I do not own any of the characters from the series Hogan's Heroes.

After the storm had passed, when he was simply too exhausted to cry any more, he stayed where he was, sitting with his back against the rough wall of the tunnel, one hand clinging to the emergency exit ladder as if to prevent himself from sinking through the floor. He kept his eyes closed, but every other sense was operating at full capacity. The smell of damp timber rising from the boards underneath him felt physical, as if it were pressing against his skin; and the soft, hollow sounds of movement from distant corners of the tunnel network struck like hammer blows against his eardrums. He tried to ignore them, tried not to twitch at each separate echo, tried to concentrate on the expansion and contraction of his lungs, and the taste of salt on his dry lips. Anything rather than allow himself to think.

It had come out of nowhere. That was the frightening part. One minute all was well; the rain had finally broken, and Stalag 13 basked under a blue sky, feathered with clouds as light as the breeze on which they were carried. For the first time in almost a week, the prisoners had been able to get outside into the fresh spring air.

He'd been feeling quite contented, enjoying the sunshine, exchanging remarks with the others, laughing at something Schultz had just said. Then the barbed wire had caught his eye; and suddenly those thin strands, dark against the bright light, had seemed to stretch without end, from below the ground to far beyond where his eyes could follow. So fragile a web, yet it was impenetrable; his body might escape, but the wire would imprison his spirit for as long as he lived.

With that thought, he knew he had to get away from everyone, before the storm broke; and he'd fled to the tunnel, and found his way here, to fight it out with the black dog on his own.

It always happened like this. Blue skies, then the darkness.

Peter's in one of his moods. That was how his mum explained it, whenever her boy disappeared into his bedroom and refused to come out, refused to speak to anyone. A wonderful woman, Mrs Newkirk, a good mother, hard-working, loving in her way, but simply not equipped to understand her son's volatile nature. And his father, who probably would have known better what was going on with the lad, was too busy battling his own dark thoughts by the only means he knew: drowning them in alcohol.

That was one mistake Peter would never make. A few drinks with the lads, when things were looking up, or when they'd completed a mission, or just to be social; but never when the black dog was with him. His mates, back home, had often suggested it as a remedy for the sombre moods they recognised but didn't understand, but he had never gone down that path. He went instead with the other advice he got: "Snap out of it, Pete, wake up to yourself, stop being such a gloomy beggar." And if he couldn't snap out of it, he could always pretend, until the darkness passed.

The noises from the tunnel had died away; he was probably alone down here. He allowed his grip on the ladder to relax, and drew his legs up, folding his arms around his knees. It wasn't often now that he found himself unexpectedly plunged into the dense and overwhelming blackness of undefined, indefinable despair, and he'd almost forgotten how physically exhausting was the struggle back from the depths. He knew he ought to get up, go back to the barracks, and get on with things; but there was a curious comfort in giving in to the heaviness of his limbs, and allowing himself to drift.

Anyway, it was better not to surface too soon. There was always the feeling at the back of his mind that this was a kind of weakness, and that the other men wouldn't understand, or would be embarrassed, if they knew just how little it sometimes took to make him break down and cry like a child. He was supposed to be the one with all the jokes, the one who always knew how to lighten the mood. Nobody would know what to make of this senseless, reasonless grief.

Peter didn't know what to make of it himself. All he knew was that it came over him without warning, enclosing him in a shell of despair which cut off all hope.

He was starting to drowse, in spite of the ache in his heart and the discomfort of his position. So he didn't hear the footsteps approaching from the direction of the barracks.

"Gee, Newkirk, what are you doing down here? We've been looking everywhere."

He opened his eyes. Carter was standing there, looking at him, his eyes wide with perplexed anxiety.

If you'd looked everywhere, Carter… He was too weary to even finish the thought. His aching eyes went past Carter to find LeBeau, also watching him with concern.

"Tais-toi, Carter," said LeBeau in a low voice.

After a moment of hesitation he came over, and sat down beside Newkirk, not too close. Carter hung back for a moment, then crept to Newkirk's other side. This meant he was sitting in front of the ladder; he leaned back, shifted uneasily as the rungs dug into his spine, then at a glare from LeBeau became still.

"Newkirk, what's wrong?" asked LeBeau, still quietly.

Newkirk just shook his head. It wasn't possible to explain that nothing was wrong, that this whole state of mind arose for no reason whatsoever. LeBeau, in spite of his natural Gallic excitability, was probably one of the most stable, grounded personalities in the whole of Stalag 13; Carter's straightforward, transparent character had few, if any, hidden depths. They'd never get it.

None of them said anything for a few minutes. Newkirk let his head rest against the wall, breathing slowly, blinking at an occasional stinging sensation in his eyes. It was Carter who finally broke the silence.

"Newkirk, whatever it is," he said tentatively, "it'll be okay."

"I know." Newkirk's voice shook as he replied. He couldn't have said another word, not for anything. He dropped his head onto his hand, covering his eyes.

LeBeau didn't speak, but he put his hand on Newkirk's shoulder, and it was as if the barrier that had surrounded him melted away, like the shadows of a dream half-remembered. It was all Peter could do to suppress a new outbreak of tears.

He didn't see it yet; he was still in the dark. But this time it was different. His friends - so close, they might have been brothers - might not understand, but they didn't have to. It was enough that they were there. It was still his fight, but he wasn't alone.

From now on, he would have someone in his corner, when the black dog came calling.