Warning: This work has been rated 18+ for language and mature content.
Entrance into the gallery was free on weekdays, so he slipped past the desk with a small smile at the receptionist. Zipping up his jacket and putting his hands in his pockets, he stared around at the artwork on the wall as he walked throughout the gallery. Everything was so beautiful, making him awestruck and inspired as he examined the canvases and statues. In front of him was everything he wanted to be, an accomplished artist, someone who's art meant something. Something he would likely die before he ever became.
After a bit of wandering he came to his favorite piece, one of the Irises paintings by Van Gogh. He sat on the bench in front of the painting, staring at it in longing silence, remembering how it made him feel oddly alive. As he stared, time slipped away, until a gallery patron put a gentle hand on his arm, startling him.
"I'm sorry ma'am, but we're closing."
His chest tightened at the third word, but he only smiled apologetically and stood, walking towards the exit. It had grown dark outside while he was in the gallery, and with a defeated sigh he walked three blocks east to the Waffle House on the corner of Rosebriar and Sicilia. He took a seat in a booth near the back and ordered a coffee, noting to the waitress his want for one of the bowls of small cups of creamer.
He pulled his phone out of his pocket, scrolling absently through Twitter as the waitress brought him his cup of joe. He became so engrossed he didn't notice the lithe figure slip into the booth seat across from him until a soft voice said, "hey."
He glanced up from his phone to see Leah staring at him. She was wearing makeup today, a simple layer of foundation, a bit of blush and stark red lipstick. Her jean jacket was covered in feminist and band patches and pins, and she wore it over top of a simple black tank top. He glanced over her figure and then back up at her eyes, sighing.
"What? It's not enough you've invaded my house, now you're invading my booth too?"
She frowned, "I didn't 'invade' anything. Ethan invited me in."
"Good for him," Rhys muttered, starting the process of adding sugar and cream into his coffee. Seven sugar packets, three little cups of cream; same soup, just reheated. He shook the thought of Lip from his mind before he could even register it.
"He told me you guys got into a fight," Leah said, ordering a coffee from the passing waitress.
"Did he?" Rhys deadpanned, stirring his coffee without looking at her.
"Also asked me to drive you to the clinic tomorrow, if that's okay with you?"
Rhys sighed heavily. "Not really, but I doubt I have a choice."
"He's just looking out for you, Rhys."
"I don't need you to tell me that."
Rhys took a drink of his coffee, exhaling steam. Despite the cocaine and coffee constantly in his system, he was still somehow always tired.
"He's kind of got a point, you know; three guys in two weeks, total strangers? That's kind of not good."
He scowled. "You don't have the right to slut shame me."
"I'm just saying - "
"Fuck you," he snapped, so loudly that the waitress delivering Leah's coffee jumped a bit and frowned at him. He ignored her, glaring at Leah. "You have no fucking right to waltz into our lives and start acting like you know everything about us. Just because Ethan's sticking his dick in you doesn't make you my sister and it sure as hell doesn't give you any sort of right to talk to me about what I do with my body in my own time."
Leah met his gaze evenly, looking unfazed. "Okay. I see what's going on here."
He growled. "What?"
She grinned, chuckling. "Someone has fucking mommy issues, mate."
He was shocked into silence, his cheeks flushing a brilliant crimson as heat crept up his chest and the back of his neck. "What...what did he tell you? About our mom?"
"Just that she ran off to Los Angeles with her piece of shit boyfriend after she and Ethan got into it one night."
"He's a lot harsher on her than he needs to be."
Her eyes widened for just a moment, an untold secret in them, but she quickly became passive again and leaned back in her seat, taking a drink of her coffee. Rhys squinted.
"What? He is."
She shrugged. "I have no right to an opinion on the matter."
He leaned back in his own seat, still suspicious as he sipped his coffee. The conversation left him with a crawling feeling under his skin and the fire of uncomfortableness in his veins, but that could have just been his rising desire to get high. He put his hands on the table in front of him, pulling at his fingers and bouncing his left leg, fidgeting with nervous energy. Leah watched him.
"When was the last time you used?" she asked quietly.
He glanced up at her for a second before looking back down at the table, his voice low. "This morning."
"So that's what, eight hours?"
"If I could go home, I'd get high without a second thought," he muttered, avoiding her gaze. "But, well, I can't really go home."
"You can't or you don't want to?" she corrected, arching an eyebrow. He sighed into his coffee.
"Who I sleep with and how many people I sleep with and how often I sleep with them isn't any of Ethan's business. It's a privacy thing. I don't ask him about or judge him about how many times you and him bone."
"He also doesn't say anything about you not working or not being on your meds or never being home or always being high," Leah pointed out. "He's just trying to make sure you don't get pregnant or an STI."
"He can do that without shaming me," Rhys muttered as the waitress refilled his coffee mug. "I mean, I know that sleeping around is kind of fucked up, but it just...I don't know. Lets me feel something."
"That is kind of fucked up, mate."
Rhys sighed, rubbing his forehead. "Yeah."
They sat in silence for a few minutes, staring into their coffee mugs. Eventually, Leah gave a forgiving sigh.
"Let me drive you home, Rhys."
He was too tired to argue so he just nodded, draining the remainder of his coffee and getting to his feet. They went to the counter and paid their tickets, each of them lighting a cigarette as they stepped outside and towards the Subaru.