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by: Matthew Cox
See the black and white. Understand that other people are trying to protect him in their own way. Don't burn too many bridges....Matt winced at the mention of Katarina. That bridge...that one wasn't burned. It was blown to pieces when she had blown out his sinuses with the squealer in the interrogation rooms. Matt felt his expression darkening with the memory.

"Jones is the one who did this to me...tapped me for the mutation program, set the orders to hunt the man in black down, declared me legally dead, and now wants me actually dead...and Rina...Kat? I wish her the best. But it's going to be far, far from me. Klaus, Orion, you...I won't burn those bridges."

Matt dropped his head again, jaw working. He felt the need to just talk clearly and openly, but Cole was starting to hurt. Matt would walk him back to his car and disappear, most likely.

"I told you Dorito's still around. I've been staying with him. I'm trying to find my feet. And yeah...no more stunts, I'll keep my nose clean from agency affairs, and I'll look before I leap...I promise."

Matt started walking back to Cole's vehicle, keeping an eye on his brother on the trek. This was his fault. Cole's pain was his fault.

"My phone number is still the same if you ever need to call, okay? And if I need anything, I'll reach out to you, okay?"

It was a bridge. It was unburnt. Perhaps, across it and across time, they could continue to fortify the truce that they'd established here.
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by: Cole Callaway
Jones... A smirk found it's way onto Cole's face when he mentioned the director once again. As a Senior Agent, Cole was trying to help Jones with decisions like that and operations pertaining to the 'other side', but for some reason he kept getting shut out. Too much red tape? Too much of the god damn classified information he couldn't get to? Their relationship was strained like that for some time, and it frustrated him. He wondered if things would be different had he been able to advise. But she was the director and of course her word was law...and now they had quite a predicament on their hands because of those choices she made solo.

Cole had no clue on who that Dorito guy was but every time he was mentioned however, he couldn't help but chuckle. Still, he nodded. At least Matt had the decency to give back. They were simple requests. They were already heading back to his car, which didn't surprise Cole too much to see that Matt knew exactly where he parked. Maybe it was the smell of the rotten coffee or his aftershave, or maybe Matt had been watching him that whole time. Didn't matter.

It sounded like Matt was on his way to dismiss him at the mention of his phone number and being open to contact him, but Cole suddenly didn't seem like he was ready to cut loose yet. "Yeah, of course."

Once they arrived at the car, Cole leaned on his cane and opened his mouth to speak for a second. He hesitated and went to open the driver door, but then closed it with a sigh. "Hang on, how did you get here?" Matt walked up to him as soon as the funeral service was over, so now Cole was curious. Had he walked?
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by: Matthew Cox
He was content to walk in silence, even if it seemed that his trip's secondary purpose was pointless. He'd wanted to visit Tava and offer his last respects, but he'd also wanted to reestablish ties with the department through Cole. Instead, what had he done? Spilled his story, received a blank wall of defensive confusion. Or hell, maybe the man was just tired and emotionally whipsawed. Maybe this was just a mistake and it would have been better if Matt really HAD died. It would have been better for everyone on this side, anyway. There wouldn't be the awkward questions, the suspicious defensiveness, the guilt of not doing something about him sooner. Or maybe instead of being dead, if the Dark Lady had succeeded in breaking him...he'd be happily dark and purposefully employed. Or, Matt kept coming up with alternate scenarios, if he had run when he broke the curse, he'd have been a hero instead of a villain. He'd have been able to show up at the office and explain, rejoin the office as a super soldier, and done something. No, he was too stupid. Too caring.

It did no good to dwell on what was, especially when the current situation was such a mire. He'd need to keep his eyes up and focus in order to navigate this labyrinth. That's why he'd come to Cole. Cole was good at these things. He was methodical, patient, neutral, smart, and compassionate. Matt walked with his brother agent back to his car. When the question was posed to his arrival, he answered.

"I'd planned on walking but Tris...the guy I'm staying with...insisted on dropping me off. Why?"

The question popped out of his mouth. He hadn't meant to let the confrontational sounding word fly, but there it was. Matt's mouth tightened in disappointment with himself, but he didn't redact the comment or apologize for it. It was a valid question.
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by: Cole Callaway
Tris? What an unusual name. Short for something, maybe? Cole thought to prod for a last name, maybe even find the right wording to extract that without being obvious. The man he'd mentioned earlier, by nickname only was also a part of Donny's team, so there would be a significant amount of red tape to clear if he did it the normal way. He'd have to flip through files, use his IT buddies to get through digital doorways that were locked away with the keys seemingly obliterated.

He hobbled around and opened the passenger door to his car, gesturing at the 'blind' man. "Get in." Cole pursed his lips, and waited a beat before insisting, "I won't take no for an answer, so..." He waved his hand at the open door and waited for Matt to accept. "Don't make me walk my broken ass over there and carry you into the car, Cox." The third attempt was slightly comical, in hopes to warm the frigid air that was caused not only by weather but also by the demeanor that teetered on an already fragile trust.

Cole slanted to one side and kept his weight propped on the cane. "Look, mate. Today's just a terrible fucking day and I get that you think this--" He gestured at he open door once again, "Is suspicious. I came to mourn the loss of our agent. No special agendas, backup, no secret motives and no knives for anyone's back. My legs are killing me and maybe this will give us a better chance... to talk." It wasn't like the interrogation room or the brig. It was two friends, two former colleagues, in a better locale, given a chance to talk.
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by: Matthew Cox
All of his instincts were screaming to run. Getting shut into cars going who knew where was a bad idea. Matt wouldn't be able to see out of the car very easily, meaning that Cole could lead him into a trap and Matt would be none the wiser for it. But Cole insisted. Demanded, jokingly threatened. Matt finally relented and eased into the car, sold by Cole's persistent explanation that today, indeed, was a "terrible fucking day."

Matt rolled the window down as soon as the door was closed and put an arm out casually. The gesture gave him some visual aid via his tactile senses. It was as much a concession to Cole's desire to keep the conversation moving as his getting in the car was.

"...what do you want to talk about, Cole? If it's about this last month of hell and confusion, I'll need you to ask specific questions."

It was too raw and fresh to be able to tease out a good narrative strand yet. Soon, Matt hopes, but for now, questions would be helpful to keep him on track.
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by: Cole Callaway
The key was in the ignition and the car came to life. It was a new sedan, one whose engine was almost quiet as a mouse--but with Matt's Devil senses it probably seemed like any other vehicle at normal volume. He let the car idle and even turned the air on, but didn't shift into gear. "Well? You didn't think I was worth paying a visit afterwards? Didn't think we should talk right after everything that went down?" Cole dove in, head first. If he wanted questions, he had a whole bag of them to dump out and let loose. "And before you try to give me the "I didn't want to face you" bollocks well, I hoped I deserved a little better than that. We might not have been best mates and all, and I'm sure I've said this aloud--if not, thought it--but we were part of a team together."

Katarina and Klaus visited him, if he remembered correctly and it wasn't just some fever dream or med-induced hallucination. He remembered seeing Swenson being discharged, Loretta brought him food a couple of times and he and Geoffrey were released on the same day. But a visit from the man who was sitting beside him now? Not once. A brotherly bond formed in the service matched the same type of bond one had with their squad. For someone who tried to stretch the legalities and the protocol on his behalf, Cole wondered where he might have went wrong.

"Fuck talk about curses, about witches, magic and all of that bullshit, yeah? I don't need that. Just be straight with me. What's happened to you?" He'd already heard the science, the reason why he'd taken the experiment in the first place. Sure. Young soldier without a choice needed a little bit of money, and had tragedy in during that experimentation. Alright. But what Cole wanted to know is what sense of self was left in the man he'd met before.

Matthew Cox.
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by: Matthew Cox
That was a fair first question. Matt rolled it around in his head and tried to find a good angle to come from.

"I felt...poured out. As if the shape of me was lost. I needed to put myself back together before I could see anyone. I-"

He paused and swallowed. How did he explain the Devil? Not just the vigilante, but the splinter personality that flared awake in his head from time to time.

"The last five days, I keep blacking out and losing control of myself. I didn't trust myself to be around anyone. What if I lost control and hurt you? I couldn't live with myself...better to exile myself until I had control, I thought. I've been getting better, but...there are days...I feel lost still."

And that was as vulnerable as he'd ever been, wasn't it? Cole drew it out of him, not for any skill, but because Matt wanted to tell someone. Needed to. Mae and Tristan wouldn't get it, Klaus would probably start some crusade to get him therapy, and Cora would just blame herself.

Cole was safe. Close enough to understand. Far enough away that Matt could still protect himself. Now, on top of this, he was willing to listen? It was a God-given opportunity it seemed.

"I'm sorry. I should have come sooner..."

How, he didn't know. There'd been guards on the hospital. Matt realized that he knew that only because of one of the Devil's patrols had brought him close enough to check on the hospitalized agents. Huh.
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by: Cole Callaway
Cole leaned his head back against the rest and sighed. Maybe he shouldn't have been so brash but he was done with the song and dance, and who knew how long Matt wanted to stay in the car--or how long the ride would be to wherever he'd be going. "Listen...I'm not here to reprimand you, mate. Everyone has seen some really dark shit the last couple of weeks or month or whatever. I mean it's all still a damn blur for me." His muscles tightened and he slightly shifted in his seat. A breeze blew through the window and the chilly wind hurt his lungs as he breathed it in. Cole felt it was his age, but it was the injury screaming out at him too.

"Where to?" He asked, after letting a little bit of silence drone on for longer than he wanted. He shifted into gear and waited to hear the directions before taking off.

"And...you can take this however you want to, but you do know none of this is really over, right?" He wasn't threatening him. In fact, he was talking to him in a different way than he had in the cells or the interrogation room that day. If anything, it was a warning since Cole saw the other side of the curtain. He had no clue what this was doing to Klaus now that Matt was gone. He'd seen the dark side of Katarina who was currently trying to get better. The pit, the office, their team. None of them would rest until this was all brought down. Declared dead or not, Matt was still considered a traitor.
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by: Matthew Cox
Matt gave Cole directions to a park near the penthouse. What was he supposed to say? He was a traitor, if not before Day Zero then definitely for sure now that he'd gone to Cora. He was more concerned about making amends with her than he was trying to smooth things out with the muggle government.

"God knows I wish it would be, Cole...but short of my death, will it ever really be over? And even then, it'll never be over. Not for Klaus, or you, or Bauer. If I could go back...hell...I don't know what I could have done differently. Maybe not run on Day Zero. But would that have changed anything or would my next assignment be Traitor Hill?"

His voice was heavy with regrets. Every decision he made felt right in the moment, but looking back at the chain of events that led from then to now? Astonishing. Matt leaned his head against the door frame and let the cool air hit his face as they drove. He closed his eyes and schooled his expression to not show too much pain.
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by: Cole Callaway
Cole took the directions and set out for their destination. He could drive while they talked, since sitting here was no different than what they were doing outside. His bones and muscles ached here too, but not as bad since the cushioned seats eased some of the weight off of his injuries. "You and I both know we can't turn back now, but the question is...what the hell do we do from here?" Reap what you sow. Deal with the consequences. Donny was always good at bouncing back; he could turn almost anything around. If only his brother was here to help sort this shit out. Then again, if Don was still alive, a lot of things would have turned out differently, he was sure of it.

Cole put his hand to his forehead for a moment before letting his hand run over his hair. He kept his eyes on the road He kept driving. A heavy sigh left his lips as he sorted through the mess in his head when he thought back to the operation. What the hell was he doing there anyway, if not to impede on MI5's operation--why would he want any part in magical ops? Was it that woman? Cora? The scales of justice continued to tip between them as he muddled over everything. The fact remained that he was a vigilante and Cole didn't agree with that. But would he say it aloud? Did he need to? "About that night then. I thought you'd be able to sense it all. You just ran in swinging, taking people down. What, did she have you on an ask questions later sort of thing?"

This conversation wasn't going to be easy, but he didn't care. He just wanted answers.
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by: Matthew Cox
That was the question of the ages, wasn't it? What did they do from here? Matt considered it carefully and gave a story as a reply.

"When I first started this crazy adventure, I had to psyche myself up to jump from roof to roof. The first time, I hesitated and nearly missed my mark because of it..." He had a point, he reminded himself. He wasn't just telling a story to bond with Cole and cling to the one muggle relationship he for sure had left.

"I feel like this is the same thing. The same, uh...commitment, I guess. Whatever direction we go from here, it needs to be purposeful and no hesitation. I just don't know which direction that is, yet."

Silence lapsed in the car. The unease was swirling like fog, but it was lifting. Well. Lifting right until the moment Cole brought the operation up. Matt swallowed and swiped a hand across his mouth as he considered the answer.

"Cora was contractor for their government. Recon, infiltration, extractions...assassinations. There's laws in place on their side about slavery. It's...nasty. Disgusting, really, but the current seats of power are trying to eliminate the practice. Supposedly. Capturing and selling new slaves is illegal. She and I have been working a string of cases to try and bring down a profiteering group that's been kidnapping muggleborn magical children and selling them as slaves."

He took a deep breath and looked over at Cole with a tight, ugly grin that didn't meet his eyes.

"Do you know how good it feels to bust into a place and put slavers into the ground and see their victims go free? She and I did three such cases. Our intel told us that night was a fourth meeting between the slave ring leadership and a major buyer. I went in seeing what I expected to see: two groups ready to do business. Nobody had wires, nobody was talking loud enough for me to recognize...there were no indications it was Five until I recognized Tava's aftershave...that failure was on me."

The blame belonged solely to him. He only looked long enough to confirm what he expected to see, not to critically assess the situation.

"I should have looked longer and waited; I gave the 'go' order on that, not her, and I saw what I expected to see."

He slumped forward slightly and clasped his hands in his lap. Remorse, guilt, even a touch of anxiety tinted his body language as he sat there.

"Its just words, I know, but...I'm sorry." Genuine repentence and sincerity flavored the quiet words.
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by: Cole Callaway
Cole didn't expect an apology, but there it was. Paired with Matt's free admission and full confession of that night's events put Cole in a weird headspace. Why didn't he just say this in the first place? Yeah, even if Jones didn't let this fly, at least Cole would have known the truth. He wouldn't have treated him like an animal in a cell, he wouldn't have let Patterson pull her gun, he wouldn't let Katarina near any of that...would he? Would things have been that different?

They said it themselves, nothing would have been easy.

For what seemed like a long minute or two, Cole spent some time in his own head; lots of pondering, curiosity...yet it was all lined with frustration. He was usually good with banter. One liners, and quips with Klaus came easy. Chit chat with Bauer--commendation to Orion, an affirmative to Jones. Yet... He just sat there, quietly. Nothing to say to Cox, to the Devil, the vigilante or whatever the moniker of preference was now. He breathed in and out slowly, shaking his head slight disappointment. If only things lined up properly in the could have would have should haves...MI:5 wouldn't have been left to rubble and ash, and he wouldn't have acquired a laundry list of injuries and conditions now being remedied by a laundry list of medication.

No, Matt couldn't possibly have said anything that night because of the wretched curse. Bloody magic was a nuisance, and he was realizing that now. None of that swayed Callaway from wanting to remain in his profession, however. This made him want to defend the world from its evil even more. Made him sound like some God awful super hero, that was for sure.

The mention of Tava made his stomach churn. Cole remembered the night clearly because he'd barely gotten his men out of the way before detaining Matt and his cohort--all but Bashar and Swenson. He hated himself for not being fast enough. He hated himself for not realizing that the Devil and the Dark Lady had caused enough damage to his people until it was too late. His lip quivered but he tamped down on that devastation before raising his head with another sigh. He kept his eyes on the road and followed the directions given before huffing softly. "You know who needs that apology? Tava's wife...she just..." The leather binding on the steering wheel creaked as his hands clenched, and Cole got his frustration under control. "Look. Have I been upset over everything? Sure. I'm a part of this as much as everyone. Will it be good for anyone to keep this up? This blame game--this whole kill mine, kill yours mentality--it's not good for anyone. Don't mishear my words, I don't want to white flag this situation, sweep this under a bloody rug, but at some point maybe we just need to move the hell on and deal with that. Slavers, the real enemy. Everything is just..."

Callaway actually wished he had some of that bitter office coffee because the bad taste he'd had in his mouth over all of this would not go away. Maybe a self conscious need. Or just a nervous tick..but he needed something.

"So much time lost being angry when maybe everyone just needs to learn to forgive and just move on."

Donny's words, not his.
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by: Matthew Cox
For someone with his heightened senses, the frustration and repressed anger was singing out clearly. Matt huddled against the door frame of Cole's car, shoulders hunched and face becoming more miserable by the minute as he marinated in the silence. This could have been so much easier if it weren't for the fact that he'd been reeling during the arrest and unable to talk about Cora or her operations, which had put what he'd been doing out there off the table. God, if he had just focused on Occlumency and broken the curse at that point when they were arrested then-

Then there would have been a Dark Lady episode and he'd have been put under the full curse as punishment and more people would have died. As it was, the events led to him being freed and Cora breaking her own curse. Matt sighed. It was complex. Was their freedom worth Tava's life? He didn't have an answer.

"Maya's going to be receiving a check today, untraceable, legal, and completely legitimate. Nothing is ever going to make up for what we unintentionally took away, but Tava's son isn't going to have to worry about scholarships and Maya's not going to have to worry about finances. It's not an apology...it's reparations. I-"

Matt closed his mouth and let Cole speak instead of overriding like he may have done once upon a time. He turned and gave Cole his attention as he listened. Moving on. Facing the real enemy...forgiveness...? He found himself slowly shaking his head at that.

"I don't know how I could forgive myself for this. It's-" His jaw snapped shut and he looked away, the coloring in his cheeks indicating anger or embarrassment for whatever phrase he'd cut off quickly. The familiar stubborn set to his lips told of his unwillingness to let whatever he had nearly let slip out.
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by: Cole Callaway
"Listen. You didn't have to do that, but you did...and thank you. I don't speak on Maya's behalf--but I know you're trying." Cole was done with arguments and fighting, and he was just here to mourn his friend, for Christ's sake. But seeing Matt torn to bits about everything, genuinely that is, made him realize this situation, the two-sided coin of Matt Cox versus the Devil had more than met the eye. Multiple facets. Sure, the Bashar family would need more than money to repair the damage but at least Matt was trying. It didn't absolve him of what happened with MI:5, but on that same token, he had been wronged too.

"Running away, separating yourself from everyone, going down this whole other path is your choice. Separation. I get it. Maybe distance yourself from me because I wasn't in your inner circle." Cole just huffed, more amused at that than anything. There was no hard feelings there--he wasn't an old mate like Klaus, a brother in arms like Don or an ex-flame like Katarina so the sentiment might have been lost in translation somewhere for old-man Cole who hated his morning coffee and almost always stuck to the books in the office. "Look, it's fine if you don't understand, and I don't expect you to. But know know that...I care. This conversation would go over differently or would have ended by now if I didn't. Best and worst part about playing neutral ground, I guess. Just don't call me Switzerland."

It was common for folks who stood the neutral ground to be called that to some extent, and Cole was far from accepting it as his new moniker. He still had a job to do, after all. But he wanted Matt to know he was a resource, and an open ear if he needed it.
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by: Matthew Cox
The separation wasn't for himself, but how did Matt's get Cole to understand that he wasn't healthy anymore, wasn't whole? His expression crumpled for a moment into a pained and desperate thing before he pulled it back behind the hard mask he'd adopted as of late.

"I wish I didn't feel like it was necessary, but...I'm not the same man I used to be. And I can't risk hurting anyone else because of it."

Cole's self description of being Switzerland only earned him a flick of a smile that quickly died. Matt was feeling trapped again. Trapped in the car, trapped in his life situation, just...trapped. He needed to keep ahold in himself and not explode or panic. That he's held out this long was good, but he needed to be better.

"Look, I-"

He was cut short by Cole's phone ringing. Matt went still and silent for the conversation, just as aware of the other end of it as Cole himself was.

"Agent Callaway? This is Steven Drake...yes, Representstive Howe's aide. Given light in the recent leak of classified documents, we've had a bit of a situation come up...yes, well, we were hoping you could help. It goes like this: Morgan Jones has been arrested for her involvement with a highly illegal and unethical series of experiments."

Matt couldn't help himself. He looked sharply over at Cole, knowing exactly what experiments this Drake fellow was talking about. Jones had recruited him for the project, after all. Wait...leak of classified documents? Matt's brow furrowed deeply and he kept eavesdropping, unashamed.

"Representative Howe is asking that you temporarily take the position of Director of her department until this scandal is cleared up. After that, we shall be in contact."

Matt waited though the end of the conversation, so pale now he was almost ghost-like. Cole was the acting director of Mi5 Paranormal...he could...he could...

"...you could give me my life back..."

The whisper was tentative, hungry, and a bit fearful.

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