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Melvin fought to catch his breath, hands braced on his thighs. The fight was a hard one. He'd never used put so many of his skills to use, but he could feel the warmth of the Edgewise brush against his mind.

Are you proud of me? He grinned at the reply. The Edgewise thought him a show off. Like you aren't, he teased.

He banished the smile from his face as Jacob stumbled up next to him. No one knew about those silent exchanges with the entity that was the Edgewise, not even Mack. He wasn't sure why he kept it a secret but their connection felt private. Melvin didn't want to share her. The Edgewise found it amusing he thought of it as female.

"Where the hell did you pick up that trick, Mel," gasped Jacob.

He shrugged. "Mack taught me."

Jacob went quiet, his expression cold. "Taught you a lot already, hasn't he?"

"Well, the more I know, the more control I have, right? I've kept a rein on the bête noir without him for months now. He said I was well suited to the gig. I'm a fast learner," said Melvin with a relaxed grin.

Jacob fell silent. Melvin frowned at the other man, wondering what bug crawled up his arse. The Edgewise chimed in mind like clinking glass mugs, urging him home. Fine, but there better be curry. The chimed turned shrill with mock outrage. He could practically smell the curry already, bubbling away in the tavern's kitchens.

"He used to say the same to me."

Melvin frowned, turning to Jacob and froze. The man stood inches from him. The expression in Jacob's eyes pinned him place. Snake and mouse, and Melvin knew which one he was.

"What--"

Jacob's hand slammed down on his shoulders, fingers biting down. "He should have chosen me," he sobbed.

Fire erupted under Melvin's ribs. He gasped at the pain, glancing down as the blade slid free, coated in his blood.

"It should have been me," said Jacob, shoving Melvin away.

He stumbled, clutching at the wound. Each heart beat was agony, racing faster to his death. The blade must have nicked the organ. Melvin sank to his knees, clawing at the air. His limbs refused to cooperate. He couldn't draw the door. Desperate, he reached. His fingers brushed solid wood. He could feel the tavern's sorrow, taste the bitterness of death in his mouth.

"I don't want to die."

Mack's face hovered him. He didn't remember making it inside the Edgewise. His blood dripped to the floorboards, soaking in the wood.

"No, no, no!" Mack pressed against the wound, trying to catch the life slipping from him. Melvin's life slipped through the tavern master's fingers.

I don't want to die.

The bête noir shifted within him, tasting his fear, his desperation. It understood death, more so than the entity of the Edgewise. It lashed inside him, clinging, unwilling to let go. Melvin faded. The Edgewise chimed in the silence of his mind, searching for him.

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