CARTER'S FORTRESS: WILLIAM CARTER V
Chapter 03 - By Christopher Patrick Lydon
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.