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Fic: A Foggy Night to Remember Part 2 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: 2,890
Total word count: 5,420
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".



Very early the following morning both Titanic and U-156 were besieged by members of the press. Hartenstein, who had already spoken to the Admiralty, gave them a brief statement of the facts.

"Captain Hartenstein, that was a pretty big explosion we all witnessed. Can you tell us about the nature of it?"

"The weapons were from the Third Realm and quite dangerous - a dozen shells and two torpedoes of the type used on U-boats."

"And how did they get here?"

"I can only surmise that they arrived via a damaged U-boat from the Third Realm war. The crew found the barge and transferred the explosives to it thereby rendering it a floating bomb. I believe that once it is ascertained where the barge came from the U-boat will be found nearby."

"The men who perpetrated this evil deed, are they in custody now?"

"They are. After their boat crashed they were taken to hospital, a secure wing for the time being. I have no doubt that the misguided souls believe they are still in the Third Realm fighting a war. I intend to speak to them later if they have recovered sufficiently."

"Captain Hartenstein, you must be very proud to have saved Titanic yet again."

"Merely doing my duty, and it was First Officer Mortimer who spotted the barge. And now, ladies and gentlemen, if you will excuse us, duty calls."

The reporters began to put away their microphones and equipment but one, identifying herself as Sheree Martin of the Morning Herald, called out, "Mr Mortimer, how did you manage to spot the barge in the fog?"

"I was in the conning tower," Mortimer replied.

"So how did you manage to see it in all the fog?"

"It was nearby, there was a break in the fog and we had binoculars."

"‘We'?"

"Captain Hartenstein was also in the conning tower."

"And were you not off duty last night?" she continued.

"The captain decided to check on the boat, which proved timely."

"Very timely," she said. "And is it true that you were getting romantic with Captain Hartenstein in the conning tower when you happened to spot the barge and boat?"

There was silence as all the reporters pointed their microphones at Mortimer.

"A good U-boat officer is always on duty," Mortimer replied.

"Mr Mortimer is quite correct. And, speaking of duty, we must be about ours," Hartenstein added. "Vielen dank und auf wiedersehen."

With those words both men beat a hasty retreat down the gangway to the deck of the U-boat and up to the conning tower.

"I wouldn't worry, sir. The headlines will be all about Titanic," Mannesmann offered.

"Let us hope so," Hartenstein responded as he climbed below where both officers ran into a hungover Rostau.

"Ah, Rostau! Back in the land of the living?" Hartenstein quipped.

"I think Titanic ran me over," the engineer muttered. "What's all the fuss anyway? What were the press doing here?"

"Just taking pictures," Mortimer replied. "We're famous you know."

Later that morning, having ascertained the whereabouts of the injured men, the two U-boat officers made their way to the large hospital complex adjacent to Admiralty headquarters. However, on the way there both could not help but notice some odd looks being directed their way.

"Have you noticed...?" Mortimer queried as they walked down a long corridor.

"Ja, but why?"

They shrugged and went on their way.

The room they were directed to was a large one, light, airy and sunny with a view of the huge harbour. The four men, talking amongst themselves, ceased their conversation when the doctor entered the room and performed the introductions. The patients, who were all young, a lieutenant and three crewmen, endeavoured to stand to attention.

"Nein, nein, please remain as you are," Hartenstein soothed. "I do not expect injured men to stand to attention, so please be comfortable. Your doctor has told me of the nature of your injuries and I am pleased to hear that you are all on the mend."

"Danke, Captain," Lieutenant Bruka replied. "May I ask...? I seem to know your name."

"Forgive me, but I know it too," another said.

"I remember - there was a Captain Hartenstein awarded the Knight's Cross," another one said.

"Ja, of course," the second one agreed.

"Gentlemen, I am flattered that you would know my name but I'm here today to talk to you merely as someone who wishes to help you get acquainted with your new lives. Has it been explained to you yet where you are now?"

"I... I had thought that we were in Bruge," the first one said. "With all the fog I wasn't sure, but the boat was sinking and we were lucky that we managed to beach it."

"Where is the rest of your crew?" Hartenstein inquired gently.

"I don't know, sir. I... I assume that they didn't make it."

"I see. So there are only the four of you."

"Yes, sir."

"And whose idea was it to load the barge with explosives?"

"Mine, sir. I thought that even if the boat, U-228, was useless now we could still sabotage an Allied ship in the harbour."

"So you stole a boat?"

"Uh, yes, sir. No one saw us in all the fog and we saw a big Allied ship, at least 40,000 tons, and thought it would make a good target, so even though we no longer had a U-boat we could still help to win the war for Germany and the Fuhrer."

"Lieutenant, look out the window. Do you see war anywhere?"

"Uh, no, sir, and we are at a loss to understand it. Also, I don't believe we are in Bruge. The harbour is much too big. I have never seen such a harbour."

"What you see, Lt Bruka, is a peaceful and very busy harbour. There is no war here. For you," he gazed around at all four men, "for all of you, the war is over and done with. Your new lives begin now."

"Tell us how your U-boat came to be wrecked," Mortimer began.

"We were attacked twice by a British cruiser. We survived the first attack but we were damaged, and then they attacked us again... and that was very bad. We were taking on water and sinking, but then..." he shook his head, "...then I don't know how but we were on the surface once more and somehow we were alive, well some of us," he amended. "The four of us, we were the last ones to climb out of the flooded forward compartment, but we couldn't find our comrades."

"Can any of you remember how you came to be on the surface?" Mortimer prodded.

All four men looked at each other and shook their heads.

"I thought we were finished for sure," one said.

"I thought so too," another said.

"But somehow we survived," Lt Bruka said. "Somehow the four of us were saved. I... I guess the others didn't make it."

All four men appeared downcast at the thought of the deaths of their comrades, a look Werner Hartenstein and his first officer knew well.

"Captain Hartenstein, you said that there is no war here. How is that?" the young lieutenant inquired.

"For all of you the war is over. That war, of which both I and my first officer were once part of, continues in the Third Realm. You, all four of you, have passed over to the Fourth Realm, where there is no war and never has been."

"But... But how is this possible, unless...?" one of the crewmen asked falteringly.

Temporarily lost for words, all four men looked at each other. Finally, the young officer, his eyes troubled, gazed from Hartenstein to Mortimer.

"You... You don't mean that... that...?"

Hartenstein, his eyes gentle, nodded.

"But... But I thought that... that it was the others that... that must have perished," Lt Bruka responded, his voice barely a murmur.

"You mean that we... died?" one of the crew asked.

"We're dead? But we can't be," another decided.

"We all passed over to this peaceful realm," Mortimer explained, "But do not fear. You will lead good lives here and be free to do as you wish."

"Even now the authorities, who are most wise in these matters, are finding your family and friends who will welcome you and help you to settle here," Hartenstein added.

"You are serious?" the young lieutenant asked.

Mortimer smiled. "Of course."

"But... But I thought when we were caught after the collision that we would be imprisoned; that we would be prisoners of war."

"Nein. You are quite free and there is much to see here," Hartenstein said.

"But first things first," Mortimer continued, "and you need to get well."

"But we tried to..." one of the crewmen said.

"Blow up Titanic. Yes, we know," Mortimer replied.

"Titanic?" all four men queried.

"Nein, this is not possible," Lt Bruka replied. "She's at the bottom of the Atlantic."

"This is the Fourth Realm," Mortimer replied mysteriously.

"And many things are possible," Hartenstein continued. "A great many ships and U-boats arrive here every day, all sunk irretrievably in the Third Realm."

"Like yourselves," Mortimer added.

"So in the Third Realm, in the war," Lt Bruka began, "they are on the bottom of the ocean?"

Mortimer nodded.

"But not here?"

"Not here," Hartenstein replied. "My own vessel, U-156, was sunk with all hands. Right now she is down there in the harbour, stronger and better than ever."

"And our boat?" one of the crew inquired.

"Will most likely get the same treatment and will be better than new."

"Oh, no!" Lt Bruka exclaimed. I... I booby-trapped it."

"In that case, Lieutenant, we may need you to explain how to unbooby-trap it," Hartenstein said.

"I'll telephone harbour security," Mortimer volunteered picking up a nearby telephone.

They waited while he was put through to the right person before handing the telephone over to the young lieutenant.

"They have found your boat."

They listened as Lt Bruka carefully explained firstly how to avoid the booby-trap and then how to disarm it. They waited. Finally, he said, "Ja, ja. Sehr gut," and thanked them before hanging up.

He sat down with a sigh before shaking his head. "That man... he didn't seem to blame me."

"People here are very understanding," Mortimer replied.

"I am glad that no one was injured." He sighed. "Last night, I... did not know it was Titanic. We didn't see her name in all the fog." He glanced at his comrades who all shook their heads. "I would not wish to be the one responsible for it to sink again. I hope her master can forgive me."

There was a chorus of agreement around the room.

"Captain Andrews..." Hartenstein began.

"He was her designer," Mortimer interjected.

"Has a very forgiving nature," Hartenstein concluded.

"And anyway his ship is unsinkable now," Mortimer added.

"As long as she doesn't hit an iceberg," one of the crew quipped.

"It is much harder to sink a ship here in the Fourth Realm and her original design has been modified," Hartenstein replied.

However, Lt Bruka did not seem to be paying much attention and was instead gazing oddly at Mortimer.

"Forgive me, but your German is... odd."

"That's because I'm British."

Four sets of eyes widened.

"Yet you serve a German officer?" Mortimer nodded. "On a German vessel?" Again he nodded.

"We met during the war," Mortimer explained.

"I sank his ship and took him prisoner," Hartenstein said.

"The Laconia," Mortimer added with a smile.

"Of course! That is how I know your name," Lt Bruka said. "You saved many, did you not?"

"Captain Hartenstein is most compassionate and he saved all that he could. I grew to respect him and we became friends."

Lt Bruka shook his head. "Now I truly know that I'm somewhere else for nowhere in the Third Reich could a Kriegsmarine vessel have a British first officer. Such a thing is... unthinkable."

"Here, people of all nations serve on U-boats," Mortimer explained. "We are part of the International Rescue Fleet. Our own responsibility is to escort the liner Titanic and rescue those such as yourselves who have arrived here fresh from the war in the Third Realm."

"Captain Hartenstein," Lt Bruka began, "may I ask... is this heaven?"

Hartenstein smiled. "Compared to war in the Third Realm it will seem very much like it."

Just then the door opened to admit Dr Cora Benson.

"Captain Hartenstein, Mr Mortimer, this is a pleasant surprise!" she greeted. "I hadn't expected to see you here though I have read of your adventures last night. Good work!" she praised.

Both men greeted her and Hartenstein introduced her to the four occupants of the room before farewelling the newcomers and leaving her to her work.

As they left the hospital complex Mortimer stopped to pick up a paper, noting that they all had headlines relating to the previous night; "Sabotage on the Harbour" screamed one; "Bombs on Barge" howled another; "Titanic Near Scuttled!" shouted a third. As he glanced at them he noticed that there was one that was different for it had pictures of himself and his commanding officer below the headline "Snogging Sailors Spot Sabotage, Exclusive by Sheree Martin". His heart sank.

He showed it to Hartenstein, who shook his head.

"I suppose it had to happen sooner or later," Mortimer remarked.

"No wonder we're getting looks," Hartenstein complained.

They retreated to the safety of their apartment before sitting down with cups of coffee to read the morning editions.

"Not much point in denying it," Hartenstein muttered.

"She's got the goods on us all right," Mortimer decided, perusing the article. "And she's substantially correct when she says we met in the Third."

"Ja. I suppose we've faced worse," Hartenstein decided.

"They're very open about this kind of thing here. It won't matter," Mortimer reassured. "You'll see, no one will take any notice."

Just then there was a knock on the door. The two men looked at each, their expressions plainly saying that they were not expecting anyone.

Hartenstein went to answer it only to be blinded by flashbulbs and almost trampled on by a gaggle of journalists and photographers who burst into the apartment with demands such as "Captain Hartenstein, would you tell us about your relationship with Mr Mortimer. Is it true you sank his ship?" and "Mr Mortimer, would you tell me how you came to be involved in a romantic relationship with your captain when he had sunk your ship and your comrades." "Yes, how did you become involved with a German U-boat captain when he was the enemy?" and "Yes, do tell us about that. Were you a spy?"

"Excuse us a moment," Mortimer said, pulling his companion into the bedroom and closing the door.

"Ja, ‘no one will take any notice'" Hartenstein fumed. "Sheisse!"

"It's not my fault!" Mortimer retorted. "Anyway, you know what they're like. If we don't tell them the truth they'll just make it up and get it wrong."

"So we should tell them the truth so they'll get it right?"

Mortimer shrugged. "You know what they say about honesty is the best policy."

"Another one of your British expressions." He shook his head. "Forgive me, meine liebe. I know it's not your fault - and you're right." He sighed. "Very well. We will give them the truth - well the bare bones of it - and they will have to be satisfied with that."

They adjourned once more to the living room where the waiting horde had made themselves at home, some even drinking coffee. Once more the flashbulbs went off, both men forced to shield their eyes.

Some fifteen minutes later the press were shooed out on the pretext of duty calling.

After the last one closed the door behind him Hartenstein turned to Mortimer to embrace him - only to be startled by a flashbulb and a "Perfect! Sheree will love it!" as a photographer, who had apparently hidden behind one of the couches, ran for the door and disappeared.

An outraged Hartenstein locked the door behind him.

"It doesn't matter. Now they know about us there's nothing more they can say," Mortimer soothed, pouring drinks. "You'll see, it will be over and done with and by tomorrow they'll have forgotten about us."

"Now I wonder why I don't trust your words," Hartenstein muttered as they sat down together.

Mortimer clinked glasses with his companion's. "To obscurity. Long may it reign."

Hartenstein could not help but laugh as they drank.

The afternoon editions had their pictures and the story of their relationship. However, the Morning Herald had the picture of them embracing.

"At least they got my good side," Mortimer quipped. His companion merely looked pained. "Oh, come on, cheer up. It's not the end of the world. A lot of people already knew anyway. Have we not danced together on Titanic?"

"Ja, I suppose so."

Mortimer came to rest his hands on his shoulders. "Anyway you look quite handsome - for a German!"

Affronted, Hartenstein folded the newspaper and quickly swatted his retreating lover on his rounded, muscular arse managing to grab him as he ran into the bedroom and throw him down onto the bed.

"Now I will show you a handsome German!" he threatened.

Mortimer rolled them both over so that he was on top.

"But a handsome Brit is better!"

* * *