Disclaimer: I do not personally know Ross Noble or any of the other famous people represented in this fic. This is a fictional story based on a fictionalized version of my understanding of his public persona. I did not write this with any disrespectful or malicious intent. It is merely a daydream put on paper.
The blood was pumping in my veins, roaring in my ears. I was terrified. I was finally on QI. I was fulfilling a years-long (and implausible!) dream of appearing on my favorite show. I would meet people I always wanted to but never thought I would meet. I'm an incredibly lucky person.
I'd recently skyrocketed to international fame as a painter, which shouldn't have happened. Artists don't get properly famous anymore. Singers and actors get famous, if they're lucky. Artists don't become household names. Not since Warhol, maybe Mapplethorpe. But there I was. I'm from California, but I was in England staging an exhibition of my artwork. My agent had contacted me about making a few media appearances to promote my show, and when I heard that QI was one of the offers, I jumped at the chance. But now, shivering at the bottom of the studio, I was unsure if I'd made a good decision. I'm not a comedian or an actress of any description, and in fact I'm quite awkward and shy. Why did I ever think this was a good idea? I was going to bomb spectacularly!
Mouth dry and breath shallow, I turned my eyes toward the audience. Most of them were happily chatting amongst themselves, eagerly awaiting the start of the show. Someone from hair and makeup was spraying Sandi Toksvig's hair into place. We were nearly ready to begin. I gulped.
"Good evening, and welcome to QI!" said Sandi. "Tonight, we are discussing treks and travels as we traverse distant territories. Tonight's panel comes to us from places both far-flung and close by. The globetrotting Sarah Millican! The part-time antipodean Ross Noble! From all the way across the pond, it's Nuala Weber! And, he's never left his hometown: Alan Davies!"
One by one, Sandi instructed us to press our buzzers. I grinned as mine played the original Star Trek theme tune, though I still felt very trepidatious.
"Now, we all know the Americas are named after Amerigo Vespucci, but what's so intriguing about his cousin?"
"His cousin?" said Alan, looking slightly confused.
Hey, I actually know this, I thought. I assumed the elves were throwing me a bone by including an art-related question so early. I took a deep breath and buzzed in.
"It was Simonetta Vespucci, wasn't it? And she was supposed to be Botticelli's muse?"
"BOTTICELLI'S MUSE" flashed on the screen. I blushed.
"Simonetta was Amerigo's cousin by marriage, but there's no proof at all that she ever posed for Botticelli. It's entirely possible that the women in his paintings were actually amalgamations of the beauty ideals in Italy at the time." Sandi smiled at me kindly. Portrait of a Woman appeared on the screen.
"Hang on, if she's an ideal beauty, why is her hairline halfway down her head?" Sarah asked, giggling.
"In Medieval and Renaissance Europe, women actually plucked their foreheads or dissolved the hair with quicklime because they believed that high foreheads were beautiful, and they also had to ensure that their hair was covered," said Sandi, absentmindedly tapping her cards on the desk. "Blonde hair was also highly prized. Women would actually use urine to bleach their hair."
The panel and the audience groaned disgustedly in unison.
"I know! I know! But really, women have had to do loads of really horrid things to conform to beauty standards, all throughout history. It's really quite unfair," said Sandi. I nodded along.
The taping passed more or less without a hitch. I tried to interject with some fun anecdotes whenever an opportunity presented itself, but for the most part, I couldn't keep up with the professional comedians. That was fine by me. Were I allowed to run my mouth indefinitely, I would have inevitably embarrassed myself. We only had about ten minutes left, and I didn't want it to end.
"And now, we have a puzzle for you to work out." Sandi handed out what looked like rope handcuffs. "Pair up and cross the middle strand, then put your hands through the loops. Let's see if you can untangle yourselves."
I stood and turned to face my partner. It was Ross. And my breath caught in my throat. You see, I've had a crush on Ross Noble almost ever since I first started watching QI. I first saw him on the show and then became utterly addicted to his stand-up. There's something about him that just smolders, and he seems to be totally unaware of it. He's magnetic. I went into the taping feeling totally contented at the prospect of meeting him at all, but this was something else. Good God, I can die happy, I thought. If I was nervous earlier, that was nothing compared to how I felt as he stepped toward me, arms outstretched. We linked up our ropes, and he threw his arms behind me, as though to allow me to step through the ropes. However, this had the effect of forcing my arms behind my back and pushing my chest against his. I gasped, suddenly and irrationally fearing that he would be able to hear my heartbeat. He was mumbling to himself about ways to solve the rope puzzle. Feeling flustered, I stepped backwards and tripped as my heel landed on a chair leg. I fell backwards against the desk, taking him with me. We ended up on the desk, him on top of me, my hands pinned behind me. The audience screamed and laughed. Ross laughed too, but I could tell he felt a little uncomfortable. I struggled to stand up as fast as I could, and consequently banged my forehead against his.
"Fuck!" He yelled, wincing in pain.
"Oh-my-god-I'm-so-sorry-I'm-so-sorry-oh-my-god-are-you-okay?" I blurted out, tears forming in my eyes. This is awful. How do I always manage to make things go from bad to worse?
"It's fine," he grunted.
But I still felt terrible.
Ross removed his hands from behind my back. He twisted around, and I received a faceful of his long, tangled hair. It smelled like peppermint, curiously. Despite the throbbing pain in my head, for a few seconds, I was in heaven. He tried to step through the ropes and turn around, but I was pulled forward by my wrists onto my knees and nearly head-butted his crotch. I hope he doesn't think I'm doing these things on purpose, I fretted. Ross grabbed my wrists to help me up. His hands were very warm. I tilted my head upwards to look at him, and found that we were nearly nose-to-nose. All I could see was his eyes. They're so blue I thought, getting lost in the moment.
Fortunately, Sandi chose this moment to take pity on us, and she showed us how the trick was done. I headed sheepishly back to my chair, knowing I would have to eat crow after the show was over.