Summary: William Neeley is a genius. At the age of 15 he started Cyber Angel Industries and has since completely changed the face of the modern world. From personal shielding technology to enhanced musculature to home electronics, William has a finger in every pie and is quickly becoming the world’s most wealthy individual.
He shares his life with his husband, Alan Trent, and their young son Morgan.
William always strives to maintain his image of “normal life,” though he is diverted at every turn. Whether he’s posing half-naked on billboards, creating massive death rays, or Alan is becoming the President of the United States, or Morgan has grown wings, or he’s accidentally torn a rip in the space time continuum… he will always say that his life is nothing but normal.
Welcome to his world.
Even though James didn’t like the thought of him falling into such an easily learned routine, William couldn’t help himself. He had always liked his little patterns of behavior; it was comforting to always have a general idea of where he was supposed to be in the world.
He worked long hours and his company was growing at an exponential rate. He didn’t know how far everything was going to go, but he had already far exceeded his own expectations.
He honestly hadn’t expected his little idea to start a company would lead to him heading up one of the most successful companies in the world. He had almost overnight gone from borderline poverty to unbelievable levels of wealth. It was kind of frightening.
Which is why William fought so hard to at least be able to pretend that he was a normal person, some of the time at least. He didn’t want to lose his sense of self and just become some kind of human shell. A cash machine producing hard currency every time he took a trip to the lab, the products of his hard work wrested from his hands and sold on the open market for as much profit as possible.
So William donned a pair of dark washed jeans, a gray “Idlewile” tee shirt, and a black zip-front hoodie and pretended that he was just a guy. He liked wandering through the grocery store and shopping for himself. He liked going to the library and book stores. He liked walking through the park and seeing people enjoying the day. Mostly he just liked going to his favorite coffee shop, A Shot In the Dark, where they knew him only as “William” and he figured they thought he was some kind of college student or something, which actually made him happy.
Graduating at fifteen meant he had missed out on a lot of the college experience. He’d been too young for anyone to really want to hang out with–except RJ, who was another prodigy and two years his senior–but he’d been old enough to realize that he was missing out on all the good stuff.
So he tried his best now to play at being a normal person. His dream was to somehow be seen as just another face in the crowd. Maybe it was a stupid and small dream, but it was his, and he refused to let it go, even in the face of the worried looks James gave him.
Pushing open one of the bright red double doors that led into A Shot In the Dark, he couldn’t help laughing when Cindy, his usual barista, saw him and pointed. She was a tall faux-redhead that wore tee shirts at least two sizes too small for her busty frame. “Got you covered, babe. Go sit down and I’ll bring it to you.”
“Thank you,” he said, looking around to find a free table. The place was pretty packed for this time of day. It made him wonder if something was going on.
All of the little black tables were full of people and he only recognized the faces of a few regulars he’d seen before. The TV in the corner was playing a Muppet movie for the entertainment of the younger crowd sipping cocoa and eating sugar cookies, and there was a definite festiveness in the air. The chatter was a soft roar and the glow of the hanging cone lights seemed warm, reflecting off the white tiled floor with its gold leaf pattern.
William felt a frown tugging at his lips when he realized there was nowhere for him to sit. He really didn’t want to just grab his coffee and go, but that was what it looked like what was going to happen. Maybe he could drink his coffee in the park?
“You can sit here,” a voice called.
William turned to see a blond man sitting at a table to his left. “Really?” he asked, already walking over.
The guy smiled at him, flashing nice teeth. He was good-looking and William couldn’t help running his eyes over what he could see of the man’s body, liking the way his broad chest stretched his dark blue henley, the short sleeves showing off the cut of his arms. He had kind blue eyes beneath the fierce slashes of his eyebrows and there was a barely perceptible crook to his nose, the remnant of an old break.
William really wasn’t into the idea of sitting with a serial killer or something, so he made sure to look the man over thoroughly before he pulled out the empty chair and sat down. “Thanks. I didn’t know what I was going to do.”
“I was surprised by how busy they are myself,” the man said. He had a newspaper folded under his elbow and there was a black wool coat hanging on the back of his chair. Up close, he had the beginnings of crow’s feet and faint smile lines around his mouth.
“Yeah, what’s up with that?” William asked.
The man shrugged. “I guess there’s some kind of convention or something going on a few blocks from here. Most of these guys came from that”
“Huh.” William held out his hand with a smile. “My name’s William.”
The man’s hand was warm and dry against his own, his handshake firm. “Alan. Nice to meet you.”
Cindy came swaying across the room, dodging tables and customers to bring William his coffee. “Here you go,” she chirped, “one quad-shot white chocolate mocha with a swirl of cherry syrup.”
William pulled a folded ten dollar bill out of his pocket and traded her for the cup. “Thank you,” he said, taking a quick sip before setting it down on the table. It tasted delicious. “Nice.”
She winked at him. “You’re the whole reason why I work here, sweetie. You’re the perfect eye-candy.”
“I try, ” he said, buffing his fingernails on the front of his tee shirt. “I pose in front of the mirror for a good five hours a day.”
“Oh you.” She lightly tapped him on the shoulder. “Well, I better get back to work. Are you going to be here for a while?”
William shrugged. “I was thinking I would be. Probably at least for another cup of coffee.”
“All right, I’ll leave the cherry syrup out just in case,” she said, walking away.
William shook his head and looked at Alan. “She likes to guilt-trip me into ODing on her drinks.”
“‘Quad-shot’?” Alan mock-shuddered. “And you’re going to drink two of them?”
“They’re good,” William excused. He carefully took a large gulp of his coffee. It was hot enough to burn his mouth, but there was no way he could wait until it cooled down. “So delicious.”
“Am I in the presence of an addict?” Alan asked, leaning back dramatically.
William shrugged. “Pretty much.”
Alan sat back up. “Oh, well, at least you admit it. There are some people out there… they won’t admit anything right to their graves. Very dramatic folk, those.”
“You’re kind of silly, aren’t you?” William covered his mouth with his fingers, hiding his smile. It was a habit he’d liberated one day in his youth and had never managed to give up.
“What makes you think that?” Alan asked in surprise.
William shook his head. “I’m pretty good at reading people, and no matter the volume, I can hear sarcasm at any time. You hide it pretty good though. Do you work with the public a lot?”
Alan shrugged. “That’s actually pretty close. I have to give speeches and stuff all the time and I have to answer peoples’ concerns in a warm and non-patronizing manner.”
William felt a sinking sensation. “With those kinds of experiences… do I have to guess that I’m in the presence of some kind of politician?”
“Possibly.” Alan took a drink of his latte. “Why, do you have an irrational dislike of politicians?”
“It’s not really that irrational,” William said, “considering all the lousy things politicians have done in this country lately. They almost disrupted the whole economy and wrecked America completely just a couple of years ago. It’s one of the reasons the progressive party got so powerful and…”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa.” Alan waved his hands. “I can tell that you’re very into talking politics, but I can also see that you’ve got your mind pretty set. So how about this, we continue to talk, but it can’t be anything about politics.”
“But you’re a politician,” William said, “it’s your job.”
“Exactly,” Alan said. “It’s my job. So if we make a deal not to talk about either one of our jobs, we can just be William and Alan when we talk to each other. And I think I want to talk to you some more.”
William blinked. “What?”
Alan looked vaguely embarrassed and he ran a hand through his sandy blond hair. “I know we just met a little while ago, but in my life I’ve learned to grab onto opportunity as it presents itself. So I can’t help thinking that our meeting was predestined in some way. We were always meant to meet here in this moment and that’s a pretty beautiful thing.”
“Are you a hippy or something?” William demanded.
Alan snorted and shook his head. He had on a disbelieving smile, as though he didn’t quite know how he was supposed to respond. “What?”
“Well, you’re sounding pretty hippy to me, very pagan ‘the universe is all one’ type thinking.” William fingered the cardboard sleeve around his cup. There was something completely relevant about the sleeve, though he couldn’t think what. That or he was trying to distance himself from the surreality of the situation.
“It doesn’t bother me or anything,” William said, “that you’re a pagan. It’s actually kind of cool.”
“I’m not a pagan,” Alan laughed. The fact that he totally seemed to be getting William’s strange brand of humor was a big plus.
For the first time William was seriously considering socializing with someone new. His life had been so shut off the last couple of years that he wasn’t sure he would know what to do, but he kind of wanted to try.
If Alan didn’t turn out to be some awful creep.
“I could be around here again in a couple of days,” William said nonchalantly, trying not to sound too involved. He picked at the corrugated cardboard of the sleeve with his fingernail.
“That would be great,” Alan said enthusiastically, “and I can be here. Around this time on Tuesday?”
William was surprised the guy was so enthusiastic, but he couldn’t help being a bit excited himself. He took a big gulp of his coffee, emptying the cup. “I will be here on Tuesday,” he said.
Alan’s smile was bright and happy. He didn’t look like he could be a bloodsucking, evil politician. He just looked way too nice.
“That’s so great,” Alan said. “We can talk about movies or video games or whatever. It will be so nice to have a normal conversation without worrying that someone’s going to take it out of context and I’m going to be looking at my own face in some news report sounding like an asshole.”
William didn’t know what he was supposed to feel. He had been absolutely sure that Alan was totally into him and wanted to have a relationship with dating and kissing and hopefully sex in the future. Then Alan acted like they were simply going to be best friends forever.
It made William seriously have to wonder if he had read the vibe around Alan wrong. Sure, every fiber of his being was absolutely certain that Alan was gay, but maybe he’d made some serious mistake somewhere. It left him feeling off balance and maybe a bit afraid; he really didn’t like being punched in the face.
“So, do you watch any sports?” Alan asked.
William shrugged. “Not really. I played some baseball when I was younger, but I’ve never really liked watching other people playing games. It just seems boring to me.”
“Ah, you’re really missing out,” Alan said, then preceded to tell William exactly why he was wrong.
And maybe while William’s life wasn’t exactly enlightened by that conversation, his life was irrevocably changed. Because after that, his trips to A Shot In the Dark weren’t just to get away from the stress of his day-to-day life. They were also opportunities to see Alan.