Well here we go, Book Five.
Well again sorry its been slow, I am swept up in an epic novel I am writing and haven't poked my head up in a few days.
So you want the next chapter to come out faster? if I get a response from lets say ten people in answer to my challenge in the next forty-eight hours, I will publish the next four chapters of this book. I know thats right, a reward.
Quid pro quo.
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 had commandeered an overstuffed leather easy chair by the window where he sat doing a crossword puzzle. He occasionally clicked his pen and jotted letters into the box as he worked out yet another clue. It was, for Will, a moment of Zen, where he was so focused on what he was doing that nothing could bother him.
Brody and Lisa were having a conversation in the kitchen preparing supper. As always the electricity between them drove people to give them a wide berth. Few remembered the history between the two former lovers, but Brody and Lisa recalled it all too well and sniping at each other had become almost habit, even though they cared deeply for each other. It just added to the tension of the moment.
Will clicked the pen again and crossed off another clue as he filled it in. It was a tough puzzle, but all he needed to do was clear his head and focus and he would get it, in time. Words were easy; it was the Americanisms in the puzzle that always frustrated him. He honestly had no idea what a park in Colorado was called, nor did he care who was the twentieth president of the United States.
Jared was talking to Jeff on the couch across from him, Jared discussing life in Toronto and his career as a banker; he was up for promotion, doing well as usual in every aspect of his life but for the one that he truly wanted. It was funny; Jeff was so envious of everything Jared had accomplished in his life and yet he had the one thing Jared envied, a woman that he loved and who returned that love. Jared would give up all the money in a heartbeat for a shot at that.
He looked about wondering where Marc had wandered off to; he was probably outside smoking again, either that or taking pictures. He shrugged and returned to his moment of Zen, trying to ignore the barrage of insults being hurled in the kitchen as Brody and Lisa argued over how much oregano to add to the sauce. Will could see the Italian-born Jeff twitch and knew they were both wrong.
He smiled to himself again enjoying the fact that all his friends were about. It had been so long since they had been all together in one place after everything they had shared in high school. Had it really been ten years since Will had met Andrew? He stopped at that thought, realizing he was getting old, and a single glance up at the plate glass window that acted as a faint mirror caught his reflection.
Some time in the evening it had started to snow, and he watched it a moment before focusing on the reflection. He saw a man staring back at him dressed in a suit, glasses on and hair askew, a newspaper balanced across his knees and a pen in hand. He looked like his fatherówell, as close as an academic could get to a military service man. It was more like he looked at an alternate version of his father, a version that had been a father first instead of a soldier.
Will skidded into the kitchen, slipping on the linoleum in his socks as he slipped into the seat at the kitchen table, hoping that the fact he was late had escaped notice. As usual it was a vain hope.
His stepmother was wrapped up in a pink flannel robe smoking a cigarette over by the sink, glaring at him as he began to shovel porridge into his mouth. His logic was simple: eat as fast as he could, get his boots on and get out to the school bus before the major...
"You took your time this morning," Major David Carter said, marching into the room and doing up his uniform tie as he reached for the coffee pot. "You know better than to take that long in the bathroom."
"Y-yes sir," Will managed, wolfing down the last few spoonfuls of porridge oats as he pushed back his chair. There was still time for him to escape; if he could get his boots on and get out the door he would be...
"Did you do your homework?" the Major asked suspiciously, turning his attention to the young runt of a boy halfway across the kitchen trying to evade him.
"Yes sir, I did," Will lied effortlessly; he'd done most of it. But there was an English paper he hadn't finished that he would have to do when he got to school. He hoped his father wouldn't ask to check.
The Major opened his mouth to ask exactly that when the phone rang, blessedly sparing the young Will from the inevitable reprisal that would come when his father figured out Will had lied to him. Will didn't hesitate; he had his boots on in two seconds flat, tugging on the old heavy jacket his father had given him, an old British DPM jacket that was heavy and warm.
He re-tucked his hair under his ball cap and was gone before his father could get back.
Will clicked the pen and filled in another clue on the puzzle; scanning it over with a critical eye, he caught another one and added that in as well. It wasn't as if he had lived in perpetual fear growing up, it had just been that his father had been unable to deal with people outside of the army.
His grandmother had summed it up best: the Major treated everyone like they were in the army. He had expectations of people that were so high that when they failed to meet them he was annoyed and disappointed. That was doubly so about his only son. He wanted a boy that was a star athlete who would follow his footsteps into the army and keep an age-old family tradition alive.
Will looked over at Jeff, the first among them to actually be a father. The unconditional love he had for his little boy Aiden showed on his face each time he picked the sprog up and looked at him.
Will wondered at that point what kind of father he would be, as he glanced at his reflection again. Would he be a good one, or would the damage his father had done taint the way he raised his own children? How would he handle the same problems his father had handled, having a son that was a walking disappointment to so many dreams...
He saw reflected in the glass little Peter sitting on the stairs reading a book and he turned to look at the young man. Peter had grown up treating Will like an older brother, and Will had to admit that he'd enjoyed being there to offer advice to the young guy who had struggled with his own issues of identity and sexuality.
Though Peter was still unwilling to step fully out of the closet, he was happier than he had been when Will first met him. The young man was quiet and still painfully shy with anyone he didn't know, probably the reason he had never actually had a boyfriend, and Will sighed. Peter would be okay so long as he did things in his own time.
Will looked back at his reflection. So that was the kind of father he was; the kind that would be everything the Major couldn't be, accepting and patient. The kind of father reflected in the glass, the kind that didn't belong in the past but dwelled squarely in the future.
Everyone else had gone to bed, but Will was still seated in his chair finishing the last few stubborn clues in the puzzle. Marc had come in from outside and had gone to bed. Will had wondered after him, but the way Marc walked told Will that he should give the guy some space. Marc was a person who preferred to talk in his own time and there were times when he just needed to cool down.
He shifted in the chair and rubbed his brow, struggling with a particularly frustrating corner.
"Garfield," Andrew said taking a seat on the footstool beside the easy chair.
"The cartoon?" Will said looking up at the funnies above the crossword.
"No," Andrew said with a smile, "the twentieth president of the States. James Garfield"
"Ahh," Will said, gritting his teeth as he filled in the aggravating clue and suddenly seeing how the last few clues fell into place. He finished a moment later, and in satisfaction set the paper down on his knees. "Why are you still up?"
Andrew unzipped his fleece jacket and sat back a little. "Not tired, too much going on up here," he tapped his temple.
"I know that feeling," Will replied glancing at his reflection again.
"You've been pretty quiet most of the night," Andrew said. "Are you okay?"
Will shrugged his shoulders, "I just felt like relaxing, doing some thinking..." He smiled, "Do you know it's ten years today?"
Andrew took a long breath, "Yeah." He stood up, "Come with me."
Will frowned but stood up, setting the paper down on the chair as he followed Andrew to the door. "Where are we going?" he asked, confused, but slipped his shoes on as Andrew led him out into the fresh snowfall.
"Get in," Andrew said, flipping open the door to the new Mustang and gesturing to the back seat.
Will hesitated and looked at Andrew, "I don't..."
Andrew looked at him pleadingly and Will felt his resolve crumbling as he got into the backseat of the Mustang, swallowing as his nervousness grew. He took a heavy breath to steady himself as Andrew climbed into the backseat next to him and closed the door shutting them inside.
"Well, this brings back memories," Will murmured dryly.
"Yeah," Andrew agreed as he removed his jacket and tossed it into the front seat.
Will watched the motion and looked at Andrew. "This isn't a good idea," he said calmly, swallowing back a dryness in his throat.
Andrew looked at Will, those eyes studying his. "I have to try," he said firmly.
"I know you do," Will responded sitting back in the seat. "And were my situation different I wouldn't say no, but I have to think about Marc."
Andrew pushed his blonde hair back out of his eyes as he sighed and stretched out in the backseat so he was lying with his head in Will's lap. Will looked down at the other man, his hands tracing those features by themselves as he felt so much emotion welling up within him. His fingers ran up the bridge of Andrew's nose, across his brow and back down his cheeks.
He felt the moisture on them and looked down again to see the tear that had escaped Andrew's eye. He felt his heart melting at it, as his eyes flicked up and out the back window of the car to the darkened bedroom window where Marc was sleeping.
"Was it a mistake?" Andrew asked quietly, emotion hitching his voice.
"Was what?" Will asked, looking down again.
"Our first kiss," Andrew said quietly staring up at him.
"If I recall," Will said, "you kissed me and ran away."
"I did not," Andrew said defensively. "I just realized that...well... I..."
Will smiled down at him, "We were both a little scared by it at the time, but I'd hardly call it a mistake. No, the mistakes came later."
Andrew shifted a little, and Will found himself kicking off his shoes and laying down along side him on the backseat of the car. It was cramped and awkward, but at the same time it felt very natural, and Will felt Andrew's arm go around him drawing him close.
They lay there awhile just staring into each other's eyes, Andrew's free hand tracing over the lines of Will's jacket, slipping under it and finding a bare patch of Will's skin where his shirt had come untucked he traced the skin.
Will's heart felt heavy, knowing full well he shouldn't be there, that he shouldn't be allowing Andrew to be that intimate with him. But as the protests were ringing in his head, he lay there staring into those eyes and feeling the sense of loss he had.
"I love you," Andrew said quietly.
"I know you do," Will replied, "but it's too late for us now. Why are you here, why are we both here like this?" He shook his head as he sat up again, wiping away his damp eyes, "This hurts too much...I..." His feet found his shoes and he got out of the car and started back towards the lodge.
Andrew caught him halfway across the drive, a pair of long arms wrapping around him from behind and turning him. He shivered in surprise and didn't resist; he stood there a moment in Andrew's embrace and knew what was coming.
Andrew's first kiss was gentle at first, exploring, then growing in intensity as Will closed his eyes to the tears rolling down his cheeks and returned the kiss. Confusion whirled around inside his head as he felt his entire world come crashing down in one single moment.
Andrew's kiss changed everything. And they both knew they had crossed a line neither of them should have crossed. Things had changed, and for good or for ill they both knew they would be unable to deny it anymore.
The camera shutter clicked once, and again. The photographer frowned as he took some more shots. Things had just become a whole lot more interesting with this assignment. He was actually beginning to enjoy himself, or would have were he not stuck out in the cold freezing his butt off.
He got up after the two men went back into their cabin, shaking off the snow from his coat and heading back to his car, ready to call it a night. He wanted to get these new pictures back as soon as he could. They had to be worth a bonus.
Steady, he thought to himself, keep still or you'll scare him away.
He reached up to cock the hammer back on the shotgun, keeping his breathing still and steady just as he had been taught to do so many years before. One shot, one kill; those words rang in his head clearly as if the old major was standing behind him giving him instructions.
He was trying not to think of everything that had happened the night before. Andrew and the kiss. What it meant and what it changed in his life. He was confused by it, and the more he dwelled upon it, the more anxious he became.
Concentrate, he admonished himself as he eased his finger back around the trigger, keeping the weapon snug against his shoulder as it tracked his target; a few feet closer and it was his. Just a couple of feet and he would get it, cleanly.
He ran his tongue over parched lips, suppressing an urge to cough as he fought for the discipline it took to hunt. It was almost Zen, except for the fact that he was preparing to extinguish a life and prove something once and for all. The more he reflected on it, the less and less Zen it sounded.
He stuffed the thought away as he focused on the rabbit.
"Come on, thumper..." Will growled too low to be heard, "eat the carrot..."
He adjusted his grip on the shotgun stock, flexing cramping fingers. He could take the shot now... test his luck...
"Be sure of the shot, boy," the old major's voice reminded him. "Don't fire until you know you can hit the target."
Suddenly Will had a whole new appreciation for the hunters down in the States who took M-16's out into the woods. At least they'd have some chance of hitting something. He had only one shot at this, and if it screwed up that was an entire morning of waiting down the tube.
The rabbit hopped a few feet closer, and Will grinned as he knew he had the shot. His finger tightened around the trigger...
"Hey Will!" the voice called out from behind him.
Will jumped as the shotgun went off, showering leaves down from the trees onto the ground where the rabbit had been only moments earlier. Thumper had survived by an act of God, or more aptly, an act of Marc.
Will turned with a grumpy expression on his face as he broke open the shotgun to remove the empty shell. He stared in frustration at the young man who had snuck up on him in the woods, preparing to say something to him... but a flash of guilt weighed him down and he stopped himself.
Marc grinned that half-smile of his as he lifted his camera and flashed a picture of the great white hunter. He looked silly in the bright orange ball cap and vest over his sweatshirt and jeans, but they were out in rural Ontario in the middle of hunting season, it wasn't smart to be out without them.
"Did you get anything?" he asked, the glint in his eye saying he knew exactly how close Will had been to actually getting something.
Will couldn't blame him. They had radically different opinions on the whole hunting issue. Will enjoyed it and thought it a natural part of life in Canada, not that he was any good at it. And Marc thought it was barbaric.
"Oh, you should have seen the rabbit that got away," he said, making a gesture with his hands.
"Sure," Marc replied with a grin as he tucked his hair under the cap. "Well, I got a ton of photos for my portfolio," he wound the film on a bit as he talked.
Will shrugged and tucked the shotgun over his arm, its breach still open and safety on. He was one of those people fanatical about firearm safety; it had been drummed into him at an early age by his father after a rather abortive shooting lesson where Will had nearly blown both their heads off.
The major's face after that was a memory Will would probably never forget; it was, after all, the only time he had ever seen his father scared.
"Hey, look at that!" Marc said, holding a hand out to stop Will in his tracks. There in the middle of the track, eating the carrot, Thumper was sitting mocking Will with a twitch of its nose.
Marc lifted the camera and took a picture, and Will contemplated reloading the shotgun and having rabbit stew back at the cabin that night; but if anything he was a sportsman, and the rabbit had beaten him fair and square. He shrugged and kept walking, Marc taking another picture and throwing a secret thumbs-up to the bold rabbit.
They climbed the track, emerging at the foot of several acres of snow-covered farmland leading up to the large ski lodge that backed onto the river. Will coughed a little as he pushed open the door to the lodge and put the firearm away, Marc already heading to the small kitchen to fix himself something to eat.
A year of healthy eating had filled Marc out; he was still short, but he was developing into a well-defined young man. His dirty brown hair was shorter; that had taken a lot of convincing on Will's part as well as a compromise where Will had to let Marc choose his next hairstyle. A fate that so far Will had managed to dodge.
Will wandered through the spacious cottage, slipping out of his hunting vest and the camouflage jacket. The British DPM camouflage jacket, which was nice, warm and durable, was a prized acquisition from an army surplus store in Toronto. He collapsed onto the couch and sighed, contemplating taking a long shower to get the grime of a morning in the backwoods off of his skin.
Peter was sitting on the couch, a game boy open on his laps, listening to it with headphones; he barely looked up from the game more than to smile at Will before he went back to it. And Will wondered what it would take to draw Peter out of his shell and get him interacting with the real world instead of hiding from it.
He stared in open disgust as the cell phone on the coffee table began to vibrate ominously. He'd been on vacation no more than about eighteen hours and already it seemed that the phone had rung continuously.
He had tried to ignore it the night before, but all that had done was make Alicia more persistent. The last time he had ignored the phone, Lisa had received a call and relayed the message to him to call in to work. Nothing like the guilt of waking up a mother who valued every minute of sleep she could get with a two-year-old around.
He picked up the sleek phone and flipped it open. "Yes?" he answered testily.
"He's in hospital," Alicia's emotion-laden voice spilled in a rush. "This morning..."
"Slow down," Will said standing up as he spoke into the phone already walking to the door to Lisa's room and knocking on it heavily. "Start at the beginning, who's in hospital."
Lisa, bleary-eyed and slipping on a flannel robe looked at him in concern when she heard him ask the question.
"Robert... the minister...this morning..." Alicia was in tears.
"I need you to calm down," Will repeated in a soft tone looking behind him to where Marc was piling lettuce onto a huge sandwich. Boy could eat when he was hungry. "Why is Robert in hospital, what happened?"
"Oh my god!" Lisa exclaimed, already hurrying back into her room and grabbing clothes from her suitcase.
"The hospital called this morning; he..." she sniffed and drew a ragged breath, "he had a heart attack."
Will paused on the phone walking to the window and looking out at his Jeep; it was only a couple of hours to Ottawa and with a few phone calls on the way Lisa could probably arrange something for the papers. In his mind he was already plotting the trip back.
The sound of the fridge door rattling behind him caused him to turn and remember that this wasn't just his vacation. "Ali, I..."
Marc looked up, a question in his eyes and the manly sandwich in his hands momentarily forgotten. "What's up?" he asked. "Someone forgot your password again?" Marc asked shaking his head. "Or is it office stationery this time?"
Will lowered the phone and covered the receiver, "My boss has had a heart attack..."
"Oh." Marc's face grew alarmed, "He okay?"
"Yes, but we need to get back to Ottawa," Will replied.
Marc nodded, "Ok, I'll go pack our stuff, you work everything out." He set the sandwich down, took a step before pausing to pick it up again and taking it with him as he went through to the bedroom.
Will walked back to the window, wondering what he could say to this. His mind was in a hundred different places all at once and it was definitely not what he needed. Robert Avery had yet to name a Deputy Minister of Heritage, and with no right hand there was going to be a serious crisis in the Heritage department. Not just that, but the government would lose its majority for as long as Robert was incapacitated.
His own personal concerns for his friend and mentor were also forefront in his mind. Robert, that indestructible giant of a man, had been hospitalized.
"Is he okay, Ali?" he asked quietly.
"He's conscious," Alicia said between her own sobs, "but he wants to see you, Will."
Will nodded, walking through to his bedroom and selecting some clean clothes. He grabbed a towel knowing that he needed a shower, especially if he was going to a hospital; he just needed to get underway.
"All right," he said into the phone as he began to change. "Tell Robert I am on my way."
"Okay," Alicia sounded relieved. "Drive safely and I'll see you when you get here."
Will clicked off the phone and tossed it on the bed. Rushing into the small bathroom and getting clean as quickly as he could as he emerged and put on a thin cotton shirt and black slacks. He pulled the same tie he had worn the night before.
With a long sigh, he threw open the front door and went out to bring the Jeep around. It would be easier to load that way. He opened the back just as Marc emerged from the house, the short young man handing bags to him to load into the back.
Marc offered a reassuring smile to him as he wandered back inside hefting a backpack and picking up another bag. Lisa added a few of her things to the Jeep as well. It was a quick decision: Will and Lisa were to go first in the Jeep, it had better traction and could get them to the hospital faster; everyone else was to follow behind in the other cars. It would also allow Will and Lisa to put their heads together and work on the trip back.
As he was about to get into the Jeep Marc stopped him and gave him a tight, reassuring hug. And Will stopped, in all the rush he'd almost forgotten his own problems. As Marc held him things came flooding back to him and he drew a tight breath, brushing the younger man's cheek.
"I love you," Will murmured as he got into the Jeep and warmed up the engine, wishing he had pulled on a jacket. But it was too late for that; he would just have to shiver until the Jeep warmed up.
"See you soon," Marc said as Will closed the door and gunned the gas, sliding the Jeep up the slippery driveway to the dirt track that would take them back to the highway.
Once they were safely on the road and the infamous Canadian rain was falling, Will fished out his horn-rimmed glasses and put them on leaning forward a little to see through the windshield as he drove. He pushed the Jeep a little faster than he should, but all things considered, he doubted anyone would complain.
Lisa was making calls to her communications staff, already getting people working on press releases, making it clear that they didn't have all the facts yet, but the spin was to downplay the heart attack and make it sound minor.
Will hoped to god that was true.
They would be back in the city in about an hour, and he kept focused on his driving, trying not to think on the fact that his entire life was collapsing in the space of a few short hours. His mentor was in a hospital bed... that was a terrifying reminder of how mortal people truly were.
His hands gripped the wheel tighter as he accelerated the Jeep, switching it over to four by four knowing that the extra traction would help him keep the vehicle on the road. He swallowed and for the first time in many, many years he found himself praying.