Chapter 5 - Carrot and Angua, and a long conversation by moonlight.
This was tricky. I hope you enjoy. :)
Angua sat silently in the infirmary as Carrot cleaned and bandaged the wounds she'd made across his chest; he hadn't wanted to bother Igor to do it. There were five deep gouges across his skin, in a long, ragged diagonal slash. Guilt raged in her at his every wince; each time, he tried to pretend he hadn't done it, and he'd look back at her as if in apology.
How can you apologize to me? she wanted to scream. I did this to you... me... I could have killed you without thinking....
She looked down at her lap, where she'd folded her ruined clothes into a small pile. She'd found a dressing robe in the corner and was wearing that instead, huddled into the overly-large swath of soft cloth as if she could disappear into it.
Carrot at last finished with the final strip of gauze, set down his scissors and sat down beside her. She tried not to edge away. "I can take those for you," he said quietly.
Angua said nothing, but slowly handed him the pile. Carrot took the shreds of fabric and stepped out of the room to dispose of them somewhere.
She watched him go, then wandered out of the room in a different direction. She needed some air.
The roof of Pseudopolis Yard was cool gray slate, smooth under her feet as she slowly walked out and sat on the gentle slope, and hugged her knees to her chest. Cool night air ruffled her hair, and blew past high, thin clouds above her, obscuring and revealing edges of the moon as she watched.
It took Carrot a long time to find her up there. When he did, the relief on his face made her heart ache. "Angua..." he sighed.
She knew what she wanted to ask, but couldn't quite look at him as she did so. "You were up there," she said, "weren't you?"
He gingerly made his way across the roof and sat down beside her, not too close. "Yes. We had to stop for air and fuel, and the moon was the only option. I meant to tell you, but wasn't sure how."
She rested her forehead against her knees. "And you brought bits of it home."
"The wizards wanted samples. Ponder did, mostly. They're researching -- found it fascinating... I just -- I didn't realize...."
Angua looked up at him. He'd found another shirt and had pulled it hastily over his head, but the fabric was really too thin for a night this cold, and she could see the bandages through it. The untucked edges flapped in the breeze. But he didn't shiver, didn't flinch, even when she turned her moon-bright eyes on him.
"What was it like?"
He stared back at her, opening his mouth to start, then closed it again and thought. Finally he said, "There were dragons. Reminded me of Errol, really... I'll have to tell Lady Sybil about it. And you can't really walk up there -- everything's lighter, so you have to bounce." He looked up, letting out a long, slow sigh. "And the view...."
She sat quietly, waiting. Carrot wasn't much with words sometimes, but she could tell he was formulating something, and she didn't want to interrupt.
"It was astounding. The scale of it all -- I mean, we've all heard about the elephants, but when you actually see them and you can't even fit one ear into your vision... it's too much to take in. And the world itself...."
He trailed off again, lost in thought. Angua looked down at her robe, and picked off a piece of lint. That, she thought faintly as she watched it blow away, was small, to a person. Grains of sand, flecks of dust, drops of blood... miniscule. But viewed from above, a person, compared to the massive scale of the world, was just that small -- or even smaller.
Did the gods look down at people that way? Had Carrot, even for an instant, felt that?
"I took iconographs, though that really doesn't do it justice. Leonard's got them now for reference. He's been painting non-stop, ever since we got off the Kite up there and looked around."
"I suppose he'll do well with the temple painting, then," Angua said distantly, thinking of the task he'd been given.
Carrot looked at her, clearly still worried about the old artist, but nodded a little. "I don't know if the gods can underestimate anyone, but Blind Io seemed rather taken aback at his -- enthusiasm... maybe he'll be surprised."
He stopped when he realized Angua's shoulders were shaking. He gingerly touched her right shoulder; she raised her head, revealing that she was laughing, a bit hysterically. "You don't get to do this, Carrot."
"Talk about the gods like you were just visiting the neighbors." Her voice shook behind the smile. "Oh, yes, I just popped into Dunmanifestin the other day, chatted with Offler, borrowed a cup of sugar...."
"He speaks with a lisp around those teeth, you know."
Angua stifled a scream of frustration behind one hand. Carrot winced and murmured, "I'm sorry...."
"Normal people," she managed at last, "normal people live in awe and terror of the gods."
"Oh, believe me, I do fear them. They're so.. capricious."
"But you walked away," Angua said. "You faced down the gods, and the men determined to destroy the world, and you walked away."
"I don't think they actually meant to destroy the world," Carrot said thoughtfully. "They didn't know it would have blown the magic field apart -- they just meant to conquer the gods. They made the right choice, in the end."
Angua sat silently. Carrot could dodge anything in a conversation, given the chance.
She bit her lip and looked up again at the waning moon. Carrot followed her gaze. They both sat quietly for a long moment before Carrot spoke again."It's so beautiful up there," he said softly. "I wish you could have seen it."
Angua folded her arms across her knees and hid her eyes again. "Oh, Carrot. Didn't you see -- look at what that did to me."
His hand touched her shoulder again. She tried not to cringe away from it. "I didn't know --"
"You didn't think!" she snapped, suddenly angry. "You don't have to! You -- you just walk in and make things work, no matter where you are, and the rest of us... I mean, I fell to pieces over a damned rock!"
She thrust out her hand, daring him to stare at her palm. She hadn't let him see it until now. She'd scrubbed it so hard to get rid of any traces of lunar dust that the skin was red and raw, and scabs had formed where the crumbling rock had sliced into her skin. She was still terrified that some of it had seeped into her blood -- she couldn't bear to think of what it might do if it had.
Emotions crowded over Carrot's face. Eventually he looked down, tore a strip of fabric off his shirt, and began to gently wrap the damaged skin. She blinked through a sudden haze of tears.
"I never wanted you to see me like that," she said, her voice breaking.
"Like what?" he said softly, cradling her small hand between his large, strong fingers.
"You know what I mean! That -- that thing in between... I hurt you, Carrot, and...."
"You didn't. That wasn't you, not really."
"But it's part of me." She could hardly get the words out. "You know that, Carrot. I could lose control like that again."
"But you always fight it. You fought tonight. And the moon rock was my fault, not yours," Carrot said, eyes downcast.
She bowed her head before he could see the look on her face. He meant it, he really did. He actually had the nerve to feel guilty that she'd snapped. And she knew he'd probably go on looking away anytime she changed, pretend that nothing had happened, that nothing was different between them. But she wasn't sure she would ever forget those gashes across his chest, or the terrible feeling that had welled up inside her when she'd smelled his blood.
And she would never, ever tell him about it.
"Every moonlit night, I worry," she said, her voice as emotionless as she could make it. "I've drawn myself lines that I never want to cross. Sometimes I'm just so afraid I'll forget where they are. It... doesn't just require a piece of the moon in my hand, you know."
Still holding her hand between his, Carrot turned and looked back at the sky. He didn't speak for a long time, and then it wasn't exactly a reply. "I thought of you, up there," he said. "I was looking out at the world, trying to take it all in... it's so huge, and so -- fragile, and it's impossible not to realize how much we need to take care of it."
His voice had gone distant, and a little strange. "I felt so responsible. You can't look across all that and not feel it. But from here" -- he loosed one hand to gesture across the city skyline -- "it's a better perspective. From that high above, it's too distant. From here you can still see the people."
Undermining the moment slightly was the noise of someone at street level tripping over a crate and cursing. Carrot glanced down, but didn't otherwise react.
She watched him there for a moment, while he absently caressed her hand with his thumb. Yes, that's your control issue, isn't it, thought Angua. You know you could be up there, oh so easily. But you stay a Watchman to keep it from getting away from you.
That's the line you've drawn. And I've seen it get pushed a few times, too.
Nothing really showed in his face, but she wondered if he was thinking this too. Sometimes he wasn't much with words, but other times he was trickier than he let on.
She shivered in the breeze. Carrot moved closer. With all the thoughts swirling in her head, somehow the safest to speak aloud was a joke, weak though it was. "I can just imagine the headline in the Times ," she said. " 'Watchman Conquers Moon; Prefers the Ankh-Morpork Rooftops.'"
He turned back to give her a faint smile. And when he spoke, the words startled her. Carrot, she'd thought before, was hardly a romantic; he was kind and loving and always cared, but the grand gestures never seemed to occur to him. This time, though, he placed his free hand against her cheek and said softly, "The only person I've ever seen conquer the moon is you."
She stared back, swallowing hard, seeing the entire world before her in his eyes. For that moment, she would have believed anything he said, followed him anywhere.
And then he gently reached around her shoulders with that arm and pulled her close for a kiss, clasping her damaged hand to the scored skin over his heart.
Above them, clouds blew across the ancient face of the moon, leaving them for
now in a shifting pattern of shadow and pure silver light.