Will was certain that time had decided to slow down to a crawl while he waited for the hours to pass before he could call Peter. He and Talia watched some television dramas, then the local news and part of a late night talk show. When Will checked his watch for the umpteenth time, he saw that it was five after midnight. Usually, Talia never stayed up this late, and he started to panic that she wouldn't go to bed before the time he had to make his phone call. Finally, and much to his relief, she declared she was exhausted, kissed him on the cheek and retired for the evening.
Not wanting to take any chances, Will got up and decided to take Lani and Jake for another walk just in case Talia decided to come back downstairs. It was stupid, really, to feel so excited about calling Peter, but as he quickly walked away from the house and dialed his number, he didn't care how silly it was.
"Perfect timing," Peter said when he answered. "I just got rid of him. What are you wearing?"
Will laughed at the unexpected question. He blushed, too. "I'm, um, walking Lani and Jake so I'm wearing some--"
"I'm kidding, Will," Peter laughed, "but it's a good sign that you were ready to tell me."
That made Will's face redden even more. "You must think I'm a dope."
"Why would I think that?"
"Because I'm so gullible."
Peter sighed softly. "Will, you're not gullible. You're honest and you're open. And sometimes you wear your heart on your sleeve."
"Only with the people I can trust the most," Will said.
"No, Will. You do it with everyone. And that's why it's so easy to care so deeply for you."
There was a husky edge to Peter's voice that made Will shiver with pleasure at the sound of it despite his best efforts not to.
"How much do you care about me, Peter?" He hadn't meant to ask the question, but standing out there in the dark, away from the house and his wife and with the safety of distance between himself and Peter, he found it easy to be that bold.
"Are you sure you want to hear the answer to that?" Peter asked, the question punctuated with a pained chuckle. "Because I don't think I can stand the thought of you cutting me out of your life again for being completely honest with you."
Will swallowed and briefly closed his eyes, wanting to shut out the pang of guilt he felt at the hurt he could hear in Peter's voice. "I want to hear the answer," he said softly.
"I love you, Will. There it is in all its glory, sweetheart. I've loved you since we were kids and nothing could change that in all the years we were apart." Peter's voice cracked, making Will's heart ache. "Will Porter, you are the love of my life."
Will had to crouch down because his knees started to feel weak and he had nowhere to sit. Just how badly had he hurt Peter by treating him so unkindly? And how in the world could he deserve to still have the man care about him after all this time?
"I shouldn't have said anything, should I?" Peter asked warily when Will was silent for so long.
"No...I...it's..." Will forced himself to release a deep breath when he realized he had been holding it.
"It's okay," Peter assured him. "Trust me when I say that I've had years to get used to the idea of being in love with you and practicing how I'd tell you." He chuckled. "So if you're thrown by this whole thing, I'll understand. But you did say that you wanted to know, and with everything that happened today, I thought it was a good time to tell you."
"I don't know what to say," Will said once he'd found a way to string a sentence together. "I knew you cared about me, but... Really? The love of your life?"
"And all that stuff you said about Kory?"
"Absolutely true," Peter said firmly.
"Wow," Will whispered. "That's... Wow."
Peter's chuckle was throaty and warm. "Are you freaking out right now?"
"To be honest, I'm freaking out a lot," Will confirmed, "but it's okay. I don't... I mean, I won't react the way I did before."
"That's good to hear, because if you did, I wouldn't let you get away this time."
Will sighed and tried to figure out the best way to address this without giving away what he was feeling. The truth was he was a married man and had no business even having this conversation with Peter. If he could nip this in the bud, right now, things would be better for everyone.
"I went too far, didn't I?"
It wasn't until Peter spoke that Will realized just how long he'd been quiet.
"No, I just... It's, um... Pete, I don't really know what to say."
"You don't have to say anything," Peter said, his voice quiet. "You're married. The kiss at the restaurant didn't mean anything and we should just go our separate ways because I'm going to make things too complicated for you."
"What? Why are you saying those things?"
"Isn't that what you're going to tell me? To make me leave you alone?" He sounded so defeated.
The moment those words came out, Will felt something deep in his gut that told him he didn't want Peter to leave him alone. In fact, he didn't want Peter to stop loving him or care about the fact that he was married.
"No, it's not. I just don't know what to do," he finally admitted in a whisper. "I think that I need to try and process all of this because... Peter, that kiss did mean something to me."
This time it was Peter's turn to be quiet. After a few moments, he cleared his throat and spoke, sounding more hopeful than he had before. "I can give you all the time you need to process," he said quickly. "And I promise not to pressure you or make you feel bad about anything. I'll be your friend and nothing more until...until the time's right for you to make a decision."
That took a lot of the pressure off, and Will let out a slow sigh of relief. "Thank you, man," he said, smiling at the fact that his old friend was still managing to come through for him. "I promise not to freak out on you and tell you to leave me alone. Think we can make this work?"
"Definitely," Peter said with a chuckle. "Listen, it's late and you should go get some sleep. I can talk to you tomorrow."
"Why don't we have lunch?"
"Okay, we can, but only if you promise to stay this time."
Will blushed and laughed uncomfortably. "Fine. And I promise no rogue kisses, either."
"Damn. I kind of like the rogue kisses," Peter teased him gently. "But, seriously, I'd like to see you again and really catch up, all right? Just talk like we used to."
"I would love that," Will sighed happily. "So, tomorrow?"
Will hung up without saying goodbye. He never liked doing that because it felt so final, especially when he knew he'd be seeing the person again. In his mind, he only wanted to say goodbye to someone when it was the final time he'd be seeing them. Peter had long ago gotten used to it and never made fun of him for it.
He looked at his phone and smiled before slipping it into his pocket. As he made his way back to the house, he thought about what the future would hold for him and his friend. And that was exactly how he would have to think of Peter for the moment if he wanted to make it through this. Whatever 'this' was.