Criminals came in all shapes and sizes, Detective Arthur Kirkland of Darby County had to remind himself almost daily. Housewives, business men, and waiters – anyone could be wearing a mask of neutrality, hiding behind a seemingly innocent profession, knives of betrayal behind their backs, simply waiting for you to turn around. But at the age of twenty-six, Arthur had a few years of experience tracking down con-artists and white-collar criminals; each one of them with a false pretense of their own. By now he had assumed he had seen it all – or at least enough to make informed decisions.
He could never have been more wrong.
Lovino Vargas wasn't the best police chief in the world, and Arthur would be the first person to say it. Lovino was rude, brash, and cried easily enough when things got tough. But when it came down to the salt, the man's thick Italian accent and racy word choice was suited perfectly for giving out orders and interrogating the teenaged addicts that were caught wandering the streets at night.
"Kirkland. This-a one is for you." A fat manila folder landed on his desk with a resounding thwack. "Weapons smugglin'. Get on it, already." Arthur made a face over the lip of his mug, warm tea tickling at his nose. The chief only stalked off down the hall, muttering to himself about how awful it was to be busy in this kind of heat.
Arthur opened the file folder, sipping at his tea and plucking the photo attached to the dossier by a small paperclip. It was of a young woman, her golden hair cropped to above her ears and a thick, lacy headband kept a few flyaway hairs in place. Her features were smooth, oceanic blue eyes framed by a pair of simple black glasses. She was beautiful, Arthur decided, setting the photo aside to look at the basic information before delving into his leads.
Beatrice Greene; Female; Est. 5'6"; Est. 160lbs; Occupation: Cleaning Services.
"Tall lass," Arthur murmured, taking another sip of his tea, glancing back over at the given photo. "Doesn't look much like a Beatrice… Mother must be a comedian." He sat back, sifting through papers, eye-witness accounts, and police reports. All shapes and sizes.
Three days later Arthur found himself on a stake-out, sitting in a cramped, black sedan – which had been the wrong choice in color as he began sweating in the trapped heat of the car. The window was cracked slightly, but there was no breeze. He pressed his forehead against the glass, staring down the grandiose white house, with a perfectly manicured lawn on the opposite side of the street where he was parked. He took another look at the photo he was given, memorizing details once again before stuffing it back into the breast pocket of his buttoned shirt.
He spent a few more minutes glaring at the house. Nothing was happening. No one came in, no one came out. There was no movement in the windows, and he couldn't tell if there was a car in the garage or not. The air in the car become stuffy and thick, bearing down on him and making it harder and harder to breathe; finally he snapped.
Arthur pried open the door of the car, stumbling out into the road and gasping for fresh air. When he felt orientated enough to stand up straight, he turned around and kicked the door shut, grumbling obscenities to himself as he pondered what exactly he should do next.
"Excuse me!" a pitchy voice shouted from somewhere behind him. Arthur whipped around, his head spinning slightly from his near-suffocation in the black sedan. "Are you… uh, okay?"
"Pardon?" Arthur blinked owlishly. On the corner of the sidewalk stood a woman, a bit husky, but beautiful. She wore a cliché maid outfit, the black lacy skirts long and rumpled. But he swore he recognized the face. "Oh, oh no, I'm perfectly alright, I assure you. My… car died. And I was waiting for a friend to come – terrible heat we have today, if I say so myself."
The woman bit her lower lip, dragging her pink glossed lips through white teeth. "Yes. Would you want to come inside while you wait? I'd feel pretty bad if fainted out here or something."
Arthur paused, swallowing a lump in his throat as he adjusted the cuffs of his sleeves. "That might not… I haven't…" He sighed, crossing the street quickly to stand next to the woman so he could stop yelling. She was much taller than he'd previously thought, and he grimaced slightly as he had to tilt his head upwards to speak to her. "Are you, by chance, Beatrice Greene?"
A stupid question, of course. He'd already blown his cover – he'd have to hand the papers over to Matthew, so he figured he might as well add as much information to the dossier as he could. The woman seemed to hesitate, long fingered hands clenching into the folds of her skirts. "Are you a debt collector?" she asked lowly, her perfectly shaded blue eyes squinting menacingly behind her glasses.
"N-no! That's preposterous," he sputtered. "Do I even look like a loan-shark? Ah… don't answer that, please." Arthur coughed into a fist, glancing up at the sky and scowling at the sun. He blamed his current situation on it. "Why? Are you being… pursued?"
The woman didn't answer at first; instead she pursed her glossed lips. Arthur somehow found himself entranced by them, taking in the curves and texture of her lips, her slightly squared jaw, and the light peachy scent that wafted from her clothes. There was something wrong with him.
Suddenly she grabbed him by the crook of his arm, pulling him down the perfectly even pathway towards the front of the borderline mansion. "Come inside, please." Her voice was tight, and Arthur followed her, fretting slightly. He wasn't armed, but he did have a small can of mace for emergency purposes. Hopefully he didn't have to resort to anything violent.
The house was just as large on the inside as it was on the outside. Arthur breathed a sigh of relief as he was brought into the foyer and the cool feeling of air conditioning washed over his sweaty skin. "You're looking for Beatrice, right?" she asked him, her hands on her hips.
"W-well, not in particular… but, so… you're not?" Arthur scratched at his straw-blond hair in confusion and the woman smiled.
"No, I'm not Beatrice. In fact, I don't know where she is at all." She coughed loudly. "Actually," and Arthur startled at the sudden drop in the woman's voice. It was still a bit high, but not nearly as pitched or feminine. "I'm not even a girl. This Beatrice you're looking for offered me this huge check to dress up as her for a few months while she got out of the country or something."
For a long time Arthur was speechless, watching as the, now identified as a man in drag, grinned down at him. "You're… not…" He collected himself, shaking his head and sighing. "Why choose a man of all people? I'm so… baffled."
The man, and Arthur cursed himself for still believing the lad to be gorgeous in his own right, tilted his head to the side in thought. "I dunno, honestly. She seemed real distressed, too. Desperate to get outta sight." The man squinted a bit. "I dunno why you'd be lookin' for her. I've had all sorts of debt collectors come to me ever since I took her spot. She sure owes a lot of people, you know. Oh! I'm Alfred, by the way. I figured you might wanna know that."
"Right… Alfred… A pleasure." He pulled at the collar of his shirt. This was not what he was expecting, not in the least, and he was having difficulty mustering his thoughts with Alfred hovering so close by him. But he thought of the files and the incredible lack of information on this Beatrice woman, when right in front of him he had the best source he could possibly ever find. "Ah, do you keep in contact with Beatrice, by any chance?"
Alfred frowned. "No, not really. She sends checks in the mail, and I pull 'em out before the boss-man sees 'em. That's about the gist of it… Why? You're really starting to freak me out dude. Does she owe that much money? Or is it just to the wrong guy?"
"Nuh-nothing like that," Arthur said, waving a hand around to dissuade the panic that seemed to be rising on the young man's face. Quickly he pat himself down for his business cards, thought better of it, and pulled a pen from his trousers. "Do you have paper? I'd like to give you my number… and if you do hear from her, would you bell me? It would be appreciated."
"Uh…" Alfred looked around the foyer before darting off into an adjacent room for a few moments, returning with a little yellow sticky tab in his hand. "Here you go." Alfred watched him write his number down, and Arthur shuddered a bit as the other man's breath tickled at the sensitive skin on the back of his neck. "Hey," Alfred said as he took Arthur's number and tucked it into a pocket in his lacy apron, "You're a cool guy. I don't have to work tomorrow, so would you like to meet up and do something? I mean, I'm sure your friends are here to get you by now, so maybe we can talk about Beatrice more? Who knows? Am I right?"
Arthur flushed, feeling both embarrassed and excited by the prospect. It would be a perfect opportunity to find out more about the case without, technically, overstepping his boundaries once he handed the case over to Matthew. As far as anyone knew, Alfred was just a random bloke handed a job by a stranger. "I would… like that," he said, coughing into his fist and pulling out his phone. "Ah… my friends just sent me a message… I should check my battery right quick. That should fix the issue. Lazy louts. Thank you, again for allowing me to stop in."
Alfred shrugged easily and Arthur couldn't help but wonder, underneath all those ruffles and lace, what the man looked like. Was he muscular? Was his waist really that narrow, or was it merely the bust of the skirt that gave the illusion of one? Were his lips really that smooth under all that gloss? Arthur shuddered and gave his farewells, rushing out of the house and to his car. Nervously he popped the hood, pretended to fiddle with a few tubes and started the car, all the while watching Alfred watch him from the door of the home.
It was unnerving, he decided as he drove away, trying not to notice the way his hands trembled slightly on the steering wheel. A man in a dress; who would have ever thought? Certainly not him. Hopefully he could make something out of all of this for Matthew.
Matthew was the type of man that was unremarkable in almost every way. He was handsome enough, his eyes were blue enough and shoulders broad enough. But there was something about him that made you look over him, to simply want to walk past without even the merest hint of acknowledgement. It was something that Matthew used to his advantage. Arthur always thought it was because he was Canadian, but he wasn't sure.
"You're giving up?" Matthew asked, belatedly taking the manila folder when Arthur handed it to him. "You've only had the case for a week."
Arthur shrugged, a twinge of embarrassment plucking at his chest. "I believe I may have been compromised. It's a rather high profile case, mind you, so I'm only doing this for the sake of the case."
Matthew didn't seem too sure about that, but nodded anyway as he began flipping through the case files. "So, well… did you find anything out about this Beatrice Greene?" he asked, as he skimmed through the reports, pushing his rounded glasses further up the bridge of his nose.
"Only that she may or may not have fled the country. She is no longer at her residence or her place of work. I'm… trying to work out the details, but so far I've been rather unsuccessful." He sighed and stuffed his hands into the pockets of his trousers awkwardly. "I'll still be searching, but I can only work from the sidelines. If I find anything pertaining to the investigation, I'll be sure to let you know posthaste."
"Alright, thanks." Matthew sat back in his chair, pulling the squared photo of Beatrice Greene out from underneath a paperclip and turning it between his fingers. "She's quite pretty, don't you think?"
For a moment Arthur was positive his face had become red with guilty embarrassment. He was about to speak when his mobile suddenly went off, a simple belling tone cutting through the awkward question poised at him. "Ah… I apologize, I must take this call. Thank you, Matthew. I'll keep in touch."
Arthur answered the call quickly, pressing the phone to the shell of his ear as he left Matthew's office. "Hello?" he answered nervously, closing the office door behind him firmly, ignoring the way the blinds shuddered and swayed with the jarred movement.
"Is this Arthur? Hi! It's Alfred!"
He felt his heart flutter in his chest, a sure sign of anxiety. "Ah, yes, yes it is." He cleared his throat as he walked through the carpeted halls, ignoring others as he made his way to the front doors of the building and outside. "I… honestly didn't believe you would bell me…"
There was the sound of static interference for a moment and a few hushed noises. Arthur frowned, but before he could comment on it, Alfred said, "Sorry about that, I was getting dressed. Hey, do you wanna go out and grab something to eat? It can be my treat!"
"I – Ah… sure. I – I mean, I'm not busy, so… where should I meet you?" The palms of his hands were sweating, and he could hear his heartbeat in his ears, the pulsating noise drowning out whatever Alfred had said next. It was the feeling he got whenever he was about to make an arrest, when his subject was so close – unaware of him, about to be put behind bars for their swindling second lives; it was sheer adrenaline. "I-I'm sorry, I couldn't quite hear you. Are you outside? Perhaps it's the wind."
"Oh, yeah. Just a sec." There was some rustling and the sound of something slamming. "Better? Awesome. Could you meet me at Harrod's Square in about an hour? There's a great Italian place there."
Arthur checked his watch. He would have enough time to get back to his flat and change into something more dapper. "Alright. I'll see you there… but – ah… oh. What will you be… uhm, wa-wearing? If I might ask, that is."
He could hear Alfred laugh, clear and brilliant. "Clothes. I'll see you in a jiff!" And with that Alfred hung up. Arthur pulled the phone away from his ear, tucking the device back into his pocket as he approached his car, unlocking it and getting inside with a long sigh. He was so close now.
Arthur knew the little Italian restaurant that Alfred spoke about. It was family owned, quiet, and served the most delicious pizza he had ever had. Feli's was owned by the chief's brother and generally a hit on long nights toiling over paperwork. He had changed out of his dusty work clothes and decided that charcoal trousers and a matching vest would suit the finesse and gentle atmosphere of Feli's.
He waited on a bench, staring at his phone and pretending to text whenever he thought someone was glancing his way strangely. "Woah… Arthur?"
Arthur's gaze jerked away from his phone, startled. Before him stood Alfred, but for a moment Arthur didn't even recognize him. The blond, blue-eyed man smiled at him, white teeth contrasted against pale lips. "Wow, you really clean up good, don't you?" he asked Arthur, holding out a hand to help the Englishman stand. "So what do you think? I pull off men's clothes just as good, huh?" He stepped back a moment, turning around to let Arthur take in the bootleg jeans and buttoned shirt, the sleeved rolled up neatly to his elbows.
"I ah… well, you do look quite dashing – I – I mean different. Yes. I… I admit I feel slightly overdressed…" He coughed in embarrassment after assessing his own attire.
Alfred only laughed in good nature. "Don't worry about it. Somehow it suits you. Like, if I saw you in a tank and pumps I would… uh – well, I dunno what I'd do." Not quite understanding the compliment, Arthur shrugged, scowling a little. Alfred knocked his shoulder against his. "Hey. I think you look great. So what's it matter? Anyway, have you ever been to Feli's?"
"Often," Arthur responded casually, making his way towards the small corner-restaurant. "I uh… I know the owner." Alfred said something – probably an approval of sorts, but Arthur was too absorbed in the fact that he had almost blown his cover. In no way could Alfred find out what he was or what he did for a living. Somehow… he just didn't want the man to know that he was only using him for his investigation. It felt wrong. "They have the best pizza," he said instead, turning his focus back to Alfred.
Alfred grinned, his fingers curling into the belt loops of his jeans. "You like pizza? I didn't think you would! Man, I love pizza." Alfred bubbled next to him, and Arthur shifted awkwardly. The young blond was rather affectionate for their second meeting. The host led them to a secluded table towards the back of the restaurant where the lighting seemed dimmer and the chatter from other quieter. Arthur must have looked confused because the host merely winked at him before handing them their menus. "Should we just get a giant pizza to share?" Alfred asked, as his fingers slid over the face of the menu.
He smiled, suppressing a snort. "That hardly sounds romantic," he said offhandedly, pausing only once he noticed the wide-eyed look Alfred gave him. "I uh! I didn't mean… Oh – bu – I mean to say, the lights and… it's not as if you're repulsive, quite handsome in fact, but…" He coughed and half stood from his chair. "I'm sorry, I'm offending you. I should leave."
"No!" Arthur sat back down almost immediately, slightly stunned by the outburst. Alfred chuckled softly to himself, running a hand through his hair. "I mean… don't go. I… I like the attention. You're not offending me at all."
Alfred waited until Arthur was settled in again, a waiter stopping by to hand them clear glasses of water, cool condensation dripping down the sides of the glass. They ordered their drinks and Alfred ran his finger along the beaded sweat of his glass. "So… did you want to be romantic, or did you just want to be two dudes eating pizza?"
"I…" Arthur choked on seemingly nothing but his own surprise. His neck felt hot and he rubbed at it uncomfortably. Alfred's blue eyes – endless and dark in the dim lighting, so easily lost in – stared at him, expectant and sweet. Somewhere in the back of his mind he thought that this would be easier if Alfred was still in a dress, and was it a horrid idea that he quite rather liked the other man, despite it all? "Wha-what would you like to be…?"
A slow grin crawled across Alfred's face. "How about two dudes romantically eating pizza?" he suggested, watching as the blush on Arthur's neck spread upwards to his face.
Arthur ducked his head. "A-alright," he mumbled, overwhelmed and confused, but agreeing nonetheless. He wasn't sure if he was more worried about losing the potential lead on the case of Beatrice Greene, or if he was scared Alfred would dislike him. And that thought frightened him.
Over the course of two weeks he began seeing Alfred. Dating he supposed it could be called, although they had nothing done anything beyond quickly holding hands underneath a table, for which Arthur was grateful. He wasn't sure if he was ready for anything, not when he only sticking around to find out more about Beatrice Greene and where she went. But maybe that was the whole frustrating part about it. Not once did they speak about Alfred's mysterious and sudden employer, nor did he feel the need to bring her up whenever he was in the blond's presence.
Arthur sighed long and hard as he sat on a public bench, waiting. Every time they decided to meet, it was, "I'll meet you here," or "I'll pick you up there," with Alfred. It was always a specific location and time and Arthur was continuously surprised at how precisely prompt Alfred was.
Today Alfred approached him in woman's clothing, looking flawless and put together in a lacy frock and heels. Alfred's lips were painted red, and his hair tamed with silver hairpins. If Arthur hadn't known any better, he would have assumed Alfred was a woman, husky, but feminine.
He stood quickly, stuttering and apologizing, because damn if Alfred didn't look good in whatever he decided to wear. "Y-you came, Al…f… Ah… I'm not sure what to address you as," he admitted, his face reddening at the odd situation he had found himself in.
Alfred's red lips parted into a gorgeous smile. "How about you just call me "love". It sounds so perfect in your accent. Would you do that for me?"
"Of course… love." Arthur let the word roll off his tongue, experimenting with it, trying to decide if it felt right. When Alfred's arm looped into his own, the blond leaning onto him as they began to walk down the street, Arthur found that he quite liked it, this odd feeling in his chest.
Alfred led him to a parked car, old and rust ingrained into the forest green paint. Arthur would have recognized the vehicle a mile away, partly because it was his job to memorize makes and models and license plate numbers, and partly because the vehicle was so utterly unlike the man next to him, that it was uncanny and amusing.
When they were settled inside, Alfred started the car, waiting for the engine to turn over before allowing it to sit in idle, his fingers drumming on the steering wheel. "Before we go… uhm… I wanted to ask, I guess."
"Ask what?" Arthur's hand nervously found Alfred's, almost as if he were seeking shelter or confirmation.
Alfred only smiled at him, squeezing his hand over Arthur's soothingly. "Nothing bad, not really. I just… uhm, I was hoping you'd come over to my place today." He stopped, his eyes closing for a moment as if he were simply waiting for Arthur's refusal. The detective didn't know what to say, his heartbeat doubling and his mouth went dry. So he chose to say nothing at all. "…Arthur?"
He sighed, the queasy anxiety in his stomach growing with every second. "Yes, yes, alright. It bloody well better be worth it," he said, huffing as he strapped on his seatbelt. Alfred assured him that it would be, taking off down the streets and weaving into traffic seamlessly. Arthur only hoped he could quell his beating heart before then.
Alfred lived in a small flat, not unlike Arthur's own. The rooms were clean, if not a little neglected, and Arthur found himself sinking happily onto the couch before the television. "This is where I stay on the weekends, when I'm not stuck at the boss' place. It's kinda empty. Sorry about that."
"You board in his house?" Arthur asked, accepting a glass of amber scotch from Alfred. He sipped at the liquid and sighed through his teeth. Sometimes a bit of alcohol was the best cure. "It must be lonely."
The blond shrugged, sitting next to him with his knees touching together in a proper lady-like fashion. "Not really. The boss has kids, and they're a rowdy bunch at times. So I've got my work cut out for me." He rested his head on Arthur's shoulder, snuggling into the couch cushions. "Call me love again."
Arthur nearly spilled his drink, but he caught himself, setting the scotch on a coffee table after a fruitless search for a coaster. He turned to Alfred, his green eyes searching the blond's beautiful blue ones. With quivering hands, he tucked a stray lock of hair behind Alfred's ear. "Hello love," he murmured.
Today Alfred smelled of cherries as he leaned in close, his red lips parted slightly before pressing them onto Arthur's chapped ones. Arthur became lost in the sensation that he could simply describe as pure Alfred. Smooth skin and taught muscles beneath his fingers, gentle touches and strong advancements, the smell of light perfume and hot breaths that made his head foggy and pleasant. Arthur found that Alfred was addicting; exotic and new. He didn't care how much lipstick smeared onto his face, as long as Alfred never stopped holding him.
Matthew was waiting for him in his cramped office, files and notes spread across the wooden desk sporadically. "Is there something you need?" he asked. He felt rather chipper this morning after spending another splendid evening with Alfred. He hung his hat on a peg by the door scooping up a file to look over it as Matthew spoke.
"I've been looking into Beatrice Greene," Matthew said quietly, leaning against Arthur's desk and crossing his arms. "Off the bat, she's good. I can barely find anything beyond her social security number and her occupation, which is… no longer of use." Matthew rubbed at his chin in irritation. "I can't find a paper trail anywhere. There's no documentation of her leaving the country, all her checks are still filled out in her name and to an undisclosed bank account. It's almost like… like she's dead or something."
Arthur frowned, giving Matthew a questioning look. "Then why come to me? I doubt there's much else I can tell you."
"I've seen you with him. Alfred. I don't know what you're doing, or why, but Arthur. You're closer than anyone has ever gotten to this." The Canadian sighed, picking up a photo of Beatrice Greene. "I need you to ask him where she is. If he knows, he could be an accessory to all of this." He paused and Arthur tried to pretend his blood didn't feel like it had suddenly become icy and unmoving. "Also, the smuggling hasn't stopped. We can't find out where the stolen shipments have been going or how or when they're even stolen. I'm assuming it's because Beatrice Greene is still in the U.S."
"I…" Arthur hesitated, feeling short of breath and wounded. Alfred, an accessory to crime? His Alfred? Impossible. "I'll ask him," he found himself saying, if a bit forced. He would prove Alfred innocent. "I'll let you know what I find out."
Matthew smiled in relief. "Thanks, Arthur. I can almost see why you'd give up this case. It seems so impossible to crack. But… I'm glad you're still helping me out. We'll catch this scum-bag, just like we always do."
"Of course we will. Of course."
Arthur barely had a plan put together when his mobile chimed three days later. He quickly set aside a case file that he was reading up on over a missing child and answered, his voice shaking slightly, "He-hello?"
"Hey Arthur, it's me. Do me a favor, please and stay on the phone with me? I think someone is following me."
"What do you mean following…?" Arthur trailed off, standing up from behind his desk and rifling about the room for his misplaced hat. He needed to get Alfred, pick him up and get him to safety. He needed… No, if someone was following Alfred, it had to have been Matthew. He couldn't simply interrupt the investigation like that. "Are you alright, love?" he asked instead, trying to calm himself.
Alfred hummed on the other line, the sound of traffic and wind resonating through the receiver. "Mmm, yeah. I'm about a block or so from the police station now. This guy has been following me in his car all the way from my boss' place." Alfred took a deep breath. "It's pretty creepy if you ask me. I know I'm hot, but damn."
"Indeed…" Arthur found his hat and set it on top of his desk. "Is there anything I can do?"
"Uhm… yeah, actually. Can you pick me up at the parlor place just across the way from the station? In about… half an hour? I'm just gunna sit inside the station until the guy following me goes away or the police do something about it."
"Alright. I'll meet you there."
After hanging up and sorting himself out, Arthur took the time to organize his desk once more, collect his belongings and head out, stopping by a McDonalds and ordering a meal for Alfred. It hadn't taken him long to find out that the blond had quite the taste for fast food, even if he didn't like to admit it.
Alfred was waiting for him by the front of the ice cream parlor, his arms crossed over the front of his laced maid's outfit, a plastic bag hanging from the crook of an elbow. When he spotted Arthur, he grinned widely jogging up to the side of his car and clambering inside. Arthur tried not to stare too hard at Alfred's stockings whenever the wind caught his skirts just right. "Dude! You got me a double-quarter pounder, didn't you?" Alfred asked jubilantly, picking up the paper bag from the floor. "Aw man, awesome! Have I ever told you how much I love you? I mean seriously."
Arthur coughed, feeling the back of his neck heat up in a flush. "Ah… Well…" He cleared his throat. "Where to?"
"Oh!" Alfred stopped in the middle of unwrapping the paper from the cheeseburger. "Uhm… I dunno… That guy – it really creeped me out. I just… I wanna… Can we go to your place? I don't wanna be alone right now."
Turning back into traffic, Arthur agreed. If it made Alfred feel more comfortable, then he would do almost anything.
"Oh wow! Your apartment is so… old-school! I love it! It's definitely you, Arthur," Alfred praised as he snooped about Arthur's place, fiddling with a few knickknacks and photos. "Woah, it looks like you have everything Doyle wrote in his entire life, geeze."
Arthur blushed lightly, taking Alfred by the hand and leading him into the kitchen. A pot of tea sounded heavenly right about now. "Let's say I have a fascination with Sherlock Holmes. A… boyish thing I never grew out of."
"Cute." Alfred smiled and took a seat at the table, his blue eyes wandering over the tidied rooms within view. "Hey Arthur?" Arthur hummed in acknowledgement, capping the kettle and setting it on the stovetop. "I've always wanted to ask you something…"
Arthur's heart felt as if it skipped several beats at once. "O-oh? What's that?" He dearly hoped that Alfred wouldn't ask about his job. Oh God, would he be able to pull an alibi as a secretary?
Alfred smiled, his lips a glossy shade of soft pink. "Well, I've wondered… What do you think about me? About the fact that I well, cross-dress? Do you like it?"
"Like…?" Arthur began to fiddle with the hems of his sleeves. "I've never thought of it, one way or another," he answered honestly, his voice quiet and unsure. "Although I must admit you look brilliant no matter what I see you wearing." He smiled tentatively. "Although I've wondered why you do, occasionally. Is there any particular reason for it, love?"
The blond American stood with a thoughtful sigh. "Well," he started, tapping his finger against his lower lip as he moved to stand next to Arthur, leaning against the counter, "I think it just depends on how I feel, you know? I mean some days I want to be handsome, a stud for lack of better words." His arms found its way around Arthur's shoulders. "And some days I want to feel sexy. And I look amazing in drag, so why not do it?" Alfred wrapped his arms around Arthur's shoulders, and Arthur let his hands rest on the blond's hips. "Now if only I could sing and dance," he said wistfully.
Arthur laughed, making an amused noise in his throat even as Alfred leaned and kissed him. Their tongues slipped together, wet and warm. Alfred pressed his hips into Arthur's, his hands rubbing up and down his arms. Arthur felt like hot putty as he breathed in moist air through his nose, the wet smacking of their lips and Alfred's heavy breath the only sound in his ears.
Just as his hands began to slip down the bunch in Alfred's skirts, the kettle shrieked with heat, causing both of the men to jump. Arthur stumbled over himself, and he was positive his entire back and chest had to be blushing by now. He fumbled over the kettle, pulling it from the fire and turning off the stove. "That gave me quite the start," Arthur said feebly, turning back to Alfred.
Alfred seemed sullen, his gloss-smeared lips pouting slightly. Arthur was about to suggest they continue, feeling brave and rather wanton for the intoxicating feeling that was Alfred's attention, when his mobile chimed in his pocket in indication of a text message. He frowned and pulled the device out of his pocket, reading over the text from Matthew quickly, asking if he'd found anything on Beatrice Greene yet.
"Ah… what an… unpleasant reminder," he mumbled, mostly to himself. He switched off his phone and set it on the table.
"Reminder of what?" Alfred stared at the phone, his fingers flexing at his sides. "What happened?"
Arthur began rooting through his cabinets for his teas, pulling out a tin and setting it down as he tried to find the right words – the proper lie. "Ah… remember that… when we first met? I was trying to find Beatrice Greene?"
Alfred tensed. "Yeah? So? I already told you I don't know what's up with her."
"I have a friend, Francis. He's rather fixated on this Beatrice woman – unhealthily so, I assure you. He wants me to deliver her this letter declaring his love." Arthur harrumphed, and began to steep his tea. "Bloody nuisance is what he is."
"Why doesn't he deliver the letter himself, then? He sounds cowardly to me."
Arthur chuckled, ignoring the way Alfred's arms wrapped around his waist tightly. "He's French. What do you expect?"
"Should I be jealous?" Alfred asked lowly, his breath ghosting over the shell of Arthur's ear.
"Should I be jealous of your French friend? Should I worry? Arthur…"
Squirming a bit, Arthur managed to turn around in Alfred's strong embrace, resting his hand on the curve of the blond's cheek. "You've nothing to fear, love. Not from Francis or anyone else. I promise you that."
A long sigh fell from Alfred's mouth before he began to place open-mouthed kisses along Arthur's neck. Arthur's fingers curled into Alfred's golden locks, jostling his headband from its position. "Arthur… Arthur can I… your bedroom…"
Arthur felt the familiar sensation of a blush beginning on the back of his neck. He pulled back slightly, catching Alfred's eyes with his own. "Alfred," he breathed out, his heart fluttering between his ribs as the American gazed back, his blue eyes filled with longing and lust. "Ah-alright."
Alfred said nothing in response. Instead his face broke into glowing grin, as he bent slightly, scooping one of his arms behind Arthur's knees and picking him up easily, holding the Englishman to his chest. "Grab the plastic bag, would you?" Alfred asked as they passed the table. Arthur did as he was asked and swiped the bag from the table, pointing out the direction of his bedroom.
"Al-Alfred!" he blurted out as he peered inside the bag, only to find a box of condoms, lube, and chocolate chip cookies. "I… ya-you..!"
"Well I didn't plan on using them today! But… uhm… well sometime soon…" Alfred's face flushed, hardly noticeable underneath his makeup. Arthur only made an embarrassed 'oh' noise and pulled the items from the bag, opening them as Alfred entered his room. "Jesus, even your room is adorable," Alfred said, setting Arthur onto the quilted bed. "Do you have enough posters of London in here?"
Arthur glanced over his collection of posters, fiddling with the bottle of lube between nervous fingers. "I… I miss it sometimes," he mumbled, almost ashamed of himself for having such a weakness – and even more so for bearing it open to Alfred.
The American hummed thoughtfully, but didn't press the subject further. Instead he crawled over Arthur, leaning down to kiss him deeply. His fingers crawled to the buttons of Arthur's collared shirt, slowly opening each one, moving his head down to kiss at each inch of newly exposed skin.
"Oh! Ah… Alfred…" Arthur managed to toe off his shoes, kicking them over the side of the bed, his toes curling in his socks as Alfred pinched at one of his nipples, the other hand fumbling with his belt. Before he knew it, he was naked from the waist down with Alfred sitting back and eyeing him appreciatively. "Do-don't stare, you git!"
Alfred laughed softly, running his hands along Arthur's bare legs and slowly spreading them. "Hey Arthur? You know what's fun about putting on clothes like this?" he asked, pulling at his own black fabric skirts.
He leaned in close, licking the corner of Arthur's mouth lustfully. "Taking them off."
Without much warning, Alfred rolled next to Arthur, pulling the Englishman atop up to straddle his stomach. Arthur could feel himself grow hot, his fingers picking and pulling at the fabric of Alfred's dress. "Oh wow," Alfred breathed out, his hands resting on Arthur's hips. "I always wondered why you hardly ever blush, but it turns out your chest blushes, not your face!" When Arthur choked on his embarrassment, Alfred began rubbing soothingly erotic circles into his thighs. "I think it's cute. You're… you're so perfect, Arthur."
"You're mistaken," Arthur grumbled.
Carefully he slid from Alfred's stomach and towards the foot of the bed. Alfred sat up, his knees touching together as he gave Arthur a coquettish look. "Well, are you going to undress me or not?"
Haltingly, Arthur began working off Alfred's shoes, his fingers beginning to trace up the silky fabric of the American's stockings until he reached the frilly hem of Alfred's skirts. He pushed the skirt up slowly, trying not to be obvious in his staring. "You… you really go all the way when you dress up, don't you?" he asked as his hands found the clasps of a garter belt and his eyes drank in the sight of frilly white panties.
Somehow he almost felt ugly next to Alfred, and part of him understood why the American would want to dress up like this – to be beautiful, even if it was on such a stereotypical level. Alfred's hands cupped over his own, gently helping him unclasp the buckles of the garters. Alfred helped him pull off the stockings, to shimmy the panties down past his knees. He was embarrassed, but allured at the same time.
Arthur unzipped the back of the dress, allowing Alfred to pull himself out of it. He sat back, stark naked, holding his arms open to Arthur. "Look, we're the same now. Don't be so shy." Alfred pulled Arthur into his arms, pushing the opened shirt from the Englishman's shoulders and laying him onto the bed. Alfred's eyes were almost boring into Arthur's, and the smoldering intensity of it seemed to drop right into the pit of his stomach. "Arthur… can I make love to you?"
Arthur scoffed loudly. "We're already this far. Why ask?"
"I just… I love you, Arthur. I do. So… so this isn't just sex for me. Is that okay?"
Arthur blinked. His hands traced up the muscles of Alfred's arms, settling on the blond's face. Arthur's eyes found Alfred's once again and he nodded, whispering, "I think… I may feel the same."
Alfred's kisses were harsh and possessive. Lube slicked fingers touched at his entrance and Arthur closed his eyes, his arms wrapping around Alfred's neck as the American's fingers began to slip inside of him. The sensation was strange and unsettling, but Alfred stroked his cock and Arthur tried to spread his legs wider. If it was Alfred, it was okay. It would be okay.
"Please tell me if you don't like something I'm doing," Alfred breathed out against Arthur's neck as he began to rut against Arthur's thigh, his fingers still stretching and prodding, until they brushed against a sensitive spot that made Arthur's back arch in surprise and pleasure. "Guess what I just found?" Alfred cooed out.
Arthur grunted. "I don't want to know the logistics," he mumbled, running a hand through his hair. His scalp was beginning to get sweaty and he grimaced despite the breathless feeling that enveloped his body.
An amused chuckle bubbled from Alfred's lips as he pushed his fingers deeper in Arthur, rubbing at that particular spot that made Arthur squirm beneath the American, his breath hot and thick as he pressed his face into Alfred shoulder. "I'm going to put it in," Alfred said after a minute or two, pulling out his fingers and grabbing a condom and the lube.
The Englishman watched as Alfred rolled the condom onto his cock, slathering it with lube before crawling further up the bed to tower over Arthur. "Here it goes…" Alfred's cock slowly sank into Arthur. It was hot, sticky, and painful. Arthur clawed at Alfred's back, hiding his face in the crook of the American's neck, feeling too weak to call out or whimper.
Alfred's hands ran across his skin, petting and soothing and loving. Arthur's breaths were shuddering as Alfred began thrusting inside of him shallowly. It was strange and erotic all at once, and even if he felt he could call out, Arthur had no idea what he would say.
But Alfred was grunting with his thrusts, his hands finding new places to hold Arthur sporadically. "Oh-uahnn… Ar-Arthur…" Arthur felt Alfred's broad chest heave with gasps and groans between his arms. Alfred's hand wrapped around Arthur's cock, squeezing and stroking making Arthur writhe with stimulation. "Arthur… please… say my name."
"Ah-Alfred…!" He came suddenly, as if his own voice had set him off. Alfred never stopped touching him throughout his climax, his continuous stroking and thrusting making the experience far different than all the other times he'd come in his life. "Oh bloody fuck," he sighed out when he had regained control of his voice. His arms felt like wet noodles, but he reached up and cradled Alfred's head against his chest. "You can come now, love."
Alfred thrust deeply, his entire body clenching as his climax came. Arthur held him, stroking his hair as the American's limbs gave way. He slung his arm around Arthur with a contented sigh, his nose rubbing into his shoulder. "Please don't let that be the last time we do this," he murmured sleepily.
Arthur fought back a laugh, tucking a lock of hair behind Alfred's ear. He doubted it would be.
Over the next few weeks, Arthur's life felt hectic. Between his own unsolved cases, Matthew's constant fretting over the Beatrice Greene case, and the meet-ups, dates, and sex with Alfred, Arthur could barely keep his head on straight. Whenever he was with Alfred his chest was full of love and butterflies and the feeling of accomplishment. But when he came to work to find that there was another missing person's case, or the Beatrice Greene case was brought up, he felt like a failure – a fallen hero who couldn't even solve the simplest of crimes.
He wanted to tell all of this to Alfred. In his heart of hearts he dearly wanted to tell the American about everything: the case, his feelings, and Alfred's involvement. But he could never bring himself to do it. Until one night he decided it would be okay make an unexpected visit to Alfred's flat.
It was dark, the moon nothing but a slender sliver in the starry sky. A large van sat parked in front of Alfred's flat complex, and Arthur sent it a suspicious glance. During the time he'd spent on stake-outs and investigations, he'd learned it was best to be weary of vans – particularly ones without windows. He parked around the corner, getting out of the vehicle and making sure not to make too much noise. He didn't want to disturb anyone's sleep.
Just as he was about to round the corner he heard voices and he stopped, pressing himself against the brick wall. He couldn't make out what they were saying, just bits of noises and a few words. " … ight… and the… wha… miss… pment?"
Arthur's mobile vibrated in his pocket and he quickly silenced it, his heart beating erratically when the voices also stopped. He held his breath, but heard nothing from around the corner. Feeling that the coast was clear, Arthur pulled his mobile from his pocket to read the text he had received at such a late hour. It was from Matthew:
Arthur. Finally traced B. Greene's SSN. 7 yr. old girl in TX. Our B. Greene doesn't exist. Something isn't right.
"Well look at this! There's a snoop over here." Arthur jumped, his mobile falling from his hands and falling to the concrete with a clatter. An impossibly tall man stood over him, a crowbar in hand as he smiled down at the Englishman.
Arthur panicked and backed away, only to run into another person. His heart seemed to jump into his throat as he turned around to see Alfred in his maid uniform, a silver suitcase in one hand and a pistol in the other, pointing between Arthur's eyes. "Ivan, tie him up and throw him in the back of the van. I'll take care of this later."
"Alfred? Alfred!" A massive, gloved hand covered his mouth as he grabbed from behind. Arthur fought as much as he could against the bindings, against the gag that was forced in his mouth, against the man that shoved him into the back of the windowless van amongst black crates. How long he sat in that van, he didn't know. Minutes, hours, days, maybe? He couldn't tell. The facts began to piece themselves together in his head as he waited – for what? He didn't know.
Beatrice Greene is suspect in weapon smuggling and goes missing, unable to be traced. There is no paper trail, no verification of ID anywhere. No credit card charges – she simply vanishes, with the exception of her job, for which she hires Alfred Jones, a cross dressing male who is content to know nothing other than how much he'll be receiving on his paycheck.
But Beatrice Greene is a seven year old girl in Texas – halfway across the country - obviously a case of stolen identity. But then…
Arthur's blood chilled and his stomach churned in his gut. No. No he refused to believe any of it. Alfred would never… He looked over the cases, squinting in the near black of the night. Weapons and munitions. Arthur's vision went fuzzy as tears stung at his eyes.
Alfred… a criminal? He choked on a soundless sob. He let himself get too close, let his heart be swindled right out of his chest. He had actually protected Alfred from law enforcement under the assumption he was innocent. Arthur couldn't believe himself. He was disgusting.
The doors of the van opened and Alfred climbed into the back, shutting the door and reaching up to turn on the small light on the ceiling above Arthur. The American still looked as gorgeous and put together as he always did. He kneeled down in front of Arthur, pulling the gag from the Englishman's mouth carefully. "Detective Arthur Kirkland. What brings you here? Hmm?"
Arthur blanched. "You… you know?"
"Of course! I've known for a long time. I'd be in an awful lot of trouble if I couldn't recognize the faces of undercover cops and investigators like you now wouldn't I?" Alfred's face was a tense line as he stared Arthur down, unaffected by Arthur's stunned silence. "Now, Detective Kirkland. Why are you here?"
A lulling silence washed through the atmosphere of the van as Arthur fought for words, lies, anything. Finally he gave up, his voice broken and ashamed. "I came to see you…" he whispered, feeling filthy and wretched.
Alfred pulled up the side of his skirt, retrieving a pistol from his garter belt. "Don't lie to me!" he shouted, pressing the nozzle of the gun against Arthur's temple. "Don't you dare fucking lie to me, Arthur!"
"I'm not!" Arthur shouted back hoarsely, hot tears rolling down his face as cold steel pinched into his skin. "I wanted to see you! I just… I just wanted to see you… that's all…"
"Jesus fuck, Arthur… why tonight?" Alfred's face looked pained, his beautifully blue eyes distraught as he continued to hold the gun to Arthur's head. "Why tonight of all nights? Fuck. I don't know what I'm supposed…" He touched Arthur's cheek, wiping away a stray tear. "You're a loose end, Arthur. I don't wanna… I can't…" Alfred's lower lip trembled, the hand on Arthur's cheek quivering. "Don't make me do it… I don't… Arthur I love you. I love you so goddamn much even though I'm not supposed to. I was just going to watch you, and then… and… Run away with me, Arthur. We can go to England. You miss England, right? We'll go there and live happily. I'll drop outta the business. Arthur please."
Alfred's voice was panicked and pitched. Arthur knew he was going to be killed if he didn't respond soon, and the situation was deteriorating rapidly. This whole time, he believed he was protecting… how wrong could he have been. Maybe there still was a chance to make up for it.
Slowly Arthur closed his eyes.
Criminals came in all shapes and sizes.
Unimportant Notes: This was supposed to be a drabble. :/ For Ana.