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22 August 2011 @ 07:16 pm
Fan Fiction: Hogan's Heroes ~ Bittersuite, Part One: "I'll Be Home for Christmas"  
Fandom: Hogan's Heroes
Title: "Bittersuite", Part One
1941 ~ I'll Be Home for Christmas, You Can Count on Me
Author: Dash O'Pepper
(*Originally posted at Fanfiction.net in 2003. This is one of the handles I can't access because I can't remember its e-mail address or password; otherwise, I would have removed it from Fanfiction.net before posting it here.)
Genre: Gen
Rating: 10+ (due to some language and themes)
Spoilers: N/A
Summary: It's December 1941, and Robert Hogan stands on the precipice of a very fateful decision.
Warning: Slang references are consistent with the time period.
Length: Short story
Status: Complete
Disclaimers: Hogan's Heroes is a registered trademark of Bing Crosby Productions and Viacom/Paramount. "I'll Be Home for Christmas" © 27 September 1943 by Walter Kent (music) and James "Kim" Gannon (words). This work of fan fiction is not meant in any way to infringe on copyrights already held by these companies, their subsidiaries and/or their estates.
Other: Based on the third season episode “Funny Thing Happened on the Way to London” (#3.05) by Laurence Marks.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The Wing Commander quickly shut the door behind him, as much to keep out the frost as to prevent any light from escaping. Even in the short sprint from his quarters to the Officers Club, the bone-numbing damp of England’s late fall weather permeated his body.

He blew on his hands and rubbed them together, gratefully feeling circulation return.

Since making that fateful decision to volunteer for the Royal Air Force nearly two years ago, Robert Hogan had become more convinced than ever that it wasn’t the sixteen miles of channel separating England from the rest of Europe that had managed to stave off Hitler’s blitzkrieg. It was her damned lousy weather.

Not that he was complaining -- much. Had it not been for the interminable fog that blanketed much of the country, he’d be freezing his tail off inside a Vickers tonight. There were worse ways to spend an evening than listening to George Formby on the wireless or singing another rousing chorus of “Who Do You Think You Are Kidding, Mr‍.‍ ‍Hitler‍”‍. ‍(1)

The club wasn’t especially warm -- conservation of fuel had been the watchword of late -- but there was a coziness about the place, from its rich oak panelling, imbued with the woodsy aromas of countless varieties of tobacco smoke that had permeated the timbers, to its weather-beaten tables rimmed with water stains and the occasional message etched upon their surfaces. Like the enemy, the dates on these “notes in a bottle” might have changed over the years, but the hopes, dreams, and even fear, seemed to always remain the same.

The furnishings of the OC were spread haphazardly throughout the room, making for an eclectic mix -- cheap folding chairs arranged around over-stuffed Queen Anne sofas, wingback chairs in ghastly patterns, with hand-embroidered Louis XIV satin poofs in maroons and bright pinks.

A small red spinet, looking for the world as though it had been cashiered out of ENSA and refused by any self-respecting busker, was taking some additional abuse as a group surrounded it and pounded out a much-mangled version of “The Barmaid at the Rose & Crown”.

The whole atmosphere was a reflection of the mood of the British people. Though sad, tired and a bit frayed at the edges, there remained a grim determination to stand with pride, honour and dignity (or as much as could be mustered). It was something that permeated the country since Dunkirk.

America was lucky in that regard, he thought. Surrounded by two oceans, we don’t have to worry about an attack.

Hogan smiled to himself at the thought of his homeland. Nearly six years and half a world removed from his native New England had given him a newfound love and respect for the country of his birth. He’d travelled to Europe as much to straighten out his life as to make a fresh start. That was in ’36. Here it was December ’41, and he’d survived a revolution in Spain, the annexation of Czechoslovakia, the fall of France and dozens of bombing missions over Germany. With all he’d seen and done, he’d changed. Hopefully for the better, he liked to think.

He was pulled from his thoughts by the sight of his superior officer, Group Captain James Roberts, beckoning him to join the group of men seated around one of the many tables in the club.

Returning the wave with a nod in Roberts’ direction, Hogan navigated his way through the crowd towards the far end of the room.

Grabbing a nearby vacant chair, he pulled it up to the table to join his friends. He sat down, carelessly perching his cap at an angle on the back of his chair.

“How many rounds?” he asked.

“First, if you’re buying,” answered Squadron Leader Ted Rydell, quickly swallowing the last of his pint.

Hogan nodded at the burly officer, and smiled. The unwritten rule was that the last to arrive had to buy drinks all round, and anyone who knew him, knew he wouldn’t break an unwritten rule. He reached into his pocket and pulled out some coins.

“Pic, will you do the honours?”

He handed the money to the youngest of their party, Flight Lieutenant Wesley Pickford. Three months out of flight school and into combat, and Pic was already a seasoned warrior.

“Be right back, chaps.” He stood up and began walking toward the bar, then turned to call out, “Unless I decide to scarper with the bankroll.”

“Didn’t think we’d see you here tonight, Hogan,” said Roberts.

“Lucky sod,” muttered Squadron Leader Anthony Warwick, but there was no malice in his voice.

The remaining two members of the group, Wing Commander Brian Townes and Squadron Leader Mark Newfield, shot puzzled looks from Hogan to Roberts to Warwick.

Hogan leaned back in his chair, like the cat with the canary. “Gentlemen,” he looked at his watch theatrically, “In precisely four-hours-twenty-five-minutes, I officially start my ten days’ leave.”

Rydell whistled in agreement. “Tony’s right, you are a lucky sod.”

“You going home?” asked Townes.

Hogan nodded. “That’s why I was late . . . I was working out the logistics. Croydon to Lisbon to Washington to New York to Bridgeport.”

“It’ll take you -- what, three days? -- to get home. Hardly seems worth the effort,” said Newfield.

“Mark, I’ve spent nearly six years abroad. Looking back, I sometimes wonder just what in the hell I’ve been doing all this time. I miss my family, and the occasional trunk call or letter is no replacement for seeing them in person.”

“No offence intended, old man,” replied the Squadron Leader.

Hogan smiled. “None taken.”

Roberts fingered his glass, but didn’t look directly at Hogan as he asked, “Do you think you’ll stay?”

He was surprised by the question. “Robbie, I’m taking leave, not going AWOL. There’s a lot I miss about home, but I’ve got my duty here.”

“And if America comes into the war?” He looked up quickly, his dark eyes searching for something in Hogan’s face, and it made the Wing Commander uncomfortable.

“When it happens . . . ” He stopped, realizing he had answered with “when”, not “if”. “If,” he stressed that word, “it happens, America will be ready to do what she has to. And so will I.”

Hogan stared his commanding officer down, trying to read any hidden message behind the impassive face. Although he counted Roberts as a close personal friend -- hell, all the men at the table were good friends, not just wartime buddies thrown together for the duration -- there were rumours that the Group Captain wasn’t all he appeared to be. Often times, he seemed to possess intelligence not widely available to the regulars. Perhaps that was one of the reasons why the group’s successes had been so high and their casualty rate so low.

“Have you heard something, Robbie?” asked Rydell, breaking the silence that had taken hold of the table.

Roberts leaned back in his chair and shook his head. “Gentlemen, war couldn’t be fought without rumours.”

He didn’t elaborate on the statement; he didn’t need to. Like a wave clearing everything from its path, a silence flowed across the room.

The world stopped, as though the universe understood more deeply than man exactly what had happened.

On the wireless, the BBC announcer was relaying the news from the States. Something about Hawaii . . . Roosevelt . . . Japanese . . . Congress . . . Bombing.

It was final. It had been inevitable. Although it wasn’t yet official, America had just crept inexorably toward being another player in a second world war.

Hogan pushed himself away from the table, before his fellow squadron officers could offer their comments or sympathy. He offered no excuse, no apology to anyone he encountered as he moved like an automaton through the crowded club. He needed to be outside, away from the sudden claustrophobic feel of the room.

✪ ✪ ✪ ✪ ✪

Hogan stood on the tarmac, looking at the fog-enshrouded outlines of the Vickers. A fleeting, insane thought of stealing one and dropping a payload on Tokyo crossed his mind, and he had to fight down the impulse to act upon it. Yeah, England to Japan non-stop. Who am I kidding? Twelve-thousand miles away was where he should be . . . should have been.

He cursed loudly to himself.

Chennault had been begging for pilots in China to help their fight against the Japs. Instead, he’d volunteered his skills to the RAF.

Skills? Being a pilot was about the only thing he had to offer, and suddenly it didn’t look like a hell of a lot.

He raised his hand to push back his cap, a habit he’d developed to deal with frustration, only just realizing that he had left the OC without stopping to grab it. No doubt he’d catch flak from some Colonel Blimp about being out of uniform. There was a great deal of resentment toward the Yank volunteers by some of the older professional military. The Americans were a daily reminder of how much the British Empire had lost within their own lifetimes.

“Thought I might find you here.”

Hogan whirled at the sound of his superior’s voice. Too lost in his own thoughts, he hadn’t heard the man’s approach.

Another time, the remark might have elicited a comment about Swan & Edgar’s and the remembrance of a night of women and well-deserved rest. Tonight was not one for joviality, however, and Hogan rounded angrily on his CO. “You son of a bitch!” he shouted. “You knew!”

The ferocity of his friend’s voice surprised him, and Roberts realized that he would have to weigh his response carefully.

He shook his head. “That’s the hell of it,” he whispered, “we didn’t.”

The tautness in Hogan’s stance didn’t dissipate, but the anger in his voice had been cut slightly, “What are you talking about?”

“What intelligence has been gathered so far, pointed to the Hun planning an attack for sometime in the Spring -- ”


“Your Navy and ours have tracked several of their subs along your Eastern seaboard over the last few months. One of the reasons for the stationing of your Marines in Iceland since July. But we didn’t anticipate the deviousness of the Japs.”

Hogan was surprised by this latest revelation. How many other bits of information like that wasn’t he privy to?

His reply was measured, “You sure as hell acted like you were expecting something tonight.”

“Recently, Ed Murrow was approached by a chap who claimed advance knowledge of an attack, and wanted this information conveyed to your government. Obviously, he wasn’t one of our operatives or yours. Murrow, at first, dismissed him as a crackpot. But he persisted, even providing documentary evidence from a recent battle, which backed up his claim of being at least somewhat involved in intelligence.” (2)

“Then what the hell happened?”

“There are rumours, as well as misinformation and disinformation, being generated on both sides on a daily basis. Very few prove accurate, and only so much can be acted upon without alerting the enemy that we have inside knowledge.

“Yesterday, you weren’t at war with the Japs. Would the United States have attacked their fleet first, then?”

Hogan shook his head. His country would never run from a fight, but he also knew she’d never be the aggressor, either.

“And what happens to this guy? What other things does he know?”

“Intelligence will keep a watch on him; we’ll find out exactly whose side he’s working on. And when it’s necessary, we’ll bring him in.”

Hogan nodded in agreement with Robbie’s logic. He was also surprised by his CO’s candidness, which made what he was about to ask more difficult. The Group Captain wasn’t just his superior; since his posting, they had become close friends. Despite their disparate backgrounds -- Roberts’ upbringing had been far more blue blood than Hogan’s blue-collar roots -- there was a bond between them. Whether their friendship had initially been formed because of the war, it had been forged in the skies over France. When the enemy is shooting ack-ack at you and you’re limping on two engines, you learn everything there is to know about the men you’re with. And James Roberts was someone who he could trust with his life.

“Robbie . . . ” he paused, what he had to ask was between officers, not friends.

He’d always preferred informality to dealing with the long-time rank and privilege of the Brits; this wasn’t the time for it. “Group Captain, I’d like to request a transfer to Australia.”

Roberts stiffened. He knew that one was coming. At times, his friend had a tendency to act on impulse rather than logic; this was one of those. “Request denied.” He shook his head.

“I’ve got to do something.” He shivered slightly, more cold than he realized, and shoved his hands into his uniform pants’ pockets.

“In the next few weeks, Hogan, you’re going to be needed here more than ever. How many of the pilots in the American Army Air Corps have any combat experience?”

The Wing Commander stared at the ground; the question was rhetorical. Except for the boys with Chennault and the RAF here, there wasn’t anyone.

“Why did you volunteer, Commander?”

The formality in Robbie’s tone surprised him. His superior wanted an answer -- an answer to something Hogan wasn’t even sure he himself knew. He was one man in a world that had long since stopped making sense, and what could one man do?

Reaching into his jacket pocket, Hogan pulled out his leave papers and looked at them sadly.

Six years, he sighed, as he ripped the pages to shreds, watching the bitter wind whip them out of sight. How much longer until he’d see home? He wouldn’t hazard a guess.

~ Fin ~

Notes: (1) This song was actually not written during World War II. It’s from the BBC series Dad’s Army, about a fictional Home Guard unit based in the town of Walmington-on-the-Sea. Dad's Army is a registered trademark of BBC.

(2) For those familiar with this reference, it’s from “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea” Christmas special (#2.11) for the series Goodnight Sweetheart. Goodnight Sweetheart is a registered trademark of Alomo Productions/BBC.

© 2003 Dash O'Pepper
fragrantwoods: almafragrantwoods on October 13th, 2011 01:56 am (UTC)
Oh, my goodness. This is wonderful! I got here from your posting in a comment about you writing for tiny fandoms (same here) so I stalked your fic list. I grew up watching this show... This was beautifully portrayed, and I'm in awe of your footnotes--very elegant.

The world stopped, as though the universe understood more deeply than man exactly what had happened.

This is one magnificent line. In reminds me in some ways of my parents telling me what it was like to hear that broadcast.

You gave all the characters very realistic, even noble (in a down-to-earth way) voices. It made the think of Bob Crane as Hogan, not the wreckage that his story later became.

I'm glad I stumbled across this. I'll be back to check out more remembered old shows and their fic (F Troop, Dick Van Dyke, etc.)

Thanks for writing this, and mentioning your fic over on ffr :-)
Dash O'Pepper: Don't Touch That Dialpfeffermuse on October 14th, 2011 01:40 am (UTC)
Thank you so much for your lovely review; it definitely made my day.

I'm in awe of your footnotes--very elegant.

They're actually a bit selfish on my part. I love crossovers, and like to put a tip and a wink where I can, just in case a plot bunny should strike later on.

It made the think of Bob Crane as Hogan . . .

One of those life lessons that taught me early to separate the character from the actor.

Thanks for writing this, and mentioning your fic over on ffr :-)

And thank you, again, for your gracious comments.
(Anonymous) on October 24th, 2012 08:37 pm (UTC)
I've been waiting for years...
...for you to finish this story! I wrote a whole doctoral project while this sat on your laptop, and ten years later, it's still unfinished! Come on...this a wonderful story! Please finish it!

New Gaia
Dash O'Pepperpfeffermuse on January 2nd, 2013 01:32 pm (UTC)
Re: I've been waiting for years...
New Gaia,

I know I'm late in replying in writing -- I did thank you in person, though.

The other three parts are all there (section two, only has a few more scenes to go).

My major problem is that while I write mostly for myself, posting has never been a big draw. Even in large fandoms, I'm still mostly a fandom of one.

Well, one of my New Year's resolutions is to get back to finishing my WiPs, and eventually post them. But other priorities have to be done first, sis, as you know. And spending eight hours attempting to make AMB's resume presentable (next is the cover letter and thank you letter) have taken their toll.

Sis, at least the meds are working, and I've got plans, which is more than I've had for the past few years. I'll never be rid of the anxiety/agoraphobia, but at least it's been reduced enough to function.

Thanks for being there for me.