Author's note: The characters aren't mine, but the story is! This is my first venture into the Hogan's Heroes fandom, and I hope it's okay; I love friendship stories, so I just had to write a ficlit on LeBeau and Newkirk's friendship, since they're my favorites.
Peter Newkirk absently began to kick a tin can down the London alley. From the neighboring streets, the sounds of happy Londoners could be heard, celebrating the end of the war. It was time for them to be moving ahead.
"At least they 'ave somewhere to go to…" Newkirk muttered. Yes, the war was over, and he was back in London again, but he wasn't doing anything. And that bothered him immensely, though nowhere near as much as the fact that he was alone.
He had never expected to make friends during the war, especially not in a prisoner of war camp, but he had made them. When they had left Germany on V-E Day, they all had ended up in London. Reuniting with Kinch, who had escaped before them, the Heroes stayed in London until the war fully came to an end.
Newkirk had not looked forward to saying goodbye to his friends, but the day eventually came when Baker, Kinch, Carter, and Hogan had to return to the United States. The RAF Corporal had put on a façade of taking it all in stride.
"You lot 'ad better send some letters…" he had ordered.
Hogan had just chuckled, assuring that he would.
"We all will," Carter had promised, with a sad smile. He had been looking forward to seeing his home and family again, but saying goodbye to his now-closest friends had hurt very deeply.
LeBeau had been quite sentimental about their leaving and had prepared them a whole array of snacks for them to take back to the States with them. He had made some for Newkirk, of course, which he had presented to him before leaving for Paris a couple days later.
They had all kept in touch, of course—it was now nearing December, about three months since they had parted ways, and Newkirk carried the letters he had received from them, hoping that his own letters would reach them. It was pretty much all he carried—he didn't have much in the way of money. His parlor tricks and song and dance routines kept food on the table and paid the rent on the small flat he resided in, but he was far from where he wanted to be. He never spoke about this in his letters; he didn't want pity from his friends. Perhaps they would be happier if they thought that he was happy, too.
Newkirk sighed to himself as he vaguely became aware of a new conversation in the street intersecting the alley.
"Pardon, Mademoiselle… But you are a true vision of beauty for this poor Frenchman…"
Newkirk's eyes widened.
Blimey, I'm two steps from the madhouse, I am… he thought. That can't be LeBeau… can it…?
He ran out of the alley, staring at the unmistakable red scarf and hat on the young man, who was trying to chat up a beautiful young woman.
"What are you doing 'ere!?" came out of his mouth instead of the intended greeting. But French Corporal Louis LeBeau looked up at him and merely grinned.
"Mon ami…!" he greeted, shaking Newkirk's hand. "The catering business has been doing so well, I took the weekend off to come here!"
"Well, of course the catering business would be going well…" said Newkirk, with a smile. I knew you would be okay; you had your cooking to fall back on. "So why are you still 'olding onto that red scarf…?"
"What, this…?" LeBeau asked, fingering the scarf. He gave a smile. "My family has always treated red scarves as good luck charms. My grandmother and grandfather met due to a red scarf… And I am hoping that my own red scarf someday helps me meet my future true love…"
"Didn't quite work for you this time, old chum…" said Newkirk, indicating the empty spot where the woman whom LeBeau had been flirting with had been standing a moment before.
"Ah, c'est la vie…" LeBeau sighed. "That is a clear sign that she is not the one. But what about you? Weren't you seeing someone before the war? Rita what's-her-name…?"
Newkirk flinched. "She… wasn't the one, either." He forced a smile. "C'est la vie, as you say…"
LeBeau's smile faded slightly, sensing that he had hit a sore spot. "I've been receiving letters from the others in the States," he said, trying to change the subject. "Colonel said that he was heading to New York to receive a special honor for playing a leading role in our underground effort. I told him to give warmest greetings to the Statue of Liberty on my behalf."
"Yeah, I 'eard…" said Newkirk. "Trust Colonel Hogan to receive a hero's welcome…" He tried not to sound bitter, but it hardly seemed fair. He, Newkirk, had risked his life more than once in the effort. He had received no such honor upon returning to London.
And now LeBeau knew that all was not well with his English friend.
"Mon ami…" he said. "Something is troubling you."
Newkirk looked away. He had always been the wisecracking smart-alec of the Heroes; swallowing his pride would be out of character, and yet… he could not continue to carry the façade forever.
"Yeah, you can say that something is bothering me," he said at last. He pulled out his empty pockets. "Old Lady Luck doesn't seem to 'ave me in her good books. I've gone back to earning a living by playing magic tricks in old music halls. Doesn't exactly earn enough for spending money, now does it? But I suppose I should be grateful that I at least 'ave a place to 'ang me coat up. I'll admit that with all the pickpocketing skills I perfected during the war, I was tempted to try traipsing through the West End and pick up some money that way… but, somehow, I don't think Colonel Hogan would approve of using me skills in that way…"
LeBeau just stared at his friend, stunned.
"You… you want to know about what happened to Rita?" Newkirk went on. He may as well tell the rest of the story. "I came back to find out that she had gotten engaged to someone else while I was away." He cursed under his breath. Now he fully understood what Carter must have gone through when he received that breakup letter from his ex-girlfriend.
LeBeau looked to the ground for a moment, wondering what to say to his poor friend.
"Why did you not tell me or the others?" he asked. "We could have wired you money to help you get on your feet…"
"Well, I'm not exactly off me feet, either. Besides, I'm not the kind who likes taking 'andouts… I've got me pride," said Newkirk.
LeBeau slapped his forehead, muttering in French.
"Yeah, I know; I'm being a fool…" Newkirk said. "Pride doesn't keep food on the table. But I'm not starving, either. In fact, when I think about it, I'm doing pretty well for a bloke who's got this little."
"But are you truly happy with how your life is?" LeBeau asked. For that was the most important thing—if Newkirk was happy, living with the bare essentials, then that was all that mattered.
"I could be better…" Newkirk admitted.
LeBeau just sighed. "Maybe you should have the lucky scarf…" he said, quietly.
"Nah…" said Newkirk. "I can't deprive you of finding that perfect short girl you've been searching for." He gave a wan smile. "I reckon I'm better at looking at doors anyway."
"You'll find her, too," LeBeau promised. "We both will."
"Hopefully, it's not the same girl…" Newkirk added, wryly.
"Hopefully," LeBeau agreed, with a grin. He sighed. "In truth, I am not exactly where I want to be, either."
"I figured that when the girl walked off…" Newkirk was feeling better, having gotten his concerns off of his chest, and was beginning to feel snarky again.
"Non… I mean with the restaurant and catering…" he went on.
"But you said that you were here because you were doing well…!" Newkirk said, surprised.
"Oui, but I could be doing better," said LeBeau. "Right now, the business is doing fairly well by word of mouth alone. But I pay rent on the building where the restaurant is, so most of my earnings go there. But I save a little bit every week. I hope to be able to put the down payment on the property so that I can spend the money that comes later on advertising instead of the landlord." He sighed. "I half-considered writing to you and the others if you wanted to invest and help me get there more quickly…"
Newkirk turned out his empty pockets again. "You know I'd 'elp if I only could… But what stopped you from asking the others, anyway…?"
LeBeau gave a wan smile again. "Same reason as you, I suppose. Pride…"
"Well, we've still got our pride, we 'ave," said Newkirk. "That has to account for something…"
LeBeau gave a nod, coming to a decision. "Mon ami, what is keeping you here in London? You could come work for me in Paris!"
"What, as a waiter…!?" Newkirk asked. "I thought we just established that I've got me pride!"
"Don't misunderstand me!" LeBeau said. "You never know when your next music hall performance will be; you can entertain my patrons on a nightly basis!"
"You 'ave the money to employ another person…?" Newkirk asked.
"Oui, in the bank…" LeBeau admitted.
"That's your money for the down payment on the property, ain't it?" the RAF Corporal asked, stunned. "You can't go giving that away!"
"I wouldn't be giving it away; you'd be working for it, right…?" LeBeau asked. "You need it more than I do…"
Newkirk sighed. "I can't let you do that for me."
"What else do you want me to do? You don't want a handout, as you say. You don't want to let the others know about this, and you don't want to resort to underhanded means—for which, I am sure, all of London would be grateful if they were only aware of how easily you could prosper that way," said LeBeau. "Perhaps hiring you as an act might bring more patrons to my restaurant. You get the money you need, and I get the money I need…"
"Assuming I don't ruin things…" Newkirk muttered.
LeBeau blinked. "Does that mean you will take the job after all?"
"I dunno…" the Englishman replied. "I've got nothing to lose, but if you don't bring in a good enough profit, there go your hopes of a down payment…"
"I'll take my chances," the French Corporal replied. "After going on all of those missions with you during the war, this will be nothing!"
Newkirk chuckled. "Right; I'll swing by me flat, grab a few things, and then we can grab some fish and chips and head to Paris."
"Fish and chips!?" LeBeau sputtered, highly affronted. "Fish and chips!? Are you serious!?"
Newkirk folded his arms, a smirk on his face. "Not at all; I just wanted to see what you would say to that."
LeBeau blinked, but then grinned. "You haven't changed a bit…"
Newkirk gave a shrug. Staying the same in a rapidly changing world seemed like a personal accomplishment, when he thought about it. He had not changed. And the friendship of the two Corporals had not changed, either.
"I suggest you hurry up and get whatever you need," said LeBeau. He smirked. "I like my employees to arrive on time."
"Blimey, what 'ave I gotten meself into…?" Newkirk said, with a mock sigh.
Whatever it was, he was grateful for it.