Well guys, thanks for the overwhelming response, the only way I can make this series more about what you like is if you tell me you like it (compliments and criticisms are what tell me the series are being read and enjoyed.)

Again an overwhelming response wanting one thing, Andrew and Will...

So if I do write something about Andrew and Will it will have to be earned and not something I just do. So trust me, i am just beginning book six in the writing stage. So hold on tight :)

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

Chapter Thirty-One

Will was driving; the telephone call had come in just as he was getting ready to go. It had been quicker for him to drive Robert Avery to the hospital and he had readily agreed. The Jeep wound its way through the city streets as Robert sat with his hands folded in his lap staring at the road ahead. He hadn't said anything since he had agreed to let Will drive him to the hospital.

Will left him alone, the message had been vague; there had been some kind of accident, that Libbet and her boyfriend were all right but there were no details.

Will found that he was worried; he had grown fond of Marc, perhaps too fond of him. It made the situation complicated, and he tried to sort it out in his mind as they drove. But there were no readily available answers, the situation was simply complicated and no amount of thinking would sort it out. No matter how often you looked at a puzzle, the only way to solve it was to move pieces.

The Jeep slid to a halt on the slush in the parking lot of Scarborough General Hospital, and the two men rushed into the emergency department. Even then, when he should be panicked, Robert Avery maintained a calm discipline about himself. He walked with a deliberate purpose up to the reception and asked simply to see his daughter.

She was in his arms moments later, a mess of dark curls and tears clinging onto her father for dear life as he comforted her. To Will it was a rare display of emotion for the man, holding onto his daughter almost as tightly as she held onto him.

His eyes travelled across the hospital hall to where Marc stood, tie undone and jean jacket hanging open. He seemed lost and forgotten watching the Averys share a moment. His pale blue eyes met Will's and they looked away.

Will knew all too well what that look meant and he crossed to the young man, guiding him by the arm. "We should leave them alone for awhile," he said softly.

Marc looked up and blinked, nodding in agreement as they made their way back to the front steps of the hospital. Marc knocked a cigarette out of its pack and lit it with shaking hands. Will watched him with concern.

"Are you alright?" he asked quietly.

Marc turned to Will, the pain evident in his eyes as he regarded Will again, a man who wouldn't let goodbye be the end. Will was a strong and quiet man who was filled with a determination and a dedication. Marc swallowed and before he knew it he was burying his head into Will's shoulder, sobbing.

Will looked down at the mass of brown hair on top of Marc's head and awkwardly put his arms around him, rubbing his shoulders to steady him. "Hey, its ok."

Marc clung on for dear life, his hands wrapping into the folds of Will's tuxedo jacket. It was as if he desperately needed Will to stay, that if he could keep Will immobile then he wouldn't be able to leave. Will just let him hold on. Was he saving a drowning man, could he be pulled under as well?

Eventually Marc stepped back and dried his eyes, breathing a heavy sigh of reluctance as he released Will's jacket. "I'm sorry..." he began.

Will took off his glasses and polished off the smudges Marc had left, "It's okay, you needed that."

Marc nodded, "Thanks."

Will shrugged picking a spot on the rail to sit on, "What happened?"

"The brakes failed," Marc said tiredly running a hand through his hair. "Libbet lost control..." he shook his head. "We're ok but the police insisted we be checked out."

Will nodded again, "Thankfully."

Marc relit his cigarette and took a ragged drag off of it, hugging his arms about him and staring vacantly down at the parking lot below them, "We broke up."

"Ahh," Will said glancing back at the doors to the hospital.

"I just couldn't do it any more..." Marc continued. "I was breaking up with her when this happened..."

Will nodded, staying quiet as he listened to the young man unload.

Marc looked back at Will, "Fuck, this is so messed up."

"Yep," Will said shrugging. "No argument here."

Marc shook his head, "You don't understand, I have no girlfriend, no home, nothing."

Will studied him a second, and glanced back into the hospital before looking back slowly, "You can stay at mine until you're sorted out." It wasn't so much an offer as a decision, Will taking charge again.

Marc blew out the smoke and relaxed slightly, "Thanks."

Will nodded, "All part of the service." He stood, "I am going to find out if I can get a cup of coffee anywhere, do you need one?"

Marc shook his head, "I'm gonna finish my smoke."

Will inclined his head, "All right," and he walked back inside.

Robert Avery had his daughter curled up on the hard plastic seats beside him as he looked up at Will, "They are just processing the last of the paper work and should discharge them both in a few minutes."

Will stuck his hands into his pockets and nodded. "Alright, I'm going to take Marc home with me, all things considered it's probably for the best." He sighed, " Do you need me to drive you both back home?"

Robert shook his head, "We'll take a cab, you go get some sleep. We have a lot of work to do on Monday, announce the merger, and then there is the shareholder's meeting on Tuesday. I am going to need you ready to go." His hand brushed his daughter's hair absently; knowing she was alive allowed his thoughts to once again drift towards work. "It's been a very long week."

Will smiled tiredly, "Not over yet, but we will get through it."

Robert nodded his head, "We will."

Chapter Thirty-Two

Marc had slept late, after the shock of the night before had knocked him cold almost as soon as he had fallen into the bed, grateful to finally be able to sleep. But he had awoken with a start in unfamiliar surroundings and it had taken him a moment to remember where he was.

Will was already up, the clattering in the kitchen said he was doing something, and when Marc stumbled down the stairs he saw that Will was doing dishes. Jared sitting on the couch ribbing him about being domesticated. There was a comfortable and relaxed feeling in the house that morning, and Marc appreciated it.

He sat heavily into an armchair and focused on the television, yet another movie marathon played out. Mindless action was a good distraction, it took his mind off of Libbet and Lucas and the train wreck that was his life.

Mutely accepting the cup of coffee Will handed to him he cupped his hands around it and tried not to think about what came next. But what did come next? He had to go to the beach house and collect his things; hopefully Libbet wouldn't be there, he wanted to avoid that discomfort.

But his mind was spiralling, too much was happening again. The last time he had simply ran from it, escaped from a life that was about to come crashing down upon him. It was tempting, just to find a bus or a train and ride it as far as it would take him, but that hadn't gotten him far the last time.

Brody banged through the front door, kicking off his boots as he talked into his cell phone, "Look I know I promised, yes I know... girl please!" he slammed the phone shut and tossed it onto the coffee table, "Women!" he complained loudly walking into the kitchen and pouring himself a strong cup of coffee.

The phone rang again and Brody shook his head, "Just ignore it." He said sipping his coffee watching the phone ring and flash for attention. "She'll give up..."

The phone fell silent and everyone in the room breathed a sigh of relief. Until the main line in the house began to ring. Brody looked angry, punching the speakerphone button, "Yes?" he asked forcibly.

The voice on the other end of the phone sounded almost childlike, "Brody, you shouldn't have hung up on me. We need to talk..."

"No, that's okay." Brody said, keeping his voice calm, almost tired.

Will shook his head and went back to cooking breakfast.

"I'm still breaking up with you." She said sounding resolute.

"Right," Brody said nodding to Will when Will held up the pan to offer him breakfast.

"It's just we're drifting apart," she emotion flooding her voice, like she was fighting back tears.

"Mmhmm," Brody said holding up two fingers when Will held up the eggs.

"I think we should see other people." She finally managed to get out.

"I think you're probably right," Brody sipped his coffee and rolled his eyes.

"But don't worry, I'll always love you... And you'll find someone else." She sounded hopeful.

"Probably." Brody replied shaking his head as Will offered to scramble his eggs.

"We shouldn't dwell over long good byes they only hurt more." She said reluctantly.

"I agree. Well, good bye." He reached out and clicked off the phone, looking at each of them, "Never date from the Valley."

* * *

Will had driven Marc that afternoon, a short ride with the top of the jeep open. The sun was abnormally warm for spring and it was nice enough to drive in a jeep the way the jeep was meant to be driven, top open and doors off, wind whipping through the jacket and loud music playing. It splashed through the slush puddles as it rounded the narrow bends of the road down past the yacht club and small beach houses till it ground to a halt outside the small house he had shared with Libbet.

There was no sigh of her when he wandered through the empty rooms and began to gather his belongings. Will had left him alone, taking a walk over to the general store to find a cup of coffee, and Marc was glad of the privacy. Stuffing his bags as he loaded them onto the back of the Jeep returning for the rest of them, he didn't notice Lucas's car until it pulled to a stop blocking him in.

* * * Will walked into the general store, wandering through the aisle idly looking for anything that appealed to him for lunch. But like with most things for sale in a convenience store, it was over priced and unappetizing. He settled for a couple of pre-made sandwiches in thick plastic wrappings and a couple of apples, he grabbed himself a cup of coffee from the coffee pot near the cash register and moved up to pay for it, oblivious to the hard stare the young man was giving him behind the counter.

More specifically the hard stare the guy was giving the Avery-Woods logo on his jacket. Will caught the stare and followed it to the logo; he looked back up at the clerk and frowned.

"What do you want?" the clerk demanded, an edge to his voice.

Will held up his sandwich and coffee, "Lunch."

"You know what I mean." The clerk accused, "Did my father send you?"

Will's eyebrows raised in open confusion, "Uh...who?"

The clerk pointed to the jacket, "My father, why did he send you here?"

Will shrugged, "Look all I want is to pay for this and I'll go, no one sent me here." He pulled out a twenty and set it down on the counter.

The clerk picked up the money, slamming open the cash register and ringing up the total, he stopped just before handing Will back his change, "tell my father that he can go fuck himself, I don't need anything from him."

Will sighed, "Look I don't even know who your dad is, I'm here to help a friend move," he reached up and took his change.

"I'm Tyrone Avery." The clerk said, "He's my dad."

Will hung his head, and his shoulders sagged, at the rate Robert was going he was destined for the dysfunctional family of the year award. He shook his head as he pushed open the door, "You know what?" he said as he paused in the door, and looked back at Tyrone, "I don't care."

* * * The gun barrel swung wildly in his shaking hands, and Marc knew he was going to die. He swallowed staring into Lucas's eyes, keeping his hands up and breathing hard. "We broke up." Marc repeated slowly, "You won, we're not together..."

"You're not so fucking tough now are you?" Lucas continued, he had to be high on something, his eyes were wild and he perspired like he had just run a marathon. He took a couple of steps forward then a couple back as he paced to and fro, the gun still on Marc. "What, you think your better than me? Better for her than me? Is that what it is?"

"We broke up," Marc said looking about him for a place to run to, but he was trapped between the house and the street by Lucas's car, there was nowhere to run to. "I wasn't good enough for her..." he tried desperately to reason with Lucas, buy some time.

"You're nothing," Lucas carried on as if Marc hadn't spoken, "A fucking drop out and a looser. I have money, I have a car, I have a fucking future!"

"And I don't!" Marc shot back, "I know that, you've won..."

"Shut up!" Lucas screamed as he lifted the gun, "just...fuck... you were never good enough for her, you didn't deserve her, I did!" he thumped his chest, the tears streaming down his face, "me!"

"Alright, your right!" Marc said desperation setting in, "What ever man, put the gun down!"

"You're shit, and your gonna pay for taking her from me," he stepped forward, "No one to save your ass this time..."

"Wrong." Will said, his hand looping up to push the gun upwards and push Lucas away from it, the movement was quick, concise and Will trained the gun on Lucas, glancing back at Marc and nodding, "Get up!" he commanded to Lucas, un-cocking the gun and putting it into his pocket. He stepped forward and bodily lifted Lucas to his feet, the kid was a wreck, a mess of tears and fear.

Will looked across the road to the store where Tyrone stood on the steps resting his arms on a rail watching. Will pushed Lucas over towards the store, dropping him on the steps. "One of yours?"

Tyrone looked down at the young man and back up at Will, "I'll take care of him."

"Good," Will stated as he returned to Lucas's car and moved it a few feet up the road.

Once they were in the Jeep and driving out of the Bluff's he looked over at his young passenger, who had withdrawn further into his shell. If he wasn't careful Marc would disappear completely. He needed to do something, something to show Marc a bit of hope. He reached into his pocket and drew out a couple of fifties and extended them.

"Here." He said with a sigh.

"What's this?" Marc asked turning his head.

"Go out tonight, do something, catch a movie or something, go to a bar, take your mind off all this shit going on." Will smiled, "you need the break."

"Will you come with me?" Marc asked, almost hopefully.

Will shook his head, "I have to go and make sure Robert's ok, and I'll catch up to you later. Here..." he handed Marc his cell phone, "I'll call you when I know what's happening."

Marc nodded sadly as he took the money, "Yeah."

Will studied the kid a moment and knew exactly what he was thinking.

Chapter Thirty-Three

The darkness settled in around him and he shivered despite the blazing fire in the hearth. He felt the ache of worry for his daughter, how close she had come to being hurt and he closed his eyes to the pain of every parents nightmare, letting it flow through him, allowing it to remind him that not even he was invincible. The worry subsided, and he slumped back into his chair before the flames. He had not been fearful in a long, long time he had almost forgotten the sensation. He had just assumed that it was another shred of he was that he had lost to time, one of a thousand other things he neither needed nor cared about anymore.

He shifted in the comfortable high backed chair, he had lost so much already building his company and he wondered how much would remain after this latest struggle he found himself in. Yet another battle of wills just to hold on to what he had built. How much of his life, experiences, passions; his humanity would remain after he was gone, to guide the company he had given his whole life to building?

He had accepted many years ago, that he wouldn't lead it forever. There were plenty of ambitious men out there that wouldn't hesitated to leap on his moments of weakness, striking fast and hard before he could react. The quietness of the study helped him to relax, and his doubts waited like a caged tiger at the back of his mind, but Robert Avery wasn't about to give up just yet.

Taking a drink from the cup on the table beside him, he savoured the bitter herbal taste of the tea. There was a strong desire to retire, to forget the worries of the world that hovered in his mind and remember what it was like to be at peace. His finger traced his bearded jaw line, feeling the brittle thinning strands beneath his fingertip. He was an old man, both in mind and body and he knew that the rest he sought would never come.

He sensed the other moments before the door cracked open to admit someone into the study. The aging industrialist shifted in his chair to face Weippert standing silently in the centre of the room. Weippert's wolf like features were accented by the orange glow of the flames, and his broad grin glittered in the dim light. He was studying the old man, a young wolf appraising the wounded pack leader, debating whether to strike and take the power for his own. As for that old man, he found he no longer could bring himself to care; Weippert could take it, the company and the power, and be welcome to it.

Robert didn't stand, he didn't need to. He just sat there and watched the man he had hired, and had protected debate something with himself. The young wolf was circling, did he know that the shareholders were considering him to be the next president of Avery-Woods? He sincerely doubted Weippert have hesitated had the younger man thought he could get away with taking the company. He would leap upon the chance and with the backing of the shareholders would have control of Avery-Woods and the power he longed for.

Weippert's grin became deeper, colder, he knew. That was the only thing that Robert could be certain of. The young wolf appeared confident as he stared down upon the old man. "Is your daughter all right?" His voice seemed to ooze with false concern and patronization, "I came as soon as I heard..."

Robert's eye's narrowed, he was sick of the games the man played. Weippert did nothing without a motive, and concern was never a motive for someone as dark as Weippert. "Get to the point Bruce." He snapped testily.

Weippert produced an envelope, opening it and pulling out two sets of documents. He flourished his wrist, and reached into his pocket to produce a pen.

"Nice trick." Robert said dryly, as he regarded the mirror, "Now can you roll over and play dead?"

Weippert ignored the sarcasm that laced the others voice as he concentrated on the documents, looking for the appropriate items. Satisfied they were in order he handed them over to Robert. The older man accepted them and began to scan over them, using the firelight to read.

He sneered, "I'm not going to sign these."

"You will if you wish to avoid accidents, like what happened to your daughter last night." Bruce's words were cold, hard.

His world shattered, "Libbet..." Robert's heart sank, and realized that everything was connected. He rounded upon Weippert, his eyes cold and hard; his voice was a fine edge of steel. "What are you hoping to achieve by threatening me? You could have the company at any time you want, all you have to do is convene the shareholders." He tried to ignore the wild thoughts and fears for his daughter's life. Those thoughts cut deeply into his soul.

Weippert made a simple gesture to the documents, "At the end of the day you could convene another meeting after you regain control of your stock and oust me just as I am doing to you. The vote is close, too close for me to call, I need your shares to win, Robert," His voice seemed to be filled with humour, "ironic that your own shares will be used to give up control of the firm."

The old man stood shakily, rage welled up within him, he wanted it to stop, but he wanted the creature before him dead and the threats against his family silenced once and for all. His rage encouraged him to lash out, crush the life out of him, and beat him until there was nothing left. No one threatened his daughter's life.

Weippert reached under his jacket and produced a small box, which he tossed to the man raising to destroy him, "Here is the proof you'll need."

Avery's hand caught the small box. He opened it and drew out its contents. A piece of frayed cable, like a break lead, it had been cut in such a way as to look like it had corroded and he nearly dropped it as he recognized it for what it was.

Disbelief and anger continued to rise within him as he stared at it. It was a clear message; as he crossed the study to reach for the phone, to call the police, have the son of a bitch arrested.

"I wouldn't if I were you." Weippert said, "Its your word against mine, and right now considering everything going on in the company they would think your just trying to discredit me so that you could keep control of Avery-Woods. And considering your fingerprints are the only ones on that," he nodded to the severed cable, "They would agree with me when I deny everything. And I will still walk away with the company." He smiled, "and of course other accidents could happen at any time..."

"Why?" Avery demanded, staring up at Weippert, he shook with emotion as he tried to understand why his daughter was being targeted instead of him.

Weippert's wolf-like smile only deepened further, "I have to ensure you release those shares onto the open market so I can buy them, sign the documents, " He nodded towards the discarded papers, "its insurance that I win, and of course I will win."

Robert went cold; the chill sank deeply till it reached the very marrow of his bones. He moved towards Weippert threateningly, "You betrayed me." Realization dawned on Robert; Weippert had set it all up, right from the beginning. The Tri-Tech situation, even after all that had transpired, he had known exactly what would happen. That Robert would step up to defend his employees, take the blame for their mistakes. How could he betray his own nature? Robert realized chillingly that he had been played like a fool, and fate had positioned a piece behind all his defences.

Weippert frowned, "No Robert, I've betrayed no one, I have only ever served one goal, which is my own." He looked at the documents again; "Don't think about it too long." He walked across and gathered them up, setting them on the table in front of the old man, "I would hate for anything else to happen to your lovely family." He smiled in a calming fashion, "I'll collect these from you in twenty four hours." He stated coldly as he walked from the room.

The old man breathed heavily, things spiralled around him too fast for him to realize what was happening. Weippert's betrayal he had expected, it had only been a matter of time, and he had preparations in place to deal with that. He had not expected the way it was to unfold. Weippert had been a valuable, if dangerous asset in ensuring that Avery-Woods stayed ahead of its competitors; he was good at his job. Robert had counted on a certain level of gratitude and humility after the Tri-Tech mess. Hoping that it would serve as a check between Weippert and his own aspirations, but Robert was the one caught in the web. Tri-tech was nothing more than a small piece in a much larger game and any way one looked at it, Weippert had won. Chapter Thirty-Four

Will passed Weippert as he exited Avery's great house, the two men eyeing each other with the caution that came with competing against one another. Will dismissed Weippert's smirk as being nothing more than satisfaction that the Tri-tech merger would be announced the next day, it was good news for all concerned, business would return to normal and things could relax.

That thought soon soured as he walked into Robert Avery's study to find the man staring at the documents Weippert had just left behind. The normally strong and independent countenance of the man was bowed and his shoulders slumped. He looked for the entire world like an old man.

He didn't look up as Will approached his desk, only sat there with his hand resting on a frayed piece of cable. Will gave him a concerned look, and without invitation sat down across from his mentor.

"What's wrong?" he asked, it seemed he had been using that question a lot lately.

"I lost," Robert said with a tired sigh, "I gambled and lost."

Will gave him a puzzled look, "How do you mean?"

Robert Avery tapped the twin documents in front of him, the contracts. "In order to cover the missing pension fund, I transferred an equivalent value in Avery-Woods stock into the control of the Pension's board of trustees on the condition that it could not be sold without my express permission, and that I would be able to purchase it back after the tri-tech merger."

Will nodded, "Yes," he said still confused, and then a thought hit him, "The share holders meeting?"

Robert nodded, "Bruce is using this as an opportunity to wrest control of Avery-Woods from me."

Will contemplated the situation, "He can't do that surely, I mean you still control those votes right?"

Robert Avery shook his head; "The board of trustees control them at the moment and can't be used."

Will reached out and took one of the documents and studied it, "So with the controlling interest of the company unable to vote that leaves the minority share holders in a position of power. It must be a close vote if he's desperate to get you to sign this," he held up the document.

"He wants control, and can get it, this is...a safety net for him. If I sign the board of trustees can sell the shares and he is in a position to buy them."

Will considered it again, "Where did he get the money to do this?"

"I don't know," Robert replied, "All I know is that if he does seize control stock prices are going to fall, we are going to have to scale back our operations."

"You were expecting it?" Will inquired.

Robert nodded slowly, "The shareholders have wanted Avery-Woods to downsize and cut costs in staff ever since the recession. I have so far refused, I fear Weippert will have no such loyalty for the people working under him."

"Who is in charge of the board of trustees while Bertha is away?" Will asked.

"Gavin Jefferies." Robert replied.

Will stood, "Right then, don't sign anything, give me twenty four hours and I'll find a way out of this."

Robert nodded slowly, "Be careful Will."

Will flashed him a smile, "My daddy once said, `be good, if you can't be good, be safe, if you can't be safe have fun'." With that he marched from the study.

* * *

Gavin tried to slam the door on him after realize who it was standing on his doorstep, but Will's foot inserted itself between the door and the frame and he easily pushed the door open. His house was fastidiously neat, well maintained and pasta was cooking on the stove.

They stood in the entryway to the accountant's house as Will loomed over him, menace evident in his eyes. Gavin paled slightly as he backed up a step. "What do you want?"

Will cocked his head slightly, "I want to know why you are helping Weippert."

The accountant licked his lips, "I don't know what..."

Will strode past Gavin and into the kitchen, taking a moment to look into the pot of pasta bubbling happily, "I have evidence," he said as he turned slowly and deliberately, "I also have another witness that saw you transferring the pension fund illegally." He stepped back towards Gavin, "Now unless you want me to go to the police and inform them that I saw you steal the pension fund," he paused as he raised a finger, "which I believe is a violation of the charter of accountants," he dropped the finger, "I suggest you start explaining it to me."

Gavin swallowed nervously, and he looked about for an escape, seeing none he caved, "I... he had me purchase stock for him in Tri-tech, told me we'd make a fortune, when the merger was announced."

"Insider trading?" Will inquired, mulling that over, "Alright and so you went along with it?"

Gavin licked his lips his eyes darting towards the door; Will turned his head towards it, "You'd never make it." He said coldly.

Gavin sighed dejectedly, "He told me that since I had bought the stock if I didn't help him with the pension fund he would report me."

"Blackmail." Will said softly, "Go on."

"And when the Avery-Woods stock was transferred to replace it he told me that if I didn't sign the sale agreement I was going to jail... I had no choice..."

"You have no choice now," Will said reaching out to pull a pad of paper from on top of the fridge he had noticed and set it down, "You are going to write exactly what you just told me onto this..."

"W-what?" he asked in obvious fear.

"And then you are going to sign it." Will said quietly as he pulled the small dictation tape recorder from his pocket and indicated it had been recording.

"Your not serious..." Gavin said and realized Will was deadly serious.

"You will sign it, and I will promise you that these will never reach the police," Will set the pad down and drew out a pen, "And if I find out Weippert has heard anything about this I won't hesitate..." he left the threat hanging in the air.

Gavin closed his eyes in resignation as he sat down and wrote exactly what he had done, including the account numbers. Will left the accountants house with the piece of paper neatly tucked into his pocket and the tape to substantiate it.

He had nothing but Gavin's word that Weippert was involved in the insider trading, and that Weippert had instructed him to liquidate the pension fund. But that wasn't the point, he had a start and that was all he needed.

His phone rang as he started the Jeep, he listened to what Brody had to say and sank back into the seat holding the wheel. Reaching down to release the parking brake, "I'll be right there." He said as he wound his way onto Queen Street he headed towards his last problem of the night.

Chapter Thirty-Five

The frosted glass was lit from behind so that all that could be seen was the neon lights in the shape of an erotic dancer suggestively inviting patrons into the strip bar "The Brass Rail". For some with a taste for the extreme her gyrations would have been inviting, but Marc kept his head down as he pushed his way through the throngs of deviants seeking thrills at the price of dollars.

Not that he was put off by it at all; he didn't have time to indulge in the oldest trade. He pulled Will's leather bomber jacket tighter about his thin frame as he continued onwards. The money that Will had leant him was in his pocket, not much but enough for him to enjoy himself.

A group of large men dressed in biker leathers pushed past him; oblivious to the smaller man they shoved aside as they passed the door announcer to "Pleasant under glass". Marc stumbled slightly but regained his feet, small thin and wiry he was someone easily shoved aside, and despite the fact he wanted to teach them a little respect, he had to press on up Yonge Street.

Toronto was one of those cities where anything had its cost but everything came with a price. He struggled on past a group of surly Frenchmen being ejected from "Various Pink Bits" from the sounds of the four large bouncers; the Frenchmen had been harassing the ladies on stage, if indeed anything in the place could be considered female. There were bars and places to cater to all tastes from "the black eagle" a Leather bondage bar through to a slimy bathhouse called "St. Marc's Spa".

A busty transvestite walked through the crowd towards him balanced precariously on six-inch heels; she/it reached out a hand to brush the hair he had combed to hide his ears. "Hi t...t...there... looking for some company?"

Marc flinched away from its touch as he vanished back into the crowd combing his hair back over his ears with his fingers, he didn't want to answer questions about the burn scar, and he was ashamed enough of it. Finally making it to a dimly lit nightclub that was standard all over the world. It was a trade market of a different kind, for a different kind of entertainment.

The dealers were easy to spot, hiding towards the darker spots in the club. Hands exchanging money for little white pills, small bags of powdered substances and growing fungus from a variety of sources outlawed in Canada. Anyone that believed the government could stop what happened in the back of nightclubs of its largest city was grievously mistaken. There had, if anything, been a surge in it as the sterilized and lobotomised euphoria of Canada's liberal civilization spread across everything. It turned free spirits into model citizens and the only price was happiness. But there in Toronto, the transition was slow. The O.P.P. was simply unable to cope.

A couple of deadbeat users lurked carelessly against a wall occasionally twitching as the chemical stimulants they had taken fed artificial sensations directly into their brains. They literally existed in worlds of their own creation, a chance to escape the harsh reality of a society that "Cared" for everyone, and yet showed no compassion.

Marc walked up to one of the dealers and pointed to a small white powder in a little bag the man had shielded from sight in the palm of his hand, "How much?" he asked looking about him to ensure that no one was watching the transaction.

The dealer sucked on his teeth as he contemplated the cocaine, "Eighty."

Marc fished in his pocket and produced a hundred-dollar bill, "Give me change."

The dealer licked his lips at the sight of so much money; there was a flicker in his eyes as they travelled up Marc's wiry frame, the fact that he looked small, vulnerable. He smiled, "Yes of course."

He didn't see Brody leaning on the bar watching him as he completed the transaction. Concern for his friend made Brody pull out his cell phone and call Will, excusing himself from the beautiful young woman that he had been chatting up.

The transaction made Marc left the bar, wanted to find a quiet place to be alone, somewhere that he would be off the streets. And when he entered the "St. Marc's Spa" bathhouse that had been the idea. Brody sighed as he turned to look up the street, pulling out his phone again he called Will again. It should have been none of his business, but where Will was concerned there were some of his personal rules Brody was willing to break.

Bathhouses had evolved little over the years, and no one was certain where the idea of them had originated. There were indications that they existed in all societies in one manner or another, but it was the American style that had become prevalent, yet another gift for the world along with LSD and Syphilis.

He checked in at the counter and received a key to a room and a towel that was almost threadbare. But he didn't really care as he was buzzed into the den of evil. There were few rules in one of those places, rule one was you wore as little as possible, and rule two you never touched unless invited. He walked through the darkened corridors aware of the eyes on him. He was young, a commodity in such places. He was an object, something to be leered at. A bulky bald man, slightly overweight blocked his path and stared at him with open lust, twitching his towel suggestively.

Marc shook his head as he slipped past. He wanted to get to the room, and not think to clearly about where he was.

He passed open doors, cloaked in shadows he could barely make out the men laying on the narrow bunks, some face up and watching him go past, and still others face down, presenting themselves for anyone to sample. There was a musky smell in the air and the backbeat of bad electronica music gave him the sense of being on another world, a place where the social order of things had been replaced by a code of immorality.

He sighed with relief when he finally found his room and slipped into the closet sized room, really only big enough for the bunk and a locker. He removed his pocketknife from his pocket and slipped it under the plastic wrapped mattress with its grimy white cotton sheet, slowly peeling off his clothes and locking his valuables away in the locker. He weighed the cell phone Will had leant him in his hand a moment before he locked that too in the locker.

At last he was alone, tying the towel about his waist he sat down on the edge of the bunk and studied the gram of coke. It was an old habit; one that he had started when he first hit the streets and looking for an escape, any escape that would let him deal with the world. The only way to escape the dreariness of life of doing what ever it took to make a living was to forget completely. Some he had never liked, heroine was too addictive and although it was pleasurable it shortened life spans considerably, each does took years off of the end of a persons life, he had never touched the stuff. But there were others he found allowed him to forget, at least for a little while, who he was and the things he had done.

He closed his hand around the bag tightly, biting his lip till it bled. He was who he was, he was the sum of his environment, and he had been raised this way. His mother had been a user, an alcoholic prostitute in a brothel in Vancouver a miserable city similar to Toronto. His Father, his mother could only tell him that he was a businessman and that he had paid her well...

He had grown into puberty watching her service countless men, watched her waste away from the beautiful woman to a shell that cared only where her next fix was coming from and how she was going to afford it. Her pimp, a cruel thug named Tyriq that garnished eighty percent of her earnings and routinely beat her if she held back on him, had come to her one day, Marc had barely turned twelve, to tell her that he would no longer support her free loading offspring. That he would either have to leave or work.

He'd left. Hitting the streets and trying to sort the mess his life had become. It had started with shoplifting, stealing just enough for him to eat. But eventually he found himself falling back on his mother's trade. Like Mother like son... fate had its cruel way of forcing its will upon someone.

Marc shuddered at the memory of that first betrayal of himself ... of the screams inside his own head as he struggled to find some sense of sanity. He'd hated himself at first, but he had adapted, grown used to it. When you were starving shivering in the cold it was amazing what you would do for a hot meal and a warm, dry place to sleep. That was how he ended up in the Jail cell.

Juvenile detention in British Colombia had been hard. But he had actually had a chance to put his feet on the ground, go to school and try to catch up with shit, and had done well until they had let him go. He had once again hit the streets not knowing what he was going to do with himself. So he had enrolled in Adult education courses to finish his high school. Eventually graduating getting accepted to the University of Toronto, and after that...well the rest was history.

He opened his hand and stared at the gram again, his way of forgetting.

He put it down on the mattress beside him and slipped out of the room, he needed to use the washroom before he became catatonic. Out again in the hallway, he was suddenly aware that he had left his pocketknife in the room. Not that he could have hidden it on him wearing only a towel. He decided to hurry a bit faster.

There was a collection of younger kids loitering close to the bathrooms, a couple in a hot tub that burbled happily set off to one side. They eyed him appraisingly as he walked past them, no doubt wondering how much he charged his customers, and if they would be competing for work that night.

He heard a young twink boy whisper something derogatory towards him as he went back to enticing an old man that made it clear he was interested in purchasing a little bit of time. And Marc shook his head as he allowed himself to collapse into a bathroom stall, ignoring the sounds from the stall next to his.

What was he doing there? He could have gone to a hundred different places in Toronto, done something fun, and seen a movie or something. Instead he was there, in that dark place, for what? His head rested on the stall wall and he closed his eyes. And for what?

It was his own refusal to let himself be happy... he didn't deserve it.

When he emerged from the stall he was taken by surprise. He hadn't expected the two Frenchmen and the weasel dealer from the night club. He knew immediately why they were there. He regretted not finding someway to bring his pocketknife with him, and he looked at each of them nervously.

"What do you want?" He asked.

"Your room key." The Ringleader said extending his hand.

Marc shook his head, as the first Frenchman's punch send him off his feet, he crashed to the hard tiled floor. He gasped, the wind knocked out of him as the second Frenchman reached down to tear the key from his hand.

The sharp click of an automatic cocking was audible even over the trance music.

"I suggest you let him go." Will stated standing in the doorway to the washroom, the hand holding the gun never wavered as he stared down the ringleader, the gun itself shone in the dim light of the hall.

The Frenchmen released the young man, and Marc scrambled to his feet rubbing the bruised jaw. Will studied the street thugs in their towels, he was the only one fully clothed and looked all the more menacing for it wearing his great coat and gun in hand staring at them. Marc walked away from the street thugs, as Will put a hand protectively on the young man's shoulder.

"Lets get your things and leave.' He said as he released the hammer slowly and slipped Lucas's gun back into the folds of his coat.

It took just a few moments to return to the small room, and for Marc to start to pull his clothes on. He was glad to be leaving. As he sat on the edge of the bed pulling on his shoes he looked at Will who waited patiently, and wondered why the man had come to get him. He reached out a hand to find the small bag of cocaine he had dropped earlier, but couldn't. When he looked up at Will, he wasn't surprised to see the other man examining it.

"I can explain..." Marc began.

"When we get back to the house," Will replied as he flipped open his cell phone, "I got him Brody, can you get the Jeep round?"

The passed the drive home in silence, both seated in the back of the Jeep watching the city speed past them as Brody drove swept round to the Don Valley Parkway. Will could have said anything, but nothing seemed appropriate, so he simply stared out of the window at the night. Once they pulled up to the house he glanced over at Marc, shrugging as he turned his key in the lock and allowing them both inside.

Brody shrugged and nodded to them both, giving them some space as he vanished down to join Jared in the basement.

Will kicked off his shoes and began to walk up stairs, leaving Marc to catch up.

"I'm sorry..." Marc began again.

Will slipped off his heavy woollen great coat and hung it neatly away into the hall closet, he turned and opened the bathroom door, running some water so he could brush his teeth, he glanced up at Marc who had found a seat on the edge of the bed and watched him as he prepared to go to sleep. He spat out the toothpaste, and rinsed his mouth out with water. Finally towelling off his face and crossing the hall into the bedroom.

He undid his shirt and leaned on the doorframe looking down at the stranger who had turned his life upside down and held up the bag of cocaine. "I don't like drug addicts."

"I'm not an addict!" Marc bit back, "I was looking to have some fun. I said I was sorry."

"You're damn lucky Brody saw you." Will continued, "I don't know you from Adam, we've only just met, I need to know what I got myself into when I let you stay with me."

"You had me followed?" Marc asked in disgust, as he kicked back into the bed, "I can't believe you..."

"No," Will corrected, you weren't exactly being discreet. I may not seem like it sometimes, but I am still your friend and I am not naive. I know your background and I know what you've been through. I also know what your capable of, that's why I let you stay."

He sat down on the other side of the bed opposite Marc and sighed, "I'm not going to lecture you, but I am going to insist that while you stay here you stay off this stuff." He shook the bag, "got it?"

Marc nodded, "Yeah."

Will nodded as he got up and walked out of the guest room, stopping in the doorway he looked back at the young man staring back at him, "Good `cause I wouldn't do it if I didn't..."

Marc lifted his head, "Oh?"

"Good night Marc." Will chuckled as he closed the bedroom door and walked next door, collapsing into his own bed and rolled over; glad the night was finally over.