“That’s not what I’m doing,” he muttered to the air. This wasn’t about second chances. He and Mel were over. Finished. Finito. This was about trying to forgive. Never mind that just hearing Mel’s voice the other day had made Haddon see red. Never mind that he wanted to rip the asshole limb from limb. Forgiveness. He had to stay focused on that.
“Hey boss?” Tony, Haddon’s bartender and life-long friend, stuck his head in the door. “Someone’s here to see you. Says he has an appointment?” He frowned and gave Haddon that you-want-I-should-beat-him-up? look. “Should I send him away?”
Haddon sighed and stood. “No, he’s right, we have an appointment. Do me a favor, though?”
“Anything.” Tony nodded quickly.
“I want you and Charlie to hang out behind the bar. I’m going to bring him over there, and I want you guys in earshot, and witnesses just in case.”
Tony squared his shoulders. “Is this guy bad news?”
“Something like that.” Haddon left the office with Tony on his heels. He waved Mel over to the bar and gestured to a stool. He waited until they were both seated, folded his arms across his chest. “So? You’re here. You wanted to talk. Talk.”
Mel glanced at Tony and Charlie. “Are they going to be here the whole time?”
“This is my business. They’re working.” Haddon shrugged. “Why? You have something to say that can’t be said in front of them?”
“I guess I just figured this would be a private conversation.”
That earned him a smirk. “Your days of private conversations with me ended when you tried to kill Link."
Mel looked away quickly then back, bottom lip caught between his teeth. “I wish you wouldn’t bring that up.”
“I wish you hadn’t done it.” Haddon leaned unfolded his arms, leaned one elbow on the bar and raised an eyebrow. If he was going to get this conversation done and over, he was going to have to keep Mel on track. “Say what you have to say. I’ve got things to do.”
Mel sighed. “I came here to say I’m sorry. About Link, about the way I treated you when we were together -- the drinking, the drugs. All of it. I know that probably doesn’t mean anything to you, but I am truly sorry. If I could go back and change things--”
“But you can’t, can you?” Haddon interrupted. “You can’t take back all the nights I wondered where you were. You can’t take back all the beds you woke up in that weren’t mine. You can’t take back all the piles of vomit I cleaned up, all the things you broke in drunken rages. All the trips to the emergency room. All the hours spent worrying, wondering would this be the time you didn’t pull out of it? You can’t take any of that back.” He stood and walked away, amazed and angry at himself that those memories still hurt so much, that he let Mel get to him like that.
Mel laid a hand on his shoulder but Haddon shrugged it off and turned. “Don’t. You don’t get to comfort me. You don’t have the right. You know who was there for me? Link. Link was the one holding my hand in the hospital while I waited to find out if you’d died. Link was the one who would come over and sit up with me while I waited to see if you’d come home. Link earned my trust and my love.”
“I know. And I’m sorry for that, too.” Mel smiled bitterly. “I’m sorry he ended up with what I wanted.”
Haddon cursed and shook his head. “You never wanted me. All you wanted was your next drink. Your next fix. You didn’t want a relationship or a partner. You wanted someone who would clean up after you and smooth things over with whoever you managed to piss off.”
“I deserve that.” Mel nodded.
“Fuck yes, you deserve that.” That and a lot more. Pent up anger surged through Haddon, making his hands shake. He turned and slammed a fist down on the bar.
Tony and Charlie looked up from their conversation. “Everything okay, boss?” Tony asked, eyes narrowed at Mel.
“Yeah.” Haddon waived them off. He took several deep breaths before spinning around to face Mel. He wanted to hit the man. Or hug him, and that seemed strange. A part of him, albeit a tiny part, was thrilled Mel had gotten clean and sober, thrilled Mel was trying to move on and make a life. But the bigger part of him was just angry and hurt.
Mel wiped at his eyes and shook his head. “I’m so sorry, Haddy. I wish I could make up for it all, or take it all back.”
“I told you not to call me that.” But despite the bravado, the sight of Mel’s tears still tugged at his heart the way they always had. He stepped forward on instinct and lifted a hand to brush the moisture away. “I know you’re sorry,” he whispered. “What I don’t know is if that’s enough. I don’t know what you want me to say.”
Mel looked up at him, eyes glistening. “All I want is your forgiveness.”
“It’s not just me who has to forgive you, though, is it?” Haddon shook his head. Link deserved the apologies just as much as he did. And then there were Mel’s other friends, his family.
“No, it’s not. There’s no one I haven’t hurt, I’ll admit that. But I’m trying to make amends.” Mel took Haddon’s hands in his own.
Haddon tugged himself free and took a step back. “What if you can’t?” His phone went off in his pocket, and the Friday the 13th ringtone told him it was his friend, John. He pulled the phone out and answered. “Hey.”
“Hey. You need to come home. Link needs you.”
“Wait, what?” He turned his back on Mel, fear gripping his heart. “Is he okay? What happened?”
“He’s fine. It’s just...It’s a little odd. Just come home.”
Haddon hit the End button, yelled to Charlie and Tony to watch the club, and left. Mel could work out his own issues. Right now, Link needed him.