Midnight break-in, can't be too careful, there's practically a riot in the streets. No one at home, but still… it was the principle of the thing. Whose house was it? One of the Rust's, Selachii's, Venturi's? Vimes couldn't remember. It had been more than thirty years, and now he was experiencing it through the eyes of John Keel, not Sam Vimes. It was just as well. He felt sick just trying to imagine reliving this particular night as himself.
He watched from a shadow as Colon and Widget came bursting out the front door, away from the shrill scream of terror that had emanated from within. No help for poor Lance-Constable Vimesy, no sir. Just as well, just as well. Why were they here anyway? Who called on the Night Watch in the case of suspected burglary of a family with money? Unless… Vimes knew that half the city was involved in some sort of conflicting rebel plot to overthrow Winder. Yes, he knew that now, but he hadn't known it then. But then was now, and if this was all part of some fool plot, what was he supposed to do? He caught the door with the toe of his boot and slipped inside, while Colon and Widget retreated gracelessly into the distance.
He wished he'd forgotten, but no… no, he hadn't. Conscientious in a youthful sort of way, he'd actually counted the number of rooms on the left, after traveling up the opulent banister staircase and turning… right, was it? Yes, right. Turned right and counted six doors before entering. Why? Why not? So he could find he way back, at the time. He was amazed the directions had stuck in his head after all this time.
The sixth door on the left was open. It had turned out to be a lady's dressing room, but he hadn't been able to tell at the time. Vimes adjusted the eyepatch that, in his own mind, separated Keel from Vimes. Along with the thirty odd years of history, of course.
A plot to lure in that troublemaker Keel, and they'd only hooked poor, young Sammy Vimes. A failure by some standards, but by others… well. Vimes inched past the ornate alcove of the large, darkened room to get a better view. Inside, two figures grappled, illuminated only by the moonlight streaming in the window. He could see his own frightened face, but the other person wore a hood of dark colors so that he was barely more than a man-shaped silhouette. It seemed insubstantial, ghost-like, to Vimes' single eye… but he'd remembered having that weight on top of him, straddling his hips… and later beneath him, thin arms curling possessively around his neck. He remembered, and it had been far from insubstantial.
The unidentified figure was gaining the upper hand, almost without effort. Vimes remembered that he'd initially thought his attacker to be female; a very skilled female, but a female nonetheless. The petite, slender body, the almost delicate rhythm in every movement. Yes, Vimes mused, it'll be another few years before Vetinari gains that extra foot height advantage. Isn't it surprising how compact he was when he was young?
The pair of fighting-entwined bodies shifted violently; a hand flew out to the side and knocked against a table. Vimes winced. He remembered that. It had hurt. Several small items clattered to the floor, one of which was a small music box. Unharmed, the trinket had fallen in such a way that had opened the lid and kept it propped open. The weak, tinny tune permeated the air. Vimes remembered thinking it romantic at the time.
At the nearly the same instant as the music was jostled into life, young Vimes was beaten, pinned by the mystery attacker. A moment of complete, victorious, dreaded silence, before the figure in… was that a dark grey?… tugged off his hood impatiently and stared down into Sam's bewildered eyes.
Vimes looked away, disgusted with his younger self. He'd see that there were two ways a fight between a couple of young, hormone-laden boys could turn… ugly, when it was culminated by a trip to the doctor, the Watch, or the morgue… and uglier, when it was culminated by vulgar, inexperienced, aggression-laden sex.
Vimes looked back, after a moment. Like watching a traffic accident, a dreadful collision of carts and horses, he couldn't turn away for long. It was just as morbidly fascinating as it was shameful. Both boys were panting heavily, he could see his own young Adam's apple bobbing frantically up and down. He winced as he saw his attacker, an adolescent Havelock Vetinari, lean forward so that their noses nearly touched.
If only I knew then what I knew now. But then is now, at least… right now it is. And I could always stop this, separate them, spare myself the embarrassment of walking in fifteen years later and realizing that I'd buggered my boss years ago on the carpet of one of the Selachii ladies' boudoirs.
Or was it the Venturi's? Or the Rust's? It doesn't matter, not really.
A lift of the head, tilt of the chin, and the two strangers were kissing. Why? Vimes wanted so desperately to ask. Why, why, why? What was it you two idiots saw in each other? You are supposed to be fighting, for some stupid reason.
"Who are you?"
"A friend, Watchman."
Hissy whispers in the near-silent dark. He knew, of course he did. So why was he attacking me? To stop me from attacking him? He knew I was a Watchman; he didn't know my name. Why would he have? Was it at all important? Vimes found himself analyzing every offhanded movement for some clue as to what the little bastard had been thinking. If he had been thinking.
Short, dark hair, clear blue eyes with long lashes, a large nose, heavy eyebrows, pale skin, clean-shaven… the subtle light made Vetinari look gentle, almost attractive. Vimes looked away hastily, turning his gaze to his pubescent self. He, on the other hand, looked… well, confused, which was no surprise. And overwhelmingly skinny, scruffy, and tired, his brown hair falling messily into his eyes. The rusted armor he wore, which Vetinari was prying off with dexterous fingers, didn't help matters any.
And the damn music box was still playing its damn stupid little song. Yes, Vimes had thought it idiotically romantic as a child, idealistic. And then he'd grown up. Now the metal gears picking out a melancholy love song, while the little dancer spun atop the garish box, made him grit his teeth. It was all too ingratiatingly sweet. Yes, he'd thought it romantic back then, but now his adult self wondered why one of them just didn't reach over and close the lid, stopping that infuriatingly pleasant noise.
A little sigh from the two meshed bodies and then a moan. His own voice, Vimes realized. Vetinari had moved his lips down to Sam's neck. Was I really that much of a whore for attention? Vimes asked himself, allowing the common sense of almost a lifetime of police work get the better of him. I didn't know him, he was attacking me just a moment ago, he could kill me, why am I letting this happen?
Because it felt good. Because it felt good and I was stupid.
And Vetinari performed every movement as if he'd done it a dozen times before. And who knows, maybe he had. Vimes worried at his lower lip with his top teeth. Even if it was hard to picture Vetinari being the Assassin's dormitory slut, stranger things had happened.
Vice-less Vetinari, indeed. Vimes scowled and stared down at the rug. All these years… is he afraid that I may come forward someday and tell everyone I shagged him when we were kids? Profitable years ago, perhaps, but not now. Not now that I have Sybil and the Watch and… and a life. He ran a hand through his hair and leaned heavily against the wall. Is that why…? He'd never wanted to think about it, never wanted to question his own fortune.
Another moan. Vimes cautiously turned his eyes back to the two boys. Vetinari's fingertips had moved to the very top of Sam's trousers and… Vimes closed his eyes. That was his cue to leave. He didn't need to be there, he didn't want to be there. He knew how it would end. And Lance-Constable Vimes would come back to the Watch house of Treacle Mine Road and tell everyone that whoever it was had gotten away, but that he was all right, save for this nasty bruise on his hand. And John Keel wouldn't say a damned word.
But he might find himself humming the melody from the music box under his breath as young Sam walked by.