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As they step down from the coach and up the long drive of the Ramkin House, Mr Fusspot excitedly rushing about at their heels, Drumknott inhales through his nostrils to stifle the yawn he is desperate to release. The night previous, he and Lord Vetinari had worked through the night to fix a guild dispute over enchanted toys, a wizarding business venture that has made some of the normal toymakers quite furious, and now…

His lordship, the Patrician, shows no sign whatsoever of flagging[1], but Drumknott is exhausted, as he woke up at his usual five-thirty yesterday morning, and it is now coming up to four o’clock in the afternoon.

Lord Vetinari had even looked at him, somewhat critically, and suggested he take the rest of the day off and go back to bed, but after this appointment, there is a meeting of the guild councils, and Drumknott so hates to let another clerk do the minutes[2]. If he’d gone to bed, he’s quite certain, he wouldn’t have risen again. Best to power through until he and Lord Vetinari can retire—

Not that Drumknott expects for them to retire together. Not that he would demand it, nor even ask for it, merely…

They’ve done so the past few days, and it is… It is something, he thinks, to be able to sleep in Lord Vetinari’s bed, in a secreted bedroom where none of the Palace staff – not even the Dark Clerks – can reach them. He’d slept very well, his head resting on the pillow of a very modest bed, only a little larger than a usual single, with Mr Fusspot resting his chin against his ankles, and with the figure of Vetinari next to him. It had been—

It had been something, leaning back and feeling Lord Vetinari’s hip against him, to hear the quiet susurration when he turned a page of his book, hear the slow, even rhythm of his lordship’s breathing.

Things are different to the way they once were. A certain cadence has been reached between Havelock Vetinari and Rufus Drumknott, one that is quite private and discrete from the rest of the world at large, and even from their professional positions as Patrician and personal clerk.

“Are you alright?” Vetinari asks as they come up toward the doorstep of the Ramkin House, and Drumknott nods. Vetinari looks at him for a moment, but then he inclines his head, and he lets Drumknott move past him to ring the bell on the Ramkin House door.

It is a warm day, and out in the Ramkin gardens, he can hear the dragons kicking up a fuss at there being visitors at the door, the sound carrying well over the lawns. Drumknott likes dragons. He likes any animals, in all truth – he had liked Wuffles, despite not being naturally aligned with dogs, and he likes Mr Fusspot; he likes cats very much…

And he likes the swamp dragons, no matter how ill they get[3], or how ugly they are[4], and likes watching them rumble back and forth, belching flames at one another, scampering around…

“Ah, Havelock!” Sybil Vimes cries out as she comes to the door, and she beams. She’s a very strapping woman, and her wig hangs about her shoulders in thick, dark curls, adding to her already prodigious height. Lady Sybil is the sort of woman that looks fit to lead an army into battle at any moment, and even now, wearing a vibrantly green house dress and some heavy rubber boots, she looks as if she could command multitudes. Her hand claps hard against Lord Vetinari’s shoulder, and Drumknott sees the way his lordship’s lip shifts into a small smile.

“Hello, Sybil,” Vetinari murmurs, not at all matching Sybil’s bright boom for volume or enthusiasm, but sounding very friendly (for Lord Vetinari) nonetheless.

He likes to come for tea with Lady Sybil. He doesn’t often – only once every month or so, his schedule permitting, but Drumknott always notes that he is relaxed in the aftermath, and he enjoys his time with Lady Sybil just as much as he enjoys his time with the Lady Margolotta, or his occasional visits to his aunt.

And Lady Sybil isn’t like Lady Margolotta or like Madam Roberta, doesn’t really play games with him or encourage him to strategize – she just chats, and while Lord Vetinari certainly comes away with useful information from Lady Sybil at times, Drumknott never gets the impression that the information gathered is the priority. Lady Sybil treats Vetinari like an equal, and it’s never in the desperate way some of the other lords and ladies do – she just thinks of him as a friend, no more or less important than half of the people she knows, and Vetinari likes that, Drumknott thinks.

“And you, Rufus!” Sybil says, and Drumknott blinks as her rough, burned palm pats hard enough against his cheek that it throbs slightly. “How are you, man?”

“Very well, Lady Sybil, thank you,” Drumknott says.

“Just Sybil is alright, you know,” she says.

“I don’t think so, Lady Sybil,” Drumknott replies politely, and she laughs like cannonfire, roughly tousling Drumknott’s hair as she ushers the two of them inside.

“He never changes, does he?” she asks Vetinari, looking at Drumknott with easy affection, and Drumknott feels himself smile slightly as he falls into step just beside Vetinari, following him and Lady Sybil into the manor.

“Not so, Sybil,” Vetinari replies smoothly. “Mr Drumknott’s constancy only deepens with age.”

Drumknott’s secretarial smile is a small one, but it is present nonetheless as Vetinari and Lady Sybil go into the day parlour they ordinarily do to take tea with one another. It adjoins a greenhouse, and is always warm and balmy even when it’s cold, but Drumknott usually sits in the parlour adjoining it, that Lady Sybil and Lord Vetinari might take their tea without his scrutiny. He can hear them exchanging pleasantries, hears Sybil say that Young Sam is down for his afternoon nap, hears Vetinari reply that the young man is growing quite fast, so he hears. It’s the usual small talk…

“You know, you are welcome to join us, Rufus,” Lady Sybil says, as she always does.

“Indeed,” Vetinari agrees, which he has never done before. Drumknott hesitates, glancing at Lord Vetinari: the Patrician’s expression reveals nothing, but the invitation is plainly offered, and Drumknott is aware that Lady Sybil is staring at him, her lips parted in excited astonishment. Swallowing, he gives a delicate shake of his head.

“I’m sure I oughtn’t disturb your tea, my lord,” he says slowly: propriety remains, even in the moments in which they are to relax, and yet… He feels curiously warmed by the offer, despite the exhaustion weighting heavy on his shoulders. Perhaps it’s because of how tired he is that Vetinari offers. “Thank you, nonetheless.”

“Er, well,” Lady Sybil says. “The anteroom is yours, Rufus, and as usual, read whatever you like, make yourself at home… Oh, and don’t mind Dewdrop[5], if he— Well. You never do mind, do you?” This is asked with a rueful little laugh, and another fond look directed at him. Drumknott likes how easy Lady Sybil is, about showing affection.

He’s almost envious.

“No, your ladyship,” Drumknott murmurs, and as Lady Sybil steps into the parlour to put on the kettle, he sits down on the rather abused sofa in the anteroom, reaching out and scratching the head of an old dragon that had crawled out from beneath the coffee table. Recognising a familiar friend[6], Dewdrop releases a pathetic whine, and Drumknott leans forward, lifting the dragon under the arms and setting them on the sofa beside him. Immediately, he wriggles very close to Drumknott, awkwardly arranging himself on Drumknott’s lap so that his chin rests on Drumknott’s shoulder and – well aware of what will happen to his suit if he doesn’t – Drumknott folds his handkerchief and puts it delicately under the swamp dragon’s pointed chin. “You’re too big for this,” he complains, without rancour.

Dewdrop Mabelline Talonthrust the First grumbles something vague in response, and Drumknott rubs at one of his eyes, his other hand vaguely tracing the thick scales on the dragon’s back.

“You are sure you won’t join us?” Vetinari asks from beside him, and Drumknott feels himself jump slightly – he’s normally well aware of surroundings, but the fatigue has rather rendered him distracted.

“I do appreciate the offer,” Drumknott murmurs. “I merely think I might slow the conversation down somewhat. Next time, though, next time, I would be— I would like that very much. I’ll just read my magazine while you take tea.”

Vetinari is looking down at him, and Drumknott wonders what he might do, were they in the privacy of Lord Vetinari’s quarters, or the Oblong Office – would he touch Drumknott’s cheek, or his chin, perhaps? It seems like the sort of moment where he would, because he does touch Drumknott sometimes, in those little ways that make Drumknott’s head spin a little… Of course, in private, Drumknott can initiate touches. In public, even in other people’s private homes, there are such limits to what might be shown, what might even be implied, and yet surely the rules must be looser here, with Lady Sybil, or Vetinari wouldn’t have invited him to come and sit down—

As an equal.

“Very well,” Vetinari says finally, and he reaches forward, unclipping Drumknott’s briefcase and removing the periodical therein[7], and he slips it into Drumknott’s hand. “That you not disturb your friend, Drumknott.”

“My thanks, sir,” Drumknott replies, and he watches as Vetinari moves away from him, Mr Fusspot in line with his heel, following Lady Sybil into the other parlour, the door clicking shut behind him. Dewdrop is very warm against Drumknott’s chest, and Drumknott can feel the swamp dragon’s uneven breathing stutter from his aging lungs, feel the heat that comes off him. Swamp dragons also have a very strange odour to them, a sort of chemical smell that Drumknott associates with flames or with the occasional odd scents that eke into the Library at the Unseen University, but he doesn’t mind it so terribly. Once one has survived the awful halitosis of Wuffles, one can manage most malodours.

He finds it hard to concentrate on his magazine. His vision is swimming slightly with exhaustion, and he lets his head tip back for just a moment as Dewdrop wriggles a little in his lap, trying to force his sharp little claws into Drumknott’s blazer to get more of his heat, and he lets his eyelids close—

Just for a moment, he thinks. Just to rest his eyes.

♔ ☩ ♔ ☩ ♔ ☩ ♔

Vimes is not ordinarily home at this time, but he has been trying to make more time for family. Young Sam will be down for his nap, for now, but when he’s awake, he thinks, they might do something, the three of them – maybe take a walk out into the city, without his uniform…

He hesitates as he makes his way up the long drive, seeing the black coach parked up alongside their own, and he frowns. Is it that time of the month, already? It’s odd enough that the Patrician puts time in his calendar to have tea with Sybil, like he’s some sort of social butterfly, but—

Well.

He’s never here too long, is he?

Kicking off his boots as he comes into the doorway, he doesn’t yet unbuckle his armour, initially moving in toward the parlour where Sybil likes to take tea, and—

He stops. He can hear the familiar stuttering growl of a dragon snoring, and it won’t be Dribble, not if Young Sam’s in his bed like he ought be… Putting his head into the anteroom, he stares at the scene before him.

Rufus Drumknott, Lord Vetinari’s personal clerk[8], is asleep on Vimes’ sofa. His head tilted back against the thick back of the couch, he has a magazine about paperclips held loosely in one of his hands, and blanketing his chest is the rather fat, scaly mound of Dewdrop Mabelline Talonthrust the First, who has a great predilection for body heat, and is a connoisseur of laps.

Drumknott has put his handkerchief under Dewdrop’s dribbling maw, probably to keep his somewhat corrosive saliva from doing any irreparable damage to his suit, and he seems… Comfortable. They both seem comfortable, content.

It’s actually a curiously endearing sight, despite the fact that Dewdrop is an even uglier dragon than most dragons, which have a very high standard of ugliness, and despite the fact that Drumknott himself, with his perennially red cheeks, his strangely small frame, and his big eyes made all the bigger by overlarge glasses, is just… funny-looking. Despite all these factors, however, the two of them together, sleeping peacefully, look—

Cute is perhaps too positive a description, but nice. It looks nice. Domestic.

Vimes realises he has never thought of Drumknott as a figure capable of the domestic, let alone in his own home, and he sighs heavily, pushing open the parlour door and stepping inside.

“Sam!” Sybil says, getting to her feet, and Vimes smiles as she comes forward, leaning to kiss him.

“Hello, dear,” he murmurs, and he glances to Vetinari, who has stood to greet him. “Lord.”

“Your grace,” Vetinari replies saccharinely, and Vimes scowls, but he gestures for Vetinari and Sybil to sit back down, and for just a moment he joins them, sitting down in the third seat.

“Is there a reason your secretary’s asleep out there?” Vimes asks casually. Vetinari’s expression doesn’t change.

“Asleep?” Sybil repeats, glancing to the Patrician.

“I expect,” Vetinari says delicately, punctuating this sentence with a small sip of his tea, “because we didn’t sleep last night.”

Quite unexpectedly, Sybil’s head turns, and she gasps as she looks at Vetinari, whose gaze is focused on his tea and not on Sybil or Vimes. “Havelock,” she chides, in a scolding tone that borders on exhilarated.

Working, Sybil,” Vetinari retorts, but despite the slight chiding in his tone, Vimes thinks he can see his lips twitch into something that is almost a smile as he drinks some more of his tea. This is… This is uncomfortable. Vimes has never considered Havelock Vetinari in a romantic position before, and this is…

“That’s not funny, Sybil,” Vimes says, a little more gruffly than he’d intended, and Sybil gives him a funny look.

Oh,” she says, seeming amused. “All shy of a sudden, are you, Sam?”

“No,” Vimes replies. “Just— That’s not funny. That’s his secretary, that’s not— That’s not right.” Vetinari sets his teacup delicately down upon the saucer on the table, and he tilts his head slightly to the side. His icy gaze settles heavily on Vimes’ face, and Vimes leans back slightly.

“Isn’t it?” Vetinari asks mildly, his expression expectant.

“Well, no, actually,” Vimes says, stiffening his tone slightly. “What with the differential in power – and he’s only twenty-six! He’s the same age as Carrot, for gods’ sake, and anyone who leers at someone obligated to call them sir is—”

Vimes chokes out a nose as Sybil drives her heel into his toe, and he grits his teeth as he stares at her. She gives him a very firm look, one that ordinarily means, “Shut up, Sam.”

Oh, he muses, with a sickly sinking feeling. It wasn’t just a joke. The injustice of it roils in Vimes like a wave, and he digs his fingers into his palm to keep from snapping, but then Vetinari goes on.

“Anyone who leers at someone obligated to call them sir is…?” Vetinari prompts, raising an eyebrow.

“No more disgusting than someone who doesn’t lord their power over their employees, I suppose,” Vimes finishes, with a scowl. Vetinari’s lip curves slightly up at one edge: he doesn’t seem offended in the least, but then, he never seems anything.

“I will keep your opinions in mind, your grace,” Vetinari says quietly.

“But you—”

Vetinari’s gaze grows colder, and Vimes sets his jaw, not saying anything more. He thinks of Drumknott, asleep in the anteroom, young, naïve Drumknott who is Vetinari’s personal clerk and is duty-bound to do whatever Vetinari says, just—

And Vetinari.

Vetinari—

“I have a meeting at the Palace, Sybil: I regret I must depart,” Vetinari says, standing to his feet, and Sybil shoots a glare at Vimes even as she gets to her feet, following him out into the corridor, and Vimes hesitates alongside Sybil as he watches Vetinari step into the anteroom.

The Patrician is firm but gentle in taking Dewdrop up from Drumknott’s chest, and he ignores the swamp dragon’s wail of complaint as he sets him gently down on another of the couches. Dewdrop gives Mr Fusspost a suspicious glance as the dog sits at Vetinari’s heel, and Vimes watches as Vetinari’s fingers, thin and starkly veined in the low light, touch delicately against Drumknott’s knee.

Drumknott doesn’t stir, and Vimes watches, astonished, as Vetinari’s hand reaches higher, and he touches Drumknott’s jaw. Drumknott shifts sleepily, blinking a few times, and as he looks blearily at Vetinari, he absently leans his cheek right against the Patrician’s palm.

“M’lord?” he asks through a yawn, and then he seems to become abruptly aware of himself, and he jolts slightly in his seat, looking wildly one way and then the other. He reaches up, rubbing at the edge of one sleep-shut eye, and he sits forward, pushing his knees together. “Oh, I’m sorry, I think I…”

“You fell asleep, yes,” Vetinari says, seeming amused, and his hand comes down from Drumknott’s cheek, adjusting the set of Drumknott’s cravat and putting it more neatly at his collar where the swamp dragon had dislodged it, and Drumknott leans forward, coming to stand.

“You alright?” Vimes asks, and Drumknott stares at him and Sybil both, his eyes widening in horror.

“Quite well, your excellency, thank you,” Drumknott says, looking the very vision of mortified. Vimes watches the way his expression shifts, at the way he turns and looks at Vetinari, as if for some manner of help or assistance will be found there, and at Vetinari, who—

Who smiles.

It isn’t one of his cruel, cold smiles, nor one of his calculating, expectant ones: it’s a small smile, delicate and almost private where it’s aimed at Drumknott. Vetinari’s fingers touch against Drumknott’s shoulders, ostensibly to remove a piece of lint that Vimes doesn’t believe is there, and he—

Nothing shows in the set of Vetinari’s eyes, or in his face beyond the smile – there is tenderness or affection that strikes through the mask of neutrality. But touching his cheek to wake him up, and touching his shoulder to give him some form of, what, comfort?

There’s a natural dislike of the thing. It isn’t about them being men, not for Vimes, who doesn’t understand the thing but doesn’t object to it in itself, but still he is opposed to the very principle of it. He’s known lords to take advantage of their maids or their valets or secretaries, and his opposition is only natural, when these poor young girls and boys are cut loose reeling from it, or when they’re just taken advantage of, and—

Drumknott might be boring, but he doesn’t deserve that.

And the thing that’s so galling, the thing that really sets Vimes’ blood alight, is that he’d always thought Vetinari above that. Vetinari’s never taken after young men before[9], has never gone out of his way to cause fuss beyond what happens in the line of his work, just doesn’t… And Drumknott isn’t handsome. He isn’t even pretty in the way that some young men are – he’s just odd-looking, and small, and…

Vetinari, of course, isn’t especially handsome either, with his too-strong brow and chin and nose, his angular goatee. Vimes isn’t an expert as to what handsome actually comes up to, but he’s pretty sure that neither Vetinari nor Drumknott are it.

And Vetinari isn’t lascivious, Vimes doesn’t think. But—

But Drumknott is Carrot’s age. He’s just a young man. Too young by far, for Vetinari.

Once they go, the coach coming to take them back to the Palace, Vimes hesitates for a moment, and then he looks at his wife. Sybil is looking at him, her heaving bosom somewhat pinned down by her neatly crossed arms.

Really, Sam?” she asks.

“It’s not right, Sybil. Not just his servant, but his personal clerk, and he’s just—”

“Sam, I don’t think it’s anything salacious,” Sybil says consolingly. “From what little I’ve managed to, ah, tease out, I’m actually given to understand that Rufus was the instigator, and it took him some years, too. You needn’t worry. Calling him a disgusting person, honestly – I should think he gets enough of that from the people.”

“How can it not be salacious?” Vimes asks. “Sybil, I…”

“Sam,” Sybil says, and one of her big hands interlinks comfortingly with his own: her fingers are a great deal bigger and stronger than his own, and every time she holds his hand, he feels like swooning. He brings her hand up to his mouth, and kisses a particularly rough burn scar. “I do think this is rather the best either of them could hope for, you know. Havelock would do anything for him.”

For him?” Vimes asks. “Or to him?”

“For him,” Sybil says breezily.

It doesn’t sit right with Vimes. But Sybil seems certain, and Sybil is always a better judge of these things[10] than he is himself, and if it is better for Vetinari and Drumknott, Sybil would probably know. Reaching out, Vimes drags Dewdrop up from the couch, and he burbles vaguely, sprawling back in Vimes’ arms as if he thinks he’s an infant in need of swaddling.

“You like him, don’t you?” Vimes asks, sternly.

Dewdrop looks up at him dolefully with his sickly, rheumy eyes, a dribble of acid bubbling at the corner of his toothless mouth. He’s one of the most hideous things Vimes has ever seen, but he can’t fault Drumknott for his choice of hot water bottle – Dewdrop is always very warm.

“Soppy thing,” Sybil murmurs, and she scratches Dewdrop’s belly, making him wriggle in delight. “Cup of tea, Sam?”

“I’ll make it,” Vimes murmurs, and still carrying Dewdrop in his arms, he follows Sybil back into the parlour.

♔ ☩ ♔ ☩ ♔ ☩ ♔

Dinner is directly after the council meeting, and once they’ve eaten, Vetinari takes the minutes Drumknott had been writing up from his shorthand from in front of him. Drumknott watches him through a haze of general fatigue as he puts both pages, neatly blotted, into the top drawer of Drumknott’s desk.

“Lord Vetinari,” Drumknott protests.

“It’s eight o’clock, Drumknott,” Vetinari says.

“Yes, my lord. We ordinarily complete out work at ten.”

“Let us dispense with the ordinary, Drumknott: you are fordone.”

Drumknott frowns. “Sir?”

“Come,” he says quietly. “We will retire.”

“Oh, we needn’t on my account, my lord,” Drumknott demurs, although inwardly he is aching to lie down.

“We shall on mine, then,” Vetinari replies, and Drumknott gets eagerly to his feet.

The path to Lord Vetinari’s bedroom is quite unlike most of those in the Palace – unlike many bedrooms, which might be entered through doors in corridors, his is hidden behind two dummy bedrooms, each through secreted passageways – through another of these passageways, Drumknott is aware, leads the way to the quarters of Leonard of Quirm, and indeed, to various caches of one thing or another…

But Vetinari’s bedroom is simple.

It has a lived-in quality that even his secondary facsimile lacks, with the bed against one wall, a writing desk, an armoire, and so many bookshelves as to offer any man comfort as he lies down to bed, well looked-over by the text therein. Drumknott is clumsy about removing his clothes, hurried as he draws on his pyjamas instead, and he all but falls into bed.

Vetinari is already sitting up against the headboard, his diary set ready at his bedside table, and Drumknott drops his head exhaustedly against the pillow. He is aware of precisely how undignified the movement is even as he wriggles across the bed, and he presses his nose against the beautiful warmth of his lordship’s hip, his eyes closing.

Delicately, Vetinari reaches down, and he removes Drumknott’s spectacles, which he had neglected to take off himself, and he puts them down on the bedside table. Drumknott exhales, hesitating for a moment, and then he draws closer, winding one arm about Vetinari’s skinny hip. Behind him, he feels Mr Fusspot hop up onto the bed, curling up behind Drumknott’s knees.

He’s never done this before. He’s never slung an arm about Vetinari, never actually held him – they do things, but there’s a limit to that which they do together. Vetinari will watch Drumknott, sometimes, tell him how to engage himself in the act of onanism, but he isn’t inclined to sexuality himself, isn’t…

And Drumknott doesn’t mind it. It doesn’t bother him whatsoever, particularly when Vetinari so loves to encourage his own sexuality, enjoys watching him and guiding him one way or the other, but… He is uncertain about navigating the physical intimacy. He’s never engaged in this sort of thing, before Lord Vetinari, and in six years in his lordship’s service, the physicality like this is—

This is recent. This is new.

“My apologies,” he murmurs. “For falling asleep, earlier. I didn’t mean to.”

“I know,” Vetinari replies, and his fingers, which are always beautifully and vitally warm, curl through Drumknott’s hair. “I don’t believe Sybil took offence; nor, indeed, did Vimes.” There is something subtly off in the Patrician’s tone, and Drumknott glances up, his chin dragging over Vetinari’s hip. Vetinari isn’t looking down at Drumknott, but into the middle distance, his cold gaze pensive.

“My lord?”

“You could call me Havelock, you know,” Vetinari says, almost casually.

“I’m certain I couldn’t.”

“And if I call you Rufus?”

Drumknott fidgets slightly. That’s— That is not so awful as the alternative. He rather likes the way his name sounds in the low tones of Lord Vetinari’s voice, and the sibilance makes him want to squirm. “I— I wouldn’t object.”

“But you won’t call me by my forename?”

“It would be improper,” Drumknott says steadfastly.

“Your nose is currently buried somewhere in the vicinity of my pancreas. Does that not measure on your chart of impropriety?” Guilt flares in Drumknott’s belly. “Ah, no, forget that I said that.” The fingers in his hair tighten their grip, tilting his head back a little more. “I do think, sometimes, that you embrace the feudal spirit more than is prescribed, you know.” Vetinari’s smile is small, and indulgent. “Rufus.”

“Vimes said something,” Drumknott murmurs, thinking of the way Vimes had looked at him, thinking of Vetinari’s thoughtful silence in the coach as they had made their way back toward the Palace. “Didn’t he?”

“Mm,” Vetinari hums dispassionately. “Something to do, I believe, with my abuse of power.”

“Oh, well,” Drumknott mumbles, his voice muffled against Vetinari’s thigh as he feels himself drift. He can’t really keep his eyes open at this point, particularly not when Vetinari’s clever fingers are coaxing soothing circles through his short-cropped hair. “I think you abuse it much better than most do, my lord, and very subtly, too.”

“Over you?” he hears Vetinari say, as if through a curtain. His tone is difficult to judge.

“You could try,” Drumknott replies, not meaning to sound quite as derisive as he probably does, but he is tired, and he’s almost asleep.

He hears Vetinari laugh, and he feels his body relax somewhat under his cheek. Vetinari, being made up mostly of hard bones and stiff muscle, is not an especially comfortable pillow despite the warmth he gives off, and the slight relaxation is a welcome blessing. Drumknott feels his lips shift into a drowsy smile.

He falls asleep to the sound of Vetinari turning pages in his book. The sound is becoming a familiar soporific, and he is—

Glad of it.

He wakes, at some point in the night, to find the candle doused, and the room is in pitch darkness. Lying on his side, his chest pressed against Drumknott’s back and his arm slung loosely over his belly, Lord Vetinari… He must be sleeping. His breathing is even, and Drumknott can feel the beautiful heat of it against the back of his neck; crammed in the small space between Drumknott’s calves and Vetinari’s, Drumknott can feel Mr Fusspot vibrating as he snores.

Vetinari is holding him.

Asleep! He’s asleep. And Drumknott is awake! Completely alone, with a sleeping Vetinari and a sleeping Mr Fusspot, where no one might hear him, and…

And…

“Havelock,” Drumknott whispers, the only sound in the night bar the even breathing of Vetinari, and Mr Fusspot’s quiet snores. His heart soars to say it, his head spinning.

“I’m going to pretend,” Vetinari rumbles against his neck, and Drumknott shivers, “that I didn’t hear that.”

“Thank you, my lord,” Drumknott replies. “I would be most grateful.”

“Go back to sleep, Rufus,” Vetinari says, and Drumknott lets himself relax again, doing his best to catch once more at the idea of slumber. Against the back of his neck, he feels Vetinari’s lips move into a smile, and then the Patrician’s breath evens out again.

 

 

[1] Lord Vetinari sleeps two to three hours per night, and going without a night’s sleep gives him no hardship at all.

[2] Vetinari also prefers Drumknott’s minutes over those of other clerks.

[3] Very.

[4] Very.

[5] Dewdrop Mabelline Talonthrust the First, Champion and sire of dragons, is an incredibly elderly and soppy dragon that enjoys, in order, mashed dragon food, belly rubs, and laps upon which he might sleep.

[6] Or, at least, a familiar lap.

[7] Paperclips, a stationery-focused magazine of which Drumknott is very fond.

[8] And, *cough cough*, probably something more personal than that, if one were to listen to Nobby’s absent mutterings of the worst things he can think of on a night shift.

[9] Or young women, for that matter.

[10] And, in Vimes’ mind, almost everything, the relative handsomeness of ugly reptiles notwithstanding.