Written purely for pleasure. No money is being made from this and no claim is being made upon anything related to Hogan's Heroes, which is solely owned by its creators.
Cold Days, Warm Heart
Kinch blew into his fists then thrust them back into the meager protection of his trouser pockets. The weather had turned harsh, dropping to sub-zero temperatures. Up and down the ranks, the men were doing whatever they could to keep warm while they waited on Klink to appear for evening roll call.
Kinch looked to the horizon, where the trees were backlit by the grandeur of the setting sun's rays. It was a beautiful sight, but he would have appreciated it more from inside Barracks Two. The frigid air was making his eyes water and the skin on his face felt stiff. Every breath burned in his chest, creating an urge to cough.
A squeaking noise came from beside him, like someone rubbing fingers across the surface of a balloon. Kinch stiffly twisted toward the noise, keeping his shoulders hunched against the freezing cold. Carter's foot slid back and forth over the ground again, widening a swath in the snow. His blue eyes, looking gray in the fading light, flicked up to meet Kinch's.
Kinch stared at him, unable to make the connection. "What?"
"The snow's too dry for packing. No good for making snowmen." Carter stamped his foot, raising miniature, white volcanoes. Kinch sidestepped away. His feet were cold enough without the addition of snow on top of his boots. Rapid-fire sneezing from his other side sent him quickly back toward Carter.
Newkirk wiped his nose with the back of his glove. "We'll all be a bunch of bloody snowmen if we stand out here much longer." His cheeks and nose were chapped and fire engine red from the cold. He leaned around Kinch, glaring at Carter. "Only you would think about building a snowman while we're freezing our arses off."
Carter shrugged. "We might as well have fun while we do it." LeBeau, hopping up and down in place to stay warm, chuckled at the remark.
"If there was enough clean snow, I would fix us all flavored ices."
Newkirk's eyes rolled. "More cold. What a lovely idea, that is. Hot rum is more to my fancy."
"Hot chocolate with lots of marshmallows and cookies still warm from the oven," Kinch interrupted wistfully. Hogan, hands fisted deep in his jacket pockets, peered over his shoulder and smiled back at him.
"Popcorn with lots of butter."
Carter smiled, not even noticing when his chapped lips split and bled. "What we didn't eat we could string together in a garland!"
"With cranberries and pine cones . . . " Kinch wiped at his tingling, running nose. "and dried apple slices."
Olsen hopped out of the front line and pivoted to face them, his boyish face bright with nostalgia and a wide smile. "The tree would be huge! It'd take up the whole corner and it'd be so tall that we'd have to trim the tip to get the star on top!"
"We'd sing carols while we decorated it," O'Malley added, joining in the imagination party.
"And after, we'd gather around the fireplace to watch the flames until only coals and embers were left," Hogan murmured, lost in another place and time.
"I really miss home." The sadness in Carter's soft declaration brought everyone's enthusiasm to a grinding halt. Smiles died and faces grew still. LeBeau's hopping slowed, then ceased. Newkirk fell back into line while Olsen and O'Malley returned to their own positions. Hogan tipped his head back and studied the darkening sky.
Kinch sighed, then coughed at the inrush of bitter cold air.
Klink suddenly appeared on the steps of his headquarters, bundled against the harsh winter weather. Only a thin slice of his face showed between his cap and the white scarf wrapped tightly around his neck and shoulders. Hogan waited until Schultz had delivered his report, then broke rank. Klink, already headed inside, failed to notice.
"Hey, Colonel," Hogan called after him. "How about delaying roll call a couple of hours tomorrow?"
"Delay roll call?" Klink clumsily spun back, his feet losing purchase on the snow-covered boards of his porch. His voice, muffled by the scarf, was indignant. "Why would I do that, Hogan?"
Hogan spread his arms wide, palms up. "Tomorrow's Christmas!"
"It's just another day here, Hogan." Klink turned away, but the men noted his voice had held a certain wistfulness.
"No, it's not!" Carter yelped, leaning forward in rank. Kinch shot an arm out, keeping his friend in place. Hogan's head turned, his eyebrows arching as he looked back at Carter. But he said nothing, giving Carter tacit permission to speak his mind. Kinch withdrew his arm and Carter left the formation. Klink watched him approach, eyes wide at Carter's audacity.
"It's not just another day, just because we're stuck in here!" Carter tipped his chin up and stared directly into Klink's eyes. "It's about peace and love, hope and charity, and the greatest gift mankind ever received."
"The Krauts would say ol' crazy Adolph was their greatest gift," Olsen sniped out of the corner of his mouth to Benson.
"It's Christmas," Carter stressed, voice and expression gone soft with a plea for understanding.
Klink stared at him. "What would you have me do, Carter?" His scoffing was half-hearted, at best. "Throw the gates open and release everyone?"
"Now that would be a great Christmas gift," Hogan called out, wearing an ear-to-ear grin.
Carter's gaze never wavered from Klink's. "Just for tomorrow at least, couldn't you let us have the day?"
"Give you the day?" Klink's head cocked and his expression grew intent.
A grin played at Carter's chapped lips. "Like the colonel suggested, have roll call late, let us do special things, like having unlimited time in the rec hall." He shrugged, his smile never dimming. "Maybe you can think of other things?"
Klink's gaze swept over the assembled prisoners, noting the eagerness and hope in their eyes. Even Schultz, who stood quietly off to one side, wore an expression best described as yearning. Klink thought a moment, trying to understand what he had been feeling since waking that morning.
"What do you say?" Newkirk yelled, bouncing on the balls of his feet. Frost rimmed his bangs.
Klink drew himself up to his full height and looked out over the distance separating him from the prisoners. "I say . . ." he paused, an idea taking root. "That I will think about it."
Groans went up. Klink snapped off a salute and hooking a finger in his scarf to pull it away from his mouth, yelled out their dismissal. The prisoners returned to their barracks, disheartened after having their hopes dashed.
HH HH HH HH HH HH HH
Hogan awoke with a start, sensing immediately that something was different. Staying within the warm cocoon of his blankets, he rolled over and surveyed his quarters, looking for what might have woken him. The room looked the same as it had when he'd fallen asleep and everything seemed quiet.
Yet something was different.
A knock came at his door. Kinch poked his head in, a quizzical expression on his face. Hogan sat up, shivered when the blanket fell away and cold air hit him.
"Merry Christmas, Colonel," Kinch whispered.
Hogan grinned. "Merry Christmas, buddy."
Kinch entered and quietly shut the door behind him, at the same time motioning Hogan to stay in the warmth of his bed. Kinch took a seat, clutching a thin, gray blanket around him.
"Something's up," Hogan said succinctly, blankets pulled back up to his chin.
Kinch chuckled softly. "Just us. Everyone else out there," he jerked his head in the direction of the common room. "Is still fast asleep, 'all snug in their beds with visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads'."
Hogan jerked his hand out of the blanket, twisted it to look at his watch. His jaw dropped when he realized morning roll call had come and gone several hours before.
"He did it," Hogan breathed. "He really did it. He let us sleep in!" His eyes got impossibly wide as a thought occurred to him. "You don't suppose . . .?"
Kinch quickly buried his mouth in the folds of his blanket, smothering laughter to keep from waking the men. Mirth contained, he lowered the blanket again. "He didn't go that far. I checked already. The gates are still closed."
"Ah, well," Hogan chuckled. "We shouldn't get greedy, especially at Christmas." He shook his head, still trying to take in the fact that Klink had honored their request.
Another knock came at the door. Carter peeked inside, hair mussed from sleep. "Hey, did you realize--?"
Hogan and Kinch nodded.
A stunned look fell over Carter's face and he murmured, "I smell pine tree."
Hogan and Kinch sniffed the air. Unable to smell anything other than the usual, they chalked the pine scent up to Carter's wishful thinking.
Langenscheidt entered the barracks, calling for morning roll call. The prisoners tumbled out of their beds, hurriedly dressing and exchanging Christmas greetings. It was only after they were assembled outside that Olsen let out a shout and excitedly pointed out the lateness of the hour. Disbelief ran rampant, along with a healthy dose of good cheer.
LeBeau reached out, stopping Langenscheidt in his count. "Where's Schultzie this morning?" A shy smile brightened the guard's perpetually hangdog expression and he gestured toward Klink's quarters.
"Herr Kommandant sent him home to spend the day with his family."
LeBeau's mouth gaped and his eyes fixed upon Klink's quarters. Langenscheidt moved on, picking up the count where he'd left off.
"There's a pine tree around here, somewhere," Carter insisted, scanning the prison yard. "I can smell it."
Newkirk, ebullient from the extra sleep and the beautiful, clear day, waved his arms at the trees beyond the fences. "They're all over the place, Andrew."
"I mean fresh-cut pine. Can't you smell it?" Carter breathed deeply despite the frigid air. A bout of coughing was his reward.
Klink appeared on the porch of his headquarters, white scarf again wrapped about his neck and face to ward off the cold. Moving with a nimble bounce in his step, he descended the stairs and crossed the yard. Hogan shot a glance over his shoulder at Kinch, sharing his surprise at seeing Klink so energized and eager to meet the day.
Langenscheidt delivered his morning report and Klink turned his attention to the prisoners. Hogan stepped forward.
"Merry Christmas, Kommandant."
Klink's eyes twinkled above the white scarf. "Danke, Hogan. Merry Christmas to you."
Hogan nodded. "Colonel, on behalf of my men and myself, I'd like to thank you for letting us sleep in today. It was some surprise, and a very nice one, at that."
"Hear, hear!" Olsen yelled, clapping enthusiastically. The others joined in a long round of applause. Klink accepted it graciously, nodding and smiling until it died down. And then his smile faltered and he turned his gaze back to Hogan.
"General Burkhalter is due to arrive tomorrow, Hogan, along with a number of other officers. We will be using the recreation hall for our meeting." Ignoring the frowns and muttering growing in number and strength from the prisoners, Klink went on. "I must insist the hall be cleaned today, and all the equipment moved outside."
"Today," Hogan repeated, tone flat with resignation.
Klink nodded. "Today. Start now."
Hogan sighed. At least they'd gotten some extra sleep. He turned, motioning his men toward the recreation building. "Come on, fellas, let's get it done."
The men headed in that direction, grumbling amongst themselves at the brevity of their celebration. No one noticed Klink following at a distance, a smile playing at his mouth.
Carter's face suddenly brightened as they neared the rec hall. "It's getting stronger!"
"What's he babbling about?" Benson asked, giving Carter a puzzled look.
Kinch took a deep breath, coughed as cold air hit his lungs. Eyes watering, he choked out, "I smell it, too!"
"Pine," LeBeau whispered, turning wide eyes upon Hogan. "Pine!" he repeated with building excitement.
The group picked up speed. Hogan reached the door first, shoved it open and stopped dead. The others crowded him, gasping as they caught sight of what lay inside.
A freshly cut spruce of deep emerald green occupied the very center of the room, it's tip brushing the ceiling. Bowls of popped corn and spools of string occupied one end of a cloth-covered table decorated with evergreen boughs and pinecones. A punch bowl sat on the other end, brimming with ruby-colored liquid and ringed with glasses. With a growing sense of wonder, Hogan recognized the dishes as Klink's own. The phonograph waited on a smaller table, a stack of records beside it.
The group turned as one. Klink stood before them, solemn, but with a sparkle in his eyes. He nodded toward the open doorway.
"It appears that someone has already cleaned it."
Olsen let out a whoop of joy and led the charge inside.
HH HH HH HH HH HH HH
"My compliments on the punch," Hogan said, licking the fruity taste from his lips.
Klink smiled down at the liquid in his own glass. "My mother's recipe," he murmured, lifting the glass for another sip. "I don't often have occasion to use it."
"Mine tended more toward Irish coffee," Hogan quipped, fondly picturing his mother. A pang of homesickness shot through him and he tasted the punch again, focusing upon the tangy drink.
"Irish coffee?" Klink gave him a shrewd look. "Fitting. A hot drink for the hot-blooded."
Hogan merely smiled at him over the rim of his cup, then turned his gaze upon the room, savoring the scene and his men's enjoyment.
Garlands of popped corn hung upon the tree, a homemade star of woven straw tied upon the very top. Music played softly, adding to the festive atmosphere. Laughter and conversation filled the room with warmth the bitter cold outside could not penetrate.
Hogan turned his head and looked Klink square in the eye.
"There never was a meeting, was there?"
"Oh, but there is, Hogan," Klink corrected with exaggerated dignity. "Next week."
Hogan laughed, at the same time making a mental note of the meeting. "You really pulled one over on us, Kommandant."
Klink beamed. "I did, didn't I?"
"You sure did." Hogan paused, touched by all that Klink had done to make their day as special as possible. He lifted his glass. "Merry Christmas, Kommandant."
Klink touched his glass to Hogan's. "Merry Christmas, Colonel."
Thank you for reading!