"Do you think Mr. Lipwig will be a good Patrician, sir?"
"Why? Could you do better?" When he saw Carrot's expression, Vimes realized that may have been a bit harsh. "Truth is, I don't know. He's already got a dog and that odd ring Vetinari left him in the will; knowing him, he probably also wrote out instructions about how to deal with things that aren't gonna happen for years."
"Right, sir, but...considering Mr. Lipwig's criminal past..."
Vimes stopped walking and turned to Carrot. "We don't judge anyone based on their past. He's not a bad person. Yes, he knows the law and how to break it, but he wouldn't dare even if he wanted to because he's got too much to lose now."
"You mean his wife?"
He nodded. "That woman is like Vetinari in high heels. If Lipwig ever finds himself in a situation he can't talk his way out of, he'll be glad to have her on his side."
"I'm sure everything will be all right, sir. It's just that some of the lads were talking..."
Vimes looked at Carrot's honest face, and saw clear worry. "Patricians come and go. People will try to take advantage of this transition, but we won't make it easy for them. That's what the Watch is for. We keep the peace."
"And uphold the law," Carrot added helpfully.
"Right," the Commander said, lighting a cigar. "Especially when it's falling down around us."
The waiting area outside the Oblong Office seemed strangely quiet. It took Vimes a moment to realize why; that blasted clock of Vetinari's was gone. Well, how about that.
"Commander, his Lordship will see you now," said the clerk.
Mr. Lipwig looked up from his reading when Vimes entered. The paperwork strewn desk reminded him of his own back at the Watch House. The new Patrician seemed very tired, uncertain and overwhelmed, but he hid it well, or attempted to anyway; you couldn't hide much from a copper.
"Commander Vimes," he greeted, smiling nervously. "I wanted to tell you that I really appreciate how helpful the Watch has been during this time. I don't plan to change things, at least not at first. Vetinari made this city work somehow and I just hope I can keep it from falling apart, but I couldn't do it without you."
"You got rid of the clock," Vimes pointed out, adding: "Sir."
"Well, I've always hated that thing. It sort of melts your brain, you know?"
This all felt wrong. He wasn't Vetinari; he actually had to read reports in order to know what was going on. Yet Lipwig would still find a way to fall arse backwards into this job and people how impressive it was, like nothing ever changed. But for Vimes everything changed. For one thing, the wrong man sat behind that desk, and he knew it.
"I see you also kept Drumknott as your secretary, sir."
Lipwig shrugged. "I gave him a choice. Honestly, I'm glad he decided to stay; I don't think I could figure out the filing system otherwise."
"Oh bugger, this is odd," murmured the Patrician.
"I don't know how to do any of this. I'm expected to be...well, when it gets right down to it, Commander...I'm not him, okay?"
"No, but you're the man who resurrected the post office and reformed the bank. You didn't know how to do those things either."
"Most of that was luck," he sighed, shaking his head.
"Then maybe you'll get lucky. Vetinari wouldn't have picked you if he thought you'd muck it up too bad; he cared about this city. Plus it's not like you're completely alone. There's Mrs. Lipwig, and the Watch is behind you. Sir. Although we answer to the law first. Remember that."
"I will. Thank you, Commander Vimes."
He left without prompting, unsure of what had possessed him to cheer the man up.
This was a proper human date, she decided. Sure, he was a bit boring, but at least he was also normal. All things considered, Susan felt the evening went quite well.
That is, until she caught a skeletal rat lurking in the basket of bread, nibbling a few crumbs.
Susan angrily snapped her fingers; her date froze with a spoonful of soup halfway to his mouth. Not an attractive image.
"Put that down! You can't even eat!" The Death of Rats squeaked innocently, picking up his scythe and letting the crumbs fall. "Now where is he?"
The cloaked rodent leapt from the table and scurried away on his bony paws. She sighed, but followed him to a dark corner of the restaurant, and was not at all surprised to find the only moving figure besides herself and the Death of Rats. A seven foot tall skeleton in a black robe was apparently enjoying some curry.
GOOD EVENING, SUSAN, Death said pleasantly.
"Grandfather, what are you doing here?" she demanded.
AH, I BELIEVE THE PHRASE IS 'DINING OUT'.
"Don't you have souls to reap or something? Why must you 'dine out' here of all places?"
THERE ARE ALWAYS SOULS, CERTAINLY. I WANTED TO SEE HOW YOU WERE.
"I'm fine," she answered slowly. "But I would really like to have a normal date with a man who doesn't talk to rats and isn't related to any kind of personification! You don't need to check on me all the time, Grandfather, I can take care of myself."
Death did not speak or move for what would have been a lengthy pause had time meant anything significant to them.
"What?" Susan asked, annoyed.
IT'S MERELY THAT...YOU SOUNDED SO MUCH LIKE YOUR MOTHER JUST THEN.
"Oh." Now it was her turn to be speechless. He wanted to get to know his granddaughter and possibly spend time with her, because Death had all this time while Susan, comparatively, had very little. She was mostly human, after all. But that part which wasn't human remained part of her still. Perhaps she couldn't ignore it forever.
HE IS ONLY INTERESTED BECAUSE HE KNOWS YOU'RE A DUCHESS.
"Stop it! Yes, of course I know that, but figuring these things out on my own is part of being human. Look, I'll come visit for dinner tomorrow night."
REALLY? Death's blue eyes lit up. ALBERT IS FRYING SALAD AND SOME KIND OF POULTRY.
"He still eats like a wizard." Susan smiled. "Now I'm going back to my boring, selfish date. Then I'll start time again and listen to him drone on until it's over and I go home."
She thought about this. Because he's paying?"People subject themselves to horribly awkward meals with strangers. It's what they do. It's normal, albeit very dull. Now please go, and take the rat with you."
Death had already gone.