Happy Hogswatch Everyone! Here's your present and thanks to y'all out there who visited and read stuff this year - My ego is well pleased.

Summary: A slightly tipsy Lieutenant Perks returns to find her vampire relaxing by the kitchen hearth of the Duchess and attempts to distract her from her book. Mal/Polly. Femslash. A wee bit o' fluff for Hogswatch (nothing explicit).

Disclaimer: Terry Pratchett owns the characters and the world they live on. I am grateful for all the brilliant books and make no claims of ownership in any way.

~X~

A Quiet Night In

The tall case clock was gently chiming midnight as the door creaked open to admit a somewhat dishabille Lieutenant Perks, slightly foxed apparently by her rakish grin and needed support from the doorframe.

Mal glanced up from her fireside position, stretched out in Shufti's raggedy armchair, her feet up on one of the scratched wooden chairs. The lamp on the kitchen table ensconced her in a hazy halo of soft light, and with her small volume of poetry and the cat on her knee she was the epitome of domestic relaxation.

It was a picture Polly would hold in her mind through the long nights of war. Would dig down and hold onto as a light in the darkness, when all other lights had gone out. But that was still to come. No darkness overshadowed this night as she swayed in and quietly shut the heavy door behind her with exaggerated care. Mal had returned her gaze to the pages before her, but the small smile dancing at the corner of her lips indicated her attention wasn't fully captured by the words.

Tiptoeing across the flags, Polly crept up behind the high backed chair to sneak two arms around the occupant. Later she would protest that her intent had not been to disturb but unfortunately at the last minute she became sidetracked.

"Mmm. You smell nice" and burying her nose into the dark hair she inhaled deeply. Connecting the scents arising with the stained floor around the stove and bringing into play her highly developed logical skills she concluded Mal had made good use of her quiet evening by slipping into a bath and enjoying some of Shufti's most treasured soaps and bath oils. She had made good use of the orange and cinnamon oil which Polly appreciated as she nuzzled down behind the neat ear, straining over the chair-back to plant a kiss on the slender neck.

Mal, to all intents and purposes deeply absorbed in her book, non-the-less tilted her head slightly to allow her easier access.

Her mission completed, Polly straightened up as best she was able, but remained resting on the back of the chair, her arms folded along the top of it. She could of course stand perfectly upright, but best not to try it yet; even with her feet planted well apart she was still swaying a little. Mal turned a page of her book. The great clock ticked on, counting off the seconds of peaceful introspection.

"Welcome home Polly." Mal declined to comment on the swaying. There was really no need. She did however look up from her book, tilting her head back for Polly to drop a kiss on the forehead now revealed. Returning to her book she added "Did you have a nice time?"

An assenting murmur dropped in from above. People frequently invited the renowned Lieutenant Perks to dinner but were generally willing to accept the attendance of Polly once they realised there was little alternative.

"It was most entertaining; at one point I thought the Colonel was going to explode."

Mal smiled into her book as Polly continued with the tale. Apparently old Lady Selkirk had been on top form. Released from the bounds of convention by widowhood and advancing years the redoubtable old tyrant was endowed with an acidic wit and an overwhelming ability to reduce the most pompous high brass to a quivering wreck. Luckily for Polly the old lady had declared Mal an 'incorrigible rapscallion' and Polly a 'fine gel after her own heart' and thus Polly was able to spend the indeterminate dinners free from attack, generally sitting back in her chair laughing quietly and sipping expensive wine.

"And then you sang your way home?"

"Hmm?"

"I heard you, coming up the lane, very harmonious."

"Oh." Glancing up Mal perceived the girl had the decency to look slightly shamefaced at that. Polly changed the subject swiftly.

"How did it go here? You look like you survived ok."

Mal stretched. "They're all tucked in bed. Finally. And the kitchen did eventually dry out after the navel battle they were having in the bath. Your father got them to bed while I took care of the bar."

Polly passed over this without comment; it was old news. Mal was considerably good at bar work, surprising in the first instance, but now accepted as just one of those things. As part of the family, it was expected they would both slip back into old chores when needed and Mal found that unexpectedly pleasant, though she vowed never to let on.

"Your father has shut everything up and gone to bed."

"And left you to wait up for me, all domestic, with a cat on your knee."

Mal swallowed a snort of laughter as the stumbling tongue hiccupped slightly over "domestic" and looked up into a silly smile, Polly's last brandy apparently still working its magic.

"We are kindred souls" she explained. "We've been discussing the finer points of rats over mice."

The clock ticked on in their sphere of peace. It was nice to just have a moment to be comfortable together. Polly could read the proof of that lazy bath in every nuance of Mal's relaxed pose. It was Polly's favourite vampire mood, sleepy.

Mal, still "reading" her poetry despite the distraction of some dextrous fingers twisting through her hair, remembered that Polly did have a tendency to get "handy" when drunk. The swaying was causing the girl some difficulty, though when her oscillation got her near enough Mal received a nose bump in a plea to maintain attention, and Polly was planting soft kisses on the top of her head, ears, forehead etc. (in a kind of bump into rather than planned sort of a way).

Mal didn't often get a chance to read in peace and was determined to keep her attention on the poem in front of her. However, Polly's fingers were getting more involved, twiddling the strands of hair around her ears.

"You washed your hair?"

Mal replied in the positive, turning another page of the book, though she'd not read a word of the page before.

"S'nice"

Mal decided calmly that despite her unwavering commitment to the act of reading, there was no reason why she couldn't participate in all this. Still deep in her book, she reached up, catching a hand and bringing it down to her lips. The other one she was quite willing to allow to continue playing amongst her hair. But distracted for a moment, the caught hand escaped her and began walking along her collarbone, the thumb investigating the side of her neck. A hand previously occupied with strands of hair slid down onto the arm of the chair, Polly needing leverage to crane over the back in order to kiss the other side of neck to that she was stroking. Her lips moved exploring up to the ear and back down again, her hand on other shoulder holding her captive still, the thumb still moving back and forth over that sensitive point under the ear.

She was a persistent minx, you had to give her that Mal thought, giving up at last and putting down the book. Turning in the chair slightly under the pressure of the hand on her shoulder she put up her face to be kissed, mere gentle exploration at first but deepening as she reached up and round to hold Polly in position. It was all too much for the cat which gave an affronted yowl and stalked off in disgust to curl up in front of the stove.

Released in the aftermath of cat rejection, Polly dropped her cheek to an arm resting along the back of the chair (leaning thus, it was almost possible to disguise the swaying).

"The cat has too nice ideas." She found a moments regret. "Poor cat."

"Poor cat indeed." Mal reached up, grabbing a handful of Polly jacket and pulling her back in.

Unfortunately, though this did bring the girl back within reach, the force of her pull caused Polly to overbalance. The hand that had had intended to be interesting somewhere about Mal's person was forced to leap to the far arm of the chair to prevent her face planting on the stone floor of the kitchen. Laughing, they decided that as she was almost in the chair anyway, she may as well just sit in, legs dangling over the arm, able now to investigate with both hands.

Beneath the waistcoat, Mal's loose shirt wasn't tucked in, a further sign of her relaxed state of mind. Polly didn't mind, access so freely granted gave her fumbling hands full rein to explore. On a sharp intake of breath Mal made a note to take advantage of this state of mind more often. "Handy" wasn't really an adequate description anymore.

The chair quickly became confining, but Mal declined the option of sliding off and going at it like mad crazy rabbits on the floor (Polly's words not hers). It was, after all, Shufti's house, and it simply wouldn't be seemly.

Polly backed off a little (a very little in Mal's opinion) and the course of action continued more quietly. It was (Mal searched for a fitting word) "nice". The army didn't really give you much time to just be together, everything was either impossible or rushed, crouched together in dark corners or pressed tightly together under chill blankets.

A small voice interrupted them.

"Auntie Polly?"

They stopped. Foreheads touching, Polly smiled in apology into the dark eyes below hers before lifting her head to her nephew.

"What's up Short-stuff?"

"firsty"

The sigh escaped that time. "Sure?"

He nodded, eyes squinting against the soft light.

With a last kiss, Polly slid off the welcoming knees and strode over to the sink. Pouring from the tall jug she looked sternly over her shoulder to the interloper in the doorway.

"Then straight back to bed. Right? No lally-lagging. It's hours past too late to be up.

Mug in hand he stared over the top at them, his gaze un-blinking. Mal stared back, determined not to be outfaced by a 4 year old in bunny slippers.

He took a further step into the kitchen. For politeness sake Mal had tucked her shirt back in and sat quietly lazy eyes watching curve of Polly back as she took the mug back, ruffling the shock of fair hair.

"C'mon you. It's well past the time growing boys should be abed. Say good night to Mal."

"Night Mal" he said obediently.

"Night Jack, sleep tight." She flapped one hand in his general direction, before picking up her book again and attempting to find her place. Out of the corner of her eye she could see Polly urging the boy back upstairs, a hand between his shoulders. She buried herself back into her poems, not thinking about how that hand might feel between her shoulder blades at all.

"Carry?" The child leant back against the supporting hand.

"Oh no you don't my lad. I'd most likely drop you and then what would your mother say? Come on, it's only 13 stairs, we'll count them eh?

They began counting quietly as they climbed, Polly always one to pass on knowledge wherever possible. She yawned massively on five and Mal snickered quietly into her book.

Their voices drifted back down the stairs.

"I reckon it's time I was in bed too."

"Bedtime for growing boys" he parroted.

"Indeed, and Mal will be up in a minute and then we'll all be fast asleep and tomorrow your Mam and Pa will back, that'll be nice won't it?"

Mal, stretched in the armchair, lifting her feet up again. The cat was unfortunately too far gone in the sulks to consider the knee she offered.

"I'll just finish this bit" she called quietly up the stairs.

Firm footsteps took the stairs two at a time, and Polly appeared striding purposefully across the kitchen. Grabbing Mal's waistcoat with both hands she kissed her long and hard. It was an extremely thorough statement of her intentions.

Then she stood back, one eyebrow raised in interrogation. Mal swallowed, dazed.

"I'll just… I'll just damp down the fire and then I'll be up"

"I should think so." And she turned to go. "And hurry up" she threw back over her shoulder.

And the voices faded away up the stairs as she quickly put her book away and finished off the small tasks in the kitchen before hurrying upstairs. Her lieutenant had ordered it, and she was more than willing to obey.