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somebody asked about you (if there's something more to us)

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Greg has been dropping not-so-subtle hints lately that he wants Tom on their team and Kendall is, frankly, a little sick of it. 

Tom may be a capable businessman from time to time, but his sycophantic loyalty to Shiv makes him an unacceptable liability. Anything Tom is privy to, Shiv is privy to. And Shiv’s mouth to Logan’s ears is a journey too short for Kendall’s liking. 

And now, Kendall can’t help but wonder if anything Greg is privy to, Tom might be as well. 

“So, what’s the deal with you and Tom, anyway?”

Greg whips around to look at him, too quick to be casual. “Oh! I just. I think he could be an asset to our team, y’know? And he’s like, my friend?” 

“Your friend?” Greg nods eagerly. “That’s why you want him on Team Kendall so bad? ‘Cause he’s your friend?”

Greg’s expression falters. “I mean. He’s good at his job, too? But, yeah.”

“That’s very nice, Greg.” Kendall says, deadpan. “Do you say such nice things about all of your friends?”

“Um,” Greg frowns. Kendall senses the sarcasm in that may have just sailed straight over Greg the Egg’s head. “Well. Tom’s like - my best friend, actually?”

Tom is his best friend? God, that’s depressing. “Yeah? Well, that’s good. It’s important to have friends in this city, man.”

“Yeah, for sure!” Greg perks up. “And Tom’s like. Important to me? So that’s, like, why.”

Kendall pauses. Phrasing has never been Greg’s strong suit - it could be nothing. “That’s why you want Tom on the team? Because he’s important to you?”

“Yeah,” Greg says, “in, like, a friend way.”

“He’s important to you…in a friend way.”

“Uh huh.” Greg’s eyes dart away. Blood in the water. 

“And is he important to you in a non-friend way?”

“Like, uh,” Greg seems very interested in everything that’s not Kendall right now. “Like in a boss way, you mean?”

“No, Greg.” Kendall says, feigning patience. “Not in a boss way.”

“Oh, um.” Greg tilts his head, but he can’t meet Kendall’s eyes. “I’m not sure what you mean, then?”

Sure. “Are you having an affair with my brother-in-law, Greg?”

“Oh, wow!” Greg lets out a nervous little laugh. “That’s - ”

“Don’t bullshit me, Greg. You’re a terrible liar.”

Greg’s face falls. “I - Ken, it’s really not - Shiv and Tom - they have an open marriage, so it’s not like - and ‘affair’ is such a - I just, I wouldn’t call it that ‘cus like - it really doesn’t even matter it’s just…that’s such an ugly word for it.”

Kendall is definitely starting to get a migraine now. “That’s your protest? That calling it what it is makes it sound ugly? You got a prettier word for Tom fucking around on my sister with her fucking cousin?”

“It’s not - ” Greg has the gall to look a little offended. “She fucked around on him first, y’know.”

Kendall stares at him. Is he offended on Tom’s behalf? 

Greg looks away again, down at his hands. 

“Greg.” Kendall has a terrible, sinking feeling. “Are you in love with Tom?”

Greg flushes immediately. Kendall has his answer before Greg even starts talking. “I - that’s like - pretty personal? I don’t know if I would - if I would say - um - ”

“Greg.”

“U-um. Yeah. So, I guess, like. Yeah, I definitely am.”

“Right.” Kendall pinches the bridge of his nose and closes his eyes. “Except, no. You’re not.”

“What? Ken - I just said - ”

“I know what you said, and I’m telling you: no. If that’s how you think you feel, let go of it. The sooner the better. Because there is no world where this ends well for you. Tom is never going to leave Shiv. Not for real. So this? Whatever you’re carrying on with him? It’s got a finite end date. And I need you on top of your game right now, not trailing after Tom fucking Wambsgans. So, no. You’re not in love with him. Understood?”

Greg’s staring at him now, with those big, stupid, guileless eyes. “Ken, I promise - it won’t interfere with work. Tom and I are good. It won’t be an issue. It won’t.”

Oh, this naive motherfucker. Apparently, this is something Kendall will have to take into his own hands. So be it. It won’t be the first time he gets them bloody. 

He smiles at Greg, soft and fake. “Okay, good. That’s good to know. Thanks, Greg.”

“O-Of course,” Greg smiles back at him, wobbly and weak. “We’re good, right?”

“We’re good, Greg.” Kendall pats him on the shoulder. “We’re all good.”

They will be.

 

~

 

Later that night, Kendall makes a call.

“Kendall?”

“I’m calling you right now as a favor between brothers. This stays between us, yes?”

“I - of course. What do you need?”

“Nothing, Tom. I just got some information today that, if I were you, I would want to know.”

“Okay?”

“Greg told me. About you two.”

“…I see.”

“And I wanted to warn you. I know Greg’s on my team, but you’re my brother, you know? So, I’ll just rip the band-aid off here: Greg’s using you.”

“No - I don’t think - ”

“No, Tom, listen. I hate to be the bearer of bad news here, but. He told me he thought sleeping with you would advance his position. And…I don’t know, man. It kinda seems like he was right? He offered to see if he could extract intel from you moving forward. He wanted to know if that would be useful to me. I told him no, obviously. I would never do that to you, man.”

“…”

“You still there?”

“I…yes. Yes, I’m here.”

“Like I said, I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this. I just thought you should know.”

“Of course. Yes. Thank you, Kendall.”

“Anytime, man. Hey - we’re good, right?”

“Of course. Yeah - yes. Yes, we’re good.”

“Okay, good. Take care, Tom.”

“You to - ”

[Call Ended]

 

~

 

It’s Friday night, and Greg is pacing his kitchen.

Tom isn’t one to miss work without explanation, and he’s also not one to leave Greg’s texts and calls on read, so after nearly three full days of radio silence, Greg is pretty fucking worried. 

He calls Tom again. 

This time, after the fourth ring, Tom picks up.

"Gregory."

"Hey, Tom - are you okay? I haven't heard from you since Tuesday and you've been out of the office, so I just wanted to make sure you weren't sick or something. I could, like, pick some soup and stuff up for you, if you are?"

"Awww," Tom's voice sends a cold trickle of fear down Greg's spine. It's not how he normally sounds on an after-hours call. It's not warm and low and intimate. It's barbed, icy. "Isn't that sweet. Soup, Greg? Gosh, I could almost believe you."

"Uh, yeah?" Greg laughs, unsure. "There's a bistro nearby I could pick up some takeout from? Apparently they have really good bisque. If you want some?"

"No, I don't think so." 

Greg can feel his palms starting to sweat. Tom hasn't stonewalled him like this, ever. Something is definitely wrong. "O-Okay. No bisque - gotcha. Are, uh. Are you okay, though?"

"I don't know, Greg." Tom's voice is hard, mocking. "What do you think?"

"I - " Greg swallows. "I feel like you're maybe, um, not? You don't really sound like yourself? And you never miss work. So I've just been. I've been pretty worried, actually? Which is why I'm asking."

"Oh, very good, Greg. Excellent detective work. I seem 'off' to you? Your powers of deduction leave me breathless, truly." 

The napkin on Greg's counter is being slowly reduced to sweaty, ragged shreds. "So, like. You really don't sound okay, and you're kinda scaring me now, so can you just tell me what's going on, Tom? Please?"

"Sure," Tom says, and it's so fakely sweet that Greg feels his stomach clench. "Let's put all the cards on the table, why don't we. I had a very interesting conversation with Kendall this week about your...motivations toward our dalliances. That information was, unfortunately, news to me, and I'll be honest with you, Greg. I'm not pleased."

Greg feels like someone's shot pure ice water through his veins, and it's all coming to settle in his gut. He trusted Kendall to keep his feelings a secret. He trusted that he'd have more time to win Tom over. He trusted that he'd be able to tell Tom he loved him in his own time. And - foolishly, perhaps - he'd thought maybe. Maybe Tom would be happy to have his love. 

He'd thought wrong.

"T-Tom," Greg starts, "it's not - I didn't - I told Kendall that in confidence. I don't know why he - please, Tom. Let's just - this doesn't have to be a big deal. Can we just talk about this? Or - or even just forget about it? We don't have to - "

"You think I could forget about this?" Tom's voice is sharp, cutting. "Are you actually insane ? No, Greg, we can't talk about this or forget about this. There's nothing to talk about. We're done."

Oh, this is so much worse than Greg could've ever imagined. He sinks to the floor of his kitchen like his strings have been cut - and haven't they, in a way? Navigating this world without Tom - it's not something he ever wanted to do again. 

"Tom, please - "

"No." Tom cuts him off, but there's a crack in the cold facade. If Greg's ears weren't currently ringing, he'd almost think Tom sounded hurt. "I can't believe you thought this would be okay. It's like you don't know me at all."

"I - " Greg can barely breathe. His whole chest feels like it's collapsing in on itself. He thinks he might be having a panic attack. "I just thought - "

"Except you didn't, did you? You didn't think."

"Tom," Greg pleads, and then he starts to cry. 

Great. Just in case Tom didn't think he was pathetic enough already.

"Are you crying?" Tom sounds shocked for some reason. "You've got to be kidding me, Greg. Crocodile tears aren't going to work on me now."

Tom has said a lot of shit to Greg in his time. But that, by far, is the cruelest.

Greg pulls his phone away from his face to press it against his shirt for a second. He tries to breathe through the sob coming up his throat, but it just comes out choked and mangled instead. He hopes it’s too muffled for Tom to hear. He pulls the phone back to his ear. The silence over the line is stifling.

"I - " Greg tries; stops. He clears his throat, but he still sounds wrecked. "I d-don't know what you want me to s-say."

"How about 'I'm sorry.'" Tom says, clipped and short. "That might be a nice place to start." 

Greg closes his eyes, presses his free hand hard against his chest - like an anchor. Just something to ground him. He's never had to apologize for loving someone before. 

"I'm s-sorry," Greg manages, voice watery.

"You're not forgiven." Tom says, all business. "I'll have you transferred within the next two weeks. Don't call this number again. Goodbye, Gregory."

Greg sits on the floor of his kitchen and stares blankly at the 'Call Ended' notification on his phone.

Is this what shock feels like? He thinks it might be. He feels cold and hot all over. There's a pounding ache in his chest and his thoughts are coming so fast that he can't hold a single one. He wants to feel nothing at all. 

It's 8pm on a Friday night and Greg wants to lay down and sleep for a year. He wants to go back in time and never tell Kendall how he felt about Tom. He wants to be smarter about who to trust. He wants to stop being the butt of every joke. 

He wants Tom to love him back.

With true herculean effort, Greg leverages himself back onto his feet and walks to his bedroom on autopilot. The one good thing - perhaps the only good thing - about being Kendall's lackey means Greg always has 'functional aids' on hand now. Here, in his bedside table drawer, is his ticket out for the night. 

Ten milligrams of alprazolam, dry swallowed. It's fine - Greg won't make a habit of it. Just. To take the edge off, tonight. 

He lays down and pulls the covers up to his chin, waiting for the drowsiness to overtake him - quick and sweet and total. 

Before the darkness sweeps him under, Greg manages one last act for the night, fingers clumsy on his iPhone.

[To: Kendall Roy] fcuk you

 

~

 

When Greg swims back to consciousness, it's to the sound of someone already in his bedroom.

"- three in the afternoon, dude, come on. Up and at 'em."

Greg's eyelids are so, so heavy. He doesn't want to open them, so he doesn't.

"Greg, come on." Something shoves at his shoulder. "Wake up and tell me what your cryptic little text was all about."

Greg can't figure out why there's someone in his room right now, touching him, talking to him. Someone who's not Tom. Tom would make sense. But he doesn't wake Greg up like this. He likes to kiss Greg on mornings after he's stayed over. Sometimes Greg's forehead, the nape of his neck, the corner of his mouth. Greg likes that too. It's a nice way to be woken up. A soft start to the day.

This isn't that.

"Greg - Jesus Christ, dude. You sleep like the dead, you know that?"

Greg twitches his fingers, his toes. Feels out his extremities. He really is very tired. More tired than usual, he thinks. He feels himself frown. It's odd, how tired he is.

"There he is," the voice says. "Finally, some signs of life."

Greg knows that voice, but his brain is moving so slow. Soupy - as if through a fog. He'll just ask, then. Who are you?

"Mm," Greg grunts. 

"Yeah, hi." There's a pressure above one of his eyes, and then someone's pulling up and Greg is being blinded. He tries to recoil but the movement shakes through his body and jars all his bones, makes his stomach swoop and his head throb. He struggles away from the hand on his face with a whine. 

"I'm just checking your pupils, dude. Calm down." The voice again. "Did you get high last night? Is that what this is all about?"

Did Greg get high last night? He doesn't think he did, but trying to remember is like slogging uphill through waist-high sludge. He just wants to be left alone. He wants to sleep more. He wants the voice to go away and take its hands with it. He wants Tom. 

Greg breathes in deep, trying to steady the spinning in his head. He keeps his eyes closed. It helps a little. He tries to swallow, but his mouth is so bone-dry that he can't. 

"Wa - " Greg murmurs. He can't even get the whole word out. "Wa - "

"Oh, yeah, hang on." Something cool is pressed against his lips and then water is spilling into his mouth. Greg chokes, makes a mess of it. It spills over his chin and onto his pillow and sheets. He manages to swallow some of it, though. It helps him breathe a little easier - abates some more of the dizziness. 

It gives him the strength to open his eyes.

There's a blurry figure standing at the side of his bed, holding a glass. 

Greg blinks, blinks again, and wills his eyes open wider than mere slits. 

The figure takes shape.

Kendall.

"Ken," Greg rasps out. 

"Hey." Kendall is frowning down at him. "What the fuck did you take last night, man? You could've called me if you were gonna have a wild time."

Greg doesn't know. Reality is filtering back to him in shards. He doesn't have the whole picture yet. 

"Why're you here?"

"Why am I here?" Kendall raises an eyebrow at him. "Uh, maybe because I own the place? Maybe because you texted me 'fuck you' last night and then didn't answer your door today? You planning a little treason, Greg?"

"What?" Greg levers himself up in bed - slowly - and looks around his room, trying to get his bearings. It doesn't look like he did anything crazy here last night. It looks normal. He doesn't know why he texted Kendall that last night. He feels like he's missing something.

"Oh, dude," Kendall says, actually sounding a little concerned. "Your eyes are all red and swollen - are you allergic to shit?"

"No?" Greg reaches up to scrub at his eyes. They do feel a little puffy. "I - just get like. Seasonal allergies, I think?"

"In an air-conditioned condo? Sure." Kendall steamrolls right ahead. "So that text. What gives, man?"

"I - " There's a dark, cold something taking shape in Greg's core and he's betting it has to do with whatever happened last night. "Can you, like, give me a second, Ken? I just - like. What day is it, even?"

"It's Saturday," Kendall says, unimpressed. "Yesterday was Friday. You texted me last night. You didn't pick up my calls. It's Saturday afternoon right now. And I'm here asking you for an explanation."

Greg needs his phone. He shuffles around in his sheets until his fingers meet metal. Sure enough, there's multiple missed texts and calls from Kendall. Greg swipes open the phone app - wants to see how long he slept through Kendall calling him. 

Kendall's first call came through at 8:31pm. 

At 7:50pm, there's an outgoing call to Tom Wambsgans, lasting 3 minutes and 34 seconds.

Reality crashes back into place.

Greg remembers.

"Oh, god."

"What?" Kendall says, urgent. "What did you do?"

"What did I do?" Greg looks at him. "What did you do?"

"What are you talking about?"

"You fucked me, Ken."

Kendall makes a face. "Gross, Greg. No, I didn't."

"You did, though!" He did. In every way that mattered, he did. "You fucking told Tom what I told you! You fucked me."

Something falters in Kendall's expression, but it's gone before Greg can identify it. "Oh, that? Greg, that had to be done. It was never gonna end well. You knew that. We discussed that. All I did was speed up the process. Saved you some misery in the long run."

Greg feels shaken, all the way through. So it wasn't even an accident. Kendall told Tom on purpose. Maybe they even laughed about it together. "You - you had no right to - "

"No, I had every right." Kendall leans forward, fingertips braced against the bed so he can loom over Greg. "Because at the end of the day, you were carrying on an affair with your boss and my brother-in-law behind my sister's back. The only way that was going to end was ugly. And we may be on opposite sides right now, corporately, but Shiv is still my sister. Did you think I would just stand aside and let you two humiliate her like that? I know you're used to being a leech, Greg, but your cousin's husband? Really? Jesus. Of course I told him. This needed to end. And the sooner you understand that, the better. So throw yourself your little pity party this weekend, or whatever, and then put your fucking big girl pants on, suck it up, and get over it. I'll get you some pussy next time we go out, flush it out of your system. But this thing with Tom? That's over for good. Buried. You understand?"

Greg stares up into Kendall's unflinching expression. The call with Tom last night - that scorched him, charred him from the inside out in a way he didn't even know was possible. And it was Kendall's doing. Kendall inflicted this on him. On purpose. Greg opens his mouth to speak, but Kendall cuts him off.

"One more thing - if you think you need to get back at me for this or some shit? Don't try. You gave me those papers. Give me reason to, and I'll burn you with them."

Greg closes his mouth. So that's how it is, then.

"Do we understand each other?" Kendall presses.

Greg nods. He's hollowed out now. Nothing left to give.

"Good." Kendall draws away, back to his full height. "I'm glad."

Greg watches him from the bed, mute.

"I never wanted it to get ugly, Greg." Kendall says, placating. "I really didn't. This is just the way it has to be. You'll see."

Greg says nothing. Kendall walks around his bed. He never fully turns his back to Greg. 

"Take the weekend," Kendall says from the doorway. The afternoon light is streaming through the windows in the living room, and it backlights Kendall - leaves him in half-shadow. "Get a little fucked up, drown your sorrows or whatever, and next weekend, I'll take you out. You'll bounce back in no time, buddy." He raps a fist once against the solid wooden door frame and then walks away with a smile.

A few moments later, Greg hears the whoosh-click of his front door closing.

He sits on the bed that Kendall bought, in the apartment Kendall lets him stay in, and he breathes through the cloud of misery Kendall brought down on him. 

With Tom, Greg knew he was technically 'the other woman,' even with the unconventional arrangement Shiv forced on that marriage. But before yesterday, Greg had never truly felt like a sidepiece. Tom never made him feel small or used or cheap or unwanted in that aspect of their relationship. 

But here, still tangled in his sheets, with Kendall's words ringing through his head, Greg feels very much like a two-bit whore. 

 

~

 

Monday is, predictably, a shitshow.

Greg spent the rest of his weekend getting as stoned as he possibly could, eating an ungodly amount of takeout, and crying way more than he'd like to admit.

He shows up to work with red-rimmed, still-puffy eyes, a pounding headache, some low-grade nausea, and a full-body tremor he can't seem to shake. Anxiety-induced, he's sure, but it makes him look like he’s on the verge of a total nervous breakdown, so he just keeps his head down, goes straight to his mailroom office, and buries himself in his email. He's never been so grateful to be relegated to isolation in his life. If he's lucky, no one will even come looking for him today.

Luck, however, has always been a fickle bitch.

The door to his office swings open at 11:37am and Tom Wambsgans steps in, closing the door behind him.

Greg physically cannot bring himself to look at Tom. His fingers are frozen over his keyboard, eyes glued to his monitor.

"Gregory, do you happen to know why I didn't have the latest ATN memo in my hand for this morning's leadership meeting?"

Greg shakes his head. He doesn't look away from the cursor blinking mockingly at him from his empty Outlook draft.

"No?" Tom's voice moves closer but Greg can't look at him. He can't. "Well, maybe if you tried doing your actual job once in a while, you would know that that memo should have been in my inbox at nine this morning, you useless fucking invertebrate. Tell me, Greg, should I even bother having you transferred? Or should I just fire you right now? Let you hit the streets and make a career out of sucking dick the way you apparently always wanted."

Greg jolts in his chair, hands shaking. Tom's words land like a live wire, scrambling Greg's thoughts and searing his nerves. He wasn't prepared for this. This level of cruelty isn't something he'd expected - not even from Tom.

"Hey, cocksuck - look at me. I'm talking to you."

Almost against his will, Greg turns to look at Tom. 

Tom's face is drawn and there are deep bags under his eyes - dark, bruise-like. Greg's never seen them that bad before. Tom must not be sleeping. 

"Jesus, what the fuck happened to your eyes?" Tom frowns at him. "Are you fucking high right now? At work ? Couldn't even spring for the Visine to erase the evidence? Greg, you cheap fuck."

"I'm not - " Greg's voice cracks, and oh, Christ, he is not going to make it out of this conversation in one piece. "I'm not high."

"I'm not high! " Tom repeats back at him, voice high and mocking. "Oh, really, Greg? Your eyes are bright red, you piece of shit. Don't lie to my face. Not again."

"I'm - Tom, come on," Greg pleads. He's not sure what Tom meant by 'not again' - maybe he's rehashing shit Greg thought they'd buried - but he also can't get a read on Tom at all right now. It scares him. "You know why."

"Oh? Tell me what I know, then."

Greg bites the inside of his cheek. It's grounding, but it's not enough to stop the lump that's rising at the back of his throat, the sting at the back of his eyes. Greg's at the point of no return already, so he might as well throw all the chips in. Cards on the table. "Could you - can we not do this, like, right now? Or ever, maybe? Like, if you're just gonna be c-cruel about it? I'd kinda rather you just leave me alone, man."

Somehow this is the exact wrong thing to say. 

Tom leans over Greg's desk, eyes glittering madly, lips thinned. "Cruel? Cruel!? You want to talk to me about cruel? You pathetic, backstabbing, Judas - you think you get to call me cruel?"

"Yeah, Tom!" Greg's vision is blurry, but he finds his voice. "You're literally - like. This is the meanest shit you've ever done, like, bar none? Like - it's one thing to be mad I'm in love with you, but, y'know, breaking up with me or whatever and then fucking mocking me for crying about it is like. That's pretty fucking low, dude? Like, even for you, that's just - " Greg swallows thickly, losing his steam as he feels wetness rolling down his cheeks. "It's really fucking mean, okay? You just - you're hurting me, like, a lot, right now? And I don't - I really don't understand what you're getting out of it, or what I did to deserve it, so. It feels pretty cruel."

Tom looks, inexplicably, like Greg just punched him in the gut. "What?"

Greg shrugs, sniffles, and then wipes a hand across his cheeks. He doesn't have any tissues in this office, so he wipes it on his slacks. He lets his hand fist in the fabric there, wrinkling it beyond belief but also offering a distraction from the way his lip keeps trying to tremble. "I just thought - I thought you, like, cared about me, I guess? So it's. It's just been kinda brutal, y'know - to find out you, uh. Didn't."

Greg braves a glance back up. Tom looks split open, as if all of this is somehow news to him. His eyes are flicking over Greg's face like he's looking for something, and whatever it is, he's desperate for it. 

Greg's not expecting the fingers - Tom's fingers - on his face. Just pointer and middle, tipping his chin up so Greg is meeting his gaze head-on. 

"I need you to look at me," Tom says, "and I need you to tell me what you told Kendall. What you asked him to keep 'in confidence.'"

"I - " Greg frowns. Tom already knows this, why is he making -

"Greg." Tom's voice is stern, but there's a hushed quality to it, one Greg's never heard outside of soft, hazy mornings. "The truth. Please."

Greg stares up into piercing blue eyes, and sets his confusion to the side for now.

He tells the truth. 

"I told him I'm in love with you."

The fingers under Greg's chin tremble.

"And did you," Tom continues, gaze inescapable, "at any point, offer to him that you could. That you would...fuck me to gather intel for him?"

Greg inhales sharply; it almost turns into a choke. That would be appropriate, though, because Greg feels a bit like choking right now. "N-No! I wouldn't - did he say that? Did he say I said that? Did he - oh my god, Tom. Tom, what did he say to you!? Tom - "

"You weren't using me? You didn't just fuck me to advance your career?" Tom's fingers are feather-light on Greg now, and his eyes are glassy. Greg's stomach clenches. Tom is trying not to cry.

"No," Greg swears. "It was never about the job for me. Not once. I was there for you. I - " Greg laughs; it's an awful, watery thing. "I here for you, y'know?"

Tom's whole face crumples. His fingers withdraw from Greg's chin. He covers his face with both his hands, and a deep, shuddering breath escapes him.

"I thought," Tom says, voice muffled by his hands, "that even after everything, I was just a joke to you, too."

"Oh." Greg feels like he's come in from the cold. He's getting feeling back in his fingers and toes, tingling all over. He reaches awkwardly across the desk, grabs at the corner of Tom's suit jacket like it's a security blanket, like he can spread the warmth coming back into his body through this. "Hey, no, come on."

Tom keeps his hands firmly over his face, and Greg is struck with the need to be closer to him. To hold him, if possible. 

The idea of letting go of Tom's jacket - even just to circle around the desk - feels non-negotiable right now, so Greg takes the far more obvious and insane route of 'over.' He stands from his chair enough to get one knee up onto the desk, leaning forward on one hand to pull the other leg up behind him, and then shuffles forward on his knees, papers crinkling beneath him. He relinquishes his grip on Tom's coat so that he can bring both hands up to wrap around Tom's wrists. Much better.

"Tom?" Greg coaxes.

Tom shakes his head, hands unmoved.

"Okay," Greg says. He rubs his thumbs briefly over the backs of Tom's hands. "Okay, so. I'm sensing that, uh. It's possible we both sorta got, like, played here? By Kendall? Does that sound right? 'Cus what you just told me sounds a lot like us getting played, man. Which is like. Super fucked up, actually? Because Kendall made me think we were all good after I told him - y'know - and then suddenly you stopped coming into work and texting me back so that must've been, like - that was after he played you, right? And that's why you broke up with me? 'Cus you thought I was, like. Playing you ?" Greg's got it figured out. He does. He just - he needs this one reassurance. "Not - not because of my, like. Feelings. For you. Right?"

That gets Tom's hands moving, finally. They lower to hang limply in Greg's grasp, but that's not what Greg's focused on. Tom's cheeks are damp, and he looks freshly devastated.

"Oh," Tom breathes, barely a whisper. "Oh, Greg. You thought - " He cuts off, wresting his hands from Greg's to reach one forward and palm Greg's cheek. "This whole time, you thought I broke up with you because - " 

Tom can't even say it. 

Greg brings his hand up to cover Tom's on his cheek. "Yeah. 'S why I was, like. Pretty upset. On the phone."

Tom makes a punched-out sound. "I thought you were just - I thought you were faking. Trying to save face."

"Nope." 

"God, Greg." 

"Yeah." Greg's not above milking this just a little bit. He got his heart broken, after all. "You actually, um. You made me apologize, even? For feeling that way about you. And then you didn't even accept my apology."

Tom looks absolutely eviscerated at that. Before Greg can say anything to soften the blow, Tom's arms are coming up to wrap around Greg's back, bundling him in close to Tom's chest. With how Greg's kneeling on the desk, his face ends up pressed against the soft, warm skin of Tom's neck. He curls his own arms around Tom's middle, fingers reaching up and finding purchase in the fabric over Tom's shoulder blades. He feels safe, like this. 

"I'm so sorry," Tom says, and Greg feels the vibrations of his apology against his lips, through the vulnerable skin of Tom's throat. "I'm so, so sorry. I truly am. I should have never taken Kendall at his word. I should have asked you directly."

"'S okay," Greg says, soft.

One of Tom's hands comes up to cup the back of Greg's head, to stroke through the strands of Greg's hair. Greg feels important, and precious, and held. 

"Can you forgive me, Greg?"

“Yeah,” Greg murmurs into the side of Tom’s neck, "'Course."

“Thank you.” Tom shifts so he can press a kiss to Greg’s temple. Greg smiles to himself. There’s the Tom he missed.

Tom starts to pull back, absconding with Greg’s nice, warm headrest in the process. He looks down at Greg, one hand still quite at home in Greg’s now-messy hair. “Hey - are you hungry? Let me take you to lunch.”

Greg blinks at the abrupt change in topic. He’s not actually that hungry, but he would like more time with Tom. He shrugs. “Okay.”

“Okay,” Tom parrots back to him, voice fond. He extracts himself the rest of the way from Greg and steps back, leaving Greg in his awkward, kneeling perch on his desk. 

Right. This is not about to be Greg’s most graceful dismount. 

Greg leans to the side, bracing his fingertips against the desk. Maybe if he can just –

Tom lets out an explosive sigh, and then he’s back in Greg’s space, arms scooping up under Greg’s - forcing Greg’s to loop around Tom’s neck. 

“Greg, you gangly little minx,” Tom says, pulling Greg up and forward and into a kiss. Greg slides off the desk like it’s nothing, feet hitting the floor with a shower of papers he dragged off with them, footing unsure with how distracted he is by Tom’s lips on his. They don’t do this at work. Not ever. This is something new. 

Before Greg can even get his bearings, Tom is pulling back. His ice-blue eyes flicker over Greg’s face, pupils encroaching on some of that blue. Greg feels his face heat up. This is something very new.

“Tom?” Greg’s feeling a little out of his depth here. He certainly wasn’t expecting this when he woke up this morning.

Tom takes a deep, steadying breath. He pulls his hands around to squeeze at Greg’s biceps - once, twice - and then releases him, leaving Greg to sway back to his full height. 

“Right,” Tom says, “Lunch. Let’s get - ” He looks around the mailroom, walks over to where Greg’s coat is hanging, and tosses it over. Greg catches it, bemused. “Put that on, first of all. You’re indecent.”

Greg shrugs his coat on over his full suit. “I’m wearing - ?”

“I know what you’re wearing, Gregory, we don’t need to argue technicalities.” Tom opens the door, motioning for Greg to follow him. Greg does. “I’m taking you to Bouchon. We have much to discuss.”

Much to discuss? Greg pauses outside Tom’s office as Tom retrieves his own coat. He hopes they’re good things, whatever Tom wants to discuss. If they aren’t, at least Greg can drown his sorrows in French cooking. 

Tom leads him out of the building like he’s on a mission. It’s not far to Bouchon, so they walk, tension building in the fresh May air between them. The urge to reach for Tom’s hand – to twine their fingers together as they walk down the street in pseudo-anonymity – is one Greg has to restrain himself from multiple times. By the time they’re seated in the restaurant, Greg feels nearly jittery with anticipation.

“So, um,” Greg fiddles with his silverware. “What did you want to discuss?”

Across the table, Tom is regarding him strangely.

“I bought a book, a while ago,” Tom says, cryptic, “to read in prison. It’s about the Romans.”

“Oh,” Greg’s stomach drops at the mention of prison. Fuck. Did Tom get word about a possible sentence length? Is this - is this a goodbye? “Is it, uh - ” Greg swallows, fighting against the bile trying to race up his throat. “Is it a good book?”

“It’s a decent book, yeah.” Tom nods. He takes a sip of his ice water. “Greg, what do you know about Nero and Sporus?”

Greg shakes his head, at a loss.

“Sporus,” Tom continues, “was a young slave boy. He was Nero’s favorite. And you know what Nero did to him?” 

Greg shakes his head again. 

“Nero pushed his wife down the stairs, and then he had Sporus castrated and he married him instead. And he gave him a ring, and he made him dress up like his dead wife.”

“Wow,” Greg says weakly. Whatever this is building to, he almost doesn’t want to know. “Plot twist. Didn’t - didn’t see that coming.”

“Yeah, the castration seems extreme,” Tom says casually, like he’s remarking on the weather. “I don’t really see why that would be necessary. Or the wardrobe, even. Maybe Nero had a fetish.”

“Maybe, yeah.” Greg lets out a nervous laugh.

“The ring, though.” Tom taps a fingernail against his water glass. A light clinking fills the space between them. “That makes sense. After all, he killed his wife for Sporus. So they could be together. Of course he would give Sporus a ring.”

Greg is so desperately lost. “Yeah, of course.”

“What kind of ring do you think Sporus wanted?” Tom asks, eyes raising to meet Greg’s. “Gold? Silver? Platinum?”

“Um.” Greg wracks his brain. Might as well play along. “Probably just – whatever would match Nero’s ring, I guess?”

“Ah,” Tom leans back in his seat. He looks pleased – like Greg gave the right answer. Like there was a right answer to give. “Yes. A matched set. Very romantic.”

“Sure,” Greg supposes. As romantic as a marriage involving castration can be.

Tom opens his mouth to continue, and then promptly snaps it shut as their waiter approaches to deliver their first course. He gives their waiter - Stephen, according to his nametag - a perfectly dismissive smile. Stephen leaves them be.

“I’ve got some information that isn’t public knowledge yet.” Tom says, a non sequitur that nearly leaves Greg with whiplash. “Gerri has backchannels that have backchannels. And all of those backchannels are saying the same thing: the DOJ isn’t pursuing prison time. It’s going to be a number - a big one, I’m sure - but they’re taking their pound of flesh from the profits, not the personnel.”

Greg’s spoonful of soup pauses halfway to his mouth, heartbeat kicking up a notch. “So we – ?”

Tom smiles at him, genuine. “The Waystar Two are free and clear, baby.”

Greg lowers his spoon back into his bowl. If this is true, it could be huge for them. “And if, like. If Kendall tried to, say, burn me? With those papers?”

Something dark passes over Tom’s expression. “Did he threaten that?”

“Yeah,” Greg says, looking down at his soup. It’s the best French Onion he’s ever had. “After I confronted him about what he told you – what I thought he told you – he said he’d burn me if I tried to retaliate.”

Tom tuts, waving a hand dismissively. “That doesn’t matter. Not to the DOJ. Not anymore. Way too far down on the totem pole to even show up on their radar. And it shouldn’t matter to you, either. You’re coming over to my side, anyway.

Something warm flutters inside Greg’s chest. “Your side?”

“Yes, of course,” Tom says – like it’s assured, like it’s fact. “There are a lot of moving parts right now, Greg. A lot of background machinations that not even Kendall is privy to. But they’re moving. And we’re going to be riding them up.”

“What kind of machinations?”

“I can’t tell you that yet. It’s too delicate right now. But soon, I promise.”

“Okay.” It sounds ominous, Greg thinks. It sounds exciting.

“And in the meantime,” Tom says, pointing his spoon at Greg across the table, “keep Kendall in the dark. Let him think he was successful with his play against us - that we’re not together anymore. Let him think his leverage worked.”

“Okay.” Greg’s pretty sure he can pull that off. He can play the dejected lover around Kendall, if he has to. He knows what it feels like, now. But if he and Tom are getting back together behind Kendall’s back, that does create some logistical difficulties. “For, like, how long though, exactly? Because I’m still kinda living in Kendall’s place, so. If we want to, like, y’know – ” Greg can feel a flush rising in his cheeks. “It might be hard to keep it a secret from him, is all.”

“Hmm,” Tom tilts his head, considering. “It won’t be long, now. But you raise a good point, Greg. If you had to estimate, how long would it take you to pack up your things from Kendall’s condo?”

“Um.” Are they talking about moving, now? Greg didn’t really anticipate having to find his own place so soon. “Maybe an hour, I guess? I don’t know, it’s mostly clothes, honestly. I don’t have much.”

“That’s fine, Greg. Perfect, even.”

“Is it?” Greg doesn’t want to press, but he really needs some clarity here. “Because I don’t really have the budget for a whole new place that I would need to, like, furnish and shit?”

“That’s okay,” Tom says. “I do.”

Greg blinks at him. That’s – that’s not what he expected. Holy shit.

“This is big, isn’t it,” Greg states it more than he asks it. The promises Tom’s making right now feel monolithic, like the shifting of tectonic plates. Greg wonders if he should be braced for an earthquake. A tsunami, even. “There’s something big going on.”

“There is.” Tom confirms. “But you don’t have to worry. I’ll take care of you.”

“Yeah?” Greg feels that bubbly warmth in his chest redouble its efforts. He can’t hold back a smile. He likes it when Tom takes care of him.

“You know I will.” 

And Greg does. 

There’s a pause in their conversation, and Greg helps himself to some of his water. As he sips, a shard of reality cuts back through his thoughts, popping the bubble of happiness he’s riding on. His smile falls.

“I guess, um.” Greg sets his water down. “Shiv must be happy you’re not going to prison, too.”

“Oh, she doesn’t know.”

“She – what?” Greg looks up at Tom in disbelief. “Wait, you haven’t told her?”

“No. I don’t want to disappoint her.” Tom smiles, wry. Like it’s a joke.

Ouch. Greg suppresses a wince on Tom’s behalf. “Tom – ”

“No, it’s alright.” Tom’s still smiling that peculiar smile. “I’ll be disappointing her anyway, soon enough.”

Greg knows better than to indulge this particular hope, but it picks its head up anyway, curious. “What do you mean?”

“I’ve been speaking with my lawyer.” His mom, he means. Greg thinks that’s pretty cool, actually. What better way to know your lawyer definitely has your best interests at heart? “We’ve been talking about possible…strategic exits. We have a plan. Can’t act on it just yet, but it’s in the ol’ back pocket.”

Greg’s heart is beating so very fast. There’s no way. The hope in his chest is standing at full attention, now. “Are you talking about – ”

“Pushing my wife down the stairs? Yes, I am.”

Greg sucks in a breath. Everything snaps into place, brought into sharp relief by Tom’s words. No. No way. That story – surely, Tom didn’t mean –

“Do you understand now, Sporus?”

Greg feels so much. He feels high – reeling and dizzy and ecstatic. “Tom…”

Tom’s sea-blue eyes bore into him, earnest. “What you said to me, this morning. How you feel? It’s why all of this was already in motion, even before last week. Because I – ” Tom breaks off, clears his throat, “I have tried not to be, Greg, but I am a monogamous man.”

Monogamous to Greg, he means. 

Greg is so full up with that revelation he feels drunk on it.

“You love me,” Greg whispers. It’s not a question. Not anymore.

“I do.” Tom answers anyway, steady and solemn, like he’s making a vow. He kinda is, Greg supposes. “I would burn Rome to the ground for you, Gregory. I really would.”

Greg sits across from him, speechless, feeling very much like he was, perhaps, just proposed to over soup on a random Monday.

“Gold,” Greg blurts out. 

Tom frowns, but there’s fondness still playing across his face. “What?”

“Gold,” Greg says again, bold to the point of recklessness. “I think Sporus would have liked gold.”

Tom’s eyebrows shoot up, mouth opening on an incredulous smirk. “Getting a bit ahead of yourself there, Gregory.”

“Am I?” Greg cocks an eyebrow in return, daring. He takes a drink of his water like it’s a fine wine. With how he’s feeling, he has half a mind to ask if this water comes with a proof on the label. Surely, he’s not this inebriated off of, what, promises? Emotion? 

Tom’s face lights up, the way it does when Greg does something that surprises him, and he looks, well. He looks very nice. Greg swallows thickly. Maybe his inebriation truly is emotion-based. 

“Gregory John Hirsch.” There’s mirth in Tom’s voice as he leans over the table, conspiratorial. “I’m not even divorced yet.”

“But you will be.” Greg leans in too, giddy. 

Tom laughs, big and loud and happy. His eyes are shining. Greg drinks him in, greedy. God, but he’s handsome.

“Tell you what,” Tom says, reaching across the table. Greg meets his hand halfway. Tom runs his thumb over the backs of Greg’s knuckles. “As soon as I settle on the rental I’ll be exiling myself to, I’ll bring you over. Give you a little tour of the emperor’s quarters. Fuck you against the windows, maybe. Take you apart. How’s that sound?”

Greg’s eyes widen, face and neck prickling with heat. “Y-Yeah. Sounds good.”

“Yeah? That enough to tide you over?”

Greg nods, face burning. “Yeah.”

Tom chuckles. “Good.” He squeezes Greg’s hand once before letting go, pulling back to his side to pick up his water. He lifts it into the air between them, seeking the same from Greg.

Greg lifts his glass in response, bringing it up to clink against Tom’s.

“To new beginnings,” Tom says, classic and cliche.

“To Emperor Nero,” Greg says, hiding a smirk behind his glass as Tom’s eyes darken.

Tom takes a deep drink, then lowers his glass. He levels Greg a knowing smile. “We’ll make an Empress of you, yet, Gregory.”

Greg smiles back, holding Tom’s gaze. 

He’s counting on it.