Work Header

M.A.D. (Mutually Assured Destruction)

Work Text:




There's only one way to enter this world, but there are so many interesting ways to leave it.
- Agatha Christie


1 | the facebook

It's not actually a book.

Of course it's not actually a book -- outside of the classic Sherlock Holmes and subsequent dime-store murder mysteries, what actual self-respecting person would be so dumb as to actually make a scrapbook and leave it lying around? Please don't say there are people in the world who do that: Mark's faith in the general level of human intelligence is on shaky ground already, and if it slips, he's going to just call it quits and move to a cabin in Montana to become a hermit and dedicate himself to tai-chi.

The first time he articulates this sentiment to somebody, Eduardo just laughs at him, all teeth. Offended at the open, mocking glee on his face, Mark bristles a bit.

"You're full of it," Eduardo tells him, leaning forward over the entree options. All cafeteria food bears some resemblance to roadkill, and he's trying to gauge which dish looks less like it still posseses eyeballs and will look at him soulfully when he eats it. There's a reason Mark doesn't often eat in the cafeteria -- for the money he's paying every year (okay, the money his scholarship is paying every year,) you'd think Harvard would be able to afford something better than food that couldn't even pass itself off as army rations. "You wouldn't be able to pull off being a hermit, Mark. You need as many stupid people around you as possible so you can feel better than them."

"You have a rather unflattering opinion of me," Mark decides, gripping his tray with both hands.

Eduardo drops a bowl of kind of green-looking pasta onto his tray, and takes one for himself. Mark looks down at it and comes to the abrupt conclusion that he hates pasta: that just looks offensive, like the kind of sludge you pick off moldy bread, but in a bowl.

"I have an honest opinion of you," Eduardo corrects him, without heat. "I thought that's what you liked best. Now," he presses into Mark's personal space like a collie attempting to herd a small child, and his grin turns as sly as the slim side of a dime. "Tell me about your facebook."



1 |

The way it looks in Mark's head (because it will never appear anywhere else; Mark may be proud of his accomplishments, but he also has the survival skills of a cockroach in nuclear holocaust, and he will never run the risk of getting caught) is a simple profile-type layout. He runs through the pages in his head when it's seven in the morning and he's feeling discouraged about everything -- because who isn't discouraged at seven in the morning, it's possibly the most horrible time of day -- and they're clean, straight-forward, blue headers and white pages.

He's got them laid out in blocks of facts: a picture (usually a before and after, courtesy of his photographic memory,) their name, where they lived, where they went to school, how old they were when Mark killed them, how old Mark was when he killed them, how he killed them, and maybe even a subsection off to the side on how many people actually missed them when they died. It's better organized than any resume Mark's ever put together; he keeps them on the highest mental shelf with all his major accomplishments.

He knows everyone in Eduardo's facebook, too, although there aren't as many, obviously. It's like having an admin key, and what they never bothered to learn about these people before they killed them, they create.

For example: Milly Garcia -- who said she was going to come to Mark's bar mitzvah and went to Peter Yates's birthday party instead -- he imagines that she would have been a Beatles fan, that she probably would have owned dogs and liked to share cute videos from YouTube with her friends.

He has no idea what her real hobbies were. She was kind of too young to have them when she died, but he's always going to remember the choked little noise of shock she made when he pushed her out of that tree. That's one of the pictures he keeps on her facebook page: her body on the ground, face twisted grotesquely towards her shoulders like a doll with its head on backwards, and the way her bones looked almost yellow, streaked with red where they'd splintered through her skin.

"They said I was too shocked to scream," he tells Eduardo, whose face is in sharp contrast, the only light in the room coming from Mark's computer screen. The shadows stretch into the sockets of his eyes, hide in the corners of his grin. "So the mailwoman called 911 first. My mom likes to tell people that I witnessed a traumatic event as a child, and never recovered from it, and that's why I'm so --" he gestures vaguely. "Me."

"What, uncommunicative and cold?" Eduardo supplies helpfully.

Mark shoots him a scornful look. "Always with the adjectives."

In the next room, Mark's roommate knocks something over and cusses, and they lean towards each other instinctively, conspiratorially: whispering is second nature to people with secrets.

"So she was your first?" Eduardo goes, his eyes positively dancing.

Mark grins back, feeling it stretch at the corners of his mouth, and forces himself into a noncommittal shrug. "I had a lot of room for improvement. One thing you can learn from my experience is to not climb a tree with a girl so you can push her to her death without first making sure that you can, in fact, climb back down afterwards."

Eduardo falls back into his chair at that, hiding his laughter with his hand before offering him a thumbs-up. "I like it," he goes, and Mark sticks that onto Milly Garcia's facebook page, too.



1 |

A Friday night in November his sophomore year, and Mark slams into his dorm room at a completely unreasonable hour, feeling reckless and furious.

Dustin, whose night probably hasn't even started yet (Dustin is the kind of person that other people don't invite to parties unless they're completely smashed) startles out of his skin and almost falls off the couch. "Woah there, Thundercat," he goes when he recovers enough to register the expression on Mark's face. "What have we said about ethical treatment of doors? If we don't stand up for the slighted minority and curb the abuse --"

"Erica Albright is a bitch," Mark states, calmly, coldly, factually.

Dustin frowns at him. Mark finds Dustin an adequate specimen of humanity: he's smart enough to keep up with Mark, thick-skinned enough to put up with Mark, and unobservant enough that Mark could probably come back to the dorm with blood under his nails and Dustin wouldn't be the slightest bit suspicious. He's an acceptable roommate, but sometimes he's frustrating.

"We broke up," he elaborates, and instantly corrects himself. "She broke up with me. She probably would have thrown a glass of water at my face, but she refrained, for which I'm glad. That would have damaged her dignity far more than mine."

Dustin's eyebrows climb his forehead in a slow creep. "Ohhhhh," he drags out, and gets off the couch, an understanding tilt to his mouth. "So what are we going to do?" His eyes light up. "Can we panty-raid the BU girls' dorms?"

"Their dorms are coed," Mark responds immediately, already in front of his computer, "and I don't think there's a socially acceptable way to boxer-raid yet, though if you want to be the first to establish a trend, I commend you." And then an idea comes to him like sticking his finger in a light socket, sudden and abrupt enough to make him jolt. He spins around in his chair so that Dustin can't see the expression on his face, and he fishes his phone out of his pocket.

I'm going to need an alibi, he texts to the first name under E in his contacts.

He gets back a reply that's nothing but exclamation points, which he takes to mean that Eduardo is in. Of course he is, because he takes "I need an alibi" as "I need you," and Eduardo has never been shy about letting him know that they're a two-man team.

He spins back around to smile at Dustin, thin and cutting. "Is there any beer in the fridge?"



1 |

In the earliest hours of the morning, the servers cut and Chris goes out into the hallway to check with the other rooms on their floor. Mark settles back into his seat, a feeling in his chest like how a cat must feel right before it starts purring, content and self-satisifed and almost swelling with it. This is the kind of accomplishment most kids work months to obtain. Mark did it in a matter of hours.

Chris slips back inside. "Josh and Raymond say they can't connect, either. The network is officially crashed."

Dustin whoops and flings himself down on Mark's bed, arms raised to the ceiling like he's announcing a goal.

"Congratulations, Mark," Eduardo's mouth quirks, dry and a little bemused. "You've broken the Internet." He leans his hip against Mark's desk, twirling the Dry-Erase marker in between his fingers. Mark smiles back at him, proud.

"Oh, shit, you did," says Dustin, sitting up straight, like this just occurred to him. "Crap, man, what are we going to do now? How does one entertain themselves without the Internet?"

"They sleep," Eduardo offers pointedly. "Or read. Or study. Aren't your group members from your Econ class still waiting for you to e-mail them your Powerpoint slides?"

Dustin scoffs. "Screw that, I'm too wired to do anything productive," he says cheerfully, and then leaps to his feet. "I'm going to get more beer. You bitches drank through that shit way too fast. Chris, you coming?"

"Seeing as I'm the only one here over twenty-one, I kind of have to," Chris says in a long-suffering kind of voice, but he's already up and grabbing his coat.

The moment the dorm room door clicks and locks shut behind them ("what are you talking about, there is no theory of evolution," Dustin proclaims to Chris as they go, "only the list of animals that Chuck Norris lets live,") Eduardo sits down on the edge of Mark's mattress and leans forward, steepling his fingers together and fixing Mark with a cutting, see-through look. His eyebrows sit heavy and dark over his eyes, like Mark is one of those Magic Eye pictures from the newspaper.

"Okay," he says seriously. "What is this really about? I mean, I know you're a bit of an ass, but even you are not pathetic or adolescent enough to make a website that ranks hot women on campus just because your girlfriend broke up with you. So tell me, what's up with FaceMash."

"It's necessary," Mark replies lowly.

"For..." Eduardo prompts.

Mark spins in his chair, a full 360 before coming to a stop facing Eduardo, a foot of space between them. Reckless delight sparks off inside of him like fireworks.

"Because," he goes, rapid-fire. "Right now, people from Harvard tech support are being dragged out of their beds to deal with this. I crashed the network, Wardo. What do very smart, very influential, very pompous rich people do when someone's made them look foolish? They find someone to blame it on. They're going to come for me, sooner or later depending on how much they're worth their salt, and they're going to drag me up in front of a disciplinary board." He leans forward. "And while I'm there, you are going to add Erica Albright to our facebook."

He sees the shift in Eduardo's train of thoughts as easily as if they're his own, the flicker in his eyes as his mind jumps from what stupid thing do I have to rescue you from today, Mark, to the various applicable uses of thumbscrews and chloroform.

Mark and Eduardo work good together. Any ignoramus with a blunt object (or worse, a gun, please, can you get any more lazy) can commit murder, but what takes real skill is not getting caught. Eduardo's the best Mark's ever met at the killing part -- he gets people, understands them while Mark just stands around wondering how on earth the human race evolved out of one-celled organisms -- but crafting a solid, airtight alibi is Mark's specialty. It's what separates him from people who are never going to amount to anything.

When Mark first met him, Eduardo hadn't yet graduated beyond birds and the occasional yappy lapdog. He took to murder easily, artfully, which didn't surprise Mark all that much, because the ones with neglect and abandonment issues usually turn out to be the most creative. Eduardo's intelligent, hardworking, loyal to a fault, and also a human barometer, which is interesting and useful and somewhat of a cool party trick.

Eduardo tilts his head, thoughtful. "Hmmm," he says. "You're planning a revenge killing? Aren't we a little old for pushing girls out of trees?"

"It's not a revenge killing if there's nothing to avenge," Mark retorts, needled. "We're not going to kill her because she broke up with me. That would imply being hurt, which I'm not."

Eduardo rolls his eyes. "Uh-huh," he drags out, disbelieving. "And one plus one is two, tell me more."

Mark makes an impatient noise, because that is childish and unfair. "Seriously, Wardo, I am offering you this murder entirely for yourself. The first person they're going to be suspicious of is the slighted ex-boyfriend, so I need to look as uninvolved as possible. And you -- you've only met Erica, what, twice? That's not a connection. Besides, does anybody ever suspect you. You get indignant and wobbly-lipped when somebody who doesn't need it parks in the handicapped stall; you hardly have the face of a stone-cold killer. And they'd never suspect someone with as much to lose as you do."

Still looking a little hesitant, Eduardo rubs his knuckles along his jaw.

Mark leans forward, pushing into Eduardo's personal space. "Remember when we discussed icicles?"

He's looking for it and he catches it: the fractional widening of excitement in Eduardo's eyes. "Do you think it's the right time of the year for that?"

"Have you seen the size of the icicles hanging outside Pat Persade's window? They're definitely sharp enough. Imagine what they'd look like through the hollow of her throat."

He can tell he's got Eduardo's attention now, because the idea of a murder weapon that will melt after you use it is too good to pass up. There are two things that will override Eduardo's common sense: Mark, and the possibility of a murder most beautiful.

"Fine," Eduardo's eyebrows snap together. "Let's do this."



1 |

The only reason they know each other at all is because Mark is very good at computers.

Everybody knows this, because it's kind of obvious, like saying that the sky is blue, Dustin is the worst wingman ever, and Bill Clinton did not have relations with that woman. Mark has been good at computers since before Windows 98 was flying off the shelves, and yet at family holidays, he still finds himself forced into helping aunts and cousins make Excel spreadsheets and install the Sims for the third time, and afterwards, he always vaguely feels like going out and buying a postal worker uniform and a 9mm.

So, the story goes: three months into his first semester at Harvard, a command prompt pops up onto his screen while he's in the middle of something else, alerting him to an IP address that had gone and accessed a variety of archived new articles, the kind where you have to pay a certain fee to get them because they're no longer current.

For a moment, he's puzzled, wondering why he set an alarm for himself for some curious busybody, before he gets a good look at the stories this person was looking at, and a cold chill races all the way to the base of his spine, because they're his stories. All the miniscule and sometimes not-so-miniscule coverage on the people in Mark's facebook. His murders, the ones he's been so very, very careful that nobody could connect to each other or back to him.

In five minutes, he's tracked the IP address down to a dorm room on the Harvard campus, and that, perhaps, is the scariest part of it all. He grabs his lanyard and blows by his roommate (not Dustin, not yet, but some other guy named Gregory, who's tolerable in that he seems content to ignore Mark so long as Mark doesn't, quote, "creep on my hoes or creep on my bros," which, what does that even mean) and crosses the commons.

The thing about dorms is that, a couple months in, the freshmen begin to grow lax on security, so when Mark reaches room 417, he twists at the doorknob and finds it unlocked.

It's a single (of course it is, this is Harvard, to walk across campus is to practically tread on $100 bills) and the kid sitting on his twin bed with his back against the wall startles in alarm when Mark comes banging inside.

"Why," Mark demands without any sort of preamble whatsoever. "Are you obsessively looking at news stories of deceased, missing, and mutilated teenagers?"

The kid -- boy, same age as Mark, with very wide eyes, wearing Business Leader of America slacks and a tee -- blinks for a bit, and then, perhaps most bizarrely of all, he looks Mark up and down, from the heavy set of his brows to his white-knuckled grip on the doorknob and the fact he didn't bother to put shoes on before coming over here, and the corner of his mouth drags upwards in a half-smile.

He sets his laptop to the side and scoots to the edge of the bed. "I'm curious. How did you hide the bodies?" he goes, out of absolutely nowhere.

Mark quickly shuts the door behind him, hissing out between his teeth because there are people out in the hallway. "Excuse me?"

"Well," says the kid, gesturing with his hands like he'd asked after nothing more complicated than the weather. "See, that's what I always got caught up on. People's remains are so cumbersome when you're done, and I never figured out the quickest, cleanest way to dispose of them, though not for lack of wanting to try."

Mark stares at him, as flabbergasted as he's ever been.

"I mean," the kid continues, and there's some red to the tips of his ears now. "Your kill count is amazing, if you don't mind my saying so. You're only eighteen and you've already got seven people -- well, that I know of, there's no accounting --"

"That's all of them," Mark blurts out, because he wouldn't be here otherwise, and the kid smiles so wide it cuts dimples deep into his cheeks.

"I thought so," he says cheerfully. "But your style is so varied that I couldn't be sure what I could safely attribute to you. They never found the bodies for five of them --" he sits up straight, almost bouncing on the edge of the mattress in his excitement. "-- which, the guy in NYC that everybody assumed had gotten swept out to sea during that summer storm, can I just say that was absolutely genius. How did you do it?"

Mark sways on the spot a little bit, torn between a deep swelling of flattery and utter terror, because while it's nice to be acknowledged for something he's put considerable time and effort into (and who doesn't like being called a genius for those things?) this kid knows about Ian, who was on trumpet in the high school marching band, and when he came in after practice, he always used to drain the spittle from his mouthpiece all over Mark's precalculus homework, so when they went to NYC for regionals at the same time Mark's aunt had a new baby, he made sure Ian leaned out a little too far over the pier as a storm raged shorewards. Nobody should have been able to make a connection like that, especially not after Ian's body never washed up.

"I am very good at not getting caught," he says finally.

The kid's grin widens, interest sparking in his eyes. "And now that I have your attention," he says, all teeth. He extends his hand, easily, like they've just met in the caf or something. "I'm Eduardo Saverin."

After a beat, Mark pushes off the door and shakes his hand, because what else can he do?

He spends the next couple of days in a dizzy, tight-knot of fear, second-guessing every single life choice he's ever made because this is horrible, knowing that somebody else knows. And, empirically, he's aware there's very little Eduardo can do, because Mark is good at covering his tracks and these are cold cases regardless, but it doesn't stop Mark's mind from going over every possibility because that's what a mind like his does.

Meanwhile, he seems to have accidentally acquired a best friend.

It's the only way to become friends with Mark, really: just show up and then not go away, because it's not like Mark's going to do any of the work, and eventually, he finds himself actually looking for Eduardo, outside classes and during lunch break, like he expects him to be there.

Everyone's rather baffled by this, Mark perhaps most of all, because people like Mark don't attract people like Eduardo -- he's rich, social, and funny; everything that Mark's not, and people's eyes tend to flit back and forth between them like they're not quite sure which of them doesn't belong.

It would be annoying if Eduardo was unbearable, but he isn't, and that's pretty much all the criteria Mark looks for in a friend.

He winds up attending more frat parties than he ever intended to. Mark Zuckerberg is not a frat boy kind of person; he'd rather stay at home and do something productive by himself than stand around awkwardly in a smoky room, waiting until the girls were drunk enough that it became socially acceptable to try and look down their shirts. So this is something of a surprise.

Then comes the day that Eduardo just waltzes into Mark's dorm room, sits down on the edge of Mark's desk -- right next to where Mark is trying to type up an analytical paper on how people who can't master basic text-editing HTML probably don't know basic English, they're that similar -- and says, "If I tell you that I have a plan involving my Humanities TA and a pair of hypodermic needles, would you help me get away with it?"

Mark, who'd been half-way expecting this, already has lifted his hands partway in the air to go, "I'm not murdering people for you, dude, sorry," when the words hypodermic needles make him pause. He puts his hands back down and turns his head to look at Eduardo.

"What did you have in mind?" he asks, toneless, and Eduardo's lips twitch at the ends, because that's pretty much as hook, line, and sinker as Mark gets.

"Well," he starts, slowly, and his smile grows. "You know that stuff that's inside glow sticks?"

The TA's name is Michael Oglegias, and it might be the most amazing thing Mark's ever seen, the way his veins light up neon under his skin, streaks and tributaries of color up and down his arms, into his neck, across his chest. Michael dies pretty much instantly, because there's a reason they stick huge labels on glow stick packages warning you not to ingest and definitely not inject into your veins, but the whites of his eyes go an amazing shade of green first, and Mark puts that front and center on Michael's newly-created facebook page.

It's too late in the semester to cancel the class or find another competent TA, so Eduardo's Humanities professor basically winds up giving everyone a pass.

"It's a crap requirement anyway, it's not important for your major, and your TA was only making your lives miserable to make up for his own lack of character," Mark tells Eduardo, matter-of-fact. "Everything worked out for the best."

"Especially the bit where when they found his body, the police assumed he did it to himself at a rave," Eduardo goes, smiling the radiant smile of someone who got away with murder. It's a distinct look.

He shrugs back. "If you spend your life being an asshole, nobody's going to be heartbroken enough to question the official coroner's statement when you die. They'll believe you were stupid enough to do whatever you did."

This earns him a sideways look from Eduardo, who comes over to put his hands on Mark's shoulder and give him a light shake. "Sometimes you should really listen to what comes out of your own mouth."

"I resent that implication," Mark says without any resentment whatsoever.

Over summer break, they add the second person to Eduardo's facebook, tenth to Mark's (although it's a bit of a stretch considering Mark never actually lays eyes on the man himself.) Eduardo tells him about him and they spend a week on the phone with each other, to the point where Mark's little sister starts loudly proclaiming that Mark's got a girlfriend and he got her pregnant, which results in his parents looking worried and Mark vindictively subscribing his sister to every brain-cell-killing teen magazine known to man and Eduardo being more amused than he has any right to be on the other end of the line, like he can't quite believe that Mark Zuckerberg can be schooled by a sixteen-year-old girl.

But then they kill his competition and Eduardo makes $300,000 betting on oil futures. So. It's a win for everybody (except the oil guy, but he's dead, so he probably doesn't care.)



1 |

At the beginning of their sophomore year -- around the time that Mark first meets Erica -- Mark and Eduardo attend a seminar on abnormal psychology simply because they think it'd be funny.

The speaker, a distinguished woman with a muddling accent and a very long title, brings up the question of why some people don't think it's wrong to willingly take the life of another person, and Mark and Eduardo share amused glances from under their eyelashes, which they've been doing all night.

It's rather ironic, really, how people seem to think there must be some deep, thoughtful reason why other people commit murder, and how they feel the need to discuss it at length.

In reality, it's never that complicated.

It's not like the sky darkens whenever they're around and small, woodland animals flee at the sight of them. In fact, it's doubtful they're that different from any other person muddling along, because really, doesn't everybody try to hide the most distasteful parts of themselves? Somewhere along the way, Mark and Eduardo could have easily developed an intense dislike for freckles, a knack for weaving, or a fabulous baritone. Instead, they got a propensity for killing people. They're only that small degree of separation away from everyone else, that one tiny little developmental change.

The psychologist uses words like "deviant" and "inhuman," but what, Mark thinks, is more human than reveling in your own mastery over others?

Mark Zuckerberg kills because some people simply don't deserve to live. They're wasting their chances and the world is better off without them. Mark's a genius, he's very good at calculation, and he considers himself objective enough to be able to determine who lives and who dies and make the best choice.

Eduardo Saverin kills because if he can't make his family proud, then he can at least make sure they'll never forget him.



1 |

The news doesn't even reach the Harvard campus. Everyone's too worked up about FaceMash: the journalism committee calls it the immature act of an immature man, who did a dehumanizing service to women by suggesting that they can be set to a grading scale like they were property and not people, whatever that means, Mark doesn't care, and the technology department just kind of wants his head on a platter because he made their network look like a shit dial-up version of AOL.

So, in the indisputable presence of thirty people, Mark sits through his preliminary hearing with as much patience he can muster (which is to say, none at all) while across the river, Erica Albright goes missing from her dorm laundry room, her bright orange ankle socks still left unfolded on top of the dryer.

Sometime late in the afternoon, Mark comes slamming out of the administration building and finds Eduardo waiting for him, crouched low next to the concrete support pillars, his collar turned up against the cold. At the sight of him, he pushes himself upright, reaching out. His fingers are shocked red and cold, closing around Mark's wrist, and they half-walk, half-haul each other a safe distance away from the building.

"Well?" Mark demands, feeling breathless like he'd run this whole way, just to get to this moment.

Eduardo's fingers slide up, pinning the heel of his hand underneath his thumb. He lifts Mark's hand to eye-level, forcing his fingers to spread open like starfish. Slowly, ceremoniously, he slides a ring onto Mark's finger: Erica's high school class ring.

The thrill of it cuts all the air to Mark's lungs. He curls his fingers, catching Eduardo's between them, and he swears that Eduardo holds him up for a moment, just through that contact.

He wets his lips. "Tell me," he goes in a voice that can't be his, too rough and uneven and nothing like his usual stoic delivery. "Tell me, did she scream?"

Eduardo's mouth spreads, a skull's grin on his friendly face. He puts his lips very close to Mark's ear. "Which time?" he returns.

"Tell me," Mark demands again, and Eduardo laughs right up against him, throaty and low.

See, the thing that never gets said in the end is that Mark probably did love Erica. She was nice to him, and who doesn't fall a little in love with the person who's nice to you when no one else is? She was nice, not in that dismissive, don't-know-what-else-to-say way, but nice in the rare way. She was smart, smart enough that while Mark could loop circles around her, he was never inclined to because she kept up on her own, and she laughed at other people's bullshit, and there was that one time she fell asleep on his shoulder on the shuttle and her hair smelled like something he didn't have a name for.

This is what he'll remember the most, later: she smelled amazing, in that way he figured all girls did until his little sister explained in excruciating detail what actually went into it, and he kind of wanted to get the attention of everyone on the shuttle so that they could see that he, Mark Zuckerberg, had a gorgeous girl asleep and tucked up against him, because that right there was kind of wonderful.

He loved her when she was alive, and he loves her even more now that she's dead, because it's absolutely beautiful the way Eduardo describes her.

It's almost a shame she's dead, because Mark would have loved to have been there. This is why you shouldn't date people, he supposes; it makes it incredibly inconvenient when you have to kill them.



1 |

There's no story, of course.

A college student from BU goes missing, no explanation and no body found, and that's not a story. They warned you it might happen when you went off to school.

That's just the kind of society you live in.



1 |

The high that always follows the successful addition of a person to their facebook lasts for weeks, has him catching Eduardo's eye at random intervals, exchanging grins like Chesire cats -- or, at least, it should, except Mark has to deal with the unexpected low of being the overnight pariah for the FaceMash thing.

Whoever said that college is just a larger, whinier version of high school got it in one, because Mark is now that kid that everybody shoves into lockers just for fun (again.) And all those in possession of more than one X chromosome get up and deliberately move to other desks if he sits down anywhere near them in class, and most people in possession of a Y chromosome are too scared of their girlfriends to be seen talking to him, and Mark's a little annoyed, because seriously, FaceMash was just a diversion meant to give him a solid alibi so that Eduardo could slice Erica's throat open, and they're treating Mark like he's the unforgivable scum.

It never ceases to amaze him, how the human race can know staggeringly little and still make snap judgments like they have all the right in the world.

In Program Security 320, Tuesday-Thursday 1 to 2:15pm, Mark grabs an aisle seat and is only there for eighteen minutes, not even long enough for them to finish checking the homework, before someone in the row in front of him turns around and hands him a note, not meeting his eye.

Frowning, Mark unfolds it, noticing in an instant that something's wrong: the paper's lined, like any looseleaf you can buy at back-to-school sales for 10c a pack, but the creases in the paper are thick, cumbersome, like what happens to when you try to fold a greeting card.

U dick, it reads, sending a cold, acidic, helpless kind of fury sparking off in Mark's stomach -- a familiar feeling to anyone who's ever been bullied in their younger years and was never told why.

Scowling, he casts a look around the front of the classroom, seeing nothing but the backs of heads, not a single one of them familiar; the note could have originated from any one of them. He runs his fingers over the paper's strange texture.

You can say a lot of things about Mark, but he's not stupid. He grabs his backpack, hefting it over one shoulder and hustling out of class to the sneering condescension of the professor, who only got his teaching certificate because of a very strategically-timed donation (Mark can Google with the best of them, thank you very much) and could do with having his ego knocked down a peg or two.

When he gets back to his dorm, he throws his backpack down onto the couch (which makes a startled noise, so it might actually have been Chris or Dustin, whoops) and slams down at his desk, pulling his scanner out of the bottom drawer and plugging it in. He uploads the note to his computer, setting it to overlay and upping the saturation, and --


Yes, there it is.

A second note, underneath the first.

Unlike the grammatically incorrect one on top, this one is type-font, a rip-off of any all-CAPS Stencil font you can download online.


Mark doesn't panic. Mark Zuckerberg does not panic. He is too efficient to panic, because panicking never helped anybody.

But neither does he believe in wasting time. Next thing he knows, his phone's in his hands and he's half-way down the staircase in Kirkland, making people press up against the banister to avoid being bowled over.

He doesn't even get out the door before Eduardo meets him, rounding the corner by the RA's desk at the same time. They spin awkwardly, grabbing fistfuls of each other's clothes to kill their forward momentum, and then Mark hauls him into the mail room and shuts the door, cutting out everything but each other and the white walls and the thin rows of mailboxes.

"I got a note, too," Eduardo says unnecessarily, an envelope pinched between his thumb and forefinger the way people pick up dirty Kleenex. "Someone knows what we did."

Mark snatches the envelope out of his hand. Eduardo's name and dorm room number are printed on the outside in a gender-neutral cursive script. He flips it over; the tongue's ripped, of course, but he can still make out the faint etch of a manufacturer's symbol.

"At first I thought it might have been, you know, an initiation letter from the Phoenix," Eduardo babbles from somewhere over his head. "It was slipped under my door ten minutes ago --"

"Ten?" Mark asks sharply, looking up.


"Same time I got one passed back to me in class. It's not just one person, then. This is a collaborate effort." There's a single slip of paper inside, the same thick material as the one Mark got, like an RSVP notice. Unlike Mark's, though, this isn't cryptic in the least. Printed in the center of the page in the same stencil-font:


"They've been personalized," Mark mutters, more to himself than to Eduardo. "A fake finals club letter, and a note that can only be read after being Photoshopped."

"They know exactly who we are," Eduardo finishes for him, barely above a whisper.

A flush of anger unfurls under Mark's ribs, ballooning outward and stoppering up in his throat. Any idiot can commit murder, but only an idiot gets caught.

He shoves the letter into Eduardo's chest, hard enough to make him recoil back a step, shoulders hitting the mailboxes with a rattle.

"Did you get rid of the body properly?" he spits, low and vicious.

Eduardo straightens, his mouth thinning defensively. "Of course I did! You taught me everything I know," he hisses back, pointedly stepping up into Mark's space, so that Mark has no choice but to crane his neck back to keep eye contact. "And I'll thank you to remember that you left me with a strictly daylight-only window!"

"Oh right, because hauling around oversized, concealing bundles would have been less suspicious at nighttime," Mark snaps, his fists tense at his sides.

Eduardo's expression clears at the word 'nighttime', like something just occurred to him. "Hey!" he goes, clapping his hands around Mark's upper arms. "Hey, stop, I'm not the one you're mad at."

"You will be if you get us arrested for first-degree murder!"

"Stop," Eduardo goes, more forcefully. "If one of us had messed up that badly, do you think anyone would have wasted time sending us smug notes about it? This isn't the third grade and we aren't stealing gel pens, Mark, we'd have the police banging down our doors right now. Did either of the notes mention Erica by name? No. And look, it asks me where I was the night she disappeared." He shakes the envelope a little. "I took her in broad daylight. I don't think they saw a single thing. They just want to freak us out."

"Right," says Mark, swallowing. Logic creeps back in from around the corners of his mind, helpfully late. "No. Right. Blackmail is the last resort of the ignorant. Our mysterious pen pal knows nothing other than a girl has disappeared and we should be sent notes about it, which, why does that not surprise me. Every bad thing that happens to a girl from here until the point people forget about FaceMash will probably turn out to be my fault one way or another."

"There you go," Eduardo murmurs. "Way to keep positive."

Mark looks at him, unimpressed.

"Optimistic?" Eduardo tries, a grin tugging at the corner of his mouth. "Upbeat! Mark Zuckerberg, always sanguine in the face of prejudice and threat! Oh, hey," he blinks. "Sanguine is synonymous with bloody. How fitting."

"Oh, haha," goes Mark, without a change of tone, but he finds some of the nervous buzz leaving the ends of his fingers. It's just a note, they're not worried, Eduardo wasn't actually initiated into the Phoenix and nobody's found the corpse of Erica Albright yet. It's just people with too much time on their hands and some fancy stationary.

Eduardo's silent for a beat, and when Mark next looks up, it's to find this strange, almost half-expression on Eduardo's face, something between a smile and the wistful look that people get staring at sunsets or at the multi-faceted spread of stars from an unlit field.

He steps back instinctively. "Don't even," he starts, warningly. "This is not a hugging moment."

"I wouldn't dare to presume," Eduardo answers, lofty, but he does let Mark slip right out of his grip. Mark had almost forgotten he was holding on.



1 |

Mark scans Eduardo's note, too, but there aren't any hidden messages saturated into the paper.

When they're around other people, and eventually with each other because it's more expedient, they take to calling them letters from their secret admirers.

"What will you do, if they wind up going to the police, and connect you to Erica's disappearance?" comes from the direction of Mark's bed, where Eduardo is lying with his knees propped up against the wall, Econ textbook open on his stomach. He'd started off sitting up, legs criss-crossed and book open on his ankles, and through the afternoon progressed to something that is basically napping with a side of pretending to study.

"Tell the truth," Mark says simply, and Eduardo's head whips around in his peripheral. "It's effortless to frustrate someone by telling the truth, and it's certainly easier and more satisfying than trying to lie about it." He tosses a sly grin over his shoulder. "Erica and I broke up, and I have not seen her since."

"True," Eduardo allows with an answering smile.

Mark spins around in his chair. "We should fabricate something for you, though, since you're the one who actually did murder her and cannot clearly be put anywhere at the time she disappeared. My fault," he adds, casting an acidic look at the two folded notes. "It was sloppy to assume that nobody would suspect you as a matter of course."

"I'm your best friend," Eduardo remarks dryly. He tilts his head back, regarding Mark upside down, mouth twisted. "I think that makes me guilty of everything by association."


"No, but really," and he swings himself up into a sitting position. "That's exactly how I'm going to play it. Think of it like a business transaction -- first impressions are important. The cops come to your door, they'd like to ask you a few questions, you paste on your best 'oh god I hope they don't find my illegally downloaded porn' face and you let them in. You do your best to be helpful and you offer the vaguest information. Like, Erica liked opera, right?"

"She was cast in La Boheme in the third grade and usually got a part every year since then, but she hated it when people just straight up asked her to sing something, like they had any qualification to judge her ability," Mark says instantly.

"Yeah," Eduardo blinks. "Don't tell them that. It's like," he spreads his hands out. "It's like, if I draw a bunch of triangles and I tell you they're mountains, you're going to look at my triangles and you're going to see mountains. Likewise, if I show the cops that I'm well-meaning and all I really know about Erica is that she dated you and once you dipped her and kissed her outside her Music Theory midterm, and that's something anyone would know, because it was the butt of all campus jokes for two weeks."

"It seemed like a romantic gesture at the time, I thought she would appreciate it," Mark says, his well-worn excuse.

"It was awkward and adorable," Eduardo assures him, with the air of someone trying to come up with the politest adjectives possible. "But if I convince the cops that I'm useless right from the get go, I won't have to come up with a cover story."

Mark twists back around, laying his fingers out over the keyboard, and promptly forgetting what it was he wanted to do. Logically, he gets where Eduardo's coming from, but it still makes him a little antsy, all the uncertainty. He doesn't like having to sit and wait for someone else to make a move.

After a long beat, Eduardo speaks again. "You didn't have to date her, you know," he goes, with quiet solemnity.

Mark frowns quizzically, mostly aimed at the computer screen, but Eduardo can probably see it.

He continues, "I get that it was probably useful, in that you were a computer nerd with a beautiful girlfriend, and that never hurts. Not," he adds swiftly. "That I'm trying to trivialize your relationship or anything. For all I know, you were going to marry her --"

"I wasn't," Mark cuts in, because there are states where common law marriage is easier and cheaper, so why bother with a wedding. In the corner of his vision, he sees Eduardo's face practically lift, like Mark's words made him happy, and he wonders at it. "But I was going to keep her as long as I could. She was nice."

"Funny," Eduardo goes, wry. "How girls seem to have minds of their owns and can make their own decisions sometimes."

"You're being facetious. What's your point?"

"My point," and there's that drop in volume, like Eduardo's almost scared of what he's saying. "My point --" he tilts his chin up suddenly; Mark sees it out of the corner of his vision. "If you were looking for someone interested in you, you didn't have to go as far as the BU women's robotics club."

Mark's fingers stop moving. He turns that sentence over in his mind, and then again, digesting it.

"Huh," he says, and twists his torso around to look at Eduardo, who is watching him with the unblinking wariness of someone perilously close to the edge of a cliff and isn't entirely sure that you're not going to push them off. "Why didn't we think of that before?" he asks, and then, remembering exactly what it was he was going to Google, turns back to his computer.

Eduardo makes a strangled, frustrated noise, like Mark's missed the whole point, which he hasn't, thank you very much, and he will reflect on this discovery in a moment, because he's inspired and therefore busy.

After two hours of trudging through search results on the manufacturer's mark on the Phoenix letter -- he got more results once he thought to widen his search beyond the companies based in the greater metropolitan area, because if their secret admirers have enough money to make a 21st-century version of a black-light letter, they can probably get it made somewhere outside the city -- Mark's thoughts finally circle back around to Eduardo, who is braced up against the wall, legs thrown across Mark's mattress.

He made what basically amounted to a confession, and Mark promptly blew him off in favor of the Internet. If he's stewing in humiliation over this fact, he doesn't seem to be showing it. He hasn't gotten up and left yet, so Mark takes that as a good sign.

He shuts the lid to his laptop and stands up, crossing the narrow space between his desk and his bed. Eduardo looks up at his approach, his expression hazy from studying and only marginally aware, but it immediately sharpens when Mark plants a knee on the edge of the mattress. He tries to crowd backwards, but Mark uses his leverage to fling his other leg across Eduardo's hips, straddling his thighs.

"Oh, hello, what," goes Eduardo intelligently, his eyes enormously large and his mouth shocked, as Mark takes his textbook from him, index finger tucked in between the pages like he's going to bookmark his place, before he dumps the book over the side of the bed.

It thumps solidly against the floor, and Eduardo opens his mouth to complain, but Mark's already leaning in for a kiss.

He catches Eduardo right as he's about to speak, so it's not so much a kiss as it is Mark lipping awkwardly at Eduardo's upper row of teeth. They both pull back, embarrassed, but Eduardo reverses the movement immediately, grabbing at the strings of Mark's hoodie and tugging him in, saying nonsensically, "no, no, are you serious, come here, come here you stupid --" and this time when he seals their mouths together, it's so much better.

Kissing gets wet really fast, which kind of makes Mark want to squirm away, except for the fact that Eduardo is holding him to him with a hand on the nape of his neck, and that feels good.

"Mmhmm?" Eduardo goes questioningly, when Mark starts tugging on the collar of his shirt. He disentangles their mouths with some difficulty. "What?"

"Come on," Mark replies, his heart pounding rapidly and his mouth tripping over itself. "I want to get the awkward, first-time sex out of the way as quickly as possible so we can hurry up and get to the bit where it's fantastic and good and phenomenal and everything it's supposed to be cracked up to be."

"That's quite a lot of adjectives." Eduardo blinks up at him dazedly.


Eduardo makes a noise that clearly says, "just wait a minute, you can't micromanage sex, Mark," and Mark isn't altogether sure how he knows that's what it means, except for that he does.

"Wardo," he says again, quieter this time, smoothing his hands out across Eduardo's chest, and he leans in for another kiss, but not before he catches the kamikaze, awestruck light in Eduardo's eyes -- he knows that look, because it's the same look he gets when they've gotten away with murder and it was the most beautiful escape, and now it's fixed on Mark, like that beauty, that awe, that amazing feeling and Mark are all the same thing.



1 |

It's a very long weekend.

At some point late at night, Dustin comes scratching at the door like a cat that's been left out in the cold, pretending to cry and warbling pathetically, "guys, I just want to sleep," which he keeps up until Raymond from next door sends Eduardo a text the says, is that moskowitz? tell him he sounds like a Venetian eunuch, which makes Eduardo laugh so hard he has to get up, pull pants on, and go to show Dustin, because it'd be a crime not to see his face.

They gather up their stuff and they relocate to Eduardo's dorm room, which has the benefit of being a single. It had never once occurred to Mark that they'd be using Eduardo's room the way everyone always assumes you're going to use a single, but there you go.

He learns a lot of new things that weekend, actually. The most interesting is that Eduardo likes Mark underneath him, likes to pin him on his back in his mussed-up sheets and loom over him, so Mark can't see anything but the skinny spread of his shoulders and his shock-opened face and those eyes, perpetually close and blown wide, can't put his hands anywhere but Eduardo. It's thrilling, a long, slow burn inside his chest and curling at the ends of his toes, and it's maybe even better than it was to watch Michael Oglegias's veins light up neon under his skin.

Whatever individual plans they had for the weekend seem wholly unimportant now, easily overridden with the each other's priority. Before, Mark wouldn't have thought that he'd be the kind of person who could spend an entire day in bed with someone else, but then again, before he met Eduardo, he also didn't think he'd be the kind of person who looks at a spoon and thinks, I wonder if you could kill someone with this. Eduardo would know.

Part-way through Sunday, they spend something like an hour and a half lolling on Eduardo's floor, gruesomely Googling various ancient Chinese torture methods on Mark's laptop, because that's just what you wind up doing.

"I don't get how this is natural," Eduardo comments, and Mark thinks for a moment he's talking about what's on the screen (a Wikipedia article on the combined effects of barrels and steep hills on victims,) and then Eduardo's hand snakes around, running his fingertips along Mark's sternum, which goes concave between his ribs.

"Oh, you mean my cereal bowl?" Mark goes.

"Your what?"

"My cereal bowl -- look, I could probably eat out of it. It's what happens when you grow up lanky and lacking any chest definition, so you develop this hollow in your sternum. It's most commonly seen in gamer nerds and --"

"People who sit in front of their computers all day and never go out into the daylight?" Eduardo says, dry.

"Gamer nerds," Mark confirms.

"Weird." He pokes at him again, and not in the fun way that potentially to sex, either, but more in the way you'd dissect cow eyeballs in the sixth grade.

Mark snatches at his fingers, trying to fend them off. "Stop -- fingering me," he goes, voice losing its momentum as he realizes how, exactly, it's coming out. "Your hands have been scary places!" he adds, defensive.

Laughing, Eduardo leans over, looping his arms around Mark's shoulders and squeezing, kind of too tight to really qualify as a sideways hug, the way Mark's seen his sister do to the family cat when she claims she can't handle its cuteness anymore. He makes this noise Mark can't identify, and Mark just sits there and waits for Eduardo to stop being emotional so he can have the use of his arms back.

Except then Eduardo murmurs, low and still like deep water, "I think what we're both trying to ignore about this whole thing," and Mark blinks, distracted from his own chest. "Is that if our secret admirers have any evidence, it's going to indicate both of us. I might have been the one that actually killed Erica, but if I get arrested, there's no way I can claim it was all me, Mark. They would know you'd helped me." This last comes out tentative, questioning, like he's asking Mark.

"It's mutually assured destruction," Mark replies, both an answer and a promise, because if they get caught, there's no way he's letting Eduardo get all the credit, and he's not an asshole enough to send Eduardo down in flames alone. It was a collaborative effort; anyone would be proud to admit that. "If one of us burns, we both burn."

Up against his earlobe, Eduardo rumbles happily in the back of his throat, and Mark puts the laptop aside, turning to nudge his nose up against Eduardo's hairline, then his ear, then the bridge of his jaw.

"I've got too many notes in your facebook," Eduardo comments, low. "There's no getting rid of me now, Mark."

Mark just bars his arms around him, pressing them close together, not saying anything. They stay like that, feeling, for one long moment, like the only ones in existence -- the two loneliest little people in their limitless world of possible corpses.



2 | The Facebook

Mark sets his phone to go off early on Monday morning, because he does have to get his problem sets done at some point before his 9am programming lab.

He shuts the alarm off, scrubbing at the crusty bits in the corners of his eyes with his thumbs. The rest of the dorm is quiet; the only sound is the far-off whine of a city bus. Mark rolls off the bed, not having far to go considering dorm beds aren't exactly spacious.

It's only when he spots the two halves of paper sitting on the desk does he realize that he's completely forgotten about the notes. He'd brought them over because he'd known there was more work he could do on figuring out the identity of their secret admirers, and Mark forgot about it. Mark never forgets about things.

How does that even --

He glances over his shoulder, at the bundle on the bed that's half-Eduardo and half-blankets, both considerately curled away from the spot where Mark had been laying. From here, he can make out the oval of Eduardo's face and the pale, sharp jut of his ankle where it's peeking out at the end of the bed. A nervous, skittering feeling goes up and down his spine, spider-like. He wants, for one trip-hammer of his heart, nothing more than to go curl back up into that negative space on the bed and just let it be.

He shakes his head to clear the static, pulling out Eduardo's chair and folding himself down into it, mindlessly hitting the power button on the hard drive column with his big toe.

It churns around in the pit of his stomach, the thought that he might be in more trouble than he realized.



2 |

There's some childish, gleeful part of Mark that practically cartwheels when Cameron Winklevoss keys them into the Phoenix building.

After eleven murders, though, you tend to develop something of a poker face, so Mark just kind of lifts his eyebrows when the door lock buzzes, like this is absolutely meaningless. With a sarcastic flourish, Tyler holds the door open for him. Short enough (he's average height, thank you -- the Winklevosses are just monsters) to duck comfortably under Tyler's arm, Mark wonders if that had been done on purpose, grabbing the door and holding it pointedly until both twins had gone in ahead of him.

And, just like that, it hits him.

It's a jolt, like the unexpected moment you electrocute yourself trying to find a plug adapter in the dark, or the moment you realize you are two moves away from winning the boss battle and there's no way you can lose no matter what you do, and Mark feels his eyes flare wide with astonishment.

They introduce him to Divya Narendra, who's sitting at the bottom of the staircase with his HP balanced on his knees and paperwork distractedly spread in a semi-circle around him. He smiles for Mark like nothing is up, extending his hand in greeting.

Mark eyes it and stays where he is, then lifts his gaze to meet theirs, smiling thinly. "I liked the bit with the notes," he says, watching their expressions blank out simultaneously. "A commendable attempt at originality, for sure. But I can't help but wonder as to what you were hoping to achieve."

Cameron, the taller twin (although this might, in fact, be negligible, as the illusion of height probably has more to do with the way he styles his hair than any actual physical difference between him and his twin,) takes a step towards Mark at that, and Mark shifts backwards automatically, continuing, slap-fast, "Was there a reason you singled out my friend and I in order to accuse us of -- what was it, kidnapping and possibly torturing a girl? Or do you just do that to everyone you have a proposition for?"

He curls his hand around the strap of his backpack and watches curiously as a number of things flicker across their faces, more confident that he's correct with every second that passes, because who would be best at creating a fake Phoenix initiation letter than someone who's already been initiated? Who would have access to a speciality card manufacturer, of all things, than someone with entirely too much money and too many contacts? Who would run a clear-cut, two-man delivery and still, within the body of the notes themselves, use a single pronoun, as if used to referring to themselves as one entity?

Tyler recovers first. "How about," he says mildly, leaning against the banister and folding his arms, nonchalant. "We tell you our idea, and you tell us whether you can assist us or not?"

"What assistance could I possibly be to you, gentleman?" Mark says with only the barest scrim of politeness, half-smiling. "Let me guess. You can't row crew worth shit and you need someone to bust the kneecaps of your competition, so you found the lowliest punk on campus to take the fall for you?"

"Don't be stupid." Tyler again. "We are more than capable of busting kneecaps on our own when the situation demands it," he delivers this so calmly and unconcernedly that all traces of humor evaporates from Mark in a heartbeat.

"You're here," Cameron puts in silkily. "Because FaceMash was a brilliant idea that got lost in execution. We want to hire you to build a website for us."

Mark listens to the three of them describe the concept behind the Harvard Connection -- sex, money, prestige, and the desire to nose in other people's business; they have the basic skeleton needed for success -- and waits until they trail off expectantly, before he tilts his head and asks them, "And if I don't, will I suddenly find myself a person of suspect?"

"Possibly," Cameron says cheerfully. "Your ex-girlfriend's been missing for awhile now, and you don't seem horribly bothered by it."

"I've been told I'm a Stairmaster," Mark replies. "It's very hard to get the expected response out of me no matter the situation."

"Still," Tyler shrugs. "You and Eduardo Saverin have a lot going for you. It'd be a shame if anything happened to that."

Mark looks at them for a long moment, gauging their expressions and running a dozen different possibilities through his head like columns of code.

They are rich, smart, and very clever, but Mark is smarter, cleverer, and twice as manipulative, so he just shrugs and says, "Sure."

"Really?" says Narendra from the stairs, sounding wholly surprised, but then he catches up to himself and gets out of his nest of papers, hopping down the steps to exchange formalities and phone numbers with Mark. He fidgets only slightly under Mark's scrutiny, uncomfortable, but Mark gets the feeling this comes more from the fact that Mark is socially inept, everybody wants his head on a platter right now, and he's staring at him, lizard-like and cold, rather than from any real fear Narendra has that Mark likes to kidnap ex-girlfriends. This is satisfying to know, that the Winklevoss twins' closest general doesn't really believe people like that exist.

He texts Eduardo as he leaves, the cold slamming into his face and racing down the back of his shirt. I met our secret admirers.

!!!!! Eduardo texts back, almost before Mark gets his phone back in his pocket, and so it doesn't come as much of a surprise when he gets back to Kirkland and finds Eduardo sitting on the banister outside Mark's door, messenger bag still slung over his shoulder and nose bright red.

"Do the RAs not even bother to make you sign in at the front desk anymore?" he wonders of no one in particular, pulling his lanyard from around his neck.

He lets them into the dorm -- empty; he checks the couch for Dustin or Chris just in case -- and then Eduardo grabs him by the elbow and goes, "Tell."

Mark does, noting the various interesting things Eduardo's face does. "Blackmail?" he goes, incredulously. "That's not very gentlemanly."

"Of course it is, it's as gentlemanly as you can get as long as you never admit to it," Mark sneers, and waves the lanyard around, dorm key still clutched his fingers. "But! The important thing we learned, Wardo, is that they don't have a leg to stand on. They've got nothing besides the vaguest threat that they can bring the police down on us. It's actually very satisfying to know, because now I'm considerably less worried about it. They fear failure, that's why they'll go to such lengths for the Harvard Connection."

"So why did you agree to build it for them?"

Mark gets to his feet and walks over to his desk. "Because there's something to it. It's not a bad idea, I can work with it."

Eduardo follows, a long-suffering look on his face. "You can't steal their idea and claim it as your own, Mark."

"I'm not stealing anything," Mark returns briskly, settling into his chair and then popping back up again, too frenetic with excitement, resentment, inspiration, and everything in between to sit still long enough to wait for his desktop to boot up. Eduardo, who probably saw that coming, is already by the mini-fridge and passes him a beer from it. "I'm going to make it better. In fact, I don't think they're going to have any room to complain at all, because if they think they can bully and intimidate us, then I'm going to give them exactly what they're asking for."

"What?" Eduardo goes, a little warily.

Mark grins at him, a sly sliver of teeth like the flat side of a dime. "I'm going to give them the facebook."



2 |


December becomes January, and three weeks after the website's launch on Harvard campus, the police come knocking on Mark's door.

To be honest, he's a little disappointed it took Narendra and the Winklevoss twins this long to pick up on The Facebook's existence. He thought their little Phoenix spy network would work faster than that. Or maybe they did, and it was the police that made them twiddle their giant, crew-rowing thumbs and stew in frustration. It's an appealing mental image.

"Ms. Albright has been missing since the 14th of November," interjects one cop, once they have Mark's basic statement. "She disappeared between eleven and eleven-thirty that morning. Have you heard from her since then?"

"No," Mark answers, flat. He pulls the string out from the hood of his sweatshirt, knotting the ends and beginning to weave cat's cradle patterns with it, because it's either that or start clapping. Mark always feel an immense rush of contemptuous pride for law enforcement when they possess exactly the information he wants them to have and nothing more.

"And you were involved with her at the time, correct?" the cop goes shrewdly.

They tell you that you need two people to do cat's cradle effectively, but that's a lie. Mark pinches two lines together with his teeth and ducks his index fingers together. "I answered that question already," he says, a little unintelligible. He wishes he could use his laptop. It would be a more productive use of his time, but he supposes that if you were ever going to show a cursory respect for someone, it would be while they had a police baton in their possession.

"We're sorry, Mark," says the cop, as unapologetically as she can get away with. "In cases like this, we need to be completely thorough, and new information is coming up all the time. We --"

"I understand completely," Mark talks over her. He reclaims his mouth and looks at her through the diamond pattern he made out of his string like it's a window. "I'm your best suspect. Obviously."

Both their heads snap up, so fast it strongly reminds Mark of the way cats look like when someone pops the lid off a can of Friskies.

"What?" goes the cop standing by the door, like he thinks he must have misheard.

"I'm a perfect fit for the profile you're looking for," Mark elaborates, watching them steadily. "A college girl goes missing right after she publicly breaks up with her boyfriend. Said boyfriend is, by all accounts, a volatile asshole and a shady character. Trust me," he goes at the look on their faces. "Nothing you can tell me about myself would surprise me. Add in the testimonies of upstanding people like Narendra and the Winklevoss twins -- am I right? I thought so -- and gosh, wouldn't it be so convenient if I did it after all?"

The cop who's supposed to be writing this down examines him with the squint-eyed look of someone coming to the conclusion that they don't like him very much at all.

Mark gazes back, imperious and undisturbed. "Now, I hate to point out the obvious flaw in this plan, but I'm afraid I can't be that person for you, officers, as I think you'll find I was in a disciplinary meeting the whole day, being punished for an entirely unrelated crime against the female sex." Lifting his eyebrows, he shoots a look at the notepad, pointedly enough that the officer holding it lifts her pen without seeming to realize she's doing it, and says as clearly as possible, "I have not seen, spoken to, or heard from Erica Albright since she called me an asshole and walked out of my life."

They leave shortly thereafter. Mark tries not to let the door hit them on the way out, but it's a close thing.

In a hindbrain action, he texts Eduardo, who shows up half an hour later. He's wearing a full suit with cufflinks and the kind of cologne that men wear in a bid to intimidate each other or subtly suffocate them, and Mark wonders what he has going on later tonight that his father wants him to be at, and if he, Mark, is vindictive enough to come up with some kind of excuse to keep Eduardo here. He probably is.

"Did they come talk to you, too?" he asks, ushering Eduardo inside. On the sofa, Dustin and Chris lift their hands in greeting without looking up from the laptop they're sharing, earbuds dangling between them. They aren't paying them any attention whatsoever, but Mark and Eduardo step closer together anyway, lowering their voices on instinct.

"Yeah," Eduardo returns, near enough that his hair brushes against Mark's forehead, making it itch. "Right before I left. They came knocking about four minutes after you sent that text, but once I told them that you were my best friend, they got this look on their faces like everything made sense. They didn't even really ask me anything about Erica, thanked me for my time, and left."

"It's your face," Mark says, completely serious. "It does things to people."

"Your face," comes back immediately, which doesn't even make sense, but Eduardo continues before Mark can point this out. "So what's the verdict?" he goes, a grin already starting at the corners of his mouth. "Are our operations in trouble? Do people know about the real facebook? Have Cameron, Tyler, and Divya successfully schooled us into submission?"

Mark snorts, sarcastic. "I think on the official record, they're more guilty of slander than we are of kidnapping. Also," he adds as an afterthought. "Those cops might hate my guts."

Eduardo throws his hands up in a somebody please help me gesture. "Mark, whose cup size did you cast aspersions on this time?"

On the sofa, Dustin's head twists around, so quickly it has Mark thinking uncharitable things about Pavlov and his dogs. He narrows his eyes at them. "Sorry, I heard 'cup size.' Who are we talking about?"

"Nobody even remotely in your league," Mark answers, simultaneous with Eduardo's, "Nobody you have a chance with, Dustin."

Dustin claps a hand to his chest, mock-hurt.



2 |

January becomes February, February becomes March, and right on the cusp of spring break, Eduardo starts getting antsy. He only makes cursory attempts at conversing with Mark, Dustin, and the guys they have on site maintenance, and while Eduardo is good at not bothering them while they're working, this is unusual.

"What's up with you?" Mark asks, finally, after the third time he crosses the room to the fridge to fetch a drink, his knuckles aching from long, repetitive typing sprees, and finds Eduardo sitting on the couch, chewing on his thumbnail and not even pretending to be working.

Eduardo looks up, distracted, his eyes cloudy and restless underneath his eyebrows. He glances sideways towards the second set of desktop computers, the servers lined up against the wall; the beds had to be shoved closer together to make room for them. Dustin's wired in, humming to himself. His screen flips over, becoming the white pages and blue headers that never fails to thrill through Mark every time he sees them, somewhere between pride and fear, because they've been in his head since the day he pushed Milly out of that tree and now they're out there for all the world to see, a giant, flashing sign, Look what I did!

He snags a Red Bull from the fridge and joins Eduardo on the couch, knocking him in the arm with the can.

Eduardo takes it from him, popping the tab and taking a long gulp, his throat rolling; Mark watches shamelessly, because it's his to see. Eduardo passes the can back, and says, after a beat, "It's just ... we haven't added anyone to our facebook since Erica."

There's a bad moment where Mark doesn't even know what he's talking about -- a frown starts to crease his face, because Eduardo isn't one of those people who judges their own self-worth on how many friends he has on The Facebook, and then it clicks: he's talking about their facebook, the lowercase one, the one with only eleven people in it (well, three in Eduardo's, although that's three more than most people have.)

He blinks, thrown off. "Huh," he goes, because he hasn't actually felt the urge to kill anyone recently: his website's unexpected exponential growth had done a very good job at driving all thought of it from his mind. "So we haven't."

Eduardo watches him, assessing, as Mark takes a long, thoughtful swallow from the energy drink. Mark's lip twitch up. "Is there anyone in particular you have in mind?" he says dryly.

"To be honest, I figured you would have someone by now. You know, someone that you were just itching to, like, shove from the top of a building or something."

"Sorry to disappoint," Mark mumbles into the rim of his can. "Hello, my name is Mark Zuckerberg and it has been x amount of months since the last time I felt the urge to gruesomely end someone's life."

This startles a laugh out of Eduardo, who then proceeds to golf clap magnanimously for him. Mark bows his head politely. On the other side of the room, Dustin yells, "Stupid text box, stay where I put you!" and slams his hands down on the keyboard, smashing it down like it's in any way helpful. He might as well be on Mars for all he's noticing their existence.

Eduardo seems to realize this, too, because he twists around on the couch to face Mark squarely. "Have you thought about Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss? No, wait," he says at the expression Mark gives him. "Think about what we could do to them, Mark. They're high-profile, they're training for the Olympics, and even better, they're a two-for-one deal. We can overpower them if we try, I know we can --"

He trails off, because Mark is shaking his head, emphatic. "I want them alive," he says. "Them and Divya Narendra. They thought they could cow us with blackmail, so the ideal revenge to enact on them is to succeed. I want them to live to see us be more successful than they'll ever be."

His volume climbs without his noticing it. Eduardo starts biting his fingernails again, his brow furrowed in thought. "All right," he goes equably. "I like the sound of that. So who then?"

"I don't know," Mark goes, sarcastic. "Shall we just pick someone on the way to class tomorrow?"

Eduardo rolls his eyes, tolerant and refusing to rise to the bait. "Mark," he says patiently. "That's what we have The Facebook for. All the information we could want about somebody, laid out for anyone to see. It'll be like window shopping for victims."

"I don't think stalking is an acceptable use of our admin privileges," Mark feels compelled to point out. "Although we have been getting complaints recently about our privacy settings."

"You said it, not me."

Mark studies his profile, the irritated red of his pores from where he shaved in a hurry this morning and the fading posy-mark on his jaw from Mark's teeth, and wonders when Eduardo's profile became more familiar to him than anyone else's.

"After the Bill Gates conference," he decides.

Eduardo blinks, looking at him quizzically.

"After the Bill Gates conference," he says, smiling through another swallow of Red Bull. "We'll pick someone then."



2 |


There's a moment after Mark hears his name called out across the bar where he's absolutely certain it's not meant for him, before he remembers that, wait, he's supposed to be a big name now, and turns.

On the other side of the room, a man lifts his arm, flagging him down. He's familiar in a vague, maybe they share a class kind of way, and Mark's about to just wave back and keep going, when he gets a good look at the other people at the table, and everything snaps into place.

"Mark?" goes Eduardo, questioningly, but Mark pushes himself away from the bathroom door and weaves in between the tables.

"Oh, good, we were wondering if we had the right name," says the guy who'd called for him; Jorge, he's a broad-eyed black man a year older than Mark, and he and Erica took Music Theory together just so they could have each other's shoulders to cry on around finals time (of course, Erica never made it to finals.) They were best friends. And across from him, two women from her robotics club, her roommate who had also been her understudy for Carmen, and her roommate's boyfriend. These are all the people who knew Erica the best. "We said to ourselves, hey, isn't that Erica's boyfriend --"

"Ex-boyfriend," Mark corrects immediately.

Jorge shrugs, good-natured. "Yeah, well."

"They're still looking for her," pipes up Erica's roommate (Selena? Serena? Serenity? It's something that always makes Mark think of Sailor Moon.) She wraps her hands around her drink. "Or, well, they promise they are, but it's almost been six months, and ... well." She shakes herself. "We were worried something had happened to you too, since we haven't heard from you in awhile."

"Until we heard that the cops were sniffing around your door," fills in Jorge. "They think you did it, man?"

"They asked me some questions," Mark says, neutral.

Jorge snorts, "I bet they did. My grandmother works in the Harvard presidents' office and she told me about how butthurt those big, beef-armed twins got over the Harvard Connection thing, and that is low, so very low, if they're tattling on you because of that."

"He's right," chimes in Selerenity's boyfriend. "They're just trying to slam you. Nobody really thinks you did it. You loved her," and he can't help but grin, because he'd been there when Mark had tried that somewhat disastrous romantic gesture outside Erica's midterm last year.

Jorge grins sideways, too. "Yeah. You're an angry drunk blogger, not the Craigslist killer."

"Right," says Mark. And, "I should probably --" he gestures over his shoulder, shrugging.

"Yeah, no, man, we just wanted to connect and say what's up. It was good seeing you again."

Mark stares at them for another beat, and a cold, racing kind of rage snakes its way from deep in his stomach, making the corners of his vision white out. He thinks, three months ago, you wouldn't even have talked to me. You would have easily believed that I'd kidnapped Erica and chained her in my basement and fed her cockroaches or something insanely idiotic like that. You would have avoided my eyes and muttered about FaceMash and how it made perfect sense.

He spins on his heel, leaving Erica's friends behind.

He wants nothing more in this single moment than to just annihilate everyone, because how do people like this exist? How are people so stupid and judgmental and how do they survive? It doesn't matter that Erica's friends will probably defend him if the cops ask them questions, because Mark cannot respect willful stupidity, no matter the form.

He reaches Eduardo, who'd been lingering awkwardly somewhere between the bar and the bathroom like he isn't sure what he should be doing. He takes one look at Mark's face and puts a hand on his shoulder, fingers sliding up to curl in the fabric of his hoodie. For everything Mark's feeling, there's an answer in Eduardo's eyes.

"Alice?" he says simply.

Mark nods, decisive. "Alice."

Eduardo tilts his head, beaming. His cheeks are flushed a rosy color, blotchy and warm-looking: sex always does linger longer on his features than most people's. "Excellent," he murmurs. "You know, I've never asked, but why haven't we ever just gotten ourselves a revolver?"

Mark snorts, "Go right ahead. Shoot someone with any kind of gun and you might as well hand over your social security number at the same time. Guns are too easily traced, and besides, where's the challenge in shooting someone?"

This is what most people see when they look at Mark and Eduardo. They see people like them, ordinary-looking college boys, and they make impressions based on face-value: they see bored, taciturn, socially-inept Mark and they see wide-eyed, considerate, well-dressed Eduardo, and it's so very easy (lazy) to come to the conclusion that Mark is an asshole and Eduardo is the nice one.

This is the most laughable thing Mark has ever heard.

"You have a point. I just want to see her face when she dies," Eduardo says, almost to himself. In the half-light, his face looks pale, sickly, pulled into a skull's mocking grin.

Eduardo's never been the nice one.



2 |

"Okay, if guns are out, then how do you feel about chainsaws?" Eduardo goes, musingly, a keen, thoughtful look all over his face.

Mark looks up. "Messy," he replies, flat, and narrows his eyes. "Why?"

Eduardo casts his sight around, scanning the ceiling and the corners of the room. "You know what I love about old buildings?" he says, like it's somehow an answer. Mark doesn't bother with a reply this time, because Eduardo's being rhetorical and he'll get to his point eventually. They've got Alice in the bathtub, draining slowly, so it's not like he can just get up and leave, regardless. There are only so many pints of blood in Alice's body. "Especially here in Boston? They have all sorts of hidden nooks and crannies -- aha!" He grabs the back of an office chair and drags it across the carpet, gingerly placing a foot on it and pushing himself up.

Mark watches, rather dispassionately, as the chair tries to spin underneath him and he wobbles, ungainly and coltish on his long legs before catching his balance again. There's a panel in the wall above Alice's bookshelf that looks like maybe it once held an air conditioner, and in the past century has been shoddily built over. It slides away easily when Eduardo pushes at it, and Eduardo beams over his shoulder.

Mark sees what he's getting at and sits up straight. "You want to chop her up and hide her in the walls?"

"Think about it. Nobody will be able to find her --"

"-- not even when she begins to smell --"

"-- because everything smells horrible in this part of Boston and they'll try to sell it off as part of the apartment's charm!" Eduardo finishes excitedly. Mark never gets used to the sight of him like this, so in his element and looking so ridiculous, wearing latex gloves and a hairnet at the same time. No matter what the spy movies have you think, murder isn't really a glamorous thing and Mark has gone undetected so far because he makes sure to leave nothing behind, hair and fingerprints being the easiest things to trace back to somebody. Eduardo waves a hand at him, misinterpreting his silence. "She'll stop smelling eventually."

"Hmm," Mark goes discouragingly. "If it's absolutely necessary that we dismember her, do we have to stick her in the wallspace? That seems unsanitary."

"But very poetically elegant, don't you think?" Eduardo is fond of describing murder the way someone else might critique art. "If we hide all the pieces really well, some part of her will literally always be here."

"It's still risky." Mark's early murders were never very complicated in procedure. He mostly pushed people off of, out of, and into the way of things, because those were the easiest to claim as accidents (except for the gymnast, because nobody would believe she'd just trip and fall into something, so he slit her wrists, somewhat inexpertly. Nobody bothered to look very closely, because she was prone to unnecessary histrionics and the officials assumed suicide was something she just did to piss off her parents. People's sloppiness never fails to astound him.)

Eduardo pouts. Mark didn't realize there was a facial expression for "I really wanted to chop her up and hide her in the walls," but there you go.

"We'll have to be careful," he says finally, and Eduardo's eyes widen fractionally in surprise. "Saws are noisy, and leave indicative marks on whatever surface we'll use. But it's feasible."

Eduardo fist-pumps in joy. "I thought I saw a stereo in her bedroom," he says, and disappears into the hallway, voice carrying over his shoulder. "We can turn on ABBA or something and play it really loud to cover up the noise."

"We are not sawing apart a corpse to ABBA," Mark returns, aghast at the idea. "Where are you planning on getting a chainsaw, anyway?"

"Oh, I wasn't, I was just saying that for effect. But Alice has a bone saw, which will work for our purposes just fine."

"What is she doing with a bone saw?"

"You really weren't paying attention to a word she said in the bar, were you." It's not actually a question, so Mark doesn't deign it with a reply. "Should have figured. She works at that storage unit near the community center in Charlestown, remember? So she picks up all kind of weird knick-knacks from people's abandoned storage units. She's got a whole surgeon's kit -- it sounded amazing."

"It'll be quieter," Mark agrees, and wonders if they can get away with keeping a surgeon's kit in a dorm room at Harvard, because that sounds useful.

He gets up, slipping after Eduardo into the hallway. He passes the door to Alice's bedroom, where Eduardo is scanning CD titles, and goes into the bathroom.

Alice is spread out in the tub, wrists tied together with the string from Mark's hoodie (which is always stronger than people give it credit for, but then again, so are most people when they're in death throes and Mark has lost more than one drawstring to the cause, but they're softer and chafe less than rope or zipties,) and looped around the soap dish. One foot dangles out the side of the tub; her toenails are painted a shade south of midnight, a tiny moon on her big toe and miniscule white dots of stars on the littler ones.

He sits down on the toilet seat lid, reaching over out of habit to check her pulse. She's dead, of course; they cut the brachial arteries in her upper arms and she bled out in minutes. It streaks down the sides of the tubs, pooling around her body and sliding in rivulets towards the drain, still darkly red and fresh. They'll scrub out the tub with bleach before they leave.

He stays like that a moment, and then slides down to his knees on the bathmat. A lock of Alice's black hair is caught in her mouth, frazzled, and he frees it, pushing it back behind her ear.

She has very large teeth, Alice does. It made her smile seem cartoonish, animated and exaggerated; it took up her entire face whenever she turned it on people. It reached her eyes, and she'd leaned against Mark's arm in the bar and turned that genuine, so-big smile on him while he stumbled over his own words and rambled about the relative room for servers in the Kirkland dorms or something, he doesn't remember. Later, in the bathroom up against the stall partition, she'd gone down on him with that mouth, but that seems almost secondary to the way she'd smiled with it.

It's a little strange, Mark realizes, to be here looking at the dead body of someone who might have actually liked him, if only a little. She certainly never did anything to hurt him. It's a first for him.

He swallows against the thing caught in his throat, but before he can think on it anymore, a hand descends on top of his; the one bracing his weight against the tub. Eduardo's fingers curl around the breadth of his hand, gloved fingertips pressing into his palm, and Mark only catches a glimpse of Eduardo's expression before he bends at the waist and kisses Mark's mouth.

He pulls Mark to his feet, their arms banding easily around each other so that they can kiss again, licking at each other's tongues, the smell of blood slick in the backs of their throats and Alice's corpse their silent witness.

"Come on," Eduardo murmurs when he pulls away, the bridge of his nose touching Mark's. "She's got AC/DC."

"No Iron Maiden?" Mark retorts, sardonic and low in the close quarters.

"Don't even. Blasphemer."

Hours later, when all evidence of their presence has been erased and Alice's body has vanished, never to be seen again, Mark and Eduardo ride their high all the way back to Cambridge, unable to talk on the bus but catching each other's eye and laughing helplessly, too golden and full of success to care about how they must look.

Mark forgets, sometimes, just how much this feeling cures all ills.

They don't discuss it, but Mark doesn't take the turn to go back to Kirkland from their bus stop. Instead, he follows Eduardo to his dorm, like this is all par for the course, and the whole way, he carefully ignores the little smile that curls at the corner of Eduardo's mouth. He isn't even surprised when he gets handsy, fingers catching on Mark's hip before curling themselves around his own, and on the narrow staircase, he leans in, mouthing at the back of Mark's neck. There's a girl passing in the other direction, a basket full of laundry in her arms, and she gives them a knowing smile; their entwined fingers and the look that must be on Eduardo's face, half-hidden as it is by Mark's mess of hair.

Mark slants his eyes at her, haughty, because whatever conclusions she just jumped to, she has no right to them. They're none of her business.

Eduardo's on him the second he gets the door kicked closed behind him, hands skating up underneath Mark's hoodie to find the warm flesh of his stomach, snaking around to grip him close, getting at his mouth in the dark of his abandoned room with more enthusiasm than aim. Mark pushes back into it just as fast, thinks, shirtlifter and Eduardo and margin: 0px 0; and it's fine, because he knows exactly what all that means. It's thrilling up and down inside of him, warm in his spine and dizzy in between his temples, the sensation of Eduardo pressed flushed against him.

"Is this what turns you on?" Eduardo asks, so close to him it sounds like his voice is everywhere at once. They're shedding clothes, awkwardly banging together in close quarters and still a little inexpert; toeing out of shoes and socks, pulling Mark's sweatshirt up over his head, elbows tangling and mouths catching each other in passing.

"Hmmm?" Mark goes in the back of his throat, when it finally registers that Eduardo had said something.

"This," Eduardo tries to articulate. "Is this why you do it? Do you get off on it?"

Mark connects the dots. "The correlation between the fact that we just killed a girl and my present enthusiasm?" He hears the thunk of Eduardo's bare heel against the edge of the suitcase underneath his bed and pushes, hard, following him down onto the mattress. "No," he says, getting Eduardo's skin underneath his hands again, like it's insanity not to. "No, killing is an existential high, not a sexual one."

"So..." Fingers in his hair, nails scratching along his scalp.

"It's you," Mark goes distractedly. "I get off on you," and he bends his neck to tongue at the hollow of Eduardo's throat.

He sees the flutter of movement, Eduardo's eyes squeezing shut like this is something he simply cannot handle, and stretches his neck to kiss him, kiss him until their mouths are slick with each other, taste the same.

Mark kisses him again for good measure, closing his eyes and wondering, wondering, wondering, somewhere deep underneath the kamikaze bright light of Wardo, of Alice Simmons View Profile, of Facebook all tucked inside his chest: does it get better than this?



2 |

And then they meet Sean Parker.

Technically, Christy does all the go-between and introduces them, because she's Eduardo's girlfriend now (he'd actually asked Mark if he minded, and Mark had blinked at him the way you would someone who picked their nose on the bus and then tried to show you; two consistent sources of sex are better than one, right?) and the kind of social network she possesses inside her phone more or less makes The Facebook look like as insignificant and localized as Tom's Gully Summer Fishing Club.

The thing is, eventually, the Very Smart start to attract the other Very Smart, and it makes for a lot of Very Smart people getting in each other's way. Christy is Very Smart, and worse, she's sharp, suspicious, clever, and she doesn't miss a thing. The way she watches Mark has him thinking this might be the Winklevoss scenario all over again, only Christy circumvents the creepy blackmail notes. It unnerves him, in the rare moments he's actually thinking about it, around all the time he spends making sure The Facebook doesn't crash (and oh, how the Harvard networking people must be laughing at that. It's different when somebody's trying to crash your network, isn't it, Mark Zuckerberg?)

"Your relationship is a farce," he informs Eduardo at one point.

"Thank you for your input," Eduardo replies, his tone suggesting the complete opposite. And then, "I thought you said you were okay with it."

"Don't be obtuse. If this had anything to do with jealousy, what makes you think I would be subtle about it. It's just facts. You like her because she's Alice's best friend; she talks about Alice a lot, she asks about Alice a lot. It strokes your ego, having the person that knew Alice best that close to you and still completely unaware. Meanwhile, she dates you because she believes in the promise that you'll be famous someday, or at the very least successful, and she wants her name on that so she can cash in on it someday. Also, she's suspicious that I had something to do with Alice's disappearance, and dates you to keep tabs on me. She's too smart for you, otherwise."

"You're doing a fantastic job at not sounding jealous there, Mark," Eduardo says, something in his tone that Mark can't place.

Mark rolls his eyes, even though Eduardo can't see it, and spins around in his chair. "This is why nobody should ever have sex," he informs Dustin, who comes through the door that very second, plastic bag from the Campus Convenience Store dangling from his fingers and backpack over his shoulder. "It automatically makes any attempt you make at speaking the truth dismissible as 'jealousy'."

Dustin blinks, and offers him a thumbs-up with his free hand. "Whatever you say, brother."

Chris follows him in, carrying the important parts of the food pyramid: breakfast burritos and Red Bull.

Mark makes a move to get up, because he can practically see his name written on those things from here, but Eduardo grabs him by the wrists, pinioning them to the arms of his chair and trying to straddle his thighs in the same movement. It doesn't really work; Mark's chair isn't built to withstand that and Eduardo has coltishly long legs besides, so they probably look really silly, but Mark has a lapful of Eduardo and it's hardwired into him by this point to not do anything that would make Eduardo get off of his lap.

Eduardo leans in close, saying soft and slow and in a voice meant for him alone, "I'm dating Christy because I like her. I don't need another reason."

Mark lifts his chin. "And me?" he goes, maintaining eye contact.

Eduardo tilts forward and kisses him soundly, the kind that makes his head rock back on his neck from the force of it. Eduardo's hand catches at the side of his face, holding him still and kissing him again, like it's an answer.

Dustin nudges into their peripheral, going, "hey, hey, heeeeyy," continually and annoyingly, and doesn't stop until they break apart.

"What, Dustin?"

He grins at them. "Hey, so, as the only straight person in this room, does that mean I'm excused from coding today because I have an incurable heterosexual disease?"

Everybody replies at once.

"No," deadpans Mark, same time Eduardo says, "you are so curable," same time Chris goes from the other side of the room, "wow, Dustin, way to insensitively group everybody under one heading. I'm pretty sure Eduardo's an equal opportunist and Mark's just really intimidated by women."

Eduardo throws his head back, barking laughter in that infectious way that has Chris and Dustin grinning back at him, kneejerk, and Mark says, sarcastic, "Thank you, Chris."

And this is what The Facebook was, in the very beginning: four boys in a dorm room. It was fine.

But Sean?

Sean changes everything.

He is competent, he is intelligent, he is perceptive, and he's the same brand of Ivy League genius that Mark, Eduardo, Christy, Chris, and Dustin are (well, when sober,) with the added ambition of someone who's been kicked out and still has a lot to prove. He's what you would get if you took Mark's innovative vision and shameless disregard for social convention and combined it with Eduardo's knack for understanding people, and this is what makes him the most dangerous person Mark has ever met.

"I don't get it," goes Eduardo blankly, in the cab on the ride back home. "What do you two see in him? He's basically a used car salesman, only for, like, cyberspace. He's a used cyberspace salesman, and you'll all buying into it." He gestures, emphatic. "There are literal dollar signs in your eyes right now, I can see them."

"You are making no sense," Mark informs him with the self-assuredness of the very drunk, and then leans around him to talk to Christy, who understands how momentous this is. Eduardo leans back in his seat with an impatient huff and lets his girlfriend and his best friend talk over his head, a thundercloud heavy on his brows.

There's something about Sean that makes Mark feel like he's three steps away from stepping on a rattlesnake. There's a thrill in it, a little wonder and awe.

Sean sees the potential in The Facebook, like he really believes that there's more to it than just Mark giving the middle finger to the Winklevosses for their note stunt, and that kind of faith is going to be a problem. Between Christy's suspicious streak and Sean's clear-eyed scrutiny, Mark and Eduardo will have to be twice as careful, so that nobody realizes there's a difference between The Facebook and their facebook.

The thing is. It's worth the risk.

"It's a future, Wardo," Mark says to Eduardo insistently.

Eduardo beckons with one hand, impatient. Mark's supposed to be carrying a box of thumbtacks for him while Eduardo puts up Young Financiers Association flyers up around campus, but apparently he's not that successful at it. There's too much standing involved, Mark thinks.

He obediently steps closer so Eduardo can snag a couple tacks, pinning a flyer to the billboard with his forearm. Maybe it's not for the Young Financiers Association; Eduardo's the president of a lot of things. It's a very, very impressive repertoire for a sophomore, or so Mark's been told.

"I mean," he continues. "Just forget the marlin metaphor for a moment. Between me and you, The Facebook wasn't ever supposed to be anything big, right, just a side-hobby of a company --"

"A way to thumb our noses at Divya, Cameron, and Tyler for scaring us with their I Know What You Did Last Summer scheme," Eduardo supplies, ever-helpful.

"We weren't scared," Mark says immediately. "But yes. And now we've got something that might pay us back for that a million times over. It could be a future, Wardo, something that can cushion us for the rest of our lives. We won't have to spend several years and ridiculous sums of money on business school, won't have to compete for cutthroat positions with repugnant employers just to be able to have a job someday where we can make our own rules. We're already there. I think we should go to California."

Eduardo heaves a sigh. "Do whatever you want to, Mark," he says tiredly, aimed mostly at the billboard. "You usually do anyway."

Mark doesn't know what to do with that, so he stays quiet and offers him another thumbtack.

April becomes May, and Mark takes Dustin and Chris and pulls up stakes, striking out west.



2 |

Eduardo keeps in contact, of course. He texts and e-mails and calls, even. Mark watches his cell phone buzz its way across his desk, coming to a halt against his beer bottle and rattling hollowly, only dimly audible over the racket coming from the other room.

Dustin eyes him strangely from the next workstation over, and leans over when the screen switches over to "missed call." He flips it into his hand and texts out, "sorry, man, he's wired in," showing it to Mark for approval before sending it.

But all the updates from New York are about things that Mark doesn't want to hear: it's all progress going in the wrong direction, and so he sends back monosyllabic replies, ignoring text after voicemail after e-mail, and once, at midnight (3am New York time, his brain supplies for him automatically,) a message that simply says, there was a girl today. she had yellow eyes, Mark, like green and golden all mixed up and I wondered how gorgeous they would be if we strangled her. but I didn't, because I wanted you there to see it and you weren't. Mark deletes it immediately, panic thudding at the back of his head, and can do nothing but hope that whenever Eduardo wakes up, he does the same.

How do you tell someone they're completely in the wrong about advertising when that someone doesn't have any moral qualms about strangling a girl just to see her pretty eyes bulge? That's something he wants to say face-to-face, so he can gauge Eduardo's expressions and change conversational tracts accordingly, so he puts it off and puts it off, until until until until --

Until suddenly there's no until left, and Eduardo's voice is tight, coiled, nothing like his usual self, saying, "you're going to have to hang on for a second, Mark, my girlfriend set fire to my apartment."

Mark turns around, rubbing his free hand along his arm, trying to generate some warmth. California is nothing like Boston when Boston is stuck in a winter rut, but in the Bay Area, it easily drops into the 50s after sundown, and Mark didn't think to grab a sweatshirt before coming outside to make this call: his anger had kept him warm enough, then.

Sean meets his eyes through the sliding glass door, cocks his head questioningly.

Mark lifts his shoulders, a default response.

He's your friend, Sean had said earlier, reassuringly calm in the face of Eduardo bankrupting them out of the blue. And I get that he was your friend before he was your CFO. Whatever decision you make, man, I'll support it, but you know what I think.

He'd said it like there was any kind of decision to be made at all, besides making Eduardo see, making Eduardo understand, making Eduardo come out here, and he knows he can do it because Eduardo loves him. Of course he does. Objectively, bottom line, Mark knows for a cold fact that Eduardo's neglected, stunted little heart doesn't have room for anyone else.

"Answer me this," Eduardo's voice is suddenly right back in his ear, speaking with the confidence of someone who pushed a $20,000 button and got exactly the response he was looking for. "What about facebook?"

"That's exactly --" Mark starts, as trip-hammer reactive as a heartbeat, but Eduardo cuts over him.

"No, not Facebook the company, but our facebook. Yours and mine. If I give up everything I have worked for here and moved out to Silicon Valley for you, would we be like we were?"

Mark casts a dark, desperate look out across the pool, picking at the dead skin on his lip to buy himself some time. Eduardo waits, as patient as he's ever been, and Mark hears him clunking through his bathroom; the sound of running water hitting something hollow, like a trash pail.

"It's too difficult," he says at last, absolutely toneless. "Back east, it's simple and straight-forward, and societal quiescence makes it easy to pick people off, one at a time. But Palo Alto ... it's not a one street-light town by any stretch of the imagination, I don't think there are any of those in California, but it's different. Too many alert, arguably intelligent people with an eye for detail and trigger-fast with their camera phones. It'd be much harder to accomplish -- not impossible, never impossible, I can craft us any kind of alibi, even here -- but I can't run the risk, Wardo. I can't get caught. Ever. Facebook needs me to survive."

Eduardo exhales. "You can't just answer a question, can you."

"Okay," Mark parries readily. "The answer is no. No, we can't be like we were, because Facebook is more important right now than whatever urge we have to kill people!"

"You wouldn't have Facebook at all without those urges!" Eduardo spits back, a furious, animalistic noise that Mark has never heard from him. "Don't you remember? You only have Facebook because of your twisted little method of keeping score. Facebook isn't some revolutionary student network, it's your goddamn scrapbook, the one you can't help but show off because that's all that matters to you, isn't it, showing off."

He tries to interrupt, but Eduardo bowls right over him, "Don't you get it, no matter how many circles you try to run with angel investments and sponsorship deals, we're never going to be the businessmen you envision us being because we're too screwed in the head. And that's not something you can just turn off."

Mark rocks on the spot, stammers for a moment, and then gets his voice back. "You can't assume. You can't, Wardo, you can't tell me that you want both and expect me to make it happen. It's a Dust Bowl kind of existence --"

"Do not turn my life into a Grapes of Wrath analogy, Mark," Eduardo hisses angrily. "If you'd ever bothered to finish reading it, you'd know that it ends very badly for the people who moved out to California."

He doesn't know what to say to that, so the silence stretches, uncomfortable and cold. They breathe at each other, little harsh sounds, like they've run to get to this point, like they've taken blows that winded them.

On the other end of the line, Eduardo snorts, derisive, hopeless, and Mark knows he's about to hang up; hang up and not pick up when Mark redials.

Precipice, Mark thinks, and then thinks of the zipline between the chimney and the pool, the recklessness that'd surged everywhere inside of him when Eduardo wrote an algorithm on glass, the way he'd pressed into Eduardo and murmured, mutually assured destruction, like a promise. He closes his eyes and leaps.

"Bring Christy with you," he blurts out. "You're right, it's not something we can turn off, and -- She likes fire, right? We can show her what real arson is, and we'll see. We'll see where things go." A pause. "Together," he adds, because that part of it might be important.

In a secret between himself and his own dignity, he might do some silently begging, because if Eduardo is here, he can make him see. They're so close to getting everything, and if it costs one more person their life, Mark can add that to his cosmic debt, because after this, everything changes.

Eduardo breathes in, sharp, and Mark can see it without needing to see it, the way he'll close his eyes and sway, pulled under like a drowning man at the thought that he could have it all: a beautiful murder and the success of his company and Mark.

"Yeah," he exhales, and Mark curls his hand against his own forehead, resisting the urge to gulp down air, like they've both been underwater. "Yeah, we'll be there."



3 | Facebook

In hindsight, it probably would have been easier to find and kill the Winklevoss twins.

Oh, please, Christy manages to convey, using only the power of her eyebrows. Like I was ever going to go quietly.

"She's very articulate for someone who's bound and gagged," Eduardo comments, out of breath and bleeding from the side of his mouth, where Christy clocked him one. There was a reason why she never bothered with a conceal-and-carry, because her heels alone are deadly weapons. Mark wishes he'd known this before.

She's missing the shoes now, tied to a chair by her wrists and ankles, holes torn in the soles of her nylons. She does particularly violent things to them with her eyes.

Trying to regain his composure, Eduardo tugs on the lapels of his suit, straightening out the cuffs. Mark knows the majority of Eduardo's expressions by rote, and there's a kind of deadness to his eyes here that's uncommon: usually by this point in a murder, he radiates the same intense, almost joyous focus that Mark gets during a particularly strong coding session. He turns, brushing his fingertips along Mark's shoulder and slipping back out the door. The accelerant's still in the rental car (and also a broom and dustpan, which Mark brusquely asked to borrow from Sean's girl du jour, who was already so used to him that she didn't even bat an eyelash at the request.)

Without thinking, Mark closes the distance between himself and Christy, kneeling in front of her and pulling her gag down under her chin.

He expects her to start screaming the second she can, even though he knows for a fact that they're on the dead stretch of El Camino and there's nothing but scrub and half-finished construction projects and no one to hear her for at least a mile, and sounds never carry that far in urban California, anyway. But she just goes still all over, fixing her eyes on him and setting her lips together.

They stare at each other for a long beat, swaying minutely like snakes charmed, responding to the smallest twitch of the other.

Finally, Christy speaks, a cutting, calculating undertone to her voice. "I knew it was you. It had to be you. But it wasn't until you so were desperate for him to come out to California that it occurred to me that he might be part of it, too."

Mark tucks his hands inside the pouch of his hoodie. "Nobody ever suspects Wardo, his face does things to people," he allows, and tilts his head, "But you got extremely possessive of him extremely fast. Didn't you know that I was having sex with him, too?"

"Of course I did." There's no vitriol to the comment. She states it like it's the least important part. "I wasn't worried about you. You wouldn't kill him, and he wouldn't kill you, but the quickest way to learn about any other girls was to play the crazy, jealous harpy. That way I would have some guess as to who you might kill next. Have you killed anyone since Alice?" She bites out.

"No," he answers, and sees a number of interesting things flinch over her face: relief, like it might have been her fault if they'd killed someone behind her back, and horror, because maybe some part of her had been holding out on the hope that she was wrong, and they weren't responsible for --

"My Alice?" she goes, and for the first time, her voice shakes.

"We cut her open in her bathtub," Mark informs her conversationally, and there it is: Christy's head rocks back on her neck like he's physically struck her, and Mark watches her avidly, because he's always wondered how a normal person would react to what he and Eduardo do. "Drained her of blood best we could, then dissected her into fifty different pieces and hid her in the crawlspaces in her apartment building. She was unconscious when we killed her," he adds after a beat, like it might be a comfort. "So she didn't feel it."

Her shoulders snap straight at that, quick and vicious.

"You'll never get away with it," she lashes out. "Your actions have consequences, Mark, and you ruined whatever chance you had at success the very first moment you decided your own self-absorption and your own arrogance was more important than somebody's life. The quicker Facebook grows, the more people are going to be interested in you and someone's going to see. You and Eduardo can't have Facebook and murder people as a side hobby, it will never work. It'll be worse than death for you, losing everything. You will. You will lose it all."

"I need Facebook," Mark snaps back. "I will do whatever is necessary to protect it."

Something shifts in her expression, her hatred sharpening as understanding dawns on her. "Oh," she goes, and her mouth quirks up, mocking, the way you do when you see someone trip over themselves. "You think Facebook is going to be what saves him."

"What?" Mark's brows come down. She leans back against her restraints, eyes flashing, and he surges into her space, drawing a hand out of his hoodie to grab her jaw. "Wait, what do you mean by that?"

She opens her mouth, but before she can say anything, they hear footsteps, loud and echoing: Eduardo, returning.

Their gazes snap together, and Mark goes on an exhale, "good-bye, Christy," and pulls his other hand out of his hoodie, slamming the chloroformed rag to her mouth just as she lashes out, head snapping forward like she's going in for a headbutt. They meet in the middle, scuffling, and Mark grabs on, holding her down as she thrashes, screaming in the back of her throat -- the high, instinctive animal noise of someone about to die, fighting for every last breath of life. He presses down so hard with the rag that he can feel her teeth slice through her lip, the rush of blood warm even through the rag and his latex gloves, and Mark squeezes his eyes shut, revulsion churning in his stomach. He runs the simplest parts of code through his head like prayer (body { text align: left; color --), repeating until her struggles slowly trail off, her body twitching spastically underneath him until even that stops.

When he finally opens his eyes again, the first thing he sees is Eduardo, standing a pace away with a gasoline can in one hand and an unreadable expression on his face.

"Hang on," says Mark, his voice flat even to his own ears, and he digs around in his pockets -- car keys, no, house keys, no, spare USB drive, and ah, Dry-Erase marker he'd accidentally stolen from the Wall, there it is.

He pulls the marker out, twisting the cap off and extending a hand. Gingerly, he straightens Christy's jaw, wiping the blood from her mouth and chin. Her pulse beats sluggishly against his fingertips as he tilts her head up so he can draw a giant black X over her lips.

He pulls away, aware of the own trembling in his hands as he caps the marker again. Eduardo steps up to him, touching their shoulders together.

"Did she say something to you?" he asks, finally, and Mark lifts his eyes, flicking over every familiar part of Eduardo's face; his stupid caterpillar eyebrows, the duck of his mouth, the way his eyes follow Mark like they can't help it.

He breathes out, because when it comes to Eduardo, there's not even a choice.

"Nothing important, no," he says, and musters up a smile, nudging at Eduardo's arm with his knuckle. "Hey, didn't you tell me that the very first thing she ever said to you was to ask you to Facebook her?"

Eduardo laughs; the sound of it rushes through Mark faster than blood. "I'm pretty sure she wasn't talking about this facebook," he goes, grinning slim and sly as the thin side of a dime.

Mark lifts a shoulder, "Well, she did ask," and Eduardo laughs again, leaning in to roll his forehead against Mark's. The gasoline can sloshes between them.



3 |


They turn their backs as Christy burns, and don't ask each other why. It's not their prettiest kill.

(The picture Mark winds up keeping for her profile in his facebook isn't of her with the X over her mouth, or even the bits of black ash and large, charred bone that they sweep into the dustpan, but instead, it's the one she keeps on her real Facebook: the four of them all crammed together to fit into the frame, Eduardo with the camera held aloft because he had the longest reach and Alice with her arms wrapped around Mark's neck and Christy caught laughing, uninhibited, nose crinkled up and teeth on display. No matter how Mark tries, he can't shake the image.)



3 |

When Mark wakes up the next morning, in his own bed in his own house, he finds his nose pressed underneath the wing of Eduardo's shoulder, too close to his armpit for comfort. With a groggy noise of protest, he rolls over, forgetting what he's doing as he does it and so winds up spending another minute or more tangled with his sheets on the edge of the mattress, wondering how he got there and tempted to give up and fall back to sleep.

Finally, though, he gets up and goes into the bathroom to piss and brush his teeth.

He passes through the front room, which is void of any of his programmers passed out on themselves or each other. That doesn't necessarily mean they aren't passed out on themselves or each other elsewhere, and if this was a normal morning, Mark would be sending out remorseless text messages summoning them back for the day's assignments. He didn't even check the RSS feed when he came in last night. He hasn't been separated from Facebook this long since the start of summer.

Instead of feeling itchy with inactivity and separation, he mostly just feels too heavy to do anything at all besides stand around in his kitchen, drinking what's left of the orange juice from the carton and thinking about what Christy said.

You think Facebook is going to be what saves him.

She's dead, they killed her, and there's no master of the universe glow surrounding that thought. She's dead, no one will ever find her, and Mark just feels tired.

You will lose it all.

No, I won't, Mark thinks back, vicious, like there's any chance she's going to reply now. He tightens his grip around the carton, and it groans in protest. He will protect Facebook at all costs, because he needs it to succeed. He needs it to be bigger than $300,000 on oil futures. He needs it to be bigger and more beautiful than murder.

You think Facebook is going to be what saves him.

Bare feet scuff the linoleum behind him, and Mark turns around as Eduardo comes into the kitchen. The morning sunlight streaming in through the blinds sends sharp slats of golden light across his chest, his arms, his face, catches on his unattractively sleep-flattened hair. He smiles at the sight of Mark, kneejerk, and it's the smile Mark didn't realize he missed until this very second: it was the "oh, look, aren't we wonderful, Mark, we are, how did that happen," smile.

"Morning," Eduardo goes, the word breaking in the middle around a yawn.

Mark leans his hip against the edge of the kitchen sink. I don't want to kill another person, I'm not going back to that life, he wants to say. But I want that joy I see in your face when you think someone's death is particularly spectacular. I want it for me. What would make me that spectacular to you, Wardo?

Do you ever feel remorse? he wants to ask.

"What gave me away?" is what comes out of his mouth.

"Your sparkling personality," Eduardo answers immediately, stepping over and taking the orange juice from him. "Sorry, no, wait, what gave what away?" he tilts his head back to finish off the cartoon in a couple loud, gulping swallows.

"Back in freshman year. How did you catch me?"

Eduardo's expression clears. "Oh, that," he says, and then shakes the empty carton a little, like, what am I supposed to do with this? Absently, Mark takes it from him and tosses it into the sink basin. Eduardo rolls his eyes.

"Jonathan Reid," he elaborates, and the relevant facebook page leaps instantly to the forefront of Mark's mind. He was the last person Mark killed before getting the scholarship to Harvard. "Eighteen years old, founded strangled to death in the boy's locker room on Halloween. The cops dismissed it as a prank gone wrong, but the interesting thing they mentioned in the paper was the object he'd been garroted with was a softer fabric --" he presses the flat of his hand against Mark's chest, thumb and forefinger lined up against his collarbones. "-- not unlike the drawstrings found in most basketball shorts and hooded sweatshirts."

Jonathan used to date this girl from Mark's mathlete group, and he'd overheard Mark comment to someone, purely hypothetically, that if he got the opportunity, he would sniff a girl's panties just to see what all the fuss was about, because that's what Mark did (investigate for the sake of investigating, he means, not pantysniffing.) It might as well have been a red dawn the next morning, because it was like war trying to go anywhere. Not that Mark had much social status before then, but that pretty much killed it.

Jonathan Reid had to die, simple as that.

"And I thought, well, that's interesting." Eduardo's tilted close enough that Mark can measure the length of his eyelashes, his voice pitched too low to even be heard on the other side of the kitchen. It doesn't matter that no one else is there, because that's just the way of people who keep secrets. Mark does it too. "Now, not to seem like I'm bragging or anything, but I'm somewhat of an expert in strangling --"

"Sure, strangling chickens," Mark interrupts.

"Hush, they were lovely, no matter what the animal cruelty charges said. And yes, I've heard every murder most fowl joke under the sun. Now, it takes confidence to strangle someone with a drawstring. You'd had to have done it before to know it'd work, otherwise you'd probably go with a classic, like piano wire. So I thought to myself, self --" he drops his voice with a flair. "There's someone living in this area who is preying on the weak and the innocent and the --"

"Six-foot-tall basketball scholarship drop-outs?"

"Stop that, I've got a flow going," Eduardo says, trying to be serious, but there's a grin around the corners of his mouth. "But yes. And then it was just a matter of going through every single death in the area --" Mark opens his mouth to add, and NYC, but Eduardo shoots him a look that clearly says, I have murdered people more innocent than you and your bare foot is an inch from mine and I will blame the hour and stomp on your toes if I have to. "-- and determining which of them were yours."

"Sounds time-consuming."

Eduardo laughs, and the hand he has on Mark's chest slides north, cradling the curve of his jaw and tilting it up. "Oh, right, because you've never taken up any of my time before, Mark," he says, and there's something in his voice that doesn't quite meet the jocularity on his face; it rings deeper than that, and Mark responds before he can think about it, planting his hands on Eduardo's spine and pulling him in to kiss him, because that's just what you do when someone's looking at you like that.

I'll save him, Mark thinks to Christy, nonsensical.

Their ankles tangle together as they step into each other, knocking shins against the cabinet doors under the sink, making them rattle. Eduardo's tongue slips along his, a languid hello. The sunlight from the window warms his eyelids, setting everything to a rosy glow.

Another scuffle, the familiar noise of someone's socks catching against the kitchen entryway, where the linoleum is peeling up a little bit.

Mark tenses, but Sean's already speaking, caustic and dry as bone, "I'm glad to see you two fixed things."

Still surgically attached to Mark at the mouth, Eduardo's middle finger expresses his hostility just fine.

"Good morning to you too," Sean answers without missing a beat. More scuffling feet, and the fridge opens with a soft schwk. "And you drank all the orange juice, of course you did. Whose turn is it to pick up groceries?"

Mark has no idea -- it's one of the benefits of having staff. Food, beer, energy drinks, and the occasional jam jar of urine (Dustin's girlfriend Tiff does biomed down at Stanford: nobody really asks questions about the urine, because it seems like one of those things you can live a long, happy life not knowing) appear in the fridge as if by conveyor belt. If someone actually goes out and buys them, well, Mark never notices.

"Never mind," says Sean, realizing this in the same moment. "Hey, so about the --"

"Sean," and Eduardo finally pulls away from Mark's lips, the taste of concentrate and citrus strong at the roof of his mouth. If it wasn't for Eduardo's hands, anchored around his hips, Mark would swear his center of gravity shifts, like the axis of the world had started spinning in another direction entirely and he hadn't even noticed. "I am going to take my CEO and we are going down that hallway --" he points helpfully. "-- and we are going to spend all day in bed. If you need his assistance, you can message him. I'm sure he'll get it, whenever I let him up."

To Mark's surprise, this actually seems to shut Sean up for a second, because he blinks and looks questioningly at Mark, who shrugs back at him, equal parts, I don't even know, and, Sorry, but not really, because hey, man, booty call, you know how it is.

Eduardo tugs him into the hallway, accidentally-on-purpose stumbling into him so that he could lip at the spot under Mark's jaw, where he's ticklish. Sean lets them go with having the last word, which is uncharacteristic of him, though that might because he's expecting Mark to come up with a properly scathing retort on his own. Mark takes great pleasure in messing with everyone's expectations of him -- it never gets old.

"You're not actually going to attempt to keep me in here all day, are you?" he asks as soon as the bedroom door closes behind them, the lock snicking shut.

Eduardo just grins at him, a slim flash of teeth, and steps into him, overlapping Mark's feet with his own cold toes. Mark shifts his weight, stretching up into the contact with all the self-assuredness of someone about to get kissed and tolerantly takes it for granted.

Their noses drag together. "No, seriously, Wardo," he says, tilting away. "I do have work that needs to get done."

Eduardo accepts the diversion, mouthing along the side of his face without intent. "No, you don't," he goes easily.

"No, I really do, and so do you." A well-aimed pinch to the ribs has Eduardo twitching away. "We need to put together a portfolio for you to give to Peter Thiel's people."

"Mark!" Eduardo widens his eyes at him, scandalized, and Mark knows he isn't going to like where this is going. "It's Saturday morning! It's already past sundown on Friday, you're not allowed to work. We're not even supposed to turn the lights on manually until the end of the day."

Mark lifts his eyebrows. "Seriously? You did not just go there."

Eduardo sits down on the edge of Mark's mattress, amidst Mark's untidy half-price IKEA sheets (which are blue, but if they weren't right in front of his face, Mark probably wouldn't be able to tell you that: this isn't really his room so much as the corner of the house he's taken over with personal items, where he sleeps whenever he wants to not be awake.) "What?" he goes, making innocent eyes. "It's the Sabbath, Mark. Keep holy the Sabbath."

"There are so many fallacies with that argument I don't even know where to begin. We've never kept holy the Sabbath before."

"That's because you are horrible at being Jewish."

Mark rolls his eyes so hard it actually hurts. "My family was only Jewish when they wanted something to complain about. I never went to Hebrew school, so I don't know what impractical perimeters there are around what does or does not quantify as 'work' in Orthodox tradition, nor do I care. You're just looking for an excuse to keep me in this room --"

"Oh, thank you," exhales Eduardo, who reaches out and catches his fingers along the meat of Mark's hand, snagging hold and dragging him close. For a moment, his fingertips slide over the ring Mark still wears on his smallest finger; Erica's class ring, the one Eduardo had taken from her corpse when he was done with it and given to Mark the way cats bring home dead mice for approval. He cages him in with his knees. "And here I was, thinking you weren't going to cotton on."

"A day in bed isn't feasible, Wardo," Mark reminds him, matter-of-fact.

Eduardo sighs. "We're supposed to be doing this together, you know," he says, and Mark fumbles mentally, trying to catch up with the train of thought that lead him there. "Mutually assured destruction and all that, remember? I follow you, you follow me, we make art where other people only see death. And I just -- don't leave me behind, okay?"

Mark's fingers curl around his, clutching impulsively.

"We go together, you and I," Eduardo continues, the same simple way people say that water is made of hydrogen and oxygen. "And I -- I want this, okay. Please," he lets out a shuddering breath, and Mark gets how much this is costing him to say, and goes still. "Tomorrow, we'll deal with Peter Thiel and that paperwork. Tomorrow, I'll report my girlfriend missing. But right now? Right now, I just want to remember why I love you."

Mark closes his eyes, as if not having to look will somehow make that easier to deal with, like if his eyes are closed, he can keep everything from flying out of him. "And if Sean or Dustin come and try to drag me off to code? Because you know they will."

A tentative smile shifts at the corner of Eduardo's lips, like it and the rest of his face aren't sure of each other yet. "We'll moan theatrically loud like porn stars and pound on the walls until they go away?" he offers, and Mark throws his head back and laughs, because this is the Eduardo he knows, the one that recognized him for who he was the second he met him because of a hoodie string, the one who tortured chickens then tortured people and now he's here, with Mark, and Mark thinks, briefly, of statistics -- the ratios of genius IQs in China and the odds that out of all the strange, beautiful, fucked-up people Mark had the chance of meeting, he met Eduardo.

Eduardo's got his mouth right along the bottom curve of Mark's ribs, licking and teething without any particular purpose, just like he should be doing it because the skin is there and he can. Mark curls his spine, an arm around Eduardo's shoulders for balance so he can bury his face in the hair by his ear.

They stay like that for a moment, and then Eduardo speaks.

"This is my favorite, you know," he says into the dark, nothing space between their bodies, where it's theirs and nobody else's. Mark can feel his lips moving, feel the breath he takes expand across his back, feel the pulse in his skin like it's his own. "This, right here. This is the best of all things." He lifts his head minutely, so that his forehead rests against Mark's chin. "Do you --"

"It's still just you," Mark cuts in immediately. Eduardo makes a low, questioning noise, and Mark breathes out with only cursory impatience. "Remember, after Alice, you asked me a question. The answer's the same. It's still just you. Objectively, I liked the killing -- it was like making something and knowing it'll be a classic after you're gone, the full culmination of your career. It's intellectually and existentially satisfying, but, Wardo, there's a difference between success and happiness."

He swallows, his tongue feeling sandy and strange, and he squeezes his eyes shut and presses his head against Eduardo's, like the sheer physicality of it will say what he needs it to say. "It's always been you."

It'll be worse than death, losing everything. And you will. You will lose it all.

When Eduardo draws away, slow, Mark's eyes fly to his the second they come into focus, because he can't not. Eduardo's eyes are bigger, rounder than he's ever seen them, like he's trying to look at the whole world at once and can only see Mark, and there aren't words, aren't numbers, isn't any tangible way to describe what this does to him. He looks at Mark the way you do when you've found not one answer, not two answers, but every answer to everything you've ever wondered. He looks like if you asked him, right now, what 2+2 is, he'd give you that shocked, world-scape look and answer, "Mark," without hesitation.

"You," he goes, and Mark's not sure if there's any sound to the way his mouth moves, but there doesn't need to be. "That. You wonderful, genius, articulate bastard."

"Always with the adjectives," Mark comments, smiling despite himself.

Slowly, so monumentally slowly, Eduardo puts his hands on either side of Mark's face and pulls him in, catching him up in the kind of kiss so deep and thorough it's like it would kill them to stop.

You will lose it all.

It's the end of June. They've got red, white, and blue everything painted on store windows, and the news radio runs the standard Fourth of July warnings about fireworks, like every other city around the country, every single year.

It's the end of June. Mark is twenty-one years old, there are thirteen people in his facebook (the private one,) and he has Eduardo Saverin with him in bed.

It's the end of June, and this is the happiest Mark Zuckerberg will ever be.



3 |

Close to the end, on one of the very last days, Georgiana from Legal heaves a sigh and puts down her list of greater Bay Area lawyers, marked with four different colors of highlighter. She puts her fingers to her temple and looks across the table at him. She's older than he is, but most people who work for him are. "Mr. Zuckerberg, this would be so much easier if you just answer one question. Do you feel any remorse?"

Mark flicks a look at her over the top of his tablet PC. It's nine-thirty in the morning and they won't let him get on to more important things until he deals with this. You can't ignore Eduardo and the lawsuit forever, man, Chris shrugged in apology, all but frog-marching him to the conference room.

"No," he answers, monotone, because there are certain things Mark feels remorse about and he doesn't have room in all of that to care about whatever Eduardo's suing him for. Mark loses no sleep over shares. "No. Let Wardo come at us with lawyers if it makes him feel better. We have the money."

"Fine," says Georgiana shortly, her mouth thinning with displeasure, and he wants to laugh at her, because how do people get by with knowing so staggeringly little. He pushed a girl from a tree when he was thirteen and he set a girl on fire so much more recently than that, and she sits there, condescending to him on how ineptly he kicked his best friend out of his company, like she or her opinion are of any import whatsoever.

Mark figures out somewhere along the way that Eduardo's right -- it never goes away and it's not something you can just turn off. Just because Mark is successful now doesn't mean he stops getting fed up with stupid people, doesn't stop him from wanting to jab their eyes out with a fork or casually shove them into oncoming traffic.

He just finally developed what everybody else got early on: the ability to step back from those things and say, that's not right, and then not do them.

Is this what it's like, he wonders, to be a normal human being, all this second-guessing and backtracking? It's amazing anyone gets anything done.

It's been coming for a very long time, the decision that led up to sneaking behind Eduardo's back and betraying him with fine print -- it probably started as early as that time in Kirkland, when Eduardo fidgeted and said, "we haven't killed anyone since Erica" the way other people would say, "Have you fed the cats yet today?" -- and no matter what anyone tries to imply, later, it isn't something Mark took lightly. He puts it off and codes, endlessly codes, just so he wouldn't have to think about it.

He starts asking people for advice in his weakest moments, when he's face-down on his own desk and he can't tell ceiling from floor or tomorrow from yesterday. No one bothers him, not anymore, because he's CEO, bitch.

Eventually, though (and this is the part Mark never wants to admit, not to anyone,) people start answering.

"Well, if you want our help, you're going to have to explain the problem," someone points out to him during one of these moments, quite calmly. "Why are you so adamant about diluting Eduardo out of the company?"

Mark's head jerks up, off of his arms, because he knows that voice. Once, he had taken enormous pleasure in the thought that he would never hear it again.

Sitting at Dustin's darkened computer console, Erica Albright looks at him steadily, waiting for his answer. She's wearing the clothes she wore the last time he saw her; the peacoat and striped tights, her hair braided back along the sides of her head, and the fact she looks corporeal enough to touch isn't the most alarming part.

"Well?" she goes patiently. Her throat moves when she speaks, the sick red slash that cuts her open from one side of her jaw from the other sliding open and shut, like a second, grotesquely grinning mouth.

"Oh, no," Mark tells her, vehement, pushing himself to his feet. He wobbles like he's got sea legs, and he wonders when was the last time he stood up. "I am not doing this. I am going to sleep."

"All right," says Erica equably. "I suppose some of us have got to stay around to make sure you do."

He shuts down his computer and unplugs his headphones, and when he reaches the hallway, he checks, compulsive, but the place where she'd been sitting, clear as day, is empty.

That's how it starts; from the first time Sean brings up the possibility of changing ownership shares all the way up until the very moment Mark sees Eduardo's head bend over the papers in Peter Thiel's office, they're there, mingling under Mark's eyelids, waiting for him to be alone, tired, and worn down before they try talking to him. It's Erica, most of the time, asking him questions or simply sitting beside him while he works, humming songs from Carmen, but Michael the TA is there, too, with his green-shot eyeballs, and Milly Garcia, splashing her legs at the edge of the pool and calling for him to join her, her head twisted on backwards. Alice and Ian and Jonathan and the gymnast. All of them.

One day, he gives in. "All right!" he says, spinning around in his chair. "You want me to talk to you, and I want you to tell me how I make you go away."

Erica answers first. "Okay, then. Is that the attitude you had that made you want to murder people? They wouldn't leave you alone, so you just made them go away?" She looks incredulous for a beat, her mouth twitching downwards as she thinka that through. "Your premise has been flawed from the onset, you know. Killing off everyone that gets in your way doesn't make you invincible."

"Quite the opposite, actually," Alice points out. In Mark's imagination (hallucinations, whatever these are,) she's been sewn back together like a doll, big coarse black stitches running from her painted toes to her mouth. "The more you killed, the more vulnerable you became."

"How so?" Mark frowns.

"Eduardo made you reckless," comes from the oil futures guy. Mark has no idea what he actually looks like, so he's just kind of hovering in the corners of Mark's vision, where all he can see is a silhouette, not unlike the blank profiles that come with newly created Facebook accounts. He's never there when Mark tries to look at him directly. "He made you take chances you'd never have been comfortable with otherwise. You haven't been caught yet, but you will. He makes you stupid."

"No --" Mark starts automatically, but down the hallway, a door opens and Dustin shuffles out, scratching at the back of his neck. Mark's ghosts vanish at once.

A week later, Mark is sitting cross-legged on Sean's bed, laptop open on his calves and power cords tangled around him in the sheets, and he looks up and says, "What if I told you that I murdered, or was collaboratively responsible for the cold-blooded murders of twelve different people, and now I am certifiably crazy enough to have conversations with them when they haunt me?"

At the end of the bed, Sean lolls his head back to look at him. He's on a bad trip; his friends dropped him off without so much as a whoopsie-daisy, and Mark pulled the short straw for babysitting duty.

"Are you sure?" Dustin had said, biting his lip. "I kind of feel like I'm giving Buzz Lightyear to that Sid kid. I don't know what's going to happen."

"Well, if you're volunteering," Mark had tersely replied, and Dustin automatically took a step back. So Mark has spent most of the evening waiting for Sean to come back down to earth, reassuring him that the trees weren't actually going to pick his ribs out, and sure, why not, take everything grey-colored out of your closet and wrap it around your head, Sean, that'll protect you. So he's reasonably certain Sean isn't going to remember this conversation; it doesn't stop his heart from pounding, because the last person Mark ever confessed anything to was Eduardo and it doesn't exactly get easier.

Sean contemplates him, serene. "Do you feel remorse, Tom?" he asks, a little husky. "Are you trying for a little remorse?"

Mark laughs, short and bitter. "Is that what this is? A guilty conscience?"

He doesn't believe it.

And then they kill Christy, unlucky number thirteen. And then Eduardo shakes hands with the lawyers. And then she's on her tiptoes, smelling like smoke and whispering in his ear, "Do you think this will save him?"

Mark and Sean do what they did because you can't trust people like Eduardo. He's too dangerous to keep that close to Facebook's jugular vein. Sean's reasons are probably a lot shallower, but Mark knows what he doesn't: Eduardo has always, always intended to get caught one day, preferably once he'd built up an impressive head count, the kind that would put him in the books for the rest of human history. He's going to let himself be caught at the most strategic moment to kamikaze his family -- he'd always given everything he had, into everything he did, whether it was murder or Mark or Facebook, and if it hurt his family, then he was going to give everything for that, too.

So Mark needs to get his attention, he needs to get it now, and he needs to separate Eduardo from Facebook before people get too interested in him. Facebook is too important to risk, and he really needs Eduardo to see that.

When they first finish drawing up the final draft with their lawyers, Sean must catch something in his face on their way across the garage, because he sidles closer and claps a hand to Mark's shoulder, shaking him a little bit to get his attention.

"Hey, man," he goes, fishing in his pocket with his other hand for his car keys. Somewhere in the labyrinth of cars, the big, black SUV chirps back at them, louder and more echoing that the flip-flapping of Mark's flip flops. "You're doing the right thing. He's just slowing us down, you know that." He gestures grandly with his arms; it's eleven in the morning and he might be drunk already. Mark can never tell. "I'm glad you listened to me. There's nowhere to go but up, little Zuckerberg. It's time to take your life back!"

Mark just snorts, because his life hasn't been his since the day the boy in 417 smiled at him and said, what did you do with the bodies?

"That's what they do, you know," Christy tells him, sitting on his toilet seat with her legs crossed, watching Mark brush his teeth with a smirk. "You never see them coming. They sneak up on you and surprise you with the way they smile or the way they say things or the way they always dress like they want to do something nice for you, and the next thing you know, you're cracked wide open and vulnerable and it's the most awful thing, because they can do anything they like to you. That's what falling in love is like."

Mark bends over the sink and spits, trying to run the script for the Wall from memory, hoping it'll take up enough of his brain that it won't have room for her.

No such luck. "He surprised you," she continues cruelly, "being the first person to ever catch you. Even your own mother doesn't know what you did to that girl in the tree or the boys in your school, but Eduardo did. He just walked into your life one day, walked into your life and your mind and your bed and your heart and never, never has it occurred to you to shake him off. No, you want to keep him, declaw him, because you can't stand to let him go."

"I'm aware of that, thank you!" Mark snaps at her, loudly. "Tell me something I don't know!"

Which is stupid, because she's a figment of his imagination -- they're all figments of his imagination and technically, they don't know anything he doesn't already know. They've got no answers that he hasn't found himself.

"Um," comes from the doorway. "Le spirit d'escalier is French for that feeling you get when you walk away from an argument and dwell on all the scathing things you could have said."

Mark looks up and grimaces. "Thank you, Tiff," he sighs.

Dustin's girlfriend shrugs a shoulder, unperturbed by Mark yelling at nothing in the bathroom. She holds out a jam jar. "Can you do me a favor and pee in this?"

"People underestimate just how perfect you and Dustin are for each other," Mark mutters, and then, "Can you leave me alone so I can pee in your jar?"

"Sure!" she chirps, and shuts the bathroom door.

Mark looks at the jar for a moment, then wrinkles his nose and sets it down on the edge of the sink with a soft clink. Christy's not on the toilet seat anymore, and for one heartbeat, two, he listens to the rest of the house; the volume on the TV spiking with each set of commercials and Sean murmuring on the phone in the next room over (it's his sister, Mark can tell by his tone; he wouldn't be attempting to be quiet if it were anyone else.)

Mark is going to cut Eduardo Saverin out of the company because it's as necessary as creating an alibi before you go in and kill someone. Eduardo believes in getting what he wants, and usually he succeeds, because he works hard, believes hard, and he's got a face that does things to people. This is what made them so amazing in the beginning, because Mark believes all those things too, and they'd been as beautiful as blood, both as killers and as friends.

It's also why it's so goddam horrible now that they want different things.

Eduardo is not the nice one, Eduardo has never been the nice one, and he has this idea that they're going to run a business together, and maybe when someone got in their way, they could put their genius brains together, and Mark would come up with a plan and Eduardo would carry out the hit, and they could have it all.

But it's like the Winklevoss twins and the Harvard Connection: Eduardo has this idea, but Mark's got a better one -- keep your head down and never get caught.

"Yes," he whispers, that day, that day, not so very much later, watching Eduardo seal his fate with a handshake. "Yes, it is awful, needing someone quite this much. Can we save him?"

"Oh, Mark," Christy sighs, and when he looks over his shoulder, she's gone.



3 |

It's only when it's too late, much much too late, that he realizes how Eduardo must have seen it: assuming that diluting him down to .03% meant Mark had chosen Facebook over him. As if suddenly Mark didn't want anything to do with Eduardo at all, just because he didn't want to plan murders with him. Like murder was the only thing they could do together. Eduardo thought Mark had made a choice, the speak now or forever hold your peace kind of choice.


Stupid, stupid, stupid. Eduardo was the only choice to be made.



3 |

There are pieces of laptop still lying on the floor. There's the processor and what's left of the hard drive, and the heat sink, for some reason, is all the way over by Priscilla's desk; he doesn't know if it ricocheted over there when the laptop smashed or if Eduardo or Sean kicked it. It doesn't matter.

His staff give him space, which is part of why he hired them, because his mind is going a mile a minute and it's worse than the mental white-out he gets when he's coding, because it's trying to cover all possible avenues of thought at once: picking apart Eduardo's behavior, his words, the look on his face; Sean's behavior, his words, and that vindictiveness Mark hadn't ever expected to see turned on Eduardo like that; how many hours of work may or may not have been backed up on the Facebook servers before Eduardo smashed his laptop to pieces.

He tries to map out all the possible actions Eduardo can take now.

The Facebook office toasts to one million members, and Mark digs his phone out of his pocket.

Please don't kill Sean, he texts to the first number in his contacts under E.

His phone buzzes with a reply almost immediately, which makes Mark think that Eduardo isn't in his car (smart, as downtown Palo Alto is a tangle of one-way streets and stop signs that's difficult to navigate even when in possession of full faculty) and is, instead, walking it off. He's probably scaring people, because foot traffic in the evenings is usually intense, this close to the Stanford campus.

Sean Parker is nobody and nothing, and someday he'll understand that. Whatever anybody says about text messages not relaying proper tone, Mark reads the cold, calm fury of this loud and clear. It's nothing like Eduardo's usual expressiveness. In fact, he sounds a lot like Mark. I wasn't expecting anything from him, it'd be a waste of my time.

He slams the phone down on his desk so he doesn't have to look at it again, burying his face in his palm and squeezing at his temples.

What's the worst he can do? he asks himself. He closes his eyes and columns of answers appear on the darks of his eyelids.

1. Kill Sean. Yes, fine, okay, that would be problematic, as Sean is usually the first to translate Mark into English for the programmers and is a smoother businessman than Mark will ever be (although between him and Christy, back when she was alive, Mark did get a crash course in political correctness that has come in handy once or twice,) but his usefulness has been minimal since the angel investment, and Mark has already paid him back for that with the pajamas-and-middle-finger stunt. Eduardo has nothing but contempt for Sean, whereas Mark's feelings run more towards disappointment: for someone who could have been the best man he and Eduardo had ever known, Sean can't even manage a drug habit without getting pulled up in front of the cops. Although it rankles to admit, given how he'd defended him after that first introduction, Mark can't respect someone who isn't capable of pulling off a simple crime.

And if Eduardo does turn him into a blood and gore masterpiece and leaves him lying around, well, there are plenty of people with a grudge against Sean that they can deflect police attention to first. What's the point of being rich and having your own PR team if you can't manipulate them to cover up the fact that you and your (probably now former) best friend are mass murderers? (Mark would prefer not to use his PR department in this manner. This is what you'd call the last resort.)

2. Lawyers. Okay. Okay.

Okay, wait.

Mark spins back around in his chair, snatching up his phone.

You're being asinine, he texts out, and maybe it's stupid to antagonize Eduardo when he is this out-of-his-mind furious, but Mark is very good at being Eduardo's last straw. Think it through. You can't go to the lawyers. The whole Facebook thing began with Erica breaking up with me. They're going to want to question her, and then when they realize she's that missing girl, they're going to want to question us. Mutually assured destruction, remember?

It far exceeds the 160 character text limit, but Mark hits send and resolutely doesn't care, because if there is ever a time to text-bomb Eduardo, it's now.

He absently runs his phone along his lower lip, watching a couple of the girl programmers awkwardly try to do a body shot off the kid intern from San Mateo, the one with the whippet-thin body and the same cereal bowl hollow in his sternum that Mark has. Everybody's laughing too hard. The overhead screen says they've now got 1,000,145 users. That's 145 new users in a little over an hour: for a website, it's the textbook definition of success.

His phone buzzes.

! it reads.

Mark immediately thumbs the lock button, staring through the phone as the screen goes blank, mirroring his own expressionless face back at him. Eduardo communicates in emoticons and exclamation points, because he says they help to distinguish tone so that people don't misinterpret him, whereas Mark always thought it just demonstrated a tendency towards spastic mashing of buttons over coherency. A single exclamation point was Eduardo's way of saying, you're right! and he mostly used it when he thought Mark had just asked him something really obvious, like, is she mad at me? or is it Tuesday?

He bares his teeth at nothing, primal fear curling in his stomach.

The difference between Mark and Eduardo is that Eduardo always intended to get caught someday. Mark thought he had months, years with which to persuade Eduardo to postpone it, or not do it at all, years with which to convince Eduardo that he didn't have to set himself on fire to burn his whole family down. Mark had partially assumed that being co-founder of Facebook would give him that status he so desperately craved, something with a lot of shine to take home and pin to the fridge to impress his family, and now, now Mark's realizing that he's probably just triggered exactly what he was hoping to avoid, cutting ownership shares like that.

Eduardo's not going to just kamikaze his family, he's going to kamikaze Facebook. Christy was right, he's going to burn them all to the ground, and he can do it so, so, so easily, just by walking into the Santa Clara County sheriff's office and telling them, I murdered Erica Albright because Mark Zuckerberg asked me to, the night Harvard's network crashed.

He can tell them where to find her body (the burden of proof the Winklevoss twins could never deliver.) He can tell them about Michael Oglegias the TA, Alice Simmons, and Christy Lee. He can change them, from Mark Zuckerberg and Eduardo Saverin, masters and commanders of Facebook, to Mark Zuckerberg and Eduardo Saverin, youngest serial killers in the history of America.

For all his planning, for all his strategies and plots and careful alibis, for all they nodded to each other and said, we're too tied up, if one of us gets caught we both burn, this one thing had never occurred to him: that Eduardo could be the one to bring it all down on them, to give them up.

Vulnerable, breathes a voice in the back of his mind: it could be Christy, could be Alice, could be Erica, or maybe it's all three of them together.

He's on his feet. There's noise in his ears and colors blurring in front of his eyes. None of it means anything.

His phone buzzes again, unprompted.

He looks.

Guns are inelegant, you said, but I think we were just waiting for someone with a mind beautiful enough to blow out, weren't we.

Everything spins. The floor could be ceiling and Mark wouldn't be able to tell, because the roaring is enormous, a fear like he's never known before, and he suddenly, abruptly, for the very first time, realizes exactly how Christy must have felt, right before she died: Mark wants to kick, to punch, to bite, to tear like a primal creature, because this can't be happening.

When he next comes back to himself, it's to Dustin, clapping a hand on his shoulder hard enough to jar him.

"Hey, man!" Dustin goes, off-balance and leaning a bit too close. "You all right?"

"Fine," Mark goes automatically, tilting away from him. Chaos screams in his peripheral.

I'm coming back for everything.

"He's coming back for the most beautiful mind he knows," Mark whispers.

"Dude, what?" Dustin blinks at him, and blinks again in the hazy way of someone who's already seeing double. "You're, like, all grey. You sure you're all right?"

"Go throw up on something, Dustin," Mark snaps, impatient, and it's a true testament to the reliability of Dustin's character that all he does is shrug and back off, like this is actually an reasonable suggestion. Mark buries his fingers in his hair, trying to ignore their trembling. He fans his fingertips out along his skull, pushing in like he wants to feel his own brain underneath.

He wonders what kind of blood splatter it will make.

He wonders how stunning it will look, all that red and black and grey.



3 |

Minding his own business is usually Dustin's main form of transportation, but at the end of the week, he routinely finds himself going through the rookie programmers' lines of code, fixing easy-to-miss errors before Mark has a chance to catch them and chew out whatever fresh-faced graduate is responsible, because then the kid will hide in the copy room for a week and smoke and make everything smell like burnt tobacco, which Dustin hates.

Hey, nobody ever said his intentions were pure.

He's in the middle of rearranging a copy/paste mistake when a shadow falls over him.

He looks up, tugging his noise-reduction headphones down around his neck just as Sean Parker plants his hands on his desk and leans in.

"Is it just me," says Sean. He smells overwhelmingly of Axe, and Dustin doesn't care what the commercials say, it doesn't make him want to tackle Sean off the desk or get into a catfight with the closest person. It mostly just makes him want to move into a less hazardous airspace. "Or have you been to Mark's house recently?"

Dustin fish-eyes him. "I did live with him until Tiff and I found our own place," he reminds him, because if there's one thing Facebook can't revolutionize, it's the goddamn California housing market.

Sean waves this off, like Dustin's impending engagement and successful homeownership isn't even worth a footnote in his thoughts. "I'm talking about how he basically invented his own unhackable security system. I think his home is probably more impenetrable now than Guatanamo Bay."

Now that Sean mentions it, Dustin did notice that Mark's alarm code seemed to be longer than all their social security numbers combined the last time he was over, but he just figured it was Mark's way of showing off. Hey, look, I invented Facebook, but that's old hat, look what else I can do, I can make a highly economic version of Fort Knox with a firmly middle-class home, a paperclip, and some string. It was a Mark thing. It wasn't for Dustin to understand: Dustin is just the defaulted best friend who, they decided back at Harvard, would be the one to clear Mark's Internet browsing history on the occasion of Mark's unexpected death, just as a safety precaution.

And it's not like Sean can go and ask Mark himself, because Mark is pissed as hell at him right now for that stunt with the cocaine and the underage girls. As their boss, Mark's policy is generally, "do whatever," but by that, what he really means is, "don't ever get caught," and the look on his face when he says it is so frightening that in their first couple days, it has the new programmers skittering out of his path like he's a black cat.

Sean nods at him like he said something important. "Exactly." He lowers his voice even further, so that Dustin has to lean in. "Do you think there's more to this lawsuit thing than he's letting on?" Dustin automatically opens his mouth to inform Sean that not everything is a government conspiracy, but Sean keeps on talking, "Because I find the abrupt spike in his security rather alarming."

Dustin's mouth snaps shut again. "You have a point," he agrees slowly. "I don't know what he's so paranoid about, either," and then he grins. "It's like he's expecting Eduardo to come in the middle of the night and slit his throat or something."

Sean darts a glance at him out of the corner of his eye, and they both snort themselves into laughter, and that's it, they can't take it seriously anymore.

It's probably the most absurd mental image to ever cross Dustin's mind. Honestly. Eduardo's one of those people that probably scoops baby spiders out of the bathtub with a Kleenex and releases them outside. The most he will ever do is look sad at shareholder meetings, and maybe they'll lose a few investors because Eduardo's got that kind of face, but -- and Dustin can say this without being mean because he's been Eduardo's friend for years -- he overestimates the number of people that will actually care about him.

Eduardo Saverin is, and has never been, much of a threatening person.

Everybody knows that.



3 | the fac

It's close to the end, one of the very last days, and the dark circles under Mark's eyes won't go away.