Author's notes: Well, this story was long in the making! I started writing it almost two years ago, but when there were only a few chapters left my interest in fan fiction disappeared altogether. But the story remained in the back of my head and the other day I decided I would finish it regardless, because I liked it too much to just let it sit unposted on my computer.
Contemplations is a follow-up to Reflections and it will make more sense if you've read the prequel, but the story can be read independently as well.
If you're bothered by the glumness of this story, well, there will actually be an at least semi-happy ending. ;)
Thanks to LJ Groundwater for betaing this chapter, though by now you probably don't even remember doing it because it was so long ago. ;)
Disclaimer: I don't own Hogan's Heroes or any of the characters; I merely borrow them and play with them for a while.
The big clock over the kitchen table is ticking and ticking, tirelessly counting the passing seconds. In the silence, the sound is harsh, almost overbearing.
Newkirk steels a glance at Mavis, who is sitting across from him at the table, tightly clutching her cup of tea. But her distant eyes aren't directed at him, or the cup in her hands, or anything else in the kitchen, but at something else entirely. Something that is invisible to him.
There didn't use to be this silence between them, he thinks. When they were younger they could happily chat away hours together, effortlessly, carelessly, like time was a limitless resource free to waste as they saw fit.
When they were younger. Before the war.
But a lot of water has passed under the bridge since. Only it isn't really water that has passed, but bombs and bullets and war and years of captivity in a foreign country.
And it's strange how they both lived through the same war, and yet that common experience only served to estrange them from each other while all those other hardships they went through as children, or teenagers, brought them closer together.
But he realized, when he saw Mavis again after returning home, once the war was finally over, that things weren't the same between them any more. Mavis wasn't the same anymore.
Then again, neither is he, he supposes.
The easy familiarity, the understanding between them always taken for granted, has disappeared. But really, what had he expected? He'd spent years as a POW, locked up behind barbed wire during the day while carrying out dangerous undercover missions at night. That's an experience he doesn't share with her, one he can't expect her to understand.
Just like he can't imagine what it must have been like living in London during the Blitz.
He wonders if Mavis blames him for being away for so long, even though he couldn't help it. It doesn't feel fair, because it's not like he voluntarily signed up to go to war; he was drafted, darn it.
"Looks like it's going to rain again," she suddenly says.
He looks up, slightly startled. Her eyes are still not looking at him, though, but are staring at something outside the window. He follows her gaze, but there's nothing of interest there, nothing out of the ordinary. And yet she doesn't avert her eyes; they're fixed at whatever it is they're seeing.
He studies her face. There are fine lines in it, only barely visible, but still. He finds it odd that he hasn't noticed them before. She's too young to have lines like that.
"Yeah, it does," he agrees.
Then there's silence between them again. Mavis slowly lifts her cup and drinks once, twice, before putting it down. She is still not looking at him. He wonders what she's thinking.
He's been doing that an awful lot lately – wondering what's going through her mind. He didn't use to do that before the war, because on whatever few occasions that her thoughts weren't obvious to him, she would tell him. But when he first saw her again after returning home, he truly did wonder.
She hugged him hard that time, harder than he could ever remember being hugged. Even harder than the day he left to fight in the war. He never recalled her being that strong, but the arms around his neck were pulling him into such a tight, desperate grip that it almost hurt. They remained standing like that, close together, for a long time.
Yes, her arms were strong, but what struck him the most was how her face was closed once they disentangled themselves. He could no longer look into that face and tell what she was thinking; her thoughts were hidden from him.
Perhaps she is thinking the same about him – he doesn't know. They've been apart for so long that he can no longer tell.
And sitting here at the kitchen table, with the old clock on the wall ticking away tirelessly, he suspects that she no longer understands him. And can he blame her, really? There is so much he's been through that she hasn't, and that part of him is forever out of reach for her.
After all, what would she know of living with the constant fear of discovery and a subsequent firing squad hanging over one's head, or the gut wrenching feeling as a Gestapo officer takes a look at the forged identity papers in his hand and frowns suspiciously?
Or the unquestionable loyalty and camaraderie that forms between men who put their lives into each other's hands every day? Or simply the frustrations and humiliations inherent in the everyday life of a POW, locked up behind barbed wire? Everything that has shaped him, been a part of his reality for so long?
Maybe she even realizes this, and that's why she's so distant. Time and circumstances have created a rift between them, and all they can do is stand on opposite sides and stare out over the gaping crevice, unable to reach each other.
He studies the lines in her face again. And then he wonders what he knows about being woken up in the middle of the night by the shrill sound of air raid sirens, about having to run for cover as German bombers indiscriminately drop their loads on the civilian population? Or fearfully huddling with crying strangers on the cold stone floor in the London Underground, wondering if everyone else made it to relative safety in time? Or digging through the rubble of a block of bombed-out buildings in the vain hope of finding survivors?
Mavis's eyes suddenly meet his; when he sees the expression in them, he has to look away.
No, he realizes, he doesn't know anything about that.