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. "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.
"Finn?" Stefan asked.
"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 that 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.