This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Chapter Seven

Will was startled when he walked in the door. His long-suffering Uncle Arthur's truck had been in the driveway which wasn't unusual in of itself--Arthur routinely checked up on Will's progress and made sure his wardrobe was sufficiently filled. Arthur took particular pride in the way Will dressed, it was his personal way to get back at the Major, or so he told Will. Will just figured Arthur was a closet metro-sexual.

Will was getting in after a long day; he had history homework to mark as well as a couple of math exercises for his own work to get done. He rubbed his tired eyes with the back of his hand as he walked into the kitchen to find Arthur sitting at the table with Brody.

Arthur looked unwell, and for a moment Will's mind raced, was something wrong?

Arthur caught the look and smiled grimly, "Don't worry boy, I'm just here to fetch you for supper. Your Aunt Majella is throwing a family dinner tonight and you're expected to be there."

Will frowned. "It's rather short notice," he admitted. "I'd have to get ready and call Andrew..."

Arthur tightened his lips and his deep-set eyes suddenly flicked away from Will.

Suddenly Will knew exactly why Majella had decided to inform him last minute. You had to respect the woman for how she played family politics; she knew the game all too well, she knew the pieces and could manipulate a situation where she got exactly what she wanted all the while maintaining an air of innocence about her.

Will was annoyed by that; he reached out and picked up the phone calling Andrew, hope was after all supposed to be eternal.

Andrew picked up after the second ring, "Yeah, Will?"

Will started, then remembered Andrew had caller id, a system Will would never get used to. "I'm sorry to call you with such short notice," he glanced at Arthur, "but I just found out my Aunt has this big family thing planned for tonight..."

Andrew hesitated on the line, "Oh, what do I wear?" His voice sounded compassionate, understanding all too well how Will's family normally operated.

Will smiled, visibly relaxing, and for his own part his Uncle Arthur relaxed as well. Obviously Majella's plan hadn't been his choice. That warmed Will, knowing he had at least one ally in the family who was squarely on his side.

"What do we wear?" Will asked his Uncle, covering the mouthpiece.

"Majella has me in a suit," Arthur grumbled, obviously unimpressed with the idea.

"Suits," Will said into the receiver. "See you soon."

"Sure," Andrew said, already sounding distracted on the line, no doubt fumbling in his closet for his suit.

"Bye." Will hung up the phone and glanced at Brody who just shrugged his shoulders.

Arthur flashed him an apologetic look. "I was supposed to bring you back with me," he said with a look out of the window, "but this gives me a chance to get ready myself if you're coming with Andrew."

Will sighed; his long day was just going to get longer.


It hadn't taken him long to get ready--a quick shower to wash the grime of the day off and changing into the suit his uncle had bought him for exactly those types of events. He shrugged on the jacket and deftly tied the tie, blushing as he remembered the last time he had seen Andrew in a suit. Their first date, that walk along the canal, that kiss and realization that it was more than either of them had been expecting.

He dipped into the hair wax, using it to straighten his hair so it fell perfectly like curtains across his forehead. He liked his off-center parting ever so slightly to the left, just like his personality. He grinned and walked out of the bathroom, thundering down the stairs to find his shoes.

Brody, as usual, laughed at Will whenever he wore a suit. Will shot him a dirty look as he checked himself one last time in the hall mirror. The suit was sharp, it fit him well, even though it made him look so much older. He knew he belonged in a suit, it was comfortable and somehow looked right, though the jacket was a little constrictive on his shoulders.

He swept the jacket off, relaxing in just the black waistcoat, and nodded to himself. It was too hot for the jacket anyway and he looked just as smart in his shirtsleeves and the crisp vest. He adjusted his hair one more time as the doorbell rang, turning as Andrew walked in looking as ever like a model for a fashion magazine.

"You should really tell your aunt to give me more notice," Andrew said, selfconsciously brushing down his blazer and trying futilely to straighten his tie. "Mom wasn't home so she couldn't help me," he admitted with a blush.

Will beckoned him over, reaching up to undo the tie and retie it, just enjoying being this close to Andrew. There was something reassuring about his presence, something that made Will's heart beat just a little faster when he could smell that distinctive cologne and faint musky smell that was distinctively Andrew. Even if it was intermixed with...

"Rosehip?" Will said, screwing up his nose.

"Shut up!" Andrew said in surprise that Will had noticed, and he turned a full shade of red. Mister Cool-as-a-cucumber, Mister I-don't-get-embarrassed-over-anything, was as red as a tomato.

"Rosehip?" Brody cackled from the living room, "Well, we know who the woman is!"

"I ran out of shampoo and Mum was buying some more tonight; she hadn't gotten back when Carter called. I needed a shower so borrowed hers. Happy now?" he called through to the living room.

"Yes," Brody simply cackled, enjoying himself far too much. "That was all that was there; I believe you..."

Andrew dug his hands into his pockets. "How about we get going?" he said, recovering his composure as he suddenly noticed how Will looked. He stopped and stood still for a moment, his eyes traveling up and down Will, his breath catching for a second in his throat. "Wow," he managed.

Will smiled. "Thanks," he said, stepping forward to kiss Andrew lightly on the cheek. "I mean that, thanks for dropping everything to come with me."

Andrew chuckled, "Beats sitting at home with Mum, watching Wheel of Fortune." He turned and held the door open for Will and walked with him out into the warm night, "Plus this is the first time I get to go to one of your family things." He considered that as he sat in the driver's seat and looked over at Will with those inquisitive eyes of his, "What are the rules?"

Will hadn't thought about that, he rarely went to Majella's dinners; they were usually uncomfortable affairs where Majella scraped together elements of the extended family from all over and insisted they participate congregated in her house. Uncomfortable, because so few of them were English, most speaking only French. Will really had no idea what the rules were in this sort of situation; since Andrew had been away for most of the year he hadn't had to think about it. Now, however, he was struggling.

"I don't know," Will replied honestly, "though it might be funny to see how they react to you kissing me."

Andrew chuckled, "I'm not that much of an exhibitionist."

"You bloody are," Will accused, watching the houses whisk by the Mustang as Andrew navigated towards Majella Aube's residence.

Andrew reached out a hand to close over Will's, lifting it back to the stick shift as he guided Will's hand through the gear changes. It was a subconscious habit; Will loved it when Andrew did that--it was so intimate and yet so innocent, Andrew just desiring such a simple physical contact as he drove, a connection to his boyfriend.

"We're going to be fine," Andrew said reassuringly, as the car pulled into the driveway and tucked itself behind Arthur's white Mazda truck. The two young lovers stared out of the windscreen and up at the broad split-leveled house that, despite its quaint canary yellow siding, looked suddenly so ominous.

"You sure about that?" Will asked, turning to look at Andrew for strength. "So far you've been spared my family's insanity."

Andrew squeezed Will's hand, "Hey, nothing's going to happen to you, I'm here."

Will gave him a tight smile, getting out of the car and tugging down on the end of his waistcoat to straighten it. He wasn't a little boy anymore; he was a young man, his own man. He could put up with his Aunt Majella and his cousins for a couple of hours. Besides it was an opportunity to spend some time with his grandmother.

They both climbed the steps up to the raised veranda; to Will, the house was all upside down: the upstairs was the main floor with the bedrooms below. A large broad-decked veranda went around the outside of the house on massive stilts; it was like coming aboard a ship, the deck planks resounding under the sound of his footsteps. Andrew was a step or two behind as they went through the large patio doors into the sun lounge.

The dinner party was just getting started, Majella fussing about her kitchen as she finished setting out the large buffet that took up most of her counter space. The dark-haired French woman turned as Will poked his head around the doorway into the kitchen.

"Come in," she ushered with her ladle. "Make yourself at home."

Will nodded and stepped inside the kitchen and Majella wiped off her hands upon her apron as she came in to hug Will hello. She paused when Andrew stepped around Will to stand slightly behind him. Her eyes hardened for a second as she looked over at Arthur who was already pouring himself a stiff drink.

It was old Mrs. Carter, entering from the living room with a gaggle of the little cousins chasing after their great aunt, who finally broke the moment of discomfort. Will's grandmother was one of those old women that kids flocked to. She was warm with the cuddles, loving children and pouring attention upon them in a torrent. Put her in a red dress and give her a reindeer and she would be the perfect Mrs. Claus.

She gave Will a warm maternal smile and beamed up at Andrew, "I'm glad you both came." At least she sounded genuine. Majella still looked distressed at having a gay couple at her dinner party.

"I wouldn't have missed it, Mrs. Carter," Andrew said in a firm tone, and Will had to hide a smile knowing full well Andrew had directed that towards his aunt. Even though Andrew's mother swore he took after his father, Will often saw edges of his mother in his boyfriend. The dislike for Majella was one trait both mother and son shared in abundance.

Mrs. Carter turned to Arthur, "Well, don't just stand there, Arthur dear, offer the boys a drink."

Andrew politely refused; a responsible driver, he decided to stick to coffee. Will, however, knew from experience these types of social events passed easier when he was sufficiently inebriated, and gladly accepted the drink his Uncle mixed for him. It was powerful enough to strip paint, and Will knew it was Arthur's commiserations for the night to come.

Will smiled in thanks, making his way with Andrew through to the living room, still feeling out of place. There were maybe a dozen or so of his cousins running around, and it was still early. Will found his way to a chair in the corner and sat down, Andrew moving to rest a hand on the back of it looking around him, nodding to a few people he recognized. A few of the adults murmured to their spouses catching sight of the pair and Will knew they were both being discussed.

"Remind me again why I agreed to this?" Will murmured just low enough for Andrew to hear him.

Andrew glanced down. "We could just go," he said sympathetically.

Will took a long breath and squared his shoulders, "Nope, I can deal with my aunt..."

"Willy!" The tiny voice caught him by surprise as two little arms were around his neck and a three-foot ball of excitement suddenly attached itself to him like a limpet. A head of brown curls and a pair of big hazel eyes stared up at him shyly, before Lucy buried her head into his chest again.

Will guffawed, separating himself from the over-eager sprog, Andrew laughing at his sudden situation. He managed to disengage her stranglehold from around his neck as he held her at arms length and grinned at her.

"Hello," he said, making a face at her.

She balled her face up in a miniature version of the displeased look Will normally affixed. "Don't put me down," she demanded.

Will continued to hold her at arm's length. "All right, so you expect me to carry you all night..." he stopped, staring at his little sister who he hadn't seen in nearly a year. "Where's your daddy?" he asked, realizing at the same time that he felt Andrew's hand protectively on his shoulder.

Will didn't need to look up, he knew exactly who had just walked into the living room. He calmly set Lucy back onto her feet and downed the rest of the glass Arthur had armed him with, standing up and meeting the Major's eyes.

The tension in the living room had escalated instantly, and part of Will wanted so desperately to get out of there, run as far and as fast as he could. But he wasn't afraid of this man any more. He held no power over his life, his power was solely a dominion over the past, and the past would never come again.

Will calmly walked through into the kitchen, the Major stepping aside to allow him past, no doubt expecting Will to run. Instead Will extended his glass to Arthur.

"I think I'm going to need another," he said firmly.

Chapter Eight

Andrew found Will outside. He had been picking out a small plate full of sandwiches when he noticed Will wasn't eating. To be suddenly thrust into a social situation with his father had to be really upsetting for Will. Despite all his claims of being happily independent, there was still a lot of pain left behind by his father's complete rejection of who he was.

Andrew leaned on the balcony rail and extended the plate of sandwiches under Will's nose. "Eat," he said firmly, worriedly touching the small of Will's back.

Will tiredly rubbed his eyes; he was halfway towards drunk, which was what happened when he wasn't used to drinking. He had retreated from the main party out onto the veranda to get away from the falseness of it all. The game of happy family his Aunt insisted on putting on for his grandmother. As if his grandmother wasn't smart enough to see straight through it.

Andrew looked down over the gardens towards the road where cars zipped by. They could make a run for it, hop in the car and speed up the gravel driveway, but the Mustang was blocked in by a couple of other cars and a Dodge truck; if they'd thought it through they would have parked out on the street for an easy getaway.

Andrew sighed, looking back at the house behind them. "Your grandmother seems really nice," he offered, stealing one of the sandwiches, noticing Will hadn't touched them.

Will nodded, still staring over the garden as the evening descended steadily towards night. Sunset touched the low clouds and burnt them orange red, like a fire spreading across heaven. Behind them the music from the party switched to something slow, beautiful.

Andrew slipped his hand from the small of Will's back to encircle his waist, drawing him closer to him. "Come on, don't worry about it. We'll be fine."

"There you are," a boisterous voice exclaimed from the doorway. Uncle Hubert, Arthur's elder brother, staggered out of the house, typically one or two of the other cousins in tow as he moved the party outside onto the veranda.

He walked up beside Will and clapped him on the shoulder, the ash from his cigar falling as he gestured with his other hand. "Soon be done school; you must be excited to go to university and show that son-of-a-bitch dad of yours what you can really do."

Will stiffened, and Andrew felt him tense beneath his embrace, he wasn't sure what had sparked Will's sudden anger, but he knew well enough to head it off before Will cut loose.

"Hubert." Andrew had to grin, the way the name was pronounced with a heavy French pronunciation made it sound more like `He-Bear.' Which for any one who grew up in the mid-nineteen-eighties and saw the he-man cartoons... well, picturing a bear in a loincloth would make anyone smile.

"Andrew." Hubert grinned, switching his attention to Andrew, wrapping an arm around his shoulders and turning him to the other cousins, "How's that mother of yours? Still as sharp-tongued as ever, I bet..." Hubert cackled as he squeezed Andrew close to him, "This young man set a record for goal-scoring last year, before UNB snatched him away for their varsity team..." He turned, "How'd this season go for you?"

Andrew glanced behind him, noticing that Will was missing and he searched vainly around the veranda for him. He slipped out of Hubert's grip, "Excuse me, I have to find Will."

"Will's a big boy," Hubert insisted. "Come, we want to hear all about your year."

Andrew held up a finger, "Let me get a rain check on that, Mister Aube, I will be right back." And he darted down the wooden steps out into the yard, wishing that Arthur and Majella had installed yard lights at some point. He was never very good at finding his way in the dark.

The Aube's yard was huge, backing onto a couple of acres of woodland, a barn squatting on the edge of the property overlooking a small stream. It seemed like the most likely place for a young Brit to run to when he wanted to be alone.

The old barn door rattled as he let himself in, thankful to find that there was a single dim electric bulb lighting the barn. It wasn't used anymore, not for animals. A large truck sat on blocks in an obvious state of disrepair, as well as a large number of crates arranged around for storage.

"Will?" he called out quietly, trying to peer deeper into the barn and not seeing much in the shadows.

"Up here," Will called out, startling Andrew as he spun to look up at the young Brit sitting with his feet dangling from the hayloft.

"What are you doing up there?" Andrew asked in confusion. It was an odd sight; Will was one of those people who just never looked right in a rural setting, especially not dressed up to the nines. But there he sat, chewing on a bit of straw, looking down at him sadly.

"Sorry, I just had to get away from it. Uncle Hubert is a bit much."

"He means well," Andrew said, clambering up the ladder and resting on the top rung. "He is just a bit too over-enthusiastic."

"You know my family better than I do." Will replied softly, leaning down so his head was level with Andrew's as he stood on the ladder.

"Hubert and Arthur have both worked at the rink since before I can remember," Andrew said with a simple shrug. "Hubert runs the YMCA that owns the rink. You know, the sports center and stuff."

Will nodded, "Yeah, I know, just..." He sighed, "Sorry, I'm just not very good with the whole family thing, I shouldn't have dragged you into all this."

Andrew sighed, "But I am involved, I'm your boyfriend, it's all part of the job description. Besides I get a great benefits package."

Will raised a quizzical eyebrow as Andrew leaned in to kiss him on the tip of his nose. So gently intimate, so personal to them. Will leaned forward and returned the kiss, a light peck on Andrew's cheek that drew out as Andrew turned into it. Both young men kissing in the barn, Andrew precariously balanced on a ladder.

He broke the kiss and looked down, "Much more of that and I'll fall."

"Let's go home," Will said hopefully. "I can cook something to eat and we can watch TV or something..."

"But what about your family?" Andrew asked. "Won't they get upset with you?"

Will chuckled, "They already view me as the black sheep, what's one more black mark against my name?"

Andrew nodded and vanished as he slid down the ladder holding onto the sides. Had it been a wooden one his hands would be blistered, but it was a metal stepladder. On the floor, he dusted himself off, watching Will tentatively start down, shakily taking each step.

"You're afraid of heights," Andrew realized with a grin.

"You didn't know that?" Will asked in surprise. "I thought everyone knew." He reached the bottom and brushed himself off, grinning shyly.

Andrew stepped in again, reaching out to remove Will's glasses. "There's still so much I don't know about you," he said as he kissed Will once more. "Come on, let's get out of here."

They slipped from the barn and hurried towards the car, coming up short when Andrew remembered that he was boxed in. He looked at Will apologetically, "We're going to have to go back in." He sounded depressed.

Will nodded mutely as they climbed back up the steps to the veranda where Uncle Hubert was regaling some of the young women with a tale about his youth. He caught sight of the two returning and grinned.

"Glad you decided to come back," he said with a wink. "And where did you two disappear off to?"

"A walk along the stream," Will said thinking quickly.

Hubert reached up and pulled a strand of straw from Will's hair; without saying a word he flicked it off the veranda and winked suggestively to the girls. They giggled in unison, and Will felt his cheeks burning.

"What?" Andrew said with a grin, throwing an arm over Will's shoulders, daring anyone to say anything. His blue eyes glittered as they moved from cousin to cousin, each falling silent as they suddenly realized that they weren't being all that funny.

Hubert decided to change the subject, "So, Andrew, have you found a summer job yet?"

Andrew sighed, "No Mister Aube, not yet; I wasn't really looking..."

"Well, every boy your age should have something to do during the summer," he glanced at Will, "other than walks along streams." He looked back, "I hire students at the Y every summer; it's long hours but I can use the help."

Andrew shrugged, "I don't know, Mister Aube..."

"I could use someone like you to help coach the hockey summer camp when it starts up." Hubert dangled the offer in front of Andrew, knowing full well what kind of temptation that was.

"Hockey Camp doesn't start till the end of school," Andrew said thoughtfully. "What would I do until then?"

"There's plenty to do, I'll find you something," Hubert said as he looked back to the girls. "So, as I was saying..."

Andrew surmised that he was supposed to think about it, but he shuffled it to the back of his mind as he looked at Will, who seemed overtly eager to get as far away from the party as he could. Such a bundle of nerves whenever he was anywhere near his father, the emotional damage that had been done there was a wound Andrew could do nothing to heal. All he could do was offer all the love he could to Will in the hopes that it would fill the void left when his father shattered his world.

Will, however, was made of sterner stuff than Andrew sometimes gave him credit for, and they both reentered the party. Andrew stepped off to find Arthur and ask about getting his car freed.

Arthur was pleasantly drunk, his bottle of rye nearly empty, and he was searching for something decidedly stronger when Andrew found him. He huffed a moment staring blankly at the young man standing near him, scratching his beard trying to place him. Finally, when recognition lit up his eyes Andrew started to make some progress.

"Did..did Hubert speak to you?" Arthur swallowed the tail end of his drink. "About the coaching?"

Andrew nodded, "He did, Mister Aube; I was wondering about the cars?"

"Huh?" Arthur gave him another blank stare, swaying on his feet unsteady from the drink.

"The cars, Mister Aube," Andrew pressed helplessly, looking about for someone more coherent to help him. Majella and some of the women of the family were clustered in the kitchen discussing recipes of various dishes, and most of the men were inebriated. Andrew frustratedly thrust his hands into his pockets wondering how he was going to get Will out of there.

"What's the matter, Andrew dear?" old Mrs. Carter asked, quietening the ladies down as she noticed him.

"My car's trapped, Mrs. Carter," Andrew replied, turning to the old woman.

Grandmother Carter was an efficient woman; she took charge of the situation like an old matron, issuing orders for the men to fork over their keys, delegating to the wives that were sober the job of rearranging the cars. Much to Majella's dismay, who seemed upset to have her party interrupted because someone she didn't want there had decided to leave.

Andrew ignored her. Will needed to go, and that was all that mattered to him. He wasn't about to let her inflict more of her misery upon Will just to appease her.

Will for his part was keeping quietly to himself, his arms drawn tightly about his frame. Not scared, just eager to leave. It just had to be getting to him, and he just wanted to be away from it. That old fight-or-flight instinct kicking in. It had been a bad idea to come. Andrew felt that someone should have warned Will that the Major would be there.

In his own mind he was probably kicking himself for being so juvenile. Andrew knew Will wasn't afraid, just uncomfortable, and that was enough to make him want to be anywhere but right there right then. Andrew could understand that, and he caught sight of Will's grandmother as she flashed Will a concerned look, understanding all too well, even though it saddened her greatly to see it.

The Major for his part, stone cold sober as always, sat and watched the pantomime of wives running to move cars just to let his son go. There was no smug look on his face, simply a look of disappointment like somehow he expected more, and for a second his eyes met Andrew's across the room before the Major made a decided show of turning away, returning his attention to his wife.

Andrew touched Will's arm. "Let's go." he said softly, guiding Will to the door.

Chapter Nine

Andrew was up early the next morning, still living out of his suitcases and because he hadn't taken the time to unpack he was unable to find anything that wasn't wrinkled beyond recognition. There was a growing pile of clothes on the floor as he dug through the bags for something at least passably presentable, finally finding a sweater and a pair of drab tan chinos that would look all right.

He took a long shower and was relieved to find his mom had bought him some more shampoo, although secretly he had to admit he found the Rosehip smelled kind of nice. Wonderful, he thought dryly, keep this up and he would be shaving his legs. Will was such a bad influence on him.

He grinned as he began to brush his teeth; they'd had a good night after the party. Gone back to Will's and just chilled. Watching TV with Will curled up against him working on his homework was one of those things Andrew had missed the most going to university. It was great that they could both do their own thing, and yet still be together. That was the great thing about their relationship, it was happily comfortable.

He got dressed and walked through into the kitchen and he sighed seeing his mother in her customary position staring out at the field. Her sad repose every morning, greeting the dawn with her coffee. Andrew supposed it was her way of remembering his father, and despite the fact that it tore at his heart every morning when he saw her like that, he often didn't interfere.

"You were out late last night," his mother said, reaching out with a slender hand to pick up the carafe and pour herself another cup of coffee. "How is William?"

"Carter's fine," Andrew said, pulling down a bowl and fixing himself some cereal. "His aunt was throwing a party and we went to it."

Micheline pursed her lips considering what a party at Majella's would be like. "Is William ok?" she asked in concern.

Andrew stopped and set the milk down. "I don't know, Mom," he admitted honestly. "He got pretty rattled, I think. But you know Carter, he always hides it when he's upset."

Micheline lightly stirred some cream into her coffee, studying her son. It often worried her how much her son cared for Will, sometimes putting his own needs aside in an effort to protect Will against the world. Not that it was Will's fault, Andrew was like his father, always needing to keep people safe.

"Was the Major there?" she asked, her eyes gliding back to the window and the hayfield where some birds broke from the long grass and flapped skywards.

"Yeah," Andrew said, returning to the table and sitting down, pouring himself a cup of coffee. His mother gave him a disapproving look.

"When did you start drinking coffee?" she asked.

"I'm twenty," Andrew said. "I don't think it's going to stunt my growth."

Micheline abandoned the half-formed lecture on the evils of coffee and what it did to people. Andrew was right; he was old enough to make his own choices. She decided to go back to her original topic. "What happened last night?" she pressed.

Andrew explained about the evening, finishing up with the chaos of the car ballet.

Micheline gave him one of her motherly looks, "Is Will okay?"

"Yeah," Andrew said between spoonfuls of cereal. "He was just a little shaken. I got him out of there as soon as I could and he seemed to relax."

Micheline set her cup down again, curling her long fingers around it as she stared into the dark liquid, finding the right words for how she wanted to phrase this. "Are you sure that was the right thing to do?"

Andrew paused, spoon midway to his mouth, "Huh?"

"It's just," Micheline sighed, "you can't fight his battles for him." She held up a finger to cut off his protests, "I know you love him, but sometimes you have to stand aside and let him do it himself."

"You didn't see him last night." Andrew confessed, "He was trying to hide it, but I could see how much he was hurting."

Micheline flexed her hands, uncoiling her arms as she looked into her son's eyes, "But you have this habit of charging to the rescue, and," she paused, wondering if it was right for her to interfere, "it's just that sometimes you can't do that. You know when I used to put plasters on your cuts?"

Andrew nodded, his brow furrowed.

"Well, they're put on to protect from infection, but they don't help the cut itself heal; you have to take them off to let the wound breathe." She looked at him, "Am I making sense?"

"You're telling me not to get involved between Carter and the Major," Andrew replied, his tone of voice saying he didn't like the idea one bit.

"No," Micheline said with a soft, motherly smile, "you're going to protect him no matter what; it's just sometimes you have to stand aside and let William protect himself."

"I get it," Andrew said digging into his cereal again. He suddenly stopped and set his spoon down looking up at his mom, "I haven't told you yet, but I applied to Ottawa University."

Micheline's eyes tightened suspiciously, "Why? I thought you liked Fredericton."

Andrew rolled his eyes, "What is with everyone, I would have thought you would be pleased I decided to go to school here next year."

"William knows about this?" Micheline asked.

Andrew nodded, "Yes and he got quite upset at me for it." He scooped up his coffee mug and took a long drink, "He thinks I'm doing it just for him."

"Are you?" Micheline's back straightened as she gave him the look.

Andrew shook his head. "I want to be here next year," he said determinedly. "With you, with him, I don't get what's so wrong with that."

Micheline sighed loudly, "I just want what's best for you, that's all. Are you doing this for yourself, or because it will make William and me happy?"

Andrew looked across the table towards her. "I missed you both," he said, "and I was having a hard year at UNB. I just want," he gave up and shrugged, "I just want to stay at home, that's all. Ottawa is a good school and..." he extended his hands, "you know."

Micheline nodded sagely, "Have you gone down there? Looked around the campus? I think you should think it through before you make your choice. I don't want you making a decision you will regret."

Andrew gave her a smile as he set his spoon down, "I will Mom; don't worry, I've had a lot of time to think this through..." He stood up and walked to the sink, rinsing out his bowl and setting it aside, "I'm free this morning, I can go check things out."

Micheline smiled as she stood up as well. Walking to the hall closet she pulled out a rich gray/blue zip-up vest that she handed over to him, "I bought this for you yesterday, it's a bit chilly out there today so you could use it."

Andrew smiled as he shrugged it on over his gray sweater, an odd combination but he thought it looked cool; he turned back to her, "How do I look?"

Micheline adjusted it a little, "I was right, it does bring out your eyes." She brushed it down, "I'm very proud of you, do you know that?"

Andrew gave her a shy smile, "Thanks." He scooped up his keys, "I should go then, maybe I can meet Carter and Jared for lunch afterwards."


It wasn't cold; in fact the sun was shining powerfully as Andrew navigated his way around the campus. It was a pleasant walk; the University was just about to get started on its summer term, most of the regular students having gone home for the summer.

It was a sprawling campus; buildings were clustered together, a mixture of modern architecture as well as some more historic buildings. It definitely looked more impressive than UNB in Andrew's mind. There was more money there, which meant better professors, a better program and ultimately a better education for him.

UNB was an engineering school, Ottawa was an academic school. It really just solidified his choice to stay on next year. He actually began to feel a little excited by the prospect; he knew a lot of his old school friends who had settled on Ottawa, and he felt confident that he would fit in easily enough.

He ducked into the main building, climbing down a flight of steps till he was walking through the orange-lit concrete halls passing the student bookstore and a coffee shop. He stopped and bought himself a mochacino, sipping it as he returned to his rambling exploration of the school and what it had to offer.

He didn't have a particular destination, he was purely looking around to see what it was about. A couple of familiar faces passed him in the hall, one of them turning to stare openly at him.

It was Robin Doyal, the young debater he had always competed with in Mike Greenwood's English lectures. She turned, excusing herself from her friend, and walked over to him. She looked well, dressed understudy stylish. She shifted her binder from one hand to the other as she walked around Andrew looking him up and down.

"Andrew Highmore," she said smiling at him, "what are you doing here?"

Andrew shrugged, "Checking out the school, I'm thinking of transferring." He sipped from his styrofoam cup and nodded to her, "It's good to see you."

"You too!" she exclaimed throwing her arms around him in a big hug. "How's that boyfriend of yours?"

"Will's fine," Andrew said, gesturing. "Which way are you walking?"

"Oh, I was heading to register," Robin said. "I'm taking some summer courses, I wasn't doing anything this summer so I wanted to keep busy."

Andrew smiled, "I know that feeling, I'm at a loss for what to do this summer as well."

"You should register," Robin said pushing his arm. "They have some great courses here, I'm taking a political theory class..." she stopped, aware that she sounded a little too eager. "Ok, so I miss having someone with half a brain to argue with," she admitted.

Andrew laughed. "You're twisting my rubber arm," he said as they passed through a main concourse, a couple of tables set up, one of which had "PRIDE center" in big bold rainbow letters. A couple of students were passing out leaflets about various GLBT issues, and Andrew paused to pick up one of the leaflets, flipping through it.

"You should come out for a meeting," the young man said, resting on a plastic chair. "We could use all the support we can get."

Andrew looked up, and a flash of recognition passed between them. The young man at the Lookout balcony with the white patch in his hair. He in turn recognized Andrew, and his eyes drifted down over him, lingering a little too long for Andrew's comfort.

"Uh, sure," Andrew said. "I'll think about it," he said, tucking the leaflet into his pocket as he and Robin moved away.

"He was cute," one of the Pride volunteers observed.

"He's got a boyfriend," the guy with the white patch said with a sigh. "The good ones always do."

Andrew, overhearing the exchange, blushed a little bit. Robin caught it and looked back over her shoulder, "Must be nice," she said with a grin.

Andrew shrugged, "I didn't notice." And he gave her a grin, "I'm happily taken."

It had taken only a few minutes to register, his information was all on file for next semester so it was no problem for him to sign up for classes early. Robin guided him through what courses were rumoured to be the best. And the pair of them had signed up for several courses together. So much for his summer vacation, it gave him something to do during the school year, and brought him just one step closer to Law School.

They were walking back across campus when Robin patted the pocket with the leaflet, "So are you going to help out in the Pride center?" she asked.

Andrew dug it out and flipped through it as they walked, "I might, but if it's anything like the GLBT center at UNB, it's going to be a glorified pick-up club."

Robin smiled at him, "Tell you what, if you do, I'll join with you. Keep you out of trouble."

"Well," Andrew said hesitantly, "I never really pictured myself a gay rights activist..."

Robin blinked at him, "After your senior year? You were an activist from the moment you came out. The whole I'm gay, deal with it attitude of yours..."

Andrew shrugged again, "I know, I just don't want to... well, you know. Give people the wrong idea."

Robin grinned, "You're worried about Will."

"Well," Andrew admitted, "yeah, a bit. He's not the jealous type, but I don't want him misunderstanding why I'm doing this."

"If he trusts you," Robin said, "then it won't be a problem."