A Stay in Connecticut
A/N: Robert Hogan comes home to his folks, carrying baggage that his father was not quite prepared for, told from John Hogan's point of view...a tale inspired by Goldleaf83's Conversation series (but not part of it, but with her permission and encouragement) this is planned as a two-shot, and while it can be part of my Dear Rob AU 'Verse, it can stand alone on its own merits.
However, I would like to point out that in my story this is August of 1945, shortly after the Atomic Bomb was dropped, Hogan is in his early to mid 30s, and made General, he has a fear of cold basement rooms, was tortured during his original interrogation at the Dulag and then again while he was in Gestapo custody (and he has the scars to prove it, which scares and enrages John Hogan to no end), and I think that's enough to go on.
Continuing thanks to Snooky, Kat, Wolfie for their constant support, to Goldleaf for allowing this AU vision of her world, to Bits and Pieces for allowing me the use of her OC Mike Fitzgerald (from her amazing story "What Price Happiness?") and to the originators of Hogan's Heroes, for giving us so much to work with.
As usual, I own nussink!
Chapter 1 – The Story Thus Far
The image is burned into my mind; such a simple thing, unremarkable.
I am looking out the upstairs window, and I see a man, tall, older, in a summer weight uniform, carrying a battered suitcase, walking down the street.
Towards our house.
I think, I've never seen him around before, and the neighbors' sons and fathers, whether here or there, are accounted for.
Must be someone for Rob.
The soldier bears out my deduction, turning up our walkway.
Oddly, he stops dead about half-way. Just looking, looking at the house.
He looks nervous, like he's lost and not sure where he is or what he's doing here.
I'm getting ready to shout down to him from the open window (we live on Chestnut Place and there's a Chestnut Street on the east side of town), when Rob walks out the front door.
He looks up at the stranger in our yard.
He, too, is now stopped dead.
But only for a second.
My son's whoop breaks the afternoon silence, shouting the name of the last person on Earth that I would never hope to see.
He goes swooping down from the front landing, and I don't think his feet have touched the ground more than two steps before he's tackled the man.
I think that Rob might have knocked anyone else over, but this man is just slightly taller and broader than he is, he's braced himself for the contact, and his arms are flung open wide, enfolding my boy on impact.
Like he has a right to do it.
I can hear them, hear them both, jabbering away, mixing up German and English and Rob's German is so good, if I didn't know the sound of my own son's voice, I'd swear he was the visitor to these shores. The other man's English is beautiful and beautifully formal, almost British in intonation, and the accent is very light.
Most folks don't realize that sound carries on suburban streets; almost no one knows that there is a spot in our front yard where anything said will sound like it's coming from ten feet away.
Guess where they are right now.
I can hear every word like they're standing next to me and what I don't understand I can guess.
You're alright; you're back; you made it; you're okay...both of them talking over one another, saying the same things in different ways, clutching each other like they'd been drowning and just found firm sand underfoot.
A simple thing, unremarkable. Playing out throughout this country and throughout the world, best friends finding each other, reuniting.
And all I want to do right now is tear them apart and drag my son away.
It wasn't the first time that I'd seen soldiers reunited.
My little brother, Jimmy, had fought in the Great War and when he came home, he wasn't the same happy-go-lucky kid. He'd seen so much - done so much - and he couldn't seem to leave the war behind.
Then one day, a friend of his showed up on our door step, a little Canadian named Pierre.
The only difference between that reunion and this one is that Jimmy did knock Pierre over.
Pierre stayed with us for over a month and in that time Jimmy went from hollow and withdrawn to completely alive again.
It was wonderful to see the sparkle back in Jimmy's eyes.
When Pierre left, it was only temporary; he was coming back to immigrate for good, and they were going to open a business together.
On the way back from dropping his friend off at the train station platform, a loose chuck of concrete from an overhead walkway crashed on my Jimmy's head, killing him instantly.
A dumb freak accident, and yet I was cool to Pierre ever after, secretly blaming him for my brother being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Funny how much the German soldier out front reminds me of Pierre.
This isn't the first time Rob has brought home a friend in need either. "Strays" my sister would sniff whenever she stayed with us. Strays they would seem to most people, but never to Rob.
Armando the cabbie (the teen had preferred to be called 'Darwin') who was stuck when his cab broke down after delivering his fare from Idlewild;
Mother's neighbors' child, Charles, that Rob would bring home as often as he could (which wasn't often enough for any of us, but as long as Charles wouldn't tell me what was really happening, we had no proof);
The West Point adjunct teacher who needed a place to stay the summer of Rob's freshman year (ought to check with the Potters to see if Sherm had gotten back yet from France);
The many many classmates and neighborhood kids and tradesmen and friends of friends who had needed a meal, a place to stay, or perhaps just someone to talk to, to listen...
So the scene at the dinner table isn't unusual. Rob, chattering like a magpie, drawing his companion out, amusing and embarrassing him and making him laugh at them both...
In fact, it's normal in a way that hasn't been 'normal' for a decade. Maybe even longer. Not since Mike Fitzgerald, (my son's best friend and the other golden boy in this town), left to join the Navy, has my boy looked like this; like all his dreams have come true.
They are saying things to Ann, she answering back.
Good thing they aren't speaking to me, I've lost the thread of the conversation since we sat down.
I hear only a fraction of the quips:
"Robert, really, I'm sure I can tell your mother about this, it is a part of the official record after all. In triplicate. I should know, I had to file the reports."
I understand none of them.
I realize as Rob gets up to clear the table what has had me on edge all day long; my boy's slouch is back. He hasn't been this relaxed since he came back to us.
Some thing has healed him.
In the space of an afternoon, this man has brought Rob back to himself, sound and whole.
I excuse myself as politely as I can manage and head upstairs.
My son is happy, and I should be happy too.
'Happy' is the last word I would use to describe myself.
Quite the opposite.
As I ready myself for bed, I still cannot make sense of it all.
I just cannot understand WHY my son, my heroic, patriotic, 'can't stand bullies and will do anything to give them a hard time' boy is treating his captor, his jailor, this Hessian, our enemy, like his best buddy.
I should be asleep, but with my mixed feelings regarding our visitor, I just know I'm going to start pacing and that will wake Ann.
Feeling guilty and vaguely uneasy, I'm sitting in my office in the dark. It's past midnight and the temperature has finally dropped enough that having open windows help.
That's when I hear something I never thought I would hear again (especially in those dark days when I didn't know if my only child was alive or dead); the sound of Rob and a friend on the roof sneaking out.
"Com'on Wili! Your legs are long enough, you can make it!"
"Hooo-Gan! You are crazy! Why can we not walk out the front door, like civilized people? We are not trying to get past the Gestapo to hustle the touts in pool at the Hofbrauhaus! We are going to pick up Kinch at the train station so he does not have to spend the night in a wooden chair until the buses start running in the morning."
"I know but I don't want to wake up my mom and dad; besides, this is more fun."
"Rob, we are not seventeen any longer...and I was never seventeen even when I was seventeen!"
"Have I ever let you down?"
I hear them both stop - a heartbeat and a breath - then:
"Robert Edward Hogan, you have drenched me in ice water; thrown me off a plane; convinced me that I was psychic and a great painter when I am neither; buried me in snow; kidnapped me; gotten me thrown into a Parisian jail on my vacation; waltzed off with my dates; made a fool of me one thousand ninety-five times over; put me at the risk of death or the Russian Front at least once a week since you became my charge; stolen my clothes, my cigars, my Schnapps, my ..."
"Um, your point?"
"...and you have never, EVER, let me down."
I can hear Rob smile. I can hear it.
"Well, then, let's get this show on the road. Here, take my hand, it's a little tricky over this drain pipe."
They move out of my easy hearing, but I still know when they hit the tree (and someone has actually hit the tree, if the 'ouch' was anything to go by), and when they hit the ground (an 'ooff' this time), then the crunch of gravel as they make their way to the garage, the squeal of the hinges to the double barn-type doors and the soft rumble as the engine kicks over, garage then car doors close...
I have no idea that I'm crying until I hear my tears hit the blotter.
I'm not sure how long I've been sitting here, in the dark, but Ann has just found me, to let me know that we have another guest, a very large Negro who is 'as wonderful in person as he seemed in the boys' tales', and since I'm sitting up sulking, I may as well come downstairs and make myself useful.
I think I need to speak to this Kinch; I need him to explain a few things to me, before I speak to Klink.
And I really need to speak with Klink.