Disclaimer: My name is neither Terry nor Pratchett, and so therefore I own nothing of Discworld except the books I've purchased from the store.
Author's Note: Not really Discworld style, but I liked the concept, I liked Mort and Ysabell (-crosses out the 'd' in 'liked'-), and I wanted to take a shot at Discworld for a change. Here you go.
He was counting.
Ten, eight, seven…
Hold on, said part of his brain logically. You've skipped the nines.
Well, who cares about nines? Another part of his mind pointed out, with equal logic. You remember when you were nine, there was that whole terrible thing involving your cousin and a pineapple—
That is besides the point, his main brain interjected firmly. Nines is important. Especially in magic.
Are important, said the other half of his mind with equal resolution. Why on A'tuin do you listen to yourself if you can't even conjugate tenses properly? And this isn't magic.
Part of his mind sulked off for a moment, before sheepishly crawling back with a defiant reply. Math has nothing to do with tenses! People say that living is a magic all its own.
Yes, well, you should also remember what people said when your cousin—
He smiled at her with the vague experience of age, skimmed the fragile lines of her wrist with a thumb.
"It won't be long now." He said.
Her eyes narrowed like the backroads in the country. "You're not talking about the trip, are you." She said flatly.
"Well, yes, and the trip too."
"And the—" But memory had caught up to her, and was now busy jogging at her brain's elbow. If her brain had elbows. If she'd had a brain.
Now that was uncalled for, the first half of his mind said. She's your wife.
She also eats all of the truffles that the ambassadors give you when they come to visit you. The second half sulked. You'd say that it's probably called for.
"What do you mean, and the trip!"
Okay, yes. The first half agreed. Anything you say. Just calm her down.Six, five, four...
"Well…" He said, fumbling at the back of his head, feeling a wry half-smile lilt onto his lips as he fingered the worn pages of a book and finally snapped it shut, not wanting to read what came next. (He had never finished reading it and, he knew, probably never would.) It was a fairly young book, as far as books went. It was exactly forty-two years, six months, ten days, and seventeen hours old.
He should know.
"Well?" The word was so pointed that if it had been a weapon, the dwarves of Ankh-Morpork would have sold their souls to learn the secrets of making it. If they'd believed in souls, that is.
"The thing is…" He stopped abruptly. Years of diplomacy hadn't done anything for his directness, particularly regarding affairs this bad. Generally, they had taught him to walk around it, walk around it and never mention it until it had happened. "Let's just say that you might want to get the carriage to let you off at this junction."
As though to emphasize his words, the wind howled through a gap in the curtains, which Ysabell hastily fixed shut before fixing an equally cold look upon her husband.
"Oh." She said grimly. "I see."
"I am sorry." He said.
Why's she giving you that grim look? You're dying!
Everyone's dying. That's the whole point of going about living, so that you die
That's a very stupid point to life.
Yes, well, you aren't really all that clever, and you were in a tight spot, so you couldn't really be bothered to think of anything better..
He realized that she had turned to the corner and had begun to sniffle. "If you didn't like my dress that much, you could have just said so instead of making me go out into the rain to ruin it." The words came through the fabric heavily muffled – hardly a surprise, considering the amount of it that there was.
He gave it a critical, considering look. It was very Ysabell; pink and exceedingly frilly.
"It's not about the dress," he said awkwardly, sinking into the cushioned seats and wishing that someone else could explain the concept to his wife. Probably not her father, though, as by then it would have been far too late. "It's about you and me—"
"Susan will be very upset if we divorce at this time of her life." Ysabell said levelly, eyeing him. She had snapped off the tears as a plumber might fix a drain, and now the plumber behind her eyes was showing him the bill. "I read in a book that it's a very delicate period, going into adolescence."
"They get so traumatized easily—"
"Ysabell, I really—"
"—they can be convinced that genocide is their only option—"
"Ysabell, I—" He paused and blinked. "What, genocide, really?"
She blinked too, as though hearing her words for the first time. "Well," She admitted at last, "Maybe pesticide."
"I thought that pesticide was a kind of insect repellent."
"Really? I thought that it was something that killed little pests like Susan and turned your skin green if you stayed near it long enough."
"Susan's your daughter." He reminded her.
"Also yours." She retorted. "Which doubles her pest-potential." But she was smiling as she said it. (Then again, she was always smiling these days.)
He sighed, a little heavily, and began again. "Ysabell—"
"Sssh!" She hissed, waving him off. "Do you hear that?"
He listened, and heard nothing but the roar of the wind against the shut curtains of the carriage. "No." He said.
"Not even the driver and the horses?" She whispered. When he turned to her, he saw that her eyes had widened into vivid circlets, and were startlingly contrasted against her irises. "I knew," She continued furiously, "that you shouldn't have tipped him before we got to the destination. He's drunk!"
"You were the one who suggested giving him an opportunity to better himself." Mort said dryly. "I was the one who said that the name Roaring Drunk Bill didn't inspire much confidence."
She slumped against the seats, hair spilling out into the back and into one of the holes, safely plugging it with the fat corkscrew curl. "We're going to die, aren't we."
The sigh came from his mouth like something vital torn away, and he nodded wearily.
"Yes." He said at last.
She said nothing. They had waited for this all of their lives, in a sense, and she'd known that Mort had been counting down the days. (At one point, he'd bought a calendar, which she had carefully, considerately ripped to shreds before burning. She'd thought that living for sixty-odd years in a house with skulls on the door was enough morbidity for one person, thank you, and she was not going to have a calendar that declared when her husband would die.) She just hadn't expected it to be so—present.
Lost in her thoughts, she did not notice that Mort, too, was thinking. (For once.) He was thinking of how very young she looked, this youthful wife with not-too-little flesh (too much flesh would be debatable, and he wasn't going to get into that again) and cheeks that had flushed with rose quite often after they had married. She was not, in the sense that it was meant, beautiful, but she was his.
At least, as much his as Ysabell could be to anyone.
He knew how this was supposed to go, knew that it was cliché, and said it anyway.
"I love you." Mort said dispassionately, and kissed her.
It was at that moment that the carriage exploded off of Live Man's Curve (soon to be Dead Man, and surprisingly, not because of Ysabell, either).
And somewhere in the world, a girl with black hair so jet that a speeding plane would have been envious, and a white streak through it, turned over in her sleep.
Author's Note: You know the usual litany: read and review...