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.
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Comments or questions direct to email@example.com. Feed back is welcome.
Thirty thousand feet above the Atlantic, and Will stared into the cup of coffee, the emotions subsiding from him. That sense of being overwhelmed, forcing him to react rather than act, keeping him off balance was fading as he stared into the small coffee cup labeled with the cheap charter companies logo.
Cheap coffee, cheap flight, it was typical of the company he had worked for. Typical of the man he had worked for, the hell he had endured, and for what? He hadn't set out for that, graduating from university was supposed to be the first step into his life.
Andrew was sitting listening with his well-practiced ear. Ever the lawyer in training, it some times showed in his mannerism, in those lines forming around his eyes from the long nights studying and long days spent in classes. He hadn't interrupted Will once, sitting impassive and listening, resting his hand lightly on Will's, occasionally staring past him at Brody, who remained as ever Brody.
"You could have come to me," Andrew said after Will paused, it wasn't an accusation, more it was a subtle probe, him trying to get to the bottom of what had caused such a mess.
Will couldn't look up into those eyes, they would send him back into the waves of guilt that had pushed him into a no win situation. One he had desperately sought to protect Andrew from. Strange that. Andrew was the white knight, the one that came to the rescue, and Will was the damsel in distress. Wasn't that how things were supposed to go?
He scrubbed his unshaven chin, catching sight of his reflection in the dark liquid in his cup. He looked as bad as he felt, and wondered how long he had looked that way? Probably since he accepted the position at the call center. How long had he felt that way? About the same.
"Excuse me for being a dumbass," Brody said, moving his hand back and forth, "But why the hell would you take a job like that in the first place?"
Will turned to Brody, setting the mug down on the tray table, "Why would someone normally take a job?"
It was Andrew's turn to stare down, realization dawning on him, and Brody looked puzzled, "Money?"
Will shifted in the seat, "Yeah." He replied honestly, when he had come back from university and he had moved in with Andrew it came to a choice. Will had realized they couldn't both go on to graduate school, and with Andrew already in Law School the decision had been a natural one.
Andrew's hand tightened over his, as he realized exactly what Will had sacrificed just to let him go after his dream, "I never asked you to do that..." Andrew said after a moment.
Brody frowned but chose to remain quiet, not fully understanding but Will and Andrew were doing the unspoken understanding that came with being with a person for years.
"I know," Will said softly, "but it needed to be done."
Andrew brushed his blonde hair back out of his eyes, remembering everything that had happened when Will had come back. The sale of the Mustang, and Will's starting work. Andrew had just become so caught up in school, class, life that he hadn't stopped to think about the fact the only reason he was able to go one with his dream was because Will had given up on his.
"You should have said something..." Andrew managed after a moment.
Will sighed and squared his shoulders, "What could I say?" He downed the remnants of the coffee, "And with everything else going on, could I really tell you about it?"
"What else was going on?" Andrew asked cautiously.
Brody coughed, "Uhhh before you start up again, I just want to point something out to my lawyer."
Andrew leaned around Will again, "What?"
Brody grimaced, "Dude you don't have a passport with you when we land if they don't stick you on the first plane back you're going to be camping in the terminal."
Andrew shook his head, "great I'm going to get deported."
Will relaxed a little at the lightness between them, Brody just seemed to make light of any situation no matter how bad it seemed to be. That simple brevity had a way of putting life into perspective.
"Well at least I can say I went to England... for an hour or two." Andrew rubbed his tired eyes, "But you still haven't said what happened to put all of us on this plane."
Will nodded, "ok, I'll keep going."
Will watched the clock. A pastime that was enjoyed by employees the world over. The last half-hour of his day was usually spent like that. He booked his interviews for the next day and wrote up the last of his daily performance reviews. Evaluations were always a lot of paperwork, but Scott demanded everything be in writing. Will was tired; he had rushed about his office juggling his own work as well as the "busy" work that Scott had saddled him with. And as the day drew to a close, he found that he anxiously awaited five o'clock and the chance to go home.
Blessedly, Scott had gone home early that day, and about the call center there was a notable change in atmosphere. There was laughter, actual laughter out on the sales floor. It was a refreshing sound in a place so locked in the stress of appeasing a man who could never be satisfied. A couple of agents were standing up, injecting their newfound energy into their presentations. There was a vitality about that hadn't been there earlier in the day. The watchful eye of the slave driver was gone, and his minions could allow themselves to ease off of the oars. And it showed; the computer beside him tracked the daily sales figures, and the slow and steady numbers of earlier were being eclipsed by much better results.
"They're certainly going now;" Ken observed, as he poked his head around the door to Scott's office Will had commandeered to conduct the evaluations, "they seem happier with just Brad here."
"I should hope so," Will said, as he put the finishing touches on his paperwork. "They needed some good numbers; if nothing else it boosts their confidence and morale."
"And ours." Ken replied, taking off his headset. "How much time do we have?"
"Ten minutes," Will replied, as he glanced back at the clock and drained the last of his fifth cup of coffee. "I'm done here so if you wanted to duck out early, I'll watch the floor."
Ken shook his head, "That's ok, I can stay; you just relax, you've earned it."
Will blew out a sigh, "You got that right, old man; another day, another fifty-cents after taxes." He smiled, "That's about thirty-three-cents Canadian."
They both chuckled at that as Alicia pushed her way past Ken to drop her clipboard on the desk; she yawned dramatically before she pushed her way out again without a word. She was as anxious as the rest of them to go home and back to her life. Will couldn't blame her. And as she tugged on her coat back at her desk, the sales floor became more excited. They saw her get her coat, and they knew that their own day was coming to a close. One or two of the agents pulled on their own coats in anticipation.
Will gave them an amused look as he logged out of his computer and left Scott's office to join Brad up at the central station. Ken followed along to return his headset to the charger. There was something about the end of the day, something that filled him full of enthusiasm.
"Log out!" Brad bellowed almost as soon as Will sat down.
The stampede that followed always reminded Will of why he had never elected to teach. Schools may have had little in common with a call centre, but the desperate rush to the doors by soulless people in a race to escape the dreariness of a life on a telephone reminded Will of his own teaching days.
"Well we made it," Brad observed as he tallied up the daily sales figures.
"And all it took was for Scott to go home;" Ken replied. "Think they'll ever realize that upstairs?"
Brad smirked to himself, but carefully avoided responding, though Will caught the sly smile. Brad Gilmour was next in line for Scott's job, and given a chance would excel at it, especially if that evening was any example. It was only a matter of time until someone upstairs put two and two together and saw the results were timed exactly to Scott's absence. Brad was ultimately confidant that time would show how good he really was. And he was that good, he had to be; he was a former investment broker and was used to larger capital sales. Until his name had earned a place on the national blacklist. He and Ken had both suffered the same fate when their last company had folded. But that was well before their time at the Ottawa call centre.
"Well, on that note," Will said as he stood up, "I am going to head out; I'll see you both tomorrow, gentlemen."
"Night, Will," Ken offered with a grin.
It was rush hour in the city when he finally started his drive home; it was a nightmare of cars, heat and frayed tempers as everyone tried to get to the same place at the same time. Will wound the car through the traffic as he headed downtown to pick up Andrew. Unlike the morning commute, he enjoyed it when he picked Andrew up at the end of the day. It was the one time of the day when he could just enjoy himself; he felt his foot press down on the accelerator as he cruised against the flow of traffic that headed in the opposite direction. He couldn't help but grin and feel sorry for the poor sods who tried to head for home.
Andrew waited for him when he pulled up at the school. The young law student had been sitting on a bench outside the student union building reading a book on ethics and he seemed to enjoy the lazy summer evening. He grinned broadly when he looked up over the rims of his glasses and caught sight of Will. A few minutes later he hopped into the passenger seat.
"Hey," he said as he sat his book bag on the back seat and gently rested a hand on Will's shoulder and leaned in to give Will a gentle kiss on the cheek.
"Hey," Will replied as he turned the car back onto the street. "How was your day?"
"I scored high on that paper you helped me with." Andrew fumbled to buckle his seat belt and shifted to get comfortable, "Thanks, by the way."
Will shrugged, "No need to thank me; you wrote it, I only cleaned it up for you. So what do you have for tonight?"
"Oh, just some readings and a bit of study for my mediation class." Andrew gave him a roguish smile, "Nothing that I can't put off, though."
"Good," Will declared, as he suddenly cut the car down a side street. "I'm taking you out to dinner. Consider this a kidnapping for a couple of hours."
Andrew laughed, "Could we stop at a Mall, though? We really should get Lisa and Jeff a wedding present."
Will nodded, ignoring the plainly marked speed limit as the Jeep accelerated through the subdivision. He loved to drive, and in a way he had a chance to spend some alone-time with Andrew. It was a rarity between school and work. It seemed sometimes like it was always a competition for time; the demands of modern life were hard on any relationship. Will could appreciate that work and school had to come first, and it was just that simple. Whatever time came in between was simply borrowed; it had to be paid back at a later time. It was a frustration; they both had so little time for each other. Yet Andrew was stubborn and wouldn't let Will get away with ignoring that fact.
They had argued about it occasionally. Will had been the instigator of the fight. He was adamant that Andrew focused so much time on his schooling that there was no time left for them. How could he come first if Andrew was unwilling to give time away from his studies? But it was a pointless argument designed purely to hide his own selfish insecurities. The pain of their first real separation had been hard, too hard he supposed, and he had tried to hurt Andrew just to prove those insecurities correct, to push the guy to leave sooner, rather than later when it would hurt more.
However Andrew hadn't taken the bait. They had argued, until Andrew had calmed down enough to point out how irrational Will was being. School came first, yes, but all the rest of his time and energy was devoted to Will. That, and Will had been a jerk who didn't appreciate that. Will had little choice but to concede defeat; he was faced with a situation where he was being irrational and couldn't deny it. And once he saw that, he couldn't really exert such irrationality, he had no choice but to back off. He hadn't expected such a blunt reaction to his behaviour, but then Andrew wasn't really the type to play games.
They were hopelessly in love, insecurities or not, doubts or not. All the arguments did was prove that fact. And then there was the cute exasperated look Andrew would get on his face when he thought Will had finally gone insane. As if to say with a look, shut up and kiss me damnit.
Will mused on that as he parked the car at the St. Laurent mall and they both got out. How did he come to be with such an atypical guy? The answer really was he hadn't. Andrew had been the aggressor. No matter how many times Will had tried to push him away, Andrew had kept persistently returning refusing to take no for an answer.
They had met when they were still in high school, Will a picked on insecure young man and Andrew the complete opposite. And yet there had been a bond formed, whether through that first night in the storm when they had clung to each other, or from their first kiss under a street light in a park. You couldn't just ignore something like that.
God had said `let there be love,' and there was.
Now six months later they were in the houseware section of Sears looking at wedding gifts.
Will held up a lava lamp, "Think this suits them?"
"If you wanted to give them something to enjoy when they are stoned," Andrew replied. "What about a painting or something?"
"No, Jeff paints," Will replied, as he shuddered inwardly. If he bought them artwork it would go over like a lead balloon. Their tastes were so divergent that it was an argument that waited to happen; Will couldn't expect them to agree on much. Besides the temptation to buy them `Dogs at cards' would be just too great for Will to resist. Lisa wasn't someone who appreciated Will's sense of humour at the best of times, and he remembered his birthday approached; he had no desire to find a place for a particularly nasty piece of pottery Lisa would give him as a revenge gift.
Andrew hefted his backpack back to his shoulders, "We've been at this for over an hour, I'm starving," he complained. "Couldn't we just get something on the registry?"
"Ah," Will said in distaste, "no, I like gifts to actually be personal."
Gift registries; a strange custom where a couple pre-selects the gifts they want to receive. Sure it had its advantages; Jeff and Lisa wouldn't get five toasters come their special day. But Will could never get past the fact that it was too much like cheating. Who wanted to know what they were getting before they got it? Defeated the purpose of a gift. Wasn't the whole point of buying something for someone the actual buying process itself? To find that perfect gift that said exactly how he felt about them? The lava lamp was perfect for that.
"Well we could stop into the lingerie section," Andrew offered. "That would be personal."
Will winced at the thought, "Now there is something entirely wrong about two men shopping for women's underwear, even if we are gay."
"Sure," he said with a grin as he punched Will's arm. "Admit it you just want me to model it for you. Something black and lacy..."
An old woman gave them a scandalized look before she scuttled off. Will couldn't help but smile at that. No matter how far society evolved, the capacity for the younger generation to shock little old ladies remained a favourite pastime.
"No," Will said as he composed himself, "I don't think we should do that, but we can get them his-and-hers matching bathrobes."
"Perfect!" Andrew exclaimed. "I saw this great flannel robe on the way in. It would look perfect on Lisa."
"How about a plain one?" he asked as he tried to keep up with the excited jock as he navigated through the maze of clothes racks heading for the bedroom attire.
"There's nothing fun about plain," Andrew retorted, already digging through the racks looking for something appropriate.
Will groaned, but relented. Andrew had every right to add his opinion to the purchase. Yet another example of how intertwined their lives had become over the last few years. It was a complication, sure, but Will wasn't going to complain just yet. They had their rough patches, but, as Andrew lifted out an especially garish-looking red-flannel robe, Will had to admit how bright and spirited the man was. Especially when he put up with such an old-fashioned guy like Will.
Once safely through the register and back on their way to the restaurant, Will's cell phone rang.
"Go ahead," Will said as he answered it, glad that their time in the mall had allowed rush hour to abate.
"Hey, Will, it's me," Jeff's voice replied.
Will blew out a sigh, "Yeah, old man, what's up?" He glanced over at Andrew who frowned at the phone.
"My family just got into town," Jeff continued after a pause, "and I was wondering... that is, since you have the space... if you would mind putting them up for a few days?"
Will's shoulders slumped, "Umm..."
"They'd get a hotel," Jeff rushed on, "only this way it would save them some money and some time come Wednesday."
Will let out a slow breath again, "Sure thing, Jeff; we'll be home in a few minutes." He closed the phone and looked over at Andrew again, "Can I get a rain check on dinner out? Jeff's parents need a place to stay and they are probably waiting for us."
Andrew nodded in disappointment, "Sure, I've got some homework to get done anyway, and I can probably cook something when we get there."
Will smiled, "Hey, why don't we order in?" he said, as he handed Andrew the phone and turned the Jeep back towards home.
Chapter Ten June 9th 2003
It was utter chaos; within just minutes Will knew what it must have been like to be a part of the Blitzkrieg, to suddenly turn around and find himself a victim of an invasion by a malicious occupying force that was intent on taking over utterly. That was how it felt for Will at that moment. When Jeff had said family, Will had assumed just his parents. Instead he now had brothers, a sister, and a pair of grandparents as well. All stuffed into his little split-level townhouse. There were only two guest bedrooms, meaning that the couches in the living room and the den had been commandeered as well. With only one bathroom to share between everyone, things were about to become very crowded.
He had retreated to the kitchen balcony while everyone settled in. The sounds of pots and pans rattling in his kitchen heralded doom for his plan to order food. Jeff's mother and grandmother, old-school Italians, had taken one look at the pizza when it arrived and decided to cook a real meal. He winced, so much for that idea. Andrew wasn't too happy about having to postpone his dinner again, but Will couldn't exactly refuse Jeff's mother's insistence that she repay the hospitality in this manner. Even if the pizza had been paid for.
At first Will had thought to retreat with Andrew to the living room, but Jeff's father and two younger brothers had discovered the digital-cable box, and more importantly, the hockey game on the sports channel. Andrew had settled onto a couch with them. But Will wasn't about to subject himself to another attempt to understand the damn game. He would leave that to the French-Canadian and the three Italian-Canadians who hooted and yelled at the television at every call.
He had sat for a while as he tried to make conversation with Jeff's gruff father. Mr. Sternosti was a severe man who worked as a contractor back in St. Catherines. But the man had flatly ignored Will every time a burst of excitement erupted on screen.
Jeff's two teenaged brothers weren't much better; they laughed as they joked in Italian to each other and Will understood that they made fun of the teams on the screen, but much beyond that he was lost.
And he had given up altogether. He preferred to find a corner to brood over the preferred methods of exacting his revenge on Jeff.
Even his den/study had been overrun. Jeff's 18-year-old sister had claimed that as her makeshift room, and was downstairs blasting his stereo as she unpacked her mountain of suitcases. Will reflected she seemed set to spend a week somewhere exotic rather than a few days in Ottawa. But for the St. Catherines-born-and-bred girl, this was her first chance to go to the big city.
"Where do you keep the strainer?" Jeff's grandmother, a thickly-accented, wizened, Italian woman asked through the open screen door.
"The colander is in the second cupboard to the right of the stove," Will replied, wondering for the umpteenth time how he had allowed Jeff to talk him into this. He was too nice for his own good he surmised; it was only for a few days, he reminded himself.
He rested his arms on the rail and loosened his tie; the bedroom arrangements would have to be planned out. Jeff's grandparents would have to take the master bedroom; he couldn't expect them to weather the futon in the guest bedroom or the narrow single bed in the third. It was the only considerate thing to do. Breaking the news to Andrew wouldn't go well, especially since Jeff's parents had already set their belongings into the room with the futon. Andrew hated the narrow bed, and for the two of them to have to share it, Andrew would only be more aggravated.
It was only for a couple of days. That was becoming his mantra lately.
Jeff stepped out of the house, gently sliding the patio door closed on the kitchen. "Hey Will, thanks, eh?"
Will contemplated several acrid responses before he shrugged, "Yeah, well what's a best man for?"
Jeff joined Will at the rail looking down at the rented minivan that had displaced Will's Jeep out onto the street. "Mum brought some of her spaghetti sauce with her, it's her specialty."
As if on cue the patio door slid open and the aged grandmother looked out, "These mushrooms are no good!" she declared as she held up a zip-lock baggie containing dried mushrooms, "they bad, make you sick!"
Will winced, "I know Mrs Sternosti, just leave them where you found them..."
She shook the bag again; adamantly "I will throw out for you." She turned and before Will could react, emptied the bag into the sink, turning on the trash disposal with a flip of a switch.
Will rounded on Jeff, "Remind me once again why I am such a nice guy?"
Jeff held up his hands, "I'm sorry, look I'll replace them..."
Will returned to his view, "Don't bother, they weren't going to get used anyway..."
Jeff shifted uncomfortably.
"What now?" Will asked, as he began to feel his annoyance bubble into anger.
"It's just that..." Jeff shifted uncomfortably again.
"What?" Will closed his eyes, what else could go wrong.
"It's just that my family aren't that open minded..." Jeff looked pleadingly at Will.
Will's eyes narrowed, "No!" he stated firmly.
"It's just for a few days," Jeff begged, "they won't understand..."
Will's temper finally flared, "This is my house!" His voice hardened, but dropped to a whisper, "I am not going to deny who I am in my own goddamned house!"
"Will," Jeff's voice dropped as well, looking back at the open patio door, "Please!"
Will chewed on his lip and followed Jeff's gaze back inside his home, "What did you tell them?" he asked after long consideration.
"That you and Andrew are just roommates."
"Well, that is going to be hard to explain when he and I are sharing a bed tonight," Will replied as he shook his head. "And Andrew isn't going to like this at all." He swore again, this time in resignation, "All right, so I guess I'm the one stuck having to tell him... oh, you owe me big for this one, Jeff!"
Jeff clapped a hand on Will's shoulder, "I know."
By the time they re-entered the house, the chaos had escalated to a fever-pitch as the table was laid and the places set. Nothing quite compared to an Italian-Canadian family preparing to eat, there was so much regimentation; it was almost a disciplined hierarchy of who sat where. They had pulled Will's table out from the wall and had collected chairs from everywhere to ensure people had places to sit. And every inch of it had been covered by plates of food. It looked more like a feast than dinner.
Grandmother Sternosti laid plates as Jeff's sister Maria was setting the cutlery. Will glanced at the table a moment before he reached out to pick up the wineglass from the place setting at the head of the table.
"I don't drink," he stated, as he returned it to the cupboard. He blatantly ignored the glares grandmother Sternosti threw at him. He had to make some kind of a stand, a small gesture; but it was the small things that made him feel marginally better, after all it was his home, and he wanted to remind everyone of that. It wasn't that he wanted to be inhospitable -- he appreciated that Jeff's family had their own way of doing things -- but there were limits to his patience.
He poured himself a cup of coffee and smiled when he realized it wasn't one of Andrew's. He allowed people to filter to the table before he returned to the table and sat down, a ghost of a smile on his face. Andrew looked at him quizzically.
Will reached out to pick up the platter of pasta, and hesitated as he noted that everyone around the table was watching him. The tension in the air was palpable and he looked down the table at Jeff.
"Grace-?" Jeff's mother inquired softly, "Would you mind if my husband..."
Will held up a hand, "No, it's fine, it's my table after all. I'll do it." He narrowed his eyes at Jeff as he began, "For what we are about to receive, we are truly grateful."
"Amen," rang out around the table as people scrambled for food in a no-holds-barred race to get to food first.
Will watched the pandemonium and the rush of conversations, and he realized that his position at the top of the table left him isolated from Andrew who was stuck down at the foot with Jeff's younger sister. They appeared deeply engrossed in a conversation, and Will listlessly picked up a dinner roll and broke it open as he waited for the first rush to be done so that he could eat.
Jeff's mother sat and waited as well, a shepardess who watched over her flock of rabid wolves. Every so often her hand would snake out to rap the knuckles of one or the other of her sons who tried to pile too much onto their plates at once. In that hierarchy there was no doubt who was on top. Andrew seemed to be the only one at the table she encouraged to pile more on; she murmured something about him being too thin and that he should eat more.
When she noticed that Will's plate was still empty she took it from him and began to heap spaghetti onto it, and before he could protest she liberally poured her sauce over top.
"There you go," she said with an affectionate smile as she murmured, "Such a good boy; such a hard-working one with such a nice house."
Will watched everything with immense, solemn eyes. He supposed it was because he had never experienced such good-natured chaos.
Jeff's brother Jerry quickly grabbed a baton of garlic bread before his mother could give his knuckles another stout rap. She glared at him.
"You have dessert to go!"
Jerry stared down at his half-finished plate of food, "I'm not gonna have enough room, Ma."
Jeff's father gaffawed at him, "Use the washroom, make room."
Will's eyes stared in shock as he tried to focus back on his food. He had never been faced with such a free discussion of bodily functions at the dinner table. He picked at his plate as he tried to think of a way to change the subject.
"So," he said as he turned to Jeff's father, but got sidetracked as Jeff's mother spoke.
"Do you remember when Jeff was little," she directed across to her husband, "and he fell down the stairs?"
Jeff changed colours further down the table, "Ma..." he warned.
Will gave her his undivided attention as she explained. "When Jeff was little I couldn't leave him alone for a minute, he was always running off." She shook her head, "He was always scaring his dear old mother, but this one night his papa had told him to go to bed; but Jeff didn't want to go, so after I put him to bed he wanted to run away. But he couldn't sneak down the stairs to get past us so he decided to go out the window..." She shook her head, "He got as far as the ledge when he realized it was too far and wanted to go back inside, but he slipped and fell off. Now Papa had just mowed the lawn so when Jeff landed he rolled through freshly-cut grass, he was covered in it. Papa went out to find out what the noise was and found Jeff covered in grass and crying. When he asked Jeff what happened he said he had fallen down the stairs..."
"I did fall down the stairs!" Jeff protested loudly.
Jeff's papa shook his head, "You were outside covered in grass..."
Jeff shook his head, "I fell really hard." He looked over at Will, "Don't believe them."
Will glanced over at his own stairs, "Should I be worried you'll hurt yourself?"
Jeff threw up his hands, "That was twenty-one years ago, why won't anyone believe me!"
Jeff's mother leaned closer to Will, "I think he hit his head too hard when he fell."
Will nodded, "Yeah I always thought Jeff had been dropped as a baby."
"Hey!" Jeff protested, "At least its not as bad as the time Dad thought Jerry was a bear."
Will's brow furrowed, "Oh dear."
Jerry winced as Jeff carried on, "Well we were out at the cabin having dinner under the stars..."
Chapter Eleven June 9th 2003
It was much later when Will finally had Andrew alone. The older Sternostis had retired to bed leaving the younger ones to their own devices. Will rested on the pristinely-cleaned kitchen countertop and sighed. It had been a long, trying day, and the next was just going to be brutal.
He looked exhaustedly over at Andrew and smiled tiredly. Jeff had gone home and the house actually felt calm. Jeff's two younger brothers had laid claim to the X-box and the wonder of Halo and his sister, Maria, was taking a shower upstairs. For the moment it was just the two of them.
"All fun and games around here," Will observed with a roguish smile, "I'm sorry about this."
Andrew, sitting at the kitchen table looked up from his textbooks, "Hey, I understand, it's not your fault or anything."
Will smiled, "No I mean it, thanks for understanding, you're being so calm about all of this."
Andrew took off his reading glasses, "Hey, it was only dinner, it's not the first time we have had to change our plans because something's come up, and it won't be the last. Just remember this the next time I cancel because I have to study."
Will chuckled as he crossed to the table and sat down; he suddenly felt uneasy about the conversation he had to have. "Jeff's parents don't know," he said, his voice dropping.
Andrew let out a heavy breath as he put his pen aside, "Great, so now we're back to pretending to be straight?"
Will's face fell, "I know, I'm sorry..."
Andrew closed his book and ran a hand through his hair, "I mean, come on, it's bad enough we have to pretend when my mum's down, now I have to deal with Jeff's parents as well?"
"Jeff didn't warn them when they got here, they're old-fashioned..." Will realized he was pleading for something he didn't want himself, but he had no choice.
They should be used to hiding, but the point was they shouldn't have to. It was one thing not to be open about sexuality at work, Will managed over a hundred people and worked for one of the most bigoted individuals on the planet, a man who honestly believed in the inherent evil of an expression of love.
They couldn't all be as accepting as Andrew's mother.
Will had only experienced Andrew's mother "Hurricane Micheline" once since getting back from university, when she had touched down in town on a surprise visit. The formidable force of nature had left a lasting impression upon Will, now he required warning when she was in town, so that he would be out of it. There was an old saying; `the hand that rocked the cradle rules the world.' This was certainly the case with Micheline Hamilton. There was no contesting her, or even the faint hope of compromise; it was her way or none at all. She had a set vision for Andrew's future, her `plausible' plan, and Will was certain she had factored him into that plan. There was nothing like a mother in law to turn life upside down.
No, there was a good reason to keep his sexuality from the people at work where being gay was the punchline to a joke, but to ask Andrew to do the same now was too much. It was hypocritical of him to do so, after all they had been through together just to be open about their relationship in the first place.
"Look," Will tried again, "it's only for a couple of days, then we can get back to normal." He leaned his head down to look into Andrew's eyes, but Andrew refused to respond, choosing to look away.
"This really sucks," Andrew finally said after a moment. "Just to please someone else. They're our guests."
"I know," Will replied, "I'll make it up to you, I promise."
Andrew's eyes flicked up to Will's at last, "Yeah, you owe me for this one."
Will gently bit his lip, managing a tight smile, "I'll take you to a Sen's game."
"It's the playoffs," Andrew replied, speaking a language that Will barely recognized as English. "You'll never get tickets."
"They're playing tomorrow, right?" Will asked.
"Yeah, game six of the series." Andrew responded.
"All right, I'll see what I can manage."
Andrew shook his head. "Don't we have the rehearsal dinner to go to tomorrow night?"
"We'll go to game seven, then," Will said hopefully.
"Wedding's that night," Andrew said, pushing back his chair and walking over to the sink.
"Game eight, then." Will pressed, still trying.
"There is no game eight." Andrew replied, running a tap. "Look you don't have to do that. I'll be ok, we'll get through this."
Will rested his head on his hands, staring at the wall, "Yeah, I suppose."
It was depressing; Will tried his hardest, but Andrew had slipped into one of his moods, and as much as Will wanted to, he couldn't fault him for it. Wedding stress had spilled over into their lives, affecting every aspect of it. They were being slowly displaced by someone else's life. First their home, now their relationship was being affected. What was next? It wasn't right, that they were being affected so drastically.
He turned to speak again, but drew up short at the sight of what had just entered the kitchen. His jaw dropped open in shock. Andrew turned and nearly dropped his glass into the sink. His eyes were as wide as dinner plates.
Maria stood there, towelling off her hair, wearing Andrew's Sen's hockey jersey and little else, she gave him an apologetic smile.
Her hair had been curled into soft fat ringlets that fell to the nape of her neck. Maria was blonde; well she was blonde at that moment. And since she came from an obviously Italian heritage, bleach must have contributed to its colour. It was cleverly done; Will would never have known had she not been a brunette earlier. Obviously she used it to her advantage.
She had also been subtle when she had applied her makeup, invisibly achieved, except that again Will was a gay man, makeup tips were part of the curriculum. Her eyes were brown, wide and sweetly lacked the guile Will knew too well lurked there. It was a woman on the prowl giving the illusion of being the prey.
"I'm sorry," she said, finishing with the towel, "I had to borrow this shirt, I hope you don't mind..."
"N-not at all." Andrew replied with a pronounced stutter.
Will's eyebrow arched as he caught the scent of vanilla extract mingled with peroxide. Like everything else about her it was subtle but deliberate.
"Good, I really didn't want to be rude," she crossed the tiled kitchen floor on tip toes obviously accenting her assets while appearing like she was avoiding the cold floor. And as she reached past Andrew, up into the cupboard for a glass, her leg lifted up behind her as she did so. Will was relieved to note she was wearing underwear. Not that he was looking, but it was obviously on display.
He glanced up at Andrew, who was still staring transfixed at the young woman's underwear. His eyes were wide, and his face flushed red with embarrassment, at least Will hoped.
Will chewed on his lip for a moment; she knew what she was doing. Girls like that, who knew what they were doing and how to do it without appearing as anything but innocent, usually got exactly what they wanted. It was a simple manipulation of genetics; she used her most affective method of attracting attention. And to Will's annoyance, it appeared to be working.
He cleared his throat as he stood up, breaking her spell on Andrew as he did so. "Well it's getting late," he observed.
"Yes," she agreed, setting her glass down, "I was wondering, " she turned to Andrew, "I wanted to take a look around downtown tomorrow, I could use someone to show me around."
Will's brow furrowed darkly, "Don't you have class tomorrow, Andrew?" He was beginning to get angry.
"Y-yeah," Andrew managed, his head desperately moving between the two of them.
"Oh really?" She asked, brightening up, "Where do you go to school?"
"U of O." he responded, on automatic now.
"Oh," she beamed ecstatically, "I'm thinking of going there next year! Perhaps you could give me a tour around campus tomorrow?"
Will's jaw locked in frustration, "Now wouldn't that be fun," he commented dryly.
"Yeah, sure." Andrew replied, smiling back at her. "Will usually gives me a lift in, could you be ready to go first thing in the morning?"
"Sure," she declared happily, throwing her arms around him affectionately, inadvertently dragging the jersey up as she reached around his neck. She placed a hand on the back of his head, trying subtly to angle his head downward to see the curve and line of her panties.
What both she and Will missed was Andrew's roll of his eyes as he stared at Will. But Will had turned his back to the scene busying himself cleaning the stuff in the sink.
"Thank you so much!" she said, already skipping off to her makeshift bedroom in the den.
Will turned glared a final time at Andrew before he stalked off to bed.
Andrew shot a pained look after him, shook his head and returned to his studying. Carter would get over it once Andrew had a chance to explain.
He tapped his pencil against the edge of the book staring up at the stairs, Carter was under a lot of pressure and he was moody lately, Andrew could just write it off as that. But Will getting jealous of a girl, if his reaction hadn't been so hurt Andrew might have found the situation funny.
He set the pencil down and leaned back in the chair running a hand over his chin. He was dating a difficult and stubborn man, and there were time she wanted to shake Carter for being such a...goof... But that was part of what made him so loveable.
The job thing bothered him though, Carter was a brilliant teacher and he had loved it. But to suddenly up and not go on to get a teaching degree, to quit and manage a telemarketing call center, it didn't make any sense to Andrew. The place was slowly tearing the spirit out of the man he loved, but he couldn't just march up the stairs and demand Carter quit. That wasn't his place, all he could do was support those choices, no matter how much he disagreed with them.