Finis! I hope you all enjoyed, gentle readers. Some of you have a lot to answer
for with regards to the possible sequel in the works. ::dark look:: I do have
a job, you know, and they like it if I show up and do it rather than hiding in
the drafting lab writing fanfic...

IN THE BLOOD
Ch. 6

We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.
--T.S. Eliot

Angua, gripping her Commander's collar in her teeth, managed to drag him far
enough into the stone gloom of Archer's Folly to Change herself, though it took a
powerful force of will. His hands were blistered and bleeding, now, and his eyes
rolled back in his head. She fumbled with the buttons on his shirt, cursing him
for a damn fool, and tore off the arms of it, wrapping the tattered remains
around herself, because a naked woman and an unconscious man, outside the city
walls, was not an ideal situation to be in.

The Pack was howling. They'd heard her panicked calls for help. Now she wished
she hadn't made them.

She bit the fabric, ripping it into strips, tying them quickly around his
bleeding hands and wrapping one as best she could around the scar that was
trickling blood still.

What had the bloody fool done? By rights he should have Changed as soon as he
stepped into the moonlight. You did NOT fight the Change. Not if you wanted to
keep your sanity. You didn't stand in the moonlight holding two pieces of silver
while it burned your hands, and while your morphic field...

Well, what had it done?

It had blurred. As though a god had reached down and smeared a thumb across the
crisp outlines of the Commander's body. And it had...it had /split/.

He hadn't Changed. It had been terrible, like seeing Wolfgang after his fall down
the river, patchy and unsure of just what he wanted to be. But he hadn't Changed.
Anger and fear warred for dominance in her mind.

That /bastard/, he'd fought the Lore /again/.

There was a growl outside the archway. She looked up. None of the Pack had seen
her as a human, though most of them knew who she was.

Butcher wasn't there. Neither was Bloody Haleh. Well, we know what those two are
doing, don't we, she thought bitterly. The two who might actually keep this rabid
lot from shredding us. Most of the decent ones are staying home tonight, aren't
they? The ones who will actually stop and think before ripping a human's throat
out.

Instead, there's Furry Dave, who's not very bright, and Barking Mad Barker, who
hates all humans, and Lenny the Stink, the one Scruffy embarrassed in front of
the whole Pack. Scruffy, who couldn't fight back even if he could Change, which
at this point is highly unlikely...

"What's this now?" Lenny barked, his tongue lolling out, amused in a predatory
sort of way. "I think we've interrupted something, don't you, Barker?"

"Lover's tryst?" Barker answered. "I think a cold bucket of water'd do them a
world of good."

"You don't want to fight me, Lenny," Angua said. She slid her legs up under her,
ready to leap if she had to. Stay human as long as you can, there's a dozen of
them and one of you, and you have to be able to think clearly...even as her own
Beast, the one she'd been born with, growled and snarled.

There's two, remember that, there's the Pack and there's the Watch, and you
belong to both of them...

"Sure I don't," Lenny answered. "I want to fight /him/."

"Pick on a defenceless human. Butcher'll kill you if you do," she threatened.

"I'm not afraid of Butcher."

"You should be."

"I've got a score to settle with Scruffy, and that smells like Scruffy. Watch
Commander, huh? Who'd have thought? Love bite, Dog Anny?"

Vimes moaned, softly, and one of his hands twitched.

"The wolf who bit him," Angua said slowly, "Got his head bashed in against a
rock. He played the Game and he bloody beat them all, Stink, as a human. So if
you want a go at the Commander of the City Watch, you'd better be sure you can
kill him, because otherwise he'll kill you."

"Him? He's a dog, like you. Look at that!" Lenny said, to the others, who were
forming a casual, almost invisible semi-circle around the Folly. "She's got a
collar! There's a reason we call her Dog Anny!"

One of the others snarled too. Angua let anger overtake fear, because they could
smell fear, but they could also smell homicidal rage.

Lenny leapt, not for the Commander, but for her. She brought her arms up and
around in an arc that connected solidly with the side of his head, sending him
sideways into the stone. He landed on all fours and shook his head, stumbling out
into the moonlight again. Others were already moving forward.

"Mine," Lenny growled. "They're mine."

He leapt again, this time low, going for Vimes' throat. Angua tried to move, but
she couldn't get in front of him fast enough --

There was a whizzing noise, and a sharp /thock!/, and Lenny jerked sideways, a
crossbow quarrel in his ribcage. Three more landed near the others. Someone was
firing down from the top of the city wall.

Oh, gods, Carrot, thank you --

"Cease and desist, or it's assault on an officer of the Watch!" Carrot's voice
drifted down. "I mean that! It'll go very hard for -- "

Lenny snarled and made one last attempt. Whiz, /thock!/. A second bolt connected
soundly, sending him backwards. The rest of the attackers were scattering.

Bloody Haleh and Butcher came bolting through the grass from the direction of the
Hubwards gate, teeth bared. For a moment Angua thought they were coming to kill
her and the Commander, that they were going to stand with the Pack against the
Watch, but then Butcher closed his jaws around Lenny's neck, and Haleh darted in
front of Vimes, hackles raised.

Butcher shook Lenny like a rag, throwing him to the ground and gripping the bolts
with his teeth, pulling them until they came out. Lenny shrieked in pain. Haleh
circled Angua and Vimes, worriedly.

"We heard the howl and thought we'd best get help," she whined. "Butcher didn't
want humans interfering, but four against fifteen isn't a fair fight, even if
it's us."

"You went to a human for us?" Angua asked softly.

"We are the Pack. We protect our own." Haleh sniffed the Commander's unconscious
form, warily. "Even if he isn't anymore."

Beyond them, Butcher was ripping Lenny apart. Angua tried not to watch. That
wasn't human justice or wolf justice. It was werewolf justice. It was terrible,
but it was right, for them.

"It's the way of things, Dog Anny. Humans oughtn't to become werewolves," Haleh
said sadly, nudging Vimes' ear with her nose. "We are vicious beings. It's our
nature. We can't choose one morality or another. But we can try to control it."

Lenny had stopped screaming. He just lay there, a bloody mess, barely breathing.
Butcher sat on his haunches and howled, a great blood-drenched howl of triumph
and warning. They could hear human feet pounding towards them.

"Your Scruffy could have taught Lenny a thing or two about self-control," Haleh
continued, as if her mate hadn't just thrashed a fellow creature to death's door.
"Shame."

"What's a shame?" Angua asked, in a hushed whisper.

"Shame he's human again."

"Is he?"

"It's his rightful place, Dog Anny. Somehow he made it back." Haleh trotted over
to the silver cigar case and the rosewood truncheon, which were still lying
outside the Folly. She inspected them warily.

"We'll take care of Lenny," she said, as Butcher picked up the limp werewolf in
his enormous jaws. "Let humans take care of humans."

By the time Carrot arrived, leading a small army of constables, Haleh and Butcher
had vanished. Angua, who would rather be a wolf than a half-naked woman, shrugged
out of the shreds of Vimes' shirt and Changed just before Carrot rounded the
corner. She pushed her nose against Vimes' shoulder, and looked up at the Captain,
meaningfully.

The other officers crowded around, until Carrot pushed them away; he checked the
Commander's pulse, lifted him easily, and carried him out into the moonlight,
expectantly.

Nothing happened. Not even a twitch, not even a sigh.

"Get his things," he ordered, and the others hurried to pick up the truncheon and
case, armour and the torn shirt. Angua rubbed up against Carrot's leg, close to
tears with relief.

"Are you all right?" Carrot asked softly, while the others were busy. Angua
bobbed her head.

"CAPTAIN!" one of the officers called. "There's blood on the ground!"

"Just get his things, please," Carrot replied calmly. "I imagine..." he paused.
"I imagine the Commander was pursuing a thief and was taken by surprise*. It's
been a lean winter, the wolves around here are probably still looking for
anything they can get. You, Blenton, run up to Scoone Avenue and tell Lady Sybil
the Commander's been hurt and we're taking him to the Watch House. Someone find
me a cart to put him in, we'll have Igor take a look at him. Crossbows out,
everyone, those wolves could still be around."

---
* Which, for the sake of Vimes' pride, was almost as bad as being a known werewolf,
but not quite.
---

Angua, watching the Commander's head loll over the edge of Carrot's arm, felt a
shiver of fear returning.

***

Igor, fussing and making various professional noises of concern, dealt with the
scar first, which didn't want to stop bleeding; when he finally did stitch it up
and apply some sort of thick, clear salve to it, Vimes moaned again, and his eyes
opened.

"It's burning," he said, hoarsely.

"Yes, sir," Igor replied unflappably. "Lie still, pleath."

He watched, worriedly, as Vimes drifted back out of consciousness, and tense
muscles relaxed. He turned over the right palm and unwrapped the makeshift
bandage from it. Angua paced back and forth under the table, whining, while
Carrot went upstairs to deal with the milling policemen who weren't quite sure
what to do.

He arrived in the front office at the same time as Sybil, who turned pale at the
sight of her husband's armour lying empty on the table. Her hands trembled as she
reached for it.

"Where's Sam?" she asked.

"Igor's seeing to him. He'll be fine," Carrot said, with all the confidence of
the desperately hopeful.

"What happened?"

Carrot looked around at the others, who were watching him carefully. If Mister
Vimes was out of things, that meant Captain Carrot was in charge.

"Bandits," he said finally.

***

The basement cells were, by and large, a damp, chilly place, bad for recovering
from injuries. Igor, in his first days at the Yard, had taken a sledgehammer and
some mortar and built a chimney up from the furthest room. He'd lined the room
with some old tapestries from the attic, and it says a lot for an Igor's interest
in anatomy that he didn't see anything inappropriate about frolicking nymphs
decorating the walls of a sickroom. They were certainly educational, though not
perhaps in the way he intended.

At any rate, it was a warm, dry place with a crackling fire, and it was good for
invalids who couldn't be moved very far. Sam Vimes lay on the bed closest to the
fire, well-bandaged, while Sybil slept fitfully on another bed nearby.

Angua, who'd been coaxed back up to the second floor barracks by Carrot for at
least a few hours' sleep, found herself wandering aimlessly down to the sickroom
as soon as she was dressed, the following morning. She wanted to see things for
herself, wanted to ask Vimes some questions.

He hadn't woken again. Igor, who'd kept vigil, allowed her to relieve him, and
went off for some shut-eye. She sat down in one of the hard wooden chairs,
watching the fire intently.

She must have let her thoughts drift, she must have been tired, or she would
have smelled Haleh long before the woman entered the room. And it was a woman;
Angua had never seen most of the Pack in their human shapes. She was followed
by a man who could only be Butcher.

"We wanted to pay our respects," Haleh said softly. "This is Scruffy, then."

Angua nodded, and crossed her arms protectively against her chest. Werewolves,
for all they were pack animals, did not like other werewolves in their own
private territory.

Haleh and Butcher were a strange pair, as humans. Butcher she'd known in
Uberwald, but Haleh wasn't from a mountain clan, at least, that she knew of --
probably she came from the four or five wide-scattered plains families. She was
tall and lean, dark-haired, with a predatory look and the smell of the
slaughterhouse district still on her. She seemed uncomfortable in her clothing.
Butcher was not that much taller than her, with sandy hair and an ugly but
friendly face that belied keen, intelligent eyes.

Angua noticed that they were examining her, too.

"You're uncommonly pretty," Butcher said bluntly. "If I'd known /he/ was head of
the Watch, I'd not have called him Scruffy. He's got a hell of a thousand-yard
stare to him. I should have guessed."

Haleh touched one of the Commander's bandaged hands.

"Lenny has been...removed," she said quietly. "He is no longer a member of the
Pack."

"Is he still alive?" Angua asked.

"If he survives the plains," Butcher answered. "I left him near the coaching
road. If he's not hunted down, he should live on. More's the pity, but I believe
that's a just sentence. Yes?"

"Mister Vimes wouldn't want him killed. He was just doing what werewolves do,"
Angua murmured.

"He was doing what beasts do," Haleh replied. "We can choose not to be beasts.
This one here did."

"How did he do it?" Butcher asked.

"I don't know. He just fought the Change. He was holding silver."

"Good for him," said Haleh. "Every day we walk the fine line, Dog Anny. We can
choose to be vicious beasts, or we can choose to accept the rule of law. We had
hoped that giving Lenny the power of the law would make him respect it. Obviously,
we were wrong. We would like to offer you his position in the Pack."

Angua stared at her.

"I know you don't run with us very often, but if you did...the next time someone
tries to attack a human, perhaps someone will speak out before it comes to
blood," Haleh continued.

"Growler?" Angua asked.

"If you'd like it," Butcher said.

"Can I think about it?"

There was a grunt, and a new voice spoke. "She's already a copper. What more do
you want?"

The Commander had rolled onto his side, and was staring at them with clear
eyes, though his face was a mask of pain. "I think I should have let Otto bleed
me," he said, with a weak smile. Angua matched it.

"You're a stupid git for fighting the Change," she said.

"I know."

"It was bloody dangerous, what you did."

"It had to be done."

"Lenny tried to kill you."

"Did he succeed?" Vimes asked, with a grimace. Haleh laughed gently.

"Congratulations, Scruffy. You fought the Lore with sheer force of personality.
No wonder your people are so loyal. You must be a remarkable man."

"Pull the other one," Vimes mumbled, his eyelids drooping.

"We'll go, then, Dog Anny," Butcher said. "You think about what we said."

They had made it all the way to the stairs before Angua came to the doorway, torn
indecisively between following them and staying with the Commander.

"Butcher, Haleh, wait," she called. They paused, and she glanced hesitantly at
Vimes, who flicked the few un-bandaged fingers he had, and then winced. She left
the doorway.

"I'll be Growler," she said. Butcher's ugly face broke into a broad smile.

"See you at the next full moon, then," he said. "And...wear your badge. On your
collar. It suits you."

Haleh gave her a last, brilliant smile before the pair climbed the stairs. From
behind, she could hear her Commander calling for her assistance, and Lady Sybil's
sleepy voice.

Two packs. The wolves and the Watch.

That was all right. No matter where you go, you're a copper.

END