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Slow Burn


The phone rang thrice before Alfons rolls out of bed to answer it, leaving Edward behind to grunt a protest at both the noise and the loss of his own pet hot water bottle, not even opening his eyes as he does so. "Go back to sleep," Alfons says as the phone keeps ringing, tugging on a pair of boxers. "It'll be for me anyway, Ed, you know that."

Ed twitches his nose at the blond, and nuzzles further into the pillows. "'kay," he mumbles, "That's good."

Alfons' shirt lies in a crumpled heap on the floor at the foot of the bed, where Edward tossed it last night in his haste. He shucks it on—pulls at the creases, and makes a face. There's nothing he can do about them now, and in any case whoever's calling him still hasn't given up.

They do, however, by the time he's ambled out into the hall—he hovers by the phone for a few moments, in case they decide to call back, but when they don't merely shrugs and heads into the kitchen. He'll fix himself breakfast, and maybe something for Edward as well, if he's feeling charitable.

They're down to the last ten matches in the box, he discovers when he has the oven open and the grill in place. He pulls a face, makes a note to add matches to the shopping list he'll be sending Edward out with later, and leans forward to kindle the flames; this done he draws back and goes to fetch the bread and cheese. Melted cheese on toast. A British dish, sloppy and never a high-ranking culinary experience; but it's quick, and easy to prepare, and cheese is one dairy product Edward doesn't mind.

The phone rings just as he places the slices of bread onto the grill, and he curses in as much as he can (he's no Edward, to swear like a sailor; a simple 'bother' is as much as he can bring himself to say) torn between watching over breakfast and answering the call. Eventually with a curse he yanks the oven door open, hoping the toast won't cook so fast with the hot air escaping, and bolts back to the hall—only for the phone to be answered by Edward, naked and wobbling on an artificial leg he didn't have time to put on properly. He's missing his prosthetic arm, too, and Alfons frowns at the sight.

"Hi," the smaller blond says, appearing not to have noticed Alfons. "Who is this? Oh. Uh-huh—ah! He's right here, actually—Alfons, there's a Josef Steinberg on the line for you." Ed holds the phone out to him and cracks a yawn, and Alfons sighs and pads over to take it.

"Go put your arm on," he mouths, and Ed rolls his eyes and limps back in the bedroom; Alfons watches him go, then raises the phone. "Hallo, hier ist Alfons Heiderich. Wie kann ich Ihnen helfen? Ja. Ja, bitte. Danke."

"So who's he?" Ed asks when Alfons hangs up and wanders into the bedroom in search of a pair of trousers. The smaller blond is leaning back on the bed they shouldn't-but-do share, tightening the strap that kept his artificial arm on. His eyes are on the buckle rather than Alfons, though he tenses when the blue-eyed boy takes a step towards him.

"Josef is my newest sponsor," Alfons says softly, sinking to sit on the bed next to Edward. "He's—"

"Jewish?" Ed offers with a crooked smirk, and leans over to kiss him on the cheek, lips lingering. "How much is he paying?"

"Enough to pay the rent for a few months and keep us fed," Alfons replies, smiling crookedly. "Longer, if we save. Now, are you up for some breakfast? I left some toast in the oven, it'd be burned by now but we could still eat it."

Ed nods quietly and brushes his face down, leaving a long line of kisses from Alfons' cheekbone to his collar, hands rising and carefully unbuttoning Alfons' shirt, and suddenly the toast in the oven is the last thing on the German's mind.


Sometime later, with the covers kicked off and both of them naked and rather sweaty, Edward curled against Alfons' side with his face buried in his arm, Alfons closes his eyes and imagines that this sponsor will be more patient than the others, that he'll be able to finally reach his dream. He's dying; he accepted that long ago, and the thought brings with it nothing but a pang of sadness. Sadness that he won't get to grow old with Edward, won't get to see how his lover changes; he sighs, softly, and runs his hand through his hair.

"Alfons?" Ed asks softly, voice groggy, and cranks open one eye. "Is something wrong?" You want me to fetch your pain meds? is the unspoken question, and Alfons shifts over onto his side, wrapping an arm around Ed's waist.

"It's nothing," he says, kissing Ed's forehead; Ed wriggles a little and nips contentedly at his throat.

"Good, 'cause angsting is my job," he mumbles. "Go to sleep." He reaches out, fumbling with his good hand for the blankets, and firmly tugs it up to cover them; Alfons laughs, softly, and tightens his grip on Ed.

"Yessir," he whispers with an affectionate nuzzle, and Ed opens his eyes—such beautiful eyes, all gold and glinting—and smiles.

His life is far from perfect, Alfons thinks, but at least he has this.