Author's note: this vignette is shorter than the others, but I feel it captures all that it needs to in its current length. This one focuses on how Newkirk worries for his comrades, and one of the crowning examples was in "Diamonds in the Rough" in season 2, which is what this vignette is based on (no major spoilers this time, though). I also tried something different with this vignette—usually, I write in past tense, but I tried writing this one in present tense.
Bavaria, Germany; March 13, 1943
Peter Newkirk stares at the bunk bed trapdoor entrance expectantly. Louis LeBeau and Andrew Carter went out about an hour ago to pick up something sent from London. They are due back now; it shouldn't have taken this long.
But the trapdoor doesn't open. Newkirk cannot hear the voices of his two best friends in the tunnel, coming towards them.
A sinking feeling begins to build in the Englishman's gut. He knows that Major Hegel has men swarming the woods, just waiting for them to escape—Colonel Hogan seems convinced that the major wants them all dead.
It's true that LeBeau and Carter have been lucky several times in the past. Could it be that their luck has finally run out in the face of this ruthless foe?
Newkirk looks to Hogan now, trying to see whether or not his commanding officer is expressing any anxiety over his men's absence. The colonel is pouring himself a cup of coffee; it's going to be a long night for him, whether or not LeBeau and Carter return. If they return, then he has to dream up the next stage of their plan; if they do not return…
Newkirk looks away, trying not to think about that second possibility. He could use a drink, too, but not coffee—something much stronger.
The corporal crosses to his footlocker now, digging through its contents for the bottle of schnapps he had purloined from Klink a few days ago, before this debacle had started. His sudden movements quickly grab Hogan's attention.
"Newkirk," he says, sternly.
The Englishman gives the American a pleading look.
"Just a small one, Guv—I need it to calm me nerves…"
"I need everyone—including you—completely sober for the next twenty-four hours, possibly longer," Hogan insists. "Put the schnapps away, and hope that we'll have a reason to drink it after this is all over."
Newkirk closes the footlocker, getting up and crossing to the stove. Beside the coffee is the cooking pot that LeBeau had been using to make their dinner only hours ago.
The Englishman lifts the lid off of the pot, staring at the leftovers of some French stew that he can't even remember the name of. The creamy sauce isn't something that he normally finds appealing, but Newkirk finds himself wishing that LeBeau was here, cooking something—even though the Englishman frequently claims that the fumes from the cooking make him light-headed.
But Newkirk isn't even hungry now; he highly doubts that he would be able to keep anything down in his anxious state, even if he was hungry. He doesn't know what he will do if LeBeau does not return. The Frenchman is the reason why the Englishman is alive now—weeks of tender care and good cooking during illness had put the weight on the previously-scrawny Englishman when they had first met. Newkirk can't bear to imagine the thought of LeBeau dying without realizing all he has done for him. Actually, he can't bear to imagine the thought of LeBeau dying at all.
Newkirk knows that LeBeau and his cooking have given him more than just physical nutrition. The Englishman will never admit out loud that he considers the Frenchman his rock… his pillar of strength. He remembers how they had been here at Stalag 13 long before the Americans. He remembers how they had been the ones to start the tunnels that now serve as their organization's lifeline. He remembers how they had been the ones to spend the most time in the cooler for their previous failed escapes. And he remembers all too well that they had been the ones to stay in this Luft Stalag when it had been nothing more than a mere prisoner-of-war camp.
Newkirk now draws a chair from the table and sits down on it, staring at the table top, but not really seeing it. His mind is still on LeBeau, and now he is thinking about Carter, too. He hasn't known the younger American as long as he has the others, but the two have hit it off since their first meeting. He knows that the younger sergeant looks up to him, and the idea that he might be dead out there at the hands of Hegel not only worries him, but makes him realize that he might very well have let him down.
The Englishman's thoughts turn back to the Frenchman again. He knows that in the likely event that LeBeau and Carter had been taken alive, LeBeau's short temper would be exactly what could get him killed on the spot…
Kinch's voice cuts through the silence, jerking Newkirk from his pessimistic thoughts.
"Welcome to my world," the older sergeant says, softly. He knows the feeling of unbridled worry and helplessness all too well, often staying behind to man the radio when the others are out on missions.
The Englishman sighs, realizing that Kinch must go through this same agony all the time. And he never complains about it, either…
"Kinch…" he says, shaking his head. "I 'ave a whole new admiration for you. 'ow do you do it, Mate? 'ow do you keep yourself from going completely mad with worry while we're out there?"
The radio expert sighs, taking a moment to think before he replies. It isn't easy—it never is, no matter how many times he's been through it before.
"It's not something you can get used to, Newkirk. Every time, it feels the same way. And I just try a healthy dose of pacing, praying, and clock-watching."
"I thought so," the Englishman says.
Hogan clears his throat now. He can appreciate Newkirk's worry; he knows how close the corporal is to Carter and, especially, to LeBeau. The three of them are inseparable, and, many times, the colonel finds humor and a moment's escape in their antics. He doesn't want that to end, but, more importantly, he doesn't want to lose any of his men. And that includes losing men in spirit.
"It's not time to worry just yet, Newkirk. There are plenty of reasons why they could be delayed. It could be that the plane missed the drop point—in which case, they're probably just as frustrated out there as you are in here."
"Ordinarily, I wouldn't even give it 'alf a thought!" Newkirk lies. "If it wasn't for that ruddy Major 'egel out there, there wouldn't be any reason to worry about Louis and Andrew going out there to pick up that drop!"
"I'm only saying that we shouldn't jump to the worst possible conclusions yet," Hogan says. "LeBeau and Carter know what they're doing."
"Oh, and I am well aware of the fact that they do know what they're doing, Sir. But 'egel knows what he's doing, too!"
Hogan considers this for a moment. He does not deny it, but he still decides that it is not time to panic yet.
The Englishman is not as convinced. Newkirk is always concerned whenever any of his companions goes out on a mission, but he is usually good about keeping his concerns hidden. But he is right about one thing—tonight's circumstances are considerably more worrisome than usual. Had it not been for the possibility of becoming a rich man, Major Hegel could have easily killed them all by now.
Newkirk knows that Hogan is aware of this, even without his telling him. After that harrowing experience of being confronted by Hegel, increased manpower from Hegel was to be expected. The Englishman is still astounded that Hogan has not given the order to evacuate the camp, but he grudgingly admits that the colonel is usually right about these things. Usually; Newkirk isn't about to forget that Hogan's willingness to trust that milkmaid is what led to this entire mess. Despite that, Colonel Hogan is the only officer that Newkirk has come to respect, but, this time, he cannot bring himself to not worry about his comrades, no matter what the colonel says.
And so, the conspicuous absence of LeBeau and Carter once again begins to weigh on Newkirk's shoulders as he resumes his worrying.
The Englishman clambers onto his bunk, attempting to try to sleep. Perhaps LeBeau and Carter will be there when he awakens…
The minutes tick by, and turn into another hour as the sleep evades the corporal. It's been two hours now since the Frenchman and the American set out, and still no sign of either of them has turned up.
Newkirk sighs as he gets back down from the bunk. Perhaps it's just as well that he didn't get any sleep; in his current state, he would likely get nightmares that would only make him feel worse.
He tries to play a game of solitaire, but he can't focus on it. Kinch offers to play a round of gin; the Englishman wants to accept, but he knows his heart won't be in it. Kinch understands.
After brooding over it some more, Newkirk pours Hogan another cup of coffee, still avoiding it himself; his nerves are on edge enough as it is. As he voices his concerns again about how he should have gone out with LeBeau and Carter, the bunk bed trapdoor finally opens.
Relief comes out of the Englishman's mouth tinged with anger as he chides LeBeau and Carter for being so late. LeBeau counters with some well-chosen words in his own tongue—a miniature, acerbic French diatribe aimed directly at Newkirk's ears.
And at the present moment, for Peter Newkirk, it is the most wonderful sound in the world.