Well here we go, Book Five.
Well I know the chapters are slow in coming out, I have been working on another project that is shaping up nicely and I hope to start releasing soon... Maybe after this chapter goes up... hmmmmmmmmmm.
Special thanks to Jim Allen... master editor and a good send for sanity. He kicks my ass every time I get lazy complacent or write a bad chapter. It's cause of his patience that I write as well as I do.
On that note I have a challenge for my readers.
I want to see how you view Will and Andrew and Marc. Pictures, sketches, what ever doesn't bother me. I want to see these characters through your eyes. Doesn't have to be your pictures, could be something you saw in a tv show, a movie, online, porn (Though if you are gonna send me porn warn my firs tMarty my roomate likes to tease when I recieve Porn...
Submitted for your approval.
As usual Comments or questions direct to firstname.lastname@example.org. Feed back is welcome.
Of all the properties which belong to honorable men,
not one is so highly prized as that of character.
Will walked through the Heritage department, hands thrust into the pockets of his charcoal gray trousers, the tails of his tweed jacket pushed back away from the pockets giving him a relaxed professorial appearance. Nowhere close to the reputation of stern taskmaster he had apparently been earning.
Will walked through the maze of cubicles, past desks and computers with pinch-nosed government employees furtively looking like they would rather be goofing off than doing work. Will had put a stop to that attitude in his department almost as soon as he had taken over.
They were now fully settled into the routine of running Heritage. Will had made some drastic changes to the way the department had been run, weeding out the employees that were causing problems and replacing them with solid candidates. Those that he couldn't outright fire for whatever reason, found themselves transferred to other departments such as Public Works. He ran a tight ship, too many years of working for Avery-Woods left him with a keen eye for management.
"Afternoon, Mister Carter," a couple of employees greeted him as he walked past, and he returned their nods. He was on his way to a meeting with his project leaders, but preferred to take his time and walk through the cubicles instead of coming down the other elevator. He knew all too well how important it was for a manager to be seen by the people that worked for him.
Alicia had dutifully equipped him for the meeting, tucking reports into a file folder for him to carry with him. And Will had noted again how efficient she had been in making sure everything was cross-referenced. He always appreciated that about her; she was always prepared and by that token he was always prepared as well.
He paused by the employee coffee maker, pouring himself a mug of coffee, pausing long enough for a couple of employees to walk past him as he stirred in some cream and sugar. It wasn't his favourite--office sludge had to be the most noxious stuff on the planet--but again it was important for his employees to see him drink the same coffee they did. It let them realize that he was approachable and not locked away in an ivory tower that so many managers hid in.
He walked into the conference room, a throwback to eighties functionality complete with the outdated swivel chairs and a projector stand. It reminded him how short-budgeted the offices were, yet more cost cuts for a white elephant.
He sat down, noting that most of the employees were already gathered and watching him as he took the head of the table and sat down. He reached into his pocket and drew out his glasses, slipping them on as he flipped open his file.
"Good afternoon, Campers," he said, folding his hands on the table before him. "Someone should bring me up to speed on our progress since our last meeting."
Old Jean Theriault looked up the table; "I've been talking with the National Art Gallery about hosting a concert set at the Exhibition site as early as March of next year." The wizened old man said it with a smile; his love of classical music was widely known, and he definitely brought culture to the group of civil servants that made up the Exhibition project group.
They were there to discuss the marketing plan for the early opening of the Exhibition Center. The small but dedicated staff had been given a month to come up with solid suggestions and book performances that would bring extra money into the center to offset its costs. Will had built it personally, ensuring he had selected people with varying tastes to reflect the diversity of people that were supposed to be attracted to the center.
Young Jane was one of the interns with a taste for modern pop. Bob was a former punk rocker turned bureaucrat who, if you looked closely, had a full tattoo on the back of his head that was cleverly disguised by his longer than average hair.
Samantha had worked for a major record label before immigrating to Canada from the States; her knowledge of the industry was proving to be an invaluable asset. She seemed to know everyone and there were rumours circling the water cooler that she had had a couple of affairs with famous stars back in the day.
Will tapped his pen on the edge of the file folder as he went over the new marketing budget, circling and making a few corrections as the members of the staff told him about their various different projects. It was looking set that they were actually going to be able to pull off the impossible, pending confirmation from Public Works that the site would be ready.
Their grand plan hinged on a total incompetent and his paranoid chief of staff. Will hated it, but sooner or later he would have to sit down with Hackett and get a definite yes or no on site progress. That would probably mean another trip to Toronto to walk through mud and slush.
It was the middle of November, the air had turned crisp and the gray, overcast sky threatened to dump a ton of snow down upon them at a moments notice. Will had forgotten how much rougher Ottawa winters were; in Toronto, Lake Ontario provided a natural shield against much of the bad weather, but Ottawa was more exposed and suffered for it.
A few days ago Will had accompanied Robert Avery down to Confederation Square, and the national war memorial there for Remembrance Day. It was a solemn affair where Will had stood beside his minister watching the procession of wreaths and remembering.
All gave some, some gave all. Like Will's own father, giving his life to ensure other peoples' freedoms.
He had remembered that stern countenance, the harsh lines of that uniform he had always worn, as well as the anger and the bitterness, followed by the pain of understanding that two people so different could never reconcile those differences no matter how much love was involved.
Robert had known how important Will held Remembrance Day; it was the pain of understanding losing his own father during another war of freedom. So many now only really knew of war through the news or from stories told to them by surviving veterans. So few had felt it reach in and touch their lives directly. The loss of Will's father had robbed him of any chance of making peace, just as it had robbed Robert of ever having his father proudly watch him become a minister of parliament. But both men's sacrifices had given their sons the chance to be who they could be.
Will's mind drifted absently as the events coordinators continued to discuss their plans, he nodded occasionally adding a few thoughts. But his mind was drifting now to the funeral a couple of years before where they had laid his father to rest.
It had been a cold and damp day in Halisham England; the rain had started sometime early in the morning, and the gray sky seemed to match the feelings the day shared with the people clustered around the freshly-turned earth. It wasn't a day for celebration; it was a day for mourning. Not to mourn that which had been lost, but to mourn instead that which never was.
Time had done little to heal most wounds, and the two halves of a shattered family stood on opposite sides of the simple stone. The rain came down more steadily now. Unity through sorrow; for William Carter, it was just another bitter regret of a past he could never reconcile.
There had never been a chance for that, and as the rain plastered the hair to his head he stared down at the earth and wondered if there had been any more that he could have done. But after ten years, there really had been nothing. He had tried, and every time that hand had been extended it had been slapped away.
He should have been bitter, but there was no room inside for that. There was only the sadness of understanding why the man under that fresh sod could never accept him for who he was. There was no room in the Major's army for him.
Andrew stood beside him, a constant presence in his life; they had their rough patches -- all relationships went through them -- but his knight had stood beside him through the past ten years, sheltering and protecting him, and showering him with the love he had never been able to get from his family.
It had been about six months before he had met Marc, and Will had no one else to call. Andrew had dropped everything and been on the next plane to Toronto with Peter, there to support Will. Even though their relationship was at an end, their love endured. Will always knew that Andrew would be there for him no matter what, and vice versa, that was what love was about.
Ordinarily in a moment like that he would let Andrew comfort him, draw strength from the rock in his life; but right there and then it was the final time he would face the Major, and he had to do it standing alone. Andrew, as always, respected his stubborn need to be independent.
For the other young man with them there was only the memory of a man in uniform charging to the rescue of a little boy. Not caring that he was gay, only that he was someone's little boy, and that he reminded him of Will. Little Peter had never gotten a chance to thank the man personally, but he too stood a little ways off dressed in a black suit staring down at the grave of a man that had come to his rescue because he was defenseless.
Will's eyes travelled up to his sister, a vibrant young woman now nearly fourteen, wearing a beautiful black dress. She looked at her mother whose eyes narrowed at him. Some bitterness never died. But Lucy wasn't about to let that poison her love for her brother, as she slipped from her mother's side and went round to him.
He pulled her against him, staring down at the stone, feeling her drawing strength from him. Two survivors of their own war, but there had been casualties along the way; pride and confidence had fallen early in the struggle. But there was no doubt now; they were both free.
Major David Carter had died a hero to his country, leading his men into Basra to liberate it from a dictator's grasp. There was so much debate over the right to do so, that people had over looked the individual acts of heroism that brought the best out in people. The Major had died a hero, saving his men from an ambush, fighting for another country to gain the freedoms he had dedicated his life to protecting.
The irony wasn't lost on William Carter, his son. Even though the stubborn old man would never have admitted it, those freedoms of equality he had fought to bring to other people extended to his own family. In a way, in death, he was the hero he had never been in life.
William finally turned away, as Andrew came forward to embrace him, and the tears Will had steadfastly refused to cry finally came forth at that point. He held onto the two people that loved him unconditionally, returning that love to them.
Will was pulled back to the present by a question; he glanced down at the reports in front of him and frowned, he hadn't intended to allow himself to become that distracted and he reprimanded himself for it.
"I have a music promoter in mind," he said, flipping through his papers and pulling out Brody's business card. "This is a friend of mine, but he has a lot of connections to the music industry and should be able to put together some proposals."
Jane took the card first, grinning as she recognized the name, "You know Brody Levesque?"
"We went to high school together," Will replied, getting up and collecting his papers. "He should be able to help you put some big names on the concert bill. If that's everything?" He looked about the room, noting that no one had anything else to say and nodded, walking back towards the elevator.
He was comfortably tucked away in his office tapping away on his computer when Alicia dramatically flopped into the seat across from him.
"Aren't you supposed to be working?" he asked, looking over the rims of his glasses, continuing to work to update his files after the meeting.
She sighed loudly as she curled her feet up under her in the chair. "I'm on a break," she declared with a smile.
"I see," Will said in amusement. "And I take it I authorized this break, did I?"
"Mmhmm," she said looking up and out of his window over the river at Parliament Hill beyond.
Will shook his head, wondering again at the strange relationship between them. She got away with blue murder purely because she was so damned good at her job. When you found a person who could keep you on your toes as well as make you smile, you had to put up with the occasional bout of bone idleness.
"I take I'm getting my own coffee then," he said getting up.
"Since you're going that way," Alicia said with a sly smile. "You do owe me."
Will rolled his eyes, "Yes Ma'am, will there be anything else today?"
"Oh, one of the doughnuts would also be good," she said cheekily.
Will shook his head wandering through to the outer office, noting that the receptionist had gone home for the day, and most of the rest of the employees weren't far behind them. He shrugged to himself as he went behind the broad reception desk and set about mixing a mug of coffee for himself. While everyone ordinarily knocked off about four thirty, Will liked to stay an extra hour and finish up.
"Excuse me." A woman's voice caused him to turn around, and he blinked at the decidedly short-statured woman looking uncomfortable holding a manila envelope. She was well-dressed and seemed to be in a hurry to leave.
"Can I help you?" Will said, setting his mug aside and smiling at her warmly.
"Yes," she said, her Quebecois accent rich and thick as she stepped forward. "I want you to give this to the minister."
Will accepted the envelope, plainly addressed and glanced up at her, "Ok, I can see that he gets it."
She bobbed her head a few times in thanks and was gone again, leaving Will to stare in puzzlement at the envelope in his hands. It was unusual for people to hand deliver mail, especially in a secure building. He dismissed it as probably someone missing interdepartmental mail and sending their secretary before she went home.
He tucked the envelope under his arm, collected two mugs of coffee and returned to his office, setting down the mugs and tossing the envelope into his inbox as he sat down to return to his work.
"Looking forward to your vacation?" Alicia asked, wrapping her hands around the mug of coffee gratefully.
Will looked up, "I'm leaving tonight; we're heading out to the cabin and spending the week."
"Good," Alicia said as she got up and left the office, returning a few minutes with a brand new cell phone which she set down on the desk. "The minister asked me to get you this."
Will picked up the small device and flipped it open rolling his eyes; if he took the thing with him it wouldn't be much of a vacation. It would defeat the entire purpose of going to the middle of nowhere to forget about work when work was simply a phone call away.
"Remind me to thank him," Will murmured, slipping it into the pocket of his tweed jacket and downing his coffee.
Marc was driving, Will sitting in the passenger seat trying to figure out the battered map. One foot was braced on the dashboard as he lounged in the seat, occasionally reaching out to wipe the fog from the window to get his bearings. Typically they had lost sight of Lisa's minivan and Brody had taken off like a bat out of hell almost as soon as they had turned onto the highway.
Will shrugged, glancing over at Marc who kept both hands firmly on the wheel and darted glances up at the mirrors. He was a new driver and timid, but the only way he would get comfortable with driving was to get more practice, and Will adjusted his glasses as he returned to staring at the map.
The heat was cranked in the jeep, and the windshield wipers were going, flicking away the rain that was streaking the glass. Will settled back into the bucket seat just enjoying the warmth, Marc's cologne tickling his nose as he glanced over at the young man beside him.
"'Sup?" Marc asked, sniffing as he brushed the bottom of his nose with his knuckles, an oddly masculine gesture that always reminded Will of a homeboy.
"Nothing," Will replied as he smiled to himself and returned his attention back to the map.
"I'm not stopping," Marc said firmly, "no matter how much you flirt."
"I'm not flirting," Will said, examining the map again and checking a road sign.
"Sure," Marc said, giving him a suggestive sidelong glance.
Will shook his head, "You realize if we show up late everyone's going to know..."
Marc grinned, "You're navigating, I could just blame it on your British sense of direction."
Will looked at his boyfriend, "Excuse me? Last I checked we English were excellent navigators."
"Ok, Magellan," Marc said with a grin, "where are we?"
Will held up the map. "Somewhere on here," he said, holding up a map of the entire province.
"Yeah, that's a big help," Marc shot back as he squinted out of the front window at the rain-soaked road and the pair of taillights far off in the distance. "For all I know we could have passed it."
"Alright, I'll call," Will said fishing out the cell phone that Alicia had insisted he bring with him. True, it had rung twice already that trip, usually with inane questions, but he was glad at that moment he had it with him.
He dialed Brody and was rewarded with a single ring and a pick up. Brody's "Hey," was heard over the roar of an engine; some people weren't opposed to speeding along back highways in rural Ontario.
"Hey, old man," Will said, unfolding the map again. "Just wanted to check we're on the right track--we just passed an exit for..." Will glanced at the sign, "Antrim..."
"Stay on the Trans-Canada," Brody said. "You can't miss the exit."
"You'd be surprised," Will murmured. "See you in a few."
Almost as soon as Will closed the phone it was ringing again and he opened it. "Yes?" he asked.
"Hey, boss," Alicia's cheerful tones greeted him. "We finally got the Exhibition report from Public Works; I just thought you should know."
"Great," Will said. "A month late and no doubt totally inaccurate. I'll read it when I get back, just leave it on my desk...and Alicia..."
"Yeah, boss?" She asked.
"Go home." Will smiled as he closed the phone and tossed it on the dash, "I swear that girl works too hard."
"She's not the only one." Marc said accelerating the Jeep around a station wagon. He shot Will a grin, "You actually going to relax this week, or do I have to share you with work?"
Will shrugged, "Nature of the job, though I promise I won't let work interfere too much with spending time with you."
"Me?" Marc grinned. "I intend to get very drunk in front of the fireplace and pretend its not the middle of winter."
"It's not, though," Will observed.
Marc just ginned, "Not yet."
The cabin was not what Will had been expecting. Upon reflection he had been expecting a rustic log cabin with a dusting of snow on the roof and a stone chimney, he wasn't expecting a modern looking ski lodge. It was constructed of logs, with tall glass windows that offered a view over a swiftly flowing river.
Will stood in the circular lounge looking at the central fire place and the high arched ceiling extending far above him. It was tastefully furnished and must have cost a fortune to rent. Will glanced suspiciously at Brody, wondering again how it was Brody was able to afford such extravagances.
"Nice." Marc whistled as he set a cooler down beside the fridge in the spacious kitchen and began to unload supplies into it, beer first as always.
Will walked to the large picture windows and stared down at the water. From inside the cabin it looked like they were actually over the river, and he stared out at the cold night settling in, the rain splashing down on the rolling water and the barren trees swaying in the wind.
Peaceful, he thought.
That illusion lasted less than a minute as the Sternostis banged into the cabin, little Aiden tearing about squealing and making as much noise as he could. Jeff, it appeared, had thought giving the kid candy was a good way to keep him quiet. Typical mistake.
Will turned from the window and looked down at the rug rat: there was little to the kid, big blue eyes and lots of curls... and a set of lungs that rivaled Pavarotti's. It was going to be a long week, Will could already tell that.
"Best keep a leash on him," Brody said, coming in from the car carrying a couple of bags that looked suspiciously like gun cases, "Not a good idea to have him running loose this time of the year."
"I know," Lisa said tugging out a miniature set of clothes done in hunter orange; the cap she tucked onto Aiden's head as she carried him up the log stairs to the bedroom.
"Speaking of rug rats," Will said looking about him, "where's short stuff?"
"Peter's unloading the car," Brody said going back out for a second load. "You gonna give us a hand or are you just gonna stand there and supervise?"
Will shrugged and sauntered out of the lodge to give them a hand. He stopped cold as an all too familiar black car rolled to a stop. The distinctive Mustang with all the connotations that went along with it, and Will flipped back the tails of his tweed jacket as he leaned against the wall of the cabin, hands in his pockets.
His mood brightened when Jared stepped out of the passenger seat; an old friend and a welcome sight to Will as he realized how much he had missed Jared's company since moving back to Ottawa.
"Yo!" Jared greeted Will with a wave as he resettled his Maple Leaf's hat further back on his head. Jared was still very much the same as he always was, dependable and a firm friend. Will remembered his high school days tucked away in biology class, the pair of them trying to work out what on earth osmosis was.
Andrew finally got out of his car a moment of two later. Still dressed stylishly, he looked set for a week in Aspen and not for hunting in back woods Ontario. He was becoming every inch the city lawyer, but no matter what the training, there was something about Andrew that would forever be a country boy. The way he didn't seem to care that he was walking through mud, or the way he appraised the surroundings at a glance. Andrew just seemed comfortable.
Will glanced at Brody, a questioning look to see if he was the one responsible for Andrew's invite. Brody flashed him a short nod as he gathered the last bag from his car and walked it back to the house. "Wouldn't be much of a reunion if we forgot someone," he said in a low tone as he went past.
Will rubbed his chin and shrugged as he went to give Marc a hand over at the Jeep. He couldn't argue with that logic.
"What's with you and that Andrew guy?" Marc asked, surprising Will as he accepted a suitcase.
Will struggled for an answer, realizing, as usual, he had underestimated Marc's observational skills. He decided the truth was probably the easiest, "That's The Andrew."
"Figured," Marc said looking over to the smartly dressed lawyer, his brow furrowing as he glanced down at his own simple clothes. He looked up again at Will, who had missed the exchange as he tried to reach for a bag deeper in the Jeep. "Just, seems he makes you uncomfortable."
Will sighed as he sat down on the rear fender of the Jeep and looked up at Marc, "There's a lot of history there, first love and all... My friends thought for the longest time that we were meant to be."
Marc set his bags down and fished out a cigarette, lighting it from his zippo, "What happened?" His eyes were heavy, and Will could pick up on his distress.
"I had my career and he had his school," Will replied standing up and reaching out to brush a strand of hair from Marc's face. "He was everything I wanted and I thought I'd never fall in love again." He touched a finger under Marc's chin, lifting his face so that he could see Marc's eyes, "Then I met you and that changed."
Marc got his usual cocky grin on his face as he smiled at Will, "Why?"
"I don't know," Will admitted truthfully. "You bring so much energy into my life, I love the way you take a stuffy stuck up man like me and shake things up..."
Marc grinned as he puffed on his cigarette, blowing out a smoke ring. "I know, I'm just too cool..." he said in a sarcastically amused tone. On impulse he reached down and flipped up the collar of Will's jacket, stepping back to admire his handiwork and nodded in satisfaction, "Much better."
Will shook his head, "You just like me looking disheveled."
"You always look disheveled," Lisa commented, coming out to bring her bags in and catching the tail end of the conversation. "Sweater vests went out years ago, dear..."
Will rolled his eyes. "Look, I like the way I dress, thank you very much," he said half-heartedly.
"I'm on a mission," Marc confessed to Lisa. "I want to get him in jeans and a tee-shirt, just once..."
"I've seen it," Andrew commented, walking over, backpack slung over a shoulder. "He used to dress really cool in high school, this sort of James Dean-meets-the-nineties look. But then his Uncle Arthur used to drag him shopping and choose outfits."
"Glad I can still amuse people with that," Will said shaking his head as he stood up and gathered up his bags. "I'll be inside if anyone needs to rib me further."
Marc finished his cigarette, flicking the butt away into the river as he looked back at the Mustang. That was Andrew, the Andrew.
Gay or straight, there was always one guy that was a threat. That one that got away who would sooner or later resurface and turn the whole world upside down. And Marc wondered if he was jealous?
Andrew seemed to be everything he was not: stylish, confident, successful. He was everything Will deserved in his life, and yet he wasn't with Andrew. He had chosen Marc instead.
He stood there in the cold night, staring at that menacing black car trying to figure out his life, feeling inadequate again. He remembered his last relationship with his ex-girlfriend, all the pretending and wishing he was in love with her... that had all been blown away after meeting Will.
The love he didn't believe he'd ever feel was suddenly offered to him, and it was reciprocated. And as terrifying as that fact still was, Marc was afraid he was going to lose it. Will deserved so much better than him...
"He doesn't love me," Andrew said from the doorway to the cabin looking across at Marc standing there in the cold. "At least not like he used to."
"What?" Marc asked, turning to the stranger who seemed remarkably aware of what he was thinking.
"I'm guessing that's what you're thinking," Andrew said, walking down the steps and over to his car, sitting down on the hood, hands stuffed into the pockets of his ski jacket.
"What do you want?" Marc asked, sounding defensive; he didn't like people he didn't know making assumptions about him.
Andrew stared at him, a pair of intelligent blue eyes reading him as they gave him the once over, "You've been out here awhile, and since I know what's going through my mind I can guess what you're thinking."
Marc bristled, who did this guy think he was? Just waltzing back into their lives and interfering. "You don't know me," he said firmly.
"I know him," Andrew said, nodding towards the window where Will could be seen talking on the phone unaware of the two men outside discussing him. "I know how he touches people..." He glanced over at Marc, "I just wanted to reassure you I'm not here to take him from you."
"Then why are you here?" Marc fired back, realizing he was angry, angry with this guy's arrogance... angry at how he was so damn right.
"I don't know," Andrew replied standing up again. "Maybe I just miss the way my life was simpler back when we were all in school together. Or maybe I just miss Will." He looked at Marc, "He's in love with you, though..."
"And you're still in love with him," Marc said softly.
"Yes." The word hung in the cold November air between them, drawing a battle line between the two men.