I blame Stripedog for this. It all started with the mental image of...
well...you'll see. Anyhow, Stripedog put it in my head, and I couldn't
get it out.

Now, I think the relationship between Vimes and Angua in the books is a
fascinating one, but never fear, gentle readers...there is no romance
between them in this fic, nakedness notwithstanding. I promise. There
are, however, Night Watch spoilers. Caveat lector.

Also, trying something a bit new with the footnotes. which do you like
better, gentle readers?

Yes, Ryula, Patrician's Papers, I'm working on it...

Thanks as always to Mary, for being a faithfully honest editor :)

IN THE BLOOD
ch. 1

Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets...
-- T. S. Eliot

Sam Vimes was naked.

This was not as unusual a state of being for him as it had once been;
he'd been chased naked through the mountains by werewolves, and
recently run naked through the streets of Ankh-Morpork, though
admittedly splattered with enough mud and blood and moving fast enough
that he was almost sure he'd preserved at least an ounce of decency. He
still had nightmares about it, but he'd had nightmares about being
naked on the street before this, everyone did, probably even Carrot did,
so that was nothing new.

What was unusual about the nakedness, really, was that it was
voluntary, in a room at the Watch house, and involving a person other
than his wife. In fact, the last person he wanted to see right now was
his wife. Especially what with the other woman in the room and all.

He did, it was true, have a sheet wrapped around his waist, for
Decency's sake. Angua, who was being quite good about the whole thing,
had suggested to him that makeshift clothing was going to be, if not a
/large/ part of his future, at least a part that ought to be seriously
considered.

"Ready?" she asked him. He nodded nervously. "All right. Don't worry,
it's nothing I haven't seen before."

"Very funny," he said. And closed his eyes. And concentrated.

Angua did not allow people to watch her Change. There was a reason for
that; it was not a pretty sight. But she made herself watch Vimes as
his morphic field suddenly flickered, the sheet fell from a waist that
was rapidly changing shape, and a wolf stood where Sam Vimes had been,
a minute or two before. There was a surprised whine, then a series of
growls. Angua, who spoke Wolf even in human shape, recognized several
imaginative cursewords.

***

Some back-tracking is necessary here. Things must be explained.
According to physicists, who I'm sure think they know what they're
talking about, in order to explain anything you must explain
everything*, but a few basic facts will suffice, because not many
physicists want to admit the existence of the Discworld.

--
* The philosophical phrase 'In order to bake an apple pie you must first
invent the universe' is currently under review by the Idiotic Axioms
board.
--

This is a world, a flat world where the water pours off in all
directions endlessly into space. It rests on the backs of four
enormous, stoic elephants, who themselves stand on the broad, ancient
back of Great A'Tuin, who happens to be a turtle. In a world like this,
anything can and often does happen, even without Everything happening
first.

On an otherwise peaceful day, in the Uberwaldean wilderness, a man
is running for his life. They've always said, in his home-town of
Ankh-Morpork, that he likes to run. Now that's being put to a most
stringent test.

He has a pair of trousers, ancient gloomy things, and an axe; neither
are doing him much good in the little rowboat, which is being tracked
on either side of a broad river by werewolves, in human and animal
form. See the grim fear pass over his face as the waterfall nears?

See the tumbling, painful descent, and the breathless gasping
resurface. See a werewolf land on a rock nearby. See it Change? See the
way the man pounds its head hard against the rock. Blood in the water.

And one more werewolf. A close cousin of the von Uberwald family; a
noble-looking Ramtop Wolfhound, shaggy black hair rippling down in
smooth waves. Snow clinging to its legs as it inches its way out on the
ice. The pursued goes under; there is a moment of pure peace, before
the wolf is knocked off-balance and pulled down to the water by a
fighter who's just punched through the ice to get free.

Under the water, they both struggle, but clever, clever Duke vimes. He
surfaces alone.

Wait, go back. Under the water. The struggle. A claw, yes, raking down
his side, and the chill seeping into a dozen other small nicks and cuts.
But also, a tooth. A single tooth, digging into his shoulder, taking, if
not a pound of flesh, then at least a teaspoon.

Later, he'll look in the mirror and see a small, crescent-shaped scar,
and wonder where it came from. But not too much. The Duke has many
scars.

For six, eight, maybe even ten months, it's just a scar. Until the
armies of iron-headed Vimesness finally give in against the poison
that has slowly been spreading through his body. Until, one night,
he rolls over next to his wife, in the light of the full moon, and
Changes.

***

Thank the gods Sybil didn't wake up, Vimes thought. That was the only
thing he could think of that would make this situation worse.

He'd managed to somehow gather his wits about him, realize what was
going on, and scrabble out of the bed, not to mention the tatters of
his pajamas; once he was out of the moonlight, he'd Changed back, and
for a brief moment, it was as though all it had been was a nightmare.
Until the shredded nightclothes convinced him otherwise.

Then he'd very carefully walked /around/ the patch of moonlight, to the
window, and shut the drapes. Only then did he sit down at his little
writing desk in the bedroom, and try to think.

His shoulder throbbed. He looked at it surprise; an old scar had
opened, and thin blood was trickling down his chest. He used a rag of
the nightclothes to staunch it.

Sybil was still asleep, and he wouldn't wake her; young Sam did that
often enough without his father taking part.

He smiled. In the gloom of the bedroom, seeing Sybil under the big
quilt, he remembered every reason he'd married her and a couple of
reasons he'd only discovered after they were married.

It was easier to think about young Sam and Sybil than it was to think
about this. Hadn't he thought it was a miracle that he got out of the
Game unscathed? He knew how careful Angua was, never to actually bite
the people she apprehended in 'plainclothes'; her family had no such
scruples.

But why now?

He very carefully put a hand to the seam between the drapes, where a
pencil-thin line of moonlight still shone through. The sudden, horrible
feeling of being a man and a wolf at the same time raced through his
veins, and he quickly withdrew. For a second, his hand had been a paw.

He couldn't even go outside, he realized. Couldn't go down to Angua's
lodgings and wake her up and make her Fix This, because if he stepped
outside he would Change, and the thing he most wanted in the world was
never, ever to Change again.

He found a spare pair of pajamas and dressed himself, walked into the
nursery. He saw with relief that the drapes were closed here. Sam was
awake, but not crying; making little sniffly noises and tangling his
legs in his blanket. Vimes lifted him out, blanket and all, and went to
the easy chair in the corner.

"Now then, young Sam," he said, selecting a book from the pile nearby.
Sybil said it was good to read to him, even if he still couldn't
differentiate between baby food and upholstery. Vimes thought most of
the books insulted his son's intelligence, but he liked a few of them.
This one, already tattered and well-thumbed, was his favorite, and he
suspected it was Sam's, too. It helped calm the sudden nervousness that
was tingling in every corner of his body.

Oddly enough, it was written by a troll. Well, dictated by a troll,
since trollish writing tended to be two-foot charcoal on stone.

"And To Think That I Saw It On Chrononhotonthologos Street," he read.
"By Dr. Sluice."

When Sybil woke to an empty bed in the morning, she assumed Sam had
gone off to work; she smiled as she wandered into the nursery and saw
her husband asleep in the big chair, with young Sam cradled against
his chest and a book, obviously slipped from tired fingers, on the
floor nearby.

Sam protested sleepily when she took their son from him, and put the
baby back in his crib; by the time she'd settled his blanket around
him, her husband had woken fully, and was putting the book away with
the embarrassed air of a man who's been caught doing something unusually
sweet.

"You should have woken me," she chided, as he stumbled into the
bathroom and began to wash. His reply was muffled by the water, but she
understood it to mean that he thought she was up in the night far too
often as it was.

"Don't fall asleep on the job today," she said, giving him a kiss just
above his cheek, as he shaved. He nodded, and nearly nicked himself.
"And I'd like you to have a word with Angua," she added. He went very
still, razor poised just above his lips. "She promised to give me the
name of her dressmaker."

"Course," he mumbled, washing away the last of the soap. "I'll see to
it."

"There's a dear," Sybil said. "Now run on and get dressed."

***