Chris always likes watching Eduardo do what he was born to do--making his way around a room, shaking hands, smiling at everyone like he really means it. And in a way, he does, even though this is a Police Athletic League fundraiser and given the chance, more than half of the people in this room would gladly wring Eduardo's neck. That makes it even more noticeable when Eduardo gets a moment to himself and his shoulders fall, the smile disappears. Eduardo adjusts his tie again and checks his watch, a work of subtle elegance in brushed platinum that appeared on the kitchen table the morning of his second anniversary with Mark. It came as a shock to Chris, who has to remind Mark to call his mother on her birthday every year. Eduardo never thanked Mark for it, not in public, but he wears it every day.
"You said Mark would be here, Hughes." Chris prides himself on his lurking skills, but Marylin always manages to find him easily, and doesn't bother to hide the fact she's annoyed. She downs the rest of her martini--she can drink most of Mark's people under the table--and hands off the glass to a passing waiter.
"I know, I know," Chris says. "He was supposed to be here at eight."
Chris tries not to be irritated at her. Making sure that Mark is in good with the law is part of her job, after all. He shoves his hands into his trouser pockets and fingers the little stiletto secreted away there. The warmth of the metal grounds him, reminds him that he's solved bigger problems for Mark, and that he'll fix this one too.
"Don't worry, council. I'll handle it."
Chris makes his way outside for a breath of fresh air, in need of a few moments to strategize. Things have been shitty since Mark got Dustin off the hook for one crime too many and had to send him down to Mexico to hide out until the police stopped taking potshots at their house at night. They're all off balance now, a vehicle missing its fourth wheel. Dustin was always the best at diffusing Mark's temper, all easy jokes and well-meaning verbal barbs. Without him, Mark has adopted to a policy of shoot first, ask questions later.
There is no moon out tonight, and only a few stars intense enough to hold their own against the city lights. Chris passes a photographer taking a smoke break on the stairs. He straightens up and aims his camera in Chris' general direction, but Chris just glares at him into submission.
Instead of finding five minutes' peace outside, all he sees is Mark's car idling at the curb. Justin Chang is arguing with the skinny kid hired to park cars about whether or not he has the right to keep blocking traffic. Chris checks his phone to see if he missed a call, but--nothing.
"Where the fuck have you been?" Chris demands, keeping his voice low.
"I'm sorry, I couldn't stop him," Justin says, hands up like he's waiting to be arrested. "We got here fast as we could."
The passenger door swings open to reveal Mark in dress shoes, neatly pressed trousers, and a faded black hoodie that he's probably had since 2002. Chris doesn't even have to get that close to see the crumpled up dress shirt still sitting in his lap, spattered with red so dark it's bordering on black. He sucks in a sharp breath. Tells himself he shouldn't be surprised.
"Jesus Christ, Mark." Chris thinks of the calls he has to make now, the bribes he'll be paying out for the rest of this week. "This couldn't wait until tomorrow?"
"I told you, tonight was busy." Mark frowns and pokes gingerly at the nasty cut right above his eye, crusted with dried blood. "I need to do something about this."
Chris reaches inside his suit pocket and pulls out a pair of sunglasses left there from earlier in the day. "Here. Wear these."
Mark slides them onto his face, relaxing visibly. There's a moment where Chris thinks that this night would end much more smoothly if he could convince Mark that the best course of action right now would be to turn around and head home. If there's a fight with Eduardo over it, then fine, they'll deal. It's a better alternative than having Mark walk into a room with 200 cops with blood on his hands.
Of course, Eduardo picks that exact moment to show up, still as immaculate as if he'd stepped out of the pages of a magazine spread. He doesn't even look angry at Mark, just tired. Not for the first time, Chris wonders what made Eduardo look at Mark in those first few days and think, this is the one.
"I made it," Mark says. He squares his shoulders, then stuffs his hands into his hoodie pocket and waits for Eduardo to react. For a few seconds they just stare at each other, like they've had this fight so many times there's no point in bothering with words anymore.
Eduardo heaves a sigh and pulls out his pocket square. "You missed a spot," he says, gesturing to a speck of blood on Mark's cheek. Mark spits on it and rubs away the final evidence of foul play, smirking. He knows he's won this round.
Eduardo lays a hand on the small of Mark's back and starts to herd him toward the entrance of the hotel. Chris keeps his distance as he brings up the rear, suddenly weary as his brain shuts down the supply of adrenaline it'd been feeding him all evening. He sees Mark make some undoubtedly snide remark and Eduardo try his best not to laugh.
The photographer from before tosses his cigarette to the ground and steps right into their path. "Mayor Saverin, can I get a photo of you two together?" To Chris' surprise, Mark just shrugs and moves to stand closer to Eduardo.
The flash goes off, brilliant and blinding in the darkness.