Written for Yuletide 2003, for Sascha.

This story draws heavily on Terry Pratchett's Night Watch, so it probably won't make any sense if you haven't read the book. Thanks to Typhoid Mary for the idea, and to Katy for providing ears and shoulders and encouragement.

* * *

In A Name
by afrai

* * *

Vetinari saw Samuel Vimes at the funeral.

He was standing in the group of Watchmen beside the grave, his back stiff, face grave. A malleable face, as yet largely unmarked by experience. Trusting and painfully young. It would be easy to mould such a face to any end. Vetinari supposed that must have been the attraction. He had worshipped Keel, and that must have been pleasant, even for such a man as Keel -- who, as far as Vetinari could tell, had been unusually talented at finding sources of pain in the most innocuous things. Keel had been driven by some secret, unceasing rage -- Vetinari, watching him, had seen the hidden, terrible grief that had lined his every action, lurked behind his every word.

Which simply meant that he had had more foresight than most men. A mere sergeant, and only he out of all the blind fools in the city had seen its collapse as it was coming.

A genius, Vetinari thought. Ice shot through his veins. For a moment the knuckles of his clenched fist showed white.

The fools. You didn't kill a man like that. He had been dangerous, yes, but how infinitely more useful alive than dead. Now he was nothing more than a memory, gilded in the minds of the people who had fought by him -- serving as an inspiration to the sentimental for a few years, perhaps, before sentiment faded, overriden by the grey business of everyday.

He could have done so much, and now he was dead.

John Keel had been one of a kind. You didn't get rid of one of a kind, not unless you absolutely had to. You used it.

The leaders of the city had had something invaluable in their hands, and they had thrown it away. In a way it was reassuring, in that it reaffirmed everything Vetinari had always believed about human nature. But the waste of it . . . offended him. He disliked waste. And more than ever, it convinced him that he had taken the right course of action.

Snapcase would do for a few years. That was why Vetinari had aided his ascension to his current exalted position.

He would be that much easier to topple.

The thought calmed Vetinari. He relaxed infinitesimally.

Of course, it was at that precise moment that the wind shifted, wafting the scent of lilac in his direction. The sweetness hung around him, inescapable as grief.

He closed his eyes.

* * *

It was somewhat more difficult that he had expected to get a chance to speak to Vimes with the discretion he desired. A surprising number of people had turned up, though perhaps it wasn't so surprising if you considered the man Keel had been.

Of course, Vetinari reflected, it did detract from the effect somewhat that a goodly portion of the mourners weren't admitting to being mourners. There were more nondescript carriages crowded around the edges of the cemetery than Small Gods had ever seen. Lady Meserole was probably in one of them.

The people gathered around the grave were trying to pretend that the people who weren't weren't there, which was probably wise. The carriages were nondescript, but if anyone had had the guts and the glaring lack of any survival instinct to describe them, they would have used the word 'rich.' The words 'quite capable of making anybody who so much as looks at them funny disappear' would probably also feature, as well as, eventually, the word 'aargh!'

The erstwhile revolutionaries being very well aware of this, they were inclined to cluster. Vetinari foresaw some difficulty extricating Sam Vimes from the crowd for a talk.

He considered the problem, standing invisibly in the shadow of a poplar tree. He was quite relaxed. He was certain that he was the only person attending the funeral whose presence had really gone undetected by any of the others. He was safe enough.

The only man who had looked into the shadows was dead.

* * *

In the end it was a simple matter of waiting for the others to leave. Vimes stayed by the grave even as his fellow Watchmen's stomachs won over their loyalty to their dead comrades, and they dropped off, one by one. Vimes was the one of the two only men left in Small Gods when the sky turned dark.

Vetinari padded over to the man's side. Vimes didn't move. An extraordinarily easy man to kill, thought Vetinari, if that had been his business.

But tonight he was not an Assassin.

There was an egg sitting upright on the fresh-turned soil of the grave.

"And a hard-boiled egg," Vetinari remarked, taking a tiny pleasure in the way Vimes jerked.

Vimes's head swung, his eyes wide and startled. They focused on Vetinari and narrowed. Vetinari allowed himself a half-smile.

"Paying my respects," he said, inclining his head.

"The service is over," said Vimes obviously. His expression was wary. Not bad. Maybe Keel's tutelage hadn't gone completely to waste.

"I know," said Vetinari.

There was a silence. The poplars sighed.

"He's dead," said Vetinari. Vimes turned on him, his eyes full of fury, but Vetinari had chosen to stand in the light, for once. The last dying ray of sunlight struck his face, illumining his expression. An unwise move, perhaps, to reveal his own vulnerability, but it fixed Vimes in his place.

Genuine emotion was a deadly weapon, as difficult to control as lightning, but of immeasurable value to the man who knew himself. You utilised it, focused it, revealed it when it would give you the advantage.

You could use anything. The more seemingly unmanageable, the more useful. You just had to find a place to stand, and the right kind of lever.

Snapcase had no idea.

"Yes," said Vimes, his voice cracking on the word. He suddenly seemed very young.

It almost made Vetinari feel ashamed for what he was about to do. Yet there was nothing to be ashamed of, surely. John Keel had taken this boy under his wing. He had protected Vimes. Vetinari was merely . . . continuing that effort. He was offering Vimes the opportunity to have a better life than he would have in the Night Watch.

Safer, certainly.

"May I ask what you intend to do now?" he said.

He could see the walls going up behind Vimes's eyes, and only just restrained himself from letting out a sigh. Perhaps Vimes should have been suspicious five minutes ago, but it was a little late for it now. Really, thought Vetinari, Sam Vimes was scarcely a person so much as a confused jumble of vague good intentions and emotion.

"Who are you?" said Vimes.

"A friend," said Vetinari composedly. He nodded towards the grave. "He was . . . unique. I would like to help you." He wondered if he should leave it at that -- anything more seemed excessive, even histrionic -- but this was Vimes he was talking to, after all.

"In honour of his memory," he explained.

As he had expected, Vimes melted at that. Show the man a good intention and he went gooey at the knees. It was almost painful to watch.

"What did you have in mind?" said Vimes. He was staring at the headstone, his eyes far away.

"The Night Watch has played a commendable part in recent events," said Vetinari. He paused, but Vimes had the instincts of a copper, if not the experience. He stared straight ahead of him, his face quite blank.

"Yes?" he said.

"An admirable body of men," said Vetinari. "Men of many virtues. But not, perhaps, virtues that are likely to be recognised by the heads of the city."

Vimes stirred, his face rippling.

"I don't want recognition from those bastards," he said. "We all know who was after sarge!"

"But he's dead," said Vetinari, his voice like a whip. "And you are alive. With family, no doubt, that you need to support. They are looking for likely men to join the Palace Guard. A man with initiative may go far even in the Day Watch."

Vimes's mouth worked.

"They killed sarge," he said.

"Tell me, lance-constable, do you intend to preserve your life as a monument to his memory?" said Vetinari. "What difference would it make? Impeding yourself will not resurrect him. Nothing will. Are you going to lock yourself in the past . . . or will you look to the future?"

The silence in the cemetery squeezed in around them. Perhaps it was the darkness, given shape by the light of the moon, but for the first time he could not read Sam Vimes's face.

Then Vimes turned his face to Vetinari, and it seemed -- harder, somehow, and strangely familiar.

"No," said Vimes, not only to Vetinari. "It makes a difference. Thanks, but . . . I'm a copper."

Vetinari felt his mouth stretch in something that was wholly unlike a smile. There was something about Vimes's face . . .

"I cannot say I'm surprised," Vetinari said. "If you are sure, then I wish you good luck in your future enterprises." He would need it.

Vetinari stepped away from the grave.

"Wait, what's your name?" said Vimes.

"You will know soon enough," said Vetinari, and he melted into the shadows.

He had given Vimes a chance. No-one could say he had not tried.

* * *

It took years to achieve the complete breakdown of the Night Watch, but Vetinari was a patient man.

He did not think much about it. Vetinari always thought out everything he did in great detail -- it was his natural inclination to pay attention to the things nobody else noticed, and this had worked to his advantage in the past -- but in this case he found that he did not particularly want to consider his actions very deeply. He wondered briefly if it was advisable to proceed in this heedless manner, but finally decided to allow himself some leeway. It was one of his few indulgences in illogic.

He kept an eye on Sam Vimes over the years. He was almost depressingly predictable. Vetinari could not tell if it was John Keel's lingering influence or Vimes's own innate nature, but he had an unusual capacity for passion, albeit not in the conventional sense. As far as Vetinari could tell -- and he did not take much interest in that particular aspect of Vimes's life -- Vimes was generally too busy being furious about the glaring imperfection of the world to concern himself much with matters of the heart, or even of the danglier parts of human anatomy. He showed a desperate tendency to care that, dwelt upon, could induce a gentle melancholy about the state of man.

It made it all the easier to nudge him into -- despair? Failure? Vetinari could not have said what he wanted, but he knew how to achieve it. Considering the man Vimes was, the man John Keel had made, it was not a difficult task.

When something that could have been his conscience twinged, Vetinari reminded himself that he had given Vimes a chance. He had refused it himself. Vetinari had tried.

It was not that he wanted Vimes to suffer. Vetinari had no moral objections to that sort of petty sadism, though he supposed that such objections existed; he disliked it merely on aesthetic grounds. By large, other people's pain did not affect him, though he dealt it and had it dealt efficiently. It just did not interest him.

It was strange to think that he had never spoken to John Keel. Not once. He had saved him from death, and fought for him when he could not save him, but he had never so much as exchanged a word with the man.

Samuel Vimes, however, had been Keel's protege. Vetinari had seen the curious care with which Keel had treated Vimes, then young and astoundingly stupid -- a true nonentity, whose only attraction could have been his touchingly complete lack of understanding of, well, anything.

Vetinari could have had Vimes killed. The disappearance of a drunken member of the degraded Night Watch would hardly be noticed. Vimes's continued existence would be more likely to excite comment than his death, if indeed anything about Vimes ever excited comment. But that was something Winder or Snapcase might have done, and Vetinari prided himself on not being Winder or Snapcase.

Besides, this was personal. Vimes . . . deserved more than death. Or possibly less.

Vetinari hadn't quite decided yet.

The fact that Vimes would certainly refuse anything that was given to him made Vetinari's work easier. If Vimes would not receive anything from him, Vetinari could only force it on him. Vimes had not left him with many options.

Vetinari was aware that there was a flaw in his logic, but he did not bother to correct it. He gave himself a great deal of latitude in this matter.

He tried not to think about it too much.

* * *

That could very well have been the end of it. After a while Vetinari had nothing to contribute to Vimes's downward spiral, and there was no reason Sam Vimes should ever resurface in his thoughts again, except on bad nights and with the scent of lilac. But while Vetinari had never met the gentleman, he had always suspected that Fate had an unpleasantly acute sense of humour, and it should have been no surprise to him to have Vimes thrown back into his life, as it were.

To put it more accurately, Vimes barged into it, with all the delicacy of a bull in a china shop, or a Guild leader at a political function. Vimes and his copper's instincts.

And Vetinari, required to reevaluate his policy on all things related to Vimes, realised, not without a measure of displeased surprise, that Vimes had grown up when he was not looking. Somewhere in the depths of that drink-sodden brain, a mind had evolved.

A mind that Vetinari had seen before.

A mind that could be useful.

In the end the decision was simple. Ankh-Morpork needed a mind like that. A random factor: Vimes himself was predictable, but it was impossible to foretell what he would do and how he would do it. He overruled his own first instincts minute by minute; you couldn't tell what he might do because even he wasn't sure, until he actually did it.

He had had a good teacher. There was no logical reason why Vetinari should hold that against him. Vetinari's job was to do what the city needed to make it work. Right now, that was a working Night Watch.

And Vimes had become interesting.

Vetinari watched his progress with fascination. Vimes never ceased to surprise. Not a unique man, but . . . special.

And Vetinari had to admit he took a certain pleasure in forcing gifts on Vimes. A petty revenge, perhaps, but those, he had found, were often the most satisfying.

* * *

Perhaps it was a revenge of the gods' -- a punishment of Vetinari's hubris in making the most unreasonable city on the Discworld functional -- that his second most important epiphany about Samuel Vimes occurred in the same cemetery, beside the same grave, as the first one had.

Not an empty grave, but it might as well have been for all that Vetinari cared about the man in it.

The realisation arrived unheralded, striking between one moment and the next, and rearranging the world in its burning light. In that flash Vetinari saw the entire situation, complete in its absurdity. He did not understand the how or the why -- though he had some ideas of his own, and he would find out if they were correct soon enough -- but he saw the what, and its meaning, its every implication was laid out before him.

Vetinari looked over the crowding years, and the truth stared him in the face.

What was it the philosopher Didactylos had said? You had to laugh. You had to laugh . . .

Or you'd go mad.

Vetinari looked back at the truth, and allowed himself a secret smile at the world, at Sam Vimes, and most of all at himself.

Many of his acquaintances -- 'enemy,' Vetinari felt, was a word that lost its power when spread out over so many people -- believed that Vetinari knew everything. This was not, in fact, true. He only knew most things.

He did give the impression of knowing everything, and this was achieved by having a well-developed sense of humour over the unpleasant surprises.

Many of his acquaintance would also swear that Vetinari didn't have a sense of humour, but they would be wrong, as they were in, alas, so very many things. He merely did not see the point of laughing on the outside. It was, in his opinion, a waste of mirth. Laughter was best enjoyed by oneself, in the privacy of one's own head.

Vimes had never learnt this. When his sense of humour worked, which it did very rarely, he shared it with the world because he couldn't see any other way of doing it. An essentially honest man.

So had John Keel been.

When Vimes had gone home, dragging his criminal with him, Vetinari lingered a while in the cemetery, breathing in the scent of lilac.

It occured to him that he had finally spoken to John Keel -- that he had, in fact, spoken to him more times than he could be troubled to remember. He had been instrumental in irritating Keel to his current elevated position, one of the most important people in the city, and acknowledged as such.

He had attended the man's wedding, though he had not been at his best at the time. Considerable blood loss and one of Archchancellor Ridcully's remedies did that to you. Still, he had been there, and he had not been standing in the shadows.

He had a very great respect for Sybil Vimes. Quite apart from any other consideration, respect had to be accorded to the only person in Ankh-Morpork who was capable of calling him "Havelock, you silly man" without batting an eye.

Vetinari unpinned the sprig of lilac on his robe thoughtfully.

He had known, he reflected, that the city would need a man like Keel. Perhaps that had been part of the reason why he had preserved Vimes in the days before he became useful, when he was nothing more than a painful reminder of the past, instead of killing him. That Keel had turned out to be the man the city needed was a stroke of extraordinary good fortune.

He was in the not unfamiliar position of having to reevaluate his view of Vimes, but though Vetinari disliked having to admit that he had ever at any time lacked a vital piece of information, he was feeling curiously cheerful. It was a beautiful night, and the lilac bloomed for a man who was not dead.

Vetinari turned the flower over in his hand. For one moment he closed his eyes in the lamplight and breathed in the night.

Then he opened his hand, dropping the sprig of lilac on John Keel's grave. And he went back to his city.

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