So, a quick explanation for those not familiar with Blackpool: simply, Blackpool is a seaside holiday resort town on the North-West coast of England, famous for its "Tower" and "Illuminations". As a general rule, I have always loved quiet, rural, idyllic looking towns. Blackpool, however, breaks that rule completely: I love the place. It's tacky, it would gladly trick you out of your last bit of cash and it looks more than a little worn around the edges, but I love it for its cheesiness and for the fact that it refuses to change or pull any punches, being as loud and brash as it possibly can be. It's a tiny bit like Arthur himself in that respect. What better then, I thought, to set a fic in Blackpool? I hope I do the town and the pairing justice. Also, apologies to anyone from Blackpool: I mean no harm. I am, after all, Blackpool's number one fan.
I've included footnotes and a guide to any English/Arthur!Slang used at the end of each chapter for completeness' sake. Feel free to give them a look if you wish: the fic should be relatively understandable without, however.
Al and Artie do Blackpool - Chapter 1
Holiday Preparations and 9am to 1.41pm, Wednesday
"We're a little strapped for cash this year, Mr Kirkland, so you may want to go for something a little simpler, holiday-wise," the well-meaning, well-educated secretary told him over the phone. Her voice had hardly wavered in its modulated and capable tone during the course of their conversation, Arthur realised with some disconcertion.
"I understand; I'll just keep it to the one week in Greece then, I think."
A loaded pause crackled down the line.
"I assume that'll be alright?"
"If it's possible, simpler still; we really would appreciate it."
Arthur looked down to find that he had begun to choke the phone cord with his other hand, twisting all of the loops out of shape, "So when you say we're a bit strapped, you mean-"
"I mean that it's been an awfully long time since you've been to Blackpool, hasn't it sir?"
After having taken down and negotiated a few key details, Arthur placed the phone back on the hook and stood staring down at the memo pad, now covered in doodles, a few dates and prices. At the centre of this rather hectic mess was a single word, surrounded by asterisks and thunderbolts, gone over again and again with biro so that it no doubt left a mark on all the pages below it:
Well, if war had taught him anything it was this: if he was going down, he was taking someone else down with him.
Arthur was scarcely able to contain his snicker as he rang up Alfred later that afternoon.
"Blackpool?" the man said, frowning if his tone was any guide, "I've never heard of it. Are you sure it's your Las Vegas?"
"Oh, definitely," Arthur said, fingers crossed.
And that had been that. The one benefit of an English holiday was how quickly he was able to arrange everything. Within the week he'd booked the room in a sea-front B&B for a few weeks' time and had filled up one car with petrol, ready. The one downside was that having Alfred over for his holiday meant having to sacrifice a few days' stay (if being saved another two days in Blackpool was indeed a downside).
He met Alfred at his hotel in London the day after his flight, mostly recovered from his jet lag, and let the man shove his suitcase into the boot of his car.
"There is no way that you didn't take the Mini on purpose."
"It's very economical. I've been warned: I need to tighten my purse-strings. If you're that concerned about bringing suitcase upon suitcase, you should have had your Hummer bloody ferried over."
At last, with a sigh, he got out and helped Alfred to ram an awkward corner of the canvas suitcase firmly into the boot and then, together, they slammed the boot-lid into place, sending the whole car bouncing on its suspension. Afterwards, Alfred turned to Arthur with a lopsided smile.
"It's great to see you, too."
With evident disgruntlement, Arthur gave the man a pat on the upper arm, "You as well. Now get in. We've got a way to travel."
12.23pm, the English countryside
"I spy with my little eye, something beginning with... y," Alfred yawned.
"Y. Hm," Arthur went through the contents of his car in his mind, all the while preparing himself to take advantage of the next stretch of clear, straight country road in order to pass a ridiculously slow caravan, "Y." He had mints, an A to Z, he was fairly sure there was a beer can wedged under the passenger seat and there were several CDs of varying quality in the door pocket on Alfred's side.
"Beginning with y? Are you sure about that?"
"Y. For "You should buy your passengers a goddamn in-car DVD player." Who plays I Spy?" Alfred looked despairingly out the window, as though half-tempted to simply tuck and roll, "Are we nearly there?"
"Christ. Don't start that. Yes, as a matter of fact we are."
A silence settled over the pair.
"Want to listen to some more ABBA?"
"Not for a million years."
The ridiculously windy country road seemed to stretch out that little bit further before them. Arthur sighed and did the one thing that remained in his power: he scowled at the caravan, thinking bad thoughts.
They arrived in Blackpool after noon. With relief, Arthur parked up in front of the bed and breakfast (having driven up and down the street multiple times before Alfred had grabbed the wheel to steer him in to the kerb with a yell of "It's that one. If you drive past again I'll-!"); he stepped out of the Mini and stretched his cramping legs. On the opposite side of the car, Alfred clambered out, looking emotionally, as opposed to physically, drained.
Looking up at the Victoriana style terraced house with net curtains and a painted, ornamental well in its small front garden, Alfred found his voice and regained his natural energy.
"This is your Las Vegas."
"Well, I said sort of."
Alfred cast a look up and down the wide road on which the house stood. It had to be the main stretch, with an old fashioned tram line cutting up the middle. Across on the other pavement, he could make out two piers jutting out into the sea, cluttered with what looked like rides and entertainment.
"Let me give you a quick run-down of what's what," Arthur said, clearly misinterpreting Alfred's look of ire for one of curiosity (possibly on purpose). He pointed to their left, down past yet more hotels and bed and breakfasts, "That way there's the Pleasure Beach; it's an amusement park with a rollercoaster. That pier across from it," again he jabbed a finger, "Is South Pier: that's mainly for young people, lots of rides and the like," he turned now in the opposite direction, "All of this is the promenade obviously, since it looks out onto the beach-"
"Is that a donkey?"
"Those are donkeys, for donkey rides, of course - don't interrupt. That's Central Pier, a bit like South Pier but bigger, beyond that is North Pier, which you can't really see from here. That one's old fashioned and a lot quieter, so you'll hate it," he said, clearly unable to resist himself, "If we walk up that way, towards Central and North, we're walking what's known as the "Golden Mile". Along the Golden Mile there's amusement arcades and fast food places and souvenirs shops. And, of course, the one and only Blackpool Tower."
"So where are the casinos?"
"Ah, well, the funding fell through for the super casino. There's a few smaller casinos," he gestured left and right, "They have high payout slot machines in some of the arcades too," Arthur said briskly.
"How high are we talking?"
"Forty or fifty quid, perhaps."
"And your holiday lights are still up because?"
"Holiday-Oh, those?" Arthur looked up at the strings and strings of coloured and picture-shaped lights, currently switched off, that festooned the street for as far as Alfred could see in either direction, "They're permanent: the Illuminations, they get turned on later in the year, so we won't see them ourselves."
With a thoughtful nod, Alfred decided that he had enough information to pass a fair judgement.
"I am going to make your life a hell this week."
"I was rather under the impression that that was already your life's calling. Now come on, we'll chuck our suitcases in our room then I'll show you the Tower quickly."
"Seriously, have you even been to Vegas?" Alfred muttered as they stepped into the flat. Inside, Arthur made banal but well-meaning chit-chat with the owner, a white-haired woman called Sue, getting their key and leading Alfred up several narrow staircases clad in a fading floral carpet.
Arthur was already sat on the room's one double bed as Alfred stepped inside. There was, he noted, enough room to turn. Almost all of the rest of the small, square room was taken up by a wardrobe made out of what seemed to be fake wood, a double bed, a single bed squashed up against one wall, and a door, presumably leading to a shower. On a wall bracket an old chunky television hung down at an ominous, sloping angle.
"I am going to make your life worse than hell this week."
Arthur continued to sit on the double bed and look smug.
"What is it your lot say? "I call the double bed"."
"Yes way. Now, let's go and take a tram to the Tower," Arthur said, already trotting back out of the room.
Alfred took off his sunglasses and put his normal glasses back on instead since the watery sunlight had opted to disappear behind a cloud. He squinted up at the building Arthur was gesturing to dramatically.
"Wait. Does Francis know you have that?"
Arthur's expression turned stormy, "What?"
"Have you seen it?" Alfred leant back to get a better look at the large, rust red metal tower that was sprouting out of the top of a building, "It's-"
"Yes, alright, don't rub it in. Francis insisted I'd constructed a monument to his genitals for a good year after they built it. But this one's better than his," he said, stubbornly.
Arthur definitely bristled then, "It's what you do with it: it's got a circus, a restaurant, amusements, kids play area, aquarium-"
"Alright," Alfred wrapped an arm about Arthur's shoulder and gave him a rough, one-armed bear hug, "It doesn't change how I feel about you."
Arthur looked across at him suspiciously, "That's not exactly comforting," he glanced at his watch, "Right. Tower tomorrow or Saturday, I think. We could grab a late dinner-that's lunch to you – now, then head back to the flat and unpack whatever we need, then perhaps just have a walk down South Pier before calling it an early night. Sound like a plan?"
"That works I guess."
A/N for the confused or curious
Blackpool – The star of this piece, I suppose. Blackpool is a seaside town on the North-West coast of England, in the county of Lancashire.
Mini - Not one of the new fangled ones, perish the thought.
"Golden Mile" –The main stretch of shops, fast food outlets and amusement arcades that make up the "promenade" at Blackpool and where most tourists go, obviously. Runs from the "South Pier" (where the amusement park and rollercoaster are) to the "North Pier" (a more traditional, quieter pier).
"the funding fell through for the super casino." – Several cities put in a bid to be home to a supercasino; Blackpool was unsuccessful.
"Does Francis know about that?" – Blackpool Tower. Does indeed contain a circus, an aquarium and a ballroom, among other things. As much as Arthur may wish to deny it, it is definitely smaller than the Eiffel Tower.
"Bollocks" – Damn