Eduardo is not amused. “Mark, stop.”
Mark, of course, doesn’t stop because his second favorite thing to do, after proving that other people are idiots, is irritate Eduardo. It’s 3 AM after the intern drive and everyone else is still downstairs but Mark and Eduardo high-tailed it back to the suite to tear into a thirty pack rather than pass around mostly empty bottles of Takka. Two styrofoam takeout containers from the greasy spoon in the Kirkland House basement sit at the foot of Mark’s bed filled with crispy bits of tater tots, flecks of hot sauce, and soggy egg remnants in bacon grease.
The bacon Mark is currently crumbling into small pieces and poking through the chicken’s cage, which it seems pretty pleased about. Eduardo gives it back tomorrow, having successfully gone seven days without killing it and he’d hate to have it die of a heart attack now. “Stop feeding my chicken bacon. Jesus Christ, I’ve gotten in enough trouble already.”
“It’s already committed cannibalism, so I doubt it keeps kosher,” says Mark, voice flat, but there’s a half-smile curing around the edges of his mouth. He pops the last two inches of bacon into his mouth, licks his fingers. The chicken watches him. Mark crosses the room to get two beers out of the fridge — one of the only things still out, the rest of the suite is pretty much packed away into misshapen boxes destined for California — and keeps half an eye on the chicken watching his path across the room. He swings the door to the main room shut with a bang and both Eduardo and the chicken jump.
“Your chicken likes me.”
“It wants more bacon. You made a monster.”
Mark settles up at the head of the bed where Eduardo’s slouching, presses their shoulders together, which is a small miracle in itself. Even though Mark hates touching Eduardo less than others, he’s rarely one to initiate contact. Eduardo tentatively digs one foot under Mark’s calf on the blanket — he can always claim the room is cold. “We have interns now,” says Mark and when Eduardo glances over at him, he’s looks half-wondering, dimples threatening to surface on his cheeks.
“No taking advantage.” Mark looks over at him with a look on his face like he can’t believe Eduardo would ever have to suggest such a thing. “I’m serious, okay. That’s how you end up on the wrong end of some lawsuit somewhere. They can give you coffee, but that’s it.” He pauses. “Keep Dustin away from them.” Mark rolls his eyes, but doesn’t get defensive the way he’s been recently, like Eduardo’s on the other team, like Eduardo has ever even thought about being anywhere but on Mark’s side. Tonight, he just seems loose-limbed and happy, as if all he’s needed these last two years is a good party.
He drops his forehead on Eduardo’s shoulder. “No interns, fine,” he says and it sounds like he’s smiling. His breath is warm and damp through Eduardo’s shirt. Mark reaches a hand to hover Eduardo’s stomach, mere centimeters above, and Eduardo nearly laughs aloud when he figures it out, half-wishes Mark would just ask. He puts his fingers over Mark’s, presses them to his stomach, and when Mark lifts his head, he leans over and touches their temples together. For a second they’re just breathing and there’s always this moment, every time, like Mark is giving him an out.
Eduardo never takes it.
When Eduardo turns his head and closes the distance between them, Mark tastes like bacon and Sam Adams and he’s smiling; they’re both smiling, riding high on the end of the year and California and the interns — Jesus, interns. This isn’t something they do, really, just a few times, drunkenly passing out together and waking up with over-sensitive skin and matching headaches. Eduardo doesn’t read too much into it, except Mark doesn’t look nervous or shaken, just pleased and easy, eyes liquid in the dim light, face flushed from the beer and the heady anticipation for summer.
Mark puts his fingers on Eduardo’s jaw like something out of a movie, running his thumb along the bone down to the chin. In less than a week Eduardo will be in New York — a mere text (or a long flight during which anything could happen, a part of him warns traitorously) away from California.
Mark slides up, turning at what must be an awkward position so he can climb over Eduardo, when there’s a low cooing sound and they both freeze, breathing in and out the same humid air, Mark’s hand curled around Eduardo’s hip. Eduardo kisses him again, just barely, because he can, and the chicken coos again.
“It’s getting off on this.” Mark leans his forehead forward against Eduardo’s, touches their noses together, then pulls back to study the cage, legs splayed on either side of Eduardo’s hips. “Your chicken is kind of gay.”
“My chicken is not gay, Mark. Chickens can’t be gay.”
“Homosexuality has actually been documented in a number of nonhuman species, including various birds — most famously penguins, of course, but my point is that there is a very real possibility that your chicken has homosexual tendencies.” There’s barely a beat before, “We should cover it.”
And this is Eduardo’s life, skimming his fingers under Mark’s hoodie to touch the warm skin at his sides, running his thumbs along the waistband of his jeans as Mark yanks at the top sheet to cover the chicken. He shakes it out above them with a crack; it floats lazily down over Eduardo’s head and he bats at it ineffectually with one hand, the other still curled beneath Mark’s hoodie. Mark pulls it off his head, balances on one arm to fairly throw the wadded up cloth at the cage while simultaneously leaning over to catch Eduardo’s mouth with his own, a promise on his lips.