He’d be home in time. Would a minute have mattered? No, probably not, although his young son appeared to have a very accurate internal clock. Possibly even two minutes would be okay. Three minutes, even. You could go to five, perhaps. But that was just it. If you could go to five minutes, then you’d go to ten, then half an hour, a couple of hours … and not see your son all evening. So that was that. Six o’clock, prompt. Every day. Read to Young Sam. No excuses. He’d promised himself that. No excuses. No excuses at all. Once you had a good excuse, you opened the door to bad excuses.
He had nightmares about being too late.
He had a lot of nightmares about Young Sam. They involved empty cots and darkness.
It had all been too … good. In a few short years, he, Sam Vimes, had gone up in the world like a balloon. He was a Duke, he commanded the Watch, he was powerful, he was married to a woman whose compassion, love, and understanding he knew a man such as he did not deserve, and he was as rich as Creosote. Fortune had rained its gravy, and he’d been the man with the big bowl. And it had all happened so fast.
And then Young Sam had come along. At first it had been fine. The baby was, well, a baby, all lolling head and burping and unfocused eyes, entirely the preserve of his mother. And then, one evening, his son had turned and looked directly at Vimes, with eyes that for his father outshone the lamps of the world, and fear had poured into Sam Vimes’ life in a terrible wave. All this good fortune, all this fierce joy … it was wrong. Surely the universe could not allow this amount of happiness in one man, not without presenting a bill. Somewhere a big wave was cresting, and when it broke over his head it would wash everything away. Some days, he was sure he could hear its distant roar …
Young Sam pulled himself up against the cot’s rails, and said “Da!” The world went soft.
Vimes stroked his son’s hair. It was funny, really. He spent the day yelling and shouting and talking and bellowing … but here, in this quiet time smelling (thanks to Purity) of soap, he never knew what to say. He was tongue-tied in the presence of a fourteen-month-old baby. All the things he thought of saying, like “Who’s Daddy’s little boy, then?” sounded horribly false, as though he’d got them from a book. There was nothing to say, nor, in this soft pastel room, anything that needed to be said.