Footnotes are at the end. Thanks for reading!
Carrot was sprawled across the floor, face peaceful despite being rather pale. Clutched in his outstretched hand was a red apple with a single, perfect bite taken from it. The Watch clustered around him, staring down from wildly varying heights.
Nobby, who barely had to look down at all, nudged the Captain's prone arm with his foot. "It's like that fairy story, wassicalled. With the magic mirror and the lady queen."
"Der poisoned girl who were kissed by a stranger while she were asleep." Detritus said.
"Yeah, that's the one." Nobby said. He kicked Carrot again, provoking no reaction.
Vimes pinched the bridge of his nose, wondering if it was too late to sneak out and pretend he had never been there. He supposed not. He sighed. "Sergeant Colon, Reg, bring Carrot up to his room and put him in bed. Splash a pail of water on him and if that doesn't work, Visit, go to the University and visit the wizards. Angua, with me. Everyone else-get back to work."
Given a task, everyone did as told, Visit albeit with some reluctance. No good Watchman  trusted the wizards. It just wasn't done.
Vimes tromped up the stairs to his office, Angua following behind. Vimes was an expert tromper, especially when he was angry, which was all the time.
Angua waited to speak until after Vimes had settled down at his desk and lit a cigar. She had a healthy sense of self-preservation. Smoke drifted into the stuffy air.
"Who would curse Carrot?" She asked. It was a valid question. Everyone in Ankh-Morpork loved Carrot, even the people he arrested. A few had even come back to thank him for turning their life onto a better course.
Vimes puffed on his cigar, though in truth he was already regretting having lighted it up. Sybil didn't like him smoking, and no matter what he did to hide it she always seemed to be able to sniff the scent of smoke out on him, like a bloodhound wearing rather more makeup than a bloodhound would normally be expected to wear.
"That wannabe-alchemist chap we arrested last week," Vimes pondered, "wasn't Carrot the one who brought him in?"
Angua thought about it. She remembered the man. Nikklas Phlegm-el. Even the Alchemist's Guild had thought he was too crazy for them, and that was saying something when they spent the average week either blowing themselves or nearby objects up . Carrot had brought him in for trying to turn another man's hair into snakes during a bar fight, which had quite upset the other customers.
Phlegm-el had vowed vengeance on Carrot, even though the Captain had let him off pretty light given the circumstances. Phlegm-el had nearly started a riot. A man should be allowed to smash as many bottles over as many heads as he liked without having to worry about magic being brought into it, in Ankh-Morpork's opinion.
"He was." She said. "Do you think he would be dumb enough?"
"He tried to punch Carrot, didn't he?"
No one punched Carrot if they had any amount of good sense in them. It wasn't that he was mean, or that it would make him angry or even that it would hurt them. No, it was that Carrot was built like an especially handsome bridge-troll even if he was ten times kinder than one. The bone-breaking agony of shattering your hand across his cheekbones, coupled with a Look (the one that said, I'm not mad, I'm just disappointed) usually added up to a meek surrender and an apology for having committed a crime in the first place.
"Grab a couple of corporals and bring him in, would you?" Vimes reluctantly stubbed out his cigar in the ashtray on his desk .
Angua smiled in a way that wasn't quite human. "Sir, it would be my pleasure."
Angua kept smiling all the way back to the station with the newly re-arrested Phlegm-el in tow. This had the not altogether unpleasant effect of making sure the Watch had their own empty side of the street to walk on and that any stares they drew were quickly turned away in favor of leg-trembling terror.
It also meant that Phlegm-el was confessing to his sins before they were even a block away from Pseudopolis Yard. Angua just listened, nodding and smiling, until they entered the building, when she promptly threw him into the corner cell, the one where they put the criminals they really didn't like. It was also one of Nobby's favored napping spots, which may or may not have contributed to the unpleasantness of the area.
Vimes was already in the Watchroom, pretending to listen as Detritus rumbled out a long and mostly incomprehensible report on something or another. When Vimes spotted Angua he gratefully excused himself from the troll's attentions and joined her where she was leaning against the wall by the staircase that led down to the cells.
"Yes." She said. "He smells like burning clay and fear." There were some advantages to having a werewolf in the watch, the least of which being that she had the ability to rip her enemies' throats out with her teeth. And that was nothing compared to when it was the full moon.
"I'm pretty sure the fear thing might be because of you." Vimes pointed out. Angua inclined her head in agreement. "Did he tell you anything?" He asked.
"He found himself in the generous mood."
Vimes looked amused. "I'm sure he did."
"He admitted that he was the one who gave the apple to Carrot. Said he dosed it with a new formula, but he wasn't sure what it was going to do. Only that when he tested it on his dog it wouldn't wake up until a street dog came around and licked its ear." Angua's lip curled in disgust. She, out of principle, hated scientific testing on animals, and not just because she was part one. Some of her best friends were dogs.
"You think he was telling the truth?" Vimes asked.
"Yes." Angua was quite sure about that. "But it leaves us with the question of how we're going to wake Carrot up."
"Ah." Vimes suddenly was looking anywhere but at her. "About that. While you were gone, some of the boys came up with a Theory."
Angua didn't like the sound of that, even without the capital letter. "What?" She asked, warily.
"Well, erm. Maybe Cheery could explain it to you." He turned his head and shouted into the bustling mass of Watchmen (and women, and etc.). "Cheery! Come explain the Theory to Captain Angua, would you?"
Cheery, with the put-upon expression of someone who was being asked to perform a task simply because it would sound better if a woman explained it, ambled over. "Hey, Angua." She said.
"Hey, Cheery." Said Angua. "What's this, then?"
"It's based on that fairy story we were talking about earlier." Cheery said. "The girl who got kissed by a stranger while she was asleep then married the bugger? Only, the story talks about True Love and all that."
"Oh, no." Said Angua, who was beginning to get an inkling of how this was going to play out.
"Yeah." Cheery said. "True Love's Kiss. We figure that ought'ta wake the Captain up."
"Ah." Said Angua, who, at the moment, was the only person who could potentially fit this description in relation to Captain Carrot .
Vimes gave Angua a hearty slap on the back. "You can do it, soldier."
Strangely, these words of encouragement did not have the desired effect.
Carrot's room at the Watch was terribly modest. Vimes had seen prison cells with more cheer, and closets with more space. He suspected it had, however, never felt as crowded as it did now, with the entirety of the Watch standing around the captain's sleeping form on the bed.
They'd shoved themselves into the space by any means necessary, which meant that there were more than a few people standing on pieces of furniture, squeezed into corners, and in one notable case, perched on another Watchman's shoulders. Detritus took up the entirety of the doorway, the rest of the trolls crowded in behind him, peering over his wide shoulders.
Vimes, of course, was being given a wide berth, which in this case meant an impressive one inch of empty space all around him. Angua was standing by the headboard, looking wildly uncomfortable.
"I'm not sure everyone needs to be here, sir." She said.
Vimes raised an eyebrow. "It's a safety precaution."
"For who?" Angua asked, but she sighed and leaned over Carrot anyways. She swiveled, briefly, to glare a warning at the assembled crowd, then bent at the waist and pressed a quick, chaste kiss to Carrot's lips.
Someone considered whistling, but the aftereffects of Angua's glare hadn't yet worn off.
They all waited, holding their breath, but the only effect the kiss seemed to have on Carrot was bringing a slight bit of color back to his cheeks. A quick shake revealed that he was still sleeping deeply.
There was a grumble of disappointment and the Watch filed out of the room, leaving just Carrot, Vimes, and Angua behind. Detritus lumbered in to get a closer look now that the room was emptier.
Angua, Vimes thought with some alarm, was beginning to show the beginning signs of Emotions, which was something Vimes was equipped to handle in the same way that a tiger might be equipped to juggle, play the banjo, and perform an underwater aerobics routine all at once .
"It didn't work…" Angua said, and Vimes searched his brain desperately to come up with something to stave off the incoming Emotions, or worse, tears.
"Hang on, maybe we're going about this wrong." Vimes said, coming up with a theory at the same time as it came out of his mouth. That was what the threat of Emotions did to a man.
"How so?" A voice asked from what Vimes had thought to be a foul-smelling pile of clothes on top of Carrot's dresser but actually turned out to be Nobby.
"Well, think about it. What does Carrot love? Aside from, er, you know." Vimes hastily tacked on at the end, seeing the werewolf Captain's expression.
"Breakin' up fights." Nobby suggested.
"Liberty." Detritus announced. "Der Watch rules an' regulations."
"Helping people." Nobby added, not to be outdone. "And, erm, animals, probably?"
"Justice." Said Detritus. "I dun know how that could kiss 'im though."
"There's a lady named Justice who works down in the Shades." Nobby said with a dreamy smile on his face that suggested exactly what the lady's profession was. "You have to pay extra if you want her to kiss you, though."
Angua seemed to be getting it. "Ankh-Morpork." She said. "Carrot loves Ankh-Morpork."
Vimes nodded. "More importantly, he loves the people in it. And they love him. I reckon that could count as True Love, or close enough to it at least."
"You want to have the whole city kiss Carrot?" Angua asked disbelievingly.
"It wouldn't be the craziest thing we've ever done." Vimes said, though he himself wasn't so sure.
The junior officers drew up the poster together, then presented it proudly to Vimes for inspection. Vimes looked at it, then had to pretend to search for some glasses to buy himself some time to blink the spots out of his eyes.
The poster, like most Watch endeavors, was painfully colorful, full of bad grammar, and somehow smelled like the thing the wizards had accidentally summoned out of the sewer the week before.
The poster read:
EMERGENCEY! COME TOO SEWDOPOLYS YARD AND KISS CAPTAIN CARROT
TO BRAKE THE SPELL! ALL SITIZENS OF ANK-MORPORK REKWESTED
BEEFORE, END OF DAY. THANK YOU SINSERELY THE WATCH
Vimes handed it back. "Ankh-Morpork has an 'h' in it." He said.
Corporal Ping hurriedly took a quill and made an adjustment. Vimes looked. It now said ANK-MHORPHORKH.
"Excellent job, Corporals." Vimes said. "Take this down to Teemer and Spools and make as many copies as they'll let you. Then hang them up all over town, and when you're done, go back and get some more. Make sure the word gets spread."
"Yes, Sir!" The Corporals gave what passed for smart salutes in the Watch and left with their poster, temporarily blinding Visit when he accidentally looked at it as they were on the way out the door.
Well, at least it would get people's attention.
Now, to see if anyone would show up.
Vimes' fears, as it turned out, were unfounded. That, perhaps, wasn't the best word for it.
However, if there was a word that meant, 50,000 people are lining up outside of the Watch for a chance to kiss Captain Carrot, Vimes had yet to find it.
The line of people stretched from the staircase outside of Carrot's room to the Shades and then back again several times over. Cut-Me-Own-Throat-Dibbler, after taking his turn, had brought out a cart and started selling candied apples, which everyone agreed were inappropriate for the situation but more delicious than someone might expect when it came to Dibbler's wares.
The Watch very quickly had to set up some ground rules. After deciding that if a kiss on the lips worked, the same on the forehead couldn't be all that different, they declared that all kisses had to be administered to the forehead and couldn't last for more than three seconds.
Angua supervised to make sure that no one got over-excited, and after catching a few people sneaking back in for a second time, Vimes set himself up in a chair and started stamping people's hands on their way out of Carrot's increasingly claustrophobic room. By the time they thought of moving him somewhere larger it was too late and the halls of the Watch were already too overcrowded to move through.
Colon, Nobby, and Cheery were sent out to patrol the streets, in case any enterprising individuals decided to take advantage of the abrupt and total emptying of every shop, residence, and haberdashery in Ankh-Morpork . Reg and Igor took down names as people entered so that they would be able to track down anyone who didn't show up . Detritus and the other trolls were Crowd Control. It was very effective, in that anyone in the crowd who didn't like being Controlled got bonked over the head.
People filtered in and out of Carrot's room, bemoaning the Watchman's state and pressing kisses to his forehead. Witches, wizards, zombies and vampires all patiently waited their turns, though things were slowed a bit as Ms. Dearheart had to explain things to the golems once they got to the front of the line. She was accompanied by a sheepish-looking Moist Von Lipwig, shuffling in his golden suit as the rest of the Post Office queued up behind him.
The whole affair took longer than Vimes thought possible. Sybil showed up somewhere around the 15 hour mark with young Sam in tow. She deposited a kiss on each of Carrot's cheeks and lowered her son so that he could bestow one of the most slobbery kisses of all times on the captain's forehead.
She also brought with her stale coffee  and sandwiches for the whole Watch, as well as a fresh change of clothes for Vimes, since she declared the ones he was wearing smelled like cigar smoke. The Watch, a bit sleep-deprived and more than a little harried, decided that she must have been some form of goddess in disguise.
The procession went on for another 33 hours after that. Outside, Dibbler started selling Make-Yer-Own-Tents for people to sleep in. The Watch had to shut the operation down after people started to complain about paying two gold for a stick and a moth-eaten blanket.
Justice and her friends, Charity and Candy, stopped by, much to Nobby's delight. The Librarian took a turn as well, though as a large and generally angry Orang-utan he was kindly allowed to cut to the front of the line.
The Fools' Guild, after comically trying to enter through the doorway all at once and pulling out humorously large hankies and dabbing at their eyes over Carrot's bedside, left behind smears of white makeup on Carrot's forehead and a trail of pratfalls accompanied by uncomfortable polite laughter in their wake. They exchanged makeup tips with the Actors' Guild, but the gathering quickly had to be broken up after one of the thespians took unkindly to taking a pie in the face, which, coincidentally, had been brought along by the Bakers' Guild, who were also in line.
The Merchants' and Alchemists' Guilds came as well, along with the Armorers' Guild and the Lawyers' Guild. The Assassins' Guild entered in through the window, for they had quite forgotten that there was any other way to enter a building.
The whole city had gathered for Captain Carrot, it seemed. A procession fit for a prince .
The Watch changed shifts then changed again, Sybil brought more coffee, and finally, after 49 hours, just over two days, the crowd started to thin.
Vimes, who had just mastered the art of falling asleep with his eyes open, startled awake when Angua laid a gentle hand on his arm.
"That's it, Commander." She said. "The whole city has been in and out."
Vimes sat up, rubbing at his eyes. "Carrot?"
Angua shook her head. "No change. He's still asleep, sir."
"Damn." Said Vimes. "Who did we miss?"
"As far as we can tell, sir, nobody." Angua held up the extremely thick book that held the names of every one of Carrot's visitors. "Everyone we know of has been accounted for."
"Not quite." Said a voice, and Havelock Vetinari melted out of the shadows. Vimes didn't fall out of his chair, but it was a close thing.
"Where the hell did you come from?" Vimes, who had recently had a talk with Sybil about watching his language, especially in front of authority figures, demanded.
Vetinari smiled. "Outside."
Vimes bristled, but Angua grabbed his arm before he could do anything rash, like take out three days worth of sleep deprivation out on the city's resident and mostly benevolent ruler.
"Is there something that you need, sir?" She asked, doing her best to aim for a respectful tone. Unfortunately, anyone who had spent a good amount of time with Samuel Vimes had a slightly skewed definition of respectful, and she landed rather more on the mark of disgruntled.
In response, Vetinari held up one of the fliers. It looked like the original, though Vimes didn't want to imagine how the Patrician would have gotten ahold of such a thing. It took Vimes a minute to realize the meaning.
"You're joking." He said.
The Patrician raised an eyebrow. "It does say that all citizens are requested, does it not?" He squinted at the paper, as though the Watch's questionable spelling made him genuinely doubt his ability to read it.
"Uh, right." Vimes said, glancing over at Angua. "Go right ahead. I guess."
Most of the Watch had already been sent to get some rest, but Detritus, Nobby, Colon, Visit, and Cheery all joined Vimes and Angua as they watched the Patrician walk over to the bed where Carrot was lying.
"This seems...wrong, somehow." Nobby said, in a not-so-quiet whisper.
"Shhh!" Colon said.
When Vetinari stopped, Vimes felt himself tensing slightly. If there was anyone who would want Carrot out of the way, it was the Patrician. Rightful kings, however alleged they were, tended to put a damper on the leaders who had come before them.
However, Vetinari didn't do anything except lean down and kiss Carrot's forehead. It was perfectly innocent, followed the three-second rule, and was in no way untoward. It was, somehow, the most disturbing thing Vimes had ever witnessed in his life.
Vetinari drew away, and all gazes in the room turned to Carrot, who, once again, failed to deliver on the excitement.
"Bugger." Said Angua, who would have responded to any discussions about her language with a set of teeth to the throat.
"Well now what do we do?" Vimes asked.
"If I might offer an opinion?" Vetinari clasped his hands behind his back, looking not at all disturbed by recent events.
Vimes waved a hand at him, telling him to go on. There weren't many other options, at this point.
"It seems to me that you, perhaps, went about solving this in the wrong manner." Vetinari said.
"What do you mean?" Angua asked. "We already tried-" She cut herself off, blushing.
Vetinari smiled like a snake. "I'm sure you did, my dear. That is not what I was talking about, however. This event was set up due to your belief in Captain Ironfoundersson's love for Ankh-Morpork, correct?"
"I guess." Vimes said, warily, feeling like he was walking himself into a trap.
"Therein, I believe, is where your mistake lies. No, not in the validity of the Captain's love for his city- I am quite sure that assumption wasn't incorrect." Vetinari added, before anyone could protest. "I believe it is, however, simpler than you have made it out to be. The Captain loves the city, but more importantly, he loves protecting the city. And he loves those who do the same."
As this sunk in, Vetinari finished, "Tell me. Has the Watch taken a turn yet?"
Ah. Vimes thought. He hated it when the Patrician was right.
The Watch once again, and, hopefully for the last time, assembled in Carrot's room.
Vimes, unfortunately, had once heard the term lead by example, and though he wasn't sure what metal had to do with it, he was of the opinion that good leaders shouldn't ask their employees to do what they weren't willing to do themselves.
With that in mind, Vimes was the first to step up and press an awkward, hasty kiss to his Captain's forehead.
"That was nice, Commander." Said Reg Shoe, who stepped into Vimes' place and followed his example.
After the two of them went Colon, Cheery, Dorfl, Visit, Igor, Swires, Hancock, Ping, Flint, Nobby, and all the rest.
Detritus was the last. He stepped up to the bed, carefully, and lowered his gigantic head to give a surprisingly gentle kiss. He was, of course, large enough that his mouth encompassed most of Carrot's face, but Vimes supposed it was the thought that counted.
The Watch waited, once again, to see if Carrot would wake up.
This time, he didn't disappoint.
Carrot's eyes widened when he took in the sight of a grinning Detritus hovering over him, then widened even further when he took in the sight of Vimes, Vetinari, and the rest of the Watch standing in his bedroom.
"Oh, my." Carrot said. Everyone cheered, drowning out whatever he had planned to say next.
When it quieted down again, Carrot said, "If I might ask, what is going on?"
"Der True Love's Kiss." Said Detritus. "I kissed yer." He leaned in closer "Right on der mouth."
"Ah." Said Carrot. "Right."
 Or Watchwoman, or troll, or dwarf, or whatever Nobby was.
 Of course, it could have been Phlegm-el's insistence that magic was just a form of science that did it. Alchemists and wizards didn't agree on much, but the one thing they could both say with absolute confidence was that the others' craft was complete hogwash.
 The Watch had all teamed up to make it for him on his last birthday, which was a nice thought in theory but actually turned out to be a hellish collection of misshapen clay, hand-painted and often misspelled messages of well-wishing, and the occasional dirty joke. It looked like something a grade-schooler might have made, if they were blind and possibly had eaten too much paste at recess. Vimes suspected it was up to Carrot that the thing was vaguely ashtray shaped at all.
 This was not quite true, though no one would become aware of this for some time.
 Which was to say, not at all.
 Any enterprising individuals except Nobby and Colon, of course, who took it upon themselves to confiscate two chocolate cakes and a row of pastries from the bakery in order to make sure they didn't get stolen.
 It also had the side effect of being the first real census Ankh-Morpork had seen in fifty years, and would be prized by historians for years to come despite the fact that Reg had spilled mustard over an entire page, and Igor had somehow managed to catch it on fire no less than twice.
 After a certain amount of time being a copper, stale became the only way a person could drink coffee. It was one of the established facts of the universe, along with students in higher education being unable to survive if they didn't eat instant noodles  often enough.
 In the Disc, instant noodles were rather not what they sounded like, but instead an unholy abomination the wizards had cooked up in their basement after a week without sleeping. It is said that after taking the first sip, the wizard who created the drink had whispered, "what have I done?" before promptly disappearing from this plane, never to be seen again. In the Disc, instant noodles are not unlike modern energy drinks.
 Or, a King.