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Spoilers for the show finale.
It had only taken three days.
He'd wanted to believe. If anyone could walk out of Hell untouched, it would be Dale Cooper.
When they kicked down the motel room door, there was a bottle rolling on the floor, empty; another in his hand with only a few drips sloshing inside, but his eyes were clear, not bleary, bright and wide open down to the core of him.
At their entrance his head came up, and for a moment it wasn't Cooper at all, crouched in the center of the room looking up at them, glaring at him as piercing as an owl about to pounce. Stringy gray hair and a vicious, toothy leer; but Harry could have imagined it. He'd seen enough sketches of the man that maybe it was only his own thoughts, transposing that ghastly image over another man's face. A friend's face, that he didn't want to see.
The girl was still alive, shivering and bruised, bleeding from abrasions where the cord had bit into her wrists and ankles, and scratch marks down her face and neck. She huddled in the corner, gasping choked, tearless sobs. But alive.
He'd seemed normal, the last couple days. Still friendly and open, still eager to eat pie, to drink coffee, and quick to praise it all. Talking to Lucy about Andy and Andy about Lucy, when not puzzling over what other secrets the diagram from the cave might hold.
How many hours had he spent alone, staring at that chalkboard? What had he been looking for? Why did it matter anymore?
He'd wanted to believe.
Cooper had refused to visit Annie, but that had made sense. Too soon, too terrible an experience for both of them, even though she'd asked to see him. Begged, laying in her hospital bed, with her luminous eyes enormous and round. "I need to, Harry. I have to see him. Please, get him to come..."
He'd put a watch on her, round the clock, not only for her protection. Windom Earle was dead and she said she remembered nothing; and he'd seen nothing in her eyes but honesty and a fearful concern, but she'd come out of that place, too. Couldn't be too careful.
He'd asked Hawk to keep an eye on Cooper, less obviously. Hawk had been uneasy, but had agreed. He'd seen the broken mirror, too, all those glittering facets reflecting fractured pieces of their faces. "I slipped," Cooper had said, smiling a little, reassuringly, as he held a washcloth to his bloody forehead. "Sorry to worry you."
He'd wanted to believe so badly.
He had to, after Josie. He'd been wrong about Josie but he was right about Cooper. Had to be right. He believed in evil, he'd seen too much not to. But he believed in good, too; as a lawman, he believed good still might triumph in the end. That for all the evil in the world, a good man could still be strong enough to win.
Had to believe, because if Cooper wasn't strong enough, then no man was.
But Cooper was laughing at him now, with his mouth gaping open and his head tipped back, his hair a tangled black mess and blood streaking his shirt. Even though Cooper was always so neat, always so composed and coiffed and proper.
This wasn't Cooper. Cooper's face, now; Cooper's voice cackling. But not the man he'd come to respect, not only as the best and brightest lawman he'd ever met, but also the kindest, the most compassionate. Cooper should be sitting with the girl, calming her hysterical whimpers.
He shouldn't be holding his gun on Cooper, struggling to keep his hands steady, his voice, as he ordered Hawk, "Take her out of here. Now."
Hawk nodded, still wincing from the crack across the skull Cooper had given him a few hours ago, but he went to the girl, helped her up. Cooper just kept laughing, rocking back and forth where he crouched. He turned his head to track the girl's shuffle, brought the bottle in his fist up over his head and then smashed it down against the floor, spattering glass shards and the last drops of whiskey.
The girl flinched back, Hawk's arm around her shoulders holding her upright. "Don't move," Harry snapped, keeping gaze and gun fixed on Cooper as he stepped further into the room, away from the door. "Hawk, go."
Hawk looked to him, looked to Cooper, then nodded again and hurried the girl through the door.
Cooper just twisted his head back toward Harry. "Whatcha gonna do, Harry?" he asked, stretching his lips into a grin. "Shoot me?"
Andy was waiting in the 4x4 right outside; Hawk would hand the girl over to him and be back in a minute. "Dale Cooper, you are under arrest."
"We're alone now. No witnesses. You could always say it was self-defense. What'll it be, Harry?"
"I believe you know your rights already. If you don't know them, I'll explain them."
Cooper raised the broken bottle, slowly scratched a long score across the back of his left hand, then brought his hand up to his mouth to lick the blood. "'Is this what he wants?' You're wondering that as you stand there, aren't you. 'Maybe he wants me to shoot him. Kill him. Get it over with.'"
"Do you know your rights?"
"Self defense. No one would even question it!" Cooper delicately picked up the largest shard of the bottle from the floor, and threw it, overarm, hard. Harry didn't duck; the glass flew past his ear with barely an inch to spare, smashing against the lintel behind him.
Cooper rocked back his head, laughed wildly. "But is it what he wants, me, is it what I want, what Cooper wants—that's all you're caring about, standing there. Not your career, not your life, just what's best for him. You're trying to decide, for his sake. Twisted all up inside, so worried and angry and scared, for him, for me, all for me. So beloved to so many, he is. I am. Ah, how I do love him, this newborn child of mine!"
He lurched to his feet, swaying. Harry steeled himself not to take a step back, faced him with the gun still aimed squarely at his chest.
Hawk should be back by now but he wasn't. He'd be right outside the door, Harry knew. Waiting. Giving him this chance, because he needed it, though God knows he didn't want it.
"Maybe it's what I want, Harry," Cooper said, and spread his arms, offering himself. Pull the trigger now and he'd blow a hole to match the one Josie had given him a month ago, with no vest to slow the bullets down.
Maybe it was what he wanted.
"Or maybe this is what I want," Cooper said, grinning, and for another flickering moment he wasn't Cooper at all, grey-haired and lanky and horrific, coming for Harry's throat with the bottle, razored glass dripping with his own blood.
But he staggered, drunken and clumsy, and Harry dropped the gun and met his charge head-on, with a tackle recalling long-gone days as a halfback in high school. Cooper was shorter than him and Harry's rush bowled them both over, the broken bottle flying from Cooper's hand.
Shorter, but the agent was perfectly fit, strong as an ox, and all of Harry's weight was barely enough to hold him down. Harry fumbled in his pocket as Cooper bucked and kicked under him, howling with teeth bared like a wild animal.
Try to get it into an artery, Dr. Hayward had instructed, but he didn't have a hell of a lot of options here; with only one hand barely free it was hard enough just getting the cap off the needle. Once he had, Harry jabbed the hypodermic into Cooper's thigh, since it was the most accessible spot, and pushed the plunger home.
Cooper threw back his head and let out a God-awful scream, like someone being torn apart. He ripped away, thrashing, casting the needle aside, and his flailing hands grasped at Harry, who tried to pull back. But Cooper's grip locked around his wrist and yanked him down.
"Knew—you'd come up with something," Cooper panted, "was hoping—be drunk enough—give you a chance."
He had suddenly gone still, was looking directly at Harry. Not smiling at all, as his fingers dug into Harry's wrist, whitening under the pressure.
"Coop?" Harry asked, softly. Disbelieving, as much as he wanted to believe. Couldn't believe. Couldn't risk it.
Cooper didn't nod, didn't even try to smile. "What was it?"
"Tranquilizer, from Doc Hayward," Harry said. "Should put you down for six hours at least. Albert's got people trying to synthesize Gerard's drug, but—"
"No," Cooper said. The tranquilizer, even improperly injected, was taking effect quickly, his hold loosening as he slumped. "Not worth it—Mike's different. Different chemicals. No way to be sure—"
"Cooper." Harry took him by the shoulders, gripped tightly. Hawk would be right outside, listening, if he weren't standing in the doorway already. No time to look and he didn't care. Not like Leland's death; the evil was still here, not fled but merely subsided for the moment, the stench of burnt oil hanging heavy. But the light Leland had seen could still take him, that pure, accepting light. "If you don't want this—if you want—just say the word."
But Cooper surged up, struggling to open his heavy eyelids. "No, Harry! Just make sure—they put me away. Somewhere I can never get out. Throw away the key. Make sure I can't—kill myself. No way out."
" If they don't understand—say anything. Any accusation you need. Just make it stick. No chance of escape. Understand?"
He hadn't thought anything could be harder than what he'd offered, than holding the gun. He felt sick enough to vomit, bile backing up in his throat. Cooper always asked so damn much of people, always pushing someone to do their best and more. That was the kind of man he was.
"I'll do it. Throw away the key—I'll make sure." And that was the kind of man Harry was, to always do something, once he had sworn it; Cooper knew him, too well. "Coop, we'll get this thing—we'll beat him, somehow—"
"We already have, Harry," Cooper said. He let himself sink to the floor, eyes closed. "You got me. Hunt's over. I'll always—know where BOB is now. Keep him entertained myself. Just have to keep him—and make sure I can't get loose. Can't hurt anyone. Won't hurt anyone. Counting on you."
"I'll make sure," Harry promised again, and Cooper nodded fractionally, satisfied. Trusting, and Harry realized he might never be extended such unreserved, immense trust again; intuitively knew that the strength of will it took for the man to speak freely now would not be mustered again. "Cooper—" It wouldn't be Dale Cooper looking at him, the next time he opened his eyes. Not Dale Cooper speaking to him. Not again.
Throw away the key. "Coop, you—" Good was supposed to win. Must win. Even now. "This isn't—" When was life ever fair? "You shouldn't have to—"
Cooper's eyes didn't open, even when Harry shook him, but the corners of his lips curved up in a very faint smile. "Small price to pay, Harry," he said, and then he was gone.
"Harry?" Hawk asked, somewhere behind him.
Harry gently lowered Cooper's lolling head to the floorboards, took his pulse. Slow, but steady, and his breathing was also slow and regular. "He's out. The tranquilizer worked as well as Doc promised." He rocked back on his heels, ran his hand over his face.
"The girl might need one too. She's still hysterical. I left her with Andy." Hawk paused. "She's upset, but I don't think he actually had the chance to do anything to her."
"Of course not, Cooper wouldn't—"
"Not Cooper," Hawk said, with uncharacteristic anger. "That," and he pointed to the unconscious man, "is not him. Not now." He squatted beside Harry, studied Cooper's profile broodingly. "The hunter must always take care, lest he become the hunted. He understood this. It rained hard all last night, Harry."
Occasionally Harry wished Hawk would just say what he meant, and not try to wring extra meaning out of ordinary words. "Hawk—"
"All the roads to this motel are dirt," Hawk went on. "A baby could've followed the tracks of his car, in that mud."
Harry digested this. Leland Palmer had never been that sloppy, for all his madness. He looked at the empty bottle, rolled against the wall, and the glass shards of the second. "He was setting himself up. He kidnapped the girl—he let BOB kidnap her, on purpose, knowing we'd come after him."
Hawk didn't ask the obvious question, that he believed now. Three weeks ago he hadn't. Four weeks ago the possibility of something like that evil existing wouldn't have occurred to him, and five weeks ago—five weeks ago Laura Palmer was still alive, and he'd never heard of Agent Dale Cooper.
Five weeks from now, he wouldn't have forgotten. Five years, five decades. Josie's death hurt less now—still terribly painful, but only the reminders, really, like a bruise that only ached when he prodded it, not the constant, tearing, agonizing sense of loss of those first days after. This—this didn't hurt so much now, but it would later, and worse. Some wounds time doesn't heal. Some losses can't be reconciled.
"Come on, Hawk. He's under arrest. Let's get him back to the station before those drugs wear off." If he went as crazy as Leland had in the holding cell—they could tie him up, cuff him down. Or take him over to Spokane, the mental health hospital there should have a straitjacket.
His stomach still roiled with nausea but he didn't have time for it. Had a job to do. "You think the girl will testify against him?"
Hawk hesitated, then nodded. "Yes. She will."
"Good." An insanity plea would be the obvious, but with enough evidence, life imprisonment would stick. Protective custody, at least. He'd find a way to swing it.
He'd wanted to believe good could triumph. Somehow, in the end. If he, if they, if all the good men were strong enough.
Not like this.
'Won't hurt anyone. Counting on you.'
Too late for that, Coop. But I'll do my best.
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