The Merry Month of March
Author: The Wonderful, Ever Lovable and Excessively Modest Kits
Summary: March is a funny month, isn't it? Happy St. Patrick's Day, everybody!
A/N: Betaed, mostly, by Linda. There's one section lurking that wasn't, so if you want to beat me with a stick for typos and tense changes, feel free. I'll be under my rock—a i sham-rock/i . Ha. Oh, the cleverness of me.
"I'm beginning to think it snows all year around here," Newkirk said, kicking at the white with the toe of his boot. The onset of winter generally promised sparkling, storybook landscapes and trees dusted with glittering ice. Half the prisoners looked forward to the first snowfall, the other half moaning at the prospect of too-thin blankets and never enough firewood; everyone agreed that by March, however, the snow had worn out its welcome and warm weather was eagerly anticipated.
"You should know. You were here last year," LeBeau said calmly, carefully peeling a potato over a trash can.
Carter nodded. "And the year before," he added helpfully. His eyes were closed as he leaned against the barracks to catch some sun, so he missed Newkirk rolling his eyes at the helpful remark.
"I thought you liked snow," Hogan said with a knowing grin.
"I like snow," Newkirk said. He kicked at the ground again. "This stuff? This isn't snow. Snow is powdery and pure. This is slush, clinging on to the last vestiges of winter and refusing to admit defeat."
Kinch gave him an appraising look. "Why, Newkirk, that was almost poetic."
"Had a kinda nice ring to it, didn't it?" Hogan agreed, smiling when Newkirk pulled a disgusted face and slouched next to the barracks.
"I like it," Carter said suddenly, in a tone that indicated he was imparting something vitally important. "It's like the underdog of snow. You know, like us."
The other prisoners exchanged glances, raising eyebrows and crooking smiles as they all silently inquired who it would be that would take the bait this time. Kinch stared at his commanding officer until Hogan finally gave a deep sigh and visibly braced himself.
"What do you mean, Carter?"
"Well," Carter said, oblivious to the exchange that took place in front of his closed eyes, "we're like the underdog, but we're still clinging on. And even though people like the Nazis tell us that we should just give up, we're still here."
There was a moment of reflective silence, then Newkirk spoke up again.
"I still hate slush."
"Over the rainbow?"
"Under the rainbow."
"At the end of the rainbow."
"Practicing our prepositional phrases, gentleman?" Hogan said, dropping a hand on two of the closest men's shoulders. Kinch covered a smile as Malone and Kirke, the unwitting victims, both jumped at the surprise move.
"No, sir," they said in unison. Malone jerked a thumb towards Kirke. "I was simply educating this young man on where a leprechaun's gold is hid."
Kirke gave an undignified snort. "In the minds of men, that's where," he said. His tone indicated that this was a long-going discussion.
"I'd watch it, if I were you," Malone said warningly. "The little people don't like being taken lightly."
"And if they were real, I wouldn't—"
"Real! Real, he says! Why, they're as real as you and me, boyo, and I won't be having some whelp speak so of them." Kirke opened his mouth to say something, but Malone interrupted with a twinkle in his eyes. "Besides, if they aren't real, why were you wasting your time arguing with me where their gold is hid?"
Hogan smiled indulgently at the pair. Malone was a broad, plain man, who reminded Hogan of a sailor: a square, brutish looking face with lines that looked as if they had been carved into it; a back perpetually bent forward as if sheltering his front from a strong wind, and calloused, leathery hands. He had a sandpapery growl for a voice, and his mouth was always turned down at the corners. Kirke, however, was the direct opposite. He was lithe and pale, with a light smattering of freckles on his face, and an upturned nose that reminded Hogan of his niece. His hair was red as could be, and no one could remember a time when he did not have a smile quirking at his lips. For reasons that no one had been able to figure out yet, the two had taken to each other and were inseparable since the first day that Kirke hopped out of the truck.
None of which meant they were not constantly sniping at each other like an old married couple.
"I was indulging you," Kirke said magnanimously, turning his nose further into the air and putting a hand to his chest. "One should respect their elders, you know."
"Elders?" Malone yelped. "I'll show you." He playfully grabbed for Kirke, but the younger man dodged and ended up on the other side of the table with a devilish smirk on his face.
No, not a married couple, Hogan decided. More like a Chihuahua nipping at the heels of a Great Dane and jumping back when the bigger dog decided that he wasn't going to put up with it anymore.
"You're getting slow in your elderly years," Kirke taunted. Malone grumbled something at him before shaking his head and apparently giving up the chase. Kirke glanced at him warily, waiting for something before apparently deciding he was safe and relaxing.
"Now, go on."
"Why should I?" Malone said sulkily. "You're not listening anyhow."
"I am," Kinch said. The others turned to him, and Malone sent an approving nod his way.
"Well, then," he said hesitantly, "I guess I'll continue."
"Oh, please do." Hogan smiled congenially at him and sat down on a chair nearby. He gestured with his hands for Malone to continue his treatise on the little people.
Malone looked distinctly uncomfortable at the idea of delivering a lecture to the commanding officer, even one like Hogan, but cleared his throat and started talking anyway.
"Well, you see, sir, leprechauns are tricky ones. Why, I knew a man who caught one himself, but if you look away, even just to blink one second, they'll disappear, right from between your hands! And never take any money from 'em, because it's fairy gold, and it'll turn to dust or worms and such in your hands come the followin' mornin'."
"But their pot of gold won't," Kirke clarified with a grin. Malone spared time to glare at him before grudgingly nodding.
"That's right. Leprechauns are nothin' to worry 'bout, though. They're mischievous, but that's it. Nothin' at all like some of the other little people."
"You don't say," Hogan said encouragingly. Kirke shook his head and leaned forward on the table.
"Sir, tell me you don't buy into all this," he said with an imploring expression on his face. Hogan winked at him.
"Now, how can you say that, after all we do around here?"
"Sir?" Kirke said, obviously not following.
"We do unbelievable things every day." Hogan stood and poured himself another cup of coffee from the pot on top of the stove. "Maybe you should show a little more faith."
He turned to walk away, laughing quietly when he heard Kirke mutter underneath his breath, "I will when I start getting paid for it in pots of gold."
"What a lucky time for a war," Kinch said quietly, staring out over the compound. Clouds veiled the sky in gray, but the occasional weak beam of sunlight managed to peer through and hit the ground. Instead of lighting the place up, though, it just seemed more depressing, and Kinch was almost relieved when it disappeared behind a cloud again.
"What was that?"
Kinch turned to Baker and jerked his head towards the fences. "I said what a lucky time for war. March was originally called Martius, after the Roman god of war. It was considered the best month to start a war."
Baker snorted. "Wonderful philosophy. As if there ever was a good time for war." He glanced at Kinch, who shrugged before lapsing into a comfortable silence again. After a while, Kinch pushed himself away from the wall and stretched. He reached a hand out and patted Baker's shoulder.
"I better make sure London wasn't trying to reach us," he said before starting to walk away.
"Hey, wait a minute," Baker said. Kinch turned and raised an eyebrow, inviting Baker to continue. "I just… I mean, about what I said, about there not being a good time for war—"
"Sometimes there is," Kinch interrupted. "But it has nothing to do with what month it is."
"Seriously!" Harris shouted amidst the roars of mirth in the barracks. It wasn't hard to see the grin fighting to break free on his face, even from across the room.
"No, really," Olsen said, breathless with laughter, "you honestly didn't think that, did you?"
Harris shook his head. "Swear to God. I went home and told my wife that there was a cult or something in my school."
Olsen collapsed onto the bed again, clutching his side and wiping tears from his eyes.
"What did I miss?" Hogan asked, walking in and glancing around at the men who were still chuckling over something. He looked and was not the least bit surprised to see Harris in the center, looking equal parts embarrassed and pleased that he had garnered such a reaction. He was the class clown of the prisoners: on the very first day, he had argued with the guards, politely explaining to them that he did not have the funds necessary to pay for the hotel bill, and would they please allow him to go home and get them from his wife? The guards were not half as amused as the prisoners, but eventually Harris grew on them as well with his jocular attempts at German. Hogan had it on good authority that Harris actually spoke it better than most of the guards.
"What'd I miss?" he repeated when it appeared everyone had calmed down a bit.
Olsen nudged Harris in the side. "Go on," he encouraged. "Tell him the story."
"All right," Harris said amicably. He looked up at Hogan. "Well, sir, you know I was a school teacher before the war, right?"
Hogan nodded. "Right."
"So I go to school one day, and I see this kid walk by with a black mark on his forehead. I meant to tell him he got something on his face, but then here comes another one, a girl, with a smudged mark on her forehead too. I got suspicious and started looking around, and I notice that there are tons of them! They're all walking around with black marks on their foreheads, and no one's saying anything. I decided to tell some of the other teachers, but I notice they're not saying anything, so I figured they must be in on it too."
There was already a grin on Hogan's face, and he could feel laughter bubbling up, but he waited for Harris to finish.
"I was shocked! A cult, right here in my school, and it's so big that even the teachers are in on it," Harris said earnestly. "Finally, when three kids in my homeroom class came in with it, I couldn't take it. I took the day off and went home at lunch. I burst into the room, closed the door behind me, and found my wife.
" 'Honey,' I said, 'you won't believe it. There's a cult at my school!'
" She asked me what I was talking about, so I told her about the black marks, and she stared at me for a good long while. So I start thinking maybe she's in on it, when she suddenly stands up and says, 'Thomas, I don't know why I married such an idiot sometimes. It's Ash Wednesday; they're Catholic!' "
When everyone started cracking up again, Hogan joined with them, and Harris leaned back on his chair against the frame of the bunk bed with a pleased smile on his face.
"And so St. Patrick drove out all the snakes from Ireland," Malone finished with a flourish. He leaned back with a satisfied look on his face, and if he had a pipe in his mouth, he would have been busily puffing on it.
"Snakes?" Carter frowned. "There are no snakes in Ireland? And they sainted him for it?"
Kinch sighed. "Not really. Ireland never had any snakes to begin with. It was a story told to children, and the snakes represented Druid and pagan customs. He was basically a missionary."
Malone nodded. "That's right. He was also the man who taught the concept of the Holy Trinity using a shamrock."
"How does a shamrock show the Trinity?" Carter said curiously.
"Three leaves?" LeBeau pointed out.
"So did St. Patrick ever come to Germany?" Newkirk said, tossing another card onto the table.
Malone frowned. "What do you mean?"
"Not many snakes," Carter said, catching on to what he was saying. "No poisonous ones here, at least."
"Of course not," Newkirk said bitterly, gathering his cards after losing at another game of solitaire. "The Gestapo is probably afraid of competition."
"You said it looked like a lion."
"That's right. Long and lean, like a cat, and with a little tuft at the end of its tail, just like a lion, and a ruff around his neck, like a mane."
"Really! And so it disappears into this cave—"
"Why would it go into a cave?"
"Listen, if I knew that, I wouldn't watch it, see? Now let me finish."
"So it goes into this cave, right, and it comes out an hour later, and it has curly hair and no tail. I thought it was something else, so after it left, I went back into the cave and looked around, and there was nothing. It's like it put on a coat and walked out."
"You're making things up."
"Honest, I'm not! We called it March."
"Because it went in like a lion, and came out like a lamb."
Hope you enjoyed!