Welcome to book Three of the William Carter series, this one is entitled Carter's Duty.
Ok, so people trust me now? if so a little positive reinforcement is good see link below for general comments.
I would love to hear what you think of these characters as they evolve.
I am aware of the chapter numbering problem. I accidentally added an extra chapter to the end of the first installment, that was my mistake and i will correct it.
remember the characters are now in thier mid twenties and dealing with modern life issues. not all of lifes situations are good ones. It's about how we choose to deal with them, and its about the people we surround ourselves with.
I want you to email me feed back if you are not enjoying this. Hell even if you are enjoying it let me know.
Comments or questions direct to email@example.com. Feed back is welcome.
"You got tickets to game six?" Andrew was incredulous, "I'm such an asshole."
Will sighed, "It wasn't your fault, you didn't know."
"I should have called, its just Maria was having a crisis and..." Andrew realized what he was saying sounded hollow. He felt hollow; he hadn't realized how upset Will would get over it. Looking back on it now, he realized...with everything else how it painted a picture that... He shivered, "I'm sorry Will...it wasn't like that."
Will shrugged, "I was swept along by the night, there was a lot going on that day, too much. Work, the bachelor party, the strippers..."
"Strippers?" Andrew asked cautiously.
The Pink Panther, Will read as they walked through a plain, nondescript door, "Do I even want to know where we're going?"
Brody was being his usual mysterious self, up to something. Whenever he was called out on that aspect of his personality he would affix a pious look on his face and exclaim about his innocence. Anyone who saw Brody knew he was many things, but innocent wasn't one of them. It was like calling a crocodile cuddly, or a Wolverine a good house pet. It just didn't sit right.
He was a walking contradiction: he was an educated man, learned in philosophy and religious studies, yet he was singularly the biggest womanizer Will knew. He gave a whole new meaning to the term `Naughty Vicar'. Yet he was also a resolute friend with a well of inner wisdom that seemed to never run dry, nor would it. Brody was his own source spring as well.
The massive bouncer barring their way was easily a head taller than the tallest amongst them, and easily twice as wide. Dressed in black and listening intently to his headset he loomed over them, giving them a stern gaze that said he would tolerate no nonsense before he pointed them over to where they could check their coats and pay cover.
"I don't like this," Jared whispered in Will's ear as he rooted in his wallet for the extortionate amount of money they demanded for cover.
"Relax," Brody reassured with a toothy smile as he ushered them in through a heavy curtain. He looked to all the world like the devil himself at that moment. A fallen angel was an apt description of Brody.
It was dark, lit by black lights. Neon glowed brightly everywhere, and at one end stood a cabaret-style stage with a brass pole, a half-naked woman wrapped around it. She was peeling off her bikini top and swinging rhythmically to the music.
The guys all turned towards Brody accusingly.
"What?" he asked, extending his hands and feigning innocence. "You should know better; as if I'm not going to take you to a strip joint."
"But," Jeff desperately tried to tear his eyes off of the girl, "you said..."
"Would you have come if I had told you the truth?" Brody grinned. "Come on, I reserved a table down front."
"Of course you would," Jeff intoned as he shook his head. "Lisa's gonna have a fit."
"Stop being such a pussy," Brody replied, clapping a hand on his shoulder. "Come on; we're here now, might as well enjoy ourselves."
Will stood frozen in the door, his jaw hanging open. Disbelief had displaced reality for a moment. It was a surreal experience for him, all he could do was stand stock still and stare. His mind raced through a hundred different places at once. He had seen naked women before, but never like this. Sure he had been to strip shows, but ones with males, who had certainly not done the things these girls were doing. Not to mention the fact that he had been prepared for that; for this, however, there was no preparing himself for this. He tried to work out what he should do, but nothing worked. So that was how a shock victim felt.
"Uh-oh," Jared said looking concerned, but still managing a grin, "We broke Will."
Brody walked up and took the shattered gay man by the arm and guided him towards the table. "Ahh, it'll be good for him, show him what he's been missing."
"I...err...well... ahh..." Will stammered as they sat him down.
"Great," Jeff muttered, "not only am I having a bachelor party, but my best man is catatonic... Brody, fix it."
Brody pulled out something grey and spongy from his pocket that he placed on Will's tongue. "Swallow," he commanded. Will did as he was instructed.
Jared looked concerned, "What did you just give him?"
"Oh, relax," Brody said, waving over a barmaid, a busty girl in a cowgirl outfit. "Just a little something to loosen him up; he'll be fine, we're all right here." He smiled at the barmaid, "Hey, we're celebrating. I have two hundred bucks here; let me know when this runs out, and if there's any left at the end of the night, keep it."
She nodded as the wad of twenties vanished, "So what are you boys gonna have?"
"Bottle of champagne," Brody ordered. "Put it on ice, we're going to have some drinks first. I'll have a club soda, any brand's fine." With Will out of the picture someone had to be the designated driver, and Brody had decided to be the responsible one.
"Beer," Jared chimed up. "Regular draft's fine."
"Same," Rafik said.
Jeff nodded, "Me too."
She turned to Will, who was beginning to feel himself relax, "Rye and coke..." he began.
"Will..."Jared warned, a concerned note in his voice.
Brody stopped him, "He'll have a bottle of water... in fact if he asks for anything else, just give him water."
The bar maid glanced at him and shrugged, "Sure thing." She gave him a winning smile, "Let me know when you're ready for that champagne. I'll tell the bartender to keep it on ice."
"Thank you," Brody said as she turned around and his eyes trailed down her figure. All the straight guys at the table did; she was wearing a tiny checked shirt and those tight, snakeskin-print pants, and...
She turned and flashed Will a smile.
The guys immediately started laughing, and Jeff grabbed and pulled Will close by his tie.
"You're not taking a strip-club waitress to my wedding," he said. "Got that, Carter?"
Will shook his head, "God, no..."
"Good evening," a voice boomed over the speakers. The music had stopped and the girl on stage was getting down. "And welcome to The Pink Panther where we have the most beautiful ladies on earth to give you guys what you want. That was Porchea, she is now available for private dances, just ask for her at the bar. Next up we have Raquelle Royalton, give her a big hand."
The guys around them cheered, and Will watched, amazed, a warm feeling spreading through his body. He'd never been to a strip show like that one before; he normally preferred amateur night in his bedroom after a night at the club. There really had been no point in going to...
Everyone clapped as a bright spotlight suddenly illuminated a figure in the middle of the stage. She was all legs and hair. The music began in earnest as Raquelle got to throw her clothes around. When the barmaid returned, Will chose to help her pass around the drinks as the other guys at his table were too engrossed in the show to even notice they had arrived.
There was a burst of noise that caused Will's head to snap around. The guys were laughing hysterically as Raquelle perched herself on the rail that separated the stage from the tables. She was growling at Jeff; she snapped her teeth at him and growled again.
Jeff turned a shade of red and laughed good-naturedly. He raised his glass to her, as she turned to point her round derriere at him.
Jared and Rafik howled with laughter, and Jeff tried to look composed. Brody was on the edge of his seat as he grinned from ear to ear.
Raquelle spent the rest of her five-minute number gyrating her hips in Jeff's direction after stripping down to just a pair of fishnet stockings and high heels. She presented her breasts to him, as she dropped lower so that he could get a better look.
Jeff smiled and pulled out his wallet just before the music faded. He clambered over Brody and leaned on the rail with a bill in his hand.
Raquelle eyes glowed happily as she stuck a leg out at him. Brody closed his eyes and Jared laughed even harder as he took a sip of his beer. The bill safely in her garter, Raquelle blew Jeff a kiss before she darted off stage.
The guys cheered as Jeff sat down, showing he was a good sport even though he was embarrassed.
Will laughed as well, though a little too hard, his eyes floating everywhere at once. He was in a happy warm place; it didn't matter where he was, it didn't really matter who he was. He could just enjoy that moment. They were just five old friends in a bar celebrating; who cared if a half-naked woman was waving herself at him. He simply pointed at it and laughed harder with the guys.
"Will's baked," Rafik observed, ordering up another round. "Think we should take advantage of this situation?"
"Hell, yeah!" Brody replied. "But later, though, when he starts to come down... he hasn't peaked yet." He seemed thoroughly amused by the whole situation.
"He'll be ok for tomorrow, right?" Jeff asked worriedly. "I mean, I'm not going to have to explain to Lisa why he is still fucked up."
"Relax," Brody said with a sly smile. "You're all going to get fucked up by the end of tonight." He pushed Jeff's bottle of beer closer to him, "Drink up Mister Bachelor."
Jeff shook his head as he picked up the bottle, "You're pure evil."
"Me?" Brody replied. "Nah, I'm innocent." He stood, "Speaking of which, I hear the call of nature. I'll be right back, ladies."
Jeff stood as well, and headed towards the bar.
Rafik shook his head as he looked after him. "He's really gonna do it," he said. "Tomorrow he's tying the knot."
Jared nodded, "Why so surprised, you did, you know."
Rafik snorted, "As if Farah gave me a choice."
Will, his eyes still wandering trying to see everything at the same time, leaned in, "Hey, he loves her, right? So he might as well marry her." He battled with lucidity and felt like he was winning.
Rafik eyed his condition warily, "Yeah, but do you think things are going to change?"
"No" Will said right away, then he reconsidered. "I don't know. Things always change for us. That's a given. But it will still be good." He shrugged.
"Welcome back," Jared said clapping Will on the shoulder. "Thought we'd lost you there for a bit, feeling better?"
"I have this warm gushy feeling all over," Will admitted, "but I can form a coherent sentence, which is good..."
Brody returned and noting that Jeff was still over at the bar, he grinned. "Okay, I slipped the DJ a fifty and told him it was Jeff's stag night. This is gonna be good."
"What are they going to do?" Will asked, dumbfounded.
"Watch and learn something, Carter," Brody said. The grin on his face was one of a very self-satisfied man.
"All right, gentlemen, that was the lovely Jasmine," the DJ broke in over the music. "Now I hear that some poor bastard is about to spend the rest of his life chained to some woman..."
Jeff, just about to sit down, froze, Brody chuckling maniacally as both Rafik and Jared began to holler.
"Would Jeff care to join the ladies up on stage?" A stagehand set a chair out in the middle of the stage as Jeff was pushed up onto it by his friends. He looked a little lost until Raquelle burst back onto the stage and cornered him.
He allowed her to push him down into the chair as the other four dancers came on stage. The demure Porchea, the vivacious Jasmine, the radiant Caprice and lastly, the dominant Maxima.
Will wondered if they had an economical Jeep hidden away backstage somewhere, and burst into fits of giggles at the thought of his car stripping. Jared caught him before he fell out of his chair, and ensured he sat upright.
Brody grinned like he enjoyed the mayhem he had created a little too much.
Jeff looked panicked for a moment as one of the girls reached and pulled his sports coat back over his arms, conveniently pinning them to his sides. He was a prisoner to his own fashion sense. Maxima leaned down and showed him her cleavage before she gave him a stout whack with her riding crop.
Will would have been shocked at Jeff's sudden wide smile, save for the fact he was vacantly staring up at the flickering lights above him.
Maxima stood and leaned in close to Jeff again, roughly pulling open his shirt. The buttons scattered across the stage as Raquelle moved to straddle him.
Brody whooped and began to chant encouragement.
Rafik simply shook his head as he sparked up another cigarette, settling back to adopt his usual aloof cool attitude that only heightened his awkward pretentiousness. Will giggled maniacally again and clung to Jared desperately as the floor seemed to vanish beneath him.
"Make it stop!" he cried between the fits of giggles.
"I can't, buddy," Jared said, helping Will back to his seat. "You've got to ride this one out."
Jasmine had produced a permanent marker from somewhere, and while Porchea busied herself creating a distraction for Jeff with a pair of breasts ideally suited for captivating a man's attention, Jasmine proceeded to sign Jeff's chest.
"I got laid last night, thanks Jasmine." Brody read. "Oh, someone's gonna die come tomorrow night."
Everyone stopped to stare at him in disbelief; finally Rafik spoke up, "No Brody, you're the one who has to explain all this shit to Lisa if she finds out."
"So how far away is Tijuana?" Jared asked no one in particular.
Will couldn't help it; he cracked up into laughter as he slowly slid beneath the table.
It had been a set-up from the start. But exactly who, and how Will had become the targeted victim, eluded him. Wait, he knew exactly how. Brody was ultimately always the culprit. He knew Brody wasn't solely to blame this time; there was an inherent curiosity in all of his friends to see how he would react to the situation he found himself in. Not that he had been completely in a position to do anything to stop it. He was still struggling against fits of giggles as whatever Brody had administered to him worked its way through his system.
He found himself in Porchea's clutches, trapped. The private booth offered him nowhere to run and all he could do was sit and endure the experience. It was as if the combination of drugs, music and the fact that she was stripping in front of him had displaced his mind from his own body. He could still see, but neither act nor speak initially. He was a passenger along for the ride in his own life. For once he had no control over what was happening; he could only sit back and watch through his own eyes as she performed for him.
She had manoeuvred him exactly into that position, luring him away from the table when she had asked to talk to the best man about another surprise for the groom. Will had just assumed she was being sincere, so had followed the half-naked woman back into the booth. His own na´vetÚ and total lack of experience with such things left him oblivious to anything being wrong until it was far too late.
He stared at her now from the chair she had sat him in. She was pretty, he supposed, dressed now in a white lacy lingerie thing and smiling at him like the cat who had finally cornered the canary. He coughed and tried desperately to think of something appropriate to say.
"I'm gay," was the best that he could manage. He was firing on only one cylinder, and that one had blown a gasket along the way.
"I know," she replied as she began to dance for him to the sharp backbeat of the music, running her hands over herself suggestively.
He arched his eyebrow; so much for that plan. He tried again, "You do realize that..."
She ignored him as she slipped out of her bra and straddled his lap, staring deep into his eyes. He looked down at what she was offering then looked back up at her face.
"Wouldn't you rather just talk?" he asked, still trying to will his body to move.
She pushed him back down and began to run her hands over his body again. It was an odd experience for him. It was strange to be making physical contact with someone in that fashion and not feel anything. It was totally non-sexual to him. He tried to think sexual thoughts, but they eluded him.
He laughed nervously, hoping that she wouldn't get offended.
She didn't seem offended as she slid down off of the chair and ran her hands up his inner thigh. He looked down at the mane of blonde hair and shook his head, nothing.
She was giving him her best effort as she slid her hands upwards those last few inches. He tried to understand what Jared, Rafik, Jeff and even Brody saw in her. But one hurdle remained, impassable in his mind. He could see that she was desirable in a strictly male hormone kind of way. But he just wasn't wired that way.
He found his mind wandering, the lights going out upstairs as he checked out of his own body for awhile. He was just going to let the experience carry on and then when it was over he would return. At least it reassured his own sexuality.
Porchea was completely naked now; she mounted him again and ground herself against him, groaning and moaning her desire. But he remained lost in his own reflections.
Had Andrew finally reached the inevitable conclusion of his own test? Had Will succeeded in reinforcing the man's sexual identity? Was their relationship really nothing more than an act, another part of the test to simply vanish when it had run its course? Had Maria won their undeclared war for the one guy that truly meant anything to Will? A guy that she didn't really want, but was determined to have nevertheless?
Will had to accept that possibility. If he had lost Andrew then he needed to deal with that loss, protect himself from the pain as best he could and move on with his life. He couldn't just shut down and let the world slip past him. He was stronger than that. More controlled than that.
He looked at her and shook his head. "You can stop at any time," he said calmly. "I'm not enjoying this; it does nothing for me, I'm sorry."
She smiled at him, a touch disappointed, "I'm sorry..."
Will snorted, "Don't be, there's a reason they call us gay." He stood up and walked out of the booth, not even bothering to straighten or re-button his shirt.
"So?" Brody demanded with a massive grin.
Will shrugged, "I found someone I want to take to the wedding."
Jeff started and stared, his eyebrows knotting in worry, and then he shook to clear his head.
"You're kidding, right? I know you are. Right, Will?" he swallowed. "You're not taking a stripper to my wedding. This is no time to start experimenting. Not that I care if you do, but my family will be there... Hey?" he called as Will turned away and Brody threw an arm around him.
"You're nuts, you know that?" Brody said to Will. "Stop before he has a stroke."
They both looked over at Jeff, who was staring between them and Porchea who was leaning on the bar looking despondent. Brody excused himself to go and comfort her; within a few moments she was laughing and smiling along with him.
"He's kidding, Jeff," Jared said, trying to wipe the grin from his face as he watched Brody work.
"I'm kidding," Will reassured. "Calm down, it's all good."
"You suck," Jeff replied with a grin of his own, sitting back down. "Tuck yourself in, you look like you just got laid."
Will shook his head, "Nah, I'm chilling, it's all good."
They crawled out of there sometime after two in the morning. Stumbling into the Jeep Cherokee, Brody was to drive them all back to Will's place, the safest place to be to sleep off the affects of alcohol and other substances.
"Guys, I kinda have to go," Rafik said as they hit the highway.
"To the bathroom?" Jared asked. "Me, too."
"So do I," Will told them.
"Same here," Jeff said.
"Me, too." Jared repeated.
"Well, I have to go kind of bad," Rafik admitted as he looked around for somewhere to stop.
Now that he had mentioned going, Will didn't know how long he was going to be able to wait.
"You'd better hurry," he told Brody.
"Man! I didn't go the whole night," Jared said. "I can't believe that. And we drank a lot."
"I didn't go the whole night either," Jeff admitted. "Brody, just pull over."
"Where?" Brody asked. "If the cops see us..."
"Who cares," Rafik said, starting to dance in the front seat. "Just stop. If you don't, Jared might want to buy a new jeep."
"No joke," Will told them, feeling like he had to piss right there.
"Shit," Brody muttered, as he pulled over on the shoulder and the guys pushed each other to get off the truck.
"Oh, man! I waited a long time!" Jared yelled.
They barely made it out of sight from the highway and just far enough from each other to be comfortable. But when they finally were able to, it was a relief. A line of five guys watering a highway embankment at two-thirty in the morning.
The pair of pickup trucks suddenly screeching to a halt caused them all to turn; Will swallowed when he caught sight of the Quebec plates.
The eight men spilled out of the truck, one of them pointing to the Ontario plates on Jared's jeep. "C'est Anglais!"
Will felt uneasy; it was late, the new comers were obviously drunk, and the way they continued to gesture...
"Les Anglais taberwet, we don't want you round here!'
Jared walked calmly back to the Jeep. "Let's just go," he said, opening the passenger side door as his friends continued to watch the Frenchmen warily.
The ringleader stepped forward and lashed out with his foot, slamming the jeep door closed on Jared's hand. Immediately the tension grew as the friends realized they were outnumbered and in trouble. Jared cradled his hand as Will stepped up protectively.
Where was Brody?
The shattering of glass got everyone's attention as Brody emerged from behind the Frenchmen, standing beside the front end of their truck, a tire iron in his hand. He hefted it again and shattered the other headlight. "You want to fucking go...Let's go!" he lifted it again ready to swing.
The ringleader shook his head as he grabbed one of his friends, all of them sidestepping around Brody to give him as much room as they could, "Mon dit, you crazy!"
Brody lowered his weapon as they piled into their trucks, turning to look at Jared's bleeding hand, cut when the door had been slammed on him. "We're going to get you to a hospital," he said calmly.
The morning of the big day had arrived and Will hadn't slept. Jared had been stitched up after a four-hour wait at the Civic Hospital's emergency room. A low-priority patient, Jared only required a few stitches. But in a hospital which was ridiculously understaffed, overworked and underpaid, the doctors were too busy trying to keep up with the night's rush that seemed to keep pouring through their doors and Jared was continuously being relegated to the back of the queue.
Will had sat with him in the makeshift waiting room desperately craving a cup of coffee and he regretted again being the one to volunteer to stay with his injured friend. The main waiting room was undergoing renovations, and a particularly large set of scaffolding blocked the only coffee machine, so Will had no choice except to sit there and wait.
Jared was grateful for the company as they sat in that small cramped room packed full of people with every conceivable ailment under the sun. Will did his best not to stare, but a woman had just thrown up into a wastepaper basket beside him, and a man across from him cradled a tiny baby that wheezed and rattled every time it took a breath. It was hard not to sit there amidst so much human misery and not appreciate his own good health.
The loud whoosh of air from behind him caused him to spin and look at the air delivery system that deposited a travel canister into a basket right beside him. He paled noticeably at the blood transfer packets that the canister contained. At that moment it seemed to hit home where he was, and remind him he was face to face with the true mortality of humankind. Faced with his own mortality and all he craved was a cup of coffee.
He despised the thought of death, denied the fact that though he was getting older he was going to die. He had the twenty-something attitude that he would live forever. As long as he could deny the existence of death it couldn't claim him. But God's plan was a simple one: in the end he killed everything.
He stared out into the hall where a gurney rested. A pair of paramedics had wheeled in a young man, no more than twenty, who had been involved in a car accident. He wasn't seriously hurt; a lot of cuts and bruises and a few broken bones. But the young girl who had been rushed in a few moments before him was currently in the OR, clinging to a fragile life that had been shattered in one careless moment.
Will balked as a scruffy-looking man staggered into the waiting room; he had a lost look about him, confused. He stared about himself wildly, as he stumbled to the nurses' reception and asked them something frantically. Will couldn't make it out but there was a look of concern exchanged between the two nurses as one reached for a phone.
The man gestured at them in disgust before he staggered over to the chairs, picking the only free seat beside Will.
Will tried to appear unfazed by the sudden proximity of the man, but Jared caught his agitation and exchanged a sympathetic look with him. Will offered a tight smile and crossed his arms, trying to appear as uninterested as he could.
"The Americans did this to me!" the wild man exclaimed, indicating a cut on his forehead. "They did this to me."
Will tried to keep focused on a wall poster depicting the affects of smoking on the human cardio-vascular system. He hoped that if he just ignored the man, he would simply leave him alone. He was wrong.
"Are you one of them?" the man asked incredulously, as he reached out to touch Will's arm.
Will's eyes had widened at the sudden violation of his personal space. "No," he said firmly, "no, I'm afraid I'm not."
The man caught Will's heavy English accent and his eyes glittered, "You're a fucking Brit. You're worse than a Yank `cause you side with them." He leaned close to the woman who'd vomited, "They're allies, President Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, they are both trying to turn us all into androids, they want to invade Canada."
Jared tried to hide his grin, but Will didn't quite appreciate his sense of humour. He shifted uncomfortably and looked desperately over at the nurses.
"They tried to convert me," the wild man grabbed at Will's arm. "You're not going to win you know. You can't just convert people whenever you want. Sooner or later they are going to get away from you, go back to their own lives. Like me, you couldn't turn me."
Will pulled his arm out of the man's feverish grip and walked over to the reception desk. "Can't you do something?" he demanded desperately, as he glanced back to where the man sat.
"Security is on the way, sir," the nurse reassured. "Just be patient..."
Will sagged his shoulders and grumbled, "Sure, but you're not an android invader." He returned to his chair and smiled politely at the wild man.
"What?" the man demanded. "I'm not taking any more of your damn pills!" He became more agitated as he stood up and walked to the reception desk. He paused as if to say something to them and returned to his chair. He repeated the motion two more times as Will moved to stand over by the far windows of the waiting room.
Jared, still cradling his wounded hand, looked up at Will, "You don't have to stay, buddy..."
Will shrugged, "Sure I do, someone has to make sure the androids don't get you."
The entrance of the two uniformed security guards came as a relief to Will and the distress of the wild man. He tried to push his way past them, but they held him securely.
He stared straight at Will. "You'll not convert me," he bellowed. "Go back to your own land."
The security guards guided the man away between them as he continued to scream and throw threats at his perceived enemy. Will swallowed as he watched the man be led off; there was something about it, the heightened paranoia of a deranged mind that jarred Will's perspective of reality. It was nothing more than the ramblings of a man in desperate need of heavy medicating, but Will stared after him nonetheless. For that man, his demons were all too real. The rest of them weren't so lucky.
"You okay, buddy?" Jared asked him in concern.
Will nodded, "Yeah; no, it's nothing." He smiled wryly, "I always thought there was something artificial about Margaret Thatcher."
Jared grinned, "Isn't she retired or something?"
Will sat back down in his chair. "At least that's something," he said. "Are they ever going to let us out of here? It's nearly six am by that clock and we've been here all night."
Jared chuckled, "I'll buy you a coffee when we do."
"Mister Hammond," the nurse said as if on cue. "The doctor will see you now."
Will smiled. "Luck, buddy," he said as he shifted for the final wait.
It was seven in the morning when Will finally got home, Jared in tow. They pulled up and wandered into the house already alive with activity. Jeff's mother and grandmother slaved over breakfast while Jeff and his brothers waited patiently in front of the television watching Hazel Mae on sports desk.
Little Peter was already dressed in his tuxedo, looking petulantly at the TV which was supposed to be his during the day. He grinned happily when he saw Will coming in and bounded up.
"Jesus," Jeff commented as they stumbled up into the living room. "You two look like hell."
Will let out a loud yawn as he climbed the stairs that separated the living room from the kitchen. He claimed the coffee pot of black nectar and poured himself a large mug of the life-sustaining liquid. From the taste of it Andrew wasn't up at that point, and Will realized that he hadn't seen the boy since dropping him off the day before with Maria. He shrugged off the thought as he stirred in some sugar and smiled in gratitude to Mrs. Sternosti, "Thank you."
"You boys look like you had fun last night," she commented. "Were there girls?"
Will chuckled as he sat down at the table. "We were good as gold," he said with a grin.
"Sure," Mrs. Sternosti said as she handed a second mug of coffee over to Jared. She `tsked' when she saw his bandaged hand. "Dirty rotten stop outs," she said, as she returned to her French toast.
Will wrapped his hands around his mug, "Well, actually I was accused of a plot to take over the world."
"Now that's a scary thought," Jeff said as he came up to the kitchen. "The whole world run by little cute blonde..." he caught himself and simply shrugged. "Anyway, it just wouldn't be pretty."
"Oh it'll be pretty," Jared replied. "Too pretty, if you know what I mean," he winked teasingly.
"You boys leave William alone," Mrs. Sternosti said, as she placed a plate full of French Toast down in front of him. "He's a good boy, unlike you two."
Will beamed as he reached for the syrup.
"Did Brody make it back to the hotel okay?" Jared asked as he looked over at Jeff.
"Yeah, after we dropped you two off we drove Rafik home; Farah was sitting up waiting for him and boy was she pissed..."
"Language," Mrs. Sternosti warned, as she set another plate of toast down on the table.
Jeff grinned as he claimed the plate, "So anyways, last I saw of Brody was when he dropped me off here. He took off in your jeep," he grinned at Jared. "I think he was going to his hotel."
"Aw, Dude; my Jeep?" Jared complained, "Man, now my insurance rates are going to go up."
Will drained his mug and went for a refill, the more coffee he drank the better he would be during the coming day. Twenty-four hours and zero sleep added with a lot of caffeine, he was going to be wired for the day to come.
"My dad also picked up the Tuxedos yesterday," Jeff said. "They're upstairs. The wedding is set to start at ten, it's getting towards eight now. Between all of us showering and whatever else, if we start now we should be ready in time."
Will let out a heavy sigh as he motioned towards the stairs, "At least we're not over at Lisa's now, all the girls getting ready at the same time."
"Stop it, you're turning me on," Jared joked.
Will shook his head as he followed his friends upstairs. Since Rafik had declined it was only the three of them in the groom's wedding party. Which meant they were the only three to be subjugated to the tuxedos. To Will, it was a chance to dress up like Bond.
He was instantly disappointed, the tuxedos Jeff had rented had a decided Scottish feel to them. Traditionally Scottish. The sharp red kilt looked better suited to one of Andrew's shirts. Will's jaw worked in dismay. But it was Jared who finally put a voice to the displeasure.
"Kilts?" he said desperately.
Jeff nodded, "I've always loved them. It'll surprise Lisa when she sees us in them."
Will swallowed, "You ordered these?"
"Yeah," Jeff replied enthusiastically. "Don't you love them?"
Jared picked up the two tuxedos marked for himself and Will. "They came from that Tux place in the St. Laurent Mall, right?" Jared asked hopefully
Will tossed him the receipt. "Size 34 short, if you need it," he added.
Jared nodded. "I'll be back in half an hour," and he bolted for the door, as Will spread his arms to block Jeff's attempt to stop him.
"What are you doing?" Jeff bellowed after Jared who was taking the stairs two at a time.
Will dropped his arms and sat down on the edge of his bed, affixing a serious look on his face, "Jared's just going to grab us a couple of real tuxes." He looked sympathetic, "I don't put on a skirt for anyone."
Jeff looked angry as Will's Jeep started up in the driveway and Jared peeled off, "You guys didn't even ask...Man, it's supposed to be my wedding!"
Will nodded. "Of course it is," he looked up, "which is why you get to wear the skirt..."
"Dude, that just ain't cool!" Jeff replied.
Will rose and guided his friend out towards the bathroom further up the landing. "Look at it this way, you'll make more of an impression on Lisa if you're unique..."
The door to the guest bedroom Will had been sharing with Andrew opened in front of them as Maria backed out onto the landing. She was still wearing Andrew's jersey, just Andrew's jersey. She turned and froze as she came face to face with her elder brother.
"Jeff!" she squeaked as she took a step back into the room on reflex. That allowed Will to see past her and into the room. Andrew was sitting up in bed, a look of shock on his face.
Jeff looked from his sister to Andrew and then back. Realization dawned on him and his jaw worked angrily.
"Jeff, don't freak out!" she said, as she tried to placate him.
"It's not him you have to worry about," Will snapped coldly, his eyes never leaving Andrew.
"Will," Andrew's eyes were wide in fear, "it's not what it looks like... I can explain..."
Will shook his head, "I don't want to hear it," he said, as he swallowed down the ball of rage rising in him, a rush of emotions desperate for release.
Jeff looked from Will to Andrew, his eyes ablaze; he would have lost it there and then had Will not caught his arm. "It's not worth it," Will managed as he looked down at Andrew. "We don't have time to sort this out now."
Jeff sneered as he turned to his sister, "Put some fucking clothes on before Mom and Dad see you looking like some cheap slut."
Will hung his head as Andrew gave him a pleading look. He simply turned and walked into the bathroom, slamming the door behind him.
He stood clutching the edge of the sink, staring at his reflection in the mirror, trying not to think about everything that had happened, but history had a way of reminding everyone of its lessons.