A loud knock came at the door, momentarily interrupting your focus on setting the table for dinner. Your guests weren’t expected for another hour or so, but you figured that someone had decided to be extra punctual in order to make up for their chronic lateness.
“Come in!” you hollered towards the door. The handle turned, and in came Pete, the guitarist of your boyfriend’s band. He clutched an umbrella in one hand, still dripping from his time out in the rain. Glancing out the window, you frowned at the gloomy London sky; it had been pouring for nearly a week straight without any sign of stopping.
“Afternoon, Y/N,” Pete greeted you, stepping out of his scuffed penny loafers and depositing them on the shoe rack beside the door.
“Just hang your umbrella up—”
“On the hook behind the door,” Pete finished for you. “Don’t worry, I know.” You held your hands up in a quick apology; sometimes it slipped your mind that Pete had been coming to the flat to see John since long before you moved in. He swung the door shut, closing it with a socked foot, and came to lean on the back of the chair at the head of the table.
“You’re quite early,” you noted, looking up from the other end of the table. Pete reached over the chair and adjusted the cloth napkin you’d folded atop one of the plates, which was slightly crooked.
“Is that allowed?” he inquired, observing you with tired eyes. Pete looked as if he hadn’t slept in days, but his outfit tried to convey otherwise. Dressed in dark denim trousers, a cream-coloured roll-neck jumper and a smart black blazer, he looked prim and proper for the dinner party you’d insisted on having in celebration of their latest album release.
“Of course it is,” you replied, looking up sharply. “You know you’re always welcome here.” As John’s closest friend, Pete was often curled up on your sofa with a book, or engaged in a heated discussion with your boyfriend over tour logistics at the table. The guest room was almost exclusively reserved for him, and he used it often, especially after the boys had put away a significant number of drinks after a gig in town.
Satisfied with the way you’d set things up, you stepped back into the kitchen to check on the chicken and lemon potatoes roasting in the oven. Pete followed, stopping at the counter when he saw the plate of hors d’oeurves you’d prepared: crackers stacked with various meats, cheeses and jams. Thinking your attention was on the oven, he reached out and popped one into his mouth.
“Hey, I saw that,” you warned, peeking at him over your shoulder. “Hands in your pockets, Townshend.” He stopped chewing, glancing about as though he hadn’t any idea what you were talking about. Your eyes narrowed suspiciously, but you turned back to the oven, satisfied that he wouldn’t do it again.
“Anything I can help with, Y/N?” he asked, chewing up the prosciutto and jam cracker he’d snatched. You closed the oven and adjusted your apron, flattening it over your knee-length skirt. Pressing your lips together thoughtfully, you considered what else there was left to do before the party.
“You could reach up into the cupboard there and bring down some wine glasses,” you suggested, pointing at the top shelf of the corner cupboard. Pete nodded and set to it, putting his height to good use.
“Red or white?” he asked, comparing the sizes of the glasses he’d retrieved.
“John bought something stupid expensive,” you replied, rolling your eyes. “Take a guess.” Pete replaced the white wine glass and pulled down several more tall, wide glasses from the shelf. He knew his friend well; John had a tendency to spend more than he ought on a bottle of red, just because he could. The rest of you preferred something much sweeter, or much harder, but since you and John were hosting, everyone else would keep their thoughts to themselves on the matter (at least until Keith brought out a flask after dessert).
“How’s your week been?” Pete wondered aloud, wandering out into the dining room to set the glasses beside each plate. “John mentioned that things’ve been rather busy at the hospital.”
“We’ll get past it,” you shrugged nonchalantly, filling a pitcher of water at the tap. It had been at least an hour since you’d thought about work, and you were slightly annoyed by the reminder. “Government’s meddling with funding again, putting their noses in places they ought not to. Unless MPs start coming into the hospitals and seeing what the real issues are, I’m of the opinion that they should be taking direction from those of us on the front lines, doing the real work.” Pete had returned and was leaned against the doorframe, listening to you intently.
“I’ve got loads of respect for nurses like you,” he hummed, his eyes following you as you crossed the kitchen towards the icebox. “I certainly could never take care of sick people day in and day out.”
“It takes a certain kind of person,” you acknowledged with a small grin, “as well as a strong constitution and a poor sense of smell.” Pete chuckled at your remark, amused.
“When’s John due to be home?” he asked, peering down at his wristwatch. After dropping a few ice cubes into the pitcher of water, you set it in the fridge to continue cooling. You checked the clock on the kitchen wall, which read 4:40; John had promised his errand would be short, but it appeared to be taking longer than he’d planned.
“By 5:00, I’m sure,” you estimated, leaning against the counter. The two of you fell into a comfortable silence, content to enjoy the sound of a smooth jazz record playing on the turntable in the sitting room. You glanced around the room, looking to see if anything could be put away while you waited, but saw nothing. When your eyes flickered back to Pete, you noticed that his gaze, icy blue, was locked on you.
Much to your surprise, your stomach fluttered as you took in the sight of his lean, lanky body in the kitchen doorway. Pete’s hair, which had always been a lovely dark brown, was finally growing out. For the years you’d known him, his fringe had been chopped severely across his forehead, and the rest of it kept trimmed back. Now, it was beginning to curl out at the ends, framing his face softly. He was clean-shaven, and his jaw had a nice curve to it, something you hadn’t noticed before – or had you?
After a moment of hesitation, Pete crossed the kitchen toward you. As soon as he left his place in the doorway, you knew what was going to happen, but made no effort to stop it. Why didn’t you? you would wonder later. He stopped inches from you and reached towards you, slipping one hand behind your neck and the other around your waist. He was confident, never wavering from his intention, even though he knew this to be a risky move.
The moment Pete’s lips met yours, you were swept away in the heat of the moment. His nose bumped awkwardly against yours, but that was no matter. His hand tangled in your hair, and he pulled you against him, desperate to be close to you. Against your better judgement, you grasped at his jumper, leaning into the kiss. You sucked in a sharp breath as Pete’s tongue traced along your bottom lip, and as fast as this had all started, it ended.
“Pete, stop,” you gasped, shrinking away from him. He stepped back, his eyes wide with surprise.
“Fuck,” he whispered, pressing a hand to his mouth. You felt yourself begin to tremble, but weren’t sure if it was because of fear, or adrenaline, or something else. This wasn’t supposed to happen. “Y/N, I—”
“Please excuse me,” you interjected, hurrying past him towards the toilet on the other side of the flat. As soon as you were alone with the door closed behind you, you let out an anguished sob. What the bloody hell had just happened?
Glancing in the mirror above the sink, you saw the look of shock in your eyes. Thankfully, you had thought earlier that there was still plenty of time before the dinner began to apply your lipstick, so the only evidence of what had happened between you and Pete was your memory of the moment. You brushed your fingers through your hair, hoping that it was still in good shape. A knock came at the door a minute later, and you felt your pulse quicken.
“Y/N, I’m so sorry,” Pete choked out, his voice thick. “Fuck, please open the door. I need to…I’m so sorry.” Despite the voice at the back of your head telling you to ignore him, you reached for the doorknob with a trembling hand.
Pete stood in the hall, his hands stuffed in his pockets. His expression was one of distress, as if the entire situation hadn’t been his fault. He opened his mouth to speak, but snapped it closed again when the front door opened, announcing John’s arrival.
“Not a word,” you hissed, your voice deadly serious. Pete swallowed hard and nodded, moving back in the hall as you stormed past him. John kicked off his shoes and waltzed into the kitchen, frowning when he saw that you weren’t there.
“Y/N,” he called out, “where are you?”
“Right here,” you announced, plastering a smile on your face. John held a slightly soggy brown paper bag in his arms, containing a variety of vegetables you’d asked him to pick up. His hair was wet from the rain, and his face was peppered with droplets of water he’d neglected to wipe away.
“Hello, love,” he smiled, leaning down to kiss you. Your lips felt as if they were burning; surely if John kissed you, he’d instantly know what had happened. Turning your face to the left, his kiss landed on your rosy cheek. His eyebrows knit together slightly when he pulled back, but he shrugged the incident off; a kiss on the cheek was all well and good, he supposed.
“Did you find everything?” you inquired brightly, reaching up to clear a few drops of rain that had clung to his sideburns. He shook his head like a dog stepping out of a bath, sprinkling you with water. Giggling for real now, you scrunched your nose with mock displeasure; he knew this would make you smile.
“Sure did,” he told you, setting the bag down on the counter. “See, I can get groceries without help.”
“I never said you couldn’t,” you protested indignantly. “I only said that sometimes, you come back with things that weren’t on the list, and without some things that were on the list.”
“Ah,” he nodded, acknowledging the truth in the statement. “Well, sometimes I’d rather buy something delicious than kale, that’s all.” You laughed at his explanation, appreciating the honesty. If nothing else, John always admitted his faults.
“Go change into something less wet while I cut these vegetables up,” you instructed, shooing him out of the kitchen. “Try that blue button-up, it’ll bring out your eyes.” He emitted a low hum in affirmation, allowing you to pass and start pulling things from the grocery bag. Before leaving the kitchen, however, he wrapped his arms around your waist from behind and held you tightly.
“I love you,” he murmured, placing a soft kiss on your neck below the corner of your jaw. “Thank you for putting this all together. I’m sure it’ll be lovely, until Keith gets smashed.” Your body tensed in his arms, but the longer he held you, the more you were able to relax.
“I love you, too,” you replied, resting your head against his. John released you to your work, and walked out of the kitchen, whistling a tune he’d had in his head all week. He slowed as he passed the door, noticing the loafers on the shoe rack.
“Are these Pete’s shoes, love?”
“Yes, he’s just in the toilet, I think,” you called back, your voice wavering slightly. “Came early to make up for being late last time.” John made some noise in response before continuing on into the bedroom.
The vegetables were a welcome distraction, and you allowed yourself to be completely absorbed in the process of cutting them up into bite-sized pieces. In fact, you barely heard the boys’ voices as they walked into the kitchen together, even when the conversation was directed at you. John tapped your shoulder when you didn’t answer his question, making you jump.
“Shit, you scared me,” you huffed, setting the knife down on the cutting board. John apologized with an affectionate squeeze of your shoulder, and repeated himself.
“Does this look alright?” he inquired, gesturing towards his outfit. “Pete says I look like a tosser, but I don’t trust the opinion of a grown man in a roll-neck jumper.” You turned and looked your boyfriend up and down; he had layered an open waistcoat over his collared shirt, which was tucked neatly into his trousers. He certainly cleaned up well, you thought to yourself.
“Looks lovely, darling,” you replied, tilting your chin upwards to receive a kiss, this time accepting it the good, old-fashioned way. “I’m sure even Roger will be jealous.”
Pete stared at you over John’s shoulder, his mouth set in a grim line. It was quite obvious to you that he now regretted his earlier indiscretion. Without a doubt, you knew he wouldn’t say anything to John, and neither would you. As much as John loved Pete, having been friends since they were 12 years old, you doubted he’d appreciate him making a move on his girlfriend.
The door swung open to admit Keith, Roger, and their partners. From the sound of it, Keith was already halfway to pissed, much to the surprise of absolutely no one. You tilted your head towards the door, encouraging John to go supervise, lest his friend decided to go off on the new sofa you’d bought less than two weeks before. Pete remained in the kitchen, loitering near the doorway. You turned back to your task, continuing to slice vegetables.
“Y/N,” he said softly, appearing beside you. “I just need to say that I’m terribly sorry, and that it won’t happen again. I…I overstepped, and I hurt you by doing so. I don’t expect your forgiveness, but I needed to apologize anyways.” You stayed quiet, not daring to look up at him for fear you would start to cry.
“Please go,” you finally managed to squeak out. “I need a moment.” Pete nodded miserably, biting his lip hard enough to draw blood. He wandered out of the kitchen and into the sitting room, leaving you to finish cutting the last section of a cucumber. When you knew you were alone, you leaned forward and pressed your forehead hard against the cupboard.
What the hell is wrong with me? your mind screamed. He kissed me and I liked it. He kissed me and I wanted more. He kissed me and he’s my boyfriend’s best mate. As your mind rambled on, you pulled a glass serving plate down from the cupboard and arranged the vegetables in a pretty pattern, placing a small bowl of homemade cream cheese spinach dip in the centre, which you retrieved from the fridge.
As you’d hoped, the rest of the evening went off without a hitch. Keith stayed relatively sober, Roger and his wife didn’t argue at the table, and John’s wine turned out to be better than any of you had expected. Both you and Pete remained relatively quiet, but others picked up the conversation, chatting about the album release and the impending tour, which was set to begin in a few months.
When everyone had gone home for the night, and the dishes had been dealt with, John scooped you up and carried you, giggling in his arms, to bed. Once you’d turned the lights out, the two of you talked in the dark for nearly half an hour.
“You’re sure everything is alright?” he asked, holding you against his chest. He tucked the blankets up over your shoulders to keep you warm, and kissed the top of your head.
“I’m fine,” you promised. “Just thinking about the tour, and how lonely I’ll be with you gone.” This was true in part; it had been on your mind all evening.
John had nodded off shortly after, due in part to the particularly large glasses of wine he’d had with dinner. After a while, you started to wish you’d drunk as much as he had; every time you tried to close your eyes, you remembered the warmth of Pete’s mouth on yours, the tug of his hand in your hair. It was maddening how persistent these thoughts were.
I love John, and I love our life together, you reassured yourself. I’m just confused because it was sudden and unexpected. Eventually, you drifted into an uneasy sleep. Your only consolation was that Pete was likely having the same problem.
* * * * *
Fucking hell, Pete’s mind howled as he drove from John and Y/N’s flat to his own place. How could you do this, you stupid fucking idiot?
It was a mercy that he wasn’t pulled over, going the speed he was. A drive that should have taken 25 minutes took less than 15. When he made it into his flat, he slammed the door hard, locking it behind him as if that would keep his feelings at bay.
You should have told her how you felt years ago, Pete, his mind continued to shout at him as he slipped between the sheets of his bed. You just had to let things between her and John get serious, though, didn’t you? Now she hates you, John will use your guts as bass strings when he finds out that you kissed her, and you’ll never get to feel the way you felt with her in your arms again.
Pete lay with his eyes closed for over an hour, but sleep refused to come to him. Eventually, he went to the bathroom and fished a bottle of sleeping pills from the medicine cabinet. His doctor had prescribed them to him for insomnia, but had cautioned against regular use, saying that he could seriously fuck up his sleep pattern if he misused them. Well, the man hadn’t used such colourful words, but that was the gist of it.
After another half hour, Pete was out cold, his sleep devoid even of dreams. He would awake late the next afternoon with a wicked hangover, and at that time, would recall the other warning his doctor had given about the sleeping meds: don’t take them with alcohol, it increases their effect. He would revel in the pain, though, in the pounding of his head, because in his mind, he deserved this, after what he’d done the day before.
As much as he blamed himself, though, one niggling thought, or rather, one distinct memory, remained: he’d started things in the kitchen that afternoon, but Y/N had pulled him closer, had deepened the kiss, had let out a sigh of relief against his lips. As much has he had wanted it to start, she hadn’t wanted it to end.