“I don’t see why Blackadder should be the noble Tommy,” Captain Darling ventured to comment.
Lieutenant George glanced up from the sketch he was making. Blackadder, who was sitting for the picture, shifted his eyes towards Darling in a way that only he could make sardonic.
“I mean,” Darling continued, “If one of us has to be the German, I think it should be Captain Blackadder,” his scowl flickered briefly into a smirk, “I’m sure it would suit him down to the ground.”
“Very well, Darling,” said Blackadder, “Why don’t we try it both ways and see which works best. Think you can manage that, George?”
“Oh yes, sir! Absolutely.”
Following the limited success of Captain Blackadder’s mission to gather intelligence on the enemy’s fortifications, it had been decided that his regiment’s artistic talents might find another use. The original cover story of the top secret intelligence-gathering mission, the creation of morale-boosting artwork for King & Country magazine, had been mooted as not such a bad idea in its own right. Which is how George and his captain came to be in company headquarters, making up preliminary sketches for George’s masterwork.
George was perched on the edge of Darling’s desk, tongue out, drawing fervently. With a few final scribbles he looked up and announced that he thought he had enough of Captain Blackadder’s face to work from.
“Captain Darling, if you wouldn’t mind sitting now.”
Blackadder rose from his chair and let Darling take over. As they passed, a little too close to one another, he said, expressionlessly, “I’m surprised you’d want to be the hero, Darling. I would have thought seeing me as one of those burly King & Country types would be the kind of thing that appeals to you.”
George’s sketches were gathered around him. He had set up an easel and canvas to work on, rolled up his shirtsleeves, and was currently taking measurements of his two bored and awkward looking models with his thumb and his brush.
“Look, if you’ve had enough of squinting and pointing at us, why don’t you have a go at painting the picture?” Blackadder suggested, with an undertone of impatience which was just on the edge of becoming a violent threat.
“Ah, yes. Of course. If you’d like to…”
“George. If you are going to ask me to remove my clothes, I will remind you: I would rather be Field Marshall Haig’s warm up act for a one-night-only, bring-your-own-gun benefit show playing to our brave lads at the front than let you paint me in the nude.”
“Fair enough. Captain Darling?”
Darling bristled and blushed in a single shock of embarrassment.
“What? No! Of course not!”
“In that case,” said George, rubbing his hands, “We’d better start, I suppose. Now, sir, if you could lean back slightly, and draw back your arm with your hand making a fist. And Captain Darling, if you could, well, sort of loom menacingly…”
Darling and Blackadder adjusted themselves to their positions. Blackadder had to make use of the desk to keep himself diagonal rather than horizontal. Darling did his best to loom but Blackadder’s smirk was damned off-putting. The mocking smile, though, was not as bad as Lieutenant George’s expression of doubt. Lieutenant George was impressed by people who could successfully put on trousers at the first attempt. No one wanted to underwhelm him.
“Oh this is ridiculous,” Darling said, tetchily, “In any case, I thought I was going to be the English soldier first.”
“You’ll have your chance after me.”
“No, I won’t. You’ll make up some fool excuse and this first go will be the only one.”
Blackadder shrugged. It wasn’t worth arguing against the validity of Darling’s opinion. Mostly because Darling was right on the money. He met Darling’s scowl with a cold, unconcerned gaze.
“How about we try something different,” George interjected, “Let’s see…”
He left his paints and joined his two models. Experimentally, he began to move their limbs about. He turned Darling’s face and tipped his chin. He put Blackadder’s hands at the top of Darling’s arms and placed one of Darling’s hands so it was gripping Blackadder’s elbow.
“I thought this was war propaganda not an illustration for Greco-Roman Wrestling Monthly,” said Blackadder.
“Shut up, Blackadder.”
“Oh, I’m sorry, Darling. I forgot it’s your favourite read.”
“Very funny, and I suppose-”
Darling’s speech stopped abruptly. George had taken Darling’s hand and put it to Blackadder’s throat. Darling had never experienced such a complete stillness as then came over him. He felt nothing but Blackadder’s warm skin and steady pulse beneath the taut surface. He feared his own blood had quickened. Heat spread from his neck to the tips of his ears by way of his cheeks. His eye twitched. Their faces were not so very far apart. Darling tried his hardest not to think. Not thinking required not thinking why you didn’t want to think but he couldn’t help but acknowledge the sense that, if he were to think, his mind would lead him down a path he didn’t want to tread.
Blackadder jutted his nose closer to Darling’s face.
“Don’t want to let go, do we?”
What Darling wanted to do was to manhandle smug, insufferable Blackadder, throw him over the desk and give him a sound thrashing. He wanted to… A small high-pitched sound erupted from Darling’s throat as he realised his mind had escaped its tether and was going off in two very different directions.
The one that was foremost involved him on the desk getting the thrashing.
Blackadder’s face was dangerously close. He could feel the warm breath on his own lips.
Darling pushed away, out of Blackadder’s grip, and brushed himself down agitatedly.
“I knew this was a damned idiotic idea from the start,” he said, hotly, “Some of us have real work to do, so if you don’t mind, I’m going to get back to it.”
Before Darling could storm out, Blackadder coughed discreetly and indicated the desk, as a reminder that Darling didn’t need to go anywhere. Darling’s eye twitched violently.
“I… have an appointment with the General,” Darling snapped, continuing to head out.
He stopped to collect himself once he had closed the doors. He could hear Blackadder calling after him.
“We’ll have the finished print delivered straight to your bunk then, shall we? It’ll be perfect right next to the one of Ivor Novello.”
In this supposition, however, Blackadder was wrong. Darling did not need a copy of the image. Imagination was more than enough. When he was furiously, rhythmically stroking himself that night, the image in his mind’s eye proved more than enough to startle him to climax.