If you're reading this, I'd like you to know that I'm more proud of this fic than any of my Phoenix Wright stuff *even though the PW stuff is better*, simply because it's a Discworld fic, and I never write fanfiction for books. It's just so hard to imitate the author's style. And this is Terry Pratchett, making it doubly hard. I haven't succeeded, not by a long shot, but this is still a pretty special story to me.
Therefore...I'll give you cookies if you review. Please, please, please review this one. I never really ask that in the author's note of a story, but it means a lot to me here. 'K? Thanks.
Lance-Constable Sam Vimes blinked. This certainly felt very real for a dream; it had that solidness that dreams lack. Maybe he wasn't dreaming. But no, that couldn't be right...because Sergeant Keel was standing on the other end of Pon's Bridge and smoking a cigar, even though Keel was dead. Sam had been to the burial. He'd cried, even, contrary to all his efforts.
He stepped forward. Keel looked the same as he always had ('always' being about four days), except the eyepatch he'd been wearing was gone. Maybe this was how dead people looked in the afterlife; unencumbered by worldly injuries, stuff like that, you know.
Keel didn't look up. He removed the cigar from his mouth and tossed it into the Ankh, where it was most definitely not carried away by the current.
"So it's you? Then I'm dreaming. Huh." He took a silver square from his pocket, opened it, and removed another cigar.
"Sarge," said Sam, "You're dead. And that makes this my dream."
"Dead, am I? Don't feel too dead." Keel bit off the end of the cigar and spat it out. "And I'm no sergeant. Haven't been one for years." He lit the cigar and stuck it in his mouth. "I'm back in my own time now, Commander of the Watch, His Grace His Excellency and all that, and you're not coming back to haunt me, thanks very much." He puffed on the cigar grumpily.
"I don't feel like a dream," said Sam. "And what are you talking about?" Maybe in the afterlife you got to be a nob. Something to look forward to, at least.
Keel glanced up at Sam for the first time. He gave him a long, measuring look. Then he blinked, like someone had just said something to him.
"Bloody wizards," he said finally. "Bloody Sweepers or Monks whatever they're called. Alright, so this is your dream. But it's my dream, too. We're both real. I'm alive, thanks, at least for now, and my name's not John Keel." Then he muttered something like, "he'd better forget this, you bastard."
"You're not John Keel? Who the hell are you, then, sarge?"
"Come on," said Not-John-Keel, and he walked down the Bridge and across to Sam, and they proceeded down Sheer Street. Sam had fallen into step by way of habit; he wanted answers. If Sergeant Keel wasn't Keel, then who was he? Why wasn't he dead?
"You'll be wanting an explanation then, lance-constable?" asked Not-John-Keel.
"Er...yes, sarge," said Sam. "About what, sarge?"
Not-John-Keel snorted. "Can't believe I was ever...come on. You know. About everything. Where I come from, anyway, if I'm not John Keel."
Sam shrugged. "Don't know, sarge. I'm dreaming, sarge."
"I thought we'd been over this, Vimes!"
"Then why is there a woolly lamb flying through the air on rockers, sarge?"
Not-John-Keel blinked. "Well, you can just ignore that, lance-constable. Let's get this straight; I'm not from your time. I live thirty years in the future, and in that future I'm Commander of the Watch. And a Knight, and a Duke."
"You don't look it," said Sam blankly, and Not-John-Keel's face twitched in an emotion that might have been pleasure at a compliment received, but instead he said, "Shame, lance-constable! Rudeness to a superior officer!" He grinned, pleased at something.
Sam shook his head like a dog attempting to clear its ears of water (except without the long ears and pointy nose). "Sarge, how can you be any of those things? You're dead. And you're from Pseudopolis!"
"Once, there was an evil, evil man by the name of Carcer," said Not-John-Keel, ignoring Sam. "And he killed two coppers and I wasn't about to let him get away with that. So we were chasing him, and catching up, and long story short we ended up on the roof of the Unseen University, lightning struck, and we got transported back through time – though not before he knifed me in the face." He smiled a grim smile. The scar was a livid red, stretching across his eye. "Then Carcer killed John Keel, and I took his place in history. Got sent back to my own time at the end, and John Keel's corpse was buried instead of mine. And Carcer was hanged."
"Wow," breathed Sam –
And then the city began to shake. Not-John-Keel blinked and stopped dead. "Like hell that was supposed to happen," he said angrily, as if talking to someone else. "Damn it, Sweeper! What's going on? No, don't tell me, too complicated."
"Sarge!" shouted Sam. "Sarge!"
"That's Commander, lance-constable! I'm no sergeant!" Not-John-Keel began to run, spitting out the cigar. "Come on!" He turned left into Treacle Mine Road. Sam followed hastily.
The Watch House in Treacle Mine Road was convulsing, sending shockwaves into the surrounding streets. The Commander swore and dashed inside. Sam followed him in.
"What's the problem, sar-Commander?" he asked, panting slightly. The Commander wasn't even out of breath.
"No idea," was the terse reply. "Wait, no... so this is inside my head, right, Sweeper? And that means..."
He stared at the rickety stairway. It led straight downwards, under the ground. Muffled roars were emanating from it.
"S-Commander," said Sam, "what's that staircase doing there?"
The Commander stepped forwards and started walking down it, and Sam followed.
The distant growls were getting closer. The walls shook.
"It'll come when you call..." muttered the Commander. "Does that mean..."
The stairs ended. They walked out into the dark.
...that you'll come when it calls?
Sam stared. He recognised this thing, from somewhere. From the recesses of his own head, perhaps...except then it hadn't been so big.
Sam spotted the torturer in the chair. He shook himself away from Keel, ran over to the rack, and snatched up a club.
Keel grabbed him from behind. "No! That's not the way!" he shouted into Sam' ear."This is not the time! Hold it back! Tame it! Don't waste it! Send it back! It'll come when you call!"
And Sam only realised it now, but the Commander...he'd known what Sam was thinking...
The Beast snarled, and jerked at the chains. The Commander was shaking all over.
Sam stared at the Beast. It looked sort of like a hulking wolf or bear, a black one, covered in scars – most notably one across its right eye. This isn't my Beast, he thought. It snapped at him, red rage in its eyes. It's his, he realised, glancing at the Commander. His eyes were brown, same as Sam's. He clenched his fist. Sweat beaded on his face. He ground his teeth. Sam quailed in fright. Keel, no, the Commander...he could see it now, that man was so, so angry. Bitterness and despair and all that anger...
He wondered how anyone could ever stand all that pain and fury. He guessed it sort of...congealed, into the Beast. The growling grew louder. Red reflections danced in the Commander's eyes. He reached up to his shoulder and grasped something. It was a Watch badge, number 177.
"It's never had more than dirt," he choked. "That's what Carrot said. He was wrong."
Sam reached up and touched his own badge. He was trying to forget what number it was. Trying very, very hard. This is only a dream, he said to himself. Maybe he could believe that, if he tried. Oh, yes, it was most definitely a dream. But he could forget the 'only' part.
The Beast screeched, and vanished. The Commander was breathing hard.
"It's gone? Just like that?"
"No," said the Commander. "It's never gone." He sighed. "Sweeper says that because of 'quantum' or some sh-stuff like that, you were pulled forward thirty years and into my head, creating a sort of 'shared space', while I was dreaming. He's hanging around in my head too, for the moment at least." He didn't seem too happy about that; he was scowling. "Apparently the Beast would have escaped and killed you, if I hadn't taken it safely back into my own 'private head space'. Bloody quantum."
"Who are you, Commander?" Sam asked.
"Sam Vimes," said Vimes.
Sam blinked, and suddenly everything fit together in the way that such things do. The final piece landed in the centre of the puzzle.
"No," he said. "No, I'm not you. I'll never be...I can't be..."
"Sorry," said His Grace His Excellency Commander Sir Samuel Vimes of the Watch, who had scars covering his body, sarcasm in every word, cynicism and paranoia coating his every move, and a kind of burning, feral anger in his eyes. "I kind of messed myself up, didn't I?"
Sam could see it there. He could see the Beast in the eyes of his older self, and he shivered.
"How could I ever be..."
"Me?" said Vimes. "Thirty years of drinking and despair and powerlessness did it, and running and fighting and winning. Sorry, but this is Ankh-Morpork." He snorted. "Idealism never stood a chance. Badge 177...oh, there's plenty of blood on it. It's just the wrong sort."
Sam shut his eyes. This was just a bad dream, right?
"Sweeper, he'd better forget this."
"You're a good copper," Sam whispered. "I'm a good copper. That's what matters, right? That's what you told me."
He opened his eyes, and rubbed them. They felt like they were covered in sand. The dream was already fading.
There was a sprig of lilac in his helmet. He had to have a hard boiled egg for breakfast. A hard boiled egg, for Sergeant Keel. How'd he known that Keel liked his eggs runny in the middle with toast soldiers? Sam didn't know. It had just felt right.
Thirty years passed. They involved alcohol, dragons, werewolves, Lady Sybil Ramkin and other items of interest.
Vimes woke from the dream, and spent some time staring at the ceiling.
Then he got up, shook off Willikins, shaved himself, pulled on his uniform and went to work.
The smell of lilac was beginning to fade from the air.