vimes rushed to him and grabbed the man by the shoulders, trying to move him somewhere out of harm’s way, while also trying not to cause him pain. He half-managed to succeed in one of the two.

Vimes tried to think.

Elsewhere the two golems fought, the building shaking each time one of them hit the other (or anything else, really).

Vetinari had a slightly delirious look on his face that may have been caused by the shock of the pain. He stared up at Vimes and his lips twitched into a smile

“I was thinking about getting married.”

Why now? Why did he have to go completely Bursar on Vimes now?

Vimes’ brain raced. “We will, uh, discuss this later. If you want.” That last bit had been added hastily with several worried looks over his shoulder. He was trying to see where the golems were and how their fight was going.

Then he saw bits of the white golem fly by.

“I need –”

Vetinari grabbed hold of Vimes’ face and pressed it emphatically against his own.

Vimes’ brain gave up and went on holiday. And it didn’t look like he was going to get any postcards from it. The parting gift Vimes got was the desperate need to not fall on top of Vetinari and so Vimes’ hands were on the floor, supporting his weight.

Vetinari’s hands, however, were on Vimes’ head.

The building shook as each bit of the white golem fell.

Then Vetinari pulled away and Vimes was left with a feeling of something angular.

“That was strangely disappointing,” Vetinari said, closed his eyes and passed out on the floor.

Vimes’ brain was suddenly back, pushing Vimes to his feet and making him shout, “To me! His Lordship needs a doctor!” There were more orders as he took in the damage around him and those were also given in a loud, clear voice.

 

Vimes visited Vetinari the next day, deciding not to mention certain details of the night before. He had made sure Doughnut Jimmy saw to his Lordship.

He went, of course, after he’d made sure all of his orders had been carried out at the Palace. He had to make sure the Patrician was no longer being poisoned. It was his job. He wasn’t delaying the inevitable. Not at all.

Vetinari was sitting at a table, drinking coffee when Vimes was shown in. One of his Lordship’s legs was resting on a chair, all bandaged up.

“And here is the brave Commander himself. Good morning!”

“Good morning, sir.”

“I trust the golem business was concluded to your satisfaction?”

Vimes evaluated this sentence. “He was destroyed.” He wasn’t completely satisfied with how everything ended, but it was pretty damn close. “How is your Lordship?”

“Havelock, please.” He indicated the free chair with a movement of his arm.

Vimes continued to stand, his helmet under his arm. “Sorry, sir. Urgent business. I need to leave soon… I… er… I just wanted to drop in, as it were.”

Vetinari watched Vimes struggle with his sentences with a faint smile on his face.

“Why, of course! Duty calls and so on.” He paused to drink the remains of his coffee and said, “I seem to recall a promise to discuss marital matters. You will “drop by”,” and Vimes could hear the inverted commas around those two words, “to speak to me on this matter, won’t you?”

Vimes’ brain nudged his mouth to say, “Yes, sir,” and then slunk off somewhere.

“Please, there is no need to call me “sir”. Havelock will do,” the corners of his mouth twitched upwards, “Sam.”

Several minutes later Drumknott came in, carrying several letters from Ankh-Morpork’s finest. He looked around the room in surprise.

His Lordship sat alone, an empty cup on the table in front of him, tapping his fingers on the table.

Drumknott didn’t say, “You are alone, sir?” because that much was obvious.

“Tell me, Drumknott,” Vetinari said, without turning his gaze away from his fingers, “who is considered the best tailor in Ankh-Morpork?”

“Cowherd and Edwards of Kings Way, sir.”

“Yes, of course.”

“Would you like me to contact them?”

Vetinari considered this. Vimes was a man who was very easy to predict. “I will probably not need them for a while yet.”

Chapter Text

He’d dropped everything and given chase. Why? Because the chase was easy, simple. It was all that paperwork afterwards that was the fiddly bit. But in the chase it was just him and the man he chased. He ran, not thinking about what lay behind, but only of what – no who – lay immediately ahead. It was easy, instinctive. He’d done it without thinking.

Now they were out in the desert he had time to think. That’s what made him so different from Carrot. He ran first, then thought, but Carrot had sat down to think about things. Even though it was his girlfriend. You had to know him to believe it. Even now he had trouble believing it.

Would he have waited? Would he have returned, reported and let someone in command decide?

What if they’d got – No, he wasn’t going to think of him. Not now. Things were complicated enough as it was.

You’re running away, a voice in his head told him. You think you’re running after Ahmed, but you’re just running away.

“Shut up,” he said through gritted teeth.

“What did you say, Commander?” Carrot asked.

“Nothing, Captain, just talking to myself.”

 

He’d run away, but Vetinari followed. He’d claimed to be acting as the Patrician’s protection, but Vimes wasn’t certain that was the real reason. Could never be certain.

And then Vimes became the Duke of Ankh-Morpork. After this new promotion Vetinari accompanied Vimes on all his trips outside Ankh-Morpork, whether they were on City Watch or Ankh-Morpork business. Vimes wondered if Vetinari considered it his duty to do so. Vimes would go somewhere his life would be in danger (and – in a way – that could be applied to any of Vimes’ destinations) and Vetinari followed him. As his bodyguard? Was that how Vetinari saw it? Or did he really want to be the one to kill Vimes and was simply making sure that no one else had that chance?

Vimes tried to raise the subject once, but all he got in response was the claim that Vimes was very entertaining to watch and so Vimes didn’t raise it again. Who knew what went on in Vetinari’s brain? Vimes certainly didn’t and all of the years of their – was it friendship? – relationship didn’t help shed light on the mystery.

Chapter Text

“Why have we stopped?” Vimes asked, leaning out of the window.

“Bandits, sir,” Drumknott said calmly.

The two carriages were surrounded.

A man stepped up to the door, a crossbow in his hand. “Come out, Your Grace.”

“I’ll handle this,” Vetinari said and slipped out. “Actually, the correct form of address is “sir” or “Your Lordship”.”

“Who are you?” They laughed watching him lean on his cane.

“Lord Vetinari. Perhaps you’ve heard of me?”

The laughter stopped. There was a silence broken only by the occasional grunt. Someone shouted desperately, “You travel with an assassin?”

And then someone grabbed Vimes and hauled him out, holding a knife to his throat.

“Drop your weapon, assassin, or we will kill the man you’re guarding. Who will pay you, then?”

Vetinari turned around slowly. Blood dripped from the tip of his sword onto the snow. “Ah, you’ll have me at a disadvantage, if you do. You see – the Guild of Assassins values his life at 1 million Ankh-Morpork dollars and I took this commission.”

The man holding Vimes was amazed by this. “Your bodyguard is trying to kill you?”

Vimes refrained from struggling, remembering where the knife was. “He swore that if anyone kills me it will be him.”

“Then you’re a terrible assassin!” the man laughed.

“Don’t underestimate the Duke of Ankh-Morpork,” Vetinari said calmly.

The man groaned and dropped on the ground.

Vimes surveyed their surroundings calmly. “Looks like that’s all of them. Let’s go.”

Chapter Text

“I’d like to speak to Sam Vimes for a couple of minutes,” Vetinari said, closing the door behind him. “Without the Duke or the Commander interfering.”

Vimes opened his mouth to point out that the Duke and the Commander and Sam Vimes were – in fact – the same person and closed it, seeing Vetinari raise an eyebrow. He sat down on a chair.

Vetinari remained standing. For the first time in all the years he’d known Vetinari Vimes felt as if the assassin was gathering his thoughts.

“As much as I enjoy the thrill of the chase I need for it to end.”

Vimes tried to understand what those words meant. His brain twisted them this way and that, but the only explanation it could come up with was too wild to be right.

Vetinari watched this reaction. “That’s exactly what I mean.”

Something tinkled downstairs. Vimes was at the door in a couple of seconds, but Vetinari locked it before Vimes could leave. He pocketed the key.

“Someone dropped a glass,” Vetinari said calmly. “Are all watchmen this paranoid or am I just extremely lucky?”

There was a suspicious silence down below.

Vetinari put an arm on the door and kept his eyes fixed on Vimes’ face.

“Sir… I think—”

Vetinari sighed and turned away. “You’re right.” And then he opened the door and rushed out.

Vimes ran after him.

They found Angua and her brother locked in a fight on the floor, rolling around, trying to gain the upper hand with the advantages of the wolf and human forms all at once.

Detritus barged into the room and raised his Peacemaker.

“No!” Vimes shouted, grabbing the weapon. “You’ll hit Angua.”

Suddenly a third shape joined the fight and Vimes stared in astonishment at Vetinari slipping in with a knife.

“No! Don’t be –” He wanted to say stupid, but Wolfgang had already claimed three victims. Four, if he counted Angua. There wasn’t going to be a fifth, he thought, there wasn’t

Wolfgang broke out and ran. The room was in pieces.

Cheery rushed in, “Igor is dying, Commander.”

Vimes bent over Vetinari. The assassin’s hand was bloody, as was his chest. “I’ll be fine,” he said quietly. “Go and stop him, Sam.”

Vimes took his healthy hand and said through clenched teeth. “What happened, Sergeant Littlebottom?”

“He broke in and killed Igor,” Cheery reported, “and then ran onwards to Captain Carrot’s room.”

“Sam,” Vetinari said, “you need to go. Now.”

“Why Carrot?” Vimes asked.

“Because he’s mine,” Angua wept in a corner. Cheery hurried out and returned with a blanket to cover Angua.

Vimes nodded and got up. “I’ll be back. Detritus, watch over them. Cheery, you too. I’ll see what I can do about Igor when I get back.”

He ran out of the room. All he could see was red.

 

Vimes had been gone for some time when Vetinari rose to his feet and said, “I’m not waiting for him,” and rushed outside.

Cheery followed him, shouting “sir” over and over again.

Outside Vetinari met Vimes coming back, looking calm.

“It’s done,” Vimes said.

Vetinari’s lips twitched upwards in a smile. He had that slightly delirious look on his face that Vimes learned to associate with injuries. He took his Lordship gently by the arm and led him back to the embassy.

They stopped outside the doors and Vimes said, “I will marry you.”

“I was hoping to hear something else.”

Vimes thought about this and added, “Havelock.”

“That will do.”

Chapter Text

Vimes woke up early one morning from the sound of someone scaling the wall outside the window. He’d made certain some time ago that anyone who tried to climb the wall wouldn’t make it to the top. He used every trick in the book and even a couple of his own. Just because the Assassins played by the rules didn’t mean that he had to.

A scraping noise made him wince and he wondered if he should do anything. He decided to see who it was first and then act accordingly. The moment he peered out a face looked up above the windowsill.

The sight of the face surprised Vimes so much that he turned back to look at the bed behind him and make sure it really was empty.

“What are you doing?”

“Good morning, Sam. Just wanted to see if I could climb up the wall. Turns out that I can.” He raised his arms and pulled himself onto the windowsill.

Vimes had known for a long time that Vetinari’s cane was only there to keep people off guard, but he hadn’t expected that anyone could avoid his traps. “Why? You’re not planning to murder me after all, are you?”

Inhume, Sam, not murder. And I’m not. I wouldn’t get anything for it, anyway.”

“Why not?” Vimes ignored the correction. As far as he was concerned, what the assassins did was called murder.

“Because they’ve taken your name off the register.”

“Why did they do that?” The register of the Guild of Assassins contained a list of people as well as how much their lives were worth. The only time names were taken off the list was when it was considered that everyone was worse off without the person in question than with them. It was rumoured that Lady Sybil’s name had never appeared on the register, despite the requests sent to the Guild of Assassins.

“They decided you’re too useful, obviously.” Vetinari’s lips twitched. “It wasn’t my idea.”

“Of course not.” Maybe they just figured out that it was a waste of effort, Vimes thought. Especially since Havelock took it in his head to protect me.

Vetinari grabbed both of Vimes’ hands. “Don’t be upset. The grags still want you dead.” The grags always considered Vimes to be against everything that stood for being a real dwarf and so wanted Vimes removed.

“That’s a relief,” Vimes said sarcastically. “What about you?”

“I take pride in the fact that I’m on no one’s good list.”

Vimes laughed and pulled Vetinari inside. “That windowsill –”

There was a loud crack and a part of the windowsill broke off.

Vimes stared at it in some surprise. “I’m impressed you got it to stay together for that long. I took a chunk out of it earlier.”

Vetinari’s voice remained perfectly calm. “What sort of spouse would I be if I couldn’t climb into my husband’s window?”

“A regular one,” Vimes responded. He looked at Vetinari who raised an eyebrow. “Unless you count those princes who climb into castles in fairy tales and I always thought that was a bit suspicious.”

Vetinari approached Vimes slowly, making the Commander back away against the wall. There was a mad gleam in his eyes. The Commander couldn’t shake the thought that Vetinari was there to assassinate him after all. But what could he do? How could he defend himself? He was still only in his nightshirt!

“What are you doing, sir?” The “sir” had come automatically.

Vetinari sighed. “There are three reasons why you shouldn’t call me “sir”. Can you tell me what they are, Sam?”

“Er… I outrank you.”

“Yes,” Vetinari stepped closer.

“We’re married…”

“Nice of you to remember that, even if it’s only from time to time.”

Vimes thought hard. He couldn’t think of a third reason. What could it be? Lords were referred to as “sir” and so were Dukes, among the many –

Vetinari kissed Vimes, cutting off the rest of that thought.

When Vetinari pulled back he had a knife in his hand, which he handed to Vimes. Vimes took it absent-mindedly.

“And?” Vetinari said.

“And… what?”

“What is the third reason?”

Vimes didn’t bother to think. “I don’t know. I can’t think of anything.”

A knife appeared in Vetinari’s hand. “The third reason is,” his knife struck out and Vimes defended instinctively, “because I asked you not to.”

“Yes, right…”

The knife went one way, then another. Vimes had a hard time keeping up. What to do? He couldn’t hurt Vetinari, even if the assassin was attacking him. Could he end the fight quickly somehow?

A second knife flew past his ear and embedded itself in the wall behind Vimes. He was painfully aware of the sound it made.

“That’s not fair!” Vimes complained, trying to buy some time.

“I don’t recall agreeing to any rules,” Vetinari countered. “I’m not the Marquis of Fantailler.”

If rules were out of the question…

Vimes picked the best moment, leaned forward and caught Vetinari’s lips with his own. One knife fell and then another with a clang. Vetinari was responding more vigorously than Vimes had expected, even if he ignored the number of knives Vetinari was tossing aside.

Then Vetinari pulled away and angrily unbuttoned his clothes and tossed them aside. He grabbed Vimes and pulled him close again. Very fleetingly there was a look of triumph on his face and then it was gone, making Vimes think he’d imagined it.

Vetinari directed Vimes’ steps, whispering, “There is a knife on the floor to the right of you.”

And then Vimes was aware of the bed’s presence.

Oddly enough, all these years, they’d shared the bed only in the literal sense. In their marriage kisses were rare and Vetinari started most of them. Now…

“This is your first time, isn’t it?” Vetinari asked quietly.

Vimes felt the blood rush to his face. So what? There was no shame in that. There was no law…

It wasn’t possible for Vetinari to see Vimes’ face at this point, but, as always, he knew exactly what Vimes was thinking. “This is my second time.” He said calmly and Vimes felt something like jealousy, which he desperately supressed. It was so stupid to be jealous of someone’s past.

The past was gone. He had to make do with the future and he really was making do with it now.

A sudden breeze filled the room with a fleeting smell of lilac and Vetinari pulled away. Vimes turned around and again he caught a fleeting expression on the man’s face. This time it was guilt.

Vetinari climbed off the bed and got dressed without a single sound. When he finished, he reached out of the window far enough for it to seriously threaten his life and plucked a lilac bloom. He pinned it to his clothes as the smell took over the room. Then he was gone, without even throwing a single look in Vimes’ direction.

Vimes put his hand over his head. For several moments he managed to forget, to let go of the past. And then it broke in on him, surprising him at the worst possible moment like some sort of inspection. He had to keep remembering, he told himself. He owed them all that much.

He dressed quickly and rushed to Pseudopolis Yard, making sure to get a couple of flowers to pin to his clothes.

 

“John Keel,” a voice called quietly and a small shape slipped out of the shadows of his room.

Vimes stared at his late night visitor in surprise. His first thought was oh great, they sent another assassin and this one looks like he can actually get the job done. His second thought was I’m too tired for this. His legs were shaking; they weren’t going to hold him for much longer. He sat down on a chair and pulled out his sword in one movement, pointing it at the assassin.

“Who sent you?”

“No one.” Light fell on his visitor’s face and Vimes recognized those features. There was no beard, but the nose, eyes and mouth were all the same minus thirty years. For a brief moment he thought he’d been followed back in time. You have a knack for it, don’t you? Will you ever let me go anywhere on my own?

“What’s your name, lad?”

“Havelock Vetinari. What’s your name? John Keel can’t be your real name.”

“It is.” Vimes kept his face blank. Vetinari seemed to accept his answer. Vimes pointed his sword at the assassin’s chin. “So you’re not here to kill me?”

“I’m not.”

“And how do I know you’re not lying?”

“Assassin’s honour!” Vetinari said indignantly.

Ye gods! Could it really be true? Had Vetinari also been wet behind the ears once? Suddenly Vimes realized that he knew exactly what was going to happen next and the realization upset him. Had this happened to Keel? Did it matter? Yes. Yes, it did.

“I’m tired. Can’t it wait until morning?”

“No.” Vetinari produced his own weapon and tried to knock Vimes’ sword out of his hand.

But Vimes had 30 years more experience, seven of which were in fighting Vetinari himself. The assassin’s dagger flew out of his hand and – with a sense of perfect dramatic timing – embedded itself in a wall. Vetinari pulled out more daggers. One by one Vimes disarmed him. He wondered if Dr. Lawn would hear them and come up to see what the noise was. He’d probably rather wait until whatever it is ended, Vimes thought darkly. Or, perhaps, he can’t even hear what’s going on up here. He tried desperately to focus on the fight and not on any images his imagination was conjuring of what could be happening down below.

Forgetting he wasn’t there to kill Vimes, Vetinari pulled out knife after knife. Vimes remained in his chair, defending himself. It was a repeat of that morning in the future, but the odds were different this time.

After about ten minutes of this Vimes’ body filed several complaint forms and he decided to give in to the inevitable. There were five knives embedded in the wall in an impressively straight line. Two knives had flown out the window.

“I thought you weren’t here to kill me,” Vimes reminded Vetinari as casually as he could. “I’d like to have a smoke, if you don’t mind.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a cigar, while still holding the sword with his other hand. He put the cigar in his mouth and got a box of matches.

Vetinari stopped attacking and took the matches out of Vimes’ hand. “I came here to talk to you.”

“No, you didn’t,” Vimes said calmly. He said it without thinking and then wondered why. Oh yes, because there was that look in Vetinari’s eyes that he’d seen before, but only occasionally. “You came here because you think I’m…” he debated which word to use and settled for the simpler one, “interesting.”

“I don’t!” Vetinari protested.

Vimes reached out and took his matches back. Then he returned his cigar to his pocket. “Listen, lad. I don’t have time. I need to get some sleep. I’m on shift tomorrow morning. If you want to kill me, do it now or go away.”

Vetinari stared. Vimes lifted an eyebrow in as close an approximation of the way Vetinari did it – would do it – as he could manage. Then he broke eye contact and leaned down to remove his boots. He tossed his breastplate aside and moved from the chair to the edge of the bed.

“What do you think you’re doing?”

“Going to sleep.”

Vetinari continued to stare. His face was calm, its expression unreadable to most people. But Vimes wasn’t “most people”, never had been. Vimes reflected on how advantageous a position was when others didn’t realize you even had an advantage. Lady Sybil was probably used to the feeling since so few of her visitors took her seriously. Of course, they soon learned their mistake.

Vimes kept still. If anything was going to happen – he promised himself – it would be because Vetinari wanted it.

How old was he? Seventeen? He couldn’t be much older than that naïve young Lance-Constable claiming to be Sam Vimes was. Briefly he considered introducing them to each other. There was a thought!

But young Sam wasn’t interesting. He was just another kid with the same ideas as everyone else.

All this rushed through Vimes’ brain, tripping as it went.

“Go home, lad. I’m tired.”

Vetinari looked disappointed, as if he expected something else.

“I’m just a boring old copper.”

That seemed to do it.

Vetinari unbuttoned his clothes with the same frustration as he would in 30 years and tossed them aside. He set to removing the rest of Vimes’ clothes next.

Vimes took Vetinari’s hands. “You might want to think –”

Vetinari kissed Vimes and Vimes responded. There was no point in wasting their breath on words after that.

When Vimes turned over and whispered “Havelock” sometime later he saw Vetinari turn red in the pale light coming in through the window. That was something new, but he refrained from commenting.

“When will I see you again?” Vetinari asked with the eagerness of a puppy. That thought made Vimes stifle a chuckle.

And then he remembered what day it was and what was about to happen. He felt his blood run cold.

“I don’t think you will.”

“Why not?”

“Because a copper’s world is never a trip to the bleeding seaside, but now…” He fumbled around for suitable words, “…it’s like being stuck out in a storm without a cloak or an umbrella.”

Vetinari leaned over Vimes and the Commander felt warm breath on his cheek. “I will find you no matter what happens.”

When Vetinari left the words were still there as if he’d written them on the wall.

No matter what happens…

 

Vetinari ran, jumping from roof to roof and then slipping through secret passageways. He was racing time itself and the odds of the race were rigged from the start. His chances were small like those of a racehorse with one lame leg, but still he went as fast as he could.

Then he stopped, balancing dangerously on the ledge of a house.

Several men were fighting in a street. Some of them had lilacs pinned to their clothes. And in the middle of them all was a body lying on the ground.

He ran in among them to get a better look at the person in their midst. Then he turned away. He couldn’t look again. He picked up a lilac bloom from the ground, put it in his teeth and fought.

And only afterwards when the men surrounded the body of John Keel Vetinari allowed himself to touch the man’s hand.

So cold…

 

“I had a feeling I’d find you here.”

Vimes looked up from where he was sitting and smoking on John Keel’s grave. Vetinari was walking calmly towards him, leaning heavily on his cane.

“You knew,” he said quietly. “You bloody well knew.”

“Not until just now,” Vetinari replied stopping right next to Vimes. “I came to warn you, but I was too late. Carcer was gone. John Keel – dead. Your men fought like tigers.”

Vetinari placed his cane against the tombstone and lowered his hands onto Vimes’ shoulders.

“I kept my promise.”

“You did.”

Vetinari leaned closer and then pulled a dagger out of his pocket. Vimes opened his mouth to protest, but Vetinari threw it over his shoulder without looking.

There was a muffled grunt and Vimes jumped to his feet just as Vetinari moved out of his way.

“Carcer!”

“Well, well,” Carcer said, holding onto his bleeding shoulder, “if it isn’t Commander Vimes and his husband. Or should I call you Sergeant, Commander?”

“Carcer!”

Suddenly Vetinari was behind Carcer, holding both of his hands. “There is quite a price on your head, but that doesn’t matter, because I’d make an exception in your case and work without accepting a fee. Or do you not know that I’m an assassin?”

Vimes sighed and tossed his cigar away. “You won’t kill him. The city will hang him. I’ll make sure of that.” He pulled a pair of handcuffs from his pocket and handcuffed Carcer’s arms behind his back.

“Two against one is hardly fair,” Carcer complained.

“Is three against one fairer?” Vimes asked. “Or killing a bunch of innocent people just because they were near you and you wanted to kill someone? What about our officer? Do you think his parents think it’s fair? Killed while getting a pie!”

He searched Carcer and dropped every weapon he could find on him on the ground.

“No, life isn’t fair, but just this once it makes a concession because it’s dealing with me.”

“John Keel?”

Vimes laughed. “You’re under arrest and you have the right to remain silent.” He gagged Carcer and then swung him over his shoulder. “I’ll take him back and do the paperwork.” He looked at Vetinari. “We can finish our conversation later.”

“I’m coming with you,” Vetinari said and retrieved his cane.

“You really do follow me everywhere,” Vimes muttered.

“It would appear so.”

Chapter Text

“Kill them! Kill them all!” Young Vimes screamed, running at the clerk.

Vimes caught him just in time and pulled him back. “No.”

“Why not? Why do they get to do this and we – we –” He was starting to choke on tears.

Because I’ve seen what Havelock gets like when he’s been idle for too long and something sends him over the edge. He picks a name from the Assassins’ list at random and kills them. Not for the money, but for the release. Because I’ve seen what kind of man Swing is. An assassin is always an assassin, even when he puts the uniform on. And because I don’t want to be anything like that.

“No,” he said simply. “We don’t do that, because we’re coppers, not murderers or assassins.”

There were nights. Oh yes, what nights! When the dark got so thick you couldn’t see your own hand. And that darkness seemed to slip into your heart. On such nights he had to fight to keep it all down, to hold it all back.

Sometimes Vetinari was next to him on such nights and that was all Vimes needed to keep the darkness in check.

Chapter Text

Vimes had been married to Vetinari for several years and, yet, there were still times when he had no clue as to what was on the assassin’s mind.

That morning, for example, had started with an innocent conversation about something in the Times while they both had breakfast. However, after the table was cleared Vetinari stood up and left without a single word.

Once such a gesture meant that something had upset him (not surprising, since there was a serial dog murderer on the loose). Several times Vetinari left on guild business, knowing that it upset Vimes that he continued to inhume people.

This turned into one of those times that Vimes never learned the explanation for.

 

“These are our Specials,” Vimes said, introducing the men and women. “Mr. Boggis of the Thieves’ Guild. Try not to get over-enthusiastic. You’re not here to fill up your quota.”

“Of course, sir,” Boggis said with a grin.

Vimes continued his rounds, showing A.E. Pessimal to everyone like a curiosity. Some of the specials carried enough weapons to supply an entire battalion and some just carried one giant one that they kept extra sharp. He tried to keep the mad gleams in their eyes down with phrases that like “Just giving our… er, selves an airing” and “we only really need our truncheons for this”. He knew for a fact that several members of the Guild of Seamstresses kept extra sharp needles on their person. This was something he’d learned after tying to confiscate one during a different riot. It was good to have them on his side (or, at least, pretending to be on his side).

“And this,” Vimes said, stopping once more, “is my husband, Lord Vetinari.” He watched Pessimal’s face.

The amount of fear on A.E. Pessimal’s face increased with those words and went on increasing until the man looked ready to snap.

There were Rumours. They weren’t pleasant. Vimes was vaguely aware of their existence, but never succeeded in bringing them up in a conversation at home just like he learned to never ever bring up work at home, unless it was a completely innocent remark about Colon and Carrot’s ability to write reports and even that was avoided under the innocent-bystanders-always-get-hurt rule. And he always, always, had to be careful with his words. Phrases like “what I wouldn’t give for this bastard (not referring to any of his watchmen, of course) to stop bothering me” were out of the question, rhetorical or otherwise if only because once he got a bill with all kinds of paperwork attached and certainly because the Commander of the Watch and the Duke of Ankh-Morpork didn’t use those kinds of phrases.

And husband of an assassin, he thought. There’s another title for you, Blackboard Monitor.

What does a copper married to an assassin become? Paranoid? No, that comes with the job. Insane? That probably also comes with the job, like working at the Postal Office.

It was at this point that A.E. Pessimal remembered how to use his mouth and vocal chords. “I… er, good evening, your Lordship.”

Vetinari was all politeness as if suddenly they were at a ball and he was greeting Lord Venturi or any of the other nobs. “A very fine evening, indeed.” Vimes knew that somewhere on Vetinari’s person was a knife (knew too well, he thought with a wince) and so he mentally added a fine evening to die and hurried off before his brain could add more.

He did catch a look from Vetinari that suggested that the privacy of Vimes’ brain was the same as speaking aloud as far as the assassin was concerned.

Vimes and A.E. Pessimal returned to stand next to Colon, because another unspoken rule was: don’t stand next to Vetinari when he fights. Sometimes he took it in his head to deal with anyone coming at Vimes and since most fights consisted of nearly everyone coming at Vimes, this tended to end in several corpses and a bill that Vimes paid for from his own pocket.

Chapter Text

Vetinari stood on a window ledge and listened to a voice whispering into his mind. It spoke about justice and fairness and people’s lives and the good of the city. Then the voice whispered the words “Sam Vimes” and Vetinari slipped off the ledge and onto another one and then a balcony and then another part of a different building until he was on the roof of a building, then a wall and on, and on.

Normally when people hear a voice in their minds it is a sign that the time has come to speak to a doctor, but this voice was different. This voice slipped into Vetinari’s mind one night and refused to be silenced. It only spoke in the dark, making it impossible to sleep. Even in the presence of the brave Commander it wouldn’t be silent.

“What are you?” Vetinari whispered.

The voice chuckled. “Wouldn’t you like to know?”

It sent him onwards, slipping through the streets, sneaking past windows. He saw people sleeping undisturbed in their beds, people fighting, people enjoying the company of others. He stopped.

“What am I looking for?”

“Jennifer.”

Jennifer was a serial killer with at least fifteen deaths on her conscience, a name on several undesirable lists and an incredible ability to vanish from the scene of the crime without leaving a trail. Angua’s nose was no good at finding her. No one understood why. Vimes was up and about at all hours, sending watchmen on patrols, organizing raids, questioning witnesses (witnesses in this case being mostly people who claimed to have seen or heard something) as well as the victims’ relatives. He’d driven himself into the ground until he had to give in and get some sleep.

Vetinari straightened up. “How will I recognize her?”

“I know her.”

He went on. More people, more faces…

And then – there she was. A woman with bright red hair stood over a corpse, fiddling in the victim’s pockets, without a doubt to leave her calling card – a plain piece of paper with her name on it and nothing more.

She spun around to face him. Vetinari walked calmly out of the shadows.

“A bit late for a midnight stroll, isn’t it?” He looked at his watch. “This must be a 2-a.m. stroll.”

“What do you want?”

Vetinari gave her one of his brief smiles.

She studied his face. “It’s you, isn’t it?”

“Who?”

“Sam Vimes. I thought you always wore your uniform.”

“Ah, I’m afraid you’re mistaken. I’m not Sam Vimes.”

“Then who are you?”

Vetinari’s face split into a grin which, once again, didn’t last very long. “Justice.”

They flew at each other with weapons in their hands. Blow after blow was deflected or avoided. Jennifer had two swords, while Vetinari held one. It was one typical for an assassin: it had lots of style and wasn’t very efficient in a fight, unless there was only one move to make.

“How did you find me?” she asked.

“I had some help.”

Jennifer laughed. “I should have killed that love struck kid when I first saw him. He tails me much better than the Watch. I –”

Vetinari struck her in the leg.

“You can’t hit me while I’m telling you my life story!”

“I never asked for it and, frankly, I find it quite boring.” Once again the hint of a smile passed his face. “You can tell it to Sam Vimes.”

“I’m not telling him anything!”

“Suit yourself.” Vetinari raised his weapon and stopped.

“Well?” she asked, trying to hold back the bleeding. “You haven’t decided to spare me now, have you?”

He stood there, covered in her blood and – unknown to her – some of his own and stared at her. The voice in his mind whispered “Get rid of her now. Kill her. She’s filthy murderer. Kill her and Vimes won’t have to waste time with arrests.”

Vetinari put his sword away. He pulled some rope out of his pocket and tied her up.

“You’re leaving me for the Watch to find? What sort of assassin are you?”

He left her in the street, shouting after him.

Vimes was still sleeping when Vetinari got back. He washed the blood off his clothes, bandaged a couple of cuts and slipped into the bed. The Commander turned over in his sleep.

The voice raged, but Vetinari ignored it.

 

Several hours later when the Watch was notified Carrot went to fetch Vimes as Angua left to study the scene of the crime before anyone else got there. Cheery Littlebottom brought her iconograph.

“I’m not saying anything!” Jennifer said angrily, seeing the two officers.

Angua stopped several steps away from Jennifer. The smell of blood was strong, but briefly she thought she’d caught a smell of something else. Cheery looked at her and then, assuming that Angua was reacting to the smell of blood, started to take pictures of the scene.

Angua closed her eyes and concentrated on eliminating the smell of the blood, but it was too late – it had gotten into her nostrils and now it wasn’t going to get out. She stepped forward, opening her eyes.

“What is your name?”

Jennifer shook her head.

“In that case, I’m placing you under arrest.” Angua read out Jennifer’s rights and unbound her feet. “Come with me.”

 

Much later when Jennifer’s wounds were treated and the blood was washed away Angua spent time sniffing around, but again she had no luck. Jennifer was under some kind of spell that kept her from leaving smells. That was the best explanation they could think of. Jennifer remained silent, regardless of any of the questioning tactics used.

Vimes was livid. It wasn’t easy to find evidence linking Jennifer to all of her crimes. And there was no way of knowing who caught her.

That didn’t mean that no one had any suspicions. Vimes seemed to be afraid of getting any concrete evidence on the one hand and felt it was his duty to find out exactly what happened on the other. The conflict was tearing him apart. He spent hours with Angua at every crime scene, especially the last one and each time he would ask her:

“Well? Can you tell me who it was?”

“No, sir, sorry.”

“No need to apologize, Captain. It’s not your fault.” It’s mine, he thought. I’m so used to relying on a werewolf’s nose, I’m still having trouble with these sorts of cases. I need better methods.

He had Igor study the wound to tell him what weapon could have made it, but it was difficult to establish this for certain.

“A thword ith a thword,” Igor said and Vimes nodded.

 

“Good evening, gentlemen,” a voice said, making all of the officers in the front hall jump up and instinctively reach for a weapon. They saw who it was and exchanged uneasy glances. “I’m looking for Commander Vimes,” Vetinari said calmly, ignoring the number of almost-drawn weapons.

“He’s in his –” someone began to say.

Someone who caught on faster than the others interrupted with a, “He’s out, sir.”

They were coppers and all of them had noticed that the Commander spent nights in the office even though Jennifer was already in the Tanty.

“Thank you,” Vetinari said. “In that case I’ll wait for him in his office.” He went up the stairs.

Someone hit someone else with a loud smack and said. “Why can’t you keep your big mouth shut?”

Vetinari’s way was blocked by Carrot.

“I’m sorry, sir. The Commander is very busy right now.”

“I’m afraid, Captain, that the matter is urgent.” He swept Carrot aside, opened the door of the office and entered without knocking.

Vimes raised his head and his face froze the moment he saw Vetinari. If it hadn’t been for the flesh and hair and the slight movement with each breath, he could have been passed off for a statue.

Vetinari left the door open. He pulled several weapons from the pockets in his coat and placed them on the Commander’s desk. He added the sword he’d used in his fight against Jennifer to the pile and rested his cane against the side of the desk.

“I’m here to confess. I attacked and captured Jennifer, the serial killer.”

Vimes drew his breath in loudly. “What do you want?”

“I want you to arrest me, Commander.”

“For what?”

“For attacking someone. For contemplating homicide.”

“You didn’t kill her. You aided the Watch.”

They stared at each other.

Chapter Text

“I tell you, I don’t know how Vimesy does it,” Nobby said as he and Colon returned to the Watch House. “Marrying an assassin seems like the worst idea ever. What do you think, Sarge?”

“There’s always your idea of…” Colon stopped to scratch his head and think. “Well, I remember you had a couple of ideas that were really terrible, but none worse than this one come to mind right now.”

“I’m sure you’ll remember one soon, Sarge,” Nobby said loyally and opened the door.

The moment Nobby and Colon stepped inside their instincts told them that something unusual was happening in the Watch House.

Carrot stood halfway up the stairs to Vimes’ office. Angua and Sally stood behind him, both straining to hear every sound. Cheery was right below them. The rest of the watchmen were on the ground floor, trying to be as quiet as possible.

Nobby and Colon both went quiet and strained their hearing.

There was the tense silence of 30 people trying not to breathe (with several exceptions for the Watchmen that didn’t need to).

Vimes barged out of his office. He was livid like always. All watchmen backed away and ran to wherever they were supposed to be at that moment, but no one went out on patrol. They all busied themselves, still wanting to know what will happen next.

Vimes took everything in and sighed. “Come on.”

Vetinari stepped out behind him. He was handcuffed.

“You are all my witnesses,” Vimes said. “Vetinari has been arrested for attacking and capturing Jennifer.” He turned away. “Take him to one of the cells, Carrot.” The door banged closed behind him.

Carrot climbed the stairs. “If you will just follow me, sir.”

Vetinari descended the stairs calmly all of the way down the cells.

“Now what?” Sally asked Angua.

Angua shrugged. “Everything is back to normal.”

“But the Commander’s husband was just arrested!”

“Yes, but he’d arrest the gods for not doing it right. Why should his husband be an exception?”

Cheery stifled a laugh and the three women went off duty together.

 

When Carrot entered Vimes’ office to report Vimes was writing something. The pen in his hand broke. He tossed it aside and took another one. Carrot noticed that ten broken pens lay on the Commander’s desk already, but refrained from commenting on the fact.

“I put him in one of the cells,” Carrot said.

“Good.”

“I don’t understand, sir. Why would he do this?”

Vimes put his pen down. “Who knows? He just came in and demanded to be arrested.”

“I meant: why did he capture Jennifer? No one knew what she looked like until he caught her.”

“We didn’t know, obviously someone else did.” Vimes made a sound between a groan and a sigh. “Five years I’ve been married to him and I still have no idea how his mind works.”

“He wanted to make things easier, I think.”

“Did he? Well, he bloody well made a mess of that! Coming in here and –” Vimes turned away from Carrot’s honest face. “I knew it was him. Had to be. No one else would do it, no one else could. But until I had definite proof, I could pretend I didn’t know.”

“Sir, what will you do now?”

Vimes looked at Carrot. “He’ll go to the Tanty for this.”

“You can always make –”

“No. One law for everyone. That’s how it is.”

 

Jennifer (who still refused to say anything) was given the death sentence. Vimes had managed to find the admirer who followed her and he proved to be a useful witness. Vetinari, in light of his actions helping the Watch, got several weeks in the Tanty. Vimes listened to this without a word.

Lady Sybil watched the Commander’s face throughout the trial to see his reaction, but his face had frozen as it always did when he didn’t want to give anything away.

Vetinari was led away. Lady Sybil asked Vimes to step into her office.

She offered him a seat, which he declined, and a glass of water, which he also didn’t take.

Sitting down at her desk, she remarked, “Vetinari is a lucky man.”

“He’s been sentenced to less time than what I would have given him.”

Sybil smiled. “I was referring to his marriage to you.”

Vimes gave her a puzzled look. She beamed back at him in return.

“If he hadn’t been married to me,” Vimes said. “He wouldn’t have confessed and then he wouldn’t have been given a prison sentence.”

Sybil had to concede to the logic behind those words. “Never mind. Commander, I have an assignment for you.”

Muscles that had been subconsciously tense relaxed. “Yes, sir.”

“I have my hands full with city business and you have just concluded the Jennifer case successfully. I’d like for you to visit one of my estates.”

“Sir?”

“To let me know how things are there.”

“With respect, sir, you don’t send the Commander or the Duke to oversee an estate. Isn’t that what butlers are for?” He wasn’t completely sure himself, but it seemed like the sort of thing butlers were paid for.

Sybil sighed. The smile was gone from her face. “You’ve had several trying weeks, Vimes. You’ve lost lots of sleep chasing a dangerous criminal and now your husband is in prison. I was hoping I could convince you to take some time off without spelling it all out.” She paused to see his reaction, but Vimes remained silent. “I need to know that the Commander of the City Watch is in a state fit to perform his duties.” Seeing he was about to argue she raised her hand. “It’s an order. I will not discuss this matter further.”

Vimes considered this quietly for several minutes and then he said, “Do I have your permission to speak with Vetinari before I leave?”

Lady Sybil took a piece of paper from her desk and handed it to him. “You do.” Her expression was sad as she said those words.

 

Vimes sat in the visitor’s room waiting for the guards to lead in Vetinari.

The guard who made sure that Vimes didn’t do anything while he waited tried to start a conversation with, “Don’t worry, sir, your husband is in good hands. We look after him here. I’m sure he will tell you himself. No complaints and all that.”

No one wanted to get on his bad side, Vimes thought and it gave him some comfort. It meant that Vetinari’s sentence wouldn’t be as terrible as it could be.

The door opened and Vetinari stepped in. Vimes studied him carefully. The two weeks he’d spent in prison before his sentence was agreed on seemed to eat him up. Vimes wished he couldn’t see the dark circles under the assassin’s eyes or the unhealthy tone of his skin.

Vetinari sat down, his handcuffed hands behind his back.

Vimes opened his mouth to demand they uncuff him.

“Where?” Vetinari asked.

“The Ramkin Estate. One of them, anyway.”

Vetinari gave Vimes a look that said, I worry about you.

You shouldn’t.

I want you to rest and not think about anything.

So does Lady Sybil.

The guard stood by the wall and fidgeted. He thought it was suspicious that the visitor and the prisoner kept staring silently at each other. He gave them a couple of minutes and said:

“Time’s up. The prisoner must go back to his cell now.”

Vetinari rose to his feet as did Vimes.

“I’ll remember what happened with John Keel,” Vetinari promised and left, followed by the guard.

Vimes stared at the door. What happened with John Keel? And then he felt the blood rise to his face and he rushed out of the room.

Chapter Text

It wasn’t really a chase this time, except maybe a chase of the damn slam. And maybe it was an old tired cliché, but Vimes had never felt more alive than in that instant. He’d thrown it all aside: Stratford, the goblins, the troll drugs, even… even his husband’s crime and imprisonment. Yes, even that had been left behind with everything else. And – it turned out – it was the heaviest load of all.

“Let go of the barges!” he shouted

Stratford came at him then and met with the full force of the law assisted by everything that had been thrown aside earlier. He’d tied him down and everything would’ve ended there if the damn slam hadn’t dealt a blow of its own.

 

And much, much later after he found himself in Quirm, dealing with the Watch through Acting Captain Haddock, after he’d caught up with the Queen and freed the goblins along with Jefferson he found himself returning to the Patrician’s estate where someone was putting up a clacks tower.

And below that a familiar figure watched with polite interest.

The breath caught in Vimes’ throat.

How much time had passed? He didn’t know: he’d lost track of it himself.

He climbed the hill with careful strides.

“You’re looking fit,” Vetinari said. “The holiday must be going well.”

Vimes stood still, not knowing what to do next.

Vetinari looked around, as if taking in the scenery for the first time. “I hear they’re calling you a hero, how exciting!”

“You’re… here…”

“Evidently. Or would you like to arrest me, Commander?”

“Has there been a crime?”

“I don’t doubt your ability to find one, Sam.”

Vimes took his husband by the hands. “Let’s see –”

Vetinari didn’t let him finish.

“You know, Sam,” he said when he pulled himself away at last, “here you are running –”

It was Vimes’ turn to interrupt him this time. His eyes and hands brought him evidence he didn’t want to see. Exhibit A had lost a lot of weight and clung to him more than before. There was more grey in his hair as well.

When he found the strength to let go he had to gather enough courage to say what needed to be said. “I missed you.”

There was a smile on Vetinari’s face. “But not as much as I missed you.”

 

It was night and the estate was filled with the kinds of noises one would expect to hear when the whole house is supposed to be asleep accompanied by the usual sounds of the countryside. There were snores, mutters from the staff on the floors below, the creaks of an old house going to sleep and footsteps in the hall.

The footsteps cut off abruptly to be replaced by frantic noises, which didn’t last very long either.

“Let me tell you how it’s going to be,” Sam Vimes mumbled into the ear of his late night visitor, “my husband’s just got back from the Tanty. He’s an assassin whose memory might slip in this one instant as to whose name actually appears on their list and who might take offense at someone trying to interrupt his well-earned rest. So it will be just you and me. I’m going to make sure you go to the Tanty, where you’ll stay until the city will no doubt decide to kill you and you’re not going to wake up His Lordship.”

“Hmmf.”

“I’m choosing to take that as a “yes, sir, of course sir”. Your cooperation has been noted.”

 

They said the Quirm wagon carrying the very important prisoner had turned over because it hit the express mail coach from Ankh-Morpork. They also said that the prisoner vanished mysteriously (or, at least, they said this until they found his dead body a little way off). They said there was no one around for miles, not even a conveniently lost traveller on a horse to blame everything on. They said there was no evidence of anyone else visiting the site of the collision. They said there were no hoofmarks in the soil, no wheel marks, nothing.

The Commander of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch himself came to investigate the scene of the crime, although what exactly the crime was he never truly explained. There were several watchmen with him, along with Captain Angua. They say that he left looking very unsatisfied.

They say that the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork is a very wise woman who doesn’t make mistakes.

Chapter Text

One night when it was so late that by rights it should’ve been called morning Vimes came home. He left his boots by the door and climbed the stairs in his socks, wondering who was awake. The thing about a marriage both parties of which were nocturnal was that it was difficult to predict who would come home first.

A servant appeared with a candle at the bottom of the stairs, but Vimes ignored him. He got to the top and made for the bedroom.

It was empty. After several years he’d gotten very good at telling whether or not it was empty. It was surprisingly difficult when he’d first tried. He dropped into a chair by the window and pulled up the sleeve of his shirt.

The symbol of the Summoning Dark glowed in the darkness.

It had been another one of those nights. The Dark had come with him to see justice done and he had to keep holding himself back and when that didn’t work Detritus had been there to hold him back for him.

Where is that line? When does the law truly run out? When does he tumble over the cliff and down into the abyss below, unable to ever come back?

He stared ahead of him at nothing. The Dark was there and he dreaded what it would say.

“Evoking demons in the bedroom, Sam?” He felt fingers slide over the mark and its lines seemed to fade. “Makes one wonder if this is some kind of request.”

Vimes never discussed his marriage with anyone, not only because he didn’t know where to even start, but also because there wasn’t much to discuss. He was married to Vetinari. That was all there was to it. He, the Duke of Ankh-Morpork, married Lord Vetinari. There had been some debate about titles. Dukes were higher-ranking than Lords, but was Vetinari now a Duke? Or Vimes a Lord? It ended in them each keeping their own titles.

Vimes knew that coppers loved to gossip, but he also knew that none of them gossiped about him, at least because Vetinari had a habit of showing up at various Watch Houses, allegedly looking for Vimes. But, even still, he sometimes wondered what others thought. He’d heard all sorts of things said, but he always wondered what his men thought.

Vetinari tilted Vimes’ head back and leaned down. For a brief moment it looked as if the symbol of the Summoning Dark was in his pupils. It was just a reflection, Vimes told himself, but the sight haunted him for a long time afterwards.

It couldn’t have been a reflection.

“Those are just scratches, but I want to make sure.”

Vimes didn’t ask how Vetinari knew. He always did. No one knew how. Vimes unbuttoned his shirt. He’d already abandoned his armour.

They were in complete darkness. There wasn’t even any light coming in through the window since the moon had picked that moment to go behind a cloud. Vetinari studied the cut on Vimes’ shoulder as if the room was well-lit.

“Just a scratch, like I said,” Vetinari concluded, pulling Vimes closer.

In the cold hours of the early morning there is usually little sound to be heard on some streets of Ankh-Morpork. The great city never sleeps is the common belief, but that’s a generalization. Bits of the city sleep at night, because people need to get their heads down at some point.

Or, at least, they try to. The City Watch made the task a real challenge.

“5 o’clock and all is well!” someone cried loud enough for the Commander to hear.

“Indeed,” Vetinari said and Vimes chuckled.