Title: Wartime Memories

Author: Kits

Notes: I've never been up to Connecticut, though I did google image search it, and so if any of the details are off... well, correct me and I'll correct the story. That said, I haven't been to Germany either. Was just in the mood for a good fall piece of imagery.

Hogan leaned back against the side of the building, pulling his bomber jacket around him closer, huddling into himself just a bit more. The sun was quickly falling in the west, the shadows growing more and more chilly with the season. He always liked autumn--the bright symphony of color and sound that surrounded his house during this time of year never failed to put him in a good mood. If he turned his head, he could see the trees outside the gates, perpetually frozen in green. It might have been beautiful in its own right, if not for the guard towers looming overhead and the wire jarring him from the picturesque scene.

"C'mon, Rob, hurry it up," Joe called from a few paces ahead. Rob grinned at him, not willing to ruin the shortcut by rushing through it. Out of all his older brothers, Joe was the most impatient, always trying to hurry through things. Dad said that he would make fewer mistakes if he slowed down occasionally, but the warning never seemed to affect Joe much. He would shrug and quip something about how slowing down would take too much time—and Dad would laugh. They got along well.

Joe's voice brought him back from his daydreaming. "Any day now, Rob. I've got things to do, you know."

"Yeah," Rob said with a grin, "I heard about her." Joe jogged back to him, wrapping an arm around his shoulders and mussing his hair.

"Cute. I'm running on ahead—don't break your neck or anything. Mom and Dad would kill me, and then they'd be out two sons."

"Sure, I'll catch up later."

The day was still young, and this part of the woods always threw him into a state of whimsy. Trees stood to the side-- tall, motionless, and laden with every color, and a creek with icy water wound its way through the forest. During this time of the year, the surface stayed murky and dark, reflecting the outside like a black mirror. He shivered, turning his attention to the sides of the path. The trees had already shed some of their leaves, though it was the beginning of fall, and now covered the floor like a gold and crimson carpet.

"Rob!" Joe's voice drifted. "Dad needs your help with something and says to pick up the pace."

"Just a minute!"

With a jerk, Hogan looked around, recalling his surroundings. For a moment there, he was certain that he was back home, before the war and before his life got complicated. Before he was a prisoner in the middle of Germany.

Settling back against the building, he idly watched a game of football progress in front of him. The guys had started an impromptu game, tossing a ball around and generally making up rules as they went along, from what he could tell. He grinned as Newkirk, Carter, and Halley from Barracks 4 tackled Kinch. The man had shown a talent for football that, according to the other team, must be stopped immediately.

The bleachers were cold, but Rob didn't really mind; Shirley was curled up next to him, murmuring something about the chilly weather. Being the gentleman he was, he instead pulled her in close to his side, rubbing her arm occasionally for warmth. The jacket his mother made him put on when he first left had almost instantly been offered to Shirley, who had neglected to bring her own. So now Rob was freezing, but the smile Shirley had given him was worth the little clouds his breath made when he exhaled, or the way his lips were turning blue, or even the way his ears were turning into bricks of ice.

"Ooh, I've never really understood this game," Shirley said, cuddling in closer.

"Well, it's really quite simple," Rob said. The roaring of the home team as their school scored another touchdown made him lean closer to her ear. She tucked a stray strand of blonde back into place, glancing up at him with big, clear blue eyes that nearly made him forget what he was saying.

"Explain it to me?" she said.

"Uh… yeah," Rob said, clearing his throat. "Well, you see that guy right there? He's Bowman, our quarterback…"

"And he scores again!" Olsen crowed, raising his arms in a triumphant gesture. "You saps oughta know better than to play with me, by now."

"Yeah, we ought to," Carter quipped, smiling when the other men broke into laughter.

Hogan smiled at the display of affection between the guys. Sometimes there were times when they were at each other's throats, others when he was ready to throttle them all, and still other, happier, times when all of them acted as if they had been born and raised like brothers. Obnoxious, loudmouth brothers occasionally, but brothers nonetheless, and sometimes—Hogan knew from experience—obnoxious, loudmouth brothers were the best ones you could have.

"Has anyone checked the clothesline?" Kinch said, taking a break to drink some water.

"I'll do it," LeBeau called. Very rarely did he join in on the game, though he was better than one would think. He ran fast, and darted here and there like a snake.

Hogan tracked him with his eyes as he felt the clothes flapping in the wind for dampness.

"Rob, honey, can you get the clothes off the line?" his mom called from the next room.

"Yeah, just a minute."

His mom, a petite woman with neatly curled black hair and a wide smile, walked past. "Where have I heard that before?"

He leaned down to give her a peck on the cheek. "And don't I always do it?"

"Eventually, sure," she said, but she hid a smile while she said it. Rob knew that he was the baby of the family, and made sure to abuse the privilege whenever possible. His mom and dad let him get away with it because he could be so charming about it-- offering a quick grin or wheedling in a way that made sense while he was doing it, but ten seconds out the door, left them wondering where in the world they had lost their resolve.

Whistling a tuneless song as he walked out the door, he held the basket in one hand while tugging on the sheets with the other. A fresh waft of wind made the sheets flutter, stretching out and trying to escape from their clothes-pinned existence.

"None of that," he muttered, tucking another into the basket.

The smell of cotton assaulted his nose, and he closed his eyes a minute to breathe in the scents of fall. At first the air was so cold it burned, but after a moment, the warmer, softer smells drifted in: cotton from the line, cinnamon and apple from inside the house, tree sap from the woods around him.

"Are you going to waste all day standing there, Rob?" his mom called. He turned to see her leaning against the doorframe, smiling indulgently at him.

"Just a minute," he said, shoving the last bit into the basket.

"Hey, Colonel, you all right?"

Hogan blinked and found himself staring at four concerned faces. He forced a smile, fighting down a brief pang of homesickness.

"Yeah. Fine and dandy."

"We were wondering if you wanted to join in the game," Kinch said, staring at him with knowing eyes.

Hogan nodded. "Sounds good. Are you even playing by rules?"

"Ah, rules are made to be broken, guv'nor," Newkirk tossed him the ball. "Makes things more interesting."

"Is that what you call it?" someone called. "And here I always just said it was cheating."

There was a fresh round of laughter, and Hogan joined in on it.

Sometimes, this was home enough for now.