Cocktails and dinner had gone extremely well. Peter had been charming and funny, and everyone was having a wonderful time drinking and getting to know each other. It wasn't until Talia went into the kitchen to get dessert that the first glitch of the evening occurred.
She called Will into the kitchen, sounding frantic, and he immediately joined her after excusing himself from the table.
"Sweetheart, what's wrong?" he asked softly when he saw her looking as if she were beside herself.
"I forgot dessert," Talia whispered. "How in the world did I do that? I had everything prepared, I had the entire menu planned and I forgot the fucking dessert!"
Will walked over to her and put his hands on her shoulders. "Baby, it's okay. It's not a big deal, all right? I can go get something. It's--"
"Everything all right?" Peter asked, popping his head into the kitchen.
"We don't have any dessert and I'm trying to tell Talia it's all right," Will said, trying not to smile at the fact that Peter had been concerned enough to come and check on them. Talia had made it sound as if the world had been ending.
"It's not all right," Talia whined. "I can't believe I was that stupid and careless. God, I'm acting like you, Will."
Will let the barb go, not sure that she realized she'd just insulted him in front of his friend and feeling forgiving because she was so upset. Peter, however, visibly bristled at what she had said, making Will wonder if he was going to say something about it.
"Talia, I can take Will to the bakery and we can pick out something perfect, okay? No big deal." He glanced at his watch. "Unless it's too late."
"No, we have one we go to all the time," Will said. "It serves desserts in the evening, so it's open for a few more hours."
"Then it's perfect," Peter smiled at them both. "And it's settled. We'll ride to your rescue, Talia."
Talia looked at him. "You'd really do that?"
"Of course," Peter said with a shrug. "It's the least I can do after that wonderful meal you served."
"You know, I did just say I'd go get something," Will said, starting to feel a little hurt and left out now. A selfish, bratty part of him didn't want his best friend and his wife to be getting along quite this well.
"I know, but you have no taste, sweetie," Talia said dismissively. "I want us to have a lovely dessert and I assume Peter will be great at picking something wonderful."
"Because I'm gay, right?" Peter grinned, though Will noticed the smile didn't quite reach his eyes. That's when he knew that Peter was putting on an act for Talia.
"Exactly," Talia laughed, very amused with herself. "You people are great at anything to do with cooking or decorating. Oh, and hair styling."
Peter nodded slowly, his smile more forced now. "Right you are. I was just telling Will if I hadn't gone into PR, I'd have my very own catering slash decorating slash beauty business."
"Is that so?" Talia said, stepping away from Will and pouring herself a glass of wine from the bottle on the counter. "That's so nice."
"Talia, I think Peter's joking," Will said, flashing a look at Peter and trying not to laugh.
"Was he?" Talia drained her glass and poured another.
"Sweetheart, I think that's enough wine," Will said softly. She had already had a few glasses with dinner and Will was worried that too much would loosen her tongue.
Talia waved a dismissive hand. "Go get dessert, boys. Make it something delectable and I'll keep George and Nancy entertained."
"Peter can go by himself," Will said, afraid of what Talia would say about Peter if they were both gone.
"Nah, I need your wallet," Peter teased, giving Will's arm a pinch and winking at him.
"Right you are," Talia nodded. "Okay, shoo," she said, giving Peter a kiss on the cheek. Will knew she was drunk. "You're a lifesaver, thank you."
"No problem," Peter said, waiting for Talia to leave the room before looking at Will. "We need to talk," he whispered. "This is the best way."
"But what if Talia starts talking shit about you while we're gone?" Will whispered in reply.
"What if she does?" Peter asked with a cocky grin. "I don't give a shit what people say about me, remember?"
Will had to smile at that and wonder why he worried so much. "Okay, I guess I can go with you to get some dessert," he said, trying to sound as if he couldn't really care less when the truth was he loved the thought of being alone with Peter after a couple of hours of loud chatter and laughter from Talia and her friends.
"Yeah, you're doing me a huge favor," Peter laughed, putting his hand at the small of Will's back as he guided him toward the back door and out to his car. The touch made Will feel warm even as the cool air hit their faces.
"I can drive, if you like," Will said.
"No, get in," Peter said, unlocking the car and slipping behind the steering wheel.
Still not quite sure what was going on, Will got into the passenger seat and kept looking at Peter as he took off and headed in the direction of the bakery.
"Peter, what was all that back there? Why do you need to talk to me?" Will asked.
"Because I..." Peter glanced at him and smiled. "Okay, fine, I just wanted to be alone with you," he explained, echoing the very thoughts Will had been having.
Will's mouth felt suddenly dry. He wasn't sure this just friends thing was working between them. "How come?"
"So I could ask you why you put up with it."
That wasn't what Will had been expecting. "Put up with what? She doesn't usually drink that much."
"I'm not talking about that." Peter furrowed his brow. "Didn't you notice the digs she was taking at you all throughout dinner?" he asked, sounding exasperated. "Or are you so used to them you don't even care anymore?"
The truth was that Will had noticed, but it had become a matter of course for Talia to take digs at him. It was a way of life and he never gave it much thought unless it was something as obvious as what she'd said in the kitchen.
"I guess I didn't notice," he fibbed quietly. "It doesn't bother me."
"Well, it should," Peter said, obviously angry now. "I can't believe you laughed when she offered you seconds so you would, quote, have something to keep your mouth busy, unquote, while she and her friends chatted. She doesn't respect you, Will, and her friends aren't much better."
"I thought we were having a good time," Will shrugged. He remembered the comment but hadn't thought much of it. He also hadn't thought much about her ridiculing the way he opened the wine or telling him to stop acting as if he knew what he was talking about simply because he'd asked George a few questions about his latest freelance magazine article. Being married to Talia included dealing with her digs and barbs, and he'd spent the past twelve years developing a thick skin.
"I'm good at faking it," Peter said dryly, turning onto a residential street instead of continuing along the main route that would have taken them to the bakery.
"Where are you going?" Will asked. "Talia's expecting us to get back quickly."
"Talia can wait," Peter said, pulling the car over and putting it in park. "Will..." He turned in his seat to look at his friend. "Tell me you're happy."
Will felt as if his heart was in his throat at the question. Peter knew that Will wasn't happy, and there was no good reason to make him admit it aloud now.
"Tell me, Will," Peter insisted when Will didn't say anything.
"Pete...don't do this," Will begged softly.
"I can't stand seeing the way she treats you," Peter whispered. "I can tell how small she makes you feel and it reminds me of the way you'd be around your dad."
Will's eyes opened a little wider. "What? That's... Peter, I think you're stretching."
"Am I?" Peter undid his seat belt and moved closer. "Will, there is no joy in your eyes when you're with her. It's as if I can see this beautiful light get snuffed out when you're there playing the dutiful husband. It's breaking my heart."
"Stop it," Will said, unconvincingly. "Don't do this... Please, Pete..." He couldn't stop staring into his best friend's eyes as he weakly protested. It was true. He could feel it and had known that his marriage was nothing more than a habit now. Staying married to Talia was easier than getting a divorce. Not just that, but it was safer for him.
"Leave her, Will," Peter whispered and raised a hand to cup the side of Will's face. "Leave her and come be with me."
"I...I..." Will suddenly felt as if he was going to pass out, and he found himself grasping the front of Peter's shirt, trying to steady himself but also wanting to touch him and know that this was really happening. "I can't," he whispered even as he leaned forward and touched his mouth to Peter's.
This time, the kiss wasn't quick or apologetic, and Will didn't pull away in shame or embarrassment. This time, when Peter groaned in surprise, Will slid his fingers into his best friend's hair and held him steady, kissing him with a passion he hadn't felt in all the years he'd been married. He wanted this man and nothing would change that. No amount of denial or attempts at pushing aside their feelings would make it go away. As he deepened the kiss, the taste and heat of the other man only served to make his need for him intensify until he was clinging to him with a desperate desire that overshadowed any semblance of coherent thought.
"Whoa, whoa..." Peter breathed as he broke the kiss but continued to hold onto Will. "I don't think you want to do this."
"Yes, I do," Will said, breathless. "I know I do. I want this more than anything, Pete. I swear."
Peter smiled and touched a kiss to the corner of Will's mouth. "No, I meant that you might not want to do this out here like this. We're parked in front of someone's house."
"Oh." Will started to giggle, his face turning red as he pressed it to Peter's neck. "Okay, maybe we should move on then. Get to the bakery before Talia puts out an APB for us."
Nodding, Peter hadn't been able to stop smiling since the kiss. He hadn't been able to stop staring at Will, either. "But we have to pick up where we left off later," he said, reluctantly letting go.
"Yeah, definitely," Will nodded, suddenly nervous and curious about what picking up would mean exactly. He worked on straightening himself and looked in the passenger visor mirror to make sure he didn't look too flushed or as if he'd been kissing the life out of his best friend.
"You're a fabulous kisser, by the way," Peter said as he drove, a beaming smile still lighting up his face.
"So are you," Will said, grinning and feeling unaccountably shy. He loved this feeling. It was like falling in love for the first time.
"Thanks," Peter said, giving Will a wink. "It comes from many years of practice."
Will knew he shouldn't laugh at that, but he couldn't help it. It sounded so silly for Peter to be calling him, of all people, that. In the twelve years he'd been married to Talia, he had never given one thought to cheating on her and breaking their marriage vows. In fact, he took great pride in being a faithful husband. Now that he looked back on it, though, he began to understand that the reason he had never betrayed Talia was because he couldn't be bothered to become involved with another woman.
Some self-examination would actually make it clear that he'd been wanting to accept the fact he liked men for a little while now. A couple of years earlier, Will had seen a movie starring one of the hot young actors in Hollywood and found himself enjoying it for far more reasons than the plot. In fact, he'd bought the movie on DVD and pleasured himself to it several times. At the time, however, he simply chalked it up to getting worked up by the beautiful female lead. The truth was that while he was quietly masturbating and making sure not to wake up Talia, he'd been thinking about the actor the entire time. While that should have been a huge clue as to why he'd never strayed with a woman, it didn't fully make sense to him until the moment he was sitting in Peter's car, the taste of the kiss they'd shared still on his lips.
"I haven't done anything to deserve that," Will finally said, referring to the teasing slur Peter had made. "It was just a kiss."
"But you're thinking about having sex with me, aren't you?" Peter said, glancing at Will as he drove.
That same hot feeling was back in Will's face, and he knew he was blushing enough for Peter to notice it. The soft laugh that came from his friend only confirmed that, but he hadn't been expecting the gentle hand on his leg and the soft squeeze to his knee.
"It's okay, Will," Peter said softly. "We don't have to do anything. We'll figure out something, all right?"
"Yeah, okay," Will said, his mouth suddenly dry. How could he tell Peter that what he wanted more than anything right then was for them to find a hotel and do all the things he hadn't even dared to fantasize about before?
"Is that the bakery?" Peter suddenly asked, and Will looked out the window to see the bakery that he and Talia went to all the time for their Sunday morning pastries and any desserts they decided to treat themselves to.
"Yeah." Will felt a little disappointed that reality was starting to intrude on them. What was going to happen now? They'd pick out some dessert and go back to the dinner party? Then Peter would say goodnight and go home and that would be the end of it. Will knew that when push came to shove, he would never really have the courage to leave Talia and the life they'd made together.
"Are you coming?" Peter gently shook Will's shoulder. "Come on, man. I know I'm a great kisser capable of leaving men speechless, but this is taking it a bit too far," he chuckled.
Will smiled at him, hoping that his concerns weren't evident. From the smile Peter gave him in return, he could tell that they weren't.