You stared up at the stage, bottle of beer in one hand, chattering friends all around you. Somehow they had convinced you to come to this weird male strip club that had just opened and was supposed to be fantastic. Men from all different countries showed off their amazing bodies on stage for drunk, lonely women.
So far, you were dubious. Sure that albino "Prussian" was incredibly hot and the Frenchman with all the roses was handsome but other than that… nothing. And then the Brit came onstage.
He wore nothing but a pair of underpants in the colors of the British flag. He had messy blonde hair and brilliant green eyes with ridiculous bushy eyebrows that somehow didn't make him look ugly but all the more attractive. You sat up in your seat, staring attentively at the man.
"Ladies…." said the announcer, "He likes long walks in the park and reading romances all night… Please welcome ARTHUR KIRKLAND!" The room filled with applause and cheers. Arthur did some sort of dance, a detached look on his face, then did a gentlemanly bow and sauntered offstage. Later, you spotted him again with a black apron on over his underwear, serving drinks to all the women. You quickly waved him over. Your friends got quiet, occasionally giggling to each other, but preferring to watch you try and flirt with the British gentleman.
"Hello, madam." The man said in a bored tone. "Would you care for a beverage? May I offer you one of the most popular drinks from my country?" He refused to look at you, staring straight into space.
"Uh… no, thanks. I just wanted to say I really liked your dance…" you trailed off, not sure if you should say more.
Arthur finally looked at you, the smallest of smiles on his face, "Thank you. It really wasn't my idea though… If it was up to me I would have been back stage reading the whole time." He chuckled, his smile growing wider.
You laughed along with him, "I don't blame you… Hey, were you alright up there, by the way? You looked a little…."
"Bored." suggested one of your friends.
"Constipated." chimed in another.
"Dead." piped a third.
"…. I was going to say detached." You glared at your friends who took the hint and shut up.
"Er, well…" Arthur stammered, reddening. He was saved trying to come up with an answer with the arrival of the French performer, also in a little black apron.
"Ooh, Arty…. Did you make a new ami? Hmmm…?" The man asked, passing by the table with a
tray of dirty dishes.
"Go away, Frog." muttered Arthur, his blush deepening. "This doesn't involve you…"
"Ohonhonhonhonhon~" the "Frog" laughed, "Touchy, are we?"
"SHUT UP YOU DAMN WANKER!" shouted the Brit, his face now a deep scarlet.
"Tsk tsk, Arty. Zhat's no way one of zhe hero's in one of your beloved romances would act, now is it?" the Frenchman teased.
"I TOLD YOU STOP TALKING ABOUT THAT!" Arthur screamed, really turning on the man, "THAT ISN'T REAL! NONE OF THAT SHIT UP THERE IS REAL! NOW GO AWAY, YOU FROG!" You sat there, shocked as Arthur knocked the man's tray out of his hands, giving the performer a death stare and stalking off.
"Well, mon cher…" the Frenchman turned to you, "Are you going after him or what?"
"Yeah…" you muttered, still a bit disoriented. "I-I'll do that…"
"Yes, yes, Cherie… I'll just entertain your friends for you while you do zhat. Au revoir! Bonne chance!" He sat down at your table, setting down the tray in your now empty seat and started to flirt with your friends. You could still hear his creepy laugh as you followed Arthur's trail.
Soon you were lost, ending up at the bar where you flagged down the bartender- an enthusiastic sandy haired American with a funny cowlick and a pair of bright blue eyes behind his glasses.
"What can I get for ya, Dude?" He practically shouted at you.
"I was looking for Arthur… Did you see him come this way?"
"A fan, huh? Well, yes he did. He went in the back door over there," the man pointed it out for you, "But be careful, Dude… He's not looking in the best of moods."
"I'll make sure I'm careful. Thanks for the help." You smiled at the American, sliding a two dollar bill across the bar to him as monetary thanks.
He grinned at you, "Any time, Dude!"
You nodded, walking over to the back door and opened it to find a dingy alleyway and some dumpsters. You stepped outside, looking around for the Brit. "Arthur…?" You called to him.
"Oh, no… Is that you, Elizabeta? I'm fine, really!" A voice came out of the darkness of the alley.
"No. It's, uh… It's _____. I was talking to you just a bit ago." You ventured further into the passageway.
"Oh, it's you, Love." He said, sounding relieved. The nickname sent a shiver up your spine.
"Yeah… Now where are you?" you peered around, hugging yourself, rubbing your arms to get warm.
"Over here!" Arthur called. You turned your head towards the noise and saw the little red glow of a cigarette and then Arthur slipped out of the shadows, still wearing only his apron and underwear.
"Aren't you cold…?" you asked, taking off your jacket for him.
"Maybe a bit…." He smiled ruefully, stepping even closer to you and wincing slightly as he stepped on a rock with his bare feet.
You handed Arthur your jacket. He tried to slip it on but it couldn't even stretch across his broad shoulders. He shook his head, slipping the jacket off and giving it back. He stood there awkwardly, lips turning blue and teeth chattering. You smiled, "Come here, you idiot…" You held your arms open wide and inviting.
"I couldn't possibly…" Arthur stammered, "That would be… I wouldn't want to…."
"Just hug me before you freeze your balls off."
Arthur laughed and scooped you up in a bear hug, soaking all the warmth from you. "Thank you." He whispered in your ear, sounding on the verge of tears.
"Are you okay?" you squeaked.
"Yes, Love…" Arthur sniffled, "It's just… I've been working in this hell hole so long… I've hated every minute of it but I had to… I have to support my family. All my brothers… What would they do without me? And it's so…. so hard." He finished, voice breaking as he burst into tears.
You stood, stunned, patting his back and shushing him comfortingly. "Couldn't you quit….? There are other jobs out there, aren't there?"
He pulls away from your hug, looking at you with red rimmed, emerald eyes. "Quit?"
"Yeah…. There are definitely better jobs for you. Just the other day I saw a 'help wanted' sign in the bookstore just down the street."
"Thank you, _____." Arthur hugged you tight again, though this time he managed not to cry.
"Of course… Now, why don't we step inside? It's freezing out here."
He nodded, chuckling and taking your hand. You walked inside together.
You waited all night for his last shift to be done. He walked you home and you thought that was it… Little did you know, it was just the beginning.