Well Happy Canadian Thanksgiving, sorry this part is a day late. Hope you guys are enjoying it, Should I be posting the next book after this one, or are you guys pretty much done with this series?
As usual Comments or questions direct to firstname.lastname@example.org. Feed back is welcome.
"You read body language?" Rena Allison asked, a curious smile appearing on her face. "That's a useful talent."
Will shrugged, smiling a bit. "Difficult to learn, but invaluable in gauging people; useful yes, but not the only method I rely on. I learned a lot of them from my father, he was in the army and seemed to think it was a handy skill to learn."
"Well," Rena smiled, "you'll have to give me a demonstration later and impress us with your skill."
"I'm not that good at it," Will said, almost turning red. "I couldn't compete with my father; he's amazing, he could look at you and tell you things about yourself you didn't think anyone would know."
"Well, thankfully he isn't here, or you would know all my secrets," she gave him an alluring smile.
Will paled slightly, she was coming on to him, and he smiled and nodded. He quickly changed the subject, turning her attention to the impending merger. Agreeing that it was a fair bargain, the former president of Tri-Tech was distracted by several other prominent guests who wished to speak with her. Will watched her go, and wondered if she had actually been trying to flirt with him after all.
Will moved over and took another drink off yet another silver tray carried around by another caterer. He sipped this one, instead of taking it down in one swig of the glass. He was enjoying himself even though he wasn't much of a socialite, and while Sam Conners and other members of his staff whooped and hollered getting into the spirit of the party, he allowed himself the chance to relax; he was beginning to get used to the antics of some of his staff, and also even enjoy the large crowded party. He normally wasn't a huge fan of such functions. He preferred a few close friends to a crowd. But he had done many larger parties back when his father had dragged him along to various military functions. Stuffed into that god-awful blue shirt and silly bow tie, at least now he could get away with a tuxedo.
He noticed several guests looking out the windows and pointing, exclaiming at something and laughing. It was enough to convince him to find out what was going on. When he reached the windows, he looked out and saw a small crowd in the distant snowy grounds of the estate. To his dismay he knew those types of circles, back when he had taught junior high he could spot a fight when he saw one.
Will groaned, had Sam already spiked the punch more than it was already perhaps? Perhaps it was Sam himself. No, he chided himself silently. Sam was strange, to say the least, but he was more of a partier than a brawler. At least that was the impression he had of his employee so far. He had come to know the young man over the months since he had joined the recruitment department, accepting his odd personality quirks.
Earlier that day he had passed Sam in the office and the cocky recruiter had given him a sly grin telling Will that he was up to no good as usual. But whatever his personality quirks, the kid could recruit. Will had simply shook his head as he leisurely made his way out of cubicle country and to his office again after that. He'd rather not know what Sam was doing. It was probably easier on his blood pressure that way.
Will dashed for the front door, grabbing his overcoat in the coatroom as he went. The butler was still working the door, looking startled to see the young Director of Human Resources run past him, barely having a chance to throw open the door to allow Will through.
He stepped aside after the passage and stared at Mister Carter who flew down the steps, throwing his arms into his coat as he ran.
Will rounded the corner of the house and saw the crowd not far ahead. He was in vocal range now.
"Hey!" he yelled at the top of his lungs, though not angry and still almost a soft tone to it. "What's going on here?"
He noticed who the fighters were at this point. One of them was unmistakably Marc. There was a split second of hesitation as he wondered why Marc was at the party, but he didn't have time to think about it. The other fighter was starting in again, a young kid Will recognized from the party.
* * *
Robert Avery stood, staring down from his vantage point overlooking the manor house. From the upper terrace he commanded an unobstructed view over the grounds adjacent to his house. There were couples skating on the frozen pond, watched by their co-workers from the veranda of the main house. Some couples walked along the lakeshore, seeking a moment or two alone with each other. But his gaze was fixed now on the circle of young men that had formed around the two battling youths.
Avery had turned the collar of his great coat up to ward out the cold, his breath frosting as it flowed from his mouth. He weathered the cold, and continued to watch the struggle. The temptation was to interfere, but that would accomplish nothing. Avery made a career out of knowing situations, and a fight over Libbet had been building for a while now. He regretted that she had to play games, but she hadn't started the fight, she was just the prize. Avery knew from his own experience to let them sort out their own differences.
All through his life he had seen similar fights; it was human nature for boys trying to become men, trying to define themselves, make a name for themselves. Like any gang, the kids at the party were a group of young, impressionable youths trying to prove who they were. Lucas had something to prove and in his own way so did Marc. Avery couldn't interfere, only deal with the fallout from it
To his surprise he watched Will intercede in the struggle, and nodded; perhaps it had reached an end, perhaps not. He wondered how far the jealousy between the two boys would go, what it would lead to. There was a time and a place to work out aggressions. Avery could remember an incident behind the library down on Grafton Street all those years ago when his Katheryn had been the woman to stand by and watch as two young men had fought over her in a playground.
The old man instinctively rubbed his jaw line; the memory was a fond reminder of why he had become the man he was.
Avery was glad in a way that it was Will stepping in. The feisty Englishman had lived up to his heritage; he fought with words as effectively as someone twice his age. If anyone could make sense out of the fight, Will could. And it looked like it wasn't a moment too soon as Libbet's street-kid boyfriend seemed to have discovered that the pretentious rich boy from a good prep school wasn't as soft as he had thought.
* * *
Reaching the crowd, Will shoved his way past those who did not know who he was and didn't step away. Some ran away from the crowd, realizing that their boss had arrived.
"What the bloody hell is going on here?" Will yelled, anger just on the edge of his voice now.
The other fighter, not Marc, turned to Will, his face bloodied.
"And just who the hell do you think you are?" he shouted at Will, sneering at the man who had interrupted the fight. "Go back to the party, you son of a bitch!"
Will's face flushed red a bit, anger setting in, he never tolerated that kind of language directed towards him.
"I'm the man that signs the pink slips at Avery-Woods, that's who the bloody hell I think I am!"
Silence immediately descended over the crowd. A few "I told you so's" were whispered about. Marc still stood in a defensive posture, but stared in surprise at Will's sudden appearance. His foe, the other young man who had yelled at Will, had stopped moving completely.
"Uhm.... Will?" Marc asked in obvious confusion. "Mister Carter? What are you.... doing here?"
"What am I doing here?" asked Will incredulously. "I'm at a dignified formal evening party that my company has put on to impress the shareholders of a company we are trying to buy out. At least I thought I was until I saw you idiots out here!"
He turned, and glared at almost everyone in the crowd around him, mostly young salesmen, and kids of senior staff members of Avery-Woods. He recognized them from the Christmas party a few months before. He glared at Marc too, although more disappointment filled his eyes at that point than anger.
Marc wiped the blood from his forehead, and stood squarely in front of Lucas, glaring. The night had already been bad enough as it was. This couldn't possibly be any worse, the young man decided.
"Just how much bloody alcohol could you have had to have forgotten where you were?" Will's voice boomed now with authority. He turned to the young man who had been fighting with Marc. "What's your name, son?"
The young man tired to straighten himself, adjusting visibly to the pain he was enduring. He answered: "Lucas, sir."
Will's eyes took on an exasperated look, and he frowned.
"Last name, son!" he demanded and he realized how much like his father he sounded. "Or have you completely forgotten who you are?"
Lucas sneered at the word "son", and tried to stand tall in front of Mister Carter. He only marginally succeeded, since he was still under the influence. He spoke defiantly, "Lucas Weippert.... Sir!"
Inwardly Will groaned, like father like son. "Well, Mister Weippert," Will said, stressing the word 'Mister', "would you mind telling me what you thought you were doing out here?"
Lucas glared at Marc for a moment, and glanced around. "I believe we were just leaving, sir!"
A few of the young salesmen who worked for Avery-Woods, the ones who knew who Will was, gave Lucas an odd look, as if to say that he was in trouble and that he'd better try to wise up to it. Marc glanced from person to person, considering again how badly his night had gone. Now he was faced with an angry Will Carter, could it actually get any worse for him?
Will stepped closer to the young man, a frown appearing again. "If you think you're getting off that easily, Mister Weippert, then you've definitely had too much to bloody drink! I want an explanation, and I want it now! Or shall I ask one of your friends around us instead?" He glared at the employees; no question in their eyes, they knew he wouldn't hesitate to start firing people on the spot until he found someone capable of explaining what had happened.
Another young man, vaguely familiar to Will from accounting, stepped out from the crowd. "It's just a stupid argument, sir. He won't do it again."
Lucas shot the other young man a glare.
Will glanced to Marc for the first time. The young man made eye contact for a moment, but looked away, not wanting the humiliation to settle in.
"Arguments aren't supposed to get physical," Will said glaring back at Lucas. "I suggest you learn to remember that fact, because if you can't I'd be all too happy to instruct your father to teach you."
The young men around him shifted nervously, or in shame. Some kicked the snow they were standing in. Silence stood for a few seconds like thick fog over the group.
"You were saying that you were leaving," Will said harshly as he glared at Lucas again, shifting his eyes towards where the driveway and the numerous cars parked close to the front entrance of the house. "Maybe you should do just that."
Lucas shrugged, and acted as if he was indifferent. But he started moving towards the parking lot, a few of his friends following. He stopped however, and turned to Marc and said with a laughing whisper: "Better watch yourself, Marc Lawrence..."
"Mister Weippert..." Will snapped, hearing the remark.
Lucas however kept moving, acting as if he hadn't heard Will; what did he care. He'd had enough of being insulted by some stranger who had no affect over his life.
"Mister Weippert!" Will nearly bellowed, the angry authoritative edge to his voice having returned. He took two steps after the impudent young man.
Lucas finally stopped at the footpath that led towards the cars and turned around, his eyes indignant again. His friends quickly hurried into their cars, sensing Will's fury approaching.
Will walked right up, and towered over Lucas, literally coming face to face with the boy on the edge of the driveway. Behind him, a smile escaped Marc's face. The arrogant kid was finally going to get what was due him.
Will smelled the alcohol now on Lucas's breath, being so close to him, face-to-face. The glaze in the boys eyes now taking form also alluded to the fact that drinking had as much to play here, at least on Lucas's side, as legitimate anger.
Nonetheless, Will let loose on the young man.
"I meant what I said. You're supposed to be acting like the man you hope to become." Will wondered if his words would sink in. The other people at Avery-Woods may have taken a liking for Lucas based on who his father was, but Will certainly wasn't, he didn't play favourites, a man stood on his own merits. Lucas wasn't winning any points as this incident went on. "Start acting like it, especially at company functions. I don't need, and don't want, anything less from you."
Lucas's almost snorted, but seemed dazed now, his eyes far somewhere else, unfocused.
Will leaned in even closer: "And you'd better just count yourself fucking lucky that I didn't turn you over to your father! If you keep up this attitude however, I may rethink that decision."
Lucas blinked at him. Will sighed.
"Get the hell out of here, Mister Weippert."
Lucas tried to nod, but instead fell back into the snow, passing out from the alcohol. Will sighed again. `I'd just let your father sort you out,' he said silently to himself, `if you weren't so damn drunk.' Hopefully his friends would drive him home and put him to bed for the night. Although Will couldn't imagine he could cause much more trouble in his state now anyway.
He turned, and noticed Marc had remained behind. He should have been surprised, but with everything that had passed between them, their failed attempt at a platonic friendship, it was no surprise that their final goodbye hadn't been lasting.
"Will?" Marc asked, seeing the man he had come to know and trust over the past few weeks look his way.
"I think we should go for a walk," Will said pushing his hands deeper into the heavy woollen great coat. "I think the cold air will do us both some good."
Readjusting his own coat, Marc nodded. The cold would get to him eventually, but that was all right. Will would at least talk with him, and he could use that gentle, unassuming presence for comfort.
They started walking along the path that went in a wide loop through the estate grounds and around the huge house. Marc followed, still having a slight sway in his walk from the amount he had drunk earlier in the evening. He hoped Will didn't notice. At least he wouldn't pass out due to it.
"Will, look, I can explain..."
"Well, yes," Will said. "I was hoping at least you would...."
Marc winced, feeling his forehead.
Will turned to look at the younger man. He prided himself on reading body language; he knew when someone was hiding something from him, being evasive. Usually, at least.
"Who started it?" Will asked, his deep hazel eyes studying that sad face, those eyes that always looked so terrified of everything. Scared to death of living, he realized sadly.
"I was just walking out, because I needed some fresh air. That bastard had two girls on his arm, and he thought that because I was dating Libbet.. I don't know, I guess he hit a nerve or something, and so... I finally threw the first punch." He turned to Will. "It's all my fucking fault. I don't deserve to be here, let alone in this city."
"I hardly think a drunken fistfight at a party late at night constitutes exile, Marc, or anything of the sort." Will raised an eyebrow. "And I doubt the RCMP will run you out of town for defending yourself. I can't exactly fault you for something you did. It's not as if I'm your boss, and I doubt Mister Weippert will press any assault charges."
Marc looked down and kicked at some snow with his shoes, Libbet had bought them for him, like virtually everything else he wore...
"But," Will began again, distracting Marc's thoughts, "why did you start it? Couldn't you have ignored him?"
"Well... that just it..." Marc glanced around, wishing he didn't have to talk about it. But then again, he really didn't have a choice now really. "He...thought I was eyeing one of the girls he had with him, and started pestering me about it."
Will smiled a bit, walking through the snow. Typical, he thought, it was over girls.
"But that was the problem, I really took offence to that!"
"Why? Were you doing what he said you..."
"No!" Marc nearly yelled so loud it shifted the snow at their feet. He threw his hands out innocently and lowered his voice. "I wasn't. Not at all."
Will raised an eyebrow again. He stared intently at Marc for a moment.
"Well, he sure thought you were," Will said finally. "But if you say you weren't, I believe you."
Marc bit his lip, everything was so confusing, he was walking through the snow on the verge of telling Will... telling Will what? That he wasn't attracted to the girls? That he wasn't attracted to Libbet? That there was only one person on his mind? And the guilt from that was driving him crazy. They were supposed to just walk away from one another, never see each other again. Why was it, every time Marc swore he wouldn't see Will again, there he was, like fate or something...
Will sucked in a cold breath of air before continuing: "You still didn't have to fight him over that, though. What are you doing here anyway? I thought this was a business function."
Marc stopped biting his lip, and sighed.
"I came to the party with Libbet, she was supposed to be my date, before she took off and vanished."
"Libbet?" Will asked with surprise obvious in his voice. Libbet, what did Libbet have to do with Robert Avery...
Marc blushed, despite himself. Will would understand. He should, at least, he hoped.
Will blinked, still obviously surprised. Marc blushed deeper.
"Libbet Avery," the young man said finally, chewing on the words a bit.
It was like a cold shock, "Libbet...Elizabeth Avery..." Will mumbled a curse, still surprised: "Robert Avery's daughter?"
Marc sighed: "Yes..."
Will stopped walking, and sighed heavily himself now. He looked up and rolled his eyes; of all the fucked-up situations.
"Of all the people in this city... The old man's daughter!?"
Marc blinked, he did understand! The surprise was about something else.
"My god...Avery...." Will muttered, shaking his head.
"Listen, I'm not much proud of that either, alright?" Marc muttered back. "She's playing games with me right now, and I can't stand it!" He kicked the snow again with his boot as if to illustrate his point.
Will stopped being shocked over the fact that it was the old man's daughter, of all people, and looked at Marc who was quite angry again now.
"You're angry at her? I thought you said she was your date?"
"She `was' my date! She came with me to the party, but she had to go and suddenly vanished when we walked in! And just as I was about to... Gah! She's doing it on purpose, I'm sure!"
Will reached up and scratched his cheeks and the slight coarseness of his five o'clock shadow, as if pondering it all. When things went to hell, they certainly went to hell spectacularly. How was he going to sort this mess out? He wasn't Brody; he didn't have the ability to just pull a social miracle out of nowhere.
"Well, that explains a lot," he finally said, turning to lean up against a length of very old stone wall that jutted about three feet out of the ground.
Marc picked up a clump of snow in his hands, and tried to make a snowball with it. It crumbled through his fingers to the ground however, and he sighed. He looked up, his breath making steam in the air. He looked up at Will, unsure on how to really interpret the man's expression. He looked interested in what Marc had to say, and that made him feel uncomfortable. He felt a sudden trust creep up on him.
"I have a feeling if Libbet hadn't vanished, intentional or not, you wouldn't have taken that first swing at Lucas," Will said, watching Marc.
"It's just that I didn't want to come tonight. I came and she, just started to act funny like she was ashamed of me. I'm such an idiot. I shouldn't have wasted my time, anyway. The whole thing was straight out of a book or something."
"Look, Marc," Will said, shifting his overcoat. "I'm no expert when it comes to relationships or romance. God knows if I'm even still competent myself at it lately. But I do know you're angry with someone you trusted and were attracted to. Anyone would feel angry after that. It's only human. But you've got to try to control that. There are a lot of Lucas's out there in this world, unfortunately."
Marc laughed, imagining a group of Lucas's running Avery-Woods and trying to deal with each other.
Will smiled slightly; glad the young man could at least laugh.
"Do you really like her, this Libbet Avery?"
"I thought I did... but I met someone.. else.." Marc blushed again. "Now I just don't know. It was over with Libbet a long time ago, it's just she won't let go and I can't hurt her. But at the same time..." he looked up into Will's eyes, "here you are offering me everything in the world and that fucking scares the shit out of me."
"I see," Will said quietly as he swallowed; how did he feel about the small guy standing just a few feet from him? There was a strong attraction there, but did his feelings run as deep as Marc's did? Was it fair of him to put Marc in this situation?
"You should hear when she does an impression of her dad," Marc said, suddenly changing topics.
Will smiled slightly as he pictured a young daughter of Robert Avery mocking his mentor. He thought silently: You were never the type to have children, Robert.
"I don't even know why I bother sometimes..." Marc muttered.
"You really only have two choices now from the way I see it," Will said, adjusting his overcoat again. "You could continue a relationship with her, putting yourself second, lying and leading her on, so that when it does come out you will hurt her more. Or, you can tell her how you feel; at least that way you'd be able to figure out what it is you want out of life instead of trying to guess what she wants."
"I don't even know why I bother sometimes..." Marc shrugged. "This was never supposed to be this complicated. I should just give up."
Will raised an eyebrow again: "Well, I suppose there's that choice too...." From the look in Marc's eyes however, he doubted that choice would last. Marc had tried it, running away from his problems only to find they had never really gone away.
Marc glanced up, looking at the man he was falling in love with. Terrifying or not, there was no way he could hide how he felt there. Will was someone he could respect, it seemed. No one had ever cared about him this much, especially not about what had happened to him, and Will so easily offered to help him too.
"But don't look a second chance in the face and pass it by, Marc." Will's eyes became slightly distant again; he wasn't sure of his own feelings towards Marc, and there he was giving the kid advice to save his relationship. It was a messed up situation indeed.
"Seems like you have experience... with this, I mean." Marc said, "Andrew..."
"I suppose you could say that," Will muttered.
"What's it like, then, feeling lonely?"
Will thought about it for a moment and then leaned back, his eyes closed.
"Adrift... like being out at sea with no one else. And there's no fresh water. Everything you needed is gone now. And no one is there to help you or want you."
Another moment of silence passed between them.
"You know," Marc finally said, "they say if you screamed in the depths of space, no one will hear you."
Will opened his eyes at the randomness of the comment; he thought about it for a second, "A scientific truth, but quite fitting for the feeling of loneliness as well." Will nodded. He shrugged then, as if not trying to dwell too long on it. "But just like anger, you have to control it. And move on..."
He turned to Marc now, looking at the young man who he had developed feelings for, the person who could end his own feelings of loneliness if he could just take the hand he was offered.
"They also say time heals all wounds, Marc." Marc glanced up at him silently as Will continued, "Some just take longer than others."
Marc nodded: "I guess so."
Will looked over to the front of the house in the distance. He noticed some of Lucas's co-workers and friends coming back from the cars, without Lucas. That was a good sign at least. He saw Bruce Weippert walking through the cars returning to the house; someone must have told him about his son, and Will pitied the kid.
"You should get back to the party," he said, turning back to Marc.
Marc swallowed and nodded. "Goodbye Will," he said, feeling the sadness inside him welling up again.
Will nodded in understanding, "Take care of yourself." It seemed all they ever did since they had met was say goodbye to one another. The bite of regret for what never could be always stung them, but Will refused to let it show.
Marc turned and was gone, trudging through the snow back to the bright lights and din of the party.
Will stared after him until he had entered the house.
"It's a shame...." he murmured, wondering at what could have been if the situation hadn't been so complicated, so screwed up.
However, he remembered Marc's anger at his situation, and sighed. He pulled his overcoat tightly around him, and set off down the path again, now by himself, mulling over his thoughts.
Ahead, a figure in the cold haze of the night and the fog approached him. There was no mistaking Robert Avery's approach, a cloudy brooding countenance over his face. He slowed his walk to meet Will on the snow-covered pathway that looped the house.
The old man came to a halt and allowed his young director to walk up to him, turning slightly to look back at the site of the skirmish between the two boys. "Who won?" he asked simply.
Will raised his eyebrow, but smiled slightly despite himself. "None of them, but God knows if they know that." He sighed, "Lucas, if you had to take it on pure physical merit. But the kid was pissed drunk."
The old man lifted a hand to point at the ridge where the upper terrace was located. "I was able to watch unobserved from up there."
"Ah. And you didn't interfere?"
Avery lifted the corner of his mouth in a half smile of his own. "And if I had stepped in between you and Bruce in the boardroom?"
Will chuckled, "We weren't trying to kill each other...." He glanced at Avery, "Well, at least I wasn't...."
The older man nodded thoughtfully, looking back at his young friend. "It's all relative, I learned that a long time ago."
"True enough." Will looked around at the snow-covered landscape and sucked in a breath of cold air.. "I've never been to your house before. Glad to finally see it."
Avery motioned about him. "This place was built by a prominent politician who advocated slavery, my father taught me about him when I was growing up, I felt it was ironic that an African-Canadian would own it now."
Will nodded, "Reminds me of when I visited England last year, at least the highland parts of it. There weren't quite so many stars there though." He glanced up.
Avery shrugged. "It was over there," he lifted a hand to motion to the terrace where couples were watching the skating, "that I first had the idea that I wanted to build a communications satellite, have something with my name on it up there among them."
Will glanced over to the terrace. "With the view you get from here of them, I don't doubt it..."
Avery blew out another sigh, watching his breath fog before him as he started to walk back towards the upper terrace. "How are you finding the celebration?"
"Interesting...." Will smiled. "To say the least. I've never had a chance to see the staff outside of work, shows me how.... unique they all are, sir."
Avery chuckled, "With this company, the term 'interesting' takes on a whole new meaning." He mounted the steps, "It is more like being a fond father than a CEO."
"True, that," Will admitted. "Anyway, I thought you were hosting your party? What brought you out here in this cold?" Will asked, scanning the landscape intently.
Avery turned, seeming to draw quiet, pausing on the step, "I needed some air I suppose, and Kathryn always loved the gardens..."
"Ex-wife, we were separated long before she passed away." He rested a hand on the wrought-iron railing, "But the gardens were her favourite place; I was told she used to stand on the edge of the lake and wait for the stars each night that I was working..." he trailed off.
Will watched the old man, his old friend from long ago, and listened.
Avery settled his eyes on the young director, "And what about you? I know this acquisition has been stressful on everyone, and I know you don't agree with what Bruce has done, but right now we don't have any choice but see how this thing plays out." He blew out a long sigh, "I don't like it any more than you do, he should have told someone. But I can't fire him until this is resolved, he's the only one that can pull off the Tri-Tech deal; the stockholders are worried and they have faith in Bruce's ability to make this deal go through. And right now I'm worried about the shareholders meeting on Tuesday."
Will blinked, and nodded, "You're worried they are going to replace you." He continued, "Surely they have to realize..." He looked over at his mentor and friend and stopped, knowing the answer, "Of course, it's about money, no one wants to lose money, and if Bruce can bring the firm back from the brink of bankruptcy..." He sighed reluctantly, "The fact that he was the one that put us in the situation in the first place doesn't matter does it, they already blame you...." Will turned his head to look up at the stars. "I hate these bloody games, it's juvenile, as if we don't have enough problems to deal with right now."
"And with my controlling share right now frozen by the pension fund, I don't control my own vote." Robert surmised tiredly. "They still need my signature to use that vote, but I can't use it either."
"Damn," Will said, shivering in the cold. They were in trouble, there was no doubt about it, and Bruce had tied them all up in a neat little box.
Robert watched the reaction, noting it; he had seen that look before back when he had wrestled with the biggest decisions of his life, so much about Will reminded Avery of himself. It was a flash, but it was there, and Avery sympathized. "Here, I have something that might help."
Will raised an eyebrow at Avery.
He reached into his coat and produced a small flask of fine malt whiskey that had been bought for him years ago after he had won a bet with a man who would go on to become the Canadian finance minister, a payment for the Blue Jay's winning two world series in a row. It had been rare to find, and the old man had saved the bottle for an occasion; he saw that he needed it now.
Will smiled slightly at Avery with the flask.
The old man uncapped it. "To ward off the chill," he commented, as he took a draught and handed it across to Will. "It is almost the hour of the Wolf, and to quote a very wise old man, one should never be sober during that hour."
"Definitely bloody not," Will nodded, draining his glass as well. "Never did like that wolf.... visited me far too often lately." He sighed as the smile ran away from his face, "I'll never get used to this job, and the games I have to play just to stay ahead in it. I mean my friends all say how lucky I am to have such a great job, good money, and nice office. They have no idea." Will stared into the flask, "I'm twenty-six and I feel like I'm an old man some nights. I deal with things I barely understand, it's like playing poker all day long. Keep the game face." Will sighed, "I'll leave that to Vegas showgirls, thank you very much."
"I made you a director because you earned the position; I just remember what it was like to claw my way up from nothing, sure that I would watch it all slip away through my fingers." Avery took back the flask and drank again, "I always wondered at my father; I sat up with him one night, and watched the ghosts of the past visit him one after the other; he often warned me that I would meet my own one day..." He shook his head, "But for you, you're facing yours now..."
Will glanced at Avery. "Well, I've always been grateful for the faith you put in me, though I don't feel I earned it. At least, that's how I'm trying to view it as..." Will took back the offered flask raised it to Avery in a toast.
Avery nodded, "I know how you feel, one day you'll realize you have earned it." He met the toast, "To the Wolf, may she stay away just a little longer tonight."
"Along with those ghosts of the past," Will countered, "at least for tonight."
Avery watched the young man drain the flask, "You always were someone who appreciated the simplest of pleasures," he replied, and changed the subject. "What do you think of my home?"
"Your home? It's one bloody big house, for starters. But it's a fine one, from what I've seen of it. As unique as its owner, I might add. It's got a fascinating history to it as well, Robert. I know, I know, its poetic irony." He smiled.
The old man chuckled, "As I said before, only in Canada can a boy from Grafton Street that played in a gutter build a communications business and own a house like this; I always felt that I wouldn't be pretentious, that I would never own a big house, but I did it, in the end. Hard work, a little luck and a country that doesn't care about the colour of your skin, only the colour of your sweat."
"Well, sir, I can only hope one day to have a third the success you have had. You built an amazing firm. You should be proud."
Robert Avery studied the younger man, "Sometimes I wish you were ten years older." He sighed reluctantly, "You're brash, opinionated and at times reckless. That was the reason I promoted you, because in time you are going to make one hell of a managing director." He sighed again, regretfully, "But you're not ready yet."
He sat in silence in the passenger seat, almost impassive. They hadn't talked since they had left the party, the Volkswagen cruising along an almost deserted Don Valley Parkway. At nearly three am, there wasn't much traffic heading in their direction. It was quiet in the car, neither really saying anything to each other; the tension was so thick that Marc was sure it could be cut with a knife.
He stared out of the window and wondered how his life had become so messed up. But he had always been messed up, his mother and her life spilling over into his. In a way he hated her for the legacy of pain she had given to him. It was as if she had shed her life and gone on to happiness leaving him with the burden of carrying her baggage.
He bitterly tapped his knuckle against the window, staring out at the Don Valley beside him, and the lights of downtown Toronto just beyond. The CN tower dominated the skyline, a proud declaration to the world that Canada wasn't going to be overlooked. But it was overlooked, it was forgotten about by much of the world. And that made him angrier.
He looked over at her, her hands tight on the steering wheel as she stared ahead at the road. Refusing to look at him, her anger barely kept in check. And he knew she had every right to be angry with him. He'd betrayed her, he had let her down, and he didn't love her.
How many times had he tried? How many times had he found himself relying on her? And each time, he found guilt eating away at him. He resented her for the pressure she put on him, that need she had for him to be everything in her world. As if he could ever be that to her. She didn't need some unemployed bum leaching off of her life. She was so much better than that, if only he could make her understand that.
He watched as she accelerated around another car, continuing on in silence.
She was beautiful; her dark curls embracing her neck, the diamond earrings that stood out against her skin so perfectly. She had been born to be beautiful, she had been born to be successful. She was set to become a doctor, to cure the world of its ills. But she couldn't heal her own wounds.
What was he to her anyway? An emotional crutch for her in a moment of weakness? He wasn't a status symbol; Lucas was better for her in that sense. At least if she married him they would compliment each other. Whereas Marc sincerely felt wrong standing beside her, he would never be able to be the man she needed.
He swallowed back a ball of emotion in his throat as he stared back at the skyscrapers, then there was Will and all the confusion that lay there. He was another person that complicated his life. But Will didn't need him; in a way it was Marc who needed Will. There was no pressure to be more than who he was there, he could just be himself, and Will just seemed to accept that.
Marc's gaze drifted back to Libbet, she stood in the way. There was no avoiding that fact. He cared about her, and was desperate not to hurt her, but he was denying himself and what he wanted.
Was he saying to himself that he wanted Will?
Will was a strong and independent man, stuffy and set in his ways, but he had a strength to him that... Marc wanted. He was handsome in a tall dark kind of way, and the way his profile looked in the twilight at the party. The way he dealt with the world. It was strange, but Marc actually felt calm, safe when he was with Will, that the world couldn't hurt him.
Marc swallowed again and breathed a heavy sigh, his life was upside down. On the one hand he had a responsibility to the woman who loved him, on the other he had the man he loved. They were night and day, the complete opposites of each other, and there, in the middle was a scrawny, insecure young man afraid to live.
Libbet knew, what she knew Marc could only guess. But she knew something was wrong. She was angry with him for not telling her what was wrong when they had arrived. Angry at him for his fight with Lucas in the gardens, and she was angry with him now because she knew she was losing him and he wasn't even fighting to stop it.
He wanted to say something to her, to explain everything to her. She deserved to know what was going through his head, to have something to say about it. But he couldn't bring himself to say anything. She would be devastated and he knew that. If he had any sense he wouldn't have stayed in Toronto in the first place. He should have just kept on going down the road, alone.
She broke the silence first, "Why did you fight Lucas?"
He looked over at her, the only sound other than the engine since they had left her father's estate, and she had gone straight for the one question he didn't want to answer. He swallowed as he searched for something, anything to say, but anything other than the truth would only prolong the inevitable.
He rested his head against the car window and chose his words carefully. "He...I..." he struggled for the words and failed miserably, "He said things I didn't want to hear."
She looked over at him, her eyes searching his for some hidden meaning, "And you hit him because of that?"
"I hit him because he was telling the truth," Marc said as his head fell back against the seat and his eyes fixed on the road ahead. "Things I didn't want to admit."
She swallowed back.
Marc knew that it wasn't fair.
It wasn't fair to be feeling all guilty inside over someone else's emotional state. She was desperate to hold onto him for her own selfish reasons. She may have been in love with him, but was it really his fault that he didn't feel the same way? If it wasn't, then why was he still sitting there?
"What?" she asked, her lips were shaking. "What's wrong?"
"I..." he started. "I can't do this."
"I'm sorry. I'm sorry I got into that fight, I'm sorry that when we got here I didn't tell you what was wrong. But it doesn't matter how sorry I am, it still doesn't change things."
She looked away from him. "You don't know why I'm upset. You have no clue. You're too busy fucking up your life to realize it. You're too consumed by whatever is bothering you to stop and think about how it's affecting everyone else. You're selfish. So what? Big deal. It's not as if you're hurting anyone else."
She blinked back tears, as she tried to keep her eyes on the road, "I don't want to be with you just because you feel like you have to be with me. I love you, and I know you love me too, even if you don't show it."
"Shit," Marc swore, "I'm not the one who doesn't understand here. It's always been about you and your needs. I've put you first ever since I got back. I've put my life on hold for you." He scrubbed a hand through his hair.
He hesitated again.
"Can you just listen to me, please? Can I just have some of your time to explain all of this to you?"
She had seen that look on his face before, the day before he had vanished from her life. That ashen look that said the world was caving in upon him.
"Will you, please?" Marc asked again. "I'm okay being an asshole to idiots like Lucas fucking Weippert, because he's one of the biggest out there. But I won't be an asshole to you anymore if you listen to me. Can you just give ten minutes?"
She stared ahead, hands gripping the steering wheel in disbelief, after everything she had done he was actually doing this, to her. He was going to leave her again.
She sucked in air. "You have nothing to explain to me, Marc. I'm no one to you. If I had been you wouldn't have left me in the first place. I'm sick of your games, why'd you come back if you didn't love me?"
She looked up at him and saw him push the hair off his face.
"I'm sorry," he said it all coming out in a rush, "I don't love you. You and I were a mistake. I care about you... but I don't love you, I'm sorry... I can't explain why. I just know I don't." He stopped himself, "I punched Lucas because he was telling me things I knew myself, I punched him because I couldn't punch myself. It's been killing me for weeks."
"You've felt this way for weeks?" her voice was painfully quiet.
For the first time, he was quiet.
No fast answers.
No hurrying to get out everything he wanted to say.
"Why didn't you say something to me? Why did you let me believe we had a future when you..." she fell silent.
"I didn't want to hurt you," he said desperately.
"Congratulations," she said with bitter sarcasm. "You sure dodged that bullet."
"I..." he began, "I'm sorry..."
He wished there was something he could do to get her to understand him, but if he didn't talk there was no way she was ever going to get it.
Then he did it.
He turned slowly, the anger was gone, the frown had faded and all that was left was a pair of sombre, blue eyes that couldn't contain emotion for much longer. He swallowed back his tears, and he looked around at himself then threw a quick glance over his shoulder.
"Are we..." she said as she sighed looking over at him. "Are we breaking up?"
"We've already broken up," he said sadly.
She nodded silently, "Oh."
She touched the brakes to slow down for the lakeshore exit, and pumped them in vain, the car's speedometer continuing to climb. She stared at it as she pumped again with her high-heeled shoe.
She looked at him desperately and it took a moment for him to realize the brakes had failed. He looked frantically as their exit shot past, the car cruising past it too fast for them to turn off.
"I can't stop!" she cried, her foot still working the brake.
"Put it in neutral!" Marc said.
"What?" she asked, turning to him with tear-soaked wild eyes; panic was taking hold of her.
Marc reacted quickly and grabbed the automatics leaver and slammed the car into neutral. Immediately the car began to coast, but showed no sign of slowing down to a safe speed.
On instinct he reached out again and slammed the transmission into Park.
The car fishtailed as one of the wheels locked the other continued to spin. Libbet fought with the wheel to keep control as the small Volkswagen slid to a halt spinning around a hundred and eighty degrees, grinding to a hand on the emergency lane of the expressway.
They both sat; staring in disbelief at the fact they were alive, as the car's engine purred menacingly in the background.