A Taste of Schnapps

Debra Fran Baker

debra.baker3@verizon.net


"What's going on out here?" The barracks had been suspiciously quiet even for after lights out. Hogan left his office to check. The men were huddled around the transmitter, desperately holding back laughter. They all jumped at his words.

"Sir! We were trying not to disturb you." Newkirk wiped his eyes.

"Consider me disturbed. What's so funny?" He moved closer to the transmitter.

"Oh, sir." Carter shook his head. "You have to hear this. General Burkhalter is paying Klink one of his late night visits. It's..." The group began laughing again.

Hogan waved them to silence. "Let me listen."

There were moans. And whimpers. Then there were words. In Burkhalter's voice. In German.

"Ach, Klink. You want this, don't you?"

"Ja, Herr General. I want this." Klink was lying. He wasn't even trying to be convincing. "I have wanted this the last time. Ah. Harder. Harder."

"Yes, of course, my little bitch. Anything you want." And Burkhalter's moans and Klink's whimpers became stronger. Klink was in pain, and Burkhalter didn't care. No. Burkhalter was enjoying it all.

"Shut that crap off. Now." The men protested as they moved to obey.

"But, sir! It's *Klink* getting up the rear!" Newkirk stared. "No more than he deserves, say I."

"No one deserves that." Not even his worst enemy, and Klink was...his enemy but also a friend and a partner, in a twisted sort of way. "I'm going out. No one turns on that transmitter until I get back. That's an order."

"Yes, sir." Kinch nodded.

Hogan made his way to the kommandant's office, relying on the incompetence of the guards and the shadows to keep him safe. He waited outside until Burkhalter left for the guest quarters, a sated smile on his piggy face. Hogan's hands clenched as if fitting around Burkhalter's neck. He took a deep breath, and, not bothering to knock, opened the office door.

Klink, his face covered in perspiration, was buttoning his trousers. The room stank of sweat and semen and something else. Blood? "Colonel Hogan. You are the last person I want to see now." His voice was dead.

"I'm not going to leave, Colonel Klink." To prove his point, he nearly sat on Klink's desk. And then he noticed that everything on it looked bent or crushed as if something had been pressed on them. He should have killed Burkhalter when he had the chance.

He sat on a chair instead.

"Then, as I find myself in need of some schnapps, would you join me?" Hogan nodded. Klink moved to his liquor cabinet and poured two glasses. Hogan took his with a polite thank you. Klink, who sat with a visible wince that made Hogan's stomach clench, downed his own glass without stopping and poured another. "You know what happened here tonight, don't you?" He didn't meet Hogan's eyes.

"Colonel?" Hogan blinked.

"Oh, don't play innocent with me, Hogan. I don't know where it is, and I frankly do not want to know, but you have some sort of microphone in my office."

"You know?"

Klink closed his eyes. "I know enough. I don't want to know more, for your own safety."

Sipping his drink, Hogan considered what to say next. "Yeah, okay. So, you know. And, yeah, we know. I know."

"All your men know my humiliation? It can hardly hurt my standing with them." Klink shrugged and downed his second drink. The bitterness in his voice made Hogan's teeth stand on edge.

"If you...why do you let that pig do that to you?" He drank half his glass in an effort to keep calm. "Let him use you like that." Okay, it failed.

"Because, Colonel Hogan, I'm a coward. And a fool. And it is what I deserve." He looked at his third full glass and left it on his desk.

"I don't understand." He did understand. He knew. But he couldn't believe it.

"It is very simple. If I were not a coward, I would not want to be a kommandant of a stalag at all. It is safe here because the Allies won't bomb it But as such, there is nothing I can do about." He drank his schnapps and poured another. Despite three drinks, he was still steady.

"About what?" Now Hogan was curious. He took another sip.

"Do you want me to say it? About the madman running my country, and his equally mad cohort. Do you love your country, Colonel Hogan? Are you proud of it?" Klink refilled Hogan's glass.

"Yes Both."

Klink sighed. "I love my country, too. And I used to be proud of it. And I want to be proud of it again. If I weren't a coward, I might work in our underground to get rid of...what do you call him? Laughing boy? Him. But I am afraid of getting caught. And I am a fool, so I would make careless mistakes that would get me and others in trouble."

"So... why do you...?"

"I want to stay here. In *this* stalag. Not any other. So that you can continue your work. It is...even a fool and a coward can do something right. Even if that something right is doing nothing." He drained the fourth glass. "And if I have to pay with my pride - that is cheap." He poured another.

"Doesn't look that way from here. Didn't sound that way." Hogan drank more. It helped. Klink topped him up. "Didn't like it. You didn't like it."

"There seems to be truth in this schnapps." Klink stared at his glass. "And you cannot...think the worse of me." He drank some. "If the person is...Burkhalter only wishes me to be humiliated. He does not care if I am enjoying myself or not - he is happier when I do not. As he is both crude ad cruel, that is easy."

"Colonel..."

"Call me Wilhelm, Robert. We are too intimate now for rank."

Hogan didn't like that word, intimate. "You are paying too high a price. We can...we can help."

"You do help. You. Let us make your hate complete."

"I don't hate you. I don't think I ever did." He tried to make his mind think beyond the booze. It wasn't easy.

"You will. When things are...are really bad, I fantasize. About a different person. It helps."

"Who? Fraulein Helga?"

Klink took a deep breath. "No. You."

Hogan dropped the glass he had halfway to his mouth. "You're a homo?" How could he be? Klink was a lot of things, but was he really a pervert?

"Ja." Klink looked at him. Hogan had to believe him - no man would admit that if it weren't true. And yet, Klink didn't look ashamed of himself or embarrassed. He looked...Hogan would have been humiliated, but Klink looked normal, as if Hogan had asked him if he were German. Or in the Luftwaffe. Or a man. He looked like man. More of a man than Hogan had ever thought before.

"You hate it what Burkhalter does, right?" Klink nodded. "We can stop it." Klink fantasized about him. Klink let Burkhalter rape him to stay and protect them. This didn't make sense. This made too much sense. The world spun, and not just from the booze.

"It does not matter. I do not matter. Please, Hogan, go back to your barracks. Leave me alone. I need to clean that up." Klink moved to Hogan's side of the desk and knelt to pick up the glass. Klink was a tall man. His face was at the right level.

"I need to thank you, at least. Let me thank you." He put a hand on Klink's shoulder.

"You are welcome." Klink shrugged, as if to remove Hogan's hand.

"I haven't thanked you yet." And, not really understanding what he was doing, or why, Hogan leaned forward and kissed him. Klink's mouth was hard at first, from surprise. Then it softened and opened slightly, allowing their tongues to touch.

And Hogan shot to his feet and left Klink's office as fast as he could, his mouth full of the taste of schnapps and his body acting like it belonged to someone else.

He avoided looking at his men as he rushed into his room, not with that big sign he knew was on his forehead, the one saying "Queer." He had to be one, didn't he?

He pulled out a girlie magazine, one that had always worked for him. And, to his relief, it did once again. The leggy blondes with the big breasts and full hips called to him as strongly as ever. He couldn't be queer after all. So why were Klink's lips the last things he thought about as he drifted off to sleep?

He avoided Klink entirely the next couple of days. He told himself that there was a big operation in the offing and it needed his full attention. It was no lie. They had information and men to get to the allies, and even with Klink on his side - something he could never tell his men - he had to plan each step meticulously. So, of course he had no time to barge into Klink's office.

Two days later, three men and six briefcases full of documents were safely off, disguised as chauffeurs and using the cars of visiting German officials - and the German officials themselves - as cover. Klink had no idea what was going on. He was safer that way. And Klink's safety was important.

He couldn't avoid Klink forever. They had to maintain the fiction that this was a POW camp, which meant the senior POW had to talk with the kommandant about conditions, and it was necessary that Hogan be known to walk into Klink's office at any time, summoned or not, so that he could pick up odd bits of information to pass along.

Hogan wondered how much of the material that Klink left lying around was carelessness. Maybe none of it.

Klink was alone this day. Fraulein Helga was in town on a brief leave and Schultz was off doing whatever Schultz did in his off hours. He was working on some books. Hogan couldn't help noticing how orderly it all was - pens lined up, pencils sharp, papers in precise piles. Nothing was bent or broken or crumpled. Klink looked up. He looked tired. "What can I do for you, Colonel Hogan?" There was nothing unusual in his voice - just his normal mild impatience.

Hogan perched on the corner of the desk, taking care not to move anything. "My men haven't gotten any Red Cross packages lately, Klink. What gives?"

Klink shrugged. "When the packages arrive, they get distributed. They have simply not arrived. There is nothing I can do about that." He started to work on his books again. Every number was the same size, every row and column lined up perfectly. "What now, Colonel? I am very busy here."

"You cook the books, don't you?"

"What does that mean?"

"You're so precise with what you do. You know what supplies come in and what goes out."

"Of course. I am a bookkeeper by profession." Hogan flashed back to that night. That was the same matter of fact tone as his "Ja." "I told you. I knew what you were doing."

"That's what I mean. You're falsifying the records."

"Yes, of course." Klink smiled bitterly. "It's what a bookkeeper does best. It keeps your operation safe and keeps me here. I am a pragmatist, Colonel Hogan."

"You said you were being passive, just allowing it. It's more than that." Klink shrugged. "If you get caught..."

"If I get caught, I get shot. But I will not get caught. I am the best at this, Colonel Hogan." Now there was true pride in his smile, and it was a pleasant sight.

"Klink...Wilhelm...about the other night..."

"Nothing happened, Colonel Hogan. Nothing at all."

"Something did happen. I need to know what it was. And I'm going to find out." He stood up and bent over Klink, who stared at him with unblinking eyes, and then rose to his feet.

Hogan had never kissed anyone taller than himself before. He had to stand on his toes. Klink's body wasn't exactly hard, but it still felt different in his arms, and Klink's arms, while not strong, still held him more firmly than any woman had. And there was stubble on Klink's cheeks and it caught on his own.

And it felt good. All of it. And while his mind went round in circles, he kept kissing Klink because it did feel good and his body reacted because it did feel good. And then he felt Klink's body react as well, and that was too much. He broke the kiss and tore himself from Klink's arms.

He happened to glance through the office window as he walked back to the barracks. Klink was sitting at his desk and doing his books as if nothing at all had happened. Except that his mouth was swollen, and with that thought, Hogan kept a hand over his own until it no longer felt hot.

He went to town that night, and there was a lovely Fraulein named Greta, a long, leggy blonde with a large bust and wide hips, in the brauhause. And their encounter was eminently satisfactory in every sense. He returned home whistling and smelling of beer and cheap perfume and woman, sure of his manhood.

And then he passed Klink's quarters, and remembered and he was confused all over again.

Two days later, he pulled Klink into the shadows behind the barracks and kissed him again. Three days later, he slept with Greta again, but this time it wasn't so satisfactory.

It haunted him. It possessed him. And it kept happening. He'd run into Klink outside, and pull him aside or he'd stay late after a confrontation, and Klink would be in his arms, warm and responsive until Hogan himself broke it off. And then he stopped going to the brauhause, and would seek Klink out, and Klink would stop whatever he was doing and go with him. And then Klink would resume his task without more than a flush to show what they were doing. Which was only kissing. Only and ever kissing that Hogan initiated and Hogan ended.

One warm night, unable to sleep, plagued as his nights had been by odd dreams he couldn't really remember but which left him damp and panting, he prowled the compound, eluding the guards without thought. And he found himself next to Klink's quarters. Klink's light was on, and there was music playing. Hogan crept closer. It was high brow stuff, not the swing music he himself preferred. He listened anyway.

It was slow, gentle music, music that was coaxed out of a violin, not blasted out of a horn. He moved to the window to see what Klink was doing. To his surprise, it was Klink himself playing. He'd seen Klink play, or rather make screeching noises with his violin in the past. Another lie?

The music stopped and Hogan tapped at the window. Showing no surprise, Klink opened it. "Why do you pretend you can't play?"

"Buffoons don't get transferred." He smiled. "Do you want to come in, Robert?" Hogan nodded. "Come around the front, please. I will let you in."

He was wearing a silk dressing gown, elegant but worn, over his pajamas, and he held his violin tucked carefully under his arm. Hogan felt scruffier than ever in his uniform and battered leather jacket. "Thank you...Wilhelm." He stumbled over the name and the threshold, but made it through both safely.

Klink put his violin in its case. "Do you want some schnapps? I was just going to have a drink myself. Or do you just want to kiss me again?"

The bitterness in Klink's voice hit him like a grenade. Without asking permission, he collapsed on one of the room's overstuffed chairs. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing, Robert." He was now standing at a small cabinet and pouring a couple of glasses. He turned to hand one to Hogan, and took a seat in the other chair. To Hogan's relief, he held only the glass, not the bottle.

"It doesn't sound that way."

Klink sipped. "Why should you worry? You are enjoying yourself. And I must say, you kiss very well."

"I like kissing You seem to like it, too." Klink was, in fact, quite talented in that department, and eager.

"I like many things. Kissing is among them. Especially being kissed by you."

Hogan took a drink. "Then why do I always start? Why not you?"

Klink's smile was tight. "Because I take nothing for granted. If you want to kiss, I am available and I will enjoy it because you take care that I should. For which I thank you. And if you do not wish to kiss, I have much work to do and I will be fine."

"You make me sound like Burkhalter, that I'm just using you." The thought made him nauseous.

Klink said nothing.

"I'm not using you. I want you to like it, too. I would love you to make a move, just *once*."

"So you can feel less guilty?" Klink shook his head. "Robert. Do you even know why you're kissing me any more?"

"I...I..." He tried to think. "It feels good. Not that I'm queer or anything."

"You kiss a man at least once a day. You initiate the kiss each time. What are you?"

Hogan chugged down his glass of schnapps. "I don't know! I like kissing you. I like kissing girls, too. I like sleeping with girls. I still do."

"Ja..."

"What am I? Am I a queer or am I normal?"

Klink set down his still mostly full glass and walked to other chair. He put a hand on Hogan's shoulder. Hogan tensed but not let himself flinch. He felt Klink's warmth through the jacket and the uniform. "I don' t know what 'normal' is. But I know of many a man who leaves his wife at home and picks up a boy instead of a girl, or even goes in search of a man."

"That's...that's just *sick*. You have to be one or the other." Hogan stared at him.

"So I've been told. But if one man is primarily interested in women and another is primarily interested in men, then surely there must be some who are interested in both?"

It made sense, but it didn't. "What about you?"

"I prefer men." And he smiled again. And this time the smile was warm and...and sweet, and Hogan didn't know what to think.

"And if I like both, what am I?"

"Colonel Robert Hogan, US Army Air Corp. I could repeat your serial number as well. My prisoner. Perhaps, in some small way, my friend?"

Hogan had to smile back. "I think...maybe."

"Perhaps...more?" And Klink leaned down and kissed him, and Hogan found his arms reaching up to pull Klink down next to him and then Hogan began exploring Klink's cheeks, neck, hair, licking and tasting and shuddering as Klink did the same.

"What comes next, Wilhelm?" The name came a little easier now.

"What ever you want." Klink's voice was hoarse with passion, very different from his normal tones.

"I don't know what I want. I don't even know what to *do*...how to make you happy."

"That is not important, Robert."

Hogan put his hand over Klink's. "Yes. Yes, it is. You've risked everything for us."

"If I risked anything, Robert, it was mostly for my country." There was that note of pride again. Just hearing it made Hogan's heart skip a beat.

"Still. Wilhelm." He couldn't say it, couldn't say what his body demanded of him, what he realized was haunting his dreams. "I...need...please. Show me."

Klink stared into his eyes. "Ja. I will show you. Come." He stood up, drawing Hogan to his feet, and, taking him by the hand, led him to the bedroom. Hogan held on to Klink's hand, breathing with difficulty, his mouth dry but his body ready and willing.

And in the next hour, Klink did indeed teach him, using his hands and his mouth in new and wonderful ways, ways that Hogan learned quickly, eagerly, so that Klink moaned in pleasure from his touch, and then, after he found a new desire in himself and begged and pleaded, he found still another source as Wilhelm Klink sank into him.

Then they slept, sated and happy, until some inner alarm woke Hogan while it was still dark. He kissed Klink's sleeping cheek before he went back to his barracks. Tomorrow, the world would be a very different place.

p>

Copyright 2002 Debra Fran Baker and NightRoads Associates

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