Well here we go, Book Five.
Well we keep trucking on. I keep getting emails asking me about the loss of innocense from the earlier books. i can only point to teh fact that these characters are growing up, that life stops being about just them and becomes about being something more. That is the moral Will learns in this book.
That is the moral everyone needs to learn along the way.
And yes... yes Andrew is comming, give him time to make an enterance.
Submitted for your approval.
As usual Comments or questions direct to firstname.lastname@example.org. Feed back is
Of all the properties which belong to honorable men,
not one is so highly prized as that of character.
Alicia looked around the office on the twelfth floor of the government building in Gatineau, a cup of Tim Horton's coffee her hands and a confused expression on her face. She was used to the bullpen environment, it promoted productivity in Robert Avery's mind and Will must have issued the layout change. But she was still surprised.
"I thought we were working on Parliament Hill," she said, sounding disappointed.
Will came out of his office flipping through a large and official looking file. "We have a better view," he replied, pointing out of the window over the Ottawa river and the imposing Parliament buildings on the far bank.
"Yes, but..." she protested.
"We have larger office space over here," Will stated, opening a filing cabinet and fishing out some memos and cross-checking them. "That coffee?" he asked, pointing to her mug.
"Yes..." she said, as Will took it from her and walked back towards his office.
"Hey, that's.." she started. Will merely waved a cheerful thanks with the file over his shoulder as he returned to his desk and continued to go over the information. It was day one, eight thirty in the morning and he was trying to get a head start on everything.
He had a meeting with the Chief of Staff for the former Heritage Minister; hopefully she would be able to shed some light on the piles of reports that had accumulated virtually overnight on the edge of his desk.
From what he could tell the Minister had jurisdiction relating to Canadian identity and values, cultural development, heritage and areas of natural or historical significance to the nation. Which was a pretty broad spectrum, everything from multiculturalism, national parks and art through to human rights, fundamental freedoms and values.
Will chewed through the Department of Canadian Heritage Act, the weighty document as usual shedding no real light on actual duties, only serving to tell him that they were going to have their hands full. Especially when it came to Human rights versus traditional values. Gay marriage, although legal in a couple of provinces, was still a hotly debated issue, and squarely on Robert Avery's plate.
Will rubbed the bridge of his nose as he began to see some of the pitfalls to being in the position they were in. Robert Avery was indeed the right candidate for the job, but the question was, how would people take a very liberal approach to traditional values?
He chewed his lip before he sipped on Alicia's liberated coffee. It was a razor wire with pitfalls on either side. Balancing minorities against the will of the majority, and being an office of minorities, was going to be a very difficult experience.
Firstly, Robert Avery himself was African-Canadian, Will was openly gay, and Alicia was, well, definitely alternative.
He glanced up at her sitting on the edge of her desk answering the phone; she was professional and had worked for him a long time, but she was hardly a traditional girl.
Lisa had just walked into the office wearing a rather well-cut suit, the publicist turned communications director was best described as an ultra feminist. Again, something that would not sit well with the grass roots voters.
She glanced at Will and made a questioning gesture towards the door to Robert's office. Will shook his head; Robert hadn't arrived yet.
Lisa shrugged as she set her briefcase down and entered Will's office taking the chair across from him and whistling at the view. "I hope my office is south facing," she remarked.
Will winced, "I put you across the floor with the communications assistants; I figured you would appreciate being in the midst of the action."
She gave him a look indicating that she didn't. Will ignored it as he drained his cup, picking up the act he was reading, "Did you know we're responsible for the `formulation of cultural policy, including the formulation of cultural policy as it relates to foreign investment and copyright'?" he quoted from the piece of paper. "Looks like we're smack dab in the middle of the Napster debate."
Lisa rolled her eyes, "Napster was resolved years ago, the current argument is over file sharing on peer to peer systems."
Will looked at her blankly.
"You know, file swapping, sharing music..."
"Isn't that what I said?" Will asked, obviously confused.
Lisa laughed at him, "Well it's going to take you awhile to get on top of things. What time does the Minister arrive?"
Will shrugged, "The Minister keeps his own schedule, though if past patterns with Avery-Woods are to be used," he checked his watch, "then Robert should be arriving in half an hour or so."
Lisa sniffed as she glanced around the office. "There's a lot of work to be done," she observed.
Will glanced up from the file he was reading and took off his glasses, "Well that's kind of why I'm in early."
"Mmm," she said distractedly, still staring back out into the office.
"Is there something you needed?" Will asked, finally deciding she needed prompting to get to the point so that he could get back to work.
"Oh," she focused again on him, "I was just thinking." She looked up at him meaningfully.
Unfortunately Will's psychic powers were on the blink again, and if that was supposed to be a hint at something he had no clue what it was. He gave her a look and leaned around her in his chair, "Ali, is there more coffee?"
Alicia shot him a dark look that said she was envisioning an especially horrific death for her boss that morning, but grabbed her coat to make a run to the coffee shop. Will smiled in satisfaction and turned back to Lisa. "Now, are you going to tell me what you're thinking about in such a dramatic fashion, or should I just give you the academy award and be done with it."
Lisa seemed a little uncomfortable, and Will knew instantly it had to do with him personally; she always got that look before she brought up an awkward subject.
"Oh, just say it," Will said, resting his head on his hand.
"It's just, you're home now, and..." she crossed and uncrossed her legs, "well, Jeff asked this morning if you've spoken to Andrew since you got back."
He'd been anticipating that question coming from one of his friends ever since he had arrived yesterday, and even though he had expected it, he still had no real answer. He sighed looking at her, "No," he said slowly and deliberately, "I haven't spoken to Andrew since I got back."
"Are you though?" Lisa pressed.
Will looked at her carefully with tired eyes, "There's a small problem with calling Andrew. That problem stands about 5' 7" tall, has scruffy brown hair and likes to run around calling himself my boyfriend..."
Lisa glared at him, "I'm not saying go out with Andrew, but you should at least call him; you two could go back to being just friends..."
"No we weren't," Will replied, slipping his glasses back on and reopening the file. "Andrew and I were never friends; we were in love for nearly seven years, but we were never friends. How exactly do I go back to being friends with someone I was in love with from the beginning?"
Lisa started at his open anger over the subject, realizing she'd touched a nerve. She sighed, "I'm sorry Will, I didn't realize, I won't ask again."
Will glanced up at her, "I'm happy with Marc."
"I know you are," she agreed. "Just, I want the best for you."
"I know," Will replied lifting his file. "And right now that's for me to get some work done."
Lisa nodded, getting up and leaving him alone in his office.
Once she was gone, Will heaved a heavy sigh and scrubbed a hand down his face looking over at a photo sitting on the edge of his desk. Marc and him on vacation last year, so soon after they'd met. Will had his arms around Marc while Marc cockily smoked a cigarette in an effort to look cool for the picture.
Marc was so different from Andrew in so many ways. Andrew was a lawyer working human rights cases while Marc was a student just beginning university. Andrew had been an academic superstar; Marc had grown up on the streets and scraped for his C average. Both men were handsome, Andrew tall, blond and ruggedly handsome. Marc was short, dark-haired-and-eyed with a shy attractiveness about him. Andrew was reserved and calm, Marc was an extrovert and easily excited.
Comparing the two did no good. Will could admit to having strong feelings for Andrew, but he was also in love with Marc. Andrew was the past though, and Marc was in the here and now.
Of all the things he didn't need on his first day.
He looked up in thanks as Alicia banged down the second mug of Tim Horton's coffee in front of him. "Here, I hope you choke," she declared with a huff.
"Did I ever tell you how much I appreciate your warm smile in the morning?" he said sarcastically.
She relaxed a little and offered him a smile, not picking up on his sarcasm, "Thanks. It's been stressful moving and you know Worm..."
Actually, Will didn't, Alicia's husband was a complete mystery figure. He'd heard about him for years, ever since she had started dating the guy back when she had first come to work for Will back at the Call center. But he had never actually met the man; it was strange, like having a family member you knew everything about but never seen.
"How's he taking the move?" Will asked leaning on his elbows cradling the coffee mug, realizing that he wasn't going to get much work done that morning after all.
"He's glad to be home," Alicia said.
Will smiled at that; when he had started at Avery-Woods he had specifically requested Alicia be hired as well, the two of them moving to Toronto together. She was a brilliant personal assistant and office manager, the kind that were so rare that when you found one, you did everything in your power to keep. Will had made sure her salary was above average and, unlike so many of the other managers and directors in Avery-Woods, he treated her like an equal. It had only been natural, when he accepted Robert's latest offer, that he take her with him.
"Well, that's good to hear. Has he found work yet?" Will knew it was a faint hope, Worm--strangely Will had never actually asked Alicia for his real name--was afflicted with a condition that kept him from working, a chronic case of bone idleness.
"Nope, has yours?" Alicia fired back. She knew full well what Will was thinking, and she also knew the best way of dealing with it.
Will respected Alicia's ability to give as good as she got, although at times, considering who he worked with, he often wondered who was actually the boss and who was the employee.
He shrugged, "He's starting at U of O today. He seems enthusiastic about it and it gets him doing something at least."
Alicia nodded at him as she began to arrange the papers on his desk for him, organizing them almost without thinking about it into order of priority. "That must be a relief for you, you've been on at him to find something for a while now."
Will nodded as he sat back in the leather chair and rested his chin on his thumb and forefinger watching her, "Well I think he was looking for something to do, and he's wanted to go to university for a while now. Photography, I think."
She moved from his desk to the shelves and the file binders there, pulling down a couple. She turned them to the appropriate pages and set them on his desk as well. He glanced at them, and smiled; Alicia was more on top of things than he was, and again he was glad to have her working for him.
"Your meeting with the former Chief of Staff is in two hours," she said leaning across to point to his calender book, "and then you have interviews this afternoon for the Special Assistants' positions we need filled. I pencilled in a quick meeting with the department heads of Heritage Canada as well as the director of the National Capital Commission to discuss their current projects."
Will nodded, back to work already; Alicia had a way of steering him back on focus when she had to. "Right," he said, leaning forward.
"And I sent one of the interns out to buy you a tie," she said, gesturing to his bare collar.
"We have interns?" Will asked in surprise.
"A couple," Alicia replied absently. "I think you'll want to have an office meeting at nine to get everyone acquainted with each other."
Will smiled, the morning meetings, an Avery-Wood's standard, one that he had always enjoyed. It gave him a way to get a feel for the staff, and to set expectations for them. It may have been a government office, but Will had every intention of running it with the same level of care he had run Human Resources in Avery-Woods.
He stood up, "Alright then Ali, round up the troops. I'll be out in a minute."
Alicia nodded at him with a warm, proud smile, before she left him to carry out his wishes.
Marc yawned loudly as he tried to cover his mouth, wandering through the halls of the university. It was way too early in the morning by his reckoning, but he was there. Will had dropped him off first thing in the morning on his way to his new job. It beat wrestling with an unfamiliar bus system even if he was a little early for class.
It was still early in the term and he was behind everyone else, and catching up would be a bitch. But in a way he was actually a university student, and it was going to take a while for that to really sink in. It was one place he had never expected to be, and he didn't know what to expect. He was a photography student, something he had loved since he was little and flipping through national geographic magazines, but he was a little intimidated, would he be good enough?
He yawned again stumbling along with the creased piece of paper in his hand as he tried to work out where he was going and where his classes were supposed to be. It was like being back in high school, lost and trying to find a place to belong.
This was a bad idea.
He took a nervous breath as he made to turn around and go, but the camera hanging from its strap around his neck bounced against his chest. And he looked down at the worn leather case that contained the used camera.
It was an old Nikon F2SB, a 35mm that Will had bought him as a gift when he had found out Marc had been interested in photography. It wasn't the best camera--it had no auto focus, and was a little unwieldy--but Will had bought it for him. Typical Will, always trying to bring out the best in him with that complete faith thing he had going on.
Marc touched the old camera and smiled, a small gesture that showed him how different Will was from anyone else in his life. At home if he had said he was interested in photography he would have been laughed at. Will hadn't laughed, in fact he had simply sat there and nodded and the next day bought Marc the camera.
That was the clincher; if Will believed in him then why was he being so nervous? Irrational fear of complete and utter failure? Probably, but at least he'd have some fun and learn something, right?
It sounded about right to him so he turned back and continued searching for the class.
He stopped and bought himself a cup of coffee from the small Tim Hortens stand at the top of the building, wandering along a long corridor sipping the hot coffee and watching the rain streaking the large windows. Fall was in full swing; give it a month or so and there would be snow and the dead of winter.
Canada typically had two seasons with short intermissions in between, and those were usually filled with rain. At least Will would be happy, while everyone who had any brains would seek shelter and wait for it to pass; the crazy Brit was happiest out in weather like that.
Marc grinned and lifted the camera, focusing it manually as he snapped off a quick picture of the rain-soaked city view. Will would enjoy it.
"Getting an early start I see," an older man commented, walking along the hall.
Marc blinked as he turned, manually winding the camera on to the next exposure, "Huh?"
"Since usually the only people here this early on a week day taking pictures are my students, and since I've never seen you before, I am presuming you're the Mister Lawrence I'm supposed to be keeping an eye out for."
Marc nodded mutely, feeling awkwardly self-conscious that he was meeting a professor. Teachers always did that to him, made him feel so shy. He decided to adopt a Will Carter approach, "Hi," he stuck out his hand and shifted the camera to his left hand, "I'm Marc."
"I would be Professor MacNamara, or just Professor Mac to my students. This is college; call me sir and I'll fail you." Professor Mac smiled at his new student warmly and Marc found himself beginning to relax.
The man was large with a shock of white hair that looked out of place on obviously East Indian features. He looked like Khan from the second Star Trek movie; at any moment Marc expected bad Shakespeare quotes about vengeance...
Professor Mac seemed to be sizing Marc up; first impressions counted for a lot to this man and Marc was suddenly self-conscious about his appearance. His hair was getting a bit long and his facial hair was a little more than stubble. He hated feeling like he'd just slept in a bus shelter.
"Well," Professor Mac said, "the photography lab is down the hall, on the left, class starts in," he fished out a heavy pocket watch from his vest, "two hours. I look forward to having you get started." He glanced at the window that Marc had just photographed, "You have a good eye." And with that he was gone.
Marc put the camera back into its case and grinned; well, at least he knew where he was supposed to be. That was good, but he was still feeling self-conscious about his appearance, and had passed a small barbershop downstairs. He shrugged and on impulse returned to it, surprising a pretty young woman who smiled at him as he asked her for an appointment.
She merrily snipped away talking about the weather, the university and her plans for getting a bigger shop. Marc nodded with her as she took creative license with his request for short back and sides. She sculpted and teased his hair out giving his fine hair some depth and stepping back to make a few adjustments.
"Want me to do something with your peach fuzz?" she asked hopefully. Obviously she was enjoying herself, and Marc didn't mind so he just nodded.
He felt a different person when he was finally freed from the barber's chair. His hair hadn't been that short in a long time, and the blonde beard was trimmed back to something thin and fashionable. He grinned as he reached back to feel where his hair should have been. Will was gonna die from shock.
"Thanks," he said, as he settled up with the stylist, and with renewed confidence set back out to explore the University. It was like a different world with so many different people. He eased the camera out of the case again and leveled it to take a picture of a student shuffling through the halls in pajamas and bunny slippers.
He grinned, discovering the oddities of eccentric people. Spending time on the streets of Toronto he thought he had seen some strange people, from the homeless guy that wanted to run for mayor to the crazy woman heralding the end of the world in a very loud voice in the middle of Queen Street.
He gripped the camera and took another picture before wandering on; his earlier inhibitions were vanishing as he explored his new environment. Will had been telling him to consider university ever since they had started dating, and Marc was actually glad that he'd finally been talked into it.
He found himself a quiet nook, tucked away from the bustle of the other students: a window perch that let him look down over the rain soaked concourse. Ottawa was a different city to Toronto or Vancouver. Where those cities had been sprawling, Ottawa had the feel of a large town rather than a city. It was pretty and picturesque from what little he had seen, and the architecture was stunning.
He had never wanted to go back to Toronto, and staying there a year had not figured into his plans. He'd wanted to just keep going and forget the past, but Will changed a lot of things with that calm manner of his, the quiet strength that had grabbed onto Marc and held him in place. Like pulling a drowning kid out of a river, putting him back on dry land. Or had it been Marc grabbing onto Will, desperate not to be pulled under?
Whichever way the relationship had begun, there was love. Will looked out for him, but let him fight his own battles. Will could be counted on to give a little push in the right direction, but more than that just wasn't his style. And for Marc that meant more than having a white knight charging to the rescue.
He settled into the nook and pulled out a spiral note book and began to jot down some thoughts, waiting until his first class began.
Will was waiting for him outside the student union; he was standing with his hands in his old Avery-Woods jacket, the rain plastering his hair to his head and making him look completely bedraggled. But the smile on Will's face seemed to broaden when he caught sight of Marc darting through the crowd of students towards him.
"You got a hair cut," Will observed in mild amusement as he stood in the rain, obviously in no hurry to get out of it.
Marc had forgotten about his hair and he reached up to touch it self-consciously, "I kinda thought I should this morning."
"Suits you," Will said with a warm smile despite the fact that his own was dripping water down his face.
Marc grinned and lifted the camera, "Hold still."
Will looked mildly amused; "I see someone enjoyed class today." He paused while the camera flashed and Marc tucked it back away, "So what would you like to do now?"
"I am kinda hungry," Marc admitted, his eyes flickering with a little hope that Will was thinking of taking him out to dinner.
Will caught the look and smiled, "I was thinking, to celebrate your first day of school I could introduce you to a staple of Ottawa's dining: smoked meat poutine."
Marc gave him that odd angled smile of his as he was beginning to feel the rain soaking through his light denim jacket, "Sure, sounds nice but can we get going before I melt?"
Will glanced up at the rainstorm and grinned. "Little rain's good for you," he said, as he walked around to the driver's seat and opened it, watching Marc climb in the other side.
"I just like to be dry," Marc replied with a light hearted grin. "So what's a smoked meat poutine?"
"There's only one place in town that does it properly," Will responded, as he started the jeep and turned it back onto the road. "But it's really good."
"Ok," Marc said watching as the Jeep passed a large dark building on the far end of MacKenzie King Bridge, "Hey, what's that?"
Will glanced, "National Art Center; it's the theatre, opera house and concert hall all in one."
"Nice," Marc said, angling his head to stare at it. "We should go..."
Will blinked, "You want to go to the theatre? Captain couch potato?"
Marc turned to Will, "You're a fine one to talk; when was the last time you went to the theatre?"
"Good point," Will replied. "Ok, short stuff, I'll make some phone calls and we'll go."
"Good," Marc said with a smile as he sat back in his seat. "I have to make sure my boyfriend remains cultured."
"Oh, I see," Will responded with a dry chuckle as the Jeep rolled to a stop outside the deli and the two young men got out, Will leading the way inside. Taking a table close to the windows, he grinned and folded his hands on the table.
"What?" Marc asked, returning the grin.
"I was just thinking," Will said, as he turned and ordered a couple of poutines, "that I'm glad you decided to come with me to Ottawa."
Marc looked at the soggy Brit sitting across the table from him and his smile grew broader. "You're a sap," he said, a touch of red on his cheeks.
Will nodded, "Part of the boyfriend manifesto." He glanced up as the waiter returned with two steaming platters of French fries, cheese smothered in gravy with real Montreal smoked meat diced on top. It was artery-clogging and definitely wasn't part of the Atkin's diet, but it was undeniably utterly amazing.
"How was work?" Marc asked, already tucking into the plate. Blinking in surprise at how good it was, he began to attack the food with that infamous appetite of his.
"Good," Will admitted, "though busy. Apparently we have interns."
Marc looked up from his food, "Uh-oh, should I be jealous?"
"I didn't think you could get jealous," Will said with a smirk, "but I wouldn't worry. The other thing I found out today is I am the only guy in the office at the moment."
Marc hid a grin, "That must be a shame, nothing for you to stare at all day long."
Will looked levelly across the table, "Yeah, I can see you're really broken up about it."
Marc flashed him a broad smile, "Yeah, so you like it?"
Will thought about it, "It's nice to be in charge, though there's a lot of work to get done. I have a meeting with some developers who are trying to restore an old fortress in southern Ontario and are looking for a grant to do it. Cultural heritage and all that."
"One of those reenactment places?" Marc asked, his eyes lighting up.
"Yeah," Will said. "It was rather strategic in the War of 1812, located on lake Ontario, so I'm going to look over their proposal before I make my recommendations."
"Cool," Marc admitted, polishing off his plate of poutine and looking at the plate Will had barely touched.
Will looked at him and then down at his plate and smiled, pushing it into the middle of the table for them to share. "Why is it you can eat as much as you do and not put on a pound?"
"I get lots of exercise," Marc countered.
"When?" Will asked in surprise; this was the first he'd heard of exercise.
Marc gave him a surprised look. "You know...exercise," he said suggestively.
Will's jaw dropped open and he blushed. "Yes, well, umm," he flustered.
Marc laughed at him openly, "You know, I never get tired of doing that to you, you're such a prude."
Will gave him a smile, "Just because I'm decent when I'm out in public doesn't make me a prude."
Marc just grinned, "Uh huh."