Dessert had been a hit thanks to the decadent dulce de leche torte that Peter had picked out at the bakery, and the conversation had flowed easily once more. Talia appeared to be handling her alcohol better than expected, and Will had allowed himself to relax and enjoy the rest of the evening. Soon, their guests would leave and there would be no more uncomfortable incidents. Or so it would have been until Talia suggested coffee and after dinner drinks.
By the time Talia had come out of the kitchen and into the formal living room with a tray of coffee and assorted liqueurs, something was definitely different. Looking back on it, Will would remember that her behavior was what he needed to finally push him over the edge to actually do something. She would never have a clue that had she simply maintained her usual level of unpleasantness, Will would have been more reluctant to do what he had.
After the coffee and drinks had been poured and passed around, Talia took a seat on the love seat, next to her husband. She sipped thoughtfully on her whiskey-laced coffee while she watched the others speak, then suddenly broke in with a question Will had been hoping she wouldn't ask.
"Will told me you recently lost your significant other," Talia said to Peter, taking the man by surprise. "Is that right?"
Peter exchanged a curious look with Will before looking back at Talia. "Yes, I did."
Nancy gasped softly. "Oh, Peter," she said, clearly sympathetic, "I'm so sorry to hear that. How old was she?"
Before Peter could correct her, Talia said, "It wasn't a she, was it? It was a he. Peter's gay, Nance."
Will opened his mouth to tell Talia that now really wasn't the time to be getting into this, but Nancy spoke up before he could.
"Oh, then, how old was he?" she asked, not blinking an eye.
Even though Nancy had ended up taking Talia's side after the divorce, as expected, Will would always be grateful to her for behaving the way she had. It made him know that her problem with him was not the fact that he was gay, but the fact that he'd cheated on her friend. For some reason, that made it easier to take.
Peter also looked grateful to her, and Will was sure he was just as curious as to why Talia had suddenly brought it up.
"Kory was thirty," Peter said quietly.
"And how long were you two together?" Nancy asked, the sympathetic look on her face deepening now.
"Seven...seven years," Peter replied.
Will felt awful, wishing that Talia had kept her mouth shut and knowing how much it was hurting Peter to talk about this. No matter what Peter had told him about Kory being a substitute for him, Will knew that Peter had truly loved him.
"Do you mind if I ask what happened?" Nancy asked. She wasn't prying, but clearly curious about what could take someone so young.
"He was in a car accident," Peter said, relating the lie that he told people who weren't close to him when they inquired about Kory's death. Even Will had thought that was what had happened until Peter had confided in him that Kory had cheated on him and gotten sick. Afraid of his family finding out, Kory had begged Peter to lie to them. Peter had agreed to protect his lover but would not lie to the people closest to him who could be trusted with the truth.
"Are you sure it wasn't AIDS?" Talia asked, smirking over the rim of her coffee cup. "I understand that's a terrible scourge for you people."
"Talia!" Will said firmly, unable to keep his mouth shut now. He had never mentioned anything to her about the truth behind Kory's death, and he flashed a look at Peter that he hoped told him as much. "You are being incredibly rude to my friend and I want you to stop it."
"Will, it's okay," Peter said, though it was clear he appreciated his friend standing up for him.
"No, it's not," Will snapped, glaring at her as she continued to smile and slowly sip her coffee. He wanted to smack the cup out of her hand and make her apologize. Instead, he asked, "Why are you doing this?"
"Because I want to know more about my husband's best friend," she smiled at Will. "And I have to be sure that I'm not going to get sick because you insisted we have him over for dinner. You know how these people spread all sorts of disgusting diseases around." The entire time she spoke, the smile never left her face.
That was when he knew that she must have had more to drink while she was getting the coffee made. Her earlier strange mood would appear to have been the good humor stemming from her inebriation, but now the darker, nastier side of her personality was coming out. That side had decided to embarrass Peter in front of her friends because he was getting along so well with them and she was feeling threatened. If only Will could make money from diagnosing Talia's neuroses, he often thought to himself. He'd be rich beyond his wildest dreams.
"Honestly, Will, it's all right," Peter said, sitting up a little straighter. "I don't mind Talia prying into my personal life."
"Oh, is it prying?" she asked sweetly. "I had no idea. I thought it was showing interest. I'm not friends with any homosexuals, so I don't know how these things work."
"That's pretty clear," Peter chuckled, though there was no warmth to it. "You're making ignorant moral judgments about people who find your kind to be nothing more than repugnant hypocrites. Why on earth would any of us be friends with you?"
Talia's facade slipped for a moment, but she quickly recovered. "That is a very good question, Peter, and one I could answer by saying that I would never in a million years be friends with something, excuse me, someone like you. It's just that it's Will's area of expertise to pal around with you gays, so I'm simply fascinated in much the same way learning about the habits of wild animals fascinates me."
Will was so angry, he could feel his face turning red as he bit back his rage. He couldn't tell what Peter was thinking, but when his friend looked at him and smiled a genuine, loving smile, he knew that Talia could sling all the mud she wanted to at him. Peter was going to keep loving him. As Will cast his eyes to the floor, afraid to give away what he was feeling for Peter, George leaned over discreetly and whispered something to Nancy, to which she nodded. It was obvious they were getting uncomfortable with Talia's behavior.
Nancy stood up and smiled at Talia, though Will could tell it was forced when he looked up at her. "Talia, dear, we had a wonderful time, but George just reminded me that we have an early appointment in the morning."
"All right," Talia said, looking pleased with herself as she handed her cup over to Will and stood to give Nancy a hug and kiss on her cheek. "Let me walk you and George to the door," she announced, swaying a little on her feet, but hanging onto her friend to keep her balance.
Will flashed Nancy an apologetic look but she waved it off and he knew that, once again, Talia would get away with behavior that would never fly for him. That made him angrier than he thought possible.
"It was lovely meeting you, Peter," Nancy said as Talia tugged on her arm to walk her out. George nodded but didn't say anything.
"You, too, Nancy," Peter smiled, then returned George's nod. "Truly."
Once Talia, George and Nancy were out of the room, Peter looked over at Will and shook his head. "I should go."
"No, please, don't," Will said before he could stop himself. Peter should go home, he knew that, but he wasn't ready to say goodnight to him just yet.
"Why, Will? So Talia can sit here and insult me and the man I loved?" He stood up. "I told you that the second she started giving me shit, I would leave."
Will put down Talia's cup and stood up, too. "Yes, I know, but you also hit back."
"Not enough, it seems." Peter raked his fingers through his hair, frustrated and unsure how to release the anger he was feeling. "I don't want her to say another word to me, Will," he said, looking at the other man.
"Come on, Pete..."
Peter held Will's eyes for a few moments, and Will knew that he would be seeing a defiance and anger there he hadn't seen before. Will hoped he would understand that he wanted to see Peter and Talia get into it so that Peter could stand up to her in a way Will never could. It might not have been noble or fair, but if Will couldn't count on his best friend to do that, he didn't know who he could count on.
"Will, I don't want to get into it with her," Peter said, stepping closer to him, able to read exactly what he was thinking. "I know what you want me to do, but I don't feel comfortable doing it, all right?"
Will lowered his eyes, feeling like a complete heel. Of course, he was being unreasonable. What the hell had he been thinking to want to put Peter in that position? He would have to man up and give Talia a piece of his mind if he wanted this to be settled. And just maybe he had a good enough reason to do that. His fear of not rocking the boat had been the thing to make him swallow his pride and let her run roughshod over him. But now that he'd found something else to cling to, some meaning that he hadn't dared admit to himself before, maybe that was all he needed to do what he should have done long ago.
"Okay," Will said softly. "I'll talk to her. And I'll call you tomorrow, all right?"
"All right," Peter said, putting a hand on Will's arm. He was about to lean in to kiss Will on his cheek, not even thinking about it, when Talia came back into the room.
"I hope I'm not interrupting anything," she said, sitting down heavily on the love seat. "Though it would explain why you and my husband are suddenly so very, very close."
Will turned to face her. "What is that supposed to mean?"
"Oh, calm down," Talia sneered. "No one's questioning your manhood. But, if I were you, William, I would be careful about spending too much time alone with him." She looked up at Peter. "They like to convert straight men all the time."
Peter snickered at that and gave Will's arm a squeeze. "Damn. She figured out my dastardly plan."
Will felt a bit flustered at this latest turn of events and shook his head. "Talia, Peter was just saying good night," he said, "so if you're finished being an insulting bi--"
"Aw, he's leaving? That's too bad," she murmured, reaching for her coffee.
"Sarcasm doesn't become you," Will said. "I know you're really good at it, but it's a very ugly thing, which is exactly what you are right now; an ugly thing."
She looked up sharply when he said that. "Excuse me?"
"You heard me," he muttered, taking Peter by the arm and leading him towards the front door.
"Are you going to be okay?" Peter whispered.
Will didn't answer until the both of them were outside next to Peter's car. "I'm so sorry, Pete," he finally said. "I thought things were going too well. She's drunk and--"
"She's a cunt?"
"Don't tell me you weren't thinking that," Peter laughed softly. "Okay, maybe I shouldn't have said it, but I think she was just gearing up to this. I don't care if she's a nasty drunk. The woman's a mess."
"I have to admit that she makes me question that adage about gentlemen preferring blondes," Will sighed, cracking a small smile.
"Are you trying to tell me she's a natural blonde?" Peter asked, a devilish gleam in his eye. "Those are rare in the female set. And she really doesn't seem stupid enough."
"Don't be a bitch now," Will warned him gently, though he could have stood there and trashed his wife all night. "Look, you go home, get some sleep and I'll call you in the morning to tell you how things went down."
"Why don't you come home with me?" Peter asked softly, reaching to cup Will's face between both of his hands.
Will closed his eyes and turned his face to kiss one of Peter's palms. "I can't," he breathed, though he wanted to do that more than anything at that very second. "I want to," he made sure to admit. "God, I really want to, but I need to go back inside. She'll suspect something."
"Then tell her you want a divorce and then come to me. I'll wait out here." He was smiling as he said it, as if he was trying to let Will think it was a joke just in case he wanted an out, but Will could tell that he meant it.
"I'll call you," Will said one more time, leaning forward just enough to brush his lips over Peter's before pulling away from him. "Goodnight, Pete."
Peter sighed and licked his lips, then, giving Will a steady look, grabbed hold of his hand and pulled him back towards him. "Not without a real kiss," he whispered.
"Pete, the neighbors..."
"Fuck the neighbors," Peter said, an unsure smile on his face. "But, you know, not literally." He swallowed, and Will couldn't remember the last time he saw Peter actually look afraid. "Just... I need to know you mean it," he said softly. "What happened before. I need to know it wasn't--"
Will cut him off with a bruising kiss, pushing him against the car and pressing his body into him. The worry about what his neighbors would think was banished by that unusual insecurity in Peter's demeanor, and Will needed to let his would be lover know that he meant everything he'd said and done. When Will pulled back, he was grinning, flushed and entirely too aroused to just go back into the house.
"Better?" he murmured, moving deliberately enough to make sure Peter was aware of his excitement. He was certainly aware of Peter's. "You feel better."
"Jesus," Peter whispered, though he was smiling.
"You're the one who wanted a real kiss," Will said, pressing his hips against Peter a little more. "Not my fault you get excited so easily."
Peter groaned softly and touched his forehead to Will's. "I should make you suck me off for that," he growled playfully.
As strange as it may have seemed, that was the first truly sexual thing Peter had said to him, and the words sent a heated tremor throughout his entire body that left him temporarily speechless. "Ahh...whuh...muh..." he mumbled. He knew he was making sounds but none of them seemed to be forming words.
"God, it's going to be so much fun getting you alone," Peter murmured into his ear with a chuckle before kissing it. "Now, go in there and tell your wife you want a divorce. I can wait until morning for you."
"Can you really?" Will asked slowly, quite proud that he was able to speak again.
"I've waited this long, so, yes. The next time I see you, I want to know you're on your way to being a free man."
Will nodded, then said, "I have an erection, Pete."
Peter grinned at the unexpected statement. "Yeah, I noticed."
"I can't go back inside with a hard on. She'll notice, too."
"Think about your parents having sex," Peter said, trying to bite back his laughter.
Will made a slightly disgusted face and shook his head. "Gonna take more than that. You're a very arousing man and not even Tobias and Inez After Dark can cancel out that fact."
Peter pursed his lips, thinking while he slid a hand down to slowly rub Will's backside.
"Not helping, by the way," Will said, though he made no other effort to make Peter move his hand.
Narrowing his eyes, Peter shifted a little to deliberately cause more friction between them. "Actually, it's helping me a lot."
"You want to make me come in my pants, don't you?"
"Nah. That would be a waste of perfectly good come, and, trust me, I don't want to miss a drop."
Will gasped and laughed, embarrassed. "I can't believe you just said that."
"Because... It's..." Will lowered his eyes and shrugged. "I don't know. I just haven't heard a lot of talk like that."
Peter laughed this time and held Will closer to him. "Sweetheart, you're the one deliberately turning me on and saying you were going to--"
"I know, but what you said implied that you'd...you know." Will suddenly felt very inexperienced and more than a little foolish. "You'd want...that."
Frowning, Peter rubbed Will's back. "Want what? Your spunk? Your jizz? Your man gravy?" He started laughing harder as he spoke until Will smacked his arm.
"Stop saying that!" he scolded, trying to keep a straight face. "But, um, yeah... That."
"Lemme guess," Peter snorted. "Talia spits it out."
"Talia has threatened to cut off my balls if it even gets that far," Will said with a chagrined smile. "Christmases and birthdays, my friend. That's when Little Will gets the spotlight and Talia grabs a box of tissues."
"What does she like to do, then?" Peter asked, sure that talking about his wife would help Will to cool off. It was definitely working for him.
"Missionary, mostly, though occasionally she likes to be on top."
"What about doggie style?"
"What do you think?" Will scoffed. "No, Talia is a vanilla kind of gal when it comes to sex. She won't even let me go down on her."
"Thank Christ for that," Peter said, pretending to gag. "I do not need that mental image in my head. It's bad enough you've got me thinking about you and Talia having Ward and June Cleaver sex."
"Hey, you asked!" Will giggled.
"Yeah, well, I'm not hard anymore," Peter said.
"Neither am I," Will said, then frowned. "Bastard."
"What? Isn't that what you wanted?"
"I was kind of hoping you'd, you know, take care of it."
"How? A quick grope in the bushes?"
"Truthfully?" Will smiled. "Something like that, yeah."
Peter raised an eyebrow. "How the hell can you be both a prude and a pervert?"
"I'm not either of those things," Will protested.
Will tried to scowl at him but only started smiling again, so he kissed him instead. "You wouldn't want to fool around a little before I have to go talk to the witch?"
"Yeah, I would, so it's too bad it's not gonna happen," Peter said, though it took all of the self-control he had inside him to not take Will up on that proposal. "Go inside and talk to your wife. Call me in the morning and we'll take things from there, okay?"
Will sighed and leaned against Peter for a moment. "Okay," he said softly, "but it's going to be a long night."
"I know, sweetheart," Peter whispered, kissing his cheek before gently pushing him away. "Now, go."
Will didn't bother to wait for Peter to get into his car before turning to head back into the house. He wanted to confront his wife while he was still angry about her behavior. This time, he wasn't going to let her get away with it.
Talia was still sitting on the love seat, sipping her coffee as if nothing had happened when Will walked back into the formal living room. He cleared his throat, making her look up at him.
"Did you see your little friend off?" she asked, putting down her cup and lifting her feet up onto the seat, making it clear she didn't want Will to sit down next to her.
"What's your problem?" he asked, his voice cold. "I know you're drunk, but there's got to be something more there."
"Oh, I don't know," Talia giggled. "Maybe I don't like some faggot piece of trash coming into my house and trying to play up to my friends and my husband."
Will clenched his fists and forced himself to take a seat on the opposite side of the room. He would never hit a woman, not even a bitch like his wife, but he wanted to be as far from her as he could at that very moment.
"So, you're upset that Peter is a friendly guy," Will said, thinking he sounded fairly reasonable.
"Overly friendly," Talia corrected him. "He doesn't know his place."
"What the hell did he do that was overly friendly?" Will asked, trying to think if maybe Peter had said or done something to let on how much they were attracted to one another.
"He talks too much, for one thing," Talia snorted, seeming quite put out by that fact. "And he acts as if he knows you better than I do."
"Maybe that's because he does," Will said. "Peter knows me better than anyone else on this planet."
"Is that so?" Talia smirked and shook her head as she took another sip of coffee. "I suppose I thought I had the market on knowing you, seeing as we've been married for longer than you've actually wanted to be friends with him."
Will couldn't argue with that, but he didn't want Talia to think she knew him at all when she really didn't. "You wouldn't believe how much you don't know about me, Talia," he said, his voice soft but the intent behind the words firm.
"So you're buying into his act?" she asked. "You really think he knows or cares about you? He's just looking for a way to have some fun with a straight man."
"Is that why you brought up Kory?" Will asked, surprised that Talia really saw Peter as a predator that way. "You were hoping to put him in his place?"
Talia nodded and smiled sweetly. "I thought it best to let Nancy and George know who they were dealing with."
"In case you didn't notice, Nancy didn't have a problem with it," Will said.
"Yes, but that's because Nancy's a sweetheart," Talia pointed out. "George is the one who would have the problem. If I know him, he's telling her that they won't be spending any more time with Peter."
"Why, Talia?" Will asked softly. "Why do you hate gay people so much?"
"Because I was raised the right way," she said to him as if lecturing him. "My father was a good Christian man who raised his daughter to have good conservative Christian values. I'm sorry, Will, but those values don't include letting some homo into my life."
He narrowed his eyes at her, feeling disgusted with her for the first time in his life. There had been plenty of times when he'd hated her or pitied her for the way she thought, but this was the first time he felt actual disgust when he looked at her. He knew that it was because she was talking about who he was, too.
"I remember when you used to have those values, too, William," she continued. "It's why Daddy was so happy that I married you."
"I think you've got me confused with my father," Will said bitterly. "He was the conservative homophobe in the family. Not me."
"Is that what I am? A homophobe?" Talia wrinkled her nose. "It's such a nasty word."
"Well, if the shoe fits..." Will said wryly.
"I suppose you're right." Talia sighed and carefully got to her feet. "But you did take me for better or for worse. I'm not sure why this matters to you all of a sudden, anyway. Since when are you such a huge fan of the queers?"
Will watched her stumble a little but didn't move to help her. He hoped she'd fall on her face, but she recovered easily enough.
"Because the man I consider to be my best friend happens to be gay. That makes it matter to me." And I'm in love with him. The thought lingered in his head but he knew he would never have the nerve to say those words to her, no matter how angry he was.
"He couldn't be that good a friend if you spent all those years not talking to him." She laughed softly. "I'm sure if you give it enough time, you'll get tired of him again and cut him out of your life."
"And if I don't?"
She hung onto the back of the love seat and turned an icy stare on him. "Then I suppose your friend won't be getting any more dinner invitations, will he? You'll just have to see him without me around."
Will swallowed, then slowly got to his feet. "I want a divorce."
Talia raised an eyebrow. "What?" she whispered.
"I want a divorce," he repeated, his voice firmer this time. "I don't want to be married to someone who thinks the way you do."
"Don't be ridiculous," Talia finally said, her voice a rasp. "You will never divorce me." The way she said it was almost a threat. "I know you, Will. You have far too much invested in this marriage and you're afraid of anything changing." She laughed bitterly then. "And you know deep down that you'd never find anyone else who would want to marry you and put up with your stupid, whiny, spineless shit."
She didn't wait for him to respond as she turned and headed for the stairs. Will sat back down in his chair and closed his eyes so he wouldn't shout out something he shouldn't. He was determined to broach the subject again in the morning once she was sober.