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Chapter Nineteen

His grandmother's call had him agitated; he'd spent some time with her over the past week, whenever school had permitted. And the supper with her and Andrew had gone over well; they seemed to get on well. Andrew, polite and formal around her, and she in turn had treated him no differently than any other prospective member of the family, which was to say she grilled him endlessly over his plans for the future. She even got a light in her eyes when Andrew said he wanted to be a lawyer.

But there was some hesitation in her voice when she had called him, the kind that made Will nervous. His Grandmother seldom called him like that without some kind of purpose. So Will paced.

Brody watched while Will, fully ready to go out, his leather jacket over a nice shirt and slacks, paced from the kitchen through the dining room to the livingroom and back again. "Should I give you a valium?" he asked, halfway serious.

Will sighed, taking off his glasses and cleaning them as he continued to pace. "I'll be okay," he said, not really convinced himself that he would be.

His head snapped up as a knock at the door froze him mid-stride. Brody sighed as he got up off of the couch and opened the door to let the little old lady in. Then, as ever, he vanished down into the basement to give them some room.

"What's wrong?" Will asked, stuffing his hands into his pockets and resisting the urge to pace again.

"Take your hands out of your pockets," old Mrs. Carter admonished. "Gentlemen don't do that."

Will removed his hands from his pockets and folded his arms. "What's going on," he repeated a little more firmly than before.

"I wanted to talk to you, William," she said just as firmly, as if she wasn't about to take his usual nonsense, "about your father."

"I figured as much," Will said, wondering if there was any more of that vodka left over from the party still in the fridge. "What about him?"

"Don't you think this has gone on long enough?" she said, sounding concerned. "You're both my boys and it hurts me to see you both this way."

Will furrowed his brow, "What way? You mean the way you get when you're beaten on a regular basis and then thrown out of your house by a man that can't stand the sight of you?" Will was growing angry now; he hated being put into this situation, of feeling guilty for something that wasn't his fault.

"Don't be that way," his grandmother sounded hurt. "He's still your father."

"No," Will snapped back, "he gave up that right when he threw me out of the house!"

"William," old Mrs. Carter's voice had switched to an authoritarian edge to it, "Don't raise your voice. I've come five thousand miles to try to mend things between you two, the least you can do is go for a drink with him. He's willing, if you are."

"Willing?" Will said in utter incredulousness. "How did you...?" He looked at the diminutive woman with her stern face. Set that way, he could see where his father got his stubborn streak, and in turn where Will got it from. There was no saying no to old Mrs. Carter, and if anyone could force the Major to do something he didn't want to do, she could.

Which meant the Major had agreed to the drink to please her.

"Well..." Will said hesitantly, knowing full well his grandmother wouldn't give up on the issue. She wanted this, and Will had no choice in the matter except disobedience, and that was never a good choice.

"He's at the pub around the corner," old Mrs. Carter said, seeing the look of defeat in his eyes. "He's waiting for you."

"Bugger," Will murmured to himself as he accepted the inevitable.

* * *

He hated bars; for someone who drank as infrequently as he did there really was no point to going to one. He was especially annoyed by the pseudo-pubs in modern buildings that tried to claim they were traditional Irish pubs. They had all the trappings--Guiness signs and dart boards--but it was the surroundings that didn't fit them. Ceiling tiles taking the place of worn beams, plywood instead of oak; it was all so fake, so forced. Like him, trapped between two cultures trying desperately to be one or the other and finding he was neither.

And the man responsible was watching him from the corner of the bar, dressed as ever in his British army uniform, the peaked cap lying on the bar beside a tall pint that he hadn't touched. His father, like Will, hated alcohol.

Will wondered sardonically if he should salute.

He crossed to the bar, and without waiting for invitation he sat down. Refusing to relax into the seat he stared steadily ahead in uncomfortable silence as the bartender walked over to him.

"You got ID?" he asked, giving Will a glance over.

"Yes," Will lied effortlessly. "A pint." The way he said it, the manner in which he held himself while staring directly into the bartender's eyes was enough to convince the bartender not to press the issue. He simply poured the lager and retreated from the two men sitting side-by-side, looking very much like father and son.

Will took a ragged breath before he took a draught from his pint, setting it back down on the beer mat and turning to where his father was watching him, a flicker in those eyes. The man was impressed at how Will had handled the bartender. But as fast as it was there, it vanished, replaced by the Major's usual cold eyes.

The silence stretched out, neither willing to make the first move. They were there, which of itself was a start, but both men possessed the same stubbornness of the woman who had forced them to be there in the first place. That and the history between them wasn't going to allow itself to be so easily forgotten.

"I hear you're teaching now," the Major said, finally breaking the silence.

"Grade seven, English and history," Will replied simply. And they both returned to staring at their lagers.

"Lucy's getting ready to start school," the Major tried again, his own discomfort evident in his voice. "She's excited."

"I can imagine," Will said turning a little to face his father. "She should do well."

"Mmm," the Major agreed.

Will nodded, sighing, "How long does Gran expect us to sit here?"

"About an hour, she said," the Major replied as they both turned to look up at the clock.

"Rapture," Will replied dryly. "So do we continue with the small talk, or do we skip to the arguing?"

"I'm not supposed to argue with you," the Major replied almost regretfully. "I'm supposed to play nice." He said the last words with an air of distaste.

"Entertaining," Will replied, returning to his pint. "I am who I am." he said, not sure why he suddenly said that; maybe a desperate need for his father to acknowledge that fact.

"I know," the Major replied. "You're like your mother in that."

"How so?" Will asked, suddenly curious. His father normally went out of his way to avoid mentioning Will's mother. The rare times he did, it was with an accusing tone. For him to not do so was curious.

"You're a free spirit," the Major said, taking a pull off of his glass--Dutch courage. "Your mother was never one to... play by society's rules."

"I see," Will replied, thinking back to his only memory of her, sitting reading on an old couch in a yellow room. An image of a beautiful woman that was so worn to time that all he could tell was that she had brown hair.

The Major sighed, "You may not like to hear this, but she was the biggest mistake of my life."

Will turned, "Did you love her?"



"There are people that are right for each other, and those that aren't. And your mother wasn't well." He sighed again uncomfortably, "I used to come home on leave and find your sister taking care of you."

"My sister?" Will asked in surprise, "Lucy's only..."

"Your other sister, Danielle," the major said tiredly, "from your mother's first marriage."

"I have another half-sister," Will said, mulling that one over. "You said she was looking after me?"

The major was quietly pale, very tired, as suddenly his age was showing, "I came home one morning to find Danielle getting dressed and ready for school, you were in your chair eating biscuits." He shook his head at the memory, "I asked her what was going on, where mommy was." He took another drink, "She said mommy was sick, and that she was feeding you before she went to school." He turned to Will, "Danielle was six years old."

Will frowned down at the bar again, "What happened?"

"I took her to the hospital," Will's father said slowly. "They couldn't find anything physically wrong with her, but apparently she went through these spells where she wouldn't get out of bed for weeks on end. She would get up to eat, and just go back to bed." He turned to Will, "Apparently Danielle had been taking care of you off and on for weeks."

Will let that sink in a moment: the only reason he was sitting there in a bar in Canada was because of a six-year-old girl he had never met feeding him cookies to keep him alive when he was a baby. Cookies...

"Your mother divorced me after that, and the judge awarded me custody of you, but..." he seemed tired, "Danielle wasn't my daughter, she had to go with your mother."

"Why tell me this now?" Will asked looking up at the Major.

"Because I think you needed to hear it," the Major replied simply.

Will nodded, "Thank you."

The Major sighed as he scooped up his hat and put it on his head, standing up and leaving his lager barely touched on the bar. "I should go," he said firmly. "Pick up your grandmother."

Will nodded, paying for his lager as he stood up to follow the Major out into the parking lot. He wondered how much like his mother he truly was, and how much that had hurt the Major to watch a constant reminder of a love he'd lost so long ago.

"Mister Carter!" a voice called out, sounding a little startled.

Beside him, the Major tensed; he hated to be called Mister, which was beneath him. He turned prepared to reprimand the offender. Will turned and recognized Mrs. McCormick as she hurried across the parking lot, making a bee-line directly to him, "Mister Carter," she repeated again, pausing to nod to the Major.

"What's wrong?" Will asked Peter's mother in confusion.

"Have you seen Peter?" she asked desperately. "He didn't come home after school, and its late, and..."

Will reached out a hand to steady the frantic woman, "It's okay, slow down. You said Peter didn't come home after school? Have you called the police?"

"Yes," she sniffed, "they are out looking for him, I..." she faltered, "I was out looking and saw you, I remembered Peter was always talking about you; do you know where he would go?"

Will glanced around him; they were close to the heart of the small town, there weren't that many places a boy like that could go. "I'll help you look." Will reassured, "We'll find him, Mrs. McCormick." She nodded in thanks, separating from him to search around the buildings. She seemed so lost as Will stood trying to think.

The Major lightly tapped Will's arm. "I have an idea," he said firmly. "Get in the truck." He pointed to the Bronco.

Will glanced at his father and nodded, climbing aboard.

Chapter Twenty

Will sat quietly in the Bronco, remembering the last time he had sat in it with his father, heading home nearly two years ago after being stranded with Andrew. So much time had passed since then, so much had changed. He was no longer the quiet boy that hid from his own shadow and cowered when his father yelled.

Amazing how one person's love could change a person. Like the love of a little girl for her baby brother that had kept him alive, Andrew's love helped him be a stronger person in life. A tall goof of a hockey player with dazzling blue eyes and a lopsided grin who didn't care what Will was, so long as he was himself.

"You don't have to do this," Will said after a pause, as the Bronco swept off of the highway and into Ottawa.

Major David John Carter of the 32nd Queens Company, decorated for valour twice in the Falklands war, who saw action in the Gulf War, who had served during the time of troubles in Northern Ireland; a man who had seen combat, death, the viciousness of one man's hatred for another looked at his son for a long moment. "You'll understand when you get older," he said after awhile, "if you ever have children of your own."

Will rested his hand against his jaw line as he considered the Major, "That's what this has always been about with you, hasn't it? The fact that you wanted me to put on a uniform and follow your footsteps."

The Major was silent again as the truck rolled onto Catherine Street as he considered how to respond to Will's observation, "My father was an officer in the army, as was his father, sixteen generations of sons." He turned on the indicator and cut off another car as he swung the Bronco into the parking lot, "That's a history you don't just turn your back on."

Will shrugged, "It's my life now, my choices."

The Major gripped the wheel. "You no longer have a choice," he said softly. "The fact that you are... that you made another choice means you can never join the army."

Will studied his father as he got out of the truck, "That's your dream, not mine. Could you picture me in a uniform marching through Sarajevo carrying an M-16? I was never meant to be a soldier."

The Major nodded to the Greyhound bus station, "When I ran away from your grandmother to join up, I took a bus."

Will scanned the squat, long brick building with the buses pulling out of the back, travelers moving to and fro. He sighed as he stuck his hands in his pockets and looked at his father. He had never realized how important the army was to that man. So important that he had disobeyed his mother to follow in his father's footsteps; so important that when he had found out that his son would never follow his dream he had been devastated. That kind of wound could never be forgiven; his father would always hold him responsible for that. But for the moment they understood each other.

Will pushed his way through the throngs of people, searching for Peter, hoping they were on time. He breathed a sigh of relief when he saw a small figure at the end of the long departure area.

* * *

"Hello there," the soft voice said, causing Peter to look up from counting out his birthday money. "Is that enough?"

Peter stared up at the man towering over him, flinching when the man reached down to brush his face tenderly. "Would you like a ticket?" the man asked. He was overweight, too broad in the shoulders and despite the fact his eyes looked kindly there was a menace about him. Peter backed up a step. "Why don't you come with me," the man insisted. "I can get you a ticket, I just need to get the money from my car..." His hand went to encircle Peter's arm, a massive mitt that could snap the arm if he tried.

It was like it happened in slow motion: one moment the stranger was reaching for him, the next he was propelled backwards as a soldier grabbed him from behind and threw the man twice his size up against a bank of travel lockers.

Peter quivered in shock as the soldier lashed out with a punch that sent the big man sprawling. Fists balled, the soldier advanced on the stranger, coldly threatening, intent on more violence if the stranger struggled again.

Peter started as he was shaken lightly out of his shock. Mister Carter turned him gently away from the fight, wrapping an arm around him as he drew him close, protecting him from harm as Peter buried his head against Mister Carter's shoulders and began to cry.

Security arrived to restrain the Major, as the stranger tried to scramble away. And almost as soon as it had begun, it was over.

* * *

Will nodded to the Major as he walked Peter out to the Bronco. The Major was explaining to security what had happened, and Will just wanted to get Peter away from the throng of people that were shuffling to see what the commotion was about.

Once out at the Bronco, Will sat Peter down in the front seat and leaned on the door looking down at the small student who looked shaken.

"Are you okay?" Will asked tiredly as he fumbled in the glove box for a pack of tissues.

Peter accepted the tissue and blew his nose, dabbing his eyes. "I'm sorry," he whined.

Will smiled and knelt down so his eyes were level with Peter's, "Nothing to be sorry about, at least not to me. Where were you going?"

"I-I don't know," Peter sniffled.

Typical kid, big plans to run away that involved great planning to get to the bus station, but from there they had no idea. Will shook his head slowly; if it weren't so serious he would have laughed at the simplicity of thirteen-year-old logic.

"Well," he said, "why'd you run away? Those kids still bullying you at school?"

Peter nodded, small little motions that caused his hair to flop forward to hide his eyes, "They called me a f-fag..." Peter's eyes welled up again as tears rolled down his cheeks.

Will looked back at the building and back at Peter; the kid was all alone in his misery, feeling so isolated in the world. When all he needed was someone to talk to, someone to show him he wasn't alone.

"I'm a fag," Will said in a firm voice.

Peter's head came up, his tear-streaked eyes searching for the lie in Will's eyes, but not finding it he was even more confused.

"Yep," Will said with a slight shrug. "And G.I. Joe in there, that's my dad. Even though we don't always see eye to eye, I know he loves me." Will smiled, "Just like a certain mother who is, right now, searching the whole of Merrickville for her son."

Peter looked suddenly so small, frightened. "Is she mad?" he whispered.

"She's worried about you," Will said, watching his father come out of the bus station, affixing his peaked cap onto his head and marching with pride back to his truck. "Parents often get mad when they're worried about their kids," Will said loud enough for the Major to hear. "But it's only because they worry too much. Let's take you home, and call your mother."

* * *

Peter had discovered the playstation when they had gotten back to Will's home. Brody desperately battled the kid in an effort to beat him at a kung fu game, he was losing the battle of button-mashing badly.

Old Mrs. Carter had given them a strange look when they had come in together, but after the Major had spoken to her in a quiet voice she had commandeered Brody's kitchen to fix Peter something warm to eat and a round of proper tea.

Will blew out a sigh as he made the phone call, leaving a message for Mrs. McCormick that he had found Peter and that the boy was safe and leaving his address for her to pick him up when she got back from searching for him. A quick call to the police to call off the manhunt and tell them the same and Will finally hung up the phone.

The Major was standing in the dining room, watching Peter intently.

"What is it?" Will asked joining him.

"He looks so much like you did at that age," the major said tiredly. "All I could see was you in that bus station, being touched by that..." His fists balled up and he turned away to look down at Will, "Is he..?"

" A Presbyterian?" Will asked. Raising an eyebrow, he looked back at Peter, "Yes, but that's something he has to work out on his own." He looked back at his father, "He just needs to know there's people that care about him no matter what he is."

The Major looked at Will for a long time, "I can't forgive you, you know that don't you."

Will nodded, "Yes."

"But you know I love you."

"I know," Will replied quietly, looking up into those terribly sad eyes of his father. There would be no reconciliation, only understanding that they were so radically different there never could be. But then, you never could choose family; they often were the ones you were stuck with.

They say that time is a healer, but some wounds ran too deep. And as deep as the hurt his father had inflicted upon him, ultimately the wounds his father wore were just as deep. And that one moment would probably be the last they would stand there talking to one another.

Will clicked his heels together and snapped off a crisp British Army salute.

The Major drew himself up to attention and returned the salute, slowly and deliberately, his eyes never leaving Will's as he did so. And with that the Major walked out of the house to smoke a cigarette and wait for his mother to be done fussing over the meal.

* * *

Mrs. McCormick had embraced her son, refusing to let him go from the moment she had come into the house. Peter, embarrassed by the show of affection in front of Mister Carter, tried to wriggle free, but Mrs. McCormick wasn't about to let him go again so soon.

"Thank you," she managed between her tears, looking at Will meaningfully.

Will nodded. "All part of the service," he replied reassuringly. "I'm glad we got to him when we did," he said seriously.

"Thank you." Mrs. McCormick didn't need to know the details of the stranger and the bus station, it would have sent her over the edge. "I don't think I could ever repay you."

Will smiled, "Just make sure Sprog there," he nodded down to Peter, "does his homework and that'll be thanks enough." He smiled and knelt down beside Peter, seeing the blue eyes peeking out at him from where they were smothered in his mother's arms, "And as for you, trouble, you ever need to talk that door's always open," he pointed to it, "so use it."

Peter nodded in his mother's arms, as they got ready to leave. Once they were alone, Will let out a long sigh and flopped into the chair across from Brody.

"You're a good person, Will," Brody said with sincerity.

"I learned from the best," Will said. "I remember someone doing the same for me when I needed it."

"Aww, now you're just getting sappy," Brody complained as he turned on the hockey game. "Now watch some hockey—it's good for you."

Chapter Twenty-One

Brody was smoking a cigarette on the porch watching as Will trimmed back the over-enthusiastic growth of the bush at the end of the garden. He casually flicked his ash as he relaxed with Plato's Republic balanced across his knees as he read, occasionally looking up to criticize Will's pruning.

"Not too much!" he warned.

"Yes, dear," Will muttered. "It's like we're married, you know."

Brody looked up from his book and arched a surprised eyebrow, "Do I look like a hockey player? You're the puck bunny around here."

Will gestured threateningly with the pruning shears, "Careful you, I know how to use these."

"Now that would be a crime," Brody commented.

"Some might call it justice," Lisa said as she turned into the driveway, a basket of muffins in her hands. She gave Brody her usual cold greeting, but there was no spirit behind it.

"Bitch, please!" Brody protested, looking hurt.

"Call me a bitch again, playful or not, and I'll be the one doing the pruning," Lisa stated flatly with a smile.

Will chuckled to himself and tried to pretend he was cutting more of the branches. Not paying attention he began to snip, watching the two former lovers stalk each other like lions.

"I brought a peace offering," she said, holding up the basket. "Banana muffins."

"You brought me some of your mother's muffins?" Brody asked, smiling as he looked into the basket.

"No, I made these myself..."

Brody's face was priceless: that look halfway between fear and stark terror. If Lisa's mother baked the best muffins in town, her daughter undoubtedly made the worst. Will had found that hilarious; in home economics Lisa's muffins had been classified as biological weapons of mass destruction.

"Well," Brody faltered, trying to find something witty and cool to say, "I just had breakfast, but I'll try them at lunch..."

"Well, they're a peace offering," Lisa said handing him the basket. "I'm trying to say I'm sorry."

Will wondered if her intent was really to make peace, or to poison Brody. He chuckled as he wrestled with a stubborn branch, it just wouldn't clip like the others. Absently he put more effort into it, still not paying attention.

"Well, there's fresh coffee," Brody said, gesturing to the house.

"Thanks," Lisa said awkwardly; she'd obviously thought this through, but now that she was there, she seemed uncomfortable and unsure of herself. "So..." she said, glancing at the steps.

Brody shifted over to let her past, holding up his coffee cup, "If you're heading that way anyway..."

She took the mug, giving him a look that said she was still highly suspicious of him, just as a loud crack splintered the air.

Will jumped as the bush he was working on came crashing down on top of him in a shower of leaves and branches. He tried to struggle free, finally coming up with twigs and leaves stuck in his hair. He looked startled at the pruning shears, then at what was left of the bush and realized he had been a little too enthusiastic in his clipping and had cut through the trunk.

Brody stood up, clapping slowly. "Well done," he said sarcastically, while Lisa tried not to laugh at him.

Will scowled darkly and pulled some leaves out of his shirt, tossing them aside as he began to curse loudly his own stupidity. Both Brody and Lisa were now laughing at him openly. "Ok, enough," he said, muttering darkly as he began to pick up the branches of the recently departed bush and began to stuff them into a trash bag. "It's not that funny."

"Yeah, well from over here it's hilarious," Brody said, sitting back down on the steps. "So, idjit, whatcha gonna do now?"

Will stuffed another branch into the bag and stared at the bush stump sticking out of the ground like a stricken finger, looking horribly barren in the unusually lush garden. Brody's grandmother, who had left him the house when she had passed, had loved her garden and Will in turn had taken to tending it. He was slowly realizing that it was now very much his garden and that pretty soon it would be following the bush into oblivion if he kept going the way that he was.

"I, uhh..." He chewed his lip, "Well, this is going to suck."

Lisa emerged from the house with three mugs of coffee and handed them out, touching Will's arm reassuringly, "Well, at least we won't be short firewood this winter."

Will sipped his coffee staring about him at the garden; he did like it but the way his luck was (grade A klutz that he was) this was probably going to be short-lived. He could probably slowly switch the flowers and things to plants that were low maintenance, like bushes...

He glanced at the pile of branches that had once been a bush; okay, maybe not.

Then an idea hit him; he smirked to himself as he walked into the house and made a call.

* * *

Little Peter stared at the devastation of the yard wrought by a mad Brit with hedge clippers. He was decked out for the sun: khaki shorts and this nightmarishly garish Hawaiian shirt with palm trees and flamingos on it. His bright blonde hair spilled out of a visor cap making him look for all the world like a Californian surfer, and he could have passed for one were it not for his tinny Ontario accent whenever he spoke.

"What happened to the bush?" he asked in wonder.

"I think he killed it," Brody said, looking up from his book again. Lisa had moved a deck chair from the back garden and was sunning herself on the lawn, smeared in cocoa butter and wearing a bathing suit as she lounged. She was settling in comfortably to what she felt as her rightful place at the house; she was, after all, part of the family.

Little Peter hadn't looked once, confirming Will's suspicions, but that wasn't why he'd invited the kid over. He sucked in a deep breath and rested his hands on his hips, "Well, as you can see, I have a bit of a problem."

Peter nodded mutely, Mister Carter was understating things a bit; from the looks of the garden it had been dying steadily for a couple of years. The grass was patchy and the flowerbeds needed work. Peter's mom took great pride in her garden, dragging his brother and him to the Canadian Tire garden center every weekend so that she could pick up supplies. Even if his brother preferred to play baseball and horse around, Peter enjoyed the time he spent with his mother in the garden; it was quiet and it was just them; he'd learned a lot from her.

He shyly looked up at Mister Carter who still had a twig sticking out of his hair, which made him look funny.

"Well," Mister Carter continued glancing down at him, "I figured I'd offer you ten bucks a week and turn you loose in the garden and see what happens." He scratched his ear and looked about him helplessly, "If you want to earn the cash."

Peter nodded as he bent down to poke the soil of the flowerbeds, feeling how dry it was. He looked up. "Okay," he said quietly.

"Great," Will said, glancing back at Brody who was watching the exchange over his book. Hopefully, exposing the kid to some of his friends who had no concept of shyness whatsoever might help coax the kid out of his shell and give him a bit of confidence.

Peter was fast becoming Will's pet project, probably because he felt for the kid; he knew what he had to be going through, trying to figure out who he was on his own. But if Brody could have such an impact on an awkward Brit maybe he would do the same for a wannabe surfer.

"Well, go nuts," Will said with a shrug, taking a draught on his coffee as he walked back to the open garage where the tools were kept. He jumped as a horn beeped at him and the Mustang pulled into the driveway. Will waved at Andrew as he and Jared climbed out of the car, both in hockey jerseys.

"Game on?" Will inquired, as he set the mug down on the cluttered work table and began to look for nails. With Peter working in the garden that left Will with the time he needed to fix the porch.

"Nahh," Andrew said, coming up behind Will to wrap his arms around him and rest his chin on Will's shoulder. "We were just down at the hockey camp."

Will looked surprised, "I thought you'd turned Uncle Hubert down."

"It's only on the weekends," Andrew shrugged refusing to let go of Will as he just held on loosely. He watched as Will picked through a bucket of nails and pulled down a hammer.

"Well, I'm glad," Will said with a smile. "You're happiest on skates."

"Nope," Andrew said squeezing Will tightly. "I'm happiest right now."

"Oh, get a room," Jared said with a grin and a roll of his eyes. "You two are utterly disgustingly in love."

Will grinned as he picked up the hammer and turned to face Andrew, "I really should fix the porch."

"Uh huh," Andrew said, still not letting him go.

"Well, that would require me actually getting to the porch," Will stated, looking down at Andrew holding him in place.

"Uh huh," Andrew said with a grin.

"Uh-oh," Will stated, knowing all too well that look in Andrew's eyes.

"Uh huh," Andrew said, his grin getting broader, and he pulled Will in tightly against him as he huffed to blow the hair out of his eyes, grinning like a maniac.

"Oh, I am so in need of new friends," Jared exclaimed dramatically as he walked out of the garage to join Lisa and Brody in the garden.

"I think you scared him off," Will said smirking, still holding the hammer.

Andrew kissed him and Will dropped the hammer as he was pushed back against the workbench, Andrew's hands already roaming to the buttons of his shirt. He pulled back a second and grinned again as he reached up to pull a twig from Will's hair, holding it up questioningly.

"Don't ask," Will said shaking his head, feeling the edge of the workbench digging into his back. "Now, get off me," he said smiling as he pushed out of Andrew's embrace. "Later. I have to fix the porch."

Andrew advanced on him again as Will picked up the hammer, circling back around Brody's truck that was sitting in the middle of the garage, "Look, can we talk about this?"

"Uh-uh," Andrew said, still grinning playfully as he lunged to try and catch Will. Will quickly dodged away dancing out of reach as he grinned back.

"Okay, okay, look; later, I promise..."

"Uh-uh," Andrew repeated, taking another lunge as Will made a dash for the open garage doors.

The two collided and went sprawling end over end, wrestling on the front lawn. Andrew, being naturally more athletic and used to tussling his entire life, easily pinned Will beneath him by straddling his chest and keeping his knees on Will's arms.

Will looked up helplessly. "I surrender?" he sounded hopefully.

Andrew smiled down at him. "You always do," he said with a smug look.

Will turned his head to where Lisa, Brody and Jared were trying hard not to laugh at his current predicament. Bewildered, little Peter just stared, a hose in his hands that he had been using to water the flowerbeds.

Will chuckled, "Peter McCormick, Andrew Hamilton."

Peter offered a small wave, still not quite knowing what to make of it, but a smile played across his face when he clued in.

Andrew smiled and got up, helping Will to his feet. "Hey Pete," he said, brushing Will down to clean off the dust and dirt. "Welcome to the madness."

Will endeavoured to regain his dignity, walking over to Peter and clapping him on the shoulder, "Peter's going to be taking care of the garden."

"Cool," Andrew said nodding to Peter. But that look changed to surprise as Will plucked the hose from Peter's hand and turned it on Andrew. "Hey!" he bellowed, soaked to the skin in seconds.

Will smirked as he handed it back to Peter, "That ought to..." He jumped as Peter grinned and turned it on him. The thirteen-year-old grinned like a madman as Will leapt away from him.

The water fight only escalated from there, as college students, high-schoolers and junior high kids all devolved into elementary school screaming and chasing after each other with water.