2006 Papa Bear Awards - Nominated
Best Portrayal of a Canon Character - Colonel Hogan
2006 Papa Bear Awards - Nominated
Best Portrayal of a Canon Character - Tiger
“Thank you for coming, Colonel.”
“Are you kidding? When you said you had the troop movements for the next Panzer Division headed east, you had me spellbound. Where else would I possibly want to be on Christmas Eve?” Colonel Robert Hogan looked around him in the darkness, his eyes scanning the woods for any sign of an approaching Nazi patrol. No sounds muted by the snowfall, no men hidden in the black. He turned back to his contact. “Besides everywhere?”
Marie Louise Monet—the agent known to the Underground as Tiger—smiled. “Come,” she said softly, her French accent dancing delightfully in the American Army Air Corps officer’s ears. “We must get out of the woods.” She took Hogan’s arm and started drawing him out of the tiny clearing.
Hogan followed willingly but slightly bewildered. He didn’t know what Tiger was playing at. All he could guess was that they were going somewhere out in the public eye, since he had been told to wear civilian clothes—which made this assignment even more dangerous than going out in the black clothes he wore when committing acts of sabotage in this part of Germany, when he should be in his uniform and acting like a tame, ordinary prisoner of war back at Stalag 13.
“The information is not with me,” Tiger explained in a whisper.
Hogan furrowed his brow. “Are we meeting someone else?” he asked, concerned.
As they had met very close to Hammelburg, Hogan was not surprised when Tiger drew him out into the main street of the village. Walking arm in arm in the lightly falling snow, he did raise his eyebrows when they passed the Hofbrau, where Hogan and his men regularly got in touch with other people whose lives would likely be forfeit if anyone in authority caught on to what they were really doing at the small pub. But he kept a neutral expression on his face and kept walking until Tiger led him into a small, old church.
Johann-Baptist, Hogan noted as they passed a small sign outside the building; John the Baptist. Inside, at this late hour, a couple of people were milling about near the altar, making preparations for the midnight service. It was a simple church, with décor not nearly as ornate as some of the cathedrals he had been in. And yet somehow Hogan felt comforted here, and was momentarily reminded of home, where several hours from now he guessed his own family would be attending midnight Mass without him. He shifted as an intense pang of homesickness burned in his chest, and he banished the fleeting but strong desire to walk out of here and keep walking until he was safely back in Allied hands, no longer to return to the base of operations that was, no matter how Hogan liked to think of it otherwise, his prison.
“This way.” Tiger’s voice and the tug on his arm brought Hogan firmly back into Germany. He nodded and let her guide him toward a massive statue of the Virgin Mary. She knelt in front of it. Hogan took her lead and also knelt, automatically touching himself with the Sign of the Cross. Tiger glanced at him and did the same, then looked up at the statue’s face before closing her eyes. “It is in the flowers near the large candles,” she said in a voice so hushed Hogan could barely hear her.
Keeping his hands clasped together, he nodded briefly. After a moment he blessed himself again and stood up, drawing a coin from his suit pocket and dropping it into the receptacle next to the row of candles at the foot of the statue. He glanced around him; more people were in the church, but no one seemed to be paying particular attention to them. He took a long, thin stick out of the small box of sand and lit it with another candle already burning brightly, then touched that flame to the wick of an unlit candle, holding it there until the flame caught and the light burned steadily. Then he plunged the stick back into the sand.
Still staring at the candle, Hogan let his hand drift over the large bunch of flowers encircling the candles. His fingers softly rifled through the tops of the blooms, and when he felt something that didn’t fit in, without looking he plunged his hand further into the arrangement and slowly, silently, pulled out a small, folded piece of paper, which he immediately and smoothly dropped into the pocket of his coat.
Now, with the information burning a hole in his pocket, Hogan glanced down at Tiger, who was still kneeling before the statue, her lips moving. In genuine prayer? Hogan didn’t know. There was certainly a lot to pray about nowadays, even after D-Day and the liberation of Paris. Hogan shuddered inwardly. How close he had come to losing Tiger that summer in Paris, when she had been arrested with three other Resistance leaders. How miraculous that General Dietrich von Choltitz had freed her and the others. Watching her, seeing the candlelight reflected in her eyes, taking in how beautiful the soft curls of her hair looked beneath that defiantly tipped beret, seeing her hands clasped in prayer—real or imagined; it didn’t matter… Hogan was momentarily spellbound, and realized that even in war there were times for real, genuine prayers of thankfulness, not just requests. He said one now, unfocused as it was, then forced himself back to business. He cleared his throat.
“Amen,” Tiger said shortly. Then, blessing herself, she stood up and faced Hogan. “I am glad you came tonight,” she said, her liquid brown eyes looking straight into his own eyes.
She hesitated. Was there more she had to say? Hogan couldn’t look away, and in the midst of this incredibly dangerous rendezvous, he inexplicably felt safe. Safe, and normal, and warm inside. A moment passed without either of them moving, only their eyes speaking silently.
Finally Tiger broke the trance, blinking several times and digging down into her coat pocket. “I have something for you,” she said. Then, fumbling girlishly in her clothing, she laughed as though embarrassed and added, “You know—Merry Christmas.”
The warmth Hogan had been feeling turned into shame. “I—I don’t have anything f—for you,” he stammered. Damn. A glance up at the statue. Uh—darn.
Tiger shook her head briefly and smiled up at him. She recognized Hogan’s awkwardness for what it really was, and treasured it. “You came tonight personally as I asked,” she said. “That was a great risk for you; you could have sent any of your men in your place. It is more of a gift than I could ask for, non?”
“No,” Hogan replied, then shook his head. He had made this same mistake before when she had first mesmerized him. “I-I mean, uh—yes—um… I guess so.” Why was he always so much like a gawky teenager around her, when he wanted more than anything to be smooth and charming? Or did some part of him believe she somehow saw through him, making the charade of unflappability unnecessary?
Tiger held up a tiny box between them. Hogan looked to her for reassurance, and when she smiled again, nodding gently, he took it from her. Suddenly feeling clumsy, he struggled with the delicate bow and then lifted the lid. Then he stared, once again enthralled, at the contents.
“The stone is called Tiger Eye,” Marie said softly, as an impish smile lit up her face.
Hogan nodded and looked at the lustrous gold ring, with the silky browns and deep yellows of the gemstone in the center of it. Beautiful and strong and captivating.
Just like its giver.
“It is said to bring courage, energy and luck.” Hogan looked down at Tiger as she continued. “Though I believe you already have more courage than any other man I have ever known.”
Hogan let out a small, light laugh. “But maybe not as much luck. After all, I did get shot down, right?” Tiger smiled at him, full of understanding. Hogan felt a rare warmth fill his chest, reaching up to his face. And landed here… and met you…. He swallowed. Maybe I did have some luck, after all.
He looked back at the ring, then into her face. Was it his imagination, or was she trembling? Or was that him? Suddenly full of regret and anguish, Hogan said, “I can’t wear it.” Unexpectedly, he felt tears stinging behind his eyes. “The guards at the camp,” he explained; “if they catch me wearing it, they’ll—”
Tiger’s long, slim fingers flew to Hogan’s lips, stopping his outpouring. “It was foolish of me; I should not have done it,” she replied, shaking her head. “I knew that it would be taken from you if you dared—”
“No. No,” Hogan declared, pulling her hand away and taking her by the arms. The intensity of his dark eyes held Tiger captive. “It’s beautiful. I’m glad you did it.” Hogan swallowed with difficulty. “I love it… I just don’t know what to say.”
“You do not have to say anything,” Tiger replied softly.
A long pause. “You keep it for me,” Hogan said suddenly, strongly, closing Tiger’s fingers around the box and drawing her even nearer to him. “Give it back to me when the war is over.” His voice grew quiet, almost to a whisper. “And then… then I’ll have one for you, too.”
Tiger’s eyes filled with the emotion of words she knew Hogan could not bear hearing, not in this time, not in this war. But later… “Robert…”
“Tiger… Marie… please. If I know you’re keeping it for me, I’ll have all the courage, energy and luck I need.”
Tiger nodded, and willingly closed the gap between herself and Hogan. A few moments later, the two parted, and Hogan then clutched her to his chest as she clung to him. He kissed her hair and drank in her scent. Then he held her even tighter, resting his cheek on her head. A long silence grew that neither wanted to break. Someone started playing the church organ. Still they did not move. Eventually, Hogan sighed and whispered, “Stille nacht.”
Tiger pulled herself out from under Hogan and looked up at him, her arms still wrapped around him. “Hm?”
Hogan shook his head softly, watching as more people started coming into the church, gathering in the pews, or heading for the other statues. “Silent Night. A song of peace… written in the language of a country bent on war.” Lost in his own world, Hogan started singing along under his breath in German as the organist continued practicing the simple melody. “Stille nacht… Heil’ge nacht… Alles schläft; einsam wacht…” More humming, then, almost wistfully, the final line of the verse: “Schlafe in himmlischer Ruh…” Sleep in heavenly peace…
He stopped singing and took in a long, deep breath, which he let out slowly through his mouth. Tiger watched as Hogan’s eyes roamed the church searchingly; then she brought a hand up to cup his face gently. The Colonel’s mind came back into the room then, and looked down at her, almost in wonder. Tiger smiled, her eyes full of affection. “It is starting to get crowded in here,” she admitted reluctantly.
Hogan nodded. “It was nice while it lasted. We’d better go.”
Taking Tiger by the arm, Hogan steered her back toward the doors to the church. When they stepped outside, he paused long enough to draw the collar of his coat up closer around his neck so the lightly falling show had to work harder to reach his neck, and he put one hand in his pocket, while linking his other arm with hers. She put the precious box back in her coat pocket.
“It’s late,” Hogan said with forced cheerfulness. “Couples out tonight might stop at the Hofbrau for something warm to eat and drink before calling it a night…. Shall we?”
A knowing smile crept onto Tiger’s face. “Of course,” she agreed. “We would not want to attract undue attention.”
Hogan smiled back at her, contented, as they descended the stone steps. They walked for a time in silence. Then Tiger asked, “Robert… what kind of ring will you give me, when the war is over?”
Hogan stopped walking so he could turn and look directly at the woman beside him. For the briefest moment he said nothing, satisfied to simply accept her closeness. Then, as she tilted her head questioningly, he said, “Well, it would only be right for me to give you something special.”
Tiger smiled softly but said nothing. Then, with a hint of mischief in his voice, Hogan said, “You gave me Tiger Eye, right?”
“Yes,” she agreed, not sure what to expect.
“So I’ll have to get you something equally exotic—like Bear Heart, or something like that,” he concluded.
Tiger laughed and squeezed Hogan’s arm. The heaviness of the night and the sadness that came with his position, and almost always lingered somewhere deep within him, momentarily vanished. He laughed with her and then took her into his arms. “Merry Christmas, Tiger,” Hogan murmured, as peace once again filled him.
“Mm… Merry Christmas, Papa Bear.”
And the sounds of the town around them faded away.
6 December 2005
Text and original characters copyright 2005 by Linda Groundwater
This copyright covers only original material and characters, and in no way intends to infringe upon the privileges of the holders of the copyrights, trademarks, or other legal rights, for the Hogan's Heroes universe.