Disclaimer: I do not own any of the Hogan's Heroes characters.


Five days.

Five days since the mail had arrived.

Five days since he'd received the letter; the one he was holding right now. The one he had read and re-read until the creases in the paper had begun to tear along the edges.

Five days since he'd all but locked himself in his quarters, interacting with his men only when necessary.

He unfolded the letter and began to read it again, even though he had long since memorized it.

My Dearest Rob,

I am so sorry to have to tell you…

He blinked his eyes rapidly, fighting back the tears that were once again threatening to fall. He still couldn't believe it; didn't want to believe it. It wasn't true! Someone must have made a mistake…

But he was only fooling himself. He sighed audibly and re-folded the note, absently slipping it into the breast pocket of his shirt. Suddenly he needed to get out of there; away from the camp, away from the men, away from everything that reminded him of how trapped he was. He got up from the lower bunk where he'd been sitting and grabbed his jacket, which was hanging on the back of the chair in front of him. After pulling it on, he snatched his crush cap off the top bunk where he'd tossed it earlier. He switched off the desk lamp, walked the few steps to the door of his quarters, and opened it slowly; peering out into the dark main room of the barracks.

It was late, and the men of barracks two were sprawled out on their bunks in various positions, holding their thin, prison-camp-issued blankets tightly around themselves in an effort to keep warm. They all appeared to be fast asleep; judging by the sound of the snores that were echoing throughout the large, rectangular room. After his eyes adjusted to the scant light filtering in from the only two windows on the far wall, he began to make his way quietly to the bunk on the other side of the room. It was the entrance to their tunnels, and no one slept there the majority of the time; they had to keep it clear for the many missions that took place…particularly at night.

He glanced around the room once more; and, seeing no one awake, reached up and tapped the latch on the side of the top bunk. The bottom bunk rose quickly, but he was able to catch it before it banged into the bed above. He placed first one leg, and then the other, onto the ladder leading to the tunnels below, and climbed down; closing the lower bunk behind him.

Unbeknownst to him, a pair of eyes had watched him leave.

The tunnels were deathly quiet; even Kinch was fast asleep in the barracks above. London had ordered radio silence until morning; they had wanted no interference during the bombing raids taking place that night.

He stood there for a moment, relishing the silence, and then walked through the tunnel leading to their emergency exit; his pace quickening as he approached it...and the freedom beyond. When he got there, he climbed up through the tree stump and crawled out; ducking once to evade the guard tower's searchlight. Then he was off; melting into the dark forest.


Newkirk couldn't sleep. Not since the latest batch of mail had arrived. Not since Schultz had passed the letters from home out to the men. Not since he saw the look on Colonel Hogan's face after he had torn open the envelope of the letter addressed to him and stared at it for a full minute; his eyes scanning the paper over and over again.

That's when Hogan had turned and walked into his quarters, shutting the door behind him; effectively closing himself off from the rest of the world. He'd been like that for the past five days; talking to them as little as possible. He hadn't been eating much, and he certainly hadn't been sleeping.

Newkirk was especially aware that Hogan wasn't sleeping. The Englishman would lie on his bunk, staring at the thin glow of light emanating from under the Colonel's door, waiting until Hogan turned it off so he would know that his Commanding Officer was finally getting some rest. But, most nights since the mail had arrived; the light was on until the wee hours of the morning. And once, it never went out at all.

He was beside himself with worry, as were the rest of the men. Newkirk had been hoping that Hogan would open up, at least to one of them, but every effort they'd made seemed to push the Colonel further away. So he had spent the last several nights watching the light through the crack under Hogan's door, wishing there was something he could do.

And then, Colonel Hogan had suddenly emerged from his quarters, dressed for the outside, and had snuck across the barracks and down into the tunnels; apparently on a mission to spend some time away from camp. Newkirk had watched him surreptitiously, and after Hogan had gone, he finally came to a decision of his own; he was going to help Hogan, whether the Colonel wanted it or not.

He sat up on his bunk and swung his legs over the side, jumping down to the floor as quietly as possible. After changing into his uniform, he tiptoed over to the tunnel entrance, tapped the latch on the bunk, and when it opened, climbed down himself.

Once in the tunnel, he made his way to the exit. He emerged from the tree stump, and took off after Hogan. He had a pretty good idea where he would find him; a secluded spot where each of the men in turn had spent time when they wanted to be alone…to think, to relax, and to forget about the war for a while.

As he neared his destination, he slowed his pace, placing his steps carefully to remain as quiet as possible. He found the large row of bushes that he'd been looking for; and, pushing the section in front of him apart, created an opening large enough for him to squeeze through. His eyes swept back and forth across the hidden clearing that lay before him; his gaze coming to rest on a lone figure sitting on the ground to his left, facing the other way. He instantly recognized him; it was Colonel Hogan.


Hogan was lost in his memories; re-living a time before he had left home, before he had become a Colonel in the U.S. Army Air Corp, before he had been shot down over Germany and ended up at Stalag Thirteen. There was a pond that stretched out in front of where he sat; and the moon, being particularly bright that evening, was illuminating the surface, creating a twinkling path that stretched from shore to shore. It was like watching a thousand tiny points of light dancing across the water, and he found himself replaying in his mind the last time he had he enjoyed a scene like this with…with…

He lowered his eyes, feeling the tears welling up again. Just then he heard a noise coming from the brush behind him, and half-expected that the next sound would be the click of a German rifle, and a guard yelling at him to put his hands in the air. And, at that moment, he realized that he didn't care.

When he didn't hear anything, he finally turned his head to see who, or what, had made the noise. He immediately saw Newkirk standing there, who was attempting unsuccessfully to mask the concerned look on his face, and Hogan wasn't the least bit surprised.

Newkirk looked back at Hogan; clearly nervous. "Care for some company, Colonel?" He asked tentatively.

Hogan shrugged. "Suit yourself." He responded in a flat, dull tone.

Newkirk walked over and plopped down next to Hogan. They sat there in silence for a few minutes, Newkirk trying desperately to think of something to say that might draw Hogan out. At last he opened his mouth, but what came out made him inwardly cringe.

"So…couldn't sleep, Colonel?" He asked lamely.

Hogan just kept staring at the pond. "Apparently, neither could you, Newkirk," he replied, sounding rather annoyed.

Newkirk could tell this wasn't working, so he decided to go with a more direct approach. "Look, gov'nor, we all know that you 'aven't been yourself lately," he stated more courageously than he felt, "The other fellas are worried about you…and so am I."

Hogan glanced over at him, a suspicious look in his eyes, and then turned quickly away. "So they sent you out here to talk to me?" He retorted, getting angry now.

"No sir," Newkirk answered apologetically, "I came out 'ere on me own."

"Well, thanks for your concern, Newkirk, but I'm perfectly capable of handling my problems all by myself!" Hogan exclaimed heatedly.

Summoning all his courage, Newkirk put his hand on Hogan's shoulder, and said quietly, "You don't 'ave to, you know, Colonel…handle things all alone, that is."

Hogan finally turned his head and looked at Newkirk. He was positively livid, and about to order the Corporal back to camp in no uncertain terms, when he got a good look at Newkirk's face; it was filled with worry, filled with hurt, filled with an intense desire to help. And even he could see that it wasn't just because he was Newkirk's Commanding Officer.

Hogan sighed. As he stared at Newkirk, his anger subsided, and he came to a decision. He reached into his breast pocket and produced the letter that had led to this whole situation. He then held it out to Newkirk, who looked at him curiously.

"You really want me to read it, Colonel?" He asked, daring to hope.

"Go ahead, Newkirk," Hogan responded in a gentle tone. As soon as Newkirk had taken the letter, Hogan went back to examining the pond in front of him.

Newkirk carefully unfolded the paper, and began to read:

My dearest Rob,

I am so sorry to have to tell you that Margaret Henderson was killed in an automobile accident last week, on her way home from the bank where she worked.

I know how much she meant to you, my darling, and you know that your father and I also loved her very much. I wish I could be there to comfort you, but I'm sure you have friends there that can help you through this terrible tragedy. We will miss her greatly, but not as much as you, I know.

Please stay safe; I pray for your safe return every night.

All our love to you,

Mom

Newkirk re-folded the letter, and handed it back to Hogan, who stuffed it back into his pocket. He didn't say anything for a few moments, and then asked quietly, "So, who was she, Colonel?"

"My high school sweetheart," Hogan answered; a faraway look in his eyes. "We went out together for several years, right up until the day I left for active duty. I called her Maggie, and she called me Robbie, because she knew I despised that nickname!" Hogan smiled, remembering. He glanced at Newkirk and said softly, "She was my first, you know?" Sure the Englishman would know what he meant. Then he sighed, and continued, "I was completely in love with her. I even asked her to marry me before I left."

"You did?" Newkirk seemed surprised; not just from what Hogan had told him, but the fact that Hogan was sharing so much personal information with him in the first place. "So what happened, Colonel?"

"She turned me down," Hogan told him, "She said she didn't want to spend her life worrying about me, or someday receiving a telegram that said I'd been hurt, or possibly killed. So I figured once I got home, I'd marry her then, whether she liked it or not!" Hogan chuckled, and then grew serious. "But I never thought that she wouldn't…be there…"

Newkirk wasn't sure what to say. "Colonel," he began, "I…I wish there was somethin'…there must be somethin' I can…"

Hogan looked at him, pain emanating from his eyes. "No, don't, Newkirk; please," he said, his voice choked with emotion, "I don't want your sympathy!" He stood up and took a few steps away from the Englishman, and then stopped; his back turned toward him.

Newkirk got up and walked over to Hogan, and without thinking, grabbed his arm and pulled him around to face him. "Colonel, don't you get it?" He exclaimed, full of emotion himself, "I'm not 'ere to just give you sympathy…I'm 'ere as your friend!" He looked at Hogan, who appeared to be fighting to control himself. Suddenly Hogan's eyes became wet, and the tears started falling at last. He put his arms around Newkirk and buried his face in the Corporal's shoulder, sobbing uncontrollably. Newkirk just held him, not saying a word; his own arms wrapped tightly around the Colonel.

They stayed that way for several minutes, and when Hogan finally stopped, he leaned back and looked at Newkirk with embarrassment.

"Newkirk, I…" Hogan started, but Newkirk shushed him.

"You don't have to say anythin', Colonel," He said, looking at Hogan, trying to reassure him with his eyes.

Hogan studied Newkirk's face for a moment, and then let out a sigh of relief. "Thanks, Peter," he replied softly.

"You're welcome…Robbie," Newkirk responded, and then smiled at him. Hogan smiled back; the first smile he'd seen on the Colonel for almost a week, and he suddenly knew that everything was going to be okay.


They made their way back to camp sometime later, maneuvering successfully through the emergency exit, and arrived at the main tunnel area underneath the entrance to their barracks above. After climbing up, Hogan immediately went to his quarters, while Newkirk changed and hopped up onto his bunk. He watched the light under Hogan's door, and when he saw it go out after a few minutes, he rolled over and closed his eyes.

Finally he could sleep.