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Best Kept Secrets

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Sybil Vimes was not a detective, or a watchman. It was not usually her job to put clues together, barring those relating to dragons, or one Samuel Vimes.

Fortunately, she was a wife. And a far more intelligent woman than many gave her credit for. And in this particular instance she had certain ... insider knowledge. Or, as Sam might perhaps put it, she had bloody cheated.

Sam had shortly come back from the Oblong Office. He had that particular expression of his, the blank, distant terror that really only went along with announcements like 'Sam, we're going to have a child', and 'Sam, I think he's coming now'. He refused to look at her, beyond rapid, bewildered, almost frightened glances. And he had paced yet another rut in their carpets.

Really, it could only add up to one thing. And perhaps, she thought privately, not before bloody time.

"Did Havelock finally propose an arrangement, then?" she asked mildly, focusing her gaze carefully on her knitting (she was getting much better at it). Which was a good thing, because if she'd been looking directly at Sam's expression, she doubted she could have kept a straight face.

Mother had always told her that gaping like a fish was unattractive on a man. Her mother, perhaps fortunately, had obviously never met Sam.

"Whuh?" he asked, looking at her in blank horror. "Sybil? Huh?"

She tucked her smile carefully away. "I was wondering, you know," she continued airly. "When he'd eventually work up to it." She tutted gently. "Havelock's such a lonely man, you know. We were rather hoping."

Sam spluttered silently. And then: "We?" Incredulous, and horrified, and with a watchman's instinct for incongruity.

"Oh yes, dear," Sybil smiled, her hands never faltering. "Rosie and I - you know Mrs Palm, yes? - have been worried about him for years. He's not getting any younger, you know. And these last few years have been ... rather difficult."

Yes. Very difficult. Very, very good, in so many ways, but much as she worried about Sam, out there in that darkness, with all those horrible people with the funny names, she worried about Havelock, too. Attempts at assassination were of course to be expected, for someone in his position, but so many, in so few years ... Not to mention dragons, and wars, and numerous attempts to overthrow him. Yes. He was showing wear, was Havelock.

"Mrs ... Mrs Palm," Sam repeated, helplessly. Stunned for another reason entirely, she thought, and almost huffed. Rosie was a lovely woman, really. Very sensible. Yes, not exactly of Sybil's usual social circle (or rather, expected social circle), but, well. Poopie for that, as they said.

"Yes, dear. She comes round for tea most Thursdays, you know." She wasn't the only one, of course, but perhaps Sam didn't need to know the details just now. "We've been very worried about the two of you. We thought Havelock was never going to act."

Sam shook his head, helpless and stunned, and oh, oh, she needed to stop stringing him along, didn't she? "You ... You knew? You knew that he? I mean ..."

"Sam," she stopped him, gently. "Havelock's been in love with you for years. Probably since the dragon incident, but most definitely since that horrible poisoning attempt." She smiled, faintly. "He thinks he's been very discreet about it, of course. Very secretive. And I suppose he has been, for most people. But ... Well. I've known him for quite some years, you know. And Rosie too, perhaps better than me. It's not been nearly so well hidden as he might like."

Sam just stared, for a second. Trying to parse that one, someone claiming to have gotten one over on Havelock Vetinari. Sybil slipped a hand in front of her smile. Oh, but Sam did respect the man, didn't he. And was strangely protective of him, for all the grumbles about wanting to shove something uncouth somewhere unmentionable.

Really. Who, exactly, did either of them think they were fooling?

Though, looking at Sam, perhaps he had been fooling himself. For rather a long time.

"You know ..." Sam said, stuttering and blank, and then, firming. Determined. Hurt, a little. "You don't think I would ever betray ..."

Oh. Oh, Sam.

She stood, letting the knitting fall where it would, and moved to him. Took his hands in hers, holding tight, shaking her head gently. Because yes. Yes, she knew that, she had never, ever doubted that. Many things she had feared, for and from Sam, the things she knew he saw, the things she knew he did, when he had to. But not that. She had never once feared that.

"Never, dear," she said, very gently. Reaching up to brush his cheek. Her Sam. Her very dear, very silly Sam. "I know you wouldn't." She smiled, ruefully. "And I expect you've just given Havelock an earful about it, haven't you? I expect you've set the poor man back a good few years over it, yes?"

Sam blinked. Opened his mouth, and closed it again, for a few minutes, while nothing came out, and Sybil blinked. Blinked, and felt a little stir of hope somewhere inside her.

"I didn't ..." Sam said, distantly. "I just ... I mean, I left. I didn't say anything. I just ... left." He shook his head, desperation surfacing once more. "Sybil. I wouldn't. You know I wouldn't."

She bit her lip, wanting for a second to forego explaining for the moment, and simply hug the man silly. Poor Sam. In so many ways, he was rather straightforward about things.

"I know you wouldn't betray me," she assured, gently. "Or what we have. But Sam ..." She smiled, perhaps a little tremulously. "Do you think you might consider ... expanding it? A little?"

Because Havelock had not been as secretive as he might like, and even less so as the years went on. Because Havelock kept giving Sam things, in that back-handed, cold-seeming way of his, Havelock kept trusting Sam with things, and for all Sam's blindness and his gruffness and his utter stupidity when it came to people he cared about ... For all that, Sam would stand between Havelock and the Dungeon Dimensions, should it come to it, and that wasn't all duty. Sybil, of all people, knew that. Sam had wanted to stand between her and a dragon. She knew what it looked like, when Sam loved someone.

Really. They had, neither of them, kept it half so secret as they thought, from everyone besides themselves and each other. From anyone who knew enough to look. And Sybil ... well. She was getting perhaps a little tired of waiting, and watching Havelock slowly grow more weary in the process.

Sam stared at her, confused and a little angry, and some part of him, the watchman part, slowly working it over in the back of his mind. Breaking it apart, and slotting it back together again, to see how it worked, to see what he had to do about it. Sam. Her darling, suspicious, bewildered Sam.

"You ... You want him to ... him and me to ..." Sam almost accused, soft and suspicious. Bewildered. "Why? Why would you?"

Sybil smiled, softly, and cupped his face in her hands.

"Because I love you, Sam. Because Havelock is a dear friend. Because I know what he wants, what he loves, and why. Because I know you'd want it too, if you let yourself think it. Because I don't want either of you to be hurt. Because I think it might work. And because ..." She paused, and let herself smile a rather different kind of smile. The sort of smile that had Sam looking for a cigar, and had possibly resulted in the conception of their firstborn. "And because I rather enjoy the thought of you and I getting the leg up on him, for a change. Don't you?"

And yes, she didn't mean that phrase at all innocently, yes, she had talked shop with Rosie a number of times, for curiosity's sake if nothing else, and yes, she knew precisely the effect it would have on Sam. All the myriad angles to it.

And the one true advantage, she thought, watching the slow, dark smile spread on her husband's face, was that at least now Sam and Havelock would have someone competent enough to keep the secret for them.

Because really. Who on the Disc had they thought they were fooling?