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A Different Way Home

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Roy shivers in the freezing night air, the chill of the bricks he's leaning against seeping through the worn cotton of his t-shirt. He'd kill for a jacket, but he gets more attention without it; the t-shirt a size too small to show off the lines of his body. He no longer has the definition he once did, knows he's skirting the edge between slender and 'too thin' these days, but that seems to appeal to a certain sort of customer.

Not that he's having much luck tonight. He's been standing on this frigid corner for half an hour already without a hint of interest. Business is always slow on a Monday night, he knows, but hopefully it will pick up - not only does he need the money, but even just five or ten minutes in a heated car would give him a chance to warm up a little. He rubs his hands together, trying to create a little heat with the friction. It's times like this that he almost - almost - misses the desert heat.

Roy's scanning for potential marks when he catches sight of the figure in red walking his way. He squints a little to try and make out more detail; his vision is particularly poor at night, faces little more than shadowed blurs until they get within a couple of feet and he can make out actual features. The figure's small, though, and has what he assumes is a spill of long golden hair over one shoulder. Roy spares a moment to wonder whether the girl knows what kind of risk she's taking, walking through this part of the city alone at night. It's none of his business, of course - and considering where he's ended up it'd be a little hypocritical for him to be giving advice on poor life choices. The girl slides from his thoughts quickly enough as he goes back to looking out for tricks, occasionally stamping his feet, trying to restore circulation to his icy toes.

But the figure in red stops in front of him instead of continuing on past, and - despite what is indeed a long blond ponytail - the flat chest and angled jawline he can finally make out reveal the error in his assumption: this isn't a girl at all, it's a teenaged boy. The boy has his hands shoved into his pockets, feet planted solidly, his expression a mix of curiosity, determination and defiance as he stares at Roy intently.

"Can I help you?" Roy asks mildly.

The boy's eyes are a bright, almost luminescent amber beneath the sodium glow of the streetlights, matching the fall of golden hair. It's a striking look, especially paired with the black pants and shirt, topped by the blood-red coat.

The kid continues to stare at him, and Roy is just about to let loose a sarcastic comment when the kid abruptly finds his tongue, blurting: "How much?" The words seem to startle the boy as much as they startle Roy, if his mortified expression is anything to go by.

Roy raises an eyebrow, and then makes a show of looking the boy up and down. He's not the best judge of age, but he doubts this guy is older than fifteen or sixteen. "I don't fuck kids," he says bluntly. The boy is cute, but even if underage was his thing - which it isn't - he wouldn't risk that kind of pick-up out in the open like this.

The boy's expression darkens, his face flushing with a sudden anger, but he makes a visible attempt to rein himself in before replying. "I'm not a kid."

Roy raises both eyebrows this time in blatant disbelief.

The kid scowls at him. "I'm eighteen. I'm a goddamn university student."

It's possible, Roy muses, looking the guy over again. He has something of an ageless face himself, able to pass for twenty as easily as thirty - another thing that draws his clientele to him. The kid is short, only a scant inch or two above the five foot mark, but his build is solid enough, his shoulders square.

Still, it's better to be paranoid than arrested. "ID?" Roy asks.

"Seriously!?" The kid explodes, muttering dire invectives under his breath. "I'm being IDed by a hooker? What the fuck is my life?"

"You're welcome to try a hooker with a more flexible moral code if you so desire," Roy says, gesturing further down the street to where he knows some of the other guys work this time of night. There's a small group of them that band together for protection, but Roy's always been a loner.

The boy glances in the direction Roy indicates, but quickly shakes his head. "No. No, I want you." His cheeks flush pink with embarrassment as he says it, but his mouth presses into a determined line, as if daring Roy to doubt his resolve.

And that is interesting. Roy wonders what exactly it is about him that's drawn this particular kid. He knows that his mixed-race features are a draw for some men: the raven hair and dark eyes of his mother, combined with the pale Amestrian skin of his father. But generally it's the bigger guys that go for the Xingese look; the ones who get off on having someone smaller and lighter to manhandle and dominate. It's not something Roy particularly enjoys, but he's not in a position to turn down anyone willing to pay for his time.

Speaking of which. The kid is reaching into his pocket now, still scowling, pulling out his wallet and flipping it open, sliding out a small rectangle of plastic. He holds it up for Roy to inspect with a defiant expression. It's unexpectedly appealing, the stubborn little V between his brows, the determined jut of his jaw. So many of the men he encounters are jaded and emotionally numb, using him to try desperately to feel something, that this kid's spirit burns magnesium-bright in comparison.

Roy looks down at the card, making out the colour and layout of a local driver's licence, but in the dim lighting he hasn't got a hope of reading the text, and he curses his deficient vision yet again. Still, it makes little sense for the kid to show him a licence which proves him to be under-age, so odds are it backs up his claim. It could be a fake, of course, but these days the fakes are so good he probably couldn't make out the difference even if he could see.

"All right," Roy allows, deciding to go with it for now.

The kid puts the card back in his wallet and shoves it back in his pocket with apparent satisfaction. "So, how much?" He asks, repeating his original question.

Roy is somewhat nonplussed by the kid's stubborn determination. The guy's gorgeous and seems personable enough, if a little forthright, and Roy wonders what the hell he's doing picking up a hooker. The kid could walk into any gay bar or club and would draw men like flies to honey -
Roy knows exactly how popular young-looking twinks are with the gay crowd.

Still, it's not Roy's place to question the motivations of his clients, he's just here to do his job and get paid.

"Four thousand cenz for a hand, six for my mouth, ten if you want to fuck me. I don't fuck without protection, and anything kinky costs extra." The spiel is rote by now, and Roy rattles it off without even an internal flinch - unlike his first few days on the job, when every crude word had bruised his sense of self to the core.

The kid considers this for a moment. "What about if I want you to, uh, fuck me?"

Roy manages to keep his expression bland despite the unexpectedness of the question. It's not something he's been asked for before - which is fortunate, because he's not the sort who can get an erection on command. He's not sure he could get into it enough to be able to fuck a client; he can't recall many previous tricks who have genuinely turned him on. And it's been a long time - longer than he wants to think about - since he last had sex because he wanted to.

His first instinct is to reject the request, tell the kid that that particular activity isn't on the menu, but something makes him hesitate. There's a long-buried part of him that's flickering to life, tentative embers glowing faintly in the darkness. The kid is gorgeous, there's no denying that, but Roy's had good-looking customers before and looks have never been enough to jump-start his engine alone. It's a combination of everything about this particular kid - his earnest eyes, his stubborn, determined mouth, and the bright, aggressive flare of life inside of him - that draws Roy like a moth to a flame.

He thinks, to his surprise, that maybe it's something he could do with this kid. With him, rather than to him. It's a dangerous way to think - he learnt a long time ago that trust and hope in other people only ever leads to pain - and moths are all-too-often consumed by the flames they seek. But still, that faint, tentative flicker of desire is there inside of him, and he thinks that perhaps it could be fanned into flames of genuine - and perhaps mutual - want.

"Fucking's ten thousand, either way," he says, hoping it comes out more casually than he feels.

The boy nods acknowledgement, seemingly unaware of Roy's inner turmoil. "So, where do you, uh… usually go, to do… it?" He asks, wincing at the awkwardness of the words.

"Car or hotel, generally," Roy answers, resisting the way his mouth wants to curl into a smile. The kid's naivety is amusing, but Roy can't quite help finding it adorable as well.

"Would it be all right to go to my place?"

Roy shrugs. "If you'd prefer. It doesn't make any difference to me." He usually ends up in cars or hotel rooms because his clients don't want a whore sullying their their own beds - even if they don't have wives or girlfriends to hide him from. But Roy has no issue with the idea itself - a home is likely to mean heating, and a reasonably comfortable bed.

The kid hesitates, and then asks boldly: "What about if I wanted you to stay all night?"

"The entire night?" Roy raises an eyebrow, and the kid nods confirmation.
On a slow night he makes thirty or forty thousand. On a good night, he can take home a hundred thousand, although those are the nights he ends up crawling into bed at dawn, feeling scoured and hollow and used. But to be out of the cold for the entire evening is pretty appealing; tempting enough for him to apply a discount on what he'd otherwise be tempted to charge.

"Sixty thousand," Roy says. "Payment up front."

Roy wonders whether the price will be enough to scare the kid off. He hardly looks like the sort who tens of thousands to burn on hookers whenever he feels like it. Nothing about him indicates wealth: his boots are worn and scuffed and the tears in his canvas satchel have obviously been mended by hand. Nothing he's wearing is designer or labelled. He looks like any other university student, with enough cash to scrape by, even if the last few meals each month are instant noodles.

But the kid doesn't so much as wince, nodding as if the amount is entirely reasonable.

"All right, then," the kid says with satisfaction. "It's a deal."


There is silence for a few moments as the kid's expression transforms into something uncomfortable, his gaze sliding off to the side and his weight shifting from one foot to the other. It's the sort of awkwardness he usually sees when somebody is working themselves up to ask for something particularly kinky or degrading. Roy has a moment to start worrying about what exactly the boy wants to do to him, before the kid seems to come to some kind of conclusion, raises his chin defiantly, and pulls the glove off his right hand to reveal a fairly high-tech prosthesis.

"Will this be a problem?" The kid asks, holding the hand out towards Roy and curling each of the metal fingers closed and then open again. With his other hand in a fist, he reaches down to knock on his left thigh, which echoes hollowly. "Leg, too."

And that is not at all what Roy expected; he actually has to work to keep the surprise from his expression this time. The boy walks and moves so naturally that Roy would never have suspected two of his limbs weren't natural if he hadn't been told. The mechanics and joints visible in the flexing right hand are more advanced than anything he's seen before, and the boy's obviously had them long enough to make controlling them second nature.

Still, he imagines that two missing limbs could potentially make things awkward when it comes to intimate relations, and for the first time he has some inkling of why the kid is approaching him rather than going out to a club to pick up. He can only imagine the kinds of reactions the kid might receive from random hook-ups, especially in the gay scene, which tends towards the worship of bodily perfection.

But Roy has no issues with damaged bodies, not after the kinds of physical trauma he's seen, and the damage inflicted upon his own. If anything, he finds himself feeling an odd kind of brotherhood with this boy and his imperfect body, and he has a sudden desire to show the boy that desirability has nothing to do with being physically whole or perfect. Maybe that's something he'll get a chance to do tonight.

"They're not a problem for me," Roy says, letting his expression speak his sincerity.

The kid's discomfort evaporates, his grin blooming fierce and radiant. "Great!" He declares. "Let's do it!"

Roy lets himself smile this time - the boy's awkward enthusiasm is ridiculously endearing.

The kid winces as he twigs to the accidental double entendre, but he recovers quickly and holds out his hand. "Oh, hey - I'm Ed."

Yet another surprise - most of his tricks remain deliberately anonymous, and those who give him a name use obvious aliases. Roy never asks, and never offers his own in return. But he has no doubt that Ed has just handed him his actual given name without a second thought, and something in Roy warms at this small display of openness and trust. It also compels him to offer the same in return, despite his better judgement urging him to remain safely behind the shield of anonymity.

"Roy." The name sounds almost foreign to himself, it's so rare that he has reason to use it these days.

Roy reaches to shake the outstretched hand, realising at the last moment that he's reached out with his right while the kid's offered his left. There's an awkward moment where he's forced to switch hands before grasping the one offered. For a moment he just assumes the kid must be left-handed, and then it hits him - of course the kid prefers to shake with his natural hand rather than the prosthesis. He wonders what other adaptations the kid's had to make to fit into a two-handed world.

The kid - Ed - doesn't seem ruffled by the moment of awkwardness, his grip firm and sure. Roy doesn't think he's ever shaken the hand of a trick, either; apparently it's to be a day of firsts. So far Ed isn't so much bending the rules of convention as shattering them, and Roy's usual ability to keep himself at a distance along with them. He has to remind himself that no matter how friendly and sincere the kid is, he's still just a client. It's one night's work, and then he'll probably never see the kid again.

"Shall we?" Roy asks, as Ed continues to simply stand and grin at him.

"Oh! Oh, yeah, hell yeah! Let's go." Ed gestures for Roy to follow him, and Roy obediently falls into step beside him as they continue on down the street together.

Ed has no fucking idea what he's doing.

And Al is going to kill him.

He certainly hadn't set out to hire a hooker tonight. He'd been fed up and frustrated as he'd left campus this evening, bored of the same rut his life has been stuck in lately, sick of the same paths he's been treading and retreading day by day. The afternoon had dragged interminably and he'd grown more and more antsy and irritable, even snapping at Al when he'd called to let Ed know he wouldn't be home that night. By the time he'd shoved his books into his satchel at the end of the last lecture, he knew he had to do something to try and break himself out of the petulant, pigheaded mood he'd sunk into. He'd decided to start with something simple and take a different route home - he'd figured that maybe he'd stumble across a new take-away place, or a comic book shop he hadn't come across before.

Instead, he'd found Roy.

The guy had caught his attention from a distance: a slender figure with his back temptingly arched, shoulders pressed against the bricks behind him, one knee bent with his foot flat on the wall. He was only wearing a t-shirt and jeans, and Ed shivered sympathetically - the guy must be freezing his ass off. All the same, the t-shirt did offer a nice view of his flat chest and belly, and the long, toned muscles of his arms.

As he'd got closer Ed had filled in more details: straight black hair that fell to the tops of his ears, the shine of it a silver halo lit by the streetlight above, a stark contrast to the paleness of his skin. His eyes were dark and alert, flickering to each of the evening travellers as they passed him by, assessing them intently. He was the sort of good-looking that Ed found most attractive - sharp, lean and confident, with just a hint of danger about him. The heat of want flared in the pit of his belly, startling him with its intensity - it was rare that Ed felt so attracted to anyone on first sight.

It had taken Ed an embarrassingly long time to realise that the guy was a hooker. He'd already passed several men loitering along the street who had watched him go by with the same contemplative gaze, but he hadn't really thought anything of it. It wasn't until he found himself in front of the guy that all the pieces fell into place. A few moments later he realised he was standing there staring like an imbecile, and was receiving an assessing look in return.

"Can I help you?" The guy had asked in a rich, smooth tenor. He was well-spoken, his accent precise and refined - not what Ed had expected from a street worker, and for a few moments he was taken aback.

And then, without any actual input from his brain, he'd blurted: "How much?"

Ed was caught somewhere between horrified and aghast at his own impulsiveness. Of all the stupid, impetuous things he'd ever done, this had to rank up there with the best of them. What the hell was he thinking? Had his dick somehow taken total control of his brain? He'd never even had sex before, much less with a guy, and now he was suddenly deciding to proposition a gay hooker?

But the desire was still there, bright and hot and growing as he stood transfixed by the guy's dark, astute gaze. Ed wanted him, wanted to feel the warmth of his mouth and solidness of his body against Ed's own. So why the hell shouldn't he hire a hooker, if he wanted? It wasn't a crime. It wouldn't hurt anybody. It's what the guy did for a living - there shouldn't be any shame in it, for either of them. Ed had to lose his virginity some time, so he might as well do it in a way that let him call the shots.

And he had the money, sitting in the bank account he and Al jointly shared. The legacy of their absent father, he and Al had sworn never to resort to it out of need - and they'd fucking stuck to it, supported themselves without any help from the asshole's pity cash. But that meant the money was still just sitting there, and Ed felt a satisfying sense of pleasure at the thought of how displeased the bastard would be to know his son was contemplating using it to hire a gay hooker.

Meanwhile, said hooker was giving him the once over - and calling him a goddamn fucking kid. Well, if Ed hadn't been resolved to go through with this before, he certainly was now. If there was one thing he was good at, it was pushing back against assholes who thought he was too young to do something. He was old enough to drink, drive, and hire a goddamn hooker if he wanted, and he'd damn well prove it if he had to, despite the indignity of being carded by a sex worker.

Once they'd sorted the details, Ed had a moment of sobering realisation - having sex with this guy was going to mean getting naked. Which - yes, ok - should have been obvious from the outset, but forward thinking had never been Ed's strong suit. He had no idea how the guy was going to react to his prostheses. It wasn't like he was ashamed of his artificial limbs; they were hella useful, and he'd have a much fucking harder time managing without them. But the looks and comments and questions got damn tiresome after a while, so he typically went gloved simply to avoid the hassle. It wasn't something he'd could avoid if he was going to fuck this guy, though, and he had no idea how the guy was going to react to a double amputee.

But Ed wasn't a coward, and he wasn't going to let fear get in the way of something he wanted. He took a deep breath, lifted his head, and pulled off the glove - putting it all out there for the guy to see, even as he braced for the reaction.

But none of the expressions he expected - distaste, awkwardness, or worst of all, pity - materialised. The guy looked thoughtful for a moment, and then met his gaze evenly and said it wasn't a problem. Ed wasn't always the best at reading people, but he knew a genuine reaction when he saw one. The guy had seen his disability, acknowledged it, and accepted it - without any kind of judgement.

That's when Ed realised that he was kinda gone on the guy. It was entirely ridiculous - it wasn't as if he really knew anything about him: they'd spent five minutes together and barely exchanged a handful of words. But even the little he'd seen made Ed think that Roy was someone worth getting to know, and he'd found himself wanting to, just as much as he wanted to fuck the guy.

It wasn't a smart thing to want, not from a hooker he was paying to spend the night with and then would probably never see again. He tried to resign himself to the fact that Roy would be gone come morning - all they'd ever have, most likely, would be this one too-short night.

But then again, he thought, his irrepressible optimism twisting it back around - they had this night. Even if they never had anything beyond tonight, he was still going to be able to talk to Roy, touch him, connect their bodies in the closest way possible and get to know him as well as anyone could in a span of only hours. This night was his and he wasn't going to squander it, or waste time wishing it was something more than what it was.

He was going to spend the night with Roy, and that was pretty fucking awesome, no matter what happened afterwards.

"Shall we?" Roy asks, breaking him from his reverie, and they set off down the street together.

So that's how Ed finds himself escorting a hooker back to his apartment one freezing Monday evening. It might not be the most well-thought-out plan he's embarked on, but he doesn't think he's going to regret it. He darts a glance at Roy, and finds Roy looking back at him - Ed flushes with nervous embarrassment and Roy gives him a knowing smirk that gets him flushing for an entirely different reason. Ed's not sure how even just the curve of Roy's lips can be so damn sexy.

Even if Al does kill him, Ed thinks this might be worth it.