You haven't visited for nine years. Almost a decade. He reminds you of this while you're sitting there across the table, diverting your eyes away from the fresh pink scar slashed half way across his throat.
"Twelve, lad. Twelve years old when you last came here, saw me. Look at you now. Proper grown up into a man and everything."
You don't know if he's saying it to prompt you, to make you feel ashamed. Or whether it's propelled by some kind of disbelief on his end, some sort of regret for everything he's missed. (Probably the first one. He always did put effort into making you feel like shit.)
But it's there, between you, nine years of empty space and no desire to fill the gaps, on your end.
(Nine years of the fucking /best/ days of your life.)
"Chelsea comes." Here he goes. "Chelsea's always here, nearly every other week, her and the kids. Mercedes as well, sometimes. Mercy doesn't bring the little'uns, though. Just pictures..."
"It's no place for kids." You wish your voice sounded stronger, sturdier. Wish you could force weight behind the syllables that convey more confidence than you feel. Wish you could conjure that boldness you manage when you're talking to Elvis.
Because you've no need to be nervous. No need to be afraid of him.
You're just as fucking big and intimidating nowadays, as he is.
(More so. Maybe. Cos you don't have to /fake/ it.)
"You always were my favourite." He reaches out across the table. Takes your hand in his. Presses that old NF tattoo on his palm into your own fucking skin.
And you freeze.
Ice crackles through your veins.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
The urge to yank your hand away is almost too strong to resist. But you're determined to be the bigger man. And you maybe, kinda, really do wanna stick it out to hear this. Cos you're pretty certain he's not suddenly feeling guilty for all his bullshit.
(You're pretty certain your old man doesn't even know what guilt /is/.)
And he's never, not once, shown you any kind of /real/ praise.
But when he doesn't continue, because he either can't or won't explain, you draw away, folding your arms on the sinking chest of an exhale.
You're not daft. You're not stupid.