“Whoa,” Dustin says when he opens the door.
Eduardo rolls his eyes, pushes inside, and flops onto the couch.
“Who did that to you?” Dustin says, following Eduardo inside. “Jesus.”
Chris looks up from Halo. “Oh, new hickey,” he says.
Dustin drinks something out of a red solo cup on the table. “I mean, hey, whatever floats your boat, but was she a fucking vampire or something?”
“Wardo is a gentleman and doesn’t kiss and tell,” Chris says, mashing the buttons on the controller.
“Oh, you’ve already asked him about it?” Dustin says, laughing.
“He won’t say,” Chris complains before getting murdered onscreen.
“You’re so bad at this, dude,” Eduardo says.
“Wardo, you’d tell us if you started dating someone, right?” Dustin employs his big earnest eyes.
Eduardo considers him. “No,” he says.
“So it is somebody,” Chris says.
“I’m not dating anyone,” Eduardo says.
“How can we trust you?” Dustin complains. “You just said you wouldn’t--Chris, literally, just use the--okay, let me play, Jesus.”
Eduardo closes his eyes and presses his fingers against the bruise on his neck.
“Do you mind?” Eduardo says.
Mark mumbles something into Eduardo’s neck, but doesn’t stop.
Eduardo pokes halfheartedly at Mark’s side, then sighs. “Seriously, Dustin and Chris are gonna keep--ah--” his hand tightens in Mark’s shirt as Mark’s teeth dig in a little harder “--bugging me about them.”
Mark pulls away. “So?” he says.
Eduardo doesn’t know what he expected. Mark is staring at Eduardo’s neck like something’s coming out of it. Eduardo looks down, just to check.
“Okay,” Eduardo says. He swallows, then starts buttoning his shirt back up. “Well, I’m gonna--I’ve got class.”
“You have time.”
Eduardo pauses. “Sorry?”
Mark does a sort of crawling thing over Eduardo, pushing Eduardo back into the bed, which probably shouldn’t be sexy but kind of is because Eduardo is Eduardo and Mark is Mark and Eduardo’s always been that way about Mark and possibly, he thinks, will always be that way about Mark.
This means that when Mark presses Eduardo into the pillow and covers Eduardo’s mouth with his own, Eduardo doesn’t resist. And, ten minutes later, when he has to sprint across campus pulling his clothes back on to get to class on time, Eduardo doesn’t complain.
“Hey, new scarf,” Dustin says from the couch.
“Scarf?” Chris says, and turns around to look.
“You two are worse than my mother,” Eduardo says, dropping his backpack on the floor and making a beeline for the fridge.
This time, Mark is in the room, working at Dustin’s desk, his back to the rest of them.
“Since when do you wear scarves?” Chris laughs.
“Since he started scheduling regular appointments with the hickey doctor,” Dustin offers.
“Gross,” Chris says.
Eduardo makes a face. “The--what? No. I’m not sure if you guys noticed, but it is winter out there. And, you know, cold.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Dustin flaps his hand. “So tell us...” He leans forward. “Is it love?”
Eduardo grabs a Sprite from the fridge and leans against the ledge of the fireplace as he cracks the can open. “No,” he says, not looking at Mark. “It’s nothing.” When Dustin just stares expectantly at him, Eduardo caves with, “It’s just sex, seriously, it’s nothing.”
“Hmmmmm,” Dustin says, in an ‘I know you’re hiding something from me and I’m going to figure it out sooner or later but you’re off the hook for now’ way.
Chris flops over his chair dramatically and moans, “At least someone here is getting some.”
“Hey,” Dustin says, offended. “How do you know I’m not?”
“I dunno, Dustin,” Chris says wearily. “Maybe because you never shut up about it.”
Eduardo raises his can. “That’s true,” he says.
Dustin reaches out and shoves Chris’s shoulder. “Maybe all the babes are being scared away by my shitty roommates. We can’t all look like Wardo.”
Eduardo pulls the tab off his Sprite and throws it at Dustin. “Hey,” he says, “did you guys ever get around to doing that interview for comm?”
Dustin laughs, and Chris goes, “yeah, no. That assignment was such bullshit--”
Eduardo smiles and lets them recount the transgressions of their comm professor.
Mark doesn’t even turn around.
Eduardo throws a hand out on the bed and grips at the covers. “Jesus, Mark,” he says, “at least close the fucking door.”
Mark mouths at Eduardo’s jaw and pulls Eduardo’s shirt out of his pants.
“They’ll hear,” Eduardo hisses.
“They’re in their room, they’re working on a project,” Mark mutters, undoing Eduardo’s belt and inserting his hand. “Seriously, Wardo, it’s like you don’t like handjobs or something.”
“Oh my god,” Eduardo says, pushing his head back against the pillow. It smells like Mark. Everything fucking smells like Mark.
Dustin apparently takes their comments to heart, because when Eduardo comes over late Friday night, it is immediately obvious that there are two people in Dustin’s room, the other person is not any of the other residents of this suite, and they are not leaving room for Jesus.
“Ugh,” Eduardo says.
“Tell me about it,” says someone from the couch.
“Other people live here,” Eduardo complains, tossing his coat over one of the chairs. His hands linger on his scarf, but he leaves it on. He kind of likes how it looks on him, and he doesn’t want to seem like a...whatever. “Also, hi,” he says to the person. He does a double take. “Joyce?”
The girl from his macro study group twists around to look at him. She lights up. “Heeyyy, Eduardo!” She makes an exaggerated sad face, bottom lip sticking out. “Abandoned by your friend, too?”
Eduardo recognizes her tone from late post-exam nights, drinking and talking shit and laughing over nothing. He grins and settles into the spot next to her, arranging his feet carefully on the edge of the coffee table, crowded with bottles and red solo cups.
“We can start a club,” he suggests.
Joyce gestures an arc in the air. “A lonely hearts club,” she says, and her hand drops back down to the cushions between them.
“Right, exactly,” Eduardo laughs.
Joyce tilts into him. “Listen,” she says. “Eduardo.”
Eduardo reaches over for the one unopened beer on the table, then sifts around all the other bottles for the opener. “Yeah, what’s up?”
“Eduaaaarrrdoooo,” she says.
When he turns back to her, Joyce is walking her fingers up his leg. “Since--you know.” She waggles her eyebrows and splays her hand out over his upper thigh. “Whaddaya think? Like old times?” She purses her lips and tilts her head. “Why did we even stop?”
Eduardo glances at the closed door to Mark’s room.
“I don’t know,” he lies.
With her other hand, Joyce tilts his chin up and squints at him.
“Hmmm,” she says. “Sad eyes.”
Eduardo breathes in and breathes out and kisses her--because he can, because he should, because he shouldn’t, because he’s lonely, because he’s with Mark, because Mark’s not with him.
When they part, Joyce’s hands have slid to the back of his neck, pressing his scarf into his skin, and Eduardo’s hand has migrated to her side.
Eduardo looks at her; they’re just close enough for it to be uncomfortable.
“This is weird,” Eduardo says around a huff of laughter. Joyce’s eyes crinkle up, and that’s when the door to Mark’s room opens. Eduardo startles and twists around.
Mark is staring at them.
Eduardo clears his throat and removes his hand from Joyce’s side. “Hey, man,” he says, voice rough.
The silence stretches on.
Eduardo makes an awkward gesture toward Dustin’s door and goes, “Dustin’s pulling.”
“We’re starting a club,” Joyce pipes up. “For our lonely hearts.”
Mark looks at Joyce, back at Eduardo, then disappears into his room without responding. He leaves the door open, though, which means he wants Eduardo to follow him.
Eduardo sighs and disentangles himself. “Uh. Sorry,” he says to Joyce. “I’ll just...”
Joyce smiles up at him, already reaching over to claim his beer. “Alright, sad eyes,” she says.
Once Eduardo closes the door behind him, Mark pushes him up against it. Eduardo’s back hits with a thump, and Eduardo’s left staring down at Mark in the dim of the room. Half of Mark’s face is lit by the streetlight coming in through the window; the other half is hidden in the night.
Suddenly, Eduardo is furious.
“What, Mark?” he snaps.
Mark eyes him, then pushes forward and kisses him hard. He breaks away too fast for Eduardo to respond.
“You can’t touch anyone else,” he says.
Eduardo blinks. “Excuse me?”
“Anyone else,” Mark mumbles. He licks down Eduardo’s face, fingers digging into his neck, and yanks Eduardo’s scarf off violently.
Eduardo curls his hands around Mark’s shoulders. “Are you going to give me another fucking hickey?” he demands.
Mark pauses at Eduardo’s neck. He presses his thumb hard into one of his old marks--Eduardo can feel it when he swallows.
“Yeah,” Mark says.
Eduardo pushes Mark off. “Listen, Mark. Mark.” Mark isn’t looking at him, and Eduardo makes a small frustrated noise. “I’ve been thinking.”
“I’m not sure about this whole...” Eduardo waves between them “...thing.”
“I can’t--I just--” Embarrassingly, Eduardo’s voice wavers. He swallows and digs his nails into his palms. “I can’t, like, hide this all the time.” He lowers his voice to almost a whisper. “It’s killing me.”
Mark shrugs, and his hand starts creeping down Eduardo’s stomach. “Then don’t.”
Eduardo gapes at him. “Are you kidding me? You’re the one who didn’t want anyone to find out!”
Mark shrugs again. “I changed my mind.”
“Mark.” Eduardo grabs Mark’s wrist before it can go any lower. “I’m serious.”
“So am I.”
“I don’t think I can do this anymore,” Eduardo says.
Mark rolls his eyes. “Don’t be ridiculous. Come on, I’ll let you fuck me.” He backs up and sits on the bed.
Eduardo feels his face heat up. He clenches his teeth. “You’re unbelievable,” he hisses. “You and your fucking secrets.”
Something changes in Mark’s face. “You really care that much?”
Eduardo grabs for the doorknob behind him. “I’m leaving.”
He’s more surprised than he should be when Mark follows him into the living room.
Chris has gotten back now, with a giant bag of Cheetos and another bag of popcorn. There’s a girl on the couch with Joyce, and Dustin’s emerged from the room, too, completely unsubtly beaming at the rest of them while Chris is saying, “like, a fucking sock on the door or something--”
Eduardo rounds the couch and collects his coat from the chair.
“Wardo,” Mark says behind him.
“I’m off,” Eduardo says. “Dustin, next time go to hers, dude, come on.”
“So the hickey magnet wants to throw stones,” Dustin says, beaming.
“Different, obviously,” Eduardo retorts, but it’s hard to be annoyed with Dustin when he’s in such a good mood.
“Wardo,” Mark repeats.
Eduardo turns around, just before the door. “What, Mark?” he asks, voice rising. “What do you want from me?”
Mark pauses, an odd look on his face, then rocks up on the balls of his feet, cups Eduardo’s cheek, gently, so gently, and kisses him, gentle. Intent.
Eduardo’s heart thumps in his chest. They’ve never kissed like this before.
Without thinking, he slides his hand into Mark’s curls, almost dizzy with the soft press of Mark’s mouth, before he pulls back.
“Oh my god,” he breathes.
“There,” Mark says like nothing is out of the ordinary. “Are you happy now?”
Eduardo stares at him, then at the room behind him. Chris is still yelling at Dustin and the girls are laughing about something on the couch, but Dustin is watching them, wide-eyed.
Eduardo licks his lips. Mark apparently takes that as an invitation to lean in and kiss him again.
After they part, Eduardo whispers, “okay.”
“It’s not just sex,” Mark says. It’s not a question.
“No,” Eduardo agrees. He didn’t think Mark knew that.
Mark looks satisfied. “Let’s go back to my room. I want to kiss you more.”
Eduardo clears his throat. “Okay,” he says.
And they do, and he does.