Title: When The Jokes Fail
Characters: Hawkeye Pierce
Spoilers: Nothing specific.
Summary: Hawkeye tries to drown his sorrows.
Word Count: 340
Disclaimer: I don’t own M*A*S*H, or the characters. They belong to their creators.
He cracks jokes in the middle of this police action, as if war by any other name will somehow smell sweeter, because if he doesn't laugh he knows he'll never stop crying. He’s a doctor, his job is to heal, but he spends far too much of his time up to his elbows in the guts of kids whose only concern should be whether to buy a soda or a malt. It’s not just tragic; it’s criminal.
The ones you can’t save tear you apart, and the ones you fix just get sent back out to be torn apart all over again, like they’re stuck in a revolving door. Go out, get shot or blown up, come back in, get fixed and go out again. It never stops.
Some days it all gets too much, the jokes aren't enough to keep the horrors at a distance and he ends up crying anyway; usually into a martini so dry that he could diagnose it with dehydration. Alcohol isn’t an escape, not anymore, but it numbs him enough sometimes that he can sleep without dreaming, a blessed and all too rare respite.
Today’s been bad, he lost one on the operating table, too shredded up inside to be put back together again despite his best efforts, like a jigsaw with a few dozen pieces missing and no picture to tell him what it should look like. So tonight he’s drowning his sorrows in drink and in the process, drowning his drink in his sorrows. You’d think he would’ve run out of tears by now but they just keep coming and he can’t find the energy to wipe them away anymore. His martini tastes of salt, which is actually an improvement.
Tomorrow, or whenever the next shipment of wounded arrives, he’ll scrub up and dive back in, patching them up as best he can. Tomorrow he’ll be a surgeon again. But tonight, he’ll take the time to mourn all the boys who’ll never have the chance to grow into men.
Someone has to.