Author's Note: Originally posted on various LiveJournal communities. Based on musinglibertine's rent boy prompt and my eighth grade Social Studies teacher's lecture on the four main motivations of history: money, sex, LAND, and power. Really.
The Four Motivations
Edmund's hands clench convulsively on the sheets, white-knuckled and dabbled with sweat. His mouth is slack, and his eyes are tightly shut with what might be pleasure, what might be pain.
The bed creaks rhythmically in the dark, matched with heavy breath carrying the barest hint of sound.
The man groans loudly, thrusts once, twice more, and collapses over Edmund's back. It is sticky and unpleasant, but Edmund lies still, pressed against the man's hairy chest.
The man huffs, breath tickling Edmund's ear, and rolls over. He tosses a wad of pound notes onto the bed, and begins to dress. Edmund listens to the clink of belt and rustle of clothes, curiously detached and coldly impersonal.
"You gonna get up or what?" The man has an American accent, all slurred, with sprawling vowels and hard consonants.
"Yeah," Edmund says, imitating his accent. He sits up and begins to count the money. The yellow glow of the streetlamp glances over the graceful curve of his spine, stark against the blue of the hotel room.
The American leans against the doorway and looks on appreciatively.
"Sir," Edmund turns questioningly, dark hair damp over dark eyes, "you've cut me ten pounds, sir."
"Well, whaddya know," the man drawls, "here." He drops a ten pound note and walks out the door, leaving nothing but the faint vestiges of cologne and cash.
Edmund stands, cautiously, taking up a wet cloth. He rubs it over himself gingerly: from between his legs, drying semen and lubricant; from his face and shoulders, the scent of an American.
He pulls, over his boxers, faded denims – Peter's old ones, a little frayed around the cuffs – he buttons, over a white shirt, a grey one. His shoes are laced up and tied; sixty pounds are slipped into his pocket (his usual fare is fifty, but, hey, a few pounds here and there never hurt anyone).
It is a little after twelve when he leaves the hotel, eyes downcast as the receptionist gives him a bright, empty smile over her copy of The Commonsense Book of Baby and Child Care. Outside, the air is chill against his pale skin. Cars roar past with blaring horns, screaming as Edmund trudges home, wondering, as he always does, what Peter thinks of his coming and going every night, sometimes staying out until four or five in the morning.
Those are Edmund's bad days, when the (ab)use begins to show in dark circles and bruises on Edmund's fair face, and no one is willing to pay for a sick rent boy.
(He remembers the time when, very early in the morning, a man drove up to Edmund and told him to get in, told him that he would buy Edmund a drink if he wanted. They had gone to the man's apartment instead, where another man tied Edmund up and fucked him as he gagged and choked on a plastic dildo forced into his mouth. He'd limped back home, face aching and covered in come, and in the following week, no one had bought him. He had gotten two hundred pounds, though, so that was all right.)
He shoves his hands deeper into his pockets and shivers.
Peter worries, he knows, when he leaves and comes back smelling of other men and sometimes alcohol, or cigarettes. But he knows, too, that Peter has no idea of what Edmund does to help pay the rent, and is sometimes too exhausted to think properly about why Aunt May has sent them five hundred pounds for Mother's Day when she's been dead for three years.
Peter works too hard, Edmund thinks, and smiles a little.
He likes the idea that Peter depends on him, even if just a little, because when he was younger, he always had to depend on Peter. And this financial freedom is liberating.
Edmund has a day job, too. He works from twelve to six in a small bookshop alongside the owner, a fiercely independent woman named Lenoir, and her friend, Natalie. Lenoir and Natalie are always telling him that he shouldn't work as hard as he does; he always looks so thin and pale. They like to invite Edmund and Peter to dinner every so often, and they usually send Edmund home with an expansive hamper of food.
The first time they did this, Edmund ran panting home, clutching a tremendous chicken. He'd cooked it with stuffing and leftover vegetables, dug up an ancient package of gravy, and managed to concoct some odd sort of stew with spaghetti.
Peter had come into the kitchen wondering if he'd walked into a dream, what with all the heavenly scents. Edmund grinned crazily, and blurted, "My boss gave the chicken to me! Isn't it brilliant?"
"What – oh – but – Edmund," Peter said, gaping at the beautiful chicken that graced their homely wooden table, "it smells so good." He breathed in, eyes closed. Then, suddenly, "Lenoir gave this to you?"
"Isn't she brilliant?"
"Edmund, she's your boss! You can't," Peter gestured helplessly at the platter, "you can't –"
"Oh, Peter, I can't what," Edmund grinned, grabbing his hair, "Peter, Pete old boy, I can too."
"But it's not proper!" Peter protested, making half-hearted attempts to push Edmund away.
"Right, right." Edmund said into Peter's ear, "uh-huh." His full lips curl mockingly against the soft curve. "Chiiicken," Edmund breathed.
"Oh, get off," Peter laughed, "all right. Bloody chicken. Tell Lenoir," he paused, "tell her that Peter says thank you very, very much, an inordinate amount of thank you and tell her that she can't possibly do this again, or something, and thank you again. Wow, Edmund, this smells amazing."
"And we won't ever have anything like it again because yooou are a silly, stupid, silly silly silly bugger, isn't that right, Peter?"
"Shove off, Edmund," Peter said, tongue poking out as he fetched a plate, "ooh, chicken."
"Peter, you daft idiot," Edmund said rather cheerfully, and stuck a noodle down his shirt.
They live in a fairly nice apartment in one of the better sections of the city. It's large, well-decorated, and of the newer sort. Edmund adores it, and Peter does too. It's part of the reason they work so hard.
When Edmund walks in, he is surprised to see Peter waiting up for him, with faint traces of worry along the tired lines of his mouth. Usually Peter is asleep by now, sprawled along the ancient sofa in a feeble attempt to be able to greet Edmund coming in.
"Hullo," Edmund says, "aren't you tired?"
"No. Er." Peter shifts uneasily. "Tea?"
"Cheers, I'm off for a quick shower."
Peter nods, and Edmund wonders what this is about.
Through the hot spray of the water Edmund can hear the shrill whistle of the teapot, and as he dries his hair with a blue towel, he smells the distinctive aroma of Earl Grey.
Peter is just reaching for a teacup as Edmund walks through the doorway.
"Oh!" Peter says, and drops it. There is an awful tinkle of smashed porcelain, and Peter looks at the broken cup as if it were going to make him cry.
"Here, Peter, I'll get it." Edmund fetches the broom and dustpan while Peter pours the tea into mugs. "Well, anyway, how was today?"
Peter shrugs, watching Edmund sweep up the shards. "It was okay." There is a nervous pause. "I went to see Lenoir and Natalie."
"Oh, really? I didn't see you."
"You'd already left."
"Yeah." Edmund throws away the shards. "What'd she say?"
For some reason, this question makes Peter sound panicky and upset. "Edmund," he blurts, "Edmund, she said."
Edmund looks up from his tea. Peter's head is bowed, and tears spatter the wood of the table. "Peter?" A rickety wooden chair is overturned; Edmund is grabbing Peter's shoulders. "Peter, what –?"
"Edmund," Peter chokes, and half-turns, half-falls out of the chair into Edmund. They tumble onto the floor. "Ed, I'm sorry, I'm so sorry, I wish I could have –" Peter cries, a large, wet, messy splotch on his brother's shirt. "I wish."
Edmund's hands flutter, touching Peter's arm, his hair. "Peter," he whispers, "it's all right." He draws Peter closer, rubbing his back.
"No, Edmund, it's not all right!" Peter's voice is raw, and it cracks. "Lenoir said that you're working as a prostitute and that isn't all right! It's my fault and it isn't –"
Edmund jerks away reflexively. His veins flood to ice. "She what."
Edmund had been standing in front of a pub of the raunchier sort with several other rent boys. They were putting on a bit of a show, hands insinuative with careful gestures and touches, and onlookers walked by, appalled and aroused.
They should have been arrested, Edmund thought, they should have, but they weren't.
Edmund was sucking the tip of another boy's nose with his hands in the other's back pockets when Lenoir walked by and shrieked incredulously, "Edmund?"
The boy cursed as Edmund bit down.
Peter's face is buried in Edmund's hair. Vaguely, a distant part of Edmund thinks about the snot that's mixing in with the fine strands, the snot and the tears and the mess.
"Edmund, please," Peter says, "I'm sorry, I should never have made you come with me."
Edmund rubs Peter's head. "Peter, I wanted to, it's not your fault."
"Then, why!" Peter screams, and pushes Edmund away, "Why are you doing this!"
Edmund doesn't know why. At least, he doesn't want to.
The first time Edmund ever sold himself was a Tuesday evening. He didn't really mean to, just walked into the wrong pub at the wrong time and found himself being fucked into a motel bed by a man who oozed wealth and manners.
Before Edmund had even realized exactly what had happened, the man had tossed two fifty pound notes on the table and left, leaving Edmund to think, Wow, I can really earn some money with this.
And so the wrong pub became the right one, and every day, Edmund would trot out and lean nonchalantly against the dirty brick wall, looking through dark lashes at the night world. For no real reason, really. Helped pay the rent, he supposed.
And in the very back of his mind, something said, You do this because it makes you feel superior.
"Look, Peter, it's not that bad." Edmund feels a little annoyed. "Peter, Jesus, shut up!"
Peter hiccups and gulps furiously, fair skin blotchy with ill-contained anguish.
"Peter, I decided to do this for us. You know we have barely enough money as it is."
Peter's eyes are downcast, and his lip twists beneath the dull white of his teeth. Edmund knows that he is hurting his brother, and this gives him a vicious twist of guilty pleasure.
"And anyway, it's better like this." Edmund shrugs, even though Peter isn't looking at him anymore. "I get to have sex and earn money doing it."
Peter rapidly blinks away despair. "But, Edmund," he begs, "I'll work harder, I'll, I'll get another job." A sob catches his throat. "And, Ed. . . ."
Their lovemaking is rough and cheerless and despairing; it is hardly love at all. It is obvious Peter has never done this, and his inexperience is heady, his responsive virginity, thrilling.
Peter's golden curls are tumbled across the ivory of pillow, and his back is arched helplessly, the smooth expanse of his pale stomach marred by splotches of red. Edmund bites and kisses his way up a trembling thigh, feels the way Peter moans under him, smiles into the messy clashing of lips.
He slips in one slick finger, then two, and twists and slides until Peter cries out and writhes into the tangle of bedclothes, clutching white sheets.
"Ah! God!" The sounds spill from Peter's lips and Edmund drinks them in like red wine and blood.
Edmund kisses away hot tears as he wipes Peter's shuddering body with a damp towel. Peter shivers and clings to him with the desperation of a drowning man who knows he is going to die.
Tomorrow, Edmund will come home from work, cook supper, and go out. He will lean, nonchalantly, against the dirty pub wall and smile at passers-by with enticing eyes. Some will glare at him, some will hurry by, embarrassed, and some will extend an arm with the promise of money. He will have sex, get paid, and come home to Peter, who will be asleep on the couch with tears drying on his cheeks. He will smile indulgently and carry his brother into the bedroom, because this way, Edmund is finally in control.