Seven Days in the Life
On Monday, Wilhelm Klink, kommadant of 'the most feared stalag in all of Germany' awoke in a particularly ugly mood. Wanting everyone in the camp to know about it, he took exception to the least provocation or imagined slight. LeBeau's catcall at morning roll call resulted in a ten day vacation in the cooler and none of Hogan's appeals swayed Klink into minimizing it. His foul temper lingered throughout the remainder of the day, leaving prisoners and guards alike walking on literal eggshells.
Tuesday evening, Carter was hard at work in his makeshift laboratory when a beaker of volatile chemicals exploded. He stumbled into Barracks Two, small burns peppering his face, arms and hands. After some panic and a visit from medic Ben O'Malley, it was decided that he was – for the most part – okay. The burns, though painful, were thankfully minor. Salve, some meds to take the edge off the pain, and Carter felt well enough to threaten a move to Hammelburg if he heard the words 'do you need anything?' one more time. He was back to his cheerful self by the next morning and the burns were explained away as a bad encounter with a dropped cup of scalding coffee.
Later Wednesday morning, Newkirk badly sprained his ankle in a pickup game of basketball. That afternoon, Olsen was painting the recreation hall's siding when he lost his balance and fell sideways off the ladder. He landed safely on his feet. The can of dark green paint - after making a spectacular arc through the air - landed on top of Hogan, who had just turned the corner of the building. Two hours of scrubbing and two weeks' worth of shower privileges later, he no longer resembled a six-foot walking cucumber, but was still scratching from an allergic reaction to the paint.
That night, as they were leaving for a mission, another ladder claimed another victim. The topmost rung of the ladder to the emergency tunnel broke under Kinch's weight, resulting in a concussion, broken hand, and an impressive collection of bruises. They tended Kinch's injuries, repaired the ladder and completed the mission without further incident, but returned to the safety of their beds wall-eyed and twitchy.
Thursday morning, feeling like a timid rabbit leaving its warren, Hogan ventured out of bed and briefly considered telling everyone to stay in their own. He promptly squashed that course of action, knowing Klink would find it completely unacceptable.
Their mission that night at a rail crossing was going well until a freak storm broke loose directly over their heads. A flash of lightning, a guard who happened to be looking in the right place at the worst time, and suddenly Hogan and his men found themselves embroiled in a furious gun battle. It ended with dead and wounded guards, Carter with a sprained wrist, Olsen with a grazed calf, and Hogan with a messy gouge just above his hip. They abandoned the explosives - thereby delaying the mission - but all he cared about as they limped back to camp was that none of his men had died.
On Friday, sore but mobile, Hogan gathered his men after morning roll call and ordered them to relax, do something fun and forget about their run of bad luck. Three hours later, he was sitting in a cold cell on a hard chair, enduring another round of 'question and don't answer' with Major Wolfgang Hochstetter, Gestapo. For some reason, the major believed Hogan responsible for the attempted sabotage of a rail crossing the night before. After eight very long, very loud and very, very painful hours, Hogan dropped face-down on his bunk, exhausted but grateful for a single, merciful and timely piece of good luck. Just as he had been in danger of Hochstetter discovering his wound, Klink had rushed into the cell with a message summoning the major to Berlin. Before drifting into the peace of unconsciousness, Hogan's last thought was that he would take hours of sweat dripping into his wound over torture and death by firing squad any time.
Saturday morning dawned sunny and clear, but Hogan caught himself jumping at every sound and passing shadow, as if he had guzzled three pots of Newkirk's notoriously strong coffee. Noon came and went without anyone falling, breaking or spraining a limb, getting thrown in the cooler or getting caught by an exploding substance of any kind. A glimmer of hope eased the knots in Hogan's stomach and the ache in his head. At exactly four o'clock, he glanced at his watch. At four oh-five, Klink stepped onto the porch of his headquarters. At four-ten, tunnel six collapsed in a geyser of dust and crunching of overstressed lumber due to Schultz's repeated attempts at showing Carter the correct way to skip rope. The punishment decreed by a livid kommandant: no white bread for a month, no recreation hall privileges for two weeks, and no Tommy Dorsey records for three weeks.
Sunday afternoon, Kinch walked into Hogan's quarters, the message in his unbroken hand urgently requesting Hogan's presence at an unfamiliar location. That night, after quadruple checks of all call signs, codes and coordinates, he turned deaf ears to his men's pleas not to go and set out for the meeting.
Emergingfrom the tree stump entrance, he crept past the perimeter guards, expecting escape sirens, lightning strikes, earthquakes, firestorms, pieces of falling sky and a rabid skunk or three to befall him at any moment. When none did, he sent a silent 'thank you' skyward and then traveled into the densely wooded hills, nerves strung tight as piano wire, jaw clenched so hard it threatened to break fillings.
And now he stood, contemplating at a safe distance, a door that looked like any other wooden door he had ever seen before - two hinges, a doorknob, and some faded paint. Yet he approached it cautiously, half-expecting Hitler to jump out at him wearing a party hat and yelling 'Gotcha'.
Bracing himself for anything, one hand upon his gun, he delivered the coded knock. The door cracked open, revealing first one, then two large brown eyes set in a beautiful elfin face framed by waves of thick, blonde hair. Hogan's breath left him in a rush of relief.
Her full lips pursed and her fingertips lightly came to rest upon his lips, hushing him. Her soft, seductive smile and gleaming eyes invited him to share her evening. The sweet, familiar ache coiled within him and he was powerless to deny the pleasure she offered.
Taking him by the hand, she tugged, encouraging him to enter the hall beyond. Slowly, she backed away, leading him, her smile giving way to a look that set his heart pounding.
They moved down the hall and around a corner, the shadows ebbing into flickering, golden light. Stopping, lips curling up again in a smile that heated his blood, Tiger raised a hand before his face and hesitated, awaiting his permission. He nodded and then stood motionless, letting her fingertips drift down from his forehead and over his eyelids, gently closing them. His smile brought his lips into contact with the soft, warmth of her palm before it slid away, leaving his face chilled.
Her hand drew him farther down the hall and then released him. Understanding her silence as permission to look, he blinked his eyes open and stared, surprised and touched by what she had done.
A fire burned in a stone fireplace, greedily consuming freshly stacked logs, warming the room. Upon the small table draped with a red, fringed runner was a bottle of wine and two, simple glasses. A loaf of bread sat upon a white, china plate. A bed, blankets turned back and pillows piled against the headboard, occupied the wall opposite the fireplace.
One of the logs split open with a loud pop and hiss of escaping steam. He flinched, tension flooding his nerves and muscles once more. A crease appeared between Tiger's eyes and with a deep breath and lift of her chin, she moved to stand directly before him.
Her fingertips glided along his jaw line, enticing him past the table and to the bed, their footsteps mingling in a well-known dance. Eyes locked together, breath growing fast and uneven, he matched her every move, mutual desire alighting the air between them.
At the bed, Tiger reached up, placing her palms on his cheeks. Dizzy with longing, nerves fizzing with too much sensitivity, he took several slow, deep breaths. Laughter glinted in the lustrous, brown eyes and her palms stroked from his cheeks, down his neck, over his chest and around to his ribs. Her hand hovered over his wound without touching, then slid to his back and down, pressing their lower bodies together. He swallowed hard, still holding back, still letting her direct and set the pace in their intimate dance.
Full lips parting, she lifted her face, bringing their mouths so close he felt the moist warmth of her breath caress his lips. Heartbeat pounding, mouth gone dry, he quivered under her hands, aching to take her, to hold, to claim.
Her lips brushed slowly against his – once, twice. Teeth nipped at his lower lip, nibbling, teasing. Her hands rose to his shoulders and then slid down his arms to lace their fingers together. Her lithe body swayed against him and away, hips rhythmically brushing and touching, driving him crazy. His body reacted instinctively, seeking, mirroring her movements, matching her tempo. Trembling, tingling, panting, they locked their arms about each other, their mouths meeting in a fiery kiss.
Slender fingers glided into his hair, tugged at his nape - coaxing, guiding, drawing him down. Down, to the plush softness of blankets smelling of fresh breezes. Slim arms wrapped around his shoulders, firm, insistent. A small foot curled around his calf, rubbing, nudging. Gasping, shaking, he lowered himself to her . . . and the dance went on.
Later, in darkness softened by the fire's light, with Tiger asleep in his arms, Hogan smiled.
Let the next week throw at him what it may. He was ready.
Thank you for reading!