Disclaimer: I don't own Hogan's Heroes or any of the characters; I merely borrow them and play with them for a while.

Corporal Peter Newkirk has been here in Stalag 13 for a long time. So long that sometimes it feels as if his previous life was nothing but a dream, or a fragmentary memory that the slow erosion of time has turned into dust.

But there are some things he still remembers vividly.

For instance, the years he spent growing up in the wretched underbelly of London, in one of its poorest areas. Life wasn't easy, then, not with a father who abandoned the family when Newkirk was only a young boy, leaving his mother struggling to support their children by herself, only barely making ends meet.

No, life wasn't easy for any of them, but there was little they could do about it. Newkirk learned early on that when you're born into the lowest of the working classes, in the wrong part of town, speaking with the wrong accent, you're predestined to remain in the gutter. Opportunities were clearly only meant for other people, and the doors that opened so readily for those with a more proper background or a fancier family name would resolutely slam right into his face.

It seemed he would be destined to live and die where he had been born; England wasn't a country that favoured upwards social movement for people like him.

It was all beyond his influence anyway, when it all came down to it.

But his family needed money badly, and he could see how his mother was wearing out her already thin, frail body with hard work. He had to help out, and there were precious few ways to do that.

He didn't plan to head down that road at first, he really didn't, but one day he found a wallet just lying there on the cobblestones. There was money in it. Seven pounds, even. For a while he just stood there with the wallet in his hands, hesitating. All he could think of was how oddly smooth the brown leather felt against his skin.

Then he made his decision.

And really, who could blame him? It wasn't his fault that their family had no money, or that his little sister would go to bed crying because she was so hungry.

Not long after, he started picking pockets. He wasn't proud of it or anything, but it put food on the table, as well as a strange expression on his mother's face whenever she saw the money he brought home. She never asked him where it came from, which was strange, but he still remembers how she looked so sorrowful – or was it disappointed? – every time.

Still, he only did what he had to. It wasn't as if anyone else would take care of his family for him, was it?

Once, he was beaten up pretty badly by a gang of older boys for taking his business into the wrong area of town. But as soon as he was back on his two feet again, he returned to prowling the streets, albeit more carefully from then on.

As the years went by, he moved up to slightly bigger things, even did a few jobs on demand – picked locks, cracked a couple of safes for people even shadier than him, that kind of thing. It was more of a natural progress of things than a need for more money. He didn't know what else to do with his life and he had no other skills he could put to use, so what else was there for him? He hadn't chosen this kind of life; he had just accepted it because there had been no other viable alternative at the time. And now there was nothing else he could do.

At least, that's what he tried to tell himself. Especially during the sleepless nights when he was just sick with disgust for himself and what he was doing.

One day, a circus came to town. He wasn't actually going to see the show; it was merely out of curiosity that he aimlessly wandered around the colourful tents where the circus staff had set up camp, watching as the artists practiced for the night's performance and the lions prowled around in their cages while mindlessly twirling a coin between his fingers.

That was the day he was discovered, for lack of a better word.

And before he knew it, he was a performing artist, amusing people from all over the country with his dexterity and magic tricks. The audience ooh-ed and aah-ed as their watches and jewelry unexpectedly appeared between his fingers. They whistled and applauded as he made coins disappear and cards trade places before their very eyes.

It was a stunning feeling, and he realized with amazement that for the first time in many years, he was happy with himself. It was during that time it became clear to him that his destiny was now his own, and everything lay in his own hands. He had the power to do what he wanted; bad circumstances were no longer holding him down. That was an exhilarating kind of thrill he had never experienced before.

Yes, his life was finally his to control.

Then came the war.

And when England calls on you to serve, you don't turn her down, that much Newkirk knew. Not unless you wish to go to jail as a draft dodger anyway.

However, his war ended the night he had to bail out of a burning plane, the pilot's brain substance splattered all over the cracked windshield.

And after being captured, processed and interrogated, he ended up in Stalag 13.

Things didn't go well from there, and already on his first day in the camp he got into trouble and was thrown into the cooler. A solitary cell. Newkirk couldn't stand small, confined spaces after a traumatizing accident in his childhood involving a narrow, dried-up well. He shouted and swore, cursed the Germans to Hell and back, but no one came. He was alone in the darkness. He beat his fists bloody as he banged them against the sturdy steel door. No one opened it.

Finally, he just collapsed on the hard bunk lining the wall and cried – imagine, him, Peter Newkirk, crying! – and then fell into a sleep riddled with nightmares of explosions and tiny cramped spaces where he couldn't breathe and bullets flying through the air.

A few days later, he was let out. But by then, it was as if something inside him had changed. Perhaps it was from the terror of being locked up in the darkness, or the frightful memories of being shot down, or maybe the realization that he would most likely be in this bloody camp for the rest of the war, however long it would see fit to last.

No, not changed. Broken. Something inside him was broken, and he didn't know how to fix it. If it even could be fixed.

Memories of his pre-war life taunted him almost every waking moment as he tried to settle into the daily camp routine. So did that nefarious voice inside of him, as it whispered its venom into his ear. Once, you were free to do what you wanted with your life; for a short time you held your own destiny in your hands. But that was then. Now you're just a wretched sod who doesn't even get to decide when to get up in the morning, what to eat, when to shower. From now on, everything you do will be on someone else's orders.

Yes, perhaps the last few years had been too good for someone like him. What had he expected, really? Of course, something like that would never last; he should have known it from the very start.

He should have known.

Then, one day, Colonel Hogan arrived in Stalag 13.

And before Newkirk knew it, everything had changed. He was no longer the silent shadow that would stand and stare longingly over the barbed wire as the other prisoners were playing volleyball or rugby. No, he was digging tunnels like there was no tomorrow and forging German documents and sewing phony SS uniforms. And better yet, after the operation had been set up, he was once more back to fighting in the war, albeit covertly.

As well as doing what he had not long ago thought impossible – taking his destiny into his own hands again.

Newkirk might have had his initial scuffles with the American colonel, but in the end, he would follow the man to the deepest pits of Hell. Because Hogan gave him back something precious no one else could ever have done – the control of his own life.

End note: English is not my first language; sorry if it shows overly much. If someone is willing to beta this story (for English errors, mostly) I would be most grateful.