Author's Note: The first of a couple of updates going up in short order. And by short order I mean, this cycle of the earth around the sun.

This is something new, yet not. It's a prequel to a "lesser read" fic called Things Fall Apart. You might not have read that one because it's clearly marked as read at your own risk as there are character deaths (though they do take place "off-screen," if that helps) but I really enjoyed working in that world so I wanted to come back to it again. Nobody dies in this one, so you can feel free to read without fear there. It's still not a fluffy story though. Not by half.

Someday l might write a sequel to the original story, but for now, I've decided to roll back the clock a day. So this takes place the night before the events in the other tale. That means lots of foreshadowing. But of course you'll only see the foreshadowing if you've read the first one ;)

This is a snippet of a different (terrible) reality not too far in the future. And this chapter is all Rossi, all the time. But it's a Rossi with some miles on him. It's been a hard few years.

Due credit to the prompt here in pulling the whole thing together so I kept it as the chapter title as well.


Story Title Prompt Set #16 - August 2011

Author: Dennis Lehane

Story Title: A Drink Before The War

TV Bonus Challenge #12 - Pick A Character, Any Character

Title Show: Lost

Title Challenge: Dave


A Drink Before The War

People aren't entitled to a nice life. That's a myth. There's no "God given" this or "God given" that. That's bullshit. All there is . . . all they'll ever be . . . is simply playing the hand that you're dealt. And if you're lucky, when you're born, your cards might include a loving family, a roof over your head and food in your stomach.

But that's only if you're lucky.

Lots of people don't get those things. Lots of people are born into violence, poverty, neglect . . . war. At any given time thirty-four million people on the planet are displaced from their homes because of armed conflict. Most people don't know that.

I didn't.

Not until recently. Not until that statistic came to mean something to me personally. Not until that thirty-four million jumped to thirty-five.

Then to thirty-six.

That's when the bombings started. That's when the "displaced people" weren't just a tragic picture on the TV screen. Images taken from continents away. That's when those images were taken in places where I had stood. In cities I had vacationed in, signed books in.

Hunted monsters in.

But now there are more monsters than we can count. They were hiding in the shadows and now they've all come rushing out. And these are not just the boogeymen that we're used to chasing . . . though they're still out there too. But these monsters are something more. Something darker.

Something with purpose.

Though I haven't said anything to Hotch, the truth is . . . I'm frightened about what's coming. Terrified really. I fear that we won't all make it through this one. It's not a certainty of course . . . prognostication is not in my field of expertise . . . but simply a mathematical calculation, a proof of averages.

Some of us will die before this is over.

If of course, this is ever over.

That's my other fear. That this won't end with us. With our blood. That it will take Hotch and Emily's children and JJ and Will's son. It'll simply be a battle for generations.

But of course . . . I feel a pang of truth pierce my gut . . . it's already been a battle for generations. Good versus evil. Dark versus light.

Us versus Them.

That's what it always comes down to. For millennia. Us versus Them. But so many of Us have died over these last months that it's thrown my faith . . . such as what's left of it . . . into a tailspin. The Romans said if God be for us, who can be against us?

That is the question.

But the answer is that I fear God is not for us. And if He is, then what the FUCK is He doing up there? Free will's all well and good, but it's been a God damn SLAUGHTER for months! So many raids have gone wrong and so many attacks have gone right.

And that in and of itself is wrong.

Those people were professionals . . . same as us. So I've been doing my homework, reading the after action reports and one thing is true. It's not their training that's failing them. It's something else. Again . . . something more. It's that purpose that's driving the other side.

They're ready for us.

And that's bad.

And as I stand in my office at an hour counted as much too late . . . and yet still also considered much too early . . . I'm holding my favorite bottle of Scotch in my hand. It was a gift from Derek last Christmas. Life was still good then . . . mostly. We still had our terrible job of course, and our terrible job has always had a body count best counted . . . best remembered . . . through the haze of an amber liquid. But this new case . . . this new world . . . has sharpened that point to a razor's edge.

I find myself drinking too much.

That's a truth I don't often allow myself to acknowledge. But . . . I shake my head slightly to erase the thought . . . that's a reflection for another day.

A day less stress filled than this.

So now it's time to pour myself a drink . . . slowly, I begin to turn the bottle cap . . . two actually. One for those souls that have been lost, and one to bless those of us who are left.

To bless us for what's coming. Because what's coming is the thing that's scaring the shit out of me right now. We have a raid tomorrow.

Today.

It's already morning.

As I place the open bottle on the desk to free my hands . . . I need to get a glass out of the drawer . . . I realize that this bottle of scotch in front of me is not the only one that I'd received as a gift for Christmas this year. I also got one from JJ & Will, and then there was the whiskey from Aaron & Emily. Even Spencer gave me a bottle of booze. Though . . . my lip quirks up slightly though there is little joy left in my life . . . his gift was one of schnapps. Cinnamon schnapps specifically.

He'd smiled that sweet guileless grin of his . . . the one that he's somehow managed to retain even after all the years in the Unit . . . and said that cinnamon was good for my heart.

That it would make me live longer.

God do I love that kid.

Feeling my eyes start to sting . . . I blame the late hour, though I know really I'm just becoming a sentimental old fool . . . I hurriedly pick up the bottle and pour an ounce of scotch into the glass. I look at it . . . think about the importance of this drink, the history behind it, honoring the dead . . . and pour another. And then I close my eyes.

"God bless those that we have lost."

The words are simple . . . but true. And with a lump in my throat, I toss back the shot of liquor. I welcome the faint burn that accompanies it.

It reminds me that I'm alive.

So I tip the bottle again . . . tip it just a little too far. It splashes out just a little too much. But again, I push that thought aside for another day. Because this drink is the most important.

This is the drink for my team.

The children I never had . . . the children that I'd be lost without.

And though my gut is twisting in fear for their safety, my hand is steady as I pick up the glass again.

"May the Hand of God protect us."

My words are soft . . . humble, it's as much a prayer as it is a plea of desperation.

"Please spare them."

The words have passed my lips before I realized they'd reached my tongue. Immediately those tears that had been burning around the edges, begin to fill my eyes.

Shame fills my soul.

It's come to this. Begging for their lives. Begging for things to go back the way they were.

It wasn't supposed to be like this.

"Oh, fuck it."

I curse as I toss the drink back in a fit of anger. It doesn't matter what it was supposed to be like . . . I slam the glass back down on the blotter . . . this is how it is.

Wrong.

"Dave?"

My head snaps up to see Garcia standing in the open doorway. Her face is tired . . . her eyes are worried. I wonder how much of my little ritual here that she's just witnessed . . . and how well my tears are now glistening in the soft light.

I decide to pretend that she's blind.

As I look down to blink away the tears, I slide the bottle into the drawer . . . and then I slowly slide the drawer shut. Then I look back up at her, forcing a smile that I haven't felt in months.

"Yes Penelope."

"Um," she shifts slightly as her hands wring together, "Hotch asked me to find you. He and Derek are down with Tactical. They want to go over the entry plan again."

For a second I can feel that false smile slip . . . the entry plan . . . but I quickly pull it back into place as I stand.

"Of course," I'm nodding as I start around the desk, "on my way."

As I step up to the doorway Garcia still hasn't moved out of my path. She's just staring up at me, her gaze penetrating as it runs over my unshaven face and red rimmed eyes.

I wonder if she can smell the liquor on my breath.

It's not like I drank a lot (though I acknowledge I did drink just a little too much) the scrutiny is still unnerving. And just before I'm about to say excuse me . . . I'm continuing to pretend like she's blind, that she's not sizing me up . . . she puts her hand on my chest, stopping me cold.

Crap.

"Are you okay?"

Her tone throws me. It's kind, holding no hint of the judgment that I would have expected. Deserved.

She's just being nice.

She's just being Garcia.

And for that I'm able to pull out the sad remnants a real smile, one I wore long ago . . . though my words are still false. But hopefully they'll ring true to her.

"Yes, Penelope."

My hand falls to her shoulder as I guide her into the hall and pull her against my side.

"I'm just fine."


A/N 2: I warned you that it was kind of a downer. But that's just what comes sometimes, and if you read the other story, I think you'll see that it very much fits in with the tone of that world. And I chose Rossi because, initially I just wanted to pick a different character voice than the ones I'd used in Things Fall Apart, but then as soon as I settled on him in particular and found that prompt, the whole thing came to me immediately. The prequel in rough concept was always going to be the whirl of thoughts and fears the night before what will become the worst day of their lives. But he was the only one that I could rally tap into something fresh. That ecclesiastical battle I think could only be his with that desire to keep some remnants of his faith even in the face of such a horrendous spiraling of everything he's ever believed in.

And I brought in Garcia at the end because people always say I don't write enough pieces with Garcia. So there, I wrote in Garcia :)

The stats on global displacement, those are true. Or close to it. Last time I read them in an article (they're from the UN) it was like 27 million. And that was maybe a year ago. I looked them up again for this story and it was at 34 million. So in actuality, in a world this bad, the displacement would probably be double or triple the "usual." Though the usual is a pretty insane to number to wrap your brain around as you sit in a home with walls and a roof and clean running water and high speed internet connections. So, food for thought there.

I still might do another piece in this world picking up after the original story, but for now I'm considering this one closed.

Off to finalize the next piece for posting! And thanks as always for the feedback :)