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Disclaimer: I trust you know whom Discworld belongs to. This particular story concerned, I also want to thank and apologize to Thomas Harris and Badge177, for shamelessly stealing styles and ideas. If someone else finds their work referred to, feel free to poke me '-)

A present for dear Jinxster who dislikes sad fics.
The present tense is dedicated to Siān, wherever she is.


by Miss Malice


...A room. Make it an office, it certainly does look official. It's got everything an efficient office ought to have, and something more to denote the class, both fancy and severe. It seems to say, "You'd better have a good reason for coming in."

There's a man working at the desk. The sun, setting, paints his papers absurdly cheerful pink. He does not give a damn about the sun. Shuffle, shuffle, parallel processing in action as his mind wanders elsewhere, beyond the dubious confinement and shelter of the office, beyond walls and doors... Alas, there is not enough paperwork left, and the thoughts come back.

He breathes in deeply. The long day, leaving, has added a new layer of smells to the simple basic gamma. What would that be, now? A unique bouquet of the street's specials, a hint of armour polish, suspicion, another hint of smoke, rich and strong, a good tobacco, confusion, and... fear... yes, the copper-tinged scent of blood. Blood, now red and vivid, now drying, like organic rust... Their blood mixing on the cobbles, on their clothes, soaking through... He sighs, sensing an unwelcome migraine coming.

The sun has disappeared behind the roofs now, and the last light streaming through the high windows bleeds all shades of orange, from gold to rust. For a while the room looks like an exquisitely carved piece of amber with something ancient and probably dangerous fossilized within. The glory, though, is lost on the single office occupant.

Soon darkness falls, pours in through the same windows that earlier let in the festive lights. The room is all dark gray and blue now, save for an occasional gleam of brass or polished wood. The man at the table does not bother with candles. Fear, he thinks about that, tapping the quill pen against his lips. He thinks about what he had said earlier in the day, concerning love and fear.

I want you to look him in the eye, and when you see fear rooted deep inside, ask yourself whose doing it is. Perhaps that will convince you to reconsider my, advice.

Perhaps not... There are things even the strongest cannot bear.

Of all pleasures, the sight he has denied himself, for he could not bear seeing dread in those eyes. Has it changed anything? Oh please. Pain and pleasure, pleasure and pain, the oldest game, and you learn to enjoy that piercing surreal sensation...

He pushes the chair back and walks up to a window, glances at the stars above and the city lights below. The night is old, it always is. Leaning against the frame, he thinks of time now. Or rather times. And spaces. The greater scheme, the potential of the Multiverse fascinates him.

There are worlds where none of this had happened. There are worlds where their blood dries on the cobbles, and that is all of it. There are variations where tobacco and metallic scents mix in a different bedchamber. The man's lips curve in a brittle smile, which does not quite reach his eyes. He does not want any of it. Awfully pragmatic, he's never been into wishful thinking.

Somewhere there is a place where gold does not turn to dust. At that he grins and shakes his head, the lurking headache gently probing for a way back.

He senses a presence in the room behind and wonders briefly whether it is his proverbial alertness or anticipation. He senses confidence and concern but no doubt. A bit of weariness. Emotional bits and pieces lacing something entirely else... And suddenly the night is young, an illusion he indulges himself in, and there are few. The beasts are asleep, not even born yet as the comfortable silence carries on, comfortably broken in time.

"I wonder if it works," he says into the night.

"It works for us," the night whispers back. Close enough for him to just barely feel a breath on the nape of his neck.

"Indeed," now he smiles, chuckles softly, traces a line on the windowsill. "Lucky we are."

A hand touches him, his upper back, runs lightly over the shoulders, warm fingertips brush his neck, the touch butterfly, sunbeam light, wandering, dancing, a sleepwalk caress, with an uncanny ease finding lines and knots of tension, teasing him into relaxation. The night peeps in through myriads of its eyes, breathes cold into his face through the windowpane. But there is nothing to see. See?

Another chuckle as he mentally puts together absolute discretion and absolute transparency. The combination is... elegant. Warm velvety touch travels up and down his arm. Restless patience, another rarity, and for him alone to savor. The thought makes him shudder, ever so slightly. Love so great no one would normally notice it. How true. How human.

He turns suddenly, arresting those tempting fingers, stepping away from the window with a dancer's grace. There, in the shadow velvety and deep, he bends to brush his lips across the knuckles, feeling the fingers spasm in his grip, hearing a faint gasp, longing...

"Do not blow out the candles tonight." The words are beyond whisper, a soft vibration tangling with the lingering echo of Love so great...

Finally, he can taste it in a smile when their lips touch.


...An empty dark room. And the night is old again.


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