Rating: M / MA
Pairings: USUKUS; pretty much non-existent fem!FrUK and past tense RusEng
Summary: Arthur has a problem, but he can't see it. Sometimes it takes destroying those that love you before your eyes open, hoping that they're still waiting for you on the other side. AU
Notes: Sorry it took me so long to post this here. My head defintely hasn't been on my shoulders lately. Also props to tierracielo 'coz this is our collab-thing.
Important Notes: Please don’t read this if things like, adultery, open relationships, and a fair amount of angst make you queasy or uncomfortable. Also please be warned about practically non-existent FrUk and RusEng.
Just One More Time
The music in the building was tinny and muffled behind the closed bathroom door. There was a bottled applause as the band finished a number, picking up their instruments for another. He still had a glass of scotch wrapped securely in his hand, the amber contents swirling around in the glass with his inebriated movements.
A young man – Arthur couldn’t remember his name – was pressed against one of the porcelain mosaic sinks, mewling drunkenly as Arthur’s tongue licked a wet trail up the side of his throat. His free hand slid into the front of the man’s pants even as a patron of the classy bar threw open the door. They were pointedly ignored, but Arthur had no intentions of stopping either way. He wouldn’t mind putting on a show; it might even spice things up.
The young man gasped loudly and Arthur phone began to ring in his pocket of his slacks. Even through the muddled bliss of alcohol, he recognized the jingle as the ringtone set for his wife. He dropped his scotch somewhere on the sink in favor of turning off the device, grinning against the milky skin of the man’s throat before him. “Let’s take this somewhere more fun, shall we?” he asked deviously, his voice wavering slightly.
Arthur only removed his hand from the man’s pants after he nodded enthusiastically, curly cinnamon colored hair bobbing with the movement. Scotch wet the bottoms of their shoes as it dripped from the side of the sink where it had spilled. The man took him by the hips as they sauntered from the bathroom, drunk, merry, and very much ready for a romp in the bed.
It was just another night on the town. Another nameless face and another charge to his VISA; everything was blurred, his memory after the bathroom hazy, but in the morning when he woke to an empty yet rumpled bed, he felt sated and a thick sense of what had to be accomplishment, filled his chest.
He took his time showering and redressing himself in the clothes he wore last night before removing the ‘do not disturb’ sign from the outside knob of the hotel door and tossing it onto the floor.
On his arrival home, his wife gave his appearance a quick once-over, her nose scrunching up in distaste before she took a long sip of her white wine and her half-lidded blue eyes fell back onto the words of her Oprah recommended novel. “Good afternoon, husband,” she said offhandedly, her French accent thicker as if to express her annoyance at his disgruntled presence.
“Yes, yes, well and good to you as well,” he sighed out, running a hand through his yellow tousled locks. Arthur began to walk towards his bedroom, unbuttoning his undershirt as he made his way through the lavish hallways of their home. Jeanne was a wealthy woman (which in turn made him quite the wealthy man). She was originally an upstart model when they had met, slowly rising to fame and hitting the apex of her modeling career when they were married. Arthur had only been eighteen, Jeanne was twenty four. Before long Jeanne moved onto bigger and better things; fragrances, a clothing line, the start of her radiant acting career.
“And don’t forget the premiere is next week. You’ll have to quit your… nighttime activities – if you can manage to do so for a single week.” Arthur grunted at the floating noise of her voice and closed his bedroom door tight to undress himself and freshen up. He quite liked their house in America – preferably to the large flat that they had. Two years ago their rooms hadn’t been separate, but as time passed it had become habit, and these days neither of them bothered to question the gradual change.
He changed into a set of clean clothes, dabbed a bit of cologne on his wrists and neck, combed his hair back and sighed. Another day was ahead of him, ready for the taking. After brushing his teeth to rid himself of the thick aftertaste of alcohol, Arthur joined Jeanne in her sitting room, taking the daily paper and opening it with a yawn. “Did you enjoy yourself last night?” she asked him, just as she always did. The question was sharp and implying, but Arthur shrugged.
Arthur opened the paper to the financial section. “I don’t remember much of it, to be fair,” he replied easily. “I do recall that that pub in particular had very good Muga wines, imported from Spain.” Jeanne’s lips pursed. Her pink lipstick smeared slightly before she sighed softly. “But how was your night? Did you have an enjoyable time?”
“Indeed I did. I had the chance to dine with my mother, in case you forgot she was visiting.” She turned a page in her book with a languid movement of her wrist. “Although I’m sure you did.”
He grunted in acknowledgement, scanning over the rise and fall of the stocks – specifically the few that he had invested in. Arthur glanced over at Jeanne, but her face was downturned, purposefully ignoring his gaze. Even after five years of marriage Jeanne was still beautiful, tall and slender. She had turned thirty months ago and even though with the media outbreak over their age difference, neither of them cared. Arthur didn’t care, Jeanne didn’t care that Arthur didn’t. Nothing mattered as long as, by the end of the day, they could still talk to each other. At least, that was Arthur’s take on things.
“I didn’t forget,” he grumbled, suddenly losing interest in talking once he noticed one of his more expensive stocks went down two points overnight. “I simply don’t find pleasure in speaking with your mother. Mutual dislike, I assure you.”
“I can’t imagine why.”
Arthur folded the newspaper into sections, tucking it under his arm and he stood with a frown. “I’m going to head out and find some lunch.” He paused, his fingers tearing at the edges of the newspaper, fraying the corners. “Would you like to join me?” he tacked on.
“No, thank you.” Jeanne finally looked up from her book, her deep blue eyes meeting his for the first time all day. “Try not to get in too much trouble, no?”
“I’ll keep that in mind.” The carpet cushioned the noise of his footsteps, softening them to a mute shuffle. He was suffering a headache, but that was unavoidable. He’d had worse, will have worse in the future, but he knew that right now a good meal and a cool drink would help settle the matter. And so he set off in one of his wife’s many convertibles, opting on one that was black in color. To him the make and model didn’t matter much. It was the price tag, how many heads turned to watch it drive by.
He parked the car carefully, eyeing other vehicles in the parking garage as he walked through and onto the sidewalk, satisfied that his choice today was the most appealing. The day was warm, and Arthur set about finding a sit-in diner to have lunch, preferably somewhere that served some authentic English foods; fish and chips, bangers and mash – anything truly. He wondered if it was because he was beginning to feel homesick.
As he walked, he became aware of a small gathering of people on the corner of one block, the twanging sound of an acoustic guitar being brushed and manipulated into song, accompanied by the low hum of song by a voice that wasn’t quite musically trained, but the effect was pleasing enough. Arthur stood around the edges of the small group, trying to look aloof and uninterested.
The final notes pulled from the guitar and the street musician pulled a cowboy hat from his head, revealing a mop of dirty blond hair and a pair of bewildering blue eyes behind a set of silver framed glasses. Most people resumed their business as the musician passed around his hat, open and hopeful. Some people tossed in wadded up bills into the hat, others gave the young man a pat on the back, while one girl tucked a fake flower into the pocket of the man’s jeans and scampered away to her indigent mother.
When everyone, for the most part, left, the young man glanced inside his hat at his spoils and smiled, pressing the garment carefully back onto his head before taking up his instrument once again. “Pardon me,” Arthur found himself calling out, moving in closer to the spectacle of a man. “I just so happened to hear you playing.”
Eyes the color of picture perfect skies turned to look at him, wide and curious, and, if Arthur wasn’t mistaken, hopeful. “Did you? I hope you liked it. I’m not great at it, but… well yeah.” The man picked at his rumpled clothes underneath Arthur’s scrutiny. He was one of the homeless population in L.A., the nervous shift in his posture, the unshaven stubble – Arthur was rather impressed that the man managed to stay so hygienic thus far.
“Oh yes. I was quite impressed. I am no talent agent,” and at that point he could see the sandy blond’s shoulders hunch, “but I enjoyed myself and, well, I daresay I would like to treat you for a meal as a thank you.”
The musician’s gaze turned skeptical. “Uhm, thank you for the offer, but I’m going to have to say no. You don’t know me, and I don’t know you – thanks though, it’s really kind of you.” The man’s grip tightened on the neck of the guitar, slowly stepping away from Arthur, as if unsure whether or not to believe his luck – or lack thereof.
“Now, now, no need to be shy.” Arthur grinned. This was turning out to be a fun game, a reckless decision on his part, and there was a thrill that came with it, it made his heart race and his blood warm. “It’s just a bit of hospitality. See that café there? I’d be happy to treat you to something, right there.” He made a few passive gestures, as if the young man in front of him was a skittish animal, ready to bolt at any second. “And it’s a moot point to say we cannot share a meal because we are strangers. How else does one make friends, if they refuse to meet those that they do not know, hm?”
He waited, and when there was no response from the man, Arthur forcibly stuck out his hand. “My name is Arthur, Arthur Kirkland. May I ask yours?”
The sandy blond’s face went blank for a long moment. Finally he reached out and grasped Arthur’s hand, giving it a weak shake. “I’m Alfred F. Jones. I… I just – I can’t believe. I know you. You’re Jeanne Bonnefoy’s husband. I mean holy shit I’ve seen you in tabloids back home.”
“Ah yes, well, the fame really isn’t my own. Now Alfred, would you mind lunching with me? As you can tell I’m in need of company, since my wife is out this week with her mother, preparing for the premiere next week, you see.” He smiled faintly. “I’m rather grateful to be kept out of their business. Even after five years I find that the French have strange ways.”
Alfred smiled, a gesture so harmless and fascinating, that Arthur found himself quite enjoying his impulsive decision. “It would be much appreciated. I’d hate to be a burden on you.”
“Nonsense,” Arthur said, placing a hand on the small of Alfred’s back, beginning to urge him towards the small café across the busy street. “You’ll see that I rather enjoy company of… all kinds.”
If Alfred seemed unsettled by the sudden turn in his life, he didn’t show it. They sat outside, Alfred’s buffed guitar leaning up against the stool he sat on. Arthur babbled pleasantries to him, enjoying the way the American seemed to squirm and grin, trying to put as much into the conversation as he got from it. And once you looked past the dirt and rumpled clothes, Alfred was a cute thing – highly undesirable, but cute nonetheless. Arthur ordered for the both of them, despite Alfred’s protests. He knew the man would attempt to get the cheapest thing on the menu, and that wouldn’t suit Arthur at all. It was his hospitality, and he refused to be undermined by Alfred’s good intentions.
“Now, I recall you mentioning that you’ve seen me in tabloids ‘back home’, so I take it you’re not originally from Las Angeles?” Arthur asked, sipping on his water and relaxing as his headache seemed to be a problem of the past. It was amazing what a little conversation and a tall glass of ice water could do (granted last night he hadn’t had as much to drink as usual, but he was sure he would be sleeping early tonight).
Alfred shifted uncomfortably in his stool. “No, I’m not. I’m from Spring Hill, Kansas. If you’ve ever heard of it, I’d be surprised. It’s a small town, but not too awfully small. I can’t describe it, but you definitely get that small town feeling.”
Arthur nodded. “I understand. I’m originally from a village in Kent. Lovely place; there were horse races that ran nearby, so about once a year we were celebrated and there were quite the few new faces running about.” He sighed wistfully. “I do miss it. America doesn’t seem to have that… enchantment, I don’t think. But then again, I’ve only lived here for two years. Perhaps I’m looking in all the wrong places?”
“It’s possible,” Alfred said unhelpfully as their food was brought to them. “I mean sometimes it’s right underfoot, and you would never bother looking there. And then sometimes, it just finds you when you least expect it.” He smiled genially at Arthur’s silence and carefully began to eat, as if attempting to savor every last taste.
Arthur found that his curiosity about this abnormality named Alfred was far from sated. He pulled out his cell phone from his trouser pocket and held it up purposefully. “What’s your number?” he asked, rifling through his contact list, puzzling over a few of the names – he had no recollection of over half of them. He shrugged. “I’d very much like to see you again. To treat you, talk, whichever. You’re a fascinating young man, Alfred. I want to know you better, if that is alright?”
Alfred seemed to choke on the lime-grilled chicken in his mouth. He swallowed thickly and took a long drink of his iced tea. “I – I’m sorry?” he coughed out, rubbing circles into his chest. “Not to be rude, but… ah, you’re famous – well, sorta. And I’m… not. I’m just not. Besides, my phone was shut off a month or so ago – trying to save up on funds and whatnot. So my number wouldn’t do you much good.”
“But you still have your cell phone, yes?” Arthur asked, watching as Alfred nodded very slowly. “Then I might ask for your number, just in case you ever decide to use your phone again.” He did his best to give Alfred an expectant, but hopeful look. “And do you think me so shallow to care where a friend comes from? I haven’t many in this country, so even one new acquaintance means a lot to me.”
Hesitantly Alfred, recited his number and told him what carrier he had (Arthur was curious if he would receive free calls or not), explaining that he might never use it again other than for a convenient clock, but Arthur wouldn’t be dissuaded. Alfred took up his guitar once again, giving a contented sigh that came along with a full stomach. “Mr. Kirkland – ah, Arthur… thank you so much for the meal, and, well I wish there was a way I could pay you back.”
“Nonsense, your company is enough.” Arthur stood, grasping Alfred’s hand for a shake. He watched Alfred leave reluctantly, waving timidly from the other side of the street before disappearing into the crowds. Arthur paid the waitress and pulled up the GPS app on his mobile, looking for the nearest Verizon store, but before his fun could begin, his phone rang.
“Hello?” he answered with a flourish, pressing the phone to his ear.
A humming, baritone voice met his ears, and Arthur smiled to himself, checking the crowds around him for a pair of blue eyes behind silver-rimmed glasses – even though he knew he wouldn’t see the man again for some time. “Oh, hello. I just thought I would call to remind you of the party for your wife this weekend? You do remember of course, yeah?”
“Ah, Ivan, as if I would forget.” He examined his blunt nails casually. “Now is there a reason you called me, hm? I was in the middle of something.”
“Oh, no reason. Just calling an old friend. I’ll see you there, and maybe something will come of it? Maybe yes, maybe no?”
Arthur chuckled. “Don’t count on it, you bastard,” he said humorously. “Jeanne and I will be there, and prompt as always. Now, I really must go, I’ve business to attend to.” He hung up before the Russian could say anything else, pulling up his GPS app once again.
It was time for his games to begin.
--- End Prologue ---
Unimportant Notes: Hi guys. I just wanna explain this fic really fast. This is “Jordan’s Socialite AU” (sanguinehero), as it’s pretty much 100% her ideas going into this and I’m just putting it into words for her. Updates are going to be pretty slow as I work on This Pretense and school becomes more intensive.
I seem to have an aversion to large font, but this is as large as I could get it on LJ without making myself cry. If it's too small for anyone or just seems obnoxious, please let me know and I'll fix it further.