4:46 AM; CLINSTONE, UNKNOWN LOCATION
Bo stared at the tester, his brow furrowed. He felt cold, his heart raising in his chest. How was it possible for him to have a brother he knew nothing about? Almost hesitantly, he handed the tester over to Jamal.
“Bo?” the older man questioned, his voice soft, cautious.
“I’m fine,” Bo whispered. He turned to face the man—his brother. “What is wrong with you?” he shouted. “You find out you have a brother, and your first response is to stalk him? To murder people to prove a fucking point, to send a goddamn message?” He smacked the side of the man’s head. “What’s your name?”
“Bernard. I go by Ben. See? Mom and Dad gave us stupid names that we had to shorten later in life.”
“Shut your mouth. We don’t have a mom and dad. You have your psychotic parents, and I have the Austens,” Bo said. “Explain it to me. How is your existence even a possibility?”
“Three days after they gave you up, Mom found out she was pregnant with me. They kept me in hopes I wouldn’t be like you,” Bernard said.
“And clearly you aren’t like me.”
Bernard laughed. “Not exactly.”
Jamal flinched as Bo swung a fist into Bernard’s jaw. “You threatened my family. You threatened to kill Jensen and our girls. Don’t sit here and laugh like we’re old friends, because you are the furthest thing from a friend I have.”
Bernard turned his head to the side, spitting out the blood in his mouth. He turned back to Bo. “You don’t need them. You have me.”
Bo smacked a hand against his chest, staring down at the man. “You aren’t my family. You’re a monster. Jensen, the girls, the Austens, Jamal, Tom. They’re my family. You’re…” He held up a hand before curling it into a fist and dropping it back to the side. “I don’t know what the hell you are.”
“I’m not a monster, Bo. You made me like this!”
“Me?” Bo asked.
“Because of you, I spent my life in a basement. I was raised in a basement! Locked away like a wild animal! And when Mom died, Dad blamed it on me, said it was my fault for being yet another bastard child to walk the earth.”
“That’s not on me, you dumbass.”
“If I had been born first, I would’ve been given up for adoption. I would’ve gone with the Austens. I could’ve been you!” Bernard exclaimed.
“That’s not how any of this works!” Bo shouted, his voice cracking. “I was given up because I was a freak. The Austens adopted me because I was the most pitiful kid at that adoption agency. I was broken, and they knew it. They adopted me because I was the biggest fixer-upper there, and that’s what they wanted. On the off chance you would’ve been given up if you were born first, the Austens wouldn’t have taken you. That’s not how it works. You wouldn’t just replace me because you were born first.
“You would’ve had a normal childhood. You would’ve gone to the park and played at the swings. You would’ve had a–a bike and friends. If I was born second, they would’ve given me away because I was a freak! It’s about abnormality, you moron, not the order in which we were conceived!” Bo drew in a deep breath, tilting his head back. “You were killing people and threatening my family because you thought you would have my life if you had been born first?”
“Well, it sounds stupid when you say it that way.”
“It’s stupid no matter how you say it,” Bo said through his teeth.
Bernard remained silent for a moment, bowing his head. “Yesterday? When your kids were outside with Jensen and the Mason kids?” He lifted his gaze to Bo’s face. “I was taking pictures of them, planning how to kill each and every one of them.” Jamal turned his head away from Bo as the blonde swung at Bernard’s jaw a second time. “Your little baby girl? Kayla? I planned on slitting her throat, leaving her in your room. Call it a cute little homage to Bridget.”
Bo’s brow furrowed, his chest rising and falling quickly as he stared at the man. What was he supposed to say? What was he supposed to do?
“Amber and Elijah? I was going to kill them like Wings did back in Iowa. Remember? I’d kill them in your family room, make them pray to God. Repent. Something. And then I’d give them their angelic little wings. That was the last big case you worked with Kathy and Dallas before they ran away. Before they left you behind, abandoned you,” Bernard said.
“Shut your fucking mouth,” Bo whispered.
“And Katie? Charlotte? I’d shoot them. Right between the eyes. I planned on waiting until Jacob was back at work. I wanted him to get called to the scene. He never would’ve forgiven you. That would’ve destroyed you,” Bernard said. Bo balled his shaking hand into a fist and swung at the man’s jaw. Bernard turned his head, spitting out blood and a single tooth. He looked back at Bo and cocked his head to the side. “And Jensen?” he asked darkly. “I was planning to hold him hostage, make you come find him. And then when you were right there, I’d slit his throat, too. Make you watch the light go out in his eyes. Two little touches of Bridget, hmm?”
Bo kicked a foot into Bernard’s chest, knocking the chair over. Bernard let out a yelp, his own weight breaking his right arm. Bo stepped over the chair to stand above Bernard, his feet planted at either side of the beaten man. “You know what made you this way? You were pissed at your piece of shit parents, and instead of being angry at them like a normal person, you found someone else to take it out on. Me. You let it build up inside of you until you were boiling with anger. You’re beyond saving. You know that, don’t you?”
“I don’t want to be saved,” Bernard said. His eyes widened briefly as Bo pulled the Glock from his holster, cocked it, and pressed it to Bernard’s forehead.
“Hey, hey, hey. Whoa.” Jamal crossed the room quickly, wrapping a hand around the gun. “No. You’re not killing him. That’s not your job.”
“I’ve killed people before,” Bo said through clenched teeth.
“This is different.”
“It’s not. He’s a killer. He’s a murderer and a stalker a–and… and a monster.”
“He’s not family! I don’t care that we have a familial blood link. That is not what makes family family. I chose my family, and I’m not adding this bastard to the list,” Bo said.
“I won’t let you become me,” Jamal said through his teeth.
“I’m already going to,” Bo reminded, his voice low.
Jamal held Bo’s gaze for several tense seconds. “You’re already going to,” Jamal repeated in a whisper. “I don’t want you to. I don’t want to ruin you.”
“Move your hand, Jamal.”
“No. I want you to leave. Frank will take you back to the house. I’ll finish this,” Jamal said.
“If I walk out that door, you will never see me again. It doesn’t matter who you send after me. I’m better at hiding than Kathy was,” Bo said.
“You…” A muscle in Jamal’s jaw ticked as he let go of the gun and took a step back. Bo looked down at Bernard, the pleading look in the psychopath’s eyes.
The blonde pulled the trigger.
Bo straightened himself out, staring down at the man, his biological brother. He shoved the Glock back into the holster at his waist and stepped over the man. He crossed the room to stand in front of Jamal. The older man stared down at him, unable to come up with a response of any kind. Bo threw his arms around Jamal, his shoulders shaking with a heavy sob.
“Okay, okay,” Jamal whispered, wrapping his arms around the blonde. “It’s okay. It’s gonna be okay,” he soothed, laying a hand on the back of Bo’s head. He looked over at the dead man on the floor, his arms tightening protectively around Bo. “It’s okay. I won’t let anything happen to you. You’re gonna be okay.”
5:32 AM; CLINSTONE, THE AUSTEN-TAYLOR HOUSEHOLD, MASTER BATHROOM
Bo turned his head toward the door as it opened, his hands wrapped around the hem of his shirt. Jensen stepped into the bathroom, quietly shutting the door behind him. “Baby…” Jensen whispered. “Are you…? Are you okay?”
“I…” Bo offered a shrug.
Jensen crossed the room, gently wrapping his hands around Bo’s forearms. Jensen undid the little buckle on Bo’s watch and set it on the counter. “Come on. Let’s go sit,” he said quietly, guiding Bo across the room. Bo sat down on the closed lid of the toilet. Bo leaned his head against the wall as Jensen walked out of his sight. The taller man came back, squatting down in front of Bo. Slipping his hand under Bo’s right hand, he gently patted a damp washcloth over Bo’s knuckles. Bo closed his eyes.
“What happened?” Jensen asked.
“I don’t know,” Bo mumbled.
Jensen glanced up at Bo before his green eyes fell back to his boyfriend’s hand. “You punched him?”
“Couple of times. He deserved it.”
“I know he did, baby. I know,” Jensen said softly. “Who was he?”
Slowly, Jensen lifted his head. “Smalls?” he echoed.
“So he was…?”
“He was my brother, Jens,” Bo said quietly. “My baby brother. He was… jealous. He thought that if he had been born first, he would’ve had the life I had. He was… he was psychotic, Jens,” he murmured. “He told me how he planned to kill everyone. Kayla, Amber, Jake’s kids… you. He told me how he wanted to do it, how he was taking pictures of you and the kids outside yesterday.”
Jensen’s jaw tensed. “Jamal killed him?”
“No,” Bo said. Jensen frowned. Why the hell had Jamal left him alive? “I did.”
“You…? You killed him?” Jensen asked.
Bo forced his watery blue eyes open. “I shot my own brother, Jens,” he whispered. Jensen dropped the washcloth to the floor, leaning up to wrap his arms around Bo, pulling the blonde against his chest. “I shot him,” Bo whispered shakily.
“Shh… shh.” Jensen threaded his fingers through Bo’s hair, rocking him ever so slightly. “It’s gonna be okay.”
“I’m a monster, Jens. A monster.”
“No, no, Eli. No. Y–you did what you had to. You did what n–needed to be done,” Jensen said, hating himself for stuttering. “I would’ve done it, too.”
“Y–you would have?” Bo asked.
“Yes,” Jensen breathed. “I wanted him dead as soon as I found out about him.”
“You would’ve done it? Even… even if he was your brother?” Bo questioned.
Jensen closed his eyes. “Yes,” he whispered.
“O–okay.” Bo sniffled, wrapping his arms around Jensen’s neck. “You don’t th–think I’m a monster?”
“No. Never.” Jensen stood up carefully, pulling Bo up with him. “You could never be a monster.”
“Never,” Jensen repeated. He pulled Bo’s arms from his neck, taking a small step back. He wrapped his hands around the hem of Bo’s shirt. “It’s gonna be okay. You are gonna be okay,” he said, pulling Bo’s blood spattered shirt over his head.
“We’re okay?” Bo asked.
“We’re okay,” Jensen promised with a nod. He held Bo’s face between his head, pressing a lingering kiss to the blonde’s forehead. “We’re gonna get you in the shower and all cleaned up. And then we’re gonna go to bed, b–because you need some sleep. We… we will figure everything else out after we’ve both slept. That’s what we need. Okay?” Bo nodded quickly. Jensen’s hands fell to the buckle of Bo’s jeans. “I love you. It doesn’t matter what you did. I love you.”
Bo sniffled, reaching up with one hand to rub at his eyes. “I love you, too,” he whispered.
“Good, good.” Jensen nodded, unbuckling Bo’s belt with shaking hands. “I love you. That’s all that matters. I love you and the girls. That’s what matters.” Bo nodded. “I–I love you. You’re not a monster.”
“Are you trying to convince me? Or you?” Bo asked.
“I don’t know,” Jensen said breathlessly.
Bo nodded. “I can leave.”
“I’ll shower, get changed, and then I’ll leave. You won’t have to see me again.”
“No, no, no, no,” Jensen said quickly. “No, I don’t want you to leave. I love you.”
“You know that… for sure?” Bo asked.
“One hundred percent, Eli,” Jensen whispered. “We’ll work everything else out. Promise,” he said.
Bo nodded. “Okay,” he whispered back.
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