Disclaimer: Vetinari and Vimes were both invented by Terry Pratchett and the characters are owned by him. He'd probably be appalled by what I've done with them - sorry!

Lord Vetinari smiled. That is, he allowed one corner of his mouth to quirk upwards, which in anyone without his rigid control would have been screaming hysteria. He was very much amused.

It had never ceased to amaze him that, after twenty years as Patrician, the people of Ankh-Morpork were still inventing romantic entanglements for him. It was quite incomprehensible, but in its way oddly endearing. He ran the city for its own profit and for his love for power, but he did sometimes feel a sneaking affection for the people in it. He strangled it, of course. Every person was merely useful potential for foment and discord. Or, in the case of the one now waiting in his outer office, anger and action.

He smiled again. Did they think that he didn't know what they said? He saw the man briefly every week, but anyone asked would have put the Duke high on the list of Patrician's Paramours. Rather a compliment, Vetinari supposed, that he could be suspected of seducing a married man in fifteen minutes. The left corner of his mouth joined its fellow in curving into a smile as he called out "Come!"

Vimes entered the office and almost fainted. He had never seen the Patrician smile quite like that before. What he usually felt in Vetinari's presence was abject fear, but it was now joined by extreme nervousness. He swallowed.

"Ah, commander," said Vetinari, not letting up on the formidable smile, "I hope that you will honour us with your presence at the soirée tonight - you did get the invitation?"

Vimes, who had, for once, seen the gilt-edged card before it was lost in the mounds of paperwork on his desk, stared straight ahead. "Sir?"

"Oh, what a pity. That makes it rather short notice, doesn't it? Still, I'm sure that you can find your ducal regalia by seven. And how is the city?"

He dragged his mind from the Patrician's finely chiselled cheekbones with an effort. "Very quiet, sir. There's been nothing all day."

"Dear me. But the rumour mills are still grinding well."


"Oh, the usual gossip about the private lives of well-known figures. Nothing true, of course, but I always find that it is useful to know what people think."

Vimes couldn't help it, and his concentration was all on Vetinari's vulpine nose. "What do they think, sir?"

"Well, there's always the faction that considers a quarter of an hour's report each week the ideal basis for a liaison..."

Vimes translated this and blanched. "You mean... they say that you... that I... that we..."

"Absolutely. You seem to have mastered the situation with admirable precision."

If he smiles any more, though Vimes, I'll faint. "But it isn't true, sir!"

"I had worked that out, commander. This is merely rumour."

And his smile had heightened, and Vimes found his eyes drawn to the long fingers, so slim and strong and capable, steepled at Vetinari's lips. The Patrician really did have quite extraordinarily lovely hands.... Vimes felt himself sliding.

"Sir, I... they needn't... I mean..."

And the Patrician had stood up and rounded the desk. "It needn't be rumour?" he had asked in the silkiest of his many sensual tones, and Vimes had felt himself blush like a tomato in a Turkish bath. And Vetinari had caught him as he lost control and then, lying in those remarkably strong thin arms, Vimes had looked up into the twin stars of those slate-grey eyes that he had only ever glimpsed before, that had been so cold and yet so compelling. But as he had looked into them they had flamed into passion. And Vetinari had put him gently onto his feet and gathered him into an embrace, and at last dreams had become reality. And it wasn't until Vimes was walking dazedly back towards Pseudopolis Yard with the memory of that last fiery press of his lips that he remembered Sybil.