This is an interesting question, one I need answering as I've been asked and I just don't know. Which book, so far, is your favourite, and why?

If you could change one thing what would it be and why?

I like to know how people are enjoying it, and advice they would have for future installments.

As usual Comments or questions direct to Feed back is welcome.

Chapter Fourteen

The restaurant was packed when they walked in and it took Will only a moment to see why: the all-you-can-eat buffet was in full swing as businessmen piled plates high with overcooked pasta and yesterday's left-overs. It looked utterly unappetizing, and he wondered at why Marc had chosen this place until he saw the young man staring over at the buffet with wide appreciative eyes. Well, that answered that.

"Afternoon, gentlemen," the hostess greeted them. "Table for two?"

Will nodded, "Please."

She guided them through the tables towards the back of the restaurant. "I take it you're here for the buffet?" she said matter-of-factly as she motioned to the table tucked back and out of the way.

"Buffet for me," Marc said with enthusiasm.

"I'd like a menu, please," Will said as he sat down. "And a coffee."

She looked surprised, "You're not having the buffet? Growing lad like you, you should eat something hearty."

Will was taken aback, "I...err..."

"He'll have the buffet," Marc said with a grin at the waitress, who was gone before Will could say anything.

Will never had any luck with waitresses, it was as if they simply knew he didn't tip well and so gave him bad service. Often he just didn't tip well because of the bad service, a perpetual circle that doomed him to being one of those poor souls who would wait half an hour for a refill on his coffee, which would turn out to be stale, burnt and naturally as awful as his mood by that point.

The waitress returned and placed a mug of coffee down in front of Will along with a small dish of creamers, "The buffet is down at the front, and the plates are there as well. Simply go and help yourself, and when you go back for more leave your dirty plates on the table. Enjoy, boys."

Will stirred the cream into his coffee as he looked up to see Marc smiling at him. "What?" he asked.

"You drink a lot of coffee, don't you?" Marc smiled.

Will nodded, "Lots of all-nighters in university, I swear caffeine addiction is a requirement to graduate these days."

Marc beamed, "You went to university?"

Will nodded, "Kings College in Halifax, I was studying business."

"Cool." Marc stood up and waited for Will to join him as they both walked to the buffet tables.

Will examined the salad with a certain amount of trepidation. It looked vaguely like a Caesar salad, even smelled like one. He added a little to his plate as he moved down to the vast arrays of pastas that all looked like they had been sitting under the heat lamps for too long. Lasagne added to his plate, he took a bread roll and moved to the end of the tables to wait for Marc who joined him moments later with a heaped plate of mixed pastas and a slice of pizza on top for decoration.

Safely back at the table, Will resumed his conversation, "So where did you go to school?"

Marc shook his head, "I didn't, and... well, I did, but dropped out."

"Oh," Will said as he stared down at his plate, feeling suddenly awkward.

"I had a lot of trouble in university," Marc explained. "I kept cutting class and goofing off so it was my own fault. In the end I just dropped out for a couple of years."

"You didn't graduate?" Will asked in amazement; his father had been strict about him going to school, and after he had left home it had never entered his mind to quit. He kept on doing his homework, and when he had graduated he had naturally just gone on to university.

Marc grinned as he wolfed down the pasta. "No," he said between bites, "I did get my high school diploma, but I had to go to the adult high school to get it. So I was a bit older going on to university and I just didn't fit in there." He shrugged, "At least I managed to get high school, you can't go anywhere without an education these days."

"That's true," Will admitted as he sampled his salad, surprised that it wasn't bad. "I mean, if you don't have at least grade twelve, my office won't look at your resume. Which is a shame, because some of the positions we have we do all the training for, anyway." He tried the pasta, glad there was parmesan on the table for him to hide the taste, "So, what do you do?"

"Oh, I am on a government-paid, extended vacation at the moment," Marc replied looking up at Will with his deep eyes. "I just got into town, staying with Libbet..."

"I don't understand," Will said after a moment. "Government vacation?"

"Welfare," Marc said as he dropped his voice a little. "It keeps me fed, plus I do a bit of under-the-table work when I can, to, you know..." he winked.

Will nodded, "Yeah, I get you. So Libbet's your girlfriend?"

Marc winced. "Sort of..." he sighed. "Well, she used to be, things weren't going well when I left; now that I'm back we tried to work things out, but we're just not..." he waved a hand searching for the right words. "She's know?"

"I think so," Will switched to his coffee.

"How about you?" Marc asked as he leaned back in his chair. "You got one?"

"A girlfriend?" Will asked. "No, had a relationship until a little while ago. Pretty serious, but it just fell apart in the end; I had my career and my life to lead and, well..."

"That sucks," Marc replied. "Do you still see her?"

"Him," Will corrected, nodding. "He lives in Ottawa, articling with a big law firm. He does okay, I stop by there when I'm in the city, we're still good friends. Which is okay I guess, he's happy."

"Cool," Marc cleaned off the last of the pasta and stood. "I'll be right back."

"I'll be right here," Will replied, amazed at how fast Marc had gone through his plate of food; Will was having difficulties with his first.

He followed the strange young man with his eyes, again wondering what he was doing there. Marc was so completely different from him. Here he was, a director of Avery-Woods, the model of responsibility, and he was sitting down with a high school dropout living off of the government. A young guy who had more energy than anyone else Will had ever met. When had he let himself get old? He was only 26, time wasn't supposed to touch him, but he felt really old at times, the weight of the years mounting on him. It came with the job he supposed, that and responsibility.

Marc returned a few moments later with a second plate piled high with food, and sat back down. "So where were we?" he asked brightly.

Will smiled, "We were talking about our love life. I was telling you about Andrew."

"That's his name?" Marc smiled. "Cool. So how long were you together?"

"Awhile," Will replied vaguely. "I thought that I'd finally found the right one, but we both wanted different things out of life." He sighed as he pushed a piece of lettuce about his plate.

"So you're gay, huh?"

Will nearly dropped the fork, "Huh?"

Marc grinned at the startled reaction, "Well, you dated a guy long-term, pretty safe guess that you're gay. Do you like me?"

Will blinked at the question, he hadn't expected Marc to be so... forthright with asking. Wasn't it something you danced around, working every angle subtly till you were comfortable enough to ask it. That would have allowed Will to come up with a polite way to say he wasn't interested.

However, Marc had gone straight for the jugular, the big one, before Will could figure out how he was going to answer it. That was cheating; the Ref that watched the game of life had to be blowing his whistle to declare a foul play.

"I...well, I don't know," Will admitted after a moment's hesitation. "I guess I do, a bit; I mean, you're handsome and such, but I wasn't... you gay?"

"Nah, bi," Marc replied casually as if he was ordering another drink. "I used to think I was straight, but it's all about the prostate."

Will blinked, "What?"

Marc waved him off, "That was a joke, I find it's easier to hook up with a guy than a girl. It's more that I'm indifferent. I don't care what gender they are, I like the person and that usually means I sleep with them."

Will nodded in fascination, "That's a very different outlook on it."

"Don't get me wrong," Marc said with a grin. "I like women, sex with a woman's great and I'm attracted to them, but sex is sex, ya know?"

Will looked about for the waitress; catching her attention he lifted his empty coffee mug. He decided to play a safety and change the subject, "So what made you come back to Toronto?"

Marc went quiet and focused on the last of his pasta, "That's a long story, I was... I had..." he went quiet again.

Will saw the discomfort and shrugged, "Hey, it's no big deal." He pointed to Marc's now empty plate, "Come on, let's get some more, I'm craving some of that..." he searched for the right word to describe the food, "well, let's get some more."

Chapter Fifteen

The rain was hammering down; Marc looked at it as he came out of the shower toweling off his hair, feeling so much better for being clean. He'd had a great lunch, enjoyed the time he had spent with Will; it was exhilarating meeting someone who didn't judge, and didn't seem to care who he was. Even if he was a bit too prim and proper.

Marc slipped on a pair of boxer shorts, hopping a little to get into them as he ducked into the small kitchenette, poking about in the cupboards for something to cook for supper. He shouldn't be feeling hungry after the huge buffet that afternoon, but then he was always hungry.

Mashed potatoes, he thought as he dug some ground beef out of the small bar fridge that was tucked under the counter; banging it out into the pan to brown he grabbed a couple of potatoes and began to peel them.

Maybe he could corrupt Will a little bit; that made him smile, nothing too serious, maybe a smoking habit? Will was just too good, straight-laced and uptight; getting him to relax would be a great challenge and maybe a rewarding one.

Marc plopped another peeled potato into the bowl, staring up at the window with the rain streaking down it.

Maybe if he took Will to a rave? That had so much humour potential there that Marc couldn't help but laugh; small steps. Maybe a nightclub dancing first, or maybe a party, there were always plenty of those in town. Will was handsome--he needed to fix his hair, maybe lose the glasses--but there was no question about how attractive a confident man like that was. It had been those confident eyes that had attracted Marc in the first place. Something about the way he kept his head held high when everyone else looked at the pavement.

Wow, Marc was really over-thinking this; he grinned sheepishly as he reached for the potato masher and began to push down on the potatoes. He looked down at them in disgruntlement at their refusal to mash and wondered what he was doing wrong. Not that he was the world's greatest cook or anything, but even a complete moron could cook mashed potatoes...

"What are you doing?" Libbet startled him as he spun in surprise knocking over the bowl of potatoes as they rolled across the counter.

"I was making mashed potatoes..." Marc said looking at Libbet standing in the doorway to the house, dripping wet. His heart sank and the smile on his face became forced, guilt and a wave of emotion crushing his mood instantly.

She picked up the potato and rapped it on the counter. "You do know you're supposed to cook them first," she said with a smile as she walked to the small bathroom and pulled a towel out to dry her hair. "You looked like you were having fun."

"Oh," he said catching his breath as he turned back to the ground beef that was now so brown it was turning black. "You hungry?" he asked, poking it hopefully.

"Uh-huh," she nodded as she wandered back into the kitchen still towelling off her hair. "Starving."

Marc gave her a weak smile as she looked at him in his underwear cooking, "You caught me...umm..."

"I figured that out myself." She gave him a beautiful smile, "My daddy is hosting a big party at the house a week on Saturday, you'll take me, right?"

Marc nodded slowly as he began to chop vegetables, "Sure, but I don't have anything to wear..."

She smiled, "You can borrow one of my brother's ties and wear that jean jacket of yours..."

"But won't it be all dressy?" he asked.

She shook her head, "No, he's inviting a bunch of his employees and their families; he does it every time he hosts a party. There will be a bunch of people there our age." She looked pleadingly at him.

He sighed, feeling that tightness that always formed in his stomach, "Yeah, I'll go with you." And as she returned to the bathroom, he sat staring at the rain splattering the windowpane mirroring his mood.

He thought back to Will, and closed his eyes, there was no way he could hurt Libbet. Any relationship he tried to start would only end up hurting her. He wandered over to his jacket and pulled out Will's number; screwing it up into a tight ball he tossed it into the garbage and went back to preparing dinner. He didn't deserve happiness anyway.

Chapter Sixteen

He hadn't had much luck the afternoon before, but a new day always brought with it a renewed sense of determination, and for Will, that sense of determination was for him to get to the bottom of what was going on. He didn't like being kept in the dark, especially in a matter that he saw as his personal domain. When someone went over his head he still needed to know about it.

He sat at his desk tapping a pencil against his chin as he reviewed the computerized staff records. The database was vast, containing all the people who had applied, been interviewed, were hired and were fired by Avery-Woods over the last few years. Again, there was no record of a temp named Jennifer Beatty from Simmons Staffing. The agency wasn't even one of the approved staffing agencies Avery-Woods did business with.

On an impulse he dialled the number, leaving it on speakerphone as it rang.

"Simmons Staffing, how may I direct your call?" came the voice of an overtly cheerful receptionist.

"Yes, hello," Will said as he gave the phone his full attention. "I would like to speak to the person who deals with Avery-Woods. More specifically, the Jennifer Beatty placement."

"Who can I say is calling, sir?" she asked in a flat neutral tone.

"Mister William Carter, I am the Director of Human Resources here at Avery-Woods."

"One moment, please," she replied and suddenly he was listening to the sound of elevator music piped into the phone, supposedly to ease the impatience of being left on hold. Will didn't feel put at ease.

He glanced around his office as he waited, regretting not sending Alicia to get him a refill on his coffee mug. If he had any sense he would have simply bought a coffee maker for his office and saved time. But as yet he hadn't been able to convince anyone that is was a business expense and thus the company should pay for it.

He stared longingly into his empty travel mug with its nicely appointed Avery-Woods logo engraved into the stainless steel.

"Yes, hello, Mister Carter?" came an unfamiliar voice.

"Yes?" Will replied cautiously. "Who am I speaking to?"

"Phil Dubois down here at Simmons, I understand you wanted to talk to me about Jennifer?"

Will didn't like the sound of this man the moment he heard him. Too much like a salesman, that false sense of confidence that gave a distinct swagger to his words. This was a man who liked the sound of money and would do what he could to get it.

"That's correct," Will said without pause. "I understand she was hired by someone in my office here and unfortunately I have no records of this for my files."

"Well..." Phil said hesitantly.

Will smiled, "I am writing up the payroll sheets here and I have to authorize the payment to your office for her services and I just need the paperwork to process payment."

That got his co-operation, "Yes, of course Mister Carter, I can have that to you immediately; what's your fax number there?"

Will gave it to him.

"Excellent," Phil's tone changed. "Now, concerning future services my firm can offer to you..."

Will winced; he should have anticipated a sales pitch. "Yes, Mister Dubois, as you know Avery-Woods has its own internal hiring process, but I am always open to reading proposals; if you would like to send me..."

"I can tell you a little about our services if you have a minute," Phil was determined, like a terrier that had seen a bone.

Will sighed, "I'll read your proposal after I cut this cheque, for the moment I am due in a meeting..."

"Five minutes, Mister Carter..."

Will clicked the button to hang up the phone.

He stood and straightened his shirt as he stepped out of his office, "Alicia, if a Mister Dubois calls for me in the near future, please transfer his call to Pizza-Pizza."

Alicia looked up from the mound of paper work she was correlating on her desk, "Sure thing, boss." She was used to Will's strange requests by now. "Anything else?"

He sighed as she anticipated his need. "Coffee," he said with a soft smile.

Alicia shook her head as she relieved him of his coffee mug and collected her own, "You know, this is gender stereotyping, I should really make you fetch me coffee."

He grinned at her cheerfully, "I hear it's awfully cold on the unemployment line this time of year."

"Two sugars, right?" she asked as she hurried off to fetch him his cup.

He chuckled after her as he crossed to the fax machine to wait for the Simmons paperwork; a few seconds later the documents were coming through. He smiled; you could never overestimate a salesman's desire to get paid. He stood there a moment reading over Jennifer's resume and Phil's recommendations and notes during interviews. Pretty standard stuff, nothing remotely remarkable, except that she was in no way qualified to do Bertha's job effectively.

He picked up the next page, the job order form. Again standard, it was Bertha's job description down to the last detail.

The signature stopped him cold.

"Bruce?" he said as he returned to his office; he barely noticed Alicia return with his coffee as he set the documents down on the desk.

"Everything alright?" she asked, glancing down at the papers in front of him.

He tapped them, "Bruce Weippert hired Jennifer Beatty."

"But he doesn't have the authority to do that," Alicia said as she sat down across from him. "I thought only you could sign in order for her to get entered into the payroll system. You have to sign the paperwork, and that allows accounting to release the funds to pay the agency."

Will nodded as he clicked on his phone and dialled the extension for accounting.

"Hello?" Gavin Jeffries replied.

"Hey, Gavin, it's Will up in HR. I need to know who signed off on the Simmons agency fee." Will tapped his pencil on the desk.

There was a hesitation on the line, "I don't have any record of a payment to Simmons."

Will frowned, "Nothing at all?"

"No, Will, this is the first I've heard about it." Gavin sounded uncertain on the line, struggling slightly, as if he were...

Will's eyes flicked up to Alicia's. She was hearing it too. Both were well-trained to know when something was wrong with someone on the telephone, the result of the endless screening of calls and dealing with salesmen. Gavin was hiding something, which meant he knew exactly what Will was talking about.

"Alright, Gavin," Will said standing up, "if you do come across anything have it sent up to me."

When the phone was hung up again, he stared at Alicia, "I don't like games."

She nodded, "Are you going to talk to Bruce about it?"

He paced behind his desk, hands behind his back as he thought. Stopping after a moment he reached down and dialled Bertha's home number. In seconds the wizened old lady he respected so much came on the line.


"Bertha, it's Will... I am sorry to call you on your vacation." He leaned a hand on the back of his chair, as he stood framed in the windows of his office staring out towards the south.

"It's alright, Will," she said warmly. "Daniel and I have the grandchildren and I'm doing some baking. What's wrong, dear?"

He sighed, where to begin... "I was wondering, who authorized your time off?"

There was the sound of rattling pots and pans, "Mister Weippert insisted that I take a couple of weeks off; he said that with the merger going through I should get it in now before things become too busy."

Will again exchanged a look with Alicia, "I see, well I'm sorry to dis..."

"That's alright, dear, I know you are probably trying to input the new payroll records; if you need to get any files off of my computer I keep the password taped to the back of my address book on my desk." There was the sound of a fork whisking eggs, "If you need anything else, I will be here for you."

Will inclined his head, "Thank you, Bertha." And he hung up.

He took a drink from his coffee mug and sighed, "The question is: why would Bruce give Bertha a week off and hire a temp without telling anyone."

Alicia crossed her legs, "I have no idea."

Will looked down at the orange file folder on the edge of his desk, and glanced back up. "I think I have to find out."

Chapter Seventeen

The subway car was uncharacteristically crowded that evening on his way home, and its passengers were pressed together into the close confines of the train like mixed vegetables stuffed into a can. And Will hated it; he regretted again having to leave his Jeep with Jared, but for some strange reason the Jeep refused to go anywhere that morning. The stubborn vehicle had been plaguing him with an annoying yellow engine light on his dash that he had tapped a few times in the vain hope that it would go away. Of course it hadn't, and like any red-blooded Canadian male, he had ignored it until that morning when the car had simply refused to start.

Naturally that hadn't been Will's fault. He had the damn thing serviced every six months, tires rotated, the full works, and all he expected in exchange for this constant pampering was for it to get him to and from work whenever he needed it to. But just like a woman, ignore her problems and sooner or later she would have a breakdown.

Maybe it was time he considered buying a new car. The new Audi looked impressive, and he had heard good things about the Lincoln, but he wasn't ready to settle down with a classy girl and German women were too expensive to keep. If he was lucky, the mechanic would work his magic on the Jeep, coax some more life out of her and he could put off the whole finding a new car for another few months.

So there he was, aching to sit down, facing a dour-looking Russian woman who had claimed the seat he had seen first. Amazing how far a few grey wisps of hair could get you. You had immediate guilt on your side. Guilt for being young and healthy, guilt for being able to walk or run whenever you wanted. Guilt because you knew that eventually you would be there as well, sitting staring up at a younger person in their prime, making them feel just as guilty for their youth.

The circle of guilt.

He grimaced at it as he held onto the metal bar designed to give him stability as the train shuddered and lurched its way along the transit way. He wasn't tired--it was Friday night after all, he was supposed to be out enjoying the night--but he was due for a night on the couch with the lousy excuse for entertainment that passed for Friday night prime time.

He leaned and tried to stare out of the train window, so caked with grime and dried road salt all he got was a distorted view of the darkness and the orange white reflection of street lights on snow. It was depressing: you got up and it was dark when you went to work, then when you finally got done your day it was dark again. The only glimpse of daylight had been through his office window when he had taken a break from the employee appraisals. No wonder people his age were depressed, you went from being completely carefree, to completely careless as soon as you began to work in the real world.

The blur outside suddenly changed to a solid orange blur; they were pulling into Sheppard Station, and Will couldn't help but smile at the thought of the bizarre Marc and the strange lunch they had spent together the day before. And as a majority of the people on the train flooded off to catch other buses he wound up the stairs to catch the next train that would carry him out to Don Mills Station; the train was always less crowded, one could actually sit down and as he did so, he started. He was looking straight into Marc's eyes.

"What...?" he started.

Marc glanced up from the battered book in his lap and smiled as he recognized who was seated across from him, "Hey, small city!"

Will nodded in surprise, speak of the devil; he extended his hand and shook Marc's warmly, "How have you been?"

"I've been warmer," Marc replied, shrugging in his heavy pea jacket that looked perpetually a size too big for him, hanging open on the soft fleece jacket he wore underneath. "Don't you have a Jeep?"

"In the shop," Will replied as he leaned back into his seat. "I'm just heading home after work. There's nothing worse than getting on a train with a group of your employees. I felt like a school teacher on a field trip this evening."

"Yeah," Marc said as he closed his book and tucked it into his backpack and focused his attention on Will. Will noted the book title The letters of Cicero on the cover. There was obviously more to Marc than he had originally thought. But then, the more he got to know the young man, the less answers were forthcoming and the more questions arose.

"Nice glasses by the way," Will said as he pointed to the heavy black glasses the young man wore. He looked so completely different from the spiky-haired skater boy he had been on Tuesday. His hair was scruffy and unkempt, his clothes were muted and relaxed as opposed to baggy and shapeless, and the goatee, Will noted, was a shade of red, telling him that dark brown wasn't Marc's actual hair colour.

Marc smiled as he glanced down, almost shyly, "I had to go to lunch with Libbet and her parents, and then I spent some time at the library down on College Street, the big one."

Will blinked, "That's a block away from my office building, you should have called up, we could have done coffee or something."

Marc smiled, "That would've been cool, I could have used the company."

Will nodded, "I could have used the break as well, how was lunch?"

Marc shook his head, "They're alright, just, I felt awkward there. Playing the good boyfriend so that her dad doesn't say anything." He blinked as he turned his head away, "He's not happy that she's letting me stay with her but he won't come out and say it."

They sat a moment in silence as the train roared further towards Don Mills Station, Will's stop. He glanced through the murky window at the gloomy night. "How far are you going?" he asked as he turned back. "I'm getting off at Don Mills to catch my local bus."

"I'm going home to Kennedy," Marc replied as he played absently with the ring on his pinkie finger. "Not looking forward to it, though; her dad's going to be there."

Will thought a moment, "Well, the Jeep should be fixed by the time I get home, you're welcome to come back and hang at mine, and I'll drive you home after. Gets you out of their way for a bit. Give her a bit of time with her dad."

Marc brightened a bit at the offer, considering it a moment as he gathered up his backpack and began to do up his fleece jacket. Will took that to mean Marc was saying yes to the offer and he reached back to pull the bell cord. Moments later they were both shivering on the platform staring up the entrance to the underground bus station, waiting for the local bus to arrive that would take them the rest of the way to Will's house.

Don Mills' bus level was a cold arctic-like place where red steel rises out of the concrete. It was a testament to man's defiance against the elements. It overstated the Canadian attitude that anywhere was hospitable, and since the weather was minus 20, minus thirty with wind-chill, Will had serious doubts about that. He'd survived worse--the ice storm a few years back where the National Guard had rushed to defend Canada from the elements. But that still didn't change the fact that he was stuck waiting for TTC to send a bus to whisk him the last few miles to his home.

"It's fucking cold!" Will stated the obvious, hugging his bomber jacket closer about him, wishing he had had the foresight to invest in a toque, or a pair of thermal gloves.

Marc's teeth chattered as he adjusted the backpack on his shoulder, a quick turn of his head in the direction the bus heading for Kennedy had gone told Will that he was perhaps regretting his decision. But he affixed a grin to his face and turned to Will, "So how was your day?"

Will shook his head, "Long, the manager overseeing the Tri-Tech acquisition wanted my department to review the staff records and compare it to our own. We are going to have to streamline the operation, remove redundancy and all of that..."

"So you're checking people's files to see who you're going to fire?"

Will nodded, "Essentially, yes; I am going to try to keep as many as I can, find other things for them to do and then transfer them. But we can't afford to keep all of them on. Part of the merger is to cut costs, and staffing is the biggest cost right now."

Marc nodded, "I get that, but couldn't you just retrain them to do something else?"

Will shook his head, "That's expensive, more expensive than hiring someone already trained to do the job. Take a couple of positions I just filled down in IT. Tri-Tech has a systems admin they have employed for five years; now I could have taken that employee and paid for him to be retrained in our systems, and in the end I would have to pay him the same as Tri-Tech paid him for his old job. The two kids I just hired on cost less per year than he would. Two for the price of one, and they would have the same level of experience in our systems."

"Cold," Marc replied with a sigh. "What about company loyalty to its employees?"

"Died sometime in the late eighties, when a dollar became more important than the people that earned it." Will blew on his hands to warm them a little as he stamped his feet, "I don't like it, but it's my job. I have to make sure we produce and at the same time, ensure that we keep our costs down."

Marc shook his head in wonder, "So getting experience isn't necessarily going to guarantee me a job?"

Will sighed, "Yeah, it's a shame, but I'd rather have two kids fresh out of school to a five-year systems administrator. It's the nature of high tech, though." He grinned, "I'd trade a five-year vet for two rookie IT techs any day of the week."

"Because you know they are going to produce," Marc finished for him. "That's harsh, dude. I'm glad I'm unemployed."

Will grinned as he nodded to the bus rumbling through the slush towards them with the correct number in yellow lights, "Soon be home."

Marc smiled thankfully when he fell into the seat next to Will; putting his pack between his legs he glanced out the window, "Man, you live in the middle of nowhere."

Will shook his head, "Nah, not the middle of nowhere, its suburbia." The bus lurched forward as it swept around Shepard Avenue, and Will settled down for the last fifteen minutes of his commute home. "It's alright so long as I don't have to take the bus, but the busses shut down at like ten thirty out here, and only run once an hour. It's not exactly the most convenient of places to get to. When I first moved here, I used to have to hike from Warden just to get home after hours."

Marc shifted in his seat, settling in until his leg pressed up against Will's. He seemed unconcerned with that fact. "So what made you live all the way out here?"

"I live with my roommate, Jared; it's his house, I just rent from him." Will shrugged, "It's cheap and there's none of the hassles of living downtown."

"I like the action though," Marc admitted, as he grinned over at Will. "Nothing beats downtown Scarborough!"

"You sound almost enthusiastic." Will managed a smile as he rang the bell for his stop, "This is us, you eaten yet?"

Marc shook his head, "Not since lunch."


"Sounds good."

Chapter Eighteen

They stamped inside out of the cold, Will leading the way through the small entryway into the kitchen as he kicked his shoes off. He fingered through the mail Jared had left on the side seeing if there was anything interesting. Aside from bills and a Reader's Digest contest form there was nothing. He glanced back at Marc who was fumbling with the laces to his heavy Doc Martins, and grinned as he took off his bomber and hung it up.

"It's not much," Will admitted, "but it's comfortable."

Marc nodded mutely.

"Can I get you a coffee, tea or something?" he asked, returning to the kitchen and flipping open the fridge.

"Tea?" Marc asked; now free of the boots, he began to remove the many layers of clothes he had on. It was the one secret Canadians had over the entire world, layers. The more you put on the warmer you were. Will had seen the American tourists in their thinsulate parkas shivering at a bus stop next to a Canadian girl wearing three sweaters under her thin denim jacket. All the technology in the world and it was beaten by good old-fashioned ingenuity.

It was like when Jared came home after Christmas with a pen that could write in space. The Americans had spent a fortune developing a pen that could write in any environment, a true wonder to man's inventiveness. And the Russians used a pencil. Will could just imagine the Russians orbiting the planet in the ISS laughing at their one American colleague chowing down on dehydrated Irish stew while they ate Chicken Kiev.

He set the kettle down on the side and plugged it into the stove. "Any preference?" he called back, opening the cupboard that had been dubbed the tea cupboard because it was stuffed to the brim with all types of teas and infusions. These were unwanted gifts given at Christmas time by relatives who weren't sure what you wanted so walked into the first store they could find and grabbed the first gift basket they saw. Invariably there was always one stuffed full of tea bags. And they ended up in that cupboard.

When Will deviated from his strict coffee diet he always drank Earl Grey; his grandmother had given him a taste for it when he was little, and once you drank Earl Grey, Red Rose certainly wasn't a proper cup of U and Me.

"Red Rose, if you got it," Marc said appearing beside him to stare into the cupboard at the mountain of tea collected there.

Will sighed inwardly as he pulled it down and reached in to fish out the teapot. He stopped as he turned back to Marc in surprise.

It was technicolor. He set the teapot down on the side and turned back to Marc again. It was still technicolor.

Marc had a strangely proud grin on his face as he stepped back and did a quick spin to show off the vest. It was like it had been designed for a stage production of Joseph. Made from intricately woven wools in a stunning array of colours, he looked like a children's TV presenter about to perform. There had to be a warning label on it saying prolonged exposure can cause seizures.

It definitely suited his personality.

"That's cute," Will said as he popped a couple of tea bags into the pot.

"I got it at Phase Two this afternoon, I love it." He leaned on the counter watching as Will poured water into the pot, "I'm going to wear it to my next job interview."

Will grinned as he shook his head, "I wouldn't hire you." He picked up the pot and motioned to the two cups in the wash rack as he led the way through into the living room.

"Yeah, but that's because your company's boring," Marc said as he ignored the couch completely and sat down on the rug beside the coffee table.

Will watched him a moment before he sighed and joined him on the floor, scooping up the remote and flipping on the TV. As usual it greeted him with the standard line-up for a Friday night, the standard array of sitcoms carefully laugh-tracked so that you were cued to laugh on demand. He enjoyed them; they kept him mindlessly entertained when he got home till something more interesting came on later in prime time.

He suddenly remembered Jared and he got up, "I'll be right back." He smiled lopsidedly as he passed the remote over and descended the stairs to the finished basement.

Jared was there banging away on MSN, the light from the one lamp lighting his face manically as he pounded keys. He didn't glance up.

"Hey there, buddy." He punctuated the words with the clicking of keys.

Will sat down on the stairs and watched Jared a moment, "Which one's this?"

"Becky," Jared said. A wolfish smirk decorated his face as he flicked the ash of his cigarette into the ashtray, "We're playing the total truth game."

"Oh, no," Will said shaking his head. "You know these online chat hook-ups are hit-or-miss; for all you know you could be talking to a 40-year-old biker with butt-less chaps and a taste for spankings."

Jared shrugged, "Better than nothing. She's asking me when the last time I had sex was."

"On that note..." Will said as he shook his head, "I'm going back upstairs, Marc's here..."

Jared glanced up from his typing, "That's the," he made a circular motion around his temple to indicate crazy.

Will shook his head, "Nothing like that,"

"Well, Brody's out, got himself a date with that ticket clerk he met when he got into the city; he said not to wait up."

Will nodded as he stood up and walked back up into the living room to find Marc had stretched out on the floor and was channel surfing.

* * *

They were curled up together at the foot of the couch, Marc wrestling the controller from him with a grin as he changed the channel, switching it to a channel that was displaying the best of classic British sitcoms.

Will groaned inwardly, Are You Being Served, played over and over and over ad nauseum. He'd seen them all and he reached to take the remote back, as Marc playfully held it up out of his grasp.

"No, I want to watch them," he said with a grin. "It helps me understand where you're from."

Will shuddered. "I'm not that kind of British..." he said, reaching for the remote again as Marc stuffed it up inside his shirt.

"You're going to have to go get it," he dared with a broad grin.

Will arched an eyebrow darting a hand in to grab for the remote, as Marc grabbed for his hand. Both laughed as they found themselves wrestling to get free and Marc, who had the advantage of leverage, pushed with his legs and Will slid over onto his back dragging the giggling Marc down with him.

Marc tore the remote free of his shirt and tried to hold it up out of Will's reach as Will poked Marc in the ribs causing the young man to lose his balance and fall across Will's stomach. The remote slid away from them both as Marc suddenly found his face inches away from Will's staring into those soft hazel eyes.

Jared wandered up the stairs and stopped in the doorway to the lounge; he surveyed the scene with one of his bemused looks that said he knew exactly what was going on, even when the people involved didn't. Both Will and Marc glanced at him.

Jared shrugged and shook his head, "Cool."

As he wandered his way into the kitchen, Marc turned to Will, "Roommate?"

Will nodded as he cocked his head to see through to the kitchen, "Jared this is Marc, Marc that's Jared."

"Nice to finally meet ya," Jared said towelling off his hands on a dishcloth and shaking Marc's hand. "Well kids, it's been fun, but I am gonna stumble my way to bed now. Don't stay up late, now." He chuckled to himself as he made his way upstairs leaving Will to look at Marc.

"He's right, it's like two am."

Marc nodded, "I should be getting home."

Will shrugged again, "Stay, we have a guest room. That way we don't have to go out in that cold."

Marc smiled, "Ow!"

"What?" Will asked in confusion, wondering where Marc had hurt himself.

"That was you twisting my rubber arm," Marc said as he settled back on the couch next to Will, but faced inwards so that their noses were close together.

"I can't kiss you," Marc said after a moment.

Will gave him an amused smile that was unexpected, "I wasn't asking you to..."

Marc wrestled with something mentally, his eyes dancing across Will's face, "You're not making it easy for me."

Will lay there still smirking, "I don't care." And he realized he meant it.

Marc sighed regretfully, "I want to, but I'm still going out with Libbet and I can't cheat on her."

"I understand that," Will said, acutely aware of how close Marc was to him; again, he simply didn't mind it. It was just nice to be that close to someone.

"Let's watch the TV," Marc said as he turned back to the screen.

Will shook his head in wonder at the strange guy as he wrapped an arm around Marc and drew him close, the two just watching the film and sharing a moment. It was when Marc turned back to him, and looked at him with those grey-blue eyes that Will knew he was in trouble. He opened his mouth to say something but fell silent just staring into the wide and fearful eyes that were looking at him, trying to search his eyes for answers to some hidden question.

"What do you see?" Will asked quietly, realizing his hand was now sitting on Marc's thigh. Marc's hand in turn was twisting in the folds of Will's shirt.

"I don't know," Marc said after a moment in frustration. "This isn't getting us anywhere."

"Then we should keep things strictly platonic," Will said, feeling the closeness between them as his fingers rose up to Marc's waistband where the shirt had become un-tucked, his fingers touching skin.

"How will we do that?" Marc said lifting his arm a little to allow Will's fingers under the shirt.

"Well," Will said blowing out a sigh, "We could forget about the attraction and act like it doesn't exist." His hand was now tracing a light pattern on the skin of Marc's back. "Just be friends."

"I like that idea," Marc said in a small voice, "but that won't work if you get much closer..."

"I know," Will said leaning in to kiss Marc gently.

Marc returned the gentle kiss, before he pulled back, "You, you can't do that..."

"I'm sorry," Will apologized, surprised when Marc swooped in for a kiss of his own, which he broke almost immediately.

"We just can't kiss each other whenever we want to." Marc took a deep breath and steadied himself, "What are we going to do?"

Will swallowed. "We just can't give in to it, we're adults, we can control our urges... you can control your urges, right?" he asked sounding faintly hopeful.

"I can," Marc said, "I sincerely hope. You know, I'd better get to bed. Nothing happened. Okay?" He stood up and adjusted himself to hide his fairly obvious excitement. "The bedroom's upstairs, right?"

Will smiled after him, "You know we're doomed, right?"

"Yes, I do..." Marc admitted hiding his smile.