Disclaimer: I do not own the series characters from Hogan's Heroes. I do own the original character Bluebird.

APRIL 1942

The cold drizzle wasn't making the wait in these woods any more tolerable. How much longer? She'd been led to believe that Colonel Hogan ran a remarkably efficient operation… well, where was her contact? Had he run into trouble somewhere?

A twig snapped nearby. She held her pistol at the ready and advanced gradually towards the sound.

She spotted him when ten or fifteen feet still separated them… a man, dressed head to toe in black, and she couldn't see his face because he had his back turned. What she could see in the moonlight was the glint of a gun in his right hand… and she was taking no chances. She trained her own weapon on him and said, in a tone that wouldn't be argued with, "Hold it."

The man turned to face her… unbelievable; what part of 'hold it' hadn't he understood? Then she could see that his face was smudged with black… probably to reduce his visibility, but he wasn't doing much else to protect himself in her opinion. And he still held his gun at the ready, like her own. Stalemate.

"Nice and easy…" he began in a heavy English accent, "lower your gun."

She lower hers? "Not a chance."

He leaned closer to get a better look at her. "What in the… what are you doin' out here in the middle of the night?"

That wasn't the recognition code. But there was still a good chance this Englishman who didn't pay attention and didn't follow procedure was her contact… and he was an Englishman; that was a good sign. She decided to chance it. "Papa Bear?"

His mouth opened slightly but nothing came out for a few seconds. "Oh, you're jokin'…"

She lifted her gun a little higher. "You'll notice I'm not laughing."

"Don't tell me you're Bluebird!"

That was more like it. "Why didn't you say that in the first place?"

He let his own weapon fall to his side. "No… no…"

Hers dropped as well. "What's the problem?"

"The problem is standin' here in front of me… you're a girl."

"Nice spotting."

He shook his head and cast his eyes skyward. "Oh, marvelous… do you know what Colonel Hogan's gonna say when he lays eyes on you?"

"I was assigned here!"

"And what bleedin' idiot came up with that idea?"

"I can do my job!"

"Fine; if we ever need a chambermaid, we'll ring for you!"

"Now listen…"

"Colonel Hogan'll have my head if I bring you through the tunnel!"

She lost about half her righteous indignation on the spot. "You… you're gonna just… leave me out here?" She hated the way it sounded… fearful, almost desperate… but it had finally occurred to her that he could do just exactly that if he felt like it, and there wasn't a whole lot she could do about it. Karl had dropped her off at least a mile away… she could find her way back to the road, she knew that, but then how would she find Karl? If she wasn't what Hogan had been expecting… she did know that his operation was run from a POW camp, but she had been assigned to the unit and she had figured there must be a reason… he could refuse to take the risk of exposing their setup to her. She suddenly realized she had been very naïve… and very lucky, up to that point. Things had always worked out pretty well… but because of that, she was somewhat ill-equipped to deal with situations like this one.

Their stalemate was broken when over to her left they both heard heavy footsteps and the barking of a large dog. "Oh, charmin'…" the man in black clothing grumbled.

"If you're not taking me with you, let me go," she told him in a hushed whisper. "Now!"

He looked like he was still on the fence about it for another couple of heartbeats… then reached to take her wrist firmly in his hand. She tried to pull away, but he held fast. "Come on… if I'm to be court-martialed anyway, I'd rather it not be for lettin' those dogs rip you to shreds."

It was good enough… at least for the moment. He wasn't pleased and neither was she, but she was going to see Colonel Hogan, and then maybe he could tell this rude, hard-headed lackey of his just exactly why she'd been assigned to this prestigious operation… after all, he had to have a reason, and even if it wasn't immediately obvious, it would be revealed in time.

A good reason.

She hoped.

00o00

"What kept you?" Hogan demanded as Newkirk climbed over the rail at the top of the ladder to join the rest of them in the barracks.

"Sir…" Newkirk stopped, thought, ran the back of his hand across his jaw, shook his head. "I can't explain it, sir… you'll have to see it for yourself."

"You didn't make contact with the operative?"

"I did, sir."

"Well, where is he?"

"I…" There literally were no words to cover it… instead, Newkirk leaned over the opening in the floor and called down into the tunnel. "Get up 'ere," he ordered brusquely.

Not exactly the most welcoming way to treat a new team member. But Hogan had to admit, he felt like snapping at somebody himself when he saw what followed Newkirk up the ladder.

A girl. A girl! He looked three times and still couldn't believe his eyes. He'd bet no more than five foot four, a hundred and ten pounds soaking wet. She would have looked right at home on Main Street in any small town in America. Well, except for the camouflage and the sidearm. Her dark hair was cut short and looked as if it had been styled that way with hedge clippers, roughly and with no finesse. He actually found himself speechless for a few seconds. Then he found his voice. "Is this London's idea of a joke?"

Well, she'd gotten off on the wrong foot with the mouthy Brit corporal, and her bad luck was holding. Bluebird held her own anger in check and lifted her slightly-too-prominent chin. "Colonel Hogan… Agent Bluebird of the Underground."

"Oh, great. That's just great. ." He turned away in disgust. "It's a nightmare… that's what it is… any second now I'm gonna wake up screaming."

Gee, thanks. But she did her best to maintain a neutral expression. This wasn't the first time she'd been an unwelcome sight, and it wouldn't be the last. "I'm sorry if I'm a disappointment to you, sir."

"A disappointment? I wouldn't put it that way, Bluebird… no, you're a full-fledged disaster! This is a POW camp and there are three hundred men in it… are you under some delusion that you're just going to blend in? I asked for a commando and they sent me a carhop!"

"Begging your pardon, sir, but I have had some commando training…"

"Oh, do you knit fuses?" the Englishman demanded.

Him, she didn't have to take it from. "Who came up behind who out there?" she shot back. "Lucky for you I wasn't a German patrol!"

"Knock it off!" Hogan snapped. He looked back at her. "You… go sit somewhere or something while I try to figure out what to do about you."

The absolute worst thing she could do was to let her anger show. She knew she was a dedicated agent and a hard worker, maybe she hadn't been at it very long but there were plenty of operatives she'd worked with who could tell Hogan a thing or two about who she was and what she could do. The best thing she could do at the moment would be to follow his orders without question and let him think… for now.

She had just finished painting the entire barracks full of men with the same unflattering brush when she realized that someone on her right was holding a chipped ceramic cup out to her. "Would you like some coffee, mademoiselle?" a diminutive corporal in a red sweater inquired.

She recognized both the accent and the emblem on his uniform shirt that peeked out from the tear in his sweater right away. "Merci."

He brightened a little when she didn't come out swinging the way she had with his British pal, who was sulking nearby. "Ah, vous parlez français?"

"Un tout petit peu."

"Très bien!" He indicated the bench at the table and she took a seat. "I'm Louis LeBeau. This is Andrew Carter."

The American sergeant in the flight jacket waved a quick hello. "Hi… ma'am."

"Hi."

"And this is Kinch… James Kinchloe."

The staff sergeant glanced toward Colonel Hogan briefly before replying… well, then, he might be a sergeant but she'd seen that look before, and he was in reality more of a lieutenant, whether or not they'd gotten around to promoting him yet. "Bluebird," he nodded politely if a bit coolly. "Apparently you've already met our Corporal Peter Newkirk."

Was that his name? Big deal. "Not formally."

She hadn't thought Newkirk would be able to keep his mouth shut for long, and she was right. "I risk my life out there in the middle of the night for what? To go bring in a Girl Scout."

"I'm sorry, Corporal, did I miss the part where you had to carry me or something?"

"In case you didn't notice, these woods happen to be crawlin' with Krauts."

"I know… which is why I think you ought to pay more attention to what's going on behind you."

That made Sergeant Kinchloe chuckle. "Hey, Newkirk, did she get the drop on you out there?"

"That explains the attitude," LeBeau nodded. "Don't pay any attention to him, Bluebird. He's always cranky when he doesn't get his nap before a mission."

Carter looked surprised. "Did she sneak up on you, Newkirk?"

No answer. She wondered how he planned to get himself out of that one. She sure wasn't going to let him get away with an outright lie. And as it turned out, she didn't have to… Kinch and LeBeau responded to his silence by looking at their watches and began a countdown.

"Five… four… three… two… one… yes!" they concluded, laughing, when he failed to say anything at all. She wanted to laugh too, but didn't dare… why push her luck when she'd finally found a couple of guys who seemed willing to tolerate her? Plus, she was distracted by the coffee. Anything hot would have been welcome after her wet wait in the dark forest, but this actually tasted good to boot.

"This is great."

"It's real," LeBeau grinned proudly. "Sugar too."

"I forgot how much I liked it. I've only been able to get chicory and some white stuff that I don't think I want to know more about."

"You're right; you don't." He freshened everyone else's cups and handed one to Newkirk as well… whom she expected to swear off coffee any second just because she'd said she liked it… and then sat down at the table. "What outfit did you come from?"

Generally that was a question she didn't like to answer, but this was the famous Colonel Hogan's outfit, not a bunch of unknown quantities meeting behind a haystack. "I was with Danzig's group for a while, and before that with a unit in Rennes."

LeBeau looked impressed. "Who do I see about getting a transfer to Rennes?"

The colonel came back out of the smaller room off the barracks and gestured to Bluebird and to Kinch. "Let's get on the radio… I want to see if I can find out who's responsible for this and what they have to say for themselves."

As the aforementioned 'this', Bluebird set her cup down with resignation. "Well… it was nice almost knowing you." She was going back out that tree stump within the hour; she just knew it.

She got a "Bye, ma'am", a "Take care", and a "Good riddance."

00o00

"Say again, Goldilocks?" Hogan repeated into the static.

Bluebird looked in awe around the spacious radio room in the tunnel. Incredible. It had to be seen to be believed. And she still wasn't quite sure she believed it.

A British-accented male voice crackled back over the speaker in reply. "Repeat, please, Papa Bear… Did you say Agent Bluebird?"

"Affirmative, Goldilocks… Agent Bluebird received orders to report to us here at the Three Bears' House."

Were they kidding? These were grown men. She wondered if she'd ever get over finding this code-name patter amusing. But she kept a straight face… nothing about her situation was funny.

"I'm terribly sorry, Papa Bear, but there's been some sort of mistake."

"What kind of mistake?" Hogan pressed.

"You weren't supposed to be Agent Bluebird's assignment at all… no, it was Agent Bluejay who was supposed to receive the orders to report to the Three Bears' House."

"I think that explains a lot right there, Goldilocks," Hogan nodded. "Is Agent Bluejay by any chance a man?"

"Why, yes, of course… pleasant chap from British Canada. Do you know him?" the calm, almost casually chatty voice inquired.

"We've never met," Hogan replied curtly. "Unfortunately."

"Then I'm not sure how…" A long pause. "Oh dear me… Bluebird is… well, if I recall correctly, Bluebird is…"

"Bluebird is a girl, Goldilocks, who fits into our operation here about as well as a piano fits into a harmonica case. I must say I'm relieved to find out her assignment here was a mistake and not someone's idea of a prank, but it doesn't change the fact that she's here and we don't know what to do with her. Where is Bluejay now, and can we make an exchange?"

"That… could be difficult, Papa Bear."

Hogan clutched the microphone tightly enough to make Kinch wince. "How so?"

"Well… if Bluebird is at Stalag 13, that probably means that Bluejay received her assignment."

"Can't you get him back from the assignment?"

"Well… I imagine he's likely in Marseille by now. It's all very well and good for you to tell Bluebird she belongs on the Riviera, but it's going to be a hard knock for poor old Bluejay, I can tell you… not looking forward to that at all."

The voice was getting harder and harder to make out over the increasing static. "We're losing the signal, Colonel," Kinch warned.

"Request instructions on returning misdelivered package," Hogan said quickly.

"Do you read?"

The static reached a crescendo and Kinch shook his head. "Sorry, Colonel… we've lost them."

Hogan slammed the microphone down on the desk. "They hung up, didn't they? They think we're gonna fall for that? Kinch, keep trying to restore that connection until you get through. I don't care if it takes all night. We are not, repeat, not, going to cover for their foul-up. Bluebird goes back where she came from within twenty-four hours, period, if I have to drop her on their doorstep myself."

NOVEMBER 1943

"How did it go?" LeBeau asked as Newkirk ascended the ladder from the tunnel.

"Piece'a cake," he assured them. "And how did you lot get along without me for a whole day and a night?"

"We managed," Hogan replied. "I think Schultz missed you, though… at roll call last night he counted off elf, zwölf, donnervetter" when he got to that empty place you should've been standing in."

"Poor ol' Schultzie." He eyed Hogan for a moment. "I suppose this'll mean the cooler for me again, sir?"

"You know the rules. 'There has never been a successful escape from Stalag 13'. Klink got a little upset when you didn't make it home for dinner last night; your room is ready for you as soon as you go back outside the wire and 'surrrender'."

"Hey, did that commemorative plaque Klink keeps threatening to order with Newkirk's name on it ever arrive?" Kinch kidded.

Hogan grinned. "Stalag 13's answer to the Lincoln Bedroom."

Well, it hadn't hurt to ask. Newkirk changed the subject. "What about a cup of coffee, then? Been a long, cold walk through those woods… and looks like I'm headed for another one."

Carter poured. "Here you go."

"Thanks, Andrew." He sat down at the table, warming his hands on the cup before taking a sip. "So… who wants to hear about how I flawlessly and single-handedly carried out my mission in the face of constant threat to life and limb?"

"I think we all do," Hogan began.

"Not necessarily," LeBeau muttered.

"But there's something we need to tell you first. We had a personnel change while you were gone."

"Oh, really?"

Hogan nodded. "Bluebird's been transferred. Bremerhaven to Cherbourg, then to her new assignment."

That did seem to take a little of the wind out of his sails. "But… she's on our team."

"Not anymore she isn't. You know how these things work. She's needed elsewhere." 'How these things work'… right; that was a joke. They hadn't been able to give her away when they'd wanted to be rid of her. And now this.

"I'm sorry to hear that, sir," he said quietly. "When does she leave, then?"

"Yesterday."

"I know the army likes to put it that way, sir, but…"

"Newkirk, that's not a figure of speech. She left last night; they ordered her out right away to catch the sub at Bremerhaven."

That had to be a joke. They were pulling his leg. He tried to convince himself of that for a second or two, as he looked from one straight face to the next, faces that had just had to say goodbye to a good friend and a trusted colleague, someone they'd all risked their lives with, someone dependable and brave and resourceful, a vital part of their success over the past year and a half… someone they could never really hope to replace. Gone. Just like that. Bluebird was gone.

"She left this for you." LeBeau held out the folded paper she had entrusted to him. Newkirk just looked at it for a few seconds, as if he really didn't need to accept what had happened if he simply refused to accept the note. A bloody note. After a year and a half, a living breathing human being had disappeared with nothing but a note in her place. Wasn't this what kidnappings looked like? Was that note going to have his back the next time he went out to blow up a bridge? Could it help steal a tank? Risk its life in a cave-in? Laugh at his jokes? Feed Carter's pet mouse? What good was a note going to do him?

When he still didn't hold out his hand for it, LeBeau set it on the table. He himself didn't know what was in it. But he did know that Bluebird had a warm spot in her heart for the brash, prickly corporal and there was quite likely a thoughtful message in there that she really wanted him to have, not just a simple adieu. "She waited… " he said, unsure if it would help. "As long as she could… she hoped you might be back."

He might have been… if he hadn't decided to stop off at the hofbrau on his way back to camp for a little self-appointed reward for a job well done. Elsa… or Elke… had seemed like a good idea at the time. And while the two of them had been having schnapps in her apartment, Bluebird… his colleague, his friend… had been getting shipped out, leaving nothing in her wake but one note and far too many memories. He felt like a right old sod.

Hogan hadn't expected Newkirk to be pleased about the news, but there was more going on here than he had anticipated. Surprising, in a way… the two of them had had no use for each other at all in the first couple of months, and either or both of them would have been thrilled to have her reassigned, just to be able to get away from each other. Newkirk was a tough read… just when you thought there wasn't much going on under the surface, he could prove you wrong. "Newkirk?"

"Sir…?"

"Everything all right?"

He put a little more weight behind his next reply. "Yes, sir."

"Nobody's happy about it, so join the club."

"Right, sir." He didn't deserve that note. He should have been here, and he'd let her down. But refusing it wouldn't change the fact that she was gone, and it would only make things worse if he tried to explain. He picked it up, glanced at the neat printing of his name on the front of it, and put it in his breast pocket without opening it. He knew how it went. Same old story.

Gone was gone.