PG, gen. Years before Korea, Carlye Breslin finds Hawkeye in a closet, and decides she can solve all his problems.
This story won second place for best pre-war story.
In the bright sunshine-yellow light of the early evening, alcohol sparkled in the glass. Hawkeye appreciated it for its aesthetic qualities alone; add in the taste, the kick, the recoil, and he was set up for the night. If he was anything, he was an enthusiastic drinker. You might not think it to look at him, for as any first-year medical student knows, the more body fat you have, the more of the good stuff you can comfortably accommodate, and Hawkeye was slightly built. It looked like being a permanent state of affairs – most people are done growing (vertically and horizontally) by the time they’ve reached the grand old age of nineteen, and Hawkeye had reached that particular milestone six months before.
He was enjoying being a medical student. He enjoyed the medical part (dissection, textbooks, more dissection, more textbooks) but maybe not as much as he was enjoying the student part (sex, alcohol, and um… you know, the other good stuff). Yes, to be fair, the student part was the really good part. Unlike most, Hawkeye didn’t find the technicalities of the human body difficult to understand, which freed up valuable time that might otherwise have been wasted studying.
During the daytime, alcohol was ethanol, a diuretic, a toxin, an organic solvent. During the night-time, alcohol was ingested. In liberal quantities. However, alcohol was not the only thing Hawkeye found interesting. In fact, it was simply an enabling mechanism for his other… interests.
Luckily for Hawkeye, his interests tended to find him interesting in return. He was never sure who exactly instigated the encounters – in all honesty, it was the liquid in the glass that was to blame – but his nights were golden honey and he slipped away in the morning before anything turned bitter. It was more than a life, it was a lifestyle, and it worked for him. Something of a wide-eyed charmer, he was never particularly surprised when a pretty girl crossed his path, and never particularly perturbed when one didn’t. The proliferation of pretty girls around made for some interesting nights and equally interesting mornings.
Someone once told him a year or two in the services would’ve been good for him. He always laughed and shook off the remarks. There were so many people trying to change his ways; he didn’t want to change.
Most of the time, he didn’t want to change.
He woke up that morning, a cold grey morning, under cool white sheets, and he was the first to wake. His companion slept soundly, lips slightly parted, soft curls covering his eyes.
Hawkeye knew it hadn’t been the first time, nor would it be the last time, and maybe that was why he drank.
Nights followed days that followed nights that followed days, even days – mornings – like this, and this time, he was sure he’d reached a critical point, a point where he would calmly, carefully, rationally re-evaluate his life.
His life was very simple to evaluate at this point.
He was nineteen years old, he was sitting in the dark, he was drunk, and he was crying.
“It’s always the same,” she said. “You get drunk, you start crying, you start singing Somewhere Over The Rainbow.”
Carlye, that was her name. There was definite sparkage where she was concerned. However, she had too much force of personality for Hawkeye to deal with unless he was sober, which was consequently slowing the rate of relations between them. She was as much a charmer as he was, and add that to the fact she knew him too well. She knew exactly what he liked, exactly how to make him fall in love with her, and therefore exactly how to hurt him. Sadly, these revelations never stayed with him upon sobering up.
“Hawkeye…” she said softly. “You’re in denial.”
“I am not.” His voice was muffled. He was hiding from her, from everyone, behind a few centimetres of wood – a locked door.
She laughed, still softly. For once, Hawkeye hadn’t intended to be funny. Behind the door in the dark, his body was wracked with drunken sobs and in the midst of it, he cried out. “Go away!”
“The hell I will. I’m staying here until you come out. Aren’t you tired yet, Hawkeye?”
“Not tired, ‘m drunk.”
“I don’t mean that kind of tired. You’re too old to be holed up in a cupboard, Hawkeye.”
“Please leave me alone.” And that was strange in itself – he never said ‘please.’
“I know who you woke up with this morning.” She was almost irritatingly sure of herself.
“Yes, I do. You told me.”
“Did not.” He really hadn’t. He didn’t doubt she knew, though. For some reason, she knew everything.
“You told me with your eyes.”
“That’s not funny.”
“Fine. I saw.” She stopped, uncertain of how to go on. “Hawkeye, please… why didn’t you tell me?”
“You sound it, I must say. Won’t you please just come out of there? I know you’re crying, you don’t have to hide from me.”
“Leave me alone!”
“Honestly, you can be such a brat sometimes. I’m trying to help you.”
The door of the closet opened a crack and Hawkeye’s voice became clearer. “How?”
“Hawkeye… I read about it. I understand, really I do.”
“The hell you do!” Sudden anger, and Hawkeye’s voice seemed to rise above tears. “You wake up with a… with a girl, and then you might understand!”
“Hawkeye.” Carlye was quiet but firm. “Do you know what it means to be bisexual?”
Slowly, Hawkeye nodded, even though she couldn’t see him. He dimly remembered the word from some beat-up psych-textbook. “Yeah…”
“No, you don’t. If you did, you wouldn’t be in that damn closet.”
After a moment, the door opened, and Hawkeye’s head emerged, followed by the rest of him. Carlye took his hand, and they curled up together, leaning against the closet door.
“Look at you,” said Carlye indulgently. “You’re a mess. You’re drunk. And you’ve been crying.”
“That’s different. In the morning I’ll be sober, and I might even take a shower. But I’ll still be…”
Carlye helped him with it. “Bi…”
“Bisexual, yes. What do I do?”
She had no answer. Slowly, they both slipped down until they were lying on the floor, wrapped up in each other. There were a few minutes of silence, marked only by the occasional catch in Hawkeye’s breathing. Finally, she kissed him lightly and suggested, “Don’t cry.”
He had already stopped, but she felt him shudder. “Listen,” she said. “You’ll never wake up alone.”
His silence suggested he didn’t understand.
“You’ve got double the chances of everyone else,” she said. He was shaking, but sobs were becoming unsteady laughter. “That’s true,” he said, and his voice had become clear, neither slurred with alcohol nor blurred with tears.
They were leaning against the closed closet door, but sinking down towards the floor. Hawkeye felt exhaustion wash over him in a slow wave. Carlye was closer to sober than he was, but even she was slipping.
The last thing he remembered was her kissing him and whispering in his ear, “Good night, Dorothy…”
He wanted to say not to call him that, nothing had changed, he wasn’t a girl, but it was too late, he’d fallen too far down into sleep, and besides, in a way she was right, he wasn’t in Kansas any more, not any more, he’d tell her so, he’d tell her he thought she was right, but not now, when he was so sleepy, in the morning, in the morning…
In the morning, Hawkeye woke up alone. She’d gone, left him there, and for some reason he wanted to laugh. He couldn’t remember why.
He took a deep breath, inhaled the faintly sweet smell of sweat, alcohol and cigarette smoke that still clung to him, and shivered. He threw back the white sheet covering him and stood up, not surprised to find he was naked. Grabbing the sheet and walking slowly as not to jar his head, he made his way to the shower and turned on the water.
It came to him as he stood there, hot water pouring straight into his eyes. He glanced through the steamed glass at the white sheet he’d discarded, dirty and stained red (lipstick? blood?) and started to laugh.
war was declared in Europe, but he didn’t care, he was free.
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