“Honestly? If drag wasn’t like a gay thing, I could probably get pretty into it.”
God knows how the conversation had gotten to that point. Something about the GSA, about the fact that talent shows were never that interesting and that they should really do something to spice it up, yatta yatta. Fabian was sitting next to Ragh, sweaty on the edge of the Bloodrush field on a Saturday, taking a break from throwing the ball back and forth to get caught up in a conversation. Beside him, Ragh creased his eyebrows.
“Dude, drag isn’t just a gay thing.”
“Wait, it’s - it’s not?”
“No way, man, I did some research about it after a first came out,” Ragh said, leaning forward and putting his elbows on his knees. “I mean, sure, it attracts a lot of gay guys, because like, traditionally people would be like… gay, feminine, same shit, right? But honestly dude, that is like, a mad archaic mindset. Like, I’m gay but I’m still like super masculine, right, because that’s just like who I am, I’m not into dressing up as a chick or whatever. And like, for the same reason some straight dudes are more into chick stuff and so they do drag. I watched a bunch of videos about it and like, a ton of the dudes doing it had girlfriends and wives, and shit.”
“Seriously?!” asked Fabian. He didn’t consider himself gay - perhaps bi, but he was still tossing that label around. He certainly felt stronger towards women than he did towards men, which (he assumed) made dressing up as a woman a ludacris fantasy. But now that Ragh said it, it wasn’t so nonsensical. After all, don’t straight men see women as beautiful more than anyone else (except perhaps lesbians, who they’re generally on par with)? Why wouldn’t you want to emulate something beautiful? Enthusiasm rapidly took Fabian’s form, a smile appearing on his face. “Dude, should I do drag?!”
“Honestly man, if that’s what you want to do, you so should,” Ragh assured him. “You are a fantastic dancer, and you’ve got like, a mad lithe frame which is gonna make it super easy. Like your shoulders aren’t even that wide, it would probably look like, mad dope.”
“Do you think so?” asked Fabian, looking down at his form, considering it in a way he hadn’t before. “I don’t know, I’ve never done anything like it before! Would you want to do it with me?”
Ragh winced. “Honestly dude? Gave it a shot with a few of my mom’s dresses, not my bag. Sorta just felt… stupid. Still like lookin’ huge and kickass, so that’s gonna be a hard pass from me brother.”
Fabian’s face curled briefly into disappointment, before he nodded. “I could get someone to do an act with me,” he said, “It’s for guys of any sexuality, it doesn’t matter?”
“Nah, dude. It’s a performance art.”
“Performance art…” Fabian repeated. He liked the sound of that. Enthusiastically, he stood up. “Yes. A new performance art for me, Fabian Aramais Seacaster, to master!”
“Hell yeah, dude!”
Fabian was pacing back and forth in Riz’s office, Riz’s back turned to him as he continued looking at his board of miscellaneous clues. There was a cup of coffee in his hand, and a disinterested look on his face. Fabian gestured wildly, looking significantly annoyed.
“Come on, The Ball! It would be so awesome, you, me, the bardy boys, only this time we’re the bardy! Girls! It’ll be the crazy new twist that no one in the school is expecting!” He persuaded.
“Fabian, what about me could possibly lead you to believe this is up my alley?” he asked, incredulously.
“Oh come on, what happened to down with toxic masculinity?! Spring break!”
“It’s not about gender, Fabian. It’s just that if I actually were a woman I’m sure I’d dress almost exactly how I dress right now, for practicality and perhaps even a subtle debonair. I mean really, can you picture me covered in sequins and… and singing and dancing? You know I’m not into that shit.”
“But that’s what we need!” Fabian said, pointing enthusiastically, “Me - charming, adventurous, a rough and tumble nautical traveller! You - smooth, debonair, the shining beauty in the corner of every fine dinner party!” - Riz scoffed at that - “You always go for that whole Bond thing, well this time you can be the Bond girl! Ever think of that?”
“Okay, first of all, you are not a ‘rough and tumble nautical traveler’. You once brought your own fifteen silver piece peanut butter to my house because you said mine ‘hurt your teeth.”
“It still had the nuts in it,” Fabian mumbled.
“And second, I don’t want to be a Bond girl, or Bond. I just… like suits and secret agent stuff, that’s it! Besides, I think you’re really misled about how hypothetically ‘sexy’ I am, because this would be the first I’ve heard of it.”
Raising an eyebrow and pointing, Fabian want on, “All the bad kids agreed you had a lot of potential without the hat!”
Riz placed his hand over his hat. “I like the hat,” he lightly objected.
“I know you like the hat, but it would just be a show, you’re playing a character!”
“Yes, but that’s exactly what I’m saying. I can’t act, I can’t dance, I can’t sing, I’m certainly not funny. Every time I succeed in life, it’s literally because nobody’s looking at me,” Riz said passionately. It would normally sound very sad and self-deprecating, had his fighting style been anything other than shoot-and-hide since he’d first joined the bad kids.
“But!” Fabian said, raising a finger long before he had anything to follow it, “What if we hadn’t seen you, hm? What if you hid from us? We never could have been best friends, that way, right... ? Best friend?”
Riz let a soft, tired smile shine through. “That is… very nice,” he admitted, with a soft chuckle, “But it isn’t going to work, I’m not doing drag with you, I’ll look ridiculous.”
Fabian slammed his hand against the table in the room.
So that was out. But there were, of course, always options.
Well - option , singular.
“Gorgug!” said Fabian, and threw an arm around his shoulders as they walked through the hall, just after the ring of the lunch bell, “If I’m not mistaken, you’ve been sort of, erm… questioning yourself gender-wise lately, isn’t that right?”
Gorgug, in fact, was. He hadn’t formally ‘come out’, but he’d been talking (particularly with Kristen) about the concept of non-binary identities, which had a lot of appeal to him. Even now he was wearing a casual skirt, dark, loose-fitting, and hanging about to just below his knees. He’d assured all the bad kids however that for the time being he was going with he-him, though that was subject to change.
He squinted at Fabian’s opener, however, trying to find where he was going with it. “Um… sort of, I guess.”
“That’s awesome. I love that. I was thinking - what better way to explore the… the feminity of a new identity than to explore it through clothing and performance! Really pushing the limits to how you normally look! What would you think of that?”
“Um…” Gorgug said thoughtfully, “I guess it could be kinda fun. Like what, just dress up really girly sometime?”
“Exactly, I’m glad you see the appeal!” Fabian said, despite the fact that Gorgug gave no indication that he saw the appeal, “Gorgug, with this talent coming up, I, Fabian Seacaster, happen to be planning a drag performance, and I want you on stage with me!” At this point, his hands were both firmly on Gorgug’s shoulders, shaking him lightly from behind. Gorgug laughed softly.
“Oh,” he responded, “In that case, um, no thanks.”
“I just don’t really think I’m ready for that?” admitted Gorgug thoughtfully, “I mean, sometimes I’ll put on some more traditionally feminine clothes alone in my house and I’ll show Zelda or my parents or whatever, but being onstage is kinda... different…”
Fabian scoffed, “Yes but you and Fig are onstage all the time! You even sing, you killed it in ‘Satellite’.”
Gorgug grimaced and bobbed his head back and forth, as if considering that point. “I mean, I guess?” he said, “It’s just kind of a different thing, though. I just don’t really think I could dress like that.”
“Well, look at that fashionable skirt, Gorgug, you already are!”
“I guess - but I mean - not really,” he answered coolly, “I mean, drag queens wear like really tight, sexy dresses and stuff. Even though it’s a gender flip for you Fabian, it’s not really that different from your normal clothes,” - he nodded at his tight-fitting tanktop - “I don’t even wear T-shirts unless it’s like, ninety degrees out.”
“Yes, but - but maybe we could make an exception -”
“Sorry Fabian,” Gorgug said, and politely pulled out of his grip on his shoulders, “It just doesn’t sound like it’s for me. But good luck with your show! I can’t wait to see it.”
Fabian nodded, clearly dejected. “Yes, alright…” he moped.
So he was going up alone. So be it.
Irritably, Fabian went through the pile of elegant, expensive dresses his mother had flippantly let him borrow, creating two piles of them on his bed, one for ‘maybe’s’ and one for ‘certain no’s’. Of course, his passion for it seemed limited, scowling at the gowns as they wrinkled up on the sheets. This would be no fun alone. I mean, it would be something to do, certainly a performance art to try… but how was it he couldn’t get even a single soul to just dress up like a woman and lip-sync to some pop song? He looked to the last dress left in his hand, a one-strap golden, tight fitting gown still on its hanger. He held it up in front of itself, looking at the odd combination in the mirror. Maybe this was stupid, he thought insecurely, and threw the dress down on the bed in no particular pile.
Suddenly, a deep, only distantly familiar voice spoke up from behind him.
“Hey, who the fuck told you only queens did drag?”
He turned around. There, leaning provocatively against the doorframe, was a fit tiefling man. His skin was light brown and his eyes a light shade of red, with a strong jawline and slightly pointed teeth. Long, reddish black horns stuck from a mess of spiked black hair with purple highlights. Crushed between his pointed teeth was a clove cigarette burning a soft red. He wore stylish jeans that hung off his hips, as well as an open leather jacket with nothing underneath, revealing a broad and slim-fit chest. He wore fingerless gloves and several diamond piercings on the upper parts of his pierced ears. Around his neck was a necklace with a dimly glowing orange feather, falling just between his pectorals. He was jutting out a hip against the doorframe, his head rolled back with an overconfident smirk. It took Fabian a full thirty seconds to realize who it was, before his jaw dropped.
“Actually,” he said, hitting the end of his clove cigarette, “My drag name is Damien Flame.”
Fabian laughed incredulously, “Wh- is that - is - is that a disguise spell, or what?!”
“No!” answered ‘Damien’, almost offended. “This is a one-hundred percent genuine drag performance. I got the wig and the skin-tone binder from Adaine’s jacket. It’s good, right?” Now his cool exterior was cracking, and he turned to the side to pull the jacket back and reveal how flat his chest had become. It was truly impressive - he looked like one of Johnny Spell’s gang. “Do you have a drag name?”
“I-I didn’t, do you need one?”
“Then it has to be something fancy and elven!” he said, and then realized he was getting ahead of himself. His face lit up, giddy. “Hold on, Fig, are we actually gonna do this, like actually?”
‘Damien’ tilted his jaw again, dropping his voice once more. “Um… actually, girl? My name is Damien Flame. But I don’t think I caught your moniker?”
Fabian grinned. He tilted his shoulders and jutted out a hip, then held his hand out for a handshake, elegantly, daintily. He spoke in a voice that was high, and soft, and strikingly like that of his mother. “Telemina Fandrangur,” he improvised, and shook Fig’s hand, “An absolute pleasure.”
An unimpressed round of limp applause filled the dark school auditorium as the two Elven freshmen put their flutes back into their cases. The sounds of their uninspiring harmony was still filling the rafters while the M.C., a stylish, though awkward human junior, reapproached the microphone. “Alright everyone!” he said, “G-give it up for Irien and Mirien for their sisterly flute duet!”
Another round of applause filled the darkness - even less impressed than the last.
Riz, dressed sharply in his suit, closed his program, and set it on his lap. “Fabian and Fig are next,” he whispered, to the bad kids behind him. Adaine moved her eyes away from their spot on the wall to see the stage, Gorgug gingerly put his crystal back into his pocket and flicked it off. Kristen remained fully reclined, her head tilted back, her eyes shut and her mouth open. Riz shoved her shoulder. “Kristen, wake up!”
“Hm- what?” she asked as she roused.
“Shh!” insisted Adaine.
The M.C. went on announcing - “Now for a type of performance we’ve never seen at the Aguefort Talent Show! I’d like to introduce to you the lip-synced stylings of Fabian Seacaster and Figaroth Faeth - Or, as I’ve been told to introduce them, the Heavenly Telemina… um, Telemina Fandrangur, and the Hellish Damien Flame!”
The crowd went insane - or, should I say, a small portion of the crowd went insane, and that was the bad kids. Ragh stood up and gave a few strong ‘hoot-growls’, Tracker let out a nearly animalistic howl, and Ayda passionately shouted, “That is my girlfriend- boyfriend- m-my partner, my partner who is performing as a male but is, in fact-” which was as far as she got before Adaine gently shut her up and explained to her softly that her cheer was fine, and perfectly normal, just a little long.
The lights dropped. You could hear a pin drop in that theater as the crowd held their breath, the more closed-minded members of the audience trying to piece together what exactly the nicknames meant. Then, through the theater, a base note reverberated so deep that everyone could feel their blood rumble through their body like paint in a paint mixer. It exploded into a riff of legendary quality, driving the musically inclined to roll their eyes back in their head, a spell cast over the theater. It evolved into something upbeat, something jazzy, something… sexy. Then, the band joined in - shredding guitar, smooth drums in an almost latin beat - trumpets and castanets, but no vocals just yet. The music faded to a hum, and the stage was taken over by the sound of shaking fabric, and the sight of a spotlight hitting a rapidly twirling white sheet, flickering like the said of a ship. For a moment it hovered in the air, a perfect square like a curtain. Then, it dropped.
Standing behind it was none other than the heavenly Telemina Fandrangur, and she was heavenly indeed. The bad kids’ jaws dropped at the transformation. There, in the spotlight, was a slim woman in a long red dress that conformed to luxurious hips and breasts they knew full well had not been there before. The top of the dress ended below the shoulders in a light pink feather boa, tossed effortlessly over her arms. The dress stayed tight around her legs til it ended asymmetrically at the thigh on one side, below the knee on the other. The woman’s skin was warm brown and flawless, a gorgeous mane of perfectly white hair tossed over in a side part and covering her one bad eye. Her face was coated in elegant makeup, dark brown eyeliner and long eyelashes, popping red lipstick. She looked like a woman you needed a thousand dollar suit just to talk to. As she began to lip-sync the first verse, the woman’s part, she effortlessly flirted with her shoulders, letting the feather boa slide down, using the outrageously high heels to her advantage to work whatever ‘stuff’ she had given herself in foam just moments before. Near the end of the first verse she licked her teeth and cast a wink at the bloodrush team. It was quite an amusing sight, seeing the look of perplexed horror wash over the group of massive, straight athletes like a plague.
At the end of the first verse, she snapped her sheet out to the side, totally sideways so that it momentarily covered eight or so feet high and five feet wide, and when she pulled it back there was a tiefling man, standing there behind it. He was in a mesh-shirt that showed all of his chest and a leather jacket with the shoulders fully on fire, flickering and smoking hot orange into the roof of the theater. His teeth were sharp, his hair spiked above him, two tall horns polished and shining in the spotlight. He was in tight black pants, hips thrust out. He sang very differently from how the ‘woman’ did, putting on a wild, hellish performance with a much more ravenous sexuality to it. He gnashed his sharp teeth together, and with a smirk he’d stick out a slightly forked tongue, leaving all the other bad kids to try and remember if Fig’s tongue had been forked before. He gestured with his hands, which ended in sharpened black nails, tilting back his head and showing off his jawline, which could cut you if you let it. His eyes glowed soft red in the dim moon, and between the lyrics he would grin savagely at Ayda, who looked to be not remotely attracted, but wildly impressed. The group of cheerleaders in the wing on the left, on the other hand, had all turned bright red and wide-eyed.
“I’m so confused, Fabian is so hot!” whispered Kristen breathlessly.
Ragh spoke up just beside her, sounding just as pained. “Are you kidding me? Look at Fig!”
The show went off without a hitch, the two of them walking out to the edge of the stage in the end, Damien getting down on a knee and flexing his hips towards the audience again, Telemina squatting down on her high heels as effortlessly as Rihanna. When they were finished the stage went totally dark. You’d never heard a crowd cheer so loud, or sound so bewildered while they did it.
“That was an incredible act of illusion,” Ayda observed, as she stood.
“Dude, your girlfriend was fucking hot,” Adaine agreed, a bit more passionately.
Kristen and Ragh were clapping weakly, but they were still sitting down.
“He looked like Jessica Rabbit,” Kristen groaned, eyebrows creased and her head in her hand.
“That was like some kind of demon James Dean shit, and it was Fig, what the fuck?!” agreed Ragh, elbows on his knees and fingers on his temples.
Kristen looked up and saw Tracker staring absently at the stage. “Oh, I’m - sorry, babe, I shouldn’t say stuff like that, that was super insensitive-”
“No no no,” answered Tracker, “Fabian was a fucking snack for a second there. Like I am confused.”
Gorgug and Zelda were standing together, clapping passionately and grinning. Zelda leaned in close to Gorgug. “I think that that was like… so cool,” she admitted.
“Yeah!” agreed Gorgug, “They did like, a super good job.”
“You know I… this is probably like, so stupid, so random, heh, but if you ever wanted to like… dress up and play drums like, as a… like, as a woman or whatever that could look like… pretty hot, heh…”
Gorgug cast a look at her. “It would?” he asked.
“You know, or not, whatever, yay Fabian and Fig!”
As Gorgug decided to let it go, Riz climbed up on top of chair and balanced on top of it, clapping a little more than was necessary. The token non-horny member of the party ignored all talk of confused sexuality and grinned in pure, unadultured support for what was, to him, a hobby and a hobby alone. “Those are my friends!” he shouted proudly, “That was sick as fuck! Go Fabian, go Fig!”
Backstage, in the green room, Fabian and Fig were still riding the high of the successful performance, Fabian pulling foam out of a bra and then struggling to undo the hook behind his back. Fig was undergoing the remarkable task that was escaping a mesh shirt, but grinning nonetheless. “Dude!” she said eagerly, “That was awesome, you were so hot!”
“Are you kidding me, you were so hot,” Fabian agreed passionately. He finally succeeded in unhooking his bra, and cast it aside, and began pulling his large foam ‘hips’ out of his tights. “That… was awesome!”
“It totally was,” she answered, “Dude, we gotta use this again sometime. You’re down for more talent shows, aren’t you?”
“Well,” he said suavely, but kept his voice at its usual pitch, “Telemina isn’t going anywhere. Just taking a short vacation in Falinell to a salon.”
“Well!” agreed Fig, as she turned around and began fighting with getting her binder off, “I assure you, Damien isn’t either!”