"This job is ruthless. Everyone loses something or someone important, but there's no time to pick up the pieces before the next game starts. You just carry on and hope no one sees you crying."
Loyal to his profession. Dedicated to his job. Just trying to bring in the money to pay for the rent. Or being a fucking walkover as William would so gently put it sometimes. Of course, he hadn't told William what his job was, but seeing as they shared the same apartment (and the same bed), it was evident that he spent a little too much time at work. William never made a fuss though. He accepted it. Peter loved him, and could never thank him enough for that.
Their relationship was so unconventional that it was nearly unbelievable, and if anyone at the Circus found out, he would be dismissed in all but a few seconds. Of course, George knew, but then again, he noticed and knew everything. He couldn't help but hate him for what he had implied and caused. If there's anything you need cleared up, now is the time to do it. He knew; he knew that William would have to go.
The first time they met had been whilst Peter was on the receiving end of Ricki Tarr's foul mouth outside some café in the Western side of London. William had been on a date set up by some of his ridiculous friends, but was absentmindedly staring out of the window as the rather attractive woman opposite him rabbited on about her ex-fiancé. Every other man, young to the pensioner sat in the corner, was admiring the leggy blonde, but William really couldn't care less about her. She was wearing completely indecent clothing: a skirt ending way above her knee and a jumper with a neckline that was too low even for a dominatrix.
William had sandy coloured hair, a result of serving in France during the war as a teenager, at just sixteen. The sun damage had permanently changed his hair from dark to blonde, and he didn't really like it. He was nearing forty, and should be married by now, but every woman he came across just didn't suit what he was looking for. He didn't really know what he was looking for. But then he realized who he was looking at.
The man outside, the one he had inattentively staring at out of the window, was very tall, even taller than the spindly woman currently sipping at tea, leaving irritating lipstick marks on the china. He had straight, strawberry-blonde hair and was sporting a rather tight fitted three piece suit with a startling blue large-knotted tie. He looked like he was in his early thirties, and even though he wasn't homosexual, William knew an attractive man when he saw him.
The man he was standing beside was shorter, younger and had bruises all over his face, like he had been in some sort of large punch-up with a wrestler. The younger man appeared to be shouting, but the taller one wasn't listening, looking around, bored with the complaints. He briefly caught William's eye and gave the corner of his lip turned up into a humorous smirk. He turned back to the bruised man, just as he punched him straight in the face.
Without even thinking about it, William leapt up from his seat in the café, apologized profusely to his date and ran outside to find the bruised man gone, and the other sat on the bench outside the café, sporting a bloody nose. The man looked up at him, and tilted his head slightly, as if considering William, seeing if he was suitable company. After a few seconds, William sat down anyway and offered the man a tissue and a cigarette with a lighter in tow.
It all started from there on.
They lived together for three years before the mole in the Circus appeared. And that was when George gave the instruction to get rid of William. On his way home, Peter thought of what it would be like to live in the apartment without him, and it ripped his insides apart. But he had to protect him, because, even though he hated George for having to say it, Smiley was right. Alleline must've known he was working outside the family, and would be sending all of his little posse around after him, so it was for his reputation that he had to ask William to leave. He hated himself for having to do this.
When he walked into the apartment, his briefcase barely remaining inside his quivering fist, he was greeted by William sat at their table, working. Peter stared at him, admiring him from a few metres behind as William talked about his work. When he signed his final signature, he swivelled around, and immediately knew something to be wrong.
Peter hung his head as William packed away his clothes, unable to stop the tears caressing his cleanly shaven cheeks, trawling over his impact-high cheekbones. He could see William's hands trembling as he zipped up his suitcase, and it was horrible how a younger man could make someone seven years his senior feel like a bullied schoolboy. When he was finished, William breathed out loudly, and then sniffed loudly, playing under the pretence of blowing his nose.
'If there's someone else, you can tell me,' he spoke reasonably, but the look Peter gave him wiped this from his mind. He might be hopelessly in love with this man, so much more than he could ever believe, but he was intelligent – he knew it wasn't a case of cheating. Because it sounded vain, but he knew Peter loved him too. That man, gosh, that impossible man – he was so difficult with his emotions that it had taken him a good six months to get him to admit to it. And all of the months they had spent together it was all for nothing.
'I'm a grownup,' William finished, before dropping his keys onto the table and walking out of the flat, his heart sinking to the ground. As soon as he slammed the door shut behind him, he slumped down against the front door of the apartment and brought his knees up to his chin and let out the tears he had been restraining. Inside the apartment, he could hear Peter doing the same thing. He couldn't understand how there could be a reason for this – it was obvious neither one of them wanted it. They both broke their hearts there and then. Beyond repair.
'You know, I'm the leader of the British Intelligence Service-' George Smiley began, placing his hands on the desk in front of him and intertwining his fingers together in one large fist. He had pulled Peter inside the lavishly decorated meeting room, seeing that he had been acting rather depressed ever since Bill Haydon had been revealed as the mole, and the Circus has been handed over on a silver platter to the good guys.
Peter looked dishevelled; his hair was greasy and had reverted back to the curls he had had when he was a young child. His aquamarine eyes were constantly coated in redness, the capillaries bursting in his eyes, and the skin above his cheekbones was grey and dark, casting a shadow over his usual handsome features. His skin was becoming more translucent every day, and he looked so damn tired. He was working overtime, often sleeping at work and relying on coffee to keep him awake. He looked like he had lost the will to live.
'Congratulations, I hadn't noticed,' Peter said sarcastically, snapping violently at his mentor, but then realizing what he had just done and allowing the faintest of blushes to grace his face. Smiley seemed to notice his irritation and just moved on.
'Don't interrupt me Peter. As I was saying, I am now in control of the Circus, and I have an innumerable amount of undercover agents at my disposal,' George offered up, his tone appealing and calm, trying to cool the rage that he could tell was bubbling up inside the young ginger man.
Peter looked confused, and shrugged carelessly. 'What does this have to do with me?' he asked casually, wondering if anything had actually happened that required him maybe changing his job. He was quite alright being the head of the scalp-hunters.
'It means that I can easily find William. I know he's been missing ever since the mess with Bill Haydon was resolved.'
'No. Thank you.' Guillam spoke harshly and coolly, looking away from Smiley and observing the room, even though he had spent nearly a day a week in here since his inception in the Circus.
'I can assure you that it's no trouble Peter,' George said softly, but Peter stopped him.
'No really George. Thank you for the offer but it is all alright,' Guillam stated, trying to stay calm and collected. His emotions were beginning to get the better of him though. He didn't display happiness and joy well, but anger and annoyance and hatred were easy. The typical heartbroken man.
Smiley leant back in his chair and let a small grimace cross his lips. 'I know what it's like to lose someone Peter, I can sympathise,' George murmured quietly, referring to Ann in his suggestion. She had come back, but he still had trouble forgiving her, like he had done every other time. He meant to comfort Guillam because he was like a son to him, but this seemed to infuriate him even further.
The blood rushed to Peter's face and without a word of warning, he viciously kicked the chair out behind him and it flew across the room and smashed into the orange wall. He stood to his feet, towering over George, and for the first time in years, Smiley felt nervous. 'I don't want your sympathy!' Peter roared, his voice low and loud, reverberating and echoing in the room, alerting the people outside in the office that something had happened.
'You lost Ann, I get that, but you've got her back. It's alright for you! I don't need you to go and find William for me because I already know where he is! And he told me that if my work meant more to me than he did then he wasn't bothering to come back!' Peter yelled, and he promptly collapsed into the chair next to the one he kicked away and covered his face with his hands, horrified at his outburst.
'But surely his safety was why you had to make him leave?' George asked profoundly, his confusion shaking his words, alongside the sympathy that Peter had made certain he didn't want.
'Exactly,' Peter murmured, 'but he's still not coming back.'
A year passed, followed by another, followed by another, and before he noticed, a decade had passed. The next time Peter saw William was when he was stood next to his now ex-lover's gravestone. He was killed in the Vietnam War, at the fall of Saigon. Peter never understood why he went when Britain wasn't even involved. Maybe it was because he needed to do something, maybe it was because he wanted to make him feel guilty – maybe it was just because he wanted to die. All Peter knew was that he would never love anyone else ever again.
Three old women all walking past stared at him in incredulity as he fell down onto the knees of his suave nylon suit and wept loudly, allowing all of his grief which had possessed him since William had gone all those years ago. But now he was really gone, and he definitely wasn't coming back. Through the ten years, Guillam had spent up to weeks at a time scouring the country, trying to find him and beg him to come back because he missed him so damn much but it was like looking for a needle in a haystack.
Every night after that, after his funeral, Peter dressed in the one shirt William had neglected to take with him (the one Peter had given him for his birthday one year), clambered into the bed which now felt so empty – more than he had when he had been alive but still gone – and wondered whether his job had been worth it.