No ownership of the Hogan's Heroes characters is implied or inferred. Copyright belongs to others and no infringement is intended.
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The next few days passed as a blur for Hogan's men. They took it in shifts to be sure the Colonel was not left alone. Though he despised being coddled when awake, there was nothing he could do to stop them hovering when he was oblivious to their presence. During some of the more anxious moments, when Hogan seemed distressed or his fever was spiking, the four of them came together to his side, willing him to keep fighting.
The visits by Doctor Dreger continued, and each time he asked to be alone with his patient. And though he claimed it was because he preferred to work unhindered by the too-eager helpers, Dreger admitted to himself it was because he did not want Hogan's men to see the extent of his injuries as he changed Hogan's dressings. They were vile and unfathomable, thought Dreger, even for the Gestapo. And each time he came, he knew Hogan was becoming more aware of his surroundings, and thence also more aware of his pain. The groans of protest were becoming more determined, the thrashing at Dreger's touch more pronounced. This was good, thought Dreger, but it would also be more upsetting for his men to witness.
This visit had been particularly traumatic, as Hogan had fully awakened, locking his panicked eyes on Dreger as the doctor lowered a needle to Hogan's arm. "You are fine, Herr Colonel," he soothed softly. "Your friends are here. Colonel Klink has asked me to look after you." But Hogan had not understood, and tried to pull away from Dreger. The sudden movement sent fire through Hogan's wounded body, and he cried out loudly, a mixture of fear and pain commanding his voice.
The door to his quarters burst open, and suddenly Newkirk, Carter, Le Beau, and Kinch were there. "What's going on?" said Newkirk, menacingly.
"It is nothing," said Dreger, settling the now nearly unconscious Hogan back onto the pillow. He administered the shot to his patient, who sank quickly into an uneasy rest. "His fever is coming down. He woke up and did not understand why I was standing here with a syringe over him. Most unfortunate timing. Now he is fine. Leave him be."
Reluctantly, Hogan's men left his quarters. Newkirk stopped by Hogan's bedside, as though verifying the doctor's story, then followed the others out. Doctor Dreger came to them shortly thereafter. "Colonel Hogan is mending," he said, suddenly tired. "His fever is broken and he will be able to stay awake for longer periods soon." The men remained silent. "But you will have to understand, gentlemen, that there will be more moments like the one you heard awhile ago. He has been brutalized by the Gestapo; many common things will surprise and frighten him for some time."
There was an awkward pause. Kinch lowered his eyes; he did not want to think of Hogan as frightened by innocent things. Le Beau sat down, as though defeated. But Carter spoke up. "He wasn't frightened of us," he said hopefully.
The others shot him a look as Dreger reacted. "He has been aware of you?" he said quickly. "Why did you not tell me he has been waking while I have not been here?"
"No, Doctor, um, he means he HOPES Colonel Hogan won't be afraid of us," Newkirk stammered. "You know, like he was before—just relaxed with us."
Carter's eyes widened as he realized his mistake. His eyes bored through Doctor Dreger, who mistook the panic in Carter's eyes for worry. "I am sure he will have no need to fear his closest friends," the physician assured them. "In fact he may come to depend on you more now than ever before."
"Well we'll be there for him, boy," said Carter. "Uh—Doctor," he corrected himself.
"I will go to Colonel Klink now, and inform him of Colonel Hogan's condition." He looked over the men, registering their anxiety, their exhaustion, and, most of all, their overwhelming loyalty to the man struggling in the room behind him. "Your Colonel Hogan is a very lucky man," he said. "It is comforting to know one has friends as faithful and determined as you. I am sure you will be of immense support to him."
"Thank you for your help, Monsieur le docteur," said Le Beau. "Le Colonel is very important to us."
"I imagine he must be, to inspire such devotion." He nodded his acknowledgment. "Auf Wiedersehen."
The vigils continued, the men both buoyed by the doctor's prognosis for Hogan, and haunted by his prediction that the Colonel would be a changed man. That evening, Newkirk was nodding off on the chair beside Hogan's bed, when he was jolted to alertness by a soft moan. He leaned in closer in the dimness, and heard the sound again, accompanied by a fluttering of eyelids and a slight movement of Hogan's head. "Colonel?" he said gently.
"Uhhnn," Hogan groaned weakly. Then, "Did you get the license plate of that bus?" he whispered. "I didn't catch it when it hit me."
"How you feeling, gov'nor?" Newkirk asked. He laid the back of his hand on Hogan's skin. Cooler. Less clammy.
"Been better," Hogan answered. "How long have I been here?"
"Three days. We've all been worried sick about you." Hogan tried to raise his arm; Newkirk gently and easily lowered it. "No, don't try to move around," he said. "You've had it pretty rough." Hogan obeyed without protest. "Do you remember what happened?"
"Mm," Hogan answered vaguely, his eyes closing again. "Something about trucks."
"LOTS of things about trucks," agreed Newkirk. He saw Hogan was drifting away again, so he simply added, "We'll explain later. But you're safe now, Colonel. Do you know that?"
"Mm," was the faint reply. Newkirk didn't know if that was a response or just a groan, so he determined to repeat those assurances to Hogan again the next time the opportunity arose.
As it turned out, the chance came again the next day. This time it was Le Beau who was nearby. "So what's all this about trucks?" came the voice.
Le Beau jumped, then started rambling quickly in French. "Le Beau, Le Beau—Louis, slow down," Hogan smiled weakly. ~~Hm, that smarts,~~ he thought curiously, quickly dropping the smile that aggravated the wound on his cheek.
"Colonel, it is good to have you back," Le Beau managed to say in English.
"Talk to me, Louis; explain what happened," Hogan requested. He wanted to know about these images were that were flashing through his brain. He couldn't tell if they were hallucinations from his injuries or if they were true memories.
"You have been ill, Colonel. We had to get you away from the Gestapo. You were captured when you went out to meet Hansel and Gretel. The operation had been discovered; it was a trap," Le Beau jabbered.
Le Beau's voice faded into the background as Hogan became more conscious of his surroundings. He glanced up: the ceiling, whose nails he had counted more times than he could remember when he couldn't sleep for anxiety and a deep, paralyzing dread that he shared with no one. On his desk, the Bible: pages well worn from him thumbing through them, looking for answers to questions he didn't know how to ask. On a hook, his bomber jacket: his security blanket, his one connection to the man he knew he really was—a confident, respected man with a love of flying and a love of freedom. On the chair beside him, Corporal Louis Le Beau: a human reminder of why he was fighting the war, and a person any man would be proud to call his friend. Despite his assignment to this grimy, desolate POW camp, Hogan felt soothed here now.
His attention now turned to his increasingly aching body. At first he had only been aware of a dull pounding in his skull. Then, as the hammering became more severe, his face throbbed on both sides in an odd, uneven rhythm. Then his forearms joined in with a jagged, burning sensation. An attempt at a deep breath stabbed his chest and made him grimace. And finally, his ankle insisted on recognition, screaming at him angrily and demanding acknowledgment. Completely in the present now, Hogan let out a groan, stopping Le Beau mid-ramble.
"Colonel, you are in pain?" Le Beau asked.
Hogan nodded numbly. He realised he hadn't heard a word Le Beau had said.
"Lie still; we have medicine for you," he said.
Hogan let Le Beau go without comment. He returned a moment later followed by Carter, Kinch, and Newkirk. Kinch held a syringe. Hogan fought to control the rising sense of alarm that suddenly started within him. ~~These are your friends,~~ he told himself. ~~Why are you afraid?~~ But the feeling wouldn't go away, and as they approached the bed, Hogan found himself trying to shrink back further into the mattress, which did not make him disappear, and which only further aggravated his suffering body.
Newkirk motioned for the others to stop, then gently came to Hogan alone. "Colonel, sir, it's us. We're not going to hurt you," he said. Hogan's eyes stayed wary as he tried desperately for self-control. "C'mon, gov'nor," he urged tenderly. "You're with us now. You're home. No one's going to hurt you." He put a hand on Hogan's shoulder and was surprised to find it trembling. ~~Damn the Germans.~~ "It's all over, mate. You're home."
Hogan's eyes widened at what seemed like a familiar conversation—had someone said that to him before? Regardless, the words had a calming effect, and Newkirk smiled encouragingly when Hogan visibly relaxed. "Kinch has morphine, Colonel. To help with the pain."
He moved aside so Hogan could see Kinch approaching openly and without menace. "Hey, Colonel, do we have lots of news for you," said Kinch. Hogan just looked at him, unable to speak. The needle in Kinch's hand was scaring him beyond reason. He didn't want anyone to know, and he was sure it would show in his voice. "I won't hurt you, sir. Can you trust me?"
Hogan was startled at the question. Trust his men? Good God, with his LIFE! Of course he could trust them! So why was he quaking now? "Yes," he managed, in almost a whisper. Then, bolder, as if to convince himself, "I can trust you." And despite the continuing apprehension, Hogan tried to steady himself and allow Kinch near him without recoiling.
Hogan's anxious eyes belied his true feelings, and Kinch came to his commanding officer with feelings of both pity and sadness. "Here, Colonel. This will help you," he said kindly, showing Hogan the syringe as though he were a child. "It has pain killers in it, that's all. Nothing else."
"I know," managed Hogan, holding out his arm.
Carter saw Hogan shivering. "It's okay, Colonel; I hate needles, too," he offered. And as Hogan's eyes met Carter's appreciatively, Kinch gave Hogan the shot, then backed away.
Hogan's breathing relaxed a bit as more space came between him and the others. ~~Steady, Robert, you're safe. These are your men, you have nothing to be frightened of.~~ He looked back at the four faces watching him. A real fondness for these men welled within him. When would he feel secure with them again? Or wouldn't he? "Tell me what happened," he said, forcing himself to act as they would expect him to. "I have a feeling there's a lot of the story I'm missing."
The four told Hogan about London's belated message to stop the mission, and that Hansel and Gretel had never gone to the rendezvous. It was then that he learned how they had disobeyed orders and sent Newkirk out to keep watch on him. They had expected Hogan to blow his top, but instead he just nodded silently, pensively. They then relayed the rescue plan, and filled in the bits about the convoy's destruction. Hogan had not remembered anything about the trip back to camp, including seeing the munitions shipment coming through late; he merely listened, again saying nothing. Most surprising to him was how he had been smuggled back out of camp, to be held by the Underground until his condition could be explained.
"And London reports that those guards the Underground took away have been transported to London. Our clever soldier Janssen, who had come to the barracks, obviously was a bit of an ambitious fellow—he told no one about you, Colonel, not even the other man on patrol with him. Wanted to present you to Major Hochstetter himself, maybe get himself a nice little promotion."
"Kind of like a stuffed turkey," said Carter.
"Using Colonel 'Ogan's eagles," quipped Newkirk with some sarcasm.
"Those munitions trucks were holding the bulk of the arsenal," said Kinch. "Blowing up the line along with the convoy has stopped a second shipment that was to have gone through the following night. London couldn't be happier. They said it was a stroke of brilliance."
"Sounds like you fellas had everything under control," Hogan said, obviously tiring. "I couldn't have done it better. Newkirk, the way you brought yourself into direct danger by going into Gestapo Headquarters was the most bull-headed, dangerous thing you could have done."
Newkirk looked sheepishly at the floor. Time for his dressing down. "Sorry, gov'nor," he said.
"What 'sorry'? I'd have done the same," Hogan said. Then, more quietly, he added, "And I'm grateful. Carter," he said, turning to the man he considered his innocent, "I had to leave your charges out there somewhere. I wish I had had the chance to try out the techniques you showed me. But you took charge when the going was tough—you didn't expect to have to blow up a munitions shipment after the mess of the evening—"
"Well, I was HOPING," Carter said with a grin.
Hogan smiled warmly, then winced and stopped. "Well you got your wish. And you did it by the seat of your pants; there was no prior information for you, and you managed it just fine. And Louis, you should have been a squirrel. Climbing trees—the mission wouldn't have been successful if you hadn't found a way to get to those truck beds. It was daring and clever."
Le Beau basked in the praise. "You told us what to do, Colonel."
Finally Hogan focused his eyes on Kinch. His eyelids were getting heavy with the effects of the morphine. "Kinch," he said, "if you ever give me to the Gestapo again – real or fake – I'll take you with me." Kinch smiled. "Without your quick thinking, we would never have been able to explain this away. You really came through. Thanks." Hogan lay back on his bunk, took a deep breath, and closed his eyes. "You all performed above and beyond the call. Not just for me, but for the operation. Individually and as a team, you all came through. I'm proud of you."
"You did the same, Colonel," said Newkirk.
"Yeah, if you hadn't headed out that night we wouldn't have seen the convoy at all," added Carter.
"Oui. You have taken many risks for us AND for the operation. We follow your lead, Colonel," Louis said.
"All for one…" muttered Hogan, drifting into drug-induced sleep.
Carter came forward to hear him better. "What's that, Colonel?"
"My trusty valet," Hogan breathed. "You were right, Carter; it works. All for one, and one for all."
Carter stood up straight and beamed. Hogan was right. They'd done it after all.