Author's Note: I've been holding this back for a while, but a lot of my pals seem to be having a really bad day today, and since I don't have any new "Corazones" or "Order Up" to offer I thought I'd put this out there instead. Hope you feel better, guys. :(

I love Psyche-Out. I really do. He's a genius in his own way, a brilliant communicator, but the fact that he's also the Joes' designated psychological expert means that if he has any conscience about his job whatsoever, his life is going to be a living hell. You simply can't psychoanalyze some people and expect to remain entirely rational.

A few notes: The Mask of Sanity (1941)is a book by Harvey Cleckley and is considered the first truly definitive work on psychopathy and psychopaths. The DSM-IV, or the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, is also called the "psychiatrists' handbook" and is an invaluable reference work. Neuroleptics are also called anti-psychotics, a type of medication whose name speaks for itself. David T. Lykken was a behavioral expert who did pioneering work in defining and recognizing types of psychopaths. And the end quote is, of course, from Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. The title is taken from the song by the Dropkick Murphys.

Rating: T for language.

Disclaimer: G.I. Joe and all associated characters and concepts are property of Hasbro Inc, and I derive no profit from this. Please accept this in the spirit with which it is offered—as a work of respect and love, not an attempt to claim ownership or earn money from this intellectual property.

Whiskey, War, Suicide and Guns

by Totenkinder Madchen

If he were to be truly professional about his work, Psyche-Out supposed, he would have put half the Joes on medication long ago. As it stood, his rotating appointment schedule had him meeting with each Joe once every two months (with the number of soldiers assigned to him, more often simply wasn't possible) and keeping an ear on any possible rumors about them—to use the colloquial rather than the official terminology—going off the deep end. He had a nice fat file on every man, woman and Beach Head under his care, and after a long day, he would sometimes amuse himself by flipping through them and wondering how he would have approached their cases if he'd been a doctor in the private sector.

The biggest problem was, of course, the definition of "abnormal." Psyche-Out had specialized in (among other things) abnormal psychology and was considered something of an expert in the field, but "what is normal?" was up there with "is there a god?" on the list of things that the academic world could argue about until everyone had died from old age. Baselines that might apply to a normal, nine-to-five civilian were routinely exceeded, smashed, or simply ignored by any and all Joe personnel. There was simply no point of reference for what any of these people had been through.

Paranoia would be a natural and logical reaction to a long time spent in G.I. Joe, but that was difficult to diagnose too. Hell, Psyche-Out could count on one hand the number of classic paranoid delusions that hadn't been legitimate Cobra plans at one point or another. Killer robots, human chameleons, government coverups . . . even hidden messages in rock music, though that had been less a plan than an abortion.

Still, he was a doctor, and for the sake of his patients he couldn't shrug off the facts of the case. At least a handful of the Joes were legitimately traumatized, with a few more showing signs of depression and/or disconnect from reality. Some had been brainwashed, others had seen their friends die in front of them; war, as the cliché went, was hell.

A visiting psychologist, ordered in by the Pentagon, had once tried to put Cover Girl on antidepressants. He'd claimed that her enthusiasm for tank-driving and her thrillseeking attitudes were clear signs of a self-destructive attitude. Granted, he'd also diagnosed Clutch with ADD and pronounced the ninjas kleptomaniac, so it was clear that he'd had a likely Juggler-backed agenda. Psyche-Out had stepped in and thrown everything at the man: his full weight, academic credentials, and more psychobabble than even he had thought he was capable of producing. Cover Girl had been spared the mood menders, and had shown her appreciation by giving Psyche-Out a kiss in full view of the entire mess hall. There were definitely some perks to this job.

But for someone like Snake-Eyes, who might as well have been registered in Doc's files as blood type PTSD, antidepressants might possibly have been helpful. They often had fewer of the terrifying side-effects that the antipsychotics produced and, Psyche-Out could admit, could be helpful in preventing that moment when the weapons lying around the base started to look much friendlier than normal. But while Psyche-Out could recommend and prescribe, he couldn't actively make a Joe medicate—not without ordering them onto forced medical leave, something which he technically had the power to do but which might do more harm than good in the long run.

Fortunately, Scarlett was proving an excellent source of therapy for the poster boy of combat trauma. Psyche-Out was not prepared to comment on that, but in case the higher-ups ever got wind, he'd already written a one-hundred-and-sixty-page defense of the whole situation. It had over four hundred footnotes.

Not that depression was the only personality disorder on display. Storm Shadow . . . now there was a man who could benefit from a nice antipsychotic or six. Between his own sessions with brainwashing, the years he'd spent undercover in a terrorist organization as part of a complex scheme to avenge a murder, and the general glee he took in his fearsome (and deserved) reputation, Storm Shadow gave the impression of someone who used the DSM-IV as a to-do list. If Psyche-Out had encountered such a man in a world where Cobra wasn't a part of his daily life, he knew quite well how he would have proceeded: intensive personality profiling, a heavy neuroleptic medication to suppress the more overtly murderous tendencies, and possibly institutionalization.

Once, out of curiosity, he'd taken out one of his many profiles of Storm Shadow and tried to match it up against the DSM's various symptoms lists. The Arashikage ninja had scored five out of seven on the Antisocial Personality Disorder checklist, fit Lykken's definition of sociopathy to a T, and hit the gold standard of Mask of Sanity-style lunacy by demonstrating "consistent and unrelenting disregard for others in regards to their safety, health, and well-being." He was even charming, a superficial trait commonly demonstrated by the more talented serial killers. Unnerved by that, Psyche-Out had gone so far as to prescribe Storm Shadow an antipsychotic, which predictably was never taken.

But there they were again: the extraordinary circumstances stretching any previously used definition of "normal." Storm Shadow was a ninja assassin, a subculture not normally taken into account by the writers of the DSM. The personality traits marked antisocial (such as his habit of maiming people who woke him up abruptly) had been carefully cultivated by his family and profession. Operating on a strict basis of "knife, person, some assembly required" had kept him alive in a world where everyone really was out to get him. Helpless, Psyche-Out was forced to content himself with seeing the ninja as often as possible and occasionally bribing tidbits of information out of Scarlett or Billy.

Billy! Now there was a career-making case, if Psyche-Out had been mercenary enough to think in terms like that. Disowned by his terrorist father by the time he'd turned ten, leading an armed resistance of tweenies in the dark underground of an apparently-typical suburban town, suffering grievous bodily harm in an explosion that had spurred his father's temporary reformation before the man fell back into old habits and started brainwashing everyone who ever looked at him funny . . . Other people had expressed surprise over Storm Shadow, a Cobra ninja at the time, taking on Billy as an apprentice. Psyche-Out was just surprised it hadn't happened sooner. It was fairly obvious that Billy had adopted the ninja as a surrogate father figure: granted, a father figure that threatened to painfully de-limb Psyche-Out whenever he brought up the topic, but a father figure nevertheless.

But that was the secret, wasn't it? The one great mystery, the one thing that Juggler-hired or Pentagon-trained psychiatrists couldn't grasp. The thing that made so many bizarrely discordant personalities work together and not only not kill each other, but thrive.

It was like that horrible old disco song had said: "We Are Family."

(Psyche-Out remembered disco. Specifically, he remembered a pair of plaid pants, a young woman calling herself Krystal Safire, and a drink that made the room go fuzzy. There was a reason he hated that song.)

Yes, they were family, but not in the cringe-inducing sappy way that people often used the phrase. "Family:" noun, derived from the Middle English familie, itself a descendant of the Latin familia and thence Latin famul (servant, slave, handmaid or attendant). In its strictest sense, it referred to a group of individuals considered a unit—usually cohabitating. The Joes were that, but they were more too, in that odd indefinable way that clued Psyche-Out into the fact that he probably shouldn't bring it up around them. The incest jokes, for one thing, would be unavoidable.

But they were, all the same, even if it was the kind of family that didn't crop up in the movies a lot. Billy had moved easily into the role of Damaged Adopted Kid, with Storm Shadow as his father figure and Snake-Eyes—equally damaged, but in an entirely different way—as Dad's Weird Brother Who's Really Weird But Cool in a Noncreepy Way. Scarlett, who instructed Billy almost as often as Storm Shadow and had her "understanding" with Snake-Eyes, filled another role as Teacher Who's Dating A Relative, And If That's Not Freaky I Don't Know What Is. Kamakura and Jinx, students competing for the senseis' attention and praise, were so close to being Billy's Vitriolic Siblings that Psyche-Out sometimes got their backgrounds mixed up in his incident reports. (And there were incident reports. Oh boy were there incident reports.)

And contrary to popular conception and greenshirt rumor, there was more to it than just the little clique of ninjas. Oh, sure, the ninjas were pretty hard to avoid whenever you thought about the Pit's interpersonal dynamics, but just because the other groups were less colorful didn't mean they weren't there.

Take the motor pool gang . . . and yes, gang was the word for them, because their interactions resembled nothing so much as a secret society, with their own coded handshakes and initiations involving a lot of whiskey-drinking. Bonded by their love of engines and their mutual despair over the way the rest of the Joes didn't give a shit about the difference between a high-gauge clutch and a set of 452 heel-sprung jibs, the motor poolers spoke a language all their own. They harassed each other constantly, playing pranks and telling bad jokes, but if anyone disparaged their work or tried to join in the cheerful antagonization they were apt to find themselves facing an angry and unified front. Like the Code of the Freaks, the rule was Offend One, and You Offend Them All. Trifle not with the motor pool.

If the motor poolers were a gang, though, the fobbits were an elite academy of magician elders. Mainframe ruled unopposed over the ranks of the brain-trust Joes, holding the greatest of all knowledge (or the security passwords, whichever it was) and treating his technical gear with the respect due to the robes of the High Elder. They had rituals ("You did defrag it, right?"), chants ("Fuck! Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck!") and sacred artifacts ("Has anyone seen my backup disk?"). They even had a departed forefather in the form of Breaker, who was gone but definitely not forgotten, and whose name was invoked whenever someone screwed up really, really badly.

Or—Psyche-Out's personal favorite—the leftovers, and what he liked to think of as the Hermit Convention. They were the Joes who, for one reason or another, didn't fall into any other category . . . usually because they were natural loners or creeped people out. But humans are social animals, and without fail, Psyche-Out would see one or two of the hermits hanging around with each other, occasionally conversing in grunts or nods. Deep-Six and Low-Light, for example. What they talked about, God only knew, since they had absolutely nothing in common, but that didn't stop them from having coffee every other morning and exchanging maybe two-thirds of a word the whole time.

And it all worked, somehow. Some of them were families, some of them were cliques, and all of them could be diagnosed with some kind of mental disorder if he tried hard enough, but they banded together and kept each other functional and defeated notorious threats to the free world.

Where did that leave Psyche-Out? Well, he didn't really fit into the picture if he thought about it. Lifeline and the infirmary group occupied a similar position of providing unpleasant services, but Lifeline had saved enough lives and kicked enough butts (protesting all the time, of course) that he got respect from the Joes. Psyche-Out? Well . . . he shrank heads and talked enemies into giving themselves up. Not the most well-regarded occupation.

On the other hand . . . he was a lone psychiatrist trying to make headway against hundreds of unhinged career soldiers who'd formed the weirdest, most persistent bonds in the history of head-shrinking. That thought brought a smile to his lips, and a moment of revelation to his personal musings.

"Did you see the shrink's new décor?" Cover Girl said as Shipwreck emerged from the office. Shipwreck took a moment to appreciate the gorgeous brunette waiting for him, making her raise an eyebrow and snap her fingers to bring him back to the present. "I said, did you see it?"

"Yeah, I saw it." Shipwreck shrugged a little, offering Cover Girl an easygoing grin. "I think we've finally broken the poor guy. An Alice in Wonderland poster? Seriously?"

Cover Girl smiled back. "I think it's kind of sweet, actually. It's like he's finally figured everything out. Took him long enough, too."

"What do you mean? It's just a poster."

She raised the eyebrow again. "'Wreck, have you actually read Alice in Wonderland?"

"I'm a sailor, Court," Shipwreck said dismissively. "I've got better things to do than read books about kids on drugs."

"Riiiight. Well, go look up the Cheshire Cat and then talk to me again, okay?"

And she was off, her hips swaying tantalizingly in such a way that Shipwreck forgot everything she had just said and spent a few more appreciative moments thanking God that he was born free, American, and heterosexual.

He never did look up that cat.

"But I don't want to go among mad people," Alice remarked.

"Oh, you can't help that," said the Cat: "we're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad."

"How do you know I'm mad?" said Alice.

"You must be," said the Cat, "or you wouldn't have come here."