This story takes place approximately one year after Carter's Duty.

Comments or questions direct to Feed back is welcome.

The most dangerous follower is he whose defection would destroy the whole party. That is to say, the best follower.
Friedrich Nietzche

Chapter One

There are some debts that no matter how hard you try you can never repay.

The fact William Carter was there, sitting at his desk tapping a pencil against it staring down over the city of Toronto was a testament to a debt he could never hope to repay. It bothered him, that no matter what he did, no matter how many times he said "Thanks" it just never seemed to be enough. It was a personal thing, he knew that, and Robert Avery would have been happy with just that, but Will honestly felt there should be more.

He had tried to simply do the job he had been promoted to do the best way he could, say thank you by living up to the faith that had been invested in him. He felt as though he was trying to live up to Robert Avery's expectations. He had responsibilities, he was director of Human Resources at Avery-Woods Communications, and he had a workload that he managed well. It wasn't that he was good at his job, more that he was competent at it, competent and hard working.

He was a corporate wage slave now, a year of working for the same firm and he had worked his way up the ladder to get a decent salary, a nice office and the right to choose his own assistant. He attended seminars, trained staff members and coordinated a team of recruiters. He loved his work; it gave him a satisfaction being in charge that he could never get anywhere else. But he wouldn't be sitting there if it weren't for one man giving him a hand when he stumbled.

He reached out a hand and clicked on the phone on his desk, "Alicia, coffee?"

"I'll be right in," Alicia, a godsend in the form of a Personal Assistant had been with him since he had been promoted; she kept him up to date on his meetings and kept him grounded when he needed it. He had been lucky when he accepted the job working for Avery-Woods Communications that she had been available. At first it had taken her awhile to adjust from her old position in Ottawa to assisting him in Toronto, but it was amazing the difference a pay raise and a few benefits was on a persons dedication to a job.

He turned back to the window that gave him a modest view over Bay Street and leaned back in the office chair, had he really earned his place? Well he felt that he had. He met his quota's, maintained his department and integrated company policy more readily than people twice his age did, but sometimes he still felt out of place, too young some how to be in the position he was in. But that wasn't about to stop him from doing the best job he could, he had skills and for the time being he was where he was. That, in of itself, was enough.

The gentle knock at his door saw him pivot the chair back to face it; he rested his hands on the desk and looked up, "Come in."

Alicia leaned around the door and smiled, "Coffee?" she asked as she crossed to his desk and set the mug down before him.

For all her new found work ethics Alicia had changed so little since she had fist come to work for him. She was still too beautiful to work for him, wearing glasses that painted her as more intelligent than classically beautiful. She had sharp eyes and a keen head for names and dates, something Will definitely lacked. But she also had a way about her that relaxed him; it made dealing with some of his employees and co-workers almost bearable.

She sat down across from him, curling her legs up into her seat and cradling her own mug of coffee, "I completed typing up the employee evaluations you need for the meeting tomorrow."

He groaned audibly as he picked up his mug and sipped it, "I swear we spend more time in meetings discussing what to do than actually doing anything."

"Must be nice," Alicia replied, "I can't remember the last time I got paid for doing nothing..."

"I can," Will replied dryly, "right now for example."

"This doesn't count," She said as she quirked a smile, "I'm working to keep the boss sane."

"Ahh." He took another drink, "big job."

She shrugged, "some one has to do it, so what's gone wrong today, Sam didn't hire another transvestite did he?"

Will groaned at the memory, the endless hours of arguing with the homophobic operations manager, Bruce Weippert, who had expected a clean cut young man for an outbound position and he been shocked to see the boy turn up in a short red dress and heels. The argument had lasted for a week, until the young man in question had come back to the office with a triumphant smile and a new five hundred thousand dollar client. It was a victory, but Will had no desire to repeat the endless corporate backbiting that came from so many big egos stuffed into such a small building.

"No, nothing like that." He said as he picked a fax out of his inbox, scanning it he screwed it up and tossed it towards the garbage pail, "Apparently the company is Acquiring Tri-tech."

Alicia watched the paper ball bounce off of the wall and miss the pail completely, "Well what's wrong with that?"

"Tri-techs a smaller firm," Will admitted, "and consolidating our two operations will cut costs for us, but the company is riddled with financial problems, it was in the news recently, their CEO Rena Allison was indicted in that insider trading scandal."

"I remember," Alicia said, as she grew interested, "Are we handling the integration proposal?"

Will shook his head, "No apparently Bruce is handling all the details, we just need to focus on the Vancouver expansion."

Alicia nodded as she drank a little from her mug, "Funny Avery-Woods is the only company expanding right now, three new media firms, manufacturing communications equipment, advertising, publicity and networking, I thought we would be cost cutting like everyone else is."

"That was fall out after the Nortel thing, from what I can gather old man Avery is holding out against the other share holders who want to cut back. And since he holds the majority share," Will shrugged.

She grinned, "Well you should know -- you are the Golden boy." She countered as she got up from her chair.

Will arched an eyebrow; he hated it when she called him that. "Well anyway, I think I'll find out more tomorrow at the board meeting."

"Worried?" she asked sweetly.

"No." Will replied as he stood up and grabbed a file folder from his desk, "I'm just concerned that's all."

"Ah." Alicia said with a knowing smile as he followed her out into the HR department.

His department had been set up as a bullpen of cubicles all arranged around a meeting area in the centre. There were a couple of interview rooms; vacant at the moment lurked off to the side opposite to his office, close to the elevators. And Jacynthe the receptionist was busy processing phone calls.

There was a buzz to the atmosphere, recruiting for Avery-Woods was a constant endeavour. The people that worked in that office were resourceful; Will wouldn't have hired them otherwise. Everyone did their jobs as long as they knew his eye was upon them.

A head popped up above the cubical partition, as Will passed by, and the employee immediately ducked back down furiously clicking to shut down the browser windows that were consuming his attention and productivity. It was an almost laughable effort; the director could call up the server history of anyone on the floor at any time. He knew exactly how much time his employees were spending surfing the net and chatting to friends. He tolerated it, most because it helped take the edge off the office environment, but he never told them that. He enjoyed them thinking he disapproved; guilt was a wonderful tool for productivity.

"When your ready," he called out above the natural noise of the bull pen, "I want you all front and centre."

Alicia grinned at her boss as she sat down in one of the meeting area's comfortable seats still drinking her coffee. He glanced over at her as he stood patiently waiting for everyone to assemble, so much for his professional credibility. But she knew better than to tease him in front of the staff. Will preferred to be in charge and did it through his own example. They worked hard for him because he worked hard for them. When they made a mistake it wasn't company loyalty that had them slaving to all hours of the morning to fix it, it was the fact that they had let him down that did it.

They were all kids really, not that he was much older than they were. Though a person would never have known it to glance at him. He was only Twenty six, the way he dressed, and he projected an air of calm control that were only attributed to people twice his age. Will Carter was every inch the manager, and his employees respected him for it.

As they gathered he set his file down and looked about at his staff, good people, even if some of them were young. They all had their bad habits and he had gone to great lengths to break them of attitude problems and prejudices. That didn't mean they were all competent all of the time. Harold had a hiring policy of `the shorter the skirt the greater chance of hiring.' And Sam Conners couldn't file paper work to save his life. And that was some of the milder ones.

"Good morning campers." Will said cheerily, his heavy English accent showing through, the years growing up in the shadow of London had shaped his rough and tumble attitude towards life, "We have a busy day ahead of us today, big meeting tomorrow and I want to take them some good news." He glanced to the recruiting board that outlined the current openings, "I see we are nearly done the hiring for our Vancouver office."

Conners lifted his hand, "I have a lead on the project manager," he shrugged, "but it's a tough sell..."

Will nodded, "That's why I hired you, you could sell Air Conditioners to Eskimos, tell you what if you can fill that position by four today I'll give you an extra five percent bonus." He turned, "If you don't you're buying the entire office Pizza Friday afternoon."

Conners licked his lip, as he glanced at the sales board and the fat commission listed beside it, and Will could see the mental calculator adding up what an extra five percent would mean. "Done."

"Good," Will rubbed his eyes, "we're meeting our deadline but I need to see some productivity out of each of you on this one. Avery-Woods Vancouver needs to be up and running on time and the board is depending on us." He looked down at Alicia, "anything you need to add?"

"Vacation schedules?" she asked looking about her.

He sighed, "Yes, if you want time off and haven't taken any this year get it in to Alicia as soon as possible. Or else you are all spending the summer here with me, and I assure you none of you want that, I get grumpy without any sun."

There was a murmur of laughter about the room, each of them knew it wasn't the sun that made Will grumpy, it seemed he could show displeasure at them even on the sunniest of days. But again, it seemed to work for him, even in the worst mood they remained in high spirits. It was a disgusting display of team spirit that only compounded the belief they were all insane to work for him.

"That's it, no long speech today," He said, "Get out of here, back to work before I start writing pink slips!" He waved them all away as he wandered back towards his office.

Once safely back into his sanctum he collapsed into his chair and glanced about the office. Elegantly styled, he liked to keep it traditional, the battered brass telescope on its tripod by the window allowed him a distraction, but otherwise it was mostly books and files. He kept things ordered, everything accessible at a glance. He knew what was going on when he needed to.

He sat lost in thought, cleaning his glasses; even they were of an older styled functionality. He wasn't about style, it was the more how things worked that appealed to him. Like his hair, dark, long and straight swept back conservatively so that it was out of his eyes. It gave him the appearance of being older than he was, high peaks, not from a receding hairline but from the style. Everything about him was geared towards doing his job; he needed to be taken seriously.

He sighed as he looked at the workload ahead of him, and with the Tri-tech acquisition looming closer he was going to be stretched thin. How Avery-Woods could afford to expand the way it did was a testament to Robert Avery's determination, ever since he had replaced Jeremy Woods as the President of the company.

Out of interest he clicked open the stock history of Tri-Tech, ever since the scandal was announced and the indictments were brought the stock had been in free fall. He studied it for a moment and closed the window, stocks and trading were never his strong point, and people were what he preferred. He picked up a file and began to read.

Chapter Two

The snow drifted down around him, it was late for snowfall, but he ignored it shifting the heavy layers of clothing to ward out the cold. He trudged, there was no better word for it, and he placed one foot in front of the other without thought as to where his destination was to be. Why think about something he didn't care about. He went where he went, and never looked behind him.

There were shadows there, things he wanted never to think about again, a collection of horrors that drowned a man's soul. He kept on, his head bent against the cold, pushing forward aimlessly.

There was a rumbling on the road behind him, but he didn't turn. He was deep into farming country, a place where four by fours were a necessity and pick up trucks were frequent. The large flat bed truck rumbled passed him carrying a piece of farming equipment on its back, heading for one of the farms up ahead. He moved aside to allow it to pass, focused solely inward.

He listened as the wind billowed from across the fields, a voice trapped in yearning, a memory trapped in time. The twilight was his companion and solitude guided him. He kept onwards, aware that he had stumbled, too many times along the path.

A pick up truck drew to a stop beside him; he hadn't even heard its approach, so consumed with his regret. He turned towards it more out of instinct than anything else. And as the window drew down, he found himself actually craving the company.

The man in the truck looked at the snow covered young man that leaned in to look at him, spiky brown hair that stood up at odds with itself giving him look of being unkempt, like he hadn't bothered trying. The Driver shrugged, whatever it was none of his business, and he motioned him inside, "Get in son, I'm going into town and there is a storm coming in."

The hiker clambered in gratefully, feeling the first rush of heat in days sweep over him as he closed the door. Smiling in gratitude at the driver as he rested his head on the window. The truck pulled out onto the road and swept forward and a quiet settled into the vehicle.

"Where're you from?" the driver asked glancing over at his passenger.

"Out west," The hiker replied, realizing it had been the first time in three days that he had heard the sound of his own voice.

"What's your name son?" The driver asked, there was a cloud of concern in those eyes, no one walked along that road in winter, "I'm Daniel."

"Marc," Came the reply.

"Well Marc, what brings you out to our neck of the woods?" The driver smiled broadly, happy to be coaxing the stranger out of his shell.

"I...I need to go somewhere..." Marc replied, still fixated on the countryside flashing past him, wondering if getting into the truck had been a mistake.

"Ahhh," Daniel replied, rubbing his beard, "Town is right up ahead, you can probably find a room at Mavis's motel, mostly for tourists during the summer, but she does stay open all year round. There is some good food there and a warm bed."

Marc nodded in thanks, "I appreciate that."

* * *

Daniel sat in the diner across the road from Mavis's, staring at his coffee then up at the room that the stranger Marc had taken. There was something amiss there and he paid his bill, leaving the diner and walking into the local O.P.P. office.

"Says his name is Marc," he concluded filling in old Sergeant Watters, "But as for what his story is, I don't know. Seems like a smart kid, but lost, there's something about the kid that has given up, something in the eyes."

"I'll call it in Danny," Watters promised, "should take a minute to run a back ground check to see if he's wanted for something."

"I don't want to get the kid in trouble." Danny said raising a hand, "I just don't want to see him wandering a road in a blizzard."

The Sergeant shook his head as he tapped in the details into a computer, looking up at his friend after a minute, "Marc Lawrence, he was reported as a runaway a few years back, but he's over 18 now. I have to call this in Dan."

"I didn't want to get him in trouble..."

Watter's looked up from the phone he was dialling, "No Dan you did the right thing, this kids parents have to be worried sick about him," He turned his attention back to the phone, "Hi this is Sergeant Watter's..."

Daniel sighed as he walked back to the window and looked up the street towards the boarding house. He felt guilty, like he had just betrayed a complete stranger. A tell tale...

He remembered when he had been a youngster; playing in the streets with his friends and his younger brother had shown him a dirty magazine he had stolen from the general store. Dan remembered he had been happy, now finally he had something to lord over his brother and had run to tell old Mister Benes who ran the store and told him who had shoplifted. He had honestly felt as though he had done the right thing, until his father had gotten a hold of him. And when his brother had been punished, Dan had shared it, you don't tell tales...

And there he was, nearly sixty years later feeling like he had just told tales. He rationalized it, he was doing what he felt was best for the ragged stranger he had picked up on the side of a deserted road. But that wasn't really true, he had sensed something was amiss and had come running to Watter's.

He scrubbed the stubble on his chin and looked back at the Sergeant who had just hung up the phone.

"Well Toronto wants to have a word with him," Watter's said reluctantly, "They want me to pick him up and hold him till they can send an officer out to have a word with him."

Daniel nodded, "Anything serious Jim?"

"He was arrested for possession in Toronto a few months back, but there wasn't enough evidence to hold him so they let him go." He shrugged, "It's only a few questions, they'll process him and probably let him go when they're done." He stopped seeing Daniels reaction, "You did the right thing Dan."

Daniel gave a reluctant nod of agreement, "Yeah I know. Can't help feeling sorry for the kid though, do we know why he ran away in the first place?"

Watter's blew out a heavy breath as he collected his jacket and hat, "He was attending U of T, and one day he just stopped showing up for class, aside from being picked up in Toronto no ones heard from him in months."

"Too much stress or something?" Daniel asked holding the door open for the sergeant.

Watter's shrugged, "Some times kid's just can't handle it. His mother lives in Vancouver, she married recently into a decent income bracket, new family and they have everything they wanted, except him, he just got up one morning and never came home. Apparently he spent some time in juvenile hall in Vancouver."

Daniel shook his head, "Christ, makes me glad mine stayed here. David's oldest though is about to go to University, scary thought."

Watter's sighed as he walked up the street with the old man, "Some kids can make it, some just get lost. My daughter is just about to graduate from law school..."

* * *

He shivered in the cold on the steps; he had tried for so long to get the hell out of that city and yet some how he had come full circle. He should have stayed in Vancouver, but there was only so much of that place he could stand. If he had the cash he could have hopped a train or a bus to Montreal where he had been trying to get to before he had been picked up.

But that was like the police though. Not that he blamed them for doing their job, just that he needed to be more careful in future. He was grateful he wasn't carrying anything and flatly denying knowing anything when the officer had interrogated him meant they had nothing to hold him for. And so now he shivered outside the Division 41 station on Eglington waiting for her to show up.

Why he had called her, out of everyone he knew in Toronto was anyone's guess. Probably because he knew that she would come, that sometimes no matter how much time passed some feelings never went away. He dug his hands into his pockets, Toronto just didn't change. It was the same as it had been when he had arrived, Frosh week madness. Except it felt surreal to him, like he had changed and the city had stayed the same.

He wasn't a wide-eyed kid out on his own for the first time. He was... more realistic now. And that wide-eyed innocent kid didn't exist anymore.

He glanced over his shoulder towards the ominous history museum that sat dark and foreboding in the middle of a field of snow next to the police station. He used to sit on the steps of that building with her smoking pot and talking about the future. That cool kid from Vancouver that could impress people with his metro attitude.

Now he was just another street kid with out a home.

The small Volkswagen swung up to the curb in front of him, more rust than car he wondered how it was still running. She got out of it and he was in the past again, she stared at him with those large dark eyes as if she was unsure that he was really there. And before he knew it she had her arms around him and was crying into his shoulder.

He felt his hands go about her, a rote more remembered than desired. He stared down at the top of her head and sighed. He had made a mistake in calling her, even a year later he still didn't feel what she felt and that still killed him inside. But he couldn't hurt her again; he should have called someone, anyone else. But no one else would have come.

"Hey," he said softly, rubbing her back to ease her sobs, "It's alright..."

Libbet pulled back from him and sniffed back her tears. She was a mess, but was trying her best to keep it together. He felt it then, the pity that had driven him away from her in the first place. That unbearable sensation that made him hate himself for not loving her. He affixed a smile to his face as she helped him load his backpack into the car. And then they were heading back to her apartment in Scarborough.

As they travelled in near silence, he rubbed his forehead and stared out of the window in regret. Welcome home...

Chapter Three

Will had given up, the bar was too quiet for him, and he was feeling old. It was a Goth bar, a place he had never complete fit into, but his friends seemed to like hanging there. He often found himself resting on the end of the bar sipping something non-alcoholic and watching all the young and pretty Goth's flit too and fro about him. All the while he wondered what possessed them to get dressed up in black and make the trip every Tuesday night.

He had stood, watching his roommate and best friend Jared flirt with as many girls as he could, teasing them to the point where they were ready to pounce on him out of sheer lust, and then he simply walked away from them, onto the next conquest. As hard as Will tried, he just couldn't act like that, sure he could get a date if he wanted to, many found him attractive, but the vacant and vacuous guys that frequented the gay bars held little interest for him. Again, why bother? It was too easy to sleep with one; it was the conversation over breakfast that got to him.

He had tried, he had talked politics with one guy who simply stared at him and asked him what a caucus was. He had given up at that point. The guy of his dreams definitely didn't go out to a bar on a Tuesday night. No, the guy of his dreams was back in Ottawa articling with a law firm and moving on with his life. Which meant Will had to settle for second best. And Will was content to let him come to him; seek him out for a change.

Of course that meant he was single and had been for months. His last boyfriend had stayed in Ottawa when Will had moved to Toronto to pursue his career, leaving them trapped in a long-term relationship where sex wasn't a possibility, and their most meaningful conversations were through an MSN chat window at three am. He had held out as long as he could, realizing that their conversations had become less frequent, less intense, and eventually they had just stopped talking all together. There had been no break up announcement, again why bother? They both knew the relationship was over. It meant he was free to go looking for other entertainment, and he knew Andrew was already involved with someone else.

So there he was, two-thirty on a Tuesday night in the Yonge Street area of downtown Toronto, hands stuffed into the pockets of his battered leather bomber heading back to his car. Beneath his feet the roar of a subway car heading northwards rattled the grate he stood upon. Jared could find his own way back to the house they shared, Will was tired and had work the next day. No matter how much he wanted to forget about that.

Avery-Woods had scheduled a board meeting to discuss the impending acquisition of Tri-Tech, not that it adversely affected anything Will was involved with, but he was still expected to attend, playing nice for the boss. The golden boy on display for everyone to see. A glorified puppet paraded for the amusement of men that still couldn't believe anyone so young could successfully run a department in such a successful firm.

It was a continual frustration for him; he often just wished they would leave him alone to run his department. But for some reason, the directors never could. He always had "Advice" or a friendly "suggestion" to consider, and he knew that a number of his colleagues resented the faith Avery-Woods placed in him. The old man seemed to enjoy watching his older managers squirm at the thought of such an ambitious young man in their midst. It kept them on their toes.

However Will didn't find it amusing at all.

He dodged the steady stream of traffic as he crossed Yonge street and he blew out a sigh, as he fished out his keys, the Jeep was safely parked across the street in a stationary lot that cost entirely too much for the convenience of letting him park across the road from his favourite bar. Typical Toronto though, everything in the downtown core was astronomically expensive, yet everywhere else was cheap.

That was the reason he lived tucked out in the middle of suburbia in Scarborough. It was quiet, cheap, and as long as he had a car, convenient. Though the commute downtown each morning was a chore he detested with a passion. Everyone pouring down the Don Valley Parkway at the same time, often he simply parked the Jeep at Kennedy station and took the TTC Subway way downtown. But that defeated the purpose of having a car, and at two thirty he would miss the last train and have to deal with the after-hours bus service, never pleasant.

He stepped around a couple kissing passionately in the doorway to another pub, a cab waiting patiently for them to finish their good nights. A very public display of affection Will never could be comfortable with. He liked to be affectionate, but behind a closed door. How could anyone stand the attention they drew? He was probably just cynical, but then he had only had one guy he felt that strongly for. The guys since Andrew had been simply there, a half-hearted attempt at a relationship that simply went nowhere. He guessed it was because he didn't have time for it, work came first.

Although it had to be nice to feel that way about someone again. To simply forget the world while you kissed someone with reckless abandon, to just get lost in them for awhile.

He felt a pang of jealousy rising as he fished out his keys and hurried towards the parking lot.

"Carter!" Jared bellowed from across the street emerging from the doorway of the bar he had just left.

Will turned reluctantly, he could have just pretended he hadn't heard it, gone to his Jeep and driven home, but then that wouldn't be the right thing to do, no matter how much he wanted it to. He placed a forced smile on his face and crossed back to the bar, "Yeah?" he asked, slipping his keys back into his pocket.

"You leavin'?" Jared asked pulling out a packet of cigarettes and lighting one, stopping a moment to flash a smile at a young girl that was enjoying one herself.

It amazed Will the lengths people went to just to have a cigarette in the city; driven out into the cold Canadian nights, they huddled in doorways just to have a smoke. Hell the right to pollute your own body in peace was now illegal, the non-smoking minority flexing its muscle against the smoking majority. You had to love a liberal government. What was next, gay marriage? Oh wait... Being a non-smoker and some one that didn't believe marriage was necessary for anyone, he couldn't care less.

"I was thinking about it." Will replied as he glanced reluctantly towards the parking garage and his way home.

Jared puffed on his cigarette and nodded, "Give me a few minutes and I'll come with you, can you hang around for another half hour?"

Will contemplated making a break for it, jump into his car and speed for home, and the bed he was craving. But he caved and nodded at Jared, "Sure thing bud, I'm going to go for a walk though, don't feel like being in the bar at the moment."

"Sure," Jared replied, "meet you back at the car in a few."

And with that Will was trapped downtown for another hour or so.

He blew out an aggravated sigh as he walked back across the road and leaned on the wall of the parking lot. He had almost made a clean getaway, but then he didn't really mind too much, it was a beautiful night. The end of winter was always filled with great nights. Not quite warm enough to be sweltering, but definitely not too cold to be standing there. It was comfortable, and he could just stand there and not have to think about anything.

A group of slightly drunk men had crossed the road and were discussing some sports team or another beside him, and he paid it no attention. They had to be waiting for a taxi, and as usual were being boisterous about the wait. One of them was making his opinion known loudly, but again Will wasn't interested. He glanced past them absently up at the streetcars rumbling alone Queen Street.

The street was alive with its usual throng of people emerging from bars, but one caught his eye. Not because he stood out, but more that his attention was focused directly on Will. For some reason he couldn't understand, it made him feel a bit self-conscious. There was an intensity about the smaller man walking towards him that drew his eyes.

The guy was short, hair tossed back out of his eyes carelessly, and the beginnings of a beard on his chin, as if it fought for its right to be there but didn't quite belong, it shadowed his jaw line slightly. He smiled at Will rakishly as he leaned back, his hands snaking to and fro in front of him in a bizarre combination of gestures. Will couldn't help but chuckle at the ludicrous motions.

The young man smiled when he succeeded in making Will laugh, and he stopped in front of him and grinned, "Hey, work here?"

Will looked at him in confusion, "What?"

The strange short guy reached out to brush Will's bomber jacket with its corporate logo sewn onto the arm like a patch, "Security guard?" he asked with a smile.

Will glanced down and shook his head, "Oh god no, just my company."

"Oh, cool." The guy said still smiling with his green eyes as he pushed his hair aside from them, "Waiting for a cab then?"

Will shook his head, "I'm driving, waiting for a buddy to get out of the bar," he indicated across the road to the bar. "How about you?"

"Oh I was taking the kids to school." The guy said with a wry grin, "On the short bus."

Will looked down at him, "What?"

"Pool, over at the pool hall. I took them to school." He patted his pocket, "Made myself a bit of cash."

"That's good," Will said in bemusement, there was something contagious about that smile, an impish roguishness that was warming, "No, I was just about to go home."

"That's a shame," The guy replied, sticking out his hand, "I'm Marc by the way."

"Will," he accepted Marc's hand, feeling the firm handshake, not what he had expected.

"Cool, do you know where I can score," his voice dropped, "you know, some weed?" He asked as he stuffed his own hands into his pockets to mirror Will.

"No clue," Will replied honestly, his eyes searching the doorway to the bar looking for Jared to appear so he could go home.

Marc nodded as he crossed to the drunks asking them the same question. Will couldn't help but watch the strange young man, who seemed totally unconcerned at the effect of his forthright nature on other people. To brazenly walk up to a group of strangers and ask them for drugs, Will didn't think he would have the guts.

Marc returned a few moments later and shrugged, "They didn't have any." He said as he rested a hand on the wall, "I know a guy over at another bar that usually has some if you want to come."

"I don't smoke," Will replied, yet strangely there he was walking with Marc up the street. He wasn't sure why he was doing it, but there he was, enjoying this strangers company.

"You don't mind if I do," Marc asked, he looked hopeful that he hadn't offended Will.

"No, not at all." Will admitted, "Its not my thing, but what you do is up to you."

"Cool, `cause I like the way it helps me to relax." He grinned, "I like this too," he moved a hand back and forth between them.

"What?" Will asked looking over at Marc.

"This dude," he moved his hands again, "This connection, it's the best part of meeting someone for the first time."

Will shook his head with a smile, he had found himself in some strange situations before, but Marc was definitely in a league of his own when it came to the bizarre. But he found he didn't really mind; there was an energy to the stranger that he just enjoyed. It was like meeting someone you just clicked with, he couldn't explain it, and as they just talked about life and work as they walked up to the cabin. Will found it was just nice to go with the flow of life once in awhile.

When they finally reached the other bar, Will waited outside a moment on the street while Marc ducked inside to find his buddy. And as he leaned against the rail and stared at the gaudy Molson sign flickering in the window, he couldn't help but wonder at the strange curve ball life had tossed him. Just when all he wanted to do was crawl into bed and give up on the night.

He yawned, fighting back the wave of tiredness, as Marc sauntered out of the bar and rejoined him, the pair starting back up the street.

"Did you find him?" Will asked.

"Yeah I got some," Marc responded with a grin as he patted the pocket of his heavy wool winter coat that looked entirely too big for his small frame. To Will, who wasn't a tall man himself, Marc couldn't have been more than five foot five, but he matched it with a confident personality.

"Cool." Will said as he ducked around a couple of men that seemed to be carrying each other, one of the obviously too drunk to stand.

"Yeah," Marc chuckled as he looked back at the drunks, "sure you don't want to join me?"

"Again, not my thing." Will said as they returned to the parking lot, still no sign of Jared so he returned to resting on the wall, "but thanks for the offer though."

"Marc!" He turned, Will turning as well as a young African-Canadian skater girl darted across the road to join them.

Marc glanced back at Will and smiled, "Libbet." He said as she wrapped her arms around him and the two began to kiss.

Will frowned in surprise, but dismissed it; it really didn't bother him at all.

Marc stepped back out of her embrace, "Libbet, this is Will, new buddy of mine. Will this is Libbet, my girlfriend."

She looked drunk, barely able to recognize that there was another man there, but she smiled prettily anyway and shook his hand. Will supposed she was attractive, but far too thin for his tastes. She turned back to Marc, "Didjagetsome?" she asked in a tumble of words.

He nodded and patted his pocket, "Sure did." He gave her a smile.

"Cool." She said in a slur, "I have to say goodbye to Emily then we can go home."

"I'll be right here." Marc replied as he leaned on the wall next to Will watching her stumble back to her friends smoking outside the bar.

"Nice girl." Will observed.

Marc followed his gaze, "Yeah." Then he stopped and looked up at Will, "Hey you know, there's no such thing as a wasted conversation."

Will glanced down, wondering what he meant by that, he opened his mouth to ask, as Jared emerged from the bar and waved over at him.

"Your friend's here." Marc said, almost reluctantly, "Been great chatting to you, I'll see you around right?"

"Sure." Will said as he straightened up and shook Marc's hand, "We should do coffee or something one day."

"Cool." Marc said, before he walked off to his girlfriend.

On the drive home that night, listening to Jared's stories about the girls he met that night, Will seemed distracted.