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Fic: On Patrol

A sequel to Return to Ascension

Author: clonesgirl
Fandom: The Sinking of the Laconia
Rating: NC-17 for sex
Pairing: hartenstein/mortimer
Timeline: 1943 A/U
Word count: 5,320
Warnings: Historic and fictional characters, some violence
Spoilers: None
Disclaimer: Characters borrowed from BBC strictly for playing with, not profit. No offence intended. This is purely a work of fiction.
Summary: U-156 returns to Homeport to the consternation of the Admiralty
Beta: None. If you find goofs please let me know.
A/N: This is a direct sequel to "Return to Ascension". It was going to be part 3 of that fic but turned into a fic in its own right.



On returning to Homeport the Maastricht was towed to another part of the harbour for assessment and a welcome for her crew. Her wounded, having spent the four-day trip on U-156, were now considerably better and transferred to hospital to complete their healing. The young commander, Lt. Hansen, was very grateful to Captain Hartenstein for taking such good care of his crew and he was farewelled with an assurance that they'd see him again soon. Hartenstein was of the opinion that, with more experience, the young man would make a fine captain in the future.

As U-156 berthed in her customary spot both captain and first officer realized that Titanic, because of her enforced speed restriction, had also only just berthed. It was also evident from the crowd on the dock that there was a feeding frenzy going on. Reporters were all over the place, flashes going off as they all examined the gaping hole in her hull caused by the mine she had struck.

As the U-boat's moorings were secured both captain and first officer saw a small boat being launched from Titanic's starboard side, out of view of the press.

"The captain's shore boat if I'm not mistaken," Mortimer observed.

Even as the two officers and various crew members on deck watched, the small boat proceeded, via a somewhat circular route around several other vessels, to come alongside and Captain Andrews requested permission to come aboard.

Below deck he sat down to Turkish coffee and sweet pastries with the captain and first officer.

"This is a pleasant surprise," Hartenstein greeted.

"Just call me a coward. I confess I'm hiding out."

Hartenstein and Mortimer grinned.

"Escaping the press, my friend?" Hartenstein queried.

"Talk about a ravening mob!" Andrews moaned. "One little hole in the hull and they go mad. Thought I'd take refuge among friends. I do hope you don't mind."

"Of course not," Hartenstein answered. "My boat is always at your service, Captain, and, you know you are among friends. If ever there is anything we can do you have only to let us know."

Andrews grinned, licking a stray bit of sugar from his top lip. "I say these are rather good."

"Mortimer has developed a taste for Danish pastries."

Mortimer was also smiling. "Moreish, aren't they."

Andrews was taking another bite. "Moreish indeed! I say for a small vessel you do rather well."

"Thanks to this realm. Not so well in the old one."

"I've also developed a taste for sauerkraut," Mortimer remarked.

Andrews observed Hartenstein smile at his first officer's remark. The man was clearly proud of his British first officer.

"Mortimer has developed a taste for German food. And have they contacted you about the dry-docking?" Hartenstein queried.

"Oh, yes. Complained like old maids that this was most inconvenient. Seems Lusitania is already using it and will be for another three days. Once she's discharged then it's the old girl's turn to be hauled out of the water."

"And you will supervise the repairs," Hartenstein concluded.

Andrews gave a self-deprecating chuckle. "You know me too well, my friend." He shook his head. "Oh, dear, this is shameful of me, hiding out on a friend's vessel. I'll have to go and face the music - the press that is."

"Nonsense," Hartenstein decided. "I think you haven't been sleeping well, my friend, have you?"

Andrews appeared glum. "I confess I haven't. Even though I know the old girl will be all right, still I worry about her. I suppose it's like having an only child; you worry about them."

As the man stared into the depths of his coffee cup Hartenstein glanced at Mortimer indicating their bed. Mortimer nodded.

Abruptly, both men rose. Surprised, Andrews looked up at them and also rose to his feet. However, before he could say anything Hartenstein addressed him.

"Captain Andrews, you are sorely in need of a rest," he began.

"And we insist you rest here," Mortimer concluded. "And no arguments," he added.

"But I can't do that!" Andrews protested. "I can't abandon my vessel and..."

"Oh, yes, you can..." Hartenstein admonished, "...and you will, and right now."

Together, the two men took him by the arms, guided him to the bed and proceeded to remove his uniform.

"You will lie there and you will rest. In fact, we insist you have a good sleep," Mortimer ordered.

"You will not be disturbed," Hartenstein added.

The two Admiralty officers tucked their guest into bed amidst further protests. As they left the room Hartenstein turned to say "And we don't want to see you for at least an hour. That is an order!"

"You'd better believe it - he's German!" Mortimer added closing the door.

For a short while the captain of the Titanic lay there gazing around the small cabin. It was far smaller even than Third Class accommodation on his own ship. Still, they obviously managed, he thought. He looked at the bed he was lying on with its red velvet drapes, which seemed to be the room's only concession to luxury. He couldn't help thinking that this was the bed they slept in and made love in. Turning his head, he smelt the pillow, his nostrils detecting the odour of eau de cologne. He smiled. They were lucky to have each other, he thought, his mind beginning to drift.


When Captain Andrews emerged from the captain's quarters on U-156 he was clutching his head and moaning. Mortimer, coming from the bridge, was the first to spot him stumbling along.

"Captain!" He grabbed the man and guided him back into the captain's quarters, directing him to lie down until the headache went away.

"My head," the man moaned, lying down once more.

"Shh. Just lie quietly and it will go away in a few minutes." He fetched a damp facecloth and pressed it to the man's forehead. "There. It will go away soon I promise. We have all had to get used to it. Just lie still."

The man sighed in resignation but lay back resting. "I have heard of this," he whispered.

"Feeling better?" Mortimer shortly inquired.

Andrews nodded. "It's going away now, thank God! So this is how U-boats heal. Never thought I'd experience it."

"You must have needed it," Mortimer observed gently. "Better now?"

Andrews sat up and swung his legs over the edge of the bed to sit beside Mortimer. "Much, but I wonder why. I mean normally the ship heals me if I need it."

"Perhaps your ship is preoccupied."

Andrews seemed dumbfounded. "Of course! How selfish I've been. I should have realized she's busy healing herself." He shook his head. "I have your boat to thank for this. I feel much better now." He smiled.

"Ready to take on the press?"

"More than! Could take on the world."

Hartenstein entered the room as Andrews stood up.

"You're look much better, Captain," he observed.

"And feeling it, thanks to both of you and your boat. Mortimer, could I prevail on you to ask my ship to send the boat for me?"

"Of course." Mortimer squeezed his arm and left for the radio room.

"Did you have a headache?"

"Felt like my head would explode but Mortimer looked after me. Your first is a gem," Andrews observed.

"Indeed. I would be lost without him."

"I hope they'll let you have some leave."

"Only a week."

"A week is what you make it, my friend."

Not long after that the two U-boat officers watched as the waiting press were allowed to board Titanic. They, themselves, were headed to the inevitable meeting with the Admiralty.

*

At Admiralty headquarters the meeting had already gone for two hours. The young Lt. Hansen had been called to testify about how he had ordered the discharging of the mines in the hope of one of them hitting the pursuing American destroyer only to have Titanic hit one of them instead for which he was most apologetic. The senior officers decided that he was not at fault. He had been pleased to see Hartenstein and Mortimer once more and the two U-boat officers invited him for a drink later. Then it was Hartenstein's turn.

"Captain," the British admiral began, "We have read your report and there are one or two points we would like to clear up. You were on duty some three hours into the night watch that night. Why was that? Was there something amiss with the boat?"

"There was nothing amiss with the boat."

"Then why were you on duty so late?"

Hartenstein hesitated. "I felt like staying up late."

"And you, Mr Mortimer? Did you also feel like staying up late?"

"Yes, sir."

"And why was that?" the British admiral continued.

"I... saw no reason not to."

The admirals looked at each other. The Italian one turned to Mortimer.

"And yet the weather she was good and the sea she was calm. May I ask... if you had a... a feeling?"

Both U-boat officers hesitated. Finally, Mortimer answered.

"I... had an odd feeling."

"We both did," Hartenstein added.

"So you both had this 'odd feeling'?" the Italian admiral queried.

Both men answered in the affirmative.

The admirals looked at each other once more.

"There is no doubt in my mind," the British admiral began, "that were it not for this 'odd feeling' you both had things would have been much worse and Titanic might have hit both mines. As it was at least she was able to avoid the second one." He shook his head. "This is what we all feared. The last thing we wanted was to have Titanic damaged. Do you realize that this has made headline news all over the world? Do you gentlemen realize that people are outraged that this was allowed to happen? That the world's most famous ship was allowed to take part in dangerous rescue missions? That she was at risk every day she was at sea?"

"And we were all labelled incompetent for letting Titanic participate in rescue missions and I'm damned if I'm going to be called incompetent!" the American admiral blurted out. "Damned if it's going to happen again! We can't let it! We have our reputations to maintain!"

The Australian admiral shook his head. "So we looked like galahs, so what?" he began. "Titanic's a tall poppy and that's why everyone worries about her, but it seems to me that these blokes," his gaze took in Hartenstein and Mortimer, "did a bang up job. You beaut instincts they have too. Wish I'd had them on my ship. Might not have gone to the briny depths, but that's another story. Seems to me Titanic is more than worthy of bein' a rescue vessel. Her captain's no gutless wonder either; volunteered her for service he did and we should all applaud him - and if it were up to me I'd be giving a medal to Captain Hartenstein for fan-bloody-tastic, you beaut service. He's done a bang up protection job."

"I think I get a your meaning, and I agree," the Italian admiral said. "What we need is better radar which can detect these mines."

"We have high hopes for a system in development," the British admiral responded. He turned to Captain Andrews who had so far remained silent. "In the meantime I have to disagree with my Australian and Italian colleagues. Captain Andrews, I'm sure you agree that this cannot be allowed to happen again."

"With all due respect, sir, I do not," Andrews stated clearly and firmly. "The rest of the rescue fleet take their lumps and Titanic can too. In fact with her reinforced bow, reinforced hull, extra strong double bottom and multiple watertight compartments she is the strongest of all. I see Lusitania is in dry-dock and even though she, too, has undergone reinforcing she has not nearly the hull strength of Titanic or the number of watertight compartments. Indeed if the mine which my vessel hit had hit Lusitania I dare say the damage would have been extensive. She, too, is considered an international treasure and yet she's allowed to participate in rescue missions with barely a murmur of dissent. Everyone seems to think that Titanic, because of her unfortunately short first life, was in great danger; they don't seem to realize she is more than twice as strong now and could only be sunk with the greatest difficulty. In fact you would have to break her in half to sink her at all and even then the two halves would stay afloat because of her watertight compartments. So I can assure you, ladies and gentlemen, she was in no danger at all, merely inconvenienced. Yes, she will have to be dry-docked but I have calculated that a month should be sufficient and then she will resume her rescue duties once more. I should also add that I am most grateful to Captain Hartenstein and Mr Mortimer for their invaluable instincts. Indeed they are most protective of Titanic and they guard her even as I do." He turned to Hartenstein and Mortimer. "Gentlemen, I thank you both for your care of my vessel and all aboard her. Please do not think even for one minute that you did not do enough. You did more than enough and I am most grateful that the old girl was not further damaged. I and my officers and crew would be honoured if you would once more consent to be Titanic's escort and companion when the repairs are completed."

Hartenstein held his head proudly. "I..." he turned to Mortimer, "that is we, would be honoured to once more escort and protect Titanic on future rescue missions for however long the war in the Third Realm should last."

"Gentlemen, you are most gracious and you will always have my gratitude."

During this exchange the admirals merely looked glum.

"Gentlemen, this is all very well and we acknowledge that Captain Hartenstein has done the best he could to protect Titanic. However, once the repairs are complete it has been decided that Titanic will be mothballed for the duration of the war in the Third and will not put to sea again until the oceans of this realm are considered safe for civilian shipping."

Andrews was clearly outraged. "I will not have this," he began. "Titanic will not be mothballed. She is not an Admiralty vessel and you have no jurisdiction over her, or me. She is not your vessel to command and control. She sails under the auspices of the White Star Line which gave its consent to her being used for rescue missions."

"Nonetheless it has been decided. So after she is repaired she will remain in port."

"She will not. She is not a floating hotel. She is a cruise ship and a damned good one. She also has excellent healing powers and these poor souls coming from the Third are badly in need of healing. Her energies help them to settle in here and enemies become friends on her. I have seen this with my own two eyes. She has a gift for uniting people that cannot and must not be ignored. She is uniquely positioned to help in this time of the most terrible war in the Third. I have come to believe that this is her task and she must be allowed to complete the work. Gentlemen and ladies, you must not fear. Titanic is a vessel for the ages. She will survive and when the war in the Third is over she will resume her old life cruising the world and welcoming all aboard her including yourselves and your families."

The various senior officers sitting around the table were silent. Finally the British admiral spoke. "Captain, we will consider your words and give you our decision at a later date."


The officers and crew of U-156 were expecting a week's leave, however, a change of orders arrived and they were to patrol the North Atlantic, reporting on any sunken Third Realm vessels they found. Early the following morning the boat was hastily checked and reprovisioned before putting to sea once more along with several other U-boats, each with a designated patrol area.

Dockside, Hartenstein said a hasty farewell to Captain Andrews who had come running along the dock.

"I just heard, old boy. Can't believe they're sending you out again so soon. You've barely had time to breathe."

Hartenstein grinned ruefully. "Nothing to be done."

"Wanted to tell you the good news. White Star had a chat with the Admiralty and they've approved the old girl taking part in more rescue missions."

Hartenstein grinned. "That is good news, my friend. I'm pleased for you."

The two men embraced, Andrews waving to Mortimer who was on deck ready to give the order to let go the moorings. Mortimer waved back as Hartenstein jumped aboard.

Andrews watched as the order to depart was given, the horn sounded and U-156 slowly pulled away from the dock before turning and gently gliding out into the channel where she was soon out of sight among other larger vessels. How quickly and silently she was gone, he thought, unlike his own vessel which needed a fleet of tugs to get her moving.

He was elated that the Admiralty had decided to approve Titanic's taking part in further rescue missions. He would miss them, he thought. They had become firm friends, but he consoled himself with the thought that the sooner the old girl was repaired the sooner they could work together again.


By early afternoon U-156 was some two hundred nautical miles south of Ireland when an object showed up on the radar. However, even though they were within two miles of it they were unable to see it with the binoculars. It was not until they were much closer that they were able to ascertain that it was a cargo ship, and a large one. Lying on its side it was barely showing above the waterline. What little was visible of its superstructure appeared blackened. If there had been deaths in the Third Realm apparently none had transitioned to the Fourth. Slowly, they circumnavigated the wreck, reporting to headquarters on its nomenclature and position. Clearly, the vessel was a casualty of the war in the Third, most likely because of the actions of a U-boat.

By that afternoon they had found another object. However it was not a ship or U-boat but a wrecked Admiralty flying boat. The young pilot reported that their radio was damaged and requested a call for help. Hartenstein arranged a rendezvous with a vessel large enough to take the plane aboard and which would be there within two hours.

After that it was four more freighters, none of which had anyone aboard or in lifeboats. The last vessel with a cargo of machinery had a dozen crew who had made the transition clinging to their wrecked vessel. Their hostile gazes at the sight of a German U-boat did not bode well. However, Captain Hartenstein was well accustomed to this now and he couldn't blame them.

"A bloody Nazi U-boat and you have the hide to say you're here to rescue us? You have to be kidding. It was one of your lot that torpedoed my ship and it's a bloody wonder she's still afloat. Well let me tell you we've got no intention of being prisoners of war, thank you. We'll wait for the good old British navy."

"Captain...?"

"Allen."

"Captain, we are not a Nazi vessel. Please note the flag and our uniforms. We are in the service of the International Admiralty of the Fourth Realm."

"What are you talking about, man? Are you drunk?"

"I am far from drunk, sir," Hartenstein replied mildly. "As I said, I am Captain Werner Hartenstein of the International Admiralty and this is my first officer, Thomas Mortimer. We are here to rescue you and your crew. You will be quite safe aboard my vessel and I can assure you you will be well treated. If any of your crew are injured we will take care of them as best we can. You will have warm, dry clothing, food and drink."

Mortimer spoke up. "Captain Hartenstein speaks the truth. We are on a rescue mission. Your vessel, half sunken though it is, will be retrieved later. For now, we would be obliged if you would come aboard. Your safety is assured."

Officers and crew of U-156 waited as the captain conversed with several crew members, none of whom looked happy at the thought of boarding what was to them an enemy vessel. However, after some discussion the captain agreed to Hartenstein's request. Three of the U-boat's rafts were dispatched and the survivors were shortly aboard U-156. However, Captain Allen and his crew were none too pleased at being searched for weapons.

Remmert and two other crew members searched their passengers thoroughly. "Two guns and four knives, sir," he reported.

"Sehr gutt," Hartenstein responded before turning to Allen once more. The man was fiftyish with a heavy salt and pepper beard and matching thick, curly hair.

"Sir, I cannot have you attempting to hijack my vessel or harming my crew. You are our guests and will be treated as such." He turned to Mannesmann. "Mannesmann, show them below and make them comfortable. See to it they have dry clothes, food and drink."

"Captain, I would like to know what is our destination?" Allen inquired.

"Our destination is Homeport," Hartenstein replied.

"Your home port? That's occupied France."

"Homeport is a wonderful place and it is occupied by free citizens," Mortimer answered. "It has sights you won't believe and your families will be there to meet you."

"Our... our families?" queried a crew member.

Mortimer smiled at the man. "No doubt you'll have family here. They'll be at the dock to meet you. You have all made the transition to the Fourth Realm. There is no war here. None at all. Trust me you'll have good lives here."

"You're British!" Allen accused. "And you're on a Gerry U-boat!"

Mortimer looked into the man's lined, suntanned face. "So I am, sir, and I'm proud to serve under Captain Hartenstein. He's a good man."

Allen stared from one to the other before shaking his head. "Have I lost my mind or what, eh, lads? Kind Germans and a British first? Are we in Oz?"

"You got Toto hidden away somewhere?" a crewman taunted.

"Where's the yellow brick road?" someone else queried.

"And the emerald sky?" another asked.

Hartenstein merely appeared puzzled.

"They are referring to the film 'The Wizard of Oz'," Mortimer offered.

"Oh. I haven't seen it."

"I've seen it, sir," Waldemar piped up.

"So have I," added several other crew members.

Mortimer smiled at Hartenstein. "We'll see it next time we're in port, sir."

Allen noted the affectionate smile the German gave his first officer and the relaxed atmosphere among the German crew. He also noticed his own crew nudging each other and smiling. More than anything else this gave the man hope. So did the talk he had later with the German commander and his first officer over lunch and an excellent brandy. Even though it disturbed him deeply he found it near impossible to believe some of the things they told him, not to mention the things he'd seen on a tour of the engine room, but he found himself trusting them implicitly. Also his crew were being well treated and even conversing with the U-boat crew. In the end he was grateful and found himself thanking his hosts for their hospitality. That night, lying in a bunk on a U-boat, Captain Robert Allen was convinced that, unless this was all some fantastical illusion - and he was convinced now that it wasn't - he and his men were in good hands.

That same night the captain and first officer of U-156 were packing up the chess board. Mortimer had won this time and made a note of it.

"That evens the score," he remarked.

"I taught you too well. You win too much."

Mortimer grinned. "This means I get to have my British way with you."

The corners of Hartenstein's mouth turned up. "Not as long as I'm the captain."

They rose to their feet as Mortimer returned the look. "We'll see about that."

Their arms slid naturally about each other and he rubbed his companion's back in the way he knew he loved. He could feel the other's warmth through the thin material of their shirts - and he loved that.

"Sometimes," he began. "Sometimes, when we're on duty, I feel so close to you. It's like there's this... connection between us and I feel even closer to you than I do now. It's like..." He stumbled for words trying to explain the intangible. "It's like I always have an awareness of you. I know I'm not making sense but..."

"On the contrary, meine liebe, you make a great deal of sense. I, too, feel it but I did not know how to express it. You speak for both of us."

"You must think me a romantic fool."

Hartenstein leaned back, catching his lover's face and tipping it up to gaze into his eyes. "Then we are both fools," he murmured, lips seeking those of his companion; relishing the familiar feel of the yielding mouth and the tongue that eagerly stroked his own in a warm, wet and delicious welcome. Also, welcome was the burgeoning hardness that matched his own; a promise of things to come and pleasures shortly to be had.

When the kiss finally came to a gasping, panting halt their bodies were plastered together through their clothing.

"Meine lieber," Hartenstein murmured. "Meine Britischer. What would I do without you. You always know how to say what I cannot seem to express."

"Of course - I'm British!"

Hartenstein chuckled, hugging his lover as Mortimer laughed with him before covering his bearded cheeks in quick kisses, loving the feel of the man against him, especially the rising hardness.

"Mmm... let us collaborate tonight, my British love," Hartenstein whispered into the nearest ear, lips brushing it.

"Collaborate with a German? You forget I'm a loyal British officer." Mortimer leaned down to kiss the warm flesh of the neck.

"A loyal Britischer who dreamed every night that he was in bed with an enemy U-boat commander." He felt Hartenstein's hands slide down to his buttocks to grasp them.

"That was your fault. You were too sexy for your boots - and you had no business seducing a British officer." Hartenstein felt Mortimer's lips against the pulse in his neck.

"But you were lonely. I thought the least I could do was offer you my hand in friendship." Wandering hands now kneaded his rear.

"That wasn't all you offered." Mortimer slid one hand down between them to press against the deliciously obscene bulge that was stretching the other's trousers, feeling the gasped response all through him.

"You came to my bed and tempted me beyond all reason," came a husky murmur. "I wanted more than just friendship." With his tongue Hartenstein traced a wet line up a tender throat, trailing higher until it entered a voluptuous, waiting mouth. "Far more, meine liebe, and once I had tasted your pale, English flesh I could not get enough. You needed a strong German in your life; someone you could lean on."

Hurriedly, they undressed and finished preparing for bed, sighing with pleasure as they lay down together. No sooner had they closed the drapes than hands and mouths were everywhere, their need for the intimacy of joining like a drug they could never get enough of.

Mortimer was kissing and stroking his way up firm, muscular thighs, loving the feel of them, until he finally reached the top. Parting them further, he licked at the inside of them, his tongue finally reaching the delicious swelling that lurked there waiting impatiently for his touch, which he did but only with his fingers and in the lightest manner which he knew always drove his partner wild.

Hartenstein was now writhing on the bed, almost begging, while his lover licked at the tip of his erection, enjoying the wetness there, tasting it again and again before rising to share the taste, his lover sucking greedily on his tongue and rolling them over to do the same. Hartenstein loved to bring his lover right to the very edge and they knew each other so well now that it was though each shared the other's desire.

"Tell me," he whispered hoarsely. "Tell me how much you want me. Tell me you want your German captain to fuck you."

"Why would I want to be fucked by a German?" Mortimer gasped.

"Because they are the best."

"Who says?"

"You British have no respect," Hartenstein retorted.

"I'll show you there's no such thing as German superiority," Mortimer panted.

"Will you? I think not."

At Hartenstein's challenge Mortimer dipped one finger in oil and pushed it deep inside his lover, satisfied at the man's gasp of pleasure as he deliberately stroked at that one spot that always drove his lover wild.

"Mein Gott, what do you do to me...?" Hartenstein moaned.

"You get what you deserve, my German captain - a bloody good rogering by a British officer."

With his free hand he made a grab for the oil, slathering it over his erection, ears drinking in the other's panting breaths. He gazed down at his captain's body, so vulnerable with need for him; with desire for him. It didn't matter how many times they had done this, he thought, because no one time was ever the same as another and their closeness only seemed to grow. There was more to it - so much more, he thought - than his pounding heart and aching need.

He positioned himself. "Want you, gorgeous German. Want you so much..." he leaned closer to tenderly kiss waiting lips, an act that brought tears to his eyes, "...and now, my German captain, I will show you how much respect I have for you."

With those words he tenderly breached his lover's body, relishing the other's gasp at the intrusion, before sliding slowly deeper.

"Mein Gott!" Hartenstein gasped as he was rolled over into one of their favourite positions. "Meine Britischer." His lover's hands were everywhere, stroking jutting, little nipples and down the firm belly to the one part of him that yearned for touch. "Meine liebe."

"Tell me," Mortimer urged. "Tell me, my German captain, how it feels to have a generous British prick buried in your sweet arse."

"So herrlich... mmm... So sehr gut, meine lieben britischen."

"My own. My German love."

Their movements, which had been slow, became wonderfully energetic before the sheer rapture of their joining reached a delirious peak, Mortimer revelling in his lover's blissful coming so much so that he came then himself, spilling his seed gloriously deep in the other's accepting body and even when he had no more to give the ecstasy seemed to continue. He vaguely remembered pulling the covers over both of them before sinking into near-unconsciousness, one hand resting against a bearded cheek.

*

That night they dreamt that they were birds. They were gulls flying high over water, stretching their wings and soaring in the sunlight. They were enjoying this when below they spotted a very large vessel plowing through the ocean, her wake stretching back many miles.

Together, they dove for it, landing on the stern railing. There was a man there, an officer bearing the insignia of the White Star Line and captain's stripes. Far from shooing them away he held out his hands to them palms up and they each perched on one. The man said nothing, but he held them both up to his cheeks and they felt nothing less than love from him. Even though they were different from him he accepted them totally.


* * *