I own nothing.

Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum

-Chapter Thirty-Two

Harry gasped for breath and stared down into the puddle of crimson before him as he drooled more blood into it. Was his jaw broken? It was hard to pinpoint one particular pain amongst all the agony he was feeling. "You want to be a hero, Harry?" Harry flinched, but looked up at the man standing across from him. He tried his best to glare defiantly, but his heart wasn't in it. That had been beaten out of him in a disturbingly short amount of time. "Your parents were heroes. They did their best and you came out on the other side, all by yourself." Sal nodded to himself. "As you know, heroes die. That's why they're heroes. They die hard, bad, heroic deaths to save the ones they love and they are loved for it. They live on in their loved ones' memories as their loved ones have to fight because the hero isn't there anymore. The hero is dead. You aren't a hero, Harry. I've worked with many of them and I won't let you be one."

There was no one else in the basement. This was a private affair.

"You are a soldier. Soldiers do not die. If they die, they become heroes. Soldiers do not die to protect people, they kill. They kill their enemies and their enemies stop being enemies because they are dead. The soldier moves on to the next enemy and the next and the next. The soldier's loved ones don't have to fight because the enemy is dead and the next enemy is being killed. They remember the soldier as they go about their normal lives, but that memory is always stained with fear. They know that the soldier killed and they are scared of the soldier, even if they know that the soldier killed for them. Blood was spilled, but none of it landed of them and they will never have to experience it. They live in blissful ignorance."

Sal circled Harry as he continued to talk, his voice holding an oddly hypnotic quality. He came to a stop and squatted down to be on Harry's level.

"So, are you done pretending to be a hero, soldier?"

Harry tried to spit in the man's face, but all he managed was to spray blood a little further than the puddle in front of him. Yup, definitely a broken jaw.

"Excellent!" Sal announced as he ruffled Harry's hair. The young man was too beat down to even flinch. "Welcome back to the war, soldier. Make sure you remember: you are on the losing side. You don't have the power. You don't have the personnel. You don't have the finances. They know who you are and you don't have a clue. They know where you are and you don't have a clue. The only thing you have going for you is your brain and that was the first thing you threw away when you got a little murder happy. You are a soldier against murderers, now calm the fuck down and act like it. Murders kill innocents. Soldiers kill murderers. Understand?"

Harry managed a wet cough and gargled a bit of blood on to the man's boot tips.

"That's the spirit," Sal announced with a clap on his hands.

With that, Harry's vision finally went completely black.

(:ii:)

Ron glanced up as the door to Sal's backroom opened and the man appeared, carrying Harry over his shoulder. Amalie was on her feet even before Sal had even set the student down on one of the couches in the room. "All healed up and good as new!" he announced happily. "Pretty exhausted though. Give him an hour or two to rest up."

"What did you do?" Amalie demanded suspiciously.

"Just a light brainwashing," Sal admitted. "Don't worry. You won't even notice. Well, unless you try to kill him. Hopefully we've gained some ground there. . .or we'll have to do this a few more times."

"I kind of want to kill you," Amalie growled as she fretted over the sleeping man.

"He'd probably really enjoy that at this point," Sal admitted with a chuckle. "Murder is a bold way to declare your interest, young lady. I like it."

"Had to be done," Luna stated.

"Had to be done," Ron agreed, though it pained him to admit it.

"You are a savage," Fleur commented with a note a disgust. She glanced at Luna and Ron. "All of you."

"Had to be done," Ron said firmly. "I would still like to have one of my best friends when we come out on the other side of this."

"I'm not a savage. I'm alive," Sal corrected. "The people who do what I say are alive, at least on the outside."

"I too am alive," Viktor said.

"Oh, no. Viktor, don't do this, please," Hermione stated quietly. The Bulgarian wizard had set her right and calmed her down while Sal was busy.

"I would very much like to remain that way," Viktor continued, "for myself, as well as a few others."

"Well, Minerva did pinch my brats," Sal commented. "Okay! You're in."

"If he gets seriously hurt. . ." Hermione growled.

"You'll kill me?" Sal ventured, a cocky smile on his face. He had faced their worse and skipped out on the other side, leaving them devastated in his wake.

". . .you can dance with dear Rita," Hermione stated, her face contorting into a new and rather nightmarish vision. The older man frowned and appeared to ponder that for a few moments before deciding that he was sufficiently disturbed and intimidated.

"Okay. To be fair, when did I ever actually seriously hurt any of you?" he asked. Ron cleared his throat and tilted his head slightly, emphasizing the scar that started under his left ear and crossed his neck to end on his right clavicle. It was actually a fairly well done heal, considering that Sal and Harry had been screaming hysterically while they did it. Harry for obvious reasons and Sal for less obvious reasons, namely, he was oddly terrified of Arthur and Molly Weasley.

"I can't feel my fingertips sometimes," Ron commented, "do you think it's because I lost half my blood at one point or was there nerve damage?"

"Blood grows back," Sal answered, "at least, until it doesn't." His head shot up suddenly. "I'll be right back." He disappeared out the door and Ron, Luna and Hermione shot to their feet to inspect their fallen friend. They refused to show any kind of weakness in front of their tormentor. Luna's wand danced over Harry's prone form.

"No physical injuries," she reported.

"Well, that's good," Amalie said, "right?"

"Sal knows his way around healing spells," Ron stated. "Besides, the worst injuries Sal inflicts are never physical." He reached up and habitually touched the scar on his neck, his gaze a thousand yards away. The French blond stared at him before glancing back down at Harry. Despite the man's positive prognosis, his robes were in tatters and stained rather liberally with a fluid that was beginning to dry into a brown crust.

"Had to be done," Luna said simply. Amalie shot her a withering glare, one that Ron took as he leaned forward to catch the French witch's eyes.

"Do you want Harry to be okay now, or do you want him to be alive later?" he asked.

"What kind of question is that?" Amalie demanded.

"The kind you have to deal with when you're close to him," Hermione answered simply. "This is Hogwarts and no matter how normal it may seem; things tend to happen, usually suddenly and violently, to Harry Potter."

"Unless Harry happens, suddenly and violently, to things," Ron added.

"I don't like this," Amalie stated.

"Nobody does," Ron replied. The door opened again and Sal stuck his head in.

"Didn't believe me?" he asked. They all glared at him. "Anyway, Amy is here and she's being quite insistent."

"Who?" Ron asked. "Wait, Amy? Amelia Bones?"

"Yeah, that's the one," Sal replied. They all turned to stare at Hermione.

"What?" the curly haired witch asked.

"Well, there's no one else here that she would be interested in," Ron ventured.

"Please, if she knew what I did to Rita, she would not be here by herself and asking to meet us," Hermione stated. She glanced at Sal. "She is here by herself and she didn't kick in the door while waving around a warrant, right?"

"Right."

"See?" Hermione asked, trying and failing to hide her relief as Viktor rose and wrapped an arm around her shoulders.

"So, are you guys taking callers?" Sal asked.

"Might as well," Ron replied.

(:ii:)

Amelia stepped into the room and immediately eyed all present suspiciously. "Hi Amelia!" Luna chirped, waving enthusiastically.

". . .hi," Amelia managed. Her gaze fell upon the last Potter. "What the hell happened to him?"

"Oh, I just had to have a wee chat with him about heroes," Sal answered. At the word "heroes", Harry shot upright, making the French witch kneeling beside him let out a squeak of shock as she tumbled backwards on the floor.

"What?" he mumbled dazedly.

"Go back to sleep Harry," Sal ordered. The younger man managed a nod and bonelessly slumped back down on the couch.

"So," Amelia began, turning on the former auror, "you're the reason why Shacklebolt has a panic attack every time he saves a life and someone calls him a hero." Again, the young man shot upright at the word.

"Maybe," Sal admitted. "Harry. . ."

"Bones?" Harry interrupted, squinting at her. "Why. . .wait!" His eyes widened and he shot a look at Hermione. "Mph!"

"Amelia has come to speak with us," Amalie stated, her hand firmly clamped over Harry's mouth. "She hasn't told us what this is about yet." Amelia glared at one and all, silently waiting for anyone to blurt out something incriminating. Unfortunately, the one who spoke was the one she most wanted to stay silent.

"Really?" Sal asked. "I invented the intimidate and wait game. You think that's going to work here?" Amelia glared at the man, but he just smirked. "Why are you here?"

"Well, a few hours ago I received an interesting owl from Dumbledore," Amelia stated.

"And what does that have to do with us?" Ron asked as politely as possible.

"Well, when I asked him about it, he became rather evasive," Amelia replied. "He does that when he's protecting students and I've come to the conclusion that the only group of students that could possibly be involved in the disappearance and presumed death of a ministry department head, are you lot." The room was silent for a moment.

"What?" Ron demanded, shooting to his feet and catching all present by complete surprise, including Amelia. "Who?"

"Oh!" she gasped, suddenly realizing where this aggression was coming from. "Your father is fine Mister Weasley."

"Oh," Ron replied, sinking back into his seat. "Okay. Sorry about that." Luna patted him on the shoulder and Harry passed him a flask, which he drank from greedily. "Of course, he is." Amelia glared at the flask before deciding to pick and choose her battles. Also, maybe not having thought through her words was a bit of an asshole move.

"Who's missing?" Sal asked.

"Barty Crouch." The room was silent for a minute and the majority of its occupants just looked confused. The remainder however. . .

"What?" Sal roared. "How the fuck is Barty missing? How did it take a bunch of students to find out? What kind of incompetents. . ." Normally, Amelia would have enjoyed the man's loss of composure, but not this time. She was rather worried about the points he had brought up herself.

"Crouch wrote to his associates telling them that he had taken ill and all his public responsibilities would be carried out by his assistant, a Mister Percy Weasley," Amelia interrupted. "He has been in regular contact by post since then, or we thought he was."

"That's why Percy was the judge at the second task," Ron stated.

"He was?" Harry asked. They all stared at him. "Look, I don't really remember any of the tasks, okay?"

"You actually intimidated him into silence," Cedric commented.

"Nobody told me that," Ron stated. "That's awesome! I wish I had been there for it. . .and not unconscious at the bottom of a freezing cold lake."

"That's. . .disturbing, Potter," Amelia commented.

"Everything with Harry is disturbing," Amalie grumbled.

"So, who's Barty Crouch?" Harry ventured.

"We met him at the World Cup," Hermione supplied.

"We did?" The whole room stared at him. "What?"

"How does your brain work?" Amalie asked.

"Threats are noted and plans are made to deal with them, non-threats are classified as such and ignored," Harry said simply causing most present to sigh in annoyance. "What?"

"We need to work on that," Sal stated firmly. "We've already proven you don't have the best judgement."

"I'm fourteen!" Harry protested.

"So? There are kids your age in Africa who are half way to a military retirement already," Sal replied, "well, if they could retire."

"And that is a horrific crime against humanity!" Amelia snapped.

"Anyway," Sal announced and Amelia knew he was ignoring her just to piss her off, "Iron Bart was my old boss at the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. He's the one who won the war, no offense."

"None taken," Harry said with a shrug. "If I can't even remember a war, I don't think it counts if I'm the one who supposedly won it."

"You aren't remembering much of this one so far," Ron grumbled.

"He turned us loose and dragged every Death Eater that came in alive over the coals," Sal explained cutting off any potential arguments. "He bled them. Gold, reputation, respect, everything. It was glorious. He was going to be the Minister of Magic."

"Yes, because a man who turns loose an extra-legal death squad with no oversight and runs a series of the biggest kangaroo courts this country has ever seen needs to be in charge," Amelia commented. Sal turned on her with a rather disturbingly cold look of contempt.

"Hate the people who start the war, not the people who end it or the methods they choose," he stated, his voice clipped and professional. "And we did have oversight. Me. That's why more Death Eaters survived us than civilians survived Death Eater attacks."

"Great, a man whose moral compass can't stop spinning," Amelia sniped, "and holds himself to the standards of being morally superior to amoral terrorists!"

"Not a drop of blood was spilled that didn't earn it a dozen times over," Sal said in his infuriatingly calm and logical way that had been one of the first things Amelia found herself hating about him over a decade ago. "You've forgotten Bones. It's been too long and you've fallen for their narrative. They told you they were criminals who deserve due process. They're not criminals. They're not even humans. They're animals and you kill animals after they taste human blood."

"Spoken like the man who tortured and murdered his way across this country and a few others," Amelia growled.

"Can't murder an animal Bones. You can just control their population."

"This is fascinating and all." They both turned on the youngest Weasley male and, to his credit, he stood strong against both their furious glares. "However, this seems like an old argument that has no bearing on what is happening now and isn't going to go anywhere productive. Can we please stay a little more relevant?" Amelia's jaw dropped at the sheer audacity on display. Her withering retort was interrupted as Sal let out a booming laugh.

"Ballsy and just plain mean. That's Minerva, I never taught you lot to be mean," he paused and tapped his chin thoughtfully, "and Molly. Molly has taken mean to an art form."

"Blame the twins," Ron replied. "Anyway, Barty Crouch was the head of the Department of International Cooperation, right?"

"Yes," Amelia managed as she fought down her irritation. She had let her emotions get the best of her and snapping at a school boy would not help her regain her professionalism.

"He helped set up the Tri-Wizard Tournament, my dad mentioned it," Ron continued. That certainly caught the attention of all the students present. "He helped set up the competition that Harry got entered into and now he's missing, presumed dead."

"Oh, shit," Harry grumbled before taking a long pull from his flask.

"He must have been our dead ally," Hermione stated. "He escaped Peter and the third conspirator killed him."

"Okay, kids. Luna is the only one here allowed to be confusing and that's only because I don't think she can stop," Sal said. "The rest of you, unfortunately, are going to have to start making sense or we're going to the basement."

"Luna's not confusing," Ron stated. "Why does everyone keep saying things like that? It's mean."

"So, you have chosen basement," Sal stated. "Harry, you had a vision and now Amy is here. She only ever comes here willingly when things are spectacularly and interestingly wrong. Now, if you don't want her here, say the word and she's gone, but you are going to start talking."

"Spectacularly and interestingly wrong," Harry grunted. "I've never heard my life summed up so well. Anyway, it's not like she'll believe anything. So, I had a vision. Peter was there."

"Peter who?" Amelia asked.

"Pettigrew," Harry answered.

"Peter Pettigrew is dead," Amelia stated. "I think we still have a few of his toes at the ministry."

"Too bad you don't have any parts that he couldn't have lived without," Ron commented.

"There are witnesses!" Amelia protested. "They saw Sirius Black kill him." They were silent for a moment.

"Who?" Harry ventured. Ron probably slugged him in the thigh.

"Too much!" the redhead hissed quietly, though his previous imbibement made him loud enough for Amelia to hear quite plainly.

"Sirius Black!" Harry announced. "Yes! He is evil and betrayed my parents. Such a bad guy! And he was accused of killing Peter Pettigrew."

"Right," Ron stated.

"Accused?" Amelia ventured. "He was convicted."

"I thought they were kangaroo courts," Sal commented.

"Anyway, Voldemort was pissed," Harry announced firmly before the two "adults" in the room could begin squabbling again.

"You Know Who?" Amelia demanded. "He's dead."

"Sometimes," Harry agreed. "Sometimes he's on the back of a guy's head. Sometimes he's in a book. Sometimes. . ."

"Do you have proof of any of this?" she demanded.

"Of course not!" Harry stated grandly as he took another hard pull from his flask. "Now, if you wouldn't mind not interrupting. . ." Amelia stared at him blankly. "Sensational! Anyway, Voldemort was pissed at Peter, but not too pissed because someone who had escaped them was killed by a third person before they could do anything."

"We've decided to call the third person the Third Conspirator!" Luna added cheerfully.

"We have?" Harry asked. The blond nodded happily and he just shrugged. "Sure. Why not?"

"And you think the person that escaped was Barty?" Sal asked.

"I don't think anything," Harry replied.

"Obviously," Ron, Luna, Hermione, Cedric and Amalie managed to grumble at the same time.

"I do not need this in surround sound, thank you," Harry growled. "Anyway, I'm just telling you what I saw. I gave you the names I know and nothing more."

"So, Barty was alive until recently," Sal said, thinking out loud. "He was a security risk, but they kept him alive. Sounds like Imperius to me. Alive, but under control. It's a Death Eater favorite. How long though? Was he forced to set up the tournament just for you, or was he taken after the tournament to use it to get to you?"

"Chicken and the egg," Harry said with a shrug. "What does it really matter? I'm here now and he isn't. None of it has bearing on my survival."

"Are you a Seer?" Amelia demanded of the last Potter as she tried to justify this information in comparison to what she knew to be true as well as Sal's seeming willingness to believe everything. The man was a monster, not a fool and if he believed. . .well, Amelia wasn't sure, but she didn't like it.

"Not that I know of," Harry replied.

"And you believe all this?" Amelia demanded as she turned on Sal.

"You're the one who lost a department head, Amy," the man grunted. "So, unless you plan on blaming a bunch of school kids for disappearing Iron Bart, I would keep an open mind if I were you."

"Never keep an open mind, you never know what might enter," Luna said solemnly.

"See?" Ron asked. "That wasn't confusing at all and it's good advice."

"I. . .need to go," Amelia stated. "I have an investigation to supervise." That and a lot of thinking to do. In vino veritas, sometimes. Other times it was gibberish. So, which was it this time and why were there a ball of dread gnawing away at her stomach?

"Bye Amelia!" Luna chirped as she waved so enthusiastically that she was almost vibrating in place.

". . .bye."

(:ii:)

"All I'm saying is, that it's really hard to place bets when the judges seem a little iffy on the rules," Victor complained.

"You shouldn't expect hard and fast rules when you're dealing with judges," Sophie countered. "Judges have to use judgement. It's in the name. Now stop pouting. I've had to listen to this our whole shift and I'm not listening to it off duty."

"Potter was the first to return, but they decided to give him fourth because he disappeared," Victor growled. "I would like to point out, disappearing does not appear as a punishable offense in the rules."

"You can't trust Harry," Sophie stated as she held up her hand to order another round. "He'll do something weird or something weird will just happen and it'll either end up really good or really bad. Krum is a consistent performer. He got second in the first and even if they hadn't changed it so that he got first in the second, he still would have gotten second." They sat in silence for a moment.

"I'm amazed you could say that after this many drinks," Victor commented.

"Me too!" Sophie chirped. "Weird shit happens around Harry. That is the only consistency with him."

"Weird shit," Victor mused. "Like scaring an adult dragon?"

"Yeah, like scaring an adult dragon," Sophie replied.

"Did he ever explain that one?" Victor pressed.

"I never asked. I just figured that the explanation would make it all worse," Sophie admitted. "So, just bet on weird to happen with Harry and for Viktor to win."

"I feel somewhat insulted that I'm not even in the running," a new voice stated. Sophie glanced over her shoulder.

"Hey Fleur. This is my partner, Victor. Victor, you know our champion."

"Nice to meet you," Victor stated as the other blonde sat on a stool next to Sophie.

"Charmed," Fleur replied politely.

"Anyway, you know this isn't a competition for sane people," Sophie stated. "Only madmen excel at insanity. You're too normal."

"Viktor is rather. . ." Fleur began.

"Hermione," Sophie interrupted. The other blonde nodded and conceded the point.

"What about Cedric?" she asked.

"Have you ever looked into his eyes?" Sophie demanded. "That charming smile and those caring eyes, so compassionate! He's the craziest one! Kindness is the most obvious sign of a sociopath." Beside her, Victor let out annoyed sigh.

"That's not how it works," the man grunted. He glanced between the two. "So, how do you two know each other?"

"The champions hang out together more often than not," Sophie explained.

"And you hang out with Potter," Victor stated, making the older blonde's eyes narrow.

"I told you, I am dating his legal aged god father," she stated.

"Whom I have never met," Victor commented as he toyed with the glass in front of him.

"It's complicated," Sophie growled.

"It doesn't have to be."

"It kind of does when Harry is involved," Fleur said with a shrug. "Anyway, I need a favor."

"Shoot," Sophie replied as their drinks appeared.

"I need training."

"Sophie can't help you," Victor said immediately. "I will train you and she can assist me."

"I can train. . ." Sophie trailed off as Victor help up his left hand where his ring finger was the same length as his smallest finger. "That was an accident."

"An accident you still haven't apologized for," the man pointed out.

"You don't have to apologize for accidents," Sophie argued, "they're accidents!"

"But you should when you make it so that a man can only count to nine and three quarters," Victor countered. Beside them, Fleur could only sigh and rest her head in her hands as the two continued to bicker.

"And here I was, so sure that that our aurors would be normal."

-End

(:ii:)

-Author's drunken rambles. I was so close. I was putting the finishing touches on this thing and then it all got fucked up over a missing debit card and me being the only person in existence who can read a computer screen.

Seriously, is this the secret to IT? Somebody can't get a computer to do something and IT shows up and just reads the prompts on the screen? Is that it? That and non-critical thinking? I won't tattle. Is this your witchcraft?

-B: I can't find my checking account to put a pause on my debit card!

-Jack: Why did you go to credit card services?

-B: Where else would I go?

-Jack: Debit card services.

-B: I didn't see that.

-Jack: Yes, you did. You clicked on it and immediately clicked the back button which fucked up everything because you can't go backwards on most banking websites.

-B: There's nothing here!

-Jack: That's the checking account you're looking for.

-B: No, it's not.

-Jack: That is the numbers you gave me and that thing that says "pause activity" is probably the thing you click that pauses activity on that card.

-B: Oh! I didn't see that!

-Jack: *halfway through a beer and heading for the end*

So, that completely disappeared my last few minutes in a wave of unnecessary hysteria before I had to leave for a forced family vacation. On the other hand, that gave me a month to play with this thing. This is kind of the best I can do. So, either this is really witty and clever, or there is just way too much people fucking with each other for no real reason and being way to quipy with each other. One of the two. Or yes.

Story notes! So, people are probably going to be pissed that Harry spilled all in front of Bones. He can't do that! Doesn't he know that she is the chief law enforcement officer in his country? Obviously she can't be trusted. She must be evil or incompetent to have risen to the highest rank in her department, right? She can't just be the best at her job.

Look, I. . .well. . .I don't get it, but I know that Americans basically look at anyone in a position of authority and immediately denounce them as evil. Not someone to be suspicious of, but just flat out evil. Fuck forming an opinion, they bad. Except when the person in a position of authority says everything you want to hear. Then they're cool, or if they're not part of a traditional authority. They're a cool outsider who still has millions of followers and millions more of their followers' dollars to influence things and according to several law suits, they have no obligation to tell the truth because they are entertainers, not news sources that can be trusted.

Yeah, someone like that without the checks and balances of more traditional media is totally trustworthy.

Also, if someone is telling you everything you want to hear, maybe more suspicion instead of less. People saying things you don't want to hear might just be honest. People saying everything you want to hear, well, they might just have an agenda. Or they're just like you and you could be friends! Either way, suspicion first. Undying loyalty later.

Also, also, don't talk to cops when you are fucked up. This one is a life lesson I am passing on to you because I cannot shut the fuck up when I am drunk. Not to pull straight, veteran, white, male privilege, but that's probably the only reason I've only been in jail a few times and never been charged.

Sorta story notes. I noticed a few people talking about masks in the last chapter. How Trelawney slipped up and showed the brutally clever witch hiding behind her strangeness. Only. . .she didn't. At least, she didn't in this story and I feel a little qualified to talk about this thing.

Trelawney is spacey and prone to seeing omens of bad fortune everywhere, especially when that everywhere includes Harry Potter. However, at least in this story, when shit goes down, she is still an adult and a teacher who can show concern for her students and use basic competency to aid them. She also happens to have a dozen medical journals on the brain that she peruses in her search to understand seeing the future. There's absolutely nothing about future seeing in those books, but she studies them religiously to try and prove her beliefs.

The notebook she so ingeniously gave to Harry is one of her many dream journals. It is full of complete gibberish that she swears are prophecies. If it had been found, it would have been a point of mockery, but because she gave it to Harry along with basic dream journal advice, it now makes her extremely clever.

Clear as mud?

Good. That's real life. Not to sound too emo teenager, but black and white don't really exist. This world exists in shades of gray in all things.

Non story notes. In more serious news, wave of mass shootings. Obviously sarcastic yay. Good thing the gun owning community has spent years building a repour with non-owners and we can grieve together and try to understand what happened as a united nation and what steps we can take to prevent it from happening again. Good fucking thing that gun owners can show basic fucking human empathy, right? Boy, would we seem like a bunch of sociopathic assholes otherwise.

Can you imagine if gun owners had spent decades in the throes of hysteria and self-imposed isolationism, only surfacing to make asses of ourselves and post blatantly threatening messages on social media that we then immediately backtrack on and try to blame the victim for feeling threatened. Or when we all threw a hissy fit because a man's guns were taken away by the Secret Service after he publicly threatened a fucking sitting President of the United States?

Boy would that be fucking awkward! And I can already see gun owners whining. Why do we have to conform to basic human sensibilities? Just because innocent people die doesn't mean we have to feel bad! Sure, they're dead and they left behind loved ones, but what about us! And now we're sociopaths. Thanks fellow gun owners. I've always wanted to be viewed as a broken human being that can't conform to society, the thing that separates us from animals, because of my hobby and choice of self-defense tool.

Again, at least the NRA is too busy trying to take its money and run to come out with some horrifically cold-blooded statement about human rights in the face of a pile of dead bodies. Cause you know, dead people don't have human rights. They're dead and therefore not human anymore. They can't vote or donate money, so they don't matter.

Americans want actions, not words and gun control is finally in a place where they can provide those actions.

Us gun owners have done nothing. Nothing to engender good will. Nothing to educate. Nothing to grow the community. Nothing to even try to be actually empathetic human beings. Nothing at all, or at least, not on a scale that mattered.

I really am sick of listening to gun rights talk about how they would totally support common sense gun control.

Come up gents, let's have it. Give us common sense gun control. You've been talking about it since the last mass shooting, which was, admittedly, not long enough ago, so you must have something, right? In the month I didn't post this chapter, it's not like nine more people died in one mass shooting, right? It's not like a little girl took a gun to school and shot three people, right? You can't just be running your fucking mouth and waiting for the news networks to stop airing footage of grieving families, right?

If some major, poorly written gun control goes through and accidentally bans everything except muzzle loaders, well, I can't even blame gun control. They don't know shit about guns and we have completely ignored every chance to try to work with them and teach them.

And yes, it will be an accident, not some grand conspiracy. Never mistake incompetence for malice.

Any new gun control laws are our fault. The sad part is that the shrieking gun rights lunatics will forever be too wrapped up in their perceived victimization to every wonder if, perhaps, they're the reason for it.

After all, Americans have decided that consequences no long exist. Everything that happens to you as a result of your actions is the system working against you. It is not the consequences of your actions. After all, isn't it just so convenient to blame everyone else for disliking you instead of accepting that, maybe, you're just unlikeable.

Personally, when people don't like me, I just accept that I said something that pissed them off. Then I tap dance off into the sunset because I believe in my own opinions. I will defend my opinions, but I won't defend myself for having them. If people don't like me, that's fine. They don't like me. It's not some grand conspiracy against me, some people just think I'm an asshole and I accept that and support their right to believe it. I don't need to live in a world where everyone who thinks different from me is part of some wild conspiracy in order to validate myself.

Whelp. Wooo. Spilled me guts a little hard there. Probably will offend some people, but fuck them. They offend me and yes, they have a right to do that and I will support them to have that right, but still, fuck them. Also fuck commas.

God damn, how is it possible to be so disappointed in everything and almost everyone? My name is Cynical for a reason. I spend my life expecting the worse to avoid this disappointment yet here I am. Rock bottom is just a joke when people decide to start digging.

So, anyway!

Hip number two is scheduled for this week. I called my surgeon's office and told them I was ready for the operation. They asked for a time frame. I said early to mid-May and in the hospital because when you get a surgery in the hospital, the hospital has to handle all the scheduling and paperwork. They gave me a few dates. I picked one, hung up and started reviewing a schedule on my desk.

It took me a few minutes to realized that I had just ordered a pretty major surgery with less effort than I've ordered a pizza. Look: green peppers, onions and black olives takes time to communicate. No, I don't want black pepper and green olives, damn it! If I want black pepper, I can damn well add it myself. God help you if you want to add sausage and God help your bank account. Four toppings might land you north of what I paid to have a giant chunk of titanium hammered into my body by a guy who probably makes five figures an hour. State bennies bitches! They can pay me shit as long as I can pay one hundred dollar US for a hip replacement.

Also, month and a half of forced sobriety WOOO! Shit is going to get weird around here and maybe I should really think about my vices. I'm not going to quit drinking, but I am getting older and maybe, just maybe, I don't need to pound alcohol so much anymore.

Hopefully this will be the final nail in the story of the last three plus years of my life living in chronic pain. So, if I'm not in chronic pain, maybe it's time to reevaluate that excuse for my drinking and start making some changes.

Love you, fuck you, stay safe. Take care of each other. We're the only ones who will. Don't let them divide us. We can argue amongst ourselves, but we can't be pulled apart by those arguments.

-Uncle Jack