The thing is, Mark is rich enough now that people tell him about things that people who don't have a lot of money never find out about. Turns are there really are secret forces at work behind the scenes, machinations that only the very, very powerful are even aware of. Vampires are real, there's actually an Area 51 and some very weird stuff is stored inside it, the chemicals in the drinking water are part of a very complex plot involving ancient prophecies.
Mark continues to not care about any of it, because he can't see that there's any relevance to what he's doing. The Illuminati was always a Yale thing rather than Harvard. It's never mattered one way or another in his life before, so why should it now? If someone in robes and sigils comes to him and asks for new privacy measures be installed on Facebook to accommodate their secret cabal appointments, then he'll...
Well, he'll probably talk to the legal team to see what loopholes they can wrangle about selling international secret society information to third-party advertisers without breaching the terms and conditions agreed to on sign-up.
The point is, none of that matters, and so Mark doesn't care. It's the real-world equivalent of Sherlock Holmes not knowing about planetary orbits because the information doesn't affect him. The hidden machinery of control going on behind the human race doesn't affect Mark, not unless it starts being machinery that needs to be tagged in photo albums.
All of this changes, of course, the day that Chris comes into Mark's office and clears his throat and says "Mark, turn off your computer for a second."
He's replying to the latest round of responses in the font argument that the design team are having, and doesn't look up. "I'm busy, Chris, can't you leave whatever it is with one of the PAs and I'll sign it later?"
"It's important, Mark."
"Unless someone's died, no, it's not."
Chris is pointedly silent. Mark looks up.
After Chris leaves, Mark goes back to his email, but the font discussion seems to have died down for the time being and nothing else is sufficiently distracting to stop him thinking about what Chris told him.
"Wanna talk about it?" Dustin asks.
"Don't you have work you should be doing?" Mark counters. "I know that Facebook's reputation largely centers around the drama, but we just build the infrastructure here. The users are supposed to be the ones supplying the dramatics inside the framework, not us."
Dustin sits down on the couch. "Well, I want to talk about it. Don't you want to talk about it?"
"It's completely absurd." Mark takes a swallow from the water bottle that one of his PAs left in place of the Red Bull can at some point when he wasn't paying attention. They do that sometimes. Apparently there was an incident with severe dehydration at some point.
Dustin looks unsure of how to respond to what Mark's said. Mark's used to seeing that expression on people.
"Clearly he's completely unsuited to it," Mark goes on. "If they'd wanted to be a part of the shareholder discussions, there are plenty of more -"
Dustin buries his face in one palm. "Oh my god, you're jealous," he says, voice slightly muffled by his face being mashed into his hand.
"I'm just saying," Mark retorts. "It's not like it would unduly impact my life if I were forced to become nocturnal. I don't have any great attachment to food and drink." He holds up the water bottle like it proves the point. "As numerous people will tell you -- first and foremost among them Eduardo himself, I should very pointedly add -- I'm already in possession of a reputation as a soulless, predatory monster -"
Dustin's shoulders are shaking. He still has his palm over his face.
"Are you laughing?" Mark asks.
"I'm sorry, it's just -" Dustin looks up, face red from the effort of holding in his mirth. "You hear that your former best friend has been recruited into the legions of the bloodsucking undead and your response is to get huffy that they didn't invite you first." He sobers a little. "This isn't like the final clubs thing, Mark."
Mark shrugs. "Sure it is. Fish eat other fish. I told Chris it was all right to reschedule the next shareholder meeting to the evening. I'm not sure what else it is you all keep interrupting me about in relation to this. I don't know what you all expect me to be saying or doing."
Dustin doesn't look as if he entirely believes Mark about that, but nothing else is said on the subject for the time being.
And then at the shareholder meeting -- held in the evening, after sunset, just as promised -- Mark realizes just how wrong he was. Eduardo is extremely suited to being a vampire.
The skin under his eyes is dark, as if he is exhausted, but the eyes themselves are sharper, brighter. Paler skin, a slightly altered set of his mouth. The visible cosmetic changes are individually small, but the overall effect is startlingly obvious. Eduardo is fundamentally different, infused with a smooth grace that gives an impression of masking a lethal strength.
He's also alluring -- in the way the lights on angler fish are alluring, or the steady gaze of a cobra. Mark feels compelled to still himself, to stare. To let Eduardo step into his personal space and strike.
Instead Mark does like he always does at these things, and ignores him.
"Aren't you supposed to be invited in?"
Mark should probably be afraid. There is a vampire in his living room. This is a vampire he's seen wearing an oversized straw hat and an obnoxious shirt, however, so the intimidation factor isn't what it could be.
"You didn't say hello at the shareholder meeting," Eduardo answers, as if breaking into a former friend's home is the natural consequence of a social snub. Maybe it is for vampires.
"As is the usual state of affairs between us," Mark points out. "We don't do chit-chat. We don't pretend to be on good terms. I thought that's what you wanted."
Eduardo smiles. In the subtle, recessed lighting of a room Mark rarely inhabits -- there's no computer in it -- the two small, knife-sharp incisors in Eduardo's mouth are barely visible. Even so, Mark is acutely aware of them.
"What I want has changed quite a bit."
Mark rolls his eyes impatiently. "Really," he asks, voice too flat to give the question a proper querying inflection. "Is the cliched seduction entirely necessary."
"I don't know, is it?" Eduardo counters, moving with that slow and threatening grace, closer and closer. Mark realises that the keys to the front door are still in his hand, the metal warm against the dampness of his palm. He drops them, faintly hearing the clatter on the tiles as he stares at Eduardo's eyes. Dark, bright eyes...
"Are you mesmerizing me?" Mark asks suddenly, taking a step back. "Because that's pathetic. I can hack while drunk, what makes you think I can't resist vampire wiles while hypnotized?"
Eduardo looks thrown for a moment, the uncertainty giving his features a human cast for just a second. For the first time since Chris told him, Mark feels a pang of grief for Eduardo's ended life. This new and beautiful creature is compelling -- and not just in the literal sense -- but he's not the friend Mark knew and betrayed and lost.
"Did it hurt?" he asks abruptly, before realizing with equal abruptness that he doesn't want to know the answer.
Eduardo's eyes narrow and harden, and that shouldn't make him look like the boy Mark remembers, but it does. "I've lived through worse."
"But you didn't. Live through it, I mean."
Eduardo shrugs one shoulder. The movement is liquid, elegant. Mark feels his attention slipping out of his control and forces himself to stay alert, giving Eduardo a glare of his own. "Stop doing that."
"Don't you remember when I warned you that I was going to drain you dry?" Eduardo asks, voice sibilant and quiet and Mark just wants to close his eyes...
He swallows, shakes his head to clear it, and then scowls. "Luckily for its PR team, Facebook and I aren't interchangeable. But by all means, if you think you can extract blood from the throat of my company, you're welcome to try. The servers are probably quite tough on the tooth enamel, though."
Eduardo blinks at him, then laughs. Like his confusion and his frowns, the sound holds ghosts. "You're not scared at all." It's a statement, not a question.
"No," Mark agrees. And then -- because, unafraid or not, he can recognise a life-threatening situation when he's in one, and knows this may be the last opportunity he has to tell the truth -- he adds, "I don't think I could be scared of you. Not really."
It's a heartbeat, less than a second, but suddenly a new thought has seeded, grown and bloomed in Mark's mind. The thought of being made into something new and powerful and immortal. Of being hungry like never before, a craving strong enough to wake the dead. Of how lonely that might be.
How insignificant a falling-out over a website, however vicious the breakup may have been, would seem in comparison to a change like that.
"Why me?" Mark asks, tilting his head a little to one side and looking at Eduardo with a frank, appraising glance. Whatever mesmeric force was holding him in thrall has lessened. “Why come to me?”
"What." Eduardo gives him a crooked smile. "You don't think you'd make a good vampire?"
"That's exactly what I said to Dustin. I'd be perfect for it," Mark answers. Then, in a rare moment of self-preservation, he adds a qualifier. "I mean, theoretically."
To be more exact, what he says is "I mean, theore-" because after that his words are lost somewhere between his brain and his voicebox, because Eduardo has given up on whatever not-quite-conversation it was that they were almost having and is now biting Mark's throat.
It hurts, but in the way that the cold of the ocean hurts on summer skin. Every nerve shocked alive at once. Eduardo's fingers against his scalp, knotted in his hair and forcing his head to stay in place (pre-emptive against any struggles, as if Mark could possibly be capable of struggle in this moment)... Eduardo's fingers are cool, just a fraction below the moderated temperature of the air, but feel as if they're growing warmer as the endless, weightless minutes pass like thick, sweet honey.
Oh, Mark thinks drowsily. Of course they're warmer. They have new blood in them now.
He doesn't know how long they've been there, locked together with Eduardo's mouth on his skin. He doesn't know how long his own fingers have been clutching at the fabric of Eduardo's shirt, or when exactly it was that his knees gave out and it became Eduardo's new and frightening strength alone holding them up.
It's another long second of time before Mark manages to locate his voice.
"Don't..." he starts to murmur.
Eduardo lifts his face away from Mark's throat. Mark whimpers at the loss of contact. Eduardo's mouth is red and slick. He gives a brittle, humourless laugh.
"Don't worry. If you die, I can't hurt you anymore," he says. "And I don't want that."
"That's what I thought, too," Mark slurs, but he doesn't think Eduardo understands what Mark really means. Mark's eyes are heavy, he can't hold them open. He feels himself lifted, and then the world goes grey and still.
He wakes up in his own bed, mid-morning. The drapes are open, sunlight warm and welcome across his legs in long stripes. There are the expected number of missed calls from the office on his phone.
Mark's head aches like a particularly bad hangover and when he looks in the bathroom mirror there's a wide and purple bruise on the side of his neck. When he touches it tentatively, the sensation makes him shiver.
If you die, I can't hurt you anymore, he thinks, an echo of Eduardo's words. Reassurance and warning, and not true at all.