So, my loves…where did we leave off? I believe it's about time for another chapter with Vetinari in it, don't you? I apologize for the (very) prolonged absence, but I have a whole list of excuses I'd be glad to show you if you really want to know. Remember to REVIEW, because a reviewed Cabbage is a happy Cabbage. This chapter is a bit longer than the others methinks, so think of it as a reward for waiting all this time.

In this chapter: Vetinari must talk to Ludo, but it's more difficult than you'd think. Also, a bit of insight into the rivalry between Vetinari and Downey.

As for the footnotes in here, they don't really have anything to do with the story. They're just my geeky little musings on whatever I happened to be thinking of at that moment.

Disclaimer: If I was Terry Pratchett, I'd be much funnier. Not to mention manlier.

After three hours spent in deep thought, Vetinari was forced to admit that talking to Ludo was going to be rather more difficult than he had anticipated. For one thing, the daily actions of Havelock and Ludo were so vastly different that the only times their respective worlds overlapped were at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Breakfast had already come and gone, and at the moment Havelock was heading down the richly-paneled hall that led to the cafeteria. As he walked, his mind raced to find an acceptable manner of talking to one the boys who had made it their personal mission to torment him for nearly a decade.

Havelock found it greatly ironic that the person who was causing him such mental torment was Ludo, known for being one of the most idiotic students currently in attendance at the Guild.

The young man was so deeply embroiled in his inner conflicts that he hardly noticed the oppressive crush of people racing to lunch. Instead of shooting his usual glare at the obnoxious boys whose hurried swagger threatened to smash him against the wall, he simply sidestepped them and continued on his way. Those who attempted to make eye contact with him looked away very quickly and sped up, because it was obvious that Havelock would not be pleased with anyone who interrupted his current train of thought. Although Downey and his friends may have teased the young Assassin, the rest of the Guild could recognize danger when it walked among them.

Lost in thought, Havelock reflected on the difficulty that would certainly be involved when he tried to engage Ludo in conversation. Apart from the fact that the two students rarely ever saw each other, there were a few other small problems, such as the burning enmity that had flourished between Havelock and Downey's group since the boys were both eleven. There was no particular reason for this hatred, but Downey was big and rich and popular and Vetinari was thin and clever and rather creepy. Also, he wouldn't even kill people. He was not much of an Assassin, in Downey's opinion, no matter how good he was at concealment and such.

So, in the way of young boys everywhere, the two had developed a vicious rivalry that still flourished, even at the greater but not particularly wiser age of seventeen. However, Havelock had had the sense not to invest too much into this hostility. There were much more important things to do than defend one's honor after being called "Dog-Botherer." This was not to say that he didn't hate Downey and his friends. He just went about it in a thoroughly sensible, commendable manner.

Downey, on the other hand, had absolutely no problem with devoting time and energy towards his vendetta with Vetinari. Although even he was not stupid enough to try and beat Vetinari up, since they went to a school for Assassins, after all, he did his best to aggravate his rival. Unfortunately, Vetinari often refused to even pay attention to his insults, leaving Downey even more furious with him than before. Instead of Havelock's lack of interest deterring him from the rivalry, it simply caused Downey to double his efforts to extract actual outrage from the boy.

Ludo, being Downey's self-proclaimed best friend, had naturally adopted this rivalry as his own. In fact, he was the one who made up the most creative and inventively rhymed insults, and he was often better at hating Vetinari than Downey was himself.

Needless to say, Ludo was going to be difficult to talk to. In fact, Ludo was going to be diffuclt to even get within speaking distance of, judging by the circle of dim-witted friends that surrounded him seemingly at all times.

Also, there was the fact that Havelock really had no viable reason to go off looking for Downey. If Vetinari himself couldn't understand his own actions, what chance was there that Ludo would even listen to him? However, Havelock decided that that was an issue he would prefer to think of later, once he had enlisted Ludo's help.

Havelock had reasoned with himself in this way all through his classes. In fact, his distant attitude had incited the anger of a teacher or two. Unfortunately, he had not yet managed to convince himself that looking for Downey was a bad idea. It was not just the interruption of his routine that plagued him now; he could live with that. It was the simple fact that Downey had gone out to complete a contract that didn't exist. Who in Ankh-Morpork could possibly want to lure the idiot out for any purpose? As Assassins went, Downey was relatively harmless. At least, he had never offended anyone important to Vetinari's knowledge. Havelock could not stand the thought of such a strange problem going unsolved in his city. It was an affront to someone who prided himself on knowing the way Ankh-Morpork and its dubious citizenry functioned.

Havelock sighed to himself, although it was not noticeable to the students around him. It would not be wise to sigh loudly, since that might be interpreted as a sign of weakness. He had arrived at the doors of the cafeteria, which were currently flung open to allow the students to swarm through them. He followed the crowd into the giant, airy room, and quickly spotted Ludo sitting with his companions at a table situated towards the back. Before he went to confront them, Havleock decided to get his lunch. It would be no use to talk to Ludo on an empty stomach.

He went to the back of the line, which was thankfully short at the moment. The unfortunate smell of cabbage and something as-of-yet unidentifiable wafted towards his face, and he grimaced along with everyone else in the line.

As he stood there, he took the opportunity to observe Ludo in his natural habitat, so to speak. The young man was currently speaking to his friends, and juding by his emphatic gesturing, he was regaling them with the tale of how he had knocked some unfortunate student's head in. It seemed as though Ludo had temporarily assumed Downey's role in their circle, since he was sitting in the seat customarily reserved for his best friend.

Obviously, neither Ludo or his friends would welcome Havelock with open arms.

Vetininari grabbed his now-full lunch tray and headed towards a mostly-empty table. He would eat the hypothetically edible portions of his lunch first, then talk to Ludo. Luckily, his table was situated next to that of his target's (as Havelock was beginning to think of him).

Like any Assassin worth his salt, Vetinari began to calculate the easiest and most effective way to go about his mission. Never mind that he was not planning to kill anyone; this assignment might prove to be just as difficult.

Considering the age and intelligence of his target, the most obvious way to engage Ludo in conversation was through a direct approach. Subterfuge would be quite pointless, given that they were occupying a crowded lunchroom. As Havelock reluctantly attempted to eat his nourishing meal of boiled cabbage, he deliberated how to avoid the rest of Downey's friends, since they were currently surrounding the target. A simple lack of eye contact would be best, he decided, standing up and tossing his mostly-untouched luch into the garbage pail. Also, it might be best to do away with his own smug expression, much as this pained him.

Havelock swallowed his pride and wiped his face of all expression. He then walked over to Ludo's table, ignoring the strange glances he received from his fellow Assassins-in-training.

Stopping at Ludo's chair, he took a deep breath and reluctantly met his enemy's bemused eyes.

"Ah, Ludorum… might I talk to you for a moment?" he asked stiffly, resisting the urge to fade into the shadows and flee as any sensible person would.

"Dog-Botherer?" Ludo asked, looking at him as strangely as if the Vetinari had suddenly burst into song. "What do you want?"

"If we might step into the hall for a moment, Ludo--" Havelock said in a strained voice.

"Yeah, whatever," Ludo said reluctantly. He stood up, shooting a glare at the thin boy standing stiffly next to him. "But make it short, I'm not done eating."

"Certainly. I would hate to detain you from your cabbage, Ludorum."

Ludo looked at him angrily, wondering if that sentence had somehow concealed an insult to his person. Seeing no hint of amusement on Havelock's face, he gave up and followed the other boy into the hall leading to the dormitories.

"What is it, Vetinari?" he demanded, scowling fiercely at Havelock. "What possible reason could you have to talk to me?"

"A rather obvious one, Ludorum," Havelock said coolly. "Surely you must have noticed the absence of Downey, have you not?"

Ludo raised his eyebrows. "Well, yeah. Everyone has, idiot."

Chuckling slightly at the irony of being called an idiot by Ludo, Havleock continued. "You must surely find this business of a false contract suspicious, then."

"How did you know about the false contract?" Ludo asked quickly. Havleock winced internally, irritated at himself for making such an elementary mistake. "I asked Follet about it," he said smoothly, concealing all outward hesitation.

"Huh," Ludo said. "I guess he might have told you…"

Vetinari spared a moment for a silent celebration of Ludo's stupidity. "Yes," he said. "Anyway, I must confess that I have been distracted by this puzzling disappearance. As Downey's best friend, I am sure that you must be irked by it as well."

"Well, yes. But why do you care, Dog-Botherer? Are you in love with Downey or something? Maybe you're a pervert as well as a scag?" (A/N: scag has to be my absolute favorite word… I guess Ludo must have picked the habit up from Downey!)

Havelock grimaced, and a rarely-observed expression of the utmost horror briefly clouded his eyes. "That is quite far from the truth, Ludorum. In fact, there may be nothing farther."

"Sure," Ludo said, a knowing smirk plastered onto his face, "Whatever, Dog-Botherer. What's your point anyway?"

"Ah, thank you for reminding me." Havelock breathed in deeply, idly wondering if he was going to regret these moments for the rest of his life. "I am proposing that you and I endeavor to solve the mystery of Downey's disappearance. I do not wish to do this out of any particular love of Downey, mind you. I simply desire to know who would want to lure a trainee Assassin out of the Guild, and this has nothing to do with my and Downey's…eh…relationship."

Ludo, still processing all the words that had just viciously attacked his mind, seized on one of the things he recognized. "So you do have a relationship! I didn't even know James was on the turn…"

Havelock sighed, preparing to walk away. Ludo continued to ramble. "…and why would he even touch you, Dog-Botherer? You're creepy and he hates you and all that…"

Ludo abruptly stopped speaking, his slow-moving train of thought apparently reaching the station. "Wait a moment, you say you want us to work together?"

"That is not the main point of my request, but yes, that would be the most prudent route."

"Urgh," Ludo said in disgust, for once summing up Havelock's feelings perfectly.

"Do remember, our main goal would be catching Downey's captors, not spending time with each other." At the phrase "spending time with each other," Vetinari's eye twitched slightly, but he soon regained composure.

"Yeah, but…urgh. I hate you, Vetinari."

"I assure you, I share your feelings. However, you out of all of Downey's friends seem to know him the best. If I was to attempt to find Downey, I would most surely need you."

"Can't I just find Downey without you, if I know that much?"

"With all due respect, Ludorum, you have neither the intelligence or the endurance to complete this sort of endeavor. I, on the other hand, possess a great deal of working knowledge on the city and the affairs that influence it. I also am an expert in concealment and subterfuge, which I happen to recall are your weakest areas."

Ludo appeared to be resisting some sort of impulse, as his face was turning red and his teeth grinding together quite ferociously. However, he restrained himself, and after a moment responded calmly.

"Yeah, that's true, but how would we ever get along? I did mention that I hate you, right?"

"Well, we have so far managed to converse without killing each other. It's a start, to be sure, and I for one am a veritable master of self-restraint."

Ludo muttered something under his breath. Havelock was fairly sure that it involved the word "faggot" at great use.

"Are you planning on burning wood, Ludorum?" Havelock asked dryly. (1)

"Huh?" the other boy asked, utterly confused.

"Think nothing of it." Vetinari turned around as grandly as he could manage in the Guild uniform. "Shall we proceed back to the dining hall and avail ourselves of some delectable cabbage?"

Confronted with too many words, Ludo brushed past Vetinari, saying only, "I'll try to work with you, Dog-Botherer. But talk too much, and I'll break your legs."

"Lovely," Vetinari said. "I'll meet you in front of your dormitory at six tomorrow. I'm sure this shall be the start of a rewarding partnership."

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(1) Hahaha. Get it? Get it? Like a faggot of wood? Oh, teh hilarity of it all. is forcibly restrained from punning further

Finally! This chapter took aeons to write, but I love writing for Vetinari and Ludo so it was worth it. Again, sorry for the ages of absence, but further chapters have a 74 chance of being updated regularly, with an increase of 7.3 if my teachers do not assign any projects in the near future. (I've been reading too much Death Note, and it seems L has worn off on me… he he.)

Ludo is quite hilarious, is he not? Hopefully he will not start trying to hook Vetinari and Downey up, although that would be a fun chapter…manic laughter

NEXT CHAPTER: Casey and Downey are in for an unpleasant surprise, and we learn just why Casey is floating around in a time when no females are allowed in the Watch! (and you all thought I was just destroying the precious canon, dintcha?)

THANKS TO ALL MY GORGEOUSLY AWESOME REVIEWERS. I LOVE YOU LIKE SALT!