I wake alone for the first time in ages. Tom’s prediction about Peter sleeping for a long time was clearly off. I follow my nose to the kitchen where Peter has bread baking and a half drunk pot of coffee in front of him.
“What you up to?” I ask gently.
“I’m making a list. Thanks so much for last night. I feel so good now and my head is clear. It really helped. I hope you’re okay with it.” Peter says sounding really bright and happy.
“Whats on the list?” I ask.
“All the people who could have taken the video and why they’d do it. If we know their motivation we know how to fix it when we work out who it is.” Peter says.
“That sounds productive. What did you bake? It smells so good, how long have you been up?” I ask.
“I woke super early but felt so good I had to get up. You looked too cute and settled to wake. I have morning rolls which can go in in a minute and there is potato bread baking now. I used up the leftovers.” Peter says with a smile.
“You are going to be the best husband.” I say with a grin.
“All yours.” Peter smiles back. I can’t believe the change in him, I feel utterly relieved, this is the most confident and happy I’ve seen him since we got back together, seeing him this way makes me feel proud too.
“Can I read the list?” I ask.
Peter nods and hands it over before dealing with his baking. I pour myself a coffee and read it. He has a lot of notes on all scenarios.
• Jay – Revenge on me and to win Alexander back. Nothing can be done.
• Jorge – Money – He won’t want any tape of me exposed as it could affect career – pay off, he won’t ask again.
• Gavin – Money – But we’re being so generous. Hired by someone else?
• Eric – Money, Publicity and Revenge – Pay him and go on his stupid show.
• Blair – Work, Publicity – Maybe there is no tape has been stolen but he is trying to get us to do some show and thinks getting rid of the imaginary tape will help, a hold he can reuse. Maybe we can do some work he wants and it will go away? Change agents?
• Asassin – Revenge – Police
• Mrs Emerald’s killer – revenge – police
• Australian nutjob – revenge – police
• Jasper – revenge, money – pay off but would probably need something else
• Bobbie? With Jorge and Brendan? – revenge, money?
• Anyone from work or in industry?
• Someone else?
• Any other exes of Alexander.
• Another actor?
“You’ve been busy. Do you really suspect all these?” I ask.
“I don’t suspect anyone. I’ve thought of reasons to discount everyone. The thought that it’s a fake Blair plot is niggling me. I don’t know what his plan would be. We also don’t know for sure it’s the video with Gabe, maybe Jorge secretly filmed us or Jasper set me up or someone used a long lens on us on the beach.” Peter says.
“I hadn’t thought about that. I don’t think we’ve ever seen any boats even from the house.” I say.
“I know and if it is Blair that’s an easy fix, a kick in the gut. I just don’t think he’d have dragged me out of work. I know you don’t agree but I really do think it’s Jay and I think Blair knows it is and that is why he has been so proactive, hiring the investigator and everything.” Peter says.
“Jay doesn’t need money and he likes recognition as being the good guy, the best guy, the chosen one. Sneaky is not his style.” I say firmly.
“Well all those texts to you and Harry, calling me at work, not sneaky but not his usual style either. He’s having a hard time with us, that Harry business, losing respect from Blair and with Mart and John not doing well. Maybe this is him lashing out and sticking to us and Blair at once.” Peter says.
“And if Mart and John found out he could lose them. I don’t think he’d risk that.” I say.
“Alexander is right, Jay has too much to lose.” Tom says coming in.
“Well I’ve emailed the police detective from years ago and asked if he’s heard anything. I’m looking into getting an investigator of our own and now I’m going to enjoy a weekend with my boo.” Peter says confidently getting the rolls out the oven and slamming the tray down.
“Oh wow those smell amazing. Do we have real butter?” Tom asks and Peter smiles.
I realize he’s baked these for Tom, probably as a thank-you. I don’t think for more.
“Here.” I say opening the fridge and taking out the butter. I dig around for honey and preserves while Peter makes fresh coffee.
“I’m going to sort things with Harry today. Please can you never tell him about last night?” Tom says.
“Of course. I’m really sorry for putting you in that position last night. I’m grateful, really grateful you were there for me like that but I should never have asked. I know how much being cheated on sucks.” Peter says.
“I wanted to be there for you. For both of you and knowing that I wanted that far more than I wanted Harry made me realise I was done. I just don’t think he deserves to be upset by this.” Tom says.
“Agreed. We’ll never mention it.” I say feeling terrible for treating Harry badly but know that I’d do it again to have Peter in this good a mood.
“Are you okay with last night? Did I overstep?” Tom asks.
“Peter needed us both. If I wasn’t happy I would have told you to leave last night.” I say.
“Good. You two have been amazing letting me stay and borrow a car and baking me my favourite bread.” Tom says.
“We love having you, you’re a really easy houseguest.” I say.
“I love having you both with me all the time. I know I’m not the easiest right now and its good for Alexander to have some back up.” Peter says.
“You are not at all difficult.” Tom says.
“You’re everything to me. Nothing is a chore.” I say meaning it. Tom catches my eye and grins, things between us have changed. I trust Tom fully and I know he loves me for loving Peter and taking care of him. I feel like this visit has been him checking up on me and I’ve passed the test.
“Thanks. Can we go to the beach now?” Peter asks.
“I have booked us a couple’s massage. Let’s do then we can get picnic things and see how the demolition is going.” I say.
“I think you are going to be the best husband.” Peter says kissing my cheek.
We finish up eating and drinking before showering and starting our day.
I really enjoy the massage, I never used to like that stuff but Eric loved them and once I learned to relax and enjoy them. It’s nice to think of a positive coming from that relationship when it caused me so much pain.
“That was lovely, thanks baby.” Peter says as we walk to the car.
“I’ve really missed seeing you so relaxed. Even last weekend camping you weren’t this way.” I say.
“I think its because something bad is happening. I’m not waiting for it to happen any more. Things have been amazing, yes I’ve been working too much, overdoing it, a bit out of control but mostly things have been amazing and I’m not used to it.” Peter says.
“Silly. Our life is awesome and we’re the luckiest men in the world.” I say.
“I know. If this tape comes out you will still marry me and when I realized that I knew everything will be amazing. I cannot wait to get married.” Peter says with a huge smile. This feels real but I now have his paranoia, after Tom’s comments I’m on high alert for Peter breaking down.
“I really appreciate you taking two weekends off.” I say.
“I’ve done all I can for now on the books. Work if I don’t finish it’s not like the rest of the team are incompetent. I want to spend time with you. No point killing myself with stress before the wedding.” Peter says and I tear up. He’s going to be okay. Whatever happens he’s going to be okay.
We marvel at how much of the old house has been taken down already then head down to the beach. We swim for a long time, enjoying the water on a hot day. Peter attacks the water as if in a race before getting tired and spending time splashing about with me. I wonder if either of us could have been athletes. Peter not swimming in college was understandable given his relationship with his coach and the Aaron blackmail.
“We should get back to playing water polo.” I say laughing.
“I tried a bunch of sports teams when I moved out here, didn’t even cross my mind to get back in the pool.” Peter says shaking his head at me.
“I love how your hair has come back.” I say reaching for him.
“I know you do, you play with it all the time.” Peter laughs and reaches for mine before faking back and scooping me up in his arms. He swings me around before threatening to throw me. I cling on round his neck and kiss him to distract him.
We lie in the sun reading and talking and just resting. These weekends just us resting are doing us both a lot of good.
“You really are my Peter today.” I say.
“I know, I feel it, inside out.” Peter says with a grin.
“I hope Harry is okay.” I say quietly.
“Me too. I thought they were really good together. I want Tom to be really happy. With his new job he’ll be settled and be able to have something real.” Peter says.
“He’s a great guy. I think maybe Harry just isn’t ready yet, he wasn’t for Jay and he probably isn’t for Tom, both chances came too soon.” I say.
“Like us, we met too soon.” Peter says.
“Nah we just needed a few trial runs and do overs to get it right.” I laugh.
“Lots and lots of practice. I love you Alexander. My lifetime love.” Peter says and I just can’t speak.
Again we stay late huddled together to keep warm and enjoy just being together.
The following day Peter gets down to some work and I potter around the house thinking about what to do. If we should go ahead selling to Felix and Gavin or wait until we know what the answer to the video issue is.
“I heard back from the police detective.” Peter say in the evening.
“Good news?” I ask hopeful.
“Yeah he said to take all the criminals off the list it just isn’t their style and wouldn’t generate enough money.” Peter says.
“That’s not good that means it is more likely someone we know.” I say unhappy.
“I know. He told us to get in touch straight away if there is an extortion attempt and he’s going to ask some colleagues if they’ve heard anything.” Peter says.
“I’m heading back to the city for a few days. I think it would be awkward to be here when Jamie and Brian arrive. And you’ll be up Friday anyway.” Tom says coming in and cutting our conversation short.
“Did it go badly with Harry?” I ask.
“No not really, he felt the same. He wants to take the time to really get over Bobbie and he really wants to take the opportunity in Australia. It was pretty mutual.” Tom says.
“Glad to hear it. I want to stay friends with Harry.” Peter says and hugs his friend.
“On Sunday we get a preview of the pilot of Eric’s reality show. We’re planning a screening for all of us and we need you there too.” I say.
“I’m sure I can manage that. So you’ll be doing your interview then too?” Tom asks.
“Yes we’re recording on Monday. I’m never going to be able to leave my work, I keep having days off.” Peter laughs.
“Is it a problem?” I ask.
“No it really isn’t, all my outside work is publicity for school. They’re very encouraging.” Peter says.
“I’ve had an idea about your TV show.” Tom says.
“Nope, no TV show, too boring.” Peter says.
“I was thinking about either you having a co-host or you just being one of the subject experts so it’s not your show but a group of you, more magazine format.” Tom says.
“I like the co-host idea, it needs to be a woman. Someone you can harmlessly flirt with who really knows her stuff. Someone for the Dads as sexist as that sounds. I don’t think we can sell a show where Peter is the minor player without the costs going up too much, there needs to be a star and to be fair Peter is a cheap one.” I say.
“I’m in no way a star but dammit you’re both right. Go on update the pitch and get stuck in; both of you. The house project isn’t taking so much of your time right now.” Peter says and Tom and I exchange smiles.
“We’ll need a list of people. I’ll do some research and see if we can setup some screen tests. We don’t need to sort everything this minute, I’ll talk to Blair and we can talk to Brian and Harry and you can think about people.” I say.
“Do we just ignore the video? That I could become a pariah shortly?” Peter asks.
“Yes we ignore it. I’m certain there will be a chance for resolution before it is leaked.” I say more confidently than I feel about it.
“I’ll call you in the week. My car will be here in a minute. See you on Sunday.” Tom says and kisses us both goodbye.
I spend the start of the week wedding planning and answering questions on the house while Peter works. He puts in long days again and I worry about how stressed he is. He has hired an investigator but is being pretty secretive about it all. I don’t know how else I can let him know I love him and I will always love him whatever happens.
On Wednesday we go over to Felix place to have dinner with everyone. I am very apprehensive about seeing Gavin. I know Peter trusts him and I know the longer he stays with Felix the more unlikely it is that it was him but I’m still massively uneasy.
Brian has changed a lot since we graduated, he’s plumper now and his hair is thinning, he’s taken on the jolly fat man personality though he’s not that big. He and Jamie are as solid as ever, I frequently see Jamie looking over at his husband and the glow he projects is wonderful. Jamie is quieter, better put together in his clothing choices and a little aloof. He’s more serious and ambitious than when we left college.
“So good to finally see you two together. I’ve been holding my breath for weeks and crossing my fingers that you’ll last.” Brian says laughing and hugging us both.
“Really sorry about your divorce Harry, we thought you two would make it.” Jamie says.
“It’s okay, I’m enjoying a bit of freedom, being able to concentrate on my career opportunities without worrying about the impact on his is so freeing.” Harry says.
Gavin is standing back from the group shy and nervous and in the split second watching him worry about meeting Felix best friend I realize it absolutely is not him who stole the video, or if it was he would bury it rather than ever do anything to jeopardize his relationship with Felix. I feel the tension leave my body and exhale audibly.
“What was that?” Peter whispers.
“It wasn’t him.” I say quietly.
“I know. I already had him checked out and he does have a past with hacking but my problem is not his thing. If you’re okay with it I’m going to ask him to help me.” Peter says quietly.
“For sure. If I’m totally wrong and it was him I think he’d close the trail while helping which would be just as good an outcome.” I say quietly.
“Exactly. He’s a good guy, look at him, he’ll never hurt Felix.” Peter says quietly.
“So do you have some work appointments while out here?” I ask Jamie as he comes over.
“Actually we both have job interviews while we’re here. Some further south but look at you guys all together, we should be here too. Brian is finishing his post doc position this semester and is ready for the real world and I need a change. Felix is not going to be moving back east and we’d love to see more of you guys.” Jamie says sincerely.
“I’m so excited at the thought. It would be great to have you around, we could get out on our bikes at weekends again.” Peter says.
“Oh god that sounds good. I ride a stationary bike in work with one of those video screen that takes you on exotic rides. I’d love to actually be outside. We used to have such fun. And Brian could use the exercise.” Jamie says loudly teasing his man.
“That is very true, I need Peter to kick me back into shape again. I miss your gym sessions but I never had the confidence to use a public gym and we don’t have the space at home.” Brian says coming over.
“Have you both met Gavin properly?” I ask.
“Only just been introduced. Poor thing is terrified.” Brian says.
“I love him already, he loves Felix.” Jamie says quietly with a smile.
We have a fun dinner trying to bring Gavin in to conversation and after a glass or two he’s at ease.
“Have you been in touch with Eric?” I ask towards the end of the evening.
“He called us last week, which was the first time we’ve heard from him in months. I think he was trying to work out if we’d sell any stories on him if his show takes off. We are going to see him on Saturday.” Jamie says.
“But we didn’t tell him about seeing his show on Sunday.” Brian says.
“So are you staying over Saturday night?” Peter asks.
“Yes the four of us, so we can quiz Gavin properly.” Brian laughs and Gavin blushes.
“I might not make it up Sunday. I need to work on some grant applications and could do with a rest. The last few weeks have been pretty full on.” Harry says.
“Are you sure? Do you want me to get a copy of the show to you?” I ask.
“I’ll watch it on TV. I’m certain I won’t be mentioned.” Harry says.
“One of the gossip sites has approached me, asking me to do a weekly recap when it airs. I need to get back to them this week.” Felix says surprising us all.
“Fine with me, if you’re not mean about me or Alexander.” Peter says.
“You’ll need to be a bitchy about something, we won’t take it personally.” I say.
“Will you ask Eric?” Brian asks.
“No, I don’t talk to him.” Felix says curtly.
“I think it sounds fun, a nice little income boost.” Jamie says.
“That sounded so patronising bro.” Felix laughs.
“I know I’m sorry, forever reducing you to the little housewife.” Jamie laughs.
Its nice to see the two of them teasing each other, they still have a very strong spark, it’s just so different to the one Jamie shares with Brian.
“So has Gavin passed inspection?” Peter asks.
“So far. We have a few more tests for him, hoops to jump through.” Jamie says.
“I don’t do anything physical. Unless it’s in bed.” Gavin laughs.
“And he makes that a real workout, I hope you brought ear plugs.” Felix grins.
“And have Jamie and Brian passed the test or are you running for the hills now you’ve met the besties?” Peter asks.
“Oh so far so good. Though I believe we are in need of a nerd off.” Gavin laughs, he’s so much more relaxed than earlier. Seeing them together he’s very different to the Jamie of now, he’s more like Brian used to be but with some extra quiet confidence. Still I’m certain my earlier instinct was right.
We drink late into the night and I realize the time and panic about getting Peter home.
“It’s been so nice. I wish we could see you more this visit.” I say.
“Gavin can we have lunch tomorrow?” Peter asks as we prepare to leave.
“Sure. I’ll call you at work.” Gavin says.