George Smiley was halfway through his breakfast the first time he noticed the messages on his toast. By the time he caught it, all that was left was a single G, half covered by egg.
Glancing up at Peter's turned back, George carefully scraped the egg from the second slice of toast to expose a single word:
Scooping the eggs back onto it, George watched the other man carefully, but said nothing about the letter in his breakfast.
The very next day, George began writing down in small, cramped handwriting in a tiny notebook, the messages left on the toast each morning. A majority of them were quietly sincere messages; little forms of endearment that Peter's personality did not lend itself to expressing.
It was also through a piece of toast that George learned that the old catfish at the bottom of the fish pond, affectionately called Percy by Peter, had turned up dead. Peter never said a word about it, but quietly acknowledged his sorrow over breakfast through a silent drop of the eyes when the older man gave him a knowing look.
It was shortly after George's second heart attack that, while eating breakfast, Peter found a message carefully inscribed in blackened letters on his own toast, the contents of which pulled a small gasp from his lungs.
Hearing him, George glanced up from his own breakfast, making silent eye contact across the table as if to ask the younger man not to say what he was thinking. Swallowing around a shard of ice in his throat, Peter lowered his eyes and used his fork to slide his eggs onto his toast before continuing the meal in uneasy silence.
After George's death, it was months before Peter could bring himself to go through his things. Box after box of papers were packed before he came across the tiny notebook, labelled carefully "Messages on Toast." Swallowing painfully, Peter began to read through the volume; it contained every message that he had sent through breakfast up until the day of George's own scorched letter. The rest of the pages were left blank, almost in hope of new messages.
Except there had been none.
After the receipt of George's message, Peter had ceased entirely to send messages. He recalled that every morning, George's tiny notebook - this tiny notebook - had been present, but every morning after that morning, it remained unmarked.
And now here it was, half-empty and worn, not unlike George in the end, and closing his eyes, Peter carefully tucked the notebook into his suit pocket before returning to boxing books.