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Non Timetis Messor
by Mistress Arion

"I tell you this is intolerable!" Lord Downey said. "What are you going to do about it, man?"

Carried away by emotion, the Master Assassin grabbed the shoulder of the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork with one soft, white-fingered hand. Mr. Boggis of the Thieves Guild, who had burst into the Patrician's office along with his black-clad colleague, shuddered slightly.

Lord Vetinari stared at the hand with a bemused smile.

"I'm afraid you have me at a loss, my lord," he said. His pupils widened slightly as his eyes flicked to the offending extremity.

He's moving his hands, I can't see a weapon but he's moving his hands, Mr. Boggis thought in terror. The thief realized with a bladder-tightening jolt that even the crickets in the walls had gone silent as Vetinari slowly laid aside the parchment he had been perusing.

Boggis thought frantically, remembering that the Patrician had studied Languages at the Assassins' Guild. The quill on the desk suddenly seemed more, pointed, and the shadow about it somehow richer, than a moment before.

Lord Downey's gaze trailed along his own arm, and wandered off in search of somewhere safer to be. The assassin saw with horror that his fingers were still clamped on Vetinari's jacket.

"A spot, my lord," he coughed out, brushing frantically at the material where his fingers had lain.

"Oh, were you touching me?" Vetinari inquired innocently. "I hadn't noticed. Now what were you saying? I'm afraid I'd lost track."

"It's that damned thinking machine, my lord, that, that... Hex," Downey said, regaining some of his momentum.

"It's a problem, then?" Vetinari said calmly.

"A right bloody disaster is what it is," Mr. Boggis chimed in. "It will put us out of business!"

The Patrician radiated benign interest, "Oh, do go on."

"It's been, improved, my lord," Lord Downey said carefully. "By Leonard of Quirm."

"I was aware that a Mister Stibbons had requested that Leonard assist him with the device, something about the Trousers of Time and truth I believe."

"Oh, it's telling the truth all right," Mr. Boggis said. "It's being honest like anything."

"Then surely..." Vetinari began.

"It's answering questions like, "Will I be assassinated tomorrow?" Lord Downey said darkly.

"And, "Exactly how can I avoid being robbed this week?"" Mr. Boggis added.

"For anyone who asks," Lord Downey said.

"For free," Mr. Boggis moaned. "People are queuing up at the bloody gates."

"You have to do something," Lord Downey said, then wisely added, "My lord."

"Dear me, it seems I must," Vetinari said. "Has anyone seen His Grace Sir Samuel?"

Boggis and Downey exchanged a meaningful glance (recognized the world over as actually meaning: "I'll distract him and you call the Watch") and Lord Downey slowly nodded.

"Yes, my lord, we've seen Sir Samuel."

Vetinari waited with an expression of infinite patience, rather like that seen on the face of a Buddhist monk as he endures unbearable torture in order to demonstrate his disdain for fleshly sensation (in Vetinari's case he would endure someone else's torture, but the concept remains the same).

"And?"

"He was at the head of the queue, my lord, with a scroll I believe," Lord Downey said.

"The top of it said: "Have you seen these men?" Mr. Boggis said helpfully.

"I see," said Lord Vetinari. "How tiresome. I suppose I must do something after all." He tugged wearily at the bell-pull above his desk.

A moment later the door opened.

"Drumknott," the Patrician said to his waiting secretary. "Would you be so good as to have my carriage brought 'round? It seems I have an appointment at Unseen University."

"Of course, your Lordship," Drumknott nodded. "Is Archchancellor Ridcully aware that he wishes to see you?"

"Not just yet," Vetinari smiled, "and Drumknott?"

"Yes?"

"Please send word to Lady Sybil that Sir Samuel will likely not be joining her for dinner."

"Of course, my lord."

Havelock Vetinari stood, leaning heavily on his walking stick. Lord Downey and Mr. Boggis tactfully stepped aside as the tall, slender man in black limped past them.

Vulture, thought Lord Downey.

He looks like a bloody attack Flamingo, thought Mr. Boggis.

"Good day, gentlemen," Vetinari said, "please feel free to show yourselves out."

***

Deep in the mid of night, Vetinari once again sat at his desk. Candles flickered, casting liquid shadows across his face.

"I really don't know what Vimes expected," the man said in slight wonderment, "I did allow him to ask his questions."

The whole situation had actually resolved itself quite nicely, now that the going rate for one non-wizardly question to Hex was 10,000 gold pieces (payable in advance, not counting Patrician's tax). It was amazing how many pressing questions had suddenly become much less urgent.

The only problem remaining was... Leonard.

Leonard who invented things, things which were occasionally... dangerous.

Leonard who fixed things, without asking if they were better off broken.

Leonard who improved things.

Vetinari tapped his chin lightly with his writing quill as he thought of Leonard's work...

The Boat.

The gonne.

Flying machines.

Siege engines that rained fire.

Most created in the eternal trust that no one, no one, would ever actually use them to hurt their fellow man.

Leonard's genius failed him in that respect, Vetinari mused, because most people, most people were right bastards.

"Including me," Vetinari muttered. Without noticeable movement the knife was suddenly in his hand, gleaming in the flickering light.

He'd kept Leonard alive, kept him safe, because one of a kind was always precious, but deep inside he'd always known this day would come. It had been enjoyable, and he would even miss their conversations, but the man was... dangerous. Too dangerous. It had been foolish to allow him to live this long. A genius with rose-tinted lenses and the world-view of a concussed duckling would never, could never, be safe.

"He believes that no one would knowingly harm another," Vetinari whispered to himself as he stood, "A pity, really."

A few moments later and a careful watcher would have seen what appeared to be a lunatic in black hopping and skipping nimbly down a narrow corridor, walking stick deliberately placed with each move. Occasionally the lunatic leaned against a wall, as if for support.

If the observer had good ears this is what he might have heard:

"Yes, it's after midnight." A step to the left.

"No, it's not the forth Thursday after Hogswatch." A jump, and the walking stick pressed against a stone a meter ahead.

"It's Monday and it's not raining." Two rapid leans against the wall, hands touching only slightly separated stones.

A very careful listener would have heard the machinery softly whirring in the walls.

Vetinari eventually reached the door at the end of the passage, and withdrew a large brass key from his jacket. It turned silently in the lock.

The door opened on a large airy room, dark now except for the hearth-fire's dancing flames. The room's sole occupant slept quietly on his wide canvas cot.

The room itself, in better light, appeared to be a combination workshop and boot-sale graveyard. Strewn about were the ghosts of ideas past, constantly under revision. Vetinari chuckled sadly under his breath as he caught sight of a twinkling star of distorted metal glowing softly on the wall, the smeared remains of a tea machine that had gone critical.

The man shook himself slightly. No time to become sentimental now, some things had to be done.

For the city.

Because it was his duty.

Because he was an Assassin.

Because Leonard deserved someone who cared.

"Leonard," the Patrician called gently. The knife in his hand did not tremble. He laid his walking stick carefully against the table.

"Hhuuh? Whazzit?" The figure on the cot rolled over and began to snore.

"Leonard," Vetinari said again, "Wake up."

"Wha... Who... oh, it's you my lord, can I..." Leonard of Quirm sat up groggily, his voice fading as he saw Vetinari's face.

"You must get up now, Leonard," the Patrician said gently.

Calmly Leonard said, "We've reached the end, haven't we, my lord?"

Vetinari nodded silently.

Leonard swung his legs from the warmth of the cot, nightshirt flapping about his knees. With a sigh he removed his nightcap and placed it carefully on the pillow. He fumbled a bit to get his carpet slippers on the right foot, then stood, turned his back to Vetinari, and slowly walked to face the fire.

Vetinari took a deep breath at the sight of the man's tightened shoulders and tangled hair. The inventor's bald head rose through the sleep knots like a smooth china bowl.

"I always knew this would happen eventually, my lord. It's all right." Leonard's voice trembled slightly.

Lord Vetinari bit his upper lip as the other man lowered himself to his knees, keeping his back carefully straight and his eyes firmly locked on the flames.

"I am ready, my lord," Leonard said, his words now quavering quite audibly.

Vetinari moved to stand directly behind the kneeling genius, laying his left hand lightly on the man's left shoulder. His right hand, his knife hand, hung loosely at his side.

"Is there anything you need to do first?" he asked quietly. He could feel the man trembling.

"No, my lord."

Vetinari winced inwardly as Leonard raised his shaking right arm, and firmly clasped the Patrician's hand as it lay on his shoulder. The fingers were cold.

"I am ready, my lord, but... please, be quick."

He would take comfort from his assassin, Vetinari thought tiredly as Leonard's fingers held his own in a strangling grip. He trusts me not to hurt him. To kill him, yes, but not to hurt him.

The Patrician leaned forward slightly and saw the tears glowing on the other man's face.

"Why do you cry?" he asked coldly.

"Because... because I have so loved my life," Leonard sobbed, "and because I always feared you would send someone else, for this, and I would be alone at the very end." Leonard's breath came in shaking pants as he whispered, "You have always been my only friend."

Vetinari felt the man's body tighten as he brought his arm around and prepared the blade for a killing stroke. He realized his hand was holding Leonard's in a white knuckled clench. Leonard raised his head slightly to provide greater access to the throat, and whimpered as his bladder let go in terror.

"Please, my lord, end this," the man sobbed out. "Strike."

The Assassin turned politician stood frozen as rivulets of urine threaded past his gleaming boots. Images filled his mind: he and Leonard hiding behind the table as the coffee machine rumbled, Leonard smiling shyly as he held out another drawing, another invention, Leonard peddling the Boat as he watched, and smiled.

Assassin's training or no, he could not kill this man.

With a bright clink, the knife fell to the flagstone floor.

"Get up," Vetinari said harshly.

"Please, my lord, do not toy with me," Leonard whispered.

"I cannot do this," Vetinari said, "just get up." He pulled his fingers loose from the other's cold damp grip and stepped back a brisk pace.

"I... I'll... yes, my lord," Leonard got out at last. Slowly the terrified man struggled to his feet.

"Turn around, Leonard."

The inventor pivoted carefully, head hung down, rather like a puppy prepared to be whipped. His nightshirt hung despondently from his hunched shoulders, the large wet spot down the front making the fabric cling awkwardly to his legs and groin. The man's face was a study in dismay, and he cupped his hands protectively over the center of the dampness, as if to hide it.

"I've had an accident, my lord," he murmured. "I'm sorry." His voice sounded as if it was wrapped in cotton wool, and his legs shook.

Vetinari stepped forward and caught the man as he began to fall.

"No, Leonard, I am sorry," Vetinari said, as he half-dragged, half-guided the shaking man to a nearby chair. "Terribly sorry."

The Patrician scrubbed his face roughly with his hands, "I cannot kill you, and I promise you that I will not give the order to have someone else do it. Your life is safe."

Leonard stared at him with glassy, unfocussed eyes. "I feel quite sick, my lord, maybe it would be better if you just left me now. I will be fine after a bit of rest."

"If you like," Vetinari said. He turned to go, picking up his stick as he passed the table.

As he approached the door a voice in his head said quietly, "Oh, you really are a right bastard, aren't you?"

He paused and turned to look again at Leonard.

"You've scared him into pissing himself," the voice said, "now you're going to leave him sitting there, alone, too sick and frightened to even get into the bath. Maybe he can just sleep there, wet and stinking, and when he wakes up it will have dried on him. That way he can think about this tomorrow, too."

Vetinari closed his eyes momentarily and exhaled deeply.

"I'm not a nursemaid," he thought helplessly, and then the cynical little voice cut in again, "Ooh, no, you can't be expected to help fix things, Mr. Assassin-my-lad. Leave that to someone else. Oh, there won't be anyone else? Well then, he doesn't need help. He's obviously as right as rain."

The Patrician sighed and walked back to the chair where Leonard slumped with his eyes closed.

"Let me draw you a bath, and we'll find you a fresh nightshirt," he said.

Leonard looked up slowly. "I don't want to inconvenience you, my lord."

Vetinari stared at the man with horror. He means it, he realized, he truly fears he is causing me a bother. A genius beyond compare, and he has no idea...

Dropping to one knee, with his walking stick for leverage, Vetinari met the other man's eyes directly.

"It will not be an inconvenience," he said.

Leonard gestured weakly to a corner of the room. "The bath is over there," he said softly. "Just turn the knobs until you get the right mixture of hot and cold water."

Vetinari frowned in puzzlement. "I don't have to heat the water?"

"No, my lord. The hot water is in a tank above the fire, when you open the knob it pours out."

The Patrician nodded appreciatively as he made his way to the large wooden tub. Trust Leonard to have invented a better bath.

After a moments fumbling with the unfamiliar knobs and drain stopper, Vetinari had the tub filling with warm water. He quickly removed a sad looking washcloth, a scrubby sponge shaped like a frog, and a rather suspect bar of purple soap, all of which floated to the top as the water reached maximum depth.

"Come on, then." He had to seize the inventor by the hand and tug before Leonard would rise - clearly planet Quirm had entered an asynchronous orbit with the remainder of the Disc. Carefully the pair made their way back to the tub, Leonard staggering and wandering in shock, and Vetinari leaning heavily upon his cane.

"Let's get that shirt off," Vetinari said. Leonard leaned heavily against the side of the tub, and plucked weakly at the soiled cloth.

"I can't," he said.

"Let me help you." Vetinari stooped slightly, and slid his arms up the inside of the nightshirt. Holding the material taunt, he delicately maneuvered it over the man's head, careful not to touch the inventor's face with the wet fabric.

The Patrician had to stop the other man as he tried to step into the tub. "The drawers, too," he said in a deliberately neutral voice.

"Oh," Leonard said. He pulled then down slowly, dreamily, and stopped when they reached his knees. He stared at the Patrician in confusion.

Vetinari blew out a breath, and used his foot to push the saturated cloth to the ground. "Step out," he said gently. "Now you can get in the water."

He pushed the cast-off clothing aside as Leonard sank into the bath. With a sigh the inventor leaned back and let his hair stream in the warmth.

"What now?" Vetinari thought.

"Have you seen the soap?" Leonard asked softly.

Vetinari picked up soap and sponge, and handed them over. He watched in silence for a moment as Leonard made a few half-hearted scrubbing motions, then let the materials drop from his hands. "I'm too tired right now," Leonard whispered, "I'll finish in a bit."

Without a word Vetinari fished the discarded ablutionary items from the steaming bath and slid the sponge onto his hand. Hearing Leonard's voice, normally brimming with childish glee and the joy of discovery, now tremulous and hushed, made him feel as if a huge uncaring hand were viciously massaging his heart.

With trepidation, he began to lave away at the unresisting inventor, glossing over those bits that he felt would clearly be an invasion. Instead he focused on the extremities, upper torso, and hair, paying special attention to the tightly clenched back. When cleanliness had once again been achieved, he allowed the soaked sponge to fall with a plop.

"I'll be right back," Vetinari said. "Don't get out." Leonard nodded slightly, his eyes closed.

Hurriedly, the Patrician went to the sideboard, where he kept a small supply of Nanny Ogg's Best Brandy ready for his occasional after-dinner visits. He poured a small amount into a glass, then paused.

Thuds and clunks abounded, then a hand appeared triumphantly clutching a leather pint mug. Sloshing occurred.

A moment later, and Vetinari reappeared at tub-side, bearing what had become known Disc-wide as not only a cure for sobriety, but also verticality. He placed the mug carefully in Leonard's hands.

"Drink this, slowly," Vetinari said, "you're going into some kind of shock."

Leonard nodded again, and without opening his eyes to see what he held, quaffed the contents of the mug and allowed it to fall to the floor.

Vetinari stared. The man had just downed a pint of Nanny Ogg's brandy. There were Dwarves who couldn't survive a pint of Nanny Ogg's brandy.

"How do you feel?" he asked cautiously.

Leonard opened his eyes and stared dully at the taller man.

"I wish you had killed me." He closed his eyes again.

Vetinari's heart gave a peculiar thud at the man's hopeless, flat reply. There was no trace of the innocent, child-like Leonard present in either word or tone.

"Why ever for?" the Patrician asked in honest bewilderment.

"To have you see me, like this... To have to help me..."

"But I caused it," Vetinari said.

"But I should not..." Leonard began, then tried again, crying softly, "I knew, some day, I would become a danger to you, to the city."

Vetinari nodded.

"But I did not expect... it to be you who came." His voice broke slightly.

The Patrician frowned his incomprehension. "But you said..."

"I said that I feared it would be someone else, not that I expected it to be you. I was prepared for a stranger, a quick thrust to the back and..."

"I would not have allowed someone who might... hurt you," Vetinari said in a dazed voice. We're talking about his assassination as if it were a medical exam, he thought.

"When I saw it was you, I tried to be brave, to make it easier for you," Leonard said in a trembling voice. "But now I've mucked it all up."

The Patrician shook his head rapidly back and forth. "Leonard, I just tried to kill you! Will you please stop apologizing to me? I really don't regret your inability to make the experience a joyous one."

Leonard's lips twitched. "You're not mad at me, then?"

"Because you failed to go happily to your own death? Of course not," Vetinari said firmly.

"And you'll still bring me my supplies? And we'll drink coffee?" Leonard quavered. A spark appeared in his dead eyes.

"Certainly," Vetinari said, "but only if you get out of that tub before you catch your death." He winced as the words escaped, but Leonard appeared not to have noticed.

"There are clothes and towels in the wardrobe, my lord," Leonard said weakly, gesturing to the hulking shape partially hidden behind what appeared to be a small-scale model of a wooden scaffold with several tiny linked carts on it.

Vetinari had to ask, as much to distract the inventor as to inform himself. "What's that in front of it?"

"Oh, nothing much," Leonard answered, "a roller based coasting device, for amusement at fun-airs. I call it my "Really-high-wooden-track-with-a-cart-and-another-cart."

Vetinari shook his head; some of Leonard's inventions would never catch on. He retrieved nightshirt, drawers, and towels after a brief struggle with the wardrobe's noisome depths.

"Can you stand?" Vetinari inquired. "I should be asking if he can move after all that brandy," he thought to himself.

"Yes, my lord," Leonard said. The man stood and stepped cautiously from the tub. He blinked owlishly at the Patrician. "But I feel, most strange."

Vetinari quickly began to towel dry the man, working faster as it became evident that the brandy was indeed having an effect.

"Wha' the d'ce er ma s'l'p'r's?" Leonard mumbled, as Vetinari tried frantically to place the nightshirt over his suddenly bobbing head. He missed, and the white length fluttered to the floor.

The Patrician bent to retrieve it, releasing the inebriated inventor who immediately wandered off in search of his missing footwear.

"Leonard, wait."

The Supreme Ruler of Ankh-Morpork suddenly found himself stealthily chasing a wavering but briskly-moving naked man, with a nightshirt, while the man in question happily burbled at the floor, several stuffed birds he staggered by, and his own toes.

"Leonard, hold still."

At last the Patrician managed to lasso his tottering quarry, pulling the nightshirt firmly over his head.

"Now, Leonard," he said sternly, as the inventor giggled and pointed to a horde of invisible blue mice, "It's time for bed." The drawers could be damned, Vetinari decided, herding his charge toward the cot. Thank the gods Vimes wasn't here to see this.

"Nighty ni't s's Mr. Jelly!" Leonard said brightly.

"That's right," Vetinari said, "Nighty night." He gave a slight push and Leonard bounced bottom first onto the cot.

The inventor trilled, "Wheeee," then shook the pillow from it's case and pulled the cloth over his head.

"'m ghooost," he muffled out, "wwhhhoooo."

Vetinari choked back a snort, and swung the man's legs into bed. He pulled up the covers with his other hand. After a brief tussle he managed to return the pillowcase to its rightful place.

Leonard lay on the pillow at last, smiling brainlessly. He waggled his fingers at the Patrician in a friendly sort of way.

Vetinari waved back.

"Go to sleep, Leonard," Vetinari said, "I'll be back in the morning and we can have a nice talk."

Leonard's smile slowly tugged downward, becoming a grimace of fright. Great drunken tears welled up in his eyes.

"Don' go, m'l'rd," he managed.

"I have to go now, Leonard," Vetinari said. This was getting sticky.

"But i's d'rk in here," Leonard mumbled, "'m 'fraid of d'rk."

Vetinari shook his head.

"Leonard, I'll be back in the morning."

As quickly as his weak leg would allow, Vetinari made for the door. His fingers brushed the knob and he heard the soft sound of bed clothing being pushed aside.

He stopped.

"H'velock?" A voice said quietly, with effort.

He turned.

"Pl'se, pl'se don' leave me h're, alone," Leonard said carefully, forcing his tongue and brain past the brandy's lingering effects. He sat up and gulped. "I can', I can'..."

Vetinari limped slowly back to the cot, and sat heavily beside the wretched man.

"I have never heard you use my name before," the Patrician said.

"'m s'rry, m'l'rd," Leonard said, and cringed, "I won'..."

"That's all right, Leonard, I don't mind," Vetinari said quickly, "I was surprised, that's all." Impulsively, he stroked the other man's wet, tangled hair.

Leonard looked at him beseechingly, "Pl'se, please, don' l'v me h're alone. St', stay, with me."

Vetinari nodded. He felt his pulse racing and swallowed a time or two to clear his throat. "All right, Leonard. I won't leave you. But you have to sleep."

A large inebriated grin spread across the inventor's face. "Wh'ch s'de you wan'?" he asked muzzily.

The Patrician realized with shock that Leonard was asking which side of the cot he wanted. Feeling suddenly much too warm, he began to protest and stopped as tears once again began to well up in the man's eyes.

"Don't cry, for Io's sake," he said hurriedly, "I'll take this side." He pointed to the side facing out into the room. "Let me get my boots off."

Leonard scooted over and laid back down as Vetinari swung his long legs into the cot. A moment later, and the Patrician sighed deeply as the other man began to snore.

"Well, this is a fine mess," Vetinari thought to himself, "all I need now is Mr. De Worde and that damned vampire with his iconograph." He chuckled quietly as he allowed himself the luxury of imagining the look on Sam Vimes' face.

Unable to sleep, the Patrician sat up in the cot, and peered at the slumbering inventor.

Why couldn't I kill him? Why not him? Vetinari mused. I've been an Assassin for 37 years, man and boy. Perhaps my stomach has weakened? He thought for a moment.

No, surely not. Why, just last week he'd nailed that street performer upside-down to the wall in the tower; using him as a coat hook for two days before remembering to cut him down. And the week before that... he'd sent six more mimes to the scorpion pit...

Leonard moaned slightly in his drunken sleep, breaking Vetinari's reverie. Without thinking, the Patrician laid a thin-fingered hand on his head, smoothing the tangles from his face.

"Shhh, it's quite all right," he whispered, "I'm still here."

The inventor quieted.

Vetinari smiled and stroked the man's brow, then froze as he realized what he was doing. I couldn't kill him because... because... The man shuddered with the horror of dawning awareness. Oh no, not Leonard.

"Ye gods, how could I have let this happen?" he whispered. "Not Leonard."

He covered his face with his hands and tried to think rationally. How long had it been? Mentally he ticked off the last yea... five years... twelve years...

Twelve years. And he couldn't remember how long before that.

"But what should I have done?" he said quietly to the empty room. "Married some well-bred baggage with bunny teeth and a brain that would make a whelk blush? Or maybe visited the Guild of Seamstresses, and hoped I'd be well in less than a year?"

The man was all too aware of the large number of women, and no few men, who fought for his favor at every ball and tea. (At Lady Selachii's he'd had to make his escape through a window to discourage one particularly amorous young miss). That was why he no longer attended unless forced. While comfortable with his own assets, Vetinari was also quite sure that most of his would-be paramours considered his wealth and position as Supreme Ruler of the largest city on the Disc, to be the greatest among them.

And then there was Leonard.

Vetinari smiled softly.

Leonard, who would never understand a monetary system, and who thought he was rich if he had two new pencils and a piece of parchment.

Leonard, who did not understand what a Patrician did, but knew he never wanted to be one.

Leonard, who listened when you talked, not to curry favor, but because he wanted to know.

Leonard... who was beside him in bed right now.

Vetinari's smile faded. That would never do. The man was a genius, yes, but he was also an... innocent. "I'm here right now," Vetinari said softly to himself, "because I've scared him so badly, not because he's taken me to his bed."

Lying down at long last, the Patrician swore to himself that the man would never know why he had been allowed to live.

As sleep washed over him, however, he thought drowsily, "He called me Havelock..."

***

The Ruler of Ankh-Morpork awoke abruptly to the sound of screams, and the feel of a bolt of cloth being punted at his head.

Not just cloth, he realized, an arm.

Leonard's arm, which was currently attached to Leonard's body, which was apparently currently attached to either a red hot poker, or a nightmare of some magnitude.

Seeing no suspicious pokers, Vetinari shook the screaming man briskly.

"Leonard, wake up!"

"No, noooo, no, please nooooo," Leonard moaned.

"Wake up, Leonard!" He shook harder.

The noise shrieked to a crescendo, then stopped suddenly as the man's eyes flew open. He managed to focus on the Patrician, and froze.

"You were having a nightmare," Vetinari said soothingly. "It's all right now."

Leonard's mouth moved silently for a moment, then he said, "You really are here, my lord."

Vetinari smiled sadly.

"I'm sorry for waking you, my lord."

How could the man be so apologetic, after what had happened? Vetinari wanted to comfort him, to hold him, to tell him it would never, ever happen again. How could the man forgive this easily, unless... unless...

"Oh no," Vetinari thought. "Surely he doesn't..."

Vetinari realized that he had not replied, and shook his head in dismay. "My name is Havelock, after tonight you have earned the right to use it. Are you quite all right?"

Leonard nodded and looked away.

("Don't you dare!" his brain said loudly, "You're making a mistake!")

Uncertainly, Vetinari put his arms around the shaken man. "It will be all right," he said.

("What are you doing?" his brain screamed, "You're the Patrician of the City, you can't do this!")

Leonard turned to meet his gaze, his eyes large and unsure.

(His brain and conscience swung a battering ram at the inside of his head, "You can still stop this, Don't look into his eyes, DON'T LOOK INTO...")

"Havelock is a nice name," he whispered, and the Patrician's heart broke in his chest.

He tightened his grip carefully, drawing the inventor toward him slowly, inexorably... He brushed the man's forehead gently with his lips, and forced himself to stop.

"Do you want, this?" Vetinari asked gently. ("Are you mad?" his pride screeched. "Don't ask him, tell him! You're the ruler of Ankh-Morpork, and you're as frightened as a blushing boy."). "Do you want me to...?" He left the remainder unsaid, unsure if the other man even understood the gist of the question.

In reply, Leonard laid his head against the man's chest, hugging him tightly about the waist as he did so.

"I don't want you to go away, my lord," he said.

Vetinari sighed. "Leonard, you don't have to allow me to, to... take liberties with you, to ensure your continued well being. I will be here as I always have been, regardless of your answer." He steadied his voice minutely. "If you do not want my, attentions, I will not inconvenience you again with them."

Leonard jerked upright. "No, my lord! I mean, no, Havelock." He fluttered his hands lightly across Vetinari's cheekbones, then across to brush his chin and throat. Vetinari shuddered as the sensations sent a stab of pleasure directly to his groin. He closed his eyes and gave himself up to the inevitable.

"Have you done this before?" he asked, capturing the other man's hands with his own. Please let him say yes, he thought, frantically.

"Yes, my... Havelock," Leonard replied. "But not for a very long time."

Vetinari smiled. "I have heard one doesn't forget," he said dryly. "Let us hope that for at least one of us the saying is correct." He angled his head and parted his lips slightly in invitation.

And then there was... rapture.

Fire.

He broke this kiss at last, gasping, and stared at Leonard in astonishment.

Leonard smiled shyly. "I did say it had been a while," he said.

Havelock gawped silently, realizing only after a moment that, in his own particular way, Leonard had just made a joke.

The Patrician snorted. "I rather think you would have killed me, then, had you been in practice."

Leonard beamed, and lay back, stretching out his arms to the man beside him.

Deliberately, Vetinari pulled his shirt over his head and tossed it away. In a moment his black Assassin's trousers followed. He lay down.

There was creaking.

There was rather more energetic creaking, followed by moaning...

(On Dunmanifestin, Blind Io, hearing his name more often than was usual, popped out to have a brief congratulatory word with his devout worshipper - He reappeared in a moment, red-faced and cursing.)

There was murmuring, then silence.

Havelock Vetinari, Supreme Ruler of Ankh-Morpork and Master Assassin, lay basking in afterglow. A foolish grin wandered across his face and sewed itself firmly to his lips.

Leonard.

Of all people, Leonard.

He felt a tug as the inventor snuggled more firmly against him.

What will Lord Downey say? Vetinari thought, and chuckled to himself.

He planted a soft kiss on Leonard's forehead, and shuddered slightly as he thought of how close it had been.

It was a marvel, really, that Leonard wanted him, trusted him, after...

He derailed his train of thought briskly. All that mattered now was the future, and Leonard. Vetinari smiled again at the very thought.

...And of course, Ankh-Morpork, and the Watch, and the scorpion pit...

He cuddled the dozing man beside him gently as he settled in to sleep.

~
Finis

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