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"Why do you dress so funny?"

Zakuro paused his magic act, much to his dismay, with his arms still in the air. He frowned. "I don't dress funny, I dress fabulously."

"I guess."

He waited for the girl to say more.

"Is that all?" The sun was frying him. Curse the weatherman, it was supposed to be cloudy.

The child looked intent on continuing the conversation, and Zakuro was beginning to worry his wardrobe was more interesting than his magic tricks, but a chaperone or something of the sort redirected the child's attention.

He continued, enduring the itchiness of a burning scalp for now. It was a card trick, good for kids' birthday parties, or any parties, really. The kid and her group of friends applauded when he was finished, and he took a dramatic bow like he was on a grand stage when in reality he was in some suburban back yard with an audience of children.

It wasn't the first time someone commented on his attire either. For shows, it made sense to dress fantastically, but then he dressed fantastically even when he wasn't working. He supposed his taste wasn't all around appealing for the average person, but Zakuro wasn't average, he was beyond! He enjoyed every minute of his high fashion sense, and today he'd even been wearing one of his absolute favorite outfits. He adjusted his leather vest as he was handed a complementary plastic cup of lemonade (and payment) before his departure. He was sleeveless because it was hot and because it showed off his magnificent arm muscle. There was nothing wrong with showing off a fab bod.

His next venue would be at a dinner party, right in the middle of the downtown shopping area in a restaurant next door to his currently favorite boutique. There were very few places that measured up to the standards Zakuro placed on his fashion style. Something flashy, something that spoke to his innate senses that would propel him to the cash register without doubt. Every other week the clothes on the mannequins would change, and Zakuro would always find himself looking at them, until he had finally marched himself inside.

The designs had sleekness, an allure as fabulous as his own. It was clear the owner of the boutique--Dougan was his name--had a feel for the same style: something of the less common and definitely eye-catching. He'd met the owner several times during his visits. An eccentric man, but he knew his trade and Zakuro loved his designs.

He would stop there every once in a while, eyeing the season's clothes or new additions, picking up a few items here and there to piece together an outfit or glamorously accessorize.

Zakuro decided to stop in again that day, before the night's gig next door. Maybe he could pick up something to accentuate his performance look.

The boutique, Dark Delights, despite its somewhat dramatic name written dramatically on the outside awning, had an inviting, modern atmosphere, with waxed floors and white walls, elaborate racks, tables, and shelves loaded with product that contrasted wonderfully with the polished, wooden furniture. In the middle of the store was a lounge area consisting of a large dark couch with a direct view of the fitting room.

Zakuro pulled out a fabulous leather coat that reached down to the knees. Weaving around the side was a long gold metallic dragon, its scales iridescent. The coat tail flared out beautifully, much like Zakuro's soul.
"That's a favorite piece of mine."

Zakuro stiffened and turned to find Dougan decked in a variation of the same coat he held, but with a cape of white feathers around his shoulders. Zakuro leaned back instinctively to give himself some space because he was pretty sure he could feel the guy's breath down his neck, but Dougan leaned forward to compensate.

He didn't necessarily mind Dougan's "assistance"--well, maybe a little. Dougan had a penchant for invading his space and the way he smiled reminded Zakuro of snakes--suspicious snakes--but he created spectacular clothing designs, and he didn't mind hearing about that while garnering some help and ego fuel.

The first time he found himself digging into the delicious designs, Dougan really had scared him. He'd approached without Zakuro even noticing, no "hello, how are you?" or anything. He leaned incredibly close before asking if Zakuro needed any help, so close that Zakuro felt the ends of Dougan's hair ghost across his shoulder. He drilled Zakuro about why he was there, what he was looking for--things he was supposed to ask as part of his job, but in the end Zakuro was left feeling uncomfortable about the encounter. The first time would be far from the last time Dougan surprised him. Hell, the second time, it seemed his head slithered out from the the other side of a clothing rack.

Dougan continued his sales pitch, how the piece was made, and the quality of the fabric. His long red hair swayed as he tilted his head.

Zakuro didn't think he could find someone as alluring as they were repelling yet here he was.
Dougan was blessed with a decently handsome face. Not as handsome as Zakuro's own, he thought, but he would be lying if he said Dougan didn't have any attractive qualities at all.

Maybe it was the clothes. He'd be damned if any of these clothes weren't a turn on.

Dougan had taken note of Zakuro's multiple visits. "Welcome back," he said in a tone that made Zakuro think of a muddy, twisty river. "What's the occasion today?"

Zakuro stood tall and puffed his chest. "I'm looking for the perfect accent to my performance gear!"

"What sort of performance?" Dougan's lips curled up in a smile.

"Magic acts," Zakuro clarified, as proud as before. "I am Zakuro the Illusionist, a most popular choice among this city's fine establishments and backyards."

Dougan smiled wider. "I'm pleased you consider my designs add a certain flair to your shows."

He gave Zakuro a full looking up and down. "They suit you."

"Of course they do." Zakuro sniffed, feeling the fabric of the dragon coat between his fingers.

Dougan laughed a singular laugh. "What sort of magic do you do? Card tricks? Hocus pocus?"

Zakuro smirked and reached into the pocket of the coat he held, pulling out a business card and flipping it over for him to see. "I dabble in both tricks of the trade and of the mind! Hypnotism, even!"

Dougan pinched the card between two fingers, giving Zakuro a lidded gaze. His eyebrow lifted and he smiled again. "Well, you're doing a decent job."

...What? Decent?

"I suggest you peruse the style over there." He pointed at a display before turning around. "If you need anything else, I'll be more than happy to assist you."

As Dougan walked away, Zakuro thought even his movements were serpentine. The image of snakes came back again, only a little more attractive this time, but he couldn't figure out why.
Before his night's work, he tried to puzzle together the matter. In the end, he decided against purchasing anything. And dealing with other things--Zakuro wasn't dumb. 'You're doing a decent job.' Ha, Zakuro always did a good a job, but he didn't think Dougan was talking about his magic. He hadn't even performed for him. That left the only option of dreadful flirtation.

Afterwords, Zakuro sat at his tiny desk in his apartment, the clock ticking away the wee hours of the morning as he scribbled in his secret prized possession. His living space was modest. A large common room, a kitchen that only got cramped when more than three people were in it, a bathroom, a bedroom with a closet stuffed full of clothes, and one extra room to use how he saw fit. It stored all his magic props and other random things like paperwork and books. A clear space in the room denoted a practice area.

He looked up every so often from his journal to watch his pet beetles go about their business.

The beetle collecting started when he was a kid. He'd picked one up one day, intrigued, and after trial and error and some reading, managed to keep one as a pet for a time. Of course, his beetles now weren't caught out by the sidewalk, but things most always started rustic and small.

-----

Today was interesting. The kind of creepy guy at the boutique I've become enamored with decided he was confident enough to talk to me, and he said something particularly suspicious after questioning my buying habits. And looked up and down at me. However, I felt this strange feeling of disappointment when he left. It was only faint, and hopefully won't come back again.
I don't have time for the whims of mind and body!


------

Zakuro showed up at Dark Delights a week or so later despite any awkward feelings. His love for
Dougan’s clothes was unshakable and immortal. He was doing a big gig, and he'd planned on owning a new coat by then, so he stopped by to finally purchase what he'd been staring at fondly for the past few months. One of the mannequins sported it in the front window, endlessly teasing Zakuro until he would buy it. It was nothing too flamboyant, just a long black sleeveless coat, purposely frayed at the bottom, but cut to fit wonderfully to a well-defined physique such as his.

He whisked through the rack, searching for the closest size in the few that were available. He flew to the single dressing room, carefully (but with enthusiasm) tried it on and posed, triumphant, in the mirror.

It sagged on his back a little and the collar sat uneven, but other than that, it was perfect.

Zakuro pulled it forward so the fabric streamlined with his back, scrutinizing it. Hm, maybe a little tailoring would need to be in order. Zakuro peered out of the room, hoping to find the associate he'd spotted earlier, but instead Dougan was there.

"Do you need help with something?" He smiled, dressed as fashionable as ever.

"Uh," Zakuro began, unsure and only a little surprised to see him there, "I was wondering about ...tailoring." The word was flat, as though uttering it was a disgrace in itself.

Dougan shifted his weight to one foot and brought a hand to his chin, amused. "I could," he said. "For a fee of course, but there wouldn't be anyone better than myself."

"Perfect! It's decided then." Zakuro pumped the air with his fist. He didn't have to think twice; the perfect tailor for the most perfect clothes.

Dougan pulled out a tape measure from his jacket pocket, demonstrating its length with a swift unfurling. "Of course, I'll require your measurements." He moved toward Zakuro, gesturing him back into the room.

Dougan's touches were light, but deliberate. It wasn't something Zakuro expected. He didn't know what to expect. Dougan was kind of weird. He measured Zakuro quickly and with precision, his years of experience showing. He lingered close enough that Zakuro could smell his cologne, and Dougan's long hair brushed against his clothes. It was weird, but interesting. He didn't know quite what to make of it. It wasn't bad, he didn't mind it too much. Dougan exerted the right amount of pressure with the right amount of time, precise and nimble. It was an admirable skill.

It was over quickly and Dougan assured Zakuro he'd have the project done within the week. Zakuro thought that was fine. A fine fitting coat for a week-away show was better than an ill-fitting one for the night. He left his contact information and hurried to work.

While preparing some leisurely card tricks for some dinner guests, Zakuro mulled over his thoughts. He didn't think Dougan was a bad guy. Just a little strange and he definitely didn't know how to measure personal space. However, he made the most fabulous clothes known to living man, which meant he was certainly worth getting to know a little better.

-----

Days passed and Zakuro got a call from Dougan telling him the alterations to the coat were complete. Zakuro rushed to Dark Delights later that day and picked it up, admiring the handiwork before slipping it on. And just as Zakuro had predicted--he was very good at predictions--the result was a coat in beautiful harmony with his luscious body. Combined with his fantastic black leather pants and pointy-toed shoes, it would be a sure sight to behold.

A glorious night was upon him.

------

He was well into his act at an upscale bar in the heart of town.

Narrating for the audience as he readied a trick, something caught his eye. A shift in the lighting on a glass, maybe, but when he glanced up it was a by now familiar figure, seated at a table a few rows away.

What the hell?

Dougan was of course watching him--he was in the middle of working magic, and Zakuro tried his best to look unfazed. A wrong look could ruin everything in his line of work. But how did he get here? Well, not how, but how did he know Zakuro was there? Did he know at all? Was it coincidence?

He largely ignored Dougan's table, afraid to even glance around it really, for the rest of the show. Only when it was over and everyone applauded (including Dougan, because by that point Zakuro had to look) and he basked in that limelight, did he approach Dougan's table.

He demanded to know what made him come here.

"I stop by every once in a while," Dougan replied, impervious to Zakuro's drama. "And I happened to see an advertisement for your performance, as well," he added. "And I just had to see how my designs work for you."

He laughed a little, maybe in some attempt to break the awkwardness, but Zakuro was always awkward and Dougan was...Dougan. That was only the best way to describe him.

Zakuro found himself unable to articulate properly, a hot embarrassed feeling starting to creep up his neck. He quelled it quickly in a feat of bravado, because Zakuro didn't get embarassed.

"Well!" He kicked up his coat tail a little for added effect. "Wasn't I extraordinary?!"

"Yes, quite." Dougan smiled again, not sounding particularly thrilled or excited. He pushed a drink towards the empty chair across from him, then adjusted his pressed collar. "Please, take a seat."

Zakuro warred between running away and taking the invitation, trying to decide between creepy or just an illusion of creepy, "holy shit, no" or "holy shit, yes."

He sat down, slowly and as gracefully as he could manage, brushing some imaginary air dust off of his new coat. "What is it?" He tried to sound above the conversation.

"After seeing an actual performance, I thought that maybe--if you were interested--I could create a custom outfit for you."

"Why?"

"Why not? It could enhance your magical efficiency and add that extra umph. You can always use more of that."

"Hm." Zakuro jumped at the thought of having his own custom made, totally his outfit by the most talented person that shared even a sliver of his aesthetic, but why the attention? Zakuro didn't even have to ask such for such a special request.

"But why?"

Dougan frowned, which was scary because he was always smiling. "You enthusiastically appreciate my work. Not many people have appreciated it at all."

"There's no reason I wouldn't see why! It fits the bill of beauty for me." Zakuro still left the drink in front of him alone. This was an interesting conversation, one he never expected to have.

"And that's why. Most people don't appreciate it like you do."

"Hmm." Zakuro stared down at the table. Dougan obviously was successful enough, so he couldn't be the only one who enjoyed his clothes. "Are you attracted to my magnificent arm muscles?"

Dougan snorted his drink. Zakuro couldn't tell what it was, but it was in a high ball glass.
"Are you accepting my offer?"

Zakuro lowered his gaze further to see the tip of the other's boot bob in and out of his view from under the table. He reached for his glass and pulled it towards him, contemplating one last moment before raising it up. "Fine, I accept!"

Dougan reached up with his glass to meet Zakuro's, and they toasted in their corner.

-----

Off and on over the next couple weeks, Dougan and Zakuro conspired on designing an outfit that met Zakuro's magical needs and his fabulousness.

Dougan needed the rest of Zakuro's measurements, which involved more touching in more places, but Zakuro would endure it all for the most sumptuous outfit he'd probably ever own. Dougan showed him the illustrations for his idea, and with Zakuro's own suggestions created the visage of what Zakuro believed would truly be a masterpiece. It was wonderful to be able to add as many hidden pockets as Dougan could manage, instead of making do with what he could find or add himself. These were built-in, and that was the best kind.

Several times, Zakuro had stood as a model while Dougan pinned and fitted the garments. Sometimes Zakuro imagined himself in the pieces on display, bringing paintings on the wall to life. They also had several conversations.

Dougan worked on fitting the collar and chest of the garment while he asked Zakuro about the tricks of his trade. "How much time does it take to perfect a show?"

"As much as I can take! There's never enough practice time. Thinking of new tricks, the set-up, the visuals..." he trailed off for a moment. "It's very intricate, something that only the most qualified people can do on a professional level!"

"And that's you?"

"Of course. Why wouldn't it be? I'm one of the best around!"

Dougan didn't reply to that, just smirked and leaned closer to his work.

"And is it not the same of you, for your fashion design?"

"Yes, I suppose it is." Dougan smiled, stitching a seam. "When do you perform?"

"I work almost every day, especially weekends." Zakuro watched as Dougan pinned the arms to the main body.

"Do you have a schedule?"

Zakuro furrowed his eyebrows. "...Yeah, some are private, though."

"I see." Throughout the whole discussion, Dougan never took his eyes off his own hands. "And what are your plans for your show tonight?"

Zakuro placed his hands on his hips. "I can't reveal everything! There's no magic then."

Dougan laughed. "You should end with a bang. It's always best."

"I know what I'm doing!"

------

Above the door to the back room an ornate mask was mounted, with a thick mane of white feathers pooled around it.

Now, what to make of that? Zakuro wasn't sure. Was Dougan in some weird play? That sounded plausible, but he wasn't sure if he wanted to ask about it. A thousand years later, Zakuro finally pulled himself away from the captivating head piece and looked down at his magnificent body and the soon-to-be equally as magnificent clothes, and he imagined the entire audience swooning from his sexiness.

And his magic. Yes.

Dougan's hand gripped his waist and he flinched before Dougan manuevered him and--snapped pictures..?

"There's nothing quite like going back to view your progress, am I right?" Dougan said, judging the quality of his snapshots.

Well, Zakuro loved catching delicious video of himself performing, so he could understand. He leaned over Dougan's phone, squinting at close-ups of his hips. "They're no good, you can't see me!"

Dougan looked down at him while he adjusted his pose to be far more dramatic. "At least one,"

Zakuro encouraged him.

He hesitated for a moment, and then, wordlessly, Dougan snapped a single photo.

"There, that's better," Zakuro said, satisfied, without even looking at the result.

Dougan lifted an eyebrow, then realizing the time, ended their session and went to the back to assess and prepare for the next. A corner of a magazine poked out of a stack, the glimpse of a swirling pattern catching Zakuro's eye. Discreet, he pulled the magazine out, the paper whispering as it was moved.

It revealed Dougan in a sweeping cloak of that pattern, and lo and behold, the strange mask Zakuro saw hanging on the wall in the main room (so it was a prop after all!). It was cocked to the side, so Dougan's face could be seen, and Zakuro couldn't help but stare. It was a very good shot. And the cover of a mag. He flipped inside to read the story, but only got so far until Dougan returned.

"I was so terribly underappreciated at first," Dougan said when Zakuro looked up. "No one ever noticed me. But then, I put everything into it, like an obssession, and--" he gestured around him-- " look where I am now. "

He plucked the magazine from Zakuro's hands. "I was finally rewarded with what I deserved."

Zakuro sat through Dougan's foray into the past, doing a good job of keeping his face neutral and unchanging. He obviously worked stupendously hard. Zakuro did, too. He started out as a poor nothing, working his way to his current status. And it was hard. He was known for being too "simple" and too "flashy, "ridiculous" was thrown around sometimes, but those were some of his best parts, besides all the rest! He made it work, and so did Dougan. It was so far the one thing that he and Zakuro could relate to, besides their great fashion senses.

"Me, too!" Zakuro exclaimed, sitting so straight he almost stood right up out of the chair. "I started as a poor kid, but now I'm far more successful than anyone imagined of me!"

"Is that so?" Dougan gave him a second's worth of steely consideration. "I'm delighted you understand."

There was silence for a second.

"It should be complete in only a couple more sessions," Dougan continued. "Wednesdays are still fine?"

Zakuro nodded approval, and that was the end of that.

-----

An interesting turn of events! I apparently have something in common with the oddball fashion designer, something I would never expect. We seemed to bask together in the triumph of our hard work, if only for a few seconds. Still on the fence about the flirtatiousness. Is he interested in me (I am hard to resist) or is that just how he is..?

The clothes will be completed soon, huzzah! Soon the world will be able to look upon my gallant, uncontested self and be amazed!

P.S. Feed the beetles on Friday.


----

The last Wednesday before a big Friday gig, Dougan put the last touches on the brand new, custom outfit. Zakuro had dashed into the boutique, beyond ready to blow himself and everyone else away. Dougan was ready for him, having wrapped the outfit neatly and presented it to him. After a long moment of unraveling, the sound of crinkling paper loud in the room, Zakuro held the outfit in front of him.

It was beautiful, marvelous, just like Zakuro had conjured it up with his magic from the image in his head. That was the best way to describe it. He voiced his sheer pleasure; it came off in waves and stuffed the whole room because why wouldn't it, at a sight such as him?

"I'm glad you like it." Dougan chuckled at Zakuro's glee.

"It's beauty and my happiness are beyond words!"

Zakuro was so entranced, Dougan had to remind him to try it on before he walked out the door with it. Just like last time, the garment fit perfectly. Catching himself in the fitting room mirror entranced him again, and when he finally remembered he had to pay Dougan for his services, he marched out of the room in ecstasy.

Dougan had his camera ready when Zakuro returned, and the illusionist was just quick enough to strike a good pose before the picture was taken. All Zakuro's sides were beautiful, but there a select number of angles that were his favorites. Handing a check over to Dougan, Zakuro thanked him again.

"Break some legs," Dougan said with a hint of cheer as Zakuro turned to leave.

Uncaring of Dougan's terrible cliche, he strutted toward the door, hoping the wind would billow and his new magnificent outfit would shine and soar and make people stop and stare. He stepped out and there was a little gust from the outside heat and the air conditioning inside, but little else happened so Zakuro had to make the best of it.

-----

Friday night couldn't have come sooner. He'd spent the time until then preparing, ogling himself in his new clothes, and plopping banana pieces in the beetle enclosure. Despite having tripped over several props and misplaced household items, it would be a lucky night. He just knew. Luck probably stemmed from Zakuro himself, anyway, he thought as he brushed his hand against his vest, feeling the fabric and sighing contently.

He beamed confidence all the way to the theater despite getting lost several times and having to dash into gas stations looking quite peculiar to passersby. Behind the curtains, he quickly went through the plans for his act and worked on his set up. Pulling back one of the curtains, he peered into the crowd. He couldn't make out individual faces, but it was a large audience, and the energy from their gathering tinged the air around him. Before he knew, it was showtime.

The spotlights glared down, shining hot stage light on Zakuro's majestic form as he introduced his audience to his craft. He was close enough now he could see the first few rows, and when he had made his entrance, he spotted several people open their mouths in surprise and awe at Zakuro's clothes. It sent a thrilling sensation through him, and he gained even more confidence through their admiration.

The outfit, like most of his others, consisted of mostly darker colors, with occasional red and white accents. The coat, which had as many hiding places as to tease any magician into wanting it, was a slim fit, the red and white contrasting in geometric designs around his chest and shoulders. Small stripes on his collar glittered in all the lights, and the tail was cut straight, split in the back, the white trim accenting its form from his dark slacks. Truly, it was a piece of art.

Zakuro started small, telling a story as he moved. He had fun, quick motions and a loud, obnoxious laugh, and he quickly charmed the audience, the epitome of entertainment. His tricks became more involved and flashier as he proceeded. He pulled out a few classic tricks as well, before his final, most momentous act, and by the end confetti littered the stage floor and the crowd stood as they all cheered his performance.

Success! It was phenomenal. Zakuro basked in the afterglow and sweat on stage as the audience, done applauding, filed out of the building. He gathered his things, towing them back to the car when Dougan appeared, clapping slowly as he walked toward Zakuro from where he'd been waiting by the brick wall at the front of the entrance garden.

Zakuro was only a little startled. It was dark, and Dougan hadn't mentioned he would attend. Though that wasn't out of place for him, he thought.

"You really did end with a bang," Dougan joked. The sidewalk lights and streetlamps glowed white and created a cool ambience, reflecting off of their figures and casting multiple shadows.

"I always do!" Zakuro assured him, gesturing with a hand and thus letting go of his cart, which rolled back a little, the wheels creaking on the concrete. "Hmph, you didn't get enough of me last time?"

"Well, don't you think I should be allowed the privilege, since I created such a lovely piece for you." He lips curled into a smile.

He could have just said no. "And how did it work for me this time?" Like he needed to ask, but he thought he'd indulge Dougan a little. Zakuro knew he was hard to resist.

"I did a magnificent job, it seems. There isn't anything else like what you're wearing." Dougan looked up at Zakuro; he'd been gazing at the fit of the clothes, admiring his craftsmanship.
"Of course, it complements you perfectly."

Zakuro beamed.

He didn't remember Dougan moving, but he suddenly realized the guy was closer than he recalled.

"So," Dougan began. "Now that I've seen you a few time and have realized your talent is as good as you boast--"

"Extraordinary! I said I was extraordinary." Zakuro corrected him.

Dougan arched an eyebrow. "Would you like a small gig?"

Zakuro squinted. "...For you?"

"For a special sale, for my store," Dougan clarified, amused by Zakuro's flightiness. "You name the price."

"Hmm." Zakuro turned to grab for his cart again and then stared at the ground. Dougan's polished shoes glinted in the corner of eye. "I'll have to check my schedule."

"I hope you'll be able to make some time for it. It's next weekend."

Zakuro went home that night indecisive. Zakuro didn't really use a planner because he had the brains intelligent enough to remember everything. Usually. However it seemed the professional thing to do, and he cracked it open in favor of his journal that evening. Very little was written in it, but he felt he owed it to Dougan to at least look, despite anything else in their...interesting relationship.

He had some things going on the next weekend, but since he would be working store hours, it was quite possible he could do it. All his other appointments were in the evening.

Hmmm.

He tapped the pen against the paper, leaving ink dots between the lines. Maybe he'd think about it a little more.

He sat in front of his beetles to pass the thinking time, watching them scuttle, and he even managed to coerce a couple to roughhouse while he munched away on dinner, which was highly entertaining and distracting. Before he knew it, it was way past his bed time, bordering on early morning. Maybe he'd sleep on it.

In truth, the idea for a magic show to promote a store sale was a pretty good idea. Zakuro felt reluctant, however, to take the challenge. Dougan obviously was attracted to him in some way, and Zakuro hadn't yet confirmed to himself on how he felt about the whole thing. Zakuro didn't feel all that bad about Dougan, and thought maybe there was something worth his time and effort. He never really thought hard about how their relationship had been developing. Dougan wasn't unattractive and he obviously held Zakuro in high regard, to give him these fabulous offers and gifts. Dougan was one of the few people who seemed to appreciate Mighty Zakuro, lately, even if Dougan was a little odd.

All right, he'd do it. The one thing Zakuro always did was repay others, in some way or another. And he'd be spending a whole weekend in the boutique of his dreams, which was most surely a plus.

----

He arrived at Dark Delights Friday morning, twenty minutes before opening. Finally being let inside after pulling on the door, Dougan greeted him as an associate was putting up signage, hanging a large poster in the window next to the mannequins. Zakuro wondered what the associate thought about Dougan.


"What did you bring today?" Dougan asked out of curiosity, and Zakuro unveiled some props. Mostly cards and small household items for personal, one on one tricks. He set up his post between the cash register and the door, and as he waited for the coming sale day, he gazed at all the eye candy Dark Delights had to offer.


It was easy to entertain customers. They came in waves and Zakuro marveled at their obvious telepathic abilities, asking them if they'd like to see some magic or he would just perform random tricks when people walked by. He gained an audience in the line at the registers, and Zakuro pacified any foul-spirited customers, which was something he excelled at, he believed.

Dougan would watch him, too, amused at the whole spectacle, the reactions and Zakuro's own over the top dramatic laughter and hand gestures. Sometimes it was hard to tell if he was a clown or a magician. Maybe he was both.

He held up a hand of cards, urging someone to pick one and then--focus, focus, remember it, then consequently make it disappear. Simple stuff, but effective. Some customers had come in just because they heard there was a magician, and through encouragement left with something from the boutique as well.

An excellent decision for both Dougan and Zakuro, helping out both in their professions, it seemed. Zakuro did it all again the next day, not minding it at all. He was enjoying himself, and had just sat down for a lunch break in the restaurant next door at Dougan's reccomendation. He did gigs there a couple times, but had never eaten their food.
It was a small restaurant, but it made up for atmosphere and design what it lacked in room. It was warm, with dark mahogany tables and chairs, and an earth tone mosaic tile below thier feet. Happy green plants sat in elaborate stone pots in the corners. Outside, across the concrete walkway was an area full of tables with large red umbrellas blocking the harsh sun where one could choose to dine, instead of inside.

Dougan himself walked in not long after Zakuro received his meal. He met eyes with the man, but
Zakuro was hunched over his food and his face was stuffed with pasta to recover from momentary starvation. Cursing, he tried to regain poise by swallowing the huge mouthful, but had to work at it so he wouldn't choke, so it took longer than he ever wanted it to take. Every second of it was agonizing because Dougan never looked away.

This man had no mercy.

Dougan ordered his take out and after loitering around the counter, he meandered over to Zakuro's table while he waited for his order.

"Can I help you?" Zakuro croaked, still recovering from the pasta debacle. He didn't even have any time to enjoy the flavor.

"How is it?"

"Uh." Zakuro looked down at his plate, then back at Dougan. "Good. So far, anyway. I just sat down, so the exquisite flavors have yet to melt on my tongue!"

Dougan stuck his own tongue in his cheek before he reached out and placed a gloved hand on the table, leaning against it. If he wanted, Zakuro could have poked Dougan with his fork, he was so close. Seriously, this guy was an orbiter.

"I was wondering..." he trailed off.

Another request?

"...if you had time to talk this evening?"

Zakuro made a questioning noise, having put another forkful of pasta in his mouth. He chewed slowly, mulling it over. "I don't have anywhere to be until ten."

-----

Dark Delights closed shop at eight that evening, Dougan and Zakuro agreeing to hole up in the corner of a restaurant-bar down the block. The lighting was yellow and dim, casting the dark colors of the building in a gold hue and glinting off glasses and silverware.

"This promotion is going exceptionally well, wouldn't you agree?" Dougan toyed with his glass, circling the rim with his index finger over and over.

Zakuro nodded. "Yes, absolutely!" The ice cracked in their cups, quiet snaps punctuating their conversation. He'd been contacted for several offers after handing out his own business cards to those interested. "Our collective magnificence has made an exceptional impression!"

"Would you be interested in doing it again, in the future?"

Zakuro frowned. "Under what terms?"

Dougan's hand stopped. "What do you mean?"

"Is this going to be just one more time or is this for the long run?"

Zakuro was surprised by Dougan's stern, serious expression. He stared down at his drink, having brought a hand to his chin and running a finger over his lips in thought. Zakuro plucked a hair off his sleeve.

"Well--" Dougan paused. "I admit what I had in mind was more than just one more time.
Truthfully, the right wording would be, 'Whenver I would like for you to be there.'"

Zakuro was quiet for a second, then, "A partnership, however long, wouldn't be detrimental." If this one weekend was this successful, he could imagine the future. He realized what he was saying, but also realized that, funny enough, he didn't mind too much. "With our combined extravagance and complete genius, we could take over the world!"

They laughed hard, loud enough they disturbed a couple in a nearby booth.

"I bet we could," Dougan agreed after they quieted down, but still with a hint of laughter in his voice as a waitress came to check on them.

"As long as I can still get ahold of your clothes, and I have enough time to take care of my pets, it should be dandy!" Zakuro said. Their mutual laughter warmed him up a little.

"You have pets?"

Without a word, Zakuro thrust his phone out to Dougan, showing him pictures of his prized beetles. Dougan's face was blank.

"Here they are in the custom fighting ring I made them," Zakuro continued, and Dougan laughed again, but in an incredulous way.

They had to finish within the hour for Zakuro to be on time to his performance, and to be early was to be on time, so there was none of it to waste once they finished their conversation.

Zakuro didn't see Dougan until Sunday morning before opening time, which was a little strange since he'd been following him around. Maybe he finally had something more important to do (not that Zakuro wasn't important. In fact, he was quite important).

It was the last day of the promo and Zakuro watched the floor be replenished with sexiness as he shuffled cards. He overheard two associates babble about a new design Dougan would release soon, since the season was changing now. Hm, he'd have to get ahold of it one day. He didn't need to see it to know it would be fabulous.

It was another day of high turnout, mall customers constantly coming and going. Zakuro hadn't performed as many rapid, consecutive tricks as he did that weekend in a long time. A long long time. Like teenager long time, back when he still had to prove he was actually somewhat competent. Determination would always get someone somewhere. He smirked at that thought. What a clever line. I'll put it in my journal so all future generations will remember my greatness.

Dougan had approached him several times throughout the day to see how Zakuro was doing, and Zakuro would pull a trick out of his vest to illustrate his never dying enthusiasm. He was made for this!

But by the end of the day, Zakuro slumped on the couch in the lounge area, his spine popping as he cautiously sat down. He was grateful it was Sunday; the mall closed early. Right before closing he managed to snag a few items, and had now sat them proudly in his lap an hour after, closing his eyes to relax. Just accessories, mostly handkerchiefs and one pleasing collared shirt. Zakuro reveled in his few moments of silence before a cold hand weighed on his shoulder.

Lifting one eyelid, he caught the unmistakable form of Dougan leering over him in an interesting and alluring black and spattery white ensemble. "I wore you out," he commented in his snake voice, his hand, in a glove again, never leaving Zakuro's shoulder.

Zakuro leaned in a half-hearted attempt to shake the appendage. "The Great Zakuro never wears out for long. My energy is as continuous as time." He didn't say it as dramatically as he'd have liked. He was pretty tired.

"Is there any particular reason for the dramatic lines?"

"Is there any particular reason you're a planet orbiting my majestic sun?"

Dougan's closeness could be unnerving still, but after having spent more and more time around him, he figured that was just what he did.

Dougan's hand moved down his arm, before falling away. Whoa, there. Zakuro abruptly opened his eyes and stared at where Dougan's hand had been. The evening sunlight poured through the windows, tinting everything gold.

"It's cold in outer space. I could always use a little warming up."

Ew, what a terrible line.

Zakuro did his best to not grimace. Dougan continued to stand there. Admittedly, from that angle, Dougan looked pretty good. He didn't know how to reply to one of the worst pick-up lines in history, so he just shuffled himself over to one side of the suede couch. Dougan took a seat beside him, their legs touching briefly. A small silence sat between them.

"What an exceptional run," Dougan commented. He was looking at the parts of his store that needed replenishing.

"Mm."

Dougan looked some more, before pointing at a display. "You should wear that."

Zakuro followed Dougan's line of sight to a slim white suit with gold accents. Ooh, how handsome. "Next time, then!" Zakuro assured him, fidgeting with the clothes in his lap to get another look at them again.

"Or right now."

Zakuro stopped and stared directly at Dougan. Dougan laughed, then rose from his seat to grab a size from the display and held it up to Zakuro. Out of instinct, and maybe a little desire, Zakuro touched the sleeve of the suit, and then Dougan urged him to the dressing room. The more Zakuro gazed, the more he thought it wouldn't hurt to try it on and satisfy both his and Dougan's curiosity.

He looked. And looked. Then: "Let's go!" He took the suit and rushed to the fitting room, Dougan closing the door behind them.

Zakuro stripped down to his t-shirt while Dougan picked up the suit.

"I hope you don't mind me helping out." He held the suit for Zakuro to slip into. "The buttons can be difficult when the item's brand new."

Zakuro put his arms in the sleeves and Dougan wheeled him around. From top to bottom, he buttoned the suit up with ease, though Zakuro could see how the gold buttons would be difficult for someone who wasn't used to it. They weren't raised very far off the fabric and had a dome shape while the other side had very stiff slits, which could sometimes require a little more effort, but Dougan had him suited up in seconds.

"All you need are the matching pants now," Dougan said as he stared down at Zakuro's black pants from his other outfit. He fetched a white pair for the magician and when Zakuro stepped out, Dougan clapped.

Zakuro tested the outfit in the mirror and Dougan complimented him. "Magnificent!" He walked over to another rack and pulled out another top. Zakuro got a good picture of himself before he changed into what Dougan brought him.

"This one zips up." Dougan told him. Zakuro saw a gold dragon flash by, and recognized it as the outfit he picked up a couple weeks ago, but never bought. Dougan zipped it up for him, even though he said it like it should be easy for Zakuro to do. Slipping his own black gloves back on, Zakuro made a pose to watch how the garment fell on his body. This one was sleeveless. That was delightful. He always looked best sleeveless.

Zakuro tried on several more outfits, beaming at how handsome he was in all of them. Dougan had continued to do the work of buttoning and zipping, his hands feeling Zakuro here or there with light, light touches. The more time passed the warmer it became in the little fitting room.

Zakuro knew what was happening, or what could happen. He let his mind wander, let himself think about it. As long as Dougan didn't say anything else terrible like that outer space line, he felt he could handle anything he threw at him.

Dougan crept in close, his arm coming to rest on Zakuro's shoulders. "You know, I have a brand new style in my office." His voice was low and thick with the way he lingered on his words. It had Zakuro thinking of whispering serpents, before his attention was redirected by Dougan reaching toward his chest to unzip his clothes. Dougan's hand slid across Zakuro's neck, guiding him gently to the back of the building towards his office.

Once they were there, Dougan closed the door behind them, turned and kissed Zakuro full on the lips.

Zakuro was startled, but wasn't unsuspecting, and eased down into it. It was only a matter of time before Dougan would be blessed by Zakuro's wonderful skill. The places Dougan had touched earlier, he touched again, only firmer and he ventured further. Dougan pulled him until they fell back against the expensive loveseat near the desk, where quick work was made of his clothes before they continued.

-----

"So, now that I'm completely undressed, where is that fine outfit you said you had?"

"Over there," Dougan gestured to the side. "But I think you look just as magnificent without anything on at all."