Chapter 2: 27th of May
Author's Note: I realize that Vetinari seems a bit too open. This is intentional. Drumknott is his employee, Vimes is now his only real friend, so I have made him open up a bit with him. If he seems too open for you, I'm sorry, but it's how I'm writing him in this. Also, the song that Vetinari is humming when Vimes comes back in that evening is 'Sometimes When We Touch.' I called it 'I Want to Hold You Until I Die' for the Discworld purpose, but I find that in varying parts it describes their relationship, ignoring the bits about holding the other romantically. Imagine best friends rather than lovers. Credit to Dan Hill, who performed my favorite version of the song, hence why Hill Dan wrote it on the Disc, and to him for writing the song to begin with (yes, I give credit for performances too). Great song there, you should all listen to/see it. That said, read and review? Please?
Dawn light streamed in through the window. Vimes wasn't sure at what point Vetinari drifted into dark dreams, but he did know that he'd had to wake the man several times. The blood-loss was getting to him, it had to be. He mumbled in his sleep now, just like he had after the first poisoning.
Vimes gently tried to nudge the man's shoulder, tentative and soft, so there was no mistaking it for the hand of friend, versus the hand of foe. Even so, Vetinari jerked awake, as if from some dark dream.
It took the man a moment to get his bearings, and in the gray light of dawn, Vimes could see the flicker of fear on the man's face. But it was nothing more than a flicker, and quickly Vetinari seemed to calm, though he remained pale.
His voice was hoarse and faint, but still iron-strong at the same time.
"Sir?" Vimes replied automatically, but it was softer than his usual short reply. He was watching the blind eyes, looking around as if they could see. He'd heard of blind composers who, before they died, were given their sight back. Perhaps Vetinari would be blessed by some passing god and his sight would be given back for a day.
"Ah...Morning already?" Vetinari said pleasantly, though quietly. He'd screamed once in the night, Vimes remembered absently. Screamed himself hoarse...within only a few seconds. I don't want to know what would make this man scream.
"Barely, sir. Sun just rose." Vimes replied, handing Vetinari the ice water when he indicated it. His fingers were trembling, though Vimes guessed this was because he was losing his strength. The bedclothes would have to be changed...he could see the leakage from the bandages already.
"Ah. Hence why you woke me? Before the doctor has woken?" Vetinari said quietly, folding his hands and placing them, out of habit, behind his head. It looked painful, and Vimes watched as fresh blood soaked the bandages on his chest, but the man didn't even flinch.
"If you wish, sir. I just know that you don't sleep much, and would probably prefer to be sarcastic and awake to Lawn when he gets here," Vimes replied, smiling a little in true happiness. Despite all, Vetinari still managed that look that said everything was fine, he had it under control. Nothing was wrong. Obviously his mind was still quite intact then. Vimes worried about the man's dignity in his last few hours.
"Ah yes. You think that I want to present a front that in fact says that I'm the same tyrant who would barely sleep on a good night, and merely lays himself down for a couple hours rest, mostly so that he can change his clothes and shave? Dear me, Vimes. I'm beginning to think I showed you too much in those 35 years," Vetinari replied with genuinely contrived innocence. Which merely got him an amused snort from Vimes.
"Right sir. Whatever you want to believe," Vimes replied, shrugging and then leaning back. He fancied that Vetinari was searching for a distraction, and Vimes could distract the man's mind when he wished to. Just had to pull the right levers, say the right things.
Like dropping sand into a clock. It stopped the processes, and they had to be readjusted afterward.
"Sir, I think you have contaminated my mind," Vimes said flatly, but there a smile on his face. Vetinari
opened his eyes briefly in response, furrowing his brow in confusion and curiosity. But he didn't bother keeping his eyes open, instead letting them drift shut.
"And how would that be, Vimes?"
"When I start thinking of how to distract you, I start using well thought-out metaphors!" Vimes replied, and he began to laugh softly, trying not to be disturbing to the Patrician, who had held back a grin, but not the chuckle that followed behind it. When he was done with his very quiet laughing, Vetinari let the smile grace his features, an unsure little turning up of his lips that made it look like he wasn't sure he should smile, but was going to anyway.
"Dear Vimes...Whatever happens when I die, if I don't end up coming back as a zombie or some other undead, than I will miss you terribly. No Vimes for me to torment, or to torment me? Or for me to trust with my emotions and body? The afterlife will be a boring and unsavory place without you...even if you cause as many problems as you solve," Vetinari said quietly, his smile softening as he shook his head in disbelief of what he was saying.
"Anyone else and my speech would still be guarded, even after all this time...but with you, Vimes, I can be myself, even if only while I am dying."
Vimes shook his head, a scowl covering his features rather suddenly. "No, Sir. You always could have shown me after that whole damned thing with Koom Valley. Or the football game. Why you chose to do it after Laurence's appearance with Temeraire I don't know, but we had been through some real tough things before that, and that was comparatively easy!"
Vetinari looked at him, blind eyes curious as well as now deeply annoyed. Vimes realized that he had just snapped at Vetinari, and despite the fact they were good friends now...well, you just didn't snap at Vetinari.
The tall, thin man leaned back tiredly, sighing a bit as he thought. "Vimes...I just never thought it was the right time. We'd been friends, without realizing it fully, for many years by the time of Laurence, you're correct, but...something about it marked an end to our usual bickering, we felt truly comfortable with each other after the events with Laurence. It is one of the few things I cannot quite explain, even to myself. I couldn't be open with you, however, until after that happened. That's all the answer I can give," Vetinari said quietly, and Vimes realized he'd slid into being Havelock, the old man who just wanted his oldest friend by his side as he lay dying, the old man who was scared to slip away from his beloved city, who he had served with all his heart for more than sixty years now.
"Havelock...I didn't mean it that way. I meant that...oh damn, why do you have to practically read my mind all the time? It's infuriating," Vimes scowled, grunting angrily about Vetinari's tendency to know what he was thinking. "What I meant was that you seemed to...you turned my world upside down, damn you. When you let me see the strands of gray, the wrinkles around the eyes...when you let me know that your sight was failing you. You brought walls of defense I had constructed over years of dealing with you down by being a human, inside. By showing me just how much you cared for not only the city, but me as well, as a friend and the only man who could understand your...devotion. And yet it took you years to tell me any of that!" Vimes snapped out, standing angrily to begin to pace the room. He didn't want to punch a dying man. But half-way up, a cool hand gripped his wrist, and Sam looked down angrily.
Vetinari wasn't facing him, not that it mattered much now though. But he looked...pained, or possibly merely deeply annoyed. Or maybe hurt. Vimes still didn't know the man's facial expressions well enough to always know what he thought.
"Sam...that was a touch harsh, don't you think?" Vetinari murmured softly, turning to look at him a little, for Vimes' comfort. Sam glared at him, but Vetinari silently awaited his answer. With a grunt, Vimes sat again, and started to think a bit.
"No, sir. You've tricked, manipulated, persuaded, and generally used me to do so much, that made me hate you for a long time. Tricking me into going to Klatch? I was furious with you for ages. Uberwald I am still not over. Sir, as much as I am your friend, you have done a lot of things to me, and not all of it I can forgive."
Vetinari closed his eyes slowly, looking pained suddenly, and Vimes felt the strong fingers close about his wrist in pain, though he noted that Vetinari took this spasm with more grace than the last few. He seemed to either have started to get used to the pain, or this one wasn't as painful.
When the blue eyes opened, they looked sadder than earlier. "Sam...I am sorry for those times, but...I needed you, and if I told you that, you wouldn't do it. If I gave you a speech about the city, you'd have told me that this city wasn't worth risking your life...that I had no right to ask you to risk your life for her," Vetinari murmured, and Vimes grunted, standing as the man's grip loosened. "I am sorry for any anger you still have over the occurrences, but...I can only say that even now I would do exactly as I did. There is no use in me lying to you now, Sam."
"I know, that's what makes it worse...when you become painfully honest, it isn't a metaphor," Vimes growled, striking a match on the wall and lighting a cigar.
Vetinari wrinkled his nose slightly, and Vimes chuckled at the movement. "Sam, you know I don't like you smoking around me," Vetinari said in a deadpan voice. Sam shrugged, and then chuckled.
"Don't care right now, Sir. It's that or I storm out of here, and I promised to stay as much as I could."
Vetinari shook his head, and slowly rolled to his side, turning his back on Vimes. His eyes closed gently, and he let out a shuddering breath before he sighed.
"Vimes? Tell the doctor to let me be...Wake me up later, I'm feeling too tired to deal with anyone messing with my bandages," he murmured, and Vimes nodded before replying with his usual 'sir.' Vetinari nodded once, weakly, and then went practically limp as he slid almost immediately into sleep.
Vimes had seen Vetinari limping through his house earlier, from the stairs. He'd asked Wilikins politely for directions to a bathroom, and the butler had politely guided the Patrician, acting as support when the Patrician nearly collapsed. But Vetinari had not heard Vimes on the stairs, smoking his cigar. Which was just as well.
Vimes had left the room shortly after Vetinari had fallen asleep, deciding to walk down to Treacle Mine Road and see if anything required his attention. Carrot and Angua had practically shoved him outside, Carrot suggesting quietly that it wasn't right for Vimes to be here if Vetinari wanted him.
Vimes shook his head, motioning Willikins over to his side. The old butler came, indicating with his eyebrows his curiosity. Vimes nodded to himself. He wasn't sure who would die first, him or the butler. He supposed it didn't matter, but maybe it meant something to him. It would mean a lot to Sybil.
"Did His Lordship look...alright, Willikins? Not too badly shaken?" Vimes asked, watching the hallway down which Vetinari had disappeared with eyes like a hawk's. He wanted to be prepared to catch the man if another spasm took him as he limped back to his bed.
Willikins looked Vimes over critically for a moment, as if reevaluating. "He looked better than yesterday afternoon, Sir Samuel, however...I have no doubt that he will die within the week. I do not doubt the word of Lawn's son," the butler said, rather defensively Vimes thought. Then again, he was telling his employer that his false hope wasn't worth the effort, that it would end in Vimes being hurt more deeply. And Vimes knew he was right, but...it seemed stupid that blood-loss would kill Vetinari, rather than poisons or a blade.
Vimes sighed, smiling grimly. "Yeah, I know that. Roger is a good boy...His father taught him pretty well." It made Vimes' heart ache to think about Mossy Lawn's grave, with it's forlorn little bell which he and the Watch kept polished. He'd been laid to rest in Small Gods, beside Ned Coates and John Keel. He'd said that's where he'd wanted to be buried...beside the men who shouldn't have died.
Vimes wondered where Vetinari would be buried...perhaps there as well? Vimes knew that's where he would be laid to rest, as close to Mossy as he could be, next to Ned and Sergeant Keel. Men who shouldn't have died...but did anyway.
Wilikins looked his employer over, and stood, leaving him to his thoughts. It didn't take a genius to see that Sir Samuel was thinking deeply, and the glaze in his eyes showed the thoughts of the Glorious 25th, and Willikins had no wish to interrupt his thoughts. However, seeing the door to the Patrician's room close, he sighed, and coughed politely.
"Sir Samuel, I believe that His Lordship has made it back to his room," he said quietly, and watched the Commander's expression clear and then grow stormy.
Vimes nodded once, his dark scowl covering his face as he loped over to the door, barging in without knocking to find Vetinari trying to bend back down, and finding it too painful.
In moments his anger fled, replaced with something that wasn't quite pity, but neither was it guilt.
Vimes moved to his master's side, giving the man a hand to hold while he weakly lay back down. His bandages had been changed, Vimes noted, though they were already bloodstained. Vetinari's face was even more pale than usual, and he trembled now in pain. Or perhaps it was a chill...He felt warmer than usual.
"Sir, are you feeling alright?" Sam asked, concern just barely inching into his voice. Vetinari went still for a moment, as if assessing the damage telling him would cause, before he shrugged delicately.
"I've felt far better, Vimes."
Vimes grunted, muttering something about the stubbornness of politician's, before he resumed his place on the bed, kicking his boots off his feet and leaning back on the foot of the bed, feet pressed against Vetinari's back. Vetinari grunted something about him smoking, but soon they were drifting into complete silence, though Vimes could see the occasional blinking of the blue eyes.
It was midnight, and after a few more halfhearted conversations and a pair of hard spasms, Vimes reentered the silent room. Something felt extremely off, and moving in his bathrobe and slippers, for comfort's sake, he realized Vetinari hadn't heard him enter. But the strangeness in the room was grating on his nerves, and his lack of ability to identify it was even worse.
Except, when he did realize it, he felt at once both mystified, and uneasy. There was a gentle humming coming from the bed, shrouded in shadow, and Vimes realized it was Vetinari humming, just loud enough to be heard at all, and what made it more unnerving was the fact it was a song Vimes and Sybil had given him the sheet music to read after his blindness. He had said he'd enjoy the challenge of reading it, since running his fingers and mentally imagining the music in his head as an image and as the music itself seemed like a worthy challenge.
Vimes relaxed, slowly. Vetinari seemed to be enjoying himself, and Vimes had to admit, he was a decent tenor, with an excellent sense of rhythm and pitch. What else did he expect, though?
"You know sir, you should try your hand at singing...wouldn't be half-bad, if you could remember the lyrics," Vimes said aloud, and grinned at the immediate, annoyed silence that followed his words. He could practically feel Vetinari's glare on his chest, and felt his heartbeat quicken. There was something about annoying Vetinari, even as his friend, that made your heart flutter and your mind try to hide from his gazes.
"Vimes...have I ever told you that you can be a real bastard when you want to be?" Vetinari intoned, the annoyance filtering through anyway. Vimes grinned more, from the doorway, and shut the door with an amused snort.
"I did wonder what it would take to make you say it. Apparently, all I had to do was catch you humming."
Vetinari, to his credit, didn't bother to comment. He didn't deny it either, which was good. Vimes was already too amused, and Vetinari knew better than to let Vimes get under his skin. Vimes was trying to take his mind off his body, which ached greatly.
Vetinari let himself get away with a calm smile, and motioned Vimes to sit. He hadn't minded being left alone for a few hours while Sam got some sleep, and tried to comfort his wife. The gods only knew how much the poor woman needed it, despite how strong she tried to be around him.
"Sam, do you remember the name of the song?" Vetinari asked briefly, and heard Sam snort in what he guessed was annoyance.
"I think it's called 'I Want to Hold You Until I Die,' by Dan , right?" Vimes grunted, though he felt a bit unsure about how this conversation was going along. He had never been very sure of Vetinari's romantic leanings, and he'd heard more than one of the less 'straight' men admit that he was extremely appealing.
Vetinari gave him one of those annoyingly calm, sad smiles. "Good job Commander. You and Sybil gave it to me as a birthday present a few years back, I believe. I merely enjoyed the tune."
"Yeah, right. We've known each other well for too long, Vetinari. Real answer, now, or I'll ensure you are very much alone when you die."
There was a quiet, uneasy pause, mostly on Vetinari's part.
"You promised, Sam."
"And? Inform me why that would make any difference now?"
There was another pregnant pause, more uneasy, or perhaps more upset, from both sides.
"Ignoring the obviously romantic words of the song...I feel it rather describes our relationship...does it not?"
Vimes snarled angrily, and he watched Vetinari move subtly away from him. With a sigh, Vimes tried to regain control of his temper. Vetinari was unarmed, and besides, a dying man has no need to lie. Conceal, maybe. Lie? No reason. Besides, Vetinari seldom actually lied to him, usually only wording things so that Vimes didn't understand.
Vimes growled softly, and then snorted.
"Explain that one to me? The name implies lots of romance, I believe."
Vetinari smiled weakly, shaking his head in amusement. "You just don't want to admit how close we really are, do you?"
"No, sir. I'll admit it to myself when you're gone."
Vetinari sighed, and then took a deep breath, sounding thoughtful when he spoke.
"In the last verse, Vimes, there is a line saying ' I've watched while love commands you,
And I've watched love pass you by,' which is rather similar to how you have often, of late, described my relationship with the city and Lady Margolotta. Do you see how some of the other lines also can offer up their services to describe our relationship, after using that as an example?" Vetinari asked softly, his voice fluctuating in pitch as he very quietly sang the line, as if it helped him remember. Vimes smiled faintly.
"Pretty good tenor there, Havelock...you sure you never sang?" At Vetinari's glare, Vimes sighed, and rubbed the bridge of his nose. "Alright, yes. I can see it, since you gave me an example! Gods, sometimes you're as bad as Carrot!"
"So Sam, what's another line or two you can think of that describes our relationship?"
Vimes glared at Vetinari, but he knew the song, and Vetinari knew that. Sam mumbled something before sighing heavily. He cleared his throat, feeling oddly uneasy about Havelock hearing him sing.
"'And who am I to judge you, On what you say or do? I'm only just beginning to see the real you?' I mean...that seems to sum up my end, certainly..." he grunted, and watched Vetinari's mouth move from a straight line to a soft, amused smile, before the man began to chuckle dryly. As happy as he was to have made a dying man smile, Vimes wanted to know what he'd done.
"Alright, what made that so funny?" he grunted.
Vetinari stopped chuckling after a moment, seemingly enjoying this. "I may be a decent tenor, Vimes, but you are a rather good baritone...maybe we should have started a choir at some point."
Vimes chuckled, and shook his head.
And so the night passed, until the first light of dawn brought with it a worried doctor, and another, painful, spasm.
I realize that Vetinari is almost out of character (alright he is out of character). I intentionally did this, as I said above. I don't want this whole story to be tragic, so I'm putting in a few less-than-in-character things. Vetinari and Vimes singing is one of them, as are the bits where they are arguing about various things, bickering for the heck of it.
Also, from now on I am putting the day I posted something up at the bottom of the chapter. Just because.
September 3, 2012.