The Man in the Window Seat

Shay Sheridan

Dammit, Fraser. Dammit, dammit to hell.

Out loud Ray cleared his suddenly thick throat and said, "I'm gonna miss you. You know that, right?"

"Of course, Ray. And I'll miss you, too." But Fraser wasn't meeting his eyes, and after a moment Ray decided not to go in for the clinch like he'd told himself a thousand times he would. Coward! But he couldn't make himself move, couldn't make himself do it. Because he was wrong, he'd read Fraser wrong, he didn’t feel the same way. The look on Fraser's face told him that. It was plain to see that Fraser'd had enough of him after three months of being together day and night. Christ, the guy probably couldn't wait to get back up north to his cabin, go back to being a Mountie, all by himself, without the encumbrance of Ray Kowalski weighing him down like an anchor slung around his neck.

Fraser's eyes finally came up to his, and Ray saw the vacant stare and the set jaw, and he took a step back, away from everything he wanted, because it was never going to be his. Never. There was a bag behind him and he stumbled over it.

"Careful, Ray." Fraser's hand was on his shoulder, steadying him. "Are you all right? You look a little, ah..." Fraser ran out of words, another clue that there was nothing left to say to each other.

"No, I'm fine, I'm fine," Ray said quickly, though in fact he felt sick to his stomach, like he was going to heave up his guts any second. "You'd, you'd better go. The plane's leaving, anyway." He bent over and grabbed his bag. "So, I’ll, uh, see you around, or something. Or not."

He turned and practically ran for the small plane, and heard something behind him, something that was Fraser calling to him, and maybe he was saying "Wait, Ray!" but Ray couldn't wait any longer. If he went back he was going to make a fool of himself, that was for sure, and he was too tired and too depressed to make his last moments with Benton Fraser more embarrassing than they already were.

He scrambled up the staircase and took the only available seat, on the aisle next to an older man, a guy probably in his sixties, who gave him the shadow of a smile as he threw his backpack under the seat and plopped down.

"Good afternoon," the man said.

Ray nodded back. He was going to lose it, he felt it coming, so he scrubbed a hand over his face and shaded his eyes.

"Pardon me." The voice from the man in the window seat was soft, and low, and had the trace of an accent, Ray didn’t know what kind. "I don’t mean to disturb you..."

Ray didn't turn his head. "'S okay. Did you need to get out?"

"No, no," the man said. "But if you don't mind, I'd like to make an observation."

Ray felt himself bristle. "About what?"

The man had grey-blond hair, worn rather long for his years, and when he gestured with his head towards the window, it slid across his forehead. He pushed it back in place and Ray caught a glimpse of a ring. "I was watching you and your friend, and I saw how you parted."

Ray felt his face grow hot. "That's really none of your business."

"No, I suppose not. But if you'll accept the advice of one who has been there before you, don't end things this way."

Ray's pulse began to pound behind his eyes. "Listen, I don't know what you think you saw there, buddy, but we're just friends, okay? We were partners, cops, that's all."

The man smiled enigmatically. "I meant no insult. It's not the first time men in law enforcement have become more than partners. There is something about the daily danger that makes the other person's life more important than your own, doesn't it?"

"You a cop?" He didn’t look like one; besides being an old guy, he looked kind of small for it. "I mean, were you?"

Another inscrutable look, but he ignored Ray's question. "If something deeper was born out of that connection, don't fear it. It happens."

"Not to him." Ray bit his lip.

"Are you certain? Look at him."

Ray leaned over the other man and peered out the window. Fraser was still on the tarmac, holding his hat, his eyes fixed on the plane. Ray didn't have his glasses but even at this distance he could see the slope of Fraser's shoulders, the way his spine sagged a bit.

"Don't miss your chance, my friend," the soft voice said in his ear. "Not while there is still a possibility for happiness."

Ray sat back and looked at him. There was something written on the man's face, lines of pain, perhaps, and his blue eyes suddenly looked haunted. Ray felt a shiver pass through him. "But what if he doesn't..."

"And what if he does, and he's thinking the same thing? Can you live with that?" The man's tone turned sharper. "Can you justify living the rest of your life knowing you lost your chance to find out?"

"But he's never said anything."

"Neither did—" The man bit down suddenly on his lip. He took a long breath in through his nose before going on. "Just...don't wait until it's too late. Because someday he might not be there any more." He smiled the shadowy smile he'd worn at the beginning, but Ray saw that it didn't touch his eyes, which suddenly looked very sad indeed. "We have a saying," the man said, "Mi tolko prem ot chashki zhizni odnazhdi. 'We only drink from the cup of life once.'"

Ray went completely still. And then in a fluid motion he was out of the seat, his backpack trailing from one hand. "I, uh, don't know what to..."

The man nodded. "Go. You'll know."

Ray stared at him, his heart thudding. And then he turned and bolted out of the plane, pushing past the flight attendant as she was about to pull the door shut. The metal steps clanged as he took them three at a time. Let him be there, let him still be there--

Fraser stood on the tarmac, his head down, rolling his hat brim through his hands.


The dark head came up, and Fraser's mouth dropped open.

"Fraser, I—" Don't wait until it's too late, the soft voice echoed. "Frase, I don't want to go, I want to stay. I want to stay with you."

"Oh," Fraser said in a raspy voice. "Thank God, thank God, thank God."

The man in the window seat ran cold fingers through his hair and tugged the black turtleneck up higher under his chin. He was shaking, for some reason, and his eyes were stinging, so he pinched them between his fingers. When he turned his gaze to the outside world he saw a man in a flannel shirt drop a wide-brimmed hat to the ground and throw his arms around the young man who had briefly been his seat companion. He could not have stopped the wetness filling his eyes for any power on earth.

"Prostitye mnye, 'Pasha," he murmured. "I'm sorry. Mi propustili nash shance.*"

* * *

*We missed our chance.

redchance @
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