Pairing: Jack/Ramius
Fandom: Red October
Rating: R (slash)
Word Count: 8,680
Summary: Six months after the events in Red October, Jack takes vacation (on his boss’s orders) and goes fishing. He runs into Capt. Ramius, who is working, natch, at the shop where Jack gets his supplies. The two decide to go fishing together, as they had once discussed, and find the opportunity to talk about what they did with that sub, and what it meant. In addition, they find the opportunity to discover a closeness that they had not heretofore anticipated.
Author’s Notes: This story was first published in the Playfellows zine series, which was a monthly collection of one-off stories for fandoms with isolated fanfic put out by Merry Men Press. I’m sorry I can’t state which edition, because I don’t know. When I do, I’ll include the info.

In an earlier edition of Playfellows, I had read a story about Ramius and Jack where the former rapes the latter. While I don’t have a problem with non-con stories, per se, I did have a problem with the characterization of Ramius here. Ramius is a commander of men, he was in charge of determining who went on what sub, trained all the skippers, and had a whole nuclear submarine for his very own. He even facilitated the bringing of the USSR to its knees. With all that power, why on earth would he feel the need to express dominance through sex? He wouldn’t, I feel, and hence this story.

I went and watched Red October again after reading the non-con story, this time with an eye towards the on-screen relationship between Jack and Ramius. I smiled when they were together, even though they don’t share very much screen time, because there is a chemistry there. I went and read the book that the movie is based on. I’ll admit, I didn’t finish it, because it contained a whole lot of navy stuff and not enough of what I was looking for. I did come away with a healthy respect for the screenwriter, for turning a chock-a-block, clunky, technical novel into a fastpaced and interesting screenplay. So I focused on the movie as the basis for my fanfic. (Later, after both the book and the movie, the USSR was dissolved, and I like to think that Jack and Ramius had a hand in things.)

Jack and Ramius both talk about fishing in the movie, more than once, so I wanted the story to be based on that. It was loads of fun to go to fishing shops for research, and for a while I was quite obsessed with fly-fishing. I made up the name of the river they fish on, which was my way, ha ha, of putting some innuendo into my story. One thing that I think really works in this story is the fact that I wasn’t emotionally invested in the characters. Since it was a one-off for me, I didn’t sit there and dwell over each and every detail and emotion, so I think the characacters come across more crisply than they do in my other fanfic. But I’ll let you be the judge.

Jack Ryan’s grandfather had promised to take his grandson fly fishing one day, but death had taken Jack Senior before he was able to keep that promise. And when Col. Digby ordered Dr. Ryan to take one solid week of R&R, Jack decided to take himself right up to the very spot past where he and submarine commander Marko Ramius had driven a nuclear sub not six months ago.

Of course, he had no fly-fishing equipment. That, all of it, reel, flys, tackle box, wading boots, everything had to be special ordered. He took the rental car up from DC, through Yonkers, his mind on autopilot, to the tiny shop off of Chartesbank Park in Boston. His wife, thankfully, had elected not to come with him. Their relationship, he realized, as he pulled into the parking lot, had not been the same since his encounter with Ramius and the Red October. She would prefer it if he remained dependant upon her.

The shop bell rang as he went in, and conscious of the polished wooden floor under his feet, decided he could grow to like coming to a place like this. He enquired for his equipment at the front counter.

“Yes, Dr. Ryan, we’re just putting the finishing touches on that now.”

The clerk went into the back room, and as he opened it, the swinging door revealed Marko Ramius, sitting at a bench in a black turtleneck and grey canvas apron, looking for all the world like a Russian sailor repairing his nets. Except the “net” he was working on was Jack’s rod, the special wood he had requested arching beautifully beneath Ramius’ square-nailed hands.

The Russian must have heard Ryan’s indrawn breath of surprise for he looked up. His eyes were the color of what Jack had always imagined the waves of Polyarnyy Inlet looked like on a winter’s day. Then the door swung closed and Ramius was hidden from view. Jack’s hand came to his forehead to rub away the ache there.

He did not have the energy to deal with this just now. He’d done his duty to God and country and understanding the whys and hows would not help him sleep at night. He’d always felt like he’d abandoned Ramius and his men to the sometimes indelicate hands of the Immigration Bureau, the CIA, and the FBI’s witness protection program. But he’d thought Ramius had understood why he’d walked away from the deep Maine bay, from the men swarming over their new toy, and the seven Russians waiting for further instructions from their leader, who, Jack knew, was only waiting until Jack Ryan was out of sight.

Brigghoff at the agency had told him so.

“He stood there, I swear Jack, didn’t move till that car had taken you away. Like you were his last link with home.”

Now Jack did not know how this could be so, but apparently it was enough to give the agency the impression that Ramius would always pine for the Motherland. Only Jack seemed to know, or even comprehend that there might be some subterraneancavern of deep anger there against what had happened to his mother, his wife, while the Motherland plowed herself a spot in the history books. At any rate, Jack had gotten from the reports, casually forwarded to him, that the agency had taken a longer than usual time nationalizing Ramius, under the guise that he might still have ties to his old life. Jack suspected that they merely wanted to pick his brains more thoroughly.

The clerk finally brought his gear, and though Jack was not normally a running sort of man, he bundled everything together and hurried out to the car. The guilt about abandoning Ramius wasn’t near as bad as the anxiety he still experienced whenever he thought about how close the world had come to going over the edge. Those feelings, he figured, would disappear with time. That’s what fishing trips were for. But the nameless other feeling, that he could not describe or put a name to or isolate in anyway, made him hurry to load the stuff into his car and slip into the driver’s seat. If only he could get his hands around it, if only it would go away and leave him alone.

There was a tap on his windshield, and Ryan came to with a start. He hadn’t even started the car. It was Ramius, crouched down on his heels, eyes level with Jack’s. He handed Jack his fishing pole, which Jack carefully put on the seat beside him.

“Going fishing, I see,” said that thick, deep voice he remembered so well with it Lithuanian vowels.

“Da,” Jack said, imagining he was smiling.

“You are not looking much better than last I saw you,” said Ramius.

Jack knew that those eyes missed little, and he was loath to show any weakness to this man. He stared at his hands in his lap, seeing his feet by the pedals, the gallon jug of water in the foot area of the passenger seat. He was all ready to go. Everything was packed; the trip had time parameters and within that he could play it as loose as he liked.

He looked up. Ramius had not stirred, though the tips of his fingers moved slowly along the rubber window seal.

“Would you like to come with me?” he asked before he realized that he was desperately hoping he wouldn’t be left along with his thoughts.

Something stirred in Ramius’ face, and Jack hoped that his responding pity didn’t show, as the Russian said, “Let me check.”

This was not good. Jack could only imagine how much it rankled to have to ask for permission to do something. Especially when one had been the head of the entire Soviet Submarine fleet.

He should not have asked.

Trying not to put his head in his hands, as he would never be able to lift it again if he did, he waited ten minutes before Ramius came out with camping gear. He felt, though, rather like Ramius had looked that last time Jack had seen him, before he’d been taken away to the debriefing.

Ramius put his gear in the back, picked up Jack’s pole, and put it and his own carefully on top of the gear in the back seat. He got in, arranged his feet around the jug and Jack started the car. Their eyes met and Jack tried to smile, but couldn’t.

“Are we going to your grandfather’s place?”


It was a silent drive.


The cabin Jack remembered staying in as a child had really been just a lean-to made of flat boards and had since fallen beneath the years and weather. At least the wood was well seasoned and dry, and the flattened, clear ground made a good space for them to set up a canopy to keep off the rain.

“So how did you end up at a fly fishing shop, Ramius?” he asked as they both stared into the flames of the small fire they had treated themselves to.

“They asked me what I wanted to do in America,” Ramius replied, “and I told them I wanted to open my own fishing store one day. They placed me with Mr. Lehman, himself a transplanted native from the Ukraine, and I am now learning the business from the ground up.”

The Russian’s subdued pride was enough to make Jack envious. He had only ever wanted to write historical biographies of great men, and the call of the military had allowed him to study and excel at what he loved most. Sometimes duty called him out once too often, but mostly he was granted the joy of writing and researching. The small glow in Ramius’ voice, the twist of his lips in a smile made Jack realize that the Russian had made some hard choices that had nothing to do with the submarine he’d handed over. Or everything to do with it, depending on how one looked at it.

“You ever fly fish before?”

Ramius sat with his arms around his knees, idly poking at the flames with a thin stick. “I have been taking some classes at the shop,” he said, and Jack thought he sounded somewhat tired.

“I’m surprised,” said Jack, “I mean, how were you able to get away?”

“My…boss figures that the more I know about fly fishing first hand, the better I can instruct my customers.”  He looked up, face grave, eyes alight with fire flames. “Besides which I told him you were from the CIA and that we were going to discuss my reasons for being in the United States.”

“You lied?”

“No,” said Ramius slowly, lowering his head, “I figured we’d talk about it sooner or later. I figured you would want to know–”

Jack Ryan stood up, accidentally scattering some dirt over the fire and causing it to sputter. “There isn’t anything more I wish to know, Ramius.”  He tried to keep his voice from sounding angry and tight but he knew he failed. “You think the Russians were the only ones who paid the price, or that you and you alone have the burden of your decision. Well, frankly,” his tone dropped to the low register it took when he was addressing dignitaries and officers of the president, “frankly, I didn’t invite you along to dredge up any of that, I only…”

“You only asked me because we’d planned to go fishing one day. Or at least we spoke of it.” 

Jack nodded mutely. There was a small silence as the wind whispered past his ears, smelling of pine and the flat salt of the nearby inlet.

“You look,” said Ramius softly, almost to himself, “as if you hadn’t slept since I saw you last.”

Six months ago, thought Jack. And all I could do was ask myself if I had done the right thing in walking away.

“Why don’t you get some sleep?”

Jack lifted his head. “What about you?”  It was probably near midnight.

Ramius looked up. “I shall watch the fire and the stars and think about cold, Russian nights that last six months.”

Now Jack was able to smile. “You make a lousy expatriate, Ramius, that’s your problem.”

Ramius’ return smile was lit by the fire and the glow from his eyes. “No,” he said, “I make a very good expatriate. That’s the problem. I like to pretend to think fondly of Mother Russia so I will feel less guilty about not missing her.”

“But you miss Lithuania, don’t you?”

There was a time for keen perception and fast, sharp comments. But by the look in the Russian’s eye, Jack could tell this was not one of those times.

“Now that, my boy, is another story.”


Dawn along the Pleasure River was laced with light fog and a pre-sunrise glow. It wasn’t till Jack and Ramius were fully ensconced in the river that the promised warmth began to sift across the rushing water.

“It’s going to be a hot one,” said Jack conversationally.

“It’s going to rain,” said Ramius.

Jack shrugged, loosened his shoulders and cast out again.

The rest of the morning was spent in relative silence, and thought Jack found it relaxing, could not help but wonder at Ramius’ continued willingness to be with him. Besides which, he wasn’t catching any fish.

The afternoon went the same, except that he had five excellent trout, hooked through the gills, and staying fresh in the water. But by that time Jack’s back was aching so hard that he never wanted to go fishing again.

As he headed towards shore, it was at the last second that the rock beneath Jack’s foot teetered sharply to one side and he found himself splashing sideways into the rushing current. It pulled at him with thick hands, jarring his back, slamming his leg with agonizing accuracy over and over in the same spot. And the irony of it was, he’d spent untold hours far beneath the surface of the ocean and had come to the surface unscathed, only to end up swallowing lungfulls of a fast raging river only three feet deep. He didn’t know whether to let go of his equipment or hold it in a death grip and be buried that way. The fish he had almost certainly landed was long gone.

Something dug into his back, half paralyzing him and he would have howled if he hadn’t inhaled a mouthful of water first. Ramius was probably miles up the bank by now and too far away to notice Jack rolling helplessly beneath the foam. At that final second he felt a strong pair of arms encircle his chest. He knew it was Ramius, knew it before he was pulled from the water, limp, to be held against that broad flannel chest, his feet weaving in the river between the solidly planted legs. Dry whiskers against his damp neck, a low accented voice in his ear.

“Can you hear me, Jack?  Hang on.”

But Jack couldn’t move, let alone hold on to anything. He could only struggle for breath as his lungs heaved to gasp air past the water contained in them. He had only one glimpse of Ramius’ face and then he blacked out.

When he came to, Ramius was holding his head, and Jack was heaving up what he hoped were the last remains of river water.

“I’ve got you,” said Ramius, his voice dim above the howling in Jack’s head.

A hand brushed along his back, to soothe, Jack knew, but the second it hit his spine, however gently, he was seized with a spasm of pain. One he knew well. When he’d been in traction, he’d learned how to think of it as a sense of heat, to sink into it, to ride it out like a fiery wind. He sank, fall onto his back, and tipping his head upwards. He glimpsed Ramius’ concerned eyes and the hand reaching for his as Jack managed to find a gulp of air.

“Back,” he said with barely enough breath.

Instantly, Ramius was bending over him, gently easing his shoulders to the ground. His face inches from Jack’s own, the Russian spoke.

“Do not move.”  His voice was gentle. “Did this happen in the river or was it from before?”

Jack’s whole body felt like it was folding in on itself. There was a hand cupped at the back of his neck, its presence steady and warm.

“Old…old football injury,” Jack wheezed.

Though Ramius probably didn’t recognize the joke, he knew a put-off when he heard one. “This is no time for jokes,” said Ramius, unsmiling.

Jack felt the hands all over his body, his face, checking for broken bones, his pulse, everywhere.

“Can you be feeling this?”

Jack felt a twinge at the back of his calf and moved his leg away. “Ouch,” he whispered.

Again, Ramius was at his side. “Good, you did not paralyze yourself on the rocks. Remain here while I go get a blanket.”

Jack didn’t understand why Ramius would need that, but he did know that he didn’t want to be left alone. Of its own volition, his hand reached out to grab at the Russian. But his voice could not get out the words: don’t go, don’t leave me…

Ramius paused as if to consider the hand grasping at him. Those cold eyes looked at him severely for a second and the body relaxed beneath his hand. Ramius stayed where he was.

After a time, calmer, he realized that Ramius was sitting close indeed, and that Jack’s own head was resting against a thigh. One of the Russian’s hands rested gently atop his head, the other loosely laid across his chest. He could hear the sweep of riverwater in one great never-ending rush and above that, the gentle, deep humming of a Lithuanian folk song.

“Better now?” Ramius asked.

Jack nodded.

“Let me help you to stand, then we’ll get you to camp and some dryer clothes.”

“Boots,” said Jack, suddenly realizing they were gone.

“I took the liberty of removing them,” came the reply, “as the current was using them to pull you downstream”


“I think not. See?  They ended up in that pool, 10 yards down.”

Jack didn’t have the energy to look but he believed Ramius. He placed his hand on the arm across his chest and wondered what it would have been like to have been under this man’s command.

Ramius stood and pulled him to his feet. He sagged for a moment, grinding his teeth against the white heat shooting through his back.


“I will be…just a minute…”

It was hard not to collapse with Ramius’ arms around him and let the bigger man carry him back to their camp. There was something dangerously solid and comfortable about that chest pressed against his own, and the warm curve of neck where he realized he was laying his head.

Ramius bent down and Jack’s hand slipped off his shoulder. Jack realized the other man meant to carry him. With one low grunt, Ramius straightened and Jack was supported in the curve of those two arms.

“Ramius, hey, I can walk.”

“I hate to disagree with you, my buckaroo, but you are whiter than the snows at Cape Irmansk.”

Jack sagged, feeling white.

When Ramius finally deposited Jack at the campsite, he was breathing hard, but not as hard as Jack thought he should have been. Or as hard as Jack himself would have been, had he been carrying someone his size.

“Dry clothes?” asked Ramius.

“Car, I think, I…”

Ramius walked toward the car and Jack saw that he was wet from the waist down, his feet bare and coated with mud. On the ground lay five scattered fish, and very nice fishing pole with its reel dangerously close to the fire.

“Get some for yourself,” he said, collapsing close to its warmth.

The Russian came back, placed a bundle next to Jack and proceeded to strip. It was his long years on a submarine, Jack supposed, that allowed Ramius to disrobe at the drop of a hat. Jack himself could only do so in front of those he knew very well, or complete strangers. Ramius was in that area in between, the nebulous land of acquaintance in front of whom one feels uncomfortable undressing.

“What’s the matter,” asked Ramius, noting that Jack was not moving.

“I can’t lift my arms,” replied Jack. He really couldn’t.

“Muscle strain,” judged Ramius. “I’ll help you. Can’t have you catching pneumonia on top of everything else.”

Ramius came over, dry pants, shirt unbuttoned, not tucked in. He crouched down next to Jack, bare toes in the dust.

“Americans are soft,” he said smiling with his teeth.

“It hurts, damnit,” snarled Jack. “Anyway, I can do it myself.”

The Russian shrugged, standing. “As you wish.”

For the next half hour, Jack struggled out of his wet clothes and into dry ones. Meanwhile, Ramius rescued Jack’s gear and gutted the fish. By the time Jack was finished, the white fillets were cooking briskly on a grill over the open flame.

“Two minutes,” said Ramius, removing the fish and piling them on a plate. He re-loaded the grill and placed it again over the fire.

“Is that coffee?” asked Jack.

Ramius nodded.

Jack poured himself some. “I should have known an old sailor like you would have had coffee going. And if that fish isn’t any good, don’t forget I have weenies in the cooler.” 

“We don’t need any ‘weenies’, American. Here.”

Jack looked up. Ramius was offering a piece of white fish, held in his fingertips. He caught the Russian’s eye, realized his own hands were full, and opened his mouth. The Russian’s touch was gentle, as if he were feeding a bird or timid wild thing. His eyes never left Jack’s and something caught at Jack as he thought of the power and intensity behind all of that gentleness. His tongue almost brushed against a fingertip; he slowly closed his mouth around the food and nodded. Ramius cocked his brow at him and Jack swallowed the fish without tasting it.


Jack wondered wildly what Ramius was referring to, then realized he could only mean the fish. He swallowed again. “It’s good. How did you make it taste like that?”

“Salt and pepper, and some of that margarine you Americans like to think of as butter.”

They proceeded to devour the fish as fast as Ramius could grill it. Jack had eaten fresh fish before, but that had been pan-fried. This had been grilled in the open air, light, and tasting wild.

“This is excellent,” he said over a mouthful.

“We’ll save the ‘weenies’ for another time, yes?”


Sever hours after falling into a shallow sleep, Jack awoke to severe back cramps. One seized him as he sat up in his sleeping bag, and he swore in the moonlight.


Surely he remembered there being back pills in the first aid kit?  Surely he would be able to get to them without waking Ramius on the other side of the campfire?

No luck.

“What are you doing?”

Jack tried not to wince as he shrugged. “Just some, ah, something for my back.”

The Russian moved to stand beside him in the bright darkness. “Go and lie down, I’ll get it.”


“Besides, buckaroo, you’ll probably trip over some unseen object in the near dark.”

Some inborn reflex, some realization that Ramius was a man used to being obeyed, made him stay where he was.

Presently, the other returned with some pills and a canteen of water. He handed them to Jack, who took them in an echoing silence.

“Lie down on your stomach,” said Ramius, “they’ll be more effective that way.” 

Again, Jack did as he was told, stretching out, his bare chest shivering from the night air, settling into the cavern of his down sleeping bag.

Broad, warm hands touched his back.

“What are you doing?”  He almost turned around.

“This will help, also.”

Jack was about to protest, feeling not only Ramius’ hands upon him but also a pair of bent thighs as he knelt at Jack’s side. This was not how fishing trips were supposed to go!  Men were supposed to get together to drink, tell rude stories, and go unwashed and unshaven for as long as possible. They generally laughed at you if a spark from the fire hit you in the face or howled and slapped each other on the back if a fishhook imbedded itself in your leg. They weren’t supposed to know that you might need help walking or that you really didn’t have the energy to make it all the way to the first aid kit. And they were supposed to be especially dense about how good a warm hand might feel to somebody besides themselves.

He couldn’t imagine how Ramius was able to do or to know these things, or whether in fact he did know them. The ministrations he was applying without comment or hesitation seemed to emerge on an almost instinctual level, the aid one gave to a comrade at arms.

Comrade…now there was a good Russian term.

When Ramius slid down to lay alongside Jack, Jack imagined that he was getting tired of propping himself on one arm and that after a bit he would return to his own bag. It was so late and the pills made him drowsy. The soft hand seemed to go on and on and he imagined that a soft kiss was applied to the side of his temple.

He fell asleep and in the morning, Ramius was still there, snug at his side, one arm under his head, the other on the curve of Jack’s back. As if he’d fallen asleep mid rub. 


During the day, Jack went on as if nothing had happened. Thoughts of the imagined kiss made him realize that it had been real, and other images rose of Ramius bending over him, his mouth on Jack’s, pushing air into his lungs.

They didn’t catch any fish that day and had to resort to Jack’s cache of weenies and beans. Ramius made a face but allowed after a few bites that the combination wasn’t half bad.

“Wait till you taste these,” said Jack, bringing out a bag of marshmallows.

As they ate, he tried not to stare at Ramius, realizing he did want to know the hows and why’s he had dismissed before.

“Alright, ex-submarine commander Captain First Rank Marko Ramius, tell me why.”

The too casual turn of his head told Jack that Ramius had been, indeed, waiting for this question.

“Why what?”

“Why did you hand over that sub?”

Ramius didn’t look at him as he said, “You know why.”

Jack shook his head, smiling with black humor. “I do know why, that’s what’s bothering me. I know it was the anniversary of your wife’s death and that it was a sort of revenge against the state for all the injustices you saw around you. I even know how much you left behind, the sacrifices of career and command, all for a country that might very well turn around and build the same thing for the very same reasons.”

The only reply was a mild look of surprise from the Russian.

“It’s like I was in your head.”

There was still no answer.

“How is it possible?”  Jack’s voice was almost so low as to be inaudible.

“I do not know,” said Ramius, equally low. “But I felt someone was watching me when we were rushing through the canyons…” he trailed off and Jack nodded, having read the reports on exactly how fast that sub had been going.

“I guess that you have more sides to you than I had first thought.”

“Did you think Russians were one dimensional?”

“I didn’t say that.”

“You thought it, and they are, so you are correct. Except that I’m not a Russian.”

“You’re Lithuanian,” Jack said aloud, thought it was something they both knew.

He watched as Ramius scooped up the remains of his beans.

“Just what is it about my multi-faceted personality that bothers you, buckaroo?”

Jack had gotten himself stuck, but good. “You,” he hesitated, “yesterday you…”

Ramius looked up, freezing Jack’s mouth open. The Russian put the tin plate on the ground and wiped his mouth with a napkin.

“Go on,” he said, “yesterday I rescued you, what of it?”

There was almost too much casualness in Ramius’ tone. Jack waved his arms vaguely. “You did what anyone would have, but after…afterwards…”  His mind stopped as a picture presented itself:  Jack coughing up water, his eyes fluttering open, and Ramius sagging with relief, resting his cheek against Jack’s, his lips brushing against the side of his face. “You were just there, attentive, you know, like you cared.” 

He was shaking fairly badly by this time, but somehow it was too important to have Ramius understand him. “And for one moment, I didn’t feel expendable.”

“Expendable?” demanded Ramius, sitting up. “What exactly do you mean?”

Jack clasped his hands together but it didn’t help.

The only thing he could do was clench his body into one big fist and finish.

“Greer, Foster, the president’s aide, hell, even the president himself, considered me to be expendable. It was my idea that you were defecting, my plan, my risk. And if we’d been hit and gone down, no-one would have ever really known what had happened; it was like I was a pawn in some huge chess game.”

“In Russia,” said Ramius gently, almost too gently, “no pawn is expendable. Each man is valued for his own sake.”

Jack put his head in his hands. The conversation had gotten too serious too fast. He vaguely heard the other moving up towards him and he stood and walked towards the trees. Away from the campfire. Away from Ramius.

“Jack,” he heard Ramius say, “Jack it is alright for tears.”

“This is America, dammit, the free, the brave, the…”

“The emotionless?”

Jack whirled around and Ramius was right there, having approached him, soundless. He wiped his face on the sleeve of his upper arm and wished that Ramius wasn’t so close. But he couldn’t run, there was no-where to go. Just like on a submarine.

“I was scared to death, Ramius,” he hissed, “not at all the hero I was supposed to be. Terrified at any second the shell of that sub would implode on us. And you made me drive the damn thing!”

Ramius shocked him with a laugh. “I thought I saw your hands shaking.”  Then he went on at Jack’s scowl. “I would have been no less scared in your place.”

Jack shrugged at the truth in that, his anger draining like a low tide.

A hand came up, Ramius’ hand, and pushed back the hair from his forehead. It was such a strange gentleness that Jack’s whole body jerked back.

“I would have thought,” said Ramius, slowly, “that you were the least expendable of us all.”

There was a silent moment as he stared at the Russian.

“You were the one with the vision.”

Jack’s head came forward and Ramius’ met it with a small bump, their foreheads meeting. His hand cupped the back of Jack’s neck as the tears started to fall. “You saw into Tupolev’s head, into your Cl. Greer’s, into mine. It was a feat of timing and perseverance and you did it without stopping to blink or breathe. Without you the entire thing would have ended as a litter of metal across the ocean’s bottom.”

Jack could only cry harder. “But, but I was scared,” he said in a breath.

A pair of arms enfolded him, ensconcing him with breath and heartbeat and the warmth of the Russian’s broad chest. Flannel moved beneath his cheek, whiskers brushed his forehead. “You were very brave.”

He did not allow himself to collapse, could not dissolve as he wanted to. Instead his arms came up to clasp around that waist, to pull the solid form closer to his own. With his head tucked in the curve of Ramius’ neck and his feet between the other’s, his tears and shaking subsided. A hand came up to stroke his head.

“You would have made a very good Sovietski.”

Jack smiled into Ramius’ collar.

With a kiss to his forehead, Ramius pulled back, but somehow Jack couldn’t bear to let go. There was something too solid, too real about being in Ramius’ embrace. About circling that broad waist with his own arms and feeling the continuing rhythm of their hearts beating out of sync. Just one more minute, he promised himself, one more minute. Then he would push back out to sea.


The trip ended peacefully several days later, with Jack avoiding thinking as much as possible. They ended up catching and eating so many fish, Jack thought he was going to grow fins and scales.

On Friday morning, he dripped Ramius off in Boston.

“Later, Ramius,” he said as the other man walked away.

Ramius paused over the Americanism. “…later, buckaroo.”


That weekend, Jack slept deeply for the first time in six months.


Jack awoke with a snort at the sound of heavy rain coming in through the open window. Humidity laced his bare chest as he sat up on the couch, staring at the raised sash and the rain splattering on the wooden floorboards. He pushed hair out of his eyes with one hand and idly placed the mostly unread magazine on the floor.

And knew, sitting up, his elbows on his knees, that if he didn’t think of a good reason not to, real fast, he’d be hopping in his car and driving up to Boston.

Divorce papers from his wife lay scattered across the floor. He was going to sign them.  Going to, unless, as before, he could think of a good reason not to. The same could be said for his journey on the Red October. At each stage, from Greer’s office to the shipyard to aircraft, at each turning point he had asked himself yes or no. And, desperately hoping for a no, knew that, all along, there was no one more available than himself to go. No better reason.

But would Ramius want or appreciate him showing up on his CIA sub-surveillance posted apartment in the early hours of a wet morning?

One way to find out.

It was a mindless drive up to Chartesbank Park and the apartment over the fishing store. But when he stood on the slick wooden steps to the apartment, he realized it was two in the morning. What was he going to tell Ramius he needed, how was he going to explain his presence?

I need not to be alone.

But didn’t he have friends in Washington? Didn’t he have someone he could share some beer and shoot the breeze with until they were both drunk enough to discuss the truth?

Yes, yes, there were any number of those, but no one to touch his head, gently, with understanding, or look at him like Ramius could with eyes serene and calm. Or kiss him while he slept.

Enough of this.

He turned and started back down the steps.


Ramius’ door was open, golden light cutting thorough the rain. A figure stood in the dry doorway.

“You’re wet,” said the figure.

“It’s raining,” replied Jack, licking the rain from his lips.

Ramius stepped aside, his features now visible and motioned for Jack to enter. He did so, dripping on the doormat, staring at the specifically arranged, tiny apartment. Typical of overshop residences, it had merely a bedroom and an L-shaped living room/kitchen. Ramius brought him a pile of dry clothes and pointed him towards the bathroom. When he came out, sufficiently dry and wearing Ramius’ large sweatpants and t-shirt and robe, there was the smell of coffee cooking and Ramius was at the counter, his back to Jack, making something. Jack sat at the table, curling his bare toes around the rungs of the chair.

The Russian turned around, bearing a plate of roast beef sandwiches, which he placed on the table. Jack helped himself to half of one and looked up to see Ramius staring at him.

He paused before taking a bite. “How did you know I was out there?”

It was entirely silent as he waited for his answer.

“I do not know,” said Ramius, sitting. He curved his hands around his cup. Jack looked at those hands for a moment and then at his sandwich. Ramius went on.

“I woke up, opened the door and there you were.”

Jack gulped down a swallow of hot coffee.

“I’ll bet you’re wondering why I’m here,” he said around a mouthful of sandwich.

Ramius continued to gaze idly at the table. Then his eyes flicked up and caught Jack’s. The bushy brows lifted crookedly and the smile lines deepened there.

“When you are ready, buckaroo,” he said, “you will tell me.”

Jack tore his own gaze away and feigned interest in a crumb on the table. Licking his finger, he tapped it against the crumb and put the finger in his mouth. Abruptly he realized what he was doing and jerked his hand away.

“I think I’m not sure what I’m doing here,” he replied, his voice low and flat.

“Well,” said Ramius, getting up, “when you’re ready, we’ll talk.”  He went over to the counter and began putting things away. The t-shirt clad back was broad, shoulders lifting as he reached to place something on a high shelf.

“What?” asked Jack, realizing that he was being spoken to.

“I said, will you stay?  You’re welcome to, you can sleep on the couch.”

Jack got up shaking, brushing the chair away. “I better go,” he said.

Ramius turned around, frowning and dropped a cone of coffee grounds on the floor. Helpless, Jack watched as Ramius swore and bent down to scoop them up. He didn’t want to sleep on the couch, he realized. He wanted to sleep on the bed with Ramius. In his arms.

Jack shucked off the robe, instantly colder as he laid it across the back of the chair. He walked toward the bathroom where his shoes were propped up over the heating grate. He’d wear Ramius’ clothes home, he thought, and mail them back.

Shit, shit, shit.

The laces were fused together, swollen with water and mud. He grabbed them in one hand, flung his still wet clothes over one arm and headed toward the door.

Ramius pivoted on his heels as he walked past, hands busy with the sponge.

“Surely you are not going back into the rain, are you, American?”

Jack struggled with the lock with one hand, one shoe falling on his bare foot, the wet shirttails circling his wrist and draping to the floor.  “Sorry to have bothered you,” he said, not looking up, “but I must go.”

He looked up. Ramius had risen and was walking towards him, one slow step after another.

“You’re shaking, buckaroo.”

“I know.”

There was no denying it, his left leg was about to buckle beneath him. If he could only get to his car before it completely gave way.

“This isn’t…” he began, but how was he to go on?

“I think you need something a little stronger than coffee,” said Ramius.

Please, not vodka.

But it was peppermint schnapps that Ramius collected, along with two shot glasses, and carried to the small coffee table in front of the couch.

Jack’s feet were numb to the floor as he dropped his things and made his way across the room. Ramius popped back a glass, then poured one for Jack and himself another. Jack sat at the far end of the short couch. His drink sat untouched on the table.

Ramius looked at him, looked at the drink, then leaned forward, elbows on his knees. It was now or never.

“My wife wants a divorce,” Jack said.

The other man took a small sip from his glass and waited.

“I want it too, I guess; it was a long time coming.”

“And the problem?”

Such a simple question.

“I’m all alone,” said Jack, hardly believing he was saying it. “I’ve always been alone, but at least with her I had the semblance that I wasn’t.”

With a sigh he didn’t know he was holding, he leaned forward and downed the schnapps. “Now the mask is gone and I can’t hide anymore.”

That was it, that was everything.

Ramius suddenly got up and walked to the window, to stare out at the rain, Jack thought. He stood there, though, with his head down, hands on his hips. Jack wondered what was the matter.

“Why did you come up here?”

There was a tough clarity in Ramius’ voice and Jack knew that he wasn’t asking why Jack was bothering him. Rather, he wanted to know what Jack wanted from him.

I can’t tell you.

Jack leaned back, left leg shaking again, and rested his glass against the other thigh. The other man turned around and came toward him, bare feet soundless on the carpet. He took Jack’s glass and Jack thought he meant to fill it. Instead, he placed it on the table and knelt between Jack’s knees. One broad hand rested on his shaking leg, and Ramius looked from it to Jack’s face.


Jack swallowed. “I want to have my feet on solid ground.”

“You’re not at sea.”

“Yes.”  Jack nodded, wiping at his face at what he hoped was errant rainwater from his hair. “Yes, I am.”

He couldn’t look at Ramius and the sudden blur from focus startled him into realizing just how far he was gone.

There was a movement and the warmth of a body pressing against him, arms encircling his rib cage. Pressure between his thighs and hips as Ramius pressed forward and the sensation of dry land reached. The other man’s full weight sank him further into the cushions and he wrapped his arms around that waist.

“Solid,” he heard himself say. “You are solid.”

Desperation rose like acid in his throat as Ramius pulled back. He dug his fingers into the Russian’s shoulders just as Ramius slipped his hands up to cup them around Jack’s face.

A fragment of Jack’s brain demanded that he stop Ramius before he did what he was about to do. Stop him before they were both drawn into something he’d only vaguely thought he wanted but now wasn’t quite sure where it had come from in the first place.

There was a fragrance to Ramius as he pressed his lips against Jack’s, their schnapps-moistened texture somehow stirring him. And it was the scent of force, the warmth of maleness he found himself responding to, tipping his head to meet, opening his mouth to taste.

Ramius paused, drawing back mere inches, his breath soft across Jack’s cheek.

“You want this, buckaroo?”

Weather-roughened skin, soft curve of lips, a shine to storm-blue eyes.

It was so hard to answer, to say I want or I need and leave himself open. But Ramius was against him, his full form, hands gently pressing against his shoulders.

Jack lifted his hand towards Ramius’ face and it fell past the curve of his beard to the tendons on his neck. A broad neck, strongly muscled, forcing its way past his shirt collar. His palm spread and his fingers uncurled to cup the back of Ramius’ head. And, ducking his chin, lightly placed his lips on the Russian’s.

Ramius stood up and guided him towards the bedroom…


It was only when he opened his eyes, did Jack begin to panic. While his eyes were closed, it was all one sensation in many directions. But there before him, in the slanted dark, was Ramius. His narrowed eyes were sparks, and the t-shirt that Jack had half managed to pull out of his jeans, white against sea-darkened skin. It was something dangerous that shifted Ramius towards him, something too commanding in those work-broadened hands that pushed at the waistband of the sweatpants, already too big.

Next time Jack, say no.

Jack rolled away, pushing against Ramius’ legs with his feet. Only the motion, instead of freeing him, trapped him further. The sweatpants came down further over his hips, and he could feel the cool metal of the buttons on Ramius’ jeans, the scratchy denim against pale, seldom exposed flesh. One heavy arm slipped beneath his ribs and clasped itself across his chest.

He reached his free arm up to push it away, but found it linking itself with the cords of the Russian’s arm. Through his backbone he could feel the other man’s heartbeat, the heat of desire pushing through his shoulders and searing the back of his neck with its hot breath. And Ramius’ other hand, reaching down between his legs to grasp at the center of his own heat, stroking the soft fur beneath his scrotum and pulling gently all the flesh up with one hand.

Jack’s head went back with a jerk, his mouth open, suddenly his cheek against Ramius’ jaw. Whiskers in his ear, man-scent in his nostrils, and another only too-familiar hardness pressing against the back of his flanks.

Utterly trapped, he pushed at the arm across his chest with his only free hand, the other somehow entangled in blanket and sheet. Somehow he couldn’t bear to reach down, down and wrestle Ramius’ other hand away.

There was nowhere to go, forward toward the hand that stroked and pulled, or backwards towards the hips, cased in hard jeans, moving, somehow, in unison, with his own.

He was choking on his own breath, shaking as the hand, somehow disembodied from anyone at all, moved faster, and harder, slipping at the top of his sex already slick with moisture. Unable to speak the words his mouth continued to form…no, no, no…

And the other, constant note in his brain, stronger than his heart, competing with the feel of Ramius’ breath against the side of his face…take, take, take…

Only a man would know which spot beneath the crown was too sensitive for much touching, but which couldn’t be ignored or he’d scream with it. Only a man’s hand would be the right texture, move with such an unhurried, unceasing rhythm. Hips in tandem beneath his, rough-textured, gentle like a rocking tide. Jack found he was gasping, stars forming behind his closed eyes.

“Ready, buckaroo?” came the low whisper, and Jack’s only thought was, who is that?  He could only nod. Ramius gripped him tighter, almost to the point of pain, but snug, and all he could do was comply. A leg was linked with his own, moving it back, and he was exposed. Shaking in those arms, lungs like two bellows struggling with the fire, and he never wanted to be anywhere else.

That broad chest seemed to lunge into his back, slowly at first, oncoming like a racehorse passing the pack, the steady hammering against his side, between his legs. The hand, never ceasing, tightened, the thumb coming up every other stroke to rub roughly across the crown. Only a man would remember that detail. Faster.

Like a waterfall suddenly released from a winter freeze. Wind through a northern inlet. Heat from his spine spilling over that hand, his thighs, flesh suddenly almost too hot to touch. Jack gasped, pressing the back of his head against Ramius, burrowing beneath that bearded chin, his nose finding the sweet scent of effort. Lips open, almost tasting the salt there, almost tasting the rush of blood itself. He heard Ramius grunt, and felt the flex of muscles.

And then the sudden silence, stillness, except for the twin struggle for breath in the darkness that settled gently like a blanket on their flesh.


A vague feeling of unreality settle over Jack the next morning and stayed with him all the way back to DC. He remembered Ramius scrambling out of bed as the sun pored in the windows and rushing off to work in the store below. Ramius had spared him a blue-eyed glance as he did up his belt.

“Lock the door behind you,” served as his farewell.

It was easy to drive if you didn’t have to look anyone in the face. Easier to breath if there was no one sitting next to you, touching you.

He signed the divorce papers and put them in the mail at work.

Greer was away, and for some reason, none of the hustle and politics of the office seemed to reach him. No one told him his eyes were glazed, but he felt as if they were, felt as if he were shut in an isolation chamber with the glass slightly fogged. And behind it all, behind his white shirt and dark tie, the day old cup of coffee that miraculously never got bumped over, was the large blank spot which he titled:  That Night In Boston. He filed it in his brain next to his father’s funeral.

Three months of hot, humid DC weather followed an overly rainy spring, and Jack waited for the approval of the divorce. His wife was to get the house, the better, newer car, and 75% percent of their combined assets. That left him with the 2nd hand station wagon, the townhouse, which he considered his anyway, and 25% of nothing.

September came. And went.

The day the approval was published in the local paper, Jack had a blistering headache. He went home early and everyone made understanding noises:  poor Jack. He wanted to explain the real reason behind the headache, and it had nothing to do with the fact of the divorce. Or at least not in the way everyone thought. They all thought he was going to miss her terribly, or that he regretted, only too late, that he’d agreed to the divorce in the first place. But the real problem was, now that he was free, what was he supposed to do?

He took three aspirin and socked them back with water and lay carefully on the couch. Early October was still too early for that freshet of sea wind which would come through and knock the 100% humidity right on its backside; he positioned the fan so that it would blow across the whole length of the couch, threw his arm across his forehead, and closed his eyes.

There was a knock at the door.

I don’t need this, thought Jack.

He flung his arm along the couch, rolled himself to a sitting position, and hauled himself to his feet.

The knock sounded again.

Get the door, Jack.

He opened the door with a snap, scowl fixed in place.

Marko Ramius. Sharp blue eyes, and his hair shorter than before. Jeans, t-shirt, bag of food, six-pack of beer. All set for camping, only indoors this time.

Jack decided he had two choices. Either he could calmly invite Ramius in, or he could fling himself into the Russian’s arms. Or he could slam the door.

No, that was three choices, then. He opened his mouth to speak. Nothing came out.

“May I come in?”  Russian vowels sliding over American phrasing.

How was he supposed to answer a question like that? 

Then Ramius did what he did best; he made the decision, and, hefting the beer under one arm, stepped across the threshold.

“You have come up to Boston twice, buckaroo, now it is my turn.”

As Jack gestured the way to the kitchen, he wondered if Ramius was here today, of all days, by mere chance, or if he’d come because of the notice in the paper.

Ramius stopped at the kitchen counter, and Jack, only a short stride behind him, almost stepped on the other’s heels. Warm skin, t-shirt damp from the car seat in the heat, slight scent of salt…Jack absorbed it in a microsecond and then stepped away. Ramius turned.


He tried talking, swallowed, and then tried again.

Ramius was very, very close.

“I’ll bet you’re wondering why I’m here,” said the Russian, smiling slightly.

The phrase sounded familiar. Jack brought his hand to his forehead to push away at the sudden stab between his brows. “I…”

A large, warm hand came up and clasped his forearm, drawing it down. A solid bank of flesh shifted closer.

The only thing he could see, with his suddenly narrowing vision, was an expanse of chest, covered in white.

“You’re supposed to say,” said Ramius gently, “when you are ready you will tell me.”

Jack remembered, with an odd clarity, the conversation that they’d once had in Ramius’ apartment. “When you’re ready,” he repeated, the words heavy in his mouth, “you will tell me.”

“I’m ready,” replied the Russian, dipping his head to look up into Jack’s face. “The question is, are you?”

Ready?  Ready to have his S.O.S. answered?  Ready to bring his ship into shore, to reach safe harbor, to be tied up to mooring and out of the storm?

Ramius straightened up, put everything down and now his hands were empty. Empty and open. Waiting. Jack stepped even closer until their belt buckles were touching. Ramius did not move.

Jack took one large, Russian hand and placed it around his waist. It stayed there. He took the other and pushed against the elbow until the arm crossed his back. Ramius remained absolutely still throughout this whole procedure and Jack realized there was something else he needed to do. He placed a hand on either side of Ramius’ sea-tanned face and looked right into ice-blue eyes.

“Yes,” he said.

He was swallowed alive by the Russian’s enveloping hug, and suddenly his headache and the humidity seemed very far away.

Never again, he realized, never again will I be alone.