The cool night air washed over Mark in a rush as he stumbled through the doors of the club. He twitched out of reach of the bouncer's calloused hand, and the door slammed shut behind them, muffling the music into nothing more than pounding bass. He squinted, vaguely irritated that it was brighter under the streetlights than it had been indoors. Why did clubs need to be hell on your vision?
Beside him, Eduardo cursed. He haphazardly adjusted the line of his jacket and said, acerbic and unfriendly, "You're amazing. You are, hands down, the most amazing person I have ever met."
Mark licked his lips and glanced down the line of cars. He'd had a driver, but he wasn't due to be collected for another hour, and Mark wasn't prepared to stand around pointedly not staring at drunken couples grinding up against each other until then. It was Eduardo's fault they'd gotten booted out. He could give Mark a ride.
Maybe Mark would even give him gas money. What was fifteen bucks after six-hundred million, after all?
"Eduardo. Where is your car?" he asked.
"Oh," said Eduardo, with a laugh, "I guess you don't wanna talk about that, then. I mean, I get it. Why would you wanna talk about that? Here. Thanks for the escort, I'm grateful, really—" He sounded like he was gearing up for an impassioned diatribe, which Mark didn't and would never again have the time for. But he stopped short and gave a long-suffering sigh when Mark cocked his head, sweeping a hand out before them. "This is my car. The red one. You're looking straight at it."
"You're always like this," said Mark, shoving his hands into his pockets. It was chilly, here, away from the body heat of dozens of people Mark wished he'd never had to give the time of day. "Telling me to look for something you know I can't see is passive aggressive. You've always been passive aggressive, like that time—"
"What?" Eduardo was staring at him now instead of past him, a perturbed, confused set to his face. "What do you mean, something you can't see?"
"Or maybe not that time," Mark said, changing his mind. There were better examples. Eduardo had passive aggressiveness down to an art form. His life was an endless succession of portraits of himself in profile, gazing forlornly out a window (or maybe he was just immortalized that way in Mark's mind, saying, "Point-zero-three percent"). He nodded to himself. "But definitely the time you took all my laundry and—"
"Mark," barked Eduardo. "As fascinating as it is to listen to your interpretation of my behavior, something you made perfectly clear you didn't approve of when you screwed me out of our company—"
"See, like that!" said Mark, vindicated. "Exactly. You—"
"What can't you see?"
"Red and green, shades of red and green," he replied through clenched teeth. "I'm deuteranopic, I told you, I can't distinguish—"
"You never told me that!"
"But you don't know that, do you, because that would require you actually listen to the things I say to you," Mark retorted.
"I always listened to you!" said Eduardo, jabbing a finger at Mark. But then he seemed to droop, the tension bleeding out of his shoulders in a defeated slump. "Didn't I?" he asked, running a hand over his face. "I think I did. I don't know anymore, Mark. Does it even matter?"
Mark shrugged. He never could make up his mind on that one, tried not to think about it too much (he wanted it to; it didn't). "Which car?" he asked again. Eduardo flapped his unoccupied hand, the other still rubbing tiredly at his left eye. Mark followed the gesture and frowned. "You sued me for six-hundred million dollars. I assumed you'd be able to afford something less pedestrian than a Honda Civic."
Just like that, that fighting gleam was back in Eduardo's eyes. "Does my car not live up to the expectations of the great, the one-and-only CEO of Facebook, leader of the social network revolution? Sorry to disappoint. Again," he said, spitting out the word like it had personally offended him. "Why are you here, Mark?" he asked.
"We got kicked out of the party," said Mark.
"You mean you got us kicked out of the party. Just like that time at AEPi—"
"I never got us kicked out of AEPi," Mark said, voice rising. He'd thought Eduardo had let that one go, but fuck, Eduardo never let anything go, did he? "Dustin was the one who—"
"Oh, it's never your fault, is it?"
Mark felt out of breath like he'd been trekking up hills, red in the face. He cracked his knuckles, tried not to wring his hands anxiously. He said, "I didn't make you sign those papers. You were CFO of the company, and as CFO, you should have read over—"
He ran out of steam, wincing, when Eduardo kicked the back tire of his car and swore.
"I'm tired of talking about this, Mark!" he yelled. The car alarm began to blare. A tall, leggy woman by a blue SUV cast a nervous glance in their direction, but Eduardo didn't seem to notice, dug into his pocket for his keys and clicked the alarm off without taking his eyes off Mark. "You threw me to the wolves!"
The stragglers at the doors of the club were whispering now, glitter-infested packs of red-eyed lushes edging in. Mark's teeth worried his lip. "I—"
"A lie by an omission is still a lie," said Eduardo, pointing.
"I never lied about anything, no one ever lied about anything," Mark said quickly, agitated. Eduardo had never got that, never understood that that had been his thing. Mark had wanted him to know, wanted him to notice. "It said in the papers—"
Eduardo laughed. "You're unbelievable! After all this time, you still won't take any of the blame?"
Behind them, someone cleared his throat. Eduardo whipped around, hand in his hair, and stopped dead when he took in the uniform. Mark almost wanted to laugh at him, except, fuck, great. A CEO with an arrest record, just what Facebook needed. The onlookers were snickering, shoving each other in amusement.
"Is there a problem?" the cop asked. He was a short and solidly built guy with a slack, blank expression, hair balding into a horseshoe around his shiny scalp. He walked up to them, flashlight in hand, and stalled in front of Eduardo, whose throat worked.
"No, officer," Eduardo said. He was using that tone he pulled out when he wanted to get Mark or Dustin out of a bar fight, a placating lilt that made Mark itch to punch him in the eye. "We were just—"
Fascinating as this was, Mark didn't have time for it. "So none of it was your fault."
"Mark, not now," said Eduardo.
The officer frowned in consternation. "Gentlemen, this is a public area."
Which—of all the tedious, inconsequential things to waste Mark's time with, shit. "That's right," he snarled, "this is a public area, and as a member of the public I think I'm well within my rights to—"
Eduardo elbowed him and said under his breath, "Mark, think about what you're saying," something that proved to be a bad move when the officer forewent Mark and zeroed in on him instead.
"Sir, were you planning on driving this evening?" he asked.
"What?" Eduardo gaped, caught off-guard. Mark smirked.
"You're holding your keys," the officer said, nodding to Eduardo's key chain still clenched tightly in his fist. "You've obviously been drinking—"
Eduardo paled. "What, no, I—"
"This is ridiculous," Mark said, rolling his eyes.
The officer crossed his arms, flashlight tucked into the crook, and asked, "Is there a problem?"
"Yes," said Mark. "You're overpaid."
"Mark." Eduardo was making a hearty attempt to pull his hair out by the roots. Mark hoped he succeeded. Less money for the hair gel industry.
"Excuse me?" said the officer, icily.
"I don't know what the arrest rate is in this town if you can have time to harass every person who has a public disagreement."
The officer uncrossed his arms, shoving the flashlight into the waistband of his pants. His lips twitched. "All right," he said, taking them both by the arm. "You're both coming with me."
And then the next thing Mark knew, he and Eduardo were shut in the back of a cop car, thighs side by side, on their way to a holding cell.
He blinked, too blind-sided to do anything but rub at his arm where the cop had held him, which—okay, he should have seen this coming, but somehow he'd assumed he would get out of it. He usually got out of it. "Shit," he said, scowling out the window at the passing streetlights.
Eduardo only laughed, hard and hysterical, until the cop instructed him to quiet down. And, like an addict on relapse, Mark yearned for the sound of it again immediately, couldn't look Eduardo in the eyes without wanting.
But then, he never could.
"You can't take my phone," Mark insisted, clutching it. "You don't understand who I am. I need to be connected—"
"Oh," said the officer, whose name was Miller. Mark had discovered this when he'd demanded to see a badge. Twice. "I know who you are."
Okay, he hadn't expected that. Did anyone actually want to arrest the CEO of a website they depended on daily? Did they not understand the implications of that? Mark could fuck up this guy's life with his eyes closed—not that he would, obviously, but he could. If he wanted. "You know who I am," he said dubiously.
"Yeah," said Miller. He pried the phone from Mark's hand. "You're the drunk I'm not arresting unless he pushes his luck. The one who's gonna sit in the drunk tank and make nice with his friend."
Mark felt mutinous—he'd bought a beer, but it had disappeared after a pretty co-ed had dragged him out onto the dance floor, so he was emphatically sober at this point—but he shuffled silently into the holding cell. It was just Eduardo waiting for him there, on the rusted bench with his legs splayed wide. He made a face at Mark behind the officer's back.
Eduardo was likely not as sober as Mark. That asshole.
Miller shut the grate behind them. "Sober up, you two," he said, patting the bars. "I'm not even gonna process you. Just chill out, calm down, work it out. You'll be free to go in a few hours."
Eduardo shot up the moment Mark sat down, like a magnet repelled. He paced the length of the cell once, carding his fingers through his hair. That was a lost cause now, Mark thought viciously, tucking his hands under his thighs. He stared down at his dress pants, stained and wrinkled now.
"This is brilliant, Mark. Your friendship is managing to screw up my life from beyond the grave."
He looked up sharply. "You said, 'That's not what friends do.'"
Eduardo asked, suspicious, "What?"
"During the depositions," Mark said. "You said you weren't suing me for cheating on my final exam because—"
"—because that's not what friends do," Eduardo finished for him. "I remember. So?"
"So," said Mark, "present tense. 'That's not what friends do.' So maybe we're not friends right now, maybe we have to work at it, but that doesn't mean it's posthumous. Don't say that our friendship is dead because that isn't—isn't accurate."
Eduardo sputtered, "You can't possibly think that we're still friends. You gutted me out of our company. I sued you!"
"Terminology aside, I am aware of that," said Mark.
"So I think that sends a pretty clear message, Mark. I said you had one friend."
"Okay, you're upset." It wasn't like Eduardo hadn't been upset with him before. Okay, it had never before cost Mark six-hundred million to fix it, but— "I don't see why we can't work past that."
"No," said Eduardo, and he sighed. "No, when someone is upset with you, they don't speak to you for a week. When someone is upset with you, they complain about you to their friends. When someone has been thrown out of his own company and forced to slink off to a foreign country in shame—"
"I never told you to go anywhere," Mark interjected. The thought still nauseated him, that Eduardo wasn't just on the other side of the continent now (and that had been lonely enough, when he'd first moved them to Palo Alto, a constant state of discontent if he'd stopped long enough to think). He'd fled it entirely. "That wasn't part of the legal agreement; you can't blame me for that."
"The point is, there's a lawsuit and three years between us. "
"I don't know what that means," said Mark. It was a lie.
Eduardo looked at him, almost pityingly, and said, "I'm not upset anymore, Mark. I'm done."
There'd been this time at Kirkland, a few months after he'd met Eduardo, when Mark had let himself in after an all-nighter in the CS lab to find Dustin and Chris on the couch passing a pipe back and forth. They'd been cracking up at some cartoon, dipping hands into a bag of chips and littering the couch with crumbs. Eduardo was propped up against the front of the couch. His head was lolled back against the cushions, and he opened his eyes when Mark dropped his laptop case, gave a vacant smile.
"Hi," he said, and fuck, he was so stoned his eyes slid past Mark before Mark could open his mouth to reply.
"What're you doing?" Mark asked the room at large, and Dustin snickered and replied, "Studying," at which point Mark lost both him and Chris to a fit of laughter.
"Wardo," he said, walking up to Eduardo and nudging him with the toe of his flip-flop. "What's up?"
"'m tired," said Eduardo. He sounded—not good, slow and tremulous. He wrapped a hand around Mark's ankle, stroking his thumb across the back of Mark's heel. "Everything looks like it's inside a memory. It looks like a swing, back and forth. Am I here?"
Mark sucked on his teeth, rocking back, and then he crouched down close. "Come on," he said. Eduardo followed him up when he stood, never quite focusing, and trailed Mark into his bedroom. Chris and Dustin were laughing, still, the tinny echo of cartoon sound effects acting as makeshift punctuation.
Mark toed off his shoes and sat down on his bed. "You should sleep," he said.
"I don't know." Eduardo lingered in the doorway. He bit his lip. "I'm not sure."
"It's fine," Mark told him. "Come on. I—" He stuttered, awkward, "I promise."
This seemed, against all odds, to placate Eduardo. He shut the door and climbed in next to Mark. He was still in his jeans, such an unfamiliar sight. He sprawled out on his stomach and rolled his face into Mark's pillow. "I never smoked before," he mumbled.
Mark tried not to stare, tried not to let himself feel the fondness that threatened to choke him. "Yeah."
"Are you gonna be here if I wake up?" Eduardo asked, drawling, already halfway into a dream.
And again, Mark choked out, "I promise." Eduardo quieted, tapping Mark's mattress arrhythmically until eventually his fingers went slack. Once Mark was certain Eduardo was asleep, he brushed his knuckles across his cheek, curious. It was odd; sometimes people touched Mark, that was inevitable, but Mark did not touch other people.
It was odd, but it wasn't bad. He wanted, secretly, to do it again. To do more.
He snatched his hand back quickly. He exchanged his jeans for a pair of sweatpants, and then he crawled into bed and lay next to Eduardo, every muscle taut, until Eduardo woke.
Eduardo was humiliated, that was clear enough, had skipped out quickly and lain low a few days. But when he turned up again, beer in hand, he looked at Mark with a new kind of appreciation. A gratefulness Mark had never seen directed his way from anyone before. And Mark liked it, hadn't minded the wasted time, the uncertainty.
He'd liked it.
He didn't think his promises would mean much to Eduardo these days.
In the next room, Miller had the radio on, tuned to the kind of headache-inducing dance pop Mark knew Eduardo liked. Not ironically, but genuinely, because that was who Eduardo was. He loved things unabashedly when he loved them at all, would dance along to anything without making fun. "I don't see the difference," Eduardo had told him once, even though Mark hadn't asked, of course, never asked. "If you like something, you like something. The rest is bullshit. Don't you think?"
Mark had thought, "It's about saving face," but he hadn't said. Those were the sorts of things he pretended not to notice.
Eduardo's tapped along with one foot whenever he forgot himself. He grimaced to himself when he caught it. "How's Facebook?" he asked, hesitant, like he was throwing Mark a bone. Mark sucked on his lip until it felt raw and sore.
It was small talk, wasteful and idle. Eduardo knew how Facebook was. Eduardo was a shareholder, Eduardo was fastidious, Eduardo— "You still have a Facebook profile."
"I'm a shareholder," said Eduardo, echoing Mark's thoughts.
And, okay, Mark didn't keep track of the profiles of the shareholders, exactly, but— "I don't understand how that's relevant."
Eduardo said, "It doesn't look good for me personally if I don't even have a profile on the website I'm backing. It needs to be clear that I am invested in the product one-hundred percent."
"You sued the CEO of the company," said Mark. It seemed like a reasonable thing to put out there. "That doesn't exactly show absolute investment in the future of Facebook."
Eduardo sighed. He sat down and leaned back against the wall. He wasn't as thin as he'd been, Mark noticed. There was something more substantial about him, something that demanded attention. "I was angry," he said. He said it like it meant something, like that one sentence was worth more than the sum of the words that made it up. He sneaked a glance at Mark from beneath his lashes.
"I see," said Mark. He didn't, really, but he could understand. He knew what it was like to turn anger into efficiency.
"You see," Eduardo repeated, skeptically.
"How is Singapore?" Mark asked.
"What do you care how Singapore is?"
"I don't know," said Mark. He tried not to sound quite as exasperated as he felt. "I wasn't prepared to justify every question I asked."
"Sorry," said Eduardo, sullen, "if I'm not thrilled by the prospect of making small talk with the same guy who ignored me through months of pathetic phone conversations."
That wasn't—well, that wasn't an adequate summation of what had happened, and it made Mark feel ill, frankly. The word pathetic chimed in his mind in a tuneless song, the delivery more bitter each time.
He pulled his knees up to his chest. The soles of his shoes scuffed against the lip of the bench. "I wasn't ignoring you. I—" He rested his head on his knees. The expensive, unfamiliar fabric of his slacks was soft beneath his cheek. "It was, it was a stressful time, for me, and I didn't—I wasn't sleeping regularly."
"You never sleep regularly."
"I have a schedule. Now," he clarified. "I have a schedule now." This little stint with the less fortunate side of the legal system was fucking it all up, too.
Eduardo chuckled. "Of course you would implement a sleep schedule after I wasn't around to put you to bed anymore. You'll be healthy just to spite me."
"It doesn't have anything to do with you," said Mark. "Not everything is about you. Sleep deprivation impairs the ability to multitask."
"So it was bad for Facebook." Eduardo rolled his eyes. "Of course." When Mark clenched his jaw, sucking his bottom lip into his mouth, he frowned. "Mark?"
"I might've—" He stopped, readjusted. "There was an accident."
"An accident?" said Eduardo. His eyebrows were making a daring escape into his hairline.
"A minor accident," Mark said, because he felt that was an important point to make. People always overreacted when you said the word accident, even when you were sitting two feet from them, not a scratch on your person; social conditioning, he supposed. "It was dark, and I was driving—"
"You were driving?"
"It wasn't serious. But my doctor was very insistent—"
"It took a traffic accident to get you to quit going forty-eight hours at a time without passing out? What am I even talking about, obviously it would take a traffic accident.
"Mark," he said, unreasonably anguished about it considering that he'd spent an exorbitant sum legally declaring the end of their friendship, and anyway, and Mark was clearly just fine. "You don't even drive!"
"I can drive. I am legally permitted to drive."
"You keep saying my name," said Mark, picking at the hem of his pant leg.
Eduardo said, voice climbing, "It bears repeating!"
Mark frowned. "I don't—"
"He's not even watching us. He left us here," he muttered. "We could be doing anything. That can't be ethically sound.”
"As far as he's concerned, we're just two drunk Jews he picked up in a parking lot. What are we gonna get into?" Eduardo said, and then, "Jesus Christ, Mark. An accident."
A headache was beginning to demand Mark's attention, sharp and pulsing. Mark dug a thumb into his temple. "Yes, an accident. Eduardo, are you going to move on? If we stop talking, this music might drive me to homicide."
"It's not all that bad."
"If I never hear the phrase 'turn me on' in a song again, it will be too soon."
Eduardo grinned. "Okay, it's pretty bad."
"Hey," Eduardo said. Mark lifted his head, and Eduardo broke eye contact almost immediately, like it pained him to be looking at Mark if Mark was looking back. "Do you mind if I sit over there with you?" he asked. He kneaded a shoulder. "This is killing my back."
"Are you going to commit aggravated assault?" asked Mark.
"Okay," said Eduardo slowly, "I'll stay here then."
"No!" Mark said. It echoed against the tall walls of the cell, and Eduardo's eyes went wide. Mark turned his face into his knees, quietly mortified. "No," he said again, more sedately. "I didn't mean... Please come here, Eduardo. I want you to come here.”
"Okay," said Eduardo. There was rustling, footsteps, and then Eduardo settled onto the bench beside him. It creaked loudly. Mark could tell Eduardo was warm even with a good foot between the two of them. He hooked his hands around his own ankles and held on right.
He turned his head. His curls pressed into his cheeks, made him uncomfortably warm and itchy. He needed a haircut, maybe. "Hi," he said.
"Hi," said Eduardo with a soft, reluctant smile.
And then, for a while, they sat in silence. Mark watched the rise and fall of Eduardo's chest, steady, and imagined nothing at all had changed. Imagined that this was something he could keep for himself once the two of them weren't physically restrained. Imagined, very quietly, that he could have more, even, than just this. That Eduardo would give that to him.
It felt silly, sad, with Eduardo's words ("I'm done," he'd said. "I'm done") still ringing in his ears.
The pop music cut out in favor of commercials as Mark scratched flushed lines into the skin of his ankle. His feet were sweaty in his dress shoes. His assistant was after him to wear socks more often. "When it's actually appropriate, not with flip-flops," she'd said, but he couldn't be bothered most of the time. He regretted that now.
"So how is it?" he asked.
"How is what?" asked Eduardo.
"Singapore," said Mark, looking away. Do you need a new car? asked the radio.
"It's fine. Well, it was fine. It's a beautiful place," he said. His eyes were distant. Mark ground his teeth together. "I always wanted to..." Eduardo shook his head, coughed. Said, "But I'm coming back now."
Startled, Mark said, "You're coming back? Good, that's... good."
"Not to Palo Alto," Eduardo said. Mark didn't know if it was meant to be a correction or a warning. "Maybe not to California, even, I don't know. It's not a good place for me. No good memories."
"Yeah. Of course." Mark nodded. He understood that, even if he didn't agree, but it stung anyway. "You're—of course. Did you..." He faltered, unsure how to word it in a way that he wouldn't look back on and cringe. "Did you meet anyone?" he settled on.
Eduardo's brow furrowed. "Meet anyone?"
"I know what you—" He angled his shoulders toward Mark, that earnest expression seated firmly on his face once again. "What do you mean, am I dating anyone?"
Mark lifted a shoulder. "Or do you have any friends, or—Just, did you meet anyone."
"I met lots of people, Mark," Eduardo said. "I'm in business. Meeting people is what I do. If you're asking if there's anyone important, then no. You were... you were the last important person, I guess."
That... well, it was gratifying to hear, though Mark suspected that made him selfish (he'd never cared about being selfish). Until that moment, he hadn't been sure. He'd suspected, yes, but he'd wondered sometimes if Eduardo had friends hidden away, people who understood him in ways Mark couldn't, lived up to expectations that Mark would never meet.
"You weren't my only friend," he said, instead of voicing any of that. Because Eduardo didn't need to hear that. He had a way of misinterpreting Mark's words, of barreling straight past Mark's meaning to whatever shameful thing he hadn't realized he'd let slip.
Eduardo said, soft, "I know that."
"There were Dustin and Chris. And Billy."
"I wasn't in a good place during the depositions, Mark. I'm sorry about that."
"It was good for you, though," he pointed out. "Logistically."
Eduardo asked, "What do you mean?"
"It made me look..." He shrugged. "I don't know, difficult."
"You are difficult," said Eduardo. That was fair, Mark thought. Eduardo sighed. He picked at his cuticle. "I don't know why I said that. It just... it felt like the thing to say. I don't know. I'm sorry."
Mark didn't know what to do with an apology from Eduardo. He had never expected to receive one, and he wasn't sure if he wanted it at all. "What time is it?" he asked.
Eduardo pushed up his sleeve and glanced at his watch—and who even had one of those in the digital age? Mark eyed it, perplexed and maybe a little offended, on technology's behalf. "Two forty-seven," Eduardo replied.
"My driver should have notified someone," Mark told him. "We weren't processed."
Eduardo pointed. His sleeve fell back into place. "So no one knows where we are," he said.
Mark dipped his head. "Exactly."
"Should we tell him that?" asked Eduardo, but there was a mischievous glint in his eyes. Mark smirked.
"Why would we tell him?" he asked. "He knows exactly who I am."
Eduardo hid a grin behind the palm of his hand. Mark smiled back. These days, that was as a good as a laugh, as good as a clap to the shoulder.
"They're talking about the weather," Eduardo groaned. "Again." He knocked his head against the wall.
"I hear," Mark said.
"They're making puns."
"You've made weather-related puns."
"Yeah, but not that bad," Eduardo said. When Mark snickered into his knees, his face fell. "Right? Wait, right?"
"Are puns bad in degrees? Or is there just a blanket level of cheesiness associated?" Mark asked.
"I don't know. Probably," said Eduardo absently. He looked up, jaw set like he was gearing up for something. He said, "Hey, Mark. There's something I always wondered."
Mark asked, "What's that?"
"Why didn't I ever meet Erica Albright?"
Mark blinked. "What?"
"Why didn't I—"
"I heard you," he said.
Eduardo rolled his eyes. "Well, what do you want me to do, rephrase the question?"
"I don't know," said Mark.
"If you don't know, then this conversation isn't going much of anywhere, is it?"
"No," he said. "I don't know why you and Erica never met."
Eduardo's teeth clicked together. "I don't believe you," he said after a moment.
Mark didn't understand why the entire world insisted on acting like he had something to hide when he only ever said what he was thinking, and they hated that too. "What do you want," he replied, "a dramatic confession? I don't know why you never met, you just didn't. You were, I don't know, separate in my head. I never thought to introduce you." He'd never kept Erica a secret from Eduardo—or vice versa—but the thought of them together sat wrong with Mark. Something about it felt unfinished, out of place.
"When you broke up," Eduardo said, careful, "I thought maybe... I don't know. I thought a lot of stupid things."
Mark said, "If I had to go back and do it again, I still wouldn't introduce you."
"Would you still date Erica?" Eduardo asked. "If you could do it again?"
"I wouldn't do it differently." He winced at how that sounded. At how Eduardo's face shuttered. But he barreled on, "If I had the chance. I wouldn't."
"Right," said Eduardo. "Good to know." He turned, and Mark was left staring at his profile, his stupid fucking profile, just like always.
"Chris is getting married."
"I know," Eduardo said tightly.
"He doesn't work for Facebook anymore."
"I know that too. We still talk," Eduardo informed him. He fiddled with his watch. "Can we just sit here, Mark?" he asked. "I'm not really in the mood for your sparkling conversation right now."
Better run, better run, outrun my gun, the radio told him. Mark said, tugging at a loose string on his pants, "But we're still friends. Chris and I."
"You have to know that's different, though, right?" Eduardo asked. "Chris moved on. I didn't have that luxury."
Mark said, "It wasn't my intention—"
"It's never your intention," Eduardo interrupted.
He scowled. "I never wanted you to move on. From me," he said. "I apologize if that wasn't clear."
Eduardo sucked in a breath. "No," he said. "No, it wasn't clear."
"Well, I apologize," Mark told him. "Not just for that. For... for everything."
Eduardo stood. He ran his hands over the sides of his hair smoothly. "You know what?" he said. "I imagined this conversation lots of times, I imagined..." He shrugged. "It doesn't matter. But when I pictured it, I never had any trouble hearing you say, 'I apologize.' That part was clear as a bell in my head."
He tucked his thumbs into his waistband. "Because you do," he said. "You apologize. You said, 'I apologize' when you told that girl her major was glorified nostalgia and her boyfriend threatened to hand your ass to you. You said, 'I apologize' when you stole Dustin's key and he stopped bringing you those ridiculous Twizzlers for a week."
"They were Red Vines," Mark interjected.
"You even said, 'I apologize' for FaceSmash," Eduardo said, "you said it publicly. Because 'I apologize,' that's not your problem, is it?" He pinned Mark with his gaze. Mark held stock still. "What you don't know how to say is, 'I'm sorry.'"
Mark sat up. "I don't understand the difference," he said
Eduardo laughed. "Don't give me that bullshit, Mark, yes you do."
"I didn't realize we were arguing semantics."
"It's not about semantics—but that's rich, coming from you, that's—" He waved a hand, calming. "Sorry, fuck, just... It's about what you mean and what you say. What you say is, 'I apologize,' but what you mean is, 'You're overreacting.'"
Mark cocked his head. "You smashed a 2500-dollar laptop against my desk."
"So?" Eduardo said.
"So, I don't—you don't think that qualifies as an overreaction?"
"It didn't feel like it at the time."
"But you're not emotionally objective," said Mark, and winced.
"Fuck you, you're emotionally impaired," Eduardo snapped. Mark pulled his knees back to his chest, and Eduardo sighed. He twisted his fingers against his forehead. "I'm sorry," he said. "I didn't mean that."
"That isn't true," Mark said.
Mark didn't buy that. People didn't always mean what they said, and they sure as hell didn't say what they meant, but there was a kernel of truth in everything. Every angry word, every empty praise: all of it meant something. "Well, you said it, so you must—" But he didn't think he could explain that to Eduardo properly, thought it might sound jaded instead of honest, so he said, again, "That isn't true."
"I said I know, Mark," Eduardo sighed. "I'm sorry."
And that wasn't fair. It wasn't fair that Eduardo kept apologizing when Mark was the one who—
Well. When he'd said he'd do it all again, he'd meant it. He'd say every angry word, make every stupid mistake, because at the end of the day, he'd shaped something iconic from all of that bullshit. Mark had a legacy, he'd changed the world, and he was proud of it. Facebook was perfect in every permutation. It was revolutionary. He would give up anything to bring it into the world again.
But that didn't mean he didn't have regrets. That didn't mean he didn't catch a glimpse of someone tall, someone tan, out of the corner of his eye and hate himself when he realized. It didn't mean he didn't know that he had given something up.
It didn't mean that at all.
"So am I," he said. It didn't matter if Eduardo believed him. He needed to say it. "I am sorry. I didn't—It wasn't supposed to end that way."
Eduardo spit, "Jesus Christ. That is not an apology!"
"No," Mark said. He was getting it all wrong again. "That's not— You're not listening, Wardo, you never—It wasn't supposed to end that way. You were the CFO—"
"I don't want to hear about how I was the goddamn CFO!"
"Shut up, Eduardo. You were the CFO," he repeated. "You were the CFO, and as CFO, part of your job was to hold up the business end. Part of your job was to read the paperwork. You were supposed to—but you didn't."
"I didn't think I needed to," Eduardo said, a thunderous expression on his face.
"Well, I didn't anticipate that," Mark told him.
"So, what, you thought I would just notice your special backstabbing clause—"
"I would just notice," Eduardo said, "and I would fall into line, and everything would be magically better again?"
Mark muttered, "Like you don't know all about that."
"What's that supposed to mean?" Eduardo asked.
"Freezing the accounts," he said. "You're saying that wasn't about—about putting me in my place?"
"I told you, I needed to get your attention," Eduardo said.
"I don't know what that means," said Mark, at a loss. "You've always had my attention."
"No, Facebook had your attention." Eduardo's nostrils flared. "Sean had your attention. I had your funds. There's a difference."
And maybe Mark hadn't given Eduardo the same all-consuming regard he'd given Facebook. Maybe he'd never felt the same rush he had with Sean, high on an idol thinking he—his idea—was cool. But Eduardo had had a place in his life too, an important nook he'd burrowed out in his own persistent way. "I came to you first. I had an idea, and I came to you," Mark said.
"I had the money," said Eduardo.
"No," Mark objected. "Well, yes, but expertise, you had expertise, and you had money, and—" He swallowed. "You were my best friend. I went to you because Facebook needed the right people, and I already had them."
Eduardo titled his head, eyes shiny and wide. "That's... almost sweet, Mark."
Mark tried to shove his hands into the kangaroo pouch of the hoodie he wasn't wearing. His wrists skimmed his stomach. "If you're going to mock me—"
"I'm not, I promise," Eduardo assured him quickly. "Though, after all this, I think I probably deserve a little leeway. On the mocking."
Mark's lips twitched. "Fine."
"Whatever," he said. "Yes."
"Okay," said Eduardo. This time, he didn't hide his smile.
"I hear you got a dog."
Mark could have sworn they'd already played this song. Hadn't they? Why did they all sound exactly the fucking same? "Yes."
Eduardo sat down next to him again. "Tell me about your dog."
"You know," Mark said. "Four legs. A tail."
"Fascinating," said Eduardo dryly.
"I don't know what else there is to say."
"I don't know." He clocked his shoe against Mark's. "Why'd you get a dog? I wouldn't have pinned you as a dog person."
Mark said, "Did you know I have three bathrooms?"
"How would I know that?" Eduardo asked.
Whatever. Mark didn't bother to answer that. He said, "I have three bathrooms—well, two and a half—and four bedrooms, and I have a dining room with an actual table, Eduardo, like suddenly I'm an adult." Eduardo laughed, and Mark relaxed. "But I don't have... the only one who comes over is Dustin. And Sean, when he's in town. When I started Facebook, I brought in all my friends, but you don't—That's not how it's supposed to go, so I haven't..."
"So you got the dog for company," Eduardo said. He sounded pitying, and Mark hated that.
"No. I don't know. Yes. It sounds pathetic when you put it that way," he said.
"No, no," Eduardo said, holding up both hands. "I get it. We... I got used to spending my free time with you. I never. As a kid, I never had a—a good friend, a best friend, whatever."
"Neither did I," said Mark.
"It was surprisingly difficult to get used to. After."
"Yeah." Eduardo knocked his shoulder into Mark's, and Mark realized with a start that he was closer now, barely a few inches away (but that was Eduardo in a nutshell, wasn't it, closer than you thought). "So," he said. "A dog?"
"A dog," Mark agreed. "Beast."
"Beast," echoed Eduardo. He did clap Mark on the shoulder, finally, and Mark leaned into the touch. "Cool."
"Yeah," Mark said. "Yeah, cool."
"Are you still..." He knocked a knuckle against his bottom teeth. "What do you mean what you say you're done?" he asked. "Exactly."
Eduardo tensed. "I don't know," he said. "Maybe I was being... I don't know, Mark. Just. I'm not sure if I can be your friend again."
"We could..." He stared through the bars of the cell. "We could try something else. If you wanted."
"What does that mean?" Eduardo asked, confused.
So Mark kissed him.
The angle was awkward and a bit painful. He had to crane his neck to push their lips together. Eduardo gasped against Mark's mouth, going rigid long enough that Mark's heartbeat sped and he panicked, afraid he'd miscalculated horribly.
And then he hauled Mark in by a hand on his waist.
"Mark," he murmured. His tongue teased Mark's lip, and Mark moaned. He put a hand to his mouth when Mark pulled back. His lips were shiny, spit-slicked. "Where did that come from?" he asked. He sounded blindsided.
"What do you mean?" Mark asked. He hunched back into his own spot on the bench, hands in his lap.
"You know what I mean," Eduardo said. "How long?"
"That's a difficult question to answer," Mark hedged.
Eduardo gave him a unimpressed look. "Give it a shot."
"I don't know." Mark raised a shoulder. "Always."
Eduardo said, "Always? And you still—"
"Jesus. Fuck." Standing, Eduardo spun on his heel and stood facing the wall, both his hands on the back of his head and elbows pointing up. "Just... sit there, Mark," he said to the wall. "Did you know that before I met you, I was arrested once?"
"No," Mark said slowly. "I didn't."
"I was at this club," said Eduardo, "and I was really drunk. I'd never—it was my first time out drinking, I had a fake ID and everything, and I was plastered." He sounded wry about it. Mark tried to absorb that, the picture incongruous with what he knew of Eduardo, his Eduardo, who strived so hard to be the responsible adult in a room full of college kids.
Eduardo went on. "So we went out front for a cigarette, me and my friend," he said, "and this girl, she walked up to me and just started—well, suffice to say, it was not appropriate for public. But I had my hand up her skirt—don't think I don't know what face you're making, Mark, I have a point—and this cop walks by and catches us. It turns out that my fake ID was not exactly a pro job, and he hauls us in. My friend, too."
"I fail to see whatever point you were making," said Mark. The mental image of Eduardo with his hand up some girl's skirt refused to dissipate.
"So I'm sitting in this jail cell waiting for my parents to be notified," Eduardo said. "And I'm thinking, 'It wasn't worth it.' And I'm thinking... It doesn't matter. But that was it, that was the moment. That's when I realized."
Mark prompted, "When you realized."
"That I'm... that I don't." His arms fell, fingers clenching at his sides. "That I don't like girls that way."
Whatever Mark had thought the moral of the story would be, that had not been it. "That you don't like girls," he said. "What about—"
"I don't know what Christy was about," Eduardo said. "I thought maybe... I don't know, I wasn't ready to tell people, I still thought maybe I could change it, and I thought maybe it would make you notice. Like—like I noticed. When you had Erica." He sighed again and turned to face Mark. "And Christy... Before things went wrong, Christy was... you know, she was smart and, and stubborn, and she reminded me... I don't know. It's not that different, when you close your eyes," he said. "Sometimes I thought I could make it work. It certainly would've been easier."
Mark said, a little put out by all the talk of Christy, "It's not about what's easy. It's about what's superior."
"And that's you." It wasn't a question.
"Obviously," said Mark.
"Oh," Eduardo said fondly. He pulled Mark in by the collar of his stupid dress shirt, and Mark suddenly didn't mind it quite as much. "Of course."
"The music stopped," Mark murmured against Eduardo's lips. His knees ached, pressed into the unyielding metal bench. Eduardo's hands were tight against his hips. Mark felt ridiculous, ungainly and uncomfortable, and didn't give a shit.
"Yeah, I noticed that," Eduardo said. He gave Mark one last kiss and then tipped his head back against the wall with a thump. "I don't..." He shuddered when Mark traced a finger across his Adam's apple. "Mark. I don't know if I'm ready to move on just yet," he said in a rush.
Mark yanked his hand back. He shifted, acutely aware of the alignment of Eduardo's hips and his own. "I wonder if he's coming now," he said. "Why else would the music stop?"
"Are you listening to me?" Eduardo asked. His hand on Mark's hip tightened.
Mark said, feeling ever more absurd about the whole thing, "I can wait, Wardo." He bit his lip and didn't add, 'I promise,' but he wanted to. "I would wait," he said instead. "For you."
He levered himself off Eduardo. Eduardo dusted his hands over his lap, and the wrinkles where Mark had rested disappeared. Mark scooted next to him, biting at his thumb. "I want to," he tacked on, in case that wasn't clear.
"Mark." Eduardo trailed off, uncertain. "I don't..."
Footsteps sounded against the concrete floor. Miller rounded the corner, coffee in hand, and tapped the bars. "All right, guys," he said affably, "you've managed not to kill each other—"
"Not that you'd have known," Mark asserted.
Miller ignored him. "So you're free to go," he said. "Your personal items are up front. Try to behave yourselves."
Eduardo stood, and so did Mark, hands in his pockets. Mark bounced on his heels impatiently as Miller unlocked the grate and then shot past him, shouldering him just enough to feel a sense of satisfaction from it but not enough he couldn't claim it was an accident.
Behind him, Eduardo snorted.
"This way, you two," Miller instructed with a roll of his eyes. "Let's hope we never meet again. You're more trouble than you're worth."
"Mark! Hey, Mark! Wait up," called Eduardo.
When Mark turned, cell to his ear, Eduardo was jogging to him from the precinct entrance, a hand raised. He pulled up short in front of Mark and started looping his belt into his pants, and Mark kept his eye line firmly north as he slid his phone into his pocket and crossed his arms against the early-morning chill.
He was stupidly relieved to have the phone back on his person. He had an abundance of messages to sift through already, all varying levels of 'alarmed.' Facebook was basically self-sustaining now but somehow it still required his constant attention. He said, "I talked to my driver. He's picking me up here. He notified the authorities when I didn't turn up."
"Of course he did," Eduardo said, unconcerned. "I called a cab to take me back to my car," he added. He crossed his arms and lifted his chin, like he was waiting for something.
"I could... I could give you a ride," Mark offered.
He knew the answer was 'no' before Eduardo even opened his mouth. Eduardo said, gently, "I don't think I'm ready for, for rides yet." He grinned when Mark scoffed. "Shut up, not like that."
"Okay," said Mark, giving a shrug with his hands still in his pockets.
"That's fine?" Eduardo asked.
"Yeah, that's fine, yes," Mark said.
"Are you sure?"
"Wardo, I said I would wait," he reminded him, a bit affronted at the anxious redundancy of the conversation. "If you wanted."
"Yeah," said Eduardo. He sauntered forward, smiling. "Yeah, I want."
When he was in arm's reach, Mark reeled him in by the lapels and went up on his toes, slotted their mouths together. Eduardo's nose bumped against his, and they kissed, slow and languid. "Is this waiting?" Eduardo mumbled into his mouth. Mark made an impatient noise and pulled them back together, and Eduardo shut the hell up with one last laugh, burying his hands on Mark's hair.
Eventually, there came the grind of tires against asphalt, and they separated, just barely, cheeks pressed together. Eduardo's stubble scratched his skin. "That's your car," Eduardo said.
"Clearly," said Mark.
"Mark." He wrapped his hands around Mark's wrist. "You have to let go," he said.
Mark pulled back enough to bury his face in Eduardo's neck for a moment, willing to indulge himself just this once. He was afraid, suddenly, that this was it. That Eduardo would never be ready, would forever be that frowning profile in Mark's mind, hair slicked back and eyes cold. That Mark would always be waiting for something he wasn't sure he deserved.
And then he let it go.
"I can tell him to circle the block. Should I wait for your cab?" he asked, lips brushing Eduardo's skin. Eduardo shivered.
"No," he said reluctantly. "No, I'm good." He closed his eyes when Mark let him go and stepped back, and then he shot forward for one last kiss, catching Mark by surprise. "I'll call you," he promised. Mark's lips tingled.
Mark gave him a smile, ducking his head. Without turning, he fumbled for the handle of the car door, and Eduardo laughed.
"See you later, Eduardo," he said. He pulled the door shut behind himself, and they pulled away.