It started with an ill-advised comment about charity events.
He didn't say anything that wasn't true. Expensive charity galas are a waste of money - sometimes the money that goes into the event is greater than the proceeds. So when Mark said, "They're a waste of time and money, and exist only to pander to the consciences of useless rich people," he wasn't saying something the majority of the population wouldn't agree with.
"But you are one of those rich people," Chris said.
"We don't do those charity events," Mark said. "We just donate."
"We actually do," Chris said. "And you weren't exactly painting a good portrait of the charities themselves."
"We don't need the charities to like us," Mark says. "They'll take our money either way."
"No, but we do need the wealthy people who enjoy those charities, because those wealthy people are our investors," Chris says, and sighs. "And you've insulted them the worst."
"So?" Mark said.
"After insulting everyone," Chris said, "you have to make an apology."
And somewhere along the way that apology changed form, from a speech Mark was going to have to give to a demonstration of goodwill Mark was going to have to perform, and Chris signed Mark up for a bachelor's auction. The proceeds are to go to the Water for Africa fund, which Chris says is a nice neutral charity.
Chris tells Mark this while they're on a plane towards New York City, which is where the auction is being held. Mark hadn't asked why they weren't doing one of the ones in California, because going all the way across the country means less of a chance Mark will have to deal with anyone he knows ever finding out about this. Sean already gave him shit about it, right before trying to sign himself up to participate, too.
Mark says, "Because nothing shows we care about the third world like selling people in their honor."
"Charity auctions are not like slavery, Mark, and if you even suggest something like that tomorrow night I will kill you," Chris says.
"Yeah," Dustin says. "Nothing's like slavery except slavery, Mark. This is just like prostitution."
Chris makes a despairing noise.
"Thank you," Mark says, "for supporting my point."
Dustin salutes him with his drink.
"No, shut up," Chris says. "You are doing this. You will auction off one date, and you will go on one date, and all the hurt feelings your comment inspired will be smoothed over."
"Hurt feelings," Mark says, "because we're in kindergarten."
"Are we sure anyone will want Mark?" Dustin asks, grinning. "I mean, if the night ends and nobody's bought him, won't that look bad?"
"Thanks," Mark repeats, sourly.
"Someone will buy him," Chris says. "He is still a billionaire. That'll attract people. Besides, even if he didn't get bought, the public humiliation would probably appease everyone."
"Ouch," Dustin says.
Mark reaches across the aisle and steals Dustin's drink, downing the rest of it.
Chris says, "Look, it's one night. It will appear as if you have a sense of humor about these things and will soothe everyone's egos."
"Except mine," Mark mutters.
"I don't care about yours," Chris says.
As soon as their flight lands, Chris rushes them to a lounge in Manhattan where there's a rehearsal for the auction being held. It's really just an informational meeting - the event is a silent auction where they eat dinner and then make boring small talk for several hours; there's nothing to practice. Mark is told what table he'll be assigned to, how many people he'll suffer through meeting, and other details Chris already knows. He spends the whole rehearsal listening to Dustin's considered criticisms of the other "bachelors," while Chris pretends not to hear them.
They're released to a late dinner, which Mark skips in favor of sulking in his hotel room that night and most of the next day. Chris bring him a tuxedo the next evening around five. Mark puts it on and suffers through Chris' attacks on his hair, and then he asks, "Do you enjoy making me miserable?"
"It's one evening," Chris repeats. "Just try to be nice, okay? You might even meet someone."
"Insult to injury," Mark says.
"We have to get going," Chris says, and tugs at Mark's bow tie one more time.
Mark is the last bachelor to arrive at the harbor. They're all being lined up like ducks on the dock alongside the yacht while the coordinator, the same fussy old man from the night before, gives Mark a dirty look and sticks his name tag on him. Then he's added to the end of the line and lead onto the yacht. Chris and Dustin have to stay behind - they won't be allowed on until the event officially starts at seven.
Mark sits at his assigned table and pulls out his phone, ignoring the last minute speeches the coordinator and charity fund representative are giving, thanking all the temporary prostitutes for their "dedication" and "generosity."
About twenty minutes later the first guests are allowed in. Mark sees Chris and Dustin enter, but Dustin only waves helplessly as Chris leads him to their seats at another table.
The first people to sit at Mark's table are an elderly couple, quiet and smiling and polite. He ignores their small talk about the weather and the condition of the boat, glaring at the monitors around the room, which are flashing all the "Bachelor Biographies," including Mark's. The next people to join them are two young women, both socialites who giggle at Mark stupidly. He can't ignore them, because they're sitting right next to him and smell unbearably strongly of flowers. He says, "Hello, I'm sorry, what is that awful smell?" and watches them run to the bathroom.
The old lady across the table clicks her tongue at him. The old man smiles, but only when his wife can't see.
The last seat remains empty as the women return, more subdued and darting cautious glances at him, and as the servers bring out the appetizers. One of the socialites introduces herself as Claire and tries to ask Mark about himself tentatively. It's too bad they met this way; she's hot and Mark might've been interested if they'd been introduced under circumstances which didn't immediately make her stupidity apparent, but Mark could never date someone who voluntarily attended a bachelor auction.
The old couple keeps the other young woman occupied and Mark tries to speak as little as possible, though he's reaching the end of the entertainment his phone has to offer him. The auction won't begin until after dinner, and it won't close until midnight. There are still hours to go and the worst hasn't even begun.
Just as the main course is served, the seat to Mark's left, the only empty seat in the room, gains its occupant. The guy hurries in, ducking his shoulders as if to minimize his disruption.
"Hello, sorry," he says to the whole table as he sits.
"It's no problem, of course," says Claire's friend, giggling. Claire smiles at him, too.
They're only too happy to ignore Mark after that. Mark can see why - the guy is attractive, and well-spoken, and wearing clothes and rings that probably mark him as very wealthy, judging by the elderly lady's reaction to him. He also, going on the way he repeatedly brushes off Claire and her friend's subtle flirting, not interested.
He finally turns to Mark as the servers clear their plates and smiles. Mark eyes him appraisingly.
"You're Mark Zuckerberg?" he says, and holds out his hand. Mark avoids pointing at his name tag, but barely. "I'm Eduardo Saverin."
When he continues to hold out his hand with no hint of impatience, Mark finally takes it. He says, "Yes, I'm Mark."
"It's very nice to finally meet you," Saverin says, with a wide-eyed sincerity which makes Mark distrust him.
"Right," Mark says, and pulls his hand away.
"I really admire your website," Saverin says.
"You and the rest of the world," Mark says.
Saverin laughs. "Didn't anyone tell you not to be rude this evening?"
Mark stares at him. "What?"
"Oh," Saverin says, and looks a little embarrassed. "I just thought, considering your last remark about things like these, you'd be trying to be careful right now."
"Are you an investor?" Mark demands.
"Yes," Saverin says, looking surprised.
"Fuck off then," Mark says, and goes to the bathroom.
He doesn't come out until Chris texts him, telling him dinner has ended and everyone is on to the socializing portion of the evening, and threatening to come fetch him if he doesn't come out on his own.
Saverin is nowhere in sight when Mark starts wandering around the edges of the room. Mark hopes he's taken his smug, gloating self to some other useless charity event.
A lot more women talk to Mark than usual. There's actually a lot more women, period, than are usually in attendance at the events Mark frequents. They come up to him, younger and older, giggly or serious, but they are all judging him, and he dispatches them as quickly as possible. Chris and Dustin are still avoiding him, but by the end of the evening people have settled out into groups.
Mark is out on deck, where few people are because of the cold, talking to the elderly couple from earlier - the husband, it turns out, owns the largest natural gas supplier on the eastern seaboard, and his wife inherited the second largest shipping company in the United Sates. The two of them are more than happy to blather on about their businesses and, while Mark is bored nearly to insanity, they're better than the rest of the sycophants on the boat. They're here because their son is one of the bachelors, and Mark spends fifteen minutes trying to avoid an introduction to him.
"Ladies and gentlemen, if you'll join us back in the dining hall, it's time to announce the results of tonight's auction!"
The voice over the loudspeaker makes Mrs. Old Lady jump, and then she hauls her husband off with barely a goodbye. Mark considers escaping, since this might be his only chance to get enough of a head start on Chris to possibly make it back to California. He'd get out of doing the date, but he'd also have suffered through tonight for nothing and Chris might actually resign.
He decides he's curious to see who actually bid on him - if anyone; Dustin did have a point - so he sneaks into the dining hall.
"For William Castrano, the winning bid was Ms. Claire Henriks, with a final bid of four hundred thousand dollars."
Everyone claps politely. Mark considers just how outraged his mother would be if told a girl Randi's age spends enough of her parent's money to literally buy a house on buying men instead.
"I thought you'd skipped out," Chris says quietly, catching Mark's elbow.
"They're announcing this alphabetically, right?" Mark says.
"Yeah, you'll be last," Chris says.
"I'll never forgive you for this," Mark says. "Where's Dustin?"
"I sent him back to the hotel," Chris says. "He almost called one of the other bachelors a whore."
"Why?" Mark asks.
"He's participated in every date auction New York City has had for the last three years."
"I would've called him a whore, too," Mark says.
"Joseph Pullman," the announcer reads, "to Ms. Maxine Robinson for two hundred and twenty thousand. Congratulations to Ms. Robinson."
More applause. "How many more?" Mark mutters.
"Almost there," Chris whispers back.
People are already starting to trickle out, but not quickly enough. There will still be an audience when they get to Mark.
"We'll schedule your date with whoever wins you for as early in the week as we can," Chris says. "Hopefully we can be back in California on Tuesday or Wednesday."
"This was all your idea," Mark reminds him.
"And it's been relatively painless so far, hasn't it?" Chris says.
"Actually--" Mark starts, raising his voice, but Chris hushes him hurriedly.
The announcer says, "And finally, Mark Zuckerberg has been won by Mr. Eduardo Saverin for two million dollars."
The whole room goes silent. Chris mutters, "Oh, god damn it."
The announcer clears his throat and says, "Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. Winners of the auction will be contacted tomorrow with the information necessary to getting touch with their bachelors. We hope everyone had a good time tonight, and the Water for Africa fund appreciates your time, donations, and kind thoughts."
People slowly start to mill around, a few giving Mark odd looks.
"Let's go," Chris says darkly, and hauls Mark out ahead of the crowd.
"Who is Eduardo Saverin," Chris hisses while they wait for the valet to flag them a cab back to their hotel, "and how did you manage yet again to fuck things up?"
"He's an investor," Mark says. "Aren't you supposed to know him? And how is this my fault?"
"I've never heard of him," Chris says. "Couldn't you have gotten yourself bought by some nice thirty year old heiress?"
"No," Mark says flatly.
"You were bought by a guy," Chris continues as the cab pulls up to the curb. He tips the valet and pushes Mark in, all without breaking stride. "You were also the most expensive by a factor of about four."
"I can do math too," Mark says.
"How do you manage this every time I take you out in public?" Chris says, and finally stops long enough to tell the cabbie where they're heading.
"You deserve some of the blame," Mark says. "You didn't consider that some of the insulted investors might be inclined to buy me? It's the best way to humiliate me."
"No, I didn't," Chris says. "Because no normal human would think that way."
"He's not normal," Mark says darkly.
"And you know this from your extensive acquaintanceship with him," Chris says.
"We talked," Mark says defensively, and leans against the car window.
Dustin is waiting in the suite lounge for them. "How was it? Who won Mark? Did he get utterly humiliated?" he demands as soon as they walk in.
"A guy bought him for two million dollars," Chris says, and slams his bedroom door behind himself.
"Uh," Dustin says. He stares at Mark.
"He's an asshole who wants to gloat about humiliating me," Mark says. "Chris is pissed because he apparently overpaid and also we look gay."
"Right," Dustin says. "I'll go to bed now. We should probably avoid Chris tomorrow morning, too."
"I'm not leaving this hotel for the next week," Mark says and goes to bed.
Chris knocks on the door around ten the next morning.
Mark pulls his pillow over his head.
"Please tell me you put pants on after you threw the tuxedo in the corner last night," Chris says, sounding worryingly mild as he opens the door.
Mark lifts a corner of the pillow. "If I say no will you leave?"
"We got room service for breakfast," Chris says. "If you don't get up I'll make you come shopping with me this afternoon."
Mark knows he wouldn't. Chris wouldn't subject himself to that. Still, there's enough of a hint of real threat that he reluctantly climbs out of bed and finds pants.
There's way too much food on the delivery cart, which means Chris let Dustin at the menu without checking what he ordered. Mark picks over everything and kicks Dustin's feet off one end of the couch.
He's just gotten comfortable when there's a knock on the door. Chris gets it, but Mark's plate almost gets knocked out of his hands as Dustin cranes around to look.
"It's the contact information from the auction," Chris says. He tries to give Mark the envelope, but Dustin snatches it first.
"Eduardo Saverin," he reads out. "Mark, you met him, right? Is he old? He has to be, right, to just throw away two million?"
"He didn't just throw it away," Chris says. "It went to charity."
"In exchange for Mark," Dustin retorts. "Seriously: Mark."
"He's young," Mark says, taking the envelope and staring at the embossed lettering. "He probably inherited everything."
"We want to get back to California as soon as possible, so you need to set it up for as early in the week as you two can agree to," Chris says.
"You call him," Mark says, and throws the envelope onto the kitchen bar.
"Fine. I'll arrange for it to be in a public, low-class location," Chris mutters, and pulls out his Blackberry.
Mark shows up for dinner Monday night at the Oyster Bar. He shows up fifteen minutes after they were supposed to meet - Chris had made him leave fifteen minutes too early, he and Dustin were going to some play and he couldn't escort Mark all the way to the restaurant, so Mark found a sleazy bar to sit in for half an hour so he'd be late - and the hostess escorts him wordlessly to the proper table.
"It's good to see you again," Saverin says, standing up and greeting Mark with a smile.
"What the hell is wrong with you?" Mark demands.
The hostess flinches and hurries away. Saverin's smile becomes a little stiff. "Excuse me?" he says.
"Two million," Mark says. "That is one of the most monumental wastes of money I've ever heard of."
"Oh," Saverin says, and the smile comes back full force. "I had to leave early on business. I wanted to minimize my chances of being outbid."
"You really shouldn't have been concerned about that," Mark says, and takes the glass of wine the waiter brings over and downs half of it.
Saverin laughs politely. He also refills Mark's glass as soon as he sets it down, as if Mark's table manners right now aren't atrocious. "How has your stay in New York been?" he asks.
"We've been working," Mark says shortly.
"Not much of a vacation," Saverin says. "Though I suppose you're not here for that."
"No," Mark says. "And you can skip the small talk. It's only making us both look stupid."
"I'm sorry?" Saverin says, tilting his head.
"You're one of our investors and I insulted you and you spent two million just to gloat," Mark says. "Aren't you going to get to that soon?"
Saverin stares at him. "I'm not one of your investors."
Mark stares back.
"You thought - well, that explains a lot, actually," Saverin says, and starts to laugh. "Here, let's try this again." He holds his hand across the table and says, "I'm Eduardo Saverin. I bought your time because I'm interested in your company and I'd like to talk to you about it."
Mark takes his hand slowly. "Okay," he says finally.
"Okay," Saverin parrots back, still grinning. "It's nice to meet you, Mr. Zuckerberg."
"Mark," Mark says.
"Only if you call me Eduardo," Saverin says.
Mark nods, and Eduardo, still holding his hand, shakes it once more, firmly, to seal the deal before dropping it. Mark tucks it in his lap, hunching a little. He hates doing things like this without backup. "So," he says.
"So," Eduardo says. "What's the story with you and the investors and the gloating?"
They get through two bottles of wine before Mark realizes he probably shouldn't be getting drunk with a future business partner. He pulls out his phone, checking the time. It's almost one a.m., and he winces. Dustin will never let him live this down.
Eduardo is watching him closely when he looks back up. "Is our time up?"
Mark takes one last swallow from his glass of wine. "I have to go."
"I understand," Eduardo says, abruptly professional again. There's no trace of the laughter from the rest of dinner. "Well, I hope you--"
"We never got around to talking about Facebook," Mark says.
"No," Eduardo says, and smiles ruefully. "I suppose we got distracted."
"Come out to California," Mark says impulsively. "I have to leave tomorrow, but we can meet and talk in Palo Alto."
"I'd love to," Eduardo says. "You can show me your company in person."
"Right," Mark says. He wipes his hands on his suit pants and stands. Eduardo gets to his feet, too. "Do you still have Chris' cell number?"
"I -- yes," Eduardo says, brow furrowing.
"You can let him know when you'll be coming, he'll figure everything out," Mark says.
"It really has been nice meeting you," Eduardo tells Mark, and offers his hand again.
"I'm tired of shaking hands with you," Mark says honestly.
"Okay," Eduardo says, smiling as he puts his hands in his pockets. "I'll see you soon."
Dustin does tease Mark - the whole flight home, in fact. Chris looks at him disbelievingly when he says Eduardo will be calling to set up another meeting, but he doesn't say anything.
Eduardo calls Chris two weeks later and arranges to visit a month after that. Mark still doesn't know what business he wants to talk about. He wouldn't tell Chris, and even once Chris gives up Mark's cell phone number and Eduardo and he text intermittently, Eduardo doesn't mention what he wants.
"He's an investor," Chris says. "We can probably guess what he wants."
"Why not tell us, though?" Dustin says. "No, I think he just wants to date Mark."
"He doesn't want to date me," Mark says.
"How would you know?" Dustin says. "Maybe he's madly in love with you. Maybe that date changed his life. He could be planning a proposal for when he gets off the plane."
Mark texts, Are you planning to propose to me?
I wasn't, no. Should I? Eduardo responds.
Mark shows Dustin the text. Dustin rolls his eyes and steals Mark's phone to accidentally drop in the toilet the next time he goes to the bathroom. Chris yells at him before getting Mark a new phone, but he also adds, "He's right, Mark, you have no idea what Eduardo wants."
The first couple of weeks Chris had determinedly referred to Eduardo as Mr. Saverin, claiming it would be ridiculous to be on a first name basis with someone he's never met. Dustin, in an effort to be difficult, had started calling Eduardo Wardo instead. It never failed to make Chris twitch. However, after the third time he and Eduardo spoke on the phone, Chris dropped the last name thing permanently.
When Eduardo arrives, Mark is in his office. The front desk calls Chris, because that's protocol, but as a result Mark doesn't realize Eduardo has arrived until Chris is knocking on his door and letting them both in. Even then, Mark doesn't look up, so he says, "Chris, Dustin says you're a bitch and he's not naming his firstborn after you anymore. I told him you'd be relieved, and now he's not speaking to you."
Chris clears his throat and Mark looks up, and that's when he finally notices Eduardo.
"Hello," Eduardo says, straight-faced.
"Dustin's the weird one," Mark says preemptively.
"I'm sure," Eduardo says mildly.
"Let's give him a tour," Chris says, and makes a face at Mark that means, emphatically, Shut up.
Chris starts leading them around while Mark trails next to Eduardo and listens to their painfully polite discussion of Eduardo's flight and New York's current weather patterns until they get to one of the staff lounges and find Dustin watching MTV.
"Turn it off," Mark says. He steals the remote and changes the channel himself.
"You don't appreciate modern culture," Dustin says.
"There's nothing to appreciate," Mark says.
"He doesn't know what modern culture is," Chris says.
Eduardo starts laughing at them.
"Oh, hello!" Dustin says, launching himself off the couch. "I didn't know you were here. You're Eduardo, right?"
"Pleased to meet you," Eduardo says bemusedly, while Dustin talks over him and says, "So let me tell you all of Mark's dirty little secrets."
"Dustin," Chris says, before Mark can, and Dustin sighs and says, "Fine."
"We should get lunch," Chris continues. "We can show Eduardo the cafeteria."
"It's a magical place," Dustin says seriously. "Also, dibs on sitting across from Mark."
Which means Mark has to sit next to Eduardo. He doesn't mind, exactly, especially since Chris steps on Dustin's toes every time he gets too invasive or enthusiastic with his questions. Dustin, as much as he drives Mark crazy, is a very important part of Mark's life - without him, Mark would have no way of finding out things like Eduardo's favorite color, animal, his preference for blue candy over red candy, and the fact that he went to Harvard.
"Seriously?" Dustin demands. "We all did, too!"
"I know," Eduardo says, smiling. "Except you didn't graduate."
"Fuck off," Dustin says, grinning. "It still counts."
"When did you graduate?" Mark asks.
"A few years ago," Eduardo answers vaguely.
Chris starts asking him about classes and professors, comparing notes, as if Mark won't notice the subject change. Dustin wiggles his eyebrows at Mark across the table and nudges Mark's ankle with his toes.
They go out to dinner that night. Chris had kidnapped Eduardo into his office and they didn't come out until almost seven p.m., when Chris told Mark and Dustin they had to come to the steakhouse with them or go home. They drink lots of wine and talk about a lot of ridiculous things and still manage to avoid the entire topic of business.
Finally Chris goes to the bathroom and Dustin has the common sense to clear out to the bar for a drink, where he gets sidetracked talking to a girl and gives Mark time with Eduardo by himself.
"You're not what I expected," Eduardo admits.
Mark blinks at him.
"You're not as awful as everyone says," Eduardo says.
"I really am," Mark says.
"No," Eduardo says, and shakes his head repeatedly. "You're not." He frowns a little. "Though you seemed pretty bad at first."
"I did my best to turn you off me," Mark admits. "I'm not sure why you stuck around for dinner in New York. I didn't want you to."
"I was warned going into it how bad you were," Eduardo says. "And, uh."
"What?" Mark says.
"I might've thought you didn't know any better," Eduardo says, in a rush, and flushes lightly. "I told myself the whole time that you were just young and uncultured and--"
"I'm only a couple of years younger than you," Mark objects.
"And from a middle class, underprivileged background and you obviously didn't know any better and deserved my pity," Eduardo finishes.
Mark smiles. "That's one of the most insulting things anyone has ever said to me."
"Yes, well," Eduardo says, and shrugs a little. "I suppose we were both bad at the beginning."
"Bad about what?" Chris asks suspiciously as he rejoins them.
"Table manners," Eduardo answers promptly.
Mark pretends not to see the warning glare Chris gives Eduardo.
Eduardo never really goes back to New York. Mark doesn't notice it much, until suddenly he looks up one day and Eduardo has been in Palo Alto for three weeks and is telling Dustin about the short-term lease he just signed. When Mark corners him about it, he claims he can do all his work from his laptop, and says likes the weather and the company. Mark mutters, "Whatever," and turns away, and Dustin laughs at them the whole rest of the day.
And another few weeks after that, just as Mark is starting to notice that all of his emails from Facebook's finance offices are, for some reason, being filtered through Eduardo, Chris brings Eduardo in and says, "It's probably time Eduardo talked to you about Facebook."
Chris leaves, which Mark wasn't expecting, and Eduardo fidgets his way into a chair in front of Mark's desk.
"When I first met you," Eduardo says, "I wanted to get to know you because I wanted to invest quite a lot of money into Facebook."
"How much money?" Mark asks.
"It doesn't matter," Eduardo says, waving his hand.
"Curiosity's sake," Mark says. "I like to keep track of this stuff."
"You like to brag," Eduardo corrects him mildly. His smiles fades quickly. "Let's just say it would've been more than any other single investment you've ever received."
Mark narrows his eyes. "We've gotten some very large investments."
"And I inherited an awful lot of money," Eduardo retorts. "But it really doesn't matter."
"Okay," Mark says.
"When I came out here to talk with you, I was concerned because - well, your business model isn't exactly conventional."
"It works for us," Mark says defensively.
"I know it does," Eduardo says, eyes soft. "You've done amazingly well."
It's a condescending compliment, but Mark still feels like preening.
"Anyway," Eduardo says. "I decided about a week after I came out here that I wanted to be your CFO."
"Oh," Mark says.
"I've spent a long time convincing Chris," Eduardo says. "And I'm willing to convince you, too, but you should know that I've actually been acting in the role for the last several weeks. You haven't noticed, but Chris says that's not unusual."
"Oh," Mark says.
They sign the papers guaranteeing Eduardo's five percent shares and new position as CFO the following Monday. There's six lawyers in the room, all of whom do nothing but breathe down their necks. Chris and Mark are always present at high-level staff hirings, but Dustin clears his entire morning schedule just to join them, and sighs loudly and probably unintentionally most of the way through.
"Well, I vote we go out and celebrate," Dustin says. "Five percent, it's like Wardo's actually one of us now."
"Lucky him," Chris says dryly.
Dustin gets two pitchers of the most disgusting beer the bar serves and then challenges Chris to pool, because his life's ambition is to beat him just once. Eduardo and Mark mostly end up playing those cheap wooden board games they have on the tables while Eduardo tells Mark about Harvard.
"I still can't believe we never ran into each other," he says.
"I never really ran into anyone," Mark says honestly. "And you were two years ahead of me."
"True," Eduardo says.
Chris beats Dustin in a humiliating fashion and they decide to order shitty bar food because they're all too lazy to find a real restaurant. While they're eating, Dustin says, "It's just like college," and Chris gives him a dirty look and says, "That's less cheerful a memory when you actually had to suffer all the way through to graduation."
"You have to forgive us for abandoning you eventually," Dustin says.
"I really don't," Chris says.
Eduardo is laughing into Mark's shoulder, just drunk enough to be relaxed. Mark ignores the looks Chris is giving him.
The bar gets busier as it gets later, college students trickling in after class. They're loud and half-drunk already and Mark feels a world away from them. He leans against Eduardo and really does not give a shit.
A few people come over occasionally, being friendly or asking if they'll be done with the table soon or hitting on them - usually on Chris or Dustin, until Chris tells Dustin to stop wiggling his eyebrows at everyone.
The next girl that stumbles over trips on the leg of the booth and lands on the floor.
"You probably don't want to--" Dustin starts, just as Eduardo helps the girl up. She, in repayment of the kindness, throws up on him.
"Oh, god," Eduardo says.
One of her friends grabs her, huddling her into their group and taking her to the bathroom. They don't even apologize for her.
"Congratulations," Mark says. "Now it's exactly like college."
"Except usually it was Dustin who threw up on us," Chris says.
"Fuck you," Dustin says. "Also, Wardo, you reek."
"This is the real rite of passage, isn't it?" Eduardo asks, making a face. He peels his shirt away.
"Go on," Chris says. "We'll take care of the tab here, you can go home and get cleaned up."
Mark trails Eduardo out, ignoring Dustin's thumbs up and elaborate hand-waving.
"Do you want to come to my house?" Mark says. "It's closer than your apartment."
"Yeah, thanks," Eduardo says, relieved.
He moves gingerly getting into and out of Mark's car, keeping his arms away from himself. Mark smirks as he follows him up the walkway, and Eduardo says, "This is really truly disgusting. I don't appreciate your amusement."
"You can shower," Mark says.
"Disinfect myself," Eduardo says. "Thank you."
Eduardo heads towards Mark's bathroom, because he's only been here twice before and that's the only bathroom he's ever used.. Mark doesn't correct him, following him into the bedroom after the bathroom door shuts. Eduardo's clothes are in a pile on the floor, dirty shirt on top to avoid touching the carpet. Mark digs out a pair of Chris' old sweats and a hoodie from when they first came out to Palo Alto which is relatively free of holes or dubious stains, which he puts in front of the bathroom door, and then goes to hide in the living room.
Eduardo comes out almost an hour later. "Sorry," he says sheepishly.
"Okay," Mark says. He isn't sure what Eduardo's apologizing for.
Eduardo leaves again, comes back with two beers. Mark puts his laptop to the side and takes one.
"I wanted to say thank you again," Eduardo says.
"I mean it," Eduardo says. "I know you haven't trusted anyone else like this - not just the shares."
"Chris and Dustin," Mark says.
"They're your friends," Eduardo says.
"Yeah," Mark says. "So are you."
Eduardo takes Mark's beer from him. Mark says, "Hey," and then Eduardo kisses him.
Mark leans into it, breathing out unsteadily. Eduardo touches his back hesitantly, licking across his lip. "About that," Eduardo says, pulling back. His mouth is still touching Mark's, and the beer bottles are cold through Mark's shirt.
"I know you deliberately became friends with me before talking to me about Facebook so you could weasel your way in," Mark says.
"Oh," Eduardo says and closes his eyes.
Mark kisses him again.
Eduardo fumbles sideways, putting the bottles on the coffee table. Mark grabs the front of the hoodie and holds him in place.
"It doesn't bother you?" Eduardo asks quietly, breath warm on Mark's face.
"I like smart people," Mark says and shrugs. "If you weren't willing to go to drastic measures to get into my company you didn't deserve it."
"That's a really weird outlook," Eduardo says.
"Yeah," Mark says, and reaches over for his beer. He sits back and takes a swig.
"I'm sorry," Eduardo says.
Mark shrugs. "I don't care."
"In my defense, I knew I was planning on proposing something you've never done with your company before, and I was worried about how protective you'd be."
"Wardo," Mark says. "I don't care."
"Good," Eduardo says, after watching Mark closely. Mark drinks his beer and watches him back. Eduardo knocks their ankles together. "You know I'm not doing this for any business reasons though, right?"
"Of course," Mark says. "I already gave you five percent of my company, what more could you want?"
"Just you," Eduardo says. "And you were pretty cheap in comparison, but I have to say, I can't afford to date you if every time is going to cost me two million."
"You could afford it for a while," Mark says, bemused. He tries to work it out in his head. "You have, what, two billion? That's a thousand dates, at an average of two dates a week--"
"It would be just under ten years," Eduardo says, "but really I'll want to see you every day at least, and that would give us less than three years. That's not nearly enough time."
Mark says, "You want to work out a discount? Bulk rates?"
"I'm also willing to work it off in trade," Eduardo says.
"I don't know," Mark says. "That might be hard to explain to my accountant."
Eduardo smiles and rolls his eyes and says, "You know, as much as I like bartering with you, can I kiss you again now?"
"It'll cost you," Mark says, but he's long since given up on keeping a straight face and Eduardo doesn't even dignify him with an answer.