They kept a jar on the counter, for occasions like these; and whenever one of them had some spare change from lunch, or an unexpected windfall on the street, they'd toss it in. It was their way of doing, on a small scale, what nobody in Munich trusted the banks to do nowadays: saving money.
Of course, being young and male and without any real aims for the future, the jar was really the professional female companionship fund; or, as Ed liked to sarcastically call it, the pussy kitty.
Every week or so—not every weekend, but a few times in a month—they would take the contents of the jar, head down to the red light sector, and find as respectable an establishment as was available to spend their cash. Before Edward's arrival, Alfons had gone along with his office buddies on this trip; and the first few times, they'd dragged Ed along with them, much to the blond man's outrage and embarrassment.
The shock had faded quickly enough, though, and nowadays Alfons and Edward mostly made the outings on their own. They still occasionally ran into Jan or Wat or the rest of the gang in this or that bar, but it was far easier on both their schedules—and on their jar fund—to just go out together, when the unspoken mood was on them.
Besides, Alfons thought—but did not say aloud—it was much more enjoyable to go drinking with Edward than to tumble any number of ladies. Watching Edward slowly change colors as he drank was entertainment in and of itself, not unlike watching an extremely attractive lava lamp. In fact, when they did go out together, he usually ended up watching Edward more than whatever bawdy show was playing up on stage.
Watching Edward now, Alfons thought he was more than due for another night out. Over the past few days his friend had been growing more and more irritable, flying into an unreasonable temper or sulk at the slightest hint of a setback. He also wasn't sleeping well, as far as Alfons could tell; he could hear the creakings of the bed long into the night, as Ed tossed and turned and muttered to himself in irritation.
"Hey, Edward," he said the next night, over a ledger of calculations he wasn't really doing much with. "I could really use a drink. What about you?"
Edward tossed down the book whose pages he'd been torturing for the last hour, and stood up a little too fast to be natural. "Yeah," he said, and that was it. Their unspoken code. While Edward shrugged on his coat, bending over to struggle with the impossible catches of his boots, Alfons emptied the jar into his coat pockets. There wasn't as much as last time; not enough for a night at a luxury suite, certainly, but it would do.
Half an hour of walking found them downtown, ordering from the sultry woman working the bar at Tasche des Teufels. It was a slightly seedier place than they were used to it, but Jan had recommended it; and the girls were certainly pretty enough, even if the smoke was a bit thick.
"What'll it be, boys?" the woman at the bar asked them, leaning forward a bit too far to be natural. The brief apron she wore did nothing to add to the modesty of the dark, low-cut corset top that all the girls here wore, and the chest underneath threatened to run over. Alfons glanced down at the view provided, thinking privately that it did nothing for the woman's extremely generous natural figure, to be so mashed together out of shape.
"Two of whatever's on tap, please," he said. There was no point in ordering anything fancy; they could get better beer anywhere else, and anyway, he had to save the money to slip to Ed.
Ed was already surveying the room, with the practiced eye that Dorochet had drilled him on over and over until he collapsed and gave in. "Busy night," Ed remarked to Heiderich, although it wasn't really; the bar had a few patrons, but the atmosphere was slow and not pressured.
"Good night to be out," Alfons said, and caught the glass mugs as they slid across the bar towards him. "Here's yours," he added, passing one over to his companion. "Cheers."
They both drank; Alfons put his down quickly, in order to watch Ed tip his head back. He always shut his eyes when he drank, as though afraid the alcohol was going to splash into his face, and the line of his throat worked busily as he downed the first third of his beer in a single gulp. Alfons shook his head in amazement, wondering again at Edward's apparently bottomless throat.
Ed clapped his mug back to the bar, wiping his mouth with the back of his gloved hands; the tips of his ears were already beginning to flush red. "The beer sucks," he said hoarsely, but with no particular rancor in his voice; Alfons had to agree. It was a comfortable sort of terrible, the kind that let you complain while still drinking yourself into a coma on it.
"The view's nice, though," he commented, turning to face the rest of the room as Ed chased the last flecks of beer foam from his lips with his tongue. He nodded towards the stage and the cluster of tables under it, with women working their way around the tables and the other patrons. "See anything you like?"
"Mmmm," Ed said noncommittally; but Alfons noticed that his eyes were focused on one direction in particular. He followed the direction of Edward's gaze, to a pair of women leaning against a wall and chatting to each other in lazy voices. The russety brunette? No, it was the other one Edward was staring at; pale-skinned, with dark glittering eyes framed by heavy mascara, and hair so black as to be almost blue bobbed close around her head. The low-cut corset suited her flatter chest much better, Alfons judged. She glanced their way, still talking to her coworker, and her eyes smouldered; Alfons couldn't fault his friend's taste.
"That one's kind of pretty," Alfons said casually, raising his mug for another drink. Edward was starting to fidget and scowl, a little, in the way Alfons had come to recognize as nervousness; and as he raised his own mug for another gulp of beer, Alfons could see the red color beginning to spread down from his ears to his cheeks.
"You think so?" Edward snorted, putting his mug down with enough force that it would have spilled if there'd been anything left in it. "Why don't you go say hello to her, then?"
"I wouldn't presume," Alfons said mildly, still half-behind his tankard. "I'll let you have first dibs, this time. Plenty of money left."
Edward's whole face flamed, for a moment, then settled down to a slightly more sickly color. "Well, if we're so damn rich, then get me another beer," he demanded. "Hey, waiter!"
As Edward turned away to signal the bartender, Alfons laughed quietly to himself.
The dark haired woman had seen them, too; and whether she'd read Ed's intentions in spite of his nervousness, or whether the bar simply wasn't busy enough to keep her occupied, she gradually worked her way over to the bar, and brushed her way along it with a grace that hunting cats would envy. She smiled, red-painted lips parting over straight white teeth. "So," she said, "Is this seat taken?"
"Help yourself," Alfons said, then returned to his beer, apparently very studiously examining the contents. Best to fade into the background now, let the two of them work it out.
She smiled, sliding into the empty seat on Edward's left side; "Would either of you two gentlemen care to buy a lady a drink?"
Only the slightest of pauses between "lady" and "a drink" carried the innuendo; but Edward caught it, and flamed even redder. Her timing was shrewd, Alfons had to admit; one less beer, and Edward would never have screwed up the courage to talk to her; one more, and he would never have been able to walk a straight line.
"Uh, sure, if you want one," Edward said, and then smiled; a sheepish, sincere smile that carried all the brilliance the woman's did not. "I mean, if you sure you want one. I'd hate to do that to a total stranger."
She laughed, practiced and sultry, and leaned closer, leaning her arm against his, placing her hand on his shoulder. From this perspective, Alfons had an excellent view of the high colors rising in Edward's neck, and smiled to himself.
"Well, we don't have to be strangers," she purred, leaning in closer. Her arm slipped around Ed's back, leaving her corseted chest to press against his arm. "If you'd like, we could go for a walk and maybe get to know each other better."
"S-sure," Edward stuttered, bereft momentarily of any wittier response. Alfons felt a brief moment of envy for the woman, wishing he could render Edward speechless that easily. Ah, if only. "Um, Alfons?"
"Go on ahead," Alfons said cheerfully. "I'm not finished my beer, and there's a show coming on soon." He hefted his tankard as evidence.
"Right. Okay." As Edward stood, Alfons clapped him on the shoulder in a gesture of brotherly support; then slid his hand down to Edward's wrist, and tucked the remaining stack of bills into the edge of his glove.
The two of them moved off together, and before long Alfons heard the creak of the wooden stairs in this place. He ordered another beer and got comfortable; stretching his legs out in front of him, leaning back against the rounded edge of the bar, and prepared to watch the promised show. He had at least half an hour before Edward reappeared, he guessed.
The dancers appeared; some of them the same women he'd seen working earlier, some of them new; half a dozen shades of skin and styles of hair, no outfits to speak of. There was one pretty girl with tanned skin and blonde hair, but it was obviously artificial, the straw-blond color not half as rich a gold as Edward's.
While part of his mind wondered as to the method of making the feathers stay in place during all that gyrating, making absent calculations of friction coefficients and static cling, most of the rest of his mind was upstairs, mentally tracking the working girl and his friend. By now they should have reached a private room, maybe got down on the bed; had the girl gotten undressed yet? Had Edward?
Alfons had no trouble envisioning the corset strings loosening, the top falling to the floor—the view wouldn't change much, really. Edward would take much more work, to peel out of his layers of tan vests and long white-sleeved linen shirts. He half-closed his eyes, imagining the woman's hands running over Edward's arms and chest as she peeled off his layers; imagined the high flush that would rise in Edward's skin, the gasping pants of his breath.
They probably looked gorgeous together, he thought, and readjusted himself slightly through his pants; not like anyone in this place would care in the slightest. The woman's eyes had burned, coal-black, behind all that mascara; but Edward's eyes, when cloudy with sleep or half-closed with pleasure, were just as captivating. The girl's pale skin and dark hair, against Edward's tanned, rich skin, the helter-skelter gold of his hair, once unbound.
Or would he take it out? Maybe not—Edward tended to be intensely private about his hair, only letting it down in the privacy of his home. Well, in Alfons' head, at least, if not in real life, the band snapped away, and the ponytail came tumbling down, contrasting brightly against the rich black...
Alfons' increasingly erotic musings were interrupted by the sound of voices drifting down from overhead. He blinked and frowned, pulling out of the bored haze he'd fallen into; sat up straight, and listened more closely. It sounded like an argument, between a man and a woman... surreptitiously, he checked around for the bar's bouncer, in case a fight were to break out.
But that was definitely Edward he heard, voice raised in irritation; and a strange woman's voice. It might be the dark woman, with the sultry tone stripped from her voice, he thought, and turned around on his stool until he could see the stairs.
"—my arm!" he heard Edward's voice, rising in definite anger, and his concern went up another notch. Edward's prosthetics, his missing arm and leg... they were completely hidden by his normal layers, but of course, impossible to hide once the clothes were off. He knew his friend was sensitive about them, and if something had gone wrong...
He heard the voices rise again, then lower abruptly, but he couldn't make out any other words. By this time, however, several other people had heard; patrons were beginning to glance upwards, and the lady at the bar was looking more and more forbidding.
Swallowing sudden nervousness, Alfons counted out enough of the remaining change to cover the beer they'd drunk, and started for the stairs. He never reached them. No sooner had he turned in that direction than there was a bang from upstairs; the crack of a door hitting wood.
Everyone in the bar heard that one; heads turned all over the room as Edward reappeared at the head of the stairs, stomping down them with considerably less respect than he had coming up. His collar was undone, hair mussed and face flushed, and his expression was such a mixture of rage and mortification that any words died in Alfons' throat.
Edward stormed right past him, out the door, before Alfons could move. Buzzing whispers started up behind them; at another creak on the stairs, Alfons looked up to see the whore from before slowly starting to descend. Her clothes were considerably neater than Edward's; and Alfons only had to take one look at the mixed smugness and disgust to know he wanted nothing more to do with this place. He followed Edward out the door, grabbing both their coats on the way out.
By the time he got home, Edward had had time to take off his boots—Alfons found one by the door, and one thrown with force against the hallway wall—and given the rattles and clinks coming from further inside the apartment, pull out half of their beer from the icebox. Wordlessly, Alfons hung up their coats in the hallway, fixed Ed's boots, and came into the main room. Edward had flung himself onto the couch, still flushed and furious, with most of one bottle of a beer already disappearing inside him.
Alfons pulled another bottle for himself—a dark lager, much better quality than the piss they'd been serving at the bar—and sat on the armchair across from Edward. "You drink much more, you're gonna get sick," he observed, but took a pull of his own.
"Ha!" Edward laughed in response, a short, ugly bark, and nearly threw his bottle onto the floor. It wasn't quite empty—Alfons winced to see the liquid trickling out onto the carpeted floor—but Edward just snatched up another one. "After what happened back there, I need a damn drink more than ever."
There was that code again, Alfons noticed, and silently wondered whether Edward had intended the double entendre. He waited a few more minutes in silence, until Edward's tight, furious motions had begun to calm a little, before broaching the question. "What happened?"
Edward didn't answer at first, staring into the mouth of his bottle with his eyebrows tightly drawn and furrowed. Alfons just waited, knowing that more pressure would only delay the question.
Finally, he stirred, leaned forward and set the bottle down. "She wanted double," he said, voice hoarse.
Alfons winced. He had suspected something like that had happened, but had somehow hoped his friend was just overreacting to some minor or unintended slight. "Double?"
"Yeah. Once she got my shirt off, with her mouth all over my neck, and saw the damn arm, she said, she said... she was this block of ice, all of a sudden, and told me that I'd have to pay twice as much as that if I wanted her to fuck with a—"
He cut himself off at that, clamping his lips tightly on whatever words had come next; and Alfons could almost see steam coming from her ears. "Didn't you agree on a price beforehand?" Alfons couldn't help but asking. Hadn't they taught him even that much?
"Fuck, of course we did! But she said, kinks were extra. It's not a kink, it's just a prosthetic, I said. She didn't have a damn machine fetish, she said. I told her, I wasn't paying her to suck on my arm. That's when she started getting really nasty about it."
Alfons was cringing more with every incriminating sentence; fortunately, Edward no longer needed any encouragement. He was building up momentum, steaming forward on a world-class Ed-rant. "So I got my shirt and I told her, I don't need to take this from a two-bit whore. She said, oh yes you do, or what else are you going to do? You'd have to find a girl who was deaf and blind to want to fuck you as you are. Who needs a fucking girl? I said. I can just do it myself. And then she said, oh is that so, why don't you show me right now? I'll give you a freebie. If you can." Ed bit off the last words with savagery.
He glared furiously into the dark of the apartment, not appearing to even notice his flatmate choking to death on his beer beside him. "Fuck it, I don't know how she knew. If only I had my damn automail, this wouldn't even be an issue—if I had gloves on and I was careful I could jack off no problem. But this clunky thing hasn't got the grip, it hasn't got the stamina, it's fucking useless. I haven't gotten off in almost a month, dammit, and I'm so horny I could just fucking explode."
Alfons sat up straight, alarm struggling with shock at this, but natural male horror took over. "Ed, if it's that bad, we can just pay the difference," he said, striving for calm. "Money's not that tight—if it's really important—"
"Damn it, it's not about the money!" Edward interrupted, half-shouting. "It's not worth it! It's not fucking worth it to waste money on cheap whores who are going to give me that much shit. I'm not even really interested in girls, I don't see why I should pay blown up rates for tawdry makeup and breasts I don't care about and a cunt I'm not going to use. It's just not worth it, all right? Just drop it!"
A distant part of Alfons' mind, as before, was noting with interest that he'd gotten more personal details out of Ed in five minutes of rage than in almost a year of plying him with alcohol, and filed this detail away for reference. The rest of him was still locked up in total white-out overload of the implications of Edward's last three sentences.
Finally out of words for the moment, Edward just sat there and panted, flushed a deeper shade now from embarrasment as much as the alcohol.
"What?" he challenged finally, apparently having readied his rant for the second wind. "What are you staring at, huh? You got something to say? Fuck." He reached down toward his abandoned beer.
That simple motion started Alfons back to life. He reached out and stopped Edward with a hand around the wrist, though his heart was still thudding hard in his throat, where it had leapt after Edward's little revelation.
"Don't," he warned, "you'll regret it later."
Edward scowled and he rolled his whole head along with his eyes in an exaggerated, drunken expression of exasperation. "I already regret it," he pointed out. "Fucking feels like it's going to fall off," he muttered lowly, and his ears turned even deeper scarlet, almost purple now. Alfons hurried to make soothing noises, even as he pried the bottle out of his friend's fingers with his other hand. The way Edward was going, he was worried the man would either make himself sick or die of an anuerysm.
As if that weren't enough, Edward just had to squirm a little on the sofa, making his lower half ever so noticeable and enticing. Alfons gave up. A good man would probably not be taking advantage of the situation like this, but well, at least he could tell himself that a good friend could be forgiven for wanting to spare a fellow blue balls.
He tentatively reached one hand up to rest upon Edward's belly. Edward grunted a little, but did not shove him away.
"What do you want to do?" he felt obligated to ask that much at least, though he hedged his bet by starting to rub slow, placating circles over Edward's stomach. "I can run you a cool bath..."
"No fucking way I'm climbing in ice water right now..." Edward interjected, albeit in a distracted sort of voice.
"...or we can take care of it right here, right now," Alfons purred. God, Edward's abs were gorgeous. "I don't mind, you certainly deserve it. A whole month? I think I'd die."
Edward's face cinched in a suddenly pained way, and Alfons stopped what he was doing immediately. "You shouldn't have to do that," he muttered, sounding horribly ashamed of himself.
"Well, I do, and you're just going to have to live with that," Alfons replied with more bravado than he felt. This was the part that he secretly feared the most.
Edward's only response, however, was to gasp a surprised sigh and arch shamlessly upward, and Alfons needed no further encouragement. He snaked his fingers down lower and rubbed circles down over Edward's crotch, giddy with the realization that he was actually being allowed to; half-worried that in a second Edward was going to reach down and snatch his hand away.
No such response was forthcoming, though, and he decided the ploy had worked; Edward's breathing hitched and his eyebrows shot up to stratospheric heights.
"Mmm," his friend breathed languidly and his head lolled drunkenly to one side. Again, Alfons felt a brief stab of remorse, but well, at least this way Edward would be satisfied. If he were so drunk he'd forgotten he could just jack off with his left, non-dominant hand, that was pretty sorry indeed. Or perhaps he couldn't use that either for some strange reason; a month was a damn long time to wait if you had a perfectly good hand to use. Alfons molded his fingers around his friend's half-hardening erection through Edward's pants and smiled.
"You like that, huh?" he said needlessly, and finally released Edward's wrist so he could busy that hand unfastening pants. Edward's arm hung uselessly there, though the fingers twitched a little as Alfons undid the relevant pants buttons.
"Fuck yes," Edward breathed in response to his question and arched up a little to meet his fingers, all traces of resistance lost in a slightly sleepy drunken haze. "'S nice..."
Alfons for his part gave a slightly pained grin and danced uncomfortably, bumping his own swelling parts with his thighs. He gave up and sat down gingerly on the very edge of the couch; then when that failed, he decided "to hell with it" and slung a leg over so he was straddling Edward. He undid a few of his own fly buttons to give himself some breathing room, and Edward watched with interest, licking his lips.
"You wan' to—?"
Alfons cut Edward off before he could pursue that any further by reaching down into his friend's open pants and squeezing hard, causing Edward to jerk and cry out. He was always so expessive when he was drunk; Alfons couldn't resist the urge to dip his hips forward and grind against his trapped hand. Edward reacted even more to that, made a noise that went straight from Alfons's ears right to his cock.
That kind of wantonness just couldn't be denied. Alfons was vaguely aware this was getting out of control; he had just planned on jacking him off, efficiently and with the least amount of potential personal embarrassment, but Edward was so wasted and still so ready to go that it would have tested a saint's reserve. He removed his hand from the equation and set that to undoing shirt buttons, while his treacherous hips rocked themselves of their own accord right up against Edward's.
There was a brief moment of fireworks, and then Edward made a growly noise and pressed upward and ooh, there it was again.
It was a little hard to think after that point. He attempted to be a gentleman and use one of his hands to rub Edward's stomach (blue balls were a bitch even if you were on your way to relieving them) but it didn't help that Edward flailed his arms up to clasp around his back, his ass, urged him harder, faster. Alfons finally gave up and just enjoyed the ride, more painfully hard than he had ever been in his life.
Mouths started meeting skin, hands clenched at various places against hard muscles, and Edward's entire being seemed to swell up beneath him as he stiffened and then, glory of glories, shook and began coming, spasming over and over in hot bursts against Alfons's shirt and chest. There was so much of it. Alfons managed to somehow pull away, and came up with a big patch of his shirt sopping.
"Oh fuck," Edward panted, going slowly boneless. "Oh fuck."
Under other circumstances, Alfons again would have liked to think he could have been a gentleman, but as it was, looking down at Edward's dazed, amazingly grateful expression, it was practically biological imperative that he finish. He dragged his fingers hastily across the mess Edward had left on his lower abdomen and plunged a hand into his half-open pants, titilated by the thought of Edward's come around his cock just as much as the feel. He jerked frantically for another thirty seconds before coming all over his hand, his pants, and a very little bit down onto Edward beneath him.
Edward twisted and made a face, and it was right about then that he realized the enormity of what he had just done.
"Oh," he breathed, tipping sideways to fall between the crack of the couch and Edward's body. "Wow..."
"Yeah..." Edward said thickly, lolling his head over toward him. He favored him with a beautiful, lazy smile that even now made it hard to resist kissing off his face. "'s good, thanks. I feel better now."
"That was the idea," Alfons said, slightly uncomfortably. He was now aware that he was sticky, but unfortunately, the bathroom was about a million light years away, and spent, he now just felt incredibly fatigued. "C'mon, you should get your shirt off, it's messy—"
Edward slowly unbuttoned it, took a couple tries to drunkenly shrug it off. He was sweet enough to reach over and attempt to help Alfons clean up too, though ultimately they mostly just spread the mess around more. Ah, whatever. Alfons was feeling so pleasantly buzzed, both from the drink and from the excellent company, that his annoyance at the ickiness was fading.
The sight of red lipstick smudges on Edward's chest, however, slightly took the edge off. He licked his thumb and sleepily rubbed one out, and Edward looked down at what he was doing and smirked.
"Well," Edward pointed out as they both drifted off, "on the plus side, we're gonna have a whole lot more money all of a sudden..."