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Novella: Convoy Duty Part 1 of 3

A sequel to Not a Hollywood Movie

Author: clonesgirl
Fandom: The Sinking of the Laconia
Rating: NC-17
Pairing: hartenstein/mortimer
Timeline: 1943 A/U
Word count this section: 3,100
Warnings: Historic and fictional characters, violence and some angst
Spoilers: None
Disclaimer: Characters borrowed from BBC strictly for playing with, not profit. No offence intended. This is purely a work of fiction.
Summary: Hartenstein is going on a dangerous mission but Mortimer won't let him go alone.
Beta: None. If you find goofs please let me know.
A/N: This is a direct sequel to "Not a Hollywood Movie". If you haven't yet read that fic then you really need to go back and read it first as this won't make a lot of sense otherwise.



It was dusk when U-156 docked at Homeport. Rostau had shut down most of the U-boat's systems and reported to the captain before leaving the vessel along with the last of the departing crew. Captain and first officer walked the length of the vessel inspecting it.

"It always seems so quiet with the crew gone," Mortimer remarked as they reached the bridge. "Always seems larger too when you can walk from one end to the other without tripping over other people."

Hartenstein, who was putting away his charts and double-checking that the instruments were turned off, agreed.

The telephone rang and Hartenstein answered it. The conversation was brief.

"Well, well," he mused. Mortimer looked at him expectantly. "It seems I have an appointment tomorrow with Dr Benson."

"And I wonder what the good doctor wants this time," Mortimer said.

"We shall see tomorrow. Do you have a feeling about it?"

"Can't tell. Ever since she tried to split us up I always seem to have a feeling of apprehension whenever her name comes up."

"I understand. She does not seem to appreciate how close we are. When you were struck by lightning she said that I had to let you go but I knew she was wrong. I knew I had only to find you and bring you back. I knew you would come back to me if you had the chance."

Mortimer looked at him sharply. "You never told me that before. You never said you'd been advised to let me go."

"It's of no matter now, meine liebe. I found you; that's all that matters."

"Right. I'm going with you."

"Mortimer, I'm a big boy. Besides, the appointment is only for me."

"Nevertheless I don't trust that woman."

Hartenstein grinned as Mortimer threw an arm around him. "Where shall we eat?" he inquired.

"What about that little Italian place we found last time? The food was really good. Remember that pizza thing we liked?"

"Italian it shall be!"

Mortimer grinned. "Come on. We're officially off duty and I'm starved."

They changed into civilian clothes, called for transport and secured the boat. Some twenty minutes later they were devouring a delicious pizza and washing it down with a good bottle of red. They were also getting looks from four attractive women at a corner booth. Both men were able to hear snatches of their conversation.

"Now who do you suppose those two are?" one asked.

"Hmm, never seen them before. Certainly not businessmen. Probably ship's crew. I mean who isn't around here?"

"Maybe officers?" another asked.

"One sounds German and the other British," another one said.

"German? Probably a U-boat officer. Maybe a captain."

"And the other?"

"Well if the German is a captain then the other is probably also a senior officer. Maybe the first officer?"

On overhearing this Mortimer grinned. "Are we that obvious?"

Hartenstein, glass in hand, returned the grin before taking another mouthful of wine.

"Odd that one should be German and the other British," one of the women continued.

"You mean if they met in the Third," another said.

"Well, yes," the other said. "I mean there's a godawful war going on there so it's odd that those two should be friends."

"It is," one of the others chimed in, "assuming they met there."

"Well they must have, unless of course the Brit joined the U-boat here and not there."

"Doesn't seem likely. I mean even if he spoke German why would a Brit join an all-German crew?"

"One of life's mysteries," another one mused.

Just before the two Admiralty officers left, having also devoured something else they weren't familiar with in the form of an icy treat called a gelato, they overheard two of the women having a bet on their identities. Sure enough as they left one of the women beckoned to them.

Hartenstein smiled. "Well, ladies, I have to tell you that, yes, I am German. I am also a U-boat captain and this is my first officer and he's British."

"You had us pegged," Mortimer added grinning.

Two of the women immediately invited them to join them.

"I regret, ladies, we must decline your generous offer," Hartenstein answered. "We are very tired."

"And I have to get the captain safely home to bed," Mortimer added with a wink.

"So I regret we must bid you auf wiedersehn," Hartenstein continued.

"And, yes, we did meet in the Third," Mortimer added.

As they settled their bill they heard one of the women say, "See? I knew they met in the Third."

"And I knew they were a couple when they were tasting each other's pizzas and gelatos."

"How come you always know these things?" one of the others complained.

"Can pick 'em a mile away - and if that remark about bed and the wink wasn't a direct hint they weren't interested, well I don't know what is."

"Damn shame," another one muttered. "That captain is quite the gentleman."

"A gentleman is not what I'm looking for," another retorted.

As they walked outside into the cool night air Hartenstein shook his head. "What am I going to do with you?"

"Well it wouldn't be fair to let them think they had a chance with either of us, would it?"

"You realize we might have had two each."

Mortimer laughed.

"The women I throw away for you," Hartenstein muttered.

"Once upon a time you wouldn't have, would you?"

"Nein, unless of course I had a handsome and willing young man to share my bed for the night but that was seldom. I am much more fortunate now because I don't wake up alone dreading that one day I'll be blackmailed."

"Or shot for having unnatural vices."

Hartenstein smiled. "Quite true."

"I have news for you - I've developed an unnatural addiction to your 'unnatural vices'."

Hartenstein grinned. "As I planned. I'm not a captain for nothing."

He threw an arm over Mortimer's shoulders, feeling the other's laughter, as they walked the brightly lit boulevards amongst throngs of cheerful people. Tomorrow the maintenance crew would come aboard and they would go to the suite they were entitled to use in the Admiralty quarters.

Back on the boat they simply undressed and fell into bed together, curling up in a tangle of arms and legs.

"I am so much more fortunate now," Hartenstein murmured, as his companion devoured him with eager lips and tongue before claiming that part of him that ached and throbbed and begged for touch. He turned the tables and pounced on his lover.

Mortimer gazed knowingly up at him. "My dear captain, are you planning on indulging your 'unnatural vices' tonight?"

"All of them!"

*

The following afternoon Werner Hartenstein found himself seated on a large and very comfortable couch in Dr Benson's suite while she explained that as part of her duties she does regular reviews of U-boat personnel to check on their progress and how they are adapting to living in the Fourth Realm.

"Captain Hartenstein, I'm pleased to report that you're a very high achiever. With the exception of the hijacking of Titanic - a tragic affair by the way - and the sinking of the Bismarck you have refrained from using force, and this is to your credit. Indeed your progress has been excellent." She smiled at him.

Hartenstein thanked her for the compliment but remained far from relaxed.

"I was also most pleased to learn that you were able to save Mr Mortimer and I compliment you on your determination. I was also pleased to see that you're still together. And I assume your first officer is still happy to remain in this realm?"

"He is. Indeed we have made a pact - when we move on we will go together."

"Very good." Dr Benson made a note in her file before turning once more to Hartenstein.

"Captain, since Mr Mortimer has chosen to remain with you in this realm..."

"We," Hartenstein corrected. "We - have chosen to remain together in this realm."

"As you say," Dr Benson conceded. "Since you have chosen to remain together, as I have mentioned previously, it will take many years for you to offload your karma. I was hesitant to mention this before as you were new to this realm, however, I think the time has come to speak of it now. As I stated previously, a lot of it has been discounted simply because you were in a war situation. Also much of your experience in the Third Realm moulded you into the person you are now. You are tough and determined but you are also compassionate, and that is exactly what we require of U-boat commanders. Your experience in rescuing people now is equal to the best of the U-boat commanders now in this realm. Indeed you have become highly persuasive in convincing new arrivals that they're no longer at war and they're now in a realm of peace especially on your most recent mission when you dealt with the American captain. That makes you invaluable. Therefore I think it's time that I informed you of a way that your sojourn in this realm might be shortened, should you so wish, so that you may move on with your loved one sooner rather than later."

"How might this be accomplished?" Hartenstein asked curiously.

"You could undertake a mission to the Third Realm."

Hartenstein frowned. "The Third? But... I had not thought this possible."

Dr Benson smiled. "You'd be surprised at what's possible in this realm. The Admiralty has a method of sending people back to the Third Realm to undertake special missions. There would be a degree of danger as your U-boat could be fired on by the Allies as an enemy vessel."

"Then I could not ask the crew to undertake such a mission."

"Only those with an undue load of karma would be asked to accompany you and even then it is voluntary and they may refuse with no discredit to them. In that event others would be found. Mortimer, of course, would not be required to undertake such a mission. Also, I believe you would be releasing more of your karmic debt if you go alone."

Hartenstein was intrigued at the possibilities, however, he was also positive that Mortimer would never agree to let him go alone.

"Doctor, I would be interested in undertaking such a mission."

"Very good," she said. "However, before you agree you should know that the degree of danger there is quite real and, as before, there is the possibility that you could once more encounter what is known there as death."

Hartenstein thought about it and decided that it would be worthwhile if it meant that they could move on together to the 4D realm where Mortimer already belonged.. "I... understand what you mean, Doctor, but I'm still interested."

"Very good. I will speak to Admiral Strong and see what he has to say."

Some thirty minutes later Hartenstein was greeted by Admiral Strong in his suite and they sat comfortably out on the large terrace.

The more Captain Werner Hartenstein listened the more he had his doubts. By the time he returned to the boat his mood was thoroughly morose. Mortimer, as was his wont when alone on the boat, was sitting in the conning tower reading a book and listening to music on the radio. He had once asked him if the radio did not distract him from the book, but the reply had been a no, why should it? He'd given up after that.

Mortimer put down his book and turned off the radio as he heard his commanding officer climb rapidly up to the conning tower. However, as he greeted him with a smile he found it fading immediately at the look on his companion's face. Hartenstein said nothing, merely beckoned him below.

At the grim look on Hartenstein's face as he poured them each a scotch, downed his own and poured himself a second before sitting at the table, Mortimer's heart sank. He waited.

Hartenstein shook his head. "I have, perhaps foolishly, volunteered to undertake a mission to the Third Realm."

Mortimer stared at him. "The Third? The Third Realm with the war of all wars going on? The realm we came from?"

"Ja."

"But... But why would you do such a thing? Oh, let me guess. You were seeing Dr Benson today. She was complaining again about your karma, wasn't she?"

"We both know her too well."

It was Mortimer's turn to appear grim. "Now let me see: Would this possibly be a way of disposing of it?"

This brought a tight smile. "Not all of it."

"But a boatload, right? You did this for me, didn't you? So that I could get to 4D sooner." He shook his head. "You know that I'm happy here with you. You know that I couldn't give a toss what your karmic load is."

Hartenstein stared into his drink. "I know. I know, meine liebe, but I did a lot of harm. I took too many lives, even if it was in war."

"Shut up! I don't want to hear about it. You're a decent man and an honourable one and I don't care how long we have to stay here. You know that I'm happy here with you."

"I know that!" Hartenstein snapped. "I know that, meine liebe," he said, his voice now gentle, "but..."

"But what?" Mortimer probed.

"They have strongly suggested that I undertake the mission without you."

"Not on your life! No way in the world are you going on a dangerous mission without me." He glared at his companion, incensed at the very suggestion. "What did she say? That you'd pay back more karma if you went alone? That was it, wasn't it?"

"This is a voluntary mission and only crew members who wish it will be involved."

"Well consider me your first volunteer, sir!" Mortimer snapped.

Hartenstein smiled gently. "I knew you would not let me go alone."

Mortimer returned the smile. "You bet your life!"

However, as Hartenstein explained the plan he became more and more concerned.

"But if we cannot fire weapons how are we to defend ourselves?"

"Guile and subterfuge?"

"You're not serious."

"I am. We have the trick radar which can fool another vessel into believing we are other than where we are."

"Not if they spot us."

"I am aware of that."

Mortimer sighed. "We're going to need it - and any other strategies we can come up with. So let me get this straight. We have to protect one cargo ship, the Stockton Guild, out of a convoy of fourteen because it's carrying a VIP home from a secret meeting with the American president and the convoy will have two American cruisers to protect it and they're fast and manoeuvrable and we are going to have to avoid them at all costs."

"That is the plan. However, we will be visible on their radar and sonar so we will have to fool them with our special radar into thinking we are elsewhere."

"And what of the real U-boats which may very well be shadowing the convoy and trying their best to attack it?"

"As much as possible we will let the Americans deal with them. We cannot interfere in their battles. However, if there is more than two U-boats the Americans may well be overwhelmed especially if one is torpedoed. That is where we come in. We must protect that particular ship at all costs."

"But if the convoy ships see us they'll think we're going to sink them."

"Then we must play cat and mouse."

"Why would this particular VIP be travelling by ship anyway? Why doesn't he just fly?"

"Washington is convinced they have a spy, possibly more than one, in their midst. So, although he flew there, they are not taking any chances and the British government has agreed to the plan to return him by sea. Thus he will be disguised and travelling as a friend of the captain."

"Sounds like a plan concocted by some government spy. It would be ironic if he got torpedoed when he might have been perfectly safe flying."

"Touché."

"And if a U-boat should launch a torpedo directly at the Stockton Guild?" Mortimer queried. Hartenstein gazed steadily at him, Mortimer's eyes widening as the implications hit him. He took a deep breath. "So we must act as a buffer." Mortimer's words were somewhere between a statement and a question.

"Correct."

A large shiver went through Mortimer. "So, if necessary, we are to sacrifice ourselves."

"In that world we will be everybody's enemy."

The two men sat in silence, each mulling over the implications of a situation that was as yet hypothetical but was about to become very real. Hartenstein reached out to take Mortimer's warm hands in his own.

"This is why they said you need not accompany me on this mission. You are free of karmic debt; you can move on to the 4D realm. It is only I..."

"Don't start that again. You know I'll go with you to the ends of the earth. We belong together. Besides, we know now we can't really die."

"But we can, meine liebe, there. We will be in the Third Realm again. Death is a possibility. They explained this to me."

"And we both know that death isn't the end at all and we'll be together no matter what. We know this for a fact."

Hartenstein's face betrayed his affection as he pulled his lover to his feet to embrace him. "Your wisdom and your courage mean the world to me," he murmured.

"Shh. You just try going without me," Mortimer threatened. "Now kiss me and tell me you'll never leave me."

Hartenstein grinned. "I will never..." their lips met for an exploratory kiss, "leave..." more kisses followed, "mmm, you." He found himself unable to continue as a welcome tongue filled his mouth to eagerly greet his own.

When the kiss finally ended both were breathless. Hartenstein gazed at his lover, waiting for his eyes to open.

When Mortimer's eyes opened it was to find Hartenstein gazing at him in an odd manner. "What is it?" he asked curiously.

"You." Large, blue eyes met his own. "Always you, meine liebe. You make me feel like I can fly. You make me feel... invincible."

It was Mortimer's turn to gaze into the most beautiful hazel eyes he had ever seen. "Then let us soar on wings of steel for we must be strong."

All thoughts of the Third Realm vanished, superseded by their longing for oneness.

*