Warning: This work has been rated 18+ for language and mature content.
Ethan was waiting for them when they arrived at the apartment, stirring pasta sauce in a saucepan on the stove. He looked up as Rhys let himself and Leah into the apartment, a grin cracking across his face.
"My two favorite people."
Rhys scowled, shrugging out of his jacket and hanging it on the hook by the door. Leah was quiet as she wandered farther in, her gaze travelling to the artwork on the wall. It was drawn by Rhys, from Picasso-like self portraits and drawings of Ethan to surreal and cubist abstract pieces.
"These are amazing," she murmured, staring at the one above the TV. It was one of Rhys' earlier ones, drawn right after their mom had left for California. It was a dismembered elephant, lying on a grassy plain, tears streaked down its gray, leather-like face. A chunk of its ear was missing and one of the legs had bone poking through the skin. In the background, the sky was a fiery array of pink and red and orange, a sharp contrast to the dismal colors below it. Rhys ignored her comment, going into the kitchen to help Ethan with dinner.
"Thanks for ambushing me with your girlfriend at the meeting," he muttered, moving around Ethan to the counter beside the stove, where he began to chop the green peppers.
"She was going to be there anyway," Ethan replied in a low voice. "I figured you could use a friend like her. She's...you know, like you."
"And she's..." Ethan paused, looking unsure of himself. "You know."
Rhys cocked an eyebrow. "Oh. She's trans."
Ethan flushed a bit. "Yeah. I just figured, you know, you two have some things in common."
"Didn't know you boned girls with dicks," Rhys muttered, floating on the last drips of his high. He’d have to go shoot up in a few minutes, and all the better to be high during what would be a monster of a dinner.
Ethan turned tomato red. "Shut up, dude."
"Unless you haven't boned her yet," Rhys went on, picking up some garlic and starting to mince it. "Which would be weird, considering you've brought her home to meet your little brother."
"Who says I even want to bone her?" Ethan said, a bit loudly. Leah turned her head, eyebrow arched; when Ethan only flushed darker, she turned back around to continue staring at the artwork. "Besides," Ethan continued, his voice quieter now as he stirred the sauce, "who I do and don't bone is none of your business."
Rhys shrugged, throwing the minced garlic into the sauce. "Sure, dude. Just remember there are condoms underneath the bathroom sink."
He left the kitchen before Ethan could reply, going back to his bedroom and shutting the door. He dug his kit out from under his mattress, sitting on the bed and getting ready for his next hit. He picked up the spoon, pouring a bit of cocaine into it before flicking a lighter to life and holding it underneath the spoon's belly. When the cocaine was melted into a syrup he set the spoon to the side, prepping a syringe. He drew the dope into the barrel of the syringe, then set that to the side as he tied a tourniquet around his right forearm. He pulled one end with his hand and the other with his teeth until the tourniquet was tight enough. A vein right in the crook of his elbow bulged and he pierced it with the needle, bovel side up, pulling back on the plunger until the barrel was full of murky red. Satisfied that he had hit the vein, he pushed the plunger down slowly, sighing in relief. If anything, he had staved off the craving, and now he had the opportunity to actually enjoy the dinner without the horrifying ideal of being sober.
He got to his feet, packing away the kit and returning it to its place under the mattress. When he arrived back in the kitchen there were three chairs around the table instead of the usual two, and Leah was sitting in his spot, to the left of Ethan. Ethan was making them all plates, so Rhys took the seat opposite Leah, giving his brother a fake smile as Ethan set the plates on the table before taking his own seat in between the two. Rhys leaned back in his chair and lit a cigarette as the other two began to eat.
“You need to eat,” Ethan said, not looking at him. Rhys tilted his head upward to exhale a cloud of smoke. Leah was watching him, her doe-like eyes as electric blue as her hair. Rhys got to his feet to get himself a Dr. Pepper from the fridge. He stood at the end of the table, popping the tab and taking a long drink from the can, cigarette hanging between his fingers. Ethan set his fork down with a sigh.
“Please take a seat and act normal, Rhys.”Rhys scowled but did as he was told, returning to his seat. Leah twirled spaghetti around her fork.
“How was work?” she asked Ethan, smiling at him in a way that made Rhys’ stomach curl. Ethan’s returning smile, with his eyes softening in the dim light of the kitchen, was enough to make Rhys want to vomit as he answered,
“It was just fine. Not as great without you there.”“Oh please,” Rhys muttered under his breath, rolling his eyes towards the ceiling and taking a drag off his cigarette. Ethan scowled at him.
“Behave yourself, Rhys.”
“Stop eye-fucking each other across the table and I will,” Rhys retorted.
“Rhys Edward Hartman,” Ethan snapped, brandishing his fork at his younger brother. “Watch your mouth.”
Rhys rolled his eyes again and leaned back so his chair tilted on its hind legs, taking a drag off his cigarette as he did so. Leah was grinning, clearly enjoying herself as much as she was enjoying the spaghetti.
"You guys are cute," she said, making Ethan blush a bit. Rhys focused his eyes on the ceiling to watch the fireworks unfolding in his visions, the cocaine pounding through his veins and his brain feeling full of impatient thunder. He remained silent, letting their conversation become background noise, almost like a passing train, whistling by his ears without him giving it much thought. It wasn’t until he heard the scraping of Ethan’s chair and the untouched plate in front of him was whisked away that he became aware again, blinking to pull the world back into focus as Ethan cleared the table.
“We’re going to watch a movie,” Ethan told him as he went to put the plates in the sink. “Do you wanna watch it with us?”Rhys shook his head, retreating to his room without saying anything and shutting the door. After a moment of thought he locked it, then bent down to where his record player lay on the floor next to his nightstand. He put in a Dead Kennedys record and turned the volume up a bit, laying down in his bed and lighting a fresh cigarette as it grew dark outside.