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Fic: A Foggy Night to Remember Part 1 of 2

Author: clonesgirl
Fandom: The Sinking of the Laconia
Rating: NC-17 for sex and a bit of violence
Pairing: hartenstein/mortimer
Timeline: 1943 A/U
Word count this section: 2,530
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: In thick fog a suspicious craft is towed across the harbour.
Beta: None. If you find goofs please let me know.
A/N: Sequel to "A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing".



Fog. A pea-souper. The harbour was thick with it. It left everything covered in a fine coating of moisture, ships looming out of it like ghosts in the night. Lights failed to penetrate it and even sounds were muffled. From somewhere there were foghorns, their exact location impossible to determine in the eerie stillness. The enveloping mist held all in its wispy grasp. It was the early hours now and the docks, normally teeming during the day, were deserted, the fog casting its pall of gloom over all.

Even at Titanic's own dock there was an air of melancholy as the fog held sway over the huge liner, dimming her bright lights and those of the dock. In two days time passengers would board her once more and she would put to sea to rescue the lost souls of the Third Realm war but, for now, she was quiet with many of her crew enjoying a night ashore. Even her master was ashore at a formal White Star occasion.

U-156 was also resting at her berth, most of her crew also ashore. That afternoon her captain and first officer had taken part in a so-called friendly football match which had been rougher than usual, each coming away with scrapes and bruises though they had acquitted themselves well, Mortimer even scoring a goal. Their team, consisting of U-boat crews, beating the merchantmen by five points. In the evening it had been sightseeing and pizza. After their meal they had found that the fog had descended early sending most people indoors. However, both men were used to it and walked along the normally bright streets until they found themselves passing a large park where they could not help but notice many young couples kissing under the trees.

It was Mortimer who decided that they should emulate the natives, grasped his commanding officer and pulled him down a path and under a large, spreading oak.

Before Hartenstein could protest he found his lover's mouth was on his, warm and wet and wonderful, and loving arms encircled his neck as he wrapped his own around the slim body.

When the kiss ended they were both breathless.

Mortimer was grinning. "When in Rome."

"Must we always emulate the Romans," Hartenstein muttered, a mock-pained expression on his face.

"Why not!"

They kissed some more. When they came up for air Mortimer glanced around them.

"Boat is closer," he murmured suggestively.

"Nein. Apartment is only two blocks up there."

"Boat," Mortimer whispered into his ear before gentle lips caught his own once more.

Leaving the other lovers behind them they headed back to the street once more and transport to the docks. Once there they discovered that the fog was even thicker over the still, black water, veiling all in its damp and misty clasp.

They passed by several crew members from Titanic who recognized them and waved and some U-boat officers who tried to persuade them to come for a drink with them, however, they politely declined as they headed for U-156's berth.

Only two crewmen were on duty and Hartenstein promptly dismissed them, telling them to go and enjoy themselves ashore.

As the crewmen gratefully departed the two officers stood in the conning tower looking out at the huge harbour now shrunk by the all-encompassing mist to only the nearby vessels and the sounds of water gently lapping against the hull.

"The things I do for you," Hartenstein whispered, smiling as his lover embraced him as they stood quietly in the conning tower, their clothing now damp from the fog which seemed to encircle them. He was wearing his old leather jacket and Mortimer's arms were under it, hands stroking his back as his chin rested on the shoulder, senses assaulted by old leather, salt spray and cologne.

They swayed a little.

"My Britischer," Hartenstein murmured affectionately.

Mortimer smiled. "Who would have dreamt that a vessel made for war would one day be used for good," he sighed. "Even for romance!"

Hartenstein chuckled. "Romance?" He glanced at the spartan design of the metal hull with its fore and aft guns. "I hardly think so."

"Yes," Mortimer said firmly. "Romance." With that he gave his captain a gentle kiss. "I'm a firm believer in romance."

Hartenstein grinned and hugged him. "You're right, my Mortimer, meine liebe."

Mortimer's eyes fell on two crewmen on duty in a nearby U-boat who were watching them through the fog - and he didn't care in the slightest. The mist had cleared somewhat as his eyes circled the harbour.

Something caught his eyes. Nearby a boat was towing an old wooden barge and it struck him as odd that it would be towing a barge anywhere at this time of night in the midst of a pea-souper when almost nothing was moving. The other thing that struck him as strange was that neither boat nor barge was displaying running lights.

"Captain?"

"Mmm?" a distracted Hartenstein murmured. "Let us go below."

"What do you make of that?" He let go as the other man turned to gaze in the indicated direction.

"No running lights," Hartenstein remarked, "and where are they going?"

Both men picked up binoculars and studied the indicated craft. It was Mortimer who decided, "They seem to be heading in the direction of..."

"Titanic!" they both exclaimed.

"You think it could be some kind of sabotage?" Mortimer queried.

"We cannot take the chance."

Mortimer grabbed the hatch and opened it as one after another they jumped down to the bridge, Hartenstein grabbing the telephone to call harbour security, who said that they would investigate, before calling Titanic to alert them. Mortimer meanwhile grabbed guns and ammunition.

Thus fully armed they climbed swiftly up to the conning tower once more to see the boat and barge now even closer to Titanic.

"Sheisse!"

Running as fast as possible they made their way around the docks to Titanic's long berth. The crewmen on duty knew them well as they ascended the gangway and made their way up to the bridge.

"Report! What is happening?" Hartenstein demanded.

The Officer of the Watch reported that they were keeping an eye on the vessels in question.

"Where's the captain?"

"He's ashore, sir, at White Star head office. I have telephoned and he's on his way back."

"Good. Open the gangway entry on D deck on the starboard side and take us down there now - and bring torches!" he added.

As they arrived down on D deck the gangway doors were just being opened. All four men could now see the boat with barge approaching slowly, the vessels illuminated by the lights already being shone down on them from the bridge.

"Halt where you are!" Hartenstein shouted first in English and then German. "Halt or we will fire!"

There was no response from the boat on which they could just make out figures in the fog. The one at the stern now released the tow and as the two U-boat officers fired their pistols, the boat, now free of the barge, turned sharply and took off at speed, leaving the barge to drift under its own momentum towards Titanic.

They continued to fire on the boat which was picking up speed and whether it was a lucky shot or whether it was due to the fog they were not to know because there was a sudden crash as the boat ploughed into another vessel, the resulting fire lighting up the surrounding fog in a brilliant orange glow. The barge, however, under its own momentum, continued to drift closer until it slowly came to a halt a mere metre from Titanic.

"The tide!" Mortimer realized, watching as slowly, imperceptibly, it began to drift in the opposite direction.

"Ja! It's the outgoing tide!" Hartenstein agreed. "It's pulling it away. Come! We must check its cargo."

Together they jumped across onto the heavy old barge. Just as they found the hatch opening harbour security arrived on a fast launch, Hartenstein explaining that the barge may have explosives on it. The senior security officer reported that they were also attending to the crashed boat and the wails of sirens on the water could now be heard.

Three of the security officers climbed onto the barge with tools and soon had the hatch open.

On climbing down into the interior they discovered enough explosive to blow up half the harbour, as one of the officers succinctly put it.

Hartenstein already knew that there was no such thing as a bomb disposal expert in this peaceful realm and inquired what they would do with the deadly vessel.

"We'll have to tow it out to sea and blow it up," the officer-in-charge replied, ordering his crew to attach a tow rope.

They had drifted too far from Titanic and with no time to drop them off the two U-boat officers remained on the launch as it began to pull the heavy barge towards the harbour entrance whilst endeavouring to steer clear of vessels anchored there waiting for the fog to lift.

Finally, some distance from the nearest vessel, they watched as the security officers carefully placed a small explosive device into the open hatch. The device was set for three minutes and the tow was let go as the launch sped away, quickly putting distance between it and the drifting barge.

The resulting explosion was quite spectacular, bits of debris from the old barge raining down on the water. Everyone on the launch breathed a sigh of relief that the danger was over.

Once back in the harbour they headed for the crashed boat whose occupants - four of them as it turned out - had been badly injured and were already on their way to hospital. Hartenstein, on inquiring if they had been German, was answered in the affirmative. He decided that he would speak with them in the morning.

Back at Titanic's berth an anxious Andrews was waiting to see them.

"Captain, let us adjourn to your quarters and we will explain all," Hartenstein responded soothingly.

In the captain's quarters Andrews poured them all a stiff drink as he listened to the tale.

"I believe that security will find an abandoned half-sunk U-boat somewhere in the vicinity and that they used the explosives from it for the sole purpose of sabotage. It had a magnetic trigger so that when the barge bumped into the hull of a ship it would detonate the explosives."

"But why Titanic? I mean there are so many other vessels in the harbour."

"I believe the other large ships are all currently at sea making Titanic the largest one in port. That and the fact that they would see her as an Allied vessel made her an obvious target - at least to them."

"Thank god you two spotted the suspicious goings-on or the old girl might be back in drydock again."

Hartenstein grinned. "You can thank Mortimer. It was he who spotted the barge."

Andrews grinned. "You have my gratitude, Mortimer. But what made you suspicious?"

"No running lights," Mortimer answered.

"Unthinkable, especially in fog," Hartenstein added.

"Quite." Andrews shook his head. "What is this world coming to," he muttered. "This was such a peaceful realm, and now look at it."

"Look on the bright side, my friend," Hartenstein soothed. "The Admiralty can no longer argue that Titanic would be safer in port. In fact I sincerely believe that she is safer at sea."

"Amen to that!" Andrews agreed.

"And I will inform Admiral Strong of my opinion in the strongest terms," Hartenstein emphasised.

Andrews beamed at them. "And hopefully it will put an end to this ‘Titanic would be safer in port' nonsense. Her speed alone makes her safer at sea. Well, gentlemen, it's after midnight and I'm going to take a turn around the bridge. Hopefully, there will be no more attempts to sabotage my ship tonight. Uh..." he glanced from one to the other, "could I offer you a suite for the night?"

Mortimer's eyes suddenly widened. "We never secured the boat," he muttered.

"Sheisse. We left it in rather a hurry and there's no one aboard. We had better get back to it."

Mortimer smiled. "But thank you for your kind offer."

"Most kind," Hartenstein agreed.

"The least I could do, my friends. Don't know what I'd do without you. Yet again you've saved the old girl. Don't know what she'd do without you either. Well if I can't tempt you..."

Hartenstein shook his head. "We cannot set a bad example for the crew."

Andrews gave them each a hearty hug and they parted. On the bridge he watched them as they walked briskly along the docks and disappeared into the fog which seemed to have only got worse.

Back on the boat they decided they had better check it from end to end just to make sure that it was as they had left it. The only thing that was not there previously was a snoring Rostau in his bunk and, as Mortimer related, he reeked of liquor.

"Sehr gut. He may not even remember that the hatch was unsecured."

Mortimer smiled. "To bed."

"Sheisse, I'm tired now."

However, at that moment the telephone rang. Both men gave it looks of loathing.

Mortimer went to answer it. "If it's the press I'll tell them you've gone to bed."

Hartenstein listened as Mortimer answered. "No, you cannot speak to the captain. He's retired for the night and will be giving a statement in the morning." A pause. "No, I will not wake him up." Another pause. "Just what do you mean by that?" Another pause. "As I said, Captain Hartenstein will give you a statement in the morning." He hung up.

"What was that about?"

"It was Sheree Martin of the Morning Herald. She wanted to know if it's true we were snogging when we spotted the first barge."

"Sheisse! Who told them that?"

"Well what can they do? It's not like we were snogging on duty."

"Ja, but..."

The telephone rang again, both men dealing with several more calls before finally being able to head for their bunk and pull the red drapes closed.

They rested together, warm and happy and tired, hands softly petting.

"We did good work tonight," Mortimer ventured after a while.

"Ja. What is it you say? We were in the right place at the right time - thanks to you."

"Me?"

"Yes, you. It was your idea to come back to the boat instead of going to the apartment."

"Yeah. Don't know why I decided on the boat. It wasn't really any closer than the apartment."

"I know." Hartenstein shifted closer, nuzzling in the crook of his lover's warm neck. "Meine liebe, what would I do without you."

Mortimer knew that the question was rhetorical but answered it anyway. "Shh." He stroked a bearded cheek. "You will never know the answer because I will always be by your side."

Hartenstein grinned. "And if the press says we were snogging?"

"Let them. I'm proud and privileged to snog you any time, any day."

They grinned and kissed in sheer affection, embracing closely before curling up together in their favourite going-to-sleep position.

*