Disclaimer: All Discworld characters belong to Terry Pratchett. I own nothing. I’m just inspired to write stuff he isn’t likely to. No disrespect is intended.
Author's note: This is the third story in the Carrot/Vimes slash series. It isn’t strictly necessary to read them in order as each fic is a complete story in itself. However, for the sake of continuity it’s probably best to read them that way.
Commander Sir Samuel Vimes climbed the familiar steps to the Oblong Office. He looked annoyed. The Patrician had sent for him; the third time in as many days. Being overloaded at work had already tested his patience to the limits; the last thing he needed now was someone wasting his time.
He entered the anteroom and sat down, forced to listen to the sound of the clock that always drove him mad.
Drumknott appeared. “His Lordship will see you now, sir,” he said.
Ye gods! thought Vimes. That was quick!
He tapped on the Patrician’s door.
“Come in, Sir Samuel,” said a voice from within.
“Er, you wanted to see me, sir?” said Vimes, as he entered.
The Patrician gathered up the papers on his desk and tapped their edges on the blotter, first one way and then the other. Finally, he set them to one side.
Then, he looked up.
“Yes,” he said. “Please, sit down.”
Vimes sat, his eyes focusing automatically on the familiar spot on the wall.
The Patrician leaned back in his chair and studied him for a moment. He appeared to be thinking about something, but he didn't seem in a hurry to speak.
Vimes shifted in his seat. “Er, I realize you’re busy, sir, so if—”
“As a matter of fact, Sir Samuel, you are the only appointment I have today.”
“Oh, bit of quiet day, then, sir?” said Vimes, barely disguising the sarcasm in his voice.
“On the contrary. I would say it’s been quite an eventful day, actually. The reason you are the only appointment is merely because I have cancelled all the others.”
“Oh,” said Vimes, stopping suddenly in his tracks. “So, what did you want to see me about, sir?”
The Patrician continued to study him. “How long have we known each other, Sir Samuel?” he said.
The cogs in Vimes’ brain began to turn, partly to count the number of years, and partly to wonder why he was asking.
“Er, I’m not sure, sir, roughly about—”
“And in all that time, have you ever done anything, how shall I put it... foolish?”
Vimes hesitated. He could think of lots of times, actually, but there was nothing he wanted to share with the Patrician. He opened his mouth to speak.
The Patrician continued. “Perhaps foolish isn’t quite the right word,” he said. “How about... bloody stupid?”
Vimes’ mouth remained opened.
The Patrician got up slowly and walked over to the window. He stood with his back to Vimes, looking out over the city. “Tell me, Sir Samuel,” he said casually. “How is your good wife these days?”
What game is this he’s playing? thought Vimes. Does he think I have nothing better to do than sit here all day?
“Er, she’s fine, sir,” he replied, a little testily. “Well, I mean the baby’s due quite soon and she gets tired quickly, but—”
“Ah, yes, of course,” said the Patrician, tapping his fingers on the windowsill. “That would explain a few things, I suppose.”
“And I don’t expect you’re home much these days in any case,” said Vetinari. “Working so late at the office as seems to be your habit lately.”
Vimes frowned, and looked over to where the Patrician was standing. “Sir, is there a point to all of this?”
“A point, Sir Samuel?”
“Well, yes, sir. I have matters to attend to at the Yard, and—”
“Yes, yes, I’m sure you do,” said Vetinari, turning to face him. “I’m sure you and Captain Carrot have lots of things to attend to.”
Vimes suddenly began to feel uncomfortable; he didn’t like where this was going. He can’t know anything about Carrot and me, can he? he thought. Oh, gods, please tell me we’ve been careful...
“As I’m sure you are aware, Sir Samuel,” Vetinari continued. “There’s very little that goes on in this city that escapes my attention. And one question I find myself asking, is why?”
Vimes shifted in his seat and stared at the carpet, suddenly unable to look Vetinari in the eye. “Er, why what, sir?”
“Why the Commander of the Watch would do something so stupid.”
“You keep saying that, sir,” said Vimes, his annoyance beginning to show. “But what am I supposed to have done that’s so bloody stupid?”
In the long silence that followed, Vimes began to wonder why he had asked that question. He had a feeling the answer was going to be the one he feared the most.
It was, as it turned out.
“I’m talking, commander, about your little affair with Captain Carrot.”
Vimes continued to stare at the carpet for a moment longer. Then he slowly closed his eyes. He wasn’t sure whether he wanted to laugh or cry.
Vetinari watched him, deliberately allowing him enough time to let what he’d said sink in.
Vimes put his elbows on his knees and buried his face in his hands.
Vetinari observed his reaction; acutely aware of the effect his words were having on him. A small pang of guilt suddenly forced him to speak.
“Oh, don’t feel so bad about it, Sir Samuel,” he said. “I suppose it’s quite understandable, in a way.”
“How did you find out?” said Vimes, his voice barely a whisper.
“Oh, I’ve had my suspicions for a while,” said Vetinari. “Captain Carrot is a frequent visitor to the palace as I’m sure you are aware. He was here this morning, actually. I’ve always liked him, you know, and I do so enjoy our little chats while he’s here. He never stops talking about you, you know. His love and admiration for you is quite astounding. And of course, his honesty is quite refreshing...”
Vimes looked up with a stunned expression. He could hardly believe his ears.
“Carrot told you?” he asked, incredulously.
Vetinari gave him a wry smile. “No, not in so many words,” he said. “But he’s quite incapable of lying you know, and it wasn’t difficult to read between the lines. After a while, it became quite obvious. To me, at least.” He waited a few moments, and then added. “And now, of course, you have just unwittingly confirmed my suspicions.”
You bastard! thought Vimes. You cunning, bloody bastard!
“The important thing now, of course,” Vetinari continued. “Is what do you intend to do about it?”
Vimes didn’t answer; he was still struggling to think straight.
“What would happen, do you think, if this knowledge were to somehow get out?” said Vetinari. “Can you even begin to imagine the effect it would have on your career?”
Vimes’ life suddenly flashed before him. Everything he had worked for, everything he had achieved up until now; his promotion to commander and the City Watch that had gone from the sorry bunch of men that it was; to what it was now. Dear gods, his marriage. And the future, the one thing he’d never had before, with Sybil and the new baby. Everything. All gone.
And then would come the shame, his family name once again dragged through the mud...
Vimes closed his eyes; he could hardly bear to think about it.
There was another long moment of silence.
“I, er...” Vimes rubbed his forehead and swallowed; his throat was dry. “What do you suggest I do?” he said hoarsely, unable to think of anything else to say.
“Under the circumstances, Sir Samuel, I think ending it would be the appropriate action, don’t you?”
Vimes looked up. “That’s it?” he said. “Just end it?”
Vetinari's expression softened somewhat. “Oh, come, Sir Samuel. Everyone makes mistakes. I don’t see as this matter need go any further than this office, do you?”
Vimes waited, as if expecting him to say something else, anything, not just this. Surely he’d try to threaten him? Or at least try to blackmail him? Was he really saying all he had to do was end it, and it would all be forgotten?
That didn’t sound like the Vetinari he knew.
“I just end it?” Vimes repeated, hardly believing what Vetinari had just said.
Vetinari nodded. “And I think sooner, rather than later, don’t you?” He walked back to his desk and returned his attention to the pile of papers that had occupied him earlier. “Please,” he said. “Don’t let me detain you. I seem to remember you have matters to attend to at the Yard, yes?”
Vimes got up a little unsteadily. “Er, yes, sir...”
Vimes headed for the door, and then stopped. He looked back at Vetinari, still half expecting him to say something else.
Vetinari didn’t bother looking up; he simply waved him out with his hand.
Vimes left the building almost in a trance. He descended the palace steps slowly, feeling sick and light-headed.
This was quite possibly going to be the worst day of his life.
He wasn’t naďve enough to think that Vetinari would just forget this. He would owe him for this for as long as the man drew breath.
But even now, he knew owing Vetinari for keeping this to himself wasn’t the hardest part. No, that part was easy; he could deal with that. In a way.
The hardest part, he realized, would be telling Carrot that it was over...