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Love in Wartime

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"Minka has noticed subtle clues in your intercourse with Charles," Minka said, appearing from a tunnel dug under Hut 33's filing cabinet.

"Gah!" Archie shrieked, dropping his notes. "Minka, don't do that! And don't call it intercourse, it's abuse; he abuses me, I hit him with furniture. Anyway, it's not subtle, we clearly hate each other."

"Hmm," Minka said, producing a large Polish-English dictionary from thin air. It made a change from producing machine guns and other weapons out of nothing, Archie supposed. On the other hand, the dictionary was obviously heavy enough to bash a skull in so maybe it was a weapon. "Is wrong word?" She flicked through the pages and nodded in grim satisfaction. "No, is right word. You feel deep yearning for Charles, Archie. All that class conflict and making of personal comments? Is repressed homoerotic sexual urges."

"Really? Well, that explains a lot," Archie said. "Thanks for clearing that up, Minka. You should go into the psychoanalysis business."

"Minka has degree in psychoanalysis," Minka said, off-hand.

Archie blinked. "What, really?"

"No. But when fascist pig spies infiltrate your village, you become good judge of character," Minka said. She smiled in satisfaction as Charles came in. "Archie says he wants you, Charles," she said.

"What on earth do you want me for?" Charles said, sitting and spreading out his newspaper.

"I want you to do some work," Archie said quickly, in the hope of stopping whatever Minka was about to say.

"Work?" Charles said in well-bred disdain. "Isn't that what they have you for?"

Archie went for him with a chair. Minka slipped back into her tunnel and emerged at the back of Hut 6. "Is textbook case, who do they kid?" she muttered, and launched an all-out attack on the rival hut. Rumour had it that they had a half-packet of ginger nuts.

 

* * *

 

"And so, Minka told me that you and Charles are in love," Josh said cheerfully. "Are you planning on eloping or is it just a fling?"

"Minka told you what?" Archie shrieked. "It's nonsense! She just looked up the wrong word in her dictionary!" Behind Josh Minka silently appeared, made a circle of one thumb and forefinger and slid the other forefinger into the circle while mouthing Intercourse before slipping away again, hatred of fascism in her eyes and the day's schedule in her hands.

"I think I'll have to advise you against this youthful folly," Josh said. "I mean, Pater wouldn't like it at all."

"Your father isn't in charge of Bletchley," Archie snapped. "Anyway, Minka's got it all wrong. I hate Charles, it's ridiculous to think I could be in love with him."

"Oh," Josh said, frowning. "You're not in love with Gordon, are you? There are all sorts of complications when you fall for a younger chap, you know. You wouldn't believe how often my friends had to take a term off school till the scandal died down."

"What?" Gordon said, looking up from where he was hip-deep in equations. "Who's not in love with me?" He looked in bemusement at Archie. "Why aren't you in love with me? Is it because I didn't set fire to Charles when you asked me to?"

"Shut it!" Archie yelped, and, more quietly, "For God's sake, Josh, I'm not in love with either of them!" Josh edged slightly away and Archie fought down the urge to punch him. "Don't be so bourgeois, Josh," he said in contempt. "This sort of mindless discrimination is a symptom of the rot inherent in the system. When the revolution comes there'll be an accepted place in society for everyone. Well, maybe not for inbred idiots with posh double-barrelled surnames, but I'm sure you'll manage."

"Jolly good," Josh said. "I'll let you get back to work. And don't forget, no hanky-panky with younger chaps on school grounds."

"Argh!" Archie said. "This isn't a school! I mean, that's not the point, there is no hanky-panky with anyone." He glared at Gordon. "And you can stop making eyes at me and all, I'm not in love with you."

"I'm never going to lose my virginity," Gordon muttered, getting back to work.

 

* * *

 

"A pint of bitter, please, Mrs B," Archie said, stepping back to safety as she gave him a more predatory look than usual.

"I hear you're trying to take the professor away from me," she said. "Remember, I know where you live."

"It's true," Gordon said helpfully, "he told me earlier that it's not me he's in love with."

"That's ridiculous," Archie said, resolving to shove the wardrobe against the door that night and possibly to shove Gordon's face into the wall. "Who told you that?"

"Let's just say a little bird told me."

"Was it a white Polish eagle?"Archie said, and jumped as Minka appeared beside him. "Gah!"

"You mock Polish heraldry, Archie?" she said conversationally, casually laying a very large knife on the counter.

"No, no!" he said. "I was just -"

"Happy that little Polish bird is tweeting your news?"

"I don't think eagles tweet, Minka," Gordon said. "It's more of a Kraaaar! I'd say – much more majestic and wonderful, like you."

"Is true," Minka said magnanimously.

"Anyway, for a big announcement like Archie's I think a Kraaaar! is a much better word," Gordon said. "I mean, who'd ever tweet something they wanted the world to know about?"

"I don't want the world to know anything!" Archie cried.

"Repressed," Minka said.

"I can fix that," Mrs Best said. "You, me and the professor, we can work this out, Archie."

"Argh!" Archie said, and fled, narrowly avoiding running into Charles as he came in.

"Quite right, flee before your betters," Charles said, and looked quizzically at the others. "Why are you all looking at me like that?"

 

* * *

 

"We have got to talk," Archie said, emerging from under Charles' bed.

"Oh, for heaven's sake, you don't have to take "Reds under the Bed" so literally," Charles snapped. "Though I suppose you didn't stay in school long enough to learn about metaphorical turns of phrase. What on earth is wrong with you recently?"

"Minka thinks our perfectly normal class-based hatred of each other is evidence of repressed love!" Archie shrieked. "She's telling everyone!"

"Everyone?" Charles said. "She normally only talks to we poor benighted souls of Hut 33 and Mrs Best, that's hardly everyone."

"I suppose no one believes Mrs Best's stories," Archie mused."Until they've seen her photo albums at least. And Josh will have forgotten everything within five minutes and Gordon has no friends to gossip with. And most people are too afraid of being horribly killed to actually take in most of what Minka says." He let out a tense breath. "I suppose you may actually be right and we don't have to worry about all of Bletchley thinking we're in love."

"Precisely," Charles said. "Because it's not love."

"Yeah," Archie said.

"It's purely physical."

There was a pause and then Archie smiled winningly. "Seeing as I'm already here -"

"Well, waste not, want not," Charles murmured, and went to lock his door. "This time, please don't sing the Internationale when you, ahem, achieve la petite mort."

"Fine, I'll just recite the Communist Manifesto," Archie said, unbuttoning his shirt.

"I suppose that'll have to do," Charles said, in what was, for him, almost a pleasant tone of voice. He untied his silk dressing gown and laid it aside neatly before embracing Archie.

Hanging upside-down outside the window, Minka smiled as she made the few final touchs to her charcoal drawing of the proceedings. She was widely renowned as one of the premier sketch artists of the Polish resistance, or had been until she had executed the blabbermouths. She tucked the sketch away and snorted in quiet laughter as the strains of the Internationale started up.

"Kraaar," she murmured, and dropped down, silently into the night.