Reaping Affection
Chapter One

I own nothing. I only wish I did

UPDATE: I'd like to apologise to everyone who read this chapter with it's complete lack of paragraph spaces. I hadn't realized that the last time I'd fiddled with it I'd somehow removed all the breaks, and I hadn't checked to see that the document came out nicely on ff.n after uploading. I'm so sorry to everyone whose enjoyment of the fic was thrown off by the lack of spacing.

* * *

It was almost Hogwatch, a time when most people would be full of holiday cheer and love for all mankind (or dwarfkind, trollkind, or even vampirekind, depending on who we're focusing on at any given moment). It was widely believed that anyone unhappy during this time of the year was a most sad and pathetic individual indeed.

In a secluded corner in Biers Susan Sto Helit sighed and ordered another drink. There were already over a dozen glasses in front of her but, other then the fact she no longer bothered sticking to clear drinks, she didn't seem in the least affected by them. This was just the newest in the list of ways genetics had screwed with her life, passing on her grandfather's near complete inability to get drunk. One day soon, she hoped, it would decide she was Death-like enough and stop popping up with a new trait or two every couple of years. Hopefully before she lost her flesh for good.

"Er, Miss..."

Susan looked up from her drink into Igor's apologetic (if nightmare-inducingly twisted) face. "Yes Igor?"

"The Patrician's Hogwatch ball starts in about an hour. You told me to remind you...?"

"Oh. Yes." She glared hard at the clock over the bar as if wondering whether it would be worth putting off leaving, then sighed and stood up. "I suppose I have to go." She pulled out enough money to pay for her drinks and handed it over. "See you tomorrow Igor," she called over her shoulder while making her way to the door.

As she began to trudge her way through the snow towards home she briefly considered moving out of time, then grimaced and decided against it. That was too likely to catch hisattention, which was the last thing she needed.

And this damn year had been so wonderful too! Gawain was in her class now, and she hadn't realized how much she'd missed the Gaiter children until she was around him so often during the day again. She and her grandfather had been getting closer, since she'd realized that if she wanted to have a real relationship with Lobsang she'd have to embrace the unhuman side of her instead of just using it when needed (such as while teaching a classful of children), which had always been the thing which made her keep her distance. And, for the first time ever, she'd though she might be falling in--

She forced her mind away from that path. It's not like it mattered now, since three nights ago Lobsang had sat her down for a heart to heart talk wherein he'd revealed that he wanted them to start seeing other people. He'd said he was worried they together more because of what they were then who they were. That while he was sure they'd end up together one day, for right now they really needed to go off and have a fling or two to test the strength of what they felt for each other.

The only way it could have gotten worse is if he'd paraded out Patina or someone and told her he'd found he had a thing for girls with penguins.

Two weeks before Hogwatch she thought in a mental growl, Two bloody weeks before Hogwatch. He couldn't have waited until the holidays had passed? He couldn't have at least waited a few more days so I wouldn't be alone at this damned ball?

She'd never believed she could be the sort to get this bent out of shape over a man. She'd always considered girls that did to be soppy little idiots without a grain of sense in their empty little skulls.

She'd never realized how much it could hurt.

* * *

Death looked away from the mirror in his study as the image of his granddaughter faded from view. The Death of Rats, which was perched on his shoulder, gave a squeak which somehow managed to convey sadness. He nodded slowly in response.

SHE IS... HURTING, He said to the DoR and Quoth, who was watching from on top of the frame, AND I AM UNCERTAIN AS TO HOW I CAN HELP.

SQUEAK! The Death of Rats said in a sympathetic tone.

"Yeah, the rat's right," Quoth chimed in. "I don't think there's really much someone can do to help in a situation like this. Just lend a sympathetic ear if needed and time'll--" he cut himself off, mentally wincing at the turn of phrase. While it was true humans did get over this things eventually, time was really not something you wanted to mention right about now. "Anyway," he continued lamely, "she'll get over it one day. If nothing else I'm sure that someday another young man'll catch her attention and they'll be a lot happier then her and ol' what's his name were."

Death's expression turned thoughtful. ANOTHER YOUNG MAN.... YES, THAT MAY JUST HELP. He waved his hand and a small rolled parchment appeared, which he handed to the Death of Rats. TAKE THIS TO HER. I AM INVITING HER HERE FOR HOGWATCH AND THEN... WE SHALL SEE.

"Er, boss, that's not exactly what I..." Death began to walk away, apparently paying no attention to Quoth. "Boss! she's not gonna like you meddling in her--" Death disappeared into thin air "--personal affairs." He glanced down at the Death of Rats who was nibbling a bit at the tallow sealing the letter shut. "There's no way this is gonna end well."

SQUEAK, Death of Rats agreed empathetically, then dashed off himself to deliver the letter.

* * *

Susan stood in the corner of the room glaring balefully at almost anyone who dared to approach. The only person here she'd been willing to talk to so far had been Angua von Ɯberwald, and only because she was one of the few adults Susan knew who could almost be considered a friend, since they both rented rooms from Mrs. Cake.

She vaguely remembered a time in her very young childhood when she had loved these things. The music, the beautiful clothing, the graceful dancing... it had seemed like another world. Of course, now she'd been to a few real other worlds (or at least parasite dimensions, which amounted to about the same thing) and there hadn't been shiny lights and pretty music in any of them. Well, other then when her grandfather was in a particularly festive mood, but it was best not to think about that.

She wanted to fade out. She really wanted to, and then she could just sneak out without anyone other then the magical guests noticing her. Sadly, she was unable to do this for the same reason she had to be there to begin with; people were finally beginning to notice her complete absence at all political and social functions and wondering whether it was a sign Sto Helit was turning against the other nations on the Sto plains. Despite the fact that she'd avoided going home ever since graduating from the Quirm College for Young Ladies she still cared about her country, and her people. Even with Queen Keli's support, if the other nations turned against her because of an imagined lack of goodwill, Sto Helit would surely fall. That was a risk she was unable to take, when the only reason for doing so was because she was feeling antisocial.

So she stood silently in the corner, being bored to tears. She was finally beginning to search the crowd for anyone she'd want to talk to. There's Ridcully. Of course, if I talk to him chances are I'll end up up in the middle of the fight against the latest unspeakable horror seeking to destroy the world. Oh, Jamie's here. Of course talking to him would just result in questioning about when I'm going to come home and settle down...

She was preparing to give up on hunting down companionship when a woman near the door--Lady Marassa of Genua, Susan recognised with a small smirk, an old classmate whom she'd particularly disliked--suddenly let out a chilling shriek and fainted dead away. In the hubbub that followed, as damn near half the room rushed to the Lady's aid and the other, probably all-in-all wiser, half began hunting for whatever had terrified the girl, almost no one noticed the tiny cloaked form that scurried across the floor straight to Susan.

She sighed and knelt down, picking up the Death of Rats. "You did that on purpose, didn't you?" she asked it.

It did it's best to give off an innocent air, which was rather spoiled by the fact that it was, after all, the animate skeleton of a rat. SQUEAK?

"You know damn well what I'm talking about. You could have made yourself invisible to them."

The rat gave up any pretence of innocence, and snickered. SNH SNH SNH. Despite herself Susan found the corner of her mouth twitching up in response.

She decided that it was time to change the subject. "Is that for me?" she asked, even as she reached out to take the rat-nibbled parchment.

SQUEAK it said helpfully, holding it up to her.

She was about to read it when a firm hand landed on her shoulder. She turned to find a skinny balding man who she vaguely recognised as Commander Vimes of the Night Watch standing before her, along with Angua and a tall muscular man with bright red hair who could only be the Captain Carrot she'd occasionally heard about.

"Is that your rat, Lady...?" Vimes let the sentence trail off into a question.

"Miss." She replied in the same firm tone she used on students who tried to convince her during break time that answering a fairly simple history question was deserving of a gold star. It was a tone that quite clearly said that while she was willing to humour you for the moment, push too hard and you'd find you'd lost a... star, or two, "Miss Susan. No, he's not my rat. He's his own creature, though I suppose an argument made that he belongs to my grandfather. He was delivering a message, and apparently both has incredibly bad timing, and lacks the sense not to let himself be seen when entering a ballroom full of flighty twits who've been trained since childhood to faint at the mere mention of anything the least bit 'creepy' so they can be seen as delicate and feminine and catch an eligible--" she cut herself off with a groan, squeezing her eyes tightly closed and rubbing her forehead. "I'm sorry. I'm just... I'm really not in the mood to be here, and I guess it's making me a little crazy."

When she opened her eyes again Vimes was edging away with the trapped look of a man who clearly couldn't deal with the problems of the fairer sex. Angua and Carrot both just looked sympathetic, though Carrot also seemed a little confused. Not surprising considering they didn't even know each other.

"Right," Vimes said to her as he made his escape. "No one was actually hurt here, and no one seems to be panicing, so I suppose we can let you go with a warning. So long as no one else sees it." And then he was gone, Carrot following when Angua shooed him away.

"Lobsang?" the werewolf asked sympathetically once the men were gone.

"I'm sorry." Susan said, leaning against the the wall and pressing her cheek to the cool stone. "I know I'm being a complete wet blanket. If I could have seen myself like this a week ago I would have hated me. But... God, I've never done this. I don't know how to deal with it," She sighed, mentally giving herself a few sharp slaps and pulling herself together. "Look, thank you Angua, for trying to help. I know... disturbingly few actual adults. It's surprisingly nice to have someone to talk to. But right now I really just want to go home and sleep until school restarts. And I think I've spent enough time here that I should be able to leave without anyone commenting on it." She smiled slightly at Angua, "I'll see you tomorrow."

It wasn't until she was outside and the Death of Rats squeaked loudly that she remembered the note she still clutched tightly in her hand. She opened it up and read-



If you have no other plans for this Hogwatch, I would like for you to spend the holidays here. If you chose to do so, feel free to come whenever you wish.



He wanted her to spend the Hogwatch with him. And, she realized suddenly, she'd like that herself. It would give her a chance to get away, and forget about Lobsang for awhile. And it would be nice to spend the holidays with family.

She didn't let herself think about it for long, because she knew if she did she'd somehow convince herself to turn down the invitation. "Go back and tell him yes," she said to the Death of Rats. "Tell him to expect me tomorrow night. It's not like there's anything keeping me from there."

SQUEAK! The Death of Rat's exclaimed, and disappeared.

* * *

Somewhere not that far away Death stood before a man who was slightly terrified, more out of habit then any real fear of the reaper.