Long Dark Night of the Soul
___________________________________________



Lord Vetinari opened his eyes to blackness.

Not the usual run-of-the-mill cut-rate blackness you get in bed chambers and on starless nights (sort of grey-blue with black shadows), but a true ink black where nothing at all could be seen.

He closed his eyes and opened them again.

The darkness was still there.

He lay for a moment, contemplating the utter lack of light and the amazing amount of pain in which he found himself. Ignoring for the moment the chance that he had indeed both suddenly gone blind and stumbled through the palace window, he reviewed the possibilities.

The surface beneath him, he realized, had nothing in common with the deep eiderdown on which he had gone to sleep. It also lacked something in terms of basic bed-ness, namely softness and warmth, making up for this lack with large helpings of "stone" and "floor," not to mention "icy."

He heard a groan, somewhere by his feet.

"Is anyone here?" a familiar voice rasped out.

"Were you looking for anyone in particular Sir Samuel?" said Vetinari calmly.

"Oh no, Sir. Just wondering," said Vimes with manic cheerfulness. Somehow, he always felt most alive when he was being shot at, stabbed, pummelled, or otherwise running for his life. There was a quiet shuffling sound as the Commander of the Watch hauled himself painfully upright. "I was thinking, just now as I came to, who's the last person I would want to be trapped in a small dark space with, and there you were. Funny, feels rather like I've been kicked too."

"Are you injured Sir Samuel?" inquired Vetinari. The Patrician realized that his own face felt warped, as if it had been used for a game of football without even a by your leave. He winced as he prodded gingerly at a freshly loosened tooth.

"Just a little bruised Sir. You?" said Vimes.

The Patrician sat carefully. "I rather fear my ribs have been broken," said Vetinari.

There was a brisk sliding sound as Vimes dragged himself to the Patrician's side.

"May I Sir? Doughnut Jimmy taught me to find broken ribs a treat."

Vetinari jumped slightly as two invisible hands trailed lightly along his ribcage. He raised his arms to allow a full inspection, wincing as Vimes came in contact with the injured areas.

"At least three broken Sir," said Vimes at last. "They were after you, not me."

Vetinari dropped his arms. "What makes you say that?" he asked with genuine interest.

"Cause I'm lightly bruised, mostly where some bastard coshed me, but you've been used for target practice."

"I'm afraid someone practiced until he got it perfect," said Vetinari dryly. "Who do you feel it could have been?"

"Can't rightly say Sir," said Vimes.

"You mean you can't think of anyone who would wish me harm?" said Vetinari in disbelief. He wondered momentarily if the blow which had knocked Vimes cold had also scrambled his thoughts slightly.

"Oh no Sir," said Vimes honestly, "I can think of several hundred people who would like to see you dead. I just can't think of any stupid enough to NOT kill you like this."

Vetinari relaxed. "Someone stupid enough to let me live, yet intelligent enough to also kidnap the man most likely to find me again. Hmmmm. No names spring to mind."

There was a grating noise and the door to the room swung open. Both men covered their eyes as the blazing torchlight filled the windowless stone cell.

"Havelock Vetinari?" a strangely accented voice asked coldly.

"You have me at a disadvantage I'm afraid," said Vetinari, squinting.

"You do not need to know my name," said the voice, "I represent the Muntabi Liberation Front; our men are held in your palace cells and we negotiate even now for their release."

"I've been kidnapped for a prisoner exchange?" said Vetinari in disbelief.

"Let us say that your presence here is a powerful argument for the release of our freedom fighters," said the voice.

"You mean spys," said Vimes carefully. "How does bashing away at the Patrician of Ankh-Morepork help to get your men released?"

"Lord Rust and the other civic leaders (these words were said in the same tone someone else might use to say rubbish heaps) will arrange the release of our prisoners, or we will be forced to torture their Patrician. It would be most unlucky if he died as we did so."

"But man, this is the Century of the Fruitbat, we don't just torture people to get our way you know," said Vimes in dismay. "We invite them to parties and torture them with long stories, it's called politics." He looked desperately toward the seated Vetinari.

In the torchlight Vimes returning vision could see that Vetinari was indeed worse for the wear. One eye was blackened, and his cheekbone looked rather more lumpy than one normally expected. Blood had crusted on the man's split upper lip, and dark purple bruises stained his face. He sat in silence, his black robes dirt and dust streaked.

"We have had enough of politics," the voice said. "Now we will try violence. I hope for your sakes it works."

The door slammed with a leaden thud, instantly smothering the light.

"Well, my Lord, now we know the who," said Vetinari quietly.

"They're going to torture you," said Vimes in disbelief, "They're really going to torture you."

"Yes, it does seem a rather ineffective strategy," said Vetinari, "all Rust and the others will have to do is wait it out."

"But you'll be killed," said Vimes.

"And then they will have nothing to trade. A rather silly attempt I must say," said Vetinari.

"Do we really have their prisoners?" Vimes asked curiously, after a moments thought.

"Certainly," said Vetinari, "I supervised their debriefing myself."

"You mean you tortured them," said Vimes flatly. He heard the Patrician move slightly, and could visualize the man's calm stare.

"You might say, rather, that we persuaded them to see the benifits of assisting our intelligence gathering efforts," said Vetinari.

"So you tortured them."

"In a word, yes. Don't tell me you're squeemish Sir Samuel?"

Vimes sighed. "So how are we going to get out of this?" he asked after a moment.

"I rather think we're not," said Vetinari, "unless your Captain Carrot can find us."

Vimes sounded puzzled. "Surely Lord Rust and the others wouldn't..." He trailed off as he paused to consider the men and women in question. "What am I saying? They would, wouldn't they. They'll let you die in here." He was constantly amazed at the upper classes' ability not only to eat their own young, but tuck the napkin in deeper and run at their neighbors with a fork and knife.

"Now now, Sir Samuel," said Vetinari soothingly, "I imagine once I'm dead they will let you go. You have nothing to worry about."

"Nothing to..., they're going to kill you!" Vimes exploded.

"Yes?" said Vetinari. It always paid to take an interest.

"I'm going to examine the cell," snarled Vimes.

Vetinari smiled to himself as Vimes rose and stomped in what was presumably the direction of the nearest corner. There was a meaty thud, and a muffled "damn".

"Have you hurt yourself Sir Samuel?"

"No," came the emphatic reply, followed by muffled swearing and the sound of someone rubbing a freshly jammed toe.

Vetinari waited quietly for a few moments.

There were footsteps.

There were rather more footsteps, interspersed with the occassional thud, curse, groan and/or splash as Vimes found (in order) one bunk, wooden, two skulls, rolling, and one iron water trough (complete with convenient pipe designed for convenient continuous refill and, more specifically, located at approximately convenient groin heighth above the trough), trodden in.

With a squelchy noise a tottering and rather high-pitched Vimes sat back on the floor, feeling carefully first to assure himself that he was not about to descend on anything dangerous (ie: a pipe, skull, rat, or Lord Vetinari).

"Have you finished?" Vetinari enquired brightly.

There was a brief mutter.

"I'm afraid I didn't quite hear that," said Ventinari.

"Yes." The word had overtones which suggested that not only was the speaker finished, but the Disc, the day, and possibly the universe had joined him.

"And have you found the loose bar?" asked Vetinari.

"What are you talking about?" said Vimes in disbelief, "What bloody loose bar?"

"I believe that tradition demands a loose bar, or perhaps a hidden trapdoor?" said Ventinari calmly.

"Well there's no bloody loose bar," said Vimes furiously, "No loose bar, no trapdoor, no weak hinges, no tooth fairy waiting with a key. Are you sure they didn't jar your brain a bit while they were giving you that shiner?" he paused a moment, then added a dash of prudent caution, "Sir."

"I am quite myself," said Vetinari calmly, "And I'm sure you know your business Sir Samuel, cells and whatnot. I was only trying to be helpful."

There was a long silence.

*********************************************************


"They are coming, Sir Samuel," said Vetinari quietly. It was quite possibly morning.

Vimes woke from a half dozing nightmare in which he had been hanging acres of nursery curtains (with bunnies) with the assistance of Nobby Nobbs. The curtains had kept falling and Nobby was wearing a dress and singing about spoonfuls of sugar. All in all, waking up in a dank cell was somewhat of an improvement.

The door opened with a clang, and light again blinded the two men. Blinking owlishly, Vimes found his streaming eyes suddenly trying to focus on a swordpoint held firmly between his nostrils.

"Move, My Lord Vimes, and we will kill you," said the man with the strange accent. Several trolls who had entered the cell seized the Patrician and dragged him out. Vimes tensed, but, "pointedly" mindful of sudden movements, did not leap.

"A wise decision," his captor said, edging for the door. The sword remained at attention until the closing slab locked firmly in place, leaving Vimes alone in the dark.

**********************************************************

Hours passed.

Rather more hours passed.

More hours drifted by in a passing sort of fashion.

Even more... (all right, you get the picture).

**********************************************************

Vimes sat on the wooden bunk, his back firmly against the wall as it had been for most of the day (or night, or whatever). He had been "fed" three times, a raw turnip and a slice of bread each time, so he assumed twelve hours or so had passed. There was a movement of disturbed air, then the "plink" of a pebble striking the opposite wall and rolling away.

"That's 50,678 hits and 2 misses," he announced in satisfaction (Miss number 1 had been the result of a sudden insectile and above all leggy sort of slithering on his head which resulted in a brief flurry of motion and the loss of the pebble. Miss number 2 was not so much a miss as a foul, caused by a vicious overthrow, a riccochet, and a sharp pain above his right eye. But it did count; there were rules...)

Vimes scrounged another pebble from the uneven floor and prepared for his next toss. He paused.

There was the sound of something heavy being dragged. The door flew open; Vimes hands went to his dazzled eyes. Something large and black was thrown heavily into the cell, and the door slammed.

There was silence.

"Vimes?" A harsh whisper from the floor.

"Sir?" said Vimes in horror. The ragged shape could not be Vetinari; it couldn't be. No one would, no one could... Vime's mind tried to deal with reality and boggled a bit. Vetinari wouldn't let...

"The Muntabi are rather inventive," rasped Vetinari, "I shall have to take notes next time. Do you have a pencil Sir Samuel?" There was a sound which could have been either a chuckle or a sob.

Vimes slid from the bench and felt his way carefully toward the Patrician.

"Are you, are you..." he paused, unable to formulate the question in any way which did not make him sound like a complete and utter tit. He tried again.

"Are you badly injured my Lord?"

Vetinari hissed something which might have been called laughter (if you were the type who called a fully automatic riot gun a peacekeeper). "Oh no, Sir Samuel, not injured. I've merely had myself rearranged a bit for reasons of vanity. I'm sure my new appearance is rather striking."

Vimes reached blindly and felt cloth beneath his fingers. There, an arm, a back, two legs. He fumbled a bit, and found that his hands were wet. Gingerly, he sniffed at his fingers.

Blood.

The cloth which remained at Vetinari's back was saturated, as was the back of his drawers.

Vetinari chuffed awful laughter. "I'm afraid I need a bath Sir Samuel, I should have warned you. Can you direct me to the nearest tub?"

"Shut up," said Vimes coldly. "How bad is it?"

"I thought you wanted me to be quiet?" Vetinari said softly. Getting no response he sighed. "Not so much bad, Sir Samuel, as quite widespread. They really are rather clever."

"How bad?" Vimes asked again.

"Did I mention they used imps to record it?" asked Vetinari. "After all, they do need proof to send to Rust and the others. It took a bit, but I'm sure a few of my later comments were worth the effort, if a bit loud."

Vimes winced. It must have been bad indeed to made Vetinari say anything out of the ordinary at all, much less loudly. Dreading what he would find, he slowly lowered his hands back to the figure in front of him.

"Surely you're not afraid of a little blood?" inquired Vetinari.

"Can we pretend, just for a moment, that you are not required to continue to impress me with your disregard for your own arse?" snarled Vimes. "Now either bloody well tell me where it hurts or I'm going to go back to chucking pebbles at that damned wall and you can lay here and bleed, Sir."

Vetinari lay in silence for a moment, and Vimes found himself half-hoping no answer would be forthcoming. He jerked as a hand landed heavily on his arm.

Vimes carefully felt the offered fingers and Vetinari hissed. The nails were gone, and the middle three fingers felt strange and misshapen.

"Only your left hand?" He felt his stomach clench.

"And my right foot," the Patrician said flatly.

"The new shapes are rather nice," said Vimes, struggling for a conversational tone, "but I'm afraid the texture is a bit beyond me."

"I expected better Sir Samuel," said Vetinari chidingly, "surely you've skinned rabbits in your day?"

"Yes?"

"Did you ever touch them afterwards?" Vetinari said.

"Of course," said Vimes in confusion, "they were all smooth and..." His voice trailed off. "Oh gods."

"I told you they were rather clever Sir Samuel."

"So, the hand and the foot. Anything else?" Sam Vimes struggled mightily to control his temper. Robbing and killing people, that he understood. That was just daily life in Ankh-Morpork. This, this was something different all together.

"A brisk beating with what I believe was a buggy whip," said Vetinari calmly, "And when that did not get the preferred response they turned to other means."

"What else did they do to you, then?" Vimes demanded. "How the hell do you expect me to bandage wounds if you won't tell me where they are?"

"I believe this conversation is finished," said Vetinari.

Vimes sat for a moment in utter shock. The bastard was trying to turn him off, just like that, just like always. Bugger that!

"This conversation is not bloody well finished you, you... Sir," he almost shouted. "Do you want help or not?"

"Sir Samuel," Vetinari said coldly, "If you wish to assist me in binding my wounds that will be acceptable. If you do not, that is also acceptable. You have heard enough."

Something in Vetinari's tone made Vimes pause. Good street coppers heard it all the time, usually just before the first crossbow bolt was loosed and the first knife thrown. A sudden thought rapped desperately for attention behind his eyes- even a pet dog will bite, if hurt and cornered and afraid. And Vetinari was no one's pet. Even injured, he was certainly the most dangerous man Vimes had ever been alone with. And they were alone. Vimes shuddered. If the Commander of the Watch suffered a sudden and above all fatal accident while in the hands of his captors, who would really question the circumstances? He decided that the full extent of the Patrician's injuries could wait for later discovery.

"Right," said Vimes, "Let's get the hand and foot wrapped, and wash the whip cuts."

"Superbe," said Vetinari. "Do you happen to have any bandages on you?"

Muttering, Vimes stumbled to the water trough and pulled of his shirt (carefully avoiding the fill pipe by the simple expedient of feeling frantically for it with one waving hand while the other was held protectively over the front of his trousers). It wouldn't be clean, but at least it could smear the mess a bit. He dunked the shirt several times in the chilly water.

The Patrician tried unsuccessfully to haul himself upright as Vimes returned.

"I seem to be a little weak," Vetinari mumbled.

"Probably just working too hard," said Vimes sarcastically. He felt for a moment, then carefully propped the other man in an upright position and slid the tattered rags of his robe of office over his head. Wincing, he used the dripping shirt to wash the whip cuts laddered across the tall man's back.

"Did they get your legs too?"

"No," said Vetinari curtly.

"But the backs of your drawers were soaked with blood," said Vimes in confusion, "Was that all from your back or..."

"It is not important," said Vetinari. "Can we finish this or should I plan to spend the evening?"

Vimes said nothing as he tore the wet cloth into several large pieces, leaving the neck yoke and back intact. If Vetinari was that damned peculiar about having some cuts on his arse dressed he could jolly well sit on them. He washed the skinned fingers carefully, then without pause, seized them and pulled quickly. The broken bones slid into rough alignment.

Judges held up enthusiastic "10's" as Vetinari failed to scream.

A few moments later a similar operation restored some semblance of shape to the man's toes. Again, there was silence.

As Vimes bound the skinned extremities, he allowed himself to wonder, just for a moment, what it must have taken to make the man scream. He shuddered at the images which tried to cross his mind. Right now he just wanted to go home. Sighing, he slipped the intact collar of his former shirt over the Patrician's head and spread the damp backpiece over the maze of whip cuts. Vetinari caught his hand as he began to tuck the cloth into the man's linen drawers.

"Thank you Sir Samuel, I can manage."

Sam withdrew his hands. For gods sakes, it wasn't as if he were going to enjoy reaching into the man's unmentionables. You'd think he'd suggested they go to The Blue Cat Club with it's select clientel of well dressed and above all single men and have a few drinks together... You'd think he'd tried to ra...

A horrible thought reached the edges of his mind.

What would it take to make Vetinari scream? Sam Vimes was suddenly terribly afraid he knew.

Vimes cleared his throat. "Well, that should at least let you lay down a bit without getting dirt in 'em." He paused, "More dirt anyway."

"Thank you," said Vetinari blandly

Vimes shrugged to himself. A man who found it difficult to hug his own wife in public, he felt as if he were standing on the top of Dunmanifestin in a heavy rain, wearing copper armor and holding a flag pole. Where the hell was Angua or Sybil when you needed them? He heard Vetinari slowly drag himself to the wooden bunk.

"A bit of assistance needed Sir?"

"No thank you, I believe I have it." There were several thuds as Vetinari laborously pulled himself into the bunk.

Where the hell was Angua, as a matter of fact? Or Carrot? Or anybody? Vimes felt his anger kindle to a white heat. Vetinari was a bastard, no one would disagree with that. But he's our bastard, Vimes thought, and no one else deserves a bloody go at him. And even a bastard didn't deserve to be beaten, and skinned, and broken, and...that. The policeman felt his face flush with borrowed shame as unbidden images of Vetinari's torture filled his mind.

Who? How? What had they... He scrubbed his face with his hands. He thought he knew the basic mechanics, there being limited possibilities even for a really inventive mind (there were, after all, only so many openings in a living human body). As a copper he had seen more than enough cases where someone thought that no meant yes please- they were simple. You put them in a cell with the victim's mum and dad [spouse and children optional extras] and let nature take its course (followed by a long hospitalization or a brief funeral depending on the parents in question). This was, well, torture.

He pondered deeply. How much, damage, could a really determined someone do, that way? He was dimly aware that some people claimed that, um, exit doors, could safely be considered enterance ramps if properly prepared and so on. As this normally fell under his heading of "the things people will try" he was not certain of what safe preparation would consist of, and in this case he doubted if preparation was anything other than the word "surprise." Therefore he was forced to assume that any damage that could be done had been done.

Vimes absent-mindedly began to flick pebbles about on the floor. How did you ask someone if they'd been buggered and were bleeding their guts out? Was his suspicion even right at all?

He had to say something.

"My Lord?" said Vimes quietly.

"Yes, Sir Samuel?" Vetinari's voice was soft.

"When they... Did they... Do you have internal injuries my Lord?" There, diplomatic sounding.

Vetinari let out a long rattling breath, "I don't know what you..." He paused, and said quietly "They will not kill me Sir Samuel."

Sam released a breath he had been unaware of holding.

"Is there anything I can do?" asked Vimes carefully. He was a policeman; he gave chase, he didn't cuddle the victims of the crime. He realized how Detritus must feel when confronted with words above one syllable.

"You can wait until you are released Sir Samuel, and congratulate Lord Rust on his strength of character and determination not to bow to terrorists."

"Yes Sir," Vimes snapped out. The man was impossible. Giving up for the moment, he curled himself into a ball and tried to sleep.

***************************************************************

Sam Vimes lay sprawled on the rough wooden bunk, awaiting the Patrician's return. It was the fifth time in what he assumed to be as many days that Vetinari had been taken away. How long could this go on?

The time slid by slowly, broken only by restless sleep and two of the day's three meals. If you could call them that. The policeman found his strength ebbing with each day of near starvation. Vimes rocked on the rough wood, trying to find a comfortable position for his afternoon nap.

The door opened abruptly, and the nude and battered body of Havelock Vetinari was casually tossed onto the stone floor. A troll with a dim lantern stood in the doorway at the side of the man who had first spoken to them.

"We believe he is dying," the man said, "I hope for his sake Lord Rust and the others release our men soon."

Vimes rose, only to be thrust back onto the bunk by the troll.

"Do you believe in the gods, Sir Samuel?" the man asked.

Getting no response, man and troll departed.

Vimes moved as quickly as he could to reach the crumpled form on the floor.

"My Lord, my Lord?" said Vimes, feeling desperately for a pulse.

There was a whimper, and Vimes felt the fingers of the man's right hand spasm slightly. Vimes ran gentle hands across the man's body, trying to determine the extent of his newest wounds.

"Don't bother," Vetinari whispered in a voice raw with screaming, "there are no new external injuries except for those on my chest and around my mouth."

Vimes bowed his head and took a deep breath before sliding his hands under the man's unresisting shoulders.

"What are you doing?" asked Vetinari weakly.

"I have to get you to the water trough," Vimes explained, "I'm out of cloth." He began to slide the Patrician toward the water, noticing as he did the heat pouring from the slender body.

"You're fevered," Vimes grunted, "there's infection."

"At this point I fear it matters little," said Vetinari.

"You're not going to die my Lord," said Vimes bruskly. "the city needs you."

"The city will do just fine without me," whispered Vetinari, "It will have to."

Vimes used his cupped hands to scoop water onto the Patrician's bleeding torso, working by feel to find the source of the blood. Vetinari gasped in agony as the cold water streamed off his burning body. Vimes continued his explorations, slowly locating the curved wounds of varying depths which were dappled across Vetinari's chest, clustered around and across the nipples.

"What in the hell did they cut you with, a biscuit mold?" asked Vimes in dismay.

Vetinari made a noise which sounded for all the world like a bark. It took the startled Commander a moment to realize that the battered man was trying to laugh.

"You are refreshing Sir Samuel," Vetinari rasped out, "They did not cut me at all."

"Then what.."

"They are bites Sir Samuel," said Vetinari.

"They tortured you by biting you? Those sick..."

"Oh, this was not the official torture of the day," Vetinari said in a tired voice. "They finished that earlier. This was the entertainment."

"Sir?" said Vimes, unsure if he had heard correctly.

"Several cadre members have found that I can be quite entertaining, not to say "uplifting", if chained in the correct positions," continued Vetinari, "and equiped with a mouth brace."

Vimes slid his fingers over the other man's face. The corners of his mouth were ripped and bleeding, as if something had been forced in to keep him from screaming. Or biting.

The policeman felt his stomach clench, and staggered for the cell's small latrine hole. He made it, barely, and lay vomiting the meger contents of his gut.

Torture he could grasp, at least the idea. In a way, it wasn't personal (even though some of the more renouned torture chambers did present all victims with a personalized mug and a vest saying "I Survived Torture and All I Got Was This Lousy Vest). But Sam Vimes was not by nature a cruel man. This was sickening. How could anyone enjoy...erotic activity, with someone who had a) just been tortured, b) been fitted out like a rabid dog, and c) was chained down?

"You will be going home soon," whispered Vetinari, as Vimes hitched himself back across the floor to the man's side.

Vimes shook his head, then, feeling like an idiot, said "Not without you my Lord."

"Vetinari's terrier will have to seek a new master," said Vetinari softly.

Vimes said nothing; there was nothing to say.

**********************************************************************

Vimes awoke to the sound of low moaning. It took him a moment to realize that the sound was coming from Vetinari.

He rose as rapidly as his groggy brain would allow, and felt his way to the wooden bunk where Vetinari lay without pillow or blanket. The man's body was wracked with shaking chills.

The fever, it's killing him, thought Vimes. I've got to warm him up.

Vimes crawled onto the wooden platform, quickly wrapping his arms and legs around the fevered man and pulling him close so their chests touched. Vetinari moaned again and began to mutter.

"Remember young man," raved Vetinari, "the blade goes in fast and comes out slow. A craftsman kills with the tip, a savage with the edge."

Vimes smoothed the Patrician's hair from his face and wiped his cold, wet brow. How many times did I say I wanted him dead? he thought. A guilty rememberance inched his way into his mind. Did I really say "They ought to hang him, but they can't find a twisty enough rope?" Did I mean it?

He held more tightly to the shaking form and wished desperately for a light.

"Pappa, where did Mamma go? Why is she so cold? Pappa? Pappa?" Vetinari writhed and twitched in Vimes' desperate embrace.

"It's all right, you'll be all right," said Vimes hopelessly. The Patrician's teeth chattered like castenets and his back arched upward.

"Take it out!" he screamed suddenly, "Oh gods stop it. Not the red pepper again, please not again!" The words were lost as the screams climed in intensity and pitch, becoming at last wordless shrieks.

Vimes fought grimly to hold the jerking, screaming man on the narrow bunk, relaxing only when the shrieks trailed to silence and the convulsive movement stopped. Slowly Vimes felt the other's shivering cease.

"Vimes?" Vetinari's voice was a rasping croak. "Is that you?"

"It's me my Lord," said Vimes, "You were chilling."

"I'm dying Vimes," said Vetinari.

Vimes swallowed heavily. Lying wouldn't serve.

"You are my Lord, but they will pay for it."

Vetinari tried to laugh. "Always so angry Sir Samuel. I will rest more easily in my grave knowing that my captors will soon join me."

Vimes stared at a point 6 inches above the Patrician's head (or would have stared if anything could be seen)and decided honesty was the best policy.

"It will make me feel better, Sir," said Vimes.

Vetinari snorted. "I have so enjoyed knowing you, Sir Samuel. You have hated me for years, assumed I existed only to trouble you, disobeyed every direct order I chose to give you, and flaunted every polite societal convention on the Disc. I always wondered if my death would someday come at your hands."

Vimes grimmaced, "I never hated you Sir." Honesty compelled him to add, "At least not for long."

Vetinari dropped his head to Vimes shoulder and lay silently for a moment. "Wherever I go, I shall be sorry that there is no Vimes there to torment me," he said at last. Vetinari raised a shaking hand and slid it to cup the policeman's cheek. Vimes inhaled sharply as a pair of dry, burning lips pressed gently against his own.

"I have wanted to do that so many times," said Vetinari, "Usually when you were pretending not to understand any question I asked you. I always wondered what it would take to bring you to my bed."

"My Lord, you're delirious," Vimes sputtered.

"No," said Vetinari calmly; his voice a raking whisper. "I'm dying, and you deserve to know the truth. You've always believed I took you to be nothing more than furniture- there when I needed you, but unnoticed, ignored." The chilled man paused to catch his breath. "You were never unnoticed, Sam. When you stood there, vibrating with anger and ready to arrest the world, I always wanted to rise, grab your chin, and thrust my tongue into your mouth until we both forgot about the city and the Watch and..." His voice trailed off.

Vimes boggled. "Why didn't you?" asked the confused policeman. He felt as if the Disc had tilted and spun him off the edge. Surely this was the demented raving of a dying man- wasn't it?

"Because you didn't want me too," said Vetinari hoarsely. "I always assumed, given that you never found the occassion to deprive me of my head, that one day when we were very old I would tell you, and you would wonder if the old man was playing one last game."

Vimes lay frozen and felt the dry lips brush his own once more.

"Last time pays for all," said Vetinari, "I shall miss you."

Vimes, his mind whirling in frightened dismay, held the man close, feeling the battered body again begin to burn with fever. The rasping breaths came only with difficulty now.

He couldn't die. It wasn't supposed to be like this. Vimes tried desperately to think, but his brain seemed to have skittered off for it's holidays. The bastard had to live, at least long enough for a proper row and a poke in the eye. What had he meant, kissing him like that? He couldn't just die his way out of a thing like that.

Bugger that! Now it was personal.

There was a sound in the hall, and Vimes stiffened. It was too soon. Vetinari would die as soon as they began. Quickly he untangled himself from the Patrician and sat on the edge of the bunk. This time he would fight, even if it meant his death, he would fight. Some things just weren't right.

He took a deep breath. Gods, he wished he could see Sybil one last time. And the baby, he would never see the baby. He felt the Patrician twitch against his back as his resolve threatened to weaken.

No, he would fight. He'd be damned if the last thing Vetinari felt was his guts being split apart by some sick bastard. He had to live.

There was scuffling outside the door, then... a bone chilling howl.

Angua! It was Angua!

The door was flung open and a blood soaked form trotted in. Vimes rushed forward, gesturing to the bunk, and felt himself begin to fall.

The last thing he saw as he collapsed was a werewolf beginning to cry.