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Fic: An Interrupted Night

Author: clonesgirl
Fandom: The Sinking of the Laconia
Rating: PG-13
Pairing: hartenstein/mortimer
Timeline: 1943 A/U
Word count: 5,580
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: A surprise awaits Hartenstein and Mortimer while they are on leave.
Beta: None. If you find goofs please let me know.
A/N: This is a sequel to "A Case of Mistaken Identity". If you haven't yet read that fic then I suggest you read it first.



For a holiday it had been a quiet day. The small villa in Spain was once more occupied by its owners, a German U-boat commander and his British first officer. They only had one week to enjoy it and had been there for all of five days. They had done their usual trips to the nearby fishing village and been reacquainted with the locals. They had been fishing, snorkelling, sunbathing, biking and generally enjoying the break from their responsibilities of rescuing souls newly washed up in the Fourth Realm, not to mention guarding the giant liner Titanic.

As for Titanic itself, her master had informed them that she was going into drydock for a another quick careening. Since a coating of barnacles could slow a ship down, White Star insisted that she needed all possible speed in these dangerous times, especially since she was now regularly utilized for rescue missions. Therefore her huge hull had be scraped regularly in order for her to maintain her maximum speed. Her officers kept a regular record of her top speed and the moment it dropped a mere two miles per hour, in she went to have the barnacles removed.

Werner Hartenstein regularly complained that Titanic spent more time in drydock than any other vessel, even the U-boats which frequently sustained damage.

"Tell that to her doting master," Thomas Mortimer scoffed while cooking a rice dish. "Besides she's a big girl and she really does need all possible speed to keep up with us."

"She keeps up all right," Hartenstein muttered. "She keeps up so well that sometimes the sight of her bow following us is downright frightening, especially when you consider she’s slow to react to her rudder."

Mortimer chuckled while adding some spices and vegetables to the rice. "She was built for speed. Anyway they’re trying some new anti-fouling treatment which is supposed to keep her hull clear of barnacles.”

“Where did you hear this?”

“Just scuttlebutt. I’m sure Captain Andrews will confirm it.”

"She'd be out of drydock by now anyway, hosting VIPs and balls. Wasn’t she hosting some affair for the Admiralty?”

“Their annual do for VIP guests only. We received an invitation but you declined it,” Mortimer reminded his commanding officer.

Hartenstein smiled. “Ja. I thought our leave was more important.”
Mortimer smiled and their eyes met. “I’m glad you declined it.”

Hartenstein chopped up some cooked fish. "Though we have always enjoyed our time on her, have we not?"

Mortimer grinned. "I persuaded you to take dance lessons."

"Don't remind me.”

“Remember when her proud captain showed us the film of the spring ball? And there we were - dancing with the ladies.” He offered a taste of the rice to his companion.

Hartenstein gave it careful consideration. "Mmm... needs more salt."

"Ok, just a little." He dutifully sprinkled on some more salt. “It was nice of Mrs Garcia to give me the recipe for this paella thing. Smells good.”

Shortly after they sat down to their meal accompanied by a chilled white wine and candlelight. Although it was spring the evenings were still nippy and they had closed the windows. However, from where they sat they could see out of the large picture window, not that there was anything to see but the blackness of the ocean beyond the beach.

“Never thought I would enjoy cooking,” Hartenstein remarked, serving the meal as his companion uncorked and poured the wine.

Mortimer held up his glass. “Shall we drink a toast?”

Hartenstein nodded. “What shall we drink to?”

“Let’s see.” He frowned. “To White Star and Captain Andrews for insisting that Titanic have regular careenings thereby giving us a regular break.”

“To regular breaks,” Hartenstein agreed as they drank.

“Our efforts at cooking are definitely improving,” Mortimer remarked, squeezing some lemon juice over his plate, “but are we getting like an old married couple?”

Hartenstein looked amused. “I certainly don’t feel old.”

Mortimer gave him a reproving look. “You know what I mean.”

Hartenstein pondered his wine. “And what if we are?”

Mortimer shrugged. “I wouldn’t want you to get bored.”

“And how could I be bored when I’m happy?”

Mortimer reached out to grasp his companion’s wrist. “You make me happy,” he reassured. “You know that there is no other for me.”

Hartenstein put down his knife and fork, grasping Mortimer’s hands in his own warm ones.

“Ich danke euch, meine lieben.” Hartenstein’s voice was husky with emotion.

“Then let us make it a night to remember.”

“With no interruptions,” his companion murmured, the softness in his voice obvious to his companion.
Their eyes met across the table as they lifted their glasses and drank.

Afterwards they cleared the table and piled everything into the dishwasher.

“Thank god for dishwashers,” Mortimer muttered not for the first time as he set it. “Best thing we ever invested in.”

“I understand they are very new. The scientists here are most clever.”

Wine glasses and bottle in hand, they repaired to the living room, Hartenstein lighting the fire before taking their wine glasses and placing them on the table as Mortimer turned on the radio which was playing a tango.

“Come on, let’s dance!” Mortimer suggested, holding out his arms.

Hartenstein pretended to look pained. “How did I know you were going to say that?”

“Let’s tango!” his companion urged.

“I’ve forgotten. Anyway I ate too much.”

“That’s no excuse. Let’s remember. Come on, I’ll lead.”

“You always have to lead,” Hartenstein complained.

“You said you’d forgotten how to do it.”

“Oh, very well.”

“Now I step forward with my right and you step back with your left.”

To Hartenstein’s surprise he actually remembered the dance quite well. In fact it was not until he questioned how he managed to remember it at all that he stumbled and stepped on his companion’s toes.

“Ow!”

“Sorry. Did I hurt you?”

“I’ll live.” Mortimer twirled around and once more gathered his captain close, arm around his waist as side by side they turned in a full circle before stepping from side to side.

“You’re a natural,” he decided.

“Only with you, meine liebe.”

“You don’t really mind if I lead, do you?”

“Not when we’re alone.”

“But in public?”

“I have my reputation to maintain.”

“And allowing your first officer to lead is going to ruin your reputation as a rough, tough U-boat commander?”

“Ja. Ruins it.”

“Doubt if anyone else in this peaceful realm would think so. I bet nobody would think twice if I led the whole time and kissed you on the dance floor at the end of the night.”
“Let us not tempt fate.”

They continued to dance, their steps now flawless, their movements smooth and uninterrupted as they enjoyed this precious time alone together.

When the music finished they bowed to each other.

“See how good we are?” Mortimer praised.

“In spite of your leading,” Hartenstein protested.

“When are you going to get it through your thick German skull that I lead better and you follow better?”

“I’m the captain,” Hartenstein retorted.

“And you follow superbly.”

Hartenstein merely shook his head as they moved to stand before the large, floor-length window, wine glasses in hand. Together, they stared out into the blackness. The night was still, the sound of small waves breaking on the beach welcome and familiar and one of the things they dearly loved about the house, reaffirming as it did their connection with the sea. Both men felt as though they belonged there and had from the moment they had been whisked to the spot by their friend Lady Brunhilde.

Inexorably, they were drawn together, embracing in intimate manner, hands roaming over familiar flesh forever desired because it was the other’s; the beloved’s; the bringer of comfort and pleasure.

It was at that point that their reverie was interrupted by a sound with which they were most familiar.

“No!” they exclaimed as both froze at the deep sound of a ship’s horn.

“Wait a minute!” Mortimer immediately went to turn the living room lights off. “Now let’s see.”

In the darkness beyond the house both men could now see the lights out to sea clearly as the vessel came into view beyond the point.

“It can’t be,” Hartenstein muttered. “It must be just passing. They surely cannot be coming for us.”

“What in god’s name is she doing here?” Mortimer wondered aloud.

“And if she doesn’t slow down she’s going to hit the beach. You know what her turning circle is like.”

“Whatever she’s doing here we’d better make ourselves presentable.”

“Mein gott, we don’t have our uniforms!”

“They were sent to be cleaned. They’ll be back on the boat.”

“And where is the boat?” Hartenstein queried. “If that’s Titanic where is the boat and why has no one telephoned?”

As though to answer his question the telephone rang. In the darkness Hartenstein went to answer it.

“Captain Andrews? What’s this all about?” Another pause. “I see. Then we will see you shortly.”

He had no sooner hung up the receiver when the telephone rang again. “Mannesmann, was ist passiert?” He waited. “Ja.” Another pause. “Ja.” He hung up the receiver.

“He says they were delayed leaving the dock waiting for a delivery of spare engine shafts and there were orders not to put to sea without them so they’re still two hours away.”

Mortimer turned on the lights once more and both men headed smartly for the bedroom to dress in warmer clothing.

“But what’s so urgent that Titanic came on ahead by herself?”

“I intend to find out,” Hartenstein muttered. “It is expressly verboten for her to be unescorted in the North Atlantic. I am surprised Andrews would risk his vessel so carelessly. When the Admiralty hears about it...” He shook his head.

“You mean when they hear about it we’ll get blamed.”

Hartenstein, doing up his tie, glanced out the bedroom window. The bright lights, now much closer to the beach, were unmistakable for any other vessel. She had turned now and her port side with its red navigation light was visible moving quite slowly. She was now close enough that he could see her lighted portholes.

Quickly, they donned socks and shoes and packed suitcases.

Some fifteen minutes later, having quickly tidied up the kitchen and put out the fire, there was a smart rap on the door.

The young officer saluted. “Third Officer Murphy, Titanic, sirs. Your transport awaits.”

As they were rowed away both men found themselves turning to look back at their small villa. How quickly it had changed, Mortimer thought. The house had been warm and inviting when they were there. Now it was locked and dark, awaiting their return. On their previous stay Lady Brunhilde had literally popped in, as was her whim, for a quick visit. They were always glad to see her and grateful for the home she had gifted them where they had spent so many peaceful hours.

As they were rowed out to the ship Hartenstein demanded an explanation.

“Sir, I have been informed that Captain Andrews will explain all.”

The two U-boat officers shook their heads, Hartenstein’s mouth set in a grim line.

As they boarded the huge liner Andrews was there to greet them.

“Andrews, what is the meaning of this? And why is Titanic unescorted?” Hartenstein immediately demanded.

“Come, my friends! All will be explained. First of all, Lansdown here will escort you to your suite where you will find suitable clothing for the night and everything you need.”

“But where is my boat? I need to contact it at once.”

“I can assure you, old boy, that all is well with your boat. Come!”

Andrews proceeded to lead a fuming Hartenstein to the starboard side of the vessel.

“There is your boat, Captain.”
All three men gazed downward to see U-156 concealed in the shadow of the much larger vessel and clearly guarding it.

Hartenstein realized that, positioned as she was on the far side of the huge vessel, she had been totally invisible from the shore. He turned to Andrews. “Is this some kind of joke?”

“Why not at all, old boy. You know that I would not have Titanic alone and vulnerable in dangerous waters. She never goes anywhere without her escort. And I must ask your forgiveness for the tardiness of our arrival. The delay was not with your vessel at all but with mine. We should have been here this afternoon.”

Hartenstein shook his head, his face breaking into a smile. “I am most relieved to hear you say that, Captain. The Admiralty would not have been pleased.”

Mortimer, who had remained silent throughout the whole exchange, grinned.

Andrews also grinned. “To say the least! However they are the least of our worries tonight. Now off you go and change. You’ll find dress uniforms in the Dutch suite.”

“But I don’t understand...”

“All in good time, my friends. Now off you go.”

A short time later in the Dutch suite, changed and appearing immaculate in dress uniform, the two men inspected each other.

Hartenstein grasped his companion’s upper arms. “Most handsome.”

Mortimer stroked his lover’s neatly trimmed beard. “And you, my captain, are the most handsome commander in the fleet.” Of a sudden he paused. “Feel it? We’re moving!”

Hartenstein paused, also feeling the faint but noticeable vibration in the deck beneath their feet. “So we are. Come, let us see where we’re going.”

As they left the suite something was nagging at Mortimer. He snapped his fingers. “Now I know what it was! When we came aboard we didn’t hear the band playing!”

“Strange, especially at this time of the evening.”

As they made their way to up the grand staircase they were surprised that no one else seemed to be around. Indeed they were quite alone.

They paused under the clock to look below but not a soul was to be seen.

“Where is everyone?” Mortimer found himself whispering.

“It’s too quiet.”

Their eyes met, their mutual disquiet obvious.

“Come!” Hartenstein decided.

Side by side, their strides matching, they finished climbing the staircase, its multi-faceted chandelier winking at them from beneath the brightly-lit dome.

There was no one to open the door of the Grand Saloon for them either. What is more all appeared dark behind its ornate glass-panelled doors.

Again, they hesitated until Mortimer shook his head.

“In for a penny, in for a pound,” he muttered, opening the door and holding it for his commanding officer.

They had no sooner entered than the large room’s myriad lights and chandeliers lit up, a crowd of people appeared seated at tables and the band began to play.

Stunned, both men stopped in their tracks.

“Ah, at last! It’s about time you two got here!” Admiral Strong exclaimed. “Well come, come! Don’t just stand there gaping!”

As they made their way to a large table they recognized many faces that were familiar from the Admiralty.

“Come, come. You two are the last!”

The last for what, Mortimer wondered. Lambs to the slaughter?

“We hadn’t realized that you two had escaped to Spain,” Strong continued.

“Yeah, so we had to bring the mountain to Mohammed, so to speak,” the American admiral chimed in.

As they were shown to their seats the band struck up the rousing anthem of the Admiralty and all rose, after which a toast was drunk to its good health and continued success.

“Come, come, Hartenstein!” the British admiral admonished. “Surely you must have read the circulars.”

Hartenstein appeared bewildered. “Sir?”

“Why the 25th course!”

Mortimer remembered. Of course, the VIP do! It was something about the 25th anniversary of the Admiralty working with civilian ships to conduct rescues.

Hartenstein turned to Mortimer and managed to inquire rather innocently, “Mortimer, do we know about this 25th celebration?”

“Captain, as I recall it was a formal dinner for senior Admiralty officers and therefore did not concern us as the dinner would take place on a vessel in port.”

“Quite so,” Strong agreed. “Well we hadn’t planned on putting to sea but, since this year we are holding it on Titanic and your boat is Titanic’s escort, you were invited to attend. My wife was quite put out when she discovered you were on leave and insisted we pick you up, hence the little cruise to Spain.”

“That is most generous of you, Admiral, but...” Hartenstein began.

“Not at all, not at all. Andrews and White Star are most pleased with you, you know. They’re forever singing your praises. Indeed many ship’s masters express gratitude for the work done by you U-boat men in the effort to protect them from the unintended consequences of the war in the Third. We intend to have a little celebration for them later in the year.”

“But? But the lights out?” Mortimer queried.

“Oh, that was my idea,” Andrews piped up. “Thought we’d give you a little surprise. You never get to be aboard the old girl when she’s actually moving, as opposed to being aboard when she’s being blown up or hijacked, and I wanted you two to have a taste of how smooth she is when she’s at sea.”

“As always, I thank you for your generosity, Captain Andrews, but our enjoyment of a voyage on Titanic must be tempered by the war in the Third. I therefore must request that my first officer and myself be transported to our vessel whence we can best protect your vessel and all aboard her.”

“Of course, Captain, of course,” Admiral Strong concurred. “We knew that you’d insist on joining your boat rather than spending the night on this gloriously decadent old vessel but we wished to thank you for your service to the fleet. Your devotion to duty is admirable and you have set a fine example for all the newly arrived U-boat crews. We wish merely to express our gratitude for your service. And that goes for you, too, Mr Mortimer. You are a fine young officer and your loyalty and bravery do you much credit. If you will allow this small indulgence, we shall drink a toast to you both. Ladies and gentlemen, will you raise your glasses to Captain Werner Hartenstein and First Officer Thomas Mortimer of U-156 in gratitude for loyalty, bravery and service over and above the call of duty.”

After the toast he continued. “And now I hope you will accept this small token of our gratitude.” An aide handed him two small black boxes from which he extracted medals and pinned them to the uniforms of the two surprised U-boat officers. “This is our Honourable Service medal which you both richly deserve. Each of your crew will also receive one and of course one for the boat herself.” He turned to Andrews.

“And now, Captain Andrews, we are aware that, more than any other vessel, Titanic has been a target, even when she’s in port. We have discussed the pros and cons of this many times, however, White Star has graciously volunteered this magnificent vessel for dangerous rescue missions. You have shown much courage in taking her where angels fear to tread and we are all agreed that this is deserving of its own reward. It therefore gives me great pleasure to present to you the highest honour we can give to a merchant captain in the service of the Admiralty, the Excellence in Service medal.”

An aide handed him a small box from which he extracted a medal and proceeded to pin it to Titanic’s master.

Andrews, overwhelmed with emotion, gazed down at the small decoration glittering in the candlelight while the room applauded.

“Members of the Admiralty, ladies and gentlemen, what can I say but that I am most grateful for this honour which I share with my officers and crew. I am most pleased that Titanic can play her part in rescuing and healing the souls lost in the Third Realm war. It is an honour to serve.”

Admiral Strong beamed. “Of course we could not give you an award without acknowledging the work of your wonderful vessel, the finest vessel in the civilian fleet, for her powers of healing.” He handed a large gold shield to Titanic’s master and shook his hand. Andrews held it up to sustained applause from the room’s occupants.

“I... I had not expected this, Admiral,” the overwhelmed man began. “I have been most proud of the service my vessel has been able to provide. She is a fine healer and I have been most grateful that White Star, from the first, volunteered her, as indeed they did during the previous war in the Third Realm. However, that conflict was as nothing compared to this one which we all pray will end soon. In the meantime I will be proud to display this award.” He swallowed, overcome. “Most proud, as will every member of the crew, and I thank all of you.”

“Excellent!” Strong declared. “And now on with the festivities.”

As the band began to play Hartenstein caught the Admiral’s eye. “Admiral, if you will excuse us, we should be returning to the boat.”

“I rather thought you’d say that.”

“We are at sea, Admiral, and these are dangerous waters. It is essential that I, and my first officer, are aboard.”

“Quite so. I can but admire your devotion to duty. You two are fine examples of the type of men we can be proud of. However, I happen to value my marriage and my wife... Ah, here she is now! You remember my wife, Gloria.”

His wife, a tall woman resplendent in gold sequins, beamed as the two U-boat officers greeted her and, together kissed her gloved hands.

“You U-boat officers are such charming gentlemen,” she gushed, quite enchanted. “Since we last met I’ve been following your exploits in the papers. Such brave men, and of course you will be taking part in the competition.” At the blank looks on their faces she elaborated. “Why the dance competition of course. Which categories will you be competing in?”

“Frau Strong,” Hartenstein began, “It is with deep regret that we will be unable to take part in your excellent dance competition but we are needed on our vessel. As you know, these are dangerous waters and Titanic must be protected.”

Glora Strong turned to her husband. “George?”

“Gentlemen, I daren’t say no to my wife, so in this case I’m going to make an exception and allow you to take part in the dance competition. In fact I insist on it.” He gazed meaningfully at Hartenstein.

“So which dance will it be?” she queried.

“Tango,” Mortimer answered.

“Foxtrot,” Hartenstein answered simultaneously.

“Wonderful!” Gloria Strong beamed. “I’ll put you down for both.”

“If you will excuse us for a moment, Admiral, Frau Strong?”

Hartenstein grasped his first officer by the arm and propelled him out the door and into a corridor. Once alone, he rounded on him.

“Sheisse! Mortimer, what do you think you’re doing?” he demanded. “We are hardly up to competition standard and you know I am much more confident with the foxtrot.”

“Don’t worry,” Mortimer soothed. “We don’t have to be perfect. We’ll just put on a good show. There’s bound to be couples that are more polished than us so the sooner we’re eliminated the better and we can return to the boat.”

Hartenstein sighed shook his head. “I can see the logic.”

“Good!”

“The things I let you talk me into.”

“You love it! And you’ll see - we won’t disgrace ourselves.”

“As long we don’t fall flat on our faces. I’d never live it down,” Hartenstein muttered.

“You? What about me? You surely don’t think I want to be humiliated either,” Mortimer retorted.

Hartenstein sighed. “Forgive me, meine liebe. I... I am being selfish, but the idea of not just dancing among other couples but actually being judged is...” he rubbed his belly.

“It’s just butterflies, that’s all. We’ll be great, you’ll see. Now take a deep breath and calm yourself.”

“Very well.” He did as he was bade.

“There. That better?”

“Nein.”

“We’ll just dance the tango, not the foxtrot, and I’ll lead.”

“Mortimer!” Hartenstein admonished, upset all over again.

“Calm yourself. You know I lead better than you do so stop complaining.”

"Gott rette mich! I would sooner be in the old realm duelling with an American battleship than dancing the tango in front of a crowd of senior officers.”

“Shh. Just follow my lead and we’ll be all right.” His gaze became uncertain. “You’re not embarrassed because we’re a couple. I mean by now everyone knows. You know what this realm is like; no one cares a whit.”

“I know. I know, mein liebe. It’s just sometimes...” He shook his head.

“Shh. It’s the old life, the old realm intruding, but now we’re free to be who we are and to love as we wish. We have danced on Titanic before and I was so proud to dance in public with you for the first time, and I will never forget it. I look forward to making more unforgettable memories tonight.”

Hartenstein, a lump in his throat, merely hugged his lover before glancing around to ascertain that they were indeed alone and kissing him briefly on the lips, Mortimer returning the kiss.

“So that’s where you are!” a familiar voice exclaimed as the two men sprang apart.

“There’ll be time for that later,” Captain Thomas Andrews admonished, grasping both by the arms and leading them back to the Grand Saloon. “The competition is about to start.”

“Ah, gentlemen, there you are!” Strong exclaimed. “And have you come to a decision?”

“Sir, if you would inform your dear lady that we will just dance the tango,” Hartenstein responded.

“Not foxtrot?”

“Just the tango,” Mortimer answered with a smile.

“Very good! And since you need to return to your vessel I’ll see to it Gloria moves the tango up to first.”

Admiral Strong disappeared to find his wife, shortly after which she took the stage to announce the couples participating in the first competition, the tango. As their names were given Hartenstein got butterflies all over again. However, it was as if his companion knew and he felt his hand being surreptitiously squeezed. He took another deep breath.

All couples taking part in the tango competition were invited to take their place on the dance floor.

Hartenstein took another deep breath.

“Ignore the others, eyes on me and follow my lead,” Mortimer instructed. “I have every confidence in you, my captain.”

For the first time since the words ‘dance competition’ had been mentioned Werner Hartenstein managed a small smile. He could but admire his first officer’s confidence and enthusiasm though he was very far from feeling either himself. He nodded.

The judges were in place and the band began the first of three tango numbers which, at the end of each, couples would be eliminated.

Hartenstein and Mortimer made it to the end of the first number though the former was at a loss to understand how. He seemed to somehow be off in a daze, merely following his partner’s movements. Mortimer, on the other hand, oozed confidence.

Three couples were eliminated. That left seven couples on the dance floor.

By the beginning of the third number, ‘Midnight Tango’, Werner Hartenstein was beginning to feel more confident. The movements were coming to him easily and he was far less stiff. Concentrating solely on Mortimer seemed to be working well. He decided that he also loved the music.

At the end of the fourth number both men expected to be eliminated and waited expectantly for their names to be called out. However, much to their surprise they were not mentioned as three more couples were eliminated. There were now only three couples left on the dance floor and themselves.

“We have a good chance,” Mortimer whispered in his ear.

He was right, Hartenstein thought, much to his surprise.

For the final number the band announced that they would be playing the most famous tango of all, ‘La Cumparsita’.

“Great! We know that one!” Mortimer exclaimed.

Once more the band began to play. Once more they stepped back and forth, then side to side, and he loved the part where they parted and Mortimer twirled around before approaching him once more, sliding an arm around his back. He had been reluctant to take the dance lessons his lover had insisted on, but now he was glad of them. Although, as Mortimer had reminded him, they had danced together in public previously on Titanic - and before the shocked gazes of many of his old colleagues - he had never really appreciated it before. Mortimer was light on his feet and moved easily around the dance floor as they swayed and stepped to the sounds of the wonderful music. The spotlights on the dance floor; the sparkling crystal chandelier; the candlelight, silver and crystal on the tables together with the ship’s gentle movement and the wonderful band who seemed to inject joy into everything they played made this moment magical and he found himself savouring it. He realized that whether they won or not was unimportant; what mattered were these precious moments he was sharing with his lover.
When the number ended with “Olé!” they bowed to each other before also bowing to the judges, as did the other couples, to much applause from the appreciative audience. Mrs Strong took the microphone asking them to remain as they were while the judges made their decision.

It took less than a minute, Mortimer decided, before, after consulting her fellow judges, Gloria Strong was back at the microphone ready to make the announcement.

“Members of the Admiralty, ladies and gentlemen, the judges have come to a unanimous decision. The winners of the inaugural Admiralty Dance Competition are Captain Werner Hartenstein and First Officer Thomas Mortimer of U-156 who I’m sure you’ll all agree have given us an enchanting performance and one that we’ll not soon forget.”

Hartenstein and Mortimer stepped onto the stage to be presented with a decorative silver trophy and a certificate, the U-boat commander making a gallant speech thanking the ladies for their decision and also thanking his partner whose idea it was that they should dance the tango.

They waited as the second and third place winners were announced before all three couples performed an encore of “La Cumparsita”, again to much applause.

As they made their farewells, again they each kissed her hand before she hurried away to supervise the next part of the competition.

“My wife is quite smitten with you two, you know.”

Admiral Strong shook their hands and congratulated them as did many others including Captain Andrews who lamented that they could not spend the night aboard.

Hartenstein assured him that they would again soon as their friend embraced them both.

Their belongings and trophies were already loaded into a boat as the two men climbed aboard to be rowed the short distance to their vessel.

*

Hartenstein awoke with a start. Beside him, Mortimer also awakened, both startled to find that they’d dozed off on the couch after dinner.

Turning, they stared at each other. “Did you dream...?” they began.

“We were on Titanic and won a tango competition,” Mortimer said, his voice filled with wonder.

“I remember.” Hartenstein smiled then chuckled. “As if Titanic would come here just to pick us up for some Admiralty do.”

Mortimer, too, laughed. “That was quite a dream, and such detail. I loved dancing with you. We won a nice trophy.”

“Ja, and we were given service medals and one for the boat too.”

Smiling, Mortimer shook his head. “I remember, and for all the crew.”

“Wish we had them. It would be nice to reward the crew and to find somewhere to display the award for the boat.”

“Well, we can dream,” Mortimer sighed lazily.

“Alas, mein liebe, that is all it was, a pleasant dream, but let us remember it.”

“Mmm... Damn, but you were sexy, and I loved dancing with you.”

“Ja, it was good.”

“Mm-hm. Would you really dance with me in front of all the top brass?”

Hartenstein thought about it. “I’m not sure. You are more confident when it comes to dancing.”

“Bet I could persuade you.”

“Meine liebe, you could persuade me that the world is flat and the sun goes around it.”

Mortimer’s laughter was drowned out by a noise from beyond their windows - the noise of a deep ship’s horn!

*

It was very late as the two men were finally able to head to bed in their shared quarters on U-156.

“Our dream came true,” Mortimer murmured after a while.

“All except the dance contest,” his companion replied. “I saw you talking to Frau Strong just before we left.”

“Gloria likes us.”

“Ah, so it’s ‘Gloria’ now, is it.”

“Yes, and she’s going to have a dance competition next year.”

A startled Hartenstein turned to his companion. “She told you this? And I wonder who put that idea in her head.”

“It didn’t take much persuading.”

“I might have known!” Hartenstein groaned.

“I merely suggested that it might be a good idea, you know, just to liven up the proceedings. She jumped at the idea. So we have a whole year to practice.” He waggled his eyebrows at his commanding officer.

“Mortimer, what have you done!”

Mortimer kissed him.

* * *