Back home, Dallas locked himself in his office and sat down behind his desk. “You stay inside this office at all times. Do you understand?” he asked, his voice low.
Yep. Stay in the office, don’t hurt Xavier, retreat if Xavier calls for you, retreat if your phone rings.
Dallas nodded, closing his eyes. “All right… Research is yours.”
Ed opened his eyes, rolling his shoulders back. The right one strained against the movement, but he didn’t mind too much. Dallas would feel far more of that pain than Ed ever would.
He reached out and opened the lid of Dallas’s laptop. It didn’t take long to bring up the articles of the pedophile Dallas had been referring to. Spencer Fabray, three confirmed victims, convicted on all three charges, spent less than five years in prison. Well, he certainly checked all the boxes on Dallas’s little list of requirements.
Ed grabbed a pen from the desk and leaned back in his chair, twirling the pen between his fingers. He hated being forced to follow Dallas’s little rules. When he’d still been alive, prior to his little adventure in the electric chair, there had been no rules. Ed had killed whoever the hell he wanted, and he had strung them up from trees in their own front yard. No long research process. No long confirmation of criminal actions. All he had to do back in the day was grab a young woman from the street or a young man from a bar. Easy peasy, and his hunger was fed rather quickly.
Despite Dallas’s difficulties, Ed let him have the little rules and checklists. If he didn’t, he knew Dallas would go full throttle when it came to getting rid of him, and for once, he would most likely succeed. Dallas’s previous attempts at getting rid of the ‘voice’ that had been in his head since he was a baby had been weak, hardly more advanced than ignoring Ed and refusing to respond to him.
If Dallas really set out to get rid of Ed, he’d finally find out that the murderous ‘voice’ in his head wasn’t the most trustworthy source of information. Years ago, Ed had told Dallas they were bound together because he had been born at the same exact moment Ed had died. Though the time aspect was true, give or take a few seconds, they weren’t bound together in the slightest. A little bit of an exorcism and ghost warding would keep Ed away forever.
Of course, Dallas–poor, stupid Dallas–had no damn idea Ed was a ghost rather than ‘a voice’ left over from life. The bastard didn’t even know he was psychic, thanks to Ed’s artful lies over the years. So long as Ed continued to follow the rules, so long as he poked and prodded Dallas without crossing any lines, Dallas would continue to be oblivious to his abilities, and Ed would continue to be able to kill people well into his afterlife. He wouldn’t get that from another psychic, and forging a deep connection with a non-psychic would take too long to be worth it.
So he’d put up with Dallas’s rules and checklists. They kept Ed as ‘alive’ as one could be after their state-ordered execution had been carried out. Unless he found a guaranteed way to be in control of Dallas forever, his current situation would simply have to be good enough.
Dallas opened his eyes, lifting his head a moment later.
Spencer Fabray. Got his registered sex offender address for you.
“For you,” Dallas corrected.
Ed laughed. Come on, Tex. You know you like holding that blade in your hand almost as much as I do.
Dallas knew better than to contest that point. Though he believed Ed had a big damn part in his ‘like’ for the research, the blade, the actual killing, and the displaying of the body. Dallas had never hurt a living soul–human, animal, or otherwise–until he had finally caved beneath Ed’s constant promise that he would make sure Dallas’s father could never lay a hand on him or Xavier ever again. Dallas didn’t know much, but he knew he wasn’t evil for caving.
Ed was evil. Ed was a monster. Dallas had simply allowed the situation to play to his advantage. Unfortunately, he knew now that Ed had done the same.
“After we take out this guy, you gotta leave me alone long enough for me and Bo to solve this case, man. It’s hard enough masking your bullshit around other people when you aren’t constantly in my ear.”
That sorta sounds like a YOU problem, Tex. But, hey, I’ll do you a solid and relax as soon as my hunger gets fed. I’m not going anywhere by any means, but I’ll stop threatening to kill the little blonde.
Now, where’s the fun in that?
Dallas closed his eyes, scrubbing his hands over his face. “You’ve known him literally his whole fucking life.”
Yes, and I’ve thus far done you the favor of only SPEAKING about wanting to kill him instead of physically acting on it. I can switch the two around if you prefer.
“No,” Dallas whispered.
Good. We’re bonded together, Tex. You and me are in this ‘life’ thing together. We’re in this little balancing act TOGETHER. The less you throw a shit fit about it, the easier it will be.
“Alternatively, the less you threaten to kill my brother with my fucking hands, the easier it will be.”
Ed chuckled. Potentially. But I wouldn’t be having nearly as much fun that way.
Dallas shook his head. Not responding to Ed was his best choice. It almost always was, despite how often Ed eventually managed to wear down his resolve and get him to respond.
“Do you know someone named Bo Austen?” Xavier asked from the hall.
“He’s at the door, says you offered the couch to him.”
“Be there in a sec, bud. Thanks.” Dallas pushed himself to his feet, grabbing his phone from the desk. He checked his text messages, finding one from Bo. I don’t recall responding to this.
Oops. Sorry, did I break the rules? Ed asked.
Dallas rolled his eyes, shoving his phone into his pocket. If he managed to get rid of Ed tomorrow, it still wouldn’t be soon enough. He unlocked his office door and made his way to the foyer. Bo stood there, a duffle bag held in his hands. “Hey, man. You find your way over okay?”
“Yes. I apologize for alarming your brother. He seemed… concerned.”
“Don’t worry about it. That’s on me. Totally forgot to tell him you’d be coming over.” Dallas cleared his throat. “If you wanna kick off your shoes, I’ll give you a quick tour.”
“Oh, that’s okay. I don’t want to be a bother. The couch is fine.”
“What if you need water? Or a bathroom break?”
“Nah. Not a bother, Austen. I promise.”
After a moment, Bo nodded. He kicked off his shoes and adjusted his grip on his bag. “Okay. Following you.”
Dallas cocked his head to the side. “ ‘Following you’. Did you pick that up from me?”
Bo glanced up at him, meeting his eyes for little more than a second. “As I said, I eventually mimic the people I care enough about to do it. As you are putting forth a genuine effort to befriend me in your way, I am putting forth a genuine effort to do it… in my way.”
“Well, I’m honored.”
Bo smiled faintly. “I’m glad.” He cleared his throat. “Following you.”
“Of course. This way.” Dallas led the way to the living room. “Here’s the couch. Feel free to set your things down here before we take the rest of the thrilling tour.”
“As the house didn’t appear to be a mansion from the outside, I feel I’m safe in the assumption that ‘thrilling’ is sarcasm.”
Dallas chuckled. “Yes.”
“Good.” Bo waved a hand between them. “Same page.” After setting his things down on the couch, he tucked his hands behind his back. “Where to next?”
We could take him to the basement, Tex. It could be fun, huh?
Dallas cleared his throat. “Kitchen. This way.”
“Do you cook often?” Bo asked, following several steps behind Dallas.
“I’m not great at it, but I do cook. Do you?”
“Yes and no. I enjoy cooking and baking, but I generally don’t do it on my own. But when I do cook on my own, I’m still good at it.”
Dallas laughed. “I don’t think you realize how savage you are sometimes.”
“Yeah. Umm… sort of like bluntly stating opinions or facts. No sugar-coating.”
“Is that a bad thing?”
“Well, for some people. I just think it’s funny. Like, it brings genuine joy to my life, man.”
Bo offered a smile. “I’m glad. Who may it be a bad thing to?”
“People who are looking to be harmed or offended by what other people say. People who don’t know that you mean no harm. People who don’t get you.”
“In conclusion, most people.”
“That’s usually how it is,” Xavier said. Dallas turned to face his brother. “People who don’t know you have a harder time gauging what you mean and stuff. Like, I understand what Dallas means when he talks more than I’ll ever understand anyone else. And he understands what I mean more than anyone else will ever understand me.”
After a moment, Bo nodded. “That’s how Mister A is for me. I understand the intent behind most of what he says, regardless of his expression or tone.”
“It’s cool you have someone like that. Helps give you a baseline of your normal.” Xavier stuck out a hand. “Now that I’m not so weird, I’m Xavier.”
Bo untucked his hands and grabbed Xavier’s. “I’m Bo. I’m the forensic analyst that’s been assigned the task of babysitting your brother at the station.”
“Oh, dude, that’s awesome. You have a babysitter?”
“That is technically one of the titles he’s allowed to have,” Dallas said.
Xavier laughed. “Ugh, that’s awesome.” He stepped past Dallas and pulled open the refrigerator. “Do you like Pepsi, Bo?”
“Umm, yes, sure.”
“Sweet.” Xavier handed a pop to Bo and grabbed another for himself. As the door swung shut, Xavier pointed the can at Dallas. “Your tour’s boring. I’m giving him a tour of the rest of the house.”
Dallas smiled. “Go for it. Have fun.”
“Come on, Bo. I’ll show you the non-boring rooms.” Bo followed Xavier out of the kitchen without any complaint.
Well, you know what they say.
Dallas shook his head, closing his eyes.
Birds of a feather flock together. That must apply to freaks too, huh?
“Fuck you,” Dallas whispered.
Aww, Tex, come on. It’s not like I’m calling YOU a freak. Just your freakishly abnormal baby brother.
Dallas wrapped a hand around his wrist, fingernails biting into his skin. He knew damn well what Ed’s end goal was. It was easier for him to take unapproved control of Dallas when he was angry. As it stood, with two lives to endanger in his home, he planned on preventing that unauthorized control for as long as he could.
What’s wrong, Tex? Did I bully you into not responding again?
You bully me INTO responding, not out of it, in case you’ve forgotten.
Mm. Fair, I suppose. Still, you’re being pretty unfair, Tex.
Dallas couldn’t fight back the chuckle that fell past his lips. Wow, damn good joke, Ed.
Imagine for a moment that, after you died, you were stuck in some human’s body, and instead getting to be who you were before, you had to listen to his absurdly boring conversations with his freakishly boring brother every single day, and DESPITE that, you’re still not allowed to have control to do the one fun thing you enjoy every once and a while.
Well, first, I’d be honored to listen to those ‘boring’ conversations, since I’m not a murderous, emotionless monster like you were. Second, I let you have plenty of fun, and I let you indulge in it far more often than I should.
Oh, grow up. We’ve hardly killed anyone.
‘Hardly’ would be a laughable statement if the fact that it was a lie didn’t hurt so badly. Including his father and the two men in Texas Ed had killed after getting Dallas drunk enough to take full control of him, Dallas’s hands were covered with the blood of thirty-five people. ‘Hardly’ was far from the truth.
Dallas managed to take some solace in the fact that the overwhelming majority of those thirty-five people had been well-vetted criminals that he had agreed to let Ed kill. He managed to take solace in the fact that if he hadn’t bargained with Ed, it would’ve been thirty-five innocent lives instead. Thirty-five–or thereabouts–dead criminals sounded much better in his mind than thirty-five dead innocents, plus the innocents the criminals would’ve continued wreaking havoc upon.
If he didn’t take solace in something, he’d lose control of everything that made him Dallas Silver instead of Ed Lincoln.
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