Author's Note: Posted in its naked unedited form before I go home from work because SOMEONE couldn't wait. Might be cleaned up later, who knows.
The door to the Rats' Chamber swung shut behind Carrot as he made his way back to his office. His head was pounding, and he was stiff and bored from the hour-long meeting. Behind him, Vetinari ducked out, followed closely by the Commander General. "Did that go well?" he asked Vetinari. The man paged through the notes he'd made throughout the meeting as they walked. At length, he shrugged.
"I admit I'm a little fuzzy on your remarks about the cabbage crisis," Vetinari said, flipping the notes open to a page occupied by scrawled quotes and a neatly-drawn chart. "How are you planning to solve the shortage?"
Carrot looked worriedly over his shoulder. "Import more. That's alright, isn't it?"
Vetinari raised an eyebrow. "Where from, sir?"
Carrot stopped walking, expression troubled. "Oh. Oh right. Huh." Vimes drew even with the king and clapped him on the shoulder. "Well now what?"
"Well," the Commander General snickered, "thankfully you have Skinny here to figure that out for you." Vetinari gave the Commander a cool look but didn't say anything. "Your highness, I have to bother you for one more minute before I leave. The ambassador from Nothingfjord - what sort of security would you like arranged?"
"Huh?" Carrot blinked and then thought back over the question. "Oh, I don't know. Is he a controversial figure right now?"
"She, sir," Vetinari corrected quietly.
"Yeah, she," Vimes went on. "Thanks, Skinny. No, she's not very prominent, and our intelligence doesn't indicate anyone in the city wants to harm her."
"I have a name, Commander," Vetinari said pointedly. "And the Teetotaler's League, in fact, has been quite outspoken against the vodka exports Nothingfjord has been sending."
Vimes blinked. "Really? Are they a threat?"
"They abstain from violence," Vetinari said dryly as he and Carrot resumed walking. Vimes snickered. "I'd order a level two on her, keep it subtle."
Vimes looked to Carrot's retreating back. "Sir?"
"Yes, Commander, whatever he says." He stopped walking suddenly. Vetinari, who had been walking backwards and flicking through his notes besides, backed into him. "Vetinari? Your wife is here." Vimes leaned to the side a little to have a better view of the impending hilarity. Vetinari had, after a short and highly entertaining dating period, married Dr. Leike, much to his own chagrin and her delight. They'd already had a daughter, and tales of Layla's pregnancy-induced mood swings were legend throughout the Palace. Vimes himself had heard of them and while they were hilarious, he was able to sympathize a least a little, though Sybil's term had been handled with, apparently, a little less screaming.
Of course, the doctor's second pregnancy was a lot less hilarious with her standing not ten feet away. Vimes and Carrot smiled at her warily while Vetinari steeled himself for what was about to come. Layla stood in the hall, arms crossed and resting on her swollen belly. She must be, what, seven months now? Vimes silently thanks the gods that Sybil had wanted to stop at one child, better that it was a son. "Hello, your highness," she said sweetly, her smile brittle. Carrot waved a little. "Is my husband with you?"
Slowly, as if she were a wild animal that might startle, Vetinari slipped out from behind the king. "Hello dear."
"I'm hungry," she snarled, the smile dropping off her face faster than Vimes could keep up with.
Vetinari nodded, expression bemused. "For what, exactly?"
"I need tacos. Where have you been?"
"Working," he answered, making his way to her side while the king retreated to the relative safety offered by the Commander General. "Remember? Thursday? City Council meeting?"
"What if I'm having the baby on a Thursday?" she snapped.
That was a trap, Vimes recognized. The young and unexperienced husband would roll his eyes or act exasperated or be sarcastic or some disaster, and then his wife, surfing on a tsunami of hormones, would either start crying or screaming. It was a perfect invitation for the ever-dreaded Nothing Fight. The tension mounted and Vimes and Carrot waited with bated breath for the answer. Vetinari put his arm around her and attempted to steer her away from the others. "Well I suppose I'll have to miss the meeting, won't I? Aren't you supposed to be in bed?" Layla nodded and planted her feet. "Well then go back there, I'll bring you tacos."
"No," she said firmly. He raised an eyebrow. Vimes and Carrot exchanged apprehensive looks. "I want to go myself. I'm bored."
"Yes, but the midwife -"
"Sod her, I'm a doctor," Layla snapped. "You are coming with me - you need to eat more. Let's go."
"Layla, I have to go -" he caught sight of her expression and stopped. "I have to go nowhere. I have to go to the kitchens and get tacos with you." Vimes and Carrot breathed a collective sigh of relief when she smiled. Vetinari looked around. "Where's Jackie?"
"She's with her tutor."
Vetinari's eyebrows rose, very slowly. He paused, considered his word choice and went on cautiously "What happened to the nanny? And what is our three year-old learning from a tutor?"
Layla narrowed her eyes. "You don't think it's a good idea?"
"No," Vetinari said hurriedly, following her lead as she turned around and started toward the stairs. "I'm genuinely curious." As the two of them passed Vimes and Carrot he handed his sheaf of notes to the king. "Third pile from the left," he muttered.
"Good luck," Carrot said quietly, as Layla went on about how Jackie was in her formative years and if she didn't learn certain things right now she would never be able to function as a productive member of society. The two of them turned the corner and eventually Layla's voice faded. Carrot looked to Vimes and shrugged. "It's all a closed book to me." Vimes patted him on the arm.
"Treasure that, lad." He adjusted his helmet and turned to leave. "Sir, if I may, I'd like to add that the ambassador from Nothingfjord is about your age, but much more politically experienced."
"Oh." Carrot looked puzzled. "Is that good? Or bad?" He waved the notes Vetinari had handed him. "Vetinari gave me a file to look over before I go in to the meeting so I would know what to say, so I should be fine, right?" He raised his eyebrows when Vimes gave him a meaningful look. "What?"
"She's also single."
Carrot cocked his head. "Does that matter?"
Vimes looked the boy over. He'd grown up to think that ruling Ankh-Morpork required a sharp and suspicious mind. And, to be honest, Carrot was sharper than he let on. But in some departments he was so painfully oblivious. Then the Commander smiled and made his way back to the stairs. "It matters if you think it does."
Carrot looked over the illegible notes Vetinari had handed him and, as usual, was unable to make either heads or tails of them. He tucked the sheaf under his arm as he walked back to his office, whistling as he went.
Historian's Note: King Carrot I lived to be 75 years of age and was tremendously popular as a monarch. He was never married and never produced a legitimate heir. In his will, he provided for his peaceful succession: he was succeeded by an elected monarch, Queen Eula Bruun of Nothingfjord. During and after her ascension to power rumors swirled that she was the illegitimate daughter of King Carrot and former Nothingfjord ambassador Gierhild Bruun, but sufficient evidence has never been found to prove Eula was not a legitimate child of Gierhild and her husband Sigar.
Commander General Vimes died of a heart attack while on a foot pursuit at the age of 68. He was survived by his wife, Sybil, and their son, Sam.
Havelock Vetinari, King Carrot's butler, secretary, head clerk and advisor died of natural causes at age 73, 6 years after retiring from government service to Genua, and two years following the death of his wife. He was survived by their seven children and 12 grandchildren.
THE END AT LONG LAST
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