:: Prologue ::
It was a wreck of a day, to say the least, and Eduardo could tell that his mood won’t be any better once he reaches the offices because it certainly wasn’t appreciating the endless wave of honks and shouted profanities hovering by his tail since he’d sat himself in the car and took the wheel. In fact, given the headache that was currently brewing to a drastic degree, Eduardo knew for a fact, as he slammed the gas and sped through a yellow light, that his mood had unfavorable plans for him.
And what plans they were. Eduardo couldn’t help the groan as he stared helplessly at the throng of parked cars completely occupying both sides of the parking lot. Of course it was full, this was, after all, the headquarters of Facebook, where every employee and intern felt it essentially necessary to flaunt the toys they’ve independently bought through salary by bringing it to work, taking all the space and leaving none for Eduardo who was about ready to drive his Porsche against a tree, the annoyingly constant vibrations of his phone not helping one bit.
With a defeated sigh, Eduardo succumbed to answering the call, knowing full well the consequences would be twice as unforgivable if he ignored it longer. There was a good reason Mark chose Chris to handle public relations and company ordeals –Mark lacked the downright intimidating demeanor that Chris was made of.
Eduardo prepared himself, muttering false encouragements to himself before pressing the call button. “Chris –”
“YOU RIGHT TWAT, WHERE THE BLOODY HELL ARE YOU? I’VE BEEN RINGING YOUR ARSE FOR THE LAST HALF HOUR—”
“I’m already here outside! I just can’t—”
“THEN WHY THE BLITHERING HELL AREN’T YOU MOVING YOUR ARSE INSIDE?”
“My car, I can’t find a spot for it! There’s—”
“THEN LEAVE IT THERE AND GET YOUR ARSE IN HERE!”
“I can’t just—”
“YES YOU BLOODY WELL CAN AND YOU BLOODY WILL! NOW EDUARDO!”
“O-okay.” Eduardo gulped, both relieved and terrified once the call ended; relieved because his right ear was still intact, and terrified because Chris sounded about ready to permanently impair both his ears in the next five minutes.
:: Chapter 1 ::
The sight of Dustin walking rapid circles around the lobby, nursing a pale and utterly petrified face didn’t comfort Eduardo at all once he made his way in.
“Oh, Jesus Christ, thank god you’re here.” Dustin Maskovitz praising that many deities in one sentence was never a good sign, Eduardo would know.
“Dustin, what’s wrong?” Eduardo asked but Dustin was already answering him with a frantic shake of his head.
“Y-you gotta get in there, dude. He’s locked himself in his office, and Chris tried talking him to come out but he wouldn’t, and he’s been crying for three straight hours, and the fucking security can’t get through the door, and Chris’s losing his mind and it’s really, really, really bad, and you gotta see him now—” Dustin rambled as he pulled Eduardo’s arm and walked briskly to the elevator.
“Wait, wait, wait, Dustin, you need to slow down.” Eduardo began carefully once they were inside the lift. Dustin took his advice by giving him frenzied nods as he pressed a button and continued to jab it with his thumb despite the elevator already moving.
“Dustin, stop it! It won’t make it any faster. Now, look at me,” Eduardo pressed firmly, turning Dustin to face him. “and tell me what happened.” He said, grasping Dustin’s shoulders if only to stop Dustin from his shaking.
The look Dustin gave him held no good news at all. “I-I can’t… I— you have to see it. You— You won’t believe it until you see him.” Dustin stammered, shaking his head to Eduardo.
Eduardo frowned. “See who?” But his attempts to further interrogate Dustin for answers were cut short when the Elevator chimed to signal a stop, the doors sliding open to a room that was the perfect picture of complete and utter chaos.
A panicked cluster of people greeted them. Eduardo could only gape as he looked at every corner; some running fast, sheets of papers left in their trail; others were in their cubicle talking rapidly to their desk phones; and the rest had their eyes locked to their computer screens, hands attacking their keyboards with impossible speed and vigor. One thing that the whole room seemed to share with rhythm was the shouting, lots and lots of shouting.
And Chris was doing a fairly good job outshining them all, because even by the elevator, Eduardo could hear the familiar accent bombing the room with loud, frightening echoes. Although he couldn’t understand any of what Chris was currently yelling, he silently thanked the heavens for that.
Dustin was already pulling him through the riot before Eduardo could even begin to look for Chris. After bumping against four cubicles, tripping over five sets of cords, and apologizing to a girl whose blouse was now covered with coffee, Eduardo finally reached what looked liked a small lounge that was connected to a glass office, a glass office whose doors were being inspected by two security guards and one guy in a maintenance uniform.
It was only when Dustin opened a room beside the lounge did Eduardo began to understand the loud voice booming the room.
“… HAD NO INTEREST AT ALL WITH YOUR PROPOSAL, THEREFORE YOU HAD NO RIGHT AT ALL TO FORCE IT TO HIM!” Eduardo grimaced as Dustin pushed him in and closed the door firmly behind them. Chris was standing in the middle of the small room, his back towards them. Eduardo contemplated on making himself known until an unfamiliar voice beat him to it.
“Mr. Hughes, please calm down. We never intended this to happen. If we’d known that his abilities were in that level of instability, we wouldn’t have risked this.” A woman with white, long hair and chocolate skin said with a cautious voice, who was sitting upright on the couch before Chris.
“EXACTLY. HOW CAN YOU CALL YOURSELVES PROFESSIONALS IF YOU WEREN’T EVEN AWARE OF THE STATE OF HIS CONDITION?” Chris spat back.
“Please, Mr. Hughes, don’t blame this on my partner. She had nothing to do with it. I was the one who entered his mind to—”
“YOU ENTERED HIS MIND?” Eduardo could practically see the incredulous, angered look shifting on Chris’ face from the mere change in his posture. “AND YOU DIDN’T EVEN BOTHER TO KNOW WHETHER HE WAS CAPABLE OF CONTROL?” Chris added with an especially louder voice at the woman’s red-headed companion.
“He was denying his powers! There wasn’t any other way to prove to him that he was a mutant!” Answered the woman defiantly.
“WELL, CONGRATULATIONS, DOCTOR GRAY. YOU’VE PROVEN YOUR POINT. AND NOW, THANKS TO YOUR DISCOVERY, YOU’VE JUST MADE THE CEO OF A MULTI-BILLION DOLLAR COMPANY A FIVE YEAR OLD! I’M SURE THE PEOPLE IN YOUR MUTANT ACADEMY WILL BE THRILLED.” Chris derided back with more than a little show of mockery, which silenced the whole room, particularly Eduardo.
“What?” He asked through the silence, watching dumbly as Chris jumped and turned to him swiftly with a shocked face that was instantly washed with relief.
“Oh thank god, it’s about bloody time, you bastard.” Chris snapped at him with only the barest hint of anger in his voice.
“Sorry, did she just say she 'entered' his mind?” Eduardo asked again, getting twice as confused when he repeated the words himself. "And powers? Chris, what the hell-"
“Listen, Wardo. I know I’m the last person who has any right at all to ask anything from you after the way I practically forced you to come here but I wouldn’t have done that if this wasn’t a real emergency.” Chris said, his hands gripping each of Eduardo’s shoulders. After a long pause wherein Chris gave a long, meaningful and piteous look at Eduardo’s still baffled one, he continued with a careful note, “I know things between you and Mark aren’t in the best of light. You two haven’t talked at all since the deposition. And I know it’s going to be really hard for you, mate, but…” Chris heaved a breath. “Wardo, something’s happened to Mark and he needs you right now.”
“What? What happened to him?” Although his tongue and lips had gone heavy and numb, the question instantly left his lips the moment he processed in Chris’ final words, because, despite it being all true, and despite the deep resentment that always grows and strengthens in his chest each time he reminisce that point in his life, Eduardo could never deny to himself the lingering sheet of warm feelings that have always blanketed his insides at the thought of better days, at the thought of Mark still needing him and only him.
Chris shook his head. “It’s quite difficult to explain it and it’s going to be even harder for you to understand but now is not the time—” A series of short knocks interrupted Chris, followed by one of the guards slightly opening the door and informing him that the lock had been dealt with. Chris answered with a firm nod and a brief request to clear the lounge and allow no one in before turning back to Eduardo.
“I need you to listen to me very carefully, Eduardo.” He began, and Eduardo instinctively straightened his stand at the sound of his first full name, which Chris only uses at times of serious matters. Without a glance at the two women, Chris pulled Eduardo out the room with long strides, stopping just before the glass doors.
“In that office is a little boy who’s very upset and in tears, and I can only imagine how hungry and tired he is. He’s been there for a full three hours and he hasn’t come out. Now, I need you to go in there, comfort him, make him feel better, feed him – I’ll send some decent food up – and put him to sleep on the couch.” Chris instructed, measuring Eduardo with a calculating look that seemed to be searching for something. “Can you do that for me?”
Eduardo was silent, unable to answer Chris’ question with anything but a dumbfounded look. “Wait. Wait. Wait a minute.” Even as he repeated Chris’ instructions in his head, it didn’t make the slightest sense to Eduardo of how that was connected to Mark. “You want me to… babysit? A little boy?” Eduardo blinked as Chris nodded, although not so confidently as he was used to. “Okay. Now I’m really… lost. I thought—“ Eduardo groaned inwardly, only barely preventing himself from saying I thought Mark needed me. He rephrased. He needed to rephrase. “Is that what Mark needed me for? To babysit a little boy?” He asked instead, even with the rephrasing, the words and the combination they were in sounded gibberish to Eduardo.
But Chris, after a moment of hesitation, answered with the same nod again and a short “Yes.”. Eduardo could only mimic him, biting his lip to keep the distressing numbness from spreading because one couldn’t blame Eduardo for making rash assumptions. “How old is he?”
“I’m not sure, really. He looks about five or six.” Chris said slowly, a confused and worried wrinkle appearing between his eyebrows when Eduardo instantly looked away from him.
"You're not sure? Chris, how can you not be sure? And why's there a kid..." The numbness began to spread then, sliding down Eduardo’s neck to his chest until all he could release were silent, heavy breaths, but the numbness couldn’t touch Eduardo’s mind because it continued to calculate and calculate, trying to find a flaw in the perfect formula that solved the equation. Five or six years. The boy was five or six years old, about the same length of time that Eduardo killed all communication with Mark and begun building distances between them.
Five or six years. Enough time for Mark to find someone else, to be with someone else.
“Could you— Could you at least tell me where Mark is?” Eduardo asked, reprimanding his lip with a hard chew at the stumble of words, and continued gnawing it at the look of utter bewilderment and helplessness that shaded Chris’ face.
With a sigh, Chris said instead, “Wardo, you’ll know when you see him.”
Eduardo turned to look at the office, only because he’d rather Chris not see the water surfacing in his eyes.
“I… I don’t see anyone there.” He mumbled, blinking through the slight blur oozing from the edges of his eyes.
“He’s on the chair.” Chris said, gesturing to the black, extravagant computer chair that was facing the windows that held a lovely view of the university suburb.
Eduardo nodded and kept his eyes on the chair, feeling Chris’ searching eyes on him. “What’s his name?”
“You can ask him yourself.” Chris said after a contemplative pause. “Go. I’ll be here when you need me.” Between the lines, Eduardo read the urgency in Chris’ words.
He wanted to ask more questions, to know when it had happened, to know who she was, to know if Mark was happy with her.
But Eduardo held no room for such questions and swallowed it down determinedly. Chris had been through enough, he said to himself, if only to silence the questions. He could always ask Mark, he added bitterly and painfully before pushing the doors open.
A/N: Lots of t.v. show references on this one.
:: :: :: Disclaimer :: :: ::
I own nothing. Except the idea. Which costs nothing and, therefore, is priceless.
A blast of cold atmosphere sheltered Eduardo instantly, forcing him to quiver and rub his arms furiously as he search for the room’s thermometer. But the freezing temperature was instantly brushed from his mind at the tiny sounds of sniffing and whimpering emitting by the desk, where only an opened laptop lay.
Eduardo approached with slow, cautious steps that instantly picked up the pace when he spotted a note of shiver from the subtle sobs. From his haste, Eduardo failed to see the wire of the laptop’s charger that instantly tripped him.
The whimpers died down and were replaced by hiccups. “W-Who’s there…?” Said the tiny voice with an attempt to sound defiant and suspicious, yet only managing to stretch an instantaneous warm smile on Eduardo’s lips.
“I-It’s only me…” Eduardo said gently, his eyes frantically swiveling around the room at the thought of whether or not he should introduce himself. With a nervous breath, Eduardo continued, “Don’t be afraid. It’s okay. I’m not here to hurt you. I’m just a-a friend of your dad’s.” Eduardo lost the ability to move, his eyes widening when the chair began to wiggle and a head of brown, curly hair peeked from the side.
A warm flutter burst in Eduardo as he stared back at large, clear eyes with the loveliest mix of blue and green, only flawed by the telltale red rims. “Hi…”
“…’Lo…” He hiccupped, blinking as he looked up at Eduardo. It was enough to give him the spot of courage to make his way closer to the chair, until he found the little boy bundled in what appeared to be weird-looking blankets.
“Hey there...” Eduardo gulped, because despite all his experience and knowledge in social interaction, this was a scenario Eduardo was sure he wasn’t qualified for. Having spent his years around people of professional standards and straight-forward demeanors, it was only to be expected that an innocuous, harmless child would be the perfect obstacle to test Eduardo’s communication skills. It was only a matter of chance that the catalyst would be none other than Mark’s kid. Eduardo could practically see the heavens flipping the finger at him.
“My name’s Eduardo. Er.” Stammered Eduardo when the boy only proceeded to sink himself in the depths of the thick cloths and watch Eduardo fearfully. “I’m one of your dad’s friends. Your dad, he, uh, he gotta be somewhere important. Yeah. But he didn’t want you to be left here alone so, he asked me to… look after you, just until he gets back.”
“Where’s he gotta go…?” The boy asked, sniffing and chewing on his lip. Having those big eyes stare up at him with a hopeful glint made Eduardo draw to a blank. Thinking hard as he ran a nervous hand against his already ruffled hair, Eduardo took note of how the boy looked so tiny, helpless and scared and all he wanted to do was kill that fear. It didn’t help that the fear he saw through those eyes reminded him too much of Mark the first time they’d met and Mark had been the boy who appeared to have feared everything and everyone, neither was it all that assuring that Eduardo felt the same defiance towards that fear, that all he wanted to do was brighten that frightened face and shelter it with warmth and comfort.
So with an inward nod, Eduardo sat himself on the floor and crossed his legs beneath him before instructing his face to be as approachable and friendly as he could, which, he began to realize, wasn’t at all that hard.
“Well, I think…” Eduardo began, feigning a thoughtful face. “your dad went on a big adventure.”
“… a big ‘venture?”
“Yeah. And I think he brought with him…” Eduardo stared up at the ceiling in thought, trying to recall the few cartoons he’d managed to get a glimpse of during his childhood. “His… robot friends.” Only barely did Eduardo restrain the grimace because, seriously, his childhood was not the best of references.
“… Robot f’wends?” said the little voice from beneath the clothes, eyes peeking in wonder. “… Like the big ‘wobots who can turn to cars and jets and a’wroplanes and space ships- and f’wy to space?”
“Yeah!” Eduardo couldn’t help the smile. Trust Mark to expose his kid to robotic machines at this age. “Did you get to see one of those?”
The boy gave a small shake of the head. “… Only on TV.”
“That’s too bad, ‘cuz your dad’s really good at building them.” Eduardo said, nodding assuredly.
“… He did?” A small crease troubled the boy’s eyebrows as he looked thoughtfully at his blankets. “How come I never see ‘em?”
“Well, because you’re dad a super secret agent.” Eduardo said. “He builds lots of stuff and gadgets for secret people.” Eduardo smiled at the head that was now rising from the cloths.
“Gadgets? ‘Wike Inspector Gadget?” Said the boy, his voice growing with a hopeful tone.
Eduardo chuckled. “Yeah. Like Inspector Gadget.”
A comforting silence cloaked the room, allowing Eduardo a moment to study the boy’s face; his thin, jagged eyebrows scrunched thoughtfully, a bubbly curve on each cheek that was most likely a prone victim to fond pinching given the delicate glow of redness, the light sprinkle of freckles on the button of a nose where a trail of snot was peeking, those chubby lips— red and salivated from the biting and chewing, the strong jut of a chin, the large ears hidden by the curled curtains of brown hair. So many shades of familiar details ghosting in this face that Eduardo felt a heavy weight plunging inside him at the lingering thought of this precious dream that Mark kept from him, that Mark had to keep from him.
“… What ‘bout my mom?” The boy asked, his tiny fingers fumbling with a patch of cloth. “… Does she also build stuff?” Eduardo’s fond smile sank.
“I bet she does too, buddy.” He replied with the lightest tone he could muster.
“…D’you know where she is?” Eduardo shook his head at the spark of hope in the voice.
“I’m sorry, pal, but I really don’t know.” When the boy’s lips began to wobble into a tearful frown, Eduardo, panicked, added quickly, “But I’m sure your dad’s gonna find her. Maybe that’s why he’s on a big adventure right now. Maybe a-a Megatron took your mom away and your dad and his robot friends are looking to save her.”
The frown lifted slightly, before dropping once again when the boy said, “… if Meg’tron took mom, and dad’s tryin’ to save her… then, why didn’t he take me with him…?”
“Well, that’s because he didn’t want you to get hurt. Those Megatron robots are really nasty to get a fight with. And your dad wants you to be safe so that when he saves your mom and gets her back home, you’ll be here to make her feel better and happy.” Eduardo said, forcibly cementing the crack in his voice with a cheerful tone.
“But I could still help… I know how to fight… Goku showed me how.” There was a tinge of pride and defiance curling in the boy’s voice that brought about a fond laugh to Eduardo.
“Did he?” Brown ringlets bounced around excitedly as the boy gave a firm and assured nod.
“I can do lots of his moves, like the Galik Gun, Spi’wit Bomb, Warp Khamehameha and the Ozaru Smash, I even learned the Big Bang Khamehameha, Goku’s most powerful move. I can also do Gohan’s Masenko and Krillin’s Destructo Disc and Piccolo’s Special Beam Cannon, Vegeta’s Final Flash, and Frieza’s Death Beam, but I don’t do that one a lot ‘cuz I don’t like Frieza very much.” The grin that appeared on both faces, one full of excitement, the other full of joy, couldn’t be helped.
“Why not?” Eduardo asked speculatively.
“Well, ‘cuz Frieza’s the bad guy, he hurts Goku and his f’wiend a lot.” The boy said. “And he’s an alien and everyone knows never to t’wust aliens.”
Eduardo laughed. “Yeah, that’s right.” The boy gave him a calculating look that warmed and gripped Eduardo’s chest. So many a time he’d seen that look in another, more familiar face. The boy chewed on his lip curiously and hesitantly before saying, “Ya wanna see?”
Eduardo answered with a sure nod and large smile that was instantly reflected by a face so similar to the one he’d tried to rid away from his life and yet so longed for.
He stood from the floor, stretching the numbing cramps from his legs, ready to offer the boy a lift from the chair, but the boy was already struggling to come down the chair with small gasps. Eduardo’s heart jumped to his throat, his feet suddenly beginning to work again, dashing to the chair when the small body stumbled on the floor, only avoiding a hard hit on the carpeted floor by landing on his clothes.
His large, oversized clothes.
“Careful!” Eduardo said with an anxious tone as he crouched down near the boy who released a whimper. “Are you okay?” He asked, his voice trembling as those eyes stared up at him, bright with fright once again. Eduardo reached out a hand only to snatch it back when the boy sobbed and tried to back away, the clothes that bunched around him preventing his attempts to move.
“It’s okay… I’m not gonna hurt you.” Eduardo said tenderly. “I just wanna know if you’re okay. You fell pretty hard.” Eduardo breathed out the shiver crawling from his neck as the boy’s face softened from fear to curiosity. With a hiccup, the boy wiped his face messily with a long sleeve of what looked like a hoodie.
Eduardo chuckled at the gesture, and felt a drum of warmth vibrate from his insides as a gentle smile slowly grew in the boy’s face, unknowingly reflecting Eduardo’s.
“You okay?” Eduardo asked, his smile widening when the boy nodded behind his sleeve that he was still brush across his nose thoughtlessly. “You got some pretty big clothes there, buddy.”
Slightly bouncing from a hiccup, the boy examined the folds around him thoughtfully. “…’m wearin’ big clothes!” He exclaimed, struggling to his feet as he inspected the long, thick sleeves swallowing his little arms that stretched as far down as the end of its equally broad hoodie. It was hopeless for Eduardo to bite down an adoring grin as the boy’s eyes widened with sheer wonder as they trailed down to the outsized khaki shorts that brushed down to the floor.
“…’m wearin’ big clothes!” He repeated with a gasp, looking up and smiling widely at Eduardo with a brilliant spark of delight that left Eduardo completely speechless, because aside from the absolute cheerfulness radiating from that smile and the sweet music of a giggle that followed after, Eduardo was met by a big, thickly-patched ‘HARVARD’ that dominated the hoodie’s chest.
The sight was simple perfection.
“They’re your dad’s…” Eduardo said gently. With every blink he took, a faint image of Mark wearing the exact hoodie shadowed his eyes, and with every passing image he, Eduardo, would always see himself by Mark’s side. The memories blurred his eyes, and all Eduardo could do was bat his eyelids furiously until they vanished and dried away with the slight tears.
:: :: ::
Since the day started, not a spot of blessing chanced upon Chris’ day and he had the X-Men to thank for that, not to mention, his sore throat. Eduardo’s presence had been a godsend; the first drop of hope that trickled down on Chris’ already diminishing determination of, once again, saving Mark’s arse.
The second ray of light that shed upon Chris would be successfully settling matters with the mutants. He might not be entitled to make paramount decisions for Mark (despite Mark’s already relentless misgivings with this particular decision) but his job description did dictate that he had the business obligation – as well as the moral obligation of a friend – to maintain the company upright, and that especially include keeping Mark from losing his job. Since he was only human whose powers were limited to persuasion and intimidation, Chris did what humans were best known for and threatened the mutants with a promise of suing them in court if the day ends with Facebook lacking its twenty-five year old CEO.
Who knew it was that easy.
The third blessing, however, was the least Chris expected, only because it’d seemed next to impossible that morning. But here it was, clear in Dustin’s laptop screen, which was projecting a direct feed from the only security camera in Mark’s office.
“Dustin! Look at this!” He said, snapping Dustin off from the restless walks he’d been making around the small room since the X-Men representatives left.
“What? What happened? Did he turn back to old, grumpy Mark already?” Dustin asked anxiously, making his way across the lounge with a brisk pace that would’ve led to a clumsy fall face-first on the floor had Dustin not practically threw himself beside Chris.
“No.” Chris smiled, his attention too enamored to the screen to routinely reprimand Chris’ inelegance with a slap on the head. “It’s far better.” He muttered gently as he watched Eduardo kneeling before Mark with a smile that could’ve summed all the happiness in the world as he folded Mark’s sleeves and shorts properly until his little hands and feet appeared.
Beside him, Dustin chuckled lightly as Mark flexed his fingers, glanced down at the small feet he could now see, and, with an equally cheerful smile, rewarded Eduardo with an enthusiastic applaud.
From the speakers, Mark’s tiny voice echoed, “Thank you.” As that moment came, Chris knew that even if it amounted to all the money in the planet, Facebook’s revenue and net worth wouldn’t have a shed of value compared to the look that surfaced Eduardo’s face as he found himself tightly embraced by two small arms.
If only Mark had realized it. If only Mark could see his little self now. “If only Mark knew…” Dustin muttered sadly, reflecting Chris’ heartbroken face.
“If only…” Chris agreed with a heavy tone as he silently saved in his memory this pure, bittersweet moment of Eduardo hugging Mark back as fiercely, one large hand caressing the springs of brown hair.
“Does he know?” Dustin asked, feigning to scratch his eyes.
“If we’d tried to explain it to him earlier, Wardo wouldn’t have believed it. He would just think that Mark was screwing with him again. Things would’ve gone twice as complicated— if not worse. So I didn’t say anything.” Chris replied.
“Wait. If Wardo doesn’t know that’s Mark, then why’re they getting along?”
“Because he thinks it’s Mark’s son.” The silence that Dustin spent making an incredulous look was filled with blurred noises of Mark’s excited chatting as he moved around his desk with an enthusiastic skip, pulling Eduardo with his excitedly.
“You told him Mark was Mark’s son?” Chris said with the twice the shock once he rediscovered the ability to speak.
“I didn’t have to. I think he jumped to that conclusion before I could even think of a cover.” Chris shrugged, a smile planted on his lips as he watched the two figures stand side by side, Eduardo listening attentively to Mark’s speedy talking. Taking advantage of the space of his office, Mark began doing wide and energetic gestures with his hands that made both Chris and Eduardo shake with laughter. “Look at this, what are they doing?” He said between chuckles, shifting the laptop to Dustin who leaned down curiously before a grin spread on his face, followed by a long and seriously unfitting “AWWWWWW…”
“Mark’s teaching him Dragon Ball moves!” Dustin cooed, only making Chris’ scandalized grimace deeper.
“Dragon what moves?” Chris asked, all the more confused when Dustin only responded by mimicking his face and saying, “Did you have a childhood?!”
“As a matter of fact, I do; in a TARDIS, travelling with the Doctor through time and space and saving the universe from Daleks.” Chris said haughtily, silently relishing the look of complete lost scrunching Dustin’s face.
“Sure, weirdo.” Dustin bantered.
When a comforting silence clouded the room and the two engrossed themselves with laughter in watching the commotion that was Eduardo trying and failing extravagantly in mimicking Mark’s precise movements, Dustin asked out of the blue, “Do you think Mark’ll remember?”
“Let’s hope so. He wouldn’t want to forget something like this.”
“What do you think will happen when Wardo finds out?”
Chris gave it a thought, finding little or, otherwise, impossible answers. Then again, impossibility seemed to be in their favor. “Probably something that doesn’t include smashing laptops.”
A/N: Apologies for the delay. More special appearances.
:: :: :: Disclaimer :: :: ::
I own nothing. Except the idea. Which costs nothing and, therefore, is priceless.
“Twi’lers! Twi’lers, Twi’lers, Twi’lers!” was the cheerful response that sang to Eduardo as he inspected the candy pack in his hand with a confused frown. As quickly as he’d discovered the sugary weight that appeared to have magically materialized in his pocket, Eduardo lost the candy bar to a pair of small, eager, and dreadfully peanut-butter-and-jam-gloved hands.
“Hey…” It was a false, playful attempt to chiding, given the small smile and the flutter of laughter that Eduardo was starting to grow an inevitable proneness to since those two bright, blue, tearful eyes landed on him hours ago.
With a grin painted with smudges of strawberry jam, the boy tore the candy pack open and was prepared to devour three sticks of liquorice in one bite only to have the pack snatched from under his peanut-butter covered nose. “My Twi’lers…” The boy said forlornly with eyes that looked twice as betrayed as it was blue.
“Wait just a second, buddy. You’ve just chomped down two sandwiches and a slice of pizza. Unless you want a nasty tummy ache, you better finish your milk and give your stomach a rest first.” Eduardo said gently. The thick traces of jam became all the more evident once a frown deepened the betrayed expression.
Eduardo, unfortunately, was not immune.
He did try to resist by dabbing off the mess covering the delicately cherubic chin until – and this would be the moment of surrender to Eduardo – the pinkish lips began to wobble.
“Twi’lers…” the little voice begged, further pushing Eduardo to submission when small hands instantly dropped the crayons it had been joying over earlier and reached out to Eduardo. With bold determination, the boy scuttled towards his target of sugary sweets without even a bother when the drawings he was so carefully drawing with crayons, and peanut butter and jam were slowly being demolished by his crawling knees.
This, however, didn’t sit well with Eduardo. For one, those drawings were promised to him as a reward after he’d perfected Goku’s moves earlier and Eduardo was quite committed in taking them home and framing them in case this becomes the last time Eduardo is allowed near Mark’s kid – Eduardo had have half a decade to learn that people often never change and, if so they do, it would only be for the worse. He had to expect the better and worse between two evils.
He wasn’t going to lay bare before Mark and hand him another blade.
Not when Eduardo’s whole being was beginning to revolve around the smiles and giggles of this boy.
Second, a growing boy he might be, but the kid was surely not prone to injuries. Half of his immune system and physicality came from Mark Zuckerberg after all.
“Come here, buddy.” Eduardo heaved, lifting the small body before it encountered a series of dramatic sores and had the boy sit on his lap. “You’re gonna make a mess of yourself there.”
“Twi’lers…” unsurprisingly was the reply. Barely resisting sneezing from the springs of hair tickling his nose, Eduardo – busying himself with removing the pieces of wax colours stuck on the little boy’s knees if only to delay answering the request – felt tiny fingers wrapping around his hand.
Eduardo was about ready to drag away the Twizzlers, but it seemed the little hand had no plans to steal them away as it only remained to hold Eduardo’s wrist. “P’wease, Wardo…”
Wardo… How phenomenal it was, that a simple word could open in a split second a scar five years in healing. With all his practice in aloofness and indifference in the office, Eduardo felt so helpless once he realized he could do so little in preventing the wet sting that was gradually spreading and blurring his eyes.
He embraced the air of bittersweet nostalgia bursting through his memories as tightly as he embraced the fragile body between his arms.
“Alright, buddy. But only just one.” He whispered against the curls. Eduardo grasped the chance as rigidly as he could and patterned the feel of the curls against his cheeks, gluing in his mind the scent of baby shampoo and sweat mingling so perfectly that the hand successfully pulling out a sugar stick escaped his attention entirely.
“Thanks, Wardo.” The body rested against his chest.
“You’re welcome, little man.” Answered Eduardo as his eyes lingered by the crumpled drawing on the floor.
:: :: ::
The sun had been sinking, the sky darkening and raindrops staining the large glass wall of Mark’s office when Eduardo felt the measured, yet uniformed breathing from the bundle resting upon his chest.
The sofa could only benefit one person, and the boy didn’t want to take advantage of the only soft and sleepable surface in the room. So, it was only practical that he make Eduardo as his personal pillow and comforter.
The role of blanket was left to Eduardo’s blazer – the only job that it excelled better on than making Eduardo look intimidatingly good.
The rain grew heavier, rainwater tainting the scenery of the window until it was no less than a vague, carless blob of mismatched hues.
I’m afraid if you don’t come out here, you’re gonna get left behind.
Eduardo blinked, scowling at the window and, instead, rested his eyes onto the ceiling.
I want – I want – I need you…
“I wish you meant it.” He muttered to the ceiling. Inanimate as they were, the air conditioner responded with the same hum, the rainwater pounded the glass with the same force, the clock continued to tick, and the sky proceeded to darken.
The world cared very little.
It suggested, in fact, that Eduardo should care even less.
Eduardo differed and thought he shouldn’t care at all.
However, the monotonous mumbles that had constantly surrounded and deafen Eduardo’s ears grew silent and unheard once the gentle breathing blanketing his chest did a gurgle, accompanied by small fists curling tenderly on his shirt.
“Miracle worker.” Eduardo turned his head and found Chris standing by the doors in a state that could only be summed through the word ‘relieved’.
"That I am.” He answered, tracing careless patterns upon the delicate scalp of springy hair.
“And what a lovely mess you’ve made for me.” Chris said deadpan, surveying the floor with as much surprise as his tone entailed.
“That’s my line, asshole.”
“Tut tut, Wardo. Language.”
“Inexcusable.” Reprimanded Chris with a voice all too familiar.
Eduardo snorted. “Always the professional among us, Chris. And can I just say, sneaking the Twizzlers in my pocket," Eduardo shook his head. "No wonder Mark never lets you off, you evil bastard.”
“He hasn’t the balls, I’m afraid.” Chris said tartly. "And you're welcome, wanker."
“You have too much for your own good.”
The languid movements of Chris’ shadow as he avoided the obstacle course of a floor on his way to Mark’s chair drew Eduardo’s attention.
The tired curve resting on Eduardo lips as he stared at the silhouette that had sat by the desk disappeared measurably as the storm stirred to the point of thunder and the air conditioner reached an unforgivable temperature.
“He better be ready to explain.” Eduardo said.
Chris spat back a snort, lazily twirling the computer chair until he was facing the window and the chaos it held. “Haven’t you learned yet, Wardo, not to over-expect from Mark? He’ll only disappoint you.”
“He owes me an explanation.”
“Oh, Wardo. I’ve known you both for far too long and Mark owes you far too much of far too many. An explanation should be the least of his payments.”
“I’ve already taken what I needed.”
“Only 5 per cent.”
“Plus the settlement. That was enough.”
“Don’t kid yourself, Saverin. You and I both know it’s not.” Chris answered, and what Eduardo feared the most was the fact that he lacked both reason and will to deny it. It had been so effortless before to lie, even to Chris.
Chris seemed to know this, seemed to read Eduardo quite well as he stood from the chair and walked to the wall where the room thermometer was. “If it were enough, you wouldn’t have come.”
“Chris, if I hadn’t come, I’m pretty sure you would’ve murdered me in my office with a ballpoint pen by now.”
A chuckle fluttered from across the room and Eduardo couldn’t help settle more comfortably when a gush of warmth cloaked the room.
“That, and I gave you good excuse to come here and not look like an idiot.”
Which was, again, an inevitably accurate observation given that Eduardo did— during the moments of precariously driving around Facebook offices’ parking lot – unmistakably feel like an idiot. Only because the thought of seeing Mark in person did quite a number on his composure, both emotional and physiological.
Eduardo, once again, lied and stayed silent. And Chris respected this, Chris having the rare ability to control his patience from that of a lion’s to that of a snail’s.
“He drew me this.” Eduardo began, cradling all his questions beneath a simple surface structure of a sentence. Only because he didn’t know how to ask, or rather, ask boldly.
It was absurd— the feeling of loss as he handed away to Chris the crumpled paper that had been hanging from his fingertips.
It appeared that Chris, despite all his confidence and demeaning intimidation, was no expert in hiding true emotion when it came to facial expressions. In fact, as Eduardo levelled his eyes towards his face, Chris could no less be an open book – the book reading an oversentimental show of pity and sympathy.
“Cute.” Chris said nonchalantly, a useless effort to appear unmoved.
“I didn’t expect Mark to be the kind of arrogant prick who’d name his kid after himself.”
Chris’ response was a sigh.
“Come on, Chris. Where is he?”
Eduardo wasn’t given an answer. Dustin had knocked on the doors and Chris, with all the seriousness of the world mustered on his face, folded the drawing, gave it back to Eduardo, caressed the head of curls and said “He’ll be here.” before leaving the room.
:: :: ::
“Jean, I need you to wake him but keep him undisturbed. He needs to witness this.”
Hands. Cold palms.
You have no idea what that’s going to mean to my father.
Sure I do.
“…Wha?” Eduardo tried but his eyelids seemed plastered close, too heavily sedated by sleep.
“It’s alright.” Whispered a woman. A slight and comforting pressure pressed on his temples.
You told your lawyers I was torturing animals?
No, he didn’t tell us about it at all. Our litigators are capable of finding a Crimson article. In fact when we raised the subject with him he defended you.
“Such a delicate mutation. And the poor child had resisted it all these years.”
“I’ve tried to reverse it, professor, but his mutation is too unstable.”
“W-who… are you?” Eduardo tried but his ears seemed muffled by echoes too distant.
I need you out here.
“Good evening, Eduardo. My name is Charles Xavier and this is my colleague, Jean Grey, whom I believe you’ve informally met earlier.”
Eduardo peeked through his lids and found a set of eyes that were equally bright and blue as Mark’s. For a moment he allowed himself to dream.
Wardo, we did it.
But as his vision began to clear and the heavy slumber drifted from his body, the bright eyes refocused into a face, old and gentle without a spot of hair on its head. It greeted Eduardo with a smile.
Eduardo found that he couldn’t return the kind gesture. The small body that was using him as a cushion shuffled with a silent complain of lacking comfort and Eduardo, wanting to provide the comfort needed, cradled the boy closer, pulling off his blazer once he felt the boy’s back; shirt drenched with sweat.
“God, you’re soaked.” Eduardo mumbled worriedly, suddenly jerked awake. In the midst of struggling to sit up, cold hands pressed down his shoulders. It was only then, as he looked up, did he notice a red-haired woman crouched behind him.
“It might be best to keep him asleep.” Said the man who called himself Xavier.
Eduardo looked up. “He’ll get sick.”
“He will be just fine. I assure you.” Xavier smiled again.
A light humming sounded as Xavier approached closer, Eduardo’s eyes drew down, landing on the steel chair the man sat on. This, however, was least of Eduardo’s concerns. On the contrary, he felt neither concern nor threat at all the closer Xavier came.
I was your only friend.
I will bring back your friend.
You had one friend.
“I can hear you in my head.” Eduardo said and felt the cold palms return to his temples.
Xavier only replied with a gentle look before he rested his hands on the head of curls.
I need you.
I’m here for you.
“I’m here for you.”