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Mark notices the second Eduardo walks into the bar. It’s something about the long, lean legs, the hair, the way he carries himself.

Mark’s group is just sitting down at a corner table. He freezes where he’s standing and he doesn’t--He isn’t sure what to do. Should he try to leave? They’ve--They don’t see each other, they both make it a point, at least Mark does. Not to the point of weirdness, but just. If Eduardo’s going to be somewhere one day, Mark will go the next. He’s pretty sure Eduardo does the same thing.

He hasn’t seen Eduardo for four years. The last time had been at a conference, and the time before that at a downtown bank, an accident. It’s been five -- no, six -- years since the settlement. They don’t--They haven’t called or texted or emailed or anything like that.

Mark’s at a social media conference in Chicago, at the bar in the hotel actually, with one of his assistants and a couple of his designers.

Before Mark has a chance to decide what to do, someone with Eduardo’s group suddenly screams and runs and hugs one of Mark’s designers, talking excitedly and grinning. Apparently they are friends from grad school and haven’t seen each other in forever. Then she’s waving Eduardo’s whole group over, clearing spaces and pulling up a few more chairs before Mark has a chance to even do anything about it, not that he has any clue what he should do.

God, do his people not know Facebook’s fucking history?

Apparently not. Idiots. He should fire them all.

Someone introduces Eduardo, who is looking down at his shoes quite purposefully. There’s a muted gasp -- at least someone in Mark’s group knows the name Saverin for Christ’s sake -- and a silence.

Mark clears his throat. “Uh. Hi, Eduardo?” He curses himself internally for allowing the question to appear in his statement.

Eduardo looks up finally and raises his eyebrows. “Hi, Mark.”

The relief is palpable and everyone else starts to settle in, make more introductions, order more drinks. Mark doesn’t think it’s his imagination that everyone’s being just a bit too enthusiastically friendly.

Eduardo darts a look around the group and then at Mark, a look that Mark can’t parse. If it were eight years ago, he’d think Eduardo was laughing at people’s reactions, laughing at how freaked out everyone is. Now, Mark’s doesn’t know what that look means.

Mark stands there like an idiot, not sure what to do.

Eventually Eduardo shrugs and takes a chair on the far corner of the group. He doesn’t look at Mark again.

“Okay then,” Mark says, and his voice comes out only a little weird. “Drinks all around.”

They manage to not talk to each other through multiple rounds of drinks, not difficult because they are sitting as far away from each other as possible.

Eventually the crowd thins and people excuse themselves and the group pulls in closer, then closer again when even more people leave.

Some irrational impulse makes Mark not want to be the first to leave. Like, if Eduardo can do it, so can he. No problem. He should go to his room, go to sleep, but he doesn’t want to be the one to leave first.

A willowy brown-eyed girl, some local friend of one of his designers, is practically in his lap. He’s not really sure how it happened, but he’s pretty used to it. He’s under no illusions that it’s anything but the money and power, and usually he’s not interested.

Her friend, a blond, is cozying up to Eduardo. Eduardo’s hand is on the tanned skin of her thigh, fingers caressing it slowly.

Mark’s been ignoring the girl next to him, but it’s been a long time and her skin is soft and she’s plying him with even more wine and her laugh is actually nice, not irritating. He puts his hand on her waist, lets his fingers curl around her and pull her into him more tightly.

A row of shot glasses full of amber liquid appears in front of them. He has a moment of sanity and hesitates.

Eduardo’s laughing at something the blond is saying, his long neck thrown back, tan against the white of his crisp collar.

Mark drinks a shot, then another and another. His keynote was today so why not, right? He hasn’t gotten really wasted in a fuck of a long time. He deserves it.

He deserves the girl, too, he decides, letting his hands start to roam a little. Her name is Mandy and she’s in public relations at some start-up and she’s at least as old as him, and she makes it very clear she knows this isn’t anything other than what it is. He remembers to dart a glance to Mike, his stoic security guy, who’s sitting as inconspicuously as possible nearby. Mike nods minutely and Mark relaxes into it, secure in the knowledge they’ve somehow vetted these girls already for all the obvious threats.

The blond with Eduardo -- her name is Pamela and she’s friends with Mandy -- whispers something in Eduardo’s ear and he flushes, color rising up from that open collar. Eduardo darts a quick glance at Mark, then nods in her direction and she giggles. She stands up and pulls Eduardo up by his hand.

There are still enough other people at the table that no one really notices them leaving. Mark watches them, Eduardo’s hand low on Pamela’s back, elegant fingers splayed on the satin of her blouse. Mandy is saying something, but he doesn’t hear it, not until she runs her hand further up his thigh and bites his ear and whispers, “You want to, too?”

Heat washes through him and he shivers.

She whispers in his ear, “Yes, you do.” She stands up and pulls him up. “Come on. I told you, no strings. It’s just fun.”

He doesn’t move at first, wobbly on his feet. “I shouldn’t, I...”

She giggles and pulls on his hand and his bodyguard smirks and follows discretely so it’s okay and it’s all a blur, whoa, he really drank a lot. She half-pulls him to the women’s restroom and someone’s already in one of the stalls so they go in the other.

She’s feels amazing, plastered up close on him, hands roaming on his back, his ass. His hands are under her shirt, whoa, how did that happen, and then she’s dropping down to her knees and right then there’s a thump and a moan from the other stall and it’s...

Eduardo.

And the girl. Pamela. Pamela with those golden thighs.

But his is Mandy, and she pulls him out and sucks him and he can’t help but make a noise, and then there are noises from the other stall and he can hear, can hear Eduardo breathing. There’s some banging and laughter, muffled, and Mark is so fucking hard and this feels amazing, a beautiful girl sucking him; why doesn’t he do this all the time?

Something thumps hard on the wall between the stalls; Mark can feel the vibrations in his back. It’s like someone over there is coming, banging on the wall, coming with his head thrown back, long neck exposed and--

Mark sees white and comes so hard he feels dizzy. He probably moans, and it’s. It’s awesome and hot and he pulls Mandy up to him, kisses her hard, reaches down and works his fingers into her underwear until she moans and shudders, because he’s a gentleman. Next door he can hear Pamela, who’s loud, and he’s always known Eduardo’s a gentleman, too, when it comes to that.

They just breathe after that, hanging on to each other, him and Mandy. He can hear Eduardo and Pamela open their stall door, turn on water, share low conversation. He kisses Mandy so she doesn’t talk, so he can hear when they leave. He and Mandy wash up and don’t look at each other, but at the door back to the bar, right before they open it, she says, “Thanks. Something to remember. Hope you find someone special sometime, Mark.” He’s weirdly touched and remembers to say it back, like he’s been working on. She smiles and pulls on his hand and they go back out to the bar.

No one is left at their table. Good. It would have just been -- weird -- if Eduardo had been here. Just the regular weird of it being Eduardo, nothing about what just happened. Because that was normal, two red-blooded guys and two horny girls and. Yeah.

~ ~ ~

He has the world’s worst bitch of a hangover the next morning. Last night’s all a blur, mainly. Good. He swears off shots, forever, and goes on a three day coding marathon when the latest code push runs into snags.

He doesn’t think about it.

~ ~ ~

He doesn’t see Eduardo again for three months, and then he runs into him again. All those years without ever seeing each other, and now it’s twice in three months. It’s a little easier, actually saying words to him this time. Mark doesn’t stand there with his mouth open like he probably did last time. He introduces him to his colleagues -- they’re at an investment conference -- and the group exchanges small talk. If people in the group are whispering and raising their eyebrows at each other, it’s easy to ignore.

Eduardo’s face, though, runs through a number of expressions before setting on distantly polite. Mark can actually see him tamp down his anger. He even ends up casually suggesting they all sit down for a drink.

Mark figures, why not. It’s not like they’re alone or anything; they both have entourages with them. Eduardo can’t rehash any of the old, boring stuff from the past. Mark ignores the raised eyebrows of his security guy and his personal assistant and shrugs, motioning the people with him to sit down with them in the bar. Fuck them, it was all business anyway, all that old stuff, and maybe Eduardo’s seen that finally. They can finally both be adult about everything.

It happens again.

He doesn’t even know how, but they end up with some girls in adjoining restroom stalls at the same time again, after some heavy drinking. It’s--He doesn’t even try to be quiet, this time. And he doesn’t think Eduardo does either.

He knows it’s supremely fucked up. Like, really fucked up, especially when he lets himself think about how angrily Eduardo looked at him, right before Eduardo let the girl who’d plastered herself to him pull him into the back of the place. Like he hates Mark. Which he undoubtedly does. And that’s fine. But, yeah, fucked up. So fucked up he doesn’t talk to his therapist about it, or anyone else. The only person who’d really understand, he realizes, is Eduardo. Funny how that works.

~ ~ ~

It’s been only two weeks when they see each other again. Maybe Eduardo’s got regular business n the Bay Area now or something. He’s in the audience of a venture capital forum that Mark decided to attend at the last minute. Dustin had looked at Mark weirdly when he mentioned it. “Since when do you go to those things?” he’d asked, but just shook his head: “You know what? Whatever.”

Mark doesn’t let himself think at all when he goes to the hotel bar after. Eduardo’s there. Mark goes up to his group and says hello to him, accepts the invitation to join them. Mark sits down right next to the young woman who’s sitting very close to Eduardo, practically in his lap. She doesn’t have a friend there; it’s just her. After a few drinks Mark’s flirting with her, just like Eduardo is. He pulls up his mental list of everything everyone has ever told him he was doing wrong, and flips it around. It must be working, because she’s all up in Mark’s space, hand on his leg. She doesn’t stop flirting with Eduardo, though.

Eduardo’s face is... hilarious, actually: stormy. Mark has another couple of shots and nuzzles the girl’s neck and she sighs. Eduardo has a hand on her waist, stroking softly right under the curve of her breast. She shivers.

“Want to, you know,” Mark ventures, nodding to the back of the bar where the restrooms are.

She giggles and nods. “I thought you’d never ask.” She links her fingers with Eduardo’s. “Him, too? Right?”

Mark doesn’t think. It’s good not to think. He just gets up, pulls her behind him. So many shots and everything’s hot and cold and then it’s darker, it’s the hallway, and they’re all in the bathroom but there are people in there and the girl, Emily, says, “No, I know! Better idea anyway. Come on!” and there’s an elevator and a corridor in the hotel and she’s got a key card and then she’s pulling them to her against the back of her hotel room door.

Now Mark’s getting angry, because he’s trying to kiss her and touch her, but Eduardo’s there, too, and fuck Eduardo, anyway, because he always gets everything he wants: everyone loves Eduardo and wants Eduardo.

Mark kisses Emily hard and she moans. Eduardo’s there, right there, and dives in and kisses her himself when Mark comes up for air.

Emily gasps and laughs. “Oh my god, this is awesome. Come on, come on.” She pulls them by the hand to the bed and then people are undressing her and taking their clothes off because that’s what she wants, and she’s smooth and golden and her hands clench into Mark’s hair when Eduardo does something down there, while Mark licks at her breasts, and then they switch places and she’s moaning and wants them to fuck her. And really, there’s no conceivable way to say no to that. There’s protection and first Mark for a while and then Eduardo--and in between they’re kissing her.

Eduardo’s skin is a shade darker than hers, muscles rippling under the long expanse of his legs.

Everything’s dizzy and hot and he comes with Emily’s hand on him while Eduardo’s fucking her and it’s just--

He collapses on the bed on one side, and Eduardo collapses on top of Emily, eyes closed, breathing hard. Mark watches Eduardo’s back rise and fall as he tries to get his own breathing back under control. Eduardo opens his eyes suddenly and looks straight at Mark. Mark’s instinct is to look away, but that would be... something. Cowardly, or stepping away from a challenge.

So he keeps looking at Eduardo and Eduardo looks at him, eyes blown dark and huge. Eduardo’s hand has flopped down on the mattress next to Mark; it’s almost touching him. Mark’s chest feels weird, tight.

Eduardo’s face. Eduardo’s lips are swollen, his hair all sweat-damp and falling on his forehead.

After an interminable moment, Eduardo closes his eyes, then lifts himself off Emily. He goes to get a washcloth for her while Mark shrugs into his clothes. He feels kind of sick. He sits on the edge of the bed unsure of what he is supposed to do or say.

Emily laughs and squeezes his arm. “Hey, that was awesome. Would do again, okay? You’re both sweethearts, and hot!”

Mark laughs, but it comes out sort of choked. “If I had a nickel for every time someone’s called me that... “

Eduardo makes some kind of sound and Mark shakes his head. “Yeah, I would be really, really poor.” He sneaks a glance at Emily -- he doesn’t want to look at Eduardo at all -- and gives her a shaky smile. He can do that now, when he wants to, when he thinks about it.

“Well, give me a call if ever...” Emily does something with her head that indicates Eduardo and Mark. “Here,” she says, reaching for the hotel pen at the bedside and scrawling a phone number on Mark’s palm, while he watches, mouth open.

Okay, Mark’s done. That’s it; he’s just done. “I’m. Socially awkward and really can’t--”

“Just go,” Eduardo says. “I’ll make sure everything’s good here.” Mark doesn’t have to be socially adept to hear the unspoken words, clear as anything: like I always do.

Mark does. He goes. He goes home and goes to bed and passes out and sleeps later than he has in years.

He knows everyone at work is eyeing him and tiptoeing around him for the next few days, but he doesn’t give a fuck. If the CEO can’t be a fucking asshole once in a while, what good is it.

The details of what happened are already gone. Obviously he was hammered out of his mind and he can’t really remember much of anything.

He guesses he’s just getting all the stuff out of his system that people in their twenties do. Kinky stuff. He momentarily has more sympathy for Sean, who seems to need this kind of thing, because it’s not actually easy.

He realizes he hasn’t washed Emily’s phone number off his hand. It’s still there, faded. He stands to go scrub it off and hesitates. It won’t hurt to put the number in his phone. It’s just a precaution. Obviously, he’s never doing -- whatever it was he did -- again.

 

He codes for three straight days, except for quick naps on his office sofa, losing himself in the clarity of numbers and patterns. After the third day, Chris makes him go home. He eats three sandwiches and drinks a bottle of wine and sleeps for fourteen hours.

When he finally wakes up, it’s four a.m. and he can’t get back to sleep. He takes a marathon shower and drinks three cups of coffee and sits down in his office. He’s feeling kind of nostalgic, so he unlocks the special desk drawer he keeps stuff in, keepsakes. He’s not the type to have much: he’s got some photos, a couple of small toys from his childhood that his mother gave him, and the small box he identifies in his head as, “early Face.”

He takes off the lid of the box and looks through the motley assortment of things inside. There’s the paper he used when he sketched out some code for a social networking site for the first time, a small collection of beer bottle labels, and his first mp3 player, presumably still loaded with old hits.

And...

And there’s a coaster from that club in Cambridge they all went to a couple of times. Weird. It would be an understatement to say that he mainly doesn’t keep stuff that reminds him of his Harvard days. Or stuff at all, actually.

Why the fuck would he save this coaster? He doesn’t remember saving it. He doesn’t remember anything about it.

Except...

Except -- there’s a flash of memory.

He’s done this before. They have done this before. The thing he’s not thinking about.

At the bar in Cambridge. That time.

The memory floods back in.

It was right when the company was starting to take off. Before... Before things went bad.

There’d been a heady buzzing in his veins, him and Eduardo grinning at each other when they’d first realized they had actual groupies. Eduardo had seen a lot more action than Mark, but even he never had girls -- or boys for that matter; Mark knew there were occasional boys -- throwing themselves at him like that; he was too fundamentally weird, though it was hidden pretty well under all that high-class veneer.

It was monstrously hot, two gorgeous girls with legs that went on forever, blowing them both at the same time. Illicit, both because it was semi-public and because, well, adjoining stalls. It was like something out of one of those cheap porn-story magazines. Stuff like that didn’t happen to Mark. Obviously. So when it did, yeah, hot.

Not weird. Obviously.

They never talked about it. It was just... a thing. A thing they didn’t talk about. And that was okay, because fuck it, it was college and everyone was pissed out of their mind and shit like that happened in college all the time, right?

Mark’s brain begs to differ, now. Since his brain’s a little bitch. Out of nowhere, it supplies a visual -- Eduardo’s eyes all dark and heated while they walked towards the restrooms in the back of that bar -- and a soundtrack --. Eduardo’s little breathy gasps, his deeper groan near the end.

Why the fuck does he still have that taking up any brain cell space? And in fact, why did it take up any in the first place?

Mark’s phone ringing brings him back abruptly to the present. A crisis with the new games. Which, by the way, he predicted two weeks ago.

Good.

He runs his thumb over the coaster one more time, then aims for the garbage can.

At the last second, he pulls his hand back, rubs his thumb on its water-stained lettering.

Fuck it anyway, who cares if he keeps a fucking coaster from his Harvard year. He folds it up and stuffs it in an inside pocket of his wallet. So fucking what. Throwing it out would mean the thing was bothering him. It isn’t.

~ ~ ~

He’s immersed in coding within three minutes of walking in the door at the office. It’s quiet and pure and clean, the type of thinking he does best; each step a simple question with only two possible answers, one of which will lead to the next choice, each in turn presenting its own simple choice. All he needs to do is predict the choice that optimizes the final result.

~ ~ ~

There’s a start-up conference in town a week later. Mark decides to go. His staff gives him even weirder looks than last time.

He’s in the bar before the end of the last horribly boring presentation. He spent most of the meeting coding in the back, anyway. Emily’s draped on him already even though he just got here a few minutes ago; he’d called her a couple of hours ago.

Eduardo walks in, spots them immediately. Mark’s fingers grip tighter on his glass.

Eduardo talks to the people he’s with, obviously apologetic, and they trail off to a table in the corner. Eduardo just... looks at Mark from where he’s standing. Eduardo glances at Emily, then back at Mark, and tips his head toward the door, a question. Mark’s heart thumps hard in his chest.

Mark throws some money on the table, stands up and pulls Emily behind him. Eduardo leads the way to the elevator. Emily’s giggling and talking to both of them, but all Mark hears is a rushing in his ears.

Eduardo’s walking like, like, a lion or something, all predatory; anger right under his skin, written in the way he’s holding his body, the way his legs stalk across the fancy carpeting of the hallway. Its in his voice, too, after he keys the door open and they’re inside. “Well?”

“Be nice,” Emily purrs, reaching up and loosening Eduardo’s tie, hand behind her pulling Mark up against her back. Eduardo glares at Mark over her shoulder, but his expression changes when he looks down at Emily, who’s kissing up his jaw. “Yeah,” Eduardo says, tone softer, “Sorry. A lot on my mind.” He leans down and kisses her softly. She sighs into his mouth and pulls Mark’s hand to her waist.

Mark leans his head in and kisses the back of her neck and she moans. Eduardo deepens the kiss and Mark brings his hand up to the curve of her breast. She moans again, pulls back from the kiss. “Bed?” she asks.

They tumble down and she’s gorgeous and Eduardo’s fingers on her are long, strong, stroking on her skin.

Mark’s hands are shaking. He doesn’t know why. He strokes her, too, pale stubby fingers tracing down the lines of her body. He makes sure his hands never intersect Eduardo’s.

She gasps and shoves their hands away after awhile. “I, can we, I’ve always wanted--” and moves them both into position, Eduardo kneeling behind her, Mark sitting up on his knees in front. She’s on her hands and knees diagonally across the bed, and it’s so fucking hot Mark’s going to die. She licks around the head of Mark’s cock, all around, then takes him in. Mark’s eyes fly up at a sound from Eduardo, who’s staring hard at them. Their eyes meet and Eduardo flushes, looks away.

Mark doesn’t look up any more, but he can tell when Eduardo’s rolling on the condom, when he pushes into her, gentle at first. Emily groans and sucks Mark deeper.

“You okay, honey?” Eduardo asks, voice gentle. Mark’s throat feels tight. He refuses to look, though, just runs his hand gently through Emily’s hair.

“Am I ever,” she says, coming off Mark’s cock for a second. Then she’s sucking him again and Mark can feel it whenever Eduardo pushes into her, and she’s moaning and Eduardo’s making those sounds, those sounds Mark remembers -- because he does remember them -- the breathy gasps, the groan when she tells him to do it harder, faster.

It’s all a blur of sound and Emily’s silken hair and her hot mouth and their hands on Emily, stroking her, then gripping her tight, tighter, until Eduardo’s hands look white gripping onto Emily’s hips, Eduardo’s face contorting in the grips of his orgasm. Mark realizes he’s looking at him, looking at Eduardo over Emily’s back, and it’s -- Eduardo’s eyes are huge, dark, he’s biting his lip and he’s, he’s looking straight at Mark and that -- it all ripples through him, up his spine and all the heat in his belly and his cock and he’s coming, so fucking hard. “Watch out, baby” he manages, strangled-sounding, trying to warn Emily if she doesn’t want-- Eduardo’s eyes widen and he throws his head back, neck long and sleek, shoving into Emily so hard it pushes her forward onto Mark’s cock, and Mark can’t, can’t hold it any more and he’s coming, coming, pulling back as much as he can so he doesn’t hurt Emily, who’s moaning around him, shuddering in the grip of her own orgasm, and it’s all too much and everything turns white.

After, Mark lies on one side of Emily and Eduardo lies on the other. Again.

Emily’s collapsed on her back, has pulled Mark’s head onto her chest and is playing with his curls. Normally Mark doesn’t like to be touched that way. Of course, this situation is about as far from normal as it could get. Her other hand is stroking Eduardo’s arm, where it’s lying across her, barely brushing up against Mark’s hair. Maybe.

It’s very quiet and pretty peaceful, actually. Until Emily pushes them both off. “I’m going to freshen up a sec. You guys wait here, okay?” She kisses each of them lightly in turn and crawls off the bed. Mark watches her pad over to the bathroom and the utter weirdness of the whole thing hits him all at once. What the fuck is he doing? What the fuck are they doing? He’s done some stupid things before, but this...

He covers his eyes with his arm and tries to wish everything all back to normal. If he could fast-forward to where they’re all out of here, back living their regular lives, he’d do it in a heartbeat. He’d give a lot of his fortune for it, actually. Not to have to feel Eduardo’s heat from a few inches away in this bed. Not to feel Eduardo’s eyes on him, his anger.

Mark sighs. It’s all so fucked up. Everything about this. And it’s not something he’d ever, in his wildest dreams, imagine himself involved in. He uncovers his eyes, darts a glance over. Eduardo is staring at him, at his face. Eduardo turns away the second Mark looks at him. Mark’s hand, of its own accord -- he has no conscious awareness of it -- reaches out as if to touch Eduardo’s shoulder. Just then, Eduardo darts another glance at him. He sees Mark’s hand and he looks right into Mark’s eyes. Mark can’t look away. He can’t pull his hand back without looking like an idiot, but he didn’t mean it, wasn’t trying to reach toward Eduardo...

“Mmmm, yeah.” Emily’s voice. She’s walked back into the room, towel half-covering her. “I’d love to see some of that...” She lifts her eyebrows meaningfully at Mark’s hand, still flung out toward Eduardo.

Mark pulls his arm back into himself. “We’re not. That’s not what--”

“What he’s trying to tell you,” Eduardo says, “is that we are the farthest thing from lovers you could imagine.” He gets up in one smooth move, lithe and golden in the lamplight, and heads into the bathroom. “In fact,” he adds, venom in his voice, “he’ll be gone by the time I get out of here.”

“He’s right,” Mark says, voice harsh. Eduardo hesitates in the doorway. Mark’s fucking panicked somewhere inside. “This was all a mistake. It’s done.”

“Exactly,” Eduardo says, closing the bathroom door behind him.

Mark gathers his clothes and feels Emily watching him. He looks up and she smiles tentatively at him. She really is a nice person. Normally he wouldn’t care, figuring under the circumstances it didn’t matter, but under these circumstances... He sighs. “Look, it’s. Sorry, I’m kind of. Fucked up. Not your fault. Sorry if it messed you up. I try not to actually use people unconsciously. I’ll do it consciously, definitely, but not.” He bites his lip. “Not because I’m fucked up and don’t realize it?”

She presses her lips together, then nods. “Yeah, I figured there was something going on. Look, it’s just fun for me, honestly. Sowing my oats, trying experiences. I like you guys but only as friends really, ‘kay? I’m not looking for anything else right now.”

Mark lets himself out and ignores the way his chest feels tight. He focuses on taking things a step at a time. Drive. Let self in. Shower. Clothes in bin. Sweats. Check email. Code. Work. Mainly the last one. Lots and lots of work, and not thinking about anything. What would be the fucking point of thinking about it. So, he experimented. No big deal.

* * *

Thirty-six hours later, Chris pulls him out of his chair in his office. “Go. Away. Also you look like shit. And I mean, beyond the usual when you do a marathon. Are you okay?”

Mark nods. He’s not okay, though. Everything feels weird. There’s this itch in his fingers, and his chest hurts. He’s fucked up. Everything’s fucked up. He ignores Chris’s attempts to talk to him, shakes him off.

He drives mindlessly. He’s not even that surprised when he finds himself in front of the hotel Eduardo was staying in. He still remembers the room number; he’s good with numbers. He puts his head down on the wheel for a moment. “Sir?”

He lets the valet take his car. He rides the elevator up and stands outside the right door. Maybe he’s gone by now, anyway, back to Singapore or wherever the fuck he’s been fucking hiding all this time.

He knocks and his heart pounds. It’s insane. He’s really--

Eduardo opens the door. His eyes widen. He looks like shit. As much as Eduardo ever can. Hair disheveled and lifeless, five o-clock shadow, wrinkled clothes. That’s not something Eduardo ever let himself do, be slobby. Something about the thing with his father. Or some vestige of proving oneself to the colonists, who knows. He’s got bags under his eyes and wrinkles in their corners.

Eduardo catches Mark looking. The corner of his mouth twitches, but it’s not a nice smirk. Not at all. “Coming in?” His voice sounds... mocking, not like Eduardo. Not that Mark really knows what that is anymore. Maybe this is what Eduardo’s like now.

Mark closes his eyes, nods once, sharp, and steps in.

Eduardo doesn’t back away, just closes the door behind Mark, so they’re inches away from each other. He’s barefoot. There are a bunch of empty beer cans behind him, on the table. Something else Eduardo usually doesn’t do. That Mark knows of.

From up close, Eduardo looks even worse. His eyes are bloodshot and there’s dried blood from a small shaving cut on his face, under the scruff. His lips look chapped. Full and parted a little--

Mark yanks his eyes away from Eduardo’s mouth, up to his eyes. Eduardo is looking right at him, knowing smirk -- the nasty one -- on his face. “Unresolved issues?”

Mark’s hands curl into fists at his sides. His face feels hot. He leans forward even closer to Eduardo. “Even with your inferior intellectual capacity, you ought to be able to know that for the bullshit it is. Why won’t you just go away. You had unresolved issues back at school, following me around like a--.”

Eduardo sucks in a harsh breath, gathers the front of Mark’s shirt in his hand, shoves him back against the back of the door. “Fuck you,” he says low, “I’m not the one doing the fucking following, am I?”

Mark can’t talk for a moment, it’s so shocking to see Eduardo like this, shocking to be manhandled like this, shocking to think that maybe it’s him doing the following. Mark gasps in a breath against the pressure of Eduardo’s body against his chest. He can feel the heat of Eduardo through all their layer of clothing. He finally looks up at him; Eduardo is inches away, panting, chest rising and falling, eyes narrowed at Mark.

When their eyes meet, Eduardo’s expression softens slightly and his hold on Mark’s shirt loosens. That’s--No, Mark doesn’t want--”Do it, come on, whatever unresolved psychobabble bullshit thing you think I deserve, just, do it.”

When Eduardo doesn’t move, Mark adds, low and cutting, “Probably don’t have the balls to do whatever you want to me, why would I ever think you would,” and Eduardo whispers, “Shut up, just shut up,” and leans down and kisses Mark, a bruising kiss, shoving Mark into the door with his body, holding him there with his greater height.

It’s like a reboot or something; Mark’s body just hangs there for a second, and then all at once, everything lights up. Nerve endings he barely knew he had, all his senses barraged at one time. Smells and tastes and strong hands on him and a long, lean thigh working its way between his. He gasps and leans into Eduardo’s heat, pulled into it like particles caught in the gravity of the sun.

He’s desperate for it, Eduardo’s mouth, the skin under his clothes. It’s overwhelming and wrong and fucked up, or maybe that’s Eduardo saying that, “--fucked up, shouldn’t,” and there’s a trace of Eduardo’s old voice there, the kind one, and Eduardo’s hands are pushing Mark away, trying to disengage, separate their bodies..

Something about the gentleness in Eduardo’s voice makes Mark even angrier and his brain does that weird disconnect thing and words come out, “Problems? Can you even get it up these days? Or does daddy have to give you permission for that, too?"

Eduardo’s face turns reddish and his hands are back on Mark, shoving him back into the door, and he hisses in Mark’s ear something like, “--show you, asshole,” but there’s some Portuguese in there, something Mark is pretty sure means whore or cock or one of those words. Eduardo’s teeth are on Mark’s neck, though, and his hand is palming his dick through his pants, so everything is whirling, aching, on fire.

Mark’s hands blindly grasp at whatever of Eduardo they can find; his skin is smooth, hot under the shirt Mark’s fingers ruck up. Eduardo’s kissing him again, and Mark feels like he’s melting. Mark’s usually not very present in his body, but right now he’s aware of everything. Eduardo’s hand on his bare skin under his shirt feels like fire, tracing a hot line down, down.

Mark gasps or Eduardo does, he doesn’t know which, and everything twirls and they’re on the bed. There are hands all over him and his own hands uncover acres of heated skin. Eduardo’s fingers wrap around Mark and cup his balls and his legs fall open and then there’s wet heat around his cock, Eduardo’s gorgeous mouth, the mouth he had to watch kissing Emily, mouthing at her skin.

“Since you want it. You want it, right?” Eduardo whispers, fierce, into Mark’s ear. Mark gasps, “do it,” and then there’s lube and those fingers -- long, tan, strong -- are inside him.

Everything’s breaking apart, pixilating. He gets it all in flashes: Eduardo nosing at the skin of Mark’s thigh, biting; Eduardo’s fingers, shooting fire up Mark’s spine; the ripping sound of a condom packet and then his own gasp for breath when Eduardo breaches him; Eduardo’s shaking arms and hair hanging down in front of his face; the sweat at Eduardo’s temples, Eduardo’s hand pulling Mark’s leg up so he can thrust even harder.

Portuguese, mainly vowels, Mark’s own sounds that he tries to keep in, Eduardo’s breathing at the end, sounding just like what Mark remembers, the single lamp tracing Eduardo’s long limbs with gold.

Eduardo taking him apart, fucking into him strong and rough and fast. It’s amazing, his cock pounding inside him, the intensity on his face, the way his hand grips Mark’s leg, like he’s never letting go.

Mark doesn’t want to come in front of Eduardo, doesn’t want him to see him like that, but it’s too late for actual rational thoughts, his ex best friend pounding into his ass, and somewhere his brain decides, what the fuck, it’s so beyond fucked up already, who cares. He doesn’t hold back; he throws his head back and bites his lip and hovers on the brink, on the brink. He needs, if only Eduardo would just, his hand, his fingers, but Eduardo says, nasty, low, “This is what you wanted, all that--everything, all the time, you wanted my cock inside me, you little shit,” hanging over Mark, sweat starting to drip down onto Mark’s chest. Hearing Eduardo’s voice -- hoarse now and lower than normal, Eduardo’s sex-voice -- sends shivers down Mark’s spine, despite the words he knows he won’t be able to forget, or maybe even because of them; at this point, who the fuck knows.

Mark can’t stand it any more, heat building in his belly, toes starting to curl. He reaches for his aching dick but Eduardo swats his hand away. “You wanted this, you wanted this, so take it, take this, just this,” he babbles, and Mark’s so fucking turned on he’s going to die, and it all gathers together into a huge ache and everything implodes. He knows he’s making sounds, but so is Eduardo, who’s watching him, eyes wide, shocked. Eduardo throws his head back and convulses inside of Mark and on top of Mark, while Mark is still throbbing around him, gasping into the skin of the arm he threw over his mouth to stop himself from screaming.

Eduardo pants for a while, then eases out. Mark supposes it hurts, but his body’s still buzzing and everything’s still kind of flashing in and out on him and all he mainly notices is when Eduardo collapses again like before, but this time it’s half on Mark. Their legs are tangled and Eduardo’s head is on Mark’s chest. He can feel his longish hair, smooth on his skin.

Mark knows he should move. Or Eduardo should move. But neither one does, for a long beat of time. Mark thinks he can feel Eduardo’s heart, beating fast and strong against his belly. He definitely feels his eyelashes sweeping over his chest, butterfly wings.

Mark doesn’t know what he’s feeling. Which isn’t particularly unusual. He doesn’t know what to do next, which is.

“Shit,” Eduardo finally says into the skin of Mark’s chest. “Shit. Are you--Are you okay?”

Typical Eduardo. Good. Good to know he hasn’t actually changed that much; it’s just Mark making him insane.

“Sure.”

“That was pretty rough. You sure?” Eduardo pushes up off Mark and Mark feels cold. Sweat drying, probably. Eduardo darts a quick glance down at Mark, then looks away. Fine with him.

Mark nods. “Fine.”

Eduardo nods and starts to get up.

“I’m not some effete, delicate European,” Mark hears himself add.

Eduardo looks at him, a sharp glance. He narrows his eyes. “You’ve got to be doing this on purpose. Even you aren’t this socially inadequate.”

Mark laughs, harsh and short. It’s just getting ridiculous at this point. “I wasn’t aware there were social rules covering this.” He waves a hand around indicating, well, everything.

“Excuse me for asking if I’d hurt you. My mistake. I forgot you don’t believe in that,” Eduardo says, all ice, and stands up and goes to the bathroom, slams the door.

Mark stares at the closed door for a few minutes, then abruptly decides he doesn’t want to be there when Eduardo eventually comes out. It was all a mistake, obviously. A huge one.

~ ~ ~

He’s not going to beat himself up about it. The stupidity of what he’s been doing. He’s not that type of person. He can compartmentalize anything.

If he gets flashes in the middle of reviewing a new code push, flashes of long fingers gripping his hips, eyelashes on his chest, he just pushes them away, sends them back to wherever karmic hell they came from.

that was impressive, Mark finally writes when he can’t stand it any more. amazing exit line. i didn’t know you had it in you

He emails it to Eduardo at the company he works for: Mr. Eduardo Saverin.

He doesn’t hear back for a week.

Finally: The things you didn’t know are legion. Let’s let it go.

Which, okay, yeah. Mark is going to let it all go. But two months later, he somehow he ends up at the next conference Eduardo speaks at in the Bay Area, sitting in the back row during his talk. It’s actually good. Not that he really listens much. Mainly he works on his email backlog.

The two months have been fine. It’s just, he’s felt kind of strange. Unsettled.

He’s not even weirded out by the fact he’s here. Okay, yeah, he is. Weirded out by himself. But, he’s no weirder than Eduardo, really, who walks silently up to him after the thing is over, stares at him for a second, then leads the way to the elevator, his room, silent the whole time. Once the door is locked behind them, Eduardo’s on Mark, fucks him right there on the floor on his hands and knees, rougher even than before. It’s mind-blowingly good. Mark ends up collapsing onto his elbows with the strength of Eduardo’s thrusts, moaning into his laced hands. They don’t talk at all. This time Eduardo doesn’t ask whether Mark is okay.

It’s a thing.

The next time, he gets an email: Hilton. Penthouse. 8th. He gets a weird feeling when a gets that one, a flush of triumph. Or maybe fear. He can’t figure it out, why that feeling this time.

It goes on like that. Random intervals. Always hotels. Sex. Kind of rough. Hot. Giving Eduardo blowjobs on his knees on the cold marble entries of hotel suites. Eduardo jerking Mark off fast and hard against a wall. Fucking him. One time against a window.

Mark can admit it’s hot. Really hot. Good. Great. Great sex. The best he’s had.

~ ~ ~

“You’re starting to make mistakes.” It’s Dustin -- Mark can only guess how he got picked to have this talk with Mark. “You’re staring off into space all the time.” He holds up a hand. “Which, granted, is normal behavior for you. But no, more than normal. A lot more than normal.”

Mark shakes his head. “So what? We don’t have a few billion for me to burn through?”

Dustin puts his lips together. “Listen, Mark, we’re--we’re worried about you. Are you okay?”

Mark fiddles with a pen, nods. “Yeah. I’m--A phase.”

Dustin nods and gets up to leave, obviously relieved to have this over with. “Just. Don’t do anything stupid, okay?”

Mark can’t help it; he laughs, short and sharp. Pretty much what he’s doing is the definition of stupid. He’s positive no one knows about Eduardo, and Dustin just looks at him funny. Who knows what they all think. Coke or something. He turns back to his laptop. “Nothing stupider than usual.”

He knows he’s making more mistakes, though, distracted. He needs to end it, get it back to how it was before all this started.

Though that wasn’t actually so great, either.

He takes out the coaster from that Cambridge club that he’s been carrying around in his wallet. He laughs again, not the fun kind, when he notices that there are a couple of condom packets squeezed into the zippered compartment next to the coaster where he jammed them in the last time Eduardo was in town. It’s -- what? Irony or something. Symbolic, maybe.

He runs his fingers over the coaster; it’s shiny with age, stained. He hasn’t looked at it since he found it that day, whenever it was, a while ago now, and stuck it in here.

What was he thinking, anyway, stuffing it in his wallet like it was a romantic token or something? Actually, how that he’s having this little therapy session with himself, why did he keep it in the first place?

He remembers that night at the club again, the girls, the high of the first time they had groupies, the noises from the nearby bathroom stall.

It’s been there, in the back of his head, this whole time. Is what that means. Getting off to Eduardo’s sounds. To knowing he was there, the next stall over.

That new lawyer, back after the depositions. Was right. Mark does try to be an asshole, sometimes. Other times, he just is one.

One thing he isn’t, though, is a liar.

Except to himself, it seems.

He knows this, that he compartmentalizes. If he were in the mood to examine himself, he’d view it like a business problem, a coding issue, and try to integrate all the different compartments, then analyze the whole.

What would be the point, though? He can’t think of any.

He has to stop this thing, though. The thing with Eduardo. He knows that.

~ ~ ~

He doesn’t. He doesn’t stop it.

Eduardo flies in for a deal. Mark comes to his room like usual. This time, though, Mark lets himself notice his racing heart, the weird ache in his chest, the way it feels, after, lying in bed with Eduardo. Eduardo right there. He wants--He doesn’t know what he wants. He just, there’s a tightness in his throat and he wants to, he doesn’t know what.

Eduardo looks... Well, he looks tired. He looks like shit, actually. Deeper lines in his forehead, a cant to his posture that seems... defeated. He’s still long and lean and golden. He’s drinking a lot, though. Mark notices it especially at the big party they both have to attend the next night, venture people at some posh country club. Eduardo’s still graceful, but he’s leaning too close to people, speaking too loudly.

A gorgeous redhead is talking animatedly to Eduardo, leaning in and whispering something in his ear. Mark’s been watching her watch Eduardo all night. Something’s crawling in his belly. He keeps getting fresh drinks, draining them. He flashes on memories from the night before in Eduardo’s hotel room: Eduardo’s hands, his lips.

Eduardo laughs, that laugh where his head goes back, neck bare. She moves in closer, runs her hand up Eduardo’s arm, and Mark is moving without thinking.

“Excuse us,” he grits out at the redhead, grabbing Eduardo by the wrist. He drags him to the closest bathroom and locks the door; it’s the kind with individual rooms. He knows what he wants; he wants Eduardo helpless, moaning for him. He drops to his knees right there on the floor, fumbles with Eduardo’s zipper. Eduardo gasps and Mark hears his head thunk on the door, but before Mark can get going, Eduardo’s hand is on his shoulder pushing him away. He’s saying something. Mark can’t hear it at first, but then he does. Eduardo’s saying, “Stop, no. Mark, get up. I don’t--Not like. I just, I can’t. Any more..”

Mark closes his eyes, because, shit. The humiliation.

He stands up, stuffs his hands in his pockets. Eduardo’s just. Just standing there, head bowed a little, hand in front of him like he’s warding Mark off. “I told myself,” Eduardo says, quiet. “I told myself I wouldn’t. Any more.” His voice sounds kind of hoarse on the “more,” maybe.

Mark feels like he’s choking, throat closing up. “Time to get yourself a woman to show daddy you can?” he manages. “Fine. I was going to stop this, too.” He doesn’t let himself look at Eduardo, leaves him there in the bathroom.

He makes it home, down his hall and into his bedroom. His huge bed is beautifully made thanks to his maid. Pristine. He kicks the door. Then kicks it harder. Fuck. He grabs something, a book, off the dresser and throws it. Hard. Fuck.

Eduardo... what? Broke up with Mark. That is, broke up from their non-relationship rounds of occasional fucking, what the fucking hell.

He wants to go out to some bar and pick up the first guy he sees, but he knows even as he has the thought that it wouldn’t do a goddamn thing except make the contrast obvious.

The contrast between what that would be, and what he... wants.

He wants Eduardo.

Obviously.

And furthermore, has wanted. Has wanted Eduardo.

For a very long time.

He digs out the fucking coaster from his wallet. Yeah. A long time.

He isn’t sleeping well, can’t focus. He randomly insults a foreign shareholder for no reason and makes three account managers quit in one day. Not that unusual for him, but. These days, yeah, it is. Unusual.

After a couple of weeks of it, Chris stalks into his office and slams his hand down on Mark’s desk. He jumps, startled out of a half-doze. “Okay, I drew the short straw, and I’m here to tell you, fix. your. shit.”

Mark stares at the back of his slammed door for a long time.

The thing is, fixing his shit would mean going back about ten years and redoing just about everything from that point forward. And he doesn’t really believe in that, because most of what’s happened in his life -- Facebook, that is -- he wouldn’t change.

It’s pretty hopeless. He’s just a crap person in some ways. When it comes down to it. He just wishes... What does he wish?

~ ~ ~

He’s honest with himself -- that’s his new resolution -- this time. When he registers -- under a fake name of course -- for the next conference Eduardo’s speaking at. He can’t believe he didn’t let himself understand, before, why he suddenly had a huge interest in investment conferences. Ha. They’re idiotic.

He’s still not sure what he’s going to do, or say, but he wants... something. To do or say something.

Mark lets himself appreciate how good Eduardo looks in a suit... tall, dark. Commanding, in his own way. But. He looks thin. Thinner. He looks like he hasn’t smiled in a long time.

He finds him in the bar, after. Mark’s heart does a weird thump-thump because he thinks, he wonders... maybe Eduardo has been doing things to run into Mark, too? Probably not, though. He doesn’t want to fool himself any more. About anything.

Whatever, he’s here.

Mark can tell the second Eduardo sees him: he freezes mid-sentence. His eyes scan Mark’s body, and then he seemingly catches himself, flushes, a subtle pink under the tan.

Mark walks up to him. “Hi, Eduardo.”

“Hello, Mark.” Eduardo bites his lip. His eyes look... sad, and he sighs. His eyes are greedy on Mark, though. Now that Mark’s looking for it, he sees it. That’s... good. He guesses. He doesn’t know why, doesn’t see himself that way, but Eduardo apparently does. Eduardo’s eyes linger on Mark’s shoulders and Mark thinks, okay, the weight work’s paying off.

Eduardo says, “Excuse me,” to his companions and heads towards the restrooms in the back. There’s a defeated sag to his shoulders. “I wasn’t going to do this any more,” Eduardo murmurs to Mark under his breath.

Mark can’t talk. There just aren’t words. His heart is beating so fast now. He’s scared crapless, actually. Because Eduardo thinks this is going to be hot “can’t help myself” sex and Mark... doesn’t know. He just. His chest hurts just looking at Eduardo’s sad eyes, and he thinks, you did this to him, asshole.

Eduardo makes a move to slither down Mark’s body, which yeah, okay, that’s really hot, but. But that’s not what this is about. Mark hopes.

He doesn’t know what Eduardo hopes.

“Stop,” Mark manages to get out. It’s barely sound. “Stop. That’s not--”

Eduardo stands up straight. The sadness disappears under anger. “What? Are you fucking with me? You fucking found me, after I said to stop, and now you’re--”

Eduardo’s words are muffled by Mark’s hand over his mouth.

Mark takes a deep breath and says, “This is what I should have done. Months ago.” He considers. “Years ago. Actually.” He’s fucking scared out of his mind, but he thinks of the other things he’s done in his life and how he’s never given a fuck about what people think of him, not in that sense, and tries to bring some of that, right here, right now.

Eduardo’s eyes are wide. But also pissed off, like if Mark doesn’t hurry it up, he’s going to just throw his hand off him and walk out of there and never--

Mark swallows hard. He moves his hand from Eduardo’s mouth to cup the side of his face. He strokes the golden skin of Eduardo’s cheek with his thumb.

Probably the bravest things he’s ever done.

Eduardo narrows his eyes. Mark’s running on borrowed time, obviously. And his brave gesture went unappreciated for what it is. Might be.

He strokes again, letting his thumb brush the edges of Eduardo’s lips. Eduardo opens his mouth like he’s going to suck Mark’s finger, but Mark says, “No. No, not like--” and raises up on his toes and kisses Eduardo, soft, gentle. Eduardo tries to turn it deeper but Mark pulls back, says, “No,” again. Eduardo looks really unsure now, but then smiles bitterly like he’s got it figured out.

“Fucking tease,” Eduardo says, anger flashing in his eyes. He shakes Mark off and turns to leave. Mark grabs Eduardo by the arm, pulls him back. Now Eduardo looks really pissed.

Mark takes another deep breath. His heart is hammering hard in his chest. He shakes his head at Eduardo, trying to, whatever, say stuff. With his eyes.

Eduardo’s eyebrows draw together. For a second, his eyes soften, but it's like he catches himself, catches himself and starts to pull even tighter inside himself, like... like he's been trained to not believe anyone could possibly--

Mark did that to him. Made him that unsure.

Mark shakes his head. “No. No, I’ve been trying to tell you--” He takes a deep breath, because holy fucking Christ this is-- terrifying.

But he’s the fucking CEO of Facebook, and if he can’t fucking man up for this, then he deserves to be as pathetic as people probably already think he is.

He takes another breath and brings his other hand up, lays it softly along Eduardo’s jaw. “Eduardo.” His voice breaks and okay that got Eduardo’s attention: For the first time tonight, Eduardo looks like he’s not sure what’s going on with Mark.

He cups Eduardo’s face in his hands and forces himself to look at him, look him in the eye.

There must be something about Mark’s expression, or the oddness of him touching Eduardo like this and looking into his face, but whatever it is, Eduardo stills, looks at Mark.

“I want. If you--” Mark pulls Eduardo’s face down and raises himself up. He turns Eduardo’s face slightly one way and kisses his cheek, soft and tender. He does it again, and again, refusing to let himself look at Eduardo’s expression, or think about how stupid this might seem. He’s never cared what people thought about him, so why should this be the one thing he’s too chickenshit to do. To show. He turns Eduardo’s face the other way and kisses his other cheek.

“What--” Eduardo asks, voice low.

“Shhh,” Mark murmurs and brushes his lips on Eduardo’s, soft, then firmer, with intent. His chest hurts now and he feels like he can hardly breathe. What if Eduardo doesn’t--

Mark knows he’s terrible at things like this, but for once he tries to shut out all the cynical voices in his head and just -- just kiss Eduardo, not like he usually does, hot and frantic and guilty, but... slowly, purposefully.

Kiss Eduardo.

Wardo.” Mark whispers it into Eduardo’s mouth, and the nickname feels like... like something he wants. “I’m trying to. Trying to tell you--”

For a moment, Mark can feel a change, Eduardo melting under his hands and kissing him back, but then he pulls off, but gently, like he doesn’t want to hurt Mark. Which just makes Mark’s chest hurt worse, but, whatever.

“I don’t--I don’t know, I. I can’t--” Eduardo sounds breathless.

Even as his heart sinks, some part of Mark rejoices to see color in Eduardo’s cheeks, a bit of sparkle back in his eyes. Like, Eduardo’s not used to someone wanting him. Like that.

Mark takes his hands off Eduardo, stuffs them in his pockets, looks down. “Yeah, okay, I figured. Just.”

“I’ll. I’ll be in touch.” Eduardo leaves.

Mark looks at the tile for a long time.

~ ~ ~

Chris and Dustin keep looking at him weirdly. They don’t say anything for about a week, and then finally it’s Dustin who breaks. “Okay, who broke your heart? Or actually, who found your heart to even break it in the first place, because I’m impressed. Only, you’re making all the interns cry just from looking at your face, so. Let’s do something!”

Mark reaches for his headphones and Dustin grabs them out of his hands. “ How about we get you really, really drunk? Okay? Okay, it’s a plan. Wow, I rock at talking about feelings, let’s do it again sometime.”

Right as he’s leaving, when Mark thinks he’s safe, Dustin says words again, serious this time. “Tonight. Drinking. Come on, Mark. We’re worried.”

Mark nods dully and forgets about it until late that night when they literally drag him out. He drinks a massive amount but it doesn’t do anything except drive the ache into a tighter, achier ball.

Also he might have said Eduardo’s name. He remembers a moment of stunned absolute silence, Dustin and Chris doing that thing where they talk in sentences at each other just with their eyes, then nothing much else.

After that they leave him alone, though. Even they aren’t stupid enough to mess with Eduardo.

~ ~ ~

Mark realizes a couple of weeks later, with a sinking feeling, that there’s one more thing he has to do.

Fuck.

It was actually more fun in some ways when he wasn’t self-aware in any way.

Mark sighs and pulls up his email late that night. He heart is racing and he feels cold. He’s been working it out in his head all day, back behind all the normal stuff occupying his brain, what to do.

He types the message into the window.

He stares at it for a long moment. He doesn’t have any hesitation in sending it to Eduardo for any of the logical, surface reasons. Even now, after everything, after a lawsuit and long years of not knowing each other. Even after seeing Eduardo at his worst, bottom lip between his teeth and fucking into Mark like he can punish him that way. He’s not worried in that sense.

It’s just that he knows what sending this will say.

He rubs the stupid coaster between his fingers like a talisman. He takes a deep breath and sends the message.

He turns off his phone and leaves the office, goes home. He doesn’t go near email, just watches random infomercials until he falls asleep on the huge couch in the living room.

He wakes up disoriented to someone shaking him awake. His brain immediately informs him that it’s very interesting-- possibly alarming -- that someone is doing that in his home, protected as it is by a constantly changing security code produced by a genius-level algorithm utilizing information only about three people on earth know.

“You turned off everything, you asshole,” Eduardo says. “Your phone, your --” he waves his hand around -- “everything.”

Mark blinks, groggy. Eduardo looks like he hasn’t slept for awhile. Or brushed his hair. Looks good. Mark smiles at him without thinking.

For a brief moment, the corner of Eduardo’s mouth flicks up, but he gets it back under control quickly. “People were worried about you. Also your algorithm is going to eventually crap out on you.”

Mark flushes, because now he remembers. Sending it.

“Also it’s a huge risk that you sent that by email. Do you have any idea how many people are probably trying to hack into your stuff on a daily basis? Not to mention would be happy to siphon off a few hundred million out of your accounts?”

“I’ve got security on top of security,” Mark manages to say. “Also there aren’t that many people who would make the cognitive leap, let alone be able to solve the algorithm for this precise day.”

Eduardo’s fingers are white around the sofa pillow. “As a gesture, though, I give it high marks.” He looks nervous, now, maybe. Mark isn’t sure, but he feels a flush of hope. Like, that could be good, right?

“You do?” Mark says. His voice definitely squeaks.

“I do. The access to your impregnable fortress of a house is impressive, but what really was impressive...” Eduardo swallows and looks down at the sofa.

Mark sits up straighter, heart pounding.

“What was really impressive was the access to all those accounts full of the Facebook money."

“I tried to figure out a way for it to be shares, but the lawyers...”

Eduardo looks up at Mark. His eyes are dark, warm. Hesitant, but... hopeful?

Mark can hardly speak over the lump in his throat. “Wardo?” His voice definitely breaks this time.

“Mark,” Wardo murmurs, and then he leans in -- slow, slow -- and Mark can’t breathe -- everything’s hushed, silent, only the loud thumping of his heart -- and Wardo kisses him, soft.

Mark’s suddenly frantic, can’t help his hands tightening around Wardo’s biceps.

“Shh,” Wardo says into his mouth, lips turning up in a wisp of a smile.

Mark’s heart clenches. What does that mean? Is it a smile that means good things or bad things? What if Wardo--

“Stop thinking,” Wardo says, hoarse, then slowly, tentatively, kisses Mark again, not hot and rushed and like it’s hurting him to do it, but. But soft and purposeful.

Mark’s fingers have somehow twined themselves in Wardo’s hair, and Wardo’s hands are on Mark’s nape and his back, stroking gently.

The kiss deepens, and goes on forever. Mark feels lightheaded, maybe oxygen deprivation, but whatever. Eduardo finally pulls off, but somehow they end up with their foreheads leaning against each other, just, like, breathing into each other’s faces. Eduardo’s hand clenches in Mark’s shirt and Mark curls his fingers in Wardo’s hair and it’s just -- yeah.

“Yeah,,” Wardo breathes, and Mark gasps out a little breathy sound that he didn’t know was inside him.

Wardo says, “Oh,” and pulls Mark to him in a hug, strong arms encircling him, pulling him into him.

Mark’s hands clench behind Wardo’s back and if he could, just by holding him like this, if he could bring them back, back to that table at the depositions, or further back, to the scene at Facebook or even further back, to that rainy night Wardo came to California, if he could... “I’m sorry,” he breathes into the skin of Eduardo’s neck.

Wardo’s hands pull him even closer. “I know,” Wardo says. “I don’t want the money. I never did.”

“I know,” Mark says and Wardo pulls in a huge breath and just hangs on.

Mark can’t manage to make himself look Wardo in the eyes right now, but he keeps kissing his neck. After a while Wardo sighs and leans his head back a little, so Mark gets to kiss on up Wardo’s neck to his jaw, rough with stubble, to his lips. By the time he gets there, Wardo’s hands on him aren’t so much stroking as they are stroking, and this kiss isn’t so much tender as it is tender-hot.

“Do you want to--”

“I have a bed. Huge. Virtually unused...”

Wardo has to get them there, because Mark can’t quite stop kissing him. They trail clothes along the way and then they’re there, in Mark’s huge fucking bed. Mark fumbles in his nightstand drawer while Wardo kisses down his body. Mark feels like his skin is on fire -- just the thought of everything they haven’t done, could do, with a bed and time...

Wardo pants into the skin of Mark’s thigh and groans, so Mark feels a little better, like he’s not the only one.

Wardo crawls back up Mark’s body -- and that is a sight Mark’s not ever going to get tired of -- kisses him, deep and slow. Mark’s chest hurts, but in a different way, like it’s expanding, so full.

“Mark, I can’t, I want you to--Here.” Wardo stuffs the lube and condoms into Mark’s hand. Mark freezes, because, what, and also, just the idea...

“I don’t usually, but I just. If you don’t mind? Do you ever?”

Mark feels like laughing and also crying, because Eduardo, so polite, but lust sort of hazes all of that over and his brain’s wires get all crossed and he gasps, “Whatever you want, baby,” and Wardo goes insane when he says that, and then even more so when Mark licks up his thigh, licks into the crease, pushes first one, then two slicked-up fingers inside.

Through the lust, Mark figures this is about the biggest gift Wardo could give him, that Wardo is letting himself just react, react without holding back, so he gives one back, says, “Baby,” again when he pushes inside. Wardo closes his eyes like he’s in pain, but he’s not, arching up on the bed for more. Mark pictures his Aunt Mabel naked to buy another couple of minutes, because seriously... Wardo laid out like this, long legs wrapped around Mark’s back, hands tightening on Mark’s shoulders...

“I--,” Mark whispers into the fold of Wardo’s knee. “I--”

“I know,” Wardo says, coming spectacularly all over himself and Mark and Mark’s pristine bed, and Mark buries himself in him and comes, bursting with everything, all the feelings in the world all at once, which is what Wardo is to him, all of it.

~ ~ ~

EPILOGUE

They’re new to it still. Mark sometimes sees Wardo being, well, careful, and he just -- he doesn’t want him to have to be like that, ever again, for anyone. Including himself. It’s not like Wardo’s perfect -- he’s not. It’s awesome that he’s not, and the last fight they had was spectacular and he still can’t believe how stupid Wardo was.

Anyway, Wardo can fight with Mark about anything he wants to, if he’s living with him. Which he is, finally. It took a while, but Mark’s okay with that, too, even though it made him crazy, because things that are important should take a while, usually. Then they don’t fall apart. They’re built on something.

“Wow,” Eduardo had said, out of nowhere on his third visit, sprawled on the couch while Star Wars played quietly in the background. “I just realized. I think I was maybe subconsciously looking at companies to buy here for a long time.”

“That’s nothing compared to me, though,” Mark had said. “I’m still king of denial and defense mechanisms. I went to every fucking investment conference for, like, a year. I hate investment conferences.”

“You always have to be the best at everything,” Eduardo said, rolling on top of him and grinning.

Mark grinned back, helpless. “Will you, though?” he said later, using his strategic blow job skills. “I need you here.”

It took him a few minutes to realize that Wardo had stopped making sounds. Mark traced back over what he’d said. Oh. Oh, shit. He crawled up so he could look down at Wardo’s face. “No! Not like, need you here, like back then. Not like I’ll, you know, go away. If you don’t come live here. I’m not--I’m not going away again. From you. In any way, I--”

“Okay, I get it,” Wardo had said, reaching down between them and curling those long, beautiful fingers around both of them and jerking them off together, painfully slowly, until Mark was practically begging.

Anyway, the point is, neither of them are perfect, but they’re both kind of trying to be. Mark thinks it’d be good, probably, if they can get past that. And also laugh even more. But for now, he’s just thankful.

Wardo catches Mark’s eye across the party and smiles at him, that gorgeous smile that flashes in Mark’s memory and finally has started appearing more in the here-and-now-Wardo as well. Mark is... he’s overusing the word, but it’s the best one he has -- he’s grateful, so grateful, for this chance at... whatever it is they are doing. And it shows, he knows it does, because of all the jokes about how besotted he is from Dustin and Chris, which, okay, fine. He kind of is.

There’s still some stuff they haven’t dealt with, but that’s to be expected, and he’s pretty sure, now, that they will, when the time comes, whatever there is to deal with.

His hand freezes mid-air bringing a drink to his lips because, speak of the devil, it’s Sean, hand on Mark’s back and all jovial like everything that happened, didn’t happen. Mark hardly sees Sean at all these days, just an occasional meeting or something, but he should have realized he might be at this party, which includes most of the glitterati of the Valley.

He darts a quick glance across the room. Sure enough, even from here, he can tell Wardo’s spotted Sean. He can see the lines of tension in Eduardo’s body, how his eyes are dark and his fingers are turning white around his glass.

Sean is clueless and keeps talking, even when Eduardo stalks up to them and puts his hand around Mark’s bicep, curls his fingers hard around it.

“Wardo, my man!” Sean exclaims. “You’re looking good.” He sidles closer to Mark and puts a suggestive hand on his other arm. “Not as good as Zuckerberg here, though.” He runs his hand up to Mark’s shoulder, squeezes. “You’ve been working out!”

“Excuse us,” Eduardo says, jaw clenched. Still a gentleman, even when he clearly wants to deck Sean.

“Oh, I see how it is,” Sean says, with that flash of insight the guy sometimes has, that’s part of the whole craziness that is Sean. He leers ostentatiously. “Niiice. I’m always open, if you need to spice things up a little...”

“Thank you for not punching him,” Mark says, laughing a little at Wardo’s expression as Wardo drags him into the restroom and shoves him up against the back of the door. He sobers when he actually looks at Wardo’s eyes, though, because they remind him of--he’s not sure what. And then he remembers, the times when Sean, when Mark kind of... fell for Sean’s load of bullshit, or actually--whoa--kind of made it seem like he was choosing Sean over Wardo. Even though he wasn’t: he needed Wardo, he needed him so much, but he fucking well wasn’t going to say it or anything, how much he needed him, how much seeing Wardo with Christy, with her hands all over him, with Wardo’s hands all over Christy...

“Hello, I’m trying to stake my claim here,” Wardo says, snapping his fingers in front of Mark’s face.

“Sorry, having an epiphany of sorts.” Mark shakes his head. “Wow, I am even more oblivious than I thought. Just when I think I’ve tapped the denial well, I find more depths of stupidity inside myself.”

“I hear you.” Wardo sighs and pulls Mark close. ‘’We were so young, you know?”

“Hey,” Mark says after a while, when he might possibly have pressed soft kisses onto Wardo’s jaw, his mouth. “What was that about staking your claim? Because I’m totally up for that. Just so you know.”

“It was going to be so hot, too,” Wardo sighs. “Nailing you on the back of the bathroom door. Symmetry, symbolism, you name it.” He smiles at Mark, the smile that goes all the way to his eyes. “All this sweet stuff is kind of getting in the way.”

“Mmm,” Mark says. “Can it maybe be, you know. Hot, too? I mean, don’t trouble yourself. Sean’s available if you don’t want to tap this...”

Wardo’s eyes sparkle and heat, all at once. “Crude, but it’s working. Turn around.” He presses Mark’s wrists into the door and mouths sweet kisses on his neck while he fingers him almost brutally, then pushes inside.

“I don’t want Sean,” Mark gasps. “I don’t want that girl from before, at the bar. I don’t want anyone else but you.”

Wardo stops moving and pants into the skin of Mark’s shoulder.

“Too much?” Mark asks. He’s trying for funny, but he knows it comes out pretty serious.

Wardo barks out a breathless laugh. “No, it’s good. It’s good to laugh with you. Also,” -- he drops his voice an octave -- “You’re fucking mine.”

Mark groans into the door and nods his head, all at the same time. The urgency’s getting kind of overwhelming, though... he needs Wardo to move, damn it. He may have said that out loud, because Wardo does, achingly slowly at first, then eventually rough and fast, just the way Mark wants it this time, a perfect combination.

Bebe, querido,” Wardo gasps at the end, probably at least partly because he knows it makes Mark fucking insane when he speaks Portuguese.

The words remind Mark of something, though he can’t think of what. Something he was going to do... something he keeps forgetting, wrapped up in other stuff... but it’s lost in the heat of this moment, up against the door, Wardo up against his back, fucking into him.

Wardo bites Mark’s neck and Mark moans and leans his head back onto Eduardo’s shoulder.
“I’m gonna, can’t help it, gonna be lou--” he gasps, at the end, and Wardo slaps his hand over Mark’s mouth. Jesus fucking Christ that’s even hotter, and Mark’s body seizes and he comes, Wardo cursing in a Portuguese-English mishmash as he convulses behind him.

Later, they walk back out to the party, cleaned up. Mark knows he's got a smug smile on his face, and Wardo is glowing -- beautiful, surrounded by a crowd of people, like he should be. Mark’s got some people talking to him, also, and he’s easier with that, too, than he used to be.

He overhears a strand of conversation from someone in the group surrounding Wardo -- “Saverin, Senior? Still at the top of his game?”

Mark watches Wardo’s face shutter into the mask he wears sometimes, and he remembers. The thing he almost-remembered, before. ”Excuse me,” he says to whoever the people are he’s talking with, and walks over to Wardo. “Excuse me,” he says. “May I have a word?” Wardo raises an eyebrow and Mark flushes. “It’s not that,” he hisses. “We just did it!”

“Hasn’t stopped us before,” Wardo fake-leers.

Mark laughs. “True. But not what I wanted. It’ll just take a second. It’s just. There’s something I just remembered.” He pulls him outside into the secluded corner of a patio.

“Your father.”

Wardo stiffens and Mark hates himself. “No, no. Your father. What I wanted to say is, your father is an asshole. A massive, massive asshole.” He pulls back and searches Wardo’s face. He looks -- not stunned, but -- yeah, okay, Mark can still surprise him.

“I should know,” Mark adds. “Assholes, that is. I realized I hadn’t said that to you. About your father.”

Eduardo’s face does something complicated, but in the end he reaches out a hand, holds it there for Mark to take. He smiles. “Let’s go home?” he says, still -- ridiculously -- a bit tentative. “We can, um, talk?”

Weirdly, there’s literally nothing Mark would want to do more. Lie in their huge bed, Wardo’s head in his lap. Stroke his hair while he talks... Then maybe later, some coding, after Wardo falls asleep.

Wardo must see something in Mark’s expression, because when Mark focuses on him again, Eduardo’s eyes are full of -- of something. Something Mark realizes he’s seen in Eduardo’s eyes before. Something that, this time, he’s not going to take for granted.

“An algorithm,” he blurts.

“Your brain is weird,” Wardo says, pulling him close again by their joined hands. It’s not a bad thing, when he says it. A lot of Mark’s life has been spent having that be a bad thing.

“A repeating algorithm.” He squeezes Wardo’s hand and then looks up at his face. “It’s what we are. Maybe?” He lets his hope, his wish, show in his voice, the question.

Wardo smiles, the special smile he gives only Mark. “Like the key code to your house, your money. Different days, different numbers, but the same operation. Like freshmen in college, and old guys who’re almost thirty.”

“They’re helpless, those numbers,” Mark says. “They have to combine.”

“They can’t help it, they just--No, wait. You’re so weird.” Wardo is cracking up, laughing so hard it’s infectious.

Mark grins at him. “Admit it, you’re jealous. You wish you thought of the analogy.”

They bicker about it all the way home.

In Mark’s secret heart he hopes -- he believes -- they’ll bicker about it the rest of their lives.

 

~~ The End ~ ~