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Carter's Fortress - 21. Chapter 21

CARTER'S FORTRESS: WILLIAM CARTER V

Chapter 21 - By Christopher Patrick Lydon

 

Will's riding stretched from Lake Ontario up to Mount Pleasant Cemetery, from Yonge Street to the Don Valley River. Toronto Center, the heart of the bustle, the noise, the middle of the rush that was metropolitan life.

He had just concluded his first speech as a political candidate, sleeves of the Ralph Lauren shirt rolled up and the new silk tie undone and hanging loose. He looked like a man who was hard at work; a more honest image, Will felt, than the man that had stared back at him in the mirror wearing the Hugo Boss suit Alicia had bought him.

He shook some more hands, greeted some more of the voters. The by-election was only a few weeks away and he had his work cut out for him. But from the reception he had received at the community center... he couldn't believe those cheers had been for him, bright and eager faces listening to his plans to fight for equality, how he intended to carry on with the good work that Robert Avery had started to build equal opportunities for everyone.

He knew what it was like to be a gay man in the work place, he understood and empathized with them on what it was like to be discriminated against. And how, as a Human Resource manager he had made sure everyone, gay, straight, transgender, had been hired based off of their skills.

He glanced over at Brody who was tapping his watch, and Will nodded, pausing long enough to smile at a familiar transvestite who was grinning broadly at him. He stopped and pointed at her, a broad grin on his face. "How are you doing?" he asked, addressing one of his old employees from Avery-Woods.

"Great," she replied with a grin. "It's good that we finally have someone on our side running; you know you have my vote," she stated with a nod.

Will nodded again and excused himself, hurrying to catch up to Brody and Lisa, Lisa already holding up his coat for him to slip into. Behind him, he could hear his former employee relate the story of how Will had hired her, then championed her into a toughly male-dominated sales office.

Will glanced at Brody, "Now that...that was fun."

Brody rolled his eyes. "Attention slut," he commented with a grin. "We gotta roll if we're gonna make the TTC press conference."

Will glanced back and offered a wave to the crowd before he allowed himself to be swept off once more on the campaign trail.

* * *

Gravano lowered the newspaper looking across the desk at Hackett. "I thought you said he wasn't going to be around anymore?" he asked, slamming the paper down and pointing to William Carter's picture on the front page.

Hackett stared at the picture of the determined-looking young man passionately speaking at a TTC ralley about the problems facing transit in inner cities."He's far too busy with his election to give you problems," Hackett said firmly. "Besides, even if he is elected he is going to be sitting on the back bench of parliament for the next four years anyway."

Gravano allowed his displeasure to show as he sank back into his chair scowling across at Hackett, "You know full well that people will listen to an MP when he speaks out about something."

"He has nothing," Hackett repeated in a placating tone.

"Oh, he has nothing?" Gravano said. "Really? Then explain why I have the Ministry of Heritage asking me directly for cost reports on the Heritage project?"

"I..." Hackett stared blankly, "this is the first I have heard of it."

"You said this Thorpe wasn't bright enough to put this all together, which means he had help," he tapped the newspaper. "And I'm willing to bet whose help."

"I'll look into it; I have a few contacts in the ministry, I'll find out what they have and then we'll know how to counter it." Hackett stood up to go.

"I suggest you find out, then," Gravano said. "In the meantime," he drew out the envelope of pictures from his desk drawer, glad that he had the foresight to save them, "we still have an ace up our sleeves."

* * *

Marc was sitting with a smile as he drove Will's Jeep down the 401 returning to Toronto. The constant shifting was something that he would have to get used to. It was like living in two cities at the same time, constantly shuffling between the two. But Will was worth it...

Marc's smile got broader at the thought of Will and then he glanced up at himself in the rearview mirror. Great, he was giddy. Giddy over a guy? That wasn't supposed to happen. He was supposed to be married to a girl or something, and yet the only time he had ever been happy in his life was with that damned Brit.

He shrugged, so he was in love; he'd deal with it... at least it settled one question, that he was capable of falling in love.

He tried to switch topics in his own mind. It was odd living in two cities at the same time. All their possessions were back in Ottawa at Brody's house, but then there was the riding house, a townhouse kept as the primary residence. It was fully furnished from Will's recounts, which was good as Marc had no desire to lug everything back from Ottawa again. And when Will got elected--losing wasn't possible for a guy like Will in Marc's mind--they would be back to living in Ottawa jetting back for the constituency meetings at the end of each week.

Will had offered to fly Marc in, but there was something just wrong about jetting down from Ottawa; it was only a few hours by car and since Will wasn't about, it allowed Marc to...

He sped up and drifted the Jeep over to the next lane, listening to the engine of the powerful little vehicle. Will had owned the Jeep for as long as Marc had known him, and from all accounts it had been with Will for years. It was well-maintained but was definitely showing its age in the near constant time it spent at the mechanic's for various minor repairs, a worn belt, corroded brake lines. It was a shame because Will loved his Jeep.

Marc turned up the radio as he glanced at Oshawa flashing by, another half hour to an hour and he would be there. Back in the city again, the city that had once seemed so dark and all-consuming, but now didn't affect him.

The cell phone in its cradle began to ring and Marc absently reached out to pick it up, "Hey?"

"Hi, short stuff," Will's voice sounded tired. "How are you doing?"

"Just passing Oshawa," Marc said glancing out the window again. "Missing me?"

"Yeah," Will said, sounding like he was still at the office. "We have a big fund raiser tonight to gather some support from the local business members; it's also a chance for me to meet people, Brody's idea."

"Cool," Marc said. "Does that mean you're asking me to come?"

"That was the idea," Will said sounding amused. "I've never seen you in a tuxedo."

Marc coughed, "A tuxedo?" He detested suits, he always felt like a dork.

"Mmm," Will said. "I had Alicia get you one, it's here at the office; if you want to swing by here you could get ready with me."

"A tux?" Marc repeated. "I dunno, Will..."

Will chuckled, "Stop being so shy, you'll look fine in it, or would you rather miss me in a dinner jacket and a bow tie?"

Marc thought about that for a second, Will dressed up and looking like James Bond... "Damn..." Marc said with the mental image firmly in mind.

"Knew you'd cave," Will said sounding pleased. "I'll see you shortly."

Marc hung up, a perma-grin on his face as he shook his head, "Damn..."

* * *

"I can always tell when you're nervous, boss," Alicia said as she nimbly tied his bow tie and straightened it stepping back to admire her handywork. "Wow!"

"What?" Will asked shrugging on the white dinner jacket and fiddling with his cuffs, "Is something wrong?"

Alicia stepped back in to make one final adjustment to his collar and shook her head, "You look great; you sure you're gay?"

"He better be," Marc said, emerging from the bathroom holding up his black bowtie and looking lost. "What am I supposed to do with this?"

Alicia rolled her eyes. "Boys!" she exclaimed, gesturing for him to come over to allow her to tie that one as well. She for her part had chosen a devastating green dress that was conservative and liberal in all the right places.

Will sat down on the edge of the desk behind her, looking at his boyfriend. Short but handsome, shy but confidant. Marc was clean-shaven showing off his boyish face and really bringing out his eyes. He blinked over at Will and smiled, colour touching his cheeks again, painfully self-conscious like he always was when he was dressed up.

"I feel like I'm going to the prom," Marc said as Alicia drew the tie tight.

"Well," Alicia said, "at least I'll be the prettiest girl there."

"I don't know," Will said. "This is Toronto-Center, you'd probably be the only girl there but certainly not the only person in a dress..."

"Oh," Alicia said a note of warning in her voice, "if I get there and the drag queens look prettier than me I am so going back to the hotel after a stop off for Haagen Daz!"

Will smiled in amusement, "I'm sure you'll be prom queen,"

"I better be," Alicia threatened, finishing Marc's tie and handing him his black jacket.

"The car is here," Brody said coming into the office. As usual, as smart as everyone looked, Brody outclassed them, wearing a simple mandarin-collared suit that made him look like a Bond villain, no doubt done deliberately. Brody always liked to be contrary to everyone else. All he needed was a white cat...

Will nodded and gestured to the door, "Shall we, then?"

"No, no," Brody said stepping back. "The Honourable Mister Carter, future MP for Toronto-Center, should go first." He flourished a bow and Will shook his head as he smiled.

"You know, that title is going to take some getting used to," he admitted as he led the way into the outer office to a hail of applause from his campaign workers, and a few wolf whistles from some of the Pride Association workers and the female volunteers.

Will chuckled as he shook his head. "Oh stop," he laughed, as he shook his head at them. "You are all nuts."

Lisa was waiting with the car; she smiled at him and followed the small procession into the back of the Lincoln taking the seat opposite Will as she flipped open a leather document case and made a few last minute notes on his cue cards.

"You're looking exceptionally radiant," Will observed as he looked at her.

She looked up, "Huh?"

"You look good," Will repeated. "Happy."

Lisa smiled at him. "I'm getting to help a good man go to parliament," she said in reply.

"Suck-up," Brody commented as he cranked his head around to look at a couple of young women walking up Yonge Street in short-cut dresses.

Will rolled his eyes at the pair as he watched the car pull up outside the hotel, the door already being held open for him to step out. It was like he was a celebrity, stepping out onto a red carpet. He glanced at the news cameras as they flashed to get pictures of him and he stood still for a second, stepping forward to let the others out of the car.

Marc blinked at the flashes that were suddenly turned on him as he stepped out beside Will, and he shrank back a step, almost trying to hide behind Will from the attention. Will smiled at him reassuringly and wrapped a hand around his waist.

"You look fine," he reassured as he escorted Marc through the front doors of the hotel. The lobby was blissfully devoid of the cameras, the press only being permitted into the fund-raiser after the guests had arrived. But Will was surprised to see the group of people waiting for him.

The Mayor of Toronto was chatting with Minister Thorpe and the Riding Association President, Mac, threw him a wink and gestured for him to join them. Will crossed the lobby with Marc in tow, inclining his head as he joined the small circle, shaking hands as he was introduced.

"So this is the infamous Marc, is it?" Mac asked, giving Marc the once-over and nodding in approval.

"Marc Lawrence, sir," Marc said, shaking hands with everyone and glancing nervously at Will for support.

"Marc's a photography student at the University of Ottawa," Will explained.

"Really?" the Mayor said, his eyes lighting up. "You should meet my wife, she used to be a photojournalist." He turned and beaming, gestured for his wife to join the circle.

"I'd like to introduce Marc Lawrence, dear," he said fondly to the classically elegant woman who had a friendly smile on her face. "He's Mister Carter's...partner?" he asked, turning uncertain for a second.

Will nodded with a smile.

Marc glanced at Will a second staring in wonder; it was the first time he had really considered it. It sounded so formal, more so than boyfriend... and he blushed involuntarily.

"That's wonderful," the Mayor's wife beamed at him. "Come, we were just discussing art," she motioned to a collection of elegant women standing a little apart from the men staring at a magnificent painting hanging on the wall.

Marc nodded and followed, glancing back at Will a second as he went.

"Oh dear," Brody said, trying his best not to chuckle.

"What?" Will said, glancing at his campaign manager.

Thorpe was trying his best not to laugh, as was the Mayor. Brody rolled his eyes, "You just sent your...'partner' off with the politicians' wives." Brody tried to restrain his smirking, "Way to emasculate the kid."

Thorpe coughed politely, grabbing a couple of glasses a waiter offered to him, handing one to Will. "Here, you're going to need this. Trust me, the first time I sent my wife off so the 'boys' could talk I was chewed out for a month."

The Mayor nodded in agreement, "Yes, mine was the same way. You realize, though, that they aren't discussing art, right?"

Will glanced suspiciously over to where the women were talking, all of them clustered around Marc. "Oh dear..." he murmured. 

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