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On The Line

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Moist hesitated only for a second before he knocked on the compartment door, and then he slowly slid it open. The Pat-- Ah. But, no.

Vetinari was sitting on one side of compartment, his reading glasses settled on the end of his nose, his icy gaze fixed on the book in his hands. His hair was showing a little bit more grey in recent years, turning a lighter silver rather than a flint grey, and streaking with more confidence at his temples, but that was the only sign one could really make out that he was anywhere near his own age.

Mr Fusspot showed the years more than he did: grey was across the dog’s muzzle, his stupid eyes drooping at their edges, and his fatigue was more genuine, these days, than it was feigned fatigue so that everyone would let him get away with being lazy.

Moist’s gaze flitted from the Patrician and the dog warming his feet to the Patrician’s clerk, who was asleep. His own glasses were held in a loose grip in his lap, and his cheek rested on the Patrician’s shoulder, his expression utterly peaceful in sleep. He showed his age a little bit, too, with the crinkles around his eyes and his mouth, and the furrow in his brow, his hair lightening with flecks of grey in places, but asleep, it all seemed to fade away a little. The hand not holding his spectacles was loosely entwined with Vetinari’s, and Moist’s gaze stuck on that detail, Vetinari’s thin, blue-veined fingers against Drumknott’s small, scarred hands. 

“Your lordship?” Vetinari asked, arching an eyebrow.

“One of the stokers told me you were on the line,” Moist said. “They mentioned Mr Drumknott was feeling ill - you’re sure you don’t want a sleeper cabin? It’s another five hours back to the city, and he could sleep in a bed.”

“I won’t disturb him now,” Vetinari murmured, with a minute shake of his head. 

“Well, we’re hitting the next stop on the line in about twenty-five minutes, but we’ll be lingering on the platform for a half hour before we keep on to Ankh-Morpork. You want me to pop into the village and get anything for him?”

“You haven’t got better things to be doing,” Vetinari asked, his thin lips quirking into a delicate smile, “than rushing about after two retirees with their petty health concerns?”

Moist von Lipwig, Patrician of Ankh-Morpork - although, thank the Gods, he had a whole council to share responsibilities with, and it didn’t mean quite the same thing as it had done years ago - smiled. “No, sir,” he replied, with an easy shrug of gold-clad shoulders. “Not really.”

“Why don’t you sit with us, until the next stop?” Vetinari asked, and gestured to the bench across from him.

“Oh, don’t let me--” Moist trailed off as Vetinari’s gaze heightened in its intensity, but then he smiled, stepping in and sliding the door shut behind him. When he sat, Mr Fusspot looked up at him with his fat, grizzled face, and Moist leaned down to heft the little dog into his lap, where he promptly fell back asleep.

“Tell me, Patrician,” Vetinari murmured, and his eyes were closed, his book resting on his thigh, his head tipped back against the compartment’s padded seat, Drumknott curled against his side... Moist couldn’t help but think it’d be a good image for a stamp, although Mr Drumknott would never consent. “How goes your work these days?”

“Well,” Moist said, absently stroking the soft fur of the Bank Chairman, and began - quietly - to talk.