K. Ryan, 2006.
Written for the Cheesemongers live journal community and week one of the June Challenge: het, and 'trousers.'
Sergeant Maladict was touring civilisation. The sights, the smells, the mud and more suspect, unidentifiable detritus that clung to the trouser-cuffs of her dress uniform; everything Ankh Morpork had to offer.
"And so you see, ve haf become advanced, yes?"
Every civilisation has a man who takes pictures. Otto grinned at the sergeant, enjoying the feeling of double liberation that came with being an Informative Guide and also being able to show off the full dazzling compliment of teeth without expecting any flinches. Indeed, most of the time his companion smiled back—the combined brilliance this produced had a tendency to blind people in the street. "You use thirty-seven new pieces of technology for what used to take all the time and effort of a working voice-box?"
"Thirty-seven is a little arbitrary—but it is a joke of course, yes? And you are exactly right, ve haf cut down on the need for shouting."
The two vampires stood together on Filigree Street ("There iz a pub here, ze Mended Drum, a true symbol of Ankh—ah, I see you have heard of it already.") and listened to the screams. Besides the usual bar sounds and foul-bodied fouler mouthed toddler sounds and the mournful cry of CMOT Dibbler as he wondered why even the hungriest of dogs never trailed him in the street when he was selling sausages, they could hear, and see, one man as he waved his paddles madly at the nearest Clacks tower. As he did this, he shouted aloud.
"Andy. Stop. Tell boss. Stop. Stick job up arseways. Stop. Sentencefull broke too for. Stop."
A man on the opposite side of the road lifted his paddle in a salute and grinned. His reply raised echoes. "Yeah, got that, Dave!" Almost as an afterthought, he lifted the paddles again and signed: "Cando. Stop. Bastard. Stop. Boss. You soon deepshit mate. Stop."
"Ah! That didn't send! The tower's not working again!"
"The buggers always go to cack first try, Andy!"
Otto shrugged elegantly, watching the scene. "Vell. Some of the shouting."
Maladict matched his shrug. "Shall we walk on?" she said, in a tone she had learned at the dreadful salons her mother had forced her into but still found useful on occasion.
Otto laughed. "Qvick march!"
"That was terrible."
"Vhy, yes. It vas, rather."
Maladict smiled. "For a modern vampire, Otto—b-free and light-happy and all that—you're a dear old fossil. You do know that accent can be lost. I know. Other Uberwaldeans manage it. V and W are not of the same phoneme."
"People find it charmink."
"No, they find you charming, and are willing to ignore allophonic disaster."
It is quite difficult for Black Ribboners to blush. They have to dredge up something that hasn't been in evidence for centuries. "You did not come to meet me because you vanted to know more about my modern city, I think," he said.
Maladict smirked, and let one hand slide down to rest on the iconographer's hip, bony fingers curling around his belt buckle. "Not entirely, no," she said. "Though I did want you to show me where a tailor might be, so I could see about coercing you into changing those things you're wearing. It's a dreadful cut."
Otto swallowed, and the sergeant could see his tongue move carefully over his teeth, and she knew that she was doing the same.
"After all," said Maladict, "A decent pair of trousers makes or breaks civilisation."