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This wasn’t what Greg had been expecting.

He thought Grandpa Ewan had been greatly exaggerating when he said the Roys were vipers and they would swallow him whole. It was a metaphor, a badly formulated one at that considering it was boa constrictors who squeezed and swallowed their prey.

Thanksgiving dinner had ended badly but then there was a call for another attempt at a familial dinner some weeks later, this one immediate family only, as per Logan Roy’s request. Greg was in attendance. He was rather flattered at being included so readily and Greg sunk into the relaxed mood offered by the snowy evening as the car sent for him dropped him off at Logan and Marcia’s residence. 

Roman was already there as was Shiv and Tom. Kendall showed up ten minutes later looking rather distracted but cooly amiable when his siblings corralled him into their light bickering. The night already felt better than Thanksgiving had. “Too many people,” Logan said when voicing what Greg was thinking halfway through dinner. “It should just be us from now on. We keep trying to include people and, eh.” He looked disgusted.

“That’s kinda the whole point of Thanksgiving, though?” Shiv said. “Family, that sort of stuff.”

“Family,” Logan reiterated with a loose gesture toward who sat at the table currently. Again, Greg was warmed by this sentiment but largely played it off as he cut off another piece of his pork rib and washed it down with his glass of wine.

Greg had only ever wanted to be included in a family. A real family, anyway. A close one. Greg’s mother was cold and his grandfather was seldom interested in grandfather-ly duties. The closest time was when Grandpa Ewan had called Greg over to his house a year or two ago for presumably what Greg expected to be terrible news given he was rarely ever requested especially ‘in-person.’ But all Grandpa Ewan wanted was Greg to try out some new stew he had made with the vegetables he’d grown in his garden.

The Roys were different. They were still standoffish and vicious—dangerously so, Greg was learning—but they were close-knit. It oddly felt like he was adopting an ‘Us against Them’ mentality whenever he was with them, because being with the Roys was an exclusive privilege, like no one would ever really understand them except for each other. Greg had always wanted this; he wanted to be a Roy.

After dinner, they lounged in the nearby sitting room. A fire crackled in the fireplace while business rabble hummed comfortably around Greg. He rose from the couch as Tom called him over to the mantle of the fireplace to show him the framed pictures there. Everyone appeared lax and satisfied for once, all except Kendall.

Kendall’s fingers trembled on the arm of the sofa. When he wasn’t aware of it, Kendall would wring his hands together in his lap or fist the fabric of the cushion he was sitting on. He was antsy and uncomfortable in his own skin tonight, distracted enough to fail to answer when he was asked his opinion on some business matter.

“What’s wrong with you?” Logan asked gruffly. “You feeling all right?”

Kendall cleared his throat but refused eye contact. “No. I, uh. Yeah, I’m all right. I’ve been, um. Busy. Just trying to catch up on everything.”

Logan hummed but the suspicion in his gaze didn’t falter. “Feeling overwhelmed? No funny business, right?”

“No, no,” Kendall said, doing away with suspicions of lingering drug use. “I’m good, Dad.”

Logan cared in his own way. Greg had been trapped in the room some of those times Logan decided to wreak havoc on his children. Greg had never seen Kendall, Shiv and Roman as terrified as they had been during those times. Greg had been terrified too. He had wanted to sink into the floor or become one with the wall when Logan screamed. Greg thought of giving it all up and returning home after a brunch in which Logan had made Roman tear up. It hurt Greg on one hand to see a grown man be torn down by his father in front of everyone but on another to remember that the man trying not to cry was in fact Logan’s youngest, his baby boy.

It was confusing, then, for Greg to see Logan at rare moments like this, genuinely worried about his offspring. Logan looked a tad worried in the eyes as he peered at his son, his pale face, his jittery hands. 

“You’re taking care of yourself, aren’t you?” Logan said. “Making sure to eat?”

Greg’s brow twitched together. They’d just eaten a delicious meal, hearty and probably as expensive as the watch Greg had been gifted by Tom a few weeks ago. Maybe Logan meant metaphorically, ‘eating’ in this sense meaning something like taking a brief time off or maybe taking the time to indulge selfishly in the Roy riches. 

When Kendall did not answer, Logan turned away from him and turned to Marcia, nodding and saying to her, “Get our dessert.”

The other Roy children whipped their heads toward their father at this statement.

“Uhh, Dad?” Roman said. He gestured with his index finger across the room to where Greg was standing. “Remember that Cousin Greg is in the room.”

“I don’t give a fuck,” Logan grumbled. “He’s one of the ones making it worse for Ken right now.”

Shit. Greg was doing something wrong, though he wasn’t sure what it was. Whatever it was was making things worse for Kendall. Greg was about to speak up for himself and ask what he could do to fix it but then Shiv was speaking.

“Dad,” she said, “are you sure you want to do this right now?”

“Siobhan, I’m dealing with your brother.” 

Shiv glanced at Greg, scoffing disbelievingly but not saying anything more.

Just then Marcia returned, this time holding a blue plastic tray. Thin white smoke wafted off the sides of it and dissipated into the air, frozen droplets of water opaque on the plastic’s surface. She lowered the tray to Logan, who took one of the wooden sticks jutting up out of the deep wells and pulled forth his second dessert.

Popsicles? 

It was so cold out already; the first big snow had been on Tuesday and now the frost was sticking around. It was toasty in here though and Greg was cozy in his sweater but not nearly warm enough to consider frozen treats over, say, a slice of hot apple pie.

One by one, the Roys grabbed a popsicle. Tom declined politely even though he was not being offered one. Initially Greg thought they were black in color; maybe a licorice flavor or some other disgusting taste that wealth made you impervious to. He’d have to learn. Yes, he could teach his palate the ways of finer sweets.

“Can I get one?” Greg said before Marcia could leave out of the room with the tray.

Everyone turned to stare at him. It was silent except the firewood popping and hissing in the hearth. Greg tried an awkward smile of confusion, feeling uncomfortable at the sudden attention. Each of their gazes were dark, their irises murky and their pupils unnaturally wider. Greg blinked once, twice, trying not to stare but finding it hard not to when he wasn’t sure if it was just his eyes playing tricks on him. 

And then that was when he saw it. 

The popsicles dripped over the Roys’ fingers and dried on their knuckles, rich and sticky. It was not black but deep scarlet smeared across their lips, especially Kendall who wolfed his down, chomping at the frozen treat and slurping as if he were starving. And it was not a sheen of black but the deepest crimson smeared across Kendall’s mouth, the excess of which dropped thickly down from the corners of Kendall’s mouth. It did not move with the urgency of syrup; it ran and dried at its edges the same as blood.

Greg made an awkward laugh, his pulse jumping beneath his skin. 

It wasn’t… blood. No, that was— 

Greg swallowed, taking in the scene before him, the gore dribbling off Kendall’s chin and tainting the lips of his brother, sister, father. It… it was blood.

The last thing Greg heard was Roman’s voice as he called, “ Timber!” and then everything went black.


Greg had no idea what time it was when he came to.

He was laying on the couch, a cold rag over his forehead and a calming breeze wafting across his face in short pulses. Greg groaned in confusion and was immediately shushed. It made him think of being six years old again, his mother tending to him as he suffered over a fever. 

He kind of missed home. He didn’t feel safe anymore, though he was too groggy at the moment to remember why.

Greg peeked his eyes open and found Marcia sitting on the very edge of the couch by his hip. She fanned him steadily with an embroidered fan, pressing her manicured nails to the nearly folded rag periodically to gauge its temperature. 

“Kendall sends his apologies.”

“E-Eugh?” Greg tried to sit up but his head spun and he fell back against the couch cushion. He scanned the room as best he could and thankfully found it empty. 

“He’s left already,” Marcia said, “but he was rather... upset by your reaction. Kendall requested you call him once you’ve gathered yourself; I believe he wants to apologize.”

“I—“ Greg cleared his throat weakly, “I didn’t mean to offend him.”

“No, no; you didn’t.”

Greg gave a heavy exhale, eyes falling closed and face twitching in discomfort. His head was still spinning and his stomach hurt.

“I don’t know what happened,” he said. “I just… I thought… I don’t know.”

“What is it you thought?”

“I thought it looked like… like they were vampires. Stupid.”

What followed was a long, drawn out silence that Greg registered too late. He opened his eyes to look at Marcia. His stomach plummeted when he recognized the look in her eye as one of cautious, silent affirmation.

Greg bolted upright. 

“They are vampires. What the fuck! ” He pointed at her, accusatory. “You’re a vampire!”

“I’m not,” Marcia assured, “but yes, they are. They all are. It is the Roy family secret. You are family; you should know.”

“This isn’t a joke, right? Some kind of hazing ritual thing.”

“I know it’s a shock now. You will get used to it.” She took the wet rag from where it had fallen off his head and into his lap, stood from the sofa. “There is much to talk about but we can do that later. For now, you need rest. I suggest you go home and sleep. We have a car waiting for you downstairs.”

“No, that’s okay,” Greg said, a little too vehement to be considered polite. He didn’t want to be disposed of after learning about the Roys’ biggest secret, really didn’t want to end up as their next meal or something. “I’ll catch a cab, actually.”

“If you insist,” Marcia said. “Surely I do not have to say that what has been discovered tonight should find itself outside of who was in attendance.”

“No, of course,” Greg said, shaking his head. “Obviously, dude. Sorry! I mean, ma’am. I meant to say ma’am. I’m so sorry, I’m still waking up, I--”

“Sure.” Marcia moved to leave but stopped in the doorway. She looked over her shoulder at him. “Welcome to the family, Greg. Goodnight.”


Vampires worked very differently in real life than they did in the movies.

Greg sat in rapt attention as he watched Kendall twirl a fork in his plate of spaghetti at what Greg had aptly named their ‘apology dinner.’ It was a hole in the wall just south of Washington Square Park, cramped and mostly underground. Greg was thankful for the privacy as much as he was the food; money was still scarce at these first few weeks of his employment. 

He knew he shouldn’t have been staring but he was eager to see whether or not the presence of garlic in the dish would disturb Kendall. Greg didn’t know if he should warn him or not, didn’t want to embarrass himself again so soon but definitely didn’t want a vampire pissed off at him. He decided to keep quiet and watched as Kendall ate the spaghetti, this time much more civilized than he had eaten his blood popsicle.

“Sorry we didn’t tell you,” Kendall said after he’d swallowed without any sign of pain of a melting tongue—honestly Greg wasn’t sure what he expected to happen. “It’s kept under wraps. Lock and key. We’ve all been so busy and you’re not really on our radar. Explaining our inner workings to you wasn’t at the top of our to-do list.”

“No, no, totally. Sorry I passed out. That was… embarrassing.”

“We’ve seen worse.”

Greg’s stomach twisted slightly. The tomato sauce on his porcelain plate looked suspiciously dark all of a sudden. He set aside his fork, wiped his mouth with the napkin on his lap.

“So, uh. Kendall?”

“Mmhm?”

“Does this— ahum— mean, I will… I will be a,” Greg leaned in, whispering, “a vampire , one day?”

Kendall didn’t look up as he wiped his mouth with his napkin. He brought his glass of seltzer to his lips. “Absolutely not.” 

Greg’s shoulders dropped. “Oh.”

“We have a philosophy when it comes to that, Greg.”

“Philosophy,” Greg murmured. He had yet to hear the Roys having any kind of philosophy at all. 

“Yeah. A philosophy that we don’t turn people because it’s...” Kendall swallowed. His hand was balled up into a fist where it rested atop the tablecloth. “We couldn’t live with it. Doing that to someone.”

The conversation had entered a realm Greg felt bad about leading it down, so he quieted, only speaking again when he commented on how delicious the food was. Kendal agreed whole-heartedly, citing this was where he would come when he was younger. Greg wondered if that meant it had been open for more than one hundred years or something. 

“Since you missed out on dessert the other night,” Kendall said as the server placed a moist slice of chocolate cake in front of both of them and Greg was grateful despite how strange this all was. 

Ultimately, the garlic didn’t seem to bother Kendall all that much. If anything, he popped a Tums as they stepped up onto the street and out of the establishment. Greg had secretly asked a server the founding date before following Kendall outside and learned the restaurant was opened a mere fifty years ago, so the jury was still out on vampire immortality. 

“Mind if we cut through Washington Square Park?” Kendall asked. The wind was cold and snowflakes peppered Greg’s face with a stinging bite but Greg agreed anyway.

“Yeah, sure,” he said. “I need to walk off this dinner. Thank you, by the way.”

“No problem. All’s forgiven?”

“One hundred percent, dude. And I hope you forgive me for being an intolerant dickhead.”

Kendall just laughed, didn’t say anything more as they approached Washington Square Park. 

He looked upon the park dusted with snow and glowing beneath the streetlamps with a fondness in his eyes, the same way an old lover would look upon his love or how someone might look at a sunrise in their twilight years. 

“I don’t come here a lot,” Greg said. “It’s really nice.”

“I’ve been through it a million times,” Kendall said with a smile, and he might have meant literally, “but I never get tired of it.”


It was five in the morning and Greg was still half asleep as he sat on the small couch in Shiv and Tom’s bedroom.

Tom was showering in the bathroom while occasionally singing echoed songs Greg couldn’t clearly decipher the lyrics of while Shiv sat with her back to Greg at her vanity. Greg’s reflection in the tall mirror was bleary-eyed, his hair mussed as he hugged a small, green couch pillow to his chest. Shiv’s reflection was also miraculously present as she leaned in close to apply eyeliner, so Greg guessed vampires had reflections after all.

Greg had passed out on Shiv and Tom’s living room couch last night after a lengthy bar outing with Tom. Shiv had roused him awake just before sunrise as she fetched a fresh cup of coffee from the kitchen, telling him to follow her and that they needed to talk. 

“So Kendall said you asked him to turn you.”

“Um,” Greg cleared his throat, but found his voice still groggy with sleep, “not really? Kind of but, it wasn’t a formal proposition. Just a question—“

“It was a mistake asking him. He’s pretty self-loathing because of what he is. He’s firm on the whole ‘not damning another living being to the Hell of insatiable bloodlust,’ thing.”’ Her eyes flitted over to him through the mirror. “Should’ve asked Roman.”

Greg perked up. “Oh yeah?”

“He has no problems fucking someone over. And I,” Shiv brought forth a blush palette, “I would hypothetically turn you if I knew you had something to offer me.”

“Like what?”

“Monetary compensation, probably. Or power. Valuable information. But seeing as you have literally none of those things, you’ll have to stay in the world of the living.”

“Kendall said you weren’t dead, though.”

“We may as well be,” Shiv murmured. The shower turned off in the bathroom and the next chorus belted from Tom was clearly audible. Shiv rolled her eyes, stood from the suede bench and turned to her cousin. “Plus I’m not somewhere in my career currently where I can tend to a baby vampire. Hourly feedings? The constant crying? No thank you.”

“Does it really work like that?” Greg asked but Shiv was already gone into the bathroom to dress in the day’s work attire, saying something behind the closed door sounding like, “Can you not sing so loudly in the morning, please? Thanks.”


Greg’s time at Catholic school actually wasn’t a waste after all; he had an abundance of religious paraphernalia to aid him is his own, privately named, ‘Vampire Experiments.’ 

He found that Kendall gave no acknowledgement when Greg secretly wore a scapular beneath his clothes but Roman full on blanched at the first sight of a crucifix openly hanging on a thin gold chain around Greg neck when Roman opened his apartment door.

The youngest Roy appeared acutely uncomfy, his face contorted and his shoulders scrunched up as he stalked away with a strangled ‘nngh’ high in his throat.

“I should fucking kick you out of my apartment for that.”

“For what?” Greg said, trying to play dumb despite his interest in the affect it had on the vampire.

“You know what, prick.” Roman went over to the minibar in the living room, glanced at Greg while looking kind of vulnerable. “Knock it off, dude. For real.”

Greg tucked the necklace beneath his collar and out of sight. It worked for Roman who said nothing more about it when he turned to hand Greg a drink. 

They clinked their glasses together, threw the harsh liquor back. 

“You’re gonna have to catch up,” Roman said. He placed a hand on his chest, a pained expression on his face. “I’m already a few deep.”

“I’d rather not, actually,” Greg said, already feeling light-headed. “I have things to do tonight.”

Roman scoffed. “Oh yeah? Like what?”

“Well, I need you to sign these papers Kendall gave me? And then I have to go home and do laundry.”

“You’ve never done laundry black-out drunk before? I never have because I don’t do my own laundry but I’m sure you’re missing out.”

Greg whined but drank the next drink Roman poured for him, this one harder than the last. He adamantly refused the next and Roman thankfully left him alone, though that didn’t stop his own drinking pace. 

Greg made sure to get Roman to sign the papers he had been given before he got too fucked up to remember how to sign his name. Roman proved difficult anyway. He waved around the provided fountain pen and made stupid noises of annoyance as he scanned over the long blocks of text. Greg sighed in relief once the last paper was signed, putting it back in the manilla envelope as Roman had another drink. 

The liquor opened him up to talking without Greg having to pry for vampire information; Roman was frighteningly open with his ‘affliction.’ Surely there was no way his neighbors could hear him through the walls of his huge living space, but still, Greg was cautious and wary of the sheer volume Roman was drunkenly speaking about his grand ideas to capitalize on his condition.

“I’ve had the idea to commoticize it for a while now. It would be a pay to play sorta thing. You hack up the cash and you can join the Roys’ growing army of bloodsucking fiends.” 

“You think that’s a possibility? In the future?”

“Dad doesn’t think so. But he can’t see the long game. The world is ending!” Roman counted off on his fingers. “Rampant disease. Exponential wealth inequality. Social unrest. Inept government officials from your local mayor’s office all the way to Washington.”

“It’s always been like that though.”

“Okay,” Roman said mockingly. “Get back to me in forty years then when you’re tired of salvaging for toilet paper in the post-apocalyptic shithole formerly known as ‘Manhattan.’”

“I asked Kendall to turn me. I don’t know if I asked per say, but… He said you all have a philosophy you follow. So I wonder where that fits in your whole plan.”

Roman waved him off. “Yeah, yeah, whatever. That doesn’t really speak to me.”

“Then you’d do it?” Greg asked. “You’d turn me?”

“Sure,” Roman said with a shrug. “You’d have to be my minion for all eternity though. Is that okay with you? Like. Twenty-four-seven assistant until the end of time.”

“I…”

“Hurry up. Yes or no?”

“Uhhh.” Greg looked around the room, snapped his eyes back to Roman as soon as Roman snapped his fingers in front of his face. “Yes. Yes. Okay, I’ll do it.”

Roman’s eyes narrowed. His fingers drew into a fist. “You are mine, motherfucker,” he said darkly. “I have your balls in a vice from now until kingdom come. I will be your fucking god and you will worship at my size seven feet for all eternity. How’s that sound?”

Greg stared down at the bloodsucking pipsqueak.

“Yeah,” Roman grumbled, suddenly wilted and unimpressed. “Sounds pretty boring to me, too.”

“So does that mean—“

“Yup, Greg. Not gonna happen.”

Roman turned his back on Greg so he could walk over to the couch. A movie that Greg hadn’t seen before was playing on the flatscreen. Roman turned it up, asked Greg to stay for a bit. Greg wanted to go home but he didn’t want to seem rude so he decided to stay just a little longer. It must have been silent between them for a whole fifteen minutes when Roman finally spoke, albeit slurred and quiet.

“‘Turn you.’ You don’t want that. They —the people who want to pay—they’ll want that. But you. Not you. You only think you want it. But you should enjoy being human,” Roman said. “It’s shitty being human, I’m sure, but. Being like this is shitty too. Worse than shitty sometimes. Most of the time.” He looked off solemnly. “Maybe I’m saving you from the agony.”

“What’s it like?” Greg asked carefully. “Being like you, I mean.”

Roman furrowed his brow in consideration. “Cold. Freezing . Dark. Time just, slips. And nothing really matters.” Roman shook his head, scowled at his crystal glass clasped in his white-knuckled grip. “It hurts. In every way.” 

“Oh—“

Roman finished his drink and set aside the glass. He winced. “Fuckin’... I feel kinda sick.” He  groaned as he maneuvered onto his side, laying down on the couch. “Fuck.”

“Take it easy, man. Just— yeah.”

“Shut up, Greg.”

Greg did and left Roman alone but decided now that maybe he should finish up the movie because it actually wasn’t that bad. It was an action movie with too many car chases and foul-mouthed meatheads. The credits rolled and Greg pointed at the screen when Roman’s name popped up in the executive producer place.

“Hey, that’s you!”

Greg looked over at Roman and whispered a hissed curse when he saw Roman was passed out. The time on Greg’s watch read almost midnight, so he decided to take his leave but not before taking the blanket folded neatly over the back of the sofa and drawing it over Roman’s curled up form.

Greg was bent over as he did this and as such, the necklace slipped from out of his shirt and dangled precariously over Roman’s sleeping form. Greg paused. He glanced to his left, to his right. He waited for a few additional seconds to make sure Roman had no intention of waking. Then he pinched the top of the tiny crucifix between his fingers. 

Slowly, carefully, and with his heart racing, Greg leaned down a little more and touched the side of Roman’s neck with the bottom of the golden crucifix. Roman gave no reaction. He remained peacefully asleep and unafraid of the thin piece of jewelry. 

And that was when Greg thought perhaps it was the symbol on the front of it that scared him, the embodiment of what the scene represented or what a select few truly believed it represented, anyway—an eternal life, this one out of the dark and actively alive in love.

Greg took the necklace off and pocketed it as he left Roman’s apartment, feeling like a dick for ever having worn it in the first place. 


So garlic was no problem, the lack of reflections a myth and any discomfort around religious iconography was purely psychosomatic. 

Sunlight, however, did have a real effect.

They were on a train weaving through lush green hills of the German countryside. They usually would have taken a helicopter or private plane to business but it was Marcia’s birthday and she wanted to take the scenic route. Logan granted her this and dragged along his whole entourage to partake.

“Why did we have to come?” Roman sneered, pulling on his black jacket to shield his bare arms from the sunlight falling in through the window. “She’s not even our real mom.”

“‘You’re not my mom,’” Kendall mocked in a dopey voice, eyes obscured behind the brown lenses of his sunglasses. 

“Roman, shut up,” Shiv snapped, already fed up. “It’s what dad wants and what dad wants, he gets. Don’t act brand new.”

It had originally been Greg, Kendall, Tom and Shiv sharing the cramped train cabin at the start of the early morning. It had still been dark when the train hauled off on the tracks. Shiv and Tom talked amongst themselves in hushed voices, Kendall beside Shiv on the bench and across from Greg, his bulky headphones over his ears and thumb scrolling through the playlist on his phone. 

Somehow Roman had caught wind of their placement and busted into the cabin with a question of his siblings having fun without him, and oh, so you wanna hang out with Greg instead, huh? Where was my invite to the cool kids table?

He squeezed himself on the other side of Kendall, pushing his older brother over and into Shiv, squishing her closer against the window.

Greg had bought a book from the train station kiosk, a murder-mystery, and had been waiting for the sun to rise so he could read it. It must have been no more than an hour until the sun cracked over the horizon and spilled bright and hot in through the window. The Roy children turned to look and Greg’s heart beat a little bit faster with the sudden fear that his cousins might burst into the flames or something.

But when the sun touched them, they did not smoke or burn. They did, however, grow quieter. 

Tom stepped out to go get coffee for them from the cafe car and Greg was finally drawn to his book, of which he read two pages of before having his attention drawn back up at Roman fighting to put his jacket while complaining about Marcia. His rant ended with the interruption with a hearty yawn.

This had a domino effect on his brother and sister and they were yawning too, wide and drawn out. Greg watched them as discreetly as he could from over his book and with each passing second, their movements grew heavier and their mumbling trailed off, incomplete. 

Roman winced away from the light in a clumsy, groggy sort of way just as Shiv’s eyes fell shut and Kendall’s head fell back against the back of the bench abruptly. Shiv’s head landed on Kendall’s shoulder as she gave a defeated whimper and Roman, with a hateful grimace toward the orange shine of the sun, brought his legs up on the bench and fell sideways so his head landed in Kendall’s lap.

Greg blinked. So it seemed under inescapable, direct sunlight, vampires turned to... cats. 

They sunk further into their jacket collars, yawning compulsively and curling up together before promptly falling into the deepest sleep Greg had ever seen. Roman snored behind the hand balled up in front of his mouth. Kendall’s mouth fell open not so handsomely and Shiv might have been drooling a bit on his shoulder but Greg would never say.

And as Greg looked at them now, he realized these Roys, the vampires in a once believed to be vampire-less world, were not that scary. 

They were normal, appeared that way at least in this very moment, almost seemed vulnerable in the sunlight. Greg wanted to be a Roy and all that entailed but so too the Roy family wanted to be like him, wanted to be like the rest of the world. It must have really meant something for them to collectively want to spare him from their fate, Greg thought. This thought made Greg smile as he returned to his book, the sunlight warming the pages beneath his fingers and a nearby snoring erasing the morning’s gentle silence.