Danny nodded. “His mom.”
“Fucking hell. That can’t be good.” He edged down the hall so he could eavesdrop.
“I don’t care,” Link was saying. “No, really, I don’t. You can tell yourself I do all you want, and you can believe that, if it makes you feel better, but the reality is, I don’t care.” He ran his hand through his hair and shook his head. “If this is all you called for -- No, I don’t... Damn it, will you listen to me?”
Haddon stifled a growl and the desire to rip the phone out of Link’s hand and throw it across the room. The last thing they needed right now was Link’s mother getting him all riled up. That woman could drive a saint to drink. Or worse.
“Just stop, alright? Just stop it. No. If you’re so concerned, you help him. Then let him rot. Gee, I don’t know, maybe if he had to deal with a consequence or two, he might learn something.”
Haddon sighed. Great. Judging from what he could hear, Link’s older brother, Connor was in trouble. Yet again.
Link ripped the phone away from his ear and raised his arm, but Haddon stopped him before he could throw it. He took the phone, snapped it shut, and shoved it in his pocket. “What happened?”
“What do you think happened? My idiot brother got arrested again. Mom wants me to bail him out. Says I owe it to him.”
“Bullshit!” Danny charged into the hallway. “You don’t owe him anything! You’re not going to bail him out, are you?”
Haddon held up a hand. “No one’s bailing out anybody. Just calm down.”
“I’m not bailing him out!” Link turned and slammed his fist into the closet door.
“Agreed.” Haddon took a step back. Little though he might be, angry Link could still be formidable, and once angered, it could be hard to switch his focus. “Don’t let her get to you, baby. She’s just trying to upset you, like she always does. Don’t give her any leverage.”
“You don’t owe him anything, you know that, we know that, and your mother knows that.” Danny laid a hand on Link’s shoulder.
Link’s phone rang again and before he could answer it, Haddon grabbed it first. “No. No more of this tonight.” He hit ignore on the phone, opened the closet, and tossed the phone up onto the top shelf. He turned to Danny. “No offense, but--”
Danny held up his hands and nodded. “You got it. I’m outta here.” He grabbed his coat and hurried out the door.
Haddon turned his attention back to Link. His lover stood stock still, breath coming in ragged gasps, face red, hands clenched into fists at his sides. Nobody got under Link’s skin like his mother did.
Haddon took Link’s hand and led him into the living room. “Sit down.”
Link didn’t respond, but he did sit, though he shook so hard he could barely stay upright.
With a muttered curse, Haddon headed to the kitchen, grabbed the only coffee mug Keoni hadn’t broken, and fixed some peppermint tea. Back in the living room he sat down next to Link and pressed the cup to his lips. “Drink some tea, baby. You’ll feel better.”
Link sipped at the tea, tears starting to course down his cheeks. He leaned into Haddon’s shoulder and pressed his face tight against Haddon’s neck. “I don’t owe him anything.”
“No, you don’t.” Haddon slipped his arm around Link and held him close.
“He beat the shit out of me when I was little. Beat me up, and she just stood there and watched. Just...let him.” His voice rose an octave with each word.
“I know.” Heart breaking, Haddon rocked them back and forth, trying to summon the words to soothe Link. Words that didn’t exist.
“She said to me... On the phone tonight she said to me blood is blood. Blood is blood? What the hell is that supposed to mean to me?” Link gazed up at Haddon through tears. “What am I supposed to do with that? She hated me so much, she hated what I was so much that she let him torture me, and I’m supposed to just... What? Forgive and forget and run to bail him out whenever he’s stupid enough to get caught? That’s what it is, you know? No matter what he does, he’ll always be better than me because he’s not the freak. He’s not the tranny faggot.”
Haddon swallowed hard. “You’re not a tranny faggot, baby.”
“She thinks I am!” he hissed.
“Well, there’s a word for what she is. It’s four letters long and starts with a c.” He held the cup of tea up again. “Drink the rest of this, and then we’ll go take a nice, long bath and you can relax and forget all about her.”
“If only wishes were flowers,” Link murmured.
“I’d pick you a field full, baby.” Haddon stood and held out his hand. “Now come on. Come with me.”
By the time Haddon had the tub full and both of them stripped, Link had descended into full blown tears. He maneuvered them into the tub, Link in front of him, and held Link tight while the storm raged inside his lover’s heart. How long it would take, he couldn’t say. Might be over quickly, or it might last hours. He made a mental note to visit Link’s mother in the morning and lay down some new terms with her. She couldn’t keep doing this -- she couldn’t be allowed to torment him like this.
Anger burning him from within, Haddon leaned back against the tub, hummed softly, and waited.