"The Patrician is busy."
Vimes growled, grinding his teeth together in an action that normally had his opponent backing down as swiftly and as gracefully as possible . This was not the case here.
Drumknott smiled, the very expression making Vimes feel like he was being spoken down to despite the Clerk not saying a word. He dropped his gaze back towards his temporary desk, nudging his wire rimmed glasses further up his nose, glancing over the Patrician's agenda that they both knew he had memorised.
"The Patrician is busy Duke Vimes," Drumknott repeated for, what felt like to Vimes, the twentieth time .
"I know he's busy," Vimes groaned, regretting every decision in his life that wound up putting him in this in-enviable position.
Drumknott only nodded at him in confirmation, eyebrows raised in a silent question, as if asking exactly what Vimes wanted him, the creator and manager of the Patrician's busy schedule to do about it.
"This is official Watch business," Vimes continued, slowly as if this would be the time he could slip past the immovable object that was Rufus Drumknott. He could have sent Angua, he could have sent Carrot, he could have sent Cheery or even sent Nobby. But no, Sybil encouraged him to face his problems, and currently this was his problem.
A loud crash drew both men's attention from their current stand-off, back along the corridor where the distant sounds of construction could be heard taking place. It was a strange set of circumstances the Palace staff had found themselves in: a mixture of heavy rainfall wearing away the more exposed parts of the Palace until it had reached unacceptable levels of danger requiring sections to be rebuilt; several new assassination attempts exposed a potential flaw in the Palace security that needed to be rectified immediately, with one person managing to make it to the foot of the stairs leading up to the Patrician's office before he had found himself thrown out of a window ; and the Dark Clerk's had been submitting requests to try out various traps every day for the past three months, all forms correctly filled out and appearing on Drumknott's desk at six minutes past two exactly. It had seemed like the right time to rebuild the Palace, requiring temporary workstations for several members of staff, including the Patrician himself.
Drumknott picked up his pen and pulled the file back in front of him, clearly considering the matter closed.
"A lesser man would have you arrested," Vimes said, words mostly directed at himself. The balancing act was a constant struggle, fighting against the urge to help his city in the most direct way possible, to let the badge of the City Watch speak for him, actions more brutal than words. He won that fight every second of everyday, but it was still a fight.
Drumknott's head snapped up, an eerie stillness coming over him. Vimes fought back the grin easily, his normal gruff demeanour snapping into place. There was the man he had only glimpsed before, steel and danger behind an unassuming facade. This was a dangerous way of bringing him out, but Drumknott already hated him for some reason .
"Then do it Commander," Drumknott said, voice icy, his professional accent discarded and instead Sam could have been talking to a man from his childhood, all backstreet inflections and cut off words.
Vimes stared into Drumknott's eyes, unwavering and unblinking, the eyes of a man who chose to do better. Sam stared into those eyes every morning in the mirror.
"I'll come back later. When is the Patrician free?" Vimes asked, straightening up, clasping his hands behind his back , extending an olive branch.
"Come back in a few hours," Drumknott said slowly, glancing needlessly down at the agenda once more.
"Thank you, Mr Drumknott."
"Are you and Vimes getting along Drumknott?" Vetinari asked, room returning to darkness as the single beam of light from the door disappeared.
"He is an interesting man my lord."
Drumknott tilted his head up, Vetinari cupping his face between his icy hands, thumbs rubbing along his cheeks.
"We'll be back in the office soon. Until then, try not to needle Vimes too much."
Drumknott laughed, staring unseeing at the area where he knew Vetinari was standing.
"I make no promises."