Chris drops a messenger bag on the floor next to the couch. It's a plain, oddly stylish, fair-trade purchase that he made a couple of months ago after his old bag, one that looked suspiciously like a hand-me-down, acquired a rip right down the seam. Eduardo is pretty sure that you can tell a lot about someone from what kind of school bag they have. Case in point: Chris' family doesn't have a lot of money, but he still wouldn't be caught dead carrying around a two-strap knapsack. This is his compromise.
"What's up?" Chris has gone to the mini-fridge to get a vitamin water.
"Nothing." Eduardo watches Chris twist the cap off and add it to a surprisingly sizable pile on top of the fridge. "I have no idea how you drink like, seven of those a day."
"Easy. I quit smoking." Chris shrugs. "I need something to do with my hands."
"I'm pretty sure vitamins can accumulate in your liver," Eduardo points out.
Chris shoots him an amused look. "Yeah? Like the forty of tequila you drank last weekend?"
Eduardo concedes that Chris has a point. If they're having a liver contest, Eduardo certainly isn't going to win. Chris sprawls on the other end of the couch from him, tapping his fingers idly against the plastic water bottle.
"So you and Mark. Fighting again last night, huh."
Eduardo glances at him, surprised and a little guilty. "We - uh. Yeah, we - he doesn't like Christy."
Chris' eyebrows twitch, and he doesn't even have to say anything.
Eduardo frowns. "Seriously, what is everyone's issue with her?"
Chris turns to look at him like Eduardo just asked if Fifty Cent and Nelly are the same person. It's half amusement, half incredulity. When he sees that Eduardo didn't mean it as a joke, he tries to be serious. "She has a tendency to be a little... possessive."
"Well, granted, I guess, but - "
"I was going to say 'psychotic' but it sounded kind of offensive in my head."
Eduardo does indeed look mildly offended. "You would know."
"I - yeah, I would." Chris thinks that this should be pretty obvious. "I'm a great judge of character when it comes to women. My dick doesn't get in the way."
Eduardo's not sure how to respond to that. "Well, Mark doesn't get to be jealous," he says after a beat. "If he'd just..."
Chris waits for Eduardo to finish his sentence, but Eduardo doesn't. Chris is pretty sure he knows where it's going, anyway. Eduardo wants some kind of commitment from Mark that goes beyond regular Unresolved Sexual Tension-tinged arguments and the odd drunk make-out session when Mark thinks no one's watching.
"This is Mark we're talking about," Chris says, trying to be gentle. "That's kind of how he is. If you want something from him, you're going to have to tell him."
"That's - bullshit," Eduardo says flatly. "And it's unfair. I shouldn't always have to be the one putting myself out there."
"He's pretty socially inept, Eduardo." Chris has begun to absently peel the label off his water bottle. "If you wanted someone who picked up on subtle hints and body language, you should've pursued literally anyone else."
"He could make an effort," Eduardo disagrees.
Chris glances at him. Then he says, carefully: "Are you really into him or are you just trying to fix him?"
That stops Eduardo in his tracks. "Fix him?"
Eduardo looks bewildered. "What would I be trying to fix?"
"There are a lot of things about him that get under your skin, obviously." Chris surveys him. "Mark's damaged goods, just like the rest of us."
Eduardo doesn't see how any of that is true. "You're not damaged goods."
Chris' eyebrows go up. "I'm the kid who went to high school out of state to get away from ubiquitous homophobia in my hometown. Of course I'm damaged goods. So are you."
Eduardo's not going to argue with him. "Mark's not damaged," he says firmly.
"Mark's human," Chris replies. "You don't get to be as closed off as he is without being at least a little worried that someone's going to run in and fuck up your feelings."
"I wouldn't do that to him on purpose," Eduardo insists.
"You do that to him by existing." Chris sets his now-empty bottle on the coffee table in front of him and turns to fully face Eduardo. "He has no idea what to do with you, you know that? It's like when a dog chases a car and then can't figure out what to do with it when it catches it."
That statement kind of floors Eduardo. It doesn't make any sense to him, that this would be hard for Mark, because Mark is so sure of himself. Mark walks into a room and knows he's the smartest one there, every time. Mark has never not known what he was doing.
And Mark would hate being the dog in anyone's analogy.
"I'm not trying to fix him," Eduardo says finally. "I wouldn't want - that."
Chris nods. "That's probably good. People don't really change that much, even when you want them to."
They are companionably silent for a few minutes; Chris closes his eyes, like he's considering an afternoon nap, while Eduardo is immersed in his thoughts.
Finally, Eduardo says, a little quietly, "We'll probably still argue tonight."
Chris doesn't even bother opening his eyes. "Your yelling curfew is ten-thirty. I have to be up at six."
Eduardo smiles slightly. "Are you going to be enforcing that?" He can just imagine Mark's reaction to having Chris give him hell while he's already wound up.
"Yep." Chris looks lazily over at him. "You won't hear anything from me right away, but when I get up tomorrow morning at the crack of dawn, I'm going to lock Mark's room from the outside and sing country songs at top volume until everyone wants to die."
"Good God." Eduardo looks amused at the same time as he sounds faintly terrified. "That sounds - appalling."
"Oh, it will be. I invented tone deafness."
Eduardo smirks. "So you'll be pretty on-point on the country songs, then."
Chris points a finger at him. "Watch your mouth, Saverin. You don't trash country music in front of anyone who was born south of the Mason-Dixon. We will end you."
Eduardo raises his hands in mock surrender. "All right, all right. Just. You know. It's all basically caterwauling anyway - "
"I will give you a ninety second head start," Chris threatens.
Eduardo just cracks up.
Eduardo recognizes the head of blond hair, tipped down over a textbook, and he feels that immediate surge of familiarity before he remembers that things aren’t the same between him and Chris anymore. They’ve exchanged the briefest of text messages – ‘Talk to me.’ ‘Are you staying with Facebook?’ ‘Wardo, don’t do this.’ – but Eduardo feels like the waters have been poisoned. He can’t face Chris without facing everything and it’s too much. When he thinks about it, it feels like drowning.
Chris’ head comes up and Eduardo goes to take a sharp right turn down the nearest aisle, but he knows that he’s been spotted. He freezes, making eye contact without meaning to.
“Wardo,” Chris says, and the nickname actually physically hurts, because it was Mark’s before it was anyone else’s.
“I need to go,” Eduardo says, and it’s easy to walk away, except that Chris’ voice catches at him – or maybe it’s the words, with the earnestness that Eduardo can’t trust.
“I didn’t know.”
Eduardo laughs, but it’s an empty sound. He stops, but he can’t turn and look at Chris again. “Bullshit.”
“I’ve never lied to you,” Chris said quietly. “Why start now?”
Eduardo turns around then, because he finds his anger and it gives him strength. “You’re a PR guy, Chris. Lying is what you do for a living.”
“Not to my friends,” Chris replies, his tone picking up too, “and fuck you very much, I don’t get out of bed every morning so that I can go to a job where I propagate dishonesty.”
Eduardo has never heard Chris swear before. “Okay,” he says, after a moment’s pause. “That was out of line.”
“Yeah,” says Chris evenly. “You know he doesn’t tell me stuff that he knows I’m going to try to talk him out of. You were always the one that could read his mind.”
Eduardo’s tone is bitter. “That turned out to do me a lot of good.”
Chris sits back and rubs his hands over his eyes. “Hindsight’s twenty-twenty, Wardo. You won’t trust anyone like that again. I don’t know if that’s a good thing.”
“He shouldn’t have – “ Eduardo begins, because he wants someone to rage at.
“You shouldn’t have, either.” Chris’ statement is swift and decisive, and it stops Eduardo in his tracks.
“I shouldn’t have what?” He asks, daring him to keep going.
Chris doesn’t look like he wants this to turn into an argument. He sounds tired when he says, “All I’m saying is, don’t forget that you hurt him, too.”
Eduardo is sure that there are very few things in this life that hurt Mark, and he is equally sure that he is not capable of affecting Mark like that. Chris sees it in his face, and Eduardo ignores the pity it garners because how the fuck would Chris know.
“I need to go,” Eduardo says again.
“I know,” replies Chris. “Just – if you want. And you don’t have to. But if you need someone to talk to, you know how to find me.”
Chris has dark circles under his eyes, and Eduardo imagines an overly-strident Dustin, pretending not to panic while the lawsuit unfolds in front of them, and a sulking, vicious Mark, who probably hasn’t made a civil comment to anyone since the depositions started.
Eduardo has a sudden realization that maybe Chris needs a lifeline here, too.
“Yeah,” he says, after a moment. “Yeah, okay.”
Chris studies him for a second and seems to approve. “Good. And for the love of God, call Dustin. Last Saturday night, he drank four pitchers of beer and then insisted that we write you a postcard telling you that we missed you.”
Eduardo feels shame clawing up his insides. He’s been ignoring Dustin’s e-mails, too angry about everything to even deal with anything that makes him think of Facebook and Mark. “Oh,” he says.
Chris nods. “He went to an all-night convenience store and picked a postcard with palm trees on it because it looked like how he pictured Brazil. I promised I’d send it but it was actually too sad to put in the mail. Not to mention that he put the address as, Wardo, B-town.”
Eduardo has a sudden rush of regret that things are turning out like this. His moment of clarity hits him like a freight train; that maybe there is something salvageable here, after all.
“I haven’t been my best,” Eduardo says, because it’s as close to an apology as he can make.
“I know,” Chris says quietly. “I don’t think any of us have been.”
Eduardo nods, swallowing past something strange. “I’ll call you,” he says, and means it.
As he walks away, he wonders if he feels better. He thinks that he does.
Eduardo set his bag on the ground next to the empty chair at the tiny cafe table. "Good morning."
"It's not," replied Chris, looking up from neatly-arranged stacks of what Eduardo could only surmise was paperwork. "Morning, I mean."
"Aah," Eduardo said, glancing at his watch as he sat down. "I missed the breakfast menu."
"By, like, two hours," Chris agreed.
"Yeah, not even close." Eduardo smoothed his hair back, still damp from a shower. "I just came from Mark's, and he never has any food. I'm starving. What are you having?"
Chris glanced at the assortment of chinaware by his elbow. "I'm on coffee number six, and there was a sandwich in there somewhere. I think."
"You're not sure if you ate a sandwich or not?" Eduardo asked with a smile.
"Well, some of us have a less fortunate ratio of work to sex," Chris replied dryly. "I'm kind of swamped here."
"Technically speaking, Mark's schedule is so incompatible with mine that at least half of the time is spent commuting," Eduardo offered, in what Chris assumed was an effort to be consoling.
"Not making it better," he told him, amused. "That just means you have an incredibly lengthy walk of shame."
"It is not a walk of shame," Eduardo protested.
"It's a ferry ride of shame?" Chris inquired, straight-faced.
Eduardo considered. "Well, I wasn't ashamed, so technically it was just a ferry ride in yesterday's clothes."
Chris muttered something into his coffee cup.
"What?" Eduardo exclaimed.
"Nothing," Chris said innocently.
"You can't say 'and semen' and expect people not to pick up on it," Eduardo said accusingly.
A woman at the next table choked on her coffee.
"I guess I can't now," Chris replied, giving her an apologetic my-friend-doesn't-get-out-much look that made Eduardo want to hit him.
"How does everyone think you're the classy one?" Eduardo demanded.
Chris shrugged. "You're the one who just made a woman choke on semen."
Eduardo aimed a kick at him under the table. "Juvenile."
Chris grinned, evading it easily. "How else would I put up with Dustin?"