Mark and Eduardo aren’t anything remotely close to friends.
They haven’t been since he was nineteen – since lawyer up, asshole and a lawsuit that changed everything. They haven’t spoken since then, other than polite, forced pleasantries –
(“How are you?” Mark had tried to ask, once, hurried.
Eduardo had snorted, shaking his head. “You don’t get to ask me that anymore, Mark.”
And he’d left.)
And now – he’s here, he’s at a shareholders’ meeting. He’s here and he’s sitting down in a chair, a chair that’s too fucking uncomfortable and – there’s Mark, he’s staring at Eduardo as though he has any right to be nervous, as though this isn’t entirely his fault –
Eduardo closes his eyes, forces himself to breathe, in and out, because if he doesn’t calm down he’s going to throw up.
He’s angry, on the surface, but just underneath he’s nervous, worried that this, too, is going to go terribly, that this is going to end in anger, in smashed laptops (in theory – he wouldn’t let himself get out of control like that, again. Not here, not where people might see, might talk. He’s not letting that get back to his father) and Eduardo storming out, hurt more than Mark ever could be.
Mark can’t be hurt. Not like Eduardo was – is. Mark doesn’t get hurt like other people. Mark doesn’t care.
Eduardo stares at him from across the table and Mark looks tired. There are circles around his eyes and he looks as though he’s falling asleep at his desk – but Eduardo can’t think like that, can’t think aboutthat, because that’s too close to caring about Mark and he gave that up when he signed the settlement.
(That’s a lie, but the truth is a thousand times more pathetic – the truth, that he’s never stopped loving Mark, never stopped wanting to just say fuck it and give him a hug.
That truth, though, comes with a gamble that he’s not ready to take –
Mark might not give a shit, anymore.)
Eduardo stares at him and Mark looks away first.
The meeting is boring – he shouldn’t think so, should be content to listen and shut his brain off, but he isn’t. His mind wanders to the man sitting across from him, and he looks over.
Mark’s staring at him.
His eyes look almost dead, but even after two years Eduardo can read them.
Mark’s sad. Angry, upset.
He closes his own eyes, shaking his head minutely.
When he opens them again, Mark’s turned his attention to his laptop, tap-tap-tapping away.
Of fucking course. He’s coding, as he always does.
His code is more important than his company – or maybe that isn’t it, maybe it’s that he just isn’t bothered to deal with the problems of those below him.
Eduardo glares at him (though outwardly, his face is a mask of perfect politeness – if there’s one thing his father taught him, it’s this) and inside he’s seething – because Mark doesn’t get to not give a fuck, Mark isn’t allowed to sit and code like nothing else matters.
(Like Eduardo never mattered.)
When the meeting’s over, Eduardo stands up, tries to leave.
Mark grabs his arm, spins him around, and Eduardo hadn’t even noticed him get up.
“Wardo,” and it’s like they’re back in college.
Eduardo shakes his head, closing his eyes. “You don’t get to call me that,” he says, cold. He turns around, back straight, trying to pretend he doesn’t give a shit.
Mark’s hand doesn’t leave. “Eduardo, then.”
He turns back around, grudgingly. “Yes?”
“I – we need – can we talk?”
Eduardo should say no. He should say no and turn the fuck back around but instead he’s nodding, walking closer to him, pushing his hand off of him. “You want to talk?” He smirks. “You want to fucking talk?”
Mark nods. “I know that you’re angry, and I feel –”
“What do you know about feelings?” he snaps, voice too harsh in the room. “You’ve never had –”
Mark shakes his head. “Don’t say that.”
“And why shouldn’t I?”
“You know why. You know – you know that’s not true.”
“I haven’t spoken to you in years.”
“And whose fault is that?” Mark shouts, and looks up at him, wide-eyed. “I’m sorry.”
Eduardo snorts. “You – you asshole.”
Mark recoils as though he’s been slapped, but doesn’t say anything.
That’s new, Eduardo barely thinks, but he’s moving on before he can let the thought complete itself. “You know what? Fuck this.” He shakes his head. “I’m going. Goodbye, Mark.”
And he leaves.
Mark’s speaking on behalf of Facebook.
Chris makes him go – tells him it’ll be nice.
He goes to see Mark before the thing and holds out a hand.
“I apologize for what I said,” he tells him, because Eduardo doesn’t want to have to feel bad about it.
Mark’s eyes are wide, and he nods, shakes his hand back.
“Are you okay?” Eduardo asks, before he can stop himself, and winces.
The ghost of a smirk appears on Mark’s face, but he doesn’t answer.
Soon enough, Eduardo’s shooed away, and he’s standing outside in a crowd of people, watching Mark Zuckerberg give a speech.
It’s fucking surreal but he doesn’t really want to leave – and not only because Chris would kill him.
Now, here, he can pretend he’s not angry, that he and Mark are what they were.
He relaxes, the most miniscule amount.
Mark starts to speak, and then everything goes to hell.
The next five minutes of Eduardo’s life are a blur.
There’s a shot.
Blood. So much blood. Eduardo can’t –
Pushing past everyone.
He’s my best friend.
After all this time.
Eduardo can’t watch him die.
He won’t let him.
He pushes his way to the front.
Get out of my way.
“Mark,” and it’s the first time he’s spoken. He grips his hand.
“Did someone call 911?” he shouts, as loud as he can.
There are nods, all around him, people pressing in next to him, but Eduardo holds onto his hand.
He’s not leaving me this asshole he’s not allowed to fucking leave me not after all of this –
“Wardo?” he hears, soft, and there’s Mark, trying to hold onto him.
“I’m not letting go. Mark.”
Mark’s eyes flutter open.
“Mark. You can’t – hang on, okay?”
Mark frowns. “I’m dying,” he slurs, through his teeth.
Wardo shakes his head. “You’re not dying.”
“Wardo…” and Mark trails off.
Behind them, he knows the shooter’s getting apprehended; he acknowledges it dimly, in the back of his mind, because that’s not important, this is important, Mark, right here, this is what he needs to focus on, making sure Mark doesn’t leave.
“Mark. Mark, god damn it, don’t you leave me.” He bites down on his lower lip, hard, leaving indentations there.
Mark opens his eyes.
Eduardo kisses his knuckles.
“You’re not leaving me, okay? Not now.”
Mark nods, and Eduardo watches him force his eyes to stay open.
The ambulance comes and Eduardo refuses to leave Mark.
The paramedic looks at him, raising an eyebrow. “And who are you?”
“I’m –” and he’s no one, really, to Mark anymore. He flounders.
“My boyfriend,” Mark says, and he’s looking between them, eyes nearly crossing. “He’s my boyfriend and I want him – with me.”
At that, the paramedic nods, and lets Eduardo in.
“Is he going to be okay?” he asks.
The man nods, shooting him a smile that looks forced. “He’ll be all right,” and he presses something against the wound, stopping the blood flow. Mark’s turning pale – more than usual – and on instinct, Eduardo grabs his hand again.
Mark’s eyes shut and he falls asleep, slowly.
Eduardo looks to the paramedic. “Can he do that?” and his voice really shouldn’t be this cracked.
The man smiles at him, nodding. “He can, he’ll be fine. We’ll keep a close watch on him.”
Eduardo nods, back, and he knows he should trust this man (though why he’s expected to, he isn’t sure – he’s never met him before) but he doesn’t. He wants to be there, to help Mark – he knows he never sleeps, because he won’t have started after the lawsuits; Eduardo’s seen the bruises under his eyes, the slight sway to his walk, the way he never seems to be able to focus on anything. He’s going to get hurt if he isn’t careful.
“Are you sure you know what you’re doing?” he asks, soft.
The man nods at him, face serious. “Your boyfriend will be fine.”
Eduardo closes his eyes.
Mark wakes up after a day in the hospital.
It’s a day that Eduardo doesn’t leave the place – he drinks cup after cup of lukewarm coffee, eats disgusting meals in the cafeteria, and sits by Mark’s bedside.
Chris is there at the beginning; he talks to Eduardo as Mark’s PR and then as a friend – “You two need to work your shit out but he cares about you, all right?” – and then he’s gone, because he’s working for Facebook (still) and has important things to do when Mark Zuckerberg’s been shot than try to make Eduardo less nervous (though he checks in every few hours as Eduardo’s friend, as Mark’s friend – because he’s never been able to entirely separate his job and his life like Mark has).
And then it’s Dustin, sitting next to Eduardo. He grabs his hand, holds tight, and Eduardo crumples into him, because he’s never been stronger than Mark and he doesn’t know how to start now.
All of the hate that he’d felt – everything that made him so angry – he feels it dissipate as each minute that Mark doesn’t wake up passes.
“He can’t die,” he tells Dustin, wide-eyed, around hour twelve. Mark’s breathing is slow and steady, and he’s more deeply asleep than Eduardo ever saw him in college. “He can’t – he can’t.”
Dustin nods. “He won’t,” and he says it with a sureness that Eduardo’s never been able to have, about Mark.
He closes his eyes, letting himself lean against Dustin, just the tiniest amount. “How can you be sure?” he asks, and it’s silly of him to ask it like that, but Dustin doesn’t say anything, just shrugs.
“Because he’s Mark and you’re Eduardo and he’s not going until you talk your shit out.”
Eduardo smiles, and nods.
He has to be.
And when Mark wakes up, Eduardo’s at his side in a second, holds his hand tight.
Mark blinks at him. “Wardo,” and it’s soft, almost a sigh.
He should say something – anything – to be comforting – he nearly died – but what comes out of his mouth is, “Why did you tell them I was your boyfriend?”
Mark blinks up at him.
“What gives you the fucking right –”
“Why didn’t you tell them you weren’t, then?” Mark’s voice is harsh, cold.
Eduardo stares. “What?”
“Why didn’t you tell them I was lying? Why were you there at all?” Mark spits the words out, sitting up to look at him properly. “You don’t get to – to come up there and hold my hand and tell me not to die and then yell at me when I do as you ask.”
Eduardo opens his mouth, shocked for a moment. “You – what?”
“I’m alive. You wanted me here. You begged me to stay.” He shakes his head, closing his eyes. “You’re – why are you – why can’t –” And he scrunches up his face, shaking his head. “I need –”
“What?” he asks, quick, going to his side, because this he knows how to do – he can help Mark, can make him better, and he won’t have to deal with the rest of what he’s feeling.
Mark shoots him a soft smile and closes his eyes.
“I’m sorry,” Eduardo whispers, and kisses him on the forehead. He’s allowed, he thinks, to do this. He’s allowed to touch him, like this, soft, because Mark is broken and Eduardo just wants to fix him.
There’s a bandage on Mark’s side and Eduardo’s fingers hover just above it, not touching but nearly.
Mark looks at him, forcing his eyes to stay open, Eduardo can tell.
“You can sleep,” he whispers, pressing his lips against Mark’s forehead.
“You’re angry with me,” but this is weak, as though Mark’s already halfway there.
“Not now,” and this is honest.
Mark’s lips flutter into a smile and then he’s asleep again.
Mark looks like hell.
Eduardo can only register this after he’s determined that Mark’s going to live; he only lets himself fret and worry when Mark’s death isn’t a sure thing, isn’t even that large of a possibility – but he looks likeshit.
He’s hooked up to roughly a thousand machines, making noises that are terrifying and worrisome and make Eduardo want to do all sorts of things (hug him, hold him tight, never let him go – and he doesn’t know what to do with these feelings, can’t deal with them).
And when Mark wakes up, he forces himself to smile, and touches Mark’s shoulder. “Are you awake?”
Mark jerks at that, eyes wide, and looks at him. He bites his lip.
(His head is bandaged. Eduardo forces himself to focus on something else – anything but that.)
“Eduardo,” and this is soft, almost a whisper.
“Hey,” Eduardo whispers, but Mark still looks scared, and so he adds, “I’m not angry, I promise.”
Mark smiles a bit. “Good.”
“Are you okay?” Eduardo asks, because he has to, because he doesn’t know how to not mother Mark.
There’s a small, soft smile on Mark’s lips that Eduardo’s not entirely sure he’s supposed to see. “I’m all right, thank you.”
“I think that’s the first time I’ve heard you say that.” It’s intended to be joking, but the words come out sharper than he’d meant.
Mark shoots him a look. “Excuse me for trying to be polite,” he says, snaps, and Eduardo nearly flinches but barely reins it in.
“You’ve never been polite in your life –”
“And how would you know that? You haven’t been around for the past few years, Eduardo. I don’t claim to know everything about the person that you are today. I’d like the same respect from you.” He’s sitting up further now, staring at him – and it’s obvious he’s not entirely there but still – there’s real hurt in his eyes, and Eduardo feels like the worst kind of asshole.
The anger simmers, under his skin, but he just nods. “You’re right. I’m sorry.”
Mark stares at him.
It’s tense, awkward, between them, and Eduardo can only look, eyes widened a bit, and wait for the next move.
Mark reaches out and squeezes his hand.
Eduardo feels as though he can breathe.
They don’t talk about it.
Mark wakes up in fits and bursts but after three days he’s decided that he’s ready to go home.
The nurse allows it, only so long as he’s with Eduardo (and, really, this is something out of a romantic comedy, what is his life) and so he takes him there, sets Mark’s bedroom up the way that he wants it, puts himself in the guest room.
On the first night, he wakes up to Mark sitting on the edge of his bed, not doing anything, just sitting, silent.
“How long have you been there?” Eduardo asks. The room is cold; Mark’s opened his window, a bit.
Mark swallows. “I can’t sleep,” he says, instead of an answer. Eduardo knows what he means.
He scoots over, shrugging. “Here?”
Mark slides in next to him, letting out a soft sigh, and Eduardo tries to ignore how much he relaxes at this, at Mark’s soft breaths next to him.
“I don’t think I’ll be able to sleep,” Mark says, and his voice is low, a confession.
Eduardo smiles. “Do you want me to stay up with you?”
Mark frowns, looking at him. “Why?”
Eduardo shrugs. “Because I’m offering.”
“But why are you offering?”
“Well, if you’d –”
“I don’t want the only reason you treat me differently to be because I got shot.” Mark’s voice is level, forcedly calm. “I’m not a fucking child, all right? You hate me. I get that. You’re here because I conned you into it.”
Eduardo looks at him.
Mark snorts. “Good night, Eduardo.” He stands up, walking out of the room, limping a bit.
Eduardo doesn’t stop him.
Why should he?
Mark doesn’t care.
The next morning, it’s eerily calm.
Mark’s made coffee and as Eduardo walks downstairs, running a hand through his hair, Mark barely looks up.
“It’s in the coffeepot,” he says, almost under his breath.
Eduardo squints. “Thanks.”
Mark flashes him a smile, but it’s forced, Eduardo can tell. “Welcome.”
They sit in silence as he drinks his coffee, feeling marginally more awake. “Have you slept?” he asks, because he still can’t make himself stop caring about Mark.
He snorts, shaking his head. “I told you, I couldn’t. I coded.”
“You still do that, then?”
Mark doesn’t answer him; Eduardo was expecting that.
He stands up. “Well, I have some work to do, so –”
“I’m sorry,” Mark cuts in.
Eduardo blinks. “What?”
“I’m sorry. Isn’t that what you want to hear? I didn’t mean to hurt you.” Mark’s staring at the table, and he’s a light shade of pink. He looks up, eyes wide. “I really am. Eduardo.”
At that, Eduardo looks up, feeling anger simmering just below the surface. “Excuse me?”
“Why are you saying this?”
Mark swallows. “Because I mean it.”
“Bullshit. If you meant it you would have said it – a while ago.” Eduardo stands up, shaking his head, going to the sink. “Why, Mark?”
“Because I miss you.” It’s stated plainly, a fact, and Eduardo looks up at him, eyes wide.
Mark bites his lip. “I miss –”
“I have to go,” Eduardo snaps through his teeth, and walks out.
He gets in Mark’s car (Mark won’t fucking need it, all right, he can barely get out of bed) and he’s only a few miles away before he starts to feel the guilt, creeping up on him.
Mark’s hurt. He’s hurt (possibly dying) and Eduardo keeps running away like a child.
He’s an asshole.
But Eduardo knew that when he’d come; he knew that Mark was an asshole, that it would be difficult.
But Mark doesn’t give a shit. Mark’s never given a shit. That’s been the basis of how Eduardo’s lived his life the last few years – Mark doesn’t care and so what Eduardo did means nothing.
Under the surface, though, he’s never been able to believe that, not in the way that he claims to.
He pretends he doesn’t know Mark as well as he does, pretends he never really knew Mark, but that’s a lie.
He turns around and goes back (and, really, he’s always going back to Mark; this is no different, not at all).
When he walks inside, again, Mark is nowhere to be found.
“Mark?” he calls, walking upstairs. “Mark, I’m sorry – ”
He hears the shower water running and knocks on the door. “Mark?”
He hears the water shut off, and then a soft, “Eduardo?”
“Yeah, it’s me. Can we talk?”
A pause, and then, “Actually – I need you in here, if you don’t mind.”
Eduardo swallows but goes in, closing the door behind him. “Yeah?”
Mark’s sitting in a half-full bath, looking miserable, a wet shirt held against his side. “I just – I need help.”
He looks awful, and Eduardo walks to him quickly, sitting down, biting his lip. “You okay?” he asks, voice low, soothing.
Mark nods, looking down, and bites his lip. “I – yeah. I just – need help. I’m sorry.”
“Don’t apologize,” he says, voice soft, and it’s automatic. He reaches for the washcloth.
He helps Mark slowly, carefully, and Mark shifts with him and lets him move him as he desires, keeping his eyes downcast.
Eduardo kisses his forehead, running his hand through Mark’s now-clean curls, once. “Don’t be embarrassed, okay?” he says, looking Mark in the eyes. “You don’t have anything to be embarrassed about.”
Mark groans, rolling his eyes.
“No, I’m serious.” Eduardo flashes a smile. “You got shot, all right? And you’re still here. You’re tougher than you think. I’m glad you didn’t try to do this and bleed out in the bath.”
Mark nods, and lets out a soft sigh.
Eduardo helps him into a towel and leaves Mark to get dressed on his own, going downstairs, sitting on the couch.
After a few moments, Mark comes down, sitting too-close to Eduardo.
He doesn’t move, letting Mark decide what to do.
And then he feels a head on his shoulder, soft, questioning, and Eduardo still doesn’t move, clicking away at his laptop.
Against him, Mark relaxes.
He feels the niggling guilt, in the back of his mind, but Eduardo shakes it off, smiling down at him.
They can talk some other time. Now, they can have a moment to be what they once were.
It takes a while for Eduardo and Mark to fall into being EduardoandMark; it takes a while of forced gestures and Eduardo trying too hard and Mark being too aloof before they can understand each other again.
Mark looks at him, one day, and Eduardo knows without needing to think that he’s miserable.
Eduardo walks over to him, and wraps him in a hug, a smile quirking at the corners of his mouth. “You okay?” he asks, soft.
Mark leans against him, into him, and lets out a sigh. “I will be.”
And Eduardo – he feels the anger that’s manifested itself for so long leave him, as it always does, at that, because this is Mark Zuckerberg, holding on to him as though he’s afraid to let go.
“Are you okay?” Eduardo asks, again, and he means it differently, this time; he means emotionally, he means is Mark okay with them.
Mark pulls away, and Eduardo can see him swallow. A shaking hand comes up to cup his cheek, and the barest of nods appears. “Yeah,” and this is whisper-soft. His eyes flutter shut. “I just – please, don’t leave me.”
Eduardo swallows, thick, feeling something in his throat that absolutely shouldn’t be there, and he nods, jerkily. “Yeah,” he breathes out, and leans in, kissing Mark’s forehead, “I’m not going to leave you.”
Mark tangles their hands together, and with the motion blurs the line further, until there’s almost no distinction (in Eduardo’s mind) between what he wants and what this is, what it might be.
They sit for a long while, until they don’t.
“Come upstairs,” Mark breathes into his ear, and it’s a hot breath, and Eduardo shivers, and nods.
It doesn’t mean what he wants it to; Mark’s not propositioning him, not now. Mark refuses to let go of his hand, though, until it’s absolutely necessary.
It’s eleven at night and Eduardo is bone-tired but all he can do, now, is stare at Mark, is watch him move, shift, slide off his jeans with shaking hands.
Mark holds out his hand, again, and it’s platonic, he just doesn’t want to sleep alone but Eduardo’s not sure he believes that, now.
He nods, though, jerky, and follows, and there’s an awkward moment of just staring before Mark pulls him close and tangles their feet together with a deliberate air that makes Eduardo smile.
He nudges Mark’s nose with his own, and he feels something strange and unnamed leap into his heart at the way Mark stares up at him, looking for all the world as though he’s about to be hurt.
Eduardo kisses him.
It’s the softest press of lips; it’s barely a kiss, but it means more than Eduardo can say, and when they pull apart Mark lets out a soft sound that Eduardo would think was a whimper if it weren’t Mark.
(But Mark has changed, he reminds himself; they both have.)
They don’t have sex. They don’t come close; they trade kisses in Mark’s bed until Eduardo’s worried about Mark getting hurt and they fall asleep tangled around each other, breathing in tandem.
Mark gets better, slowly.
Eduardo has to leave eventually; he leaves with a short kiss and a promise of coming back soon, but there’s a dead look in Mark’s eyes that Eduardo doesn’t entirely like, and it takes a moment of holding Mark close before he’s willing to leave.
He goes back to Singapore, and pretends to forget. It doesn’t work, not in the least; his thoughts revolve around Mark, even when he studiously avoids all news about Facebook.
He doesn’t hear from Mark and so he assumes he’s forgotten, assumes that Mark’s moved on, or that he’s trying to.
It hurts, but he’s been hurt before.
He can deal with this.
(There’s a note, in the pocket of a pair of jeans he never wears. It’s simple, sweet.
Thank you, Eduardo.)
It’s all he’s needed.
Eduardo smiles, and picks up the phone.