Actions

Work Header

A Necessary Condition

Chapter Text

---

Here's the thing: Tony Wonder didn't take a forget-me-now.

Pretending he did became part of the plan shortly after Gob casually mentioned he intended to take one, because how else are you supposed to respond to something like that? And okay, maybe he was a little pissed--pissed but not hurt because Tony stopped letting people hurt him shortly after he turned seventeen. It's just... He thought they were on the same page. The same page being the cusp of the kind of destined relationship that arises from what can only be described as a transcendent and somewhat magical sexual experience.

And who willingly forgets something like that?

Okay, maybe he was a little hurt.

Just not hurt enough to walk away, Tony swallowing his pride long enough to call Gob up and ask, forget-me-nows in play, if they were still on for their erstwhile but apparently forgotten sex date.

Gob not calling him back was never part of the plan.

It left Tony floundering for the first time in his life, so when Sally Sitwell, whom he genuinely likes but doesn't like, told him to get into a suitcase... Well, it seemed as good an escape plan as any. Besides, it wasn't like he knew the plan would turn into a cross-country flight trip that would see him abandoned in unclaimed baggage, weeks of lingering hurt--yes, hurt--now a festering wound, Gob Bluth a man he really wished he could hate.

Calling Gob wasn't part of the plan either, but there's only so much contorting a man can do before he cuts off oxygen to the brain. That was his excuse, anyway, because he's pretty sure he wouldn't have called had he been thinking clearly.

Just like he's pretty sure he wouldn't have called had he know Gob was going to pretend nothing was wrong. He certainly wouldn't have called had he known Gob would have a woman in the background. And so what if Gob got all coy and flirty the second he realized it was Tony on the phone. Weeks... Weeks of radio silence and Tony was just supposed to... what? Laugh it off? Pretend talking to Gob wasn't tantamount to pouring salt in the wound? Because now Tony was pissed. Pissed and just a lot little hurt. Hurt enough, anyway, to pretend he was calling to break things off.

And that's where it should have ended. That's where Tony should have put the Gob thing aside and moved on with his life. He was still a famous magician. He still had his act and his adoring fans and a kind of mutually beneficial relationship with the woman who'd funded the rebranding of his career. So it was fine. Certainly nothing worth crying over--which he couldn't have done even if he'd wanted because, as it turns out, spending the better part of a month confined to a suitcase isn't exactly conducive to fluid consumption.

So he wasn't going to risk dehydration crying over Gob. He wasn't going to lament the end of what he thought was going to be the best relationship of his life. He certainly wasn't going to mourn a night of frankly amazing sex. And so what if they were the same. So what if he'd spent the better part of his life disconnected from the people around him because no one got him only to have all of that change the second Gob agreed to steal some pies.

Besides, technically he was scamming Gob first, and if it weren't for Gob's freakishly talented tongue he would be the one ignoring Gob's calls while Gob crouched in a suitcase, too parched to cry.

So much for moving on.

This is the part of the story where he'd like to tell you it gets easier. That time heals all wounds or some such nonsense. Instead he spent the next few weeks pining for a man he was pretty sure couldn't care less; a man who'd fucked Tony over--somewhat literally--and then walked away, like the thing Tony thought existed between existed only in Tony's head.

And the thing about hurt is that it tends to fester. It gets twisted and ugly until you find yourself making plans. Carefully crafted plans. The kind of plans that lead to humiliation and defeat. The kind designed to destroy a man's career. The kind that might even land him another feature in Poof--which he maybe sort of needed what with his whole Fakeblock plan having gone awry.

But here's the other thing. Tony's not a good magician because he's mastered sleight of hand--Gob's so much better than him at that. And he's not a good magician because he's got any kind of grace on stage--again, there Gob has him beat. He's a good magician because he can plan. Because once he sets something in motion it very rarely leaves the tracks.

Which is why he finds himself locked inside a closet, waiting on the denouement of Gob's act, which just happens to be the opening of his plan, which, now that he's set it in motion, can't be stopped.

Sort of a shame, then, that he's changed his mind.

In hindsight, it's easy to see how he got it wrong. And sure, there's the possibility Gob's screwing with him again, but right now Gob has nothing to win and everything to lose so Tony's pretty sure that means he can take Gob's words at face value.

Also, he really likes the idea of a double act. That and the hotel room. He definitely likes the hotel room.

Unfortunately, there's a truckload of magic cement on its way down, so Tony says the only thing he can given the circumstances.

There's just one problem with your plan... I don't have a trapped door in here.

~*~

Later, after he's slipped out from under the float and disappeared into the crowd, he turns up at Sally's apartment so that she can chisel the now dry fake-cement-foam from his hair. Getting hit by the stuff wasn't part of the plan, but regret tends to make a person slow and so Tony ended up caked in it.

She hasn't asked him about it. Not yet, anyway. And maybe that's because she's preoccupied with her own stuff--some political cause, he thinks. Mostly, though, she's just really good about giving him the space he needs when he needs it. He'll tell her eventually, though only because they've got this mutual secret sharing agreement that is both surprisingly therapeutic and makes Tony think that, maybe, in another life, one in which his fear of commitment wasn't apparently rooted in repressed homosexuality, they probably would have ended up a genuine couple.

And anyway, he likes Sally. She gets him. Well, except for the magic thing, which she seems to think is an amusing hobby meant to tide Tony over until he gets started on his actual career. Aside from that, though, they really do have a lot in common.

He thinks maybe that might even make them friends, which is probably a good thing given that his un-repression homosexuality pretty much killed any interest he had in sleeping with her.

"Look, I know we've got this don't ask-don't tell thing going on, which, to be honest, is probably the only reason I tolerate you, but you haven't said anything for like twenty minutes and it's starting to creep me out. Plus, you're weirdly contemplative and, I'm going to be honest with you, Tony, thinking isn't one of your strong suits."

She tugs at a particularly stubborn bit of fake cement as she says it, Tony wincing because it's almost like she doesn't actually know the hair is attached to his scalp. He adds hair care to the ever growing list of things he won't allow Sally to do, right after leg shaving and three items down from making toast.

"Just... What the hell's going on? You've been weirdly distant, which is fine, we both agreed this was professional first and foremost, but you haven't performed in weeks and you wouldn't tell me anything about this latest act and now you come back covered in... What is this stuff, anyway? Styrofoam? Plus, you kind of look like someone just kicked your dog."

"I don't have a dog," Tony says before he gets the metaphor.

"Is this about me leaving you in baggage claim? Because we talked about that. And I apologized. And I left a message for your assistant. Your old assistant. And if you'd told me you'd replaced her, I would have called your new assistant instead, so..."

"No, that's not..."

"Is this about Gob Bluth then?" Sally presses, because she's sometimes way more perceptive than he gives her credit for.

Tony's inability to answer rather answers the question.

"I don't get your obsession with this guy. He's not even that great of a magician. I mean, if you're going to have a rivalry with anyone..."

Tony doesn't let her finish.

"He is a great magician. He just... gets too excited and misses the details sometimes. And anyway, that's not the point..."

"What is the point, then?" Sally asks, once again tugging painfully at his hair. "Look, I get wanting to destroy the Bluths. They're obnoxious. But why Gob specifically. I mean he's kind of a loser..."

"What the hell man," Tony says before he can stop himself. And then, because he's apparently bent on digging his own grave, adds: "You don't even know him."

How far back does it go, he wonders. He can pinpoint the exact moment he took notice of Gob. The exact moment he started following Gob's career. Was it more than just professional curiosity? Was it more than just friendly rivalry? He attended the man's wedding for fuck's sake. Slept with his would-be wife. How long has this been going on. How long has he been...

Obsessed.

"Look, I just..." Tony tries, but apparently there are limits to their mutual secret-sharing agreement because he can't quite bring himself to put all that he's feeling into words. Fortunately Sally, because she's Sally--and possibly because she doesn't care--doesn't press.

"Whatever it is, just don't draw attention to me. I really don't need people knowing we have a connection right now."

It's the sort of thing that would hurt if there were actual feelings involved. Since there isn't, Tony gives a brief nod, grits his teeth, and lets her finish with his hair.

~*~

The next time he hears from her it's in the form of a text.

What the hell are you playing at?

Tony presumes this means she's heard the news.

Hard not to, he supposes. It's getting plenty of media attention. First was the actual mishap--that's what they're calling it, like Tony's ever had an illusion go wrong. Then it was speculation as to his whereabouts, a thorough inspection of the closet having revealed the cement to be both fake and empty. One of the news clips shows Gob standing to the side, looking thoroughly dejected and more than a little betrayed. It's the first time Tony's actively hated himself for something he wishes he didn't do.

Forty-eight hours later, he still hasn't decided on his next course of action.

What he wants to do is call Gob, explain what happened, beg forgiveness, maybe ask if Gob was serious about that double-act/hotel thing. But his stunt kind of killed that future, what with Gob now out of both his metaphorical and literal closet. He's also pretty sure Gob won't forgive him, mostly because, were the situation reversed, he sure as hell wouldn't forgive Gob. The breaking each other's hearts thing he can handle--it sucks, but it's a forgivable offense--but he willfully destroyed Gob's career and that...

That's the kind of thing that gets a person kicked out of the Alliance.

Which means his grand finale, the one where he turns up alive and well two weeks later, can't happen. It leaves him hiding out in his actual closet, the one he keeps in a storage locked off the West Coast Highway in between shows, still stuck on where to go from here; still wishing he'd thought this through before jumping straight to revenge.

And actually, come to think of it, maybe that's the answer. Maybe he needs to give Gob a chance to settle the score. It would put them on even ground, anyway, two destroyed careers better than one. And okay, sure, it would mean walking away from an act he's put a lot of time and other people's money into, but sometimes you have to destroy something before you can rebuild.

The trick here is going to be convincing Gob he doesn't remember a thing.

As plans go, it's a pretty good one. He's feeling pretty confident about it, anyway, but before he can dial Gob's number--before he can bring a new set of forget-me-nows into play--a sharp clang echoes from outside the storage locker. It's followed by the obnoxious scraping of metal against metal, natural light spilling in from outside. Literally, and maybe metaphorically, trapped inside his own closet, Tony watches through the louvered doors as half a dozen or so heavily armed police officers file into the room.

Unlike the Hot Cops, whom Tony occasionally hires to use in his act, these ones are wearing an appropriate amount of clothes.

It doesn't take them long to find him, and before he's quite figured out what he did wrong--aside from the whole disappearing thing that is--he finds himself being arrested for the murder of a woman whose name only vaguely rings a bell.

Somewhere, in the distance, The Sound of Silence begins to play.

Chapter Text

~*~

There was, of course, a trapped door. Gob learns this shortly after he learns the cement isn't cement, which means the whole thing was a setup, which means Tony lied to him, which means Tony once again sabotaged his act, which means...

Yeah, you can see where he's going with this.

Tony is wrong about one thing, though. They are the same. Right down to the one upmanship and a shared tendency towards revenge. The problem, of course, is that Gob's pretty sure Tony was already one up on him, so technically it should have been his turn, hence the whole make Tony fall in love with him and then break his heart plan that went so thoroughly off the rails. And maybe Tony got wind of that. Maybe Gob hadn't made it clear his feelings had changed.

Maybe he should have started by telling Tony he'd fallen in love.

Then again, it's entirely possible Tony was screwing with him from the get-go, which, now that he thinks about it is probably the more likely option because when was the last time someone genuinely like Gob? His own father thinks he's a geobead. Why should Tony be any different?

That's not even the worst part. The worst part, beyond the public humiliation, the destruction of what was left of his career, and the soon-to-be disownment from his family, is that Gob still genuinely likes Tony. Loves him even. Worse, he's pretty sure he's never going to get over Tony because that's what happens when you do something stupid like open up your heart and let someone in.

God, of all the things that could happen to him. Stupid bird.

And now what? Is he just supposed to lie here? Lost and alone. Sprawled across the model home couch because it's the one place everyone will know to find him but no one will bother to look because there's not a single person in his life who cares? God, no wonder Tony hates him. He'd hate himself, too, were the situation reversed.

"Hello darkness," he tells the ceiling, waiting for the song to begin.

But even Simon and Garfunkel have abandoned him, Gob well and truly alone, just like when he was a kid and his parents decided Michael was the worthier son.

God, Michael. Michael will be the worst, he decides. He'll probably gloat and say he knew it all along--well, again, only this time he'll remember because Gob's all out of forget-me-nows so neither of them get to erase their shame. He might even try to be supportive, all while lording it over: perfect, supportive Michael who's too good to make fun of his now gay brother. Saint Michael, who's...

Walking into the room as he speaks.

"Michael," Gob says, feeling less than enthused.

"Thought I'd find you here," Michael says, sounding as smug as he looks.

"Go ahead," Gob says, resigned to his fate. "Say it." He doesn't bother moving from his spot on the couch.

"Right... Not sure what you're on about, but I have good news."

There's plenty of room on the floor, but Michael doesn't sit. Instead he stands over Gob, his hands thrust into his pockets, his expression expectant like he honestly expects Gob to respond.

"Good for you," Gob tosses out, non committal because he couldn't really care less about Michael's good news.

"Look, if you're here to gloat, don't bother. I get it. You knew all along. So you can save whatever lecture you've come here to give. I don't care anymore."

A year ago he might have said something similar and not meant it. This time around he's surprised to find he does. What does it matter what Michael thinks of him when the one person whose opinion does matter hates him.

"Okay... I still have no idea what you're talking about," Michael answers, sounding genuinely confused. "I'm here because of Buster."

That grabs Gob's attention. Enough for him to sit up, anyway, though he still makes no move to get off the couch.

"Buster?" Gob says, earning one of Michael's are you not even listening to me nods.

"So you're not here about the parade?" Gob asks, just to clarify.

Michael's expression goes from long-suffering to suspicious in the blink of an eye.

"...Did something happen at the parade?" he asks.

"No," comes Gob's immediate reply, though he knows Michael finding out is only a matter of time. By the end of it, there were news helicopters circling like raptors.

Also, it's pretty obvious Michael doesn't believe him.

"So, Buster," Gob tries, aiming for misdirection.

It still takes Michael a minute to get back on track, his brain stuck chasing Gob's lie.

"Um, right, anyway. They're dropping the charges. Buster should be out of jail sometime this afternoon."

Gob's not going to lie--well, about this, anyway. Caught up in his own spectacular failings, he kind of forgot all about Buster. So he guesses this is good news. For Buster, anyway.

"They found her then?" Gob guesses, because if he's being honest Buster's pretty much the only person he can see having killed Lucille 2, so if they're letting him go odds are she's still alive.

Michael's extended pause suggests otherwise.

"Not really. But we have the stair-car. Or, we had the stair-car. They've got a picture of it down in Mexico. Or I guess I gave them a picture of it down in Mexico. I think it's still in Mexico. That's where George Michael said he left it, anyway," Michael says. Gob's having a hard time following.

"So... George Michael killed Lucille 2?" Gob tries. It should probably bother him more than it does. He did date the woman for a brief period of time.

"What? No. I thought it was Lucille 2 and Oscar in the picture, but it turns out it was actually George Michael and Maeby, except they were wearing Ron and Brian wigs."

Michael waves this aside before Gob can ask, like the story is irrelevant, like Gob's just supposed to know who Ron and Brian are and why they'd have a line of wigs.

"Anyway, the DA doesn't know that. I told them it was Lucille 2 in the picture. I mean, before I found out it was George and Maeby. But they ran it through their image enhancing software and falsely identified Maeby, who I thought was Lucille 2, as that Tony guy you hate, so now they've arrested him.

There are several parts of that story Gob doesn't understand. Mostly the part with the wigs. The part he focuses on, which he suspects is the important part, is the part where Tony has apparently been arrested for the murder a woman he couldn't have possibly murdered.

It's enough to get him off the couch, anyway, Gob across the room before Michael's had so much as a chance to blink.

"They've arrested Tony?" Gob repeats. His hands have somehow found their way onto Michael's shirt, Gob clinging somewhat desperately because he's pretty sure the world just fell out from beneath his feet.

"Um.. Yes?" Michael says, clearly confused. He reaches up and slowly unravels Gob's fists. Gob lets his now useless hands fall to his sides. The ground remains stubbornly solid beneath him.

"Look, I don't see what the problem is. I mean, you hate this guy. Just a few months ago you were talking about destroying his life. Plus with him taking the fall for this Buster gets to come home and..."

"Are we sure Buster didn't kill her?" Gob asks, because that still seems like the most likely scenario.

The look Michael shoots him suggests he doesn't agree.

"Look, mom and dad know where she is. They were just willing to let Buster take the fall so that it didn't screw up Lindsay's campaign. I thought you'd be happy about this. I mean, Buster gets to come home and your... rival, or whatever he is, gets dragged through the mud. And it's not like they're going to convict him. They don't even have a body."

Rival, Gob thinks, ignoring pretty much everything else Michael has said. Is that what they were? Is that how people see them? And okay, maybe not now. But maybe that's all they ever really were. And maybe that's why Tony sabotaged their act. Not because he hates Gob but because Gob's his rival and that's what rivals do...

Except he doesn't want to be Tony's rival. Not anymore. And he sure as hell doesn't want Tony to rot in jail over something he didn't do, even if it does mean having his brother take Tony's place.

"Listen," Gob says, this time taking Michael firmly by the shoulders. "You have to help me get Tony out of jail. I..."

And even though Michael's bound to find out anyway, Gob still can't bring himself to say it. It's one thing for Michael to find out on his own. Another for Gob to actually admit to his feelings.

"I want to be the one who ruins Tony's career. Not you," he says instead. It's a poor deflection, but a believable one, though if Michael's expression is any indication, he doesn't exactly find it reasonable.

~*~

Naturally Michael doesn't agree to help. Gob can't honestly say he's surprised. When has Michael ever done anything for this family? Well, except for threatening to leave only to come back time and time again. He's even abandoned the company, leaving Gob to juggle their recent acquisitions, not to mention the move. So of course he'd be no help here.

Truth be told, Gob's not quite sure how much help he's going to be either. Technically, he can provide an alibi, except for the part where Tony doesn't remember their night together and Gob's not quite sure he wants said night on record. But he has no idea if Tony even wants his help, let alone how he'll go about explaining.

So he does the only thing he can think of, which is to call the family attorney, because if anyone knows a thing or two about nights you'd rather stay forgotten, its Barry Zuckerkorn.

"I'm glad you called me. I was kind of hoping your brother's case would make it to trial, maybe even have the trial run long enough to use up my retainer. Obviously that didn't happen, but a Bluth's a Bluth as far as billing's concerned."

Barry lowers his voice for the next part, as though aware there are still employees in the building, even though Gob's threatened to fire them if they come within ten feet of his office.

"So what did you do?"

Gob, who thought he explained all of this over the phone, gives an exasperated sigh. "This isn't about me," he says.

"No, of course not. I'm sure you're perfectly innocent. And that is definitely what I'll be arguing when I represent you in court."

God, his family really does have the worst attorneys.

"I'm not even being tried," Gob tries, though, if anything, Barry just looks more perplexed. Gob gives up.

"This is about..." He lowers his voice. "Tony Wonder."

"Right," Barry says, this time nodding like he's finally caught up with the conversation. "The guy they arrested instead of your brother. I mean, that was luck, wasn't it? I mean, it's great. Really. Saved me a lot of reading..."

"No," Gob interjects. He's starting to think he should have just gone to the DA. "Look, Tony Wonder didn't kill Lucille Austero."

"He didn't?"

Gob isn't used to being the smartest person in the room, so it takes him almost a full minute before he realizes that's going to be the extent of Barry's revelation.

"No, he didn't. Do you know who's representing him? Who I can talk to about..."

Alibi's a big word. Gob can't bring himself to say it.

"...Tony's innocence."

"Hold on," Barry says, finally catching up with the proceedings. "You do realize they'll put Buster back in jail, don't you?"

Gob would be lying if he said he hadn't considered it. Lying if he said Buster was more important to him than Tony. But since neither of those things are things you tell a family attorney, Gob doesn't technically lie. He just keeps his mouth shut and lets the omission do it for him.

"It doesn't matter anyway," Barry continues, apparently taking Gob's silence for confusion. "From what I've heard, they don't even have a body. Plus, I'm pretty sure he's got Wayne Jarvis representing him, so he'll be fine. I say just lay low and let this all play out."

It's certainly tempting. Far more tempting that seeking out Wayne Jarvis--who has plenty of reason to hate his family. It's definitely better than having to explain the whole Cinco business, including the part about Tony not remembering. So maybe Barry's right. Maybe he should just lay low. Tony's probably fine. He's probably hanging out, playing catch with the guys. Just like Gob did during his famous prison-escape. Right before he got shanked by White Power Bill. But no. It's fine. Tony's fine. He's...

~*~

Terrified.

The arrest itself was annoying. The booking degrading. The three rounds of interrogation frustrating. But even through all of that Tony figured someone would eventually realize their mistake. They'd apologize. He'd pretend to be a bigger person than he was, offer up some free tickets to his next show or something. But apparently that's not going to happen. Because apparently when they have photographs of someone they think is you from a night you've been telling people didn't exist, it tends to look bad.

Disappearing from a very public double closet sexuality switch two hander float illusion didn't exactly help the situation.

And now he's got to wait on a bail hearing, because they don't run those over the weekend, which means he gets to spend a second night in a holding cell while he waits on the arbitrary decision of a judge who will either ask him for more money than he actually has or transfer him into the general population, where, as an out, gay magician, he's pretty sure he's screwed.

Maybe they'll let him camp out here. The meeting rooms at the police station are nice, anyway. Homey when they're not being used for interrogation. Maybe he'll even ask his lawyer, the man due in...

"Bad news," Wayne Jarvis says upon entering the room, not a hint of preamble. "They've found a body."

And yeah, that probably warrants the lack of introduction.

"Seriously?" Tony still has to ask. Wayne glances up from his notes long enough to shoot Tony a glare.

"What was the first time I ever said to you?" he asks. Tony considers.

"Something about professionalism? Which I get, man. But they found a body?"

This whole experience is starting to get a little surreal. He knows who Lucille Austero is now, but he's pretty sure he's never met the woman. At least, not in any sort of meaningful way. And sure, Sally works for her, and he thinks she's probably tied up in the company Gob's trying to run, but aside from that...

"Yes. So I really need you to tell me where you were on the fourth, because I'm not going to lie, Tony. It looks bad. Really bad."

"Right, yeah, I know. But I didn't kill her. I barely even know who she is. And I have an alibi, I just..."

"An alibi? That changes everything. Why didn't you say something sooner?"

And that's the question, isn't it? Because having an alibi is great, except for the part where his alibi doesn't know they're an alibi, or even remember the night in question. Sometimes he swears forget-me-nows are as much a curse as they are a blessing. It's something Gob would understand, anyway, though Wayne Jarvis doesn't look quite as open minded.

Still, there's nothing else for it, so Tony does his best to explain the night his would-be alibi chose to forget.

Chapter Text

~*~

Tony turns up to his bail hearing wearing the jumpsuit they gave him shortly after his booking. It's atrocious. He's not going to ask--because doing so would probably scar him for life--but he's pretty sure the thing is at best a 50 thread count. He feels dirty just having it against his skin.

They also don't permit hair care products in here, which means his usually artful spines are now more of a fuzzy halo. To add insult to injury, his goatee has lost its shape, the dye having faded, its sharp pink now a terrible shade of salmon beige.

It's enough to make him wish he'd paid more attention in Escapology 101--one of the correspondence courses he took back when he was still a little w, before his career really took off--but even back then he preferred appearing to disappearing, Tony opting to practice his contortion techniques instead. And okay, being able to squeeze inside a dumb waiter has been really good for his career, but right now he'd give just about anything to know how to remove the cuffs currently chafing his wrists.

Gob makes the trick look so easy.

The judge hasn't turned up yet, which means he's stuck waiting at the defendant table with his lawyer, who, aside from reminding Tony that he can't predict the outcome of the case and therefore can't offer reassurances, hasn't said a word since his arrival. Something about small talk that Tony vaguely remembers from the contract he signed, though he was far too preoccupied by the Patriot Act clause to give it much thought at the time.

This isn't Tony's first court proceeding--there was that copyright infringement case a few years back--but it is the first time he's stood before a judge requesting bail, so he's a little slow getting to his feet when Judge Reinhold finally makes his appearance. They've gone over how this is going to work, though, so Tony keeps his mouth shut and lets his lawyer do the talking. It leaves him free to drift, mostly because he doesn't particularly need to hear Jarvis' spiel on why he's not, technically, a flight risk, but also because the last time he tried to keep up with Jarvis' legal jargon he fell asleep drooling in his chair.

The whole process takes maybe fifteen minutes. As soon as it's over Jarvis thanks the judge and then, just like that, court is adjourned. Tony's not gonna lie, he missed most of it, but he's pretty sure he's been granted bail. He's also pretty sure the figure is well beyond his reach. Best case scenario--and that involves selling his closet as a sweat lodge on ebay--he's maybe got $50,000 to his name.

"So now what?" Tony asks after the judge has left the room.

"Now," Jarvis says with the patience of a man who's already explained this and doesn't appreciate having to do it a second time, "they're going to transfer you to Orange County Prison until you make bail."

"And if I don't have the funds?" Tony asks.

"Relax, I'll put you in touch with a bondsman. In the meantime, sit tight and try not to get yourself stabbed."

Wayne Jarvis says this like he expects it to happen. Like if it did Tony wouldn't even be the first of his clients. Tony's not exactly reassured.

"What about Gob?" Tony asks, feeling somewhat desperate in the face of his impending transfer. The look Jarvis shoots him suggests he thinks the question unworthy of his time.

"You said if we could convince Gob to testify, there was a chance they'd drop the charges," Tony presses. Jarvis' expression doesn't change.

"I did."

"So how are we going to do that?" Tony asks. Jarvis' last word on the subject was let me handle it, but Tony still doesn't know how Jarvis is going to convince Gob to lie--without technically lying--and say they were together--which they were--when Gob thinks they weren't, especially when doing so will mean admitting to the sex they actually had that Gob chose to forget.

And huh. Apparently Tony's still a little mad.

"What was the one thing I told you when you hired me?" Wayne Jarvis asks.

"That you're a professional," Tony parrots. This isn't their first such exchange.

"Exactly," Jarvis says, like that alone should be all the reassurance Tony needs. He's gone from the room before Tony can ask for clarification, a guard from county lockup coming in to take his place.

~*~

As it turns out, having a group of subordinate, albeit supportive employees is a lot more rewarding than Gob first assumed. Partly because, prior to the closet guys, Gob's only recourse for human interaction was a family that didn't really care about him, but mostly because, as it turns out, people who dedicate their lives to organizing a person's wardrobe excell at empathy in the way Gob's aforementioned family do not.

They're good listeners, anyway, which kind of makes up for the bad investment decision because, as it turns out, people just coming out of a housing market collapse aren't exactly keen on customizing their closets. Go figure.

They're also duly sympathetic and unwavering in their support, which is exactly what Gob needs during this, the worst week of his life.

"My lawyer suggested laying low and waiting this out, but that was before this," Gob explains, gesturing to the front page of the Daily Pilot, the latest local newspaper to print a picture of the recently found banana stand.

They've all seen the live footage, of course, the local news airing it seemingly on loop. In it a police crane can be seen lifting the banana stand out of the bay, water streaming from inside. The stand, of course, isn't the important part. The important part is what they found inside, which is why the clip ends abruptly mere seconds after the stand is returned to its proper place on the ground.

Just like the local news, which tends to throw up a clip of Tony disappearing from the parade, there's a picture of Tony in the paper, too, only this one looks like a mugshot, Gob's stomach sinking at the sight of him without any pink in his beard.

Without really meaning to, he finds himself tracing a finger down the length of Tony's cheek.

"Maybe you should go visit him," one of the closet guys says, clearly sensing Gob's longing.

"Yeah, just like, tell him what happened and see what he says. I mean, even if he doesn't appreciate it..."

"It's still the right thing to do," the third guy finishes. Gob really ought to consider learning their names.

"I mean, he already hates me," Gob says, warming up to the idea.

"Exactly, so it's not like it's going to make things worse," the cute one echoes, the three of them now vibrating with the same energy they brought to the double closet sexuality switch two-hander float illusion.

"There's just one problem," Gob tells them, oddly reluctant to break their mood. "He'd have to agree to see me first."

After everything that happened between them, Gob can't see that happening. No, his only hope is to do this through lawyers, which means calling up Barry and telling him the truth.

"Look, I appreciate the idea, but... Hold on," Gob says, interrupted by the ringing of his phone, Mark Cherry's Getaway filling the room. Gob practically lunges for it.

His heart sinks like it does every time his phone rings and a name that isn't Tony Wonder appears on screen. Not that Gob was expecting Tony--what with him being in jail and all--but the heart wants what the heart wants, however much Gob wished otherwise.

Still, Barry Zuckerkorn is a call he should probably answer. In part because he was just thinking about giving the man a call, but mostly because Barry wouldn't be calling unless there was a break in the case.

"Gob here," Gob says into the receiver. The closet guys are obviously listening in, but unlike Kitty they already know all his secrets so Gob can't say he minds.

"Ah, good, I've been trying to reach you," Barry says, though a quick scroll through Gob's call history doesn't bring up any other calls. "Did you hear they found a body?" Barry continues, like the banana stand retrieval is somehow recent news.

"Yeah," Gob says, half afraid it's the reason for Barry's call.

"Crazy, right? Boy, I did not see that one coming."

The closet guys are watching him openly now, like they think maybe it's Tony on the other side of the line. Gob gives a brief shake of his head, More than one set of shoulders deflate at the news.

"Is there something you needed?" Gob asks when it becomes obvious Barry's forgotten why he called. A terse minute of silence follows. Gob can practically hear Barry thinking.

"Oh, right," Barry eventually says, realization dawning. "That friend of yours... Tony..."

"Tony Wonder?"

"That's the one. His lawyer, Wayne Jarvis, wants to see you. Something about some evidence. Anyway, you'd better get over there as quick as you can."

A thousand scenarios run through Gob's head, though none of them warrant a call from Tony's lawyer; all of them leave him genuinely confused. And yet, this is what he wanted, wasn't it?

"What time?" Gob asks.

"What do you mean what time?" Barry returns. "Are you on your way? You should be on your way. He called me yesterday. It sounded urgent."

"Yesterday?" Gob shouts into the receiver. "Why didn't you call me?"

He's out of his chair in a flash, three sets of eyes watching him leave.

"What do you mean? I'm calling you now. Which I'm going to charge you for, by the way," Barry says. He sounds incredulous, like he can't believe Gob's nerve.

"Look, it doesn't matter. Just call him back and tell him I'm on my way," Gob tells him, having now made it out to his car.

"Fine," Barry answers, "but I'm charging you for that, too. Half an hour a call. And I'm doing you a favour charging you the minimum because the Bluths are my biggest clients."

They're his only clients, Gob would wager, though he doesn't say it. Instead he disconnects the call, not particularly interested in hearing Barry reminisce about the time he got Gob out of juvy. Right now he's got bigger things to worry about. Tony shaped things to worry about. That and he still doesn't know what he's going to say to convince Tony's lawyer that Tony doesn't belong in jail.

~*~

He should have known. The second a Bluth name entered the conversation, he should have known. If Wayne Jarvis had to list his strengths, professionalism would sit at the top of the list. He's now had the displeasure of meeting all the Bluths, and not one of them warrants the distinction, Gob Bluth, perhaps, least among them.

And yet, because he is a professional, Wayne calls the Bluth family lawyer, unsurprised when Barry Zuckerkorn's I'll call you right back turns out to mean almost twenty-four hours later. Still, Gob Bluth is on his way, which isn't exactly what Wayne had in mind but is also something a professional takes in stride.

"Carol," Wayne says to his assistant. "Cancel my 3:30."

Gob bluth arrives at 3:35.

His out of breath and looks on the verge of panic, but Wayne ignores all of that, gesturing Gob into a chair like he's any other client.

"Thank you coming," Wayne says before Gob can get in a word. He sees no reason they can't skip the formalities. "I understand you may have information pertaining to my client's innocence," he continues without preamble.

Gob Bluth makes that face people make when they're confused.

"How... Of course, Barry," Gob eventually says, surprisingly amenable given his client's explanation of the affair.

"Look," Gob continues. "I'll do just about anything for Tony. I..." There's a brief pause that makes Wayne think this is going to need a softer hand. Fortunately Carol is waiting in the next room. She may not share his stout professionalism, but she's very good at handling the more... emotional clients.

But it turns out Carol's involvement isn't necessary, Gob heaving a great sigh before spitting out the rest of his thought.

"I love him," he says.

Wayne grimaces, romantic entanglements the last thing he needs.

"That's great," Wayne tells him, thinking perhaps he can use this to his advantage. "Would you be willing to go before a judge and say Tony was with you on the night of Lucille Austero's disappearance?"

Given what Tony's told him, he's not technically asking a witness to lie.

"How did... Right, Barry," Gob says, sounding decidedly put upon. Wayne would really like to hasten this meeting to an end.

"Look, I'd love to help. To go before a judge and... Tell them I was with Tony. But the thing is, Tony doesn't want my help. He doesn't even..."

Wayne remembers why he stopped dealing with the Bluths.

"I want to start by saying I find all of this relationship drama quite off-putting, and would rather we stick to the facts, but you should know that this meeting was Tony's idea."

That perks Gob up, though Wayne's not quite sure that was his intention. Still, at this point he'll take progress where he can get it.

"In that case, yes," Gob says. "To the whole judge thing. Just..."

Wayne holds up a hand.

"I'll schedule the appointment, but I would appreciate it if you kept anything non-case related to yourself."

Gob nods at that, more professional than Wayne would have thought him capable of being. The sentiment lasts just until Gob opens his mouth, following instructions obviously not one of his skills.

"I just need to know. Does Tony want to see me?"

There's an edge of hope in his tone that Wayne tends to hear in some of his more desperate clients. He tries to curb this wherever possible. Hope is not something you want to bring into a courtroom. It's only slightly less useful inside an oncologists office.

"I can't possibly know that," Wayne still says, Tony's personal feelings on the subject not exactly relevant to the case.

"But if he did, you could arrange it, right? A meeting."

And maybe he's getting soft in his old age. Or maybe his blood sugar is just getting low what with him having cancelled his 3:30 snack break. Whatever it is, Wayne finds himself saying something he never thought he would.

"I can relay the request, but it would probably be faster to just wait until he posts bail."

He regrets it the second it's out, Gob going from vaguely hopeful to manically excited in the blink of an eye. At this rate Wayne's surprised he doesn't have emotional whiplash.

"Tony made bail?" Gob asks, a redundant question but given that Gob is the perhaps the key to his defense, Wayne opts to tread lightly.

"Provided I can find a bondsperson willing to grant him the bond, yes," he explains, though he neglects to mention the part where his client's history of running bad debts is making that difficult.

"How much are we talking?" Gob asks, manic excitement having not waned in the least.

It's sensitive information. Not exactly confidential information--it is a matter of the court record--but Wayne's not entirely sure how his client would feel about him sharing the information. By the same token, Gob really is the best defense they've got, regardless of whether or not the man thinks he's lying. With this in mind, Wayne opts to go out on a limb.

"$100,000."

Gob seems to consider.

"And... what were to happen if I were to pay that?" he eventually asks. Wayne can't say that much surprises him these days, but this... This takes him aback.

"You have $100,000?"

Gob shrugs. "Well, the company does. And I do have this enormous chequebook."

He pulls what looks like a leather bound ledger from inside his suit jacket and sets it on the desk. Inside, are hundreds of cheques, perforated five to a page.

"They let me just write cheques for whatever I want. Because I'm the president," Gob explains. "I bought a trophy store."

"A trophy store?" Wayne doesn't know why he asked.

"I mean, it's not like I gave myself a trophy," Gob answers, though Wayne is reasonably certain that isn't the case. "I just bought it for deforestation, or something like that."

"I think you mean diversification, but regardless. If you'd like to post Tony's bail I'm sure he'd be delighted," Wayne says. Gob smiles brightly at this. "But you'll have to go see the prison clerk. She'll help you get the ball rolling. In the meantime, this meeting is costing my client money, so if you don't mind..."

He gestures to the door, though Gob still makes no move to leave. Now resigned to his fate, Wayne signals for him to say whatever it is that's still on his mind.

"Just... Tell Tony," Gob begins, Wayne interrupting him before the thought can come to fruition.

"I am obliged to tell you that I am under no obligation to relay any message you might have. If you feel the matter is urgent, have your lawyer draft a letter."

And with that Wayne dismisses Gob from the room, Gob taking the hint this time and slinking slowly from the room. Twenty-three minutes, Wayne notes. He jots it down along with a note reminding him to add the minutes to Mr. Wonder's bill.

Chapter Text

~*~

They give him his own cell, not because they recognize him as someone famous, or because he's made a career out of being flamboyantly gay. No, when Tony asks, he's told it's because they've had problems with magicians in the past, so now there's a rule about keeping them away from the general population. Tony has a feeling he knows exactly the magician they mean.

Private cell or no private cell, prison is still an utterly horrifying experience. Sound has a tendency to travel--what with there being bars in place of walls--and since his cell's just down the hall from the common room, Tony can hear exactly what the rest of the population are watching on TV. Normally he wouldn't care--what's a little television between detainees-- but Tony's got a good ear so it's hard to ignore that his fellow prisoners watching that ridiculous David Copperfield special Copperfield put out last year. And okay, maybe Tony's a little competitive--or a lot competitive, whatever--but there's not a magician alive who doesn't recognize Copperfield for the pompous, overrated showboat that he is. Being forced to listen to one of his shows is tantamount to torture as far as Tony's concerned.

And there's no escaping it, three of his walls concrete, the fourth impenetrable steel bars. He doesn't even have a pillow in here, his cell as barren as... well, his career, he suspects, after all of this is over.

Down the hall, the swell of music grows to a dramatic climax. A second later the common room erupts into cheers. Tony would give just about anything for a Tumi right about now. In addition to being surprisingly comfortable, they're also relatively soundproof, enough, anyway, to avoid hearing David Copperfield's applause.

But he doesn't have a Tumi, or any other luggage, really. What he does have is a steel foot locker tucked under his bed. It's not the comfiest thing, but it's definitely soundproof, and, to Tony's surprise, is actually quite roomy inside.

So that's where they find him. After the alarms go off and the prison goes into lockdown, Tony's disappearance apparently going unnoticed until they checked and failed to find him in his cell. He might have spared them a bit of the trouble, but in addition to being soundproof the foot locker turned out to be surprisingly oxygen proof, Tony falling asleep not long after shutting the lid.

"Thought you'd managed to do what that other magician couldn't," the warden says as a pair of guards drag Tony from the warmth of his cocoon.

"Did somebody say Wonder?" Tony asks, not because anyone did, but because emerging from tight spaces tends to trigger the reaction. The warden merely shakes his head.

"Wasn't sure why you bothered, given that you've made bail," he continues.

Tony perks up a bit at that, although that might also be because his lightheadedness is finally beginning to clear. Still, take that, David Copperfield!

"Your lawyer's here to collect you. Mr Sabino," the warden points to the guard flanking his left, "will see to it your personal belongings are returned."

And just like that Tony's ordeal is over, Mr. Sabino escorting Tony from his cell, David Copperfield's special giving way to what Tony thinks might be the opening strains of The Lone Ranger.

~*~

As promised, Wayne Jarvis is waiting for him in Receiving and Discharge. So is another guard, this one holding a bag of Tony's stuff. They've already given him back his suit--and allowed him to change, although at this point the suit is so direly in need of a cleaning he almost preferred the orange jumpsuit.

"Thanks," Tony says as Wayne Jarvis comes forward to claim him. "I owe you one."

Actually, he owes him several, thousands of dollars that is, but given what he's just endured, Tony can't help but feel a little grateful.

"Don't thank me. Had you told me about your credit history I wouldn't have bothered trying to find you a bond agent. Fortunately, your friend stepped forward, otherwise you might have had a long wait."

Jarvis sounds neither impressed nor upset, just annoyed, like there were better things he could be doing with his time. Tony can't help but feel a little sheepish about that, though it's not like it's his fault there are liens out for the various pieces he uses in his act. Actually, scratch that. It's probably his fault. But he didn't intend to skip out on his debts--shit just happens--and besides, it's not like he knew he'd need a bail bond someday.

"Wait," Tony says, only just catching up with the rest of what Javis has said. "Sally bailed me out?"

Because, huh, he did not see that coming. And sure, as he's established, Sally's a friend, he just hadn't realized that friendship was reciprocal. If anything, he'd kind of been labouring under the assumption that Sally didn't really care.

"Not that friend," Jarvis tells him, "your other one."

Tony has to consider that for a moment, because aside from Sally--who he only just realized was possibly a friend--he can't think of a single other person who qualifies.

His confusion must show on his face, because Jarvis shakes his head, muttering something about professionalism before saying, "Gob Bluth," like it's not the revelation it clearly is.

"Gobbie bailed me out?" Tony still asks, because he'd pretty much settled on Gob hating him, but if Gob's bailed him out then there's a chance...

Unless of course this is a part of some new plan. Like maybe Gob's planning on extracting revenge. Getting Tony's hopes up only to turn around and break Tony's hear--because Tony's pretty sure that's exactly what happened before all the cement. Except the other way around. The same. But the other way around. So, not the same. But also, completely and utterly the same.

"What did I tell you about relationship drama?" Jarvis asks. Tony considers.

"Um... I'm not sure you did," he decides.

"Right," Jarvis says after a minute. "That was your friend, but my point still stands. I find it off-putting and won't be a part of it."

Tony wants to ask--wants to know what Gob could possibly have said to warrant such a response--but he's already treading on pretty thin ice and, right now, Jarvis is his only way out of here, or at least, the only person he knows here with a car.

He's tempted, once they get into said car and Jarvis asks him for directions, to have Jarvis drive him over to Gob's place, even knowing it might strand him in the middle of Sudden Valley. Instead, after several long minutes of agonizing indecision that may have caused Jarvis to snap at him and during which Tony absolutely did not cry, Tony tells Jarvis to drop him off at Sally's, because, again, as he's mentioned before, they're now sort of kind of friends.

Sally, naturally, is unimpressed by this decision.

"I thought I told you to lay low. That I couldn't be seen with you right now," she hisses as soon as she realizes it's him outside her door.

"I know, and I won't stay long... Although, I will need a ride... I just... I really need someone to talk to right now," Tony says.

Sally's expression goes from annoyed to alarmed in thirty-seconds flat. She stares at him like a pair of horns just sprouted on top of his head.

"Oh my god, you killed her," she says, and then gives Tony precisely zero seconds to correct her before she's pulling him inside.

"You realize I was kidding when I said it would be good for me if that old bat fell down a flight of stairs and hit her head," Sally continues once the door is firmly shut behind them, like she honestly thinks Tony would kill someone to help out her career.

"I didn't kill Lucille Austero," Tony says. "I didn't kill anyone. And anyway, it doesn't matter, because I have an alibi and they're going to testify on my behalf before this ever gets to trial."

Sally, who's clearly just come from some campaign event--she's wearing one of her better suits--gives him an incredulous look, like Tony's assurances have somehow failed to convince her of his innocence. And maybe Tony was wrong. Maybe they aren't friends.

"Look, here's the thing. I didn't see you all of Cinco. No one saw you all of Cinco. You were being weird and secretive and even after it was pretty obvious you were hiding something, so..."

This isn't a conversation he wants to be having. Certainly not inside the foyer of Sally's apartment--which still stinks of mothballs; that and artificial hair.

"I know, okay," Tony says. He wishes she'd at least invite him into the kitchen or something, but right now she's looking at him like he's Jack the fucking Ripper instead of the guy she's been plotting with for nearly five years.

It hurts almost as much as it did that time Gob stood him up.

"But it's not because I was killing Lucille Austero. I..."

And really, what does he have to lose in telling the truth?

"I was with someone."

"Right. You were with someone. That you couldn't tell me about. That you..."

He catches the second it dawns, Tony wincing in preparation of what's to come.

"Oh, my, god," Sally says. And now she just looks giddy. "You were with Gob Bluth, weren't you?" she still asks.

Tony, who sees no point in denying it--not now, anyway--gives a faint shrug.

"Oh my god," Sally says again. "You fucked Gob Bluth. That's... Wait, why didn't you just tell them that?"

She's relaxed her guard, anyway, which makes Tony feel a little better about the whole Sally thinking him a serial killer thing. Still, having Sally mock him isn't much better, so Tony crosses his arms over his chest and doesn't bother hiding his hurt.

"I couldn't, okay. I mean, for one, I thought this would all blow over, like they'd figure out their mistake and... And for another, Gob doesn't know we... had sex," Tony says, mostly in response to the arching of Sally's oddly crooked eyebrow. "He took a forget-me-now. After."

He thought maybe the day of his arrest was the worst day of his life, but this is shaping up to be just as bad. This morning he woke up in a holding cell and now, almost fourteen hours later, he's standing in Sally's hallway--she still hasn't invited him in--wearing a three-day old suit without a hint of product in his hair, and all she can do is stare at him, like she's maybe decided he's an idiot and can't figure out why she put up with him for as long as she did.

"Wait, let me get this straight," Sally says. "Gob Bluth had sex with you, and then immediately fed himself a roofie so that he could forget having had sex with you. I mean, you're not great in bed, but you're not that bad..."

"Hey, whoa. Do you have to just go for the jugular like that?"

And, honestly, what the hell was he thinking coming here?

"And he didn't take a roofie because the sex was bad. It was amazing. And magical. And... Stop looking at me like that. He took it because he's not gay, and I don't know... He was ashamed or something. But that's not the point."

Actually, Tony's not sure what the point is. Not anymore.

"The point is I've got an alibi. He just... doesn't know that. But he agreed to testify we were together, even if he doesn't remember, and he posted my bail, so..."

Sally, who's still staring at him like she's half expecting him to pull a coin out from behind her ear--god, she hates that--is starting to look like she might be on the verge of an epiphany, like any minute now she's going to put two and two together and...

"Oh my god," she says for what feels like the umpteenth time today. "You didn't come here for help. You came here for relationship advice. Oh my god. Tony. That's..."

Tony's not gonna lie. The laughter hurts. Almost as much as her thinking him capable of murder. So, yeah. He definitely should have gone to see Gob. Which, now that he thinks about it, is exactly where he's going, right after he finds himself a cab.

~*~

It is entirely possible he's made a mistake. How big of a mistake remains to be seen.

Actually, scratch that. He hasn't made one mistake. He's made a series of mistakes that began the moment he thought he could con Tony without getting emotionally involved.

God. Emotionally involved. He's starting to sound like Michael.

Michael, who maybe still doesn't know--although surely someone's mentioned it to him by now. Then again, he's probably too preoccupied by the whole banana stand/body thing to care. Maybe the whole Gob accidentally outing himself in front of the entire city went unnoticed, in which case Gob can just write the whole thing off as a freeby and move on with his life.

Easier said than done, because at the end of the day Tony still hates him. And now Tony knows. At least, Tony's lawyer knows, and since lawyers have a tendency to share things with their clients--attorney-client privilege, Gob thinks it's called--that means Tony knows which means Gob's right back where he started.

Which he's pretty sure is the whole Tony knowing they had sex thing.

Is he mad about that, Gob wonders. Gob did bail him out of jail, but that doesn't really make up for the whole not telling him about all the fantastic sex they had. Then again, why would Tony be mad? It's not like it's Gob's fault he took a forget-me-now. And really, what was Gob supposed to do? Tell Tony something he clearly didn't want to know? That he went out of his way to forget? If Tony's mad, he's got nobody to blame but himself. Gob was just... Respecting Tony's wishes. That's what he was doing. Which sort of makes him the good guy here. Plus, there's also the whole bailing Tony out of jail thing.

And how long does that take, anyway? How long before Gob can safely...

Safely what? Call Tony up? Drop by his apartment? After Tony went to all that trouble to cut Gob out of his life? It's not like Tony owes him anything--well, unless Tony skips out on bail, because then he owes Gob $100,000.

There is a distinct possibility Gob may not have thought this through.

"God," Gob says to the empty living room. "When did my life start to suck?"

As soon as he says it he knows it's not a question he wants answered. Because if he's honest with himself his life has sucked for a while now. Tony was the one bright point, and now that's over, Gob left with nothing but a cheaply constructed model home--that he didn't actually have to pay for and still needs to clear out of anytime a real estate agent wants to show it to some clients--and his bees. Which he doesn't technically have anymore because they all escaped down in Mexico. So scratch bees off that list.

And wow. Without the bees he really doesn't have anything. Even his family doesn't care. Maybe, if he had kids of his own things would be different, but... Oh, who is he kidding. He's not cut out for fatherhood. Just ask that guy who claims to be his kid. Dave, or Steve, or something.

And great. Now someone's knocking at his door. It's probably Dave, looking for a handout. Or maybe Michael, finally come to gloat. It takes Gob a minute--because he's still kind of hoping whoever it is will go away--but he eventually pries himself from the couch and ambles on over, flip-flops scuffing against the floor.

"Whatever you're selling, we're not interested," Gob says as he throws open the door.

And then promptly freezes, because the person standing on the other side isn't selling something. And it's not Steve come looking for a handout. Or Michael come to gloat. The person standing on the other side is Tony fucking Wonder, looking poised and freshly showed and is also the most beautiful thing Gob has ever seen.

For what he suspects is the first time in his life, Gob finds himself completely and utterly lost for words.

Chapter Text

~*~

"You gonna invite me in?" Tony asks after several long minutes of mutual staring. He'd forgotten Gob's intensity, the way it simultaneously makes him want to up his game and bare his soul. He'd missed that on the float, the sensation oddly comparable to being on stage.

Gob doesn't answer, still caught up in staring like he can't quite believe Tony's here. He looks a little like he's seeing a ghost, which, okay, Tony gets, except Gob bailed him out so it's not like he didn't already know Tony was alive.

A second later the penny drops, because, yeah, Tony gets why that might not have been enough.

"I guess I owe you an explanation," he says.

Gob, after another second of awkward silence, blinks. It's the first thing he's done since opening the door. Tony hadn't realized how much he was hoping for something--anything--until the small gesture floods him with relief.

"See, the thing is..."

"It's okay," Gob says unexpectedly. "I get it." He sounds surprisingly calm. Tony watches, somewhat impressed by the quick transition, as Gob's stage persona slips into place, Gob poised in a way Tony can almost guarantee he's not. But Tony gets that too, because, honestly, same.

"Right," Tony still says. "Cause I thought we were still doing that whole..."

"Sabotaging each other's careers," Gob finishes with him. Tony breaks into a grin.

"Same," he says, only this time it's on his own, Gob facade still firmly in place.

"Guess I fucked up," Tony adds, feeling suddenly chagrin.

It has the intended effect, Gob deflating, like Tony admitting his mistake was exactly what Gob needed to hear. He's still a little standoffish, but there's a tentativeness there that wasn't there before, like maybe if Tony presses he might actually get an invite inside.

Getting inside is a con he perfected years ago, only this time it he's not looking to score; this time, when Tony lets his expression grow contrite, he's surprised to find he really means it, Gob someone he actually wants to appease.

Gob, who apparently recognizes Tony's trick for what it is, gives a somewhat dramatic sigh.

"You wanna come in?" he asks, like he was going to either way; like he thinks Tony's ridiculous but appreciates the effort all the same. It's the closest Tony's come to hope in longer than he cares to admit.

Tony's answering nod is perhaps a bit too eager, but Gob doesn't seem to mind. He moves aside, anyway, his free hand--the one not holding open the door--gesturing Tony inside. Tony brushes past him, the contact sparking the same inexplicable pull he remembers from Cinco. It's not desire--well, not just desire--but rather an oddly familiar kind of warmth that Tony's too unfamiliar with to name.

Well, that and Gob smells really, really nice.

"So, um... I'm glad you're not dead," Gob says after he's brought them into the kitchen, universal safe ground.

"Not my finest hour," Tony admits. The corner of Gob's mouth curls into a smile. "It certainly didn't warrant bailing me out, so I guess I owe you for that."

And just like that the progress they've made vanishes, Gob's expression darkening, new walls springing up into place.

"You don't owe me anything," he says, the source of his unhappiness suddenly clear. "So if that's why you're here..."

"That's not," Tony rushes to reassure. "Look, I screwed up. I thought one thing was happening but it turned out something else was happening and if I had to do it all over again I'd do something different because the thing that was actually happening is the thing I would have wanted to happen, I just figured that out too late to change what actually happened."

Somewhere in all of that, he lost Gob, so Tony scrambles to make it clear.

"What I mean is you don't owe me anything. And I'm not here because I owe you anything, even though I do. I'm here because..." I think maybe I'm in love with you Tony doesn't say, opting instead for, "because I fucked up, okay."

It's still the most honest he's ever been, which Gob seems to get because he drops a little of his guard. Enough that Tony can see the first stirrings of hope, anyway. It makes it easy to bring up Cinco, that night still the only thing standing in their way.

"Look, I think you should know..."

"It's okay," Gob interrupts. "I mean, I know you know. And maybe I should have told you, but I kind of figured you knew what you were doing so..."

Now it's Tony who's lost, because for the life of him he can't figure out what Gob means. It doesn't line up with the rest of their conversation, anyway, which is frustrating given how often they end on the same page. Tony's about to ask--to get them back on track, bring up Cinco because he's pretty sure that's where they derailed--when the front door bursts open, whatever clarity Tony was hoping to get lost to the sudden dramatic arrival of a man Tony's pretty sure is Gob's younger brother.

"Oh, come on," Tony says, half under his breath.

Michael--at least Tony thinks that's his name--hasn't made it fully into the kitchen yet, which means he hasn't noticed Tony, which means he's speaking freely, Gob frozen in place.

"You won't believe what happened," he says. "That friend of yours has an alibi. Can you believe..."

He freezes the second he does spot Tony, whatever he was going to say lost to the shocked expression he now wears. Not that it matters. Tony's pretty sure he got the gist. Or at least, enough to know this isn't going to go any better than it did the last time. A glance in Gob's direction shows him on the verge of hyperventilating.

"What the hell is he doing here?" Michael asks, his attention pivoting back to Gob.

"I... Should... I..."

Definitely worse than last time, Tony decides.

"And why does this feel familiar?" Michael continues, his gaze now pivoting between the two of them.

If anything the statement amplifies Gob's panic, though at least now he seems capable of speech.

"What do you remember?" he asks, sounding particularly desperate, like Michael's answer carries the weight of the world. Tony needs a minute to process that.

"Wait, what does he remember? What do you remember?" Tony asks, because if Gob remembers Michael not remembering then he should also remember remembering and...

Somewhere in all of that Tony's heart sinks.

"What do I remember? What do you remember?" Gob asks, this time with accusation in his tone.

And this, Tony thinks, is what they call a collective moment of realization. It's nowhere near as satisfying as he assumed it would be. Instead he's left feeling vaguely hurt; that and confused, because he's no longer quite so sure what he was trying to accomplish, this thing with Gob layers more complicated than he'd first assumed.

"You know what, I should go," Tony says, because Michael's still here and if Tony's sure about anything it's that conversations are best held outside of the audience's hearing.

Under different circumstances, Tony thinks maybe Gob might have objected. There's a slight flare of panic in his eyes, anyway, like he's maybe afraid letting Tony go will mean losing Tony for good. He doesn't say anything, though, instead glancing to his brother, Michael's presence complicating an already complicated matter. Tony takes that as a sign he's made the right decision. It's not until later, after he's through the front door, that it occurs to him he now has to wait upwards of forty minutes for a cab.

~*~

"Well," Gob says, turning his attention back to Michael. They're two for two now, Michael once again ruining his life. "I hope you're happy."

Michael doesn't even have the decency to look admonished.

"You gonna tell me what's going on?" he says. "This isn't the first time I've caught you two together, is it?"

In part because it's true, but mostly because Gob doesn't want to give Michael the satisfaction of answer, Gob opts not to respond.

"Damn it, Gob. What did I tell you about roofying me? You can't just go around..."

It was, Gob supposes, only a matter of time before Michael put the pieces together.

"Wait, are you his alibi? Is that why you were so quick to defend him? Are you and he..."

Hearing the incredulity in Michael's tone is only somewhat reassuring.

"I knew it," he still gloats. "I knew it. I can't believe you... You know they're going to arrest Buster again, don't you?"

It's also marginally reassuring to know Michael cares more about the fate of their little brother than Gob's newly discovered orientation. Buster, at least, is safe ground.

"Are we sure he didn't kill her?" Gob has to ask, because it still seems like the most obvious answer.

The look Michael shoots him suggests he doesn't agree.

"Are you kidding me? You're unbelievable. I can't believe you'd..."

"What? Help keep an innocent man out of prison? Tony didn't kill her, Michael."

He hadn't particularly intended to draw attention back to Tony. He just wanted the conversation to end. And okay, maybe Buster didn't kill Lucille 2, but neither did Tony and Gob's getting a little sick of his family's tendency to throw people under the bus.

"Right, because he was with you," Michael says, latching on to the topic with apparent glee. "How long's that been going on for, by the way? Do Mom and Dad know?"

The thought of his parents finding out reignites the panic he thought he'd successfully stayed. Before he's quite made up his mind to move Gob's rushing forward, intent on pinning Michael by the shoulders and making him promise to keep this conversation to himself. But Michael's seemingly ready for him, Gob not even making contact before Michael has him down and pinned on the ground. He's gone a second later, Gob left more than a little dazed, still not entirely clear on how he ended sprawled across the floor.

"Okay... Where'd you learn to do that?" Gob asks, because he's pretty sure Michael besting him in combat is new.

"Family defense classes," Michael tells him. Oddly, the answer makes a good deal of sense.

"Look, you can't tell them," Gob says, not bothering to remove himself from the floor.

"Don't tell me you actually have feelings for this guy," Michael says, like he's expecting Gob to object. When Gob doesn't, his eyes grow comically wide.

"Look, it doesn't matter. As far as I know he still hates me, so... But he still didn't kill Lucille 2. And besides, didn't you say she was still alive?"

Michael, who's still looking at him like he's seeing something new, shakes his head.

"I thought she was, too. Mom and Dad seemed to know where she was so..."

Gob sits up at that, his earlier embarrassment over Tony forgotten. He still needs this conversation to be over--mostly so that he can call Tony and try to explain--but right now he has to ask:

"Do you think they killed her?"

Michael perks up a little at that, like the thought hadn't occurred to him before now. He's surprisingly upbeat for someone contemplating his parents capacity for murder.

"For Lindsay?" he asks.

"Or because Mom hates her," Gob offers. "Or because Dad was sticking it to her. Or because..."

"Yeah, no I get it," Michael heads him off. "But still, I can't see..."

"You said they were willing to let Buster rot in jail, remember," Gob reminds him, even though he doesn't think he technically has to. That's their parents right there in a nutshell, everyone expendable, including Tony when Michael thought it would simply be easier to let Tony take the fall.

And maybe Michael picks up on that, because he goes strangely quiet, his expression soft in the way it gets whenever he decides it's time to be a good brother. Gob hates that he falls for it, every time, but since it's the closest thing to approval he's likely to get, he keeps his mouth shut and doesn't complain.

"If I'd know you and he..." is as far as Michael gets before Gob stops him. He's nowhere near ready for this, he decides, the guys at the closet store one thing, his brother something else entirely.

"Look, just find out what Mom and Dad know," Gob says, trying to get them back on track, Lucille 2's murder infinitely safer than his relationship with Tony. Besides, if Michael's right and they do know, then both Tony and Buster walk free.

"You know they're not going to tell me," Michael says, like there's even a remote chance they'd consider telling Gob. Gob lets a pointed eyebrow point this out. Michael reluctantly agrees.

"Fine, I'll talk to them," Michael says.

"But you won't tell them," Gob presses, just to be clear.

"I won't tell them," Michael promises. He's gone all soft again, like maybe Gob shouldn't have roofied him back on Cinco; like maybe had Michael found out sooner Gob wouldn't be in the mess he's in today.

Either way Gob doesn't want to hear it--that and he's pretty sure his window for calling Tony is coming to a close--so he scrambles up from the floor and ushers Michael out the door, the latch barely catching behind him before Gob's pulling out his phone, Tony now his most frequented contact; that and the only contact he's not related to by marriage or blood.

~*~

The door to Gob's house opens. Tony has just enough time to duck behind an open house sign before Gob's brother appears on the porch. He spends almost a full minute just standing there, oscillating back and forth like he's considering heading back inside. Knowing Tony's luck, this is when his cab will arrive.

But what does he care if Gob's brother finds out he's still waiting outside? It's not like it's any of his business. Just because Gob can't handle him knowing doesn't mean Tony's got a problem with it. And maybe that's part of why Tony's still a little mad--well, that and apparently Gob was lying about the forget-me-nows, which means he did ditch Tony, which means...

And yeah... It's probably best not to go down that road again.

And honestly, he doesn't want to, because while he should be mad--mad enough even to contemplate a second round of revenge--Tony's not. Mostly he's just kind of defeated. That and confused and he really just wants to call Gob and ask if they can start all over again.

And maybe that's what Gob wants, too, because as soon as Tony thinks it his phone is ringing, Gob's name splashed across the screen. Tony leaps to answer, in part because he's worried the ringing will attract Michael's attention--though the gentle hum of a Google car engine soon alleviates him of the concern--but mostly because he's afraid Gob will change his mind, hang up before Tony even gets around to answering.

"Look," Gob says the second Tony answers, overriding anything Tony might have said. "I know you hate me and it's fine." He doesn't and it's not. "But I'm still going to testify on your behalf because I know you're innocent and... Look, I know it's stupid, but I care about you, and I'm sorry things got fucked up but..."

"Gob," Tony tries.

"And I know you don't want to do the whole relationship thing, because of the whole taint branding thing, but I still like you, so if you change your mind or whatever..."

"Gobie," Tony says.

It's the pet name, Tony suspects, that catches Gob's attention. His rambling stops, anyway, silence filling the line.

"I don't hate you," Tony continues, wanting to make that point very clear.

"You don't?" Gob asks. He sounds genuinely unsure.

"Kind of the opposite, actually," Tony says, going out on a limb.

There's a long minute of extended silence--though Tony's kind of used to it by now--where he thinks maybe Gob's been rendered speechless, leaving Tony scrambling for something to say. Gob beats him to it, though, coy and flirty like that time Tony talked to him while he was inside the LEM.

"I guess you shouldn't have left then," Gob says, the seductive tinder of his voice startling a nervous laugh.

"I didn't," Tony tells him, still laughing, even as he makes his way to the door.

"Wait, you didn't..."

"Just come answer your damned door," Tony tells him, having reached the front porch. Three seconds later the door flies open, Tony oddly reassured by the nervousness he sees reflected in Gob's gaze.

"Hi," Tony says, still speaking into the receiver. Gob's nervousness vanishes in an instant, replaced by a lopsided, impossibly endearing grin. Tony returns it, fairly confident this time he won't have to con his way inside.