sam_storyteller: (Discworld: Watch)
sam_storyteller ([personal profile] sam_storyteller) wrote2005-07-09 07:30 am
Entry tags:

Real: G.

Notes: This is still dedicated to Yap, good friend in intoxication and beta-reader.
Summary: Reality is relative.
Warnings: None.

Also available at AO3.

"It was gonna be 'Mum' but I passed out and Needle Ned didn't notice I was upside down."
"I should've thought he'd notice that..."
"He was pissed too. C'mon, sarge, you know it's not a proper tattoo unless no–one can remember how it got there."
-- Jingo


It is an interesting theory, and it might even be true, that some things that exist are not, in fact, Real. Oh, they're there; but they're part of a background noise that our eyes and ears can easily filter out without being particularly less enriched.

For example, there is news, and then there is Real News*. There are cars, and then there are Real Cars**; there's even Real Pizza***. Because humans are fond of spending time on the Real, we have come up with many ways to differentiate mere "things" from Real Things.

* Defined as an occasion on which a reporter's tie becomes an obstacle to his speech no less than three times.
** If all it has is manual-dial AM radio, it's probably Real.
*** Comes in a box with a humorously overweight cartoon Italian on it? Likely not real.

This is the story of one of those Real Things.

It ends with Sam Vimes waking up.

He was in his own bed, which was a good sign; it didn't always happen. There had been the gutter, countless times there. A couple of alleys. A couple of bars. Once in a while, a Seamstress might take pity on a poor unconscious guard Captain and drag him somewhere that at least resembled indoors.

Apparently he'd managed to make it home (home! hah! a dim, dingy room for a couple of dollars a month) and out of his boots and armour. This had not, however, done anything to his hangover, which no amount of hasty washing at the basin in the corner could rid him of.

He winced as he cupped the water and splashed it over his face. Had he been in a fight...? He didn't recall one, but that was sort of the point of the drinking.

He touched the sleeve of his uniform; something bulky was underneath it. A bandage, wrapped around his arm. When he flexed, the muscles ached, but it didn't feel like a cut; more like a raw spot.

Maybe on duty last night. Bandages, that meant at least it had been treated. He decided to ignore it, gingerly changing his clothes and shaving left-handed, which would have been more difficult if he wasn't often without the full use of one arm or the other. Went with the job.

The clock downstairs chimed, and he sighed. Close enough to duty not to bother with anything else. It seemed his days -- well, his nights -- were spent patrolling, and the most he could manage after that was a few drinks and some daytime sleep. He often wondered whether he would recognise breakfast, if he ever found the urge to eat it again.

Most of the men were already in the Watch House when he arrived, helmet under arm, hair blown wild by the summer wind. Leggy came up from the basement, whistling and carrying a tray with tea on it, which Vimes gratefully accepted. Sergeant Maroon was ticking off the notes that Day Shift had sent up.

"Evenin', Captain," Maroon said, saluting half-heartedly. Vimes sipped his tea while the others blew on theirs.

"Drinkin' lefthanded, Cap'n?" Nobby asked. "You get cut after we left you off last night?"

Vimes looked down at his arm. "Dunno. Don't recall. You left me...?"

"At yer flat." Colon grinned and tapped the side of his nose.

Vimes rubbed his eyes, trying to think. "I remember us going to the Bunch of Grapes," he said slowly.

"And One Drink Willy said he could drink you under the table and you said you'd like to see him try it, and then Nobby joined in..."

Fred clapped the shorter man on the back, and then hurriedly wiped his hand. Vimes was more interested in Nobby's reaction, however. The man* had winced.


Vimes got a terrible feeling in the pit of his stomach.

"Nobby..." he said slowly.

"Yeah, Cap'n?" Nobby asked, as he straightened his armour.

"I recall..." Vimes rummaged around in his memories, which was not pleasant. "Needle Ned was there too, wasn't he?"

"Ya! And he was drinking!" Nobby said, as excitedly as if he'd heard that every door on Short Street was unlocked during an emergency evacuation of the city.

"With us..." Fred murmured. He gave Vimes a horrified look. Leggy and Maroon were watching in fascination.

"Nobby dropped his badge," Vimes said, almost dreamily -- but possibly the dream that is teetering over the brink of a nightmare.

"And you tore into me for it," Nobby added, with a sullen scowl or possibly a grin; it was so hard to tell.

"Because your badge -- "

" -- is your badge," the entire Night Watch chorused. "The badge means -- "

" -- that it's real," Vimes said, with a nod.

"And then Needle Ned said...something...about my mum." Nobby screwed his face up, an impressive feat considering the source material. He looked down, slowly, at his arm. Vimes saw, to his horror, that he had a bandage on, too.

The entire Night Watch focused its attention on Nobby, who was peeling the bandage off.

"What's it say?" Leggy asked.

Vimes cocked his head to the side. In all the brief visions that had flown through his head as Nobby unwrapped the tattoo, this seemed somehow worse, somehow more sad, than any he could have come up with.

" says 'wum'," Vimes said, slowly.

"And then Needle Ned said he'd do you!" Nobby's voice squeaked. Vimes put his hand on his right arm.

"I don't think I want to see," he whispered, in the voice of the doomed.

"Ned were pissed...and I were pissed," Nobby mused. "And you sure were pissed, Cap'n."

Vimes was rubbing the bandage, distractedly. "Wum?" he asked.

"Hey look, there's good work on them daggers," Maroon said. He was by nature a tactful man, and a firm believer in Changing the Subject.

Vimes gritted his teeth, and undid the bandage. He closed his eyes.

"Maroon," he said, carefully selecting who might be called the most "literate" of the group.

"Yes, Cap'n?"

"How bad is it?"

There was a moment of silence. Maroon let out a low whistle.

"It's all right, Mister Vimes," he said. "Nothin' misspelled."

"What does it say?" Vimes asked through gritted teeth.

"Ankh-Morpork City Watch -- cor, will you look at that tiny lettering?" Leggy said, leaning close to his arm. Fred looked over his shoulder.

"No doubt Ned has a nice clean hand, even when he's pissed," Colon agreed.

"Fabricati Diem, Pvnc. 177," Leggy finished.

"What?" Vimes asked, turning his head to look at his arm, and simultaneously bringing the arm up for better examination. Leggy stumbled backwards, nose bleeding.

"It's yer badge!" Nobby said, with a snigger.

"Fank you, Fvred," said Leggy thickly, accepting a handkerchief from the other Watchman.

"Look at that," Maroon said, with a laugh. Vimes poked the tattoo, gingerly. All the words were upside down, at least to him, but he could see that Needle Ned did indeed have excellent penmanship when it came to tattoo ink. "A badge you can't take off, you daftie!"

Vimes breathed a quiet sigh of relief. As tattoos went, one could do a lot worse than a City Watch badge.

"Ain't you got one, Fred?" Nobby asked. Fred Colon suddenly went pink.

"Er..." he said. "Come to think of it..."

"Come on then, let's see yours," Vimes said, lowering his arm. He did look down as he dropped his arm to the side, and flexed his muscles a little. It was almost, kind

"I don't have to," Fred said.

"Where's it at?" Nobby asked. Fred's pink turned to crimson.

"Er..." he mumbled. "Er...havin' a hard time sittin' down..."

Maroon's roar of laughter was drowned out by Vimes'. When the room became quiet again, Nobby wiped a tear out of the corner of his eye, and smiled his horrible smile.

"Leastways you know one thing, Fred," he gasped. "If you were pissed and he were pissed...that means it's a Real tattoo..."


[personal profile] chironsgirl 2011-11-24 02:15 am (UTC)(link)
Loved it! Too bad I can't have tattooes. I have the wrong skin.
I'd love a badge.