moragmacpherson: (discworld)
moragmacpherson ([personal profile] moragmacpherson) wrote2010-05-04 08:52 pm
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Fic: A Grand Sneer - Chapter 6/10 (Supernatural/Discworld BigBang)

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Chapter Six


In a day that already ranked among the longest days of Dean's life - and there were some long days on that list - the last several tock hours of this one passed by in a blur of activity and discussion that managed to revolve around Dean without ever really involving him. Dean was okay with that. He didn't belong here; he spoke a language that sounded the same but somehow wasn't; and he didn't understand the codes and the rules that made these crazy people so determined to help him, or get rid of him, or whatever it was they were doing. He tick had to give these folks points for efficiency, though. Batshit but Efficient, that tock was the rule of the land, and a short while before midnight tick on this very long day, Dean had been summoned to meet with the King of Batshit-but-Efficient Land.

Well, the Patrician of it anyway, whatever difference that made. Dean had learned his lesson about not using the 'king' word real quick. Like Dean's Colt, the tock word 'king' made all of the Watch officers... twitchy. Especially Carrot and Vimes. Dean chalked it up to the crazy and went along with it. He glanced across the waiting room at his current chaperone. Definitely didn't want Detritus to get twitchy.

Whatever the wizards had done to mess with the Dungeon Dimension creatures worked pretty well, but there'd been a couple of attacks since. They had loaned Dean a freshly-honed if elderly broadsword from the Watch armory, but for all of his weapons training machetes were the longest blades he used on a regular basis and he had only ever fenced with a katana in the practice ring. Vimes had taken one look at Dean's grip on the hilt and made the order that Dean have a Watch escort at all times. Then Sergeant Detritus had come on duty about two hours ago, and that siege weapon of his rendered everything else superfluous anyways. Dean would admit tick to siege weapon envy. If it were street legal, he'd mount one to the rear bumper of the Impala. Not tock to mention that Detritus had been remarkably forgiving about the whole trying-to-kill-him thing.

"Din't hardly even feel it. And yer from a whole oder place what don't got trolls in, Mister Vimes told me. Just don' try nothin' like it again, right, and we be a lots-sided thing."

A few minutes following this amnesty, Dean had witnessed Detritus flattening the entire training yard with a single trigger pull. Dean had been gamely practicing thrusts and parries with the broadsword when another Dungeon demon appeared, this one looking more like a cross between a bear and a hyena. That is, that's what it looked like until it resembled nothing else more than a fine vapor spray, the biggest remaining bits rapidly blackening away to nothing in the small fires ignited by the friction of the blast. Detritus' grip had been heavy on Dean's shoulder and the bruise from where the troll had pulled him back was only just now settling into a deep purple color, but a bruise was a small price to pay for being pulled out of that line of fire.

Nope, Dean wasn't going tick to cross Detritus ever again. Dean would happily contribute to Detritus' favorite charities right here and now if the troll asked. But Detritus didn't, just sat there across the room, jaw jutting out, weapon laying across his lap, breathing even and rough like quarry noise. It was strangely tock comforting. Unlike that fucking clock over there that Dean was so very close to pulling off the wall and smashing if it didn't pick a goddamn rhythm and stick with it.


Dean bounced up to his feet at the very same moment that a clerk finally opened the door. "Mr. Winchester, Lord Vetinari will see you now."

Dean snorted, his eyes flickering from the hated clock to the clerk, who looked this close to snapping his fingers at Dean. "About damn time," Dean muttered as he walked by him, in a tone he knew for certain didn't travel further than five feet. He saw the clerk's lips twitch at the comment and channeled his satisfaction into the polite smile that he plastered onto his face as he approached the Patrician. This was the first head of state Dean had ever met, so he decided to play it safe and stood at a position of military attention a few feet in front of the desk. "Sir," said Dean, and even if the guy on the other side looked like a Bond villain, the only feeling coloring the word was a hint of exhaustion, Dean was sure of it.

"I'm sorry to have kept you waiting, Mr. Winchester, but it took me significantly longer than usual to finish perusing the day's reports. Feel free to sit." Dean didn't; Vetinari didn't push the issue or seem all that surprised. Thin fingers drummed over a thick pile of manila folders, the tabs of which were neatly inscribed with Dean's name in black ink, before the fingers steepled together and rose up to rest under a neatly trimmed black beard. "Fascinating reading. It seems you inspired not only dozens of eldritch horrors to pierce the veil of our reality, but also more exclamation points than I've seen in quite some time. I doubt the punctuation exists that can adequately communicate Captain Carrot's experiences in your company, but he gave it a good Dwarfish effort." Vetinari let out what sounded like a small laugh, though no humor was evident in his eyes or expression. Calling Carrot a dwarf was a lame joke in the first place. "Fortunately, no major damage or casualties resulted from any of the other-worldly incursions." Dean felt a small shudder of relief: even though Vimes had assured him of this same fact a few hours ago, confirmation that he hadn't gotten anyone killed in the meanwhile was nice. "The Watch, of course, were diligent in their duties, and there were an unusual number of Hublandish fighting monks in the right places at the right times but several of the creatures were dispatched by ordinary citizens. That will be a source of some civic pride, if you believe the editorial page of The Times. What do you think?"

Dean coughed. "Excuse me, sir?"

Vetinari's hands turned so that both of his thumbs pointed at Dean. "I understand that where you come from, you're something of a professional in these matters. In your professional opinion, as a, ah, demon hunter, how do you feel about the way residents of Ankh-Morpork turned out to defend themselves against the ravening denizens of the Pit?"

"Um..." and this should be an easy question, but Dean had a sinking feeling he was about to get it wrong. "Uh, good for them, sir?"

"Mmmm." At that noise, Dean locked his knees and his jaw, waiting for the blow to fall. "There is something to be admired about their initiative, it's true, and the wizards assure me that the creatures from the Dungeon Dimensions are nothing but," and here Vetinari read out of one of the files, "'vicious, malevolent hellspawn who will stop at nothing in the pursuit of quenching their own thirst for power.'" As he finished reading, Vetinari let the file fall shut without giving any air of finality to the statement.

"But?" The question escaped Dean's lips before he even knew he was thinking it.

Vetinari's right eyebrow shifted a fraction of an inch up while the corners of his mouth threatened to turn, though the Patrician managed to lock down that impulse before Dean could sort out which direction they were headed in. "The 'but' in question is that, a few decades ago - indeed, in some cases, a few months ago - that exact description was commonly applied to any number of groups and individuals who have since integrated themselves into the vibrant social, cultural and economic fabric of our fair city. And so I'm concerned that today's violence might inspire vigilante actions towards some of our recent immigrants who have not yet achieved a broad acceptance amongst their fellow citizens."

Dean's eyebrows lurched skyward, his lips pursing. "You think we should have tried a gift-basket approach first?" He was too tired to strip the contempt from his voice.

Vetinari shook his head. "My perspective is from a far different angle. I understand that the bulk of the attacks were directly focused upon you, and as a visitor, you cannot be expected to appreciate the fine demographic balance in this city. Allow me to enlighten you as to the delicate nature of your new surroundings." Vetinari rose and walked to the window with his hands folded behind his back. "Mixed in with nearly a million humans whose roots stretch across the entire Disc, you'll find sixty-thousand dwarfs, two-thirds as many trolls, and probably ten thousand miscellaneous gnolls, gnomes, gargoyles, orcs, werewolves, and other sentient species that could be termed 'living'. Then there's the undead: a few hundred zombies, around the same number of vampires - all black-ribboners, on the wagon, of course - as well as a few dozen bogeymen, along with some others that we dare not give names - unless, that is, they're taking supper at Mrs. Cake's table, when first names will do. All of them existing and working together in conditions close enough to peace and prosperity that each year several thousand more of them will willingly walk in through one of our many gates and contribute to the housing shortage." Vetinari raised a single finger, amending his statement. "This accounting, of course, does not include the golems, whom I suppose would fall under the category of non-living, and neglects the eternal question of Nobby Nobbs, which is too involved to discuss in detail at this late hour."

This entire discussion was too involved for Dean at this hour. "I'm, uh, sorry? Next one of those ugly sonsabitches shows up, sir, you've got my word, I'll send 'em straight to the Chamber of Commerce. You'll have to make the directions pretty simple though: I only get a few seconds between when they appear and when they try to disembowel me." Dean absently rubbed his jaw with his knuckles while he said this, noticing how badly he needed a shave - a shave and a bed and a drink, screw the order, he didn't care if his pillow had a little lather left on it when he woke up. Or a little whiskey.

"Mr. Winchester, I fear you misunderstand my point." Vetinari returned to his seat and steepled his fingers once more. "You're in a city where the leading cause of death is suicide, and today the favored suicide method was in attempting to kill someone Sam Vimes had decided was worth protecting. You are not to be faulted for that. And yet, I cannot help but note your impressive history of violence, particularly against some of our non-human citizens."

Really? After the day he'd just had, this guy wanted to give him a little lecture on tolerance? Dean tilted his head back. "I know the Sergeant and I started off on the wrong foot last night, but it's all settled. We're good buddies now: he frappéd an infernal immigrant for me and everything."

Vetinari briefly wore a tight smile Dean thought he'd seen before on the face of one of his many high school guidance counselors. "That's comforting to hear, but it is not your relationship with Sergeant Detritus that concerns me. It's come to my attention that the wizards believe it is unwise for you to travel to Lancre by broomstick?"

"Yes, sir." Technically true anyway. Ridcully had been expounding on the virtues of broomsticks as a valid method of air transportation when Stibbons noticed Dean turning a whiter shade of pale with each word. Ponder had 'discovered' a calculation indicating that the magic of the broomstick would counteract the masking spell they'd placed on Dean earlier. Dean could've kissed the geek.

"Instead, you will be traveling to Lancre via mailcoach through the Sto Plains and other points Hubwards, a distance of some five hundred miles that will take roughly one week to traverse. As you approach the Ramtops, you will find that certain groups that are comparatively marginalized within the city are more established in some of the mountain villages." Vetinari paused, Dean looked up, and the Patrician captured his gaze. "You are not aware of Ankh-Morpork's history, but the fact is that for many thousands of years we had a regrettable tendency to export our own troubles to other countries on the Disc. Usually in the form of large bodies of armed men. An unfortunate policy, which I have used my tenure as Patrician to rectify. Now, other states and nations send their problems to Ankh-Morpork in order to be solved." He nodded and Dean found himself nodding back. "However, it appears that yours is a problem that we cannot solve on our own. So we will be sending you forth with an official delegation. The Postmaster assures me that you will be chauffeured by his best drivers, men well-equipped to handle the special difficulties that have accompanied your stay here in our city. Furthermore, Commander Vimes has assigned an officer of the Watch to serve as an additional armed escort. Let it not be said that we are not looking after you to the best of our abilities. In return, I hope that you feel sufficient gratitude to towards Ankh-Morpork for her efforts that you will not embarrass her by unduly harassing the local color during your journey."

So that was what this was all about. "Understood, sir, I won't be looking for trouble."

Vetinari finally released Dean's gaze. "That will be a refreshing change for you, I'm certain." He opened a folder from the middle of his pile while Dean stifled a yawn. "More to the point, there is the matter of the Watch officer assigned to escort you. Are you acquainted with Sergeant Angua?"

Angua, Angua... Dean's mind flipped through all of the new names and faces from the last twenty-four hours, but it wasn't a face that registered with him so much as a body. A slow grin drifted across his face. "Yes, sir, we met this morning."

Vetinari took a breath. "One of the finest officers in the Watch, and the best-suited officer that may be spared from the city for an extended journey. I need to make sure that your personal prejudices will not interfere with her ability to execute her duties."

Dean shrugged: he didn't really care. "Don't know how things are run around here, but I've got no problem with ladies in positions of authority." Could imagine Angua and her strong, lean body in a number of authority positions which would make the trip much more enjoyable for both of them. They could maybe even find out if Celery Astonishment was physically possible. His smile widened.

Vetinari let Dean have a moment before clearing his throat. "Very progressive of you, Mr. Winchester. That is not what I was referring to. What I am about to tell you is not common knowledge. You will be discreet about this, naturally."

"Sure." It was an automatic response, but who was Dean going to tell about anything anyway?

"Good. Sergeant Angua is a werewolf."

Dean rocked back on his heels, happy fantasies replaced with the memory of Sam's face when Dean handed him the gun in Madison's apartment. "She's a what?"

"She is a werewolf. And a highly decorated officer. Captain Carrot reported that you've had previous encounters with out-of-control werewolves..." Hearts torn out of victims that he could scarcely recognize as human; Sammy's heart torn out as soon as the kid dared to have one again; human-looking bodies bleeding out from silver bullets Dean had fired. Dean shook his head, trying to focus on the words coming out of Vetinari's mouth. "... one could even say excessive control of her wolf-ish tendencies, so there's no need for concern. We debated informing you at all, but in the event that you are delayed, there will be a full moon in nine days, and felt it best, given your prior experiences, that you not be taken by surprise." Vetinari's face remained a study in neutrality. "Do you understand, Mr. Winchester?"

Dean blinked. "No such thing as a werewolf in control," he mumbled.

Was that compassion in the curl of the Patrician's mouth? Or something else entirely? "You've had a very long day, Mr. Winchester, far from home, and have an early morning ahead of you. I invite you to ponder these final thoughts: Sergeant Angua recently celebrated her eighth anniversary of service in the Watch. In judging her, ask yourself if I strike you as the sort of ruler who would allow an uncontrollable, violent monster free rein in my city for that long." Vetinari gave Dean a curt nod. "I bid you a safe journey. Don't let me detain you."

Dean wasn't about to, was more than ready to walk out of the office and follow Detritus to the station or wherever it was they were going, so long as it had a bed, or a flat surface, any place where Dean could get some real sleep. Thank God that Detritus embodied the strong silent type.

At the end of a short walk stood a large house with a stuffy little man who took Dean's jacket off and away while wrinkling his nose before leading Dean upstairs to the nicest room Dean had stayed in since Cassie's. Soft sheets, firm mattress, and heavy, carved wooden furniture for passing along generations. Detritus had said something about how this wasn't the first time he'd played guard overnight in Vimes' house; must be Vimes' house, a house fit for the Duke of Ankh. Got to be Duke of Ankh by being a good copper: what did you get for being a good hunter? A mind full of horrors and a criminal record long enough to kindle your funeral pyre. Salted and burned and gone and maybe a stopover in Hell if you were lucky; nothing more than the height of fashion in apocalyptic meatsuits if you weren't.

Dean pulled off his boots and jeans, tucked a knife under his pillow, and stretched out between linens that whispered sweet nothings to every one of his nerve endings. Linens fit for the Duke of Ankh. Duke of Ankh was a good copper. To hell with the Patrician: a good copper would know if Angua was an uncontrollable monster. She couldn't be: he'd have gotten rid of her years ago. Dean was on a Disc not a planet, speaking Morporkian not English, werewolves were the same word but different creatures. Tomorrow he'd begin the journey home to the world and the brother he'd either save or destroy: seven days in a box with a werewolf to go meet a witch; tonight he would just enjoy the Duke of Ankh's sheets.

Dean snuffed the candle, settled his head against the pillow and fell asleep within moments. He didn't remember his dreams in the morning but he remembered wishing that he could.

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