Because finals make me craaaaazy.
Step 1: Read Story.
He doesn't sleep. Not real sleep, not in the last ten years. The Commander doesn't think you can get by on catnaps, and he's probably right and there's probably a brick wall of exhaustion waiting somewhere in the future, biding its time to come at the least opportune moment, but for now he tells himself it's not there and he pretends like napping for two hours every two days is perfectly normal.
He's so tired.
Drumknott left to sleep an hour and a half ago. Vetinari is at his desk, trying to work. He can't focus, the words on the papers are fuzzy, the noise of the city outside is rhythmic and gods help him it's soothing.
If he sleeps, she'll come.
He jerks awake, and signs off on a paper at random, without even reading it. And then he slumps again, because the brick wall's there, undeniable, and at this point the only thing you can do is roll into the impact.
He's asleep in under forty seconds.
And then, seamlessly, and a little horrifyingly, she's there, like she's real. But he's not tired, because he's asleep, and he knows it. But she's still there. She's sitting on his desk, she's reaching out to him, she's pulling him closer. By the tie. By the tie. There was no respect, no decency, no restraint.
She smiles. "Mine," she breathes. She smells like slaughter and smog and wood and fire and money. She looks healthy. She wraps her arms around him.
"Not yet," he mumbles. He pushes back, but she's always stronger than he is. In the beginning he fought harder, and she would dig her nails into him. As sick and as weak as she looked, her joints all but rusted shut and putrid slime pouring off her, she would always fight harder. She always would. And she did so now. She pulls him back to her, holding him to her bosom.
He still feels sickness in her. She looks fine now, and the feeling of death is no longer about, but she still feels sick. She rubs a hand through his hair. "Mine," she breathes again. And he repeats "Not yet," because these days it's all he can do.
He wonders if she appears to Vimes. Maybe, maybe not. Maybe not anymore, it occurs to him. Vimes sleeps well now, with his wife and his son to wake up to. She tilts his head up so that's she's looking into his eyes. Her eyes – yellow – look sad. "Not anymore," she whispers, and they both know what she's talking about.
He knows why the rest went mad. She made them that way. It wasn't power, it wasn't the Office. It was her – she came to them and took them as her own and they weren't theirs anymore. They didn't fight her, or couldn't fight her, or thought they could outsmart her. He tried, in the beginning and stood at the precipice of madness, and then stepped back from the edge and decided that if he couldn't fight, couldn't run, and couldn't escape, then the best thing to do would be to avoid. And it would have worked, if it was that simple. As it was, basic physiological need drove him toward her.
He'd run away once, during the war. She came to him crying, and bruised and bleeding, and he ran. And strangely enough she didn't appear to him at all, but the emptiness and the ache and the reminders of what he'd done and given for her, and what he still had to give her drove him back. He still hated himself a little for it.
And while she'd grown younger and more beautiful by the year, he got old and tired and weak. She watched it happen dispassionately, like someone watching a working dog age and knowing that one day the day will come where you take it out back behind the barn and do the merciful thing. There was no remorse, no regret, no pity. He was hers, to do what she wanted with.
One day he knows she'll have him. He'll fall asleep and she'll take him and he won't have any fight left in him, because he will have given it all to her. It took him years to work out, but that's what it was. She was taking him and healing herself. And one day she would be healthy, and he would no longer be needed. And she would gather up what was left and he'd fade away into a part of her.
He pushes back, and she lets him. "Not yet," he insists, and she smiles humorlessly, running her hand through his hair one more time.
And six hours later he jerks awake, alone in his office, and shakes off the drowsiness and goes back to work, because not yet.
And the city moves on.
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