He tried not to think too much about his weekend. At least not the aspects that made him cringe and feel like utter shit; any thoughts of his dad. Though for once thinking about his own sex life didn't disgust him. Waking up next to Zachary, and in that warm bed, was a bliss he hadn't really expected.
He looked up to see Angela holding a cup of coffee. He instinctively set his pencil down over his sketchpad, covering his doodles with his hands. Anga gestured to the empty chair and Callan nodded, silent permission for her to join him.
"How's your day going?" he asked. She smiled faintly.
"It's better," she replied.
Callan knew what that actually meant. Angela rarely visited the coffee shop and when she did it wasn't on Callan's behalf. It was always to see Maya.
"You're drawing," she said, half as a question and completely curious. Callan shrugged and slid his hands back from the paper.
"Just doodles," he said.
Angela picked up the sketchpad. "Your doodles are someone's best work. They look nice."
She scanned the page and something flashed in her eyes. Disproval and worry all at once. She sat the sketchpad down and Callan could see she was looking for the right words. The correct way to say what she wanted without sounding terribly pissed off or offended.
She pointed to a sketch in the corner. Callan glanced down at it.
The small doodle was one he did of Zachary and without realizing it. The harsh lines were all drawn from memory. It was rushed and sloppy but his features were still visible. It was still accurate. Perhaps too accurate for the lines along his drawn chest and hips. And the way Angela was staring at Callan told Callan she already knew.
"Just some guy," Callan said with a shrug, trying to brush her off.
"Have you…met him? In person?"
"Uhh…yeah," Callan said. "You know I don't do online dating."
Angela winced at his teasing words. "So he's…what to you exactly?"
"Why does it matter?"
He rolled his eyes. "Just a face I saw one day and he sort of stuck out, I guess? I don't know."
Angela's expression softened a little. She still searched Callan's face for some sign he was lying. She leaned over, just enough to try to get a glimpse of his ears, but Callan had picked up his latte and tilted his head back to drink.
She conceded defeat with a quiet sigh. "Alright…just…wondering." She picked at the edge of her cup, pulling at the plastic lid.
"You're not going to keep drilling me about it?"
"It doesn't matter."
"That's unlike you," Callan snarked, taking another drink.
"You're old enough to make your own decisions. And you don't listen to anything I say either. So it really doesn't even matter."
Callan chuckled and nudged her leg under the table. There was no chance she'd ever accept him being fuck buddies with an older man, but she definitely couldn't stop him. He didn't really see a need to tell her, however, so he kept quiet about that.
"I don't mind your nagging," Callan said. "Not all the time."
"I just want you to be careful. I don't want you to get…hurt…"
They chatted a little longer; until Maya clocked out and threw her apron on the counter. Angela said her goodbyes to Callan as he took over the shop, watching the two leave together. They were going out which meant he was in charge of dinner tonight.
Not that it mattered. Zachary had given him plenty of leftover lasagna to take.
The night of the art show, Callan had overtime. Figures. He left later than he had wanted to so he had to run to his car. He had texts from his mother, asking where he was. Angela had called, asking the same. He returned Angela's call, telling her to just find his mother and that he would be there as soon as possible.
He picked Melvin up from work and then made his way to the gallery. He let Mel drive and crawled into the backseat of the car to change. He threw off his shirt and pulled on a plaid shirt. That was the easy part. His long legs made it awkward to get in and out of his pants. But he was used to maneuvering in the backseat of his car so he only kicked Melvin once.
After parking, Callan ran up to the gallery out of breath. Melvin patted him on the back as he tried to breathe.
"You're alright. You're only ten minutes late. It's alright," Melvin said. Callan nodded.
"Yeah…yeah okay that's alright," Callan said. He stood up straight and Melvin tugged at his shirt to a neater position than the sloppy way Callan had it. He buttoned a few buttons and he even tried to straighten out Callan's hair. "Thanks."
"You're welcome. You're less red now. Go ahead and get in there," Melvin laughed.
Callan nodded, inhaled and walked into the bright gallery. The walls were painted white and the concrete floors stained grey. The ceiling was all thick pipes and industrial tunnels. It was all simple, minimalistic. Callan smiled, a pure feeling of excitement finally washing over him.
He caught sight of his professor across the room and Melvin gave him a little push. Callan clenched his fists and walked over to him, trying to come off as casual and not like he had been hastily sprinting.
Dr. Shane smiled at him the moment Callan moved into his range of view. He was already talking with another student with a glass of water in his hand.
"Did you see your paintings yet?" Dr. Shane asked, patting Callan on the back. Callan shook his head and ran a hand through his sweaty hair, earning him a look of disgust from the other student.
"Not yet. I just got here. Work was a motherfucker," Callan sighed, mentally kicking himself for cursing in front of his professor. "Ah! I mean…I had overtime."
Dr. Shane slapped him on the shoulder. "I think I saw your mom and your sister somewhere."
"Yeah, they said they were here already," Callan said. "Fuck, I haven't even found them yet."
"Go find them. If you need anything, come tell me."
"Thanks. Oh! The name on my paintings. Did you—"
"I took care of it," Dr. Shane laughed. "Don't worry. Go relax and enjoy yourself tonight."
Callan nodded and rubbed his neck, just to annoy the other stdent, and hurried off. He wandered around, looking for any familiar face. Though he did enjoy seeing the other works on display.
Peeking into one of the enclosed rooms, he found his mother; Angela nowhere in sight and probably with Melvin somewhere.
She was looking at a rather impressive black and white painting. Her back was turned but he could tell, from the way she nodded and tilted her head to listen, that she was definitely talking to the short man standing next to her.
Callan approached them cautiously because if he wasn't mistaken Zachary was standing next to his mother and chatting casually about the painting.
Callan was torn. Zachary was there. Right there. Talking with his mother. He never told Zachary where the art show would be. And he sure as hell didn't invite him.
His mouth went dry just trying to soak in the situation.
Biting his lip and keeping himself calm, Callan walked over to his mother and tapped her on the shoulder.
"Hi, mom," he said loudly. She looked around and smiled with bright, hugging him tight. And when she did, Zachary looked over as well. Callan caught his eyes and Zachary was near horrified. He tilted his head back, drinking the rest of his champagne while Callan adjusted his expression to look at his mother.
"Cal, this is so nice," Alice said, taking his hands. "I was just talking with this young man about the paintings here. We both really like this one." She gestured to the painting behind her.
"Yeah…it looks really nice," Callan said.
"So this is your son, Alice?" Zachary asked casually. "The arist?"
Callan's cheeks flushed at the title. Alice chuckled lightly. She saw nothing. Nothing at all. And she knew nothing. It was the second time this had happened; a situation where Callan had to face Zachary in a public space and his immediate thought was the taste of the man's dick on his tongue.
"I'm not…that much of an artist…"
"Well you must be in order to have your paintings on display," Zachary said. Callan draped his arm across his mother's shoulders.
"I'm just a student who got lucky. Speaking of which, I don't think I've seen you around campus. Are you someone's dad?" Callan asked. Underneath his mock-curiosity was pure snark. Alice elbowed him.
"Cal. Be nice."
"It's fine," Zachary said. "But no, I'm not really a parent. I'm actually friends with several professors at Rose-Gold University. Professor Linda, who works in the criminal justice department as an adjunct, and then Jack Shane. I assume you're familiar with him?"
"Oh! Yeah that makes sense," Callan said. "So you know…my professor?"
"That's what I said, isn't it?" Zachary replied, matching Callan's sharp comments. "I enjoy these little shows, most of the time. They can be a total shitfest but there is a lot of talent."
"I think so, too," Alice said. "Hopefully there'll be more."
"If Callan—is that correct?—got in to this showing on his own then he'll get in to more. Gunter rarely takes new artists into his gallery so when he does it's usually because he really likes them and sees potential."
Callan's stomach did a summersault. It was exciting to hear that, even if it was coming from Zachary. It was like he had an actual chance at doing something with his art. At not becoming the good-for-nothing his father so often reminded him of—
"Oh, is dad…?"
Alice winced. Zachary took it as his cue to leave, nodding and looked away to give them privacy. Callan wished, for some odd reason, that Zachary didn't walk away. That he had instead stayed to get Callan's mind off any talk of his father.
"He's in the car waiting," Alice sighed. "He didn't want to…you know."
It was all that needed to be said.
"Callan!" came Angela's voice and he looked up to see her and Melvin waving to him. Alice wrapped an arm around Callan's and they both walked over. Walking past Zachary as he eyed them both.
"Cal, we saw your painting," Melvin cried. "And it looks amazing!"
"Ah, thank you!"
"But…I don't understand why you didn't use your real name. Don't you want people to recognize you?" Melvin said. Callan laughed.
"Yeah…it's complicated, I guess," Callan muttered. Though, he would admit that using the pseudonym "Rogue" was particularly odd for the occasion, but he had a clear objective even if no one else saw it.
If John couldn't recognize his name, there was no way the man could criticize Callan's work. Seeing as John refused to even glance at Callan's work when he took it over, he'd have no way of knowing what it even looked like. Callan knew his father couldn't possibly hate every piece of art in the gallery…
"Oh Cal…," Alice sighed.
"I know, mom, it's stupid but I swear—"
Angela's eyes widened and Callan trailed off watching her grow rigid. She narrowed her eyes and moved in such a deliberant way that even Melvin couldn't help but watch.
Callan's stomach turned to knots as the name rolled off Angela's tongue. And he felt even worse when Zachary turned in response.
Callan snatched Melvin's glass of champagne and drank it all in one go.
"You two know each other?" Callan managed after swallowing. Zachary reluctantly stepped closer, tapping his empty glass with a nervous finger.
"Something like that," Angela said firmly. "It's been a long time, Zachary. I didn't know you had moved back."
"It was a recent move," Zachary bitterly replied.
"Umm…I hate to butt-in on this reunion but I'm just really confused," Callan said, throwing his arm over Angela's shoulders. He laughed with enough force that even Melvin was embarrassed for him. The blond slapped a hand to his head and pried a laughing Callan off Angela's shoulders.
"Callan, you can't just stick your nose in people's business," Melvin scorned.
"Me? Sticking my nose in people's business? I have—I have NO idea what you're talking about Mel," Callan said, still painfully laughing.
Alice tugged on his ear and Callan quickly snapped out of it. He rubbed his head and tried to clear his thoughts. He couldn't come off as being imposing. No one knew about him and Zachary. Callan was sure the last thing Zachary needed was for everyone to start associating a little shit with a professional lawyer.
So he quietly watched the two talk to each other. Angela, the woman he considered to be his sister, and Zachary, his newest fuck buddy. The combination of seeing the two together was the one thing he wasn't expecting. And he gladly could have gone without it because judging from the way they stood, they were familiar with each other. They knew each other, on some level.
Callan walked away from them and out of the small room. He went to stare at a painting in the entrance. Just something to get his mind off the bizarre situation. He would ask about it later. One of them had to be able to explain.
"Cal, are you alright?" Melvin asked, nudging his shoulder. Callan smiled gently.
"Oh yeah. Just…uhh…confused," Callan replied.
"Do you know him? That Zachary guy?"
"What? No, no! I mean…he came in to one of my classes and had a lecture, like, once but that's all."
Melvin narrowed his eyes, looking carefully over Callan's face, as he nodded. He asked no more questions, however, instead turning to look on at the paintings. Alice rejoined them and eventually Angela. Callan wanted to ask but—
The doors of the gallery opened and Callan saw his father walk through them. His stomach dropped lower than it had before and his face paled. Angela looked over her shoulder.
"Oh Cal…," Alice muttered, seeing him as well. He tensed as John looked over at them, making brief eye contact.
Callan wanted to run. He wanted to get away and hide. But he couldn't be a coward. Not there. That was his territory and he had to defend it. He could cry and curse and throw things later but for now, in that moment, he had to stay strong.
"Almost ready to go, Alice?" John asked, walking up. "Hello Melvin. Angela."
"Dr. Robinson," the two of them said in unison.
He saw them. He acknowledged them. John turned his head to nod to each of them; to recognize their fucking existence. But his eyes never fell on Callan. He was glanced over like a diseased monster. No; even something diseased would catch John's attention because he was a doctor and it was his job to see things that were diseased and rotting and half-dead.
But he didn't have to look at his own son.
"Well, not quite, dear. I'm having a nice time with the kids. I don't want to leave just yet."
And that was it. That was all John had to say. He turned and walked back to the door without another word. Callan's heart dropped. This was his night. He shouldn't be upset about anything.
Callan broke free of Alice's grip and chased after his dad. Passed the other artists. Passed his professor. Passed Zachary.
They walked through the doors, John moving so much faster than Callan could. Or maybe Callan was just moving ungodly slow. He couldn't tell.
"Dad," Callan breathed, his voice dry in the cool air. "DAD! DAD WAIT!"
Maybe John couldn't hear him? Maybe it was too loud? That's what Callan told himself to make it hurt less. "STOP!"
"WHAT Callan?" John snapped, turning around. "What is it?"
Callan stared at him, his eyes glassy. John had his hands up in an accusing manner. Like it was all somehow Callan's fault. Like everything was always Callan's fault. The weather, the art show, the reason John was tired, the traffic. Callan didn't know what he did wrong or why exactly John was upset, but he knew it had to be because of him. It was simply his fault. Like everything else.
"Hi…," Callan said. "Just…you didn't even say hi."
"Neither did you."
Callan's mouth went drier. He was out of words. He watched John turn and walk down the street to the parking lot. Callan stood still, watching him with an ache in his chest. He fought back tears. He had to. Inside there were people who respected what he had accomplished. It may not be anything amazing, but it was still…something.
And if he walked back in there with tears on his cheeks and in his eyes, he'd have to face questions. He didn't want that. He didn't want anyone's sympathy.
So he inhaled and calmed himself down before he walked back into the gallery. Smiling as much as he could, Callan found his mother and friends again in that sea of faces. Nothing was asked about what happened. They all knew what happened without it being spoken.
There were better things to talk about.
Alice soon left, not wanting to keep John upset and waiting. Zachary was gone, too. Callan wasn't sure when but he had left some time ago apparently. Callan was fine with Melvin and Angela.
"Callan, Callan!" Dr. Shane cried as they were leaving. Callan stopped walking to look at the man.
"May I have a quick word with you?"
Callan's eyes widened. "Of course."
Dr. Shane pulled him by the arm to the side. Anagela, Melvin and Maya watched him disappear curiously.
"This doesn't happen often, especially for someone new, but someone offered to buy your painting. The Swords of Freedom. Actually, several people made offers on it tonight."
Callan's breathing hitched. It couldn't be possible. He smiled. "R-Really?"
"Yes. Someone went to buy it, someone overhead and offered more and before long, well…The highest offer was three-thousand dollars."
Callan's mouth dropped. He tried to fathom just what was being said.
"S-Someone offered…three thousand…for my painting? My painting…?"
Dr. Shane nodded.
"I…yeah. Sure why not."
"Then I'll inform them and get the money to you."
Callan smiled, his heart racing. He sold a picture. He really did it. Except…
It was that picture. The picture he loved the most. But if he sold it he could prove a point to his father. And his father would have to accept that Callan sold a piece of art. That he was capable of doing something with his art.
After Callan finished with D. Shane, he wandered outside to find Melvin waiting for him in the car. He smiled and slid into the backseat as Angela had the front seat already.
"What was that about?" Angela asked softly as Melvin drove. Callan bit his lip and slid an envelope onto the center console. Mikasa raised her eyebrows; even Melvin glanced down at it.
"That's three thousand dollars," Callan breathed. "That's…for a painting…"
Melvin slammed on the breaks and turned around to face him. "You sold a painting for three thousand-"
"JESUS CHRIST MELVIN FUCKING—"
A few cars honked and came to screeching halts, but there was no wreck and no one was hurt. Although, Angela did get out of the car and drag Melvin to the passenger's side to sit. After they were resituated, Melvin safely buckled in and away from the steering wheel and Callan with a cigarette between his fingers to calm down, their drive continued.
"So you sold a painting?" Angela asked. "Cal, that's amazing!"
"You really did it!"
Callan smiled. "Yeah…I guess so…"
He flicked away the rest of his cigarette, letting it fall out the window, and felt his phone buzz against his leg. He pulled it out of his pocket and glanced at it, sliding down as if that would help him disappear from Melvin's wandering eyes. The name that popped up, however, actually made him smile.
For A Good Time: Whatever he said, it's not worth your tears. Enjoy your night. You earned it.
He read the text over and over. He could hear Zachary's voice saying the words with his annoyed drawl and see the bored expression on his face. Something about the mental image was soothing. It settled Callan's nerves and he stared back down at his phone as he typed out a response.
"How did you know that guy?" Callan asked, still looking down at his phone. Angela grunted.
"Zachary Bane is…sort of my uncle."
"WHAT?" Callan coughed.
"Yeah…it's complicated. My dad's brother took him in when he was younger. Like…foster care. My uncle was shitty and really only wanted the money that came with foster care though. But I remember Zachary being really nice to me when I was little. He was more of an uncle than my uncle so I just sort of always saw him like that."
Callan leaned his head in between the chairs, making Melvin squeal at his sudden presence.
Angela shrugged. "He went away to college. He got busy. We saw each other occasionally but it was just…always strained I guess."
"How did I never know about him?" Callan asked.
"I'm curious about this too, actually," Melvin added.
"I'm pretty sure you two have family I haven't met either," Angela said, rolling her eyes.
"Melvin has a grandfather."
"I have a mom and dad, too."
"No, they're dead," Callan said.
"Cal, I've told you before they're wildlife photographers. They're in Africa," Melvin said.
"Fuck, are you a Thornberry? Can you talk to animals? Mel, I swear if you lie about this…"
"Apparently I can," Melvin hummed. "I'm talking to you."
Angela snorted and Callan stared on in confusion. But when he finally caught the insult, he punched Melvin on the arm.
Laughter filled the car. And Callan realized Zachary was right. Tonight was his night. And he deserved to laugh and be careless and to have fun; not worry about the opinions of one, stuffy, old man.
And he decided Zachary deserved more than "For a Good Time" as his name in the phone. Ducking down again, Eren quickly changed Zachary's name to 'Daddy' instead. (John's name in Callan's phone was "Dr Robinson" as Callan had a harder time seeing him as anything more so there would definitely be no dad-related mix-ups).
"Hey, we should get something to eat," Melvin whined. "I'm getting hungry."
"Dinner's on me!" Callan chimed, looking up from him phone.
Dinner, milkshakes included, was definitely in order to finish off such a night.