[identity profile] apiphile.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] vintagemilitary
Title: Back In Jack (Goes Forth)
Fandom: Dr Who / Blackadder
Word Count: 4,119
Rating: PG-13
Notes: My favourite era of history! Unfortunately I seem to have lost my grip on the narrative voice here.

When Jack came to the first thing he noticed was that he'd somehow got his watch back.

Actually, it was about the tenth thing.

First he noticed that he was naked and it was dark and cold and raining and muddy and the smell of gunpowder and death and shit and horror filling his nostrils and the deafening, unceasing roar of big guns.

Jack hunkered down deeper in the slimy mud and tried to ignore the dead soldier he was half-lying on. By the light of a flare he checked his watch – the precise date was obscured by corpse-ooze and mud but the year was clear enough – 1916. The Not So Bloody Greay Really War, and here he was in what was undoubtedly No Man's Land, exhausted, cold, and fucking naked again.

Pants.

If there was a war to be faced, he was going to do it in pants.

Jack began removing the gore-splattered and torn uniform from his mud-dwelling deceased buddy. "Sorry, old friend, but I need these," he murmured, as another shell exploded maybe thirty feet away, showering him with hot shards of iron, mud, and miscellaneous body parts. Remembering a few previous battlefield experiences – although none of them had been quite so muddy - Jack added, "if you can answer me … don't. I will puke on you. No talking corpses on this battlefield."

The dead soldier let out a cloud of gasses but was otherwise silent as Jack, hunched like a sewer rat, stripped him down to his underwear. It was too damn dark and dirty to see what uniform he was struggling into, but Jack hoped like hell it would be the right one for the trenches he began crawling towards as soon as he was even halfway dressed.

The mud oozed up into the gaps between his hastily-purloined uniform (it was too small, of course – men at this end of the twentieth century were short: underfed and stunted by smoke), and things that might have been branches and might have been bones stabbed upwards at his tender parts. Jack wormed onwards.

He nearly crawled face-first into the coil of barbed wire. It was trampled almost flat in places, strewn along the edge of the trench like really deadly Christmas tinsel, helpfully decorated with the remains of unfortunate servicemen.

Jack lay still and panting in the ooze, catching his breath and his bearings. He had no idea which trenches these were. What to say? "Ich habe mein Weg in der Schwärzung verloren, aber ich habe Safe zurückgebracht."? "Ces fils foutus des putains m'ont presque obtenu! Aidez-moi vers le bas!"1? or "Blimey lads! I thought they 'ad me for a minute there"?

He crept under the wire, keeping flat against the hellish skyline, and listened for talk which might give him some clue.

None came, which meant it certainly wasn't the French trenches.

Over the stench of death and the assault of gunpowder on his sinuses, though, Jack smelt the brewing of godawful, piss-weak tea.

English trenches.

Jack slipped onto the duckboards and held his hands up immediately. "Don't shoot! Don't shoot!"

"Bloody hell," said a concerned-looking corporal, looking Jack up and down. "What 'appened to you?"

"I've been crawling around in No Man's Land for I don't know how long," Jack said with absolute honesty and his best Upper Class Brit accent.

"You ain't one of our battalion," the corporal observed, looking him up and down again. "Got lost, didja?"

"Yes," Jack said with feeling. "Very, very lost."

"What 'appened to yet boots?"

Jack looked down at his feet, clothed only in finest French farm soil and multicultural innards, and said, "it's a very long story, and I'm afraid I need to get back to my own men. Where's your CO?"

The corporal pointed along the trench to a wooden hut half-buried in sandbags. "Captain Blackadder's just in there … sir," he added as an apparent afterthought, and gave a sloppy salute.

"Thank you, Corporal," Jack said, patting the man on the greasy shoulder as he passed. He'd barely taken two painful steps when the name registered and he froze in shock. "Did you say Captain Blackadder?"

"Yes sir. D'you know him, sir?" the perplexed corporal asked.

"I know of him," Jack said grimly as he strode awkwardly down the trench. "I know of him."

He rapped smartly on the door and called, "BLACKADDER!" in the voice of an aggrieved Colonel, which was not particularly hard to imitate in this mood.

The door swung open and a face like an apple with a bad case of cankers and a hat slathered untidily on top greeted him. "Come in, sir," it suggested, giving him the kind of salute that ought to have him court-martialled for extreme negligence.

"Thank you … Baldrick," Jack sighed.

The cankerous apple with its wire-rimmed glasses beamed and stood aside. "How'd you know it was me, sir?"

"Lucky guess," Jack said gloomily. The inside of the officer's quarters was considerably warmer than the miserable field he'd fetched up in this time, although only marginally less muddy. Someone had been using a newsprint portrait of Field Marshall Haig as a dartboard, and he had a pretty good idea who.

Sat at the table, frowning expansively over a game of solitaire, was a handsome but exceptionally gormless-looking young Lieutenant still wearing most of his uniform, the tunic buttoned to the throat. Captain Blackadder, the corporal had said (much to Jack's disbelief), and besides, this dim young thing didn't have the look of low cunning that had characterised the Blackadder family so far.

The Lieutenant glanced up, bolted to his feet, scattering cards like incendiary fragments, and ripped off a salute that would have brought a tear of joy to the eye of the most hardened of drill sergeants.

"No need to salute me," Jack said lazily, dropping the stupid accent. "I'm – " he peered at his collar, " – only a Lieutenant myself."

"Right ho!" The young Lieutenant exclaimed. "Have a seat, Lieutenant … er. You look a trifle whacked, if you don't mind me saying so!"

"Un," Jack agreed, and all but fell over on the proffered chair. He squinted up at the two Lieutenants and wondered if he was going to throw up and when he'd last eaten and what the effects of craft-free time travel were on the human body anyhow. He realised that the Lieutenant was looking at him expectantly, apparently waiting for an introduction, and just about managed to extend a hand. "Jack," he croaked. "Jack Harkness."

"George," said the Lieutenant, shaking his hand so hard Jack thought it might come off. "George Colhurst Saint Barleigh."

"Where is Captain Blackadder?"

"Oh, HQ. Top secret stuff. Very hush-hush."

Jack rather suspected Blackadder was cadging a free dinner, but he didn't say so. Instead, he gathered up George's cards and smiled woozily. "Poker?" he offered, shuffling them easily from hand to hand.

"Oh rather," George said cheerfully, pulling up a second chair. "I was terribly good at this at school, you know," he added as Jack shuffled again.

"Oh yeah?" Jack beckoned Baldrick over and dealt the strange little man in.

"I was so good they used to call me Old Goldmine Colhurst Saint Barleigh," George said with a faraway look in his eyes, "and one time I lost so much that Old Cheater Beaster McNeville-Housen made me dress up in matron's underthingies and sing, 'I'm a naughty hedgehog whose bum is very red' in front of the whole dorm." He seemed quite content with this memory.

Jack choked, regained what was left of his somewhat battered composure and said with a quick sideways glance at Baldrick's hideous visage, "in that case, to make it interesting – " he stopped. "Captain" Blackadder would doubtless remain at HQ until he'd drunk all the port he could get his hands on (it was after all what Jack would do in the same situation, and weasel minds often thought alike). And, thick as a brick though he might very well be, but Lieutenant George wasn't half handsome, in a sort of gangling, ex-public schoolboy way. "- To make it more interesting," he reiterated, "every hand you lose, you take off an item of clothing. Every hand Baldrick loses, he puts an item on."

"Oh Bravo!" George cried. "What about when about when you lose a hand?"

Jack privately decided that wasn't very likely. His opponents had between them less brain than the winner of the All England Village Idiot finals, and no matter how tired and dizzy he was, he could run rings around them. "I …" he spotted a hipflask glinting merrily away by the light of a candle. "I have a drink."




By the time Captain Blackadder returned from HQ, the sun was creeping tentatively up, heralded by a cacophonous dawn chorus of guns and cries, the thin and unwelcome man by Blackadder's side twitching with each fresh assault.

By this time, Jack was quite drunk, Lieuntenant George was very much naked, and Baldrick had disappeared under a pile of unwashed laundry. Jack was considering telling George that his next forfeit involved bending over when the door opened.

Blackadder took in the scene with one sweeping stare and his face fell like a clipped pheasant. Beside him, the thin captain smiled a horrible, smarmy smile "Is this what happens when you leave your staff alone, Blackadder? General Melchett won't be at all pleased to hear of this."

He looked as though he was going to have a fine time telling the General, though.

"Shut up, you wretched little tick," Jack slurred, remembering his fake accent but forgetting his manners. He'd already decided that he didn't like the man's face (the brandy might have had a part in this decision) and that he liked the man's intrusion on his seduction attempts even less. He saw Captain Blackadder stifling a surprised smirk and realised he was on firm ground here; evidently Blackadder didn't like him either.

"…who is this man, Blackadder?"

Blackadder's mind in action was a sight to behold. "Intelligence," he said smartly, clicking his heels together, "checking the officers for … potential information leaks." He glared briefly at Jack, and winced as George scramble to his feet to salute. "Lieutenant, put some underpants on."

"Yes, Captain Blackadder!" George said brightly, and began poking hesitantly at Baldrick. "Permission to look revolted, sir?"

Blackadder waved a diffident hand. George's underpants were perched atop Baldrick's head – not the most appealing location for them but there were obviously worse places for them to be. "Get a different pair."

"Private Baldrick is wearing them all, sir."

Blackadder's face congealed into a rictus of horror. "…including mine?" he asked in a strangled falsetto.

George nodded unhappily. Baldrick's laundry pile gave an affirmative salute: "I am wearing all the underpants in the whole company, Captain Blackadder sir!"

"Oh god," Blackadder groaned.

"You!" Jack cried, pointing unsteadily at the twitching captain beside him. "You look like a potential security leak!" And an utter shit, he thought.

The thin captain gave him a look of slit-eyed disdain. "General Melchett has every confidence in my trustworthiness, and I'll thank you to call me 'sir' when you address me, Lieutenant."

"Take me to Melchett!" Jack mumbled. The brandy wasn't draining from his system fast enough: too little food in the past three hundred years or so was taking its toll. "Sir," he added with what he fondly believed was an ingratiating grin but which was actually more of a lecherous and barely-conscious leer.

"Oh, I intend to," the captain said grimly, seizing Jack's sleeve as Jack rose as gracefully as a zoetrope film of a barn-building. "You'll be court-martialled for this." The captain shoved Jack out through the door of the hut and called over his shoulder, "you haven't heard the last of this, Blackadder!"




HQ was warm and opulent, set up in an old French manor house, and by the time their transport car had bounced all the way there, Jack was largely sober, very sore around the seat and still amused that his captor's name was –

"Really 'Darling'?"

"Shut up, Lieutenant Harkness. If that's really your name," Darling screwed up his face in disgust, but his cheek still continued to twitch. "You have the look of a German spy to me."

"What?" Jack snorted. "I'm American, pal – sir. I meant sir," he added as Darling swung his service revolver towards Jack's head for maybe the fourth time on their journey.

"Yes," Darling said acidly, his eye twitching with renewed ferocity. He didn't sound like he believed Jack. Or if he did, he certainly didn't sound like he much cared for Jack's explanation. The official car bounced to an ungainly halt, leave Jack to wish they'd hurry up and get the hang of proper suspension before he lost the power to procreate, and he was hustled Jack into the barely-touched building.

Jack was shoved into what might once have been a drawing room, and found himself face-to-large-desk with a very familiar face.

"General Melchett," Darling said, saluting.

When Jack failed to salute Darling poked him in the ribs with his service revolver. Jack straightened and ripped off a perfect salute, eyes front, heels clicked smartly together. The walrus-moustached scarlet-faced General beamed at him.

"This man was found wandering Captain Blackadder's trenches and claiming to be Lieutenant Harkness, sir," Darling continued, still glaring at Jack as though Jack had personally raped his house, set fire to his dog and run over his wife.

"Excellent, excellent," General Melchett said briskly, sounding confused.

"Sir, there is no record of a Harkness anywhere in the army files."

Jack wondered how the hell he could possibly know that, since they'd been sitting in a very bumpy and very cold car for the last couple of hours and he was almost certain that there was no way he could have checked the entire roster while he was busy telling Jack to stop calling him "Darling" in such a supercilious tone.

But General Melchett didn't look the type to ask such awkward questions, and the assertion flew past him like a dart. "Is that so, mm?"




The interview had been short and predestined. Jack had never believed in fate before, had seen too much of the universe to believe that anything that chaotic and random could possibly have any kind of underlying order, but when he found himself trying to explain his position to a red-cheeked General with the IQ of a sweetpea who, it appeared, liked to interrupt with strange foghorn-like noises when the conversation started to get beyond him. Which was somewhere after "I really am American and being able to speak German doesn't change that" and before "I can give you valuable information –" which was perhaps on reflection not the most sensible thing to say.

Confirmed as a spy in under twenty minutes and sentenced to death by firing squad in forty, once Jack had finished writing a confession – which he stubbornly did in German, leaving "Der General ist ein Idiot unt sine Kapitän ist der selbe" for posterity in brownish ink with a fountain pen that was worth the same as rations for an entire company. He'd felt a stab of pity for the men at the front, being sent to a pretty certain death by this incompetent blaring stuffed-shirt and his gibbering sidekick, but now he'd been languishing in a cold cell for a few hours with the promise of a bullet in the chest at first light, Jack was starting to feel sorrier for himself.

"Harkness?" snapped an unfortunately familiar nasal and sardonic voice from outside. Jack noticed his rank had disappeared.

He staggered to his feet and clutched the bars set in the door to his little cell. "Captain Blackadder?" He put careful emphasis on the rank, pressing his face into the gap between the bars, and peered into the gloom at Blackadder's immaculate moustache.

"Harkness," Blackadder repeated with a disturbing finality and no small measure of disgust. He pursed his lips. "Do you know the only thing that got handed down throughout the centuries in my family?"

Jack was about to protest that of course he damn well didn't, but Blackadder ploughed on over him.

"It was a warning. Oh yes. General Melchett has houses and silverware and suspiciously attractive serving boys passed down from Melchett to Melchett. I have a snotty bit of parchment – " Blackadder whipped the same out of his pocket and unfolded it gently. " 'Beware the daemon Harkneſ, he is not what he ſeems', signed Lord E. Blackadder, 1599 and Mr. Edmund Blackadder, 1801."

"Look," Jack said, curling his fingers around the bars set in the tiny window and leaning desperately on the heavy door. "I can explain."

"Explain what?" Blackadder grimaced, tucking the parchment back into his breast pocket. "That my ancestors were clearly bonkers?" He accentuated the b heavily. Jack was annoyed to discover that his lips looked rather nice doing that. "Mad, superstitious, off their noble rockers and completely living in the land of la-la. That much is obvious."

Jack sighed a very relieved sigh. "So you've come to let me out?"

"Don't be ridiculous," Blackadder smirked. "I came to make sure you were still firmly under lock and key and hadn't been doing any vanishing acts. Whatever Lord Blackadder was ingesting when he made his last will and testament, I shall still feel infinitely better when you're full of lead."

"But I won't!" Jack pointed out as Blackadder strode off down the corridor.

"Who cares about you?" Blackadder called back over his shoulder.

Jack stomped across the cell and slumped against the wall, wondering why it was taking so long for him to fall through time again. The last couple of jumps had been almost immediate, a matter of hours, and he felt like he'd been in the Great War for considerably longer than that. At least one day must have passed.

What if he was stuck here, at the beginning of the twentieth century, without even a sonic blaster to keep him company? He didn't want to have to live through the twentieth a second time – it had been boring and demeaning and endlessly stressful the first one, and he'd been looking forwards to never having to invade anywhere again. Especially not Egypt.

Jack was still mulling over Blackadder's sarcastic question in self-pitying fashion and vaguely thinking about the Suez Crisis and his part in it when the door opened and shut, admitting one sleep-deprived (if the bags under his eyes were anything to go by) Captain Darling into the little cell. Jack started to his feet eagerly. "You realised you've made a mistake, am I right?"

"No," Captain Darling said coldly, locking the door. "I've come to propose a deal." He looked nervous, Jack thought – although that might just have been the uncontrollable tic under his eye – and he started pacing as he talked. "I am a lonely, man, Harkness," he said, and Jack slumped back down against the wall again. "A very lonely man. And while overseeing the starching of General Melchett's undershirts –" Darling looked at the ceiling in a noble, martyred pose, "- and polishing his cane have certain … benefits – "

Jack choked and tried not to snicker.

"- Be quiet. While being General Melchett's right hand man is a very rewarding position – "

Jack snorted again.

"STOP. LAUGHING," Darling glowered, turning on his heel mid-pace so he could narrow his eyes more effectively at Jack. The effect was somewhat spoiled by his phenomenal twitch. " … where was I?"

"Spewing innuendo like a sewer," Jack offered helpfully.

"SHUP. UP. These … activities are not quite the same as … companionship. Manly, man-type companionship of the manly variety, if you catch my drift."

Jack had in fact caught his drift the moment Darling reached the "l" in "deal", but he thought it prudent to keep quiet about that. "What do I get, here? A pardon?"

Darling smiled nastily, like a pike on especially good painkillers. "You're a spy, Harkness. We aren't in the business of offering pardons to spies. No, you'll be executed at dawn along with the other traitors – "

" – scared boys too young to fight who tried to run?" Jack muttered before he could stop himself. Some things stuff in the memory no matter how many decades piled on top of them.

" – I just came to offer you a choice," Darling went on, manfully ignoring his interruption. "We have good marksmen in the British Army, Harkness, the best in the world. They can kill you with a single shot to the head. And unfortunately we also have some …less good … marksmen, who may have to take a few rounds and a few minutes before they fire the fatal shot. Or shots. Do you follow?"

Jack nodded, dry-mouthed. A choice between a quick death and a slow death would probably have seemed a more important decision if he hadn't died several times already and come to learn that death was death, however you got there – the cold, blank nothingness might prove minor relief after a particularly excruciating end, but that relief faded faster than the bloom from a corpse's face.

He shook his head.

"Much as I appreciate your kind offer, sir, I think I'll take my chances with the worst the British Army has to offer. It can't be much worse than their rations," Jack said with forced cheerfulness. So he was turning down sex – it wouldn't be the first time in his life, probably closer to the fifth or sixth. Anyway, the captain's tic annoyed him, and Jack had standards.

An awkward part of his brain flashed up a few images and Jack stomped on it. Standards, damn it.

"Your death will be slow and painful," Darling promised angrily, turning on his boot heel one last time with a red face, and unlocking the cell door.

"Heard that before," Jack said, toying with a stalk of straw from the cell floor. "Enjoy polishing the General's cane, Darling."

The heavy door slammed shut like a clap of portentous thunder, and Jack spent his last hours on earth playing tic-tac-toe with himself on the wall with a piece of rubble. Now he thought about it, there was something oddly relaxing about the moments after being sentenced to death, just before the actual execution. Something about the inevitability of it all, the way control of his fate was out of his hands – it almost reminded him of travelling with the Doctor.

When he was marched from his cell in the cold dawn light Jack had reached a kind of perfect inner calm and resignation that most Buddhists take years to achieve, and as he was bound and placed firmly in front of the high brick wall – already pocked with bullet holes, the ivy on it dead or dying, the top jagged and ruined by shelling – he found himself admiring the cold fingers of morning turning the clouds pink, the flight of scared rooks, the dimpled cheeks and rosebud mouth of the inexperienced marksman nearest him. A blindfold was slipped over his eyes and brief prayer said for his soul, then …

"READY."

"Ready," chorused the marksmen, at least one of whom was still going through the painful process of breaking in his adult voice, if Jack was any judge.

"AIM."

Jack braced himself for the bang, the smell of gunpowder, the red-hot pain of bullets tearing tunnels through his flesh. It was been a while, but getting shot wasn't something it was easy to forget. A light breeze stole through his hair, and from behind the greasy blindfold Jack pictured the young marksmen standing statue still, fingers on triggers, smooth faces impassive, waiting for their order.

"FIRE!"

A first the jolts were just his body responding to the trauma as five bullets peppered his stomach and chest – not one of them had even aimed for the head and Jack suspected that Darling had told them not to – but as the throes of dying organs became more violent he recognised the start of that most debilitating of experiences (after death, usually, though he'd had deaths which were less unpleasant); time travel without a vessel.

Nausea bubbled and combined with the agony of the gunshots, the air around him stung, and with a muted yelp Jack vanished.

He landed upright, naked, bleeding, and still in enormous pain. He was somewhere bright, loud, and busy – immediately getting busier and louder as his arrival was noticed. A sniff of the disinfectant-scented air and a glimpse of sterile uniforms told him it was a hospital.

How helpful, Jack thought with some relief as he collapsed.



1. Babelfish German and Babelfish French, sorry.
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