Title: Off-Kilter Cleopatra
Character/s: Arthur, Gwaine, Leon, Merlin
Summary: Arthur gets a surprise when Gwaine and Leon force him out for a night of fun. Modern AU
Word Count: ~1000
Prompt: #12 Tease
Author's Notes: Inspired by the Magnetic Fields' song, Andrew in Drag.
It all started as a laugh. Gwaine and Leon had dragged Arthur from work still in his suit, his head full of financial statements and leveraged assets. He didn’t have time for this, but the two of them together had always been a force of nature, ever since uni.
Uther already nabbed him on his way out, peppering him with questions about the Sunset Industries buyout. Even though Arthur had been working all hours for the last few days, he promised to go over the files yet again that night. Only Uther could push his buttons that way.
As his footsteps echoed on the polished granite of the lobby, he loosened his tie and sighed. Another night cozying up to a frozen dinner and a can of beer while reviewing spreadsheets and prospectives. Then Gwaine and Leon spun through the revolving doors and grabbed both his arms, laughing and ordering him to come with them if he knew what was good for him.
“Mate, you haven’t gone out in weeks. Do you even know the meaning of the word ‘fun’ anymore?” Gwaine said, arm out to hail a taxi.
Arthur was affronted. “I went out with Leon just last week.”
Leon rolled his eyes. “That was two months ago. Don’t you remember? Mithian’s birthday?”
Good lord. They were right. He was turning into his father. As they bundled him into the taxi, he told himself he could look at the Sunset files later that night. He’d just have one drink and make his excuses. “All right, all right, I’m a pathetic excuse for a mate right now. My father’s got me under the gun. Our fiscal year ends next month and I’ve got to get these deals finalised.”
“Blah blah,” Gwaine said, making his hand look like a mouth talking. “We’ve heard it all before. I don’t know how Vivian puts up with you. There’s no getting out of it this time, my friend. You do not want to miss this.”
Gwaine was usually all talk, so Arthur dismissed this as hyperbole. “Right.”
“He’s not far off this time.” Leon leaned in as if he were telling a secret. “Merlin’s going to be doing drag.”
Arthur gaped, looking from Leon’s cocked eyebrow to Gwaine’s nodding leer. Then he broke out in a loud guffaw. “Really?”
“Swear to god,” Gwaine said, looking like a cat who’d caught a mouse. “On stage.”
“Okay, I take it all back. This I have to see.”
Arthur had to duck his head to get into the club. It was dark and smoky; his eyes took a few minutes to adjust. Arthur felt out of place in his suit among the crowd of shirtless men and flashy folk of indeterminate gender. They gathered drinks at the bar, then shouldered their way towards the small stage. Naturally, Gwaine got into the spirit of things by pulling off his t-shirt.
Gwaine said Merlin was doing it as a dare - Will put him up to it. Even found the bar and signed him up for the ‘open drag’ night. That was Will all over - wouldn’t take no for an answer.
A Middle Eastern rhythm began, and Cher, the MC, introduced Merlin. Merlin danced into view, his movements sinuous, slender fingers in the air swirling to the music. He was wearing a black wig, hair straight as a stick, the fringe a sharp line just above eyes made huge by makeup. With his pale face and prominent cheekbones, bright carmine lipstick demanded attention to a full, ripe mouth. The blue shimmering strapless minidress displayed his long neck and collarbones to full effect. Tight silver boots hugged his calves, making him seem like one long, luxurious drink of hot girl-man.
Get hold of yourself, Pendragon, Arthur told himself. It’s only Merlin. Then Merlin approached the microphone, threw the audience a kiss and smiled like a loon before ripping into an homage to Katy Perry.
Arthur was stunned. He couldn’t take his eyes off Merlin, hips shimmying, arse grinding, throwing himself into it with abandon. Of all the things to notice, Arthur found himself fixated on the dimple in Merlin’s cheek. Why had he never seen it? He and Merlin had been part of the same group at university, spent hours discussing Doctor Who or macroeconomics or whether or not Gwen’s right tit was bigger than her left. But he’d never noticed that dimple. Such a small thing, but it made him feel like there was so much more to Merlin than he’d ever realised.
The music ended, the crowd went a little crazy. Arthur rushed backstage to see Merlin. He was seized by the insane conviction that this wasn’t really Merlin, not his Merlin. It couldn’t be. Not this wild sprite who looked like some shameless off-kilter Cleopatra.
“Arthur! Did you like it?” Merlin said backstage, face flushed and eyes bright. “Will put me up to it, but it was brilliant!” Merlin held Arthur’s arms; all Arthur could do was stare at him. There was the dimple. Shockingly, he wanted to kiss it.
“I didn’t know you had it in you.”
Merlin sat down at a dressing table and started to pull off the wig.
“No! Leave it on.” Arthur put his hands on Merlin’s shoulders, looking at him in the mirror.
How could he explain it? “I like it. Wear it a little longer.”
“But I’ve got to go meet the others. I can’t go like this.”
Merlin laughed. “You’re daft.”
Arthur twirled the chair around. “Am I?” He looked at Merlin’s red mouth. “You like it. Don’t you?”
Merlin flushed. Arthur curled his hand around his bare neck, moved his thumb gently across the hot skin. “Yeah.”
Arthur’s hand slid up to cup Merlin’s jaw. He let his gaze linger on the dimple, then, before he could think about it, kissed it. “I like it too.”
He’d long forgotten the Sunset Industries buyout.