The Ties that Bind by boasamishipper
Summary: In a strange turn of events, Private Tully Pettigrew is captured on a mission and sent to Stalag 13, rumored to be one of the toughest POW camps in Germany. The guards are fierce, the punishments are ruthless, and no prisoner has ever escaped. But is everything what it seems?
Author's Note: Hi, everyone! It's great to be back here after nearly two years―and I notice that there are a lot more fics here than the last time I checked, which is especially awesome. This particular fic has been in my WIP folder for nearly a year now, and I'm excited to finally get to it. I don't know how many chapters this will end up being (nor do I know how often it'll be updated, as I have another three WIPs at the moment), but rest assured, it will be a fun ride. :)
Disclaimer: I am not nor have I ever been in the military, so some of the procedures described may not be accurate. The German used in this chapter comes straight from Google Translate, so I can't be sure regarding its preciseness. And although it pains me, I unfortunately do not own Rat Patrol or Hogan's Heroes. I'm just playing, with love and respect to those who brought these characters to life.
"Invisible threads are the strongest ties."
Five o'clock in the morning was an ungodly time to leave for a mission, especially when they'd just gotten back from their previous mission less than twelve hours previous. Tully was ready to fall asleep standing up, and Hitch almost had on the jeep ride over. Moffitt had actually gotten a few hours of sleep, even if it had been on top of his books instead of in his cot. Troy, in contrast, looked wide awake and ready to complete their next mission. Whatever jazz was in his commanding officer's veins, Tully thought, he wanted a shot of it every time he left the base.
Captain Boggs, apparently undeterred by the fact that none of the members of the Rat Patrol had slept much in the last few days, had assigned them a mission to retrieve anti-aircraft shell fuses from a small village thirty miles away. Naturally, there was a catch; Captain Dietrich had been spotted there as one of the guards and in order to steal the shell fuses, the four of them would have to evade an entire camp of German officers. The odds were tough, but they'd faced tougher before. Tully was sure they could do it.
"You got some secret plan up your sleeve, Doc?" Tully asked on the ride over. Moffitt had been staring pensively into the distance for some time now, so he was sure that the answer was yes. "You've been mighty quiet."
It took Moffitt a few seconds to answer, and when he spoke it was as if his mind was a million miles away. "I'm attempting to formulate one, yes. But mostly I'm just worried. I've got a bad feeling about this."
The corner of Moffitt's mouth quirked upward into a half-smile. "We haven't had the best luck with the Germans lately, you know."
"Well, we never do." During the early years of the Rat Patrol, Tully and Hitch had started a betting pool as to which one of them would get injured whenever Captain Boggs sent them on complicated missions such as this one. But then Cotter had died and Moffitt had joined them—and the amount of times they got hurt increased—and their betting pool had died down to an old joke. Thank God Sarge never heard about us doing it, Tully thought. Otherwise he would have made us scrub the barracks with toothbrushes for a month. "It'll be fine."
"I hope so." Moffitt didn't comment on his bad feelings further, instead changing the subject to an argument that he and Tully had been having the previous night over Franz Boas's novel Race, Language and Culture. Tully didn't mind for two reasons. One was that he was on the winning side of a debate for once. Two was that he didn't want to think about the upcoming mission either.
Just when Tully was about to go in for the kill, he noticed that Hitch's jeep was slowing down and instantly knew that they'd reached the camp. "We ought to save this debate for another time, Doc," he said. "I think we're here."
Sure enough, Troy signaled for them to come nearer and Tully quickly drove his and Moffitt's jeep up to Hitch's. Sandy grit forced its way into his mouth thanks to the wind but he didn't bother spitting it out. More would take its place soon enough anyways. It was worse though when he was chewing some of Hitch's bubble gum—the sweetness of the gum and the coarseness of the sand always made him choke.
Moffitt readjusted his goggles and exited their jeep while Tully rested on the hood of the car, his gun on his lap. "What's the plan, Troy?"
Troy's eyes flickered between them all. Tully exchanged a quick look with Hitch, both of them excited to hear the sergeant's plan of attack. "Hitch, you're with me—we're going to get the anti-aircraft shell fuses. Moffitt, I need you to spread a little mayhem and despondency to cover for us."
The British sergeant released a brief flicker of a smile at the mention of his often-used catchphrase. "Always a pleasure, Troy."
Troy rolled his eyes, but Tully would have to be blind to miss the fondness behind it. "Just try not to be too enthusiastic," he said. "And Tully, you go with Moffitt. See if you can keep each other in line."
"Right, Sarge." Tully had hoped he'd be able to go with Moffitt. He enjoyed spreading mayhem wherever they went. As much fun as going with Hitch and the Sarge was, nothing beat watching the faces of the Germans as their tents blew up around them.
As Tully and Hitch gathered the necessary equipment and Troy laid out the map of the encampment on the hood of the jeep, Tully nudged his friend's shoulder. "You shouldn't put extra ammo in your pockets, y'know."
"Yeah, and who are you, my mother?"
"Nah," Tully said calmly, barely holding back a grin at Hitch's mock-offended tone. "Just saying it'll hurt like extra hell if you happen to get shot there."
Hitch's reply was cut off by Troy motioning the two of them forward to look at the map. He went over the guard postings, which tent was which, and the amount of time that they had to complete this mission or else. Tully thought that in another life Troy would have made an excellent general.
Tully, Hitch, and Moffitt shook their heads.
They slung their gear over their backs and moved closer, huddled for a moment, heads nearly touching. Troy nodded, his expression serious as sin and twice as deadly as he tightened his grip on the shoulders of Tully and Moffitt. "Alright then," he said. "Let's shake it."
After Troy and Hitch had driven off to fulfill their end of the plan, Moffitt and Tully approached Dietrich's camp, which was a little Arab town that he'd taken over. They had parked their jeep about half a mile away in order to seem less suspicious—well, as less suspicious as possible since they were both carrying armfuls of smoke bombs.
"Once we're in the camp, we should split up," Moffitt told Tully for what felt like the hundredth time. "I'll set my bombs, you set yours. We'll meet up at the jeep; that can be our rendezvous point, in say, fifteen or so minutes. Once Troy and Hitch come back, we'll leave. You understand?" Tully nodded, absorbing this information. "Don't forget, the smoke bombs are timed, so once you set them down, run."
"How could I forget?" Tully asked with a half-smile at the sergeant. "I helped you make them."
Moffitt snorted. "Go on, Tully. I'll see you in fifteen minutes."
Getting in the camp was easy. The problem was trying to find inconspicuous places to stow away the smoke bombs; places that the Germans wouldn't think to look in, like near gutters or beside doorways. He just hoped that the innocents of the village wouldn't be too badly harmed by his and Moffitt's show of mayhem and despondency.
Once the bombs had all been placed, Tully snuck around, eventually settling behind one of the larger houses to spy on the Jerries that seemed to be flocking Dietrich and the soldiers everywhere they went. They weren't the average, run-of-the-mill Jerries though, he noted, observing that there were more differences than similarities between Dietrich and the other soldiers, who wore black uniforms, swastikas on their red armbands—
His stomach plummeted to his knees at the realization, and he pressed himself flat against the wall of the house. Dietrich had allied himself with the Gestapo. The Gestapo were in North Africa. How was this possible? God, he had to warn the others.
At this insight, Tully realized that he and the others were heading into a trap. He whirled around, intending to run away and warn them, but came face to face with a German bearing the insignia of a major and a thick mustache that rivaled Hitler's.
"What are you doing here, Private?" the major asked. Or that was what Tully thought he'd said. He'd spoken too fast. The only word he'd caught was his rank, Private.
"Uh..." Tully debated between killing the major then and there or running away and hoping for the best. He quickly decided that running seemed like the best option, so he took off at a sprint and after a few moments ran into several more guards, each with at least seventy pounds on him.
As the guards escorted him back to the major at gunpoint, he muttered so many curse words under his breath that had he been a child his mother would've washed his mouth out with soap for weeks. One of the men forced him to his knees, and he stared up with hatred at the people surrounding him.
"Hauptmann Dietrich," said the major (in English) to Dietrich, who had ambled up to the commotion, "what is this American doing here?"
Tully pleaded with his eyes for the captain not to say anything, but Dietrich spoke anyway—in his usual accented English, thankfully. He preferred to know what was going on when his life was at stake. "He operates with an elite unit called the Desert Rats, Herr Major. They often bungle up the work that we do down here. Very hard to catch too."
"Is that so?" Tully didn't like the major's suddenly feral grin. His eyes, too, differed from Dietrich's; the private couldn't see any sympathy or kindness reflecting there. That scared him more than anything. Sarge, Moffitt, Hitch, where the hell are you? "What is your name?"
"Go to hell," Tully growled, which earned him a slap across the face so hard that he ended up seeing stars.
"I will only ask you once more," said the major, surprisingly calm, "or else I will turn you over to Fritz and Heinrich over here and have them get it out of you by force."
"Pettigrew," he spat, cursing his weak will.
"Tell me, Private Pettigrew, where is the rest of this elite unit of yours?"
"On another mission." The lie came so easily and quickly that he didn't even have to think about it. They could beat and torture him until the cows came home but he would never give up his friends to the Jerries. "I'm the only one here."
"I believe he is telling the truth, Major Hochstetter," said Dietrich, and Tully inwardly thanked him for lying for the sakes of Troy, Hitch and Moffitt. Surely the captain knew that if Tully was here, then the rest of his teammates couldn't be too far behind. "If the Rat Patrol were here then we would certainly know it by now."
Please, Doc, Tully inwardly begged, please hold off on the mayhem for a little while longer. We've gotta convince this Kraut that I'm the only one here.
"Do you think anyone will miss him?" Hochstetter asked Dietrich. Tully's blood pressure skyrocketed because he didn't like where this was going either.
Dietrich actually had the gall to shrug. Now I wish I hadn't jinxed things by thanking him. "I do not know, Herr Major. I have seen the Rats travel with replacements before."
"Then it is settled." Hochstetter unholstered his pistol and pointed it directly between Tully's eyes. Oh Jesus. This is really it. God help and forgive me, I know I've sinned, but please protect my friends and let them get out of here alive even if I can't, please—
Dietrich's voice punctuated the blanket of fear. "Herr Major, wenn ich darf, habe ich einen Vorschlag."
"Es gibt keinen Raum für alternative Vorschläge." Whatever Dietrich had said, Hochstetter clearly wasn't having any of it. Tully wished he could pick out more than one word in five. "Er brach in das Lager und muss entsprechend bestraft werden."
"Mit allem Respekt, Herr Major, ihn zu töten wäre keine gute Idee."
Hochstetter and Dietrich locked eyes, and they at least seemed to be operating on the same wavelength now. Maybe there was some hope for him after all. "Was schlagen Sie vor?"
"Nimm ihn gefangener als Kriegsgefangener. Sie müssen von einem guten Platz wissen." Dietrich spoke calmly, and it just made Tully want to understand what the hell was going on even more. "Die Amerikaner werden Rache für seinen Tod suchen und das wollen wir nicht. Wir haben schon genug auf unsere Teller."
Hochstetter considered this, but his grip on the gun didn't waver. He looked down at Tully, who tried his best to look as blasé as possible because if he was about to die, he would do it with dignity.
Instead of pulling the trigger, though, Hochstetter barked a command in German, and before Tully could even begin to guess what the major had said, something slammed into the back of his head with the force of a bazooka.
And then all Tully Pettigrew saw was black.
Troy had never experienced emotional whiplash quite like this. He and Hitch had successfully stolen the anti-aircraft shell fuses from the main tent once the smoke bombs had gone off and all of the soldiers had gone off to investigate, and the two of them had escaped the little village before without being seen (or better yet not shooting anyone). He hadn't expected Moffitt to be waiting on the sand dune with the jeeps and a look of unholy terror on his face, asking them where Tully was.
The good feeling of a mission well done suddenly popped like a soap bubble. "What the hell do you mean, where's Tully? He was with you!"
"We split up to go and place the bombs! I thought we could cover more ground that way." Troy had never seen Moffitt look this frantic, not even when his father had been shot down. "I told him to leave as soon as he planted them and—"
Troy had been growing steadily paler throughout this conversation and now leaned heavily against the hood of the jeep. "You mean to tell me that you don't know if Tully got out or not?" How could he have? The smoke bombs had made it so foggy that he and Hitch had barely gotten out of there without getting lost. But they'd had each other, and Tully and Moffitt had separated…
Oh God, Tully.
"Sarge," Hitch said desperately, "what're we going to do? What if the Germans have him?"
And although Troy wanted nothing more than to go back down to the village with guns blazing, he knew that they were pushing their luck staying out in the open with all of those soldiers down there. Not to mention that the Germans would notice the missing shell fuses any moment now and come after them, and then what use would they be to Tully if all four of them were captured? So it was with a heavy heart and deep regret that he said, "We can't do anything now."
"What?" Moffitt looked as though Troy had suggested high treason—which, he supposed, leaving a man behind kind of was. "Troy, you can't be serious. We can't just leave him!"
"I don't want to leave him either, Moffitt, but we'll be no use to Tully if we get captured by the Germans and end up in the same place as him." Troy hoped against hope that Dietrich had found Tully; awful as it was, the German captain was Tully's best chance of remaining alive now. "We'll deliver the fuses back to Captain Boggs and then we'll work with intelligence to find Tully."
Moffitt seemed to understand Troy's logic, although Hitch didn't. "Sarge, that's not—"
"I don't care what it isn't. What it is is an order, so let's shake it and get back to base."
At Hitch's devastated look, Moffitt said quietly, "Come on, Hitch," and the three of them walked toward the jeeps. Troy got in the first one, and Hitch elected to drive Moffitt as the latter sergeant wasn't a very good driver.
Troy looked back at the village, where the smoke was starting to dissipate and the barest hints of German shouting could be heard. This isn't it, Tully, he swore, hoping against hope that his thoughts were true. We'll be back for you. I promise.
Twenty-four hours. It had been twenty-four hours since Tully had up and disappeared from the face of the earth, and although Moffitt had hoped that the four of them would be reunited by now, he was starting to think that that was not the case. Captain Boggs had been making numerous phone calls and speaking with intelligence officers and even sent a squad back to the village to see if Tully was still there—which he wasn't. Hitch and Troy were trying not to show it but Moffitt could tell that they, like him, were worried out of their minds.
When Captain Boggs called the three of them into his tent the second evening of Tully's absence, Moffitt didn't expect any good news and wasn't disappointed. "I've been looking into Private Pettigrew's disappearance, gentlemen, and there's been no sign of him at any prisoner of war camps within a hundred miles from here."
Hitch swallowed. "But there's no body yet, right?" At Troy's look, he quickly added, "Sir?"
Fortunately, Captain Boggs didn't comment. "No, Hitchcock, no body's been found. But no news isn't always good news. So," and he clasped his hands together as though drawing strength from a source deep within himself, "I've spoken to Colonel Quint and some other intelligence officers and we have no choice but to mark down Private Pettigrew as missing in action."
"Missing in action?" Moffitt's incredulity outweighed his politeness. "Captain, it's barely been a day."
"With luck you'll find him before the paperwork gets filed and that won't be for a month or so. It's a lot easier to reverse these things." He sighed, leaning against his desk. "Look, gentlemen, if you had any knowledge of Pettigrew's whereabouts then I wouldn't be doing this, but since you don't I have no choice."
Troy finally spoke up. "I don't like this, sir."
"Neither do I, Troy, but that's the way this has to be."
Troy looked ready to argue more, but Moffitt placed a hand on his friend's shoulder. In the silence that followed, he said, "Will you notify us if there's any news on Tully's whereabouts, Captain?"
"That I can do, Sergeant," said Captain Boggs. "Dismissed." Troy and Hitch exited the tent, neither of them looking particularly happy about this turn of events, but before Moffitt could follow them, the captain said, "Hold on a moment, Moffitt."
Moffitt stopped in his tracks and turned around to face the captain. "Sir?"
"Pettigrew was your driver, right?" Is. He still is my driver. He's not dead. But Moffitt nodded, and the captain continued. "I'll send along someone to be your replacement as long as you need one."
"Right. Er, thank you." Truth be told, he hadn't even given thought to a replacement driver. "Should I tell Troy and Private Hitchcock, sir?"
"Go on." Then, as though he'd sussed out Moffitt's actual question, he said, "I figured I'd tell you first because I knew you'd react the most rationally." Fair enough. Troy could keep a cool head in most situations but Moffitt honestly didn't know what his friend would do if the captain had sprung that on him. "And Moffitt?"
"Good luck. I hope you three can find your missing man."
Moffitt smiled for the first time since that fateful mission. "Believe me sir," he said honestly, "I hope so too."
Colonel Robert Hogan was thankful that their morning roll call had been cut short—even if he'd gotten used to operating on very little sleep due to the missions that he and the others did for London, he'd never get used to German winters. So when Klink came bustling out of his office and ordered Schultz to dismiss them immediately, he wasn't about to start complaining. Another minute of standing around out there and he might have lost a toe or two to frostbite.
There was almost a traffic jam to get back into the barracks, which were only a little warmer than outside. The moment the door closed behind him, Hogan made a beeline for Kinch, who had plopped down at the table with LeBeau to watch Newkirk beat Carter at cards. "Any news from London this morning?"
Kinch shook his head. "No sir, they've been quiet lately." He paused, tilting his head. "I wonder why Klink wasn't saying anything about why roll call got cut short this morning."
"Hey, that's a good point," said Carter, looking up from his cards. From where Hogan was standing, he hoped that Carter hadn't bet any money on winning this round. "Usually he never shuts up during roll call."
"Sounds like someone I know," Newkirk muttered.
Hogan couldn't help but snort at Newkirk's wisecrack. "You know, that is pretty suspicious," he said slowly, his mind whirring. "Maybe Klink's hiding something from us."
"Yeah, we'd never hide anything from him."
"Maybe we ought to listen in," Hogan said with a grin. "Just to make sure we aren't missing out on any fun."
The five of them made their way to Hogan's office and set up the coffee pot, Carter standing guard at the door. Not that Schultz would have been a problem with his proclivity for seeing and knowing nothing, but Hogan still wanted plausible deniability just in case Schultz decided to spill.
"—Herr Major, what a pleasure it is to hear from you! It really has been too long and—"
"Klink," came the irritated voice of Major Hochstetter, "I did not call you to exchange pleasantries—I have official Gestapo business I would like to discuss with you."
Hogan could practically see Klink straightening up on the other end of the line. "Of course, Major Hochstetter!"
"As you know, I have been out of the country on the orders of the Fuhrer's personal staff and I have recently taken an American soldier prisoner." Hochstetter inhaled, as though he was working up the courage to say something he really didn't want to say. "Though it pains me, your Stalag has never seen a successful escape and as such, I believe Stalag 13 is the...best place to house this man."
When Klink spoke, it was with his usual mix of pride and arrogance. "Major Hochstetter, it would be an honor, and I can assure you that the camp will—"
"I do not have time to be assured of anything, Klink. I will be back in a few days to drop off the prisoner and I will not have time to make sure that you do everything right."
"Of course not, Herr Major!" Hochstetter's reply was cut off by static, which prevented Hogan from hearing it, but he had a good idea of what had been said when Klink muttered, "Oh yes, Heil Hitler," and hung up the phone.
Hogan was aware of everyone's eyes on him, and he smiled. "Well, men, it seems we're going to have to tidy up the barracks," he said. "Let's make the new guy feel at home."