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Eduardo knows better now than to sign things without having them checked out by his lawyers first. So apparently what he needs are better lawyers.

Mark looks at him. “This isn’t my fault.”

“How is it not your fault?”

“Why would I want this?”

Eduardo thinks about it. In the past four years, Mark has shown no particular inclination to see more of him. So he supposes that maybe Mark is right. This is the last thing either of them would have wanted.

 

*

Twelve hours earlier

Eduardo finally exhaled when he felt the plane take off. Two whole days of Mark is more than he has been able to manage in three, maybe four, years. Truthfully, this hadn’t even been two days of Mark, so much as it was two days of Facebook. Eduardo had seen Mark through the glass of one of the conference rooms, and at the other end of the same boardroom table when they couldn’t afford to be anywhere else. But nobody makes the two of them sign things in the same room any more. Eduardo signed the latest shareholder agreement three hours ago and now he’s free to go back to Singapore.

He tries to read. Email had piled up while he was away, and there are a few investment proposals he should really form an opinion on before he gets back. He’s developing a headache, but that’s nothing new when he’s been in California.

Eduardo presses the call button and when the woman arrives he smiles at her. “Hi, you wouldn’t be able to get me a painkiller or something, would you?”

She stares. “Sir, you have…” She touches the skin above her lip and Eduardo matches her. His finger comes away with blood on it.

“Oh.”

She passes him a napkin. “Sir, I should really call someone.”

“Don’t worry about it, it’s probably just the altitude. I’m fine, really.” He smiles again, and she looks momentarily convinced.

Then she shakes her head. “Sir, you really don’t look well.”

In truth, Eduardo’s starting not to feel very well. His head is really pounding. Then his vision starts to blur.

The flight attendant says, “Sir. Sir?”

When he opens his eyes again, he’s flat on his back on the floor of the airplane and someone is shining a light in his eye.

“Mr Saverin?” asks the man with the torch.

“Yes. I’m sorry, did I faint?”

“You did. Rather startled Ms Lim.”

Eduardo looks around to try and see her, so he can apologise. When he meets her eyes, she gives him an efficient smile. “Don’t worry about it, sir. We’re trained to deal with medical emergencies.”

“I don’t really think it’s a…” He sighs. “They turned the plane around, didn’t they?”

“Standard protocol,” the man says. “You’ll have to be checked out back in San Francisco.”

In all of the other ways, Eduardo does not want to be back in California. But he will concede that his headache has been improving the closer they get to landing.

When they make it back, he is bundled off the airplane (Eduardo feeling incredibly embarrassed and apologetic towards all of these people whose journey he has delayed) and into an ambulance. He’s still feeling off-balance.

At the hospital a doctor comes and looks at him, but doesn’t seem immediately concerned. Then the nurse says, “Your friends are here for you.”

“What?”

Dustin pushes through the door. “You need to come and see Mark.”

“Dustin, what?”

“Mark. You need to come and talk to him. Ever since you left he’s been-.”

The nurse tuts. “Mr Saverin needs to stay here for observation.”

Dustin asks, “What happened to you anyway? Your assistant just said you had to come back here and that they called an ambulance.”

“I passed out on the plane. It’s a precaution, it’s nothing serious.” The nurse tuts again, but when Eduardo doesn’t try to escape, she leaves them alone to talk.

Dustin asks, “How is it nothing-?”

Eduardo interrupts. “What about Mark?”

“He just went- this morning, he was sitting coding, and he looked up. He said your name, and then he went-.”

“What?”

“Like he wasn’t there. He was staring at the screen and we couldn’t move him. He wasn’t even doing anything, but he wouldn’t- Chris had to drag him away in the end.”

“That doesn’t sound so different from regular-Mark.”

Dustin gives a frustrated exclamation. “You know him better than that.”

“I don’t know how you think me seeing him is going to fix anything.”

Dustin shrugs. “He said your name. Looked straight up, said, “Wardo,” and not a word since. What am I supposed to think?”

“Not that the two of us being in the same room is-.”

Mark is standing in the doorway. “Eduardo.” He hangs off the frame, holding onto it with white-knuckled fingers.

A low hum starts in the back of Eduardo’s head. He clenches his own hands in the hospital sheets.

Mark says, “You should probably stay here for a while.”

 

*

 

Mark has an entire team of lawyers, and no one can tell him what the hell happened with this contract. They can’t tell him who had approval of the final draft, or where this codicil came from – more importantly they can’t tell him how it’s doing this.

“This makes no sense.”

Mark wonders when the last time he and Eduardo agreed was, and he says that.

Eduardo snorts. “I remember agreeing to lose the ‘the’.”

“That was really Sean.”

Mark feels his pulse start throbbing dully at his temple, an odd reflected anger he can’t place.

“Can you stop that?” he asks.

“What?”

“You’re… spilling.”

Eduardo looks at him like he’s the weird one. “I’m what?”

“You’re angry so I’m getting angry and that’s not really a productive use of our time.”

That, conversely, makes Eduardo even angrier. Mark feels his hands draw into fists. He’s never really been in a fistfight, and right now he doesn’t know if Eduardo’s anger would make him try and punch himself in the face, or if the emotion is not that directed. Maybe it’s going to end with the two of them rolling around the floor of the office.

“I don’t think that would reassure your employees,” Eduardo says.

Mark looks at him. “What?”

“The two of us rolling around on the floor of the office.”

“Eduardo- what is this- to you, what’s this doing?” He closes his eyes, thinking it might help with the focus or something like it: can you hear me?

Eduardo stares at him. “You can’t hear me?”

“No.”

“Okay. So not only are we experiencing a break from reality, but we’re experiencing two different breaks from reality?”

“You can really hear me?”

Eduardo screws up his nose. “I can hear bits. You’re- there’s a lot of white noise. So what is it you’re getting from me?”

“The other parts.” Not white noise, not pictures or words or anything Mark might be able to decipher. It’s all waves of heat and cold and terrible breathlessness. Mark doesn’t want to live in Eduardo’s head.

 

*

Mark is not patient, but he is methodical when he chooses to be. This is something he doesn't understand, so he is poking at its edges. It feels to Eduardo like the sound of knives on glass.

He has gone home with Mark because they hit nine p.m. with no more idea of what caused this than when they started. They had both signed a contract where they promised to take all measures to achieve reconciliation between parties in the event of a dispute. Both Mark and Eduardo's lawyers agree now that it should say 'reasonable' measures, but nobody knows how the word was missed, or who did what over the contract that made this happen.

Mark can't fix that problem, so he's doing this instead. He has Eduardo sitting in the middle of the sitting room of his large house and he is slowly walking away.

He is talking to Eduardo on the phone the whole time, and by the time he gets to the front gate, Eduardo is cursing at him. It hurts, and it started hurting with Mark halfway down the driveway (it started hurting before he opened the front door) but Mark is not content to know that. He needs to know how much hurt Eduardo can take.

“Mark, fucking asshole, bastard, if you don't-,” What, Eduardo doesn't know. But he wants to throw up and he can't move to get to the bathroom or even the wastepaper basket because they are both farther away from Mark and that is a step he cannot voluntarily take. But Mark can, and that is maybe what angers Eduardo the most.

“What?” Mark asks, sounding not concerned at all. He sounds, in fact, the way he always sounded on a coding tear, barely responding to outside stimuli.

Eduardo hates himself but says it anyway: “Come back.”

Mark walks back in slowly. He sits down beside Eduardo on the couch. “Okay, now we know that.” He’s so calm.

Eduardo wants to reach across and punch him, to wrap his hands around Mark’s throat, anything to satiate this urge to touch him.

 

*

Mark takes six aspirin before he realises that the pain isn't in his head. Eduardo is lying on the couch with his eyes tightly closed and his hands clenching in the cushions. They’ve been working in here for four hours, but Mark has been focussed on his laptop for the last two. He’s still not sure how he missed this.

Mark walks over and drops down to the floor, at the end where Eduardo's head is. Eduardo's breathing is shallow, like a panic attack, not a migraine at all. Mark touches the bridge of Eduardo's nose with the tip of one finger. Eduardo rewards him with a shuddery exhale, followed by a breath which finally draws in enough oxygen. Mark runs his finger down Eduardo's nose and jumps to the sweep of his cheek. In the half-second break between one and the other, Eduardo's lips tighten around this awful pained noise that has Mark closing his own eyes in sympathy.

Mark lays his hand, palm up, on the sofa and watches in fascination as Eduardo turns to follow it. Mark’s hand is trapped under Eduardo's cheek and Eduardo opens his eyes.

“Why didn't you say something?” Mark asks.

“It's not bad enough that I can't get more than twenty feet away from you without feeling nauseous, you wanted me asking for hugs too?”

“This isn't exactly a hug.”

“Which is good, because you don't do hugs.”

This is largely true. In all honesty, even just his hand being caught like this is freaking Mark out a little. “Sit up,” he says.

“What?”

“Sit up, I'm losing feeling in my hand.”

Eduardo doesn’t glare, doesn’t even protest or look surprised. He just shifts his head so he’s staring at the ceiling, biting back a moan when they break contact. Mark grabs hold of Eduardo’s left wrist with his right hand, not fast enough, and gets up to sit on the couch. He shrugs his hoodie off one arm, and swaps the hand holding onto Eduardo so he can get the other sleeve. He does the same thing with Eduardo’s jacket, and then pushes Eduardo’s shirtsleeves up to expose the tanned skin. Mark sits behind Eduardo and wraps his arms around him, mapping their bare forearms together and interlocking their fingers. Eduardo shivers.

Mark says, “Let me know when it’s okay for me to go again.”

“I don’t need you to…” Eduardo leans back, the line of his jaw brushing Mark’s cheek. He stops talking.

“What?” Mark asks, against Eduardo’s neck.

Eduardo says, “I’m sorry,” like a gasp. “I’m sorry, I didn’t realise it was so- Can you just stay there a little while?”

“Yes,” Mark says. Because this part is simple. He’s not trapped, this is his choice. He can write code in his head for a little while, and press his chest to Eduardo’s back. He can stay there until Eduardo’s heart stops pounding so fast, because Mark had managed to hurt him just by staying away.

 

*

Eduardo doesn’t have any choice but to follow Mark to the Facebook offices again in the morning. After yesterday’s humiliation, he would rather be anywhere else, but they have both been deprived of that option. Still, this is day three and he has doesn’t know why Mark keeps insisting on talking. Of the two of them, Eduardo had not thought that would be Mark’s problem.

He’s trying to tune out the anxious buzzing that he’s starting to recognise as Mark’s thoughts. All he can distinguish are questions: what, what, why?

Mark touches Eduardo’s neck, another gesture out of pity, or at least of a desire not to be distracted by Eduardo’s discomfort. He asks, “What are you working on?”

“You can’t tell?”

“You know I can’t hear your-.”

Eduardo slides the pages over. “I meant you could read it. It’s your terms and conditions.”

Mark looks down at the page once and back at Eduardo. “This is Portuguese.”

“Yes.”

He hesitates. “Did someone ask you to…?”

“Are you telling me to stop?”

Mark flinches and it was never, never, so easy to pull a reaction from him before. Eduardo still doesn’t look. “No,” Mark says. “Why would I-? I just meant you can do what you want. You probably have your own work to do.”

“A little,” Eduardo admits. The Facebook work had been a distraction – they’ve just revised their terms and conditions, so Eduardo is checking through the Portuguese version because he can. And because it’s easier to tune Mark out if he’s reading in another language. He says, “But I need more focus to do that.”

“Is your head still sore?” He steps towards Eduardo again, intending to do something or other.

“No,” Eduardo says. Meaning yes, and Mark can’t read his mind but he must know that.

Mark rubs his head with the heel of his hand. “Why are you being so-?”

“Why aren’t you?”

Mark sighs, and taps Eduardo’s neck again. It’s not enough. He goes back to his desk and Eduardo’s head is filled up again with the noise of Mark’s too-rapid thoughts.

This doesn’t tell them anything. If it was the other way around – if they went through all of this and it turned out that Mark felt even a little bit more than he shows, or if Mark could make sense of the tangles of Eduardo’s thoughts. As it is, Mark’s thoughts are seldom at odds with his words, and Eduardo’s anger is still unintelligible to him. Mark thinks too much and Eduardo feels too much and none of this is news.

(That isn’t fair to either of them. Eduardo graduated magna cum laude from Harvard and he’s perfectly capable of making good business decisions without Mark or Facebook; Eduardo has accused Mark of jealousy and spite too often to truly believe him lacking in emotion. They’re both more than the roles they paint for each other.)

It wouldn’t have taken Facebook to end the two of them, for all that they blame it and fight over it. All it would have taken, with no outside intervention of luck or fate, is Mark and Eduardo, exactly as they are. This just proves it.

 

*

They have lunch with Dustin and Chris, who are still more inclined to think this is amusing than anything else. They look between Mark and Eduardo and grin a weird surprise, like this is fate kicking in.

Mark doesn’t agree, but it’s easier to be around the two of them than just Eduardo. It helps the mood, with Mark not Eduardo’s sole focus.

It hurts. Eduardo just hurts, all the time that he’s near Mark, and it must be the proximity because he can’t possibly feel like this all the time.

When Dustin and Chris are here, the dark tangle around him unravels: he likes them, mostly uncomplicated by their history. This in itself would not be hard to read, even for Mark. Eduardo smiles more easily and laughs at some story Dustin launches into about the development team.

The other part he would have missed before – the swirl of relief and comfort even through a bitter homesickness. Or possibly it is the other way around.

Eduardo turns his head to smile at Chris and Mark wants to be touching him. He wants to lean his forehead to the slope of Eduardo’s neck and stay there. He could bury himself in the sudden warmth of Eduardo’s affections and maybe everything will stop hurting for a little while.

Instead, he walks to the doorway, and then another step, and another, til he’s dizzy with spinning thoughts and reflected nausea and Dustin snaps, “For God’s sake, Mark.”

When he comes back in, Eduardo’s focus is all back on him, and the change is not for the better.

 

*

They fight again when they get back to Mark’s place. Eduardo wants to watch TV and Mark wants to work in his study. He could work anywhere in the house, and Eduardo could take a laptop and a DVD into the study, so it’s not as though there’s much reason for an argument. But they have one anyway, since underneath it all, they still can’t stay in opposite ends of the house. Eduardo used to think he knew what it was like to always be aware of Mark.

It doesn’t hurt Mark, which may be the most frustrating thing. It annoys him, Eduardo can tell, but he’s still the one who keeps testing the limits. Eduardo can’t do that. They end up in Mark’s study.

After a while Mark says, “I’m going to bed.”

“I just want to watch the end of this.”

“I’ll leave the door open.”

“You’ll- what? How does that-? How can you even-?”

Mark bounces uneasily on the balls of his feet. “I’ll stay here, it’s fine.”

“I don’t get how this can be so- how does this not bother you?”

“What makes you think it doesn’t bother me?”

“Because, as usual, Mark, you act as though the only problems are whether or not it might interrupt your coding. Never mind that a normal person would-.”

Mark interrupts him. “You think it’s fun for me, getting an unexpurgated stream of every little fucking up and down you go through every minute of every day? I can’t get anything done, all I get to hear is you being miserable or pissed at me and it’s-.”

“Exhausting?” Eduardo suggests, trusting that reference to hit. “Or just boring? I’m sorry I can’t provide the thrilling running commentary on whether or not slow-downs in site registration are seasonal or reflective of a downturn in social networking as a whole. Is that seriously all that’s going on in your head?”

“You know that’s not true.”

“Mark, I can hear it. It might as well be binary.”

Mark’s eyes widen, just a fraction, but all Eduardo gets is the stereo of his thoughts and his voice. “I’d rather mine than yours.”

Eduardo leaves.

He leaves the room, and walks out the door. He slams it behind him. It gets slower, leaving the house and walking down the driveway to the street. It drags at his chest til he can barely breathe, but he makes it to the corner before he throws up. It feels, he thinks hysterically, just like the first time. Come back for everything.

And that’s not him.

Eduardo takes another step away, to prove to himself that he can. No. I’m sorry, no. He doesn’t know if Mark is counting on Eduardo hearing him, or if he is just throwing words out into the air. They’ve been such a jumble but this is clear: Eduardo. I didn’t mean- Don’t.

He needs the fences to hold himself up on the way back, the dragging no less now that he is close again. Mark is the anchor.

Mark had started getting ready for bed as he promised. The lights are off, so there is only the spill from the hallway when Eduardo opens the door. Mark is sitting on the end of the bed, knees pulled to his chest, wearing a faded t-shirt that Eduardo thinks he recognises. “I’m sorry,” Eduardo says. “I didn’t mean- that wasn’t fair.”

Mark leans his head back to look at him and Eduardo moves. He presses his fingers against Mark’s collarbone, feeling his rapid pulse and unsteady breath. Mark turns towards him, tipping his face to Eduardo’s neck. Eduardo kicks off his shoes and struggles out of his pants, winding himself around Mark. They lie together in the near dark and shiver.

When his thoughts feel more his own, Eduardo shifts up the bed and gets them situated more comfortably. They’ll have to talk eventually, but it never seems to help them much. Mark stirs in his hold and Eduardo loosens his arms; Mark doesn’t like to be trapped. Eduardo curves his fingers on Mark’s hip, leaving himself that touch. Mark doesn’t say anything.

Mark spends most of the time with his hands in his pockets. Sometimes he'll use one for emphasis, wrapped around a bottle or waving a red vine. But mostly he tucks them inside his hoodie. So it shocks Eduardo, still, even compromised as they are, when Mark snakes his free arm under the covers and grabs hold of Eduardo's hand. He squeezes tight and says, fierce in the darkness, “I can't think without you here.”

“Mark.”

“It used to be the other way round. But now- I can't think without you here.”

Eduardo wishes he had kept silent. But this is what he had asked, wasn’t it: what effect this was having on Mark. Eduardo says, “I'm here.”

“You don't-" Mark sighs. “Not like that, I mean-.”

Eduardo focuses on the whirr of Mark's thoughts, still unable to completely pick them apart.

Mark turns on his side so he can look at Eduardo properly. “When you're not here, it's... chaos. When I can’t see you, when I don’t know where you are.”

“I’m here,” Eduardo says again.

“Not like that.” Mark presses closer, his breath warm over Eduardo’s neck. Eduardo tries to piece together his thoughts, but can make no sense of them.

 

*

They have an odd morning. When Mark wakes, he is tangled with Eduardo so thoroughly that it takes serious concentration to free himself and get downstairs. They barely talk over breakfast and on the ride to the offices. Eduardo sits on the couch in Mark’s office and Mark comes to sit alongside him. Mark brushes his thumb over Eduardo’s wrist and then gets to work.

He notices the absence more than anything else – Eduardo didn’t wake up angry this morning. There is a prickle like confusion, and something else Mark cannot place. Eduardo smiles at him and though Mark does not trust his own translation, he smiles back at what he imagines the feeling to be.

Dustin pokes his head through the door and says, “Sean’s coming in,” and Mark feels as though someone has dumped cold water over the two of them.

They hadn’t told Sean, because no good could have come from him knowing. But when he arrives, thirty minutes later, Mark can see Chris drag him aside to speak to him. Mark can’t imagine what Chris is saying – knowing what’s happening isn’t going to stop Sean being an asshole about it. And this is from Mark, who still generally likes Sean. Eduardo is already making an effort to focus on other things.

Sean makes a lot of noise. He opens the door and greets them. “Mark! And Wardo, Chris told me you were in town. And some crap about a magical legal contract. Mark, you really need to get better lawyers. Didn’t I tell you that these guys would try to take advantage of you?”

Chris follows Sean into the office. “As I explained, we’re still investigating that part. And I didn’t say ‘magical legal contract’.”

“Temporarily binding arrangement,” Eduardo offers mildly. “I promise, we really are looking into it. But I don’t think Mark relying on any lawyers you recommend would help the situation.”

“And what’s that supposed to mean?” Sean asks. He turns to Mark. “Help me out here.”

Mark looks at Eduardo. “How do you stand to be in same room as him?”

Eduardo’s mouth opens. He says, “Sorry?”

“You’re-.” The wave of loathing had nearly floored Mark, the moment Sean spoke. It’s not like the complicated mess of emotions Eduardo has towards Mark, or did have up to this morning. This is much simpler. Mark asks, “The whole time?”

“I don’t know what you’re-.”

“It was like this the whole time?”

Eduardo puts it together then. “It wasn’t so bad right at the beginning. And it was worse just before the-.”

“It was worse?” Mark asks. He finds it difficult to imagine worse than this.

Sean is staring between the two of them. “What the hell is happening here?”

“Did you actually need something?” Mark can’t be sure – Sean comes by for no reason about fifty percent of the time. (Twenty-five percent of the time he needs to be bailed out of something, the rest of the time he comes up with something that makes up for the other seventy-five percent.)

Sean says, “I wanted to find out why Wardo was back.”

“How did you know that?” Mark asks. “It doesn’t matter. Eduardo, want to come for a walk?”

Eduardo stands up. “Okay?” He follows Mark out of the office and into the street. There’s grass, and people jogging or out walking their dogs. Eduardo smiles. “You know, it’s okay when you say it.”

Mark bumps against Eduardo’s shoulder. “Wardo.”

 

*

He should be researching fixes for this. Instead, Eduardo is leaning back in the couch and listening to Mark code.

Dustin came in forty-five minutes ago with a minor crisis that was sufficiently distracting for Mark to have fallen headfirst into it. Right now he’s trying to instruct Dustin and two other developers to help him with what’s supposed to be a fix.

“No,” Mark says. “Come on, this is simple.”

Dustin glares. “I can just about follow you, Sam is at least used to deciphering Mark-to-English, but Carey’s new. Break it down.”

Mark is bad at hiding his exasperation, but his patience has improved over the years. He takes a breath, and starts to explain. He passes Eduardo the laptop when he needs to lean across to make a point to Dustin. And because he had been mid-thought, Eduardo picks the stray end of it up and finishes typing the change in the code for him.

Mark launches into his next point, and it’s easy enough to follow him, so Eduardo keeps typing. When he finishes this time, Dustin is watching him. “Oh God, the hive mind’s finally kicked in.”

Eduardo throws a pen at him.

Mark opens his other laptop. His smile is bright and sharp. “Keep up with me.”

This is what it’s like in Mark’s head all the time. Eduardo keeps hold of one thread of the flying thoughts and types as fast as his fingers can move.

Dustin murmurs, “All this time hiring programmers and what you actually needed was a telepathic bond and four hands?”

“Just Wardo,” Mark says, not looking up from his screen.

Eduardo loses the thought; his hands trip over themselves on the keyboard. Dustin smirks at him. Eduardo takes a deep breath, grabs the loose end of Mark’s concern about database load, and starts again.

 

*

Mark is waiting for Eduardo to say something. Eduardo is sitting beside him; he turns his head to study Mark’s face. Mark raises his eyebrow.

“You don’t miss your life.” Eduardo’s attention is fixed on him, looking (listening) for Mark’s response.

Mark frames it carefully. “I have my life. The only thing that was missing I got- I have you, and Facebook. You didn’t ask me to choose.”

“I’m sorry?”

“You could have made a fuss. You could have said ‘come with me to Singapore’. But you didn’t. You stayed here in California like- You could have made it hard but you didn’t. So, obviously this is inconvenient for you and I hope we can get it fixed. But there’s really nothing about it that’s causing me any particular problems.”

Eduardo shakes his head. “There’s something wrong with you.”

That doesn’t match. Eduardo spends a lot of the time not matching. Mark is not sure if that was always true, or if it something Eduardo learnt more recently. Mark has been accused, alternately, of never censoring himself, and of not saying enough.

Eduardo used to know what he meant anyway, right up to the point he didn’t. Eduardo curls his hand around Mark’s ankle, settling down on the couch. They don’t say anything.

 

*

It should make it easier. What it does is stop them from trying as hard as they should. It stops them pushing. Mark speaks more slowly, Mark who does nothing slowly. He speaks and then he listens for Eduardo’s reaction, speaks again. He tests everything first: Eduardo can hear the chatter of each discarded overture.

Eduardo thinks it as hard as he can: I loved you once and you broke my heart but I think I could do it again anyway. Of course Mark doesn't hear it, because Mark doesn't hear his thoughts.

Mark walks across to him and touches his arm. He thinks, but doesn't say, ‘Why are you sad?

 

*

Mark doesn’t think like a lawyer, but he can think like a contract. He reads it again and again. These things always have loopholes. Mark hires people who can write contracts that are pretty much ironclad (he learnt from experience) but there must be something here.

All it says is reconciliation. It doesn’t need to be more than that.

Mark hands Eduardo the page. “Sign this.”

Eduardo doesn’t look at it. He puts it on the desk and stares at Mark. “You’re serious?”

“Just sign it, and then you can go home. That’s what you want, isn’t it? That’s why you’re…”

Eduardo lifts the page up again and reads it out loud. “…This certifies that the parties have reconciled of their own accord, and no further attempts are necessary… Mark?”

“That’s what you want. That should be enough for the contract. It’s paper, what does it know? And it’s true anyway.”

“You think so?”

“Yes,” he says. “I do. You aren’t still angry; I would be able to tell. So that’s it.”

Eduardo says, “Give me a pen.” He signs it in his careful loop of scrawl.

Mark takes the page back. He hesitates for just a moment and then signs it. He realises only once he’s finished that the sudden spike of feeling at his pause had been hope.

Eduardo asks, “Is that it then? We’re done?”

It doesn’t have to mean that at all, but Eduardo wants to go. He never wanted this and Mark doesn’t want to feel guilty any more. He shrugs.

Eduardo nods. “I guess we should try.”

He walks away. This time he gets through the doors without stopping. To Mark, it feels the same as the last time, the same as the first time. But he can think this time, enough to know that Eduardo is a blank to him.

 

*

He does say goodbye. Eduardo packs up his things and comes back to the office to make sure Mark knows that the thing has definitely stopped and Eduardo hasn’t passed out on the side of the road somewhere.

Dustin looks at him like this is a betrayal and Chris looks disappointed and Mark just looks.

Eduardo says goodbye and then, for reasons he will examine later, leans in to touch Mark’s hand.

He goes to the airport and this time makes it all the way back to Singapore. His assistant is pleased to see him, even if she doesn’t really believe him about why he stayed so long in California. They had told people it was an inner-ear infection that made it difficult for him to fly.

Eduardo takes a few meetings, but he’s not actually behind on his work. He gets a lot done via email and web conferencing. It would be ridiculous if he didn’t – there are certain expectations about his ability to work with new technologies. It’s still a little sobering to realise that his physical presence in the office is not as important as his ability to respond quickly to problems on his smartphone.

It’s very quiet here. He gets out his phone a few times but doesn’t know what he would say. Mark was quiet too when he left.

He gets to the end of the week, and books another flight.

There are no clues, when he calls from the airport. Mark asks, “Where are you?”

“I’ve just landed.”

“You’ve- what? Wardo. I’ll come and get you.” Eduardo can’t hear them, but he knows Mark is running through the possibilities in his mind.

“I don’t need you to pick me up,” Eduardo says. “Just be there when I get in.”

“I’m always here,” Mark says, and maybe it is that simple. Maybe there never was something else to be discovered.

Eduardo thinks about that in the car. It doesn’t sound right to him. Things were more difficult once, but that was years ago now. Now they can choose to make it easy. Mark knows every cruel impulse Eduardo ever had about him; Eduardo knows that Mark wasn’t lying.

He opens the door. Mark is sitting at his desk in the middle of the offices. He’s typing, solo this time, but he looks up when Eduardo gets to him. “Hi.”

“Hi.”

Mark is blank-faced. “You’re going to have to give me a clue here.”

“I don’t have to do anything,” Eduardo points out. He sits on the edge of Mark’s desk.

Mark takes his hands out of his pockets. He splays one of them out on the desk and Eduardo is under no compulsion to touch it but does so anyway. Mark startles. They’ve spent a couple of weeks in each other’s pockets but this is apparently the part that confuses him. He looks at Eduardo. “But you’re doing it anyway?”

Mark can’t hear his thoughts. Eduardo nods. “I’m doing it anyway.”

Mark gives this a moment’s consideration. “What would happen if I asked why?”

“I guess I would probably tell you.”

“Okay.”

Mark doesn’t ask. Eduardo could give him the answers anyway, or at least the answers he knows. But he doesn’t need to. What they don’t know already will wait a little longer.