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.