There were still four whole days until the island's more commonplace winter celebrations, but the Vimes family was already gathered in the rec room amidst a small pile of gifts to celebrate their own personal holiday. Having grown up on Tabula Rasa, Young Sam had come to expect not to usual one day of presents, but two - on Hogswatch eve, whenever it fell by the island calendar, and on Christmas day, when the rest of his friends received their presents. Like so many other oddities on the island, this particular strangeness seemed perfectly natural: there was the Hogfather and Father Christmas, flying reindeer and flying pigs, Christmas trees and Hogswatch bushes.
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As tends to be the case for most parents, the elder Sam Vimes appreciated the nostalgia of the holiday more than the trappings. Once, he had hated Hogswatch - it had been nothing more than one endlessly dreary night, and though he hadn't believed the damned legend in decades, he had always half expected that the sun wouldn't rise come morning. Now he sipped warm cider and watched as his son picked up each package, shook it, and guessed at its contents. Had he been half this big a year ago? Vimes was almost sure he hadn't.
Gods, but he was getting old. They were all getting old.
( Plot planing FTW!Collapse )
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Vimes always hated it when the island went magic on them, but this one was one of the worst. Personalities swapped, people unreliable, the usually kind natured turned dangerous. He had told what members of the IPD he could find to keep an eye out, but so many of them were changed that he did not expect it to do much good. There was nothing to do but wait it out and hope for the best.
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Figuring it would be a good idea to be easily found if some kind of bloody-minded emergency did occur, Vimes decided to spend the day in the IPD office. At least the Times (or should he say the Inquirer) was good for a laugh. He had his feet propped on the desk and had it open to the center fold, where he was reading diligently about this serious problem of masked men running about. Children criminals are commonly seen in literature, and it is also certain that the island, being so literary based, shall be similarly afflicted. Thus, we can clearly see that the superheroes are in fact super-criminal masterminds, intending to woo children with their awesome martial arts and 'groovy moves' only to then have them steal YOUR precious belongings.
He had to admit. Not-De Worde had a point.
Presumably, our pups have lives that happen when we aren't playing them, as none of us can play 24/7. Some of the things that happen are tedious and everyday, and not worth thinking much on: It's fair to assume they eat, bathe, go to "work" or school as it applies, etc. But there might be things that happen between pups that, while not necessarily requiring a thread, are important to note for the sake of development.
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Unless you're very new, you probably know who Vimes is. He's makes himself pretty visible as head of the IPD. He drinks a lot of coffee and keeps odd hours. Anyone can also see him every evening in the rec room at exactly 6:00, reading to his three-year-old son.
You've definitely spoken to him if:
-You're a member of the IPD or have been in the past
-You've been involved in something crimeplotty
-You've been a member of the Council
- There's also a good chance you've talked to him if you're a member of the IBI or the lab.
Also, Vimes knows who you are. If he doesn't, he'll pretend he does anyway.
Vimes had once heard that the human mind couldn't remember pain. He had always thought that to be a load of rubbish. He remembered plenty of pain, most of it mapped out by scars across his skin that spoke of the stabbings, falls, near deaths, and sometimes just plain scuffles that had dotted his career.
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But if it had been true, it would have explained why anyone could be stupid enough to drink after the first time. It had been a long time since he had felt like this, dry mouthed and ill, head pounding and fit to explode at every distant sound. Hangovers. He had nearly forgotten about those.
But it wasn't really that he had been unable to remember that particular misery of those too-grey mornings after he had had too much to drink, once far too common. Other miseries had just been too vivid - the exhaustion that went further than the physical, the returned frustration and loathing that had brought him to it in the first place. The disappointment.
He winced. It wasn't his own disappointment he thought of now. That would come later.
He hadn't gone home the night before - he'd been drunk, not stupid, and had fallen asleep in the IPD office. But now he began the slow trek down the Compound's featureless halls to home. It felt longer than usual. All the better to consider what a bloody bastard of an idiot you are. Maybe Sybil would be out early. Maybe she wouldn't notice the circles under his eyes or wonder where he'd been. Maybe she wouldn't look at him and know right away, he could just change his shirt, and they could pretend none of it had ever happened.
And maybe pigs* would fly.
*At least the kind that had not been within a mile of a wizard in its short, mud-flled life.
He had things pretty good, Vimes reminded himself. He had a good life here on magical-island-with-a-funny-name. He had a police force, the best he'd ever led. He had the rule of law that held fairness above all else, something he would never have achieved in Ankh-Morpork. He had, as Sergeant Angua had so graciously reminded him, his family. He was fine. Everything was fine.
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Then why couldn't he stop looking over his shoulder? Why couldn't he shake the feeling that if he blinked, it would all come crashing down? People kept disappearing - who would be next?
"Da!" His son's shout broke him out of reverie, destroying the melancholy moment of smoking his cigar on the Compound steps. Sam came racing up the path, his mother not far behind.
"Looklooklooklooklook what I found!"
There were lots of things that Vimes was good at. Even he could admit that. He'd been a cop for over thirty years and he wasn't dead yet, and that took some talent. At fifty-four he could still chase a thieves across rooftops, climb up drainpipes, and, he'd like to think, outrun a werewolf or two if necessary. He wasn't bad at the detectoring business, either.
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But there were some things that never sat right with an old copper who was more used to feeling street beneath his boots than sitting behind a desk. One of them was paperwork. Another was promotions.
Kowalski and Hornblower had made the decision he had never been able to, that family was more important than coppering, though he had every certainty that no matter what they said, they'd be in the office every damned chance they could. Just to annoy him. But that meant someone had to replace them. And he had to admit, he was pretty happy with the decision they had come to.
Lord Stark just better damned well accept.
One thing could be said for the island - as soon as you thought you were all settled, it would throw something new at you. Vimes was beginning to feel like it was some kind of game, and knowing Tabula Rasa, it just might have been.
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It had all happened so quickly. Only a week before, Klaus had come to the IPD, insisting that Voldemort was still on the island. It had sounded half-mad to Vimes at first, especially coming from a kid who was, if anything, disturbingly sensible. But at his urging they had searched the well that Samara had been found in months before and there, embedded in the walls, discovered evidence of their worst nightmare. This wizard madman, supposedly dead since last October, was alive and well and roaming free - and perfectly willing to continue terrorizing.
It was slow going for the group that now trudged through the jungle in search of their island community's most famous criminal. The forest canopy kept out the worst of the beating sun, but humidity hung heavy in the air and dripped from broad, green leaves. Debris and undergrowth blocked the way, the air singing with buzzing insects. Such impediments didn't stop them. Vimes had every intention of leading the search party until their man was found. He hadn't been there when Voldemort had committed his first crime, and neither had many of those now searching with him, but they had all heard stories of what he was capable of.
He wouldn't be getting away with it.
He wasn't entirely sure how it had happened.
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He certainly hadn't meant for it to happen.*
But he'd been reaching across the desk to pick up something innocuous or other, probably a pen, and the coffee cup had just fallen over. Tipped right over, and suddenly there was hot coffee dripping everywhere. He had sworn loudly at first, but had immediately calmed when he realized that there was only one convenient thing at hand to mop it up with.
It wasn't like he had gone and set the paperwork on fire, or thrown it away, or anything destructive like that. But the pile had already been half splattered, and it just happened to be the case that island paper absorbs coffee spills really well.
Still, he couldn't help but smile just a little.
Knowing this place - and his job - he doubted the smile would last for long.
*No, really. Promise.
It had been a quiet day so far. The patrol reports had all come back dull as dishwater, not always the case this month, what with all the crazy giant cats and others toothed creatures wandering about. But today the only tigers were hidden in the trees. The prison had been built, the work on the paths had not yet begun, so at the moment there was a lull between projects. The interviews for the upcoming edition of the paper were finally finished, and while Vimes was most definitely not looking forward to this one, at least he didn't have to worry about it yet. He needed to sort through the roster and match up a few new sets of partners, but that could wait for the next day.
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It was almost six o'clock, after all.
He piled the papers he had been working on together (they were perched precariously on the edge of his desk, but at least they were actually in a pile) and packed his things together.
Crazy as it sounded when you were stuck on a magical island on Roundworld with a jungle outside and giant man-eating lizards to worry about, it was just another day at the office.
It was all Sybil's fault.
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It had been one of those ideas that sounded perfectly innocent and harmless the way she suggested it but was, in reality, a terrible idea. Oh yes, she had said. Just a nice, quiet gathering with the boys. Reminisce! Get to know each other better! Play a nice, civilized game of cards!
The boys. Hells.
But no one had yet learned how to say no to Sybil, which was probably the only reason Sam Vimes, Moist von Lipwig, and the de Worde brothers were in the same room together, let alone about to sit down in the rec room to play bloody poker. Civilized. Sure.
Vimes had promised himself he would only stay exactly as long as he had to.
And he had drawn the line at bringing the deck of cards.
There was a woman standing outside the IPD office, and it was beginning to make Vimes a little nervous. He had been perfectly fine, minding his own business and leaning against the desk as he sorted through neat piles of paperwork when he had noticed her there. It had entirely ruined his attempt to turn the carefully filed papers into much more easily accessible piles. Preferably on the floor. Or in the wastebasket, better yet. With that woman just standing there, they might even end up back where they were supposed to go.
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He wondered if there might be a way to get someone for suspicious loitering with the bill of rights.
Finally he straightened and pushed the door just hard enough to make it swing open the rest of the way. "...Can I help you?"
It was only the first of the year and the IPD already had a violent death on their hands. Nothing more than a boy, too, stabbed to death by a young girl. Vimes knew that the traditions of Westeros branded them both adults already, but he still couldn't think of them as anything but kids.
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So much for happy new year.
It was self-defense, pretty damn clear and simple. A mother protecting her child. The boy had attacked, the girl had lashed out in only way she had been able to. They were still going through the evidence, still conducting interviews, but Vimes was sure nothing more complicated would come to light. Maybe it didn't make it all right, but it made it understandable - and sometimes that was enough. But it didn't make what he now had to do any easier.
Lord Stark had insisted on being there, and Vimes had asked Arthur to stay in hopes that it might prevent blood from being spilled in the IPD office. And the Lannister woman was on her way.
The room was deathly quiet. Vimes was at the desk, carefully flipping through paperwork, face dark and set. It was going to be a long day.
(More damned paperwork?)
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His Grace the Duke of Ankh Councilman Commander Sam Vimes
It had taken all of Vimes' nerve not to leave the Compound as soon as Eostre had come to him with the news that Mack had disappeared. These things, some part of his mind constantly told him, were better settled simply, on one's own. He would go out into the jungle, he would find the bastard who had taken her. And then he would take care of him.
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But he knew exactly where that kind of thinking led.
So he had woken up the the IPD and the squints. He had waited patiently while the evidence was examined. He had not flown into a rage when it had quickly surfaced that F, the bloody-damned animal vampire thing, had taken her. He had assembled as many of the IPD as he could find in the middle of the night on short notice, with the plan of breaking into groups and scouring the entire island if necessary.
And then, closer to Sunday morning than Saturday night, they were off. The wolves, Diefenbaker and Grey Wind, were in the lead, following the twisting path that F had taken with the child. It had jumped all over the place at first - the creature had had enough brains to collect food, and it had spent some time hidden in a hut, it had wandered aimlessly (doing gods know what to the baby, Vimes thought, and quickly suppressed it). But now, by the looks of things, they were headed in a straight line towards the caves. It bloody figured.
Vimes' face was cold and determined. He had no intention of going back until he had found her.
[For all IPD members who want to take part in the search party! Just tag in gathering style. This one's timed for Sunday morning-ish.]
The woman walked into the IPD office without knocking, seeming immediately to have decided that she owned the place.
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It was impossible to ignore her beauty. She had once been the kind of woman men would kill each other over, bar fights or fancy duels, it didn't really matter. Once. But now there was a look of decay about her, of a woman past her prime too soon, and a haughty glint in her eye. It made Vimes think of rotting fruit.
"Take me to whomever is in charge here," she said without introduction or greeting. It was so clearly an order that Vimes could only raise a brow slightly. "Well?" she continued. "I've a dire situation that must be seen to, Mister-"
it was the Mister that did it, that tipped things against her before she had even given her name. It had been a long time since Vimes had heard that word said like that. No simple form of address, but two heavy, solid syllables, indicating that the person in question was nothing more than a plain mister and the speaker was not. The speaker did not bother with misters. They were not worth her time.
Vimes smiled politely, but his teeth were clenched. "Commander, actually. Vimes. I'm in charge. Have a seat and tell me what the trouble is."
She did not look particularly pleased by this pronouncement, but she sat and began to tell her tale. "I am Cersei Lannister, once queen of Westeros, though now brought to the humbler circumstances that we all must endure." She paused here, seeming to be expecting some response, but Vimes merely raised his brows and waited for her to continue. She must have seen something in his expression, though - or possibly only wanted to - for next she asked, "You have head of me?"
"It's a small island, ma'am. I know the name."
She narrowed her eyes slightly. "Some of the Stark family serve as your... watchmen, is that not so? You have heard, I am sure, wretched tales of the evils of my family, unimaginable cruelties that I have performed. And yes, I will admit that some things I have done might sound harsh," here she actually looked contrite, "but some things must be done. They were traitors," she spat the word, "and it is right that I protect my crown, is it not?"
Vimes decided it was best not to comment upon what he thought of crowns or the sorts of things his family traditionally did to them or their wearers, but if this tale of woe was supposed to be impressing him, it wasn't doing its job. "And how can I help you?" he asked, doing a pretty damn good impression of 'calm', if he did say so himself.
"My son his here," she replied, cooler now, clearly disappointed by Vimes' lack of reaction thus far. "I have no doubt that they will try to cause him harm. I am in a precarious position, Commander Vimes. Once a woman of greatness, now I know that rumors must be spread about me, and I know that were my son to be hurt, the population of this place would jump to the Starks defense. But the law of the land says that I and my family deserve as much protection as they, does it not?"
"Yes, it does," Vimes answered carefully. Once a woman of greatness. Well. But then the woman was speaking again, overriding his thoughts and any further words.
"And considering the circumstances and the dangers we now must face, I would expect some personal protection for my son and I."
His distaste for the woman had been building - now he could not contain a snort. "Ma'am," and oh, how she did flinch at being addressed like that, "we offer the same protection to all our citizens. I don't have the men to give you some kind of personal escort, but we will keep the peace as best we can."
Anger flashed across Cersei Lannister's face, her earlier demenor of sad, fallen aristocrat falling away and leaving in its place something crueler and madder. "As best you can? And what if that is not good enough?" she snapped."This is my son we speak of, ser! It is his safety that I come to you about, for his safety that I lower myself-"
"I am well aware, ma'am," Vimes answered tightly. "And I will give you and your son exactly the same protection I'll give to everyone else on Tabula Rasa."
"I deserve more," she told him icily.
"No, you don't," Vimes returned darkly. "But I will not give you any less protection, either, no matter what rumors you're worryin' about." And even though you probably deserve less. Yeah, he'd heard a rumor or two, and could guess a few things about the son in question. But he had a job to do all the same.
Cersei stood, pushing back her chair. "If harm comes to my child due to your neglect, ser, I will not hesitate to blame you personally. Your name will be mud."
"Yeah, I'm sure," Vimes muttered as she stormed out. The trouble was, she had a point. Oh, he would be blamed - by her if no one else, and for all her mad speecifying, she probably wasn't someone you wanted to get truly angry, as fun as that might be.
And then there were the Starks to deal with. They weren't gonna like this, not one bit.
His day had just gotten a lot more complicated.
His conversation with that Lannister woman had been hours ago, but Vimes still couldn't get it out of his head. Her tone, the tilt of her head, the way her eyes narrowed to give the perfect impression of looking down at a person, he knew it all well. But she had been more proud, more cruel, more disdainful than any petty lord of Ankh-Morpork. Oh, she had been something else. But she was still the sort that made every drop of his common blood boil, even now as he sat at the IPD desk, pen in his hand twitching in agitation.
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So this was the leader of the clan the Starks so abhorred and detested. As much as he liked the family, he had never had much time for their nasty, pre-island feuds, but he was beginning to think that he wouldn't mind wringing the woman's neck himself.
He couldn't, of course. No one could, no matter how much she might deserve it. And that was the problem. Oh, this son of hers was going to be trouble. And with wounds barely healed from Halloween, trouble was exactly what he did not want.
He needed to talk to Ned Stark. It wouldn't stop the trouble, most likely, but it would delay it. And right now Vimes could do with a delay.
Vimes stared at the woman across from him.
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Woman. It wasn't the right word, but there wasn't a better one in his vocabulary. She was human-shaped and female, but otherwise utterly lacking in womanliness. Creature, even animal fit her countenance (not to mention her actions) better, no matter what her shape. But even Vimes, copper's copper and notorious hater of vampires, could not bring himself to completely dismiss her humanness.
He frowned at her - it - and wondered, not for the first time, if this whole exercise wasn't just damned stupid.
He sat back in his chair and absently tapped his pen on the desk. "Um. Right. Can you- hells, can you even understand me?"
There was a lull at the Watch house on Psudopolis Yard around early evening when the day shift left and then night watch came in. Good ol' Night Watch. Vimes still made everyone start there, his son included, because every copper needed to know what it was like to be up all night, to stand still in icy rain, to sleep on one's feet. 'cause one day every copper would have to do it, and when that day came, they couldn't be some green idiot who had found himself a cushy position patrolling Broad Way in the middle of the afternoon.*
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Vimes was lounging against one of the practice dummies outside. He'd told Sam to come a little early, though he hadn't said why. Father and son needed to have a bit of a Talk. Yeah, that was all.
He grinned, and lit his cigar, and waited.
*Besides, that was Nobby's gig.
Things had been fine. No, things had been really good. After months, no years, of homesickness, the ache had begun to fade. He had his family here, he had his work. Tabula Rasa became his new Ankh-Morpork, hated but his. His to protect, his to watch his son grow up in.
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And then it happened. Just when he finally let himself relax, it happened, just like he had always been afraid it would. No, just like he'd always known he would. One morning he woke up, and Sybil was gone, and Young Sam along with her.
They trickled away from there, the natives of the Disc. All the little memories of home disappearing one by one, leaving only empty spaces and nothing else. It was when Carrot finally left that he no longer felt the need to hold himself together. What did he have to prove anymore? That night he took the still half-full bottle of whiskey out of his desk, went down to the beach, and finally let himself fail that final test, all in one go.
It had gone downhill from there. Oh, his public face hadn't entirely faded. True, he stopped paying attention at Council meetings, and when elections came up he didn't run away. The Rays had picked up the slack when Sybil had gone, but he never entirely abandoned his work. It just didn't matter anymore.
He spent more and more time in the office, often alone, usually at night, always accompanied by the Bearhugger's bottle. He had gotten into the habit of refilling it with whatever passed for alcohol on the island. It was both his last hold on the home he had lost, and a millstone reminding him what he had returned to.
But he just couldn't bring himself to care.