For all that Facebook stalking has entered the general English lexicon (and everyone, even the CEO, has spent untold hours obsessively refreshing the pages of people they are having sex with or want to have sex with), Mark doesn't usually have to worry about people following him home and breaking into his house.
This may have been a miscalculation.
Today, Chris threatened Mark until Mark went home at a reasonable hour. And when Mark hasn't spent the day wired in and pumped full of Red Bull, coding until exhaustion, he's a light sleeper. So he wakes when he hears the scratching noise downstairs. He looks at his alarm clock (3:14 a.m), and then he reaches for the katana he keeps under his bed. It's a real katana, one of the first things he bought when he made his first billion. It's a very Bruce Wayne thing to do, he thinks, and he read a lot of Batman in high school because what's important about Batman is that he's smarter than everyone around him and he doesn't fuck around. Batman does what Batman wants.
Mark grips the katana and, pajama-clad, creeps down the stairs.
He doesn't have a mansion. Mark doesn't like all that empty space. He has an ordinary house on an ordinary street in Palo Alto, and while he's custom-fitted the house (knocked down several rooms to make a fencing hall, fiddled with all the cables and wires so he can get the fastest internet possible), it's still not anything fancy. It's not the sort of house that's on any burglar's wishlist, though a smart burglar would know to avoid the mansions with their state-of-the-art security systems. Mark wonders if he has a smart burglar or a stupid one.
His security system isn't state-of-the-art, but it's still pretty effective, and when a rock is thrown at his living room window, the alarm goes off. Floodlights pour from the roof onto his yard, illuminating one Eduardo Saverin standing at his window with a second rock in his hand.
Mark goes to the front door and unlocks it.
"It's bulletproof glass, you know," he says over the sound of the alarm. Eduardo, still standing on the lawn, blinks at him. Mark hasn't seen him in three years, and honestly Mark has seen him better. Eduardo's wearing one of his high end suits (Mark only knows it's high end because he has to wear them too now, at conferences and public events). But the collars are wrinkled and his tie is half falling off his neck. Eduardo looks like shit.
"Turn the alarm off," Eduardo hisses. "It's giving me a headache."
"I don't know how," Mark says. "I've never used it before."
"Is it going to call the police?"
"Yes," Mark replies.
"Fuck," says Eduardo, and for a moment it looks like he's going to bolt and run, like some cagey high school kid who's just egged Mark's house. But Mark points his katana at him.
"A-are you serious?" Eduardo asks, and by now Mark can tell that he's more than slightly drunk. "Are you pointing a sword at me? What is this, Rashomon?"
"No, you're thinking of Seven Samurai," Mark says.
Eduardo's hands flap at his side. He doesn't try to escape. "I can't believe you own a sword," he slurs. "Why can't you own a baseball bat like a regular person? Why can't you hide under your blankets and stay there until I'm gone?"
"Why were you trying to break into my house?" Mark asks reasonably, but the police are faster than he expected because a cop car is pulling onto his street right now, coming to a stop in his driveway. Eduardo flinches. It's not something Mark would have noticed three years ago, or even five years ago during the depositions. But he notices now, and he sees the misery on Eduardo's face when the police officers come around.
"This man giving you a problem, Mr. Zuckerberg?" one of the officers asks. Mark recognizes him from his dealings with Sean. His name is Terrence, probably.
Mark shakes his head sharply. "No."
"He's not giving you a problem?" Terrence asks, casting his gaze over the floodlights and then at the source of the wailing alarm.
"I realize that it looks fishy, officer, but I think I'm the best judge of my own personal safety," Mark says, dismissing him. "You don't need to arrest him. I'm not going to press charges on him either. He's a Facebook shareholder."
"Co-founder," Eduardo says.
"Whatever," Mark replies, and there's that flinch again. He looks at Eduardo. "Why are you here? I thought you were supposed to be in Singapore. Or Thailand. Somewhere in Asia."
"I don't have to answer your questions, Mark," Eduardo says belligerently. Then he remembers the police officers surrounding him and the prospect of imminent arrest. "Fine," he says, crossing his arms. "I'm looking for my father's pin. The one he gave to me when I went to Harvard. He wanted to see it again and I can't find it."
"I think I left it in your dorm room, okay?" Eduardo says, voice getting louder. "I know you're a pack rat. You don't throw anything out, so it's got to be in your house somewhere!"
"This makes no sense," Mark says. "Your plan was what, to break into my house and search it upside down for one tiny pin? Do you even realize how long it would have taken to go through my college boxes alone? It's three a.m, Wardo. I would have been getting up in only a few hours. Or what if I came downstairs for a late night snack?" He runs all the possibilities through his head and there's no way around it. It's an exceedingly dumbass plan. If this is the sort of strategy Wardo comes up with, then maybe it's a good thing that he's no longer CFO of Mark's company.
"I'm drunk," Eduardo says.
"I see that," Mark replies.
"And if you're not going to arrest me or press charges, I'm out of here." Eduardo starts walking towards a waiting taxi parked at the end of the road, under a tree. He's not exactly walking in a straight line either. Terrence gives Mark one more look, as if to ask if he's sure. Mark shrugs and goes back inside the house. At least the alarm has been turned off. It was starting to give him a headache too.
Mark's house has a gigantic back closet behind the kitchen, and it's full of boxes. When he moved to Palo Alto, his mother packed up all his things at Harvard and at Dobbs Ferry, and drove cross-country to deliver the carefully taped and labeled boxes. Mark hasn't bothered unpacking most of them. He spends more time at the Facebook offices than at home, and there's plenty of spare blankets and kitchenware there.
Two days after Eduardo's attempted break-in (and two days after Chris came into his office pinching his nose bridge and asking if the rumours were true and what the hell exactly was Mark thinking, as if Mark was the one embarking on a life of crime), Mark spends a couple of hours on his knees, sifting through those boxes.
He finds a lot of things he doesn't even remember. Old comic books, bits of hardware, a fork stolen from the Phoenix - S K Club.
He finds Eduardo's pin.
He turns it over in his palm. It's small and golden, and the way it's shaped reminds him of pilot's wings. He doesn't remember Eduardo ever showing him this pin, much less leaving it in his dorm room. He was probably coding at the time. But if it was important to Eduardo's father, then it's important to Eduardo as well. Mark tucks the pin in his pocket and pads back to his study where he opens up a browser and pulls up Eduardo's email. He knows it's the right email because he made Dustin test it, and Dustin got a reply.
i found your pin
He hovers the mouse over the send button, but then he stops. He licks his lips, hesitates, and then adds another line to the message body.
i'll give it to you if you can successfully break into my house -- think of it as a challenge.
Everyone he knows would say that it's a bad idea that'll probably get both of them arrested. If Mark wants to prove a point, there are better ways to do it. He can practically hear Chris' disapproval in that curiously Chris-shaped hole in his head. But if Mark was afraid of dangerous ideas, he'd have never started Facebook. So he sends it. And then he goes into his kitchen and eats the last of his crunchy takeout noodles.
He has no idea if Eduardo will actually go along with it. Eduardo is incredibly easy to read in some ways and yet infuriatingly difficult in others. He's stubborn, to say the least, and sometimes that stubbornness swings in Mark's way. Sometimes it doesn't. (And Mark remembers the geography of a country separating them, remembers moving out west to California and hearing Wardo say no, no, not me).
There's no reply from Eduardo's email, but Mark gets his answer two weeks later when he hears that familiar scratching at his door again. Mark has no idea what Eduardo is trying to do. It's like he's throwing a cat against the door.
This time there's no alarm. (This is why Mark did not tell Chris about this plan, because while Chris would have approved of Mark initiating contact with Eduardo again, he would have blown his top at the danger Mark was putting himself in. Do you know how many lions there are out there preying on the weak, Chris would say, and Mark would roll his eyes and say, I'm not Bambi and I survived ladies night at the coders' lounge).
Mark sits on his couch, out of view of the windows, and waits.
And waits, and waits, and waits.
He can hear Eduardo cursing from the other side of the door, and by now Mark can tell what he's trying to do. Eduardo is going through his credit cards, sliding them against the vertical crack between the door and frame. Perpendicular angle and then tilt towards the knob, Mark thinks, but he's not sure if Eduardo will get it. Eduardo's a prep school boy. He's probably never had any need to learn lock-picking.
Come to think of it, so is Mark, but Mark was bored a lot more in college than Eduardo.
He takes the pin out of his pocket and fiddles with it. He plays with the sharp point, pressing it experimentally against his thumb. Eduardo keeps on working at the door, and Mark knows the moment, twenty minutes in, when Eduardo gives up. Mark expects to hear the sound of a fist meeting wood (he saw Sean do that once when he couldn't get into the offices, except it was glass then, not wood, and Sean ended up hurting his hand). But Eduardo's not that type of person. Mark can practically feel the defeat carry through between them like nitrogen molecules.
After Eduardo leaves, Mark sends him another email.
there's always the chimney
He gets a response three hours later. It's Eduardo's work email, so there is a signature at the bottom listing his titles and his hours. When Mark reads them too closely he feels dizzy.
I'm not coming down your chimney, Mark.
not even for your father's pin? Mark types.
Eduardo's reply is immediate. You're a fucking asshole. You never change.
Mark doesn't even let himself think as he finishes that sentence.
you don't try hard enough.
"I try," Eduardo says. "You just never pay attention to anything that's outside of your little Mark Zuckerberg zone."
Mark blinks at him. He's not quite sure how Eduardo got into his house. He'd heard the noise at the front door and come downstairs, and when the noise stopped, he'd assumed Eduardo had given up and gone away again. Except ten minutes later when Mark was getting ready to return upstairs, Eduardo had burst in through the back door with leaves in his hair and a switchblade in his hand. Or maybe not even a door. It looks more like Eduardo had crawled through a window.
The secret lives of billionaires.
Mark looks at Eduardo's switchblade. I could take you on, he thinks as Eduardo strides towards him, trying to intimidate him with his greater height.
"I got into your house," Eduardo says. "Now give me my pin."
Eduardo smells... well, actually Wardo smells a bit like dirt and fatigue, but underneath it Mark can catch a whiff of the soap he uses, crisp and sharp and lemony. Mark remembers how Eduardo used to smell when he leaned over his desk and watched Mark code; it's tied up inextricably in the visceral memory of strings of language, of late night pizza, of midterms, of being back at Kirkland. If he looks too hard at Eduardo's hands, he can remember how they felt pulling him away from his computer and forcing him to eat dinner.
"Actually," Mark says, "I have to reconsider my earlier statement."
"Which is?" Eduardo asks impatiently.
"Rashomon does indeed have a samurai character, so when you said that my owning a katana reminded you of that movie, you weren't off the mark," he replies.
"I'm not here to talk about Japanese cinema with you," Eduardo says. "Just give me the pin. Please, Mark. My father is starting to suspect I lost it, and I can't let him be disappointed in me again. I can't--" The exhaustion makes his voice break. He puts the switchblade down on a table. "I really don't want to be doing this."
"You drive me out of my mind." Eduardo smiles dryly. "And you wonder why I wanted to sneak in when you were sleeping."
"No, I figured that was the reason," Mark says. He jerks his head to the left. "I left the pin upstairs. I'll go get it." He starts heading towards the staircase. Eduardo follows him. "Are you afraid I'm going to run?" Mark asks curiously. "Where would I go? It's my house."
"Just keep walking," Eduardo says behind him, and it's a good thing Mark doesn't find him threatening at all (he's Wardo, Wardo, or at least he used to be). This could be a very risky situation otherwise.
"Aren't you supposed to be working?" Mark asks. He opens the door to his bedroom. It's messy inside. He has someone come in and clean twice weekly, but he tells her not to touch any of his things, so she doesn't. He doesn't feel any self-consciousness about showing his room to Eduardo. Eduardo knows about Mark's habits.
"I've got a meeting with potential investors in Palo Alto," Eduardo says. "Maybe they're even some of the same people you talk to."
"I doubt it," Mark says. "Facebook is mostly self-sufficient financially, and I don't talk to the finance people unless I have to."
"You're CEO, bitch," Eduardo replies, and there's a wealth of feeling in his voice. Mark goes to his bedside table and fishes inside the drawer until he finds the pin. He throws it at Eduardo and Eduardo catches it smoothly.
"So that's it," Mark says. "And now you know how to break into a house."
"As if I'm ever going to use that information elsewhere," Eduardo says. "If I hadn't been so drunk, I'd have just hired someone to do it for me." He walks around Mark's room. He opens the door of the bathroom and peeks inside. Mark watches him with careful eyes. "Nice house," Eduardo says at last. "It's... not what I expected."
I never expected you to say no to me, Mark thinks. It's surprising how sharp and thorny that thought still is after all these years. He can go days, weeks without ever thinking about Eduardo, but when he does, the sharpness is always still there, resting right under his collarbone like the tip of a fencing foil.
"I can find my way out. Your front door and I are practically going steady by now," Eduardo says. He pauses awkwardly. "It's late. Go back to sleep, Mark."
"I don't think I can fall asleep after this," Mark says honestly, and if Eduardo was paying more attention, he'd have seen that the sheets on Mark's bed are tucked in neatly, courtesy of the maid, too neatly to have been slept on any time soon. But Eduardo doesn't listen or look. He's already down the stairs, two at a time, and soon he'll be out the door.
It's not that Mark doesn't have anything better to do than bait former friends into getting angry at him again. Mark has plenty of business to handle at Facebook, and when he's not at work he has his personal projects: learning Mandarin, practicing his fencing, rereading The Iliad, sharpshooting in Call of Duty. Mark keeps busy because he hates the quietness that filters into his head otherwise, the moments of silence where he'll suddenly think things that have no use in his current life at all.
And Mark likes challenges in particular. He likes rules and regulations, and then figuring out a way to bypass them. He likes knowing that there's something everybody thinks he can't do and the subsequent look on their faces when he does it. When he breaks the code, when he gets through the firewall, when he brings Harvard's network down in one night.
Mark lives for those moments.
He doesn't live to make Wardo happy. It's not his duty. It's not his responsibility. He and Wardo aren't married, aren't going out, aren't family. They're not even --
I was your only friend.
This is why Mark doesn't let his mind wander in non-productive ways. It's a lie, besides. Mark has several friends. Eduardo was one of them, yes, and now he is not.
(But Wardo is the only one who always showed up at Mark's place when he was drunk, because, as he confessed to Mark one night, lying on Mark's dorm bed with his eyes gleaming and his sleeves unbuttoned, you're the first person I think of. Isn't that funny? You're the first one on my mind.
Mark's fingers had slowed over his keyboard then, and he'd swiveled his chair around).
Mark is in the kitchen eating a package of licorice when Eduardo breaks in the fourth time.
"Hi," Mark says.
Eduardo shakes his head. "Your alarm is still disabled. You are seriously asking for it." He's wearing casual clothes this time, and there's a smear of dirt on his jeans. Mark stares at them and wonders if they are actually women's jeans, because they are really just that tight.
"I like to live on the edge of danger," Mark says. "Why are you here? You got your father's pin. That should be all you want from me."
It seems like Eduardo has a ready-fire answer because he opens his mouth right away. But then he stops. He shakes his head ruefully. "I don't know," he says. "I guess I've finally fallen off the deep end. I've let the pressure get to me. I've cracked."
"Is spending time with me really that awful?" Mark asks, stone-faced.
"You shouldn't even have to ask," Eduardo says. He tucks his closed switchblade in the back pocket of his jeans. He eyes Mark's licorice. "If that's what counts as dinner for you, I'm going to tell Facebook to start looking for a new CEO sometime soon. One that hopefully won't die of malnutrition."
"It's dessert," Mark says.
"Okay," says Eduardo.
"Dinner was pie," Mark adds, and Eduardo looks that mixture of exasperated and affectionate that is his permanent expression in Mark's mental image of him. Then the expression vanishes. Eduardo tucks it away at the same time his stomach growls.
Mark waves a fork. "I have leftover pie in the fridge. Go eat some."
"I wasn't planning on staying," Eduardo says crossly.
Mark looks at him.
"I was just going to, I don't know, hack into your computer and send embarrassing messages to your employees," Eduardo says. "To prove that you shouldn't challenge me and think you can get away with it."
"You couldn't hack into my computer," Mark tells him.
"No," Eduardo says. "But I could program your TiVo to record Oprah non-stop." He grins, his face lit up beautiful by his humour. Mark's hands go funny on the package of licorice and he drops a piece onto the floor.
"Eat something," Mark repeats.
"Fuck you, I'm not eating that piece on the ground," Eduardo frowns.
"I meant the pie in the fridge," Mark says, and Eduardo looks like he wants to put up a fight, but his stomach growls for a second time. So he goes to the fridge and pulls out the three-quarters of rhubarb pie that Mark's slotted into the upper shelf. He reaches for a fork in the drawer to the left of the fridge.
"I didn't tell you where the cutlery was," Mark says.
"Oh," says Eduardo. "But this is where you always keep your things in a kitchen." He shrugs. "It's just reflex to look for it there."
Mark says nothing. Eduardo's shoulders go tight. "It doesn't mean we're friends again," Eduardo says defensively. "You know what, forget it. I shouldn't have come. It was petty and stupid. We're supposed to be grownups now." He leaves the pie on the counter. "Fix your damn alarm system, Mark," he says as he exits the kitchen.
Mark doesn't fix his alarm system, and so the fifth time Eduardo breaks in, Mark is in bed. He's genuinely asleep for once, with the blankets too thick and heavy. He gasps when he wakes and feels the mattress dip underneath Eduardo's weight, a quiet, abrupt sound. Eduardo kneels beside him and puts a hand on Mark's chest, pushing him back down. He knows it's Eduardo because there's enough moonlight in the room to see the silhouette of his cheekbones. Otherwise, it's so dark.
"I thought you weren't coming back," Mark says. "I thought this was all too childish for you." He emphasizes 'childish' with more depth than he meant to, but he'll forgive himself for it, because Eduardo is on his bed in the middle of the night, and before he'd broken in, Mark's dreams had been of bare feet and slanted rain.
"I wasn't," Eduardo admits. The light is such that Mark can see his individual eyelashes. "But I'm going back to Singapore tomorrow, and none of this makes sense. I want it to make sense."
Mark feels the uncomfortable weight of Eduardo on his knee. He doesn't think Eduardo is even aware that he's hurting Mark, and Mark isn't going to let him know.
"Why couldn't you have just given me the pin?" Eduardo asks. "It would have been the most efficient thing to do and you like efficiency."
"Why have the potential employees compete in a hacking game?" Mark replies. "I could have just had them send in their resumes and scheduled interviews."
Eduardo shakes his head. "It's not the same."
"Not to you, it isn't." Mark finally slides out from underneath Eduardo and sits up. His back hurts. His assistant is always after him to sit up straighter in his chair, and one of these days he's going to take her advice if it weren't so hard to follow. "Do you want to watch a movie? I bought Akira Kurosawa's complete works. I have a big screen TV. It's humongous."
"I want to go home," Eduardo says. "And then, fuck, I want--" He looks at Mark and laughs. "I can't believe I'm stupid enough to still want--"
He won't finish the sentence. Try harder, Mark thinks.
Eduardo curls his fingers around Mark's loose t-shirt collar and pulls him in for a kiss. It's not a kiss between friends. It's not a kiss between people who love each other. It's mean and harsh and Mark didn't even know Eduardo could kiss like this. He always thought Wardo would be a sweet kisser, infinitely gentle and compassionate. Mark's watched him with girls. A few guys. Eduardo is a gentleman. But Eduardo kisses Mark like he's trying to conquer an Aegean battlefield, and there's a smear of blood on Mark's bottom lip when he pulls away. Mark licks it.
Eduardo's eyes are wide and unnerved. It's difficult to look at him when he's like this.
"You wanted to kiss me," Mark says.
"There's no use in denying it now, is there?" Eduardo asks. He doesn't look happy.
"Did you want to kiss me back at school?" Mark presses. "Did you want to do this during sophomore year? Junior year? How long?"
"You don't get to be the inquisition," Eduardo snaps. "It doesn't matter anyway. I wanted to know what it's like, and it was all right. I've had better. I don't want to do it anymore."
Mark would feel slighted if not for the way Eduardo keeps on glancing at his mouth. Wardo flushes. "I shouldn't," he says. He starts climbing off the bed, but Mark grabs his wrist in time. Catches him there, helpless.
Mark kisses him.
He can taste Wardo still, behind his teeth. He wants to keep it there as long as he can, but apparently not brushing your teeth is frowned upon, so he washes Wardo down with the astringent taste of mint.
Eduardo flies back to Singapore. Mark has a good idea exactly when he leaves and exactly when his flight arrives, because he's looked at the flight schedules and done the calculations. Eduardo wouldn't tell him, but Eduardo can't hide much from him. Mark feels satisfied in having found out anyway, and then he wires himself in and goes on a coding jag that lasts more than twelve hours.
"Hey man, is everything okay?" Dustin asks, popping into his office.
Mark stares at him. "Why wouldn't it be?"
Dustin pats him on the head. Mark tries to push him away but Dustin is more ninja than human, he suspects. "What's this?" he asks, looking over Mark's shoulder at the screen that's open on his computer. "Things Wardo Likes: A List." Dustin starts grinning. "Marky Mark, are you a-courting our fair Eduardo? Are you trying to woo him and win back his heart with..." He squints at the screen. Dustin needs glasses. "With fair trade coffee, stock market reports, and Dora the Explorer?"
"I hacked into his laptop once. He had every episode on his hard drive," Mark says. "It must be the comfort of hearing his mother tongue."
"Dora speaks Spanish, not Portuguese," Dustin says reproachfully. "And stop looking at me with those creepy eyes. I think it's sweet, all right? I had lunch with Wardo when he was in town a few days ago, and all he could talk about was you."
"Well, most of it wasn't very nice," Dustin admits, "but I could hear the tender longing beneath the wrecked banks of angst!"
"My god, Dustin, you are deranged," Mark says, pushing him aside.
But that night, before he goes home, he stops by a couple of stores and buys some packages of coffee, some economics magazines, some DVDs. Then he sprinkles them around his house casually before going to his computer and cracking the mystery of Eduardo's schedule and when he'll be coming back.
It takes three months. Longer than Mark had expected.
Eduardo skips the investors' meeting in October, but one day in mid-November Mark returns home to find Eduardo sitting at his kitchen table, flipping through the latest edition of The Economist.
"We really need to talk about your desire to make your house a public walk-in," Eduardo says without looking up. "Your locks are looser than ever."
"I'd rather talk about something else," Mark says.
"Fine," Eduardo says, his mouth a tight line. He looks exhausted, wiped over by jet lag, but he gets out of his chair and walks over to Mark. He pins Mark against the fridge, pressing the bumps of Mark's spine against the magnets. Mark shivers when Eduardo's fingers slide up his shirt and touch his skin.
I want this to be what you want, he thinks. Then Wardo's mouth is ghosting over his own, and Mark makes a sound that he doesn't recognize, nearly a whimper.
Eduardo has bags under his eyes and dirt under his fingernails. He's fading away, Mark thinks, and there's something to the kiss that tastes like mourning. But then Eduardo is kissing him harder and more desperately. Mark opens his mouth to let Eduardo's tongue inside, sleek and insistent against his own. "Wardo," he says in spite of his own better judgment, gasping out as Wardo presses kisses to his jaw, along his neck. "Wardo, I have condoms in the bathroom."
"I've got one right here," Wardo says, and Mark's body goes electrically hot.
Mark doesn't usually talk during sex, but this time he can't stop saying Wardo's name. He breathes it into his fist when Wardo tugs Mark's jeans and boxers off and goes down on him. He rasps it when Wardo presses his mouth to the crease where Mark's thigh meets his hip and kisses him there softly. He mouths it against the side of Wardo's long neck when Wardo hoists him up to the kitchen counter and presses into him, rubber and sweat and everything they should have done in college but never did, because Wardo didn't know how to try and Mark didn't know how to ask.
Wardo fucks him slowly, meaningfully, and Mark shivers in his arms. "Go faster," he says, but Wardo just laughs at him. Mark presses his cheek against Wardo's and hisses into his ear, "Go faster and I'll give you more shares."
Wardo pulls back. "You are such a bastard," he says, but he sounds more grudgingly impressed than angry. "Fuck you, Mark, I don't want your shares," he says. He jerks his hips forwards, and Mark scrabbles to stay balanced as Wardo pushes deep into him. "Right now," Wardo says, "I just want you to come."
"Good. Me too," Mark says, arching his back.
"You got laid," Dustin says cheerfully.
Mark tugs his hoodie over his head and wishes he could somehow convince Dustin to sign away his shares. Dustin rounds Mark's desk and points a finger at him. "No, you did!" he says. "I recognize the signs of l-o-v-e lurrrrve!"
"Yes, you recognize it the way a scientist recognizes rodent droppings," Mark replies. "At a great distance and behind a big cage."
"Whatever, I have a date this weekend," Dustin says. "I think you do too."
"It's not a date," Mark says. "It's a mutually beneficial relationship that involves sex. And occasionally pie."
"If there's pie, it counts as a date," Dustin flings back. "And Eduardo loves pie."
"I'm aware," Mark says irritably.
"But I see it's not all happy happy fun times," Dustin says, narrowing his eyes. "Not that I expected it to be considering it's you two we're talking about here. But I thought you guys were getting better. Spending time together and all that. What hideously disastrous thing did you do this time to ruin it?"
"Nothing," Mark says. "I've done nothing except be hospitable and welcome him into my house every time he comes over." Dustin looks skeptical, but Mark isn't going to tell him the truth. "When he comes over as a guest," he adds firmly. "And don't you have that new app to be working on? I distinctly remember assigning you that project."
"I distinctly remember telling you that Wardo is madly in love with you," Dustin says. "And with great power comes great responsibility."
"Which is why you should get back to your responsibilities," Mark says.
"I meant you," Dustin says. "You're the one with all the cards. You need to sort it out." He drums his fingers against Mark's desk. "I don't know what goes on in that fuzzy head of yours other than code, but I guess I'm going to have to spell it out for you. So let me ask you the big one: when have you ever wanted Eduardo as just a guest?"
"I really think you should get back to work," Mark says.
The next time Eduardo breaks in, Mark is surly and Eduardo is even tireder than ever. Mark orders pad thai for dinner and they eat it on the couch at two a.m, watching late night TV that gets more saturating as the hours tick by. Eduardo finally pushes his styrofoam carton aside and says, the typically open way he says anything (will admit his secrets to lawyers and perfect strangers), "My father's still angry at me."
"Why would he be?" Mark asks, chopsticks poised at his mouth. "You returned the pin."
"It's more than just the pin," Eduardo says. "It's all of these ideas he has about what a man should be, and what counts as success. Coming to America, he was supposed to be successful. His children were supposed to be successful."
"He managed to send you to Harvard, and now you're a billionaire," Mark points out. "I don't see how that exactly translates to failure."
"It's not about money," Eduardo says. "It's about hard work and ambition. I won most of my money in a lawsuit. He thinks it's shameful."
Mark wonders if Eduardo blames him for that too. He watches as Eduardo slides further up the couch and sits cross-legged. Wardo has long, gangling limbs that make the position look a bit ridiculous. Mark finishes the last of his pad thai, closes the carton, and leans over. He kisses Eduardo with the taste of tamarind and fish sauce.
Eduardo puts his hands on Mark's shoulders and pushes him away. By now Mark shouldn't be caught off guard by how angry Wardo can make him, but it's still a revelation every time.
"Let me guess," Mark says nastily. "We're going to dance around this. You'll say that you don't want to fuck me, to come over, to see me, whatever. And then you run off like a scared little child, and when you come back you expect me to not to say anything about how you do this all the time. Make up your fucking mind. Yes or no?"
(It's the simplicity that he expects to find in code, yes to this operation or no to that one. Mark wants very badly to live inside his code right now).
Eduardo's eyes go dark. "You think this is easy?" he says. "You think any of this is what I want?"
(Yes, no, yes).
Mark shrugs with one shoulder. "You're bad at knowing what you want. Do you want the internship in New York or do you want the opportunities in California? You couldn't decide even then. You kept on bouncing back between the two."
"I can't believe this is still about that," Eduardo says.
"I needed my CFO with me," Mark says. "If you cared at all, you were supposed to stay with me."
"I'm not programmed to cater to your every whim!" Eduardo yells. Maybe this is what he wanted to do during the depositions, Mark thinks, but he couldn't because they were supposed to be civilized and calm and smooth. Mark's never been good at smooth the way Eduardo is, but he's also never been as good at fury as Eduardo either. "I thought you might have changed," Eduardo says. "I knew you wouldn't, but I thought -- I hoped --" He grinds his teeth together. "I wanted you to say that you're sorry."
"I'm not sorry," Mark says. "Not for the dilution."
"Okay." Eduardo nods jerkily. He gets up to his feet and puts on his socks. "You're honest at least. You were always honest."
After he leaves, Mark looks at the table and realizes that Wardo never did finish eating his pad thai. So he picks it up and finishes it for him. Then he throws all of it into the garbage and tries to go to sleep.
He hears the door open when he's in bed. He doesn't know what time it is. His alarm clock seems so far away now. He sees the fall of Eduardo's shadow over the carpet. Mark closes his eyes, evens out his breath, and pretends to be sleeping. In his head he starts running code, starts thinking about the next generation of Facebook privacy controls. In doing so he can almost ignore Eduardo's hand stretch over his table, setting something down. Mark isn't actually honest at all.
Then there's a sigh, a rustle of clothes, and Eduardo is gone.
Mark doesn't let himself check what Eduardo left for him. He turns to the other side and stays that way until dawn. When it's light again and he can hear the sounds of his neighbours pulling out of their driveways, he looks over at the table and finds a piece of paper folded over twice.
Mark gets dressed and sticks the paper in his hoodie pocket without opening it.
It's a blessedly hectic day at the office. The servers hiccup and crash, so Mark spends most of the day dealing with that, and it also keeps Dustin busy so he doesn't have time to shoot those worried glances at Mark that Mark hates so much. It's a rough day but Mark has had rougher, and by the end of it he sends his assistant to buy everyone some beer. She comes back with an entire car trunk full of alcohol, and everyone is giddy and happy.
If ever there is a safe time to read Eduardo's note, it's now. When Mark is surrounded by noisy people, when Chris and Dustin are only a few feet away, when there's no chance he'll do anything that he will regret.
So he ducks into a corner and peels the note open.
It's so dramatic and heartfelt and just so Wardo.
Mark waits until the post-server relaunch party is over, and then he corners his assistant Laura on her way out to the parking lot. "I need you to do one more thing for me before you go home," he says without preamble, and Laura knows him well enough by now not be annoyed.
"Sure," she says. "What is it?"
"I need you to deliver this message to the Hilton." He rattles off the address and the room number at her, and she nods without writing it down. Her memory is why he hired her, that and she knows how to do her job well. "I'm sure I don't have to tell you that you're not supposed to look inside. It's private. As is this entire endeavor, so be discreet."
"Have I ever expressed any curiosity about your personal life?" Laura asks, and Mark has to admit that no, she hasn't. "Not that I haven't heard the rumours," she adds. "Dustin sort of has a big mouth."
"Just go," Mark says.
"Going, going, gone." She salutes.
He's restless afterwards. Even coding doesn't hold any particular appeal. When he goes home, he looks around and thinks, well, now might be a good time to clean. So he gets out the mop and the bucket from deep in his closet, and he starts scrubbing.
He doesn't get a reply.
The next day he calls Laura to his office and he asks her, "You delivered it, right? You handed it straight to him?"
"I did," she says. "I watched him open and read it. I was a mother hawk guarding the woebegone heart of her young."
He ignores her analogy. "And?"
"And I don't know," she says. "He asked to be left alone, so I left him alone."
"You left him alone."
"I left him alone."
This is far too many alones for Mark's comfort, so he nods and lets Laura get back to her real job, not that it isn't part of her job to run any errand he tells her to, he thinks. But Mark is better now with his employees than he was five years ago, and he even gives Laura a smile, though she seems somewhat horrified by it and backs away.
Mark waits until the end of the work day and there's still no word from Eduardo. He's pretty sure that Eduardo is returning to Singapore tomorrow because he stole Eduardo's Moleskine one time when Eduardo fell asleep after sex. He suspects Eduardo might have changed the flight, if only to fuck with Mark's head, but he doesn't know for certain. So when five thirty comes around, Mark picks up his wallet with his credit cards and his small kit of screwdrivers, and he drives to the Hilton.
When Mark was young, he wanted to be Batman. He's rather proud of himself when he gets through the lobby and up to the wing where Eduardo's supposed to be staying without comment. One or two people recognize him, judging by the curious looks on their faces, but no one stops him. He reaches Eduardo's door, stares at the only person in the hall until she skitters away, and then he picks open Eduardo's lock.
It's harder than the one on Mark's door, and he half suspects an alarm is about to go off any second. But Mark works his tools with an iron plate of concentration. He says "fuck" under his breath when he has to stop because someone else is walking down the hall towards him.
"Are you looking for Mr. Saverin?" the man asks.
Mark shoves his hands (and his credit cards, and his screwdrivers) into his pocket. "Yeah."
"I saw him leave earlier," the man says. He takes out his room card and swipes the door beside Eduardo's. "I think you just missed him by an hour," he adds helpfully.
It doesn't matter, Mark thinks. So Eduardo's gone across the ocean. That's what the internet is for. That's what Facebook is for. Instant connectivity. (But Facebook has never solved anything between him and Wardo, and there's still oceans -- Mark isn't sure even his brilliance is good enough to overcome oceans).
All he wants to do right now is sleep.
But when he returns home, he never makes it to his bed because Eduardo is in his living room, sitting on his couch looking as put together as a runway model. He's wearing his designer suits again, and his hair is perfectly coiffed. No more jeans, no more dirt under the half moons of his nails. He has his luggage at his feet, and he looks like he's just stopping by for a coffee before he hits the airport; he has that sort of alienating professional sheen about him.
Yet he's holding something very tightly in his palm. When Mark steps closer, Eduardo shows him what it is. "There was a key," Wardo says wonderingly, and Mark knows where he found it, under the cinder block in the backyard, the one with the stroke of blue paint on its side.
"Yes," Mark says. It's been there for months.
"For your maid?" Eduardo asks.
"She has her own key. Two of them, in fact." Mark shrugs. He knows that Wardo will take the shrug for a dismissal, even though it's not meant to be. It's not anything but what it is, a shrug because Mark doesn't know what he's supposed to do at this point. Dustin is right. Eduardo is in love with him, and Mark might be more than a little in love with Eduardo too. This is all unknown territory, and it is much more opaque than starting Facebook ever was. That was computers and business and money. That he understood.
"Ask me to stay," Eduardo says quietly.
"Isn't that enough?" Mark gestures towards the key. It's not as if he goes around leaving keys to his house for any person who wanders by, even if they have degrees in economics and large, woeful eyes.
"I want to hear you say it," Eduardo says. "Not through Facebook, not through notes, not through challenges. I want to hear you fucking it say it in your own voice."
Mark doesn't know how. He doesn't know how. He doesn't know how.
"My flight's in an hour and a half," Eduardo says, shuttered. He starts gathering his luggage together. "If I get a really fast taxi driver, I might still be able to make it." He starts rolling his bags out the door, one in each hand. Mark stands paralyzed in the middle of the living room, and and and but but but yes no yes no. A thousand lines of code run through his mind and he reaches into the tangle and unwinds the one that makes the most sense.
He says it.
Eduardo turns around.
"You're going to give me so many grey hairs," Eduardo says later, when Mark has tugged him out of his suits and his shoes. "This is the worst decision I've ever made. I swear, Mark, my head is going to be completely grey before we're thirty."
Mark pushes his hand through Wardo's wrecked hair. "You'll look good," he decides. "It'll suit you."
"Will it?" Eduardo asks lazily.
"Your fishing for compliments is starting to get obnoxious now," Mark informs him, kissing his shoulder to take the sting out of it. Eduardo laughs and rests his ankle against Mark's calf.
"All right, let's see how this goes," Eduardo says, though everything about him says, I want it to go far.
It's a dangerous challenge, almost sure to fail, but Mark loves challenges. He's a genius and Wardo is Wardo (which is to say, smart and charming and good-hearted and capable of ruining Mark's concentration with a sidelong look). Between the two of them, they'll give it a good run. No, Mark thinks as he slides down Eduardo's thighs and bites him there (listening to Eduardo's moan in broken Portuguese), good is unacceptable. They'll do even better than that.