A dull echo of thunder sounded across the cityscape of Los Angeles. The night sky appeared gloomier than usual because of its clouded visage from the current rainfall. The pitter patter of the rain drops sounded against the streets and sidewalks of downtown. Taxis rushed from place to place, trying to earn as many customers as they could to fulfill their quota for the day. Others, like one Arthur Kirkland, were taking the pedestrian route, not afraid of a little rain and wet clothing. His hands were stuffed in his coat pockets, his left fist clenched around a wad of paper with an address on it.
'That bloody frog's place better still be open…'
He flicked his wrist to check the time and saw that it was just a few minutes past 11.
"Hell, it might not even be open yet…" He sighed and rushed over to stand underneath an awning as the rain continued to fall. His urge to loosen up and get a few drinks in his system was getting stronger by the minute. He told himself that the only reason he was going to his old dorm mate's place of business was because the Frenchman has sent him a text earlier that said he would give him free drinks if he sat in and filled at seat at his club.
Club Rouge, or just "The Rouge" if you were familiar with it, was the best kept secret in LA. It used to be some old two-story family owned store but once they went out of business, Francis bought the run-down place from them and transformed it into his dream; a burlesque club. Once, he had slapped Arthur when he mistook it for a strip club, thinking the two things were the same. Arthur, with a red cheek and a sore fist (after punching Francis back in the jaw) learned that they were certainly not the same thing. Burlesque was an 'art', as Francis put it; a subject dancing to music, telling a story with their expressions and movements of their bodies.
Yeah, and taking off their knickers, Arthur thought.
He took out the piece of paper again, gave it a once over and walked a few more blocks west to get to the corner building with the red neon letters in cursive. The full sign had the name "Club Rouge" on it but the lights that were supposed to illuminate the "Club" never worked so people always thought it was just "Rouge". Simplicity in its best form, Arthur supposed. He wasn't surprised that Francis chose such a name, especially in his native tongue. A hazy memory of a drunken conversation crept up on him as he made his way passed the entry gate and to the stoop of the building.
"So why did you call it 'Roug-ey' anyway?"
Francis grimaced at the butchering of his beautiful language. "It is pronounced 'rouge' you uneducated brute. And is it not obvious?"
Arthur hiccupped, taking another shot of scotch. " 'M not 'uneducated'. We went to the same bloody university you frog…and it's not obvious to me." Another hiccup.
Francis smirked. "Well, mon ami. When you think of 'red' what comes to your mind?"
Arthur stared down at his drink, "Lust…sex. Right? It's about sex?"
"Not entirely, no. Mon dieu, when you are drunk you lose all sense of romanticism. Non….red is when the blood flushes one's cheeks, they heat up and blush after a lover has whispered erotic nothings into your ear. Red is when your pouted lips are swollen and sensitive from being kissed too much. Red is when that lovely thing between one's legs is erect and red, swelling and dripping—"
Arthur shook his head. Something was definitely wrong with that memory. Mind out of the gutter. He reached for the handle and pulled, breathing a sigh of relief that it was open. He let himself in and pushed away his trench coat collar that was shielding his face from the wind. The stillness and silence of the atmosphere surprised him. Wasn't there supposed to be music? As if on cue, the band next to the main stage started to play a ragtag tune to get them warmed up. Arthur unbuttoned his coat and shimmied his arms out of it, placing it on the coat rack near the door. He moved to the bar and sat at a barstool that was near the foot of the catwalk that extended from the elevated stage. He noticed a few people were around, employees sweeping, a couple sharing a bottle of wine at a small table in the back and a handful of girls sitting at a table in the corner, all bubbly and giggly. Arthur sighed, it was too late to deal with annoying people or any kind of person tonight. All he wanted to do was drink and go home to sleep and escape his unhappy reality. While he was sulking, another blonde walked up behind him and scratched his beard against Arthur's exposed cheek, knowing it would agitate the man.
"Agh! I bloody HATE it when you do that, Francis!"
The Frenchman smiled. "Glad you could make it, Arthur! I knew you would never turn down free drinks~"
"Yeah, whatever. Just get me started on a whiskey and keep them coming until I look ready to pass out."
"Well that would be only three drinks then~"
"Shut up and get me my drink!"
Francis tutted. "So pushy. You will never find anyone to be with if you stay that way. Try smiling and being nice for a while."
Arthur pulled his lips back, showing all teeth in an obviously fake grin. "May I please have my bloody whiskey so I can go home?"
A sigh came from the Frenchman's lips. "Oui, you may. Mais! I will not let you leave until you see my new performer. I'm sure you will like this one~"
Now it was Arthur's turn to sigh. "Francis, I don't need you to set me up with anymore of your showgirls. They are all so boring and…the same. I'm fine on my own."
"Non, Arthur. I am not "setting you up with this one" as you say. I just want you to enjoy the show once it starts and tell me what you think, oui?"
"Yeah, wee. Whatever, now may I please have my bleedin' whiskey?"
"Antonio! Get this grumpy Brit his drink before he starts a riot!" Francis waved his hand and went off to go behind the curtain and backstage.
"Si, I'm coming!" The voice called out from the supply closet with the door ajar.
With several bottles caged between his fingers, the bartender walked back behind the counter and smiled at Arthur. "Buenos noches, mi amigo. What can I get for you tonight?" he asked politely.
Arthur was a bit taken aback by his friendliness and bit back his sour tone. "Just a whiskey, please." He half mumbled and looked back out to the stage that was now illuminated.
"So, when do the acts start?"
Antonio put the glass in front of Arthur, "When it gets closer to midnight. Most of the performers get here late anyway."
As if it were his first drink in ages, Arthur all but lunged at his drink and chugged it entirely before slamming it back down on the counter, relishing in the comforting burn that was now taking place in his throat. "Ahh...I need another."
Arthur spent the next half hour in this fashion; making small talk with the Spaniard bartender, who, he found out, had landed the job because he was childhood friends with Francis and drinking, sparingly this time, in between. Once the chairs started filling up with more and more people, the lights in the establishment dimmed and the band started to play softer music in the background to set the atmosphere. Arthur had about 3 drinks in him as the curtains began to pull back and a jazzy tune began to play. A lone black chair stood in the middle of the stage, a spotlight cast on it, with a petite looking girl curled up in a ball on the seat. There were whistles and a few claps after Francis' low voice announced her presence on the stage as "Julie Baby" and the audience quickly died down as the music began to play. The strings were being pulled from the bass cello and her dainty fingers started to snap along with the tempo, her movements slow and seductive until the drums came in and she spread her legs open wide, cat calls echoing from the back. Arthur recognized the song as soon as the lyrics started to play.
Never know how much I love you
Never know how much I care
When you put your arms around me
I get a fever that's so hard to bear
You give me fever when you kiss me
Fever when you hold me tight
Fever! ... in the mornin'
Fever all through the night~
The Briton noticed that many men were getting entranced by her slow removal of clothes, only leaving behind a slightly suggestive two piece of black lingerie. It was sexy enough he supposed, but he just went back to drinking his whiskey. There were far too many things that snuck their way back into his mind, like his grocery list for tomorrow and the ache his butt was going to feel due to sitting through another long day at the bank where he was a teller.
'Oh, and I have to get Penny her food too…" he added 'cat food' to the list of things to get in mind.
Oh, and he needed to pay the rent and get started on doing bills. Perhaps he would have to cut the time he spent at the library writing his novel. At the snail-like rate his life was going he was never going to get published. Feeling more sullen than when he came in he decided that he had enough of the drink and turned his attention to the stage once again. He came here for a distraction and to Hell he went if he didn't get one. The music had stopped and there was applause. He was stuck in his own troubles for the whole bloody routine.
'Just great. One more and then I'll go home.' He thought as the stage dimmed again and Francis' heavily accented voice came through the speakers once more.
"Ladies and gentleman, tonight we have something special in plan for you. A new performer who has plenty of promise and poise~"
Arthur snorted at that.
"It is a little treat for all those ladies here tonight~ and perhaps a few men here as well, we don't judge~"
Francis was piquing Arthur's interest now. Who was the new performer? A male? It seemed like it with how he was describing the dancer.
"Now then, for your viewing pleasure, here is yours truly…Freddie Big Guns~!" his voice rang out.
Arthur raised an eyebrow. "Feel sorry for the lad already, I wonder who came up with that name."
It wasn't like Francis to have two solo performances back to back.
'He must really want to show this one off', Arthur thought.
There was a pause for the lights to shine on the stage. One spotlight on the chair that was unmoved from center stage and the other was following the dancer as he made his way to the chair.
Come here big boy…
Arthur swallowed. Those were the first lyrics to the song? He was unfamiliar with this one but already it sounded sensual; more so than the last one. After that, his attention would remain undivided for newcomer 'Freddie Big Guns'.
The music started as soon as he took his first step on the stage. With long and smooth strides he walked across the stage, whoops and hollers from women erupting the establishment. All he did was walk and the ladies were already melting in their seats.
All Arthur could do was gape.
The man sauntered at his almost lazy pace and stopped until he stood behind the chair and draped his forearms on the upper rail of the chair. His position was slightly slouched since from where Arthur was sitting, he looked fairly tall. He raised his hand up and wagged his index finger from side to side in a "no" motion along with the lyrics.
You've been a bad, bad boy
I'm gonna take my time, so enjoy~
He moved to the side of the chair and sat down on the seat, facing the audience. His demeanor was relaxed, leaning back on the chair and opening his legs wide, his feet flat on the floor in front of the chair's front legs. His hands were caressing his chest, the fingers circling around what Arthur could guess was the man's nipple. His hand trailed down, down—harshly on his clothes with the heel of his palm and he arched his back. With the fedora that was tilted above his eyes, it was hard to see what kind of expression he was wearing, the only thing that was any indication was the brief moment of him biting the right corner of his lower lip.
I wanna give you a little taste
Of the sugar below my waist, you nasty boy
The gloved hand strayed down to the middle of his legs and he fondled his crotch. And then, with a smirk his relaxed pose was gone, his elbows were now resting on his knees and his loose tie was dangling in between his legs. His right hand grabbed the wide end of the tie and his left hand wrapped its fingers around the taut fabric and pumped it up and down in the slow tempo of the music. The cheers and whistles got even louder; it seemed like this guy really knew how to work a crowd. He pulled the knot of the tie down until it was undone and he slid it off his neck, rolling it into a ball and pretending to wipe his sweat off before he tossed it behind him. He stood up and stretched his hands in the air, letting thin button down that he was wearing ride up along with the muscle shirt underneath. With a few steps forward he jutted out his hip and stood there like a statue, giving the audience a picturesque moment in the routine, a flurry of flashes indicating that many people took that opportunity for granted.
Now if you're ready, come and get me
I'll give you that—
His hands went to the collar of the shirt, pulling it apart, button by button.
The sleeves slid down his toned arms and fell on the floor in a fluid motion. He kicked it to the side and turned his body to face right stage. His face was still directed at the audience (who was going crazy with the shedding of the shirt) and let the top row of his pearly whites show in a coy smile.
Hush now, don't say a word
I'm gonna give you what you deserve
Thrusting. He was thrusting into the air and he was biting his bottom lip again.
Arthur didn't dare blink, his heart rate was drumming so fast; he did not want to take his eyes off the man who he was convinced was sex on legs.
He couldn't help but admire how the man's outfit was modest in its own sexy way. Loose gray trousers were hanging off of his narrow hips, hugging his behind and thighs in the most beautiful way possible. The only thing keeping them from falling was his suspenders that made a 'Y' across his back. Underneath those suspenders, was a thin, white, muscle shirt. And with this figure, it was rightfully named. The material was practically see-through with all the lights that were shining on him. It fit taut across his chest, allowing the slopes of his abs and pectorals to show through.
The dancer ran his hand up to caress his firm behind and accentuated the crack between his cheeks.
Put your icing on my cake
You nasty boy
'Oh God, 'icing'? That is the most alluring euphemism for semen I have ever heard…shut up, conscious! Let me enjoy this!' Arthur looked away just for a moment to catch his breath and looked back at the stage.
Now he was pulling off his gloves with his teeth.
'Is there anything that this man can NOT make sexy?'
He gave his ass a sharp smack and moved his other hand to cover his mouth, like if he was doing something bad and got caught. What he did next however, completely took Arthur's breath away. He moved around the stage, back and forth, arching his back like a cat and making slow movement with his hands with the crescendo of the music. With the short pause, he shifted his position, giving his facial profile to the audience. One hand was on his hip and the other was tilting his fedora hat up and Arthur could have sworn that the performer's eyes were staring right into his own. He was so caught up in the shade of blue that he was almost certain could never exist in any tangible thing that he almost missed it when he mouthed a part of the lyrics to Arthur.
"You nasty boy…"
Arthur was dumbstruck and in denial. Alright, no way was he looking at him and in no way his eyes were the most captivating shade of blue that Arthur had ever seen.
They probably weren't even blue…' he tried to reason with himself.
Facing forward again, and keeping his eyes on Arthur he outstretched his hand and bent his ring and pinky fingers to his palm. With his makeshift "hand" gun he aimed it right at the Brit.
Oh baby for all it's worth
I swear I'll be the first to blow—
Both were eye to eye.
He pulled back his hand and blew off the imaginary smoke from his index and middle fingers.
Now that you're ready, give it to me
Just give me that hot, sweet, sexy loving
…Now give me a little spanking~
He threw up his hat to the audience and started to spank himself again, pulling off his suspenders and letting them fall to hang around his thighs. He twirled and landed on the chair, crossing his legs and hooking his arm on its back, again in the relaxed position that he started off with; like if the whole routine didn't happen. The lights dimmed and almost everyone that was in the building stood up and cheered. Most were chanting for an encore. The only person that was unresponsive was the person that was probably the most affected by the performance.
Arthur just sat there with his mouth agape and staring at the stage. His eyes trailed down to his lap and the fedora that rested perfectly on his thighs. His lower jaw met his upper and he looked back to the bar, his unfocused eyes just staring at a half-empty bottle of whiskey. There was the distraction he was hoping for.
There was no doubt about it.
Arthur simply HAD to see that man again.
Alfred's POV. Alfred and Arthur meet, but not really.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
His heart pounded as the adrenaline was pumping through his veins. The exhilaration from his first performance was more than he could stand. With all those cheers he felt his ego swell with confidence. 'Guess I'm pretty sexy after all~' he thought with a laugh. The curtains closed and he turned on his heel to go backstage to take a breather. But first, there was something he had to get out of the way. "Francis! Francis, where are you? I gotta talk to you!"
The owner laughed as he walked over. "Ohonhon, for a rookie you have done tres bien, oui? You should be very proud—"
"Who the hell told you to name me?" Alfred fumed angrily.
"Well you never came up with a name for yourself, so I decided to help you out~"
"The hell kind of a name is 'Freddie Big Guns'? That is so uncool! I wanted something like Captain Americano or Super Mega Inferno! Something macho and hot, you know?"
Francis tapped his bottom lip with his finger. "I am sorry Alfred but I cannot allow someone with a name as…tasteless as those to dance on my stage. Besides, it seemed to me that everyone loved your stage name along with your performance."
"Well duh, of course they liked my performance! Just look at me!"
"Now now, no one likes a big head~…well, except for me~"
Alfred grimaced. "Ew dude, you are so gross…"
Francis laughed. "It is the French sense of humor, non? Now go and get changed, you can go home now."
"Sounds great! I'll see you later, Franny! Tell Toni and Gil I say bye too."
"Oui, I will pass that along. Good night, Monsieur Big Guns." He left the stage with a laugh.
Alfred shook his head and went back to the spare room to get changed into his regular clothes. 20 minutes later and a complete transformation had occurred. The sexy dancer that seduced an entire audience was gone and in his place was the nerdy looking college student, Alfred F. Jones. He tied up his last knot on his well-worn converse and straightened out his red hoodie. With a growl of his stomach he pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose.
"Oh yeah, gotta pick up some stuff from the store~!" he chirped happily as he grabbed his gym bag with his stage clothes and went out the back door of the burlesque club.
Alfred Jones, besides his job at Francis' establishment, was your regular university student. At 20 years old, he was already in his second year at university studying to be a physical therapist. He was a man of simple pleasures; movies on a Friday night, playing video games on the weekends and the small joy of acing a test well studied for. He was young, good looking and had a prospective future ahead of him. So why did he have to resort to working at a burlesque club to get money to pay for his rent? The answer couldn't be simpler. It was merely because he was bored. There was nothing that he could do in his everyday life that would let him express himself so by joining the cast of the local burlesque, Alfred found that he could really unwind and let himself be free. No one knew who he was, nor did they care to know as long as they got a good show. Heck, it wasn't every day that you got to go up on stage and start dancing provocatively in front of a group of strangers. But the anonymity was what Alfred loved about his secret life, above all else.
And with tonight being his first official night as a dancer, it made him all the more ecstatic. As he was walking out of the alley to meet the sidewalk, he ran into Julie and a few of the other girls from the cast.
"Hey, Alfred, sexy moves tonight, can't believe you got a standing 'O' on your first routine!"
Alfred grinned. "Thanks, Jules. It was hard to do following your performance."
The petite girl laughed and waved off the compliment. "The girls and I were going to grab a few drinks before we head home. Want to join us? I'm sure you'll find a cute guy there who would be willing to buy you a couple of shots~" she said, knowing of his preference.
He shook his head with a laugh. "That's really tempting but I gotta say no. Studying and all that, you know? I have a test on Monday that I can't fail."
The girls groaned. "Aw, Freddie, that's no fun. But we don't want you to fail your test so we understand." Julie piped up. "We'll be seeing you, Freddie! Good luck on your test!"
Alfred waved at the girls with a wide smile and watched them turn the corner to go to the bar.
"Now what was I going to do…" His stomach growled. "Oh yeah, food~!"
The rain had cleared by the time Alfred was making his way to the store, wanting to stretch his legs by walking and not taking a cab just to go to the grocery store that was a few blocks away. With his duffle bag flung across his chest and his hands tucked into his pockets he entered the corner market. There was a 'ding ding' when he entered and flashed a smile at the cashier who was already looking pretty tired so late at night. Alfred checked his cell phone; it was close to 2 AM.
Bummer…don't think I'll be getting any studying done tonight, Alfred thought.
He didn't bother in getting a basket; all he was planning on buying was some munchies for his day long study session tomorrow, toilet paper and a bag of cat treats. "Gotta start watching what Liberty eats nowadays…girl's getting pudgier." Alfred mumbled to himself as he browsed through the aisles.
It didn't take long for him to find the toilet paper and go to another aisle to look for his favorite brand of powdered donuts that served as brain food. Even though they were fattening and sugary and sinfully good for the soul, Alfred was certain that there was something in those donuts that made him perform at his A-game for exams. Besides the powdered goodness he also got some tortilla chips with dip and a packet of coke to give him energy to last on the studying that went to the wee hours into the morning. With sustenance in hand, Alfred strolled into the pet aisle to get the treats for his cat. He wasn't surprised that he wasn't the only one in the store, let alone the aisle. People worked crazy hours in California, depending on their profession so they had to stock up on supplies whenever they could…even if it was 2 o'clock in the morning. What did surprise Alfred though, was the man that was in the aisle with him, staring intently at several bags of cat food. He looked normal enough, a brown trench coat and dress slacks underneath it. He was certain that he didn't know the man, but the hat that he was wearing, that was a different story.
The pinstriped fedora that was resting on a nest of messy blonde hair was what Alfred recognized. That was his hat from his performance earlier.
Oh yeah…I threw it into the crowd before the number finished. I tried aiming for that guy who was just staring at me…I wonder if that's him?
With a small smile playing on his lips, Alfred walked behind the man to see if he could get a better glimpse from the other side. But, as fate would have it, just as Alfred was walking behind him, the shorter man decided to back up and collided into him, knocking his groceries to the floor.
"Oh! I'm so terribly sorry, I didn't see you there!" the stranger with the fedora turned hastily and started apologizing, putting his basket on the floor so he could help Alfred.
"I didn't hurt you, did I?"
Alfred chuckled and rubbed his stomach. "Nah man, it's alright. You just knocked the wind outta me, that's all." He took the man's offered hand and stood up, brushing off his jeans and fixing his glasses.
They both bent down to pick up Alfred's dropped goods and nearly bumped heads.
"Oh, I'm sorry—"
"Sorry, didn't mean to—"
Alfred smiled when he looked up to apologize and noticed the man was doing the same. Well, he would have been looking into the man's eyes if it wasn't for the hat that was blocking his vision.
"Isn't that hat a bit big for you? Makes it kinda dangerous for other people." He joked, noticing a slight flush in the man's cheeks.
"Err…yes, well, I suppose I should have to return it then." The man tilted the rim up, revealing his wide green eyes and a furrowed brow.
Alfred blinked and shifted back a little.
He's the guy! I'm positive, those brows cannot be replicated! He has pretty eyes though…and that accent…mmmhmm.
Alfred broke out of his inner monologue with a tease, "Return it? To the store, you mean? I don't think they'll let you do that."
"No, not to the store. I…um borrowed it. Yeah."
Alfred wouldn't have been able to buy that lie even if he didn't know that wasn't his hat. "Oh, okay. Yeah, the rain makes it hard for us even with an umbrella." He picked up the food and stood up as the stranger did the same, handing Alfred his packet of toilet paper.
"Don't I know it. Makes me think I'm back in England with all this rain." He grabbed his basket and rested it in the crook of his arm, tilting the hat back against his crown even more so he could have a clear view.
Alfred saw this as his chance, "England, huh? So your accent is British?"
"English, actually." He looked back to try and figure out what kind of cat food to get.
Alfred stood to his side and reached out for the bag of cat treats that he was going to get. "So, deciding which one to get?"
He was answered with a hum of acknowledgement.
"Well, I recommend this one." He pulled out a yellow bag that said it had special vitamins and minerals in the kibble to help a cat's growth. "My cat is pretty old but she still loves this stuff, keeps her as youthful as ever."
The man nodded, convinced, and put the bag over his shoulder. "Thanks much, I really appreciate it after bumping into you."
Alfred waved it off. "Nah, don't worry about it! We all gotta be nice to each other right?"
The Brit nodded with a small smile, "Yeah, we do."
Alfred grinned and offered his hand. "I'm Alfred, nice to meet you…?"
"Arthur." He replied as he shook Alfred's hand.
"Well, nice to meet you, Arthur. Are you going to go check out already?" he took his hand back to stabilize the food he had.
"Yeah, I was actually. You?"
Alfred nodded, "Yep. Let's go together so we can talk."
Both men walked to the line that only had two other customers in front of them so it didn't give them much time to converse with each other. Arthur was first to pay, so as he was checking out, Alfred still talked to him from behind, trying to keep the conversation going. Arthur responded accordingly, not used to chatting with strangers, especially at such queer hours but he thought nothing bad of Alfred except for the fact that he was very talkative. Some of the blabbering was tuned out because he still had the dance routine of 'Freddie Big Guns' playing in his mind, spanking himself and biting and his lower lip...teasing the Englishman to get closer to the stage…
"Hey, you gonna get your change, bub?" The cashier popped his gum in annoyance at Arthur's dazed look. "Always the weirdos…" he muttered under his breath as he started to ring Alfred up.
Arthur swiped the change from the counter into his pocket and cleared his throat. "Thank you for the talk, Alfred. I'll be heading off now." He fixed the hat on his head.
Alfred grinned, "No problem, it was a pleasure meeting you, Arthur! Don't forget—" he pointed to his head, "—dangerous. You best return that whoever you got it from so you won't cause any more accidents."
Arthur's cheeks reddened considerably, "Ah, right, will do then. Goodbye, Alfred." With a pivot, he pushed the door open and stepped out of the corner store and made his way back to his apartment.
Alfred couldn't stop smiling as he was paying and when he was heading back home himself.
He knew he was going to see Arthur again.
And he couldn't wait.
Hey everyone, I hope you enjoyed chapter 2! I can't say for certain when chapter 3 will be up because I need to work on it so just stay tuned!
Thank you for reading :)