Disclaimer: it's all Pratchett's.

Spoilers: Monstrous Regiment.

A/N: Written for the "birthday: poetry or rhyme" challenge over at the LJ cheesemongers community. Rating for violence and innuendo. Warnings for... violence, innuendo, and blatant shippiness, I suppose.


There'll Be Children


The first light of the morning, filtered by the barred windows far above, reaches for Polly with clammy fingers, but she's already awake. Whatever false hope there is makes her look up, just for a moment.

In her lap, Mal's head stirs, and her eyes flutter open. "'s it morning already?" she mutters. "Damn." So good at pretending, Mal, it's not as if either of them has slept all night.

"A cunning observation," says Polly. Lets her fingers stroke lightly, lightly through Mal's hair, despite the sarcasm. "My leg's fallen asleep," she adds, because it's true. "Can you move a little?"

"Can try that," says Mal, and Polly slips her hands underneath Mal's shoulders, lifts her up carefully to adjust her position. It doesn't matter that much, because a numb leg is really, really, not the worst of their problems. And then Mal's head is resting on her thigh again and Polly resumes the two-handed stroking. No difference, really.

Mal says something and Polly realises she hasn't listened, on account of being too engrossed in the way the faint light is playing with Mal's hair. She's learned to pay attention to little details. Leave the big picture stuff to the ruperts.

"Sorry?" she says.

"I said, Polly, my dear, woman who has a weird and strangely fascinating hair fetish don't stop, that I wish you a very happy birthday," says Mal. "Since we determined it's morning, and all."

"Oh," says Polly. "That."

Her hands are slowly getting as numb as her leg, so she traces the shapes of Mal's face, the curve of her jaw, the dark lines of her brows, as long as she still can. Breath clouds in chilly autumn air, and she wonders if she can lean down and kiss her, just once, or if that's too much sudden movement for Mal, who, despite everything she says, seems to be in quite a lot of pain.

"You remembered," Polly adds.

"'course," says Mal. "Spent four birthdays with you. Although," and there she smiles, even though the smile isn't very happy, or even very sane, "none was quite like this."

Polly exhales sharply. "I noticed."

Mal falls silent at this, and for a moment Polly is convinced Mal's fallen asleep. It'd be a blessing, really, Mal needs the sleep, so much that Polly doesn't even dare waking her from her nightmares when she has them. Even though they feature Polly, every last one of them. Polly knows this; it's turned out that some of Mal's dreams are as contagious as her hallucinations.

"Next year," murmurs Mal, suddenly, "next year there's going to be a party. With confetti. And twenty-five birthdays candles that you can not blow out in one go because, really, you smoke too much, I've always said that. And lots and lots of unnecessary decorations."

"Sounds good," says Polly. She doesn't care about decorations much, but she does care, yes, she does care about next year.

"Copious amounts of alcohol and caffeinated beverages," adds Mal, and her voice acquires a definitely unexpected wistful quality. "And a cake. That I'm going to bake. With my very own two hands oh damn -" and she trails off.

"Shh," says Polly, and her heart breaks a little. "Yes, you will," she says, aiming for reassuring and failing. "It'll be an appalling monstrosity of a cake, since you sort of fail at cooking and other assorted domestic tasks, and I will say I appreciate the thought and maybe lick some cappuccino creme off the top because I'm nice like that, but damn it, I am going to see you in an apron one of these days."

Mal lifts one eyebrow, slowly. "Only an apron, or -?"

"There'll be children," says Polly indignantly, but she's slightly thankful that the moment of despair was just that, a moment. "Shufti'll be having her kid - oh - last week, if I'm any judge."

"I'm going to teach them songs with questionable content," says Mal, peering up at her and looking positively impudent. "For your birthday. I'll line the kids up and have them sing for you and Paul and your father will be embarrassed to no end and Shufti'll just stand there with that I am oh so scandalised but not really look that she has perfected. Funny as hell, I think."

"That would be nice," says Polly. "Yes, I'd think I'd like that." Seeing Paul and Shufti and her father again; she'd like that.

"And poetry," Mal says. "I'm going to write a very awful poem for you, because that is practically expected since I am a vampire and all, and then I'll proclaim it at dinner with great heart-felt devotion. On my knees."

"And once again I must remind you there'll be children," says Polly.

Mal pouts. "And people think I am the one with the filthy imagination."

"Can't imagine why," says Polly. "Besides, I once had a very awful poem written for me. By my fifteen year old neighbour. You can't beat male adolescent poetry."

"I'm not sure," says Mal. "My poems reach quite abysmal depths. You need experience and talent to be this bad. Fifteen? I whine in your general direction."

"It starts with, 'Your eyes are as brown as freshly brewed coffee.'"

"See?" says Mal. "Not bad at all."

"He proceeded to rhyme that with 'toffee'," Polly informs her. "And no, I am not going to tell you which part of my anatomy he compared that with."

"Something sticky and... sickeningly sweet?" says Mal. "Boy, is he in for a surprise." She stretches a little. "And while that is quite awful as far as poetry goes, there'll also be rainbow-coloured balloons. Bet your male adolescent doesn't come close to being that cool."

"Rainbow-coloured -," says Polly. "I think you lost me there."

"Balloons," says Mal. "Bit like rubber sonkies, only they're for children and you kind of blow them up, but not in an explosion kind of way, and there's supposed to be some intrinsic satisfaction in that, but I'm sure I do not see why that is."

"I'm convinced that defintion has potential to be very helpful," says Polly, "but what are rubber sonkies?"

"Rubber sonkies, dear child, are -," says Mal, and there Polly strokes her face again, and she leans into that, eyes almost smiling for the first time in days, "- oh, never mind. I doubt you'll find yourself in a position where you'd need those anytime soon."

Polly's hands stop where they are, and Mal closes her almost smiling eyes, but neither can make the sentence unspoken, and that brightly coloured birthday dream crashes onto a dirty cell floor.

"No, I won't," says Polly, flatly. Suddenly, she wants to hurt Mal and she hates herself for it. "Because we're going to die and there's no way out and we're going to die, Mal."

"No, we're not," says Mal. Polly's heart skips a beat, and not in a good way, because Mal adds, "You are. You're going to die. I can't."

For a moment, Polly really isn't sure which one is worse. She stares down on her hands, bound together with rope that hasn't given way to gnawing and tearing and isn't going to, either. They're tingling, numbing, and she's a bit afraid there'll be lasting damage, but she's really more afraid there won't be a chance to have the damage last.

She looks down at Mal, who has turned her head away to face the door instead, and if Polly didn't know her better... she leans forward to check. No, not crying, after all.

There might be rules against kicking prisoners in the head, but there really are no rules against chaining them up. Mal has hardly moved these last days, and every time she does and a previously unscarred bit of her wrists comes in contact with the silver, the pain makes her hiss between her teeth and that's really worse than any whimper or scream might be. And Polly doesn't know what to do, so she resumes the playing with Mal's hair, drawing lines on her face, just to keep Mal distracted from the way the skin on her wrists has first reddened, then bubbled, peeled, scarred and dear sweet Nuggan Polly can't look at it.

"How many left?" asks Mal, softly. Her voice is controlled, Polly wonders how she does it. Polly's hands slide down to Mal's neck, her finger push the off-white collar aside, tug at the string underneath, the remains of a necklace. Polly closes her eyes and lets the tips of her fingers do the counting, even though she knows the answer. Doesn't matter, Mal knows it as well.

"Four," she says. Her fingers are on Mal's face again, and Mal breathes deeply, smelling the scent off Polly's fingers, takes the time to softly kiss one of them, but maybe that's only for whatever faint trace of coffee is left there.

"Two days," murmurs Mal, and there isn't really a need to say anything else, so Polly just puts a finger on her lips and they fall silent again.

Polly supposes she should be glad that at least Mal isn't going to kill her on her birthday, but she isn't so sure how to go about that.