Author's note: This is the proof that I shouldn't be trusted with one-word prompts. I picked a few at random, reached the word "If" at some point, remembered "That's No Lady, That's My Spy" and Challenge #99 … And out came this. Don't look for quirky humour here – it's probably the bleakest thing I've ever written.

So, in the cold open of the aforementioned episode, SS shot at our Heroes, LeBeau got grazed, and Underground leader Oskar Danzig was seriously wounded. However, in another leg of the Trousers of Time (see Terry Pratchett for details), things … did not quite go that way.

I'm really sorry.

Disclaimer: CBS and Crosby Productions own practically everything written about below, and I rather hope they never find out about it.


The radio suddenly crackling into life broke the stillness like a thunderclap. None of them moved for a couple of seconds. Then Hogan, who was closest, mechanically reached for the transmitter.

"Red Riding Hood calling Papa Bear," said a woman's tinny voice, loud in the silence. "Red Riding Hood calling Papa Bear. Do you copy?"

Hogan's hand tightened convulsively around the transmitter, but he managed to keep his voice steady as he answered, "Red Riding Hood, this is Papa Bear, over."

"Grandmother reported that a patrol of Wicked Witches interrupted the meeting and shot at random. He wanted to thank you for the 'cake'. It will be passed on to the right people."

"Is he okay?" Hogan asked, his voice tight.

"He was grazed by a stray bullet, but he will be all right. What about you and your men? Do you require medical assistance? We have a little penicillin left; if you need it, we can deliver it to you."

For a few seconds, Hogan couldn't speak. His gaze went from Kinch, standing nearby and looking uncharacteristically – and terribly – helpless, to a shaking, white-faced Carter, who had to lean against the wall of the tunnel to keep on his feet, then to Newkirk, who had collapsed on the edge of the cot and buried his face in his hands, heedless of the congealing blood all over his palms and sleeves … and then his eyes finally fell to the unnaturally still figure on the cot behind the Englishman.

Hogan's hands felt cold and clammy, and the transmitter between his fingers was a dead weight.

"Papa Bear?" said the disembodied voice. "Do you—"

"Copy that, Red Riding Hood." How he managed to get the words out, he would never know. His heart seemed to drop from his ribcage, creating a vacuum that his lungs immediately filled. "Negative," he said carefully, hating every single syllable he uttered. "No medical assistance needed."

There was a pause. Then Riding Hood spoke again, her voice lower and gentler than it had been seconds before.

"Roger and out, Papa Bear."

Hogan slowly put the transmitter down, feeling as though every single muscle in his arm and wrist had turned to lead. The heavy silence fell again, only broken occasionally by Newkirk's ragged, choking breaths that sounded awfully like sobs.

The tension that had held him up till now vanished without a warning, leaving him so bone-tired he had to put one hand on the radio table for support. The other still had blood on it, no longer warm, sticky and bright-red, but cold and starting to go brown in places. He looked up to see Kinch stride up to Carter as the young sergeant abruptly slid to the ground, his back still glued to the wall and his fingers grasping at the dirt soil. Whether he meant to draw a measure of comfort or reality from it, his CO didn't know.

Hogan was no stranger to death and loss. He knew that the cold, shock-induced numbness was only a temporary reprieve, that it would wear off, giving way to anger and grief. That there would be consequences to face, secrets to protect, perhaps hell to pay. Right now, however, the only feeling he could pinpoint with agonising clarity was an absurd, childish sense of "It shouldn't have happened like that".

Things should not have gone this way …

And fortunately, they did not. In the show, anyway …

This was hell to write – my stomach's still tied up in a figure-eight knot. Starting with Riding Hood's call and deliberately not showing what happened even one second earlier was a self-imposed challenge, which hopefully works. (Also, I did my best with the radio in the cover image, but I'm afraid it doesn't look very much like one …)

I promise that the next thing I publish will be more cheerful than that (not that it's hard).

Still, hope you liked.