Author's Note: I know I promised a sequel to "Strange New World", and believe me, it is coming along nicely (I have at least five long chapters done, at the moment), but I just needed a bit of a break from that universe for a bit, since I've been writing, reading and basically breathing it for months...so this story is just to keep my brain inspired. That, and it was also begging to be written.
I haven't written any Blackadder before, so please be kind. I have, however, been sat staring at my computer screen watching episodes for so long that even Derren Brown could not un-hypnotise me, so hopefully the characters are written properly :p Let me know what you think!
1. Employee of the Month.
Edmund winced (he would never give in to the indignity of jumping into the air in shock, no matter who was in his company) and resisted the very real urge to growl. That made the seventh trumpeting noise in the last two minutes. It was like an orchestra in here… and a very bad one at that. Perhaps one with a deaf conductor who was falling asleep and simply flailing at the players.
He glanced to his left and immediately wished he hadn't. Baldrick was crouched on the floor next to him, blowing his nose into a tissue that had seen so much action it was practically dripping snot onto the floor. He rolled his eyes and turned reluctantly back to stocking the milk.
They really should give the employees gloves; stocking fridges all day really did get on his nerves. Quite literally.
Edmund shoved the carton of milk to the back of the fridge with perhaps more force than was strictly necessary and gritted his teeth. He wouldn't talk to the idiot, he wouldn't talk to the idiot, he wouldn't –
"Ah, ah, ahhhhhh…"
There was a slight pause, and Edmund relaxed slightly.
Right, that does it, he thought, putting the carton of milk he had been about to stack back into the trolley. "For Heaven's sake, Baldrick, what's wrong with you? You sound like an elephant who just found out his family was killed by a pack of rabid, half mad lions and decided to portray its woes through the particularly bad use of bagpipes!"
Baldrick sniffed and looked at him with his standard vacant expression. "It's just a cold, Mr B. Seems to happen to me all the time this time of year."
"Yes, well, that doesn't really surprise me, Baldrick. You see, most humans have evolved to have at least the foresight to wear a jumper when the weather starts freezing… but not you, obviously. You're a scientific anomaly. You're just the type of backward, uncivilised, poor example of the human gene pool who would, through sheer stupidity alone, manage to get pneumonia in July…even if you are as hairy as a mammoth and consume enough vitamin C to turn yourself permanently into a carrot."
"My mother says it's very healthy, the amount of carrots I eat," Baldrick countered proudly, almost putting the milk in upside down before he realised at the last minute and righted it.
"Not when you steal them from people's baskets, it isn't."
"Well, they don't notice, do they?"
"And a good thing too," Edmund replied maliciously. "One look at the state of your filthy hands and they'd think the plague had risen again."
Baldrick didn't seem to hear him, however, and instead got up to put his now soggy tissue in a bin by the entrance of the supermarket. Edmund quietly and resentfully went back to stacking shelves, glaring at businessmen in suits who strolled past, barely even deigning to give him a glance. Oh, he could have been one of them…
Paaaarp! A muffled, patting noise followed and Edmund warily turned around, knowing that he should just leave well enough alone and yet curious to see what the idiot was doing now. He almost banged his head repeatedly on the fridge next to him when he saw the man frisking himself for a tissue, his other hand held to his dripping nose.
…Surely he didn't just blow his nose into his hands…
He watched for a few more seconds, praying that the situation would right itself and that he wouldn't have to step in yet again, but Baldrick was becoming slightly frantic now, as he finished frisking himself and glanced around the shop. Only when Edmund saw him eying up a very expensive and low lying dress nearby did he finally intervene.
"For God's sake, Baldrick, you've got snot all over your apron. Here, take this," he held out a tissue. "I don't want the customers looking at you and thinking halloween's come early. The amount of green on you – you'd put the loch ness monster to shame!"
Baldrick wiped his nose and hands on the proffered tissue, though thankfully after taking it first. Considering who he was dealing with, that was an unexpected show of intelligence. "I saw it, once."
"Oh, God, here we go again…"
"She was in my bathtub," Baldrick continued blithely. "Floating on top of the water, green as that broccoli fruit," he said, pointing at a broccoli in a passing customer's basket.
"Vegetable, Baldrick. It's a vegetable."
"What is? The loch ness monster?"
Edmund rolled his eyes. "No, your brain, if indeed it does exist. Now get back to work. This supermarket won't stock itself, you know!"
"Right you are, Mr B."
"Although I bloody well wish it would," Edmund added, stopping as Baldrick continued stacking. "Here I am, a graduate from Oxford with a brain the size of a Frenchman's libido, and I'm stuck here surrounded by mindless automatons and stacking shelves! I'm wasted here, Balders, I really am!"
"I don't think you're wasted, Mr B."
"Oh? And why is that? Do I look the part?" He asked sardonically, waving a hand at his black trousers, white shirt, black tie and grey apron. "Do I look like the poor, oppressed shop worker who wouldn't know his arse from his elbow even if he had a map?"
"Or perhaps the poor sod pushing trolleys in the freezing rain," he continued, waving an arm carelessly in the general vicinity of the entrance, "but who doesn't seem to mind because he's eighty years old, can't feel anything below his nose and is still wistfully singing along to Glen Miller's song about a train that will 'Choo Choo' him home?"
"Or maybe," he added, really getting into the feel of his rant now, "I'm the hung-over, barely eleven looking cashier who gives the finger to people he doesn't like, and stares psychotically at those he does?"
"None of that, sir, no."
"You stack the milk really neatly, sir."
Baldrick sat back on his heels and looked at him, causing a passing customer to almost trip over him. "You always seem to know what goes at the front and what goes at the back. I don't have a clue, myself. When you were covering for Percy on Tuesday, I had to ask Fred the Fishmonger for help. And he didn't know either."
"Of course not," Edmund scoffed. "Fred the Fishmonger was once the Deadly Decapitator of London. The only thing he knows is cutting off heads. He probably never stopped at the house of his latest victims to re-organise the fridge!"
"I'm just saying we'd be really lost without you, sir."
"Then you'd better get used to it. I plan on breaking out of this filthy, rat infested prison as soon as possible – it's like Tesco in here! No, I want to work somewhere classy, put my degree to use. A lawyer, maybe…"
"Oh I don't think that's very likely, Blackadder," a snide voice said from behind. Edmund very nearly groaned. Just who he needed. "Any sane employer would run away from you screaming."
Edmund turned around slowly, deliberately looking up gradually before finally making eye contact with Percy Darling. To his delight, he saw the other man squirm slightly before he caught himself and stood stock still once more.
"Ah, Darling, so kind of you to join us with what is, as ever, your highly dazzling and valued input."
Darling twitched at the use of his name. "Don't push me, Blackadder, or I'll-"
"Or you'll what?" he interrupted, raising an eyebrow. "Shove a carrot up my nose? I must say, Darling, I'm hurt – I really am. Now…what was it you want to talk to me about?"
"Mr Melchett wants to see us in his office as soon as possible, Blackadder. That is, if you can spare yourself from your earth-shatteringly important duties?"
"Don't patronise me, Darling," he snapped, getting to his feet. "You wear just the same, ridiculous apron as I do. Did he by any chance mention what he wanted to see us for, or did the memory drop out of the empty space where your brain should be on the way over here?"
Darling punched in the code to the employee section of the supermarket slightly harder than strictly necessary and began walking up the stairs at a brisk pace. "You really do fancy yourself, don't you Blackadder? All of those stupid insults you think up – you're not impressing anyone, you know."
"I beg to differ. I know an admiring audience when I see one, as of course you won't, having never had one, and that's exactly what I have in the dining room."
Darling sniffed dismissively, though he didn't sound convinced. "A group of simpletons who don't recognise true character."
Edmund smirked. "Tired of getting left out, Darling? That's strange…I always thought you were well suited to the sulking in the corner routine. One might even say you were born for it."
They reached Melchett's door, Darling clearly itching to strangle Edmund by that point. "Why, you-"
Melchett, as though summoned by Darling's blustering voice, popped his head out of his office door and grinned inanely at them. "Ah! Gentlemen, at last! Come in, come in!" He stood back and threw the door open.
Edmund obediently stepped into the lavish office and stood next to a chair, Darling beside him. As Melchett closed the door, he took the opportunity to look around the office, sneering internally at the shiny frames on every available space on the wall, the expensive table and the ceiling to floor window.
His only consolation was that the view out the window was of the skips at the back of the shop.
"I was beginning to fear you'd gotten lost, you know!"
Melchett walked over to his desk and sat down, folding his hands on top of the table. Edmund and Darling followed suit, though were forced to make do with more uncomfortable, lumpy chairs while their employer sat on what seemed to be the latest luxury from the Seat and Sofa Emporium from across the road.
Edmund smirked. "Never fear, sir. I soon put Darling right."
Melchett smiled and cocked his head slightly to the side as he considered the joke. "Ehhh, very good, Blackadder, very good! Though I hardly feel that getting lost in a supermarket is a laughing matter," he added, apparently completely serious. "Why, just this morning I seemed to be seeing the same person everywhere I went – it was like I was walking in circles! Quite perplexing."
Edmund blinked. "I see. Tell me sir…would this be the quadruplets?"
"Quadruplets? What the devil are you talking about, Blackadder?"
"Will, Bill, Phil and, of course, Jill."
Darling looked at him askance. "Jill?"
"Yes. That's what Matt now wants us to call him – he felt left out because his name didn't rhyme. And of course, the other small matter that he now dresses, acts, talks and flirts like a woman."
"I see," Darling muttered.
"Yes, you have some very strange people on shop floor, Blackadder. You should get that seen to at once! We can't have them scaring the customers!"
"I can't, sir."
Melchett sat back a bit. "What do you mean, you can't? It's your job, man!"
"You employed them, sir. I don't have the authority." Unfortunately.
"And thank God for that," Darling said maliciously.
"Now that is a shame," Melchett interjected, before Edmund could offer a scathing retort. "Still, can't be helped, can't be helped. Now, the reason I called you both here is because you are both heads of your departments and I need the news spread quickly."
"And what news would this be, sir?" Darling asked politely, already in kissing-up mode, Edmund noted with disgust.
"Simon's Sizeable Supermarket's employee of the month!"
"Oh God. Is it time for that unsightly competition again already?"
Darling, who had apparently heard Edmund's mumblings, smirked. "Once every month, Blackadder. You know the rules."
"Yes, thank you, Darling – I never would have deduced that without your input."
Melchett, as oblivious as ever to the argument under his nose, continued. "Now, as you both know, we have had waning interest in this over the past few years. But what you don't know – and what I'm telling you now – is that we've decided to better motivate our workforce."
"It'd take an awful lot of electric shocks, bribes and chocolate on the end of a stick dangling in front of their noses to do that, sir."
"Ah, but that's where you're wrong, Blackadder. The people down at Marketing have done extensive research and discovered that only one thing is needed."
"And what is that, sir?" Darling asked, somehow managing to sound genuinely curious.
"Cash, Darling! And a lot of it! Five hundred pounds, to be precise."
"Five…hundred pounds?" Edmund asked, sure he had misheard.
"I see. Sir… have I recently expressed my utmost admiration for this competition?"
"Actually, Blackadder, I think just last week you called it a steaming pile of-"
"Genius!" Edmund said loudly, glaring at Darling. "A steaming pile of genius, sir."
"So I have your full co-operation?"
"Yes, sir," Darling and Edmund chorused.
"Good. Then that is all…unless you want to discuss the mysterious vandal who still roams the warehouses?"
"No need, sir. I know the blind incompetent and will speak to him again." Baldrick wouldn't know what hit him. Honestly, the amount of times he had to re-train the monkey was just getting ridiculous now.
"Splendid, splendid! Now, back to work, both of you! Time is money, you know, and the big boss Simon wants enough money to burn this year – I hear he's quite unhappy with the singeing he manages to make at the moment."
"Yes," Darling replied, looking as annoyed as Edmund felt. "Quite. Good day, sir."
Edmund followed Darling out of the room, closing the door behind him and experiencing a gradually blossoming, unfamiliar feeling of hope.
"So, finally found your enthusiasm, Blackadder?" Darling demanded as they made their way back downstairs to the shop floor. "I didn't know you had it in you."
"I have quite a lot in me, Darling, that you can only dream about."
Darling twitched, looking faintly embarrassed at Edmund's crude joke. "Yes…well, I think you'll find I'm a force to be reckoned with myself."
"Oh, please, I've seen worms with more muscle and menace than you, Darling, and concussed baboons with more intellect. You won't last two seconds with me as your opponent."
"Oh? I'm not so sure about that. May the best man win!"
"Yes," Edmund muttered as he walked back to the fridges and Baldrick. "Me."