Warning: This work has been rated 18+ for language and mature content.
Rhys walked down the street leading towards the apartments, a coffee in his shaking hand and dark purple bags under his eyes. It wasn't often he splurged money on coffee, but he needed to get something done today. Preferably some art, but anything would do. Anything that would make him feel like he had some semblance of purpose.
He must've been walking with his eyes closed, he was so tired, because just as he made it to the entrance of the building the door swung open and he was jolted, running right into the gentleman exiting the building as he was going in and spilling hot, fresh coffee down the front of them both. He blinked, now wide awake as heat flooded his cheeks.
"I'm so sorry, I - " he stammered as he met the eyes of the man in front of him. He hadn't seen him before, nothing but lean muscle and an impressive, wirey, rustic red beard. The man was wearing a sleeveless tee and black skinny jeans, his long hair pulled into an immaculate bun at the top of his head. Rhys continued to stammer silently, his blush intensifying.
"It's fine," the man said, smiling at him. "Really."
"Um," Rhys pulled himself together. "Do you want to...come upstairs and let me help you clean off?"
The man's smile widened and he opened the door, gesturing for Rhys to lead him inside.
Half an hour later, Rhys leaned back in bed and lit a cigarette, the man sprawled out beside him, both of them naked under the sheets. Rhys exhaled smoke slowly, catching his breath as he stared up at the ceiling.
"That was good," the man said, a bit breathless. Rhys hummed in agreement, listening as the front door of the apartment opened and closed. The man, hearing it too, sat up.
Rhys nodded. "Thanks, again. Uh. I guess I'll see you around?"
The man grinned at him as he pulled on his pants, buttoning them. "Third floor, 301. Come by anytime you want."
He pulled on his shirt and then stepped into his shoes, opening the bedroom door and disappearing. Rhys sat up and began to get dressed, listening as the man and Ethan exchanged a few words. The apartment front door opened and closed again. Rhys pulled on his boxers and an oversized shirt, stepping out into the hallway.
"Who was that?" Ethan asked as soon as Rhys stepped into the kitchen. Rhys got a can of Dr. Pepper from the fridge.
"A friend you've just had sex with?" Ethan didn't look up from where he was mixing cake batter in a large bowl. Rhys shrugged.
"A friend," Ethan repeated, adding flour. "What's his name, then?"
Rhys stared into the can, silent. Ethan sighed, a sigh Rhys had heard a million times before - the one that meant he was disappointed, but not surprised.
"That's three guys in two weeks, Rhys, Jesus Christ. Did you at least use a condom?"
Rhys groaned, heat flushing up the back of his neck. "We're not having this conversation."
"We are absolutely having this conversation," Ethan set the bowl down on the counter with more force than necessary, piercing his brother with a glare. "You sleep with these guys under my roof, you're damn right I'm going to make sure you're at least being safe about it."
"Yes, we used protection, Jesus."
Ethan was quiet for a moment. "We should still get you tested. And back on birth control." He picked up the bowl of batter, stirring it again. "I'll make you an appointment at the clinic. See if Lip can drive you."
Rhys flushed deeper. "I'll walk."
"You'll get Lip to drive you," Ethan snapped. "Or Leah."
Rhys rolled his eyes. "I don't know why you're all up in my uterus, dude."
"Because I can barely afford you and I as it is," Ethan sighed, "let alone whatever that uterus wants to try and pop out."
"Lovely image," Rhys muttered, turning to leave the kitchen. Ethan tsked.
"Don't think you're getting away that easily. We still need to talk about you sleeping with all these older guys."
Rhys let out a heavy sigh, leaning against the kitchen table. He lit a cigarette. "I don't see why how many guys I sleep with or what their age is matters."
"Because a sixteen year old child doesn't need to be sleeping with our thirty year old neighbor, Rhys!"
Rhys growled. "I'm not a child."
"Child or not, there's still no reason for you to be acting like a slut," Ethan snapped. The air in the room stilled, tension ballooning around them, so thick it could be cut with a dull knife. Rhys made a scoffing noise, crossing his arms.
"Rhys, you know that's not what I - "
But Rhys had already disappeared into his room, slamming the door shut behind him. He got dressed quickly, pulling on his jacket and zipping it up before pulling on his jeans. He pulled his hood up and stomped out of the apartment, ignoring Ethan's attempt at protesting.
He flung the exit door open, taking the stairs two at a time until he pushed his way outside. He began down the street, not really paying attention to where he was going. It had started to rain while he was inside, fat drops falling and splatting on the pavement, puncturing his jacket like thrown pebbles. He lit a cigarette, desperate to burn off this angry energy, wanting to cry and scream at the same time. It got like this sometimes, where one little thing set off a million others, where everything that had been building up suddenly bubbled over, suddenly clawed at the inside of his skeleton in its desperate need to escape. He couldn't breathe, his lungs stuttering like a failed engine, the city around him suddenly suffocating. He darted down a side alley, leaning his back against a brick wall as he struggled to catch his breath. He had to calm down.
When his breathing had slowed to long, shaky inhales, he stood from where he had been leaning with his hands on his knees, raking his hair out of his face. He didn't know when he had started crying, but he wiped the tears from his cheeks silently, resisting the urge to sniffle. He didn't want to go home and he didn't want to go to Lip's, either. He felt so utterly lost.
After a moment of contemplation, he began walking down Bowen Street until he took a left onto Rosebriar Street. Letting his feet carry him almost without thought, he walked until he stood in front of the large, marble building. He stared up at it for a few moments before walking inside.