Join the Watch! they'd told her. Be a ma- a wo- Be employed! Cheri sighed, smoothed down her beard and tried again.
"No," she said. "Look." She pointed at the map spread over the acid-stained table of her lab. "They attacked from here, here and here. We attacked from over there."
The girl wrinkled her face in concentration. Honestly, she'd been much quicker on the uptake about the rats. She'd even suggested some new recipes. "And here?"
"Well, yes. Because of Tactics." Cheri had always been a little confused about that one herself. But Commander Vimes said Koom Valley could teach Ankh Morpork a lesson or two in Tactics and Diplomacy, and Cheri knew throwing axes at your own side wasn't Diplomacy. Captain Carrot had given a talk on it. Angua had been so proud.
"Seems to me," the girl said, "it might've made more sense to attack from here."
Cheri nodded. That thought had occurred to her, too.
That one hadn't. Still, at least she was trying.
"Why there?" Cheri squinted at the map. "That's just a pile of-"
"Here's downwind, yeah?"
"And there's where they're going to be throwing stuff at them, yeah?"
"So if they start here -" The finger, artfully painted a shade of pink Cheri had never seen before coming to Ankh Morpork, jabbed excitedly at the To Scale depiction of a large pile of stones. "- then they won't get there until it's too late."
Cheri had to admit the girl had a point.
The girl - Rose - tilted her head to one side, surveying Cheri from yet another angle. The dwarf felt her toes curl in embarrassment beneath the steel of her boots. It had been bad enough asking Angua for help, back when she first came to the city, but Angua had never made her feel like a Project. Captain Carrot had given a talk about those, too, a few weeks after covering Diplomacy. They were a Very Good Things for the city, especially when they Got The Community Involved in Helping People. The capital letters fell into place naturally when Captain Carrot spoke. Angua called it gravitas in public, and Carrot when the moon was close enough to make her teeth grind.
"My mate Shreen never liked it either," Rose said, companionably. "When I looked at her, I mean. I can stop if you want - I just want an idea of what you look like."
Cheri flushed. She hadn't realised her discomfort was so obvious.
"You've got lovely cheekbones. Here." Rose held up a mirror, one finger tracing out lines and angles on Cheri's face she'd never noticed before. "Yeah? Just like Shreen."
Cheri put a hand to her face. She could still feel the graceful curve Rose's finger had swept out.
"You'd've loved Shreen, you would. She used to take the piss all the time, just like your Angua, but she never let you down."
Rose sighed, happy and wistful. Somehow, Cheri didn't think she would have liked this Shreen very much at all.
"If she could see me now. Giving a dwarf a make-over. So cool!" Rose beamed at Cheri, her eyes wide and joyful. "I left most of the good stuff back on the TARDIS, but I've got some blusher on me." She reached forward, putting one hand on Cheri's beard to turn her head. "It's a start, yeah?"
"That is so! cool!" Rose said, punctuating each word with a hug. She moved back to hold Cheri by the shoulders, looking searchingly at her as she asked, "Werewolves and bogey men and vampires and cocktails? You're not- You're not just saying that, are you?"
"I don't know if Mr Crimp will be there tonight," Cheri admitted.
"Is he the cocktails?"
"He's the bogeyman. One of them, anyway."
Rose sighed with relief. "I reckon me and the Doctor will see one soon enough, anyway."
Cheri didn't much like Biers. It had been nice, at the start, to go somewhere no one gave her strange looks, or at least no looks any stranger than those they gave everyone. But now she was used to the looks, and she didn't like feeling forced into drinking with peo- with beings who were weird even by Ankh Morpork's low and undemanding standards. Not, she hastily amended her thoughts, that there was anything wrong with being differently alive. But she wanted to drink there because she chose to, not because she had to.
Rose smiled at her.
Tonight, though, Cheri chose to.
"Will there be- Will there be straws?" Rose asked. Her eyes had glazed over a little, and there was an almost reverent expression on her face. "And fruit? Floating in the glasses?"
Cheri made a mental note to take an apple along.
The dwarves on the corner of Turn Again Lane spat at Cheri as she passed. It was the price she paid for taking the shortcut, and she was used the cries of "Shame!" and "Deviant!" that followed her out onto the wider, cobbled streets. The busy hustle and bustle of a vibrant city, Commander Vimes called it, but Rose had been shocked the first time, turning to hurl abuse right back at them and only afterwards thinking to check with Cheri that it was okay.
Cheri smiled at the memory, feeling the sheen of her lipstick as her mouth curled up. They'd run away as the other dwarves chased after them, Rose clutching Cheri's hand and laughing so hard she had to join in, even as a few stray bread pellets were thrown.
Rose must have spoken to Angua, however, because the next day all she got were hostile glances, and it had taken them nearly a month to work their way back up to spitting.
She put one hand to her beard, feeling the wave Rose had permed in, and turned round to face the hecklers. "Wanna make something of it?" she yelled, the words golden on her tongue. Rose would be proud.