Carrot strode up the steps of the Patrician's Palace and entered, unannounced. Drumknott met him in the anteroom, somewhat surprised to see him again so soon.
“Captain Carrot,” he said, “I didn’t realize you had an appointment with his Lordship.”
“I don’t,” said Carrot. “But I think he’ll want to see me all the same.”
Drumknott smiled, pleasantly. “Well, it is rather late in the day, captain,” he said. “Perhaps it could wait until tomorr—” He suddenly became aware that Carrot was staring at him, and that he didn’t look happy. He blinked and pushed back his spectacles with a finger, deciding, wisely, that trying to stop him probably wasn’t a good idea. “One moment, captain,” he said. “I shall inform his Lordship of your arrival.”
Carrot smiled. “Thank you Drumknott,” he said. “That’s very reasonable of you.”
Vimes grabbed his coat and left his office, dropping Carrot’s keys into his pocket as he descended the stairs. He gave orders to Captain Noakes to take charge while he was gone, and then he left the building, heading for Carrot’s place.
The Patrician was sitting at his desk, going through the remainder of the day’s formalities, when Drumknott’s head appeared around the door.
“Milord?” he said politely.
“Yes, Drumknott,” said the Patrician, without looking up. “What is it?”
“Er, Captain Carrot is here, milord, he wishes to speak with you. He’s waiting in the anteroom.”
The Patrician raised an eyebrow. “Captain Carrot?”
“Yes, milord. He said it was important, and couldn’t wait.”
The Patrician paused for a second, and then continued to study his paperwork.
“Er, shall I tell him you’re busy, milord?” said Drumknott, anticipating his reply.
“No, Drumknott. If Captain Carrot says it’s important, then I think you’d better show him in, don’t you?”
“Of course, milord.”
Drumknott glided out of the room.
And Carrot strode in.
“Ah, Captain Carrot,” said the Patrician, giving him a thin smile. “What a pleasant surprise.”
“Glad you think so, sir,” said Carrot.
The Patrician stood. “Please...” he said, motioning to the chair in front of his desk. “Take a seat.”
“I’d rather stand, sir,” said Carrot. “If it’s all the same to you.”
The Patrician gave him a small nod.
“So, captain,” he said. “What can I do for you?”
“I think you know why I’m here, sir,” said Carrot, looking him directly in the eye.
The Patrician met his gaze, unflinching. “Yes, captain...” he said. “I believe I do.”
Vimes stood outside Carrot’s lodgings, searching in his pocket for the key. It was almost dark now, and the murky evening light meant he’d be able to let himself in without being noticed. He unlocked the door and entered, then sat on the bed, waiting for Carrot to return...
Captain Carrot of the City Watch and the Supreme ruler of Ankh-Morpork stood facing one another, each man obviously unafraid of the other. The contrast in the two men was quite striking. Regardless of the difference in physical appearances however, both men had one thing in common. It was a man named Samuel Vimes...
The Patrician was the first to speak.
“So, captain,” he said. “I assume the commander has sent you here to speak with me?”
“No, sir. Commander Vimes doesn’t know I’m here.”
“Really?” The Patrician looked taken aback. “But he did inform you of our little discussion this afternoon?”
“Yes, sir, he did.”
“And the matter has been dealt with, I trust?”
“If you mean has it changed anything between the commander and myself, sir, then no.”
Vetinari eyed him, carefully. “Are you telling me you would deliberately disobey an order, captain?”
“I wasn’t aware that it was an order, sir.”
Vetinari considered him for a moment and then turned towards the window. He hadn’t been expecting a confrontation, much less from Carrot. He would need more time to think about this sudden, unexpected turn of events...
Carrot recognized the signs. Vetinari wasn’t a man to lose his composure, but this was as close as he was going to get. Carrot took a deep breath and pressed forward, determined to see this through.
“Sir, why are you doing this to the commander?” he said.
The Patrician turned. “I beg your pardon?”
“Well, it seems obvious to me you care for him as much as I do—”
“You presume rather a lot, young man,” said Vetinari, a little testily.
Carrot held his breath, realizing he was skating on thin ice.
Vetinari continued. “You know... secrets are a dangerous thing to have, captain.”
“Yes, sir,” said Carrot, spotting the veiled threat. “But everyone has secrets...”
“And what is that supposed to mean, exactly?”
“Well, I talk to people,” said Carrot. “It’s amazing what they can tell you without actually saying anything at all...”
Vetinari glared at him.
Carrot smiled innocently. It was the sort of smile that managed to look both friendly and menacing at the same time. It said: “Two can play at this game.”
Vetinari turned away from him suddenly and returned his gaze to the window. He clasped his hands behind his back. Carrot couldn’t help noticing his knuckles had turned white.
A long moment of silence followed, in which the only sound that could be heard was the ticking of the clock.
Carrot licked his lips nervously, grateful that Vetinari had his back to him. He’d found a chink in Vetinari’s armour, and in an effort to save his commander; he had risked everything on it...
Finally, Vetinari spoke.
“It appears I have misjudged you, captain,” he said.
Carrot let his breath out slowly. “Could be, sir. It’s a mistake a lot of people make.”
There was another long moment of silence.
“Well, it appears this discussion is over, captain,” said Vetinari, turning to face him again.
“I take it everything’s... settled, then?”
“It would appear that way,” Vetinari conceded. “Seeing as I no longer have a choice in the matter.”
“No, sir. Thank you, sir.”
“I do trust, however, that you know the meaning of the word ‘discretion’, captain?”
“Yes, sir. Of course, sir.”
“Well, if there’s nothing else...”
Carrot turned and saw himself out.
Vetinari stared after him for a long time after he’d gone. He couldn’t imagine why he’d ever thought Carrot was simple; he was far from it. The young man didn’t miss a thing. He took in everything and there it stayed, just waiting for a chance to re-emerge...
He returned his attention to the window.
The sky outside glowed an eerie orange, the effect of hundreds of lights coming on all over the city. People everywhere were getting ready for bed. Sleep, however, was the last thing on Vetinari’s mind. How could he possibly sleep knowing he had failed? He knew how important Carrot had become in Vimes’ life, and his motive for wanting to end their relationship was purely selfish. Carrot had been right; he did care for Vimes. He’d wanted to end their relationship not because he thought it was wrong, but because it wasn’t him.
Drumknott went about his business in his room, ironing and laying out his clothes for the morning. Finally satisfied that everything was in order, he ran a bath and got ready to retire. He would be returning here to sleep later, as he always did, quietly slipping from the Patrician’s bed and returning to his own. Vetinari had always preferred to sleep alone, if the man ever slept at all.
He began wondering, vaguely, what Carrot had wanted to see the Patrician about, and if he would be stopping by for a chat like he always did. Carrot was asking some strange questions about the Patrician lately, but he knew there was no harm in answering them. After all, it was only Carrot...
Carrot arrived back at his lodgings and let himself in.
Vimes jumped up when he saw him, looking concerned. “Carrot!” he said. “Where have you been? I’ve been worried sick about you!”
“Really, sir?” said Carrot, smiling.
“Yes,” Vimes admitted, looking slightly embarrassed. “Really.”
“I’ve been to see the Patrician. We had a little chat.”
“You did what?” said Vimes, his face suddenly turning white.
“It’s okay, sir. Everything’s been sorted out.”
“Sorted out? But... how?”
“I’ll explain later,” said Carrot. “The important thing is, Vetinari can’t touch you anymore, and he knows it.”
“But, Carrot! How can you be sure of that?”
“Let’s just say Vetinari has a little secret of his own. I’m just playing him at his own game.”
“I-I don’t understand.”
“Well, I took a chance, and it paid off.”
“You took a chance?” said Vimes, suddenly regaining his senses. “Carrot, are you mad? What if it had gone wrong?”
“It would have been the end of my career, probably,” Carrot admitted. “But I couldn’t just let you—”
“Carrot, you idiot!” Vimes bellowed. “You can’t go around risking your career for my sake!”
“I considered it worth it, sir.”
“But you could have lost everything, Carrot! And for what?”
“For you, sir,” said Carrot. “And for us... if that’s what you still want, of course.”
Vimes stared at him; furious at him for being so reckless, knowing that he ought to grab hold of him and shake some bloody sense into him. Instead, he reached out and pulled him close, hugging him tightly.
“Oh, Carrot,” he said, fighting with mixed emotions. “Promise me you won’t do anything like that again.”
Carrot didn’t answer, knowing he’d do anything to protect his commander. Instead, he squeezed Vimes a little tighter; it seemed to suffice as a reply.
They finally broke the embrace, and Vimes looked up into Carrot’s face, knowing there was no longer any doubt in his mind about his feelings for him. He smiled, somewhat resignedly, and ran a hand through his hair. “Er, do you mind if I stay for a bit?” he asked, a little awkwardly. “I could, er, do with the company.”
Carrot smiled at him, the look on his face said, “Did you really need to ask?”
Previously, whenever they had made love, Carrot had been the one to initiate it. Vimes had always allowed that, partly because he lacked the confidence to do it himself, and partly because, in some strange way, it seemed to ease his guilt about their relationship. But now he had a need to show Carrot how much he loved him, which was why he did what he did next...
He kissed Carrot first.
He put a hand to Carrot’s cheek and kissed him affectionately, and for the first time ever, he surrendered completely to his feelings, loving Carrot more in that one moment than he had in all their time together. He still found it hard to tell Carrot that he loved him; it was just the way he was. But he could still show him, and hope that he understood...
Vimes drew his head back slowly, and looked up into Carrot’s wide blue eyes.
“Well, what was all that about?” said Carrot, smiling.
Vimes smiled back, but he didn’t say anything. He reached to the front of Carrot’s shirt and began to undo the buttons; he slipped his hands inside and ran them over Carrot's back. One hand reached to the back of Carrot’s neck, and he pulled him closer, kissing him again.
“Oh, sir...” Carrot whispered.
“Carrot...” said Vimes, reluctantly breaking the kiss. “Before we go any further, do you think you could stop calling me ‘sir’ at times like this?” He grinned.
Carrot grinned back. “Okay,” he said. “What would you like me to call you?”
“Well... ‘Sam’ would be nice.”
They smiled at one other.
Vimes trailed a finger down Carrot’s cheek and kissed him again, softly at first, stroking Carrot's cheek with the back of his hand, and then more passionately as the feelings within him stirred. He nuzzled behind Carrot’s ear and kissed his neck, his breathing becoming heavier with every kiss.
Carrot moaned. The sound of Vimes’ breathing and the feel of his warm breath on his neck were stirring more than his feelings. He desperately wanted to remove his breeches, but the thought of Vimes doing it for him made him wait. Instead, he reached under Vimes’ shirt and caressed his back, smiling as Vimes moaned softly in approval.
Vimes slipped Carrot’s shirt off completely and ran his hands over his chest; he was deliberately taking his time, caressing Carrot slowly.
Carrot’s breath was ragged. The fact that it was his commander teasing him like this was driving him wild. Impatiently, he pulled Vimes closer, causing one of Vimes’ legs to slip between his thighs. Carrot pressed himself against it, trying desperately to ease his growing erection.
Vimes grinned and reached for the top of his breeches, watching Carrot's face intently as he began to undo the buttons.
“Oh, Sam...” Carrot whispered.
Vimes paused for a second, enjoying the sound of his name on Carrot’s lips, secretly hoping he would use it again. Maybe he would if he did this right...
With ample help from an impatient Carrot, the breeches were soon on the floor along with the rest of his clothes. And Vimes’ clothes too. Vimes had a feeling he must be doing something right, he’d never seen Carrot move so fast, in less than a minute he’d managed to strip them both naked.
Carrot fell on to the bed, reaching for Vimes as he lay down beside him.
Vimes bent down and kissed him again, trailing his fingertips over the outside of Carrot’s thigh. As their kiss became more passionate, and Carrot’s urgency grew, his hand moved to the inside of Carrot’s thigh, and began moving up...
“Oh, Sam...” Carrot gasped, as Vimes’ hand reached its destination and closed around him. “D-don’t stop...”
Vimes’ heart beat faster as he stroked Carrot gently. He watched Carrot’s face, knowing all the right buttons to press to bring him to orgasm.
“Oh, gods, Sam!”
Carrot was on the brink, and Vimes knew he’d be on the brink too if Carrot didn’t stop saying his name. Suddenly Carrot grabbed his head, kissing him for all he was worth as he continued to stroke him. He was still kissing him as he came, crying out loudly into his mouth, calling out his name over and over again...
Vimes rolled onto his back. He grabbed Carrot’s hand and planted it firmly on his own erection. “For god's sakes do something with this, will you, Carrot?” he gasped. “Before I have to do it myself!”
Carrot smiled and willingly obliged. He watched Vimes’ face as he caressed him, and the long overdue orgasm tore through his body almost immediately. Then he bent down and kissed his cheek, as Vimes relaxed with a contented smile on his face.
They lay back on the bed. Vimes moved over and lay his head on Carrot’s chest, smiling as Carrot’s arms closed around him and his face nuzzled into his hair.
“I love you, Sam,” Carrot whispered.
“I... I love you too, Carrot...”
Carrot’s nuzzling suddenly stopped. “What did you say?”
“You heard me...”
Carrot smiled. “Say it again.”
“Don’t push your luck, Carrot,” said Vimes, smiling too.
Carrot laughed, and held him a little tighter; Vimes snuggled in.
“So, are you planning to tell me what Vetinari’s little secret is, then?” said Vimes, still smiling.
“Well, you’re never going to believe this,” said Carrot. “But he and Drumknott are, you know...”
Vimes lifted his head and looked at him. “No?” he said, flabbergasted. “Really?”
“Well, I’ll be... But then, why did Vetinari insist we end our relationship?” said Vimes.
“Why do you think?”
“It’s obvious, isn’t it? The man hates me.”
Carrot searched Vimes’ face, looking for an indication that he might be joking. He wasn’t. Vimes genuinely believed that Vetinari hated him, when the complete opposite was true. It amazed Carrot how this man lying in his arms could believe himself so unworthy of anyone’s love.
“Well, it doesn’t matter what he thinks anymore,” said Carrot. “We’re still together, and he can’t change that.”
Vimes lay his head on Carrot’s chest again. “Carrot...” he said. “Everything will be all right, won’t it?”
“Yes,” said Carrot, wrapping his arms around him protectively. “Everything will be all right. I promise.”
Lying in the warmth of Carrot’s embrace, Vimes could almost believe that was true. For as long as he could remember, he’d been looking out for other people, and now, someone was actually looking out for him...
‘...Quis custodiet ipsos custodies?’ Vetinari had once asked him. ‘Who guards the guards?’
‘That’s easy, sir,’ Vimes remembered replying at the time. ‘We guard one another...’
Maybe today wouldn’t be the worse day of his life, after all...