Title: Always
Rating: PG-13
Criminal Minds
Universe: We Can Be Heroes
Prentiss, Rossi (het if you squint)
Genre: Humor /Drama
David Rossi has a crisis of faith. AU.
Author's Note: This was supposed to be for the Advent Calendar challenge, but to be honest, I really didn't want to wait 9 days to post it, so you're getting it now.

Emily couldn't find Dave anywhere at the Criminal Apprehension Unit Headquarters, but that was to be expected.

'Haven't seen him, chickadee,' Garcia said jovially, too busy to actually help her find him; there were six teams in the field, and judging by the chaos on ever monitor, Garcia was running point for all of them.

'Give me a buzz if they need me,' was all Emily said. Garcia gave her a look, the kind of look that said "You know I'm not supposed to do that, but I probably will anyway."

If he wasn't at HQ, then she was pretty sure she knew where he would be. Not at home – after yesterday's debacle, there was no doubt his home would be surrounded by reporters. Because apparently, the freedom of the press overruled the privacy of the individual. Really, he could have gotten rid of them all without a second thought, but it wasn't the kind of thing that the world's most renowned superhero would do – especially not after getting his ass kicked so thoroughly.

The rivalry between David Rossi and his arch-nemesis, The Ripper aka, Max Gillet, went back a long way. The press never failed to remind the world that Gillet had once been a member of the CAU, and half the time, used the association to discredit the team.

This morning's headline had been no different. "Rossi Ripped," the large black letters read, a full-color photo below depicting what had been described as "the worst defeat seen in the superhero world for decades," which, all things considered, was pretty harsh. When the rest of the team had showed up, the Ripper had fled, leaving David Rossi defeated and unconscious on the street below.

Not a very dignified ending.

The bar she knew she'd find him in wasn't a particularly nice one; the people that frequented it more than likely didn't give a shit about superheroes. Still, she found herself being stared at as she stepped inside; if the distinctive dark-haired, pale-skinned profile that had been on the front page more than once wasn't a clue, then the t-shirt with "C*A*U" emblazoned across the chest was. As far as team names went, it wasn't a particularly good one, but because they were government-sanctioned heroes, it was the only one they were allowed to use. Unofficially, the city's villains had given them the nickname of "Curbstompers" which was really an unfair comparison; they only killed when there was absolutely no other option.

She gave Eddie, the bartender, a look. 'He's in the back corner,' Eddie told her. 'Drinking his way through my entire stock.' Emily rolled her eyes.


They could all fly, which was fortunate, because there was nothing more embarrassing than clinging to a skyscraper while an idiot in a cape shot lightning bolts out of his eyes. In addition to that, they all had a ridiculous metabolism that meant getting drunk was very, very difficult. But that didn't stop any of them from trying.

The booth was dark enough to conceal a person's identity, but the man sitting there had gone a step further, wearing a baseball cap and a hoodie. The David Rossi that Emily knew would never wear either of those things. Especially not inside a crowded bar.

She slid in opposite him, paying no significant mind to the half-dozen empty bottles that had yet to be collected.

'Any more,' she quipped, 'and we won't even need to embalm you.' She was sure Reid would have some factual retort on the actual embalming procedure, but he wasn't here, so she didn't give a crap about scientific accuracy.

'What are you doing here?' he grumbled. Emily didn't answer. Instead, she pushed the hood off his head, and pulled off the cap.

'Jesus, Rossi,' she whispered. His face was still covered in cuts and bruises, blood crusting against the wounds. 'You never even saw a med officer, did you?'

'I'm fine,' he muttered.

'Except for your pride, obviously.'

He gave her a look. 'Please don't tell me you're here to give me the talk. "It's okay that you lost, we're all here for you," or whatever crap you want to spin. Get me another drink, or get out.'

She got him another drink. Water, to which he gave a grunt of disapproval, but drank it anyway, which was a good sign.

'So where are the rest of the team?' he asked her, looking up. 'Did you draw the short straw?'

Emily ignored the second half of the question. 'They're in Hawaii,' she told him. 'The Volcanologist has been fucking around with tidal waves again.'

'And you're not with them?'

'I wish,' she scoffed. 'But after the school bus thing with Morgan this morning, I'm over quota. If I put in for overtime, Strauss is going to cut a bitch, so I'm sidelined for the rest of the month.'

He frowned. 'Really? It's only the 17th, and you're over quota already?'

Emily sighed. 'It's that chick with the fruit hat – what's her name. Annabella, or Mary-Anna, or whatever. Last week, she ambushed me on my way home from the store. Yesterday, she's hiding inside my washing machine with a knife.'

'A knife?' he asked, expression twisting into one of amusement.

'Seriously,' Emily said, shaking her head. 'I mean, she's got enthusiasm, but who the hell tries to stab someone with bulletproof skin? Anyway, she's tried it with half a dozen other agents this month, so I can't even write it off as a Personal Vendetta.'

'This isn't going to work,' Rossi said. 'I'm not an idiot.'

'I don't know what you're talking about,' Emily replied, a little too quickly. She might have been a polyglot with that bulletproof skin, but she was a really shitty liar.

'Don't bullshit me, Prentiss,' he said. '"Please help me with my problem, Mr. Rossi, I don't know what I'd do without you." You're trying to exploit my need to solve other people's problems.'

Emily felt a flash of annoyance. 'You're right,' she said. 'You love solving other people's problems, almost as much as you hate having other people help you solve yours, which is why you hate working as a team so much, and why you can't handle it when you lose. You think none of us have ever lost a battle before? Do you remember the first time I went toe-to-toe with Madam Phaseshift?'

Rossi gave a hollow laugh. Emily was pretty sure that no-one was going to forget the time she went up against Madam Phaseshift, considering she'd spent almost six months in hospital afterwards trying to regrow her organs.

Two months after her release, the team had taken down Madam Phaseshift – together. The supervillain would remain in her lead-lined cell for the next twenty years, at least.

'Anyway,' Emily continued. 'All I'm saying is that some days you might be able to take on an army of cyborg llamas with one hand tied behind your back, and sometimes you can't. That's what it means to be part of a team. And we will always be there for you.'

'That was a pretty good win,' he admitted.

'Come on,' Emily stood. 'If you're going to mope, I can't stop you, but at the very least do it back at HQ.'

'Fine,' Rossi conceded. He pulled out his wallet, and passed a thick wad of notes over to Eddie. Whether it was for the drinks, or as a tip for putting up with his behavior, Emily wasn't quite sure.

Outside, the Ripper was waiting for them.

Fuck, Emily thought. She stared across at Dave. The look on his face was one of determination. Well that was something.

This was certainly going to be interesting.

'Fuck.' David Rossi hissed as the medical officer pushed the needle through his skin. Super-strength didn't exactly help with pain relief.

'I can give you anesthetic if you'd like,' the officer offered, and Rossi was on the verge of shaking his head, before considering the fact that movement in the middle of stitches was probably not a good idea.

'I'm fine.'

'At least we won,' Emily said, in what seemed to be an attempt at cheering him up. She wasn't doing a very good job though, on account of the fact that her arm was in a sling. 'And at least this time I still have my spleen.'

'Thanks,' he told her, wondering if those words were really enough to convey the gratitude that he felt.

'Has your arch-nemesis always been such a jerk?' She cocked her head sideways, waiting for his response.

Rossi gave her a grin. 'Always,' he said.