Warning: This work has been rated 18+ for language and mature content.
Rhys found it very hard to leave his bed over the next week or so, even to get high. Instead he laid in misery and dopesickness, shivering and nauseous, pouring sweat and staring unseeingly at the far wall, his mind blank and dark like a brand new blackboard. Ethan checked in on him occasionally, offering food that Rhys refused and asking repeatedly what was wrong. Today, however, a rainy Thursday, he let himself into Rhys' room, his silhouette a soft outline in the blue, dim light coming in through the window blinds. He was holding a piece of paper in his hand, practically vibrating with excitement.
"What?" Rhys' voice was a bit hoarse from lack of use. He was curled up on the bed, his back to Ethan and his cover pulled to his shoulders.
"Exciting news," Ethan said giddily. "Guess what?"
Rhys sighed without turning around. Ethan continued anyway.
"A few weeks ago I saw that the art gallery was taking submissions for a showing of local artists. I submitted one of your pieces."
When Ethan went silent, Rhys turned his head to look at his brother over his shoulder. Ethan was staring at him, grinning broadly.
"And?" Rhys asked flatly.
"It got accepted!"Ethan was practically bursting with the news. "Rhys, your portrait's gonna be shown in the art gallery!"
Rhys stared at him, biting back a sigh. He knew he should be excited, happy even - this should be one of the greatest days of his life - but instead he just felt overwhelming nothingness and a sense of dread.
"Okay," he said eventually, and turned his head to stare at the wall again. He felt Ethan deflate, the energy he had brought into the room dropping to a significant low.
"Aren't you excited?" he asked, sounding crestfallen. Rhys felt his heart twist up and sink into his stomach.
"Of course I'm excited," he lied, talking to the wall. "I'm just tired."
He forced himself to sit up, drawing the blanket around him as he turned to face his brother again. "When's the show?"
"Two weeks from now," Ethan's smile slowly returned, creeping over his face. "They really, really liked it, Rhys. It's their top pick."
Rhys forced a smile, not meeting his brother's gaze. "That's awesome."
"We'll make it a whole day," Ethan went on, gaining his momentum back. "We'll go out to dinner, I'll make your favorite cake, we'll invite Leah and Lip along, we can all go to the show together.
Rhys smiled and nodded along, a bit amazed by his brother's giddiness. He didn't know how he felt about Ethan submitting one of his pieces without asking. His art was private, a coping mechanism, an extension of himself. To have it put on display was an act of revolting vulnerability he wasn't sure he was ready for.
He sat up, the cover falling off from around his shoulders to reveal his half tank binder. Ethan, in the middle of rambling about whatever, trailed off as his gaze fell onto the neat, red lines covering Rhys' ribcage and stomach.
"Rhys?" his eyebrows knit together, mouth forming into a firm, worried frown. "What the fuck?"
Rhys swung his legs over the edge of the bed and leaned over, plucking an oversized, off-white t-shirt from the floor and pulling it on. Ethan crossed his arms over his chest, his gaze settling into a stern stare.
Rhys sighed, burying his face in his hands with the heels of his palms pressed against his eyes. He had a pounding headache. "It's nothing, E."
"Bullshit," he could tell Ethan was fighting to keep his voice from rising. "You're hurting yourself. That's not 'nothing'."
"It's my fucking body," Rhys snapped, the end of his patience thin and frayed. "Why do you care so fucking much, you fucking creep? Why is everyone so fucking obsessed with what I do to this sack of fucking meat?"
"Because I don't want to see you in a fucking coffin like our dad, Rhys!" Ethan shouted, and the room grew still. Rhys could only stare, mouth slightly agape. Their father had died when Rhys was an infant, and even though Ethan remembered how and why, he never told Rhys anything about the man.
"Get out," Rhys said, his quiet voice filling the room. Ethan rolled his eyes and scoffed, turning towards the door.
"Whatever, Rhy. Kill yourself if you fucking want to. I can't stop you."
He left the room, slamming the door behind him and making Rhys flinch. Rhys spent a long while after that sitting on the edge of his bed and staring into his palms, suddenly reminded of the hospital. Eventually, he laid down and went to sleep.