Chapter 1: I'm the One Who's Burning Now
Stefan Bekowsky turned up the collar on his jacket and shrugged into it further. It was pouring rain, and being that it was the two-year anniversary of losing Cole in that horrific way, and the weather had been the same the year prior, he was wondering if Mother Nature had as much of a vendetta against Cole as Fate had. He glanced at the graveyard, sighed and trudged up the small flight of stairs that led to the graves. He spotted the other '-sky' name that he recalled started Cole's row and pivoted to follow the line. He stopped abruptly upon seeing someone about thirty feet ahead.
Roy Earle was standing there, looking down at Cole's grave.
Stefan wondered if he was seeing things, or if the raindrops were just blurring his vision enough and his brain was just filling in the sihoutte. When he realized it wasn't the case, the detective contemplated diving behind the nearest gravestone to avoid being seen by the older man. However, A, on second thought that sounded like a dumb plan, and B, it sounded kind of disrespectful to whoever's grave he would've used as a shield. He looked around frantically, trying to find another hiding spot. Most of the LAPD members who had known Cole had changed since Then. Even Roy had- to a point. The man was still easy to piss of if he jumped to conclusions about something, and there were about twenty conclusions that could be jumped to in their present situation. Almost all of them ended in Stefan looking like a creep.
"I see you, Bekowsky. No one can miss that suit anywhere."
Stefan flinched when Roy's voice reached him. He had to bite his tongue to prevent the knee-jerk reaction of retaliating with "you should talk, Salmon Sleeves" that came to mind any time the vice detective had insulted him before. He simply pressed his lips together in a thin line and looked down, then glanced left and right. He hoped it looked like he was paying respects to one of the people on either side of him and not wondering why the Hell Roy Earle was standing in front of Cole's grave looking like he was in pain.
The black-haired man scoffed and backed away from the grave a couple of feet. He advanced on Stefan and tossed his arms out. "Here to chase me outta here like the German Whore or even the Former Missus Phelps did?" He demanded bitterly.
Stefan paused, then shook his head. "No, I'm here to pay my own…" He trailed off. He was still to preoccupied with trying to figure out why Roy was there. Last he recalled, Roy and Cole hated each other, so what the Hell was he doing here? Why was Roy the one who sounded pissed and protective over Cole's grace? "… Respects… so why are you…?"
Roy scoffed again. "Of course, because the heartless bastard who sold him out can't pay respects to the guy he knew was the best L.A detective in years, right?"
Stefan opened his mouth, then firmly shut it again.
Roy shook his head, then shoved past the other man, taking care to let his shoulder slam into Stefan's, nearly knocking him off balance.
Stefan righted himself and closed his eyes. He looked over his shoulder at Roy. Christ, every other cop in town would have his head for saying what he was about to. But then again, the bastard was just caught red-handed having a fucking conscience. If that wasn't means for at least comment, he didn't know what was. "I don't blame you, you know…" he pointed out.
Roy stopped just at the mouth of the row of graves. He remained quiet, then replied without turning around. "Bullshit, Bekowsky. You all do. That kid Ralph, Biggs... Galloway punched me in the face as he announced the theory that Phelp's death was my fault. Connelly doesn't look me in the face, not that I mind, the Limey…" He trailed off. "You would think I magically raised those damn water levels in those pipes as opposed to just giving the affair away."
Stefan shook his head. "We all know why you sold him out. You had no right to do it for that reason to begin with…" He stopped himself again. It wasn't the place to argue about that topic. Doing so in the graveyard was bad, but right in front of the man in question's gravestone was worse.
Roy turned back slightly, and seemed to read Stefan's facial expression and came to the same conclusion. He shook his head and turned back around and started to walk again.
Stefan hesitated, then trotted after him. "Earle, hold on."
Roy stopped again and looked back at him. "What, Bekowsky? I have better things to do than stand around chatting with one of the boys who want me dead for starting the Golden Boy's fall."
Stefan slowed his pace. "I already told you I don't blame you." Stefan replied. "… You know the way to Rhodie's Bar?"
"Yeah, why?" Roy narrowed his eyes.
Stefan frowned."Just… come get a drink for the… anniversary." He glanced back at Cole's grave. "Hell, call it 'for old time's sake', even if there were none between you and I." His frown deepened when Roy paled when he said 'old times sake' and looked like he was in pain again, trying his damnedest to hide it. The younger detective decided to ignore it for now. He'd ask if he succeeded in getting the man to have a drink. and only if they were both drunk off their asses.
Roy loosened up after a moment. "Now why would I wanna do that? Last I checked we haven't spoken since that last case that overlapped both our departments a few months back."
Stefan tried not to growl. He was trying to be nice to a guy who he still honestly thought was an asshole. Hell, he had bowed sarcastically to Roy during one of their first cases that overlapped; why stop that pattern now if Earle was going to shoot him down anyway? The Hell with graveyard etiquette. "Fine then. The drink may help dislodge that giant stick that's up your ass," he countered.
Roy raised his eyebrows and advanced on the man a second time. "Run that by me again?"
"You heard me, Earle," Stefan challenged. He put on a brave face, still expecting Roy to attack him.
To his surprise, Roy let out a genuine laugh a moment later as opposed to punching him or breaking his neck with his bare hands. "Yes I did, Beckow." Roy began, then sighed. "You know what? Fine. Who am I to turn down a chance at getting a drink anyway, huh?" He shrugged. "I'll meet you there. I have some stuff to handle; you wouldn't wanna hear about it."
"Hm," Stefan replied. He wasn't going to argue that point. He knew Roy was still corrupt. He was still in business with the big dogs- these days the dogs were just a bit smaller. He probably had business to attend with them.
Roy grunted himself, then shrugged further into his jacket. He took one last glance at Cole's grave before putting his hat back on and heading for his car.
Stefan watched him, arching an eyebrow when Roy passed him and he was confident the man wasn't going to turn around again. He briefly wondered if Roy had thought the offer for drinks meant that Stefan was buying. He pushed aside the thought. He was willing to buy a couple of drinks if they were essentially for Cole. He didn't mind the possibility of figuring out part of the mystery that was Roy Earle, either. It was enough for him that the offer had gone smoothly with no insults thrown his way- well, bad insults, anyway. He shook his head and made his way over to Cole's grave, nearly forgetting that was the reason of going to the graveyard in the first place. He knelt down, greeted his old friend, and told him all the things he could list off- how he was, how his girlfriend of eight months, Viv, was doing with him, how some of the rest of the crew that Cole had liked were, that Herschel had actually decked someone who had trash-talked Cole the week before, how they all missed him. He said his final goodbye- for then, anyway, and left, heading for his car.
It wasn't until then that he remembered it may have been a bad idea to go get a drink with one of the most hated cops in L.A. He ignored it. Now wasn't the day to worry about that. He got in his car and started on his way to Rhodie's.
Chapter 2: The World Was Wide Enough
Roy didn't know what had possessed him to actually listen to Stefan and wait for him at Rhodie's. It wasn't like any of his usual dives. Hell, he would never have set foot in the place if Stefan hadn't asked. It was for people that were below him, as far as he was concerned. He knew it was a favorite place for a few patrolmen to go after work. He couldn't wait for the strange looks he would get walking in there. Not just from the cops, but from everyone. He would stick out like a sore thumb. Usually he wouldn't mind, but there were different circumstances this time. He glared up. "You enjoying this, Cole?" He muttered before getting out of the car. He headed inside, and tried not to roll his eyes when exactly what he thought would happen did. At least ten sets of eyes went to him. He kept his eyes trained just above the floor as he headed for the bar itself, sliding onto the chair closest to the wall.
The bartender approached. He didn't bother to hide the fact he sized Roy up immediately.
Roy scoffed when he noticed the man was more focused on the expensive suit than anything. "Problem, Pal?"
The bartender shook his head. "Not a-one. What can I get an upstanding gentleman such as yourself?"
Roy bristled at 'upstanding.' He leaned back. "You can give me a few minutes before my…" What was Bekowsky? Last he checked, he didn't have people he called friends. Then again, he and Bekowsky never had any real issues with each other, so at least that was something. Besides, what would a bartender he would never see again care? "Friend gets here."
"Sure thing," The bartender turned back to his own business.
Roy tried to make himself look busy when he started to feel eyes on him. He fiddled with his jacket, then the matchbook inside one of his pockets. After he couldn't find any new distractions, glanced over his shoulder, seeing two of the latest recruits to patrol staring at him. They were muttering to each other. "Hey, Reed, Samuels. You keep staring like that, your eyes'll get stuck!" He called. He relaxed when that got them to look away and come up with new subject matter for their chat. He went back to looking busy for a while until he felt someone tap on his bicep a couple of times.
"Holy shit, you actually showed."
Roy tried not to bristle at just how surprised Stefan sounded behind him. It had been his idea, he had said yes, why would he refuse? "Bekowsky," he greeted.
Stefan slid onto the stool next to him and waved the bartender over. "Hey, Lou, can I get a couple of shots of whiskey?"
The bartender, Lou, nodded then looked at Roy expectantly.
Roy shrugged. "Bourbon for me. Hell, bring us a bottle of it and a couple of glasses. And give us the expensive stuff. So help you God if I find out you gave us cheap shit." He replied.
Lou blinked at him a couple of times, then looked at Stefan and raised an eyebrow.
Stefan, who had also been staring at Roy, looked back at him and waved his hand dismissively. "Sorry. I'm afraid my… friend isn't trained to go out in public."
Lou and Roy both snorted, then Lou went to go get the requested drinks. Roy took a small amount of comfort in the fact that Stefan seemed to struggle for a label for them, too.
The two men waited in silence for a while. Once they got their drinks, Stefan hesitantly raised his first as Roy poured his. "To Cole, huh?" he toasted. He had no idea how Roy would react, so he waited with baited breath.
Roy stared at the man's drink for a while, trying not to pull a face. However, he did bring his own glass to the other and grunted a response.
Stefan was never anyone to push a point, so he took the successful toast as a small victory.
Their next drink followed quickly in silence, and then the silence itself lasted minutes after that. They both regretted being there alone.
For the first time, Roy absolutely hated silence, so he figured he'd be the one to break it. "So if you're gonna stay quiet why the Hell did you bring me here? You had Galloway, or Leary, or Esteban or whatever the Hell his name is…"
"His name is Enrique, and they're just fine on their own, thinking of what today is or not. I for one think that there shouldn't be a person who cared about Cole alone today."
"I cared for him as little as I care for you people. I was fine last year, so why care now?" Roy shot back.
Stefan put his drink down. "Because last I checked, not leaving your damn house on the one year anniversary isn't 'fine," he challenged. When Roy blanched but covered it up, he nodded. "Yeah, I know about that. Galloway found out somehow and had a goddamn field day going against you for it," he added when Roy narrowed his eyes."Fine. This'll be the last time I try to be nice. You sulked last year, you'll do it again after this."
Roy merely shook his head and clenched his jaw.
Stefan rolled his eyes, then poured himself another drink. "Whatever…"
Silence took over again. They had a few more drinks between them before Roy's set of drinks started to affect him. He didn't know what it was- maybe 'the expensive stuff' had more alcohol than he assumed, maybe it was the voice in the back of his head that suspiciously sounded like Cole encouraging to drink himself into oblivion, maybe it was the fact that someone was finally bothering to actually hear his side of the story. The sudden urge to speak came over him, and he fell to it. "He saved my life, you know. Three times." He didn't see Stefan look at him with surprise written on his face at the fact he was even speaking. "One- he shoved me outta the way of a car coming right at me- probably one of Mickey's goons. Two- kicked my feet out from under me when some son of a bitch was about to shoot me. Three… pulled me back before I fell two stories out of one of those damn Elysian Field house's skeletons because I had no idea the one damn door would lead to an unfinished room…" He let out a laugh that came out loud and high, indicating to both of them he was more drunk than either of them thought. "And how do I repay the guy? I throw him under the bus…" He shook his head. "Fuck it. I don't know why I bother denying it. I might as well have been responsible for his death..." he sighed. "I have to live with that."
Stefan was at a loss for words. He gaped like a fish out of water for a moment. He didn't even expect Roy to be a talker when he was drunk, but that just definitely proved him wrong. He didn't even know what to say. He swallowed hard. He wouldn't touch the first issue, but the second he could work with. "You said yourself you didn't make the water level rise. Just keep blaming the water. 'S what I do." He sighed. He had taken Cole's side when it came to Roy backstabbing him. Was Cole at fault for cheating on his wife? Yes. But throwing your partner under the bus to cover up one of the many things you were involved in so you'd get off clean? That was much worse. However, with the details Cole had given him on that whole fiasco, Roy's situation was still odd in his book. "And… and Cole told me you warned him to stay away from Elysian-"
"It was a warning from Monroe and his cronies, not me," Roy cut in.
"Cole didn't seem to think so. Well, he did with the first, not the second one, anyway. He said you said it twice. He didn't know what to think when you said it the second time."
Roy flinched. "It doesn't change a damn thing. Hell, he still went after Monroe, probably to spite me. He went after that entire fiasco, got involved with that moron Kelso, then that chase…"
Stefan frowned. "You know about that?"
Roy snorted. "You get enough info and hear about who's involved, you basically put things together on your own."
Stefan sighed. "Cole called me that night. Told me to try and stall as many patrolmen as I could at the station so they couldn't go after them."
Roy raised his eyebrows. "I half expected you to be in a car right next to them clipping the patrol cars that got too close to one of theirs."
Stefan shook his head. "I wish. Who knows what woulda changed if Cole had more back-up."
"Not a damn thing." Roy deadpanned, taking a swig of his drink again.
Stefan narrowed his eyes. "Huh?"
Roy scoffed. "Come on. You really think those two young bloods and the old bat coulda made it that far against all those patrols without some help?"
Realization dawned on Stefan. "You…?" He looked towards the front of the bar, out the window and at Roy's car. It would've been hard for anyone to miss in the crowd. How had anybody who had been there not seen him? How was he just learning this now?
"Didn't use my car, and a lot good it did anyway, huh?" Roy picked up his glass again and moved it in a circle so the contents swished around. "Could've gone with them all the way, but I figured that wouldn't be welcome."
Stefan frowned again. "But you… I thought…?"
"What? I hated him as much as he hated me back then? Yeah, I did. That didn't mean I didn't trust the crazy bastard, whatever scheme he was trying to pull."
The amount of brainpower it was taking for Stefan to absorb the new information was making him sober up already. He was aware the man could've been bullshitting him- he wouldn't put it past him, but if he wasn't… Hell, was Roy even really drunk? The man sighed. He'd just have to go along with whatever the man said for now.
Roy shook his head and took another drink. "'S not like it matters now."
Stefan sighed and took the bottle of bourbon and Roy's glass away. "You know what? I think that's enough for you. Lou?" he waved the bartender over and pushed the bottle back to him, then looked pointedly at Roy's glass.
Lou came over and took both things, seeming quite happy that the mystery man had been cut off, taking pride in seeing Roy try to snatch the things back but overshooting to the left about four inches. When Roy glared the man down, Lou just smiled sarcastically and went about his work.
Stefan got up. He really hated what he was about to do, but whether he liked it or not, Roy was still a cop and therefore his brother. "You know what? You're in no state to drive. I'll call someone to get your car-" He hesitated. The only potential driver around that came to mind was the dame he was seeing, Viv. He had a feeling Roy would find out somehow, and he highly doubted Roy would be happy that Stefan let a woman drive his car alone. "Or we'll take yours back to my place and I'll call someone to get mine," he corrected.
"Hell no. I'm not letting anyone drive my car."
Stefan wanted to point out he had let Cole drive, but thought better of it. "Fine then, show me you can drive. Walk in a straight line from this table to that one." He pointed at a table ten feet away.
Roy scoffed. "Fuck no. Don't be a cop on me. You're a terrible one, anyway," he shot back. Then, after a beat: "The fuck do you care that I get home in one piece, Bekowsky? Why are you bothering all of a sudden?" Roy snapped.
"I thought we established that," Stefan replied, then nodded at the table he had indicated. "Go."
Roy rose to do just that to spite the man, only to stumble back and trip over his own feet immediately. He barely managed to catch himself on the bar table. He growled and looked at Stefan.
Stefan nodded. "Right. Stay put. I'm gonna go make a call." He turned and headed for the phone as fast as possible. He knew full well Roy probably wasn't going to be staying put long- whether it was physically not being able to stay still with all the liquor in his system, or trying to make an escape. He made the call to Viv, and once she agreed to come by for the car, he thanked her, apologized then quickly hung up. Sure enough, when he got back, Roy's spot was vacant. He looked around, and when he didn't see the vice detective, he looked at Lou.
Lou shrugged and pointed at the exit door. "Went that way. Muttered something about that guy Cole you mentioned really loving 'this'," he made a sweeping motion at their seats and the scattered glasses- "then walked out- well, stumbled out's more like it…" he explained.
Stefan nodded, took his wallet and took out the cash he assumed would cover the drinks. "If it's not enough, just write what I owe you and tell me next time I'm here. Hopefully Earle'll remember to pay me back," he told the other man before heading out the door.
Once he got out, Stefan took a quick survey of the area around the bar. With the exception of a handful of patrons scattered around, it was mostly vacant. Most importantly: there was no Roy to be seen. When something twisted his stomach and he realized it was guilt, he wasn't sure what to think. He could just imagine the man getting jumped in this part of town. It wasn't a terrible part of town, but it was close enough to it, and Roy always did insist on wearing those expensive suits. He figured the man had it coming, but if he did get jumped, it had still been on his watch, after going to a bar that had been his idea.
There was suddenly a single metallic rattle off to his left- in back alley of the bar that was covered in shadow, no less. He swore and hurried for the alley, unhooking the fastener on his holster as he went. "Earle? Roy!" He spotted an oddly-shaped silhouette against what must've been a dumpster, and the metallic rattling picked up. "Roy!" he repeated. He feared that some slimebag had gotten the upper hand on him until he got closer and it was just Roy slamming the side of his fist against the dumpster, repeating a resounding "FUCK!" over and over. It was enough of a sight to stop him in his tracks.
This was entirely new territory. Roy was drunk off his ass. Roy was showing an emotion that wasn't pride or anger. Roy was being vulnerable and he'd likely kill whoever saw him do so. Still, something pulled him closer, and almost in a blink he was there and grabbed Roy's wrist before he could continue. He didn't expect the man to immediately stop and let out a choked sob before another, "God, fuck!" before letting himself get pulled back. The last outburst was enough for Stefan to immediately let go of him.
Roy swayed on his knees and reached down to support them until his legs lost the fight and he collapsed against the dumpster and let out another sob.
Stefan stared in stunned, unsure silence. And then:
"I miss him, Bekowsky."
Somehow, that particular sentiment out of everything took Stefan by surprise. He rubbed his mouth to stifle the "shit" that he murmured. This was... far worse than he had thought.He looked Roy's way again. A quick once-over indicated that his breathing had slowed frighteningly quickly. There would be no more sobs, but there was something in Roy's eyes that made him look like an entirely different person. He had seen it on people who were at their lowest of low points. He doubted Roy was even entirely mentally with him in that alley. He swore into his hand again, then slowly and carefully sat down beside Roy, surroundings be damned. He made a mental tally in his head of how many things Roy had revealed that evening that Roy would be threatening him to keep quiet or be shot in the morning for. Still, he couldn't just leave it at silence after that, could he? He highly doubted saying "I know" would help, since there were clearly more emotions tied into that night for Roy then he once thought. "I do too, Roy. I do too."
It still seemed about as empty of a statement as he could get, but it wasn't untrue. He glanced at Roy again, and found that Roy was still staring ahead, still not all there. He stared ahead with him. They sat in silence for the second time that night, and it wasn't until Stefan realized he had lost track of time that he realized this was hardly the place for... whatever the Hell this was. He nudged Roy lightly with his elbow. "Come on. You're coming home with me. We're getting you sobered up." Part of him wished that Roy would come back to himself, refuse and call him a name.
Roy was silent for a while, then, quiet enough that Stefan almost missed it: "... Okay."
Stefan nodded after a moment, then got up to help Roy. After a few failed attempts, they managed to make it out of the alley and onto the street. Viv pulled up a few minutes ago and upon seeing their condition, gave Stefan an expectant look. The man merely shook his head and promised he'd fill her in the next morning.
He had a sinking feeling he wouldn't know where to start.
Chapter 3: I'm Not Alright
Roy groaned when he came to the next morning. Everything hurt, but his headache was most definitely the worst pain. He forced his eyes open a sliver, taking in his surroundings. Light tan walls, low light, dark brown furniture everywhere... just where the Hell was he? He squeezed his eyes shut, then opened them again. Somehow, some way, he remembered everything about the previous night- so was he in Bekowsky's place? It made sense. He strained to hear any clues- and a moment later, he got one- Stefan's voice was coming from a nearby room, and he didn't sound happy.
"Look, Finbarr. You don't have to like it… He needed a friend, I was there… I don't care. I don't call him a friend either, but it was for Cole… come on, give me a break… … … Fuck, Galloway! Did 'went out for a drink with Earle in Cole's honor' somehow translate to 'rob a bank with Earle' in that scrambled brain of yours? … … I just told you I don't! … That's the damn reason why I can't come in! … Well, would you trust Earle alone in your house?… No, didn't think so! … … Goddamn it. Stop arguing and just tell the Cap I can't come in… ... Well, make something up! Christ!"
There was a rough sound of some hard object hitting another, and then nothing. Roy glanced behind him to see if he was on a bed or couch, and when he saw a couch arm, he scooted back in order to lean his head on it, his body protesting all the way.
A few moments later, Stefan came through the entryway Roy was facing. He was walking at a fast pace, spurred on by the annoyance that had started up due to the phone call, with the phone in hand. He spotted Roy awake, then nearly tripped over his own feet. He stood still and stared at him for about a second before he turned and walked back out of the room, slower this time. Another few moments passed, and he came in with a glass of water in one hand and a couple of asprin in the other. He held them out to Roy.
Roy sat up further, then eased his legs over the side of the couch so he was upright. "What, no hair of the dog that bit ya?"
"You drank enough for the week- or maybe even month last night, so no." Stefan replied.
Roy let out a syllable's worth of a laugh. "How many?"
"That you had? I lost count after ten."
Roy sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose. "Please tell me they were all shots."
Stefan attempted a sympathetic look. "Some were…"
Roy shook his head. "… Am I lucky to not have died of alcohol poisoning?"
"Ohhhh, yeah." Stefan nodded.
Roy leaned back. "Fantastic. Spilled my guts to you and almost died. Some way to go." He looked around again, then frowned."Where's my car?"
"Up front, safe and sound and in sight, so if any punks try anything, we'll see it." Stefan offered a smile of his own, but it faded quickly, remembering a question he hadn't asked yet. "… So, how much of that phone call did you hear?"
Roy scoffed, even if his head gave further protest again. " What, you afraid I'll be offended?"
Stefan looked at his hands. "Look, Earle…"
"Don't sweat it," Roy cut him off.
Stefan blinked at him, then nodded, relieved Roy either didn't want to hear it or foresaw what he would've said. He shook both hands a couple of times, repeating the offer.
Roy took both, downing the pills and water as fast as possible.
Once again, a silence that almost pained the two involved started between them and stayed around for a while. Like the first time, Roy was the first to break it. "I'm no good at thanking people." Roy began, and looked away when Stefan looked at him, surprised the man even said anything of the sort for the second time in twenty four hours. "It's not… our people don't…" he went on.
Stefan shrugged. "Don't worry ab-"
"Shut it. I'm trying to thank you," Roy cut him off.
Stefan put his hands up in defense.
Roy looked down. "… I'm not…" He struggled for words. "… Everyone knows people don't give a fuck about my side of that time, so… … I owe you a lot… so just... thank you."
Stefan nodded after a moment. "You're welcome… … just don't make me regret it."
"Mm hm…" Roy hummed. He turned and put his legs back up on the couch. "On the phone it sounded like you didn't give a damn, so I'll just pass out here again and sleep this off," he turned his back towards Bekowsky.
Bekowsky stared at him for a while, then arched an eyebrow when Roy gave off a low snore. "Well, that went a little too well…" He shook his head and got up. He had things to do in order to distract himself until Roy woke up again.
"So, let me get this straight…" Vivian LeBlanc leaned forward, putting her arms on the restaurant table she and Stefan were sitting at two days later. Stefan and Rusty had gotten a case whose investigation lasted until three p.m, so Rusty had insisted they go have lunch. Viv worked nearby, so Stefan had offered to invite her. Rusty had never been fond of her, mostly because of 'the way she thought', so he had sat on the other side of the room at the bar table with his food as the couple talked. "You go to pay respects to your friend, and the guy who half the people in the LAPD blame for your friend's death is there, and you offer to go get a drink with him just because he looks hurt over it? Even after he's treated you like shit time and time again?"
Stefan opened his mouth, then paused, waiting for the men around them who had turned to look at the pair to turn around before continuing. "… How may times am I gonna have to repeat to everyone that he was different that whole night. Scary different. We both coulda used a friend. I call it a favor… I just didn't… … I think he really did care about Cole… more than we all thought he did." Stefan replied.
"You mean unlike you all thought, period?" Viv replied. "From what I've heard you're all adamant they hated each other."
Stefan shrugged and nodded.
Vivian sighed. "Thanks to all of you and your boys' stories I trust him as little as you all do. Just be careful with him. He could be playing games."
"I know, I know… I just… for the first time I really, really hope he's not."
"I hope so for your sake, too. Wouldn't want anyone manipulating my man."
Stefan smiled, then leaned over. "It'll be fine. Don't worry about it. Now, Rusty's getting antsy over there, so let me go before he starts complaining and scaring everyone."
"Alright. And make sure he doesn't pull anything on you for helping Roy, either."
"Will do, Viv. See ya later."
As it turned out, Roy wasn't pulling anything.
Even weeks after Stefan helped Roy out, their dynamic changed. Roy stopped his insults going Stefan's way, but didn't stop the ones against any other people. If they had any overlapping cases, he'd stick with Stefan, and if anyone had a theory about the case, he'd tell them to 'shut up and let Bekowsky talk.'
Stefan wasn't at all sure what to think. When it got to the three month mark, Stefan was in the run for a promotion to Vice. After a while the detective had a very, very big hunch Roy wasn't just pulling strings- he was yanking them to try and get him up to his rank and partnered up.
The whole exchange led up to an argument between Roy and Leary that nearly came to blows when all three men were in the same room. Even Stefan's "Can't we all just get along?" just increased the older pair's annoyance. However, as usual, Roy won, and Stefan was soon on his way into the Vice ranks.
Chapter 4: The Ghost of Me
Stefan knew two things: One, Roy had inherited Cole's driving skills, or made it his business to make his driving either equal or worse than Cole's. Two, Roy was going to be the death of him, one way or another. In the months that followed him being promoted to Vice, Stefan had more near-death experiences when he was in the co-passenger seat more than when druggies shot at them. If they were in a car chase and the suspect made a sharp turn, Roy would make a turn three or more times sharper than the suspect, manage to not flip the car somehow, and keep up with the suspect to boot. There were also the few times during chases that Stefan had nearly lost his right arm since he was shooting at the suspect's tires when Roy thought it would be a fantastic idea to ram into the other car at near full-speed.
Stefan had started to wonder if Roy had a death wish. It had started off as a joke, really. Roy was back to his arrogant self, but as time went on and the memory of the first evening at Rhodie's remained in his head, Stefan was coming to terms with the possibility that it could be a fact that Roy's guilt had started to manifest in said death wish. He was more convinced when Viv voiced the same theory. That had led to another serious conversation at Rhodie's. Roy laughed off Stefan's worry and promised he wasn't suicidal- "Come on, I have a face like this and I want to end it all? Please. Now, when's Viv getting an engagement ring, huh?"
As much as Stefan hated the crystal clear deflection, he wasn't going to push it. Especially when the man had chosen that particular subject to switch to.
It didn't stop Stefan from getting an uneasy knot in his stomach the more he thought about it, though. He said it once, he'd say it again, even if Roy was arguably a friend now. If it was one thing the man deserved, it was that much guilt on his shoulders. He felt bad, and Cole's death still wasn't directly on him, but he did play a part, and there was too much bad blood between them to make it an easy pass, either. Still, he tried to drag Roy from place to place to pull him out of the funk, and Roy only seemed to let up occasionally.
When the third year anniversary of Cole's death rolled around, it was a near repeat of the previous year. Stefan had visited his grave, said what needed to be said, and left, only to see Roy in his car on the other side of the grounds. He walked over and tried to remain silent when he saw that Roy had a white-knuckled grip on the steering wheel and he was squeezing his eyes shut. Stefan knocked on the side of the door to get his attention.
Roy tried to cover up the fact the sound made him jump, then saw the culprit and offered a weak smile in greeting.
Stefan opened the door and sat in the co-passenger seat. He let a few moments of silence pass, then he looked at Roy again. "So… Rhodie's?"
"Rhodie's," Roy nodded and started up the car.
Stefan leaned back and got comfortable, and if he saw that Roy's eyes seemed a bit bluer and glassier, well, he wasn't going to bother bringing it up yet.
He never got the chance. Their trip was cut short when Colmyer called them to a homicide case where two of the latest recruits were having trouble keeping the media- and civilians, at bay by a murder case. They settled for stopping for coffee and going to the scene. Before they even made it to the scene, Roy had already voiced his theory on it- being that it was a typical Lover's Lane type area, a girlfriend wasn't letting a boyfriend get any so he killed her. Stefan wasn't so sure, but he knew there was no sense in arguing, either. Once they got there, chased off a few reporters, then took in the scene, Roy was convinced he was right.
"See, Bekow? Hormones win again. Hormones always win," the older man insisted.
"Whatever you say, Earle." Stefan rolled his eyes. He looked over the scene to see if he could spot anything Mal could've used to help him get the entire story about how the girl was murdered.
"Pushover," Roy accused.
"Jackass," Stefan countered.
Roy smirked, then turned to see if any reporters had snuck back. No reporters caught his eye, but one of the men who had come down from the hill and were walking towards them. He dropped his cup of coffee, and didn't even realize it until it hit the ground and splashed up and onto his pants. Roy jerked back, knocking into Stefan as he did so."Holy shi…!"
Stefan stumbled, then caught himself. "Christ, Earle. What the Hell…?" He turned, then spotted what had gotten his attention. "Holy shit." He agreed. "That's…"
"That is a six-foot-something skinny-as-a-twig version of Phelps. The fuck…?" Roy finished. He started to walk, willing his feet to go, since they seemed to refuse to obey his mind at first. "Hey, you…"
The tall, blonde mystery man reached the pair. "You Bekowsky and Earle?"
"Yeah. Who the Hell are you?" Roy demanded, then pushed Stefan when the latter man elbowed him in the rib.
"Richard McCallister, Homicide." The man replied. "Mal's got a theory that a boyfriend got handsy, the girl didn't like it, so he… went overboard, I guess you could say."
Roy looked at Stefan and smirked. "Toldja,"
Richard frowned. "… Are you making a joke about this case? Are you kidding? Someone's died!"
Roy frowned. "Are you fucking...?" He even had Cole's personality and moral center. Fuck. "I made a theory that matched Mal's is all, Dick." Roy replied. Lookalike or not, he was never a fan of a holier-than-thou attitude and he needed to nip this one's in the ass then and there.
Richard looked at Stefan, who shook his head as if to say 'don't bother.' He scoffed. "Just keep the scavengers away." He ordered before heading back to the scene.
Roy watched him, then hesitated before running a hand over his face. "Hey, Bekowsky?"
"… Cole have a brother or cousin or something we weren't aware of?"
The pair continued to watch as Richard made his rounds chasing off bystanders. Roy spotted a reporter sneaking up the hill. He walked forward a few feet, then pretended to go for his gun. The reporter scurried away. Roy smirked once again, then turned back to his partner. "What's that, Bekow?"
Stefan strolled over to him and gave him a not-gentle pat on the shoulder. "Ya know, if a second chance... Hell, maybe even a bit of redemption, was human- it just gave you a right hook that knocked you on your ass."
Roy rolled his eyes. "I don't believe in that crap, Bekowsky. You know that."
Stean arched an eyebrow, then nodded towards the scene. "After that? You might just start having to believe, Pal."
"Whatever." Roy waved him off.
Roy really, really hated when Stefan was right. Especially where the new kid Richard was concerned. He ended up eerily like Cole- solving the cases and getting in everyone's good graces in record time- second only to Phelps himself. It bothered the Hell out of Roy. The no-nonsense attitude that was so Phelps it hurt kept up, too. After a while, Roy concluded that 'bothered' wasn't the right word. Richard damn well infuriated him. That was Phelps' shtick. No one should've been able to do that. Why was everyone so fucking happy about it? They had lost Cole after that shit progressed. Did they want it to happen again? His stomach turned at the thought of it, even if he would never admit it. Losing a guy who could've been Cole's twin would end up being Hell. He really, really fucking hated Richard and how terribly Cole he was. That didn't stop him from giving him the same attitude he had given Phelps occasionally. He figured burning the bridge early would help. He was wrong.
When Richard had about enough of Roy snapping at him any time they crossed paths and giving him a constant nasty looks, he asked Stefan if he knew what the problem was.
Stefan caved. He told him about Cole, but didn't use the detective's name. He just called him 'an old coworker.' He knew that saying his name could've brought forth all the media bias and trash that came with it. There wasn't a person in the city that wouldn't have recognized Cole's name or the story. He left out Cole's fate as he did so, but put great emphasis on resemblance between the men. He kept Roy's side out of it, too.
When Richard had commented that Cole 'must've been a weak guy to put up with a man like Roy and the way he treated him' one day when Roy was in earshot, Roy had marched over, punched him in the face, hauled Richard up by the lapels of his jacket, hissed something about Cole being a better man than any of them that Stefan didn't quite catch, and left without another word. Richard merely cradled his jaw and looked at Stefan expectantly. Stefan revealed Cole's fate to him, then backed up Roy, claiming he was 'a complex guy.' That promptly shut Richard up, and he had made a quick exit himself.
Richard remained skeptical about the 'Complex Guy', and kept his distance from the pair, unless talking to them was absolutely necessary. Those 'necessary' moments happened more and more often as time went on. They frequently ended in Roy and Richard yelling at each other and throwing insults or punches.
That was, until one case that had their paths cross again. Drug trafficking ended up with a murder. Their team-up had gone fine for a while until a car came out of nowhere and sped towards their crime scene. Roy and Stefan were the first two to notice the barrel of a couple of guns sticking out of both windows. Despite Stefan's yell of warning and a few people ducking, Richard seemed oblivious, too busy examining a piece of evidence to notice. Gunshots rang out and all Hell broke loose.
"Damn it, Phelps!" Roy called before he even realized what he had said. He tackled Richard to the ground, having flashbacks almost immediately. The roles were just reversed from that one damn time those years ago, and it wasn't actually Phelps there with him. It was then that he realized what he had called him. He looked Richard dead in the face for a while, and yeah, there was Cole's face instead of Richard's for about two seconds before his brain took pity on him and corrected his vision. His stomach flipped. They lay still for a while, until there was the sound of screeching tires and a crash. A few of the gathered patrol officers started yelling and running in the direction that the crash had come from. Roy let out a breath he didn't realize he was holding, and looked over at Richard. The younger man was looking at him, eyes blown wide, mouth agape. Roy wasn't sure if it was just reaction to the situation or the fact he had just called him Phelps. He pushed that aside. "Bekowsky? Stefan!" He called, rolling onto his knees and pushing himself upright. "Fuck- talk to me! Where are you?!". He couldn't believe that he was genuinely terrified for the man's safety. It was Bekowsky and that girlfriend of his' influence on him, and he hated it.
Stefan stood up from his spot behind a mailbox and waved. "I'm good! You good?" He walked over, making sure that the patrol officers were dragging the shooters and driver from the car a few feet away.
Roy offered a nod, then looked back at Richard. "Dick?"
"I'm- I'm fine." Richard replied, then paused. "Hold on a second. You called me Phelps."
"He what?" Stefan's eyebrows shot up.
"He- Earle just called me Phelps. Is… wait a minute. That story- Phelps- Your friend who died is Phelps?! Cole Phelps?"
Roy frowned. "I don't like where this is going…"
"I just- Cole Phelps- is- was my cousin." Richard added. "I knew the story sounded too familiar!"
Roy stared at him, then, without so much as blinking, decked Richard in the face.
"NO! Roy, no!" Stefan called, running over before Roy could continue the assault. "Not worth it!" He blurted. He hooked one arm around Roy to yank him backward.
"Come on, Bekow! Just one punch! Lemme at him! The kid comes to this division and he doesn't even do his damn research about who's… argh!" He tried to kick at Richard, who had stumbled back, but Stefan had a better grip, and had put his free arm up against Roy's throat. Roy, however, was Hell bent on being heard this time. "He thinks he can come back and be Cole's damn twin and be Cole every chance he gets and punch me in the gut with it and…ah, ah, okay." Roy trailed off when he felt his airflow getting smaller and smaller from Stefan pressing too hard.
Stefan let his friend sag against him, then looked at Richard. "Believe me now?" he demanded.
"Yeah," Richard nodded, still stunned over the whole ordeal. He got up, and limped his way over to one of the patrol officers who had made their way back to where they were.
Roy panted. "This is Cole's way of haunting me and making me regret everything, isn't it?"
Stefan smirked and patted his shoulder. "Yes. Yes it is."
"Well fuck. And I hate that kid."
Stefan patted his shoulder. "Remember, second chance. If the last time was a right hook, this might have been a kick where the Sun don't shine." Stefan replied. "So be nice."
"I don't do nice, Bekowsky."
"Try," Stefan countered.
"Fine… but can I punch him again?"
"Just once? Please? For putting the both of us through that?"
"… Fine. But just... slightly gentler next time… and wait 'til tomorrow."
"That's why I love you these days."
"Hey, keep that up and I'll change my mind."
"You got it."
"Wow. Now seriously, stop. This is weird. You must've hit your head when you fell…"
Roy figured that would've been a bad moment to admit Richard had turned into Cole for a moment. He got up, ready to face whatever the rest of the day threw at him- and plan the best opportunity to deliver the allowed punch.
Chapter 5: I See Your Face and it's Hard to Fake It
When Roy and Stefan have finally settled into what seems like normal life again, Cole gets thrown back into their lives. But this time, it's not just a look-alike.
Ugggh, so, I tried to promise myself I wouldn't do the cliche "OhmyGod, Cole's alive, whhaaattt?!" thing, and then I got too attached to this story and putting Roy through Hell, so I couldn't just leave it as is. So I went with the cliche that'll come with more chapters, but the cliche with a logical twist because there's no way Cole would've survived that without some serious mental or physical damage, so voila, cliche with a twist you'll just have to find out about shortly.
Roy groaned when high pitched screeches woke him up from what was one of the very few decent night sleeps he’d had in the last few days. Stefan and Viv's little demon spawn was just over three months old, and he was already a royal pain. Roy had been living with Stefan and Viv for six months of the last year after sassing his landlord one too many times. At first he had hated the arrangement, since Stefan and Viv were in the newlywed stage after getting hitched, even if they had only done so because Viv had gotten pregnant. After little Finn Bekowsky came along, the arrangement was worse because he was on the couch in the living room, right next to the guest room-turned-nursery doorway where he was the first to hear the kid screaming. “Someone shut that thing up!”
“How about you shut up, Roy. We’re getting him!” Stefan called. “Him, Roy. Finn’s a person.”
“A very small person who shouldn’t count as a person yet,” Roy replied.
Stefan groaned, then there was silence for a while.
Roy got up and stood in the doorway, waiting for Stefan again. It was three hours before they would usually get up for work, so now there was no point in going back to sleep.
Hours later, the pair were glaring each other down over the roof of Stefan's car. It had been a tense ride back to his place, and it was only a matter of time before the latest argument was going to boil over.
“I still had Lewis, you ass. If you hadn’t been all ‘I will shoot!’, I would’ve been able to tackle him.”
“He had twenty feet on you, Roy. You might be good with tackling people, but you can’t jump that far unless you sprouted wings, and you wouldn’t risk your suit getting ruined even if you could tackle him from that range,” Stefan replied, then glanced into the living room as they made it into the house. “Hey, Viv? Gordon? Ya there?” he called, tossing his jacket to the side.
Usually on Tuesdays, the pair would come home to a newly-arrived Gordon Leary helping Viv take care of Finn. A year ago, Viv had dragged Stefan to a family reunion of her mother’s and Stefan had found out that Viv and Gordon were cousins. He was absolutely mortified, but Gordon had only laughed it off, clapped him on the back and said it was fitting they ended up more or less family. Which of course prompted the “break her heart and I’ll break your legs and neck” threat directly after that. Stfan had never been so happy that he was no longer in Homicide and didn't have to see Gordon daily after that particular reveal.
The pair walked into the living room and saw that Viv and Gordon had their eyes glued to the television. Finn was sitting on the floor against Gordon’s shins, holding onto Gordon’s hand that was all but limp.
Stefan shot Roy a confused look, and when the other man shrugged, he stepped closer to them. “Guys…?” he asked uncertainly.
Gordon finally snapped out of it in order to look at them. “Uh, you guys uh… you may wanna… wanna... take a look at this.”
The pair turned to see what the commotion was about, and both of their hearts practically stopped. It was some commercial for some grocer that looked a little too happy for a farmer, but it was what was behind him that got them. There was a worker in the background. It was Cole. Or at least it was another doppleganger that looked even more like him than Richard. Or it could've just been something in the photography. The imposter was smiling away, chatting with a customer.
The pair stared at the screen for a while before Roy turned sharply and headed for the phone in the corner.
Stefan stopped gawking at the television when he heard Roy all but slamming his fist into the phone do dial a number.
Seconds later, someone picked up, and Roy went off. “I swear to God, Dick, if this is some-“
“Roy!” Stefan warned.
“No, Stef! I’m shooting him this time!” Roy replied.
Stefan went to protest further when he heard Richard about to reply.
Roy didn't give him the chance. “News. Now. If this is some joke and that idiot wife of yours made you look-"
Richard finally spoke after a few seconds. “It’s not a joke, Earle! I’m as confused as you are! What, you think I wouldn’t tell you that I saw my dead cousin on the news? I’d rather not have you murder me, thanks.”
“Well it wouldn’t be surprising if you were toying with me,” Roy shot back.
“Would you shut up? Can we please focus on the fact Cole’s just magically alive?”
Roy cursed again then slammed down the receiver and glanced back at the television to see if the ad was still on. No such luck- or lack of luck, anyway.
“You boys wanna get down there?” Gordon asked after a while of silence.
Roy glanced at him. “Wha…?”
Gordon got up, picking up Finn in the process. “There are gonna be some very angry people that homicide had to release after Cole's... situation back in the day who might have seen that," Gordon explained. "If they saw that commercial..." he continued. When he saw that the other two finally caught on, he nodded. "Viv and I can take care of the kid. Go sort this out,” Gordon replied.
Stefan opened his mouth.
Gordon arched an eyebrow. “Do you really doubt that your son’s mother and second cousin can take care of the kid for an hour or longer? Go find Phelps and figure out whatever the Hell is going on before the people who got out because of that crap go to find him first,” Gordon continued. He frowned when Stefan opened his mouth. “ I may not be your boss anymore but that doesn’t mean I can’t pull strings –“
Stefan shot up and he and Roy scrambled for the door, getting out and hurrying into Stefan’s car. all but It wasn’t until they were halfway down the driveway that they realized they had no clue where they were headed.
As if on cue, Gordon poked his head out of the door. “Green’s Market on Fifth!” he called.
And so, they were off.
When they reached Green’s Market, the pair refused to take any chances. Roy all but shoved his gun in his holster and made sure to park close to the place and mapped out five different exits. They walked in, and when they saw Cole, or another one of his mysterious twins, whichever it was, Roy almost tripped over his feet. Stefan just stared. When Roy went to turn around and walk right back out,Stefan grabbed him.
“No! No! You are not growing a conscience now! You’re not gonna leave me to this, either!” he hissed, then all but shoved Roy forward. Roy sidestepped and shoved Stefan in front of him.
Stefan sighed. He approached Cole carefully, relieved that the man’s back was turned. “Uh… Phelps?”
Cole turned and smiled at them. “Hi, fellas. Can I help you?”
Stefan let out a syllable’s worth of a laugh. “Cole, what… it’s us! How did you…?”
Cole raised his eyebrows. “Do what? Do you gentleman need help with something?” he asked.
Roy continued to stare and tried to ignore his stomach going in knots. Cole was smiling, and it looked genuinely carefree- gone was the uncertainty he had seen in Cole’s smiles all those years before. The smiles that barely existed. Cole looked away for a moment at another customer who dropped something, and the smile dropped briefly into a frown, and Roy’s heart dropped to his stomach. Now that look he knew. Great. Now his nightmares were coming true. They were literally coming through? But how? No man could survive getting tossed around in an overflowing sewer like a ragdoll. What the Hell had he done to deserve this? It wasn’t like he had done some horrible things that he deserved a lot of bad things to happen to him. He knew that. He had just expected to get shot and killed, one of Mickey’s goons getting the jump on him and stabbing or shooting him to death. Imprisonment with an eager cellmate for at least one of the crimes he pulled. But no, this was… … this was an entirely different situation. This was Hell and then some. And he hated it. He didn’t even know what ‘it’ was.
Cole turned back to them. “You... looking for something?”
“This isn’t fucking funny, Phelps. The Hell are you playing at? You know us!” Roy blurted.
Cole’s eyebrows shot up again and he gawked at Roy. “I don’t think there’s need for an attitude. Can I ask how you know my name? I don't think we've met."
Stefan glanced at Roy and saw the vein start to pop up on his forehead. Now it was a countdown til he blew. He wished he knew how to handle this situation. They should've brought Gordon to do the talking. “I… sir… um, well, you do, but… this is…” How could he explain why they were there to a guy who apparently didn't know them? He studied Cole again and his heart ached. It was Cole, no doubt about it. He had the same intensity in his eyes, moved his mouth the same way, looked impatient the same way (shit), where should he even begin? Was Cole playing them? Would Cole play them? Well, him anyway. Cole would probably fuck with Roy in a heartbeat. If he wasn't, did he have some sort of amnesia? How did he survive? What the fuck was happening?! He gathered his thoughts, then worked out an idea. He took his badge out. “Stefan Bekowsky, LAPD. The loudmouth’s Roy Earle. What… how did you come across this job?”
Cole frowned, then looked at a man in a suit in the opposite corner, the apparent manager. “Is Ron in trouble, officers?”
“No, but you’re gonna be if you don’t answer the damn questions,” Roy snapped.
“Roy!” Stefan warned. He turned to Cole. “Phelps, if this is a joke-“
"It's not fuckin' funny," Roy cut in.
Stefan pushed Roy back. “Ignore him. Look, I get you’d play dumb since Roy’s here, but-“
Cole shook his head. “I just told you two I’ve never seen you in my life. You have my name, but that’s all at the moment. And you, sir: You know, there are ladies present. You shouldn’t be-“
“Oh, now he sounds like himself. Being all proper and telling me how wrong I am. Believe that, Bekow?” Roy cut him off.
“Roy, shut up,” Stefan countered. He looked at Cole. “Phelps… you do know us, but you clearly…” He stopped again. He still didn’t know how to go about this.
But, Fate prevented him from doing so. After a few seconds of silence, there came shouting and cursing from outside.
The trio turned sharply to see what was going on.
Two cars had pulled up to the storefront and two groups of men were piling out of them.
Roy took a chance to sigh and grabbed Cole’s sleeve despite the man trying to shake him off to get a better look at the commotion. He didn't like the look of them, and he wasn't going to take any chances. “Ya know, someday Leary’s gonna be wrong and I will be so damn happy.”
“What…?” Stefan began, finally catching sight of a couple of the men outside pulling guns from their belts. “Shit! Who...?!”
“Cohen. Phelps, you’re gonna have to go with our word on this one,” Roy explained. He shoved him towards the back of the store just as the others outside started opening fire on the shop. The windows shattered, sending customers and workers alike scattering.
“Bekow, cover!” Roy replied, giving Cole a good shove towards the back of the store and what he hoped was an exit. When he felt Cole under his hands, his stomach turned again because the contact made it all the more real- Phelps was here, alive, it wasn’t Dick, and he didn’t have a clue about them, and now people were after him. He had a feeling this was God’s twisted way of sending him a tiny blessing wrapped up in an infinite amount of disaster and more nightmares, but he figured now wasn’t the time to revisit his faith or luck or whatever. He kicked down the closest door once they reached the back and was relieved to see the parking lot- and Stefan’s car.
“What is happening?! Who are you people?!” Cole called, ducking when another round of fire came their way. “Are they… They’re shooting at us?! Why are they shooting at us?!”
Roy shoved Cole’s head down to return a couple of the shooter’s fire, grinning momentarily when he shot one in the chest. “Actually, Phelps, they’re shooting at you.”
“Why?! And how do you know me?!”
“Oh, now you believe us!” Roy replied.
Cole glared at him, and Roy had to remind himself now wasn’t the time to let adrenaline take over and make the mistake of hugging him because he had missed this Cole. The one who spent all of their time together glaring at him. Of course, even as he tried to deny it all, his brain caught up with the situation at hand. Cole was alive and angry at him and it suddenly felt like home, five years ago when his life was just a little less miserable. He managed to snap himself out of the nostalgia. “Get the fuck out of here now, talk later!” He barked after a moment. They got to the car and he risked firing off a couple of rounds before unlocking both doors, swinging the passenger door open and all but throwing Cole inside. “Stay down!” He barked, He slammed the door shut and fired off one shot from his gun, killing another goon. It took him a moment to realize he hadn’t heard Stefan’s gun go off yet. “Bekowsky!” he barked. He would forever deny the relieved sigh that followed when he saw Stefan turn the corner from the front of the store and barrel towards the car. “Come on, come on, come on!”
He got in, shoved the co-passenger door open and started the car, not waiting for Stefan to get completely settled when he finally made it into the car before zooming away.
“How many cars of these bastards do we we got?!” Roy called.
“One. I took out one’s tires,” Stefan replied. “Where the Hell is Phelps?”
Roy jabbed his finger towards the backseat before taking a sharp turn that tossed all three of them to the right.
Stefan turned around and shared a confused look with Cole before looking at Roy. “We hijacked Phelps?!”
“I think the proper phrase is ‘saved his life.’ Scratch that, we’re still in the process, so ‘saving’," Roy answered. He glanced in the rear view mirror. "We got one coming on your right.”
Stefan leaned out the window and fired at the goon’s car.
Cole finally leaned forward. “Can one of you tell me-“
“SHUT UP AND STAY DOWN, PHELPS!” the pair shouted in unison.
Cole drew back and ducked again, then scrambled lower when a bullet shattered the back windshield.
The chase continued for a good few minutes, and Roy finally pulled over when he was certain they had finally lost their tail somewhere on Broadway. He pulled into a parking spot in a lot that was flanked by two giant trees and finally relaxed, trying to loosen the vicegrip he had on the wheel.
After another few minutes of dead silence, Cole finally spoke up. “You boys want to explain what all that was now?” he demanded. “Who are you people and why were those people shooting at me? How do you know me?"
Stefan noticed Roy went rigid and his vicegrip on the wheel was back at the question, and he sighed. He turned slowly. “You sure you’re okay after all this, Phelps? Because if you’re not, you’re just lucky you’re sitting, because you’re in for one Hell of a ride- well, a mental one this time, anyway."
Cole merely blinked a couple of times before leaning back. ".... Great...!"
Chapter 6: Your Lies are the Bullets
Cole looked over at Stefan as the man came back into the living room after disappearing for a while. He seemed like the decent sort, as did his wife, but he wasn’t sure about Roy. He wasn’t fond of getting stared at, much less glared down at point blank range. He couldn’t ignore the fact that an hour ago, Roy had taken a whiskey bottle from the cabinet and left for the backyard, and fifteen minutes ago, Viv had gone out to check on him, and now there was muffled yelling from outside. He realized Stefan was holding out a glass of water to him. He chose to pretend he didn't notice the man's hand shaking as he did so. How strange this must've been for everyone. He offered a weak smile and took it. Stefan had been the one to answer all of the questions he had so far. He had been told there was some accident when he woke up in a hospital almost five years before. He had apparently lost some mobility and a few years off his memory from the accident that even the doctors couldn't figure out- he knew that much. But now the blanks were being filled in, and he wasn't sure how to feel. He had been a successful cop after the war. Stefan and Roy were two of his partners in his time there. Something had gone wrong; Stefan refused to tell him just what it was- then he had been lost in a flood in a sewer. Quite the way to go, even temporarily. With every answer he got, ten more questions took its place. “I… what did I do to Roy to… earn that? All those looks? ” he asked after a few loaded moments of silence. “I know I have a lot to… catch up on, you know… after… dying…” he stopped at that.
Something in Stefan's heart twisted when Cole raised his eyebrows, bit his lip and shook his head. Seeing that usual tick in person got his own emotions going, and he couldn't believe this was Cole all over again. "I uh... that's not my place to say. It's his. Wish I could help you."
Cole scratched his ear. “So... there is something there. It's not just the guy being a grouch, huh?”
Stefan paused himself, then let out an uneasy chuckle. “Yeah. I don’t want to touch that with a thirty foot pole. I'll just say it's a bit of both."
Cole frowned, then glanced at the backdoor, focused on the yelling again. “Are… is your wife safe out there with him? He doesn’t seem like the… civil sort. Least of all to women."
Stefan paused, then shook his head and shrugged “She should be. Roy’s tough, but… he has a begrudging respect for her. That doesn’t stop him from underestimating her ‘cause she’s a woman, though. She gives as good as she gets, don’t worry. She’ll…” he trailed off with a weak laugh.
Cole frowned. “What?”
Stefan shook his head again. “I’m sorry, I just… … if this was the old you, you’d probably have some jab about the fact that I’m even married now. We uh, there were a bunch of conversations that we had that pretty much labelled me as 'not the marrying type.' It's weird, you accepting me being married point blank with no comments."
Cole’s frown deepened. “So, essentially I was… disrespectful to everyone, by the sound of it.”
“Disres…? Oh, no. You were… Hell, the most respectful of the bunch, unless we were talking about our feelings on the war or messing around about doing things… that weren’t strictly legal. Then you weren't so pleasant."
Cole took a few moments to absorb the information. Then, the biggest question that came to mind that he wasn't sure if he wanted the answer to: "Did no one think to look for me?”He felt bad for asking, but he couldn't let that go unvoiced, either. He could work out the answer alone, but he wanted to gauge the man's reaction more than anything.
Stefan flinched. "Phelps, you got swept away in a wave while inside a concrete and metal death trap. There was… … you should be dead, no matter what. No one expected survivors from... that,” Stefan replied. He got up carefully. “Look, not that I’m not- it’s great to have you back- really. God knows we’ve all missed the Golden Boy-“
“Was I really that good?” Cole asked.
“You made the entire force look bad, pal,” Stefan scoffed.
Stefan made a show of taking a few swigs of his own drink to show he wasn’t answering anything of the sort.
Cole sighed. “I’m gonna need answers eventually. I believe you and appreciate what you’re doing so far, but… I’m gonna need more.”
Stefan nodded. "Well, for most of those, I’m not the one to go to. Roy is. Or… your wife, but… I don’t know how that’s gonna go.”
Cole frowned. “My wife?”
Stefan looked up at him, shaken again. Cole had mentioned Marie by name. He figured he had known or had some memory they were married. If he didn't know- shit. Hello, giant can of worms that was worse than the Roy can. “Marie,” he clarified.
“I married Marie?” Cole thought aloud.
Stefan stared at him, then huffed out a nervous laugh before rubbing his neck. “Yeah, and well uh…”
“Divorced?” Cole supplied, reading him.
“Yeah… with… well, there was something-"
“You schtupped a German whore who you were investigating during a case, people found out, media exploded, your life went downhill from there.”
Stefan’s head snapped in the direction of the voice, then frowned upon seeing Roy had come in. Viv peeked out from behind him and gave the men an apologetic look, but it switched to a worried one when Roy went deeper into the room to join them.
Stefan scoffed. “What the Hell, Earle?”
Roy shrugged. “He wanted to fuckin’ know, Bekowsky. He had to find out sometime,” Roy replied. He glanced at Cole, who had gone absolutely pale. He looked back at Stefan. “I’m staying in a hotel for a while," he announced.
Stefan groaned. “Roy, are you kidding me?”
“I’ll be back soon, I just need to- I- I don’t need to tell you anything!” he countered before he stalked out of the room.
Stefan watched him, then looked at Cole, who had turned to him expectantly.
Viv cut in. “I’m sorry, I just… he lost it and went to storm in here, he was too quick for me, and…” She spotted Cole get even more pale. “I think me hanging around for the moment isn’t going to help, so… I’m going to go… clean our bedroom…”
Stefan gawked at her, then looked at Cole again.
Cole, in turn, looked up at him. The man looked completely out of his element. He was half convinced he saw some guilt there, too. “That’s uh… that’s a lot of information to get all at once," he mused.
Stefan flinched. “Yeah… he’s… Roy’s an ass. I’d say 'ignore him', but… that’s his way, and… well, he just outed everything I was gonna tell you slowly.”
Cole nodded, then leaned back. “Was I… unhappy? If I stooped to that level?”
“No one really got why you did it, Phelps. I don’t even think you did…”
“Did I ever talk to you about it?”
“I uh, we never really got the chance. Don't think you would've if you could've, either. We weren't that close."
Cole nodded slowly. “Did I ever talk to anyone ever?”
“You didn’t open up, no.”
“Well, at least that hasn’t changed,” Cole muttered. “… So, I cheat on my wife, I have people here trying to kill me-“
“Because you’re a good cop,” Stefan cut in. “Not because you’re a bad person.”
“And if they’re as dangerous as they say they are and they… find us here?” Cole asked. “I don’t want to endanger any of you for just being me.”
“Well, that’s why this place has a bunch of hidden guns and two cops with anger issues- well, one cop and a wife who knows how to shoot, if anything, now that Roy's gonna be gone. Cole, I’m one of your only options here, and I’m not leaving you out to dry just in case it does come to that.”
“Sleep, Phelps. We’ll work on trying to get… the rest of you sorted out tomorrow.”
Cole didn't look convinced. "You sure?”
Stefan was trying.
Cole would give him that, but could sense his apparent closest friend pre-accident was hiding things from him.
He figured it was for good reason. Stefan and his friend Gordon had started to let people from his old life back in to see him, but only after a giant group discussion about necessity. Stefan had helped him track down Marie the previous day. Marie had absolutely refused to talk to him or let him talk to his kids, even after she had sobbed in the doorway upon seeing him. Elsa- the German woman Roy had mentioned had been extremely quiet about it, but looked pained as well as they talked the day before that. The nice, quiet officer, Herschel had gawked at him for a while before pulling him into a hug and calling him a bastard, although affectionately. Gordon himself had laughed weakly before shaking his hand and welcoming him back to the ‘Land of the Living.’ Rusty had slugged him before shaking his hand and stalking off awkwardly. It was... a mixed bag of reactions and he wasn't sure how to take it.
Roy had made himself as scarce as possible in the time he saw him and Stefan together. Roy would come by and get something at the house, but go out of his way to avoid Cole the whole time. The way Cole would see Stefan observing the whole thing made him figure the missing part involved him, but he knew sure as Hell that he wasn’t going to get his answer anytime soon.
That changed one day, a couple of weeks after Cole’s last visit to town. He had gone out to get a few things to try and make himself more comfortable at the Bekowsky house. He had come out of the store, one bag under his arm when he spotted Roy just outside a store across the way. He sighed and tried to look busy just in case the man saw him when something blocked the light from beside him.
“My my, Detective Phelps. Imagine seeing you here, looking so… lively.”
Cole glanced in the direction of the voice and frowned at the old man. Square jaw, squinty eyes, a smile that unsettled him- he had a sinking feeling the man could’ve been in the group that had tried to kill him for… Reasons One Through Thirty. “Hello…”
The stranger's smile went damn near predatory. "Oh, so civil! I-"
Now that voice was familiar. Cole had barely managed to blink before there was the sudden sound of at least three car horns honking, then there was a blur of grey and black, and suddenly, Roy was between him and the stranger. Not only that, but Roy had effectively pinned the stranger to the nearest building.
“The Hell are you doing here, Monroe?!” Roy hissed, leaning dangerously close to the man and digging his forearm into his chest.
Cole frowned. “Roy-“
“Shut the fuck up, Phelps, and get in my car.”
Cole frowned and looked around. He spotted Roy’s car and backed up a couple of feet.
The old man chuckled. “Where’s the sudden fondness for your man over there, Earle? Last I checked you were perfectly willing to sell him out to help the highest bidder." When Roy didn't respond, the grin got even more predatory. "He doesn't remember, does he?" then, louder: "Tell me, is he aware that you were a big part in his original final moments? Was he resuscitated after all that? How does it feel having the man you betrayed back then, hm?”
Cole narrowed his eyes.
Roy only leaned closer. “Shut the fuck up. I asked you a fucking question.”
“Well, I have my ways, Earle. Took them three years, but I’m a patient man. We both know that. I’ve noticed you’ve left the other payrolls. It’s quite strange not seeing your name there.”
Roy growled and let him go, then backed up a couple of steps. He turned around, only to pivot and land a right hook on the man’s jaw.
Cole gawked at the display of force, then watched as ‘Monroe’ went down- and Roy went so far as to dig his heel into this throat. He took a couple of steps back again.
Roy, on the other hand, leaned down. “I’m done with you. I have been. And if you ever come anywhere near my people again, I will kill you- or have someone do it for me. You have your people, I have mine. Are we clear, you worthless piece of shit?”
The man laughed- honestly laughed. “Are you in the place to be making threats, Detective?”
The pair glared each other down before Roy pulled back. “First and only warning…” he snarled before turning again. This time, he stormed over to Cole, and when he spotted that the younger man hadn’t listened, jabbed a finger in his car’s direction. “Get in the fucking car, Phelps. Now,” he hissed.
Cole hurried to obey this time, and got in the car and Roy all but launched himself into the driver’s seat before he sped off in it.
After a few seconds of silence, Roy took his gun from his holster.
Cole frowned again. “Roy, what-“ He stopped upon seeing the man looked shell-shocked. “Who was that?”
“Storytime later, worrying about our asses now. So, your memory only stops after the war, right?”
“Good,” Roy replied. He took the gun and shoved it into Cole’s lap. “Eyes in the mirror. If you see anyone that looks like they’re following us, Option A- your old style: shoot their tires out. Option B, my style: shoot them between the fucking eyes.”
Cole looked from him to the gun and back. “Who was that? I haven’t seen you scared this whole time, why are you scared?”
“Because that’s one of the most dangerous fucking men on the street and I just put a bullseye on our heads all over again to save your ass,” Roy replied. After a few seconds, his face dropped. “And… he’s about eighty percent of the reason you fucking died.”
Well, there was part of the missing puzzle piece. He stopped short upon reviewing the statement. “… What’s the other twenty?” he frowned when the question made Roy go white-knuckled on the steering wheel. His jaw wasn’t far behind, the way it was clenching. “Roy?”
“Eyes in the fucking mirror, Phelps…” Roy replied after a moment. Cole noticed he suddenly sounded… defeated.
Cole leaned back, and did as he was asked. He stopped short and glanced Roy’s way again when the older man swerved around one corner. “Where are you going?”
“Back way to Stefan’s. Monroe may have friends everywhere and if I can lose them in any way possible, I’m gonna.”
The rest of the ride passed in silence, and when they pulled into Stefan’s driveway, Roy cursed upon seeing Stefan’s car there and he bolted inside. “Phelps, come on!”
“I’m right behind you.”
Roy felt under the nearest windowsill before he retrieved a key. He opened the door “Get inside.”
“I am!” Cole replied, trying to sway away from Roy as the man ushered him further in. “Roy, what the Hell is going on?”
"I explained it pretty damn clearly, Phelps. You know, you were thick before but I think that injury got rid of more than your memory-"
“Wha- is that-“
The pair looked over when Stefan came around the corner of the room. The man looked from Cole, to Roy. “I thought you-“
“Monroe’s back. He’s out. I don’t know how,” Roy blurted.
Stefan’s face dropped. “What?”
Roy shook his head. “I don’t know. He was out on First Street. Cole and I happened to be there and Monroe approached him, and… “ he faded off and shook his head. He scoffed and went back to looking about half as murderous as when Cole saw him staring the ‘Monroe’ character down.
Cole looked away when Stefan looked directly at him.
Stefan held Cole's gaze for a moment, then looked back. “What’re we gonna-"
“Where the Hell’s Viv?” Roy asked.
“Next door, visiting the neighbors with Finn. What-“
“You’re gonna get Viv and the runt and get the Hell out of here, for starters,” Roy replied. “Stay at your dad’s place or something, I don’t know.”
“What? No! I’m not gonna leave you-“
Cole jumped when Roy advanced on the man. He thought he was going to slug him and flinched accordingly.
Roy only grabbed Stefan by the front of the shirt. “I’m not gonna let this bastard get another one or more of you killed or almost killed, do you understand me?”
Cole was further confused when Stefan just gawked at the man before nodding slowly.
Roy sighed. “This may get chalked up to nothing. I don’t know, but it’s him, so there’s a damn chance, and… just get the Hell out of here. I’ll be fine with Phelps," he finished.
Stefan nodded again. He got his keys, then looked between the pair before leaving.
Roy walked over to the window and took a cautionary glance around before pulling the blinds down.
Cole waited a beat, and then ever so cautiously, “So… what now?”
“Now we wait and hope Good Ole’ Leland doesn’t figure getting rid of you twice would look good on his resume.”
“Is he… that powerful?” Cole asked.
“That and more,” Roy replied, then went over to the wooden basket next to the mantle and retrieved a handgun that had been hidden in it.
Cole raised his eyebrows and scratched his ear. “So then…?”
“You shut up, you do what I tell you when I tell you, you don’t leave a twenty foot radius of me, if you see that guy or any of…” he trailed off, then went to the opposite corner of the room and picked up a newspaper before shoving it at Cole. Cole took it, and the older man pointed at a group of pictures of the men being questioned about involvement in the Monroe case all those years ago. “Those guys, in a different window, you tell me, then you duck.”
“But… you’re in one of the photos,” Cole pointed out after a moment.
Roy froze, then turned to him slowly. “Funny how things change, in’it?” he forced out before turning back around and putting the gun on the coffee table before sitting down on the couch.
Cole looked from the photo, to Roy and back again. “How long d’you think we’re gonna have to do this?”
“Not even a ballpark?”
“Are you just going to keep saying ‘no’ until I stop asking questions?”
“Yes. And well well, looks like there’s even more of the old you in there. Good on you, Partner.”
Cole wasn't sure why the word 'Partner' skeeved him out so much the moment Roy had said it. It seemed like that had been the only thing that his brain connected to the entire time. He filed that away for later. He knew he was in for a long haul with all the trouble getting stirred up, apparently just by him coming back into his own.
He was starting to miss his old life- even if it had apparently been his new one.
Chapter 7: The Pain You Left Behind
Here's the latest installment. Also, I put together a playlist of songs that're more or less inspiration. That being said, it's 8tracks so I had to leave a couple out... including the title song. But anyways, if you enjoy seeing the behind the scenes stuff: http://8tracks.com/s_watson/crawling-back-to-you
Roy’s head shot up from where he was staring at the ground when the doorbell rang. He would fully admit he had been drinking when he wasn’t supposed to- maybe it was the fact that he knew he was a slightly better shot when drunk and he had a feeling he’d need shooting skills if Monroe or his boys showed. Maybe it was because he was getting tired of keeping secrets from the man sleeping a couple of rooms away. He got up slowly. For all he knew this was one of Monroe’s boys. But if it was, would they really use the doorbell and not kick or shoot their way in?
He made his way over to the door and flattened himself against the wall to peek out the window from behind the curtain. Gordon. It was safe. Unless Monroe bought him off. No, Leary’s better than that. He opened the door carefully.
Gordon looked up. Upon seeing Roy, he crossed his arms over his chest and sent him a disapproving look. “Eddie’s throwing a shit fit that you and Bekowsky aren’t around. Hell, even when you play hookie Bekowsky covers for you. What the Hell is- Earle?!” He blurted the name as the other man grabbed him by the shoulder and dragged him inside. Once he reached the middle of the room, he looked around. He hadn't expected to find it vacant. “Speaking of, where the Hell is Bekowsky? And Viv And Finn? Is Phelps here?” he walked further into the room. “Vivvie! Finn?!”
“Phelps is here, Bekowskys are… vacationing in the mountains,” Roy explained, waving his hand in the direction he hoped was the nearest mountain range. The alcohol was already making everything fuzzy.
Gordon leaned forward to get a better look at him, and then looked downright furious. “Christ, are you drunk on top of that? And why are they in the mountains?”
“You mean you didn’t hear?”
“Listen here, you dramatic little shit-“ Gordon advanced on him and jabbed a finger into his chest.
Roy contemplated punching the man to get a ‘shut the fuck up’ message across. Then again, Gordon looked a third pissed off, a third confused, and a third worried. Damn Bekowsky for making him more sympathetic to those looks as of late. He uncurled his fist. “Monroe’s back," he deadpanned.
Gordon’s glare dropped. “What?”
“Monroe got out of prison. I didn’t hear why. I too busy decking him in the face.”
“You WHAT?!” Gordon hissed.
“He approached Phelps when we were in town… well, when Phelps was in town. There was some blow-up we had and I went to find him when I saw Monroe approach him on the damn street. The Hell else was I supposed to do?”
Gordon scoffed. "Not punch him! If he’s still powerful do you really think the LAPD needs to get involved all over again?! Holy shit, Earle! If you're here, Phelps and Bekowsky aren't- damn it, my family is involved!" He tossed his arms out. "You know, I made a promise to Viv's father on his deathbed I'd play big brother and look after her, so God help you if anything happens to her!" he hissed.
Roy scoffed. "They'll be fine. And no, the PD doesn't have to be involved, but we sure as Hell need to provide a goddamn bullet to put between Monroe's eyes.”
“Says the guy he was paying off years ago,” Gordon scoffed.
“Hey, I was in good company there, Pal," Roy countered.
Gordon squared his shoulders. “I wasn’t on that list.”
“No, but Donnelly was. And Eddie. And McCormack. And Bosley. And-“
“I get it,” Gordon cut him off. “Is Phelps…?”
“He’s fine. He’s held up in the guestroom. Probably sleeping or reading or... some other academical bullshit.”
"It's just 'academic,'" Gordon corrected after a moment. Then, softer, “He's still a bookworm, huh?”
“What, you didn't think that he'd still be one, after brain damage?" Roy asked. "It would take more than that to stop making Phelps a know-it-all."
Gordon grunted in agreement, then walked over to the phone in the corner and dialed a number.
Roy frowned at him. “What’re you-“
“Getting a patrol out here to keep an eye on things.”
“Why the fuck not?” Gordon demanded.
“Because we saw him a couple of hours back. We came here because… it was the only place I could think of that wouldn’t do more harm than good.”
Gordon shook his head. “Right, the one with the brand new family-“
“Who I kicked out of here the second we got in, holy fuck, do you liste-“
“Do you not remember the army that Monroe’s crew came after Phelps, Biggs and Kelso with?!” Gordon hissed. “Are you willing to go through that again if it comes to that? If Monroe decides that he really wants Cole out of the picture again?"
“Yeah, well, most of the boys and I did just fine with it getting them to the tunnels,” Roy snapped. He blanched when he realized he had said it out loud, and Leary gawked at him for a moment before having the nerve to look sympathetic. “Don’t give me that pitying shit now," he snapped.
Gordon shook his head. “That’s all you, Earle. Stefan told me that when you got smashed you admitted you felt like you gave Phelps the final shove down that road. Hell, I agreed-"
Roy advanced on him. He'd have to tear Stefan a new one for letting Gordon in on that information. “Join the fuckin’ club! Hell, I might as well be president of it. I was the guy who fuckin’ sold his affair out to get attention off of me- off of the rest of L.A.P.D’s most corrupt. Stefan can say it didn’t start with me all he can, but it’s not gonna get anywhere.”
“Earle…” Gordon sighed. “I didn’t- that wasn’t meant to…”
Roy scoffed. "Don't bother. You were one of the first to blame me-"
"No! You had your chance to keep your mouth shut, and you're not backpedaling now."
"I mean what is it with you people?! What more can I do other than put a gun in my mouth and pull the trigger? Because fuck you all, I'm nearly there, and if I get one more sideways look from any of you, I might just follow through."
"Roy..." Gordon said after a moment. This time it sounded pained.
For the first time so far Roy wondered if he had let out too much. However, he was so strung up, his anger won over and told him to keep going, because the bastard in front of him needed to know. "But then there's this shit. If I'm such a slimebag you all do a Hell of a lot of covering your asses whenever this shit comes up!"
Roy couldn't stop himself if he tried. Maybe he was sick of all of the accusations, maybe the fact that Cole was alive and here with him finally kicking in, maybe it was because he was sick of bottling it up again, but he was ready to explode, and it was all coming out now. "For people who blame a guy for pushing the golden boy to the edge, you sure as Hell push me to it pretty damn quick!" He went on. He went to continue until his brain reminded his lungs to take in air, and it was enough to snap the rest of him back into the present. He finally registered Gordon saying his name so many times. Now Gordon looked just as nervous as he felt before. The other he was staring at a spot over his shoulder. And he had called him Roy. He only called him Roy when he was entirely serious, pissed off, or the once in a blue moon: worried. The most logical explanation was suddenly so blatant it was painful. He flinched. “Phelps…” he turned carefully.
Sure enough, Cole was behind him. He went from looking utterly shell shocked to stone-faced. "Roy," he said carefully.
The look was so… the old Cole, something in Roy’s stomach twisted the hardest it ever had, to the point he had to fight back nausea. Roy sent Gordon a pleading look and the man merely offered a grimace that just about screamed 'I tried to warn you.'“Give us… a while, will ya?” Roy asked.
Gordon nodded and didn’t bother to hide that he practically deflated in relief from being dismissed.
“And no guards or anything. Just… this doesn't leave this household, with the exception of Cole's old partners. Maybe look for Monroe, get a tail," Roy added.
Gordon nodded again, then offered a tight lipped smile at Cole, who returned it, before he turned on his heel and left.
Roy walked over to the door and glanced around quickly before closing it and locking it. He walked back into the room and muttered a curse before heading for the liquor cabinet. He went out of his way to not look at Cole.
Cole watched him. “So… that’s really it? That’s why you’ve been so quiet with this? That’s why you lost it with Monroe? You… feel responsible?” Cole asked after a few moments. After a beat, "... you're the twenty percent that I asked about..." he recalled from the information he had been given and denied before.
Roy refused to look at him for a while, then nodded slowly. “Yes. And, well, I was in good company there with putting all the responsibility on me, like you heard,” Roy poured himself a glass of whiskey, then frowned, set the glass down and took the bottle to the other side of the room instead.
Cole struggled for a response. He came up with nothing.
Roy snorted. “Wasn’t talking about Leary or anyone else in the force. You were the company in question."
Cole made a face. “What does that mean?”
“Means you did a fair share of blaming me for everything that went wrong in your life the last time you and I actually sat down and talked. Well, tried to, since you weren't having any of it," Roy asked. It was then that he realized that that exact moment in time nearly perfectly paralleled their last conversation Blue Room. And here was Cole, unknowing and letting him talk freely. His stomach turned yet again and he took a swig from the bottle to compensate.
“Why?” Cole asked. He saw that the man's eyes were getting glossy. It could've been the liquor, but still- booze, a range of emotion, the cause of the overload of emotion being right there in the room. It was a horrible combination for anyone.
“You just heard it,” Roy motioned towards the front door. “Because I was the easiest target you had. I made you hate me, Phelps. I ruined your fuckin' life and that was enough to dump your anger on me for it. Ball,” he motioned at Cole, then himself, "Rolling. And then you fucked up and I shined a goddamn spotlight on that fuck-up to get the attention off’a me and a bunch of people whose lives were gonna get ruined. I kicked you into your fall from grace that led to you being the usual hero and getting yourself killed, then I paid for it for five fuckin’ years. Now here you are, apparently you were here the whole fucking time, and you don't remember a damn thing about any it," he snapped. He turned away and took a giant swig from the bottle.
Cole wanted to gawk, but he knew that was the last thing the other man needed to see. He tried to finish registering everything. “If I knew… any of this… Hell, I’m still not sure if I’m getting all of it.”
Roy snorted, then took another swig from the bottle before he leaned over, reached under the couch and yanked a small suitcase out from its spot there. He dropped it on Cole’s lap and flipped the latches open. “Have fun learning.”
Cole frowned at all the few visible headlines, sporting photos of him, and one with an open sewer grate gaping at the viewer, and it was Cole’s stomach’s turn to clench. “Stefan… kept all these?”
“Yeah. What aren’t his are mine,” Roy answered.
“But… why… if I was long dead, and if… if you didn’t care, if you hated me as much as it seems like you did-“
“Gettin’ rid of anything connecting to you was… an insult to your memory, as far as Bekowsky was concerned.”
“And… yours?” Cole asked cautiously.
“Got no damn idea. Probably seemed like a legit excuse to do this,” he motioned at the bottle.
“Is that your solution for everything?” Cole asked.
“Served me well so far, why stop now?” Roy countered.
“Because it sounds like you’re looking to get yourself killed by whatever means necessary,” Cole countered.
Roy snorted. “Look at you, working things out quick. You’re gettin’ more and more like your old self every day."
“I’m starting to wonder if that’s a good thing or not,” Cole replied.
Roy snorted, then caught sight of one of the articles and stopped abruptly. He flinched and looked away. After a beat, he looked up- not at Cole, just straight ahead, and with a thousand yard stare to boot. “Don’t…” he said quietly.
“Don't what?” Cole asked.
Roy shook his head. “Don’t you dare insult… you. Shit. You were the best of the best. You were better than any of us in any other way. Hell, even if you’re the one insulting yourself, just… stop…” he sighed. “I trashed you enough for all of us back then…” he glanced at the paper closest to him again and got up, taking the bottle with him. "That's the funny part, Phelps. You just said I hated you. I never did. I couldn't, and I tried."
Cole sighed. “Roy, I-“
Roy scoffed again. “Hell, I don’t even know why the Hell I’m here… helping you. Christ, I don’t deserve it. You don't deserve it. It should be Bekowsky, Biggs- Hell, even that runt who's still in patrol."
Cole shrugged, not at all sure what else to do. “It’s a big help, for what it’s worth. Stefan’s been beating around the bush and that just makes everything worse.”
Roy all but froze at the first phrase Cole had used, and didn't seem to pay much attention to the rest. “Yeah, well, I’m not a good person, Cole. I shouldn’t be doing this at all. You deserve someone who… wasn’t directly involved with this shit. Maybe I should take you to Central… drop you with Leary and the ones who can explain better… and give you more of an explanation that doesn’t involve covering my ass.”
Cole glanced back down at the stack of papers and other things, and then realized he had just heard ‘Cole’ out of the other man’s mouth for the first time. He had always been 'Phelps', or 'New You', or 'Old You.' He glanced back up, only to find Roy was gone. He heard a door slam. There was another muted crash. He sighed and turned back to the articles. He took one deep breath and began to read.
An hour later, he was all but shaking. It was so much, too much.
He had about ten different obituaries. Some of them kept what was apparently the horrifyingly gruesome truth from its readers and others were more focused on his climb up the LAPD ladder. Then there was everything that led up to the death- his affair, what he had found out was a cover up with the prostitute- a story Roy had given them, no less. He still wasn’t sure that to make of that. And then, of course, the articles that described the gruesome truth- he was supposedly 'crushed under the water', 'pummeled', 'ended by', there were at least ten different ways the journalists had put it. The two articles that just claimed he was ‘swept away’ were a kindness. Other articles talked about Monroe, then all the fires and their cases he was involved in. No wonder Roy had attacked the man and then chosen to retreat. Then came the ones with Marie – his wife- he still couldn’t get around that- how in one she was struck with grief, anger in others, and the ones where she wasn’t available or refused to comment. Then LAPD comments- Leary’s exact quote in one article was that he was ‘proud of Phelps'’ achievements, one reporter described Biggs’ immediate retreat back into the station when approached for a statement, a clearly edited statement from Stefan telling them they had more important things to report on than a dead hero. Roy never had a quote, but he was in the back of most of the photos, half looking awful, half ready to murder the photographer.
At that rate, Cole wanted to vomit. He contemplated if coming back from all that was a curse instead of a blessing.
And he saw just why Roy was so shaken, given the articles that named him among a bunch of dirty cops. He didn’t know how the man was still in the LAPD if that was the case. He figured since Roy had punched Monroe, he had enough balls to pull other strings years ago to keep his career afloat. He could see why he had pointed the finger at Roy so much all those years ago. Still, part of him wanted to check on the other man. That part won out after a bit, so he went over and knocked on the door.
There was scuffling behind it, and after a beat, Roy opened the door. He looked worse for wear than the previous hour, with his eyes glassy and unfocused, and the bottle he was holding to his hip was now empty.
Cole took in the entire sight. "Roy..." was all he could say.
“Phelps!” the other man called and tossed both hands up, then set them on Cole’s shoulders.
Cole's answering frown deepened. He reached over and yanked the bottle out of Roy's hand with minimal effort. He dropped it lightly on the floor. “You are very drunk right now…” he pointed out.
“Uh huh! And how did your little reveal go, huh? Find out all you needed to find out?” Roy asked, far too cheerful for a man who looked like he was aiming to drink himself to death that night.
“More or less…” Cole sighed. He straightened out and squared his shoulders. “Roy, there was no reason for you to blame yourself. I sounded like there was no getting through to me-“ he caught something like anger flash across Roy's eyes before he sent him a death glare. “Not complaining, stating a fact. I just don’t get… the why. Why the animosity here now, between us, from everything? It's... I've got no memory of any of this, you have no reason to be so apprehens-“ he stopped short and went wide-eyed when Roy's mouth was suddenly pressed hard against his. It was a kiss, but a mess of one, considering Roy's state. He registered Roy's hands suddenly on his neck, and he wasn't sure if it was to pull him closer or merely steady himself. The nearly overwhelming stench of alcohol made Cole figure it was the latter. Still, his brain shut down and went into a panic all at once. He still hadn't guessed that Roy was... that way inclined. He shoved Roy away and stumbled back. He had to catch himself on the wall behind them to do so.
After a moment, Roy scoffed. “There’s your fuckin’ answer, Phelps There was that. Because I apparently had a thing for a stupid, determined little caterpillar who got snuffed right before its pupa stage was up. And then life has a funny way of fucking with me because it dumped you back on our goddamn doorstep."
Cole gawked again, then swallowed hard and shook his head. “Roy, you’re drunk, and you’re… emotionally and physically compromised, and just… you need to lie down.” He nodded after a beat, impressed that the statement was that articulate.
Roy laughed, then pat Cole’s cheek. “Couldn’t agree more, Partner…”
Cole watched as Roy pushed off of him, turned on his heel and slammed the door. A few moments later, there was a thunk and then something bouncing on springs. Well, at least he had made it to the bed without hurting himself. Cole could only stare at the door for a few moments, still trying to process what had happened.
Chapter 8: Visions When You're Sleeping
The sound of rushing water was deafening in Cole’s ears. He could feel himself getting pulled along by a current. His entire vision was blacked out, though random diffused lines of light shone through every few seconds. He couldn’t breathe. The water was too strong against his chest to let him get a breath in. He scrambled for any kind of purchase, but found none. Images flashed in his head. Kelso. A vague glimpse of an older man who looked older than he was, but there was underlying trust. Something suddenly swept him up at a great speed, and then collided with his chest. He turned in the water, then was tossed along again. This time, his head collided with something, and all immediately rushed to nothingness.
Cole jerked awake, scrambling for breath as he went. His heart pounded as he tried to take in his surroundings. He was dry. He was safe. This was Stefan’s house. His breathing slowed a bit at that. That nightmare seemed far too real, and he had just used Stefan’s name for the first time. He had felt weird about addressing him, the way the man had talked to him, so he had used ‘Bekowsky’ or not used his name at all when they talked before that. ‘Stefan’ coming so naturally was another oddity. He eased himself back into a laying down position. He could feel himself shaking, unable to rid himself of the nightmare. He closed his eyes and tried to focus. He was safe. There was no danger. He was safe. Breathe in, breathe out. Breathe in, breathe out.
He had managed to calm down for the most part in a matter of seconds until he heard the front door click unlocked behind him. He sat up again and looked for anything that could be used as a weapon. When the door swung open, he panicked- until he recognized Stefan as he walked in. He let out another breath and let his head droop down. That was, until he realized that Stefan shouldn’t have been back so soon, and he panicked all over again. He got to his feet. “Are you alright?! Where’s Vivian?! Where’s Finn?”
Stefan gave him a quick once over, laughed. “Appreciate the concern, Phelps, but they’re fine. You look like shit. You have a rough night?”
“I… I think I remembered something,” Cole pointed out. “I just… I… it’s been a nightmare I had since I woke up in the hospital, but it always felt real, and after what you’ve all told me…” he trailed off when he realized his hands were shaking again.
“Jesus,” Stefan mused. He sat down. “What was it?”
“I think it’s… how I made it out. There was… a lot of water, but… I got out at one point. Hit my head pretty bad though- hit everything pretty damn bad.” His back that had ached heavily every once in a while gave a telltale throb and he stretched forward to relieve it. He glanced at Stefan. “Nothing about any of you, though, I’m sorry.”
Stefan stared at him, then let out a disbelieving laugh. “It’s still progress, you damned idiot. Who cares if you don’t remember us?”
“I do, since you’re doing all this for me,” Cole countered.
Stefan shook his head. “If you haven’t noticed, this place has become the pound for lost cases of the LAPD. Kinda comes with the territory.”
Cole smiled weakly and forced out an equally weak laugh in response, but he was surprised when it felt more genuine than intended. The lack of effort in it seemed almost natural in Stefan’s presence. Not from being fake, but being carefree. That was something. He felt bad about it, but it was something, just like Stefan himself had just said. They settled in companionable silence for a while until he remembered what he had been getting at when the other man first came in. “I thought you wouldn’t come back without Viv.”
“It was her idea,” Stefan clarified. “She’s staying with Gordon’s folks with Finn. She told me you’re far more relevant right now. She also said she wasn’t going to waste her time dealing with us ‘emotionally constipated idiots.’” He explained. “Not to mention I have the whole ‘have a family and need money’ thing , so I kinda have to go back to work, even if the bosses would understand.”
“But will she and Finn be safe?” Cole asked.
He laughed again. “What you don’t know about my wife, pal: She’s a better shot than I am. That’s why I married her.”
Cole squinted, allowing the subject change. “Because of her marksman skills?”
Stefan snorted. “You still can’t hit the nail on the head on your first try. Because she’d shoot me dead herself if I broke her heart. And then Gordon would have me resuscitated just to shoot me, too,” Stefan corrected. Then, “I miss anything else when I was gone?”
Cole stared at him for a while. He desperately wanted to tell him everything, but how would that go for either of them? Would he be disgusted? Kick Roy out? Kick him out?
Stefan frowned. “Phelps, you know you’re like a new person in all but your face. Your poker face is still terrible. You’re doing that extended frown thing again. What happened? Is it just about that memory?” Stefan asked.
Cole stared at him. He couldn’t fathom how or why the other man was so casual about everything. Maybe he’d tell him, but now wasn’t the time, nor was it exactly his place to say. “There’s been no sign of Monroe or Cohen or anybody, either. After our brushes with them, it’s concerning,” he supplied.
Stefan frowned. He dropped the bag he was carrying next to the couch, then sat down beside him. “Today, Cole.”
Cole frantically tried to weave a response together that avoided telling him the scandalous bit. “Uh… Roy got drunk. He uh… he told me… everything from his point of view. I haven’t really been comfortable imposing on him after that.” There. That wasn’t even a lie.
Stefan swore under his breath. “Where is he?”
“He’s sleeping it off,” Cole responded, although he wasn’t really sure. From what he had seen of Roy, that was a safe assumption. That, or he was hiding in his room out of fear of confrontation, which also seemed like him. But Roy also seemed a Hell of a lot devoted to Stefan for reasons still to be discovered, so he doubted Roy would stay in hiding if he heard the other man.
Stefan didn’t seem to worry about the details. He frowned, not unlike a worried, disappointed parent. “Has he been doing that the entire time?”
“No, just last night. Gordon came by to check in. They had an argument that I walked into, just when Roy kind of… let it all out,” Cole explained.
“About you and him?” Stefan asked.
Cole went to respond, then froze at Stefan’s wording. Were he and Roy…? Did Stefan know? He risked nodding in affirmation and kept the rest quiet.
“And his role with Monroe and you…?”
Cole hid a sharp exhale of relief. So the other thing must’ve been a mystery still- or Roy kept it firmly under wraps. “I got the gist, yes.”
Stefan absorbed the information, then sighed. “Look, I just… … I’ve told you this before. Roy’s an asshole. There’s no getting around or changing that, but… nowaday’s he’s… trying to be better. He’s got a lot of bullshit to undo, but he’s giving it a shot. Your death really fucked him up.”
“Yeah, I uh, got that sense,” Cole agreed. “Did he… drink as much before… the accident?”
Stefan snorted. “I don’t know. Hell, I only gave him the time of the day back then because you did. It’s… that’s his vice. You don’t fuck with a man’s vices.”
Cole blinked rapidly for a moment. Something about that word got to him and stirred something in the back of his mind, but as soon as the moment had started, it was gone, just like the feeling about his laugh in Stefan’s presence. This whole ordeal wasn’t fair. “Has he gotten help for it?”
Stefan full-on laughed then. “You and that damn conscience. He won’t do shit himself, and I don’t have the death wish required to bring it up. And neither should you.”
Cole frowned again and looked away. Something about Roy rubbed him the wrong way- maybe it was just his brain trying to set things right, but after all he had seen, he couldn’t help but feel bad for the guy, even if he should’ve apparently hated him. When Stefan stared at him for a second, then barked out another laugh, Cole turned to him. “What?”
Stefan motioned at his own mouth. “That frown. It hasn’t left your face. I just… it’s weird seeing it again..”
It was Cole’s turn to scoff. “You know, you all make it sound like you hated me the way you all talk about my ticks.”
“Well, yeah. You were annoying as Hell, but I never hated you, for one.”
“That makes one of you under this roof,” Cole countered. It took him a moment to remember that Roy had confessed otherwise last night, but he wasn't sure if anything that was said even counted anymore.
Stefan narrowed his eyes. “Roy say something to you?”
You have no idea. “No, he’s just… he doesn’t make an effort to hide it when he doesn’t… like people.”
Stefan shrugged and opened his mouth, only to stop short when a shadow drop from the top of one window to the bottom, and there was a resulting crash.
The pair sprung back up. Stefan went for his gun in its holster at his hip and he motioned at Cole. “Stay here.”
When he opened the front door and sensed Cole directly behind him, he couldn’t help his answering eyeroll, even in his current state. Still the same tactical idiot, too, he mused before prompty bolting towards the right side of the house where the thump had come from.
Fucking Bekowsky. Fucking Cole. Fucking married couples with one kid thinking they needed a two story house. Fucking cookie cutter suburban houses. Fucking roofs. Fucking alcohol.
Roy hated them all, and he was never drinking again.
He didn’t know how he remembered everything that had gone on last night. He knew he shouldn’t have, judging by the dent he had put into the bottles of liquor he had stowed away in his room. He made a mental note to get them the Hell out of there before Viv got back with the demon spawn and she tried to kill him for having the audacity to keep them there.
He had gone to leave the room and head down the stairs to the main floor until he realized how stupid of an idea that would be.
It wasn’t that he was scared of Cole’s reaction to every single bit of what had happened. He was just entirely too hung over to deal with the lecture he could see coming. Rejection he could handle. He couldn’t handle Cole making that face he knew he’d make.
His solution had been simple: get out the window, climb down to ground level, start walking, and just be anywhere but the house.
He eased out the window and sidled over to the edge of the roof. With a quick glance over the edge, he realized how utterly dumb the plan had been. He had done worse climbs on the job, but this wasn’t five or ten years ago, and his brain was still coming off the alcohol so there was all sorts of vertigo going on. He exhaled sharply and swung his leg over the gutter- and immediately lost his footing. “Fuck!”
By some miracle, there wasn’t long to fall, but when he hit the ground a couple of moments later, his ankle rolled the right way. “FUCK!” he repeated.
A moment later, he heard the front door swing open and hit the side of the house from the impact.
“Fuck,” he announced a third time. He braced himself for The Look. When he got Stefan, gun drawn and all, he was relieved. “Oh, hey there, Pal. Didn’t realize you were back.”
Stefan shoved his gun back in its holster. “Thought someone was trying to break in, you idiot. I could’ve shot you!”
“I can get back on the roof, you can try again. Probably still wouldn’t be able to shoot me at this range.”
“Fuck off, Roy,” Stefan countered.
Roy scoffed, then went to stand up, only to have his rolled ankle buckle under him immediately. “Fuck!” he repeated for what he hoped was the fourth and final time.
Stefan sighed and went to help him up. “You’re a fucking disaster, you know that?” He knew full well why Roy had gone on the roof, but avoiding Cole to that extent was too much, even for him. Just what the hell had gone on when he was out?
“I love you too, bastard.”
The pair probably made quite the sight, with Stefan trying to help the man who was equal parts letting the man guide him back towards the house and leaning away from him to try and make a point that he had it mostly handled. Stefan frowned at Roy until he realized Roy wasn’t paying attention to him. He was looking at Cole, and with a quick glance behind him, he saw Cole was looking back. When the men made eye contact however, Roy immediately found the bush he had landed in interesting, and Cole had chosen to look at the tree across the yard. Emotionally constipated idiots, Stefan recalled. Viv was absolutely right. He considered locking them in the house, throwing away the key and leaving again, but that had essentially been the case when he was gone, and things had apparently gotten worse. He contemplated telling Roy to leave for a while, but after Roy took another step and nearly fell again, he realized that his injury was far worse than a sprain, and he was going to be confined to the couch again.
Roy took another step on his own and immediately nearly fell again.
“Think it’s broken,” Roy reported.
“Looks like,” Cole reported, then immediately went back to watching the leaves on the tree sway in the wind.
Roy glared at him, then looked away and clenched his jaw.
The fact that he didn’t have a returning jab was the most surprising, concerning thing yet. Still, at least that gave them something else to focus on. Stefan looked from man to man before he tossed his hands up. “Unbelievable. Finn’s more mature then the pair of you,” he muttered to himself. “Get in the fucking car so we can get to the doctor.”
When the pair looked at each other again before slowly walking over to the car, Stefan wondered if he was even going to survive the drive there.
An hour later, Cole was even more uncomfortable than he had been when Roy had looked at him in the yard.
They had gone to the hospital, Roy complaining about his leg and the cost of the trip all the way. Once they got there, he and Stefan had settled into the waiting room. After a few minutes, Stefan had seemed to remember Cole’s situation in the public and had gotten a bit jumpy. He kept looking around to make sure no one looked at them too long, and Cole found himself doing the same and bowing his head.
After a few more minutes, an extremely annoyed looking nurse wheeled Roy out of the room in a wheelchair. Roy, in turn, had a cast on his leg, a crutch under each arm, and looked murderous. She practically shoved the chair at the pair of them, muttered that they needed the chair back when they left the building, turned on her heel, and went into another room.
“It isn’t my fault that the doctor doesn’t know how to handle an injury!” Roy called after her.
Stefan cuffed him across the back of the head when no one was looking. “Be nice!”
“Tell that to the doc who dropped my damn ankle when they were wrapping it in this damn thing,” Roy shot back with a broad motion at the cast.
Stefan smirked. “Karma, pal. You good to wheel yourself out?”
“Aww, be a gentleman, Bekowsky, will ya?” Roy asked.
Stefan rolled his eyes. “I’m gonna push you down the stairs if I get the opportunity. Let’s go.”
“You gonna let him do that to me, Phelps?”
It took Cole a solid few seconds to realize Roy had even addressed him. He wasn’t sure what to think of the sudden shift, but there was still that ease between the other two that he didn’t want to mess with. “Might have to think about it.” He almost flinched at Roy’s answering laugh and how off it seemed.
The three of them made it out and back to Stefan’s car with no issues. Stefan had gone to take the wheelchair back, and uncomfortable silence seeped into the space between Roy and Cole. The latter suddenly regretted even letting the thought that things even resembled normalcy cross his mind.
After a few more seconds, Cole couldn’t take it. “Do you remember anything from last night?”
Roy was silent for a while, then, to Cole’s surprise: “Mm-hm.” It was indifferent, but loaded all at once. He knew exactly what Cole was getting at, that much was certain.
“Are we going to talk about it?”
“I think we need to, considering.”
“I don’t,” Roy replied.
Cole huffed, and didn’t miss the fact that something flashed in Roy’s eyes when he did so. So that noise was something that set him off back then, too. “You clearly have a lot to confront here-“
Roy scoffed. “I’m perfectly fine with the fact that I swing both ways, Phelps. It’s the world that isn’t.”
“That’s not-“ Cole began.
“What, afraid that you’re under the same roof as a faggot? You wouldn’t be the first.”
Cole wasn’t sure whether to follow up on that, or ignore it and treat it like the deflection it was supposed to be. He struggled for any sort of lead he could go on. That same familiar feeling set into his chest again. This was normal with the man. He’d have a better conversation with a wall. Still, he was always one for the direct approach: “Were you in love with me?”
The sound of screeching tires stopped the conversation short. Cole glanced in the direction of the noise, only to see the barrel of a machine gun pointed out one window, pointed straight at them. He dove for Roy on sheer habit from the war, and both of them hit the concrete hard- Roy, naturally, on his injured leg.
“Shit, you did that on purpose!” Roy objected, even as the first round of shots whizzed above their heads.
“I just saved your life!” Cole countered.
There was suddenly a rush of footsteps behind them and Cole realized just how badly matched they were. He exhaled sharply when he saw it was Stefan, gun drawn and ready.
“Two minutes. I leave you two alone for two goddamn minutes, and everything goes to shit!” Stefan called as he fired off a couple of shots at the car that was speeding down the street.
All the men figured that the car would come back around, so Stefan bolted to the driver’s side and scrambled to unlock the doors, and once they were set, the other two scrambled to get inside the car as best they could, with Roy in the back and Cole next to Stefan.
Stefan sped off in the opposite direction, and sure enough, their attackers took the last turn wide and started back down the street after them.
Cole wasn’t sure whether to duck or keep a lookout. “What’s the plan?”
“You still a good shot?” Stefan asked. He reached over to the glove compartment and smacked it open. He motioned at the pistol that was inside. “Cover us.”
“Why do you-“
“Because you and I had a knack for getting shot at in my car,” Stefan countered.
“Mine too,” Roy chimed in.
Cole wasn’t sure how to respond to that. He didn’t have to. There was the sound of a gunshot, and he ducked on instinct- until he realized it had come from directly behind him. He looked at Roy, only to see him draped across the back seat, leaning on the door, shooting at their pursuer with a gun.
Now it was Stefan’s turn to be confused. “What- where-?”
“Because having one gun stashed somewhere is an amateur move,” Roy countered. “You’re welcome.” He fired off another shot at the car, and went right through the center of the driver’s side of the windshield. The car veered off the road and hit into the nearest lamppost. Nothing happened for a while.
Roy let out a breath he didn’t realize he was holding. “Okay. I did my part. Considering I can’t fucking move, it’s your turn.”
Stefan nodded. “Cole, with me.”
Cole grunted his acknowledgement, then followed Stefan to the phone. He punched in a number, then said a few things that Cole didn’t catch after realizing his ears had been ringing the entire time. After a few moments, Stefan held the phone out to him. “It’s gonna be Leary. Tell him what the Hell just happened. Stay close to Roy when I go check this out.”
Cole watched him jog across the street. After a moment, he managed to hear Leary over the ringing. Once asked, he gave a report of what intersection they were at, what had happened, and once Stefan had waved him down, motioned ‘one’ with his finger and then swiped at his neck to indicate ‘dead’, reported that update as well. He wasn’t sure what to think when Leary told them to stay put. He hung up and leaned on the car and waited.
“Still wanna talk about last night?” Roy asked after a minute of silence.
Cole frowned. He really didn’t. Still, it was most likely now or never. Picking up where he left off, he squared his shoulders. “Were you?” he asked.
Roy scoffed. “Is that really what you came up with after that? Talk about jumping to conclusions.”
Cole went to object, only to hear sirens in the distance. They got progressively louder. Whatever time window they had would be gone, and there was no way they could have the conversation he wanted in seconds. “This isn’t over.”
“Christ, Phelps. I kissed you. I didn’t propose to you.”
Of course, they were so wrapped up in their own conversation that they hadn’t seen Stefan jog back towards the car, then stop short upon hearing that. “… You what now?”
Roy, for the twelfth time that day, let out a resounding, “Fuck.”
Chapter 9: The Start of Something Good
Stefan stared ahead as he tried to process the information that he had gotten in the last couple of minutes. After hearing just what he had missed when he was gone, Roy had looked him dead in face, said that he heard right, along with ‘I like dick too, you fucking idiot.’ He wasn’t sure what to focus on more- the fact that Roy apparently batted for both teams, or the fact that it confirmed that there was a Hell of a lot more behind why Roy felt so guilty about losing Cole the first time around. “You ever just hear something about someone and… their entire life makes a lot more sense?” he mused. He hated that that particular fact was his primary takeaway from the whole thing.
Cole opened his mouth to respond, then firmly shut it. Instead, he turned to Roy and went to talk to him, only to stop short when he saw a car pull up alongside them. He recognized Gordon in the driver’s side, then frowned upon seeing his cousin, about ten years older than the last time he had seen him in the co-passenger seat.
Sure enough, just as he was about to begin, he noticed the other two straighten out a bit as a navy blue car pulled up just beside the blockade. He went to ask why when he saw Gordon step out from the driver’s side, then frowned when he recognized his cousin as Gordon's passenger that stepped out from the other side of the car a moment later. He blanched when he heard Roy mutter ‘Oh, fuck me, now they’re both here’ to himself. He stood carefully. “Rick?”
Richard stared at him for a while before he immediately pulled the man into a hug.
Cole was thrown for a moment until he realized, right, the dead thing. He had forgotten in the whirlwind last few hours. He patted the man on the back and stepped back when Richard released him. “You became a cop?” he asked.
“Lost interest in the English teacher dream,” Richard supplied. He glanced over Cole’s shoulder when he heard Roy mutter something about ‘carbon copies.’ “It’s… good to have you back again. Sorry I couldn’t make it to see you earlier.”
“My fault,” Gordon supplied. “Got caught up in containing the story of the decade,” he added, then raised his eyebrows at Cole pointedly.
Cole understood what he was getting at. He immediately looked down and ducked his head so his face was obstructed from view a bit.
Gordon nodded and then focused on the other two men. Roy was a visible mess for the first time between his facial expression and wrapped leg. Stefan was very obviously looking everywhere but at the other two. Another suspicious glance at Cole made him pick up on that old, tight lipped frown he used to do. “The Hell happened?” he asked.
“Nothing, Cap. All good on the western front. Peachy, ya know, aside from the whole getting shot at thing. We’re fine. Dandy- not dandy! Nothing dandy! I mean, alive, accounted for, breathing, swell!” He let out a nervous laugh and immediately coughed low to counteract it. Right, because that didn’t make anything weird going on blatantly obvious. Fucking idiot.
Gordon stared at him for a while. “I meant the shootout, Bekowsky.”
“Oh,” Bekowsky supplied lamely, and he was fairly sure he heard Gordon utter ‘Jesus Christ’ under his breath in response. It took all he had in him not to agree with the sentiment. He felt Roy turn to him slowly. He tried not to look back, knowing full well the man was going to try to kill him in broad daylight if the opportunity arose. “We were coming out of the hospital to get Roy’s leg set, I went in to return the wheelchair, came back to chaos. The guy in that car just pulled up and opened fire. We got out of there, he tailed us.”
“And how did Roy break his leg?” Gordon asked.
“I fell,” Roy deadpanned.
“Is that Earle-speak for ‘mind your own damn business?” Gordon continued.
“Well, at least someone in Central still has a brain,” Roy countered.
Gordon pointedly ignored the jab. “Which of you got the final shot in?” Gordon asked.
Roy grunted and raised his gun, handle towards Gordon.
Gordon shook his head. “Hold onto it. You might need it at this rate. We’ll run the plates, see what we can find out about who that car was registered to and who our vic was, or who he was working for.” He motioned for Richard to deal with the perimeter and walked off.
Roy turned to Stefan. “Fuck you, Bekowsky,” was his eloquent response to the entire situation.
“You’re the one who just blurted it out plain as day!” Stefan hissed.
“ ‘Cause I thought I could trust you with it,” Roy countered, though years of being his unwilling best friend had Stefan hearing the underlying uncertainty.
Stefan rubbed his neck. “You can. I think. I mean, it’s… weird as Hell, but… makes sense. And I’ve had my suspicions!”
“You mean Viv had her suspicions,” Roy deadpanned.
“I can have an independent thought, you ass,” Stefan countered. When Roy set him with a look, he frowned. “Okay, so she figured it out first, but I still had them!”
Roy scoffed. “Right, just like when it turned out that I was right about you and Viv starting as fuck buddies before you caught feelings!” Roy said, a little too loudly.
“They what?!” came Gordon’s voice from a few feet away.
Stefan nearly literally leapt behind Cole to put the man between him and Gordon.
As Gordon advanced on them, Cole shifted from foot to foot, trying to figure out which way would end in him getting harmed the least.
Gordon, to his credit, made it within a few feet of them before he set his jaw and stopped walking.
Stefan let out another nervous laugh. “I mean, it’s not like you didn’t know, I did tell you about us that first night before I knew you were related-“ he jumped back and pulled Cole closer when Gordon stepped forward again. “BUT! But now we’re fine, we’re happily married with a son we and you adore, house with a white picket fence, the works! Domestic bliss!” Stefan pointed out. “And she’d be heartbroken if the cousin she loves very much kills her husband in semi-cold blood!”
“Or she’s going to find out that this conversation happened and kill you,” Cole cut in.
“Fuck you, Phelps,” Stefan countered, a little too high-pitched for his own liking.
Gordon mumbled something under his breath, turned and walked away.
Roy finally cracked and laughed. “Wow. All I had to do was get the ball rolling. You just buried yourself by doing your usual never-shutting-the-fuck-up.”
“You planned that entirely,” Stefan countered.
“Yes I did,” Roy agreed.
Cole pried himself free of Stefan’s grip and stepped away. It wasn’t lost on him that the area around Roy was the safest spot around, at least for that moment.
There was dead silence for a while, until all the tension in the air broke when the payphone beside them rang. After it rang for a few seconds straight, all the men exchanged glances. Roy finally limped over and answered it. Before he could even speak into it:
“Ah, Mister Earle. I’m glad you answered first. That leg looks like quite the injury. What happened?”
Roy’s head shot up at the sound of Monroe’s voice. He made eye contact with the others and frantically motioned at the edges of the surrounding blocks pointedly and started to look at the windows of the surrounding buildings, searching for any trace of the man. He waited until Gordon picked up on what he was getting at and sent a group of newly-arrived patrol officers to set up a roadblock. “Hey, Leland. Did you arrange our little setback? ‘Cause it probably doesn’t matter to you in the long run, but your messenger’s dead.” he asked.
Stefan stepped a little closer to Cole at the mention of the name. After a beat, he sidled over beside Roy to hear the conversation, and pulled Cole closer to boot.
“Ah, well, it’s a shame for his family, but… you’re correct. He’s just a messenger, much like you were for me once.”
Roy’s eyes flicked to Cole for a moment, their last time in the Blue Room flashing into his mind, but he forced it out. This was what Monroe wanted. He couldn’t get derailed now. “What’s your game, Monroe? You almost killed Phelps once, he’s not even going after you, why bother doing this again?”
“Who said it was Phelps I was after?” Leland countered. “No, that was exactly what you thought: a message. I’m… trying out a new venture. I want you, the pushover, and the late prince of the L.A.P.D out of my way when I do it.”
“What, so you can hurt more people?”
“Last I recall, you didn’t care about the details so long as you got paid.”
“I don’t take kindly to threats, either," Roy snarled.
“We’re just talking now, aren’t we?”
Roy clenched his jaw and stayed quiet.
“You were always a smart, resourceful man. We’re men of principle, you and I-“
“I am nothing like you,” Roy growled.
“Yes you are, Earle. You might have a sliver of a conscience now, but men like us never change. It’s not in our nature.”
Roy’s stomach turned at the thought. He tried to force that out of his mind as well.
Leland continued. “My point is, you and I worked together well. I valued your help-“
“I thought I was just the expendable messenger,” Roy countered.
“A mistake I will not make again. I have said what I needed to say. You’ve seen what needed to be seen. If you wish for your friends and their families to remain intact and unharmed, I suggest you play nice.”
“You first,” Roy countered. He clenched his fist, and wasn’t above imagining Monroe’s neck between his fingers.
“I am a man of my word as well,” Leland replied.
Roy grunted in disgust before he firmly took the phone from his ear. He was fairly sure he heard Leland chuckle before he slammed the phone back on the receiver. Heturned around sharply, enough for his leg to send a shot of pain straight up his body. He hissed, then turned to the others. He offered them a smile that he knew didn’t reach his eyes. “Bastard’s insane. Went from threatening us to offering me a job.” He glanced Stefan’s way and when he found Stefan was watching him carefully, he looked at Cole, who was staring more intently than the other. He looked away again. “Let’s tell Leary that was Monroe and he admitted that was his guy so we can get outta here.”
Cole stepped forward. “Roy-“
“Don’t,” he growled. He missed the sideglance Stefan and Cole sent each other.
They informed Gordon on what the phone call had been about, and before long, they had been loaned a squad car to get them home.
The drive there was absolutely silent, outside of Roy taking a moment to fiddle with his crutches. Cole had gotten in the front seat after Roy had taken the back to stew, he guessed. They had barely been parked for ten seconds before Roy was out of the car, limping up the steps and getting the spare key out from under one of the bricks in the walkway.
Cole gave Stefan a hopeless look.
Stefan shook his head. “Just… give him a while.”
“And what if we do and he drinks himself to death this time around?” he countered. He got out of the car and hurried up the sidewalk. He walked into the house and immediately headed for the nursery.
Sure enough, he saw Roy already heading for a bottle of something in the corner. He went to go inside, only to stop short when he saw Roy couldn’t get the damned thing open so he exhaled sharply and tossed it away onto the chair in the corner. Well, that was a start. He knocked on the door at the last minute. “Roy?”
Roy froze. “Go away, Phelps. You’ve got a lot more to worry about than me.”
“I don’t think that’s wise,”
“What are you, a shrink now?” Roy countered.
“I want to help,” Cole insisted.
“You always did.”
“I meant help you, Roy. You know that."
“I don’t need your damn help.”
“Right, because this has gone so well for you,” Cole insisted, motioning widely at the bottles in the corner and the last one on the chair. “What do you need to hear that I haven’t said already? That I forgive you? You don’t need my forgiveness when it wasn’t your fault. Even if it was, I don’t even remember. Why bother agonizing over my- “
Roy scoffed. “My life isn’t all about you, Phelps.” He went for the bottle again.
Cole crossed the room and put himself between Roy and the chair. He put one hand out to stop, then took the bottle and shoved it behind his back with his other. “That’s not what I was getting at and you know it,” he objected. When Roy didn’t move, he sighed and lowered the hand he had out towards him. “What’s this really about?” he asked. He tried to recall what he had heard Roy say on the phone call. “That Monroe said you were alike?” when Roy bristled at the response, he knew he had him. “Whatever Monroe said to you, whatever made him say you two were alike… he was manipulating you.”
“You think I don’t know that?!” Roy shot back.
“If you do, why are you letting him get in your head?” Cole asked. “The man’s clearly certifiable. You’re better than him, Roy.”
“I’m really not.”
Cole frowned. “You wouldn’t be here if you weren’t. I wouldn’t be here.”
Roy finally looked at him, really looked at him, for the first time since he had walked in. He took a couple of steps forward. His eyes were unreadable.
Cole knew he was on his way to diffusing whatever the Hell this second big conversation had been, and he just needed to finish it. He inhaled sharply and offered a teasing smile. “You’re not gonna kiss me again, are you?” he asked. He watched Roy’s eyes go through about five different changes in visible emotion and waited.
Roy finally cracked a smile and scoffed, but there was a strange affection to it. He shoved his hands in his pockets. “No. You’ve gotta earn ‘em from here on out.” It was his turn to watch Cole’s face go through a quick emotional journey. He had meant to tease back, but when he realized the emotions he saw were ones he had seen Old Cole send his way. His heart skipped a beat when the final look was what he had on the rare occasion where he was actually joking around with the man. He reached up and gave Cole a quick smack on the cheek. “Sorry to disappoint, Partner.”
Cole studied him for a while. He thought he had him, but his response came across as far too much of a deflection than anything. “I mean it, Roy. From what I understand, you’ve come a Hell of a long way.”
“You’re not gonna let up until I say you’re right, are you?”
“No,” Cole confirmed.
“Fine. You’re right. Happy now?”
“I’ll get there,” Cole answered. He tucked the bottle of booze under his arm and gave Roy a pointed look. He turned to leave. He made it as far as the doorway before he stopped short when a thought occurred to him. He turned back around. “You know, if it’s one thing you can admit to, it’s that you do a lot out of spite.”
“I don’t like where this is going,” Roy mused.
Cole smirked. “Going out of your way to prove someone wrong seems like a pretty spiteful thing to do, don’t you think?” he asked. He left without another word. He was fairly sure he heard the man scoff, but it was an affectionate one again, and then, even quieter: “Challenge accepted, Phelps.”
That sounded good to him.
Chapter 10: Lay it Down and Lose it All
It had been two weeks since the attempt on the men’s lives and Monroe’s call. Nothing else had happened. It had been consistently quiet- too quiet, but none of them knew whether they wanted to look a gift horse in the mouth just yet. Stefan had kept contact with Viv rarely and told her to stay put. Roy hadn’t let a night go by without keeping his gun close. The pair of them had rearranged most of the furniture in the house to try and make the area have plenty of cover if a shootout occurred. It had been a mess during the first few days, considering any time Stefan insisted that Roy needed to rest his leg and the latter’s response was some variation of ‘fuck off.’
Cole helped out where he could, and had finally started to come to terms with the fact that he was going to just have to live a stir-crazy life. Of course, he felt bad since there were far worse things to prioritize, but it was still a weight on him. He was starting to feel useless in a situation that was his fault.
Worse yet, he kept getting the weird memory sensations more often. His own brain was mocking his situation. He’d say something that just felt right. A quick quip when Stefan would say something about whatever case at hand they were working on. Stefan would let out a little disbelieving laugh, and that would feel right. Gordon would stop by to check in and give him a look that was decidedly like a concerned father that was entirely familiar though he had no old recollection of it. Roy had gotten distant again, and something in the back of his mind was pleased. Of course, there was more to that particular story that he didn’t remember, but he still felt like that was the worst, considering Roy was his friend in all this. The man had apparently saved his life from Monroe on that sidewalk, he owed him more respect than that.
The whole situation wasn’t fair to any of them. He had taken one of the days to reread everything in the house about his old cases and death. It was no less painful the second time around, but still didn’t trigger anything.
Stefan had caught him at one point, gone to the liquor cabinet, poured a glass of whiskey and set it in front of him silently before he left him to his own devices. Cole had considered it kind for a while, until that set off a whole other set of thoughts on whether or not he had looked for answers at the bottom of a bottle since the war. He had never been much of a drinker, and that worried him. Still, Stefan hadn’t offered him the bottle. There was that.
Still, he partook in the drink. It was most likely a little too quickly, considering he was out like a light not long after.
He woke the next day to the phone ringing. It took him a moment to realize someone had set him up on the couch and tossed a blanket over him.
There were footsteps, then Stefan’s voice. “Bekowsky… yeah, hey Arch… … … … the Hell do you mean Leland Monroe is back?”
That was certainly enough to expel the last dregs of tiredness from his body. Cole sat up straight and gave him a look.
There was the sound of footsteps, and Roy came around the archway into the living room, equally interested and apprehensive.
Stefan gave them a helpless shrug as if to ask what the Hell he was supposed to say when they were keeping things close to their chest, then turned his attention back to the phone. “Well why the fuck would he do that? … … Yeah, yeah, alright. We’ll get down there.” He set the phone down. When the other two continued to stare at him. “Apparently our favorite criminal is kicking people out of his new development downtown-“
“People let him build more developments?” Cole asked.
Stefan shrugged. “Not directly. There’s some new head honcho, some… Raylan Barnes guy, but any idiot can tell he’s pulling the strings.”
Cole took in the information. He had heard the name on the radio a handful of times in the last few months. He hadn't thought much of it, but now that he thought about it, he did seem to have a lot in common with the Monroe man. “And he’s too powerful to be stopped,” Cole supplied.
“Who’s pulling the strings doesn’t matter. It’s a trap,” Roy pointed out.
Stefan scoffed. “Just catching Cole up. Of course it is.”
Cole looked between them. “How is it a trap…?”
“ ‘Cause the only other person who Monroe paid off as much as me was Archie. Archie doesn’t have you two bozos as angels on his shoulder to stop him from doing stupid shit,” Roy explained.
The confession sounded strained to Cole, and when Cole looked at him to confirm it, Roy was doing a very obvious job of looking anywhere but at him. “So what do we do?” Cole asked.
Cole tried not to snap. He appreciated them trying to shelter him, but his patience had worn thin- especially since the attack. He stood up before Stefan could protest further. “Like it or not, I’m connected to Monroe, so I’m involved in this. I go where you two go.”
Roy finally looked at him, but it was for a mere second before he looked at Stefan. “Fine. Stefan, where’s this development?”
“Franklin and Gower.”
“Good. Then let’s go.”
“And do what?” Stefan asked.
“Spring the trap, or kill Archie. Whichever we get to first.”
Cole blanched. Right. So now they were going to murder someone. Even if it was apparently earned, he had a feeling it was going to end in disaster. “Great.”
“You wanted in, Phelps, you’re coming in. Now, let’s get every damn gun we have in this damn house and go.”
Cole gave Stefan a questioning look, and the man shrugged again.
Roy, on the other hand, had already retreated from the room.
Within minutes, they were on the road and headed for the mentioned intersection. It had been a tense ride, with Roy swapping his pistol from hand to hand and glancing out the window every so often. Again, Cole's patience wore thin when it was mostly just Roy and Stefan talking to each other and seemingly deliberately ignoring him.
Cole spoke after a while. “So… what’re we expecting?”
“That’s… not particularly helpful,” Cole pointed out. “A shootout? People waiting for us when we get there? If you've dealt with this before, you should know what to expect."
Roy scoffed. “This isn’t the Marines, Cole. We don’t-“
He didn’t get a chance to finish the sentence. Something slammed into the side of the car. The men barely managed to register that it was another car before they hit something else, and their own car cut the curb. Another moment and the car was airborne, veering to the side, then all there was was darkness.
When Roy came to, his vision was blurred and dotted red. A few blinks did little to clear it. He flinched against the pain everywhere and tried to examine his surroundings as the last few seconds of consciousness flooded back. Someone had T-boned them. That was clear. But judging by the fact that the car was upside down and could barely be called a ‘car’ anymore, it was more than just an average accident. “Fuck…” he muttered. His already-injured leg gave a nearly immobilizing throb of pain. He hissed and tried to ease himself to the side, only to find out that whatever position he had been in was keeping him stable in what remained of the car’s frame and his back connected with the roof of the car hard. “Shit,” he supplied again. He squeezed his eyes shut again and tried to look forward. He could just make out Stefan through his own blurred vision. When he came further into focus, he could see a bloody gash across the side of the man’s forehead. “Bekowsky... Stefan!” he called. When there was no response, he swallowed hard. He reached over and nudged the man. When there was no response, he felt his heart sink and panic start to sink in. “If you died on me now, you bastard…” He shook him again, and again it yielded no response. His mind started going a mile a minute, even in his state. What was he going to do? What the Hell happened? What the Hell was he going to tell Viv? Viv was going to kill him, if he didn’t off himself first. Nausea started up in his stomach, and he wasn’t sure if it was his brain reacting to his best friend up and dying on him, or from his body being overwhelmed from the crash. He inhaled sharply to try to collect himself. He reached over and gave the man’s cheek a hard slap as a last ditch effort. When Stefan snapped awake and let out a startled grunt of alarm, he let out a breath he’d deny holding ‘til his death. “Jesus. Thought I was gonna have to tell Viv you died on my watch. I thought I’d have to marry her to make sure she’s looked after.”
Stefan flinched and gasped, trying to come back to himself as well. He finally registered what the man said. “Agh. She’d never agree, first off. Second, marry her and I’ll come back to haunt you.”
“You wouldn’t be the first, apparently,” Roy countered. He froze when his thoughts finally drifted to the first case of that. He turned a little too quickly for his hurting body to handle and his head throbbed. When he came back to himself, he squinted at the backseat- or at least what was left of it, considering most of it was crushed.
More importantly, there was no sign of Cole at all.
“No…” Roy said carefully.
Stefan looked back and saw what troubled him. He shook his head carefully and flinched again. “S’okay. It’s Phelps. He’s probably… out there somewhere getting help. Bastard survived a trip through flooding pipes, he can survive this,” he said, though he sounded a little too hopeful.
Roy surveyed the damaged window beside him. “I think I can get outta here. Can you?”
Roy grunted and tried to ease himself out of the car window. His arms were in constant pain as he did. He checked his arms for injuries, and sure enough, he had his own gash across his arm. That somehow seemed to be his most dramatic injury, so he took it as a victory. He cleared the shattered glass on the pavement and limped over to the other side. With a fair bit of difficulty, he and Stefan managed to pry the driver’s side door the rest of the way open, considering it had apparently come open in the crash.
“Jesus, what the fuck?” Stefan muttered to himself.
Roy turned towards the street. There was absolutely no one around, so that meant the crash was old news, whoever had done it knew exactly where to trap them so they’d have the least support, or there’ be trouble. “PHELPS!” he called. There was no answer, but Roy wasn’t exactly sure what he had been expecting either. “PHELPS!” He suddenly felt lightheaded. He wasn’t sure if it was from yelling at the top of his lungs, his injuries finally catching up with him, or the fact that Cole was missing when Monroe seemed to have a vendetta against them again. He shook his head immediately after thinking it. No, Stefan was right. Cole was smart, resourceful. He wasn’t even their Cole, he wasn’t exactly indebted to them. He had probably left them to get help, like Stefan had said. He spotted a gamewell a few yards away and limped over to it without another word. He all but yanked the phone off the receiver. “Earle, badge 1020.”
“Gordon Leary. Now.”
“Putting you through-“
“Don… tell me, Lady, jus’ do it.”
The moments of static while waiting on Gordon felt like hours passing. It did nothing to ease the buzzing in his own ears. He swayed on his feet again for good measure and held onto the gamewell for good measure.
“Abou… fuckin’ time. It’s Roy.”
“Wha-you sound like death. The Hell-“
“Some asshole just ran us off the road-“
“Not wi… guns this time… rammed their car into ours. Car flipped over.” He flinched at the brief memories of the crash he had trying to worm their way back into his brain.
There was silence on the other line for a while. “Are you alright?!”
Roy squinted. “You mean Cole hasn’t contacted you about it?” he asked.
“No, why would he? Is he not with you?”
Roy flinched and swore under his breath. He thumped his head on the top of the gamewell, but upon doing so, his head started pounding again. He swore louder.
“Roy, are you still there? Do you need medical attention?”
“I need you to get a band of people you trust enough with the truth about Cole to find his sorry ass before Monroe does, if he hasn’t already!”
“We need to focus on you-“
“We need to focus on Phelps-“
“Damn it, Roy. I’m not telling you this as a cop, I’m telling you this as a friend. Viv dragged me into this clusterfuck of a found family that we’ve got going. I look out for me and mine. We’ll find him. We just need to get you looked after first.”
“You don’t sound fine. Is Bekowsky-“
“Jesus. Fine. Get people here…” he looked at the nearest street sign. Yucca and Gower.”
“Right. And Roy… we will find him.”
Roy merely grunted and hung up the phone. He leaned on the gamewell again for a while.
“Roy…” came Stefan’s voice from behind him.
Roy froze. He hadn’t heard Stefan use that tone ever. It was a mix of apprehension and panic. He knew Stefan was facing the opposite corner. It was enough to turn Roy’s stomach all over again. Great, he had probably just came across Cole dead a few feet away. He swayed a third time and braced himself for the inevitable. He turned to face his friend.
Stefan was still by the car, out but reaching for something in the backseat. Roy figured they had missed seeing Cole’s body in their own haze. Still, something willed him back over to the car. “Whassit?” he slurred.
Stefan looked back at him and grimaced. Something moved just below Roy’s line of sight, so he lunged for it. He lost his balance at the last second and had to grab Stefan to steady himself. He wanted to growl when Stefan merely flinched away from him. “Wha… fuck is it, Bekowsky?” he demanded before he brought whatever it was to eye-level.
It was a folded piece of paper that looked like it had writing on it. Considering that it had apparently just been lying about when the car had been totaled and flipped was far too much of a coincidence.
He unfolded the paper.
There, in neat, practiced handwriting:
Let’s test your theory about things being nothing like each other. We’ll take care of Cole until you come to your senses.
Monroe’s handwriting- he had seen it too many times. The curves on each letter emanated a pretentiousness that couldn’t be denied, either. The thing read like a riddle, too. He didn’t like ‘things’ for at least twenty reasons.
Roy snarled, crumpled the paper and tossed it away. The action was apparently enough to channel the anger away, but there was a Hell of a lot of thinly veiled panic after that. Cole was gone. Monroe had Cole. If the latter, wasn’t dead already, he would be soon, that was certain. And it was just because Monroe was being an ass about testing him. A new wave of nausea hit him at the realization. He had insisted on letting Cole come along. Monroe was fucking with him, not anyone else. Cole was gone and probably dead because of him- directly this time. He had lost Cole again. His stomach gave a lurch and he bent down, only to dry heave. “Jesus. Fuck.” His knees lost the battle with balance a moment later, and he tried to ease himself down as much as possible.
Then, from the back of his mind came the near mocking memory of one of the last things the man in question had asked him two weeks ago that he had shut down immediately, and quite a different answer occurred to him, and the pit in his stomach grew tenfold. He inhaled sharply and tried to steel himself.
New plan. First step, deal with… that particular realization much, much later. Second, save Cole. Third, put a bullet on Monroe’s skull.
He could make that work.
Chapter 11: Torn in Two
This chapter is all over the place. Enjoy the ride.
When he had saw Roy stumble to the ground, Stefan was concerned about his friend. When the man stood up with a look on his face that Stefan hadn’t seen in five years, it was damn near terrifying. “Roy?” he called. He walked over carefully. He was relieved when Roy finally seemed to snap out of whatever haze he was in and lifted the paper he had found so Stefan could take it. He read it, then looked at the other man. “Hey, I meant what I said before. If it’s one thing being around Cole’s taught us, it’s that the bastard’s got nine lives.”
“He’s gone through at least eight of them by now,” Roy deadpanned.
“Then we’ll get him before Monroe can do anything.”
“I’m gonna put a fucking bullet in that fucker’s skull.”
“Works for me,” Stefan shrugged.
That was enough to throw Roy for a second. He turned to him.
Stefan shrugged. “Bastard’s earned it by now. Besides, my good influence rubbed off on you. It was bound to work in reverse someday.”
Roy risked a weak laugh, but immediately felt guilty about it. He sighed and looked away.
Stefan stepped closer. “Hey, hey, hey!” he objected. He caught Roy’s arm. “Take it easy. If Gordon’s sending help, let’s just wait, alright? There’s no sense going after this guy guns blazing if we’re not even fit to go after him ourselves.”
Roy clenched his jaw. “We might not have the time.”
“Then we get patched up and then go, huh? I feel myself bleeding here. I’m not gonna go play hero bleeding all over the place.”
Roy scoffed. “Wouldn’t want that.”
Stefan gave his arm another tug. “Come on. Just… sit. Standing isn’t doing me or you a favor.” When Roy didn’t budge, he tugged harder and Roy let him pull him down to the sidewalk to sit. Stefan knew that just the way he moved it was more his body’s decision than his mind’s.
Roy glanced up at the Hollywood sign in the distance. There was a statement in and of itself that the sign was there, lit up, shining down on a car wreck that spanned the entire street and two cops sitting half dead on the sidewalk beside it. The juxtaposition between the big, romantic icon and then two cops, half dead and bloodied with a wrecked car in the distance was not lost on either of them: the figurative dark and light sides of L.A, all in one glance.
When he heard the first siren in the distance, Roy flinched. Now it was just a waiting game. He opened his eyes when he felt Stefan put his hand on his uninjured shoulder and give it a reassuring squeeze. It threw him again because he realized even after five years, that had been the most personable he’d been. He hadn’t even touched him when he found him in that alley at the start of their weird little friendship.
“We’re gonna get them. Both of them,” Stefan said after a moment.
For once, Roy believed that Stefan would follow through.
Another couple of hours later, they had been patched up and sent on their way.
The pair of them both agreed that their first stop would be Central Police Station.
What they hadn’t counted on, however, was that Gordon was being his usual level-headed, prioritizing self.
“Look, boys, I care about Cole same as you two. But I’m swamped at the moment, and we’ve got no leads. I’ve got a fire downtown, five armed robberies, two murders, I’ve got to look after those too. We need the leads before we get resources to go find him,” Gordon explained.
“You sure Monroe hasn’t played any cards or planted any leads anywhere?” Roy asked.
“You’d be the first to know,” Gordon assured him. He glanced at Stefan. “Bekowsky, I need to talk shop with you for a minute.”
Roy set them with an unconvinced look.
Gordon clapped Stefan on the back. “There’s literal family stuff going on, too. Won’t be a minute.” He took Stefan’s shoulder and steered him inside the office before promptly turning around and locking the door.
Roy realized the damn thing had been a setup a half-second too late, if him lunging at the door just before it closed was any indication.
Stefan looked from him, then towards the main part of the office. Herschel Biggs was in the chair in the corner, Jack Kelso was standing in the corner and kept glancing over at Richard, directly opposite him. He sighed heavily. “Not family business, then,” he realized. After a moment of consideration, his heart sunk. “Did you get news about C-“
“No. Nothing like that. I just… this is a little more major of a case than I let on out there, even looking at it professionally. I want the best involved- people we can trust and knew Cole well enough that they’re gonna give a damn on the results but will tread carefully enough when come need be. Earle’s a little too compromised right now. This is about as good of a… Phelps task force as we’re gonna get. We need a plan, and we need it now,” Gordon supplied.
“Alright,” Stefan sighed. “Then where do we start?”
Jack Kelso was very, very confused. He had been going about a very plain, boring day when he had gotten a call from Cole Phelps’ old boss for some reason. There was something ‘urgent’ that needed his attention, and he was asked to get to Central Police Station as soon as possible.
He had expected to hear about some insurance case that had gone wrong and ended badly for someone.
Instead, he had gotten cornered by Cole’s old boss, Herschel Biggs, and one of Cole’s first partners- the only one Cole ‘could stomach’, as the man had put it all those years ago- Bekowsky, that was his name, and a taller doppelganger for L.A’s fallen angel.
And then they had dropped the biggest information bomb on him as they could:
Cole was alive. He had survived that Hell-trip through the sewers and come out with physical damage and amnesia. And now Monroe had him.
Then came the kicker: the fact that the Biggest Waste of Air Formally Known as Roy Earle was apparently the one who was the most eager to launch a rescue mission.
He gave a cautious glance at the door. By the sound of it, Roy had taken to pacing a hole in the floor outside.
So the man had gone from trying to get Cole killed, to being massively protective over the man. Just what the Hell had gone on in the five years he hadn’t seen any of them? He had a sinking feeling the whole thing would end with one of them getting shot. He needed a strong drink, and he wasn’t even a drinker. “And I’m still confused as to why I’m here.”
“Because you helped Cole last time, and we need that again now,” Gordon replied. “You’ve got more experience with Monroe than any of us, from what I understand. We’re gonna need all the manpower we can get while also keeping this under wraps.”
Jack looked between the three of them. “Hate to break it to you, but we’re gonna need a lot more people to deal with Monroe.”
Stefan shrugged. “Well, Roy probably counts as about six people right now, if he keeps this up.”
Jack glanced back at the door, where he could hear Roy arguing with someone. “Though I agree, that’s not nearly enough either way if we’re going after Monroe.”
“We’re all we’ve got,” Gordon cut in. “We need to start getting leads. That’s where you come in. Apparently Monroe told Roy he’s got some new business ventures. Know anything about those yet?”
“I’ve tried to steer clear of any of his business,” Jack admitted.
“Understandable,” Gordon nodded. “Still, if you can remember any of his old stomping grounds…” he trailed off, “… where… anyone could dispose of a body, if come need be…” he finished carefully and tried to hide the guilty look that followed.
There was dead silence for a while. To Jack’s surprise, Stefan was the one to break it:
“Kelso’s got a point. We had a small army last time. Now, well, we’ve got me, The Captain who can’t do shit from behind a desk, the guy who everybody thinks is a recluse, the emotionally compromised loose cannon, Cole’s old war buddy who hated his guts, Cole’s rookie twin- no offense,” the detective added the last bit in Richard’s direction.
“Fuck you,” Richard shot back, though there was no real animosity behind it.
Herschel muttered the same sentiment.
Jack had to bite back a comment about the lack of hating Cole’s guts. His thoughts drifted back to the man’s funeral: “I was never his enemy.” His eyes flicked to Herschel’s out of instinct, and the fact that Herschel was looking back at him gave him enough peace of mind that at least someone in the room could protest that point.
There was suddenly a commotion outside, just beyond the door.
“It was horrible and your captain should be made aware of it!”
Stefan looked up and frowned at that particular voice. “Viv…?”
“The Captain’s is in a-“ Gordon's secretary sounded like she was in a panic. None of them knew if it was over Roy, or not knowing the exact details about what the meeting inside his office was about.
“Can’t you see the dame’s distraught? Let her talk to the captain about whatever happened. Here, give me the key. Come on, Miss.”
That time it was Roy, sounding a little too sickly sweet for any of their liking.
The door’s lock gave a telltale click. The door swung open a moment later, revealing Viv, just about sobbing with Roy flanking her. Viv let out another sob and stepped in. Once Roy shut the door behind them, Viv perked up, perfectly fine and beaming. “Thank you, Roy.”
“Thank you, Viv,” Roy countered.
The other five blinked wearily at them.
Roy shrugged. “I mean, an idiot could’ve seen through that setup. I need to be in on this. And Viv just got here, so I took a chance,” Roy explained. He slid onto the bench next to Stefan. “Now, are you all done wasting precious minutes deciding what to do, or are we going to go find Cole?”
Jack squinted at him, but remained silent.
Viv, on the other hand, immediately went for Stefan, focused on the bandage on his forehead. “Gordie! You didn’t tell me it was a head injury.”
Gordon shrugged. “I didn’t want to worry you. But naturally, you’re you, so…” he trailed off and sent an apologetic look at Stefan as the man had to take her hands in order for her to stop fussing.
Stefan glared back at him before he managed to grab Viv’s hands when she slowed down in trying to touch around the wound. “I’m fine. It’s taken care of. The Hell are you doing here?”
“She’s number six in the Phelps Task Squad,” Gordon quipped dryly.
“Where's Finn?” Stefan interrupted.
“Enjoying some family time with the grandparents,” Viv replied.
Richard looked between everyone. “And what can she do-“ the four glares he got in return were enough to silence him. “… Okay.”
“Can we go now?!” Roy cut off any further dawdling.
“I already told you. We don’t even have a single lead, Roy,” Gordon snapped. “Going out there blind would be wasting even more time. I wasn’t lying about that.”
Jack finally broke. “I agree with you, Captain, but can I ask why the Hell the guy who pushed Cole to his… first end is the guy gunning to save him the most?”
“That’s the exact reason. I took you as a smart guy, Kelso. Guess I was wrong,” Roy countered.
“Fuck you, you’re the reason he was down there! If you hadn’t sold him down the river, he wouldn’t have gone after that case so much!” Jack shot back.
“Fuck,” Stefan muttered. He took hold of Viv’s hips and nudged her away from the pair of them.
“Oh, you want to play this game?!” Roy stood up.
Jack stood too, nearly chest to chest with him.
The others merely exchanged half concerned, half exasperated looks.
Roy scoffed. “Well, at least I’m trying and want to get out there now. Tell me, how much effort did you put into making sure everyone got out of that damn-“ Jack’s fist cut off whatever the rest of the sentence would be.
The others merely flinched and waited.
Roy grunted, then immediately launched himself at Jack.
Richard and Herschel had to bolt to the other side of the wall to avoid getting slammed into when the two men hit the wall.
Gordon opened his mouth to object, then shut it. He looked at the other onlookers, entranced by the flurry of blows going on in front of them. “Why aren’t we doing anything?” he asked out of the corner of his mouth.
“ ‘Cause Roy deserves it,” Richard and Stefan muttered simultaneously.
“Does Kelso?” Gordon continued.
“Not really, but by the sound of it there’s a lot of pent up… stuff there, so…”
They were startled out of their own conversation when Roy hit the glass door hard.
“Enough!” Gordon finally barked, more for the sake of seeing a bunch of employee-shaped blurs on the other end finally start to gather outside.
Jack backed off willingly, but Stefan had to yank Roy back with an arm around his shoulders to try and stop him from lunging again. “Easy. Save it for Monroe.”
That was apparently the exact right thing to say, because Roy immediately sagged against him.
Even Jack looked a fair bit guilty at the mention.
He got to his feet and righted his jacket a moment later. He set Jack with a final look, then tossed his hands up and turned to the others. “Anybody else have a problem with me wanting to go after the Golden Boy as soon as possible? Biggs, you've been awfully quiet- even more than usual.”
Herschel put his hands up and shook his head.
“Good,” Roy growled.
“Roy, easy,” Stefan muttered. “Making enemies out of us now isn’t going to-“
“Shut up, Bekowsky.”
“Roy!” Viv objected. “You need to-“
“You too?” Roy cut her off.
Viv sighed and put her hand over his. When he went to pull back, she held firm.
Roy scoffed. “Sweetheart, if you join the club in telling me to relax-“
“I’m not saying that, I’m just saying take a step back and think. Gordon’s right, throwing all yourself into this-“
“Going all in is what men of principle do. Monroe said we have that in common, the prick.” He looked down and toed at the carpet.
“Is that was this is about?” Viv cut in.
Jack frowned at Stefan, who merely shook his head rapidly.
Viv sighed. “Look, we’ve had our own differences, but from what I understand, this bastard’s as crazy as a bag of cats. You’re far different from him. You’re opposites, really, as far as sanity goes, at least.”
Roy’s head shot up. “What?”
“You’re two diff-“
“Opposites,” Roy repeated firmly. Just that one little word made a possible lead that was extremely fitting fall into place. He had even thought about it before. Opposites: Monroe and their hyper-idealized of him. Dark and light. Water and… THAT WAS IT. He yanked Viv forward and planted a hard kiss on her mouth.
She immediately pulled back and slapped him, the sound only drowned out by Stefan sputtering into his coffee.
Gordon, looking equally horrified, clapped the man hard on the back to prevent him from choking.
They were so caught up in their own reaction that they didn’t notice Roy had swung open the office door and ran for the stairs.
“BEKOWSKY!” came his voice a moment later.
Richard finally broke the silence. “What the Hell just happened?”
Both Herschel and Jack pointed at him, equally at a loss.
“Gonna find out, I guess,” Stefan countered. “Earle, what the fuck?!” he called as he hurried after him.
“I KNOW WHERE HE IS!”
The others exchanged puzzled looks before doing as they were told.
Stefan was at the front of the pack as they went down the stairs and out the door, and the man had to bolt over to Roy’s car, considering the man had already started it. “Jesus, give us a minute. What the Hell-“
“The fire,” Roy replied.
Stefan blinked at him.
Roy sighed. “The fire Leary mentioned. It just started not too long ago, by the sound of it. Monroe’s fucking with us- ‘how different things can be’ different- opposite. He’s looking to kill Cole to get a rise outta me. Cole died in water the first time.”
“That… might be a stretch,” Stefan murmured after a moment.
“It’s the only theory we’ve got- and it’s about as crazy as Monroe is.”
“Do you even know where-“
“Probably the giant pillar of smoke that looks like it’s above where one of the Elysian Field developments were,” Roy replied without missing a beat. He nodded in the distance.
Stefan looked, and sure enough, smoke was rising in the distance. “Roy, I-“
“Don’t need your opinion, Partner,” Roy snapped. He turned on the car’s ignition, then paused. “Hey, if this goes south… well, you know.”
It was Stefan’s heart’s turn to sink. “Roy, no I don’t, I-“ he had to jump back to avoid getting hurt when Roy gunned the engine and sped off. “ROY!” he called.
A few seconds later, another car came up beside him. He bent to see it was Richard in the driver’s seat, Viv beside him, and Jack and Herschel in the backseat.
Viv rolled down the window. “Well, we created that mess. Let’s go make sure he doesn’t get himself killed.”
Stefan mumbled his agreement, then they were all on their way.
When Roy managed to successfully find the source of the fire, his suspicions were all but confirmed. The place was on old Elysian Fields property, the place was burning as hot and quick as the matchstick houses did, and there was an old Elysian fields featuring The Bastard Himself laying conveniently collapsed in the backyard. He would’ve laughed if he wasn’t in a panic because of how perfect the setup was.
Of course, the moment he had gotten out of the car, ready to charge was when the rest of his brain caught up with him.
There were so many factors he hadn’t considered. Maybe he was wrong. Maybe it was just a distraction. Maybe they had Cole at whatever building Monroe called his business HQ. What if he went in looking for Cole and got caught up in the fire? Dying while trying to find the bastard would be the icing on the cake. Old Cole probably would’ve seen it as fitting- him being the one dying in the opposite way Cole had. It was enough to root him to the spot as one final act of defiance against the man and his ways.
Still, there was a chance Cole was in there. And there was a chance he was still alive. And a chance Roy could get to him in time. And a chance that he wouldn’t officially lose Cole again.
Goddamn conscience, he thought to himself before the back of his mind won the battle. He bolted for the house, dodging the firefighters along the way.
Of course, it was that moment that the others pulled up.
“The Hell is he doing?!” Stefan hissed. He got out of the car, only for the firefighters to corral them back, muttering about the ‘crazy guy’ who had just gone in. “Yeah, that’s my best friend. We think there’s- just… get this fire put out quick, he may not be the only one in there!” he objected. “The Hell is he doing running in there when it’s burning down?! He’s gotta be that much of a hero- since when? Why?!”
“Guilt… for his mistake…” Herschel said quietly, like he was remembering something. They all turned to him slowly. He shook his head. “Shit. I got his number wrong after all.”
“The fuck are you people talking about?” The firefighter asked.
“Just get the goddamn fire out or get them out,” Stefan snapped. He spared a quick, helpless look at the burning house. Come on, Roy. Just get out of there safe, whether you’re right or not. He wanted to laugh, but didn’t have the energy. If someone had told him five years ago that that thought would occur to him about Roy Earle, he’d laugh in their faces. Go fucking figure.
Inside the house, the part of Roy that had been so adamant that running into the house was the worst mistake of his life was winning. His clothes were singed in places, he probably had at least a couple of first degree burns at best, his lungs and eyes were starting to burn- it was growing more disastrous by the minute. “COLE!” he called. He wasn’t sure what to expect, or where to look. Part of him still expected Monroe to pop up and try to kill him then and there. He passed through one doorway- the remnants of what looked like a living room when he heard a series of odd thumps. Refusing to take chances, he drew his gun. “Where the Hell are you?! He called.
The banging got louder, and Roy followed it to a door in the back of the house.
Roy’s heart leapt into his throat when he recognized Cole’s voice. “Phelps!” he called.
He held his hand out towards the knob, then groaned when it was confirmed that it was far too hot to the touch to use. “Phelps! If you can hear me, back up!”
The banging stopped and Cole didn’t respond, so he took it as confirmation- or the smoke had just caught up with Cole’s lungs. He pulled back, shot the doorknob off of the door and kicked it in.
Smoke immediately started pouring into the space between the two men.
“Let’s go!” Roy called.
However, Cole lurched forward, and Roy’s second suspicion was all but confirmed. At least Cole was only on his way to losing consciousness. “I gotcha,” he said after a moment. He pulled Cole against him, turned sharply on his heel and started leading out towards what he hoped was the direction of the nearest exit.
Cole seemed to come back to himself briefly as they went. He squinted at the other man. “Roy?”
“Yeah, it’s me. Try not to be embarrassed about the damsel in distress scenario ‘til we’re outta here, huh? Don’t need you to be entirely dead weight.” When Cole sagged against him, he smacked the man’s cheek. “Come on. Stay with me.”
Cole only managed a weak groan in response.
“Alright, Pal. Let’s get you the Hell out of here.”
Four minutes and five near-misses with falling debris later, the pair had made it out of the house. Roy all but threw Cole the last couple of feet to the sidewalk, then had to hold his shoulders to keep him upright.
Cole started hacking up a storm, and Roy patted him on the back awkwardly.
He wasn’t far off himself. His lungs were burning, but he could deal with it. He had gotten Cole out. Now, provided he didn’t die from smoke inhalation, Cole was safe, and out of Monroe’s clutches. He had saved Cole’s life. They weren’t even by far, but it was a start. It took him a moment to realize the fact that he was shaking had little to do with running through the fire. He subconsciously let out a little laugh that betrayed all that was going on in his mind. After a few moments, he realized Cole had straightened out. He was staring towards the fire, but more like through it than at it. He was probably in shock. He took Cole’s arm gently. “Phelps, you still with me?” he asked.
Cole kept gawking at the fire.
Roy laughed again. “Shit, Partner. How much of this were you unconscious for?” he asked. When Cole didn’t respond, he sighed. “Cole!”
Cole finally looked at him, and Roy’s blood ran cold.
There was a different shine in the man’s eyes than there had been before. It had nothing to do with being beady from being around smoke. It was a familiar shine that he had seen many, many times.
It was Old Cole standing in front of him.
Something must’ve happened in the poor bastard’s brain and rewired everything enough to bring back his old memories- or just the old him. That definitely explained the pure confusion in his voice when he had called Roy by name. His heart sunk.
Gone was New Cole, the hopeful bastard who didn’t have anything against any of them. The one that Roy had just started to consider a friend, and back was the man who had died hating every fiber of Roy’s being.
And for the second time in his life, Roy mourned for Cole Phelps.
Chapter 12: All Was Lost is More I Gained (It Led Me Back to You)
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Roy tried not to gawk at the man before him. He immediately let go of the man, suddenly feeling like any physical contact burned him. As far as he was concerned, so much as touching Cole would taint him. He had done it enough all those years ago. There was a voice in the back of his head chanting ‘unworthy’ at him, over and over again.
It took a moment for Roy to realize he was still holding onto Cole. His hands burned.Roy wondered if it was from the fire or it was some phantom pain his own brain was creating to sell itself on the 'unworthy of being in Cole's presence' idea it suddenly had. He couldn’t help thinking that the longer he touched the man, the more he would taint him, and he immediately let go. He had tainted the man enough for a lifetime already.
It took him a moment to realize Cole had been staring at the whole time, waiting for a response.
For the first time, he didn’t have one. No quip, no deflection, no nothing. He was speechless for the first time in his life- a fucked up contrast to being in mourning for the second time. He finally willed his body to let go- another sentiment that almost destroyed him on the spot. He nearly gripped him tighter for that reason alone, but the ‘Unworthy’ picking away at his brain grew louder and clawed itself into his very soul. He practically shoved Cole away.
He heard people approaching and stepped back, grateful for the distraction. He still couldn’t look away, no matter how hard he tried. His stomach twisted when he could’ve sworn Cole kept looking at him and drifted an inch closer, but he knew it was all in his damn head.
“Jesus, Phelps!” Stefan called as he and the others reached them. He practically tackled the man. “Are you…?”
“I’m fine, Stefan.”
It was Stefan’s turn to realize that something was amiss- well, more than the whole Cole-had-almost-died-in-a-fire thing. His look of concern dropped into cautious surprise the moment Cole spoke his name the old, drawn-out way he used to. “Cole…?” He searched the man’s eyes.
Cole nodded. “Yeah. It’s… I’m… I…”
It was apparently enough for the other man. Stefan swore, then immediately pulled the man into a hug. He wasn’t surprised when Cole didn’t return it. “Jesus Christ,” he said again. “How…?”
“Probably something to do with survival instincts in that fire,” Cole replied, just as business-like as he would’ve years ago.
Stefan laughed and smacked Roy’s side, and the latter tried not to flinch too hard. “He’s back,” he looked at Cole again. “You’re back- you’re-“ he laughed again. After a few more moments of considering the situation, however, his laughter promptly died. “I uh… do you remember? You’ve uh, been dead five years, turns out you weren’t dead, just… washed up across the city with brain damage and no memory to boot, and-“ when Richard out of everybody sent him a warning look, he stopped talking.
“I remember,” Cole murmured quietly. “I remember everything.”
Roy’s heart skipped a beat- both at what he had said, and the fact that Cole’s eyes had flicked to his upon saying the last word. He willed himself to come to terms with the fact it was most likely in his head. Old Cole wouldn’t give him the time of day.
Stefan frowned. “Wait, so… everything as in…?”
“All the gaps, all we talked about. I remember you, I remember Traffic,” he motioned at Jack and Herschel. “Jack, Herschel… Arson,” then, quieter, “I remember how I got there. I remember you, Roy. Everything.”
Roy tried to hide his answering grimace. The order of Cole’s list was a little too on the nose. He tried desperately to look away but part of him couldn’t. Just like the last time he was with this Cole, staring down the barrel of his goddamn Colt, he couldn’t move, couldn’t look away.
And then he realized he wasn’t imagining it. Cole was staring right back. He stared back, hoping- even praying that he could just convey every single regret, every single apology he had for the man in the look. A moment later, his stomach twisted yet again. It would never be enough. Another part of him realized that Cole’s look most definitely meant a capital ‘C’ Conversation was in the direct future. The incessant ‘unworthy’ started up in his head again, and he managed to will it away.
Within a few minutes, Cole had been reintroduced to the rest of them. Viv was ecstatic, Herschel had his usual guarded vibe, even as he shook the clapped the man on the back and let out a disbelieving laugh. Jack had played an entire game of catch-up: a begrudging ‘welcome back and ‘You still couldn’t manage to die when you had impossible odds again.’ Still, the handshake Jack finished his bit with was firmer than Cole would’ve expected, so Cole took it as a victory.
It wasn’t until Cole looked at Roy again that the latter realized he still hadn’t looked away from Cole for a minute. He forced himself to look away as ‘unworthy’ changed to a never-ending roar in his ears. Cole stepped closer to him, and Roy’s chest tightened.
Or, at least it was, until a car turned the corner a block away and pulled up to the curb not far from them.
It wasn’t a squad car, and it wasn’t recognizable to any of them.
“I don’t like this,” Stefan sing-songed from his spot by his own car. “Fellas…”
The car door opened, and the sound of slow clapping came from inside. It was enough of a giveaway that everyone bristled.
Sure enough, Leland emerged from the car. “So, you worked it out. Should’ve known. I thought-“
Roy, without so much as looking away from Cole, drew his pistol, aimed at Leland, and fired.
Leland’s head snapped back, the impact muted by the others’ varying shouts of ‘Jesus!’ and other expletives.
There was pure, unadulterated silence that followed. No one dared make a sound out of the people gathered. Not even the sound of traffic or birdsong interrupted it for a long stretch of time.
Finally, Roy called out “Bekowsky!” and broke it. “Check him.”
Stefan bristled, not at all thrilled with the sudden downgrade of what Roy called him. “Oh, great, one second I’m the guy with a family who needs to be careful, five minutes later I’m the expendable partner. Again. Man, Cole, the second you’re back Roy turns into goddamn Leary.”
“Never gonna happen," Roy assured him. "Just check the guy, Bekowsky.”
“What, so you don’t have to interrupt you two- Y’OW!”
Roy glanced over his shoulder, where Stefan was holding his arm and wincing like he had been hit or pinched.“Thanks, Viv,” he deadpanned.
“Yeah…” Viv muttered.
“Fine. Fine, now that you’re turning everyone against me,” Stefan muttered. He walked over to Monroe lay, drawing his gun as he went. Sure, the man had gone down pretty hard with what looked like a headshot, but the man was such a pain he wouldn’t put it past the bastard to survive. He reached him and gave the man’s body a nudge with his foot, trying not to look too hard at the bullet wound directly between the man’s eyes. “He’s uh… he’s very dead.” He looked up, the ounce of humor he had immediately gone once he noticed something: “Don’t see a gun though. I expected one.”
Roy caught the underlying implication. The bastard was worried about how a cop killing an unarmed man, bastard or not, would look. As if that had ever meant a damn thing as far as he was concerned. “Leary’s too close to the details this time. He’ll overlook it.”
Stefan wandered over to Leland’s car and circled it a couple of times to ensure nothing dangerous was waiting for them. He opened the door, then checked around and was far more relieved when he saw that there was one laying plainly on the passenger seat. “Nevermind! Got a gun! Bastard was probably gonna get our guard down then start shooting.”
Jack shrugged. “I saw him going for it, didn’t you, boys, Viv?”
They all turned to look at him.
Jack looked between the others. “Under the circumstances, and considering who that is… I’m willing to stretch the truth if it comes to it.”
“It probably won’t,” Stefan replied. A moment later, he grinned. “But you’re getting to vice cop territory if you decide to go down that path, pal. It just might suit you.”
Jack scoffed. “Circumstances, Bekowsky. I’m not cut out for being on the path to being a corrupt cop just yet.”
“I turned out okay,” Stefan answered.
“One out of the entire squad and getting the job courtesy of one of the most corrupt ones doesn’t really make your point,” Jack answered.
“I knew I liked you, kid,” Herschel chimed in. He gave Jack a couple of pats on the back. “I’ll… call this in.” He headed for the nearest gamewell.
Jack looked back and Leland’s body. “So… if he’s out… how much danger is everyone in?”
“Probably none. Everyone else’ll be too busy shitting themselves at the power imbalance that’s gonna happen, or working on getting a new outlet for a few extra bucks under the table,” Roy answered. “If not, well, we’ve got a head start.”
“Ever the optimist,” Jack answered.
Roy scoffed. “Bastard’s dead. I did what I came to do.”
Everyone seemed to accept that as fact, as well as the ending of that particular conversation. Jack excused himself, mentioning something about checking on Herschel, and Viv and Richard both returned to Stefan’s car to let the others have their official reunion.
Stefan took hold of Roy’s shoulder first. “Hey…” Stefan reached up and gave Roy’s shoulder a gentle nudge before he leaned forward and touched his forehead to the other man’s. To his surprise, Roy didn’t pull away, and merely leaned in. “For the record, you’re important to me, you bastard. Don’t go running into fires without me next time, huh?”
“You’ve got a family to-“
“Roy,” Stefan insisted.
Roy scoffed. “I’ll try not to make it a habit.”
Stefan nodded, then held Roy closer. “I love you, brother,” he added.
“Love you too,” Roy replied. He was surprised that he meant it. Something in him nagged at the fact that he could admit it, say it so freely to his best friend, but couldn’t even come to proper terms with it about Cole. Then again, it was an entirely different entity.
Cole finally tore his eyes away from where Leland was laying and looked at the two men. Somehow, someway, his brain had managed to prioritize it. “I’ve been… my memory’s back for minutes and this is the strangest thing yet. Coming back to you two being friendly.”
“Never gave him a choice,” Roy answered.
“He won’t take the obvious hints and leave my damn house,” Stefan said simultaneously.
Roy let out the first genuine laugh of the night.
It was then that a set of paramedics arrived, and Roy sent them Cole’s way, calling him ‘John’ in the process to throw off any person who might've gotten too close a look at him.
The medics took Cole aside. Once he was out of earshot, Stefan sighed. “You two should talk when you’re cleared. If he’s cleared.”
“They won’t know about the memory thing if no one tells him. They’ll be more focused on Monroe.”
Sure enough, after a few minutes, the medics had left Cole be.
Stefan waited a couple of minutes, then gave Roy’s arm another pointed nudge, but kept it subtle as possible. “I’m gonna go check on Viv. You two have a chat.”
Roy’s smile immediately faded and he sent a panicked look at Stefan. “You can’t leave me with him.”
Stefan scoffed. “Sure can. I’d tell you to try not to kill yourself instead of talking about your feelings, but considering you’ve already nearly done the first part-“
“You’re an ass,” Roy cut him off.
“You’re the dick on the-“
“Please don’t finish that sentence.”
Stefan smacked his cheek lightly. “Go on, Romeo.”
“That was worse.”
Stefan merely winked, then turned and left, ushering the others away.
Roy waited, somehow rooted to the spot just from Stefan’s request. To his surprise, it was Cole who came to him after another few minutes of trying to avoid eye-contact. Roy would’ve laughed at the sheer absurdity of the fact that they had drifted over to the side of Leland’s car when the man’s corpse was still bleeding out a couple of meters away. There was silence for a while.
Cole was the first to break it. “You saved my life. Thank you for that.”
“Don’t thank me. We aren’t even yet,” Roy countered. Roy’s first instinct was to cross his arms over his chest, but it felt all wrong. When Cole just nodded, he scoffed. “Was that it?”
Cole made that face again and Roy’s stomach gave another lurch.
“No. There’s… we got interrupted the last time we tried to talk, didn’t we?” Cole asked.
Roy groaned and turned to leave, hating himself as he went. “What, you don’t remember?” he asked. He flinched the second the jab left his mouth. He turned away.
He hadn’t expected the other man to catch his arm and pull him back, but he did. “You don’t get to run this time. Now I know I’m not the kind of person who would let you walk away from this.”
Roy shrugged. “The last time we talked when you were… all intact in that noggin, you threatened to blow my fucking head off. You gonna try that again?”
Cole tilted his head and shrugged. “I think we’re okay, but the night’s still young. Don’t have a gun this time, anyway.”
Again, the whole package was so Cole, even considering his more recent responses, the response physically hurt, the initial refusal for the discussion entirely forgotten. That didn’t stop a smile from coming through, and a moment later he realized tears had also sprang to his eyes- not enough to fall, but just to linger. His throat burned, adding insult to injury. This was real. Cole was fucking with him the same way he used to. He stared for a moment, then broke. He let out a laugh that was far too lighthearted for what he was feeling, and the way it was shaky was the only indication about that. Then, before he could stop himself: “Christ, I missed you.” His voice wavered towards the end, not unlike it did when he gave the eulogy for the man standing in front of him. The memory weaving itself into the current events almost did him in then and there. Silence passed again, and Roy was worried that he had fucked it all up again just from that admission. “So, do you… is it everything before you…”
“The gap’s gone. I remember my life. My last few years in the Marines, up until you and I standing here,” Cole explained.
Silence passed yet again.
“I’m sorry,” Roy blurted. He regretted it the moment he said it, but at the same time, that same inkling that had made him blurt everything out to Gordon came up again. No. Cole needed to hear it. He needed to say it. “For everything. For every fucked up, selfish fucking thing I ever did to you. For putting you down that fucking path that you had to fucking follow that killed you. I was…”
“A jealous fucking prick?” Cole supplied.
“That’s putting it kindly. I ended you. Sold you out and everything.”
Cole shrugged. “Vices,” he said evenly, but pointedly.
Roy wasn’t sure whether to slug the man or… something else. He was throwing Roy a bone to solidify what he had said about his memories- of all the damn conversations to quote, no less. A moment later, he figured Cole was offering an olive branch and he needed to take it. He knew that if the damn place existed, he was going to Hell when he died. Keeping on trying to avoid it would probably send him deeper in.
“I guess… ‘dysfunctional couple’, ‘breaking your heart’ and ‘you know how I feel about you’ makes a Hell of a lot more sense now.”
Roy nearly choked on his own tongue. Of course Old Cole- New Cole? Well, they were one in the same now, weren’t they? So Just Cole would shoot from the hip and address that first. “Jesus, that really is you in there.”
“I never left, I just… got lost for a while.”
Roy stared again. Now that had been the most Cole thing he had said. And somehow it hit him all at once again. Cole was back. Cole was intact, he remembered everything, he wasn’t punching him or pulling a gun. And now he was being the poetic bastard he always was. His throat burned again and he looked away when his eyes stung, too.
“Can I ask… why?” Cole murmured after a moment.
“Thought we talked about it before.”
“No, not why you sold me out. Why… why the change? Why turn your back on the good life? Why all this?” Cole motioned at the others in the distance. “Why them?”
“Because you were worth it,” Roy choked out, and there he was, visibly in tears. Why fucking now? He demands at the sky for a few moments. “I fucked up your life enough, I figured better get mine together in your honor. ‘Lotta fucking good that did me on that front, huh? Lost my place with the heavy rollers, Bekowsky of all people took me in as a charity case and I got stuck with him as a partner and best friend, the room I lived in got taken over by a goddamn toddler. You probably see it as poetic justice.” It took him a moment to realize that the latter was perhaps the most direct reason.
“You turned out better than you think,” Cole countered.
“No, don’t… “ Roy trailed off. “I’m not looking for pity, Phe- Cole. I’m not looking for forgiveness, either.”
“You wouldn’t get it,” Cole answered simply.
Roy’s heart clenched again, but to his own surprise, a moment later he realized that was the exact answer he wanted if that particular topic ever came up. He finally looked at Cole again. He expected something akin to Cole’s last glare in the Blue Room. Instead, he got something he couldn’t even read on Cole’s face. Not bad, but not exactly good either. Like he was just waiting. He opened his mouth to respond, then firmly shut it. He couldn’t find the words. Even if he had, he figured he wouldn’t be able to speak them properly anyway.
“That doesn’t mean I’m ignoring that you’ve come a long way since then.” Cole pointed out.
Roy laughed again. “I’ll take that.”
The silence that followed that was a great deal more companionable. It occurred to Roy that funnily enough, it was most likely the only companionable silence they had ever had- before or after what had happened.
And then, leave it to Cole: “So… were you?”
Roy froze. He turned to Cole slowly. “What?”
Cole had the indecency to smirk at him- another all-to-familiar sight that he had never been on the receiving end of. He contemplated telling him to fuck off again or just walking away. Then again, he had never let Cole have the upper hand- why stop now? Despite something in the back of his mind insisting it was a dumb move, he closed the distance between them, backed Cole against the car and kissed him. In the long run, he realized the fact that the lack of a verbal answer was just as much of a deflection as any of their other conversations had been. Then again, it could've just as easily been the answer. He had the brief moment of wondering if he owed Cole more. A moment later he realized Cole had moved to return it, albeit briefly. Another part of him figured Cole was screwing with him right back.
There was a sudden shuffling behind them, then: “Oh, that’s… happening. And will burned into my brain forever. Agh.” Stefan. Of course.
Roy had to use every ounce of strength to pull away from Cole. He looked at the man and found him looking back, trying to search for anything. He swallowed hard and looked away.
Stefan, having turned on his heel immediately, turned around. “I see a couple of squad cars around the corner, so our boys are on their way. Uh… just so you know.”
Roy took the hint and took a step back. After even more silence that was broken by sirens, Roy sighed. “I’ll try not to fuck up this time around,” he said quietly.
“I’ll hold you to that,” Cole replied.
Roy spared him a sideglance. It was damn near poetic that Cole was giving him that same look he had the first time they had met- equal parts caution, curiosity and a bit of standoffishness. That parallel wasn’t lost on him, either. Two fresh starts in one go.
He could live with that.
Fun fact: This chapter has a playlist because I was initially all aboard the angst train and needed help. https://open.spotify.com/user/swatson066/playlist/7oztHaacBV2aZSV9Aibac4