He’s called Young Sam his whole life, even when the actual Sam (Sir Samuel, Mister Vimes, Husband of Lady Sybil Vimes and Captain of the Watch) is long cold and dead in a grave. Sam takes it as a mark of respect—his father is always remembered, is father is scored into Ankh-Morpork deeper even than the soft, wet clay beneath the city. His father is part of the story that holds up the world.
This is also, simultaneously, a huge and terrifying burden to bear, and if Young Sam said he’d never fantasized about running off to Bes Pelargic where no one knew who “Sir Samuel Vimes” was or what it meant to be that man’s son, he’d be lying.
(The kind of lying that makes your trousers spontaneously combust, hanging from a clacks-tower.)
The only way Young Sam deals with this—the twofold burden that is being a Vimes, son of Vimes—is by choosing something his father vaguely disapproved of, but that Sir Samuel Vimes could not help but respect.
Sir Samuel Vimes was the one who stood at the street corner, smoking furiously and watching Young Sam lead the mills workers in a singsong of “Hark! The Battle Cry Is Ringing (Who The Hell Signs This Chitty, It’s Too Low)(Come Join the Union – Chorus)”
Even after dusk fell—struggling against the reddish hue of industrial pollution from the paper mills, clay mills, and various other Modernised Mills-types—there was Sir Samuel, smoking furiously, the tip of his cigar an ember against the dark.
Afterwards, Sam fell into step with Young Sam as they walked home. “Your mother thinks you should have gone for a guild mastery,” Sam said to Young Sam, who knew his father was lying and shrugged. “Guilds are complicit in the oppressive machinery of tyranical regimes, and I won’t be part of them,” Young Sam said, and tried very hard not to grin when his father spluttered and choked and dropped his cigar entirely.
“Your father’s very proud of you,” his mother said once, patting him warmly on the cheek as Young Sam went out to drink his terrible, mostly-burnt coffee and argue with people in the street about representative democracy. “You don’t know how much, but he is.”
“Your mother’s very proud of you,” his father said once, staring straight ahead and refusing to look at Young Sam at all. Young Sam was nursing a black eye from an old school chum who obviously had not learned anything from Miss Susan about the necessity for reform within the educational system. Young Sam was sulking about it. “If she doesn’t talk about how proud she is, it’s because she doesn’t know how. You’re a good lad, Sam,” Samuel Vimes said, and even though he’d been all of thirty-some at the time, Young Sam had blushed, and memorized the way his father’s voice dipped as he said, you’re a good lad.
Sam has cousins in the poorer bits of the city. Young Sam knows he’s made it in his father’s eyes when he’s invited to dinner along with the rest of them—when he sits next to Actual Sam at a rough-hewn table and gets asked whether he believes in Smithey as a union representative.
“I try not to get involved with specific candidates’ campaigns,” Young Sam demurs, and when his—second? third? eighth?—cousins ask why, it’s Actual Sam, His Father, who says, “He’s the union rep, you idiots. He’s not going to try and interfere with your rights as laborers to pick whatever arsehole claims he’ll listen to your whinging.”
Sam is poor, by a certain definition, if you don’t include how often his mother and father come to bail him out, or the fact that Mr. Slant is on retainer. He absolutely refuses to feel guilty about this, since he regularly spends his “pocket money”—he is a grown man, his inheritance isn’t pocket money—bailing out his fellow protesters, scalawags, and general malcontents.
Eventually, he falls in love with an Agatean girl who is entirely too beautiful to ever be considering him. His mother mostly cries. His father beams. Their wedding is the society event of the season, only you have to brave the gauntlet of activists in order to attend—Lord Downey, grand-nephew of the Lord Downey who once harassed Vetinari at school, endures three hours of passionate advocacy before he’s allowed in, to sit in the second row and hear Vimes and Zhao exchange their promises of everlasting devotion.
Actual Vetinari, much like Actual Sam, doesn’t fully understand what’s going on, but is willing to support it in the name of inter-Disc unity, as well as the fact that Young Sam is his oddball godson with pretensions of moral justice.
“Where do you think he got that?” Vetinari asked, and Sibyl had blinked, and then laughed, and Actual Sam had blinked, and then growled.
At the end of the day it was all as it was meant to be.
(Importantly: Young Sam had a vision of the world in his head, better than it was, and he wanted to realize it. If you married all the best of Actual Sam, Actual Vetinari, and the only Sibyl Ramkin, you got him. You got his intelligence and ferocity and unfortunate pretenses that the world could be made fair, if only you wanted it enough. Poor Young Sam, living in so many shadows, and so much light.)
Every January 21, he goes down to the cemetery, where Keel is buried beside Samuel Vimes; the police-man’s field, a step above the potter’s.
He weeds their plots, makes sure that nothing’s grown or stained the stones since the last year. If there’s snow, he brushes it away, and lays eggs, cards, tea-bags. He rattles off the list of children, then great-grandchildren.
(He has a duty—a duty even above that. His father is Sir Samuel Vimes, who made Sammies, who created law and order as he knows it. The men who stood beside him are owed.)
(Too, he tells his father about the bad ones—the ones who bring shame to the shield, that justice might be done on them. Sir Samuel believed in the dream of policemen, in the fantasy of justice existing, being real—it seems only right his proteges live up to such a height.)
Once upon a time, Young Sam’s father told him about boots. “Boots?” Young Sam asked, for he as very young then. “Yes,” Actual Sam said, and he’d held his boots, gleaming, up to the light. “It’s about boots, do you understand? Not about—philosophy, or all the shite the wizards talk about. It’s about boots. It’s about—you, and me and our boots.”
Thirty-odd years later, Young Sam is giving a speech in the Morporkian Butcher’s Yard, and he says that—”You, me, and our boots,” and his whole audience comes to their feet, whistling and stomping, crying out.
That night he kisses his father on the forehead, dry and uncoordinated, but still. He does.
“Thanks, dad,” Young Sam says, and Actual Sam smiles, bemusedly. “Of course, son,” he says, and Young Sam feels his eyes on him, all the way up the stairs, into his soft bed. (Afterwards, they still, even then! call him Young Sam.)